Monday Movies: Hype indifference
Movies watched this week:
- Inception — I managed to avoid most of the hype on this one and only saw it after getting some good word of mouth recommendations (though I also got a negative word of mouth review). I think it was a really well-done, intelligent “blockbuster” type of movie, and if this spoiler-filled interpretation is mostly correct, it appears to be about the decision of an auteur to work within the crowd-pleasing format. I found the science fiction elements to be satisfyingly non-belabored and yet still logical enough to carry me along, and of course the special effects and action sequences were very impressive. Still not sure if I like Leonardo DiCaprio, but at least he didn’t actively ruin it. Moderately recommended.
- Time Bandits — This is one of the craziest, funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and also the movie whose audience is most unclear — it’s structured like a kid’s movie (a group of time-travelling dwarves give an isolated, bookish kid the opportunity to see all his favorite historical moments in person), but talking to some people who saw it as a kid confirmed the fact that kids could never possibly get it. The ending is… amazing. Highly recommended.
- Dead Man Walking — The Girlfriend put it on her Netflix for reasons unknown even to her, and it’s been staring us down for weeks now. Sunday night, we finally watched it. It’s good, although not in a really surprising way. I like that they let Sean Penn’s character be absolutely unredeemed, except by the recognition that he’s unredeemable. (Also, a weird trivia fact: Jack Black plays one of his brothers. When Susan Sarandon visits the mom for the first time, he’s in the shot the whole time, weirdly framed by a car’s hood; then he has some lines in the last meet and greet with the family.)
Everybody says that Toy Story 3 is really good — is this true?
Another generally movie-related remark: does A. O. Scott come across to anyone else as a smug asshole? His column this Sunday was the very model of the kind of “snarky” writing I hate, complete with the sarcastic parenthetical asides along the lines of “horrors!” It’s a specifically liberal kind of smug assholishness, because it has an instinctive “pox on both your houses” vibe while still trying to maintain distance, apparently only achievable through bemused superiority to the whole affair. Apparently film critics who had seen the movie before it was released had sharp disagreements about its quality level — how silly, right? And only after it was released to a general audience did people start debating detailed plot points. In the actual human world, this whole sequence of events makes perfect sense and are not worthy of comment.
In fact, his whole point about how you make the “masterpiece vs. trash” judgment only in the end is ridiculous — only when you’re convinced that a film is a serious work do you start debating plot points. No one sits around debating the deeper meaning of Billy Madison and comes up empty, only then concluding that it’s disposable raunchy summer fare. You make your broad judgment first. Obviously the “masterpiece vs. trash” dichotomy is a false one, but given the presentation of Inception and the stature of Christopher Nolan, the only options for that initial judgment are basically either a masterpiece or a failed attempt at one. So again, the whole dynamic makes absolute and total sense and is not worthy of comment.
Anyway, what did you watch this week, dear readers?
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