December 20, 2006
This Friday may be light on theatrical reviews as Walter recuperates from a minor but no less incapacitating injury.
December 10, 2006
If you've been reading this blog for long, then maybe you know me as the anonymous "ian" fellow who's always posting responses to the missives that appear here, usually a dashed-off paragraph or a humorous shot in the dark at the latest screencap contest. However, contrary to popular belief, I do actually have a last name and, what's more, write professional criticism; I've been peddling my wares to various publications lately, and as you may have already guessed, I've landed what amounts to a real dream gig. So with great excitement, I'd like to introduce myself: I'm Ian Pugh, and I'm the newest staffer here at FILM FREAK CENTRAL.
Never fear, I'm not going to be the Dick Sargent to anyone's Dick York around here in any way, shape or form, but I will be specializing in TV on DVD. Finally, an opportunity to fully delve into the pleasures and pains of the boob tube without having to live by the networks' clock. Suffice it to say that this means fewer commercials that try to call Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest the "film of the decade," or try to pass off an Air Bud sequel by way of Look Who's Talking as anything less than goddamn terrifying. At the very least, I'll be armed with a "skip" button. Wonderful invention, this "dee-vee-dee."
My deepest thanks go to Bill, Walter, Travis and Alex in allowing a relative greenhorn like me to join their ranks. After leaving comments here for so long, I feel a little like Mark Wahlberg in Pittsburgh epic Rock Star... or maybe its Philadelphia counterpart, Invincible. (Memo to Marky Mark: I'm onto your diabolical plan to control Pennsylvania's inspirational film market.)
For those interested seeking out more of my critical work beyond the blog comments, check out my biweekly article "What's at the Movies" at The River Reporter of Narrowsburg, NY (this week it's Deja Vu) or The Triangle, the student newspaper of my collegiate alma mater, for which I still write the occasional review of a theatrical release. A brief cross-section from the past few months: Death of a President, Poseidon, Open Season, The Queen.
But my love affair with television is a lifelong one, and to tackle it head-on like this will be a fascinating endeavor. I look forward to trading barbs and ideas with all of you good folks here at the blog, who have been immeasurably helpful in my critical escapades. Look for my first FFC article soon.
But until then, let's open the floor for a somewhat generic question: with much of the water-cooler fare on holiday hiatus, what has everyone been watching on the old idiot box lately?
Update - 12/13/06
Feel the sting of The Monarch with my review of The Venture Bros.: Season One. Meanwhile, Walter documents the slow, painful decay of Anglo-American relations in The Holiday. In case you missed them: Bill checks the specs on the Little Miss Sunshine DVD, and Travis continues his Gary Cooper odyssey while tackling oddly-named DVD collections with The Taking of Porky's 1 2 3.
Update - 12/15/06
Walter takes on a weekend of movies that went without a spell checker with Eragon and The Pursuit of Happyness.
R.I.P. Peter Boyle -- for as many great moments you could find in the man's career, my personal favorite is a throwaway from Taxi Driver: his weary salutation, "Char-lie T..."
And despite the news reports, the Golden Globe nominations fail to surprise anyone.
November 29, 2006
First reader to guess the source of the screencap below gets a copy of An Inconvenient Truth. (North American residents only.)
Sorry to pull a hit-and-run--the Christmas rush has started early and is making things pretty hectic around here; stay tuned.
And good luck!
November 22, 2006
For me, the saddest thing about Robert Altman's death--or "retirement," as he would probably prefer it be known--is that there'll be no more Robert Altman movies in the figurative sense: as influential as his sprawling ensemble pieces proved, his work is so resistant to codification as to be inimitable.
This isn't a eulogy (I don't feel entitled to write one, it seems too possessive somehow), but an invitation to share your thoughts on his body of work, his legend, his je ne sais quois. I also urge you to check out the lovely obituary Keith Uhlich wrote for THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, which includes links to a plethora of tributes to Altman's legend.
November 17, 2006
The deal teams Blockbuster with movie industry veterans brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein as it tries to counter an expensive rivalry with Netflix (NFLX) over online rentals, as well as cooling store-based movie rentals.
Bobby, a depiction of Robert Kennedy's final day before being assassinated, starring Anthony Hopkins and Demi Moore, and The Nanny Diaries featuring Scarlett Johansson, are part of the first slate of rentals movies to be exclusively available at Blockbuster. Read More.
You could probably guess where I come down on all this. I really fucking hate Blockbuster. I usually think that people who complain about such things are way out of touch with reality, I mean there are several things that are worth getting really angry about and Blockbuster hiring people who don't know 8 1/2 from 9 1/2 Weeks, making filmmakers turn in R-rated cuts of their NC-17 films, requiring all returned DVDs to be rewound, masking late fees under their "no late fees promotion" as "restocking fees"; it's not on that level. Anybody who gets really mad at that or even places it on the same level as Congressmen cutting taxes while increasing military funding and cutting social spending while adding tighter restrictions on abortion is a pampered little shit. But maybe I'm wrong, this news somehow really infuriates me. The idea that I might have to walk into a Blockbuster to rent Grindhouse is so utterly degrading that it's vaguely sexual. I'd rather rent from McDonald's.
I got the pic from Florida-area video store Video Rodeo, whose archival ads remind me of why I'm only gonna pursue that dream of opening my own video store once I win the lottery.
November 10, 2006
From: Jackie Sims
Subject: No Business Like Show Business(WONDERFUL MOVIE)
OH COME ON BILL! THIS MOVIE IS FROM THE HAYDAY OF MOVIES. WHEN CORNY AND SIMPLE WAS INTERTAINING. WHAT A WONDERFUL LINE UP OF STARS AND SONGS THRU OUT THE MOVIE. IN FACT , IM GOING TO WATCH IT FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO DAYS SHORTLY. I OWN A PROJECTOR AND I WATCH IS AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE SEEN, ON THE BIG SCREEN. ALONG WITH THE STERIO MUSIC ETC , ITS A WONDERFUL MOVIE TO WATCH. I REFUSED TO WATCH IN MY HOME THEATER, THE C--P THATS COMING OUT NOWADAYS. ONCE IN A WHILE , I BUY A RECENT MOVIE AND THINKING MAYBE THIS ONE WILL MEASURE UP TO OLD HOLLYWOOD MOVIES, BUT IT ALWAYS WOUNDS UP BEING A PIECE OF C--P! NO WONDER MOST OF THE MOVIES ARE STAYING ON THE SHELVES NOWADAYS? IF YOU GO TO THE MOVIE STORE AND LOOK, YOU WILL SEE THAT ITS THE OLD HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS AND MOVIES THAT ARE THE HIGHEST PRICED ON THE SHELVES. THATS BECAUSE THEY ARE SELLING AND THEY ARE DEFINATLY MORE INTERTAINING THAN THE C--P HOLLOWOOD IS PUTTING OUT NOWADAYS. IF THE MOVIE WAS MADE AFTER 1980 , ITS USUALLY NOT WORTH WATCHING. THE MAGIC IS GONE BILL. THERES NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS IS A FEEL GOOD MOVIE. WHEN ONE IS DONE WATCHING ,IT MAKES A PERSON FEEL GOOD. NEW MOVIES NO LONGER EVEN HAVE THE CREDITS OR THE LOGOS AT THE BEGINNING? HARDLY ANY MOOD MUSIC? THERES SOMETHING MAGICAL ABOUT SEEING THE 20TH CENTURY FOX LOGO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PICTURE. THE DRUM ROLL ETC. I SAY BRING BACK THE MUSICALS , AND DISCONTINUE THE ON SLAUGHT OF ACTION MOVIES DEPICTING MURDER ,CRIME ,AND GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE. THATS NOT INTERTAINMENT! THANKS FOR HEARING ME OUT.
I love it when they're considerate enough to censor the word "crap" but not to turn off the goddamn caps lock.
From: Doug McNichol
Subject: Big words for such a little guy
Well, aren't we 'intellectual' in our choice of words. Impressive.
'Hagiography' ?? 'Reductive' ??
Get a life, asshole. Try words like 'cheap', or 'stupid'. Words that everyone can understand. Words that describe you.
What kind of unnerves me about this one is not that I can't tell whether he's demeaning my stature as a film critic or as a person in his subject heading, but that he's going to the mat for Gia. Seriously, Gia?
This next one is 'inviso-texted' to remove spoilers; highlight the white area to read them.
From: "Bruce Marks"
Subject: Black Book
I couldn't agree with you more about 'BlackBook'. I recently saw the film at The London Film Festival with a Q&A afterwards with Verhoeven and Carice. Verhoeven has taken his Hollywood baggage on board with never trusting the audience's intelligence and a lack of the 'poetry' he exhibited in 'Soldier of Orange'. When I questioned him why he thought it was necessary for the beginning of the film to tell the audience the main character lives; he didn't have much of an answer; especially when he could have done it in a much subtler way like lighting the Sabbath candles in the Kibbutz with the family gold lighter which the Germans obtained after murdering them. The transitions of falling in love with the head of the Gestapo and the trumped up motivation of the turncoat doctor at the end of the film really cheapened it for me. Maybe this is Verhoeven's halfway house on to something better. It was watchable and in today's movie environment; it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Not sure how that got in there. Oh well, the law of averages means that someone's bound to side with us at some point.
Apropos of nothing, THE ONION A.V. CLUB's Nathan Rabin recently coined "The Perfume Paradox" to describe what happens when a terrible movie gets under your skin and thus becomes impossible to dismiss. I struggled to think of an example from personal experience until I watched the new-to-DVD Little Athens, a Crash-y, quasi-Larry Clark ensemble piece about a group of twentysomething New Jerseyites whose intertwining lives predictably revolve around drugs and sex. But the vibe of the film is ineffably non-nostalgic, if Linklater-esque, making it feel more like a bad memory than like a Rob Weiss-style monumentalizing of bad behaviour--that and the use of the awesomely beautiful "Let Down" over the closing credits go a long way towards neutralizing and even redeeming the clicheed characters and their stock transgressions. (Admittedly, Radiohead and Little Athens star Erica Leerhsen are two of my Achilles Heels.) That being said, I have to believe I wouldn't think twice about the film were it not for the Radiohead song and the bravely nihilistic denouement that precedes it; and as Rabin mentions Perfume's finale as the reason for its half-life, does that mean it's really all about the last lap, as Robert McKee--at least in Adaptation.--likes to say?
Can you think of a movie where the opposite holds true? Is that even possible? Of course, with viewers becoming increasingly expectant of instant gratification, I can see filmmakers working to perfect their openings and letting the rest die on the vine.
Last but not least: new Spidey trailer!
November 03, 2006
Just a quick note about Adrienne Shelly – found dead of an apparent suicide at the age of 40, leaving behind a husband, a three-year-old daughter, and one of my favorite movies of all time.
I’m talking about Hal Hartley’s Trust, of course, and I remember that the first time I saw it back in 1991 on a now-tattered VHS copy I later liberated from the local indie store as it was closing its shutters, how I hadn’t, to that point (I was 18 and still young in cinema), seen anything quite like it. It was an inciting moment for me – an introduction into the world of the American independent ethic and, branching from there, the work of Whit Stillman and Jim Jarmusch. I’m not sure that I would have been as receptive as early to that stuff (and later, a goodly portion of my affection for Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach had to do with the directness of their lines trailing back from Trust) if not for the film: for Martin Donovan (wasting too much time now with garbage like The Quiet and “Weeds”) and especially for Shelly.
It wasn’t the quirk that affected me, but the writing and performances: telling too much to say that I connected hard with the depressed television repairman with a grenade and a crush. (Telling, to this day, that there are still large swaths of myself that persists in that identification.) When I learned that Shelly might have hung herself with a bedsheet, I remembered her character Maria’s announcement of her pregnancy leading to the sudden death of her father – and there, vague and filamentous, an emotional, diaphanous connection between her life and this art. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can feel it vibrating in the air.
I haven’t felt this sad about a stranger’s death since Spalding Gray walked into the frozen drink.
Shelly plays a lost soul in Trust that finds grounding with another lost soul – the two agreeing to the compromise of a love relationship while acknowledging the madness of it in a world balanced between acts of kindness, caprice, and enfolding, enveloping entropy. For a long time, every mix tape I made for a girlfriend or potential girlfriend included a sound clip I’d captured from this film involving Donovan’s Matthew character describing his grenade and Maria asking deadpan if he’s mentally deranged. Encapsulated in that small, perfectly-written exchange is volatility and the desperation for connection married, thick as monks, to the idea that the very idea of grace on this ugly, ungainly ball is akin to sublimity itself. Trust is in its way Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind about fifteen years earlier.
The last shot of the film is traffic lights changing over.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot today.
October 31, 2006
The Halloween of my childhood's delighted memory is an autumnal 1985 when I, then twelve, cowered my way through a VHS screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street with pals before hitting the cool Colorado evening for the last trick-or-treating uncoloured by neighbourhood razored-apple/poisoned-cookie paranoia. Too old to be afraid of scary movies yet too young not to be terrified of a certain burned, sweater-clad bogey crouching behind the next hedge, I was fresh into junior high school and feeling exactly centred in a way that I had seldom felt before--and have seldom felt again since. In the spirit of the season, I'm going to do this list as a trick--batches of flicks that share a theme or a thought and evoke that most infernal of pagan holidays (Christmas a close second, of course). Happy Halloween!
5. Deathdream (1972), Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972), Black Christmas (1974)
The three Bob Clark horror films from the 1970s occupy the fifth slot of my five; together they form a trilogy of unease seldom equalled in the annals of genre filmmaking. Deathdream updates the "Monkey's Paw" into a melancholy, terrifying Vietnam allegory as a boy murdered on distant battlefields comes home, while Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things offers a generational horror slant touched upon in the child-betrayal of Night of the Living Dead. The most important film of the three, however, may be Black Christmas, which not only identifies the source of Scream's telephone paranoia, but also locates itself at the start of the slasher film sub-genre, complete with the child killer and the killer P.O.V. shot.
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968), Repulsion (1965)
George Romero's still-gruelling, zero-budget zombie opera remains among the best and most-imitated horror films ever made. Politically-minded and possessed of a relentless, visceral energy, it opens with an inexplicable bang and never relents until its conclusion, one of the most ironic and heartbreaking in all of filmdom. Married to it temporally and by its catatonic villain/protagonists, Roman Polanski's English-language debut Repulsion makes Grand Guignol use of a dead rabbit and a straight-razor in its telling of a woman so terrified of sex that she becomes predatory.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
Two remakes of 1950s Red-Scare classics, both Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers--with its '70s paranoia--and Carpenter's The Thing--with its Reagan-era Red-Baiting--have been refashioned as creatures of their time. Serving as political allegory and platforms for character actors at the tops of their games (Sutherland in the former, Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley in the latter), these two films boast of the best special effects of their time (and they hold up remarkably well) and an undeniable creepiness that gets under the skin and festers there.
2. The Exorcist (1973), Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Even better in its original form, William Friedkin's mad look at one Georgetown family's dance with the devil is a revolution in aural trickery and subliminal crosscut. It pulls no stops in offending the senses--from a possessed child mutilating herself with a crucifix to Ellen Burstyn in bell-bottoms, The Exorcist, along with Polanski's classic of spousal betrayal Rosemary's Baby, are the ultimate examples of the mistrust that erupts between every generation but particularly the one post-JFK and intra-Vietnam. Both demonstrate a remarkable technical proficiency, and both, like the others on this list, hold up under the ravages of time and repeated viewing.
1. Don't Look Now (1973), Suspiria (1977)
Nicholas Roeg's dark Venice squats in the middle of this tale of generational mistrust. A brilliant character study starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie at their respective peaks, Don't Look Now is home to one of the most realistic love scenes in all of cinema and one of the most shocking endings as well. Beautifully balanced between the minutia of the mundane and the incomprehensibility of the supernatural, the picture is among the most horrific in history, joining Dario Argento's mad homage to insanity and Hitchcock, 1977's Suspiria, as my favourite horror films for rental this 2002 season. Both lurid and colour-saturated, both possessed of a kind of dream logic and displacement, watch each of them at your own risk...and preferably while sober.
In compiling this list of my five (technically six) favourite horror movies, I took two factors into account. The first is whether it scared me, but that criterion is too broad; Mariah Carey movies leave scars, yet I felt that my selections should also be steeped in more genre traditions than just the screaming banshee. (This also led to omitting Seconds, which is indeed frightening but mostly for its honest treatment of the human condition.) Note that I feel somewhat disadvantaged by my ignorance of the giallo and Euro-horror, for which I blame poor video transfers that made these correlated sub-genres unappetizing t o me as a youth. (Just missed my list, in no specific order: Rosemary's Baby, The Blair Witch Project, Don't Look Now, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Psycho.)
5. Scream 2 (1997)
Yes, Scream 2. This sequel to the po-mo slasher pic pretended to deconstruct the inevitable second instalment in any horror franchise when really it just wants to sever any attachment we have to its predecessor. Scream 2, in fact, is so misanthropic as to become vital--it's got a big, black chasm where its heart should be, and that's a massively welcome reprieve from the majority of modern fright flicks.
4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)
What Jaws and Psycho did for H20, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer does for mankind. It's not a safe movie even with the lights on, yet in many ways, the violence comes second in memory to the miraculous melancholy achieved by director John McNaughton and actor Michael Rooker, playing real-life homicidal maniac Henry Lee Lucas. The movie's horrific because you start to feel comfortable around the title creature.
3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)/Dawn of the Dead (1978)
I'm cheating here because the first two official Dead movies are inseparable companion pieces in my mind. A pair of radically different siege pictures from the same director, George Romero, the former is without question scarier, but the latter encourages a more active viewership--we've all, in essence, been trapped in a mall with zombies.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
Ironically the most optimistic movie on my list, the visceral and cerebral levels of The Exorcist pack the same intense wallop. Aside: avoid "The Version You've Never Seen" and stick with the classic 1973 incarnation, or be subjected to some cheeseball CGI and an atonal denouement.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Conscience does make insomniacs of us all. Philip Kaufman's remake of the 1956 original is filled with unrelenting dread; to wit: a character discovers the path to freedom, a joyous moment underscored by the bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace." But in no time flat, his hopes are cruelly dashed, and "Amazing Grace" gives way to the fuzz of a radio tuning into another station. It's not just everything you want in a horror movie (i.e., it reflects a certain nihilism), but also a great piece of cinema, one of the greatest.
What would go on your lists?
October 27, 2006
In other news, you probably noticed that we've been on a TV kick lately, what with reviews of "Stella: Season One", "Sealab 2021: Season IV", "Arrested Development: Season Three", and "Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes" making consecutive appearances on the mothersite. It actually wasn't premeditated, but with so many season sets of various shows collecting dust on the shelves at FFC HQ, it's been a load off my conscience. Next week: "Big Love: The Complete First Season".
Lastly, I want to thank long-time reader Vikram Nair for his lovely review of THE FILM FREAK CENTRAL 2006 ANNUAL, which he recently posted at both Lulu and Amazon.com. We don't have an advertising budget, so this kind of gesture really helps. (For a full list of retailers, see our homepage.)
I leave you with a mystery screen capture. No prizes for guessing correctly, just bragging rights.
October 08, 2006
- Did the introduction/discussion mambo with Dark City twice, with The Truman Show and Memento as well – the three films all about God/Creation issues: Father/son stuff at the end of our last millennium. Seems fitting that this fin de siecles in our cultural history would be about existential fear and trembling. Still didn’t prepare us for 9/11 and its accompanying influx of nihilism and chest-pounding. The King Kong remake, consummated atop Art Deco’s phallic pinnacle, couldn’t have happened at a different time.
- It raises the rhetorical question re: Pleasantville (also a 1998 film) of whether the Don Knotts television repairman is God in the unknown watchmaker sense.
- The new series at the Denver Public Library is called “Black & White” and I’ve chosen five films that I think each demonstrate a certain ambiguous quality; a place between genres that defies easy categorization and analysis. We began with Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946) – a film that is in many ways the precursor to Vertigo in its feminine iconography and, more, in its investment in the bestial husband’s emotional point-of-view. Most films like this (and like Vertigo) are about the girl after all. Doing the Cocteau caused me to finally track down his production diary, published contemporaneously. It’s a great read – echoes of The Jaws Log.
- Speaking of Spielberg, began the Gilpin County Library’s Spielberg series this Saturday (DPL shows every Tuesday @ 6:30pm; Gilpin shows every Saturday @ 1:00pm) with the blueprint pic Duel (1971). It’s arguable that every film after Duel was a remake of Duel just as every film after E.T., at least for a decade or so (and including Schindler’s List, is a remake at least in part of E.T..
- Next week: Frankenheimer’s Seconds at the DPL and Spielberg’s Jaws at Gilpin.
- Rest of the respective runs: M, Eyes Without a Face and The Innocents - and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and War of the Worlds.
- Went to a screening of French cartoon Renaissance and wanted to pound a nail into my forehead.
- The Cinema Club series at the DPL this month feature supplementary films to the evening series: Repulsion, Night of the Living Dead, and Bride of Frankenstein.
- Next week also finds me at the finale of Douglas County’s Sci-Fi Film Series: the freshly-minted director’s print of Blade Runner. I don’t think it’s the re-touched version promised by Scott earlier this year, but isn’t there yet another shined up release set for the street? In any case, I’m excited at the chance to finally talk Blade Runner - the film about whose production I may know the most about thanks to the remarkable Future Noir book.
- Learned this week that my mother-in-law has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which, in antidote to the stress and time debt of recent weeks, has provided a good healthy dose of perspective on the troubles of the world. All a hill a beans, or sentiments to that effect.
- That cold splash of mortality makes me feel more able to contextualize the irritations of people making cell phone calls and text messages from the seat next to me – kicking me in the back, eating a bucket of fried chicken, bringing their children to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 7 and so on. It also makes me aware, simultaneously, that there are roughly a billion people on this blue Earth that deserve more to die.
- Here’s how the radio show works (there are now more than 10 million subscribers to Sirius Satellite Radio – how many of them listen to the Bill Press show on Friday mornings, I don’t know) I wake up at 6:15am my time, drink a little tea to lube the pipes, get the call at about 6:35am from the producer of the show and chat about what we’re going to chat about, sit on hold for about a minute, and then we’re live and off the cuff. This week, Press made a comment that he thought The Queen was about the Foley scandal in Congress – and I said something like between The Queen and Little Children, we might be heading towards a full-blown description. Hey, it was early.
- Reviews of both The Queen and Little Children, by the way, are on their way along with write-ups, sooner or on video, of Beowulf, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Hidden Blade, Dogwalker, Keeping Mum, that new Julie Walters picture, and American Hardcore.
- Working through the first season of “Rome” and the complete “Jack of All Trades” series.
- Man of the Year is a big, giant pile of moose shit: call it “Good Morning, Beltway” and call it a day. In a lot of ways it’s just like Zaillian’s All the King’s Men. I was interested to read, by the way, Zaillian saying that he felt as though he’d been hit by a truck: referring to the critical and popular rejection of his picture. Really, though, can this have been a complete surprise?
- Go rent Lucky McKee’s The Woods, by the way.
- As the letters these last four weeks have been uniformly, perversely positive (including a very nice note from Neil Labute), gonna’ forego the Reader Mail this time around.
- With Del Toro’s ravishing-looking Pan’s Labyrinth (Bill raves about it from TIFF) that I’m dying to see, and with this last week finding me before the failure of Renaissance and the timelessness of Beauty and the Beast, the first question I want to throw out there is “Films that Best Evoke a Fairy Tale or Dream Quality?”
- And related to that (and the work of Alekan on Beauty and the Beast and James Wong Howe on Seconds), the best black-and-white cinematographers or, even better, single works.
- Finally, related to The Woods and, soon, John Gulager's Feast: the best direct-to-video films?
October 07, 2006
WHAT'S A NICE GIRL LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS
IT'S NOT JUST YOU, MURRAY PART 1
IT'S NOT JUST YOU, MURRAY PART 2
THE BIG SHAVE
September 30, 2006
The DVD streets in November. Whaddya think? My optimism just doubled.
September 21, 2006
- R.I.P. screenwriter Gérard Brach and cinematographer Sven Nykvist, co-conspirators of Roman Polanski and Ingmar Bergman, respectively, though Nykvist actually worked with Polanski, too, on The Tenant. (A movie scripted, conveniently enough, by Brach.) Both were so prolific it's almost impossible to imagine a world in which we'll no longer see their names on anything new.
- Outlaw Vern's Get Rich or Die Tryin' diatribe is essential reading.
- Speaking of brilliant criticism, our own Alex Jackson recently reviewed Eaten Alive.
- "The Film Freak Central 2006 Annual" is now available at Amazon USA, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, and still other online retailers.
Walter catches up with The Science of Sleep and Jet Li's Fearless. Meanwhile, my TIFF coverage wraps up with a capsule review of Paul Verhoeven's Blackbook (Zwartboek); a quick plug, though, for the curiously spellbinding On the Trail of Igor Rizzi, which took the Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature: I'm not sure I could do it justice with a cap, but do see it when it comes out. You'll be glad you did.
September 14, 2006
FAY GRIM (d. Hal Hartley)
As far as this unlikely sequel to the brilliant Henry Fool is concerned, those hoping for a Before Sunset should brace themselves for a Texasville. The movie feels like it came out of Hartley sideways (or, conversely, all too painlessly), and it never really catches fire until Thomas Jay Ryan makes his long-delayed cameo as Henry Fool. By then, it's too little too late. **/****
BLACK SHEEP (d. Jonathan King)
A thoroughly superfluous mutant-sheep splatter flick that nevertheless hums along nicely. Due homage is paid to old-school Peter Jackson, Aliens, and the werewolf and zombie canons, but it's a lot better paced than the similarly-derivative Undead. **/****
BLACKBOOK (Zwartboek) (d. Paul Verhoeven)
Returning to Holland for the first time in over twenty years, Paul Verhoeven proves that while you can take him out of Hollywood, you can't take Hollywood out of him. It was kind of a relief to see a movie-movie after a string of homely indieprods, but I wonder how many more variations on the Anne Frank and Mata Hari stories I can sit through before I stop flinching in Pavlovian disgust at Gestapo iconography. (There's an unfortunately fine line between ensuring we "Never Forget" and desensitizing us.) If there's at least a flimsy rationale behind the homage to Basic Instinct, a "Three's Company"-style contrivance late in the game is merely indefensible. **/****
Keep an eye on the mothersite for more capsules as well as Walter's review of The Black Dahlia.
September 09, 2006
BABEL (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
It coheres better than 21 Grams, but Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga are really spinning their wheels at this point. A few funny extratextual lessons are imparted: never take a Fanning to Mexico (Elle has almost as harrowing an adventure there as sister Dakota does in Man on Fire); and never trust a director who includes a post-script dedication to his children. As with 21 Grams, though, Babel doesn't make room for any intentional levity, eventually desensitizing you to all the calculated anguish. *½/****
HALF MOON (Niwemung) (d. Bahman Ghobadi)
Ghobadi has really honed his craft since the dire A Time for Drunken Horses; his use of 'scope here--thinking of the opening cockfight, or a tableau of exiled Iraqi women serenading a band of Kurdish musicians as they leave town--is particularly cinematic. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't find its "Waiting for Godot"-isms a little draining. **½/****
THE HOST (Gue-mool) (d. Bong Joon-ho)
I'm no scholar of the Man in Suit genre, but I feel pretty confident in saying that this is the pinnacle of giant-monster cinema. A Spielberg movie that doesn't wuss out (and that traffics in the kind of black humour that used to be his métier), The Host has a shot at becoming South Korea's first real crossover hit--so long as its American distributor doesn't do something stupid like remake it instead. ***½/****
EVERYTHING'S GONE GREEN (d. Paul Fox)
Rather than grow with the demographic that helped make "Generation X" part of the vernacular, Douglas Coupland is like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, still courting the slackers because even though he gets older, they, with their disposable income and impressionable minds, stay the same age. A disingenuous sermon to the choir on the cul-de-sac of working a cubicle job that has the gall to hate money and Vancouver's film industry. */****
Click here for capsule reviews of Torn Apart (La Coupure), The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de pages), and After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet).
September 03, 2006
- Did an introduction/screening as the sub for NPR’s Howie Movshovitz at the monthly Tattered Cover Film Series at Denver’s Starz Filmcenter tonight for King Vidor’s almost-socialist Our Daily Bread. It comes midway through a particularly strenuous time for me as I do about four speaking engagements a week for four consecutive weeks – a schedule that, in addition to all the stresses these presentations entail – impinges on my ability to do the day-to-day of screening/writing and, so, increases my stress in those areas, too. Bitch, bitch, bitch. It’s still not turning a large crank, I understand, but it being what I do – it leaves a mark.
- People like Jeffrey Lyons hiring interns to watch films on his behalf suddenly becomes understandable if not any less appalling.
- Tom Cruise apologizes to Brooke Shields this week. I’m sure he means it. The Church of Scientology reveals that it was prepared to back Tom Cruise’s production company should no other studio step in. I’m sure it meant it, too.
- I love King Vidor – the most underestimated director of that period, I think, and unfairly ranked behind John Ford and Howard Hawks for the kinds of movies they did. His autobiography is a must-read – as is the interview conducted with him by George Stevens Jr. Our Daily Bread is a stirring work, the last two reels devoted to an interesting homage to the bio-automatism of Eisenstein, with a score by Alfred Newman so rousing that Zanuck resurrected it just a year later for his Les Miserables. The real find of the picture is Karen Morley as the everyman wife Mary. She started her career as the moll in Scarface - and ended it a victim of HUAC with a failed lieutenant-gubenatorial run in New York as a member of the Labor Party.
- The story behind the making of the film (including a chance encounter between Vidor and the star of his The Crowd which led with a lifelong obsession for the director with the actor’s fate) holds rich parallels with the film itself.
- Joseph Stefano has passed away – the writer of Psycho and co-creator of “The Outer Limits”.
- Did a two-and-a-half hour lecture on four 1970s Gene Hackman films: The French Connection, The Conversation, Night Moves, and Superman. Notable exclusions include I Never Sang for my Father and Scarecrow - the drive was, generally, that all of the decade of the ‘70s could be distilled through Hackman films and, more, that the Donner Superman, while being very much a product of the darkness of that decade, predicted the cinematic wonderland of the eighties. Hackman’s father issues in life reflected the loss of security in traditional institutions in the seventies. He’s not the only one, but he’s central to the zeitgeist of that era. No wonder his turn as the father in The Royal Tenenbaums feels like full-circle.
- Saw screenings of Hollywoodland and The Science of Sleep this week as well as sneaking in a late show of Neil Labute’s The Wicker Man. I wondered why the new film from Labute was being released without so much as a proper critic’s preview, it was answered by the picture itself that isn’t dumb enough to please a certain demographic and not quite smart enough to please the cultists and purists. What’s left are a lot of fond memories of the brilliantly disconcerting original film and of Labute’s own scabrous early work.
- Hollywoodland is dreadful, deadening period hoohaw and if Ben Affleck is perfect as George Reeves, it’s because Ben Affleck is this generation’s George Reeves.
- The Science of Sleep is fitfully engaging but mostly puerile and scattershot while mainly a reminder that a Charlie Kaufman movie without Charlie Kaufman is just exactly what it sounds like.
- Intro’d Tampopo and a little Argentine flick called Bolivia for the Vail Symposium, as well. Can I say that I now officially hate Tampopo? Bolivia is a sad snapshot of Argentina right before the collapse of their economy in 2001 – the same collapse that has made it nigh impossible for all the promising voices rising at the start of the millennium from that industry to helm follow-up projects. In of itself, not so much, but as a product of a time and place it can start an interesting conversation.
- Continue the DPL documentary series this coming Tuesday with the hard-to-watch Brother’s Keeper, then the following Tuesday with Bright Leaves. This coming Friday will find me in Gilpin County with Peter Weir’s Fearless while the next two Wednesdays I’m back in Vail with first Delicatessen, then Big Night.
- The suggestion that Spielberg might be collaborating with Zhang Yimou on an adaptation of Journey to the West is something that makes me want to weep, spontaneously, with joy. Debunked by Spielberg this week, just the idea that this work could become a major film is something that makes me weak in the knees.
- Teaching The Conversation for the first time since I brought a 35mm print of it to show at a long-ago Denver International Film Festival was something like a dream for me. Showing it on DVD with a clips presentation. . . man oh man. David Shire’s amazing piano score for the film (coupled with a brief discussion down below) raises the question of the best scores in film. Not the best from a musical standpoint, necessarily (I’m not a music critic, after all), but the best in terms of how it jibes with the film that holds it. Quick thoughts are the Goblin score for Suspiria, the Philip Glass for Candyman, Ennio Morricone’s work with Sergio Leone, and John Williams’ trio of rousing variations on Holst’s “Planets”: Jaws, Star Wars,, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A few of this week’s letters:
I have just read your review on last years film Dreamer. I think, along with many others, that calling a horse 'great glue' is extremley offensive. A lot of people work hard to stop healthy horses going to the knackery, and saying something like that would really hurt them. I really hope it was just a horrible atempt at a joke.
Please don't try to offend people, and have some more respect for horses. They have lived on this planet for a long time and lived and died as they need to, rather than being trucked to knackerys to have their legs chopped off as they are still alive, shot in the head, then have their neck and head sliced up.
I don't like jokes about that torture.
(RE: Your review of Equilibrium)
Before you bash a movie, make sure you understand it.All emotion is not banned with the drug. It is clearly stated that the "highs and lows" are destroyed. So there can still be jealousy, pride, and the other things you mentioned, in moderation.Also, Taye Diggs' character is not on the drug, which is why he shows so much anger and pride.And what scenes were taken from the Matrix?
What would happen if I understood Equilibrium and still didn’t like it? Maybe you could also explain the parts about the puppy.
As to what’s been taken from The Matrix, I guess nothing except for the costumes, the general look, and the bullet time.
Just who is it you’re angry with or about? Either that or you've got some sort of difficulty with life because I just read your review of Finding Forrester (better late than never as they say) and you come across in your writing like you know it all. You remind me of those two clowns who used to review films on television and then one of them died. Either way, you're no better than those two clowns in terms of your review accept for the fact that you're extremely obnoxious. You must be from Britain or New York, but your writing seems pompous enough to warrant a Briton.Just thought you should know how much you stink. –Jimbo
Hazarding a guess: aside from the looks you get spending your time defending stuff like Finding Forrester, I’m thinking that what you’re angry about has something to do with being named “Jimbo” that or believing, maybe rightfully, that literate people who dislike Dead Poets Society knock-offs are most likely foreigners.
- Just got a press release from publicity, by the way, that Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is being remade. Here’s the release:
A remake of The Last House on the Left, the 1972 horror classic that established Wes Craven as a filmmaker, is being developed at Rogue Pictures for production in early 2007. Mr. Craven and longtime producing partner Marianne Maddalena will produce the new version with the original film’s producer, Sean S. Cunningham. Rogue co-presidents Andrew Karpen and Andrew Rona made the announcement today.
Rogue will hold worldwide rights to the remake, for which a director is being sought. The new film will hew closely to the plot of the earlier version, which tracked the fate of a group of murderers as vengeful parents of the victims mete out punishment to fit the crimes.Another of Mr. Craven’s early works, The Hills Have Eyes, was recently remade; Mr. Craven co-produced the remake with Ms. Maddalena and Peter Locke. That film became a boxoffice hit earlier this year; a sequel, written by Mr. Craven and his son Jonathan, is in production for release by Fox Atomic in March. Martin Weisz is directing the sequel, which is again produced by Mr. Craven, Ms. Maddalena, and Mr. Locke.
Mr. Karpen and Mr. Rona said, “We’re excited about working with this talented team of filmmakers to create a new take on this seminal movie that will scare the wits out of a whole new generation of filmgoers.”
Rogue Pictures (www.roguepictures.com) is devoted to producing and distributing high-quality suspense, action, thriller, comedy, and urban entertainment with mainstream appeal and franchise potential.
Hot Off the Presses - 9/3/06
Bad communication on my part resulted in me stampeding over Bill's post, there - apologies - let me underscore:
The Book is here, at Amazon. Although the best option shipping-wise for Canadian customers - know that we get a bigger bite on sales from Lulu. In either case, though, your support is much appreciated. Look for a wider roll-out as time goes on.
September 02, 2006
And, if you've already picked up a copy, by all means rate or review it (either at Lulu or Amazon) should you have a spare moment. So far, it's received Lulu's highest rating from two customers, which is not only encouraging, but also great advertising.
Sorry for the radio silence around these parts of late, it's been a particularly chaotic month. As of Thursday, I'll be away covering the Toronto International Film Festival; of the handful of this year's festpix I've seen thus far, I kind of dug a French riff on Leave Her to Heaven called The Page Turner, starring Déborah François, late of L'Enfant. (She sure cleans up good.) Anyway, keep an eye on the mothersite for capsule reviews of TIFF selections, and be sure to check out Walter's (scathing) review of The Wicker Man--he's one of the only critics who bothered. Any movies you're deathly afraid they'll remake next?
August 28, 2006
Please don't hate me for loving this decidedly not-safe-for-work music video from comedian Mike O'Connell and Dr. Ken. I laugh every time I see it and I cannot for the life of me get the refrain out of my head. The opening bit with the bartender tries and fails to dull the edge; this is an unquestionably irredeemable but impressive bout of verbal violence.
Nearly as inexplicable as the gyrating Asian man in a silver jumpsuit in "What's it Going to Be" is this anti-drug PSA from Pee-Wee Herman. "Snakes on a Plane" haters take note, this is "found" camp at its finest.
Similiar, if more difficult, is this clip of Reverend Alicia dancing in her chair in praise of cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh. Probably more funny than the Pee Wee Herman PSA, but you'll feel a lot more guilt in laughing. It probably doesn't much matter, but I'ld like to think that Reverend Alicia is funny not as much because I think myself superior for not dancing to Yahweh, but because what she is doing is so completely bizarre and she doesn't seem to understand that it's bizarre. Incongruency between mindsets, hers and mine, equals funny.
Experience more of this existential detatch by watching this chimp play Ms. Pac-Man. Watering down the horror of realizing that this chimp knows enough to chase the ghosts after they turn blue and run away from them when they turn back, and therefore isn't that much different from you and me; is the cold hard fact that she plain otherwise sucks ass at Ms. Pac-Man.
And finally, I found a bunch of clips of my childhood hero Commander USA from "Commander USA's Groovy Movies". This one where he recaps Friday the 13 is easily the funniest. OK, perhaps the only remotely funny one. I gotta admit, Commander USA was probably more fun when I was six. And when seen in context with the "groovy movies" he showed, besides.
Also of interest, I found a podcast of an episode of that radio show that Walter is on. He's near the very end after the interview with David Corn, author of Hubris:The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War. Films reviewed here include Invincible, Factotum, and yes, Snakes on a Plane.
August 23, 2006
Just to recap, the 328-page trade paperback includes:
- Foreword by filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan
- Introduction by Bill Chambers
- "Overture" by Walter Chaw
- Reviews of 240 2006 theatrical releases, including previously-unpublished pieces on The Future of Food, The Intruder (L'Intrus), Joyeux Noël, 9 Songs, Prozac Nation, and Reel Paradise
- Top 10 of 2005 lists
- Bottom 10 of 2005 lists
- "The Black Hole: United 93 and the New Nihilism", an exclusive essay by Alex Jackson
For $20.00, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Lulu has also increased the speed of their services, so the book will get there lickety-split. Please remember that every purchase helps keep FILM FREAK CENTRAL online.
My thanks to everyone here at the blog for their input. By all means, let us know what you think of THE FILM FREAK CENTRAL 2006 ANNUAL, and be sure to rate/review it at Lulu if you get a moment.
August 17, 2006
I believe this marks the first time that we've been blurbed on a retail release. Walter joins some pretty elite company, as both EYE MAGAZINE's Jason Anderson and the CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Michael Wimington are also quoted within the cover art. I'm really proud of him.
August 16, 2006
Ever since Good Morning, Vietnam, every time I saw Kirby's name in the opening credits I took it as an insurance policy. Kirby's star dropped a little after a private feud cost him frequent collaborator Billy Crystal, but no one seems to mention that Crystal's did, too. Revisiting When Harry Met Sally... and City Slickers, one is surprised to discover that it's Crystal who's playing the straight man, the Bing Crosby to Kirby's Bob Hope. Nothing Crystal says in the former is as funny as Kirby's exasperated plea for Meg Ryan to "draw something resembling anything" during a losing game of Pictionary.
Kirby had a gift for transforming the most banal line of dialogue into a melody, making him a secret weapon of tone-deaf directors like Barry Levinson and keeping him from blending into the wallpaper in ensemble films like Donnie Brasco. And he could collapse his doughy features into a kabuki mask that lent itself equally well to tony comedy (his deadpan reactions to Albert Brooks' quaalude trip in Modern Romance turn the sequence into a quintessential illustration of the Kuleshov Effect) and period pieces (The Godfather Part II, Flesh & Blood).
Arrivederci, Bruno. You will be greatly missed.
August 03, 2006
- Background, first, I stumbled bad at the finish line – pulled up lame like a tricked up thoroughbred and only managed to complete about half of what I intended to complete for the book and that in a crazed, glazed fashion. Consolation for me, for what it’s worth, is that it might show up some day in some form less embarrassing than the permanence offered by a bound edition.
- But this alien, he gives me ropey strings of credentials, lists off all the press conferences he’s attended in five minutes flat, tells me he’s a shrink, that he was Stephen Bochco’s assistant although he seems not to understand that Michael Mann had nothing to do with “Hill Street Blues” (“he ghost wrote a lot of episodes” this creep backpedals, touching me on the shoulder in an unsuccessful attempt at mind control), that he broke his back falling out of a window, that he’s a Film Critic of some standing in the Broadcast Journalist Society or something (I checked, he is, but so is Susan Granger and the Cliffords).
- He also wants me to know that he liked Michael Mann’s “version” of Miami Vice. Sometimes I feign confusion, sometimes I’m just confused.
- I say “Wow. You’re everything.” And, puppy-hurt, he pulls out a business card that, I kid you not, is creased from wear and has “Broadcast Journalist Association” written on it as if an affiliation to some assclown parade its members know about is akin to weight.
- I say “Look man, I don’t give a shit what your credentials are – put that sorry shit away, I can print a “President of New Guinea” business card and it means the same thing – if you want me to think that you have a valid opinion, why not offer one?” I say “Look man, the film is extant, the reaction to it is personal – you poll everyone in here, everyone in here will see a different picture – you call yourself a critic, your responsibility is to ask big questions of yourself.”
- He says “I just like to be entertained.”
- I say “What entertains you?”
- “Good writing.”
- “What’s good writing?”
- “It’s good characters”
- “What are good characters?”
- “It’s just what I like”
- “Why do you like what you like?”
- Then he repeats me to me almost word for word about the personal reaction jig and then accuses me of dancing around the issue – I’m sure this burst capillary in my right eye is his fault. I say “That thing of yours; that gift for taking what I say and saying it back to me as if it were your idea and meaning it – that’s a brain tumor that yes-men and other toads have.” and then I say, “If you don’t have anything more interesting to say than that you were entertained, then you’re exactly the function and form of a publicist. I’m not saying that they don’t have a hard job, understand, in fact without irony I can offer that I have no idea how they do what they do with the people, on both sides, that they have to deal with – but they’re publicists, see, whose job it is being gladhanding sycophants and I wonder while knowing the answer why you’re doing their job for them for free under the guise of being a film critic.”
- “I find it to be, let me be honest here, morally and artistically repugnant.”
- “Well” he says “I didn’t think I was going to get psychoanalyzed here.”
- And I say “Buddy, I could give a poop about you. It’s your kind that offends me. And don’t flatter yourself, we crack open that coconut and moths fly out.”
- Did the screening/discussion mambo with His Girl Friday a couple of weeks ago and was reminded that this is one tough little cookie. Suicide, murder, capital punishment, and corruption up and down the beltway and the fourth estate. It’s funny, sure, but the humor is painful. Grant’s never better than as the world’s biggest asshole whose ex-wife remarks half-in-seriousness that charm always came naturally to him because granddaddy was a snake. Hawks’ macho worldview of tough-talking dames and effeminate men (or vice-versa), gets both sides of the coin here in poor Ralph Bellamy.
- They started shooting on the day that Poland was invaded by Germany.
- At issue in the film, the use of the word “pickaninny” by one of the press pool. I argue that it’s in there for shock value, that tsking over how backwards the Greatest Generation was is doing this sharp-hewn, modern film a deep disservice. At some point, being patronizing cunts actually makes us the burlier bigot.
- Did the same mambo with Keep the River On Your Right, that morally suspect documentary about artist Tobias Schneebaum, forced by virgin brother/sister filmmakers to confront his dark past in the bush. Ultimately about identity and the need to assimilate into a culture that’ll have you – the discussion raised a few dark issues for me about this infernal little project. Lucky for everyone involved that Schneebaum saw it as redemptive at the end rather than second degree kidnapping for the purposes of making a festival darling.
- Same again, lecture format this time, with three films from 1961: Splendor in the Grass, The Hustler, and The Misfits. Two hours of me talking about waterfalls. It’s a wonder anyone comes to this shit at all. Next month: Gene Hackman flicks from the 1970s.
- Gave a speech about the state of modern film criticism to the Cherry Creek Rotary Club – Cherry Creek, by the by, is the richest area in metropolitan Denver. I think John Elway has a house there. First time I’d ever been to a Rotary Club meeting. It’s not like anything that I could have expected and more news from here might be coming in the next few weeks.
- During the late-night screening of The Descent - a thoughtful, frightening little English horror flick – the local publicists put on a show by decorating the hall leading into the theater like a cave mouth. Interiors dark and cold with a soundtrack of squeals and howls making this the world’s most misguided post-prom party – but admirable for the effort. Not so hot were the people who like to talk through horror movies as a nervous reaction, for the idiot checking her cell phone every few minutes, and for the baby crying every few minutes. At least it wasn’t out of focus for the first two reels like this morning’s screening of The Illusionist.
- Is there something wrong with me, by the way, that the worst part of every screening experience for me now is the fear that I might overhear someone else’s post-film post-mortem?
- Working on the Dr. Who Season One set of last year’s resurrection of the Time Lord. Preliminary verdict? Sucks. We’ll see what working it out through a few thousands words turns up.
- Putting the screen capture on hiatus to let my computer cool down. Here, instead, more lovely reader mail.
subject: PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS
If you are going to take the cynical low road of film
criticism and excoriate director Scott Derrickson (The
Exorcism of Emily Rose) by calling him names (an ice
cream-suited revival-tent preacher, idiot, full of
shit, creepy guy with a weak chin, etc...) then you
really ought to at least GET YOUR FUCKING FACTS
STRAIGHT before doing it.
Derrickson doesn't "modestly cop to reading over
two-thousand books on demonic possession" on the
director's commentary. Listen to it again, dickwad,
he clearly says he read over TWO DOZEN books, not TWO
THOUSAND. You were only off by 1,975 books.
For fucks sake, when you THOUGHT you heard two
thousand, are you really such a cynical asshole that
you didn't question the lunacy of that number and
rewind once to see if maybe, just maybe, you heard it
wrong? If you have any integrity at all, you'll at
least fix that part in your review.
And what fundamentalist Christian or Catholic priest
pissed on your puppy when you were seven? I'm no fan
of religion myself, and I agree that the film was not
as balanced as the film makers seemed to think it was,
but it was a hell of a lot more open-minded than you
were in your review. In fact, it's not really a
review at all, it's a case study in anti-religious
Actually, Griff, I was off by 1,976 books if you’re right, and, what the hell, I’m giving that one to you because I’m not nearly depressed enough to pull that disc from out from under my nice cool drink to listen to the commentary track.
Am I an anti-religious zealot? The religious zealots seem to think so.
Just having certain enemies says a lot of good things about you a person so, thanks. My prescription for you is that you say “twenty Dario Argentos from the early-mid seventies” for what ails you. Go with Jeebus.
subject: WHO ARE YOU?
I think the planet you came from is calling you home! I have read terrible reviews and you come close to having the worst. You must be friends with Tipper Gore. I know that this film is not for everyone. I am not defending the topic, but it's clear that you have not sat and watched someone you love die in the manner that Harry Stien would have. Yes I know what you would say to that, it's just cowardly. Walter the man has passed already, if the movie is not for you, don't watch it. There has been much talk of the moving performance of Eric Roberts, and the movie had a wonderful mixture of cast members. Grow up, get a new hobby, maybe be a volunteer for aids patients who have no family. SB
Well, Susan, if the mother ship ever comes for me, I’ll be ready. I did actually watch my father die a couple of years ago – what that has to do with a piece of ass-candy starring Eric Roberts, I’ll never know. Real charity, apropos of nothing, doesn’t advertise itself on Lifetime. I think you meant to send this letter to Oprah, though, so all’s forgiven again. What movie, by the way, are you writing about?
subject: Response to an Old Review
I stumbled upon your film review of the 2003 movie The Other Side of Heaven and just wanted to say to you that you might want to know a little bit about a religion before you go bashing it... you only sound like an idiot when you criticize a church you obviously no nothing about. In your review you
call the mormon church, (really named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) basically a church full of close minded, naive morons. To me you seemed the moron because you babble a bunch of b.s. and uneducated opinions of a truly christian organization. Next time you criticize a faith of millions worldwide you might study up a bit on their actual beliefs, and not go on aobut the common misunderstandings and rumors thought to be the "true mormon religion" by so many uneducated dolts. If you would like to
respond, please do.
Dear Mormon wacko,
Surely you don't think that I'm in the minority voice here, do you? I mean, let's be serious, you have some dangerous, half-illiterate, proudly-professed-to-be uneducated dude setting up a cult in Utah with tales of Lamanites and sheets of metal buried in New York, and Moroni/Nephi/Christ parading around the maize in rains of light, right?
Tell me about how black people get lighter-skinned when they get closer to Mormon. . . tell me about the secret names your women get that their husbands whisper to them to allow them access to your lonesome heaven. Scientology ain't got nothing on you guys, man.
Tell me who Nephi was? Tell me how an angel became first the Holy Ghost and then the Lord Christ in Joe Smith's seminal vision from 1821 or 1822 or 1823. Then tell me how it comes that mortals have the authority to meddle so calamitously with your inviolate holy scripture.
But you're right, all I have to go on is a read of your silly "Golden Bible" (except for the parts ripped off the King James Bible's Book of Isaiah: those parts are pretty bitchin') given me about twenty years ago by a couple of nice young, dead-eyed men in white shirts and black ties; the equally silly A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE; Roberts' STUDIES OF THE BOOK OF MORMON; a read of Martha Becks' LEAVING THE SAINTS; of Simon Southern's LOSING A LOST TRIBE; a read of Jon Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN' and, best, a few of Michael Quinn's hilariously spot-on refutations of your religion's basic tentpoles. You're dead on correct to notice that I'm not of the true faith.
I’m thinking, here, J. Ricks, that you’re peeved because Big Brutha has instructed you not to read anti-Mormon texts and, whoops, here’s one masquerading as a review of your favorite movie.
(I also enjoy HBO's "Big Love" series, proving that bad religion can make good entertainment instead of pieces of irresponsible, unfiltered shit like The Other Side of Heaven.)
I'm not willing to investigate Mormonism further, sad to confess, and if the best you've got for me is that I'm a moron, not you, well - I'm rubber and you're glue. I didn’t name any of my prophets “Moroni” after all. Sounds a little like a retarded pasta. Looking back, it seems like I was making the point that this film treats the non-believers in its audience like morons for not believing. If you feel as though that somehow translates into Mormons being morons, well, who'm I to argue so fine a point?
Let's agree to disagree, jm ricks, because you're not converting me and I'm not converting you.
I would however part by recommending that you educate yourself in defiance of your church leaders because, and I promise you this, no legitimate god wants actual sheep in his flock.
- Parting thought: I screened/discussed Brazil during this period, too, only to find that I didn’t like it anymore. I still like the Ministry of Information Retrieval bits, but the rest of it finally struck me as it’s struck Gilliam’s critics for years: busy to no end, confused, abrasive to no end – on and on. I see why it’s a cult film – as a giant “fuck you” to paperwork, it really enthralled the college-bound youth of me yesteryear – but the movie (the 144 min director’s cut) is laborious. Turns out I only still like three Gilliam flicks: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Now, granted, I haven’t seen Baron Munchausen in about ten years. . .
- Question of the hour: films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now.
July 28, 2006
-Foreword by Lodge Kerrigan, writer-director of Keane
-Introduction by Bill Chambers
-'Overture' by Walter Chaw
-Previously-unpublished reviews of The Future of Food, The Intruder (L'Intrus), Joyeux Noël, 9 Songs, Prozac Nation, and Reel Paradise
-"The Black Hole: United 93 and the New Nihilism," a book-exclusive essay by Alex Jackson
-Plus: reviews of over 230 films and year-end top 10 lists
July 21, 2006
In the meantime, though, amid well-wishes for the Hollywood Reporter mention and a couple of surprising notes from filmmakers that would probably like to remain anonymous (and one or two who won’t in a couple of lines), here’s an unofficial Reader Mail without much in the way of response from me. Came a point that I realized that reading, much less responding, to much of the psychotic hate mail I collect is one of those things that’ll drive me right away from this job in time. Self preservation in the form of willful ignorance – helluva business where knowing what to ignore is a prerequisite for longevity.
It’s a good time for this entry, though, given the release of M. Christ Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water: a good quarter of which is devoted to taking the piss out of critics. At the least he’s affected by the criticism (even if he hasn’t appeared to have heeded it), but I do wonder why he chose to target Manny Farber of all people for the source of his ire.
What’s really surprising to me is that I continue to get hate for my review of that piece of shit, The Sandlot.
Anyway, catch up with the mothersite (new reviews of Monster House, A Scanner Darkly, Lady in the Water, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Gabrielle, Porn King, and Nanny McPhee) in the interim and enjoy this lovely selection of Reader Mail.
I saw your review for The Sandlot. Your a real piece of work. Its a kids movie and you broke it down like you were fucking Ebert and Roeper. Get a fucking life.
And North Dakota State University beams with pride.
After reading your review of The Grudge, I decided not to go and see it at the cinema.
Recently I have had the opportunity to see it on dvd. And it was the most frightening film I have ever seen. I must have jumped out of my seat a dozen times.
Anyway, I just want to thank you for saving my life. Because if I had gone to that film and seen it on the big screen I would have had a heart attack and died.
Mr. Chaw, if you are arrogant enough to suggest that the Christian Bible is dumbed down for illiterates and the gullible, maybe you have some issues with Christianity to deal with. I honestly do not mind it when people don't share my beliefs. Who am I to tell them where to commit their souls? But they should at least be mature and respectful of the beliefs of others (mine included). Oh, I'm sorry. That counts for everyone except the Christians, correct?
Which version of the Christian Bible? The Good News version or the Bibles Made Easy version? How about the idea that early translators of said survey mythology took into consideration the conversion and awe-ing of illiterates? Ah, never mind. By the way, it’s not all that mature to do that rhetorical question thingy. Ah, never mind again.
Hey Walter, I suggest that you tone down the "Englishness" of your criticism of X-Men 3. Why don't you just simply say that the movie lacks luster and appeal instead of going through something like "the director has this obsessive-compulsive, egotistical desire to create a grand statue of himself in the halls of Hollywood fame"? These are not your words, but that's similar in tone to the way you write.
The reason why many read Roger Ebert and why he is a Pulitzer-award winner is that he avoids glossy language. This does not mean that you cannot be metaphorical. Your "Michael Bay's Schindler's List" is awesome. But to fill your entire critique with a lot more gloss than what is required can turn off readers, or worse: it can create a mistaken impression that you write THAT way merely to get attention, in the same way that Ratner has created the impression that he's such a godly director by helming X-Men..
You have mastery of the English language; your vocabulary is deep, which is really admirable, but if you wanna reach out to the masses, I suggest that you trim down what would otherwise be mere surplusage.
I hope that you take this advice from me, a simple English college professor. Simple words which strike a chord so clear make much more sense than a thousand words conjured to create a foxhole.
You have something like 200 choices a week for Pulitzer Prize-winning prose describing X3 as “lackluster” – you have only a very few, like FFC if I do say so, that presume of their readers a basic education and ration of outrage and taste while even bothering to consider the mainstream. For us, the idea is that it takes no insight to laud the canon: for us the real trick is to find the sublime in the mundane without the passage of thirty years time. You should consider teaching complex English instead of “simple English”, Gerard, you can learn simple English any old place.
Your review on X-Men:The Last Stand was outrageous. Your vocabulary alone shows that either A.) you try too hard to sound like you know what you're talking about or B.) you do know what you're talking about and was obviously looking for some deep inner ladened message from a comic book adaptation. Seems like you really have it out for Bratner. But what bothers me is...what's with all the sexuality talk? You took the movie to a whole other level that no one else is even thinking about, let alone applying. However, I do give you kudos for catching my attention. I walk away from your review thinking...WTF?
I read your review of X-Men 3, and I believe you complety missed the point that it is a summer "popcorn" movie. It's meant to be entertaining, not a social commentary or a commentary of anything for that matter. It's the kind of movie where you can turn your brain off for 2 hours and simply enjoy the ride. I can't even begin to understand how you could try to compare X3 with Schindler's List, on any level. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, and having an opinion is actually a part of your job, but I doubt many moviegoers will go see X3 looking for deep thruths about today's society. I believe critics should review movies for what they are (in this case a mindless action extravaganza), not what they want them to be.
Eric Paquette Eric_Paquette@Intuit.com
The weird implication being (among many weird implications) that I wanted X3 to be Schindler’s List.
Your review of x3 was one of the most pretentious, poorly-founded reviews I have ever read. Please only review films in the vein of "Pride and Prejudice" from now on which you can commend for their strong female leads. I can't believe you ended that talking about how the kitty pryde character was wasted, good lord.
And the, um, Jamaican Music University (?) beams with pride.
Thank you. It was remarkably reassuring to read your review after seeing this really, really awful follow-up to two solid films. I went in a group of twelve, all big comic book geeks in some degree, and my girlfriend and I were the only ones walking out asking any questions. Conversations as such made me disappointed in humanity:
Me: "Right, she was really uber-powerful. But the entirety of her character had to do with being controlled by men."
Friend A: "Well, she was too powerful, she had to be."
Me: "Too powerful? To threaten the male characters, maybe. To allow for anything other than being penetrated to kill her."
Friend A: "..."
Friend B: "You need to get out more, man."
I just hang my head. Keep fighting the good fight.
I've just come across your review of the new X-Men film (I can hardly bear to call this a "film"), and I just wanted to say "Congratulations." You have eloquently put into words all the thoughts I have had over the last 48 hours after seeing this movie, and how it rages in my head. You've hit the nail on the head, and anyone who actually appreciates "filmmaking" such as this is really devoid of any brain capacity, intelligence and empathy. This movie is not just Ratner's fault (though he contributes heavily), this movie is everyone's fault. Everyone involved in making this picture deserves heavy criticism, for letting what was initially a thoughtful, dramatic, intelligent throughline of the first two pictures disappear under the weight of blockbuster expectation and hubris. This movie is not only a disaster, it's an insulting, offensive disaster, with misogyny and (dare I say it) masochistic treatment of its women, and nearly everyone else. I don't know how I got through 'Red Dragon,' but I can't see myself ever submitting to another movie "by" this man (or should I say, man-child), and the state that Fox and producers (yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Jackman) have let this third film sink into is a travesty. Anyone who actually "likes" this movie needs serious help, preferably education (in cinema and life), and a brain that actually works.
Keep on fighting the good fight.
I just wanted you to know that I saw Superman Returns tonight and I couldn't agree with you more! Bryan Singer really knows character development (as substance) over visual effects. The effects were awesome set pieces, but without solid acting, storyline, and attention to detail, that's all you're left with. That is what made the first two X Men fillms so great. It's too bad Roger Egbert didn't see the film the same way. He probably should seen it again.
Brian M. Dayton, OHthx1138gl@yahoo.com
Walter -- Having seen Superman Returns last night, I jumped on rotten tomatoes.com today to see what the "expert" reviewers had to say. Coincidentally to the film, I did not want to feel "alone in the world" about my thoughts on the film. After reading several, I finally got to yours. It will be the last. No other reviewers seem to get any of the mythological and archetypal aspects of the film. I feel like sending all of them copies of The Power of Myth although I doubt most of them would read it. Most assumed the "christ-like" elements were some sort of right wing propaganda, forgetting all of the pagan references and that maybe -just maybe that the elements within the christ mythos represents something altogether more meaningful than wearing khakis to church on Sunday and the republican party. I'm a huge fan of reconciling myth/religion to the present day human condition and like you found this movie a bold and poetic statement. Thanks for putting into words my feelings about the film. Oh, pardon my literary ignorance, but what did you mean by the phrase "poet of the devil's part.."?
Eric Tidball Cyclopean1@aol.com
Blake called Milton a poet of the devil’s part without knowing it as he was illuminating a text of “Paradise Lost”.
.....fantastic job on putting Superman Returns into a glowing review that is both literate and filled with in-depth explanations about Brian Singer's use of mythology, iconic images, and the super hero as martyr and godlike being at the same time. On top of it all your writing is just terrific! Also, thanks for just lauding it for what a great piece of movie work it is. I think the public at large is bound to embrace it big time!
In the future I will definitely be looking out for your name at the bottom of any other in-depth review I might happen to find myself enjoying as much as I did this one. Kudos indeed!!
Arthur Offen, Cambridge, MA
I enjoy your site but with your opening quote of "Aquirre" in your "Oldboy" review you reveal the central plot point and one of the best twists I've ever seen in a flick. As a critic you should realize that's a big no-no. I'm glad I didn't read your review till after I'd seen the film, otherwise I would have been plenty pissed. You should change that or put a spoiler warning in, as a simple courtesy to your readers.
Ah, bullshit, Harold. I suspect that you’re just writing to prove that you caught an allusion. Again, here, the idea is that you can go any number of places; scores of places, to get the kind of review that you’re interested in – if you want to talk about Oldboy in terms of the Oresteia and Aguirre, you’ve got a handful. Let’s not snuff out the handful – we’ll snuff through attrition soon enough.
walter, say it isn't so?! you've been the only critic i've trusted for years. your clear-eyed thrashing of overrated movies (napoleon dynamite, garden state, love actually, cold mountain, sith, million dollar baby, crash -i could go on) has been a godsend. you've been there to ease my bad film bitterness, your scathing reviews have provided needed morning after validation, and you've saved me from much cinematic suffering. but now, i am shaken.
please, please tell me you were either drunk or just had some sort of emotional chat with your pa before you wrote about superman, cuz buddy.....it sucked! please watch it again and make sure you didn't feel it was ungodly boring, too long, had no chemistry or tension, and key characters were woefully miscast (i'm talking about you miss bosworth, ye who is to lois lane what sandra bullock is to lauren bacall ). i mean, didn't you feel the whole movie was rather unappealing: from the washed out murky look, to kate bosworth's frail thinness, to superbaby's 'special child' lilt, to the fact that superman was stalking and trying to lure lois away from her family! yuck! and the big superbaby revelation, wow, who saw that coming?! there wasn't anything in this movie that wasn't telegraphed; there was no wit, no sense of any real peril at any point, no spunk, no spirit, no colorful costumes, NO FUN. superman goes to the ER, maybe in the next installment he and lois can go to couples counseling. count me out. and please, please walter, tell me you've reconsidered this film, even just a little, because i feel like i just caught you in bed with bryan singer and our relationship is on the line.
okay, i'm mostly just venting. you are still my favorite critic, by far, but, god, i hate to say it, i think roger made the call on this one. thanks for all the good times,
HA! That’s brilliant.
Hi there Senor Chaw,
I just wanted to pop in and write a quick note of thanks for so ably articulating the things that I found moving about this film, from an intellectual, moral, and emotional place. I held off reading your review prior to the film, partly because I tend to find your arguments well thought out enough to make me at least see your point of view, even if I don't always agree. I read several other reviews before seeing this film though, and I somewhat expected a by the books, interesting but not challenging summer film.
Amazingly, this is not what I got, but rather a subtle, underplayed, and melancholic (as you say) look at nostalgia.
When I was a child (we're talking like five here, I'm not a weirdo, hehe) I used to dress up as superman and ask people if they "cared to step outside." The iconography of Superman was etched into my consciousness from an early age, and it is true that upon hearing the Williams score again it brought up overwhelming emotions of memory.
And then, the story begins, and instead of this comic, lighthearted, and superficial of good guy vs. bad guy I get this very real (to sad effect often) portrait of a mythic hero put in a world which is not mythic. When Clark steps back into the office for the first time, the sheer number of computers, the hurried workers, and the BUSINESS of the daily planet seems so much more prominent than any of the earlier films. It's what a paper really is, isn't it? At least nowadays, it's what sells not, often, what is important. Blackout - means nothing when you've got this sensationalistic piece to be covered by EVERY fact of the media juggernaut.
I lost my father several years back, and perhaps that is why the heart of this movie rings so true. I think that every son faces the desire of the father to imprint himself on his son. Sometimes this is what the sons want, sometimes not, but it is always hard once a father is gone (our parents are our first gods aren't they) and we don't have a model anymore in this physical plane to instruct, wisely or unwisely.
Of course this is my own personal experience speaking, but I find the difficulty inherent in the struggle of this alien to be very real and very true. He tries for five years to find his home, and when he returns, the place he thought was his home has moved on. His real father his dead, as is his surrogate, the people he loved in disguise and otherwise have moved on too.
But, in the end, I think his son allows for hope and perhaps that's what the most moving thing about this film is. Within his son there is a chance for a true home, even if it's not for himself, and I think that's about the truest _expression of love a father could give to a son.
Well . . . um . . .that was more than just a quick email. Ultimately, just wanted to say thanks for recognizing the surprising depth of this film, in a sea of critics who seem to have no clue.
Take it easy, have a great weekend!
P.S. BTW Prometheus brought two things to humanity, in the original myth, and people always forget the second: blind hope.
Actually, his brother, Epimetheus, was the one who married Pandora and, through his provence, allowed the box be opened, springing Hope on mankind. Prometheus warns his brother of his new bride (a subtle revenge exacted by Zeus), but Epimetheus, having no foresight, marries her anyhow.
Ubiquitous salutation but oddly appropriate considering the subject matter. Dear? hold-over from the era of Superman's first appearance on our planet. Walter, after reading your review I can honestly say to you dear(italics on dear) Walter.
Upon leaving the theater last night, I was disconcerted--I knew there was great mythic depth in the
overt Christ-iconography and allusion--the Prometheus ref. and Atlas vignette. But, the grand deep hole of
echoing emptiness--yes alienation--confused me. Still connected to my own (loud)everyday world and expectation of big screen cinematography and that old wry (Donneresque)wit I just couldn't sort it out.
Plus, the sheer ballsiness of the dead-center Christopher Reeve knock-off performance made me a little angry. I had hoped for an expansion.
Expansion, it seems, however, was there, just not in the portrayal. In the EMPTINESS.
Thanks for your thorough exegesis.
I think this is not a hate mail and also in English.
Hello There Walter,
I was just browsing thru reviews and came across yours for Nacho Libre. As I'm guessing your NOT a Napoleon Dynamite fan (and I have some opinons regarding that movie as well) , I can understand where you would see Nacho as a harsh movie that only stupid people would pay money to see. I still go to the movies expecting my "citizen kane" and I understand that these days, those movies are harder and harder to come by. I don't think for one moment ANYONE walks into a movie like Nacho expecting anything other than a movie to forget about life for awhile. I can also agree that fart jokes are much, but to say in the
"Battle Royale towards the end of the film features a tall black wrestler named "Snowflake" and a Chinese guy named "El Chino"--satire, if you want to call it that, of either the lubricated showiness of pro wrestling or the callow stupidity of the audience for the same"
...these people are REAL wrestlers. All of them down to the duo of little people (actually a father, son team in mexico.) They ALL take their jobs seriously, and told me (I will get to that later) that Nacho Libre was one of the only films that respected that. Nacho never won a fight up until the end (and YES liberties had to be taken at that point to give the movie a happy ending, but they weren't easily overpowered and Nacho's character learns that)
I also think this movie (as well as Dynamite) does something that hasn't been done in a LONG TIME. Make a movie that children, as well as their parents WANT to go see, and can go see together and there is no fear of nudity, or profanity, blood, etc..Please don't think me prude (I'm not but ANY stretch of the imagination) but I think we've become so desenstized to what's shown in movies these days, that I find a movie that can deliver humor, and touching content refreshing (and yes this is in the eye of the beholder...I liked the message Nacho delivers at the end)
I, myself found alot more in it the second time viewing. I think something you failed to see in Napoleon (if I might go back to that movie a second) and which can also resonate in Nacho as well...is that Napoleon's character might be "geeky" but in NO WAY did he ever let himself feel that. He didn't LET himself be bullied (which is a BIG difference) He was a strong character that happened to live that life in that town. He was odd, but he had friends. I think the point in Dynamite is that all the "odd" characters you saw were people who were just going thru the motions in life. When his grandmother got injured, it showed that she had more of a social life than he or his brother, or uncle did. By the end of Napoleon each of these characters were happy and working towards making their lives better ( I don't see how that message also says that these people are slow witted and must be laughed at) Even as he garnered respect from the school at the end of the movie, I never once felt sorry for him or thought this is cruel.
Okay, so I'm not here to change your opinions about anything, or tell you how wrong you are for disliking these two movies (but I think they should be watched again with an open mind). I wanted to say thanks for what you wrote about me in Nacho Libre. It's a simple thank you that you took the time to know who I was before you put me in your review.
"but its one saving moment is ineffably Chuck & Buck-like: an amorous senorita (Carla Jimenez) pursues Nacho's sidekick Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez) through a series of "secret tunnels" unaccountably burrowed into the walls of a palatial villa. The image of it is so delightfully bizarre that all at once the forced, almost Brechtian, artificiality of the piece comes clear as intent rather than sloth--if only for a moment"
just so you know...Star wars (at the drive inn with my family...I believe i was 2yrs old ) was the first movie I saw as well) –
But what of the “brown face” of Black’s portrayal? What is the source of humor in Napoleon Dynamite? The heroes’ perseverence in the face of adversity – or their humilation at the hands of the very group or tormentors from which they desire acceptance? And what of Pedro?
I have been reading your reviews, off and on, for a couple of years. While I generally agree with you when you dislike a movie, I find that I disagree with you pretty much every time you like a movie (you have a unique knack for dropping all criticism when you are predisposed towards liking a particular director and/or actor - see your favorable review for the travesty that is "A Scanner Darkly", or your inexplicable acceptance of the awful "Lost in Translation").
However I find your reviews very repetitive. I imagine that if a person were to gather all your reviews and remove the words "racist", "homophobic", and "misogynist", they would easily lose half their length. You have discussed being Asian; your proclivity for calling everything you see "homophobic" suggests to me that you are gay; but I find it difficult to believe you are a woman. Perhaps you can understand my confusion. I can explain away the inanity that leads you to label anything you don't like with the first
two epithets by guessing that you have a persecution complex. But the last confuses me much more greatly.
One is left wondering what your perfect movie would be like (barring, of course, the inclusion of any actors or directors you fawn over). Apparently nobody Asian could be involved, because if anything negative happened to them - as often does to people in life - it would be racist. If there were a gay person involved and they were not portraying Jesus (or Mother Teresa), it would be homophobic. And if there were women involved who were anything less than the President of the United States ... well, we all know what
would happen. Perhaps you should watch that horrible Geena Davis show? I understand later this year our illustrious fake female president will be suggesting an amendment to make gay marriage not only legal, but
One wonders where you would find the anger to write such scathing reviews without your persecution complex and bizarre attitude towards equal treatment for women (after all, if women are equal, should they not be equal targets for humor?). So by all means keep foaming at the mouth and decrying every film you see that isn't shot on 8mm by a Norwegian transsexual for $3.00 as propaganda for the white male power system. Perhaps such a conspiracy theory explains why you were delisted from rottentomatoes.com
Straight White Male Oppressor #1178
Walter’s film critic career alive and well and living in hell. Rottentomatoes personal page alive and well, too – the rest of it is also bizarre, cross-eyed badger shit.