Tag: rambling

Being a snob and a slob

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Those 80’s high school movies were full of snob vs. slob stories. On one side you had pure animal instinct. The slobs were maybe not the cleanest of the high schoolers on display, but they made up for their general sweatiness with a raw physicality that attracted – at least at first – all the pretty girls. The snobs, on the other hand, were decidedly unathletic. They relied upon their brains to make up for their lack of physical prowess. There was never a snobby slob, or a slobby snob. You were either one or the other and never the twain shall meet. Luckily, in this golden age of enlightenment, we have realized that you can be both. Or, at least I can.

See, I have this thing about movies. I like all of them. Give me a Bergman meditation on the problems of religion or a slasher with a huge body count and I’ll be equally happy. Well, maybe not equally, but it’d be close. The visceral enjoyment I can get from something like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is hard to replicate in a slow-paced drama about a failing marriage. So if we can separate the way a movie works into two categories, brain and body, we can come to some kind of understanding of what kinds of movies you might like. Brain movies, those for the snobs among us, will attack our beings with ideas and words and pictures that make us think about things. They stay with you long after the film has finished and maybe even change the way you look at the world. Body movies for the slobs skip straight past the brain and go to our primal instincts. Fight or flight kicks in until we realize that the things we’re reacting to are just on the screen. And it’s not just horror that usually works in this territory. Look at most blockbusters and you’ll see a general dearth of ideas and a massive outcropping of titillation, be it in the form of half-naked bodies or explosions. Musicals, too, are usually slob movies, at least the ones that heavily involve dance. If there’s sweat somewhere, you can be sure you’re watching a slob movie. Liking either is fine, great even, and plenty of people are perfectly happy to entrench themselves into either category and rarely venture into the other realm. For me, though, the place to be is in the middle.

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Let’s look briefly at my top 100 list from last year. Out of the 100 movies on the list, I would categorize only 9 as primarily slob movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Halloween, North by Northwest, Girl Walk//All Day, City of God, Fantasia, The General, and The Proposition. All these films aim primarily at your body, hoping that you’ll feel excited or happy or scared and they don’t really care if you think about much while you do it. Sure, Alien can be seen as a rape allegory and The Proposition is about lawlessness as much as it is about the people who are lawless, but those ideas are secondary to the visceral reactions you have to the events in the films. Still, 9/100 is a pretty low percentage.

And now let’s turn our gaze to the other end of the spectrum, the snob movies. These are the ones that don’t care about your body, they want to attack your mind with ideas or emotions to make you feel and think about things. By my reckoning, I can find only 5 movies that fit this category, and some of them are on the edge: Before Midnight, Manhattan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, In the Loop, and The Fountain. By all rights you could exclude all comedies from the snob list, since there’s a distinct instinctual reaction that humor invokes. I’ve laughed at the dumbest things for reasons I can’t understand other than that it was funny. But then this list would be even shorter, and we can’t have that. It’s already only 5 percent of the whole list.

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Any mathletes out there have already done the calculation, but for the slobs in our midst, these extreme ends only occupy 14 of the 100 total spots, leaving 86 movies which play in both realms. That’s an impressive number. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them, shall we, and where better to start than at the top? Fanny and Alexander made its triumphant debut at the number one spot last year and shows no sign of losing it when I remake the list this year. It is primarily a snob movie, being five hours long and in a foreign language will do that to most things. But the slob factor doesn’t ever stray too far from the film. One of the first things people think of when it comes to Fanny and Alexander is the fart joke. It’s an epic one, involving some vigorous exercising to work up the gasses necessary for such an explosion, and it also marks the end of the happy times in the film, when a fart joke is enough to entertain the kids for a while and send them to sleep with a smile on their face. All that remains in the first hour is a bedtime story and some squabbling grown ups, but if it weren’t for the silliness of the fart joke the movie might have veered into the sadness sooner and lost a moment to finalize just how carefree the family was at that time. Several hours later will be the confrontation between Alexander and the mysterious Ismael, a scene which evokes both a physical reaction to the strange sensuality of the character and a thoughtful reaction to the weird things he says.

Horror movies make up a large-ish percentage of my list and at first blush they might all be categorized as slob movies until you look closer. Black Swan is a movie about perfection and identity, The Thing‘s paranoia is a snob undercurrent to the slobish physical effects and both are equally potent, the same goes for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and An American Werewolf in London has an outsider literally turning into a non-human entity, plus he has a walking reminder of his guilt in the guise of his murdered best friend. There’s a three hour documentary about the weird theories that surround The Shining, and that’s just the extra-textual stuff. The weirdness of that film works on your brain as the blood rushing from the elevators mimics the adrenaline that pumps into your body when you see shots like this:

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I won’t go into all 86 of the movies that straddle the line here, feel free to ask me about any that I haven’t covered, but let’s wrap it up with a few that seem like snob movies but which use moments of slobishness to amplify and punctuate the ideas they’re playing with. Never Let Me Go involves a lot of love and sadness and melancholy, all of which is called into clarity by Andrew Garfield’s outburst in the middle of the road bathed in the light from his beat up old car. He is isolated in a visual echo of his larger situation, and his scream digs deeper than the mind into our body, anchoring his emotion with ours. The Tree of Life goes in the opposite direction. The best scene in the film features a quiet duet with a son and a father. Brad Pitt’s character is cold, distant, and angry, but he is able to connect with his son through music, that age-old slob machine. Music cuts out all the pretext and the ideas until only the gut remains. It allows for people to just be with each other.

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Finally, Metropolis basically wrote this whole thing 90 years ago. “Between the mind that plans and the hands that build,” it argues, “there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.” The movie dramatizes and visualizes this conflict in a fantastic expressionist manner which features the snobs lording over the slobs, who can’t stand their oppressors. In the end, though, the snobs and slobs are brought together by the robotic woman at the center of the film. She is our middle ground. I don’t care if a movie is trying to get my blood pumping or my brain working, I just want it to do things to me. Change me. People talk about thinking about a movie long after it ends, and that’s usually a snob reaction, but the slob horror film can cause a sleepless night or two, and if that’s not basically the same, I don’t know what is. George Saunders writes about the way art can change us, “Now I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters. He enters in one state of mind and exits in another. The writer gets no points just because what’s inside the box bears some linear resemblance to ‘real life’ — he can put whatever he wants in there. What’s important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit.” Give me something undeniable and nontrivial, and I won’t care if you’re a snob or a slob or something in between.

What I write about when I write about movies

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I can’t have been the first person to use that title, right? Originality is not something I concern myself with, a truth which you will see in just a moment as I attack the question of how to write about movies a full week after everybody else has had their say. Deal with it! Anyways, last week Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a blog post at rogerebert.com imploring film critics, especially those on the internet for some reason, to write about the formal aspects of filmmaking in their reviews. The whole article is interesting but if you’ve already read it or don’t want to, allow me to remind you or inform you about the two most relevant quotes.

[I]n criticism of every kind there is appallingly little careful consideration of form. I see a lot of writing that describes what a piece of art is about, not so much about how it is about it.

Movies and television are visual art forms, and aural art forms. They are not just about plot, characterization and theme. Analytical writing about movies and TV should incorporate some discussion of the means by which the plot is advanced, the characters developed, the themes explored. It should devote some space, some small bit of the word count, to the compositions, the cutting, the music, the decor, the lighting, the overall rhythm and mood of the piece.

Otherwise it’s all just book reports or political op-eds that happen to be about film and TV. It’s literary criticism about visual media. It’s only achieving half of its potential, if that. And it’s doing nothing to help a viewer understand how a work evokes particular feelings in them as they watch it.

Aha. Interesting stuff there. A few misconceptions about how literary criticism works (or, how it should work), but some insightful critiques about modern film writing. Except, of course, that it’s kind of baloney.

While I agree with MZS’s premise that movie writing could have more technical discussion overall, I don’t think that everybody necessarily needs to write about shots or whatever. A favorite blogger of mine, Jessica over at The Velvet Café, doesn’t often write about shot length or editing techniques, but she almost always captures the way the plot and characters interact and become living people in the two or so hours of a film. That’s what film can do and she captures it in her writing. I’ve never regretted taking time to read her reviews, even if it’s not a film I’m interested in.

Another blogger I enjoy, Martin Teller, has a different reason to read his reviews. He does often talk about structure and form in his pieces, but he also brings a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of film history (especially in film noir) to bear in most of his reviews. I’ll often end up adding more than just the film he’s writing about to my ever expanding list of movies to watch. In fact, he was the reason I finally got around to Fanny and Alexander, which turned out nicely for me. And his site collects all the reviews he’s written over the many years he’s been writing about movies, so it’s a fantastic resource for reading up about a movie which will delve into both thematic and formal considerations.

And yet another blogger has yet another approach to film writing. Melissa at A Journal of Film writes these giant reviews that pull in literary analysis and references (her day job is as a college writing and literature teacher), formal observations, and a superb writing style the rides the lines between blogging and academic writing (see her amazing review of We Need to Talk About Kevin for an example). She’ll explain how a shot or use of color or sound is used to further the theme of the film and that’s exactly what Matt Zoller Seitz was imploring us to do.

And now to turn these ramblings inwards. What do I write like, what do I want to write like? Well, let’s start with what I used to write like. Here’s my first written review, as far as I can find.

I just watched The Chronicles of Narnia: TLTWATW. I liked it a lot, but I also liked the book a lot, so I might be biased. There were a few pluses and minuses though. The bad: I didn’t much like the child actors. I’m sorry to be mean, but whoever played Lucy really got on my nerves. Also, I didn’t like that they started with (to me) the second story. The order my set was in started with The Magician’s Nephew. While I agree that Wardrobe is probably the better introduction to the series for non-readers, I prefer it the way I read it. Now on to the good: I really liked the way that the filmmakers captured the feeling and look of Narnia. This is exactly how I pictured it as a kid. It was awesome seeing Aslan being the big boss lion. I liked the choice of Liam Neeson as Aslan, I think his voice suited the role perfectly. Ditto with Tilda Swinton as the evil White Witch. I knew from the moment I saw her that she was the perfect embodiment of evil in Narnia. And finally, the battle scene. While it was a different kind of battle than the ones in LOTR, I liked it just as much, and possibly better. This was the kind of thing that you can’t quite get from a book. It was the kind of battle that I always wanted to see, with all the animals and creatures fighting each other. It was awesome. That’s about it for my review. I give it an A-.

Hmm, not exactly high art there – in the film or my writing. That was from the end of 2006 and I like to think I’ve gotten at least a little better since then. 7+ years will do that to you. So will a demanding teacher. I went to the University of Connecticut (go Huskies!) and had a fantastic film professor there. Bob Smith liked to give us these giant scene analysis assignments where we would have to describe a scene from a film we watched in class shot by shot. It was an exhausting exercise but it did give us the tools to describe what was happening on screen in simple and straightforward terms. It would also train us to see repeated setups or times when the director would change his shot. We learned to spot composition and framing and shot length and important props and all that jazz. And that was only half the paper. The other half, which had to be at least as long as the first part, would be an explanation of why the scene was made that way. Since the assignment required us to watch the scene over and over again, we got to know it quite intimately and after the tedium of the description, the freedom of the interpretation meant that the words often flowed out of me and onto the page. It was obvious why John Ford shot each of the sons standing up in the How Green Was My Valley dinner scene from below. Not only was he calling attention to the fact that they were standing, he was painting them in a heroic context. They were defying their father who had, until recently, lorded over them like a sometimes-benevolent dictator. Their refusal of him broke the family so John Ford broke the normal compositions he was using until those instances. It all made so much sense. Bob Smith was teaching us how to watch movies and how to write about them intelligently.

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I hope you’ll notice an improvement from that horrible first review to my most recent two, those of Noah and Mistaken for Strangers. I don’t put all of my reviews here, any movie about which I don’t have much to say will stay over at my Letterboxd page where they belong. But if I think I can find something really interesting to write about it’ll come here. I named this site Benefits of a Classical Education for reasons beyond just using a fun Die Hard quote (surely you knew it was a Die Hard quote), it’s because I feel like I genuinely benefited from my near-classical education. I like thinking about thinking, and I like writing about the things that I see or read or listen to. I am intensely interested in the way movies are constructed, so I’ll often write about a shot or sequence which caught my eye, like the creation montage in Noah. In that I think I am fulfilling Matt Zoller Seitz’s demands for more formal discussion in film reviews. Of course, that sequence served a thematic purpose in the film, furthering its half-biblical half-humanist vision of the Noah story, so it wasn’t just pretty pictures. I hope I captured that. I didn’t do much formal discussion in my review of Mistaken for Strangers because it’s pretty much a standard documentary for the majority of its running time. The relationship between the two brothers at the center of what started as a typical rock doc, though, was really really interesting to me. And I guess I did write about “the most euphoric credit card I’ve ever seen,” so that’s something formal. I guess what it boils down it is that when I feel compelled to write about a movie here it’s because I’ve found something in it that speaks to me in some kind of way, and it doesn’t have to be formal or thematic or character based, but it can be any of those and an combination of them. All those bloggers I talked about earlier do the same, I believe. That’s why they’re all so interesting despite (because of?) their different approaches. I still have a long way to go. I think I talk too much about plot and I am super self conscious about my propensity for lengthy sentences split up, seemingly at random, by commas. But that’s miles better than where I was and that’s good. I’ve dedicated myself to a career in the classical education system, so I might as well embrace it here and now. I hope you get something out of it.

Rebooting my top 100 movies list

It’s been a few years since I first made my top 100 movies list. Since then each yearly iteration has felt like just that, an iteration. Some new movies appear and there’s some shifting in the numbering but mostly it’s all the same stuff. So this year, with the help of Letterboxd‘s clever Seen It and Lists features, I’m making a new one. In the spirit of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s time for a reboot. I’m sure there’ll be 50 or so similar films, if not more. That’s not really the point. The idea here is to attack the list with new eyes, eyes of a guy that has seen 2311 movies over the course of his 25 years instead of probably around half that when I made my first list those years ago.

Letterboxd came into my life only recently, with its nifty design and clever social-networking twist on the movie database website. I started by just chronicling the new movies I’d seen. Maybe writing a brief review; a line or two. And then I started going back through the years and clicking the little eye on every movie I could remember seeing. I started in 2013 and went backwards towards the dawn of cinema. It was, in part, a trip through my childhood. As I approached the middle of the 2000’s I noticed that I was clicking fewer and fewer films for any given year. It seems that 2006 or 2005 was the start of my real love affair with film, though even through 1999 I had gone back and seen a lot of the big films. After ’99, though, it was mostly a wasteland of horrible kiddy movies and some of the tent-pole blockbusters of my youth. Godzilla‘s poor attempt at taking over the US, the intense stupidity of Kazaam, that other dinosaur movie from 1993, We’re Back. None of these have a shot at my top 100, unfortunately. And then the 80’s came along and I clicked even fewer of those little eyes, since I was only a kid for two of those years and I probably wasn’t watching any movies at the time. Even if I was, I certainly wasn’t going to remember them. So the 80’s contain some of the bigger films from the era, but it’s a bit more slim pickins. About 1/3 of the movies I’ve seen come from the last ten years. The first 80 or so years of cinema, up through 1979, account for less than half of the movies I’ve seen. Basically all of this is to say, don’t judge me, I’m still new at this.

I’ve seen a lot of the classics, though. I just crossed off Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Cabaret, and Aguirre: The Wrath of God in the past few months. I’ve got to start delving into the kind of second-tier movies from the 70’s back. Looking at the movies I love from these past few years, it’s often those smaller movies that I latch on to and begin to have a shot at my top 100 list. You’ll also probably notice a lot of movies from three directors of the golden age of Hollywood’s studio system: Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Frank Borzage. When I was at the University of Connecticut I took one class four times, each semester focusing on a different director or genre. Each of those directors was the focus for a semester, with the last being a general comedy class. So I got to see between 12 and 15 movies from each of them, mostly great ones. You’ll notice at least two from each on my previous top 100 list. Everybody knows Hawks and Ford but fewer know the wondrous Borzage. I urge anybody reading this to seek out his films. They may be hard to find but if you give them a chance you’ll likely fall in love with his romantic and passionate style. He’s the best.

So here’s how it’ll work. After checking off every movie I can remember seeing, I went through and added any movie I though might be top 100 material to a list. There are 205 movies on that list at this moment, though there may be another by the end of tonight (I’m going to complete the Before trilogy with the Midnight entry after work). From that list I’ll pick out the movies that are must haves. Magnolia, my number one last year, will certainly be making a return appearance. I watched it again very recently and was only reminded of just how great it is. Blade Runner, obviously. Jurassic Park, assuredly. But the rest, you never know. That’s why it will be so much fun. Stay tuned for either further updates or the beginning of The List posts. And be my friend on Letterboxd.

Insanity Necessary: An argument for going all out

At the beginning of one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters we are treated to maybe the craziest thing anyone will see in theaters this year. Respected actors like Russel Crowe and Michael Shannon are dressed up in super-nuts outfits and barge in on a council meeting of people with silly hats to argue about eugenics. After a quick fight, Crowe jumps on the back of a giant four-winged beast and flies back to his house to witness the birth of his child, the first naturally born and conceived child on his home planet in ages. While all of this is happening, a battle rages outside among a planet that seems to be exploding at all times. It was crazy, it was weird, and I loved it. Man of Steel didn’t end up being a great movie, but it did succeed, at least early on, in doing what too few movies are brave enough to do: trying whole-heartedly to just do something.

All too often I have a moment of clarity while watching a movie. Most recently, The Purge came to a tipping point, a time when the narrative could go one way or another, and the movie’s success felt like it would live or die based on what the writer and director (the same person in this case but not always) decided would happen. In The Purge, a doorbell rings and the locked down family is brought into the moment, the beginning of the rest of the movie. The identity of that doorbell ringer will shape what kind of film the rest will play out as. Will it be a deeply cynical, biting social commentary where neighbors that smile in your face during the day turn into ruthless, jealous killers at night? Or will the ringer be revealed as just some guy, a less biting, less interesting choice which punts the potential of the film on third and one? Well, unfortunately, it’s the latter. The Purge goes from potentially great to boringly normal. Subpar, even, though that lies more on the lack of skill behind the camera than it does on the premise of the film. The Purge was never going to be a masterpiece given how poorly it was made, but it could have been a messterpiece, a movie which, as its most admirable quality, can claim that at least they were doing something. Trying something, giving it all they’ve got. I appreciate craziness, I appreciate insanity.

A few of my favorite messterpieces include Thirst, which melds uber-violent vampire things with wacky slapstick stuff and one of the silliest, most beautiful endings of the past decade, Synecdoche, New York, a movie that takes about a billion threads and tries to weave some of them into a truly emotional epic and mostly succeeds, and The Night of the Hunter, a mashup of a whole mess of techniques and styles that nonetheless congeals into a moving fairy-tale about growing up and being pure at heart. All of these movies are on my current top 100 list of all time, alongside other messterpeices like The Shining, Magnolia, and Brazil. None of these films lack ambition, though they might not quite reach what they’re grasping for. I will always give the edge to a movie that’s going for something with all of its heart over a movie that plays it safe with any kind of subject matter. This generally will reward genre movies as they often have a bit more leeway in terms of what they can go for and even more leeway as to what the audience will forgive. But serious dramas can go crazy with the best of them. The Lion in Winter doesn’t do a whole lot in the directorial department but the dialogue and the glee with which the actors say their lines is so delightfully over-the-top that I can’t help but fall under its spell of deceit and family politics. Punch-Drunk Love takes the patented Adam Sandler man-child and throws him into the real world where his immaturity helps him fall in love with a girl and endangers his life when a mattress salesman goes bananas at him. The Truman Show has a lot of logistical problems and plot-holes when you think about the situation for a while, but the power of the film and its crazy premise overpowers those nits and becomes something great. Again, all of these films are in my top 100 list. I just love a movie that aims high, even if it doesn’t reach its lofty target.

There are a few movies in my top 100 that are restrained, content to be the best that they can be. I’d put movies like Days of Heaven and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Raiders of the Lost Ark in that category, all of which might go all out for a scene but generally keep their ambitions close to their vests. It’s perfectly fine to do so. Last year Lincoln was one of my favorite films even though it was pretty much just a straight biography. But movies like The Cabin in the Woods and Cloud Atlas and Holy Motors occupy a greater amount of my thinking about last year’s films, and are the first titles that come to mind over the more staid films of the year. It’s something almost intangible, and I know that there are people out there that just prefer to have their movies be what they are and then be done. But why go to the cinema to see something you can outline in advance? What purpose do movies have if not to surprise us in their stories or their techniques or their ideas about life? Even today’s safest bets, superhero movies, are embracing the absurd. The opening of Man of Steel is just the most recent in a list of superhero films breaking out of the mold and becoming crazy. Thor: The Dark World had a trailer debut today and looks to capitalize on the biggest strength of the previous film, its sense of humor and high drama. Thor was peppered with Shakespearian dialogue and wacky outfits and canted angles and surreal sets. It’s the craziest of Marvel’s movie universe splinters and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Optimism in the Face of Movie Culture

There’s a certain feeling that has come to pervade the movie-going culture, especially those that care about movies to a larger-than-normal degree. It’s a constant, oppressive pessimism. Every year we are treated to a cycle of horribleness, first the dumping grounds of the winter months where movies that a too crappy to live go to make the most money possible because somebody has to win the weekend. Then there’s the beginning of the summer movie season where all the big money blockbusters start appearing, but not really the good stuff yet because the studios are afraid they might find themselves accidentally releasing the film in those dumping grounds. Yet they continue to push the envelope, with Jack the Giant Slayer coming on the first day of March this year. After those early blockbusters we kick into the full summer swing, a pool now filled with unnecessary sequels to dumb comedies and the third, fourth, fifth entry into a superhero series. Or, even worse, a reboot of a superhero series that only ended 6 years ago. Around August time we slip into a mini slump where all the movies that were made for June and July but turned out too crappy get thrown to the wolves. In September we might see a studio trying to play the Oscar game a little earlier than everybody else, and it’ll probably be a really popular movie because the public is starved for any semblance of intelligence after a season of explosions and spandex. And then October is filled with remakes and sequels of horror films from the eighties or Asia. It’s the month of jump scares, which is all Hollywood remembers how to do in the world of horror. After that we’ve entered Oscarama, the time of year when BIG IMPORTANT FILMS are released and usually have something to do with somebody being oppressed and fighting back or taking it in a dignified manner. This can include racism or the Holocaust or natural disasters. There’s also the counterprogramming of a super violent film for all the teenaged boys to see while the rest of their family goes to some PG13 schmaltz-fest. And let’s not forget the final big-budget action film of the year, which has pretensions of Oscar hopes but will tell everybody that it just wants to entertain. These will make the most money of the year because everybody will just want to escape their families for 3 or so hours (these movies are always 3 hours long). So that’s, the movie release schedule for a year, after which we start at the beginning again but everything’s just a little worse than it was last year. Everybody knows that this was the worst year for film in the last 5 or so, if not more. Just look at all the crap that was released on a consistent basis. Was there even one movie that would stand up to something like The Godfather or Jaws?

Of course, not everybody will say all of these things. Most harbor only one or two of these thoughts in their movie-addled mind. Yeah, we have too many superhero movies and there hasn’t been a good horror movie since The Sixth Sense. Or look at all those Oscar-bait movies that exist solely to garner awards from an out of touch Academy and, hey, the only thing worse than Oscar season is post-Oscar season. It begins to feel like movie buffs aren’t really fans of movies anymore. They’ve reached a point where everything is predictable, from the release schedule to the movies themselves. Trailers show everything, there’s no point in even seeing the film anymore. Everything Hollywood does is just for the money, and most independent movies are just jumbles of quirks tossed into a juicer and puréed for easy consumption. Where are all the original stories? Everything is just a copy of something else. Creativity has gone down the drain and there’s no saving it.

Well, I’m calling bull. I’m tired of pessimism and cynicism in my favorite hobby. Since when does everything have to be amazing for us as a people to say it’s not horrible? Is anything I wrote in the first paragraph entirely wrong? No, of course not. There are movies that fit into each and every one of those molds every year and that will never change. But if I’m going to devote much of my free time to movies (and I will, because they have the capacity to be awesome) I’m just going to ignore those by-the-numbers films. Last year we saw such crap as Battleship and Silent Hill 2 and God Bless America. I watched all of those films and spent a bit of time complaining about how terrible they are, but will they be thing films that last, the one’s that stand out in our memory of 2012? Or, to put it another way, will anybody really remember Mama from this year. I saw it in theaters and I’ve already forgotten it. What has stuck with me is the Evil Dead remake. It proves at least two of the generalizations wrong by being a movie released in that period between the winter doldrums and summer blockbuster and a remake/sequel/reboot of a beloved horror franchise from the eighties. And it doesn’t rely on jump scares. What it does rely on is an interesting parallel between body horror and drug addiction/withdrawal which leads to a literal rebirth in a torrent of blood. It’s nuts, all out gore and grime and I loved it. So yeah, Hollywood can make good movies, even movies that fit into those categories that generally produce crappy films will sometimes score a nice little floater in the lane, if not a monstrous slam dunk. Things don’t have to be amazing to be not-horrible, they just have to not be horrible. That’s a pretty low bar to reach, and as a fan of movies I’ll always hope for a film to clear it rather than bonk its head. The movie buff culture has become a den of inequity where it’s cool to point out why a movie might be bad. I’d rather point out why a movie might be great. The worst that could happen is I’m wrong and Man of Steel doesn’t lift itself above a hit-or-miss director’s other works. I know it’ll look cool and have Michael Shannon yelling things. That’s enough to get me in the door. Optimism isn’t cool, but it should be. It’s more fun. Less angry. In the eternal words of Ricky Rubio: