I’ve been having computer trouble. Some sort of trojan set up camp on my laptop. I spent most of Wednesday dealing with it. Initially it manifested as “pop-ups” which is a phenomenon of computer behavior that I have not seen in years. Frankly, it was kind of nostalgic. But I knew what it meant. A virus was trying to get in.
When I compared Cabin in the Woods to Shaun of the Dead I was told that it was an unfair comparison because Shaun of the Dead is a spoof, and Cabin in the Woods is a “deconstruction”. I sort of frowned, because the point I was trying, and possibly failing, to make was that Cabin in the Woods was a far inferior satire.
But I guess I’ll concede the point, it’s not satire. It’s a “deconstruction”. I still don’t like it, though.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about how “smart” this movie is, and I put that in quotes because I really don’t think it’s that smart. It’s certainly not the first movie genre deconstruction, nor is it even the first horror movie deconstruction.
Let’s look at what deconstruction means.
According to Google it’s: “A method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language that emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.”
Yikes. That’s a mouthful. I think we better ask our friend Wikipedia. There’s a lot of disclaimers at the top Wikipedia’s page on Deconstruction, including: “This article may be confusing or unclear to readers.”
And it is. For me actual philosophy, though interesting, has always been a tough subject. Feel free to dive in if you want.
I think that ultimately the term has a different meaning on internet movie message boards than it does in academic literature. Essentially, when people say that Cabin in the Woods is a deconstruction, they mean that the movie plays with the tropes and mechanics of the horror movie genre in such a way that it is able to comment both on the genre itself and Real Life. TvTropes.org in this case is a better source for information than Wikipedia.
Anyway, I guess that’s where the attraction for fans of The Cabin the Woods lies. Other films have similarly taken apart genres in this way, specifically Scream (1996). But I think a better comparison for Cabin in the Woods is the action movie deconstruction, Last Action Hero (1993).
One word reviews are fun, useful, and in this case totally deserved. Why do they keep letting this guy (Zack Snyder) go to town on the most revered pillars of the comic book temple?.
Was he trying to model superman’s personality after a crash test dummy? I mean “big blue” isn’t exactly known for his exuberance or wit, but Jeebus H Christmas. This rendition of Superman is even blander than usual and despite trying to fill him with pathos, Snyder instead gives us a ridiculous, almost mind numbing–no wait, its not almost numbing, it’s complete Novocaine level brain drain–plot. These people wander through the film, saying things and doing things as if there is a rhyme or reason for their actions, but I found no thread to grapple with, nor anything human to relate to.
“She made a lot of good points with really bad examples,” was the review a friend, Alex Eckman-Lawn, made about Camille Paglia’s book Glittering Images. It was on off hand remark, in fact it may have been no more than a comment he posted on that ubiquitous social network. Truthfully I don’t think Alex actually read her book. I know that I didn’t. But his comment resonated with me, just as I hope it resonates with you. Of all the spectacles Hollywood has churned out for us to slather over with mixed enthusiasm, surely Revenge of the Sith is not “the the most powerful work of art in any genre in the past 30 years — including literature.”
In a World…
The iconic words of cheesy movie trailers are the core of this movie, which takes place in a world (ha!) suffering from the after effects of Don LaFontaine’s death, a real life voice over artist who became famous for the phrase which is this movie’s title. As various voice artists jockey to retake the throne (or phrase) a woman dares to compete in what has been historically a man’s game.
What I’ve written above could basically be a trailer script for the movie. Which I wrote so that you’d think I was clever and funny… (how do spell FAIL?)
I enjoyed this movie despite the fact that I actually didn’t enjoy large sections of it. Now when I say I “didn’t enjoy large sections”, what I mean is I’m a big wimp. The over all flavor of the film is an Indie-Dramedy. My spine shivers just writing those words. Dramedy. Whoever created that portmanteau should be taken out behind the chemical sheds if you know what I mean.
Anyway, what I found difficult about the film was how the ‘second core’ of the plot (the part that’s not really about trailers or voice over) is all about sneaking around and cheating. Now I’m not judging or anything but whenever people behave shamefully in movies the quarter of my ancestry that’s Japanese emerges from my genetic code and insists that I commit seppuku rather than be forced to view the character’s imminent shame. Seriously, don’t you know you’re gonna get caught?
The only upside was that I was totally sick when I watched it and the awkward drama sent my heart rate through the roof, pushing the viral fugue so far from my brain that I actually managed to write this review. No gunfight or horror movie monster could get me this tense.
In a World… (the ellipsis is apparently part of the title) is still a lot of fun to watch though, partly because it gives an interesting window into… a world (Ha!) that I both immediately understand but also have never considered. A few years ago Jerry Seinfeld made a promo for his 2002 documentary “Comedian” riffing on the titular line. Here we get a caste of interesting characters all tied into this niche industry. Lake Bell is really superb as the main character Carol Solomon, (she’s also the writer and director, so … anyway she’s great) the woman trying to make it in a man’s world (Ha. I’m gonna keep doing this). In fact rooting for her pushed me through to the film’s finale. She’s at her strongest when she’s doggedly pursuing accents to record and catalog for her collection. The people around her are equally tangible. Sometimes I harp on “Indie” movies for being just as formulaic as the big budget monsters they claim to be an alternative to but I really connected with these characters and wanted to see more of them at the end of the film, which frankly is a quality I find hard to come by. Reading about the actors after watching (another rare treat. I didn’t already recognize every face I saw. I’ll salute any screen not stuffed with Mega Stars) I was almost disappointed that Sam Soto wasn’t a real person. For some reason my enfeebled plague ridden mind hoped that they were pulling one of those fun tricks where the actors play themselves.
There is the obligatory Hollywood party scene. It reminded me of Curb Your Enthusiasm (another show that, at times, makes me want to seppuku myself), as it dramatized the Ins-and-Outs of The Biz. Actors and their accompanying self absorption, in real life, usually make my skin crawl. Do these parties actually happen like this? How do these people not hate themselves?
But just as I started to wonder about the mental health of celebrities the story curved back to the grounded and interesting Carol Solomon and her quest to dominate what’s typically been ‘male only’ voice over work. Even the trailer script she reads champions a world (last time swear!) in which men no longer rule. It’s a good watch.
Let’s call this piece timely because Galaxy Quest is on netflix right now, so don’t give me any lip about it coming out 15 years ago.
For such an “old” flick it actually holds up surprisingly well, but I won’t pretend to be impartial: I love this movie. In fact I think it’s probably my favorite Star Trek film, even though it’s technically not Trek in any respect.
It’s a spoof. But its a loving spoof full of jibes and jokes which clearly illustrate that the people (David Howard and Robert Gordon) who wrote this movie knew its source intimately. This isn’t mocking Star Trek, it’s celebrating it, and in the year 2014, a time when the cineplexes are dominated by mega-franchises (including a new and “improved” Star Trek) and our action movies are main-stream-ifizing what was once nerdy sub-culture you still don’t get a lot of movies like Galaxy Quest. A one off, sequel-less sci-fi romp with a bunch of old school special effects, in jokes plus regular jokes for everybody else and starring a cast that hits it out of the park?
(I will admit that Guardians of the Galaxy, which came out this summer does have a few things in common with Galaxy Quest, including the word Galaxy in its title. However, Guardians is part of a “Mega-Franchise” (the Marvel universe) and is based on a comic book of the same name. What I find rare about Galaxy Quest, which was not rare at the time of its release, is that it isn’t actually tied to an existing “property” even if it’s core is a spoof of Star Trek. GQ is decidedly its own entity, its own “thing”, and I think a truer movie for it.)
Did I mention that I love this movie? Yeah. I love it.
Did I mention it holds up well for a movie from 1999? The pacing is brisk, and the characters are spot on. In fact I’d love to give a hand to whoever cast this film because it is star studded. Sigourney Weaver is impeccable as always. Allan Rickman, not yet famous for playing Snape (alert, another mega-franchise) in the Harry Potter films, but probably still recognizable at the time for his memorable role in Sense and Sensibility, is probably my favorite part of the movie. Tony Shalhoub also costars a few years before Monk would propel him to fame. Oh, and I almost forgot! One of my favorite actors, Sam Rockwell plays the memorable/forgettable “extra” Guy Freegman. Daryl Mitchell also does a great job, but gets a little overshadowed by the blazing ensemble around him. Even Tim Allen is terrific. (Also the guy who plays Dwight on The Office is an unnamed alien. Who could be better for that role?)
Now that I’ve name dropped just about everyone who appears on screen let me segue to why the film is still relevant thematically. The core of the story is about fandom. Specifically “trekkies” or whatever their Galaxy Quest equivalent is. In the movie a group of aliens (called Thermians) who believe the television show Galaxy Quest is “for realz” hire the show’s actors to defeat a Big Bad Alien. The fun is watching the real everyday people who starred in the show grapple with the larger than life events that they’ve been portrayed conquering countless times, but who in reality can barely cope with.
In 1999 it was mocking/celebrating a sub-culture. Today Star Trek, comic books and all the things that used to be the domain of “nerds” are now mostly mainstream, and fandom is not quite so stigmatizing. As a result the movie Galaxy Quest has never been easier to access as a viewer, nor has it, I believe, been able to speak to so many people, who like the Thermians, yearn for their favorite silver screen fantasy to be more than just on the screen.
I’m gonna be honest I didn’t finish it.
Now I’m no novice to Darren Aronofsky. I’ve seen a bunch of his movies (not that I need to prove anything, I just want to say I was totally willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt) and I’ve mostly loved them, even The Fountain, which (within his body of work) bears the most in common with Noah. I wasn’t expecting to have my hand held, and I was certainly ready for some strange surreal-ness to happen. But… Ugh. Noah. You are one boring movie.
I actually hate in movie reviews when I read that a movie has “plot issues” or “issues with pacing”. Let’s cut the art school mumbo-jumbo. This film had a script that must have written by a classroom (possibly a sunday school classroom) full of seventh grade boys. It’s a “period piece” I guess, so the dialogue has to have some of that slow encumbered stoicism that you might find in the Lord of the Rings. The only character that seemed to have anything interesting to say or any charm whatsoever was Noah’s grandfather (who had a name I don’t feel like Googling. He had a sword that shot fire in one scene) played by Anthony Hopkins. He sits on top of this mountain and rarely appears even though Noah’s family seems to live less than a mile away. He keeps asking for berries. For some reason this is the only dialogue that actually stuck in my head.
Oh wait, I know why I remember it! It was the only time any of the characters showed any humor. The rest of the time they’re seriously discussing who begat who, and whether or not humans will survive to continue begatting more humans after the flood, or if the Lord God wants us all to die. Yawn.
When did the apocalypse get so boring? Oh wait, I know when. As soon as this movie started playing. At one point Noah wakes after having a prophetic dream and runs dramatically from his hovel of a home to look meaningfully at the horizon. This moment was one of several where Darren Aronofsky actually showed his strengths with a beautiful shot of Noah’s silhouette cutting against a sunrise. Then the script (and maybe Russel Crowe’s acting) brought us back down to suck-town with a quick thoughtless exposition, “He’s going to destroy the world!”
Commence with the eye-rolling. I mean we all know the plot of Noah. He builds a ship and fills it with animals. Couldn’t we at least liven things up with some snappy dialogue?
The world Noah inhabits does seem in need of a do-over, that’s for sure. There’s roving gangs of cannibals that seem straight out of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road”. Mining and hunting seems to have depleted the Earth of her bounty (is there an allegory to our current troubles with climate change? Dunno. The movie didn’t make much of a case). Angels wander around trapped in stone bodies, looking more like low budget transformers, or maybe Ents (like from Lord o’ da Rings) than like fallen angels. I’m not much of a theologian, so maybe some this went over my head, but when I heard the story of Noah’s Arc as a kid these bits (highly interesting they might have been to a five year old me) were decidedly absent.
Noah also puts a lot of effort into finding wives for his children, because after the flood (obviously) there won’t be very many bachelorettes around. I couldn’t help but wonder about this since, if you really think about it, pretty much everyone on the earth (at that point) must have been cousins. I mean REALLY. Noah is begat from a long line ending in Seth, and most everybody else is begat from a long line of Cains. And guess what boys and girls: those two, Seth and Cain? They were brothers. And their parents were Adam and Eve. So where do all these babies come from? If you do the math, you’ll see that Mr. Cain and Mr. Seth must have married their biblically unlisted sisters.
I know the point is moot (and also kind of gross). But all the hullabaloo surrounding the “finding of wives” and their subsequent failure to do so raised a lot of questions in my bored wandering mind. Like: if they don’t find wives and Noah has some more kids with Jennifer Connelly and those kids end up being girls, is the world in for some more Cain and Seth style incest?
I dunno. The movie sort of glossed over this part by shoving a battle scene between the fallen angels and the cannibals at us.
Like in The Fountain, Noah is full of unexplained wonders and fascinating production design, but unlike many of Aronofsky’s other movies it seems totally without mystery or personality. Or at least, without mysteries that we care about. Noah feels a lot more like a tasteless blockbuster than one of the thoughtful, disturbing or mind bending flicks that this auteur is known for. Don’t bother unless you’ve actually never heard the story of Noah’s Arc and you have two hours to kill. Spoiler alert, he fills the ship with two of each kind of animal.
My name is Aidan Rich! I’m an aimless ne’er-do-well who likes to make stuff and wander the United States in an old Suburu Forester. I made this site primarily because I just self published a novel on Amazon titled Hand Hunters. It’s a serious fantasy novel about grim stuff, with lots of cleaving and slicing and casting of magic spells and so on… you know. It’s also got some Bangs from Boom Sticks to accompany all the slicing and dicing.
Anyway, this is the spot to buy it:
I painted the cover myself. That’s why it looks so terrible!
Also (as far as this site is concerned) I just wanted a central place to post all my various creative projects. I mean I’m a guy with lots of interests. Writing ain’t the end all be all of my creative juice! I’m not sure what the ultimate shape this site will take. Right now it’s basically a wordpress blog. Which is fine.
Other things I like to do:
Hopefully I’ll keep this place active and interesting (I better. I paid for it after all!). Most of the things that pass through the mushy oatmeal I call a brain aren’t all that interesting, but if anything really cool occurs, I’ll try and post it here.