19 July 2010

I Shoulda Just Watched Citizen Kane -- A Post Wherein I Express Disappointment With My Last Two Movie Choices

Saturday evening I wrote about the trip I made to the Beat Museum in San Francisco that day with my darling wife. Careful readers of this blog (there is one, isn't there?) will recall that I announced the film we were going to watch later that night and the one I was going to go to see the next day. In baseball parlance, I went oh fer two.

I'm always very careful about the movies I choose to watch. I have shelves full of DVDs of films I love that I can watch over and over again. If I'm going to watch something new, whether recorded, rented or at a theater, it better be worth passing up a Fellini or Ford. As evidenced by the last two movies I endured, I'm not careful enough. They couldn't be more different. Their common denominator being that I cared for neither.

From Netflix came Wedding Present (1936), a Cary Grant film that is relatively new to DVD. It shoulda stayed unreleased. Cary Grant has been in more films that I consider very good, great or absolute classics than any actor I can think of. From Blonde Venus (1932), through Holiday (1938) to Notorious (1946) and right up to Charade (1963), he appeared in 21 films that I would put into one of those three categories. If I were to include just plain old "good" movies, well....

Suffice to say Wedding Present is not among these revered films. It does currently hold the distinction of being the worst Cary Grant movie I've ever seen. Let me put it this way: it stunk. When you've got Grant starring opposite Joan Bennett with a supporting class that includes William Demarest, it takes a lot of mucking up to make a stinker out of it. The director was one Richard Wallace who will never be confused with Cukor, Hawks or anyone else with talent. But the writers, Joseph Anthony and Paul Gallico deserve at least equal blame for this mess. Wedding present has all the continuity of a badger fight.

Grant and Bennett play newspaper reporters who are as rebellious as they are good and as good as they are in love. First they're going to get married, then they're not. First Grant is a scam artist always looking to get out of work, then he's a no-nonsense city editor, then he's not. Characters motivations and their very personalities change at the drop of the hat. Actually someone dropping a hat would have been a highlight in this mess. Story lines and characters came and went. Developed then gone never to be seen again. The best part about Wedding Present was that it lasted only 81 minutes, though it felt like 81 hours.

I committed a greater sin the following day by joining the hordes to see Inception. A film about people invading dreams for purposes of industrial espionage -- what a great idea! Its cast included Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, James Gordon-Levitt the underrated Tom Hardy and a cameo by Michael Caine. Director Christopher Nolan had made Memento (2000), a film I much admire and so I was anticipating more of the same sort of inventive and thought provoking mind games. Plus, the critics were positively raving!!!

But Nolan was also at the helm for the last two Batman films where he buried character development under layers of action scenes.

Guilty again. There are a lot of characters here and we really only get to know one but never fully understand him. How can we when there are runaway trains and gun battles aplenty to bore/excite us?

I always single out Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (2002) as a classic example of a director using special effects and action sequences to support a story. On the flip side you have Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005) in which the story is only an excuse for  the director to show off the latest  in special effects and action.

Inception is doing boffo at the box office. One of Hollywood's hottest directors, along with an A list cast, a seemingly deep and meaningful plot, lot of action and critical acclaim guarantee that this will be the Summer's biggest money maker, if not the year's. I can't imagine it will be long before we hear of a sequel in the works.

If I'd taken a moment or two more to research Inception before running off to see it I wouldn't have run off to see it. I thought I'd learned a lesson from that God awful Sherlock Holmes film from last December. If Hollywood is willing to take a cerebral character like Holmes and make an action hero out of him, nothing is sacred. I can see it now, Sigmund the Fighting Psychiatrist, he'll interpret your dreams and go into battle with your personal demons!

Now if you'll excuse me I've got some movie watching time blocked out later this afternoon and I aim to use it wisely. Time to visit my DVD collection.


Castor said...

"a seemingly deep and meaningful plot"

Exactly, people seem to confuse a somewhat complex narrative and plot with meaningful depth which Inception, arguably, doesn't have. In all, I enjoyed the movie but it's nowhere near the masterpiece most people make it sound to be.

the nasty pussy cat said...

I totally agree with your view. Tried so hard to persuade my pals not to fall for some movie tricks Inception did but helluva ppl still fly into it like moth to flame.
IMO, Inception apart from have some compicated plot like Matrix just to distract viewers, the movie actually doesn;t have anything pioneer or creative. Durig and afer waste 1 and 1 half hour watching it, I thought I saw a lot of other movies' elements there. I list such as Minority Report, Matrix, Repo Man, Heroes, I, Robot, Superman Locke, or TV series like Burn Notice or Leverage.
I hope you can explain further the reason you don't highly appreciate in Inception. I look forward to reading from some insight like you more :).
Once again, Thanks for writing and expressing your view of life and movies to us.