Posts Tagged ‘sledge’

A Beginner’s Guide To Spotting Sucky Movies

April 15, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

It’s an age-old conundrum: How can I know if a film is worth seeing, without actually seeing the film?  With ticket prices as high as they are today, it makes sense that consumers wish to know – or to at least have a decent amount of probability – that they will enjoy a movie before they see it.  The goal here is to find the great movies, and avoid the godawful flicks.

I can be of some assistance in the latter half of that puzzle.

Assuming the potential ticket buyer either has no access to the film’s trailer, or is not satisfied with the information found there, it’s a good idea to read the reviews.  Still, reviews are opinions, and those of other people, no less.  How can this be helpful?

The key, dear friends, is in how the reviews are written.

First, a lesson in wording and definitions.  The review words “zany,” “wacky” and “madcap,” exclusively used in reviews of comedies, ironically means unfunny.  Not in a dictionarial sense, but in a real-world sense.  These three words come to a reviewer’s mind when a screen writer’s idea of ccmedy involves such tired images as pie throwing, stop-action sped-up chase scenes, and cartoony sound effects whenever someone is hit on the head with a real-life lethal object, such as a sledge hammer.  Unless you are under the age of six, and have time-portalled back to 1972, this is by no means cause for smiling, let alone roaring with laughter.  This is actually cause for peeking at your watch every three minutes and praying for end credits.  For the wiser set, these buzzwords are code for “Do not even think about coming near this film.  Pretty much, ever.”

And second, the excessive use of ellipses.  Ellipses are those three dots you see in movie reviews, placed between one-to-three-word bullet phrases, such as “. . . a must-see . . . brilliant . . .a classic!”  Now, legally, you cannot misrepresent someone’s exact words.  This is called libel.  Therefore, you cannot change someone’s words and keep quote marks around the phrasing, because they did not actually say what you’re writing.

However, there is a loophole.

Let’s say your film gets absolutely trashed by a respected reviewer.  Well, you certainly don’t want to write the awful remarks into your advertisements, but the conspicuous absence of a review by, say, a Roger Ebert might shout “Load of rubbish!” to the money-holding public, as well.  So what do you do?  Well, legally what you can do is quote a person’s words . . . even if you don’t quote all of them!  Take the above made-up review:

“. . . a must-see . . . brilliant . . .a classic!”

Sounds good, right?  But consider that since some words are missing, this could be an accurate partial quote of the sentence “This piece of garbage film will never be A MUST-SEE in my book!  The BRILLIANT thing to do is to avoid this mess of a movie like The Plague.  Only an escaped lunatic would consider this release A CLASSIC!”

Accurately partial-quoted, but somewhat misleading by the marketing squad, wouldn’t you say?  To be safe, don’t trust a review you can’t actually read.

I hope this tiny cinematic lesson has been of some service.  If I save one human being from sitting through one horrid film, I’ll consider my work here justified.

“Low”: Duvall’s New High

March 4, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

As Hollywood clichés go, “the role of a lifetime” is among the top.  Still, as I was entrenched in the first third of the newly released DVD Get Low, the phrase kept echoing in my head.

Robert Duvall has had a very long and distinguished career.  Along the way, he has actually hit upon several “roles of a lifetime”!  From the enigmatic Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird to Tom Hagen in The Godfather, Parts I and II to Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now to his Oscar-winning role of Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, Duvall has burned a trail of talent across the decades . . . and now, at the age of 80, Duvall gives us Felix Bush in Get Low.

Based on an age-old overtold tale, with no one left to know how much is true, Felix is a Tennessee hermit, self-exiled to his land, and almost never seen in the nearby town.  When he is, the townsfolk cross to the other side of the street, mothers hide their children’s eyes, and men spit at him.  It seems everybody (except the audience) knows about Felix . . . and it ain’t good.

Coming to the end of his life, or so he opines, Felix decides to throw himself a funeral.  He arranges with the local funeral home owners (who are dying for business, if you’ll pardon the easy pun) to arrange a giant gathering and raffle.  Tickets are sold, and the winner is to get Felix’s land, which is rich in timber, upon his actual death.

Among the folks interested in Felix’s new publicized “coming out” is a woman (Sissy [Coal Miner’s Daughter] Spacek) who seems to know who he was before he disappeared from society.  Also, a pastor from another state is asked twice to attend, first by Felix and then by the undertakers (played with deadpan charm by Bill [Caddyshack] Murray and Lucas [Friday Night Lights] Black).  The second time, he comes along.  Through the minister and the woman, we learn that Felix has something in his past to be ashamed of, that he’s never completely faced or conquered.  Eventually it seems that, one way or another, Felix means to come clean at the funeral party.

Laced with humor, Get Low remains a deep and touching character study.  As we learn about the man we don’t understand, we at times fear him, feel for him, pity him, and cheer him.  He is, as we each are, a complex human being, even when only a few characteristics show on the surface.  Remorse, regret and redemption come to the party, as well, and when the end credits appear, we finally feel that we have indeed met the man they call Felix Bush.

If you’re looking for action, sex, explosions and car chases, the cover art for Get Low (a simple shot of Bill Murray sitting and Robert Duvall standing in a field) will surely scare you away.  But if you want to see how intricate writing and subtle acting can truly bring a character to life, see Duvall’s latest triumph.  This “role of a lifetime” . . . no matter how many he’s had . . . is worth seeing!