Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movies: The Good, the Great, the Unforgettable.

I had a topic. It was perfect: it was weighty, deep, and of great significance. I had a page written already, with sources lined up and some evenhanded, fair analysis of current events by yours truly. Unfortunately, about halfway through I realized that I’d gone badly off course and had somehow began making an argument that contradicted my original point. I pondered synthesizing my conflicted opinions, or stepping back and making it a commentary on paradox and the human condition and all that, but in the midsts of thinking about that I lost interest in the topic altogether. But, resolving that I ought to write something on the blog that I created, I began writing.

“I had a topic," I wrote. "It was perfect.”.... And now you’re up to speed. Let’s see where this takes us!

2011 hasn’t been a great year in movies. There have been some good ones: Source Code; Contagion; Captain America; Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not too shabby, but I’m waiting for the movie that makes me smile just thinking about it. I’m looking for Slumdog Millionaire. Actually, let’s replace “smile” with “feel some kind of emotion” so I can include Black Swan. The best I’ve seen so far has been 50/50, an incredibly solid dramedy starring the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun as a dying cancer patient and Seth Rogen as his foul-mouthed best friend. Very, very good movie, but maybe not Best Picture good. Where’s that movie? Hopefully when the Oscars nominations roll around they’ll turn up some gems I’ve missed.

Have you ever had a movie stick with you? One with a scene or theme that just won’t leave you? More than any other film, on that had that effect on me was a slow-paced, fairly dull independent film called Munyurangabo. I didn’t like Munyurangabo. Don’t have much a desire to watch it again. But I won’t forget it.

Munyurangabo is the story of two boys travelling across a post-genocide Rwanda, one carrying a machete, on a mission, we gradually learn, to kill the man who slaughtered one of the boys’ parents. This is heavy stuff - tragedy, innocence, friendship, loss, forgiveness - but it all gets bogged down in an excruciatingly dull middle section that nearly lost me.

And yet, there is one scene, at the end of the movie, that hasn’t left me. The young protagonist, Ngabo, discovers his parents’ murderer in a small, secluded hut. The man is in a drunken stupor, and Ngabo pulls out his machete, looming over the helpless man. He watches and waits, not speaking but clearly and suddenly unsure how to proceed. After some time and without any words, he kneels down and, pausing again, gives the man water to drink. The scene is filmed without music, typical of the film’s deliberate, low-budget style. No Hollywood movie could have pulled it off with such understated heart, and I think about it as much as any scene I’ve ever seen in movies I like much, much more.

So much for that and for paragraph transitions, but let’s continue on with the movie theme. It’s a matter of scientific fact that the greatest movie ever made is Groundhog Day. Some will try to argue otherwise, but that’s just opinion and superstition; the cold, impartial gaze of Reason tells us that Groundhog day must be superior. Consider: Bill Murray. Existential crisis. The Pennsylvania Polka. Ambiguous timeline. Andy McDowell as Rita. Ned...Ryerson! Needlenose Ned, Ned the Head!

"Within this vial of Bill Murray's blood lies the secret of immortality"

Look, we don’t need to go over this any further; the facts are there and you can take them for what they are. The flat-earthers of the cinematic world will say what they will, but if I had to watch a single movie every day for the rest of my life, you know there can only be one choice.

And that, folks, is a blog post. You’ll forgive my stream-of-conscious writing (oh yeah, Joyce? People can understand what I’m trying to say) and lack of serious editing, because I want you, the reader, to see behind the curtain. For you see, you’ve not only read this post but you’ve had a glance into the writing process itself! You’ve been with me from the start, reading (as it were) as I write, and only a quick spelling/grammar check and my thinking of a good title stands between us. I hope you learned something or were moderately entertained. Thanks.


  1. Good point. I'm waiting for something resembling Oscar material, and so far as I can tell, it's just not out there. At least that means I won't have a chance to be outraged when the movie I loved loses Best Picture.

  2. "Melancholia" might do the trick next month for a movie that moves you.

  3. I think it's telling that movies from this year can, with few exceptions, be classified as either "Comic Book Movies" (Thor, Captain America, et al.) or "Movies Based On 'Board' Games That Should Never Have Been Adapted for Movies" (Real Steel/Rock'em Sock'em Robots: The Movie, Battleship).

  4. Wow. I definitely did not know that Battleship was a movie. Good to know?

  5. Oh, Allan. I am so sorry to have to rob you of your precious belief in the goodness of humanity.

    The only positive to this video is that, afterwards, you can enjoy this Cracked article:

  6. I don't understand. I still need to read the cracked article, but are the battleships fighting aliens? That trailer didn't tell me anything. I'm more pissed about that now than when I thought it was just a sorry excuse of a board game to movie project. Imagine if Clue had taken this route.