Cinematic standards, anyone?
As I love movies, I appreciate that the CN&R covers films, yet I find the reviews of Juan-Carlos Selznick and Craig Blamer often misleading. Though I hardly ever disagree when the icon faces show “fair” or “poor,” smiley faces seem to appear whenever they experience adrenaline stimulation, which seems like a poor test of film quality.
For instance, in Sept. 13’s squib on 3:10 to Yuma, the popcorn face is exploding for “excellent” and Selznick calls the tale “riveting” with “an increasingly elaborate game of moral/psychological cat-and-mouse between the outlaw and the lawman….” To me, this western seems dumb, cliché-worn and unrelentingly violent.
In the next week’s issue, Selznick takes on The Brave One. “[Jodie] Foster’s edgy star turn here remains a small triumph even after you realize that she is also one of the producers….” What is the “triumph"? What “bravery” is this film about, and what does it really mean? It is only about Foster’s character mindlessly taking vigilante revenge against bad guys as recompense for hoods killing her lover.
From The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven to The Longest Day and Full Metal Jacket, Clint Eastwood’s hardboiled westerns/cop films to Foster’s latest effort, we’ve repeated the same tired story over and over again: Bad guys hurt good people, so good guys go hurt the bad people.
Don’t even get me started on C.B.'s fascination with horror, slasher and zombie films!
Do our reviewers, or we reader-viewers, find meaning in these films, beyond the adrenaline? Do they or we experience any real story tension or character interest, since the outcomes are predictable and the characters stereotypical?
This is all violence without redeeming value, and filmmaking that end up supporting our tolerance for shootings, inner-city riots, monstrous murder and rape rates, and our arrogant military “adventures.”
So when would I admit violence has redeeming value? I would submit in Schindler’s List; The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Harry Potter films; Apocalypse Now; 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the old TV series Kung Fu, to name a few. Here are nuanced, complex tales where the heroes are more reluctant than aggressive, where the message is more about conscience than aggression, more about mastering forces within oneself than about blaming, hurting, or taking vengeance against others.
CN&R, must you pander to mainstream movie-junk, whatever the degree of mayhem, cruelty or silliness? Isn’t there some virtue in having some standards pertaining to violence and meaningfulness? As a reader, as a Buddhist working at being more peaceful, and a family therapist who works with kids and parents much too inured to violence, I think you can do better.