November 12, 2005

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "A History of Violence"

When did movie directors decide that thematically "dark" movies had to be "dark" in the sense of being underexposed? The upcoming Harry Potter movie struck me as a snooze because only about 2% of the scenes were brightly lit, unlike the first Harry Potter movie, which had lots of sunshine falling on the beautiful Lake Country (?) mountain scenery around Hogwarts. Granted, it's unrealistic to expect sunny days during the school term in northern England, but when you're making a guaranteed blockbuster, I expect the director to burn cash waiting around for the three hours per week when the light is perfect.

After getting the series off to a solid start with the first two movies, Chris Columbus dropped out, and art house Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron won critical kudos with the third film for making it "dark" -- i.e., filming outdoors during the usual bad weather. Now Mike Newell has made the fourth film, and it's also dreary-looking. The three seventh graders liked it, though, and that's what counts.

The same goes for "A History of Violence, " which is so underexposed that I took my glasses off to check to make sure I wasn't accidentally wearing my prescription sunglasses.

"A History of Violence" aspires to be a little like Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," but without the memorable dialogue, fun acting, and bright colors. If the point of the movie is too shock you with all the blood, doesn't it help if the blood looks red?

The wife and I finally saw David Cronenberg's latest at the $3 2nd-run theatre, and the low-budget Saturday night crowd gave it the raspberry, laughing derisively at numerous phony turns in the plot. In contrast, the critics found it a thought provoking work of art:

"A masterpiece of indirection and pure visceral thrills, David Cronenberg's latest mindblower is the feel-good, feel-bad movie of the year."
-- Manohla Dargis, NEW YORK TIMES

"A gripping, incendiary, casually subversive piece of work that marries pulp watchability with larger concerns without skipping a beat."
-- Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES

"Packed inside David Cronenberg's latest film, which presents itself as gift-wrapped, shoot-'em-up entertainment, is a sobering reflection on our culture's attitude toward violence."
-- Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST

Apparently, the critics decided it was an anti-Bush and anti-American film, so therefore it had to be good:

"It's a savage film that questions its savagery every step of the way and asks its audience to consider the costs of Dirty Harry diplomacy writ large. It will hit you like a ton of bricks. Don't miss it."

But the plot and the dialogue about a small town nice guy who isn't what he seems, just appears off from the first five minutes of the film, as if nobody involved with it had ever been to a small town and had no clue how anybody would actually act in these situations. It doesn't help that "A History of Violence" is another ultra-serious movie made from a graphic novel (i.e., expensive comic book), like Road to Perdition, but without that film's expensive cinematography, sets, costumes, and musical score. The film is full of the kind of ridiculous incidents that look cool in a graphic novel but ring false when projected 30 feet high on the screen.

And the casting is ridiculous, with Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, and William Hurt playing gangsters in the Philadelphia mob, the Anglo-Nordic Mafia, apparently.

William Hurt appears to have negotiated a contract that his character will only be seen with a glass of scotch in his hand, and that that won't be colored water pretending to be scotch in his glass. Hurt appears to be making up his characterization as he goes along, and he's more entertaining than anybody else in the movie.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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