Monday, January 29, 2007

2006 - The Year In Movies According To Little Earl

Having sat on my ass for the whole year reading other people's reviews of movies and complaining, I've decided to finally chip in with my 48 cents and explain why all those other people are either completely wrong, or exactly right, or utterly irrelevant, or just plain daft. I will be doing so on a loose, eight-week installment plan.

But to summarize at the start, I think cinema is in a very healthy state at the moment. Although it is probably more fragmented than it ever was, this also means that there's something out there for everybody. I look at the box office winners week after week and wonder who in the hell is paying money to see Epic Movie and Stomp The Yard and The Hitcher. It's clearly not me. But as long as I get my Squid and the Whales and my I Heart Huckabeeses and my Rays I don't really care. The truth is that there are two completely different ideas of "movie" out there right now. One is product and the other is art. They are not mutually exclusive, and even the most highbrow movies like Volver are on some level a product that has to make money somehow. But the people going to see Epic Movie and Stomp The Yard and The Hitcher just want to go out with their friends and kill some time, the same way they'd go to a baseball game or get a case of beer. It's a casual source of recreation. Thus it doesn't make sense to blame these movies for being unimaginative and predictable; they serve a function and that's all there is to it. If one of these movies ever tried to be surprising and weird, it would incur the wrath of the mildly sentient customer. This actually happens. Because both types of movies are created by the same Hollywood system, and frequently feature the same sort of actors, often confusion results among the less astute members of the moviegoing populace. They might walk into Spielberg's A.I. expecting a crowd-pleasing science fiction film in the vein of E.T., and then storm out angrily, feeling like they just wasted their time and money on a stupid piece of shit. This is what my friends said when I went and saw A.I. with them. I personally felt that although I didn't necessarily like the choices Spielberg had made with the ending, I found the film as a whole risky, daring, and fascinating, and I felt like I could watch it again. (Of course there were also people who understood artistic cinema and still felt A.I. failed at being successful on the artistic level, but whatever.) My point is that, although occasionally messages become crossed and the two different types of film find themselves in an uneasy collaboration, for the most part people understand that there are two cinemas and that's that and everything's cool. All I'm saying is that I personally choose to reserve my time and energy for the "other" kind of cinema, and that "other" kind of cinema is, in some ways, the only actual cinema right now, even though it shares theater space and box office figures with "moron" cinema. "Moron" cinema isn't even trying to aspire to that kind of scrutiny. Most of those movies are trying to make a quick buck and help people forget about their problems for two hours and then vanish into the cultural ether. No one is making those movies with the notion that anyone would want to watch them in 20 years. And that's fine. I personally do not share the desire for that product, and therefore I have nothing to say about it. But I want to make clear that it's not that big of a deal that most people don't share my interest in "real" movies. It's understandable. Still, when I say that the state of cinema is very healthy, I mean "real" cinema, not all cinema. The blockbuster machine can do its thing in its little corner spin around in perpetuity. I find it neither positive nor negative. But I do wish more people shared my taste in "real" cinema, because nobody wants to be lonely.

And yet there are a shitload of people out there, like Yoggoth, who understand. It is to you that I speak, then, fellow understanders. We currently have a wonderful arena for our hopes, our fears, our wants, our joys. This was not always the case. My pet example is 1980s American cinema. It's my opinion that cinema was in a screaming pile of shit at that time. Things are much better now, for reasons that I'll save for another post, I guess. They're not perfect, either. It's not quite the 1970s - but it's not too far off, either, and that's saying something. Mostly it's hard to say how the 00's will stack up in the long run, and that makes film reviewing a very difficult activity. Paid film critics have to see so many really bad movies that I think they tend to overrate the reasonably decent ones. The truth is that masterpieces are hard to make. But critics see a movie that is at least trying to be a masterpiece - like Children Of Men, for example - and they go all out crazy. Masterpieces are delicate little creatures. Sometimes they are blaringly obvious on first viewing, but more often than not it takes a little time to let a film's true colors show. I don't think it's very important. Everyone was scrambling around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to figure out whether or not The Departed was a "masterpiece" or not. Who cares? Just enjoy it for what it is, and then figure it out later. Since when did we have to be so scientific about the categorization of art?

In that spirit, I will not provide ratings for the films I discuss, because I am taking the coward's way out and just writing a bunch of pretentious nonsense.

Here we go!


yoggoth said...

Of course you could say the same thing about contemporary music...

Little Earl said...

No, YOU could say the same thing about contemporary music. I think you know my opinion (that there's not even good "real" music out right now).