05 January 2008

Well I am alone (but adored by 100,000 more)

Saw a bit of 'Soylent Green' earlier tonight (before heading off for a very enjoyable meal with The Very Understanding Girlfriend at Wagamama, Amai Udon does indeed taste of people), and while Charlton Heston would not be on my Christmas Card list I always find it a very enjoyable film, as is 'Planet of the Apes' and 'The Omega Man'. As it happens that last one has been in my mind lately, having read "I Am Legend" again in October, and suffering through almost two hours of the pain that is Will Smith last week. Seeing 'Soylent" today reminded me of why I love apocalyptic sci-fi from the late 60's and early 70's.

To begin with there is no CGI. The sets might be ropey but the acting is so much better; it has to be as without the flashy-flashy effects to distract us the film is carried entirely by the actors. To make the tragedy they are undergoing believable takes pathos, not an expensive shot of a deserted Times Square covered in grass and deer. Ultimately the heavy emphasis on effects is due both to the modern audiences goldfish-like attention span and need to be constantly distracted, and to the impoverished script writing talents behind such films. Writing "He shoots his gun, the mutants attack, things explode" requires so little talent, it makes one hope that the writers feel a sense of shame on the picket lines, embarrassed to stand in the same line as the geniuses behind 'Dharma and Greg' (no, I don't think they're geniuses, it's just that 'I am Legend' was really, really bad. Worse than 'Transformers')

Secondly there is no product placement. As unusual as it sounds for someone who works in online advertising to say, but I hate product placement in movies. As if it weren't enough that I'm paying €9.50 to see the film, and suffer through ads before the movie, and see all the movie tie-ins with restaurants and soft-drink companies, now I have to be distracted by the iMacs and iPods in every shot. When Charlton Heston fought off vampires (sorry, light sensitive albino mutants) he didn't need a dvd of Shrek to make him feel for his lost humanity, we could see it in his eyes, gun lust and casual sexism (the 70's truly were a far more subtle time). Product placement is only going to get worse, particularly in television, as DVRs allow people to fast forward through ads, the ads themselves have to become part of the show. 'Heroes' is a great example of this, I love the show but the constant Nissan shots compromise the integrity of every scene they are in (and yes, I do appreciate the show features people who can fly, but I stand by my use of the word 'integrity').

I don't think anyone at the time would have expected the late 60s/early 70's to be a golden age of cinema. It was a time when last men were last men (or mutants, or apes), and melodrama was king. If all we have to look forward to in our cinematic future is scriptless CGI ads for car companies, I think the survivors will envy the dead.

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