Wednesday, October 31, 2012

800 Words: My Cultural Heresies - Middle-Aged Movies (Part 2)

-          George Lucas should never have made another Star Wars movie after A New Hope. He should have just filmed Apocalypse Now (originally his project) or Indiana Jones or whatever else he wanted for his next movie and left well-enough alone. Star Wars garners its entire imaginative appeal from the fact that it’s just one episode in a huge Saturday Morning Serial which anyone who saw B-movies or read comics and science fiction could have thought up just as well. Even if The Empire Strikes Back is better than the original movie, all follow-up installments were bound to be a disappointing next to the continuing stories which fans could imagine for themselves. 

-          At this point I think I prefer watching Star Wars Uncut. The rabid fandom is in so many ways more interesting than the work they worship.

-          Jaws was the beginning of the revolution which allowed special effects to take over humans in American movies. In the year Jaws was released, moviegoers had the options of seeing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taxi Driver, Nashville, The French Connection II, Dog Day Afternoon, The Magic Flute, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and those were just the ones by directors I like). Compared to that fare, Jaws seems totally brainless. Yet if Jaws were made today, it would be considered daringly brainy and completely undriven by special-effects compared to today’s thrillers.

-          Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a miracle. It’s one of the few movies that uses special effects to make us feel awe rather than fear. James Cameron has been trying to recapture that awe for his entire career, but he never did it better than the original.

-          It’s best to view ET as a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (still his two best movies). Spielberg said in an interview that the germ of ET was the thought ‘What if one of the aliens from Close Encounters got left behind?’ But I’ve always thought that it was the other way around. The missing father in ET is in fact Richard Dreyfuss. Together, the two amount to a kind of secret emotional autobiography by Spielberg. More on ET later…

-          Soylent Green is not nearly as good as Soylent Cow Pies.

-          Forty-five years later, The Producers remains the funniest movie ever made.

-          Every Mel Brooks movie is slightly worse than the one before it (yes, even Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which honestly sucked pretty badly…why do I think this is the comment that will get protest tomorrow?) – a cycle ending in Dracula Dead and Loving It – a movie so depressingly unfunny you can’t even laugh at how bad it is.

-          Today, a Mel Brooks in our age group couldn’t get a job fixing a film studio coffee machine. Hollywood, like America, has become so timid about offending one another that a director wouldn’t even be able to get financial backing for a movie that makes fun of bigots. We can show gratuitous feces and penises now, but god forbid anybody make a joke or even say a word that's politically charged - even (especially?) if it's being said for all the correct reasons. I don’t know if it was a wish to avoid controversy, but after The Producers and Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks grew ever more timid. Perhaps he realized the depressing truth about those movies: people were offended when they realized that the most honest discussions of anti-semitism and racism in American movie history were made by a low-brow comedian.

-          I can understand people who dislike later Woody Allen films, even if I completely disagree with their assessment. But if you dislike earlier, purely funny, Woody films like Bananas or or Take the Money and Run or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, you’re a bad person.

-          Woody Allen is the world’s most fervent believer in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

-          Love and Death has dated rather worse than some of the other early Woody films because it makes fun of literary pretensions. The fact is that few people have literary pretensions anymore, and that is incredibly sad.

-          I love both Annie Hall and Manhattan. I do not defend the overwhelming narcissism of either movie, I nevertheless love them both.

-          Rocky is awesome, it’s just not good.

-          The only evidence ever uncovered that a Jewish conspiracy controls Hollywood is that people still think Marathon Man is a good movie.

-          Walkabout sucks.

-          I’ve never seen a single Alien movie and I don’t particularly want to.

-          Monty Python and the Meaning of Life is the best of their movies, because it’s by far the closest in spirit to the original show. Holy Grail is too ‘nice’ and G-rated, Life of Brian is too ambitious. It’s the only Monty Python movie with anything approaching the anarchy of the show. Meaning of Life is one giant misanthropic middle finger to every convention a proper movie is supposed to have.

-          OK. So Clockwork Orange tells us that the personality of a rapist thug can be conditioned into not assaulting people, and we’re supposed to think that’s a bad thing?

-          Jack Nicholson does everything he can to save The Shining. But not even Jack can breathe life into a movie when Stanley Kubrick is there to suck all the life out.

-          I somehow always manage to fall asleep when the Mad Max movies are on.

-          Like all Werner Herzog movies, Aguirre, the Wrath of God is absolutely ridiculous. And that’s what makes it great.

-          I didn’t much care for Fitzcarraldo, perhaps because this is precisely how I behave on a regular basis whenever I’m working on my latest world-changing project.

-          If I can help it, I solemnly swear that I will never watch another Wim Wenders movie.

-          I’m ashamed to say that I really love Z. It’s a shameless piece of pure communist propaganda (seriously), but it’s amazingly well-made.

-          Last Tango in Paris is so amazingly dumb that there isn’t a word for it except the string of pigshit vomit and butter tourettes type rants Marlon Brando keeps going on.

-          Cries and Whispers is amazingly disturbing – and still a wonderful movie.

-          Bergman’s The Magic Flute is the best production of Mozart’s Magic Flute I ever expect to see – even if it is in Swedish.

-          Fanny and Alexander is very nearly my favorite movie. I love every minute of it, every scene, every weird not-quite-right piece of dialogue. I do not, however, love the five hour TV version, and neither did Bergman – who agreed with me. It’s a perfectly imperfect three-hour movie that is not a second shorter or longer than it needs to be.

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