Monday, January 23, 2012

Baffled At the Movies

In the last week or so I saw two more movies, and both confused me -- although for different reasons.

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY features the always wonderful Gary Oldman as George Smiley of British Intelligence. A mole has invaded the highest reaches of MI-5. It can only be one of five men, and Smiley is charged by Control, who has been forced out unfairly from the organization, with finding out which one. Complicated intrigues ensue. They were so complicated, in fact, that I had trouble following them all, and I'm still not sure I understand exactly what went on. My movie companion, Elizabeth Stephan, understood more than I did and kindly explained it to me, but she was fuzzy on a few points, too. It didn't help that these Brits, including Smiley, are so low-key and emotionally controlled that they are barely breathing. Still, the movie is interesting and very atmospheric, and I did enjoy it.

What to say about THE ARTIST? It won the Golden Globe for Best Picture; it will certainly be nominated for an Oscar; everyone loves it. Except me.

The film is both a silent movie and an homage to the silents. It's entertaining, well made, and in parts, fun. But the story, that of a silent film star who cannot make the transition to talkies, is simple and simply handled (unlike the wonderful 1950 Billy Wilder movie SUNSET BOULEVARD). It mixes what purports to be real anguish of identity with cartoonish solutions, such as Oldman's dog running blocks to get a policeman when Oldman sets his house afire ("What, Lassie -- Timmy fell down the well?!") The movie feels too long. But mostly it's a cute gimmick, going back to an earlier form -- sort of like driving an ox cart to the Apple store. I just cannot see this as the best movie of the year. I am baffled as to why the audience clapped so enthusiastically at the end.

Perhaps they just appreciate, more than I, a simple and innocent tale with a happy ending. Or maybe the dancing. The dancing is terrific. But --


Anonymous said...

I know this is just one fan of your writing/thoughts saying so, but have you ever thought about trying to put together a sci-fi movie before?

I would imagine that if you held enough control over it you could make some really good sci-fi video content. (If nothing as "grand" as a movie, perhaps something like a "web series" or something shorter.)

It would be fun to see some of the great ideas I have read from you turn into a story in a different medium.

Relby said...

Could not agree with you more about The Artist--I literally groaned halfway through! I'd rather see an authentic silent film than a pastiche, no matter how pleasing to the eye.

Greg G. said...

I just did not think the story was that original. It relied too much on a gimmick.