July 21, 2006

Reader Mail

Knocking up against a deadline for new material for the new Annual – regret to inform that the Trench will be delayed a couple more days.

In the meantime, though, amid well-wishes for the Hollywood Reporter mention and a couple of surprising notes from filmmakers that would probably like to remain anonymous (and one or two who won’t in a couple of lines), here’s an unofficial Reader Mail without much in the way of response from me. Came a point that I realized that reading, much less responding, to much of the psychotic hate mail I collect is one of those things that’ll drive me right away from this job in time. Self preservation in the form of willful ignorance – helluva business where knowing what to ignore is a prerequisite for longevity.

It’s a good time for this entry, though, given the release of M. Christ Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water: a good quarter of which is devoted to taking the piss out of critics. At the least he’s affected by the criticism (even if he hasn’t appeared to have heeded it), but I do wonder why he chose to target Manny Farber of all people for the source of his ire.

What’s really surprising to me is that I continue to get hate for my review of that piece of shit, The Sandlot.

Anyway, catch up with the mothersite (new reviews of Monster House, A Scanner Darkly, Lady in the Water, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Gabrielle, Porn King, and Nanny McPhee) in the interim and enjoy this lovely selection of Reader Mail.

I saw your review for The Sandlot. Your a real piece of work. Its a kids movie and you broke it down like you were fucking Ebert and Roeper. Get a fucking life.
- chaz.bombenger@ndsu.edu

And North Dakota State University beams with pride.


After reading your review of The Grudge, I decided not to go and see it at the cinema.

Recently I have had the opportunity to see it on dvd. And it was the most frightening film I have ever seen. I must have jumped out of my seat a dozen times.

Anyway, I just want to thank you for saving my life. Because if I had gone to that film and seen it on the big screen I would have had a heart attack and died.



Mr. Chaw, if you are arrogant enough to suggest that the Christian Bible is dumbed down for illiterates and the gullible, maybe you have some issues with Christianity to deal with. I honestly do not mind it when people don't share my beliefs. Who am I to tell them where to commit their souls? But they should at least be mature and respectful of the beliefs of others (mine included). Oh, I'm sorry. That counts for everyone except the Christians, correct?

-Daphne ivoreequeen@hotmail.com

Which version of the Christian Bible? The Good News version or the Bibles Made Easy version? How about the idea that early translators of said survey mythology took into consideration the conversion and awe-ing of illiterates? Ah, never mind. By the way, it’s not all that mature to do that rhetorical question thingy. Ah, never mind again.

Hey Walter, I suggest that you tone down the "Englishness" of your criticism of X-Men 3. Why don't you just simply say that the movie lacks luster and appeal instead of going through something like "the director has this obsessive-compulsive, egotistical desire to create a grand statue of himself in the halls of Hollywood fame"? These are not your words, but that's similar in tone to the way you write.

The reason why many read Roger Ebert and why he is a Pulitzer-award winner is that he avoids glossy language. This does not mean that you cannot be metaphorical. Your "Michael Bay's Schindler's List" is awesome. But to fill your entire critique with a lot more gloss than what is required can turn off readers, or worse: it can create a mistaken impression that you write THAT way merely to get attention, in the same way that Ratner has created the impression that he's such a godly director by helming X-Men..

You have mastery of the English language; your vocabulary is deep, which is really admirable, but if you wanna reach out to the masses, I suggest that you trim down what would otherwise be mere surplusage.

I hope that you take this advice from me, a simple English college professor. Simple words which strike a chord so clear make much more sense than a thousand words conjured to create a foxhole.


Gerard imthelaw20@yahoo.com

You have something like 200 choices a week for Pulitzer Prize-winning prose describing X3 as “lackluster” – you have only a very few, like FFC if I do say so, that presume of their readers a basic education and ration of outrage and taste while even bothering to consider the mainstream. For us, the idea is that it takes no insight to laud the canon: for us the real trick is to find the sublime in the mundane without the passage of thirty years time. You should consider teaching complex English instead of “simple English”, Gerard, you can learn simple English any old place.

First off....wow.

Your review on X-Men:The Last Stand was outrageous. Your vocabulary alone shows that either A.) you try too hard to sound like you know what you're talking about or B.) you do know what you're talking about and was obviously looking for some deep inner ladened message from a comic book adaptation. Seems like you really have it out for Bratner. But what bothers me is...what's with all the sexuality talk? You took the movie to a whole other level that no one else is even thinking about, let alone applying. However, I do give you kudos for catching my attention. I walk away from your review thinking...WTF?


I read your review of X-Men 3, and I believe you complety missed the point that it is a summer "popcorn" movie. It's meant to be entertaining, not a social commentary or a commentary of anything for that matter. It's the kind of movie where you can turn your brain off for 2 hours and simply enjoy the ride. I can't even begin to understand how you could try to compare X3 with Schindler's List, on any level. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, and having an opinion is actually a part of your job, but I doubt many moviegoers will go see X3 looking for deep thruths about today's society. I believe critics should review movies for what they are (in this case a mindless action extravaganza), not what they want them to be.

Eric Paquette Eric_Paquette@Intuit.com

The weird implication being (among many weird implications) that I wanted X3 to be Schindler’s List.

Mr. Chow,

Your review of x3 was one of the most pretentious, poorly-founded reviews I have ever read. Please only review films in the vein of "Pride and Prejudice" from now on which you can commend for their strong female leads. I can't believe you ended that talking about how the kitty pryde character was wasted, good lord.


And the, um, Jamaican Music University (?) beams with pride.

Thank you. It was remarkably reassuring to read your review after seeing this really, really awful follow-up to two solid films. I went in a group of twelve, all big comic book geeks in some degree, and my girlfriend and I were the only ones walking out asking any questions. Conversations as such made me disappointed in humanity:

Me: "Right, she was really uber-powerful. But the entirety of her character had to do with being controlled by men."
Friend A: "Well, she was too powerful, she had to be."
Me: "Too powerful? To threaten the male characters, maybe. To allow for anything other than being penetrated to kill her."
Friend A: "..."
Friend B: "You need to get out more, man."

I just hang my head. Keep fighting the good fight.

Brian brian.schiller@gmail.com

Dear Walter,

I've just come across your review of the new X-Men film (I can hardly bear to call this a "film"), and I just wanted to say "Congratulations." You have eloquently put into words all the thoughts I have had over the last 48 hours after seeing this movie, and how it rages in my head. You've hit the nail on the head, and anyone who actually appreciates "filmmaking" such as this is really devoid of any brain capacity, intelligence and empathy. This movie is not just Ratner's fault (though he contributes heavily), this movie is everyone's fault. Everyone involved in making this picture deserves heavy criticism, for letting what was initially a thoughtful, dramatic, intelligent throughline of the first two pictures disappear under the weight of blockbuster expectation and hubris. This movie is not only a disaster, it's an insulting, offensive disaster, with misogyny and (dare I say it) masochistic treatment of its women, and nearly everyone else. I don't know how I got through 'Red Dragon,' but I can't see myself ever submitting to another movie "by" this man (or should I say, man-child), and the state that Fox and producers (yes, I'm talking to you, Mr. Jackman) have let this third film sink into is a travesty. Anyone who actually "likes" this movie needs serious help, preferably education (in cinema and life), and a brain that actually works.

Keep on fighting the good fight.

Michael mr.murdoch@gmail.com

I just wanted you to know that I saw Superman Returns tonight and I couldn't agree with you more! Bryan Singer really knows character development (as substance) over visual effects. The effects were awesome set pieces, but without solid acting, storyline, and attention to detail, that's all you're left with. That is what made the first two X Men fillms so great. It's too bad Roger Egbert didn't see the film the same way. He probably should seen it again.

Brian M. Dayton, OHthx1138gl@yahoo.com

Walter -- Having seen Superman Returns last night, I jumped on rotten tomatoes.com today to see what the "expert" reviewers had to say. Coincidentally to the film, I did not want to feel "alone in the world" about my thoughts on the film. After reading several, I finally got to yours. It will be the last. No other reviewers seem to get any of the mythological and archetypal aspects of the film. I feel like sending all of them copies of The Power of Myth although I doubt most of them would read it. Most assumed the "christ-like" elements were some sort of right wing propaganda, forgetting all of the pagan references and that maybe -just maybe that the elements within the christ mythos represents something altogether more meaningful than wearing khakis to church on Sunday and the republican party. I'm a huge fan of reconciling myth/religion to the present day human condition and like you found this movie a bold and poetic statement. Thanks for putting into words my feelings about the film. Oh, pardon my literary ignorance, but what did you mean by the phrase "poet of the devil's part.."?

Eric Tidball Cyclopean1@aol.com

Blake called Milton a poet of the devil’s part without knowing it as he was illuminating a text of “Paradise Lost”.

.....fantastic job on putting Superman Returns into a glowing review that is both literate and filled with in-depth explanations about Brian Singer's use of mythology, iconic images, and the super hero as martyr and godlike being at the same time. On top of it all your writing is just terrific! Also, thanks for just lauding it for what a great piece of movie work it is. I think the public at large is bound to embrace it big time!
In the future I will definitely be looking out for your name at the bottom of any other in-depth review I might happen to find myself enjoying as much as I did this one. Kudos indeed!!

Arthur Offen, Cambridge, MA

I enjoy your site but with your opening quote of "Aquirre" in your "Oldboy" review you reveal the central plot point and one of the best twists I've ever seen in a flick. As a critic you should realize that's a big no-no. I'm glad I didn't read your review till after I'd seen the film, otherwise I would have been plenty pissed. You should change that or put a spoiler warning in, as a simple courtesy to your readers.


Ah, bullshit, Harold. I suspect that you’re just writing to prove that you caught an allusion. Again, here, the idea is that you can go any number of places; scores of places, to get the kind of review that you’re interested in – if you want to talk about Oldboy in terms of the Oresteia and Aguirre, you’ve got a handful. Let’s not snuff out the handful – we’ll snuff through attrition soon enough.

walter, say it isn't so?! you've been the only critic i've trusted for years. your clear-eyed thrashing of overrated movies (napoleon dynamite, garden state, love actually, cold mountain, sith, million dollar baby, crash -i could go on) has been a godsend. you've been there to ease my bad film bitterness, your scathing reviews have provided needed morning after validation, and you've saved me from much cinematic suffering. but now, i am shaken.

please, please tell me you were either drunk or just had some sort of emotional chat with your pa before you wrote about superman, cuz buddy.....it sucked! please watch it again and make sure you didn't feel it was ungodly boring, too long, had no chemistry or tension, and key characters were woefully miscast (i'm talking about you miss bosworth, ye who is to lois lane what sandra bullock is to lauren bacall ). i mean, didn't you feel the whole movie was rather unappealing: from the washed out murky look, to kate bosworth's frail thinness, to superbaby's 'special child' lilt, to the fact that superman was stalking and trying to lure lois away from her family! yuck! and the big superbaby revelation, wow, who saw that coming?! there wasn't anything in this movie that wasn't telegraphed; there was no wit, no sense of any real peril at any point, no spunk, no spirit, no colorful costumes, NO FUN. superman goes to the ER, maybe in the next installment he and lois can go to couples counseling. count me out. and please, please walter, tell me you've reconsidered this film, even just a little, because i feel like i just caught you in bed with bryan singer and our relationship is on the line.

okay, i'm mostly just venting. you are still my favorite critic, by far, but, god, i hate to say it, i think roger made the call on this one. thanks for all the good times,


HA! That’s brilliant.

Hi there Senor Chaw,

I just wanted to pop in and write a quick note of thanks for so ably articulating the things that I found moving about this film, from an intellectual, moral, and emotional place. I held off reading your review prior to the film, partly because I tend to find your arguments well thought out enough to make me at least see your point of view, even if I don't always agree. I read several other reviews before seeing this film though, and I somewhat expected a by the books, interesting but not challenging summer film.

Amazingly, this is not what I got, but rather a subtle, underplayed, and melancholic (as you say) look at nostalgia.

When I was a child (we're talking like five here, I'm not a weirdo, hehe) I used to dress up as superman and ask people if they "cared to step outside." The iconography of Superman was etched into my consciousness from an early age, and it is true that upon hearing the Williams score again it brought up overwhelming emotions of memory.

And then, the story begins, and instead of this comic, lighthearted, and superficial of good guy vs. bad guy I get this very real (to sad effect often) portrait of a mythic hero put in a world which is not mythic. When Clark steps back into the office for the first time, the sheer number of computers, the hurried workers, and the BUSINESS of the daily planet seems so much more prominent than any of the earlier films. It's what a paper really is, isn't it? At least nowadays, it's what sells not, often, what is important. Blackout - means nothing when you've got this sensationalistic piece to be covered by EVERY fact of the media juggernaut.

I lost my father several years back, and perhaps that is why the heart of this movie rings so true. I think that every son faces the desire of the father to imprint himself on his son. Sometimes this is what the sons want, sometimes not, but it is always hard once a father is gone (our parents are our first gods aren't they) and we don't have a model anymore in this physical plane to instruct, wisely or unwisely.

Of course this is my own personal experience speaking, but I find the difficulty inherent in the struggle of this alien to be very real and very true. He tries for five years to find his home, and when he returns, the place he thought was his home has moved on. His real father his dead, as is his surrogate, the people he loved in disguise and otherwise have moved on too.

But, in the end, I think his son allows for hope and perhaps that's what the most moving thing about this film is. Within his son there is a chance for a true home, even if it's not for himself, and I think that's about the truest _expression of love a father could give to a son.

Well . . . um . . .that was more than just a quick email. Ultimately, just wanted to say thanks for recognizing the surprising depth of this film, in a sea of critics who seem to have no clue.

Take it easy, have a great weekend!


P.S. BTW Prometheus brought two things to humanity, in the original myth, and people always forget the second: blind hope.

Actually, his brother, Epimetheus, was the one who married Pandora and, through his provence, allowed the box be opened, springing Hope on mankind. Prometheus warns his brother of his new bride (a subtle revenge exacted by Zeus), but Epimetheus, having no foresight, marries her anyhow.

Dear Walter:

Ubiquitous salutation but oddly appropriate considering the subject matter. Dear? hold-over from the era of Superman's first appearance on our planet. Walter, after reading your review I can honestly say to you dear(italics on dear) Walter.

Upon leaving the theater last night, I was disconcerted--I knew there was great mythic depth in the
overt Christ-iconography and allusion--the Prometheus ref. and Atlas vignette. But, the grand deep hole of
echoing emptiness--yes alienation--confused me. Still connected to my own (loud)everyday world and expectation of big screen cinematography and that old wry (Donneresque)wit I just couldn't sort it out.

Plus, the sheer ballsiness of the dead-center Christopher Reeve knock-off performance made me a little angry. I had hoped for an expansion.

Expansion, it seems, however, was there, just not in the portrayal. In the EMPTINESS.

Thanks for your thorough exegesis.

Goodnight, Lois

I think this is not a hate mail and also in English.

Hello There Walter,
I was just browsing thru reviews and came across yours for Nacho Libre. As I'm guessing your NOT a Napoleon Dynamite fan (and I have some opinons regarding that movie as well) , I can understand where you would see Nacho as a harsh movie that only stupid people would pay money to see. I still go to the movies expecting my "citizen kane" and I understand that these days, those movies are harder and harder to come by. I don't think for one moment ANYONE walks into a movie like Nacho expecting anything other than a movie to forget about life for awhile. I can also agree that fart jokes are much, but to say in the

"Battle Royale towards the end of the film features a tall black wrestler named "Snowflake" and a Chinese guy named "El Chino"--satire, if you want to call it that, of either the lubricated showiness of pro wrestling or the callow stupidity of the audience for the same"

...these people are REAL wrestlers. All of them down to the duo of little people (actually a father, son team in mexico.) They ALL take their jobs seriously, and told me (I will get to that later) that Nacho Libre was one of the only films that respected that. Nacho never won a fight up until the end (and YES liberties had to be taken at that point to give the movie a happy ending, but they weren't easily overpowered and Nacho's character learns that)

I also think this movie (as well as Dynamite) does something that hasn't been done in a LONG TIME. Make a movie that children, as well as their parents WANT to go see, and can go see together and there is no fear of nudity, or profanity, blood, etc..Please don't think me prude (I'm not but ANY stretch of the imagination) but I think we've become so desenstized to what's shown in movies these days, that I find a movie that can deliver humor, and touching content refreshing (and yes this is in the eye of the beholder...I liked the message Nacho delivers at the end)

I, myself found alot more in it the second time viewing. I think something you failed to see in Napoleon (if I might go back to that movie a second) and which can also resonate in Nacho as well...is that Napoleon's character might be "geeky" but in NO WAY did he ever let himself feel that. He didn't LET himself be bullied (which is a BIG difference) He was a strong character that happened to live that life in that town. He was odd, but he had friends. I think the point in Dynamite is that all the "odd" characters you saw were people who were just going thru the motions in life. When his grandmother got injured, it showed that she had more of a social life than he or his brother, or uncle did. By the end of Napoleon each of these characters were happy and working towards making their lives better ( I don't see how that message also says that these people are slow witted and must be laughed at) Even as he garnered respect from the school at the end of the movie, I never once felt sorry for him or thought this is cruel.

Okay, so I'm not here to change your opinions about anything, or tell you how wrong you are for disliking these two movies (but I think they should be watched again with an open mind). I wanted to say thanks for what you wrote about me in Nacho Libre. It's a simple thank you that you took the time to know who I was before you put me in your review.

"but its one saving moment is ineffably Chuck & Buck-like: an amorous senorita (Carla Jimenez) pursues Nacho's sidekick Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez) through a series of "secret tunnels" unaccountably burrowed into the walls of a palatial villa. The image of it is so delightfully bizarre that all at once the forced, almost Brechtian, artificiality of the piece comes clear as intent rather than sloth--if only for a moment"

just so you know...Star wars (at the drive inn with my family...I believe i was 2yrs old ) was the first movie I saw as well) –

Carla Jimenez

But what of the “brown face” of Black’s portrayal? What is the source of humor in Napoleon Dynamite? The heroes’ perseverence in the face of adversity – or their humilation at the hands of the very group or tormentors from which they desire acceptance? And what of Pedro?

I have been reading your reviews, off and on, for a couple of years. While I generally agree with you when you dislike a movie, I find that I disagree with you pretty much every time you like a movie (you have a unique knack for dropping all criticism when you are predisposed towards liking a particular director and/or actor - see your favorable review for the travesty that is "A Scanner Darkly", or your inexplicable acceptance of the awful "Lost in Translation").

However I find your reviews very repetitive. I imagine that if a person were to gather all your reviews and remove the words "racist", "homophobic", and "misogynist", they would easily lose half their length. You have discussed being Asian; your proclivity for calling everything you see "homophobic" suggests to me that you are gay; but I find it difficult to believe you are a woman. Perhaps you can understand my confusion. I can explain away the inanity that leads you to label anything you don't like with the first
two epithets by guessing that you have a persecution complex. But the last confuses me much more greatly.

One is left wondering what your perfect movie would be like (barring, of course, the inclusion of any actors or directors you fawn over). Apparently nobody Asian could be involved, because if anything negative happened to them - as often does to people in life - it would be racist. If there were a gay person involved and they were not portraying Jesus (or Mother Teresa), it would be homophobic. And if there were women involved who were anything less than the President of the United States ... well, we all know what
would happen. Perhaps you should watch that horrible Geena Davis show? I understand later this year our illustrious fake female president will be suggesting an amendment to make gay marriage not only legal, but

One wonders where you would find the anger to write such scathing reviews without your persecution complex and bizarre attitude towards equal treatment for women (after all, if women are equal, should they not be equal targets for humor?). So by all means keep foaming at the mouth and decrying every film you see that isn't shot on 8mm by a Norwegian transsexual for $3.00 as propaganda for the white male power system. Perhaps such a conspiracy theory explains why you were delisted from rottentomatoes.com

Yours truthfully,
Straight White Male Oppressor #1178


Walter’s film critic career alive and well and living in hell. Rottentomatoes personal page alive and well, too – the rest of it is also bizarre, cross-eyed badger shit.


vonschiller said...

Yay, I made Walter's reader mail. Now I just wish I had a less bizarre comment to have made the compilation with...

Carl Walker said...

I like how the last e-mail basically boils down to, "You called something homophobic? That's so gay."

But seriously, it was nice to read all your positive reader mail, and by that I include those who disagreed with you intelligently. Of course, the contrast with the "haters" is self-evident.

David said...

Who are the one or two filmmakers who didn't remain anonymous?

Jefferson said...

People amaze me, negatively and positively in equal measure.

Seattle Jeff said...


Your response about the Bible made me fall in love with you all over again. And I'm not even homosexual!

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

The reason why many read Roger Ebert and why he is a Pulitzer-award winner is that he avoids glossy language.

And this guy is an English professor ? I could've swore it was a basement-bound teenager on his way of progression from a geek to a nerd (or maybe not. How else do you explain the dude sitting in line for "Snakes on the Plane"... yes, it opens in August).

Ian Pugh said...

Sad news about Snakes on a Plane -- no critics' screenings. Needless to say, always a bad sign. I just hope that the ridiculous fun doesn't begin and end with the title. Also, I'm still not sure what to make of the Sandlot hatemail, though I love the eternal, inexplicably unkillable concept of "kids' movies are beyond reproach."

Incidentally, are there any e-mail filters available for the phrases "just a popcorn movie" and "turn your brain off"?

Dave Gibson said...

"(you)took the movie to a whole other level that no one else is even thinking about, let alone applying"

...where I come from, this is a good thing...

Mad props to Susan for not drinking Singer's batch o' Supes Kool-Aid though---

Seattle Jeff said...

Yeah, I have to say, I'm in Susan's camp on Superman as well.

ALW said...

Susan makes some valid points, but she glosses over some of the more quality aspects of the film. For example, there's a difference between telegraphing and foreshadowing. Telegraphing implies inevitability. I truly believed while watching the movie that Lois's child could either be spawn of Superman or simply a child caught up in a whirlwind of adult worries/concerns. As an experienced viewer, one would assume there's likely to be something special about the boy; but, when the child has an asthma attack upon seeing Clark up against the image of Superman, or when Luther tests the child's ability to withstand kryptonite--both of these occurrances suggest that there's something up with the kid but neither of them make it a dead lock.

Singer also does an excellent job of avoiding many of the possible plot and thematic potholes into which he could have stumbled. Take the kid again. After having revealed his potential in the movie, he could have easily become a cop-out for the screenwriters, say, by having him save his mom not only from the thug, but from imprisonment in the ship and all the other danger they were in. Imagine how lame it would have been to have the kid flying to safety with his mother in tow only minutes after realizing that there were super genes swimming in his pool. Singer shows respect for Superman's status as a god-in-human-clothing by having the kid show his strength once and only in dire emotional circumstances. As depicted in the scene towards the beginning where a young Clark is exploring his newfound powers (an engaging bit similar to the one in the first Spiderman movie), even superheroes have to go through an adjustment period where they learn to control their abilites. A young child with the powers of Superman would have been a dangerous character-for the denizens of the film and for the screenwriters to portray convincingly.

That's all a long-winding way of saying that there was sound judgement behind a lot of the choices made for Superman; and, whether you agree with some of the aesthetic qualities or not, that's more than can be said for X3. That movie sucked.

Anonymous said...

That was wonderful. Entirely, completely awesome.

On an entirely different topic, did anyone ever see the "quirky" (read: genuinely nauseating) show Wonderfalls? I'm struggling to see the appeal, the entertainment value, the anything that would make people watch this tripe.

Jefferson said...

The X3/Supes schism is sort of what got me about this edition of reader mail. Saying that critics should take X3 as popcorn pleasure and ignore any larger implications -- saying that critics are essentially thought-criminals if they do otherwise -- entirely discounts what Singer accomplished with the first two X-films: popcorn + philosophy, in a heady yet digestible mix. That's a feat, and I think it's one Singer reprised, with debatable measures of success, in Supes.

Wasn't Bill a Wonderfalls fan? Or am I thinking of another site's editor?

By the way, I think the FFC review output this week, from Alex's Porn King essay through Travis' take on Gabrielle to Walter's output on the latest theatrical releases, has been awesome. Especially considering the added deadline pressures of the annual.

And with this, I will stop kissing ass.

James Allen said...

Re: The Lady in the Water

I wonder, is the jig finally up for M. Night Shyamalan? He has his vociferous supporters, (The Village seemed to split the pro and anti factions quite sharply), but now the knives are out (21% at Rotten Tomatoes), and in some strange way it seems that Shyamalan wants it that way. What the hell is up with that?

And as far as the defenders of this film go, I've never seen so much apologizing for liking a film, or, at the very least, a bunch of people telling you to check your brain at the door. Doesn't say much for the film when it's basically (to flip flop a popular phrase) getting praised with faint damning. The most simpering review I've seen is from none other than Ain't-I-Bought-and-Paid-For Harry Knowles, which barely acknowledges the actual film while being amazingly condescending.

For me, it's not his casting himself as a writer who will change the world with his writing (which wasn't as self-effacing as it should be) or having the film critic character (note to filmmakers, simply self-referencing cliches is not in and of itself subversive, it's damned obvious, and is itself becoming a cliche anyway, I've seen the Scream films, too), no, it's the screenplay. I can "check my brain at the door" if the writer/director is painting some kind of world which I can access, and that will play by rules that are established. You could go surreal and throw everything out the window and go nuts, but Shyamalan just doesn't have the knack (nor the commitment) for that.

I will give credit to Keith Uhlich of Slant Magazine (not a stranger to these parts), for a cogent (and slightly reserved) positive review (I love the first sentence, by the way.)

Chad Evan said...

What, no Clerks II review? I was really looking forward to a merciless, scalpel-sharp dissection of the naked emperor's latest abomination (although, after Jersey Girl, the worst film I have ever seen by an allegedly major director, I don't know if even his acolytes are in denial anymore.)

Bill C said...

Not a big "Wonderfalls" fan--musta been another site's editor. I think I actually prefer "Joan of Arcadia"; as a completely irrelevant aside, I passed Amber Tamblyn on the street yesterday. She was lookin' purty.

Lady in the Water is really an interesting implosion. I kept waiting for Bob Balaban to say, "Good doggie, I think I got a Milkbone." Does anyone else find it strange, by the by, that one of our best visual directors can't come up with a decent creature design to save his life? The "scrunts" are even lamer than the sock-monkey aliens from Signs.

Chad Evan said...

Interesting point, Bill--beckons the question of other notable blind spots in the visions of other pictorially strong director's sights.

I think of Hitchcock, whose flagrantly fake backgrounds sometimes worked beautifully (Marnie) and sometimes didn't (the second Man Who Knew Too Much.)

Alex Jackson said...

Mad props to Susan for not drinking Singer's batch o' Supes Kool-Aid though---

Could you explain this please?

I don't get it, the film seemed sincere to me and what's more rather challenging to the usual audience for summer blockbusters. Susan's complaints that it wasn't fun or that she didn't like the protagonist seemed to indicate that she was looking for something considerably less ambitious than Singer's film.

Chris said...

Oh my god, Bill. Thank you for that dig at Lady in the Water. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Another unreviewed film that'd make for a good discussion - anyone seen Hard Candy? Thoughts?

Bill C said...

HA, you're welcome, Chris.

Chad: That's almost worth its own post, directorial blind spots. Part of me is dreading The Departed because Gangs of New York suggests that Scorsese's kind of clumsy when it comes to staging action. On the other hand, I saw that movie again recently and it's really growing on me. Or in me, as Salma Hayek would say.

aron said...

Me: "Too powerful? To threaten the male characters, maybe. To allow for anything other than being penetrated to kill her."
Friend A: "..."
Friend B: "You need to get out more, man."

Now that is a keeper. My girlfriend and I have been laughing for about 30 minutes now. Likely to become a household expression when logic gets too taxing.

Seattle Jeff said...

Steely Dan's humorous Open Letter to Luke Wilson

Chad Evan said...

Is it me or are Steely Dan the Coen Brothers of music?

Chris said...

Any thoughts from the professional film critics on Joel Siegel's walking out of Clerks II and swearing and making a fuss?

tmhoover said...

Much as I despise Kevin Smith, I have to say that Siegel was being absurdly unprofessional. Maybe it was the straw that broke the camel's back, but critics endure so many terrible movies that a thick skin should inevitably develop. As distasteful as it might be sometimes, you have to give every movie your full attention and not play diva games- and if you're a fluff boy like Siegel, not be the pot that calls the kettle black.

Seattle Jeff said...

You know one day Walter will explode in such a manner when his chair is kicked just one too many times.

Just teasing, Walter. Just teasing.

Bill C said...

For what it's worth, I think the ever-reliable "Outlaw Vern" has written my favourite review of Lady in the Water to date, mostly because he calls it for what it is: a closet declaration of love for Ron Howard's daughter. My mind kept drifting to Paul Schrader's Cat People during the film, and now I realize why.

Rich said...

Gotta chime in just to thank you for that link, Bill. This Vern guy is awesome, and on the basis of the two hours or so I've just spent reading some of his site I'd say 'ever-reliable' is spot-on.

James Allen said...

Re: Outlaw Vern

Whoa. Talk about a unique perspective. A wee bit rambling, but at least with a purpose.

James Allen said...

This just in:

Found this article by Steven Whitty. It's the umpteenth article about whether critics are "necessary" or not. It's a tiresome question, kind of like asking whether it's necessary to have tomatoes in your salad. I only bring it up because Walt is name dropped in the article.

The only critic quoted extensively in the article is Dave Kehr, who seems to take a shot at Walt's "name-calling" in his X-Men 3 review, although it's hard to tell if he was talking about Walt's review in particular, or if Whitty was applying a genreal comment by Kehr to Walt's review.

Anyway, at the end of the article Whitty writes something, and I'm interested in what people around here think about it:

The critic's job is very simply trying to capture smoke in words, and get a purely emotional experience down on paper, with a sense of history and comparison and context and wonder.

OK so far, but he continues:

Those are the sort of things real critics always try to write about, whether the movie was screened for them a week in advance or they had to see it on their own dime Friday morning. They are the sort of things that lead us to champion films that don't have a conglomerate behind them, and to feel gratified by their success.

Now, I'm not a "real" critic (someone have a rulebook for that?), but I wonder what all the real critics think about the idea that you have to "champion" films and be "gratified by their success"? (Does it make you feel good if you like a film that makes $200 million? And never mind the ever present implication that independent films are inherently better simply because they are independent films.) Those are loaded words that make the critic look like a PR flack. Or am I taking things to far?

Ryland Walker Knight said...

I liked Superman a lot. Scanner Darkly, too. Chaw is the sweetness.

Joan said...

Late to the party, but just wanted to say that anyone who thinks that Harry Knowles is any kind of reliable critic -- for anyone besides rabid fanboys -- is insane.

Or needs to get out more, or something.

Walter, thanks for sharing.

Bill C said...

People on Anne Thompson's blog flamed her for lauding Walt's use of "moron" as an adjective for Brett Ratner. They're the troll types who've only read the one review and presume that FFC is some kind of AICN--which, I'm guessing, Kehr is, too, if indeed he's referring to Walter's piece on X3. They also resorted to that pet standard "he needs an editor," as if calling Ratner a moron is any different from describing Jean-Luc Godard as "French" or Paul Newman as "blue-eyed." (They don't mean editor, they mean "censor.") Have these dissenters for two seconds considered the amount of contempt Ratner has shown for his audience? Are we supposed to be good little Bosley Crowthers if we're reviewing a snuff film or a porno, too?

Anonymous said...

You do know that the featured "miami Vice" still shows Lady in the Water on the front page, right?

James Allen said...


Since I brought him up, I guess you are referring to my comment, and yes, I agree with you completely that Harry Knowles isn't a reliable critic (I pretty much said as much when I referred to him as Ain't-I-Bought-and-Paid-For). The reason I read his review is that I knew he was a Shyamalan apologist and I was admittedly curious to see how he was going to defend Lady in the Water (something I assumed he would do, and I was right), but he did it in such pathetic tones, even for him that I couldn't help but bringing it up here. (I found a couple other simpering defenses, but after I read Harry's I knew I had a winner.)

Jefferson said...

The LA Times has a profile on that Lady in the Water tie-in/tell-all book that came out along with the movie, about the travails of getting the film made. The article, at least, makes Shyamalan come off as both amazingly egomaniacal and spectacularly insecure at the same time.