Friday, March 03, 2006

The imagination I don't have

Subject: Cinema
First up tonight was from my "forgotten favorite director". That is to say, if I'm asked about my favorite movies, when I'm not thinking about it, I always forget that Terry Gilliam is an outstanding cinematic artist. I read a few not-so-positive things about his latest "Hollywood" film, "The Brothers Grimm", about how he didn't quite get to do the movie he really wanted, but he still managed to feel like he pulled something off to his satisfaction. And yeah, I think it was a reasonably satisfactory movie.

The things that come out of his imagination are outstanding, and I can just picture how he brought various visual and storytelling elements to the final product. But overall, yeah, it wasn't a total knock-out of an experience. Better than most, but kind of weak where it didn't necessarily need to be. The whole allegory about making movies was rather obvious overall, though I do tend to see allegories about making movies in just about everything, even "MADLAX"... (which I'll bore everyone about in another month once the last disc gets released...)

What Gillliam was missing in "Grimm", could be found in spades in the low-budget, effects-laden, Jim Henson Productions extraveganza, "Mirrormask". I had blogged about it enthusiastically a couple of times when it came out, but never actually went to see it in the theater. Early in the film, it hit all of its notes perfectly. A young lady is the daughter of a couple who runs a circus, and she's sick of it. Her mom says "there are children in the audience who want to run away and join the circus", trying to convince her to appreciate what she has. She responds, "I want to run away and join real life".

Okay, that was kind of predictable. And nothing about what she does in the rest of the film had much to do about real life. It is, after all, a gothic fantasy. But I really enjoyed it. It echoed the earlier Jim Henson Productions favorite "Labyrinth" in a lot of ways, though there were no muppets or aging-rock-stars-in-tights. Just a few things about the tone and the storyline seemed a bit obvious in that parallel.

It did lose a little of it's magic as it headed towards the ending. Not that it wasn't cool anymore, but more like you start to take the universe for granted. It stopped hitting the simple-but-effective emotional notes that it was portraying in the first segment. It disconnected itself from that whole state a bit too far, and revelled more in it's surreal anti-existence; it dabbled a bit too much in the "ooh, isn't this really f*ing cool and freaky" state instead. Which was okay, because it was really freaky-cool. But it could have really hit it out of the park if it managed to successfully play the emotional card a bit.

At any rate, the total lack of "Hollywood" really had a positive effect on "Mirromask", and all the pieces come together quite brilliantly. I greatly envy the world inside of McKean's & Gaiman's heads. There's no way I could have come up with anything even remotely close. *sigh*

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