December 13, 2005

The Most Insipid Poster of the Year


In preparing templates for upcoming reviews, I came across this, which has to be the ugliest one-sheet for a romantic comedy since Runaway Bride's. Completing the desexualization of America's Sweetheart (can Mannequin 3 be far behind for the now navel-less Jennifer Aniston?), it conveys nothing so much as contractual obligations of the 'Kevin Costner's head must be ⅜ bigger than Mark Ruffalo's' variety. And it commits the cardinal sin of reusing the film's title in the tagline. The colours, the composition--looking at it genuinely makes me nauseous.

Hot Off the Presses (12/14)
A double-dose of the Chaw with his takes on Syriana and the barely-released (for good reason) The Bridge of San Luis Rey.


Random Shit
This entry marked The Film Freak Central Blog's 50th post.


Hot Off the Presses (12/16)
Travis Conquers the Martian, Part 6: The Errand Boy. Walter does the hat-trick from Hell: The Family Stone, Loggerheads, and The Dying Gaul.

79 comments:

Jefferson said...

MacLaine is looking at Aniston's eyes, or at least at the back of her head; Costner and Ruffalo are checking out her boobs. Talk about the male gaze.

James Allen said...

Driving around NYC, I've seen the 50 foot version of this poster, which, I agree Bill, is about as bland as they come. I was wondering why Ruffalo's head was smaller than the others and you answered the question.

The reaction I got from the poster is 1) Aniston looks really bored, 2) Coster looks really old, and 3) McClaine is in a full fledged "picking up a paycheck" mode. Hey, an aging actress has to work.

tim r said...

I just hate that curly R. What have they got, a font called "Perky Elegance"?

Bill C said...

I also love it when the names don't line-up with the pictures of the actors. An alien would think the giant lady is Mark Ruffalo and the handsome blonde leerer is Jennifer Aniston.

50ft tall? There are times I'm glad I don't live in NYC.

Bemis said...

Every time I've seen that trailer with an audience, it's gotten a lot of laughs for some reason.

Scott said...

It seems like more and more modern theatrical release posters look like the bland and close-up-heavy DVD covers that they will eventually become (in two months time). Maybe the studios' promotional wings figure moviegoers are getting accustomed to the unoriginality of the DVD boxes and are throwing in the towel when it comes to creating a poster that actually tries to convey mood and tone, rather than just faces and limbs.

mimo70 said...

Yes, very sad. Good movie posters are hard to come by - especially in Hollywood. Then again so are good movies.

Alex Jackson said...

When I saw Good Night and Good Luck, it was preceded by trailers for this, Glory Road, and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.

That's when I realized how lucky I am that I don't have Walter's job. The January doldrums have to be the very top reason not to pursue a career in professional film criticism. I mean, ugh!

Faint praise to say that Rumor Has It looked the best of the bunch. That's like saying that the stomach flu is preferable to necrotizing fasciitis or leprosy.

Alex Jackson said...

Ebertwatch:

This is supposed to be his top ten. I don't know how reliable it is, I got it off an IMDB message board but couldn't confirm it.

1. Crash
2. Syriana
3. Munich
4. Junebug
5. Brokeback Mountain
6. Me and You and Everyone We Know
7. Nine Lives
8. King Kong
9. Yes
10. Millions

I'm not sure that this indicaites that Crash will get a nomination, but this is telling me that (combined with critic circles awards and a good healthy buzz among the talk show hosts) Brokeback Mountain is a lock.

Six out of ten of these titles consist of a single word. A new trend for the Rog?

His number one for the last four years began with an M. The last five before that were in reverse chronological order, skipping the C.

Dave Gibson said...

Funny--I was driving past one of the "Silver City" movie theatres outside of Toronto--and took my own note of this godawful poster. Forget the photoshoppery and absent Aniston B-Button...what the hell is up with that tag line? "Based on a True Rumor?" I have visions of Governor Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop mode..."It's not a true-roomah!". They plunk down millions in marketing for this crap? We're a long way from "In Space, no one can hear you scream."

Wow, your mention of a potential "Mannequin 3" reminds me that indeed, there was a theatrically released "Mannequin 2" Of course, nowadays--I'm sure "mannequin" would be considered too long of a word for a movie title--they'd just call it "Dummy"---ah crap, that one's taken too...

Dave Gibson said...

Shudder--I'll wait for the official Ebert top-ten, but it sounds eerily credible. Top ten lists are usually a fruitless exercise anyways, but--"Me You and Everyone We Know"? is he kidding? That's not even a movie. (more of a Fringe festival play with a few more bucks--if you get my drift)love to hear why it trumps Herzog and Cronenberg--I guess "Bee Season" will be included in the requisite "Honourable Mention" of the other 156 brilliant films Ebert saw this year.

Chad Evan said...

Alex, I'm worried about you, man. You know an awful lot about Ebert.

Walter_Chaw said...

Don't feel comfortable talking top ten without seeing Munich, but I feel relatively comfortable saying that Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) aren't going to make the cut. Wow. Somebody check, did that shit turn my hair white? Hilary Duff, no kidding, looks like Matt Dillon from Something About Mary - or Seabiscuit.

That is genuinely creepy, that poster, why in the holy hell would they erase her belly button? I mean, I guess the easy answer is Barbara Edenesque modesty or something, but it seems so much weirder than that - especially with those floating heads in the background regarding her with suspicion and maybe disdain. And what's that look on her face? The whole thing screams Pod to me. I'm not sure you could say that this is a bland poster (ugly, as Bill calls it, most definitely) - because it's giving me the screaming mimis.

Adam N said...

I remember in 2001 when Ebert wrote a really lovely review of Edward Yang's Yi Yi, which I think is a real masterpiece. He gave it only 3.5 stars, but hey, whatever. Then he did his ten best list. Yi Yi's not there. A Beautiful Mind, obviously, is near the top. OK. Then he lists his runners-up, his "special jury prize" winners and, yes, Dave, 156 other special films. That's where Yi Yi was listed. Along with Ice Age. Along with Shrek. At that point, what's the point? He understood precisely why the film was so good, and then decided it was less worthy than twenty-odd mainstream American flicks that you'd have to strain to even remember now.
I also recall The Son made his ten best list in 2002, behind, um, Minority Report. I'd almost prefer these films were ignored completely, rather than slotted ignominiously between crap no one will care about in five years (or less). That way, I could decide that the guy was a total hack, and not a smart and discerning critic who's just given up the ghost.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I declare that I would hate Ebert forever if he picks "Crash" as best film of the year. I don't know what I hate more, the film or the fact that he is probably going to pick it. Although, I don't think he will, the film released in summer and has little chance of sweeping oscars. Good ol' Rog is too recreationally cynical to put his money on a dead horse.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, the old "I have no idea what the hell it's supposed to be about, but I know it's a romantic comedy" poster. Bill, your comment about titles-in-the-taglines intrigues. Can anyone think of other instances of this? The closest thing that I can recall is Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, the second direct-to-video sequel to Sam Raimi's forgotten masterpiece, which actually dared to put its title in the subtitle. (Predictably, it's awful, but I recommend that you watch in order to see the most awkward, "that's it?" ending to a movie imaginable.)

-- Ian

Bill C said...

Oh sure, test my half-assed theory, Ian. Lemme think... Well, we have the Miracle on 34th Street remake ("Experience the Miracle"), The Lonely Guy ("Meet Larry Hubbard...Lonely Guy"), and The Animal ("He wasn't much of a man... Now he's not much of an animal"), for starters. Anyone else?

James Allen said...

"This summer's going to be lethal" - Lethal Weapon 4

"The Blues are back" - Blues Brothers 2000

If, as someone (I think Travis) described the first Blues Brothers belonging in a "jar, not on your DVD shelf," exactly what container should we put Blues Brothers 2000 in? I have a few ideas...

James Allen said...

And oh yeah (since someone mentioned it) what the hell is it with movies posters that have all the various stars pictured in a row, but with names on top that don't match the person it's above. That has always driven me nuts.

Dave Gibson said...

"Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist."

More of a tag-paragraph really, remember when you had to actually read movie posters instead of just a quick glance to exclaim: "Why is Mark Ruffalo so hell bent on turning into Robby Benson?" Anyways, I'm also fond of the long-dormant trend of incorporating the title of the movie (a la James Bond) into the theme song:

"The fun never ends, when you're twins!"

or, a personal favourite:

"We're the Dream Warriors...don't wanna dream no more..." Sing it Dokken, sing it.

Nate said...

Speaking of Roger Ebert, this made me laugh my ass off.

http://www.udargo.com/burton/Pulgares/index.php

Seattle Jeff said...

I once knew a guy who worked in advertising.

The company would set him and his workmates up at The Ritz where they would brainstorm.

Of course they would just get drunk until the last day where they would think up some shitty idea.

It's only natural that some Ivy League grad, who's getting toasted comes up with a shitty poster for a movie that only lower class morons are going to see.

Photoshop, bong hit, photoshop, paycheck, bong hit, bong hit...

duh.


I think Aniston looks older than COstner...

Vikram said...

That's 2 posters that Aniston looks crappy in. She looked terrible in the Derailed poster as well.

Why can't they just use the Rollingstone covers? They're much better and would actually attract an audience.

Vikram said...

Hey, Walter's review is "The Hot Pick" for King Kong on Rotten Tomatoes. I know we talked about this on an earlier thread, but maybe we can try/continue to lobby to get FFC reviews on the "Cream of the Crop" sidebar. Now, that would be pretty cool - also funny as hell.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Saw "In the mood for love" again on t.v. today. I'm in absolute fucking love with this movie. Idea of ephemeral art is big thing with me and this film really underlined it without being heavy handed. Stragely reminded me of "Rivers and Tides" for some reason.

p.s. When the hell did CBC start showing Wong Kar-Wai films ? God bless Canada.

Walter_Chaw said...

Saw The Family Stone last night in a crowd of chuffing idiots. Kicking my fuckin chair, talking through the whole thing in normal-speaking voices - you want to say "kick 'em out" but who? You'd have to escort half of them to the lobby. Lots of half-heard muttering, too, when I took my seat ("Who's *he* - he doesn't look like press - somebody should ask him for his press card") - not a big deal in the big dealness of things, I guess, but it's not that pleasant to feel like you're sitting there with a giant target on the back of your head.

Tons of people there were the usual suspects - these seniors who somehow find out about every screening and attend religiously. The sense of entitlement that they've nursed has lead them to, with regularity, threaten the lives of the publicists (anonymously and to their faces) that try to exert a little crowd control at these things - going so far as to develop unkind nicknames for the ones that hang around long enough. I've seen young girls reduced to tears by these screening monsters - witnessed the police called once to have a particularly unpleasant woman removed by force. Things might be different elsewhere, but now and again, they go spiraling out of control in our little hamlet.

Anyhow - scheduling conflict next week means that I won't be able to see this Aniston flick. To which I say: "thank you scheduling conflict." There may yet be a resolution, though, so shouldn't count those chickens, I guess.

Family Stone, by the by, is horrible so, clearly, not a dry eye in the house.

Seattle Jeff said...

Damn Walter,

I don't know much about the Aniston flick, but was looking forward to your take on her performance as a navel-less 60-year-old woman. (The only info I have so far is the poster...)

Couldn't you take a bullet for me just one more time?

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter -

There's a name for people who act like what you describe:

Bronco Fans!

Walter_Chaw said...

Bronco Fans!

HA - ouch. Too true to be funny. I sat through a three hour game against Cincinatti in the snow a few years ago (Davis ran for like 250 yards) with this little fucker kicking my chair off and on the whole time. I finally had to threaten his father with a beating before the lovable moppet was brought under control. Maybe that's the answer: stadium justice & intimidation to police the theaters!

Munich by the way has a runtime of 160 minutes.

How's that for taking a bullet?

Aniston in that poster looks like Angus Scrimm from the Phantasm flicks. And she's, apparently, Eve.

Seattle Jeff said...

The last Seahawk game I went (last year vs. Miami) to was awful.

I had never seen fans cheer another teams injury. And Seattle fans aqre usually overly NICE.

But the NFL brings out the brute.

There were other things as well that bothered me. I swore never to take my son back there.

Chad Evan said...

I'm increasingly frightened that Crash is going to kick ass in the awards. The reason:
I talked to a middle-aged hillbilly woman at work yesterday and she said that she LOVED Crash. When I politely dissented, she explained the movie to me: "Everyone in the movie is a racist, and then they all have to help someone. I like reality, and that's REAL." Apparently she thought I was some young idjit who only likes fantasy and action movies (a view I didn't help by expressing my excitement over King Kong, which she dismissed with a laugh and a wave of the hand--not "real" enough, I suppose.)

I guess she could be right, given that she's quite a bit older than me and thus, living where I live, has undoubtedly seen a helluva lot more racism than I have (not that I'm inexperienced in such matters.) Still, "real" is the last word I would use to describe Crash, and I think even its' defenders like Alex would concede that point.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah, I got a real bad feeling about Crash - it's the kind of thing right up Oscar's gold-plated poop-chute, it seems like, and should Ebert stick it up there as the best of the brightest for 2005. . . I dunno. Wouldn't surprise me.

My fave tagline has to be this one:

"Maybe he would find the girl. Maybe he would find himself."

Pretentious in a sympathetic way to my own pretentions, I guess - I also like:

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. . . you can't even get there!"

You can google these, I guess, but wondered if anyone knew them off the top of their pointy little heads?

Bill C said...

The first one's Night Moves, I think, but it's amazing how satirical it would sound tacked onto Spartan.

Bill C said...

Chad, your encounter sounds like one I had in a movie theatre lineup after Howards End came out. I was telling my friends that it reminded me of the time I watched paint dry and a middle-aged woman turned around and said, "You'll appreciate it when you're older." Well, I'm older, and with few exceptions (Remains of the Day is pretty good; Slaves of New York is insane), Merchant Ivory movies are still like water torture for me.

Bemis said...

I feel like a lot of films owe some portion of their popularity to their effectiveness as a sort of calling card for the audience member. So some people who say "I loved Crash" are really saying "I am enlightened," and some people who say "I loved Howard's End are saying "I'm sensitive and literate."

Bemis said...

My favorite tagline:

"Man is the warmest place to hide"

Anonymous said...

I feel like a lot of films owe some portion of their popularity to their effectiveness as a sort of calling card for the audience member. So some people who say "I loved Crash" are really saying "I am enlightened," and some people who say "I loved Howard's End are saying "I'm sensitive and literate."

And people who say "I loved Fantastic Four" are saying "disliking bad movies is for nerds."

Bemis said...

Yeah, hard to say which is more irksome - pseudointellectuals or antiintellectuals. Either way, Do the Right Thing did everything Crash tries to do, and better, fifteen years ago.

Scott said...

Favorite tagline? SURF II: THE END OF THE TRILOGY...

Only amusing (um, to me...) because there was no SURF I. Or SURF III, for that matter...

Jefferson said...

And people who say "I loved Fantastic Four" are saying "disliking bad movies is for nerds."

I saw Fantastic Four on its opening weekend (why?). On the bridge, Jessica Alba starts to take her clothes off so she can turn invisible. A young doofus behind me and to my right bellows out, "Yeah! Show that shit!" I realized then whom this movie was made for, and it was not me.

Walter_Chaw said...

A young doofus behind me and to my right bellows out, "Yeah! Show that shit!"

[gulp] Sorry, Jefferson - that was you up there?

I think Bemis is dead-on about the ID-badge caveat of a lot of movies; whether that badge of honor is for the intellectual or the anti-intellectual - both wear as ugly, don't they? I actually like the mainstream audience better than the arthouse because there's a lack of pretension to the mainstream. They like dumb, loud, flashy shit without, for the most part, apology - but the festival/film society crowd applauds for shit like The Family Stone because they think it espouses all the things that they themselves would like to represent.

Turns out they're not that far off the mark after all, I guess.

In a similar vein to the Do the Right Thing thing, interviewed Stephen Frears the other day and though he only responded off the record, I did pose to him the idea that for all the praise being heaped on Brokeback for being groundbreaking, his My Beautiful Laundrette and Prick Up Your Ears did it all, more, working on three decades ago.

Anyone here see Fuller's White Dog (1982)?

Walter_Chaw said...

The first one's Night Moves, I think, but it's amazing how satirical it would sound tacked onto Spartan

HA - too true.

The second part would read, though "Maybe he would find the man, him. The Man."

Alex Jackson said...

While working at a movie theater I had somebody pull the "you'll appreciate it when your older" line when I recommended Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring over A Beautiful Mind. No brainer, non?

And yes, Crash is not realistic, and doesn't need to be says I.

James Allen said...

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. . . you can't even get there!"

You can google these, I guess, but wondered if anyone knew them off the top of their pointy little heads?


My pointy head believes that's Blood Beach, a film I can barely remember, other than the said tagline and the premise of some thing sucking people into the sand (well before Tremors I might add.)

Anonymous said...

I think mainstream audiences are pretentious, just in a different way. If they allow themselves to feel superior to you because they don't get all worked up over movies, that seems pretentious to me. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about every single person who goes to see a movie like Without a Paddle and likes it, but at least the wingnuts who come online and bother anyone who doesn't. I'm sure you, Bill and Travis have had more experience with these people than I have.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Yeah, hard to say which is more irksome - pseudointellectuals or antiintellectuals.

My vote is for pseudo-intellectuals. I wanna stab that lady in her ear that laughed off King-Kong and defended Crash. I'm sure she thinks she is King-Kong in the world of intellectuals herself. I see so many of them, man.

One day, when I mentioned to one of my fellow engineering students (stuck up assholes, most of them) that I was going to see "Downfall"... here's the transcript:

her:

"Ooooh... that Hitler movie. Why would you wanna see a film about that monster?"

me:

"Dude killed millions of people, I wanna see what he was like. Last time I checked he didn't have 8 heads so he's certainly not a monster. Isn't it harder to look at him as a human, just like you and me, who did some really fucked up shit."

her:

"Meh meh meh meh gaa gaa goo goo gaa gaa goo goo" (or something on similar intellectual level)

Chad Evan said...

All of what you people are saying is true, but I must not have conveyed accurately what this woman is like. I assure you that she does not, as Hollow Man says, consider herself "King Kong of the intellectuals." She's an average, unpretentious, working-class woman, and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that she voted for Bush, if she voted at all. She probably is a bit proud of her taste in movies, but I think her reaction was honest and unaffected. I've certainly encountered the types y'all are describing--mostly folks in college who thought Garden State was a masterpiece--but she isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

I'll vote anti-intellectual as most irritating, mostly because I see that crap more often. Current irritation: Anyone see that show Drawn Together on Comedy Central? It has to have the best premise going on television (bringing animated characters from different mediums -- Flash cartoons, anime, 1920s Betty Boop-esque, Hanna-Barbera, etc. -- onto a reality show) then wastes it on lame racist jokes, fat jokes, poop jokes and gay jokes. Seems to be a going trend with the movies these days too, that comedies can't locate the idea of "funny" in all the "controversial" material.

Just saw the fifty-foot billboard of Rumor Has It, by the way. If the one-sheet made you nauseous, the billboard would make you heave right there: the actors nicely, evenly spaced so that you can see all of the actors clearly (and I think Mark Ruffalo is about the same size as Kevin Costner here), but somehow, what they're trying to convey is even less apparent. All of the actors are now given equal space, with Jen only shown from the chest up -- What does that poster say? "Hey look! Kevin, Mark, Shirley and Jennifer, they're all in the same movie!" May as well have called the film Celebrities' Talking Heads or somesuch. (Of course, you'd have a few poor uninformed schmoes walk into that picture thinking it was a star-studded half-documentary sequel to Stop Making Sense.) They avoid the whole navel thing with that, of course. But her eyes remain. Those dead, dead eyes.

-- Ian

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I won't say the eyes are dead. The enigmatic expression seems to be asking Are you guys really that stupid ? or ... wonder if you'll like me if I fuck Vince Vaughan. or even America's Sweetheart, you say. Wait till you find out about my little crack habit.

Very expressive eyes, I would say on the contrary.

tmhoover said...

On the subject of the second tagline: is it that deathless classic, "Blood Beach"?

Walter_Chaw said...

Yep - that's the one. James and Travis both successfully tagged that line as Bloodbeach, the 1981 "shocker" that featured both John Saxon and Burt Young (who I just saw in Transamerica - another "shocker") yelling at each other while people fall into a sinkhole. No gore, no scares, not much of anything except for this awesome poster.

Alas.

What really makes me uncomfortable, by the way, are the literate anti-intellectuals. Makes me wonder what it is that I'm missing, if you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Did Someone say "Bad Fake Movie Poster"?

Even if they didn't:

http://img224.imageshack.us/img224/2976/double7zb.jpg

Alex Jackson said...

In the "their Photoshop skills surpass their wit" category:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I have others:

http://img61.echo.cx/img61/9075/18wl.png
http://img179.echo.cx/img179/574/dream2nm.png
http://img262.echo.cx/img262/3152/abcs4gq.png
http://img288.echo.cx/img288/2478/duck7xn.png

Anonymous said...

That's a big "ouch, my soul" on those posters, Alex and Anon. Nothing like smashing together two pop culture icons to bring in the funny. Another example of the problem with modern comedy; reminds me of another television show revisited recently: Family Guy, which I often still find hilarious but end up wondering: are the pop culture references really that funny, or are you just laughing because you can recognize the pop culture? Check out the Family Guy "movie" (really just three episodes strung together on the same DVD), where it shows badly.

-- Ian

Jefferson said...

What really makes me uncomfortable, by the way, are the literate anti-intellectuals. Makes me wonder what it is that I'm missing, if you know what I mean.

IMHO, what you're missing is profit. There's money in telling dumb people that they're smarter than the smart people. Publish an anti-intellectual screed in the National Review, and voila! You're a Fox News commentator.

Unfortunately, Walter, this doesn't seem to work for film critics. The ones who embrace the lowest common denominator as "good popcorn fun" are just as devalued as their uppity peers at the New York Times. Some may point to Ebert as an exception to this rule; I'd say he's less anti-intellectual than he is simply populist. (We can argue all year about where that line is, though.)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Paternalistic is what fits Ebert best, not populist I would say. Sample this excrept from new review of "The Family Stone":

I was poised to attack "The Family Stone" because its story of a family of misfits is no match for the brilliance of "Junebug." I was all worked up to bemoan the way a holiday release with stars like Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Dermot Mulroney and Luke Wilson gets a big advertising sendoff, while a brilliant film like "Junebug," ambitious and truthful, is shuffled off into "art film" purgatory. Then sanity returned: "Junebug" intends to be a great film, and is, and "The Family Stone" intends to be a screwball comedy, and is, and all they have in common is an outsider coming into a family circle. To punish "The Family Stone" because of "Junebug" would be like discovering that "The Producers" is not "The Sweet Smell of Success."

Infact, peternalistic isn't the word I'm looking for, its "Pathetic".

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

On the contrary, I must say that I really enjoyed Ebert's review of "King Kong".

Talking of King Kong, best film of the year (not seen "The New World" yet). Any film that would show me dinosaurs tumbling over each other deserves ultimate respect. Not a lot of critics mentioned how seemingly realistic most of the action was. By adding these little imperfections (King Kong breaking out of the theatre and slipping because of ice on the street), Jackson brought it down from fantasy to creative reality. It was like a fairy-tale with farts and I loved every silly second of it. A lot like last year's "Undertow" in that way (I wonder how Jamie Bell caught Jackson's eye ?!?).

Also not a lot of people mentioned how King Kong and Adrien Brody's character are really just two faces of the same man, the Ethan Edwards-type. It's funny how the sexual angst is taken away in both cases (one by large gap in age and the other by different species)leaving beauty and the beast equation as being one of child-toy where possession of the toy has more to do with the ego of the protector than his love for the toy. Last time I saw it so well thought out was in "Taxi Driver".

Also loved the self-analysis of Peter Jackson. "There is one thing you have to understand about Carl, he must destroy everything he loves.

Overall, I think Peter Jackson is the real Steven Speilberg. The one with balls, and the brains to back 'em up.

Walter_Chaw said...

Ian:
Interesting about "Family Guy" - a lot of comedies now seem to be little scooby-snacks for people name-checking pop culture - the Shrek pics, for example. Wanted to mention that I rewrote a swath of the upcoming Hostel review based on our brief discussion of it back there. Thanks for helping me clarify a few thoughts and develop a few new ones. I think we still disagree on the ultimate worth of it - but you made it impossible to dismiss as I'd wanted to.

Appreciate it.

Jefferson:
Yeah, there's something about just how democratic film is perceived to be that precludes serious writers and fans of the medium to be given any kind of value over the Earl Dittmans of the universe. It's frustrating.

H-Man:
I hate it when Ebert gets into the mode of "it's good because all it wants to do is suck, and suck it does" because implicit in that is "you people like suck, don't you? You'll love it, then. Me, I like Junebug. Three stars."

Agreed on King Kong - not that it's the best of the year, but I'd be hard pressed not to put it in there on the top ten. New World is fucking awesome. Like Thin Red Line, though, you can already tell that it's going to be divisive as hell.

Anonymous said...

My pleasure, Walter. This website and blog has been immeasurably helpful in bolstering my own sense of critical study, and the discussions we've all been having here have been particularly enlightening. It's one of the few critics' sites I still read anymore. I'm glad that I could give something back (besides buying the book, anyway, which will be coming to me very soon). Though I've e-mailed you in the past -- a lengthy disagreement to your Day of the Dead review from a few months back -- it's great to have such a spectacular forum here, where I can read and engage in respectful, intelligent discourse. So thanks to all of you Film Freaks out there.

Look forward to the review.

-- Ian

Nate said...

Walter-

Finally saw Brokeback Mountain last night in a packed theater (probably every out of the closet gay guy in Orange County was there). I walked out liking it but feeling it was too anticlimactic; I woke up this morning with this ineffable emotional twinge thinking about the movie.

Ultimately, I think I loved it, because it absolutely nails the reality of a passionate, hopeless love. It also nails the internalized homophobia that two cowboys in Wyoming would invariably feel; I felt something similar growing up in Reno, which (socially speaking) hasn't evolved much in the last 20 or 30 years. The violence in the sexual acts rings particularly true to me.

I think your review overthinks the film a bit, particularly Ang Lee's role in it - I think it's masterfully directed because I don't feel Ang's presence. I also love the way the setting of Brokeback Mountain becomes an emotional symbol for the love they can't have; the staggeringly beautiful images of them wrangling the sheep in the beginning take on an unexpected weight when confronted with the tribulations of the last act (and I really loved the quick flashback to these happier times in their final scene together).

So yeah, I loved it, but I'm kind of surprised that so many people love it as well, because it's not an easy film to sit through, and it doesn't even provide the normal catharsis that love stories usually provide. But I admire that about it, even if I don't know that I'd ever want to watch it again. Maybe in five years or so.

Also caught King Kong in a shockingly empty theater on Thursday; I loved it as well, though I was constantly made uncomfortable by the presence of Jack Driscoll - not because Brody is bad, but because the character's role in the film is a major miscalculation. When Kong falls off the building (possibly the most beautiful and heartbreaking shot in any film this year), Ann running into Jack's arms is an emotionally anemic conclusion. I am looking forward to seeing it again, though.

Oh, and I must take exception to your assertion that The Constant Gardener has good cinematography. I hated the way it was shot; I was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie. Hand-held camera during quiet character moments? It makes no sense. The film is a disaster anyway, but the cinematography really blew it for me. Anyway, I've blabbed enough.

Nate

Ian Pugh said...

And behold -- a Blogger account!

-- Ian

Bemis said...

What really makes me uncomfortable, by the way, are the literate anti-intellectuals. Makes me wonder what it is that I'm missing, if you know what I mean.

Agreed, and this extends to film criticism and discussion - one of the reasons I ended up here, via Alex's site, is that you guys have done a great job of putting together a site that allows for real discourse without ever straying into pretension or, as you put it, literate anti-intellectualism.

On the CHUD boards, Devin Faraci actually trotted out three-act structure to criticize King Kong (a great film, btw). This is when he's not busy calling his readers retarded.

Rich said...

Then sanity returned: "Junebug" intends to be a great film, and is, and "The Family Stone" intends to be a screwball comedy, and is, and all they have in common is an outsider coming into a family circle. To punish "The Family Stone" because of "Junebug" would be like discovering that "The Producers" is not "The Sweet Smell of Success."

So I guess Ebert is saying that being a screwball comedy and a great movie are mutually exclusive. Odd that he then uses The Producers as an example - a movie he seems to consider as both. Really seems as though he's desperately looking for a way to excuse this tripe.


Ian:

Curious: what was your issue with Walter's Day of the Dead review? Love the movie - best of the four, I think - and would be interested to hear what you thought of the review.

Ian Pugh said...

Rich:

It was more of a difference of philosophical insights than anything. Whereas Walter saw Bub the Zombie as the personification of the perpetual human grasp on hope and intelligent discovery (and his mention of "Ode to Joy" is certainly a good example in that sense), I found him as one last "fuck you" to zombiekind -- insofar as that by introducing intelligence and self-awareness into the zombies, we are essentially orchestrating the instruments of our self-destruction within our enemies -- that being ego and self-loathing. More damaging, methinks, than the simple release that a simple bullet to the brain can administer.

My primary issues with the film, however, rest with Romero's general indecision in choosing a theme and sticking with it. Personally, I thought that by the film's end, he tries to divide its characters into the camps of good and evil a little too readily -- good scientists vs. evil military -- despite the fact that much of Day goes to great pains to illustrate that they are all given to the same sense of homicidal insanity. The final half hour of the film, I feel, really makes this obvious: the military is destroyed in a genre fan-pleasing finale (which repeats the same essential evisceration sequence three times); meanwhile, the scientists are allowed to find and thrive on that ever-out-of-reach island that the characters of Dawn of the Dead failed to locate.

Of course, my bias tends to lean towards Dawn of the Dead for all the familiar reasons. Haven't seen Land of the Dead, myself, so I can't comment on that one.

-- Ian

Anonymous said...

Family Guy, unfortunately, has taken a definite downturn with the new season. I still love it, haven't missed an episode yet, but I've noticed some definite problems with it. The pop culture refs are definitely part of it; they have no point or perspective or new take on them, they're just there because it gets a cheap laugh. There's a huge difference between some guy on Harvey Birdman trying to win a girl's heart by holding up a boombox playing "In Your Eyes," and some kid from South Park trying to win a girl's heart by holding up a boombox playing "Shock the Monkey."

--Kim

Dave Gibson said...

Well--the terrifying truth has been confirmed--Ebert has selected "Crash" as the best film of 2005. He also selected close to seventy other 'wonderful' films to occupy his list--(Including Cinderella Man, Bee Season,Proof, Hustle and Flow,The Weather Man, Murderball, Robots--gack)Someone hardier than me can do the math on this, but it appears that roughly 1/3 of the films he reviewed this year appear on the Best of 2005 list.

Ebert also has maintained his regular practice of ghettoizing documentaries in a separate list (with the noted absence of "LA Plays Itself), and most oddly, he's relegated his pet film "Duma" to the bottom of his top-seventy.

There's been much ink and blood spilled over "Crash"--so, I'll let someone else go there--I think the most appalling choice on the list is "Me You and Everyone We Know". The film is a college creative writing class come to life. (at least some of one's I took before I trucked out on my own). Meaningless bits of first-draft quirkiness (the shoes, the cup, the socks)and forced whimsy (a quality which Ebert seems to like) is married to a devoutly uncinematic, ugly film which makes "American Splendor" look like "The Wages of Fear". I'm always mystified when many critics and audiences treat this sort of arch, self-conscious 'weirdness' as evidence of psychological realism. Ebert seems to recognize actual people in July's film--I see only fingernail parings and a few Natalie Portman performances It's a middlebrow, easily accessible film disguised as high culture--a trendy nightclub of a film.

"Syriana" and "Crash" are ideal bedfellows for the top of Ebert's list-- messes of liberal piety brimming with big stars and lashed together with easily digestible "family values". God, wasn't it touching when Matt Dillon--the violent, racist rapist helps his dad to the can? Guess we're all just people after all...

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

That's it. I officially hate him now.

Carl Walker said...

1. Crash *
2. Syriana **
3. Munich n/a
4. Junebug ***1/2
5. Brokeback Mountain **1/2
6. Me and You and Everyone We Know *1/2
7. Nine Lives n/a
8. King Kong ****
9. Yes *1/2
10. Millions **

Looking at it, without Walter's reviews I probably would have seen at least three of the films here that the two of them disagreed on. It's interesting that there's been a lot of complaints lately about him giving mainstream dreck a pass (unless I'm getting confused with Alex's board), yet at the end of the year we can still get incensed by seeing how much "indie" shit he seems to be "wrong" on. Which is potentially more dangerous, because at least you know not to see Family Stone.

That said, I am grateful to Ebert. I wanted to see Crash when it came out, and then I pulled it from my queue after the review and comments here. However, after so many negative comments I was almost tempted to go into reverse-backlash mode and go see it anyway... but Ebert's placing of it right above Syriana really tells me everything I know. I'm not claiming I'm the most insightful person but I would prefer to have some "liberal message" pics that were actually more or at least as insightful as I myself am. Too much to ask?

(Comment deleted and reposted just to correct a spelling error. Comment-editing function also apparently too much to ask from Blogger.)

James Allen said...

Speaking of Ebert, I haven't seen his show on TV in several weeks, It used to be on Sunday's at 11am, not a bad time at all, but I just checked the Buena Vista site to find that it's been moved to 5am Saturday morning. That's not a typo, FIVE in the MORNING where it battles infomertials for ratings. Now this is the New York area I'm talking about, which leads me to wonder something: if the #1 market in the country is relegating the show to the graveyard, does this mean that the audience the show is aimed at is generally shifting away from watching the show and instead catching more and more film reviews on line or other such sources?

Then again, this might just be a prelude to the show switching stations, and the current one (WABC-NY) is just burning it off in a crap slot to fulfill a contractual obligation.

Anyone is other markets find the show at some odd time?

James Allen said...

I apologize for the typos in the previous post. I agree with Carl in that Blogger should have a post editing option.

Alex Jackson said...

Anyone is other markets find the show at some odd time?

Here, it's at 6:30 in the afternoon on Saturdays; usually pre-empted by sports.

jer fairall said...

What bother's me most about Ebert's list is not that it's staffed with Oscar candidates and Sundance sensations (I do admire him somewhat for including Yes on his list, not because I'm a fan of the film (haven't even seen it yet) but rather becuase he was very much alone in praising it; both there and in his impassioned and defensive review of it there is a small feeling that he is taking a kind of stand on that one). What bugs me is that, for what is at least the second year running now, he continues to relegate the documentaries and animated films to special categories. Consider that Grizzly Man, No Direction Home and Murderball all recieved four stars, and that he spent the first half of the year talking up Enron on the show right along with Crash, Sin City and The Upside of Anger.

Next year, how about separate categories for foreign films, comedies and Hollywood blockbusters?

Alex Jackson said...

Totally agree Jer. If it wasn't for the fact that he gave somewhere between thirty and forty films four star ratings, you could argue that he was maintaining some sort of edge. Hardly anybody liked Yes, and the backlash against Crash (which I liked) and Me You and Everyone We Know (which I didn't) has effectively neutralized their reputations to the point where it is modestly iconoclastic to include them.

I think that he is being nakedly honest when he puts these geopolitical "issue" pictures in his top three. He doesn't have anything to prove, I think that he really does respond to this kind of stuff. I wasn't terribly impressed with Good Night and Good Luck, but I'm surprised that it didn't make the cut.

Yeah, if he didn't throw away his highest rating on stuff like North Country and The Upside of Anger (which only got four stars because it's better than expected) I might have had more respect for this list.

There haven't been very many good animated films this year, but there have been enough notable docs to make The Rog's "kid table" designation worthy of derision. I judge documentaries exactly the same as I judge fiction films, but even then they make the cut. This is going to be the third year in a row where I include at least one in mine.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I'm watching Ebert right now.

Walter_Chaw said...

Nate:
I woke up this morning with this ineffable emotional twinge thinking about the movie.

Time to deelop clarity on it - or time to put a lot of personal baggage on it? I always try to "sleep on it" but it's so subjective a process - in the act of doing so on a couple of films this season, I think I've actually lost my edge on them. Walk the Line for instance, should have been a negative review instead of that weak-wristed "it's okay" thing I shot out there. Sometimes time constraints kill you - sometimes a lack of them kills you, too.

it absolutely nails the reality of a passionate, hopeless love.

I think it can possibly evoke that but I don't think it really portrays it. I had one moment where Jake says "I miss you so goddamn much sometimes I don't know what to do with myself" - but other than that, it was way too segmented.

It also nails the internalized homophobia that two cowboys in Wyoming would invariably feel;

I got some of that, too, but more in the homophobia of the screenplay and the direction (and the score).

The violence in the sexual acts rings particularly true to me.

On this I demur to you - it struck me as weird. I liked the sex in All Over the Guy a lot better.

I think your review overthinks the film a bit

HA -newsflash.

I think it's masterfully directed because I don't feel Ang's presence.

I did. I wonder how it is he never worked for the Weinsteins.

I also love the way the setting of Brokeback Mountain becomes an emotional symbol for the love they can't have;

I don't get this.

So yeah, I loved it, but I'm kind of surprised that so many people love it as well,

I think it gives people some prestige for approving of it. It's testament to their tolerance, see, but it hasn't presented to them anything to be tolerant of.

Also caught King Kong in a shockingly empty theater on Thursday;

Heard that it's not doing well. Tragic.

When Kong falls off the building (possibly the most beautiful and heartbreaking shot in any film this year), Ann running into Jack's arms is an emotionally anemic conclusion. I am looking forward to seeing it again, though.

I didn't think so - what you talk about with the unimaginable loss and lack of romantic catharsis: I got both (not the lack) in the last half hour of King Kong. The film has problems, don't get me wrong, but it stinks of the aspiration towards truth. Brokeback doesn't feel all that honest to me. Ledger (maybe Williams) excepted.

I must take exception to your assertion that The Constant Gardener has good cinematography. I hated the way it was shot; I was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie. Hand-held camera during quiet character moments? It makes no sense.

I didn't say it made sense - I just found it aesthetically pleasing. You make good points - it's a disaster. Much better Latin American-director follow-up to celebrated "small" film? Walter Salles' Dark Water.

Dave:
Kudos on your articulate dissection of Me, You, and Everyone We Know. You can imagine my surprise to be told by any number of folks that this was a Great Film.

Carl:
Thanks for posting my ratings next to Ebert's top ten - that's really interesting. I look at RT sometimes and it has me agreeing with the consensus 74% of the time. Something that I can't reconcile with how I actually feel. Still can't, I guess, but that's really interesting.

Jer and Alex:
Agreed on the separate categories. In fact - in writing the first drafts of my list, I've decided to stop doing ties which I think are thematically interesting to do, but start to Ebert-ize the whole thing. Let's keep it pure, hmmm? Probably do another ten also-rans.

Anyhow - he calls Wallace and Gromit one of the most delightful films ever made and yet it's at the kiddie table. It's all just so fucking patronizing, isn't it?

Rich said...

Ian:

Thanks, some interesting stuff for me to think about when I watch it next.

Carl Walker said...

Walter:

Ebert's "animated" category is especially bizarre, because there aren't really that many animated films released each year, so it seems like he ends up listing everything most years; less so lately now that the annual Disney release is so subpar, but I'll be damned if I can see how he could condone anything CGI not by Pixar either. Robots listed alongside Corpse Bride? Not that I've seen the former, but ewww. Anyway the whole thing reminds me of the similarly-inane Best Animated Feature Oscar that they now have.

Rachel said...

As much as I feel they should just end the best animated feature (who benefits from it, anyway? it hasn't helped people take cartoons more seriously... real voice actors are already pretty much barred from contributing to theatrical releases), I'd like to keep it around for at least another year. If only because I'd love for this to win. Seriously.