Friday, March 1, 2013

Four Ever More or Less

Yes, it's been a long strange trip for us at Rick's Cafe Texan.  On March 1, 2009, I opened this site, dedicated to reviewing films and sharing my views not just on movies but on the arts and culture high and low.

There have been scandals, deaths, birthday commemorations, some Retrospectives on film series, reviews of television programs.

I certainly did  not expect that I would have spin-offs from this site, but spin-offs I have.

There is my Doctor Who-centered site, Gallifrey Exile.

There is The Index of Forbidden Books, which is where I write book reviews.

Theda Bara:
The Lady is a Vamp
I now pause briefly to marvel at all the movies I've seen, ranging from those made in 1915 to those starting to come out in 2013.  That is nearly a century of film from which to look at.  Certainly not every film made in the silent era is a brilliant masterpiece, nor is everything from this century going to be junk.  Still, I am thankful not just for the journey, but that YOU have accompanied me through the highs and lows this Cinematic Century has encompassed.

I consider it a privilege to be a film reviewer, to be able to share not just my love for those images that flicker in the dark but to also add to the dialogue of this wonderful, insane (and sometimes inane) art form. 

I don't like the term 'critic', because to me it suggests I'm looking for something to dislike.  That's far from the case.

I consider that once we get past the breast augmentation commercials and trailers, I will find myself enjoying the product hundreds if not thousands of people worked on.  I appreciate that for some, they have invested not just their time but their money, their energy, their dreams to put on that screen something they want to be proud of.

Sometimes the end results are astonishing and beautiful.  Case in point: the short film Curfew (winner of the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film of 2012).   In this 19-minute film we got a story that was more charming, more human, more deep, more intelligent and filled with greater heart than something as sprawling and better-financed as Green Lantern.  I could have mentioned another film from 2011, but I promised never to speak of it again. 

Perhaps that's why sometimes, despite all the work that went into a film, I can still be filled with fury when leaving a theater because I sense that the people behind said film have contempt for me.  Such was the case with The Hangover Part II.  I loved The Hangover because I knew what it was: a raunchy comedy but one with intelligence in its premise and one that gave us characters we could care about (if not exactly identify with).  Part II on the other hand ramped up the raunch without giving us the heart.  Instead, it was a horrifying spectacle of three people being so grotesque that I was repulsed by them.  I'm sure the cast and creative team behind The Hangover Part II will protest they worked hard on the film and maybe Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper is proud of his work on the film. 

I however, can't go by intentions.  I go by results, and I found the results of the second Hangover almost evil.

I should state for the record I have no interest or desire to see The Hangover Part III.    

In short, I take this opportunity to dispel the idea that 'critics' go into something to bash it.  I expect to watch a good film, whether it is The Green Hornet or The King's Speech, but I also keep in the back of my mind what the film is trying to do.  Is is suppose to be an exciting adventure, a deep exploration into the dark recesses of the human heart, a frightfest, a source of laughs?  I cannot judge something like Aguirre, The Wrath of God on the same level as I could I Love You, Man, but I'd call both of them masterpieces because they accomplished what they set out to do and did it well. 

Nobody Did It Better

As I enter my fifth (!) year, the advise I would give to anyone who watches movies is as follows.

First, go into everything with an open mind.  You may prefer comedies over documentaries, CGI-dominated films over silent movies, but you have to watch a film based on what it is trying to accomplish, not on what your own personal preferences are.  You may be surprised that you may find yourself more excited over seeing a Greta Garbo film than a J-Lo movie.  You have to give the movies a chance.

Second, you have to stay true to yourself.  Don't be swayed by consensus.  I did not like Skyfall, which puts me in the minority since most everyone seems to have declared it the 'greatest Bond film in the history of the franchise'.  I could just go with the flow and parrot this line, but I would be lying to myself.  I don't think it was hideous, but I can't say to myself that I think it is better than The Spy Who Loved Me or Goldfinger or even The Living Daylights.   However, be able to state your case.  Saying that you didn't like something because, "it sucked", is not a good enough reason.  Be ready to point out where or why something 'sucked', otherwise you have no intellectual legs to stand on.

Finally, a film-viewer should judge the product based on what is on the screen, not on what has come before.  The best example of that is one Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt. 

Seriously, this guy WILL win
an Oscar w/i ten years!
Ben Affleck was not taken seriously as an actor, and with good cause.  Ten years ago, he was a joke. 

In 2003, Gigli was unleashed (released is too gentle a term) onto an astonished world.   People who have seen Gigli are astonished at just how inept everything about it is. I have seen it: it's just awful and wrong in so many ways.  Affleck's 'acting' would have made the cast in Red, White, and Blaine from Waiting for Guffman laugh at its hideousness.  That year also had him star in Daredevil (a film generally despised by the comic book fanbase) and Paycheck (which Phillip K. Dick fans probably don't like either).

Film after film that starred Ben Affleck was bomb after bomb: Surviving Christmas, Reindeer Games, Jersey Girl.  I offered that Ben Affleck was Box Office Poison: someone people did not want to pay to see. 

For better or worse Affleck brought a lot of this career implosion on himself.  He chose films that were geared to make him an action star, and whenever he attempted to be deep, it resulted in him crying on screen, so much so that my one-sided nemesis Richard Roeper mocked him with a chapter in his book Ten Sure Signs That A Movie Character is Doomed under the heading 7 Movies in Which Ben Affleck Cries Like A Big Fat Baby.  Even now, few people were overwhelmed with his acting in The Town or Argo (and frankly, he's as Hispanic as Alexander Skarsgard).

However, the guy has made three great films as a director: Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo.  He may be a lousy actor, but he's turned into one of the best directors around.  Believe me, I'm as shocked as everyone else.

I have learned in these four years that films and filmmakers (both in front and behind the camera) can still surprise me, so I think on that every time I think I might not like something (I admit, I enjoyed The Vow), or dislike something I thought I would love (Amour left me cold). 

Now for our conclusion.  First, I'd like in the future to be brief (given I started this post to be a short thank-you note, that is something I need work on).  Second, I'd like to be more productive.  That second goal might be harder than the first: I hope to go to grad school and delve deeper into my own writing, two things I've been putting aside for far too long.

I won't stop writing about film and television: I love it too much, but I fear I might have to cut back.

However, as I enter Year Five I take the opportunity to most of all, thank YOU: The Readers.  All of you who've kept up with the thoughts and musings of someone whom you might not always agree with, but whom you found something interesting enough to stop by Rick's.

I am humbled and honored beyond anything I could express.  I love movies and television.  I love writing about movies and television.  I consider all of you who read Rick's Cafe Texan and the sister sites as partners in this extraordinary journey to finding great films/television/books and avoiding the lousy ones.

From the depths of my soul, I thank you all for joining me.  I hope I have made it worth your time. 

Yes, it has been a long and strange trip, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.
To 2013 and to all those films
that await to be discovered.

Thank You for These Four Extraordinary Years. 
Thank You and God Bless...


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