April 23, 2006

The Trench

Second straight week of losing time means missing screenings and dropping deadlines. I did manage to squeeze out a few long-overdue DVD reviews, though, the first of which (for Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart) is live and the rest, once they get massive plastic surgery and transplants, soon to follow. One of them, a difficult-to-write review of King Vidor’s tearjerker The Champ probably won’t win me a lot of friends. I love King Vidor, though; his The Crowd is one of my all-timers.

Moderated a screening/discussion this week of Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, one of the best films of all time that has the misfortune in the United States of being in a egregiously under-valued medium. It’s anime, of course, the Japanese animation form that I won’t presume to be able to educate anyone about, but will say is home to one of the best pure, nasty action films of the last twenty years (Ninja Scroll); a few of the best children’s films (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away); and this, among the most heart-rending war films – yeah, I’ll say it – ever. The performances are astonishing, the direction assured, and the images indelible: it’s a picture that’s almost impossible to watch twice.

So you can imagine my disappointment when only seven people showed up for the screening (the Douglas County library draws an average of about fifty people to this series) – older folks, with a group of teens appearing early on but leaving before their seats were warm. In the United States, animation isn’t taken seriously as a medium for sober storytelling – I still think that Schindler’s List would’ve been better as a cartoon but, even as I finish typing that, someone’s writing me a flame mail calling me anti-Semitic. Believe me when I say that animation, by ironic dint of its state as completely produced media, is actually less distracting in most cases than non-animated pictures. Consider scenes of mass-urban-destruction in Grave of the Fireflies: were it live action, moments would be spent marveling at how such a special effect could be accomplished.

But in the US, animation is a dirty word.

Thank Disney for that though, ironically again, Disney is to be thanked for post-war Japan’s inroads into studio animation. Hopefully with the spate of recent, successful, adaptations of graphic novels – in particular, Rodriguez’s divisive (but inarguably animated) Sin City and Linklater’s upcoming A Scanner Darkly - the tide is turning finally on these shores towards mature pictures told, as some can only be told, with pencil and paper. Maybe it took the technological advancement of animation to make it momentous enough for sobriety.

Also did a discussion/screening of The Maltese Falcon with a wonderful crowd at Gilpin County: revisiting the Huston masterpiece as the first in five John Huston films that will include The Big Sleep (Bogie sans Huston), Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Misfits (Huston sans Bogie), and Key Largo. What remains after this screening and analysis is my distaste for the casting of Mary Astor when Geraldine Fitzgerald proved unavailable – Astor is fine, I guess, for what she is, but Fitzgerald would’ve put the “femme” in femme fatale. A lot of the ambivalence of Sam’s final choice is lost to Astor’s too-literal, too-unsexy portrayal of the treacherous dame and a classic film gets its biggest black eye.

Still, it’s something like dizzy delight seeing Peter Lorre, Bogie, and Sydney Greenstreet squaring off here, armed with Huston’s storyboarded shots and Dashiell Hammett's ventriloquited dialogue – no wonder they work together again the very next year in Casablanca.

The week started with me at the Denver Public Library, talking a little Run Lola Run just a few weeks after presenting the film at Lone Tree. Good flick – starting to fray at the edges, though, under too much personal scrutiny. This coming week, just as packed, but I will catch shows of United 93, a civilian screening of the cool-looking Silent Hill, and probably Robin Williams’ just appalling-looking R.V.. I wanted to claw my eyes out during the preview. It does not bode well for the feature-length version.

Also this week, screening/discussion series Tuesday, 6:30pm at the DPL main branch of Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly; Thursday at 2:00pm at the DPL main branch (discussion only) of classic Westerns Stagecoach, Ox-Bow Incident, and Ride the High Country; and Saturday at 1:00pm at Gilpin County’s library of Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Come out if you’re in the area, all shows are free.

Question of the week? Bad casting boners. Mary Astor in Maltese Falcon and Sofia Coppola, of course, in Godfather III (and for many of the same reasons) – casting that’s off enough to throw off the tone/intent of the films in which they’ve been shoehorned – which stand out in your mind?

Here’s this week’s capture and, in posting it, know that I know that we’re running over-limit without me keeping score very well. I’ll tally up this coming week and we’ll see what there is to see in regards to a winner this crazy round.

Hot off the Presses (4.25)

Bill provides the down & dirty on "Terry" Malick's The New World and Hayao Miyazaki's disappointing Howl's Moving Castle; Travis has nice things to say about The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio; and I do the deed on the second season of Fox Network's fireman/caveman drama "Rescue Me".

Hot off the Presses (4.26)

The review of United 93 is up along with Bill's specs on Woody's Match Point.

Hot off the Presses (4.27)

Travis tackles the Mae West box set, and after a tally of this fourth screenshot contest, I find a tie - both winners, Bhuvan and David H, send me your addresses to walter@filmfreakcentral.net and I'll get your gifts out to you. Next week, we start fresh. Here's the final tally:

b. earnest – A Perfect World
bhuvan – One-Eyed Jacks & Minority Report
Ian – Element of Crime
Jefferson – War of the Worlds (1953)
hollow man – Ratcatcher
Stephen Reese – Jude
Adam N. – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
David H – Aguirre: The Wrath of God & Fahrenheit 451


Anonymous said...

I sure hope Robin Williams and Lindsay Lohan make it to Wallyworld.

Silent Hill is a better movie than Mortal Kombat, smarter than Resident Evil, and more ambitious than Tomb Raider. I like it a lot more than the Final Fantasy movie too. However, it's still not very good.


Anonymous said...

Wild stab here at the screen grab, but...Days of Heaven?

Oh, and as for Silent Hill, I found it absolutely horrible. The monsters were amazing (very Clive Barker-inspired), yet they showed up way too infrequently. The storyline is utterly boring, and the characters just aren't interesting enough to justify all the time the audience spends with them (125 minutes? They're kidding, right?).

Plus, it's just two undeveloped characters wandering around a haunted town and sometimes bumping into creatures that are just there to act weird. Oh, and wait until you get to the moment of revelation. Completely inspired by a video game, with the filmmakers not realising that a video game and a film are different art forms. Totally out of left field, and it had the audience in hysterics. Oh, and I saw this at a special preview screening in my birthplace of Ottawa with an audience I was sure would be annoying as Hell. Once the movie got going, I didn't even hear a peep...even during the BOO moments. The movie turned the audience into lifeless zombies. First time I've ever seen that happen in a screening.

bhuvan said...

The capture... it's the end of MINORITY REPORT, innit?!

tmhoover said...

Not sure the "Grave of the Fireflies" snub has to do with its being a cartoon. If you had shown several episodes of "Ranma 1/2" or whatever, you would no doubt have been inundated by anime fans and assorted other protoculture addicts. The problem with "Fireflies" is that it falls between two stools: it's not genre enough to bring in the fantasy crowd, but not well known enough in other sectors to bring in anyone else. It's telling that the people who showed up were either older (and perhaps drawn by the WWII theme) or younger (in the futile hope for another "Akira"). So the animation faithful are as much to blame as the animation hateful.

But man, do I feel your pain on "R.V." Especially since I would have missed tonight's Cinematheque screening of Elem Klimov's "Rasputin" were it not for a miraculous second press screening. I may have to bring a metal spike in case my eyes are violated- by Williams, not Klimov.

rachel said...

Consider scenes of mass-urban-destruction in Grave of the Fireflies: were it live action, moments would be spent marveling at how such a special effect could be accomplished.

Let's be fair though-- you're telling me you don't flinch during any scene of animation that's particularly vivacious, knowing how many thousands of hours the sweatshop put in? Knowing that the opening to Futurama took months, that Disney saved millions by taking a stripe outta Lilo's shirt. Surely, a different type of distraction. Perhaps why CGI, for all its flaws and potential ugliness, is less exhausting to watch than traditional cell animation: the work feels largely hidden.

I find your writing on animation to be particurlarly poignant, as I feel I would've never been a particular fan o' cinema without it as an inroad: my first favorite montage, the window-breaking of Cowboy Bebop's "Ballad of Fallen Angels"; my introduction to Lynch, The Adolescence of Utena (still a personal fave, despite all its excess: the ballroom dance in the garden strikes me as one of the best-conceived moments in film, period). Of course, my dying words'll be, "Damn, but Fallen Art was awesome." I'll still watch Lupin before Bond-- it's just better cartooned.

It's interesting that you cite Sin City-- it's a lot of things, I can't imagine it constituting a shift toward "sober storytelling" (even the fanboys were blushing) or an increased love of animation. If anything, "Sin City" is a rebuke, an extension of that real problem we have with animation, the cause of Billy West's eternal aneurysm: celebrity. Scanner Darkly looks like it's got the same fetish. I don't know if any respect for animation can go in hand w/ the star system, as long as VAs go on invisible and we have painters pretending they're architects. It kills me, but what we likely need to do is get VAs properly famous. Steven Jay Blum's gotta get on Entertainment Tonight, Andy Serkis has to get his damn Oscar and Cameron Diaz must never be allowed a microphone again. Until then, I feel our condescension toward animation will remain inherent and irreducible.

Dave Gibson said...

RE: Casting snafus?

Recently, I’m thinking of the three leads in “Where the Truth Lies”. I fondly imagine a casting session where a cigar-chomping Egoyan says: “Funny! I need funny! Get me Bacon and Firth!” Yikes. Then there’s Alison Lohman who sure aint too femme fatalish. As the son of the biggest Dick Tracy fan in Canada—I was not impressed with Warren Beatty as Tracy—and lets not forget the near-sacrilege of Madonna as the terrifying “The Blank”.

Stephen Lack as the hero in “Scanners” is probably the worst performance in any Cronenberg film. Brando in “Teahouse of the August Moon” should send shivers up any spine…

Keith Uhlich said...

Here comes the Spielberg fan in me: Capture is the last "Solaris" cribbed shot from "Minority Report", no?

Whether right or wrong, gives me a chance to congratulate you Walter on the latest addition to your family. Looking forward to reading Kipp's interview with you. Will be writing for Seitz's blog myself in the near future for a "Deadwood" symposium.

Keith Uhlich said...

ack! Bhuvan beats me to the button punch. :-)

Paul Clarke said...

Bad casting that throws the tone of a movie? How about Roger Moore as James Bond, an eyebrow-arching comedian as a govermment assassin, throwing the 007 series into light comedy. (Though, to be fair, Connery in "Diamonds Are Forever" started the descent.

Bring on Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale"!

Jack_Sommersby said...

Casting snafus:

Robert Redford in Out of Africa.

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Tom Cruise in Interview With a Vampire

Jared said...

Capture looks sort of like "Munich" although the two who said "Minority Report" are probably right, it's too dark to see the actors properly.

I have strange taste in animation, I like the sixties stuff that a lot of people consider 'bottom of the barrel' Disney, it's so breezy and not all serious and it has this laid back sort of stoner vibe to it, "The Sword In the Stone" is my favorite animated movie, I know stuff like that is essentially free of any social content but whatever.

Seattle Jeff said...

Casting disaster:

Richard Gere in Chicago

Anonymous said...

Tom Cruise was great in Interview With a Vampire. He was horrible in The Last Samurai.

Brad Pitt was terrible in Troy, even worse in Meet Joe Black.

Anonymous said...

Martin Donovan and Al Pacino in Insomnia?

Justin said...

A small correction: Unless Linklater's adapting an adaptation, A Scanner Darkly's source material is a Philip K. Dick novel, not a comic book.

Bill C said...

I think Jodie Foster was recently miscast--for maybe the first time in her career--in Inside Man. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze also swims immediately to mind. Natalie Portman isn't necessarily miscast in the Star Wars prequels, but her contempt for the franchise is so transparent that she might as well not be there.

rachel said...

More shit casting:

Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Aeon Flux (a mediocre movie that might've been actually watchable, had it not starred the undead)
(speaking of...) Robin Williams, Baron Munchausen
Mary Steenbergen, Time after Time
Katie Holms, Pieces of April
just about everyone?, Gangs of New York
Zooey Deschanel, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (love her, just wasn't right)

And, just a guess:

Kate Bosworth, Superman

Bill C said...

Thank you: why the fuck is Kate Bosworth playing Lois Lane? Even Brian Bosworth would be preferable.

rachel said...

Yeah, it's kind of a weird, disorienting moment when you're slapping your forehead exclaiming, "Come on guys! Julia Stiles would've been so much better!"

Alex Jackson said...

Klimov's Rasputin is pretty great by the way. I kind of adore that opening sequence.

Walter_Chaw said...

Bhuvan: congrats on pinning Minority Report first - yes, the inexcusable ending of what I think is actually a pretty great film. Alack. When you find a cockroach in the flan, the rest of the dinner's spoiled, too.

Rachel: too true about voice actors in the United States. Thanks for slapping me down on Sin City, as well. I have to say that it doesn't hold up on even a second viewing for me.

I think that either Daniel Day Lewis was miscast in Gangs of New York or everyone else is. He's like Dr. Seuss on Mars.

Justin: you're right that Scanner Darkly is a Dick novel - my bad. Still gonna' be Waking Life-rotoscoped, though, and I did appreciated Linklater saying that the novel needed to be animated if an adaptation were ever made.

Bill: great call on Jodie F in Inside Man. What the fuck was that all about?

Will concur, too, that if there's a worse performance in the history of man (non-Walker, non-Raft) than Pitt in Meet Joe Black, I haven't seen it. By the way, anyone watch that film (or any Martin Brest film) in French with English subs? It's actually sort of good that way. Speaking of MJB, by the by, Nurse Grimace, Claire Forlani, is fairly horrid in a cute kind of way.

Anyone see that Family Guy last night where they made Renee Zellweger into an anteater?

Dave: Lack is so bloody awful in Scanners that I could barely bear to look at him in Dead Ringers.

Anyone else here, by the way, a fan of Perfect Blue?

Walter_Chaw said...

Travis, by the way, good point about Grave of the Fireflies occupying a sort of no man's land. God it's a damned shame, though, that more people don't see that film.

Seattle Jeff said...

The mention of Brando got me thinking that he's miscast as Kurtz in Apocolypse Now, at least in the sense that he was fat and hadn't read the book.

I'd also say Demi Moore was miscast as Michael Caine's daughter in Blame It On Rio.

And why haven't there been any Penelope Cruz jokes yet?

James Allen said...

Casting fun:

Someone mentioned Redford in Out of Africa; I also didn't think he particularly well suited for The Natural.

Anonymous said...

Claire Forlani is a low-rent Jennifer Connelly and would be miscast in anything.

Then we have Robin Williams, who is frequently miscast in roles written explicitly for him.

Jessica Alba is Sin City is sure a big one.

Scott said...

George Clooney as Batman in BATMAN AND ROBIN.

Ben Affleck as Daredevil in DAREDEVIL. (My dream movie would have seen Billy Crudup as Daredevil and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Foggy Nelson.)

Sylvester Stallone in STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT. (Even though OSCAR is kinda sorta funny. I swear.)

Elisabeth Shue in the BACK TO THE FUTURE sequels.

Seattle Jeff said...

Keanu Reeves and Winona Rider in Dracula....

unless Coppola was going for wooden performances, in which case, they were perfectly cast.

James Allen said...

Re: The current state of animated films

Rachel mentioned Billy West's bemoaning the use of celebrity voices, which reminded me of a great interview with Billy in the Onion from last June (perhaps the thing Rachel was referencing.) It's a great read, West is pretty damn candid, and I wish it were longer.

Bemis said...

Both charges against Brando in Apocalypse Now (flabby, unprofessional) are totally justifiable, and yet it's still my favorite performance in cinema.

Whenever this question comes up, I think of Russell Sams in The Rules of Attraction. He's only in a few scenes, but he's so damn grating that I suspect it may be intentional (not that this makes him any more tolerable).

jer fairall said...

A very minor one, but Michelle Trachtenberg annoyed the piss out of me in Mysterious Skin. Not nearly enough to ruin the film but enough to bring a few scenes to a screeching halt, especially when contrasted against what may be my single favorite performance in any movie of last year (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Last night's Family Guy? Brilliant. The Zellweger gag and the Tracy Ullman Show bit were positively dada-esque.

R.V., btw, accomplishes the nearly-impossible: a movie that actually trumps The Benchwarmers as the most unbearable looking film of '06 so far.

James Allen said...

Re: R.V.

Boy it looks bad. And is it a goddamn rule that a toilet gag must be in any comedy film trailer? Right off the top I can think of Bruce Almighty, Meet the Fockers and Along Came Polly that had the same thing in their TV spots.

But this one, a septic tank exploding like a geiser? Pure genius.

Maybe we should give Williams some credit in that at least he isn't in a pretentious piece of crap this time. Too bad Cheryl Hines, who I love on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," had to do this to get a big screen credit and a nice check.

Obvious prediction: It'll be #1 its opening week.

Sheila Lynne said...

Walter, I rented "Grave of the Fireflies" this weekend based on your recommendation and I must say, while I absolutely love anime, this one struck me so hard. It snuck up on me more than I thought it would, telling a straight story with more emotional punch than most of the live action stuff I've seen come out of Hollywood recently. Those who love the power of cinema should see this wonderful piece. It didn't shy away from a very dark and serious ending, in fact, it let you face the ending right at the beginning. The scene in the shelter where they bring in all the fireflies for light, absolutely incredible.

Alex Jackson said...

I think that my pre-conceptions about animation being kid's stuff actually improved my opinion toward Grave of the Fireflies.

Particularly with the scenes of malnutrition and of the mother coming back from the bombings, I got the distinct impression of a child's sanctuary being violated. Would not have felt that if the animation format had the same "legitimacy" as live-action.

rachel said...


If you want more, you should check out his forum (just search for billywest in the username). His typical response tends toward steam-o'-consciousness rants: bald and unrepentingly cranky. I think my favorite quote of his regards that prima donna John Kricfalusi, something along the lines of, "Sure he was a genius. I work with geniuses every day of the week!" Love him.
Rare's the man who can say that when he quits a job, he gets replaced by four dudes.


Have you checked the Onion blog entry poking fun at Frank Miller's descent into madness? Also, the recent hubbub surrounding a fairly eminent comic artist quitting on account of his sexist notes. I don't really know anyone who loves him without caveat, or who can dive in without that parsing, he's a bit like Pound that way, maybe.

Perfect Blue is the one Kon joint I haven't checked out, to my embarassment. Thought Tokyo Godfathers was swell and Millenium Actress enchantingly baffling. (Can you even say you saw it, if you've seen it once?) Imdb's reminding me he also had a hand in the anthology Memories, writing the first, very decent segment.(Check it out, if only for the final third, which is exquisite.) I'd like to go back to it, if I recall there's a lot of themes that pop up there that reappear in his work as a director, and anyway I've always been a sucker for haunted spaceships.

Chad Evan said...

I'm sure you probably know this and it's a result of new-born feuled insomnia, but The Big Sleep is a Hawks rather than a Huston, and The Maltese Falcon is based on a Hammet, not a Chandler.

I agree about Astor in the latter, by the way: not nearly sexy enough. But I can forgive her performance anything just for the look on her face when Spade assures her that he hopes they don't hang her by her sweet neck.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA, Chad, Christ - yeah, I'm fucking delirious. Thanks for the corrections - we're doing one Bogie sans Huston, and one Huston sans Bogie. Can't get Beat the Devil for public exhibition.

Saw United 93 by the way, and it's kind of great. Anyone wanna' offer thoughts on the fact of its existence? Apparently the families have signed off on the pic and 10% of opening weekend grosses are going to them - which has caused some to be angry that it's only 10%. Me? I don't think, beyond purchasing the rights to the story, that the filmmakers owe anyone a cent. How many vets got paid for Blackhawk Down? Do I recall Spielberg making a donation to some Jewish thing post-Schindler's?

James Allen said...


I got my in on a screening of United 93 tonight. I have a feeling of excitement and dread. A really odd kind of feeling, actually.

As to your general observation, Walt, I agree. Yes, 9/11 was different than anything that came before (except maybe Oklahoma City) but this odd need to keep this phoney sort of distance to the event, and then when you do get close to it, you have to be reverant as all get out, and supplicate yourself as much as possible to show your intentions are clear as the driven snow and you'll bow before the victim's families and on and on... On the one hand, I feel definite sympathy for those affected by it, but on the other hand, can we all just fucking deal with it? I hope it's a good film, but you know what? At some point someone will make a lousy 9/11 film. Will that be considered a crime against humanity or just another bad explotative "historical" film? (i.e. No worse than the recent Pearl Habor or any number of films we could probably mention.)

This reminds me of this Esquire article I read about the "Falling Man" photo, which brought on quite a lot of controversy. It deals with many issues that have been rekindled (though in a somewhat different way in that the photo was news, this is "entertainment," but some of the points still apply.)

No matter, I find the more I explore what happened 5 years ago, the more my brain actually starts thinking and pondering the many thoughts and emotions from that time. It's cathartic, in other words. So for me at least, I think it's a good thing.

James Allen said...

By the way, Walt, I just noticed that your column has been retitled simply, "The Trench." Short and punchy. I like it!

Chad Evan said...

That's too bad about Beat the Devil; it gets funnier every time I see it, and I'm convinced that it--with jazzy, off-hand blocking, agile camera work, dense sound design and pokerfaced parodic attitude--influenced Altman enormously.

Bill C said...

Yeah, it would seem that United 93 is already separating the liberals from the liberally pious. I might add that a studio generally forks over 80% of the opening-weekend intake to exhibitors, so to give away 10% of the profits is a proportionately huge stake.

Whatever, worse people and causes have made a killing on 9/11, like those assholes selling flags. And country-and-western singers.

Sean Fitzpatrick said...

Terrific article from the set of Herzog's Rescue Dawn in this week's New Yorker. Check it out, sounds like another epic struggle to make a film is in the works. One of the producers was apparently insisting that Herzog watch The Rock's The Rundown to get a feel for making an action movie in the jungle and perhaps hire its cinematographer. Yikes.

Jared said...

I could really care less about the families of the 9/11 victims and what they want but United 93 still likes pretty awful, the trailer has every thriller cliche in the book and it doesn't even seem to have the cinematic panache of a bad episode of 24. I guess Paul Greengrass is pretty popular around here, I consider him to be the moron who ruined the Bourne series.

By the way, there's nothing wrong with "The Rundown" if you haven't seen it yet you should probably rent it, it might be idiotic to show that to Herzog as a primer on how to make a film, but it's more than competent and if you actually liked the Arnold flicks of the 80s than it's invaluable. "Friday Night Lights" and "Very Bad Things" I think don't even need defense, I guess "The Rundown" is borderline indefensible since it's relentlessly stupid and juvenile then again so is "Sin City" and the backlash to that is only coming out a year later.

Lea said...

I didn't quit comics because of Miller's notes, I quit seeking work in mainstream comics because they suck, and there's not enough money in it to put up with the bullshit.
I used Miller's notes as an example of normalized sexism in mainstream comics, a problem I chose to no longer ignore.

I still write and draw comics, just for myself, and on my terms. It's a bigger field than the Big Two or Three or Four, there's plenty of opportunity for someone who wants to reach people who will never set a foot in The Android's Dungeon, and who's not married to the idea of trading rights for a carrying someone else's logo.

Here's the post in question:

Alex Jackson said...

there's plenty of opportunity for someone who wants to reach people who will never set a foot in The Android's Dungeon,

Ha! I got that reference!

rachel said...

Gwah! Lea, my sincere apologies for misrepresenting your case, and further knotting up the grapevine. Anyway, I should definitely shaddup and let people read the link.

Lea said...

Rachel: no worries. The way I originally wrote the entry did confuse things.

Alex Jackson said...

Huh? I don't get it.

I've read the blog entry several times and I still don't understand what the problem is.

Miller didn't cater his ass-vision for the marketplace, indeed it looks like it is going to cost him some readers. It's clear that he draws and orders up asses cause he likes looking at 'em. He's not looking for the adolescent boy dollar, he's in tune with his inner adolescent boy and that happens to alienate and embarass hard core comic fans.

I would have thought that Lea would want to stay in mainstream comics to try and do some counterprogramming. I don't see how you fight institutionalized sexism by throwing in the towel.

Man, my brain hurts trying to understand this.

tmhoover said...

For crying out loud, Alex. The whole point of institutional sexism is that it's, well, institutional: the system is BASED on it, meaning the people who sign the checks are rather unwilling to take chances on non-sexist material. You're better off competing with the majors in some independent sense on your own terms- where you can be sure that what you're saying is what you want to say and not being bent to fit some insulting paradigm- than waiting for meagre and inadequate bones to be thrown from the boys at the top.

In any event, it's very easy to tell someone to stick out impossible circumstances when they're not circumstances you've ever had to stick out. If that makes your brain hurt, maybe you need a CAT scan.

The Captain said...

Can't wait for your thoughts on Silent Hill - the RottenTomatoes' critic's concensus is that it's crap, but this is the same bunch who similarly gave the thumbs down to Code 46, Suspect Zero, Birth, etc., whilst applauding Potter 4 as the best and most adult in the series. Anyway, hold nothing back. I'd love to weigh in with thoughts but the almighty Sony Classics has decided to push the Aus release date back until August 31st, which warms my heart while our cinemas are plagued with shit like Scary Movie 4 and Date Movie, which got the same release date as the US. I am full of hate.

Lea said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lea said...

What I get for posting in a rush.

I meant:

Tm: thanks for that, and

Alex, after twenty years of trying to affect that change from within, I figured I had given it enough time.
("Throw in the towel" *snort*)

Andrew said...

Silent Hill is an adventuresome mess. There are some delightfully twisted Christ/Anti-christ imagery, some nice visuals, but in the end its not particularly scary and it condescends to the audience like so many movies do; to much direct explanation to catch up the slow ones. Sean Bean's part breaks up the tone, but I still managed to enjoy the ending.

Lea said...

And back to what this is about, which is not me:

Awesome review of Rescue Me, Walter. That show is so fucked up, I think framing it in post-apocalyptic terms is perfect: there's still green lawns and pretty houses and bars, but they're peopled by humans mentally blasted back to the Stone Age.

I wish they'd kept up with the seeing dead people stuff, which was what first attracted me to the show.

A belated congrats to you and yours on Kid Two.

Anonymous said...

The ending kind of ruins Silent Hill.

Alex Jackson said...

For crying out loud, Alex. The whole point of institutional sexism is that it's, well, institutional: the system is BASED on it, meaning the people who sign the checks are rather unwilling to take chances on non-sexist material. You're better off competing with the majors in some independent sense on your own terms- where you can be sure that what you're saying is what you want to say and not being bent to fit some insulting paradigm- than waiting for meagre and inadequate bones to be thrown from the boys at the top.

In any event, it's very easy to tell someone to stick out impossible circumstances when they're not circumstances you've ever had to stick out. If that makes your brain hurt, maybe you need a CAT scan.

My brain was probably hurting because I'm not exactly strongly opposed to what Lea said and I don't really have the background to full rebuttal it, but I just vaguely smell something rotten here and it's bugging me.

I don't follow comic books. I do know that the book in question has recieved a generally negative reaction among the comics community and specific attention was paid to the way that Vicki Vale is portrayed; suggesting to me that the ass shot is a bit of an anamoly. I'm beginning to wonder if it really is characteristic of institutional sexism or if the men on top cut a check to Miller simply because he's Frank Miller and not because they have a concerted interest in oppressing women or even in pandering to adolescent boys. Again, Miller orders up ass cause he likes ass, not because it sells and he wants to make bank. And his publisher is only selling ass because they're selling Miller and Miller likes ass.

The blog post, being just a blog post, is not substantive and does not describe a stable twenty year history of institutional sexism in mainstream comics. I mean if Lea's reasons for quitting mainstream comics are related to institutional sexism then I would think she would want to resist relying on the outlier of the Miller comic (if it wasn't an outlier I would think she would be the first to complain about it) as the basis for why she left.

Was the whole argument that she doesn't want to work in an industry where someone like Miller is king? It makes sense to blame him, I just don't get blaming all of mainstream comics.

That crack about "throwing in the towel" was probably a little hasty. I don't know Lea and I don't fully understand her reasons for doing this and that was probably the point. It just didn't seem to be the outcome of twenty years of fighting the system and a lot of soul searching and deep thought from my vantage point.

Tell me if I'm being a dick at any point during this. I'm trying not to come off as an attention-seeking troll. Again, I think my confusion is a result of not having all the information and not having a good place to start.

Andrew said...

I'm curious how the end to Silent Hill "ruined" an already extremely flawed movie.

I thought it was a fitting coda to the christ-purgatory theme.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the ending is that it implies that Rose is being punished for making a deal with a demon, even though she really didn't have any other choices. Or it's saying that Rose was sucked into events beyond her control and tragically got shafted in the end, in which case it should have tried harder to establish a sense of helplessness. It felt completely unjustified.

I'm reminded of When Harry Met Sally, which originally was going to end like Annie Hall, i.e. unhappily. When Harry Met Sally didn't earn an unhappy ending, just like War of the Worlds didn't earn its happy one. I'm not sure what ending Silent Hill earned, but that ambivalent one doesn't work.

Bill C said...

And now, your Armond White quote for the day:

"Akeelah and the Bee is the last best hope for film culture."

James Allen said...

I saw United 93 last night and have been trying to gather my thoughts about it for most of the day. I'm still kind of numb from the experience. My stomach did flips, tears were in my eyes. It's a powerful piece of filmmaking, no doubt about it. Greengrass style strips the events to the bare bones, avoiding any hints of disaster film/ everyman-turned-hero film cliches. There are no "character" moments, you meet these people as if you just stepped on the plane with them, but the viewer is cursed in the sense that you know how it ends, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. It's an anti-thriller in that respect. I also must mention that the scenes that don't take place on the plane, of air-traffic controllers and the like trying to make sense of the building chaos, are just as powerful.

But now we have to get to the real crux of what's going to be the central discussion regarding this film.

Is it a great film? Yes, I would say so. An important film? Ah, there's the rub. I think it's hard for anyone to say that at this stage. All I can say is that it's not for everyone (to say this film touches raw nerves is an understatement), and as emotionally moved as I was by the procedings, it didn't offer any insights into the events of that day that most of us didn't already know. That said, I don't think that was Greengrass's intent, nor is it really a necessary thing for any film, even one about 9/11 (I read a couple comments about the film, criticizing it for not having a political axe to grind; that had me scratching my head). It simply told a story about a group of people in an impossible situation without sentimentalizing or lionizing them.

That's about as clear as I can get my thoughts at this moment. I look forward to any thoughts anyone else might have on the subject.

Ian Pugh said...

(Spoilers for United 93 -- if indeed this film can have spoilers.)


James, your confusion over the "no political axe to grind" comments struck me a little weirdly -- mostly because I happen to share that sentiment, so maybe I can help expound on that. Hopefully, my thoughts about United 93, a film that I really hated, will come as clear as your own thoughtful reviews on the subject, fellas. (Be sure to also read Keith Uhlich's review at Slant Magazine -- you hit it right on the money for me, Keith, although I'm still a little torn on the point about tithing to the memorial fund.)

While I don't believe it's too soon, now or ever, for a 9/11 movie, I think that the movie itself operates under its own pretenses of being "too soon," by tackling the subject in a way that would be tailored to elicit as cheap and purely emotional reaction as possible. Not in the way that the attacks on the towers are portrayed -- which should always, always be portrayed as this film did -- The moments here that truly disturbed me in this respect were the final scenes, where the passengers were making their final calls to their loved ones.

I agree with you, Walter, that the deadly nature of the post-9/11 world necessitates there to be a level of discomfort to the affair. But at the same time, I think United 93's perspective turns real-life emotional bombshells into ones that strikes falsely in a narrative film. We, being aware of the fact that the families of the victims were involved in the film, know that many of these may have been taken verbatim from how they were actually spoken. Despite the family's consent, however, it just felt out-and-out wrong to me to witness these utterly private moments recreated in fiction. No doubt that these moments had to be in the film, especially considering it is one of the few moments about the fateful flight which cannot be at all disputed, but their presentation in the film (smashed together, one after the other) strikes me as emotionally manipulative, and yes, exploitative.

Frankly, I think many of the moments in the film that Walter mentions were purposely left vague enough that they could be twisted and turned to fit any and all political agendas. The extra beat that you mention on the perfume ad is an intriguing one, true, but is it a commentary on ideological difference or an America-centric commentary of disbelief, that anyone would even give a second thought to it? I don't think United 93 wants to decide either, so that it won't make anyone mad under accusations of insensitivity to either American or global politics. Although I have heard many praises concerning the humanization of the terrorists, I believe that in Greengrass' attempt to compromise the issue (well, we don't want to make them demons but we don't want to make them too sympathetic) goes too far; they came across not as balanced portrayals, but as ciphers, and earlier on a facile attempt is made to flesh one of them out.

United 93's presentation reminds something along the lines of that image of a crying eagle that became so omnipresent in the weeks following the attacks. It worked well for its time, by expressing sorrow, pain and confusion. But with everything that's happened since then, where does that image stand? Taken on its own it doesn't say anything anymore: it's an admission that it was a saddening event but there's very little about its ramifications. The whole of it strikes me as artistically null. It is my contention that United 93 doesn't take a specific stance at a time -- five years after the fact -- where a stance must exist, and hopes to blind us with emotion to ignore that fact. It's not a matter of too soon, but rather not soon enough.

Carl Walker said...

Stupid question about the United 93 review (which astonishingly, made me want to see the same movie I was mocking the exsistence of just yesterday). That is, I noticed the spelling of "honours" in the first paragraph, and I wondered if that was an edit that Bill did on Walter's review, since I'm pretty sure that you Canadians use the same spellings as the Brits (and so I can't guess why Walter would have used it himself). It certainly doesn't matter or isn't "bad," I'm just curious.

Bill C said...

Indeed we go with the Canadian spelling nine times out of 10; it's sort of my one concession to the site's country of origin. That being said, I hypocritically refuse to use "realise" or "paralyse"--it just looks too Limey.

Carl Walker said...

Actually, the only real problem with this review is that, now that I want to see this movie, I'm realizing my left-wing friends all assume this movie is pro-Bush (and are less likely to be convinced of the opposite by Walter's review since they, sadly, haven't even heard of him), and my right-wing friend thinks it's "too soon." I think I was better off with my kneejerk assumption that it wasn't worth seeing.

Walter_Chaw said...

Hmm - I thought United 93 was bracingly, overtly political.

Everyone's a cipher in the film, I don't think it's ever been Greengrass' modus to spend all that much time on character development just to, as articulated here, toss you into the mix and let the dominos fall as we know that they must. I'd challenge you to provide for me a deeper character sketch for any single one of the passengers on '93 as the air traffic controllers as the FAA hoi polloi as the NORAD dudes as the terrorists. They're all just Men With Jobs and, once we recognize what their jobs are, that's that.

So what we're left with are blocks of signifiers. The grouping of not just the telephone calls that you found to be exploitative (the calls or the grouping? I think you mean the latter, but I don't want to make too strong a presumption) - let me say that if you're calling the grouping of them exploitive, I'd counter that the film is a series of densely laden, thematically-insular blocks.

If you think back, or see it again which, I can't believe I'm saying it, I really want to do - I think you'll mark that Greengrass. . .


groups his picture into lumps like:

"terrorists preparing and saying goodbye and 'I love you' on their cell phones"

"freshly-aesthete terrorists moving through a culture heavy with images of sexuality and consumption"

"flight 93 crew and passengers boarding" introduction of every-man

"air traffic controllers registering mild surprise at losing contact with American Airlines 11" introduction of first level of reaction

"FAA involvement" intro to second level of reaction

"Military involvement" intro to third level of reaction

"Media involvement"

"Calamity and swift reaction of secondary and tertiary (and media) response mechanisms - stalled at executive level (Bush is reading "The Hungry Goat" or something in a Texas classroom for 7 minutes)"

"Reluctance to action by terrorists"

"Reluctance to action by passengers"

"passengers preparing and saying goodbye and 'I love you' on their cell phones"

"Prayers by terrorists"

"Prayers by passengers"

and, of course, death to everyone involved and, five years later, all this ambiguity and division and frustration in the national/international conversation. (Did Nixon's approval rating ever fall to 31% even during Watergate?) Maybe it's that that you're getting from the picture, this sense of lack of resolution - but I don't believe a statement of exasperation and faint hope (as I believe the film is) is the same thing as an a-political picture. Just the contrary, I don't see a whole lot that the current administration would be terribly pleased about by this picture. The sense that I got from it mostly is that they outsmarted and out-planned us once, and they'll most likely do it again. That they haven't yet doesn't tell me that this administration is doing a great job - what kind of madness is that line of reasoning? I mean, there had never been an attack like this before prior to 9/11, doesn't that mean that every other non-Bush Jr. administration was fucking brilliant at anti-terrorism? - and by that same token, if you argue that this militarism is a new thing in the Middle East, then what do we then have to acknowledge was our role in the rise of that hostility? Too much porn? Japan better watch their ass, then.

Anyway - I don't hold that the film is without a direction and without structure. More than that, I don't think that the victims' families are owed any of the film's profits (did that direct-to-cable flick donate its proceeds? did the 9/11 commission's published report? How about the Warren commission? Did the Kennedys get a share of JFK and Thirteen Days? How about the grunts in Ollie's platoon in Platoon?, how about the surviving vets raped by Pearl Harbor?). Isn't accepting that cash more akin to blood money? And isn't the real issue here that we shouldn't have Ray Charles' son as an advisor on Ray Charles' biopic?

And just to start a different argument - what sort of sociological blindness is it to think that we haven't been making 9/11 flicks anyway, and in earnest, and even overtly, since 2002? Does the fact that it's based in literal fact make it unspeakable? That's not a rhetorical question - but this treatment in United 93 doesn't strike me as exploitation in any way except the dictionary definition.

For the record, I'm a lot more leary of Stone's upcoming Twin Towers action/adventure flick than Greengrass' treatment. What I disliked most about Keith's review of United 93 was the dismissal of Greengrass as a director. Far as I can tell, thematically (his documentary record is pretty fascinating and brilliant) and technically, Greengrass is, objectively speaking, a really good, and moral, director and nothing I saw in this made me think otherwise.

Keith's comparison of the picture to The Passion of the Christ is a good one in the sense that you should be really careful what you take as truth and what you take with a grain of salt. Like Mel's opus, too, United 93 is extraordinarily divisive and inextricably tied to political motivations. The difference to my reactions to the two films may be something so simple as my personal belief systems. It can't be any other way.

Anyway, to end the ramble on my side, I think Greengrass is saying that Protestants v. Catholics or Born-Agains v. Muslim Fundamentalists are intractable conflicts doomed to animalism, unreason, and fiery mutual destruction in the name of the belief in absolute right which is, happily enough in the latter conflict at least, what both sides are working for in any case. Armageddon starts in the Holy Land and it's God's work, besides, right? Gimme an amen, brothers.

What a wunnerful time it is to raise kids.

Alex Jackson said...

V for Vendetta review is up for those interested, a mere, what, five or six weeks after it first premiered; ages ago in this beat.

I'm excited for United 93, it looks like it'll be the perfect antidote for something like V for Vendetta; incompetent but not megalomaniacal government and terrorists that are actually religious zealots (positioning America as a secular country in either identity or in practice). You know, a film with some actual political validity behind it.

It may be too soon for some, but certainly not for me. I wasn't all that affected by September 11th, New York is almost as far away as Rwanda to me. I need a good narrative film to kick the empathy system into gear, you know?

Jefferson said...

I would argue that September 11th affected everybody on the PLANET.

Anonymous said...

Maybe politically, but not neccesarily emotionally.

And it's probably pointless to say that the Yanomamo of Brazil could give a shit.

James Allen said...

Interesting thoughts on United 93.

A couple things:

All I can say about Uhlich's review (other than disagreeing with it and it's general attitude veheminently) is that's he wastes space criticizing things I didn't know about the film, nor cared about. I knew about the title change, so what? I was not aware some people played themselves, and I certainly didn't give a damn where the profits were going to, nor would I ever presume to tell them who to give the money to. I sort of agree with Walter's point about it being considered blood money by some. But anyway, all of these are tangents that had nothing to do with my experience watching the thing.

As far as the film's politics, I didn't mean to imply it has none, just that it wasn't as heavy handed (at least to me anyway) the way some might have expected it to be (or wanted it to be.) People seem to want to call this film pro-Bush or anti-Bush, as if that's the only prism through which to watch the film.

As for whether it's exploitative, I agree with Walter, of course it is. And so what? What film isn't? It's such a meaningless and rhetorical question I wonder why anyone bothers asking it. The word "exploitative" seems to only be invoked in this context as a pejoritive if one doesn't like what's being exploited (as if explotation and the quality of a film are mutually exclusive things).

Anyway, it's been a few days since I've seen the film, and I'm still digesting it. It's a lot to ponder. One thing that Walt wrote struck me:

I think Greengrass is saying that Protestants v. Catholics or Born-Agains v. Muslim Fundamentalists are intractable conflicts doomed to animalism, unreason, and fiery mutual destruction in the name of the belief in absolute right which is, happily enough in the latter conflict at least, what both sides are working for in any case.

Sadly, that's seems to sum it all up.

Alex Jackson said...

More appetizing news: Ebert's review of the film sounds a lot like his review of Elephant.

George Nada said...

That being said, I hypocritically refuse to use "realise" or "paralyse"--it just looks too Limey.

Screw you! What is it with this site? Did everyones girlfriends leave them for a Brit when they were younger or something?

Any review or article that involves British films or characters are mostly negative or very one dimensional. Sorry but it's very annoying.

As for United 93, of course it's never too soon to make a movie like this (although it may be for some audience members, but they have a choice as to whether they see it or not). As for the studio donating 10% of the opening weekend box office I think that's crazy. What a silly precedent they're setting there, I don't think they should be donating a dime unless they want to start donating for any film that somehow portrays historical events, little or large.

I saw someone ask on another site "Why make this film though?", what does everyone think? I have my own personal reasons for wanting to see it but I doubt they're the same as the film makers. Maybe it could be as simple as Greengrass wanted to challenge himself and challenge audiences.

Bill C said...

Ha, George, I'm actually part-Limey myself. I just mean you start typing "realise" and suddenly people start thinking you're based across the pond, and it creates confusion for readers and PR people.

Walter_Chaw said...

Do I have an anti-English bias? I mean, Love Actually sucks balls and all, but wouldn't the English think so, too? I rather liked Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later, though - and Asylum and Young Adam, though not so much Mrs. Henderson Presents and stuff like that.

How odd.

Alex Jackson said...

Uh, George? Greengrass is British. And Walter gave his film Bloody Sunday four stars. He also gave three and a half stars to Snatch, 24 Hour Party People, and The Wicker Man. And he adores Mike Leigh.

I've only seen Travis give out four star ratings twice, and once was to Tales of Hoffman. He also wrote a rave review of the Alan Clarke boxset.

Bill is a leading apologist for David Lean and gave Ryan's Daughter a good review.

No bias. Those charges you make are fairly easy to verify.

Seattle Jeff said...

The British are just jealous because we have such a cool President.

Joe f said...

I'm an Englishman and I can safily say I've never seen any bias against Brits on the site. What annoys me is when fellow Brits seem duty-bound to defend crap like Love Actually. Shit is shit!

Chris said...

I just got back from an opening night showing of UNITED 93 in a packed house in a giant AMC multiplex.

What bothered me about the film (aside from the obvious) was that when the passengers were beating the terrorist with the fire extinguisher, about 1/4 of the audience starting applauding. With force. Hatefully.

I'm inclined to agree with you, Walter, about the picture's politics (and Greengrass'), but if it's so subtle that it goes over people's heads and only irons in notions of hatred that were had going into the film, is that responsible filmmaking?

Does that even matter?

I'm not sure what to think, so I'm just posing that question.

Walter_Chaw said...

but if it's so subtle that it goes over people's heads and only irons in notions of hatred that were had going into the film, is that responsible filmmaking?

I dunno'. It's a good, valid, moral even, question, Chris and god knows I've taken the other side and recently with what I saw as the irresponsible rabble-rousing of Aja's Hills Have Eyes remake - but I really (want to) believe that Greengrass' intention there was to drive home a point - a nihilistic one - about the inevitable end result of all this ideological hostility. Maybe I'm just being Pollyannish about the whole thing, but I do wonder if there isn't as strong a counter-reaction of revulsion to that scene as jubilation? At least I've already received a semi-flame mail for talking about that from a well-intentioned guy who told me in no uncertain terms that there could be nothing morally questionable about any action undertaken by the passengers given their situation.

To which I offered options of conduct like anal rape, decapitation, pissing on, shitting on, rubbing entrails of over naked chests, head paraded around on a pike, cannibalism, hooding them stripping them and shooting polaroids of them getting menaced by dogs, - you know, I understand that the victims of 9/11 weren't offered due process and "choice" and life and all that - and I know, too, that this is because they were killed by terrorists.

It's a scary thing, and it makes my point, I think, that otherwise good, apparently literate, people are driven to make extreme, terrifying comments like "it's okay to bash an incapacitated guy's head in with a fire extinguisher" when it comes to ideologies and specific moments in our history. So in answer to your:

Does that even matter?

I'm going to hazard: no. Not in this case, because this case seems to me to be incontrovertibly a decision made to honor humanity in its imperfections, and trust that the decency in us can recognize when a line is crossed even by our newest national heroes.

George Nada said...

Actually I'm referring more to ignorant statements about the UK whether it be its people or culture, not reviews you give of UK films. From what I see most fleeting statements made about the UK that you see as fact seem to come from Hugh Grant movies. Don't get me wrong, I love the reviews on this site which is why I keep coming back. You are intelligent guys, which is what makes little things said about the UK even more dumb-founding and annoying.

Haha Seattle Jeff, you've got me pegged! I best go away with my tail between my legs now...

Ian Pugh said...


I see what you're saying concerning the narrative couplings that United 93 uses (it was indeed the grouping that threw me into a somewhat indignant mindframe); it makes me wonder if perhaps I'm just incorrectly manipulating the perception of my own reaction to the film as Greengrass' desire to gauge it.

But concerning the characters: true that no character exists beyond a sketch, but don't you think that Greengrass invites cipher-criticism with the presentation of his one reluctant terrorist? With all of the low-angle zooms signifying that yes, this man is having second thoughts, even the most facile attempt in this sense plants the idea of character development into the mind, which damages the ability to see them as intentional nonentities.

Although my own audience sat in abject silence during the entirety of United 93, the deep contrast between your reaction and the reaction of Chris' audience is what makes me take my position. Although I thought at first that this was a matter of having no politics whatsoever (as reflected in my previous post), I'm starting to realize that my feelings on the film form more towards the belief that it is a politically pliable work. If another intelligent fellow of differing political beliefs were to inspect the film as you have, Walter, I think that they could find just as many details which form towards their own favor. I don't believe this to be a matter the individual mind's propensity to filter out anything that exists beyond its own narrow scope, although the film itself understands -- and, I think, actually lives and dies -- by that psychology. In taking this perspective, I'm not saying that I consider your opinion to be invalid. But I also think that United 93 knows full and well that it's playing both sides of the aisle; I would consider it less subtle than it is purposely vague.

However, all things considered, I should probably see the film again. With all of the severely differing ideas introduced in the blog (and my own opinions morphing as time goes on), a re-assessment is in order.

In other news, if you haven't seen Stick It, I highly suggest that you do. Not because it's a good film (Lord, no) but because, in its final half-hour, it drops its hardcore-sports formula for the clumsiest, self-defeating my-mommy-didn't-hug me-enough condemnation of film criticism I've ever seen. Go figure.

Also, a four-star review from Ebert on Akeelah and the Bee. (Spoiler.) Although he seems pleased that the film somehow "removes winning as the only objective" (er...), how is the film's pedantic "everyone's a winner!" stance any less damaging to the development of young minds? Reminds deeply of that "celebration of mediocrity" that seemed to worry The Incredibles so much.

Joe F said...

What bothers me about the Incredibles was that the heroes were simply born superior to everyone else; they didn't earn it through hard work. If I was completely crazy, I'd see it as a thinly veiled support for eugenics. It's not, but nonetheless...

Walter_Chaw said...

What's wrong with Eugenics besides its un-enforceability as a social dictate? House mice mate according to their ability to suss out the most biological different mate to ensure higher immunity and intelligence in offspring: surely we're more sensible than vermin?

In any case, people are different on a biological level. The sooner that idea's accepted (and not exploited for the purposes of genocide or bigotry), the sooner this country stops believing that grade-less, score-less contests and classrooms is the way to make our kids more successful in a dog-eat-dog world.

Walter_Chaw said...

Whoops - anyway - my real point is that I think the Incredibles suggests that if you're special, it's madness and a mandate of this self-esteem nation, to suppress that special-ness in order to make others not similarly-gifted feel not similarly-gifted. Thus the steady erosion of gifted/talented programs, the popularity of phrases like "everyone's entitled to their own opinion" and "there are no stupid questions", and the treatment of reasoned debate as an invitation/escalation to a knife fight.

Just the nature of accepting difference and embracing the exceptional is contrary to a read of Eugenics, in any case. I don't think that the Incredibles is advocating a world of the equally-gifted - just the opposite. I think the film is championing an idea of the uniquely gifted and the far more democratic (and less intellectually-stifling) idea that we don't have to be superheroes to have a useful skill or insight. That, in fact, the belief that we're all capable of being astronauts and pro basketball players leads to a lot of frustrated super-villains, taking "clear" to gain three hat-sizes and eight batting crowns, for instance.

James Allen said...

My favorite exchange (in regards to the subject at hand) from The Incredibles was this:

HELEN: I can't believe you don't want to go to your own son's graduation.

BOB: It's not a graduation. He's moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.

HELEN: It's a ceremony!

BOB: It's psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.

It would've been funnier to me if it wasn't true, as I saw my brother (14 years my junior) go through such motions.

And I think that exchange was more in line with the point the film was trying to make.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Was flabbergasted that Altman's Quintet is now on DVD. Didn't know of this until I saw Bill's review. Ah, even though I rated this 3 stars out of 5 in my review of it, I still treasure this hopelessly inane film that's fascinating all the same. I try to watch this at least once every year. It's kind of like an endurance test in watching it all the way through in one sitting. But I'm not sure I'd prefer it on DVD -- a crisp, clean transfer might give it a luxurious sheen, thus taking away its raw, run-down look. Bummer that for now you can't buy the DVD by itself but only the 4-film Altman pack.

Alex Jackson said...

Bummer that for now you can't buy the DVD by itself but only the 4-film Altman pack.

That's funny. I guess they thought it would only be worthwhile to Altman completists.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Well, Alex, there was another director's set that did the same thing, before they made the single-disc purchase available. Can't remember what is was, though. And, yeah, it's an asinine practice. Then again, I'm sure I'm one of the very, very few who prefer "Quintet" to any of the other 3 films in the pack. It's just such a fascinatingly awful film that I just can't take my eyes off it.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Oh, Walter, considering your disdain for a certain screenwiter, here's a quote from a review of Friday the 13th that I know you'll like:

"This plot is so simple Akiva Goldsmith couldn’t water it down."

Bill C said...

Fox has also done that with the "Mel Brooks Collection"--you have to buy the whole thing if you want High Anxiety or Silent Movie on DVD. I imagine single-disc reissues will come out at some point; perhaps more disappointing with regards to the Altman set is that they decided to include a stripped-down version of M*A*S*H instead of H.E.A.L.T.H., which to this day has never been available on home video in North America.

I don't think my review of Quintet did the movie justice. It sure gets under your skin. You may still appreciate the DVD, Jack--it's finally in the original aspect ratio, after all.

Chris said...

Does Walter have some kind of Walter-specific distaste for Akiva Goldsman? Is there someone out there who can write an intelligent defense of the man?

Alex Jackson said...

If they could, I'd like to read it.

I saw the last ten minutes or so of Batman and Robin when watching TV in a hotel room and almost choked with laughter. It might have been the funniest thing I had ever seen. But even that I would sooner credit to director Joel Schumacher.

Still haven't seen the whole movie.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, but I've been having problems with my e-mail as of late.

Just to make sure Walter, did you receive my e-mail that contained my home address?

- David H.

Walter_Chaw said...

David - got it.

Chris - I'm sure there's someone out there to defend Goldsman just as surely as there are Holocaust deniers and 32% of the American population still pro-W. Takes all kinds to turn the crank, is what I'm saying, but Goldsman is just. . . what's the word? . . embarrassing to us as a species.