Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We love you, Opie!

Now I don't mean to post this cute/embarassing picture of a young Opie-era Ron Howard in the way of kitsch or sillyness or irreverence, but I mean it completely sincerely.

Last night, a coup happened in my head. Ron Howard officially trumped David Lynch as my favorite director. Lynch had held an almost year-long crown in my constantly-expanding world of film. "Blue Velvet," "Mulholland Drive," "Wild at Heart" and (of course) the "Twin Peaks" saga had slammed my imagination to the ground and gave it a good beating. I'd never seen images fractured and made absolutely horrifying the way David Lynch had done it.

Since, I've seen many imitators (Takashi Miike), followers (again, Miike in his best moments) and avant-garde also rans (David Cronenberg), but none quite like Lynch. (Note: I consider David Cronenberg a Lynch also ran because he basically has Lynch's style turned inside out, they came around at the same time from different visual media, they're both basically Canadian, Lynch is from the Pacific Northwest as one can deduce from "Twin Peaks," and Cronenberg even momentarily toppled Lynch-- until I actually saw "A History of Violence," which is far from the '80s, top-of-his-game Cronenberg but still a good movie-- during Lynch's year-long reign on a technicality, but that's beside the point.) Cronenberg, the only remote challenger to Lynch in my mind at the time, had his stylistic ebbs and flows and gradual descents in consistency with age, but Lynch seems to be better and better-- more adaptable-- with time. In 2001, Many called "Mulholland Drive" his best work since "Twin Peaks" and they're probably right, though its hard to determine these things (anything concretely, really) with David Lynch.

To get back to my point and hopefully (hopefully poigantly) relate Ron Howard to my digression way back there, Ron Howard strangely fits the mold of both an American filmmaker, an Americana filmmaker and (as of late, AND THIS GETS ME!) an Americana avant-garde filmmaker, like David Lynch does in his own strange way. There's no sub-subgenre that rivets me more than Americana avant-garde. It's inspiring. It takes the weird, molds it into something the American public at-large can digest and say: "This is normal. Watch this, you'll love it, guaranteed." And you know what? They do! They eat the shit up because its marketed to them correctly! And it blows my mind when, in "The Da Vinci Code," the scenes where Howard uses his now-signature projected-text technique, or his Peckinpah-cum-Speilberg way of humanistically portraying brutality, audiences just sit there and accept it as a new, and get this, higher standard of mainstream, American filmmaking. It blows my mind and makes me very happy that movies like this, slowly but surely, increase the sophistication of the at-large American public. God knows we, and I include myself in that with "we," need it. Right now someone in Silver Spring, at the American Film Institute is pee'ing their pants in excitement.

Speaking of AFI, a bit of ass-kissing Bravo TV programming came on late last night. It was like Inside the Actor's Studio (which came on directly beforehand with a Tom Hanks interview-- that guy's so regular, he's cool), but less intimate and intense and in a bigger room, so the pretentiousness had a little air in which to dissipate. It was a re-run, and I had not seen it before. I had meant to see it, which is why I stayed up (and because I'm attempting to switch my sleeping hours). It's called "Moving Image: A Tribute to Ron Howard" and it is a monster of a tribute program (or "whatever this is," as David Cross put it when they showed a recorded clip of the out-of-work "Arrested Development" cast begging-but-not-begging for roles in his future films). The program is emotional wallop after emotional wallop. Clips that I forgot about from movies I had already seen (Hey, "Willow," long time no see!), facts I forgot or didn't even know about Ron Howard (I'm embarassed to say this, but I didn't remember that Opie narrated "Arrested Development"!) and reminders what movie magic can do in the right hands. Even the clips of "Backdraft" or "Cocoon," the more ham-fisted of Howard's movies, are very moving in that pure, emotional, Spielbergian sort of way. Ron Howard is one of the very few throughout film history that can balance both intellegent, groundbreaking filmmaking with middle American cinematic catharsis and not be an unamiable public figure, considered pretentious (one in the same, sort of) or having his art marginalized commercially.

Directors like David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Wes Anderson, David O. Russell and so on all try to make challenging and mainstream movies, but are mostly relegated to NPR/Borders Land with book-on-tape, mainstream intellectuals that listen to nothing but Coldplay on endless repeat. The two directors that succeed best at getting the middle American to watch better movies are Opie (no man is more deserving of his own Wiki entry) and M. Night Shyamalan. (The only difference between the two is that Opie knows he's not a writer, or at least not a very good one, plus there's a good chance that Shyamalan was an Indian goth kid-- let that one settle into the noggin for a second-- and not an aw-shucks type like Opie, or at least owns one Cure album.)

Sure, when all is said and done, "The Da Vinci Code" (like most of Howard's movies as of late) will probably underperform at the box office, will be an all-time leukwarmer with the critics but still be one of the most talked-about movies of this decade. Movies like this, and the internet, have made post-millenial American culture better.

I mentioned the AFI earlier, and I happened upon a brief some intern, I'm sure, popped into their website about an award they gave in '02 to "Gilmore Girls," one of my favorite TV shows (though for the sake of what little masculinity I try to hold onto, I try not say that out loud) that sums up what I'm talking about, about enlightened media. It says, "'Gilmore Girls' fulfills television's promise to elevate its audience through entertainment. The program creates a beautifully self-contained universe, where the traditional rules of television seem not to apply."

That's what I'm saying. We love you, Opie.


Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

Didn't read it yet, but looks the FSView is with you on this one:


6/08/2006 8:34 AM  

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