MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

May Review

We’re one month into the season of blockbusters and I’ve found that the only thing that has tired me about the summer movies has been the hype surrounding them. The truth of the matter is that most movies aren’t wonderful or terrible; a lot of them fall into the middle area and the same goes for summer films. With three more months of this coming at us and my rearview mirror littered with the blockbusters of May, I’m astounded that my reaction to almost every major motion picture I’ve seen is “eh.” Maybe I had judged the spring a little too harshly, because I would take Forgetting Sarah Marshall orParanoid Park any day over the films I’ve seen in May. And that is not to say that the films I saw were terrible, just unbelievably mediocre.

With at least one big movie in new release every weekend, I figured it would be an embarrassment of riches, that I would find myself with a big smile every weekend, darting in and out of movie theaters to see the latest smash. Perhaps it’s a matter of getting older or having lived through too many too hyped summers, but I’ve found myself walking into theaters not hoping for home runs, just a solid double. Most of what I’ve taken in has been like a sacrifice fly; sure it does its job and scores the run, but it doesn’t really raise my batting average and it doesn’t even really count as an at-bat. Basically, the conclusion that I’ve come to after seeing twenty films this month is this: summer is the time for predictable movies.

Now, I’m not at all disparaging movies that are predictable. In fact, there is a certain comfort in being able to see six moves ahead of the characters on the screen. But when I’m watching film after film that are that easy to figure out, it gets to be a little underwhelming. And that led me to my other conclusion: most people don’t see every summer film; that I’m actually an oddball for seeing every one. Most people pick and choose which genres appeal to them and see only the films in their wheelhouse, but as a cinephile I see everything and as a result of sheer numbers, I’m not going to be as entertained.

Still, I can’t help but feel like this was the summer of near-misses. Speed Racer and Iron Man and Sex and the City and Prince Caspian, in particular, were all films that I felt could have been better than they were. Part of the problem in each of those films is that they dumbed themselves down for mass consumption; each of those films was attempting to reach an audience larger than it had ever reached before and as a result, all of those films lose what made the source material special.

Prince Caspian, for example, was difficult to watch because I thought The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was something different; sure, the first Narnia film was a little heavily steeped in Christian mythology, but that’s what the story was and to take that part out of the story would leave its foundation a bit unsteady. Prince Caspian, which eschews much of the theology so prevalent in the first film, is thus just a regular fantasy tale that doesn’t have the same sense of wonderment or adventure that the first one did. It was reminiscent of The Golden Compass, which took out all of the anti-religious sentiment that was inherent in the book and thus left a giant chasm where that material used to be. By removing these things, you’re removing the essence of the story and what made people so interested to begin with.Prince Caspian isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a rousing one or one that I care to revisit; it is a mere shrug of the shoulders and nothing more.

Iron Man, based on a comic that I never read, was probably the most fun I’ve had
in the theater this summer – but that’s not really saying much. It was a good, solid action film with a great vampy performance by Robert Downey, Jr. but it also isn’t all that different from many other superhero films. The performance by Downey Jr. is the only thing that separates Iron Man from Spider-Man or Superman or any other Man. It’s on the level of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character, seemingly out of place in this gigantically budgeted film, but the rest of the film is strictly by the numbers. If only the rest of the movie was on the level of Downey’s performance, it might have been something really special on the level of the firstSuperman; instead it’s like the first X-Men film, something that is passable but leaves you hoping that the sequel improves upon what you just saw.

Speed Racer was a film that nearly gave me a seizure, but it’s one that I’m pretty sure wasn’t made for me. This was a movie designed for kids and possibly their parents that enjoyed the anime show; I fall somewhere in the middle there and I think when you’re making a family film, it’s hard to appeal to the teenagers and twenty-somethings if they don’t have a connection with the source material. I admire what the Wachowskis accomplished, but I think they could have easily made the film PG-13 and deepened the relationship between Speed and Trixie or showed us the darker side of Racer X a bit more. I think the Wachowskis went for a home run here and that’s admirable, but sometimes when you swing that hard, you miss the ball completely.

Sex and the City was a show that I had mixed feelings about, but at the end of the day it was something that I grudgingly loved. The film decides to exaggerate every character to the point of caricature and make these women so unrecognizable to the fans who followed them for six years. I’ve written quite enough about the show, but my disappointment with the movie was something that shocked me; it was as if Michael Patrick King forgot who he was writing about and he ruined relationships that had already been given happy endings just to give us different happy endings and in a two and a half hour film, he manages to give a lot of important subplots short shrift.

But when I walked out of the Sex and the City film, all I could hear from the crowds of women that surrounded me was how much they liked it, how their expectations were so high and the film fulfilled them. Come to think of it, it’s the same reaction that I heard from the crowds atSpeed Racer, Iron Man, and Prince Caspian. Perhaps if I had devoted my excitement to just one film this summer, I would have been more satisfied by what they gave me. Maybe I should aspire to be a movie monogamist.

Alas, I’m destined to be like Samantha Jones, a movie slut, going from film to film in search of true love and doing the disappointing walk of shame home.

– Noah Forrest
June 3, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon