A New York Winter's Tale

The Movie that the Music Was Watching


It's too sappy to be truly weird, and too sappy to be actually sappy.
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Reported on 21st of April, 2014

When I was doing Treasure Island I wrote a script in symphonic format, because it always bothered me that multiple things were going on in films, and you couldn’t describe simultaneity.

Yep. I was that guy.

Yes, I was the worst person ever, but my punishment was just: I will never be allowed to make another movie again, and furthermore be forced to watch crap. Your punishment is that I will tell you all about it. No, I don’t know what you did. Your punishment is never knowing why, or knowing why there are two punishments. Including the last one.

What make me think of this score approach to filmmaking was the music from A New York Winter’s Tale, which was clearly watching a different movie. All the various ‘ooh, sinister’ and ‘aww’ cues didn’t seem to match anything in the film, which itself wasn’t matching anything else in itself.

A New York Winter's Tale

10 April 2014 @ The Leatherhead Theatre


$4.50 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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Even the title has a kind of F# in C feel, as A Winter’s Tale In New York was not the original name. Titled A Winter’s Tale in the US, the difference was doubly underlined by the fact that the only trailer I saw after the 17 minutes of commercials was the extremely long ad for, not a movie, no, but a live projection of the Royal Opera Production of – that’s right – A Winter’s Tale. Which explains why they had to the change the title in the UK. Shakespeare’s lawyers. Which he…killed? I’m lost. Why I’m as lost as someone seeing…A New York Winter’s Tale!

'My father says nothing happens here that isn't supposed to. Oh my God, I just realized. I can beat the maid as much as I want. Anytime I want! Clarissa!'

'Everything happens for a reason, mum.'

Now I’m making it sound more fun that it is, but it does fit in to the theme of this year in cinema. 2011 was the worst year in cinema history, 2013 one of the best, and I’m fairly sure that 2014, what with Noah, Under the Skin and this, will be the Year of the Apeshit Crazy Ape-Horse. Some films will be fun insane, some good insane and some kind of blandly insane. They will all be insane. Our case in point is a bit bland, and a bit sweet. It’s too sappy to be truly weird, and too sappy to be actually sappy.

But besides the sense that the audience or the music or the director doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, there’s the sense that the characters don’t know either. The film, I tentatively think, is about angels and demons fighting it out for souls or something. But when miracles actually occur on screen, everyone seems to go oooh, and aaah (and the music goes, ‘Weeeeeeeee!’), seemingly confused that they are working for the devil.

Even after Mr. Kevin Corrigan speaks one of the more memorable lines: ‘Miracles are down by half in Brooklyn’, he forgets what this film is about.  I know that you’re the devil, but other than your face opening up when you ate the waiter and drew a picture in his blood, I thought it was metaphorical. You know, like the by-line of the fake newspaper we all read: The New York Sun: It Shines For All.

Get it?

No, really. I’m asking. Does that mean it shines for everyone, including the devil? How does this whole fate thing work anyway? Is light doing something, or is it just a metaphor? I’m asking. Do you get it?

Also, bear with me, there’s that moment in Super Hot Purple Haired Girl Video Game Movie – I think that’s the title – you know, where he draws a scribble of the girl with the hair, and expects people to find her. In A New York Winter’s Tale, they actually do this, except for 1) it’s drawn in blood (see evisceration of waiter, above) and 2) utterly without awareness that they are a) stealing (we’re in sub-headings, so have to switch to lower case letters) and b) it’s a bit. If you make an indecipherable scribble, and say ‘Find her!’, the joke is no can find her. I guess it made some kind of sense since they were looking for ‘the red-haired girl’. That’s what he picked that particular waiter. His blood wasn’t blond.

Ah, The Leatherhead Theater. A mostly legit stage with good cheap snacks. And only an hour's drive. Commitment. That's why you're reading this.

Ah, The Leatherhead Theater. A mostly legit stage with good cheap snacks. And only an hour’s drive. Commitment. That’s why you’re reading this.

Now I’m probably coming down a bit hard on a movie that tries to be sweet, and of course I teared up a few times. It’s got a magic horse, fer chrissakes. It also has Mr. Russell Crowe saying, in his finest brogue: ‘He’s god da goddam horse!’

But I shall stand by the possibly polemic ‘too sappy’ as actual criticism. There’s a moment early on, when I desperately scribbled down one of the various passes-as-wisdom voiceovers: ‘Each baby contains a miracle inside’, not realizing that it would be repeated enough times to remember it verbatim. See, we’re in one of those The Secret influenced ya-yas, where various types pontificate how anything bad is God’s fault and anything wonderful is their doing. I think my favorite example of this new-age-y guilt avoidance tactic (sorry, ‘ethos’) would be when we arrive at Coohinees or something, which as a giant mansion, is a special, nay, magical place: ‘My father says nothing happens here that isn’t supposed to. Oh my God, I just realized. I can beat the maid as much as I want. Anytime I want! Clarissa!’

‘Everything happens for a reason, mum.’

And so on. Look, I’m all for positive outlooks and the like, but there’s a bit of a stretch when it’s set in this environs. ‘What if we are all unique and the universe loves us equally?’ That’s swell, but it usually fails to include the logical afterwards: ‘Except for the dirty Somalians, Bosnians, Chinese workers who make our iPads, and pretty much anybody who’s poor, sick or crazy. The universe fucking hates them.’

But, as usual, this boils down to story. See, it’s all about miracles and how everyone is good to someone else and again, very sweet. And I can stomach (barely) the devil motivations: to be evil! Yawn! But put these two together and nothing can ever happen, which is kinda the point I should have made a while ago. Everything happens for a reason unless the devil prevents it. But if he prevents it, then it didn’t happen for its reason. Ergo the devil is doomed to attempt to make things the way he wants, knowing he will never, not even in one instance, ever succeed.

Hey, that’s my punishment. No fair.

The Take

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Profits!
The obligatory inclusion of Ms. Jennifer Connelly, who is seemingly the poster girl for the Year of the Apeshit Crazy Ape-Horse.
$3.00
I did love the Devil’s Day Trading Floor.
$2.00
There were six people at this, the very last screening, anywhere, of A New York Winter’s Tale, all extremely old, and very chatty. It was like a 1999 audience at the Mann’s Chinese trying to be heard over a 1993 audience at the Hollywood Galaxy 6.
$2.00
Weirdly, this film, and its utter commitment to nuttiness, is growing on me, unlike The Double, which is something that grew on me. Something which I then had the doctor remove.
$1.00
I think it’s because of the White Horse, who is also a seemingly a dog (yep), who is nice and saves people.
$4.00
The casting, finally, of Mr. Will Smith as the Devil…
$2.50
Total Profits
$14.50
Losses!
…reading a Brief History of Time. Ouch.
$6.00
Lazy Tropes!
Extremely slow acting poison.
$1.00
‘There’s going to be a dance at midnight on New Year’s Eve, which is a very specifically delineated time limit!’
$2.00
Amnesia. Why not?
$3.00
‘Look out for the light! Don’t forget this extremely specific warning!’
$3.00
A you-don’t-believe-me-but-I’m-not-kidding Freeze. Frame. Ending. Fer Realsies.
$4.00
Problem. Each of these counts as hard camp, which is in the plus column, so let’s divide the subtotal by three, then add $1 for our free will and we subtract…
$9.00
Screw it. You should see this movie.
Total Losses
$10.00

$4.50

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