Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rent the Movie - Reviewing the Reviewers

Rent: the Movie has, as of this posting, has a 51% rating at I had heard throught the grapevine that there was a large outpouring of negative reviews for the movie version of Rent. I chose not to read any reviews before seeing the movie (which I find is generally a good idea, since movie-watching is a process of individual revelation and discovery) and kept my mind firmly open while watching and subsequently enjoying this powerful movie. While my mind was open, I do have an outstanding bias, as I have seen the musical on broadway, albeit not the original cast version. My review of the movie is that the movie definitely captures the essence of the stage musical and captures the same raw emotion. In sum, I loved the musical and I loved the movie.

After my enjoyable afternoon at the movies with my girlfriend and my high praise for the movie, I dared brave the negative land of film reviewers. I am happy, and at the same time disgusted, to report that the majority of bad reviews came from critics who never saw the musical and rejected the whole storyline, or those who saw the musical and hated it on stage and equally detest it now. Therefore I can understand if you give the movie a bad review because you can't handle the plot of the original, afterall it handles some awfully heavy subject matter. At the same time I think it is awfully close-minded of anyone to reject this story on highly superficial grounds. Sure, on the surface this is a play about a bunch of friends who have AIDs, many who got it from arguably irresponsible and unethical activites (like needle sharing), all whom refuse to pay rent, have lots of gay sex, and whine about capitalism all day - I mean, come on, what a bunch of lazy, fascist, pretentious pricks, right? And there lies the rub. I don't condone not paying your rent, but this movie is about so much more than that. It is about hope, redemption, life affirmation, love, friends, the evils of rampant commercialism, humanity and did I say life, specifically take time to enjoying life in the present. Not only are the themes deep and exploratory in nature, the characters are real people with true depth and connectivity. I was emotionally pulled into the musical, and expanded that connection after seeing the movie. Therefore it is safe to dismiss any review from anyone who rejects the storyline - they don't like the story and that is their perogative. Anyone who has not seen the musical really doesn't have much say in reviewing the movie, or at least with any pretense of giving the movie a fully honest review.

With that said, I think the main objection from critics who saw the broadway show but did not like the movie is that the movie fails to connect to those who have not seen the musical. This is a legitimate concern. Since I am obviously biased, and since I have an emotional bond with the musical, and now the movie, it is hard for me to make an objective evaluation of this claim. What I can say is that this is surprising to me, as I must admit I did not follow everything during my experience on Broadway as I got lost at a few points, and often got lost in the music. The movie was an excellent chance for me to fill in the gaps, and visualize some aspects of the musical that were harder to grasp on a stationary stage set. Indeed the movie added another dimension to Rent that was helpful. Since the music (which I I can't get enough of) is taken straight from the musical, I can't help but think that the movie would be a great way to introduce Rent virgins who are willing to accept the premises to this powerful story. At the least I would figure that one would get lost in the same way I did during my introduction to Rent. This by no mean makes the music, characters, and themes hard to detect or to get entangled in, it simply means that one might not "get" the story on all levels. Though this tends to be the mark of any good story, especially in the movies, as any movie that can keep you discovering new themes and aspects after many viewings is the mark of a multi-dimensional story. Any serious movie buff gets this and my recent favorite multi-dimensional movie is the movie Crash - a MUST see. Anyways, that is for another blog entry.

Finally, others just did not like the movie adaptation. This is a matter of personal preference, though I surely did not see it. Since six of the eight actors were members of the original cast, the acting was superb. The sets were vivid, raw, and for the most part believable. The music - well it was the music from Rent - you either love it or hate it. There is some question as to whether the added lines of dialogue detracted from the original or added a new dimension. Personally, I think they made the plot easier to follow at times. At the very least I did not really see it as a major mark on the movie since the musical numbers do the real speaking anyway.

So there you have it. My best advice is to go see it yourself and see what you think - then come back here and let me know what you thought!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Eyes For Black Friday

I must admit that I have in the past beaten the roosters out of bed to hunt good deals on the day after Thanksgiving. There is indefinitely a certain rush and sense of satisfaction in finding a great buy. This year I stayed at home, and I am glad I did. The so called "Black Friday" shopping is by far capitalism at its extreme. It is amazing to think that retailers wait for one day out of their fiscal year to push profits out of the red and into the black. It is also amazing how Americans have managed to turn the beginning of a holiday season, meant to be a time for sharing, giving, and togetherness, into an individualistic competition and rush to see who can spend their money quicker than the next guy. It makes you wonder if capitalism has truly gone amuck.

This year the pushing, shoving, and fighting to get a super-deal was no different than years past. Here is a good example of what I am talking about. This year Wal-Mart shoppers took the award for most aggressive as they showed their unified spirit by proceeding to knock each other out on their way to grabbing at $350 laptop computers. It looks like Black Friday turned into a Black Eye for many, and definitely a black eye for our country.

Forecasters are saying crowds were bigger this year and so was spending. This surprises me as I thought for sure that with more money spent on gas and heating this year and money donated to Tsunami, hurricane, and earthquake victims that pocketbooks would be empty - I know mine is. Maybe this is simply an indication of how far Americans are willing to go into debt to acquire material comforts and to appear as if they are caring benefactors to their friends and families. Or maybe my economic sense is backward. However, I am also surprised considering that I thought for sure online shopping would lure many shoppers and keep them from the stores. I can only hope that online shopping will be a saving grace for out country and a check on the true blackness of Christmas shopping in the future. With online shopping people can peacefully look for good deals and make more informed decisions. Shoppers can avoid the temptation to get close to others by pushing and shoving to the electonics aisle. It will also lead to spreading the shopping over all Christmas shopping days and not bungling it all in one day. Maybe Americans are not trusting of online shopping just yet, but as more people get $350 laptops from Wal-Mart you will see many finding online shopping much more comfortable - AND SANE!