An idea that I’ve been kicking around with a colleague out here is one of a “looking at the critics” radio show or podcast that, every Monday or something, would look at the worst offenders among the week’s most pandering and/or worst-written film reviews as well as the best, most-balanced, perhaps definitive reviews of the films each week. The idea of definitive reviews for a film is an intoxicating one to me – not that there’s an end-all, but that there’s a review that touches on all of the salient points in a picture with enough agility to inspire discussion and a further unfolding of the text. (Like Pauline Kael’s take on Bonnie & Clyde for instance, or Roger Ebert’s on Pearl Harbor.) If I thought I was unpopular before. . .
The screening this evening of Domino was a public one at one of our nicer mall cinemas – but with an audience of only about thirty people, no bad behavior to report. The security, though, was a little out of hand – wanding, night vision, walking up and down the aisles – I was surprised not to get a pat down and a cavity search. All this for Domino - Tony Scott’s new motion sickness vehicle with a screenplay by Richard Kelly – the guy who wrote Donnie Darko for god’s sake. I don’t know the chronology of this project, but I expected a helluva lot more from the guy’s sophomore effort. To be fair, though, I couldn't see any moment of it well enough to even gauge the quality of the writing. It's a lot like Spun - with more guns.
Which brings up the question of fatigue. Writing fatigue, watching fatigue, fatigue fatigue - I wonder a lot if that last dip in the well isn't the last dip in the well. I heard an axiom somewhere sometime that a writer always reads more than he writes if he wants his writing to stay healthy and I try to live by that, but there are times that I'm acutely aware that I'm beginning to cannibalize myself. I think I've written something like, I dunno, a million words or so in the last several years - all on the subject of film - and there's an inevitable overlap. I find that I don't recognize things I've written even from a week ago on the rare occasion that someone quotes me back at me. The oddest sensation. I recall, too, an old friend and colleague of mine who told me that he knew it was time to get out of the game when he found himself sleeping through at least part of every single movie he saw now - reminds me of that old "Dick Van Dyke Show" episode where Dick gets in trouble with the law when his alibi is that he slept through a drive-in feature of The Guns of Navarone. Believe me, it's possible. And what's more alarming is the idea that I watch so much stuff that on the one hand I lose any kind of inspiration to write with any kind of heat on the mundane while perhaps giving too much attention to something just because it's novel.
What I do know is that I've been dreading going to the movies a lot lately and it has nothing to do with the movies.
Tuesday will find me at an industry screening of In Her Shoes followed by a speaking engagement at the Denver Public Library for the last of their road trip series: North by Northwest. The quintessential Hitchcock film if not necessarily his best (it’s a little long, let’s face it), find therein queer subtext, wrong man, trains, protean heroes, femme fatales, and Cary Grant. It’s got Eva Marie Saint as a sexpot in red and black (there’s a Lloyd Cole and the Commotions song called “Rattlesnakes” that says “She looks like Eva Marie Saint, in On the Waterfront" - I know just what they mean), and James Mason and Marty Landau as an oily pair of microfilm smugglers. With titles by Sal Bass, a score by Bernard Herrmann, and a script by Lehman – well, there you have it. Looking forward to it – it’ll be my last gig at the DPL until/if they ever get funding to do more stuff like it down the road. I’ve already been on this soap box.
Speaking of music, though, this is on my IPod this week:
"This Must Be the Place: Naive Melody" (live) - Talking Heads
"Pot Kettle Black" - Wilco
"Tangerine" - Led Zeppelin
"Sweet Thing" - Van Morrison
"Teenage Wristband" - Twilight Singers
"I'm Deranged" - David Bowie
"In Ohio" - Joseph Arthur
"Time of the Season" - The Zombies
"Cross Bones Style" - Cat Power
"Darkside" - Tanya Donelly
"A Fond Farewell" - Elliott Smith
"Hoist That Rag" - Tom Waits
"Ten Believers" - Latin Playboys
"Recoil" - Ani DiFranco
"Six Different Ways" - The Cure
"Labour of Love" - Frente
"Love is the Shit" - Spearhead
"Pale Blue Eyes" - Velvet Underground
"All Is Full of Love" - Bjork
"Lonely Lights" - Tarnation
"Happiness is a Warm Gun" - Beatles
"Stolen Car" - Beth Orton
And, while we're at it, on my bedside table for a second go-round is Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
Separate Lies is what you’d expect from a Tom Wilkinson/Emily Watson flick: superb performances, stuffy flick - Asylum II: Gothic Boogaloo. I’m almost as tired of high-falutin’ scheissen like this as I am of low-falutin’ scheissen like Domino - but something like Good Night, and Good Luck. presents something of a different problem. It’s good, I guess, but it’s astonishingly lightweight – there’s almost no substance to it which is something of a shocker. You get what Clooney and co. are going after here: this attack on civil liberties and so on, but without any sort of context for its specific story, all it seems to be is an allegory that holds no particular rewards for its deciphering. It casts something of a pall on my optimism for other stuffy fall biopics like Capote and Walk the Line. After seeing the trailer for Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for like the umpteenth time this weekend, too, I’m starting to hate it sight unseen.
Oh – and was sort of roundabout offered an interview with Dakota Fanning which I think I’m going to pretend that I didn’t see.
Here’s this Trench’s mystery pic. Easier than last time but not yet simple. The tally, remember:
Earnest – I
Captain – I
Elizabethtown is a spectacular failure. Really, this ain't no run-of-the-mill bad, you've really gotta have been trying to do something to flame out like this.