Tuesday, August 24, 2010


When I was a much younger man, my favorite directors were the ones who had the best "batting average" in my estimation. Having successfully made only movies I liked was the best thing a director could do.

Now, my feeling is much different. My favorite directors are John Huston and Roger Corman, both of whom have long and varied careers with varying degrees of success and failure.

I think it's something like family. The people in my life I'm closest to are those I feel I know a decent amount about, good and bad.

Robert Rodriguez fits somewhere on that list. I'm not sure I've decided exactly where.

I've traditionally not been a huge fan of the movies he wrote for an adult audience, but find his writing for children, including The Misbehavers, his children's movie incongruously placed in the middle of the "R" rated Four Rooms.

And have, of course, consistently enjoy his direction, even with the movies I don't as much for.

Unlike other aspiring moviemakers my age, I found Rebel Without a Crew dull and uninspiring, but can watch the "10-Minute Film School" segments and commentaries consistently entertaining and informative.

I have a couple of thoughts on the whole of my affection for Rodriguez's work.

As you can see, I'm as guilty as anyone, but I have a feeling the biggest common mistake in examining Rodriguez's career is separating his "grown-up" work from his "kids" work. I have a feeling that if there's ever a definitive examination of his career, it will come from the perspective of viewing both styles as one in the same.

Let me digress a moment.

My father is a blacksmith. Through most of my life, he largely worked on industrial tools, but he knows a lot of artist blacksmiths. I remember him telling me that from his perspective, there was a lot that the artists could do if they changed their perspectives a little.

For instance, he always thought too many spent too much time trying to hide welds. He expressed to me that in many cases more interesting work could be done if people would simply come up with ways to incorporate the weld into the look, make them look like a purposeful part of the design.

Rodriguez seems to me like he does this with movies. Not with the moviemaking nuts and bolts, mind you, but with imagination.

We all expect "grown-up" movies to hide their imaginations. For better and worse, but almost always for something interesting, Rodriguez leaves his imagination right out there for all to see in all his movies.

I'm not sure, thinking now, if I didn't have an appreciation of this quality when I saw Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, neither of which I cared for, or if they are flawed, for me, in Rodriguez himself trying to "hide the welds" of his imagination and he was finally unleashed on Planet Terror, perhaps having grown as an artist from what he learned making "kids movies".

One of these days I may put more work into examining that.

Now, like many others, I'm anxiously awaiting his upcoming Machete, another similarly "unleashed" project, and like Planet Terror, tied to the Grindhouse project.

Having made this realization, the obvious choice for me to watch in anticipation was Shorts.

I'm not sure how I missed this before. I've always loved wish granting stories of all sorts. I'm not sure if it's the dreamer in me, always curious about the possibilities of wishing.

This one has the added bonus of being a series of interconnected "shorts", told out of sequence, that ultimately tell the whole story. I'm not 100% convinced this succeeded. I'm not sure most viewers would be satisfied with any of these individual shorts as a single movie.

On the good side, I'm partly not sure because I was so caught up in it as a movie that I forgot to pay attention to that little detail as carefully as I would have preferred. Perhaps when I watch it again I'll remember to double check that conclusion.

As a whole movie, I found it incredibly entertaining, exciting and charming, filled to the point of saturation with imagination. It feels like the kind of movie one would have created when they were a kid, if they'd had the talent and discipline.

I'd go on in trying to examine its charms and explaining the reasons why I look forward to sharing it with my child as it grows old enough to understand it, but I have The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl ready to go, and that has George Lopez as M.O.D.O.K. (sorta), so it's way more fun than silly ol' blogging.

Have fun!


Roderick Heath said...

This is fascinating piece of writing, Neil.

Neil Sarver said...

Golly! Thank you so much.

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