February 19, 2006

Notes from the Trenches

It’s hard to know how to feel about the Eight Below screening what with the lady behind us who talked to the dogs throughout while exclaiming to her companion a few times that she couldn’t bear much more of the suspense this completely unsuspenseful film was dishing out – and the two old ladies in front of us who, before the film started, turned around to ask me my opinion, as a film critic, of The New World before proceeding to not listen to a word I said for about two minutes. Her main problem was that she couldn’t follow the narrative of the film and wished that she was fresher from school so that she might be more familiar with the history – when I said that that would almost certainly make her dislike the film even more for being a-linear and anti-narrative, she said that she wished that she was fresher from school so that she might be more familiar with the history. Needless to say, halfway through this Paul Walker masterpiece, the hankies were out and the declaration of “what a brave and emotional film” punctuated her evening and confirmed her sense of well being.

Did anyone mention in the nationals that the snow cat the heroes drive to rescue their hounds at the end of the film is named “Mare Biscotti” – “Sea Biscuit”?

It’s enough to make you sick: for me, it was just enough to plan on skipping the Running Scared screening next week. Another evening show for that one, I’d just as soon wait until it hits the dollar theaters and see it there on matinee. The relative silence and solitude would be well worth the two dollar admission price. Besides, the projectionist at my local discount cinema is better at his job than most of the folks running the machines at these screenings. At the least he manages not to consistently use the wrong lenses on his projectors.

Jeremiah Kipp conducts an interesting interview with freshly-fired Salon.com critic Charles Taylor here
– with most of the revelations unsurprising, but worth repeating in any case and certainly still infuriating. I particularly like Taylor’s retort to the popular (and inscrutable) complaint that reviews should be assigned to people who are most likely to enjoy the film (he says something along the lines of “they do that already, they’re called ‘publicists’”). Is the conversation watering down? Not a whisper of a doubt about it.

That doesn’t mean, however, that when folks are presented with a film in a convivial community environment, that they don’t really get into the spirit of intellectual discourse. Speaking before and after Possessed, Leon, The Professional and Run Lola Run recently, with All About Eve (or Humoresque) and a classroom on Edward Scissorhands, Punch-Drunk Love, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind coming up this week – I’m constantly rejuvenated and edified by my interactions with folks bringing the full weight of their experience and prejudices to bear on a piece of subjective cinema. I love pinioning the spiritual progression of Tykwer’s Hitchcock and Kieslowski shrine; the mad ‘90s of Gary Oldman’s career, and the visual hijacking of a film by two of Hitch’s favorite cinematographers: Joseph Valentine and Robert Burks. What’s lost in most discussions of Possessed is its singular, nightmarish camera work. That and the fact that Crawford spent half of the film without makeup: diva that.

Will try to catch that Russian vampire flick this week as well as that Christmas movie that got nominated for the Best Foreign Picture Oscar while, on the DVD write-up queue, I see two television series (“Arrested Development” and “Alien Nation”) and a trio of Bette Davis melodramas. Weren’t they all?

Question of the moment: what books would you like to see adapted that have not or, more controversially, maybe can't be adapted to the screen. Mine for the latter would be William Goldman's Control - and for the former the Coppola-owned Kerouac: On the Road.

Reading Joe Eszterhas’ insane Bill Clinton faux-moir American Rhapsody and listening to the new Beth Orton and Roseanne Cash CDs – here’s the screen capture:

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Question of the moment: what books would you like to see adapted that have not or, more controversially, maybe can't be adapted to the screen.

Currently going through a graphic novel phase; former, I'd love to see the ultraviolent Preacher on the big screen, though moreso I'd love to see Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, yet the more of that I read and the more love I feel for it, the more I feel it couldn't be done..

Walter_Chaw said...

There's been a screenplay getting worked and reworked of the Gaiman for years and years. Last I heard, Gaiman gave a draft the nix because it sought to make the Sandman a superhero in tights. Yep. I say give it to Charlie Kaufman.

Have you seen Frailty? Not a bad unofficial Preacher Gone to Texas.

Rich said...

Screencap: Assault on Precinct 13?

rachel said...

Tale of Kieu. Did a paper on it last semester. Would be a hell of a thing. (According to imdb there's none, anyway.) An epic tragedy that would positively swell with terrific irony and relevance if released now, not to mention all its mythical allusions. Dumb, patronizing itch to see Peter Jackson helm it. (If only because I just saw "Heavenly Creatures" for the first time last week- felt like a Bat Mitzvah.) Of course, if it ever really got made by a studio you know Ziyi'd star-- I guess, a little less terrible than "Memoirs", even sensical, considering the Chinese origins.

Alex Jackson said...

Anybody read Stephanie Zacharek's review of Eight Below? Weird review. She thought it spent too much time on the humans, she wanted more dog footage and thought it was frustrating that the pups were being forgotten about by the people.

She is really such a girl. Her Rotten Tomatoes page shows that she gave positive reviews to Something New, Glory Road, Casanova, and Mrs. Henderson Presents and negative ones to Munich, Match Point, The New World, and Brokeback Mountain. She thinks that Before Sunrise is one of the ten greatest films of all time. Makes me want to climb the walls and scream. It's not the contrarian opinion per se, it's the canonization of light comedy.

It's funny though, I never sensed that her husband and her ever fundamentally disagreed on any movies. The two of them really seemed to be joined at the hip. But still, I think I liked Taylor better. I really dug Taylor's attacks toward Dogville and Eyes Wide Shut. Essential reading, in my humble opinion. He also had some really cool essays about the state of criticism (where he first relates that Men in Black II tale) and great actresses in hardcore pornography. I suggest you dig for them.

Nate said...

On a completely unrelated note, anyone else buy the DVD of Raise the Red Lantern? I pre-ordered it from Amazon several months ago and watched it tonight with a couple of friends who hadn't seen it. This DVD is unspeakably awful - the print they used for the transfer looks like it went through a cheese grater, and the digital compression makes it ten times worse. The laughable 5.1 audio track peaks every time someone says something loudly. Worst of all, the subtitles are riddled with spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors so egregious that they completely destroy the emotional impact of the film. Razor Digital Entertainment is to blame - if the FFC guys get this DVD for review, I really hope they give it the treatment it deserves. I seriously feel violated by this release.

bhuvan said...

Screencap: that Marlon Brando western ONE-EYED JACKS?

Ian Pugh said...

Screencap: John Woo's The Killer?

James Allen said...

No one got the screencap yet? Usually someone has it by 12:01am

OK, I'll take a stab, I know it's probably wrong, but what the hell: The Shootist?

James Allen said...

Question of the moment: what books would you like to see adapted that have not or, more controversially, maybe can't be adapted to the screen.

I think A Confedeacy of Dunces would be pretty hard to do. I believe it's still in development as a, of all things, Drew Barrymore vehicle. Choke on that. I hope that goes the way of Ahnold's I Am Legend, another book I'd love to see made-I know it's been done twice (The Last Man of Earth with Vincent Price, and The Omega Man , an amazingly misbegotten adaptaion with Charleton Heston)- but neither time right.

Too bad The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy franchise was pretty much killed with the amazingly frustrating screen adaptation last year (it took 9 years to get to that?) Adam's episodic narrative cries out for a pay movie channel mini-series (in other words, a reasonable revamping of the BBC adaptation, done in 6 or 7 parts, done on HBO or Showtime.)

Graphic novels? Hmmm... count me as one of the few who was less than enthralled by Sin City, the literalness of the translation deadened the procedings by the third reel for me (not helped by the fact that "That Yellow Bastard" was the weakest of the three to begin with, hurt by Willis and Alba, the former which seemed to phone his part in, and the latter that, despite her obvious good looks, failed completely to have any sort of spark). There was some good stuff in there (Mickey Rourke was good, and they actually made Elijah Wood look truly creepy), but style only gets you so far.

But yeah, someone mentioned Sandman. I'd love to also see Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Unfortunately they screwed up Hellblazer (aka Constantine); I sure hope V for Vendetta comes through.

I'm kinda Lord of the Ringsed out, but if someone could get to The Hobbit within the next few years that would be good. Only having the 70's made-for-Tv Rankin/Bass version is kind of on the lame side.

"The Damnation Game" (Clive Barker) would be a good non-pin cushion head novel to make into a film.

Re: The Taylor interview

Good piece that pretty much amplifies what most of us around here knew already: mainstream publications, even ones on the net, don't like negative nellies, mostly because they'll piss off their producer friends on the cocktail circuit. I found it quite amusing that there is such a "now" mentality that they wanted Taylor to write about the zeitgeist before one actually happened.

Walter_Chaw said...

congrats to Bhuvan - the cap is from Brando's directorial debut/swan song, the great One-Eyed Jacks from 1961. The year that, to me, rivals 1939 for best in the US.

Ian Pugh said...

Even better than 1974, Walter?

Hmm. The sheer number of DVDs for sale on Amazon implies that One-Eyed Jacks has fallen into the public domain. Wouldn't happen to know which DVD would be best to purchase, would you? (I assume it's not the four-dollar cheapies, but sometimes you can't be sure.)

Harvey_birdman said...

Gravity's Rainbow.

Alex Jackson said...

If you ask me, you have no business adapting a book into a movie unless you think the movie is going to be better than the book. I mean what's the point otherwise? Filmmakers need a take, a perspective, on their source material. They need to avoid being faithful to the original novel, faithfulness is pointless as we could always just read the book ourselves, and they can only really be free to be unfaithful if they don't idolize their source material.

There have been a few really great movies made from great novels. Orson Welles' The Trial and Michael Radford's 1984 for example. In both cases though there were one or two veins in the source material that were never sucked dry, and the resulting films could hardly be said to be valid substitutes to reading.

Carl Walker said...

Someone's gonna call me PC or something like that, but whatever.

Alex, I just wanna clarify, are you really saying that women don't (and can't) have good taste in film? Perhaps it's the estrogen, or all those pesky emotions. Hey, I would probably hate those films too, that's not the issue, but your apparent reasoning behind it... unless "girl" is supposed to connote a lack of maturity rather than an indication that feminity is the source of an artistic deficiency. And I'm certainly not calling on you to recant, I just wanna be sure. I'm curious just how macho this whole space really is, honestly.

Dave Gibson said...

I’d be keen (if a little wary) on a film adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces, as long as they went with gravitas instead of B.O. (IE: PS Hoffman or Maury Chaykin instead of Will Ferrell….I know, I’m dreaming) Still would be jazzed about a Neuromancer film (probably never happen), The Catcher in the Rye (Yeah, right) or a three film cycle based on The Stand. All things considered, I expect to see Dazzler: the Movie before any one of these hits the multi-plex.

Count me in as a fan of Stephanie Z—in the midst of the wiener-heavy world of movie critics (and most every other type of critic for that matter) I enjoy her wit and varied taste-- I can’t think of a single critic for whom I cannot amass a list of what I believe are inferior or unworthy films, though I’m troubled by AJ’s implication that her gender inherently guides her to unworthy opinions. (“She is really such a girl?” please explain?) As for the canonization of light comedy, two words: Billy. Wilder.

rachel said...

Does this mean I can start referring to Alex as "kiddo"?

Seriously though, that comment is completely nonsensical. "Glory Road" is girly? "Brokeback Mountain" is uber-dudely? (I think the audience I saw BM in was about 70 percent female?) But! Let's check out Rotten Tomatoes... negative reviews for Proof, Just Like Heaven, Flightplan, In Her Shoes, Cold Mountain... positive write-ups for Get Rich or Die Tryin', Buffalo, the Ringer, Unleashed, Sin City, Infernal Affairs... G-d what a vagina she's got on her, eh!

Jared said...

1979 and 1980 are both pretty memorably amazing years in film history I would argue. 79-Apocalypse Now, Alien, Being There, etc..., 80-Elephant Man, Raging Bull, Altered States (hey, i just recently watched it, and it's at least Ken Russell's best flick), etc...

If film reviews should all be written by the person most likely to enjoy it, than shouldn't all reviews be from Roger Ebert?

Petra B said...

The book that is constantly debated among my crowd is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn which has been long rumored to be optioned and "worked through" by Tim Burton. (Although others have said his options have run out and have not yet been renewed.) I personally think it is a great story but may either be destined for animation (good or bad is up to debate) or bad "geek" make-up jobs.

I often wonder if anyone has any business adapting Books/Memoirs/Novels into screenplays in the first place. I mean how many times have we all seen the lazy Voice Over or the standard fare Flash Backs because that was how the book appeared in print and SOMEONE thought it would be wise to do the same in the movie. But what I really think is that much of what the industry is missing is innovation and I do think that it might just come from an off-beat or unique book.

Rich said...

Ian:

I actually did a bit of Google searching before I read your post for opinions on DVD versions of One-Eyed Jacks to check whether the copy available to rent through my online rental place was any good (it is not). I found a forum thread where a guy had done some serious detective work:

Last year I surveyed all the public domain editions of ONE-EYED JACKS in the hope of finding a decent one. I bought over a dozen different editions of the same film -- they were all dirt cheap.

The best one by far was Front Row Features. It has a red-tinted cover with a close-up of Brando. The cover doesn't say widescreen, but it's in the original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 with a clear sharp picture and good accurate color. It must have been sourced from the Paramount laser-disc. It's out of print now and hard to find, but a persistent buyer should be able to find it on eBay.

Second best is Brentwood. Brentwood seems to be one of the better public domain labels. Brentwood issued ONE-EYED JACKS in three different editions: in a standard amaray case, in a laminated cardboard slipcover, and in a 4-Movie pack called LEGENDS OF THE WEST (other titles in the box-set are The Big Trees, Vengeance Valley, and The Sundowners). Cover art is the same for all editions, a sepia photo of Brando raising a sixgun (except the image is lifted from either THE APPALOOSA or THE MISSOURI BREAKS}. Brentwood's editions are also in 1:85.1 with a good clear picture and color. Good enough to enjoy, but Front Row has the edge.

I would avoid editions issued by Alpha, Diamond, Digiview, Catcom, Genius Movie Classics, Global, Madacy, Platinum, Pro-Active / St. Clair, Unicorn, and Ventura. Since I did my survey, Diamond and Platinum have apparently released upgraded editions with new cover art that might be worth checking out. You never know what you're going to get with a public domain label until you try it. DVD Aficianado offers some of the cover art, including Front Row, if you want to know what to look for and what to avoid, but the site is not up to date.

rachel said...

Oh, Walter-- have you heard the new Jenny Lewis (w/ The Watson Twins) album? I've been listening to a few tracks, it's pretty stellar so far. "Rabbit Fur Coat" sounds like it should play during the opening credits of a deeply violent film.

Walter_Chaw said...

No! I'm intensely curious about it. Was planning on picking it up this weekend. Love songs about rabbits.

Alex Jackson said...

Seriously though, that comment is completely nonsensical. "Glory Road" is girly? "Brokeback Mountain" is uber-dudely? (I think the audience I saw BM in was about 70 percent female?) But! Let's check out Rotten Tomatoes... negative reviews for Proof, Just Like Heaven, Flightplan, In Her Shoes, Cold Mountain... positive write-ups for Get Rich or Die Tryin', Buffalo, the Ringer, Unleashed, Sin City, Infernal Affairs... G-d what a vagina she's got on her, eh!

Thanks for calling me on this guys.

I think that I meant girly as being synonymous with weak. Zacharek strikes me as weak, she's just not tough enough to play rough with the boys. She bruises too easily.

The hyper-stylization of Sin City and Unleashed acts to protect her from the true impact of the violence. Her liking of those films doesn't convince me that she's any more of a man. I mean I do like those movies, but you don't walk away from them bruised and beat up like you do from a Von Trier, a Haneke, or a Solondoz.

I hated her review of Open Water. She has this inability to value the film FOR killing off the main characters. Yeah, an unhappy ending is no more True than a happy ending; but it bugs me to not end that she doesn't see the intrinsic value of unhappy endings. She doesn't see the value of suffering for the sake of suffering.

She also hated War of the Worlds, but for an aggravatingly stupid reason. She hated it because it was unpleasant. Because it pushed the wrong buttons. Not because of the ending (Walter's reason), not because of the plot implausibilities (Hollowman's reason), not because any film with the combined presense of both Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning is unbearable by design (my wife's reason). She disliked it because she doesn't believe that a summer blockbuster should be exploiting 9/11 for effect.

Zacharek also liked Fantastic Four more than Batman Begins. Why don't we cry contrarian about this? Why hasn't she gotten the shit she deserves for this preference?

I haven't read her review of Flightplan, popular opinion was so weak that I ignored it and was pleasantly surprised when I caught it at the dollars. But I wonder if the things that I liked about it weren't the things she hated about it. Jodie Foster is not feminine. She's cast in a role originally meant for a male actor and she plays an engineer. Engineers are inherently unlikable characters. Foster is not a very likable actress either. She very intelligent and there's something icy, clinical, and reptillian about her intelligence. It's the high-in-spatial-reasoning-and logical intelligence of an engineer. And so when this unlikable character loses her daughter and begins to look like she's crazy, we begin to sympathize with the tormented passengers who applaud when she is captured and walked down the aisle in shame. I suspect that Zacharek felt those kind of feelings and then rejected them for being unpleasurable.

She prefers light affective experiences in the cinema. She seems to avoid anything too heavy, anything that's going to put her through the wringers. I don't, and in fact I think she enables people who want to avoid films outside of their comfort level. Not only that, she legitimizes and gives critical support to the "chick flick" format.

It's probably overly naked of me of actually to relate that to her femininity. I mean what I look for in movies must be rooted in some dumb macho desire to prove myself as able to endure pain. I can be upfront with that. And yeah, saying "girl" I'm talking about the socially constructed gender. Women have just as much biological capacity to enjoy a good impaling, decapitation, or disemboweling as men do; only Zacharek doesn't.

Ian Pugh said...

Hey, thanks for the info, Rich. Funny thing, I'm pretty sure that Front Row produced the cheapo Night of the Living Dead that I own, which all things considered wasn't a terrible transfer but I'm sure it has nothing on the Millennium Edition. I know, I'm horrible, need to catch up on that.

Dave Gibson said...

I suppose the next step then, AC, is to explore why you believe “girly” is “synonymous with weak” and more to the point, why you consider “being more of a man” an inherently superior perspective, without resorting to vague, unexplored notions of “socially constructed gender” which is hardly a rigid scientific conceit that everyone agrees on. Problem is, you seem to be certain enough of this so-called “social construct” in order to deem Jodie Foster “unfeminine” and then connect this vague notion of “unfeminity” (in the person of Jodie Foster’s character in "Flighplan" as well as her as an actress) with the age-old, sexist conceit that high-intelligence is more easily equated with men than women. (Not to mention your statement that Foster is an ‘unlikable’ actress—holy crap) You are essentially positing that Stephanie Z.’s gender is the essential element in what you see as her inferiority as a critic. (Again, this “gender construct” appears to reflect your own assumptions about women much more than SZ’s) Is the natural conclusion then that the contrary opinions on “WoTW” are partly superior because all the reviewers you mentioned are men? If not, then are you suggesting that only men have the ability to see beyond their “social constructs”? Heck, if I was personally nauseated by the violence in Sin City, does that mean I’m not a man? Egads.

Dave Gibson said...

AC, Case in point: I neglected your reference to your Wife's opinion of WoTW in my last statement. My apologies.

Bill C said...

Think you mean "AJ," Dave, unless the C stands for something colloquial.

Alex Jackson said...

At the risk of 86-ing any further discussion on the topic, masculity is the inherently superior perspective because I am a man. Zacharek's lack of masculinity significantly reduces her utility as a critic for me.

Is the natural conclusion then that the contrary opinions on “WoTW” are partly superior because all the reviewers you mentioned are men? If not, then are you suggesting that only men have the ability to see beyond their “social constructs”?

Well, breaking it down some more.

Hollowman brought manly logic into the mix and found the film so implausible that the sensations never properly registered. I can dig that. The wife brought womanly emotions into the mix and the film never registered for her because she could never properly attach herself to the principal actors. I can dig that. I think both those reactions are hella valid. Flaws in the design that any WOTW apologist must conquer sooner or later.

Now Walter, Stephanie, and me; we all saw the same movie, it registered for all three of us and we emotionally engaged with it. Walter said that he dug the horror of movie but Spielberg fucked the whole thing up at the ending. I can dig that. He experienced the same kind of horror and discomfort that I did and found it interesting and worthy. Stephanie on the other hand experienced the same kind of horror and discomfort that I did and found it unworthy. That's the problem that I have, she "got" the movie and rejected it. My problem isn't with her peepers but with her value system. I find THAT particularly disturbing.

I don't think, by the way, that any of these people saw beyond their "social constructs". I think they were informed by them, all in ways more useful to me than Zacharek's.

Okay, going back to socially constructed gender. Yes, the entire concept is not rigidly scientific and it's not something that we all agree on. That's why they call the social sciences the soft sciences. Even softer than the social sciences are the arts. Particularly with the arts, I subscribe to the idea that you can only really concieve of an object (or concept) after you've explored it all angles. The only way to get at that topic is to bandy about personal insight.

Consider these two perenial questions: what is a woman? What is a man? Do those words have any defined meaning, or should they more or less be retired from the lexicon entirely. Or strictly replaced with the terms "male" and "female" which are to only refer to the mechanics of sexual reproduction?

I'm kind of going to the extreme in divorcing gender entirely from biology actually. Zacharek is a woman and I am fully expecting her to act like a man if she is to have any use to me.

One of the unsurmountable primary problems that I have about feminism is what the official line on femininity is. Does feminity need to be destroyed and do woman need to assume a masculine identity? How much of what we define as feminine enables the further subjugation of women, or makes it easier to accept their subjugation?

I mean isn't a woman who likes Casanova kind of like a black man who likes fried chicken and watermelon? She kind of reinforces all those negative stereotypes about women.

About women and intelligence. I'm putting stock in Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, that basically people are intelligent in all kinds of ways. He doesn't say this I don't think, but I associate interpersonal intelligence as female and logical-mathematical intelligence as masculine. Masculine because that kind of intelligence is asocial in nature, and the male gender is defined in how it seperates itself from the family. The female gender keeps itself within the family and would then lend itself to interpersonal intelligence. "We give our boys wings and we give our girls roots" goes the parenting video on gender socialization.

Stereotypical and ultimately kind of arbitrary, I guess. I need a way to lucidly describe these concepts though.

But I'd remind that I'm saying that Jodie is unsypathetic because she is masculine, inferring that masculine people in general are unsypathetic. It's not as much that she isn't matching her gender norm, but it may be that the fact she is a woman helps to emphasize the inherently alienating aspects of this masculine trait.

I'll also remind that I'm saying people can be intelligent in different ways, and the very fact that Jodie is intelligent in this way suggests that men by simple virtue of their Y chromosome do not have the market cornered on logical-mathematical thinking.

P.S. Yeah, is that AC meant to be air conditioning or Alex Chaw?

Alex Jackson said...

Of interest:

Just published my Viddied It review for The Godfather. (Top ten for that site and two new FFC reviews up next). There I simulataneously praise and attack the film for it's glorification of a patriarchal male-oriented system that hates women.

Do I contradict myself? Probably. I'm large and contain multitudes to say nothing of The Godfather.

Dave Gibson said...

P.S. Yeah, is that AC meant to be air conditioning or Alex Chaw?


Naw, “AC” was just a multi-tasking typo—much as I’d suspect the references to “masculity”, “feminity”, “unsurmountable” and “unsypathetic” were too---ya smart ass wankers... ;) ;)

Anyways, A…J… it’s hard to take your critique of SZ’s value system seriously when you say things like: “masculinity is the inherently superior perspective because I am a man. Zacharek's lack of masculinity significantly reduces her utility as a critic for me” which I really hope are given somewhat tongue in cheek as I’m disturbed that you actually believe stuff like that—especially given that probably the best North American film critic ever was a woman. I think if you actually explore some of the admittedly compelling questions that you pose, you may find a lot more interesting insight other than this “Dudes #1” mentality.Looking for an “official line on feminism”—is not only unlikely, it’s not even the right question—exploration, not simplistic answers are the name of the game.

Adam N said...

AJ,

The funniest thing about Ricky Gervais' character on The Office or Sarah Silverman's standup is the way they illustrate how backpedalling rarely makes anything better. Your initial salvo about SZ -- who I read all the time and disagree with about as frequently -- was ill-conceived, but your response to Dave was kinda insane. A woman who likes Casanova (which sucks, sure) is like a black man who likes fried chicken and watermelon because she perpetuates a negative stereotype? what the hell does that mean? I'm Jewish -- does the fact that I always send out my invoices promptly and enjoy brisket make me a discredit to my culture?
What you seem to have done is couch a knee-kerk response ("I don't like this particular female film critic because she has what I perceive to be soft, feminine tastes that I disagree with") in as much frantic academic posturing as possible to distract from your original intent. Talk about gender construction and parenting manuals all you want, but it's hard to divorce the simplicity of your initial statement from the barrage of qualifiers you appended to it once someone called you on it.
And incidentally, her review of WOTW was for me -- a man -- right on. It actually informed my own magazine review of the film.I didn't like how unpleasant is was either, but not cause I'm girly. The ugliness was unjustified given its inexorably happy trajectory. What's the point? I know the book's a cop out, too, but Spielberg having his cake and eating it too is really annoying, and it's also what's wrong (in a different proportion) with Munich.

Anonymous said...

--I didn't like how unpleasant is was either, but not cause I'm girly. The ugliness was unjustified given its inexorably happy trajectory. --

--it’s hard to take your critique of SZ’s value system seriously when you say things like: “masculinity is the inherently superior perspective because I am a man. Zacharek's lack of masculinity significantly reduces her utility as a critic for me” which I really hope are given somewhat tongue in cheek as I’m disturbed that you actually believe stuff like that--

How so? That does sound a bit tongue-in-cheek, but disregarding the feminine/masculine labels, it's just Alex asserting that he has a set of values which are incompatible with Zacharek's. I come from a capitalist value system and I find it incompatible with communism. I have a religious value system and I find it incompatible with hardcore atheism (thus, Ruthless Reviews does me not much good much of the time).

But yeah, the watermelon/Casanova thing, I have no idea where you were going with that, Alex.

Kirk said...

Screencap: A Better Tomorrow II? I am not confident in that, as I don't remember that particular shot. Also, It looks more like a VHS cap than anything i've seen recently (1:33:1?).

If my delusions are correct, then I can follow my dreams, and do what I really want, which is to find the rights to and adapt the screenplay for Jonathan Lethem's Gun, With Occasional Music. It's fantastic and I love it a lot--and with Scanner Darkly being made these days, many things are now possible that once weren't.

I do agree about Frailty, though--that was pretty sick. Does anybody remember when Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) was a lock to direct a Preacher flick? With Ben Affleck? I think that's done with now, sometimes, there is a God.

Word around the campfire is that Running Scared is a nasty, crazy, blood-soaked flick. I haven't seen much these days so maybe I'll drop some bones on it.

Bill C said...

On the Running Scared website you can actually perform virtual cunnilingus on Vera Farmiga's character.

And that's all I have to say about that.

rachel said...

Tuning out Alex's buttwattling for a sec (as poignantly batshit as it may be), this is clearly why Jesus created the internet. The best part: Randy Quaid's lego version looks just like him.

Rich said...

That Running Scared game seems to restricted to US residents only. Assholes. I just HAD to see this, though, and oh my god.

Anonymous said...

It's the Captain to the rescue for you: Hooray! That should give you instant access to it, alternatively you can just put anything into the Age Verification database, as long as it's a real sounding name, a real e-mail (use those crappy hotmail accounts!) and a real zip code, you're in. The password to skip right to the part of the game anyone gives a crap about is "yugorsky". Enjoy, or something.

Once again, providing the lowbrow for all. On the flipside, I just saw and hated Syriana, the wacky feel-bad shorter Magnolia with nothing really to add, as well as Keeping Mum, a bland UK export which has a decent premise - dysfunctional sexless (or oversexed) family in need of a catalyst, which comes in the form of a loveable housemaid who also turns out to be a serial killer. Shame all the laughs are broadcast at least half an hour in advance and the film is an incredible bore, but occasional moments of darkness and nasty almost make it tolerable.

Alex Jackson said...

What you seem to have done is couch a knee-kerk response ("I don't like this particular female film critic because she has what I perceive to be soft, feminine tastes that I disagree with") in as much frantic academic posturing as possible to distract from your original intent. Talk about gender construction and parenting manuals all you want, but it's hard to divorce the simplicity of your initial statement from the barrage of qualifiers you appended to it once someone called you on it.

Pttthhhh!

I have to admit, I have no idea how you wanted me to respond. Was there something that I could have said that would have made my initial response less simplistic?

But yeah, "I don't like this particular female film critic because she has what I perceive to be soft, feminine tastes that I disagree with", that pretty much covers it. I still agree with that. If that's what you think I'm saying, I've communicated myself pretty well. I do not repent. I've tried to honestly look at the forces that have went into me thinking that, if that was backpedaling, then yeah, OK I was backpedaling. You got me.

Honestly, I can't help if this sounds defensive, but I think Zacharek being a girl and her having a vagina are two different things. When she praises stuff like Casanova, and she seems to praise stuff like Casanova often, she seems to be oblivious to the very serious political ramnifications of such an action. I don't think she needs to do that.

That was my point in writing that line, and *backpedaling alert* I kind of regret it now just because, and this is the argument that somebody should have brought up before me, is that if she really likes Casanova she shouldn't care how about the political ramnifications of it. If you're black and you love fried chicken and watermelon, yeah you probably should eat them in public to your heart's content and say "fuck-all" to political correctness.

Okay, so that statement was knee-jerk.

This isn't as much backpedaling, but I got to thinking and I know that I said that I feel she never seems to have any serious disagreements with her husband about films. They like and hate pretty much the same things.

I really like Charles Taylor better though, and I think the reason is purely because he wasn't assigned to review stuff like Annapolis or Something New and wasn't forced to admit that he liked it. He pretty much only reviewed important movies.

It's actually probably very much the same thing with Kael, who I revere, but had that same girly aversion to heavy painful cinema and that same girly attraction to frivilous films. But you know, she didn't have to review everything, only films that were relatively significant, and so she was never as problematic to me as Zacharek. The day to day grind really showed off her soft underbelly.

Zacharek's review of War of the Worlds focused on the unpleasantness more than the hypocricy of Spielberg's ending. The happy ending I think, was just icing on the cake for her. I think it would have been more valid a film, but I don't think she would have liked it any more were it consistent in the unpleasantness.

Scott said...

Back to pieces of writing that I would love to see adapted, here's my list:

1)A SON OF THE CIRCUS - John Irving
2)INFINITE JEST - David Foster Wallace
3) THE SENTRIES - Ed Mcbain
4) HARLOT'S GHOST - Norman Mailer

dave said...

I always hoped that with CG becoming cheaper we'd see more good SF books adapted to the screen, but with the notable exception of the new Solaris this seems not to be the case (and I have little hope for Scanner Darkly to be actually good). I'd love to see more of Lem's Books adapted, e.g. The Invincible or Eden. I'd also love to see a new take on "Roadside Picnic" by the Strugatsky brothers. "Stalker" may be a masterpiece but it doesn't really have much to do with the book.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Guys:

Lookin' for some classic man vs. Nature films. Something that instigates primordial fear instead of the hitchcockian type.

Bemis said...

It's actually probably very much the same thing with Kael, who I revere, but had that same girly aversion to heavy painful cinema and that same girly attraction to frivilous films.

You really think this was true? I mean, she loved Peckinpah and Yojimbo.

Alex Jackson said...

Reh, I'm thinking about her hating Repulsion because it did what it set out to do and did it well.

Unique complaint to me probably, she hated Alan Parker because he was basically a muckraker, but she couldn't accept or enjoy the fact of his muckraking.

Similiarly with Dirty Harry, she thought that it was producing feelings in her that she didn't want to experience. She knew that vigilatiasm was wrong, and so she couldn't even vicariously take pleasure in it even in the confines of the movie theater.

You know, it seemed at times that she would rather a film leave no impact or a light impact then great impact in the wrong direction.

My opinion of her on this subject is also greatly informed by Afterglow, that interview with her before she died; where the author mentions that she loved Sex and the City and hated Oz. She defended her hatred of Oz by saying that it was unoriginal, a recycling of James Cagney movies. That bugged me, she regarded brutality as needing greater justification then frivilosity. I mean, I don't think that Oz exactly reinvented the wheel, but certainly neither did Sex and the City.

Also in Afterglow, she talks about how she hates dread and prefers suspense holding Boys Don't Cry up as an example. I think it was in Afterglow where she actually verbally laments the popularity of American Beauty and saying that people want their movies to be turgid and won't accept their movies to be light.

The thing about Kael though is that she was such a great writer that a lot of the time her actual opinion toward a movie didn't really matter. Even if you disagree with the whole or rather the specifics, bits and pieces of her opinion can be plundered and recycled to describe current trends in the cinema. It's possible that there is a Pauline Kael review for every occasion. I'm not sure I reflect her tastes, but reading her has been very useful in developing my own.

Again, Kael's "girliness" isn't too much of a problem for me. I absorb it, I reject it, and I form my own perspective on the subject. Zacharek, who I don't think is a one of our best and brightest critical minds (she is certainly no Pauline Kael), kind of took that one thing of Kael's and nutured it into something that I find very undesirable.

Chad Evan said...

H-man:
Deliverance is what you're looking for.

Alex:
I have no problem with what you're saying about "girly" taste, but the fried chicken thing was irritating: fuck your tastebuds, you must eat socially sanctioned foodstuff! But you retracted that, so all is well. I've never really understood the negative connotation of the chicken and watermelon thing (both of which are very popular among blacks and whites in the South.) I know it's connected with minstrel shows and the like, but it always seemed like suck a lame way of demeaning people: " Oooh, you like chicken!" You'd think centuries of racism would have given bigots time to think of something better than that.

Bemis said...

Chad:

Yeah, I never got that either. Fried chicken and watermelon are delicious for all.

Alex:

I definitely agree about Kael's writing making her opinion almost beside the point. I disagree with the majority of her reviews, yet I find them complelling because she proceeds with inarguable logic and pitch-perfect instincts.

Jefferson said...

Scott said...
Back to pieces of writing that I would love to see adapted, here's my list:
... 2)INFINITE JEST - David Foster Wallace


I think only the core of Jest -- the espionage story that brings the Quebecois amputee assassins swarming down on the gifted tennis academy and the neighboring rehab center (really, you've gotta read the book) -- would make any kind of good movie. It's so dense with character and discursive plot threads, it would have to be stripped into nothingness. I think Wallace has said as much, laughing all the way to the bank on his film-rights sale.

Truthfully, I thought they'd never be able to make Hannibal the way it was written as a novel, and I was right. Thomas Harris pre-sold the movie rights, took the check, and then wrote an ending he KNEW they'd wuss out on. The end result was just pretty-looking mediocrity.

Dave Gibson said...

I can’t contribute more to this discussion AJ, as you are adamant in sticking to your ludicrous and ill-defined “premise” regarding the relative weight of “girly”-ness—(which I’m still hoping was an unintentionally asinine aside that has gotten away from you). Though, I am hopeful in that: Pauline Kael’s gender ‘isn’t too much of a problem for (you)’….that’s a great first step in addressing the ever-changing cultural landscape of 1923.
To quote the commandant (Willem Dafoe) from “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson”
“After all… we have female motorists and female singers”.

I'm getting creeped out now, so--I'll see y'all later...

Jefferson said...

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...
Lookin' for some classic man vs. Nature films. Something that instigates primordial fear instead of the hitchcockian type.


The Edge gets a bad rap, but I love that big ugly bear. No, not Baldwin.
Alive?
The Naked Prey. (Does it count if the protagonist is threatened by people AS WELL AS nature?)
Ravenous.
Touching the Void.

Alex Jackson said...

Truthfully, I thought they'd never be able to make Hannibal the way it was written as a novel, and I was right. Thomas Harris pre-sold the movie rights, took the check, and then wrote an ending he KNEW they'd wuss out on. The end result was just pretty-looking mediocrity.

Funny you mention that, when I read the novel I kept on picturing it being adapted by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Complete with a French narrator.

Seattle Jeff said...

I'd love to see an ipdated version of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt.

I can't wait to see the nonresponse to this post!

Carl Walker said...

I guess my only real question is, how many people here consider a "macho" viewpoint to be the best/only way to view film? Should I understand that to be a site-wide policy? Just curious. I mean, I'd keep reading, but perhaps through more of a testosterone filter. Personally, many of the films I loathe the most, whether chick flicks or "dick flicks," are those exact films that rely on the lowest possible appeal to basic ultra-stereotyped gender characteristics.

I will condone the use of "social construction of gender" (interesting to see it used in such a reactionary context though) if only to echo those who have stated that many of the various "manly" films listed have failed to affect me on that level, indicating that I must not quite line up with our average "male" construction. I do, however, find Alex's implication that femininity (or girliness) is somehow more constructed than masculinity (or manliness) quite interesting.

Alex Jackson said...

I do, however, find Alex's implication that femininity (or girliness) is somehow more constructed than masculinity (or manliness) quite interesting.

Huh? Where did you get that? I don't remember saying or implying that femininity is more constructed than masculinity. In any case, I certainly don't believe that.

Carl Walker said...

Yeah, I suppose you didn't really say that. It just seemed that you were demanding that women critics transcend their socially constructed gender in order to be worth anything. But if you're mostly saying that in terms of "worth anything to you" as a matter of personal taste, then I guess your comments can't be read as much as claims about the relative value of the two (constructed) genders. It is a little murky though, or maybe I just don't feel like going back and reading the whole thing again. Anyway, sorry for misrepresenting you a bit.