January 19, 2004

Let me tell you about great movies . . .

While I was on the general subject of RotK (again), I was just going to go ahead and take a few cracks at Roger Ebert's rather annoying review. However, I find that it dovetails rather nicely with . . . something else.

So, we watched Citizen Kane tonight, which I had never seen before. A movie that tops film lists is worth seeing almost by default, and that was how it first came to my attention a few years back, but the opportunity to see it just hadn't come my way. So now I've seen it.

Obviously "Greatest American Movie of All-Time" is a very subjective thing which cannot be measured empirically. But if the movie-saturated folks of the AFI get together and a group of them looks at all the candidates and decides that Citizen Kane is the absolute best movie ever made in this country, people will listen, and they'll probably have something of an idea of what they're talking about.

The following paragraph is an opinion, blah blah blah:

I, personally, do not think that Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time. I probably wouldn't even put it in my top 100. I thought it was a great movie. It was executed almost flawlessly. I noticed 1,000 great shots making excellent use of reflections and/or lighting/shadows and/or camera angles and so on. The acting was superior. The movie was very well-paced. The opening ten minutes or so run you through the entire story in classic newsreel style, and then you spend the rest of the movie delving into it on a more personal level, the whole thing driven by a search to solve the mystery of one man's cryptic last word.

Ultimately, I thought it was a very empty movie. That's kind of the point, I know . . . the man who had everything but couldn't get the one thing he really wanted . . . or something. His life is empty and so the movie is too. You keep seeing him making the wrong decisions, going to far to prove a point, always pushing in the wrong directions, and things just keep crashing down around his ears. And when the ending finally reveals what he's been thinking about in his last days, you realize just how much his life has been sucking all along. Bleah. In the end, just bleah.

I was reading some of the wonderful, and ever-intelligent and well thought out comments on IMDb under The Pianist about a month ago. I can't find the comment I was reading now, but the basic premise of the would-be "critic" bothered me. He said that the movie was neither Polanski's best (I wouldn't know, haven't seen any others), nor did it deserve the Oscars it won. Why? Because a movie about the Holocaust is easy to do well. The emotions of the audience are easily manipulated . . . everytime they get too secure, kill another Jew. Aside from being rather insensitive, the reasoning sucks.

The fact is, you can make a movie that absolutely nails everything, but if I don't care about your subject then your movie will fail . . . ummm, with me, anyway. Picking the right thing to make a movie about is every bit as important as any other detail, if not more important. People will love movies like Star Wars and Back to the Future that are full of plot holes, and cheesy dialogue, and dated special effects because the director just picked really really well. Marvelous examples of the craft, on the other hand, like Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, only last beyond their time among film buffs. Ordinary people don't know and don't care . . . Why would they want to watch a movie about that? Just because it was really good at the time?

I'm the kind of person who can watch a movie and appreciate it immensely on the technical level, but still not enjoy it, or think it is an exceptional movie. Or maybe I will enjoy it, for whatever reason . . . Sometimes, unfortunately, I'm certain that that is all certain people are looking at. *cough, cough* The Academy *cough, cough*

So, as previously stated, for all the skill that went into Citizen Kane, and as much as I really did enjoy it, I don't think that it is one of the greatest movies of all time. It's just too dang empty of meaning and feeling.

Now, back to Ebert: "There is little enough psychological depth anywhere in the films, actually, and they exist mostly as surface, gesture, archetype and spectacle. They do that magnificently well, but one feels at the end that nothing actual and human has been at stake; cartoon characters in a fantasy world have been brought along about as far as it is possible for them to come . . ."

Guh. Between that quote, an accusation or two that I've seen accusing every character in the trilogy of the vague crime of being one-dimensional, and even the statement that the Matrix trilogy had "a lot more plot" than LotR, I'm about to . . . plotz.

Hmmm . . . I wrote, like, three paragraphs or so . . . one for each of the above proverbial thorns in my proverbial side. But they sucked. And I'm not in the mood. And you all know I'm right anyway. And now I have to go do things . . . and stuff. Later.

Posted by Jared at January 19, 2004 12:45 AM | TrackBack