DAMN! M. Night, you’re famous for sucking now. For his fourth film in his trilogy of terrible, The Last Airbender is getting obliterated by critics though it may get over $100 domestically. I think this film got a bit of a pile-on because of the hastily converted 3-D. Not that it isn’t bad, but I think some might have given the film more of a pass if it wasn’t for that.


I subjected myself to the first two Twilight films this week. Why, you ask? Because I was lent them, and I hadn’t seen them before. I can’t say my viewing was particularly critical, as I was watching them while distracted, but I feel like I got the gist of it. And I got why the film struck a nerve, even if (and maybe because) Bella is something of a vacuum: Almost every girl in the whole wide world has wanted a dude they couldn’t have. That seems to be the key ingredient why the novel has struck a deep chord with a number of women, which exists more so than the vocal online fan-base. I’ve come to be surprised how many women I meet who read these books, some declare their love as a point of pride, others as a guilty secret, but I’ve learned that it’s something best not to make fun of in mixed company. The problem is that Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon, and there are some weird things afoot in the text, with its abstinence until marriage stuff, and Team Jacob perhaps intentionally being a gay figure who gets converted. All I know is that in New Moon, the film, he is cinematically coded pink.

But I think the material struck a nerve because the audience could relate to Bella, and ignored a lot of the rest. And that’s where the headline comes in. When Forrest Gump was successful, I don’t think the majority of the audience that loved it thought about its political underpinnings. Nor do I think that the audience that embraced M Night’s Signs thought about what the film said about God. I don’t think it’s good that people aren’t thinking critically about art, but I know that it’s true that a lot of what sets off the antennas of film criticism has nothing to do with what people get out of movies. When I posited a thesis about Ferris Bueller that painted him poorly, the most common critique of my assessment was that I was thinking too much and that the movie is fun. I think that most people don’t think that critically about their art, which is why the most revered artists are rarely people like Dan Brown or Michael Bay.

And if I feel that it’s worth going a little softer on Twilight, it’s only because I think there’s something to be said for genre work that is driven almost exclusively by a female base, and because in the dick comparisons of fandom every group has people they’re embarrassed about. It seems that there are just as many guys who saw The Dark Knight five times opening weekend as there are women who did the same for New Moon. The Dark Knight may be a better movie, but that sort of reaction has very little to do with quality. And I don’t think it’s great that there’s an art that has the same fetishistic appeal to women as comic book movies have for guys, but I can’t ignore the similarities even if comic book movies are respected and respectable, and this is obviously neither. I understand that this fanbase, the obsessives, are supposedly terrible, but I also think it speaks to the limited amount of material that taps into this that crosses over into the mainstream. Maybe more so in cinema, which is so obviously male-driven to a fault. Female-centric genre fiction probably needs to bloom a bit to have a renaissance, even if Mary Shelley is one of the greats. I would never watch the films again, but I can see how feeling special and accepted could be an appealing fantasy for anyone, regardless of the baggage.


What a pathetic movie-watching weekend. The Last Airbender should open somewhat, but it’s going to be front loaded like a motherfucker. Twilight takes the weekend, of course,

1. Eclipse - $85 Million
2. The Last Airbender - $47.5 Million
3. Toy Story 3 – $36 Million
4. Grown Ups – $24.3 Million
5. Knight and Day – $10.4 Million

And then I’ll come back to you on Sunday. With muffins.