Friday, January 18, 2008
Both Thumbs Up!

I'm going to pass this tip on to Ebert and Roeper. I think they should have a new category for movie reviews: Both Thumbs Up. This would be an indication of a movie they think the average viewer would enjoy more than once.

There are few movies that the average person wants to watch more than once.  After all, we know what's going to happen.

As an English major, I thought one phrase explained concisely why we enjoy stage dramas or fictional literature.  Samuel Coleridge said we use a willing suspension of disbelief in order to go along with something we know is not real but an imitation, a caricature, of real social interaction. And this makes watching a movie a second time a real strain on our willingness to accept the portrayal of human interactivity as reality.

Usually, I find it's movies where the main character (the hero) is someone I can identify with.  Someone I like.  Someone I can picture myself being and reacting in a similar way to similar circumstances.

It's amazing to me how much is the same from the first dramatic and comedic plays enacted in ancient Greece.  You could still classify the vast majority of Hollywood movies under one of these two masks:


Aristotle wrote a little essay (treatise?)  called The Poetics where he described common features of dramatic tragedy.  It had to have a hero who was basically good but had a flaw -- a tragic weakness -- that led to his or her undoing.  To have a good person walking down the street hit by a meteor would not have any instructive value for the audience.  I think he said this was pathos.

And it's funny how the Greek chorus that commented on action happening onstage is still present in modern movies, where a sidekick might warn the main character "I don't know if that's such a good idea, Sheriff."

All that to say I kind of enjoyed Woody Allen's movie "Mighty Aphrodite".  It has echoes of all the Greek tragedy conventions set in Greek restaurants in New York City.  It's amazing that an actress as wholesome looking as Mira Sorvino is the child of Paul Sorvino, who played Paulie in the chillingly realistic movie Goodfellas (and was very believable as Juliet's father in Romeo + Juliet.  Maybe it was Romeo's father.).

But be aware that there are lots of women who hate Woody Allen.  Consider this before watching this movie on DVD or cable or satellite TV with your significant other.  Something about adopting a Korean orphan and ending his long-term relationship to be with her.  Just a word of warning.

Words about people and things and ideas that you might find useful, interesting and enjoyable.

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