me versus scott pilgrim

i apologize to my comic-shopping brethren in advance. i know we are supposed to celebrate any instance of "the geek shall inherit the earth" that we can but not like this. never like this...

scott pilgrim vs. the world (2010) in a nutshell:

god, aren't video games and television awesome?

aren't relationships...wait, that word is a little intense. strike that. isn't "hanging out" difficult and confusing?

"what's the password?"

i just saved you nine dollars and two hours. you're welcome.

i'm obviously being glib but this movie gets right to the heart of pretty much everything i think is wrong with my generation on down. and before you start with your internal dialogue - "it's just a movie. in fact, it's just a comic book movie", et cetera - i'd like to make a couple of points clear.

one - no art is created in a vacuum. every creative act is, at the very least, a reflection of its creator and, more frequently than not, a direct reflection of the culture/era that spawned it. in addition to being a reflection, this movie doubles as an unintentional ringing indictment.

two - i have an abiding respect and affection for comics that aren't garbage. to make the "it's only a movie, and a comic book movie at that" argument discounts the potential of both media unfairly. comics, be they superhero or confessional/autobiographical (or somewhere in between), serve a number of functions for us. they are our mythology as well as the chronicle of the everyman. when done well, they are as honest, evocative, powerful and nuanced as any other creative endeavor. saying it's "just" a comic/movie only betrays a lack of understanding of the scope and potential of film and/or comics.

now, those things being understood, here are some of the things that i haven't been able to stop thinking about since i saw this thing 72 hours ago:

the lowering of the bar - sure, water seeks its own level but that doesn't mean because the average is so low that you get to start changing definitions. for example, and it's a mistake often made in this post-buffy world, having the snarky last word should not be allowed to pass for wit. tom stoppard is wit. there is a difference. you don't get to change that. times change but standards must remain. somewhere along the line, we have confused having pop culture with having a culture. we have confused knowing trivia with having wisdom.

this pathetic arrested adolescence - again, this started with my generation but has only gotten worse since. for instance, this epidemic of stating some version of "this is a thing of quality" (usually "awesome" occurs somewhere in the conversation. really? "awesome"? the goonies fills you with dread, veneration and wonder, either sacred or sublime?) when what you really mean is "this is a thing i remember fondly from my childhood, when i felt safe and my happiness was looked after" really needs to come to an end. the two aren't even remotely the same sentiment. you're obviously confused. yes, things can be both. how many times is that really the case, though? case in point, they are shooting a film version of the game battleship as we speak. $200 million budget. no joke. i'll bet it's going to be...awesome. and by awesome i mean a ridiculous travesty. look, it's the same argument i make over and over again - yes, green eggs and ham was incredible. when we were four. you're allowed to move on to something else. you're allowed to leave it behind.

you have a catch phrase. isn't that great? - this desperate childishness manifests itself practically everywhere, from the aforementioned inability to deal with relationships to the average white, middle class, vaguely hipsterish lexicon you will find if you spend more than twenty seconds online at a time:

blah blah blah? yes, please.
best. blank. ever.
definish, ridic, defs, bril, totes or any other bullshit like this.
and so on and so on.

here's an easy test - take the words you say, and the way you say them, and put them in someone else's mouth. imagine your grandmother saying it, imagine the president saying it, imagine samuel beckett saying it. if it sounds idiotic to you coming out of their mouths do you think that's unique to them? (the answer is no). all these phrases/devices can be retired. the sooner, the better. at best, they're lazy. at worst, they're infantile. you're adults, for christ's sake.

to be fair, at least the film was clever, but even that is almost a strike. "clever" is the zenith, this generation's epitaph. carve it on the great god eggers' tombstone and make your pilgrimage to it every year. i always think of pauline kael in cases like this (i am paraphrasing) and how the merely clever learn to write a parody of novels without ever learning to write novels. ultimately, it's empty. just like this movie. unless you think being twenty-odd years old but behaving as if you were perpetually fourteen is perfect. if being mumbly, precious and having an enviable 8-bit game collection is your highest ambition then you have found your citizen kane.



  1. I will agree with most of what you said here, though am I very guilty of overusing the word 'awesome.'

    I think 'clever' is a more powerful word than you're giving it credit for. Clever as a writing style is usually not the stuff of great classic novels, but characters that are clever are some of my favorite.

    The clever kid who comes along at the right moment and drops a funny line. The femme fatale in a good mystery, she's clever, but she's never smarter than the hero. Clever, dear friend, is a really good thing.

  2. On one hand I can say, well it's only made 20 million which is rather low.

    On the other I could say it's high rated on IMDB by users, which is never entirely accurate, but a good representation of reality.

    I agree with you and that is one thing I admire about your taste in art in general. You have a nose for BS and the high level you hold art accountable to and I admire that. Though I agree with you, I don't tend to take it near as serious, because honestly I have enough internal dialogue that holds me down, if I add too many outside sources I'm likely to go insane. Therefore I tend to take movies a bit lightly. There's a lot I hate about America and our over-powering need to suck the life out of everything and make it about money and not about art. It makes me insane that weekly movie results are judged on the money they bring in and it sickens me to see things like, "this weekend is down 12 million dollars from this time last year, but next week with (place blockbuster movie name here)it should rebound. Now I'm just pissing myself off. have to end it here.

  3. kate, i don't dislike cleverness as a quality. i am lamenting it as a terminal point. i love clever as a piece of a greater whole.

    robert! thanks for checking in. this puts me in mind of two things:

    one - my friend kevin recently reminded me of a piece of wisdom from aristotle that has always been a favorite. "we are what we repeatedly do. excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit". so, yes, i take it seriously. i'd like the sum total of my experiences to add up to something more than "dude, where's my car?". plus, film is the most complicated art form we have. my time is finite, so bs gets excised quickly, with any luck. i want to make room for the stuff that's going to push me, excite me, make me earn it. who wants to do what just anyone can do? the choice between ordinary or extraordinary is not even a choice.

    two - a conversation i was having a couple of days ago about how people adopt one standard for a certain medium but not others, e.g. film enthusiasts listen to anything that comes on the radio, music buffs that don't discriminate at all when it comes to film, et cetera. it's as if they have only enough energy/concentration to care about one type of art they take in, like they can't be bothered with maintaining a standard across the board. i know some film snobs that would scream to high heaven if you suggested they took in the cinematic equivalent of a beyonce record but they have no qualms about giving that much time in a week to shitty music in the car on the drive home from work. it's baffling to me. remind me to talk with you more about it some time soon.