Thursday, August 12, 2010

Modern Maestros: Edgar Wright

Robert here, back with another entry in my series on great contemporary directors.

Maestro: Edger Wright
Known For: Extremely funny revisionist takes on pop genres.
Influences: Possibly everything.
Masterpieces: Hot Fuzz
Disasters: nothing, of course not.
Better than you remember: Not unless you didn't like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Box Office: 23 mil for Hot Fuzz
Favorite Actor: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of course.

"The characters are so, kind of, like...their lives are so governed by pop culture and media and stuff that they can only think in those terms," says Edgar Wright of his films.  And I'm glad he does.  It saves me a lot of work this week.  All directors should be required to make such concise statements about their work.  It's true, in Edgar Wright's movies reality is bound by pop culture.  But Wright is on to something, because in actual life, reality is also bound by pop culture reality.  It doesn't matter whether you have a preference for the popular, cult, nerdy or esoteric, it's difficult to make it through the day without seeing a parallel to some song, book or (usually for people like us) movie.  It's a symptom of our constant 24/7 media, internet, streaming video saturated lives (though it probably began with VHS).  It's not necessarily a bad thing though it's accepted as a given, not much to talk about.  Except Edgar Wright; he wants to talk about it.

You eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube  -Howard Beale via Peter Finch via Paddy Chayefsky
Discussions of culture's grip on our realities are traditionally gloom and doom and eternal damnation. Not to Wright who clearly relishes how much his world reflects his favorite movies.  In fact in his films it's almost impossible to tell which is reflecting which any more.  In Shaun of the Dead Wright presents a reality where people start off zombified in life.  In Hot Fuzz, Nick Frost's Danny after being admonished for thinking police life is really like Hollywood blockbusters, turns out to be right.  What seems to be most important is that Edgar Wright is having fun.  He's happy to be living a culture-fueled life and this joy is apparent in his films.  The man gives hope that the satire (a term that almost seems too derisive to really apply to his work) is not dead, in a reality when that genre seems relegated to extended Saturday Night Live sketches or pop culture mockery. 

Hotly anticipated this week is Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, in which the director steps out of his comfort zone (in that he's not doing a movie satire with Penn and Frost) and back into his comfort zone (in that he's still exploring the same themes but with video games as a stand in).  Turns out it's really impossible to escape this idea that our lives are defined by the culture we consume.  Have you ever thought about what locations would be the dungeons and what people the big bads in the video game of your life (or who'd be the regulars and guest stars if your life was a sitcom? or what actors would be cast if your life was a film?).  It's how we view reality any more, and it's funny.  And perhaps it really is the downfall of society.  But that's okay, because we'll be watching it all through Edgar Wright's awesome tinted glasses.


chris na Taraja said...


Ryan T. said...

Whenever someone asks me what my favorite film of 2004 was, I would still tell them it's a tie between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Shaun of the Dead.

I saw Shaun and Hot Fuzz opening weekend when they came out. I will pay him the same respect and do the same this weekend for Scott Pilgrim. Very excited!

Anonymous said...

Shaun of the dead is a masterpiece. Hot Fuzz isn't.

David Coley said...

I'm halfway through Spaced and really enjoying it. The whole seeing-life-through-pop-culture thing really reaches a fever pitch there.

Poppy said...

If you're gonna call Hot fuzz a masterpiece then you might aswell call Shaun of the Dead one too cause that's like loving only one of your children and ignoring the other.

Anonymous said...

I always thought Shaun of the Dead was the more culturally widespread Edgar Wright movie. But yeah, saw Scott Pilgrim. It will leave you breathless :).

pomme said...

i like the face of the mother in "shaun of the dead" but i'm hermetic to this humor:these movies are more funny to describe to a friend than to be seen on my opinion

Dan said... fully appreciate Wright and Pegg's work you have to give Spaced a watch. They were doing all the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz antics long before the big screen on British television. The films are just bigger budgets versions of some of those episodes. Well worth seeing if you're a fan!

Glenn said...

Love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz even more.

...and then there's Scott Pilgrim vs The World, a movie that I find myself liking less and less as the days go by. It's sexist, it treats its characters cruelly and about people whose only reason for existing is to have this movie made about them. I know its a fantasy, but nobody in this movie does anything to make them worthy of existing let alone devotion by so many.

Volvagia said...

I understand that complaint. He seems to have flattened everybody to such a degree so he can crank out a movie under 2 hours. I would have, reasonably, cut maybe 30% of the material, hoping for a 3 and 3/4 hour cut. (I'd assume it's ageist against dating someone younger, as the source material is. And yes, the source is cruel toward all it's characters. ALL OF THEM. But sexist? How? That suggests you paint only one gender negatively. Until I see the movie, I'm just going to suppose it has the occasional toonish misanthropy of the source.)

Glenn Dunks said...

Volvagia, - SPOILERS - I found it sexist due to the female ex villain character. She is a woman and yet she is the only who to which sex is used against her. She is brought down by her own erogenous zone, for crying out loud! I never saw Ramona tell Scott during one of his fights with the male exes about their erogenous zones. No, she is a woman and sex is used as a weapon against her. That's fuckin' insane! She was not defeated because her opponent was better than her, she was defeated because she has an orgasm.

END SPOILER, i guess.

And then there's that character who actually, ya know, has a job and works to earn money instead of falling arse-backwards into it like everyone else seems to. And yet she is treated cruelly by everyone without any reasoning. She "has issues", but let's not actually elaborate on them because Scott is standing over there being twee, let's focus on that! The comic may be cruel to everyone, but the movie treats them as sacred cows worthy of worship.


Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I saw Shaun of the Dead I was so bored by the first thirty minutes but then I got into it and laughed a few times. I liked it. But now I seem to watch it on tv every time I catch it or atleast, sometimes, watch it until the commercial comes on then go to something else. It keeps me smiling. I just plain hate Hot Fuzz.

Marshall1 said...

I am not a big fan of Scott Pilgrim, and I even get to see it for free! First of all, I think some people are miscasted i.e. Cera and Schwartzman. But the main offense are there is no story and character development. After the whole movie, I still don't understand why Ramona would fall in love with Cera's character (other than he fights for her). They could've expanded on the theme of running away from one's past because I think it adds poignancy to the movie. With great satire in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie is surprisingly flat. The movie does seem to appeal to under 18 and people with ADD because each scene is moving so fast and short. I wish the fight scenes could last longer. It spends so much time in the beginner about the 4 villains that the ending seems rushed. It's still better than the very important Kick-Ass, but only mildly better.

Volvagia said...

Okay, Glenn. You got me there, that is bad, as in unethical. And that didn't happen in the comic. And sometimes I wondered "Why Edgar Wright? He's good and all, but this probably needs someone a bit more...critical...toward his characters." If I had to decide what to do with this material, I would have 1. Bought the Rights, 2. Waited until the series was actually over and then 3. Given the material to Brian DePalma and said, "Greed this."