Wednesday, December 08, 2004

charles goes to the movies

right off the bat: i went to both national treasure (reluctantly and closer and will relive the experience here. if i happen to give away plot elements or other such spoilers, i apologize in advance. to get them out of the way, the review grade will precede the needlessly inane story of my night.

national treasure: B-
closer: A

for those of you not in the know about the geography and movie locations of the delightful metropolis that is el paso, texas, here is a quick overview:

el paso is at the western tip of texas, right where the rio grande really starts to snake north. the city has morphed into a sort of backward lowercase y with the southern border the rio grande and the whole in the middle the franklin mountains. I-10 runs the length of the city, connecting all areas much like an artery. from tip to tip el paso is approximately 40 miles wide, with another 15 or so lengthwise. i live on the far east side of town, 5 minutes from the biggest theatre that side of dallas. as of late critically acclaimed movies have failed to open at said theatre. on such movie is the excellent closer. to my surprise, however, the movie was opening in el paso. on the westside. i guess my theatre needed to keep alexander on 3 screens. so i trekked to the west, much like earlier americans looking for a new life. 40 miles later i arrived 20 minutes late for closer. that type of thing happens when traffic literally stops to see a traffic accident on the other side of the freeway. well, i was not about to walk in late to a movie i drove an hour to get to, so i bought a ticket to the best-movie-starting-in-less-than-five-minutes-that-will-be-over-by-the-time-the-movie-i-want-to-see-opens. in this case that was national treasure.
this is not a good movie. its views of history, science, cartography, personal interaction, washington d.c. and also eastern us geography, comedic timing, polar exploration, light, and physics are all depressing and ill-informed. that said, it was fun. not good writing, excellent character fun, but more pretty pictures when i turn my brain off fun. a side story: the opening of the movie is a cold opening of the protagonist as a child. he is looking through the attack for something. the problem? this part looks nothing like the rest of the movie and is edited in a way that makes it seem as if it might be a trailer. so about half the crowd talked through the whole thing, with the other half telling them to shut up. that is not a good sign. but beggars and choosers.
on to the reason for my trek, closer. i made the 10:25 with a half hour to spare. i found myself a great seat and watched the increasingly boring slideshow they put on before the movie starts. with about 10 minutes to the film, about 10 college-aged, frat-looking guys pile in. the same thing occurs with 5 minutes to go. i am now totally surrounded by couples (good), film buffs (like me, so good), and frat guys under the impression they will get to see natalie portman naked (bad). if you don't want to hear about the movie, you may want to stop now. well, the movie is about four sad people that care more about their own happiness than anything else. they invest their happiness in others and are disappointed. it was extremely sad, but in a very moving way. about two-thirds of the audience got that. i'll let you guess what third didn't. they other third watched the movie with a frightening detatchment that reminds me most of ebert's review of i spit on your grave. they cheered each awful thing the characters did to each other, getting especially excited by an act of violence. they even cheered at points. when the scene that could have shown portman naked did not, they booed. at the end most of the audience was left a bit numb by the experience, while a third went out happy, and no doubt looking for a traffic accident to gawk at.

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