Well kids, if you want to know what the 90s were like; The Cabin in the Woods isn’t a bad primer. People had a lot of fun, back in the 90s, with concepts like irony. The TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, became a touchstone for the smart/dumb paradigm, and the show’s creator, Joss Whedon, was revered like a king. Funnily enough, Joss Whedon is the writer of The Cabin in the Woods, so I’m not too surprised that the movie plays like a good episode of Buffy. All the Whedon trademarks are here: sexy girls, smart aleck quips, a hefty dose of meta-fiction, and a splodge of the macabre. The result feels like being pricked by a pair of inverted commas. While it might tickle you with its cleverness; irony never cuts too deep.
Flattery will get you anywhere, in a thriller. The whole genre is founded on subconscious bravado; the secret belief that, when faced with injustice, any Regular Joe could win a fight. “If I was mad enough…” you kid yourself. “If my loved ones were in danger…” you lie. The truth is: most of us couldn’t whip cream, let alone the “ass” of a man with a gun, who would most likely shoot you before you found your gumption. Thrillers understand that the audience is deluded; more Walter Mitty than John McClane. In a movie like The Cold Light of Day, the film-makers don’t even bother explaining how the civilian hero becomes Jason Bourne. He does so because he’s in a thriller. The rest is left to your cocky imagination.
This is the B-list movie everyone wants to see. It might be shallow, derivative and cheap-looking, but none of that matters: the fan-base is ravenous. For millions of teenage girls across America, The Hunger Games is the new Twilight. When the audience is hungry for a film, you’ve got a hit. Forget vampires and abstinence; fiction for
Young Adults Young Women is all about dystopias now. It’s all set in ruined futures where teenage girls have to fend for themselves… against their hormones. The only hangover from Twilight is that cute boys still out-number the girls, by a libidinous margin of two-to-one. Really, what you’re looking at is Sex and the City, if Carrie Bradshaw had a bow and arrow, and two Mr. Bigs.
America is a no-good boyfriend to the world: sexy, dangerous, and narcissistic. America’s enemies are the world’s less attractive friends. And the U.N. is, I guess, yo’ momma. This helps explain why the world is in the state it’s in. We all know America is crazy; a nation of gun-nuts with blood on its hands. But that loose cannon persona is hot. There’s no denying it. Sensible countries, like Canada, don’t set the heart racing. You could marry Canada, but America will always be the country that turns heads. The new movie, This Means War, only makes sense because it’s American. Romance and violence don’t mix so well in other nations. In America, they’re inseparable. This is why loving America is so likely to get you hurt.
Britain is no longer the quaint, old-fashioned idyll of Ealing Studios. It’s a place better represented by concrete than crinoline these days. These days, Britons don’t Look Back in Anger; they Look Forward to Anger. Impotent rage is like a bookmark, separating out the week. Perhaps it’s a legacy of Thatcherism. Maybe it’s a post-colonial bellyache. But the tea cosy world of Alastair Sim is long gone. British cinema isn’t something you’d show to your granny. You’re lucky if you come away from a British film without a thorn in your eye. On paper, Paddy Considine’s bleak drama, Tyrannosaur, seems like a case in point. After hearing the premise, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t make me want to slit my wrists.
Jim Henson was like a father to me. He was everywhere in the 80s; a puppet didn’t appear on TV or in film without Henson’s imprimatur. My images of childhood are mostly foam or fur-covered, thanks to him. I’m eternally grateful that I grew up in the halcyon days before CGI, when puppets were king. The kind of wholesome anarchy Jim favoured was paradise for kids. He was Walt Disney without the evil. His most famous creations, The Muppets, didn’t have that weird, repressed quality you find in Mickey Mouse. They’re free-wheeling, loose-limbed, all-too-human. Kermit the Frog is wonderfully frayed. You can’t feel so tenderly about pixels, or a drawing. There’s a vacuum of sentiment. Jim Henson’s legacy is tactile.
It’s funny how so many sad films are labelled comedies. There’s a real gap in the movie lexicon under sad. You’ve got weepies, of course. And ubiquitous dramas. But both those end with either death or change. There isn’t a genre where the protagonist just stumbles on, helpless. Movies aren’t meant to be like life that way. Audiences don’t want to be told that loneliness and defeat can triumph. We can cope with death on-screen. A sad life is infinitely more hellish. Maybe that’s why movie marketing departments prefer the word comedy. Like Jason Reitman’s new comedy, Young Adult. It’s the saddest film of the year. Watching it, you come to realise: a woman without intuition is a heart-breaker, alright. But not in a good way.