Reasonable Words

“She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit.” — W. Somerset Maughan

A Grand Canyon do-over? Please shoot me, and make it quick.

crossing-over

Filmed on location in Hoover, Alabama: When did Han Solo get so old and where exactly is he taking my dry cleaner?

NYT: Crossing Over, Thorny Path of Immigration, Post 9/11

When it comes to politics and the big screen, American filmmakers tend to fall into two camps, the grossly exploitative and the earnestly instructive. On the earnestly instructive side are well-intentioned downers and uppers like “Grand Canyon”

Stop right there. Stop right there. If this is going where I think…

…and their lower-budget equivalents, like “The Visitor” and “Frozen River,” which offer prescriptive lessons in tolerance. On the grossly exploitative are those films, like Wayne Kramer’s “Crossing Over,” that deliver their sanctimony with less hand-wringing and more fist-shaking, complete with lurid violence and, for no real narrative reason, periodically bared female flesh.

Okay okay okay. Now that I know I don’t have to watch a rehash of what was arguably the most sanctimonious cast ever assembled teaching me about the serendipity of thousands of small, wondrous connections that bring everyday people together in the So Cal wasteland, I’m still listening. Not that I’m exactly keen on the “grossly exploitative,” but as long as lurid violence and narratively extraneous flesh are all that’s being forced on me (which I regard as an assault nonetheless) instead of new-agey liberal overreach (which, because I’m  a liberal, I feel borders on battery), I can hang. For a while at least.

In general, the grossly exploitative flicks tend to be more entertaining or at least bearable than the earnestly instructive variant.

[singsong] Thank you. [/singsong] So it looks like what we have here is something like Crash (the self-righteous one, not the one that’ll really fucking blow your mind*) meets Lethal Weapon meets Babel meets Lethal Weapon 2 meets Traffic. In short, some mindless action helps the lecture go down. Yipeee!!! So where am I going with this, except to invent an excuse to once more decry the existence of Grand Canyon? Good question. It’s still some nebulous thing in my head, but I think it has to do with the message of popular cinema staying in time with the political pendulum (maybe a note or two behind). Or, to put it another way:

Reagan : Iron Eagle :: Clinton : Independence Day

::

Bush 43 : Bad Boys II :: Obama : (outcome pending)

If either this schematic or the title of this post makes any sense at all to you, I think we have some things to talk about.

To be continued.

============================================

* I mean this shit was censored in Europe!

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Filed under: Film, Geeking Out, I Call Bullsh*t, I'm an aesthete. Sue me.

Weekend Review: “Sweeter than a cherry pie with Reddi-Whip topping”

It appears WordPress does not have a widget that functions like TypePad’s “Media List,” which allows the author to rave about/identify/plug different media items they’re enjoying–or trying to impress their reader(s) by pretending to enjoy. So I guess I’ll do it with a homegrown post. Get comfortable.

On DVD: Mad Men, Season 1

As previously intimated, I’m jonesin’ pretty bad for some fresh Mad Men. Since I’ve no idea when Season 3 is coming out, and Season 2 isn’t available until Summer, it appears, I rummage to the back of the sock drawer for Season 1. It’s not all stems and seeds, but it’s just whetting my appetite to see how 1963 will end (apparently with some national calamity, I read in a fan forum).

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Books, Film, In the Ear, IRL, The Idiot Box

See this movie.

rourke-2

“… its brilliance is not in its ability — or desire — to revolutionize the medium. Through one simple character, the washed-up slob that is The Ram, America itself is laid bare (and where Jersey has never looked so Jersey). And who knew that when the chips were down, Mickey Rourke would come to set things right? His performance is a revelation to be sure; a realization so penetrating, wise, and achingly authentic that it deserves to sweep Oscar off its feet.”  —Matt Cale

Still not convinced? Hate professional wrestling? I hear you, but it’s not about wrestling. Love professional wresting? Well, Cale is right when he says (without irony or exaggeration):

“…lest anyone think this is a dry, humorless soap opera, it bears repeating that The Wrestler, for all of its pathos and insight, has moments of great fun and rich laughter. The wrestling scenes…are both hysterical and vivid, demonstrating technique…and showcasing set pieces so bizarre as to seem unreal. Or less real than usual. Randy’s fight with the Rabbi-looking dude, for example, involved barbed-wire, panes of glass, thumbtacks, a staple gun, and an audience member’s artificial leg.”

That scene alone more than compensates for the heavy lifting expected of us elsewhere.

Filed under: Film

What River in Egypt?

wheelers

The Wheelers, seen here in happier times.

Matt Cale is, by all accounts, the shit. I mean, just try not to cackle in affirmation. Try. But I don’t agree with him on everything. Specifically, I question his inclusion of Revolutionary Road on his 10 Worst Films of 2008 list (though I’ve seen little to suggest the other nine shouldn’t be there).

The two leads are shrill, no question. Yet, for all of Cale’s valid points, Sam Mendes’s failure/refusal to mine all that pathos for a little levity only means that he adhered to the spirit of the book. I’ve read it; it’s depressing and cold with no sentimentality and little if any irony. The couple in question suffer from near-crippling delusion and denial, play each other like Steinways, and ignore their children (whom they clearly shouldn’t have had) absolutely. The only chuckles it drew from me were the uncomfortable kind that come when someone’s pointed out your own sick shit. With a rapier.

So should Mendes have really turned a right skewering into an ironic smirk just to appeal to our early-21st-century sensibilities? Not for my money. The book’s narrative is devastating, its characters shrill, and its tone arguably self-important. Insofar as the film is a reverently (if imperfectly) abridged version of the book, it’s done its job.

cf. Pandagon’s Bamboo Reviews: Revolutionary Road the movie

Filed under: Books, Film

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