Sunday, December 5, 2010

Easily Satisfied At the Movies

There is a whole category of narratives -- movies, books, TV shows, calendar designs -- that one knows are not very good. They are derivative or implausible or melodramatic or manipulative, and yet -- this is the YET -- one enjoys them anyway. Guilty artistic pleasures, the equivalent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead of organic, fair-trade, dark chocolate with an 85% coca content.

Recently I saw two such movies. One is UNSTOPPABLE, about a runaway train. The film is based on a real incident, and the heroic measure that finally stopped the train did, at its most basic, actually happen. But the "basic" has been tricked out with lots of heroic flourishes, ridiculous near-misses, and general derring-do by cardboard characters who have been severely injured but don't seem to notice. So why did I like the movie? Because it is exciting, and because there is something mesmerizing about several tons of out-of-control metal hurtling through countryside and city, set in motion by human carelessness and stopped by human effort. I am not, mind you, actually recommending this movie to anybody. But -- a personal guilty pleasure.

It's also a guilty pleasure to watch Cher in BURLESQUE. I grew up watching Cher, all the way back to her and Sonny Bono standing side by side on TV singing "I Got You, Babe," she all the while trying to keep that long floaty black hair from drifting over her face in invisible, TV-mysterious breeze. In BURLESQUE she has two musical numbers. I am no judge of music, but I liked seeing her sing again. She also has top billing over Christina Aguilera, who can sing, can dance, and is actually the star. Cher has had so much plastic surgery that her face doesn't move any more, which is a little eerie, but she puts a lot of vocal expression into her part, a club owner who cannot meet the mortgage payments. The plot was a cliche in the 1950's, and some of the songs date from then, too ("Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"). But the dancing is fun (Fosse-style choreography) and I had a great time watching the film. Guilty pleasure.

This indulgence also extends to some books that I like but know are bad. However, I am not saying which ones, for fear of losing all credibility with whoever out there reads this blog.

7 comments:

Barbara Webb said...

I've been wanting to see Burlesque, and you make it sound like exactly the movie I was expecting it to be. Yay for cheesy pleasures.

oldmangamer said...

Brave of you to admit your guilty pleasures in this very widely-read blog.

qiihoskeh said...

85% coca content? I'm not touching your dark chocolate!

Chris said...

Those of us who love your work won't care what you read :-)

Jack Skillingstead said...

Sorry, Neil, but I disagree entirely. Writing fiction is not a collaborative enterprise. Adding a sound track and video clips and all that simply undercuts the reader's experience by diffusing it across unrelated media. You can't make a book more appealing by turning it into a carnival. Good books don't need to be made more appealing. In the earlier days of motion pictures, directors often tried to incorporate narrative voices and even shots of book pages slowly turning, in an attempt, I guess, to make readers more comfortable with a non-literary medium. My point is, that was dumb -- and so is tarting up novels to look and act like something they are not. Writing is a solitary activity. So is reading. If you are a certain type of person, the peculiar joys derived from that situation are more than sufficient. As a segment of the population, book readers have always hovered around a very low number, maybe as low as one percent. Adding video clips and sound tracks won't increase that number, it will simply create a broken thing that is halfway between a novel and a music video.

Jack Skillingstead said...

Oops. Disregard. I was messing around with a Google password reset and accidentally posted the preceding on the wrong comment thread. I'm an idiot.

mahinder15 said...

BURLESQUE is so BURLESQUE they did a perfect work and delivery a msg to the world have fun without touch Fun Fun Fun ,watch Burlesque Online it's so amazing film in general the film count with super performances the music is so good !!!!…