I’m asked sometimes at these speaking events that I do if I ever get inured to the effect of films and the answer was always “of course not” until it was, suddenly, “yes, I just don’t care, anymore.” What I lost, see, was this steadfast optimism every single time I went to the movies that the movie could surprise me – there came a point where I was in fact certain that most movies could not, and would not even try to, surprise me. Is that the movies I had to see in 2005 – or is that me?
Here’s FFC’s Top Ten list for 2005. Open to chatting about what is, and isn’t, on the list.
In that spirit, Ebert wrote a long, interesting, angry defense of Crash that has already sparked a little debate in the last thread for its various and sundry wrong-headed stances and refusal to acknowledge any kind of validity in the opposition viewpoint. But this is what bothers me about the piece – and it has something to do, too, with his zero-star review of Wolf Creek - Ebert talks a mean game about misogyny, but in calling Sarah Silverman “honey” in his review of Jesus is Magic, or by saying that Jenny McCarthy “has a technologically splendid bosom that should, in my opinion, be put to a better use than being vomited upon” in his Dirty Love review raises my eyebrow a little. Particularly as McCarthy has long-spoken of what her decision to get implants has done to her health and self-esteem - her decision to have her breasts vomited on, speaks to me of some kind of pain. Perhaps exactly the kind of pain that Mr. Ebert's "better uses" visited upon her throughout her life in the public eye, as it were.
Anyway, Alex defends Crash eloquently as imagistic – Ebert defends it as popular and embraced by "real" people. By that exact logic – I do wonder how it was that March of the Penguins didn’t share billing at the top of his list. And how Taco Bell avoids being tops in the Zagat survey year after year.
But, look, see, look here, more in Ebert’s essay in which he describes Bullock’s character in a certain scene: “She has just been carjacked at gunpoint and is hysterical”. Is she? Is “hysterical” still a term that we use without caution and irony? Or, in fact, is it a better condemnation of the film than a defense of it? Isn’t the argument that the picture indulges in that which it seeks to address? Hysterical rich white women. Check. The problem with the statement is the same one that I have with Crash, see, it’s a guy not examining his own fairly ugly predispositions by fooling himself into believing that by condemning Wolf Creek for the "right" reasons, for instance, that he is.
Tony Danza and Mr. Howard in Crash's best scene
And now, look, again: “As a black man in Los Angeles, Howard's character is fully aware that when two white cops stop you for the wrong reason and one starts feeling up your wife, it is prudent to reflect that both of the cops are armed and, if you resist, in court you will hear that you pulled a gun, were carrying cocaine, threatened them, and are lying about the sexual assault.” I wonder if that’s a checklist that the LAPD gives new recruits or if it’s Ebert’s fantasia about law and order in the City of Angels.
In other words, wow. You can make an argument that the world of Crash certainly supports that idea because it’s a vile piece of reductive middlebrow pandering – or you can say that Ebert’s playing both sides against the same middle as the film. His appreciation of the picture is easier to understand in that context. His grateful agreement in his Answer Man column to the fawning defense offered by a reader of his 2.7 star average rating (I’m actually floored that it’s that low – but then, I don’t know what mine is) is easier to understand, too. He offers that he doesn’t give more bad reviews because he doesn’t see as many bad movies like, for instance, Aeon Flux which, of course, he hasn’t bothered to see to know. He says that he goes out of his way to seek out small, independent films to champion and so, implicit in that, small and independent films are naturally always better (or that he artificially inflates his ratings for small films) and so, therefore, he rates more good films than bad and that’s why Cheaper by the Dozen 2 got 3 stars.
Cheaper by the Dozen 2, by the way is one of the most misogynistic and hateful pictures to come around since the last time someone with a “technologically splendid bosom” was made the butt of a weird, mildly disgusting (suggestions of bestiality) joke in a kid’s flick. (Was it Kangaroo Jack? I tend to block these things out.)
Speaking of which sort of – my reviews of Broken Lizard’s Puddle Cruiser and Dukes of Hazzard (the latter of which actually changed my feelings about Jessica Simpson) – and of Mel Brooks’ 1968 The Producers which I gotta’ say, I just don’t get and/or like. Travis weighs in on Disney’s latest DTV cash grab Kronk’s New Groove - and Alex takes a bite out of The Flesh Eaters
And so we move on into the New Year – older, and sadder.
Currently reading Edmund Morris’ exceptional Theodore Rex and listening to the Nouvelle Vague covers album suggested by Rachel way back down there somewhere. Thanks, Rachel, it fucking rocks.
Here’s the capture, carry on:
Hot off the Presses (January 10)
Went to a filled-screening of Glory Road last night - was sort of like going to an arena to watch a Harlem Globetrotters match: the winner of it predetermined and the athletics the very sort of sideshow that the picture ostensibly disdains, with a crowd as primed and ready as that for a professional wrestling match. After much talk of the inferiority of "nigger ball" and the inability of the black athlete to embrace the nuances of the game, the African-American heroes are getting trounced until turned loose to play "their game" and whup up on the crackers. After an ebonics lesson in which "bad" is explained to the honkey as "good" ("but then, what's good?" "HA HA HA, oh, Cracker") and a lot of tap-dancing around how the players on the UTEP campus were treated like prisoners so that they wouldn't infect the student body, comes my favorite scene on a bus in which all the players have little transistor radios with which they teach one another about the squareness of white culture and the grooviness of black. The cherry on top? When power-forward Lattin produces a giant speaker. Yeah, baby, MLK might be two years from getting popped, but the brothers already had the boom boxes.
Much talk of the "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres" peppers the "good-natured" trash talk conjured up by our Munich-ian power martyrs (and a pre-game bleachers rah-rah by our fearless bwana includes "they said it, not me" classics like "you're athletes, but so are monkeys!"), but whenever there's a genuine cultural misunderstanding about Harlem by a farmboy who's never seen an African-American ("Boy! We ain't all from Harlem!" - no matter that one of them has as his dream job a gig starting for the 'trotters), or even a hint of a moment of surprise or a raised 'brow cast their way, the soundtrack gets all gospel on us. What I really like is how they make the 1966 game more exciting by inserting off-the-glass alley-oops and reverse-dunks (a Harlem Globetrotters performance, in other words - or the NBA circa 1990-now). Remember the Hoosiers, as Bill coined post-trailer, and it's actually worse. Sieg heil, my bruthas! Be afraid.
Back at the muthasite, Travis sings the blues as he assails the inimitable Ms. Ross (did you hear that she's dating Jon Voight? Gave my brain a charley horse for four straight hours) trying to imitate the inimitable Billie Holliday while being wooed by Mr. Smooth, himself, that treacherous, irredeemable, token of an ass-fucker, Lando Calrissian. He get's to be a general for selling Han into carbonite and wanting to abandon Luke on that weather vane and Chewbacca gets to be the dog. Shoulda' known a long time ago, man. George Lucas sucks.
Hot off the Presses (January 10, late)
Okay - so Kevin Reynolds' Tristan & Isolde looks exactly like his Robin Hood (does any other working director like back-lighting as much as this yahoo?) - and plays more than a little like the world's longest, most inscrutable perfume commercial.
Hot off the Presses (January 11)
Bill provides the DVDetails on Wes Craven's Red Eye and, fresh as a daisy, what appears to be the first national review of Tristan & Isolde. Remember what I said about January and vacations?
Peoples' Choice Award Results:
Female movie star: Sandra Bullock.
• Male movie star: Johnny Depp.
• Leading lady: Reese Witherspoon.
• Leading man: Brad Pitt.
• Female action star: Jennifer Garner.
• Male action star: Matthew McConaughey.
• On-screen matchup: Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson (in "Wedding Crashers").
• Movie comedy: "Wedding Crashers."
• Movie drama: "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."
• Family movie: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." •
Movie: "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."