November 10, 2006

Sweet Nothings

I don't get as much Reader Mail as Walter and the others do but then I haven't exactly been cranking them out lately. Nevertheless, I thought I'd share a few recent missives to nourish your apparently insatiable appetite for schadenfreude.

From: Jackie Sims
Subject: No Business Like Show Business(WONDERFUL MOVIE)

OH COME ON BILL! THIS MOVIE IS FROM THE HAYDAY OF MOVIES. WHEN CORNY AND SIMPLE WAS INTERTAINING. WHAT A WONDERFUL LINE UP OF STARS AND SONGS THRU OUT THE MOVIE. IN FACT , IM GOING TO WATCH IT FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO DAYS SHORTLY. I OWN A PROJECTOR AND I WATCH IS AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE SEEN, ON THE BIG SCREEN. ALONG WITH THE STERIO MUSIC ETC , ITS A WONDERFUL MOVIE TO WATCH. I REFUSED TO WATCH IN MY HOME THEATER, THE C--P THATS COMING OUT NOWADAYS. ONCE IN A WHILE , I BUY A RECENT MOVIE AND THINKING MAYBE THIS ONE WILL MEASURE UP TO OLD HOLLYWOOD MOVIES, BUT IT ALWAYS WOUNDS UP BEING A PIECE OF C--P! NO WONDER MOST OF THE MOVIES ARE STAYING ON THE SHELVES NOWADAYS? IF YOU GO TO THE MOVIE STORE AND LOOK, YOU WILL SEE THAT ITS THE OLD HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS AND MOVIES THAT ARE THE HIGHEST PRICED ON THE SHELVES. THATS BECAUSE THEY ARE SELLING AND THEY ARE DEFINATLY MORE INTERTAINING THAN THE C--P HOLLOWOOD IS PUTTING OUT NOWADAYS. IF THE MOVIE WAS MADE AFTER 1980 , ITS USUALLY NOT WORTH WATCHING. THE MAGIC IS GONE BILL. THERES NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS IS A FEEL GOOD MOVIE. WHEN ONE IS DONE WATCHING ,IT MAKES A PERSON FEEL GOOD. NEW MOVIES NO LONGER EVEN HAVE THE CREDITS OR THE LOGOS AT THE BEGINNING? HARDLY ANY MOOD MUSIC? THERES SOMETHING MAGICAL ABOUT SEEING THE 20TH CENTURY FOX LOGO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PICTURE. THE DRUM ROLL ETC. I SAY BRING BACK THE MUSICALS , AND DISCONTINUE THE ON SLAUGHT OF ACTION MOVIES DEPICTING MURDER ,CRIME ,AND GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE. THATS NOT INTERTAINMENT! THANKS FOR HEARING ME OUT.


I love it when they're considerate enough to censor the word "crap" but not to turn off the goddamn caps lock.

From: Doug McNichol
Subject: Big words for such a little guy

Well, aren't we 'intellectual' in our choice of words. Impressive.

'Hagiography' ?? 'Reductive' ??

Get a life, asshole. Try words like 'cheap', or 'stupid'. Words that everyone can understand. Words that describe you.


What kind of unnerves me about this one is not that I can't tell whether he's demeaning my stature as a film critic or as a person in his subject heading, but that he's going to the mat for Gia. Seriously, Gia?

This next one is 'inviso-texted' to remove spoilers; highlight the white area to read them.

From: "Bruce Marks"
Subject: Black Book

Dear Bill,

I couldn't agree with you more about 'BlackBook'. I recently saw the film at The London Film Festival with a Q&A afterwards with Verhoeven and Carice. Verhoeven has taken his Hollywood baggage on board with never trusting the audience's intelligence and a lack of the 'poetry' he exhibited in 'Soldier of Orange'. When I questioned him why he thought it was necessary for the beginning of the film to tell the audience the main character lives; he didn't have much of an answer; especially when he could have done it in a much subtler way like lighting the Sabbath candles in the Kibbutz with the family gold lighter which the Germans obtained after murdering them. The transitions of falling in love with the head of the Gestapo and the trumped up motivation of the turncoat doctor at the end of the film really cheapened it for me. Maybe this is Verhoeven's halfway house on to something better. It was watchable and in today's movie environment; it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Best wishes,
Bruce Marks


Not sure how that got in there. Oh well, the law of averages means that someone's bound to side with us at some point.

Apropos of nothing, THE ONION A.V. CLUB's Nathan Rabin recently coined "The Perfume Paradox" to describe what happens when a terrible movie gets under your skin and thus becomes impossible to dismiss. I struggled to think of an example from personal experience until I watched the new-to-DVD Little Athens, a Crash-y, quasi-Larry Clark ensemble piece about a group of twentysomething New Jerseyites whose intertwining lives predictably revolve around drugs and sex. But the vibe of the film is ineffably non-nostalgic, if Linklater-esque, making it feel more like a bad memory than like a Rob Weiss-style monumentalizing of bad behaviour--that and the use of the awesomely beautiful "Let Down" over the closing credits go a long way towards neutralizing and even redeeming the clicheed characters and their stock transgressions. (Admittedly, Radiohead and Little Athens star Erica Leerhsen are two of my Achilles Heels.) That being said, I have to believe I wouldn't think twice about the film were it not for the Radiohead song and the bravely nihilistic denouement that precedes it; and as Rabin mentions Perfume's finale as the reason for its half-life, does that mean it's really all about the last lap, as Robert McKee--at least in Adaptation.--likes to say?

Can you think of a movie where the opposite holds true? Is that even possible? Of course, with viewers becoming increasingly expectant of instant gratification, I can see filmmakers working to perfect their openings and letting the rest die on the vine.

Last but not least: new Spidey trailer!

30 comments:

Max B. said...

Well, I can certainly think of individual moments from films that were otherwise lousy or forgettable that have stuck with me. I have a thing about eyes, so even in crappy movies like "Star Trek: First Contact," "The Phantom" or "Mission: Impossible," whenever there's an eye gouging-piercing-removal it usually sticks with me forever.

Ian Pugh said...

"Reductive" is a big word? How ironic.

Strangely enough, after reading Rabin's piece and the comments that Stanley Kubrick made about Perfume, I recall Kubrick's own period piece Barry Lyndon to be a similarly muddled film that goes nowhere but still haunts me once in a while. Between Barry Lyndon, Perfume and Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola's fascinating autobiography, fatally done in by a strong sense of whininess), could that feeling be concurrent with films about 18th century Europe?

(Spidey 3 "trailer spoilers.")

So wait, Sandman killed Uncle Ben? Ignoring the bizarro resemblance to the big Joker revelation in Tim Burton's Batman (which itself was half-retconned in Batman Forever), doesn't this sort of muck up the power/responsibility jive that brought Spidey to this point in the first place? I guess they could dance around it somehow -- the original burglar "just following orders" or something. I suppose it's all for the sake of making the least interesting recurring Spidey villain into a watchable screen presence, which I can accept. That and the Godzilla roar.

But all that aside, I'm more afraid than ever that the film may be grabbing at more than it can handle. We've got the Sandman (who killed Uncle Ben), the black suit (followed by Eddie Brock and the origin of Venom), Green Goblin Mark II, Gwen Stacy, and engagement to MJ. Can Raimi do all of that proper justice in 2-2 1/2 hours? (This is, after all, a man whose greatest masterpieces once operated under an hour and a half.) It seems to really want that all-encompassing point in the power of forgiveness, however, so hopefully it'll all balance out.

Alex Jackson said...

Reading a plot summary of the Perfume novel on Wikipedia, this sounds absolutely hilariously awful and brilliant. I must see this movie!

I actually think I might hold up another Kraut picture as belonging to the awful/can't-get-it-out-of-my-head category: Phillip Groning's L'Amour, L'Argent, L'Amour which hasn't been distributed in the United States. It's a love story between a teenage boy and a prostitute, is nearly three hours long, has a very brutal and utterly gratiutious rape scene and lots of road trips down to the ocean and through Germany. You're entirely within your rights to piss on it as pretentious bullshit, I could do so standing on my head, but all the same I think that I want to make babies with it.

His Into Great Silence (which Travis has also seen and liked) is just about as long and has barely any dialogue. It's a documentary about monks. I guiltily love that fucking movie as well, but it's cred as "high art" is a bit more substantiated.

Bill C said...

"Perfume" is like a macho dare to filmmakers, at least in its English translation; I can totally understand why Kubrick, Ridley Scott, and Martin Scorsese were all attached at some point. For whatever reason, I thought Peter Weir was the man for the job back when I read it.

jer fairall said...

I didn't think that the recent Running Scared was all that hot, on the whole, but damn, that sequence set in the kiddie snuff porn couple's apartment was beyond fantastic. I've almost found myself recommending the film to people on the basis of that excellent fifteen (or so) minutes alone.

Andrew Tracy said...

Glad you liked Into Great Silence, AJ, but I don't understand why you need to feel any guilt about it. That's one of the best films of recent years, and I'm thrilled that it's getting a North American release. Monk toboggan races forever!!

Alex Jackson said...

True story, I saw it at the Sundance Film Festival as you might know, at a civilian screening and I sat next to two ACTUAL Buddhist monks. The film was in the running for the audience award or something and we got little slips of paper going in so we could vote. You rate the movie on a scale of one to five by tearing it half way on the desired number. When the film was over I looked to see what the monks were voting. They were voting a "3".

LOL. So that gives me some pause anyway. I dunno, I feel a little bit uncomfortable reccommending it to people. I fear that they won't trust me again.

Thanks for the feedback though, I feel better for liking it.

Chris said...

Barry Lyndon is easily Stanley Kubrick's best movie.

Well, perhaps that opinion of mine is influenced by its being one of his least popular.

But I watch it more than any of his other movies, and I am riveted from start to finish every time.

Sometimes I take a cigarette break during the intermission.

Am I the only one who finds it endlessly fascinating and beautiful?

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

How do you argue with Doug McNichol?

He thinks you're an asshole for knowing big words (Reductive!!!) that he doesn't know, which can still be in some warped way be put into context as an envy-hatred projection thingy. But than he also calls you stupid for knowing the big words that he doesn't know. Now that just is beyond any comprehension to me. I really have no theory about this other than he's just saying the first insults that are coming to his head. Listening to his rant is as harrowing for me as watching Kirstie Alley pretending to be embarassed in a bikini on the Oprah Show.

Moving on to Perfume, haven't seen it, but I loved Run Lola Run which I saw a few days ago for the first time. I'm hoping you guys can clear something up about it for me. It says in the promotion of the film that it is an existential
thriller and so also claimed many reviewers. But I don't get how it is existential? I mean it is deterministic if anything because it is thematically about cause and effect. Now these two can be overlapping I suppose but what really goes against the existential tag is that in the final repition, Lola closes her eyes and prays to God for help. She then ends up winning the money she needs at a Casino by betting at the same number twice (a motif hillariously callously repeated in The Last Holiday where Queen Latifah actually does it thrice, probably the only laugh in the whole damn thing). Now I don't know much about philosophy (I took one elective course) but doesn't existentialism mean existence precedes essence, so how does her prayer to God make any sense? Can there be something like thiestic existentialism, seems like an oxymoron to me. I should've probably researched this one net, but WTF I'll let you guys answer.

Also, I think Tideland is the best film of the year. The only Gilliam I've really liked. Atleast it was thematically coherent for a change.

vonschiller said...

Re: Uncle Ben's "real" killer.

Allow me to don my tinfoil hat here, but I've got a theory on this one, and I think it's a pretty good one. Harry Osborn needs Spider-Man distracted to get back in to power. He knows two things: (a) Sandman has just escaped and (b) Parker will do anything for Ben. All he needs to do is tip off the police that there is, as it says, "new information," and Spider-Man's on a rampage, not paying attention at all to this rumbling of Green Goblin II.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Sheesh, what's up with "Scooby-Doo" being the 3rd most-read review all of a sudden? Thought we'd heard the last of that years ago.

Bill C said...

Been puzzling over that one myself, Jack. Nearest I can tell is Slither inspired everyone to check out our other James Gunn reviews.

Vonschiller: That seems like a pretty sound theory.

H-Man: I think "existential" has unfortunately become a kind of catch-all in the critical vernacular.

Chad Evan said...

I'm by no means an expert, but I know I've heard Dostoyevsky and Keikegaard (probably misspelled both of those) described as Christian existintialist.

As for overused critical phrases, I'll nominate "subversive."

tmhoover said...

On the subject of overused terms: could everyone please refrain from using "transcendent"? Most times in context, it just means "really, really good" when the writer wants to look smart and quasi-spiritual.

Andrew Tracy said...

I second the banning of "transcendent" and hereby nominate "kinetic" for across-the-board prohibition.

Although the original Gone in 60 Seconds is both kinetic and transcendent.

tmhoover said...

And while we're at it: the use of "deconstruct" should be limited to those who actually know what "deconstruction" means. Which is to say, not Woody Allen.

Jack_Sommersby said...

I love it when they're considerate enough to censor the word "crap" but not to turn off the goddamn caps lock.

I betcha this is the same kind of person who detests letterboxing, prefering instead the "bigger is better" mantra. After all, the picture is "bigger" -- in other words, better -- full-frame, just like capital letters are bigger and thus better.

I'd make a hell of a psychiatrist, wouldn't I?

:)

James Allen said...

And while we're at it: the use of "deconstruct" should be limited to those who actually know what "deconstruction" means. Which is to say, not Woody Allen.

Interesting comment, Travis, it is one of those words that people seem to use in ways they think are correct. So I looked it up:

deconstruction  [dee-kuhn-struhk-shuhn]

–noun a philosophical and critical movement, starting in the 1960s and esp. applied to the study of literature, that questions all traditional assumptions about the ability of language to represent reality and emphasizes that a text has no stable reference or identification because words essentially only refer to other words and therefore a reader must approach a text by eliminating any metaphysical or ethnocentric assumptions through an active role of defining meaning, sometimes by a reliance on new word construction, etymology, puns, and other word play.

----

Wow. Say that three times fast.

I must admit that wasn't quite what I thought it meant either, although, come to think of it, I think I was stuck at a party talking with someone who talked about books that way. Thank goodness for wine.

Chad Evan said...

Bill--
Today's the day classic animation fans have been waiting for: the latest volume of Warner Bros. superlative Looney Tunes Gold Collection. Any chance this will prompt you into restarting your twice abandoned reviews of the Jones-Clampett-Tashlin(who gets a disc unto himself this time--sweet!)-et al oeuvre?

Anonymous said...

any chance we'll get a review of Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder from Walter with its upcoming dvd release?

Bill C said...

Yeouch, Chad, you've hit a nerve.

I actually had two more of those Looney Tunes discs written up and then suffered a big comp crash; the reviews weren't backed up. Getting back on the horse has always been my intention, but it seems like the avalanche rolls faster than we can shovel.

Anon: Still waiting for Wild Blue Yonder. The distrib handling it is very courteous--unfortunately, every time they send us a disc it seems to wind up in some postal limbo. Keep your eyes peeled for Walter's review of Herzog's latest-latest, Rescue Dawn, though.

The Captain said...

Once upon a time I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I willingly linked people to an article from Ain't It Cool news, but this intriguing piece hit my inbox several times in the one day - Happy Feet

Bill C said...

That just cemented my desire to see it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=2657

Sorry, don't know about links and such, but Ed Gonzalez at Slant seems to agree that the film definitely has some things to say.

-Joe

Norm Wilner said...

Re: "Happy Feet" ...

Yup, that's pretty much what the movie is, though I don't think it's quite the work of propaganda that, um, Massawyrm argues. I think that, to be propaganda, something must have a specific message, and "Happy Feet" doesn't quite manage that.

But it sure is something.

Bill C said...

Drew (aka Moriarty) rebuts Assworm.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Bobby's caption is fuckin' hillarious and also the review. How did I know this one was goin' to be a skunk! I must say I wait more for Walter's pans of the Crash-ites then I do for his raves.

Ian Pugh said...

Vonschiller: Spectacular theory, and probably right, even; thanks for giving me something to chew on there. (Of course! This leads into black-suit/egotistical Peter, who thinks he's off the hook from guilt. Damn it, Raimi, this is what I get for doubting you.)

Walter: Even when not considering the film's awful ending, doesn't Strangers with Fiction also carry with it a sort of pseudo-self-loathing disdain of narrative fiction and art in general? The scenes where Crick attempts to mark off his life as "comedy" and tragedy," only to be refuted both times he makes conclusions, seems to take fiction to task for categorizing scenarios and lives, however fictional, into genres.

The ending, of course, is what clinches it for good, and I think it's not a matter of chickening out but some coldly calculated feel-good. Bolstered by the scenes of Eiffel observing/imagining her own death, what the film's ending is saying is that "jeez, why do you writers have to be so depressing all the time?" It despises Eiffel via her narration, in a sense, standing as a third-person judge and playing God where the film says she shouldn't be. (Although the film posits that Eiffel eventually makes the "right" choice, the scenario by nature aims this loathing.) Finally, assuming that the film understands its own irony, Stranger Than Fiction fancies itself as some great, American Beautyesque humanist piece by sacrificing itself (and masterpiece status) and choosing life, so to speak, over art. Ignoring at the same time, of course, how American Beauty ended.

I'm not saying that what Fiction attacks is beyond reproach, but the film seems to cross an exceedingly broad line in the sand, deciding what's "good" and "bad" a little too thoughtlessly for my tastes. Kind of like how Steven Shainberg's awful Fur despises commercially-produced art with irrational, self-important passion.

Andrei said...

In the wake of The New World I've been really cringing at the sight of "tone poem," although I'm not sure what would really be a better term.

Anonymous said...

"What kind of unnerves me about this one is not that I can't tell whether he's demeaning my stature as a film critic or as a person in his subject heading, but that he's going to the mat for Gia. Seriously, Gia?"

Pull your head out of your asshole -- asshole.

Smell the flowers -- not your stinker.