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The Missing Link(s)


A few months ago, I started sorting my blog links out into things I liked, sorta liked, and didn’t like at all. Trouble is, the subtlety of why I might enjoy a “bad” movie or dislike a perfectly well-made one are completely lost that way.
The City and the City
I said early on that this wasn’t going to turn into a review blog, but I think it’s probably more helpful if I just explain why I did or didn’t like something in a post than if I sort the links into enigmatic groups. That said, I kept the list of things “Recently Enjoyed” because I do want to continually promote the good stuff. (China Miéville, I’m looking at you.) The list is generally limited to books, movies, and TV shows, but who knows what else could come along.

Also, I will be honest and tell you up front that I am not going to write any scathing reviews of books. Movies, sure. If I don’t like it, there’s a whole passel of people and money involved in getting a movie onto the screen, enough to thin out the impact of that critique. Yes, it takes money and people to publish a book (author, agent, editor, copy editors, designers, marketing, etc.), but most of the shit sticks to the writer. I admire anyone who has published a novel, and if it’s not my cup of tea, well, fine.

More importantly—and the main reason I feel that movie reviewers serve a real purpose on this earth—movie trailers lie. Theatrical shows (whether films or stage) are rare products that consumers buy without actually seeing or testing, and they buy based solely on advertising.

Most art gallery shows are free; you don’t have to pay to get inside or buy the work to enjoy it. Museums often cost money for entrance, but there are multiple “products” inside and you can usually find a full museum guide and photos online. If you’re going to the MOMA, for instance, you know it’s not filled with Renaissance art. Music is the easiest art form to sample, and you certainly wouldn’t pay $100 for a concert ticket if you didn’t know the artist. And books, well, you can browse in the bookstore, read opening chapters on Amazon, or borrow from the library—all for free. You don’t need a review to tell you whether you’ll like those first five pages; either you do or you don’t.

But movies are another matter. Trailers are designed to show every movie in the best possible light, not the most revealing. You’re being sold an idea that may or may not be true. Keep in mind, also, that trailers usually come out long before the film is finished. They’re “best of” excerpts but not the actual movie. Even those previews that seem to reveal the entire plot leave another 90 minutes or so out of the picture. A lot (or nothing) can happen in those missing 90 minutes. So even if you disagree with any particular critic, you can still use their comments to weigh your own chances of actually liking a film.

This week, I had mostly good experiences. I saw The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless, both of which I found utterly preposterous but fun. Matinee pricing helped. Limitless was (I can’t believe I’m saying this) a bit more realistic, because the premise of their being a drug to enhance mental acuity to enormous heights seems completely believable. I have also loved Bradley Cooper ever since he played Will on Alias. He seems to have morphed into playing a lot of smarmy-rich-guy roles now, which he is a bit too good at, but in Limitless, he gets to play a writer again (shades of Will), as well as a self-delighted rich guy. The best of both ends of the spectrum.

We also watched Zombieland again, which reminded me that I still have Easy A sitting beside the TV. (Note this week’s celebrity crushes: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone.) Zombieland was particularly funny after watching The Walking Dead, since both were filmed in Georgia. Apparently, our southern roadways perfectly resemble the apocalypse.

The only movie that disappointed me this week was Rango. And let me emphasize that there are a LOT of commendable things about this film. But I’m going to leave that for another post because this one is already long. And since that was one of my issues with Rango, I’ll just take my own advice and stop here for now.


From → Books, Movies

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