After squandering the better part of the morning gazing at the empty spot on the nytimes.com site where Elvis Mitchell's picture once was, the cinetrix has rallied. Desperate to find a rebound film critic [any port in a storm, people], she stumbled across this WaPo feature, Movie Court [registration required].
Excessive litigiousness is what makes this country great, so I decided to give it a whirl. On the docket: The People v. Remakes. For the prosecution, critic Desson Thomson.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it has come increasingly to the court's attention that our moviemakers and their corporate handlers (viz. Hollywood) wallow like warthogs in a swirling hot tub of imitation. To wit: It is time to put a stop to remakes.
It has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Well, that ignores the inescapable truism that it's also the lowest form of creativity.
So, true, Mr. Thomson. Regular WaPo readers, does he always write like that? Or is he tilting his cap toward that sweet Times sinecure?
Anne Hornaday weighs in for the defense.
The jury will be advised that Tom Hanks has already received his karmic comeuppance for treading on Alec Guinness's coattails in "The Ladykillers," having just been the victim of imitation in "13 Going on 30," Jennifer Garner's grrrl-power remake of "Big." But surely no one will disagree that the current spate of bad iterations of better originals is a product of the craven, callow, cover-your-posterior ethos of contemporary Hollywood.... Somewhere out there is a young visionary who will one day direct the next "Wizard of Oz" -- which was made six times before Victor Fleming's definitive production in 1939.
"[C]raven, callow, cover-your-posterior ethos"? What is with the excessive alliteration? Hornaday seems to hew pretty closely to this structure. Check out the lede on her review of the Olsen twins movie: "New York Minute, the hectic, headache-inducing theatrical feature debut of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, features America's favorite sisters as good and evil twins." See, a string of alliterative adjectives, one of which may be a noun lassoed to a gerund.
Thomson is not immune to alliteration's siren song, either. While "wallow like warthogs in a swirling hot tub of imitation" may be a compelling, if improbable image [or else I need to check out D.C.'s zoo], it sounds lifted from a children's book. The cinetrix suspects Thomson may be too busy striving after Steve Erlanger's critical ideal: "someone who can write essays and critic's notebooks, can find themes and threads through the mass of movies out there." His review of Super Size Me in today's paper is right on when it tags the doc "basically a horror flick." But the sentence that follows this assertion only tells me that Thomson also reviewed Van Helsing this week: "Like any vampire or wolfman movie, it's about the alarming changes the antihero sees in the mirror. Oh my God, what's happening to me?"
The cinetrix knows what's happening to her: a nasty case of the DTs. Can the critics of Movie Court fill the Elvis-sized hole in her black heart? The jury's still out.
*Big love and much respect to Pigmeat Markham for saving me from some tired lawyer joke while sitting as judge and jury.