Movie Pitches: Beautiful Creatures
Movie Pitch will be an occasional and crappy column. Here I will conjure up alternate universes where better movies exist instead of the ones that are unleashed onto the viewing public. The first movie I will be talking about is my second official 2013 movie (the first being On the Road).
(ph. THE MOVIE WAFFLER)
So. I don’t necessarily dislike Beautiful Creatures. It’s The Twilight Saga meets Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Why the Scott Pilgrim reference? The movie’s protagonist, a Southern bookish jock unicorn named Ethan Wate, is played by Alden Ehrenreich, whose comic expressions would have made him the overlord of Studio-era screwballs. I really need to watch Tetro. Anyway, he finds himself dreaming the perfect girl into existence. She’s Lena Ducahnnes (Alice Englert), who is moody and inflicts her Natural talents and change the weather, occasionally making rain fall on the very spot where her boyfriend Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) stands. Basically she’s inflicting her angst onto a submissive guy. She can do this not because she’s a vampire but because she’s a witch or a ‘caster,’ the movie’s supernatural race who dress like Alexander McQueen was still alive (sigh). And instead of abstinence we have a heterosexual white couple who can’t get their hands off each other, expressing their intimacy in a health way and without creeping out audience members who are older that the book/movie’s target market.
But I don’t care if Lena Duchannes, and Ethan Wate or Hannah Horvath and JoshUA exist, no matter what the latter looks like. I just don’t like watching people fall in love with selfish people.
So instead, here are movies that can occur within Beautiful Creatures’ universe that I would rather have seen.
a) A movie where Lena’s mysterious uncle Macon Ravenwood, played by Jeremy Irons, narrates the movie. His voice should have put him in every movie ever made, Hollywood.
b) The second half of the movie reveals Lena’s evil mother Sarafine, who has possessed Lena’s boyfriend’s best friend’s mother Mrs. Lincoln (Emma Thompson), Sarafine turning the latter from a dowdy ‘church lady’ into the kind of woman who lingers at an uptown bar during last call – no judgment. I know there isn’t going to a franchise out of the book series because this movie landed at a pathetic 5th place at the box office during Valentine’s Day. It even feels like the movie was preparing for franchise failure by what happens between Lena and Sarafine. The book’s real ending is that Sarafine retreats but promises to come back – within different bodies. As much as I don’t want to rob Emma Thompson of work can you imagine a movie series where a villain was a different veteran actress? Think of the possibilities. Anyone from Harry Potter. Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Joely Richardson, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Pfeiffer. Female Glengarry Glenross. Sophie Okinedo.
c) This is the most important one. Unhappy caster families are unhappy in their own way. Aside from a ghostly uncle and an evil mother, Lena also has a quasi-evil cousin named Ridley (Emmy Rossum). The movie dedicates a whopping minute or two telling Ridley’s back story, showing a good caster turning bad. That back story could have been its own legitimate novel and French Extremity film. And Shameless aside, it’s time for Rossum to play a compelling lead role in a film.
Now let your imaginations run wild.
- Beautiful Creatures Review (Robert Harding) (entertainmentmaven.com)
Motifs in 2012 Cinema: Luck and Fate
I feel privileged that for the second year in a row, my friend Andrew (Encore Entertainment) has asked me to come out of my chemically induced hibernation and take part in this:
Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilized by different artists.
I suppose the point of this exercise is to objectively write about both luck and fate as equally represented in this year’s cinema. I’ll start with three movies that I thought profess the powers of fate over luck. It seems that heroes can’t escape their fates, the latter manifesting in their respective villains, buy you can also argue that these protagonists are unlucky to have such grugdge-fueled antagonists. Les Miserables is an epic spanning many decades, kings, republics, revolutions and tragic female deaths. But there’s a notoriously succinct spoiler on the doorstop – adapted by Tom Hooper – where, spoilers, it’s all about Javert chasing Jean Valjean into a river. It matters less to me whether a hero wins over his villain and more that fate – and the rules of drama – forces them meet. It doesn’t matter, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, that Bruce Wayne mopes for almost a decade – he has to face Ra’s al Ghul’s dysfunctional family, including the latter’s daughter Talia and her lover, Bane. Elizabeth Shaw, with her quest to know life’s origins, is bound to meet the titular Prometheus, as she herself contributes to creating different monstrous life forms. In Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, James Bond helps M hide in Scotland but she will eventually face her persistent prodigal son, Raoul Silva, into a Pyrrhic victory.
There are some situations where the protagonists don’t have other characters as villains but instead their fighting concepts, societal oppression, injustice. Fate has its hand in helping these protagonists in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Yes, free will factors into the decisions of the characters within the book’s cinematic adaptation by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis but only as a part of a chain reaction from another character’s actions. And to show the effect of this chain reaction we get to see at least four centuries when six different protagonists live, each of them living their own revolution as inspired by each other.
But I’ve been itching to write about luck and fate around the release of Moonrise Kingdom. On the surface level, I can talk about what forces has let Sam and Suzy’s puppy love survive both a storm and a group of meddling adults. Three factors are enough to derail a master plan that will either keep the young couple together or tear them apart. But I want, instead, to recall a discussion I have about this movie with a critic, who pointed out Sam’s age. If we do some basic math,
Sam will be of draft age when Vietnam’s at its worst.
Wes Anderson’s been known to show the heartbreaking interior within movies that otherwise would have been maligned for its twee surfaces and Moonrise is no exception. Even the smallest and harmless looking institutions – like the Boy Scouts and Social Services – in an otherwise insular island like the fictional New Penzance are militaristic and preparing its young recruits for the slaughter. This perspective on Moonrise Kingdom is new to me and it opens up a way of looking at movies. These movies only serve as snippets of their lives, segments that would be weaved into a larger, even national story. It reminds me of what someone tweeted about The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson showing these characters slowly paving – or slow boating – the way toward the Sexual Revolution. Both movies show America is different stages of adolescence, a decade or less before its many destinies.
This year’s movies shows us many characters exploring different eras and territories which become problematic for the characters who explore them. In Argo, what happens to Sahar, the woman who helped save the Americans in hiding during the Iran Hostage Crisis? It’s established that it’s not a good idea for her to leave Iran, America’s enemy, for Iraq, America’s former enemy. Is it also enough that Broomhilda, and her titular hero Django in Django Unchained blew up Candieland? Will the other Plantation owners hunt the people responsible for Calvin Candie’s death? Will the West be as hostile to the couple as the South has been? I pose the same questions for Cid from Rian Johnson’s Looper, a movie that plays with the notion of fate by showing different alternate universes. When Joe kills himself while saving Cid and his mother Sara, has Joe really stopped Cid from becoming the destructive super-villain whom the latter is meant to become? Sahar, Django and Cid are contemporary versions of Antoine Doinel, leaving troubled lands and histories for frontiers, the latter symbolizing the troubling uncertainty of their fates. And it’s good to question these things, an activity that this year’s filmmakers openly encourage, knowing that great contemporary storytellers don’t wrap their creations in neat little bows.