cinema

Minority report: ‚Signs‘

Apparently, most people like ‚Signs‘, Mel Gibson’s latest film. An IMDB.com rating of 7.5 is illustrative. But I don’t. Why? Because it’s simply a bad film. I am right, and the others are wrong.

Has anyone ever heard of vampire style bad-guy aliens able to fly zillions of miles in warp-speed-vehicles with the intention to kill humanity only to give up and fly another zillion of miles back home because they could not manage to enter a room protected by wooden boards nailed to the door? Can anyone believe that mind reading aliens in possession of mind blowing technology that would, according to the film, change everything ever written in (human) science books – but who are, unfortunately, lethally allergic to water – could actually be stupid enough to go on a largescale manhunt on a planet that largely consists of water without ever thinking about how to protect themselves? I’ll stop here, gentle readers, for your and my brain’s sake.

It’s a bad, bad film. And it’s even worse because of all the religious allusions trying to tell the viewer that God has accorded humanity a special status even with respect to the rest of the universe. Everything is taken care of in a big masterplan in which we are lucky enough to be on the right side. As long as we believe.

When Mel’s wife dies in a car accident she utters strange last words. Because of her early death, Mel loses his faith, quits his position as reverend and becomes a farmer only to discover the extraterrestrial signs in his field (which, as a footnote, the aliens use as navigational devices, because their mind blowing technology is unable to provide sufficient electronic landing information). Of course, neither his wife’s death nor her last words, nor his son’s asthma, nor his daughter’s eating disorder (she puts half-full glasses of water everywhere), nor his brother’s talent to play baseball are actually random – they’re the most important pieces in the puzzle leading to the defeat of the last alien vampire, gracefully left behind by his fellow invaders to die and thus help end the film. After his dead wife’s last words prove to be the clue to killing this last stupid alien, Mel can rediscovers his faith and resume his position as a reverend.

So what is the gist of the film, for those of you who will wisely decide not to see it. The truth is I don’t know: If this was supposed to be a film about the special bond between humanity and God then the clearly stated complete predetermination of events does not make any sense. Predetermination cannot create a bond, not even dependence. It reduces agents to puppets of their principal in any context.

If this was supposed to be a film about a lonely widower fighting alien vampires to protect his family, then the religious allusions seem misguided.

And if this was supposed to be a film which wants to scare humanity with the abrogation of free will, then it is helpless. Matrix did a much better job there. It’s a stupid film which does not know what it wants. Not that this would reduce its box office potential, although, in an ideal world, it should.

But that’s just my opinion. And it’s apparently a minority report.

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cinema

Thinking about Marilyn.

m_monroe.jpgLast night arte.tv showed a documentary by Patrick Jeudy about Marilyn Monroe. It was not a story about a sex bomb. Neither was it simply one about poor Norma Jean, Candle In The Wind. The documentary rather told a story about an incredibly beautiful intelligent young woman who got lost somewhere between Marilyn and Norma Jean on the fundamental human quest for happiness.

The story of Marilyn is a story about our hunch that somewhere this big bad world holds something true for us to discover, about our eternal need to do the impossible, to succeed in what we think is most difficult for us to achieve. And it is a story about the risk inextricably intertwined with this quest – the pain which we will have to endure if we stop believing in ourselves. Watching the programme made me realise how much we all have in common with the beautiful Marilyn Monroe. Goodbye Norma Jean. (Photo: Wikipedia.com)

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cinema

Kissing Jessica Stein.

Last week I saw the film „Kissing Jessics Stein“ (aka „Kissing Jessica“ in Germany – note: German film distributors often use parts of the original title instead of a) coming up with something useful in German or using the entire English title. You think this is weird? You are right).

„Kissing Jessica Stein“ is a postmodern romantic comedy about a woman, Jessica, in her late 20s who is exploring her sexual horizon by replying to a classified ad by lesbian Helen.

The film depicts in an extremely witty way how she gets involved deeper and deeper in the relationship, eventually comes out as a lesbian to her conservative family and moves in with Helen. In the end, however, she realises that Helen is much more of a friend than lover. Helen, of course, feels the same way and so they split as a couple but remain close friends.

While I really liked the film it made me think about two things. The first of which is the production budget, or rather, the entire history of its making. The two protagonists not only wrote the script while in acting school and later performed it in an off-Broadway theatre. They were actually involved in financing the film’s budget of unbelievable 1m USD. Distributed by Fox Searchlight pictures, the film has grossed about 7m so far in the US alone.

That is a return on investment which should silence all those who bought tech stocks back in october 1999, even if the production budget probably doesn’t account for marketing expenses. Interestingly, I (and no one of those I know who have seen the film) remarked anything negative with respect to its technical perfection. The minimal budget for professionally looking dialogue-based films without stars has apparently come down to about 1m USD thanks to technological advances. This heralds great things for films from smaller markets than the US – even if they won’t be able to keep up with Jessica’s ROI, for most of those films will lack the support of Fox Searchlight’s international marketing clout.

The second thing Jessica made me think about was the amount of estrogene the late nineties and early post millenium years have shed on the screens. The entire Western hemisphere has been familiarised with the most intimate feelings of the likes of Ally McBeal, Carrie Bradshaw, or now, Jessica Stein. We have indulged in their post-post-modern feminism and realised that today’s tv-heroines will tell everybody exactly what they want – even if everybody is no longer interested.

There is a direct line from Sally „having a salad“ after meeting Harry to Jessica Stein’s lesbian exercises. I can’t really tell you why, but seeing Jessica Stein trying to convince herself that she can be a lesbian, too, made me realise that the days of estrogene on the screen are likely to end rather sooner than later. All that had to be said has been said by now.

So my bet is a return of testosterone on the screens. But in 2 years we will definitely know more…

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