Friday, January 20, 2012

The great Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close whitewash conspiracy

I have written extensively about the plague of the ampersand. In general, its presence in a title is a big squiggly warning that the work in question is not worth your time.

In the case of the new film Extremely Loud Ampersand Incredibly Close, this is doubly true. This might very well be the worst film ever made. It is a precious, cloying slog through treacle, designed by cynics to appeal to dullards who fancy themselves "intellectual," who filter their emotions through the prism of artifice as opposed to art. It's the type of corporate art that most people pretend to like because they think they should, and then they congratulate themselves for claiming to like it -- because that somehow proves how sensitive they are.

They feel like they've accomplished something, and they get to spend the rest of the day wrapped in a warm coccoon of moral superiority. All they've done is gone along with the lie.

There is more genuine emotion in the "Two Girls, One Cup" video. The original version of "I Spit on Your Grave" has more sensitivity. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is less insulting toward the audience.

How such a film can be made in our post-Todd Solondz film world, is beyond me. He's already parodied this film at least three times, and satirized the pseudo-emotions behind it.

What makes it so uniquely awful is that there are actually some talented people involved. The director, Stephen Daldry, crafted Billy Elliot, a manipulative in the best possible way film that is genuinely moving. I've seen that film twice and I cried both times I saw it. Of course, he also made The Reader, a morally retarded film about a sensitive Nazi pedophile who learns to read. So there you go.

Tom Hanks is a talented actor. Sandra Bullock is a talented actress. Yes, both have found themselves in bad films, but how could both their judgments been so spectacularly bad?

Extremely Loud Ampersand Incredibly Close is that special work that fails as only the most talented people can fail, when they mistake sentimentality for sentiment. Of course, the ampersand in the title is a fair warning. This movie will be quite awful, it says. Aggressively awful, even. And yet, there has been a concerted effort to keep people in the dark about the ampersand warning that appears in the title of the film. Here are some screenshots taken around the web, in which the ugly, irritating sqiggle is replaced by the much more palatable (and, therefore, dishonest) "a-n-d":

The IMDb page misrepresents the title.

So does the metacritic page.

Even wikipedia doesn't get it right.

What's Box Office magazine, an industry trade publication, trying to hide?

San Francisco Chronicle is also apparently trying protect the film.

That last screenshot, taken from yahoo movies, is perhaps the most interesting. It deliberately misstates the title of the film below a poster on which the title is clearly visible. As if that wasn't bad enough, it features a prominent advertisement for the film, which also features the actual ampersanded title. Clearly, they have a vested financial interest in misleading people about the actual title of this film. How much did the studio behind this film, Warner Bros, pay yahoo to look the other way on that ampersand?

This is clearly a conspiracy to whitewash the ampersand right out of that title, to mislead people about just how goshawful this film really is. When will the people wake up?

Credit where it's due: Stunningly, Rotten Tomatoes is calling it by its true, rotten name.


A.Jaye said...

You cried at 'Billy Elliot'? Twice?

I forgve you. For you have warned the world with proof positive that the ampersand is movie trash.

(note the ampersand qualities do not transfer to the culinary arts. Eg: fish & chips.

Go on. Say something. I know you've had fish and chips before.)

Ricky Sprague said...

A.Jaye, I cry at the end of every episode of "Extreme Couponing," when they get $500 worth of groceries for $1. It's actually not that big a deal.

I have had some good fish & chips in my time. But I don't understand the mushy peas.