I used to like A.O Scott until he wrote this silly, pompous screed about what he thinks are the most influential movies of the decade.
For one, I think it's too soon. We still have 2010 coming down the pike.
Secondly, how stupefyingly conventional. How horrifyingly bourgeois. It feels like really lazy work by someone who lives in a Norman Rockwell painting and shops at Wal-Mart and reads Reader's Digest.
Scott divides his magisterial canon in two, the most influential commercial movies (meaning dreck of pop cultural importance, movies that for the most part made oodles of money) and movies of quality. I think he is out to lunch on both counts.
First, the dreck of importance:
• Zodiac (David Fincher). I don't get it. Long, plodding, mostly unexciting and literally yellow. So it uses digital effects that you can't actually see. So what? This movie was ignored by everyone for a reason.
• The Passion of The Christ (Mel Gibson). Of course I didn't see it. Not interested in religious porn. It's on the list because according to Scott, it showed that religious movies could have a mass audience, but I don't see many more instances of this trend. The Annunciation? The Burning Bush? The Mountain Goes to Mohammad? It ain't happening. The movie was big because it was gruesome and made by a movie star crackpot.
• Farenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore). Peut etre. The $100 million grossing documentary.
No great shakes artistically speaking. However, it's true that Moore's success helped bring the documentary genre back to life; or rather, documentaries can now make some loose change.
• The Lord of The Rings (Peter Jackson). This trilogy, writes Scott, "was a milestone in the geek ascendancy". Well, as Sam Goldwyn used to say, include me out.
Despite the presence of Viggo Mortensen, I couldn't be bothered. This is strictly my personal taste. I despise Middle Earth fantasies (and fantasies in general). So we have Peter Jackson to thank for horrid hybrids like the Harry Potters and the upcoming Avatar and 2012 and all this bloated crap. If the influences are noxious, what is there to celebrate?
• Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski). Don't get me started on Mumblecore.
Mostly irrelevant and for good reason.
• The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow). I totally agree. A sweet and riotous romantic comedy, equally appealing to males and females, plus, there is a new adjective: Apatovian.
• Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee). A stunningly beautiful movie about nothing much. What really is the transcendence of this film? "China’s emergence as a pop-culture superpower". Puhleeze.
"An example of the crossover potential of local genres in a global marketplace", I think it's the opposite, a foreign movie financed, calculated, written and conceived to appeal to our local tastes (which is why it sucked. It's Star Wars in Chinese). I don't know if Scott is being naive or he just likes the sound of his own bombast.
• Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu). We have this movie to thank for ballbreaking puzzle movies like Syriana, Babel and Crash. Granted, it's a film of great moxie and power, but it spawned an obnoxious genre of preachy plot pyrotechnics and underwritten characters.
• Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I haven't seen any of Tyler Perry's movies so I really can't opine. But they seem to be circumscribed to the African American audience, unlike some of the work of Spike Lee, which was intended to cross over and make a fuss, which it did.
"Perry is, with Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, one face of a new black-power structure that has become part of the American establishment". "A new black power structure"? Really? This sounds like grandiose bullshit to me, but I bet the token inclusion of Latino, Asian and Black movies must make Scott feel like a p.c. boy scout.
• Shrek. The more I read this list, the more offensive I find it. Of all the animated movies that have swarmed us since the advent of Pixar, why choose the one that took a fantastic character from a fantastic writer and turned it into a vulgar, formulaic franchise? Okay, I get it now. This should not be the list of the most influential movies of the decade, but of the movies that easily become merchandise.