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August 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 3 Aug 1994 07:49:24 EDT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (49 lines)
In what, some of us have been asking, does the putative 'dumbing
down' of movies consist? I finally saw _Blown Away_ yesterday and
_felt_ my reply. The movie was tense..._if_ one was willing to
care about the characters. The direction was astute for creating
a house of horrors (a particularly good when-will-it-blow?
sequence) and various roller coasters. The acting was highly
polished. I was certainly entertained but had the feeling that I
was glad I'd seen this at the $1.50 retread house rather than at
the $7.00 first-run theater or on my small home screen. Why?
Because I had to work to care about the characters and I had to
turn my brain 7/8 off to keep from being bored silly. Yes, there
was a marvelous amount of frantic action, smart and quick
cross-cutting, and big bombs beyond belief. But the whole movie
was one long chase, based on the idea that a skilled, maniacal
bomber is out for revenge against his one-time protege, now a
skilled, heroic bomb squad policeman. Beyond that, everything was
fast action, visual invention, and emotional manipulation. No
growth; no intellectual, psychological, political, or
philosophical investigation; nothing to _think_ about except,
"Wow, wouldn't it be scary to be in that situation, huh?" I think
the action- thriller, especially in the proverbial post-MTV
world, lends itself marvelously to this cartoonishness. But
action-thrillers are not alone in leaving our intellects
unoccupied. As I watched _True Lies_ and _I Love Trouble_ I kept
thinking that when such movies were made in the 40s, there was
some wit to the dialogue, some depth of emotional involvement and
change of character. But now, zip. It's as if the movies want to
key us to the proper responses in the opening sequences and if
that works right they want to race on through the whole without
risking a different response. And action-thrillers are not alone
in this. _Close Encounters_ has no dramatic conflict, just a
straight-line build from miracle to miracle. Straight lines have
a certain appeal. But they don't give us much to think about
after a while. So we wind up talking about the techniques of
film-making themselves. That's a good topic, but by no means the
only one. And, for most of us, not one worth devoting every
evening to.
Eric Rabkin                [log in to unmask]
Department of English      [log in to unmask]
University of Michigan     office    : 313-764-2553
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1045    dept      : 313-764-6330
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