Sunday, March 15, 2015

Action Movies

This should be read at poetry slams, open mic events, or wherever writers might congregate.
All movies, romance, comedy or drama are really horror movies. The one thing that cinema does well is draw you into their premise and then surprise and shock you.  That sense of outrage as you find yourself sympathizing with the loser, cheering for some victorious social deviant and then realizing its absurdity is what makes movies so entertaining.
The last good action movie I saw was Heathers, the humor, violence and sex seemed believable to me. I liked the premise that adults would accept a rash of teenage suicides that were really homicides. Body Heat was good; the combination of mystery and sympathy for the villains enchanted me. The Three Stooges shorts were a respectable depiction of violence. Most action movies suck.  The hero gets captured, the villain gets killed.  This is because they have to have the dialogue between the hero and villain. In what way is that realistic?  All problems are solved by Karate, guns, or if creativity is called for, large pieces of falling scenery.  When has an action movie said, as really happens:
-Quick, get the cash and the lawyers!
I can’t stand the constant monotonous bang-bang boom-boom yell thud scream of the typical action sound track pounding the intelligence out of its jaded audience in perpetuum.  It would be difficult to make an audience suffer through the explosion of a real gun shot.  Guns are loud.  One of the problems with shooting a gun is that an explosion has gone off in your hand and it is difficult to keep it steady for the next shot. The famous Dirty Harry “five shots or six” sequence in real life would have gone something like:
-…so the question is, do you feel lucky?
One was firing a magnum .44 the other a 12 gauge pump; their ears were ringing. They weren’t talking to anybody.
I think everybody should have the experience of actually firing a gun and trying to make that little bullet go where you want it to in a consistent fashion. It’s not that easy and if you are not wearing ear protection it is not that fun.
Most depictions of hand to hand combat are ridiculous. As Jim Harbaugh learned punching Jim Kelly, your hand has a lot of little bones in it and your jaw is a large solid piece of bone.  I suppose if you have sufficient practice with various formalized, ritualistic forms of martial arts, it will be possible for you to administer enough impact to the jaw to rattle the brain and bring on concussion without breaking anything in your hand. But I think most people who have experience in such matters would rather use a tool, preferably one that will extend your reach.
Fights are not stylized choreography but a panting crying screaming mess between people who are very upset and scared.  Part of the difficulty is that it is almost impossible for cinematography to have enough frames to capture the speed of real movements.  So we are given a series of frames resembling animation.
My biggest complaint is the setting.  The Old West or a modern metropolis is not particularly violent.  There are times and places in America that were dangerous.  If you were a Native American in California during the gold rush your prospects were bleak.  Chinese immigrants were often the victims of crimes.
 The nature of discrimination was usually that those areas did not receive adequate police protection and enforcement of the law, even when people were arrested, was lax.  This meant that if disputes were not settled immediately they were never settled: 
-We stomp drunk drivers.
What the movies have done is taken characters and plots out of their original context in order to give them broader appeal.  There may have once been a Dirty Harry, but that Irish stereotype was back in the 1930’s at the latest. More recently, in the 40’s and 50’s there was a Two Gun Pete, Sylvester Washington, but you will not find him on the screen. Two Gun Pete was a Chicago policeman who realized that there was little point in making arrests as the courts didn’t care if black people were killing each other.  If you were one of the Jones Boys, the gang that ran policy, he would call you up and tell you to turn yourself in.  But if you were a common thug he would leave you bleeding out, on the street.
In order to give it broader market violence is stripped of its class, ethnic, racist and gender qualities. For instance, saying a police officer was dirty meant he was on the take. Violence is most often a top down rather than bottom up endeavor. Offering it as the general solution to social problems only adds further confusion.

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