Monday, February 06, 2006

Multiple Viewings Part 2

When I see a film more than once it falls into one of these four categories. We've already discussed the first two. So what of...
3) Those whose weaknesses become overpowering.
4) Oops, my bad. This film is great.

The fourth category --"oops my bad!"-- is rare. It sometimes involves masterpieces in disguise like, say, Showgirls which I originally thought of as unintentionally funny/bad and which I now accept fully as intentionally satiric and deliriously purposefully awful. But most films in this category are things I saw when I was not old enough to fully "get" them --films like Vertigo, Breaking the Waves,Blue Velvet. You have to be ready.

The third category, nosediving affection, is as common as the second (unfortunately). Crash and King Kong = Yep. third category. I liked but didn't come close to loving the former on first viewing. I loved the latter but had issues with the length and some setpieces. On second viewings of both I just wanted to throw things at the screen. Hurt them. Watching them again I was channelling Sandra Bullock (sorta) in the former "I'm angry all the time and I don't do know why!"

Crash is, as I always knew, just too 'surface'. It's so facile that it's easy to understand the contempt some feel for it. I still feel like it works as a whole in spite of itself. But here's the thing: Films about the evils of prejudice that play into the audience prejudices in a big way are off-putting. Philadelphia(1993) with its intense focus/audience surrogate use of Denzel Washington's homophobia was the same way. Blech! Plus Crash simply borrows too much from other films, like the far superior Magnolia, from which it doesn't borrow so much as outright rob. Replace "Wise Up" with "In the Deep" and frogs with snow and you'll see why.

King Kong is an even sadder example. I want to love this picture. I have been a fan of Peter Jackson for 11 years. I think Heavenly Creatures is one of the five best films of the 1990s. I think The Lord of the Rings will live on forever like, say, The Wizard of Oz. But I think Kong is a mess. I hate feeling this but I do. I just don't care when I'm watching it about anything other than Kong and Ann Darrow. Which would be fine if the film didn't stir so many other ingredients into its pot. Jackson feels the need to pad everything. It's almost as if the narrative needs and success of adapting Tolkien's multi-volume fantasy epic have robbed Jackson and team of the ability to discern and prune. Kong isn't large enough to support such grandiosity. Tolkien's epic outright required it to function.

King Kong is an adventure tale and in its current incarnation its so bloated that it just won't rampage like it should. There are breathtaking moments and there is magical chemistry in the Kong/Darrow relationship. But there is SO much else clogging the viewing experience. I want to run at the movie with scissors --removing entire sequences, pruning all action sequences by 1/2, combining characters, etc... until it's as scary/wondrous as I know it should be. I see the greatness in it but I have to squint and constantly shove obstructions from my view in order to do so. As a movie it's like that novel in Wonder Boys, 1000s of pages long because the author just couldn't stop writing and lost his ability to edit. I fear for what this means for Peter Jackson's next movies...

13 comments:

Cal said...

The same thing happened to me with Crash. I watched it coming back from NY (perhaps I was sleepy or something? :P) and loved it. But after watching it again, it only really comes together at the end. I think that's why I was left feeling overwhelmed after it had finished. I do still think Sandra Bullock was great though.

As for King Kong, it's too long, and the whole thing with the T-Rex's just bored the hell out of me, but then again, so did the battle of helms deep and whatever else in Lord of the Rings. I think King Kong does have a bit of magic about it though, especially at the end. After Heavenly Creatures I think it's his best film.

I agree that when you're younger you sometimes don't appreciate things as much, or indeed overappreciate them. You can also hate them if you're not giving it your full attention, like I did with About Schmidt.

I'm beginning to doubt Match Point already. I loved it but I'm not sure if it was really all that. I'll have to see it again.

adam k. said...

I had a #3 reaction with the Family Stone. Like Cal with Crash, I was very sleep when I saw it, and in an odd state of euphoria at having finished finals, so for some reason all the flaws just didn't register for me. It seemed like a totally different film. I suspected that I'd overrated it, though, so I saw it again, and lo and behold... mediocrity. Though I maintain that the cast did some amazing things with that script. Unfortunately, Bezucha just wouldn't let them shine the way they tried to.

Nick M. said...

Fortunately, I was able to realize that Crash and King Kong are mediocre upon first viewing. It saved me money, five hours, and another look at Sandra Bullock. I love my instincts.

adam k. said...

I don't think Kong is mediocre, I just think it has problems.

OhMyTrill said...

Kong has MAJOR problems...but rather than rewatching it and hating it, I choose tp just erase the parts that drive me insane and I can enjoy the scenes that were really amazing!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Actually the thing that will happen to Jackson's next movie (especially if it's a big movie) is the studio will require it doesn't extend over 2.5hours.

I discussed Crash in part 1. I like it warts and all.

King Kong, I really can't be bothered watching again because I had such an annoying reaction to it the first time. I liked it, but didn't love but since viewing it it's slowly gone down to "yeah, it was alright" whenever someone asks me. Just too long and too big and too overblown and too everything. But i suppose, that's what DVD is for. Skipping the bad parts. They should have a function where you can make your own Kong edit.

I have a few films I'd LOVE to see again because I can't go through life thinking they're nothing special. Cabaret, Singin' In The Rain, Breakfast at Tiffany's... but, the thing is. Apart from Cabaret I can't be bothered watching any of them because I don't wanna waste time watching them again if they're not that great. And then there are movies like Mon Oncle that everyone raves about but i just KNOW I will never like and to them I say "psha! who cares"

And even then there are films I've started to watch and have to revisit. Hell, just last night I revisited Romper Stomper - I couldn't sit through it before now and while it's still not a great film at least I've seen it all the way through. And just the other day I started to watch the original The King & I and OH. MY. GOD. So freakin' long and boring. I turned it off and had a nap.

Anonymous said...

Wow I would really have to disagree with you on Crash. It is my personal choice for The Best Movie of 2005 and I think Thandie Newton gives the best performance of everyone in that movie. It is not an uneven performance by the way. Sandra Bullock was excellent as well.

King Kong, I also would have to disagree with you. The action sequences are the best and if he cut them shorter it just wouldnt feel the same.

Ramification said...

The 'In The Deep' montage is to me what ruins Crash as a whole. I loved the quieter moments in the film, and I was willing to believe all the coincedences that happened, but why Haggis chose to beat us over the head with that montage ? I think his audience deserved a bit more credit. And for all the great sequences and moments in Crash, the only thing that sticks in my mind is that song and the snow and not in a good way.

Neel Mehta said...

My feelings toward Peter Jackson's bloated filmmaking are similar, though I made that discovery about 3 films earlier.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I was willing to forgive Jackson's bloated vision for King Kong until I realised he has released a (get this) Director's Cut of... THE FRIGHTENERS!!!!

Seriously. That movie didn't NOT need to be any longer than it was.

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to put into words exactly how I felt about King Kong and you, sir, have done just that. The Wonder Boys analogy is spot on.

John T. said...

I'll admit to being in love with King Kong, but you do make some valid points Nathaniel, and I'm not in argumentative mood (I'll just say it swept me up with Peter Jackson magic-not in the same way as LOTR, but in a different, still satisfying way).

A number three for me would be Chicago. The first time I saw it, I was so in love with Catherine Zeta-Jones, I didn't really care that Zellwegger was wooden, Gere was boring, and the plot was about as predictible as a FOX News Broadcast. I'm prone to watching movies countless times, but Chicago never makes it in the rotation, which I think is said, because Zeta-Jones gives one of the best performances of the decade, but I don't want to sit through the rest of the film.

melvel said...

I have exactly the same sentiments about Crash. I actually loved the film when I first saw it early last year, but when I re-watched it on DVD, my appreciation for it went down several notches.

In retrospect, I probably liked the film the first time only because it was the first decent film of 2005.