Archive for March, 2009

So. You’ve decided to remake ‘Last House On The Left’.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , on March 20, 2009 by helenparker1212

There’s something about remakes of films with sadistic sexual content that proves the old adage that a talented director really can polish any kind of turd.  As a third generation feminist  (i.e. I take women’s lib for granted) it’s very rare for me to bother commenting on such things as misogyny and the sexual exploitation of women in film and tv. It’s so passe, right? But there’s something about Wes Craven’s 1972 film Last House on The Left which has suddenly turned me into a militant, second generation, bra-burning, seeing-sexual-discrimination-and-exploitation-in-every-damned-media-product feminist.

This film was banned in Britain and became a notorious video nasty, only achieving a proper release in 2003 after numerous battles with the censors. I, as a film student and cinephile, never thought I’d say this about censors, but thank God for them. Not only that, but they didn’t go far enough in censoring this poisonous, pernicious, insidious, downright pornographic piece of shit film. There aren’t enough words ending in ‘ious’ to do this toxic film justice. It has absolutely no redemptive qualities whatsoever. And believe me, I always try to find a redemptive feature to justify a film’s existence, no matter how atrocious. This film is unique to me.

lasthouseontheleft

I simply cannot find any excuse for filming, extremely badly (fuck off with your hand-held-camera-Veitnamesque-verite-style-excuse Craven!), two girls being sadistically raped and murdered by four badly acted criminals to a soundtrack that alternates between hillbilly farce and mellow-yellow psychedelia, while two superfluous cops are seen reading magazines and trying to hitch a lift on top of a chicken-truck driven by a mad black woman with no teeth. Oh, and it’s also apparently based on Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Virgin Spring’. It is possibly this final claim to worth that makes me the most incensed. That anyone could watch Bergman’s film, and then roll out this piece of crap as a homage, simply defies reason and induces vomit.

Mark Kermode was asked to argue for this film’s release, and he cited its historical significance – as a banned film, a video nasty, an early work of a famous director, fodder for feminists etc. Well, Kermode, you failed to convince them. It’s just a shame you couldn’t g on failing to convince them because this film deserves to be relegated to the deteriorating doom of VHS. But no. Absence of quality control won out, and I have just undergone one of the most unpleasant cinematic experiences of my life.

So with all this in mind, you’d think I’d be virulently opposed to a remake. I am, however, fully in favour. The main problem with Craven’s film is not it’s subject matter. It is the fact that the film’s quality is just plain shit. It’s badly filmed, badly plotted, badly scripted, badly acted – and all of this bad only serves to increase the unpleasantness of the violence it depicts, lessening to the point of erasing the value or purpose of its existence. It actually views as the perverse manifestations of a sick mind, Wes.

So, Dennis Lliadis, whatcha got for us? The film hasn’t released in the UK yet, so I have no idea, but even a poorly executed Hollywood remake of this film is going to be far, FAR superior to the original – that I can guarantee without seeing it. And even if the remake is awful, ‘awful’ is still an improvement on ‘has no creative or artistic merit or purpose and should never have been released’.

Who’s watching the Watchmen? Probably no one once the reviews start coming out.

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , , , on March 9, 2009 by helenparker1212

“Mother forgive me.”

But I have to do the honest thing and admit that Jack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen is a disappointing dud. A fantastic first hour proves to be a mere pricktease preceding an hour-and-three-quarter-long fizzling-out to a finale I can only describe as farcical. I so wanted this film to be amazing. The source material was solid gold, the challenge was notorious, the rewards monumental. And for the first hour I really thought damn, this guy’s nailed it. But then something terrible happened. The tide turned. And an outstanding film turned into a steaming pile of horse excreta.

However, for all you “I told you so”-spouting parasites out there, I will not bang the final nail in this movie’s coffin. The ‘to adapt or not to adapt’ debate has been raging in the academic and cinematic community for decades. The primary tenet of the debate is that work of one medium – say literature – cannot be faithfully adapted by any other medium – say tv – because of the fundamental differences between the mediums. This is an academic debate, and it is bollox. The people who purport it are the same douchebags who claim Shakespeare can never be faithfully adapted to film because it is fundamentally literature, forgetting in the process of their academic diarrhea that Shakespeare never meant for his work to be read by anyone but the actors.

watchmen

Alan Moore himself is unfortunately one of these douchebags, refusing to have anything to do with film adaptations of his work and claiming that cinema cannot faithfully adapt comic books to the big screen because they are fundamentally different mediums. In his opinion cinema should not even attempt it. I say it again, this is bollox.

It is a fundamental principle of artistic creativity that all stories are capable of being told in all mediums. And it is the skill of the artistic adapter which dictates the success or failure of an adaptation. If it is a successful – read popular – adaptation, then literary adaptation becomes acceptable. If it is crap, then everybody says “I told you so”. For nearly twenty years comic book fans have been waiting for someone to have the kahunas to make a film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ epic masterpiece. Even Terry Gilliam, the hardest working man in Hollywood, gave up on this project. Twice. Generally the excuse has been that the original comic is ‘unfilmable’, and deliberately so; Alan Moore’s intention with Watchmen was to show what comic books could do that other media could not.

Zack Snyder has to be congratulated, then, for the fact that he even got the damned film made in the first place. And anyone watching the film can tell he has tried – he has really, really tried to film the deliberately unfilmable. But I am going to have to tear him a new one, and these are the reasons why:

The unnecessary focus on the love story between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, the lack of exploration of the Ozymandias character, the almost total absence of the Comedian after the first hour, the confused and blurted ending, the love story – did I already mention that? Well I’ll say it again, the frickin’ love story!! The absence of the Black Freighter comic, the Nite Owl character/actor full stop, the lack of explanations about what Doctor Manhattan, Ozymandias and the Comedian are up to, the lack of explorations of themes, the love story…

I’ll say it again, the first hour is magnificent, and Snyder succeeds in the near impossible task of telling a hundred different stories all at the same time. But it falls apart. And that is a tragedy, because the studios aren’t going to let anyone else anywhere near this franchise for a very long time. We can only hope that in another twenty years someone will come along with even bigger balls than Snyder, and attempt another adaptation. If at first you don’t succeed, try try try try…

DEXTER series 2 – a cautionary tale

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , on March 1, 2009 by helenparker1212

‘The voices are back. Excellent.’

No Dexter. Not excellent. Bad bad bad. Something about season 2 of Dexter has been plaguing me since it started airing on itv1. Something is missing. Or perhaps something is there that wasn’t there before. A dark passenger of sorts?

First off the writing has deteriorated drastically. Instead of the subtle unravelling of complex emotions and plotlines we came to love in the first season, we are now treated to a mere spewing of information and thought processes via lazy, lazy dialogue and even lazier voice over. At first I wanted to blame it all on American quality tv’s creative technique of using multiple writers and directors during a single season, instead of a small, dedicated team.

Surely, I thought to myself, surely people floating in and out for random episodes would not be able to maintain the depth of character and narrative that a smaller, more dedicated team could. However, a quick glance at IMDB put paid to that theory because the excellent first season had no less than five writers and eight different directors to its credit. So I can’t blame the liquidity of the production team. A new culprit has to be found.

dexter

Possibly the biggest problem I have with this particular season is the presence of utterly banal subplots, the most prolific of which is the Laguerta/Doaks spin-off show which raises its inane head in almost every episode so far. In the original books the Doaks/Dexter relationship is a dominant one in the overall plot, yet in the series it is shunted to three or four scenes per episode, and Doaks spends most of his screentime bitching and pouting with Laguerta.

Equally uninteresting are the storylines involving Debra and Lundy, and the Dexter/Lila thread has become such an utter yawn-fest even the occasional pair of pert English tits, or Michael C. Hall’s Herculean body, can’t reenergise it. And here we come to one of the biggest losses the series has suffered: the character of Dexter himself.

The voices may be back, Dexter, but too many voices spoil the syntax, and your writers appear to have forgotten your character’s journey almost entirely. Not only that, but you appear to be becoming, dare I say it, human. One of the most fascinating things about this drama was its eponymous character; we followed his thought processes and behaviour as he attempted to negotiate the minefield of human emotion and social interaction he found both alien and confusing, but was able to deftly insinuate himself into.

This is all gone from season two. Dexter is shoved aside in favour of storylines worthy of Diagnosis Murder. Understandably, the studio executives’ demand for further seasons must put pressure on the source material, namely Jeff Lindsay’s books, but this should be seen as a creative challenge for the numerous writers and directors, not as an opportunity for awful soap opera-esque plot padding.

One would think that, with so many writers and directors at their disposal, the production team would have no end of innovative paths for the series to travel down. But, alas, we are relegated to jealous girlfriends, family drama, relationship issues and, saints preserve us, superheroes.

I will be patient. Dexter is a series with so much potential, and with such a strong start, that ringing its death knell now, just eight episodes into this season, would be both overzealous and unfair. But it needs to pull its creative socks up, and fast, or Dexter’s victims won’t be the only ones facing the chop.