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it's only a movie...

by melpomene whitehead

I hate films. Well, I hate films because I love them and they've have become a constant source of disappointment to me. Even more so than men. I mean, I would like nothing more than to be entertained for an hour or two, to rise above where I am, escape the humdrumness of my right-here reality, yet it seems that there is not one, not one contemporary film or filmmaker that is capable of doing that for me. This is not a gargantuan task, is it? I mean, I can watch Harvey and be brought into this delightful world of the rich insane alcoholic who is followed by a shamanic invisible 6 ft rabbit.

I'm not asking for every film to be Vertigo for cris'sake (forgive me for naming two Jimmy Stewart films in succession. It was purely accidental.). But I go into the video store and all I see is product product product. Here is a film for middle-aged women. Here is a film for my boyfriend. Here is a film for teenagers. And yes, there are products marketed to me, like nowhere. but nowhere is product, and let's face it, the living end was not. Somehow, "Hollywood," that mythic monster that ate Milwaukee, has even managed to co-opt Greg Araki and have him film a soap commercial. (his last movie, whatever it was called, was a product also, but it was just not as slick as we're used to seeing so some mistook it for an indie film.)

Which gets me on the topic of the so-called "indie" film anyway. Shine, an indie film? No, I'm sorry. They Eat Scum is an indie film, Whoregasm and War is Menstrual Envy, Fingered... . Those are independent films. Richard Kern's films are so unwatchable that it's obvious that he is only doing these films for himself. And to get laid. And that, my friend, is the nature of true art. Not a film manufactured to be "uplifting," a feeling brought about solely by certain lighting and swelling music.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum you get garbage like Spanking the Monkey... I mean, we're supposed to be so shocked and appalled by this boy having sex with his mother, but basically I was like, who cares? Like Jane's Addiction said, but I'm sure Perry stole it from someone else, nothing's shocking. And films meant to shock are just insulting and annoying. If there was a "message" in Spanking the Monkey it must have been "don't waste your $3.80"

And don't get me started on Suburbia. Poor Richard Linklatter, he showed real promise. I thought he was going to be the great hope for our generation. Slacker was a good movie. Well shot, well written, with actual thought put into the structure of the movie. It had shape, it had rhythm. But I guess he had just one good movie in him. Suburbia was an insult to anyone who ever was a teenager, because this is NOT how teenagers behave. Or talk. Or look. I mean, I wouldn't begin to pretend to know what goes on in the mind of a black man living in a racist community, so I wouldn't write such a script. Mr. Bogosian, it's been a long long time since you've been a teenager, and a lot has changed. Suburbia was like watching a bad play written by my friend's mom or something. I guess if the point of the film was to make the audience experience the extreme sense of ennui that every suburban teen feels at one time or another, it was successful. Because as I watched it I felt my life just slipping away... .

But eventually the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves. If you agree with me, don't go to see I Know What You Spent Last Summer, or Scream and Scream Again , or Jason Goes to the Mall. Or Shine the Monkey for that matter. You're paying $9 for a 2 hour long commercial designed to make you feel some emotion that I suppose the all-knowing director has decided you've forgotten how to feel. Do you think it's any accident that Verhoven's Starship Troopers, that two hour opus of military fascism, is premiering on the eve of a war with Iraq?
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