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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci Dawilderment

Here's a roundup of reviews, all punching the same theme: it's not very good, so how did Ron Howard make such a big mistake, and how could so well-sold a book not make a great film? My question: how could anyone who's ever watched a movie or read a book ask those kinds of questions?

First

"But why did [Ron Howard] allow such a solid, attractive cast to turn in such stiff, unappealing performances?"

Okay, Mr. Honeycutt. I don't know anything about you or your reviews, but let me say that's one of the stupidest rhetoricals ever spewed by a film critic. Have you ever seen a Ron Howard film? Have you ever read a Dan Brown book? From any point of view of Film Quality (other than box office), this project was stillborn the moment Ron Howard agreed to take the job. Tom and Audrey and Ian and Stephen and Jean were signing up for a horrible screenplay, and I'm certain they all knew it. It's that other Film Quality in parentheses they were signing up for.

Todd McCarthy, Variety
"The irony in the film's inadequacy is that the novel was widely found to be so cinematic. Although pretty dismal as prose, the tome fairly rips along, courtesy of a strong story hook, very short chapters that seem like movie scenes, constant movement by the principal characters in a series of conveyances, periodic eruptions of violent action and a compressed 24-hour time frame."

"Howard, normally a generous director of actors, makes them both look stiff, pasty and inexpressive..."

Again, WHAT?? Someone out there name a film he has done where the actors were ANYTHING but boilerplate archetype. Don't say Apollo 13. Don't say Cocoon. Those were great actors phoning in centuries' worth of saccharin, whose dialog was so reprehensible that only the special effects kept you from noticing it. That settled, let's have a conversation about a little film called Backdraft.

"It's a film so overloaded with plot that there's no room for anything else, from emotion to stylistic grace notes."

Well, consider the source material.

So, in summation, most capital W writers already know that Dan Brown is crap at his craft, even though he is good at pacing and building suspence. What I want to demystify is the notion that Ron Howard is a good filmmaker. There are a few of his films I haven't seen, but jeez, you can only give people so many changes, and that Opie good will only lasts so long. I liked Ransom, and I liked Parenthood, but neither was without its flaws. I'd love to hear other opinions, but keep in mind that I hated A Beautiful Mind, so in truth there may just be no convincing me on this one.

This whole thing leads me to wonder how in the heck somebody who couldn't write/direct/act 1/4 of a human being for a screenplay could do so unbelievably well in television: From the Earth to the Moon? Sportsline? Arrested Development? Those are 3 of the best television series I've ever seen. Something tells me he needs to stick to the medium he spent his childhood reinventing.

Ok, that's enough. Just wanted to put this up since I prepared it so long ago...

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3 Comments:

Blogger incandragon said...

You, sir, are a nutbar.

Out of consideration for your many sterling qualities, I'll refrain from calling you a raving nutbar. But on nutbar, I stand firm.

We shall have lunch sometime, and I'll explain the difference between films and movies, literature and stories, and boilerplate archetypes and Willow.

Tue Jun 27, 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Yeah, seriously. I kind of wanted to see it because I thought the translation to film might cut out some of the repetition and horrible prose I found so irritating, plus I thought that Tom Hanks might make Langdon a more likeable character. (Hanks is usually quite personable, I think, even though he's not by any means my idea of a great actor.) I also have no opinion on Ron Howard, so that wasn't enough to put me off. But JEEZY CHREEZY, people! How can anyone be surprised that this isn't a good film?

Tue Jun 27, 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus said...

C'mon incandragon, we've had this debate for years now... I'm perfectly willing to accept and adore movies, stories, and boilerplate archetype. To me though, that's not what Ron Howard and Dan Brown think they're doing. They think they're crafting a serious work of fiction around a great case, utilizing elements of controversy to stimulate their audiences to do some deep, affected thinking.

The problem I have with all this is, just like Spielberg and Lucas and a lot of these big-time directors (even Coppola since about 1980), they give you Film, but when you criticize, they step back and say, "it's just a movie! It's for entertainment!" Rush Limbaugh does the same thing when people accuse him of being wrong or inconsistent or shallow. It's one giant cop-out, and I don't want to let them get away with it.

I know I'm alone on this one, don't worry. It's something I've believed in since I was in my mid-teens, or even earlier, when I hated E.T. in 1984. I was 11.

I just added Willow to the top of my queue to see if I can like it any better than I did when it came out. I'll freely acknowledge that there is a lot of stuff all these guys do well, it's just not the stuff that's important to me.

Tue Jun 27, 09:19:00 AM  

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