Over the past couple of years I have become repulsed by the movie culture elite. The ranters and ravers who condemn a film that doesn’t adhere to the standards they have come to expect. Video bloggers detailing successful formulas that when broken destroy a movie.
These fools are responsible for the massive decline in mainstream entertainment. They bitch and complain about remakes and sequels, yet shell out their money in order to do so. A derivative popcorn flick is okay as long as it fits into the box of expectations they have already shaped for it, and the decision to break free of tradition, to do something other than the rules set by their moronic peers, is an injustice that can not be forgiven.
I first became aware of this epidemic while having a discussion with someone about the recently released Inglourious Basterds during a friend’s live Video blog. He was saying that the film had some serious problems. I agreed, but what movie doesn’t? His beef with the flick was that the WW2 film is not a genre of it’s own. He explained that there are different genres within the Dubleya-Dubleya Two timeline. You’ve got your spy thrillers, the heroic commando films, and the holocaust epics. Tarantino tried to make one World War Two movie with all of those genres. And that, in his opinion, simply wasn’t done.
At the time, I couldn’t really come up with an argument. Honestly because I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Something about it wasn’t sitting right with me however. Like a stomach pain after eating a big meal. You’re not sure what it was, but SOMETHING you ate was going to make your girlfriend banish you to the couch to sleep because of the fumes escaping your bowels.
The next day I was still thinking about it. Why did that guy’s opinion irk me so much?
On my way to work, it hit me. This guy had some preconceived notion that a movie HAD to be a certain way because that’s how all the other’s he’d seen had been. Obviously he dug the division of genre in the WWII timeline and thought that was the only way to tell a story in that time period. If it worked all those other times, then it can’t work any other way.
This realization filled me with piss and vinegar (Which is a very odd feeling since I don’t really like vinegar and no one likes it when piss enters their body in any other form than a tasty beverage).
Immediately I texted my friend (the one who was video blogging) and unloaded on her my furious anger (no Tarantino pun intended) with her vlogging buddy. “It’s not Tarantino’s fault he’s got a stick up his ass about how World War Two movies are supposed to be made. Besides, QT was telling a multifaceted story, meant to cover several different aspects of the timeline, it wasn’t one linear story. Was he so blinded by his expectations of what a frigging movie is SUPPOSED to be that he can’t watch and enjoy it for what it is?!”
She replied with, “I haven’t seen it. Leave me alone.” And I did.
Since then I have seen this only get worse. I’ve even unsubscribed from otherwise entertaining youtubers for falling too often into this trap. One such incident was when a guy named Peter Rallis, who has a youtube show called Movie Buzz, reviewed Thor.
He said that action films have a three act structure that include three big action scenes. Each scene must increase in size to progress the intensity of the film. Because Thor’s biggest action sequence was in it’s first act he saw it as a massive failure.
So because something tried to be a little different, it sucked.
To be honest, I let that slide. It bugged me but I wrote it off as a stupid thing that probably wouldn’t happen again.
Dear God was I wrong.
When it was announced that Anne Hathaway had been cast as Catwoman he flipped his shit. A lot of people did. I didn’t, because I trust Chris Nolan, but lots of folks had their reservations. Rallis’s problem was a simple one, and he based it on “science”: Anne Hathaway’s eyes are too big.
You see, Disney has a way of manipulating the audience into understanding if a character is good or evil. Disney isn’t the only one to do it. James Cameron got some shit for it in Avatar. What you do is make all your good guys look honest and vulnerable by giving them big friendly eyes. The baddies got thin slits that you can’t trust. Rallis said something to the effect of, “Anne Hathaway can NOT be menacing. This isn’t just my opinion – this is SCIENCE.”
Keep in mind that this was long before even a frame of film had been shot.
Well, my faith in the public’s ability to accept a film on it’s own merits has only gone into further decline. Because of this I write every review with hesitation. Professionals like Mark Kermode give me the drive I need to apply rational thought and to look at every film as it’s own beast.
It was through my desire to share my views on films and Doctor Who that brought me here, to Let Us Nerd, and gave me the opportunity to see a short film called Havana In Bushwick.
There’s a guy who writes on this here blog named Gabe Rodriguez. I don’t know him personally. We’ve e-mailed a few times. He made a documentary years ago called The Joy That Got Away about one of my favorite films, Return to Oz. I saw it two or three years ago and enjoyed it. Feeling a bit nostalgic recently I found it on youtube and watched it again, having no idea who Gabe was or that he wrote for Let Us Nerd. When I realized the connection, I e-mailed him.
During our correspondence he told me about a new short film he’d made and invited me to watch it. I did and am glad to say that I liked it.
The story of Havana In Bushwick concerns a quiet guy named Garcia who feels out of place living in New York. Part of him longs for the romanticism of Havana. New York City, the area of Bushwick, is supposed to be alive with art and culture, yet he is still alienated and lonely. People see him a certain way because he’s Cuban and he doesn’t quite fit the bill. He’s stuck in what the world is and how he wants it to be.
That is until at a party he sees a nameless girl he calls Candela, because she’s like a flame, a moving image. He is given a glimpse of the beauty and romaticism of his idealized life in a single person. It is this moving image, a creature without bounds that does it for him.
Then things get a little out there for Garcia. Well, really out there. So out there that he’s not in the movie any longer.
Garcia helps out his neighbor and she returns the favor by showing him true inspiration. She’s a muse you see. She takes him outside the film. Once in this white void space she explains they are just characters in a movie. Once free from the constrants of reality Garcia is able to dream and express himself. He can shape the world into what he wants it to be. After all cinema doesn’t have conventions. It is a living artform. So he is alive because he is only in a film.
That’s where Havana In Bushwick really struck me. It’s unconventional style, diversions into occasionally awkward humor, and conversational narrator gave it a unique style, but the theme of the film gave it resonance.
I told Gabe that it reminded me a little of Terry Gilliam, my favorite director. Terry is known for his visual stylings and very unconventional story structure. In this way the film is kind of similar. Another aspect to Gilliam’s films that often get ignored are the main character’s tendencies to accept madness over reality. What we dream is often so much more rewarding than what we live.
I got the feeling that Garcia was doing the same thing, except he realized he was a dream himself. That epiphany brought him a new percpective to view his world.
Havana In Bushwick both tells you and shows you that film is a world without boundaries. This is a film that exists without conventions. At no point can you predict where it is going and it always manages to show you something that might, at first, seem out of place, but inevitably belongs because it is a flame, a moving image.
Congrats to Gabe for having the film accepted into the Bergenfield Film Festival and for being an official selection in The A.C.T.inc Film Festival. All the best with the film going forward. If ever you get the chance to see Havana In Bushwick do so. It could renew your faith in modern cinema.