Thursday, 6 July 2006

Unmovies

Bright Lights Film Journal has an article by Robert Castle on what he calls unmovies:

All movies have the potential to become a non-movie, particularly when the movie showcases a cause, a disease, a celebrity, an actor’s virtuosity, a play or musical. The movie becomes an exhibition and stops moving, the cinematic version of a blood clot. An aesthetic stroke or heart attack results. The movie rigidifies into a carcass I shall call an Un-Movie.

Un-Movies are everywhere and often cleverly disguised to pass for movies, even enormously popular movies. They are not necessarily unenjoyable, as the exhibition or showcase might favor a popular cause or entertainer or both.

He first cites Ladder 49 as a recent example, a movie that only exists to praise fire-fighters in a post-9/11 world. Castle is right about it, because the movie's higher purpose allows it to eschew plot it becomes a series of scenes and clich├ęs strung together for whatever length the producer felt the movie should be.

Castle points out a couple of other moies that this happens to too, and by the end of the article you will probably be compiling your own list. I, for example, ended up thinking how The Negotiator (1998) only seems to exist to have Sam Jackson and Kevin Spacey act at each other making much of the rest of it seem superfluous, despite quite a number of fine support players (David Morse, Ron Rifkin, Paul Giamatti, JT Walsh).

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