Meta Bad

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When Simple Men began, I waited with amusement, sure some kind of reveal would unveil the first scene to be a bad movie within the movie. But soon thereafter, I let go of this gut response and gave into what turned out to be a superb bad movie. 

But what does bad mean, in this context? Two New York boys leave the island of Manhattan to find their father. The landscape of the movie is on Long Island, which for native New Yorkers, may as well be Uranus. This simple narrative arc is completely linear, with no flourishes of time travel or flash back. And yet, for me, it is more fantastical than most fantasy movies. The movie’s genius lies in its self awareness – the color palatte, the dead pan deliveries, the philosophical interludes, and the absurdity of juxtaposition. The storyworld tells us through visuals and character interaction that there is no redemption in this world – only trouble and desire. The repetition of phrases, music, and the blocking and movement within the shots contribute to a comic book 2-D mis-en-scene. The most perfect part in this farcical world, is that everyone takes themselves completely seriously. The character’s humour lies in their lack of awareness of their own, and the strangeness of humanity shines through in blinding pastels. 

In contrast to the episode of Lost, which aims at a realist aesthetic sprinkled with the fantastical, bored me to tears. There’s something about its presentation that just doesn’t appeal to me. In the telling of the story, the present action takes place on the island, and the storyworld of each of the character is slowly revealed through flashback. But the present action is dictated by a very contemporary sensibility – an attempt to itch the “this could happen to you” scratch for viewers who crave that “what if” scenario. But the presentation is so slick, so manupulative in a way that its competely lost to me. There’s something about kowing you’re watching someone’s vision while their techniques of narration try to hide it that erks me. 

I guess I’m just into the concept of constructing a storyworld and owning its insincerity. Thats the only way it ultimately becomes sincere. My first impulse about Simple Men is one that gave way to an appreciation of its bad construction, of its 90s stageplay whimsy. But the episode of Lost only grew more a aspertame  nd more queasy to me, like a diet soda that tastes good the first sip, but slowly loses its sugary coating and thecomes through. The narration and discourse of Lost totally lost me. But the goodness in the badness of Simple Men took me a moment to find. 

Comments

One Response to “Meta Bad”

  1. Aaron Smith on September 21st, 2008 6:47 pm

    JJ,
    My comment turned into an entire post. This was an interesting response because I actually had the opposite reaction. You make some great points though which I discuss over at my blog.
    Aaron

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