Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hitting the Wall and Carrying On

I've kind of hit a wall.

I sit down to write a review for a film I watched yesterday, or two days ago, or a week ago and I just can't discipline myself to do it.

Am I losing interest in writing reviews? After only three years? Perhaps. It could also be that at this time of year more of my attention gets diverted to running, which gives me less time for writing.

Part of the problem I know for sure is that I just can't summon words to fill a review for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I just can't do it anymore. I go to see Oz the Great and Powerful (awful) or Iron Man 3 (reasonably good) and writing about these movies is just fruitless. I mean I derive almost nothing out of thinking about these movies.

I'm so tired of Hollywood blockbusters. I'm just so tired of them. Even the best ones are just a retread of generic character types, boilerplate dialogue, rehashed and reworked musical scores, and choppy editing. Robert Downey, Jr. brings a little something extra to the Marvel universe, but I just can't find the energy to care all that much. And then to write a review of it? Who cares? Who am I writing that review for? People are going to see it in droves no matter what anyone writes. And the built-in fans are going to love it without any kind of critically discerning point of view. We're almost pre-programmed to enjoy new installments of a franchise that we love. When we've invested so much time and energy into enjoying a series, almost nothing will keep us from seeing the next chapter. And the incessant publicity, the constant TV commercials, the 3-minute trailers that give away nearly every detail, the merchandising tie-ins, the talk of the week - "Are you going to see fill-in-the-blank-blockbuster?" - means we can't escape it and just about forces us to believe that it has to be good.

But mostly these movies are not good. They are sometimes passable. Sometimes they have moments of something that appears great. Mostly they're mediocre at best and just plain terrible at worst. And really damn loud about it. Oh the production values are great. And people will come away saying it was "entertaining" or a great "thrill ride." And that right there should tell you something about these movies: they are designed to be the cinematic equivalent of theme park rides, roller coasters in particular. At Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland there's a ride called Splash Mountain. It's a traditional log flume type ride that first takes you through the story of the Disney animated film Song of the South while providing some small rushes and drops, ending with a 53 foot, 45 degree angle drop. After the ride no one talks about the story and characters.

The big Hollywood tent pole movies are not stories that provide thrills. They are designed as thrill rides and then peppered with story elements. Studio executives are no longer people who came up in the movie business. They are rarely people who know anything about classical Hollywood. They're primary concern is the business and making profits. That's fair enough. Movie studios are businesses, and businesses have to make money to survive. But I don't have to like their product. The movies have, for a very long time, been caught at a crossroads between art and commerce. The difference between now and maybe 50 or 60 years ago is that no one seems all that concerned with injecting any kind of quality in an artistic sense into the big commercial ventures.

I'm just losing interest in material that doesn't add anything interesting to the cinematic conversation, including the good entertainments. So from now on I'm forgoing writing about the big blockbusters unless I genuinely feel moved to say something, either on the positive or negative end. I want to focus my attention on smaller films, more interesting films, or even big studio productions that aren't just "thrill rides."

This means the first two lifeless paragraphs of a review of Iron Man 3 I've written will remain shelved or possibly discarded. It means that if I ever get around to seeing films like Oblivion or Jack the Giant Slayer, it's unlikely I'll have much to say about them.

Meanwhile I am still trying to motivate myself to write on a couple of films I've watched in the last month or so. And I am considering a couple of Short Cut Reviews of the Scream sequels, all of which I've watched in the last couple of weeks. Beyond that I have some larger projects I've been considering that, given time and inclination, I will get cracking on as soon as possible.

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