June 14, 2006

The Trench

Monday found me and the family on the Georgetown Loop railroad, an old, narrow-gauge steam-line running about an hour outside of Denver that takes the scenic route up a 4% grade to Silver Plume. Reminding me a lot of my affection for the HBO series “Deadwood” and a lot of my father, too, who used to love to drive up to Georgetown to fish in some pond or another; usually with my sister because I was too busy doing whatever it was that I did. At the risk of getting maudlin all over the joint, the jaunt was in honor of Father’s Day, grabbed while I had a few free hours because there was no guarantee that I would later in the week (shades of dad, again, I’m afraid). At the hale old age of 33, I do assess a lot what’s going right and what’s going wrong in my life – after all, if I follow in my pop’s footsteps, I only have twenty-one years left to do whatever it is that we do.

Did a speaking gig at the tiny Lone Tree library this last ten days, introducing and discussing the lovely Italian film I’m Not Scared. I wrote when I saw it first a few years ago that it was a remake in spirit of Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter and watching it again, I’m left with a similar feeling. The theme of the blog today seems to be fathers and sons. For my part, my boy is having a tough time with colic so I’m not sleeping much – it melts the days into the nights into the dreams into the realities. I’m in the uncomfortable situation all the time now of wondering if I dreamed a conversation or had it: completed a piece or just fantasized that I had.

By the time I finally pound out a review of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ later tonight, it will have been, no kidding, the third time I’ve written it in my head. You’re not going to be able to tell.

Went to a screening of the abominable Lake House last night with a crowd that had it all figured out in about five minutes, flat, which should be all the warning any sentient being needs – went to a screening of Nacho Libre today where a guy in a Mexican wrestler’s outfit, spewing pidgen Spanglish, threw t-shirts and posters into the crowd. I was offended before the film started, in other words, and then 80 minutes of caveat for little white kids to start saying retarded things in Pancho and Cisco accents. I’m sick of fighting this fight – the film’s not even funny.

Tonight found me at the Denver Public Library’s central branch, introducing and moderating a discussion of a lively screening of Howard Hawks’ you-have-to-see-it-with-a-crowd, Bringing Up Baby. Howling laughter throughout, making it a grand experience and the conversation afterwards, with a clips show that I’d had the rare (for me) foresight to prepare beforehand, going deeper into the particulars of the film. We even touched on the Darwinian theories of the piece – far above and beyond the basic “How’d they get the leopard to fight Asta” stuff. In preparation for the event, I did listen to Peter Bogdanovich’s commentary on the Warner’s DVD which, between his bad imitations of Grant and Hawks, proved only minimally-edifying. His crowing about how much Hawks liked What’s Up Doc made me want to stomp a mudhole in his ascot.

Had a brief conversation with friend and colleague Tom Delapa before the Lake House screening, incidentally, about Godard’s
Week End while offering a few comments to an audience member after the I’m Not Scared screening about Bunuel’s Viridiana - leading me to ask the question of which film that you love do you find that elicits the most mystification? Not horror and repulsion, but just big giant question marks and demands for clarification (like me standing like the RCA puppy before Napoleon Dynamite’s giant cult of personality).

Dead Man is the one for me: that seems in large part to be one where you hear the music or not.

Here’s the capture:

Hot off the Presses (61606)

Hey. Got a mention in the
Hollywood Reporter. Anybody got some shades I could borrow?

110 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bringing Up Baby is a very difficult movie for me to handle. Katharine Hepburn's character really walks the line between endearing quirkiness and cloying, airheaded freakishness -- Natalie Portman's character in Garden State has her roots here. Accordingly, the romance never once convinces. What I want to do is dismiss it outright, but the film's so goddamned FUNNY...

George Nada said...

Is the screen capture The Elephant Man?

tmhoover said...

My favourite film maudit along those lines is unmistakably The Doom Generation- in fact, I believe Alex and I tussled over it last year sometime. A film that few endorse but which strikes me as a zeitgeist-nailing statement that I can't help but applaud (Shameless plug: I've written about DG as well as that other '90s zeitgeist flick Pulp Fiction in the recent issue of Reverse Shot).

Alex Jackson said...

My favourite film maudit along those lines is unmistakably The Doom Generation- in fact, I believe Alex and I tussled over it last year sometime

Ha! You drive me nuts Travis. This is almost as bad as your preferring
Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick
to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. I'll be damned if you don't make an excellent case, which drives me even more nuts.

Max B. said...

Unrelated to anything, what ever happened to the reader mail part of FFC?

Bill C said...

I think we've pronounced Reader Mail dead, Max. Part of my reason for starting the blog was to create an open forum for dissent, but lo, the discourse here has been unexpectedly civil, and the well of hate that used to pool in our inboxes seems to have pretty much dried up as well. I can't really explain the phenomenon, since our traffic continues to increase exponentially (I personally got more e-mail when we were clocking 40 page views a day as opposed to 40,000), but maybe things will heat up if Walter hates Superman Returns or Pirates of the Caribbean 2. My guess is that any future Reader Mails will be film-specific, a la the two Star Wars editions.

tmhoover said...

Did I really say Riddick was better than Robot Maria? I guess I did. Let me offer the caveat that the Twohys are of a friendly voluptuousness that is part of the Travis Hoover program in a way that Metropolis' oppressive heaviness is not. It's a personal quirk- let it be known that I'll take Lang's Fury or Scarlet Street over both those movies.

Scott Weinberg said...

But did you see Tokyo Drift, Walt? Really looking forward to your opinions on that one.

ADT said...

Oh Travis, you and your "friendly voluptuousness"... you're an unrepentant sensualist, mein freund, and I salute you for it, though I think it makes you sometimes overlook the fact that some of the best things in film today can be cold, hard, and nasty. (Mr. Haneke, the phone's for you.) I think the wiggy idiocy of the Twohys gives yer praise of them a nice subversive spin - can't say I particularly enjoyed either of 'em - but please don't join forces with the Denbys in celebrating Singer's two X-movies for their "liquid beauty" - rather than the far more relevant fact that he just quite intelligently made their inherent sucktitude less sucky than they should have been (I sense that similar overheated rhetoric is being prepared for that movie he made about the dude in blue tights). As with corporeal voluptuousness, cinematic voluptuousness can blind us to the fact that the object of our voluptuary gaze is not really worth our time.

Anonymous said...

So sad!! Aside from the great reviews, Reader Mail was my favourite part of the site. Great responses and dialogue between you guys and the fans/non-fans - I dig this blog, but it's not quite the same.

None-the-less, I expect you'll get a bit of (hilariously incomprehensible) mail over the Get Rich or Die Tryin' review - not that the review is bad, but I'd consider Find/Replace "Fitty" with "Fiddy", his actual (and no less stupid) stage-nick-name-thing. Not that that'll make any real difference to the fans of the stupid thing.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Walter, I just got through breezing through your Quick Ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, and while you gave Chuck Norris' worst film Invasion U.S.A. zero stars like I, you also gave his and director Andrew Davis' best film Code of Silence only one star! Say it ain't so! Oh well, you gave Maniac 4 stars, so I can't stay mad at ya.

Alex Jackson said...

but please don't join forces with the Denbys in celebrating Singer's two X-movies for their "liquid beauty" - rather than the far more relevant fact that he just quite intelligently made their inherent sucktitude less sucky than they should have been (I sense that similar overheated rhetoric is being prepared for that movie he made about the dude in blue tights). As with corporeal voluptuousness, cinematic voluptuousness can blind us to the fact that the object of our voluptuary gaze is not really worth our time.

Dude, drop the chalupa. If a movie gives you pleasure that's justification enough for its existence. What are you going to rail against next? Sunsets, hot baths, orgasms, kittens, strawberry ice cream, coffee and cigarettes, vibrating chairs? Meager corporeal pleasures of the plebes I guess.

Bill C said...

Is it really "Fiddy"? That was something I actually tried to confirm. According to the Urban Dictionary, "fitty" is the proper slang for "fifty," yet they say "Fiddy" is the spelling when referring to 50 Cent.

What I don't understand is this compulsion to nickname your nickname. Mr. T piddies the fool.

Anonymous said...

Definately "Fiddy" - check the Wikipedia entry. As for nicknaming your nickname, the less letters/syllables, the less stress on your fan's collectively shared braincell. Enter: rappers. Exit: logic.

Walter_Chaw said...

My fave reader mail of the last few months was for Chronicles of Narnia in which someone had the kind fortitude to offer, anonymously of course, "The Lion Loves You". An odd bit of "huh" that I like to use as further confirmation of the wisdom of my atheism.

May do an impromptu reader mail here sometime in the future - it's been asked for more than once already. But I second Bill's idea to let it drop - comes a time that you keep responding to some of that bullshit and you start becoming it.

George - screengrab is indeed The Elephant Man. Good call. I tried to watch it the other day and found that I couldn't - the emotional weight of it was too much. Maybe another day.

O'JohnLandis said...

This:

As with corporeal voluptuousness, cinematic voluptuousness can blind us to the fact that the object of our voluptuary gaze is not really worth our time.

Does not equal:

There ought not be ice cream or orgasms (or ice cream orgasms).

If a movie gives you pleasure, that means you like it. Liking movies is good, but liking a movie doesn't make the movie good. That's all he's saying. We all like things that are bad. Recognizing the existence of pretty, empty things has nothing to do with justifying the existence of pretty, empty things.

But, for a change, I'm not picking on Alex's post out of strong disagreement. I think he overreacted, but he did so with noble intentions. He values loving movies above everything else, so quality doesn't mean much to him.

No, the reason I highlighted this exchange was that it actually has a lot to do with Walter's question:

...which film that you love ... elicits the most mystification?

This is a great question, in that the answers and debates might be passionate. The only flaw is that it's hard to argue love, especially when people consider quality to be equally subjective.

I love "Pumpkin" because I find its reckless tonal shifts captivating, funny, and sad. But I'm not sure I could argue that it's a masterpiece. See, without getting too much into intentionality, I kinda think I love "Pumpkin" accidentally. I have a really strong reaction to it, but I'm not sure that reaction is the same thing as quality. In any event, it's the only film I really like and yet haven't been able to find anyone else who likes it for the same reasons I do. (I've found a couple dim people who like it because it's funny to make fun of retarded people and campus life, sigh.) But damnit, I think the ending of "Pumpkin" is as complex and sad as any film in the last decade or two, and that opinion truly mystifies people.

So, should we be more skeptical about the things we love in spite of a lack of quality? Or should we be more skeptical about quality in spite of a lack of love? That one goes out to Alex.

For the record, I'm in favor of voluptuousness.

Walter_Chaw said...

JL - how does Pumpkin end, again? (this asked in seriousness and not facetiousness, I hasten to interject)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex Jackson said...

Liking movies is good, but liking a movie doesn't make the movie good.

How do you figure? If "good" exists entirely independently from "liking", the concept of good begins to lose all utility for me.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Liking movies is good, but liking a movie doesn't make the movie good.

This is the disease that claims most well-meaning intellectuals, specifically critics. The idea of film criticism, in my opinion, is to provide intellectual justifications for what you like and not the other way. Best reviews are those where a critic tells you a story about what happened in his life that justifies him liking the worst of films. That is way more interesting than one of Ebert's "I hated it but you'll love it because you're stupid" 3-star reviews.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Props to Walter for the Cache review by the way. Saw the movie a few days ago. Haneke is wicked. However I don't think the end is a soft punch but curiously fits in with your idea of political allegory.

Chris said...

Whenever I'm arguing with someone about Love Actually, it just comes down to the fact that they "turned their brain off" or "stopped thinking" or something comparable during the movie and that's why they enjoyed it so much (or maybe, that's *how* they were *able* to).

I tell them this can't be a good thing, the turning off of their brains, and the smarter people say no, you're right, it's not, and the less smart people sigh and moan with the weight of the world and the frustration of arguing with me.

I believe that there isn't such a thing as a "guilty pleasure", because if it brings you pleasure, it shouldn't really make you feel guilty. I don't think it's too much to ask to be able to justify why you like something, at least somewhere beyond "I stopped being myself in order to like it."

Max B. said...

I think there's definitely a spectrum, wherein lies certain films or things that you can recognize as good without necessarily liking. For example, I thought Talk to Her was a beautiful, poetic exploration of love, and marvelously constructed - it just didn't strike the right note with me. It was just off my frequency. I like, for example, Armageddon more than Talk To Her. But I have nothing but admiration for the success of Talk to Her.

I think we do this all the time in life. Examples of other things we can think are good without liking:

1) Homework.
2) Classical music.
3) Fair and open elections (this applies to Republicans only).
4) Jackson Pollack.
5) Abortion.

All facetiousness aside, I think Alex is right to say that "good" and "liking" by no means are completely independent; on the other hand, neither are they interchangable. I think Walter's "Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams" review touched on that pretty well.

And, regarding reader mail, I feel like the responses to the DaVinci Code review may be fascinating. :)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

I think we do this all the time in life. Examples of other things we can think are good without liking:

1) Homework.
2) Classical music.
3) Fair and open elections (this applies to Republicans only).
4) Jackson Pollack.
5) Abortion.


The thing is, we aren't talking about things that can be considered "good" without "liking", it's the other way. Also we're not talking about "things" at all, but about films, which is a passive experience unlike say, Homework.

Max B. said...

Jeez, I said I was being facetious. :P

But I think if something can be good without being liked, it stands to reason that something can be liked without being good, or at least intellectually defensible.

tmhoover said...

Let me elucidate: even as much as I love Riddick, I would never put it in the pantheon of greats. It's just a camp object that happens to push the love button in my brain- and I felt that I'd be dishonest in dialing down my enthusiasm. Everybody has a few of these, and it doesn't mean that we can't prefer Michael Haneke (whose Cache would have made my top ten last year had I seen it in time). As for the denigrated-by-association Metropolis, bear in mind that even its most vocal supporters admit that its hand/head/heart pseudo-ideology is pretty facile stuff. Which doesn't mean it's not good...

ADT: Rest assured Singer gets no major love from me- especially for the overrated and not especially sensual X-Men duo ("liquid beauty" my ass). But your remark about the blinding nature of voluptuousness strikes me as more revelatory about your bias than about mine. You can go overboard with any aesthetic program- and while I identify with the voluptuous it doesn't blind me to the value of spare, intelligent movies like Vento di terra or L'enfant. If you identify with the cold and the nasty, that's your perfect right, but that choice is no more or less "blinding" than my particular brand of Jack Smith fetishism.

Bill C said...

I'd be remiss, Max, if I didn't jump in and say that Travis authored that review of Nice Dreams, not Walter.

Max B. said...

1) You're right.
2) I'm an idiot.
3) Travis, I owe you an apology.

ADT said...

Travis,

agree with you completely about my own aesthetic bias... was just giving you a friendly dig in the ribs, though seems I inadvertently reawoke the dreaded "what is film criticism?" debate.

Seattle Jeff said...

we're not talking about "things" at all, but about films

I love the pretentiousness of that comment. "We are talking Films! Cinema Veritae, my dear man!"

We're definetly not talking about movies.

Alex Jackson said...

The idea of film criticism, in my opinion, is to provide intellectual justifications for what you like and not the other way.

Yes yes yes yes yes!

I really like Haneke too by the way, and I don't necessarily disagree that the idealogy of Metropolis is facile. I would judge both as producing more evolved pleasures than something like Singer's X-men movies, but in doing so I would still be working within a hedonistic model of evaluation.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

But I think if something can be good without being liked, it stands to reason that something can be liked without being good

That's like saying, if you eat food and give out shit then you can eat shit and give out food. Makes no sense.

The issue here is that we have completely different definitions of "good". Most people usually consider "good" to be something objective that is decided upon by popular opinion of a community. For example, "Citizen Kane" is the most "good" movie. However for me, "Citizen Kane" can eat my shit and the community that calls it the most "good" movie can also eat my shit. Hence, to me "good" is something subjective. I "like" "good" and just like no one can convince me that "Citizen Kane" is "good", no one can convince me to "like" it.

Maybe the word you are looking for is admire.

Bill C said...

Looking for a belly laugh? Check out Walt's review of THE LAKE HOUSE - http://filmfreakcentral.net/screenreviews/lakehouse.htm

Damn good stuff.

O'JohnLandis said...

Ah, HMSM, I just figured out your mistake:

Most people usually consider "good" to be something objective that is decided upon by popular opinion of a community.

You're right that "good" is basically objective. But popular opinion has nothing to do with it. The objective nature of "good" is what makes criticism so unique and interesting. Preference and quality are not interchangeable, and to suggest they are leads to absurdities. For instance, without being able to claim the objective quality of a film, it's impossible to prove (and incorrect even to say) that anything is better than anything else. Therefore, "Alone in the Dark" is instantly as good as "Citizen Kane" or "2001" or "Your Favorite Film X."

If forced to, I would define "good" in film criticism as being shorthand for "has a bunch of positive qualities, some more important than others, that outweigh the negatives to a certain extent--that extent being how 'good' the film is." If you find that icy and clinical, I apologize, but it seems better than the alternative "whatever you like is good, so let's figure out why." In any event, I assure you that no matter how clinical my writing might seem, I do not watch films clinically, and am just as capable of odd preferences. I prefer "Noises Off!" to "Citizen Kane" but I would be hard pressed to compare them productively.

I think all of us who think about film criticism a great deal are capable of separating quality and preference when necessary. We're also capable of failing to do so: liking something, and then trying to figure out some justification. So if all critics can be guilty of preferential justification, how do you pick which critics to read? Pick the ones who, more often than not, like good movies.

By the way, Walter, I see "Pumpkin" as a Farrelly Bros. movie directed by PT Anderson (tone, not technique) -- a cripple uplift satire in which every big scene has some naked, subversive sincerity.

As for the ending, Ricci shows up just in time to inspire Pumpkin during the big race. After the race, Pumpkin's mom and Ricci's ex give the couple their blessing basically because Pumpkin won. Ricci, trying the whole movie to become deeper and more sympathetic by banging a disabled kid, has finally won too.

In the last shot, she walks off with him and asks him a question he clearly can't answer. She briefly turns back to the camera, either to say "I'm stuck dating a retard." or "I'm a fraud, but I don't care. People think I'm deep." She then turns and keeps walking as the song "Falling from Grace" finishes over the credits.

I tend to think "Pumpkin" is about more than paternalism for the disabled or the misguided and shallow pursuit of depth through ignoring reality. There's something there about the pursuit of mismatched relationships or maybe "settling" that I've never been able to adequately verbalize. But I tend to like it when people go the whole nine when dramatizing allegory.

Max B. said...

Yeah, you're right, admire is more the word I was looking for.
But I still think there's a degree to which "good" and "like" are seperable, and intellectual justification can be seperate from personal feeling. For example, after doing hours of reading on "Talk to Her" for a film history class, I acknowledged that, yes, Almodovar had crafted an intelligent, insightful film worthy of my admiration that I would say is good. I just didn't really love it, is all. On the other hand, although I acknowledge that much of the criticism of it is valid, I loved "The Constant Gardener" and consider among my favorite films, even though I don't necessarily think I can quite defend it intellectually. I think there's a lot of value in being able to acknowledge that something you don't particularly care for can still have merit. If you think about it, the flip side of that is that there's stuff out there that's just not intellectually defensible, and I think saying that something is good just because you like it is kind of dangerously pandering.

A good example: I recently finished doing a research project for class on Tony Scott's racist, fascist, but wildly entertaining "Man on Fire." I had to do interviews, and for the most part, most of the kids I interviewed liked the film, even the blacks, Hispanics, and liberals. However, after I pointed out the problematic aspects of the film, almost all agreed that, yes, the film is racist and fascist, but they'd never bothered to think about it.

I think if you don't create some level of seperation of what's immediately appealing and what's intellectually defensible, you end up with, well, what we have now - a population that likes to be manipulated by the same old condenscending crap as they always have. The most popular film on the facebook (and thus, most likely, among American college students) is The Notebook. Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine are infinitely superior romantic comedies, but people can easily dismiss them as "artsy" and "pretentious."

I guess the point of this rant is, the inability to seperate quality from immediate pleasure is what's led to the film culture we have now - anti-intellectual low-brow people preferring to be condenscended to, because they have permission to dismiss anything that's not exactly the same as what they've seen a thousand times before.

Max B. said...

Umm, O'JohnLandis said what I was trying to say twice as clearly, three times as concisely, and ten times more intelligently.

Cool.

tmhoover said...

I see that my innocent championing of a silly movie has unleashed hellfire and damnation. To defend my position: I would never worship a silly movie that I found morally questionable. The mention of Man on Fire is apropos in this case- it's an formally nutty movie that uses its formalism to push a pretty hideous agenda. In the case of Riddick, however, there's no real agenda- it's just an abstract excuse to revel in sensuous surfaces, which is something I think we can all get behind. It's true that there are more noble cinematic pursuits, but sometimes we are soft creatures with a desire to be touched. Which is different from making a statement like Cache, but still.

To change the subject- does anybody out there actually like The Doom Generation?

Tim Norberg said...

hmm, good question. Most recently, I loved "Breakfast on Pluto", even though it got mostly mediocre to bad reviews, and I don't actually know that many people who actually saw it. I also loved Death To Smoochy, which isn't a great film, but an admirable one for being so boldly itself and including jokes referencing the Parallax View, not to mention the finale with the entire plot told through a wagnerian ice show. Similarly, I recently netflixed and enjoyed Hudson Hawk, which is an entirely goofy comedy in the vein of Naked Gun that doesn't get anywhere near the respect it deserves. I think most people were expecting a serious Die Hardish film, and instead got something completely ludicrous and fun. And very funny, in a completely groan-worthy and corny way.

Alex Jackson said...

Yes indeed, I don't think that this is going to be a discussion that's going to convert anybody over; but I should probably elaborate on my position.

First:

If forced to, I would define "good" in film criticism as being shorthand for "has a bunch of positive qualities, some more important than others, that outweigh the negatives to a certain extent--that extent being how 'good' the film is."

This is inadequate. "Good" and "pleasurable" may or may not be synonymous terms but "positive" and "good" definitely are. In establishing what the positive qualities of a film are I can't imagine not employing a subjective bias.

For instance, without being able to claim the objective quality of a film, it's impossible to prove (and incorrect even to say) that anything is better than anything else. Therefore, "Alone in the Dark" is instantly as good as "Citizen Kane" or "2001" or "Your Favorite Film X."

Well quite. We are getting into old territory; one of the obvious defenses that I didn't think to employ when attacking "knowledge" way back when was that I was only talking about knowledge in terms of film criticism. I don't think that film criticism is a science. I think that doctors, astronauts, engineers, psychiatrists, and business analysts can make evaluations based on empirical data. I don't think that film critics can. When you start talking about "objectivity" that says to me "empirical data" and there isn't a lot that in the cinema that can be quantified in that manner.

The actual act of writing, of explaining what and why you like what you like and why you dislike what you dislike, places subjective feelings into a relatively objective arena and as such prevents all films from being equal. I mean, liking and disliking are, by design, value judgments aren't they?

Disregarding your visceral reactions because they are immoral strikes me as the worst kind of dishonesty a film critic can employ. If you enjoy a racist, misogynistic, or otherwise immoral film I wouldn't let your conscience get in the way. I would instead consider that to be an invitation for some serious introspection. Frankly, I believe that if you have never gotten in touch with your base animal nature you've never really developed into a moral human being. Revenge (as portrayed in Man on Fire) is both a natural human impulse and an immoral one. If you get off on it and deny the fact that you're getting off on it, you haven't really taken a moral stance in rejecting it.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

For instance, without being able to claim the objective quality of a film, it's impossible to prove (and incorrect even to say) that anything is better than anything else.

Good point. However, the objective quality that you speak of is claimed by a community of like-minded individuals, in this case film critics. So your claim that popular opinion, in this case that of film critics, has nothing to do with it is wrong. Hence, the objective quality is something that is determined by agreeing subjective preferences of the members of the community.

However, this is a slippry slope. Words can be miunderstood and distorted very easily in this debate.

All I'm trying to say is that I rarely see any individuality in criticism of any sort anymore, mostly it's just paternalistic mediocre opinions with some oblique quates & references and insider-info for intellectual vanity. Fuck Ebert for calling "Crash" Dickensian. Betcha when Alex rights a review of it, I'll be pulling my hair out of disagreement, and so to me the review will probably not be "good" but I'm sure it will be "admirable".

At the same time, when Walter quotes Keats in review for "Julien Donkey-Boy" there is nothing wrong with it because he has something to say. So at the end it really runs down to subjective opinion, I guess.

Alex Jackson said...

Fuck Ebert for calling "Crash" Dickensian. Betcha when Alex rights a review of it, I'll be pulling my hair out of disagreement, and so to me the review will probably not be "good" but I'm sure it will be "admirable".

Ha! I just did! Not that I would advocate doing so, but just in case we want to jump from one of my shit storms to another.

ADT said...

You know, I see a lot of references on this site to "base animal nature" (or "lizard brain," in Walter's oft-repeated phrase), and I've gotta say I've never been convinced by it... not convinced by most people's use of it, that is. Sure, we all have them animal natures, to the extent that we eat, fuck, and shit (not necessarily in that order), but I find it's invoked here most often as a means of shutting down that introspection you seem to be advocating, AJ, and just revelling in whatever unpleasant things we can conjure up (hollow man's posts being a prime example) without having to take any moral considerations into account... in other words, it's just a bunch of kids horsing around with dirty words in the schoolyard.

Having just watched Winter Soldier a couple of times in quick succession (documentary about the Vietnam Veterans Against the War investigation, for them what don't know it), what's impressed me the most about what these soldiers have to say is that the animalistic behaviour they engaged in had to be conditioned in them by a highly organized system... and when they got back and their inherent moral nature started functioning in them again, they realized how much of their selves had to be erased so that they could become animals. Animal nature was implanted in them, it wasn't just some reversion to the id.

And as for revenge, (apropos of that despicable slice o' shit Man on Fire), I'd refer any and all to Anthony Mann's '50s Westerns with Jimmy Stewart, where revenge is shown over and over again as infantile and undignified and certainly not cool.

Alex Jackson said...

Having just watched Winter Soldier a couple of times in quick succession (documentary about the Vietnam Veterans Against the War investigation, for them what don't know it), what's impressed me the most about what these soldiers have to say is that the animalistic behaviour they engaged in had to be conditioned in them by a highly organized system... and when they got back and their inherent moral nature started functioning in them again, they realized how much of their selves had to be erased so that they could become animals. Animal nature was implanted in them, it wasn't just some reversion to the id.

No, I don't believe that morality is inherent. I have to wonder if you have any insights on the world that aren't based on the movies. From what I have seen of little kids interacting with one another and of the Ebaumsworld message board forum, and in looking at how I react to a lot of Man on Fire; I'm convinced that we are born selfish vengeful little shits and our socialization into civilization suppresses these impulses.

Because animal nature was implanted on the soldiers in Winter Soldier, it does not necessarilly follow that their moral selves were not also implanted at an earlier age. Let kids raise themselves and you can just as easily create a sociopath.

In fact, I think that you contradict yourself when you say that the Anthony Mann films portray revenge as "infantile" and "undignfied". Infantile and undignified are both things that I would equate with man's unsocialized natural state.

jer fairall said...

Oh god!

Andrei said...

I can't imagine people not loving Dead Man.

That said, most people have a really hard time believeing that I really love Freddy Got Fingered.

Adam N said...

AJ,

If you're going to chide someone about the source of their insights, you probably shouldn't cite Ebaumsworld -- a page, it should be said, that I have always left bookmarked for those awesome redubbed G.I. Joe cartoons -- as a working microcosm of anything beyond a few thousand bored (and mostly North American) teenagers and college students.
As for gleaning anything interesting from that dull yet exhausting curio Man on Fire (which I couldn't manage on my own, possibly due to my being dishonest, conscience-conscious and/or developmentally stunted) I will defer to ADT, who said - and I'm paraphrasing here -- that, in trying to calibrate his films to some condescending perception of the public appetite, Tony Scott has created movies that are virtually impossible to enjoy (Max B's apparently iron-stomached classmates notwithstanding).
A critic I met earlier this year in Holland insists, however, that Domino is some kind of a misunderstood masterpiece -- the same um-if-you-say-so line that's going around about the Cannes debacle Southland Tales, which was also written by Richard Kelly.
And, so, to bring this thread back around to its initial purpose, I will cite Donnie Darko as a film with a reputation that -- for me -- far outstrips its actual virtues. As for Dead Man: the music, Walter, is fairly easy to hear. That damned electric guitar just won't stop wailing away. But seriously, folks...

Bill C said...

Okay, even though I fundamentally abhor the concept of "guilty pleasures," I give: lawdy did I love Abandon, Stephen Gaghan's directorial debut, which was unanimously dismissed for reasons I still can't quite decipher. It's bleak and bruised and beautiful.

In other developments, Wayne
Kramer is an idiot
. Oh wait, that's old news. I can't imagine Ed and the good folks at Slant feel anything but validated by his hostility towards them. (He says they hate movies. Translation: if you hate Kramer, you hate movies.
That's probably the least arrogant bit of subtext in the entire interview. Now I wish we'd reviewed Running Scared theatrically, to see if we would've been lumped in with the "elitist, snobbish sites that [he] just despise[s].")

I really see a faux-teur emerging there, by the by: people said Running Scared is nothing like Kramer's previous film The Cooler, but they each have the exact same chickenshit ending. Except the happy-horseshit denouements feel like the most sincere thing in both pictures, and as their intent doesn't seem to be to call the bluff of all the macho posturing that comes before them, what the hell do you do with his movies? He's a pitiful filmmaker, but he'd make a great abusive husband.

And now back to our regularly scheduled rumble.

O'JohnLandis said...

Alex and HMSM,

Yes, in order to determine the quality of a film, one has to subjectively decide which criteria to consider. That's why film critics are not all the same, and even though many biased choices are made, the results are (or can be) objective. That's also why I advise people to pick critics who, more often than not, love good movies. Or, clinically, pick critics whose criteria for objective quality best match your own.

You think love is ignored that way? Doubtful. My guess is that the people who pick similar criteria for quality might also love the same things you do. Walter cares about some aspects of film more than others, but when he says a film is stupid, I am pretty sure he's not saying, "I think it's stupid, but then again, that's just my opinion."

There is never going to be an argument that perfectly proves the objectivity of criticism, but there has to be an objective truth to criticism, even if it's unknowable. In criticizing an apple, would it be subjective to say that an apple is good? If so, what's the case for a rotten apple being good?

The level of subjectivity in criticizing apples is the same as in film. There are simply more possible criteria for film, which seems to complicate the issue. It actually helps, though. It's much more interesting and productive to compare the objective qualities of films than apples, precisely because films have more possible criteria.

Do scientists use empirical data? Yes, but they also decide which data is pertinent. Critics may not be scientists, exactly, but the process of observing and documenting criteria to determine trends and qualities is no less objective for its lack of scientific pedigree.

Bottom line, don't be afraid of richness and ambiguity in objective arguments. They are no excuse to turn criticism into an undebatable series of preferences.

Travis, if this wasn't clear, I loved the Riddick movies, possibly more than you did. I also find nothing wrong with talking about unlikely film loves. I can get passionate about films I don't respect, and there's nothing at all wrong with recommending lovable films that lack quality. I just don't want love confused with quality, in case anyone missed that...

However, I did hate "The Doom Generation." A lot.

adt, I'm actually with Alex on the lizard brain. Consider the possibility that the soldiers began uncivilized, were civilized through normal means, and then the military beat it out of them.

You're right about "infantile" and "undignified," though. Those are words to describe abnormal conditions, like an infantile adult. If "infantile" was an aspect of an uncivilized state, an "infantile infant" wouldn't be redundant.

Bill, I also dislike the notion of guilty pleasures. Just because a film only provides pleasure, it's no reason to feel guilty. Pleasure is a valid goal for a film. It's just a different goal than quality.

Max B. said...

Argh, did I hate "Breakfast on Pluto."

And, of course, the guilty pleasure ties directly into the idea of socializing moral values and standards of quality. It's like how a lot of people don't take horror seriously because it's not Oscar bait. If people think they're not "supposed" to like something, but still do, it's a guilty pleasure. The question is, who's deciding what we are and are not supposed to like? The people who feel that way almost certainly aren't setting those standards for themselves.

And, sure, film criticism is surely objective. But the Rog giving nearly twice as many stars to "The Lake House" as he did "Brazil" means, to me at least, that he's just wrong. But then again, I'm biased, too.

Alex Jackson said...

If you're going to chide someone about the source of their insights, you probably shouldn't cite Ebaumsworld -- a page, it should be said, that I have always left bookmarked for those awesome redubbed G.I. Joe cartoons -- as a working microcosm of anything beyond a few thousand bored (and mostly North American) teenagers and college students.

Huh? I think you're letting your elitism get in the way of seeing and valuing Ebaumsworld for exactly that. Are teenagers and college students not of the human race? The stuff I read on there strikes me as very unguarded stream-of-consciousness kind of stuff; indicaitive of the absence or willful rejection of civilization.

In criticizing an apple, would it be subjective to say that an apple is good? If so, what's the case for a rotten apple being good?

Good question; but I have a couple answers. If you're evaluating which apple is best at being fertilizer rotten ones are better than fresh ones. Aesthetically speaking it could be argued that fresh apples are pretty much all the same, but rotten ones are all rotten in their own way. Or we could just be bored in seeing nothing but fresh apples day in and day out. Or rotten apples show life as it really is, that everyone gets old and die and to pretend that the world consists of nothing but fresh apples perpetuates a myth.

If "infantile" was an aspect of an uncivilized state, an "infantile infant" wouldn't be redundant.

Uh no, all infants are uncivilized. "infantile infant" is still redundant.

I admit that I do have guilty pleasures but they are things like To Kill a Mockingbird, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13; pretty much eighty percent of everything that has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The guilt is purely from disclosing this to other film buffs. I find that nobody really cares if you love junk like Austin Powers; but as soon as you canonize the middlebrow they draw and quarter you.

Jefferson said...

Film favorites that mystify others: I'd have to say Ang Lee's The Hulk. I dig that movie a lot, and I'm constantly having to defend it, particularly from comic book geeks who say it pissed on the canon. The Freud subtext is as subtle as a brickbat, but I think Lee "got" the character and concept in a way that few other comic book adaptations -- even the great-on-first-glance but ultimately unsatisfying Spider-Man flicks.

Dave Gibson said...

I was going to jump in, but now that the tired pejorative of “elitist” has been busted out (read: being smart and/or discriminating: bad) apples are literally being compared to apples (Note: “If it’s clear and yella—you got juice there fella”) and labeling ebaumsworld as a dubious secondary source is synonymous with denying college students their humanity--I believe this latest semantic whirlpool has reached “gooify”.

Anyways, RE: WC’s original question“Eyes Wide Shut” remains inscrutable to me. I’m often convinced that it’s Kubrick’s second best and most elusive film. Here’s a film where rudimentary notions of “like” and “dislike” do not even remotely apply. Generally, that’s always the least interesting aspect of film criticism. “I liked it” being one of Ebert’s’ favourite bits of tiresome praise. Uh-huh. That and 8567 other movies—we should be trying harder than “like” and “dislike”—and, I’m talking about movies, not apples, broccoli or the work of Tony Scott. As for “Donnie Darko”—I think that its legions of fans have invented a far more compelling film by reputation than in fact. Call it the “Rocky Horror” of the 21st century.

Jefferson said...

... few other comic book adaptations have, is what I meant to say.

Seattle Jeff said...

I must go on record that I hate Dead Man....

seemed to me like a film done by a mediocre college student.

aron said...

Guess what most of us don't like about Ebert is his patronizing stance: if a movie stands on high moral ground, it's good. Please. Makes me want to throw up.

On the other hand it does come down to morals, in a way. A critic, if he's honest, has to work against a constantly revised background of values and criteria. Seriously writing reviews demands that you make those values clear so your reader knows where your arguments come from and can start his own appreciation from there.

The enormous risk (some think it's a chance) every critic runs starts with his becoming known. He's written so many reviews, voiced his opinion so many times, he's established his professional persona. We "know" him and his stance. He "stands" for something.

So when a critic we've come to know and agree with a lot says: "I like this film", implying that is argument enough, there's danger that his readers accept the verdict because they've come to trust that critic.

I don't think there's anything wrong with expressing that some work of fiction does or doesn't affect you. We all have different experiences that feed our reactions. We're dealing with a medium that can transport anything from art to commerce and in between.

Knowing and relating where you stand as a critic - or intelligent consumer - is what is asked for, I think. Just keep on thinking. There are no final results anyway.

I know this sounds completely humorfree but that topic is really close to my heart in a world where any old ad copy is taken for fact and information.

Bill C said...

Yes, Hulk! (Delayed reaction.) It's a better, more subversive Ang Lee movie than Brokeback Mountain.

Adam N. said...

And I quote(amusedly):

"I think you're letting your elitism get in the way of seeing and valuing Ebaumsworld for exactly that. Are teenagers and college students not of the human race? The stuff I read on there strikes me as very unguarded stream-of-consciousness kind of stuff; indicaitive of the absence or willful rejection of civilization."

AJ,
Yeah, they're of the human race. I was once a member of their ranks -- both divisions. But they don't comprise all of it. A fraction. A slice. That's all. Ebaumsworld is just one of thousands of websites, and its value as a primary source of insight into the human condition should be downgraded accordingly. It's not elitist (I know, I know, you like using that word whenever someone disagrees with you -- kinda like your hero and mine Armond White invoking those nefarious "hipsters" at every turn)to propose a sense of proportion.

Anwyay, I somehow doubt that East African children and Danish senior citizens and fundamentalist kids in Northern Ontario and my aunt and uncle are visitng (or even aware of) Ebaumsworld: are they not "of the human race," also? Thousands of people go to Ebaumsworld. Thousands (more) don't. And?
As for this site constituting a willful rejection of civilization, I'd argue the opposite: it's really just a familiar byproduct of civilization. Something for people in comfortable, civilized environments (like suburban basements -- really, how untamed is something when you have to own a computer to access it?) to gawk at in between meals. Please don't pretend that downloading limp little video nasties makes you a dissident or a guru of human fecundity -- I certainly don't. By the way, the funniest thing I've seen there recently is the guy who gets the college girls to sign a petition against suffrage.

Max B. said...

Hulk is so weird...it's like two different movies in one, one-half Fruedian character drama, one-half monster breaking stuff. I don't think Lee really manages to reconcile the two halves of the film.

This complaint is made far more interesting, however, because it seems to be that the very structure of the film itself becomes a kind of metaphor for the Hulk himself.

Plus, Nick Nolte devours scenery in this film at a rate comporable to Unicron.

Bill C said...

Aye, Max. (Deja vu--I think we had this conversation over at Alex's forum.) Hulk is far from irreproachable, of course, but the only thing I'm truly at a loss to defend is that final death match between Nolte and Bana. It's just atrocious filmmaking on every conceivable level.

Max B. said...

Yeah, now that you mention it, I think we did. :)

That last fight is indeed poorly filmed, but I think Lee makes up for it with the best last line in just about any movie of the last 25 years.

Jefferson said...

I beg to differ re: Hulk's final battle. Take a look at the point in the film where they're converted to electricity and transmitted through the clouds to the desert lake. It evokes both the Lee-Kirby cosmic clashes between supercharged hero and villain, and Raphael's Transfiguration. I think Lee is making a visual case for putting comics art on the same plateau as the works of masters, or at least trying to explore how the two are related.

Rich said...

I too am a big fan of Dead Man, though the film loses me a bit during the final third or so. As Depp's character moves further and further from 'civilization' I find myself more and more uninvolved with what's going on. However, despite that feeling (well, probably partly because of it) it never fails to be an interesting experience for me.

My number 1 'guilty pleasure' has to be Mars Attacks!. Despite its poor reception by critics I just can't help loving every single minute of the thing. I think I've watched it more than any other flick in the past 6-7 years and it still brings me an odd amount of joy.

Chris said...

Max:

What is the best line of the past 25 years?

Bill C said...

Like I was saying, the last battle in Hulk is awesome.

I don't know if the last line of the film is that good. It is, after all, just a hat-tip to the "Incredible Hulk" TV show, if a well-placed one.

My favourite last line of the last 25 years belongs to Eyes Wide Shut:

Nicole Kidman: Fuck.

DIRECTED BY STANLEY KUBRICK.

Perfect.

ADT said...

Skipping back some to that whole "animal nature" bit: will concede to you slightly, o'john (and by extension, I suppose, Jackson as well... shudder) - I didn't necessarily mean that animality is not inherent to people, and my citing of Winter Soldier and inherent morality was a bit of a provocation. What I was really trying to target in that post (a little blurry past midnight, I admit) was a rather unpleasant tone I sometimes find in these threads which is often pawned off as some Deep Profound Understanding about "animal nature" and morality when it's really just people getting their rocks off by using a public forum to spew out some rather icky ideas.

Anyway, my pick for film I like that nobody else in their right mind does (and I know I'm gonna take a beating for this one): I think Ronnie Howard's The Missing is a damn fine film, and I've never really understood why it was so vilified. I think it has a very subtle, complex, and sensitive handling of issues of race, family, and violence; the rapport between the actors is excellent (my Cate shines bright even from behind dust and dowdy dresses); the meat-and-potatoes Western pleasures (horses, gunfights, etc) are nicely handled; and it explores that fine line between recognizing the reality of racism in sparking Indian violence and the horrible and inexcusable results of the underdog's violence with an intelligence and tact that recalls Aldrich's Ulzana's Raid. Far from being a rip-off of The Searchers, I'd even say it improves on it in some pretty key ways (and I am not saying that Ron Howard is our John Ford).

jer fairall said...

Guilty pleasures in the I-hate-telling-people-I-love-this sense? Contact, definitely. The ending sucks, there's no disputing that, but the teenage me couldn't help but marvel at a summer blockbuster that had an outspoken atheist as its heroine. And the Powers of Ten inspired title sequence is just plain awesome. I just can't ever get over that film entirely.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

This for the life in me I will never understand. How does one compartmantelize their brain ? How does one say, "this" in my brain is good and "that" is bad. And so I will still secretly enjoy what is "bad" anyways just as long as
I can publicly project myself as someone who likes "good". Sort of like jerkin' off to your sister-in-law in the shower. Isn't it ? You feel guilty after that too. Don't you ?

That is denying yourself a part of your brain that must be explored in order to triumph it. The only things common between humans and animals are the three lower chakras for eating, fucking and lazing off. If one tries to build one's higher-self, or pretends to, without understanding his lowest primordial animal instincts then that is like trying to construst and balance eiffel tower upside down.

The "unpleasent" tones and "icky" ideas are inside everyone's brains, some of just choose to acknowledge their existence and resolve them instead of hiding behind faux-eliticism and hypocrisy. Makes one think about who is truely morally responsible. Doesn't it?

I read somewhere, In hell one doesn't pay for his sins, one pays for the guilt he carries with them. To deny one's animal instincts in public while secretly enjoying them in private is denial of soul. God sees you cuming in the shower.

ADT said...

Oh, a P.S. to my last post: must say I was a tad amused when Jackson said "I have to wonder if you have any insights on the world that aren't based on the movies." In the particular instance I cited, well, yeah, Winter Soldier is a movie, you've got me there - and it's a movie featuring real people talking about their real experiences in the midst of a war that has become one of the foremost moral and political touchstones of the 20th century. And it was made into a film so that people could see and hear about these experiences and be forced to think about those profound moral issues. Not as revelatory of the human condition as a stroll through Ebaumsworld, perhaps, but still a little bit relevant, no?

Dave Gibson said...

"Eating, fucking and lazing off?" Hollow, the Yoga Centre is ACROSS THE STREET, I think you walked into Hooters by accident.

Say hi to your sister in law for me. ; )

Max B. said...

Last line of Hulk: yeah, it's a reference. But it's in Spanish, which I think adds roughly 10,000 new layers of cool. :)

And I stand by agreeing with Bill that the ending of Hulk sucks. I think Lee probably wanted him dead, and the studio said, "No! There must be a sequel!" Thus, he just threw some special effects on the screen. My hypothesis, anyway.

But, yeah, anything Kubrick ever touched is gold, as far as I'm concerned.

Although nothing beats the non-line that ends "Rodger Dodger," far as I'm concerned.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

"Eating, fucking and lazing off?" Hollow, the Yoga Centre is ACROSS THE STREET, I think you walked into Hooters by accident.


The three basic chakras I was refering to are Muladhara, Manipura and Swadhisthana located in the anus, naval and penis responsible for lazing off, eating and fucking respectively. Animals only have these three chakras activated. Can't say any more for most humans.

Say hi to your sister in law for me. ; )

You obviously missed the point.


Alex, read the Crash review. My prediction holds true.

Adam N said...

ADT said: "What I was really trying to target in that post (a little blurry past midnight, I admit) was a rather unpleasant tone I sometimes find in these threads which is often pawned off as some Deep Profound Understanding about "animal nature" and morality when it's really just people getting their rocks off by using a public forum to spew out some rather icky ideas."

and then

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said:
"And so I will still secretly enjoy what is "bad" anyways just as long as I can publicly project myself as someone who likes "good". Sort of like jerkin' off to your sister-in-law in the shower. Isn't it ? You feel guilty after that too. Don't you ?"

and:
"To deny one's animal instincts in public while secretly enjoying them in private is denial of soul. God sees you cuming in the shower."


this post kind of writes itself.

ADT said...

The "unpleasent" tones and "icky" ideas are inside everyone's brains, some of just choose to acknowledge their existence and resolve them.

Well, I've yet to see any of those "some of"'s most forthcoming with their icky ideas on this site move towards resolving them... indulging them, sure, resolving, nyet.

The three basic chakras I was refering to are Muladhara, Manipura and Swadhisthana located in the anus, naval and penis responsible for lazing off, eating and fucking respectively. Animals only have these three chakras activated. Can't say any more for most humans.

Jeebus, and you fellas make fun of others for displaying their esoteric knowledge... you really can't say more for most humans? Maybe you should meet some more of them.

BTW, there's an interesting article by Robert Sapolsky in the April issue of Harper's (gasp! Dead elitism giveaway!) called "A Natural History of Peace" about the remarkably pacifistic behaviour of various species of primates (particularly a group of savanna baboons dubbed "Forest Troop"), and the spread of that peacefulness when previously violent primates are introduced into their societies (represented by their counterparts in "Garbage Dump Troop"). I'll let Sapolsky have the last word:

Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible? To say it is beyond our nature is to know too little about primates, including ourselves.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Jeebus, and you fellas make fun of others for displaying their esoteric knowledge...

I'm not a fucking type so stop treating me like one. And there is a difference between knowledge and Wisdom. People whose only opinions are formulated by the books and movies they read/see obviously can't tell the difference.

p.s. I'm so tired of stupid fucking pricks misquoting/partial-quoting me. Two instances:

1.

we're not talking about "things" at all, but about films

I love the pretentiousness of that comment. "We are talking Films! Cinema Veritae, my dear man!"

We're definetly not talking about movies.


The whole quote was:

Also we're not talking about "things" at all, but about films, which is a passive experience unlike say, Homework.
(which is an active experience)

2.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said:
"And so I will still secretly enjoy what is "bad" anyways just as long as I can publicly project myself as someone who likes "good". Sort of like jerkin' off to your sister-in-law in the shower. Isn't it ? You feel guilty after that too. Don't you ?"

and:
"To deny one's animal instincts in public while secretly enjoying them in private is denial of soul. God sees you cuming in the shower."

this post kind of writes itself.


The whole quote was:

How does one say, "this" in my brain is good and "that" is bad. And so I will still secretly enjoy what is "bad" anyways just as long as I can publicly project myself as someone who likes "good".



If you wanna debate a fucking point, atleast have the decency of quoting properly. Anyways, fuck this. I'm out of this debate. Shit, I wanna quote Easy Rider but then I would probably be called pretentious for it.

ADT said...

I'm not a fucking type so stop treating me like one. And there is a difference between knowledge and Wisdom. People whose only opinions are formulated by the books and movies they read/see obviously can't tell the difference.

I'm sure you have studied in the mountains long and hard to attain that Wisdom you speak of. I would be curious to know what outside of books and movies you do base your Wisdom on. (Chakras don't count.)

Anyways, fuck this. I'm out of this debate.

It's a town for losers, and I'm pullin' outta here to win...

Alex Jackson said...

Oh, a P.S. to my last post: must say I was a tad amused when Jackson said "I have to wonder if you have any insights on the world that aren't based on the movies." In the particular instance I cited, well, yeah, Winter Soldier is a movie, you've got me there - and it's a movie featuring real people talking about their real experiences in the midst of a war that has become one of the foremost moral and political touchstones of the 20th century. And it was made into a film so that people could see and hear about these experiences and be forced to think about those profound moral issues. Not as revelatory of the human condition as a stroll through Ebaumsworld, perhaps, but still a little bit relevant, no?

Eh, I would stress that I was complaing about only basing your insights on the movies rather than say that movies provide little insight into human beings relative to a visit to Ebaumsworld.

Of course Ebaumsworld only shows insight into American teenagers and college students who have computers; and of course Winter Soldier only shows insight into those who faught in the Vietnam War. And while both of these groups are small segments of the human population, any insight taken from them can be generalized onto human beings as a whole.

Pointless crack to make, but yeah going back to the problem that I was originally addressing (and that seems to have already been resolved among the lot of us) the idea that man's natural state is an immoral one seems to better explain the kind of behavior that I've seen among young children, Ebaumsworld posters, Man on Fire fans, et cetera.

BTW, there's an interesting article by Robert Sapolsky in the April issue of Harper's (gasp! Dead elitism giveaway!) called "A Natural History of Peace" about the remarkably pacifistic behaviour of various species of primates (particularly a group of savanna baboons dubbed "Forest Troop"), and the spread of that peacefulness when previously violent primates are introduced into their societies (represented by their counterparts in "Garbage Dump Troop").

Interesting and I probably should learn more, but I'm not sure that altruism serves much of an evolutionary purpose for those born in the industrialized world. I think we're more a part of the "Garbage Dump Troop".

And finally on elitism, I do not intend to use that term to dismiss anybody. I'm not sure what Dave Gibson means when he says "smart"; but certainly discerning elitists are practicing a willful naiviety that is just as vehemently anti-intellectual as that practiced by the unwashed masses. Whether you refuse to watch certain films because they are "artsy-fartsy" or you refuse to watch certain films because they are "not worth your time" you're pre-emptively closing your mind off to new ideas and new sensations.

Dave Gibson said...

Speaking of quotes--I'd love it if that italic-quote function dealie wasn't even an option on blog sites. Less temptation to hack away at belly lint minutae and more time to ponder exactly where clever rejoinders such as: "stupid fucking pricks" fit into this knowledge-wisdom spectrum.

Personally, my opinions are gleaned entirely from Dubble Bubble Comics.

Dave Gibson said...

Typically, accusations of "elitism" (especially when talking about movies)are necessarily vague--so they can be used as a replacement for an actual counterargument. So, Adam views "ebaumsworld" as a dubious source of sociological insight, this is contrary to your own views--therefore, he is elitist. Boom. End of argument. So much for new ideas and new sensations.

ADT said...

Jackson - Dave said it already, but you most certainly do use the term "elitist" as a way to dismiss people who do not agree with you, or who have a tendency to demolish your arguments. And from the evidence you've left on view here, I can't say that you're a champion of new ideas and new sensations, as everything you say tends to follow a dogmatically predictable path (must confess I was waiting eagerly for you to argue the superiority of Ebaumsworld over the Vietnam War as a moral barometer of Our Times, but you sensibly bowed out of that little provocation. Shame.)

Anonymous said...

This is officially the worst conversation of all time. Hey, anyone see that Garfield movie? Whadja all think of that there Garfield movie?

--Kim

Chris said...

"It's a town *full of* losers."

Ahem.

O'JohnLandis said...

Yikes. Where to start...

Adam and adt, ebaumsworld needn't be a microcosm to prove that there are a bunch of uncivilized idiots out there who were likely born that way and will never improve. I have more faith in baboons than people. Baboons believe less strongly in revenge as the ultimate act of justice and honor. Also, the fact that (just a guess) 85% of Americans under the age of 25 don't know what "suffrage" means isn't funny. I haven't seen the video, but I'm guessing the term isn't explained for the girls. The big question is, how many of them would sign the petition if they knew what the word meant? (Maybe offer a dollar or something.) I assure you both, the ship is sinking, regardless of how fucked up the military is.

Now, for more sunshine (and fruit):

Alex, when I say, "the apple is good," good is an adjective that describes the noun, "apple." "The apple is good" is a complete sentence that is very easy to understand. To say it's so bad that it has some unintended benefit is to misunderstand what "the apple is good" means. Good (simpliciter) is a value judgment solely about the apple, so no matter how funny it may have been to say "a rotten apple reminds us of our inevitable death" to prove that the apple is good, it's cheating in this argument. It's also a great example of your peculiar brand of academic populist perversity.

Anyhow, I'll simplify further to avoid any confusion. Defend this argument:

The exploding nuclear weapon is neither bad nor good, because those terms are subjective.

Dave, I'd rather talk about films than apples, too. But I'm starting with apples so we might eventually get to films. That is, if HMSM and the adt/adam camp don't kill each other first.

Back to the topic(s):

My favorite use of the word "fuck" in a film was "The Front." My favorite use of an expletive for the last line of a film is "Series 7: The Contenders." That's the only award "Series 7" is likely to win, but the last shot is a kick in the groin. "Eyes Wide Shut" is second, by the way. The whole film leads perfectly to that line, which I know is an odd kind of disparaging remark, but the ending is just one pinch too cute. Kubrick smash (cut)!

Alex Jackson said...

So, Adam views "ebaumsworld" as a dubious source of sociological insight, this is contrary to your own views--therefore, he is elitist. Boom. End of argument. So much for new ideas and new sensations.

You've got me there Gibson.

Basically, everything and anything dealing with any faction of society has, by definition I would think, sociological insight and Adam's dismissiveness struck me as being borne from elitism, a particular brand of anti-intellectualism.

But of course in dismissing Adam for advocating dismissiveness, I'm practicing the very thing that I'm attacking. Touche! You've got a talent for convoluted logic that far surpasses my own.

Whatever you want to call it, a statement like: As with corporeal voluptuousness, cinematic voluptuousness can blind us to the fact that the object of our voluptuary gaze is not really worth our time strikes me as being every bit as reprehensible as my mother's: "I work hard all day, and when I get home I just want to stop thinking".

Not all films are good and not all films are bad, but I do believe that all films are worthy of being watched and discussed. Which, of course, is what bugs me about proffessional film critics.

Now, for more sunshine (and fruit):

Alex, when I say, "the apple is good," good is an adjective that describes the noun, "apple." "The apple is good" is a complete sentence that is very easy to understand. To say it's so bad that it has some unintended benefit is to misunderstand what "the apple is good" means. Good (simpliciter) is a value judgment solely about the apple, so no matter how funny it may have been to say "a rotten apple reminds us of our inevitable death" to prove that the apple is good, it's cheating in this argument.

Don't follow you. My justifications for rotten apples hadn't taken into account a second party anymore than any justification for a fresh apple would. I see myself as still making value judgments solely about the apple.

Anyhow, I'll simplify further to avoid any confusion. Defend this argument:

The exploding nuclear weapon is neither bad nor good, because those terms are subjective.


Well, exploding nuclear weapons are neither bad nor good objectively speaking. Manmade objects, probably more so than natural ones, have to serve somebody's notion of "good" or otherwise they would not exist. Nuclear weapons are usually not meant to be used, but rather to intimidate a country's enemies and they would certainly lose their utility were they to never be exploded.

Of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the view that they facilitated the surrender of Japan is arguable but the point that they need to have been used for the world to understand the power they wield is not.

Again, good and bad is relative to your stated values.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

One rising cyber-star is FilmFreakCentral.net's Walter Chaw, who writes with a refreshing candor that you would never find in the print world. In his recent review of "X3," for example, Chaw calls director Brett Ratner "a homophobic, misogynistic, misanthropic moron."

Nice. I love the quote they picked.

rachel said...

Walter,

Finally caught up with Mysterious Skin, driven partly by the fourfour rave and partly by my ardor for Brick. Usually I'm right with you but honestly, I can't make sense of your piece.

The problem with the picture is its suggestion that gays get that way in part because they've been molested.

I am kind of baffled by this statement. For me, the picture took great pains to illustrate how Levitt's character's homosexuality helped to determine the terms of his molestation. That is, it was his adoration of the coach that made him eager enough to please (tying in nicely with his being the best player) that he would cooperate to help rape the other players, to be, as the character acknowledges, the bait. (It says something, I think, about our agency, even in situations defined by our helplessness.) The root of dysfunction is not, then, "homosexual little league coaches", but how sexuality in the young can be exploited and warped to be indivisible from the dynamics of abuse.

I think my favorite scene of the whole movie is Levitt's look of confusion and dumb horror at wearing a condom for the first time. It might either translated as recognition for all his previous jeopardy, or (what I like to think) uncertainty about the protected act, if it even still constitutes sex, i.e. the thing he understands and excels in. In other words, the scene describes the deep irony of Levitt being "experienced", how, among other crimes, smalltown life insulates one from the opportunities needed to understand and expand upon the notions of one's own sexuality. In that way, the narrative is a pretty conventional coming-of-age tale, actually, miles from dada. I'm only sad that you dismissed it as a drag review.

At the very least, I enjoyed it as an antidote to the philosophy you rail against in your review of Cars.

Bemis said...

One of my favorite moviegoing memories is after that final line in Eyes Wide Shut, when the audience let out a collective groan of disappointment at the coitus interruptus they had waited 160 minutes for. Perfect.

Alex Jackson said...

For me, the picture took great pains to illustrate how Levitt's character's homosexuality helped to determine the terms of his molestation.

Sure. Or inversely that the molestation helped determine the terms of his homosexuality. As blanket a statement that you can say about child molestation is that it contributes signficantly to the formation of one's sexual identity.

Not all gays have been molested by a same sex perpetrator and not all those molested by a same sex perpetrator become gay; but it's needlessly reductive to say that the two things have absolutely nothing to do with one another; akin to that other goofy half-truth of rape being about power and not about sex. Some victims might become gay and seek out older partners like Levitt in the film. Some might become molesters themselves. Some may become misogynistic in a bid to establish themselves as heterosexual. Some, like the other kid in the film, may become asexual. Sexuality is too complex to make any definite predictions as to the outcome of abuse.

Anyway, you guys seen Ebert's review of Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties where he writes it as Garfield?

Jefferson said...

A fine little biographical artricle on Gregg Toland in the latest New Yorker magazine -- how the cinematographer became an actual artist recognized as such. Not duplicated in their online offerings, dadblast it.

Speaking of dads, I gotta get an Amazon gift certificate for mine.

Max B. said...

I think the aforementioned Ebert review only confirms that Roeper is banging his wife.

Now that's Occam's Razor.

Bill C said...

Speaking of, did anybody see Roeper on Leno last night? The man should wear a helmet in public. Even Leno, the King of Unfunny, was like, "Dude, you're lame."

Seattle Jeff said...

Yay! Hollow Man responded to my partial quote and called me a "stupid fucking prick"!

I actually wasn't aiming to criticize Hollow Man personally...I chose the little snippet I did because it seemed to capture the tone of these boards so well.

Reading Paul Fussell's "Class" (which Walter did in one sitting. LOL - he's a beast!)would help to understand my point. Let's just say some people like to call things by more pretentious terms. i.e. The lower class could say "big black caddy"..the middle class "Limousine"...and the upper class would say "car"..."Film/cinema" to me would be a pretentious middle class usage which I tire of because I'm an asshole like that.

I appreciate the fact that these boards and blogs are therapeutic for Walter, Bill, et al. However, I wonder if displaying more thoughts of the critics and editor in this forum along with input from the more rabid and arrogant fans has a diluting effect for the site.

For example, reading the blog, the message board, and all the posts... by the time I go back to read a review it's like it's just more of the same. I have critic fatigue/burnout.

In fact, I read less Walter than I did before this blog. And this board actually put me off movies....errrr films, for at least 2 months.

Now, as for me being a "stupid fucking prick"...it's this "stupid fucking prick" who got the Baby Doll screen cap when nobody else did. And I haven't even seen the movie... errr film.

Yes, if having a graduate degree and having passed the CPA Exam, but having not taken film appreciation as an undergrad makes me a "stupid fucking prick" then so be it...

Seattle Jeff said...

Hollow Man:

Hey, I mean no ill will towards you. In fact, visiting your blogger page and reading your bio, I am filled with admiration.

You just happened to be the one that had a quote that tickled me...

Peace.

P.S. I might change my ID from "Seattle Jeff" to SFP.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is Ebert ever losing it.

But on the plus side, in his Nacho Libre review, he suggested an alternate joke that was actually funny. That's a first for Ebert, for sure.

Alex Jackson said...

Just saw their Ebert and Roeper segment on Garfield. So unfunny and strained it was painful to watch.

Alex Jackson said...

Do have to add though that Ebert's latest Great Movie is a very pleasant surprise.

Max B. said...

Wow. Cool.

I figured he'd go with "Eyes Wide Shut" as his next Kubrick, seeing as he was one of the few mainstream critics to give it four stars upon its release.

Not that I'm complaining. But one wonders when he's just going fess up and add "A Clockwork Orange."

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Not much of a "surprise". Shining is not just a cult classic anymore with it's mention in top 10 of various "best horror films" lists as the prestige picture in a pile of shit. It plays all time on Showcase. Now the "pleasent" relies on personal preference, so would reserve my comments on that.

Alex, I loved "Paths of Glory" though. It's ending is an anomaly to Kubrickian philosophy and that probably makes it the only Kubrick I can say I love.

Saw "Nacho Libre". I thought it was half-funny. But I never seem to observe things that Walter gathers sometimes. For one, I don't think that the film hates Nacho or Mexicans or fat people or Mexican wrestling. In fact, I think it's more honest than "revenge of the Nerds" kind of shit that are just hell-bent on making heros out of underdogs, by actually acknowledging what is it that makes them underdogs or the butt-of-jokes. But instead or despite these it still chooses to laugh with them. I dunn'no, just different ways of looking at it I guess.

Bill C said...

Seattle Jeff,

You've just articulated my initial qualms about starting this blog: a fear of FFC fatigue/diluting interest in the mother site; and a fear that Walt, Travis, Alex, and I would squander our mental resources on this place of ephemeral worship. Call me Nostradamus.

On the other hand, I think this blog has provided some nice, communal scaffolding for the mother site, and has occasionally provided us a welcome respite from the formal strictures of the house style. All I can really offer in our defense is that things change.

James Allen said...

The blog is great, Bill. Your concerns were entirely justified, but I'm happy you've been pleasantly surprised. I must admit I'm surprised too, in that it hasn't become (like many other blogs) a flame filled nuthouse. There are many great contributors to this blog, and even if you, Walt, et al are busy, we seem to keep ourselves occupied with some fun and freewheeeling discussions. Don't change a thing.

Seattle Jeff said...

Bill,

If it makes you guys happy, that's great. It's your site.

I don't how it read, but that take was meant to be constructive.

For me personally, I think I'm going to rededicate myself to the reviews...and scan the blogs.

Cheers.

Pointed Cap said...

Let's get Walter some shades to celebrate his appearance in the Hollywood Reporter. Big, round, dark shades, so he can't see that the Hollywood sign is tiny, Graumann's Chinese Theater is smaller than you'd think, Michael York has a star on the Walk of Fame (you can buy a star on the Walk of Fame for forty grand), and the Kodak Theater where the Oscars have been held the last couple of years is no more distinctive from the outside than a Karate studio at the local plaza.

Seattle Jeff said...

In the footsteps of such comic actors as John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley, Black, 36, is the latest Hollywood funny man who has managed to achieve leading-man status with his tubby, character-actor's frame.

What should be made of the fact that the CNN article compares Jack Black to three dead guys?

James Allen said...

Walt,

I love your Tennessee Williams series. Never saw The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, but Night of the Iguana is definitely one of my faves (just saw it again on TV last week.) I'm curious to see if you get to two others I quite like: Summer and Smoke and Suddenly, Last Summer. Similarly, I'm curious to see you if you get to a disaster like Boom! as well (is that even available on DVD?)

Seattle Jeff said...

I like Suddenly, Last Summer as well. Particularly that subtl ending! LOL

Bill C said...

Boom! still isn't out on DVD, sadly. John Waters has been petitioning Universal to put it out for years, but it really is an embarrassment to the studio.

The only Williams titles left for Walt to cover for the time being are Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (love, love, love Richard Brooks), Sweet Bird of Youth, and a made-for-TV thing called "South". Sony reissues titles so routinely that I suspect we'll get to Suddenly, Last Summer soon enough.

James Allen said...

Ah, yes. I remember reading a John Waters piece where he extolled the virtues of Boom! I can't find the essay on the web (I believe it's in his book "Crackpot") but I found this interesting interview where he talks extensively about Boom! My favlorite quote is "...[it was] already out of print, it was in print for about five minutes."

Anonymous said...

Ok, I love you guys at FFC, I love you all. But seriously -




SERIOUSLY




- avoid the movie Click. I just got out of a premiere of this, and its like this year's Soul Plane. No one deserves it. I didn't deserve it. Do whatever you can NOT to see it.

James Allen said...

Re: Click

Given that it's an Adam Sandler vehicle, I can't say I'm all too surprised.

However (and I know I'm late to the party), I'm beginning to get fascinated by the upcoming Snakes on a Plane, the film that became an internet sensation via its title alone (Samuel L. Jackson getting attatched to the project didn't hurt.) I can only hope it's going to be as monumentally silly as most people seem to anticipate.

Jefferson said...

Seriously. There better be some damn snakes on that plane, or I am going to be pissed.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Thousands congrats, Walter, on the Hollywood Reporter mention. Really, really impressive. Tell ya what, I'll trade ya that for the Xtro cover. (hehehehehe!)