I know, I know, I am supposed to be writing about the Cambodian experience, and I will soon, and tell the story of being stalked by ancient Buddhist nuns through the ruins but the old ADD kicked in, and here I am once again distracted.
Great little post by Jim Emerson over at Scanners on why he does not feel compelled to see Transformers and similar films. Whether the film is good or bad, it has been designed for a specific demographic, and in essence, rejects another. The film is intended as juvenalia.
When Emerson used to review for a living, he had to see everything and it was seeing everything that brought home how formulaic so much of film is. And as he points out, the person who goes out to a film every couple of months does necessarily notice this. I would take that a step further and say they are more likely for a host of reasons to rate the film more highly than if they did see a film every few days. Much like I find myself as a mystery reader seeing the general reader who reads a mystery for the first or fifth time thinking they are really good books when they are poor representatives of the genre.
But speaking of juvenalia, and it certainly is, but the style is so astonishingly fresh and engaging, this movie really should be seen with anyone who cares about visual language. I am of course speaking of Speedracer, the movie with perhaps the most mixed reviews of the last year.
The trailer gives you only the smallest taste of how visually arresting this movie is. Again, don’t even think about the story; even with the races and the ninjas etc its basically a family against the world film like Lost in Space, or the Flintstones. But the actors in this seem almost animated (I haven’t looked into the production so I don’t know if they were treated somehow or this is just an effect of the context). But its a great melding of retro style (kind of the 50s soda pop culture or kind of what might happen if Norman Rockwell illustrated old pulp covers) with retro versions of the future coupled with a Kodachrome hue. All in all, its more of an advertising copy derived than comic derived style. Of course, you have to expect something from those Wachowski Brothers.
The last time I was blown away like this was with the less even but slightly more radical Casshern.
But onto films for grownups. Happiness.
A helluva cast (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and more) all miserable as hell within a film called Happiness. Its a very funny and somewhat difficult film. Not difficult is you can just watch it but it is easy to see why this would never be up for the Academy Awards despite that half the performances in here deserve that sort of recognition. Foremost among a consistently superlative cast is Dylan Baker who plays a pedophile psychiatrist. The most nuanced and powerful scenes come between him and his son. I would say they are among the most powerful, and the most tender, scenes ever put onto celluloid.
I had seen this years ago, and this time I watched it twice in two days, and was reaffirmed in my appreciation for the film. Overall, the film is an odd amalgam of David Lynch in its everyday oddness and whimsical in soundtrack giving a vague sense of Tati. To be seen to be believed.
And this reminded me that there was another film featuring a pedophile that was outstanding; Kevin Bacon’s The Woodsman.
These films are brave and great; they are certainly not juvenalia.