June 23, 2017
On the Week That Wasn’t and a Few Other Odds and Ends
I had every intention of writing a review this week, but as with the best of some of our intentions, it just didn’t happen. In fact, the only movie I watched this week was a mockumentary called Finishing the Game, a Justin Lin film that purports to show the Hollywood stereotypes that existed when the stunning decision was made to finish Bruce Lee’s Game of Death with just twelve minutes of footage of its recently deceased star. I watched it while I was ironing, and at several points I was more interested in the patterns in the wrinkles of my shirts than what was going on onscreen. Toward the end of the film, a studio executive arrives to scream at the unprofessionalism of the director and casting director, wonder aloud at why the finalists for the role look nothing like Bruce Lee, and to fire everyone. It was one of the only parts of the film that piqued my interest.
Also this week, I had this odd thought: Can John McClane smoke? For that matter, can James Bond or actors such as Michael Douglas, Nicolas Cage, or John Travolta, all actors that are getting up there in age? I imagine that as actors age, it becomes increasingly harder for audiences to separate the actor from the role he is playing. In Michael Douglas’s case, if we saw him light up in a film, our brains would likely be overwhelmed by concern for the actor. In other words, we would not have the ability to suspend disbelief. Years ago, Richard Roeper argued that those pushing to make all films containing smoking R-rated were wrong, reasoning that what mattered most was context not content, but does context have to mean putting actors’ lives at risk?
And here’s a local curiosity. Currently in theaters, there’s a movie called The Story of Taipei playing to packed theaters. Here is how the film was described to me: It is about a group of people with secrets directed by a first-time director who is also a professor of film. (So far so good.) The film currently has an online rating of around 5.5, yet audiences seem to like it more than critics. (Certainly not the first time this has happened.) However, here’s where the description turns peculiar. The film has been described as poorly written, poorly acted, and very poorly edited, yet because the director is assumed to know about film-making and films in general, some moviegoers contend that the film is awful for a reason, that the director made a subpar film on purpose and that audiences will only understand why if they see it multiple times. I admit that the notion is intriguing. Would a director making his directorial debut deliberately make a bad film, and would h bank his career on modern audiences realizing that and returning for repeat viewings? I doubt it. Sadly I may never know. Apparently, The Story of Taipei is another Taiwanese film not released with English subtitles.
And finally this week brings the fifth Transformers movie, and it is truly a time to rejoice. This time, apparently, Optimus Prime, like Dom before him, goes rouge, and, if the trailers are to be believed, Bumblebee must engage him in battle to determine the fate of his world and ours. At first, this sounds like a ludicrous plot, but if you think about it, it makes complete sense. When you have run out of good ideas – and Michael Bay did this many years ago – the only option is to have a heel turn. Just wait. At some point one of the Avengers will betray his fellow heroes, only to be revealed to have noble intentions in the end. Oh wait. They already did this with Captain America: Civil War. But I digress. It is a time to rejoice, a time to cheer, for at what other time of the year do we get the kind of terse, sarcastic, frustration-infested reviews that Transformers films bring out of critics? One masterful one this time around is an uproariously funny take down from Bilge Ebiri at Village Voice. It’s almost enough to make me yearn for more tales about the robots in disguise. Almost.