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Spot the unifying characteristic - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
January 13th, 2006
10:36 am


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Spot the unifying characteristic

  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Robert De Niro
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Cybill Shepherd
  • Mary McDonnell
  • Peter Boyle
  • Patrick Swayze
  • Jodie Foster
  • Jena Malone
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Noah Wyle
  • Albert Brooks
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Martin Scorsese

Trick question: these actors appear in two separate movies, but with a strong alienation theme. Donnie Darko and Taxi Driver. Each of which I hadn't seen before last night.

I enjoyed DD a great deal more than TD, and I'm beginning to wonder if I've lost my appreciation for older movies. TD had some fine actors in it, and some memorable lines. (Well, the "You talkin' to me?" quote.) But the pacing just was not what I was looking for. Blah blah blah, De Niro's character is on the outside of society. Blah blah, he's having trouble sleeping (a nice thematic link to Fight Club, which I saw for the first time recently, too). There's a plot with Cybill Shepherd that takes seemingly forever to unfold, and while it's nice to see her in a pre-Moonlighting role (which isn't anything more than a personal landmark - it's the first role I remember seeing her in), it takes too long and isn't satisfying at the end of the trip. Much in the same way, it's nice to see the rest of the cast a lot earlier on in their careers. I know Peter Boyle from Young Frankenstein, and a part of me also recognizes him from his X-Files appearance.

Donnie Darko, on the other hand, was enjoyable - I'll admit, I popped out of the fiction pretty frequently. In part, this may have been due to the recognizable cast. I was comparing Mary McDonnell's character to her BSG role. Jena Malone's to her Saved! role. Drew Barrymore to... oh, everything from E.T. to Bad Girls to Never Been Kissed. But still, I had fun. I watched the DVD extras, which helped me sort out a lot of what the Writer/Director had in mind before the movie was edited down to less than 2 hours. Seems like a movie that I'd appreciate seeing a second time, and that's a rare category for me.

A while ago, I went to IMDB's list of the top rated 250 movies (as decided by users of the site) and discovered to my surprise that I had seen only around 50 of the top 250. The list shifts around over time, but I've been keeping that list around, deleting movies as I see them. A while ago, I asked TiVo to record some of them for me, but that's a pain. When I got NetFlix, I went through and added those that remained to my queue, and that's why I'm catching up on so many well-known films of late. Indeed, I'm down to 129 movies (or less, if I've missed some as I delete). And I'm glad to check off the ones that I've missed, but I'm troubled that I'm not enjoying the classics as much as I wish I was.

I frequently hear people complain about the quality of movies that Hollywood is turning out, and perhaps those that make those complaints are looking at different films than I have been (in which case they need more discernment). But what I'm afraid of is that I'm not appreciating the good parts of the old movies. I've got a friend who has no sense of smell. I can't imagine how he enjoys food. In the same way, I wonder if I've lost, or never developed, the dimension of sensation that makes classic films worth seeing.

Hm. I threatened spoilers. In DD, everything's significant, in TD, nothing is. There.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC)
In the same way, I wonder if I've lost, or never developed, the dimension of sensation that makes classic films worth seeing.

Well, in your defense, I wonder if they're really all classics by consensus. IMDB voting is based on a huge number of people, but those people will often have relatively little in common culturally or aesthetically with each other and may wildly disagree about the classic status of many of the films on the list.

For instance, the older I get the more I seem to identify with what I would call the Progress/Order culture, in which there are underlying principles that govern what is good and what is not, and over time a collective, successive improvement can lead to higher and higher quality. The emphasis here is usually on function first and style second.

A great deal of America, though, seems to belong to Fashion/Chaotic culture, in which it's only important to do something that feels fresh in the moment, according to the immediate context. There is no real progress; this is why fashion and other related industries cycle in a pendulum. Emphasis here is on style first, function second or possibly not at all.

Increasingly, it seems, I personally prefer stories, including movies, which (in my opinion) were created by people using ideas from the first group... and I would expect extreme members of these two groups to vote very differently on IMDB.
[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
In the same way, I wonder if I've lost, or never developed, the dimension of sensation that makes classic films worth seeing.

It could depend on what is actually on that so called 'classic' list.
Older movies were campy, made to appeal to the masses in an era when there truly wasn't much to look forward to.

Then again, I'm easily amused.

I went and saw King Kong and thought it was utterly awesome. The original KK makes me feel the same, while all the other remakes make me want to cringe in horror (although I suspect it's because I get to drool over watch Adrien Brody.

My idea of a classic is anything Hitchcock, anything with Cary Grant (even the campy stuff) and anything with John Wayne. If I'm in a mood, I'll even go for a musical and get something with Bing Cosby or Bob Hope, go totally vaudeville, or pick up a real oldie and go silent.
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