November 28, 2005

Notes from the Trenches

Ah, the holidays. Two things happen during the holidays: the first is that they give us a week’s break or so from screenings and the other is that they start to mail us screeners so that when the screenings start up again, you won’t have to go to as many. Bliss.

A week with the family watching movies I’d missed (or can now safely miss) and eating turkey and enjoying the hometown Denver Broncos pull out a squeaker from the resurgent Dallas Cowboys. My Fantasy numbers are pathetic, but my team is 9-2, so in the testosterone calculus, I’m up.

Finally took in the Enron documentary which is too long and goes off on the skylark now and again, but is outrageous in the way you feel frustrated about because you sort of know that it won’t make any difference to anyone one way or another. When the dust settles, what’s done is done, and I’d be surprised if anyone learns anything from the whole mess – but as far as craft goes, it’s good. Watched John Dahl’s The Great Raid - a film I had to miss for scheduling conflicts a few months ago and, consequently, was denied an interview with Dahl which is just as well, I guess, as I only really wanted to talk to him about The Last Seduction. It’s one of Miramax’s last hurrahs and about as good as you'd expect given its brethren.

Sifted through a lot of mail – more polite, carefully-worded support for the Harry Potter 4 review and a lot of real anger about the Rent review. Almost all of it told me that creator Jon Larson didn’t die of AIDS and requested that I do my homework – which is fair, except that I had done some homework (Larson went to the ER twice, once for food poisoning to have his stomach pumped, the second time only to be diagnosed with the flu – he had an x-ray taken but it was read by a doctor of the wrong discipline – and so a weakness in his aorta went undiagnosed), and was trying to make a (bad) joke that Larson had died of a “romantic wasting disease” like “disenchantment.” More to the point, that Larson's death became a rallying point for supporters of the play: hardly a positive comment about it goes by without mention of its irony (Paul Clinton's review is especially revolting) - and that although he died of a misdiagnosis and congenital defect, his followers have exploited it in ways subtle and, sadly, less subtle. It’s a theme I was pursuing, see – and my having to explain it suggests that I pursued it poorly – that Rent is hysterical proselytizing: grandiloquent and self-important pop melodrama that, I thought, hurt its message more than helped it. Its triteness (and awfulness) aside, just by ghettoizing it in an imaginary cartoon Alphabet City that doesn’t look anything like this anymore, you run the risk of the “wrong” people getting it into their heads that AIDS was an isolated phenomenon.

More: that it’s isolatable.The review is an attack of the film and of the source material and of Chris Columbus who, I was told, was given the latitude to make an “R” rated film (something he desired) and still could only manage a “PG-13”. Were I to write a review for Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, it’d be pretty much the same review, I think – but, like the piece on Rent isn’t about AIDS or homosexuality, the review of Life is Beautiful wouldn’t be about the Holocaust or Jews.

Still, the question was posed to me eloquently of whether or not there were any issues near and dear to me that would cause me to forgive the presentation of them. It’s something I thought about a long time and it brings us all the way back around to last Trenches’ brief thread about the casting of Chinese actresses in the roles of Japanese Geisha, “pleasuring” Japanese war profiteers and “heroes” of the occupation of Manchuria. For as few films about AIDS as there are in the mainstream in the last ten years (let’s see, um, Philadelphia was actually twelve years ago, Angels in America on cable, and. . . um. . . Rent?) there have been no significant films about the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the massacre, rape, general atrocities (including beheading contests) and war crimes they committed there against the Chinese people. (James Ivory’s The White Countess is set at that time and place, but is about Ralph Fiennes as a blind club-owner and Natasha Richardson as his Russian Countess girlfriend.) Estimates of civilian death toll under Japanese occupation range from a hard 9,000,000 to a soft 18,000,000 – and yet the Japanese have to this day denied any wrongdoing and refused to apologize. The period isn’t taught in their history books (as the Holocaust is taught in Germany) – but let’s veer off that soapbox (get Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking and its accompanying photographic history for the rest of the story.)

So back to the question: what would I think of a musical full of bad songs and treacly sentiments about the Japanese occupation of Manchuria based on an outrageously popular stage musical? Um. More ambivalent, probably, but I wonder if I’d be even more critical of it because, for fuck’s sake, after all this time, this is the popular representation of that atrocity? I would think that most people would feel about stuff like Rent not relief and gratitude that it’s getting the message out on AIDS (mainly because it’s really not), but frustration that not only is there not more about this in the popular culture, but that when it does come, this is the parcel that it comes packaged in.

“Different, but same” as the late Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita once said, find the publication of my four-movie odyssey through The Karate Kid epic in which in the first film, and in the series’ most powerful ten minutes, a drunken Miyagi tells Daniel-san about how he fought with valor in WWII on behalf of his adopted country and of how his wife and child died back home in an internment camp while he did it. That’s a level of bone-crushing humanity right there in the most popular of popular films about a shameful artifact of our wartime years that makes me look around like an idiot: the Chinese guy at the country-western bar and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

So I understand the support, at least in theory, of Rent by the gay crowd – what I wish, though, was that there was more outrage that whenever we hear about AIDS, we hear about it in ways that are pandering and trite. It might be a hoot in a retro sort of way, campy/kitschy, whatever – but aren’t there enough “Queer Eye for the Straight Guys” and “Playing it Straights” and “Will & Graces” already? Until you make this struggle a recognizably human one, all it is, is a notably gay one (sometimes IV druggie one, too, but that makes my point). And there’s nothing easier to continue to ignore and dismiss than a weird fandango indulged in and suffered by an already marginalized minority. To me, Rent does more damage to the cause of AIDS awareness in the United States than not – you can hear the recognition and empathy Dopplering off into the distance every time some idiot in the musical says that the stripper/smack addict is just what the recovering-smack addict/Jon Bon Jovi rocker needs. That is, if anyone other than fans of the musical are going at all.
I should say, apropos of probably something, that I flat love Hedwig and the Angry Inch - more now than when I first reviewed it. The music is great and the staging is fantastic both in the theater and on screen: John Mitchell has genuine talent, but humanity is the ancient Chinese secret ingredient here.

Now reading David Foster Wallace’s Broom of the System and loving the ever-loving chocolate factory out of the new acoustic Cyndi Lauper.

Here’s this week’s screen capture (2.4): a three-way heat between Jack S., Chad E., and Tim R. – shaping up to be another photo finish (HA! – God, I’m clever). Have at it.

Catch Bill’s DVD write-up of Sky High - a movie I stepped on but have to reassess now in light of Bill’s affection for the piece. I watched this film moments after Linklater’s Bad News Bears so was in a foul mood – made fouler by circumstances surrounding the screening (filled/daytime) and so on. A subjective business, this one, and I wonder if this’ll join the list of reviews I regret as time goes on. You do this job to be on the record, and sometimes that record comes back around to kick you in the ass.


Hot off the Presses (November 28, 2005) -
Just back from a screening of Adamson's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and have to say that it's better than I thought it was going to be. It's childish, like the text, but it's not terribly squeamish when it gets down to the battle sequences. The performances are pretty good - the screenplay isn't oppressively cute nor oppressively proselytizing - and the CGI is workmanlike and only moderately distracting. The Christian aspects of the piece are crystal clear and front and center but, like the books, only really sickening when certain fundamentalist factions of Christians exploit it - it's possible, I think, to watch it without being too bothered by the crusadish elements of it just like, for instance, the Lord of the Rings films. I like Lewis' Mere Christianity a great deal, in fact, mainly because it appeals to common sense rather than slavering jihadism. Chesterton is better, but Lewis ain't bad. If something sinks the film, it's the score. Good god, so to speak.

Still and all, it's true to itself and for whatever that's worth, there you have it.

A personal stump:

Give the Film Freak Central Annual a little love - click through the main banner at the mutha-site or go to any of the major online retailers (best yet, order it through your local brick & mortar. It is, finally, widely available for order through every major bookseller. . . and just in time for Christmas. If we sell enough of these guys, we can keep doing this for another year (disincentive for many, incentive for a sad, proud few) and by "this" I mean run this site and piss off giant demographics and random studios with depressing regularity. Rather than begging for a handout - I'm begging, on behalf of the other freaks in the asylum, that you stuff your stockings this year with three-hundred-plus pages of blood, sweat, and tears. You'd do it for Ebert (says the Jewish mother in me). Oy vey.

Barnes & Noble - Lulu - Borders - Amazon - and Amazon.ca

[/pledge drive]

Hot off the Presses (November 29, 2005)

Moderated an extremely well-attended screening and discussion of Bob Fosse's Cabaret tonight at the Denver Public Library - leading me to read one of Fosse's biographies as well as watch the film three times today to pull scenes for shot-by-shot analysis. Have come to the conclusion that the film is better than I'd remembered it and I remembered it to be pretty great - something about the artificiality of Minnelli's persona fits Sally Bowles to a "T" - and when you draw a line between her and the ventriloquist's dummy in the piece as Fosse seems to do: well, it's pretty cool. Alex has a typically-interesting contrary opinion over at his site, but I think that the things that he disliked about the piece (the distancing of the musical sequences, for one, though I don't think that they're distanced so much as self-reflexive) are things that mark the film as very much a picture of the seventies and, perhaps, the kind of "secular" piece that he dislikes. I don't want to speak for him, though, go read the review.

Discussion went smashingly, I thought - lots of great observations leading into a discussion of the best part of Rob Marshall's Chicago: the marionette sequence on the city steps that is the most Cabaret. I love, love, love Joel Grey, by the way - in this film and as the Asian manque in Remo Williams.

Also took in a screening of the excellent DVD of Xtro - one of the nastiest pieces of work in the annals of the British "Video Nasty" tradition - one of the weirdest, too. It's something like a puberty thing - very much so, actually, with a full-frontal Miriam D'Abo and some real cruelty towards children and old ladies to boot. Mmmm, now that's some good trash.

CNN has an interesting clip about the growing storm surrounding Memoirs of a Geisha which culminates, after quotes from Japanese and Chinese people expressing various degrees of outrage, with a white film critic saying that the political ramifications are overblown and the movie's better than he thought it was going to be. What confuses me, though, is the this reporting of a love scene between Watanabe and Zhang. . . not in the film I saw.

Back on the muthasite: read my twofer of Jacques Tourneur's War-Gods of the Deep and the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation At the Earth's Core. They're craptacular! Also, Bill's DVD addendum to our new force-fed annual tradition: the bi-Polar Express.

74 comments:

Jack_Sommersby said...

Screenshot: Black Christmas, baby. Black Christmas!

Walter_Chaw said...

HA - That's two, m'man - with just three screenshots to go. Hurray for Bob Clark getting some love: Deathdream, Black Christmas, and Christmas Story should insure his admittance into movie heaven. Broken record now, I know, but y'all ain't seen Black Christmas, y'all best get busy.

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

At first, I thought it was from an Argento or Fulci film, but if it were, I thought, the shot would be an extreme close-up instead. And with this quasi-logic applied, Black Christmas popped into my head, and I just knew.

(By the way, I used to have this screenshot program I downloaded off the Web, but it accidentally got deleted. Anyone know of one I can download?)

Jack_Sommersby said...

Concerning your just-posted Karate Kid reviews, Walter, glad to read of the singling out of Morita's standout WWII speech in the original -- it's as powerful as Robert Shaw's drunken recounting of the Indianapolis tragedy in Jaws. Was a bit disappointed that Part 2 didn't get more of a ragging, since it's one of my least-favorite sequels of all-time (and that's saying something in light of how much I despise Back to the Future Part 2). But, hey, was glad to read you ragging the mediocre Hilary Swank. I mean, seriously, if...

(for those who haven't seen either Boys Don't Cry or Million Dollar Baby, don't read any further)

...her characters hadn't died in those films, would she have received the Oscar? Hell, no. A 2-time Academy-winning lead actress? Yeah, right. I mean, was she wowing critics in her in-between films -- The Gift, The Affair of the Necklace, The Core? Noooo! (Though I did like her in Insomnia, where she actually had some screen presence and appeal.) Pauline Kael criticized Ralph Macchio for being the very definition of "average" in her review of Crossroads, and that applies to Swank in my book.

Walter_Chaw said...

Weird thing - the film that I connected to the most as a kid as something that speaks to the Asian experience in the United States is Alien Nation. Embarrassing names, fast learners, gross food - plus the way that racism is dealt with is fascinating.

Question: with Narnia coming to the screen after LotR and Harry Potter - what major genre epics are left for adaptation? Asimov's Foundation?

Bill C said...

Walter, you ignorant bastard - http://www.livejournal.com/community/rent_the_movie/368175.html?style=mine

Is Rent the musical theatre equivalent of Star Wars?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

my mom thought the singing was really good, but she didn't really like the story line.

i told her she didn't have a heart.


We must hunt this bimbo down and make a tangerine horse run a train on her empty eye-socket till her brain-mush squirts out of the other one.

Or we can play the Rent sound-track for me, on eternal repeat.

I wonder which one of us would be more tortured ? I think I'll win by a convincing margin.

Bill C said...

"We must hunt this bimbo down and make a tangerine horse run a train on her empty eye-socket till her brain-mush squirts out of the other one."

Far as I'm concerned, H-Man, there's you and then there's the rest of poetry.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Yeah... we should have a beer or twenty-two sometime.

Anonymous said...

Is Rent the musical theatre equivalent of Star Wars?

With so many exclamation points in play, that sounds about right.

-- Ian

Anonymous said...

Also, you'd better watch out, Walter, someone's gunning to punch you in your face!

-- Ian

Anonymous said...

I understand that the idea for the Medal of Valor sequence came entirely from Morita himself.

--Kim

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter,

A crappy fantasy team but the hometown team at 9-2?

We have something in common.

Though I think we'll both be sad before the Super Bowl rolls around.

Seattle Jeff said...

Hollow man,

I have a feeling that my mother will say the same thing when we see it together.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Yeah... but would you say to your mom what she did. trust me, I have got that answer before and there is nothing more annoying. My friend, well... more an acquaintance once said to me "Dude, you got no heart" while he was bawling his eyes out over "Walk to Remember". i will never forget what he said during the movie "Oh my god ! she has cancer!" I realised that day that his evolution had somehow stopped at 13 years old and there is no point criticising stupid movies in front of stupid people because.... well, they are fucking stupid.

Walter_Chaw said...

My dear old dad once said to me that there's no point arguing with stupid people because stupid people are always right.

And I dunno if Rent is the musical equivalent of Star Wars, but it is the musical equivalent of a barium enema. I got a lot of mail way back when I wrote something about Titanic at another site about how if I didn't like the film I had no heart and didn't know what love was and, of course, the only response was that if you think Titanic represented emotion and romance then it wasn't me that was confused.

Anyway. Sometimes you realize that the only thing you're going to do when you write something about some things is attract a lot of unpleasant email and inspire a lot of vituperous threads on message boards.

At least they link us.

Seattle Jeff said...

Hey, now. My quote up there was from the next post on that board.

One of the worst things in life for me is when we visit my mother and watch a movie or TV. Her evolution stopped at about 7.

A couple of weeks ago she bought The Pebble and the Penguin for a buck and watched it with the kids. It's a wretched Bluth film that I had never heard of. At the end of the putrid affair, she declares "That was a GOOD movie!" It should also be noted that whenever there's a commercial for any TV Show she declares "That's a good show!"

Any other commercial she says, "I don't get it."

God, I can't believe I'm from this family !

I'll calm down now.

This is Bill's fault for posting that fun link.

Nate said...

Walter,

The gay people I know who like Rent feel that the characters are true and believable, and are able to see themselves in these people. I don't know when you went to a gay bar last, but these characters are not extreme caricatures - exaggerated, maybe, but not by much (if at all). More than anything else I'm frustrated by this fact, and probably has something to do with why I don't spend much time at gay bars.

As for the music being bad, you pointed out yourself that this is a subjective business, and nothing could be more subjective than one's taste in music. I think the lyrics and music fit the tone of the film; I wouldn't listen to the CD, but I didn't mind it while watching.

There are a few other notable films that deal with AIDS in relation to homosexuality, but not many - And the Band Played On and Longtime Companion come to mind, though the latter is about 20 years old now. Another "real" film on the subject would be nice; maybe part of the problem is that anyone inclined to make art about AIDS has likely had close friends and/or family die from it, thus hindering the possibility of a film that engages in intellectual discussion, as opposed to hysterical proselytizing. That said, there are some things worth getting hysterical over.

Good call on Hedwig, by the way - a superb film, and one of my favorite musicals.

Nate

Seattle Jeff said...

On Rent:

At least Richard Gere is singing in it.

Walter_Chaw said...

Heya Nate -

I hear what you're saying - it's been about a year since I went to a gay bar - there's one in Denver right across the street from a Landmark Theater and they have erotic dancers. We used to hang out with a couple of fun gay guys all the time and discovered the place with them when one of their friends came in from out of town. We've since fallen out of touch with them, unfortunately, mainly because one of them had trouble respecting decorum when out with parents or business associates, etc. . . I think he was prickly, thinking we were asking him to deny who he is when, truth of it is, I restrain myself from making jokes about cock-rings and male equiff around my in-laws while still maintaining my identity and, hopefully, my sense of whimsy.

So what I'm saying is that I hear what you're saying - but to the extent that I believe we all act in a different way in different environments and if we all fall into roles in a gay club (me: the breeder tourist and his fag hag wife, for instance), that we don't otherwise indulge in for the rest of the day. The characters in Rent may not be caricatures of people in gay bars because people in gay bars, as you suggest, may be putting on the caricatures already.

Always get a little misty over Longtime Companion for all its faults - but was referring to mainstream pictures and representations of the AIDS epidemic as it was in the early '80s and as it is now. You'll agree that it's slim picking out there.

And, finally, your comment on how the music is subjective and that you wouldn't listen to a CD of it but it's fine as the film unspools, speaks to me of the malady of a lot of modern musical scores: that it doesn't have much appeal free of context and that raises a whole horse-cart of other issues that I'm in no position to argue one way or another.

Anyway - thanks for checking in.

Bill C said...

Sorry, yeah, meant is the Rent fanbase the equivalent of the Star Wars fanbase? (i.e. a bunch of deluded, slavish, cultish, arrested trick-or-treaters) That'll teach me to post as I'm falling asleep.

Bill C said...

Oh, and a quick plug for our own Alex Jackson's must-read review of McCabe & Mrs. Miller over at Viddied.

Anonymous said...

good god, ordered a copy right upon learning the terrible news. this thing shutting down is very unacceptable.

Adam N said...

This is tough, because I'm gonna put myself in the position of sorta-kinda defending something that's not very good. But...

Making fun of Rent-heads -- or Rent, for that matter -- is pretty easy pickings. (And really, I don't really know what mean-spirited -- if admittedly baroque -- intimations of torture-gang rape have to do with it, either. It's been pointed out in the past, but women get called bimbos a whole lot around here -- despite various contributors' ostensible cultural watchdog credentials.)
Sorry, back on track. Fact is, Rent is powerful stuff for impressionable minds -- mine included. I'm 24, and when I was in high school, I thought Rent was moving. Now, I'm moved by it in a different way: I'm moved by the huge space between what I perceived then (a non-denominational, life-affirming slice of "hard reality") and what I recognize now (a silly, borderline-condescending thing that, as Walter aptly points out, idealizes poverty, disease and disenfranchisement as states of grace. Yeesh.) But I don't hate myself for liking it once, I don't hate anyone else for being inspired by the potency of its cheap poetry. Hey, I even think that there are nuggets of humanism in what Larson was trying to do that shouldn't be ignored or derided out of hand.
Again, I don't think the movie's very good. But, objectively speaking, I don't think it's very bad, either. It's just sort of there. Competently staged. Energetically performed. Terribly dated. Wholly unremarkable.
I even know some smart, socially conscious people (including my girlfriend) who don't hate it. Doesn't make 'em idiots. Responding to barely articulate hate mail is one thing (and anyone who goes to the trouble of writing hate mail in a public forum like the internet has put themselves out on the line) but the discussion is degenerating rapidly. We should talk about movies, and not about how great wide swaths of the population are dumber than we are. At least not all the time.

Also: Walter, did you really like Narnia? I saw it this morning and I thought it was super-flat. Not awful, but poorly edited and paced and woodenly acted outside of Tilda Swinton (not as good as in her brief Constantine bit, but pretty awesome anyway.)

Walter_Chaw said...

Hey Adam -

Naw, didn't love it but didn't hate it either - sort of what you're saying about Rent, I guess. It is what it is. I liked the books a huge lot when I was 9: tried to read them again a couple of years ago and couldn't even get through the first one. But when Lucy wakes to find Mr. Tumnus weeping in the film, I was transported for just one second back to the feeling of creepy dread I felt when I was a kid (and I liked the battle pretty well, what with its menagerie of creatures arrayed on either side) - and that was enough - and more - than I expected. Flat? Badly edited? Yeah - but it's not Memoirs of a Geisha which is beautiful, but despicable.

Difference I had with Rent is that if you're going for the sake of sociology, then it's for children, essentially, or people with the social consciousnesses of children and, as such, easy to dismiss and compartmentalize. It is, in my eye anyhow if no other, part of the problem rather than part of the solution. If you're going for the energetic performances and the dated songbook, though, I suspect that it's pretty good.

No - you're not an idiot if you like it, you're an idiot if you think it's a fantastic movie. In life and art, there are absolutes. You can say you don't care for Mozart, you can't say that Mozart was a terrible composer - and you can like garbage, I like all sorts of garbage, I just don't claim it's caviar and Dom.

Not sure how one becomes a cultural watchdog - have to say that speaking only for myself, I'm complicated. I'm a bigoted asshole one second and a flower-hugging bleeding-heart the next - and the things that inspire one or the other seem to change annually/monthly/weekly - minute-by-minute. Trying to be an avatar of moral goodness is as doomed to corruption as any other high-falutin ambition. If I mention in about 10% or less of my reviews that something's racist or misogynistic - in my heart of hearts I suspect that I'm missing dozens and dozens of mixed or dangerous messages, but apparently I'm not offended and so I shouldn't go digging around in there in good conscience. But the fact of the matter is that in this day and age, if you mention it in more than, say, 1% of your writing, you're set up as a cultural watchdog. That's more indicative, I think, of how fucked up our film criticism is in this country than how virtuous I am.

After all, I'm just writing out my autobiography on the backs of thousands of movies that didn't ask for that dubious honor.

I use the terms "bimbo, chink, nigger, fag, cunt, dildo, tits, cock, shit, fuck, motherfucking" and on and on, all of Carlin's no-no's and more, with joy and relish, and puerility, and whenever I think it best applies and sometimes when I just want to run my eyes up against them - and am blessed with an editor and a venue that allows me to do so with relative impunity. I try to temper the hate with humor, the arrogance with self-deprecation, and the egghead stuff with good ol' gutter vernacular - and sometimes I do a great job, and sometimes I do a horrible job - and usually, I just get by on mediocre because we've taken it upon ourselves here, perhaps unwisely, to cover if not everything - at least, oh, let's say 85% of it.

But in the course of it, you do run up on a handful of films each year that make you just crazy and Rent was not one of those this year. I can honestly say that I don't really care about Rent - I don't think it's an important film and I believe that its offenses are essentially ones of taste and, accidentally by its datedness and professional crappiness, a parody of what it least wants to parody. It does, though, like films like March of the Penguins and Mad Hot Ballroom, really make people crazy when you dislike it.

Only thing that bugs me about Rent, really, is that it oughtta be important - and all it is is kitsch. Kinda' like Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" video - or Fahrenheit 911.

Scott said...

Walter,

Given that you're reading Foster Wallace, what about INFINITE JEST as a flick? Can't imagine how they would do it, or WHO they would get to do it, but it would either be a work of staggering genius or a complete mess. Fun either way...

Jonathan said...

Can't say, as someone who gets a little misty-eyed just thinking about the back-in-the-day comment thread to that Titanic review you mentioned, I'm surprised by the response to the Rent review. Having listened to every single New England trustifarian at my small liberal arts college blast the original cast recording onto the quad for four years as though anyone really thought that they personally knew anyone with the AIDS or, worse, anyone with less than a six-figure net income, I was pretty well over Rent at my first exposure to it, and I just have no intention of seeing the film.

What I wonder, though, is if I missed a Reader Mail feature (I checked the archive before posting and didn't find what I was looking for...) that included responses to the ALW's Phantom of the Opera review-- as far as Church of Lucas style loyalty goes, Rent ain't got much on Webber, and I thought there'd be some hysterical outcry over that one.

Speaking of ye olde alma mater, David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address this year and just generally impressed the hell out of a crowd of literati who make a point of not being impressed by much of anything.

The acoustic Cyndi Lauper is awfully nice, but for Shaggy's contribution to "All Through the Night" and Sarah McLachlan's usual losing battle with melisma.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Alex:

I do have to wonder why Altman had McCabe shoot the hunter in the head before he died. This turns McCabe into a killer, thus preserving his dignity and softening the blow of those final shots. As the film seems to have a general disregard for violence and is reluctant on making heroes of its characters, I really can't find any justification for this development in the film.

Your answer is in your question. That is where the demystification, that you didn't see, is. But maybe Kubrick would have done what you expected.

Good review, by the way.

This is where you are wrong:

...It should be transcendent, and such transcendence cannot be achieved without an absolutist aesthetic.

Opposite of what you say, really.

In the fallibility lies the transcedence, for me. It is a visceral reaction, nothing intellectual about it.

Altman's filmmaking doesn't call as much attention to itself; when he uses the zoom it feels organic and somewhat unconscious.

Nailed exactly what I love about it !

Man... at the end of the day, it really is just a matter of taste. I like Altman's zoom-ins and you like Kubrick's. Overall you made your point, the best you could. But it is unfair, or rather glib, to say that while reaction to Altman is intellectual, one to Kubrick is visceral.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Question: with Narnia coming to the screen after LotR and Harry Potter - what major genre epics are left for adaptation? Asimov's Foundation?

Well, I would have loved a successful run of Jean M. Auel's Ayla series, but after the far-from-impressive filming of the first one, 1986's The Clan of the Cave Bear (which actually contains one of Alan Silvestri's best scores), it was assumed that either the novels were unadaptable (probably) or enough people were interested in adaptations of them (probably, too). Auel's prose isn't exactly easy to get through (though it's no more stiff than Frank Herbert's, gosh knows), but the stories themselves are quite good.

Would still love a faithful adaptation of my favorite novel of all time, Lawrence Block's Eight Million Ways to Die, which was made into an entertaining but sloppy film in 1986 which beared barely any resemblance to Block's work. (Oliver Stone had written a faithful screenplay and was set to direct, but the studio fucked with the script, hired Hal Ashby, and then fired him right after the filming wrapped.) Someone brave enough to take on Peter Straub's Shadowland would indefinitely earn my respect. As for children's fare, how about Beverly Cleary's wonderful Henry Huggins series?

Concerning John Dahl, I prefer Red Rock West over The Last Seduction, Walter. I like the latter well enough, but some of it's pretty damn dumb. I mean, Bridget rips off her doctor husband's money that he got from illegally selling medical drugs to a couple of street buyers, and she's stuck in "buffalo country" in upstate New York because she has to consult her attorney on how to properly separate from the husband so he doesn't legally get half of the money. Half of this illegally-gotten money? Please. No reason why she shouldn't have got on the first plane to Barbados. But, hey, Fiorentino is dynmaite, and Bill Pullman and Peter Berg lend her suberb support -- along with the late, great J.T. Walsh getting off the best line: "Anyone check you for a heartbeat lately?" In Red Rock West, sure there were some logic loopholes (the bar owner assuming the guy who's just entered your bar is the hit man from Texas you've hired just because he drove up in car with a Texas license plate?!), but the twists and turns were more engaging, and it was good fun seeing the hero -- no matter how hard he tried and through sheer bad luck -- constantly managing to come back to the doomsday town of Red Rock no matter how many times he leaves it.

Adam N said...

Hey Walter,

Didn't mean to single you or anyone else at FFC out with regards to cultural watchdog-dom. I was just commenting on both a general tendency -- held, ironically enough, among people frustrated by the crassness of the culture around them -- towards casual, square-quoted misogyny. It's something I notice all over the place, including unfortunately sometimes in my own writing. I was also singling out one comment (not yours) on this thread that struck me as emenating from deep, creepy left field. Listening to Rent might be someone's idea of torture -- mine would probably have something to do with David Gray -- but, George Carlin be darned, non sequitur intimations of violent rape seem to overstate the case somewhat.
I'm with you on Memoirs of a Geisha. When Pumpkin began showing signs of indoctrination by the American GIS, speaking in Japanese-English malapropisms and in the pocessapparently befouling her cultural heritage, I was confused. Hadn't she, and everyone else in the film, been speaking English the whole time? The crass, exploitative Americans didn't show up after the war -- they'd been behind the frigging cameras from the beginning. A piece of crap, and like Dave G mentioned on another thread, I eagerly await Ebert's four stars.

Walter_Chaw said...

Jack:
You know what, I think I like Red Rock West better, too, but I just don't remember it very well. I saw it independent of and before Last Seduction and I think it must've been some time before I connected the dots between the two. I'm a fanboy of Bill Pullman's though and tend to gravitate towards his stuff - all that said, I don't know what the hell I would've asked Dahl that I would've been interested to know.

Adam:
No offense taken, believe me - think of some of the weirder non seqs as I do: all as talk radio - sometimes dada, sometimes haiku, always disturbed. Just let it glide, my brother.

Fantastic point about Pumpkin - going to try real hard not to steal it. We should start a pool on Ebert's four-star reviews - I'm thinking 3.5 on Narnia, 4 on Syriana, 4 on Match Point (oops, has he reviewed that already?), and 4, of course, with a bullet on Geisha. Did you read that thing on IMDB that quotes some blog about Zhang Ziyi getting hacked to death for her participation?

Things are weird all over, man.

Bill C said...

Ebert really pissed me off this weekend by refusing to dignify Just Friends with any critical comments on the grounds that the world doesn't need another movie like that. (Especially during awards season, he qualified.) That's all well and good--except that the world also doesn't need another fucking underdog sports movie and Cinderella Man has received more coverage from that show than almost anything else this year. Adding insult to injury, he and Encino Man complained in the "wagging-finger" segment about not getting to review Usher's new movie because the studio didn't hold press screenings. It's not like he'd have anything interesting to say about that non-contender, either. I actually don't know why I watch the show anymore; I guess for the clips?

Praetorian said...

I hate to interrupt, but the trailer for Terry Gilliam's new film, Tideland, is now online. It can be found here: http://www.tidelandthemovie.com/main.html

Click on the open door to go outside, then click on the overturned school bus.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

How does FFC make most of its income?

Alex Jackson said...

I do have to wonder why Altman had McCabe shoot the hunter in the head before he died. This turns McCabe into a killer, thus preserving his dignity and softening the blow of those final shots. As the film seems to have a general disregard for violence and is reluctant on making heroes of its characters, I really can't find any justification for this development in the film.

Your answer is in your question. That is where the demystification, that you didn't see, is. But maybe Kubrick would have done what you expected.

He's demystified by becoming his original mystification? Der.. And as we would be more deeply affected if that scene wasn't in there, is the whole point to produce weak, heavily counterbalanced emotions in us?

Would have been a better film without that scene if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Re: Tideland. Not sure. That could go in any number of directions. Some kind of MirrorMask-esque CGI-fest, or perhaps Fear and Loathing in the Deep South? Chances are it's better than The Brothers Grimm. But then a lot of things are.

-- Ian

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

He's demystified by becoming his original mystification?

No. He's demystified by being his original mystification.

The idea is to make a film that is anti-genre but in it. The long goodbye was anti-noir but Elliot Gould still pulls the trigger at the end. Because there is some inherent truth behind the genre films. Where lesser film-makers and films choose to mystify tragedies of human condition by putting a veil of comfort (protagonist, antagonist) on them, the great ones see through the unjustified and untrue mytholigization. You are right when you say that the song isn't necessary, but you're wrong about your judgement of it because you think Altman isn't smart enough to realize that. The idea was never to be seperated from the "genre", it was to stay in it and defy it from within. And that is where the demystification comes in.

I love Altman because he says it like he sees it "It's all Bullshit!", and I guess I see it the same. If you closely think about it "Apocalypse Now" belongs to the same category. Wiillard is supposed to be the "hero" and Kurtz ythe "villian", but Coppola murks that line. Willard kills Kurtz at the end but we see no victory, like Kilgore does, all we see is gears in the giant machinery grinding each other. We see the horror, the true horror.

It’s the secular humanism of the seventies, the lack of heroes and villains, the almost agnostic answerless aesthetic of it all that sort of turns me off. It’s too earthy; it doesn’t go reaching for the stars.

That is where me and you have different eyes. The film does "reach for the stars", but it goes for the greater truth than all of everyone's bullshit of finding some definite answer or structure to it all. It shows the world the way it is, a collage of adaptability, confusion and disappointments.

The truth was always there in the westerns, as in any "mould" or "genre". But the "hero" doesn't ride into the sunset, looking for bad guys in some other town. There is no fucking hero ! There is no barren desert to provide for externallization of inner landscape. It's all a fucking jungle. Simple chaos and murder. There is no "ugliness in ugliness" because there are no villians. They are all human for all their contradictions and self-mytholigization. I'm surprised you can see that in Herzog and Malick, and not in Altman.

I can't get over my aesthetic prejudice against artificiallity to see the "truth" in Kubrick films, and you can't do it with Altman. I guess that is what taste is. i will have to agree with David Gordon Green on this one, it is the the most beutiful film I have ever seen. Hell, it even beats "Days of Heaven".

James Allen said...

Ebert-pool, eh? I'm game, a quick look at his sight and what's opening this Friday:

The Kid and I
First Descent
Christmas in the Clouds


That's it, eh?

OK, 3 for Kid, 4 for Descent, and 2.5 for Clouds. Next week Brokeback Mountain and the doc on Wal-Mart will get 4 (look at the quote on his website about Wal-Mart and it looks like a done deal.)

And I concur that Geisha and Syriana will get 4, with an added comment about this is the time of year all the best films come out.

By the way, anyone read last week's column by Armond White (on smugness)? This is not the first time he's broached such a subject, but I can't say that he might not be onto something. Any thoughts?

Bill C said...

Don't forget Aeon Flux, which has all the makings--Charlize Theron, dystopian sci-fi--of a 4-star rave from the Rog.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I would say something but why kick a dead dog ?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Besides topic... you guys at FFC haven't updated "reader's mail" for a while now. We need more put downs !

Bill C said...

Must admit, was kinda hoping the blog would sate the appetite for Reader Mail, but apparently not. I guess we'll have to slap together another edition soon, if for no other reason than to share the funny feedback from the screenwriter of Doom, who agreed with Walt's negative review 100%.

Bill C said...

Here's a semi-revealing new profile of Ebert, by the by, if anyone's inner-ested.

Dave Gibson said...

Reader Mail? Why didn't you say so?

Dear Film Freak Central:

I took grate offends to your review of DOOM. Obviously, you don't have no good idea of what a good movie is. Or, maybe you are just ignorent. DOOM made sixteen million dollars at the box office so you are obvieusly jealous of Vin Dielsel and only wish you could make a good movie as good as this is. Maybye, you are just a fucken retard who wouldn't know a good movie if it bit him in the ass. I write movie reviews and I don't trie to make mieself look big using words like "Jungian"? Who the fuck cares if the movie isn't set in a jungle? No one cares abot what you think about nothing so stop pretending you are Roger Siskel and shut up.

Anonymous

OK, now that's out of the way, I too can hear Ebert's thumb twitching at the prospect of Charlize in a catsuit--OH! What a lovely film!

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

That's fucking hillarious, Dave.

Chad Evan said...

Dear Flim Freak Central,
What the fucks wrong with u. yea dooms not based on a gret book like lord of the rings but its riter did a good job, not everybody can be tolkin. just because its not some silent south african black and white movie about a chronic masterbateer whose in love with his mom it dont mean its not good. u need to get ur head out ur ass and enjoy lige. just because ur a forty year old virgin dont take it out on doom. go aheas and make fun of my spelling when u reply to this, just remember enstein couldnt spell ether. fuck u,
anonmous

15 minutes later...

hey i wrote u erlier and i shouldnt have said all the things i said. i know u have ur on views on movies but so do i and u make me feel like a looser 4 liking this movie. like i said not everything has to be tolkin there is room 4 a movie to be just fun. im sorry if i was out of line.
anonmous

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

you guys seem quiet experienced with this shit.

Alex Jackson said...

FFC's reader mail is impossible to satirize. Remember the AOTC letter that began "Chaw? You wish!" and ended "Love Always, Yo Bitch Mama Who Hates You". Or the one on "Batman Returns" (meaning Batman Begins) that informed Walter that Chaw is not an American name and he's going to be reported to the FBI. Or the letter about that futuristic movie, Entropy was it?, that claimed that review "licked the dog's balls". THE dog? Is there a community dog around here.

Unbeatable.

James Allen said...

Anonymous wrote:
How does FFC make most of its income?

Good question. Although I have absolutely no direct connection to FFC, I can only assume that Walt et al run a rather diabolical cyber prostition ring. Mr. Chaw is apparently a very charasmatic figure as it pertains to this site, and all those who work for the site are required to have sex with him on demand.

Hope that answers your question. Please, keep reading!

Jack_Sommersby said...

Actually, the sire derives its income from the selling of its movie-guide book. So go and buy a couple of thousand copies, ya cheap-butt bum!

(Walter, I don't know if you've ever seen After Dark, My Sweet on the anamorphic widescreen DVD, but I just got through watching it on it for the first time, and after years of having to watch it on cropped VHS and LaserDisc editions, it was glorious to be sure!)

Chad Evan said...

God, that one about Chaw not being an American name has got to be the all-time king. Either the writer was a parodic genius, or this country is in worse shape than I thought. Regardless, it's fucking hilarious. Since you don't believe artistic intentionality counts, Alex, does that mean you regard the aforesaid e-mail as an aesthetic triumph?

Walter_Chaw said...

Jack:
Thanks for the thoughts on literary epics - agreed on Auels "Clan" novels - has anyone read Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy? I think that it might have a movie deal already and I've only ever heard interesting things about it. I'd love to see a Neuromancer series dedicated to William Gibson's stuff - or a proper treatment of Phil K. Dick's Man from High Castle. Also still like to see King/Straub's The Talisman - maybe with someone like Alfonso Cuaron attached to it for that road trip/sex/Oedipus/coming-of-age vibe.

James:
Re: Armond White. I love the guy - real balls, but they're so swollen that I think they obscure his vision a little now and again. Other times, I wonder if he's not just playing devil's advocate to ridiculousness. There's a difference between a smug film and a film about smugness and, for me, Squid and the Whale was a pretty frank essaying of Baumbach's (and his family's circle's) pretensions and failures. It seems to me bad form to pile on to someone who's in the process of being contrite. But it's possible that I, living in the middle of Colorado, see myself as a Hyde Park intellectual and so congratulate myself on the triumphs of the pathetic characters populating The Squid and the Whale.

Still, the world would be a tamer place without White in the woods.

Bill:
Aeon Flux & Ebert reminds me of that dumb thing that Rosanna Arquette did about how hard actresses have it? And how Ebert, as he's being interviewed by her, tries to hit on her by saying that there should be more sex kitten roles? Classic. He does seem to have a thing for Theron (I mean, so did everybody, right, before she became an AWKtress) - unfortunately, it doesn't look like there's going to be a screening of it for us here in Denver. Must be awesome.

That "Chaw is not an American name" guy has written back twice, by the way, calling me a coward both times which I find to be confusing. Makes me wish he didn't send the emails anonymously so I could ask him what the hell he's talking about now. Then again, best not to even answer some mail - to even read some mail. Just not good for the soul. I did like that guy from Hawaii who wrote about the Episode II review way back when who gave my review two stars which, I think I responded, was still a star better than the film.

Sort of interesting article in this week's Entertainment Weekly about the weak Best Actress field. Any thoughts on who should be in the running?

Bill C said...

None too excited about "His Dark Materials" only because Anand "I Overdirected Shopgirl" Tucker is at the helm. It all comes down to the screenplay at this point.

The Xtro flashback reminds me of a debate regularly held in the cafeteria over whether Olivia or Myryam was the hotter D'Abo. I kinda prefer Olivia, who still looks great if my recent channel-surfing past one of the "Law & Order"s is any indication.

Walter_Chaw said...

Interesting piece on Ebert - and sad, a little. It made me blue in a lot of complex, mostly selfish, ways. The dismissal of Just Friends is unforgivable and snobbish in the worst, most close-minded, sense of the term. Off to soak my head in grain alcohol and lithium.

Nate said...

Bill-

I didn't realize "His Dark
Materials" already has a director attached - any word on whether they're going to stick to the three film plan? Even with Tucker at the helm, my expectations are sky high - I absolutely adore those books.

Walter-

I got into a "discussion" yesterday with a professor; he was pimping out Memoirs of a Geisha for some unknown reason (just before showing us 2046 in class because he was too lazy to prepare a lecture) and I told him about the controversy and employed a Holocaust metaphor to explain the Japanese occupation of Manchuria (of which I know almost nothing) - to which he responded, "Yeah, that was a horrible thing, blah blah blah, but I think they're overreacting a bit." He's white, by the way.

Nate

Dave Gibson said...

Interesting piece on Ebert—I’ve never read anything before which outlined his problems with alcohol—a conclusion I’d reached years ago simply by reading his reviews of Leaving Las Vegas, Sideways and more recently, Duane Hopwood. The article neatly encapsulates the roots of his mainstream appeal, and my own disenchantment with the type of lazy, pop-journalism in which he specializes. I was particularly frustrated with the awed praise inspired by his ability to bang out so many reviews. The lack of care shows. He’s perfected this folksy, first-person style which is so rigidly predictable that his reviews often seem interchangeable, regardless of the film. I’ve always found his reliance plot summaries to be especially galling, and probably the main reason he is able to work so quickly. At this stage in his career,
it’s inevitable that his critical integrity has been compromised. Of course, as with most compromises—the shift is so often subtle and occurs over a long period of time, making it easy to use anecdotal evidence to refute such claims (As mentioned in the piece, Ebert may have dumped on “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” but he also heaped praise on the abysmal “The Alamo” and carloads of Miramax bilge like “An Unfinished Life”—going as far to defend the studio against the critical tide in both instances). As has been pointed out before, Ebert usually reserves his ire for barely released stuff like “Chaos” and worthy, but easy targets like “Deuce Bigalow” presumably to create the illusion that he hasn’t gone soft. More distressing is his unwillingness to engage with difficult films (“Dogville” and “A Taste of Cherry” were simply “boring” as I recall) and, I’ve already mentioned his rave of “Mulholland Drive” where he asserts that he has no interest in actually thinking about the film, then revs up his Plot Descriptor 2000. Ebert’s financial success is commendable—but, I think when you get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame you may still be a nice guy but, you aren’t a critic. Here in Canada, we have a lovely gent named Elwy Yost who used to host a weekly film series on Saturday night, filled with his star struck interviews with various Hollywood legends. Elwy loves the movies but if you ever called him a “critic”, I’m sure he’d laugh along with you.

shrug said...

The last I heard about His Dark Materials all overt references to god and religion had been removed from the screenplay by Chris Weitz before he decided he wasn't up to directing it. No real references for it anymore, but I understood from whatever that is still, by and large, the Plan. Which makes me wonder what the goddamn point is.

I guess only time will tell.

Bill C said...

Yeah, from what I've heard, Tucker plans to secularize the hell out of it. BTW Nate, I think everybody is being contracted for three films, but New Line isn't going the Rings route of shooting them back-to-back in case the first one's a mutt.

Walter_Chaw said...

Nate:
I wonder if your professor would have said that to my slant-eyed, over-reacting, yellow mug? It's ignorance, you know, the jackass has no idea how deep the resentments lie in our respective cultures. Centuries-old hatreds and prejudices with this modern atrocity - unacknowledged by one side (and said side's American post-war allies - talk about guilt complexes for Christ's sake) - just the icing on the proverbial cake. What would it be like if they made a movie about Iwo Jima and they had, say, Arabs playing the American marines raising the flag? How would that fly? Would there be "overreactions" do you suppose?

More than ignorance of recent history, though, what your professor is engaging in is a none-too-subtle form of racism that compartmentalizes all Asians into one group. Like all Africans, say, and all Arabs and all Caucasians? There's a line in From Dusk Til Dawn that endeared Tarantino to me for life - when the Clooney character asks for an explanation for Keitel's adopted child and says, to Keitel, "You don't look Japanese" and Keitel says "Neither does he, he's Chinese."

And besides - who's the "they" that's overreacting? Is he talking about a third of the world's population? What a bunch of assholes, right?

See - the thing is that the Japanese are pissed off, too, because it's essentially science fiction - orientalism at its most odious. It's sort of like those overnight infomercials that promise Asian phone sex with slope hos who know oriental secrets of pleasure. Like what? Like eating extract of Tiger penis? Gimme a break.

Best for this jag-off is a read of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking. He can hold it one hand and his dick in the other, while he's watching the Geisha flick starring three Chinese women in a fantasy of Japan. Read about how the Japanese regular army engaged in beheading contests of civilians (take no prisoners) - of the belief that sex with a virgin would make a man stronger and, hence, the rape of three-year-olds and younger, their vaginas slit to allow access - or of how boys were forced to rape their mothers before being murdered in front of one another - this isn't isolated savagery, this is how roughly nine million civilian Chinese men, women, and children were dispatched. 500,000 in the space of the first two weeks of occupation. The Japanese were there for TWELVE goddamn years doing this shit - half the time, with American armaments. Check out Timothy Brook's Documents on the Rape of Nanking, too.

Alive in the 21st Century? Should probably know how the other third dies. Still waiting on a definitive book on what the Japanese did to the Koreans - that should be fun. The only civilian population that lost more in WWII were the Russians and, you know, their leader did that to them - not an invading force.

Leave all the shit about race aside, though, and Memoirs of a Geisha is still a piece of garbage. My dog would roll in it if I let her.

I think, by the by, that I don't use "rape" much in my reviews because of these events lingering there in the back of my mind. Add to this, too, that part of my upbringing was my parents telling me about my family fleeing Nanking - and looking at pictures of everyone left behind and vanished. Forgive? Be glad to - as soon as someone asks for it.

That being said - I think my record stands for itself - that I'm a great admirer of Japanese cinema and aspects of its culture. It's something that's alienated me from large swaths of my family. I have an uncle who never forgave me for teaching Dr. Strangelove because he never forgave Peter Sellers for Fu Manchu. Over-reacting? You know what, I'm Chinese and it's still not for me to say.

Some people, Nate, some people.

So. . . the "His Dark Materials" trilogy is good? I was thinking about picking 'em up - especially now that it looks like the films might be in jeopardy of being soft-scrubbed into pabulum.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think I'll have to agree with ebert on "the Alamo". John Lee Hancock is fairly under-rated director. I love "the Rookie" too. For me, "The Alamo" was again about mythifing the demythification of what happened at the Alamo. Yes, it was compromised a bit, probably under studio pressure, but it certainly was highly under-rated.

Chad Evan said...

Walter:
Jesus Christ, that's terrible. I had no idea it was that bad, what with our educational system's obsessive focus on the Jewish Holocaust (with a nod toward American internment camps, so we don't start to feel superior (which reminds me of a study I read about that found that European students were more familiar with the American camps than with Japanese or Stalinist atrocities.)) Anyway, not saying that professor wasn't a racist prick, but he was probably just ignorant of the facts. It's not an excuse, but at least it isn't malicious.

Jefferson said...

Walter: Don't you know that if a tragedy happens to somebody other than Americans, it isn't a tragedy? That's why 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING.

I just read the Armond White piece referred to above by James Allen. Although I'm not familiar with White's other work, and I haven't seen all the films he's angry about, I have to say it reads like a bucket of bile chucked in the wrong direction. He's venting toward a very small segment of the intelligentsia that has, quite literally, no influence on what the mass of people do, think, read and see. Contrary to what he's saying, not every critic has embraced these so-called smug films he's targeting.

Smart doesn't bug me -- that's why I frequent FFC for my film commentary, rather than Joblo or AICN. Hell, smart doesn't hurt anybody. The New Yorker is not killing America. If a culture critic wants to go after a trend that's really hurting the culture? He or she should try tackling NASCAR, Blue Collar Comedy and the architects of Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman." There's a whole, overt school of entertainment out there that says it's all right to be poor, to live badly, to distrust intelligence, to aspire to no greater heights, to read nothing you might disagree with. I'd think someone like White would be comfortable making that argument, rather than tearing chunks out of the other smart people around him.

BTW, in the photo accompanying White's article -- is that my girlfriend Anna Paquin seductively caressing Jeff Daniels' hairy mug? Didn't he play her dad less than ten years ago? Ka-reepy.

Bill C said...

Okay, Jefferson, you've crossed a line: back away from the Paquin before this gets violent.

Nate said...

Walter-

I should note that the professor in question is a famous production designer who, among many huge hits, designed one of my very favorite films. But he's a dipshit and a terrible teacher (for this particular class, anyway) and seems to have learned everything he knows from the the misogynistic/homophobic/racist "Old Hollywood" of the 60s. I wouldn't mind so much if he weren't so fucking arrogant about his ignorance.

As for HDM - yeah, it's fantastic, but I'm not a sci-fi nut in general so take my word with a grain of salt. I'd expect you to like it, though, because it relishes its own gorgeous blasphemy.

Nate

Jefferson said...

You can't possibly have every cute Canadian actress all to yourself, Bill.

Dave Gibson said...

I sympathize Nate, I did a post-grad year in script writing with (among others) a writer who I had admired for years--who's penchant for Jew bashing and calling the female students "Sweetheart" and "honey" created quite an existential dillema (for a spoiled goof living off of student loans anyways--damn my youthful naivete)

Walter_Chaw said...

Has anyone here seen Darkness? It's the one or two Paquin films that I've missed and I realize now that I'm curious about it.

Yeah, ignorance is at the root of all these "overreacting" comments - and it's not me sitting here saying that they're not over-reacting - just me sitting here saying that if I can't make that judgment, you can't either, kemosabe. The trickiest part about all of this is that it's a structure of racism raised on a foundation of racism - when I dig my heels in and call poor Zhang a race-traitor, I'm the fucking bigot, not her. So you take the liberal stance far enough and you find yourself wearing the armband and brandishing the bayonet.

Shouldn't it be okay for a Chinese actor to play Japanese and vice-versa (didn't the lead in House of Flying Daggers, for instance, "pass" as Chinese with no uproar?) - but I think the reason this has hit a sore spot - well, I know it actually - is because the Japanese have never acknowledged (in an official capacity, that is, many of their scholars have come out shame-faced) nor apologized for the butchering and occupation, to the "comfort women" they abducted and raped for the duration of the war, and so on. The Chinese are hardheaded folks, but they also don't make all that much of a fuss about things in the past - they are, as a culture, generally forgiving. Similar to the Russians in that way - you drink a little and internalize a lot of your national sorrow. But this film, set at that period of time and addressing this subject matter - and all you got are white people running roughshod over history and still-seeping wounds - and you have the recipe for some real, animal, beast-in-the-bowels anger. I spent a few hours the other day scrolling through Chinese websites and blogs and it's just black as tar in there. Even the Japanese ministry of culture has declined to promote this picture in their country - and, unlike Pearl Harbor's creative overseas editing (gone: Hitler pencil sharpener for German release; gone: "jap" for Japanese release), it's gonna be tough to make this one seem okay for the audience of around 3 billion of us who don't seem to matter to just about anyone on Planet Hollywood.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Concerning Xtro, which is also a favorite of mine, its DVD cover is the first one to quote a review of mine..

"A creative and grotesque sci-fi/horror must-see! XTRO is a nasty delight."

...yet, damnit, I can't find a single frigging copy in the stores to lay my eyes on! I mean, Best Buy has Xtro 3, but not the damn original! What the hell gives with this? Ugh. Will have to order it on-line, I guess, and it'll be worth it just to see the luscious D'Abo on the receiving end of some hot oral sex in an anamorphic transfer

Jefferson said...

Mention "D'Abo" and "hot oral sex" in the same post, and I'm off to Netflix ... only to find that Netflix has no idea what I'm talking about. Drat.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA - unfortunately, the "hot oral sex" is given to her inner thigh - but with the zoom function on your DVD you can catch a glimpse of Dave Matthews' "the world". Not that I'm that pathetic or anyth. . . oh, what the hell, yes I am.

I think the first blurb I got was for some release of Frailty or some release of Last Life in the Universe, but can't find verification of either. Alas. T'would trade either for a shot at the Xtro big leagues.

Netflix, by the way, does indeed have "Xtro" in its stock. Insist upon it, dear sir! It has full-grown man birth; evil dwarf clown w/hammer; evil plastic army man w/stabbing action; evil child with alien-egg-laying pucker motion; pretentious wanker dead by eye-stabbing; bad and obvious but still-scary fake alien; gratuitous snake-egg eating; oh, and D'Abo, in the altogether a lot and then hanging from a wall.

There are no limits to what's wrong with this film.

Enjoy!

Carl Walker said...

Walter,

I thought the same thing about Takeshi Kaneshiro (from HoFD) at first, but it turns out that one of his parents was Japanese, the other was Taiwanese (the place of his birth and upbringing). Seems he acts in Japanese, Mandarin and even Cantonese (see Chungking Express), and is pretty popular everywhere. Guess that means that he's "passing" almost all the time, since I doubt few of his characters share his background.

Walter_Chaw said...

Carl -

Too true. Ditto racial mutt Keanu Reeves and human beingness.

Nate said...

Walter-

Don't know if you're still checking this thread but I'm curious what you think about Berardinelli's comment from his Memoirs review. In an effort to keep from decontextualizing his sentence, I'll say that he was talking primarily about box office implications:

"Three of the major actresses - Ziyi Zhang (Chinese), Gong Li (Chinese), and Michelle Yeoh (Malaysian) - are not Japanese. Their ethnicity isn't really an issue, since most Westerners won't know the difference."