Kubrick and Weir: The Laudatory Human Condition

Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been praised as a great filmmaker and artist, one who probes the shades of humanity in such great films as Lolita, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon. Screenshot (994)Bob Weir, not as highly praised, is certainly recognized for “chasing the music” as he says, on his 50-year journey as rhythm guitarist with The Grateful Dead.  Screenshot (1020)And so I was intrigued to watch documentaries on each man this weekend to perhaps gain an insight or two through understanding their trials and tribulations.

It was not to be.Screenshot (1031)Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2007) offers brief moments of filmic analysis amidst a tidal wave of laudatory praise, Steven Spielberg gushing, “He was a conceptual illustrator of the human condition”. Screenshot (1009)And so despite a 50-year career, we are left with the trite summation that Mr. Kubrick worked terribly hard and loved his family, little else.

The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir (2013) is worse. While some fellow musicians offer comments on Bob Weir’s work, the documentary is almost solely guided by bland recollections by Weir – “Here’s my Jerry Bobbblehead” – occasionally, boyishly and evasively hinting toward his notorious off-stage reputation. Screenshot (1027)His band mates are only briefly interviewed, likewise alluding, saying little else. Screenshot (1017)It’s a shame that both of these these documentaries offered so little, not that they should focus on personal scandal, but that they veered so very far from the very same human condition that these men had endeavored to understand and instead settled on empty praise.Screenshot (1004)

Reviewing the Reviewers

Truth be told, I stopped reading film reviews in 1992 when I stumbled onto a piece about The Crying Game and read, “You’ll never guess the big surprise!” thecryinggameThis of course left me guessing throughout the film – He’s a secret agent! He’s dead! He’s a murderer! – and ruined the experience.

The problem with reviews is simple: they are plot-driven. Even The New Yorker, highly touted for its prose, consistently offers lame reviews, all summary and no insight. douglas_liberaceRoger Ebert marketed his thumb well, but now that he’s gone, it’s all about the freshness of a tomato. The thing about reviewing is that anyone can do it; the only requirement is consciousness and barely that.

I developed a 8-Star system as a teenager. IMAG2711I must admit to a vagueness in my descriptors but would like to point out that I never handed out a “#” nor a “—“. Never. That said, I know that there was some inconsistency in my ratings.IMAG2714 I suppose, to my young eyes, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon just wasn’t as tightly paced as Orca. orca031010I went on to review a few films in college, one piece which I used in the development of my undergraduate thesis on Walt Disney.

Extract from "Sleeping Beauty" review

Extract from my “Sleeping Beauty” review

It was also in college that my penchant for reviewing the reviewers arose.

My letter to the editor

My first letter to the editor

Some things never change.