Updated: 8/16/15; 18:43:55

pedantic nuthatch
Life in a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. B.M.A.T.C., and Etruscan typewriter erasers. Blogged by David Gorsline.

Sunday, 18 April 2004

A. O. Scott on the decline of bad movies:

At a certain point—perhaps it was when The Silence of the Lambs won five Oscars—the B pictures became the prestige pictures, no longer the industry's byproducts or knockoffs, but its most illustrious brand names.

This is not altogether bad, and it is partly driven by rapid advances in special-effect technology, which have given new sublimity and verisimilitude to the science-fiction and comic-book epics that now command the largest budgets and the biggest box-office returns. But some of the pulpy, subcultural allure of these forms has been polished away as they have become showpieces. And worse, the gamy toughness that was always the best thing about the old crime dramas, combat stories and horse operas has given way to an ersatz, air-brushed prettiness.

posted: 12:46:57 PM  

If you're an independent cinema screening The Passion of the Christ, what do you run for previews? In the case of Cinema Arts Theatre (which, god love 'em, is also running a Jewish film festival for the next two weeks), you run Bon Voyage (a French thriller/comedy/Nazis picture), Broken Wings (from Israel), and (surprise) an inspirational Jim Caviezel picture.

Yes, the Bible pic is violent, but to someone like me inured by the likes of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, the violence is not really excessive. Director Mel Gibson and his team quite effectively employ all of the creative cinematic crafts available to the 21st-century moviemakers. The prosthetics and makeup effects that represent Jesus's scourging are most impressive. The soundtrack goes for the cheese at times, swinging from new age-y pipes to Marines recruiting video bombast. Messengers crash through doors, a là Underworld. We watch Christ topple to the ground multiple times in slow-motion, and survey his artfully ravaged face in hyper extreme closeup.

Alas, the people of this passion play are, with one exception, uni-dimensional. Disciple Peter comes off particularly poorly, having nothing to play but his cringing denials. Released criminal Barabbas appears to be some sort of simian. Only Simon of Cyrene, pressed into the service of carrying the cross, resembles a human being, with more than one reaction to what's going on.

What most people seem to have overlooked is that, in the end, it's only a movie, and as such it's an act of the imagination, subject to Gibson's additions and subtractions from the canon. The interpolation of St. Veronica is particularly jarring.

posted: 12:34:47 PM  

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