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Posts in: April 1st, 2008

Time Well Wasted

Author: Unknown

Genre: Drama

Storyline: 6

Dialogue: 5

Characterization: 7

Writer’s Potential: 7

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Recommendation?

Consider

Logline:

A teen desperately wants to use a baseball scholarship to escape his small Texas town, but his slowly eroding life may make leaving impossible.

Synopsis:

None

Comments:

The writer does a good job of evoking the setting through the choice of locations, actions, and showing us the characters’ everyday lives. Many interesting films have this slice-of-life feel, but Time Well Wasted misses opportunities. A story with a barebones plot like this needs to rely more on the strength of its characters to reenforce its theme(s). The characters here don’t have much depth, and the bizarre third act muddles the theme.

Letting us know early on how much Gill wants the baseball scholarship (symbolizing his desire to get out of Alba) will help us understand the impact when he risks giving it up for the impregnated Bailey. It’s never made clear what Bailey’s doing in Alba in the first place, which makes it confusing when Gill’s only choices are to stay in Alba with Bailey or ditch her to go to UCLA. We’re told she’s from LA, and there’s a too-subtle implication of a funeral that I guess was supposed to be for Bailey’s parent or parents? This needs to be made much clearer, so we can understand why it’s impossible for Bailey to go with Gill—no family, no friends she can stay with, etc. She’s stuck in Alba.

Many scenes consist of people just hanging around, talking, yet by the end we know very little about these characters. I give the writer credit for not writing on-the-nose dialogue (though it does veer into melodrama in the third act), but there’s not much subtext, either. It’s just people talking, offering a minimum of character depth without providing a window into the true nature of the characters, especially Gill. The negative portrayal of Outcast fans came closest to providing subtext, but it doesn’t tell us much about them other than implying they’re less intelligent or unique than Gill and Bailey.

Until the out-of-nowhere death of Bailey, I was operating under the assumption that the theme here was the inability to escape fate. The pregnancy jeopardizes Gill’s opportunity to flee a small town where he’d rot, setting him on the exact same path as his father, but his problem is solved almost instantly by Bailey’s death. He has a tough to choice to make, but then it’s made for him. What is the writer trying to say with this? Is this still a comment on fate? Maybe if the pregnancy was made a more important part of the story earlier, her death would have more impact and we’d have a clearer idea of why her dying is necessary for the story.

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Shitty Transfers

My sister bought me the Criterion Life of Brian DVD, the most appropriate Christmas gift ever. I didn’t get a chance to watch it until this weekend, and it left me feeling a little disappointed. Not the movie itself—the bad film transfer.

Now, look, I know Life of Brian didn’t exactly have a huge budget, so the fact that its aesthetics resemble the 1970s European “erotica” I’ve reviewed doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is that, in this age of digital wonderment, Criterion couldn’t (or didn’t) clean up the film or audio as well as they could have. It would be one thing if this were the older (now out-of-print) cheapie DVD—this is the Criterion DVD, the one that retails at $40. Most of its extras came from the old Laserdisc release, and the new ones don’t justify such a lofty pricetag, so are we really just paying for the Criterion name?

We live in a world where you can buy copies of movies made in the early ’40s that look like they were made yesterday. Why can’t ’60s and ’70s classics get the same treatment? Life of Brian is an irritating example, but other ’70s classics like The Verdict and The Conversation suffer from the same problems, while others made in the same era (like The Parallax View and The Deer Hunter) don’t. (Admittedly, some of the more popular ones, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Godfather movies, get elaborate restorations.)

I know it depends partly on the quality of the print and the companies releasing the DVDs. They decide whether or not to devote the time and cost to restore them, which will drive up the final price of the disc, so they have to know whether or not potential buyers would pay the extra money for it. This Life of Brian thing is ridiculous, though. I’m fine with the pleasant surprise of a $10 copy of The Parallax View‘s quality; I’m not fine with my sister spending $30-40 on a copy of a movie that barely looks better and, in fact, sounds worse than my VHS copy.

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