14 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Edgar Wright is a terrific filmmaker. I continue to wonder if the films he makes are any good. Part of me was worried too big a deal would be made of Scott Pilgrim, and then part of me was disappointed it appeared fourth on Friday's box office list. I don't think there's any doubt that Wright is concerned about the b.o., and as I've said in the past, things like the b.o. and award season matter to me only to the extent to which they matter to the filmmakers I care about. It's only Saturday, and Friday's numbers are likely estimates, but it might be that Wright learns this weekend he indeed has much in common with his heroes Dante and Landis, etc, i.e. he occupies a particular niche and his successes will come sporadically and based on the material he handles.

I love the lovable surface of Scott Pilgrim, a movie that moves so quickly you can like five things and hate three things about any particular sequence. Wright's talent is in manufacturing genial creative exercises, ataractic and panoramic studies of cinematic splendor. Extravagant fun. In fact, Pilgrim is too high-strung for Wright, I kept wanting him to chill out, I kept wanting Pegg or Frost to come in and take these characters by the hand and mellow them out.

And anyway, the style already proved itself with Speed Racer. I've noticed only the bravest critics have compared the two movies, which share a stentorian voice. That critics hate one and love the other is an expression of filmmaking politics, I'm sure, and I for one couldn't even say which is the better movie.

Wright works on expansive canvases, which I hate, but paints with rich textures, which I love. To me it's not even debatable that Knives Chau is the most likeable character the movie offers; probably my favorite part of the movie was her watching the band practice post-breakup from the exterior, and the hand print she left on the window afterward. For a movie with limp action scenes, my favorite was her disappearing highlights. And although I snoozed through some of the musical performances, the other band duplicating the envy and scorn of Scott's band was a great little detail as well. I'm talking about the first battle of the bands.

By the way, the currency in Pilgrim is fantasy, so why in fantasy world is it wrong for a guy to hit a girl? Isn't that fucked? I mean the implication is that it's perfectly ordinary and acceptable to start a fight with another guy - so I'm not offended on behalf of women's right to equality, I'm offended on behalf of all pacifist men. It perpetuates that like medfuckingieval (for Christ's sake) mythical vision of damsels in distress and male knights and all that shit, and I wish it wouldn't draw such clear lines on matters of violence. That's having and eating a cake. Although I guess it also empowers the female sex, because of those fight up-skirts? Classy. Maybe some people want to say it offers a complicated, multi-layered and contemporary view of sexual politics, but those people are wrong. It's your classic alpha male oriented point of view. That's not a criticism, but neither is its consideration means for applause.

Before I went to Scott Pilgrim I rewatched Shaun of the Dead. I wrote a two-parter about that film, about my love/hate relationship with the movie. Pilgrim crystallized what the Wright experience means for me. It's kind of like eating a bunch of sugary food that's my favorite kind of sugary food, and then there's the inevitable stomach ache. I doubt I'll ever learn my lesson, and I don't believe it harms me enough to try and stop. Though how much better for me would it be, if he could only give me some cinematic broccoli?

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