Sunday, July 6, 2008

Movie Reviews

Is it possible to be more fatuous than Frank Rich? His political analysis is shallow and fatuous. His self-awareness is slim and fatuous. Even his moral outrage is fatuous. And the skill that used to be his legitimate calling card – film and dramatic criticism – has now become fatuous.

Frank Rich is, to paraphrase Al Franken, a big, fatuous idiot.

Somerby has amply chronicled Rich’s shameful contributions to the trashing of Al Gore, the consequent election of Dubya, and the overall trivialization of our political culture. I just want to take this occasion, prompted by Rich’s latest column in Sunday’s Times, to note two things.

First, it’s a bit much for him to urge Obama to remember “just how bold his vision of change had been before he settled into a front-runner’s complacency.” Uh…while you’re reminding Obama of what that bold vision was… could you do the same for the rest of us, too? We’re all a bit fuzzy on its boldness and its substance.

Second, he’s holding up Wall-E as a deep, moving vision of society’s problems, circa 2008? Say what? Its box-office notwithstanding, this is the weakest film Pixar has ever made. Only Cars can compete for that distinction. The signature Pixar story strength is entirely absent in this boring and didactic exercise. Yes, the first ten minutes are beautiful and suggestive – but from then on, it’s a pedantic snooze. The film lacks any of the visual and physical wit of Monsters Inc. or The Incredibles, the satisfying narrative of A Bug’s Life, or even the slapstick energy and delight of Ratatouille. And it can’t be seriously mentioned in the same breath as Pixar’s masterpieces, Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

To claim that its message hits audiences “at a profound level beyond words” says a lot less about the film, or about audiences, than it does about Rich’s notion of profundity. As with Obama, there’s no there there. This is an utterly banal and remarkably untextured, unthought-out and unimaginative sci-fi vision. It’s about as profound as Joni Mitchell’s unfortunate Shine – a self-congratulatory demonstration of unexceptionable and uninteresting pro-environmentalism… an anomalous misstep by artists capable of greatness.

But de gustibus non est disputandum... and I digress. My point isn’t about Wall-E. My point is that it is really, er, rich for this guy to complain about the triviality of the presidential race, when he spewed everything his vicious little laptop could churn out to besmirch the truly substantive candidate. We got this movie because Rich and his CDS fellow travelers turned the primary into a cheap melodrama and hissed their bete noir off the stage.

I mean, c’mon, Frank: “This movie seemed more realistically in touch with what troubles America this year than either the substance or the players of the political food fight beyond the multiplex’s walls”??

You started throwing the food, you putz.


David Berger said...

Oy. While Frank Rich's best days at the Times revolved around reviews of the latest revival of "Gypsy," I agree with him that "Wall*E" is truly brilliant - only not for the reasons he states. The political overtones were merely backdrop to a highly inventive visual style and a classic story of "poor slob (robot) falls for beautiful girl (robot,) and eventually she sees him for his beauty too." The science fiction concepts - what will humans look and act like if they're cut off from needing to use their physical bodies - I thought were very original, too. The social commentary, in my view, was little more that place-setting for the real story & purpose of the movie.

Wall*E is a masterpiece.

Falstaff said...

As I say, de gustibus... :)