Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Woohoo long weekend! I'll be adding new stuff now that my insane week is over and I have a few days to do it. One thing that will change is the guiltless format, I've watched some movies lately and thought of new things that make some of them fun so the format will be a little less rigid while remaining guiltless. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving! Talk to you all soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Guiltless Review: Star Wars

Star Wars? But everyone likes Star Wars, right? Well it seems like that used to be the case, but lately the understandably negative reaction to the prequel trilogy has colored many people's opinions on the original films. I've had several friends who grew up loving Star Wars now talking about the original film as a flukey piece of camp that succeeded in spite of itself. That if we were to look back as adults with an 'objective' eye (whatever the hell that means, objectivity when discussing one's preferences is a bit of an oxymoron), we'd see the film much like we see the prequel trilogy: wooden, clumsy, overly concerned with selling toys to kids. Well, I've seen Star Wars fairly recently (although it was the special edition), and I'm happy to say it bares little resemblance to the profound mess found in much of the prequel trilogy. And now, the Guiltless Review:

Summary: Yeesh, there's something I say there's something a little bit 'Ewwww' about someone who's never seen Star Wars (Foghorn Leghorn rules)! Ok, 1977 Space Fantasy that along with 'Jaws' practically invented the summer blockbuster. Essentially the story of restless young farm boy Luke Skywalker who responds to a mysterious distress call from a distant world and finds his destiny in an intergalactic struggle between a heroic rebellion and an evil empire. Featuring heroes, villains, droids, wookies, space battles, lightsabre duels, Star Wars created spectacle the likes of which had never been seen at the time. So how's my reaction to it now?

1.) Laughs (6): Mostly provided by the sheer charisma of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in their iconic roles as Han Solo and Princess Leia. Some good stuff with the droids R2-D2 & C-3PO as well. Ford's smugness as Solo is the winner here ("You've never heard of the Millenium Falcon?" "What a wonderful smell you've discovered," ).

2.) Tears & Lumps (3): Exactly one scene was potentially sadness-inducing when one of the characters dies, however that character's continued existence in every other film in the series prevents any true tears.

3.) Awe (10): Ok, I'd be remiss if I didn't give it up to the man responsible for more feelings of awe than any other person in film history: the great John Williams. I have no idea how he does it, but the musical cues at 2 key moments in the film are for lack of better words - incredible, amazing, profound. When Luke stares at the twin suns of Tatooine, realizing he's doomed to life as a farm fresh egg boy and again when he lets go of his dependence on technology during the final space battle and embraces the use of the force; these scenes accompanied by the music just create chills.

4.) Thrills (8): The actual battle scenes in this movie pale in comparison to those found in the rest of the original trilogy with the exception of the final death star battle which is still brilliant.

5.) Dread (7): Darth Vader is a true cinematic badass in this movie. He combines supreme physical and mental power with a very short fuse, evidenced by his willingness to kill even allies who 'disturb' him.

6.) Investment (10): Here's where the film flies despite it's somewhat dated effects and action sequences. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Obi-Wan are all likable protagonists, I have no problem whatsoever caring about what happens to these characters. Incidentally this is where the prequel films failed most miserably.

7.) Twists (5): Nothing terribly unexpected happens, not the point of the movie so it doesn't detract.

8.) Bizareness (7): Hard to gauge since everything is so familiar by now. Still the Jawas with their travelling droid junkyard, and the alien cantina with the obvious rubber masks are pretty weird.

9.) Spectacle (11): Off the charts; alien species, planets, technology, and religions are introduced throughout at a breakneck pace. By the time the music at final awards ceremony (which I incidentally marched to at my wedding) is blasted triumphantly from the speakers you're in a completely other world.

Final word: Not a fluke, not a hallucination, Star Wars is still a great movie.

The Guiltless Format

Ok I have a confession to make, I like to read movie reviews on the internet . . . lots of them. While there are a handful of reviewers I feel are informative and genuinely helpful in deciding what movies to watch (my favorite being MaryAnn Johanson at, I have to say the majority are crap. The problem with most reviewers is they place themselves and their opinions above the movie going experience, as if they are an official arbiter of what a 'good' movie is. They feel a need to be 'objective' and 'journalistic' in their approach, meanwhile suppressing their actual reaction to a movie in favor of their estimation of what the general public will like. The resulting reviews are dull, scared, and trite. Sorry but I don't need a complete stranger to tell me what he or she thinks I will like. Just tell me if what you like and why, and I'll decide if I trust you.

Well as you've probably surmised by now, we here at Guiltless Pleasures © are all about honest responses to a piece of entertainment. I don't pretend to be anything other than a flawed human being with honest reactions to pretty lights and sounds. I have my own biases which will not coincide with everyone else's. However, do not fear that this will become the home of meandering word salads gushing about my favorite things, the scientist in me won't let that happen. Instead, my meandering will be tightly structured into the Guiltless Format.

So what's the guiltless format? Glad you asked. Another failing of mainstream movie critics is they spend most of their time talking about the filmakers: actors and directors mostly, but also cinematographers, composers, producers, writers, and so on. There's nothing wrong with giving great performers their due, but I've always looked at the people involved in the process as a means to an end. In the end, the purpose of a piece of entertainment is to elicit a reaction from those that see or hear it. When experiencing a movie and attempting to express my response to it, my first thought is always about how it made me feel rather than "so & so was great in it." Granted different types of movies aim to elicit different reactions from the audience, and likewise, I'll enjoy different movies for different reasons. While it's probably impossible to quantify how much I liked something, I'm gonna try anyway by rating things I see in each of 9 categories, nine reasons I may like or dislike something. Without further ado, the Guiltless Format:

1.) Laughs: This is the easiest to explain, but one of the hardest to elicit. Laughs make life good. If something I see makes me laugh, its worth something, period. Sense of humor is a very peculiar, personal thing, which is why its one of the hardest things for film reviewers to write about (and to predict from your own reaction to something) but I'm gonna try anyway.

2.) Tears & Lumps: In the throat, that is. Another one easy to explain. Movies that make you sad are worth something too. Granted, I'm less often in the mood to cry at something than to laugh, but it's still an honest reaction and something to consider when evaluating a work.

3.) Awe: Most often manifested as chills down your spine. A feeling of awe from movies is rare but the effect is devastating. If something makes me feel awe, I can almost never dislike it.

4.) Thrills: The adrenaline rush of the guiltless format. Thrills usually come from action scenes. Rarely are they good enough to elicit genuine thrills.

5.) Dread: It's a very worthy goal for a movie to elicit dread in my opinion. Like thrills, genuine dread is elusive and noteworthy.

6.) Investment: One of the harder categories to define; investment occurs when a movie successfully makes you feel for the characters and and universe that are presented. You can tell if your invested if you look forward to seeing what happens next. Usually to generate most of the other responses I've described, some investment is neccessary.

7.) Twists: Unexpected plot twists are hard to come by. When they happen they're typically welcome.

8.) Bizareness: Being weird usually doesn't hurt. The bizarre factor can make entertainment worthwhile even when other responses are lacking.

9.) Spectacle: Despite being overly relied on in the age of the blockbuster, sheer spectacle can still enhance a work when used properly (i.e. when it's not the only point).

For the most part these will be rated on a scale of 1-10, however, there will always be exceptions, some things just break the mold.

Looking forward to actually using this format.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Books too...

I know there are not many Jane Austen fans among you, but I'm going to post anyway to say that the Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron are really fun if you are a fan. Yes, that's right, a mystery series with Jane Austen as the crime solving heroine. I am so many different kinds of dorky.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Right! What's this blog about then?

I don't believe in guilty pleasures in entertainment.

When I hear someone say "This movie is fun! It's stupid but its a guilty pleasure!" all it means to me is the person liked something they felt they shouldn't and feel guilty about admitting it. It's like they are apologizing for liking something. They don't want to own up to thinking something is good that they expect other people not to like. Why the guilt? I say if you like something, have the balls to say it without the copout of calling it a guilty pleasure. Say it loud!

There's a reason I own the DVDs of "Krull," "Dune," "Transformers the Movie," "The Black Hole," and many other movies even hardcore geeks will have trouble admitting they like. I like them, it's that simple. They do their job of putting a smile on my face for whatever reason (and I'll probably go into some of those reasons if I ever get a chance to write here with any consistency). I don't feel a need to defend my particular preferences to anyone (unless they ask of course, in which case I'll give 'em an earful). My tastes are my own, no matter how much social isolation and personal pain they've caused ('snif'). Dammit I need my pain! (more Star Trek references to come).

Anyway that's what this blog'll be about. Just me talking about what I like (and don't) be it good, bad, or ugly to other people. No guilty pleasures here.