May 01, 2006

The Trench

Here’s the problem with Akeelah and the Bee tanking its opening weekend: Roger Ebert. Having given it the four-star benediction and the kind of patronizing double-speak that also indicated his defense of Crash last year (“This is a tragedy in some predominantly black schools: Excellence is punished by the other students, possibly as an expression of their own low self-esteem” – an astonishing thing for an extremely wealthy, extremely isolated white man to opine based on the machinations of a sub-par, slope-browed uplift formula flicker), there will be the inclination now for Ebert to rally and attempt to rally others, around the non-issue of this film’s failure to capture hearts and minds. He says this to tantalize the waffling:

"What is ingenious about the plot construction of writer-director Doug Atchison is that he creates this moment so that we understand what's happening, but there's no way to say for sure. "

And as is so often the case with Mr. Ebert in the last five years or so, he’s either willfully misleading his readers (because he’s become evangelical about neo-/sub-Stanley Kramer films like this) or he just wasn’t paying attention. There’s no uncertainty whatsoever about the moment that he describes. The venerated director Atchison goes so far as to insert a flashback to a scene to explicitly clarify the choice that Akeelah is making – then he shows reaction shots of her arch-nemesis; then of her mentor, registering surprise-into-understanding. If this is the yardstick for subtlety in Ebert’s purview, then I guess I’m starting to understand his affection for broadly-telegraphed, insulting, cut-rate garbage.

The end-note of the review is almost as predictable: “. . . they will want to live better.” Ebert on a crusade, same as post-
Crash, for folks to see films that are good for them. I don’t know that I want this person to be the judge of my moral standing. The more you hear him speak at events like Boulder’s Conference on World Affairs about the primacy of tits, the less you will.

After watching Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly again for the first time in years with a captive audience at the Denver Public Library, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mickey Rourke is probably an underestimated performer, and that Schroeder is no question a shitty director. Barfly isn’t dreadful, but it is a shrine to Charles Bukowski written by Bukowski (featuring a cameo by Bukowski) and playing a lot like what my friend called “a best-of collection of Bukowski quips”. It’s a glorification of the drunk’s lifestyle, a fairy tale, and an egomaniac’s fantasia that grows increasingly wearying as it un-spools. Oft-lauded for its realistic dark, I found it instead to be a projection of a dangerous, puerile ode written by some dude to himself. Would’ve much rather shown other Rourke pics like the only Alan Parker film worth a shit, Angel Heart or, perhaps, Kasdan’s Body Heat or definitely Walter Hill’s awesome Johnny Handsome: find therein the blood ancestor of his
Sin City Marv performance.

Still haven’t had a chance to see Silent Hill. Still want to.

Also presented John Huston’s masterpiece,
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for a small but appreciative audience at the Gilpin County Public Library. It’s a film that only gains in relevance as time goes by, this doomed search for gold on foreign soil, beset upon by demons external and internal. It’s telling to me this time through that the emptied bags of the picture’s MacGuffin are found “In the ruins, outside the city” – and I caught myself with a tear on my cheek watching Walter Huston do the jig that Eugene O’Neill taught him while they were doing “Desire Under the Elms.” John would say late in his life that the one perfect moment he captured in his long and storied career was this twenty-second dance.

Bogie, too, was never better – his decline into madness is the prototype for his own Queeg, but still full of the pathos of lost minds and better natures. Looking back to see him not being nominated for this picture is as painful as looking back to see him beating Brando for the Oscar in The African Queen (Brando in Streetcar of course – and Clift, too, in A Place in the Sun).

The discussion of three classic westerns at the DPL went well: not much to report there save the burning desire to do a Sergio Leone series that would include the three Clints,
Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America. (If you haven't read Bill's write-ups of Leone flicks, do yourself a favor. Seriously. Seminal stuff.)

May get a chance to do Hana-Bi in a couple of weeks – something I’m geeked about, to be sure.

This week, a screening of Mission Impossible: III as well as discussion/screenings of The Fisher King (compromised by a bad ending, methinks) and the puzzling, uneven to say the least, Key Largo.

Question I’d like to toss out for discussion is a programming question. If you were putting together a series for discussion/screening, taking into consideration run-time (110min and under), with the intention of presenting over the course of five films a good overview of a major theme running under 1970s American cinema – which five films would you choose? Without checking run-times, I’m definitely going for Parallax View, The Conversation, and Night Moves for starters.

I'd also love to hear about your favorite underestimated performers.

Here’s the first capture of our fifth contest:

Back at the mutha-site: Bill supplies the DVD specs to my review of the abominable
The Family Stone, Travis writes a funny review of childhood fave Blue Thunder, and I express my ignorance in a review of King Vidor's The Champ.

60 comments:

The Captain said...

I'm probably wrong, but is that Wendigo?

jim said...

conversation
parallax view
Dirty harry
caberet
last detail
taxi driver
killing of a chinese bookie

Society reation to the 60's. 1st 3 as the powers that be's reaction to the 60's.
Last detail, chinese bookie and Taxi more on the personal level.

Caberet (I know its 30's Germany) and chinese bookie on people living an illusion while the outside world around them crumbles.

The last 2 less about the 60's but I love them anyway.

Bill C said...

Under 110 mins. is tough, but with that mandate in place off the top of my head I'd pick

Fat City
The Muppet Movie
The Parallax View
California Split
The Last Detail

I find I'm still discovering hidden '70s gems on an almost weekly basis. Just read about a Jack Starrett film I'm now dying to see called The Dion Brothers, a wacky Coen-esque farce co-scripted by none other than Terrence Malick!

eirykax said...

Donnie Darko?

Joe F said...

Damnit, I was going to go with Wendigo as well.

As for the 70's films, I'd add Killing of a Chinese Bookie and either Taxi Driver or Marathon Man. And I have to thank you Walter for introducing me to The Conversation - it's fast become one of my favourite films.

Chad Evan said...

Hmmm...'70s, no long ones...The Conversation, Mean Streets, Five Easy Pieces, Fat City, Frenzy: opening salvos and the responses of the older generation.

Dave Gibson said...

Programming Seventies films is always a joy. I’d call this series “Dreaming of Cinema in the 70’s”

The Stunt Man
3 Women
La Nuit Américaine
Don’t Look Now
Suspiria

Underrated performers?

Steve Railsback. Teri Garr, Michael Biehn, Kurtwood Smith, Kevin Pollak, Blythe Danner, Chris Eigeman, Maura Tierney….

Harvey_Birdman said...

Underrated performer:
Louis Gosset Jr.

Cukoo's Nest is too long, isn't it?
How about:
Rolling Thunder
Superfly
I'll also second Dirty Harry.

Brandon Curtis said...

I saw the three Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns at the Paramount Theater, the summer before last, seeing them on the big screen was joyous for me. It gave me a new appreciation of how the first two films are saddled with a great villain in the form of Gian Maria Volonte and cemented "For a Few Dollars More" as my favorite of the three. It is, I think, the most atmospheric of the them and the song from the pocket watch playing just before Volente kills an old comrade and his family is the kind of stuff nightmares and dreams are made of. Awesome!

I was foolish enough not to watch "Once Upon A Time in the West" or "Once Upon A Time in America" (I should mention that it was Leone week and that "West" fell on my birthday). I'm kicking myself for not going to see the West because its a pretty exhausting (in a good way) experience and on the big screen in a very uncomfortable seat would have been the way to go. That the film also features a trio of screenwriters that can only be described as a wet dream, is just one more in a long list of superlatives about the film. I also got around to watching "Once Upon A Time in America" and after the first disc ended I thought the movie started to run out of steam but until then I remember it being blisteringly good.

I hope you get a chance to do this series it would be fun and if I lived in Colorado, with you overseeing it especially, I'd be there in a heartbeat.

Alex Jackson said...

Remember Dave, it has to be American cinema. But I'm not sure that I can come up with a valid answer either. Programming a seventies film festival is kind of problematic anyway in that you can't see what the artists of the time were rebelling against or how they had become obsolete. I mean, doing something like showing Westerns from five different decades in order to understand the Western sounds like it may be more meaningful than showing five movies from the seventies to understand the seventies.

I was going to say you could just do a Dustin Hoffman love fest and show Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, Marathon Man, All the President's Men, and Kramer vs. Kramer. A lot of those go over the 110 minute limit though. And I don't particularly like Straw Dogs or All the President's Men although I recognize their importance to American cinema much less their importance to American cinema in the seventies much less their importance to Hoffman in the seventies. And I get back to that thing of showing and talking about movies that you like has it's time and place, but if I ever go through the trouble of programming and discussing five movies I would want to retain a certain degree of self-expression in doing so.

If I could disregard the American rule and the time limit rule and just pick five films from the seventies with a concurrent theme I'ld do a "Fuck the Rich" film festival. Barry Lyndon, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise, Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, The French Connection, and Cries and Whispers.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Dave, you're off a year with The Stunt Man, which I recently re-watched for the first time since I saw it on cable back when I was a young teen. It was released in 1980.

'70s films:

Juggernaut (the best of the "disaster" films)

Alien (still the best horror film ever made -- and, no, I don't classify this film under "sci-fi".

High Plains Drifter (still Clint's best film and the best western, period)

The French Connection

Jaws (Spielberg, with the possible exception of Temple of Doom, hasn't made a better film)

Manhattan

Regarding Parallax, I used to be a huge fan of it, but last year I watched it for the first time in a while and just couldn't get over the plot holes and behavioral inconsistencies. When Beatty's on that plane and suspects there's a bomb, sorry, but I doubt anyone would be so cool and collective and not immediately make this known to the pilots. When Beatty is taking the visual test, does he really pass it, thus meaning that he shares the same mindset of a homicidal killer; or he didn't pass it, and this is what alerts the villains that he isn't who he says he is? There are some other things, but this is just off the top of my head this morning. What I do like about the film is Pakula bravely relying on word-less scenes to convey both information and mood. I tried showing this to a friend and his wife, but they both grew tired because nothing was "happening" on the screen.

Raphael said...

-Walerian Borowczyk's the beast
-Peter Weir´s picnic at hanging rock
-Nagisa Oshima´s empire of the senses
-William Friedkin´s the exorcist
-Bertolluci´s last tango in Paris
Running theme´s obviously the aftermath of the sexual revolution in 70´s cinema,children still coming to terms with the birds and the bees after leaving the garden of eden.The Dreamers could be here too if it didnt came a few decades later.

As for underrated performers,Eric Bana,Guy Pearce,James Cromwell,Saffron Burrows,Peter Sarsgaard,Harry Dean Stanton,Rutger Hauer and Julie Delpy.

Rich said...

Saw The Parallax View for the first time about a week ago and I was really struck by how much credit Pakula gives the audience. The way he reveales the 'twist' ending with a long nearly totally wordless sequence is pretty awesome, and it really shows the value of a little nuance. Ditto with the bomb-on-the-plane sequence and the bit of reasoning we have to do to understand how Beatty's character tricks his way into the company - both scenes I can imagine losing a lot of their impact and suspense if the character simply explained what he was doing to someone for the sake of the audience.

As for programming a 70's set, I'd be really tempted to include Point Blank in the list despite its '67 release. In my mind that flick is much more of a reaction to the 60's than a product of it.

caption_boy said...

Underrated: Carrot Top, Joey Travolta, Mike Epps, Steven Seagal, Sofia Coppola.

Chad Evan said...

Haha, Carrot Top should die. Back in my long-haired college days I looked just like him and had the pleasure of being constantly told that I resembled the worst comedian of all time.

tmhoover said...

Walter: Somehow, I think "Electra Glide in Blue" ought to make it into that list. It's a bit of a geeky fave of mine (I dissected it at length on the muthasite) but I think it's a) a criminally underrated aesthetic triumph, and b)goes as far as any studio movie of the period in a downbeat assessment of runaway power and victimization. My two cents.

James Allen said...

I'll take a different take, and pick 5 comedies that have at various social issues (in 5 very different ways)

M*A*S*H (Altman, 1970)
Blazing Saddles (1974, Brooks)
Annie Hall (1977, Allen)
The Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones)
Being There (1979, Ashby)

Hmmmm... just looked it up, M*A*S*H is 6 minutes too long and Being There is 20 minutes too long. This is tough.

aron said...

I'd go for "Ulzana's Raid" (105 min.) Aldrich is really 70's to me.

zurri said...

add Westworld to the 70's list

Walter_Chaw said...

Capt: it is indeed from Larry Fessenden's tremendous Wendigo. I hear he's making a new film - can't wait - the guy's for real.

Big admirer of Electra Glide as well: David Gordon Green dropped it as his fave all-time film once upon a time. Interesting that Robert Blake comes up again so soon after Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Great titles up there, keep 'em coming.

Problem with showing "Salo" is a practical one: print availability (even on DVD) and also audience reaction. You'd need to program something like that for a film school exclusive audience, I think, or else you're just going to get a lot of anger and walkouts. You maintain your own self-expression, it's true, but for the pleasure of an empty or hostile auditorium.

Trick is to teach and share without being equivocal. I always get walkouts for Hana-Bi - but not for the same reasons as I would for Audition and then not for the same reasons again as for Guinea Pig. You feel like you want audiences to see what they should see - but there's only so much drinking a led-horse is going to do once it gets there and then what have you accomplished but pleased the converted?

Tricky line to walk, and something I had to do a lot of soul-searching about recently when presented with the possibility of presenting The Cook, The Thief to a library audience in the Colorado 'burbs.

Bill C said...

And people wonder why we administer ritual beatings to Caption Boy.

Yeah, the 110-minute cutoff is really too restrictive--it doesn't even allow for Travis' pick of Electra Glide, which is one of those movies you'll have acid flashbacks to for years afterward. (His review is required reading.)

Alex Jackson said...

Problem with showing "Salo" is a practical one: print availability (even on DVD) and also audience reaction. You'd need to program something like that for a film school exclusive audience, I think, or else you're just going to get a lot of anger and walkouts. You maintain your own self-expression, it's true, but for the pleasure of an empty or hostile auditorium.

That's... I'm feeling pretty good up here on my high horse fantasizing about putting together a program instead of actual doing so. Obviously, I'm not interested in showing Salo to hurt or offend people per se, but because I think it would be interesting to tease out the class issues and compare it to something like Barry Lyndon, Discreet Charm, Cries and Whispers and The French Connection. I mean already I'm seeing that the Europeans set their sights directly on the rich boys; whereas the Americans are blanket cynics and hate pretty much everybody regardless of socioeconomic class.

I just, I'm sensitive to people who refuse to watch something like Salo, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around something like that. People who do that strike me as stringently anti-intellectual; like they don't want certain ideas to be formed in their mind even when there is validity behind them. God forbid people make themselves uncomfortable for a couple hours to better understand what's going on around them. I mean what's the point of going to those library screenings if you never challenge yourself a little?

Only thing that I could never bare to let myself watch is that internet video of that guy drinking his own vomit. At least in Bad Taste it didn't much look like vomit. The Chinese kitty crusher (a woman in China who was videotaped making "stomping porn" by crushing and impaling a mewing kitten with stilleto heels) came close, but I managed through that and I wouldn't exactly recommend other people do so also. To tell you the truth though, if dared in a theatrical setting, I might go through with the vomiter or a second viewing of the kitty crusher, just to say I went through with it.

I think I'm still young, really not prepared to compromise my ideals a smidgola. There's a sense in which it's a slippery slope, but certainly you can't have a screening and discussion without bodies in the chairs.

Who makes up your audience anyway? The Cook and the Thief is "worse" than Sin City but not by a lot. It's still very stylized. See, if I were to be conflicted in showing The Cook and the Thief I can imagine eventually becoming conflicted about showing Blue Velvet; and I don't know about being in a place like that.

You can get bootlegs of the Salo Criterion at Superhappyfun.com by the way.

tmhoover said...

To me, Salo is not at all a film for the novice or the unintiated. To an unschooled eye, it's just two hours of stomach-turning horror and torture- and you risk turning people off to the stuff that might actually lead them to the point where they can apprehend Pasolini's point about pleasure and fascism and alla that good stuff. You don't throw someone in the deep end when you know they can't swim.

As for my own feelings about Salo, I dunno. I'd like to throw out the words of a character in Theodore Roszak's novel "Flicker": "You don't defeat brutes by showing them what they are. They like it. That's what sadism means: beyond shame. Films like Salo appeal to the same in all of us. The only way to deal with fascism is to show people what it isn't over and over again. Joy, love, innocence. Singin' in the Rain- that's the ultimate anti-fascism movie."

Now, I wouldn't want throw away somebody's consensual S/M "joy, love and innocence," but I find the line between what's fascist/sadistic and what's Pasolini in that movie awfully thin. That might be the point- that in pleasure, every top must have a bottom and that innocent fun can flip over into sadism rather easily- but the question mark he leaves as to its desirability is disconcerting to say the least.

Bottom line on Salo: I'm very glad I saw it, and I hope to God I never see it again. Better than his gooey Trilogy of Light, but what is that saying?

Scott said...

Underrated:

Mickey Rourke in Coppola's THE RAINMAKER.

Mark Wahlberg in THE YARDS. (At times Wahlberg does 'nothing' so well that it transcendentally becomes, well, 'something', while still seeming like 'nothing'.

Sylvester Stallone in ROCKY I and II. (Great comedic timing in those flicks. Also good in F.I.S.T.

Joe Morton.

J.T.Walsh.

Michael J.Fox in CASUALTIES OF WAR.
(But not in LIFE WITH MIKEY.)

Robert Duvall in THE GODFATHER I and II. (I know, I know, Duvall always gets his props, but he's sometimes a bit show-offy, but in these flicks his understatement, especially in the second one, is almost heartbreaking.)

Alex Jackson said...

To me, Salo is not at all a film for the novice or the unintiated. To an unschooled eye, it's just two hours of stomach-turning horror and torture- and you risk turning people off to the stuff that might actually lead them to the point where they can apprehend Pasolini's point about pleasure and fascism and alla that good stuff. You don't throw someone in the deep end when you know they can't swim.

:blows raspberry

That's another one of those perrenial issues that I find that I can't stop blabbering on about. I don't think that people should have to be trained to watch movies. Salo actually was the first Pasolini film I ever saw and it got me interested enough to check out The Gospel According to St. Matthew and that gooey Trilogy of Life which I actually did like.

Not really sure it's only for advanced learners. I like Jackass, but I'm sure that even laymen can detect there is a difference between the shit eating in this movie and the yellow snow cone eating in the former. Of the many things that you can say about his last four films are how he blurs the line between the high and low brow. And of Salo, not just about the subject of the role of power in sexuality and violence or of the film as an allegory of Italy's fascist past; but of his glorification and nobilization of sex among the proletariat and the specific manner in which he attacks his principal characters.

Although, I guess that does presume a certain jadedness on behalf of the audience; I'm not entirely sure that they are incapable of grasping it on their first time.

raphael said...

I ´ve been saying the same thing since i saw Salo five years go:briliant movie,terrible experience.
Everytime someone tells me they´re curious to watch it and find out what all the fuss is about i feel compelled to tell them what they´re in for.
Last year,i decided to read a few Sade works."Philosophy in the bedroom" and "Justine" were easy reads mainly due to morbid curiosity and interesting characters and settings.As for Sodom i couldnt get through half of it without taking a break of a few months.It´s the most sickening,violent and enraging thing i´ve ever read.There´s no hope,no goodness,no humanity or redemption in it.Art truly isnt just bunnies and blue skies.It can enligthen you while simultaneously diminishing your faith and hope.So much for blissful ignorance...

Chris A said...

I'd add the underestimated Winter Kills (dir: William Richert) to the list of 70s cinema- squeezing in during 1979.

Seattle Jeff said...

I'd go with a seminal comedy theme....

Annie Hall
Young Frankenstein
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Animal House
M*A*S*H*

Am I the only one who thinks Blazing Sadles is grossly overrated?

aron said...

Would have liked "Klute", but that runs for 114 min. How about "Last Embrace" by Demme (102 min.)?

James Allen said...

"Am I the only one who thinks Blazing Sadles is grossly overrated?" -Seattle Jeff

I don't know about that, but for me, I think it's a great film that still holds up 30+ years later. Traits of this film are still used to this day (most notably the anachronistic black character outwitting the bad guys), but beyond that it says more about rascism than any 10 Stanley Kramer-ish films.

And being a comedy, in the midst of all the slapstick, farting and over-the-top gags, it challenges you to laugh at things you may think you shouldn't. For example, the scene where Bart cheerfully wishes an old lady, "Good morning," only to get a shockingly rude, "Up yours, nigger!!" in reply is one of the more uncomfortable moments (and I don't mean that in a negative sense) I've ever seen in a comedy.

But what I like most is the resolution. The townspeople come around not so much becuase Bart becomes their hero, but becuse they start to realize their racism is counterproductive and absurd. And ironically, being that it's such a broadly styled film, the point isn't pounded over your head.

The film's only real misstep (and again this is ironic given that the film lampoons racism) is the swishy dancers in the musical number at the end.

P.S. I love Young Frankenstein too, btw. Just watched it again yesterday, as a matter of fact. "Don't go! I was going to make espresso..."

George Nada said...

On top of the movies already mentioned in this thread (Parallax View, The Conversation) I'd throw in All The President's Men, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (70's remake of course) and The Last Detail.

Of course you could do a film of any of the movie brats but they have already been well celebrated (barring The Conversation of course which is horribly under-seen).

Bill C said...

Oh man, Last Embrace is awesome; I personally prefer it to Demme's more lauded Melvin and Howard. That and his terrific American Playhouse adaptation of Who Am I This Time? are supposedly finally coming out on DVD this year.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thanks to Travis for taking down the incredibly overrated Moonstruck.

The Captain said...

Just saw Mission Impossible III, not very impressed.

Seattle Jeff said...

Hey,

The original Star Wars film are coming to DVD!

George Lucas was never going to let them rot and fade for memeory...he knew better.

He knew he could hold us purists hostage to get top dollar.

Bless you Mr. Lucas!

Chris said...

This Star Wars news is the best thing that could've happened to me today. Or ever. Oh, thank goodness he wanted more money!

James Allen said...

Re: Star Wars rereleases.

I'm as cynical as the next guy, but I'll actually take this as a lightening up by Lucas because, by all indications, he ain't strapped for cash and the stubborness exhibited by him over the years in regards to this subject seemed pretty genuine to me. Although I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall for the meeting/conversation he had when he finally relented.

However, to quote Pulp Fiction, let's not start sucking each others dicks yet. He could still change his mind. I'll believe it when I'm watching it in my living room while wearing my Yoda slippers.

Dave Gibson said...

Unless Lucas releases a scratchy, heavily-edited 16mm print of “Star Wars” which I can watch in a school gymnasium, the smell of PB &J hanging in the air—I will never be able to fully replicate my most formative childhood experience of “A New Hope”-and that’s a good thing. I’m done with “Star Wars” until the kids are old enough—fresh eyes and all that. Good to see Lucas has made good on his oft-repeated goal (during the Sith junkets) of doing “experimental films”. I notice that these “New Editions” are available only for a “Limited Time” . Uh-huh. Sure. And Steve Jobs isn’t the Anti-Christ--I think we will have versions of “SW” available untill the earth careens into the sun or maybe around the time GnR releases “Chinese Democracy”. So, until technology will allow for Princess Leia’s Jedi get-up to accidentally fall off, I’m keeping my wallet closed.

Alex Jackson said...

However, to quote Pulp Fiction, let's not start sucking each others dicks yet. He could still change his mind. I'll believe it when I'm watching it in my living room while wearing my Yoda slippers.

Yeah, source please.

I actually am sort of hoping that it's not true as, gulp, I already bought the Star Wars Trilogy. I generally make it a rule not to double dip (I'm still standing by my original releases of Memento, Audition, Traffic, Wizard of Oz and Casino, and my second special edition release of Terminator 2) as those are resources better spent on new DVDs.

Even gave up on the Kill Bill movies and after two long years, broke down and purchased them.

Speaking of which, I was looking at my collection on DVD Aficionado and I see that Come and See has been discontinued. Anybody know what's up?

Back to Star Wars though, I might shell out for Return of the Jedi only since there are days, here and there, where I like that film better than Empire and that was the film most brutally raped by Lucas' updates. Empire wasn't changed that much, and aside from a dearth of gratituitous material (that Jabba scene was pretty awful) and changing it so Han shoots first in Star Wars the changes are pretty superfluous. Provided of course that Lucas allows us to buy them individually.

I don't see how he could be scrapping for cash, by the by. The prequels didn't bomb as far as I understand (though by the time Episode III came out it was mostly just another summer blockbuster).

Seattle Jeff said...

Here's my source:

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=filmNews&storyid=2006-05-04T061910Z_01_N0420771_RTRIDST_0_FILM-STARWARS-DC.XML

btw, I don't believe in buying DVD's, so I'll just be renting.

Seattle Jeff said...

I don't get the comments of Lucas not being strapped for cash.

What does that have to do with anything?

It makes sense that he just wants more money regardless of how much he already has.

Andrew said...

jeff is right. The argument of "having enough money" certainly means nothing when you consider the ridiculous merchandising lucasfilms does. Go into Target or Wal-mart every three months or so and check out the new Boba Fett figure where his gun is in the left hand. Next quarter, right-handed Boba Fett!

James Allen said...

Re: Lucas and money

Once more: the point is not that Lucas doesn't want to make more money. Just that he's in a position that he doesn't have to do anything just for the money. And in the cases of the original version of the trilogy, he's been so adamant in his resistance to releasing them on DVD for so long that I really don't think he's been that calculating all this time.

I find this attitude truly bizarre. The fans have been clamoring for the originals on DVD all these years, calling Lucas a stubborn bastard, but when he finally acquiesces, he's accused of being a greedy bastard. No one has to buy the damn things. I might not buy them myself, but at least I know I'm going to eventually have the option.

Bill C said...

I'm happy as a pig in slop that they're releasing the OT on DVD, but don't for a second think Lucas is doing this out of benevolence. Fact is, many of the die-hards already sucked it up and bought the Special Edition trilogy; now they're all going to go out and buy it again to get the OT (the originals will be on disc 2 of 2-disc reissues of the Special Editions). Then Lucas is going to release the trilogy on HD-DVD and/or BluRay, probably only the Special Editions but maybe the OT as well. But don't forget: we have 3-D IMAX Special Editions of the Special Editions on the way in 2007, and eventually he'll find a way to put those out on DVD. So forgive me for being cynical, but the timing of this suggests he's trying to squeeze in another reissue before there's technological motivation to do so. He's a shrewd businessman, and a dickhead.

James Allen said...

Re: Lucas

Point taken, Bill. I do agree with you about the shrewd businessman thing. That and the dickhead part.

Seattle Jeff said...

James,

Just to clarify, I'm all for Lucas milking his creation for all its worth. I have no problem with that at all.

But, I think the beef some of us have is that the desire for the profit trumped/trumps his artistic sensibility. (I believe he had it once)

So, I have a joyous reaction that the originals will be released, yet am cynical in general. I mean, who here is suprised that it's a Xmas season release?

As Mark Hammil told Walter (paraphrasing) "Why not just stick the originals in with the new Special Editions as a Special Feature?"

Lucas won't do that when he can sell them seperately. More power to him, but don't expect me to like bending over.

Ian Pugh said...

If I may chime in with an unlikely entry for the '70s discussion, let me mention the James Bond parable The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Odd choice, I know, but I think that the film carries a creative little mirror of the Cold War of the time: the uneasiness of détente. There's the timid teamup to work against mutually assured destruction (this was the first Bond villain plot to entail total global destruction, rather than simply negating the two world powers), coupled with a vague understanding that the Commies were not demons... and the continued desire within both sides of the War to come out on top. (Check out the mission debriefing scene where General Gogol meets with M -- and they very painfully try to act polite.) Sadly, it reaches its way past two hours (and it is British); but I thought I would be amiss if I didn't mention it in a paranoid '70s cycle. Besides, it's a hell of a lot better than the earlier '70s-cocentric Bonds -- which awkwardly approach blaxploitation and the energy crisis.

As per actual American films, how about Halloween and Deathdream?

Also, I note with a distinct lack of surprise that "artist" never once gets mentioned in descriptions of Lucas. Do you think this man well and truly believed that Hayden Christensen had any business being in Return of the Jedi?

And is there any truth to this rumor that 2007 will see a 3-D release of the trilogy?

Justin said...

RE: The OT DVD rerelease, I just figured somebody at Lucasfilm noticed how much money bootleggers were making off DVD copies of the OT laserdiscs, and decided they wanted a piece of the action.

Seattle Jeff said...

My use of the word "artisitic" was mainly rooted in seeing THX1138 in HD over the weekend.

Wasn't really rooted in the approval of Ewoks for the third film.

Ian Pugh said...

Ah, didn't mean to directly reference your use of the word, Jeff; just referencing the fact that few people will dare reference Lucas as such. I do agree with you that he had an artistic sensibility pre-success; sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Star Wars hadn't performed well at the box office. Ignoring the obvious repercussions on cinema as a whole, I wonder if he would have been a critically-lauded auteur, and continued to actually make movies.

Bill C said...

There's another big When: when do we get the original version of THX-1138, without the digital monkeys and that awful CGI car chase?

Ian: I'm with you on The Spy Who Loved Me; I dare call it my favourite Bond film, and since MGM paid for half of it, I think it might be fair game for an American film festival.

Justin: Great point.

Rich said...

Re: Lucas

Just wondering if anyone knows how the directors of the second a third movies reacted to Lucas' additions for the Special Editions of the first trilogy. I'm sure he owns the rights to all of them and still considers them to be his 'babies', but since he didn't actually direct the last two should he really be fiddling around with them?

This is undoubtedly old news to most of you, but I'm curious as to whether or not either of those guys kicked up much of a fuss when Lucas did his meddling.

Bill C said...

Well, I know Irvin Kershner gave Lucas his blessing; Richard Marquand, on the other hand, died in 1987. It would seem Lucas had no compunction about that as Jedi's SE is the most radically altered of the three.

Alex Jackson said...

There's another big When: when do we get the original version of THX-1138, without the digital monkeys and that awful CGI car chase?

Oh wow, I actually thought that the original cut was already released on DVD some period of time before the special edition. I think I was actually thinking of the single-disc version; which, as you can see, has what looks to be the film's original theatrical poster art suggesting "quickie-in-the-early-days-of-DVD" to me. I think that at one point Netflix, probably thinking the same thing as me, was offering the film under this cover art as well as the two-disc special edition cover art.

Wow. Got to be careful with this stuff.

Any bets as to when Lucas'll juice up American Grafitti?

Bill C said...

Any bets as to when Lucas'll juice up American Grafitti?

Too late, Alex: he already replaced the sky of the opening shot with a digital sunset he meant to put in there back in 1973.

Seattle Jeff said...

He's also replaced Charles Martin Smith with Hayden Christiansen...

Walter_Chaw said...

Alex: Who makes up your audience anyway? The Cook and the Thief is "worse" than Sin City but not by a lot. It's still very stylized. See, if I were to be conflicted in showing The Cook and the Thief I can imagine eventually becoming conflicted about showing Blue Velvet; and I don't know about being in a place like that.

I've come along the same arc with my speaking audiences as I have with the audience at large in that you begin with a lot of faith and then you begin to re-sculpt that faith along more realistic lines. The truth is what you and I tolerate is very different from what most people can tolerate and in that difference, find several shades of grey. If there's one lesson to teach in Salo, there are several in Blue Velvet, and so when presented with the chance to show the latter a few months ago, I jumped at it. After the show, a guy asked me where "god" was in that movie and I said that if his faith is strong, then his god is everywhere and if he couldn't find His glorious testimony in Blue Velvet, then he wasn't looking hard enough.

That's the kind of audience I get.

But it's still an audience that's at least a little intellectually curious about film and the process of film criticism and discussion and that puts them ahead of most - meaning that you have a shot there to talk to them about the issues that matter. I've never balked at a Lynch or a Takeshi or a Leone or a Peckinpah (save for issues of length) - for me the hope is to enlighten a few, entertain the converted, and hopefully, get and keep their asses in those seats.

Taking one of your more provocative examples, Alex (and I don't use the word as a weapon), you could justify showing a group a hardcore porn from the seventies to talk about the merits of Seka and the Dark Brothers but you're asking a lot there not only of your audience but of your exhibitors. You can say that you're being uncompromising to the purity of your ideals, or you can over-estimate the tolerance of your audience.

I recently programmed Dead Ringers and A History of Violence for the Beaver Creek Ski Resort's non-profit symposium because, after a few years of working with them, I had gained a solid following and trust within that community. I, by my presence, could guarantee a certain small audience for them and so, we go ahead with it - but if I abuse that trust with stuff that's meaningful by the fact of it rather than the real execution and endurance of it - that's the last time I get to reach these people, no matter what they learn from our last encounter.

I'm not sure it's a matter of youthful idealism so much as idealism, idealism. Where you infuriate a lot of our readers, you actually rejuvenate me in a lot of ways. I don't know that I was ever as idealistic as you are: but I do trust the honesty of your ardor.

The first film I ever programmed, by the way, was for Landmark. It was Argento's Suspiria, attended if I recall by about fifty senior citizens and one young Japanese couple. The 35mm print was in bad shape and the R-Rated cut, besides, bringing up another issue of being allowed, legally, to show the picture. You can get the Criterion bootleg, but you won't get permission to demonstrate it publically.

As to Star Wars OT making it to video. I'm going to buy it because I can't not, and Lucas is a dickhead.

Empire may be the least digitally compromised, but atmospherically (shot by Peter Schushitzky) it loses a lot. All those windows in Bespin, that line about "good thing droids don't taste very good" - they're smaller in the grand scheme of things, but they hurt me in that film more than any of the changes hurt me in the others. Even Han shooting first.

My fave of the OT was Return of the Jedi for the first five years after I saw it - it's been Empire ever since. I was thirteen, I think - and then eighteen when the change came. It opens an old argument, but we evolve and hope that our tastes come along for the ride.

Seattle Jeff said...

I watched Empire recently. My favorite as well.

But I'm not sure it holds up on the 25,674th viewing...

Yes, I'm actually serious.

Alex Jackson said...

The 35mm print was in bad shape and the R-Rated cut, besides, bringing up another issue of being allowed, legally, to show the picture. You can get the Criterion bootleg, but you won't get permission to demonstrate it publically.

It would at least be highly questionable.

The justification the bootleggers present for bootlegging films is that if the film in question is not available through legal means, then how could you be cutting in on their profits? That's convincing enough for me ethically speaking. I'm hardly an expert lawyer on copyright issues, but unless their reasons for keeping it out of the marketplace had to do with something other than money, I'm not sure if they would have a strong case for preventing it from being shown. But yeah, even if they're not likely to sue and even if they're not likely to win who wants to risk it?

Great question about "god" being in Blue Velvet; I'd be so shocked somebody would actually ask, that I would be gaping for at least fifteen seconds afterwards. I'd like to think that he was referring to the pop spirituality of Lynch's robins; but I can imagine that it's just as likely that it's a kneejerk response to the shock in the film. (Would he ask the question of Failure to Launch? He probably should). And there again, I'm never sure if I'm overestimating or underestimating my audience. I actually used to study journalism in school, but I think I would have made a dreadful journalist. I'm very bad at gauging what the public is thinking.

There's a topic for a film series though: "Where's God"?

Chad Evan said...

Once while hurrying out of a bookstore I glanced at the cover of a book that contained interviews and essays in which artists discuss their faith, and I swear I think Lynch was one of the names on the cover. Intriguing, to say the least.