Issue #22/77, November 5 - 18, 1999  smlogo.gif

Krazy Kevin's Kino Korner

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Moscow Babylon
Book Review


Gimmie No Choice

By Krazy Kino Kevin McElwee

After years of aimlessly following its own seemingly random path of development, our Moscow Kino scene is finally showing signs of succumbing to the more sensible, Western (specifically, suburban U.S.) route to societal advancement, prosperity through mass hypnosis, and its immediate offspring--that never-ending happiness of which The Artist has long prophesied. True, our fair city does not even yet have its first modern two-screen facility, to say nothing of a genuine, state-of-the-art, built-for-comfort multiplex. Nonetheless, there's no denying the increased confidence and steadily accelerating tempo of progress being displayed in this vital sector, with the number of contemporary theaters that are wired for digital surround sound and which offer a truly superior assortment of treats appearing to grow on a weekly basis. But still more importantly, this expanding choice of venue is bringing with it--and right on schedule, no less!--the dwindling range of content choices that is so crucial to the darn whole ballgame. Which is why this is such a groovy time to be alive--of all the new cinemas to have opened in the past few months, practically every last one of them is playing the same damn film as this issue goes to print.

Not that it really matters one way or another, but in our case that film is Notting Hill, an unenthusiastic attempt by some British filmmakers to recapture past success by churning out an American-geared "quintessentially
British" film even more insipid than their previous sleeper hit, Four Weddings and a Funeral. And so, Hugh Grant further caricatures his signature self-effacing Englishman caricature, portraying an economically anachronistic London bookseller as the sort of fellow who is too embarrassed to achieve an erection in his own presence. As this poor fellow's love interest, Julia Roberts floats around on screen with her customary blank look of self-involvement--that vapid gaze that leads me to ponder the mechanics of lint traps in industrial dryers, if anything at all. The plot, it goes without saying, is just convoluted enough to keep the two lovebirds apart until the closing scene. London seems not quite as awful as it tends to in real life. It's also a given that Grant has a circle of amusingly quirky friends--although this quirkiness is such that one is given to believe that maybe their personal hygiene is suspect. I'm talking about those mild, yet long-enduring odors whose origins are as difficult to trace as the source of a centuries-old tall tale. Clearly, this is a film that would take great pleasure in stinking up the room if only technology would permit it. Yes, as animated scratch-n-sniff sticker, Notting Hill just might work. As dopey romantic comedy, however, it's quite worthless.

Fortunately, with Moscow now embracing uniformity-of-mass-experience over individual preference, we need no longer concern ourselves with the intrinsic value of Notting Hill, or any other film for that matter. Rather, a film's value can now be interpreted as deriving directly from the number of people who have experienced it--regardless of whether they loved it, hated it, or slept through all but the last ninety seconds of it. In addition to the obvious benefits such an approach to movie-marketing and going offers in terms of increased productivity and harmony for human societies of the future, there are also some less apparent, but more immediate advantages. For the viewer, this system eliminates the unneeded stress of choosing which movie to see (or even at which theater or at what time as, theoretically, every venue's schedule would be identical), while simultaneously providing the soothing reassurance that you're doing exactly what everyone else is--in short, that you are no worse off than every other human on the planet.

For the movie business itself, the upside is even more attractive. Not only will scheduling difficulties be rendered obsolete and the screening of new films be handled with greater efficiency, the unpleasant element of commercial risk will essentially disappear, much like the superfluous fins and third testicles of our evolutionary predecessors when they made that brave transition from lake bottom to sofa bed.

If you doubt my logic, think for a moment why it is that even the lamest bar can get to seeming pretty cool once enough hot sluts have been packed in. Hell, it's volume is what it is! I don't care what the damn movie is--just get 'em in and get 'em out. Our common sense tells us that the same theory should apply to any number of gimmicky vehicles for nauseatingly cute child stars. The future is now!

Of course, to the immature idealist who cowers behind puerile ravings and stubbornly refuses to grow up, this may not seem like progress at all. Instead, our mentally and financially retarded friend would probably refer to the gradual elimination of content choice as an "ironic" consequence of venue expansion, possibly even the sinister realization of some rich guy's evil plan.

As usual, however, Mr. Impracticality is simply taking the narrow view, concentrating on superficial flaws while failing to see the glorious possibilities lying just beneath the surface, patiently waiting for said flaws to be corrected. It's purely his loss, though--once enough people have acceded to this new way, the inconsequential objects of our persistent naysayer's scorn will come to be as irrelevant as his increasingly inaudible rantings.

Eventually, he will recognize his folly and seek to join the bandwagon he has spent so much time and energy pointlessly opposing. But alas, it will be too late, our inane little antihero left behind by evolution, having missed out completely on the neurological reprogramming that might have given him at least a chance of catching up. Now a full-fledged genetic throwback in addition to possessing a most disagreeable personality, he is destined to endlessly repeat previous mistakes with just enough variety of execution to drive himself completely bats.

His future is also now, but it's none too pretty. For instance, while his fellow humans are enjoying hell out of the fact that villain "Claw" in the live-action version of Inspector Gadget is played by popular gay icon Rupert Everett, Mr. Negativity is busy hurling groundless accusations of child abuse at those conscientious parents who take their offspring to see the film on opening night or else endlessly belaboring his long-discredited theory about Matthew Broderick being the corporate-whore evil doppelganger of John Cusack among early 1980s teen-rebel-flick actors.

While most normal people talk animatedly among themselves about how altogether very exciting it is to be sure that Jamie Lee Curtis is finally returning to the series that made her career (and with mom and Psycho star Janet Leigh in a brief cameo, no less) in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, our tiresome pest becomes increasingly detached from his surroundings and retreats into himself--only to find that his imagination was long ago transformed into an espresso machine that's missing the milk-frothing gadget.

Or while well-adjusted, fully evolved members of society are carefully following every second of DreamWorks' remake of The Haunting so they can figure out exactly how several million dollars was spent on constructing from scratch the nightmarish Gothic mansion ("it's not so much the film's setting, but rather is a character in its own right"), we find our self-appointed critic attempting to convince his Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors that Catherine Zeta-Jones has already lost her looks and, furthermore, appears to be gaining weight quite rapidly. Not surprisingly, the bearded neighbors ignore his tactless and tangential arguments until eventually he returns home to watch Taxi Driver... one more time.

He was right about Zeta-Jones, though--she did get real ugly, real quick.

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