June 27, 2007

The Trench

In the middle of writing up To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep and what comes across my proverbial desk than this image (WILD THINGS). Oh man. Pants tighter? You bet.

When Lauren Bacall says “Hey. . . I think I’m sitting on somebody’s cigarette” during Have Not’s drive-by shootout sequence – the combination of elements (the film on my television, the image on my computer, the joy of writing on good film and anticipating new ones) speaks long and loud about the absolute, un-distilled joy of going to the movies. God bless Faulkner. He didn’t do it alone and, really, didn’t do shit in Hollywood, but these collaborations with Bogie, Bacall, and Howard Hawks are for the ages.

Finished up a seminar series at the Denver Public Library last night with the beloved Bagdad Café; a film that I’ve never liked and liked less upon each subsequent viewing. Not easy to speak on a film one doesn’t like in the company of folks who love it. Next series in the planning stages and looking extremely promising: the finalists, from which the library panel will choose five, are: L’Atalante, The Sweet Smell of Success, Hud, Miller’s Crossing, Birth, Days of Being Wild, The Seventh Seal, Shadow of a Doubt and Out of the Past. Can anyone guess the theme? I suggested Children of Men early on in the process, as well, but I’d be pleased talking any of the titles.

Anyone read Christopher Doyle’s diary of the Happy Together shoot? Brilliant, stuff.

Didn’t get a screening of Die Hard 4: Die Harderer, but will catch it as a civilian. Wouldn’t miss it for the world, the first flick counts as one of my favorites from my halcyon teen years: John McTiernan really hit a couple of those bastards out of the park, didn’t he? And the third flick is underestimated.

Ratatouille is awesome.

Nancy Drew is still haunting me.

Negotiating a post-modernism series in a different library system – some proposed titles include The Stunt Man, Adaptation., and Tristram Shandy. Later in the summer will find me talking Pan’s Labyrinth in Beaver Creek and Hero in Douglas County.

A few weeks late, but an official shout out to Ousmane Sembene – the voice of an entire fucking continent, a novelist by devotion who turned to film because it could reach a broader audience. I reviewed Moolaade for our last Annual, and it’s a masterpiece, but so are the other films in his too-brief filmography. Next up after the Bogie/Bacalls for me are a pair of lesser Bette Davis flicks, Forbidden Planet (which I may be talking as part of a Shakespeare-on-film quartet down south); and a couple of things by Henry Rollins including an interview I conducted with the man a couple of weeks ago. That list of things to do before I die keeps getting shorter.

Musing, if time permits, a brief retrospective of the films of Jacques Becker and, I’d love to do it, a similar one on Kenji Mizoguchi starting with Sansho the Bailiff. Of course there’s roughly thirty pounds of DVDs staring at me with their hollow, Cyclops eyes, needing some serious attention before I go off on any skylarks.

Currently listening to Francis Cabrel – especially a song called “Bonne Nouvelle”. Extra points for figuring out how and why I tracked down this dude. He’s a legend in France, I guess, shame on me for only just now discovering him for myself. Also giving heavy play to the Children of Men soundtrack and Clint Mansell’s score for The Fountain.

This thing with the Germans and Tom Cruise - this not letting Cruise film in the country because he's a member of a cult - is everyone just being polite in not mentioning the irony of Germany of all countries offering a blanket, discriminatory condemnation of a religion with which they don't agree? I especially like the son of the proposed Cruise character coming out and predicting that the film they're sabotaging will inevitably be "kitsch."

Any early thoughts on the new David Milch series?

Late, again, but "The Sopranos" series finale? I loved it.


Patrick Pricken said...

Hey there,

judging from the article at one of the best German newspapers, the FAZ, the Cruise thing has been overstated. The way I read it, one member of parliament is making a ruckus, and the son of Stauffenberg isn't happy with Cruise, but won't take any legal steps (knowing it'd lead nowhere). Media hype, perhaps?

Saw Die Hard 4.0 today, btw. It's not as good as McTiernan's movie, so don't get your hopes up, but it was alright. (My German review)

Wanted to thank you for your reviews of FF4-2 and Evan Almighty, both because they were top-notch and because only a recommendation from your site could make me go see them, so not only did you have to watch these "films", you also warned me away for good.

Ivanhoe holds a spot in my heart because it's one of the first medieval movies I ever saw. It's not a good movie, but the scene where the glove is thrown into the ring of knights, or the final duel complete with the king arriving have been burned into my memory. Any chance of you reviewing Danny Kaye's "Court Jester"? I just got it on DVD, and even though there's way more singing than I remembered, I'm still having fun with it.

And finally, it's a shame Angelina Jolie doesn't have a good choice of movies. Tell me at least whether she's become a little less scarily-thin since "Mr and Mrs Smith".

virile men laughing xenophobically know women's hearts rarely (vmlxkwhr)

Bill C said...

I just started a review of the rarely-seen Faulkner/Hawks collaboration Land of the Pharaohs, also Hawks' only 'scope film. May I finish it while this post still has appetites whet.

theoldboy said...

My iTunes tells me that I've played "Death is The Road To Awe" from The Fountain soundtrack 56 times. I've seen the movie itself probably six times, but what's odd is that stretches of the soundtrack can be kind of grating on repeat viewings, almost in the same way that the soundtrack of PTA's Magnolia (btw, There Will Be Blood looks terrific, easily my most anticipated movie this year) sporadically irritates me more and more each time I've seen that. But Mansell's work with Aronofsky is still fucking spectacular, and the way it was mostly ignored for awards consideration stands to me as a microcosm of the way The Fountain has turned out to be some kind of oddball, ghettoized martyr for the art form, panned and booed and ignored for our sins. I'm happy that it's having the shit rented out of it at my local video shoppe, but melancholy that it's probably also having that same shit hated out of it.

Jared said...

I was in love with the whole last season of The Sopranos, but particularly the finale. It has the kind of unsatisfying ending that only satisfies the patient and the curious, like the ending of "Birth". There's more attention paid to mise en scene (does that get italics? forget it) in that episode than I've seen in most films of the past 20 years. Some really lovely compositions in the scene with Bobby's wake and in Little Italy.

I don't live anywhere near Denver but I'd definitely listen to a podcast of a talk on Birth, or especially The Stunt Man.

Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain stayed in my car for like...six months. Doom and Smokin' Aces stayed out of zero star territory almost entirely on the strength of his score.

Jared said...

Also, on the topic of mediocre or bad films with great scores what would be some you can think of off the top of your head? "Fear" (the Mark Wahlberg one from ten years ago, assuming there are multiple films with that title) probably has Carter Burwell's best score.

Rick said...

And during a scene in "Fear", a song I liked by an industrial band called Dink was used. Dink used to tour with Pop Will Eat Itself, which was Clint Mansell's former band.

jer fairall said...

I recently watched The Butcher Boy, a movie I adored when it was first released, for only the second time ever and was shocked by a lot of then vs. now things that I spotted in both the film and myself, but Elliot Goldenthal is possibly the only thing about it that I still find absolutely awesome.

I can't imagine ever finding the soundtrack to Magnolia annoying in any other sense than that it's occasionally hard to hear Aimee Mann's wonderful songs over all of Julianne Moore and Melora Walters' yelling.

Damn, what a week for movies! The lefty (Sicko), the thirteen year old (Live Free or Die Hard) and the just all out movie geek (Ratatoullie) in me are all super pumped.

BLH said...

Lately I've taken to waiting for DVD to watch HBO seasons in their entirety. The two episodes of John from Cincinnati that I did manange to see, however, did absolutely nothing for me. The two I watched were the second and third episodes and I chalked my inital distaste for the show up to the fact that I hadn't seen the first episode. Something tells me I'll need to come up with a better excuse when I inevitably see the thing through.

I'm one to try really, really hard to take something interesting away from any piece of work produced by artists I admire. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to just about any person who's aroused my senses in a positive way in the past. The surfing show, though, I just can't seem to make it work for me. Maybe it's that I'd rather be reminded of McCabe & Mrs. Miller than Point Break. Maybe it's that the sandpaper skin of the peripheral characters doesn't seem quite at home in the modern setting. Maybe it's that the kid has no right being on television. I don't know. I like the rest of the cast. Bruce Greenwood makes a very good Bruce Greenwood-type, and they give Ed O'Neill some pet birds for the same reason they gave Ian McShane a head in a box. I don't even mind that "Dylan!" is on the show. I mean, Timothy Olyphant was probably only one career decision away from becoming this generation's Luke Perry anyway.

The lack of development I saw probably wouldn't frustrate so much if the individual scenes were stong enough on their own to carry me along. Maybe I'm expecting too much out of the gate.

Patrick Pricken said...

You know, podcasting some of the talks would be great (for us). You should do a FFC podcast, anyway, where you talk about film.

Boleslaus the Brave said...

I hereby second Patrick's notion for a FFC podcast...there is a definite lack of quality podcasts on the subject of film on these here internets.

I'm stuck listening to Adam and Sam from the tolerable yet sometimes hair-pullingly aggravating Filmspotting podcast to get my film-talk audio fix. Please save me the torment FFC!

Hollow Man said...


Die Hard 4! Holy shit, man! Remember Die Hard 1 & 3, Terminator 2, Predator? This one has the same mother and she's pissing all over Matrix-ian CGI. Kick-ass all the way. Highly recommended. ****

Hollow Man said...

John from Cincinnati is starting to get on my nerves now, I'll make up my mind after next episode. It's pretty thin thematically with it's pop-spirituality. John is obviously the angel of death. Overall: Meh.

Meadowlands was pretty shit from what I saw of it.

Flight of the Conchored is pretty cool though.

Patrick Pricken said...

From what I've seen and heard of Ratatouille (which starts in October in Germany), it seems Brad Bird really has a knack for putting the finger on the wound. With Incredibles, it was "if everybody's special, is anybody still special". Not it's "everyone can cook", which still means you gotta learn how to do it.

Just like everybody can be a film critic, but just writing how awesome Fantastic Four was doesn't make you a good one.

Alex Jackson said...

No joke, I lost my HBO roughly a week before the Sopranos finale (and the premiere of John from Cincinatti and the second season of Big Love). ARRGHHHH!

The third season of Deadwood recently came out on DVD. Hacking my way through season 2 of Twin Peaks right now (I can see why it jumped the shark after the Laura Palmer murder was solved, Lynch dropped out, and it moved nights. You have to be a pretty hardcore fan to stick with it under those circumstances); so anyway, I'll get to it afterwards.

Bill C said...

Apropos Walt's "Rescue Me" review. Fascinating stuff.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as Crimson Gold was your annual pick a few years back, I was wondering whether anybody had had a chance to see Offside quite yet...

Anonymous said...

I third the FFC Podcast. Walt is on the Bill Press Show each Friday morning as most of you know with a short segment on the week's movies, and he does a hellava good job with the short time and uninformed hosts. (You used to be able to download podcasts of the Bill Press Show over on the site, but that's now a paid subscribers only thing.) This week's gem quote, in reference to the fantastic Live Free of Die Hard and the mediocre Transformers: "Both involve kids being saved by stoic 1980's robots." Awesome.

Kurt Halfyard said...

John From Cincinnati - Caught the first episode and it's intriguing in a Twin Peaks meets HBO sort of way. It's all about the texture! I've only really watched Deadwood and The Wire in the HBO spectrum, but I like what I see in John From Cincinnati, it's got huge-muther-f*ck'n ambition written all over it. At the very very least it'll qualify as an interesting failure (And I don't personally believe that...I'm demanding greatness!)

Bill C said...

Regret I haven't seen Offside yet. My guess is that Travis has, hopefully he'll chime in.

About a year ago we toyed with doing a podcast, but I dunno; I guess after the Annual debacle(s) I'm gunshy about spending time on extracurriculars.

Anonymous said...

What Annual debacles?

Rick said...

Flight of the Conchored is pretty cool though

Ian seems like a big Jemaine Clement fan

tmhoover said...

Yep, I've seen Offside and it's rather fantastic. It's perhaps not the film for Panahi neophytes to start out on, but for seasoned veterans it's smart, surprisingly funny and even more surprisingly affirmative. After the darkness of The Circle and Crimson Gold, it's a bit of a shock, but it's still a must-see.

Bill C said...

"Debacle"'s an overstatement, but we barely broke even on the Annuals. (Yeah, they're free to print, but you still have to pay for an ISBN # and proofs and whatnot.)

For anyone interested, a sneak peek at Walt on Transformers (and Die Hard 4.0).

Ian Pugh said...

Haven't seen "Flight of the Conchords", but I'd be all for it if it can exemplify that Clement has talents that go unrealized in Eagle vs. Shark. The world is in bad enough shape as it is with one Jon Heder inhabiting it.

Ratatouille is indeed brilliant, but I gotta be honest that Live Free or Die Hard is the film that really captured my heart this weekend. Beyond the obviously superb action sequences, it made me realize, after Final Destination 3 and Death Proof as well, that I'm a fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And was I the only person who really, really liked this iteration of "yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker"? Cut off or not, the context was just brilliant.

Patrick Pricken said...

Re: Transformers – ouch. Both Michael Bay's dick and the virginal, closeted audience comments were harsh.

Aside from the 80's robot line, I thought this has the potential to become a classic:

"at this point, it's almost more palatable to sell out in a snuff film than for Michael Bay"

Also, glad you liked Die Hard 4.0 that much. I'll check out the DVD when it comes out in case the dubbing had something to do with it, but I didn't like it as much – partly because Willis is too much Terminator for me, and not as much "John McClane" – even though that could be a logical extension of him having survived the first three movies. Still a great action film, though.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yeah - I liked that he was the Terminator - felt wiseass meta to me that he could no longer be killed, but seemed to be suffering a lot. I mean, all this happens to a guy in the course of one career, after a while you'd start to wonder if the author of your life wasn't some kind of sadist. There was this old Vertigo line comic called "Animal Man" that had an issue devoted to the - don't laugh, it was great - existential plight of Wile E. Coyote. Peter Milligan wrote it, I think. But the gist was that the poor old boy was praying for death.

Seen Offside as well, and don't share Travis' enthusiasm for it. Skilled, for sure, but I thought it had the feel of inconsequence - even pollyannaism - and repetitive, too. Opening in Denver this next week, I think, so at least he's getting some distribution. Important to look at Iran as something other than a spoke on the axis of evil. A lot of the stuff in the film, politically, was a surprise to me.

Walter_Chaw said...



I don't agree with your critique of the TRANSFORMERS live-action
film for a number of reasons, the main one being the fact that you are incapable of analyzing the film as anything other than "a Michael Bay film." True, Bay does have a knack for using the same cheap gimmicks and humor time and again
throughout the action extravaganzas he likes to call films, but the important thing to remember is that every film is different, and a filmmaker is entitled to learn and grow which each film he/she creates.

I'd like to state for the record that I am NOT a Michael Bay fan. I
never even had the inclination to watch either "Bad Boys" one or two, and I gagged my way through "Pearl Harbor". Despite the fact that Michael Bay represents most everything I dislike about current trends in Hollywood, when he makes a film that I'm interested in seeing, I'll do my best to put my
prejudices aside and judge the film on its merits.

Judging by your analysis of the film, it seems as though you believe that TRANSFORMERS is devoid of cinematic merit whatsoever.

However, here is point that I'd like to emphasize: this film is not CITIZEN KANE, as much as some fanboys would like it to be. When one is to review an action film
such as TRANSFORMERS, the most logical method of comprehension is comparison to similar films or genres. I understand your comparison of the TRANSFORMERS
to LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, a recent action film that you enjoy, but keep in mind that these two films, although similar in tone and structure (one liner jokes, giant action sequences, one dimensional bad guys), they are not the

The most promising factor that TRANSFORMERS has going for it is this: although we have seen previous films that have explored similar themes (E.T., CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, IRON GIANT, etc.), nothing has
even been seen like Transformers before, ever. The visual synergy of the film alone is enough to set it apart from most other mainstream action films. Moreover, although the film is riddled with unnecessary characters, bad jokes, and sensless plot devices, the film's main purpose is to offer
the viewer a good time. If you left the theater after viewing the film and realised that you didn't enjoy anything you had just experienced, then the fimmakers failed to reach you, nothing more.

Additionally, it is important to point out that LIVE FREE OR DIE
benefits from a history of no less than three previous films. You yourself pointed out that DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER wasn't very good. Does that have to do with
the fact that Renny Harlin isn't as capable of a diector as John
McTiernan? Most definately. However, the fact that the second film was bad didn't ruin
your enjoyment of the subsequent sequels, due to the fact that you judged each film on its own merits, regardless of the director. May I state for the record that I feel that Len Wiseman is a hack director, and when I learned that he was slated to direct LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, I was certain
that the film would suck, suck, suck. However, I have kept an open
mind concerning LFODH, and based on the fair, objective reviews I have read in the media, I am looking forward to seeing it, in spite of the way I feel
about Len Wiseman's directorial credibility.

The bottom line of my argument is this: if you choose to give a bad review for a film, have the responsibility to approach the film for what its intentions are. If DUMB AND DUMBER made you laugh but failed to satisfy your drama quotient, then it should not be faulted. You as a film reviewer
have a responsibility to objectively review films based on their merits and intentions. Although you are entilted to do so, posting a review bashing a
film because you don't like it's director is an amateur move. Give the film a secong viewing and try to enjoy the ride. That what summer's all about.

Good luck to you in the future.

--Rory Walsh

(For posterity's sake, I'm a Production Manager on independet feature films in Los Angeles, and I know the value of a good script)

And so it goes. What an asshole.

Dave Gibson said...

Where is my favourite Transformer "Spellchecktikon" when you need him?

Wow...the "It's not Citizen Kane" rejoinder, pleas for "objectivity" in film criticism and "summer movies are supposed to be stupid" argument all in the same letter. Talk about synergy. However, the suggestion to give the film another view is south of the suspenders--no one deserves that.

-Dave Gibson

theoldboy said...

Good luck to Walter...IN THE FUTURE, when Future-Walter will realize the error of his ways and convert to "Objective Criticism," at which point a rift in the space time continuum will open and swallow him into oblivion, for he will have accomplished something that is impossible according to the laws of physics, logic, and the English dictionary. Godspeed.

An objective review would be a plot synopsis. Or maybe something by Steve Rhodes, but that's a plot synopsis written by a dunce.

jer fairall said...

There is probably a five or so year age gap between Walter/Bill and myself, so it sort of makes sense that Die Hard 2 was my Die Hard, in a sense, but I honestly didn't even know until recently that it was considered the black sheep of the series. I expected, while in the process of rewatching the first three films in preparation for going to see the new one this week, to finally fall in line with popular opinion, but 2 still strikes me, even now, as a tighter, funnier, scarier (side-confession: I'm scared shitless of airplanes, though I now wonder how much of that may stem from my Dad sneaking me in to see this with him when I was 12) seem and more exciting version of the first film. I don't expect anyone to agree with me on this one, but I'd certaintly like to hear why so many people think this film is so terrible.

Patrick Pricken said...

Come on, Rory, don't drag the Iron Giant into this. That's a comparison Transformers cannot profit from.

Also, I would like to know just what "visual synergy" is supposed to express. The robots all wear the same symbol?

Rick said...

Do you think Rory has ever disliked a movie?

And thanks for schooling Walter about criticism methodology, because in all fairness it seems that he did say in his Dumb and Dumber review that the movie sucked due to lack of crocodile tears.

jer fairall said...


Weirdly timed, too. I just purchased the Criterion edition of Yi Yi, a favorite of mine from a few years back.

Kenneth said...

Die Hard 2 sucks because it has a weak villain. It's also too serious, what with the painful, graphic deaths of hundreds and all.

Weirdly enough, that's also why Die Hard 4 is not as good as Walter says it is.

Rick said...

"visual synergy" ha.

I do not doubt hes in the business, applying empty buzzwords to his arguments. I'm surprised he didn't say that Michael Bay was being proactive while making Transformers.

Rick said...

Does that have to do with
the fact that Renny Harlin isn't as capable of a diector as John
McTiernan? Most definately

Robert Evans-lite.

Alex Jackson said...

Die Hard 2 sucks because it has a weak villain. It's also too serious, what with the painful, graphic deaths of hundreds and all.

Weirdly enough, that's also why Die Hard 4 is not as good as Walter says it is.

I totally agree with all of that. Me and you buddy, me and you.

Also an airport is a boring setting for an action movie.

Patrick Pricken said...

Well, at least in our cut of Die Hard, I hardly noticed any death, let alone that of hundreds of people. There were maybe five or six security guards, a few hackers (most off-screen), and the terrorists. No car wreck had anything resembling a body in it, or the driver was visibly alright.

Of course, for a villain to surpass Hans Gruber is very, very difficult.

Random trivia: Did you know that in the German dub of »Die Hard«, Gruber et al are referred to as Americans? It's "Jack Gruber", for example, and the dub makes McClane compare them to a fairy tale in order to explain him writing "Hans", etc. on his arm. No Europeans going up against the American business machine there, oh no!

Patrick Pricken said...

Oh, I'm referring to Die Hard 4.0 with the deaths there. Sorry.

tmhoover said...

Yes, Jer, let us all bow our heads in memory of Mr. Yang. The world has lost a giant, whether it knows it or not.

Alex Jackson said...

Rory Walsh's IMDB credit.

Looks like he might be jumping the gun a bit saying that he's a "production manager". His first film hasn't finished filming yet and most of his career has been spent as a grip.

Spelling errors aside, he seems pretty articulate and intelligent to me; if still dead wrong.

I'm pretty fanatical about refusing to acknowledge artist intent at all and insisting that all films be judged according to the same criterion (which I define pretty broadly as: is it worth seeing? A movie that's worth seeing is "good" one that is not worth seeing is "bad". Any other definition of "good" or "bad" lacks utility as films are meant to be seen).

It's a great question if he ever dislikes anything. According to his method of film criticism, it's impossible for a film to ever fail.

Walter_Chaw said...

It's a fascinating conceit to me that someone can be articulate and intelligent and still dead wrong. I'm not making fun, I'm interested, because it sounds a lot like the "it's badly written and directed" but "it's good" argument. In truth, I think a lot of movies fall into that category - stuff like The Wizard of Oz for instance that actually defeats auteur reads of it. Point a finger at the myth of authorless texts and up pops that little gem.

I'm actually more in line with Alex than you'd think. I think that author intentionality is a total fallacy in regards to the critical process - but that author un-intentionality, that is, being the instrument of your time and culture and personal/collective evolution - is completely game on. FFC is an "auteurist"-leaning site, I think I feel okay to say - even if that's only based on our "Auteur Corner" links and occasional retrospective/interview pieces on single directors and, true to that, I do think that it's possible and wise to gravitate to certain directors that seem to share (or offend) your sensibilities consistently. The ONION did a great thing recently on ten directors you didn't know you hated that strikes at the heart of this "unintentional intentionality" idea - that without being auteurists, the bulk of the moviegoing populace still get stung by the same bee.

Fascinating again, right? Because "bad" should be subjective in modern Liberal Arts apocrypha - but there seem to be verities nonetheless.

To that - all I can say is that I liked Brett Ratner's Family Man and Chris Columbus' Harry Potter 2 despite knowing, going in, who they were and how much I loathed all of their other films. So authorship is a good way to start a conversation, but a terrible way to end it. I never want to be Kael at the end, championing Mission to Mars' rainbow of Skittles just because Brian DePalma directed it. But I also don't want to be unaware of someone like Edward Yang because just knowing the name has lead to some very satisfying discoveries that I wouldn't have made by accident.

RIP, by the by.

I've heard more from Rory, by the by, in which he refers to himself as a Film Studies Major With Honors who, when I pointed out that there have been hundreds of giant robot movies (the bulk of them anime, but there you have it) - he responded: "Yes, but this is the first with giant robots turning into cars." To which I had no response but to point out that this is actually the second Transformers movie.


Besides not all that articulate and intelligent - isn't there a specific term for this kind of logic?


I guess what's really wearying to me is that six years on and thousands of reviews in (million words or so and counting) and people are still accusing me of going into a film without an open mind. That they can read my Transformers review and see nothing about the film. That's troubling. And I didn't expect - because I'm the stupid one, I guess - that there'd be this much hate mail for this review in the days before it opens. Childhood is a pernicious taint.

permazorch said...

I'm a Giant (Johnny Sokko) Robot man, not a Transformers fool. Don't touch my childhood taint.

I liked Brett Ratner's Family Man...

You're dead to me.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA - blame Tea Leoni in the shower. I'm only human, man.

jer fairall said...

Dunno what else to say about Die Hard 2 other than that you guys' criticisms of it sound like the same ones I'd have if I were seeing the film for the first time ever today, but at 12 the plane crash was the first time that something in a movie ever really, truly shocked me that deeply. I was no virgin to R-rated fare even at that tender age, but horror movies were supposed to be nasty, while stuff like Platoon had an inherent weight that justified the brutality. Needless to say, the movie was quite a jolt to someone whose other favorite movie, that summer, was Dick Tracy.

Again, airplanes and airports make me nervous, so the setting works for me. The villains are boring as shit, though, I'll give you that.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the cheap jab at people who enjoy Transformers as being arrested developments is entirely fair. After all Walter, you liked Running Scared and Crank, and those movies can only really appeal to our inner 16-year-olds.

Alex Jackson said...

It's a fascinating conceit to me that someone can be articulate and intelligent and still dead wrong. I'm not making fun, I'm interested, because it sounds a lot like the "it's badly written and directed" but "it's good" argument.

Well, I was thinking more like "it's well written and directed" but "it sucks". There's a difference between a well-made film and a good one right?

I guess I was mostly trying to differentiate Rory from that guy who wrote regarding Episode II:

" Chaw ", You wish !!! Oooh boy, you are the dumbest fool i've ever come across. I like how you have all the Ep2 items for sale as you are trashing the movie. 1/2 a Star ? Damn, you are a bitter, bitter " man ". You should run off to some retreat for angry assholes and purge yourself of all of your negative energy. After doing that go back to the theater ( not asking - telling you, dipshit ) and keep your eyes off the picture that you keep in your wallet of that " damn bitch wife " who left you for a Star Wars geek , sit back and relax - allowing that bug up your ass to finally escape and enjoy the best damn summer movie of the new millenium. Ok, pukeface ? Huh, you ugly and horrid piece of shit ?
Love always,
Your Bitch Momma (who hates you )

Am I crazy to insist that there is a difference between the two?

I dunno, I don't agree with Rory and he sure sounds like a pompous asshole, but all the same he seems to have thought through his ideas far enough to be worth actually refuting.

andrew tracy said...

Re: Edward Yang -

RIP, by the by.

Now back to the far more pressing issue of the giant robot movie...

Bravo, Mr. Chaw. Keep your sights focused on what really matters.

Anonymous said...


Well that was childish.

Alex Jackson said...


I tell ya, if Andrew Tracy didn't already exist he would have to be invented.

Joe said...

Glad to hear that the majority appears to be enjoying Die Hard 4 as much as I did. I thought it was fascinating that for all of it's topicality (I guess), the film sort of transcended politics without ignoring them altogether.

Bill C said...

Oooh, snap! You've been schooled, Walt, ADT-style yo.

Dennis said...

I wish I agreed more with Walter's Die Hard review. The movie is fine, but there is ultimately something a bit off about it, that left me less involved than I'd like. It was also ugly to look at and betrayed the shoeless McClane of old. I like how Walter tried to approach this from a meta perspective, but I don't think the movie was as successful at accomplishing this as he obviously did.

Pwetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pwetz said...

Look at what Transformers has wrought.


People need to start discerning manipulation of nostalgia from quality, stat.

Alex Jackson said...


Aside from He-Man, I didn't even like those shows when I was a kid. And even then I think my admiration for He-Man was mostly because of the toys.

Seattle Jeff said...

Great...now we're moving from the nostalgia of my age group to those slightly younger than myself...that's the worst and it's only going to keep getting worse.

theoldboy said...

While I do believe that Moore has his asshole moments, if you'd ask me whether I'd rather watch a Moore film or an objective documentary, the answer would undoubtedly be the Moore (unless it's Crumb, I will probably watch Crumb). I side with Alex on him for the most part.

I think the complaint about his condescension to the common man is part of an issue that's a lot more complicated and ambiguous than that. I think Moore sides on the nuture side of the nuture vs. nature spectrum. That he portrays the common American often as "xenophobic, arrogant, ignorant, and loudmouthed" (Chaw's referring to Moore himself, but it could be applicable to some of the people he interviews) is more the result of the culture (led by the power elite, who are basically the common man corrupted) that doesn't give them the opportunities to be more educated than it is any meanness in his intentions. I'm sure you could poke holes in this, but I'm much more comfortable thinking that Moore, underneath the sarcasm and the ego, isn't a complete fucking asshole. Basically see Outlaw Vern's F9/11 review for how I feel. (You'll find

Weird how over a third of the review is about Moore's other movies right after a discussion about auteurism--especially because Moore has been reading criticism of his work and has attempted to minimize his screen presence and fact-check more thoroughly. Despite this I prefer Bowling over Sicko because it's a lot more rambling, messy, personal, and unfocused. I might even prefer F9/11 over Sicko because it's more divisive and passionate (and again messy and unfocused). There's something about his connect-the-dots games and sometimes borderline free-associative musical montages in those that I get a much greater high off of.

theoldboy said...

*(You'll find me and Vern tend to see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.)

Rick said...

Less likable: Andrew Tracy or Vincent Gallo?

Anonymous said...

I can't dislike Mr. Tracy too much, because he and Hoover are two of the only reviewers around who shared my what's-the-big-deal attitude towards last year's ridiculously overrated Three Times.

Ryan said...

Gotta thank you guys for getting me onto Vern - between him and the Film Freaks, you've got pretty much the very best in writing on film. I agree with everything Vern has to say here on Transformers, I was absolutely stumped by it. Astonished.

DaveA said...

Vern's review is just... wow... don't read while drinking.

It's like God made up The Transformers just to get some use out of Michael Bay.

Alex Jackson said...

Ha ha, that was great! Anybody catch the Ken Park reference?

Bill C said...

Anybody catch the Ken Park reference?

Aye, grandparent-cide!

Looks like Transformers is the new Attack of the Clones. I know Walt's inbox has been swamped, and I just got this likely-timely e-mail:

"well one actually. this website can suck the shit out of my asshole.
the reviews are terrible and the site is so cluttered with
advertisements it's virtually impossible to navigate. you're lucky,
very lucky that you somehow made it onto rotten tomatoes.


Happy 4th of July to us.

Bill C said...

Whoops, I should add that his subject heading was "a few comments".

Patrick Pricken said...

Credit where credit is due:

I really expected "you can suck the shit out of my dick". At least that guy has his biology down pat.

I can get more easily behind calling "Transformers" the new "Attack of the Clones" than I can get behind an AFI judge calling "Titanic" the modern "Casablanca".

Alex Jackson said...

I can get more easily behind calling "Transformers" the new "Attack of the Clones" than I can get behind an AFI judge calling "Titanic" the modern "Casablanca".

Who said that? For some reason, I think it was Garry Marshall.

Patrick Pricken said...

I must admit it's hearsay. I just listened to "Those movie guys" podcast about the AFI Top 100, and they mentioned that without naming the guy. The quote is "one of the critics actually said it's the Casablanca of our day". Sadly, it sounded realistic to me, and I immediately spread it around.

The Vern review is excellent. What he wrote about the "it's just a summer flick"-argument almost brought a tear to my eye.

The talkbacks on AICN for that review, of course, show how bad it's gotten. I mean, there's actually this post by El Mario:

Vern is very much correct. However, I still enjoyed the movie and will probably see it again in the theater.

Huh? That is the root of the problem, why this shit will rake in the dough, and since it does, why should anybody care to make better films?

Patrick Pricken said...

Seems like it was William Friedkin:


2007: Casablanca. Was #2 in 1997. One of the most painful moments of the whole AFI special was William Friedkin comparing the love story in Titanic to Casablanca. Saying that for all the action of the wet saga, what draws people in is the love story, just like Casablanca does. Mentioning these two films in the same breath—IS HE CRAZY??? Titanic has, hands down, the worst script in Hollywood history. Casablanca’s is the most sublime. If you care about language, you don’t play around with a glib comparison like that. It’s like people who compared Titanic to Gone With the Wind, because they are both really long movies. Some days I don’t know how to share the planet with people who think like this . . . .

Alex Jackson said...

Yeah, come to think of it I believe that was Friedkin. I had the image of a fifty to sixty year old Jewish guy in my head.

Titanic and Gone with the Wind seems to be a better comparison, not because they are long but more because they are both big-budget romantic spectacles.

It's not unfair to say that Titanic is this generation's Gone with the Wind. I actually really like both films, but I don't have any delusions about them. I don't see why Gone with the Wind should be treated as sacred.

Bill C said...

Man, who wrote that? To say Titanic has the worst script in history is to tell me up front that you're too sheltered to have any real credentials. (Talk about "glib.") Titanic is badly-written, don't get me wrong, but worse screenplays get produced on a daily basis. I mean, it's fucking Pinter compared to Transformers, and that's just the most current example.

Ryan said...

Sheesh, getting hate mail over Transformers? The trolls have their pick of a ton of sensible people who hated the film - it just slipped into "Rotten" over on RT, and most of the positive reviews are barely lukewarm.

Ian Pugh said...

See, that's the sticky thing about nostalgia--you're always in a clouded state of mind. You either haven't bothered to watch the pop culture item in question since you were eight, or you never stopped watching it at all (and probably watched very little else). I mean, I was big into "Transformers" back in the day, but have you ever really sat down and watched the first Transformers movie lately? Not aggressively stupid, but precisely the shoddy, transparent cash grab that the "outsiders" always claimed it to be. Serious cold shower on nostalgia right there, man.

Ryan said...

Hell, I'm a fan of the original animated movie and I don't mind the original cartoon in passing. But moreso, I'm a fucking toy collector - I have hundreds of dollars of Transformers - and I hated every abysmal second of the film. I'd say that Walter's judgment of the film being the fantasy of toy-collecting-morons would be inaccurate and unfair on the collecting community, if all my fellow collecting morons didn't love it so much - instead I'd extend that idea of it being the fantasy of sexless geek antisocial jerkoffs to also being the fantasy of underhung sexist car-worshipping machismo jerkoffs, the Bay / Ratner crowd. Even then, it's so awful in every respect, the Transformers themselves are onscreen for all of 10 minutes, no amount of nostalgia can make up for the fact that it is so unbelievably terrible.

O'JohnLandis said...

Get ready to tune out, Jeff. This one will get long, even for me.

1) No need to distance yourself from the cautious praise of Die Hard 2, Jer. As good as it is, it suffers from still being the weakest of the three, but in this case, it's only because the other two are so strong. If nothing else, it has the best ending. It's also one of the two watchable movies that Harlin has made.

2) Saw John McClane and the 500 TB Download.

I think I could make the case that the Die Hard trilogy was the best of all American trilogies. Perhaps the first two Godfathers are occasionally better art, and perhaps the original Star Wars trilogy has higher highs, but nothing is as consistent as the Die Hard trilogy. (Even Indiana Jones gives more of an impression of diminishing returns.)

There may be people who claim not to respect the Die Hard films, but I think they're afraid respect for the Die Hard films will tarnish their credentials. The Die Hard trilogy is tight, clever, Hollywood perfection. It's the last, desperate gasp that tries to avoid clichés in a marketplace that not only accepts clichés but requires them.

Well, they certainly fucked that up. Live Free or Die Hard broke my heart. (Yes, again.)

I know the stunts are good and the movie didn't suck as much as it was contractually obligated to, but still, no one was this kind to a "reimagining" when it was Star Wars.

A lot of the wonder and hope and magic of my childhood died in Episode II upon Yoda throwing back his robe like a gunslinger, striking a kung fu pose, and launching into a lightsaber attack like a crazed green Muppet incarnation of the Tasmanian Devil.

He was right about Yoda, but wrong about the self-aware, indestructible McClane.

It's a nifty conceit for an action film, a way to be topical without being overly heavy-handed; a way to be apocalyptic but not overreaching.

Huh? Apocalyptic minimalism?

Spoilers follow:

The terrorist plan in Die Hard 4 is essentially this:

A rogue computer expert is mad that the US government is a big, dysfunctional bureaucracy that didn't pay attention to his warnings about the vulnerability of the government's computer system. SO...

With a small team of goons and computer experts, he dismantles the infrastructure of the US in a couple hours by typing on computer keyboards really fast. He has complete remote control of all national utilities, and from one van he can do pretty much anything to anyone at any point. Then he downloads the bank records of the entire nation onto a laptop in a brief case. If the little download progress bar is any indication, it's a 500 TB download.

Then his plan is to...um...well, he either wants to be rich, or to be seen as a hero (but for the fact that he seemed to be trying to hide his identity). It's never really clear what his goal is, or which parts of his plan were the decoys, but whatever he wants, he does seem to want it enough to threaten people. He just doesn't want it enough to kill good guys.

He also wants to make sure McClane reconciles with his daughter, who is spunky in the exact same way every daughter is in films these days. She's a paramilitary reconciliation robot, ready to kick ass and forgive her dad, who is still a mess, but now it's not his fault. It's the system that ignores heroes. But you know, I guess if the world needs saving...

At every point, the movie is relentlessly stupid and paranoid, as well as probably the most technophobic film ever made. Except it doesn't even have enough focus to know what it's wrong about. If there are puzzles, I missed them.

Meanwhile, McClane is entirely self-aware and at no point seems really concerned or involved. When James Bond looks concerned, it's striking. When John McClane looks like James Bond, it's time to panic. He's also been badly squeezed into a PG-13 movie, with hideous sync and none of the visual patience of the earlier films. All the stunts are robbed of tension by the messy, unimaginative, and obvious structure of the thing.

Fuck meta McClane. Maybe he's commenting on his indestructibility because it's so embarrassing. Clearly what the Die Hard films needed was to be more like the end of True Lies. I mean, Kevin Smith saves the day. There's a shot with John McClane and Kevin Smith in the same frame. Was Tom Arnold unavailable?

I was gratified in a weird way that a scene late in the picture (in a cooling tower) was so obviously re-dubbed and spliced in during post-production, because for as often as the editing and continuity are Wizard of Oz incompetent, it at least presents evidence that some care was taken to ensure that the narrative, such as it is, maintained its internal coherence.


One hint: if the editing is incompetent, that's usually considered a bad sign (and bad filmmaking). I could probably find a dozen quotes on this topic, but this one will do.

...and that's because there's so little energy in the production, so much desperation in its obvious recorded-in-a-coffee-can overdubbing, late rewrites, and other sundry post-production panic button quick-fixes, that its seams show...

By the way, the "motherfucker" moment minus the "fucker" would have worked better if grabbing McClane felt organic and not just a thoughtless way to facilitate a mildly clever action reversal.

3) Rory seems like a nice enough guy, even if he's pretty clueless about film, but if you think film criticism isn't an objective discipline at heart, you're wrong. Objectively wrong. It's about visual evidence, patterns, and finding transcendent art in a finished product.

A favorite color is a subjective preference. A favorite film is, too. But saying that "Film A is better than Film B" is objective. Not perfectly so, since there are so many criteria and no one is good enough at noticing all of them. But if anything is better than anything else (and if not, why the hell are we wasting our time?) there is an objective fact of the matter about all films.

If you hold the view that there is no such thing as quality, and that all value judgments are subjective, good for you. You must be very boring at parties, having to repeat that to yourself so often. Let's just say that I disagree, and if you were to change your mind, there is no fascist objectivity police that's going to come in through the window and force you to accept that a film you think is lousy is actually good. My stance is merely a way of having an honest debate. That I believe it happens to be incidental.

So if Walter thinks Die Hard 4 is better than Die Hard 2, he's simply wrong. And though the purpose of argument on the internet is usually masturbation, the purpose here is persuasion. I want Walter to reconsider. Nothing less.

4) Andrew Tracy cannot always conceal the low-pitched douche-tone from his writing, but I feel his heart's in the right place. There's room enough for a couple cranky bastards in this place.

Anonymous said...

Damn Walter, I'm surprised you even granted Transformers one star. Talk about being stunningly inept. The Island damn-near looks like a good movie in comparison.

Walter_Chaw said...

Fuck meta McClane. Maybe he's commenting on his indestructibility because it's so embarrassing.

Agreed. I sort of liked that, because I'm sort of tired of being embarrassed alone.

Clearly what the Die Hard films needed was to be more like the end of True Lies. I mean, Kevin Smith saves the day. There's a shot with John McClane and Kevin Smith in the same frame. Was Tom Arnold unavailable?

HA - see, that's brilliant. Has it come to that? Thing is, though, that I don't think that Arnold is meta - even in Last Action Hero which is the definition, right? Imagine him in adaptation. - I can't. I can, though, imagine Willis in it.

I do like the idea that of objective truths in liberal arts. Amen to that.

And as to the douche. Well. I'll write more on Yang later on though I sense that Travis is a fan and might like to do a little eulogy of his own. Hopefully he does it in these pages: I'd like to read it.

What's really douche about the statement, though, is that there's just no pleasing people. I'd rather do something serious on Yang than spend much time here, in the middle of a giant robot discussion (two if you include McClane), uncovering the man's legacy. Whatever - you need the Tracys in the world for the opportunity to make obvious points (and Bays, and Garry Marshalls, and Roepers, and so on) - and bless them for it. Seems too easy just to offer up stuff on your own sometimes.

By the by, OJL, I'd be glad to look at DH4 again. Could be I was just drunk on the faux-butter slicking my popcorn down the proverbial tubes at the 11:00p screening I went to all by my lonesome. Can't help but think that I'm just gonna' like it again, though.


Adam N said...


Considering that not a single poster has bothered to ask who Edward Yang is, I'd say Andrew's comment was valid. I understand the tetchiness of it, too. Just writing "RIP, by the by" kinda does the departed a disservice. Especially if you consider him a significant filmmaker (and I'll guess that you do). You can say damned-if-I-do-and-if-I-don't, but that's just lazy. Wouldn't it have been interesting if, in the midst of this discussion of your correspondence (and something tells me you don't mind spending time on this topic) you'd thought to give the FFC readership, many of whom hang on your every word, some context. A single line of biographical information, perhaps? A helpful link? Something along the lines of "hey you guys, rent Yi Yi"?
Nobody's asking for a seven-paragraph appreciation on the spot. It's fair enough to say that one might not even be possible considering how underseen Yang's work has been on this continent.
So, for the uninitiated and potentially interested, Edward Yang, who died last week after a long bout with colon cancer, was one of the most influential Taiwanese filmmakers (along with Hou hsiao-hsien, whose Three Times apparently is not a fave in these parts. I liked it fine). Yang's films cut to the heart of Taiwanese culture, history and identity, and were among the first to move against the tide of escapist entertainment that defined the country's cinema. At their best -- and here I'd cite A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi, the best of the four I've seen -- they got at the usual gargantuan issues (existence, death, love, family) without the usual gargantuan pretense. On a different blog, Andrew T said that Yang stayed closer to life than many of his fest-circuit contemporaries, and he's exactly right. I remember seeing Yi Yi twice in the space of a week and trying the second time to ignore the subtitles and focus simply on how the director's placement of figures within the frame -- and inside frames inside frames -- expressed an entire strata of relationships (spatial and personal). I humbly suggest that anyone who cares about movies should seek Yang's work out. Wouldn't it be nice if FFC encouraged that kind of adventurousness, rather than confining it to a footnote? Ideally, it needn't be a zero sum game between those who care to talk about Transformers and those who don't. I think that this makes sense. Or maybe it just makes me a douche, too. What do you all think?

Alex Jackson said...

I think you're a douche.

Granted I haven't seen any of Yang's films yet, but posts like that make us ignorant masses defensive; which all but ensures that we don't see his films.

When you talk about focusing on how the director's placement of figures within the frame--and frames inside frames--expressing an entire strata of relationships; you are really talking about how the director dissiminates information visually and not necessarily how he resolved or offered a meaningful and fresh perspective toward issues of "existence, death, love, and family". When you praise him it's for dealing with gargatuan issues without the usual gargatuan pretense.

I ask you, is not employing the usual gargantuan pretense valuable to you because it more sucessfully captures the Truth about "existence, death, love, and family" (issues that I suppose you are expert enough to evaluate), because you are validated by having a more complicated text, or even worse, because dealing with gargantuan issues without the usual gargantuan pretense is novel.

Again, having not seen Yang's films, I'm in no position to actually judge them; but having guys like you and Andy praising him isn't inspiring me much.

I do know enough about Yang that I can comfortably say that while he is underseen he is far from underappreciated. Yi-Yi has recieved a respectable 7.6 on IMDB, won Yang the Best Director award at Cannes, and Best Foreign Film of the year from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle and Best Film from the NSFC. You aren't being at all obscure or adventurous in praising him, you are all but toeing the party line. We hardly need you or Andrew to inform us about his reputation; a cursory exploration on the IMDB is more than enough for that.

Finally, there's the simple fact that we're more likely to go see Transformers (and probably hate it) than the latest Edward Yang film. Particuarly now that he is DEAD and isn't going to make any more theatrically-released films!

Yang's films can now only be discovered on DVD where they have to compete with the complete or near complete works of Bergman, Bunuel, Bresson, Pasolini, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

And so we are naturally more inclined to talk about Transformers (and how much it sucks, remember) because when we want to go to the movies, just to see a picture on the big screen with an audience, that's going to be the only thing playing.

So in closing, I vote for douche.

Walter_Chaw said...

Nah - Adam - you know, it's not just a line up there, the "RIP, by the by" - it's Yang as a defense of auteurism and then a little respect before we finish off the thought. Never asked anyone to hang on my every word - that's douche, for sure, to even imply that I would think that and, hence, impart my blessed insight on Yang - maybe I should've revealed myself to be Taiwanese and Yang to have once been a guest in our home before I knew who he was?

I dunno' - why didn't Stacy jump on me for not going into much filmographic detail on Ousmane Sembene a couple of weeks ago when I think my first mention of his death was "Ouch. This one hurts." And then nothing for a couple of weeks until I wrote a whole paragraph on the voice of an entire continent? Then there were the three paragraphs on Kurt Vonnegut. Still doesn't seem like enough. If people are hanging on my every word, then every word is gold - Yang - there - go fucking look him up.

Here's the reason for the tetchiness on my side: what the fuck do you want from me? Seems like cineastes hate me because I like mainstream films and populists hate me because I like art films. If I talk too much about Transformers, I'm not talking enough about Bela Tarr and if I'm talking too much about Tarkovsky, I'm not able to like Die Hard 4. In fact - the reason I don't like bad movies is because I think that they should be good movies and the reason that I don't talk about good movies is that I spend too much time talking about bad movies. What's frustrating is that in a post where I talk about Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not; nobody talked about shit until the Transformers/Die Hard 4 review went live.

Then Edward Yang died - and in the middle of a conversation, I gave some props and went on.

But, okay, nothing wrong with footnotes - ask Eliot, right?

Yang moved from Shanghai when he was two: his family, like so many families on the mainland, fleeing from the Communist takeover in 1949. My grandfather was an intelligence agent in Chang Kaishek's army - he didn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing. He was the weatherman, right? My family, apparently, knew Yang's in passing - when he was living in Seattle, my family visited his - we sort of hung out for a day or two. This is before he was a filmmaker, understand. I don't think I even knew he had gone to USC for a year - and I don't know when I met him if it was before or after the moment he saw Aguirre: Wrath of God, thus convincing him to go back to film. I must've been. . . what. . . eight? What did I know from anything?

Anyway - that's the brush. Later, when my mom told me that Yang had become a filmmaker, it took me a week to make the connection. "Oh. . . him?"

When I saw That Day, on the Beach it was years later when I was in high school. We watched it on an umpth-generation VHS bootleg we got from a Vietnamese grocer in the only concentration of Asians left in Colorado after the Klan burned them out sometime early in the century. Denver used to have a Chinatown! And our old airport was named after a former mayor. . . and Klan Grand Wizard. Hoorah!

That Day, on the Beach is interesting from an auteurist standpoint because it does a lot to establish Yang's interest in filtering the Taiwanese experience through the filter of the West. A close concern of mine, of course, in trying to assimilate the East in me with the West all around me. He's so unpretentious, agreed, that he verges on the mannered which verges on the pretentious, but whatever.

Taipei Story a few years later (1985) plays for me like a Henry James metaphor with its romantic bond the east and the west, drifting apart throughout. Americans should watch Yang in particular because Yang is about the romance of the West posed against the impossibility of the ideal that it represents. I love that idea. I'm in love with it, too. More, Yang incorporates the very Asian idea of interiority with the myth of extravagance. Yes? Chinese are hermetic recluses which means that they have a lot of insight into the mysteries of the world! Right?

Yang uses sunglasses wonderfully. It's interesting to me that his films gained poignancy concurrent with mainland John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. Yang's pictures, a lot like Hsiou's, a lot like Wong Kar Wai's, also suggest that it's possible to have an inscrutable cinema that reflects the essential unknowability of the mind of another culture. It's something that Terrorizer embraces with some verve if not much success. His next couple of pictures, stuff like Mahjong and Duli Shidai struck me cold. I do love A Brighter Summer Day, though.

Then there's Yi Yi.

You should see Yi Yi.

And then you should see A Brighter Summer Day which is Yang's bitterest pill about the romance of America set against the violence of it. It's a wonderful statement of us from a mostly-outsider. Push me just a little bit and I'll confess that I liked Brighter Summer Day a lot more than Yi Yi which I thought was very Yang, but which I didn't feel in any meaningful way - it felt like a regression from SUmmer Day, honestly.

While you're at it - you should see Wong Kar Wai's Days of Being Wild and Happy Together (which, incidentally, I also mention in the main posting, both of them) - other titles of Wong's films can be found at the IMDB. I promise I'll continue to drop little mentions of Wong. You should also read my review of this year's Aurora Asian Film Festival. They also showed Kim Ki Duk's Time which freaked me out enough that I'm going to write a long article on it when it actually opens here (which freaks Bill out, I'm sure).

Yang's death is hard on me because I had this yen to contact him about a retrospective/interview, using my increasingly-tenuous personal connection to him. It's actually making me get a little more proactive about getting in touch with a couple of other filmmakers that I've been wanting to "retrospect" the last couple of years, but just haven't gotten around to it. Life's a fucking bitch - and it's accelerating.

Did I mention Hou Hsiou-Hsien's Millennium Mambo? You should see it.

Adam N said...


I'd wager that you were the defensive sort a long time before I or anybody else posted anything on a film blog...

I didn't say that Yang's films "captured" objective truths, merely that they tackled big issues. That he did so in a way that felt casual (when it was in fact rigorously worked out) appeals to my personal aesthetic sense. Which I guess is inferior to yours. You imply that I'm not expert enough to evaluate whether or not he succeeded. I'd look forward to your own expert thoughts, except that you've apparently been put off the possibility of seeing -- or is it viddying? -- Yang's films because douches like me advocated for them. Maybe Walter's take will change your mind. The only other thing that I think needs clearing up is the notion that I'm trying to be anything -- obscure, adventurous, whatever -- by writing about a director I greatly admire. If posing is the name of the game, I'm well over-matched. Keep viddying away, and thanks for letting me know what you think.

Your account of Yang was very interesting (the autobiographical detail was unexpected). The guy didn't just use sunglasses well: Yi Yi is film composed largely out of reflections -- mirrors, windows, storefronts, windshields. For what it's worth, I did find it emotionally engaging, though I agree that Brighter Summer Day gets at something deeper. Yi Yi is a contemporary story, while BSD is calibrated for sweep (though again, it's amazingly nimble for a four-hour epic). Your idea that Yang was mining his country's romantic notion of the West finds expression even in the title -- it's a mistranslated Elvis lyric. I thought of this during the Korean interlude in Claire Denis' (FFC Annual-feted) L'Intrus, which features a sad, boozy sing-along of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?": pop as greek chorus and common denominator.

And: It's unfortunate that, like Alex, you took such a defensive tone in the rest of your response.-Everyone hates you, you can't please anyone, they hang you high and low, whatever and ever amen. That part = much less interesting. If you read my post, I was just curious (in a pointed sort of way, yes) as to why two minutes (as opposed to the obvious time and care that went into your last post, which I realize isn't always possible for any number of reasons) wasn't expended to expand on what read -- to my eyes, anyway -- as glib and tossed-off. When I noted that readers here are hanging on your words, it's because -- your concerns about being the online-critic equivalent of the most dangerous game aside -- the readers of this blog (as opposed to your letter-writing readers, who have less of a stake in things) do care about your opinion. I know, because I often read the blog. And, really, nothing was stopping you from giving them a small preview (even something along the lines of "man, he was great; more to come later") in the midst of the regularly scheduled giant-robot programming (which in a previous post, you wished you didn't have to wade through anyway). Couldn't we maybe agree on this -- that somebody took issue with something you wrote and they're not a mouth-breathing retard for doing so? (The morons are easier to spot, I know). Continuting with the peacable vibe: that nobody wanted to talk about To Have and Have Not but salivated over the deets on Transformers must be frustrating indeed. It'd be very interesting to talk about the factors contributing to that state of affairs, wouldn't it? In the meantime, if anyone not directly affiliated with the site has read this far in what has become -- despite my entreaties four short posts ago to move out of zero-sum game territory -- an us-vs-them affair, do look Yang up. He's great.

Oh, and I liked Kim Ki Duk's Time, too -- a nice riff on Teshigahara's Face of Another.


My omerta unfortunately prohibits me from discussing Toronto Mafia affairs in any great detail. You should, however, drop by the Bing if you make it out to TIFF this fall.

Walter_Chaw said...

Sorry I got my hackles up, Adam.

I don't think people hate me. I don't think about people liking or hating me much at all, actually. What I do think about is how arbitrary it all seems. Truth be told, I mention tons and tons of movies that are important to me all the time: filmmakers, etc. . . it just strikes me as particularly suspicious when someone zeros in on one reference out of which to build their own monument. That strikes me as exploitative - of someone doing their best to Ozymandias themselves a little moral authority in just the wrong fucking place.

Thanks for the re-direction - saves me the trouble of fulfilling the promise I made above of writing more on Yang later. So now I have.

Walter_Chaw said...

Last thing:

No, I don't think that it'd be interesting at all to talk about why people want to talk about Transformers rather than To Have and Have Not. Honestly, I'm sort of more interested in talking about Transformers, too. I'm not at all interested in why people like To Have and Have Not - nor surprised. Transformers on the other hand? I mean, this is the real Snakes on a Plane, right? The actual cult-based blockbuster instead of the fakey one - this one split between really smart people who hate this movie in a fun, arch way and people who are idiots who would like this movie if it showed their mothers getting pissed on by "Bumblebee."

See? Interesting.

O'JohnLandis said...

Adam and Andrew,

In this blog, it's much more respectful to start a whole new thread about the death of an important figure than it is to abandon a discussion, however banal, to lecture people on priorities. Whatever else I don't understand about Walter, I'm pretty confident saying the absolute last thing he wants to be is a patronizing teacher-critic, constantly inflating the grade of the dumbest kid in the class. So even though I see you two as defending an intellectual stance, not every decision around here is anti-intellectual. This time you got smacked upside the head by your own straw man. Meanwhile...

I just saw Ratatouille and I think it's the best animated film that's ever been made.

While it's hard to compare Ratatouille to Spirited Away (Or Nausicaa or Fantasia or Bambi), I think it's unfair to be too harsh to a film just because its fantasy isn't as monumental. I can think of about thirty seconds of Ratatouille that I could do without (the shots of the rat band) and otherwise the movie is perfect. And I don't mean perfect in an antiseptic, safe way. As wonderful and allegorically rich as The Incredibles is, Ratatouille is a much more impressive accomplishment. It's just as allegorically rich, but it's also pinpoint precise.

For the record, everything that Walter says about the film is exactly right. The skill with which Colette and Ego are handled is touching and ballsy. Perhaps not enough attention has been paid to Remy, perfectly voiced by Patton Oswalt, whose fragile, aggressively intellectual passion actually transforms the character in much the same way as a voice in a live action performance would.

Yeah, so, Die Hard 4 whatever. These things matter little when there's Ratatouille in the world. But for the record, I don't see a problem liking Die Hard 4; I see a problem thinking it's good. I see a problem thinking it's not a disappointment in a series that's not a joke. A series that actually is likable AND good. More specifically, I think it's a problem thinking it's good in spite of the fact that you admit it's bad. It's one or the other. (I'd say it was terrible, but even so, when that car flips in the tunnel, SHIT! And I knew that was coming.)

By all means, like things that are bad. No reason to worry, unless you only like things that are bad.

Adam N said...


I don't recall having called for a lecture:

"A single line of biographical information, perhaps? A helpful link? Something along the lines of "hey you guys, rent Yi Yi"?
Nobody's asking for a seven-paragraph appreciation on the spot."

I don't recall errecting any straw men, either, and I don't feel smacked by anyone, either. My head's fine, thanks.

I'd concur with almost all of what you said about Ratatouille, which is a bit patchy in the middle -- and Remy's make-it-stop dialogue with his father takes Bird's few annoying tendencies and compresses them into one three-minute scene -- but there's some astonishingly good stuff. A friend suggested that it's readable as a coming-out-story of sorts, which is intriguing.

The Snakes on a Plane analogy is apt, and I used it myself when trying to explain this bizarre movie (Transformers) to friends just yesterday. (The chat degenerated into "my fun is more fun than yours" -- my favourite game). When I wrote about the movie, I noted that a hard shot of irony is the only salve that might let one choke its contents down -- a lot of the laughter at the screening I attended was of the conscious-donkey-bray variety. (The same kind that I often hear at Tarantino movies, but I digress). It might be worth reviewing alongside the new Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie; both are slices of pop surrealism featuring big robots that seem to be making themselves up as they go along (and Aqua Teen's Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From the Future surely had screenwriting credit on Transformers). They're both gruelling, but only one is at all rewarding.
As to "zeroing in" on the Yang reference, I can say on my behalf that it was frustrating to see somebody who loomed so large in my own mind reduced to something so small (even if the context for why that happened has been discussed; not wanting to be starting something all over again). I'm adamant, though, that my little post on Yang -- done off the top of my head, etc -- wasn't a monument; I thought of it more as a little beacon in case anyone still, thirty posts after the fact, may have been curious as to who the guy was. If that reads to somebody as an exercise of moral superiority, so be it. If it reads to somebody as an honest gesture, he or she is likely the sort I would be interested in talking to.

Alex Jackson said...

The only other thing that I think needs clearing up is the notion that I'm trying to be anything -- obscure, adventurous, whatever -- by writing about a director I greatly admire. If posing is the name of the game, I'm well over-matched.

Yeah, right.

I humbly suggest that anyone who cares about movies should seek Yang's work out. Wouldn't it be nice if FFC encouraged that kind of adventurousness, rather than confining it to a footnote?

Let's analyze that.

Aside from the notable if transparently ass-covering and sarcastic inclusion of the word "humbly", this statement reeks of hubris.

"Anybody who cares about movies should seek Yang out" suggests first of all that you understand The Movies in their Totality to the point where you can judge those who do not or refuse to seek Yang out as not caring about movies.

Also it infers that Yang, needing to be sought out, is somehow hidden and as such--obscure.

In the next sentence you write "Wouldn't it be nice if FFC encouraged that kind of adventurousness, rather than confining it to a footnote?" which further suggests that seeking out Yang is "adventurous".

As you are familiar with Yang's work, this necessarily identifies you as having an affinity for the obscure and adventurous.

If you were simply writing about a director you greatly admire, this would be different and may have encouraged me to get to know Yang's work. (To answer your question, yes, Walter has repaired a lot of the damage you caused as far as me seeing Yang goes). But the suggestion that I don't care about movies if I decide not to seek him out is insulting.

It's not like I'm wasting my time intentionally watching crap. Last five movies I've Netflixed were: Keane, Teorema, Dead Man, Helter Skelter (76), and That Obscure Object of Desire. We could easily agree that I probably didn't need to see Helter Skelter, but come on. I'm obviously trying to better myself here.

But never in a million years would I suggest that somebody who, for whatever reason, decides to see Helter Skelter and not see That Obscure Object of Desire doesn't care about movies.

Don't you get that by positioning it as "if you care about movies" anybody who is motivated to see Yang will do so only to prove that they "care about movies" and not because the work itself has any merit?

Let's analyze one more line: "I didn't say that Yang's films "captured" objective truths, merely that they tackled big issues. That he did so in a way that felt casual (when it was in fact rigorously worked out) appeals to my personal aesthetic sense."

"Personal aesthetic sense". Jesus Christ! In other words, you grooved to the approach and the style. I guess I still have the funny idea that art is meant to reflect a particular perspective toward a particular subject and that style is just a vehicle for said perspective.

Taking on big issues in a casual way is only valuable if the casual way is more attuned to the truth behind the issue than the portentous way.

I'm not even talking about objective truth anymore, this could very well be a subjective truth. If you are going to talk about a film taking on life and death, you would first have to ascertain your own feelings toward these subjects and then explore if the film adequately captures them or suggests a greater truth that your current belief system is unable to address.

I think your pseudo-scientific approach of film analysis isolates you from any such meaningful introspection.

The prosecution rests, your honor.

Seattle Jeff said...


Exploitative is right...this is a fucking conversational message board. Dude needs to take the stick out of his ass.

If he wants to go after someone who posts really stupid shit, he should come after me. Just have OJL send him my way.

On another completely random topic, has anyone else watched the "Ricky Gervais meets Garry Shabdling" on youtube? A real "interview"...hard to figure out if the awkwardness is real or them just riffing on each other.

Seattle Jeff said...

errr...Garry Shandling....

This "caring about movies" idea is like the scenario of proving you're a "true fan"...

I thought about checking Yang out, but Adam has put me off it now....

Bill C said...

Sorry for deleting my own rebuttal, but I posted it without knowing Walt and Alex had already responded, and in that context it seemed like dogpiling/clusterfucking, not to mention uninspired.

I must second Walter's point though that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. It's something we talk about all the time, this opposition from the academics and populists alike. If you ask me, there is too deep a schism between the mainstream and the arthouse now because a certain strain of western self-loathing has all but killed thoughtful discussion of pop (unless it's over 40 years old and making the Cinematheque rounds), leaving it to the Earl Dittmans of the world and thus contributing to the multiplex rot. All we're really trying to do is not be afraid of the zeitgeist.

Anonymous said...

Is it really that unique to appreciate and analyze "mainstream" and "arthouse" fare in equal, open-minded measures? I think this schism is being exaggerated. After all, even sites like Reverse Shot love movies like Children of Men, Kill Bill, and The Village.

Patrick Pricken said...

but loving The Village shows how out of touch they are...

Seattle Jeff said...


They obviously don't care about movies.

Bill C said...

I think this schism is being exaggerated.

Possibly, but I reckon that considered reviews of, say, Nancy Drew, were fewer and farther between than of, say, Mr. Lazarescu.

Adam N said...


something around here reeks of hubris, anyway.

First, some nice words:
That list of movies in your queue: I hope you liked Keane. I did, very much (though not best-of-year much).
And you are correct that somebody choosing to not watch That Obscure Object of Desire should not be chastened for not caring about movies (and Helter Skelter's worth watching). Nor should I be chastened for having the gall to suggest that people who care about movies should (yes, should) seek out a major filmmaker -- one who doesn't have thirty years of received criticism behind him
a la Bunuel -- and whose work (work with a lot of merit, in my opinion and the opinion of many others)they might very well enjoy (and who might subsequently function as a kind of gateway to another in a series of cinematic constellations). Sadly, it seems to have had the opposite effect, which have to do with the way I did it and may have to do with the particular inclinations of individual readers. (Seattle Jeff, you really do scare easy).
If my claims for the importance of Yang's work play as inflated to you (not that you would know, because you haven't seen them) then: oh well. Which is also how I felt like responding to your post. Still:

"you grooved to the approach and style."

Jesus Christ! In other words, it appealed to my personal aesthetic sense. Seems that I tend to enjoy movies that are elegantly composed, that closely integrate form and content, thatpresume the audience has some intelligence, that touch on common experience, that don't italicize their meanings, that emanate from what (to my mind reads as) a humanist perspective. So I like Yi Yi. And I also like Crank, a lot. For some very different reasons, and also for some of the same ones.

"I guess I still have the funny idea that art is meant to reflect a particular perspective toward a particular subject and that style is just a vehicle for said perspective."

Yang's perspective and his style are very closely linked. That's why I adore the Dardenne brothers, too. And why even though I don't like Natural Born Killers I have to admit that everything in it is of a piece. I guess I have the funny idea that I can decide what art appeals to me -- and if I explain myself in a compelling or persuasive way, if my arguments are well-reasoned and oriented within a plausible context, etc etc, then good for me. It's not up to me to tell you that I've done that. You have every right to tell me if I have or haven't. And then, I have every right to take your opinion as seriously as I'd like. Guess how seriously that is.

"Taking on big issues in a casual way is only valuable if the casual way is more attuned to the truth behind the issue than the portentous way."

Agreed. Absolutely. In Yang's case, the casualness (or seeming casualness -- the guy was nothing if not rigorous in his writing and directing) does suit the subjects as I perceive them (and is more palatable to me than the ways in which some other films have directly or indirectly addressed them). Ditto for Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which is great, too. At the other end of the spectrum, when Theo Angelopolous takes on some of the same issues (specific to his own cultural tradition, of course) he does so with very italicized meanings and in a very portentous way. And I like those movies, too. A little less.


I'm not quite sure who you are to suggest I "have to ascertain [my] own feelings toward these subjects."

Oh wait -- you're Alex Jackson, whose approach to films and film writing is inherently more honest
and authentic than mine. You're a self-actualized truth teller who sees others for what they are. What was I saying earlier on about posing?

"I think your pseudo-scientific approach of film analysis isolates you from any such meaningful introspection."

Well, that's 26 years of happy, well-adjusted living and an adult life paid for by film writing down the drain. Shit. Back to the drawing board.


I think I just closed the schism you mentioned by mentioning Yi Yi and Crank in the same paragraph.

As far as being afraid of the zeitgeist goes, I'm not particularly frightened of ghosts.

If the FFC crew feels like the hunted sometimes, it's because you publish opinions and put your names to them. Nobody's forcing you to read your hate mail (or mention it all the time).

And if it's Western self-loathing that make me wonder how genuinely worthwhile an extended discussion on Transformers (which, at the rate things are going, may even qualify as Cinematheque fare in 40 years, if not sooner; Armond White's already comparing Bay to Fernand Leger) really is, then hooray for Western self-loathing. Pity party at my place.

The most important thing: I don't sense an especially mean-spirited tone in my writing (well, maybe towards Alex, but I think he enjoys having something to do). Seriously, should come down and hit the Bing. We only met briefly last time. I'd surely like to discuss The Last Winter and how good a Fessenden war movie might be.

rachel said...

Re: Ratatouille

Just want to drop in with more love.

I was impressed with its sobriety, especially the ending, which compares favorably to grimmer, less mature stuff like Happy Feet and Edward Scissorhands. I love how the celebrity/royalty stuff is played as a joke on Linguini, as opposed something meant for Remy to pursue (so much Disney product but a plundering of all the historical marquee names): that real change means crumbling empires. (Seriously, I cannot express how happy I was that Remy wasn't carted off to the safe, isolated country to cook for kings and rich wankers.)

The end is sticky for me because Remy "wins," the film acknowledges that he'll never be safe, that he serves food to people who would likely try to kill him in other circumstances. There's no end to violence, no great strides in French people/rat relations (and how hypocritical would that be, in the Brother Bear vein, anyway.) It's a fantasy with no illusions, how fucking perfect is that.

O'JohnLandis said...

If that reads to somebody as an exercise of moral superiority, so be it. If it reads to somebody as an honest gesture, he or she is likely the sort I would be interested in talking to.

Can't it be both? I think your heart's in the right place and I detect some moral superiority. Seems clear.

As far as being afraid of the zeitgeist goes, I'm not particularly frightened of ghosts.

Great line. Really.

Alex Jackson said...

Agreed. Absolutely. In Yang's case, the casualness (or seeming casualness -- the guy was nothing if not rigorous in his writing and directing) does suit the subjects as I perceive them (and is more palatable to me than the ways in which some other films have directly or indirectly addressed them). Ditto for Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, which is great, too. At the other end of the spectrum, when Theo Angelopolous takes on some of the same issues (specific to his own cultural tradition, of course) he does so with very italicized meanings and in a very portentous way. And I like those movies, too. A little less.

I realize that I never got to the point.

When you talk about Yang, you don't talk about your impressions of existence, death, love, and family and how Yang has addressed these subjects through his style. Instead, you talk about Yang suggesting an entire strata of relationships using frames.

This a red flag for me. It suggests that you are more interested in the shadow of reality than reality itself.

As is the qualifier that "Angelopolous takes on some of the same issues (specific to his own cultural tradition, of course)"; suggesting that you are evaluating Angelopolous within his "own cultural tradition" in an antropological sense, with less interest in how he arrives at (what you perceive as) a Truth about Existence and Death.

If you appreciate both Angelopolous' and Yang's vastly different approaches to the same material, the approach itself must not be that important to you. Being "casual" only buys Yang a couple points over Angelopolous.

Seems that I tend to enjoy movies that are elegantly composed, that closely integrate form and content, thatpresume the audience has some intelligence, that touch on common experience, that don't italicize their meanings, that emanate from what (to my mind reads as) a humanist perspective.

Well, so you say that you tend to like films that don't italicize their meanings and then go on to say that you like Angelopolous who utlizes italicized meanings.

If you like films that don't italicize their meanings and like films that do italicize their meanings, then italicizing meanings must not be much of an issue.

As for the rest. Your idea of quality seems to be based in an appreciation of how the filmmaker joins perspective with visual style, regardless of what his perspective is. Talking about "elegantly composed" and "integrating form with content"; you sound like you are appraising the films rather than defining yourself through them. "Presuming the audience has intelligence" is a fine criterion onto itself, but alongside the rest of them I'm suspicious.

I think what Yang and Angelopolous may have in common is that they are both demanding. And I think that you appreciate demanding for the simple reason that you're validated by having a complicated text to decode. Or because they are difficult enough filmmakers to weed out those who aren't serious about devoting their lives to film.

"Taking on a humanist perspective" is interesting though. Educate me, why is the humanist perspective superior to all others? Does this mean that you reject the post-structuralism of Derrida and Foucault? I'm genuinely curious.

Unless this is one of those "I like movies that take on the humanist perspective and I like movies that don't take on the humanist perspective" type dealies.

Bill C said...

Eh, Crank is one of those movies that slipped through because of its vague contemptuousness for Hollywood convention. I've heard a lot of likeminded critics say they dug it; be that as it may, most of them--even Travis, on his Top 10 list--were careful to explicitly marginalize it as a guilty pleasure, just in case we got the wrong idea.

Keith Uhlich said...

I hold no guilt over loving each and every Jason Statham vehicle unconditionally. :-)

Even "London."

Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration...

Bill C said...

I hold no guilt over loving each and every Jason Statham vehicle unconditionally. :-)

Of this I'm aware! But yeah, London, yeouch. Not even the Jessica Biel apologists can get behind that one.

Alex Jackson said...

This comment section made it into The House Next Door's Links for the Day.


Yiyer said...

Amusing take on the logical extent of 80s nostalgia movies.

Dennis said...

Speaking of Jason Statham vehicles, The Transporter 2 is a huge guilty pleasure for me. Leterrier really managed to tap into my pleasure centers with that one, enough so that I couldn't resist, as much as I knew it wasn't good for me. The ability to appreciate that particular bit of junk food is probably relative to one's tolerance of the videogame aesthetic.

Mark Palermo said...

I'm excited to see what Leterrier does with Hulk 2 after The Transporter 2. He's an inspired choice for the job.

But Crank is the poor man's Torque.

Ogami Itto said...

Of this I'm aware! But yeah, London, yeouch. Not even the Jessica Biel apologists can get behind that one.

After sitting through many hours watching Jessica Biel's "acting" the only thing I could possibly get behind at this point would be Jessica Biel down on all fours.

O'JohnLandis said...

As is the qualifier that "Angelopolous takes on some of the same issues (specific to his own cultural tradition, of course)"; suggesting that you are evaluating Angelopolous within his "own cultural tradition" in an antropological sense, with less interest in how he arrives at (what you perceive as) a Truth about Existence and Death.

This may be the wisest thing Alex has said, though it's slightly incomplete. How about:

In championing obscure foreign artists, there's always some danger of anthropological paternalism. "He perhaps shot this film about Existence and Death with more of an italicized approach than I'd expect of an English film of this type. But seen through the prism of his country's harsh recent history, these devices--which would normally make an English film seem childish and trivial--take on a surprising depth." Or to translate, "He's kind of shitty, but, you know, it's really hard to make films where he's from."

Now, I haven't seen any Angelopoulos films, so I am in no way accusing Adam of anything. But the method with which he brought up Angelopoulos raised a red flag for me, too, so I think Alex was right to mention it.

I hold no guilt over loving each and every Jason Statham vehicle unconditionally.

Cautious amen. I haven't seen all of them, but I certainly feel no guilt about Crank. It's an unrepentant wild ride that takes its cause and effect pretty seriously, and the Amy Smart stuff is so good I can turn off the part of my brain that is worried by her character's function. It's also the only digital movie I've seen that I don't think would have been improved by being shot on film. I have no idea why anyone would pick Transporter 2 over Crank.

Walter_Chaw said...

Brief interlude: Manny Farber said something pretty great about the subject of paternalism. Paraphrasing here, but something along the lines of "Portraying foreigners as completely different than us is no different than portraying them as exactly the same as us."

Adam N said...


Nah, Angelopoulous isn't remotely shitty, and his films aren't really about a 'harsh recent history,' It was kinda silly of you to work out a hypothetical cautionary paragraph without regard to the very real filmmaker in question, no? Though I guess I understand why you did it. I'd venture that a movie like Ulysses' Gaze tackles the events of the last century (cuz it does) but that its epic, serious approach to storytelling resonates back further (to Homer, etc). (This is explicit in a movie like Travelling Players, and more quietly evoked in Ulysses' Gaze). An American (or Canadian) film about American (or Canadian) history wouldn't work in this mode. (The same way that Angelopolous's style would be ill-suited to unravelling our past on this side of the Atlantic). Farber quote is indeed trenchant, but also irrelevant here, because Angelopolous isn't depicting "foreigners:" he's a Greek filmmaker and he's working within his own series of traditions (the history of Greece, the subsequent and inextricably linked history of Europe, the history of European art cinema, etc). There's nothing about Angelopolous' style or approach (in my mind -- others disagree, loudly) that would play as "childish" or "trivial" if unsubtitled. It's still unlikely that a North American (or African or Korean) filmmaker would produce a similarly pitched or shaped piece of work, since Theo A's films are so specifically wrought. (And if somebody did, then we'd able to haul out the old "paternalism" debate.)

This leads me to:

I wrote a post yesterday that seems to have never made it. I'll compress it now since I gotta run. Basically, I don't reject post-structuralism out of hand (I read a lot of semiotics at school). But there are a lot of living and vital authors I admire and I don't feel like having their blood on my hands every time I read a book or watch a film. Or, more simply: there's too much of conscious, sincere and real interest going on in too many films to reduce them to limits of any person's -- be it me or Alex Jackson's -- experience. So I do try to evaluate how a movie works, what it actually seems to be about, how it goes about being about it. Works for me, and I guess that's why I don't read your reviews. I am reading Greg Taylor's "Artists in the Audience," a history of the "critic as artist" that moves from Farber to Parker Tyler to MST3K; I'd recommend it, highly, though I'm not quite done.
As for your suggestion as to why I might like "demanding films," I'll just say that I've seen way too many movies that, to my mind (and I have your permission to put my mind to use in any way I see fit, right?) are totally undemanding. I also noted that your dependence on binaries (saying that I'm contradicting myself if I can appreciate different approaches to similar material) is odd given your post-structuralist advocacy (are you a closet structuralist?)

Now who's working to create a schism? I liked Crank cuz I liked Crank -- I didn't check with likeminded folks first. It wasn't its "vague contemptuousness for convention" that appealed to me; it was the wit, verve and economy that Neveldine and Taylor showed in their storytelling and set pieces (car driving through mall had me on the floor) and the good humour and crack timing that Statham and Amy Smart brought to their performances. I'm smiling when I think about it even now.

davea said...

the good humour and crack timing that Statham and Amy Smart brought to their performances

Yeah, like that scene where he rapes her in public.

Sorry for being sarcastic, but that scene completely killed that movie for me.

Alex Jackson said...

I didn't mean to suggest that I'm advocating post-structuralism or structuralism or the like. I admit to not completely understanding it all. I think I know enough to say that wading around in that pool eventually devolves into prolonged intellectual masturbation, but I also suspect that the post-structuralists have influenced the way that I think more than I realize.

I guess I was trying to probe you to identify and resolve the ways that post-structuralism is incompatible with humanism.

The idea of subjugating your individual experience for some kind of broader scope seems to me to be a post-structuralist antihumanist sentiment. As well as the idea that there are no absolute truths.

Am I wrong about this?

O'JohnLandis said...

Sheesh, Adam.

I think you know pretty well that the cautionary paragraph had nothing to do with Angelopoulos or Greece.

And this is weird:

Farber quote is indeed trenchant, but also irrelevant here, because Angelopolous isn't depicting "foreigners:" he's a Greek filmmaker and he's working within his own series of traditions (the history of Greece, the subsequent and inextricably linked history of Europe, the history of European art cinema, etc).

It seems that the Farber quote, in this argument, is more about the critic/observer than it is about the filmmaker. We're not accusing these foreign filmmakers of paternalism; we're accusing the critics.

(Sure, we're doing so without much focus, but this was always just a minor point in a larger discussion. It just so happened to be the part of the argument that I gave a shit about. If I spoke, even for a moment, about such a silly word as "post-structuralism," there's a group of people I know who would instantly, and without requiring any other cause, show up at my house and smack me in the mouth with a golf club. Perhaps a 3-Iron. Sorry. Anyhow, we weren't talking about mere paternalism. We were talking about "anthropological paternalism." That sounds much sexier. You can really taste the extra vowels.)

No problem at all with the idea of a critic creating art, unless he's doing so by inflating the average work of the unusual artist. Intellectual sincerity first; art second.

Ryan said...

Isn't it a spoiler to talk about the death of the last of Harry's family? Regardless, great review - I'm really looking forward to this now.

Patrick Pricken said...

Definitely a spoiler – I didn't know the Dursleys die in this film.

It may be a spoiler, but I don't think it's a make-or-break one.

Tomorrow at this time I'll have seen this, too. Now looking forward to it more than ever.

Walter_Chaw said...

Whoa - the Dursleys don't die, I don't think. Not on screen anyhow. Are they Harry's last relations? I guess that's right. It's not how Harry looks at it in the picture.

Whoops. Is that another spoiler?

Ryan said...

Anyone read Ebert's review? His only complaint seems to be that he's uncomfortable with how dark the films have become, even though he thinks that the film is enchanting and well-made. On the one hand, he's a jackass, but on the other hand, it's nice to have that jackass back and in business.

Paul S. said...

I do like some of Ebert's writing - he's much better in print than on TV. But yeah, his Potter love is sorta weird, especially after feeling that he had to proclaim his love for Potter (the first one, no less) over LOTR. Anyways, I'm looking forward to Phoenix, and it's good to hear that this fairly no-name director more or less delivers.

And I also want to chime in as being another movie goer completely baffled by all this Transformers love. Not that I expected something much more than retarded, but it was even worse than I expected. But to see such overwhelming love for it, by people that should know better, makes me feel like I missed something. Though I know full well I haven't.
As much as I may loathe mentioning AICN, Vern's review, as messy as it may have been, was spot on (as was Walt's, of course), and addressed all my issues and bafflement with the cult that has grown around accepting it's stupidity.

Patrick Pricken said...

Man, the Potter film was great. That's how summer popcorn movies are supposed to work, Mr. Bay. Has it really come to the point where Joe Moviegoer cannot see the difference between Transformers and this, or does not care?

Of course, when I sat in the theater, This trailer ran (it's German, so beware) and caused perhaps the greatest reaction in the audience as everybody laughed out loud at... some "jokes" clamoring to be used only in quotation marks, whereas the Ratatouille trailer seemingly left everybody cold.

Back to Potter: I was really surprised that I didn't spend most of the time hoping for some other kids to play the central characters; they have either really improved or Mike Newell had no idea whatsoever how to direct (them). Oldman is really great in his role, too – he's probably happy that he's allowed to put some humanity into his character for once and not be a psycho, whereas with Fiennes it seems the other way round.

Of course, I wonder whether the movie really makes some political comments (tagline, after all: The rebellion begins), or whether I just project that into the film. "There is no insurgency", etc.

Bill C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.