Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Film Industry Presents Self With Ridiculously Easily-Solved Problem

It's a well-documented fact that I think nerds need to get the hell over comparing movies to videogames. But the latest hand-wringing missive on the subject from Variety continues the trend of actual film people (well, execs, at least) thinking the same way.

The general gist, if I read correctly, is that we're worried that games made for ADD teenaged boys will stop those same boys from flooding in their expected droves to movies like Jumper.

Which raises what I would imagine would be a staggeringly obvious solution: Why not just make some movies for people other than ADD teenage boys?

I mean... when games try to do movies, it's awful. When movies try to do games, it's (amazingly) even worse. So why not just let games being ridiculous in their quaint way (games being much better than movies at the particular brand of ridiculous which games aim for, ie holding a controller and blowing shit up in an overstylized manner) and get on with making movies that don't need to compete? Ie, movies for people with a mental age of >25?

(I did mention I really liked Rambo, right?)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blindsight, or On Seeing

About the most incongruous thing about Blindsight may be its attractiveness. It’s gorgeous. Obviously not the sheen of a well-shot drama, neither is this the nature-as-achingly-beautiful-compositions of Baraka’s ilk. No, Blindsight is just shooting on the fly, with very little in the way of cameraperson-as-rock-star; but just because of its setting, the picture often manages a simple, effortless grandeur that’s hard to force.

Why this should be a sticking point, of course, is because almost everyone in Blindsight is utterly sightless and have been for most or all of their lives.

The blind/sighted divide permeates most every exchange and motivation in Blindsight. Understand: these kids aren’t just blind blind. They’re BLIND blind. Culturally, personally, even spiritually – these are people whose blindness not just shapes them, but defines them in society.

And just so, it must necessarily always be at the forefront of their onscreen presence: in a film where the majority of the protagonists never see the camera, the uneasy sensation of creepy voyeurism – that old documentary bugbear – is never far off.

A jerk-reaction against this possibility may be the reason for the film’s somewhat cloying tone toward the whole – don’t let’s be unclear about this, HELLUVA gutsy – endeavour. In making sure it’s on the side of the angels, Blindsight falls a little short.

In many ways, what this is a story about is the Western characters’ gradual transition from gung-ho knock-the-bastard-off bravado into a rather sweet, humble understanding of the Buddhist understanding of Suffering; but because the pic’s so goldurn set on making sure you know how great it is that these awesome dudes took these brave little tykes on a really grand adventure, that payoff is hinted at rather than delivered.

And the de facto theme song? Let’s not dwell, but… “I CAN’T SEE dada dadidah”? Guys, just… mean.

[appears edited at Flicks]

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Wahine Disaster, or On Kiwis At Sea

It’ll be interesting to see how Kiwis respond to The Wahine Disaster for two reasons. Firstly, of course, is the fact that the event has registered on the national psyche like few others. On the psychic landscape of New Zealand popular consciousness, the Wahine is a lead-ball singularity dragging all other events into its orbit.

The second – exponentially more trite – reason to be interested in public reception to this fine piece is that New Zealanders, on a site I write for, have voted Titanic as the single most despised film ever to be available for viewing within this country.

So if Titanic is hated with a passion reserved for few other films, while Wahine is remembered with a reverence similar in quantity – well, if one were of a mind to see both as media events, what would one say about that?

Quite likely New Zealanders would say, yes, but it’s the emotionality of Titanic we can’t stomach. All that operatic bluster. All that Celine Dion. Wahine, they’d say, is also about regular folk descending into gut-wrenching chaos; but they made a good go of it. Wahine is our tragedy because we just got on with being tragedised.

This right-you-are attitude makes Wahine an odd sort of beast. On the one hand, the raw pandemonium of the events recounted keeps the storytelling taut, gripping, and certainly never outstaying its welcome.
On the other, there’s a seldom-breached reserve that’s simply at odds with the pictures we’re seeing. It’s hard to know what to believe – the people who were there, or the pictures they brought back.

What will never be explored with this laudable level of depth or attention is why we care so deeply about Wahine: what it is about the notion of a shipwreck just off the Wellington shore that should freeze the image so indelibly in the memory-bank of all who see it.

[originally appeared at Flicks]

Friday, April 04, 2008

Token non-fictional commentary

A friend of mine decided last weekend to have a marathon of the Rocky movies. This didn't last long... or as she put it, "it consisted of me watching the first one, screaming at the tv, 'WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE DOESN'T WIN?!', and giving up".

My friend is not Hillary Clinton, who evidently has not even got that far. I think H-Clin's desperate attempt to graft herself onto the Rocky myth in the popular consciousness will go down in political history as one of the great legends of campaign lore - not as evocatively evil as the Willie Horton ad, but far more endearingly misguided than the Swift Boat Veterans.

Obama has responded to Clinton's perplexing attempt at narrative-hackery (which smack more than anything else of amateur hour - say what you will about the golden days of neg politics, at least Lee Atwater would never have let his candidate do anything so clunky), and the flaws in her metaphor have been noted, but...

Well, look. Did anyone in the campaign just say, at any stage, "okay, look: this is a story about a borderline-retarded dunderhead who uses pluck and gumption to go up against a threateningly showy, talky - hell, let's just say it, uppity - neegra of a champ, and despite all his grassroots back-to-the-streets hardscrabbling (which, ahem, our candidate is not exactly known for), he gets the shit beat out of him by said uppity chatterbox? A story in which the good old white-bread backbone of America is threatened by a cadre of articulate blackness, and shows its pep and verve by, having survived a bout in which both competitors damn near kill themselves, reassures his opponent that he's not after a rematch?"

Because, I mean, I don't even know whether that metaphor's supposed to be prescriptive or descriptive. Maybe neither: apparently for Hillary, the big moment in Rocky is when he runs up some stairs. Okay, sure, but he then had the, you know, rest of the story to get through.