Monday, December 01, 2008

the movie ranter is back-

I was hoping Milk, the biopic of Harvey Milk, would be in Tampa this weekend. But, of course, Tampa is not big enough. In fact, the closest it is playing is the Miami area. From the initial reviews and the previews I have seen, it looks excellent. Penn looks ridiculously good (someone said, "mail him the Oscar, so we don't have to sit through one of his acceptance speeches") and Gus Van Sant is a solid filmmaker we can trust.

However, I am wary. Why? The last two big Oscar movies with gay subject matter were treated as great works of art by the Academy and critics, yet both were lacking. I wish reviewers could look past the politics and message of such films to the actual story to see if they are worthy of the "best film" discussions. It is controversial to even say what I am saying here and I have no ax to grind. I am an open minded guy that has no trouble with the subject matter. What I have problems with is inferior Hollywood pablum being sold as "risky, bold or daring art." Hollywood does not do risky, bold and daring art. When it happens, it is because it somehow got past the suits at the studio because no one was paying attention (see 3 Kings).

The first such film, Philadelphia was a Lifetime movie of the week starring big actors. That is it. Tom hanks did not deserve an Academy Award for his portrayal. He lost weight and had make up on. Big deal. He inhabited no role, because there was no role to inhabit. Nice guy gets fired for unfair reasons. Prejudiced lawyer takes case, learns lesson and wins case. Guy dies. People cry. That is it... there was nothing edgy or dangerous. The whole thing was manufactured didactic mediocrity masquerading as art. The songs were the only thing worthwhile.

A couple of years ago we were treated to yet another piece of Hollywood blandness in which star crossed lovers tragically act out the rest of their lives because society is keeping them from each other... or Out of Montana... or The Cowboy Patient. Brokeback Mountain was the same thing we have seen from Hollywood at Oscar time each year, only this time... the central characters were gay. Oooo edgy. Yeah, and the film was about as poignant as Titanic and as insipid as anything on Hallmark. If you want to see star crossed lovers done right, there is only one choice: Martin Scorecese's The Age of Innocence. The discussion begins at Casablanca and ends there. Quit making these movies. You cannot improve them. Just stop!

It is as if Hollywood does not trust film watchers to make their own decisions, so they spoon feed us messages from characters straight out of Novelization 101. Of course, it has happened before. See almost anything starring Robin Williams (freakin Dead Poets' Society is #1 offender) or made by Ron Howard.

Lest you say, I am prejudiced, I will admit it here. I am prejudiced against Hollywood love stories and story of the week, television plots on the big screen disguising themselves as Oscar bait. Call me a crapophobe.

However, I have a feeling that Milk will be different. Maybe it will join with My Own Private Idaho, The Crying Game, My Beautiful Launderette, Angels in America, Longtime Companion and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as films with gay subject matter that a straight guy with good taste in film and a tendency to be anti-politically correct in movie criticism can enjoy.*

*by the way, I think this is the case with any politically charged subject matter. We that consider ourselves Liberal or open minded or progressive will allow any sort of junk,** if the message is correct. Then we will laugh at some Evangelicals that do the same thing for simplistic propaganda like Facing the Giants or Fireproof.

By the way, can I admit that I find the idea of the movie The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas idiotic without seeming mean spirited? I do not want to see a fantasy about the son of a Nazi soldier learning about the plight of the Jews from a boy in a Concentration Camp. Does this make me bad? It sounds worse (and just as condescending) than Life is Beautiful.

I feel better. I guess seeing Quantum of Solace made me angry at Hollywood.

** if you don't believe me, ask yourself this question (if you consider yourself a reasonable openminded person that looks down on "Christian propaganda")... what do you think of the films The Contender, The American President, Crash and Jesus Camp? 

You need not ask me what I think of them (along with the openminded iconic blowhardish American Beauty).

1 comment:

Kellie said...

Ohh....I just clicked over from Facebook when I saw the title. I thought you were going to be ranting on Hollywood using your dog's name for a movie (and not a very good movie from the looks of it).