They Came Together

June 28, 2014

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The romantic comedy is, in many ways, a dead genre.  Well, “dead” is probably too harsh, but it’s certainly dormant, at least on a cultural level from where it once was.  Studios no longer seem interested in attempting to counter-program their tentpole blockbusters, probably because they’re finding franchises that appeal to women as much as men – or should I say, “girls as much as boys”.  This isn’t totally a bad thing, at least in regards to how the rom-com has been used for the past several decades.  There’s something utterly condescending about the studio execs greenlighting moderately budgeted films that they think women will like, whilst making sure they adhere to a very specific set of tropes because that’s what women “want to see”.  It’s not true, and Bridesmaids and The Heat have given them another outlet to grasp for the female dollar, which is fine as far as it goes.  It’s nice that to some degree the executives don’t think all women just want to live out some fantasy about finding “the one”.  Still, the romantic comedy is one of the most intriguing and potentially (though rarely realized) affecting genres in the storied history of film.  Whip-smart dialogue that crackles, solid and interesting and goofy characters just this side of the absurd, and grounding in a basic longing that perversely plays itself out as fantasy – the desire to love and be loved in return is fulfilled, but only in fantastical circumstances that look and feel like something that might be considered reality, but isn’t.  I have a deep love for romantic comedies, and I’m sad to see them so often relegated to rush jobs dumped onto VOD platforms, but I’m not so blinkered that I don’t think the past several decades has meant they’ve sort of earned it. Read the rest of this entry »

I am a very big fan of the action sub-genre known (to me, at least) as the “assassins slowly crumbling” film.  There are a good number of them; the best of which is easily Jean-Pierre Mellville’s Le Samourai, though Michael Mann’s Collateral is an excellent recent example.  They generally involve an assassin who is a consummate professional and at the very top of his field.  Through the course of the film he gets involved in a situation that causes him to rethink his position in some way, oftentimes involving a moral crisis or maybe just a simple human connection.  Whether they be a doom-laden thriller (Le Samourai, The American), a more straight-forward actioner (Leon, Collateral) or a light-hearted romp (Grosse Point Blank), the plot device that sparks their change usually triggers an existential crisis that’s been building for some time.  The trade-off for being a cold, effective killer is the denial of personal connections and a life that we in society generally deem to be fulfilling.  Though they make a lot of money they rarely spend it, preferring a low-key, basic existence.  Being good at their trade is enough for them, or so they assume.  Personal connections compromise their abilities to do their job, and when they finally achieve them they generally die – oftentimes while trying to do the ‘right’ thing.  In many ways, this is due to the basic moral conventions of Hollywood, even if the film was made outside of the system or even the country.  We must be able to empathize with the main character in some fashion, and whether he gives up his lifestyle or dies having learned a Great Life Lesson, standard Western morality always wins out.  There are ways in which the genre can challenge these morals, but by and large achieving them is the engine for the film.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sherlock Holmes

January 6, 2010

The miserable career of Guy Ritchie since his two early successes (though it was really just the one repeated, albeit well) in shallow, gangland-pop entertainments is well documented.  Flop after flop of misguided, kaballah-drenched soggy retreads had given the once British wonder boy the air of a has-been one-trick pony, like a novelty pop star desperate to follow up the original success by aping it.  One imagines Warner Brothers decided to resurrect one of the most famous literary characters in the world with the directorial equivalent of the Crazy Frog for at least two reasons:  1.) Recent career woes meant he was cheap and malleable and 2.) Holmes is apparently based in London, and Ritchie did those films that were set in London but were flashy and cool and maybe he could do that here, yeah? Read the rest of this entry »

As the year draws to a close, the last great blockbuster of a particularly good decade of them is unleashed upon us all.  It’s a convenient, albeit entirely constructed, narrative that the greatest single advance in cinematic technology heralds the end of one digit and welcomes the change to another.  Like The Matrix back in 1999, there is little doubt that James Cameron’s Avatar heralds the future of overblown, over budgeted, and overwrought spectacles of the 2010s. Read the rest of this entry »