Friday, April 28, 2006

musing #2: i am trailer trash...

This past Wednesday, I visited my local multi-multi-multi-plex theatre for the first time in ages. It was nice to see a movie on the big screen as opposed to my 20" T.V. for a change, but as I was ascending the dizzy-inducingly steep escalator to the second floor, the true nature of my excitement passed through my lips. I said, to my friend Theresa, "I can't wait for the previews!!"

Now, I know that there is an on-going debate as to whether or not the previews give too much away about any given film-- and often times they do--... But I don't care. A movie will rarely live up to its advertised expectations, yet I am so often entertained by previews that promise so much. I know that I don't want to see all of these movies, but the ads are extremely telling when it comes to "why?"

A comedy preview, for instance, will give away its best jokes. I have seen enough comedy trailers and enough comedy films to know when this is true. Thank you, comedy trailer editor, for saving me twelve dollars.

A sports film about an underdog team that rises above the obstacles placed before them might be charming, but I've seen it before. Thanks for trying, but I've been there and done that. I liked Remember the Titans, but preferred the two-minute abridged version.

My favorite trailors are for horror films. They offer chills that one can never expect to find in the movies themselves. How can it be that an ad is more frightening than the film it promotes? I am happy that I can still be frightened by cinematic technique: I am always up for a good horror flick... But what is the deal with previews that make me piss my pants, whereas the films leave me cold?

Another friend of mine, Liz, once said that no preview ever looks like it'll be a bad movie. I don't agree... I believe that a bad film might look better as advertised, but that the truth is being handed to you on a generous platter.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

musing #1: woody allen's infidelity

auteur /o:t3r/ noun a director who so greatly influences the films directed as to be able to rank as their author. [French,=Author]

I had wanted my first official post to be a review, but inspiration struck me as I watched Match Point, Woody Allen's latest film. It seems somewhat apt that I would begin with a piece about one of my favorite filmmakers, though. When I first discovered Allen's work-- many, many moons ago-- It was like finding a soul-mate: a neurotic intellectual with a penchant for beautiful women and beautiful brains (not to mention the almost scientific urge to fuse the two together). His on-screen image was, for many years, that of a cowardly nebbish whose insecurities are in constant battle with his self involvement and pithy attitude towards modern life. This is not to say, however, that he has been a "one-note" performer. Upon re-viewing his films, you will find a marked variety in the level of confidence and concern that his characters display.

Whether he is working within the conventions of broad comedy or high drama, Allen's films are always rooted in a kind of artful intelligence. His earlier comedies seamlessly weave together slapstick, philosophy, and allusions to Russian literature; his dramatic efforts bare the stylistic influence of European art cinema and explore, with remarkable depth and insight, the dark complexities of human psychology. At his best, Woody Allen injects all of these elements into a single film (gosh... I'm making me want to sit down and watch Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors all over again).

Now, Woody Allen is not for everyone. Some find the stilted cadence of his dialogue off-putting, while others object to the sordid details of his much-publicized love life. I suspect, however, that many people simply don't want to sit through another variation of the New York elite engaging in romantic affairs fable that Allen so often revisits. These reasons are all valid, but I have remained a fan, and I believe that Woody Allen's biggest infidelity was to his audience when he released a slew of half-assed comedies in an attempt to garner (or re-garner) mainstream success.

With Match Point, though, Allen is back in top form. Yes, it's a tale about infidelity, but this time it concerns the British elite!!! This film not only reassured me that Woody has not yet reached his own Hollywood Ending, but refreshed my memory as to what a formidable director he is. For ages now, I have been primarily critical of his writing; the scripts to his last few films have felt un-finished to me. The story of Match Point is certainly engaging, but what really grabbed my attention was the camera work. The way that Allen frames his characters and reveals intimate details with deliberate movement is so affective. I was drawn in immediately, largely the result of Allen's subtle technique, and I am inclined to believe that this film could have the same kind of impact on those who don't generally care for his work. This is the Woody Allen film that, I think, stands the greatest chance of capturing the kind of mainstream appeal that he hasn't seemed to have been able to muster for decades.

Monday, April 24, 2006

mission statement or "how i learned to stop worrying and love the blog"

I have had, for quite some time now, a great deal of trouble trying to convince friends outside of my current field of studies-- and my profession-- that I am not a "film snob." A long time ago in an undergrad program not so very far away, these outsiders (sans goatee et garb noir) began to question as to whether studying/analyzing/interpreting and/or tearing apart films had ruined "the movies" for me. Over the course of a decade-or-so, the concern has become so ubiquitous that I have been compelled to devise a kind of general response, the tone of which may account, in part, for the leveled charge that I have my nose in the air: "Studying film hasn't ruined movies for me... It has ruined bad movies, and bad movies deserve to be ruined."

The relationship, in fact, is a little more complex than that. I love all kinds of movies, good and bad. What irks me, I guess, is that vast, mediocre middle ground that people so complacency accept as the bulk of their entertainment. Hmm... That sounds snobby, too. Let me rephrase: What irks me is not that people watch, are entertained by, and enjoy mainstream films (or even blockbuster extravaganzas), but that they seem so reluctant to seek out anything else...

And I understand this reluctance; I understand it because I have been privy to the reviews of two of the most formidable movie critics I know: my parents. Mom and Dad are well-rounded spectators. Variety is the spice of their movie diet, and any number of reasons might prompt them to give their thumbs up to a film they enjoy. If, on the other hand, they do not like a film, it tends to be for one of three reasons:

#1. "It was too depressing."
#2. "There were too many characters... We got confused."

(Allow me to digress for a quick second to say that these critiques are of some concern to me, and I hope to address them in a future post, but that this third one proved to be the inspiration for my "on-line agenda"...)

#3. "Did we miss something?"

Nine times out of ten, the answer to this question is "Yes." Now, this is not to say that the film in question is good or bad. It does, however, speak to the fact that their expectations have been manipulated by the formulas that have been established (by "popular" entertainment) as the norm. Which brings me to the point of this little effort:

For quite some time, I have wanted to write some reviews that shift the focus away from the purely evaluative, and present the reader with some information that will allow him/her to consider what to expect when approaching a film... Any film. Any movie. In doing so, there are a few things I'd like to achieve:

#1. On this website, I will review much of what I watch: films both old and new. My emphasis will be on "What You Might..." What you might like, what you might not; what you might expect, what you might consider; etc. I want to share some of the tools that have shaped my appreciation and analysis of movies, and I hope that anyone who's reading will respond with their own evaluations of the films I discuss. Tell me whether or not you like these films... Above all, tell me WHY.

#2. I also plan to use this space as a diary (urgh) to post some musings about issues in film that are rattling around my brain. I also welcome feedback here. The more we discuss, the more we grow to be critical spectators.

#3. The larger goal is to encourage people to be more discerning as an audience. I harbor no illusions that my little waste-of-space on the internet could ever inspire a mass audience to demand better from the Hollywood studios, but I would love to be assured that people recognize the difference between the good, the bad, and (especially) the mediocre. I would feel extremely fulfilled if I heard from one person who went to their local video store to rent King Kong, but also picked up something like The Squid and the Whale, Pieces of April, or The Station Agent, and was pleasantly surprised.