Emoting about Things that are not The A-Team

I kinda hate Bradley Cooper...

Since summer started, it seems the only movies I’ve seen are blockbusters. It’s almost a given that once school is out, regardless if something interesting is playing or not, I am in that theatre at least once a week. I enjoy the experience, especially since I share it with my friends, but these past few weeks have been difficult… perhaps it’s because I’ve been so focused on catching up on True Blood and Mad Men and haven’t had the time to watch as many films on DVD as I’m used to. The saturation of bland and terrible cinema is starting to get to me and I feel as though I’m slowly losing my mind. I am not only struggling to find something nice to say about the films, but even trying to mute my elitism among my non-film fans is becoming more difficult.

Tonight I watched The A-Team, and though it’s the best of the three films I’ve seen in the past three weeks (the other two being Prince of Persia and Splice), it has pushed me past the breaking point. Though the film has some entertaining moments (mostly due to some charismatic performances) and isn’t particularly inept, I just could not enjoy it. Walking out, I couldn’t help overhearing people proclaiming how awesome the movie was. All I could think was what about this movie is great? I couldn’t think of a single reason why someone would think it was.

Generally, I don’t see why anyone would think most blockbusters are interesting, worthwhile or  even memorable. They are more akin to a good ride at an amusement park than a great “entertainment”. Even if I were to approach and look at them as simply being “rides”, most of them fall short and fail to deliver on a very basic level. Prince of Persia is a perfect example of this, not only presenting an incoherent video game storyline, but presenting uninspired conflict and character interactions that makes Pirates of the Carribean seem like a great Shakespearean comedy. Yet, people eat it up.


Even if I were to look at blockbuster films I enjoy and have watched on more than one occasion, I can’t say I’d be sad if I never had to watch them again. I can’t help feeling I come off as elitist and judgmental, but I just cannot fathom why someone would prefer a film like Aliens, The Dark Knight or Star Wars over The Red Shoes, L’Avventura or The Double Life of Veronique. I can see the entertainment value of the former films but their broad themes and archetypical characters and conclusions have never struck me as being moving or evocative. I am not suggesting that people who like those films are dumb, far from it, I don’t have any less respect for people who like those films, but I can’t help feeling they are also missing out on a world of experience and challenges.

In a perfect world, there would be room for both kinds of movies. I like both kinds, or else I wouldn’t bother to watch movies like the ones that I do. On a good day I can even enjoy a mediocre or bad film from a more anthropological level, looking at the ideals, values and queues the film takes that it presents and how that reflects my understanding of society. I know so many people I know would claim I overthink or overanalyze very simple works, but I find it enjoyable. If anything, these are the kinds of movies that deserve this kind of close scrutiny because they are consumed by such a high number of people.

I feel like I am contradicting myself in a certain sense. Though I wish people watched better movies, I am fascinated by the fact that certain movies draw millions of viewers. To a certain extent in our day and age, it is largely about marketing and advertising, but even films that get the full treatment are not guaranteed success. Some films with barely any press are able to rise to the top. Audiences are still fickle.

Thoughtful contemplation

Thinking is a crime, and most people seem completely averse to having their ideas and perceptions challenged. Shutting off your brain now and then isn’t the worst thing, but some people see working towards learning and experiencing new things as being relevant only for work and school. This makes me sad. Even if you were to just put more consideration into movies like Prince of Persia or The A-Team, try to think a bit more critically about why you do or do not like a film, would result in valuable self-knoweldge. Why are people so afraid to open their selves up and peek inside, are they afraid of what they might see or feel? Why do we relate so positively to violence and hate? Learning about yourself and the people around you seems to ultimately the point of our existence, or at least the most rewarding aspect of it, so why are so so quick and willing to shut ourselves off completely from that aspect of our life?

Do I think or even want people to flock to the newest Alain Resnais film? No, I don’t even know where I am getting with this. I just wish I could expose people to new ideas and emotions that great film has opened to me. It is one thing I like to share with people I love and care about, because I think it’s so important and beautiful. My frustration over the mediocrity of these films stems from the fact that most people are not even aware of what they’re missing. Does that make me an elitist or a snob? Yes it does, but my intentions are good, it’s about love man.

I blame this post entirely on Von Samuel. What an ass.

13 responses to “Emoting about Things that are not The A-Team

  1. I tried reading this without thinking so that I could adopt your position without independent thought.

    Outcome: great success.

  2. That’s what I like, shameless yes men. How could you disagree? No point, there is nothing challenging or provocative. This is the Precious of blog-posts on the state of modern cinema.

  3. I so lament that you live thousands of miles from me. I want to meet you for coffee and discuss why Kieslowski is so much more awesome than Batman.

    Another life, maybe…

    Really wonderful post!

  4. In a perfect world, there would be room for both kinds of movies.

    Ah, in my imperfect world, there *is* such room! Remember, if you didn’t have merely good or average works of art you would have less appreciation for the great ones. And I’ve never been able to live on such a rarefied plane that I can only consume the highest works of art anyway; I have baser needs as well as higher and both demand different forms of satisfaction…

  5. Well, you would have had an unqualified sucess but then you had to drag “Aliens” into it, didn’t you?! **Blasphemy!!**

    But otherwise, you of course are absolutely right. And of course, I don’t want the unwashed masses hovering around the latest Resnais than I cherish the memory of some tanazon cellphone-photoing the Vermeer in the National Gallery and moving on. Elitist? hell, I’m a *Platonist*, deal with it!

    Yet the worst damage is done, I think, by the Little Miss Sunshines and 500 Days of Summers of the world– the meretricious crap that comes out of Indiewood horribly devalues the sensibilities of middloebrow people who might be capable of a fairly good engagement with serious art but don’t manage it. And of course, they’d be better off taking seriously the latest Romero disemboweller than the crap they’re rhapsodizing over.

    Of course, most of the alleged *artistes* in our midst could find themselves in almost any situation imaginable (dating a football player? getting branded on the ass? buying whole milk?) than, gasp, listening to Beethoven’s Seventh or framing a Baroque print on their walls. To the denizens of ‘Williamsburg’, that probably makes me a royalist. Well, screw them too!!

  6. I work hard to avoid talking to people about film; and I have, in recent years, stopped calling myself a “film” person. When somebody asks me what my degree is in, I usually tell them “English” without the qualification “Film Studies.”

    The reason for all this is because everybody fancies themselves a film expert and immediately begins talking to me about the latest blockbuster they saw. I have no patience for Hollywood and I have not seen a new Hollywood film in nearly a year (it was Whatever Works — I refuse to abandon Woody). When people think of film, they Hollywood, a very narrow category, and are really disappointed when they discover I have no knowledge or opinion about the films they are watching.

    Justine, I do not understand why you still give yourself to Hollywood. There are so many other cinemas which deserve your attention.

  7. I don’t drink coffee, but that sounds great.

    I get caught up in my own wordiness, because I do enjoy both worlds as well. Just not on the same level or category. I enjoy bad movies, though I don’t want to watch them exclusively which happens when I stop watching stuff on DVD.

    I bring Aliens into everything! EVERYTHING!

    I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t want people flocking to Resnais because I want it to be a private thing between myself and my fellow fans, or that I’m not sure that even in my perfect world could enjoy it. I am a snob :/

    I’m not sure if “indiewood” is as terrible as Oscar season fodder, which doesn’t even attempt to be twee and precious, even “creatively”. Those films are bland and uninteresting. I think they’ve done and continue to do more “damage” then those faux-independent films.

    Ian: I still enjoy talking to people about film, though in most cases I tend to regret it in the end. I don’t have the privilege of saying English because I’m not, so there is no escaping my education.

    I enjoy the theatrical experience, and though I rarely enjoy Hollywood films, I see it as being more akin to a social event. I go with my friends who are critical, and we are able to enjoy the experience, whether or not the film is good or bad. Even a terrible fan can inspire great discussions and ideas. I should probably devote just as much time, if not more, to the great arthouses that we have in our city. I don’t take advantage of the resources at my disposal.

  8. I don’t think that worse damage is done by indiwood at all. Movies like 500 Days of Summer might embrace a certain amount of sentimentalism, but I always found them genuine attempts to make genuine movies that engage the audience in imaginative ways… and in best case scenarios you get something like Eternal Sunshine coming along that works the formula with interesting results. I found lots to like about Summer.

    I also find lots to like about Aliens. In fact, I think that Aliens is a masterclass in how to make a good blockbuster style film but it’s a rare exception to the blockbuster rule. it breaks today’s rules for starters by having an 18 certificate. Like MrsPeel I find blockbusters simultaneously engaging and frustrating. I’m always sucked in by the adverts and previews that promise something so exciting and thrilling and otherworldy and always come away thinking that the producers have the imagination of a flea. A particularly uninspired flea. This year no-one is even trying. Cameron didn’t try with Avatar. A great director like Nolan goes on autopilot for Batman movies. As we all know, movies containing little thought sell better anyway. Spiderman 3 was derided because it was actually more complicated and more intelligent than its predecessors.

    I love reading these movies ideologically too and always get something from the experience even when I’m frustrated by the slapdash narrative and big dumb explosions… – I’m sort of proud to be a cinematic elitist rather than bothered and frustrated that most others don’t watch Resnais or arthouse movies. If I meet someone who loves arthouse film then I can have a good conversation, if I don’t I politely tell people that what they like is “fine” but movie watching is one of my hobbies. It takes a lot of time and effort and passion to learn about good movies and I think we should all be proud of our passion rather than being allowed to be bullied by blockbuster lovers who don’t take it seriously then shout “elitist” at us because they’re scared of their own ignorance.

    I haven’t done a film studies degree but would be proud if I had.

    And I’m still proud that I love Aliens. And Alien. But not Alien Resurrection.

  9. Kudos to Ian, in passing, for not giving up on Woody. You know, it won’t be Heaven if “Scoop” is not showing there . . .

    I’ll allow that “Eternal Sunshine” was a major artwork of the decade, and that Oscar-bait pictures are far removed today from the kind of mainstream films that, say, David Lean or Warren Beatty used to come out with– “accessible” films that were made with real scale, a sense of craft, and some kind of desire to make a ‘statement’, even if not one on the staggering altitude of a Bergman (or a Kubrick).

    But I don’t think many audiences can even pretend to themselves that Oscar-bait films are trying these days. So I target the indiewoods because they’re selling a false bill of goods– the Sunshine Summer audiences are wilfull suckers for films that salute their own pseudo-discriminating palettes.

    I’m a victim of my own version of ‘twee’dom, but I would say that my fellow tweesters have a way to go if they want to make something faintly boundary-pushing about their tweeosity. As it is, we’re a bunch of twee-tards!

    And tho “Alien” is a more austerely poetic film than “Aliens”, I think “Aliens” has something more of a Shakespearean sweep. In a sense. I don’t thrust it in with the ‘blockbusters’– it’s not Indy Jones (or Avatar)!

    Lovely discussion. *Do* tell, Justine, when you get to Living Dead Girl!

  10. The Dark Knight is a great movie. It has more drama and moral story compared to some “serious” movies.

    Prince of Persia is not I guess. it’s just made for entertainment only. But you must have guessed it from the casts.

  11. Your blog is the only one I follow where every new post interests me, regardless of the topic.

    I can honestly say I love The Dark Knight and The Red Shoes equally (I even tried to see the restored print in the theater last weekend). Granted, I read comics and my wife is a ballerina, but still…

    You’re definitely not alone in complaining about recent blockbusters. In last week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, Mark Harris wrote that “Hollywood apologists usually smack down pointyheads like me by saying ‘Hey, we don’t make movies for elitist media dweebs – we make them for Joe Six-Pack, and the box office number don’t lie!’ But here’s where it gets interesting; this Memorial Day weekend was the lowest-grossing since 2001, and fewer tickets were sold than on any Memorial Day weekend in 17 years. That’s right: The last time the American public was less interested in spending Memorial Day weekend at the movies, Bill Clinton and Hot Shots! Part Deux were just beginning their runs. And the following weekend was no better. If that qualifies as giving the people what they want, then Hollywood is either missing a big chunk of ‘the people’ or misjudging the ‘want.'”

    I don’t think recent movies are entirely void of plot and character (as you admitted), I just think the emphasis has shifted to style (and that’s not to say that plot and character are the only means to substance). What’s missing entirely in recent movies are themes, but The Dark Knight and The Red Shoes both had them equally.

  12. Splice was so bleh. I haven’t been seeing the movies at Cinema du Parc, for one, I hate that place (I am such a snob for venues, something about that place just annoys me) and the fact that me and Truffaut are very strange bedfellows. I adore the man, Jules et Jim is one of my all time favourites, but I can’t even sit through most of his films. Maybe one day that’ll change.

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