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Tuesday, February 12, 2002

In The Beginning

This isn't a journal that has much to do with film but I'm beginning with a few comments on two recent movies. I write compulsively and don't have any place to put most of it. Think of this as either a clearinghouse or a trash can for my writing.

Amélie, In the Bedroom

Let me begin by saying that in general I truly dislike art criticism. What right does one person have to discount the creative output of another? None. I especially dislike film critics because I feel they wield quite a bit of power in this country and practically any idiot who passively sits through a movie and can read and write can be a movie critic. The question I pose to film critics is this: If you are so in tune with what does and doesn't make a good movie then why not write and direct a movie yourselves? Another rhetorical question for which I have the answer: because they can't.

The former film critic for New Yorker magazine, Pauline Kael, was invited to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. She failed miserably and went, unproduced, with her tail between her legs back to her former job of judging other people's work in film. I would never publicly write a critique of a film that I didn't enjoy. It probably wasn't even produced for the likes of me.

My demographic is miniscule and could be described something like this: white (really, really white), male, urban (does Seattle count?), single (I know what you're thinking but look at the next adjective), heterosexual (but I love show tunes), atheist (if there was a god this building would let me have a dog). I realize more and more that with every book I read, every day of practice on the piano, with every foreign vocabulary word I memorize, with every historical event I study I am painting myself into a very small cultural corner (at least in the TV-dominated society that is the USA). I also realize that the main audience for films is semi-literate teens. Adult films (by this I mean films meant for adults not XXX) are few and far between but I have many other pursuits and will stick with them rather than settle for Adam Sandler films.

I am a screenwriter so I do have some idea of how difficult it is to write a script, even a bad one. I would like to write about films that move me. I have been lucky enough to have seen two such movies in the past couple of months: Amélie and In the Bedroom. The two movies are completely different in every way except they were made for adults. Amélie is as joyous and carefree as coasting down a big hill on a bicycle. In the Bedroom is slow and deliberate, like floating down a quite river closely observing the bank.

In The Bedroom has such a slow pace (read: slow, not boring) that you wonder how they will ever get the story told in the rather finite boundaries of modern cinema. All of the slow shots tell stories themselves and you as the viewer must take all of it in to come up to speed on a story in progress: A small town on the East coast (Camden, Maine), a young man in a romance with a slightly older married woman with two children. The boy is a student but little is said about him. You are given clues throughout. He is playing with a child's building blocks and makes an intelligent comment on home design and later we learn that he is some sort of architectural student but little else is mentioned. The camera holds on to the seemingly insignificant details that make up these people's lives. That is what makes up all of our lives, the details. The big events, both glorious and tragic, are only the crests and the nadirs with most of life spent in between.

What I truly loved about Amélie (besides that it takes place in Paris) is that it (like In the Bedroom) is inhabited by real people. She works as a waitress, another character runs a green grocer, and another is a concierge. This may seem a curious enthusiasm until you look at most Hollywood movies. In most movies everyone has cool jobs or what passes for cool jobs. Have you ever noticed that everyone is always an advertising executive? I could give lots of examples. Everyone has really cool, funky apartments even if they don't have high-paying jobs. I don't know anyone with a really cool apartment and I don't know a single ad exec (thank God). I think this phenomenon is a result of Hollywood people being so incredibly out of touch with the daily lives of most of the people in this country and on this planet. I forget what the movie is but I recently read that the title character of an upcoming film will be a personal shopper. Note to Hollywood: no one in the real world has a personal shopper unless addressed as mom or honey.

Another thing about these two movies is that they were star free. I am sick of Hollywood trying to shove the same ten actors down my throat. I prefer films (usually the case with foreign movies) that use unknown people. I have an easier time suspending my belief. Whoever the gal who starred in Amélie was could have actually been a waitress in Monmartre for all I know. I say clean out the sock drawer once in a while and get all new people. If someone actually is a good actor then bring them back sometime after we have forgotten them but please don't put Kevin Spacey or Matt Damon in another movie for a long, long time. If possible could you wait until after I am dead? Thank you.

I also hate it when critics reveal anything concerning the plot of movies so I'll end this here.

With the proliferation of these web logs I feel that fewer people will read this online journal than if I wrote this in a diary that I hid, locked, under my mattress.

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