Watching the eminently forgettable indie comedy-drama Sunshine Cleaning recently I experienced a distinct feeling of déjà vu. I felt as if I had seen the movie dozens of times before. It epitomizes a certain kind of film that thrives at Sundance only to die an unmourned death in half-empty arthouse theaters throughout our fine land.
For me Sundance isn’t just a film festival. It’s also a strange cinematic subgenre onto itself characterized by downbeat comedy-dramas/character studies about struggling misfits on the fringes of society set to tremblingly earnest guitar noodling. These pucky dreamers are often played by movie stars keen to prove their acting chops by nobly going without trailers, bravely facing the world with a minimum of make-up and a wardrobe rooted in K-Mart garb and thrift-store finds instead of the usual designer togs. In the case of Sunshine Cleaning, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn and Alan Arkin are all suffering for their art.
Sunshine Cleaning felt like a movie I’d seen over and over again, sometimes actually at Sundance. Yet writing about the films’ overly familiar feel in my review I realized that the film is derivative of movies most of my readers have never seen and will never see, semi-obscurities that fill video stores yet are seen by a fraction of the audience of the Paul Blart: Mall Cops of the world. There is a whole world of indie mediocrity and sub-mediocrity many of you tragically will never be able to experience firsthand.
This underlined, yet again, the enormous difference in the way film critics process and analyze films and the way a mass audience does. I like to joke that a film’s critic’s job is to take all the joy out of movie-going by over-analyzing everything but there definitely are times when I feel like a killjoy for criticizing movies over elements that won’t come into play for ninety percent of all viewers.
As a film critic, I feel like I have a professional obligation to write reviews that reflect how I feel about a movie without giving too much consideration into how a theoretical audience member might feel about it. I don’t know you so I don’t know whether or not you’ll like Sunshine Cleaning. But if you’ve been reading The A.V Club for a while it’s possible that you know something about me and how our taste overlaps and diverges. So here’s my question for you: does it bug you as a reader that I’m judging films by criteria that may not apply to you? I’m hoping that people read the A.V Club because they know and trust our voices, not necessarily because we can tell them whether they’ll enjoy a given film or not.
On a completely unrelated note, I recently read the following editorial on Huffington Post that takes 1,441 words of navel-gazing solipsism to decry the navel-gazing of Twitter and the evangelical zeal of Twitter people throughout the Twitterverse as well as their incessant need to create new Twitter-derived words.
Yes, Twitter has become a hot news story, which probably means it's already on its way out. Anything to distract us from thinking about the impending global apocalypse. The gist of this story and others like it tends to be, “What’s the big deal with Twitter?” I wondered that myself until I got on. I quickly became addicted. In the Huffington Post piece the blogger writes that she began to dream in Twitter, that its ADD aesthetic had affected the way she began to think.
I can relate, though one of the reasons I've gravitated to the site is because I already think in Twitter-like one-liners and acerbic observations. So being on Twitter means the difference between wasting Keith and Scott’s time with my inane wisecracks and lame pop culture references and sharing my dumb wisecracks with the rest of the Twitterverse. There’s something beguiling about the interconnectivity of Twitter though like every other online innovation Twitter already sometimes feels disconcertingly like a cliquey high school lunch table.
Two months ago I couldn’t have cared less about Twitter. Now I check it semi-compulsively, though that may say more about my tendency towards compulsion than anything else. I don’t think Twitter will change the way we communicate. I don’t think the pressure to condense the world into 140-word bite-sized chunks will lower the level of discourse online. I don’t know that it’s possible to lower the level of discourse online. It may have already found a bottom. I just think it’s a fun way to pass time.
At the risk of being grandiose, I think Twitter is in no small way about the glory of the mundane. It’s a way of capturing fleeting little moments and wry observations that otherwise could be lost. It could be argued that these moments deserve to be lost but it’s strangely reassuring to realize that your friends and the people whose work you admire go through the same sometimes stupid, sometimes sublime everyday shit you do.
Twitter has the potential to unite so it’s ironic that it seems to be dividing people into Twitter people intent on spreading the gospel of pithy observations and 24-hour navel gazing and Twitter haters. How do you guys feel about Twitter? Has it altered the way you perceive the world at all? Has your thinking been Twitterized?
In her piece, the Huffington Post person writes that Twitter has affected her dreams. I recently went on the sleep aid Trazedone and that has been fucking with my dreams. I generally don’t remember my dreams but since going on Trazedone I’ve recalled dreams both of Johnny Cash dying and someone offering a Rosetta Stone for understanding Southland Tales. I’m not a big fan of dreams generally. My subconscious likes to fuck with me after I’m out for the night. Mr. Dream Merchant is never all, “Hey, how bout that Jennifer Connelly fantasy tonight?” No, it’s all, “Hey, what if you were back in high school only this time you have tentacles for limbs! That’s what we’ve got on tap tonight for your dreaming pleasure!”
Not surprisingly, I tend to dream about pop culture an awful lot. So here is my third pointless question for y’all. What are your weirdest pop culture dreams?
In closing I apologize for the half-assed nature of this post. I had three fuzzy ideas for blog posts I thoughtfully combined in hopes of creating a just barely-adequate enough blog post. I dunno if I succeeded.