I’ve been teased by some of my friends about my treadmill movies: they’re weird, what in the world are you watching, like that. After watching the most recent of these, The Square, my thought is that (some of) these weird movies are the movies that people should be watching.
It reminds me of when I was on the Kaleidoscope Film Committee at Kansas State. We were the ones who brought the weird and political movies to the student union. I was in the weird/campy camp, not the political camp. This was the mid/late 80s and there were some fellow travelers, ie communists, on the committee. I remember one specific meeting where we were to bring our suggestions for the movies to show the next semester. I suggested a John Waters scratch and sniff movie, or a 3D 50s monster movie, or something like that. One of the communist girls, older, brooding, attractive in a mysterious way, beret, you know, the whole package,who had just suggested Nicaragua No Pasaran looked down her nose and through her dark long hair at me and reminded me that we were not the Feature Film Committee. Such disdain in her voice. Enough that even I noticed it.
Then I hear the voice of the Kaleidoscope adviser (some professor) chastising this communist girl who had gone from mysterious to bitch in one comment. “Now, we’re here to present all kinds of movies.” I think someone then said, or should have said, can’t we join together to look down on the Feature Film Committee.
Well, now I get where that lovely communist was coming from. These “weird” movies I’m watching, many of them at least, are about something that matters, about things that are going on in the world that actually affect real people. Meanwhile, most of us sit at the front of the train (Snow Piercer reference) and plug in the The Creature from the Black Lagoon, or another explosion movie or fighting robot movie or fart comedy.
I’m sure it’s been said before, or something like it, that there’s good art and there’s art, the goal of which is to do good. There are both kinds of films on my weird list, and the best of them are good art whose goal is to do good. Or even great art trying to do good, trying to make a difference, trying to encourage us to be better people. If you’re not sure where to start, start somewhere near the top of this list of my first 9 treadmill movies. I’ve tried to organize them using the Venn diagram described above as a guide, and included my twitter length reviews.
Great art trying to do good
The Square. Doc re recent Egyptian revolutions that should be shown in classes teaching the American revolution. We don’t appreciate our lot
Man on Wire. “Life should be lived on the edge of life- every year, every idea as a true challenge.” Can you imagine being there. Doing that.
Waste Land. Doc shows art is amazing because people are amazing. Circumstances have little to do with how amazing and happy. A joy. See it.
Good art trying to do good
Poetry. To make poetry you have to look at things closely. More questions raised than answers given, but in the right way. Poetry=Life?
Snow Piercer. Hunger games for adults? Is that humanity’s only hope? Not to take over the system, but destroy it and start from scratch.
Good art trying to do good if promoting Stalin’s Soviet Union is a good thing
Battleship Potemkin, 1925. Silent soviet propaganda. Civil disobedience scene on the steps is amazingly shot, moving, still too relevant.
All About Eve. 1950. Betty Davis at her Betty Davisest. Hey there’s Marylin. Smart dialogue holds up after 65 years. A bit too long in the end.
The Taste of Others. French rom-com about snobbery, reverse snobbery; high, middle, & low brow. I thought it was good. Disagree? No taste.
Art trying to do good (the only one so far I didn’t really care for)
The Conformist, 1970. Italian expressionist fascist thriller. Interesting/beautiful moments. I think the whole is less than the sum of its parts.