Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Diablo Cody, Megan Fox, Jennifer’s Body and other Demons

First of all let me start by saying that I liked the movie. Jennifer’s Body fulfilled my expectations. It was a fun, sarcastic teen black comedy (a la Heathers) with an interesting horror sub-plot. If anything I was disappointed by its poor box office results. One of the main reasons for its cold reception has to do with the backlash for both Diablo Cody and Megan Fox, but not because of the movie itself. It is sad that this movie was not judged objectively; in any event it undoubtingly become a cult movie.

Diablo is one of the few cases where the writer becomes more important than the film. Her story from stripper to riches (which some would not believe if it was a movie), her peculiar writing and her love for the spotlight casted a shadow big enough to eclipse JB. It is understandable why some would find her annoying; Ms. Cody even admitted that in an alternate universe, she would be the one leading the front against someone like “Diablo Cody”. I appreciate her honesty in admitting this and she should get credit for it.

Her sophomore effort, after the highly successful Juno is a tall order. Juno, although overrated is still a pretty good movie, one garnered Diablo an Oscar®. Few writers that I can think of the top of my head have Diablo’s “star” power: Charlie Kaufman, Chuck Palahniuk (even though he’s yet to pen a screenplay) and Stephen King (although the films adapted from his works are mostly misses), to name a few. No matter what she would’ve written she would’ve fallen short. She knew it and Jason Reitman knew it. This was probably part of the reason why Reitman decided not to direct but instead to produce JB. By the way, Jason Reitman is one of the most underrated active directors. He holds a consistently solid track record with his previously helmed productions and seems to be holding his way with his latest. Hopefully Up in the Air will bring him the respect he deserves. In the end, Reitman made the right decision by not directing JB, since he most likely would have been overshadowed again by Diablo. Diablo on the other hand took a risk by not following Juno’s laid path. Sure, JB continues with Diablo’s teen themes and stylized dialogue, but does it in a very different way. Where Juno seemed more grounded in reality (at least within Diablo’s universe), JB is the kind of movie Juno’s characters would go see.

Most of JB’s negative reviews focus on its dialogue; some claim it’s unnatural, cringe worthy at times and that Diablo has worn it off. People in real life don’t talk like movie characters and yet Tarantino’s characters have more than their fair share of die-hard fans. How would have JB been viewed had it been Diablo’s first movie? Would critics be tired of her dialogue? Most likely they wouldn’t. I personally think that after two movies the dialogue is still fresh, hip and fun. What if people don’t really talk like that? If we did talk like that, conversations in general would be less boring and more engaging. The Gilmore girls spitted out snappy pop references at 100 mph and yet the show managed to stay on the air for seven years. So really, how can you be tired of Diablo’s dialogue after two movies? I say give her the benefit of the doubt, at least until her next movie comes out.

Megan Fox has also shared Diablo’s luck with a backlash of her own. Megan, at least in JB, did fit perfectly for Jennifer’s role. Nowadays it seems easier to badmouth her, it has become the “it” thing to do. She has said some outrageous things, but as Michael Bay said “her crazy quips are part of her crazy charm”. Criticize her behavior if you must, but at least give her credit for her performance in JB.

Jennifer’s Body viewed aside from all this negative baggage is a lot of fun and never takes itself too seriously, so why should you? That’s how they talk, deal with it. In time, when viewed and judged exclusively on its own merits it will become a cult movie.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mexican standoff, Films and Rod

This is a blog about my passion for films and other film-related matters. As a firm believer of what Emilio Garcia Riera (Spanish film critic) once said "el cine es mejor que la vida" which roughly translates to "film is better than life", this chronicle will attempt to advocate in favor of this truth.

I love movies. Yet again, everyone loves movies. Or not? If not, everyone at least says they like movies. Well, what’s not to like about movies? The only thing I can think of is that there are just not enough of them. Movies tell stories and we’ve been telling stories for as long as humanity has existed on our beloved Earth. I believe some have theorized about the existence of a limited number of possible plots (20, 30, 36 depending on who you ask). Does it matter? What really matters is how you tell the story. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating trumping substance over style, after all, substance is not reduced entirely to plot. I’m just saying that we like our stories told in exciting and new ways even if it’s a “recycled” story. A great story balances style and substance. Mmm, I don’t know why I brought that up.

Why movies? At least for me, movies show what life should be. Nevertheless, movies and life are so entangled together. Movies inform life and vice versa. This complicated relationship between life and movies is part of the reason why I love movies. We’ll get to some of the other reasons throughout this blog, suffice is to say that the first time I consciously watched a movie I knew that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship; and ahh what a beautiful friendship it has been.

Now, after watching countless movies I feel the urge to give something back through this blog. I attempted this before by writing my law degree dissertation on the legal aspects of the Auteur Theory. Now I seek to reach a larger audience and engage in fructiferous discussions, to which this blog will hopefully be the first step.

Mexican standoff you ask?

There are many reasons for this the title, the least important of them being my beloved nationality. Even though a Mexican standoff is not exclusively a film term, it is in films where it has found its most iconoclastic depictions. A Mexican standoff serves well as an element to create and maintain high dramatic tension and accentuates the confrontation of opposing forcer so natural to storytelling. If the Mexican standoff sequence is well directed it can leave a long-lasting impression on the viewer. Some of the most memorable sequences in film are from Mexican standoffs. Also, Mexican standoff sounds so much better than impasse or cul-de-sac (which have not achieved the preeminent status within film terminology as Mexican standoff). Below you can find three examples of Mexican standoffs in film. As mentioned earlier, in a Mexican standoff it doesn’t really matter the plot points that lead to it but rather the style in which it is shown to the audience. Notice that two of the clips belong to films scripted by Tarantino (who seems to greatly favor Mexican standoffs as a mean to resolve his stories), while the other is by one of the masters of cinema, Sergio Leone.

Adios amigos; for now.

Reservoir Dogs (1992), Quentin Tarantino

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Sergio Leone

True Romance (1993), Tony Scott