October 23, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Sooooo, as is so often the case, once I bitch about something good and hard the bilge-hole is cleared for a minute and I rediscover for a couple of seconds the sense of urgency that I used to have all the time. In that brief blue burst, pursued and was rewarded two interviews this week: one with writer/director Ira Sachs for his film Forty Shades of Blue (Keith Uhlich of Slant Magazine mentioned the film to me some time ago – he’s got an interview up with Sachs there that I haven’t read yet for fear of cross-contamination), and another with writer/director Noah Baumbach who, ten years ago, did a film I really liked called Kicking and Screaming (with Olivia grrrrrowl D’abo and Eric Stoltz). Kicking and Screaming sort of comes off as a neo-Hal Hartley back when Hal Harley looked like he was going to rule the roost. I still love his Trust – one of the great American flicks of the 1990s. His new flick, The Squid and the Whale, is fantastic. I want to talk more about his mother, former Village Voice critic Georgia Brown and his wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, but as I haven’t done the introduction to the interview yet, I wonder if I shouldn’t see if I don’t need some of that stuff for it. I will say, though, that Ms. Brown’s thoughts on Kim Ki-Duk’s Samaritan Girl guided me through a lot of my analysis of her son’s Squid and Whale flick. If all goes well, there’ll be fresh Sunday Feature’s the next two weeks – a lot depends on how lucid I can stay – the best-laid plans, and all. Here’s what the title of the Baumbach film is referring to: a diorama called “Clash of the Titans” at the New York Museum of Natural History.

Medium-busy screening week for a change which was a nice break from the feast/famine cycle of the last month or so. Saw Doom at a public screening where two middle-aged ladies talked to one another through the whole goddamned thing (“ohhh, that was stupid!” “Look out, I don’t think he’s dead!”) – but it’s Doom, right, so how much did I care? I, Seuss-like, did not over-muchly. Nor did I care over-muchly about the ten or eleven text messagers, the pair of cell phones going off, nor the children screaming in fear and asking their parents - in not so many words - why it is that this of all films would be the instrument of their scarification. Saw industry screenings of Marc Forster’s unfortunate Stay, Niki Caro’s unfortunate North Country, the harrowing Three Extremes, and the abovementioned Squid and the Whale.

What I like is this none-too-subtle attempt to make Theron some sort of literal saint in the PR art:

Eh, it's probably just my imagination.

On the record already for most of these, wanted to say that Three Extremes is uneven as is to be expected, but because the DP on all three shorts (by Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, and Park Chanwook) is the great Christopher Doyle, there’s a certain visual elegance constant to the piece. (An interesting way to inject cohesion.) Fruit Chan’s short is the most provocative – reminding if only in theme – of that "South Park" episode where Christopher Reeve shucks and slurps fetuses to give him the full benefit of stem cells. Almost unwatchable and another fascinating Chinese picture about repressive societies and the toll of a very specific kind of traditional misogyny on the gender relationships in the biggest friggin population concentration on the planet. Heard that Fruit’s short was trimmed down from a 90-minute feature to fit the format of this anthology picture – it shows in a certain inexplicable abruptness in its transitions, emotional or otherwise. My favorite of the three is Park’s self-knowing, self-deconstructing meta-flick that demonstrates exactly how stupid Saw was by using a similar premise and injecting fury and intelligence (and a point). Speaking of which, now they’re screening Saw II for the crix and I’m not going to be able to make it anyway. Oh well. Miike’s piece is extremely formal – looks like the lost segment of Kwaidan in some parts, but reminds me mostly of a Masato Harado picture called Inugami

from a few years back.

It’s beautiful, yeah, but it falls to pieces. Mmmm, Patsy Cline.

I’m a fan – a middle-to-big one of Joe Lansdale – the cult writer that a lot of folks know of as the author of the source for Don Coscarelli’s fabulously melancholy bit of Americana, Bubba Ho-Tep. (Bill had a chance to talk to Coscarelli and Bruce Campbell in Toronto a couple years ago.) He was at the forefront of a “weird west” revolution a decade or so ago; a melding of genres that brought splatterpunk and the supernatural to the traditional Zane Grey oater. His early short story collections (first of his I read was in a now defunct horror quarterly digest called “Night Call” I think – the title, not the place) featured tiny print runs, almost every copy signed, and cover art by photo-surrealist J.K. Potter. In addition to the card-covered chapbooks I tried to collect, I managed first editions of his first five or six books – and then he hit the big time so to speak – graduating from Kensington Press to Bantam and Doubleday. Waters choppy again after the “failure” of Nightrunners (still his best novel – it’s just fucking astonishing and it’s out of print in every format, naturally), Lansdale’s been leaping around between various smaller and independent publishers like a tick on a griddle. When he’s right, though, he writes genre fiction that isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read – well, maybe I’ve read that kind of ferocity in Donald Westlake’s stuff, but he doesn’t do the gore. What I’m saying is that Lansdale’s one of a kind and a prodigious talent, but I do wonder after reading his most popularly acclaimed novel, The Bottoms, now for the first time (released the same year as a superior collection of his work called High Cotton) if he isn’t doing the Dan Simmons/James Lee Burke dive into mediocrity: publish or perish, am I right?

The Bottoms, see, opens with what would have been a magnificent short story – scary as all hell, Depression-era Texas story of two kids and a crippled dog in a wheelbarrow being pursued by the devil in a tangle of mud and bramble. I wondered if I’d have to sleep with the lights on. Then it becomes sort of an Alienist conceit with a To Kill a Mockingbird civil consciousness (complete with Atticus and Scout figures), told from a child narrator’s point of view. This results in a lot of contrivances involving the kid fortuitously eavesdropping on key conversations, and taking a lead somehow in solving a serial murder case complete with little artifacts left in the victims’ wounds a’la every serial killer story since Thomas Harris started defining the subgenre. Its politics are unassailable and so what’s the point? The writing is clear, but it’s in love with its conceit and so manages to be neither a good update of Flannery O’Connor nor, even, a good example of Lansdale himself. Repetitive, too, I should add. Extremely minor stuff – by the time it’s over, I was impatient for it to be over for a good fifty pages. I don’t want to say it’s bad.

On the bedside table now: Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

Introduced/discussed the first of five films in my new series for the Gilpin County Public Library with a spiffy new television in their meeting room no less, that should make all future series an absolute joy (not that they weren’t already). The atmosphere at Gilpin is exceptionally cozy. With a permanent population up there of around 3,000 people, turnout is generally light (about twenty or so), but people bring baked goods and popcorn and it feels like a community. The discussions are lively and interested and at one show a retired primatologist related to me a story of a chimp kicking a drum root that mimicked Charlie Chaplin’s cigarette trick at the prison gates in City Lights. It’s there, too, that a woman whose father owned the horses and land on which Hawks shot Red River told her recollections of the drinkin’ and carousin’ and spending that the Hollywood boys lavished on their family during their stay there. No juicy Montgomery Clift stories, though, but a priceless afternoon nonetheless.

The film was Jack Clayton’s The Innocents – as fine a dissection of the toll of sexual repression on the young and the imaginative as any – co-written, of course, by Truman Capote, in the middle apparently of his unholy obsession with the slaughter of the Kansas Clutters. Arguably, the picture’s the best ghost story ever shot. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s scary as hell with Freddie Francis’ astonishing deep focus, B&W CinemaScope cinematography a genuine marvel on its new aspect ratio-correct transfer. Next week is Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Not a favorite of mine, it’s something that should be included in a ghost series and worth a discussion all the same.

Realized with a little shock that my favorite poem by Robert Duncan is not Google-able – call this a public service for your friendly neighborhood web-crawler, and scroll on down past it. The surprise of it is that although it sounds a lot like a poem of the Blitz, I think it was written in the late thirties (’38 or ’39 most likely):

Passage Over Water

We have gone out in boats upon the sea at night,
lost, and the vast waters close traps of fear about us.
The boats are driven apart, and we are alone at last
under the incalculable sky, listless, diseased with stars.

Let the oars be idle, my love, and forget at this time
our love like a knife between us
defining the boundaries that we can never cross
nor destroy as we drift into the heart of our dream,
cutting the silence, slyly, the bitter rain in our mouths
and the dark wound closed in behind us.

Forget depth-bombs, death and promises we made,
gardens laid waste, and, over the wastelands westward,
the rooms where we had come together bombd.

But even as we leave, your love turns back. I feel
your absence like the ringing of bells silenced. And salt
over your eyes and the scales of salt between us. Now,
you pass with ease into the destructive world.
There is a dry crash of cement. The light fails,
falls into the ruins of cities upon the distant shore
and within the indestructible night I am alone.

On the queue – working like a dog on a review of Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool and have been for the past, oh, 30 hours or so – a movie that I’ve worked like a dog on before to zero results. My deadline for this little stillbirth was about five days ago. At the rate I’m going, by the way, I should be done sometime in the middle of August, 2007. Occurs to me that the film is more discussable than reviewable and damned if it doesn’t just keep getting more relevant: year by year – all the same, it buggers critique. I’m gonna’ get this bastard, though, one way or another. Finished a 3,000-word review of "Desperate Housewives" Season One as well – color me ambivalent. First half good, next half meh. And of course it’s best to assume I’m still wading through "X-Files" mythology episodes until I say otherwise or you hear the shotgun blast. Began this week, too, to wade through some of the screeners that the upcoming Denver International Film Festival has been sending to me – no signs of life yet. . . Will do a mini-post in the next couple of days on stuff I’m watching for fun: a bunch of Val Lewtons, a Robert Wise, an old Italian horror film about killer snowmen, and a couple of Asian gangster flicks (Fulltime Killer and Branded to Kill). Afraid to peek at next week’s openings – I think there’s a Meryl Streep flick, another Nicholas Cage, and sequels to Zorro and Saw. Y’know – I think the second Star Wars flick is better than the first, ditto the second Babe and Godfather and Mad Max films. I really like the third Mad Max film, I should say – I wonder if it’s not the best of the three. (Sounds like Alex liked the second Breakin’ flick better, too, with a groovy rationale for why first sequels are “freer” to boot – doesn’t explain the second Children of the Corn, though.) Sequel I’m looking forward to coming up next month: Harry Potter 4. What I’m saying is that I’m not certain that Saw II is going to suck – just that it’s gotta’ suck particularly for it suck harder than the first.

Mystery capture #5/7:

On the shuffle:

Dickon Hinchliffe - Laura
Dar Williams - Comfortably Numb
Bjork - Who Is It?
Daniel Johnston - Impossible Love
Angelo Badalamente - Jitterbug
Editors - Open Your Arms
Patsy Cline - I Fall To Pieces
Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
Death Cab for Cutie - Dream Scream
Sufjan Stevens - In the Devil’s Territory
Elvis Presley - Mystery Train
The The - Sodium Light Baby
Bessie Smith - Honeyman Blues
Pedro the Lion - Rapture
Elliott Smith - Somebody That I Used To Know
Throwing Muses - Bright Yellow Gun
Devo - Girl U Want
Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones
Asie Payton - I Love You
My Morning Jacket - It’s About Twilight Now
Nick Cave - Let It Be
OMD - If You Leave

New Review:

Forty Shades of Blue
The Squid and the Whale and The Weather Man
The Legend of Zorro


The Captain said...


Walter_Chaw said...

Wow - holy moly.

Okay, man. You're freakin' me out here.

That's two for the Cap'n.

Cap'n - II
Asokan - I
Shrug - I
Ian - I
Earnest - I

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Samaritan girl was good, but it didn't have a theme running all the way through. It just seemed too cut-and-paste, thematically. Essentially I think he's trying to bite more than he can chew in that movie, last scene is great though. Plus there is stuff (for example, when the two girls give each other sponge bath) that i found unnecessary to the context of the film and highly self-indulgent and dare i say, masturabatory. Coast Guard is shit. Bad Guy and Isle are better ones of his earlier films and an indication of genius to come. But frankly, they aren't even in the same ballfeild as his last 2 films. Now that I've seen most kim's films, i must say, i'm not too impressed by his past work, but i can see his evolution from a guy with sparks of genius here and there to a complete master. i believe by the time this decade ends, he will be considered a modern great. I can't wait for "hwal". I think they showed it at Berlin IFF. Give and take, he is my favorite current film-maker just on the strength of his last two films.

I gotta start watching old films. I think I've seen just about a dozen films that released before 1960. I just can never make myself get black-and-white shit. Seems to distant. I've seen so much garbage from 70s just to avoid black-and-white. Pathetic, but I truely have no defense. Till then, no mystery pic answers from me.

Scott said...

I reads Landsdale's THE NIGHT-RUNNERS when I was about twelve and remember absolutely nothing from it except that I loved it. And the paperback had this weird cover with a weird creature on it -- that I remember, too.

I also loved MUCHO MOJO and those other suspense books featuring those two friends, black and white, the names of which escape me write now. Wonderfully lean and tight writing, with such a great sense of place. Ironic, how eerie and strange that Texas sunshine can be in his hands.

I remember reading one of his short-story collections a few years back, the introduction of which stated that he was tired of writing spooky stories and gory stories and was now looking to shed a little more light into the human condition in his upcoming works.

tmhoover said...

Walter: please refrain from catalogueing and repeating every single time somebody at a public screening speaks during the movie. For that matter, stop telling me when people in critic's screenings don't turn off their cell phones, too. I go to screenings just like you, and this stuff happens to me- but these are such minor nuisances that I can't imagine why anyone would go to the trouble of deliberating over them as if they were the work of gangsters and war criminals.

While I'm at it, I'd also like you to stop whining about the loud gauche responses of people at public screeings. Yeah, it's annoying to hear the public get excited about movies that don't deserve the time of day- but I treasure those screenings for keeping me out of the rarified movie-nerd world that I can often find myself in. It's not pleasant information I learn, but it's important in knowing exactly which way the wind is blowing. Even if you haven't complained about this recently, I know you're gearing up, so let me take this opportunity to nip that in the bud.

The fact that these mishaps and indignities torment you so much says more about you than it does about the perpetrators- and your attempts to blow it all up into something other than the unavoidable discomforts of living is starting to annoy me. Cut it out already.

The Captain said...

Ah, bless my university library and its nice big catalogue of movies new and old. :D

Re: Travis - cell phones going off and people talking, minor nuisances? Short of being stabbed in the face or having your fingers cut off with bolt cutters by a member of the audience who doesn't like the film you made about them in secret not knowing they'd show up to see it, there's nothing worse in a cinema than some thoughtless idiot distracting the audience who actually cares about watching the film with their inconsiderate, distracting blabber. I love movies, and usually have to pay for them, and I hate it when unthinking, careless morons unneccesarily detract from the experience - minor nuisances? I disagree. A cell phone going off will pull you out of the film, and some jackass answering it completely kills the atmosphere. Retards SMSing other retards is a painful little distraction when it's in sight, and mindless talking at the movies is a crime which should be punishable by death.

I think Walter has every right to complain, and moreso I wish there was something that could be done. Has anyone ever seen one of these amazing cell-phone-blocker devices that Ebert has talked about? If I owned a cinema, that'd be the first thing I'd get. Then, a group of armed guards to deal with the other trouble makers. Excessive? Not in my books...

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Whine, Walter, Whine. I don't mind either. I'm sure the fact that these mishaps and indignities torment you so much says more about you than it does about the perpetrators. But then again, we're the ones reading your blog and commenting on it every week so it doesn't say much about us either.

Anonymous said...

Don't celebrate yet, Captain! This game ain't over!

I also attended a screening of Doom a little more than a week ago, and I can pretty safely say that it was one of the worst experiences in my short career of attending preview screenings. I'm with you on "who cares" thanks to the film (which would have hit the very bottom of my Bottom 10 list of the year, had it not been for a few sparklings of wit towards the end), but what truly irked me: firstly, in how so many audience members gasped and jumped at every little pseudo-scare (doubting very much that no one in the theater saw Aliens). Secondly, concerning The Rock's ultra-psychotic behavior -- something that the film uses as a few stern warnings towards its ending -- and how everyone seemed to love it, cheering and applauding, until they were essentially instructed not to. Thirdly, there were also under-seven children at my screening; I need to know what these people are thinking. Frankly, even though I always loathe talking and idiocy through the movies, the loud, snide comments perked me up a bit, if only to demonstrate that there were still many people in the theater who recognized this as a terrible movie.

In other news, I'm a little mystified by Squid and the Whale. Certainly I enjoyed it, what with the strong familial bonds involved and Jeff Daniels with his terrifying new beard, but I thought it was trying a little too hard to be Wes Anderson (being produced by the man certainly influenced it), and I thought its abrupt ending was more of a cop-out than anything. Overall, a nicely thoughtful and oftentimes brilliantly cynical film, but I would venture to say a tad overrated.

-- Ian

Walter_Chaw said...

The problem that I have mainly with pleas like this is that they're certainly more than a little self-reflexive, don't you think? Never claimed that the entries I contribute to this blog aren't revealing about myself (or irritating - what could be more?) - just as I don't pretend that the reviews that I write are about anyone else's experience than my own. When someone writes to tell me how pathetic I am to complain about a movie, I try to point out how it's exactly just that much more pathetic of them to complain about me complaining about a movie. Besides, I'm not complaining, Travis, reading comprehension teaches us that after the very first entry, I'm just documenting. I don't think of these things as war crimes, don't you know, but the comparison makes me think that annoying you could be a virtue.

You got a problem with my work, have at it, I'm fairly good about responding to cogent criticism line-by-line - even been known to concede the occasional point - but this here is where I put my feet up and chat with people who want to read something about going out to be a critic every fucking day that's a helluva lot more informal and structurally rigid than reviews/interviews. "Notes from the Trenches" - see? So whatever's gotten under your saddle, you go, boy, this too will pass. Hope you feel lighter now.

What I've heard about those cell-killing devices is that they might be illegal to use by a public organization in a public setting in the United States. Otherwise, can you imagine? The solution might be to have a consent disclaimer printed on the backs of the tickets that implicitly states that by going to a movie at this theater, you've agreed to have your Blackberry silenced. When you go to a baseball game, they have information on the back that limits the damages that you can claim if, while chatting on your cellphone for instance, you're beaned by a line-drive foul for god's sake - surely there's a way around this. If it's true.

I'd agree that if you love movies and, more, see the act of going as something of a holy pilgrimage to a more primordial way of seeing - that the folks who text message and chat on phones (in or out) and kick your seat and let their kids run up and down the aisle - do, in fact, besmirch the experience. That, yeah, it's Doom and I don't really care all that much about the picture - but it deserved a chance, a better one than it got for sure. And that, as the point was way back there, is exactly what the studios that dictate the whens and hows of the screening schedule for their pictures, is hoping to accomplish. At the very least, it should be fair shooting to inform how it was I saw a picture while you're reading my review of it. If I saw something on horseback while geeked on mescaline, for instance, it could change my perspective a little. A little.

This blog ain't much, but our little site gets a scary-big readership - a lot of it industry readership from what I glean from pals in the industry out in LaLa Land (the rest of it Shane West and Wentworth Miller fans) and while I suspect that fear and confusion is what they mean to inspire by loading us in with the worst possible audiences - it's also possible that by documenting exactly the nature of the disturbances epidemic at these screenings that there may, in fact, be a change. Particularly if the filmmakers involved ever decide that they don't appreciate their work being treated this way.

I do know that the security guard I talked about who had a nice long chat during the Dreamer, industry-only screening, has been looking at me with a lot of hostility since that morning. But no more cell phones during the day screenings.

Too true. Fact is, it ought to bother you when people shit on your carpet.

I should mention without getting too gory with the details that someone from the Doom cast/crew wrote me a nice email telling me exactly what it was that was cut from the screenplay by studio wonks looking for a quick buck. I ain't saying that it was Aliens before the tampering, but I will say that a lot of the empty character threads didn't used to be so empty. Think of all the depth we could have explored if that fifteen-minutes of FPS were floored. The potential was there - it always is, I guess, which is why we go even when the title is "Doom".

Fave part of Doom? That thing stuck in the wall, waving its arm pathetically in the hazy background. See, that's funny.

Squid and the Whale - agreed that it suffers a little in that it's post-Tenenbaums and Anderson's quirks are by now so familiar, but I thought that it was stripped down to the extent that it served almost as a denaturing of Anderson's snark. Something that was definitely needed post-Life Aquatic I think most would agree. I found it to be painful and, more, I really admired its cohesion - particularly the squid & whale metaphor at its middle. Maybe it's just that the Jeff Daniels character reminded me a lot of my own dad.

Oops, does that say too much about me? Well, so it does.

Walter_Chaw said...

By the way - agreed on Ki-Duk's early stuff. He's withstood a ton of criticism for his "misogyny" in those works, too - there're a few interviews on the internet that are just attacks of his early stuff. Interesting. I think, though, like you that he's already among the most accomplished directors on the scene. If you want a good place to start with an old flick, go with L'Atalante. Seriously. There's never been anything quite like it - it's got a really modern vibe to it, too.

Yeah, a shame Lansdale departed from the horror. His God of Razors ideas were freaky as hell and unique, too. I'm shocked that Coscarelli and Campbell did as well as they did in adapting him, by the way - I think they really captured something there.

Walter_Chaw said...

Desperate Housewives I

The Captain said...

Bring on the Lost review, I say!

Walter_Chaw said...

Afraid that "Lost" is in turnaround - performing CPR on it as we speak.

Anonymous said...

My word say gguamv.

Desperate Houswives 1? Oh, season 1. I gotcha.

Someday, Cap'n will tell us what words he typed into which search engine to get his answers. Or maybe he just has a considerable library of films. I haven't been able to answer a single one of these screen caps (though I almost guessed correctly with Cremaster); I actually don't even think I've seen a single one of these movies. Then again, I say this as I eat Cheetos off my shirt, sooo there that is.

As for the great cell phone debate? Ya know. It's wrong to use cell phones during movies in any context; one could call dealing with it unavoidable, but I have to say I sometimes get pretty cheesed when one starts ringing not five minutes after those goofy ads that tell everyone to shut them off. I don't know. At least Travis and Walter both got something off their chest.

Anonymous said...

Increasingly rude and inconsiderate audience members are another side-effect of the dying theatre chains. Typically I begin my regular theatre visits by scanning the terrain and securing my sitting position with military calculation. Matinee shows and art houses were usually consistently reliable foxholes—but, even they are no longer safe from the grasping, chattering hordes of cell phonies, suburban quilting bees and hipster doofuses. At the risk of sounding like an old fogy, I fondly remember the days when ushers would actually toss people out of the theatre for disrupting behavior—of course, that was also a time when not every customer service position was staffed by a surly sixteen-year old working for nickels. The illusion of self-importance which people attach to personal technology is also a big part of the problem. When I hear that maddening electronic chirping in a dark theatre, the offending party might as well just stand up and say: “Hi there. My life is so important, that it must necessarily intrude on yours—if we are to survive.” I live in a large metropolitan city where people are trained to create the illusion of busyness (“I can’t just walk down the street! I have to be a productive team player!”) To the point that the technologies which allow us to “Stay in Touch” paradoxically become still more vehicles we use to alienate ourselves from each other. Forget the cell phone or Blackberry, the worst technological advance was The Remote Control—when people don’t have one, they’ll just make their own. Even lousy films require a level of contemplation and meditation which is actively discouraged in most other social or work environments. I still overhear co-workers point to the fact that they don’t have time to read or watch films as though it was a point of pride rather than enormously depressing. (They do have time, of course. To have time, is too frightening) Paying attention used to be a self-evident cultural necessity—now it seems to be a liability more than ever. So, Walter—keep raging—when you hear those hopeful groans during “DOOM” (or whatever unmitigated piece of horse puckey hits the screens this week) remind yourself that: We Are Out There.

Peace y’all.

Chad Evan said...

I remember that once a cellphone went off while I was in church, and the lady to whom it belonged literally went red in the face and fumbled around desperately to turn it off as quickly as possible--see, that's the attitude we need in movie theatres. And if you think talking to God and seeing a film are on completely different planes and so the comparison doesn't fly, I submit, at the risk of sounding like another Scorsese-obsessed film geek (mea culpa(wow, I did remember something from Latin class)), that they're really not such seperate experiences. In any case, imagine someone brazenly using a cell-phone while attending a play (which reminds me of when I was studying abroad in Ireland and a young woman did just that and was literally ostracized as an ignorant ugly American the entire semester--harsh, but just)and tell me why it should be any different at a flick. In any case, it's not such a huge problem where I live--Southern politeness, or do I just not tend to go see the same movies as the mass of people and so insulate myself in the movie nerd womb travis was speaking of? Couldn't say.

Chad Evan said...

By the way Dave:
I think you're dead on about the channel flipping mentality--speaks to a deeper disrespect for art and ubiquitous postmodern self-obsession.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I don't watch a lot of movies in theatre. Maybe that has something to do with me being broke, but mostly i just don't find most stuff playing deserving of my time, effort, attention and money. Either it's stupid hollywood films or stupid hollywood baits. I just get aggrevated by seeing shit like Crash. What's really the point of watching crap like North Country ? It's a waste of time. I'd rather just rent something from the 70s and watch it on t.v. it's about the quality of films on display. Maybe I'll catch a few as this end of the year. I got cable so most of the crap I see on t.v. anyways. Does it really matter if I see "doom" 6 months later on t.v ? The films I really do wanna see never quite make it into theatres, but i catch them when they do. I rent 5-6 dvds a week and they keep me busy.

Maybe that's why I never notice too many cellphones or blackberries. More than half the time it is me sitting in theatre watching the film by myself. I saw 2046 all alone in the theatre. So, to tell you the truth Walter, my crapet's the size of a kleenex.

Carl Walker said...

Yeah, cell phone calls are awful, but I've found recently (in the last three films I've been to see, no less!) that I'd prefer someone in the audience to have their cell ring (or even talk on it!) than talk to (or in the most recent case, loudly make out with) someone they've actually come to the theater with. At least when it's a cell thing, you know that the call probably won't last for the whole damn movie.

So yeah, screw scramblers, they really do need ushers. And really it's a win-win for the theater owners. If those damn teenagers in the row behind me are rolling around under the seats, chances are they didn't pay for the movie they're not even bothering to watch, meaning that they brought down my viewing experience and the owner can't even say, "fuck it, at least we made money off of them." I might as well continue with the ageism and say that those senior citizens who had to explain the movie to each other (three viewings ago) are also prime culprits when it comes to "two for the price of one" theater attendance practices. As my step-grandfather says, "they want you to do that."

Walter_Chaw said...

Don't you think that people would pay a little premium - say, $1.00 a ticket - to go to a screening that's bounced? I'm thinking that the cineplexes offer one show a week - or one on Friday, one on Saturday - for which you pay that premium and, in turn, that premium is paid a pair of bouncers who stand to the sides and escort out the folks who are unruly. Consequently, when you pay the premium, you're also agreeing to be bounced at a zero-tolerance if you accidentally leave the phone on - or chat - or do other distracting things while the film's unspooling.

Are there liability issues? I wonder, but again, if you have a full disclaimer, the theater has to be allowed to run as a private business with their own set of rules, right? I know that there's a theater in San Francisco that offers the bouncing along with full cocktail service and assigned seating for a large premium: and that they're sold out consistently. Makes going to the movies special again, I guess, and there's always going to be an audience of folks who desire that specialness.

Many theaters already have a bring your baby show - why not the corollary? Besides, as you say, Carl, a lot of the miscreants probably aren't there for the film anyway and would be loath to shell out any extra dough. Speaking for me, and I'm poor, I'd pay an extra couple bucks at this point just so I could be sure that the audience had been sternly cautioned.

Anonymous said...

I actually think people going to see movies who don't actually go to see movies are one of the biggest problems with the way movies are made these days, not just in terms of what kind of moviegoing experience it creates but in terms of what gets made. A lot of times, movies are either made for or compromised for this late-high school/college male demographic that probably don't really give a shit about what they're seeing either way, so long as it's a socially-acceptable "date" movie. It's the only reason movies like Without a Paddle are made in the first place.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

correction: i meant "oscar" baits not "hollywood" baits in the earlier post.

point is, no one gives a shit. stupid films are going to be made no matter what. wether they be "stupid" stupid like "doom" or intellectually "stupid" like crash. i saw "woodsman" on t.v. last night. What a peice of shit ? everyone in the movie is either a molester or molestee. what the fuck is this need in these so called "oscar" baits to hammer their theme in. firstly, there is something about hot-button issue movies that makes me not wanna in the first place. but then they try and shove eveything related to the "issue" down our throats. what is sad is mostly these movies have pretty good lead performances. kevin bacon was pretty good in woodsman, sean penn was good in "assassination of richard nixon", but as a whole, i just wish they would back off a little. just because the film is about child molestation doesn't mean that every single thing in it has to be about it. i would've much preffered to just see kevin bacon trying to assimilate into society as a molester by himself. ofcourse ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars. stupid dickwad ! i officially fucking hate him now.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...


read your American History X review. Brilliant.

That makes me wanna write an essay on punch-drunk love just because I haven't read a definitive review of it yet. I haven't written one before so i don't know how it'll turn out. But what the fuck am I loosing in trying. Right ?

Jack_Sommersby said...

During my teenage years, when I spent every weekend at the theatre watching three movies in a row, I really don't remember being disturbed by my fellow audience members. I just don't. Were audiences truly more respectful in those days (those being the '80s, for those who don't know me), or did my growing movie-love simply make me more sensitized to audience noise? I think we all know the answer to that: Americans are more rude and selfish than before!

(Oh, and Travis, I, too, don't consider audience noise a minor thing; and neither does anyone else in these blogs, I believe. We like to read Walter vent; if you don't, then you don't have to read it, do you?)

Something that's going unwritten here isn't just cell phones and talking and the like, but the damn noisy "refreshments" that are as welcome in a theatre as a Sam Mendes film is in my DVD collection.

First, popcorn. Two things: first, while I eat it quietly (though at home; for the record, I haven't bought anything from a theatre concession stand since '89, I swear), there are those who have to eat it like they haven't eaten anything since Elvis was alive. Good gracious, I thought the roof was caving in, by the sound of one asshole chomping the stuff down; second, it's a chore having some moron sitting in front of you who's gotta take a handful of the damn stuff and put it into their mouth as they put their head practically all the way back -- what the fuck is up with that? (Oh, I take it back. I bought a small popcorn in 2000 during a showing of Get Carter. Why? Because this lady, who was one of only 5 other audience members, was being extremely noisy with her damn popcorn. Frustrated and at the last-straw point, I bought some and sat closer to her than I was before and proceeded to eat the stuff as loud as I possibly could. Felt like I was of the I've-never-heard-of-utensils/fuck-a-napkin species while I was doing it, but, hey, she got peeved, knew damn well why I was doing this, and moved damn near all the way to the front.)

Second, nachos. Whose bright damn idea was it to offer something like this up that consists of tortilla chips that, uh, you know, are loud when you chomp down on them? Third, candy in abrasively loud plastic wrappers. We've all experienced the IQ-depleted doofus who takes about 2 hours to successfully unwrap the box in the first place. But how about the candy where each individual piece -- like fruit chews -- has a wrapper? So you have the unwrapping of the main thing and then the unwrapping of the little things. One of the all-time worst theatre moments was listening to this couple unwrap their I-hope-you-choke-on-them fruit chews during the extraordinary collapsing-bridge sequence in Mothman Prophecies. Ugh. Fourth, that person who not only has to suck the last damn drop out of that cup, but who then tears the lid off and shovels the damn ice down their throats on ten separate occasions until -- yep! -- every damn piece of ice is gone! As for talkers, the last time I had a problem with this, it involved a family, not a group of teenagers, and I calmly stood up and said forcefully 6 rows over, "Excuse me, if ya'll want to talk, go the hell outside." They quieted, suffice to say.

Okay, I've vented. Oh, and one more thing, unrelated. I just got through watching the special-edition Crying Game DVD (damn, Stephen Rea's understated performance is outstanding!), and it offers up this awful alternate ending that the studio inititally demanded Neil Jordan use: rather than waiting for the cops after Del shoots Jude, Fergus runs to the roof and escapes; Dave (the guy who'd roughed Del up before and whom Fergus put in his place) comes into the room where Jude's body is right before the police barge in, and he of course is arrested for the shooting; and we forward some months where Del's cutting hair for another salon, and wouldn't you know the client with a towel over his wet hair who's been prepped for Del's cutting (she's returned late from lunch) is Fergus! Rolled my eyes a million times over the innate inanity of it all.

Jack_Sommersby said...

One more thing -- again, unrelated. I just had to share this. I was at one of these Game Stop or Game Pit or whatever places looking at used DVDs. I noticed a game of The Warriors; I asked a worker if this had recently been released since the special-edition DVD of the film is due out soon. He gave me this snobby "I don't follow movies." answer. Ooooooookay, fine. Well, guess what I found in the DVD racks? The Criterion DVD of Last Temptation of Christ, which retails at $35, with a $7 sticker on it! Heh, heh! I was saying to myself as that same guy was ringing up my purchase: You may know games, but apparently you don't know diddly about the true value of some of the DVDs that grace our world.

Alex Jackson said...

Quick comments.

To Walter and Travis: Believe it or not, I think that I still see going to the movies as a social/entertainment thing more than a religious one. The drive-in has gotten me addicted to some bad habits; talking during the movie, talking at the movie, taking my shoes off during the movie, taking my pants off during the movie. Curbed it for the theaters of course, but it's certainly gotten to be an urge that I needs to control.

Still, I don't think that I would go for that bouncer thing. It sounds like it would be too much like study hall.

I can't say that I ever really had much of a problem with movie audiences. The Newark audience that I saw The Haunting with, ripped the movie apart. Which was OK by me since it sucked all kinds of ass.

I recently saw a midnight screening of "The Shining" in Salt Lake and there was a surprising amount of laughter throughout. Especially in the scene at the cook's hotel room. It actually deepened my appreciation of the film, particularly since the audience was hip enough to condescend to Nicholson and the dopey dialogue early in the film, but was hella reverent during the potentionally nutty scary parts. Those scenes were saved by the Kubrick gaze I realized.

To Hollow Man: My American History X inspired you to write the definitive review of Punchdrunk Love? Could be no higher praise as far as I am concerned.

To Jack: Actually I think that The Warriors: Special Edition was released to coicide with the release of the game. Great find on the Last Temptation of Christ Criterion.

Walter_Chaw said...

Neil Jordan has a new one coming out - can't wait to see it though I've heard mixed reviews. Cillian Murphy, cross-dressing. . . Big underrated picture in my mind is Jordan's In Dreams.

Can't wait to play that Warriors game. Looks sweet.

Best pick-up I ever made at a Game Stop-esque boutique was The Stunt Man for six bucks and Bully for $4.95.

jer fairall said...

Excellent piece on Desperate Housewives, Walter.

I actually watched a few episodes recently in order to make sure that I wasn't just being an unfair bastard for hating a show, sight unseen, on the grounds that it a) it is a popular network television show, and b) has a really stupid title. My problems with it were basically yours: much like The O.C. it's a glib, smirky soap opera made with wit and craft considerable enough that you want to acknowledge it for being more superior to the Aaron Spelling brand of garbage than it actually probably is (though Housewives does at least appear to be much less smugly self-aware than The O.C.). Highly watchable, then, but empty. As a comedy, it's not nearly absurdist (like Arrested Development) or knowingly satirical (like The Simpsons) enough to be funny in any weighty or penetrating way, and as a drama, it's not nearly humanistic enough (like Six Feet Under) for the outrage to ever feel like anything other than faux-.

Felicity Huffman is very good, though, and her character is one of two on the show that I found at all interesting, and her's only because of the gravity that she is able to bring to her role (and because of my mind constantly referring back to her in Sports Night). The other, Marcia Cross' rebellious bisexual son is interesting for the way in which he uses his bisexuality as not only a "fuck you" to his blindly conservative mom, but also in a way that establishes himself as being rather comfortably outside the "gay" norm as well. Sticky and fascinating.

And I can't help but wonder if so much of the hoopla over this and Lost has more to do with their popularity starting to reclaim non-cable network television from the "reality" morass than anything. I mean, Family Guy is back, but it's still way too fringe, and The O.C. is kids stuff.

Oh, and also, Nobody Knows was wonderful.

Walter_Chaw said...

Hey - glad you liked Nobody Knows - I've been recommending the hell out of it among my own little circle of pals out here and either no one's taking the bait (hundreds times bitten, twice shy, I guess), or have seen it and hate it and now don't want to tell me what an ass I am for suggesting it in the first place.

Saw a screening of Verbinski's The Weather Man tonight and it's pretty bad. Six people walked out. That's quite a few for a free preview show. Also some eyebrows raised that this prestige pic wasn't screened for critics at a private show. They screened Saw II and Dreamer at industry-onlys for god's sake. Guess we shouldn't have wondered.

Walter_Chaw said...

No place for it in the review, but the riot scenes in Medium Cool when Verna Bloom is wandering through the chaos called the image of a daisy looking for a rifle to my head.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...


I loved what you did with the American History X, which was deconstruction of everything, beginning to the end. i must say I haven't seen it done like that. Maybe that has to do with my own illetracy but it certainly was a novelty for me.

AMerican History X has nothing to do with Punch-drunk love but I never see justification done to that movie. It is on my top 10 list of all time and I think after watching it 20 times I'm pretty sure about what I have to say. The closest I have seen the film being reviewed properly is in Walter review (moviemartyr review wasn't bad). But I'm talking more of an essay than a review.

I'm really starting to get into your shit. Half the time I don't agree with you completely but I guess that has something to do with the fact that we share 5 same films in our top 10 of all time, while some films on that list I absolutely hate. Don't know how that works but it's just the way it is.

The Captain said...

I'm ever so glad someone mentioned Six Feet Under up there. Having just watched Seasons 2 to 5 over the past few weeks, I'm convinced it is one of - if not the - greatest TV series ever made. The first series barely scrapes the surface of the places this wonderful show goes.

Bless you, HBO. Next up, Deadwood, which I've had a hard time getting into due to my bias against Westerns. For me, the whole genre has screamed acclaim for the worst in masculinity, and sexism and racism (in a very similar way to horrible pat-on-the-back American war films, which idolise war rather then depicting it as grim, realistic horror) thus I've always avoided it (aside from the classics, the Few Dollars trilogy and the like) but I'm willing to give Deadwood a shot based on Walter's loving words.

Tim Norberg said...

hi, long time reader, first time commenter. "The Innocents" is probably one of my favorite horror films of all time, and is for some reason one of the only movies I've watched that's truly scared me. It has something to do with the constant eerie feeling of the unknown, and also my dread of scary things hiding in the dark and outside of windows.(the eyes at the beginning of suspiria also terrify me) As for The Haunting, I watched that movie in my queer cinema class and we all actually found it sort of laughable. A well made film, obviously, but the dread lurking in the dark is the spectre of lesbianism, which makes the movie more campy than anything else. There just isn't the same sense of the uncanny, I guess.

And on the subject of obnoxious theatre patrons, I mostly detest talkers(especially people who loudly explain the plot, or narrate the movie), but the senile old man behind me during a screening of Seabiscuit turned the movie from an incredibly dull oscarfest into a hilarious adventure. Especially when he shouted "go seabiscuit, seabiscuit's going to win!", "that's what I would have done", and "oh no, they tricked seabiscuit". So whenever I think of that awful, awful movie, I think of old men shouting at the screen, which is only appropriate.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I'd rather watch a movie about that dumb ol' fuck watching seabuiscit then watch that peice of shit again.

Walter_Chaw said...

apropos of little, read Alex's stuff on Friday the 13th.

Seminal stuff, truly.

Bill C said...

I've actually been chipping away at a piece on "Six Feet Under" for quite some time; indeed, I found the third season so emotionally gruelling that it makes me uncomfortable to revisit it. I find that the series on the whole is a bit like the Star Trek movie franchise: every other season is great. (Though this is just applying conventional wisdom out of convenience--I've really grown to appreciate the in-betweener "Treks.") Even though I can admit that "Six Feet Under" gets a bit pretentious at times, shame on that Marc Cherry twerp for dismissing it as trendily ironic (or whatever he said--it was something like that), considering "Desperate Housewives", from the title on down, is as disingenuous as they come.

Anonymous said...

Just recently picked up Burton's Mars Attacks! for seven bucks. 'Course, you can get it on Amazon for only a few dollars more, but I find the film to be a truly underrated gem. Isn't just a b-movie parody, it is a b-movie. The film will become more poignant as time goes on, what with its dated graphics and stars (Tom Jones, in particular), and the dark humor is just fantastic.

Also, I'm a big fan of Alex's F13 reviews. Of course, I do kind of hate most of the movies -- I saw the lot of them over the summer, and, ironically, we are of a completely differing opinion concerning all of the films (III and VI are the only ones I really liked), but the reviews are always a good read. Been meaning to discuss your review of Part VI, particularly the scene featuring Sartre's "No Exit" being read by a twelve-year-old boy, which strikes me as particularly bizarre -- I always took it as a criticism of the series and its too-casual use of philosophy.

-- Ian

Chad Evan said...

Speaking of seminal works on Friday the 13th, Walter, what's the name of that critical study of slasher films you're always going on about--something about women and chainsaws? Been meaning to pick it up but can't remember the title.

The Captain said...

indeed, I found the third season so emotionally gruelling that it makes me uncomfortable to revisit it.

I feel that, and it never lets up, not even at the end. Aside from being so hard to take so often, it's pretty remarkable how little the show comments on the things that happen, and how open it is to everything - it's never a moral tale, it just is. It gives you hope, makes you laugh, and breaks your heart; it feels like life.

Breathtaking and exciting. Also really, really fucked up.

I can't wait for all five seasons to be released on DVD in a nice little wooden baby coffin display case.

Bill C said...

The book's called "Men, Women, and Chainsaws", Chad. (By Carol Clover, I believe.)

Chad Evan said...

Thanks a million, Bill.

Anonymous said...

My experience with the Friday the 13th movies was unusual in that I mostly disliked them as a kid—but found myself moderately engaged during my eight-movie fest last year. (Although if I hear anyone say anything positive about Part 8—I’m canceling my subscription.) My parents (rather sanely I think) didn’t allow me to watch everything as a child and so, by the time I saw some of the Jason flicks (at a sleepover, natch) I had already been spoiled for better movies. As I recall, my main interest in the films revolved around the promise of nekkid ladies—my quaint modus operandi in those bygone days when all manner of depravity wasn’t just a mouse click away. Recent viewings allowed me to appreciate just how grotty and nihilistic some of these films were—especially in the wake of the post-modern horror films of the last ten years (with their scrubbed, conventionally handsome casts and glossy cinematography.) That said, I think that the Friday the 13th films are easily disposable (and yes, I own all eight of them) Much like pornography, the Friday the 13th movies are rote exercises in eliciting one single, base reaction and like pornography, the films are often outwardly appealing but generally listless and boring as a viewing experience. When it comes to dirty movies and bad horror films--the best thing is usually the box cover. There is some appeal, I admit, in watching these movies go through the motions (the requisite, final act Discovery of the Corpses is my personal favourite) but, the films are so sub-standard that I really can’t get behind them as anything more than guilty pleasures. Horror films are often tricky in that they are sometimes worth more as cultural touchstones than as films. (I Spit on Your Grave is another important, but bad film) I’m always interested in the cultural forces that inspire horror films and, I found the reviews of the first two films interesting—but, I still tend to believe that these films range from mediocre to terrible. I get a kick out of the lousy acting and retro effects—but, one shouldn’t expend too much brain power on the oeuvre of uber-hacks Sean S. Cunningham and Steve Miner . I will say that I'd rather read Alex's reviews than actually re-watch any of the films so--keep 'em coming.

Ahh…Halloween is in the air. I’ve already had my annual viewing of the Carpenter original—and this year, my wife allowed me to stop and start it while offering my own running commentary. ‘Tis a glorious time to be a geek.

Seattle Jeff said...

A comment on the topic of audiences:

Though I have a general disdain for people as a whole, I take things on a case-by case basis.

The old black lady that yelled at Michelle Pfeifer to "do" Mel Gibson in Tequila Sunrise will always be a special memory.

The guy who shouted "Fuck Yeah!!" at the beginning of Star Wars Episode I, not so much.

And then there's the people who brought their young children to Kill Bill Volume 2 and The Gangs of New York...

When the glove was on the other foot, I was shushed during Titus when my wife asked me a question and I whispered a one word answer. Man, I wanted to punch the lady who shushed me in the face. I can see shushing, but not over one word.

And then there was my buddy who went 'roid rage on two yapping gang members at a dollar theater.

My rule is that you can talk in a movie if it looks like you can kill me for objecting.

Oh, and of cours, last but not least, are the people who were yappig annoyingly before Regarding Henry, so I subtlely moved to a different spot. Noticing this, of course, they followed me. I wanted to hit those people too.

So the moral of the story is that I'm pretty passive when I go see mediocre films.

Bill C said...

One of my worst moviegoing experiences: the guy in front of me has one of those Indiglo watches, and he keeps checking it during the climax of Halloween H20. Now, any imp who's ever been to a movie can sense that the stupid thing is almost over anyway, but he literally kept checking it every ten seconds (like the way kids ask "What time is it now?"), and so it was this peripheral nuisance I came to dread; in fact, waiting for him to check hijacked the suspense of the movie proper. Finally I leaned over and said, "Sir, do you mind? That's getting very distracting." At which point his buddy said, "Keep checking your watch, dude. Drive him nuts." Watch-Boy took off, though, and his sociopathic friend stayed behind to give me the finger--holding it up for the remainder of the movie.

Lee said...

That's too bad about "The Weather Man." Thought the trailer had some promise.

Alex: Just got done reading all your "Friday the 13th" reviews on your site. I think you've convinced me to go back and watch each one. I'm fascinated by the ideas you have presented about the series.

Alex Jackson said...

I literally wrote those Friday the 13th reviews a month apart, and I fear that it might get to be rather repetitive reading them.

I've come to think of those pieces as my "fuck you" to the film studies crowd. What exactly differentiates a convention from a cliche?

Why are Fred and Ginger or Busby Berkley legitimate and Jason and Freddy are not? Their musicals are every bit as derivative and predictable as the Friday the 13th films are. And Miner's use of POV in Friday the 13th: Part 2 is at least as sophisticated as anything in the 30s musicals.

The answer, I guess, is that Fred and Ginger were lucky enough to make films in an age where almost everything was "genre". Their popularity lended their films validity as cinematic art. It's nothing intrinsic. In an alternate Slider universe, Roger Ebert would be including The Final Chapter in his Great Movies section.

It's not insignificant that they replace singing and dancing with tits and disembowlments, but you know, those are all cheap and immediate pleasures and once you accept that as part of the package, you can talk about the technique and the variations on the theme.

The Friday the 13th films toe pretty close to the party line and so they are never that great, never that bad, and always representative of something far greater than the sum of their parts.

Alex Jackson said...

Ah, and some shameless self-promotion, my review of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is loaded on the homesite.

Carl Walker said...


I am a bloody cheapskate right now, and since especially with Netflix it's sorta hard to justify the ticket price (especially since a good social occasion and a good film so rarely overlap even when there is a good film to be seen), I probably wouldn't pay for it. And I really doubt I could get my friends to pay for it (and I would be unlikely to cough it up for my date as well).

Or, let's say, perhaps I would've paid it for 2046 which I had been hotly anticipating and saw alone anyone, but then I might have been less likely to pay it for Corpse Bride, something I saw because of a friend. And then I would've wasted my money on the first one (no disruptions) and failed to spend my money wisely on the second (aforementioned teen makeout session, plus it was just a better film).

Also like Jeff says, if I was going to something mediocre (see above social factor which makes this not always avoidable), sometimes I would prefer for the audience to talk back! Yet lately they always fail to. Is this because mediocrity and stupidity holds the audience in thrall, while depth and profundity makes them uncomfortable or confused, compelling them to enter into a dialogue with the film or each other? Because this has really been my experience throughout this year; talking has only ever occurred at "worthwhile" films and never at more "average" ones.

Or it's just bad luck. The sick joke of it is, the only way to guarantee viewing silence is to pay less and rent the fucking thing! And to be honest I have to drive too far from Riverside to see most indie or foreign shit anyway.

Walter_Chaw said...

A-ho - a reference to "Sliders". For my money, the series never recovered after Sabrina Lloyd left and was replaced by a semi-doppelganger. This, by the way, was also the third reference to "Sports Night" herein, making it officially mandatory viewing. Get going.

I've never seen one episode of Six Feet Under despite Bill's championing of it. Somehow always slipped my mind. Off to the video store now.

I think that the esteem for Fred & Ginger has flagged considerably, but what I think is trenchant is that an analysis of HK wuxia would reveal a strong connection to the formalism of classic Hollywood musical (the genre being one of the few that weren't censured in China) - just another example that validates AJ's observations about the conventions of the Ft13 series.

About those indiglos and the like - the new epidemic around here seems to be text messaging which, I think, people think is more polite than making and receiving phone calls. In essence, they're so fucking bright in the theater that they're almost as distracting. Too true that the anticipation of the offense almost instantly supercedes the actual offense - like the guy who unwraps a sweet in second bursts over the course of twenty minutes. Before long, the next rustle is all you're thinking about.

Chinese water torture doesn't work because the drops of water on your head hurt.

My worst experience was at a screening of Catch Me If You Can where three people arrived late, were drunk, stepped on every foot en route to their seats, ate popcorn in great greedy handfuls, and jabbered and giggled amongst themselves irrespective to anything happening in the film. Bad enough that they were asked to leave by the PR - but they refused in loud, jeering voices - leading to the movie being stopped after about half an hour was lost until the police were actually summoned and they were escorted from the theater to a chorus of boos (and a rain of return profanities and wagging fingers). After another ten minutes (at about an hour now), the film wound up again, but I decided to see a later screening anyhow as, in essence, there wasn't any point anymore.

3 Drunken Idiots - 1
400 People out for a movie after having hired babysitters, planned dates, what have you - 0

Walter_Chaw said...

Saw Shopgirl today and reread Bill's capsule from TIFF. I honestly don't know if I have one thing to add. I would only say perhaps that more than Claire Danes' best since her TV show - it's her best ever (she's fantabulous in it - the one that I'll be rooting for on Oscar night though it'll be a minor miracle for her to be nominated given the bumpa crop of Fannings, Therons, and Witherspoons in her way.

Rachel said...

It's an interesting question, when enjoying a movie crosses over into ruining a movie for everyone else. My friend and I could barely stop giggling throughout the whole of "Life Aquatic". But, it was a night of just, general jubilance, as well as really, really liking the movie. I do wonder how annoying we were.

Jack_Sommersby said...


Regarding this from your Friday the 13th review:

One look at the teenagers in Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th and we can see that they're displaced, without religion or identity. Shallow, dim, they don't have any past and they don't have any future.

I disagree with this. Not on the basis that the characters are richly-detailed, complex individuals, but that they've always come across to me as simply believablely average. Now, that may not seem like much of a compliment, but in light of the barrage of truly obnoxious teens we get in movies these days (though they definitely look more their age these days, because of the relaxation of age-hiring standards in Hollywood -- after all, the main reason Nicolas Cage -- then Nicolas Coppola -- didn't get Judge Reinhold's role in Fast Times was because he was only 17 at the time, and anyone 17 and under couldn't work past 10p in those days), the ones in Friday are like a breath of fresh. I don't think that because Marcie doesn't recognize the Biblical significance of her rain-turns-to-blood dream makes her shallow, but simply not biblically-versed, which, of course, is not the same thing as shallow. (I'm not the brightest bulb on Earth, but, heck, I'm as biblically-ignorant as they come.) No, to me, the characters in Friday are efficient considering the non-charatcer-driven material, just like the characters in Alien and Carpenter's The Thing are -- as Ridley Scott said in his defense of the charge of "slight characterizations" in Alien, you know all you need to know about them. (of course, I'm not saying the characters in Friday are even remotely as vivid as the ones in the other two films.)

Oh, and I'm at this bar in downtown Missoula watching a widescreen DVD of Grease 2, a film I've always thought underrated and which looks absolutely great in widescreen!

jer fairall said...

The Friday the 13th series is indeed among Alex's very best work. I have actually passed the first of those onto several people, including a film studies prof. American History X may be even better still, essential reading for any serious consideration of the film.

I love reading Alex's movie reviews very much for the same reason that I loved reading glenn mcdoanld's music reviews: you not only get descriptions of/insight into the topic at hand, but also the rare, intimate experience of feeling that you are seeing it directly from inside the reviewer's head. You probably end up learning much more about the reviewer than the topic, but there are plenty of trailers and MP3s and media coverage out there to begin with, and I find this perspective infinitely more useful and, of course, fascinating.

Jack_Sommersby said...

I dig Alex's work, too. Hell, it's whoppingly original and entertaining as hell. And, actually, I can't single out a review of his that I'd chalk up as his "very best work", since each and every one is, amazingly, so very, very different from the other.

That doesn't mean I can't disagree with him. Hell, we're on totally different goal lines on In the Bedroom, yet we respect each other's views nonetheless.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Oh, and for those who don't know me, I gave Friday the 13th just 3 stars out of 5, which is more or less consistent with Alex's 2 1/2-out-of-4 rating. I just don't think the teens wanting to smoke pot, play Strip Monopoly, and fuck being indicative of shallowness. They're 18 and at an isolated summer camp, for cryin' out loud. What would we have them do instead? Read Norman Mailer and contemplate the meaning of life in a slasher film? C'mon.

tmhoover said...

Indeed, my recent, clumsy pot-shot at you was unworthy of us both. You were quite right: it wasn't really what I was upset about, or rather, it was the tip of the iceberg of what I was upset about, and the drive-by messaging didn't do anything substantial to further the debate. So in the interest of mea culpa, I will now officially get off my chest (in what I hope is a comparatively reasonable tone) what's been bothering me as your blogging has progressed.

Let me first explain what set me off. In a not-even-especially-vitriolic entry in your catalogue of rude patrons, you said this: "Saw Doom at a public screening where two middle-aged ladies talked to one another throughout the whole goddamn thing [...] but it's Doom right, so how much did I care? I, Seuss-like, did not over-muchly." The construction struck me as contradictory. So I'm going to go to the trouble of mentioning these people, and then I'm going to act like I didn't mention these people? They bothered me enough for me to note them without bothering me at all? The hypocritical one-upmanship (and your smug enjoyment of it) somehow cast you in a different light than as one moredisgruntled theatregoer.

And it crystallized my weariness with your obsessive campaign to publicize such people's actions I can understand devoting one entry or so to these annoying losers, in which you say "Hey. Peeps. Shut it." We can all get behind that, because it's true, these people are a righteous pain in the ass. But what needs to be said beyond that? The fact that you not only note these people, but catalogue their actions like some Amnesty International of film crimes, suggests that you have more at stake here than striking a blow for the theatrically oppressed. That is, you need these people, secretly love and cherish the superiority you feel over them, and like a child looking for attention need them to constantly underscore your special achievement.

This led me back to my puzzlement at your once-expressed vitriol about public screenings. Sure, I roll my eyes when credulous audiences thrill to lame jokes in The Pacifier or Madagascar and find myself a little crestfallen at the distance between what I hoped for the popular consciousness and what it actually turned out to be. But to take it as personally and misanthropically as you do returns to the behaviour pattern of the cataloguing: it's a plea for attention rather than a constructive response to the phenomenon. It (your overscaled response, that is) has nothing to do with fallen standards or audience debasement, but annoyance at not being consulted about what to do.

And then there are the times you mention the important cinematic issues, such as... Jessica Alba. Somehow, you managed to get in a lather over remarks no sensible human being (pro-Alba or con), had given any serious thought to: she's not an icon, she's not a big star, she's not even a genuine cultural menace like Paris Hilton- she's just a limited actress, noticed by few, who will eventually pass into obscurity. But because she was a soft passive bimbo you felt was safe to bitch-slap, you wasted your time and ours on once again indulging in your venomous need to act the critical Godhead.

So coming to the nub of my gist, the real reason I'm hot and bothered, is not because of mere pedantry, but because your critical/blogging posture has been sideswiped by an cruel and theatrical showboating.

You said, in your response to my failed attack, that "reading comprehension tells us after the first entry that I'm just documenting." And that your blogging is for people "who want to read something about going out and being a critic every fucking day." Which would be fine- except that you and I do many of the same things, and your melodramatic "documenting" of the experience doesn't jive with the reality of "being a critic every fucking day." A critic's life consists of getting up for 10:00 AM screenings, where you sign in with publicists, maybe bump into a critic friend for some witty banter, and watch a movie. Or, you go out on a Monday or Wednsday night to a public screening, maybe bump into a critic friend for some witty banter, and watch a movie in a somewhat noisier setting. Rocket science this is not. But you manage to blow this all up into a hit parade of indignites-to-person that I honestly hadn't noticed were there- because you have to have a vested interest in finding them. And by doing so, you misrepresent the nature of the beast to people who don't know the general mundanity of it.

A more useful gauge of "being a critic every fucking day" would be dealing with the actual process of writing the reviews- an elucidation of your theories, a discussion of how you go about writing, in short revealing how to do it rather than engaging in self-pity and mystification about your grand tortures as a man of the cinemah. But you remain rather silent about such matters because you'd rather posture than teach. You're so obsessed with playing the martyr that you obscure the real power you could place in people's hands- power you'd rather have for yourself, preaching to the choir of your cult of personality.

In fact, I submit that the real reason you derive your only pleasure from the introducing and moderating rather than the watching (a claim I find completely outrageous) is that you get instant gratification.

In such a light, your heavy moralism is also starting to seem a little rickety. You constantly (and rightly) trash movies for committing all manner of political crimes- but then you go and say things like "I didn't just lose I.Q. points, but class levels as well" (as you did in one review), which suggests that you could use a few sensitivity brush-ups yourself. I'm starting to get the feeling that politics and morality are merely ruses: you're not upset people aren't listening to reason, you're upset they aren't listening to you and you're just using politics as one more stick with which to beat the great unwashed. It's gotten to the point that I no longer know when you're on the level and when you're just indulging your martyr complex.

Long story short, I'm upset with you because you're not actually furthering the debate anymore. You're engaging in self-mythologizing blather that does nobody any good beyond feeding their own egoes for agreeing with a destroyer.

It's true current film culture doesn't give us plenty to feel good about. The erosion of people's film comprehension and the hostility of many people to intellectual work has been a constant trial in my life as much as in yours (such as my disastrous stint in film school, which was rather like living in the FFC mailbag for 2 1/2 years). You have every right to decry the downgrading of criticism to "entertainment writing", the destruction of the rep circuit, the shunning of obscure or difficult films on the order of The Best of Youth and the sheer awfulness of American product (which overwhelmed me when I started doing the full beat for Exclaim last October). And you have every right to be indignant when respected colleagues are shitcanned because of budget cuts, for the people who get caught in the crossfire as much for the lost, vital services.

But I see the tide as slowly turning. There is a contingent of young, scrappy critics emerging that would have been unthinkable during my coming of age in the 90s- people who are bright, funny, trenchant, ethical and well-versed in things cinematic. They may not run the world yet, but they're keeping the torch lit (at places such as www.reverseshot.com, where Michael Koresky knows how to run a blog), and they're creating a community and a place for themselves. Despite the depressing turns of the last 30 years, it's important to cling to and encourage the real pockets of resistance, in the hopes that they might snowball, instead of depressively going with the flow in the guise of raging against the dying of the light.

The junket flunkies of the world are despicable, and should be duly run out of town. But I don't really see how your ultimate categories and wild hyperbole are any more useful than Marshall Fine's. You see criticism as being a prophet in the wilderness dictating terms instead of spreading the movie virus and making everyone their own (informed, considered) lay priest- you want to be told that you're right rather than empower people to make their own decisions. You're dealing with things that have nothing to do with art or standards or intellectual self-defense and everything to with wounded pride. And if you don't think I shouldn't be outraged about this abuse of your bully pulpit, you've got another thing coming.

Your response to me seemed to suggest that people who cross you are whiny pedants who should shove off. So maybe this should be my goodbye to the blog. But it seemed wrong not to challenge you once before I leave you in peace.

Walter_Chaw said...

Nah, don't scurry off, Travis Mackenzie Hoover, you're funny. Thing is, keep the bitter trained on me - if you want to pimp your other site, do it at my expense, not Bill's.

I hear you - a friend of mine and I once went to a screening of Ladyhawke (I think must've been in Jr. High) and were making a lot of noise, I know, while there was one other person in the theater. I think about that a lot, now, with some shame.

That Carol Clover book talks about rape/revenge flicks, too, which is really interesting again in light of North Country - she makes the point that even in The Accused, it all ultimately hinges on the testimony of the frat guy and that it's only through his eyes that we ever see "truth." Unmentioned is that, again, it's a chick-flick directed by a dude. I think it matters.

Forgive me, but what was your take on In the Bedroom. It killed me, that movie, bawled like a baby. I made it the number one the same year as Mulholland Drive and Royal Tenenbaums - something that I don't feel in retrospect - but I've always held that film in special regard as an example when I let my emotions (and deep-set affection for melodrama, thanks Fassbinder), overtake my criticial facility such as it is.

Scott said...

I'm writing this at a hospital in Bangkok, where my girlfriend has just been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, with a maximum two years to live. (If the chemo goes good.)

Remember guys: these debates are fun, these debates are enlightening, these debates tell us about films and the people who
watch them.

But be kind to each other. I'm serious. Be fucking kind to each other. That may be trite, or cliche, but so is dying of cancer, and that's what my girlfriend is doing, and to read the debate between Walter and Travis is certainly a worthy way of gettingm my mind off the unthinkable, remember that there are are greater struggles in the world, and larger conceptions of ourselves that deserve discussion.

Walter_Chaw said...

Condolences. That's well and truly dreadful news.

I'm doin' my best here to keep my nose clean because, you know what, I have a strong appreciation for what matters. You're not going to draw me into a debate about my integrity. Don't read the time I spend on this job and at this site as a life of leisure - read it better as a life of delay and avoidance. All bills come due, and the last thing I'm interested in is perplexing unkindness from outer space.

Long way of saying, condolences to you and yours, man: one stranger to another.

Bill C said...

My heart goes out to you and your girlfriend, Scott. Thanks for sobering things up at the playground.

Chad Evan said...

Watched Halloween for the 15th or so time last night--but for the first time on widescreen DVD (the Cundey approved addition, natch.) Needless to say, it was a revelation. That opening stedicam shot still gets me every time--according the doc on the DVD, it's a tribute to the opener of Touch of Evil, I'd always assumed it was winking at Hitchcock's Rope (saw that one the other day, too--and all I could think afterward was cinema, cinema, cinema) given all the other Hitchcock references in the film.

Anyway, while the films power has undoubtedly been diluted by God-knows how many imitators, ol' Michael Myers remains a veritable Rorshasch blot of terror--whatever it is you're afraid of can be projected onto that eerie white mask and brother, it's not going to stop till it gets you. Was also struck at how meloncholy the film is--little Mike left at home while his parents party and his peers trick-or-treat, neglected by his sister (great joke how Carpenter holds on to the same take by making Judith's boyfried a sixty-second man--that boy may have set a record)and now 15 years later little Tommy and Lindsey Wallace are left indoors while outside their classmated run around getting candy. The sex-death in this movie has been done to death; it really on strictly applies to P.J. Soles and her character's boyfriend. Myers attacks Nancy Loomis' character and Laurie when they abandon their charges--and he passes up plenty of oppertunities to do so beforehand. A profoundly conservative film, but I don't think that's necessarilly a bad thing; its purity makes it all the more bracing and archetypal.

Wasn't intending to go on that long, but I got carried away...thanks for the forum, fellas.

Alex Jackson said...

And then there are the times you mention the important cinematic issues, such as... Jessica Alba. Somehow, you managed to get in a lather over remarks no sensible human being (pro-Alba or con), had given any serious thought to: she's not an icon, she's not a big star, she's not even a genuine cultural menace like Paris Hilton- she's just a limited actress, noticed by few, who will eventually pass into obscurity. But because she was a soft passive bimbo you felt was safe to bitch-slap, you wasted your time and ours on once again indulging in your venomous need to act the critical Godhead.

OK, I'm sorry. This paragraph in particular is weirding me out. How do we establish if Jessica Alba is worth "giving serious thought to"?

Paris Hilton brings up more hits on Google, but that is because she is in the news more. Jessica Alba has an official website. That seems to indicate that somebody, somewhere, is giving her serious thought and that she is, indeed, an icon.

Both you and Walter strike me as elitist (and for the record I don't know how one can be a film critic and not be elitist), but while Walter's elitism is angry and virile yours strikes me as distinctly paternalistic. If you really expected something from the mass audience, I would think that you have have retained some sort of indignation at their feeding from the trough. Instead, you seem to be just shaking your head and beaming "boys will be boys", content with the idea that movie audiences will never mature intellectually, socially, or spiritually.

I don't know about motives, but saying that Jessica Alba needn't be taken seriously somehow strikes me as deeply cynical.

Anonymous said...

I’d rather not deconstruct the back and forth between Messrs.Hoover and Chaw as I detect a distinctly personal element which I’m not inclined or qualified to comment on. I will say that part of why I enjoy filmfreakcentral is the seriousness with which all the writers approach their reviews. Passion is sorely lacking in most popular writing and if nothing else, the writing on this site is distinctly alive. Boorish patrons have no place in art galleries, symphonies and stage—so, I can’t imagine why they should be tolerated in movie theatres. I’d guess that if a rash of inconsiderate, annoying people began disrupting wine tastings or gallery openings—the critical community would be publicly outraged. I’m well-aware that film is a far more popular medium—but, that doesn’t mean it should be treated with any less respect. I’ve seen people in rapt, hushed silence during baseball games—so, popularity is beside the point. As rampant anti-intellectualism oozes through the country and all manner of culture, it’s heartening to listen to passionate, angry defenders of the greatest art form of the last century. As for this blog…I’m inclined to write favourable comments primarily because I view the people who run this site as rare, kindred spirits who often share similar tastes and point of view. There really aren’t that many places you can discuss Friday the 13th and Robert Altman on the same page. I’ve always detected a healthy dose of anger in Walter’s writing---and, as a writer myself, I’m well-aware that anger can easily give way to egomania and self-loathing in equal doses—but, that’s the risk you take when you care about something. I don’t know Walter or Bill personally—but, I’d wager that both are harder on themselves than any of the movies they review. Choosing to diverge from the pack always implies a certain level of self-aggrandizement, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Being a film critic can be just as mundane and dreary as any profession but, it’s nice to see folks who care enough to treat their work without the resigned complacency that passes for hard work these days. I’d rather read Walter’s “Notes from the Trenches” rather than Ebert’s “Oh! To Be in Cannes in spring!” reports anytime. And, just in case anyone accuses me of unabashed Chaw-love—all he needs to do is say something good about: Sin City, In the Bedroom, In the Cut or Suspect Zero. Go on, I dare ya.

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

In the Bedroom was the best film of year 2001. Sin City is on top 10 list of this year.


p.s. I got nothing against Jessica Alba. Maybe that has to do with the fact that when Jay Leno commented "Your chemistry with Paul Walker was great in the film.", she said "Jay, I'm an actress. I could have chemistry with a shoe". A limited actress mind you, but I have never heard anyone say that. (Plus she is so fucking hot. I would love to have a long conversation with her, if you get muy vibe)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Never seen any of the Friday the 13th films. Horror films were prohibited in my house when I was a kid. Even now I press mute when someone is about to yell in them. But repression didn't bring forth love in case of horror films for me. just never really dug them 'coz they don't scare me. I shat bricks in "Blair Witch Project" though because I thought it was real (was in India then, didn't know much).

Walter_Chaw said...

Really trenchant observations about the conservatism of Halloween - I see it similarly in that the victims seem more punished for abandonment of responsibility than sexual activity. There's a trangressive element by nature, the moment that Laurie is attacked is the moment that she literally steps off the straight and narrow (crosses the street) and enters the proverbial woods, but the children are spared and their protectors, if insufficient, are punished. It's a horror movie about the importance of taking care of the kids and, a little like Kill Bill's wuxia/thriller formula contorted into being about the very basic, almost mundane, desire to be a mother, their conservatism strikes me as something that's bracingly, beautifully, affirming.

Halloween, it doesn't hurt, still scares the holy crap out of me after more than a dozen viewings. The Thing, too.

I feel like I should disclose that I wouldn't know Travis if I tripped over him, just know him from his association with this site.

That's what I'll say about it, I guess, that this isn't coming from me sleeping with his sister. It's the only question ultimately that really needs an answer from me.

I like the sports examples, Dave, because whenever someone says that movies are democratic and we should suffer boorish behavior - I point to professional sports and the kind of outrage that greets boorish behavior there in what's essentially a Roman Forum instead of what's essentially a Victorian theater.

I had season tickets for the Denver Nuggets for about 9 years, all the way through college until I decided, strangely enough, to sell my company and start writing movie reviews for a living (funny how that worked out. . . now that I think about it) - and people were removed at least once every three or four games for disorderly behavior. Folks on cell phones (this is ten years ago, mind) were shunned and scorned, and you sat down in the lower tier when the action was live. Bouncers made sure that this was so. There are even rules of civilization at hockey games.

It's more than that though (and we can look at the socially-enforced silence at golf and tennis matches), as has already been mentioned, there's the media coverage of it. I spent a year on the Sports beat in college and there's even a decorum in the press box - even at a college basketball game. You sit on your hands and you respect that the ink-stained wretches sitting next to you have a job to do, and you presume that they're serious about it, too. Sports page columnists, too, aren't constrained by the limitations placed on Entertainment section writers - they can actually criticize and analyze - in fact, a certain level of arrogance and elitism is expected of them. Nobody likes a sports writer who delivers variations on "Hey, everybody had fun and I can't catch a football so who'm I to criticize? It's a beautiful day at Cannes."

By the way, appropos of nothing in particular, I often slip into a gauzy reverie, sipping herbal tea and clover-bee honey, lying back on my palm-frond adirondack, a small smile creasing my full lips as little frogs in waistcoats weave garlands of jojoba leaves in among my flowing locks, as I think of the magnificent quartet of Sin City, In the Bedroom, In the Cut, and Suspect Zero.

Walter_Chaw said...

The irony of the Alba quote is she essentially demonstrated that she could have chemistry with a shoe in co-starring with Walker. Was she ripping on him?

Bill C said...

Definitely sounds like she was dissing Paul Walker. The part of the quote that made me laugh, though, was "I'm an actress."

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

That guy has the most wooden face i have ever seen. If he had a pea for brain, he would do good for people like Agnes Varda and Gus VanSant. I loved Joyride, despite the lame ending. Steve Zahn was priceless in it. Shit scares me when I feel a part of it. There is just nothing scary about some ugly asshole running around with a chainsaw. Then again I don't like the so-called hitchcockian horror films with japanese flavor in them. I just don't dig the genre.

Bill C said...

H-Man, have you seen Duel?

Chad Evan said...

About the protectiveness towards the kids in Halloween: the more I think of it, not only does it seem relevent to Laurie (except, of course, when she abandons her post and thereby places herself in danger,) but to the Shape as well. SPOILERS

He kills his sister who should have been watching him instead of screwing around ("Michaels around someplace..." she says,)and I see him as a sort of perverse avenging angel for the rest of the movie. He never seems to menace the children; the only time he touches one is when the bully runs into him after tripping Tommy, and all he does is steady him and send him on his way. In the following moments as he follows Tommy, he could just as easily be watching protectively as menacingly. And remember that he starts following Laurie after he sees her at his house with Tommy in tow, and follows her creepily but harmlessly until she leaves the children on their own. In the climactic chase, he never even looks at them, it's their (only seemingly) lax sitter that he wants. Thus Michael strikes me as a manifestation of a neglected child's rage, and not quite as pure evil as either Dr. Loomis' ranting or his truly disturbing blank slate appearance would suggest. He is evil, I guess, but with more of a cause than is commonly attributed to him. Keep in mind, I'm ignoring the rediculous sequels, and operating on the assumption that Laurie is not Michael's long-lost sister, but someone he followed simply because fate placed her at his doorstep with the child he never ceased to be in tow.

Rachel said...

If you want to properly appalled (or, you know, just depressed)....

"Horror films don't interest me. I simply have never found them to be engaging examples of cinema."

"Blair Witch project? I didn't understand the appeal of that at all. I didn't like it."

"What Dreyer does so well, introduce the supernatural with a natural aesthetic... not bringing in the artificialities of music or special effects, unlike say, Cronenberg, who is not an effective filmmaker, who brings in the makeup and the effects and takes you out of the movie, distracts you and prevents you from believing the movie, destroys the 'reality' of the film..."

All from the mouth of my film professor. (Pardon me, I've got a brick wall to punch.)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

yeah, I have. I liked it. It was a bad decsion to shoot it during the day, I thought. But then again it was a made-for-t.v. movie so might have costed more. One scene that really stuck out was when he was looking at shoes at the diner. Really hitchcockian in it's treatment. The thing is, it was plagued with the same disease all Speilberg films are, it was a simplistic story that ended cleanly. It's just not challenging. Same old manipulative camera tricks. I saw it fairly long ago so i may change my mind now, but I doubt it.

Bill C said...

I dunno about that, H-Man, I think it actually has one of the gutsiest Spielberg endings this side of Close Encounters. [SPOILER]It's all about a hollow victory: the Weaver character is sort of defined by the chase, so in vanquishing his enemy, he effectively sacrifices his identity. (We leave him wilting out there in the desert.)[/SPOILER] Also love the daylight, if only because it accentuates the bull/matador relationship between the truck and Weaver's candy-red car.

Now if you'll excuse me, thanks to Rachel's quotes, I have to go put my head in a vise.

Walter_Chaw said...

Move over, Bill.

These are the assholes teaching film nowadays? My god. Cronenberg - not to throw good after bad - barely uses any special effects in Spider or A History of Violence (or M Butterfly, Dead Zone, even Dead Ringers) - dude's speaking from a position of extreme ignorance. How about the Val Lewton's or The Innocents - not an F/X shot in the bunch. Blair Witch Project?

Damnation, that makes me angry.

Walter_Chaw said...

Interesting threads leading off from your observation of The Shape as some sort of avatar of childhood. The whole holiday, it seems to me, is unexamined fears held in amber. That, plus the idea that so much of horror is involved in possessed children/evil children/children in peril - the idea of a guardian of the cult of childhood is fascinating. Blowing my mind, here, Chad.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I'll have to see it again, Bill. I still haven't seen E.T., believe or not. I pick it up every week, like Ikiru, bring it to the counter at Bay St. Video and then leave it for something else.

Listening to rachel, I feel privileged to have not gone to a film school. I would have had to unlearn all that BS>

Walter_Chaw said...

E.T. is better than Ikiru, I think (ducking tomatoes) - fave of Kurosawa's is Throne of Blood or High and Low. I've really come to appreciate Close Encounters of the Third Kind, too, a Spielberg without what you call the pat ending, H-Man. Rare, indeed.

Rich said...

I recently watched Kurosawa's Red Beard and loved it - though I've yet to see a film of his I didn't like (though I'm sure they're out there). Love the scene where Mifune kicks the shit out of an entire gang while breaking as many bones as possible.

Still haven't gotten around to seeing Ikiru, but I gather it's one of his best.

Seattle Jeff said...

I liked E.T. when I was 11. Had the tape when I was older.

Let's just say I had the same expereince when I watched Laverne and Shirley years after the fact.

I'm still in awe I ever found pleasure in either of them.

Seattle Jeff said...

Meaning, I watched the tape years after.

Damn, never post when you're burnt out from studying too much.

At least I didn't ramble about Consolidated Financial Statements.

Bill C said...

Yeah, not the biggest E.T. fan. Sorta touched on why in my Winn-Dixie review--I just find it really sadistic. No one's stopped to consider the movie outside the movie, i.e. what kind of half-life that experience will ultimately have on Elliot. I can't really fault the filmmaking, though.

Walter_Chaw said...

E.T.'s like a sledgehammer version of My Friend Flicka. I haven't seen it since third grade. I'm afraid of it, to be honest.

I never did like Ikiru, though, it seemed pat and sentimental. Red Beard is pretty neat.

Bill C said...

Friday the 13ths Part 3 & 4.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Weepy Walter,

Forgive me, but what was your take on In the Bedroom.


It killed me, that movie, bawled like a baby.

Then I must admit to something: I even as a teenager I would cry when the Slim Pickens-voiced robot Bob died in The Black Hole. (I'm scared to watch it again at the age of 35 in case I do still cry at it.)

but I've always held that film in special regard as an example when I let my emotions (and deep-set affection for melodrama, thanks Fassbinder), overtake my criticial facility such as it is.

An example of mine: 1988's Stealing Home

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I must say that movie really was fantastic. It could've been "house of sand and fog" but the director saved it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I thought I'd have to keep my own affection for "Stealing Home" a secret--no more. I'm apprehensive about the new "King Kong" movie mostly because I vividly recall my crying fit after I watched the 1976 remake as a child (add that to my list of unfairly maligned flicks) I don't know what I'll do when good ol' Kong sets Naomi Watts on a safe ledge before plummeting to his doom--shit, I'm crying already. Add most baseball movies to my list of films that overtakes my own critical facilty--you're dealing with someone who really digs "For The Love of The Game" (even with the godawful Kelly Preston)--when John C. Reily tells Kev that the "Whole team is behind him"...crap, there I go again.

Walter_Chaw said...

For Love of the Game - goddamnit, I like that movie too. Sam Raimi, right? And Costner's never better than when he's a baseball player. Not actually an athlete, to paraphrase John Kruk (who, if memory serves, once ran the bases chewing on the stub of a stogie - or am I just airbrushing that image in there), there's a quality to baseball players that I find really sympathetic with Costner's all-American dimwit persona. Gary Cooper with an ERA.

The Captain said...

Any chance you will end up seeing/reviewing Saw II? I loved the premise and hated the execution for the original, (really, really looking forward to Three Extremes now) but had some hopes for this new thing, with a new director/co-writer, until I read about some unwatchable eye-violence and a pit full of syringes, the kind of thing I really don't want to see in a cinema...

Anonymous said...

Mr Hoover - Your vitriol says a LOT more about you than it does about Walter. I personally believe the time and effort you put into deconstructing and analyzing Walter's use of anger in his reviews would have been better spent on therapy for yourself. Anyone who can be a part of the current entertainment industry, either as a reviewer or performer, and maintain an emotional distance like you CLAIM to, is not only elitist, but also deeply out of touch with the emotions that drive art. Thus, I have little respect for your opinion, divorced as it is from passion. /rant

On another topic entirely ---

I never really could get into horror flicks in general. By the time I was of an age to not just be freaked out by images reacting with my own crazed imagination, I was just bored by them. I find in order to get any enjoyment from any of the horror genre flicks I have to disengage the critical part of my brain so much that I can't then appreciate the filmmaking seperately from the plot.

On rude audiences --- Two things... One, I think it is my own innate sense of politeness that really gets me irked when people are rude at movies. I really, honestly, put thought into being polite in public and thinking about how what I do effects others. So, I get very angry when people are rude, and especially angry when people go from rude to being MORE rude just to piss me off more.

I DO have a theory that DVDs and the home movie experience has made audiences worse, though. I genuinely think that a lot of people don't understand the DIFFERENCE between watching a movie on their couch at home and watching it in an audience of OTHER PEOPLE. You can't rewind to hear that bit that you talked over. You can't decide half way through that maybe this wasn't the right movie to watch with your three year old, and you will watch the rest later on your own.

I am all for the bouncer idea Walter had. I would pay the extra to know that I was at a showing that was attended by people knowing a certain level of behavior was expected from them.

Enough from me already.


Anonymous said...

I need to see the original Saw, yet, myself, but I've gotta give some respect to a poster for a sequel that uses severed fingers as its Roman numeral.

-- Ian

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I've noticed with "Saw" and a lot of hollywood movies, i really seem to not mind the first two acts of these films. It's the third act that kills most films for me. This idea that no knots must remain untied and unchallenging pat endings must be provided that really ruins them. i really wouldn't mind studio films if they just tell good stories, but they can't even do that right.

Never quite got into horror flicks. But I've been trying to see the originals. The scariest one yet has to be Candyman. Fuck that was scary (or I was stoned whichever way you wanmna look at it)

Anonymous said...

H-Man, that's not the problem with the ending of Saw at all! The problem with Saw is that it thought it left the knots untied but left us with a mile-wide pile of plotholes! Saw was just a useless nonsensical mess, is what it was.


Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

The thing is... i really never care anymore about plot. Earlier i used to try and find plot-holes but now I'm indifferent to that. I'm more concerned with how a story is told. And third act is usually a disappointment in most films for me. I think it's the most important section of a film. People like Altman are magicians in the third act and thats what makes their films, however, most filmmakers are just intent on finding cozy little climaxes that don't offend anyone. I mean really, what is the difference between "Saw" and "Oldboy" ? well, maybe not a good example because the whole treatment was shit in "Saw". But it could've been "Oldboy".

Jack_Sommersby said...

Another For Love of the Game fan here, and this coming from someone who detests Field of Dreams -- though Bull Durham was my #1 film of 1988. Speaking of which, I finally got around to reading author Bernard Malamud's The Natural, and I wish the hell a filmmaker would have the balls to make a faithful damn adaptation of it (Levinson's 1984 version was passable, nothing more).

Walter_Chaw said...

What I'm gleaning a little here is an idea of internal coherence and momentum - this feeling that I'll forgive a film all of its sins so long as it respects its own genre and premise and, by extension, the yahoos (us) who've shown up to appreciate it. What rankles about something like Lake Placid (and the endings of 90% of every Spielberg film) is that for all of its crimes, I would have forgiven every single one (big alligator movie - what's not to love?) had it been even the slightest bit non-snarky about how stupid it was and, by extension, how stupid we were to want it.

Scream, after all, was still scary as hell - even winking.

The problem, more, with stuff like late-(to all-) Spielberg is that it's this amazing (to me) visual fantasy: kinetic, breathless, dare-to-say genius - and then in the last ten minutes it asks us to reassess the whole blessed thing as something completely other. It's what Kim's talking about up there, I think, in that at the end of certain films they try to tie things up - thus making its resolution its reason for being - and because we're smart people, we challenge first that it was about that in the first place and next that they were even all that successful doing what it is they wanted to do.

But - and here's H-Man's idea about plot's secondary importance - is that (knowing that you dislike Hitchcock, but here I am limited by what I know a little about) it doesn't make any sense at all to try to kill Cary Grant at Prairie Stop with a crop duster (or filling him with whiskey and sending him off in Laura's Mercedes) when just having someone drive up in a car with a gun would probably do the trick. And yet, as the film unfurls, you don't really think about the unlikeliness of it - it don't matter - and, more, Hitchcock never invites you to consider the film as anything other than its own thing. Macguffins in Hitch's flicks - the good ones - stay inconsequential and that's by necessity.

Once you make a finely-honed, open-ended kid's fantasy - best not to drop the ball by trying to impose the grown-up's need for "sensible" closure.

Walter_Chaw said...

I'm thick: can you expand on your comparison of Saw to Oldboy?

Walter_Chaw said...

Oh - last thing about Halloween - could it be a conflict between avatars for youth staged between Loomis and the Shape? Was there some kind of tug-of-war going on in society in 1978 between self-proclaimed protectors of youth? As if there isn't always, I guess.

Saw Sam Mendes' Jarhead today and. . . well. . . it's not about anything. That might be the point so it's hard to nail it for that, but for as good as it looks (Roger Deakins does amazing work on it) and for as well as it's acted - it just doesn't say that much to me. Maybe I'm just an old fart. There is no, by the way, war in it in case, guided by the previews, you're drawn to it as some kind of shoot-em-up or Saving Private Ryan. It's more a shot at Catch-22 or the first half of Full Metal Jacket right up to the sniper section.

jer fairall said...

Your reaction to Jarhead is mildy disconcernting to me, but not enough that I have become less interested in seeing it (a la Elizabethtown). Maybe I'm just still waiting to see something else truly amazing from the wonderful Jake Gyllenhaal, whose post Darko record has been more servicable than spectacular.

Then again, I never thought American Beauty was all that either.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah - agreed. I'd wait for Brokeback Mountain for the next allegedly great Gyllenhaal performance though, from what I've been hearing, Heath Ledger walks away with the show. He's good in Jarhead, but in a way that I'm not convinced took all that much effort - he even recycles the "I'm all ears" gesture from Donnie Darko at one point that made me, distinctly, uncomfortable and, it goes without saying, thrown bodily from that moving vehicle. It seems like he's already kind of banking on his latent likability (just like his sister is going to wear out the term "gamine" by herself) - but I still like him, and the scenes that he shares with Peter Saarsgard and Lucas Black ("There's someone at the door! There's someone at the door!") sort of hum with the low wattage of the warmth I still have for them.

Ultimately, it's a lot like Mendes' Road to Perdition: big issues, bland/beautiful execution.

Seattle Jeff said...

Following the theme of sports movies and emotional moments --

Eight Men Out has to be my favorite baseball movie. (Haven't seen For the Love of the Game, however.)

Costner should play a Seattle Mariner in his next baseball film. His wooden personality would be a perfect match.

Baseball's a boring sport, but it lends itself better to film than football or basketball, for some reason.

I can't recall a very emotional sports movie moment, though I feel like an epic one is on the edge of my brain tissue.

Dropping the sports angle, I'd say the ending of Life is Beautiful hammered me as my son was born just a month earlier.

And Claude LeLouch's Les Miserables when the Jewish married couple find each other in the end.

Man, this sucks.

Hey, I'm enjoying "Kill the Moonlight" by Spoon.

Seattle Jeff said...

I got emotional today when I saw highlights of the 1989 NFC championship game between Chicago and SF.

The film had worn out, so it had that classic, ancient feel to it. I was watching this really old footage and I realized that I knew every single player like it was yesterday.

That's never happened before.

Aren't prehistoric highlights supposed to pre-date you?

Chad Evan said...

I'm not so sure it's a case of warring avatars of the cult of childhood so much as it's a case of id vs. superego. If, as I've suggested, Michael Myers/the Shape represents the rage of the neglected child, Loomis, the shrink, represents the forces that attempt to force a child to "work through" and expel that rage. Loomis repeatedly refers to Myers as "pure evil," and what would pure evil be to a psychologist if not a pathology that not only resists psychoanalyitic treatment, but invalidates it? Not to overlook the fact that the Shape is clearly shown by Carpenter to be some sort of supernatural entity, what with his multiple resurrections and inexplicable telekinesis; just that he strikes me, as I've said, less as a vessel of pure evil (as Loomis believes, although he's arguably at least half-crazy in his own right) than an avenging angel (or demon) of childish retribution.

Walter_Chaw said...

I wonder if something about the ritual of baseball doesn't lend itself sympathetically to the ritual of visual representation in film.

Have you ever seen Donald Pleasance in Raw Meat?

Amazing film and an indescribable performance.

Seattle Jeff said...

News FLash!

Rambo IV is on the way!

Stallone is going nuts with milking former glory.

Baseball: I also thik when the movie doen't get licensed to use MLB logos, the uniforms still look better than non-NFL sanctioned football unis.

Anonymous said...

Too bad about Zorro. How does this bide for the Campbell-helmed Casino Royale? I know Walter, especially, is not big on James Bond, but I'm slightly worried; I'll admit that 007 helped me get into movies in the first place.

-- Ian

Walter_Chaw said...

I dunno, Ian - I know it's not in the spirit of the thing, but I wonder if I wouldn't like Bond if they were R-rated instead of PG-13s. It seems to me that this soft-peddling of sex and violins makes me frustrated. Not morally - not really, though I may go for that in a review - but because it feels like such a Republican tease. It's why I like On Her Majesty's Secret Service the best (is that the Lazenby?) or even that second Dalton that seems, in my memory, to be considerably grimmer.

Campbell, though, seems a good match for Bond if what they continue to desire is the Disneyland version of fucking and license to killing. I used to love them, too, by the way - and I also remember that Moonraker was the first time that I realized a film that I was watching just totally sucked.