Monday, November 10, 2014


This morning, on Facebook (what a terrible way to start a blog post),I shared an article from Esquire that, in that snarky way quite common to internet articles and Esquire, a takedown of some cherished movies the editors decided to films stupid people think are clever.  While the article is pure click bait, there’s something to these choices of so-called stupid films—many of them I like.  They don’t stand up to real scrutiny and, at best, can be called pure entertainment with a dash of intellect and some genuine cinematic artistry ( especially Inception, which is a good looking film that feels quite empty).  Only one friend has commented on this.  That’s fine—I’m past the point of begging for likes—but I am sort of surprised.  Most of my friends are film buffs or film watchers or have some sort of opinion about film.  I suppose I expected a few to balk at the list and argue in favor of some of the entries.  Really, Fight Club is the one that I assumed would generate some discussion. 

Watching Fight Club today is like skimming through a journal written in high school.  You cringe at the angst, the stretches toward profundity, the shallowness masquerading as depth, the pedestrian sense of entitlement.  Yeah, the movie has some interesting things to say about monoculture and corporate life, not to mention Ikea and Starbucks (easy targets, really), but beyond some half-baked philosophy (and that’s being generous) about finding truth by letting go of that which truly does not matter, the movie is pretty goddamn silly.    

Of course, I loved the movie when I saw it.  It was (and is) exciting, visually accomplished, even funny.  Brad Pitt is perfect casting.  And indeed—David Fincher can direct the shit out of a movie.  But I am almost always saddened by lists that rank Fight Club highest among Fincher’s films.  The Game is no one’s favorite (I think it's Fincher's best movie), and I don’t expect it to beat out Zodiac or even Seven, but for fuck’s sake it’s a lot better than Fight Club.  As much as I love the absurd, and Fight Club gets pretty fucking absurd, I never believe a second of it.  I don’t know that I am supposed to, but the intentionally ridiculous story strikes me as alienating.  As goofy as the logic of The Game can be, I buy it all.  Maybe this speaks to my tastes: I prefer dark and menacing to gross and macho.  

I can forgive Fight Club, even look at it fondly, whereas Inception has always been a pretty hard to swallow pill.  I don’t know that I’d call it a film stupid people think is clever, but more of a convoluted movie that sacrifices its emotional core—which it seems intent on developing—to layers of what-the-fuck? plot and some nice CGI.  The movie looks pretty but is so cold that a pair of gloves should come with the DVD.  I admit that it does ask the viewer to engage with it, making it more of an active experience than the average Hollywood thriller, but frankly I prefer the average Hollywood thriller that seeks no claim to complexity or depth. 

To say that these are films stupid people think are clever is a tough (and stupid) claim to make, but I do wonder if the point J. R. Jones made about the movie Up in the Air is not one that can work in this conversation: it's a mediocre movie that seems great only because we're used to shitty film after shitty film.  When you've lived on peanut butter and jelly for months on end, a boloney sandwich is pretty tasty.  But it's still just fucking baloney.