Talk of the Town - Ranting all the way July 01 2004

Through a lens, crankily

I am prejudiced. I admit it. When it comes to movies — and the summer season for flickers is here — I labor under a set of predispositions so churlish, complex and forbidding, they make the Salem Witch Trials seem like Betty Boop.

Here's what I won't watch, new, old or in development:

- Any science fiction — especially sci-fi that has gone into sequel format. This encompasses giant swaths of popular culture including Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and now, of course, the computer-generated Lord of the Rings.

Ringmeisters sniff that the latter is a fantasy-cum-bildungsroman, far superior to intergalactic hijinks. You know something? I don't care. If it involves a bunch of spell-casting toadlings in weird outfits, I'd rather be passed out in a barcalounger far, far, away.

- Anything starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Carrot Top, Pauly Shore and/or their bodily fluids.

- Any remakes of movies so good they shouldn't have been remade in the first place, Pink Panther being the most recent member of the genre. Further sign that Hollywood, founded by entrepreneurial gamblers, is now dominated by cautious Harvard MBA dweebs who won't touch anything that hasn't been predigested and survey-approved by the vox populi.

This prohibition applies with equal if not greater force to film remakes of classic TV shows. The MBA mogul factor is now so prevalent that Hollywood has used up all quality vintage TV and turned to retreads of lousy old shows. Can a new "My Mother the Car" be far behind?

- Any films involving natural disasters. When you live in greater Atlanta, where 40 of God's little acres get mulched into pulp and blacktopped each day, you don't have to shell out 10 bucks at the box office to experience environmental cataclysm.

- Most Westerns not made by John Ford. I turn to the depressing number of mediocre horse operas cranked out as the studios collapsed, including one, the title of which escapes me, where some genius decided that Jimmy Stewart and Dean Martin could be brothers. If you believe that, cast me as Anna May Wong's long-lost twin sister in a transsexual remake of Shanghai Express.

- Any films featuring old Hollywood stars in decline — bloated, alcoholic Errol Flynn, badly toupeed Humphrey Bogart and chicken-plucked Joan Crawford. (Her last film was Trog, also the name of a highly hirsute character in the picture and a line of dialogue. Any of Joan's Mommie Dearest capers are more than atoned for by her involvement in this hydrogen-force stink bomb.)

- General rule: Don't watch anything made during the 1950s, the era when, with TV antennae sprouting across the American skyline a la kudzu, on-the-run studios desperately packaged films in various goofball wide-screen processes designed to make movies somehow seem more exciting, even if the scripts stank.

So beware of: VistaVision, Todd-A-O, Cinerama, Metroscope, Technicscope, CinemaScope, Regal Scope, Naturama, Panascope, Superscope, Superscope 235, WarnerScope, Dimension 150, CinemaScope 44, Grandeur 70, MGM Camera 65, Technirama and Super Technirama 70, Panavision, Super Panavision 70 and Ultra Panavision 70. Although with the last three, you couldn't fault them for not trying.

Not to mention, back in the USSR, a little something called Sovscope. No one will be admitted during the invasion of Hungary sequence!

- Anything starring Dirk Bogarde. I know he's a credible English actor, but his heyday was the 1950s, plus his last name sounds suspiciously like Bogart and I don't like to see a performer trading on the fame of another badly toupeed one.

- Any of those deliberately long-titled pics from the Johnson-Nixon era, including What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? and culminating with Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? In some, the title contained more clever verbiage than the entire screenplay.

- Any horror film involving the circus, clowns or a demented ventriloquist's dummy. You'd be surprised how many there are.

Lest you think this an entirely negative rant, there are certain films I actually do want to see; it's just that the proper viewing venue isn't available. This applies to anything made by David Lean — massively landscaped stuff such as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia.

Cineastes tell me I simply must see them on the big screen, so I'm looking away and flipping past when they pop on the telly. Unfortunately, everything at the local Gigaplex involves Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and a title such as Leave it to Jurassic Trek — Part XXXVII.

There's one more film genre that, with only a few more advances in technology, offers hope to the dissatisfied movie-goer. This kind of picture has a great subject, but a flawed performance.

So on my list of almost-to-be-viewed pics, add Titanic — if they can figure out how to drown Leonardo DiCaprio before the ship hits an iceberg.


i>Glen Slattery is home not watching Lawrence of Arabia.