I asked if anyone had seen Sin City . No one had. So I (unwittingly, of course) plied the clever conversation generating gambit of, "If you liked Pulp Fiction or Once Upon A Time In Mexico, you'll love Sin City." Oops. The torrent released flooded the remainder of the evening with cries of, "You violence mongering Communist/Nazi [circle one] !" Not really, I'm exaggerating as usual. Of the four who had seen Pulp Fiction, one, a high-school teacher by trade, sided with me in thinking that it was one of the cleverest, most entertaining, off-the-wall movies of all time. The other three thought it was two hours of concentrated gratuitous violence with no redeeming value whatsoever.
I tried repeatedly, if not eloquently enough (apparently), to explain how you have to view a movie as a complete work, like you would a painting. You have to take it as a whole and judge the entire piece on the overall impression it creates. But, not being a student of art or cinema, and being a proven non-artist myself, I failed miserably to explain what I was talking about. When I saw Sin City, I sat there thinking to myself, "This is good. It's absurd, incredulous, over-the-top, round-the-bend, ridiculous, but good." I just don't have the academic wherewithal to explain why this is a quality film in a way that Halloween 39 is somehow not.
There was a contingent who seemed to argue that failure to deplore a film that depicts violence, no matter how well made the film is, equates to a tacit approval of all violence. No, no, no. Then you get the, "Movies don't have to contain violence to be entertaining," argument. That's very true. I tried to use Wonder Boys as an example of one of my favorite films that contains no violence, then remembered that the whole thing revolves around a murdered dog. Oops. Again.
OK, then, all I can say is it's a matter of taste. I like non-linear story lines (21 Grams, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, The Jacket). I like off-the-wall (Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Big Bad Love, Clerks, Dogma). I like unpredictable, at least for the first go-round (all of the above). Most of all, I like to be told a story I haven't heard before and taken for a ride I wasn't expecting. Though, being taken for a ride that closely resembles one I've been on in real life (High Fidelity, Still Crazy, Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, That Thing You Do) can be entertaining, if not as artistically satisfying. And there's my pathological fondness for the ludicrous, real or imagined (Crumb, The Triplets of Belleville). "The feel-good movie of the year" rarely does anything for me.
The group rant ended on the theme, "Yes, violence is a part of life, but do we need to acknowledge it and depict it in art and dwell on it in the media?" Define need. A huge chunk of Western religion revolves around the brutal murder of a peace-loving rabbi from Palestine that continues to be depicted in graphic detail in countless homes and churches all over the world. It's going to be one hell of a long time before you get around that one.
And for something completely different:
Take the :"Why Do I Work Here?" quiz. 25 points for each question answered incorrectly, redeemable for one one full-fledged coronary approximately 20 years from now.
1) How many of the "leaders" where you work would you follow into battle? How many would you frag?*
2) How many of the "managers" where you work would you hire if you were independently wealthy and needed someone to run a department in your company?
3) Turn the spotlight around. How many of your co-workers would you hire if you had to pay their wages with your money? Would you be one of them?
4) If the corporation you work for were a person, what would you think of that person? Would you trust them? Could you? Would you even associate with such a person?
*"Frag" was promoted to a verb during the Vietnam War to denote the assassination of officers by their own troops (this practice probably did not originate in Vietnam, the Vietnam War just served to popularize the practice). "Frag" is a shortening of "fragmentation grenade", the name of a device often used for such purposes. The fragmentation grenade was popular because, unlike shooting someone with one's own rifle (which can be construed as a willful and felonious act if that person is wearing other than an enemy uniform), when a grenade is thrown, it can be difficult or impossible to ascertain afterward to whom the assault was directed and who, in fact, perpetrated it. "I didn't throw it at him; I threw it at the enemy commando standing just to his left. Sorry." Or, "Hey, the grenade came out of nowhere. I dived for it, but it was too late." When, in the course of human events, one's "leaders" are perceived as more of a threat to one's well being than the advertised enemy, then, well . . .