September 08, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

This last Tuesday to the Tuesday before represented the single busiest public speaking period for me since Denver Film Festival week last October – I spoke in Beaver Creek twice for the last two films of their summer film series (Dark City and Spirited Away), completed a classic science fiction series for the Gilpin County Public Library (Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned), and subbed once, as a favor, for local NPR critic Howie Movshovitz (away at Telluride) for his monthly “Tattered Cover Film Series” at the Starz Filmcenter: a presentation of Mark Sandrich’s 1935 Top Hat. Four different presentations of four very different films, complete with notes (and sometimes handouts), to four different audiences in the course of seven days. It takes its toll on a guy in surprising ways.

But the most surprising thing when I first started doing this critic thing professionally (besides every other thing about this critic thing), was the amount of public speaking that you were expected to do in the course of your job: introducing films, conducting on-stage Q&A sessions with visiting talent, teaching the occasional course, lecturing the occasional captive audience. In the course of the last five years, I’ve spoken to groups of “at risk” high school kids about foreign films, gone to speak at a career day, and done something like two hundred post-film discussions – I’ve been on panels of film critics (sometimes with hostile filmmakers in the audience and on stage), facilitated post-screening discussions with Vincent Gallo, Cory McAbee, David Cronenberg, Bob Rafelson and others, moderated panels, been publicly slandered by a minor Canadian producer, served as a judge on a couple of festival juries – and, in the last couple of years, even been asked to program my own series. It’s fun if you like that sort of thing, I guess.

Anymore, it’s the only real pleasure that I take from the job.

The interaction with people immediately following one of these screenings is amazingly gratifying. You make a lot of assumptions about audience when you’ve experienced, first hand, dispiriting cinema only to have it gross into the nine-digits. The new wrinkle this summer was having to suffer some of your peers writing op pieces about how critics are “out of touch” when they slam some happy horseshit like Meet the Fockers only to have it go on to be the top-earning comedy of all time. When I chimed in with a two-star review of Million Dollar Baby, in fact, the vast majority of the hate mail had something to do with how did I dare to deviate from the (at one point) 99% of the rest of the critics (call it 100%, I was the 1%), and diss the best American movie ever made? Something about the rule of consensus – about mob think, yes?

Yet lost in that is the fact that right after the screening, I got into an argument with one of my colleagues – I said that it didn’t matter what else was released this year, Million Dollar Baby was going to win the Best Picture Oscar because, and I quote myself, “Oscar eats this shit with a spoon”. I went on the record in my Oscar predictions, for what it’s worth. I don’t know how that makes me out of touch, exactly; if you asked me after the aggressively mediocre (and timid, and conventional) The Wedding Crashers if it was going to do boffo business, I would’ve told you without reservation that it would. Gangbusters, in fact. It’s not so much that I’m out of touch as it is that I have a pretty good – and pretty cynical – idea about the kind of stuff that’s going to pack ‘em in.

If I get drawn into playing that game too much, I’d never leave the house. Maybe that’s what they mean by being “out of touch.”

It’s a tradition, one stretching all the way back to Gone with the Wind, that films that are mediocre in just the right way for just the right time, will rake in the bucks and draw in the awards. A truism as staunch as the one that states that the truly exceptional films from any era are doomed to be discovered in subsequent eras – fodder for wise-asses like me to later point back to their anemic grosses, arms crossed, nodding in insufferable self-satisfaction for the delight of the few people who never would have argued the point in the first place. Zero sum outrage: a policy of solipsism that infects a lot of criticism and, more troubling, the majority of American “prestige” cinema. I say this, he says cryptically, after screening Proof this week (starring Apple's mom and Donnie Darko). Too often, though, I’m just preaching to the choir – enough so that when I was asked recently what it was I hoped that my writing would accomplish, I said “nothing, I just want to be on the record, for right or for wrong, when the buzz fades.”

Last man standing, holding his junk in one hand and a tattered flag in the other: Dante would have a field day.

Anyway – you make a lot of assumptions about audience when you don’t meet the portion of the audience that very seldom goes to movies anymore. These are the folks, for the most part, who show up for moderated discussions at public libraries – in part to escape mainstream audiences, and in part to participate in a guided conversation about what they still perceive as a work of art designed to inspire instead of a piece of commerce designed to rob. The questions are almost always not what you expect – and the level of perception is almost always startling. (Like the near-universal suspicion of the happiness of Dark City’s ending, the offense taken from Klaatu’s dire ultimatum in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the almost universal disapproval that I told the story about ostrich feathers flying off Ginger Rogers’ dress during the “Cheek to Cheek” number in Top Hat.) Hard to call the culture war at an impasse, it’s the enthusiasm that greets these gigs that makes me think that a similar program attached to new release films (something that I did for a period of four months last year for the now-defunct Madstone Theaters – who folded up still owing me over 1,500 bucks – ah, the joys of freelance) might actually begin a trend of people talking about movies again in a way that might change, at least, the way that we approach films and, ultimately, the way that films are made.

As dreams go, it’s more likely to happen than the one I have involving Mary Louise Parker and Alison Elliot.


Appropriate to nothing, went shopping in my semi-affluent Denver suburb tonight when I hear a woman tell her child to "stay away from japs like that" referring to my clearly chink self. Fight the fight and there are still so many idiots in the world. And all we got to show for it is a simpering piece of moralizing crap like Paul Haggis' Crash.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Recently I stumbled upon a few articles written about you by a few bloggers and critics, which, among other things, accuse you of being a "pompous fraud" and "crazy" for bringing up race and misogyny in your reviews. The truth of the matter is, we live in a world where the public parameters of "racism" are determined by whether or not you burn crosses and use the n-word with impunity. The same goes for the content of movies, and their criticism: Take Ehren Kruger (God, there he is again!) who, in August alone, pumped the theaters with fear of the evil South (where everyone below the Mason-Dixon can manipulate the dark arts against the Northern babes-in-the-woods) and the evil French (where the wicked Jonathan Pryce, doing Maurice Chevalier/Inspector Clouseau, sputters something about quiche in his final breath); not that it ever goes mentioned by many critics, because they're afraid to go beyond a surface-scratch, or, God forbid, suggest that a piece of art may speak against the artist's intention. Kind of a wretched irony that the critics are becoming homogenized into three-star smiley faces, and the public still wags a finger at them for "if you can't say something nice..."

Frankly, I hope this "box office slump" (even though I'm sick to death of the term, which is always spoken with such maudlin finality that it's like a premature death knell for cinema) will do something, anything for the movies -- if nothing else than to (a) pare down the remakes and sequels, and (b) cut down on the goddamn celebrity gossip (with everyone quickly tiring of Dr. Tom Cruise taking on Katie Holmes, therapists, and Matt Lauer in a deadly cage match). Hollywood may not learn from many lessons, but money certainly talks.

Unfortunately, populist junk may have to wait for a few years, with The Dukes of Hazzard already greenlighted for a sequel... set in London. But maybe the underperforming Cinderella Man will be worth a second look against the shit-eating grin of the prestige picture. (Unless, of course, it gets the infamous dark-horse "fifth nomination" at this year's Oscars. Sigh. Maybe everyone will get sick of hearing about The Da Vinci Code once it's finally released.)

Once again it may be a spring of youthful hope or naivete, but damn it, going to the movies will always be my favorite, thrilling activity, even with these long stretches of terrible films. I think the ray of hope is still there; you may be preaching to the choir, but you may find the choir getting bigger, ever-so-slowly.

-- Ian

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Finally, some who agrees with me about CRASH ! I hated the fucking peice of shit. Everyone has been trying to convince me otherwise. It is just the kind of shit that the "indie" crowds lap up. Fucking posers can't tell their face from their asses and they try and convince me about complexities of the most simplistic, uninventive, banal, retarded shit like Crash. I swear I was foaming from my mouth when Matt Dillon's character tried to rescue Thandie Newton. Even if one excuses the obvious coincidence and stupidity of the situation, how insulting and repulsive is the fact that we are made to sympathise with an asshole who was misusing his authority by finger fucking a civillian in front of her man. It's like being made to sympathize for an uncle who tries to make up for the fact that he molested the neice for seven years by sending her through college. And above that, we have to listen to dimwit, eggheaded dickweeds like roeper recommending the film based on the same scene.

WHen I saw trailer for "proof" a few days ago, the first thingh that popped into my head was "academy award for gwyneth paltrow". Now what we are going to observe is half-a-year of people going gaga about an actress who is so fucking mediocre, it drips out of her nose. Critics (other than Walter ofcourse) are gonna go balistic about what a great performance she has give. Phrases like "broken out of a shell", "reached her true potential", "We knew she had it in her", "peak of her career" would be thrown around by every and any jackass who is heard by more than 10 people. Leno is gonna declare it "best film of the year" (Previous best was "crash") and interview everyone to the grip who worked on the film. Oppie is probably gonna get a nomination for his tear-fest and Russel Crowe is gonna prevail over his legal difficulties to emerge as the true hero and get a nod from the most cynical pricks to ever exist. Hollywood tail is gonna wag like a motherucking pendulum for the crappiest films of the year.

I completely understand your exquisite pain, Walter, I truely do. It is hard being an outsider even among outsiders. Films like "3-iron" will never be seen untill kim ki-duk emerges as a master 10 years later. Then even a picture of his turd will be called art. Then these same critics who called "Million Dollar Baby" will write glowing reviews about how they could almost smell the turd just through the picture. And the same cycle would repeat over and over untill some hick asshole pushes the button and this disease called humanity will finally have eaten so much of it's own shit that it will starve to death from new images. Herzogs of this world will die as revolutionaries that gave it their best to show new images, but no one wanted to see them.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. I hated "Million Dollar Baby" too. it's gonna end up like one of those "best picture" winners like driving miss daisy or out of africa that no one even remembers 5 years later. Films like "eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" will become collectibles that would be owned 20 years from while people would go "million who?".

It's like a "taste of the season" thing. Mix a cup of old legend apologizing for lifetime of irony with a glass of forgotten wonder kid, add a spoonfull of sidekick house-nigger with pleasent accent and gravely voice, sprinkle some left-right controversy over a worthless issue according to taste and VOILA! you got yourself a "best picture" winner !

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.p.s just read your review of "emily rose". is it just me or is it too much of a coincidence that this film (based in 1973) happened in the same year "the exorcist" was released and was the highest BO grosser.

Dave Gibson said...

Aside from appropriating the title of a Cronenberg film (now doomed to be the "other" Crash)--I the latest Haggis baloney offensively bad. Haggis has a particular knack for aggressively schematic writing--which, is probably why this is going to nab the original script Oscar this year;folks like their movies to "Be What They're About". As soon as Don Cheadle started uspooling his monologue explaining the obvious metaphor of the title--I knew I was in trouble. "Crash" is a sound-bite movie with a Cliff's Notes level of thematic complexity;so, numbskull audiences (and Jay Leno) can pat themselves on the back for engaging themselves with allegedly serious material--without having to do any of the work. (Indeed--just in case you didn't get it--the import of the title is literally and figuratively pounded into your head by most of the characters throughout the film) A plot-wheel of a film, "Crash" is the type of movie where you make a game out of picking out what frivolous detail is going to gain great significance later ("It seemed irrelevant at the time"...I can hear Wayne Campbell saying). "Crash" begins its patronizing conversation about race--by immediately defining all of the characters by race and stereotype alone-- I don't know why they even had proper names ("Racist Cop", "Hick rookie", "Cold WASP woman" etc...)I also agree with early denunciations of the Matt Dillon character. Are we supposed to now sympathize with a bigoted rapist--'cause he cares about his dad?--the Bullock character is now redeemed because she leeches her self-hatred on to a noble housekeeper? Or, dear GOD! That hispanic fellow with the tats IS A RESPONSIBLE FAMILY MAN!!! A proud, angry businessman is a ticking timebomb ('cause he's Persian?) "Crash" pretends to answer a lot of questions that you'd have to be bigoted (and downright clueless) to ask in the first place. However, I'm sure it will have a place as a text in Syd Field's classroom: "Short Cuts For Dummies".

Walter_Chaw said...

Ian:

Yeah, I’m really unpopular with a large section of my colleagues – some of whom I have the pleasure to see everyday – others only when the local festival invites them to cover their events. The subject of racism, at least until the Bastille of Hurricane Katrina forced class/race into the popular conversation (it’s already receding, of course, but for a couple of days it wasn’t nuts to think that there’s a problem in the U.S.), seems always to be the white elephant in the room. A failed critic named Alexandre something or another once wrote an entire essay about how I was a “pompous fraud” for using William Blake’s poetry as the center of a review on Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon when, of course, the title, the central plot point, and much of the narrative structure is based on Blake and his work. I got a long apology from him later (wanting to be friends which is how I first ran across him when he asked me to champion him for the OFCS for whatever reason – I didn’t) which included the admission that he hadn’t seen the film, and just didn’t like an analysis of poetry as a tactic to analyze a film. Of course he found a platform for his essay, though, I think it was Hollywood Bitchslap or some such, but whatever – ancient history, right? Except that it’s the still the same shit all the time.

The best and worst part of hate mail is that it’s always exactly the same. Pod politics as perpetrated by pod people.

I have a stock response, and that response is that if you look back over the last hundred reviews I’ve written (easiest way to do it is to go to Rotten Tomatoes’ author’s page) and, excluding the films that are actually about race (like Crash if I’d bothered to have written on it – I still will before the end of the year), only bring up race on my own an average of three – maybe four times. So the question is, is 4% of American cinema racist and misogynistic or, in fact, am I just not bothering (or not catching) a great many? On the other side, am I “inflating” the occurrence? Maybe that’s not the point – maybe it’s just that it’s verboten to talk about race and gender in our society. After all, I got some hate for finding lesbian subtext in that French lesbian slasher flick (High Tension) and, too, for finding some race/class issues fumbled badly in Skeleton Key. I can’t honestly tell if these folks disagree that it’s there, or disagree that we should talk about it.

Was a time that Ebert talked about it all the time – I wonder if he quit because he got the same kind of deadening feedback. He didn’t win the Pulitzer for shying away from difficult topics, of course, but I can honestly sympathize with his not wanting, especially after a couple of decades, to suffer the same incoherent backlash for just observing the obvious.

Better question might be how much of the population you believe is racist/misogynistic: more or less than 4%?

Money’s the only thing that talks.

Unfortunately, if Cinderella Man gets that dark horse nom like you predict (and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if it did – Ron Howard is an Academy darling, natch), it’ll also get a re-release and a boost to its box office. I’m guessing that Spielberg’s Munich film already has a spot reserved for it – leaving the other three to stuff that I haven’t seen yet. They might go for Dreamer, it’s polished up just right (and moronic enough, for sure), but I can’t think that way this early.

Hollow Man:

Yeah, lot’s to say about Crash, most of it already said in this comments section. I don’t need to be patronized by this fairy tale about race, to be coddled by happy endings for everyone but the black detective. Was a time a white boy threw around shit like this with this kind of liberal confidence, he’d get his ass handed to him. And deserve it. Haggis, Christ.

Proof is what you’d expect, I think. Its release was pushed back a couple of weeks because of the number of people Miramax is sending to Toronto. If they don’t push it back, they won’t have anything written on them – the major dailies won’t have the time. I genuinely liked Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums - not so much since.

Yeah, weird about the Michel case and The Exorcist happening in the same year. Zeitgeist’s a bitch. There I go again – watch the message boards light up with “another pompous fraud using “zeitgeist” too many times.”

Dave:

Irks me about the Cronenberg film, too. His Crash is fucking balls-out awesome. The worst part about Crash, the Haggis, is that it makes people feel as though they’ve given at the office in regards to this issue, freeing them to be the kind of elitist asshole they always are because they shed a poignant tear at one of the most cuddly films about race relations ever made. The little girl should’ve died, the car should’ve exploded with Dillon and Newton inside, and Howard should’ve gotten his suicide by cop. The locksmith should’ve sold the keys to the DA’s house, Bullock should’ve been raped, and the Persian should’ve been gentle and forgiving – and then – and only then, do we have a complicated film about race, class, and the vicissitudes of circumstance. You treat your audience like squeamish morons by providing pat, comfortable answers to the world’s ills and you’re no better than that asshole who wrote Million Dollar Baby.

Oh, wait.

Alex Jackson said...

Ouch.

Crash did it for me, I'm afraid to say. I don't think that movies have to be realistic, and in this case realism would have been a hindrance. Sometimes, if you aren't obvious the subtlies of the macrocosmic perspective are lost entirely. Whatever else you say about it, Crash is a Movie with a capital M; it has flavor to it. And besides making a movie about people and human concerns always struck me as a bit of crutch. Making broad strikes against sociological phenomena is a lot riskier and frankly often yields far more fruit.

I didn't feel that I had any answers at the end of Crash, simple ones or otherwise. In fact, I had quite a few questions. For example, what about the scene where Tony Danza requests that a main character on his black-oriented show speak entirely in ebonics? Can racism be eliminated without also eliminating race? How much of the black identity is contingent on being the "other" and is there a legitimate way for one to be successful and still be considered black? I think the film is successful in at least acknowledging the racism problem against African-Americans is hella stickier than that against Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, and similiar immigrant groups.

I was sidewiped by the rescue scene. It seemed like Haggis worked in all these vulgar contradictions and had the actors try to find a way to join them together. Dillon and Phillipe worked I thought. I can't readily think of two actors who are simultaneously so vulnerable and hard.

Walter_Chaw said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Walter_Chaw said...

Crash is a tough case in that at least it does address the white elephant - but I gotta take issue with it all the same. . . with its slickness (not technically-speaking, but story-wise), and with, sorry, its treatment of the problem as an allegory. I don’t honestly see the benefit of having stereotypes talking in stereotypes – it’s the Ayn Rand school of social (de)construction – you posit an unassailable position and then you have your heroes refute it with eloquence. That being said, I love that you disagree because I actually respect your opinion and, on another topic altogether, wanna make it public that I think your addition to FilmFreakCentral is the most positive thing to happen for us in some time. Welcome.

Onward:

Pres. George Sr. once said that he was "color blind" that he didn't see race - another popular thing that racists say when they don’t get it is that they don’t care if someone is “black, red, green, or purple-polka-dotted” – both suggest some sort of science fiction/fantasy in which minorities either don’t exist (thus robbing them of all of their ethnic uniqueness) or are the equivalent of imaginary creatures with green and purple skin. Nit-picking? Over-sensitive? I wonder – because you look casually at our culture and the idea of “invisible” people is fairly accepted. Again, if there’s anything good that can come from Katrina, it’s the idea that cronyism isn’t such a great idea in issues of disaster preparedness and “homeland security” – and that the poor and black are treated with a lot more myopia than your run of the mill white guy. Why, under Clinton, were we in Bosnia instead of Rwanda? Has something to do with Somalia, I understand, but I think it has something to do, too, with the good people of Serbia being really fine-looking white folks in hip fashions and the people of Rwanda looking like the people left in New Orleans.

So when you say that Crash “acknowledge(es) the racism problem against African-Americans (as) hella stickier than that against Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, and similar immigrant groups.” I gotta cock an eyebrow and suggest that it’s just the opposite. It’s pretty clear how complex the race issue is for black folks – it’s never even talked about how complex the race issue is for Asians, Arabs, and Hispanics. I’m thinking hard, but I don’t remember one U.S. film this year with an Asian, Arab, or Hispanic leading man. Was there one? There must’ve been one, right? I mean, Asians, Arabs, and Hispanics don’t comprise 0% of the population in the United States – understand that I’m not expecting equal representation, just some representation. What’s really sticky is how the racial problem is hella more complicated for minorities that don’t have any sort of voice at all. How is it, for example, that out of 100 reviews for Waters’ Freaky Friday, nobody had anything to say about the magical chink with the mystical fortune cookie? How about the dog-eating gag in New York Minute? (I love Armond White’s vigilance, but he can have tunnel vision about certain things – and after Armond: who?) There’s a local sports columnist in Denver who suggested after these last Olympics that the Koreans who lost the gymnastics gold medal stop bellyaching and go eat a cocker spaniel or something. Letters to the editor? Mine.

All this to say that Crash is a middlebrow, ultra-conservative film about race like Million Dollar Baby is a middlebrow, ultra-conservative film about euthanasia: both dealing with class in a blunt, un-nuanced way and both, as a consequence, providing a clear cone of comfort where the struggles of these little men don’t amount to a hill of beans. If you can glean something greater from a fairy tale, that’s a testament to your maturity – but for too many, I suspect, framing it as a fable makes it as compartmentalized and safe as that special Dr. Phil about this one guy once who was a little insensitive – but nothing like you and me.

Walter_Chaw said...

The Tony Danza scene, by the way, may be the highlight of the picture for me.

Keith Uhlich said...

Walter-

Not a personal favorite of my reviews (and doesn't specifically mention the dog-eating bit), but here's my take on "New York Minute", which addresses its many racial headslappers.

http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/dvd_review.asp?ID=418

God, in re-reading it, I see that I probably had a bug up my ass about Laura Bush's proposed abstinence programs. Now she's screaming "Not my husband!" to the heavens. *sigh*

Didn't see "Crash". There's so many "Short Cuts" imitators out there, the mind boggles. I eagerly await your thoughts on the latest atrocity of the sub-genre called "Nine Lives."

Keith

Nate said...

Unleashed featured an Asian frontman. But is it considered a U.S. film? I don't know.

I completely agree about Crash. And that little girl would've been destroyed by shrapnel.

Dave Gibson said...

Not to continue blasting poor Roger Ebert (aside from what I've said--there are a lot more grievous offenders walking the streets of my Festival-crazed city--Toronto--as we speak) but, I've certainly noticed his weariness in addressing the racist content of some Hollywood films. His near-rave of "The Alamo" seemed to entirely miss the colonial sewage coursing underneath the text. However, I can't imagine that its easy to address the issue of race in the context of a movie review;especially when the critical climate insists that movies be consumed like penny candy.I'm pretty jaded--but, I was flabbergasted that so few critics lambasted "Bringing Down the House" for its ghastly race "comedy". My major problem is that many of these types of films ("Crash" included) is that their premises turn on the assumption that the audience already holds certain beliefs about people. I consider my upbringing more liberal than most but, I certainly watched 80's fluff like "Teen Wolf", "Weird Science" and "Sixteen Candles" without taking much notice of the offensive shit in those films untill years later--so, I'm not completely without shame here--but, I doubt I could watch any of them now without cringing. I suppose acknowledging racism in films implies the complicity of the audience--so, its much easier to pretend it doesn't exist or that its not meant to be taken seriously. I'm reminded of Michael Douglas' and his inane posturing during the "Basic Instinct" controversy/marketing scheme--scolding the uppity queers that the villians of the piece were simply born out of a tradition of movie villany--and not to be taken seriously. (of course Douglas never went on to play a homicidal lipstick lesbian in any film to prove his thesis). Much as I've always despised the "I love my wife but..." comedians, I'm chagrined at just how popular stuff like "Bringing Down the House" is---"Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" said the most--tellingly without saying much of anything.

Walter_Chaw said...

I think that Unleashed is probably a French film, but I don't honestly know who came up with the cash. Good one, though. Next challenge is to find an Asian leading man who's not a martial artist.

And thanks for reminding me of Bringing Down the House. Holy crap. Problem is, though, that most of the people who disagreed with me about that film being racist were African-Americans. Makes you gun-shy, no question.

Similarly, the staunchest defenders of The Hours and Cinderella Man were women. I mean, what's left to say when the injured party is a witness for the defense?

The Captain said...

Hey Walter, on the Cronenberg topic, how was his latest, A History of Violence?

Walter_Chaw said...

Let's say that I'm glad I have a few weeks to write about it. I don't mean to be cryptic, but I'm hoping to get a second screening before I try to tackle it. There are elements to it that are completely flummoxing: scenes out of eXistenZ married to. . . I dunno, to Road to Perdition? It's Cronenberg in small town rural America (like The Dead Zone?) and it's incredibly dislocating.

There's a graphic novel surreality to the whole thing (natch, it's based on a graphic novel) - it's anchored by two astonishing performances from Ed Harris and William Hurt and as for Viggo M?

It's a tough nut.

What's astonishing to me is that at this point in Cronenberg's career, that he's still maturing.

Alex Jackson said...

When I said "less complex", I guess that I was thinking of how racism against Asians, Latinos, Arabs and other immigrant ethnicities is more...unilateral I guess. Learn fucking English, stop taking jobs that belong to "Americans", that sort of thing.

The African-American experience is so weird. Blacks came to America like, on the Mayflower really-- with the first white settlers, as slaves. And they had the Africa beat out of them. And so it's more difficult to figure out what it means to be black and where exactly they fit into the picture. With other groups, it seems a little more clear cut.

I wasn't thinking about media representation actually, but that's a good point. The issue is never on the table and so it's difficult to really discuss.

I would note in Crash that the Asian characters are the most hollow of the caricatures and little is done to subvert them (unlike the Hispanic, black, and white characters). I think that there was an Asian cop, but it was sheer tokenism as there was absolutely no reason for him to be Asian.

Two other things that I want to concede about Crash. I was at the local Sprawl Mart earlier tonight because we needed a three-ring binder and Midol (too much information?). I had to browse the DVD section of the store and I saw Crash being packaged with Drugstore Cowboy--an exclusive Sprawl Mart deal! I've been looking out for a copy of Drugstore Cowboy for a while. For some reason I thought that it was out of print. However, the Crash in the package was full screen only. In fact, I couldn't find a widescreen version anywhere in the store. This suggests that a great proportion of the target audience for Crash are people who prefer to purchase full-screen DVDs. Or at least the distributors percieve the target audience as being people who buy full-screen only DVDs.

Also, the little girl should have died. That was pretty cowardly, even I was feeling jerked around.

In the interest of full disclosure I want everybody to know that my favorite film from last year was Dogville and my second favorite was Passion of the Christ. And as much as Michael Moore embarasses me in his fiction work and speaking engagements I love his movies, especially Bowling for Columbine. And I like Magnolia better than anything I've seen from Altman, including Nashville and Short Cuts. It's painting with a sledgehammer and I wish there was more to say about it other then it gets to the core of why I love the movies. I like my food spicy, I like my drugs pure and uncut, and I like my orgasms screaming. What more can I say?

On Armond White, his review of "Sahara" gave me pause. My reaction was about the same as yours. Pretty mediocre "white-savior" movie. But White (who is, um, black for those who didn't know already) praised it for it's politics(?!).

Anonymous said...

The following post is extremely irrelevant. Enjoy.

Hmmm... well after a quick Google expedition to find some of these people who apparently get flustered enough by Walter to slam him in op-ed pieces, I have discovered the following:

1. Some dude has a website which probably hasn't been updated in years and which betrays a scary fixation on our Mr. Chaw and his "thesaurus-happy" reviewing style.

2. Puzzlingly (word? not a word?) enough, people are discussing Walter back and forth on a livejournal.

3. Walter seems to be a registered member of some site called ePinions(?) under the name of magiotto(?)

4. There was a time, once, when Walter did not hate M. Night Shyamalan.

5. He saw Grave of the Fireflies too. Simpatico, Walter. Simpatico. Anyone who fails to shed a tear during or after that film has a Grinch-sized heart.

Anonymous said...

As for Crash, I didn't see it and I suppose, then, that it would probably be irresponsible of me to examine its politics. All I know is that I watched the trailer where Don Cheadle says that we "sometimes . . . need to crash into one another, just to feel something" and decided that it was something I'd rather not spend money on.

Walter_Chaw said...

1. I think I know whereof you speak. Best not to probe dusty e-holes.

2. Indeed.

3. That's how I met Bill!

4. Loved Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. All downhill from there.

5. It's a masterpiece.

6. Google is the most dangerous tool ever invented by man, bless 'em. I made the mistake of googling myself once a couple of years ago and made a pact with myself to restrict my personal googling to ex-girlfriends.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Nick Schager brought the title-line point up in his own review of the film, making a welcome reference to a relevant sketch from "Upright Citizens Brigade."

Still my favorite superfluous title line: "Looks like we're gonna have to classify you as a lethal weapon!"

-- Ian

The Captain said...

On the subject of Googling, I believe I once stumbled upon some video game reviews that also might have been done by you, on XBox - was that your work?

Ahh, Epinions, that was how I found my way here as well.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Funny people mentioned Magnolia. My mom bought a new cellphone, one of the 0 dollar ones, and futureshop gavce her a 100 dollar gift certificate for it, with 6 months of unlimited calls ! Jusus Christ ! Capitalism at it's finest. She gave me the card and it was like fucking Christmas. What I didn't expect was that after an hour of surfing through all the titles at future shop, i barely made 100 dollars with dvds i bought. there is nothing but crap in there. i bought magnolia, paris,texas, morvern callar and undertow.

but i got to see magnolia and i realised how despite the fact that it is so self-important and pretentious (deals with cancer, incest, drug addiction all in the same breath), it is one of the best film of 90s. it is flawed masterpeice if I ever saw one. the reason that despite the fact that it uses all the big words (cancer, ...) that I don't care much for, it works because there is absolute true emotions in there. i think p.t. has a tendency to catch his characters in situation where they would rather just not exist. the kid who couldn't go play the final round because he pissed his shorts as a result of them not letting him go to the washroom, that is pure fucking brilliance man. i think the film has one of my favorite quotes ever ("I have trouble putting things in right places. I've got love to give. I just don't know where to put it."). It is one of the bravest, most emotionally naked film I have ever seen. I say this, completely realizing the fact that it's biggest flaw is it's constant need to keep head-pounding intensity for it's entire running time. But baby when it's done right, it's done right. "punch drunk love" is a better film because it doesn't require the big words and constant intensity to reveal a major theme with p.t., need to be loved.

"Crash is a tough case in that at least it does address the white elephant". I give Crash absolutely no credit for that because it goes about doing that not in an observational, anthropological way but an exploitative way. In going through a simplistic exercisee of denying old stereotypes, it just creates new ones. The spanish guy isn't a spic, but a family man, i guess the villagers should rejoice. it starts out trying to deal with something as complex as racism in a "so called" wider context, whatever that may mean, and ends up coming with the most cowardly conclusion one could end with in a film like this "uhh... I guess, everyone's equally racist". Uhhh... no everyone's not, and even if they are, it is to varied degree. not to a condescensing same level as ends up all his in. The least prejudiced "rookie cop" ends up killing the nigger. The craker pig ends up rescuing the desperate colored girl. The two seemingly educated and articulate young black male end up confirming their stereotypes by jacking the car. the poor desprate chinks get released by the same black guy who finds he has a soul at the end. I almost half-expected a sexy chinese chich to come out of the van, grab ludacris's cock and say "me so horny". note that I've used all racist terminology to make the point that that is exactly what these characters are seen as by haggis. i can just about fucking envision haggis typing away on his keyboard patting his own back for how clever he is. this is just the kind of shit stupid masses like (no pun intended towards alex), they see shit like this pat themselves in the back for having an intellectual experience, while all they witnessed were some nifty screenwriting tricks and regergatation of old stereotypes or replacement of them with new ones. it is writers like hagggis that really boil my blood, talentless hacks self-contained in their own glibness and cleverness. sorry alex, i guess the broad strokes really don't work for me.

p.s. Google IS the most dangerous tool ever invented by man, bless 'em. Ask me, I've practically finished my space engineering without buying a book and going to 20% of the lectures in last 3 years, just by being efficient on google. You don't have to learn if you learn how to copy-paste. And it is assholes like me that get hired at NASA. No fucking wonder Columbia went down !

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.p.s "And I like Magnolia better than anything I've seen from Altman."... C'mon, McCabe & Mrs. Miller. One of the greatest fucking films ever made.

Bill C said...

Not to mention 3 Women, The Long Goodbye, and California Split.

Alex Jackson said...

I disliked McCabe and Mrs. Miller. I guess that I can't go into detail, and so that would make good fodder for a Viddied It on the Screen review, but something about the Altman secularism that rubs me the wrong way.

Haven't seen 3 women, long goodbye, or california split but those first two sound very interesting to me.

Alex Jackson said...

At long lost, Google has yielded a pic of Walter Chaw!

Enjoy!

Walter_Chaw said...

Yikes - that's just one of two pictures floating around out there: my Alfalfa phase.

The XBox reviews were mine, indeed. Always wanted to branch off into that area (it's more vital and untapped as it were than modern film criticism) and did a few as a favor for a friend of mine on his radio show. Later capsuled them for a website project that never completely materialized.

As to Crash - yeah, I'm there with you. Film made me pretty angry.

As to McCabe & Mrs. Miller, aproppriate to little, I programmed it once for the DIFF a couple of years ago for their Critic's Choice program but they were unable to secure a print of it and so I did The Conversation instead.

And as to the people that NASA hire: maybe that explains how they smashed a Mars probe into the planet when they forgot to convert their calculations into the metric system. I don't know whether to be sad that it happened or admiring that they admitted it as schooled as I am now in our leadership denying all culpability all the time.

The Captain said...

Walter, is there any chance you can get a better picture of yourself online? Maybe wearing sunglasses with an awesome haircut and a trenchcoat, blowing in the wind? Alternatively, flying in the air and shooting death rays from your eyes at terrible filmmakers? Not to sound all fanboyish, but that's exactly the sort of awesome image I have when I see the almighty words "Walter Chaw", and it seems I'm not the only one - my earlier Google search (that also located the pic Alex linked to) found mostly gracious applause for your spectacular work as a critic; seems you have a lot more fans than enemies.

Btw, have you ever taken any of the Silent Hill games for a spin?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

But that's the thing, walter, films like Crash do not piss people off like it does us. I've been trying to convince my friends of it's shitness for so long, they all fucking gang up on me. It seems that people like a certain set of cliches and not the other, and if you reverse those cliches, knowing that fact gives them so much fucking pleasure. Most of them I'm not able to articulate my hate for it, so I just end up sounding fautitious. But I always have that nagging thing in my head. Well fuck 'em, I'll do it like godard said "best way to critique a film is by making a new one." It's definition of irony that this is one of most overused quotes by critics.

Walter_Chaw said...

No Silent Hill. Good?

Problem with me reviewing games is that I have huge gaps in my gaming education. Pretty much jumps from the Atari 2600 to the Sega Genesis to the XBox. Been trying to redress some of those gaps, but who has that kind of time?

Now if I could get demos and a salary for doing it. . . that's a whole different story.

The Captain said...

It seems the Silent Hill games would be right up your alley - writer and sound producer Akira Yamaoka has suggested that the series takes video games in a new direction; very literate and story-based, very alike being in your own psychological horror movie. There's so much depth and beautiful imagery in each one - and they're also the scariest experiences I've ever endured for entertainment, in the same vein as Dark Water/Tale of Two Sisters - psychological, affecting, bothersome.

They all center around a fictional American town Silent Hill, a lakeside resort town with a history shrouded in bloodshed; the first game involved a man trying to find his young daughter lost in the nightmarish town, and has him uncovering a terrible history about a cult and the resurrection of a demonic god - the game was also unwinnable, in that there was no way you could find and save his daughter. I find that helplessness and darkness exciting; in others in the series, the town becomes a kind of purgatory for lost souls who are drawn to it and must pay for their sins as their own demons mingle with Silent Hill's horrible past and manifest in brutal, nightmarish fashion.

Also find one of the games featuring a young female protagonist on the verge of adolescence, with lovely imagery of long rivers of blood, huge phallic monsters, and a fascinating finale involving the fatal birth of a demonic god that consumes and destroys the mother. Subtexts abound; furthermore, the threat of rape and sexual assault is present across all of the games, the sort of thing Resident Evil can't touch on seriously.

If I remember right, you've got an XBox - you may be able to pick up Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams for a good price. The main story involves a man named James who never quite got over the death of his wife three years back, and getting a letter from her telling him to meet her at their "special place" in Silent Hill isn't doing him any help. He goes there to try and find her..

Alex Jackson said...

Sounds pretty damn cool to tell you the truth.

I do regard video games as an art form, the talk about GTA: Vice City and Manhunt was pretty much all talk. Great gameplay, but not very good art they really don't break a lot of ground. In fact the radio stations in Vice City strike me as South Park-ian: satire for the sake of satire. But I know that there is potential there.

I think that sort of dislike games with stories. Part of it is because they are just barely telling stories that are worth telling, but more of it is just that I sort of just want to pick up and go. That's really one of the major reasons that my old NES gets as much if not more play than my Playstation 2. Hard to beat a classic like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris, or Super Mario Bros. (While I pretty much started at the 8 bit systems and went on to 16 I, like Walter, missed the 64 bit generation entire).

Joef said...

Half-Life and Half-Life 2 all the way.

Walter_Chaw said...

I'm sold - just ordered Silent Hills 1, 2 and 4. Will try to pick up #3 before writing on them. What the hell, right? We have a blog, now!

A lot of the story-based games I've played have, indeed, sucked ass - not the least for the voice acting. But a couple have been really impressive to me. Max Payne (the first one) is a superbly-written noir. Not very challenging in gameplay, unfortunately, even less so the sequel that I finished in what seems like three hours.

What really blew me away, though, though again it's way too easy - was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay - a prequel of sorts to the two films, Cole Hauser and Vin Diesel reprise their charactesr, the art is fabbo, and the story is nifty. Also liked The Suffering for XBox - your standard haunted prison scenario with creatures designed by Stan Winston.

Walter_Chaw said...

There are also three different possible endings for The Suffering depending on your behavior throughout. Something that they do with Fable as well, but Fable, for as addictive as it is in the short term, is again too easy. Fave game of the last six months or so is the Oddworld FPS: clever as all hell.

Anonymous said...

I play video games in spurts. I have to say I've never played any of the Silent Hill games, or any of the games that joef and Walter mentioned, but one that I'm dying to check out is Psychonauts. Anyone here play that?

the captain said...

Max Payne was fantastic; I sympathise with the pains of voice acting, and the quality of the voice acting across the SH games ranges but doesn't really affect the experience. Multiple endings across all of them, as well - you probably already know this, but a movie based on the Silent Hill series is in post-production for release next year, directed by Christophe Gans of Brotherhood of the Wolf fame and co-written by Roger Avary, and thankfully nothing at all to do with Paul W.S. Anderson.

I just bought The Suffering last week too, I'm looking forward to giving that a play; for me a favourite game of recent was Resident Evil 4, which was very cinematic but ultimately just another RE game, with a lot of shooting and explosions and monsters covered in eyes but not much fear at all.

aaron said...

Interesting conversation (until it turned into video game geekery). I've been a Film Freak Central reader for a few years now and an often reluctant admirer of Alex's page as well (I rarely agree with you but you're an engaging writer).

As far as race and its depiction in film is concerned, well, I could wax obnoxious about that forever. Being part black part, Latino part, Native American, and part _______ , I've come to accept that any nuanced or multivalent handling of the topic is most likely not going to happen. So taking Godard's, as someone else here as said, oft-cited quote to heart, I decided to put finger to keyboard and type up my own script that indirectly addresses race, class and gender. But I'm a "nobody" so at this point I'm aiming for Funny Ha Ha type recognition, if that.

As far as a leading role(s) for an Asian actor in an American film that doesn't deal with the martial arts, I can only think of Better Luck Tomorrow. I mean, yeah. There you go.

Alex, what do you mean by Altman's secularism? You talk about this "secularism" in your reviews and as an atheist I'm curious to know what you mean by it.

And Armond White is a joke. A poor man's Ray Carney masquerading as a poorer man's John Simon.

Alex Jackson said...

Let me see if I can answer the secularism charge in a remotely lucid way.

When I talk about the cinema in religious terms, I'm talking about experentially; the ability of the cinema to bring us to a sort of rapture.

I'm not into the idea of film being an active endeavor and seen through the wrong pair of eyes (my own), Altman's work is postively inert. It doesn't take me anywhere, it sits there and expects me to work with it.

I don't think that that is really an anti-intellectual conceit. Great cinema like great religion involves surrendering control to a greater power, to allow yourself to be maniupulated like a puppet. But of course, there are gradients in the directions in which they manipulate us. I think that Passion of Joan of Arc and 2001: A Space Odyssey are the anti-thesis to something like M.A.S.H or Nashville. They are manipulative and experential in a refined sort of way.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Talking about films sitting there and expecting to be worked with them, the first film that comes to my mind is 2001: A space odyssey. So I don't know what you mean. I hate that film, but then again I hate everything Kubrick ever made. He should have been a cinematographer instead. What do you think of Terrence Malick's ouevre, Alex ? That would tell me alot about your taste.

I also am not quite sure how you mean films like McCabe & Mrs. Miller are inert ?

Alex Jackson said...

I'm going to have to see McCabe and Mrs. Miller again. I remember not being terribly impressed--demystifying the Western, that seems to textbook secularization doesn't it? I seem to remember it being pretty muddy.

But I certainly didn't think that M.A.S.H or Nashville were much to look at it.

I think I understand why "deliberate" is so often a euphimism for "slow". Yeah, I don't see 2001 as being particularly cerebral, I certainly I see it as a pure experience.

Kubrick is my all time favorite filmmaker, his is an absolute aesthetic. His method is superior to that of the storyboarded sequence because he painstakingly seeks out the objectively PERFECT shot as opposed to one contingent on the fallible imagination of the human filmmaker. I certainly feel like I'm submitting to his control.

Control is really what I am talking about, not action. Control can very easily be exerted through a slow pace. Altman rarely exerts any control over his audience and that's why I call him inert.

Terrence Malick is another God. I discovered him in high school and have since grown apart however. He has only made three films afterall, and I don't think that's enough to really sustain a full on auteur infactuation. Still my expectations are so high that, sight unseen, I suspect that I will not see a better film all year.

aaron said...

Alex - interesting. I understand what you mean by "secular." At least I think I do.

I dislike Kubrick and Malick precisely for the reasons you like them. I prefer fallibility and imperfection.

But then, I've never been big on control, either.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think Malick is hands-down the greatest. And I think it is because of his fallibility more than anything. I find your statement very surprising because Malick's whole thing is capturing moments of imperfection and humaness in people. The reason for aesthetic beauty of a film like "Days of Heaven" are anything but vanity. And if you think that is what it is, you missed the whole point. Beaneath the whole film runs a parallel allegory for core beliefs of all religions or spiritual chains. And hence heaven has to look like heaven would in the film. malick was probably the first one to address what he calls "Sanctioned Vanity" in cinema. I like Altman for absolutely the same reason. His need to catch imperfection on celluloid.

Perfection is boring. And hence my absolute hate for Kubrick. His films are the most perfectly bad films I have ever seen. He is like an antithesis to Malick & Altman type of cinema. Where these two tell tales of imperfect people doing imperfect things with poetry and lyricism, Kubrick throws all his philosphies coldly on your face much the way Godard does. There is lack of any sense of humanity in his films. They are like films about humans made by aliens. Cold and distant.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s.

I'd much rather hear inartriculate words coming from people that can not quite express all that they wanna express thn hear clever, neatly chosen words written down by some glib asshole patting himself on the back.

I'd much rather watch an incoherent moment of sponteneity on film then a perfectly programmed setup.

I'd much rather see a shaky shot of single tear then a smooth shot of a spaceship cruising through the sky.

I watch movies by people like Kubrick, Speilberg and Hitchcock with fascination for their craftsmanship but always come out without finding a moment of relatability. They are like adult versions of kids in the park doing "look what I can do!". I'm not as interested in vanity on film as I am with how it can be used as an artistic medium. How Kubrick made the perfect shot of bone being tossed in the air or how Speilberg made dinasaur look so real or how Kitchcock uses his lighting and lenses is of no interest to me.

Maybe that can explain my preference of people like Altman than over Kubrick.

Alex Jackson said...

Well, at least we can find a common ground with Malick. But I'll note that his sloppiness is of a different breed than Altman's. The dialogue and tone is highly stylized and of course they are very visually accomplished. The easy thing to say is that they are "dreamlike" and "mythological" and the thing about "dreamlike" and "mythological" is that it's beyond human and takes control of the audience.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

We can also agree on the fact that we both hate Mash and Nashville. I didn't say I love everything from the guy.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Just saw, the long goodbye, by altman and i must say i will be his slave forever. absolute fucking brilliance.

Walter_Chaw said...

The Long Goodbye is, hands down, my favorite Altman. It's fucking amazing, no question. Never been able to see Elliot Gould in anything else since.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Elliot Gould was a product of his time. In no other era in history of hollywood, such an "ugly" man would've been able to be a lead in a studio backed film. That might have been a reason why he never made it through that era.

Although I would still maintain McCabe & Mrs. Miller as my favorite Altman.

A lot of times I think why the colours are so jarring in films these days, special features of this film explained to me why. And I also understood the reason behind p.t. anderson vowing to do all his films on technicolor.

Alex Jackson said...

I'm curious as to why you hate M.A.S.H and Nashville.

Do you hate them more or less than Kubrick's films, say "2001"?

Walter_Chaw said...

Lots of other ugly guys found a lot of leading-man success in the '70s, too, seems like - Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider, Bruce Dern - arguably dudes like Jack Nicholson and Harvey Keitel, too. Not exactly pretty boys in the classic, Joel McRea/William Holden sense.

Don't wanna' intrude on this chat between you and Alex, but I do wonder if you like Kubrick's early stuff like The Killing, Killer's Kiss, all the way up to Dr. Strangelove? Interesting comment about him "shoulda being" a cinematographer - he did start his career as a very accomplished still photographer. They were collected in a couple of volumes some years ago - I have one on my coffee table.

I think I like Kubrick, in a general (almost anecdotal) way, better than you do - but ever since I got to browse his photographs, I do wonder if he wouldn't have been better sticking to it.

Thus endeth the intrusion.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Nasville I just have no clue about. I don't know what that film is saying or trying to say. It just seems too... arbitrary. Things happen and I don't care much for them . Characters speak and I don't know what they are getting at. It's like there is no driving force or theme behind it. No vision guiding it. Or maybe it's just that I didn't get it. It has happened to me before that there are certain films I'm just not ready for yet. i'm 21 now, I love wings of desire, at 19 I hated it. Maybe it's just my tendency to hate everything I don't understand.

However I always get a nagging feeling at back of my head that maybe I just didn't get it, which makes me revisit these films. Similar thing happened with "apocalypse now" which is now my favorite film. I didn't like it when I saw it, I thought it was too long. Two days later some force of nature made me unexplicably buy it (and i don't buy DVDs that often). i have a similar feel for Nashville however I haven't gone back to it yet.

MASH is a different case because it is not like Nashville, in the sense, that I didn't get it. I got it and wasn't much impressed. It just seems like an inartiuculate lashout against what was perceived in late 60s as fascism in america. It's a film that could've worked only in late 60s. Altman was still honing his craft. He was still experimenting with how to capture multiple sounds, and let me say it was at a stage of experimantation. One scene still sticks out in my mind when people are introducing themselves with each other. What may have been considered revolutionary at that time, just looks simply dumb now. Also, in terms of narrative there is too much of extremes. Duvall is the bad guy who ofcourse looses and is carried out in a straight jacket, Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland are the charming anti-heroes who prevail, Hot Lips is humiliated in front of everybody for hanging out with the "fascist" and goes on to become their tootsie. It was just a very bad script. And I'm sure Altman would've wanted to say something about it but he had really come on as "director for hire" and I don't know if he had much control on it. Atleast it seems like it considering the comedy was so broad (which has never reappeared to that extent in Altman films) and characters (atleast the "bad" ones) were all two dimesional. I was struck today while watching "The long goodbye" by the fact that how much Altman had tried to make every single character multi-layered in the film which seems completely opposite to something like MASH.
A similar film that I would say belongs to the list with MASH is "Easy Rider" which is again a film that could've worked only in that era. A contrast to these films would be a forgotten masterpeice "Electra glide in blue" which was dismissed as "fascist" at Cannes because it didn't go with the flow of the times. Just goes to show that liberals can be just as close minded to criticism as conservatives can.

"2001: A Space Odyseey" is really not the thing for me. I understand it, which most people don't (maybe it has to do with the fact that i took a course in special relatitivity), but I find it highly pretentious and self-indulgent on part Kubrick to do what he did on the editing room, which is essentially to leave the story out. Overall... Fuck... there is just a primordal, animal instinct in me that says "I don't like Kubrick films". That's all there is to it. I've seen most of them and I don't like 'em. Only ones that would come close to my liking are probably "The Shining" and "Eyes wide shut". I don't like 2001 or clockwork or barry lyndon, which are the usual suspects.

The thing I said about Kubrick should've been a cinematographer is simply based on the fact that he just did't have the soul for an artist. He didn't have need to express. It's almost like he fell in love with photography, then extended that into film-making. So all he did was read books and think of best ways to shoot them with over-bearing philosphies. Just doesn't work for me. Same goes for Godard.

Drawing a pretty picture may make you a painter, but not an artist.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Walter, feel free to intrude.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.p.s Just wanna say after a re-read that a filmmaker having a "soul" (as pretentious as that may sound) is a very subjective opinion. Where I see none, Alex sees the most. Anyways, he's in good company because Kubrick is considered to be one of the greatest.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Do you notice these days how if there is an "ugly" lead actor, he is usually a slapstick-kinda comedian ? As if all jackasses in the audience wanna see themselves do the activities jackasses do.

Chad Evan said...

I'm of two minds about Altman--of the few films of his I've seen (excluding Popeye, which I saw when I was about six and was utterly baffled by,) I've loved one--Shortcuts--liked one--The Long Goodbye--and failed on two occasions to make it through the third--Nashville, natch. I think maybe the reason I made it through Shortcuts with not just ease, but joy even, is that I'm a Raymond Carver fan, and picking out the various stories that formed the basis of the vignettes gave me something to do while the picture unfolded ever so slowly.
Strangely, as I agree with you more than any other critic, Walter, The Long Goodbye did not light the same fire under my ass as it did you or Hollow Man. I found it droll and well-done, but after it was over, while pleased enough, I didn't really have any desire to ever watch it again; It probably suffered in my mind by being compared to Chinatown, which will always have a soft spot in my heart for being the film, along with Taxi Driver, that sparked my passion for American cinema of the '70s. Either of you all care to explain to me what I might be missing in my admittedly half-assed assesment? Maybe I just need to watch it again.

Alex Jackson said...

Short Cuts is Altman's only masterpiece as far as I am concerned, keeping in my mind I have yet to see 3 women or The Long Goodbye (they seem to be up my alley).

My objection to Nashville and MASH is essentially that they are not really great cinema.

Chad Evan said...

Alex,
Haven't seen MASH, but "not great cinema" pretty much sums up Nashville beautifully, in my opinion. The camera, so integral to the Long Goodbye, just sits there, as do the characters. Of course, this is precisely what some seem to find so brilliant--nothing happens!--but I've never been much of one for the "Polar Bear Blinking in a Blizzard" school of art.
By the way,Alex, really dug your little essay on religious vs. secular cinema--I look forward to seeing more of your reviews. Do you have a personal page where I can read some of your backlog? Surely you must have amassed a distinguished body of work to be invited to join the esteemed Messrs. Chaw, Chambers and Hoover in their wonderful trivial pursuits.

Alex Jackson said...

Right here. I've taken a sort of extended vacation from there to cut through my Film Freak Central backlog, but I should be back next week and will try and balance between the two a little more.

Lots of ambition there, not a whole lot of time.

Bill C said...

Alex, man, 3 Women is so up your alley it isn't funny. It's basically the bridge you gotta cross to get from Persona to Mulholland Drive. (Sorry, initially posted this in the wrong talk-back.)

Walter_Chaw said...

The Long Goodbye for me was revelatory in the same way as Night Moves and Don't Look Now and The Parallax View and Klute and The Stunt Man - films that were just filthy in their ideology and their execution.

Existential without being existentialist.

Sterling examples of the possibility for film to pick you up and turn you about 12 degrees to the right. The parallax'll drive you apeshit.