Category — Raanan Rants
FORREST GUMP is your winner, for THE #1 heartwarming movie that my irascible cousin can’t stand – and I freakin’ agree!
One of the most beloved movies about America ever made, FG (I refuse to utter its name) looks at our world through the eyes of one of the most remarkable and offensive characters ever conceived – a mentally retarded, indestructible superman. And as is the case with so many mawkish movies that treat their audience like drooling morons who want to be spoon fed empty platitudes without having to critically consider their cerebral intake, something remarkable happened – the audience turned around and thanked the filmmakers for the drivel they left in their eye-holes. I believe this is how bad relationships are perpetuated.
“Overrated Movie #1- FORREST GUMP
Life is like a box of chocolates indeed: most pieces have that really nasty filling inside – but none quite so foul as Forrest Gump. Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 Oscar-sweeper is considered the feel-good movie of the decade. But of course what “feel-good” actually means is that when the lights in the theater start to dim, our painful awareness of the hardships of day-to-day life quickly get drowned out by the sweet sound of sentimental claptrap. “Feel good” movies typically preach messages such as “If you try your hardest, you will succeed” and “the love you get is equal to the love you give” and other notions that simply aren’t true. At the beginning of the movie, Forrest’s mom (played by Sally Field) reminds him that he’s “no different or worse than any other person.” If those other people of whom she’s speaking were borderline retarded, then I’d have to agree, but this movie seems to forget an important point: that recognizing the mentally handicapped have been dealt a worse hand than you does not equal being unsympathetic towards them. Forrest Gump wants us to pretend otherwise – that we’ve all been given an equal share of hardships. Some of us think at a slower rate than others, while others can’t grow any chest hair – everyone has problems. While it’s true that we all have crosses to bear, it’s also true that some crosses are heavier than others, which I’d say is a more important – and more complicated – truth. But not only does the movie ignore this reality, it goes a step further – saying that not only is mental retardation no worse than other problems people have, but it’s in fact an enviable trait in this complicated world of ours. For you see, Gump’s slow brain has allowed him to transcend the pretty judging and racism in which everyone else is constantly engaged (a cherished tradition in Hollywood – placing a condescending halo on the head of the mentally and physically handicapped, while amping up the evil of us common folk). Zemeckis has managed to make the first crowd-pleaser that views intelligence as a negative attribute. John Keats said a similar thing in his Ode to a Nightingale, but at least he seemed disturbed by the idea – Forrest Gump’s quirky tone is disturbingly incongruous with its message, like listening to a campfire sing-along of Kumbaya and noticing the lyrics have been replaced with passages from Becket. If people love this movie and actually take its message to heart, then it follows they should prove it by running out and getting a Lobotomy – a sure-fire way to rid yourself of all the sins your big old brain has burdened you with. And albeit it’s just a schmaltzy, bogus Hollywood movie, Forrest Gump taps into the dogmatic sentiment of Christianity – People love Jesus for the same reason they love Forrest – in that they both lack all the imperfections and shortcomings that make real people so hard to like. But liking real people is the great challenge, both in movies and in real life, and Forrest Gump (and the other movies on my list) miss this point, reducing people to cardboard cut-outs that serve the narrative and nothing else.
So there you have it, my list of most overrated movies. Looking back, I see they all share a common trait: they feature characters that embody traits we imperfect beings enjoy fantasizing that we possess – The untainted individualism of the Easy Riders, the stoic self-assurance of Juno, the effortless genius of Will Hunting, the Christ-like innocence of Dufresne and Gump. That we indulge in the fantasies offered by these movies and are moved by characters fleshed out with such complete disregard for reality must reveal a deep-seated bitterness we have towards life. These movies do not offer optimism, but a nihilistic escape from the constant uproar, sorrow, and personal shortcomings we share. As for me, cynic that I am so constantly accused of being, I love life. Not in spite of its flaws, but because of them. In fact, you could say I love life so much, I want to see it captured more accurately on film.”
And with that ends our experiment with negative reviews and the dark side. It was a fun foray, but often unsettling – these movies are the movies people love, and they’re so simple-minded and wrong!!! If you think about FG‘s message, then listen to the rhetoric of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and “apple-pie, gut-feeling” politics, you’ll see how dangerous the “opiate of the masses” can be. When the media ceases to air stories with “complex issues” in favor of “simple straight talk,” when target=”_blank”>Bill O’Reilly and target=”_blank”>Rick Sanchez can flourish despite having no discernible intelligence, that’s the residue of feel-good message movies such as FG. And if you think I’m blowing the danger of simple messages out of proportion, you simply haven’t read your Walter Benjamin.
August 19, 2010 2 Comments
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is #2 among popular movies with positive messages that my irascible cousin can’t stand.
Boy oh boy do people love this 1994 prison melodrama, painted in wide, broad strokes for the thinking impaired. “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” What a tagline! But they left out the rest… “Being free can lead to happiness. Happiness will make you vulnerable. Vulnerability will make you frightened. Fear then will hold you prisoner again. So you can do more coke. So you can work harder.” And who could criticize that iconic image, of Sir Tim Robbins (is he a sir yet?) opening himself up to a torrential downpour, embracing life for all its – wetness? Raanan can. He’s really gonna get it this time – he’s tussling with hope.
“Overrated Movie #2- THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
The Shawshank Redemption fits firmly into that tradition of movies that use a corrupt institution as the setting for an overt Christian allegory; others include Cool Hand Luke, One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest, and whatever movie’s playing over and over in Mel Gibson’s head about his life in Hollywood. One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest is the best of the bunch, mainly because director Milos Forman wisely evades the heavy-handedness of Ken Kesey‘s novel and focuses instead on amping up the fun and mischief. McMurphy might die a carpenter’s death, but it’s for Earthly pleasures; the liberation of the libido from religious and societal guilt. Frank Darabont‘s Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, is about as self-important and austere as the original story in the Bible. This is not to say Darabont is a Christian writer, just that he sticks so close to the ascetic tone of the New Testament that it makes you wonder why he’s even updating it in the first place. Where McMurphy slowly grew into the Savior’s shoes, Tim Robbin’s Andy Dufresne walks into Shawshank a saint from the word go. He’s a symbol and nothing else, so how are we expected to identify with him? And the narrative, based on Stephen King short story, isn’t exactly subtle either – for instance, to safeguard against the possibility of the film’s message slipping past the audience, Darabont makes sure to have the word “Hope” repeated around five hundred billion times. And if people are still confused as to what Darabont is trying to say, near the end he has Andy write in a letter to Red, “Remember…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” And if, at this point, people are still having difficulty wrapping their heads around the movie’s intricate theme, the very last lines are: “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams…I hope.” But the reason people love Shawshank is not due to its radical new philosophy about always looking on the bright side of life (Andy might as well have preached the vital necessity of breathing, since hope comes just as naturally to people). The reason people are so quick to get behind Shawshank is because it has the easiest-to-love of all premises: the wrongly accused man. It’s a comforting fantasy, allowing us to forget that so many hardships in life are actually brought on by our own personal shortcomings. It’s nice to see a movie about an innocent man- it helps us confirm our own convenient illusion that the problems in our lives are not the result of our character flaws, but the Universe being out to get us. Shawshank goes down easy because there is no moral shading; Andy is a Saint personified, and Morgan Freeman‘s Red is right up there with him (the eternity he’s spent in prison has scrubbed away any trace of the murderous kid he once was). If the challenge of movies is to empathize with deeply flawed people, then this movie is the bumper-bowling of art- it’s no challenge being moved at the end, because it’s all been carefully designed to do just that.
And for the most overrated movie of all time…”
You’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow to find out! Any guesses? I bet it’s something heartwarming! And by the way – did anyone else notice Carter Burwell’s Miller’s Crossing theme appropriated by The Shawshank Redemption trailer? Isn’t that ironic? One of the most morally complicated movies of all time, ripped off by one of the least! And speaking of movie scores – be looking out for our upcoming 15 part analysis of THE 150 GREATEST ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS OF ALL TIME!!! whoops – my caps lock got stuck again.
August 18, 2010 No Comments
FIGHT CLUB is #3 in the countdown of popular movies with positive messages that my irascible cousin can’t stand.
A lot of people love this visceral David Fincher feature, which speaks its cultural criticisms directly to the disenfranchised thug that dwells in each of us. But is Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel, truly revolutionary, with it’s porn-spliced frames and third-act narrative shifts, or is it just another gimmick-laden big budget corporate McThriller? Who’s to say? Raanan’s to say, that’s who.
“Overrated Movie #3- FIGHT CLUB
“When Fight Club came out in 1999, it became an instant classic among adolescent males, which is always a safe sign that a movie isn’t very good. While Fincher has matured a lot since then, at the time he was suffering from Oliver Stone Syndrome, which is defined in the American Journal of Psychiatry as: “The delusion that your thoughts are so lofty and urgent they must be hammered repetitively into the audience’s head, subtlety being the kind of risk only shallower artists can afford to take, like Beckett or Shakespeare.” In Fight Club, this Chinese-water-torture type of didacticism is achieved by Edward Norton’s narration, which is constantly telling you what to think with the same kind of brainwashing numbness found in the Consumer culture which the film constantly urges you to consider critically. This hypocrisy could be excused if the ideas in Fight Club were as exciting as the film presupposes. But try as I might, I don’t see how our reliance on material possessions- which is annoying at best- somehow justifies terrorism. The anarchism in the movie is juvenile and reactionary, an easy-way out that ignores a far greater challenge: trying to figure out how to live within this hopelessly flawed society, while still keeping your soul intact.”
What do you think? Fair or foul?
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August 16, 2010 No Comments
JUNO is the third of the 6 classics my irascible cousin simply cannot stand.
By now you know the drill: my cousin has been trying to correct your flawed opinion of the movies you love. Why? Maybe it’s because he wants you to let go of the other people’s opinions that have infected you. Or maybe it’s because he’s working on his curmudgeon cred for later on in life. Either way, today Raanan takes on that ray of impregnable sunshine (or is it pregnable?) that is Jason Reitman’s 2007 hit comedy, Juno.
“Overrated Movie #4- JUNO
If the message in Easy Rider is, “You’re only cool if you’re a hippie,” then in Juno it’s been altered to fit with the times: “You’re only cool if you’re a hipster.” So you better start spouting quirky phrases with spoonfuls of ironic enthusiasm (“Yo-yo-yiggady-yo”), have a witty, pre-written line ready to fire back at all times, sprinkle your conversations with references to both mainstream and obscure culture (that way you show you’re far too complex to be pigeon-holed as either a populist or a snob), pretend to smoke a pipe because it makes you look kooky, mix youthful colloquialism with archaic words (“Basically, I’m completely smitten with you”) and care so little for what other people think that walking through a high school hallway 7 months into your pregnancy doesn’t phase you in the least. Juno would have been a funny character if screenwriter Diablo Cody ever felt the urge to poke fun at some of her pretensions, instead of glorifying her at every turn. But light mockery is an aspect typically found in comedy, while Juno is pure unadulterated fantasy; a girl’s revision of her high school days, where all the awkwardness, insecurities, and desperate need for approval have been conveniently replaced with heroic self-assurance and wit. People can watch this movie and pretend they were just as clever and aloof as Juno back in their day, and sweep the fact we all wanted to be accepted by the Popular Crowd under some mental rug for later. And yet, for all its hip liberal posturing, the movie’s core values are straight conservative, yo – all women are incomplete without children, Jason Bateman’s character is a bad man because he doesn’t want a baby, and – when Juno’s precocious resilience finally gives way to doubt, she naturally goes to her father for some Wise Adult Platitudes: “My opinion is, you should love someone because they see you exactly the way you are.” (Oh wow – I always thought you should love someone because of their completely distorted image of you). The truth is that Juno is elitist the same way J.D. Salinger was – everyone outside of her small circle of friends are lumped together as dull conformists, and the movie invites the audience to join in on this kind of snobbish compartmentalizing, allowing us to feel like the few rare individuals who actually get the non-mainstream humor on display. But of course the joke’s on the viewer – because everyone fucking likes this movie.”
Here’s a funny website about hipsters.
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- Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody to Reteam for Young Adult (filmjunk.com)
August 12, 2010 1 Comment