a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Hastily Assembled Random Thoughts

- What in the world do Old School and the doc Tibet: The Cry of the Snow Lion have in common? Nothing, except that I saw them hours apart and awarded both of them a grade of C+. Now, grades are not relative -- they reflect each film on their own merits, i.e., if I enjoyed them for what they were trying to do, what they failed at, et al. (Grades are also bullshit. I use them for organizational skills and also because I don't feel like typing up a treatise on every one of them I see but still wish to let you know what I vaguely thought. I'm not lazy; I see hundreds of these monsters a year. Time is tight. Lay off bud.) But that I had a similar reaction to both of them illuminates to something about reactions. With School, I was embarrassingly amused by the inane antics, and felt that, for a bad-taste movie, it wasn't as noxious and was more inspired than most out there. (Including Todd Phillips previous outing, Road Trip.) But with Tibet, we have an interesting subject given a fairly pat, expository treatment, and in the least cinematic fashion possible. Seeing it on the big screen feels creepy -- wouldn't the plain footage, the plain v.o. and the simplistic harrangues go down easier when expectations are lowered on PBS? Were I Sean Burns, the grade would be like a D, but it is fairly interesting, at least in that I didn't know the entire history of the Tibetan people. Apart from exposition, the most it has to say about the situation is that it's sad. School, though, had Vince Vaughn as a obscenity-liking father. Admit it: they're the same damn movie.

- Always the fence-sitter, I haven't totally made up my mind about Bernardo Bertolucci's horny-cinephiles opus, The Dreamers. On one hand, it flat-out doesn't work -- thematic strands never really take off, his love-'em-AND-despise-'em handling of the French pair seems simplistic, and, well, a lot of it is just so much bullshit. (Esp. for cinephiles like me, at whom I'm sure this movie is supposedly directed. As Frog Man says, "Did you hear what Godard said about Nicholas Ray? 'Nicholas Ray eees cinema!'") As a movie to, for lack of a better term, live in, it's rather pleasant, actually; it looks like Bertolucci needed to make a miniature like Besieged a couple years back, if only to reclaim his command of mood and tone and space after a neverending string of Epics. The movie is loose with everything, trying on different guises throughout while never trying to force anything down your throat. Even the notorious kitchen scene follows its own rhythm and logic -- it should be daring and ballsy and, I dunno, Solondz-esque. Instead, it's gentle, even ethereal. Only when it does try for Depth does it feel out of its element: the ending feels patly "disturbing," and I'm sure someone else feels there should've been some connecting tissue between these film anarchists turning into actual anarchists. Oh well. On Matthew Pitt: Bertolucci wanted DiCaprio, didn't he? Also, Eva Green is strong -- can even act well without her clothes on. That's talent.

- A tangent from the above: what's up with cinephiles being depicted on film and in docs as deranged former asylum members? With The Dreamers and Cinemania, filmmakers seem to want to punt the theory onto the masses that film geeks are only interested in a) the visceral quality of images and b) seeing a fuck off amount of movies. I know we all watch movies differently, be we obsessive or casual, but what about those of us who watch 400+ movies in a year (like I did last year) and can spend an entire evening talking about things that aren't movie-related? (This blog, for instance, will one day very soon mention something other than movies. I just never touch this thing.) Discuss.

- The word "just." I just used it. I was advised long ago to evict it from my vernacular, and subsequently from the vernacular of everybody else. There are much better substitutions: "simply," "only," a form of "but," "solely," "merely," "singularly" even. Spread the word.

- For those who don't look at sidelines, I've done some updating and have added both a pathetically miniscule grade list of films released in 2004 and, at long last, my Top Ten of the year. It's long. It could be longer, even more self-indulgent. Peruse at your own risk.


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