Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hostel 2005


Eli Roth doesn't like you.

Don't worry, he doesn't like me -- I'm female -- any more than he likes his own sex. Or foreigners. Or homosexuals. Or anyone, it seems.

How could he, when he has so little respect for his fellow man that he asks you to believe, quite seriously, that European women are so desperate to meet mindlessly horny Americans (and Roth painstakingly ensures we understand just how mindless and horny) that they'll practically hand their panties over as soon as they do?

Let's see, we've got Yer Average Mercenary Tramp or Yer Average Virginal Victim. 'Nuff said. They both scream a lot, but for vastly different reasons.

For the middle third of this mess: our very own Cornucopia of Xenophobia and Homophobia. After all, every gay man I know, Roth (all but) asks us to swallow with wide-eyed innocence, begins a relationship with a nice sudden cop to the joint? No? Alright then, where would any self-respecting story be without gruntingly illiterate locals, who serve no more purpose than to direct visitors to Punani Paradise and Hashish Heaven, found a short train ride away? Do watch out for those all-too-common packs of roaming kiddies though. Oh, yes quite the thing around these primitive parts, he seems to insist.

And amen, with the final third, it's almost over, and we find someone loves us after all: the special effects guys, also known as KNB EFX Group, better known as Greg Nicotero and the Gang (ok, well to me, at least), the people largely responsible for showing us gory love with the likes of "Land of the Dead", "The Amityville Horror" remake, "Sin City", and "Kill Bill" Vols. 1 & 2.

As has been previously stated, I'm of the mind that if you're going to make a horror film, be a man and serve it up hot and fresh with some fake eyeballs, buckets o'blood and a decapitation or three. I enjoyed the much-maligned bloodfest, and this is one area where Roth has at least learned from his mistakes: let the big boys handle it and get the hell outta the way.

What does it all mean, dear? I couldn't stand anyone in this film, and the only true pleasure I got out of it was watching them get picked off, one by one and in horrifyingly creative ways, thanks to Greg et al.

Which does not make up for the mindless, masturbatory blather I sat through to see it.

In short: as deep and meaningful as popping a zit. Sure, you can't help but look, but after you have....eww.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Director as visualizer...

Why do so many movies have so unsatisfying stories these days? There are many reasons to be sure. I think one is because the current crop of directors that populate the Action genre are really visualizers and not storytellers. You always hear that a movie is a story told visually. And that's true but for a movie to work the visuals must contribute meaning. They must serve the story that the screen play is trying to tell and not be an end in themselves.

To many action sequences are shot not because they contribute this meaning but because the visuals are stunning and the stunts and CGI create a spectacle that the movie studio's can then market and sell to an audience. Examples of this would be the wave in "A perfect Storm" or the White House being demolished in "ID4"

It takes a special talent to read a screenplay and be able to visualize the movie from it. I don't think that any director sets out to make a 200 million dollar vanity action sequence for themselves. I do believe that everyone sets out to make a great movie. But I also believe what goes wrong is the way this new crop of Action directors pick the movies they want to make.

They receive a screenplay. They read it. They try to visualize the movie they could make from it. When they do this they revert to their natural tendency to emphasis the visuals. The story calls for a chase in the London Underground. Now maybe they have been to the London Underground and had a idea about a unique way of shooting a chase scene down there. So they start concentrating on how they would do it. What the shots would be. How they would technically be able to get that close-up of the hero's face while the train screams by at 100 miles an hour.

Or maybe they have seen a million of chase scenes in the London Underground. They are board by it. So they think to themselves how can I jazz this up so it's exciting to me and everyone else. They hit upon and idea like this incredible train wreck with unbelievable CGI. The movie studio now has a hook to sell the movie and poof the movie is green lit.

But the problem is they have already lost the reason why the scene is there in the first place. Why are the characters chasing each other. How is the sequence set up by the motivations of the characters. How do the hope and fears of the characters play into the scenes. What is at risk for them and what is to be gained. And most important how does this sequence propel the story forward and not stop the story dead in it's tracks. How does it contribute meaning to the story and the character's arc's.

It takes a special talent to hold all these idea together at once and not let one overtake the others. You must have meaning and spectacle together. And the directors that can do that are the ones making worth while Action movies today.