Sunday, August 15, 2010

To Hell with Subtlety! (Scott Pilgrim)

 My favorite film of all time is Moulin Rouge.  For a lot of people, that instantly is a huge tick off of my taste-credibility.  They think of me as pedestrian, or worse yet, assume I must also like Twilight.  (We'll get back to that in the next entry.)

No.  I like movie musicals.  And I like excess.   Baz Luhrman is the modern day answer to Busby Berkeley.  Yeah, I said it.  And I've seen Busby Berkeley musicals.  They make much less sense than Lurhman films, and let's not even get into the unbelievable enforcing of stereotypes from a persona/character like Carmen Miranda.  I have a deeply seeded love for the genre, and (in case you didn't notice), I'm generally obsessed with pop culture.

Moulin Rouge brings excessive old school movie musicals and modern popular culture together brilliantly,  incredible performances, and not just from its two stellar leads.  Between the incomparable charm of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman at just the right time - immediately after Tom Cruise and before Oscars, plastic surgery, and marrying a country singer - and the excellent character actor performances, every line in the movie is delivered flawlessly.

But the point is that it's totally over the top.   And it embraces it, 100%.  It doesn't let anything fall by the wayside.  Every detail is perfectly in place and it comes off looking almost effortless.  It's an amazing show, and although many things I loved when I'd just graduated high school have gone by the wayside for me, Moulin Rouge stands up just as well as it did on my first and then almost immediately following second viewing.

Maybe it's that love for unapologetic excess - especially when it's pulled off so deftly - that made me love the Scott Pilgrim movie as much as I did.  As a lot of other commentators have said, it's not a movie that was made for the general public, so to speak.  It's a movie very much made to make a specific audience happy, and boy oh boy, did it.

You might have guessed, but I spend more time listening to pop radio than I do reading comic books.  I give.  I'm not truly a nerd in the definitive term.  I am terrible at video games (except for a select few Wii options - which are generally designed for non-nerds, anyway) and I was unable to participate in the discussions my friends had after we first saw the new Star Trek film last year about what kind of cups were on the set of Deep Space 9.  I am so much nerdier about the Chicago Manual than I am anything you'd find at a -Con, but I'm totally willing to attend these events with more enthusiastic friends.  I am surrounded by nerds, but I am not always able to keep up in conversation.

And I have very enthusiastically nerdy friends who will not love this movie.  Which is fine.  I saw it with one really nerdy friend who didn't like it nearly as much as I thought he would.  But I did love it, and I loved that it went for everything it went for.  I am tired of any sort of art that aspires to be something and then just gives up the ghost for fear of judgement.  If you're going to be something, and you're really gonna go for it, just go.  Go all out.  Make it happen.  Even if you fail.  Do it anyway.

Relating to the film, if I were to make a Scott Pilgrim related Halloween costume, I would be Ramona Flowers; however, personality wise, I was totally Knives Chau when I was younger.  Freaking out over stuff, even stuff I'd just been introduced to recently, to the point of passing out.  Yeah.  That was me.  I could never contain my enthusiasm, and now, almost a decade out of high school and a little bit more healthily cynical for the journey, I still get that way.  I go into hyper-geek mode about the things for which I'm passionate, and I cannot help it.

I find that there are fewer true girl geeks because of the fact that generally speaking, women don't like to show all of their wares.  Some girls, like Ramona, are just by nature calmer and less prone to violent outbursts of unbridled enthusiasm.  Some girls don't want to be seen as out of the ordinary, and out of still slightly lingering stereotypes that females have less to say and less place in society than men do.  Or worse yet, there are girls who are afraid to be seen as smart.  (That makes me madder than anything else in the world.)  So girls like Knives (and myself) look even weirder than all the boys who are geeking out about something.  And yeah, I do the high-pitched squealing, often, much like Knives. 

But that was what I loved so much about this film - it's completely unbridled enthusiasm.  Obviously director Edgar Wright is smitten with the subject matter, and he was lucky enough to be given the goods to make the movie that he (and millions of fanboys AND fangirls all over the world) wanted to see.  With major studio backing.  That doesn't happen often, making it all that much more awesome.

I like some slow-paced, subtle films.  I like some films where the boy doesn't get a girl at the end, and where everyone just walks off into the snow and thinks real hard about what they've learned.  (There's a scene in SPVTW that almost winks at that idea, too.)

But visualize with me, for a moment if you will.  Imagine a girl, with typical Tina Fey-esque brown hair and glasses, who felt a bit outcast, all the way through college, not so much for geeky habits and interests but for totally outwardly expressesed hyper-enthusiasm.  That girl is not just deep down inside of me, she IS me, just a little older, wiser, accepting of her obsessive nature and embracing of her sometimes off-putting sparkly-eyed chatter about everything she loves.  That girl loved this movie.  It was nearly two hours of giddy delirium, immensely enjoyable, heartening and unapologetically over-the-top.

If you're like me, and you've never been able to keep your cool long enough to run with the disaffected hardcore hipsters, I suspect you might like the movie, as well.

BONUS LEVEL: this review actually sums up a lot of things well, particularly citing other films and directors who obviously influenced this film.  And kudos to the writer who apparently gets that Ramona Flowers is way more Kate Winslet's Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a more subtle, but still incredible film) than whatever the name of Zooey Deschenel's character in (500) Days of Summer.  I never saw that one.  But way to try to be topical, mean but stupid film critic.

More on that topic in the next entry.

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