Friday, July 16, 2010

MOVIE STUFF: "Inception," "2001," A.O. Scott and the Problem of the Blockbuster

My timing is terrible. I shouldn't have gone with Ai to see Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" on the big screen last night. Why? Cause Chris Nolan's (of the Dark Knight franchise) "Inception" comes out today and chances are I'll have seen it before I next post. Fact is I've been waiting months for a decent big budget flick to come to theatres and I am sure Inception will look great and feel great and make money in the bagazillions, and that better "Inception" than another Transformers sequel. Ie. it'll fit the bill perfectly. But what NY Times movie critic A.O. Scott (is there a better critic out there now?) has already confirmed in his review- what we all probably knew anyway - is that, really, it's just gonna be a very cool, super slick, tale-twisting piece of fluff. Scott's piece suggests many critics out there are going a little overboard with their praise. Before continuing, let me remind you that I posted the trailer for "Inception" here not long ago - that's how excited I was and still basically am to see it.

Maybe right now you're saying, C'mon Jon, isn't that all we want from a summer movie? Fuck, would be my slightly irate reply. Is that all? Really? Ai has recommended I be less judgmental on my blog and usually I endeavour to follow her advice cause she's much brighter than I am. Perhaps this time, though, we need a little judgment. (Shit, where would morality come from if not for judgment?) Does every single Saturday night movie we go to have to be pure escape, total dumbed-down "Get Me To the Greek" dick and fart comedy? Does everything have to be "Sex and the City" fluffy? Should they just ship me off to France now to read long Russian 19th century novels? Maybe they should, though my Japanese, crap as it is, is still better than my pathetic French.

I'm beginning to feel progressively more unusual in this art-wanting obsession of mine, though the twenty-five or so other folks at the old Bloor cinema watching "2001" alongside my wife and I, folks who had the zitsfleisch to sit for two and a half hours and manage neither to talk or even once open their cell phones - they give me hope. A.O. Scott gives me hope. He longs for better pictures, wishing as he so gloriously does for a movie that could entertain and have the brains for more than just clever puzzles and beautiful set pieces. Maybe it could also have something to say?

Last night I watched a masterpiece, invited no one but my wife (that's not true; I invited one friend; he said no), secure in the knowledge that most people would rather not spend 141 minutes in an old theatre watching an at times preposterously slow and difficult movie. 

Like a challenging novel, "2001" had me drifting off, which our educational and business minded system so chastises, and yet to me is the very fertile ground upon which original thought and creativity are born. My mind raced, I travelled back through memories, good and bad, thought of all the movies that could never have been without Kubrick's film. I thought of the rather indisputable theory that the summer blockbuster was born of two movies: Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" and George Lucas' "Star Wars." You need only watch the long middle third of "2001" to recognize that without Kubrick's 9th film there could have been no Millennium Falcon, no Luke Skywalker, no Death Star. "Star Wars" is "2001" for kids (of all ages), is all I kept thinking, Srauss' gorgeous music (both Richard and Johann's) booming out the old Bloor cinema's speakers. Lucas' conceit was unquestionably brilliant. Take the space show Kubrick constructed and so famously set to classic music in a way that had never been done before, dumb it down, make it easier, faster, more violent. In other words, more light sabers, less contemplation.

Thus, the first summer blockbusters: the big screen roller coasters we love.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with roller coasters. I buy my tickets, believe me (hell, I even saw the new "Karate Kid" - and actually enjoyed it!), I wait in line with the rest and love how the wind ruffles my remaining hair, how my stomach will drop at the big dip, all that fast turning caramel corn fun stuff. Who doesn't like that? I just wonder why we don't occasionally ask for more?

"2001" makes you wonder about the meaning of the universe, of man [sic], and much, much more. "Inception," I fear (and A.O. Scott has all but already confirmed), will just be another thrill ride.

Movies are so much fun; it's just sometimes I wish they could be films. 
Rant over and out.

[Click here for my review: The Problem With "Inception"  ]


  1. johanna11:37 p.m.

    well, i for one really love this voice of yours. very fun piece.

  2. 1) Do you not like Michael Phillips? They are great at At the Movies.

    2) Being judgemental occasionally is cool.

    3) What's the significance of reading long Russian 19th century novels?

    4) There are scenes (okay, one scene) in INCEPTION that will remind you of 2001.

    5) Looking forward to your post on INCEPTION. (Have you been listening to the song I sent you -- Non, je ne regrette rien?)

  3. 1) Don't know him. Will look into...
    2) Cursing my own judgmental nature, a dear friend once replied (whilst we two teenagers sat outside a 7-11 in suburban Toronto), "Maybe being judgmental isn't so bad. Maybe it has a purpose."
    3) Long 19th century Russian novels represent hard art - ie. a far cry from the Saturday matinee.
    4) My movie director, video store working friend who is ultra critical has been singing the praises way up to the high heavens. Am desperate to get there soon, before I hear too much more hype or, worse yet, any revealing details.
    5) Arigatou. (Not yet, but that's cause I too often check mail when out the house and in coffee shop. Will for sure. Looking forward to it.)

  4. The song... is on your FB wall. I stuck the song on your wall.

  5. johanna, thanks. you, for one, can come back any old time.


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