Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Movie Doldrums

First off, a belated salute and farewell to Cyd Charisse, aka "Legs," the inimitable dancer who lit up musicals like "Brigadoon" and "Singin' in the Rain" simply by being at once breathtakingly elegant and drop-dead sexy. The Siren has written a tribute as no one but the Siren can, well worth reading even if you missed out on CC's heyday.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I can't help but reflect that the timing of Cyd's passing seems only to emphasize the total absence of her particular brand of grace and sex appeal in the movies currently cluttering theaters. "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," "Kung Fu Panda," "The Incredible Hulk," "The Happening," and now "Get Smart," "The Love Guru," and "Kit Kittredge," really? Is this the best Hollywood has to offer? Remakes of comic book movies from less than ten years ago, dreadful exercises in self-indulgence by wannabe horror auteurs and comic geniuses, movies filled with puerile sex jokes, movies based on a line of dolls, and animated movies that manage to make pandas (some of the cutest animals in creation) as unappealing-looking as possible?

Ok, maybe I'm just a bit cranky because I liked Ang Lee's "Hulk," can't stand M. Night Shyamalan and his inflated sense of self-importance, and am disappointed that Mike Myers has fallen so far from the brilliance that was the first "Austin Powers." And I'm aware that "Kung Fu Panda" actually got decent reviews, and will admit that the "American Girl" movie looks sweet and innocuous and that I have a sneaking desire to see "Get Smart," tepid reviews notwithstanding. But I can't get away from that dispiriting feeling, which I usually assocate more with spring, of "Is this all there is?" After the relative abundance of May, June is proving to be a bone-dry month for the discerning moviegoer...Even indie/foreign films seem to be languishing, too, though I do want to see "Reprise", a Norwegian film that piqued my interest at Sundance last year but wasn't able to see then. With my luck, though, it will disappear from L.A. theaters just as I'm gearing up to go see it.

As for Hollywood mainstream fare, here's hoping Pixar will provide some much-needed relief with next week's "Wall-E." After that, I may have to wait until "The Dark Knight" to get a decent popcorn fix. Chris Nolan has never yet disappointed me as a filmmaker, and he doesn't look to start anytime soon.

Speaking of popcorn fixes, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that that's largely what Entertainment Weekly is settling for in its latest feature on the 100 Best Films of the Last 25 Years, part of a special 1000th issue on the 100 best movies, TV shows, albums, books, etc. of the last quarter century. True, no one ever deemed EW to be an arbiter of highbrow culture. But any "top 100" list that includes "Titanic" (yack, gag, ugh!) as freakin' NUMBER THREE and then plops "L.A. Confidential" (which should've won the Oscar for Best Picture that year) down at #59 just automatically loses all credibility with me. The rest of the list ("Pulp Fiction" and the Lord of the Rings trilogy sitting at #1 and 2) doesn't offend my sensibilities as much, yet any self-respecting cinephile won't fail to notice a striking dearth of foreign and independent movies - apart from the occasional obvious nod to David Lynch, Baz Luhrmann, Ang Lee, and a few others. I'm no arthouse snob - far from it - but even I find the bias towards American Movies that the Average [Plugged-in] American Has Heard Of pretty glaring.

That said, there are a few surprises that I can approve, such as the placing of "This is Spinal Tap" at (appropriately) 11 and "A Room With a View" (one of my favorite movies of all time) at a surprisingly high #24. But where is Kieslowksi's "Trois Couleurs" trilogy? Where is "City of God"? And why for crying out loud is "In the Mood for Love" all the way down at #95? And...but I'm sure I won't be the only one bitchin'. This list has no more credibility than the AFI Top 100, and just points to the absurdity and subjectivity of trying to make such lists. I just wish EW had at least explicitly limited the list to top 100 AMERICAN movies, and trimmed accordingly. As for whether the rest of their top 100 lists are any more credible, I will leave that to my more knowledgeable fellow critics to determine.


Blogger Tonio Kruger said...

But I can't get away from that dispiriting feeling, which I usually assocate more with spring, of "Is this all there is?"

You too, huh? For a while there, I was wondering if it was just me.

5:46 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

Nope, not just you. I'm glad I'm not the only crochety one!

Of course in about six months I'll probably be complaining there are TOO MANY movies I want to see and not enough time to see any of them. I hate this feast or famine cycle Hollywood has going.

11:08 PM  

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