Column, Movie Diary

Different strokes for different folks

By Dom Cioffi

Like most teenagers these days, my son has an affinity for the popular music that dominates the charts. Thankfully, while I am forced to listen to the occasionally track by Yung Gravy and Juice World, he also appreciates plenty of classic rock staples from bands like the Eagles, Aerosmith, and the Beatles.

It’s always been important to me that my son be exposed to various types of music. He’s been patient as I’ve forced him to listen to everything from the “Evita” soundtrack to Mile Davis’ “Kind of Blue.” In return, I’ve never squashed his interest in the pop music being forced-fed to his generation.

However, I have had countless conversations with him about what’s passing as “music” these days in an attempt to make sure he’s educated on the topic. (I know even broaching that subject makes me look old, but I can’t help myself.)

For instance, while we were watching Saturday Night Live last season, I went into a tirade about the lack of instrumentation and the level of effects on musical guest Travis Scott’s voice. I also took issue with his stage presentation, which was more theater than live music.

In the end, I argued that what Travis Scott did definitely qualified as performance art, but there was no way I was acknowledging it as live music.

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about slamming rap music. There’s plenty of artists within the genre that I appreciate and even admire. The wordsmithing of Eminem alone gives credibility to the art form.

Maybe it’s my age, but I can only truly appreciate art that I feel I can’t pull off on my own. If I see a painting in a gallery that looks like a bunch of spatters, I’m rarely going to give it my attention. My brain immediately goes to, “If I had a canvas, some paint and a brush, I’m confident I could do a better job than that.”

I suppose the same can be said for the content that my son and his friends are consuming online. While I grew up on a bevy of television masterpieces like “The West Wing” and “The Office,” kids these days are watching guys bounce ping-pong balls through elaborate mazes via online channels. Sure, it’s cool to see someone pull off a unique stunt, but spending hours watching this stuff certainly lowers the bar on what qualifies as quality entertainment.

I feel sad in some ways that younger generations will never know the allure of waiting all week for Thursday night at 9 p.m. to arrive so you could gather together in front of your televisions to watch the next episode of “Seinfeld.”

The internet is overwrought with brain-draining content and it keeps getting worse. While it used to be fun to see a video of someone slipping on the ice (remember “America’s Funniest Home Videos”), nowadays the majority of these videos are completely staged. Lately, I’ve noticed an influx of prank videos where the person being pranked is obviously in on the gag, which requires a lot less planning and execution. It’s like professional wrestling without the athleticism.

I keep waiting for everyone in the world to go, “Hey, wait a minute! This is garbage. This is just sucking my attention away. Can someone please create a worthwhile distraction?”

When I watch a movie, I want to be entertained in a variety of ways: I want the dialogue to be subtle and creative; I want the atmosphere to match the emotion of the scene; I want the characters to be interesting and layered; I want the lighting to enhance everything that is happening; I want the ambient sounds to augment the tension that’s building; I want the storyline to be so compelling that I forget I’m just a passive viewer to the action.

That’s what I call worthwhile entertainment. The stuff that merely sucks your attention is not art, it’s a distraction.

But all too often these days, distraction is being offered up as entertainment, and it’s lowering the bar on what people (especially kids) find acceptable.

I would quantify this week’s feature, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” to be a great example of a low-level distraction being offered up as viable motion picture. Sure, there’s a few gotcha moments that are shocking, but the majority of the picture is just one poorly lit, poorly edited mess.

The original Borat film was a huge success and I admittedly enjoyed the prank element that it embodied. I expect Sacha Baron Cohen to cross the line (which he did on several occasions), but the overall piecemeal storyline did little to keep me interested.

Check this one out if you can’t seem to look away from Borat’s antics. Just be prepared for some terrible filmmaking wrapped up in a tedious distraction.

A blasé “C-” for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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