The Soapbox

Daily Diatribe 2/1/01:"Wretched disbelief, I suspend thee!"

This is a shout out to all you filmmakers and assorted entourage who devote your professional lives to profiting from my reaction to a particularly keen trailer or a wealth of critical acclaim. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am the very most easygoing sort when it comes to flicks. But I'm not your worst enemy by any stretch. I WANT you to succeed. I WANT to be entertained. I WANT to be transported to another place and time for a brief stretch of my life. I WANT to believe.

What I DON'T want is to be doing my darndest to enjoy your moving picture when I find myself assaulted by giant sore thumbs of artistic negligence that literally rob me of the ability to believe anything you have to say to me, filmically or otherwise. Did you see Gladiator? You must have. It was all the rage, and it was the darling of the Golden Globes. Everyone I know saw it, and precious few have anything to say about it other than that it didn't disappoint too mightily. Yet, here I sit, sniffing at this film, with all its sepia-tonedness and its manipulated action scene frame rates and its godawful Joaquin Phoenix, and I have to ask myself why it is that I can seldom be pleased when the lights go down and the curtains part and the dingy local business establishments and movie trivia slide show clicks for the last time. I don't hate Joaquin Phoenix. I don't even think he's a bad actor. But this guy should not be doing a British dialect, much less the patchwork quilt of Londontown localities he traversed every moment he was on screen. Is he from Wales? No, perhaps it's Liverpool. No, I get it. He's Australian now. Oops, sorry. I guess he's from Yorkshire. It was funny when Pierce Brosnan picked up on it in Mrs. Doubtfire, but maybe Joaquin Phoenix should have quit while he was ahead and been satisfied with the box office success he saw with Mrs. Doubtfire. He looked so different in that dress. Can you even believe it was him? I had to doublecheck in the credits. Now, that's what I call acting!

In all fairness, I couldn't really give Gladiator a proper screening. Things were a bit dicey that weekend, and I was irritated and a little confused by the number of times the dialogue consisted of nothing but long concatenated strings of my ex-boyfriend's name and the name of the girl he likes at work. It didn't seem to contribute to the plot at all.

I swear to you, I'm not a spoilsport all around. I'm really not all that hard to please. But certain things just have a way of sticking in my nit-picky craw. Language issues, first and foremost. Anachronisms. Inflated cheese quotients. Actors who can't get their clumsy lips and teeth around a few pages of technical mumbo-jumbo. Non-artistic action scenes which defy the laws of the physical universe. There are a number of good examples of this in Deep Blue Sea, for instance. And just about any picture with Jerry Bruckheimer's name on it.

I can be very generous, I assure you. I cut Star Trek as much slack as I have to. I was mesmerized by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And I love to watch big Technicolor musicals and anything with Muppets in it. There's no truth in these worlds. I know this. It's fine with me. I guess it's just when I get the sense that the filmmaker is being sloppy but still hopes to get one over on me that I take a bit of umbrage instead of a grain of salt. When the filmmaker and I are both in cahoots to have a little fun with a finger beside the nose, it's cool. We both know it's not TRUE. And that makes it fun. Like watching your sister eat something that she doesn't know you just dropped on the floor. It hurts no one and it's fun to think about later.

So, I guess the rule of thumb is just this: HELP me to suspend my disbelief. I'm willing to work with you. No matter how bad it gets, I am pretty good about not groaning audibly in the cinema or getting up and leaving whenever John Malkovich attempts a new dialect. I am a very polite moviegoer and I support your trade with DVD purchases and cable subscriptions. You have a friend in me, Hollywood. Just try not to accidentally shove your dusty boot in my mouth so often. I don't like the taste, even though the boots themselves are rather attractive.

In closing, I'll only say that I often look back at what I've written and think I'm a big, stupid dork who has no business having an opinion, much less laying it on folks. But I'm paying for this web space, so I guess you can all just go stick your head in a pig.

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