Saturday, November 29, 2014



Naturally, I did get a ton of comments from people talking about how much they 'hated' the film.  I do not the leastways care.  If I wanted to listen to the opinion of total strangers regarding the poor quality of anything, I would go looking for it.

Because, see, it would be easy to find.  Every film listed on IMDb has some idiot declaiming its value.  This is universal.  Every film is bad.  Every film is, conversely, good.  As such, the user comments on every film follow the same pattern - "I don't know why people say this film is . . ." whatever.

The result, from the manufacturer becomes - evidentially - that there is no such thing as a good film. There is no such thing as a bad film.  There is only a film that makes money and a film that does not make money.

If people say a film is bad, but continue to pay for bad films, then their opinion ceases to matter.  Let the moviegoers squawk.  Hate, like, love, despise, its all the same thing so long as the money is there. Personal film criticism has no meaning.

Do you understand?  If you're the sort of fool that wonders why Hollywood (or anyone else) can't seem to make a 'good' film, you have to realize that the internet removed the last sense that such mattered.  The only film that anyone is trying to make is a film that looks annoying enough that you'll see it.

This need, then, to explain your personal feelings about any part of the film simply becomes a form of free advertising.  Wow, I wonder why its so bad - I should see it.  Wow, it sounds really good - I should see it.


A few weeks back I got into a literary discussion about Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.  It was quite a good discussion; at points it became passionate - which is always interesting with an ex-soldier jazz musician.  We talked about the A-for-America theory and the isolation of women by the church theory and a few nuances, but here's the point.  We didn't talk about whether or not the book was any good.  Not because we automatically assumed that it was - in fact, I can say without reservation that neither the other fellow nor I actually like the book.  I wouldn't rush out to read it again.

If there were a reason to do so, however, I wouldn't mind that much.  Like, dislike, that's fairly immaterial.  The book is written by a competent writer discussing a social issue related to a time that itself recognized the writer's worth.  The book is written well - which is not to say this makes the book easy to read.

In fact, it is not.  And that is relevant.  As I pointed out with Dante recently, Hawthorne takes work.  Most morons, it must be said, will not do it.  80, 90 pages in, they'll find themselves thinking, "What the fuck am I reading this boring shit for?"  They'll rush around to all their peers (since school is the only thing that has any chance of making them read a book like this) and say, "Yeah, that Scarlet Crap Book is a total Snore.  Jeez, what a crappy book."

There is a second class of morons, however - those that will power through the book, reading every word - and yet coming out the other side with nothing.  They'll read the book - and damn near every book - as though the process of getting to the other side is the point.  Nevermind the nuance - "I read every word, and I don't see what the big deal is."

This is why I think so little of people who say they read books . . . but give no indication in their behaviour to suggest as much.  This is why the fellow sitting across the table from me, debating a book neither of us like, is a friend of mine.  Because I respect him.  I know that when he says he's read a book, he's actually read it.  That is to say, he can talk about the book for twenty, thirty minutes at a time, he understands all the subtle clues and references the author took the time to invest into the book.

Regarding strangers and their ability to read - or see films - I don't have a fucking clue what they think or know or comprehend.  I suspect, from the presentation of their opinions, very little.  Very fucking little.

But see, I wouldn't have any of these people as my friends.  Because they're morons.  Do they dislike the film?  Well good for them.  Did they actually pay attention to the film?  Tch.  Probably not.

Most don't.  And I mean most.  In terms of percentages, the morons would equal every state and county in the union except the population of Cherry County, Nebraska.  Not that all the smart people are there - far from it.  But that's the number of people in America who's opinion about movies would be one I would actually respect.

Those of you who commented lately, whose comments didn't get published?  No, you're not in that number.  You and I, you see, could never be friends.  Because you're a moron.

No, I don't care if you believe me.  I really don't care.

The three people I published?  They're on probation.  One I've met, but we didn't really have the time to get into an intellectual discussion.  We mostly talked about D&D.

I'm really, really comfortable tossing most of you out with the trash.  Just saying.

The person who's actual opinion I would value would be Luc Besson's.  I'd like to know how he feels making a movie like this in a culture that does not care if it makes good or bad movies.  I'd like to know if he feels it reached his goals or if for various reasons it didn't manage to reach in as deep as he wanted.

Since Besson spent the time and the money and his sweat, and since he's the one who took the chance and did the work, his opinion matters.  The opinion of people who saw the film and did nothing else, sorry, no, those opinions do not matter.

Don't tell me if the movie is fucking good or not.  What are you, a moron?  Tell me whether or not you think you'd take the advice of someone you knew very well who reassured you that your kidney was going to cave in the next few months; and how you would relate to your kidneys if you had the knowledge of their function that you have of your hands or your eyes.  Talk to me about having that consciousness and how you would live your life otherwise if you had it; and then talk to me about how you conceal the knowledge that your kidneys are functioning, right now, in a manner that you pay no attention to, simply because your brain - or evolution - doesn't work that way.

Talk to me about that.  Use your brain - and while you're doing that, consider how the use of your brain simply denies  your knowledge of millions of things that you 'know' are happening, but can't assess in real time.

Because that's what the film is about.  If you want to talk to me about what the film is about, then stop fucking yourself with your I-feel-good-about-myself dildo and open a discussion.

You moron.


Tim said...

I'm in every way unqualified to say anything on the topic of Lucy as I haven't seen the film. I am unqualified to open a discussion on it or criticize it. That's not what I intend.

I could try going to bed without commenting on this post but a) I have been thinking about this recently and b) I feel guilty for opening my mouth earlier and having nothing important to say, especially here. So I'll open my mouth and try to say something a little more intelligent this time.

I was discussing the concept of "butts-in-seats" cinema the other day and how making sequels so effectively uses that model: people will go to movies out of sheer curiosity, especially if the movie is an adaptation of a book or a sequel to another movie they loved or even hated. Film Crit Hulk, whom I discovered while exploring some of the blogs you link to, wrote a long, fascinating essay on how this applies to comedy sequels.

There's always safety in following the "tried and true" (talk about self-demonstrating cliché). People who consume this kind of content – the sequels, spin-offs and reunion tours – have nostalgia and hope on their end: they want it to live up to the first version, right down to the same jokes that, somehow, don't seem as funny as they were the first time, even though the original jokes still make them laugh in the first version.

I caught myself doing this for video games, which are probably the most infamous for having a bunch of morons play them. Morons who hate the game because their computer can't render it as smoothly as the original, or because they made it too easy compared to the original, or because they stole ideas from another game which did it first and better. They argue the merits of good or bad without ever considering the point of the thing. Zoe Quinn's Depression Quest does not need to be entertaining... it's supposed to bring about a discussion. But of course that's too much depth.

When I Googled Lucy after reading your post and came across the Time review, I found myself looking at that same kind of moron who hates a game because he just knows the developers should have consulted him first.


Tim said...

(continued from above...)

I've gone a little off-the-rails... but I want to draw a parallel here. There's a natural desire to have everything within one's comfort zone, and there may be evolutionary running-from-lions use for it, but it's stupid to expect to master life one day and plateau in enlightenment until you ascend into the "afterlife." If one goes to see a sequel or an adaptation because one wants the original back, it will only be a waste of time. If one wants to read a book and find that every word conforms to one's worldview and that person reads the last page, gets up and goes on exactly the same as before, it will be a shit book. Because we need that confrontation that life does not fit in a neat box in your head (and as the science in Lucy shows, even if it did you could only conceptualize a tiny fragment of it).

You argue this point a lot, Alexis, and it's why I love this blog: because it makes me catch myself trying to oversimplify things and I think about the world and the bigger picture. And I think it makes me a better DM after it all, because I know that there may be comfort in worn-out tropes and hackneyed lines, but the real world is fucked up and that's so much more interesting to bring to D&D. So thank you, because you demonstrate that all it takes is a little deep thought, even in these posts which are not about D&D at all. I'm sure I would still read the blog if you never mentioned D&D once. Because you challenge your reader to reshape their view, whether that view is how to present an adventure hook or how to interpret a movie tagline. It's goddamn valuable, and anyone who can't understand that deserves quite rightly to go into the trash.

Scott Driver said...

I'm coming along late.

Have you seen Drive? If so, curious what you think. (Obviously it means something to me or I wouldn't have brought it up.)

Scott Driver said...

Tim, are you honestly ruing your tendency to oversimplify things while you consign people into the trash for not understanding that?

Alexis, I apologize if lateral contention is poor form in your home.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'd never actually watched Drive - until just this morning, after reading your comment Scott.

Well, its something of a forensic examination into the structure of a film, isn't it? The main character has no context and no real philosophy (he doesn't act, he reacts), reducing his nature to 'robot'; in etymological terms, his work is driving. He fulfills a purpose, a niche, which for him has no morality, only rules.

Some will probably relate the character to other personality-less, nameless icons like some that Eastwood has played, but I think that's far too generous. If this universe did not include the Good, the Bad or the Ugly to provide context for this movie, then the lack of context would be stark and disturbingly empty.

The girl has no real personality, either; nor does the son, who appears in every scene as though heavily drugged on ritalin. For a 8 to 10 year old, he is bland and short of energy. The husband returned from jail has no history except that he was in jail. The hoods, while played beautifully by Brooks and Perlman, have no more context than the protagonist.

None of these people exist. Therefore, the audience is expected to impress themselves into the film, which given the strongly androcentric presentation of the film, predictably results in a principle of "cool."

Bereft of character or real story (virtually everything is predictable) I found myself drifting into the fingerprints and shadows of the film's makers, observing the use of the camera, set design, pacing, music and other facets of the production. There isn't much else to watch except to note how close the actors are placed in relationship to each other or the speed with which they cross the room or the angles used to film the various car chases. The 'style' of the film does sustain it for the time the film runs, but I doubt this would sustain the film for a second viewing.

Scott Driver said...

"The main character has no context and no real philosophy (he doesn't act, he reacts), reducing his nature to 'robot'; in etymological terms, his work is driving. He fulfills a purpose, a niche, which for him has no morality, only rules."

I'm not sure if you're calling that a feature or a bug (or a shitty feature). Every character is pretty explicitly trapped by the rules ... no good sharks, the frog and the scorpion, poor Albert Brooks sighing wearily as he knifes people, etc.

The "robot" thing is beaten in pretty hard ... Gosling's legit work requires him to wear a featureless mask, his "real" work is predicated on a routine that can't be deviated from, his affect is flat. Every time he tries to break free (track racing; connecting with wife and kid; sitting in on planning and waiting extra long for the husband; any time that "real human being" song starts playing), he's stymied by his programming and rules. So back to robot mode with the featureless mask.

So I think the characters' "lack of existence" is deliberate and I don't think the director went for "iconic." That obviously doesn't mean the acting or writing was effective, but all the characters are *supposed* to be ciphers and ghosts caught in loops at the start of the narrative.

Dead on about Brooks. Best part of the movie.

And yeah, the director's increasingly known for an obsession with stylized masculine cool. He's *trying* to deconstruct it or subvert it, but again that doesn't mean he's succeeding. His last movie Only God Forgives amps all the tendencies you've noted up to about 11.

(I also tend to overvalue "style," "cool," and quixotic triggers for character identification, so I suspect there aren't many movies we'd enjoy similarly.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

I fully understand that the characters and the style of the film were deliberate.