There’s a thoughtful post in the Barrelhouse blog abt the movie “Four Christmases” and making fiction “happen.” I think this is a great reflection on the kind of fiction that aims to conceal its scaffolding, realism that seeks verisimilitude.
I like this kind of writing. I also like writing aware of its own artifice.
And I enjoyed the movie “Four Christmases” a lot more than I expected. Barrelhouse’s Mike is correct — its characters never fully emerge as characters, but would Reese Witherspoon lifting small children and flinging them against the walls of a jumping castle have been as entertaining if I hadn’t been thinking, “Holy shit! Reese Witherspoon is throwing kids!” ?? …Possibly not.
I like cultural products aware of their own artifice, both the artful (see link to Artifice Magazine above) and the horrific and craptastic, which I enjoy for their pure spectacle.
I recently consumed the movie “Valentine’s Day,” a hot, delicious mess of a movie, and experienced great joy consuming it. I like this recent crop of ensemble romantic comedies. They eschew things like character development, depth, emotional complexity, etc, opting instead to proceed at a rapid pace from one manipulative moment to the next, leaving the viewer in a state of constant, pitched, overwrought emotion. Kinda like rom-com porn or cocaine or something. Reviewers keep comparing “Valentine’s Day” to a box of cheap drugstore chocolates, which is actually totally appropriate, because — you know that brief euphoric sensation you feel after snorting a convenience store doughnut? That’s totally “Valentine’s Day.”
These ensemble rom-coms are not movies so much as meta-movies, and their characters are not characters but dolls. I imagine writing their scripts must be like playing with dolls: You be the Patrick Dempsey doll. I’ll be the Jessica Alba doll. Which doll has the prettiest hair? I want to be that doll when I grow up. But what should she wear? These movies have absurdly stacked casts because familiar faces (and bodies — see: Eric Dane, Taylor Lautner) serve as substitutes for content. We see Julia Roberts’ or Taylor Swift’s face and project a ton of our own scripts and fantasies onto each.
Are these movies truly self-aware? Can crap be self-aware? I think so. We’ve got Shirley McClaine posing in front of her own image from a classic film while she makes out with Hector Elizondo. We’ve got Taylor Lautner’s character saying he’s uncomfortable taking off his shirt. We’ve got Julia Roberts in the outtakes, riding in a limousine down Rodeo Drive and cracking jokes about how she “used to shop there.”
Because “Valentine’s Day” is a shallow film about a bunch of people from Los Angeles whose lives are woven together by a contrived network of relationships and events, several critics have compared it to Paul Haggis’s Crash.
Another recent and glorious crapfest directed by Haggis is the music video for the new recording of “We are the World,” updated to benefit survivors of the crisis in Haiti.
Remember how the original “We are the World,” recorded in 1985 for African famine relief, was epic schlock? (My grandparents had this hilarious “making of” video abt “We are the World,” hosted by Jane Fonda, and I used to watch it whenever I visited them. I was obsessed with Cyndi Lauper’s hair). But remember how despite the weird assemblage of voices (everybody from Huey Lewis to Dionne Warwick), that shit still cohered into a single type of schlock, a very mid-80’s adult contemporary-type schlock? Not so with the update. In the Haiti version, about 20 different varieties of schlock are competing for attention, resulting in horrific dissonance. D-listers singing alongside icons. Babs juxtaposed with the autotune R & B-sters. Janet Jackson looking creepy alongside her dead brother. All sloppily intercut with footage from the crisis in Haiti. I can’t get enough of it. It must be seen to be believed: