Thursday, August 24, 2006

Little Miss Nihilist

Dare I dredge up the topic of art and values once more, especially after the controversy I stirred up with my post on Brokeback Mountain? Indeed I do.

I was thinking of seeing the movie "Little Miss Sunshine." It received fairly high praise from the New York Times and it seemed like a funny quirky film about dysfunctional families, the horrors of beauty pageants, and a share of high-brow humor. However I also had the sense that though I would enjoy it to a certain degree it would fall into that genre of movies that I've seen enough of. There is a certain type of film, which us New York Times readers are often seen attending. They are pretty and witty (and often gay). They charm us by capturing life in all its ugliness and futility but make us laugh by recognizing how neurotic we are and how absurd life can be. But behind the laughter there is this darkness, becaues what we are laughing at really isn't funny but actually tragic. It is despair gnawing away at us to which the post-modernist of today has no answers, except to say as one character concludes in Little Miss Sunshine, we should "do what [we] love and f*** all the rest of it."

I hear that message enough in my life. Perhaps that's why I'm so picky with my films. The world is tiresome and depressing enough on its own. Sure art is art, and Little Miss Sunshine may be a fine film on artistic terms alone, but I would rather see something that is a little uplifting. I'm not saying I only want to watch Disney films with nothing offensive and where everyone lives happily ever after. I enjoy stories that are realistic about life and all its complications, but I like movies best where there is at least some glimmer of hope offered. It could perhaps be in the form of redemptive love between two broken souls or one person experiencing some change within that brings them a little bit more peace in this world. If I want to learn about the tragedy of humanity I go to see a documentary or simply look around me. There is plenty of misery in the real world to contemplate. I don't need an artsy high-brow film to remind me of my existentialist tendencies. Instead I think I'll try something perhaps more grounded in the reality of human relations and something a bit more heart-warming. I think I'll stay in a rent Akeelah the Bee instead.

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