Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Across the Universe, the most original and groundbreaking motion picture of the year

This will be a great movie for suckers.

They actually had the balls to name the main character Jude? How many times must this fictional guy hear "hey Jude" in a week? How many times are we going to hear it in the movie before snickering? It probably happens only once, to not call attention to the head-slappingly apropos nature of the choice, but downplaying it only points more attention to it.

That's the least of the problems, of course. Imagine (if you'll pardon the choice of word) the committee of board members at Sony, proud owners of at least part of The Beatles catalogue of songs and the movie studio to cash in on it. They know the most popular band on Earth will sell at least a few movie tickets, even if the band themselves aren't in it. Witness sometime if you dare the 1978 guest star clusterfuck Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band starring The Bee Gees - THE BEE GEES! - as stand ins for the fab four. That was the first naked cash-in and this one deserves to tank just as hard at the box office so we'll perhaps be spared another 25 yeas before the next one.

The premises of the two are at least apparently equal in corniness. But whereas The Bee Gees played starry eyed innocent musicians seduced by the phony world of the music business before chasing after their magical instruments, which are to be used by an evil organization whose motto is "We Hate Love, We Hate Joy, We Love Money" (re-read that sentence again if it helps), "Across The Universe" is rooted in cliches that hadn't yet crystallized before the Baby Boom generation was quite old enough to begin congratulating itself at every opportunity for virtually any reason.

Here we have a starry eyed young innocent, or several of them, who only want to enjoy peace and love and generally fuck around doing nothing at their leisure. They go to New York City, the place where at least in the movies, fatuous dreams come true. Wouldn't you know it, though, at this point in the trailer we realize it's the 60s - or is it? Hard to say when the period costuming is analogous to a Gap commercial.

As every review of this film will glibly point out (on behalf of the Sony marketing department), setting the story in the period of the music's origin adds "resonance" and "relevance" to an otherwise pointless excuse for making some new Beatles music videos and stringing them together into a movie. After all, isn't Iraq the same as Vietnam? The producers would prefer you think it is, otherwise the film just seems all the more like...well, cynical marketing. Surely the music of The Beatles wouldn't be exploited for such capitalistic means?

All that said, those music videos strung together around some threadbare "give peace a chance" plot (gotta love the shot of someone watching televisions behind a store window showing MLK, Vietnam et all - wow, there sure was a lotta crazy stuff happening those days!) don't even look particularly exciting on a visual level. At least Sgt. Pepper: The Movie had the forbearance to be awash in the gaudiest of 70s excesses for future generations to cringe at. Hell, it even literalized "For the Benefit of Mr Kite" first, which you can see a snippet of Eddie Izzard doing AGAIN for this film at 01:58.

"Across The Universe" seems doomed in it's feelie-goodie blandness to be fast forgotten as anything but another monument to White Suburban Baby Boomer's endlessly egomaniacal self-mythologizing, and their shameless eagerness to claim credit for anything cool or fun from the 60s like The Beatles as a part of their deliberately nebulous "revolution" which ended promptly soon after the draft was over. More insidiously, it's an appeal to their children (people like me) who've been raised to idealize them and their youth culture as the 20th century's penultimate highlight.

The only people who deserve a free pass for wanting to see this thing are 12 year olds who have just decided The Beatles are like, the greatest band ever (as they probably are), and aren't too discriminating or cynical enough to avoid being target-audienced by a slick con job of insincerity like this one. Anyone else is either a sucker or doesn't give a shit about artistic integrity. Stay home and watch one of the movies The Beatles were actually in, for god's sake. Moulin Rouge! didn't have this much exploitation of brand recognition.

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