Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mystery movies: a neglected genre?

I notice that Robert Downey Jr.'s about to star in Sherlock Holmes, and Ben Stiller has been talking about making a big-screen parody of the Hardy Boys, I've been thinking about the mystery genre in movies. It seems like mysteries really aren't nearly as big in film as they are on television screens. Everyone loves CSI and Without A Trace, but the crime thriller genre doesn't seem to translate as successfully to theaters as well.
Movies like Memento inherently set out to mess with our idea of the detective finding his clues and cracking the case, and in Zach Snyder's Watchmen about to arrive next week, Rorschach, the "detective" superhero in fedora and trenchcoat, is actually the most maniacal and homicidal character of his team. Is there something incompatible about Hollywood audiences these days and detective stories?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Young and impressionable

As much as film is a passion of mine, sometimes it can also be a handicap to get as engaged by films as I do. Yesterday was a good example: I woke up at 5 am, with no reason why except my body woke up, and I had no idea what to do except watch a movie I'd rented a while back called "There Will Be Blood." For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is Paul Thomas Anderson's take on the oil biz through the lens of a greedy competitive psychopathic oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview, played brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis. He won the Oscar for his portrayal, and the film was nominated for Best Picture along with a ton of other things. I thought it'd be worth seeing, although I expected it to be dark.

This is a film that often shows moments of great sweetness and love, especially between Daniel and his son H.W. and between H.W. and Mary, a young girl he befriends while his father works out in California. However, most of the film concentrates on the dark side of Daniel, and his conflict with a shyster preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano.) It ends with Daniel a rich but bitter old man who's rejected his son and any possibility of love or friendship in his life.

After I finished watching this movie, I felt spiteful, bitter and depressed. I as usual had fallen into acting like the main character of the movie. It's something I need to watch in myself, a tendency to fall into the mood of the movie. If I see a great action movie, I tend to be really pumped for a while, as anyone might. If I see an uplifting film, it can make me look at the world differently. But a dark film, one that denies hope for its main character or has a generally cynical attitude towards life, can leave me in the pits.

I think I just need to be aware of my sensitivities. I wish I could watch any film and if it was well-made, be able to enjoy it on its merit and feel good. However, if a film is dark, it often reminds me of that quote that Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Very often our body and soul begin to react to what the senses take in: it makes it that much more important to search out beauty and hope in our art, as much as in our lives.