Mike Kueber's Blog

May 25, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #28 – artsy, independent week

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 8:31 pm
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While trying to win the favor of an artsy eHarmony connection, I admitted that I have lived as a philistine, but would be amenable to being proselytized.  (FYI – a philistine, as vividly described by Wikipedia, is someone “who is smugly narrow of mind and of conventional morality whose materialistic views and tastes indicate a lack of and indifference to cultural and æsthetic values.”) 

My eHarmony connection said she would be willing to try to reform me, provided I had an open mind and an open heart.  I agreed, and decided to start with some artsy Netflix movies because I already had a modest interest in them, and perhaps that would ease the transition into a full-throated cultural maven.

Unfortunately, my start was rocky.  The first movie I watched is titled Destricted, described on Wikipedia as eight shorts “that explore the line where art and pornography intersect.”  Perfect, right?  Wrong.  I should have listened to the Rotten Tomato audience, 72% of whom disapproved of it.  Even worse, 82% of the artsy critics graded it rotten.  Most of the shorts were incomprehensible, and the others were boring.  The only mildly interesting short – called Impaled – involved some inexperienced young men being interviewed for a role in a porn movie. 

Step two in my artsy-movie week included two early films by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater.  I became aware of Linklater earlier this year when I watched two of his classics – Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – and learned at that time that he was also responsible for two Austin-based cult films – Dazed & Confused and Slacker.

Slacker is a 1990 movie that Linklater filmed in Austin for $23,000, and it premiered in the Dobie Theater.  It is described as a plotless film that meanders aimlessly from one bohemian, twenty-something misfit to another in Austin, each pontificating and philosophizing.  Most descriptions of the movie fail to list any of the actors because none have more than a few minutes on the screen. 

Dazed and Confused is a 1993 coming-of-age movie that concerns the antics of Austin high school students on their last day of school in 1976.  Its cast included Matthew McConaughey in a breakout role and Milla Jovovich and Ben Affleck in insignificant roles.  The movie reminded me of American Graffiti, a 1973 movie that focused on some California kids in 1962 trying to decide what to do after graduating from high school.  According to an Entertainment Weekly list of the best high school movies, American Graffiti was #6 and Dazed and Confused was #3.   (The Breakfast Club was #1.)   

The titles to the two Linklater’s two Austin movies should have been reversed.  When I think of the term “slacker,” I think of someone who doesn’t work hard; whereas, when I think of “dazed and confused,” I think of people who don’t really understand what’s going on around them.  With that in mind, the high-school kids in Dazed and Confused are essentially slackers who just want to have some fun before growing up.  By contrast, the bohemian misfits in Slacker haven’t a clue about life.  That explains why I enjoyed Dazed and Confused – i.e., I can relate to a high-school kid who just wants to have some fun.  I give it three and a half stars out of four.  That also explains why I didn’t like Slacker – i.e., I get depressed by twenty-somethings who are never going to grow up mentally.  I give it one star out of four.

Rotten Tomatoes didn’t agree with me regarding Slacker, which received an 84% from the critics and 77% from the audience.  But it agreed in spades about Dazed and Confused, which received 98% from the critics and 89% from the audience.

For my final movie for artsy week, I decided to go with a 2010 Korean film titled The Housemaid, a melodrama thriller.  The movie concerns an aristocratic family that hires a housemaid to help care for their young daughter while the wife is expecting twins.  As might be expected, the husband converts the housemaid into his concubine, the wife finds out, and the shit hits the fan.  What makes this movie distinctive for me is its treatment of aristocracy and subservience in Korea.  I give it three stars out of four.  The artsy critics at Rotten Tomatoes agree with me and give it 75%.  The philistine audience at Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t appreciate the art and give in only 52%.

Looks like my transition to being an artsy guy is in progress.

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