November 07, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Hey! Be Your Own Critic at the Denver Film Festival!

Having watched about a dozen films now for the Denver International Film Festival, I’m going to pitch coverage for the site at about ten select capsules with any interviews that I might do there (none through the DFS in any case) going live in conjunction with the official releases of the films in question. DIFF has never attracted much national interest and the extent that we’ve covered it here at FFC has been, I think, mainly Bill indulging my hope that my hometown festival would evolve into a festival for people knowledgeable about film rather than an annual fundraiser (and a wildly successful one) for the Denver Film Society.

Reading an interview (give it a look, a good read written by friend and colleague Robert Denerstein) with DFS president Ron Henderson in this weekend’s Rocky Mtn. News, I was disappointed to see that the emphasis (after the dubious proclamation – and dubious pride accompanying it – that had the DIFF not moved back a month in the year that it wouldn’t have been able to obtain such barnburners as The World’s Fastest Indian and Casanova for its opening night and centerpiece presentations) seems to be that presale tickets to Society members this year more than doubled from the same period of time for last year’s edition. What that makes me feel is a lot of hopelessness and apathy: if the champions of our film culture are going by box office in the assessment of quality – well, yeah whatever – maybe I’m just naïve and it’s always been this way. In any case, give the article a look because even if the DIFF isn’t even a blip on the radar for you (and why should it be?), it’s a pretty fascinating insight into why some festivals soar and why others just sort of wander around.

Two questions and I’m done asking questions: why would fewer people come if the movies were great? and if the audience in Denver is unusually gullible, then who if not the DFS is entrusted to provide educational opportunities for the rest of the year?
Was shut out of a screening of Brokeback Mountain at a festival screening this week by what I’m told is Focus Features because they didn’t want any Internet press to see it. I’m not sure, in that case, how Slate and Salon got to see it (probably why it wasn’t so-restricted at TIFF, which we also covered, oddly enough) - but I do know that what it meant was that I didn’t get to go while people that no one in the critical community has seen at any other screening: ever (calling into question who the hell they are, of course, but it’s not an urgent question), along with a few members of dubious local print outlets with microscopic distributions. Probably just answered my own question - but what’s strangest is that there are no such restrictions (how could there be?) on me attending the closing night presentation of Brokeback Mountain as a civilian guest of the festival. I guess that means that we’re going live with a full-length review of it in a couple of weeks independent of the DIFF (ditto Breakfast on Pluto). Besides, there’s no embargo on this fucker anymore – and what the hell is the point of an embargo, but to allow industry rags like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety first shot? What if everyone threw a mutual admiration party and we didn’t show up?

Oh, right, no more questions.

Also denied an interview with the suddenly media-shy Ang Lee who will, however, be interviewed on-stage by Lisa Kennedy

of the Denver Post. Here’re the ten titles I’ll be reviewing for the site in conjunction with the festival: first, the opening night, centerpiece, and Cassavetes tribute films (World’s Fastest Indian, Casanova, and Duck which have the honor of sharing two stars total between them – it occurs to me that it doesn’t matter how the two stars are distributed) – then a mediocre Primer-like mindfuck from Switzerland called Absolut; probably Pierce Brosnan’s The Matador; a weird Bugsy Malone-like experiment, but with noir this time, called Brick (Raymond Chandler in high school); probably a Holocaust flick called Fateless; probably Lars Von Trier’s Manderlay and Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy and most likely either Mrs. Henderson or Duane Hopwood even though the same local freelance publicist who raved about Dreamer, raved about it.

You kid yourself that you’re doing something that matters by covering a minor festival in detail when really what you’re doing is putting people to sleep (and torturing your editor) by talking about bad movies that will most likely never see the light of day. It isn’t that there aren’t good films that don’t get distribution (like almost all of Hao Hsiou-Hsien’s films – or Beat Takeshi’s – or Edward Yang’s), and if I find any, I’ll talk about them – it’s that most films that don’t get distribution are bloody horrible. I mean, Christ, look at what does get distributed. It’s unconscionable that people are charged cash money to see something like Duck (and you wouldn’t be hearing about it from me, either, if it weren’t a major screening at this fest – lambasting indie pics that you will probably never see again in any format is a lot like potting clay ducks) - and that, more, it’s up for an award for new filmmakers offered at DIFF along with the deeply suspect Bittersweet Place (which we reviewed at the Tribeca Film Festival).

It’s not that most anyone in this audience will feel cheated, it’s that it strikes me as amoral in a way (and bound to backfire sooner or later) when you take your audience so for granted.

Here’s this week’s mystery capture (Contest 2, Capture 1/7) – The Captain has graciously offered to sit this one out (and I accepted that offer initially) – but, you know what, that’s ridiculous – he’s the king right now, and what fun is it if there’s no one to knock off the hill? Fair game, in other words, all in – let’s start with an easy one from one of my favorite pics:

Hot off the presses - updated 11/09/05

The first of my DIFF caps, this one Philip Baker Hall's jaw-dropper Duck

Travis talks about big swords in Blue Underground's new double-dipper of Fire and Ice
I talk about Jennifer Jones' embalmed and melted to Rock Hudson in A Farewell to Arms
and Travis again about Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills 2.0 Parent Trap I & II

Also, absolutely do not miss Bill's thoughts on Fox's new (hopefully short-lived) practice of defiling review copies of their screening DVDs. (Scroll past the Mr. and Mrs. Smith review to get to the chewy goodness.) Not the smartest move, says common sense, and Bill's articulate outrage starts a conversation we all should be having.

Hot off the presses - updated 11/10/05

Joe Wright's almost post-mod Pride and Prejudice is better described as Impressionistic, I guess - but no great loss, it not being meta, as, having seen Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy and Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there's no paucity of po-mo epics in the pipeline.

In DIFF news, an old Anthony Hopkins rides an old motorcycle across the Bonneville Salt Flats. But not before spreading his pixie dust over a collection of stock sad-sacks in Roger Donaldson's The World's Fastest Indian.

Also check out a little blather about a little pittance: Marcus Nispel's Frankenstein: a failed pilot for an ill-conceived USA Network television series. Main miscreant responsible? Dean Koontz. Millionaire. Idiot.

Hot off the presses - updated 11/11/05

Not going to write on the Jim Sheridan/50 Cent pic because I need to see it again. Audience I saw it with was awful and, more, for the first time ever it was presided over at either entrance by two armed policemen in full uniform (in addition to the usual security retinue). Yep, it's racism. Distracting and, worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy - lots of unpleasant anxiety in the air and I found myself not able to concentrate for long stretches. It didn't seem like it was worth a shit, but I want to be sure.

Here, however are new reviews for Derailed: Jennifer Aniston's attempt to break into mainstream flicks by slutting it up a little, tiny, bit. Am I alone in thinking that Aniston's sexuality is so bland and chaste that she couldn't get a rise out of a ten-peckered owl? In any case, she's so bad in this film that she sort of undermines it - what there is to undermine, that is. Also a review of Shane Black's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: a film that's easy to hate. But I didn't.

On the festival circuit, find a capsule for Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Travis, meanwhile, throws down the gauntlet before Jerry Lewis' entire filmography - or as much as he can stand.


Jefferson said...

Man, the more of these screencaps I whiff on, the more I realize how many movies there are still to be seen.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Screenshot -- DePalma's Sisters?

Jack_Sommersby said...

Wait, scratch the "?". I know it's Sisters, damnit!

Walter_Chaw said...

Hurrah! Jack - 1

During the period when DePalma was making seriously awesome Hitchcock shrines - when it wasn't imitation so much as transformation. The use of split-screens is astonishing - and the scene where a certain someone cleans up a certain something sharing the screen with its possible discovery is something like a marvel of audacity and artistry. Gorgeous filmmaking: twisted, too.

Bravo, Jack.

bhuvan said...

Uhm... didn't identify the screencap as from DePalma's SISTERS probably because I forgot all about it the very next day after seeing it. For while I can remember every glorious beat of DRESSED TO KILL, SISTERS was IMHO a mediocre effort at best, with a highly intriguing opening that sort of peters out in the last third with silly psycho-babble. Some fancy camerawork and cool editing though, but that didn't save OBSESSION from its averageness, nor does it this film. Oh, well, just my two cents.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Concerning the screenshot: I instintively knew it was Sisters, but the devil's-advocate side of me threw in that it might be Black Christmas, which of course it couldn't be in light of the guy in the glasses in the shot. (For those who haven't seen Sisters, whether you wind up liking the film or not, you'll never forget the guy in the glasses, trust me. He leaves the same ingrained-in-your-brain impression that the smiling chauffeur in Burnt Offerings does.) Sisters was my first Netflix rental. And, yes, it took me almost 30 years to see, but at least I was introduced to it in the form of a Criterion DVD. Love the first half a lot more than the second half, but De Palma's inventive camerawork keeps you enthralled nonetheless. I still cite Blow Out as my favorite De Palma, though I'll more than admit its gaping loopholes (something the late De Palma-loving Pauline Kael, who also dug Blow Out, hypocritically failed to do: she couldn't stand John Schlesinger and reamed Marathon Man for
loopholes, which pale in comparison to Blow Out's). Can't stand Obsession and find it hard to believe the great Vilmos Zsigmond photographed it; hopefully, he and De Palma will have better luck with the upcoming The Black Dahlia, though I still cringe at John Harnett in the lead role and can't believe this wasn't a studio-insisted-upon casting choice. And when looking up that film at (sorry, I couldn't remember how to spell "Dahlia") I found that one of two future De Palma films is going to be The Untouchables: Capone Rising. Yikes.

As for what Walter wrote:

It isn’t that there aren’t good films that don’t get distribution (like almost all of Hao Hsiou-Hsien’s films – or Beat Takeshi’s – or Edward Yang’s), and if I find any, I’ll talk about them – it’s that most films that don’t get distribution are bloody horrible.

I second that: there was this documentary on the Southern greasy-spoon eatery chain The Waffle House on the shelf of the Missoula Public Library, and a librarian told me that stuff like this that gets rejected from festivals finds its way to their shelves as donations. Well, nine whole minutes this thing ran, and it was just awful. I, a lifelong Southerner and former-habitual Waffle House patron (I quit going after they ended their All You Can Eat special and started charging $1.20 for 2 pieces of toast!), could have made something ten times better in one night drunk to the gills on Night Train or Thunderbird, or both. So not only are there stinkers that don't get distribution but play festivals, but ones that don't get either one. They're not all "nglected masterpieces", as their makers would probably insist on defending them as.

Finally, I agree with Walter: It's best that the Captain doesn't sit out. After all, how are the rest of us supposed to sink his battleship otherwise.

Chad Evan said...

Ah, the Waffle House, late-night refuge of drunkards and lonely souls, where the insomniac dreamer is privy to an ever-shifting Edward Hopper tableaux. But seriously, I'd say your post brought back memories, but what they say about the '60's also holds for the Waffle House: if you claim to remember, you weren't really there.

Sorry the movie sucked; don't know what it was really about, but I suspect there's a passable movie to be made about the patrons of the Waffle House.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Never got the hooplah about DePalma. Scarface plain sucks. Simple-minded trite. Same with Carrie, Untouchables and others. I get nothing out of his films. Everything is just so theatrical and artificial and just uninteresting.

i haven't seen "Sisters" though.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Not a Scarface fan, either; in fact, I've disliked way more De Palma films than I've liked. Blow Out, Casualties of War, Carlito's Way, the first half of Sisters I'll heartily recommend, though.

James Allen said...

Re: DePalma

I never got the big deal about DePalma either. I don't recall the details, but the general gist was that he was some Hitchcock wannabe/ripoff artist or something like that. I'm sure DePalma himself didn't downplay the comparrisons, after all it got his films talked about. Not that I cared about most of them anyway. I hated Dressed to Kill, liked Blow Out, and was disappointed by The Untouchables to name three. (In the latter case it just goes to show that some guys should never direct a David Mamet script.)

Speaking of Hitchcock, I avoided the Gus Van Sant Psycho for a few years, but actually watched it yesterday on cable, and my predicted reaction was there, "Why?" I give Vince Vaughn credit for having the balls to take on the impossible task of replicating such an iconic role, but the shadow of the original is just too great to overcome, and the film fizzles because of it, despite some nice work from William H Macy and Julianne Moore.

Speaking of Vince Vaughn, I also recently saw and loved Dodgeball, which I initially thought was going to be a silly sketch/improv hit or miss nonsense (like Anchorman, which Vaughn was also in, which while good for a few laughs, didn't hold up as well as it should have for 90 minutes), but instead was quite a sharp and funny satire of our sports culture, with enough throwaway lines and gags to make repeated viewings fun. Rip Torn steals the film as the crazy Patches O'Houlinhan. ("Necessary? Is it necessary to drink my own urine?... No, but it's sterile and I like the taste.")

Speaking of Mamet, I also saw Vanya on 42nd Street (it's a Mamet script from Chekov's play) and found the minimalism amazingly enticing, and the performances strong. The neat trick the film plays on you is that the play starts before you even realize it.

And speaking of nothing in particular, some other films I recently (re)discovered on cable:

The Station Agent, which I adore.

The Long Goodbye, which I hadn't seen in a long time, and was great to revisit.

Convoy, an old film about truckers which is Peckinpah at his most silly (in a good way).

Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 which I didn't like at first (although I've always did like volume 2 better), but have grown on me, despite my continued misgivings about various scenes that drag out.

I seemed to have wandered a bit. No matter, thanks for your time.

Bill C said...

Must confess, with the exception of Peter Dinklage and Bobby Cannavale, both of whom are spot-on, I truly dislike The Station Agent. I find its evasiveness really offensive.

James Allen said...

Bill C:

I would sincerely be interested for you to elaborate on your general point (evasiveness) about The Station Agent. I find it healthy to hear a good contrary opinion. Even if I don't agree, it still could make me think of the film in a way I hadn't thought of before.

Lee said...

I have had a hit and miss affair with DePalma as well. While I generally have preferred his earlier works ("Blow Out," "Sisters," even embarrassingly "Body Double"), I must say I was genuinely surprised how much I loved "Femme Fatale." There's some fascinating stuff going on there...

Bill C said...


Yeah, I wouldn't begrudge anyone of liking it (unlike, say, Elizabethtown), because it's entertaining and well-acted and ultimately innocuous.

I think one of the reasons I no longer write for "Marquee" is because in an article on The Station Agent I referred to the "comparatively sensitive Freaks" without qualifying the statement. But by that I meant that Freaks is more willing to acknowledge the cruel power shift that happens when, for all intents and purposes, an able-bodied individual gives the disabled a sexual inch.

Thing that bothers me about The Station Agent is you have this 'normal' woman who befriends this dwarf, infantilizes him as is wont to happen (and the movie actually does a really good job of helping the audience to understand this dynamic by giving her a dead son for Finbar to "replace"), and then just when she seems to be developing romantic feelings for him--or, at least, succumbing to pity and loneliness--her ex-husband resurfaces, and from that point on, the movie doesn't have to deal with her fear of a relationship with Finbar. She shuts him out because she's got the divorcee blues. Total cop-out.

I suppose you could argue that Finbar gets it on with the librarian, but the fact that she's pregnant stretches the maternal metaphor to the brink, and the movie's afraid to show them being intimate. I think The Station Agent is a lot more paternalistic than it realizes; it uses Finbar and Dinklage's wonderful characterization like a get out of jail free card.

James Allen said...


Well laid out, Bill.

I must say I my reaction to the Fin/Olivia relationship was that it never seemed it was going to be romantic in the first place (they even go so far as to have her sleep over his place without anything happening), so that Olivia's withdrawal didn't strike me the way it did you. The maternalistic angle was very obviously drawn, and that did bring a rather oddly authentic tinge to their relationship.

That the film didn't harp on Fin getting laid was kind of a relief. I know a good film could probably be made about a dwarf's intimate relationships and the dynamics thereof, but I didn't think that's what was being aimed for. (He does kiss the librarian, but it seems doubtful they had sex, although at least he didn't sleep in the tub that time.)

I would call it modest instead of innocuous. The film basically ended with Fin opening up and speaking before a classroom of children, a very daunting task for him, and a big step for him leaving his shell.

I know I could pick some of my own nits, the too too melodramatic scene in the bar, for one thing, but I know we agree at least on Dinklage's performance, which I thought was masterful, conveying so much with just his face. I hate to sound hyperbolic, but I am sincere when I say Fin is easily one of the more interesting characters I've ever seen in film.

Thank's again for your response, Bill, I enjoyed reading it.

Jefferson said...

Yeah, I wouldn't begrudge anyone of liking it (unlike, say, Elizabethtown) ...

Wow, Elizabethtown has rapidly become the Gigli of its year.

Bill C said...

What it seems to come down to, James, is that you like it for what it isn't (the sexual misadventures of Fin), while I kind of see it as a missed opportunity for the same reason. It reminds me of those Hollywood thrillers that cast interracial leads (Ashley/Morgan, Denzel/Julia) and then huff-and-puff to keep their relationship chaste for fear of opening up a can of worms. I mean, how many movies have you seen that treat a dwarf like a human being (let alone a sexual one) instead of like one of George Lucas' pets?

Which isn't to say I need to see him being sexual. Just that the movie gets away with murder by playing the deus ex husband card. It never has to grapple with the sexual tension that I must insist is there between Finbar and Olivia, one-sided though it may be.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Well put, Bill.

I never looked much into "sexual" element of Fin/Olivia relationship. They seemed almost two facets of the same character to me, people who have chosen complete isolation to diverge emotional distress, a choice that provides them with superficial serenity but also leads to deep solitude.

It reminds me of those Hollywood thrillers that cast interracial leads (Ashley/Morgan, Denzel/Julia) and then huff-and-puff to keep their relationship chaste for fear of opening up a can of worms.

I see what you are seeing, as this middlebrow attitude is one of my pet peeves too. I find this film an exception because it tries to go the other way, by not making an exploitative hot-button issue out of the film. There is something liberative about films that are willing to see people as people, and not just as mere cariacatures thrown at each other for our pleasure. I mean, looking at Fin, if the only thing you wanna see is him getting it on with a "normal" woman, who does it say more about, you or the film-maker ? Walter, has used this argument of no "tension" in many of his reviews too (mostly deserved, mind you) and sometimes I find it unwarranted and, dare I say, jaded.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

One performance that I find is highly under-rated and much more valuable to me then all others in Station Agent, is that of Bobby Cannavale. That character came out of the left-feild for me. His character had no job being in this film but was in it and is still an enigma to me. One of those Forrest Gump characters that just instantly put a smile on your face.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. on reading the post again, I thought it is too reductivist to compared Bobby Cannavale in Station Agent to Forrest Gump. I meant it more as what my visceral reaction to him is rather than literally.

Bill C said...

Yeah, Cannavale is wonderful in that film. Performance without a shred of disingenuousness.

Evidently I'm in the minority on Station Agent. Intellectually I know exactly where you guys are coming from, but I also know in my heart of hearts that a movie like this isn't going to come around again, so I kind of wish they'd played it a little less safe.

James Allen said...


I agree about Canavale. The brightness of his character is pitch perfect. I often forget to mention him as well given that Fin is basically the center of the film and Patricia Clarkson is the most known quantity in the film (given her independent film rep, anyway.) The first few scenes with Joe and Fin are just great fun. Like the one where he basically wears him down:

Joe: Hey listen, if you guys do something later, can I join you?

Fin: We're not gonna do something.

Joe: No, I know, but if you do, can I join you?

Fin: We're not gonna do something later.

Joe: Okay, but, if you do?

Finbar: Okay.

Joe: Cool.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Great example. I think that really summarises his character perfectly. Little black girl did the same thing, she just wore Fin down. I know people like them and they truely are people that reinforce my shaky faith in human race. At some point, one thinks they are stupid and naive but hell, they are happy and no one can argue with that.

I sort of disagree on the bar scene being too melodramatic. It was one of those things for me, like Magnolia, where despite over-dramatic catharses of various characters, it comes from such an honest place that I was willing to overlook it.

Walter_Chaw said...

Really interesting take on Station Agent, Bill - for me, I think what worked was the idea that it was the Clarkson character who was taking the deus ex ex-husband as a means of avoiding addressing her infantilizing/de-sexualizing of a potential disabled sexual partner - and not the film itself that ducks it. . . It might be madness, however, to try to separate intent like that.

It strikes me, too, the idea that once done, great/brave ideas can't be done again. I've felt that way a ton - most recently about a far less worthy project: Godsend - I had hoped that the flick would be about a little boy who goes to hell but it ends up being the somehow more-exploitive typical mad scientist bullshit.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think it is the third act that really ruins most hollywood films expecially thrillers. they just have this stupid need to create a plot which i don't get. They try and copy films that were succesful at doing that but what they forget is that those films had momentum and vision, even if it was just telling a story.

Godsend ! Christ Walter. Atleast some of these other films are worthy of a mention. Godsend was just god awful. Some of the scenes in the beginning between the kid and rebecca romjin were like she hadn't seen a child before. Those scenes could've come out of bad greeting cards. It wasn't only a peice of shit, it was an incompetent peice of shit.

I must agree with you though, there is something about evil-child horror that is very visceral. When its done good, it can be "Omen".

sabine said...

I know I'm a bit late in the discussion about "The Station Agent", but isn't that evasion a point it makes? They all have child/parent issues. She can't let go of her dead child, Cannavale's constantly on the phone with his dad, Fin loses his father figure and goes off to find a new home. Together they don't go new ways but retrace the old (railway)routes. I always felt it was o.k. for them to end up as friends or quasi-siblings because that was as far as they could go at that point.

James Allen said...


Re: Fin's blow-up at the bar. Yeah, I pretty much forgave the scene for reasons similar to yours. The subsequent scene of Fin getting "run over" by the train almost put a bit too fine of a point on it, but that too is saved by the almost devilish smile on Fin's face as the train approaches and the apt symbolism of the broken watch.

Good take. I like the idea put forth that no matter how much you walk the tracks, you pretty much tend to end up back in the same place you started.

Walter_Chaw said...

My favorite evil child is probably the innocuous little monster that Billy Mumy plays in the "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone. He reprised this role in the Fox Twilight Zone in the late '90s (the one narrated by Forrest Whitaker) - where he's married with child (a little girl - maybe his actual daughter) who begins exhibiting some of the same traits as her dear old papa. It's one of the episodes remade, as well, for the cursed Twilight Zone: The Movie - the Joe Dante-directed segment where Jeremy Licht replaces Mumy and wherein Mumy makes a cameo.

Twilight Zone: The Movie is, too, the home of one of the absolute worse pieces of shit that Spielberg's ever made. His "Kick the Can" is so sickening sweet that you'll want someone to shove a shunt into your face just to ease - at least distract from - the pain.

James Allen said...

Re: Evil tykes

That Zone episode is one of the greats, with no real need to be remade. In fact, the whole of Twilight Zone: The Movie was unneccesary, even the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" remake that everone seemed to like, but did little for me. Although by the time you sat through the rest of that piece of shit it came as somewhat of a relief.

Anyway, for a couple evil kiddie films I have to go back aways for The Bad Seed(1956) and Children of the Damned (which I give the nod to over Village of the Damned).

Jack_Sommersby said...


Thanks much for the DVD review of Fire and Ice. Saw the cool-o hologrammed DVD cover in the video store the other day, and what with your A+ rating of both the video and audio, I'm going to rent it at my local video store tomorrow!


Was totally perplexed as to the first-ever "N/A" rating of the video for the Smith DVD; but after reading why, you were totally right to do so. (I have to admit, though, that I still don't mind it on my screener VHS tape of Cutting Class, because, hey, the luscious Jill Schoelen's bottom still looks, well, luscious even with it.)


Am still in shock over Phillip Hall starring in something as palpably absurd as Duck. Maybe Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins can now hold their heads high when Howard the Duck is mentioned at their house parties, huh?

Bill C said...

Thanks, Jack. We're squawking as loud as we can in the hopes of nipping the practice in the bud, or at the very least prevent the other studios from getting the same idea.

Apropos of nothin', saw what may very well be the best-looking/sounding DVD ever produced today, for Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

Alex Jackson said...

Apropos of nothin', saw what may very well be the best-looking/sounding DVD ever produced today, for Spielberg's War of the Worlds.


Bemis said...

I'll echo that "drooooool." Also on the subject of Spielberg, I'll echo Walter's take on "Kick the Can." I'm usually one of Spielberg's greatest defenders, but "Kick the Can" is the one film he's made where everything he's ever been criticized for is inarguably true. I love the George Miller segment, though.

Bill C said...

I really dig Twilight Zone: The Movie with the exception of "Kick the Can". The Landis segment ends abruptly for obvious reasons, but kind of like The Crow, it has an extratextual melancholy that's impossible to dismiss. I also really dig the Landis-directed prologue, which scared the living shit out of me when I was a tyke. 'Course that speaks to what I think is a conceptual blunder: all four directors seem to remember "The Twilight Zone" as primarily a horror-driven series. It's like they're adapting their sense memory of the show more than anything else.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Miller's 20,000 Feet is far and away my favorite of the 4. If it were filmed today, I cringe at the thought of all the uncouth camerabatics and jarring editing it would be polluted with by these Michael Bay-like directors. Miller makes the episode kinetic, certainly, but he also knew how to perfectly modulate and calibrate it within its small running time so we didn't get wrung out ten minutes in nor comfortable enough for so much as a second. That takes incredible, instinctive tact, and it breaks me that Miller hasn't made more movies, damnit.

Alex Jackson said...

The bookends were easily the best thing in the movie. That start scared the shit out of me as a kid too, and in a subversive but fun way; Landis knows just how far to push the violence.

Then the Miller segment. I agree with Jack that it is great uniquely eighties filmmaking. Solid, tight, but with some restraint. In addition to the camerabatrics, I would also fear a CGI gremlin were it to be made today. But it's not really about anything now is it?

I liked the first segment, but then again I have a soft spot for anti-racism tracts. I liked that Vietnam scene, it was kind of vulgar and I thought that was interesting. The Holocaust is so wrapped up in this portentous formalism, that that was a needed contrast.

I'm not sure if the Dante or the Spielberg are worse. The Dante is certainly deeply painful to watch but at least it's an interesting painful.

I actually think that Kick the Can COULD have worked if they maybe left it in the broiler a little longer and helped the Jewishness, the magic Negorism, and the Peter Pan stuff sort of crystalize a little more and moved beyond level one. Not something that I would defend, but I think a lot of people who check out the movie are going to wonder what all the fuss was about. I mean it's just.. meh.

Jack_Sommersby said...


I'll definitely take the Dante episode over Spielberg's. It was no masterpiece, but at least it was scary in parts and fairly imaginative throughout. It doesn't come to much in the end, I'll aver -- oh boy, the kid will have a normal life with the homey schoolteacher! (gag) -- but damn it's certainly something you can't take your eyes off of.

And while we're on the subject, I still cite Creepshow as the best anthology ever filmed, and also the best film to truly possess a comic-book look and feel to it that so, so many -- and that includes the insipid Spider-Man -- simply fail to achieve. A crime that it's only avaliable in a bare-bones DVD, though it's cheaply priced and boasts a damn good anamorphic transfer.

Bill C said...

Creepshow is pretty terrific; I think you may get your wish for a Special Edition sometime next year.

I think my favourite comic-book movie might be Danger: Diabolik, which I finally caught up with this year and fell hard for instantly. It basically does the Sin City thing of literally adapting panels into images, but it doesn't feel so hermetically sealed. And it's FUN. So fun, in fact, that you hardly realize it's pro-terrorism.

Alex Jackson said...

Danger: Diabolik was the last episode of Mystery Science Theater.

I should probably exempt myself from evaluating it then, but eh, it was OK. I like John Phillip Hall, but not much going on when he wasn't doing his thing.

Bill C said...

There's a perfect example of why I hate MST3K so much--they've managed to sour people on a Mario Bava movie. Parasites.

Walter_Chaw said...

I love Creepshow - Ted Danson, you never looked better - I even like Creepshow II a bit although they really screwed the pooch adapting King's genuinely horrific "The Raft" short story. One of the last truly great things the man wrote, start to finish.

I so love George Miller - I think it's possible to slot his segment on the TZ Movie into a general child-fear cycle though I'm not sure where it was at that particular moment in time. The evil little girl in Miller's segment is just awesome: trumping Dante's kid, even, and without supernatural powers to boot. I can never watch a film set aboard an airplane without thinking of that little terror.

Miller's Babe: Pig in the City is one of my favorite movies. Perverse in just the way I like. The moment that Mickey Rooney makes his appearance as an idiot man-child in a clown costume, his face smeared with ice cream, is one of the scariest moments in the movies. Up there with the dwarf in Don't Look Now and the reveal of Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Never seen Danger: Diabolik but will echo the sentiments on MST3K. Was a diehard fan, now a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic - that kind of watching strikes me as destructive and, in a real way, hateful to the medium.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Fittingly, Miller's segment figured into my review of The Raft segment in Creepshow 2:

"...whenever the camera leaves the raft the tension immediately dissipates; what was needed was the kind of kinetic intensity director George Miller brought to the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie (Sterling again), to where the audience would be constantly kept off-balance in a limited setting and wouldn't have the time to think matters through any more than the characters in jeopardy."

Yeah, Miller would have made that segment sing and scream with undiluted primal terror. Without a doubt.

Alex Jackson said...

I know that I shouldn't care, beating a dead horse and all, but.. a sneak peek at Roger Ebert's Friday roundup:

Zathura: *** out of ****
"Zathura lacks the undercurrents of archetypal menace and genuine emotion that informed The Polar Express. But it works gloriously as space opera."

Pride and Prejudice: ****

"One of the most delightful and heartwarming adaptations made from Austen or anybody else."

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic: * 1/2

"A movie that filled me with an urgent desire to see Sarah Silverman in a different movie." (School of Rock maybe?)

Bee Season: ****

"The performance by Flora Cross is haunting in its seriousness. She doesn't act out; she acts in." (LOL)

Get Rich or Die Trying: *** (18% on Rotten Tomatoes and you have got to see how negative this three star review is)

"A film with a rich and convincing texture, a drama with power and anger."

Jack_Sommersby said...

Don't read Roger Ebert any frigging more. Not for 5 years now. Only critics I read on a regular basis are:

-- FFF's, of course.

-- David Edelstein

-- Armond White

-- Stanley Kauffmann

-- David Denby

-- Robert Wilonsky (Dallas Observer, for those who don't know)

Chad Evan said...

Re: Creepshow:
Creepshow and I have a strange relationship. I own the DVD, and love pretty much each segment, yet I find it next to impossible to watch all the way through; it generally starts to drag in the Leslie Nielson segment. I guess there's something about anthology films that makes me impatient. It's probably the fact that every twenty minutes I have to press the reset button and get acclimated to a new set of characters.

Anyway, what do y'all think of Creepshow's illegetimate child, HBO'S series Tales From the Crypt? I've been enjoying the hell out of the first two seasons on DVD. Like Creepshow, it's hard to watch more than one at a time, but the humor is strong and many of the episodes are directed with real flair (including the ones helmed by Hill, Zemeckis and Donner, of course, but others as well.)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Ebert's shit is really starting to get on my nerves now. I would give him benefit of the the doubt usually because he seemed to me the guy who tells joe schmo about "films" and not "good films", as per say. The poster boy of poop, if you may. but now his middle-browness has reached the point of no return, i think... although, he still does have some definitive reviews in him. look at this week's "dark city" one in great movies section.

besides the topic, i saw "thin red line" again today and it has officially elevated to one of my favorite films of all time. for the first time, i actually got the whole damn thing. i think i'm gonna have a tug of war for a place in top 10 for the two malicks (days of heaven, thin red line) just like the two scorsese's (taxi driver, bringing out the dead).

Jack_Sommersby said...

Recently watched Malick's Badlands and was put off by a couple of things: the unexplainable vacancy of the Sissy Spacek character throughout; and the equally-unexplainable complacency of the cops toward the Sheen charcter, despite his having killed their fellow officers -- neither of which I bought for a damn minute. Malick's making a "statement" about this, all right, but without the viable dramatic underpinnings to give it gravitas, rootedness.

Even so, I prefer Malick's WWII film to Spielberg's one (though the endless nature shots more than get the point across after, oh, the third damn one).

Anonymous said...

The big problem with Creepshow pushed the comic book idea much, much too hard. Push that shit to the back.

Alex Jackson said...

besides the topic, i saw "thin red line" again today and it has officially elevated to one of my favorite films of all time. for the first time, i actually got the whole damn thing. i think i'm gonna have a tug of war for a place in top 10 for the two malicks (days of heaven, thin red line) just like the two scorsese's (taxi driver, bringing out the dead).

Man of my own heart H-man, man of my own heart. I still like Badlands, but I think of it as the most consistent and "respectable" of Malick's films and lacking in the highs of Days and Line. It's like you know, are you going to go with the 100 percent of damn good or the 70 to 80 percent of pure cinematic opium.

Similiarly with Taxi Driver and Bringing out the Dead. I still like Raging Bull, but I think
I'm buying into this idea that it's too "perfect".

Defending Bringing out the Dead, I don't know how to defend it. It's a mood piece basically, there is something romantic about the laconic Nick Cage narration, these long sleepless nights, the maelstrom of chaos, the raw beuatiful ugliness of New York's perpetual underclass. The music is great guys, Scorsese's use of the Marvelette's "Too Many Fish in the Sea" is perfect. Melodic, beautiful, but kind of emphemeral boucing around the negative space of a black void like a barely held cloud. "These are the Days" is kind of a shitty song, but what a perfect shitty song! Kind of a cheerfully goofy "I Give Up" for the exhausted Cage. Johnny Thunder's "Can't Put your Arms around a Memory" is just rock and roll and powerfully cathartic.

And I love the melodrama. Is there a better scene then that one where Patricia Arquette breaks down to that crazy homeless guy and he hugs her before running off. He's not callous of course, he's just incapable of giving her a shoulder to cry on; and isn't that how it goes most of the time?

Thanks for giving me opportunity to pick up where we left off last time.

Walter_Chaw said...

I do like the scenes that Scorsese shot backwards so that the snow falls upwards and all the walking is just, ineffably, off.

Bee Season, by the way, is one of the worst films of the year. It's so heavy with pretension that you actually get panic-sweat from the closeness of the theater. The kind of film I like to say that you'd chew a limb off to escape.

Bill C said...

Not a fan of "Tales from the Crypt" from the few episodes I've seen, but I've never managed to happen upon any of the Walter Hill or Robert Zemeckis eps. Love love love Zemeckis' "Amazing Stories" contribution "Go to the Head of the Class".

And as a kid, I sure did enjoy the diet version of "Crypt", "Tales from the Darkside". Lots of those are permanently imprinted on my subconscious, like the killer teddy-bear fable "Teddy" (which has the greatest punchline, like, ever) and this one about a guy who sneezes his nose off. I imagine it's a pretty terrible show seen through the veil of adulthood, though.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I find hard to defend films that i really really love. the ones that i like, i can try and intellectually deconstruct. but for some bizarre reason when i try and defend one of my favorites, it is like trying to defend myself, i can't do it. my head becomes too small for my brain.

but yeah, there is so much to think about in "thin red line". it takes me 5-6 viewings of malick films to actually get them. it took me and my brother 5 hours to watch the movie just because we stopped, talked and played so much during the film.

(Let the rambling commence.... don't read on if you have something better to do)

i loved TRL before too but now I really love it. My favorite parts though clearly are the ones between jim caviezel and sean penn. For me the conversations between them were conversations i imagine malick (romantic poet) and herzog (existential nihlist)would have. my imagination you say, read this :

WELSH (Penn)
I feel sorry for you, kid.

WITT (Caviezel)

Yeah, a little. This army's gonna kill you.


If you're smart you'll take care of yourself. There's nothing you can do for anybody else. You're just running into a burning house where nobody can be saved.
(lights cigarette)
What difference you think you can make, one single man in all this madness? If you die, it's gonna be for nothing. There's not some other world out there where everything's gonna be okay. There's just this world. Just this rock.

(and another one)

You still believing in the beautiful light, are you? How do you do that? You're a magician to me.

I still see a spark in you

...Well, maybe it is my imagination.

The most understated heart-breaking moment comes at the end of the film, when Welsh is on Witt's grave and he says "Where is your spark now ?".

Sean penn is at his restricted bestin this film, so unlike "assassination of richard nixon" which was on cable this morning. you know what i think is baseline wrong with most movies ? they just talk too fucking much. watching a malick film is a spiritual experience for me because i can see what the range of cinema can be. what can be done with this tool if properly used. cinema in itself is too perfect a medium because it leaves little for the imagination. but if a film can get over the problem by allowing audience time to think about what they are seeing and get the imagination going, while not distracting them too much, then it steps into the territory of becoming the greatest medium of them all. i don't know what i like more, TRL or the experience of having thoughts that are induced while watching TRL.

To me Malick is the greatest film-maker of them all because he has the capability of inducing bliss in me. Characters in his films, especially TRL are in state of bliss. Where lesser films just talk about bliss like a commodity ("Last life in the universe"), making them seem pretentious, TRL actaually shows people in it. So where they seem emotionally distant, they are not, they've just felt too much for too long and just want it to stop. Hell, they even talk about it.

Right in the beginning of the film Witt talks about bliss:

I remember my mother when she was dying, she was all shrunk up and grey. I asked her if she was afraid, she shook her head no. I was afraid to touch the death I seen in her. I couldn't find nothing beautiful or uplifting about her going back to God.
I wondered what it'd be like when I died, to know that this was the last breath you was ever going to draw. I just hoped I could meet it with the same calm she did. Cause that's where it's hidden. The immortality I hadn't seen


I look at that boy dying, I don't feel nothing. I don't care about nothing anymore.

Sounds like bliss.

At the same time, I do think TRL is malick's most religious (addressing god i think: Who are you who live in all these many forms? You're death that captures all. You too are the source of all that's gonna be born. You're glory, mercy, peace, truth. You give calm a spirit, understanding, courage, the contented heart. )
and at the same time most pessimistic (Are you righteous, kind? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? Know that I was, too. Do you imagine your sufferings will be less because you loved goodness, truth? ) film. He acknowledges love ("This love... Where does it come from?"), but shows that it has no value in the real world, that it means nothing. He then asks the same question about evil ("This great evil--where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? ") but he shows it having consequences in reality. What Malick is doing is showing that people like Staros and Witt are weak because they stop and think and in war (literally or as a metaphor for life like in Apocalypse Now), they would either die or be kicked out.

Witt states the underline difference between him (believer) and Welsh(non-believer)when he says:

One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain. That death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it.

When I saw this film for the first time, I could relate more to Welsh but now I think I relate more to Witt. The film remained the same but I changed. And that is what makes this film great, I find that I learn something about my own identity when I see this film. I agree with Alex, I maybe an athiest outside in the real world but while watching a film, I am a true believer.

(rambling ends)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"Raging Bull" has too much of Schrader in it. Too much naturalistic shit of characters crushed by forces much greater than them. Hell, I just don't like it as much. It is not angry and virile, it's just too... paternalistic. Jake LeMatta never becomes a complete character and seems like too much of a Schrader puppet. The level of imperfection and unpredictability only comes in when character becomes complete by having a free will.

At the same time, there is too much of Scorsese in it too. Too much of the catholic guilt and madonna-whore syndrome.

Hell, there is too much of everything in that film, which makes it a perfect fuck-bunny for over-indulgent critics who can pat themselves on the back for deciphering it.

Taxi Driver with all it's imperfection has something raw in it. Something you know in your gut is just "true" about it. It feels alive where RB is dead and glib.

I just don't like perfect films, they irritate the shit out of me.

I have the same problem with most of Scorsese's ouevre. But when he is good, he is fucking good. "King of Comedy" and "Mean Streets" are the other two I really love. Now he makes old-man movies like "Aviator" that just don't have "it". The anger is more remembered then felt.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. I love one scene from RB though which was perfectly described by Ebert in his review:

the extraordinary moment where he looks at himself in a dressing room mirror and recites from ``On the Waterfront'' (``I coulda been a contender''). It's not De Niro doing Brando, as is often mistakenly said, but De Niro doing LaMotta doing Brando doing Terry Malloy. De Niro could do a ``better'' Brando imitation, but what would be the point?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...


Maybe the vacancy of Sissy Spacek in "Badlands" can be attributed to the fact that she is narrator and her tone is elegaic.

Here is what Terrence Malick said about it in his only interview:

"Holly's Southernness is essential to taking her right. She isn't indifferent about her father's death.
(line missing)
tears, but she wouldn't think of telling you about it. It would not be proper. You should always feel there are large parts of her experience she's not including because she has a strong, if misplaced, sense of propriety. You might well wonder how anyone going through what she does could be at all concerned with proprieties. But she is. And her kind of cliché didn't begin with pulp magazines, as some critics have suggested. It exists in Nancy Drew and Tom Sawyer. It's not the mark of a diminished, pulp-fed mind, I'm trying to say, but of the 'innocent abroad.' When people express what is most important to them, it often comes out in cliches. That doesn't make them laughable; it's something tender about them. As though in struggling to reach what's most personal about them they could only come up with what's most public.


Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything. I wanted the picture to set up like a fairy tale, outside time, like Treasure Island. I hoped this owuld, among other htings, take a little of the sharpness out of the violence but still keep its dreamy quality. Children's books are full of violence. Long John Silver slits the throats of the faithful crew. Kit and Holly even think of themselves as living in a fairy tale. Holly says, "Sometimes I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, but this never happened." But she enough believes there is such a place that she must confess to you she never got there."

Here's the link for those who haven't read it. It's fucking brilliant and tells me exactly why he would never do another interview again. He probably said a lot of that stuff off the record.

Anonymous said...

Walter ...

"quintessential white-man's fantasy"

That's a pretty broad brushstroke there for what's essentially a speculation about the internal lives of several million people at once. I admit it seems on the level of eye mote vs. beam for a white dude (me) to cry racism, but I think we have to proceed from the point that the truth (or a discussion of it anyway) never hurts a just cause.

The suggestion that there is a typical internal life among white dudes -- apart from, like, human archetype -- smells ugly. And I wonder how much of an assessment of "quintessential fantasy" is projection -- versus, like, observation. That's not meant as ad hominem jab, but as suggestion that any speculation about other folks' brains contains 2 parts projection to 1 part empiricism.

Maybe I'm being defensive? It's tricky, honest self-examination, but i believe I'm not in denial to insist I don't have any fantasies about subordinating black guys or slapping chicks around. I don't know what darkness lives in anyone else's heart anymore than you do, but seems to me whatever lurks in there lurks on the level of Jung, not the level of WASP.

Rachel said...

Know I'm not Walter, but your criticism of that statement- "but that's not how *I* feel"- sounds remarkably like the criticism consistently lobbed against I Blame the Patriarchy, especially after the maintainer wondered if any man could truly love women- that is, unconditionally. (Her oponents, as their defense, somewhat hilariously brought up Mr. Rogers.)

I've never been a real student of such rhetoric, just observed it, and it seems the point is to rail against our society, an institution built on oppression, in which we grow up and unconciously, necessarily take on its ugliest aspects. To deny them in ourselves, to deny them for the fact of ourselves, is counterproductive. After all, how do you teach men about rape, if every man is already confident that he isn't a rapist? Behavior is shaped by the culture, latent and conditional. The worst thing is to deny the devastating effects of the culture within ourselves. Without that initial discovery progress is awfully hard (impossible?) to make.

rachel said...

Wow, haha, I wish we could edit our comments. Muddled much?

Alex Jackson said...

I've never been a real student of such rhetoric, just observed it, and it seems the point is to rail against our society, an institution built on oppression, in which we grow up and unconciously, necessarily take on its ugliest aspects. To deny them in ourselves, to deny them for the fact of ourselves, is counterproductive. After all, how do you teach men about rape, if every man is already confident that he isn't a rapist? Behavior is shaped by the culture, latent and conditional. The worst thing is to deny the devastating effects of the culture within ourselves. Without that initial discovery progress is awfully hard (impossible?) to make.

I've been staring at that paragraph for minutes and minutes; trying to find a way to respond.

Culture is a contributing factor to behavior, but I doubt that it is the focal one. I mean it doesn't seem to have any origin. It cannot be caused by active agents, as the the actions of the active agents are dictaited by the culture. And if we cannot influence culture then what is the point in passing moral judgments on it?

I somehow better like the idea that behavior is a relatively quantifiable response to our environment which is dictaited by external forces. I'm find myself gradually being seduced away from sociology and into psychology.

And I agree with the Anonymous poster that racism and misogyny are hardly unique to White American culture. But with that said I understood Walter's statement as being film criticism, as a means to convey an idea in the film, and not as judgment; which infers that this specific fantasy is part of the white man's psyche.

Walter_Chaw said...

film criticism, as a means to convey an idea in the film, and not as judgment; which infers that this specific fantasy is part of the white man's psyche

Thanks, Alex - elegantly defended.

I tend to agree with Rachel, though, in the sense that most people don't know (and never take the time to consider) the extent (myself included/especially) that we've been programmed to think and feel in a certain way in regards to race and gender. (If you're raised in a culture with "ancient Chinese secrets" and Hop Sing the cookie and Short Round and Long Duck Song, you got yourself some serious external factors to sort through.)

A certain level of consent in the way we assimilate data that I think Marx talked about - the way, for instance, that if we don't protest or examine, we tacitly agree and condone. ("We" as in "the ruling class" though I'm Chinese, I certainly think like a white dude 90% of the time.)

If it seems reductive for me to say that subjugating blacks and women fulfills a blanket "white" fantasy, I think it's fruitful to wonder why it is that (and I'm guessing here) no (or few) other national reviews will take a moment to comment on the point-of-view taken in the rape sequence - probably none will talk about The RZA's role as resident gangsta' - or, indeed, on the kind of garbage being championed in something like Hustle & Flow - or, even wonder why it is that at a screening of the new 50-Cent flick, there were for the first time in my memory, armed police in full uniform. Is this not all some sort of blanket consent to a pervasive racism? If it isn't, then why isn't anyone talking about it? I'll tell you the truth that I'm tired of writing about it because of the shit I get whenever I raise the question - usually from minorities and liberals.

Why, though, does so much of our popular entertainment - especially the kinds that rely upon stock characters, explosions, rape. . . necrophilia. . . more of those than you'd think - rely on exactly that message of subjugation, abuse, repression, marginalization? It doesn't take much squinting to mark that this gender/racial power struggle might be the most popular subtext in American film. All film. All art. All literature. The human experience? Anonymous brings up Jung and, yeah, own that Shadow, man, it's not just collective (since you quote Jung, I know you've read him) it's personal, too and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Maybe it's a colonial fantasy, closer to the idea of external influence - look at the African-American heroes of Bad Boys II (and the Asian ones of Jackie Chan's Police Story, too) where identical scenes of cars racing down (and destroying) 45-degree embankments loaded with subsistence-level native settlements (note the abuse of pregnant women in films from 2002 as well) - are played for thrills and chuckles. There's something stronger at work there than the white man's fantasy - for sure - maybe a more universal disregard for the toll of imperial hubris. How people in power will always make art about the subjugation of people who are not.

If I take a bat to a piece of unrepentant shit like Derailed, I hope I do it because this film exhibits a certain destructive bigotry in its "consent" rather than well-intentioned (?) independent films made by white filmmakers about the black, inner-city experience (like Hustle & Flow for instance, among volumes of others that you may be familiar with) that are insulting for their paternalism rather than insulting for their fecklessness. Can a white man write the black experience? I think that a white man can interpret the black experience through a white man's prism - but that's not the same thing, is it?

Eh, maybe it is - I don't have the answers - anything could happen, right? By the same token, you know, when I speculate about the white-man's fantasy, I'm doing it from my Chinese perspective on an adopted culture.

Still no easy answers because, essentially, I'm suggesting that we're hardwired with certain desires and inclinations that we resist to varying levels of success - and that the culture that humans create, by extension, is filthy with consent and resistance.

But I will say that Rachel's point is well-taken (if I'm not mis-interpreting her, that is, through my own desire to make this point) that protesting "not I, not I" speaks more to my ear of the necessity for a more careful audition of "maybe me, maybe me." Without that baseline, there's no point in debate.

Walter_Chaw said...

By the way - chatted with Neil Jordan for about an hour this evening over a spot of tea. Soft-spoken guy - lots to say, though.

Also saw I Walk the Line and Harry Potter 4. Both mediocre - the former standard formula biopic, the latter just boring as hell and not about anything. Caps off a week wherein I attended 14 screenings. Ah well.

Jack_Sommersby said...


And the cops who don't utter so much as a condemning word to Kit, in light that he's slaughtered their fellow officers? Malick's trying to imply that they're so caught up in Kit's media-famous status, that they're willing to forget the slaughter because they're so taken in by this status, and it's never convincing -- a high-minded concept but not one that's substaniated by anthing behaviorally plausible in this respect.

I liked several things in Badlands: Warren Oates' superb understated performance; the brutal, heartbreaking murder of Kit's ex-co-worker; Malick's gift for texture (though he flubs a certain geographical aspect: when you cross into Montana from South Dakota, the refineries you spy are in Billings, not Missoula -- which is in the western part of the state and doesn't have any refineries), but, overall, it comes acroos more as an "idea" than an organic motion picture. And take a look at Days of Heaven. Forget about the fanciful cinematography; do any of the characters even remotely interest one? Not to me, they don't.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I guess your thing about cops does make sense although I never noticed it myself. I'll have to see the film again to formulate my opinion on that. yet there is so much to see in badlands, if that is the only thing bothering you, try and overlook it. there is treasures of shit in there.

All characters in Days of Heaven interest me or rather Linda Manz's characters's memory of all the characters interests me. It's a matter of what interests you. There are all sorts of characters in all sorts of films, some of them are more interesting then others. It is the idea that characters can be more then the generic reproduction of screenwriter's cleverness and glibness, that interests me. A lot of people have had problem with emotional distance of the characters in Malick films, but I think that comes from very simple-minded pre-conceived idea of possibilities of narrative and characterisation.

I assure you, it would take more than "fanciful cinematography" for me to call a film great, if not one of the greatest. Also there is a very legitemate reason behind the use of sepia drenched "fanciful cinematography". If anything, Terrence Malick wouldn't just do something for vanity.

James Allen said...

Walt et al,

Re: "White man's fantasy", etc

Fascinating discussion. Not much for me to add. I would just like to say that I do appreciate it when Walt broaches these kind of themes in his essays (it's also a reason I like reading Armond White as well).

One passage did strike me though:

I'll tell you the truth that I'm tired of writing about it because of the shit I get whenever I raise the question - usually from minorities and liberals.

I know what your saying with this, and I continually find it quite distressing when people out there want to not only silence the discussion, but want to pretend it doesn't exist, or at least only exists in a pat "Hardball" framing of hard left and hard right, with everone preaching to the long-ago converted. It's the kind of stuff that makes a lot of those talking heads shows on TV a predictable bore.

James Allen said...

By the way, I love this line from the Derailed review:

The ultimate effect of her "metamorphosis" from America's sweetheart is the uncomfortable feeling that you just saw Donna Reed (or your best friend's mom) in an S&M outfit.

I love the Donna Reed reference, in particular.

jer fairall said...

Also saw I Walk the Line and Harry Potter 4. Both mediocre - the former standard formula biopic, the latter just boring as hell and not about anything.

Ah shit. I'm not at all surprised to hear that the Cash film is just this year's Ray, but was I too optimistic to believe that Cuaron--even though he didn't do this new Potter film--had finally rescued the series and set it on the right course? This is very disappointing.

Finally got around to watching Palindromes. You (Walter) are right that it demands multiple viewings to sink in, as just after I finished my first, I spent the following half hour confused and fidgety before deciding that I had to watch it again. The first 45 minutes or so are such a relentless downer--lacking even Solondz' usual twisted humor--that I didn't think I was gonna be able to get into it at all, but from the brilliant Mama Sunshine segment onwards, it's pure Solondz. And then rewatching the first half again with that in mind makes it all make sense. Yeah, I do think it's a great film, but it's the kind of great film that I'm really afraid to actually recommend to anyone, though I'm not sure if that's because I don't think they'll "get" it, or if I'm just afraid of looking like a sicko. I don't think Solondoz is really the pure misanthrope that many do (why go to the trouble of creating sympathetic characters if you hate people?), but he's not exactly the easiest to defend.

Alex Jackson said...

Meh, I should have seen Palindromes. I saw Kontroll last night and I really didn't like it very much at all. It's slick, but hella smug; the umpteenth variation of twentysomethings whining about their crappy jobs. And what's with the Asian tourists who take his picture when he's trying to take their ticket. Ergh!

Next on the Netflix cue: MST3K: Manos Hands of Fate, Spider, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Bill C said...

Here's hoping you go into MST3K remission soon, Alex. Until then, all of us here in accounting are rooting for a speedy recovery.

Just watched Murderball, and I think it's the rare movie in which the paternalism isn't necessarily on screen but has metastasized in the filmmaking itself. Awful flick, really, but sort of important in a Stanley Kramer way.

Seattle Jeff said...

Watching MST3K Manos: Hands of Fate is one of the truly great moments of my life.

What that says about my life, I don't know.

...actualy I do.

The wife and I just finished A&E's old Nero Wolfe series. Good stuff. All hail Maury Chaykin!

Alex Jackson said...

In interest of full disclosure I hadn't much thought about MST3k since it left the air. Bill's mention of Danger: Diabolik brought it back up for me and I got to thinking that I never saw their take on Manos: Hands of Fate.

Believe it or not I actually credit MST3K for getting me deeply interested in movies. It indirectly brought me to Plan 9 from Outer Space and Ed Wood which somehow brought me into the world of auteur worship.

But I can imagine that it's something that you can outgrow. We'll see.

Bill C said...

I'm sympathetic to the rose-coloured view of your gateway drug, but the long and the short of it is that I hate that your first screening of Danger: Diabolik wasn't a clean one (even more tragic, considering Paramount just released a beautifully restored Special Edition DVD), and now the film is, evidently, inextricably linked with MST3K in your mind.

Don't know how much you know about Mario Bava (check out his awesome Blood and Black Lace, arguably the first slasher movie--one set in a fashion model 'factory'!), Alex, but he's definitely not one to rank with the makers of Manos besides. And now faux-iconoclast Mike Nelson is going out of his way to be an asshole by doing DVD commentaries for honest-to-God masterpieces like Night of the Living Dead.

Chad Evan said...

Self-fulfilling prophecy:
There's apparently been a shooting in a lobby during a showing of Get Rich or Die Trying, according to Movie City News.

The Captain said...

And please, why are none of the reviews anywhere talking about what bullshit role models we've allowed our kids to admire? 50 Cent is a chauvinistic, retarded ape who's talent appears to be "rhyming words" alongside a series of other pathetic idiots who are making a living out of poorly rapping about sexism, racism, homophobia, gang warfare, killing each other, beating/pimping/destroying women, and a variety of other anti-social behaviors that a lot of youth are too dumb to understand are a rap-fantasy rather than an actual reality.

Listen to 50 Cent talk about being shot 9 times (he actually only took 3 bullets) and he talks like a high schooler - "My enemies try to destroy me, but I keep on walkin' while they in the ground." Fantastic! That's a mature perspective on how you ALMOST DIED WHEN PEOPE SHOT YOU, you insane moron.

Likewise, color us all disgusted when Eminem released his awful "Toy Soliders" song in which he drew comparisons to actual wars/veterans and his gang members, in their bullshit "record label" war. Disgusting and offensive; I'm completely against censorship, but that's not to say some of these people could use a bullet or two like 50 Cent, only more lethal.

Even worse - any of you gamers seen the trailer for the upcoming 50 Cent game? You'll be hard pressed to find anything more offensive this year, it's like Bad Boys II all over again - witness bare-chested 50 Cent shoot up a whole lot of white people (and also smash open a white guy's face with a shotgun, swinging it like a baseball bat complete with skull-shatter and gore) in order to steal a briefcase full of something shiny (no comment) and then shoot another white man in the face - it's really fucking disturbing. No doubt you can do the same kind of things in other games - Manhunt and GTA, for example, but the avatars in those games are not real, there's a disconnection from that fantasy whereas the avatar here is a real person playing the horrible persona he plays himself out to be in his rap. Also, that the violence is incredibly extreme and framed as reality and ALL AGAINST WHITE PEOPLE, well, it just makes you wonder.

Anonymous said...

Forget about how bad a role model 50 Cent is... why does no one mention how fucking BORING he is?

Manos was one of the most disappointing MTS3K episodes I've ever seen.


Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Man, there are always going to be "bad" role models and there are always going to be stupid kids following them. There always were, there always will be. Some of the kids will get over it and go to college, the others will get shot in the face. And then there is going to be kids like me going, "the fuck is wrong with these stupid assholes". Those will go on to greatness.

Thanks for providing me with the oppurtunity for some unproven self-mytholigization.

Peace out.

Alex Jackson said...

Anybody saw that 20/20 piece on Prussian Blue; the "Mary Kate and Ashley" of the White Supremacist music scene?

First of all, one of the things that I find fascinating about music is how pure and absolute it is and how political, racial, and cultural boundaries can be easily transcended as long as you have good tunes. I've heard exactly one song from a white supramicist group: Screwdriver's cover of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", and it was really good and so that tells me at least that I'm not entirely closed down from considering the genre. But so I can clearly and without prejudice tell you that Prussian Blue is fucking terrible and proof in itself that white is far from being the supreme race.

Anyway, one of the girls' favorite games is a shoot-em up where you play a Ku Klux Klansman whose mission is to fight off the mud races in the same way one would fight off zombies and aliens in another game. What goes around comes around I suppose.