Saturday, October 1, 2011

In The Dark But Out Of The Shadows

At Last, A Place In The Sun


I Love Movies.

For me, movies are not just entertainment (although they are entertaining).  Movies are a gateway to new ideas, new worlds, where imagination is the only limitation one can find.  My firm belief is that too many good movies are being ignored or forgotten, while many bad movies suck the life and cash of people.  Rick's Cafe Texan is my small contribution to the dialogue.  Two dates are important in the development of this, your humble blog.

March 1, 2009.  I opened Rick's Cafe after having written a couple of movie reviews for the Esperanza Acosta Moreno Regional Library Branch blog.  Ten days later, I publish my very first review for the film Watchmen (which you shouldn't watch).  Although two years and seven months have passed since that first  post it truly has gone by so quickly I can scarcely believe that I have written over 400 posts (443, not counting this one). 

Not all of them have been reviews of films; among those postings are reviews for television programs ranging from Doctor Who to Franklin & Bash, birthday tributes, remembrances of those who have died, my private thoughts about film/television-related news (anything from sequels to series/franchises), personal reflections on film-related news (ditto), cultural critiques (in particular my thoughts on candidates for Kennedy Center Honors), and on occasion, just a ramble or two about something in the current culture (with a heavy emphasis on the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan...don't know why that issue keeps coming up). 

There are certain things I love in film, certain things I hate.  I think 3-D is the work of the Devil.  I detest voiceover narration (with certain exceptions).  I am not a fan of films that lecture me about current socio-political situations (even if I agree with their viewpoints).  I am not a fan of dubbing foreign-language films (unless the original actors are brought in to recreate their roles, with animation being the exception).  My biggest pet peeve is twofold: when adults bring children to R-rated films and having to sit through endless commercials before the trailers, let alone the films themselves.  Trailers I can accept: that's been going on for more than sixty years.  However, having to endure watching commercials for breast enlargement or auto insurance (even if it does have that cute pig squealing wee-wee-wee all the way home) is a source of endless frustration. 

That doesn't compare to seeing six-year-olds watching The Hangover Part II (or even The Hangover) while their parents appear oblivious to how this is not appropriate for their child.  I don't have any children (though not for a lack of desire...what joy to have my son/daughter besides me, watching as they discover the greats), but somehow, the idea that adults wouldn't bother reading about films, or worse, take their tykes to something only because THEY want to see it and don't want to spend the money on a babysitter is to my mind the height of irresponsibility.  Parents, there are films made specifically for children.  Trust me, you can sacrifice an hour or two for their sake; they shouldn't be sacrificing for yours.  After all, sacrifice is part of being a parent.  Even I know that (at least my parents keep reminding me of that, but I digress).

I haven't mentioned what I love about film.  Basically, it is the discovery of things I did not know, anything from the life and death of a rap superstar (Notorious) to the power of a love story disguised as a spy thriller (Notorious).  I wouldn't have thought that a documentary about a Formula One racing car driver would be something I would like, but I did (Senna).  I didn't imagine that an animated film would move me to tears, but it did (UP).  I didn't think a silent film would make me laugh so hard I would be almost rolling on the floor, but it did (Safety Last!).  All these films have given me insight into new experiences, new ideas about what film can be and do. 

It brings to mind when I had the good fortune to travel to London and Paris last year.  Within that week, I not only made some wonderful friends (curiously enough, a good number of them from New York), but also expanded my way of thinking.  Travel makes you less insular, gives you a greater perspective.  Where else could I have found a Bollywood-loving Indian Muslim from South Africa with whom to discuss Satyajit Ray with?  In that week, I met people with different views and life experiences, and I hope I was able to show them something of my views and life experiences and broadened their worlds too.  Likewise, with Rick's Cafe Texan (and its spin-off...wow, I have a spin-off, the Doctor Who review site Gallifrey Exile), I hope to do the same when it comes to film. 

My primary goal in regards to film is to get people to try new things.  For those for whom Jason Statham is the height of acting prowess, I want to show them the glories of Federico Fellini and the sheer power and brilliance of Citizen Kane and Casablanca.  For those who think the only good films come from the Criterion Collection,  I want to show them the greatness of Forbidden Planet, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the joys and pleasures of the Planet of the Apes movies (except for the 2001 remake--awful piece of trash). 

I hate film snobs: both those who think Captain America is dumb because it's based on a comic book and those who think Battleship Potemkin is boring because it a silent film.   Both are snobbish in their own way because both dismiss a product offhand, with no reason other than that it isn't what they consider 'good film'.  Good film is the result of many factors: director, writer, actors, cinematography, emotional impact.  A film should be judged based on what it attempts to accomplish.  The Hangover is not attempting the same thing as The King's Speech, but both are wonderful because both achieved their goals (a lot of laughs for the former, an inspirational true story for the latter) and achieved them well. 

Even when it comes to bad films, you can enjoy them.  I love Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Dr. Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine, and Monster-In-Law.  Those are some of my guilty pleasures, but I know they are bad films (or at least, nowhere near All About Eve or Battle of Algiers).  I enjoy them because I think they are silly and goofy.  I think of them as that extra slice of chocolate cake that will only make you fat but is just too tasty to pass up.  I think of it this way: we're all sinners, and those are some of my sins. 

Now, to the second date.

September 20, 2011. On this date, I am officially accepted as a member of the Online Film Critics Society, which means that I am considered a full-fledged official film critic.  I can't fully express the joy I feel at this.  I could say that it is a dream come true, but in truth, it was a lot of hard work.  Those movies ain't cheap, you know.  Just as I could discover something wonderful, I could also suffer something awful.  Ever try sitting through The Last Airbender, Elizabethtown, Howard the Duck, Letters to God, MacGruber, Valentine's Day, Made of Honor, or Sanctum?  Wouldn't recommend it. 

How many films have I seen that have been so plain hideous?  Both Green Lantern and The Green Hornet come quickly to mind (as does the abysmal The Hangover Part II--a film I shall truly hate for all time).   At the end of The Green Hornet, I shared with Brother Gabe what I thought of it.  I said, quote "This is the biggest pile of shit I've ever sat through" (for some reason, when Brother Gabe repeats this story, he adds the word 'most' in front of 'biggest', which is grammatically incorrect and something I wouldn't phrase like that, but I love the guy, and I digress).   For those who know me, I don't use that kind of language, but I was so angry at The Green Hornet that it forced me to call it as I see it.  Of course, at the end of The Hangover Part II, I found an even bigger pile of shit (which I didn't think possible).  There would have to be something akin to The Last Airbender for me to find a film even worse than The Hangover Part II (my choice for Worst Film of 2011), but again, I digress.

There's no money in this gig.  I do it for the love of the art, as my mother would say.  Now that I'm a full-fledged film critic (though I prefer the term 'reviewer', because 'critic' implies that I'm looking for the bad when I merely want to say what works and what doesn't in terms of a movie), I won't change my voice.  I'll still be the slightly cantankerous bourgeois Hispanic Lutheran I've always been.  If it means going against the grain (for example, hating The Tree of Life when most critics love it or conversely recommending The Expendables when most appear to think it trash), so be it.  I can only write from my perspective, judging a film on its own merits.

I thank all the readers, all six official followers, and all those that have passed by Rick's to read and even to post your own comments.  I am humbled that you have taken to my words, sometimes finding major fault with my views and taking me to task for them, sometimes agreeing with me and enlightening me with your own wisdom.  On that you can rely: I will always say what I think and not apologize for it.  I won't color my views to fit the times, for that would be being false, and to thine own self be true (forgive if I misquote). 

My motto for Rick's Cafe Texan and on my views on film in general have been and continue to be the words Orson Welles closed with when receiving the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award:

To the movies, to GOOD movies, to every possible kind!

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