Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Things Big, Loud & Dumb

Okay, that was un-called for (not really).

Anyway, what I'm naturally referring to is the wholly-expected (and probably well deserved) critical trashing of Michael Bay's latest opus Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a title so ironically cornball-serious that I wonder if it doesn't encapsulate the bizarre dichotomy of Bay's entire career: that is, the incredibly stone-faced high camp. The idea that a film maker could be so out-of-touch with reality that he treats his ridiculous scenarios as though they are anything but. What irritates me most about Bay's career is not that he makes dumb, crass, lowest-common-denominator movies aimed at mass-consumption (that is, quite honestly, a war I am tired of waging); it's that he makes said dumb, crass, lowest-common-denominator movies without a touch of class, grace, or wit--- it's just visual noise. Plus, Bay's pictorial rhythm is so choppy that his action sequences are downright incomprehensible, at best. It doesn't even go down smooth (incidentally, I Googled "big, loud, and dumb" and the first image hit I got was a poster for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The second image was Mr. Sham-Wow himself, Billy Mays*. Take that as you will).

Michael Bay uses his camera as a toy, not a tool. This is probably what made him the ideal choice for the first Transformers film--- a movie I legitimately enjoyed (Who but Michael Bay could get seriously emotionally involved in the odyssey of Happy Meals?). Bay turned down his crass, misogynistic teenage pandering 'humor' and allowed the film's breathless sense of spectacle and wonder to be its guiding force (the Spielberg touch, perhaps?). Plus, the film was grounded not just by its CGI--- which is legitimately some of the finest in modern day blockbusters--- but by a star-making turn by Shia LaBeouf, someone I never would have thought I might enjoy in a film. But there is such a lack of pretension from LaBeouf, a nerdy-yet-endearing charm, that he carries the film incredibly gracefully on his shoulders. He keeps the movie grounded and extremely enjoyable.

I so enjoyed the first Transfomers that I was legitimately looking forward to Bay's sequel, as much as one can look forward to these things. I wanted to take my little brother because, in spite of Bay's propensity for crass toilet-humor, there was little-to-none of that in the first Transformers, and my little brother had a helluva good time (he was born in '97, so he's more used to having his senses assaulted on a daily basis than I am). The first film may have had something of an edge--- that teenage 'tude that arises from its adherence to MTV-generation apathy (still gotta make it teeny-bopper friendly), but it was also an effective children's film, because it taps into that child-like wonder that we projected onto our toys as children; the idea that they're really capable of anything.

From what I've read, it sounds like Bay is up to his old tricks again with Transformers: ROTF (or as my main man Jim Emerson calls it: Transformers: ROTFL). Roger Ebert's hilariously scathing review details it more effectively than I can (considering, y'know, he's seen the movie in question):

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.


Aware that this movie opened in England seven hours before Chicago time and the morning papers would be on the streets, after writing the above I looked up the first reviews as a reality check. I was reassured: "Like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan!" (Bradshaw, Guardian); "Sums up everything that is most tedious, crass and despicable about modern Hollywood!" (Tookey, Daily Mail); "A giant, lumbering idiot of a movie!" (Edwards, Daily Mirror). The first American review, Todd Gilchrist of Cinematical, reported that Bay's "ambition runs a mile long and an inch deep," but, in a spirited defense, says "this must be the most movie I have ever experienced." He is bullish on the box office: it "feels destined to be the biggest movie of all time." It’s certainly the biggest something of all time."

What interests me less than Ebert's review (which feels very much like vintage Ebert--- this may be his most enjoyable trashing of a movie since his infamous review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen back in '03) is that last paragraph, where he quoted other critical lambastings of Revenge of the Fallen. It amuses me to no end that many of the same critics who gave Star Trek a pass ("reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals!") could cite any other film as being loud, dumb, and incoherent ("a noisy, underplotted, and overlong special effects extravaganza that lacks a human touch")--- just take a moment to soak in this positively delicious irony, which is so subtly farcical that it's almost Heller-esque. So Michael Bay's distinct brand of visual noise is bland, while Abrams' calculated blandness counts as visual imagination? What is it about Michael Bay's sensibility that makes him such an easy target?

What's always bothered me about a Michael Bay release is that it suddenly becomes open-season for critics. Suddenly, they call care about film's implications--- on the social, cultural, and even formal level. Suddenly, almost magically, they all have a refined aesthetic sense and care about a film's visual syntax--- as though these are important values to them when the director isn't Michael Bay. Where, I ask, were these mini-Bazins when two of the most visually imaginative blockbusters in recent memory--- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Wachowski's Speed Racer--- were getting critically trashed? Why, they were taking part in the trashing of course, because a precious few critics legitimately think for themselves. And a new Michael Bay release is a chance to show off how clever they can be, how creatively they can rip a movie to shreds. ("a 150 minute waterboarding session!", "it carves out its own category of godawfulness", "smashes and bashes the senses") This public execution style of criticism is a large part of what puts people off to critics in the first place.

What I'm saying is these criticisms would mean more if they were put within a meaningful context--- the exact thing modern criticism lacks. A critic who ignores the visual incomprehensibility and inherent misogyny in product like Star Trek literally has no right to cite those things as flaws in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen--- no matter how true they are (and I don't doubt for a second that the movie is legitimately awful). My point is that critics will only take pot-shots if you're an easy, almost established target like Michael Bay, but they're less willing to cite a film's lack of imagination when it's helmed by Pixar, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, or J.J. Abrams--- then your lack of imagination is praised as bold film making. Armond White (sorta) edifies in the NY Press (note the sarcasm, please):

"WHY WASTE SPLEEN on Michael Bay? He’s a real visionary—perhaps mindless in some ways (he’s never bothered filming a good script), but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is more proof he has a great eye for scale and a gift for visceral amazement. Bay’s ability to shoot spectacle makes the Ridley-Tony-Jake Scott family look like cavemen.

Who else could compose a sequence where characters (albeit robots) go from the bottom of the sea to another planet in one seamless, 30-second, dreamlike flow? That transition typifies the storytelling in this sequel to 2007’s Transformers."

Sorry, Armond, not only am I not 'wasting spleen' (whatever that means) on Mr. Bay, I am not wasting money on him. Reports have suggested that ROTF has taken in as much as 60 million in its first day in nationwide release. This simple statistic is more abominable than anything Bay could throw up on the screen. Yes, I know, I am an amateur 'critic' and it is my social duty to subject myself to the most unimaginable of cinematic tortures for the sake of the form--- but my reasoning for not paying to see this latest Transformers film is more than just principle, it's self-preservation.

In Hollywood, a ticket purchase is an endorsement. I don't have to explain the faulty reasoning of this principle to a thinking human being, but H-Wood sees human beings as nothing but demographics, and a ticket purchase is a vote for a film's ethics--- or lack thereof. Naturally, this logic doesn't take into factor the people who saw the film and didn't like it, who saw the film against their will, or who bought their ticket out of boredom. All that counts is that the ticket was purchased (Hollywood is, after all, bred by inclusive bratty little University shits who don't have an actual connection to anything resembling humanity-- only numbers). If we want these kinds of movies to stop being made (and who doesn't?), we need to purchase our tickets more carefully--- and critics need to break down their observations so that they have some relevance. Just flinging shit at a film and film maker, even one like Michael Bay, is just counter-productive.

Now, I'm not saying that all the negative reviews of Revenge of the Fallen are just senseless mud slinging, I'm just saying that for the most part they sure are. But the sad thing about criticism is how the herd-mentality has become the guiding force, and so many critics figure that their observations are such a given that it's not worth the time to flesh them out. "Of course Michael Bay makes crass-entertainment, so I shouldn't have to flesh out why this film is crass. It should be obvious enough." They have better things to do than, ya know, their job.

So, I am not purchasing a ticket. I am not saying it's okay to make this kind of movie. I don't want an opinion on it. I don't need an opinion on it. I don't really give a rat's ass. I'm still so behind on my watching (my class and work schedule of late has left little time for the finer things in life) that I don't think spending over 3 hours in a movie theater so I can watch Revenge of the Fallen is a good use of my time, money, or derriere. I have better things to do, like watching paint dry while I'm getting waterboarded, at the same time someone hits my head with a frying pan and rapes my eyeballs.

*6/28, 1:40 P.M.: I have just found out about Billy Mays' death at the age of 49. Needless to say, this makes me feel like a real heel. I hope my joke was not a contributing factor. Rest in peace, Mr. Mays, you made our whites whiter than we could have ever hoped for.


Homiebrain said...

You brought up a lot of great points in your post, but I especially wanted to echo the pretentious sentiment a lot of critics share in deriding a film and it's director not just for it's content, but for the fact that they're both willing to be completely transparent about their intentions. Not to say that critics were any less inclined to jump on easy targets before, but the examples that you brought up in your post (Star Trek/The Dark Knight/Crystal Skull/Speed Racer) represent the notion that a summer blockbuster is allowed to be taken with more than a grain of salt as long as it maintains the illusion of high ambitions, and I think this applies even more for the first two films than the latter. In spite of not seeing Speed Racer, I still think it's safe to say that most critics were instantly more willing to slap the above mentioned blockbusters with the "art" label. Actually, Crystal Skull and Speed Racer had a much more tepid response, and I suppose a "misunderstood/under-appreciated art" label might have been more appropriate.

The reviews on Bay's films aren't completely baseless, but to paraphrase one of your statements, there are too many critics that are willing to shoot from the hip without feeling the need to explore the context or assign a relative scale to the expectations of a Bay film, or a summer blockbuster in general. To be fair, I suppose it's harder to seriously review a film like Transformers because you really aren't presented with much besides special effects and toilet humor, but that doesn't necessarily excuse it from getting rated on a scale that's often out of proportion to the promises it makes and actually delivers on, unlike lots of artsy and/or cerebral *shudder* summer blockbusters.

that's what she said...

I just wrote a post here that got deleted when I tried to post it Ryan!
Well anyway i think you enjoyed those bad films you listed gran torino, the dark knight, and the other one. I also think that you think that this transformers film could be and most likely is worse than bad and that much more unbearable than those other films that garnered varying degrees of praise from whomever.
You full well know after watching the last half an hour of the first transformer motion image that this franchise could get much much worse very fast. I think there is a reason why you saw those other films yet refused to see this film.

Adam said...

I've decided not to see ROTF either. After I tried to order the first movie from Blockbuster but got a broken disc instead (and had to send it back), I decided that there was no point in seeing the second movie- and now I definately know I won't be seeing it. But as you say, it's a bit odd that critics vent all of their abuse at Michael Bay without much using that anger on other films (although you and I know we disagree on what those films ought to be).

You explained that Bay's full emphasis on noise without making the noise special is a reason why you find him irritating. Here's one other reason why Bay annoys me: he has very little respect for cinema in general. Bay cites his favorite filmmakers as Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, and the Coens. All great filmmakers, but COME ON! If Bay were to retire now and become a film professor, he would probably try to get students to believe that movies didn't exist until "Star Wars". That's where he gets all his influence, and pretty soon it's going to trickle down to future generations... sort of like Reaganomics!

Bay is also in the position right now where he can make any film he wants to- and isn't being wise. Worse, he doesn't seem to realize it when he has offended people. When Ebert castrated "Pearl Harbor", Bay shot back with a whiny defense about how the ship models in his movie were all supposedly accurate. How does this excuse the fact that he made a movie that was an insult to that period of time, in form and content?

Adam said...

about Armond White's review, I suspect the only reason he's being kind to ROTF is because Spielberg's name is on it. White has a bad habit of deciding early on which filmmakers he'll like and which ones he will hate- and this will affect his reviews of their films from then on. Every now and then there are exceptions (he loves De Palma but hated "Redacted"), but he loves EVERYTHING that Spielberg has done. Even as a helpless Spielberg fanboy myself I find this a bit dubious.

Read White's review of "A.I.". It's dated. He called it the first film to elevate fantasy to art, but of course White would say something like that. Another thing wrong with White's review is that he assumes that "A.I." is meant to bring out the child in all of us. The problem I have with that statement is that I don't consider "A.I." to be one of Spielberg's sentimental films.

Actually, details about the cynical ending aren't even mentioned in White's review. I guess he was like me, when I saw the film back in 2001 as a ten-year old; I assumed that David got to reunite with Monica at the end under the watchful care of aliens. Years later I realized that Monica wasn't real, that the whole day was artificial and that David was being set up by supermechas and killed himself afterwords. Did White pick up on this stuff? Probably not. Then again, White doesn't much like Kubrick, so it's not surprising that he would fail to recognize the strongest Kubrickian elements in the film.

Rosenbaum, to date, has written the best review on "A.I.", although I object to the minor part in his review where he slams Spielberg for allegedly providing "Close Encounters" dialogue for the supermechas. So, what do we have here? White is a Kubrick hater and Rosenbaum is a Spielberg hater. Was there ever a more divisive film all decade than "A.I."? Does Bay have the balls to make that kind of film?

Homiebrain said...

I doubt it. Bay doesn't have the balls that are involved with taking risks and attempting to innovate on any kind of creative level. Maybe he cared about these things earlier in his career, but the only type of hubris I've ever seen him display stemmed from his refusal to go outside of his comfort zone and stick to his guns (and what big/loud guns they are!) and not apologizing for it. I think he realized the extent of his abilities a long time ago and simply decided to stick to the formula that would line his pockets with cash. I haven't seen ROTF, but based on it's reviews, it seems like it's standard Michael Bay fare, except this time he's upped the ante to the point where the spectacle was more obnoxious than entertaining and stick between even lengthier scenes of toilet humor. If this is true, then the fact that he doesn't even attempt to innovate within his own stupidly successful franchise (which will make money no matter what) only goes to show what kind of a pussy he is. So to answer your question, Adam, no, I don't think he ever had the balls to make a film like A.I., although he may decide to grow a pair once he's realized that he's got enough money.

Ryan Kelly said...

Brian, great points. You're right, there's a weird kind of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't attitude with respect to summer blockbuster's. For instance, last year, supporters of The Dark Knight said that the awards circles and such weren't taking it seriously enough because it was a blockbuster and, at the same time, the people citing flaws with it were taking it too seriously.

I think context is important, as you say. Everything needs to be appreciated on its own terms--- which is why I would seriously defend the original Transformers. Again, I don't doubt that this movie is anything but awful, I'm just saying that movies that are bad in their own right or have many of the same core problems as Revenge of the Fallen are given a pass because... well, just because I guess.

Ryan Kelly said...

TWSS, I'm sorry for your troubles commenting. I must admit, of all the discussion forums I've ever visited, blogger is least inclined to lose your comments, but these things happen. Lost in the void of the internet, forever.

I 'enjoy' almost everything I go to see in a theater. It's such a rare experience that, yes, I 'enjoy' myself--- but what kind of critical standard is a shallow reaction? "Yes, it kept me occupied for a few hours--- great cinema!". The point of writing about movies is to put the individual experience into some kind of critical context. My reviews just serve as a record to my immediate impression of a movie, and if the tone is negative then that speaks to the way I felt about the movie more than anything.

Yes, that last half hour of Transformers was just abysmal, and should have spelled out the way the franchise was heading. I'd enjoyed the movie that preceded that final 20 minutes or so, but the climax in the first film was just painful and, yes, probably encapsulated the experience of this new one.

But, no, the reasons I am not seeing Revenge of the Fallen is two-fold. One, I have better things to do with 2 1/2 hours of my life and two, the movie has taken in 200 million in the U.S. in its opening weekend, and 400 million worldwide. As I said in my post, the fact that this movie is making so much money is more disgusting than anything Michael Bay has done in his life.

Ryan Kelly said...

Adam, you're not missing much. Again, I like the movie enough, but it's nothing to write home about. It's something you catch on HBO, you don't waste postage on it.

Fine, we disagree on which movies are worthy of the, er, 'spleen' (?) that Michael Bay gets--- that's really semantics, though. I agree with White's thesis that Bay has a vision, but that doesn't make him ispo-facto better than the visionless, because his vision is akin to getting your synapses pounded with a shovel. Still, that Bay's unique status amongst blockbuster film makers is almost never discussed (see Manohla Dargis' review in the NY Times for a great discussion on this) is worrysome. Again, a Bay release is an excuse for a lot of critics to show how silver-tonged they are. This does not supplant analysis, as entertaining as it can be.

You're right, he's waned on the post-Star Wars cinema, which is to say, cinematic storytelling that veers more towards the moment-to moment, almost shallow joys of television. His music-video style of film making is proof of this. With music videos that loose association of images is good because the images are more supposed to be representative of musical beats than traditional visual storytelling, but Bay's dissociative imagery is flat-out incoherent and bombastic. As you say, he doesn't respect cinema because he doesn't respect an audience's patience or intelligence.

You're right, the Spielberg thing will push him to bounds of insanity, even endorsing Mr. Bay. Again, I agree with him in theory, but just because his brand of bombast is distinct, that doesn't necessarily make Bay a good film maker.

Yes, like you, I am a huge fan of Spielberg--- but that doesn't mean the man's farts don't stink. When he isn't the director of a project, his mogul sensibility shines through (with the exception of some of Zemeckis' films, and of course the great Joe Dante). I was really worried about the first Transformers movie, but I feel like Spielberg really kept Bay at... er, bay with that movie. There are moments that step back and just take in the sheer wonder of the robots, and there is one set-piece where you have an actual sense of space (it's more of a comedic set-piece than an action one, though).

His review of A.I. is definitely a reflection of the atmosphere of the movie's release, but still his two reviews (his second one is better, actually) stand as amongst my favorites of that film. I agree, Rosenbaum's review would probably stand as the finest--- and part of why it's such an invaluable piece of literature to me is precisely because Rosenbaum has criticisms of Spielberg's career on the whole (much moreso than I do--- though his Saving Private Ryan review is one of his finest hours), and this puts A.I. in an even more meaningful context because it forced him to rethink not only Kubrick, but Spielberg too.

I don't think White hates Kubrick (he praises 2001 in his Benjamin Button review), but you gotta remember he will always be a Paulette at heart, and Kael has a big problem with pretty much everything of Kubrick's post Lolita. So I think Kael's words had a big impact on him.

And, no, Bay doesn't have anywhere near the insight, talent, aesthetic sense, or understanding of art and humanity to ever make anything like A.I.. Ever.

Marilyn said...

Great post, Ryan.

Yes, I know, I am an amateur 'critic' and it is my social duty to subject myself to the most unimaginable of cinematic tortures for the sake of the form:

That's what you've got wrong. It is the great thing about being an amateur that you DON'T have to see every godforsaken movie. Only people who get paid to opine for each opening weekend have to do that.

Armond White is my idea of a lousy critic. Not because he can't understand the language of movies but because he is a professional contrarian and a scold. He thinks he has the right to dictate taste, not just make educated recommendations. I suspect he is taking an opposite view about Bay simply to set himself apart from the pack that you rightly point out has its designated targets and refuses to aim their arrows at fatter calves.

Ryan Kelly said...

It is the great thing about being an amateur that you DON'T have to see every godforsaken movie.

True enough, Marilyn, though I've certainly been lackadaisical enough about new releases as it is without ignoring the biggest movie of the year. But in this case I really don't care and would rather spend the time catching up with and reviewing other releases (I saw Drag Me to Hell today and hope to see Tetro and Public Enemies this week). I can't imagine being able to write an essay-length review of it, even less than I can imagine actually sitting through all 150 minutes of it.

Armond White is my idea of a lousy critic. Not because he can't understand the language of movies but because he is a professional contrarian and a scold.

True enough, but I think the ideas he presents in his garbled prose are always interesting, and occasionally relevant. I've read a few of his pieces that were collected for his book "The Resistance" (and that's the next criticism book I'm buying) and his writing was much more cohesive and a lot less vitriolic than it is now.

Adam said...

Indeed, because Rosenbaum is one of the most objective critics of Spielberg, he perhaps had the advantage in reviewing "A.I.". Ebert, unfortunately, fell for the generic argument that the film should have ended after David goes down into the ocean; and James Berardinelli followed through with the exact same argument in his own review (although personally, I think Berardinelli is a boring critic with a sorely limited taste).

But I think Rosenbaum was too harsh on "Saving Private Ryan", much as he was too harsh on "No Country for Old Men". People too often assume that SPR is an old-fashioned prowar propaganda that celebrates John Wayne politics. One of the better defenses of the film that I've heard recently was given not by a famous critic, but by LoneStranger from the IMDB boards:

"A visual storyteller of Spielberg's calibre doesn't shoot something as iconic as the American flag in such an unusual way solely because it's 'interesting'. The whole point of Saving Private Ryan is to get the (predominantly American) audience to question their own worthiness of the sacrifices made by the generation before them. The flag is thus reflective rather than obvious, mournful rather than triumphant. It is a visual summation of the theme of the movie, something that Spielberg often applies to his films - his first and last images are usually the most telling and often mirror one another."

Now THAT'S what I call a thorough and well-thought out analysis of a film. Rosenbaum makes an odd criticism in his SPR review that it's the kind of movie that "Small Soldiers" paraodies. But then we might as well say that "Full Metal Jacket" is one of those movies that Dante's film paraodies as well. The way I see it, SPR and FMJ are both about veterans who lose their better judgement in the midst of battle and are scarred for life at the end. Neither film is pro or anti war, if you think about it. tieman64 might disagree with me there, but... eh.

Now, "Pearl Harbor"? That's more like the kind of movie that Dante's film might parody. When Rosenbaum reviewed it (in a shortened "capsule" review), he made the witty argument that Jon Voight's FDR was the equivalent of Dr. Strangelove.

Greg said...

or as my main man Jim Emerson...

Main man? I thought I was your Main Man. Fuck you jerkwad! I don't... I just... The thing is... I have to go.

[slams door as he leaves room crying]

Ryan Kelly said...

Adam, you're right, Ebert was trying to force the movie into a formula that the movie in no way adhered to, and if the movie had ended the way he (and many others) have suggested, the poetry of it would be shattered. It's a three-act movie, like many of Kubrick's films, and the parts mirror each other or, for the sake of consistency, they rhyme. Ebert definitely missed the boat on that one by saying that Spielberg introduces aliens into the film, and saying that the ending is sentimental when it's very clearly tragic and borderline sadistic.

And Berardinelli is about as pedestrian as they come. Worse than not really having any ideas or knowledge of the medium he writes about, his writing is just amateurish (and I know a blogger calling anyone an amateur is a bit on the hypocritical side--- but I like to think my writing isn't as formulaic as Berardinelli's). The only real value of Berardinelli is that he was among the first, if not the first, to prove that someone who is self-motivated can put on a critic's hat and have a voice. That is, as they say, worth it's weight in gold.

His review is definitely harsh, but I think it's justified for the most part. I definitely agree that he overstated the film's jingoism--- a part, maybe a large part, of Saving Private Ryan is, as you say, a rejection of that. But that's also part of why the film's morality is dubious. There is one passage in Rosenbaum's review that I think perfectly illuminates why that is one of the film's inherent problems:

But for all the care and thoughtfulness that follow in the story, I never could shake the impression that all I was watching was every other war film Spielberg had ever seen. The same chestnuts implicitly critiqued in the opening mayhem soon reappear, and it becomes clear that the major lesson Spielberg has to teach us about war is what he's learned from a lifetime of moviegoing. And what he's learned turns out to be something for everyone rather than a single vision: war is hell, war is absurd, war is necessary, war is unnecessary, war is uplifting, war is depressing, war is a lesson in morality, war is a lesson in immorality, and so on. Along with John Williams's insufferably solemn and hokey music and the fruits of what I'm sure was tons of research, I got mainly secondhand memories of All Quiet on the Western Front, Fuller's war films, Kubrick's war films, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and third-hand memories of John Ford's war films and many others.

Spielberg pretends that the lessons he learned from war came from experience, as opposed to other movies. And with SPR I do get the feeling that, while he's making it "for his father", as he stated, that he's also making it for the child inside himself. This is, after all, the sort of movie he dreamed about making when he was 11 years old and making movies in his backyard. And it pretends to be anti-violence while really relishing in the blood, gunfire, and explosions. War is the most fun you can have at the movies, ya know, though Spielberg pretends to be providing us with a solemn experience in the tone of Schindler's List.

Though I'll agree that he stretches his criticisms a bit to make it fit into his thesis with respect to Small Soldiers. But, at the same note, I can guarantee that the Chicago Reader was probably the only newspaper in the country to run a review of Small Soldiers ahead of a review for Saving Private Ryan, and I think the way he contrasts the two is very interesting, even if not very relevant outside of the context of the film's release.

(to be continued...)

Ryan Kelly said...

TheLoneStranger is one of the most thoughtful appreciators of Spielberg around, for sure. I remember him going back to the days of the now-defunct SpielbegFilms (I actually recognized him from there before I started chatting with him on IMDb), and while other people on the forum appreciated Spielberg in only the shallow, pedestrian, fanboyish sort of way, TheLoneStranger would wax-poetic about why the man is a serious film artist and he would defend some of the man's under-sung films, notably A.I.. Sometimes, though, I fear he is almost an apologist for the man, and that's the impression I get from the quote you selected. The movie does want you to question what the flag stands for, but this is in keeping with Spielberg's non-commital to any kind of ideology. And, while you could argue that he is not committing to any particular school of thought in the interest of objectivity, to me it comes off as placating. Lots of war movies would take that deliberately ambiguous point of view to appease the people who agree with war and don't agree with war-- and in Saving Private Ryan's case I just don't buy it.

I caught Pearl Harbor on cable one day. I had to turn it off when one of the characters exclaims "I think World War II just started!". That statement was so painfully anachronistic that my head almost exploded.

Ryan Kelly said...

Main man? I thought I was your Main Man. Fuck you jerkwad! I don't... I just... The thing is... I have to go.

God damn it, I made Greg cry again. What a jerk I am. In fairness, you don't even follow my blog, so I'm clearly not your main man, either!

Now, who's my favorite blogger? Who's my favorite? That's right, you're my favorite blogger. Yes you are. Yes you are.

Greg said...

In fairness, you don't even follow my blog, so I'm clearly not your main man, either!

What are you talking about? I'm right there at the top. Okay, I didn't know you had put up the follower thingy but I have now corrected it. I am now following. Lead me somewhere.

Ryan Kelly said...

You know what they say about leading a blogger to water? They always say you can lead a blogger to water and drown them and no one will ever know...

Greg said...

The cinema is dead. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Ryan Kelly said...

You're just trying to get a reaction out of's not...

Steam shoots out of ears

man in the iron mask said...

God bless you for pointing out the irony. Star Trek was a barely comprehensible film.
Star Trek is a ridiculous movie. Not that it isn’t involving, but then anything with a whole lot of story with a whole lot of events inside of it is. Does it make it good cinema? Nope. Mr. Abrams film is 127 minutes of melodrama shared by a whole battalion of stereotyped characters, uneasily blended with a whole lot of barely comprehensible slam bang explosions. Mr. Abrams doesn’t know how to shoot an action sequence, or even as much as an action moment, and not even a frame of the film is memorable. Mr. Abrams is barely a filmmaker, with dare I say, no sense of how to make a movie, or how to frame a scene, or how to pace it. All he seems to delight in his slavish indulgences to recreate what he feels is the magic of television, with characters having memory span of five to ten minutes, tops, after which they seem to metamorphose conveniently and completely into what the plot deems fit enough to register as a dramatic development worth the audience’s applause, and also fit enough to advance itself further.

I am not a Trekkie, never seen anything on it before, but when I saw the movie, I thought Star Trek, the way it might have been envisaged, was for the television. Bringing it on to the big screen might require imaginations that seem way out of the reach of blue collar workers like the team of the director and scriptwriters here.

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