Sunday, July 02, 2006

Land of the Dead: A Masterful Piece of Cinematography!

Baker Street, having watched some of A&E's Sherlock Holmes episodes, I concur with your apt description. You struck at the core issues among the adaptations, Holmes' and Watson's true personalities, and their actual mode of interaction.

Your review has compelled me to extol a film which I recently had the pleasure to see: The Land of the Dead, by writer and director George Romero. I had seen the preview in the theater and was nonplussed. After viewing the actual movie, however, I was reminded how the film industry takes a movie preview and removes from it any hint of nobility and subtlety in order to conform it to their deluded idea of what the American people want to see. Do they really think we are that easily persuaded by mindless entertainment?

I picked up a DVD of Land of the Dead at our shop and surveyed the back. It had zombies. Zombies are cool. They eat people and stuff. One time, I saw another movie by George Romero. It had zombies that ate people too.

I brought the movie home, and watched it on a dark night (as most nights tend to be.) I expected to be thrilled, yea, even chilled, as I watched reanimated corpses crunch bones and tear the flesh from their still-living victims! In this I was not disappointed! But there was something far more at work. My brain recoiled: "Not more work!" This movie actually had a plot! Yes, a carefully-planned overlay that was centered not around partially clad bodies and violence, but around a story with a beginning, a middle, AND an end! (This is not to say that Mr. Romero did not leave room for a sequel! Perish the though!) The plot was backed up by the dialogue, which, while "witty, fresh and provocative," had its source in the background of the characters themselves, not the background of some Hallmark card writer turned screenplay artisan.

I am sure that because of the constant decrying of "cardboard characters," there has been a move in the film industry toward characters that have, well, no character at all. The motivations for their actions have little rooting in the real world. The "protagonist" is a moral fencesitter that ends up on the side of justice only if an explosion throws him there. No, for the modern day action hero, his life is centered around making sure his coolness exudes onto every available surface area. It is also his job to blurt out a lukewarmish vengeful statement just before the "bad" guy hears it, turns around, and initiates a further 10-minute battle because Mr. Hero just couldn't say it with his trigger finger (a far more pithy statement, in my mind.) The characters in Land of the Dead operate based on actual motives of human nature. While some characters operate on the principle that the good is to be sought, the old reliables are all there: Pride, Lust, Greed, Envy, Disdain For Zombie Flicks, everything.

Now, for those among us with simpler tastes, the movie is also chock-full of zombies munching down on brains and appendages. An admonition, however: there is a scene with some short shots of somewhat less-than-fully clad females. The language, as well, is not something that one often hears at Christendom. But then, how often do zombies descend on Christendom, then extricate and devour long loops of intestines from the residents of St. Ben's? (However cool that would be.) As for the language, I can somewhat understand it. While I haven't experienced a rotting corpse gnawing my femur before my very eyes, I doubt that the first words out of my mouth would be, "You Distributist! Give it back!" It might very well, however, be my next exclamation.

Without Much Malice,
~ Geoff

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