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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)

I don't see movies in theaters anymore: Before yesterday I think the last one I went to was The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) which was kind of a family outing. And I hadn't seen one in 3-D since the last time the process was in vogue, back in the 1950s. But I had to see this one not to be culturally retrograde, and I'm glad I did. To sidetrack to 3-D, I'm not sold on its necessity, partly because the process itself is distracting: I'm always conscious of the screen itself as a kind of frame that cuts things off as they are whizzing into and out of it. In regular old 2-D the frame works to contain the action so you can concentrate on it. I found myself distracted whenever anyone walked into the frame because I was momentarily unsure whether they were part of the film or just someone entering the theater after getting some more popcorn. I think that's why it's a process particularly suited for fast-paced action but not much else. But the movie gave me everything else I wanted, including the warm fuzzy feeling of being reunited with Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher), whose grizzled maturity gave a gravitas to the film. It recaptured the feeling I had back in 1977 at the NorthPark theater in Dallas when John Williams's music struck up and the introductory crawl stretched away into space. Episode VII is essentially a remake of Episode IV, if we must call them that, with the young hero on a desert planet, the droid found in the junkyard, the gathering of a team to fight the black-clad villain, and the ultimate destruction of a giant weaponized space station. It's nice that the hero this time is a woman (Daisy Ridley) and that her cohort includes a black man (John Boyega), both of whom are great in their roles. Oscar Isaac shows once again that he's something of a shapeshifter as an actor: I knew he was in the movie, but I almost didn't recognize him at his first entrance, after having seen him recently as the thwarted Yonkers mayor on HBO's Show Me a Hero (Paul Haggis, 2015). He has the ability to play callow and boyish as well as bitter and brooding, as in Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013). I look forward to seeing the movie again, but this time in the comfort of my home and on a smaller 2-D screen. I think it will play just as well there, thanks more to the smart screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, and to the well-directed actors, including Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, than to the technological whiz-bang.