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January 27, 2014

Netflix's New "Mitt" Documentary Apparently So Affecting and Humanizing Liberals Regret Watching It

I hear nothing but good things.

So far, the reviews of the film, which went live on Netflix Friday, have been remarkable for their consistency. Mitt, we are told in one identical article after another, reveals a shockingly likable “other side” to the candidate. It “humanizes” him. It “pulls back the curtain,” or “goes behind the scenes,” to “reveal a fuller, more intimate portrait” of a man who proved elusive during the election. If only this movie had been released during the campaign, many have argued, it might have changed the outcome of the race. If only voters had been able to meet the Real Mitt Romney.

...

As I watched the movie with my wife and another Mormon couple on Friday night, I began to take note of every time something on the screen provoked a sympathetic sigh from our small audience. It happened when one of Mitt’s grandkids jumps on top of him in the snow; when the ever-frugal Mitt opts to keep his old sturdy winter gloves instead of new ones that were gifted to him (“These work great!”); when a tearful Ann Romney kneels in a hotel on the eve of the 2008 New Hampshire primary and leads the family in prayer, telling the Lord that their “motives are pure” and asking for strength to endure the daily persecutions of campaign life; when, upon realizing he’s going to lose the election, Mitt immediately begins consoling his family members, worried that the failed campaign may harm his sons’ careers.

When Mitt is shown, hours before a big debate, diligently cleaning up after a trash can that has tipped over on a windy hotel balcony, someone watching with me remarked, “He’s such a good guy.”

And when Mitt, upon seeing the 2008 New Hampshire primary returns, stifles a curse word by adopting a silly falsetto and exclaiming, “That’s not good!” my wife turned to me and said, “Oh my gosh, Mitt Romney is my dad.”

I have to watch this at some point. I'm afraid it will make me depressed.

Speaking of movies that depress me, there's a movie thing that's been annoying me for a while.

It's this: Action movies and horror movies frequently require a hero, villain, or monster to suddenly jump out at someone, to take him by surprise. Fine.

But what bothers me is that character who suddenly appears often was invisible to the camera -- that is, he was off-screen, out of shot, outside the outer edge of the frame of the camera's picture -- but he was not actually hidden behind anything existing in the world of the film itself.

That is, he's hidden from the movie audience because the camera was deliberately avoiding him, but if you consider the state of affairs from the point of view of every character in the scene, he would have been right out in the open.

I see this a lot. It annoys me a lot. I see characters pop out of nowhere, but when you look closely at the physical space the scene takes place it, it becomes apparent they must have literally popped out of nowhere, because there is no convenient door-jamb or Chinese room divider they could have been hiding behind before jumping into view of the camera.

I mentioned this in an email to the cobs on Friday. Gabe brought up this scene from The Dark Knight, in which Batman literally materializes -- through magic, I guess -- among five different people, in the middle of open space, with no hiding places at all.

Skip to 3:00 to see Joker menacing Rachel Dawes -- no one in the middle of the room except for the Joker, three goons, and Rachel Dawes; the rest of the party is way back from them, standing away from the center group -- and then Batman teleports in.


Where did he come from? Was he hiding in Rachel Dawes' chooch the whole time?

Now you might say, "Well, that's Batman. He's always doing things like that. Plus he has League of Shadow training, which, who knows, maybe includes deployment of hallucinogenic gases that make people not see you or something."

But they don't just do it with Batman. Even minor characters with no names and no skills can achieve this trick when a director is too lazy to set the scene properly.

Lethal Weapon 4 was horrible and you know that. But I'm posting this just to illustrate this movie cliche. Right in the beginning, a nameless thug emerges out of... nowhere to put a gun to Roger's head.

Moments later in the scene you see the rest of the room. Where was that guy hiding before he burst into frame?

Russ says this happens in the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, too (and a hundred other movies), but I haven't watched that yet.

Gabe notes that TV Tropes deems this one aspect of a broader phenomenon called Offscreen Teleportation, a movie conceit which posits that if a character is off-camera for even a second, he can and probably will move to anywhere else by the time the camera next takes notice of him, regardless of whether this is plausible or even possible.

Anyway, this annoys me, and it should annoy you too.

Please note your own movie annoyances, if you like.

Oh One More Thing: I re-watched It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World last night.

It was... well, kind of not as good as you're hoping. I remember feeling that the first time I saw it, when I was fairly young.

And here's something else I felt this time that I felt then, too: The whole Fire Ladder sequence at the end is supposed to be funny, and it sort of is, but it's something else, too. It's... horrifying, actually.

It reminds me of the gory special effects you'd see in movies like Rollercoaster (mad bomber blows up roller coasters and sends cars full of people flying) or The Fury (psychic psychopaths use mental powers to cause... rollercoaster cars to go flying off the tracks, killing people... This was a popular way to movie-kill people in the mid-seventies, it turns out).

There's something just unsettling about it, about watching that ladder sway and throw people off of it. It moves sort of plausibly, as we'd expect out-of-control, hydraulic-powered heavy machinery to move. A machine moving like that is a realistic threat to human life.

And yet it seems possessed of a deliberative power-- that it's choosing what to do with each character. Almost like it's an instrument of a Vengeful God assigning a painful torment to each of the characters.

Anyone else feel like that?

Or is it just funny?

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posted by Ace at 05:44 PM

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