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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?


July 25, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. I took advantage of being near Bradford to watch Tere Bin Laden, which is pretty excellent, although I don’t know if it’s likely to be showing in America any time soon. The title sequence gives a pretty accurate representation of the film.

    Comment by voyou | July 26, 2010

  2. I saw Dead Man Walking and then read the book for a class in college. I was astonished to find out Sean Penn’s character in the movie seemed to be an amalgam of a couple of death row inmates Sister Prejean (was that her name?) counseled. I never watched the movie again to confirm that, but from memory at the time, it seemed like some of his characteristics were taken from multiple inmates. It made the movie seem somehow dishonest to me, or at least like their deciding to do that should have been more prominent in discussions about the movie since it was presented as “based on a true story”.

    I really hope my memory of the inconsistency between the book and the movie is accurate or this is comment is an embarassing failure of attention to detail on my part.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 26, 2010

  3. when crafting new words, make then ‘short and… mellisonant’, like ‘assholeness’, not assholishness :-)

    Comment by visitor | July 26, 2010

  4. Someone ban “visitor”.

    I saw Inception last night. I liked it. It was clever, the scenes were well shot, di Capri, who I think is just awful, didn’t ruin it, and the other characters could have been developed a bit more but it avoided throwing in too many cliches. If you are arguing about the top spinning at the end, well, congrats to Nolan then. I think the film might work well in a lecture next year and since it was popular and smart that is helpful for me.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | July 26, 2010

  5. Finally saw Avatar. My insanely low expectations were exceeded.

    Comment by Hill | July 26, 2010

  6. Agree about Inception, I saw it yesterday as well, and it’s a good summer blockbuster with some intelligence required. I understand the dislike for diCaprio, but I don’t mind him. I think he usually picks very good roles in movies and does an adequate job with them.

    Also, I don’t think kids could get Time Bandits.

    Comment by Dave Mesing | July 26, 2010

  7. I loved Time Bandits as a kid. There’s plenty for kids. “Little things hitting each other! That’s what I like!” It freaked me out a little that it ends with him not having any parents. Kids gotta get freaked out some time.

    Comment by k-sky | July 27, 2010

  8. Thanks a lot, k-sky. I haven’t seen Time Bandits. (Kidding)

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 27, 2010

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