I will start by clearly stating I haven’t seen Troy. Nor will I see it. Why? Because I know I won’t like it. Krisia can vouch for this, she hated going to the movies with me because I don’t just want to go to
the movies to be entertained, I want to go for an unforgettable, potentially life-changing experience. I want to go because I know that movies and all works of art can potentially change the way you look at the world, ever so slightly but change it nonetheless. When I heard about Troy, and saw bits of previews, I knew instantly it wouldn’t be the case. Not that I don’t watch movies that are entertaining. I do! I watched and loved and still do love Die Hard, but nothing in my life has ever changed (except my desire to imitate German accents) because of that movie experience.
I’m going to just paste my favorite hate reviews of Troy from Rotten Tomatoes just because I find them very funny:
“Alas, like the famous Trojan Horse, Troy is hollow on the inside. ”
“Director Wolfgang Petersen has managed to construct an epic war film that is devoid of any meaning, passion, or commitment from any of the main characters. ”
“The new epic Troy isn’t a bad film, nor is it particularly good. It’s merely uninspired, uninteresting and unimportant.”
“Buff young hotties carving each other up and crazy old British hams chewing the tent flaps.”
“All of the visual majesty that hundreds of millions of dollars can buy cannot obscure the perfunctory and unsatisfying development of the major characters.”
“A kings and killing, damsels and glory, film that lacks spiritual or cinematographic warmth.”
“It’s a crime that one of the most fascinating stories of ancient literature could be turned into such a dull film.”
“It’ s lost in a sandstorm of directionless mediocrity. Wolfgang Petersen had a thousand to choose from and missed every boat completely.”
“So solemn, portentous and impersonal it calls to mind a quote from the other Homer (Simpson): ‘Your movie is more boring than church.’ ”
“Such a tame and timid epic — it’s all meek to me.”
There are so many movies out there waiting to be made, so many scripts of substance, so many talented writers waiting for their break, I just don’t want to go out and see a movie that’s a 2 of something. A Matrix 2 or Shrek 2 or Mission Impossible 3 or Die Hard 2, 3 or 4 for that matter. To me, it’s just laziness, banking on the fact people liked the first one enough they will want to pay to see if the second one even measures up, or going for more of the same, sort of like the movie
equivalent to MacDonalds: you go there because you know that your Big Mac will taste the same as it did last time. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” as Seinfeld would say. I think you can go to
the movies for art and/or for entertainment, and most movies made in Hollywood are for entertainment, which I guess is why I don’t like it when a mania takes everyone over and all of a sudden you HAVE to go see Troy, or Harry Potter 2 or the next big Blockbuster. Blockbuster has
come to mean for me “the movie that is going to be big this summer because the marketing will make people they HAVE to see it”. That’s probably why I didn’t go see Troy, because it seemed almost inevitable that everyone would have to see it.
I just am writing or expressing myself from the point of view that cinema is a powerful art, and I watch it with that in mind. With a desire to learn more about people and the human condition, with a
desire to be uplifted (which is why movies like Requiem for a Dream, although in all respects a fantastic movie, with the best acting possible, an exceptional script, brilliant cinematography won’t be one of my favorite movies because it’s about something you can learn nothing about, a trite but sensationalistic (and fascinating because illegal) subject of drug addiction, although studied in the most brilliant way, will not teach you anything you can grow from, only something you can be depressed about).
And in case you think it’s a tall order, or that few movies can live up to that, it’s not. At least not for me. I can list you perhaps twenty or thirty movies that have done this to me, that I just absolutely
love. Let me see. I have the list somewhere here…
Passage to India
The Princess Bride
Bridge on the River Kwai
King of Masks
Sex Lies and Videotape
Spellbound (documentary on the National Spelling Bee in the US)
Le Peuple Migrateur (documentary about migratory birds)
The Fifth Element
Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure
Taste Of Cherry
Children of Heaven
Lawrence of Arabia
Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
Something’s Gotta Give
Dancer in the Dark
My Life Without Me
Okay, so some of these movies you might wonder how they made it on the list. The Fifth Element comes to mind, for example. But for me, a movie can be a visual revelation as well. That’s the reason Amelie is on the list. A fantastic script is another reason why a movie would affect me. Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure, a french farce, a CULT classic is that way. Or a story written in a way that completely affects me for weeks afterwards, and usually this is done in movies that are slow and quite
outwardly boring but haunting for weeks or even years afterwards. Taste of Cherry or Solaris are exactly that way. I still think of the issues raised in those two movies very regularly, with Taste of Cherry, the idea of unhappiness under a repressive government and with Solaris, the fine line in the relationship between science and morality (the 1973 Russian original Solaris, not the George Clooney remake). Some movies speak on issues that are so deep and beautiful that they completely affect me. Gladiator, Whale Rider and it’s Chinese equivalent, (in my opinion), King of Masks, all three talk about good leadership (HAHA! I was going to say “moral” leadership but I’ve been ruminating about what that means to me since Nathan’s comment). I could go on about this last topic for about ten pages so I’ll keep it at that, but I can’t say enough about it. The cinematography in Gladiator is also exceptional, another reason why it’s such a good movie. The Castle is probably my favorite movie. It’s a small budget Australian movie about a family and individual rights and freedom, it sounds so
grandiose, when I say it like that, really :) and if you’ve seen the movie you’ll probably wonder “what is she on about??” but the movie is simply brilliantly written, one of the absolute BEST scripts I’ve ever come across (in the same category is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). The Castle is just amazing. I love how the writers have told the story of a working class family, with all its funny quirks and weird idiosyncracies in a tender and loving way so that you laugh with them about their over-encouragement of their fondness for their dogs or the trading post magazines and you never ridicule them. Even at their most funny, they are never ridiculed, and that dignity they give their
characters is something I appreciated so much.
I particularly love documentaries (not manipulative, sensationalistic documentaries like the super-overrated Bowling for Columbine, mind you) but documentaries that I haven’t seen enough of like the excellent Spellbound or Migrating Birds, the highest quality documentaries that in one case, let you see a unusual aspect of society and decide for yourself what you think about it, and in the other, just present to you a miracle of nature, a celebration of life and an uplifting story all in one.
I’ve just been thinking about movies lately.