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September 12, 2018

Underrated masterworks

What is a masterwork?  It’s like, a really good film, right?

I started to debate the meaning of masterworks at university.  In the essays titles to choose from, one was, “The Greatest Masterworks are also some of the most immoral.”

Something like that.  I didn’t necessarily agree with the films chosen in “Masterworks of the cinema.”  I think included in the curriculum were Battleship Potemkin, Triumph of the Will, some gory horror film, Bring Me The Head of Garcia Alfredo, and a few other movies that I didn’t like either.  Some of these films could be called immoral, but masterworks?  I would have chosen different films.

So, I guess I’ll start a series of reviews called Underrated masterworks.

Why should a screenwriter (or director, or actor, or filmmaker of any kind) write film reviews?  Won’t I just be isolating people I intend to work with?  Meh.

We might also have a series on “overrated films”, to list films that shouldn’t be held up as models to follow.  Sure, some of these highly political films are historically interesting, as they changed the way people saw the world (for better or for worse), but, from a filmmaking standpoint, many of them are kind of bland.

Okay, so, now that we’ve dismissed overrated masterpieces, the series of underrated ones.

I’ll start with a great script that has been underrated, even if the production values are low.

Critics hate sequels. “Dumb and Dumber To” suffers from being both a sequel and a comedy. Come on now, let’s be honest, how many comedy sequels get the critic’s thumbs up? Even fewer than horror sequels.

I can understand that. I like new characters. However, I do believe that with Dumb and Dumber To, (unlike Mama Mia 2), we had broken new ground. Another generation, it’s not the same story really. We actually brought the same characters forward in time.  It’s funny.

(Mamma Mia 2, according to one of the actors, is like “going to an old party that was ten years ago.”  He admitted that the storyline and characters were basically the same.  Just a rehash.)

Let’s be honest, it’s not a film I’d use to teach cinematography.  Or “blocking” and similar “visual” techniques in directing.  The production values are, how should we put it, it looks like television.  TV production values, especially in the outdoor scenes, make “Dumb and Dumber To” look cheap and even amateur at times.

But critics like TV, right?  I mean, they all cheer Netflix, and let’s be honest, some of those shows have handheld shots that would give you travel sickness on a big screen (and would be rejected by even the smallest local film festival.)  If you watch a lot of German films, you’ll see that some of them look far cheaper than their stated budget. (Such as the opening shot of Toni Erdmann.)

Why do critics hate Dumb and Dumber To?

Well, I can see why a critic over 40 would hate this film. We see something close to life, a life wasted for stupid reasons. Film critics waste their lives, watching stupid films, sometimes sequels.  It probably feels like they’ve been in a comma or a coma.

But, it’s not their own coma.  Instead, like Lloyd, they’ve been fooled by the cruel joke that criticising films actually leads somewhere. They just spend their lives in the cinema, watching terrible horror, independent comedy that’s not funny, changing crap over and over again. Some even watching tv. And it just gets Dumber and Dumberer.

Films like Dumb and Dumber To serve as a reminder that the critics themselves have passed their primes. Unlike City Slickers or Parental Guidance, Dumb and Dumber To doesn’t offer any redeeming message of a new opportunity in middle age.  No, it’s just a wasted youth, a cruel, stupid, joke. You’re just the same dumb ass film critic, only 20 years older, with no real career prospects.

But, if you’re not a critic, you can laugh.  The film is a send up of Mamma Mia in a way, where the mother of their daughter (or could be someone else’s daughter) helps them track down their progeny.

And their progeny is no prodigy.  There seems to be a genetic link there.

The critics say that the performances are great, but not the script or the directing.  Sure, they want an excuse for the audience to laugh.  “These geniuses can pull anything off, even if making fun of old washed out critics isn’t funny.”  Uh huh.

If you’re one of the few middle aged film critics who enjoys this film, then congratulations, you may just have the ability to laugh at yourself.

Is Dumb and Dumber To really a masterwork though?  Probably not.  The original is a masterwork, the sequel is underrated.  Put them together, and they’re an underrated masterwork.

Okay, now I’m not the only person who speaks of underrated masterworks.  Another blogger shares her ideas of underrated masterpieces.  While I disagree with her choices, well, I’ll just blog my own reviews.

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