Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movies I Haven't Seen

Once again recoiling from the cloying obviousness of writing about movies one has actually seen, I present another installment of reviews of movies I haven’t bothered to see.

The Town

By most accounts, this is a meaty, atmospheric, but largely familiar sprawling crime drama, involving a bank robber who falls in love with a girl he previously took hostage (and who doesn’t know his real identity). Obviously, it sounds a bit silly, if your definition of “silly” is spending screen time on something that would only ever happen to about one in a hundred million people, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – films find meaning in a multitude of mysterious ways. Assuming, that is, the director (and I’m an old-fashioned true believer in the director as auteur) actually has something to impart. Now, I don’t want to get into the snide celebrity-bashing thing, because that really isn’t my bag, but The Town is directed by Ben Affleck. Since the record will show I wrote one of the few positive reviews of Gigli, it should be taken on faith I’m not a reflexive Affleck basher. His first film as a director, Gone Baby Gone, was also strikingly atmospheric. But it also ultimately turned silly, and nothing about it suggested Affleck to be any more eccentric or incisive than he seems as an actor (these being just two of the qualities that might make for an interesting director). In other words, he might move the filmmaking pieces around ably enough, and help a few hours go by, but you know what, I just don’t need to pay money to see Ben Affleck do that, and I don’t think you do either.

Never Let Me Go

This is based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, set I believe in some kind of alternate universe, about a group of children raised with something other than a long and healthy life in mind for them. This one really lost me at the trailer, which I seemed to see every time I went to the movies this summer. It just looked like a laboriously meaningful fable where the very proper English accents play off against the underlying cruelty; and the beauty of youth is constantly accented by poignant foreshadowing. To be honest with you, I don’t like the title either. I suppose it depends in what tone of voice you deliver it, but it plays in my head as a big whine. I don’t know whether or not the movie actually does result in letting go though.

Score: A Hockey Musical

It actually would be great if a Canadian movie became a major hit at home, because if we’re going to keep going as a G8 country, shouldn’t we have enough going on to be able to say to the others, at least once in a while, that we don’t need their damn cultural imports? And what’s a major Canadian hit going to be about if not hockey? I mean, do you feel right unless you have a game to watch? The beers just don’t go down the same way otherwise. And no one’s influenced my style more than Don Cherry (you should see what I’m wearing right now). Well, having tried all that on for size, I can tell you it doesn’t fit too well. I don’t know anything about hockey. I did go to a game once; my wife and I were given some big-shot executive seats right down by the ice. But it was all just a blur to me. I saw Slap Shot once…can’t remember a thing about it. Anyway, I just don’t think there’s much point my seeing Score: A Hockey Musical to be honest with you, especially since some reviewers thought it was among the worst movies ever to open the Toronto film festival. But I think it’d be great if a lot of other people went. That’s just the kind of altruistic guy I am.

Waiting For Superman

This is a documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, about the problems in the US education system. I spend quite a lot of time reading about US politics, but I wish I didn’t, because all it does is make me mad. I usually think information is superior to ignorance, whatever the context, but I don’t know if the daily flood of crap about US politics even vaguely falls under the category of information. It’s just data maybe, lacking any overall coherence or direction, except of course for being headed right toward hell. Now I don’t need any persuading that the US education system has major problems, but just look at everything in the US: the degraded quality of public discourse; the sneering attacks at “elites;” the inability to develop a complex idea in the public sphere; the supremacy of raw, self-interested politics over all else; the sheer idiocy of an increasingly big chunk of the population (and, more charitably, the real financial problems and deprivations at almost every level of society). If you accept, as they say in business circles, that everything starts with the tone at the top, then how could such a situation not lead to a decline in the quality of learning? So I don’t know why we’d need to see a whole movie to elaborate on that. Maybe I’d go to see a Canadian equivalent (Waiting For Gretzky…), I don’t know…

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

There’s no question Oliver Stone was really on fire for almost a decade, starting in the mid-80’s. Even if you have misgivings about the movies, you have to admire the sustained energy that generated Platoon, Salvador, Wall Street, The Doors, JFK, Born On The Fourth Of July, and that’s not even the whole list. But then it all ran out, and much as I hate to peddle cheap psychological theories, Natural Born Killers – which I’d cite as the downward turning point - really did look like the work of someone who’d fallen for the hype and was just full of himself. The latter-day Stone is nice and modest by comparison, but that only gets you a toothless movie like W. The idea of a Wall Street sequel obviously has some interest, but after such a gap feels mostly like a man trying whatever it takes to keep the party going. So it captures something fundamental about the Wall Street mentality in that respect at least.

And that’s it for this installment of Movies I Haven’t Seen. I admit to you I’m changing – a year or two ago I would almost certainly have gone to all of these. So coming up next, my review of the roads I didn’t take!

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