Monday, January 05, 2004

The critical urge

Am I just too cynical to watch films anymore? My trip to the cinema on Friday (the first in ages) to see the third and final installment of the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ saga was undertaken more out of friendly coaxing and compulsion than choice, but despite a general apathy towards watching the film I found it mildly diverting for the most part. I could just about overlook the trite pseudo-feminist agenda tacked onto the plot (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean – “I’m no man, I’m a woman”) and the absurd self-importance with which Orlando Bloom delivers all his lines (mercifully, he doesn’t feature much), allowing myself to be swept up by the admittedly impressive battle scenes, a real visual treat far more satisfying than the shitstorm that was the last ‘Star Wars’ film. But then all my goodwill was eroded by that (literally) arse-numbingly tedious ending which seemed to last an eternity and which is filled with nothing but platitudinous set-piece scenes and nauseating Hollywood schmaltz to such an extent that it comes across as some kind of truly horrific parody.

Back at home, I watched ‘Bowling For Columbine’ on video for the first time. Even then, despite agreeing with much of what Michael Moore is implying, I couldn’t help finding fault. For me, the film is let down by the same things that threaten to spoil ‘Stupid White Men’ – an occasional tendency towards too great a reliance on and overstatement of personal individual anecdotes, the occasional use of meaningless statistics (for instance, referring to the number of people killed by guns in different countries each year is only meaningful if expressed as a percentage of the population, and not simply as a figure), and occasional inconsistencies of argument. These tendencies shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the overall merit of the movie (there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a very valuable and provocative piece of film-making, even if it can’t provide any conclusive answers or solutions), but it’s just frustrating for someone like me, who broadly agrees with Moore’s stance, that he leaves himself open to criticism from those who would seek to discredit his arguments in their entirety.

In between the two, I caught a repeated ‘Room 101’ which had Stephen Fry as the guest. His first selection was critics (more specifically, critics on late-night TV review programmes), his argument essentially being that these people expend all their energies in sneering at and tearing apart the genuinely creative work of others (writers, musicians, film-makers etc) without actually offering any positive cultural contribution themselves. It all seemed rather appropriate – I long for some kind of creative impulse, believe me, but, as you might have noticed on SWSL, in its absence I enjoy cynically taking aim at everything and anything. Grumpiness seems to be my raison d’etre, and were I ever to be on ‘Room 101’ it’d be a dream come true – listing pet hates to my blackened heart’s content.

Oh well, here’s hoping the spring can thaw my icy cynicism.

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