Summer movie explorations reach out beyond genre

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A View From Behind The Meter

 

Summer Movies At The Arclight

Over the weekend I saw several films in the local theaters and spent over fifty dollars in the process. At the Arclight, I spent $27.50 and at the AMC I spent $24.00 and these were discounted tickets because my wife and I are seniors and in addition we are card carrying members. Now the theaters were clean and the seats were very comfortable but paying that much to see movies is a travesty and it’s no wonder that the box office volume is declining every year. I can wait one or two months and pay five or six dollars to watch the same movies on cable in the comfort of my living room without driving, dealing with crowds in the mall, paying for parking, and additionally paying $4.00 a gallon for fuel to get there. I liked both of the movies, but neither lent itself to the big screen nor needed explosive sound in order to be enjoyed. In fact both would have been more enjoyable on my screen at home. I went out on the weekend out of habits learned as a young man when dating was a common pleasure for a Friday or a Saturday night. However, then I could have taken my date out for a hamburger, drink, and seen the movie for considerably less money probably half the cost at least.

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As I said before, I liked the movies, though I thought that both movies had very unlikely plots but, even in spite of this fact, both were quite entertaining. I thought that the intellectual premise of Lucy to be rather far fetched but as a Sci-Fi genre it was a bumpy but fun ride. Two problems kept getting in the way for me truly enjoying the story. One was excessive and graphic killings with blood dripping from people whenever it was possible to do so and the second was interminable wild driving through the streets of Paris for seemingly no plausible reason. Both were gimmicks to keep the “teenager” audience interested perhaps because the filmmaker didn’t believe they would understand the scientific premise of the film. My thought was that he tried to keep them interested with eye candy in stead of substance that excited rather limited intelligence. I do believe that this pandering to the twelve year old mental capacity is being seen more and more in our story telling. I read an article a number of years ago that explained that the premise of early television writing was geared to this age group because that was considered the predominant audience level of education.

 

The Complexity Of Genre

All dialogue had to be tailored to fit what was considered to be the majority of the audience’s comprehension of word usage. I personally have a tendency just to turn off these scenes because they don’t push the plot or the character for me and usually have very little to do with the ultimate outcome of the story. Scarlett Johansson starred with Morgan Freeman, and as far as I’m concerned I could watch Ms. Johansson read the newspaper and be excited. Scarlett’s portrayals have always been quite edgy (“Under The Skin”), and this was no exception to that rule. She kept me in the film despite all the eye candy distractions, though I’m not sure the average audience will understand the philosophical implications of the film, it moves constantly forward keeping the audience on its edge until the conclusion. A good Sci-Fi film which is fun to watch but flawed by pretentious driving sequences and unnecessary blood and gore…I’d give it a B+.

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Woody Still Entertains With Great Characters

“Magic in the Moonlight” was a Woody Allen gem with eclectic characters especially Colin Firth’s portrayal of the pessimistic egotistic magician, Stanley. I think he was writing about himself as usual but that wasn’t a surprise. It was beautifully filmed and the costumes were grand. What was a surprise was the young woman played by Emma Stone. She seemed so natural and genuine amongst all these rich ego driven people that I was rooting for her from the start. I didn’t catch the obvious trickster because I kept wanting her to be really a spiritualist and I don’t believe in them as much as Colin’s character. Now Emma Stone, in the past, has played characters who died in much of her career and her achievement at the end was a lovely twist that probably wouldn’t really happen in life but it was a nice conclusion to Woody’s tale. The movie was a ball of fluff but very romantic and pure Woody Allen dialogue that always generates a smile in my heart. I think I probably would have rather seen it in the comfort of my living room but it was a birthday gesture to my wife and we held hands throughout the movie just like teenagers. That alone was worth the ticket price. However, on my scale, I’d give it a B due mainly to the fact that I believe opposites seldom attract in the manner written and the believability of this scenario has little creditability.

Battleground (1949) Directed by William A. Wellman Shown from left: George Murphy, Van Johnson

Hidden Gems Are Worth Looking For

I did view another movie on television a reprise of an old black and white movie made way back in 1949 that I thought was an A+. It was a film called “Battleground” starring Van Johnson and John Hodiak. It was made by MGM and was their largest grossing film of that year. It also garnered two Academy awards, one for cinematography and one for writing. It also was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actor. This film was made during a time when most people thought that the public was weary of war films and that another story about WW II would die at the box office. This film however is a true masterpiece of the human condition. It was about men and their capability to persevere under horrible conditions. The greatness of the film comes through the very clear rendering of the human being, and hope he deals with adversity. As far as I’m concerned it’s a masterpiece of writing and it’s not cluttered with gratuitous combat or senseless action. The audience sees mens reactions to combat and death around them without seeing the grotesque images of them dying before our eyes. As I have said before I enjoy good stories about real people engaged in life’s trials and their solutions to the problems that stand in their way.

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-Michael J. Rogers, Lighting Consultant and Educational Outreach

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