So the bumper sticker says. And yet, in the LA Times, Peter Bogdanovich recalls and mourns the experience of going to a movie theater as if such structures were already long extinct.
Larry McMurtry‘s novel, "The Last Picture Show," and the movie version of it which I directed were both at least partly about the loss to a small Texas town of its single movie theater, a great diminishment in community and sharing. We all now live in a more insular, distanced society. And though our communication capability has never been faster or more inclusive, it does not have the ability to let us experience the silent interrelating that happens in a live theater, at church or at a movie house.
Over the years I’ve noticed that audiences, just before the show starts, radiate a kind of innocence. Considered person by person, that may not be the case, but as a group they share the ability to be taken wherever the film chooses to take them, either to the stars or the gutter, and their communal experience will alter them for better or worse. Let’s not let all that possibility fade away further than it already has.
James Parker at the Boston Globe muses that "We enjoy watching B-movies because life is a B-movie: life, with its ungroomed edges, its humdrum pauses, its inability to sustain an atmosphere or be wholly convinced by a plotline." He revisits the original "The Hills Have Eyes," and lists what the slickly made, pseudo-meaningful Alexandre Aja remake has lost.
At the Guardian‘s Culture Vulture blog, Xan Brooks takes umbrage with two other remakes, the Coen brothers‘ "Ladykillers" and Neil LaBute‘s upcoming "The Wicker Man," for what he sees as lack of respect and understanding from the respective directors for the British originals:
[D]ismissing [1955’s] "The Ladykillers" as "genteel" totally misses the point of what a nasty, vicious and downright subversive animal it really is. Small wonder the Coen brothers remake was so bland and redundant (and yes, genteel). I’m betting the new, improved "Wicker Man" won’t be much cop either.
Film audiences have maintained their taste for costume drama, but not for the reticent manner in which Merchant Ivory presented it. Three films made in Britain, all adaptations of Jane Austen, hammered the point home. Roger Michell‘s "Persuasion," originally made for television, brought dirty realism and muddied hems to period pieces. Ang Lee‘s "Sense and Sensibility" located a strain of desperate emotion and gave it full expression. And last year Working Title infused "Pride and Prejudice" with a healthy dose of adolescent lust.
All three films work because they engage audiences on a visceral level. These days, all manner of films, struggling to compete in a crowded entertainment industry, aim to deliver a big-screen jolt unavailable from other media. "Hip", "dark" and "edgy" are the adjectives of choice among film marketing types – but Merchant Ivory are simply not in that business. Film culture has moved away from them: those who warmly embraced the pace and flow of the recent "Pride and Prejudice" would never sit still for their conventional and frankly uninvolving adaptation of Henry James’s "The Golden Bowl."
At the Independent, James Mottram, whose "The Sundance Kids: How The Mavericks Took Back Hollywood" comes out in May, casts an eye back on what is, give or take a director or two, David Gritten’s "Class of ’99," and declares it done â€” those wacky late 90s Sundance darlings have brought their "maverick sensibilities" to Hollywood, and now loom large and heedlessly hip over Tinseltown. It’s a sunshiny take that willfully ignores certain details, such as the fact that David Fincher hasn’t managed to squeeze a film out in four years. At the New York Daily News, meanwhile, Jack Mathews reexamines his prediction back in 1983 ("For a while, I was a sage.") that the animated film as a genre was on its way out. 23 years and billions of dollars later, he’s willing to admit he might have been a little hasty.
Finally, back at the LA Times, Mimi Avins on how Sharon Stone‘s "iconoclastic bitch-goddess" Catherine Tramell has held up (and changed) in the 14 years between "Basic Instinct" and "Basic Instinct 2."
In 1992, who’s on top, men or women, was still a question. In the "Basic Instinct" sequel, there’s no contest. Catherine today is a man-eating cartoon. She’s smarter and more dangerous than any man she encounters. And she definitely can’t be trusted. Although the script was written by a husband-and-wife team, the film has moved from a tale of masculine backlash to one of capitulation.
+ Moving pictures (LA Times)
+ Scare me once. Scare me twice. (Boston Globe)
+ Repeat offenders (Guardian)
+ Why we should love and leave the world of Merchant Ivory (Telegraph)
+ Maverick directors enjoy their day in the sun (Independent)
+ Back to the drawing board (NY Daily News)
+ Feminism after the fact (LA Times)