Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The semester starts today, my classes begin tomorrow and I guess I am ready!

Last night, we watched the movie Shortbus. What was good about it: 1) It was different. 2) The dialogue was generally interesting. 3) The music. 4) The animation.

Unfortunately, there was much more that wasn't worthwhile at all. I found it to be very immature, pretentious and self-indulgent. The majority of the movie is graphic, unsimulated sex. That was the major reason it was innovative, it certainly wasn't the story, which was almost non-existent. Afterwards, I read some reviews on the Internet; viewers tended to see it much more favorably than well-known reviewers. Those who gave it raves mostly shared the perspective that anyone who didn't like it is an uptight, moralistic prude.

That's pretty ignorant, really. There were so many things to find offensive about this movie, and the sexual content was the least of it. But let's start there, since it is the obvious place. The sex scenes were so numerous and went on for so long that it was almost like one of those awful action/adventure movies, so filled with shootings, explosions, gore and car chases that it all becomes tedious. Then, the title itself. I'd never heard of a small yellow school bus for special needs students being labeled that way, but apparently that is what the reference means. Are we supposed to think that the characters, who go to the club for which the movie is named, face life hurdles that are even close to those of disabled kids? The majority of people in this film were unlikable. They were also immature, pretentious, and self-indulgent, just like the movie. Pathetic, really. Not at all like children with special needs. Finally, why would any of the events at the end of the movie erase the problems with which these people were struggling? It was too neat, too easy.

There were numerous things that were not at all believable. Would someone who just attempted suicide be able to check himself out of the hospital after only a few hours? No. Would there be a lot more drugs flowing than shown in the settings portrayed in this movie? Yes. Then, there is a woman who calls herself a couples' counselor. I write calls herself, because I seriously doubt she could have had either the MSW or PhD. Would a licensed professional really reveal details of her patients to her husband? No. That is unethical. Would she slap a patient and get away with it? No.

The portrayal of women generally left a lot to be desired, except for (perhaps) the one or two scenes of a group of women at the club who sat in a separate room and talked. In fact, that was about the only valuable dialogue in the movie, aside from a few other snippets here and there. There just wasn't enough dialogue, and as a result it was difficult to identify with the characters, or to sympathize with what they were going through. I'm sorry, extended scenes of people giving each other what were supposed to be meaningful gazes are not suitable substitutes for real writing. On the subject of women's perspectives in the movie, I was reminded of a great line from a truly wonderful movie, Moonstruck. Olympia Dukakis' character remarks, "what you don't know about women is a lot."

I so wondered what the h-ll the makers of this film were thinking that I sat through the special features. I very rarely bother with the "making of" clips that are on DVDs since they are invariably the same. You know, rah-rah, aren't we all so wonderful and isn't it fascinating how we picked the cast and came up with the idea. But in this case, I learned that there was no story. They kind of made it up as they went along, after they picked the cast. That answered a big question for me. Then, some of the deleted and extended scenes contained additional dialogue that would have made the movie better, had it been left in. (One exception involved a stalker who in the alternate scenes was supposed to work as a personal assistant to the president's daughters. Hello! Why would some guy who works at home in NYC be their personal assistant and why would the president call him every five minutes. It makes no sense at all, and I assume it was only there because the director has some personal axe to grind. So cutting that out was one of the few good decisions he made.) The director appeared very young, and I figured that explained why the movie is so immature in perspective. But then I learned that he is only two years younger than me. So I guess the young do not have a monopoly on immaturity. It seemed to me that he took advantage of a lot of unknown actors who were desperate to get a movie credit.

I mentioned that it struck me as pretentious, and that is the final comment I will make. It really summed up the attitude that I have encountered many times in my life, having grown up in an area that is a weekend vacation land for people who live in the metro area. That the city is so great, so open, so enlightened, and the rest of us are ignorant stump jumpers. News flash: there is a whole world beyond your nine miles that manages just fine in navigating those life issues you find so insurmountable and doesn't appreciate your form of judgmental moralism. Grow up.


The Black Dancer said...

I have to strenuously disagree with you about the movie "Shortbus." I found it to be a penetrating (no pun intended) look into the harsh anxieties many of us feel over sex and sexuality. The main character's inability to reach orgasm is probably not a rare condition in large portions of the RSA (Repressed States of America) and many people just settle for bad or infrequent sex with their mates, while saying that sex doesn't matter so much.

While unfortunate, the equating of the sexually repressed with special needs children isn't so far off base. I can only hope that more artists take the kind of chance that the writer/director of "Shortbus" did.

howzerdo said...

I think we will have to agree to disagree. Something I did like about the movie is that it made me want to post about it, and it is a rare movie that inspires me to write something, even if it is negative. I don't think the director's exploration of sexual expression is necessarily a bad thing, but I also don't believe that all or even most of the patrons of the club were having good sex. (Frequent? Yes.) I did not find women to be realistically portrayed in this movie at all. I also objected to the other unrealistic aspects in terms of suicide, counseling, etc. as well as equating any of these characters' various neuroses and inhibitions to the myriad challenges faced by disabled children. Something else unrealistic that I forgot to write in my post was the dearth of what society views as less sexually attractive people. I admit it was hard to decipher in the tangle of bodies, but I only saw one old, and one fat person. Not everyone in the world who struggles with identity issues is young and attractive. But maybe that is a taboo even hipsters share with all others in what you label the RSA? Anyway, thanks for your comment - GBP isn't exactly brimming with commenters and all visitors are much appreciated.

The Black Dancer said...

I look forward to your future posts and will visit often. Got you bookmarked.