Saturday, March 28, 2015

Striped With Love and Emblazed Tattoos

So I saw Birdman.  Man, that was bad.  And I mean, not just, "OK but overrated." But out-and-out bad.  Like, it had been written by a dim, bipolar college student who was high on bath salts.

So part of me is like, let's go to town on this.  Let's dissect it.  And then another larger, tireder part is like, why?  There's a great quote about Randall Jarrell lamenting how, as a critic, he spent far too much of his time beating and beating on clearly dead horses.  (Sorry for the animal cruelty image).  The point being: why spend so many pages and so much energy explaining and dissecting exactly what makes a failure a failure?  Why not expend your energy on praise?  Or at least, on art that is in the middle?  That is debatably good or bad?  Which Birdman, clearly, is not.  And it's true that Jarrell--who was a bit mad--could go on forever about some mediocre book that would sink into oblivion irrespective of what he or anyone else did.

And this is valid, I think.  And I bring it up because...  Birdman was just horrible.  I mean…my wife, who has a far higher tolerance for junk than I do (and I mean that not as an insult--but rather that she's way way more tolerant and forgiving, whereas I am predisposed, sadly, to just hate everything) wife, halfway through, announced she'd had enough.  (It was right after the absurd and bizarre lesbian moment between Naomi Watts and whoever the woman playing Keaton's wife was).  And my wife NEVER gives up on crappy art.  She's a positive person!

So the point is, I lie awake sometimes, now, enumerating all that's horrible about that movie.  I feel like, if called to a podium at some university and asked to talk for an hour on the subject "All That Was Bad about Birdman" I could go to town.

But should I?  And should I do it here?  I mean, it's effort, you know.  Effort I could use to make a chile colorado.  Or to memorize the kings of Judea (I'm reading The Bible, these days, too.  On which more later.)

Anyway… I mean, I know the Academy gives lots of bad movies awards (see Crash) and all that, but I just can't believe they'd be so bamboozled by such jejune and juvenile nonsense.  And there's a part of me that wants to launch into a 5000 word rant where I explicate and pore over every iota of its horribleness.  But then there's a much, much larger part that wants to just…move past it, as though it were a terrible accident on the freeway that I was happy not to be a part of.  And that's what I'll do, now.

 *  *  *

I'd never heard of Charles Baxter until a month ago.  Is that odd?  But then I read about him in the NYRB and now I've read four of his books.  And they're great!  I mean, really good.  Check him out, if you haven't already.  Criticism too.

 *  *  *

And here's another thing that's great: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber.  I say that slightly provisionally, however; I'm only halfway through it.

But I mean…wow.  It's really making me happy.  But I don't want to talk about it, at all.  And the reason is, I think if any of you want to read it, you should know as little about it as possible.  The less you know, the better.  Not that there are a bunch of plot twists and exciting Usual Suspects-like reveals.  There aren't.  But…it has a quality of wonder and innocence and…whatever the opposite of cynicism is…that I absolutely love and respond to and want to praise.

And so I'll hope that the last 100 pages or so don't let me down and just say: go and read it.  And consider Phlebas, who was once as tall and handsome as you.

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