Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Agree? Disagree? Read this…

Movies and movie reviews evoke strong emotions in some people. In particular, people who love a film sometimes get incensed when coming across a negative review. Over the course of the years, I’ve been called:

• a moron,
• uninformed,
• lacking in emotional depth,
• unable to grasp the point of the film
• and many, many more (I’ve conveniently blanked out the worst ones)

Like, everyone, my views on films often are at odds with others. All films leave viewers divided. We can all agree on this basic premise.

I always respect other people’s viewpoints on film, even when, and especially when, they disagree with mine. I wouldn’t see the purpose in going to someone’s website review and trying to argue that I am right and they are wrong. And I certainly would not be so lacking in self-respect and confidence that I would then need to tack on some insult or derogatory comment to try to convince myself that I am more qualified to judge the film than they.

Let me try to explain something to those that still do not understand where I am going here.

Watching and judging a film is a completely personal experience. Whether you like it or not will depend not only on the film but what you bring to it. It will be influenced by other films you have seen, and by what experiences you have lived through. It may be influenced by your current mood or state of mind.

There is no one who is more or less qualified to review a film. You’ve been to film school? Great! That gives you a different perspective, not a better-than-thou attitude. You’re seen and reviewed more films? Different perspective. Sorry, that’s all.

So why do I post reviews? This is a question that I have asked myself a few times.

First, it is because I love to write, and this is an outlet. I’m not a great writer or the best writer, but I can write to a degree. I write professionally and have made a living from it.

Second, I use other people’s reviews not to argue and seek dissension, but to find people who may have a similar perspective and then perhaps be willing to accept that if they like or dislike a film that I have not yet seen, there is a chance I will agree - and use this as a guide to deciding if I should watch. With my reviews, I would hope the same might occur for others: some people may find that they agree with me more often than disagree, and they can then use my guide.

I’m a movie lover, and my reviews are never meant to dissuade people from watching. Watch, make your own judgment. The ’at a glance’ is meant to be used if you have not seen the movie before. The expanded review is meant to be read after viewing.

Well, that’s all. I see no point in continuing to allow comments, as people who agree rarely bother posting, and people who disagree cannot seem to do so without throwing an insult into their comment. People hide behind the anonymity of the internet to grow bold and to transcend normal levels of politeness – it could be argued that I am doing this as well when I post a negative review, so I don’t fault them for taking the opportunity to do so – but I just don’t see the point of allowing it anymore on these pages.

So read, enjoy, agree, or disagree – but post it on your own blog if you have something to say.

This blog is mine again. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stone (2010)

At a glance:
On one level, Stone is a well-acted film noir about crime, prison, and parole; but beneath, it veers into an obscure sub-text of spirituality, retribution and belief

Our review (with spoilers):
On the surface, Stone has a fairly accessible story about Gerald ‘Stone’ Creeson (Edward Norton), a con  who is trying to get early release by convincing his parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) that he has learned his lesson and done his time. In order to facilitate this, Stone involves his sexy, scruple-free wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce Jack. Jack believes in nothing and is eminently corruptible, despite first appearing to be a by-the-book type of guy. While this surface story is playing out, we get to appreciate the solid performances by Norton, De Niro, and Jovovich.

But besides this tale, which in and of itself amounts to an interesting but not outstanding film, there is some kind of obscure religious/metaphysical allegory. ‘Stone’ is a reference to the beginning of life: we begin as a stone and are reincarnated into more complex organisms. Mabry is evil, and/or a non-believer who will be punished for his sins. Stone is there, perhaps, to offer temptation and to deal out the punishment. At least, that’s my quick take on what may have been alluded to. I could be quite wrong, and that always worries me when watching a movie such as this – one that could be called ‘subtle’, ‘obscure’, or perhaps even ‘open to interpretation’.

I really have no idea if Gerald Creeson had a true Epiphany. His actions, or the way our viewing of his actions are manipulated, would lean toward him being sincere. Did he start the fire that burned down Jack’s house? What horrible secret was Jack hiding – or was the horror simply that of a life led in a vacuum of belief?

The lesson here could also be about living and listening. Jack immerses himself in sounds of spirituality – he constantly listens to religious talk-back radio; he attends church; and he reads scripture and drinks heavily with his sad wife (Frances Conroy). He also listens to prisoners all day. But he does not actually appear to hear any of what is being said.

Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Set up as a familiar noir plot, the film veers off into unexpected places, keeping the audience guessing as to the main characters' motivations well after the credits roll."
- Rob Thomas [Capital Times (Madison, WI)]