August 03, 2006

The Trench

- So you stumble out of the wilderness, several days’ worth of growth on your chin, wearing a stink of something gone over, and sporting a real bad attitude with weasels in your eyes – and you find yourself in a (imagine it) conversation with some prickhole named who cares what his name is who does something or another involving cheesing knobs and chugging cocks at studio junkets for something I’ve never heard of with “Hollywood” in its title, before a screening of Will Ferrel’s sure-to-be-awful (but actually excellent, believe it or not) Talledega Nights - and what would you do?

- Background, first, I stumbled bad at the finish line – pulled up lame like a tricked up thoroughbred and only managed to complete about half of what I intended to complete for the book and that in a crazed, glazed fashion. Consolation for me, for what it’s worth, is that it might show up some day in some form less embarrassing than the permanence offered by a bound edition.

- But this alien, he gives me ropey strings of credentials, lists off all the press conferences he’s attended in five minutes flat, tells me he’s a shrink, that he was Stephen Bochco’s assistant although he seems not to understand that Michael Mann had nothing to do with “Hill Street Blues” (“he ghost wrote a lot of episodes” this creep backpedals, touching me on the shoulder in an unsuccessful attempt at mind control), that he broke his back falling out of a window, that he’s a Film Critic of some standing in the Broadcast Journalist Society or something (I checked, he is, but so is Susan Granger and the Cliffords).

- He also wants me to know that he liked Michael Mann’s “version” of Miami Vice. Sometimes I feign confusion, sometimes I’m just confused.

- I say “Wow. You’re everything.” And, puppy-hurt, he pulls out a business card that, I kid you not, is creased from wear and has “Broadcast Journalist Association” written on it as if an affiliation to some assclown parade its members know about is akin to weight.

- I say “Look man, I don’t give a shit what your credentials are – put that sorry shit away, I can print a “President of New Guinea” business card and it means the same thing – if you want me to think that you have a valid opinion, why not offer one?” I say “Look man, the film is extant, the reaction to it is personal – you poll everyone in here, everyone in here will see a different picture – you call yourself a critic, your responsibility is to ask big questions of yourself.”

- He says “I just like to be entertained.”
- I say “What entertains you?”
- “Good writing.”
- “What’s good writing?”
- “It’s good characters”
- “What are good characters?”
- “It’s just what I like”
- “Why do you like what you like?”

- Then he repeats me to me almost word for word about the personal reaction jig and then accuses me of dancing around the issue – I’m sure this burst capillary in my right eye is his fault. I say “That thing of yours; that gift for taking what I say and saying it back to me as if it were your idea and meaning it – that’s a brain tumor that yes-men and other toads have.” and then I say, “If you don’t have anything more interesting to say than that you were entertained, then you’re exactly the function and form of a publicist. I’m not saying that they don’t have a hard job, understand, in fact without irony I can offer that I have no idea how they do what they do with the people, on both sides, that they have to deal with – but they’re publicists, see, whose job it is being gladhanding sycophants and I wonder while knowing the answer why you’re doing their job for them for free under the guise of being a film critic.”

- “I find it to be, let me be honest here, morally and artistically repugnant.”

- “Well” he says “I didn’t think I was going to get psychoanalyzed here.”

- And I say “Buddy, I could give a poop about you. It’s your kind that offends me. And don’t flatter yourself, we crack open that coconut and moths fly out.”

- Did the screening/discussion mambo with His Girl Friday a couple of weeks ago and was reminded that this is one tough little cookie. Suicide, murder, capital punishment, and corruption up and down the beltway and the fourth estate. It’s funny, sure, but the humor is painful. Grant’s never better than as the world’s biggest asshole whose ex-wife remarks half-in-seriousness that charm always came naturally to him because granddaddy was a snake. Hawks’ macho worldview of tough-talking dames and effeminate men (or vice-versa), gets both sides of the coin here in poor Ralph Bellamy.

- They started shooting on the day that Poland was invaded by Germany.

- At issue in the film, the use of the word “pickaninny” by one of the press pool. I argue that it’s in there for shock value, that tsking over how backwards the Greatest Generation was is doing this sharp-hewn, modern film a deep disservice. At some point, being patronizing cunts actually makes us the burlier bigot.

- Did the same mambo with Keep the River On Your Right, that morally suspect documentary about artist Tobias Schneebaum, forced by virgin brother/sister filmmakers to confront his dark past in the bush. Ultimately about identity and the need to assimilate into a culture that’ll have you – the discussion raised a few dark issues for me about this infernal little project. Lucky for everyone involved that Schneebaum saw it as redemptive at the end rather than second degree kidnapping for the purposes of making a festival darling.

- Same again, lecture format this time, with three films from 1961: Splendor in the Grass, The Hustler, and The Misfits. Two hours of me talking about waterfalls. It’s a wonder anyone comes to this shit at all. Next month: Gene Hackman flicks from the 1970s.

- Gave a speech about the state of modern film criticism to the Cherry Creek Rotary Club – Cherry Creek, by the by, is the richest area in metropolitan Denver. I think John Elway has a house there. First time I’d ever been to a Rotary Club meeting. It’s not like anything that I could have expected and more news from here might be coming in the next few weeks.

- During the late-night screening of The Descent - a thoughtful, frightening little English horror flick – the local publicists put on a show by decorating the hall leading into the theater like a cave mouth. Interiors dark and cold with a soundtrack of squeals and howls making this the world’s most misguided post-prom party – but admirable for the effort. Not so hot were the people who like to talk through horror movies as a nervous reaction, for the idiot checking her cell phone every few minutes, and for the baby crying every few minutes. At least it wasn’t out of focus for the first two reels like this morning’s screening of The Illusionist.

- Is there something wrong with me, by the way, that the worst part of every screening experience for me now is the fear that I might overhear someone else’s post-film post-mortem?

- Working on the Dr. Who Season One set of last year’s resurrection of the Time Lord. Preliminary verdict? Sucks. We’ll see what working it out through a few thousands words turns up.

- Putting the screen capture on hiatus to let my computer cool down. Here, instead, more lovely reader mail.

subject: PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS

Walter,

If you are going to take the cynical low road of film
criticism and excoriate director Scott Derrickson (The
Exorcism of Emily Rose) by calling him names (an ice
cream-suited revival-tent preacher, idiot, full of
shit, creepy guy with a weak chin, etc...) then you
really ought to at least GET YOUR FUCKING FACTS
STRAIGHT before doing it.

Derrickson doesn't "modestly cop to reading over
two-thousand books on demonic possession" on the
director's commentary. Listen to it again, dickwad,
he clearly says he read over TWO DOZEN books, not TWO
THOUSAND. You were only off by 1,975 books.

For fucks sake, when you THOUGHT you heard two
thousand, are you really such a cynical asshole that
you didn't question the lunacy of that number and
rewind once to see if maybe, just maybe, you heard it
wrong? If you have any integrity at all, you'll at
least fix that part in your review.

And what fundamentalist Christian or Catholic priest
pissed on your puppy when you were seven? I'm no fan
of religion myself, and I agree that the film was not
as balanced as the film makers seemed to think it was,
but it was a hell of a lot more open-minded than you
were in your review. In fact, it's not really a
review at all, it's a case study in anti-religious
zealotry.

Griffin W.

Actually, Griff, I was off by 1,976 books if you’re right, and, what the hell, I’m giving that one to you because I’m not nearly depressed enough to pull that disc from out from under my nice cool drink to listen to the commentary track.

Am I an anti-religious zealot? The religious zealots seem to think so.

Just having certain enemies says a lot of good things about you a person so, thanks. My prescription for you is that you say “twenty Dario Argentos from the early-mid seventies” for what ails you. Go with Jeebus.


subject: WHO ARE YOU?

I think the planet you came from is calling you home! I have read terrible reviews and you come close to having the worst. You must be friends with Tipper Gore. I know that this film is not for everyone. I am not defending the topic, but it's clear that you have not sat and watched someone you love die in the manner that Harry Stien would have. Yes I know what you would say to that, it's just cowardly. Walter the man has passed already, if the movie is not for you, don't watch it. There has been much talk of the moving performance of Eric Roberts, and the movie had a wonderful mixture of cast members. Grow up, get a new hobby, maybe be a volunteer for aids patients who have no family. SB

Well, Susan, if the mother ship ever comes for me, I’ll be ready. I did actually watch my father die a couple of years ago – what that has to do with a piece of ass-candy starring Eric Roberts, I’ll never know. Real charity, apropos of nothing, doesn’t advertise itself on Lifetime. I think you meant to send this letter to Oprah, though, so all’s forgiven again. What movie, by the way, are you writing about?

subject: Response to an Old Review

Mr. Chaw,

I stumbled upon your film review of the 2003 movie The Other Side of Heaven and just wanted to say to you that you might want to know a little bit about a religion before you go bashing it... you only sound like an idiot when you criticize a church you obviously no nothing about. In your review you
call the mormon church, (really named the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) basically a church full of close minded, naive morons. To me you seemed the moron because you babble a bunch of b.s. and uneducated opinions of a truly christian organization. Next time you criticize a faith of millions worldwide you might study up a bit on their actual beliefs, and not go on aobut the common misunderstandings and rumors thought to be the "true mormon religion" by so many uneducated dolts. If you would like to
respond, please do.

J. Ricks

Dear Mormon wacko,

Surely you don't think that I'm in the minority voice here, do you? I mean, let's be serious, you have some dangerous, half-illiterate, proudly-professed-to-be uneducated dude setting up a cult in Utah with tales of Lamanites and sheets of metal buried in New York, and Moroni/Nephi/Christ parading around the maize in rains of light, right?

Tell me about how black people get lighter-skinned when they get closer to Mormon. . . tell me about the secret names your women get that their husbands whisper to them to allow them access to your lonesome heaven. Scientology ain't got nothing on you guys, man.

Tell me who Nephi was? Tell me how an angel became first the Holy Ghost and then the Lord Christ in Joe Smith's seminal vision from 1821 or 1822 or 1823. Then tell me how it comes that mortals have the authority to meddle so calamitously with your inviolate holy scripture.

But you're right, all I have to go on is a read of your silly "Golden Bible" (except for the parts ripped off the King James Bible's Book of Isaiah: those parts are pretty bitchin') given me about twenty years ago by a couple of nice young, dead-eyed men in white shirts and black ties; the equally silly A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE; Roberts' STUDIES OF THE BOOK OF MORMON; a read of Martha Becks' LEAVING THE SAINTS; of Simon Southern's LOSING A LOST TRIBE; a read of Jon Krakauer's UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN' and, best, a few of Michael Quinn's hilariously spot-on refutations of your religion's basic tentpoles. You're dead on correct to notice that I'm not of the true faith.

I’m thinking, here, J. Ricks, that you’re peeved because Big Brutha has instructed you not to read anti-Mormon texts and, whoops, here’s one masquerading as a review of your favorite movie.

(I also enjoy HBO's "Big Love" series, proving that bad religion can make good entertainment instead of pieces of irresponsible, unfiltered shit like The Other Side of Heaven.)

I'm not willing to investigate Mormonism further, sad to confess, and if the best you've got for me is that I'm a moron, not you, well - I'm rubber and you're glue. I didn’t name any of my prophets “Moroni” after all. Sounds a little like a retarded pasta. Looking back, it seems like I was making the point that this film treats the non-believers in its audience like morons for not believing. If you feel as though that somehow translates into Mormons being morons, well, who'm I to argue so fine a point?

Let's agree to disagree, jm ricks, because you're not converting me and I'm not converting you.

I would however part by recommending that you educate yourself in defiance of your church leaders because, and I promise you this, no legitimate god wants actual sheep in his flock.


- Parting thought: I screened/discussed Brazil during this period, too, only to find that I didn’t like it anymore. I still like the Ministry of Information Retrieval bits, but the rest of it finally struck me as it’s struck Gilliam’s critics for years: busy to no end, confused, abrasive to no end – on and on. I see why it’s a cult film – as a giant “fuck you” to paperwork, it really enthralled the college-bound youth of me yesteryear – but the movie (the 144 min director’s cut) is laborious. Turns out I only still like three Gilliam flicks: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Now, granted, I haven’t seen Baron Munchausen in about ten years. . .

- Question of the hour: films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now.

70 comments:

Dave Gibson said...

RE: "Films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now"

"Sixteen Candles", "Murder By Death", "Pump Up the Volume", "Dead Poets Society", "Exotica" and "Natural Born Killers" have all been spoiled for me by the heaviness of wiser eyes--but probably most upsetting is just how tiresome I found "Taxi Driver" the last time I saw it.

For some reason, I still like "Clue" however.

Seattle Jeff said...

RE: "Films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now"

The original Star Wars trilogy, yes even Empire.

Walt:

Just blasted through some ALtman films...your review of MASH was totally educational for me. I guess I kept seeing it as a comedy and couldn't figure out how I was supposed to ike the characters. I just never got it. Thanks for helping me backup and see it through another lense.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Question of the hour: films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now.

Silence of the Fucking Lambs

Just the quintessential overstated crock that I feel overwhelmingly ashamed of having gone agog over when I saw it at a sneak preview back in the day. I'll even watch the milquetoast Red Dragon over this puerile thing.

And, Dave, I second you on Taxi Driver. Used to love it, but it just doesn't stand the test of time. And critics John Simon and Stanley Kauffmann definitely had it right when they called it on its pretentiousness thirty years ago.

Kyle Smith said...

The Usual Suspects. I watched it somewhere near 15 times in about a year when it first came to video. I watched it again a couple of months ago and saw it for the flimsy excuse to have a twist that it is.

I did the same thing with Fargo just recently as well. It becomes more off-putting as I get older.

Joan said...

Oh, Walter, I do hope you're not writing off the New Doctor before you're too far into series one. The beginning is grindingly slow, yes, but by the end it's firing on all cylinders, and I am very fond of it -- even the silly, obligatory spastic chase scenes. "The Empty Child" two-parter in particular totally rocked. If you hate it, I'll have to, metaphorically speaking, read your review with my hands over my ears chanting "la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you." (If you know what I mean.)

Movies I loved and couldn't bear to watch now: pretty much anything with Woody Allen, especially "Annie Hall." I'm sure there are others, but those are the first that springs to mind. The neuroses no longer amuse me.

Finally, I don't think of myself as a zealot, but you do come across as quite energetic in your anti-religiosity from time to time.

jonathan said...

Walter,

Pleasantly surprised to read that you liked both Talladega Nights and The Descent. Short of hanging all of my dwindling hopes for a summer movie to like without any major reservations-- or, hell, to like at all-- on Snakes on a Plane, I'd been hoping that one of those two might balance out the likes of Pirates 2: Davy Jones is the Most and X3: Jean Grae on the Rag.

Question of the hour: films that you loved at one time that you can’t bear to watch now.

Leaving the beloved childhood films out of this-- as a six year-old, I had a crush on Kerri Green and wanted little more from life than to ride that pirate waterslide, so I did love The Goonies-- the one that stands out for me would be Magnolia. At 18, I thought that Magnolia's structure was clever (I hadn't yet seen a Robert Altman film), that the plague of frogs was legitimate, and that it was just pretty cool that someone I remembered from Nick at Nite re-runs of Laugh In was in a movie.

I still think it's sporadically well-acted-- or at least sporadically as well-acted as the material could be-- and that Aimee Mann's songs hold up on their own (despite that Will Ferrell "bird family" sketch on SNL when everyone freezes while "Wise Up" starts to play), but the second time I watched it, I spent most of its 759 minute running time pinching the bridge of my nose to ward off a shamegraine. The third time, I didn't make it past Tom Cruise's first appearance, and there's been no going back.

Though I stand by my at-the-time assessment that it's more subtle and less needlessly pleased with itself than American Beauty. I just don't intend on watching either of them ever again.

Dave:
"For some reason, I still like "Clue" however."

Madeline Kahn's "flames... on the side of my face..." monologue never gets any less funny.

Vikram said...

My answer to Walter's question would be Condorman. I'm not saying that it is not a good movie but I loved it as a kid and I don't think that I could bear to watch it now.

Vikram said...

The great Condorman aside...a couple films that I liked around my high school years that I no longer can watch are Batman and 2001

I think I liked Batman at the time more for the fact that it didn't completely suck as I feared that it might but I really can't watch it anymore - especially Nicholson's Joker. As for 2001, normally I can always re-watch any of Kubrick's films but 2001 is the one that I really can't bear to watch anymore - of all his films it feels to me the most outdated and for some reason, the most shallow.

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex Jackson said...

No no no no no no no no no no no no NO!

This topic is really getting under my skin. Maybe it's that I take the evaluation process deathly serious. Or it might be that I simply rely on a different model regarding personal development. I don't think that people change their genetic properties as they get older, I think that they just grow more refined. I think that I'm the same person that I was at 13, older and wiser no doubt but essentially the same person. I do not divorce myself from the thoughts, actions, and feelings that I thought, did, and felt at that time as if they were thought, done, and felt by somebody else.

When my parents remarried when I was a teenager I did not smile in any of their wedding photos. I was going through a phase in which I believed that smiling in photos was deeply hypocritical as they presented a false document of who I was. Now I regret it though. I think that it was selfish and callow on my part, I think that I ruined their wedding photos. Also it inferred that I disapproved of them marrying and that wasn't at all the case. I wasn't thinking of how it would look I was only thinking of the burden put on me in putting on the pose; which I didn't find particularly pleasing. Ultimately, I think that I should have just played along with the farce.

But still, even while it was a mistake on my part I don't think that not smiling was particularly uncharacteristic of who I am now. I think that growth is achieved in accepting who you are and what you've done and building upon it.

I know that the heart wants what the heart wants and it's stupid for saying so, but I feel unwilling to do a 180 on films that I loved. It feels to me sort of like getting your memory erased at the Lacuna Corporation. You're saying that this film that was once a part of you is no longer a part of you; and well I believe that if it was a part of you once it always will be.

And of course, it's a slippery slope. When you give this Heisenberg uncertainty principle an inch you give it a yard. If I watch Resident Evil 2 once I am now changed for having seen Resident Evil 2 and my initial viewing (pre-having-seen-Resident-Evil-2) is no longer valid. The concept just doesn't have much utility. I think that you need to trust your instincts.

Playing along in a guarded fashion, I think that I might have somewhat outgrown Magnolia and the Virgin Suicides. I haven't seen either in some time, and I have to admit that I am somewhat frightened to. But I'm not sure that I no longer "like" them. I think that they still very much represent me and I think that they still very much represent what I value in the cinema. When they came out I thought them two of the greatest films ever made. Now I feel that way about Dogville and Kill Bill Vol. 1. Maybe in thirty years, I'll outgrow them as well, but I think that they'll always be a part of me.

I'll admit to being wrong about Mystery Train and Life is Beautiful. With the former I was extremely impressed with the segment with the Japanese tourists. I wish the rest of the film were on that same level, but it's just not and I was foolish for trying to convince myself otherwise. I still like that segment though, just not the film as a whole.

With the latter, a film that admittedly almost everybody loved and nobody ever thinks about anymore, I was bowled over by the novelty of it and there are one or two tear-jerking moments that I think are really fantastic and beautiful. I think that I still like the movie but it's not a great film, and yeah, I don't want to be in that camp anymore.

And need it be said, but if you don't like 2001, Taxi Driver, and yes even Batman you're just plain wrong.

Vikram said...

Alex,

I tend to agree with your point in terms of you are the same person that you were and how you grow more refined in your sensibilities as you grow older. But having said that, one's experience frames and contextualizes films in a relative sense. The more films that you see, the more you are able to judge and compare films in relative merit to other ones. Of course, aging also changes values and perspectives. I don't think that there is necessarily anything wrong in realizing that a film that you thought was good at one time is not as good as you thought it was due to the fact that you have seen better films subsequently. That doesn't change the value of the film at that earlier time in a personal sense, but with more knowledge comes better judgement.

By the way, I'm not attacking any of the films I mentioned in any serious way in terms of their value - that's a separate conversation - but I think that Walter's question was about films that you can't watch any longer in a personal sense, for whatever reason, and Batman and 2001 are films that I can't bear to watch now. More specifically, 2001 is and always will be, a Great Film but I can't watch it any more. To a large degree it is an emotional response, but there it is.

Not so sure about how good Batman is however...

Alex Jackson said...

I tend to agree with your point in terms of you are the same person that you were and how you grow more refined in your sensibilities as you grow older. But having said that, one's experience frames and contextualizes films in a relative sense. The more films that you see, the more you are able to judge and compare films in relative merit to other ones. Of course, aging also changes values and perspectives. I don't think that there is necessarily anything wrong in realizing that a film that you thought was good at one time is not as good as you thought it was due to the fact that you have seen better films subsequently. That doesn't change the value of the film at that earlier time in a personal sense, but with more knowledge comes better judgement.

I'm not even sure that with more knowledge comes better judgement as it fails to explain George Lucas. Or definitely M. Night Shyamalan. I mean if you completely defer to your older perspective don't you think that you are going to lose out on the wisdom of your younger perspective?

I guess that your like of a film can fade a little once you have more experience in watching films, but I don't think that it can ever really change into actual dislike. And what's more if you, for example, think Boogie Nights is one of the greatest films of all time at age 15 as I did, you're going to find a lot of what you liked in that film in your "greatest film of all time" at age 30.

dave said...

No no no no no no no no no no no no NO!

That reminds me: I've recently seen Sexy Beast again. If Ian McShane ever founds a church, as stupid as it may be, count me in.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Alex,

You're saying that this film that was once a part of you is no longer a part of you; and well I believe that if it was a part of you once it always will be.

Here, you are considering film or art for that matter as an object, in a way that the film will remain static throughout your life. I think that's kinda rubbish because you can not step into the same film twice, proverbially speaking. Art is a movement towards its own reality and I believe so is the spectator. No starts, no ends, just movement. So to say the film will always stay a part of you is to say that if you took a dip in the river, then you'll walk around wet with it all your life. Ofcourse not. All you will carry with you is the memory of the dip, which may have been pleasent or not, but it doesn't affect how will you feel after another dip in the same river.

Trust me, I don't love Sandlot the way I used to when I was younger, and no it is no longer a part of me.

p.s. And need it be said, but if you don't like 2001, Taxi Driver, and yes even Batman you're just plain wrong.

Proud to be "wrong".

Dave Gibson said...

We've chewed over a lot of this before, but I think ultimately it boils down to semantics. We're all pretty much in agreement. Alex said: "I don't think that people change their genetic properties as they get older, I think that they just grow more refined."

Exactly. Changing one's perspective on art is part of the joy of art and, as I've droned on about before--like" and "dislike" are among my least interesting templates for discussing films. One of the things that most intruiges me about this particular discussion is the amount of fear that is so often expressed in moving away from or developing one's younger viewpoints--but, it's hardly suprising. I was infinitely more intractable and self-righteous when I was sixteen--because when I was sixteen, I had never set foot outside Southern Ontario, or had many of the experiences I now take for granted. It's hardly original to say but, our culture places an untoward amount of value on youth, which is so often treated synomonously with acting like a boorish or uninformed idiot (I'm sure George W would enjoy "Click"). The majority of Hollywood films are directed at an adolescent demographic and the ever-popular "Idiot Man Child" genre ("Wedding Crashers", "Click", "The Break up") has thrived unabated--so, I guess I'm becoming far less interested in celebrating my "inner child" (or whatever the buzz-word is now")than I am in being challenged and confronted by whatever art I may encounter--and, no--I would never want to be 18 again. Watching "Miami Vice" recently, in the company of the rudest audience I've ever encountered, I felt a little sad to realize that many people turn off their brains at the movies--even when they're not being asked to. Here was a huge budget, cops n' robbers movie that also happened to be gorgeously made and sharply acted--and they were missing it! Did any of those audience members have the capacity to absorb the art in that film? (and this isn't even a particulary complex or "important" film) Did Michael Mann fail because he couldn't reach the loudmouth jackass in the Yankees cap. I guess what I'm saying is that there is no lack of youth, shallowness, idiocy and superficiality in films or film criticism (didn't some 10 year old kid have his own movie show once)Audiences have a responsibilty to do some heavy lifting sometimes--and sometimes folks, a ten year old just can't lift a "L'Enfant" (or even a "Miami Vice" (!) on it's own) so, I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and embrace my "inner grown-up". I'd never suggest that it's correct or even admirable to completely discount the interests and opinions developed in your formative years. But, as most of us (including AJ) seem to agree--it's all about developing your knowledge, experience and perceptions (often less dreamily known as: "growing up"--yeech)rather than wholesale rejection of your younger self. At one time, "Star Wars" was the greatest film I had ever seen. Having seen only a handful of movies around 1978-79, I still didn't intellectually question my boast. (and-"Harvey's" was also the finest restaurant as far as I was concerned) In 2006--my awareness of the stilted acting, sloppy writing and dime-store mythology inevitably colours my pereception of "Star Wars" as a film. As a personal, formative emotional experience however, it's one of the memorable parts of my childhood. I would never dream of discounting it and expect to share it with my children. I'm now able to appreciate "Star Wars" purely as nostalgia. "Star Wars" is the movie that made me fall in love with movies--but, I've seen a hell of a lot more since 1977. "Dead Poets Society" for instance, came along at a time when I was enormously receptive to the leafy, campus setting and the sight of thoughtful, non-jocky young men my age who were interested in literature as a means to scoring chicks, while railing against an unjust educational model (on the precipice of my "tortured young man" period as I was). Now, I'm able to see that the film is not about "literature" at all--but a wildly inconsistent, emotionally dishonest film which is really not against conformity at all. Still, none of these developed perceptions change the fact that DPS was an important film to me at one time-- nonetheless, I have no interest in watching it again.

This doesn't mean that I still didn't giggle with joy when I saw the "Spider Man 3" preview or get a little misty as the John Williams music welled up during "Superman Returns"--but, after seeing most of the superhero movies and other tentpole summer flicks--I'm pretty much convinced that I like the idea of these movies much more than the fact of them. And heck yes--I still like "Clue".

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Just wanted to ass, Taxi Driver has really soured on me too, which is somewhat sad because for the longest time it was my favorite film. I can see exactly why I loved it when I was 18, but then again I can also see why I loved Sandlot when I was culturally repressed kid in India.

Anonymous said...

The first time I saw Kubrick's The Shining, I thought it was one of the best horror films ever made. Now I can't look at it as anything but poorly made. The story's inner logic especially has a few glaring problems, and Nicholson's performance just keeps getting more and more annoying. Or maybe it's just that I don't find an over-actor being himself for two hours all that scary.

I also really dislike A Clockwork Orange now. Used to love it, but now I find it (again) really poorly made. And you know, same thing pretty much goes for almost every Kubrick movie I've revisited...yes, even 2001 which I can't even watch anymore because I find it so Goddamn pretentious.

- David H.

Royal Warrant said...

Walter, thanks for an entertaining "Trench" post and a review of "Talladega Nights" that I really didn't see coming. Please share your thoughts on the fascinating "Keep the River"; I'd love to see a review.

andyhorbal said...

Red Dawn

andyhorbal said...

Oh yeah. And The Usual Suspects.

Max B. said...

Brazil?

:(

My favorite movie.

For me it's probably Forrest Gump.

Joe McAlhany said...

Hollow Man, The Sandlot was a favorite of mine when I was young too. I could still probably stomach it now, but yeah, it's really not that good. But that scene at the pool where that sultry lifeguard performs CPR on the one with glasses... the stuff dreams are made of when your seven-years-old.

Other childhood favorites like the Nintendo ad The Wizard and The Goonies have gone downhill for me too to varying degrees.

I'm still pretty young, so I'm bound to outgrow some of my current favorites sadly, but I really don't want the day where Taxi Driver and 2001 go sour for me to come along. I guess I've sort of distanced myself from old favorite Pulp Fiction, although I don't really hate it; indifference is the word I guess. I actually think I like Kyle's choice of The Usual Suspects better now. A film-noir comic book movie ten years before Sin City.

Alex Jackson said...

The first time I saw Kubrick's The Shining, I thought it was one of the best horror films ever made. Now I can't look at it as anything but poorly made. The story's inner logic especially has a few glaring problems, and Nicholson's performance just keeps getting more and more annoying. Or maybe it's just that I don't find an over-actor being himself for two hours all that scary.

I also really dislike A Clockwork Orange now. Used to love it, but now I find it (again) really poorly made. And you know, same thing pretty much goes for almost every Kubrick movie I've revisited...yes, even 2001 which I can't even watch anymore because I find it so Goddamn pretentious.


Good God. Repent that blasphemy lest you spend all of eternity in brimstone and fire!

I seriously cannot wrap my head around all the Kubrick hate; although I do tend to think that he's just about the perfect filmmaker for teenage boys that has yet to diminish my adoration for him.

How can you call A Clockwork Orange badly made? Instead of presenting a point-by-point rebuttal let me just offer you my review of the film on my website "I Viddied it on the Screen" and while you're at it check out my new review of Eyes Wide Shut, perhaps the best distillation of Kubrickian themes I've written to date.

I think that the problem is that older audiences are losing their ability to appreciate movies about things as opposed to people. A Clockwork Orange, 2001, Batman, and I think even Taxi Driver are not films about people. When I saw Taxi Driver at 13 and when I watch it today, I think that I realize that it's more than a case study.

2001 is a better film than Star Wars, but I still see them as films in the same key. I think that they are both very visual science-fiction pictures with transcendent religious overtones. My like of the former is based in my like of the latter.

I suspect that Dave was raised in a religious household and then later on became an atheist. He says that Star Wars only works on the level of nostalgia and says that it's denigrated by its "stilted acting" and more interestingly "dime store mythology". He then holds up the secularist films Miami Vice and (I'm assuming having only seen the trailer and half of Rosetta, but not by a lot) L'Enfant as being more his level.

Not me. Raised in an agnostic household by parents who were deeply flawed human beings; I've found myself spiritually malnourished and look to the cinema in an attempt to find answers and definition to the universe. I still look at Star Wars from time to time. In some ways I think that it's cheesiness in dealing with spirituality has actually gained a poignant quality.

I want to stress that I'm not claiming my perspective better, I am suggesting though that one's changing attitudes toward spirituality or the lack thereof is fundamentally correlated with one's attitude toward the cinema and while I think that there was a major paradigm shift with Dave there was no such thing with me.

Reverse question that I'm curious about: are there any films that you loved about ten to fifteen years ago that you still love? See again I feel Hollowman's dictim that "you don't step into the same film twice" deeply problematic and essentially useless as, again, as soon as you finish watching Resident Evil 2 you are changed from watching it, thus making your initial viewing meaningless as it was based on the perceptions of somebody who had never seen Resident Evil 2.

Indeed, I think this effect exists or otherwise there would be no need to rewatch films, even ones we like. But on the grand scale of things, I think it has a minor significance. If I were to give that model more creedance than the one stating that our perceptions films are stable throughout our lives; I would find the above problem impossible to resolve. It's the kind of conundrum that makes my head cave in. I would think I would be rendered impotent from ever watching another film.

P.S. I'm pleasantly intrigued by Joe's claim: "But that scene at the pool where that sultry lifeguard performs CPR on the one with glasses... the stuff dreams are made of when your seven-years-old," in effect contradicting Freud's theory of psychosexual development (saying that this period is sexually latent) as it has been contradicted by anecdotal evidence again and again.

Dave Gibson said...

Ahhh...I do enjoy this sort of discourse on a hot, beery afternoon--even though it's largely antecdotal, potentially endless and everyone is saying exactly the same thing--albeit with different examples. Kubrick is one of my favourite filmmakers, but "Clockwork" poses some problems for me too--partly, I suppose, because it was also one of those films that I so strongly identified with a certain period in my life--haven't seen it recently--but, anything Kubrick made is still vital for me.

Side note--I had a great laugh, AJ over your assumptions and subsequent argument (based on those assumptions) about my upbringing. For the record, you are completely, unequivocably and hilarously wrong. But you'd have known that I'f y'now--ASKED ME. ;)

Rock on all y'all

Alex Jackson said...

Side note--I had a great laugh, AJ over your assumptions and subsequent argument (based on those assumptions) about my upbringing. For the record, you are completely, unequivocably and hilarously wrong. But you'd have known that I'f y'now--ASKED ME. ;)

I was afraid so. And so, the question is have you then moved on from dime store mythology to Rodeo Drive store mythology? The comment about the stilted acting in particular suggested to me that you've moved toward humancentrism and away from a more broadly realized mythology altogether, reserving a special place in your memory for those times when you actually believed in such nonsense.

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

Link problems, can't code on this thing.

Anyway my Clockwork Orange review: http://cc.usu.edu/~alexjack/viddiedreviews/clockworkorange.html

And here's the Eric Roberts review that inspired the hate mail:

http://filmfreakcentral.net/dvdreviews/itsmyparty.htm

Dave Gibson said...

1.What is "Rodeo Drive store mythology?" Does it have anything to do with "Pretty Woman"?

2.What does Mark Hamill's lousy acting have to do with adopting "humancentrism?"

3. What is "humancentrism?"

Alex Jackson said...

1.What is "Rodeo Drive store mythology?" Does it have anything to do with "Pretty Woman"?

Eh, best I could do. Better grade of mythology than "dime store"; indicating of course that there are different grades of mythology than dime store.

2.What does Mark Hamill's lousy acting have to do with adopting "humancentrism?"

I'm guessing by "good" acting you mean convincing acting. Convincing acting is characteristic of a humancentric cinema.

3. What is "humancentrism?"

Valuing people over ideas or the purity of the film image.

Dave Gibson said...

Uh-huh-- If you can,drop me a link or point me to some scholarly work on humancentric cinema--and we'll talk, I'd be fumbling around in the dark otherwise. To be honest, I'm bored to tears with "Star Wars" discussions--so, I don't want to open that particular can of corn.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Good God. Repent that blasphemy lest you spend all of eternity in brimstone and fire!

That pretty much sums up my problem with Kubrick. He is the quintessential faux-God of cinematic history. I think it is only a matter of opinion, Alex, carpets matching the wallpaper annoys the fuck out of me and doesn't annoy you. In the same way, that the white cop saving the same black girl that he molested earlier, in your beloved Crash annoys me and doesn't annoy you. You say in its defence "Artifice and the cinema go hand in hand. I would think that anybody who has ever seen a movie before would know that they do not represent the world as it is."

This obviously shows you missed the whole point. The problem with this goes all the way back to Aristotle. You are absolutely right in saying that all Art is subjective, the problem with folks like Kubrick and Haggis is that they reject all acknowledgement of their subjectivity. In this choice of rejection, They universalise and objectify their finite conciousness, and play God in whatever they create. Infact, your argument hinges on calling them artists, but I think they are the opposite. They are intellectuals under the veil of artists, like a philospher or a sociologist who can paint. The problem is that their so-called "Art" never arises from the instinct, a must for an artist, but from their intellect in which they completely conceptualize what their "Art" will be and then they put it on paper. But, I believe that the Absolute is beyond intellect, thus all the contradictory opinions on what it is. An intellectual looks at the Abyss and boxes it according to his subjectivity, an Artist stares at it and draws a picture of it according to his impulse. The problem with these pseudo-intellectual faux-artists is that they first box the Eternal according to their intellectual subjectivity and then draw a picture of it. What they claim is a picture of Cosmic consciousness is just a picture of their finite conciousness. My point is, Kubrick should have been writing books. His films are perfect for the teenagers, because this rejection of subjectivity is also their biggest psychological issue. But, y'know, some of us grow up after being the seven year old that thinks that his popsicle-sticks birdhouse is the Only and the Greatest way of making one. Some of us grow up to realise that world is ambigous because the Absolute is beyond the intellect, and any attempt to cage it would be a pretentious and annoying one.

p.s. I'm obviously assuming existence of the Absolute, but then again it's my fucking opinion right ?!

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Just forgot to make the point that because I think the Absolute is beyond intellect, the only means to reflect such a Truth would be through a supra-intellectual experience, which I believe most great Art is a result of. Here's an example:

Jonathan Swift, in his Gulliver’s Travels (1726) tells of the astronomers of the imaginary land of the Laputans who asserted they had discovered that the planet Mars has “two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve about Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the center of the primary planet exactly three of [its] diameters, and the outermost Five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one-and-a-half...

“When it is noted how very close Swift came to the truth, not only in merely predicting two small moons but also the salient features of their orbits, there seems little doubt that this is the most astounding ’prophecy’ of the past thousand years as to whose full authenticity there is not a shadow of doubt.”

Bemis said...

You are absolutely right in saying that all Art is subjective, the problem with folks like Kubrick and Haggis is that they reject all acknowledgement of their subjectivity.

I'm going to put aside the fact of Kubrick and Haggis being lumped together, and just say that you're completely wrong about Kubrick. Because his method is so self-assured, it's easy to assume that his films adhere to a singular viewpoint as though it were universal, when each actually contains worlds of ambiguities. And they do spring from his impulses - precision does not preclude inspiration. If his films are perfect for teenagers, maybe that's because he never lost touch with his adolescent sense of skewed curiosity about the rules of our existence.

After reading many of the films cited here, all I can say is that I hope I die before I get old. Or at least before I outgrow The Who.

ADT said...

I've dropped quite a number of dimes on AJ's "we must stick to our 13-year old guns" philosophy before, so I'll refrain from any more of them now, but I do have a question: why is Resident Evil 2 your perpetual example of films that will alter you forever? Just find it amusing, s'all.

Now Dave: there was no greater supporter of Miami Vice than I, before I saw it. Yet I've discovered that even though I think it is one seriously mediocre movie, my love of it has not dimmed. I guess the Platonic idea of Vice is so transcendently pure that no mere earthly movie can denigrate it.

Dave Gibson said...

ADT--I call it the "Mann" effect--it's the same reason why I adore "Heat" while remaining suspicious that it really is a pile of macho hooey, Mann's films are just some damn pretty though. (and I adore his scores)I do hope to see "Vice" again without the chatty club girl, the ten year old kicking my seat and the guy explaining the rich, subtle nuances of "Cops Vs Robbers" to his perplexed girlfriend.

ADT said...

Oh, P.S. to AJ: I would strongly suggest you watch the other half of Rosetta, and then The Son, and L'Enfant and even kick it all the way back to La Promesse... 'cause what the Dardenne boys are doin' is some of the most vital and important stuff in film today, and anybody who seriously cares about film - which I hope would include many of those who read (and write for) this site - should be keeping abreast of it.

Alex Jackson said...

A quick response, probably more later.

Dave: No scholarly work on "humancentrism", just my own nonsense.

Hollowman: Will get back to you. Of course, my little "you'll burn in hell for not liking Kubrick" crack was facetious, but that doesn't mean that you're wrong for reading into it what you did.

ADT: I keep coming back to Resident Evil 2 because it sucks and is otherwise utterly forgettable. Precisely the sort of thing that you wouldn't think twice about dismissing. But you know, it is a film, and so any theory about film must somehow accomodate it. In this case, I'm saying that we should be able to dismiss it but a belief that our attitudes toward any one film are constantly in flux we can never truly trust such a dismissal.

And yes, I should see Dardenne. There are a lot of things that I need to see but only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, so many weeks in a month, so many months in a year. You might very well be in a position to say that "what the Dardenne boys are doin' is some of the most vital and important stuff in film today", but is he more important than Godard, "Deadwood", Howard Hughes, Ozu, or Fassbinder? That's the position I'm in.

But yeah, I know he's important. I did rather like that half of Rosetta I saw by the by; not sure he's my new God but he's worthy of the discussion.

Alex Jackson said...

Oops, I used the singular instead of the plural. Yep, I know they're a duo.

O'JohnLandis said...

I might regret this, but I wanted to share an IMDb thread I came across:

http://us.imdb.com/board/bd0000006/thread/49494033

As for the topic at hand, the boring and obvious answer is probably right. I would mistrust equally:

1) those who feel compelled to abandon their old favorites out of a fear of appearing jejune

2) those who feel compelled to inflate their suspicious old favorites with foamy false subtext out of a fear of ever being wrong about anything

I also tend to think AJ is on the right side, but for the wrong reason. He more or less says that we ought not question our old favorites--even our childhood favorites--because of the indelibility of the initial response. And he might continue that since the circumstances of the initial response are impossible to recreate, it's unfair to the initial response to hold it against new criteria. I find that view touching. And silly.

We should respect the indelibility of responses when we're ranking responses, but we must respect the qualities of films when we're ranking films. It's that very indelibility which we should question, and maybe even actively mistrust. If you're 35 and you think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (you know, the one with Vanilla Ice) is the greatest film ever made, I needn't bother to sort out whether you're being glib or infantile. It's just a dumb answer.

Still, AJ's on the right side, if you eliminate the childhood part. The reason we ought to mistrust a group of people heaping hate on the films they adored when they were 18-25 is literal mistrust. They're probably lying, especially here. People want to seem clever and perceptive and controversial and evolved, so they notice trends of opinion and either set out to change their own opinions and taste or they simply lie.

I'm not calling anyone out here, but I think if you really liked Magnolia or 2001 five years ago, there can't be more than a 50% chance that you actively dislike them now. They're just too unique. But if you're around people who value humanism or verisimilitude over art or ambition, loving frog rain and star children might appear Pretentious. And isn't it all really about being on the right side of that "P" Card with your peers?

Dave Gibson said...

Getting back to the original question: "films you once loved that you cannot bear to watch now". I don't think this has to automatically be equated with "hatred" or a complete reversal of opinion. Love and hate are broad extremes which belong on Robert Mitchum's fists, but I do find them among the least interesting templates for guiding my response to a film. (even though you can never get away from them entirely). Revisiting childhood favourites is always a tricky, potentially sobering enterprise--but, I don't think one has to completely discount the emotional importance of a film in order to view it with more critical eyes. Preserving the purity of that original response is exactly the reason I choose not to revisit some films and, some things just don't enrich me the way they used to. I personally prefer the memories of watching: Knight Rider or The A-Team to actually watching them again--because it's not the actual work that I'm seeking, it's nostalgia for a time that has long past. When I was 21, I probably would have seen that as impossibly sad or defeatist--but, it really isn't. I doubt however, that I could reasonably say that I "Hate" any of those shows (or any of the flicks I mentioned earlier)--"Hatred" doesn't even enter into it for me. As I get a little older, I find it's really about time--so, yes if given the choice of watching The Dekalog again or Season One of Knight Rider--well, that's a no brainer. In a finite life, yeah--I'd now rather eat a lot more cavair (metaphorically) than cheeseburgers. This doesn't mean that I can't enjoy a cheesburger--but, overdosing on Cheeseburger movies is a fool's game for me. Sometimes memories are more important than the truth. Since I love movies, it's often a risk I'm willing to take--without that risk, I may miss out on enhancing and expanding my appreciation for an old favourite or gazing on a disregarded film with new eyes.

No one asked, so I didn't answer--but, I can also come up with many films that I appreciate even more since I was a weird kid checking Pauline Kael books out of the public library.

"Heathers", "Repo Man", "The 400 Blows", "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind", "Blow Out", "Goin Down the Road", "Die Hard", "Jesus of Montreal"...and there's many more.

James Allen said...

I love this blog! A question is asked, and more than just an answer, we get a spirited discussion of the nature of the question. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, as a form of anti-climax, I'll answer it: for me, it's the James Bond films (yes, even the Sean Connery ones.) Loved 'em, have 'em on tape, but have no desire to watch them again. No, I'm not going to give a pompous excuse like "I outgrew them" or somesuch feebleness, I think for me it was a combination of oversaturation (I think I've seen them enough) and the general waning of the franchise over the last 20 years.

Joe McAlhany said...

Close Encounters grew for me over time as well, as did Spielberg's E.T. These films were made to inspire childlike wonder, but as a child, both were forgettable for me (I much preferred Spielberg's Temple of Doom). It took growing up a little bit (not too much though) to really start warming up to the films. It's ironic that the appreciation of the films came along at about the same time as the typical high school cynicism for me. But that cynicism also puts me off of Spielberg's more serious cinema at times; I still like Schindler's List, but when it becomes too manipulative, I just want to sock Spielberg right in the fucking jaw.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the context of this argument with a publicist was, but it seems to me like you were a little rough on the guy.

aron said...

Sounds like an identification vs. aesthetics question to me (which has already been said, I guess, in other words, above). Some stuff I also experience slipping away from me for no reason I can immediately pinpoint. Barton Fink is turning sour on me, for example. Sure genetics don't change, but personal experiences and priorities do and that is a lens I see through. Maybe something well-made gets you no matter when because it offers you multiple points of view to adopt so you find a new layer with every viewing.

Walter_Chaw said...

Crux of the question to me isn't an issue of altering DNA so much as it is an acknowledgment that film love is a snapshot of the soul at any one moment and like a lot of old pictures of yourself are embarrassing to revisit (while still being you: sort of and of course), so a lot of movies you used to love are embarrassing to revisit. You can still see what it was in there that made your dick hard fifteen years ago - but it doesn't do it anymore because though the same set of chemicals is still making your cells - all of the cells that watched that movie the first time have been replaced by new ones already.

I ask the question because of my screed at the entertainment journalist, of my screening of Keep the River On Your Right, and of Brazil - each experience questioning in turn the way that we look; the way that we remember; and the way that we interpret new experiences and re-interpret old ones. Truth is a slippery thing and so is the remembrance of emotion. What is it that they say about pain? That you don't remember pain, just the intensity of it?

I'd love to be able to re-create the feeling of seeing Star Wars for the first time. Best I'll be able to do, though, is to wait for my kid to turn 3.5 and watch her, watching it.

See, at a certain point it's less about the quality of the film as it is about cell death, paranoia, dementia, and legacy. Proust ain't got nothing on film geeks.

theoldboy said...

You know, I used to like Ronald Emmerich movies. Independence Day was the awesomest movie ever when I first saw it. At that point, my mind was not ready to explore such things as "Good/Bad Dialogue" and "Plot Logic". I watched it again, involuntarily of course, a couple months ago. It's now gone from awesomeness to being awesomely awful, in an Ed-Wood-with-a-budget sort of way. It's made with such passion by such non-talent. It's the anti-good.

A side note: Walter should write a novel. The story at the top is great.

Chris said...

Speaking of DNA, Jurassic Park is that film for me.

Alex Jackson said...

Even I still insist that I like Jurrassic Park, but John Williams really is the AntiChrist.

O'JohnLandis said...

John Williams really is the AntiChrist.

AJ,

OK, kid gloves are off. That's so snarky it's irresponsible. I demand a retraction. We're not talking about James Horner or Howard Shore, but John Fucking Williams--you know, Star Wars and Superman and Jaws and Raiders. Perhaps you thought the Jurassic Park music wasn't quite as inspired as the others mentioned (arguable), but it's a movie in which anticipation is built up to see a theme park with dinosaurs, so exactly what should the music sound like? Motown? Indie rock? Gregorian chant?

Still, if you want to take a shot at John Williams, have some courage and actually outline a point. If you ever took the more difficult path of clearly explaining your childish, nebulous snark, you probably wouldn't have people doubting the wisdom of your inclusion in the book. Or the site.

I propose a Snark Test. Any time you feel the need to be clever, substitute your actual opinion for the snark dropping, and see if your simple, honest thoughts elicit any positive response. Walter and Bill (and recently Travis) are occasionally too snarky for my taste, but at least their snark makes sense. They're also funny: when Walter says Ray Romano is a small-screen vampire and 35mm is his sunlight, that's possibly a bit too snarky. But it's funny, makes perfect sense, and it happens to be true.

I think Martin Scorsese is overrated, but "Martin Scorsese is a kitten-raping war criminal" does not mean roughly the same thing. I dare you to explain why John Williams is, figuratively, the AntiChrist. I'll admit that I wouldn't be hitting you this hard (the absolute most calculating and personal public attack I could think of) if you were a random blogger and weren't affiliated with the site. And everyone (even those who agree with me) will probably think I lapped "too far" three or four times. But I vehemently disagree. Your snark is just so ugly and lazy. Why can't you be better at this? Why doesn't anyone care that you're not better at this?

Everyone loves Reader Mail for the illiterate, misplaced vitriol. The angry attacks can be laughed at because they're pitiful. Well, this is the real thing. Is it funny? And if you think the handling of Reader Mail is a poor reason to justify this very public outburst, I have one question:

If John Williams read the blog and complained (or even asked for clarification), how would you respond?

vonschiller said...

Traffic, Magnolia, and Adam's Rib.

As far as the first two are concerned, it's Traffic, then Magnolia less so. After Crash, Syriana, and a whole bevy of films that play on the same principle of "let's throw a bunch of plotlines together and hopes something comes out of them," the haphazard and oftentimes ineffective, unfocused nature of those films is really starting to piss me off. I get that it still works a little in Magnolia, but the idea is enough to put me off those two completely and to avoid any new one-word-title Stephen Gaghan is involved in ever again.

Sheila Lynne said...

THANK YOU, Bill, for giving me a great laugh this morning with the photo caption for The Descent. The joke just keeps getting funnier every time it pops up!

rachel said...

Oh, Caption Boy, will you never get the credit so deserved to you?

Alex Jackson said...

Good God. Every thread seems to have a crusade with you attempting to have me ousted isn't it?

Yes, it was lazy. I just threw that out there. Wasn't intending it to be clever or witty, I wasn't thinking about the nature of the AntiChrist and how specifically John Williams meets the definition. I think that calling him the AntiChrist is too absurd and hyperbolous to register as snark.

I had assumed, by the by, that Williams had already recieved a couple dozen kicks in the ribs on this site. Turns out, I think I was referring back to Walter's (now deleted, natch) Epinions review of The Kid where he explicitly associates Horner with Williams.

Okay, I'll take back saying that he's the AntiChrist which seems to mean that he's a source of evil and the antithesis of what I look for in the cinema. Not true. More specifically he fucked up Jurrassic Park something awful. In snark speak, he shat a big greenish-brown glob of shitty music and smeared it all over this perfectly good movie.

We were talking about movies that changed since we saw them last and somebody brought up Jurrassic Park. I still think that Jurrassic Park is a good movie, but on a recent viewing I found myself increasingly annoyed by Williams' score. I like the main theme actually, it's really just the rest of it. Walter's "snark" to describe Horner: "without one moment left unfellated by (his) sloppy kisser of a score" seems to apply well in this case. I was particularly annoyed at the helicoptor scene, which was supposed to be slighly humourous, and has Williams trying to convince us of it by tickling us with a jackhammer. He's bad enough to make me question the idea of screen-specific scores altogether. How can they resist digesting the on-screen action for us?

Not good at critiquing music, I'll admit, but I knows what I don't like. Am I allowed to go now?

Bill C said...

I seem to recall dissing Williams recently (in Because of Winn-Dixie), but it was more of a dig at Spielberg. E.T., man... disturbing flick.

As for Caption Boy, he routinely gets exactly the credit he deserves: a whuppin'.

Bill C said...

Hey, neat: someone reviewed last year's Annual. This is the only review I've so far been able to find; seems he or she dug it, which is nice to hear.

Joan said...

I thought Williams had become irredeemable, until he scored Catch Me If You Can, which was brilliant. I remember seeing Raiders for the very first time and being psyched that Williams had scored it. Now it makes me sad to think that I dread hearing whatever dreck he's spackled onto the latest "blockbuster".

That said, restraint is not well-known among Hollywood composers, and it seems a bit unfair to single out the big guys for doing what nearly every other composer out there is also guilty of. Seriously, has Danny Elfman ever written anything but that same dark score he keeps recycling? I loved it in the first Batman, but then I realized he's a one-note composer. It helps somewhat that I usually like that one note, but still. Horner? The less said, the better.

(I shall always have a soft spot in my heart for dear, dear Caption Boy, who so often has brightened my day!)

Walter_Chaw said...

Speaking of Caption Boy - no comments on the Lady in the Water capture? Too obvious? Too stupid? I must know to better ken the severity of his whipping.

Walter_Chaw said...

Oops - and speaking of Lady, saw Xanadu for the first time in years the other night, by chance, and what do I spy but a vanity piece about a muse sent from a neon world to inspire some simp to build something to which others might come. Who knew. Xanadu as a source material for Night's newest joint.

James Allen said...

Snark snark snark...

Since we're talking about John Williams, I'll just say I agree with Alex inasmuch as he tends to slather it on pretty thick, but then again, the directors he works with seem to want it that way. (I just watched War of the Worlds again the other day, and, like most Speilberg films, every dramatic moment has to be hammered extra hard with the same old Williams flourishes, whether they are really necessary or not.) Likewise, if you want the "darkish" kind of score, the go to guy is Elfman (as someone above mentioned.)

And Xanadu. Ah, the memories of Hollywood's vain attempted to perpetuate the idea of Olivia Newton-John as movie star. Gene Kelly on roller skates was kinda fun, though. My favorite quote concerning this film is from Michael Beck:

"The Warriors opened a lot of doors in film for me, which Xanadu then closed."

James said...

Doesn't something like Munich show that Williams and Spielberg can go for something other than the sledgehammer when they want to? Or did you all think that falls under the same category.

Rich said...

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/51367

Gold.

Alex Jackson said...

Since we're talking about John Williams, I'll just say I agree with Alex inasmuch as he tends to slather it on pretty thick, but then again, the directors he works with seem to want it that way. (I just watched War of the Worlds again the other day, and, like most Speilberg films, every dramatic moment has to be hammered extra hard with the same old Williams flourishes, whether they are really necessary or not.)

Come to think of it, I usually like directors that slather it on really thick. Just, specifically, Williams' stuff on Jurrassic Park drives me bananas. This might very well be something that you don't notice until the second or third viewing.

I know the guy who wrote the review of the FFC Annual. During the mid-nineties, the message boards on AOL were sort of penny universities for me and got me deeply interested in movies and writing about movies. He had really cool quirky tastes and seemed to have seen every film ever made. He once published his top ten favorite films of all time and it included stuff like Slacker, Ruby in Paradise, and Alice in the Cities. Wim Wenders, Victor Nunez, and Richard Linkletter were in fact three of his favorite directors. He also said that he liked Italian film, but didn't like Fellini.

Unfortunately, he's not much of a critic; he can't really explain why he likes what he likes. His review of the FFC Annual reminded me of that guy who reviews forks and cat food.

Sheila Lynne said...

My humblest apologies, Caption Boy. (and the caption for Lady in the Water wasn't yet on the review when I read it, but yes, quite funny as well. I look forward to the appearance of Penelope Cruz in future films)

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Come to think of it, I usually like directors that slather it on really thick.

I think that's pretty much where our tastes diverge, Alex. Made me think because it is sort of an extention from the earlier discussion. Maybe that is because I don't think Art as somthing that is created. Just because a prism breaks the sunlight into different colors, doesn't mean it owns the sunlight. None of the prisms does. They just interpret it differently depending on their crystal alignments. That is why, I think I like Art that is not too self-indulgent or overbearing. I like it when it is ambigous, neither sbsurd nor absolute, because instead of stamping its ownership it invites different interpretations. That way it becomes property of everyone and yet none's. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is like that, I think, because it's world has a God that allows it's people to believe in their self-determination, it represents the world I live in to me.

Vikram said...

Walter,

On a more serious note - how about a Condorman review... c'mon, you know you want to...

Jack_Sommersby said...

Sorry, Vikram, you're going to have to get in line, for I'm still salivating over re-reading Walter's "Eye of the Beholder" review, which he used to have posted at another site and which I've been wanting to read again for so long. It's a criminally-underrated film that, it seems, only Walter and I grasp the excellence of it.

rachel said...

Just wanted to relay a hilariously? embarrassing anecdote: last night I was babysitting a 7-year-old whose parents had given us Spanglish to watch. I don't know whether to blame the parents or the films' terrible pacing (or myself, for letting the kid hold the remote), but I was totally unprepared for a sex scene and didn't even realize it was happening until Leoni was climbing on top of Sandler. Thank god for its Networkesque length and her orgasming being indistinguishable from her hysterical raving throughout the rest of the movie (and, her lovely chaste sports bra); I was seriously not in the mood to explain what was going on, or else leap across the room crying censorship. ("Why?" "Because you're not old enough to watch faux-fucking, honey.")

I also wanted to slap the hell out of the actor playing the translating daughter, but that's probably neither here nor there.

Harvey Birdman said...

Walter, what made you say with such confidence in your Equinox DVD review that "(See, the psychiatrist's explanation in Psycho wasn't offered in full seriousness. It's a common misconception.)"?

I can understand that argument but I don't know that for a fact. Has Hitchcock confirmed that in some interview? He employed similar talkative and explanatory dialogue in North by Northwest and Rear Window. Are those scenes only half-serious as well?

permazorch said...

Ah-Ha!

Here's where Alex Jackson does his slacking off when he needs to be pleasing his fans with his own gods-damned website! Get to work, you. Also, you need to watch Mystery Train, again. The Japanese couple segment is not the strongest joint, it's a well-known fact.

One movie I'm embarrassed to have recommended, Slamdance, with Tom Hulce (and the perfectly cast John Doe). I don't know if I can still watch it, but I loved it dearly at the moment I saw it (the first time).
Alex:
Don't Stop Believin'

Max said...

A film I used to love as a child but I find boring, offensive and plain bad: The Coca-Cola Kid.