Tuesday, March 31, 2009

But, doctor . . . I am Pagliacci

For whatever reason, I seem to be on a streak of watching a critically-acclaimed film from either the 70s, 80s, or 90s for the first time, and finding my opinion completely at odds with its present-day reputation. I thought I should point to my love of Watchmen, but my first viewing of it coincided with my first viewing of Ikiru, a film that I loved, even though it dragged in some places for me.

If I were to boil down my interests on certain DVDs to watch, I have to say a lot of them come from this site, this site (with some caution), and this man, along with friends that know my interests. Three films I've recently seen all came from these primary sources, and knowing I'm slaughtering some sacred cows in the process, strongly disliked them.

The first film that started this current streak was Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson's first non-splatter flick. I had heard great things about this film, and I've always been curious about the films Jackson made before the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Reading Scott's excellent Cult Canon series of articles on the A.V. Club, I figured I should finally watch it after reading his write-up, and the timing seemed right.

Staying in one Saturday night, I decided to have a girl school double feature: The Woods and Heavenly Creatures. I wanted to see The Woods since a) it's the film that had the rights to the name before M. Night Shyamalan did, so that's why his The Woods project became The Village (a much more apt title for each film, in my opinion), and b) because Bruce Campbell is in it. I found The Woods to be embarrassingly bad and hoped that Heavenly Creatures would pull me out of the witches, leaves, and trees. Shortly into Creatures, I sensed trouble.

I understand this is a film based on youth and fantasy, but I found Heavenly Creatures to be almost a musical sans the songs or any charm. It was way too over-the-top for me, and this is coming from somebody who's straight that loved Mamma Mia!. While I liked Jackson's Raimi-like camera moves, I just found the movie really empty and silly. Reading back over Scott's review, I wondered if we watched the same movie.

The same applies to Near Dark. Once again, heard great things about the film, especially around the time that Twilight and Let the Right One In came out. I watch it, and aside from some great performances by the likes of Lance Henriksen and Adrian Pasdar, I found the film to be a dated, cheesy film (no thanks to the Tangerine Dream score) that somehow has a happy ending. Blood transfusions may save lives in real life, but they seem like studio meddling to make a dark tale tie up in a nice bow.

And most recently, Hal Ashby's acclaimed Being There, with Peter Sellers. While I liked Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and Casino Royale, and Ashby's Harold and Maude, I thought Being There was like going to a museum and watching people look at paintings. While there are some great performances, I thought I was on a flight that slowly took off, got slightly off the ground, and then landed quietly.

I'm very well aware of the kind of flak I can receive by saying these things. To me, the attitude of, "you have to watch it again" doesn't work if I strongly didn't like it the first time. What's really going to compel me to watch it again? Once again, I now have a better understanding of those who watched Southland Tales, didn't get it and/or didn't like it, and passed it off, even though it's a film meant to be seen multiple times to really click. Plus, I've heard enough people slag the Matrix sequels, so I guess we're even now.

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