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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Film as condiment

As long-time readers know, I watch a lot of films, mostly on DVD. Summer is not a particularly good season for film, though I occasionally catch a good one that I missed in the winter. Starting next week, I'm also teaching "Global Politics Through Film" again.

Recently, I read a review that was not at all kind to summer "popcorn movies." Indeed, in the June 16 edition of The Nation, Stuart Klawans wrote disparagingly of films like "Speed Racer":
And how does it feel to be the chimp, watching this nightmare of saturated primary colors? Save your money and find out at home. Have someone squirt ketchup and mustard into your eyes for two hours.
I missed that movie, but Klawans also turns his attention to one that I did catch -- the latest Indiana Jones. In fact, Klawans asserts that director Steven Spielberg's earlier "Jaws" "first laid the hot dogs on the grill" for such "filmmaking-by-condiment."

Even more vitriol is reserved for colleague George Lucas, as Spielberg is partly redeemed by films like "Munich" and "Minority Report."

Here are two specific criticisms worth noting in Klawans's critique of the latest Indy:
1. "Crystal Skull" revives a techno-Aryan-occult fantasy of the 1970s: the notion that pointy-headed visitors from Beyond must have built the ancient civilizations of South America, since the natives there are too stupid to use toilet paper.

2. To put forth an image of flaming youth, Lucas and Spielberg have reverted to their own, making Shia LaBeouf into the leather-jacketed, motorcycle-riding rebel they admired fifty years ago when they saw "The Wild One." For the aging auteurs, he's cinematic Viagra.
I didn't like the film all that much, so I'm going to grant Klawans the last word. The latest Indy, he writes, is "new movie trash" that "comes out feeling old."

My summer pick of the week: "The Savages." The voters at IMDB give it a well-earned 7.5. The new "Indy" is rated 7.1, but I suspect that will go down in the long run. Indy enthusiasts seem the most likely to vote early (and often?).

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