For you, the dress code is casual.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What Was I Thinking? Babel = Babble

My instincts told me not to spend my time watching Babel, but for some stupid reason I thought I'd give it a shot. I rented it last night along with Dream Girls, and have concluded both were highly overrated.

The difference is, Dream Girls is what it is -- an entertaining musical with reasonably good singing (and a whole lot of screaming) and an interesting storyline. Not great, but decent. Babel, though, seeks to be this highly symbolic existentialist treatise on the six degrees of separation phenomena of happenstance and coincidence.

In other words, it's suitably full of shit.

I don't know how many times I'm going to have to rant about pretty pictures not equalling substance in movies, but let's speculate that this one more time won't hurt anyone. I don't care HOW nicely shot the cinematography is in a flick like Babel, 50% of the images could've been shot faster, better, and more to the point. The lack of editorial restraint is mind-numbing.

The trouble with Babel is that the director seems to think his inordinately long approach to establishing a shot is somehow akin to visual foreplay -- more is better. No, more is just too much.

The movie's pointless, arrogant, self-important, and offers no insight.

The thing about powerful cinematography is that every shot should add something to the tale. Shots should offer symbolism, commentary, juxtaposition, clarity, and more. There can't be long, sweeping panoramics for the hell of it. There has to be a reason. This movie's reasonless. One could argue it's an impotent attempt to arouse our empathy for the characters, but then they'd just be pointing out yet another way the movie fails.

Sigh. I've still never seen Amores Perros. The second installment in this trilogy, 21 Grams, was a waste of my time. It was the opposite of this -- highly cut, furtive and pointless frequent glimpses into interconnecting lives. Impossible to build any emotional connection with the tale because we're underexposed to character building. This movie's a 180 -- full of character-building scenes, but it's in those scenes that our impatience with the film comes to a head.

Inaritu is guilty of one of the worst crimes a storyteller can be guilty of -- believing their spin is more important than the story itself. If the story has legs, it'll almost tell itself. Make yourself scarce, and let the tale be the star.

It's easy to get tied up in ego when one's supposed to be telling a story. It happens. It happens too much with Inaritu. I think he fails to realize how much these stories need a narrator sometimes. Using a narrator is the easiest choice to expedite a story. This 2-hour 20-minute ramble of his could've been an hour shorter if he'd just swallowed his pride and made it more linear.

There goes another 2 hours of my life that could've been spent standing around the kitchen and pondering the galactic significance of a bowl of spaghetti or something. Shit, man. Should've watched Harold & Kumar Go to Whitecastle instead. At least THEY knew where they were going.