The following is a blog (of sorts) where I discuss movie-related and site-related thoughts that I can't express within the confines of a normal review.  Some of them may be responses to e-mail I've received, trailers I've seen, or just an overall theme not specific to a movie.  Most of these writings are meant strictly for me, but I do consider them of potential interest to those of you that love movies or are just interested in the running of the site in general.  I welcome any feedback you might have on any of the subjects listed in this (or any other) section of my site.

8/27/2006 -- Stupid parenting = Smarter children

One of the reviews I get my share of flack for is the one I did for the well-meaning but highly artificial drama I Am Sam, which apparently rubs some young female readers out there the wrong way, since those are the ones that have sent me notes on what they feel is a ridiculous review of a movie they enjoy.  Here's the latest from someone called Marjorie (pardon the all-caps style, it is how I received it):

WELL I'M SORRY TO SAY THAT I THINK YOU'RE TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT THE FILM. STARTING WITH THE BEATLES.. I MEAN.. IM A SEVENTEEN-YEAR OLD GIRL WHO  DOESNT KNOW MUCH ABOUT THEM, AND STILL FOUND THE SOUNDTRACK WAS JUST PERFECT FOR THE FILM. AND IT MADE IT MORE SPECIAL JUST BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT IT WAS JUST FROM ONE BAND.. A FAMOUS BAND THAT MEANT A LOT IN THE 60'S - 70'S AND IS NOW LEGEND. I THINK IT WOUDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITH ANOTHER SOUNDTRACK. IT'S NOT THE FILM PRODUCER'S FAULT IF YOU HATE THE BEATLES.  ANOTHER POINT IS THAT I THINK ALL PARENTS WEREN'T SUITABLE FOR THE GIRL, EVEN IF THEY WOULD'VE FOUND THE PERFECT ONES, IT WOULD'VE BEEN WRONG, CAUSE THE FATHER IS THE FATHER, THAT'S IT. LUCY IS EXACTLY THE GIRL THAT FITS THAT TYPE OF LIFE AND FATHER SHE HAD. AFTER SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF NOT WANTING TO LEARN, SHE HAS TO BE , PSYCHOLOGICALLY, MORE INTELLIGENT THAN THE FATHER, SINCE THERE HAS TO BE AN ADULT IN A FATHER DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP. IF HE'S NOT , THEN SHE HAS TO BE . IT'S A MATTER OF PSYCHOLY IF YOU DON'T KNOW. YOU ALSO WROTE THAT EVRYONE'S SUPPOSED TO BE SCREWED UP IN THE FILM. WELL IF YOU DON'T KNOW (ANOTHER MATTER OF PSYCHOLOGY) IS THAT EVERYONE IS SCREWED UP IN SOME WAY, FOR PROBLEMS THAT STARTED IN THE CHILDHOOD. AND THIS PROBLEMS ARE ONLY SHOWN WHEN YOU GROW UP AND BECOME AN ADULT. WELL THE MOVIE JUST SHOWED THIS PROBLEMS BECAUSE IT IS A DRAMA FILM AND NOT AN ACTION FILM. I'M SORRY IF I'M BOTHERING YOU WITH ALL MY COMMENTS, BUT I REALLY THINK YOU SHOULD TRY TO ANALYZE THE CHARACTERS MORE PROFOUNDLY THAN YOU DID. THEN YOU WOULD REALIZE THAT EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER HAD TO BE THAT WAY BECAUSE OF IT'S LIFE AND CIRCUMSTANCES. REMEMBER I'M JUST 17, AND I THINK YOUR OPINION IS JUST CHILDISH. THANKS FOR READING MY LETTER.

OK, Marjorie. Let's start with the Beatles, as you suggest.  I Am Sam contains no original Beatles recordings.  Rather, they are covers by modern bands like Sheryl Crow, The Wallflowers, Ben Harper, among others.  If the makers had used the original Beatles recordings, perhaps I could have given the film a pass for merely trying to incorporate a beloved band into the feeling of the overall movie and leave it at that.  They didn't.  Why not?  Well, for one thing, you can get all of those Beatles songs on any number of compilations on CD already, and you're not likely to buy a soundtrack filled with songs you already own, or can buy for less money on another album.  The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the powers-that-be behind the film want to sell as many soundtracks as possible, hauling in a bunch of popular artists of different genres.  I have no problem with the Beatles, who are what I consider to be one of the greatest bands of the 20th century; I don't have a problem with any of the covers either.  I do have a problem with films that are overbearing in their commercialized use of songs to hock merchandise, especially when the film is much longer than it needed to be due to said musical interludes to sell the soundtrack.

One of the few true Beatles tie-ins comes from Sam's assertion that "All you need is love".  While I'm all for children being raised by parents that show them ample amounts of love, affection and attention, what I object to in the film is the manipulative way this is presented.  In order to have us all rooting for Sam, nearly every other possibility for child care has to be deemed as far worse for Lucy.  I would have respected the film far more if everyone in the film were shown to have Lucy's best interests at heart, but it is never really presented in a meaningful fashion.  In terms of argumentation, getting us to be on Sam's side is an easy slam-dunk, since Lucy is the epitome of what everyone wishes their child would be like.  Had Lucy been shown to be deficient in any single area, we'd have a much different movie, but she doesn't -- in fact, Lucy is far more intelligent, sweet, and gifted than any child of her age I've ever met in my lifetime.

You argue that, because her parent is mentally challenged, then she would naturally be more intelligent and adult because her father is less mature and smart.  It sounds plausible until you realize that, using this argument, we adults should all act really stupid and childish around children if we wish for them to grow up as intelligent, confident, and well-adjusted people.  I can't really relate to this argument, and do believe that treating children with intelligence and showing maturity will produce much better results, but I can't claim to be an expert on child care.  What I can claim to be an expert on is what I like and don't like about a movie.  I Am Sam presents fantasy scenarios where a child has been raised to be prodigious by a mentally challenged man.  While, within the course of the film, you can't help but feel she is better off with Sam than with any of the rest of the people involved, the way it is presented is too obvious and shallow for me to truly be engaged by.  If the film played closer to reality, I'd be far more interested in the love vs. intellect debate, but this film is so disingenuous, I just couldn't stomach any more of its attempt to control all sides of the argument, made far worse by a simpleminded, schmaltzy delivery.

If you still think my opinions are childish, blame my parents.  Perhaps they shouldn't have behaved like intelligent adults around me.

2006 Vince Leo