Friday, March 17, 2006

Movies I used to love

I read Courtney's blog some months ago that mentioned how It's A Wonderful Life makes her sad. This reminded me that I don't like that movie any more either. Other movies that I used to love but I don't like any more are What about Bob? And Roxanne, and, as I have written earlier, I don't like the Sound of Music either.

Why I don't like It's a Wonderful Life: OK, the basic idea is nice: the world would be a lot worse if not for good people, and their influence can be more extensive than they ever realize. And I understand (and even subscribe to?) the ethic of "that beautiful world that you want to go see, well all the beauty is right before your eyes, right where you are!" But couldn't that be told while letting George get his non-destructive wishes? Underlying these messages is a conspiracy to undercut what George Bailey wants to do. It is essentially the opposite story of the Truman Show. In the Truman Show, everyone wants Truman to buy into this manufactured psuedo-life, but all he wants to do is get away. He finally does and we cheer him on. In It's a Wonderful Life, all George Bailey wants to do is get away, granted it's not manufactured in the way Truman's is, still he wants to get away, and justifiably so. For many dramatic reasons, he stays and comes to desparation and ultimately decides to buy into the other's view (that he could never understand) that Bedford Falls is a great place, and anything beyond it is not worth pursuing. Why should George be deprived of his obvious, persistent, non-destructive desire? George wants to throw rocks at Donna Reid's heart's desire (the house) but eventually he moves into it, though he never likes it until the end (supposedly--that wonderful drafty old house!). Through various ways (prayer, losing a wad of money, his father's death, manipulative timing on pregnancy announcements, panic, etc.) the citizens have fought to undermine what George Bailey wants. At the end, he resigns himself to go along with the others' desires for him. And we are supposed to cheer, but isn't this sad? I deeply hope that those of you who still love this movie and find tremendous joy out of it will not any longer.


What about Bob? used to be one of my favorite movies, and probably because I've watched it like 5000 times I don't like it anymore. I've tried to watch it again and just laugh like in old days, but it's always an uncomfortable, whiny, fake laugh. My feeling is that the message is too serious to be treated by that sort of comedy, and it ends up making light of troubling circumstances in an uncomfortable, but ultimately not funny way. And the humor is mostly centered on crazy people doing crazy things, or disturbing people doing disturbing things. There are no heroes, little growth, and the "growth" that happens comes at the expense of a family, and the destruction of the family has no legitimate resolve. I even want to feel touched that this family accepts Bob and Bob can be a contributing citizen because he has friends, but the movie keeps getting in the way. It is also of course, the story of a man (Dr. Marvin)coming to terms with his manipulative, authoritative stance in life, and the result is tragic, but we can't really be sad for him because he is the butt of the joke. I can still laugh at individual scenes, but I find the overall movie disturbing. As with It's a Wonderful Life, I deeply hope that those of you who still love this movie and find tremendous joy out of it will not any longer.

Roxanne: This movie now strikes me as a snobby-intellectual snubbing of less educated people. Steve Martin comes up with better (more intellectual) put-downs, and Roxanne falls in love with the fireman because he (supposedly) recites nice poetry, or has a way with words, and buys books like Being and Nothingness (nice!). (Really he is just a puppet for other smart people when he does these things). He (the stupid fireman) finally leaves Roxanne to go after the other uneducated, stupid lady. Why doesn't Roxanne like this guy in the end? Because he is too stupid. Why does she ultimately like Steve Martin? Because he is intellectual. And what is the overall message: stupid (uneducated) people are stupid. Really interesting people listen to operas, and discuss poetry, art criticism, philosophy, and astronomy. Maybe I would have liked it more if she preferred Steve Martin because he was more spiritual? I don't know. Well, maybe it is just a clever way to encourage education? Perhaps, but not as much as a manipulative way to look down on stupid people. But, I guess they are stupid, so why am I making a big deal about it?

I still hold, more emphatically now than ever before, with my critique of Maria. Burn in Hell Maria! Burn in Hell!

19 comments:

  1. How could you?! Nothing will ever make us stop loving It's a Wonderful Life. Not even you, Ben.

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  2. Lindsey, do you really want to fight me on this? Are you happy George Bailey never got what he wanted? Actually, even if only one person doesn't find the joy that he or she once found in that movie, then it will have been worth it for me.

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  3. rachel5:02 PM

    Ben, one word. . .sequel!

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  4. I think the same thing applies to music- in both cases in our youth we thrive on the one-liners, but as adults we look for more meat. so some bands just really suck when you listen to them years later...like U2 for example.


    jk

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  5. Ben, another movie that used to rule was Bill and Ted. Not so good anymore. Rocky III (the one with mr T) was good in 83, bad in 0-6. What about Tron? Short Circuit? or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? I watched that the other night....hate it now. And don't even get me started on Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo.

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  6. Ben- a lot of this has to do with the fact that Roxanne and Bob were both made in the late 80's. It was a really pretentious, ugly time for our country. The only good film to come out of that period was "Lisa," starring Stacy Keanan of TV's "My Two Dads," and I'm sure you know why.

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  7. I think I know why--because of Richard, the Candlelight Killer? Now there's a timeless villain. (Because candlelight is as scary now as it was then.)

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  8. Ben, George doesn't get what he wants . . . yet. His perspective through most of the movie is the same as yours (and mine)was when you used to love "What About Bob" and "Roxanne." With his new line of credit from Sam Wainright, George is finally on his way. That clerk that says to Potter, "this fine young clerk will be working for George Bailey" probably does end up working for him. George Bailey is Grandpa Groberg. He just stays in the business long enough that pretty soon he owns the whole town. Plus, haven't you seen the Saturday Night Live where someone says, "hey, I saw Mr. Potter with the money?" and they dog-pile the old man?

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  9. Alas Ben we are soulmates.

    And I saw your parents eating at La Carretta last night and I thought to myself "If the Blairs will eat here then I can eat here too." I trust your culturally intelligent parents.

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  10. Ben, I think you misunderstand what George wants. He just wants to do big important things and have a real impact on the world. He wants to be honored and appreciated. He thinks that he must leave Bedford Falls in order to achieve these ambitions. In the end he finally realizes that it does not require leaving ones hometown to do big things. I also agree with Jim. George's life is not yet over, he has built up so much equity both socially and financially that years later Potter is dogpiled on and George travels the world. They should have mentioned that at the end of the movie I guess.

    Maybe your hatred of each of these movies is because each one of them has an anti-robot message. Quit trying to make us all robot believers Ben.

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  11. Amen! I have to agree with Salem, Ben. I couldn't have put it better myself.

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  12. I always hated "It's a Wonderful Life." It was too slow and I didn't understand or buy into the "do good for the community over doing good for oneself" mentality. I was horrified for George Bailey who could never escape from St. George, I mean Bedford Falls.

    Now,as I am maturing and absolutly buying into "community service on all levels", I am finally LOVING this movie. Netflix sends it to me every December and I watch it with or without the kids.

    I guess I have to believe in the story. In some ways I feel I'm living it. Tell me my equity is growing...

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  13. In church yesterday as part of a lesson the sunday school teacher asked us to list popular movies. An elderly lady in the class said "broke back mountain." The first movie i could think to mention was the black stallion, starring the young christopher clark (or somebody who looked very much like him). i think i remember when that movie came out, that chris had me convinced that he was either in it or he auditioned for the part.
    i haven't seen that movie in a long time. i liked it when i was younger, but i probably wouldn't like it now.

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  14. In church yesterday as part of a lesson the sunday school teacher asked us to list popular movies. An elderly lady in the class said "broke back mountain." The first movie i could think to mention was the black stallion, starring the young christopher clark (or somebody who looked very much like him). i think i remember when that movie came out, that chris had me convinced that he was either in it or he auditioned for the part.
    i haven't seen that movie in a long time. i liked it when i was younger, but i probably wouldn't like it now.

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  15. Jim, Salem, and Lindsey:
    I guess you can watch It's a Wonderful Life in a way that violates the whole movie and just furthers my take, but wouldn't that just violate the whole movie and only serve to further my take on it? Remember, George has had money and economic and political capital before. Potter's consultants rightfully warned Potter to beware of George. The final scene is not George's victory, it is the people of Bedford Falls' victory OVER George. George's life is not yet over, but the movie has nothing more to say about it. As far as the movie is concerned, George will never leave. If you harbor hope that now he can leave and do what he always wanted to, then you are not a very genuine supporter of the movie's central theme. You either affirm that it is good that George never got what he wanted and he never should, or you agree with me that Bedford Falls is a sick, sick village. No. If you are honest, you are on my side. Welcome aboard!

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  16. Devon:

    Is that you? If so, fill in the blank:

    EZ 'E', cool Moe 'D' the names don't mean nothin' to me. I'm ______

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  17. So Devon, did the class have a good discussion on Brokeback?

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  18. Shane, I know I shouldn't get you started, but I'm dying to hear about Breakin 2's fall from grace.

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  19. I'm little late here, but just FYI Roxanne is based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac and I liked the play (I read it) much better than Roxanne.

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