CRYSTAL BLUE-VEIN PERSUASION
Illustration by Travis Fox for Kansas City's Ink
THIS WEEK IN THEATRES...
* Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth movie in the Indy series delivers the fun of the past, though maybe a tad less plausibly so.
I liked it, but it's sure to be hotly debated. Already, two of my friends and colleagues offer differing opinions, one liking it but slightly less so (David Walker at Badazz Mofo, who makes a good point: "...it is a movie about an old man, made by old men for old men") and one way less so (Robert Plastorm at Plastorm, whom I think gets a little too hung up on those first horrible ten minutes). Both lay a lot of the blame at the feet of George Lucas, which I am inclined to do, as well, though I think Spielberg has enough cheese tendencies that he's more than willing to go along. The thing that struck me as I watched each of the Indy movies in order was that Lucas' name kept popping up with the "story by" credit. I never really thought about it before, but I think a large part of the George Lucas problem is that (1) he's the boss and (2) he's primarily an idea man. The two make for a dangerous combination. Idea men who think they are geniuses are living on a deluded cloud of their own self-worth. Anyone will tell you that ideas are cheap, they are everywhere, and very few are outstanding million-dollar discoveries that have never been done before. George Lucas' work is all a pastiche of influences (something I have no problem with, because we are all like this to one degree or another), so he certainly can't be hailed as a visionary innovator. It's all about execution. Lucas only writes the story, he doesn't write the script. He rarely does any of the actual work. Thus, he can dogmatically stick to the idea he has convinced himself of (as he reportedly did with the Crystal Skull plot), because he never has to roadtest it himself. If he put his hands in the dirt and fiddled with the machines, maybe he'd be more ready to see what doesn't work.
Then again, maybe not, since he did direct the Star Wars prequels into carbon stasis all on his own.
Apropos of this, if you're wondering how my reliving the Indiana Jones experience panned out, in the same way I was surprised how much less I liked Temple of Doom than I remembered, I liked The Last Crusade much more. The combination quest/journey/puzzle kept the film moving at a good pace, and the casting of both Sean Connery as Indy's father and River Phoenix as a younger version of Indiana Jones made the movie all kinds of entertaining. Phoenix was really impressive in the way he appropriated many of Harrison Ford's traits into his performance. It was a much better sequel to than Temple, though it still has more of the silly than Raiders. Honestly, though I say in my review of Crystal Skull that i liked it better than Last Crusade, it's an opinion I could go back and forth on. I stuck with the assessment since it was my first gut reacion (oy, how George Lucas of me!).
THIS WEEK IN DVD REVIEWS...
* La Chinoise, Jean-Luc Godard agitprop about student protesters and their obsession with Mao.
* Independents: A Guide for the Creative Spirit, an indie documentary about indie comic book creators. Craig Thompson is soooooo dreamy!
* Lost in Beijing, Li Yu's disappointing follow-up to Dam Street, about a love quartet in modern-day China.
* Marvin Gaye - What's Going On/Greatest Hits Live '76: Collectors' Edition, a double-pack bringing together a documentary about the soul singer and one of his mid-period concerts.
* La Roue, a staggering early French silent picture from Abel Gance, telling the literary-tinged tale of a trainyard family.
UPDATED TO CRITERION CONFESSIONS...
This week's reviews written specifically for the site are:
* The Fire Within, Louis Malle's portrait of a man sewing up his life on the eve of his suicide.
* Shoot the Piano Player, the second film from Francois Truffaut sees him playing with the American gangster picture.
* White Mane, a short children's film about a boy and his wild horse.
Current Soundtrack: The Courteeners, St. Jude
Current Mood: cranky