Monday, September 19, 2005

Movie Mondays - Quirky, good! Liar, bad!

It's been a bit of a slow movie watching week here at CoIM, due to the mass of new TV shows, an unusual slowness of delivery by Netflix, and my obsessive fiddling with the blog's template's coding.

The only movie I've watched since last week's posting was The Mummy an' the Armadillo. Based on a stage play, and it shows. Sloooooooow moving film. To me, the biggest point of interest was that it starred Clare Kramer, who played the evil Glory on Season 5 of Buffy. What was really interesting (in a spooky sort of way) was that at the beginning of the film she seemed to be channeling the spirit of Tara from Buffy. Why spooky? Because the character of Glory had sucked the sanity right out of Tara's head, and watching her act like Tara made it seem like some of that Tara-ness stuck with her. But maybe that's just me. As for the movie itself, liked it for the most part. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some entertaining dialogue at times, and some nice performances all around.

While typing the above review, I had a thought: should I have some sort of codified rating system? If I did, it would have to be a kind of faceted system, because when you're just doing a "1 to 5 stars" system its really hard to distinguish a 5 star movie of the Saving Private Ryan type from a 5 star movie of the Lost Skeleton of Cadvra type. The former is a well-crafted, well-executed film that can be appreciated for its artistic merits by a wide audience; the later is silly, absurd, geared towards a certain niche demographic, but amuses and entertains me to no end. Man, I wish I hadn't thought about this, because I can already feel my brain moving into "let's spend all of our time working on this trivial task!" mode as I type this. Here's hoping I can shove it out of my head long enough to take care of this pesky Capstone Exam.

But the Capstone hasn't started yet, so I suppose I can start figuring out what exactly I would want to address in my rating system. One key thing is that, unlike most professional critics, I don't expect every movie I see to be an artistic masterpiece or a beacon of intelligent discourse. No, sometimes I want to see some mindless, entertaining fluff, as long as the "entertaining" aspect outweighs the "mindless" and "fluff" aspects. And that's the biggest stumbling block for the usefullness of any ratings system, since one man's "entertaining" is another man's "how the heck could you sit through that dreck?" There are movies that I can watch and say "That was a trully stunning, moving, emotional piece that raised filmmaking to another level" and yet have no desire to ever see again. At the same time, every time Mark Harmon's Summer School comes on TV, I can't tear myself away.

I suppose this all raises an even bigger question: what is it exactly that I look for in a movie? I've thought about that a lot, and might get into it in more detail later on. There are certain things that I'm a sucker for, and other things that almost always make me want to scream in agony.

Things that tend to captivate my interest:

  • Non-linear storytelling (Memento, Pulp Fiction, Go)
  • Traitor/alien among us (John Carpenter's The Thing, Terminal Invasion)
  • Unique/offbeat story concepts (Brazil, Donnie Darko, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation)
  • Inventive visuals (Amelie, Fight Club, City of Lost Children, Brazil, Garden State)
  • Comic books as source or subject (Unbreakable, The Specials, X-Men, X2, American Splendor)
  • Quirky/offbeat characters (Raising Arizona, Big Lebowski, Fargo, 12 Monkeys, Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State)
  • Snappy patter (Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night, Arsenic and Old Lace)
  • Intersecting storylines (Crash, Pulp Fiction, Magnolia)
Things that tend to make me writhe in pain:
  • People who lie for no reason (Meet the Parents)
  • People who don't listen to others (Bringing Up Baby, Darkness)
  • "Intelligent" characters doing unintelligent things for no reason (Meet the Parents)
  • Excessive physical comedy (Johnny English)
  • Adaptations that fail to capture the spirit or intent of their source (Batman and Robin, Catwoman, Hearts in Atlantis, Elektra)
  • Lack of unified "tone" for the film (Spanglish, Big Daddy)
The above is just a small sampling; I'm sure that other trends will occur to me after I post this. As I was compiling the lists, I kept thinking of examples that fit from other media, so that might wind up being my "time to pad my post" method for the rest of the week.


Bubblegum Tate said...

Dude, I feel your pain. Rating systems are usually pretty useless for exactly your reasons. I've got a chick that work that is, 9 times out of 10, a pretty hip chick I like to hang out with. But when she harshes on the Big Lebowski, I can't help but assume there's a black hole where her soul should be.

Despite the fact that my buddies and I LOVE Flash Gordon to the point that we invented a drinking game (NOT, as some would have it, to deaden the pain, but to heighten the pleasure), a little piece of me dies everytime my wife demands to know what I see in that crap.

Bottom line, the Academy's picks are usually there to mock me. God bless your inability to pass up Summer School. I'll see that, and raise you a Road House.

CAP'N Disaster said...

I can not agree with you more, especially about Hearts in Atlantis. What a fabulous job they did at destroying a good book. I was so completly disappointed with that movie.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate, I must say I'm curious about your Flash drinking game. Do you perhaps take a shot every time you hear the "Flash! Ah-ah! Defender of the universe!" theme? Or maybe every time Brian Blessed overacts? Inquiring minds (who will never play because they abhor alcohol) want to know!

Oh, and . . . Road House? Really? *shakes head sadly and backs away*