Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Love or Hate?

So, I had a movie night last week and went to two in a row: Prometheus and Cosmopolis. Both were movies I was really excited to see, so I went in with high expectations.

For me, one delivered and one did not. Both had big ideas but for me one worked and one didn't. At all. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering the last time I hated a movie as much as I hated Cosmopolis  (and I saw that babysitter movie with Jonah Hill, the name of which I can't even remember. But I didn't hate that as much as I hated this. In fact, I rarely hate movies.)

What's ironic to me is that the one that was the more commercial of the two I saw that night actually pulled off more subtlety and interesting storytelling than the more high brow one.

I've read a few bad reviews of Prometheus, and I know a few people I follow on Twitter and Facebook didn't like it, but I really did. Interesting. Tense. And a heroine to root for. Plus, I've read a few reviews and analyses of the film that made it even more interesting to me. Things that would be spoilerish to mention. But I really liked Prometheus. Plus, really, if a movie has both Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba, what more could you want?

But I hated Cosmopolis. It's been almost a week since I saw it and I think I'm finally coming to grips with the reasons why. I've read a few of the positive reviews, wondering if maybe I just missed some deeper meaning, but no... I don't think so. People who liked it keep talking about how prescient the novel was but really? It was published in 2003. Seems to me that there were plenty of films and novels that were critical of rampant capitalism and the craziness of the finance industry well before that. I mean, even Wall Street covered that ground. And it's not as if the credit market collapse of 2008 was the first blow up in finance land.

Regardless of whether the film had "things to say", I think the biggest problem was that the main character, in spite of being played by the usually appealing (to me) Robert Pattinson, was beyond hideous. I'm all for an antihero if he/she is interesting, or if the story that unfolds is gripping, or if the ideas are compelling, but this man was despicable and boring (until he turned violent for no well-motivated reason, at which time he became repellant), the story was non-existent, and the ideas were, I thought, banal and obvious. Or maybe, while I believed a "greed is good" Gordon Gecko character, I did not believe this character could or would ever exist. Not for a moment. He was a bizarre cartoon idea of someone who works in the finance industry. Yes, a lot of people in that industry have a disproportionate sense of entitlement, inflated egos, delusions of grandeur. Sure. But most aren't insane. And this man was insane.

I think I'm so full of hate because I so badly wanted to like the movie. First, it's a Canadian movie and I'm a fan of David Cronenberg, and the cast was full of interesting actors, but yuck.

Ninety percent of the film takes place in a limo. But I don't think that was the problem. (I mean, I saw and enjoyed a movie last year that took place in a coffin...)

Has anyone else seen Cosmopolis or read the book?

Has anyone seen Prometheus yet? Gory, but good. :) I predict that Sinead will love it.


Anonymous said...

It's funny, I've read the reviews for both and I love Cronenburg as well, especially A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises, but he needs a really compelling story and this doesn't sound like he has one here.

But Prometheus... I'm salivating I want to see it so badly... soon, very soon.

Maureen McGowan said...

I heard a snippet of an interview with Cronenberg. The interviewer said something like: why are you drawn to difficult novels? And he replied... I don't think I am. I was drawn to this because I thought the setting posed an interesting challenge. (Or something like that.)

So, basically, it seems like it might have been a tad self-indulgent. Or that he cared less about what the characters were saying and more about camera tricks to film inside a limo. So disappointing. I think I've liked virtually every Cronenberg film before this, even Crash (his film about people turned on by car accidents and missing body parts...)

Simone St. James said...

I haven't seen Cosmopolis, but I loved Prometheus. Even after I pondered the plot issues and picked them apart. One scene in that film - you know what I mean, Maureen - is one of the scariest things Ridley Scott has ever done.

PS I think the babysitting movie with Jonah Hill was called "That Babysitting Movie with Jonah Hill".

Anonymous said...

Um...I've never heard of Cosmopolis. Now I know why - it stinks.


Eileen said...

Loved History of Violence and liked Easter Promises. Haven't heard heard of Cosmopolis either.

I predict that Andy will go see Prometheus with the boys when I'm off somewhere else and I'll end up seeing it five years from now on whatever DVD is by then.

All of this means that I'll never have an informed opinion about either movie. Sigh.

Eileen said...

But you know . . . to tie in with my post yesterday, sometimes watching or reading stuff I hate is more informative to me than the stuff I love. I get wrapped up in the stuff I love and forget to pull the craft apart.
The stuff I hate? I don't get swept away and I can really see all kinds of things that I try to remind myself not to do in my own work later.

Maureen McGowan said...

That's a really good point, Eileen. It is easier to figure out why we hate something vs. love something at times.

This movie bugged me so much that even the small things annoyed me. Like how it was supposed to be NYC and was clearly Toronto. I mean he had the CN Tower in the background in one shot! Then moments, later, it was gone in what seemed like the same angle at the same location. Almost like they removed it via CGI in one shot and not the other.

Cronenberg almost always films at least part of his movies in Toronto and I usually love spotting the city. In this case it just pissed me off. Maybe because I kept thinking, why not just change the setting to Toronto if you're not going to even try to make it look like NYC?

There were other shots that had NYC landmarks that just seemed strange. And I read that huge chunks were filmed on a sound stage and stock footage was pasted behind...

I just read a review that called the last 22 minutes of the movie a 2 character off-broadway play. And that about sums it up. Paul Giamatti and Robert Pattinson just talking. For 22 minutes. One you hate by that point. The other you don't care about. You're given no reason to care about Giamatti's character who just arrives in the story way too coincidentally.
And then they talk for 20 minutes about stuff that sounds so generic. Giamatti rants against capitalism for 20 minutes. I'm a pretty socialist leaning gal, and it pissed *me* off. Boring.

Eileen said...

Kind of Ayn Rand in reverse?

It's really a shame. I still think about History of Violence sometimes and ponder those questions. Was he really made into a good person by love? Was he redeemable? What about his son? Is violence something we learn or something that's born inside of us? Both and it's up to us how we respond to those urges?

I think about Eastern Promises, too, but that might have more to do with Viggo Mortensen naked. although there was that one sex scene in History of Violence that was WAY hot, too . . .

Maureen McGowan said...

Ha! That's probably right, Eileen, although I admit I've never read more than a page or two of Atlas Shrugged. One of those books that's been on the TBR pile since University and never quite rises to the top.

I loved A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Both entertaining and thought provoking. Perfect combo.

I also liked A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg's last movie before Cosmopolis. It wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped (Kiera Knightly gave a very odd performance I had trouble believing -- to much jaw straining and strange grimacing) but again, it was a film full of interesting ideas. It's the one where Viggo Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender plays Karl Jung. (Knightly plays a woman who Freud refers to Jung and Jung becomes sexually involved with...) The promotion for that film kind of promised it would have some kinky S&M sex and it kind of fell short there ;) But Fassbender and Mortensen were good, and the film itself was interesting if not amazing.

Eileen said...

There's like a 35 page monologue by John Galt toward the end of Atlas Shrugged that lays out Rand's whole philosophy. You really don't need to read it.

I forgot about A Dangerous Method. I think I'd just read some other book about Freud for book club and couldn't bear to read another.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I think what's his name can't act - he can sort of stare, and breathe hard (which is all I've ever seen him do in anything) I think a movie like that needs an actor who can put together some layers - those characters in eastern promises and history of violence would have been flat and relatively unlikeable until they suddenly flew into crazy violence if it hadn't been for Viggo's ability to convey a variety of emotions and motivations at one time.

can't wait for prometheus, i really can't. i want to sit in a cold mvie theater with popcorn and be totally entertained. right now. is it too early?

Molly O'Keefe said...

HA! Simone - it was actually called
That Shitty Babysitting Movie with Jonah Hill that no one saw..."

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