Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Usual, By Numbers, and The New Crop

Things more often than not work as we expect them to; it’s always nice to be surprised, in a good way, but for the most part, things are pretty much straightforward and what you’d expect. That is, quite possibly, the very essence of being jaded.

Yet, all the same, a small assortment of news stories – the impending resignations or changes in employment of Scott McClellan and Karl Rove, a retired general bashing Donald Rumsfeld in the media, the tram connecting Manhattan and Roosevelt Island losing power and stranding 60+ riders traveling into/from Manhattan – these still have me, on some level, shaking my head. The political stuff isn’t really surprising, and I’m told Rolling Stone has already prepped its next cover story which asks whether George W. Bush is one of America’s worst presidents ever. These same types of commentaries shrouded Jimmy Carter’s presidency as well, but Carter’s intelligence and perseverance in foreign policy after his lame-duck term ended insured his legacy improved after he left office. “W” doesn’t appear to have the ambition, the discipline, the forethought, the understanding or the intelligence that Carter has exhibited, so it could very well be Shitsville for W. and his merry band of flannel-suited men. Personally, I don’t think he’s one of this country’s worst presidents – I’m still waiting on what happens in the next 18 months vis-à-vis Roe v. Wade – but his cache is definitely headed down with a bullet.

Off On A Rant/Tangent

Meanwhile, in less significant news, and in tandem with my thoughts on being jaded, I watched Saw II the other night. I could say I went out to the store and bought me a copy – on Valentine’s Day, even, the day it came out – but that would be a lie. I did what most teenagers and college students do – I downloaded it. Had I not done that, I would have waited til Showtime ran it rather than bought it, but neither here nor there – it was probably worth me picking up a copy in the store, and eventually, I will probably do so. If you’ve seen the first movie, you’ll know that there was a lot of gore, blood, panic, mayhem and violence. Ditto the second film. There aren’t really any spoilers here that I need to explore, but if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll find this to be nearly its equal. The only let-down, of course, is that this sequel, much like those from M. Night Shyamalan, already hits the screen with some expected baggage: you expect blood and gore, you expect a mystery of some sort, and you expect some bizarre, unique twists to stick with you well after you’ve managed the parking lot or the cab-ride back home. It's nice when a movie meets or exceeds these types of preconceived expectations, and Saw II does so.

Needless to say, I’m sort of ambivalent about this whole genre. I’m not referring to the “I Know What You Did Last Sequel” movies, nor am I talking about the “Scream” franchise; those are more about showcasing young talent and less about cinematic statements. I’m more referring to movies like “Se7en,” “Saw,” “Hostel” and “Wolf Creek” (I’d include “Silent Hill” in that grouping but I haven’t seen enough thereof to comment thus far).

The point is that these movies are far from examples of cinema verite; these are movies which are designed not only to frighten with cheap, cat-jumping-off-a-bookshelf-type jumpiness, but with sadistic, twisted motives forcing characters to make repulsive, which-of-two-lesser-evils choices. "Se7en," frankly, was even more disturbing than the other films on this short list because David Fincher, its director, used classical literature, from Dante’s Inferno to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to the Bible, to injecta sense of intelligence and legitimacy into what could really have been merely a bloody, repulsive mess. The essence of this film, and the others on this list, are that they all revel in being twisted. The ideals of retribution, vengeance and justice shine heavily herein, even if these components are, more often than not, covered in blood, ooze and/or sludge.

Saw II, incidentally, was produced by an entity known as Twisted Pictures. The animated logo thereof shows barbed wire twisting and tightening around the letters comprising the entity's name, so even before a character hits the screen, you know what you're in for. I’m not exactly sure when we made that leap from merely looking for some cheap thrills from some ridiculously unbelievable horror movies (Friday The 13th, Halloween, etc.) to these mind-fucking expositions into the darkness of the human soul, but one thing is for sure – we've crossed a line. The past genre of horror movies were more about jumpy, tense, terse, brutal killing -- these new movies attack in ways that are far more psychological; due to technology and a new generation of kids who grew up with the prior genre as their textbook, the physical gore isn't gone, it's just old-hat. Why show someone something gross onscreen when you can imply it and let their imaginations do the work for you?

With the Saw films, assuming one can suspend disbelief for 90 minutes at a time and is open to seeing something on film that one will, hopefully, never witness in his/her own life, they’re worth watching. And even if one cannot suspend disbelief for that period of time, at the very least one can watch and marvel at the degrees we as a society are working to gross out our fellow citizens. If you haven’t seen either of the Saw films, I’d definitely suggest seeing the first one. As far as Se7en, the cast includes Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey – how could it really be bad?

About the only requirements necessary for any of these films is viewing them on an empty stomach and most definitely when it’s dark out – bonus points if it’s rainy and storming.



Kaia said...

MMMMMMmmmmmmm scary movies!! You know i LOVE scary movies - even if i watch with my hand covering my eyes peeking btwn my fingers.

Don't forget rainy and stormy with several candles flickering..

Boogie said...

I didn't forget rainy, stormy with candles flickering on the couch -- that part was better than the movie ;)

Kaia said...

Flickering ON the couch!! Honey - use one of those pottery barn candle holder things on the Coffee Table! You're a fire hazard my love!