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Category — Raanan Rants

Raanan vs the CLASSICS (pt. 2 of 6) – GOOD WILL HUNTING

GOOD WILL HUNTING is the second of the 6 so-called classics my irascible cousin simply cannot stand.

As stated before, we tend to feature mostly positive reviews here at Isle of Cinema. But all that seems on the verge of changing, thanks to Raanan, our resident curmudgeon:

Overrated Movie #5- Good Will Hunting

“So what if Will Hunting was viciously beaten as a child- even to the point of cigarettes being burned into his chest- he was blessed with the most enviable combo: dashing good looks and a brain to rival Einstein’s. To be born good-looking and brilliant are the two best cards you can ever be dealt, which is why most people are usually dealt one without the other. As for me, I’d gladly have Will’s movie star looks and effortless genius than be some ordinary-looking schmuck of average intelligence whose parents are decent enough to use an ashtray when its time to put out their cigarettes. Because the sad truth is most people don’t want to see a movie about a so-so-looking person who isn’t very good at anything, because, well, that’s most people. Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting (1997) is uplifting precisely because it’s not relate-able – it allows us to indulge in the very comforting fantasy that we too are not living up to our genius potential because of unresolved emotional issues (and that in the right light, we look like Matt Damon). Real inspiration in movies comes from real hardships, and Damon’s genius is so innate and effortless, all the obstacles he faces in the movie seem easily solvable: Just grab a couple hugs from Robin Williams, have one good cry about your abusive step dad, then walk into NASA, show them you’re IQ score, and take over the desk of whoever’s getting paid the highest salary there. But what about the rest of us? Even if we’re lucky enough to find a psychiatrist as warm as Robin Williams to help us untangle all the paralyzing emotions that keep us from moving on in life, we still have to find out what – if anything – we’re good at, and work really hard at that one thing our whole life. But thankfully for the film’s protagonist life and math end up being super easy, which adds up to Good Will Hunting being about as inspirational as the story of Paris Hilton’s rise to the top.”

For the record, my personal pet peeves have always been 1) movies about super geniuses – wires will suspend my disbelief that a man can fly but no amount of special fx can convince me an A-list celebrity might be a super-genius. And 2) biographical movies – if I want to know someone’s life story, I’ll read memoirs – not watch some oscar-hungry actor impersonate them. Which is why I never watched Good Will Hunting – a biographical picture about a super genius that didn’t even have the decency to exist.

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August 9, 2010   1 Comment

Raanan vs the CLASSICS (pt. 1 of 6) – EASY RIDER

EASY RIDER being the first of 6 so-called classics my irascible cousin simply cannot stand.

We tend to feature only positive reviews here at Isle of Cinema. But one has risen, to champion negativity. His name is Raanan, and until he accepts a permanent position as contributor to the site, you must settle for quotes around his rants:

“Every week or so I find myself talking to a girl at a bar, when, in the middle of a conversation about something or other,  I ask her what her favorite movie is (which is always just a ploy to have her ask me the question). She will invariably respond with such titles as Good Will Hunting or Juno, causing me to nod politely in response, while my eyes covertly wander around the room, in search of someone else to talk to. And maybe this is why I find the unwarranted praise of certain movies so bothersome- I feel ashamed sleeping with anyone who likes a movie that has Ben Affleck in it (Dazed and Confused notwithstanding). Now I know what you’re thinking: from the sexually frustrated tone so quickly established in this essay, I clearly do not sleep with enough women to afford being so selective. And while this might be true, from my experience in the dating world, most relationships center around one person forcing the other to share their bad taste in art. And while I seriously doubt I will ever fall for someone with such passionate, all-consuming intensity that I end up sharing their love of Forrest Gump, I am not prepared to take the risk- I would rather die alone with my good taste still intact. Which is why I’ve compiled a list of the most overrated movies of all time, or at the very least the six that I feel truly embody the essence of overrated cinema. Quick note: After rewatching all six movies, 2 things occurred to me: a) this was the first time in my writing career I was truly suffering for my art and b) the positive, life-affirming emotions these movies were trying so hard to make me feel caused me to sink into an even deeper despair, so that halfway through the last movie I found myself swaying perilously back and forth on the edge of a chair, a noose wrapped tightly around my neck, as life-affirming platitudes lashed out at me from the TV screen. Any more joyous, any more certain of the victories in store for us all if we “simply follow our heart,” and these movies would’ve killed me.

Overrated Movie #6 - EASY RIDER

The 60’s were a wild time for movies. Directors began breaking free from the confines of major studios, unconventional-looking actors became movie stars over night, and everyone was on so many drugs they actually thought Dennis Hopper was talented. Easy Rider (1969) probably has the thinnest story of any movie on the AFI TOP 100 List – Two coke-peddling hippies named after legendary outlaws head down South on motorcycles, meet a soused lawyer (played with early-in-his-career mania by Nicholson) and end up getting killed for having long hair, or for searching for America, or for being just too damn cool to live. I’m not exactly sure why they get killed, but let’s face it, do rednecks ever need a reason to test their shotguns out on others? At least this is what this self-glorifying, You’re-only-cool-if-you’re-a-hippie, Master(batory)piece wants us to believe. The whole movie is an homage to itself, Fonda and Hopper acting out their own martyrdom at the end- sacrificing themselves in the name of Non-conformity. But what they, or the people who love this movie, fail to realize is that martyrdom is a two-step process: you have to do something good first, then get blown away for it. And while they clearly get blown away at the end, I don’t recall them ever doing any good in the world. In fact, I don’t recall them doing much of anything but riding down the highway on their Harleys, desperately trying to look cool.”

There you have it. What do you think? Is Easy Rider a masterpiece? Or does the round go to Raanan? And don’t forget to tune in next week, for another installment of Raanan vs the CLASSICS: Overrated movie #5 - GOOD WILL HUNTING

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August 5, 2010   3 Comments

Raanan Rants Against the Grain – INCEPTION

INCEPTION gets my irascible cousin’s blood pumping in a negative way.

Thought I’d give my cousin Raanan a platform to air his grievances with Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION (2010):

“Christopher Nolan spent ten years working on the screenplay for Inception, which, after wading through the movie’s inchoate and muddled plot for nearly two and a half hours, I have decided is a bit of trivia he would have been wise to keep to himself. The screenplay feels like it was dashed off in one long, coke-filled night, the excess amount of Dopamine in his brain providing him with just the right amount of unwarranted confidence to feel like the gaping holes in the narrative actually made sense.
The plot goes something like this: Dom Cobb deals in the art of Extraction, which is exactly what it sounds like- the illegal act of sneaking into a Corporate Big Whig’s subconscious while they are in a vulnerable dream state and stealing valuable information which you then sell to other rival Corporate Big Whigs for a ton of money. Okay, it’s not exactly what it sounds like, but you get the point. The movie starts (or does it?) with Saito, a Corporate Big Whig played with Die-Hard-Villain-Effeminacy by Ken Wattanabe, offering Cobb one last job: to sneak into the mind of Robert Fischer Jr., the son of a rival Corporate Big Whig, and implant an idea in his head which when he awakes he will think is his own. This is called Inception, and believe it or not, it makes Extraction look like a piece of cake. The idea will be for Fischer to break up his father’s Vague Corporate Empire, which will allow Saito’s Vague Corporate Empire to gain Complete Vague Global Dominance. It’s around here that the movie gets a little convoluted. The reason this is Cobb’s last job is because Saito is offering to use his clout to remove the warrants preventing him from returning to America and seeing his kids again. And why is he a fugitive back home? Because he has been falsely accused (or has he?) of murdering his wife, the same wife who is always reappearing (or is she?) in the meticulously constructed dream world Cobb creates for his sleeping victims (or does he?) while he is stealing information that he then brings back with him to the real world (or is it the real world?) By the end of the movie, the only thing I could be certain was real was the headache I got from trying to follow the plot.
If you haven’t already figured it out, Christopher Nolan is far too ambitious a filmmaker to concern himself with such trivial details like a coherent narrative or memorable characters. Instead, he spends the entire movie constantly reminding the audience that every twist and turn in his Matryoshka-doll-plot is nothing more than a flabby, overwrought metaphor for dreams or life or the nature of reality. Nolan would probably argue he’s being coy and self-reflexive, and that his refusal to treat the story with any credibility is a way of reminding the audience about the artificiality of moviemaking. But I think that’s a cheap excuse, and maybe even a little arrogant. The goal of the artist is not to remind us that it’s all make-believe- a revelation that would only really be mind-blowing to the schizophrenic members of the audience- but rather to try as hard as you can to make the people watching your movie forget this sad fact for a couple of hours, so that when they finally do leave the theater, they feel as if they have emerged from a dream. And this is the one thing Nolan got right: watching a good movie is very much like dreaming. The only problem is, watching this movie didn’t feel like you were doing either one of those things.”

For the record, I thought it was highly entertaining but needlessly convoluted, and was annoyed by its reliance on MacGuffins and parallel action/cliffhangers. I would’ve loved to have seen a low-budget or new-wave treatment of the script, along the lines of an Alphaville, Kamikaze ’89,  or π (Pi), which would’ve brought out the conceptual labyrinthine quality of the script instead of the “hey-look-I-can-make-something-that-sorta-resembles-a-dream” spectacle of it all. But then again that would have meant losing the floating hotel set pieces, which I dug – so forget that. Say what you will, it was definitely a well-written (perhaps overly-written?) and ambitious script, for which it – and Nolan – deserve a lot of credit. I’m sure many of you disagree. Send me your responses and I’ll post ‘em.

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July 29, 2010   No Comments

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