Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why This Blog Exists Part II

"and just who do you think you are that you think you can
raise the dead?”

The idea for this blog came to me after watching a movie called The Mind Snatchers.I bought the DVD for this movie for two reasons: it was an early starring role for Christopher Walken (whose work I enjoy for reasons of true artistic appreciation in addition to the kitsch factor) and it was selling for $1.99 at my grocery store. The quality of the DVD was what you’d expect for $1.99. The movie was not quite what I’d expected.

The cover and the title led me to the idea that this would be a campy science fiction deal and it kind-of was. The plot, based on a play by Dennis Reardon, focuses on the army developing some mind-control technology for reasons that I’ve forgotten. Walken is an unstable soldier, taken in by "the powers that be" to be tested on. He is put in a rather spacious estate where there are monkey experiments going on and is forced to room with another guy played by Ronny Cox.

The movie is clearly based on stage material, as much of it is made up of conversations between Walken and Cox, the setting is never really explored, and the blocking of both camera and actors would be more at home on the stage than on the screen. This staginess is simultaneously to the movie’s benefit and detriment, for, while the movie feels canned, poorly paced, and claustrophobic (filmicly), it also allows the actors to shine. Walken is great, as usual. The real surprise for me was that Ronny Cox delivered a great performance. Ronny Cox? A good actor? Even a great one?

Prior to seeing this movie, I was familiar with Cox’s work in Paul Verhoeven movies and I vaguely remember him from Deliverance and Beverly Hills Cop, but I’d never seen him as an actor. Sure, he’s wonderfully slimy in Robocop and serviceable as almost the same role in Total Recall, but those roles are so arch there’s not much room for nuance. In The Mind Snatchers, he is great as a dim-witted, repressed Southern man. There’s a nice acting moment when his character reveals to a psychologist certain racial insensitivities and he checks with his eyes to see what the psychologist’s reaction to his attitude is. I loved that.

So why did watching this mediocre movie with better than mediocre acting inspire me to watch a movie every day for 3 months and write about it on the internet?

After watching the movie, it occurred to me that there are so many movies out there with hidden pleasures to be found as they are in The Mind Snatchers. I had an irrepressible urge as a film buff to find them. I then remembered that I call myself a film buff but I have only seen one Godard film (Breathless) and I’ve never seen Fitzcarraldo and I keep meaning to watch some good Hammer horror flicks and Greed and Notorious and...

The list could go on forever and, I guess, that’s as it should be. The problem that led to this blog is that, since leaving college and getting a job and a life-mate, I’ve had smaller and smaller amounts of time in which to watch movies. This fact had been gnawing on my brain at the time I watched The Mind Snatchers. Then, I thought, “What if I watched a movie a day and blogged about it?” The benefits were clear immediately. It would be a nice way to make a dent in all these movies I want to see. It would be a funny little experiment to see if I could even do it. Having the blog would keep me honest since I’m writing it more for myself as a record of what I’m watching than for anyone else. The movie-a-day regimen is one I’ve failed before like many a fad diet, as is the writing everyday regimen. But the movie-a-day + blog regimen creates a positive feedback loop where I feel like I have to actually watch a movie AND write everyday. What a breakthrough!

So that’s why this blog exists. I hope that people read it and that they like it. I’d love nothing more than if I had a nice readership who came to read my ramblings on a semi-daily basis. Having said that, this is primarily for me as an exercise to get my creative movie-based juices flowing again and to see if it results in any movie-based dementia. ‘Cause that would be hilarious!