Sunday, April 18, 2010

Revenge of the random notes

It's been a long time since I've written a full-blown random notes post. I think largely Twitter and Facebook have taken up that need.

First of all, happy blogoversary to Kimberly Lindbergs, who just posted Happy Anniversary to Me!

In the comments there, she pointed me to her absolutely wonderful post Modern Mondays: This is England, in which she offers some harsh words to the critical community for its uncritical reaction to the passing of John Hughes.

I remember The Breakfast Club being a key piece in my realizing the lack of critical facilities in others, and moreover the lack of interest in developing them. You see, it was released when I was fourteen, and I liked it. But the pot smoking scene always bugged me. Without having even fully developed my critical faculties that well, I could tell that the movie aspired to some level of, at least ostensible, reality, and that scene has none at all.

There's no way that those specific people would have all bonded over weed nor do people act like they do after smoking it. It's absolute transparent fantasy on every level.

And yet, when I'd say this to people... people my own age, people who vaguely fit into one group or the other of stereotypes represented and who would not have smoked pot in a group such as that one, if at all... they would stare at me blankly and say something like, "I guess, but the movie's great!"

Yeah, even though the climax doesn't make the least bit of sense, it's still great. Umm, ok.

It continues to amaze me how many people have no critical faculties, interest in having them or even understanding of them. All of that equally strikes me when people speak to me - as a (largely inaccurately) perceived movie snob - in apologetic tones about some guilty pleasure they have and it turns out to be something amazingly brilliant! I'm without a specific example here, but I'm sure this blog is littered with them.

But seriously, who the fuck am I? I've seen Punisher: War Zone four times but only something like half of the movies Federico Fellini or Alfred Hitchcock made. I currently have Death Wish 4: The Crackdown shortlisted to watch, but nothing by either of those guys.

I haven't seen The Breakfast Club since the '80s. It's possible that Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the only Hughes movie I've seen in its entirety in the past fifteen years... possibly more.

Not exactly his fault. I'd watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles if it came on.

But his teen cycle? I'm not sure I have or ever could have a valid opinion of them.

You see, I fucking hate the '80s.

I hated the '80s at the time, but, I'm sure, in a more nuanced way than now.

I hate the way records sounded.

Yes, there were records that sounded less shitty than others. Yes, a few of them are even collections of great songs.

But I don't believe there's even a single record from the '80s that wouldn't have sounded better had it been recorded 10 years before or 10 years after.

I know at the time there were records I didn't hate. Some I was even impressed with how they sounded, but now, without the neverending flow of crappy '80s production in my ears to compare it to, they sound shitty.

And, yeah, I'm old, too, and I'm pretty limited in what I like in modern music, although I wish I weren't. But I don't care. Even if I am stuck thinking the songs from the '80s were largely better, I think the actual records of today sound better.

Or at least less shitty.

The '80s can fuck themselves twice and burn in Hell!

Decades of bullshit '80s nostalgia (and even a kind of pre-nostalgia) has only fueled my fucking rage.

If Hughes is the spokesperson for that, it only makes it more impossible for me to view his work with any kind of reasonable critical eye, as I have only that burning hate.

In the early '90s, I had a dream of making a movie that would explore my feelings about being a teenager in the '80s. It was called "School...", and I intended it to be a kind of Altman-esque tapestry of '80s teen movie plots that I would attempt to enrich and then cynically twist.

I'm not sure it was working at the time, before I gave up on, but I don't think I could even make a valid attempt at it these days.

If someone presented me with out of the blue movie funding on the condition I made a movie about the '80s, I could find it somewhere in myself to make punk rock rage filled anti-'80s screed, but I don't think it would be that interesting or contribute to the world's dialogue in the way I'd like as a nearly-forty-year-old man. But I think it's all I'd have in me.

In other news, I ran into "10", my contribution to the meme of the day at that time, the 10 favorite movie characters. I'm actually still pretty comfortable with that list, which is interesting and oddly uncommon for me and lists.

In the comments, Arbogast, brilliant pseudonymous host of Arbogast of Film, wrote, "At the moment I'm outlining a defense of Escape from the Planet of the Apes that no one will see coming."

I searched his blog, as I've frustratingly missed so many random, and occasionally too large, pockets of blog writings in the past couple of years, but such a defense was not to be found.

But I suppose if it had been there, I would indeed have seen it coming.

I hope one day he sneaks it up on me, although I'm less convinced it requires a defense. But that may be my Apes fan blinders. I remember someone presenting a defense somewhere from the assumption that its lack of public esteem was seen as self-evident. I expressed surprise, saying I thought it was the Star Trek: The Voyage Home of the Apes movies, which was then seen somehow as self-evidently an expression of my disdain for that movie.

You can't win.

I'm intrigued by The Collection Project that Bill R. is planning.

I find the idea most intriguing because of the inclusion of the movies he says are like the supposed hypothetical example of Dragonheart, "One, essentially ancillary, reason is to lay my cards on the table. What I mean is, have you ever been in a store that sells used DVDs, and they're having a sale where you buy three and get one free, and you find three DVDs you really want, and then find yourself scraping for that free fourth title, and for reasons known only to you and your God, you eventually find yourself leaving the store with a copy of Dragonheart? You were not a person who owned Dragonheart twenty minutes ago, and now look at you. That's what I mean about laying my cards on the table: I do this all the time. I own some movies that I'm quite frankly embarrassed to admit I own, and you're going to hear about them all."

As I said elsewhere, "I think what we have in our collections is interesting. For most of us, it's not our whatever number of favorite movies. It's movies we knew we'd buy eventually and were in the mood to watch, ones we impulsively bought in line one day, movies we know we'll revisit, movies we saw a Big! Lots for $3.00, [his] example of the one to get free fourth movie, and they all sit alongside our various favorites."

I'd like to see a "Free Fourth Movie" meme spread across the Internet.


Greg said...

In the comments, Arbogast, brilliant pseudonymous host of Arbogast of Film, wrote, "At the moment I'm outlining a defense of Escape from the Planet of the Apes that no one will see coming."

Yeah, seriously, I talked to him about that ages ago and still haven't seen anything - And I want to! He even gave me a little bit of the defense but I can't remember now. But you and I both know that we bloggers regularly say we'll do something and then don't. Cinema Styles is a virtual graveyard of announced projects and series that never came to pass.

In other news, I have been righteous in my indignation over Hughes in the comments at many blogs, most notably Flickhead's. Hughes really irritated me and Kimberly's rant was dead-on accurate. I remember it as a breath of fresh air at the time and reading it again I still don't think I would change a word of it.

Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller are particularly offensive movies to me for their attitudes about popularity winning the day. I've also bitched with Flickhead (we're two old pissed off farts when it comes to teens) about the phony-baloney rebellion in those movies.

In Ferris Bueller I'm supposed to hate the never-shown father who collects cars but doesn't care about his wife or son. Well, thing is, I never seen him or get to hear about his life, from him. For all I fucking know, he was born into a low-income home and worked his ass off to make sure his wife and son were taken care of and, yeah, he loves luxury cars. I can't imagine liking a guy like that but I also know teens from both ends of the spectrum, as a former one and as a parent of two - currently, and I'd love to know how much untruth lies in Cameron's assessment of his father. Teens see their parents in very skewed and inaccurate ways.

So long story short, when that car goes through the garage and there's this newfound strength in Cameron that now his father will have to deal with him and blah, blah, blah, I'm like, "Well first, jackass, don't expect much since you destroyed something he holds dear." I mean, whether we agree or not that owning luxury cars is bad (and I would say it's at least kind of dirty considering the good that kind of money can do people in need), the abstract of it remains the same: people don't respond to you positively when you destroy what they hold dear. Or simply fucking like and enjoy collecting. Second, stop whining and moping about not getting daddy's attention you fucking brat and go out and do something; write, watch movies, listen to music and engage in your thoughts; which is how you're going to develop anyway dumbass, not by pining after your dad's attention. I mean, your dad collects cars. He's probably not going to connect to you so connect to your friends and stop worrying about it. Meantime, you've got everything you need because he's provided it to you. Shut up.

Anyway, in the end of course, what really bugged me about that movie was that everything they did involved either money, elitism or social acceptance, from going to expensive restaurants to singing in the parade because you're likable. Who the fuck are these teens?! And why should I like them?! Could they survive two minutes in the same room with Gus Van Sant's teens?

And the side characters who don't accept social popularity as a measuring stick of who someone is, like his sister most notably, are looked upon with derision until by the end, she accepts her brother's popularity and revels in it. What a fucking evil movie! Really, and truly, I hate it.

Okay, so that was a long comment. I think you and I should just start ranting full time, maybe as a team, and never write another review. It's never as hard as writing a review.

Neil Sarver said...

Oh, I do understand Arbo not getting to writing that defense. As I said recently, I just skimmed through my blog and found dozens of those "Soon I'll write..." promises that I never wrote. One day I might go ahead and sort through more carefully and erase those promises...

... and if I'm even more ambitious, I may even store some of them away and even write a couple.

But I won't be getting excited about the possibility that I'll do either too soon.

As far as Hughes, I admit I don't have as strong a specific opinion to share. I totally understand and appreciate your opinion of Ferris Bueller. Although I'm certain it's the Hughes movie I've seen most recently, I can't say I still have a good enough memory to hold up a solid conversation.

I'm torn on the issue you raise with the father. As you note, "Teens see their parents in very skewed and inaccurate ways.", and I can almost appreciate that one of the things that Hughes does seem to do effectively is demonstrate that.

Mind you, I think a better moviemaker could have challenged it as well.

Just to go less on movies and more on life. I agree very much with that assessment of teens. There's a skewed perspective, as they're just gaining measure of independence and independent thought. I think as adults is easy to see this as wrong, though, and it's not necessarily.

Hey, capturing that dichotomy could make a really good movie!

(I know, there probably is a thing or two I've not seen or am forgetting that does.)

I definitely agree that the anti-independent thought and blind celebration of popularity is a dangerous notion celebrated without significant challenge in the vast majority of teen movies. I'd like to see someone challenge it in an interesting way that could actually be viewed by a popular audience, but that could be too tall an order.

Y'know, it's funny about ranting. It sure is easier than writing a review... when I think of a rant. I mean, I have a rant go through my head and I sit down to write it and it's like it just pores right out.

Even better, I like them. Of all the things I've gone back and re-read on this blog and thought, "Oh, this ain't bad at all.", 99% of them are general rants.

Somehow I can't always make 'em happen, though.

Greg said...

Since you bring up good points about the father I feel I should add some thoughts to better clarify for myself, if nothing else, what I meant.

For starters, I think, the father's absence from the film makes him far too easy and one-dimensional a villain. Like I said, I can't imagine liking someone like him, a collector of luxury cars, but only because I'm going on the scant information I have of him. Yes, there are many characters in movies who are known by second hand info only, but in this case I think if you're going to make the father the center of a main character's mental and emotional anguish we should meet him and see what he's like.

Of course, showing him would ruin the flow and feel of the movie. So, in the end, I think my main problem is in the introduction of the plot point itself. It was unnecessary to go to those lengths. I think it would have worked better to introduce Cameron, have him bitch about his dad, they take his car, bring it back, there's no plot point about the mileage on the car being discovered, and we watch the climax of Ferris' story.

The entire story itself seems like a bullshit way to add "seriousness" into the film.

Neil Sarver said...

I've been trying to think of a good reply to this all day, but suffice it to say, I agree.

Greg said...

Good reply.

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