Friday, October 23, 2009

There is no B

I was raised on B movies. My aunt Vi loved the Drive In movies of people like Roger Corman, and, being a child, I didn’t understand that they were cheaply made, or substandard in any way. They were just what movies are. Though I have much more understanding, now, of how movies are made, I still do my best to retain that childlike, naïve way of seeing any given film.
Which, of course, puts me at odds with the majority of the film-going public in America. The less glitz, the less budget, the less likely a film is to be seen on its own merits, and the more likely that reviews will center on the “gimmick” of having a lower budget. This has reached the point of Irony in the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez ( Although they have shown love for B's as well).
But, I still do my best to view each film on its own merits. I ignore not-so-special effects, and I wade through some wooden and non-professional acting. The points are how good the story is, and how well it is told.
Take some of the films of John Carpenter, as a prime example. Escape from New York has a gripping story, with some great social commentary. They Live is still probably the best satire of consumer culture made. Prince of Darkness turns witch and Deviltry stories on their head by having the “devil” operate on a foundation of theoretical physics, and has references to the Gnostic heresy! But, taken by the mainstream standard- Escape from New York is a thin chase movie, Mad Max with the roles reversed, They Live is a low budget Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Prince of Darkness is a nearly “Made for TV” rip off of the Exorcist.
Now, this isn’t my political blog, and I’m not trying to read too deeply here, but I truly believe that the problem is the love of money. I believe that Capitalism ruins our appreciation of Art. Because if you take away the cash yardstick, I think it’s impossible to view movies like the ones John Carpenter made, filled with a love for the craft, and dedication to the story as inferior in any way to the bigger budget films.
Still not with me? What about the love George Romero puts into his films? Yes, we’re talking about the Zombie king of Pittsburgh (incidentally- another function of money- ever notice how many of the “good guys” come from the Rust belt? Guys like Corman from Detroit, Romero from Pittsburgh, and Carpenter from both New York and Kentucky- that’s not just coincidence. Ask John Sayles-From Schenectady, New York) His lowest budget “Living Dead” films inspired a whole genre of film, and a cultural phenomena. I’d call that a huge Artistic success, and the core of that comes from Romero’s fierce love for his anti-capitalist story (and can you really doubt that his stories all come from a place where the Zombies are the heroes because they represent the working man, while the villains are the leaders of industry, and the upper echelons of society?) Romero literally puts himself into his movies, and loves his story so much that he’ll retell it from any new angle he can, unlike big-budget Hollywood types who cannot wait to get to the next project.
So, when I say that I still love B movies, it’s not an Ironic thing. I’m not putting some kind of artistic distance between myself and the stories. I honestly believe I’m watching the best movies, period. Maybe I’m skewed from childhood, but, if so, so be it. I really do believe that I like the finest things- not only do I watch the best movies, and listen to the best music, and read the best books, and dress in the best clothes- tied in with that is that I believe I have the best friends, I have the best wife, the best son, and so on. So called “B” movies have taught me that it’s not about some objective standard involving yardsticks like dollars spent; the only yardstick is how much you love it- the most subjective standard there is- but also the only real measure of Art, life, and everything in between.

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