Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nomi vs. Nina: Hypocritical shepherds and the sheep who follow

Thumbs up, thumbs down, stars and must-see. Simple, meaningless words that sound like a child's game, but they cut far deeper than we realize. Thomas Jefferson said, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." The art is manipulating the masses to ensure that you end up on the right side of that fifty-one percent, but when it comes to our entertainment, we voluntarily subscribe to a dictatorship.

Millions of dollars are spent to transform somebody's vision into a product whose only purpose is to entertain. After all that, one man sitting in an ivory tower can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, like some sort of emperor, and decide the fate of these modern-day gladiators who are fighting to give us a brief escape from the stress of everyday life. Who are they to decide what we watch, and more important, why do we abide?

If one man's trash is another man's treasure, why are we so willing to let somebody decide for us what is worth watching and what isn't? Baskin Robbins® has 31 Flavors because we don't all like the same thing. They have made a fortune based on this fact alone.

I recently took a friend out for a night on the town in an attempt to cheer her up. We had a nice dinner and went to see a movie. I told her to pick the movie. It was her night. Whatever she wanted. She said she wanted to see Black Swan, so we arrived early, got our snacks from the concession stand, fumbled through the dark theater to find the seats we wanted, and sat back to enjoy this critically acclaimed film that everyone has been raving about.

It didn't take long before I started getting the feeling that something about this movie seemed very familiar. By the midway point it became obvious that I was watching a remake of Showgirls, said to be one of the worst movies of all time, yet nobody else seemed to notice.

How could this be?

Both stories begin with a fresh-faced young dancer, with dreams of being a star.

They both get their chance when they replace the long-time top girl.

They both have a rival dancer that could knock them out of the top spot.

Both lead characters eventually identify with the former top girl that they replaced, and visit her in the hospital.

Both have steamy girl-on-girl sex scenes.

Both have not-so-happy endings.

What makes one a theatrical masterpiece and the other a waste of film? The role of the showgirl was replaced with that of a more socially acceptable ballerina. How very artistic. They took out the nudity. Maybe, but a movie about Las Vegas showgirls with no nudity wouldn't be very realistic. However, in Black Swan there are several scenes with its lead role masturbating because she was told to do so for "homework to get in touch with her dark side." I'm not a ballerina, but I'd be willing to bet that isn't common practice in the ballet world, and could have been left out. You tell me. Which is more gratuitous, the nudity in a film about showgirls or the masturbation in a film about ballerinas? To the credit of Black Swan, it did add a weak, overused plot twist at the end, but beyond that, there wasn't much of a difference. The names of both lead roles were even similar in that they both have four letters, begin with the letter "N," and end in a vowel.

So I ask again, why is one hailed as a brilliant film, and the other cast off in shame?
Showgirls won seven of the thirteen Razzie Awards for which it was nominated. The film also appeared on Metacritic's list of the all-time lowest-scoring films (16) and is in the Top 10 of the 100 worst movies list at DigitalDreamDoor.com.
Black Swan, however, has met a much more fortunate fate. The film has Fox Searchlight Pictures' highest per-theater average gross ever, and it ranks 21st on the all-time list; review aggregate Metacritic has given the film a weighted score of 79.

The solution is simple: abandon the flock. Start thinking for yourself. As the rest of the lemmings run off the cliff, you can sit back and watch the show...and your version has nudity.

1 comment:

  1. I loved BLACK SWAN, and I laugh at SHOWGIRLS whenever it's on, so I could say I like both films.

    I have see BLACK SWAN twice now and I guess the thing I enjoyed most about the film was the intensity and how unsettling it made me feel. I didn't feel that way about SHOWGIRLS at all, I felt like I was watching a very silly movie. So I guess in the end, the difference to me is tone. =)