Monday, April 23, 2012

Brandon needs a new eyeglasses Rx

I wore my "go out and have a good time late Saturday night" "glasses" when I saw Cabin in the Woods. I was excited to have a good time. Chris and Jeff will tell you that I was excited to see it and that I practically twisted their arms so that they'd come along. I went in mostly blind. I had read part of something linked to on Mubi and part of Jeff Overstreet's review before I realized that I couldn't read anything without encountering a lot of spoilers.

 "I think John liked watching this movie but had a change of heart and I won’t tell you what I am suspecting is the thorn in his side to avoid WWIII."

I'm really not trying to be the contrarian here. I gave my initial reactions. Things only started to get "contrary" when you questioned the word "hipster." Then, I had fun, but now I'm done having fun because I now know that I have to put a smiley face after every sentence I write. :)

Nothing would please me more than to be able to join the rest of Film Club in saying "Whoohoo for Whedon!" Nevertheless, I came out of the movie with lots of problems. There is plenty to admire, sure, but as I thought things through, both in the parking lot with Jeff and Chris, and then back home, I realized that, even though I'm on the fence, I'm leaning toward the negative side of the fence.

For one thing, I didn't laugh nearly as much as you. I didn't think that the film was all that funny. Sure, I chuckled half a dozen times. I smiled here and there. That's hardly the guffaw fest that you describe. I don't doubt that you found it all so funny. I didn't.

"I can’t fault a film for being clever and perhaps drawing attention to its creators." That's fine. You can't. I can.

"I’m still struggling with the whole “walked away unchanged” complaint. I would argue that most films don’t “change” us but perhaps remind us or fortify our predisposed sentiments."

I've already addressed this on FB:
Sorry, guys. I've had trouble sleeping lately. So, I'm here and I'm rambling. Brandon's right to question "change" talk. But, it's also true that every piece of media we ingest changes us. I am not the same person I was before I watched Cabin in the Woods. Before, I was a person who hadn't seen Cabin in the Woods. Now, I'm magically changed into a person who has seen Cabin in the Woods. The act of seeing Cabin in the Woods has at least changed me in that small way. As Jason noted, Cabin will now affect the way he views future horror movies and will make him re-evaluate older horror movies. Cabin now influences how we feel about future Whedon projects. Etc. So, what of my stupid criticism that the audience leaves unchanged? I suppose that I did just mean that the movie sweeps us up in spectacle and gives the Ted laugher a good time. As much yapping as we've gotten out of Cabin, there's not much left to chew on. I'm not laying awake at night thinking about the ending of Cabin. I'm laying awake at night wondering who called Brandon a hipster once and hurt his feelings. But, maybe it has changed me. Maybe I am now prepared to laugh in the abyss as I roll another joint. I'm just rambling. This probably isn't coherent. I remain... Nonplussed.
Or this. When I watch a good or even just a decent western, I get up afterwards and think (even if don't articulate this), "Damn. I'm lazy. I need to be a better man." And incrementally maybe I do become a better man or at least I know that I should be. When I watch a "college kids getting killed" movie, I think, "It seems like there's nothing I can do to prevent getting senselessly slaughtered. I should go get high and get laid." But, Randolph Scott wouldn't get killed by some senseless oaf. He'd do something about it. Even if it proves futile in some situations, I'd rather set up camp with the "do something about it" folks. One movie encourages us, however subtly, to get up and "change" ourselves and our environment. The other movie discourages us, however subtly, from doing much of anything. Maybe. And the standard disclaimer is: I'm not writing off all horror, just this particular popular strain of horror.
In case it's not clear, I do mostly agree with your criticism of the way I phrased "walk away unchanged." I wasn't expecting anyone to turn into a butterfly after seeing Cabin. My point was actually the same as yours, that Cabin reinforces certain "predisposed sentiments" of its audience.

Westerns may reinforce certain "predisposed sentiments" that I have toward honor and sacrifice, but they also challenge "predisposed sentiments" that I have toward being lazy and watching too many movies. You could probably make a case that Cabin offers more to chew on than "stoner thrills," but it seems like you're just as happy to call it a nice ride.

 Those FB posts brought about Jason's "Horror is like a Roller Coaster" apologetic. I still don't like roller coasters. And I still (mostly) don't like Cabin in the Woods.

You write that the "punch line isn't as good as the setup." I agree, except that I was disappointed by the setup, too. Most of the action in the movie felt hollow and perfunctory (Whedon/Goddard attempt to dodge this criticism through the script's insistence on the characters following a script and all of the other "meta" stuff going on) and I was really bored, waiting for a big payoff to justify the time I'd just spent watching just another "kids in the woods" horror movie (with a minor sf twist), but instead I get a rushed, hectic showdown that ends in lots of fireworks and Ryan Gosling's hand. It's like Whedon/Goddard felt that if they rushed us with enough "awesome," we'd just be wowed into acceptance of all that has just occurred.

I'm probably done with Cabin now. I've got to get ready to write about Cabin's 1925 predecessor, Battleship Potemkin.

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