Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving Pictures

I saw True Grit last night. It was good. As a general rule I avoid remakes, because, really, what's the point, but you know, it's the Coen Brothers. Even their crappy movies are pretty good.

Now that I'm out of the coveted 18-35 year old age range, nobody gives a shit what I think about movies, and it shows.

Actually, it doesn't seem like Hollywood gives a shit about movies, period. Three quarters of most movies are remade from an older, better movie (True Grit gets the Awesomeness Exception), or based on some TV show that nobody liked 30 years ago, or a video game or a comic book nobody cared about. And do you think anyone involved in any way in shit like The A-Team or GI Joe actually cared about it? Did the directors or writers really yearn to tell a story? Did the actors really try to find the inner B.A. Baracus? No, they didn't care, and I think they actually hate anyone who actually paid money or wasted their precious cable time to see their shitty movies.

The indie ghetto is almost as bad, but at least you don't feel the hate for the audience from every frame. More like condescension. You know as soon as you see the handwritten credits while a guy and girl tonelessly sing with a kazoo or ukulele, you're gonna get a story about a guy who works as a crossword puzzle editor who's gonna meet a girl who knits sweaters for birds navigate their way through the trials and tribulations of being young, quirky, and upper middle-class.

Then there's a gazillion CGI movies where plastic shiny animals trade pop culture references and fart at each other, but as I'm childless, I don't have to watch those.

It's been said there are only a handful of original stories, everything since the time of the Greeks or Cavemen or whatever has just been updating and refining these universal themes. But there are really only two themes for a good movie.

There is only "Holy Crap! Check this out!" and "Listen to this story." Examples of "Holy Crap! Check this out" would embrace everything from Buster Keaton to musicals to martial arts to exploitation flicks. "Listen to this story" could be anything from "There's this cab driver who's all messed up" to "This village keeps getting raided so they try to find some protection" to "This cowboy goes on a 5 year obsessive quest to track down his niece."

Obviously, "Listen to this story" could apply to anything, even movies based on crappy kid's TV shows that were made to sell toys, but it has an important qualifier. As soon as you have to add sentence like "Yeah, you remember that old commercial/sci-fi movie from the '50s/TV show," the "Listen to this" story gets weakened, and eventually dies. If you have to add, "Someone wears a fat suit and farts a lot" or "Nicolas Cage and John Travolta" or "Adam Sandler and his less-funny friends" or "Yeah, it's Will Smith's kid" the genre shrivels up.

Is this a perfect system? No, it's not. It's more a "I'll know it when I see it" system. But it works for me. I guess. I'm watching a PBS American Experience on the Civil War as I write this, so maybe I am too old to comment on pop culture.


D. Thomas said...

But True Grit is not a remake of the first movie at all. They went back to the novel. That's a different category altogether.

The Inner Station said...

Well said. I couldn't agree more. It's why I am so grateful for companies such as Kino, HVE, or Criterion. I'm always finding great films that I wouldn't have found (or heard of) elsewhere. It's how I found Jules Dassin and Werner Herzog. But sadly, many of these films are from times long ago.

I suppose there are a few contemporaries out there I enjoy such as: Wes Anderson, David Fincher, or Yoji Yamada. Even Aronofsky is OK in my opinion; though I had high expectations for him after Pi, but so far it's been a mixed bag. I'll still check out Black Swan.

Oh, and by the way, Criterion is releasing GI Joe on Blu-ray as a 7 disc set including round-table commentaries from the first generation action figures. I didn't think Snake Eyes could talk so that should be interesting.

Patrick Hughes said...

This just in - a movie based on 80s video game classic Missile Command is now in production.

And I'm, ummm... Actually not kidding about that, by the way.