Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Random Rumination

Choosing My Cinematic Religion

Don't get me started on Batman!

      I always suspected the Force could drive me towards the unknown. Obi-Wan Kenobi communicating some inscrutable power with such conviction. It's intoxicating. Omniscience inhabiting that purest of manhood is impossible to deny. The possibilities of extraordinary reflex, manipulation, healing all within my arsenal is just too amazing a possibility to compute coherently. And knowing all along that Alec Guinnes is Ben Kenobi, well, please indoctrinate me into the cult of believing right now. Like Tom Cruise and Scientology, pull the rug of common sense from under me and I'll still follow. I'm a ride-or-die disciple. Paul Thomas Anderson, you are my Master. Accept me as your stowaway and allow Phillip Seymour Hoffman to teach me the process.
      Rob a bank? Sure. I've seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. How about diving into a body of water? And not just any dive. I'm talking a leap so ominous birds don't fly that high. Harrison Ford did it in The Fugitive. Or that's what I was lead to believe. Maybe it was a dummy and it's gone. How about pretending to be a kid again? That innocent temple of awareness where the vastness of one's imagination is the only limitation to believing, exploring, discovering? Yep. That's Star Wars for ya! 
      I believe what lies ahead for the franchise has the potential to be miraculous. If the end result involves youths once again believing in the power of the mind, the impulse to be creative, imagining scenarios that complement and contradict their lives; if what we collectively witness enhances our purpose, then Star Wars: Episode VII has not succeeded. It has metamorphosed into this portal of enchantment, opening eyes to the ethereal wonders of a fantasy world. It has transformed success the same way A New Hope awakened generations to channels of thought that outstretched our physical self. How many professionals working in the film industry are products of the Star Wars phenomenon, their inspirations sowed from that opening text crawl? We need look no further than the director of Episode VII. 
     J.J. Abrams, my good sir, you have willingly accepted the mantle of monumental expectation and here's to hoping you don't fuck it up.


Image coutesy of Blastr

      The critic burrowing deep inside me has an aversion to cynicism despite evidence to the contrary suggesting cynicism is simply an appropriate response to some cold reality. In this instance, delusional may be the accurate diagnosis. Perhaps. But this unflinchingly positive part of me refuses to accept the OBVIOUS reality that what we call a Jedi Mind Trick is in fact a mountain of money nesting inside a vault somewhere in J.J. Abrams' home. Science fiction movies, the worlds that breathe air outside our own, do not abide by or fall victim to these regimented notions of distrust. Even dystopian realms offer some form of spiritual solace. I choose to believe in the power of possibility so long as I'll continue to believe in the Force. Harrison Ford should have died when he leapt off that dam. The laws of physics assert their force. But movies reside in an ulterior consciousnesses not bound by the physical laws of the universe:  Suspension of disbelief, folks. It's stronger than the Force. It IS the force.  

P.S. I do fear that the impending oversaturation of Star Wars-centric content (i.e. standalone movies, likely TV series, etc.) will delude the impact otherwise harnessed from a thrilling and exceptionally well-made Episode VII. But so be it. The model of consumption has already changed drastically since the first Star Wars film erupted on Hollywood. Ubiquity of content is the new evolution. Again. I'm disavowing of that needling dose of cynicism that admonishes this kind of buoyant optimism. I guess that just means I want to be a kid again, experiencing for the first time the magic of cinema. The best centers of inspiration emerge from the material we consume and movies have always been fertile ground. 

4 comments:

  1. I hope it's good too. I think he's got a good shot at making a great Star Wars film. I also think that 85% of Star Wars fans are going to bash him and revile the movie because it is NOT POSSIBLE to make a Star Wars movie that fulfills their inane expectations in trying to recapture that magical moment when they were caught totally by surprise by the first movie and were then blown through the back wall of the theater by the sheer crazy audacious awesomeness of it. I'd also like to think JJ Abrams is doing it not so much for the giant dump truck of money but so no one else makes it and screws it up!

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    1. YES! Our optimism and our belief in the allure of creativity, that willingness to innovate and progress, has aligned perfectly. We both think Abrams is the right fit for Star Wars and that the true litmus test of the film's success lies not in the preposterous expectations of bygone fans but those kids (or kids at heart) who discover the magic of moviemaking. The same miraculous connection that awakened our astonishment and galvanized our interest in the power of science fiction and movies.

      Thanks for echoing my sentiments, pal!

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  2. Suspension of disbelief is The Force...I agree wholeheartedly, And it takes the skill of a Jedi Master to make one suspend that disbelief and part with the bucks. I am a proud cynic born and bred, always willing to point out the flaws of a film if the director cannot convince me from the first second that his or her world is worth my disbelief. I have to buy into a film all the way or it fails for me. Peter Jackson had me with LOTR. As did Lucas in the original Star Wars or Spielberg in E.T., Jaws, etc. and Scorsese in well, anything.

    There are occasions where otherwise great directors have lost me and I really hated that. James Cameron had me utterly with Terminator, Aliens and Titanic, but completely lost me with Avatar. He went from this Oh. My. God jaw-drop director to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in the first three seconds of Avatar. And it starred Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez, two of my fave H-Wood badass ladies. Which really dragged me down. It will be a very, very long time before he can measure up in my eyes, especially if he does more in the Avatar world.

    Sometimes, these magic powers are wielded by the Dark Side. Lesser directors like Michael Bay, sexist Sith Lord, had me along for the ride for every second of Transformers 1 and 3. And it starred Shia the Beef, an actor I can't stand.

    I don't know precisely what clicks with me to make me fall under a movie's spell completely. I just know that when I am in the grip of a great film like The Two Towers or Jaws, I am swept along in a powerful current. And when I'm not, I am left out in the cold feeling angry and ripped off. Which is why I guess I am cynical when it comes to movies. I want that rush.

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    1. Wow! Very insightful and expressive, Melissa. I have a great fondness for your responses :)

      You present a very compelling case for harboring what I guess could be codified healthy cynicism. I suppose I should iterate that I do not believe in absolutes when it comes to criticism except when that sacred matter of objectivity is broached. Ebert said it best, and I believe he was reiterating what he was taught: Appraising a film, or anything really, should speak only to YOUR impression of it, your experience with it, how it juxtaposes your internal and external relationship to the movie, and NOT BY ANY MEANS REFLECT WHAT OTHER'S THINK, FEEL, OR ASSERT. A pretty simple rule of thumb.

      The subjective mirrors the objective and a paradoxical arrangement is cultivated harmoniously. But the truth emerges from that dichotomy, that inherent conflict. And so what I'm saying is the true test of a film's appeal resides in its peculiar connection to you. Certainly, objective criticism necessitates a set of criteria that should govern more academic analyses. There are standards that must be upheld when evaluating the merits of a film in terms of composition, camerawork, lighting, mise-en-scene, performance, vision, etc.

      There are certain movies I approach with skepticism, and they often earn my ire because of a distrust in the creation of the content itself. Was it motivated by extreme self-interest, thus impugning any potential artistic quality? Were the creators passionate, enthusiastic, dedicated? Are they genuinely talented? These are questions, along with myriad others, that I ultimately consider when evaluating a movie. If a movie fails to meet criteria that I deem indispensable (like some of those factors I just named), then my cynic button is triggered and my judgment of the film is biased before I even see it. This is why I don't often see movies that are critically deficient (and I don't just rely on RT or Metacritic before giving a film the greenlight). If a director I have no interest in seeing made the film, I'll wait for Netflix/Blu-ray/Blockbuster, etc. I'm not a spendthrift.

      Thanks for elucidating your thoughts so personally, Mel. It's a thrill to see such an impassioned defense of movie tastes!

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