A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Once (John Carney, 2006)

Once is an entirely likable little movie with some good music, pleasant performances by unknowns, and a setting (contemporary Dublin) that hasn't been overworked into familiarity. It's also a film with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that out of 154 reviews surveyed by the site, 149 of them were favorable. That gives it a higher rating on the Tomatometer than No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2007) which won the best picture Oscar the same year that Once just took home the Oscar for best original song ("Falling Slowly"). It's also a better ranking than last year's critical hit and Oscar winner Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and is right on par with the current critical favorite, Spotlight (Tom McCarthy). On IMDbOnce currently has a 7.9 ranking (on a scale of 10), and is the 1,651st most popular film of all time.  I mention all this because we seem to have gone a little crazy with critical ranking systems. Sometimes films come along that capture critics' hearts because they are simpler and don't mount an assault on the senses that the effects-laden blockbusters the critics are obligated to watch do, which is why Once succeeds for them. But is Once a great picture just because it asks less of a viewer? Criticism today is part consumer guide and part serious analysis. So as a consumer guide, I would have no hesitation recommending Once to anyone who asked if I'd seen anything good lately, but it's a nice little movie that does nothing challenging to its viewers, which is why I will probably have forgotten it by the time someone gets around to asking me that question. On the other hand, I would hesitate to recommend to just anyone some of the movies I've watched lately that will stick with me for a long time  -- I mean films like A Man Escaped, Andrei Rublev, Fists in the Pocket, Jeanne Dielman, Leviathan, or Mamma Roma.

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