Monday, July 5, 2010

Looking behind the curtain

Well, it certainly appears as if I'm about to publish my first post that's not about baseball. But since I can't sleep -- and considering nobody even reads this blog anyway, so who the hell cares -- I'd like to use this space to discuss movies to some extent, when the inspiration strikes, and it seems like a good opportunity to start.

In the spirit of complete randomness, one topic I've been thinking a bit about recently is DVD extras or deleted scenes and whether or not they, I don't want to say ruin, but perhaps take away from the experience of watching a movie.

I've always been pretty much a purist -- adamantly averse to deleted scenes and all the "making of" documentaries that flash everyone the goods, revealing "How we did this!" "And why!" "And where!" "And when!" ... and I tend to feel that it's gotten to the point where movies are in danger of being completely spoiled by oversaturation of information from the "outside world," which robs the audience of the magic that was intended.

In other words, WORLDS COLLIDE! A movie doesn't really stand alone as a piece of art or exist as a pure and original entity anymore -- where we lose ourselves in this other life that was created -- because we're shown directly how it's being controlled -- and by our own devices no less!

Remember how disappointed you were when you saw the Wizard of Oz -- as he really is? Ugh ... time to go back home ...

I've always felt the same way about deleted scenes and have had a hard time grasping the concept. What's the point of including them? You've made the movie you wanted to make, you told the story, that should be it. Is it arrogance? Or maybe an inability to come to terms with the sacrifices you had to make to tell that story?

However, the whole collaborative aspect of movies fascinates me and I've found that I cannot watch a movie now without checking out the "making of" featurettes. And I've grown to feel that it hasn't really taken away from the movie itself, because I think I've learned to separate the two experiences.

Deleted scenes have been a tougher sell, but I recently watched a movie that actually may have shown me their value. And that movie is "Pirate Radio."

All you need to know about this flick is that it's about 90 minutes of shenanigans on a boat off the coast of Britain in the 1960s that plays outlawed rock and roll. I was thoroughly entertained, and surprisingly so.

But what was interesting, is that director Richard Curtis found it so difficult to leave some of the actors' performances on the scrap heap because they didn't fit into the flow of the story he decided to tell, that he included nearly another 90 minutes of deleted scenes featuring their work.

Now, in a movie like this that is structured around simple scenes, funny scenes, I think it works on a couple of levels. One, watching these was almost like being treated to a second hilarious movie ... and two, some of them gave a richer background on the characters that I did not get from the movie itself.

I found one of these scenes to be uniquely profound, and I've included it here. So, check it out and I'll tell you what I really love about this after you watch it.

Now, maybe you can make the argument that it was simply the Guatemalan woman (who starred in my dreams for weeks after I first saw this) that made this scene for me ... and you'd probably be correct.

But I loved the beach hut bar on the other side of the world being a stop on this character's (flamboyant dee-jay Gavin Cavanagh, played by Rhys Ifans -- I mainly remember him as wiry kicker Nigel in "The Replacements") travels; seeing the love of music bring completely different people together; demonstrating in no uncertain terms what those dee-jays on these rock n' roll boats were fighting for; the blissful outburst the Guatemalan man gives at the end of the clip, completely overcome with the proverbial joie de vivre; and maybe most importantly giving the character of Gavin -- who was somewhat shallowly represented in the movie -- much more depth that you would never have known about otherwise.

Perhaps the main question is, how in God's name could this scene be left out of the movie?? As far as I'm concerned, I have no trouble -- and sometimes prefer -- sitting through a three-hour movie that has complex characters and an enthralling storyline if it contains scenes like this.

But since we are apparently so impatient these days -- or perhaps that's how movie studios see us -- and moviemakers are so adamant to bombard their audiences with what I more often than not deem as overkill, then maybe I have to learn to perceive (some) deleted scenes in the same manner as, say, an appendix serves a book -- applying extra, and sometimes necessary information to the development of the characters.

Because if something I tend to find so arbitrary can be as compelling as this scene proved to be -- after all, it's prompted me to write about it at 4 in the morning -- it apparently has the power to accomplish the task of making a movie memorable, if not more so.

Or then again, maybe we should just keep scenes like this in their movies to begin with!


Monica E. Smith said...

Newspapers and journals, online or off, should be beating down your door. Your writing is fresh, thoughtful, insightfully provocative, and very much worth viewing--much like some deleted scenes from movies.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I thought the deleted scenes included in this DVD were equally, and for the above scene, better than the movie.