IT WAS a slow week at the movies. And I mean really slow.
Yeah, I know, this week boasted some of the most crowded theaters and record ticket sales since, oh, I don’t know, the last Transformers movie. We’ve seen this before and that, I guess, is the point.
So I turned down the eager group of amigos who clamored for my company last night and opted to go for a matinee. I didn’t need to pick up the papers (yes, I get the actual print editions of the San Diego Tribune and the Wall Street Journal – snap!) to know exactly what reviews would say about the film. And I didn’t need to spend $10.50 and a Fandango charge to find out why they were saying it.
In fact, I suspect a lot of movie critics are doing just what I did my last year in college: going through their old articles, changing the titles, and resubmitting them. Dear editors: if you’ve recently paid your film critic for an article about talking robots, you may want to check your July 3rd, 2007 publication to see if you deserve a refund.
And most of my suspicions were correct. Some critics took advantage of abundant elitist cynicism to test new derogatories in an accepting atmosphere—no one will ever fault you for being needlessly cruel with an action sequel. Most simply reworded their complaints about the first film and moved on to bigger fish. The Hurt Locker comes out this week and no one looks good beating a dead horse. So Transformers wound up being this week’s $200 million, jet-fueled school nerd, picked on just a little more than he totally deserves.
But don’t mistake my sympathy for affection. Transformers is the worst kind of movie, despite its entertainment value, or more accurately, because of its entertainment value.
Those of you upset with me right now are fans of Transformers and probably still think this is a movie review. But it’s not. It couldn’t be. It’s like Ginnie says in my favorite Venture Brothers episode: “Oh honey. I don’t hate men, I’ve just never met a real one.” My problem isn’t that the film is too full of explosions, threadbare plotlines, and (oh, god) the perfectly silicone Megan Fox pretending she can act. I watch anime and play video games. These are not things that bother me. My problem is that it’s not a real movie.
Has everyone completely forgotten that this is a story based little plastic Hasbro toys? Ok, yeah, made shiny, ginormous, and laughably destructive by the unbridled vision of … who was it again? Oh yeah, director Michael Bay who is known for his dedication to genuine characters, wholesome plots, and the honest portrayal of oh-wait-he’s-the-guy-who-made-us-all-think-not-gotting-milk-was-worse-than-going-to-hell-back-in-the-90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Bay as a self-made man who fought his way into Hollywood despite the richly deserved rejections from many of the upper-crust film schools. But that just reinforces my point—and yes, I’m going to quote Kanye here—“do anybody make real shit anymore?”
Because hey, let’s face it: the reason you were staring at the movie screen last week is because the implants up there were bigger than the two in the seat next to you. Is that a simplification? Yes. Is it any less true? We go to these movies because the high-octane, skull-shuddering fireballs; unsurviveable stunts; and flawless Megan Fox are more spectacular fakes than our own crappy, façade-filled lives.
Good movies and good lives should have more in common—the hero just wants to get home, the heroine wants true love, and the bad guys are easy to spot. The cheap thrills, emotional pageantry, and sex a la carte we crave so much, they’re lies about what you could have, to make sure you’re never happy with what you do have. It was just a matter of time before some marketing genius realized that if you make people want things that no one could ever have, folks would have to settle for watching movies about the stuff. And thus, the action thriller was born. It’s just good sales.
That’s why I jog with my mouth wide open these days. It’s not because I’m that out of shape (okay, I am). It’s because the design of my earbuds makes them somehow sound better that way. That’s our whole culture for you in a nutshell: a bunch of expensive, pretentious crap that works better when you walk around agape.
And you can’t tell me that’s not the most poignant heteronym ever. Because that’s the first step, really: you confuse the things you “luv” with the things you Love. And suddenly you’re alone on the corner, wilting, yellow petals of your affection littering the street, while Megan Fox’s perfect breasts are ushered into a waiting limo … which you just know is actually an Autobot named “Suckit.”
Okay, yeah, you should’ve seen that coming. You’re just a dumpy fat kid in a pink shirt and stripped socks. She’s $500,000 worth of plastic surgery and airbrushing. Your rose isn’t worth a square inch of the stuff her cocktail dress boob-frame is made out of. But then, “worth” is a subjective idea, isn’t it? The contrast was pretty remarkable, you have to admit—your flower, budding in the natural, verdant beauty of its youth; and Megan Fox, pampered, inflated, nearly as plastic as her shape-shifting costars. I know you're getting to meet her and all now that she heard about you, but she is to your rose what her movie is to Casablanca: overpriced and artificial.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cosmetic improvements. I had braces in high school and I don’t see a whopping difference between that and any other relatively safe procedure. (Yes, I am from California … how did you know?) It’s the “why” more than the “what” that shades the lines between real and fake. See, the trend in glamour these days isn’t to turn yourself into a pretty, charming girl–it’s to hook a rich, successful man. Beauty stopped being about self-improvement decades ago. Now it’s about what you can get. And sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
Maybe that’s why Transformers: Revenge blew the equivalent of GM’s operating budget on marketing this year. And that’s definitely why it’s been a slow week at the movies: Bay’s is almost the only major flick that’s been released in five days. Most directors just can’t afford to compete with $200 million in special effects and marketing. Especially not with the Got-Milk guy.
And that should be why all this pomp and silicone disturbs us. Not because of what it is, but because of what it stifles: honest people, sincere affections, legitimate beauty.
So yes, I’m a little disillusioned. Life is short, roses are in short supply, and I for one am sick and tired of wasting both on these cooked up notions of fun and faux romance. Anyone who’s had a taste of this culture’s medicine should be. But I don’t hate movies. Or heroes. Or beautiful women. (It’s just been a long time since I met a real one.) So if you run into that genuine article, hands off, she’s my girl. And when you next watch Casablanca, call me up, I’ll bring beer and tissues.
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