Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scott Pilgrim - Rating: Awesome.

What do you do when a technology you like is co-opted by a business model you don't? Well, when Apple makes a PC, I'm content to ignore them. But what if the US were to mandate the installation of FM radios into...well, pretty much anything electronic and handheld - at the behest of the RIAA et al? I personally enjoy the FM tuner functionality of my Sandisk Sansa e260 (still better than your iPod nano), even if everyone else considers the technology somewhat quaint and outdated. Somewhere out there, I saw a commenter say "NPR is the only sound coming out of my radio now", which is sort of the camp I'm in; I sometimes like to listen to CBC radio while I'm walking. Would I prefer internet or satellite radio functionality? Quite probably, but then I'd have to get used to about half as much battery life as I want.

It's pretty obvious where I stand on this issue: mandatory FM radios are bullshit. This is a matter of customer preference, not safety...and I don't think it's consumer protection. False advertising is one thing: if you make a "digital music player" and don't bother to mention on the package that it will only play .rm files and not Mp3s, you're kind of a dirtbag. But a digital music player that plays your digital music and nothing more? That's exactly what most people are paying for, unless they're like me and demand a certain amount of additional functionality just in case. For that matter, I really like my FM radio because it can record songs, which I'll bet you is NOT part of what the RIAA wants in this deal.

I think this issue is making me revisit my stance on FM radios in my Mp3 players. Before it was a way to feel smug about how I could do some neat stuff that iPods didn't. Now, it's about letting go. Radio is dead, and now the RIAA's necromancy has enslaved its ghost. It stalks the air, screaming in agony as it is made to pour poison in our ears.

Has anyone thought about making a wifi or 3G enabled mp3 player with baked-in bittorrent? Pirate Pod: ARRRRRRR, shiver your tympanic membranes!

This might be a little hypocritical after I've spent a while bashing Big Media, but you should seriously go see Scott Pilgrim vs The World if you haven't already!

I've run into a little resistance among my incredulous friends, so I thought I might write a review in order to explain why people ought to do so. Scott Pilgrim does a few things wrong in its marketing. About seven of those things are Michael Cera, who is a lot more tolerable in this film than the trailers might have you believe. I also have a beef with that "epic of epic epicness" shit on the posters. Since its more-or-less monomythic, Scott Pilgrim is technically an epic tale. But as taglines go it still feels like its trying to hard, or that there is nothing to say about the content of the film BESIDES that it is epic, which is false. Scott Pilgrim is like....Star Wars*? Bohemian Rhapsody? Maybe the closest analogy is Buffy The Vampire Slayer; the trials and tribulations of adolesence/young adulthood, represented by supernatural enemies who must be defeated with Mortal Kombat/love (depending on what message we're sending this week).

*listen to the part where he talks about protagonists. Scott Pilgrim does it right, like the original Star Wars did.

(stop reading if you don't want spoilers) Scott Pilgrim does something especially wonderful, or something that I think is pretty good. You know the hapless protagonist a lot of movies have? The guy who just loses at everything until he gets a montage like halfway through the movie? Yeah, Scott Pilgrim isn't really like that. It surprised and delighted me when Scott actually fights the first time he's attacked by an Evil Ex. Especially after a scene in which Michael Ce--I mean, Scott has displayed a cute ineptitude with the ladies, it's good to know that he's got something going for him. I'll be clear: I don't need my heroes to be tough, but if they aren't they had better be sharp, or nimble...or, you know, something - anything - positive. If Scott just needed to beef up to defeat the Evil Exes, it would make the movie about overcoming a physical/skill-based weakness. It would be telling us that weak men must become Strong Men to win the respect of women. Scott's problem is not that he needs to gain strength or cunning - though he does develop and display both as he goes along - it's that he must wonder if the love of a woman is worth all of this strife. It allows the story to question the value of the fighting, and of his strength. There are two lines that stand out for me in this regard. Ramona says "you're just an Evil Ex waiting to happen" and "I'm tired of people getting hurt because of me" (separate occasions). Scott responds to the latter by saying he'll get over it, and she says "I don't mean just you". And we realize that while we've been rooting for Scott to beat the Exes and get the girl, he's been so myopically focused on his end goal that he no longer cares about the trail of bodies he's leaving behind on the way there. And back to the first of those two lines: doesn't that look familiar?

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Oh shit, IT'S NIETZSCHE! It's perfect: rather than making us cheer for a loser who eventually becomes a badass, we skip the depressing part at the beginning of the cycle...and are allowed time to question whether or not the badassification process has turned our hero into someone who no longer deserves the love he was fighting for. And in the end, what does Ramona value in Scott? That he is "The nicest guy [she] ever dated". Not the strongest, not the smartest, not the nimblest...the nicest.

This is by no means to be taken as a comprehensive review. I've not even touched on a lot of what makes the movie fun and well-made, but it is all of those things and more. Stop draggin' your stupid heels, shut up about how you can't stand Michael Cera and go see this goddamned fantastic film already!


1 comment:

Etarran said...

Those people familiar with the dynamic that Loud and I share regarding (especially) film might be interested to know that Scott Pilgrim is probably the only movie where, on leaving the theatre, I very nearly turned around and went right back in to watch it a second time. This movie is fucking excellent.

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