Monday, May 20, 2013

Substance Abuse

Writing about movies is a job that needs a little extra pepper and spice. There’s a generation of current critics who grew up sheltered by suburbia and technology, to the point where pictures reflect their narrow interests and morals, whether it be high-flying superheroes or juvenile gross-out substituting for actual insight on sexuality. I’ve personally struggled with this, particularly in seeing films of yesterday from people who Lived. It was clear John Milius was well-read as far as combat, machismo and death. There was a certain diseased perversion to an Abel Ferrara picture. Even someone like Nicholas Roeg could give you something of a contact high. Today, studios would rather hire people like Len Wiseman, who cut his teeth not in the military, not with drug and alcohol abuse, and not with having dangerous friends and family, but makes pictures like the roleplaying-inspired “Underworld” and the “Total Recall” remake, the latter successfully recreating the first twenty seconds of ads when you’re not entirely sure what’s being sold, but you know you’re being had.

Because we’re not getting movies from people who Lived, there’s a certain sterility to our major studio offerings and even some of our independent features: the recent, somewhat interesting “Antiviral” doesn’t reveal a filmmaker who is anything other than miles separated from his subject of celebrity worship and genetic manipulation, which makes sense given that it’s Brandon Cronenberg. Daddy David was never exactly a blockbuster sensation, but it’s not like Brandon grew up impoverished. Of course, “Antiviral” is interesting specifically because of its remove, suggesting a director’s statement about being so deeply protected against what the film depicts as modern day societal diseases: contrast that with the moment in “Star Trek Into Darkness” where Spock (Zachary Quinto) dials up Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) from the previous films to ask about this curious Khan fellow. It’s the equivalent of a character popping in the DVD of a previous film to learn how to solve a third act problem, a moment that tells you everything you need to know about writers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof, the first two who once collaborated on a hilariously-titled disaster called “People Like Us” that reflected an alien interpretation of human behavior.