September 22, 2014

Autumn is here.  After coming home from a rainy Ireland to a rainy Colorado, I despaired that I had missed the end of summer entirely.  But no, I got a good week or so of wearing shorts and sandals and sitting outside to read and stuff. And now the weather is turning.

As I mentioned last week, I’m working on five or so different things simultaneously — research, critiquing, writing, etc.  What this means is I feel like I’m not getting anything done.  But it also means I’m going to finish up most of these things at the same time.  Then I will likely be at my wits end and flap my arms around like a mad thing.

I caught a couple of movies, or at least part of a couple of movies this weekend:

Another Earth:  this is an art-house science fiction/slipstreamy thing.  A very intriguing concept:  one day, another Earth, seemingly identical, appears in the sky.  It has some really beautiful shots associated with this phenomenon, and touched on at least some of the implications.  But the story itself was so angsty and contrived I couldn’t take it very seriously.  (Like, when he said his wife was pregnant when the accident happened, I laughed out loud, which I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to do, but it was so clearly the movie saying to us, “Hey, you thought it was bad before? Well it turns out it was even worse than you thought! Ha! Wallow in misery!” And no, I don’t think I will.)

Neptune’s Daughter:  This is an old one, and I finally found where my line is.  You know — you’re watching old movies and they’re chock full of really uncomfortable racism and sexism and the like, but you keep watching ’cause it’s old and interesting and classic and has some great acting and it’s important from a cultural standpoint? (Like, I totally put up with the harassing baby in Gold Diggers of 1933?)  Well, I know now that it can indeed get bad enough that I have to stop, and this movie did it.  The really terrible racist stereotypes, and the really ditzy man-chasing sister in a comedy “comedy” routine with Red Skelton pushed me around the corner and I had to turn it off.  Which is too bad, because this is an Esther Williams film — the woman who made an entire career out of being a swimming actress — and it also featured a young Ricardo Mantalban as a hot Argentinian polo player. So yeah, I wanted to see it, but I just couldn’t.

Also, a question:  when did shaky cam and incomprehensible action scenes in big FX movies become a thing?  Is there one movie that really started the trend?  Transformers maybe?  Because I caught part of the original Stargate movie this weekend, and I was kind of surprised and impressed at how clean it was — action-wise, it had quite 1980’s sensibility, which made it pleasant to watch but also made it seem a little older than it really is. (It’s 1994, which yeah, it might have more of an 80’s sensibility I guess.)  It just got me thinking about when sensory overload became the way to do adventure movies, and I can’t pin it down.


8 Responses to “progress….?”

  1. Sean Fagan Says:

    Well, technically, autumn isn’t here for most of the day. 🙂

    So you can still pick good movies with which to start your autumn viewing season!

  2. I’ve given some thought to this, and I think it was Braveheart. It specifically laid out the script for epic action, but it influenced a lot of other types of action, too. Batman Begins didn’t hurt, either.

  3. Saving Private Ryan could have been an influence for that type of action. Ultimately, though, I think it’s a stylistic choice more than anything else, albeit an overused one.

  4. carriev Says:

    Maybe the Star Wars prequels? As far as the trend of CGI overwhelming every other aspect of a scene…

  5. Joseph Charpak Says:

    Mid 1990s seems to be a turning point.

  6. Calico Says:

    I’d say Saving Private Ryan, followed closely by Blair Witch Project. SPR made me physically ill in opening action scene, and it wasn’t the content that did it either, but the camera. I became so sensitive to the shaking that I could see it even in non-action scenes!

    And SPR also pre-dates the Star Wars prequels. However, I can’t speak to whether or not Braveheart may have inspired the trend or not… I’ve yet to see that movie all the way through! But I remember all the discussion about the revolutionary way Spielberg filmed SPR, so I’m making that the culprit. 🙂

  7. The Cyberwolfe Says:

    In Saving Private Ryan it at least had a reason for being there – the director was trying to bring across just how chaotic and unstable that sort of situation can be. I mean, it’s going on all around you, there’s no way to escape it. The technique makes sense there.

    In other movies, where the camera is zipping around and through a couple of guys in a fistfight it makes no sense – especially when there are actors and stunties out there who can dance through combat like Swan Lake.

  8. Doruk Says:

    I think Independence Day was kinda important there as well. Maybe even Matrix? I certainly remember thinking good fight choreography got abandoned for cool camera tricks after that.

    Oh, and, completely unrelatedly, I am heading towards your neck of the woods next week!

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