Thursday, October 06, 2011

Kite Flying In America (With Trout)

BLOODY DISGUSTING: I love that you're using a cast of basically unknown young actors. Was that something you felt was important for this movie?

WES CRAVEN: Well, it mostly was the age of the characters. The characters were 16, and I didn't want to [make] a film of 24-year-olds playing 16. So it was important to get kids who were really in their teens. We actually had…I think Paulina was 16 actually when we started…I think also one of the other cast [members] was a minor…so the important thing was just that they were younger and looked like 16-year-olds. Max [Thierot] had done two or three films before. Zena had worked made films since she was a teenager, since she was like 12, I think. So they had some experience. Others, like Paulina, it was her first film. But the important thing was they looked like the kids they were supposed to be, the right age.

That picture is actress Emma Roberts,
the only good thing in the film Scream 4,
and in classic Hollywood tradition
even the only good thing in that film
makes me want to go fly a kite rather
than ever again watching a movie
not made with no budget and a webcam.

Wes Craven knows twenty-something women
look ridiculous as high school students.

And yet he made Scream 4 the way he did.

And isn’t the entire horror genre
youth (misguided, maybe, but passionate
and paying attention) fighting against
age (the inevitable, the monster)?

And yet he made Scream 4 the way he did.

Hollywood movies have become monsters.

Not the kind of monster mad scientists
laugh about. Something like the opposite
of the kind of monster mad scientists
laugh about. It’s mad. But it’s not science.

I want to fly a kite. Or go fishing.

I once wrote about a kite’s tail tempting
a fish into making a leaping strike.

If trout made movies I bet trout movies
would be low-budget, independent films.

Trout filmmaking in America.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Mad Scientist Is Always Laughing

The Opposite Of Washing Machine

Special Appearance By Muskie Light Switch

Leaving Mandy Moore

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Friday Update (With Chagrin And Vexation)

It occurred to me—last night, after I posted “Kite Flying In America (With Trout)”—that in my thinking behind the post I had made a pretty big mistake.

Even an analytical blunder.

I was focusing on the bizarre conflict and confrontation in the movie “Scream 4” between the “old woman” Sidney Prescott versus the young woman, teenage high school girl Jill.

And I was thinking about how that differed from almost all the rest of the popular films from within the genre of horror-thrillers. “Nightmare on Elm Street” was a teenage girl versus the ghost of the old man Freddie Krueger. “Halloween” was the young girl against the old “Shape” later revealed to be her older brother. “Friday the 13th” (the first one) was the teenage camp counselors versus the mother of Jason Voorhees. And, of course, “Scream 3” was comparatively young Sidney Prescott versus her own older half-brother. And “Scream 2” was college girl Sidney versus her ex-boyfriend’s old mother.

So my thinking, in general, was consistent. My post itself made at least a little bit of sense. “Scream 4” set against the context of the genre in general is bizarre and unpleasant. Even freaky.

However, I did overlook an obvious point.

And it’s a point a lot of other people have overlooked when discussing the teen horror-thriller genre.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” are often thought of the defining progenitors of this kind of movie. They were both immensely popular and both made huge amounts of money. And my thinking was accurate when assessing those films.

But the Scream Saga itself began with the 1996 movie “Scream.”

And that original 1996 movie “Scream” is usually credited with breathing “new life” into the whole teen horror-thriller genre. And when most people analyze that first “Scream” movie they point to the elements of so-called post-modernism. The meta-this or meta-that elements where the kids are self-aware of their parts in the over-arching plot.

But in fact possibly the defining characteristic of that 1996 film “Scream” may be the content of the central conflict.

Because in the first “Scream” the conflict was not youth versus old age. Almost unique among popular films of this genre, the central conflict in the first “Scream” was youth versus youth. It was high school girl Sidney Prescott versus two high school boys Billy and Stu.

I’ve never seen anybody single out that odd fact.

Almost universally the popular and influential films of this genre revolve around a conflict that can be characterized as youth versus old age.

But the original 1996 “Scream” film was youth versus youth.

And even the filmmakers themselves seemed to ignore that when they made the sequels because the filmmakers immediately took the Scream cycle into standard territory by formulating the plots of “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” along standard youth-versus-age conflicts. (Or what could be construed as youth-versus-age conflicts.)

Isn’t that strange?

Could that be an element that added to the great success of the original 1996 “Scream” film? It didn’t just relegate old age to the role of villain. It completely dispensed with old age entirely. It created a story in which the protagonist and antagonist were both young people dealing with their own issues in isolation from the adults around them.

(Although in classic gothic tradition the specific problems of the young generation were the consequences of their elders. In the first “Scream” the antagonist Billy was dealing with his mother and father having broken up because his father had an affair with Sidney’s mother.)

So. I completely overlooked what seems to be a critical point about the original 1996 “Scream” movie. That film wasn’t youth-versus-age at all, it was youth-versus-youth.

And that aspect of the film—in comparison to other big money-makers in the horror-thriller genre—is so unique that it may reasonably be thought of as a key element of the film.

And beyond just me overlooking that critical point, even the filmmakers themselves seemed to have ignored that particular point, because the Scream saga immediately went back to youth-versus-age conflicts.

And the endless “Scream” copycats also didn’t dwell on youth-versus-youth themes. “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” for instance, was teenagers battling an old man. “Cherry Falls” was a teenage girl versus her demented English teacher. Even when the writer and director and producer of “Scream” tried to copy themselves—in the teen/young adult werewolf movie “Cursed”—they didn’t create a youth versus youth plot, but rather made a werewolf movie that turned out to be a young woman struggling against an “old” and established werewolf. A youth versus age theme.

Isn’t that strange?

The Scream saga itself started with a movie in which “age” and old people were practically irrelevant, and the central conflict was young people dealing with young people. Then in sequels the filmmakers re-defined the central conflict to ‘standard’ youth-versus-age conflicts. Then—almost freakily—the filmmakers created a movie in “Scream 4” were old age is presented as destroying youth. What the hell?

And although the first “Scream” was so influential in modern entertainment, very few films—in fact none come to mind—tried to copy the relatively simple characteristic of focusing only on a youth-versus-young conflict.

(I’m not even going to dwell on the observation that possibly the most successful comic strip of all time—Peanuts—didn’t even have adults in it.)

Anyway, so, I made a mistake in not thinking about this yesterday and bringing it up in some way. But I’m not alone in missing what should have been a particularly obvious point about a particularly influential story.

Psychology and art and entertainment are a strange threesome.