Sunday, February 24, 2008

Western violence

Do you have Oscar fever? I really don't. I don't know why, I'm just not feeling it right now. Usually I enjoy the Oscars, since L and I are movie freaks and have seen the nominated movies by the time the awards roll around. (Our friends always assume we have seen everything already, in the theaters, since we usually have; but this often gets communicated to us in the same disdainful tone you use when you talk to chain-smokers or felons, as if seeing movies in the theater is a giant character flaw. Well, excuse me if I like the whole movie-going experience: the overpriced snacks, the embarrassingly large sodas, the previews; that kind of excess is part of our birthright as Americans.)

The problem this year is that the dominant theme in the movies right now seems to be: Western Violence. Between "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men," if your movie doesn't involve taciturn men beating the shit out of other, mostly clueless people, you're going home empty-handed. I saw "There Will Be Blood" and really liked it until the last twenty minutes, when Daniel-Day-Lewis started mauling on people with bowling pins and yelling out random phrases like a crazy person. During that scene I started wondering about how heavy bowling pins are, and if they would really be an effective weapon. I stupidly assumed they were hollow. What if you carried one in each hand? Would that be more useful?

I didn't see "No Country for Old Men," but I read the book and that was enough. Although now I sort of want to see the movie. In recent years, though, I have tried to move away from the extreme violence and horror; I just don't need to see it. In the meantime, though, it is interesting to note how these movies have gained such prominence now. Are they a reflection of our national mood? Definitely. I read something about how western movies always make a resurgence in times of war; the lawlessness and wanton violence of the frontier west is a useful metaphor in times of national conflict and agitation.

Maybe next year things will be a little different, and we won't be looking to the same kinds of movies to reflect and symbolize the year in film. I hope that is the case. In the meantime, though, tonight I will be pulling for "Juno."

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