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Old March 10 2012, 03:41 PM   #373
stj
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Re: Movies Seen in 2012

The joke about Bradley Cooper's haircut is an ambiguity marker. The viewer is not required to cash it.

Started Higher Ground, couldn't finish it. There was an early sequence of adults being baptized in a river or pond (the camera was too close to tell.) There was simultaneously one good thing and one bad thing about this. The good thing was that the responses of the the characters upon emergence varied. They were characterized. It is so common for movies and television to reject characterization in favor of uniformity as a way to impose the desired emotional response on the viewer that this sequence immediately amped up my interest in the movie.

The bad thing was that the baptisms were improperly performed. In real baptisms the person officiating holds a pad over the mouth and nose of the person being baptized to prevent air escaping and water getting in. Being professional actors doing multiple takes in an art movie, no one's emotional response was superseded by snotting out water that got up the nose.

In addition to this glassy eyed nonlook at baptisms, in the parts I could tolerate there was a similar detachment from social reality. The lead characters had no jobs, nor was it possible to guess their socioeconomic status. The churches portrayed had no social or political views, although everyone knows "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" churches of the type portrayed are strongly associated with quite specific social and political and even economic views.

Vera Farmiga, star and director, apparently believes that religion is all about sexual repression. Her character emerges from the water with her bra showing through the wet blouse, revealing the inner sexuality. At a retreat, Farmiga is the one who dances, alone. At key moments she's typically in virginal white. There is a pig symbol. As a child the Farmiga character is feeding piglets (no, it is not at all clear that the character is a farm girl,) while her parents engage in sex play of the fully clothed variety. While she's having intercourse with a crush a hog wanders up to watch.

The sexual motif gets openly aired when what she thinks is a church plays their version of sex ed tapes. The men's version announces there is something called a clitoris which is part of God's plan. The women's version is so inanae I've already forgotten it. The interesting way in which the characters actually got to have individual responses at the baptism sequence is abandoned as soon as it's necessary to hammer at the "funfies are repressed" theme.

There are millions of unbelievers but few atheists in this country. I'm one of the few but it is appalling that anyone could be so ignorant of humanity as to think that churches of every sort aren't full of sexually experienced people as well sexually repressed ones. The Farmiga view, that religion is bad because it causes psychological torment, ignores the disparity in people. Religion is bad because it's not true. It requires rejecting reason. As an insititution, it is built upon superstition and bigotry. The people who do not get psychological satisfaction from the church they're in shop around til they find one that does. The Farmiga critique is merely contemptible snobbery. The preposterous notion that all the really religious people are sexual ignoramuses was far too stupid to tolerate.

Removal was an amusing psychological thriller about multiple personalities and murder. It was entirely literary, didn't make sense in its own terms and didn't have a thrill or frisson or indeed many surprises. It was nicely paced and the performances were nice, but The Perfect Host was much better. This one had the saving grace of not taking itself too seriously. There was a gag reel!
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