Loss of Subtlety

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Subtlety has escaped Hollywood. Hollywood, however, is a representation of what the market will bear. Market being the peeps. Us. What we’re likely to pay a whopping twelve bucks to watch.

To be more homogenous, movies must have:

• Action • Suspense • Romance • Mystery • Redemption • Revenge • Comic relief • Strong female lead • Coupled by a backward-thinking male lead who learns to love the strong female lead finally realizing that she’s his everlasting soul mate for all time and beyond • A chase scene either by foot, car, truck, or air, with shoot outs that lead to a climactic battle between God and Satan, where armies of orcs, elves, muggles, wizards, witches, followed by mere men and women, and a child who was born with a butterfly tattoo preordaining her to cure the virus that has threatened life as we know it and must complete a special training that will make him (wasn’t it a her?) nearly invincible (nearly because we have to have tension in our epic fog of a story) • And a Hollywood ending where the child cures Satan of his issues, and both God and Satan float off into the sunset • The End

Ebert and Scorsese

Ebert and Scorsese

One of the things I do is read reviews of movies, Roger Ebert being my favorite. They don’t have any bearing on what I watch. But I can learn a lot about story telling by people’s likes and dislikes, and they’re fairly common. As a story teller, the market is important to a certain point. But as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers has proven, good content creates the market. We see this in the explosion of wizardry and horromance in the media today.

I see you

I see you

When reviews are either good or bad cohesively, there may be some merit. On Fandango, I had looked up the times for Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Matt Damon. Part of the movie was filmed in San Francisco in an apartment building my friend lives in. So it was cool hearing stories of how filming went.

Fandango had a rating of yellow, meaning most of the people who saw the movie thought it was “so-so”. That’s the middle rating. But Jackass in 3D got a bright green rating, the top, a “must go”. A red means “oh no”, stay away or lose two hours of life you can never get back.

Most people complained Hereafter was slow and uneventful. But you can’t have a good story with substance based purely on the afterlife. You may point out Paranormal Activity, but it’s just cheap thrills. Would you stay in a house that haunted you for any length of time? I’m brave. But I ain’t that brave. And none of the Paranomal movies explored why they stayed or what issues being haunted brought up. It represents nothing. It's like going to a strip club, paying to get a hard-on, then walking home with with no relief.

Not that I know of those kinds of naughty, naughty things.

A good story with substance uses something as the backdrop, like the afterlife, to show case interpersonal issues. Hereafter does that from three different perspectives: a psychic who can communicate with the dead, a journalist who had a near death experience, and a boy who yearns for his dead twin.

Work it, work it

Work it, work it

A good example of backdrop is Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan. I never knew why until I started to study story. James Bond is a classic character. He's suave. He likes all women. He sleeps with all women he desires. He likes his drinks to be shaken, not stirred. He can get out of any situation. He's a master fighter, can wield any weapon made available, and is witty.

But as a character, he never changes.  He doesn't go from having no confidence to being confident. He doesn't realize the error of his ways. He doesn't learn to be loyal because he already is. He doesn't have any bad qualities.  Qualities that a writer can hang his hat on to change.

Except for one. He's emotionally detached to the women he's intimate with. He never falls in love. Then Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, shows up in Royale. She's confident, brash, reads Bond for who he is, and just as every bit competitive. Through their competitiveness, Bond falls in love with her. A huge change in both character and in the movie. When Vesper dies, he must struggle with the pain, something all humans go through. As a result, Casino Royale is one of the best reviewed Bond movies.

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Girlfriend Experience

One of my favorite critics is Roger Ebert.  I've watched his show Siskel and Ebert, a TV movie review show that made the two thumbs up famous. On hissite, he had reviewed a movie call TheGirlfriend Experience. In meandering around Neflix, I had come across this movie that stars Sasha Grey, directed by Steven Soderbergh, director of the Ocean's Eleven movies, The Informant starring Matt Damon, just to name a few.

Suggestive Poster?

Suggestive Poster?

GFE is filled with unknown actors except for one, Sasha Grey. She is a porn star. Don't ask me how I know this. I just happen to be really smart. Ahem. GFE is an actual term used by escorts who give the girl friend experience. They usually charge by the hour or clients can arrange overnight stays, which seemed to be Chelsea's (Grey) bread and butter.

According to Ebert's research on IMDb, Grey has starred in 161 adult films, and she now has her own company managing other girls. I've done no research into Grey.  That is a lot of movies.  I know guys who haven't had sex that many times.

For Soderbergh to choose a woman who has sex for money to play a woman who has sex for money seems obvious. But why choose Grey? Mainly because of who she is and the depth she carries. Further proof of depth was revealed when she listed her top five movies on Current's Rotten Tomatoes show.  I've heard none of those movies because most of them were foreign films.  Her explanation of why she chose them indicates her depth.

Porn stars are not known for their acting ability, nor are they even required to. And for a woman who I think would have thick skin, Grey plays Chelsey with a level of sensitivity and vulnerability.

The movie takes place during the 2008 presidential election, follows her through several of her transactions, while following her boyfriend's as well. He's a personal trainer who's trying to get a clothing line up and explores more lucrative job opportunities.  Chelsey's clients talk mainly about the downed economy, telling her what she should do with her money.  I couldn't help thinking how we're all selling a part of ourselves. Chelsey may be selling her body, but how many of us work in meaningless jobs, selling parts of our souls.

The character arch seemed to be a tragic one. We're lead to believe that she is special, that she's the creme of the crop in the escort industry. But as the film moves along Chelsey realizes that she's not. A bit depressing since we get the same sense that her clients are also nothing special despite their wealth. Chelsey is expensive.

I liked the movie. It's was an experimental film by Soderbergh. Did I need to see it? I guess so, having watched it.