Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Real Attention-holder

Lately I’ve been working like the dog that I am, but, true to the vow I made to throw up at least one post a week, here it is:

The other night I found myself watching The Violent Men on Turner Classic Movies. It came on immediately after The Big Sleep and I found myself unable to extricate my rear end from the armchair. The film, a Western, started out fairly interesting and the cast of Glen Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson and Brian Keith intrigued me. It was shot in 1955 so I was prepared for a reasonably high corniness quotient — you have to expect that in old movies like you would cacti in the desert. But after a promising beginning it flattened out after a while, relieved only sporadically by some choice overacting and the preposterous appearance of a pretty white woman all Coppertoned up to play a Mexican señorita. But I watched the whole thing. I neither got up from my chair nor changed the channel once the entire time. For some reason, it held my attention.

What do you call a movie like that, the one the critics typically award two stars to after three paragraphs of scorn and one admitting some redeeming qualities? There are all kinds of movies you hear of: cliffhangers, tear-jerkers, thrillers, romances, whodunits, blockbusters, laughfests, creature-features, spell-binders, pot-boilers, spine-tinglers, seat-squirmers, melodramas, etc. What about movies like The Violent Men, the ones that just barely pass the clicker test by keeping you there watching for no compelling reason? What do you call them?

I would like to earn my spot in film criticism history by coining the term “attention-holder.” (Others contenders might be “remote-rester,” “DVDecent,” “clicker-sticker” and “doorstop for eyelids.”) It simply means this: not a particularly good movie, but not a really bad one either, just a competently put together film lasting at least an hour and a half that, while not destined for Oscar greatness, isn’t quite celluloid Sominex either. We all know what they are. They’re the ones you watch all the way through and then ask yourself in wonder, “How did I just watch the whole thing?”

Hollywood, using the truth-in-advertising angle, could play this up — after all, a movie that won’t put you to sleep isn’t all that bad, is it? In fact, it’s better than half of what’s out there right now. “See the movie that has all the critics murmuring!” “Two thumbs sideways!” “I didn’t nod off!” “I watched the whole thing and could still get all my work done!” When they come out on DVD they can be packaged as a movie and a coaster.

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Speaking of old movies, can we all agree that Lauren Bacall was the most beautiful film actress that ever lived? And Marlene Dietrich was the scariest looking? Can we unite as a nation and support these two simple truths?

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I don’t want to make Michael Jackson out as a martyr or anything, but was all that really necessary? Couldn’t Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon have picked his battles a little better than this? How much do the taxpayers pay this guy to waste government money?

7 Comments:

Blogger trinamick said...

A few movies catch me that way, even this lame one that is always on WE. It's not something I really want to watch, but it isn't so horrible that I am forced to get off the couch to change the channel.

As for MJ, I hope someone pulls him into a dark alley and gives him more than just Jesus juice. Wotta freak.

8:39 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Some jurors are saying they think he has molested some children in the past, just not the child in question. I think the mother is despicable.

9:36 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

Most of the movies on HBO in the 80s fall into that 'attention holder' category. And I watched them all.

6:41 AM  
Blogger John said...

I saw a guy on the subway a few weeks ago that must have been auditioning for a role in "Crazie: The Musical"

8:25 AM  
Blogger John said...

Um...the "s" disappeared somehow.

8:26 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

Still works without the S.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

Whoa, if every movie mattered then there wouldn't be any cinema popcorn. Yay for crap movies! :P

5:15 PM  

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