Saturday, August 11, 2012

"A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: more movies that suck" by Roger Ebert

No need to go into a plot summary here as this book is a straight-forward as it gets. Film critic Ebert has collected over 200 of his reviews dating back to 2006 and published them in this fun book. The title comes from his review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I don't know if he purposely used this phrase or not, but I was immediately reminded of a movie and a book title fused together to come up with the phrase: the wonderfully cinematic The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. In any case, it is a great phrase, and as someone who has found it difficult to sit through movies lately, I completely understand what Ebert is talking about.

The movies run the gamut from the popular flicks of 2011 to lame comedies to foreign flops. Most movies get 2 stars, some 1 and a half, several only earn 1. The most interesting reviews are the no-star reviews, of which there are very few. Interestingly, one of the films that earned his harshest criticism is a remake of a movie I've actually seen, I Spit on Your Grave. I thought his take on the movie was spot on, at least for the remake, which I admit I haven't seen. The original is a very controversial movie due to its content, and if I hadn't read an extremely interesting book about women in horror movies, I probably would have never watched it myself. (And no, I can't remember the name of that book for all the tea in China, which saddens me, as I would highly recommend it to those interested in horror films and the issue of whether or not they exploit women). The original ISOYG is very difficult to watch and I think one of the biggest reasons why is the complete lack of a soundtrack; it gives the movie more of a documentary feel, not to mention that music often gives us clues as to how the director wants us to feel/respond to a scene. There are no such clues in the original version, so you're not sure if you're supposed to be upset at the woman's rape (although why you wouldn't be is beyond me), if you're supposed to feel sorry for her, or if you're supposed to cheer for her when she starts getting her revenge. As to the other no-star reviews, I haven't seen or heard of those movies, but two of them have been alluded to on a certain episode of South Park. Either that or the SP creators are just that sick-minded, which is entirely possible.

Ebert does an excellent job of pointing out why movies just aren't all the much fun anymore. Action movies are just that - ACTION. There are few directors out there trying to make sure that the audience has a plot to follow. Comedies have become incredibly syrupy or raunchy, and neither formula is overly successful. And finally, the 3-D invasion is really weighing on Ebert's nerves. One of the things that I did not know about 3-D filming is that when you take your 2-D movie and convert scenes into 3-D, you lose a lot of the "brightness" of said film. One of Ebert's biggest complaints is movies that are filmed in a "dark" way to start with that are also in 3-D; as he explains, it's adding insult to injury to make a dark movie even darker and harder to see (think all of the horror movies that have 3-D versions). Maybe it's why I don't enjoy the 3-D films myself. As he says in several reviews, "I dunno."

Overall, a fun look at some rather blah films. I'm do know I'm glad I spent my time reading these reviews rather than watching these movies!

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