Monday, July 17, 2006

Aesthetic education.

I. There's nothing wrong with plot ("Comment," Middlebrow). Listen, you don't have to tell me. I love plot. One of my favorite writers, Elmore Leonard, is a genius plotter, I feel. I get tickled purt near to death by certain felicitous plot moves. I was watching The Philadelphia Story on Saturday night on tv, and thinking to myself, after K. Hepburn and C. Grant have a nice rapprochement, how sad to have Cary Grant in this movie and not have him get the girl. Because the plot seems to be hurtling toward K. Hepburn and J. Stewart (who is, of course, equally adorable to C. Grant). But no! Without any creaking of gears, the movie pulls a deft U-turn, and Kand C end up together after all. When Pulp Fiction pulls its "and now we're going back in time" move, I practically stood up on my chair in the theater (this would be only the first time I saw it) and shouted, "Wait a minute!" But in a good way.

I love plot. I don't like it when the plot of anything either (a) is ham-handed, which is to say, not deft, or (b) says to the reader/viewer, "Ha! You're so stupid that you missed this fantastic twist." I guess the (b) experience happens mainly in movies for me, like The Jagged Edge or that one Kevin Costner movie where he turns out to be a Russian spy after all. Movies like that make me want to jump up and kill someone, preferably the movie-maker.

2. Bad movie, good movie. Running/cinephile son watched Clerks the other night, a movie that, mom-like, I happen to find vulgar and over-rated. Of course, mom-like, I also haven't seen the whole thing, so probably should make allowances for that in my judgement. I also, more to the point, find this movie to be so static and boring, visually, that I can't believe they let Kevin Smith make another movie, whoever they is. Which would have been a shame, because I do like Dogma (under-rated). I shared all of these opinions, delivered with passionate gestures, to try to persuade my son to watch something else (Philadelphia Story? what about it, Teen Boy Squad?). No dice. So I said, "Fine, but promise me you'll look for how crappy the staging is, how they just point the camera at two people talking, blah blah blah, scene; then point the camera at two people talking again, blah blah blah some more."

Day two, I asked him what he thought of it. "Pretty funny," he said. Which I'm sure is true. I just didn't get past what seemed disgustingingly vulgar to the funny parts, probably. Well, what about the staging--every bit as crappy as I said? I asked. "Yeah, but wasn't this his first movie?" he noted, ever compassionate, ever reasonable. I pointed out to him that plenty of people never get to make even one movie. What about Quentin Tarantino? I asked him. There's someone who has a visual imagination, and his first movie has all the great talk of Kevin Smith, plus better imagined scenes, cuts, camera angles, etc. All conceded. You can imagine how enthusiastic Cinephile Son was as he edged toward the stairs to escape this tutorial. "But it was pretty funny," he said, having the last word.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I remember seeing Clerks back in the day and I was vaguely amused by it. How Smith, however, built a carreer out of it I have no idea. Talk about ham-handed. He had a great concept with Dogma and messed it up by too much blah blah blah. I agree that Tarantino has a fantastic eye, but he, like Smith, is in serious need of a script editor as well. Sure certain scenes are fantastic, but then you get the "Superman" dialogue scene in Kill Bill which pretty much killed the entire project for me.

  3. Is it bad to like Bringing up Baby better than Philadelphia Story?

  4. MB and I saw an ad for "Clerks 2" (yeah, who'd a thunk it?). He never saw "Clerks." I told him it was too late. Any pleasure he would have gotten out of it at, say, age 18, will now be diminished by the overwhelming "EWW!" factor. I saw "Clerks" right after college and I remember liking certain aspects of it, and hating certain aspects of it.
    Strangely, this reminds me of a movie I found entertaining and less disturbing, "Spanking the Monkey." He went on to do radically different projects that were funny and not-funny. But "Spanking" is sophomoric, to a certain extent.
    Also: I hate Kevin Smith movies. Never seen one I liked. Don't get me started on that one that's like "The reason I'm a lesbian is just because I've never slept with Ben Affleck." And don't get me started on that chick's voice. She is the most irritating actress ever and I think her falling in love with Kevin Smith was just her come-uppance.
    That's all.

  5. Spank the Monkey was David O. Russell, wasn't it? Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings, and I Heart Huckabees. All interesting, and the last two were, I thought, fantastic. It's one of my favorite little mental games, to trace the progress, or not, of directors.

  6. And I agree with you, the orris, that the more recent Tarantino needs a script editor--I think they should have made him make Kill Bill into one movie, for instance--I think the first three are pretty great as is.

    Bringing Up Baby I find to be both hilarious and exhausting. But definitely hilarious.

  7. Never saw a Kevin Smith movie and probably never will.

    Anyone see A Scanner Darkly? Is it too it good talky?

    I agree that David O. Russell gets better and better and better.

    Tarantino needs many editors. It's a crime that nobody says no to him, including Harvey Weinstein. All of his movies are 2 hours and 30 minutes long and should be cut to 110 minutes. Reservoir Dogs is the only tight movie he made...everything else is baggy and masturbatory.



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