Sunday, July 01, 2007

Knock Out

So, to conclude this whole wonderfully dorky experiment with movies and our views on them, here a few quick things to digest:

1) The highest ranked AFI movie that Brent and I both left off of our list: Gone With the Wind at #6.
Brent's already explained how Titanic is merely our generations version of Gone with The Wind and if, for some reason, that isn't enough for you to agree with leaving it off the list, let me just say that I enjoyed watching Gone with the Wind because my younger brother and I sat eating candy for three hours cheering Sherman and damning Vivien Leigh so loudly that the neighbors complained. Frankly my dear, I really don't give a damn.
(Other popular picks that Brent and I paid no attention to, 2001: A Space Odyssey, It's a Wonderful Life, E.T., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)

2) The highest ranked movies that Brent I listed that AFI did not were both at numbe 10 on our lists: Brent's Blue Velvet and my Hoop Dreams both missed the cut. I'm not sure why Brent's isn't there, and I'll vent about the absence of Hoop Dreams in a minute.

3) I had 57 movies on the AFI list, Brent had 39 (between us 65). That's actually not something to brag about, I'm just a dork who likes this sort of thing, and you're apparently a dork who reads this sort of thing, so I thought you might be interested...though probably not in dating me any more, right?

4) There are plenty more debates to be had about this kind of thing, and doubtless Brent and I have proven ourselves to have both the time, energy and inclination to waste our lives in pointless banter for our own amusement. The greatest directors? Actors? Actresses? Comedies? There's plenty to bring to the table. The most overrated movie (clearly we're both thinking Gone with the Wind) the most underrated movie (That Dr. Strangelove is our combined number one, and yet rates below a movie I put on at #99 and Brent utterly despises should be a sign), the most overrated underrated movie, the most underrated overrated movie (Ordinary People? Not better than Raging Bull, but not the crap everyone thinks it is), Action movies, date movies, and the kind of movies that let you know: Hey-this-is-a-person-I-should-hang-out-with-more (my sister-in-law's idea).

There's time for all of those, and if we've drastically misjudged our audience, if there are in fact a throng of people out there loving these posts and eager to join the discussion just post a quick comment saying what you want us to argue about and we will argue about it.

But lets start with this.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why documentaries were not allowed on the AFI list. I've been trying to figure it out for weeks now.

*Is it because it's not as great of a challenge to simply record life and then edit it into a story, but it is a great challenge to meticulously force life to look like what you want it to?

*Is it because actors and actresses in several pounds of make up wearing thousand dollar costumes on elaborate sets, often with the aid of technical assistance tell us more about our lives then we do?

*Is it because there are only a handful of documentarians and their subject can usually step right back into their normal lives without missing a beat but there are thousands of people for whom movies are their lives and they would like to congratulate eachother rather than opening up to the people actually in touch with the real world?

Whatever the case, documentaries are not allowed. And that is a shame. I don't think that Hoop Dreams is the best film ever made, but I think it comes closer than most movies I've seen. Even ths techinical aspects, the editing, the camera angles, the sound effects, they all combine to make three hours pass like three minutes. I love the other movies on my top 10 but why isn't Hoop Dreams even allowed to compete?

I could go on more, about how sports is a great way to view the American experience (witness Raging Bull #1 for Brent, #3 for me, #4 for AFI), or about how the American dream is best demonstrated the people who don't have anything rather than the people who have everything (probably why I root for Arthur and William and want Scarlett and Rose to suffer some brutal torture), but instead I'll pivot this topic to another one that's been bothering me.

Is Michael Moore a talented film maker or a moronic toady who intentionally harasses people into making a profit for himself?

I can't believe I'm asking that question. I'm a Democrat. I'm a liberal. I'm for Universal Health Care, and better public schools, and I'll gladly pay higher taxes to do so. I'm embarassed by the government's allowances for guns, and willingness to go to war, I should agree with Michael Moore, so why is it everytime he comes out with a movie I'm tempted to go write a check to the RNC?

Perhaps it's because of my love of Hoop Dreams. There you have a real story, unedited, unvarnished, unchanged from what happened in real life. The directors became part of the lives of two boys, talked with their parents, heard their pain and eventually helped pay for some of their college tuition.

Michael Moore takes real life, and jams his fat bloated face into every frame, forcing the rest of the people in his little drama to pay attention to him and to emote and react to what he's talking about at any given time. He looks like he cares on film, but you have to ask yourself, who really wants him there?

I shudder during Farenhiet 9/11 when the mother breaks down in tears in front of the White House because I think (perhaps too callously) that Moore kind of wanted that to happen as a means to prove his point, whereas, when William Gates breaks down near the end of Hoop Dreams because he has yet again failed to get his team to the state tournament, the camera stays farther away, not forcing itself into the moment, simply showing him and his family, for no point other than to reflect what matters to people, even if it's as simple as a basketball game.

Or consider Bowling For Columbine when Moore antagonizes Charlton Heston, misleading him at first to believe that he's a good ol' boy with an NRA card, and then holding up a picture of a little girl in an effort to emotionally blackmail the old fuddyduddy. Steve James (one of three directors of Hoop Dreams) is heard only once in the whole movie, asking one of the boys to read him a paper he has written about the life cycle of the butterfly.

I think what makes me maddest about Michael Moore, and most eager to go running to the very people he and I both disagree with, is that he seems to be spurning the good work that other documentarians actually do. He makes oodles of money and gets tons of national press for being selfish, egotistical, callously explotative and atagonistic, while the really good documentaries sit on shelves becuase they show life and leave it at that. Sure, there are exceptions (March of the Penguins, and the smash SuperSize Me most notably) but there's plenty to be celebrated in real life, with real people and film makers who endeavour to show our world to us unvarnished by the glamour of Hollywood, and to ignore them in favor of a man who twists things to his own ends (no matter how much I agree with them) strikes me as foolish.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Aly said...

supposedly you are supposed to add me to the contributors of this blog according to brent,