Monday, March 06, 2006

After the Oscars

It was a predictable night, and a frustrating one.
I liked CRASH; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was tedious if undeniably significant. But the movie that was better and more important than both of them put together won nothing. Don't get me wrong. I was glad CRASH won; it was an excellent film. BROKEBACK just wasn't good enough. It wasn't scandalous or ground breaking or outrageous or powerful ... just slow and dull. I was bored. Story points were ignored: we find out YEARS LATER that wifey booby-trapped the fishing tackle to see if Ennis was really fishing or not. First of all -- would it have killed them to actually fish a little? But anyway, the trap was sprung, she knew right then, YEARS AGO, that the fishing was bullshit. But she waits decades to bring it up. Why? Because the writers and director are insanely invested in having a crushingly static story where nothing ever happens. Call me a phillisitine, but I like movies where something does actually happen from time to time. I'll say it again, since Ang Lee is a notorious wide-screen-panoramas-of-the-mountains and drops-of-water-on-the grass style film-maker: you can't tell a story with scenery. You have to tell it with scenes.

But pretty pictures are easy; confrontations and the repercussions of those confrontations are anything but. Writing characters going at each other and altering the course of their lives ... that's hard work. Work: what we fucking pay you for, Ang. Anyone with a camcorder and a flock of sheep can do what you did. You have to do a little more if you want that gold statue at the end of the night.

It's funny, so many people talked about how "homophobia" killed BROKEBACK's chances for the Oscar. But no one mentioned the hawkish pro-Israel political orthodoxy that killed MUNICH. That's a good way to get blacklisted ... or is it shitlisted now? Whatever. So no one said a word, not even Spielberg. But he knew; and to his credit, he must have known before he ever started shooting the movie. But he went ahead and shot it anyway.

I can't help wondering what his old pal George Lucas must be thinking, if any actual self-analytcal thought penetrates his Death-star fortress of narcissistic self-delusion. They started out together, kind of on the same level, making pop-corn movies ... JAWS, STAR WARS, sharing the credit (rightly or wrongly) for inventing the 'blockbuster' and destroying the golden age of film-making. But look at them now. George wheezing out the last pathetic, unwatchable loogie of derivitive phglem he's been hawking up for 30 years ... and Steve making MUNICH. If I were George I'd want to rise to the occasion and try to make a film that mattered to someone besides comic-book geeks ... or else just retire and count my money. He thinks of himself as a 'maverick' who rejects Hollywood, but that's the standard tinsel town finally judges you by, the gold standard, and he cares about it just as much as any craven studio executive. It's a trap, though. Millions of people may have seen the last STAR WARS; but for most of them it was a duty, something they had to do just to be done with it -- like an afternoon in divorce court or an apendectomy.

MUNICH may nave been a relative 'flop', but it's going to last, and the people who paid their money and let themselves be harrowed by the ravishing imagery and the ugly facts know they got what people have been going to the movies for since D.W Griffith invented the tracking shot: a dream that grabs you when you're wide awake, and hangs on until you get insomnia, that forces you to notice and doesn't let you forget.

That's what they ought to give Oscars for. But not this year. I don't think Spielberg really gives a damn, though. So I'm trying not to, either. Jon Stewart was funny and the dresses looked good.
That's enough for me.