Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Films I Dislike that Could be Improved Through Further Committment

Dead Poet's Society:
From the get go this story of manipulation of a group of impressionable people by a demagogue reminded me of fascism. Robin Williams' Mr Keating doesn't lead his flock away from conformity to freedom but to just another conformtity: his. After everything that happens we're supposed to cheer the kids for making their stand rather than weep for their gullibility. Put Nicholas Winding Refn in the chair and watch as the real story of localised brainwashing cordons a group of the elite blazer-wearing privileged away from middle class mediocrity to the blazing cult of heroism. It'd make a nice obverse role for Ryan Gosling after his own fall and redemption in Half Nelson. Keep the music the same. If you don't get the irony of its cloying sentimentality as the boys give the parting leader the secret sign then you should find a way out of compulsory voting.

Eddie and the Cruisers:
Imagine Jim Morrison appearing on the scene just before the Beatles break in America but dying in an accident before his big groundbreaker of an album is released. This premise is still intriguing but this early 80s film doesn't seem to realise that sounding like Springsteen on an off night wouldn't sound like the future in 1964, it would sound like musical potato starch. So, do it for real. Have the band go from the Four Seasons to a kind of proto Doors as the central figure takes the same journey from good time music to poetic disgust. Have it sound like pop music straining out of the chrysalis like the first Doors album. Keep it from breaking through with the same kind of intra band politics that smothered Brian Wilson and you get a much more plausible reason for Eddie's death itself to be a controversy.

True life horror unfolds in a diner as a prankster claiming to be a cop manipulates the staff until his chief victim is traumatised for life. The big message was about how we submit to authority too easily but the tone soon became too ugly. The victims' compliance, however factually based, grew so incredible that they were soon cast as deserving of their treatment and the resulting gap was filled with the perpetrator's viewpoint. The sleaze of this is not that we identify with a sicko but we're then supposed to snap out of it and condemn him at the end so everything's ok and we were really on the side of right all along. Phew! Well, commit to it, really commit to the sleaze and sick self pleasure of it. Start, continue and finish inside the bad guy's mind. Cast Will Ferrell so you never know whether to laugh or not until it's too late and you're with him on a nightmare voyage through a dark and terrifying narcissism. Keep the footage of the victims intact. Just don't start with it. Anyone who watches that and has to be reminded at the end that it's bad should be given a list of local psychiatric facilities before something terrible happens.

I had looked forward to this as I was already a Lynch fan after Eraserhead and Elephant Man and really wanted to see what he could make of sci fi and colour. It was just too big for him. Lynch is so much better when he's deep inside the nervous system than out on the open field and this film only proves it. Seeing the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune didn't change my mind in that direction, either. It's like a two hour long "previously on Dune" sequence that highlights all the subplots. Throw those away for starters unless they are directly relevant to Paul's progress from viceregal heir to living god. Have Paul pursue the mystery of himself as though he's on the tail of a killer and you've got something. Anyone who needs to read the book to get the rest is free to, meanwhile here's the companion film. Could be a good Cronenberger.

Animal Kingdom:
This mess was bursting with treasures but you had to  pick through a lot of used marshmallows to get to them. The single most compelling performance was Jackie Weaver's but everything that had to do with the youngest brother seemed to drive the most important scenes. Stick to that. Put mother at one end and son at the other and slowly bring them together through their own stories. Ditch all the sub plots and overlong fates of the other brothers and get rid of the dragging speech that explains the title as there is no need for it. Ben Mendelsohn can still play his super creepy murder scene and Jackie still gets her mother wolf grin at the cop that goes through everyone who sees it. Cast a more believably seventeen looking seventeen year old as Josh and you've got it, a great family crime/coming of age film without the director getting in his own way to let you know how wonderful he is.

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