Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I am Sous Rature's Class Rage

People who know me might not be surprised that I saw The Devil Wears Prada the other day, as I had a gap in my schedule of about three hours, and none of the films that I was actually anticipating this summer had been released yet. I was prepared for a fair-to-middling “chick flick”; what I was not prepared for, however, was for a barely containable class rage to rear up in my consciousness even as I sat in the movie theater.

A little background is necessary here. First off, my family is basically lower middle class as far back as I can trace. I often joke with friends that my forebears probably carried the luggage off the Mayflower. At the same time, I come from a long line of educators, artists, and lovers of reading. It was no surprise to anyone in my family that I studied literature when I went to college; I had said as much when I was in the seventh grade, and I have an aunt who went the same way. Most of the men in my family, though, are tradesmen of one kind or another—printers, mechanics, truck drivers, technicians. All through my childhood, I witnessed adults struggling to support their families; my stepfather mowed lawns in the day and worked as the night janitor at a high school while he went to welding school. What this meant for me was that whatever I was going to do, it had to be, foremost, a trade that could support me.

Teaching English seemed like a reasonable way to go, and there are ways in which my time as a literature student (twelve years) was incredibly important, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything; however, there were a few difficulties. First, literature is not typically a discipline for the masses, and I continuously felt out of place among my peers. I was surrounded by people who immediately clarified the meaning of the word dilettante. These were people who had opinions about wine and could use the word lover in a conversation without it seeming entirely ridiculous. My tastes are a bit different, and if my love for popular culture generally and television specifically made me a little bit the odd John, my scientific leaning were tantamount to declaring myself the enemy. For many of them, I was the Morlock in the garden of the Eloi.

What made this worse is that I love art and literature and much of what is put in the “high culture” box. This stuff meant a lot to me, and I was often the wide-eyed innocent; to me, they often felt like the couple in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” or extras in The Great Gatsby. It often felt to me that all of what we were doing mattered more to me than it did to them, even as they were “to the manor born.” It took me a long time to figure out why Jude the Obscure got me so angry, but years later, I realized that it hit a little too close to home. I was smart enough to get into the party, but once I was there, there was no reward other than the discomfort of literally and figuratively not knowing what fork to eat with.

Going to England for a year served to further define things. England is an openly class-driven society, and I could clearly see where my allegiances lay. Further, I am not particularly an Anglophile, but my enthusiasm often overshadowed that of other exchange students (particularly those from New York), who seemed more interested in not appearing interested. What it really seemed like was that these people were (1) practicing not being impressed, and (2) setting up contacts for future shopping expeditions later in their lives. I had a great time in England, and I think my experience was probably richer and more personally meaningful than it was for many of these people; at the same time, it was my first (and so far only) trip out of the country, and it proved nearly ruinous financially. I loved Europe, and I always grind my teeth a bit when I hear people talk so casually about popping over the Atlantic when it is just a couple steps shy of a lunar landing for me.

My moviegoing experience of a few weeks back shouldn’t have been a shock for me, but it was. I have some dimensions of my personality that I wish I could change, but, barring that, at least I can be honest about them. Seeing this film about the transformation of a basically down-to-earth character into a fashionista brought up my bile in a way that I hadn’t seen in myself since that time I accidentally watched Paris Hilton abuse Burger King employees on The Simple Life. I can only call it class rage, and it is one of the only instances where my thoughts actually take a violent turn. I can understand the spirit of the French Revolution when Barbara Bush talks so callously about the displaced poor, when well-heeled people don’t get what’s going on at intermission of Ibsen’s A Doll House. Whether I like it or not, I feel like I have more right to the great things of our culture because they actually mean something to me, because they were not my birthright, because I pursued them, because they weren’t a given for me.

This is a self-esteem issue too, though. Every now and again, I get the sensation that I am a barely restrained Liza Doolittle at the garden party, and my discourse on art, philosophy, and culture is only shades different from KoKo’s attachment to a kitten. I’d like to get over it, but I’m not sure I ever will.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Artistic Process

This sums up nicely a feeling I have about the process of artistic acceptance, among other things. There doesn't seem to be anything on deck for writer/director Jeff Hopkins, but I hope there will be soon. It's a good little film even without the personal relevance.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why Teach Critical Reading?

Here's a good reason. This is an anti-abortion blogger who apparently wasn't able to figure out that The Onion was a satirical newspaper. Now, I'm like the millionth blogger I think to make fun of this, he even had to post a response to all the other chattering horde on the internet that still fails to realize the schtick of The Onion.

But since an English teacher (theoretical) co-authors this blog and another occasionally visits it I thought it a relevant justification for the work they do. She must think Swift is the father of the pro-choice movement...

Side note: Blogspot spell check doesn't recognize "Blogger" and "blog"??? What the...

Update: This isn't the first time this has happened.

Monday, July 10, 2006

That's One Way to Deal With Criticism

Challenge them to a boxing match.

That's right. Uwe Boll, director of such universally panned video game to movie adaptations as House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, the former of which (being the only Boll I've seen) achieves connection to the game by actually splicing in screen shots of the game during a climactic(?) last fight, has decided to challenge his five harshest critics to a boxing match:

"I'm fed up with people slamming my films on the Internet without see them. Many journalists make value judgments on my films based on the opinions of one or two thousand Internet voices. Half of those opinions come from people who've never watched my films. I have been told that BloodRayne has a very bad IMDb rating but how many of those votes of zero were made before the movie appeared in theatres."

I can certainly understand that level of frustration. I mean when your a filmmaker that has a website dedicated to petitioning you to stop making films or calling you the antichrist, it can get to you. I'm reminded of the ending of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where they spend their royalty money giving internet forum haters a beat down. But as Banky says in that film:
That's what the internet is for. Slandering others anonymously. Stopping the flick isn't gonna stop that.

And really, if the rest of his movies are anything like House of the Dead, he does have a lot to answer for. But then, I guess he is. Though he's no fool, there are parameters-

To be eligible only critics who have posted on the internet or who have written in magazines / newspapers at least two extremely negative articles in the year 2005 will be considered. Critics of 2006 will not be considered. Please submit proof of your negative reviews & comments via e-mail to: info@boll-kg.de.

All challengers must be healthy males, weighing between 140 lbs. and 190 lbs. You will require to be physically examined by a doctor and sign the necessary release forms for liability, etc. You will not be paid nor entitle to any residuals or fees. Your transportation & hotel costs will be paid.

The following posters to the IMDb have earned the right to be placed on the list of the most extreme anti-Boll critics and therefore eligible to enter the contest for being picked to be an extra/stand-in in Postal and physically box Dr. Uwe Boll.


You will surely not want to miss this, so keep checking back on IGN for more!

I looked up a Headhuner004 quote, here, where he lists a bunch of anti-Boll movies.

He could just make better movies, but everyone deals with things their own way...

This Guy Really Hates Walls...

Roger Waters has graffiti the Israeli Wall. It's part of a larger campaign, and probably more news worthy is the concert and organization. But it's Waters, and a Wall.

Imagine in ten years time when he'll be in America with a whole new wall to graffiti...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

No Pictures, Please

Having been the Easter Bunny, I totally understand this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Now That's What I'm Talking About

As a geeky little kid H. P. Lovecraft was one of those things that was 'in my orbit,' so to speak. I was into role-playing games, and there was a role-playing game that I think I remember trying, or at least creating a character in. I had a complete volume of short stories that I read a few of. People who where into some of the things that I was into where into Lovecraft and Cthulhu. I would be a poser, though, to say that I was that into it.

But the movie that's been made I'm all about. Why? Because the filmmakers have decided to not only set it in the time period of the original story, but they have filmed it as if it was filmed in 1925-including being silent and only 47 minutes long. Looks like it's not going to be on a screen anywhere near me, the DVD is definatly on the list.

This is something that really intrigues me about modern filmmaking that really can only come about as a medium matures. Here the method of the filming is part of the narrative. The mise en scene has always been important in film, but this degree, not only what's on the film but how it was filmed, creates a new level of the narrative for the audience to interact with because the audience has an awareness of the medium. We're seeing this become more prominent, as with another film that uses this very technique, The Saddest Music in the World, the in the blending of documentary, narrative, and surrealist styles in the adaptation of American Splendor, or in the recent biopic of The Notorious Bettie Page that depicted the period of Page's life by emulating the film-stock of the photographs that she was taking at the time (grainy black and white in New York at the film clubs, over saturated color in Miami with Bunny Yeager). There are more examples, such as the super-genre love notes of Tarantino's Kill Bill and Conran's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It inspires me as an aspiring film maker and engages me as an active audience member.

I can only hope that Cthulhu and it's ilk are harbringers of things to come. Bravo.