Review Grab-Bag ’11: MOVIES

The Ides of March

Somewhat crippled by being intensely formulaic, condescendingly didactic, and about as convenient as the Twinkie defense. Startling crippled by Ryan Gosling simpering at the camera in a way that made me glad I have not yet availed myself of my rights under the second amendment. Such incredible structural convenience is more acceptable in a stage production (which this was), where action is more personal, more urgent, more believable by the necessity that it is happening right before you. Likewise that stage productions, by the tangibility of their presence, allow for more faffing about than a movie, thus padding out a plot-of-convenience into something that does not resemble a West Wing fan movie.

The King’s Speech

The film is so character-centered, and the characters themselves so stock, that the quality of acting is essentially subsumed. They are perfect, but they are not good; they are, but they do not play; resulting in a film that may as well have been hand-animated by Randall Munroe. In America this would be a made-for-TV movie… but then, the comparison is perhaps more apt than might be thought. The British cinematic industry is smaller than the American by about the same distance that separates Hollywood from Hallmark Channel. This film is likely the apogee of the medium, the biggest-budget film of a little-budget nation. Yet this is rather like a bicycle racing against a Bugatti. Sure they may both be in their highest gear, and the bike might even have more gears, but by the time you point out that I don’t really need to belabor this comparative, the Bugatti has run the bicycle off the road and is now driving headfirst into the stands (as an American movie would do). I would rather the British stick to producing high-energy, high-intelligence stories which simply lack the polish of the Follywood blockbuster . The polish is not necessary… and seeing a Bugatti in first gear being raced against a bicycle similarly shifted is still a race worth watching, every time.

I must also add that there is a strange sort of revisionism happening in Britain today, whereby the past is longed for as being a simpler, happier time… which requires that the dynamic, aggressive, martial Britain of centuries of Empire must be abandoned in favor of some cross between Jane Austen (except with all the Admirals and Colonels absent) and Sherlock Holmes (except the Hound of the Baskervilles is actually a lovable hunting dog who fetches Sherlock his morning slippers and evening syringe). This trend will soon have us putting Clyde in a cardigan, Cromwell in corduroy, and turn Elizabeth’s battle-mail into taffeta and lace.

Certainly the writing was bland; this film was meant to be choked down by those who subsist entirely on cottage cheese. Certainly the writing was simplistic; it was designed for a younger generation for whom history need not only come alive, but must also beat them about the head with sticks until enough welts are raised that they can pass for a contextual understanding. This is a Small-Market Blockbuster, no less designed to be a blockbuster for not embracing the same scale as American (or International) films of the same aims. This is not an International film; it is a British film. It was designed from stone to ceiling to find its way into every living-room from Hastings to the Hebrides. The relative consanguinity of Her Britannic Majesty’s Loyal Subjects allows for a period drama to reach such a broad audience… where in America, such market share can now only be had by something that is fun-for-the-whole-family: a kid’s film. Small wonder, then, that this is the historical equivalent of a Disney movie. Brownstones and bowler-hats instead of balloons and bears… but the difference is cosmetic, and nothing more.

Thor

I weep for humanity.

3:10 to Yuma

This is not a revisionist Western. Its set pieces, its grittiness are marginally more realistic than those of its predecessor. In plot, in action, it is still as unbelievable. Lest you mistake my point, I should clarify: the film could have ended with a colony of space hippos arriving to give the characters bubblebath handjobs and it still could not have been less reminiscent of reality.

The Producers (2005)

The performances, by and large, are flat; Nathan Lane’s walking of the fine line between satire and parody is made somewhat difficult by near every other character crossing the line to parody by means of a pole-vault. His performance is better appreciated as an homage to Zero Mostel than to Max Bialystock. Particular kudos for including a few Racy Bits (viz. the granny tap dance) which were reminiscent of the shock at first seeing Springtime For Hitler, yet as many punches were pulled as thrown. Just as one would expect, from a racy and damning satire that has been made Fun For The Whole Family.

*Reboots*

You are not allowed to reboot a series without A) a decent interval having passed, or B) an actual reason. Lacking committed proof of either, I would rather spent thirty days as a fluffer for a Brazilian zoophilia podcast than I would so much as pirate one of these movies.

Appaloosa
Proof that the ‘revisionist Western’ genre is so old, staid and stale, that it can now have movies made which play to its tropes in a cozy and nostalgic way. I look forward to the next step of the cycle, which is tearing it all down and starting over. From time to time such Hegelian wheel-milling is needed. This film should be first against the grinding-wheel… should no chopping-block be convenient.

The Book of Eli

World-building is very difficult to undertake in a two-hour film. So is character sympathy, when the protagonist is apparently immortal. And girded in righteousness. And did I mention immortal? Throw in some of the cheapest moralizing I have encountered outside of VeggieTales and the result is the exact sort of 50s-esque campiness to which Fallout dealt a death blow nearly a decade and a half ago.

Let me recapitulate an opinion of mine which I cannot overemphasize: AESTHETICS DO NOT A SETTING MAKE. No, Book of Eli, just because everything is brown and gritty does not mean it’s a harsh and desperate world. No, Lord of the Rings, just because a bright light shines behind Aragorn’s head every time he speaks does not make his words Epic, let alone his actions. Such sympathies, such judgments, must be made by the audience. To attempt to provide them yourself is sloppy, if not downright silly; it is a music video where a bunch of attractive people cheer for the singer, to make you cheer as well; it appeals to the same demographic; the better of us will grow out of it, and those who don’t should have their genitalia repossessed before they can be allowed to breed.

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~ by davekov on 24 December 2011.

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