Saturday, May 03, 2008

Do you see what I see?

When a major studio has on its hands a movie it knows to be not just a dog, but the sort of flatulent, ill-tempered dog that will chew your sofa and vomit the stuffing onto your granny, it has the option of cancelling press previews. I've always thought this to be counterproductive: all the reviewers will do is announce to their readers that The Fastest and the Furiousest isn't being shown to the media, which is probably a sign it's a tad canine. Of course, this presupposes that journalists are too mean or poor or halfwitted to buy their own tickets, like civilians. (On a related note, I see that Deutsche Bank employees are being told to keep the bill for business lunches to under 52 quid; of course, the notion that any of them will dip into their vast bonuses and actually pay for something themselves is as far from reality as alchemy, unicorns and the Smiths reunion.)

Anyway, the people behind Vantage Point have unwittingly discovered another way to make a movie critic-proof: it's impossible to offer a balanced review of the film without giving away one of the half-dozen or so plot twists. And without these, the film is essentially:

• A high concept, that of a single event being seen from several points of view. This has been done before, most obviously in Kurosawa's Rashomon, but fortunately the number of people who know that Rashomon is about a single event being seen from several points of view probably exceeds the number of people who've actually watched the film by about 20 to one.

• Lots of stuff blowing up and car chases and veryfastedits and things.

If the critic gives away the twists, the punter will probably not want to see the film; but it's a pyrrhic victory, because the critic will become the bastard who gives the game away, which is like telling the popcorn crowd that there's no Santa Claus, so nobody will listen to a word he says again evereverever. Remember the 11th commandment: thou shalt not forget to use the "SPOILER ALERT" function.

So, at the end of the day, Brian, all we're left with is a bunch of fragmented thoughts and observations. Which, if and when you think about it, is pretty apposite for a film about incomplete information, perspective and all that malarkey. Isn't it. Isn't it?

• Vantage Point nearly says something about the advantage citizen journalism (Forest Whitaker, the Zapruder figure) has over mainstream media, but it kind of gets lost in the noise.

• At the same time, if I were a small kid who'd lost her mommy and things start blowing up, Forest Whitaker is probably the person I'd most want to rescue me. But not if he were in Idi Amin mode, thanks.

• Can Dennis Quaid not smile these days, or what?

• 'POTUS' sounds like the central character in a series of children's books: Here Comes Potus; Potus and his Chums; Potus Goes to the Circus; Look at all the Potus Merchandise; etc.

• Sigourney Weaver plays a character called Rex. Uh?

• For a movie that's purportedly about subjectivity, points of view, compromised reality, and so on, it's deliciously Borgesian that they weren't able to film more than a few establishing shots in Salamanca, where the action is supposed to take place; instead they rebuilt the whole thing in Mexico.

• The film seems to be striving for a level of political neutrality, with hawks and doves, goodies and baddies on both sides (and even a few ambiguous ones, which is brave for the Hollywood mainstream), but there's still a sense that, as the carnage erupts and the bodies pile up, so long as the President of the United States is OK, all will be well. Hmm.

• Ultimately, Vantage Point is an inversion of the Hitchcock formula; here, the MacGuffin is the murder.


Rosie said...

great review - you should watch films so that i don't have to.

Charles Edward Frith said...

Don't miss out on Iron Man. Roberty Downey Jr. delivers!

Tim F said...

Depends which films you don't want to watch, Rosie.

Damn, Charles. Could have gone today. It does look exceedingly stupid, but in a good way.

Rosie said...

you're off the hook on that one, Tim, i saw it last night.

it was very exciting.

Tim F said...

Just got back. I rather liked it. Wondering if Jeff's baldy-beardy look would suit me.

Rosie said...

i've noticed a rash of bearded baldies around dublin recently and am only now wondering if it's as a result of the film. it's a great look. Jeff Bridges though - still wouldn't.