Thursday, September 30, 2010

gratuitous violence

I was only able to make it through the opening scene in Watchmen on-demand last night and half of the opening credits before I had to turn it off. My first thought was, "I must just be over gratuitous violence in movies." But that's not completely true. I really enjoyed Wanted, and its crazy over-the-top slo-mo bullet action. And not just because it featured my favorite kick-ass actress Angelina Jolie (I love what that girl stands for, and if by that your gossipy mind immediately leapt to husband-stealing then you've got to stop visiting those sites and think about other things.) I liked Wanted because it's silly plot was as twist-and-turny as its super bullets. It was fun.

I'm not squeamish, but I definitely had no use for the look and feel of Watchmen. The first few moments I thought, "Here we go again. I've seen this scene more times than I care to count." That may not be fair, may not be giving the movie a chance, but that's the instant decision culture I live in, so too bad. I had another thought—maybe I just wanted my violence a bit more in-the-world. The pilot of LOST is still some of the most riveting television I have ever seen. And quite violent. But not just a gratuitous body count. We've all been on a plane, made our silent prayers against crashing before take-off (at least I know I have.) Watching the survivors of flight 815 try to piece their lives together in the aftermath of the crash on that strange Island, coupled with the spooky, smoky, sci-fi elements—I was in heaven. But there were also plenty of avert-your-eyes moments. That wasn't Gilligan's island.

This is how I like my gratuitous violence. "Tis but a scratch."

The procedural shows that my mom likes to watch—CSI NY, Bones, The Closer, The Mentalist—I guess are the cream of a too-large television crop. A crop of shows with violence and death at the center of every episode, graphically depicted. Apart from Bones, however, I wouldn't seek them out. Kyra Sedgwick and Simon Baker at least use personality to drive their shows, rather than the CSI "how gory can we get the corpses of the week" template. I really hate the CSI franchise, can you tell? I'm sorry, Gary Sinise, I still love you and I'm sure you've got to get the kids through college. But I won't watch your show.

I guess like anything, gratuitous violence in television and film is a matter is taste. You would never see me at any of the Saw or similar gore-fests. I wasn't a Friday the 13th fan either. But I do love horror films and mystery novels, if the deaths are done "right." If they add meaning to the plot. If there is a plot. Substance as well as style. Watchmen styled me right out the door, and fast. It also didn't help its chances any when the HBO caveat of "violence, adult subject matter and rape" were listed as content before the movie started. It's unusual to see rape highlighted in that fashion. It's not exactly a selling point.
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