I used to live with a guy who followed the careers of boxers. Not like how football fans know a lot about past matches and have read the paper so have a bit of pre match knowledge. He lived it, a fanatic. He’d be screaming at the TV as I was walking past, as a fight went the wrong way, then he’d pause it only for me to realise it wasn’t actually live, it was some line up from the 80’s that he knew punch for punch.
His room was full to the ceiling of fights on VHS sorted into careers chronologically with fighter’s going back from the 60’s to today. He could gamble on any fight with such sureness that it wasn’t really a gamble.
To me it was two dumb guys trying to give the other guy more brain damage than he was receiving.That is, until he educated me in to the respect the sport deserves. For months these people, these modern day warriors, would train, thinking of nothing but destroying the other, knowing that that person was doing the same thing for them. They’d get into the ring and the fight would be decided before the bell went, it was all in the stare. If they looked at all unsure of themselves, they had already lost.
Team sports like football and Rugby cannot compete in this drama, as when they win or lose that responsibility is shared. When a boxer loses, there is no team. It’s all on their shoulders; they simply weren’t as good as the other guy.
When I told my housemate that I wouldn’t be surprised if Lennox Lewis dived in his fight against Hasim Rahman, he didn’t take it well. In a frustrated rage less directed at me but more the general uneducated non-dedicated boxing community, he ranted that boxers at that level do not dive! They could not be paid enough. These fighters live in a world where careers take half a lifetime to achieve a status to make just enough money to live off it. When a fighter gets to this stage, they have one-maybe two losses in them before it’s over. Every fight counts. Every bit of clumsy footwork costs. You don’t suddenly earn the title of undefeatable; you gradually maintain it.
The thought of this stayed with me.
Considering this, the big director names in blockbuster prove that the industry is maybe too forgiving. Or rather, film audiences are.
They say you’re only as good as your last film, which makes Terry Gilliam in need to make another film as quick as “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus” was the final chance in convincing me that those artistic talents justified the fact that every time, he fails to tell a good story beginning to end. It hurts to agree cause you want to like his films because of those flourishes of eccentric genius, but there is no consistency.
Then The Hurt Locker won the best film? I rooted for it when it was the underdog but Oscar worthy it was not. The portrayal of commercial comforts through having to pick out cereal betrayed the authenticity of all the set pieces that came before, making the ending false in a inexperienced student film way.
Perhaps you’re only as good as the competition? Previous Oscar winners, the Coen brothers latest ‘A Serious Man’, like some of their greatest films, falls short for narrative. As the credits roll it left me wondering whether the point the film was trying to make was that there isn’t one? It would tie in with the story of the Rabbi, the dentist who finds Hebrew inscribed on someone’s lower teeth, only to say that the solution was to forget about them.
Then there is the latest from Lars Von Triers, the self-proclaimed ‘greatest director the world currently has’. Renting Antichrist promised moments of scissors snipping off genitals and foxes declaring ‘Chaos Reigns’ which to me sounded like potential, but was less fun to watch than the Passion of the Christ. The film seems to be part of what I like to call ‘the reason to never help your girlfriend out season’, also accompanied by Shutter Island and the genuinely terrifying, but can’t see how they’ll make the sequel, Paranormal Activity.
Palme d’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon’s is also undeserving as it plays out like a pretentious version of the much more entertaining 1960’s ‘Village of the Damned’, where little Arian children act spookily grown up. Shot masterfully with subtle CGI, with the interesting premise of - Who’s doing horrible things in the town?The answer: The generation of children that become Nazis.This theme of micro becoming macro feels tacky here, which is a shame as Haneke completely pulled it off in his 2005 ‘Hidden’, which proved that intelligent statically slow pacing and entertaining thriller tension could co-exist in one film.
Then Werner Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the Earth, failed to create a cinematic experience, but did teach me that penguins can sometimes go insane and prostitute one another, while scientists believe that humanity’s existence is certain to end. Herzog’s approach stops this from being Attenborough on the big screen, as when interviews drag on, the sound drops and Herzog has a voice over summarising the point they are making in his own, apparently better words!
In fact the only names that guarantee quality seem to come from TV. David Simon’s new series ‘Treme’ being as well researched and scripted as ‘The Wire’ and of course ‘South Park’, which over time has repeatedly reinvented the fart joke whilst having some of the most morally centered ideology on current topics, that set it in another class to waster entertainment like ‘Family Guy’.
But the fact is, TV is a batch product, where a series can be great. But there is no perfect series of films.
If all these great directors were boxers, with all of their films fights, would they still be going...? probably not.But the biggest testament to this ability to forgive comes with the sad news of Dennis Hopper’s terminal illness. He will leave behind a legacy of talent, proving it doesn’t matter if you’re in films like ‘Super Mario Brothers’ and ‘Waterworld’, an audience will still remember the good times, the ‘Apocalypse Now’, the ‘Easy Rider’ that set the guy apart.
These experimental few deserve our forgiveness, as they will try things outside of moneymaking formulas. They are not fighters; they are pioneers who make mistakes in the aim to find new ways to tell a story.
Maybe it’s not right to say ‘you’re only as good as your last film’ it seems truer to say ‘you’re as good as your best film’.
So if Terry Gilliam’s next film is more rambling nonsense, I’ll still forgive him. I at least owe him one more chance cause he inspired my film fanaticism as a child when I saw Time Bandits.
It’s not a perfect film beginning to end, but that’s ok. I only remember the best bits anyway.