My literary wing-man, Sheldon Gleisser, felt compelled to create a scaled for the obtusity of movies after seeing Annihilation. Not that it was a bad movie, but even if you had read the book which shared a title and few other points with it, you still had no idea what was going on when the credits rolled. It may have been artistic, but it was definitely obtuse. Perhaps not as mind-numbingly obtuse as 2001, but way more than the Andromeda Strain that made sure to explain the scientific process through-out and wrapped up with a voice-over. Voice-overs are Kryptonite for obtuse movies.
So, sitting down at the local B&N with hot beverages, we hammered out a ten point scaled for Movie Obtusity: The Gleisser-Matulich Obtusity Scale, or GMO. You really don’t want this GMO in your popcorn.
In considering if a movie is Obtuse, there are three primary factors we looked at. The first is Accessibility. If the film is set in a milieu that is recognizable to the audience, like a contemporary drama or frequently seen historical era like the Western or WWII, the audience will be able to grasp the context without too much effort. A thriller set in Pre-Columbian Central America without English dialogue risks being Obtuse.
The second factor is Plot Clarity. If everything on the screen does not need explanation, or is explained in grueling detail, the film is not Obtuse. If the hero of the film moves from a vehicle in space to a prolonged special-effects sequence to a French Provincial bedroom, this is Obtuse.
The final consideration is Interior Logic. If every single event in a film comes from a previously seen event and extends to the next event, it is a least less Obtuse. If the teenage hero is haunted by the dead man in the rabbit suit he will accidentally kill in the third reel, not so much.
So here is the initial version of the Gleisser-Matulich Obtusity Scale. Feel free to suggest additions or changes of point value. Just, please don’t be obtuse about it.
Level 1: Where the Hero is always right & no-body thinks too much.
The Andromeda Strain
any Steve Reeves gladiator movie
most John Wayne movies
Level 2: Well, That’s Something New.
Level 3: Yeah, I Guess That Makes Sense
The Legend of Hell House
The Towering Inferno
Level 4: Whatever…
The Poseidon Adventure
Level 5: Here be Anti-Heroes & Ambivalence
Kong: Skull Island
any of the Clint Eastwood Man with No Name films
Level 6: I’ll Watch This Again Later
Star Trek: the Motion Picture
Level 7: I Think This Might Be Bad
The Shape of Water
The Manchurian Candidate
Level 8: Everything You Know is Wrong
Level 9: Would Someone Care to Explain This?
Level 10: WTF Did I Just Watch?
Jodorowski’s Magic Mountain