Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 59: They gave it to the wrong basterds!

I am often out of joint with popular sentiment - especially film tastes -I am well aware of that.I don't try to be different or obstreperous, I just seem to have a different take on things and,well, I'm not going to smother. what I consider to be, my lights under bushels so that no one can see them. I'm not embarrassed.

The Academy Awards got it a bit wrong again this year. What am I saying, what am I thinking?! But I'm not about to go into a long tirade about the nature of those awards and the pantomime that masqueraded for the Best Actor in a Leading Role Award in 1974, no siree-Bob, I'll save that 'letter to the editor' for another day.

But humour me a moment.

I don't recall all of the nominations for this years' Best Original Screenplay gold statuette, but I do know the script that should have won and the script that won. let's start with what should have won: quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. Young Mr. Tarantino can be an exuberant, full-of-himself kinda guy, can he not?No lights hidden under anything like a bushel there; I swear that if you look up 'chutzpah' in the dictionary, it'll say something like: Quentin Tarantino, precocious filmmaking talent, writer and director of notable pieces Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. And they were notable pieces.

He plays fast and loose with so many "rules-of-the-road" of screenwriting that it's quite dazzling to watch, but I don't mind, I don't care, I'm not worried because more often than not, he gives me a great time in the cinema. He KNOWS how to use a 30x60ft cinema screen, he KNOWS what this medium and only this medium can do and he does it exquisitely. Hands up who remembers Lucy Liu in the snow in Kill Bill 1?

The screenplay for Inglorious Basterds was full of wit, tension and humour (black as black gets). It was original and you didn't know where it was going from one moment to the next. It was a great act of writing bravado that deserved Oscar gold.

On the other hand, I offer up the winner on the night: The Hurt Locker. Just go with me a minute on this. I didn't have a bad time in the cinema watching The Hurt Locker, but let me confess something: somewhere in the desert when Ralph Fiennes and those guys popped up, I LOOKED AT MY WATCH. It was a reflex (not a Rolex) action, a genuinely automatic thing that I did.Why? I'll tell you why: when I look at my watch, I'm wondering how much more of "this" there is to go and if I'm wondering "that", I'm no longer in the story...I'm out of the story and back in my cinema seat and have stopped suspending my disbelief that I'm not in a movie theatre in Sydney but in Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River (that sounds cockeyed the way that I've written it).

I'm not saying that The Hurt Locker isn't a great film...let me call it a great "filmic" experience, but it did not deserve to pip QT's Basterds at the Best Original Screenplay post. This is my take on it: The Hurt Locker opens on a great cliffhanger, edge-of-your-seat sequence of a bomb defusal (I made that word up). Terrific stuff.....Guy Pearce gets blown to kingdom come. Wow, that's him outta the film?! But, give or take a few minutes of new-guy arrival and some other stuff and we're back on the job at bomb detonation number two. Then after a little recitativo, we're onto bomb detonation number three and so the Locker opened and closed. It was like a musical: chat chat chat SONG, chat chat chat SONG, chat chat chat SONG, chat chat chat BIG SONG and so on. It was episodic and I was hanging out for their next trick, a trick other than a bomb detonation, which never came. By the time they've goy me out in the desert, I'd had enough.

Day #59 Tip: "The Law of Diminishing Returns"
Thank you Robert McKee for the "diminishing returns" title; now that I've channelled you, I'll explain it my way (a variation on your theme though).

For international readers: we have an indulgent ice cream-on-a-stick here in Australia, called a Magnum, you probably have them where you live too. Inch-thick vanilla ice cream covered in snap crisp milk chocolate. One Magnum is unbelievable. Should you be bold enough to go a second, it'll still taste pretty good but will no way match the first experience. Have a third and you'll probably want to throw up. That's the "law of diminishing returns". You get a lessening effect from what you set out to get/achieve the more you repeat the action.

Laurel & Hardy: Stan places a ladder up against a wall and walks away. Two minutes later, Ollie comes by, walks under the ladder and a paint pot falls on his head. We laugh. Cut to the same again: Stan places the ladder and walks off, Ollie walks underneath and the paint pot lands on his head again. We manage a wry grin this time but don't laugh out loud. The third time that Ollie walks under that ladder and the paint pot falls on his head, we think he's stupid for not learning his lesson, no laugh.

In The Hurt Locker, I was done after three bomb detonations. How many times can I watch variations of "do I cut the red wire or the green wire?" And surely, I can't have been the only one who knew that we just had to end up with a suicide bomber? I know I'm reducing it down a tad, but I still had a god time in the cinema...not a great time.

No wonder Quentin looked miffed when the camera cut to him on 'hooray for Hollywood' night; he knew that he deserved that he Award over the actual winners and guess what.....he was right, his artisan's strudel won it every time.

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