Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tell Me About My Opinion

I would like to take a moment to address a growing issue that I have with people and movies. I have noticed this problem growing and growing for quite a while now, and I finally feel the need to say something about it.

I am talking about film snobs.

It starts out small. "Oh, you didn't see "film X"? It's amazing." Which is fine for the most part, because you are really excited about it and want to share it with people. Then it turns into, "You haven't seen "film X?" What's wrong with you?" Like somehow the undeserved indignation will spur the person into action. "Now I must go and see it because someone told me too!" Right.

After a while, people lose track of the ability to be entertained. "Brett Ratner sucks." people declare. Why? What was his grievous crime? On a regular basis I hear, "Michael Bay is the worst thing to happen to Hollywood." Really? What is your basis for comparison? What standard are you holding him up to? What is the arbitrary scale of achievement you are using? Michael Bay makes billions of dollars for movie studios. BILLIONS. He's doing something right.

With the Transformers sequel set to pass $400 million in just the U.S. in a few days, I would say Hollywood knows exactly what they are doing.

We are fans of cult cinema. By definition, that means that we like with a fevered passion what most other people do not like. More recently, "cult" has come to be synonymous with B-movie. We revel in the trash cinema of the 1970's, the rip off films from Italy, the exploitation genre and low budget horror. We are consumers of non-mainstream movies. Does that make us better than your average movie goes? Not by a long shot. It does mean, however, that Hollywood does not care what we think. We are a minority that torrents instead of buys. We share bootlegs with each other and do not support (for the most part) the distributors of the films.

Why is "Let the Right One In" getting remade? Money. Pure and simple. All one would have to do is look at the DVD sales of Quarantine versus [REC]. Why didn't some people buy "Let the Righ One In" on DVD? The subtitles were wrong in some places. Are you for real? So, because of a few changed lines of dialog, you choose not to support one of the best films of the year? That's pathetic.

God forbid if you don't agree with a film snobs opinion. "How could you not like "film X"? It was a masterpiece of the genre!" Well, guess what, my snobbish friend. That's your opinion. I'm not wrong. But, neither are you. There is something amazing that we as humans have. It's called differing opinions. No, really, it's true! People can actually disagree with your opinion. I know! Amazing isn't it? One of the worst infractions I have run across is the insistence that my opinion is wrong. You did in fact, read that right. I have been told that my opinion is wrong. I think that of all things, that may be the dumbest thing you can say to someone. If I was stating an empirical fact, like, "The atomic mass of Xenon is 131.27." Then you could tell me that I'm wrong. (It's 131.29.) However, when it comes to opinion, don't you dare tell me that I'm wrong.

One of my favorite comments from the mindless blogosphere is "George Lucas raped my childhood." Really? He raped an intangable abstract concept? I knew the man was good, but that verges on the amazing! Seriously, shut up about the prequels. Back ten years ago, all I heard was crap about Phantom Menace. But, let me tell you, come April 4th, 2000, I was selling the VHS to the very same people that were bashing it. Are they hypocrites? No, not really. Just people that have a hard time thinking for themselves and enjoying a movie for what it is.

But, back to the snobs. Yes, there are true film snobs. The ones that watch German post-war reconstruction films and eagerly await the resurgence of the Trümmerfilm. Pseudo-snobs are far worse. With their outrage at the fact that Hollywood would DARE to make a mainstream movie, comes resentment for the re-makes and re-boots of franchises that managed to drive a stake squarely and deeply in it's own wallet years and years before Michael Bay could get a hold of it.

What is it that is held so dear about the villains of old horror franchises? Michael Myers became an undead druid controlled killing machine. Freddy Kruger turned into a stand up comedian. Pinhead started spouting one liners (right before he went into space,) Jason Vorhees followed Pinhead right up into the vacuum after he became one the the undead, and then a demonic worm thing. For Christ's sake, Leatherface was in a movie with Renee Zellweger!

These franchises jumped an entire ocean of sharks way before they were re-made. All of them sold out to the highest bidder in the end. All of them turned into a self referential joke before they were unceremoniously retired.

Now people pine for the time when horror movies were good. When the hell was that? I don't remember a time when everything that Hollywood put out was gold. It's always been like this. In the early 80's it was Star Wars and Alien rip offs. None of those were any good at all. Neither were the mass produced horror rip offs either.

People, take a minute and remember what it was like to enjoy something. It doesn't have to be good for you to enjoy it. Trust me I know. I hear what people are reviewing on their shows. Just stop being so uptight. Relax and enjoy yourself. Time goes by too fast. Don't waste it being pissed off at a faceless industry.

People actually think that if they don't go to the movies it will teach Hollywood a lesson. Wait... actually it will. If you don't go and pay for what you want to see, the producers will continue to make more "Scary Movie" type movies. Think about it. If everyone that likes "independent" cinema doesn't go and torrents the movies that they want to see, the cash only goes to Transformers 2. So, the studio execs will make more of what makes money and less "indy" films.

Huh, how about that.

Or maybe, there are more average people out there that go to movies to only be entertained for two hours and to escape from the everyday drudgery of their lives. Not everyone (and truthfully not even a good percentage of people) are looking for anything at all from a movie. They do not live and breath it like we do. I love movies so much, I have worked in movie theaters for almost 20 years now.

I love all kinds of movies. I will not rule anything out. (Except maybe a select few because of subject matter.) I am proud that I am not and will never be a film snob. I am a blue collar film watcher and reviewer.

And never, ever, tell me my opinion is wrong.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

District 9 is Heartbreaking, Horrifying and Ambiguous

I have just returned from the theater where I saw the 12:01 showing of District 9. I was expecting certain things from this film, but it gave me something completely different.

This review will be filled with spoilers, so beware.

The digital print of D-9 was wonderful to watch. The "real life" parts were clean and crisp and much different from the documentary footage. Shaky cam is used, but minimally and I believe, only to achieve a certain mood.

Based on the short "Alive in Joburg" by Neil Blomkamp, District 9 tells the story of the beginning stages of moving the aliens to a new settlement where things would be more orderly and more restricted. The aliens are called "Prawn" by the humans. It is a derogatory term, much like "skin-job" was in Blade Runner.

This is the first glimpse that we as the viewer get into the world that the humans and Prawn live in. Prawn are treated as sub-human and their behavior does nothing to dissuade that fact. They are scavengers, they eat rubber and cat food and their reproduction cycle is horrific to witness if you are not prepared properly.

The MNU (Multi-National United,) a private corporation, is apparently in charge of all of the legal and "governmental" proceedings in D-9. This is where the story started to show it's true colors. On the surface, MNU is interested in moving the aliens, but instead of trying to talk it out with them (the aliens do not seem to have any type of leadership structure) they employ private contractors to do the back up military type work. Think Blackwater with an even meaner streak.

The humans in the film are despicable. They think nothing of disconnecting feeding tubes to infants pods while they are incubating. One man even laughs as he points out the sound of the pods popping while they burn. All I could think is, this is what happens. When we get too familiar with the fantastic, this is what would happen. Contact with alien life should have been the milestone in these people's lives, but sadly, it's not. Instead of subjugating each other, they do it to the Prawns.

The alien that we get to know the most in named Christopher. It's not clear when you first meet him exactly what he is up to, but he knows how to play by the rules and it would appear that he is smarter than the rest of his kind. He plays a major role in the film and so does his son.

I feared for the safety of Christopher's son every time he was on the screen. Because there are no recognizable stars in the film, it helped make it more believable and more dangerous for all involved. Anything could happen to anyone at any time. That unease worked perfectly with the unrest that is stirred up between the aliens, the MNU and the Nigerian gangs.

Wikus van der Merwe who is wonderfully played by Sharlto Copley, is the human focus of the film. When he gets a face full of a black liquid that Christopher has been gathering and distilling for 20 years, his life spirals out of his control. The liquid is a kind of alien fuel, but is also is a powerful genetic re-sequencer. The spray of liquid starts to turn Wikus into a Prawn.

Alien weaponry is powerful. Very powerful. That is the underlying reason that the MNU want to move the aliens. They want to confiscated all the weaponry in District 9. However, it is all coded to the alien's genetic pattern. This means that humans can not use them. To a human, a sonic rifle is just a neat looking orange and white prop. But, since Wikus has started to change, the MNU is very interested in him. After he is captured, you get to see the slimy underbelly of the people in charge of MNU. They want the tech and they don't care how they get it. After long and torturous tests with Wikus, pig carcasses, and an array of alien weapons, the MNU top it off with a live fire test on a terrified alien. An alien with cross hairs spray painted on his carapace. All the while, Wikus is refusing to fire the weapon, saying he would if it was a dead pig. The MNU agent hits him with a stun baton, forcing his muscles to contract and firing the weapon, vaporizing the alien. After the successful tests, there is a chilling conversation held over Wikus as he is restrained on an operating table. MNU wants to know how and why he is changing and they are going to cut him apart to find the answer.

The weapons are brutal. You can almost understand how someone could be so single minded in purpose that human life holds no meaning to them anymore. I was actually surprised at some of the weapons and what they did to their targets. Gravity guns, lightning cannons, grenade launchers that explode in an electrically charged cloud. Normally I would really be enjoying the rampage of voilence that the film showed, but this felt different. This felt one sided. Then it switched sides. No one side was completely right, and neither was completely wrong.

District 9 was a great film, of that I have no doubt. The ending was ambiguous and a downer. I don't think that the intention was to leave it open for a sequel, even though you could pick up right where it left off. It was sad. It shines a light on racism and the dark part of humanity. I wasn't ready for it to have such an impact.

This type of story is just like the best of them. It is all about the characters. The setting is secondary. The aliens are odd looking and in no way look human, but you really start to feel for them right in the beginning. They are trusting, and of course, that is exploited to uncomfortable ends.

I think a lot of people will write this off as just a gory sci-fi movie. I believe it is much more. Look a little deeper and see what is just under the surface. It may upset you to think that this might be how we treat another race, (even though our history as humans is rife with examples) but can you really tell me that where there is a ludicrous profit to be made, everyone will behave ethically?

I sincerely doubt it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I won't (forget about you)

I hadn't realized the influence that John Hughes has had on my life until he was gone. He helped give a voice to my generation. All of us that were geeky, nerdy, tomboys, skinheads, burnouts, artists, popular (and not so) red-heads, dweebs, dorks, outcasts and losers could take solace that in most John Hughes movies, we all were victorious.

Pretty in Pink showed me that you can end up with the person you want, while also showing me that you don't always get what you want. Weird Science showed me that all it takes is a little confidence to overcome your fears. The Breakfast Club taught me that even though you think someone has their shit together, they probably don't. Everyone has problems. Everyone. Uncle Buck showed me that even though your extended family might be a little weird, they still love you. Most of John Hughes teen movies had some kind of message. You could take from it what you wanted, if you wanted anything at all.

John Hughes films taught me how to be. If I learned anything from his movies, it was how to be. How to be a good person. How to be a good boyfriend. How to be a good friend.

As powerful as his movies was the music that he chose to go along with the images on screen. The most obvious is "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds. He carefully chose his music, everything from "Bring on the Dancing Horses" by Echo & the Bunnymen to the Celtic infused cover version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Lick the Tins. This music became the soundtrack of my youth and will forever remind me of my wife and our early years together.

I also learned that it does not matter what people think of you. Rarely can you change people's minds. They will judge and stereotype you in a heartbeat. So what? That becomes their shortcoming, doesn't it? Just remember the final message from The Breakfast Club: "We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
...and an athlete...
...and a basket case...
...a princess...
...and a criminal...
Does that answer your question?"

I can't think of a more universal truth than that. Everyone has their own inner brain and athlete and basket case, don't they? I can tell you, I am not conveniently placeable in any category, because I am a person. Not a classification. As people, we are multi-faceted and complex. We are all beautiful and ugly. Sometimes at the same time. I do take pride in knowing that I turned out right. I learned my lessons. I can love with all of my heart and still be capable of giving more. I owe my vision of love and relationships to (firstly my parents and then) movies. John Hughes showed me that it was o.k. to be a little weird. It was o.k. to be a neo maxi zoom dweebie. It was o.k. to be proud of that fact. Duckie didn't apologize, did he? So, I thought, why the hell should I? I am who I want to be. Too bad if you don't like it.

Mr. Hughes, I never met you, and now I never can. You will never read this, but I just wanted to say thank you. You were the voice of the geek generation of the 80s. You gave us the confidence to be who we are today. Anytime I felt down, I would watch one of your movies, and it would help.

In particular, thank you for "Some Kind of Wonderful" it has more personal meaning to my wife and I than you could have ever known.

Keith: Well, I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don't fly too well in the American high school.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's liberating.

It can be a very liberating thing to let go of your past. All too often, we hold on to things for silly reasons. These things can be physical items, like things from your childhood, something less tangible, like a relationship, or an abstract concept, like emotional attachment.

Why do you need these reminders if you have moved on and become a different person? Shouldn't we be able to scrape the flotsam and jetsam from our lives and move on with purpose? Trash is collected regularly. Use this service. As for the more intangible things, why hold on to them? Because it is the "right" thing to do? The only right thing that you need to do is what is right by you. It doesn't matter if a failed relationship is in your past. Did you do your best to try and save it? Then that's all you could do.

Scrape them off. Who needs them? Move on with your life. Make money, raise a family, get famous, write a book. Do what you want to do. If the people around you are not the people you NEED around you, leave them behind. As we get older, we mature. Usually. When you move on in your life and you have the people there that can't keep up, leave them in the dust. You are not there to garner anyone's approval except your own. It all comes down to this question: Can you live with your decision?

That is not a question to be answered lightly. You can't just say "Oh, uh sure. I guess." It takes some thinking. Can you live with cutting all ties to people in your past? Do you need them to make you happy? Is it worth the effort and frustration to try and rekindle a romance or friendship that has long since dimmed? Or, is it better to let the fire go out, extinguished forever. People make these choices every day. Some are done for the right reasons, some for the wrong ones.

It takes a certain level of self awareness and intelligence to properly perform such an introspective task, and I seriously doubt that many people can be as brutally honest with themselves as they need to be. Most often, ego and self-righteousness get in the way. During a process that should be governed solely by logic, emotion takes over and leads to snap (and often bad) decisions.

So be it, right? That's the way the human race functions. A stubborn, selfish, self absorbed species that is driven by the need to be accepted and loved by everyone around them. When that does not happen, it is all too often (not surprisingly) the other persons fault. When, the more likely facts is, if people don't want to be around you, it's your fault. Not theirs.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Popsyndicate and Podcast Alley can be a useful tool for helping new listeners find your show. Unfortunately, it can also be an unscrupulous competition. As a member of the popsyndicate family of shows, ( I thought it was about time that we joined forces!

Separately, we are not that much of a presence, but together, we can support our friends and dominate the rankings.

All you have to do is click on the name of each show and cast your vote. Then confirm the e-mail you will be sent and - end of story! You've helped your favorite shows!

Are You Serious?

Outside the Cinema

Gentlemen’s Guide To Midnite Cinema

Mail Order Zombie

Paper Bag Radio

Big Red Podcast

Family Movie Night

Movie Meltdown

First Time Caller

Night of the Living Podcast

and of course, saving the best for last,

Show Show

Thanks everyone for their continued support!