Friday, September 25, 2009

AT THE MOVIES

I love movies. Not films, mind you, though I like them, too. Movies. Flicks. Picture shows. (Used to be) Drive-ins. You know, the stuff that Hollywood churns out in mind-numbing quantity and debatable quality every week of the year. Most of it is watchable. A lot of it is forgettable. Some of it is good. Once in a very long while it takes your breath away.

I’m usually not looking for that kind of experience when I go to the movies every Tuesday. I go to be entertained—and for the (almost) free popcorn I earn with my Regal Theaters Crown Card. (If you are a regular moviegoer and you don’t have one you are THROWING MONEY AWAY!) Most Tuesdays I’m not disappointed. I have a good time. The movie and the popcorn are decent. Life is good.

But going to the movies that often can really make you wonder.

For example, was it REALLY necessary to strip Kate Beckinsale and put her in the shower in the first five minutes of WHITEOUT? Beckinsale, of UNDERWORLD shower fame, did a creditable job in her role as a U.S. Marshal “with a past” in a dead-end post at a science station in Antarctica where people start dropping like flies, despite the gratuitous opening scene. The movie paid fair homage to those isolated science station on the ice movies that have gone before it—THE THING comes to mind—and it didn’t give away too much too soon. Best of all, it offered Alex O’Laughlin of the late, lamented MOONLIGHT, in a small, but crucial role. All in all, a good B movie with a decent female protagonist.

Rising a little higher on the scale, both in ambition and in execution, was GAMER, a science fiction flick starring the much more interesting Gerard Butler. The premise was not bad—some genius with more brains than ethics figures out a way to hook up “video” game players to live human avatars (who else but convicts?) in a combat game. The rest, of course, was all DEATH RACE 3000, but who cares when it was Butler’s soulful puss onscreen making us believe it? The acting was first rate, the dialogue well done, even if the plot was a little derivative. And the more it went along, the deeper it got, which probably explains why the fan reviews I read were less than enthusiastic. Not enough exploding body parts for the usual crowd, I guess. I gave it a B+. The only question here was the continuing puzzle of whether Butler’s agent, or Butler himself, suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Which brings me to the overriding question of today’s blog. Both movies were rated R, and justifiably so, for the violence they contained. So why were there children in both of these theaters? And I’m not talking fifteen-year-old boys sneaking in trying to look cool. In the case of GAMER, a man brought a little boy, who looked to be maybe six or seven years old. In WHITEOUT, a couple brought little Suzie and Johnnie, neither older than eight or nine. Nothing those kids saw up on screen was appropriate for them to see.

I don’t blame Hollywood for making the movies that were being shown that day. Everyone involved in making those movies had every right to express themselves creatively as they saw fit. The movies were rated appropriately so that everyone knew what to expect when they went in the theater. So I can only think that the guardians of these children didn’t care that they were seeing what they saw.

It’s no longer a valid excuse to say that the kids know it’s not real. Do they really? The Hollywood effects wizards go to great lengths to make it LOOK real. Hell, sometimes I’M not sure it’s not real! Some pictures you just don’t need to have in your head (especially if you’ve got an imagination like mine!).

And do we really want our kids growing up inured to watching realistic body parts flying through the air and squished heads UP CLOSE! and entrails oozing out of body cavities and all the things that God knows we would protect them from in real life if we could but we can’t always? What kind of world does that lead us to? It’s all very well to say it’s none of my business that those kids were in the theater that day, but what if watching this stuff has a permanent, negative impact on them? Excuse me if I don’t want to have to meet them in a dark alley some night in the future.

My solution? Easy. And very old-fashioned for such a forward thinking person. Make parents act like parents. No kids under the age of 13 in R-rated movies. Period. Let’s start with that. As a compromise to make that go over I’d probably lower the age of consent for R to 16. Hell, they’re sneaking in anyway. Mom and Dad, if you want to go to the movies, you have a choice. Take Junior and see the latest Disney or Pixar offering. Or get a babysitter and go see INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Somehow I think Quentin would agree with me.

LATE NOTE and yet another question for us Skiffy Rommers: News is that the powers that be have set back the release date for THE ROAD, starring Viggo Mortensen, yet again, this time until “closer to the end of the year.” The excuse is that the post-apocalyptic SF film is too much of a downer in today’s economic climate. Do you reckon that SF/SFR in general is seen as too depressing by the marketing types?

Cheers, Donna

4 comments:

  1. Holy cow, and I feel guilty letting my 3-year-old watch vintage Sesame Street because the legal disclaimer at the beginning says it's not for kids, only for old people with childhood TV nostalgia. SESAME STREET, for the love of God!

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  2. I can't disagree on the ratings thing though many parents would probably protest it's their right to take their kids to adult-oriented films (um, should I read between the lines "I couldn't find/am too cheap to pay a babysitter?)

    On the subject of some SF being too depressing, I don't know. Why are run amok robot-thingies turned mechanical creatures not considered depressing, but SF that makes you think or paints a grim picture is? Is the public simply addicted to escapism and hooked on adrenalin-laced science fantasy? Would they rather not view anything that makes them think about where we might be headed?

    It does seem a grim market statement for books, which by their very nature make us think, interpret, imagine and ponder on many levels. Which is, after all, the whole point of reading.

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  3. I guess that's my question, Laurie. Is it the public, really, or just the airheads in Hollywood's PERCEPTION of the public? After all, the reading public regularly embraces books with premises no one would say are "happy"--GARGOYLE comes to mind, or THE KITE FLYER (did I get that right?)
    As far as SF and SFR go, I prefer a more optimistic future and I generally write it that way. And because I write romance I give my characters a happy ending. I just hate to think some agent or editor would dismiss my work out of hand because of the SF tag, thinking it would be a slog through a dark, dismal BLADE RUNNER world to a Captain Kirk goodbye at the end.

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  4. Oh, don't get me started on the evils of "market" but yeah, I think sometimes the perception of what the public wants (movie, reading or otherwise) is a lot different from what they really want.

    Personally I love HEAs or HUSs (Happy Until Sequel).

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