Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

‘Paranormal Activity,’ ‘This Is It’ make amateur mistakes

“Paranormal Activity”

The once palpable hype surrounding Oren Peli’s $15,000-budget market-genius thriller may have dissipated by now, but it’s cinematic influence (unfortunately) may last well into the next decade. In less than a month it’s become somewhat of a pop-culture sensation, making sparse appearances in college towns before Paramount let the cat out of the bag earlier this month.

While it seems as though Peli took a cue from “The Blair Witch Project,” a film whose unmemorable bereavement called for parodies galore, “Paranormal Activity” utilizes less noxious documentary style. You’re overwhelmed by long still shots instead of wobbly running scenes (though, it has its fair share). This style of cinematography (if it can be called one) can only lead to a few jolts and jumps; don’t be fooled by the overwrought ads that don’t even show you the actual footage, this film won’t even come close to chilling your spine.

The film is patient to a fault: the build up: some fifty minutes or so until you get anything remotely “scary”: is as annoying as it is unremarkably unbelievable. It is annoying because of the tediously disjointed relationship that almost seems forced between the protagonists, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat). The dialogue is accurately quotidian (though there is no way Katie is a Spanish major; I would know!), but it offers no redeeming value and, instead, cultivates a perhaps unwarranted abhorrence of Micha. As my two (lady) friends sitting next to me noted, “Could he be any more of a jerk? Why won’t he really listen to her?”

Unremarkable because it lacks any sort of dramatic force and injects superfluous characters, such as the psychic Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs), that attenuates any sort of psychological quivers you may have had. Moreover, the movie is fraught with amateur incongruities. There are several contradictory camera sequences and ridiculous premises, including the couple’s living situation and the camera Micah’s decided to buy, which make the story incipiently unbelievable.

If there are any positives to this philistine, cheap non-thrill, it is the film’s brutally cold ending that seasonably lacks the assumed Hollywood-contrived plot twist. But, then again, this film doesn’t really have much plot to twist.

“Paranormal Activity” purports an experience rather than a movie. At least the latter is correct. But, if we take them at their word, I’m puzzled as to why this 96-minute feature film wasn’t kept as a six-minute YouTube masterpiece.

“Michael Jackson’s This Is It”

A documentary in the crudest sense of the word, “This Is It” presents a montage of sequences that claim to offer a “rare glimpse into the creative psyche that defined pop music’s shape and trajectory.” Alternatively, this film offers something of another kind: A lengthy rehearsal film with no narrative coherence that remains eye candy for those who can’t get enough Michael Jackson footage.

Admittedly, Jackson will be remembered as one of the most choreographically sound pop-stars of all time. Luckily, there is enough in this film to appreciate the difficulty of achieving perfection, an objective Jackson prioritized his whole career.

But the pile of unedited, unstitched and uncouth clips (or, what director Kenny Ortega likes to call “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”) never really comes together and, in the end, you invest your empathy not in Jackson, but in his poor dancers who idolize him so much yet receive so little: Only a hand-holding circle scene when Jackson decides to give some providential advice about all things platonic do the dancers get to spend off-stage time with the King of Pop.

Sometimes I wonder whether Ortega would’ve considered tossing Jackson into one of his “High School Musical” ventures, a hypothetical situation that, in itself, yields more food for thought than this entire “movie.”

A disclaimer at the beginning of the movie reads, “for the fans.” But, if the above review is any indication, only die-hard, obsessionados will begin to appreciate the content of this stylistically bare, behind-the-scenes footage that’s been advertised as a film.

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