Last week, Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum quoted a possibly apocryphal Stanley Kubric line in his own assessment of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. He supposedly said about his sometimes foil’s popular movie, “The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed, Schindler’s List was about 600 people who don’t.”
I should admit, I have an issue with that statement. As if somehow the survivors amongst the brutal wreckage don’t carry with them the weight of the dead. I can’t say the same for Stone’s movie.
But I love this quote the proven film scholar and social critic Rosenbaum attributes to Orson Welles in the same year of his infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, 1938, “before,” Rosenbaum notes, “he started making movies.”
I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.
Although Rosenbaum brings this up in his review of The Illusionist (he reviews it as one of those ever-rare four-star masterpieces he dishes out considerably less than his t.v.’d brethren), it recalls to me the newest Superman movie. Apparently, in the original version, the movie posters promised that, “You will believe a man can fly.”
I did. My family did. We wanted to see him go up in the air and hold Lois Lane from falling great depths to the ground with her simple, naive statement of disbelief, “You’ve got me. But, who’s got you?” And we believed that he was holding her through the nightsky high above the busy, dirty streets of Manhattan – I’m sorry, Metropolis – and at the tip of Lady Liberty’s lamp.
The new movie had none of that magic. Everything it had going for it, if anybody heard anything from anybody about the movie, was in the special effects. In this post-cynical times, though, with every piece of media meta-ing all over themselves (not the least of these being Superman Returns), special effects and over-the-top self-referencing aren’t enough (not to ruin any surprises here, but the biggest piece of self-referencing of Kal-El & Lois Lane’s love is evident and all over the place from the first act).
There was no wooing in this movie, as there is in little that comes out of big-bdget movies. There were no hints, there were no suggestions. The magic was gone. The mystery was gone. I no longer cared if a man could fly, no matter how much the filmmakers showed me he could.