I did a little of recce of some of the other finalists in the Best Blog Comp, not because I give a fuck, because I totally don't – see, this is me not giving a fuck – but because I'm always on the lookout for new ways to waste time.
I particularly enjoyed wasting my time at Thomas Caldwell's film crit blog, Cinema Autopsy. Unfortunately it's not a blog purely about films about autopsies. But it's still pretty cool. He had a write up of Warm Bodies, which I read, even though I have an iron law; never read the review first. More of why, later.
But his Warm Bodies review I read because having just finished Walking Dead S3, I find myself hungering for a discussion of zombie tropes like Zombie Principal Skinner hungers for the delicious honor student brains of Martin Prince. Caldwell's writing is clear and informed but unburdened by wank. He knows his mass culture.
The problem with zombies is there is only so much that can be done with them before audiences develop zombie-fatigue, no longer content to simply see how many creative ways zombies can be dismembered; Peter Jackson pretty much pushed that as far as possible in Braindead (1992). Instead, filmmakers in recent times have had to find other novel ideas to present zombie narratives. In [Rec] (2007) Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza experimented with film form to present a ‘found footage’ zombie film. Romero did the same, although less successfully, in the same year with Diary of the Dead. In 28 Days Later… (Danny Boyle, 2003) and the television series The Walking Dead (originally developed by Frank Darabont, 2010-ongoing) the zombie presence is secondary to the human drama, their threat serving almost as a McGuffin to allow for an exploration of how humans behave under intense duress.
I dunno that I'd drop the walkers and biters of TWD into the McGuffin box. They're a lot more than that, but the wider point is otherwise reasonable. I didn't so much suffer zombie fatigue by the end of Seaon 3; I still love a good zombie kill, especially as practised by Michone. But the visceral horror the undead first elicited was gone, and now it's all about the tension. Will Andrea get out of the dentists chair in time? Will Hershel be to slow to escape the feed lot in front of the prison?
Caldwell made me want to see Warm Bodies, mostly by referencing Buffy when introducing the film's female lead. But the thing I really, really appreciated about this write up?
It didn't lay out the fucking plot.
I said earlier that I have a rule about reading reviews. I don't. Read 'em that is. Not until I've seen the film for myself. And then more often than not to disagree with the reviewer. Mostly the dumb arse films I love to watch get such poor reviews that I dont want my enjoyment ruined by having to filter the experience through the puckered sphincter of some uptight cinema wankiste.
But mostly I refuse to read reviews because so many of these clowns can't write a review without recounting all the major plot points. Hands up anyone who remembers failing a high school film review assignment for simply recounting the plot?
Havoc, you can keep your hands down. We take your failure as a given.
I have no idea what actually happens in Warm Bodies, beyond the broadest brush strokes of outline, but I do feel like I understand what sort of film I'm likely to see, and that is how it should be.
This all comes from having Unforgiven ruined for me by the rightfully defunct Times on Sunday's film reviewer. I read her review in the days when I still reviews because, you know... Clint! And cowboys!
She gave away the ending of the film in about the third or four paragraph. I dont even want to talk about it on the off chance there's somebody here who has foolishly never seen this movie. If you haven't, leave now. Go away and place this fine piece of cinema into your possession. You are in for a treat.
But my treat was ruined by that review. As great as the story of Unforgiven was, I couldn't enjoy it because I went in knowing what came of the showdown between Eastwood's character and Gene Hackman's hard, brutal lawman. You knew that showdown was coming from moment Hackman walked onto the screen, but Eastwood confirmed it when, in the character of Will Munny he finds out that sheriff Little Bill, like most men, knows him by reputation.
"But that didn't scare Little Bill at all, did it," he says to one of his henchmen. (Or words to that effect.
A perfect set up. Ruined by a hamfisted reviewer.
I have never recovered.
Which is why I appreciated Caldwell's so much.