?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Lemony Snicket - Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
January 22nd, 2005
09:27 am
[User Picture]

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Lemony Snicket

Last night I went to the Waterfront to see Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I met up with Jess and three people I'd never met, Claire, Mike and Jenn, whose names I somehow miraculously managed to remember (I'm normally terrible with names), though I don't know that I could pick them out of a crowd. Anyway, thoughts on the movie:

First of all, you might want to read papertygre's review. Some of what I'll say is in response to that.

I agree with her on the main points that she made: very nice production values, the presence of allegory (although I think I would have just called it “examples”, but then again, I don't distinguish reality that doesn't affect me personally from fantasy in many cases), and the credits, which actually compelled me to stay in my seat. I had the same reaction to the house on stilts—that it seemed like a huge incongruity for such a fearful character to live there. And I wonder why more movies don't take their credits more seriously—I guess they're just put in as a formality.

I didn't know Jim Carrey was in the movie at all until the credits. I had been forewarned, but I had forgotten, and when he first appeared he was so heavily made up that from that point on, whenever I saw Count Olaf I always thought “oh, there's Count Olaf” and never questioned who was playing him. I guess it's a tribute both to the makeup artists and the actor that all I saw was the character.

About halfway through the movie, I heard a particular segment of the music and thought “hey, that sounds kind of like American Beauty”. I brushed it aside, but I was pretty gratified when the credits rolled around and the music was indeed by Thomas Newman.

I didn't think the segments that didn't actually happen, particularly the last one, were handled as well as those on Six Feet Under. I say that because, in retrospect, I don't remember any of the things in the imagined segments of Six Feet Under as having actually happened, whereas I have to think and remind myself that no, Count Olaf was not actually put through each of the painful experiences he had caused the children to suffer.

When the Count was described as greedy and selfish, I couldn't help but be annoyed. Greedy, yes, that has a connotation of monstrosity. But I can't get away from thinking of “selfish” in the literal sense of ”concerned with the self”. Merriam-Webster defines “selfish” as

1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

Another Merriam-Webster definition perhaps clarifies my opinion:

ego·ism
Pronunciation: 'E-g&-"wi-z&m also 'e-
Function: noun
1 a : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action b : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the valid end of all actions

I'm an egoist type 1a, and I think that all apparent exceptions are best explained by the fact that the self is fuzzy and sometimes encompasses other people. I guess this makes being “selfish” in my personal vocabulary a tautology, but still, it annoys me for some reason when people use it to criticize.

I really liked all four of the main characters in the movie. They were well-characterized and distinct, and Sunny in particular, who could have been a very weak character, did an admirable job of providing humorous commentary. Actually, one thing that pervaded the movie was humor—I wouldn't call it a comedy, but there were a large number of laugh-out-loud moments. And then again, I wouldn't really have called it a kid's movie, either, because it seems like there was a lot of stuff in it that kids wouldn't get—but then again, I've determined that I probably systematically underestimate kids' intelligence, so ignore that. They did do one thing that's quite typical of a kid's movie: the kids were brilliant, and all adults (except the kids' parents, who weren't very present in the movie) were either incompetent or evil. They made me buy it though, perhaps because I tend to think that most people are incompetent (though perhaps not as ridiculously so as some of the characters in the movie) and I'm usually willing to accept extraordinary protagonists.

Oddly, since I usually have the opposite complaint, I thought the movie was too short. At the end, it felt like there could have been another 20 to 30 minutes of plot in there, easily. Of course, I doubt this would have conformed to the books (which I haven't read).

Overall: umm, I think trying to reduce movie quality to a numeric scale is pretty meaningless, but it was a worthwhile use of my time and money to see it. It was good enough I'd be willing to watch it again, though not good enough I feel compelled to seek it out repeatedly.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:papertygre
Date:January 22nd, 2005 03:58 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I thought Jim Carrey as Count Olaf did a great job, as well. Actually, he struck me as remarkably like Christopher Lloyd in that role.

Also, I didn't recognize the music similarity. Now I want to get the soundtrack even more...

I agree about the selfishness/egoism, but I'm so used to that terminology that it didn't bother me here. Despite agreeing with Rand about the issue overall, I have long since relinquished the word "selfish" to let it mean something like "disregard for others to the extent of the long-term detriment of one's own self-interest," so that I can use the word in a way that agrees with standard English usage.

As for kids' movies: when I was a kid I was terrible at understanding plots. I might have been precocious in some ways but I was obtuse when it came to understanding the point of what people did in movies and stories. So a simple plot with disproportionately rich imagery like in ASOUE would have been about right for me. But as for references in kids' movies that only adults get, I think it's common practice by now to layer that on top of kids' material so that the adults watching with the kids won't get too bored. It also makes the movies more fun for adults to make, I imagine.
[User Picture]
From:kenoubi
Date:January 22nd, 2005 08:54 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I thought Jim Carrey as Count Olaf did a great job, as well. Actually, he struck me as remarkably like Christopher Lloyd in that role.

I checked IMDB, and the only role I recognized was Doc in Back to the Future. Is that to what you were referring? I can see a few similarities, though the opposite polarity (good vs. evil) stands out to me…

I agree about the selfishness/egoism, but I'm so used to that terminology that it didn't bother me here. Despite agreeing with Rand about the issue overall, I have long since relinquished the word "selfish" to let it mean something like "disregard for others to the extent of the long-term detriment of one's own self-interest," so that I can use the word in a way that agrees with standard English usage.

I wish it didn't bother me, but I just can't seem to reprogram myself that way. At least “egoist” is enough of a technical term that the selfish = bad meme hasn't infected it quite as much.

But as for references in kids' movies that only adults get, I think it's common practice by now to layer that on top of kids' material so that the adults watching with the kids won't get too bored. It also makes the movies more fun for adults to make, I imagine.

I know, it just seemed like the ratio was a little off, especially with all the stepping into and out of the plot. Then again, as a kid I think I understood that kind of thing fairly well (in, e.g., The Neverending Story), so maybe it's wrong of me to think that other kids don't. (Also, I'm not sure there were any kids at the showing I went to—then again, it was at 21:10, perhaps a bit late for children.)

[User Picture]
From:annecognito
Date:January 22nd, 2005 05:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I enjoyed the movie's aesthetic more than anything else. There was just something really neat about mostly modern technology and modern attitudes set in a gothic/victorian theme. I would really like to read the Lemony Snicket books now, to get an idea of what the movie was based on, but I seem to be failing to manage a trip to the library or any such place these days, mainly due to TEH PLAYG.

I agree that Jim Carrey did an unusually good job of avoiding his usual "haha, look at me I'm Jim Carrey" schtick in favor of an equally clowning, but less... self-aware routine. Frankly I think his best role to date was in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", where he suppressed all that completely, but then I've never been too much of a fan of the mania school of funny.
[User Picture]
From:kenoubi
Date:January 22nd, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I agree that Jim Carrey did an unusually good job of avoiding his usual "haha, look at me I'm Jim Carrey" schtick in favor of an equally clowning, but less... self-aware routine. Frankly I think his best role to date was in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", where he suppressed all that completely, but then I've never been too much of a fan of the mania school of funny.

I've liked (at least, given a value greater than zero to) every Jim Carrey movie I've seen, even including The Cable Guy, though I'll admit that that one was not worth seeing twice (I did anyway, for some obscure reason I've forgotten). I'm not even sure how to compare performances cross-movie. I mean, if it was a remake of the same script, then sure, but I think Jim Carrey has done a pretty good job of fitting his role in every movie of his I've seen. That some of those roles were themselves better or worse is not really his responsibility (well, maybe a little bit, since he chose to act in them).

Omnia mutantur, nihil interit Powered by LiveJournal.com