Monday, July 4, 2011

Out-of-Sync on the 4th of July

Today, the 4th of July, is a good day to talk about how out-of-sync I feel with the dominant culture.

I'm not just talking about the report on DrudgeReport this week about a Harvard University study showing that "4th of July parades energize only Republicans", and are "right-wing" affairs. That says more about Harvard than about rank-and-file Democrats, who I think are generally at the parades with me.

No, I'm talking about Hollywood, their product - often hostile to patriotism, the critics - whose reviews are a foreign viewpoint to me, and finally to movie goers in general who vote with their box-office dollars in ways that puzzle me.

As measured by the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer ratings, I am way-out of sync.

Take "Super 8" with a Tomatometer score of 82% fresh. Really? I've already written below about my disappointment with the Producer / Director choice of bad guy: the United States Air Force. I didn't read a single review that even noticed that. Really? It's not surprising. Professional critics are of the same cultural DNA as the movie-making culture that disdains the military.

Take the flipside as evidence: Green Hornet - a movie that I think respects not only traditional values but the military as well, with a Tomatometer score of 27% rotten. Please.

Let's not start where the critics start - with Ryan Reynolds and his success or not as Hal Jordan, who becomes the Green Lantern.

Let's start with the Green Lantern Corps in the first place. What is it?

The Corps is both a creation story and a military story wrapped together.

A creation of the Guardians. An ancient race that created the known univers, and the Corps to protect it. The Guardians are still around, perched nobly on stone towers in a stunning visual. Wow, better than the Jedi Council! Think of all of the stars that you can see in the night sky. Multiply that by a thousand and that zone is protected by a Green Lantern. Now imagine that there are - I believe - 3600 Lanterns. That is the extent of the universe. Mind boggling. Fictional, but mind boggling.

The Corps evokes thoughts of the United States Marine Corps. The few. The proud. It's embodied most in the character of Sinestro (played by Mark Strong) and his high-and-tight haircut. Sinestro takes Hal Jordan - already an accomplished military pilot - and steps him up to the capability of a Green Lantern. If you've ever been in the military - and I have - and have been through some version of Basic Training / Boot Camp, these scenes will resonate with you. Getting beaten down mentally and built back up to something better by disciplined men. Drill instructors with a mission to make you a skilled protector.

This portrayal of the Green Lantern Corps could be an advertisement for the Marine Corps, as well as it resonates with this veteran. It apparently does not resonate with critics who barely mention - if at all - the pivotal character of Sinestro.

Green Lantern was, I thought, a well told story with worthy values for the kids watching it. Not just to be fearless, but to be courageous. A well-played setup and payoff make that point. I was glad to sit with my kids at Green Hornet. Not so much with Super 8.  Which apparently makes me out-of-sync with the critics and movie ticket buyers.

That out-of-syncness is also apparent in the box-office of "Bad Teacher" (44%) vs. "Larry Crowne" (35%).

My wife and I loved Larry Crowne. It's another high-quality performance by writer/director/star Tom Hanks. Bravo. It's a topical story of a man finding himself out of work in this hard economy. It's a terrific story of a man improving himself through ongoing education at the community college. It has a great supporting cast doing interesting things. It has a love interest. What more could you want. Apparently, though, this sweet and topical story bored critics. I pity them.

On the other hand, it was my misfortune to choose Bad Teacher. I walked out of the theater a half hour in and didn't look back. What a crass, coarse, and vulgar piece of trash this is. Were the parents of the tween girls in my theater cringing at the Diaz dialogue that I won't even quote here? Why not? Why did they stay sitting there?

Bottom line: the Tomatometer is of no use to me. Bad Teacher got higher critical scores than both Green Hornet and Larry Crowne? How is that possible?

I am completely out-of-sync with our modern film critics, and the Hollywood product they spend their hours in the dark reviewing. Here they had two high-quality good-values films in Green Lantern and Larry Crowne, and they rejected them for crap like Super 8 and Bad Teacher respectively. Pitiful.

I'll go see the movies I want to see, thank you very much.

P.S. Don't even ask me about Transformers 3. I haven't seen any of the the Transformers movies. Why? Because I don't have to.

1 comment:

  1. While I enjoyed Super 8 and have not seen the other films on your list, there have been plenty of war films that celebrated the military which were hailed based on their quality (Saving Private Ryan, Patton, Lawrence of Arabia, etc). I will say, though, that I prefer films that are more nuanced; films in which there are no bad guys. This is why I love the films of Yasujiro Ozu, and would rather watch one of his films over anything playing in the theater right now.