January 09, 2006

Notes from the Trenches

A difficult week – not screening schedule, that doesn’t start up again in earnest until this coming week – but dealing with the death in our FFC family and the uncertainty that arises whenever existential issues are bounced around. Lots of new films to see in the next week, and I’ll be honest that I don’t know how many of them I’m going to actually venture out to see. The way I felt by the last couple of months of last year isn’t something I want to revisit. I should be clearer. I should say that I'll see as many of the films as I can, but I want to move away from the self-imposed tyranny of producing 500-800 words on everything that comes out on the day that it comes out. I believe, after all, that your lists don't mean that much (as a professional who is expected to) if you don't see a good portion of the films that come out every year - but I also feel like I'm starting to write the same pans for all the movies that are bad in the same way. Five years at FFC and there's not much left for me to cannibalize before I get to the important bits.

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."


Jack_Sommersby said...

Screenshot (though I know I'm 98% incorrect):

Morvern Callar?

Walter_Chaw said...

Holy crap - well, hail to the 2%, Jack. See what I get when I try to make it a little harder? Humiliated.

This is from Lynne Ramsay's remarkable Morvern Callar starring one of my favorite actresses: Samantha Morton. Saw her interviewed on the Graham Norton Effect a while back and was surprised that she didn't float a foot off the ground and smell faintly of gingerbread. Of course, she might have smelt faintly of gingerbread unbeknownst to me. The film, if you haven't seen it, is a masterpiece of ennui and escape.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Bud, seriously, I haven't seen this film. I wanted to, but it never played in Denton when it was released, and it wasn't for rent at the Payless or Hasting's video-store chains around here when it did make its home-video debut. But I knew enough of its story from the reviews I'd read, apparently, to harbor this guess. Hell, I tried finding a photo of a scene from it from the reviews at imdb.com, and stopped short after 2 unsuccessful tries. I vaguely recalled Morton's atypical dark- and long-hair job from a photo I saw at the time of release, and the character's sense of isolation, and that film just popped into my mind.

Morton is undoubtedly a screen treasure, and I can't tell you how long she stayed in my mind after first seeing her in Sweet and Lowdown. And dare I? OK, I will: I went absolutely agog with the Pause button on my remote with her brief full-frontal nude scene in the excellent Jesus' Son!

Jefferson said...

Samantha Morton = my girlfriend.

Walter, although I know it got an honorable mention, your original review of Batman Begins was as close to a rave as I've read from you. I expected it to garner a number. My second viewing of it left me less impressed than the first, although I appreciated its cycle-of-terror didacticism dressed up in funny costume. (That's what SF and fantasy do best -- cast our world in a funhouse mirror.) I wonder if it was a repeat viewing that dimmed its excitement for you as well?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Motherfucker... I'm always late !

Alex Jackson said...

Walter, although I know it got an honorable mention, your original review of Batman Begins was as close to a rave as I've read from you. I expected it to garner a number.

I'm sure that it was a pretty close runner-up, the comments about it being the movie Munich seem to still speak highly of it.

If you ask me, his review of Sin City read even more like a rave but I know that that diminished a bit in his second viewing.

Jesus, I should let him respond.

Walter_Chaw said...

no worries - yeah, watched both again and both dimished. Especially Sin City which began to strike me as the kind of hermetically sealed perfection that impresses mainly as both an interesting exercise and a fascinating example of what happens when a good director (or a director perfect for a particular project) gets ahold of a lot of mediocre-to-bad actors. Hitchcock, for instance, and dead weight like Rod Taylor and Kim Novak - says a lot for the process. That's what I liked so well about King Kong, I think, is that Jackson doesn't make the process the point.

I had the most trouble with King Kong, in fact - that and Batman Begins were for me Hollywood's best hope this year to crack the top ten - but I can't imagine that a second viewing or, especially, a viewing outside of a theater would hold the same kind of breathless wonder that the first did in-theater and a look at Batman Begins at home, even at top volume, began to feel a little clinical to me.

My calling it the best Munich of the year is still not garlanding it with flowers, after all.

Fact of the matter is that I didn't get the Sin City DVD when it first came out because I knew that there'd be a special edition of it in a couple of months - and by the time those couple of months elapsed, I just didn't care anymore. It didn't plant any seeds - and though I'd go to the sequels even if I didn't have to go, I don't have that burning desire in my gut to see them like I do to see, say, the new Dardennes bros. flick or, to tell you the truth, the new Singer Superman Returns, the teaser for which I just saw.

I'm a sucker for the good blockbuster - I tend to rave on about them. But the nature of most blockbusters is that initial adrenaline jolt to the cinematic pumper, isn't it? I find myself more and more cooling faster and faster after initial elation. For that initial elation, though, I don't regret the initial reviews. Comes time at the end of the year to speculate on the best and, crucially for me, the eternal films (the ones that TCM will be showing in thirty years), I feel (and this drives Alex a little crazy, I know) that it's not the star-ratings and the raves so much as the extent to which I'm haunted (and may continue to be haunted).

Boy - that sounds a little like Ebert, don't it?

Bill G said...

Regarding Ebert and Wolf Creek - I remember reading his review of The General's Daughter in 1999 when he hated on it for the rape scene, which apparently was too much for him. I know people change in 3 decades - I'm curious how he would rate The Last House on the Left if he saw it today (he gave it 3.5/4 stars when it came out).

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Oh MAN ! I just caught "Jesus's Son" on IFC the other day. I couldn't believe how good that movie was. Billy cudrup has to be one of the most under-rated actors. I don't care what anyone thinks, I think he ruled the roost in "almost famous" too.

I must say, I was very surprised to see Sin City, Batman Begins & Oldboy all the way at the bottom. There may be other reasons in this case but I always find that films that provide visceral pleasure are usually chastised into a corner by internet critics when it comes to end-of-the-year lists. Yet these same films will be worn as medals and called "masterpeices", "cult classics" and "hidden gems" ten years from now. Just don't understand why. Of course, I understand that Malick films and something like 3-iron (delighted to see that on the list by the way) have a tendency to stick longer and play better in memory, maybe because of their oblique structures and elliptical narratives. After all, it ain't no fun putting a jigsaw together when you can see the picture in the head but I still don't see that as a reason to leave a film hanging in dry just because it entertains the "lower" quadrants of our taste. Maybe it is done as a reaction to the insipid paper critics... correction, entertainment writers but I don't know... I prefer individualism over rebellion.

Other than that, it's a solid list. Better than most I have seen yet, even though I'm missing a few titles, all the ones I loved are up there.

p.s. 2046 made it on Travis's list. That's only noticable one that most defintely made my list, even though I don't have a list.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Ok... now I feel like a dick because it took me so long to write my last blog that responsive posts got blogged even before I finished mine. Sweet irony.

Walter_Chaw said...

Bill put Oldboy up there at #2 on his list - love the comment that if you blenderized his list, it'd come out looking a little like Park Chan-wook's flick.

I think Oldboy is pretty great stuff: heady, even - but am having a hard time with it in my memory. Unlike Head-On for instance (a consensus on FFC's lists this year) which I saw a long, long time ago (late 2004) - and still think about all the time. Ditto 3-Iron.

And Keane, man, I must think of parts of that film every day. It's like that bit in Citizen Kane about the little girl in the white dress. Not a day goes by that I don't think of. . . yeah. Sometimes it just feels right in the rearview - sometimes in the headlights - but when it feels right in both is when you try to pin it to the board.

Wish I'd seen Los Angeles Plays Itself from Travis' list - I contacted the filmmaker for a screener a few months ago but never heard back. Wish I'd seen L'intrus as well - didn't know that it'd squeezed in a week in NYC or I would've been more of an asshole about it. Claire Denis is just amazing.

Without giving too much away (go read the list!) I appreciated the quiet thrashing of the unassailable Hou Hsiou-Hsien and the equally unassailable Aardman. Also enjoyed the picture of the bear.

Carl Walker said...

Hey Walter, weren't you saying just a month or so ago that we should give Hou a chance? I take it he's been on his way down since the one (Mambo) I couldn't stand (which is a scary thought). Anyway, I've been looking forward to your list; I plan to watch most of these eventually, having so far only seen two.

Chad Evan said...

Thanks a bunch for writing the only coherent and thoughtful review of the Dukes of Hazzard I've read (just because the movie isn't either of those things doesn't mean that the reviews shouldn't be. That should be obvious, but alas--.) You read my frickin' mind--I was thinking Soul Plane as I read your review, and sure enough, you caught it. The comparison is most sad in that The Dukes of Hazzard probably did more business in my little corner of the Red Clay Hills than any film since Soul Plane. The whites and blacks in my town can rest secure that they can all get together joyfully now, as any impulse to disparage each other has been buried under the rush to disparage themselves. Oh well, I'm off to watch O Brother Where Art Thou and regain my sense of humour.

Rich said...

Re: Sin City:

Anyone seen the new 'recut and extended' (or whatever they've called it) version? Curious to hear from anyone who's seen both versions and would like to give their two cents or from anyone who's heard the commentary tracks (Miller/Rodriguez, Rodriguez/Tarantino - drool).

Also, while I'm at it, anyone heard the Peter Jackson commentary on the new DVD of The Frighteners?

Anonymous said...

There's something about your year-end retrospectives, Walter, that always sort of nags at me. You always try to make the year in movies about the zeitgeist. I wouldn't be stubborn enough to argue with you that there are no trends in film -- in fact, most of the time I would agree with your observations in that regard. But there are times, when you co-opt stuff like King Kong and The Incredibles, that I have to call shenanigans. Both of those films were being developed long before the social ills they were supposed to exemplify could even be observed. The only reason King Kong came out in 2005 is because it's two years after 2003, which is when Jackson finished up his Hobbit trilogy. These things are not written in a vacuum, I know, but I'm sure that a lot of what is essential about them had to be there from the very beginning, and it seems kind of... it makes me uncomfortable, I guess you could say, when you use them for evidence of any sort of trend in cinema. Could be, but I'm skeptical, and it makes me wonder to what extent we all just see what we want to see. Is that your problem? Not really. But I wanted to get it off my chest. No disrespect intended, I still like this place more than I don't.

Sano Cestnik said...

Must agree a bit with the above post. I think the social observations say as much about the writer as they do about the society, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Very solid Top Ten lists, as every year, but i still haven't seen some of the films.
Ah, the screenshot was Morvern Callar! Still haven't seen that one. But I agree with you guys on Samantha Morton. She played in two of the best films of 1999, and last month I saw "Under the Skin" from 1997 (the reason why Woody Allen gave her the role) and she rocks. Jesus' Son is sooo underappreciated, and i too discovered what a terrific actor Billy Crudup is through this one. But the real gem is "Sweet and Lowdown", imo the best film by Woody Allen!

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah - I hear that sometimes. More in regards to films that are based on books or remakes than anything else. What strikes me as interesting are the convergences of ideas, though, no matter how long something's in the pipeline. I'm not sure how I "co-opted" King Kong, really, but I do recall saying about things like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles that I thought that they'd always be interesting in any time, but are especially interesting given the times in which they're released and embraced. No one would argue that Die Hard 3 was made as a response to 9/11, for example (that it was made years before not the least of it; ditto: Armageddon), but its popularity in the months immediately post-9/11 says something about the zeitgeist, wouldn't you say?

Because in any given year we're helplessly "modern" audiences - what I mean is that we're always of the time in which we see films - then the way that we collectively respond to the ideas embedded in pictures is fair game in an analysis of them. Did George Lucas intend Sith to be a critique of the Bush Iraq policy and time it to coincide with a bunch of similar-minded films in 2005? Doubtful. I'd question Lucas' ability to choose his own pants. But sure enough, Sith comes out in 2005 after being in the pipes for a couple of years and, sure enough, it's read - and not without basis - as venturing into the same fires as Syriana. (My theory is that Lucas, mired in the '70s, actually intended the film as a critique of Kissinger's Vietnam policy - just so happens that it translates.)

So what happened?

Well, zeitgeist happens. Two people who don't know each other across the world from one another invent the telephone at the same time and are hours apart in obtaining the patent for it. What happened? Both of them were working on it independently for years, right? Neither influenced by the other.

This talk of author intentionality. I like to say that AI is a good place to start a conversation and a terrible place to end it. I'm a fan of the auteur theory, of course, I think, by and large, that FFC is an auteurist-leaning publication and I'm comfortable with it that way - but I also think that a rigid adherence to auteurism leads to folks like Rosenbaum going on at length in a defense of that Jenna Elfman Looney Tunes flick - or Kael defending, hard, Mission to Mars. At some point you look at film - at any art - as something that's not defined by its creator so much as by a collective tide of images, themes, implications.

Why so many films last year about erasing/manipulating memory and so few this year? (Were there any?) Why so many films this year about home-invasion and torture and vengeance and so few last (there was Paparazzi, I recall, in 2004)? Surely not all of them were started at the same time - surely there was no intention that they fall into line within 12 months of one another.

Just happens.

I could offer a stab at why or how, but then I start to sound like some Carlos Castaneda flake. What I'd rather do is point at, say, 1974 for instance and ask you if you can mark any trends - knowing what you know about that year in world history. Or, let's go to 1945 - is there a convergence of ideas there? How about an easy one like 1968 - the year we lose MLK and RFK and Medgar Evers and so on and so forth (zeitgeist isn't just for films, you know, but films are the only area that I can remotely comment about) - why all these films in 1968 about, essentially, the same fear set; identical anxieties? It's not intentional - and it's not an accident, either. But it's also not as easy to dismiss as "reading in" and "seeing what you want to see."

It's easy to contextualize in retrospect - it's a lot harder to do it as it happens. So if I'm wrong about what the trend is in 2002, or 2004, or 2005 - I'm comfortable in making that mistake because, in the making of it, I'm at the least taking a stab at something I know's there. I might be blindfolded by proximity, yeah? But I know the pinata's about a foot away from my nose, whether I hit that fucker square or not.

Anonymous said...

No no, like I said, I think a lot of your observations about "the zeitgeist" make a lot of sense. And considering that these movies all take different amounts of time to develop, nailing down the origins of it are an inexact science, to say the least. But for certain stuff, like Kong and Incredibles, as I said, I just feel like those ARE coincidences more than anything else, and more than the other coincidences, if you know what I mean. I recognize that there's a convergence of ideas, I mean the script for Kong was banged out in the last two years by three or four different people, but I feel like those two movies would have been more or less the same had they been given the opportunity to come out in a different period of time. As for people's response to them? Don't know. That thing about Die Hard 3 and Armageddon being really popular post 9/11 is sort of interesting. As far as Kong goes, though, I wouldn't say it's all that popular right now anyway.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA - too true about Kong's popularity, a shame, too, as it's a lot more interesting than Narnia and its finger-wag at scientific reason (I liked the Lewis better in that at least it had the balls to be basically about co-opted pagan ritual) - what's interesting is that it, (Kong), more than many others, inspired some critics to shake off the cobwebs and actually write about what they perceived to be a trend (racism) in mainstream film. I guess what I'm gradually acknowledging in your post is that I do find (or don't find) what I look for when I go looking at the movies and am wondering if it isn't in that desire to find that "zeitgeist" (a supernatural seeming idea in the first place) exists. I mean, in truth, if you really believe in zeitgeist, you don't also believe in coincidences. I'd place me somewhere in the middle, I guess, but leaning towards the largely coincidence-free human universe.

But anyway, agree that Kong might largely have been the same if it were released last year or this or next (though the actually assembly (i.e. editing) of the film is all 2005, of course - look what happens to the meaning of The Empire Strikes Back for instance, when some asshole in the 00's re-edits portions of it) - we're still talking decade of the '00s, and not to be too equivocal, in thirty years we look back and, I think, we'll be able to contextualize the tumult in the film in the same way we place Bonnie & Clyde and Raging Bull in the '70s no matter their release date. Close counts in movies, too, I guess.

This all sounds very defensive, I realize, but I don't feel defensive about it. Stimulating conversation - for me it is, anyway.

Alex Jackson said...

but I also think that a rigid adherence to auteurism leads to folks like Rosenbaum going on at length in a defense of that Jenna Elfman Looney Tunes flick - or Kael defending, hard, Mission to Mars.

Not sure about Kael's defense. I'm just familiar with what she said in Afterglow where she said that it was "a very uneven, erratic movie" but that about half of it was superb and she didn't understand why more people didn't see that.

I can't help but wonder if you really meant Armond White's hard defense. He went so far as to say: "any reviewer who pans [Mission to Mars] does not understand movies, much less like them."

Uh, wow.

Also see their respective responses on "The Fury", which they both thought was a masterpiece and oversold the ending; but at least Kael didn't call it an orgasm and the "greatest ending in the history of movies".

James Allen said...

Bill G wrote:
Regarding Ebert and Wolf Creek - I remember reading his review of The General's Daughter in 1999 when he hated on it for the rape scene, which apparently was too much for him. I know people change in 3 decades - I'm curious how he would rate The Last House on the Left if he saw it today (he gave it 3.5/4 stars when it came out).

Ebert and rape, huh? Now that's an interesting subject. Despite admitting how difficult it was to watch, he gave 3-stars to Irreversible which easily contains the longest and most vile rape scene ever put on film.

Walter_Chaw said...

Oh, Mike Russell, how do you do it?

Give a peek at his insider-comic The Screening Rats - and believe that for as strange as it all seems over there, I have about a hundred other stories that are even odder.

James Allen said...


In regards to your feelings about the original and current screen versions of The Producers, I found it interesting the you liked Recording the Producers, which I remember seeing on PBS on a couple occasions. I guess outside of the stage braying you rightly criticize in the films, you still feel there is some fun to be had with some of the material in a more modest context. Although you do mention that you saw this doc before seeing the play, so I wonder if your enjoyment of it has been ruined after the fact.

jer fairall said...

Maaan! After reading these lists I need to see like nearly everything on them aside from Broken Flowers, Grizzly Man, Nobody Knows and 3-Iron. This is why I don't tend to do movie lists. With music, there are really no limits (save money, time) to acquiring everything I want to hear in a year, but with movies I'm a slave to DVD release dates.

That said, Nobody Knows and especially the phenomenal Grizzly Man are two that I suspect would make my Top 10 even if I saw enough of this year's films for that to be at all relevant, while Broken Flowers would be a solid runner-up. 3-Iron, I admit, was an interesting film that just did not click with me. It kind of made me feel the way that a lot of people I recommended Lost in Translation with such passion ended up feeling: "pretty, yes, but what the hell was it all about?"

My favorite '05 movies that don't seem to be on anyone elses lists: Mysterious Skin, Palindromes (though I suspect the latter will make Alex's).

Oh, and I must grudgingly admit that I really, really liked Brokeback Mountain. Part of this may have been my going in with a lot of the backlash criticisms firmly in mind, but the tragic romance worked for me. The most positive reviews that I've read so far (Ebert, Gleiberman) seem to be striving to attribute some sort of universality to it (like, see...you don't have to be gay to get it!) but the gayness is what makes it unique, as unfortunate a commentary as that may be. Tonally, though, its sorta like The Bridges of Madison County (Eastwood's stellar film, not the drippy book) told in the elegaic mode of The Last Picture Show. I thought of both films more than once while watching this one.

jer fairall said...

PS - a belated "hell yeah!" on the Last Detail post. Exquisite film. Only my third favorite of Ashby's--behind that adolescent obsession of mine Harold & Maude and the brilliant-for-all-of-the-reasons-Alex-outlined-and-more Being There--maybe because it kind of depresses me, but that's no criticism of it. Just beautifully acted. Seeing Quaid in it after years of knowing him mainly as Uncle Eddie was a revelation.

Alex Jackson said...

My favorite '05 movies that don't seem to be on anyone elses lists: Mysterious Skin, Palindromes (though I suspect the latter will make Alex's).

Oh hell yeah; you, me and Armond Jer.

That's another movie that I kind of wonder why it didn't take better.

Jefferson said...

Will there be an FFC Bottom 10? A Worst Of 2005? The instinct that makes me stare at car crashes compels me to ask.

The Captain said...

Here here for a FFC Bottom 10 of 2005! Would any of the FF's submit their Top 10's to this site?

Someone spin me a positive argument for Mysterious Skin? I found it utterly repellant, pointless and reprehensible. What are we supposed to take away from this film? Aside from the obvious, that molestation is bad, the continuous gratuidous gay-sex-then-rape scenes serve little but to cause discomfort without dealing with childhood sexual assault in any meaningful way. I left the theatre not so much disgusted, just annoyed that I'd sat through that for no reason. It had no depth and no clarity, yet was acclaimed for some reason that I've clearly missed. Someone fill me in?

Likewise, and I'll make some enemies here, the awful 2046, the most unpleasant experience I had in a cinema all of 2005. Beautifully shot, to be sure, but also infantile and lacking any real humanity, and dragging on for approx 2/3 of the year. I'm intrigued to know what people think, why they like these two films enough to defend them.

Bill C said...

There will be a worst-of, just not sure if we'll have it ready for primetime by this weekend.

My thanks to everyone who expressed their condolences over the past week. I'll be posting some kind of state of the union address here sometime over the next little while, so keep your eyes peeled.

James Allen said...

Re: Bottom 10

Well, I don't know what the bottom 10 would be officially, but a quick search gives us Walt's zero star reviews from 2005 (in no particular order.)

Derailed, Bewitched, A Sound of Thunder, Are We There Yet?, The Producers, Miss Congeniality 2, XXX: State of the Union, Alone in the Dark, Racing Stripes, Monster-in-Law, The Dukes of Hazzard, Just Like Heaven, Cheaper By the Dozen 2, and Duck.

No high-falutin' stinkers there really, just a lot of Hollywood junk. I would trust that there were some bigger fish to fry last year. (I could sift through the 1/2 star and 1-star ratings, but I don't want to get too carried away.)

Alex Jackson said...

Well, as he said he doesn't really rely too much on star ratings.

I know that Gunner Palace (*) is pretty high up there though.

Cory M said...

Haven't seen Keane yet, but I'm very happy that Damian Lewis is getting some love. Like many, I first picked up on him in Band of Brothers. When he followed it with Dreamcatcher I was genuinely worried that his career would be ruined.

Good actor. We need to see him more often.

Walter_Chaw said...

Hey - don't forget The Producers, Domino, Bewitched, Lava Girl & Shark Boy, and Son of the Mask. Not to say that any of them are on the list proper, but man oh man are they bad.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...


Man... I have to say this. I have been reading a lot of your reviews lately. You're hell of a fuckin' critic, man. Even though, I'm not quite sure that is what you actually are because your reviews read more like film-based sociological/anthropological essays. I don't come with an extensive knowledge of film criticism but you sure do impress the hell out of me.

I usually skim over reviews, but yours as well as FFC's seem to be interesting enough to read each word. You guy really did change my mind on subject of film criticism being an artform. Even though critics don't create something from bottom-up, but so don't filmmakers for the most part. Everything creative is a reaction to something else, in some cases it might be an artists's personal life or whatever but writing a review as a reaction to a film is no less of an art, me thinks.

Nate said...

If anyone gives a shit, I just caught a preview screening of Paul Weitz's American Dreamz. It's consistently funny, much the same way In Good Company is, and the casting is perfect (Marcia Gay Harden does a spot-on Laura Bush, newcomer Sam Golzari is a pleasure to behold, and Mandy Moore is humorously self-effacing). The movie has something to say about the pervasiveness of American culture, but it goes astray with a terrorist subplot that just isn't funny in this political climate. Overall, it's an enjoyable trifle. However, the friendly folks from Nielsen did assure us that it's a "work in progress" and that the opening titles would be far superior in the release version.

Anonymous said...

You mean The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl in 3-D ;-)

About the King Kong on a decade retrospective thing... they could do it, and perhaps they will, but I don't know if they'd be right to do it. Incredibles, okay. Kong? I just don't know.

Got a chance to read your Broken Lizard take-down and I have to thank you, because it's one of those reviews where I feel like someone else said everything I wanted to say. Broken Lizard movies are not funny. They are about funny guys who smoke weed, take on "The Establishment" and bag disproportionately hot and interesting women. Oh, and there's a fat guy in the group who they get to make fun of. Their popularity is as good (or bad, depending on how generous you are) an example of idolatry as you can find. And the only movie of theirs where they all actually try to look like jackasses (EXCEPT the fat guy), Club Dread, is all their fans' least favorite. Go figure.

Alex Jackson said...

Hollowman, what can I say to such a compliment other than I wish I could churn them out faster than I am. Should get started on a new Viddied review soon though.

While I'm rapping at ya, did you hear that Malick is doing some additional cutting of The New World pushing its release back to January 20th? Argh! The exact day that I can't see it.

Alex Jackson said...

Ah, and I did see Hostel. This one line from Walter's review should have been the teaser for Rotten Tomatoes, it encompasses everything that needs to be said about the picture:

It's posed itself as a piece owing a debt to the Japanese shock cinema of Takashi Miike (himself a bit player in the film) when it really owes more to the gore/schlock cinema of Herschel Gordon Lewis.

Ayup. Pretty brutal, but it really doesn't stick to the ribs. A scene where an American torturer talks shop with our protagonist is thorny though, almost enough to suggest to me that it's about misogyny and homophobia instead of simply an example of it.

Anonymous said...

Ha. What's really, really funny (to me) is that I was thinking of what quote should be pulled from Walter's review for RottenTomatoes as well, and I never think about that stuff. It struck me as such a peculiar thing to be thinking at the same time. Well at least now I have a partner in weirdness in Alex. Although it's probably not so weird for you, considering you're actually a critic and I'm, well, not. But anyway. Here's the quote I honed in on when I was thinkin' on this:

"I look at [this film] as though I were observing an alien artifact, an insect with solid black eyes. If there's intelligence to them, it's not a kind I understand."

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Ah man! I was planning to go this friday. Life of a common movie-goer...

you should churn 'em out faster. once a week is good goal to have i guess. I like your format though 'coz you review what you want and not "just like heaven" or any other peice of crap comin' out on friday. also you haven't written reviews to a lot of your old favorites. i'd rather read those as a fanboy.

p.s. watched halfa' "kontroll" last night but that film deserves to be seen sober so just poppin' it in. blew my mind whatever i did see though. i think i'll buy it.

The Captain said...

Cmon, hollow man and Alex. Step up to the plate and make an argument for 2046 and/or Mysterious Skin.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Well, unlike most other critics I think 2046 is a masterpeice. If there is any current film-maker that exemplifies autuer theory, it's Wong Kar Wai. The same chain thematically has been strung through most of his films. His major theme is impossibility of love in Darwin's world. His characters are always a little to early or little too late in falling in love so all they end up becoming are hopeless romantics that can not realize love for what it is in its most reductivist form, a barter system. Essentially, they are just spiritually vacant souls looking for the absolute love that is absent in the material-driven, blink-and-you'll-miss-it times we live in. His characters on surface may appear jaded but they are more scarred then cynical. People who run as fast as they can towards the departing train hoping to squeeze in the gap but end up getting their nose broken on the closed door.

2046 may not be his masterpeice for all it's pandering but it is certainly the most ambitios film I have seen of him. Multi-layered metaphors that reveal that the only way to see through an artist's poker-face is through the analysis of his peice. Critics have blamed this movie for it's emotionally detached characters and recognizable over-styllization. I find that more bemusing then irritating really because I think these are probably the same critics who said the same things about "Days of Heaven". What they fail to realize is that it's all there, the characters may seem detached but their thought are on there in form of their art. The futuristic train metaphor reveals Tony Leung's thoughts about all the relationships he has had even if we don't see it on his face. Most people forget he is the same guy from "in the mood for love" who chose to be above the bigotry of his cheating spouse but ended up loosing the love of his life for it. He is deeply conflicted character who is eternally torn between his intellect and animal instincts. And for this indecisiveness he always ends up missing the train.

Wong Kar Wai's characers are rarely ever seen in a "properly" framed shot. They are usually at the corner of the frame or at a distance, at times even half a face as if we are sneaking up on their lives as peeping toms. This creates an incredibly voyeuristic yet personalizing effect for the audience. We don't see a seemingly pre-planned shot as much as we are ghosts in the world of these characters, quielty observing them from a distance. He constructs his complete films of shots that most film-makers would leave behind on their editing tables. His films in the truest sense are completely constructed out of outtakes. But what beautiful looking outtakes ! Chris Doyle is my favorite cinematographer. He has this incredible tendency to see poetry in shots that most cinematographers would ignore outright.

Chungking Express still remains my favorite Wong ("In the mood for love" close second) but after seeing his complete ouvre (including the worst dvd ever of "Ashes of times") I can't really tell his one film from the other. They all seem to be an extrapolation of the other but you can show me onbe frame of any of them and I can tell its Wong Kar Wai. I don't know what else one can call a signature.

Coming back to 2046, I think it never went well with critics because of the hype after "In the mood for love" and its apparent hotche-potche structure. I probably would have agreed with them after firsat viewing, but now after watching 5 times I can see right through the apparently confusing structure. In conclusion, I would say all his films can be nut-shelled into a single line poem that comes as a title slide during 2046:

Memories are just marks left behind by tears.

Al his films are more about memory of love then love itself. It is this elegaic tone that deserves the over-styllization that Wong gives his films. After all, how many memories do we really remember as they actually happened. Al we remember are the textures, tones, pacings and shades. The world is as we see it.

p.s. This film is the perfect combination peice with "eternal Sunchineof the spotless mind". Not a lot of details up there in my defense of 2046, but its been a while since I saw it.

cory m said...


Glad you picked up on Kontroll. It's one of the best things I've seen all year--definitely worth a purchase. Kontroll does so many things so well, it's hard to believe a first-time director was behind the camera.

Looking forward to seeing 2046.

Resigned to the fact that The New World will not make it to any local theater within a reasonable driving distance.

Alex Jackson said...

Haven't seen 2046 yet, but I did like Mysterious Skin. Hmmm, where to start.

I guess that I would question first of all that movies about child molestation need a "point" by which I mean, a higher purpose or justification. Child molestation is serious subject matter, no doubt, but I see it as being just the thing heavy enough to pull Arraki out of his ironic hipster stance. Almost anyway.

Every year my college puts on a display of T-shirts designed by rape victims. They are very very very bad T-shirts; crying stick figures, letters to Mom blaming her for distrusting the author when their uncle molested them, shouts that their souls were torn into two. How do you respond to this? At first I thought that it was simply in bad taste, but then I realized that, if anything, it showed the victims trying to come to terms with their rape in what looks, at first, to be a hilariously atrophied visual/cultural lexicon.

The bad taste in Mysterious Skin kind of functions like that; it's not marginalizing child molestation as much as depicting the mindset of two victims who aren't blessed with the icy objectivity of a nobler sociological perspective.

By the way, although I like Mysterious Skin I want to remind that Palindromes is the movie that is sure to be on my top ten list, not this.

food_critic said...

Head-On, El Crimen Perfecto and Palindromes are
my top 3 for 2005. A 2005 highlight for me was meeting Todd Solondz at the MFA in Boston. Very interesting man with a Truman Capote like voice.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I haven't seen Mysterious Skin. Not seen any Araki. Can't stand Todd Solondz. His world is just too ugly for me. I don't know, we all choose to see what we want in this world, he just chooses things I choose not to see. But I feel like watching "Palindromes" now. Will wait for the dvd.

Saw whole of "Kontroll". Was a little disappointed by the ending. To a lesser extenct, it did what "The Machinist" did, tie up all the knots a little to clean. Maybe it's just me that had hoped that it would knock one out the park in climax. But it chose to do one of those moralistic Taxi Driver-type "dream" climax. A lot of people love that shit but for me, the whole "dreaming of heaven in hell" thing has just soured a little bit. But overall, very solid original stuff. Certainly one of the best debuts I have seen. This Nimrod guy can be one of those Fincher-types in Hollywood. I hope he doesn't sell out though, this guy has some serious talent for dialogue and character-sketching.

Alex Jackson said...

I'm the dissenting opinon on Kontroll I guess, I found it to be just one more "I'm nearing thirty and still stuck in this dead-end shit job" picture to add to the pile. The details of it couldn't trump the banality of its adopted genre.

Hollowman, if you don't like Solondoz you might not like Palindromes, but I did think that it was the easiest Solondoz to watch. It's very stylized and by far his most visually accomplished.

cory m said...

Was a little disappointed by the ending. To a lesser extenct, it did what "The Machinist" did, tie up all the knots a little to clean. Maybe it's just me that had hoped that it would knock one out the park in climax. But it chose to do one of those moralistic Taxi Driver-type "dream" climax. A lot of people love that shit but for me, the whole "dreaming of heaven in hell" thing has just soured a little bit.

The Pusher was exorcised, so to speak, and the film perhaps implied a little too much, but I don’t think we came away with any clear understanding of what exactly it was. Far from tying things up, the movie actually left things pretty open to interpretation. As for the “dream” climax, I took it as the main character waking, not dreaming.

I'm the dissenting opinon on Kontroll I guess, I found it to be just one more "I'm nearing thirty and still stuck in this dead-end shit job" picture to add to the pile. The details of it couldn't trump the banality of its adopted genre.

There were elements of that – mostly used for humor and paranoia – but I don’t think I could possibly throw Kontroll in with the "dead-end shit job" pack.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I have to agree with Cory, it wasn't just another "dead-end shit job" movie. I mean c'mon ! This movie had some kick ass style. But it ended up becoming one of those great-intercourse-but-shitty-orgasm movies. Much like "Afterhours". I couldn't believe how cool that chase sequence was. Alex, you talk about "momentum", this movie had bucketfulls of that.

But I guess it was just one of those movies where with a clever analysis one could try and discredit the whole thing, but the experience speaks for itself.

I can appreciate the argument that,

Smith does the same thing that David Gordon Green recently did with All the Real Girls. Having done something that we haven’t seen before, he does something that we have seen way too much of.

... but can't really agree with it because "All the real girls" was what romantic comedies should be.

"Joe vs. The Volcano" was a "dead-end shit job" movie and so was "Fight Club", but there is a difference. Isn't there ?

That being said, I thought there was only one interpretation of the ending. The film implied the Schraderian concept of evil being a result of existential fog, but instead of following the natural archetype curve of anti-hero being crushed by forces bigger than him, they did the Taxi Driver thing at the end but also added "He isn't crazy, he just needs to get laid" to the mix. I'm not saying that the ending doesn't have balls, it's still something Speilberg couldn't and wouldn't do in this lifetime. But hell man, when the new guy on the block comes around with a tour de force you expect him to push the boundary forward, not do the same thing over again.

By the way, no mention of it in Top 30 ? Intentional or forgot, Walt ?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Man, was cinematography of "Kontroll" kick-ass or what ? Also have to mention the soundtrack. I usually miss seeing real looking people in movie, and I'm not talking about t.v. ugly ones like, I'm talking about the really "real" looking people. Iwould put this movie in the top-10 just for the visceral pleasure most of it gave me. I really dig these kafkaesque urban-angst movies.

The Captain said...

Ok, that's a good analysis/viewpoint of 2046, one I can't really argue with because we're looking at it completely differently.

On Mysterious Skin, though:
I guess that I would question first of all that movies about child molestation need a "point" by which I mean, a higher purpose or justification. Child molestation is serious subject matter, no doubt, but I see it as being just the thing heavy enough to pull Arraki out of his ironic hipster stance. Almost anyway.

Without a point, or without any real subtext, I feel its a pointless exercise in exploitation. So, we feel bad for both of these people who have been so negatively affected, but then what? Is there growth? Is there anything? There's a lot of violent sex scenes (physical and mental abuse) which function to discomfort, illustrating a potential negative outcomes of the molestation on one character, but why? I don't know, it feels hollow to me. It doesn't have anything to say, an endurance test to no real purpose.

Am a big fan of Palindromes though, a 2005 Top 10 lister for me.

Walter_Chaw said...

Intentional drop of Kontroll and Palindromes - though I like both a great deal. Ultimately, I'm going with the read of H-Man's that Kontroll loses too much resonance at its end - and Palindromes, the first Solondz flick with a soul, I thought, and one with less exploitation on its mind than a million-zillion Araki flicks - I think is still too in the Storytelling vein of being responsive to criticism than of its own. Both were tough to bump - I lost some blood revising that list.

Oh, how I have come to dislike Gregg Araki. Y'all seen his other stuff? He has his supporters, but has always struck me as a limited artist with a bad habit towards gadget and gimmickry.

Nate said...

I really, truly despise The Doom Generation. It really wants to be a profound statement on the state of youth today, but it's actually just a series of violent and sexually depraved excursions in search of meaning. Maybe the scene in which the heroes express distaste over the dead dog is intended to be ironic, but I doubt it. This movie has absolutely nothing to say.

Rich said...

Those People's Choice Award results are pretty sad. I'd not even given them a second thought when you initially posted them, but today I was having coffee with my mother and she casually mentioned that she wanted to see Revenge of the Sith because she'd heard on the local 24-hour news station that it 'won some awards'. Even telling her how huge both the awards and movie suck, I still get the feeling that she is more affected by what the 'news' channel thinks.

I can deal with how inane the idea of the public voting for the best movie, actor, etc is and with how shitty the results turned out to be, but what really pisses me off is when the media treats it seriously and passes it off as news. The real irony of my situation is that my mother has already SEEN Revenge of the Sith and has just forgotten everything about it (which I'll chalk up to being because of how boring and unimaginative it was).

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Just finished seeing "Imaginary Heroes". I'm jumping out of my second floor window. I have seen it all.

Alex Jackson said...

Without a point, or without any real subtext, I feel its a pointless exercise in exploitation.

Right, without a point it's pointless. Err.

I guess what I'm failing to convey is that I liked Mysterious Skin mostly for aesthetic reasons, for the prism in which it views its subject matter. There isn't one true way to depict child molestation, and I think that this angle was needed to fully flesh out my perception of what child molestation is.

I've really hated Arraki's earlier work for it's glibness and vacancy, but I think that Mysterious Skin represents an effort to evolve. I think that he's moved from ironic to just plain corny. In particular I'm thinking of the impromptu snowstorm and the first shot where the boy showers in Fruit Loops. Corny right? Vaguely tasteless? Again, I see it as the victims trying to come to terms with what has happened to them, but having a stunted visual/emotional vocabulary.

Pointless and exploitive, I guess that you might be right but that's not what's important to me.

On Kontroll; momentum must have both weight and velocity and yeah, I think that the dead-end-shit-job credentials (and the humor borne from it) helped relieve it of some of the weight leading to less velocity.

That's a better explanation of why I don't like the film other then it's part of the dead-end-shit-job genre. I mean I liked Clerks, Fight Club, and After Hours for that matter; they were dead-end-shit-job pictures but embodied the genre with a little heaviness. The pusher and even the ticket-taker who goes nuts in Kontroll struck me as mostly background noise, particulary since they used most of the ticket-taking scenes for laughs.

cory m said...

Just finished seeing "Imaginary Heroes".

On HBO? We might've been watching at the same time. I almost changed the channel after the opening narration and suicide, but I managed to make it another twenty minutes before I started flipping.

I think I made the right choice.

Walter_Chaw said...


I interviewed the auteur of Imaginary Heroes - he's one of the writers of X-Men 2.

You've probably read it (or studiously avoided reading it) - if not, here it is. It's a fun one. He'd read my not-exactly-a-rave of it beforehand - memorized it, almost.

Pretty uncomfortable but not without its comic value.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I did read it earlier. man I'm so glad I rely on FFC a lot for pickin' the films I wanna see in theatre. i probably would've dished out a ten to watch this movie and then would've hated myself for doing it after. I HATE these goddamn American Beauty clones. Why can't people make films about things that are interesting ? Is it really that hard ? We don't wanna know about your molesting father with lung cancer, alchoholic mother, suicidal brother and the god damn plastic bag flying in front of the garage. i wanna make films in future just to show these assholes that world is bigger then their damn suburban hood.

Anonymous said...

Hey Walter Chaw,

You wanna improve the quality of your reviews? Leave your liberal bias at the door. George Bush and the Republicans are fighting for you. They are fighting for your freedom. I know you are not from this country but be a patriotic American. We are at war dammit.

Jackson Helms

Chad Evan said...

Fighting for whose freedom? We don't live in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein has never oppressed a single American citizen excepting refugees that came here to escape him. For God's sake, if you're going to throw insults at people, at least do your homework. And if Goerge Bush is fighting for anyone's freedom, he sure has a funny way of showing it--wiretapping and restricting civil liberties, for instance. Kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul, no?

Chad Evan said...

Furthermore, Jackson, I kind of sympathize with you in that even though I loathe Bush, I think that Walter sometimes indulges in gratuitous Bush-bashing--throwing in a couple of jabs in reviews of terrible films as if to say "not only is this film terrible, but Bush probably likes it." But how can you attack Walter's liberal bias while wearing your own conservative bias on your shirtsleeve for daws to peck at? Your problem clearly isn't with liberal bias but with opinions that differ with your own. The saddest thing is that you bring up a potentially interesting point, but through idiocy that I can only hope is parodic (how do you know he is not from this country? Because he has a Chinese surname?)you nip any possibility of a thoughtful response in the bud.

Jefferson said...

Oh my gods ... Chud.com has followed me here.

Alex Jackson said...

Uh, not to mention taking down the only thing that was keeping Iraq from being taken over by the religious fanatics; thus assuring that we have another attack on the mainland.

Anonymous said...

Walter's Rotten Tomatoes bio:


English as a second language which, while giving hope to some, will come as no surprise to others.

Jackson Helms

Bill C said...

Let's curb the xenophobic subtext, shall we? No one's forcing you to read Walter, Jackson.

Chad Evan said...

Doesn't mean anything more than his parents spoke Chinese at home.


Anonymous said...

The guy irritates me is all. He hates this country and probably isn't even from it. Nothing wrong with wiretapping. Would you rather get blown up? How typical. Walter, please stick to the facts. Your politics are all askew. Informed criticism would increase readership and you wouldn't have to reduce the number of reviews on your site. Think about it.

See ya,

Jackson Helms

Bill C said...

Ironically, Jackson, the reason we might have to reduce the number of reviews on the site is because our popularity has increased exponentially over the past two years, steadily inflating the cost of upkeep. If there's any correlation between politics and popularity, as you suggest, then Walter should in fact be injecting more of the stuff that has you grinding an axe into his reviews.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

George Bush and the Republicans are fighting for you. They are fighting for your freedom. I know you are not from this country but be a patriotic American. We are at war dammit.

Which asshole did this asshole crawl out of ? Probably Bill O' Reilly's. I would repect a conservative opinion if it came from a reasonable person with IQ more than 40. But usually all one gets are these dumbass country hicks with nothing to say but republican propoganda quotes. When I read an opinion from a dipshit like this guy I really understand howcome "Der Stuermer" had such high circulation. That's all Hitler had to do, come up with some lowest common denominator melodramatic hate-spewing mumbo jumbo coated with proverbial maple syrup and all the Travis Bickles in the fatherland raised their hands with their omni-directional simple-minded animalistic rage. "Let's kill us somes Kikes". What really bothers me is how American government has been able to, succesfully mind you, mask their bigotry by paternalism and hypocrisy providing legitemacy to racist idiots.

Like Stroszek said "in America, they don't kick you physically, they do it spiritually" or something like that. Ironic, coming from a german director.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Saw Head-on. Kicks all kindsa ass. I have very little idea what its about thematically but hell of a ride. Again, a film made completely out of ottakes.

The Captain said...

pa·tri·ot·ism ( P ) n.
Love of and devotion to one's country. Link


Blindly accepting everything and anything one's country does regardless of immorality, selfishness, the robbing of personal freedoms, and mass murder, for reasons of "protection" and "freedom".

There's a difference between loving a country unquestionably, and loving a country enough to criticise things that you see as being wrong and dangerous to its citizens and other citizens. Freedom, also something worth defining. How free are citizens being spied on? What about people who wish to get married but can't because the freedom they desire doesn't fit into someone else's idea of freedom?

At least you posted a name, I'll give you some credit for not just being anonymous. The reason Walter writes so much about his politics and the current situation of the world in his reviews is because that situation is extremely relevant to cinema - subtexts abound as the current state of the world is reflected in the movies we watch.

Walter_Chaw said...

I think this is the fellow who's been stalking me and hoping that I'd get cancer.

Yeah, I learned to speak English when I was five. My parents, both of whom came here on academic scholarships in the sixties, spoke with accents and they didn't want to hinder my assimilation into this culture with that handicap. They worked every day of their lives and paid taxes until they died.

Problem with that tactic is that I developed kind of a bad stutter as a result of being derided for not speaking English in kindergarten and so spent a lot of time in elementary school reading books (in English) and watching movies (in English, too). Was born and raised in the good ol' U, S of A - went to school shoulder to shoulder with the Coors kids and the sons and daughters of Denver Broncos. I was one of two Asians at my large high school and have never dated another Asian in my life.

A close relation of mine is a four-star general, retired, you see him sometimes on the news channels - he used to have an office down the hall from 43. A great man, his den is full of pictures of him and our last five presidents, and our politics couldn't be more different. He has, however, afforded me opportunities to visit with enlisted men and women - many of whom I worked with at various menial jobs to provide healthcare for my family. A few friends I went to high school with didn't go on to college - they went to Iraq I. Most of them read us - not a one of them has ever questioned my nationality or patriotism.

It's only fair though because, hell, the rest of the world sure hates us now, don't it. Didn't a million people protest on our behalf in the streets of fucking Tehran after 9/11? Now they're going nuclear. Or "NooklAR" as our beloved leader says. All gone. That sympathy and unity is all gone, man.

I'm not sure, never have been, how being disenchanted with our government is anti-American. Just as I don't see how wanting to save American lives (American lives that were not properly protected with faulty body armor: Rumsfeld "Well, you don't go to war with the army you want, you go to war with the army you have." See - that sounds anti-military to me - misanthropic, almost) in an unjust war means I'm anti-military. It seems to me that our country was established because a few smart people rebelled against an unfair, tyrannical system - eventually by force and you'll never hear me advocating a coup (like the 2000 election which was decided by our Supreme Court, right) - but initially with strongly-worded dissent.

Eloquently, too.

It's demeaning to do this, you know, I mean, do I write with an accent? Do I speak with an accent? Am I a pinko commie liberal wienie? And what if I did and were - do I turn in my birth certificate and my 32-out-of-32 years of living in the middle of bright-red Colorado? Nah - I'm just a guy who's not so thrilled with, among other things, being wiretapped by our president exercising a right that only he thinks that he has. In times of war, POTUS can authorize emergency taps, but then he has to get it cleared by a court within 72 hours.

If there's a problem with this system there was a problem immediately after 9/11, too, and you can't tell me that Congress wouldn't have done fucking anything the Prez asked at that moment in time. Why not correct it then? If the wiretaps are so just, what's the difficulty in getting it cleared through due process (sound the trumpets, pal, Americans like due process - say it with me, due process is good). What this president has done is illegal.

It's illegal.

You do a piss poor job of defending liberty when you piss on liberty. Terrorists win that way, don't they? Why do we change the way we do things suddenly? Why do we turn our back on the promise of our Constitution? Has there been a more noble and hopeful human document than that? What makes us take a big steaming dump on our constitution?

Torture, illegal siezure, "black" prisons on foreign soil, bypassing the UN to wage war against a sovereign nation (but not Saudi Arabia, the right one) - well, man, we change the way we do things (and trample on the things that make us who we're so goddamn proud to be) because we're scared. You want to abridge my speech, O Defender of American Values, through racism and intimidation - how does that make you the better American. Wait, don't answer that.

Better than getting blowed up.

Yeah. Gotcha runnin' now, don't they? Gotcha' turnin' into them now, don't they?

That being said - I've taken the bat to liberal films with a lot more venom than conservative ones. I'm pretty easy on The Island, it doesn't put up much of a fight, but Pretty Persuasion, Gunner Palace, Saved!? What'd I give the Clooney pics this year? You get to the extreme of any arc, right, and you end up at points of madness and myopia that are pretty similar.

Truth is, when liberals get gushy is when I really reach for the airsick bag. I think I say a lot that Bush won second term because he ran unopposed - that there's no opposition party in the U.S. because the dems are a bunch of silk-wearing pussies. Rantings of a liberal wackjob? Yeah. Do I hate Jesus because I think Focus on the Family is the Taliban and Pat Robertson's a goon?

Listen - John Dean, Nixon's Counsel,and chief whistleblower in bringing down that unAmerican government, went on Bill Moyers and said this:

Let me go right to page 155 of your book. You write, quote, "The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."

Absolutely is. The founders in the debates in the states-- I cite one. I cite one that I found -- I tracked down after reading the Nixon impeachment proceedings when-- Congressman Castenmeyer had gone back to look to see what the founders said about misrepresentations and lying to the Congress. Clearly, it is an impeachable offense. And I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people.


However you fall out on this mess, it's a really big fucking mess, and I'm not just pissing into the wind: Bush-supporters are now in the minority in this country. That's what's so great about Americans - you can dupe them and dupe them, and lie to them and kill them - but once you lose their trust, they'll fucking turn on you overnight. We're divided right down the middle now. United we stand, right? What we all wouldn't give now for a President that just got the occasional blowjob while he was working, huh? 2200 dead and counting - not from Billy's hummer.

Thanks for being such a magnificent prick. You always get nervous when you can't see the shark fin.

Anonymous said...

That's right, Walter. Put your rose-colored glasses back on. Clinton got what he deserved - impeached. Despite the puffs of smoke you blow out of your ass, Bush has done nothing illegal or immoral like Slick Willie. Fact (I know you hate those) is America is a Christian nation and you don't like the fact that so many love Jesus and all that he stands for in the embodiment of George W. Bush. America is on the right track. Our leadership is strong and we will not be defeated by terrorist Iraqi slime. May God Bless America and may God continue to bless our brave President and his wonderful family.

Jackson Helms

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Did this guy just step out of "The Manchurian Candidate" ???

Carl Walker said...

Since you're so fond of asserting what must've been intended by the founding fathers, would this perhaps be a good time to think about the First Amendment. Seems like there was something about how everyone had freedom of religion, rather than an obligation to conform to the president's views on religion (a notion abhorrent not just to the non-practising, I assure you, but to any non-fundamentalist as well). Then there was that other matter of freedom of speech, which pretty much precludes the notion that Walter should have his Americanness put under question because he actually said something against the government (and apparently being first-generation in this nation of immigrants has something to do with this somehow). I won't even address your fantastical, propagandistic (sp) modern-day assertions, as I think this really suffices to show that if anyone hates America, it has to be you (and Bush, really).

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't go far to say that Walter Chaw is Raymond Shaw (The Manchurian Candidate) but he certainly should be investigayed for Unamerican activities.
I was beginning to think I was alone. Good one, hollow man.

Jackson Helms

Jefferson said...

Nothing wrong with wiretapping.

Then I'm assuming "Jackson Helms" wouldn't mind having his identity -- his real identity -- tracked back through the net and posted here for all to see. Not to mention having his credit rating broadbanded, and a list of his favorite websites. It can be done. Or would you rather be blown up?

Political passion is best put to work through direct action -- campaigning, petitioining, donation. Not tarring online film critics, for God's sake, with ethnic slurs and angry catchphrases that only show one up as either a) an asshole who believes his own bile or b) a malcontent who vomits reactionary jargon to get attention ... and therefore just an asshole.

This is stale. Anybody seen any good movies lately?

Anonymous said...

Whatever. I don't have time for this BS anyway. I'm going on vacation for a month to Oklahoma. Most of you are brainwashed and off your rocker. So sad. I have said everything I want to say anyhow and won't be back. Have fun children.

Jackson Helms

James Allen said...

Funny you should ask, I have seen a film lately; I just finished watching The Triplets of Belleville again, a terrific animated film that I have no idea if George W. Bush likes or not, or if liking said film is an impeachable offense.

All kidding aside, it is a wonderful film (despite not having any pop-culture references).

It's hard to fathom why we don't get off-beat feature length animated films in this country. Even something as great as The Incredibles is comparitively only a small step ahead of stuff like Shrek.

Bemis said...

I wouldn't go far to say that Walter Chaw is Raymond Shaw (The Manchurian Candidate) but he certainly should be investigayed for Unamerican activities.
I was beginning to think I was alone. Good one, hollow man.

He was talking about you. Before I mock you any further, I should ask - are you a child? Because that wouldn't be fair.

Anonymous said...

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

p.s. Saw Head-on. Kicks all kindsa ass. I have very little idea what its about thematically but hell of a ride. Again, a film made completely out of ottakes.

Glad you liked it, Hollow Man Stuffed Man. I think it is the type of film where some people will be put off by the plot alone and miss a great film. It is hard to describe but it definitely felt fresh to me. Like any great film, the music was eclectic and fun as well. I have seen 2 other films by Fatih Akin and they both were excellent in their own right: Short Sharp Shock (probably my favorite thus far) and Solino. Unfortunately both are unavailable on DVD right now.

Carl Walker said...

It's French, James... do you really have to ask if Bush liked it? :P

Ok more importantly, I disagree that Incredibles is only a small step ahead of Shrek. Was it really that pop culture heavy, anyway? Unless you mean the fact that ths entire super-hero genre is just a decades-long parade of Superman-ripoffs, but even then at least it goes back beyond this decade, as the Shrek stuff did not (and I say this as someone who probably liked Shrek more than I should have :P).

Haven't seen Belville but I figure I've seen enough Miyazaki to know how animation should be. I guess if you wanted to indict Pixar for anything, it could be for doing such a great job with the stories on their 3D cartoons that the reflected shine was enough to allow films like Shrek to succeed and inspire all the American studios to shut down their 2D feature-film divisions, so that now Japan or even France is the only place you can go for that stuff.

P.S. Finally saw and loved Grizzly Man... it was my first Herzog so I probably processed it differently than a lot of folks here, from what I gather.

James Allen said...


The Incredibles is a small step ahead of Shrek, but I didn't really mean that as a slight. I actually admire Brad Bird for making a modestly mature film about superheroes that doesn't pander to low sensibilities, and uses the superhero convention to make some sly social commentary (i.e. the supers having to repress their specialness as dictated by a society that wants everyone to blend in.)

In a small step in comparison to where other countries have gone, but it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Walter Chaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being that I have ever met.

Sorry folks. Couldn't resist.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Let's just ignore that donkey-fucker and talk about movies. I must say, Blockbuster's collection has been getting better, I rented out both Head-on and Nobody knows. Yet to see the latter. Usually I have to drive half-a-world away to Bay St. Video to rent good movies. Does anyone know any good film-rental stores in western toronto (etobicoke/mississauga) ? I know a lot of you guys are from toronto.

Chad Evan said...

I saw a real little gem this week: Chuck Jones' "The Bear That Wasn't," from a story by Frank Tashlin. This was a rarity in that it's a Jones toon I'd never seen before; it was released by MGM in the late '60s and is included as an extra on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol 3. Without hyperbole, it is one of the most visually stunning pictures I've ever seen (if Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble aren't the best director/production designer team ever, I don't know who is.)One of those films that makes me want to start smoking bud again just so I could watch it while high. Jones' later work has been critisized, with some justice, for being over-directed:in his later movies his characters tend to zip from one extreme pose to the next, leaving his stable of talented animators with little to do but fill in the tiny gaps. This method of hyper-stylization works beautifully in "The Bear That Wasn't," though.

Jefferson said...

The Aeon Flux collection made the Onion's year-end best DVDs list. I'm trying to remember if that particular piece of animation was good enough to be worth my investment today. I too was a fan of the bud back when it was on MTV, so I might have overrated its value at the time ...

The Iraq war (and I can bring up this antiwar film now that Helms is allegedly vacationing in Oklahoma, where white Christian Americans have never blown anything up) has me thinking back to Grave of the Fireflies. I've been wondering if I should, given the current climate, revisit the only anime that has ever made me cry.

the petaluma center said...

Mr. Helms (Jesse's relation?) hasn't the foggiest idea what he's talking about when he's talking about being a Christian. I'm a Christian, America is not a Christian nation. but a country of people stocked with talking points from church leaders more interested in making rules than sharing a Biblical message. Not here to share the gospel; just to suggest there are Christians out there who know perfectly well that Bush doesn't represent us or any other religious chunk aside from those who think good people are good people, bad people are bad, profit margin can never wane and democratic capitalism is a suitable substitute for Jesus.

Mr. Helms is a rot-talking airhead, not a prick. A prick has a clue.

Munich was the best film I saw last year, and I saw about 90 percent. Grizzly Man was right there.

Worst had to be Fun With Dick and Jane. Saw this with a silent full house. Completely all the way dead. Old people slept. Hadn't witnessed such audience revolt since Van Helsing when some kid screeched "This movie isn't very good!"

Close second: Cheaper By The Dozen 2. I'm betting a shopping spree the cast and crew watched The Great Outdoors during filming.

Munich had all those items for which I have a film jones, from the camerawork to 9,000 scenes in hotels to the locales to its roots in 70s cinema to that great scene at the French countryhouse. But of course it's complex beyond that. Deeply so. Not to get too religious about it, but it was intriguing, as a Christian, to see a film about two other religions so in lust of a "home," as if a patch of land was the point. I know it is the point, but it isn't, too, and millions have died to get what cannot be a lasting pleasure. Kingdom of Heaven isn't half the movie but there is something to be said for Bailan's speech regarding the survival (and eventual surrender) of Jerusalem, and the accompanying "nothing, everything" response from Saladin. Walter suggests he thinks about "Keane" every day. I think about the material in "Munich." I appreciate its imperfections yet marvel at what it does right. And if it lingers, and you know you love it, then you know you have to consider it something great to you.

PS: Shelley Winters RIP. A Place In the Sun is still a great one - though American Tragedy is a better book, and skyscraper of literature.

Bemis said...

And if it lingers, and you know you love it, then you know you have to consider it something great to you.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks, petaluma - you've shared the sort of sentiment that puts a spring in my step for the rest of the day.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to add to Mr. Helms (who is indeed clearly the same guy who's been stalking Walter for about a half a year now) that, despite what you may think, America is not "a Christian country." At least in theory. Ever hear of separation of church and state? Look it up, it's in the Constitution. "Slick Willie" may have boinked his secretary, but what I find interesting is that you think all the wasted money, effort, and ad space on something like that is more justifiable than questioning our leader's tactics when we're in the middle of a war that gets longer and more expensive (in many ways) every day, never mind the fact that many people suspect we managed to gather intel about 9/11 without these damn wiretaps.

the petaluma center said...

I wish the wiretaps bothered me. But they don't. What bothers me is an episode of COPS where some officer tells a woman "If you answer every question I have, I'll be more than fair to you...if you don't, I'll treat you like everybody else."

America has a veneer privacy. I'm thankful it has at least that, but if a person of power in our government wants to get at you they will for long enough that when it stops it won't mattered that it stopped anyway. Maybe the most painful thing in America is to be behind an eight ball when you know millions aren't, and presume you a failure for being there. It seems petty standing next to abject poverty, yeah, but it's a particular sorrow of this nation, which is why wiretaps are scary - because, if you're fingered, fairly or unfairly, it's the sense of life you lose, the time, that "good feeling" that so many Americans use as fuel for their motor. We are not all born like W. was - insulated from failure by status and money - and thus W. does not know the pleasure of mistake feeling like much more than a mild disappointment.

Think about it: If your mistakes weren't really punished, would you feel like you'd done anything wrong?

James Allen said...

Re: Shelley Winters

Hearing about her passing made me dig up my copy of Night of the Hunter. Damn, what a great film. And I still miss Robert Mitchum.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I hated The Triplets of Belleville. I just couldn't get past the grotesque ugliness of everything, and it's not even a fantastical amazing grotesque. It's not the striking Goth fantasy of A Nightmare Before Christmas, it's not the spiralling Wonderland of Spirited Away, it's not even the multicolor vomit of the live-action Dr. Seuss movies. It's just ugly caricatures in an ugly brown world, and it was DEPRESSING to watch. And the whole plot is basically rescuing that woman's grandkid... but I say, let 'im stay kidnapped, I've never seen a more unlikable protagonist. The triplets themselves were the only thing with any life in that movie, and even then it was hard to watch them lick their goddamn Frogsicles. This is maturity?


Anonymous said...


Why do you insist on throwing in political fragments in your movie reviews? They're off-topic and pointless. Any interested parties won't have trouble determining your political stance. Your not going to sway anyone's opinion by calling George Bush dumb at random intervals during a review for Wild Things 2.
It taints your writing, with the effect of self-indulgence and delighting liberals who subsribe to those setiments so they can percieve the half their country as redneck idiots and themselves smarter by comparison.

Economy of words

I initially came here to find some article containing a paragraph about your late father that I remember as clever or valuable. Perhaps you or another could refere me.