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Film Reviews…from Hell

Today was “Alternate Forms” day in Aesthetics of Cinema, a day I was dreading for two reasons: (1) I would have to stay for the whole class, because most “alternate form” (hereafter referred to as “experimental” for the sake of not sounding like a politically correct retard) films are not exactly sitting on the shelf at Blockbuster and (2) I would actually have to watch experimental films. So without further Apu, here are my reviews of the three-ish films we watched:

The Smell of Burning Ants

If I met director Jay Rosenblatt on the street, I would only have one legitimate thing to say to him about this film: get the fuck over it. So you had a lousy childhood, or you think every male in America had a lousy childhood, because societal values instilled on the male are generally the opposite of innate feelings, and therefore we’re taught to suppress emotions. Okay, I can buy that, but newsflash: (1) who the fuck doesn’t already know that and (2) who the fuck cares? Deal with it, get over it. I don’t want to watch a film that tries to say all males will grow up to be animal-mutilating serial rapists because they were afraid of a father who told them not to cry. It’s a bunch of bullshit.

Classic line offered as proof of its crappiness (I’m paraphrasing): “He was always told to smile, even though he didn’t feel like smiling. He felt sad. ‘Smile,’ they said. ‘It won’t kill you.’ But it did.” Holy shit, it couldn’t possibly be worse if Leonardo DiCaprio was saying this to Kate Winslet on the stem of the sinking Titanic.

Rating: Zero stars (out of 4)

Six Figures Getting Sick

It would be unfair to rate this because I didn’t see the whole thing. My professor insisted that it was crap, but then again, he considers most of what David Lynch does to be mainstream narrative. Told ya he was a lunatic.

From what I did see, it looked like David Lynch was preoccupied with being Terry Gilliam. I don’t mean 12 Monkeys/Brazil Terry Gilliam—I mean Python Gilliam, with all the wacky-ass animations you can shake a stick at. Ironically, the entire short was about a minute long, but we watched maybe four seconds before the professor stood up, shouted for the T.A. to turn it off, and then said, “I hate David Lynch’s shorts. They are crap.”

Rating: No, seriously, I’m not gonna rate it

Heaven

This is Diane Keaton‘s directorial debut, an exploration of the great hereafter that mixes interviews with “real-life” (i.e., not actors) people intercut with various media (films, television shows, radio broadcasts, and music recordings) to support ideas about what heaven is, if it is at all, and why people are so certain (or uncertain) that there is something after death.

It was one of the funniest and most insightful documentaries I’ve ever seen. Not exactly “experimental,” per se, but since the technical name o’ the game was “alternate forms” (that being an alternative to traditional narrative), it counts. And it was brilliant, which is not surprising coming from somebody like Diane Keaton. This film is actually feature length, but we didn’t watch more than 20 or 30 minutes, but I still feel qualified to rate it without having seen the whole thing.

Rating: **** (out of 4)

LIFE/EXPECTANCY

What the fuck?

This was an experimental short by our professor’s wife, narrated by our professor (who, I gotta say, has an excruciating, grating voice, so putting up with a lecture followed by the set-up for this film followed by 30 minutes of him talking on the film essentially non-stop made me want to explode). It was basically a lot of static long shots with narration running over it, occasionally spliced in with text on the screen: definitions of words from psychological, philosophical, and anatomical textbooks, all of which were read by the narration.

All of this narration was occasionally cut in by excerpts of lines from classic movies. I’ll be the first to admit that I have very little respect or admiration for makers of experimental films in this style. They take very general problems, veeeeeery general problems, write a rambling narration on the subject, and then put images over it (this is also the style of Burning Ants). My problem with this style is that it’s essentially purposeless. What they consider unique—certainly for the images and not their writing, which is inadequate for a sixth-grader’s dissertation on the given subject—I consider worthless. But the thing that really drove me crazy about this film is that, in addition to having incoherent narration that only Jerry Seinfeld would admire for its use of the “talking about nothing” concept, the images didn’t even really make any logical sense in the context of what was being said.

I hated this film. I really did. But bear in mind that my opinion is slightly skewed by the fact that, even going into it with an open mind, I always end up hating this specific sub-genre of films.

Rating: Zero stars (out of 4)

And that’s really all we watched. There was the option of staying an extra forty minutes and watching our professor’s own experimental short, but I opted out of that because (1) I would have hated it and (2) it concerned itself mainly with extremely graphic images of gay porn, sadomasochism, and homoerotic violence (which, believe it or not, was not related to the sadomasochism), and (3) it basically used this imagery to take a crap all over Christianity.

He told us that if we thought we’d be offended by any of this, we could bust the hell out, so that’s what I did. I wouldn’t have really been offended by it (except by its inevitable crappiness), but where the gay porn/sadomasochism is concerned, I’ve got better things to watch than that. And the anti-Christian thing isn’t such a big deal since I’m not really pro-Christian, but I do have a big problem (and generally make a big stink) about people attempting to force their religious and/or non-religious views on me in any context except humor.

So, needless to say, I have no review of that little hemorrhoidal gem of doom. And fortunately when I went home, I got to watch my daily two hours of Buffy (yay, she’s alive again!) to wash away the stink of horrible experimental films. The universe is once again in perfect harmony.

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