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Sunday, January 14, 2007
At The Movies
One of the things I wanted to be more prompt about here, as part of the same impulse that led me to start the picture a day project (which you're all paying attention to, right?), was talking about my experiences at the movies. Mostly because I'm brilliant and witty and you lucky people all deserve the benefit of my insight and opinion. But also because, unlike Mike, the lights of the cell phones being talked into during the film and the idiots behind you who didn't realize that the film was subtitles or the idiots in front of you who have been so busy talking amongst themselves that they've lost the plot and keep asking each other "Who's that? What's going on? Is she a bad guy?" haven't managed to completely overwhelm the pleasures of actually going to see a movie in a theater.
This week, we had a couple of options when Pete and I had the idea to go out. The killer crocodile movie looks like it could be dumb fun, and Dominic Purcell is very nice to look at, but I can't see watching this in any other circumstances than at home with a beer on one of Pete's rehearsal nights. To the shock of many, I'm sure, I've got no interest in seeing the currently hot musical, despite my reputation as the showtunes aficionado. Maybe if it had, oh I don't know, a completely different cast than the assemblage of "Don't-Wanna-Sees" it does feature I could be talked into it. And apparently unlike the rest of Santa Barbara county residents, I have no interest in seeing a film about over-privileged suburban white kids playing at being gangsters, and find their sick fascination with the real story's tangential relationship to the area a sign that I may have picked the wrong place to live.
Which pretty much left Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro's fairy-tale set in post Civil War Spain. It's easily del Toro's best film, but take that praise in the context that I've found every one of his previous films to be, at best, over praised. The acting is the best thing here, with the script slightly too convinced of its own significance, and at the very least it's visually masterful. Del Toro really is a much stronger director than a screen-writer, and this film makes that clear.
The main draw for people in this film is likely to be the fantasy elements. For myself, I found the fairy-tale elements a bit heavy-handed in their metaphor, with only one truly thrilling sequence, when Ofelia is sent into a dangerous and life-threatening situation by the faun and finds herself unable to obey the rules. At more than one point I found the fantasy film to be rather annoying, as it kept interrupting the wonderful and horrific story of fascist-ruled Spain and its effects on one little girl.
Apparently the theater operators felt the film's primary appeal was to those impressed with flash and gore, as the most prominent trailer before the film was for the all-flash-no-substance, Affleck needed to make a house payment Smokin' Aces, which offends me for its apostrophe. As for the other trailers: The Hitcher wasn't good the first time, and while Sean Bean makes for an acceptable Rutger Hauer substitute, making the C. Thomas Howell character a woman reeks of nothing so much as an attempt to downplay the homoerotic subtext of the original. Disturbia is a very stupid name for a blatant rip off of Rear Window, but since the target audience of CW network fans have likely never heard of Hitchcock's film, I suspect the producers will get away with it. That doesn't make Shia Labeouf Jimmy Stewart, though. The Number 23 stars Jim Carrey and is directed by Joel Schumacher, and if those aren't sufficient disincentives to viewing a film which appears to owe a large, and certainly uncredited, debt to the late Robert Anton Wilson, I don't know what is. At least it will give the Discordians something to be smug about.