Story. Story. Story. It’s the one that thing was drilled in to my head from countless screenwriting classes. Story was the most important element in any film. It was the reason someone watched and, more importantly, the reason people kept watching. Even if you have interesting characters that the audience cares about, unless they’re doing something, anything, then your story is not worth telling and your screenplay is not worth being made. If your screenplay didn’t have characters that pushed the narrative forward or did not directly relate to the overall structure, then you had failed. In the years since graduation, I’d taken the lesson to heart, both in criticism and in practice in making my own stories. It was simple. I was happy. And then, you watch something like Animal Crackers, and it all gets shot to hell.
Kevin Smith has been attacked as a director almost as much as his films have been attacked for lacking morality. The easiest attack levied at him was that he didn’t have much visual style as a director. Writing is most certainly his forte and was the calling card for his breakthrough, the seminal 1994 Sundance darling Clerks. That film was focused entirely on the banter between the two clerks and how they navigated the misanthropic paradise of a central Jersey convenience store. The movie was almost exclusively a collection of static oners, with some shots lasting well into the five minute range with few cuts in between and little to no camera movement (which makes the choice to go hand-held during the roof hockey game feel like something out of Cloverfield). Smith himself has taken this criticism to heart, and eventually latched on to the idea of having a “no style-style” as some sort of coping mechanism. I believe he even copped to as much in the first “Evening With Kevin Smith,” with the notion that if you say it first, then the insult loses its power. So everyone–including Smith himself–has come to the conclusion that he doesn’t have a visual style.
And to that, I call bullshit.
Continue reading “The Style of Chasing Amy”
Working creatively is a tricky, fickle prospect. Hell, I’ve already re-written this piece four times in the last 20 hours. Creating that art, or music, or film in general is tough, let alone when it becomes a commodity. The pressures to make something that you’re proud of gets exacerbated by reviewers, the press in general, your family’s well-being and financial stability, and the all-powerful corporation that, if you’re lucky, backs you. The story of Wilco’s 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot holds a wide array of hope, joy, pain, misery, depression, and triumph, featuring many different facets and shades. While Sam Jones’ documentary on the recording and release of that album, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart covers all of that, it’s main focus is on the changing of relationships and falling out of love. The title of the film is not just a coy reference to the first track off of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but a threat, a promise, and a rallying cry.
Rock n’ Roll has been many things to many people. It’s been the force that keeps people going and it’s also been the final, subtle nudge to push someone over the edge. It has been hailed as one of the greatest popular art forms ever created and cited as the reason why millions of people are going directly to hell upon relinquishing of the soul. It can be loud and abrasive, soft and full of feeling, played in giant stadiums to high school gyms and so many garages and basements along the way. But one thing is certain, it’s power has had a hold over our society for the better part of 60 years. Being a “rock star” isn’t a term to be tossed around lightly. It’s the closest thing Americans have to a coronation. The allure of this status and all the trappings that come along with it sit at the heart of Almost Famous (or, in my case, Untitled, the extended cut of the original film), the flame that attracts as well as burns.
War has always been waged in the terms of Us against Them. Back in ye oldern days, the style of fighting was very upfront and, for lack of a better term, gentlemanly. One group of men would stand in a long line against another line of men, stretched wide across a valley, shooting at each other until there was no one left to shoot back. A victor was declared, camp was set up, and you’d await another line to step up on the other side of some sleep. In time, war has changed, devolving rather than evolving. Instead of a line of men, we’ve moved further and further into smaller, individualistic battles that constitute small parts of a larger, more complete “war.” The way we wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan bares little resemblance to our common idea of how World War II was fought (even the title “Band Of Brothers” evokes a different time). The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow’s best-picture winning film, shows that the war in Iraq is beyond unwinable for the US, its very nature is untenable for humanity.
There are few things worse than failure, but here we are. I said I’d do 25 movies in 25 straight days, but the weather, professional commitments and personal issues will prevent me from doing any this coming week. So there goes the whole “in consecutive days” thing. I will fill up all of January with reviews, however, as some sort of way to make face. I doubt anyone will be too offended by this, except, of course, myself.
To 2011 we go.
The worst part about Christmas are the Christmas movies. What an insufferable sub-genre of “tasteless crap” they are. Some are too saccharine, littered with little kids learning lessons or using some stupid magic that makes them realize that the REAL gift is blah blah blah. Others are just incredibly stupid and use the CUH-RAAAAAZINESSSSS of the holiday season as fodder for shots to the dick and dinner-making mishaps. There are even some movies about Hanukkah, which totally misses the mark. No one makes movies about what Christmas is truly about. Jesus, born in a manger to a deserving and loving family, would eventually become the man who would one day sacrifice himself for the good of others. His message is that love can conquer any obstacle. And that is why Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever made.