Monday, March 28, 2005

Let's Just Say She's Awfully Buoyant

"Well, I'm standin' in line in the rain to see a movie starring Gregory Peck/Yeah, but you know it's not the one that I had in mind/He's got a new one out now, I don't even know what it's about/But I'll see him in anything so I'll stand in line..."
-Bob Dylan

Maybe it's just because I'm a History major but I think it's vital to my understanding of life to go out of my way and expose myself to movies, music, and literature from other eras. I can't imagine having as great an appreciation of contemporary popular culture without having seen movies from people like John Huston, Billy Wilder, or Preston Sturges or listening to music from Hank Williams, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra.

At the same time I think it's equally as important to continue to learn about new artists because it is essential to do so in order to try to understand our current world situation.

This juxtaposition of differing generations really struck me Friday as I went to the latest Sandra Bullock movie, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, and then came home and watched Buster Keaton's great silent film, The General. I'm not sure there's any connection between the two movies other than the art form itself, but I couldn't help but think about how the world has changed so much between the making of both movies.

I went to see Miss Congeniality 2 out of my continued devotion (no, it's not really an obsession so no restraining order is necessary) to Ms. Bullock. In other words I really wasn't looking forward to the movie all that much. Maybe it's because my expectations were so low but Miss Congeniality 2 wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. It's about twenty times better than the first movie although that can be said about just about any other movie ever made. (The original Miss Congeniality remains the one Sandra Bullock movie that as far as I'm concerned has absolutely nothing to recommend in it.)

In the sequel Bullock's character Gracie Hart's career as an F.B.I. agent has changed because after the events of the first movie she is too famous to do her work as a field agent. Gracie is unceremoniously dumped by her fellow agent boyfriend (played in the first movie by Benjamin Bratt who doesn't appear at all in the sequel) and thus uses an opportunity for a career change ("the face of the F.B.I.") as an excuse to console herself.

Bullock does her darndest to pull the slapstick material of the movie together even though the world in both Miss Congeniality movies bears little resemblance to any actual world other than that of 90,000 other Hollywood movies and TV shows. To enjoy this movie you have to believe that the different meanings of the word "booty" can solve a crime caper and that a federal agent would actually hit the streets of Las Vegas wearing pink feathered headgear along with a showgirl outfit.

But reality isn't what the comedy of this movie is about. Bullock's films all tend to be similar in themes. Many of her movies are about whimsical characters placed in silly situations because they eventually will learn that the lesson in life is that we all must be true to ourselves. People like people who like themselves and almost all of Bullock's characters are women who come to become more comfortable with themselves.

It may be a stretch to say Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous ultimately turns out to be an anti-war movie but that's actually what the epilogue of the movie tries to teach us. By this time you've either enjoyed the movie because Sandra is such a likable actress, or you have rolled your eyes so far into your noggin that it will take a cheese grater to separate your eyeballs from your brain matter.

As I came home and watched The General I couldn't help but wonder what Buster Keaton would think about how far (or how little) movies have come since his era. What makes Keaton's film so doggone impressive is his deadpan reactions to a world gone wrong (again there's a war theme to The General). As the woman he loves continues to challenge him and sometimes break his heart he wears his heart on his sleeve. He somehow does this with very little facial expression. In other words he doesn't try too hard the one trait that also seems to come natural to Ms. Sandra B.

No comments: