Archive for the ‘TV and Cinema’ Category

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Abjuration of The Conjuring

July 31, 2013

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It seems that watching “The Conjuring”, which set off my Spider Sense before even making the attempt, was a mistake.  Still, ever one to give something a fair shake of the stick, as it were…

By way of a disclaimer, I should point out that I like horror films.  From “Nosferatu” to “Cannibal Ferox”, from “The Legend of Hell House” to “Silent Hill”.  However, …

From a horror movie standpoint, “The Conjuring” is a pastiche of “The Amityville Horror” 1&2 and Poltergeist in places with a modern remake feel.  The problem there is that the modern feel tends to espouse the steady build-up approach and opt for a rapid jump cut technique that can leave you spinning at times.  Occasionally, it’s easy to forget which house a set is supposed to represent and then, when a character comes into shot, I found myself thinking “What are they doing there?”, when, in fact, the jump cut was so fast that the change in location was temporarily lost on me.

Thinking of editing, it seems rather haphazard at times, like it’s been done by Ray Charles with a cut throat razor.

Soundtrack-wise, this could be just about any modern movie.  Audio tropes abound.  At least the dialogue is fairly clear, which is a change these days.

The actors playing the Warrens give very human performances.  Anyone who’s seen footage of the actual Warrens will know how much of a surprise that will have been.

Content:  Well, here’s where I reach a bit of a sticky situation.  Firstly, the start of the film proclaims that the contents of this film are only just being told now, for the first time.  Well, the book that one of the Perron’s wrote and was published over two years ago must be a figment of my imagination, then.  Proclaiming it to be based on a “True Story”…

There are a slew of problems inherent here.  Firstly, the “True Story” banner has to be considered somewhat flexible.  Paranormal encounters are usually personal experiences.  I’m not in a position to say yea or nay as to the veracity of the experiences of others.  “Based on” also gives the film makers a lot of leeway and that, I think, gets thoroughly exercised here.

Secondly, the Warrens turn up and seem to go to “It’s demonic!” by default.  There’s nothing quite like telling scared people that they’re tangling with a “demon”, I suspect.  If that is, indeed, the way things unfolded, then I would have to call that course of action irresponsible at best.

Now for my biggest problem with the film.  I’m an eclectic grey Pagan.  The whole “evil witch” thing is really not on.  If any of the Abrahamic faiths had been slandered like that, there’d be trouble.  It appears that Christians, Jews and Muslims of all stripes are unassailable as far as mainstream cinema is concerned.  Pagans, often witches, are thrown with abandon into the grinder and vilified.

It’s not on, but I have to accept that my expectations were lived down to, despite trying to approach with some form of neutrality.

Peace and Blessed be!

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A Tale of Two Movies

May 30, 2012

While I’m happy to say that there are a lot of films I still have to catch up with (I missed so much due to a few years of other obligations), there seems to be a catch and I know I’ve mentioned this elsewhere:  Remakes.

I’ve just caught up with the 2005 version of The Fog and this serves as an example.  Some of the problems are similar to those encountered in a lot of modern movie making, let alone the remake/reboot/re-imagining contagion.

Firstly, John Carpenter’s name is attached to the film as a Producer, but he claims his contact was minimal.  Nice to know he can at least add the disclaimer, “I didn’t do it!”.

The film itself starts with a very different shot from its predecessor and I believe that is a chunk of the problem in microcosm.  The original starts with the midnight ghost stories sequence.  Dark and with the tick of the watch acting as a pace maker, it gives you a rhythm and an atmosphere from the outset.

By 2005, it must have seemed like a better idea to start with a daylight panoramic shot.  Very scenic but it’s a bland.  This could be a modern sensibility or just a device to reduce the tension, given the difference in ratings between the two movies (the original got an R rating while the 2005 version is a PG-13).  After all, you can’t actually scare anyone with a horror movie.

Also included was a “social upgrade”.  Making and marketing a film toward the demographic that will possibly attend a PG-13 movie always seems to shift the casting toward young adult/adolescent characters with all the cyphered traits that are both implicit and explicit.  The catch there is that often a lot of those characters behave in such a way that I just can’t invest any sentiment toward them.

Characters provide me with bugbears.  There are movies wherein the characters are so awful and performances so dire and irritating that I want them to die.  Independence Day is a good example of this.  This is a stark contrast to, say, John Carpenter’s 1978 Helloween, where I got to care to varying degrees about the movie’s population, even when they were being irritating teenagers.

Sometimes, an audience will point to modern effects technology as being a big selling point, but if “improved effects” are your reason for watching a film, then I can’t help but feel that there’s something intrinsically wrong.

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Of adaptations…

June 9, 2011

Recently, whilst watching the Granada TV adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories, I happened across an online comment about the episode I had just watched (The Bruce Partington Plans): “Not as good as the book, but still worth watching.”

Firstly,  The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plan” was not a book, but a part of a collection of short works released as “His Last Bow”.  A small point but, if someone’s going to get snotty, I’ll often resort to the standpoint of the pedant.

Secondly, did the author of said comment not realise that any kind of visual drama is going to vary to some degree from any original printed work from which it was adapted, given that there are certain dramatic conventions that an audience respond to that may not be within a printed story.  For many years, I have held that this was part of the reason that so little of Asimov’s work remains unfilmed.  A good ten pages of unbroken exposition may work well for the reader, but an audience…?  Maybe not.

A further thought occurred to me.  Why is there an air of smug superiority in the “Not as good as the book” part of the comment?

It seems to me that there’s a form of pseudo-intellectual hipster out there.  “Oooooh, look at me!  I’ve read the original text!”.  These must be the same people who demand unadulterated versions of Awful Austin, Boring Bronte, Dreary Dickens and Tiresome Trollope on our screens at regular intervals.

Note to those quasi-fecal pieces of effluvia:  You are not alone.  Remember that.  You are not the only person to have ever read the original text.  That alone should damage the bourgeois hipster’s ego and let the rest of us carry on unhindered in our enjoyment of adaptations that remain close to the original source, as opposed to those that butcher it, often by including a colossal douchenozzle like Will Smith or Jim Carrey in the cast.