So more or less coincidentally, within a week I got to see two new movies about the early 1980s that both dealt with the issue of HIV/AIDS: Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart (HBO, 2014) and Matthew Warchus/Stephen Beresford’s Pride (Calamity Films, 2014). When I say that I’m here to discuss one of them mostly favorably (Pride) and one of them less so (The Normal Heart), I’m not doing this primarily to draw a comparison between British and American filmmaking, although I believe they can also serve as fairly good examples for a specific type of national cinema/television.
I admit I had high expectations for The Normal Heart, especially considering the stunning ensemble of actors this movie brought together (Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons etc etc), and thus was actually a bit disturbed by how off-putting I found it. There are two things in particular that bothered me about The Normal Heart: Continue reading
I saw Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children at the theater last week. Other reviewers have said this before me, but just to state it again, one more time: Considering the ambitions this film clearly had, it turned out to be not particularly good. Parts of it also made me angry. I have to admit that I have not read Chad Kultgen’s novel (which this movie is based on) very carefully, but from what I can tell, some of the things that bothered me about the movie seem to be just as annoying in the book, whereas others might be a result of the adaptation for the big screen.
I still think the most interesting part about this movie is the exploration of aesthetic possibilities in the play with different screens and interfaces. MWC is not the first audiovisual text to experiment with this: The 2013 movie Fruitvale Station and the BBC show Sherlock have played with the visual representation of text messages, Her (2013) is another movie that toys with the incorporation of small-screen devices into a cinematic aesthetic of the digital age. Scholars are also becoming interested in this phenomenon: Not too long ago, for instance, I attended a lunch seminar with Professor Bishnupriya Ghosh (University of California) on the aesthetic of surveillance (in the manifestation of security camera feeds) in Bollywood horror movies. All in all, I don’t think the last word has been spoken in that regard, and so I am still curious about the ways in which filmmakers are trying to work through the possibilities that the interplay with different screen formats has to offer.
However, the rest of the movie left a sour taste behind. Strangely, it felt a bit like looking at the browser history of someone who is not very familiar with the internet, is deeply concerned about its dangers, but also intensely fascinated by its dark corners, which in turn makes them feel ashamed of themselves. In other words, the movie felt dirty in places it didn’t need to be, alarmist over things I felt it misrepresented, while at the same time glossing over/downplaying many serious issues that could have used a bit more in-depth scrutiny.
Two storylines in particular I would like to discuss in more detail:
BEWARE THE SPOILERS AND DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL PRACTICES.