Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feature of the Month: Wolfman's Got Gnards!

The horror genre is just fantastic and fun. And unlike most genres, you have to enjoy these films on the big screen the first time you see them. It's got to be dark, with loud music and screams all around you, and the energy of the people around you.

My favorites are the films that reinvent the genre or classic horror monsters, or those that simply pay tribute, and manage to make fun of the genre, while still scaring the crap out of you.

You've got the classic hollywood monster movies that pretty much made people crazy about the movies to begin with. Back then it was all about the images. Lighting and old school make up that created things no one had ever seen before, and were almost too terrible to imagine. Thank goodness they weren't real.

Then you've got the slasher movies that made the old hollywood monsters seem like senior citizens that just wanted you to be quiet during bingo. With Freddy, Jason, Myers, and yes, even Chucky running around, you had a new reason to stay awake at night. These movies relied on new special effects to expand your idea of terror, and relied on a basic story that was pretty grounded and slightly more realistic.

These new special effects led to reinventing old characters, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy. Like we are seeing with comic book characters these days, such as Spiderman, the Hulk, Iron Man, and my favorite, Batman, these classic characters were given detailed back stories. Now we knew how they came to be, and why they are out for revenge. As a result, we now cared about these characters, but they were that much darker and scarier too.

The slasher can get pretty predictable, and often the sequels are cheesy. But when you get a classic character such as Freddy or Jason, you just can't seem to get enough. Having these characters face off is the new trend . . . mainly because you are cheering for them rather than running from them. "Awesome kill Jason and great pun Freddy . . . let's go get a drink." But as much fun as these viewings can be (definitely in a theatre with a large crowd on opening night . . . it's awesome), real fans want something deeper. It's time for the remakes, and they are coming. It started with the classic monsters. So it's only fair that the slashers get their time too.

The best thing that ever happened to the slasher/horror genre was Scream. It managed to pay homage to what made these movies great to begin with, yet made them brand new again. It was because of scream that people realized a lot of people can put on a creepy mask and run around (or walk slowly) killing people. It's the story and characters that make it real and heart pounding. You have to care about who this is happening to, and you have to wonder why.

Finally, the new thing is movies like SAW and Hostel that are out to freak you out with extreme torture and gore. SAW is my personal favorite, because I find it to be a fun puzzle to watch unfold onscreen. If the film isn't keeping you guessing as you are squirming in your seat . . . it's an amateur copy cat. Ask for a refund on your way out (or at least a popcorn voucher).

So basically I'm one of those people that leaves the theatre saying, "That was cool. But they shouldn't make another one . . . it'll ruin it." Then a few years later, they announce the sequel, and I'm like, "SWEET!!!!"

That was a long rant, and introduction to my favorite horror movie of all time. But if you've seen the movie, you knew it was coming from the title of my review. I couldn't believe that I had to wait for it's 20 year anniversary to get it on DVD. In fact, it wasn't until I got it that I found out my favorite horror movie was a CULT CLASSIC. It makes me sad that millions of people didn't enjoy this when it came out. I must have watched it hundreds of times as a kid.


It's what Scream was for the slasher movies . . . only it was for the classic hollywood monsters. It's a bunch of kids (yeah, kids playing kids . . . pretty unique for horror) who have a monster club. They know all the rules about the classic monsters. Little do they know that the monsters are real, and they are coming out of hibernation to take over the world. Yep, a monster legion of doom, and no adult believes the warnings of a bunch of kids (picture the goonies with cigarettes in their mouths). Well these kids kick ass, and they decide to take down the monsters themselves.

Pay tribute to the classic characters, give them a fresh look, and throw in a new attitude (kids that curse and kick wolfmen in the gnards), and you've got a classic film. If you haven't seen this . . . don't rent it, buy it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two Tales of Two Cities

I watched Leaving Las Vegas a few weeks ago. This film was widely considered to be one of the best films of 1995, and was nominated for 4 Oscars, resulting in a Best Actor win for Nicholas Cage. Having heard a lot of good things, I was looking forward to watching it. Only thing was, after watching it, I wasn't that impressed. For the purposes of comparison, I'd like to bring one of my favorite films, Lost In Translation, into the discussion. One several levels the two films share a lot of similarities. They're both about two people who meet one another in an urban landscape and use the other person as a lifeline of sorts. Both films were independently financed and shot on location, without always having the appropriate permits in place. Both films were critically acclaimed. Leaving Las Vegas was written and directed by Mike Figgis. Lost In Translation was written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Despite these similarities, however, Figgis and Coppola made drastically different choices in how they told their respective stories. Allow me to explain things more clearly . . . which you'll have to if you intend to finish reading, since I'm the one writing this. So there.

First and foremost, while I do not consider myself to be a very technical person, I still notice when certain things seem out of whack. In the case of Leaving Las Vegas, I found myself annoyed at director Mike Figgis' constant use of camera gimmicks that didn't really do anything to help the picture. For example, when Ben (Cage) is driving to Las Vegas early in the film, Figgis resorts to speeding things up by showing the road in a sort of "fast forward." In addition, at several points in the film, Figgis suddenly slows things down in some kind of herky-jerky slow motion that comes across as very awkward. I'm still not completely sure what he was trying to achieve by that. As I said, I'm not very technical. I consider myself to be a writer and find myself much more interested by facets of plot and character than I do by camera angles and the like. However, while watching Leaving Las Vegas, I found myself consistently thinking "Oh, I wouldn't have done that." What's more, there are incidents that take place that are supposed to take place in Ben's mind, but I only found that out because I did some online research about the film after watching it. Now, I'm not completely against camera tricks and dream sequences. There have been many films in which I thought such techniques proved to be highly successful, like Jackson's use of slow motion at the end of the Moria sequence in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or Minghella's decision to make Almasy's scream of grief a silent one in The English Patient. What strikes me as strange about these choices on Figgis' part is the fact that they don't serve the story at all. Instead, they only call attention to themselves and, for my money, seem painfully self-conscious. On the other hand, in Lost In Translation, Coppola never resorts to any of these tricks to tell her story. If someone's going somewhere, her camera follows them there at 24 frames a second. Additionally, Leaving Las Vegas is an hour and 52 minutes long. With a lot of these gimmicky things removed, the running time would have been reduced, but I think the story would have been served a lot better. Think about it, without a lot of these gimmicks, the focus would have been squarely on the characters, without distractions.

However, I'm not entirely convinced that Ben and Sera's love story is completely viable. Now, pay attention here to one very important word. Completely. I don't want to suggest for a minute that their relationship feels totally false, because that would be a disservice to Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue's fine work. They manage to create two sympathetic characters, and have a few gripping moments. Despite this, I still had a problem accepting their relationship on the terms that were given. Now, there's a difference here between my understanding of what's supposed to be going on vs. my acceptance of what's actually taking place on screen. As the film progressed, I wasn't sure exactly why these two people needed one another. One thing that doesn't help are the moments in which the writing in Leaving Las Vegas becomes an example of what I call the "non sequiter screenplay." This is a phenomenon that occurs when how one character responds is inconsistent to what was just said by another character. For a good modern example, watch As Good As It Gets. That film has it in spades. This really tends to annoy me anytime it occurs in a film I'm watching. Now, in the case of Lost In Translation, there's significantly less dialogue than Leaving Las Vegas, but it's always consistent. Additionally, the love story seems much more believable in that, in Coppola's film, I understand exactly why Bob and Charlotte need to be together and, what's more, I buy that reasoning in the first place. This takes us back to the question of understanding vs. acceptance. In Lost In Translation, I understand and accept the relationship for what it is, but, in Leaving Las Vegas, I understand the relationship without fully accepting it.

In the end, it might not seem fair to compare two films as different as Lost In Translation and Leaving Las Vegas. It might even seem stupid, considering how different these two films are in terms of tone. Despite that, when I think of the two and the way that Coppola and Figgis told their respective stories, I have to give a massive edge to Coppola. Her restrained touch created a mood in her film that you just can't fake. On the other hand, Figgis' techniques seems much more forced and self-conscious. Maybe this says more about my own preferences than it does about them. Who knows? After watching Leaving Las Vegas, I went online and did some reading of what Roger Ebert had to say about the film when it was released and what he had to say when he added it to his Great Movies list. The film he talked about sounded really good. I would have liked to have seen it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Feature of the Month: Favorite Halloween Movies

Written By: Christopher Welch

I didn’t want my mother to kill my father. That’s the thought that kept running through my head, the thought that caused me to lose countless nights worth of sleep and condemn me to months of sleeping in a fetal position. Very early in my life my father performed two very cool to me, but very taboo to my mother movie watching acts. Both involved James Cameron films, one was Terminator the other was Aliens.

The point of this endeavor is to write about a Halloween movie, a movie that encapsulates what this spooky, creepy day means to me as a movie goer. For me this presented a monumental task, pick a scary movie, a movie that flat out freaked the crap out of me. The problem is that, at least for me, no such film really exists.

I love horror movies, but I don’t really find any of them at all scary. I’m not the kind of person that jumps and shrieks at shocking cinematic moments. I don’t get the heeby jeebies, the hair doesn’t stand up on the back of my neck and nothing really makes me look twice over my shoulder. I love watching horror movies in the theatre because they are a great communal experience and I thrill to watch the audience squirm and squeal as I sit there and mock them. I mean I’ve never, ever been one of those cowering, whimpering masses. Or so I thought.

It took a bit of humbling myself and a nice long trip down memory lane but afterwards I realized that there was one movie, and honestly ONLY one movie that flat out scared the living crap out of me. That movie was James Cameron’s Aliens.

To this day I remember the conversation amongst the elder people in my life. My father and his brother were at the rental store coaxing my mother into letting them rent Cameron’s follow up to Ridley Scott’s brilliant, genre busting Alien. My mother was arguing that this was a film that they should not screen in front of my young, 6 year old eyes for fear that the images would haunt my dreams and plague my mind. Wanting to show my father and uncle that I was extra grown-up I convinced her along with her husband and brother-in-law that I would be fine. Eventually she relinquished and my young mind would never be the same again.

We returned home and what I saw didn’t just scare me, it terrified me beyond the capacity for rational thought. To this day I remember very little about my first viewing of the film other than the fact that when the alien threatens to pop out of Ripley’s stomach in her dream sequence, I quite nearly lost my mind. It was at that time that I feigned falling asleep so that I could still be “cool” without losing face. Like a terrible car accident though, I couldn’t help but sneak peeks every so often and the images of the face huggers and the slime covered insect like baddies did nothing to calm my fears.

After that fateful night I don’t think I slept right for a month, if not longer. Every night I would get into bed and curl into the tightest ball humanely possible for fear that Ripley’s enemies were lingering at the foot of my bed, under my covers, just waiting to feast on my succulent, young (thus all the more tasty) flesh. Sure I wanted to go running into my mother and have her hold me and assure me it was all a silly fantasy but I knew that by doing so I would prove her doubts about my viewing habits thus not only get my father in trouble but also ensure that I would no longer be able to watch the cool “big boy” movies. Of course finally my young fears got the best of me, I confessed and after a nice coddling and chastising of my father my sleep returned to its normal, peaceful nature. Now of course as any self respecting movie fan should expect, the story doesn’t end there.

Jump to some 11 or 12 years later. I am working at Suncoast Motion Picture Company and for reasons that I can’t quite explain (and it should be pointed out I’d like to think fear wasn’t one of them) my manager and good friend Matt finds out that I, a self proposed James Cameron junky have never seen Aliens… or at least haven’t seen it in a VERY long time. I realized that something that frightened me that much as a child could very well thrill me now and after Matt’s money back guarantee I bought the film, went home and that night devoured Cameron’s sci-fi opus.

It’s funny because a film that scared the snot out of me as a kid, heck the only movie that ever really scared me my entire life quickly became one of my all time favorite movies. As I sat down and thought about it I thought what better movie to sum up the Halloween experience. I went from abject fear to adrenaline pumping excitement and joy. If that isn’t what Halloween and horror movies are all about then I don’t know what is.

For my money Aliens is not only James Cameron’s best film, but it is also one of the single most overlooked movies of all time. Every few years AFI and or someone else and their mother will come out with a list of the greatest movies or the scariest movies, or the most influential movies of all time. Invariably Alien always shows up on that list but Aliens is never anywhere to be found. This always leads me to ask the question; are we watching the same movie or does the critical community just follow the standard party line like seemingly the rest of the world? Make no mistake, Alien is a brilliant film, but pound for pound it doesn’t hold a candle entertainment or influence wise to Cameron’s sequel.

At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it Alien is a VERY effective, horror film that substitutes the boogey man and a haunted house for a spaceship and an acid blooded E.T.. While Sigourney Weaver is certainly the standout of the film and a great female role model, at the end of the day she’s really only the “survivor” of the horror film. She does very little other than be smarter and luckier than everyone else and as such outlasts the rest of her crew mates. In fact any real hope of establishing her as a revolutionary, women’s lib era heroine goes right out the window during her very seductive and unnecessary striptease (Go back and watch the movie and you’ll see what I’m talking about) at the end of the film.

On the other hand we have Aliens. In one film Cameron not only ups the scare factor by the hundreds by introducing hundreds of the face hugging, acid bleeding, stomach bursting baddies and the Queen Freaking Mother, but he also takes Ripley from being a reactive defensive, force to an aggressive, proactive one. Yet through it all Cameron never once allows Ripley to lose a single ounce of her femininity and in many ways adds to it even more by introducing Newt thus creating a motherly connection and relationship for the ultimate, female, badass supreme.

Sure Aliens takes a few minutes to get going but the moment Ripley and The Colonial Marines (Perhaps the single coolest group ever created for the movies outside the Jedi) hit the planet you never know what’s going to happen. The tension and the fear in the air is palpable as your realize death and so much worse can be lurking around every corner. Add to the mix humanity’s own capacity for opportunistic evil in Paul Reiser’s brilliant Cater Burke and the dread and suspense of the past as epitomized by Lance Henriksen’s Bishop and you have a film that’s infinitely more layered than Ridley Scott’s creation. Heck, I haven’t even brought up the cowardice of Bill Paxton’s “Game over man” Hudson.

In 1986 James Cameron forged Ellen Ripley into the single greatest heroine cinema has ever seen. From that point forward every film maker worth his or her salt has tried to emulate it yet none, save for Cameron have come even close. The fact that he did all of this in the scariest, most pulse pounding, sci-fi/action adventure film ever made is just icing on the cake.

For every big breasted bimbo stupidly running towards danger as opposed to running away from it, there is Ripley, armed with a pulse rifle, a grenade launcher and a flame thrower, descending into the mouth of hell and turning gender roles on their ear. Aliens changed the world of cinema in ways no one ever really gives it credit for, changed my views on horror in cinema, women in the world and almost made my dad sleep on the couch. I don’t know if that’s everyone’s idea of a great scary movie, but it sure as heck is mine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What's in a Release Date?

This has been a rather frustrating year for me and the movies; this frustration is mainly due to what I think is off shoots from the WGA strike earlier this year. While I think that they WGA had every right to strike and they probably should have, the strike and the current economic mêlée has begun to take a very disturbing toll on the movies that I love so much. A perfect example of this is the fact that since about August release dates have meant nothing.

Typically, film release dates are almost set in stone; the only time they change is if a studio realizes they can get awards attention for a film, or move it into a prime release date like a major holiday. This year release dates have been bouncing around so much that I can no longer keep track of what is coming out when or exactly why a release date changed. I can only assume that studios are reeling from a lack of product due to the strike (and possibly a pending SAG strike) and a money crunch because people are not spending as much. Still, not all of the release date decisions make sense.

Let’s start with the first one I remember that started early this year – Valkyrie. Currently, Valkyrie is scheduled for a December release date. This movie has always been on my radar because Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie made one of my favorite films of all time and were reuniting for this one, but so many people doubted Tom Cruise who has been a bit of a pariah lately. So this movie had a release date of summer 2008, but Tom’s PR didn’t get any better and the studio balked and moved the film to October 2008, then December 2008, it seemed for awhile that Tom Cruises’ PR got even worse and the film was shoved to February 2009 (and February is when you dump date movies and movies you have no faith in as a studio).

Finally, a little movie called Tropic Thunder started to screen and Tom Cruise was the huge surprise in that film, people began to buzz about the quality of Valkyrie and before you knew it Valkyrie was back in December 2008. Even though Valkyrie’s release date has been bounced around like a yo-yo I think it ended up in the films favor, and in mine. I get to see the movie I’ve wanted so badly long before I thought I’d get to.

One that also made me sad, but didn’t totally surprise me was the release date change for the new Star Trek film. I have an original, Comic-Con exclusive poster that has a release date of December 2008 for that one. However, the studio realized not that they couldn’t get the film out in time but that Star Trek is a potential blockbuster and they can maximize their return in summer by making it a tent pole film; as such Star Trek was moved to May 2009. So far that one is firmly staying there.

One that’s not quite so bad is the new Daniel Craig vehicle Defiance which I’ve been seeing trailers for the film for at least a year now. While this one has not been shoved into no man’s land it was finally decided that it will be released in limited release in December of this year (just in time for awards consideration) and will go wide in January 2009. The film has been finished for a very long time so I am glad any decision was reached.

Now you come to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which is perhaps the most controversial of the release date changes. Early in the summer David Yates proudly announced that editing was complete on the film and they were on schedule for their November release date – keep in mind this film would be released day and date worldwide. This was good news.

Now comes the maddening part. A bit over a month ago Warner Brothers came out and announced that due to the WGA strike they had no real summer tent pole films for 2009 and they had decided to move Half-Blood Prince into the slot The Dark Knight had for 2008. This is surrounded by much controversy; it is true that the strike affected them, but the decision to make the move strikes more of greed than an actual need. Everyone saw that The Dark Knight made an obscene amount of money and it seems pretty obvious that Warner’s wants to see if they can duplicate that. This one actually does make me quite angry; after all, they had already begun marketing the film.

When Warner’s made this announcement Summit Entertainment breathed a sigh of relief and decided to take advantage of it and move their fall/winter tent pole Twilight into the hole left by Harry Potter getting Twilight to audiences weeks earlier than it was originally slated. They were very smart no matter what my opinions on this movie are.

Another odd ball decision on the part of Warner Brothers is a film that has been treated in a completely illogical way – Trick ‘R Treat. For this film I also began to see trailers for this film about a year ago but never heard a release date. Naturally, based on the title and genre I assumed that the film was scheduled to be released this Halloween.

Apparently, Warner’s must be afraid of the film because while it has been acclaimed as one of the best horror films in years, and this has been an October almost devoid of horror films yet Trick ‘R Treat sat without a release date for a good long while. Finally, Trick ‘R Treat was given a release date of October 31; while this may look good on paper you have to think about it logically. This would be like giving the upcoming Four Christmases a release date of December 25. Your audience is not going to be interested in driving to the theatre to see that film for very long because by the time it is released people are over the “season” it takes place in. Again, the release date just doesn’t make much sense – but that’s become a trend.

However, the newest one that has pushed me over the edge is the release date of The Soloist. The film had a prime release date right before Thanksgiving, was being advertised and getting awards buzz. It was recently announced that the release date was changing from this November to March of 2009 with no explanation.

What confuses me the most is that all these release date decisions is not just that there seems to be no logic behind them but they are taking a toll on awards season. I cannot think of a single film besides The Dark Knight that I would nominate for best picture. While it is maddening for someone like me who anticipates movies months before they are released it is going to be interesting to see what happens to awards season. I can only hope and pray that SAG does not strike further damaging upcoming releases. I just want my release date calendar to stay somewhat the same, I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feature of the Month: Favorite Halloween Films

It is Halloween, a time known for causing thrills, chills and wondering what goes bump in the night and we all have different things that scare us or at least cause us great tension; this is why movies in the horror, suspense and thriller genres can endure for so long and become indelible franchises. It is to those thrills, chills, tense moments and genuine frights that we dedicate this month’s Feature of the Month to – our favorite Halloween movies. These can be anything from the horror movies you’re familiar with to the suspense films you wouldn’t think of as scary, but part of the fun is seeing why we love them so. For this month you may or may not be surprised to learn that my favorite Halloween film is Scream by Wes Craven.

I tend to not easily scare at movies so I really enjoy when a movie surprises me or keeps me guessing what is going to happen – Wes Craven did that for me in this film. I don’t remember ever being truly scared by Scream but the first time I watched it the film did keep me on the edge of my seat; it’s one of the only films where I wasn’t able to guess the ending and was fully satisfied by every aspect of the plot – in a world where my only experience in the “horror” genre was Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein it was a breath of fresh air.

The thing that is different about Scream is the fact that it defies the traditional “rules” and conventions of horror films while somehow managing to pay homage to all of them, Craven even manages to create a new horror convention – the character that dies in the opening act, the character you assumed was a crux of the film. Everyone remembers Scream for its brilliant marketing campaign that favored Drew Barrymore so much, and the shock it created when everyone found out that she didn’t last more than fifteen minutes into the film – it was a whole new way to use a McGuffin and set your audience on their toes. On top of this unsettling new development Scream created, the film is filled with characters that seem to know they are in a horror film.

What Scream is now truly known for is beginning a trend of self-aware horror films; suddenly horror movies began to copy Craven and Kevin Williamson and try to play with conventions and have characters that knew the conventions of horror and that trend slightly continues to this day. The only problem is that so many films who tired this approach ended up being just plain derivative or in spoof territory and Scream managed to avoid that trap; Scream is a smart film that defies conventions and has a reason and purpose for everything that happens to the characters and plot.

The best example of this self-awareness would have to be the character of Randy played by Jamie Kennedy. Randy is the character that works in a video store, has a vast knowledge of horror films and is the person who constantly tries to compare life to film. The best known scene in Scream is attributed to Randy: the scene where Randy lays down the rules for surviving a horror film as we see the actions he warns of being played out on the video the teens are watching and with the characters in the room who scoff at his set of rules. Throughout the entire film Randy is able to predict every aspect of the serial killings as they happen and is of course laughed at or ignored by almost every character.

However, equally important to the intelligence of the film is the main character Sidney Prescott played by Neve Campbell. Sidney is a smart teenage girl with a tragic past who refuses the role of helpless victim and takes on every challenge she meets instead of shying away from it – she is a character that refuses to sit down and be beaten. This does not make Sidney a flawless character; Sidney is close to the killer without knowing it and of course her most memorable scene is when she talks to the killer on the phone telling him that she hates horror movies because the women are always “running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door – it’s insulting”, then before the scene ends she herself ends up fleeing from the killer by running up the stairs when she can’t get out the front door.

I can thank Scream for many things: it introduced me to the horror genre, an admiration for Wes Craven and the realization that a “horror” movie can be so much more than gore, jumps and a building body bag count. Scream was a very influential film for me and I think it will be remembered among the classic horror films of this era. To this day Scream is the only horror franchise where I made sure I saw each sequel in the theatre as close to opening day as possible.

Recommended Halloween Viewing: Halloween, Scream, Night of the Living Dead, Young Frankenstein

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Feature of the Month: Never Too Late for P.T.A.

Ok - So I'm a little behind on this assignment. But it's one that I've been looking forward to, and I wanted to give the films the time I knew they deserved. I've seen Boogie Nights and Punch Drunk Love, but had never gotten around to see Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. They were both worth the wait, and I'm glad I didn't wait any longer. I ended up watching each of them late at night, and both left me with blown away and with plenty to ponder.

There is no doubt that Paul Thomas Anderson's films are unique. He presents characters that are larger than life, but somehow each has a core that we can relate to. The "families" that he creates are definitely a wide range of characters, that are anything but simple. But as random as their parings may seem, their connections actually end up making sense as they compliment one another through both conflict and resolution. I find that the most common statement in his films is that what may be a strange sense of "family" to you, is actually quite normal to someone else. For some people, these types of things really do happen.

I really enjoy a film that does two things. One, the film is simply a glimpse of the lives of these characters. We aren't introduced to them in the beginning, and when we leave, it certainly isn't the end. Second, I love when little details aren't spelled out for you, and you are left wanting more. Every second of his films are beautiful to watch. He manages to get the most out of his actors, and their performances always seem to blend in perfectly with the carefully planned sets and scenery that PTA chooses. You are left with many unforgettable images. I was constantly asking myself, "Where is he taking me?" And each time I got there, I realized that what I had thought was simple, was much much deeper, and beautifully dark.

What I found most enjoyable about his films, was his use of sound. His choice of music is as unpredictable as his unexpected pick of actors. But when it all comes together, no other music would fit in the world he has created. The best music isn't about the notes, but the spaces between those notes. With PTA his music choices are the notes, and the moments he takes it away and leaves you awaiting it's return, and the sweet gaps in the artistic masterpiece you are watching play out before you.

And the final detail that I find both unique and enjoyable, is that there really isn't a main character in his films. At least not in the traditional sense. There is usually one or two that we get to watch struggle or interact the most, but we really get to follow several different characters pretty equally. This can be hard to recognize at first, because there is usually one or two performances that demand your attention, but just because they are your favorites to watch, doesn't mean they are the main characters. I think the main character in his films end up being the "families" he has created, and the theme or message that they represent. It is this theme that people connect with, relate to, and sympathize.

I am eager for more of his work, and although a different style or approach may be fun, I personally simply want MORE.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Latest Protest: Blindness

Originally uploaded by Fabio Allves
One of my biggest pet peeves with people that protest movies for their content is that it’s usually for a completely stupid reason – and before the movie is released.

I expected Tropic Thunder to get blasted for Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of an actor in black face but instead it was protested against for its use of the word “retarded” and the character of Simple Jack. There was a point to all of this in the film – to show Hollywood’s insensitivity – and yet it was ignored by the people protesting.

The same thing happened with Dogma; religious groups protested in droves against the abuse of religion and the Catholic church in the movie. The protests went on for months about how it was blasphemous, sacrilegious, Kevin Smith was going to hell, etc. The thing is if you actually sat and watched the film Kevin Smith actually put a message in there – he wanted to audience to take religion and God seriously.

Back to my original point; to some degree I expect this kind of backlash against satire’s because for some reason people don’t understand the point of satire . What I did not expect was for a protest to start against Fernando Meirelles’ new film Blindness. You can read the article here; the protest surrounds the use of the blind in the film and how they are portrayed.

I have not seen Blindness yet as it is not in the theatre, but from what I understand it is a film about a town where all except one miraculously go blind and the government tries to cover the situation up. The blindness is a metaphor and the genre is a sci-fi/mystery.

Can people just chill out and calm down before they jump to conclusions? I am a firm believer in watching a film and taking it in context before making my decision about a films message. Some movies deliver messages well, some don’t. Films like Crash, Babel, The Happening, The Mist and a score of other movies delivered their message badly and obnoxiously; however, there are movies like Children of Men, The Fountain, Night of the Living Dead and City of God (Meirelles last film) that deliver their messages in excellent and thought provoking ways, usually using metaphors.

All I’m saying is give a movie a chance people. I’ll get off my soap box now and return it to its regular position.