Saturday, January 29, 2005

The reputation of being a "film critic"

It's always a nice gesture when someone takes the time to read a piece of your written work. There is also a great personal reward in having that work discussed between the writer and the reader; not only does it make you more productive in terms of understanding one another's opinions, it keeps you motivated and focused in the task of producing new articles, particularly when you have the urge to stand back and wonder, "why am I doing this at all?"

In the six-plus years I have written film commentary on the internet, I've heard great input from a lot of sources -- some of it positive, some of it negative, but all of it appreciated. There is no better feeling in this vocation than knowing that your work is being absorbed by some alternate source; you have done something that will occupy a span of a few minutes in someone's day, and perhaps will leave a slight impression (be it a bad one or whatever). In our world time is the essence of everything, after all, and sometimes it is actually too much to ask for people to set aside just a few short moments to take a look at something you've done. By doing so voluntarily, the readers have unknowingly made a great contribution to the one who actually did the work (regardless of the response they may have). It is prospects like that which keep some of us writing for so long.

Friday, January 28, 2005

In Good Company / *** (2005)

"In Good Company" begins with a premise that is probably not very dissimilar from what many of us in the world of journalism have experienced at one point or another. Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), a reputable advertising editor at the local weekly Sports Magazine, is put into a position of uncertainty when his chain is bought up by a major conglomerate, and established employees begin facing possible lay-offs as the company undergoes major restructuring. Perhaps not so common, though, is how this professional shake-up plays out; rather than being ousted by a corporation that wants to abandon journalistic rituals in order to stroke investors, the movie deprives him of his high-ranking position and turns it over to a 20-something kid, who is a hot figure in the business world but lacks the experience to be in such a place of authority. Naturally, Dan is kept on board as a cushion while all his friends are ousted… but the story doesn't directly confront this conflict until its hero finds out that his new boss is also dating his college-bound daughter. Talk about getting to know your employees better.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Stage Beauty / **** (2004)

To see "Stage Beauty" in its full lively splendor is to see a work of genius revealed on screen. The movie is savage entertainment, written with the kind of panache and wit that is generally absent in most modern period pieces, and executed in a manner that allows little room for mere suggestion but an array of opportunities to be both shocking and unrestrictive with the material. From the perspective of someone who, like yours truly, savors the deliciousness of stories that take place amidst a vibrant and colorful backdrop, it is a triumph of evoking the era - but for those who care less about visuals and concentrate solely on a narrative, it is also one of those rare multi-faceted accomplishments that knows no boundaries when it comes to solid storytelling or sophisticated humor. Like the very characters that fill the celluloid of director Richard Eyre's latest opus, this is the kind of picture that comes with challenges but is not afraid to meet them - or indeed, overcome them - head on.

Friday, January 7, 2005

White Noise / * (2005)

He or she who is able to emerge from "White Noise" with a full perspective on the plot should be regarded as a miracle worker. Here I am, a movie critic writing a review for a movie that I observed with the utmost attention for a full 100 minutes, and I can't even bring myself to come up with the words to describe it - other than saying it wants to be both scary and stimulating. Of course, being an endeavor that lacks any kind of solid framework, it fails miserably on both counts. There is certainly very little doubt that someone, somewhere, high up in the Universal Pictures chain of command saw a promising result from this sort of premise… but what in the world are the filmmakers trying to say with it here? How do they expect their movie to amuse or engage viewers in the slightest if it doesn't take the time to offer necessary insights into enigmatic clues and puzzles?

Kinsey / ***1/2 (2004)

"Let's Talk About Sex."
- Tagline from "Kinsey"

In the case of Alfred Kinsey, though, talking about it was only one step in shattering the walls of taboo that our civilization built around the concept of sexual intercourse throughout the first 50 or 60 years of the 20th century. Looking at it today, what with all the liberated sexual movements dotting our population, the very idea seems absurd. After all, in the middle ages, sex wasn't so much a quandary as it was an casual activity - but with the evolution of cultures and the coming of social status, it was thrown into the corners of a dark room and locked away, never to be spoken of. That the American society in particular treated sex like some kind of illegitimate child well through the modern era is not necessarily something to be proud of, but it was also difficult to step outside of those boundaries, too. Traditions lead to personal ignorance, and that in turn inevitably keeps the traditions established for future generations.