Saturday, January 22, 2005

Some Originality...PLEASE!!!

Often when I am sitting at my desk at work, or lying in bed at home, I find myself thinking about movies. I did say that one of my frustrations is to be a published movie critic.

I think one of the reason I want to be a movie critic is to be able to shoot witty, left-handed rejoinders at the scores of arrogant, self-important pricks out there, whether online, in print or even on TV that feel that they can lay enough claim to the pulse of the public to predict how well or badly a movie that they like or don't will do. I actually have no problem with their positive prognostications, but it seems to me that too often, when they hate a movie, they predict it will fail rather than just wish it would, or ELSE, and this perhaps is even worse, predict that the movie will make a killing because the general moviegoing public is comprised of morons.

Oddly enough, there is ONE point on which I AGREE with these people, and it is the complete and utter lack of originality in today's Hollywood fare. (Let's be honest; what Hollywood churns out is what most people around the world today watch).

Last year and 2002, Hollywood released over twenty sequels. Personally, I don't count the Lord of the Rings movies as such, but that's only about one movie a year. That there are at least twenty other sequels out there is really sad. And when they're not sequels, they're remakes. I think the saddest thing about this truth is that I really don't need to come up with any scathing or even remotely negative adjectives to describe the state of creativity in Hollywood these days. The figures speak for themselves.

I take some heart knowing that some of the highest earning sequels of all time are the ones that basically reinvented the wheel. I have never seen the original "Alien" movie, but I understand that "Aliens" was almost unanimously hailed as a better film. I have yet to meet anyone that didn't like "Spider-Man 2" better than its predecessor. I know I liked it a lot better. But these are the exceptions to the rule.

You can take your pick of derogatory terms tossed out there: retread, regurgitation, rehash. They've all been used by the critics (and irritating, self-important internet posters) at least twenty times in the course of a filmgoing year, whether to describe sequels OR remakes.

It's kind of flattering, considering I'm Asian, to think that Hollywood is cannibalizing so many of these Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean thrillers for plots, but at the same time it depresses the hell out of me.

The good news is that there actually are some really acutely original filmmakers out there, although they are scattered around the world. I'll give a quick rundown:

Charlie Kaufman- the comic genius behind Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and most recently, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This guy really just stands out insofar as storytelling goes.

Jean Pierre Jeunet- the guy who gave us the whimsy of Amelie. The thing is, you won't see this guy making Hollywood movies anytime soon. His first and only one, Alien Resurrection, ironically enough killed the franchise before the suits at Fox cobbled Alien vs. Predator together.

To be continued (for those of you that actually care)....

Monday, January 17, 2005



told you all I was new at this posting thing...

Anyway, in addition to a typo (or two or twenty) I said "having come from AICN" therefore giving the impression that I am one of those self-important assholes that loves to post there. No, I am one of those assholes who just loves to read what those other assholes love to post, because sometimes I get some pretty juicy news about upcoming movies or comics.

that's all, really.


And here we are: my first legitimate post. That is to say, this is the first post where I do somethign other than say "hey, look, I'm posting."

The beauty of the blog, I think, is that people can post anything they want here, ranging from the banal to the sublime...I'm sorry, but consider me a newbie; I'm still taking it all in!!!

I didn't want to throw my hat into politics or anything remotely highbrow just yet, but having come from I do want to give my two-cents worth on something I feel worth talking about: movie critics.

A lot of people talk about how basketball players like Michael Jordan have (or had) the best job in the world, because they make obscene amounts of money doing what they love.

For my money, though, the luckiest bastards (and in some cases I use that word with more meaning than one) in the world are movie critics and here's why:
1) Their job is to watch movies
2) They get to say whatever they want about the movies they watch,
3) People actually seem to give a shit about what they say, whether their opinions are intelligent or not, and
4) They actually get paid for it.

I think a very good example of a movie critic I'd like to be is Richard Corliss. Of the two principal film reviewers for TIME Magazine (the other being the similarly named Richard Schickel) I can't help but feel he is the more high profile of the two, which, given the stature of the magazine, says a lot. I could be wrong, of course.

Anyway, while I don't necessarily like him, I have to say I really, really love this guy's job.

He doesn't just write reviews; in many instances, he writes pieces. His pieces on Apollo 13 and Batman Returns, the first of which I enjoyed and the latter of which almost put me to sleep, were kilometric as far as movie reviews go, but they were riveting, replete with production notes and stories about their quirky directors and/or cast. The guy gets to go on and on about this stuff, and (as he himself wrote once) gets paid really good money for it.

I think the best part about his job, however, is the part where he gets to play box-office soothsayer. This part just kills me. I don't know exactly how long this guy has been writing movies, because for my part I've only been following him since the late eighties, and I therefore do not know how good his track record has been throughout his career, but I have to say he has missed the mark in just about every instance that I have seen him make a prediction.

In 1991, Mr. Corliss gave a scathing review to James Cameron's operatic action sequel Terminator 2. Bad reviews are okay, but at the end of the day, he went out on a limb to predict that the movie, at the time the most expensive ever made at $100 million, would bomb. Its final gross? $200 million.

In 1997, Mr. Corliss gave, I think, his most famously mistaken prediction: the sinking (box-office wise) of the Titanic. I would refrain from saying more, except for the fact that to this day, Mr. Corliss defends his conviction by saying that the Academy was wrong for choosing that movie best picture of the year, as were the hundreds of millions of people that went to see it. Okay, talk about your sore loser. To me the funny thing is, I didn't even like that movie, and I still think he's a jerk for shooting his mouth off about it the way he did.

In 1999, he predicted that Episode I would bomb. This needs no further explanation.

In 2002, things took a positively comic turn. In an issue of TIME magazine whose cover sported SPIDER MAN (one of my favorite movies of all time), this...this...CRITIC wrote a review of...Episode II??? As if that wasn't offensive enough to people like me who basically loathe the Star Wars prequels, he yet again made a prognostication, this time actually jumping on the bandwagon of people predicting that SWE2 would crush Spidey at the box office. For those of who never actually kept score, Spider Man ended up grossing $403 million in the United States alone, as against SWE2's $310 million. So even when he goes for the statistically safe bet, Corliss ends up with egg on his face whenever he looks into his box-office crystal ball...

...and yet...and yet...not only is he STILL doing this for a living, even after falling FLAT ON HIS SELF-SATISFIED FACE TIME, AND AGAIN, BUT HE IS STILL GETTING PAID OBSCENE AMOUNTS OF MONEY FOR IT!!! HOW COOL IS THAT???

(Didn't I say this spot was aptly named?)

Film reviewing (and not playing box-office guessing games) is actually something of an art, in my opinion. There are those out there that are pretty darned good at it, and there are some who think they are, both in the local and the foreign press.

A good film reviewer, I think, is someone who knows the elements of a movie. Anyone can just watch a movie, but I think it takes a slightly more discerning mind to know how to dissect one. Some of my favorite reviewers are the guys who can casually discuss or mention components of a movie without going out of their way to sound too erudite. Andrew Paredes of the Manila Standard is just such a reviewer, although sometimes he gets a little too imperious for my taste. I've always liked Nestor Torre too. Those are the only two guys I can think of that I really respect. And by that I mean that even if they dislike movies I like, I actually still manage to like their reviews. I also enjoyed Jessica Zafra's reviews (when she did them), not so much for the way she dissected films as for the humor she invariably injected in the reviews. I'm pretty sure there are a number of other local critics I like, but they don't spring to mind right now. The rest of them, in my opinion, are poseurs who probably just happen to know people who know people, which is how they get to foist their opinions on a hapless reading public. Thank God for that feature in the Philippine STAR entitled "My Favorite Movie" where, in an overblown review (hey just like this post) I got to live my dream one Sunday in September 2003.

Anyway, before I descend into my rage against the film reviewers whose thoughts are, to me, not worth the paper they are printed on, I'd rather wrap up thinking happy thoughts, such as how much I enjoy reviews by Roger Ebert, Peter Travers, and Tom Brook (the bald, effeminate BBC guy) even when I don't agree too much with them.

It's nice to know that there are guys out there who know how to do the job of film reviewing, and who therefore do NOT rub my nose in it that I don't get to do what they do.

NEXT: Some of my favorite films of the past year...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

First Post

This is the second blog I've created in as many years.

The reason I even opened this blog is that I cannot, for the life of me, remember how to get into my first blog.

Why did I even feel the need to indulge in this again when the first time around I clearly did not take it very seriously?

A good question. Let me get back to you on that.

At any rate, for anyone out there who reads this kind of thing (and I know a number of you who do), let this be my alpha-male, chest-pounding declaration that "YES, I AM STILL WRITING!!! NO, I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP THE DREAM!!!"

As a token of gratitude to the people who take time to read this post, I will not bore any of you with the pedestrian, such as details of who I am or what I do. As a matter of fact, for lack of things to say right now I am going to cut this blog a bit short.

For those interested, this little spot (aptly titled, in my opinion) will be home to my rants on work, home, politics, raising CHILDREN and all forms of fiction ranging from books to movies to comics. I don't pretend to have all-original, all-new, all-subversive slants on everything under the sun, but like every other person on this planet, I can claim that the ideas I spout here are entirely my own. Who knows, you might find something nice to take home from the chaos of my posts.

Consider that an invitation to stay tuned...