Thursday, July 27, 2006

Non-generic Genre

I like genre movies that are about something, such as the thriller that is making a comment on society (Rear Window) or the action movie that asks about meaning in life (Lethal Weapon).

I’m not talking about the movie that is about something that takes on a genre, like Silkwood, an issue movie told as a thriller. Though they can be good too.

No, it’s the genre movie that is layered that I’m attracted to.

Of course, for such movies to work, they have to do two things:

One: The “something” they are about must be natural to the story. Rear Window’s setting lent itself to commentary on the voyeuristic nature of American society; Hitchcock didn’t have to dig to find an excuse to fit such themes in.

Unlike, say League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (suddenly the movie is about father/son relationships?) or Batman and Robin. Who can forget Clooney’s third act speech to Robin about loyalty and family and, uh… I can’t remember what else he was unforgettably babbling about.

Two: The “something” they are about must be subservient to the genre. Lethal Weapon was an action movie that delivered action through to the end – it didn’t stop being an action movie to create a discourse on why or why not life is worth living.

The negative example is the sit-com’s “very special episode” – where they forget to bring the funny. Situation comedy without comedy is just a situation. I suppose this is one of the many reasons I like Scrubs. They manage to have a whole lot of “very special moments,” but they never stop being Scrubs to do it.

Sci-fi does this right a lot – being a genre that naturally takes the opportunity to explore meaning. I introduced my brother Luke to the Firefly series recently, and was reminded at how much the drama/western/sci-fi show spoke to Life.

(The Firefly theme song, written by series creator Joss Whedon, was recited at my brother Chris’ funeral – not because Chris was a fan of the show or the genre. Just because the show is that relevant.)

So, anywho, I re-watched two movies recently that prompted these thoughts. Tomorrow I’ll chat about Sam Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead; later, I’ll bring up the Bourne trilogy. So if you want to rent them as homework…

Just my thoughts,



Reel Fanatic said...

I just recently finished working through the Firefly series for a second time on DVD, and you're right .. it's just great, and I think perhaps Joss Whedon's finest work to date

Anonymous said...

Firefly is classic. It could have used about 250 more episodes though. The 13 we got really wasn't enough. (You'd think with all the clammoring for more episodes that someone might say, "Hey, you know what? There's money to be made in this!" And my guess is that traditional TV channels might not be the way to go about it. (Just my 2 cents on that!)

I think as you mentioned, Sean, I've always liked SCI-FI books and movies mainly because they can do social commentary while bringing in gadgets. Nancy Kress's "Beggars in Spain" (Originally a short story in Analog Science Fiction mag) is, I think a wonderfully written example of social commentary/ beware of tech while providing a good story and very interesting characters.