Monday, February 05, 2007

It's a bleak, bleak, bleak world

Is it just me, or does everyone get a little weary come the end of the year, when we're bombarded with movies that are "worthwhile," "meaningful," "serious?" Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you - but, this year in particular, it seems as though the filmmakers (and I use the word "film" advisedly) feel as though the very fact of their message gives them license to forgo some movie-making basics (and, yes, I used the word "movie" advisedly too).

There's no question that movies can have a message, that they can teach and enlighten as well as entertain and delight. And that some movies, by the nature of their message, will be less 'delightful' than others. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be good movies. Want to see a great movie, and get a pretty eye-opening look into anti-Semitism? Check out "A Gentleman's Agreement." How about an example of a little movie, tight and beautifully acted, that also gives you a good look at the merciless drug trade and the victims of its mechanics? Take a gander at "Maria Full of Grace."

Where was it written in 2006 that a movie couldn't be serious, couldn't communicate a Message, unless it was well over 2 hours long? "Babel" - 2 hours, 23 minutes. "The Departed" - 2 hours, 31 minutes. "The Good Shepherd" - 2 hours, 40 minutes. "Flags of our Fathers" - 2 hours, 12 minutes. Now, some really entertaining, good movies have also been long - "Titanic" is the first one that comes to mind. But to keep my attention for well over 2 hours - something pretty compelling better be on-screen. And, I’ve got to tell you, most of this year’s ‘films’ – those serious celluloid syllogisms – don’t live up to that. I could probably have seen at least one, if not two, more movies in the time I wasted with the extraneous or too-long scenes.

Which doesn’t help the January/February race to see them all before the you-know-whats. Now I’m stuck seeing one bleak, grim, dreary movie after another. One after the other, I saw The Departed, Babel, and Children of Men. That's enough to make anyone sink into a pit of despair. Later that same week, for kicks and giggles, I went to see Notes on a Scandal, which really cheered me up.

I am still working up the gumption to see the rest of the contenders: Flags of our Fathers -- WWII and our defense industry's soulless marketing machine at work; Letters from Iwo Jima -- the suicidal stand of Japanese soldiers and their wholesale massacre; Volver -- murder, incest and ghosts; Little Children -- adultery and betrayal; The Good Shepherd -- bleak depiction of the cold war and the sale of souls to fight it.

I'll keep you posted.

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