Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Big Myth: "There Are So Many Violent Movies!"

People are forever bemoaning violence in movies. I happen to like the kind of movies that are characterized as "violent." Not mindlessly so, and not because of the violence. It's just that some degree of violence is essential to telling some kinds of stories... and those are among the kinds of stories I like.

Let me put it this way: I'll take a Tarantino or a Die Hard over a powdered-wigs-and-corsets movie any day of the week. Does that make me a bad guy? I'll leave that to others to decide.

But as someone who seeks out such movies, I am always amazed when people say there are so many of them. If there are, how come when I'm in the mood, action movies are like cops: there's never one around when I need one?

Yesterday on The View, the viewlociraptors were scrawing and screeching about Apocalypto. And Barbara Walters said one of those Barbara-Waltersy things she likes to say:

"But people love violent movies. Look at all the movies that have opened up now before Christmas. Almost every one of them is a violent movie!"


Then one of the other Flying Monkeys said something about how movies just pander to teenage boys, and I turned the TV off.

Let's look at the top ten movies at the box office this past weekend:

1. Apocalypto
2. The Holiday
3. Happy Feet
4. Casino Royale
5. Blood Diamond
6. Unaccompanied Minors
7. Deja Vu
8. The Nativity Story
9. Deck the Halls
10. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
11. Borat
12. Stranger Than Fiction
13. Turistas
14. The Queen
15. Van Wilder II
16. Flushed Away
17. Bobby
18. The Fountain
19. Babel
20. The Departed

Now to be honest, for a number of reasons I haven't been to a movie in a very long time, so I haven't seen any of these. So my opinion is spectacularly uninformed, being limited to what I've read and heard about them. Still, it seems to me that once you get past Apocalypto, you've got to go all the way to lucky 13 and Turistas to find a movie that would shock and offend someone for its brutality.

Sure, Blood Diamond and Deja Vu may be more violent than I thought, but neither seems like it would have the kind of gratuitous gore that sets Barbara's wig aloft. And perhaps there's something in Casino Royale that makes it somehow more emotionally scarring than the other 20 Bond films, but I doubt it. I mean even at the age of 115, Barbara Walters must have seen a James Bond movie in her life.

And, yeah, The Departed -- which I'm eager to see -- has a lot of violence in it, but WTF? It's Scorsese, ferchrissake. Let the man do that voodoo that he do so well!

But let's give Barbara all of the above. Let's say that those 6 movies are a scourge. Unless I've seriously misjudged The Queen or The Nativity Story, and assuming that Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz aren't spending their Holiday with the Yakuza, I don't see a lot of offenders here.

But out of respect for the sulfurous, let's be fair to Barbara: It's not Christmas yet. So let's see what's opening up in the next two weeks:

Charlotte's Web
Arthur & The Invisibles
The Pursuit of Happyness
We Are Marshall
Night at the Museum
Talking farm animals, Beyonce, and triumphing over adversity? In the words of Count Floyd, "Very scary, kids!"

Breaking and Entering
Perhaps violent, but classy violent.

Matthew Barney: No Restraint
A documentary about a sculptor working with Bjork and 23 tons of Vaseline may be many things, but I doubt "violent" is one of them.

The Painted Veil

Peter O' Toole and Edward Norton fall in love. The kind of movies the bloodthirsty flock to.

The Good German
The Good Shepherd
They're both good, so why the hate? Whether they're violent or not, I doubt A-list movies about the Potsdam Conference and the birth of the CIA are splatterfests aimed at teens.

Probably violent, but does violence against dragons count?

Curse of the Golden Flower
Violence or ballet? Who cares? By all accounts, this is one of the most sumptuous and glorious epics any of us will ever see. Besides, if you're telling the story of one of the most violent periods in human history, it's hard to do it without some lopped heads.

Which brings us to:

Home of the Brave
Letters From Iwo Jima
War is violent, and it should be depicted that way. Perhaps the reason we're in a war now is that our leaders grew up watching movies where, if a soldier got shot, he would clutch his chest, go "Unnnnnh" and fall over... then do a five-minute speech about telling his Mom and his girl he loves them. Let's hope future leaders, having seen realistic violence, will remember that violence is real.

By the way, I didn't forget Rocky Balboa. It's just that the idea of a 60-year-old man climbing into a boxing ring so confuses me that I have to lie down with a wet towel on my forehead. Besides, if someone old has to get punched over and over, why oh why couldn't it be Barbara Walters?

1 comment:

Sean Tisdall said...

Rocky Balboa... really well done, subtle writing, great acting, especially from Stallone. Go see it. If nothing else, you'll rip it to shreds in a far more articulate manner than the quarter of reviewers who pan it now, to wit:

LOL, Rocky.