July 12, 2007

Groovin' on a Thursday Afternoon

A few things:

  • R.I.P. Edward Yang.
  • Did anyone catch one of TCM's multiple screenings of Richard Schickel's "Spielberg on Spielberg" this week? Perhaps predictably, it's spectacularly evasive, skipping over Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Always, Hook, The Lost World, and Catch Me If You Can (the latter two hardly more embarrassing than, say, Amistad) while breezing through Spielberg's filmography in a mostly chronological fashion. Any self-flagellation is limited to the topic of 1941--the irony there being that it's not exactly eating humble pie to recount the time you exploited the power bestowed on you by a string of successes...then luckily happened to be ensconced in Tunisia shooting the redemptive Raiders of the Lost Ark when the shit hit the fan. It was inevitable that either Schickel or Laurent Bouzereau--the two biggest sycophants in the cottage industry of supplemental documentaries--would direct this thing, since Spielberg is not one to sanction scrutiny of his methodology. (Accountability so scares him that he wields the existence of Stanley Kubrick's fabled treatment for A.I. like a talisman here to ward off blame for the perceived failure of the eventual film, particularly its final act.) What surprised me most about the piece is that, unlike TCM's similarly clips-laden hagiographies for John Ford and Marlon Brando, it left me with little urge to revisit the Spielberg canon; it's not even good auteur porn.
  • Edward Yang? Still dead.
  • Do yourself a favour and pick up the latest issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG. It's a real return to form for the magazine, which had been noticeably sidetracked in recent months while editor Tim Lucas put the finishing touches on his mammoth tome "Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark".
  • Anyway, consider this an open forum. I presume you'll want to discuss Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Walter's attendant review, but anything from the recent death of director Richard Franklin (whose Psycho II is drastically underestimated) to that stupid J.J. Abrams trailer is of course fair game. We know better than to violate the Prime Directive.

81 comments:

Ian Pugh said...

Anyone seen the new on-the-set clips from Indiana Jones and the Who Cares Whatever? I'm not sure what this new set of costumed stormtroopers is supposed to be--commies, I'll guess? Because there's no way that this movie takes place less than ten years after Last Crusade. Most interesting thing here, though, would be that George Lucas is apparently wearing a "Han Shot First" t-shirt--yet another sneering, sarcastic shot at the folks who complain about his constant tinkering.

Order of the Phoenix is indeed fantastic--a group of fucked-up teenagers battling a pair of villains (one a terrorist, the other a bureaucrat) attempting to foist their moral objectivism onto everyone else--not just a matter of everyone discovering their inexplicable anger and moral ambiguity, but fighting to keep it that way.

(SPOILER)




And how about the fact that Sirius Black is essentially killed by his misplaced nostalgia for the halcyon days of good and evil--forgetting, at precisely the wrong moment, that all of his friends from the good old days are either dead, insane or traitorous.

(END SPOILER)





And R.I.P. Richard Franklin -- I picked up Psycho II about a year ago on advice from the FFC bloggers, and I'm still trying to figure out what Norman really wants in that movie.

Dave Gibson said...

I'm sorry to hear about Richard Franklin--I've always been a great admirer of Psycho II; probably Perkins best performance and horrific mostly in its crushing sadness. Road Games is also a nifty, sunbaked car-noir (with JLC to boot!) And for my money--pairing "Link" with Romero's "Monkey Shines" makes for a damn fine Monkey Fest---I have a lot of friends who also love "Cloak and Dagger"; no comment here, but I will say it has two of the most malevolent senior citizens (until Mulholland Dr of course)

O'JohnLandis said...

Transformers, man. Wow. Glib anarchy and constant motion that makes The Rock look like Raiders of the Lost Ark. And people adore it. Amazingly, I long for the days when everyone thought Shawshank was the best movie ever. At least it gave a shit.

I've been a big fan of Psycho II for almost 20 years, but I'm not familiar with the rest of his work.

Edward Yang? Still dead.

Ouch.

I'm afraid the Abrams trailer is a sign of things to come. Why make decent movies and advertise them honestly when you can make anything (or nothing at all) and interest people by giving them no information?

I'm off to Montreal for a film festival. I don't know any French, but that's not going to be an issue...right???

Patrick Pricken said...

I'm not gonna copy my Potter comment from the last "Trench".

Aren't you gonna talk about Edward Yang, who died?

The Abrams trailer is really just a new form of viral marketing, trying to get the buzz out. I find it boring and cheating, really, because I'm pretty sure that's not how the whole movie will be shot.

Dan said...

The JJ trailer did its job: you're talking about it, if only to sneer at it. You're hooked. You'll keep your ear open for more details.

If it turns out to be a Godzilla-esque monster movie, influenced by The Host, filmed like The Blair Witch Project... I'm there.

Michael A. said...

I'm agreeing with Dan, it's got the potential to not suck, considering that Abrams isn't the director.

There obviously some topicality in a frivolous party being disrupted by something blowing up New York, recorded by cameras at ground level, so there's something to chew on there.

The question is pretty much if it's going to be a smart enough picture to justify using current events like that.

James Allen said...

"auteur porn" - HA! Good one.

Anonymous said...

While on the subject of Harry Potter, I decided to read Walter's previous reviews for the series. Wow, I had forgotten that he gave Chamber of Secrets ***1/2. Knowing how much he hates Columbus, that's surprising. I didn't think it was much better than the first, but maybe I should revisit it.

Si said...

Great comment on Order Of The Phoenix, Ian. I must say that I enjoyed it too, although I found the final third a little anticlimatic. Maybe it came from knowing what was going to happen, or just expecting too much? Either way, it's one of the best Potter films, if not the best. And Imelda Staunton absolutely nails Umbridge.

Ryan said...

Ok, with what I said before, regarding Ebert? That it was good to have the jackass back? Changed my mind. Fuck Ebert.

Hooray, the Answer Man!

When I find a film like "Halloween," I know I am looking at great filmmaking. How do I know? I just know.

Thanks for that. Thank you very much. His first response, re: Transformers - an example of this "great filmmaking" - shows he barely watched the damn thing. Three Stars!!

Patrick Pricken said...

Transformers: 3/4; Harry Potter 2.5/4, and he knows a great movie when he sees it.

Thanks for reminding me why I don't visit his site too often.

But perhaps Michael Bay simply captures the ephemeral quality of art and transforms the screen into a multi-dimensional canvas spanning space, time and the land of dreams.

Ryan said...

Perhaps. Or, not. Either way, Ebert isn't going to be able to explain it to you, because he can't explain it at all. He just knows.

We seem to have a fair few people on this blog, and a larger portion reading the site, we should contact whatever network runs Ebert and Roeper on mass and try to drum up interest in Walter as a future guest. It'd be interesting to see some intelligent discourse on what is probably the most watched movie reviews show on TV.

steve said...

if a movie has a hot chick in it, expect Ebert to add a star to the rating.

Anonymous said...

Any one of the FFCers vs. Roeper would be pure hilarity..

Seattle Jeff said...

Ebert is an old man and he co-wrote "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"...he deserves a pass.


I do find it odd though that he was associated with that Russ Meyer film, then writes a reviews of a films (i.e. Fast Times at Ridgemont High) where he is morally outraged.

Patrick Pricken said...

As you said, he's old now. I don't know whether that's an international saying, but in Germany there's "if you're 21 and not politically left, then you've got no heart. If you're 51 and not politically conservative, then you've got no brain."

It's not that I find that true; but it illustrates what I do think happens, namely that most people (not Noam Chomsky, for example) drift towards conservativism as they age, and as what they considered breakthroughs become the accepted norm which people try to break.

And I'd give Ebert all the passes he deserves if he didn't consitute Film Opinion Central. I already dislike his reviews because of his relativist tendencies ("looking at Bay's oevre, Transformers even looks competent, so I'll give it three stars" [not the actual quote]), and now he... knows.

I think we should kidnap Roeper and Ebert shortly before filming, and when the team is scrambling for an out, have the FFC team walk by, "hey – we're film critics", and thus cause the torch of mainstream criticism to be passed on.

By the way, who here will review the magnificient "Underdog", the trailer to which I just could not keep myself from watching. Whoever does, I want a full report on whether or not the dog's scrotum is digitally removed.

I can still remember when I used to watch almost every trailer on Apple; I even made a forum post with comments at a German site. Nowadays, I can't even pretend to care for some of these flicks. And even when I do, it's funny to read the Movie remake of "Get Smart" (which already had a movie, IIRC) be described as "all-new".

Rick said...

Any one of the FFCers vs. Roeper would be pure hilarity..

Which is exactly why it won't happen. I'm surprised that A.O. Scott got away with explaining that Roeper liked a movie because he has an affinity for scantily-clad, underage girls. Joking or not, Im pretty sure that Roeper was not comfortable with that comment. I can't imagine him being comfortable going head-to-head with Walter.

if a movie has a hot chick in it, expect Ebert to add a star to the rating.

And add a star to the rating if the movie contains non-threatening, African-American characters. And another star if the film is set in Chicago.

Bill C said...

Ebert's Achilles Heels are legion: babes; movies about alcoholics; Africa; Chicago; candy-coated sci-fi...

And yeah, as funny as it would be, I can't see any of us being invited to sit on the balcony with Roeper in this lifetime.

Seattle Jeff said...

I think maybe when I say "give the guy a pass", I mean "He's dead to me."

It just hurts to think about him...replacing Siskel with Roeper?

Ouch.

Rick said...

Can anyone imagine a filmfreak critic reacting to Roeper giving a thumbs up to Transformers, followed by his advice to "check your critic brain at the door"? Actually, he should say that for every review because it seems that only surface scratching is permitted.

And I think Chicago based movies are about 100 for 100 on receiving a thumbs up, considering Ebert was possibly the only critic (or person) in the world who enjoyed Stolen Summer.

Rick said...

And regarding movies about alcoholics, Ebert loved Duane Hopwood. Seriously, what wouldn't he like then?

Chris said...

Last night at a party this guy I didn't know was leading a debate about Transformers (he: against it; everyone else: for it) and I stepped up to help him out. He eventually brought up Live Free or Die Hard as the Good Action Movie In Theaters Right Now, and when someone said that they didn't like it because "John McClane is the most human of action heroes and they made him inhuman", I said that that was the perfect choice for the filmmakers to have made at this point, with Bruce so old, and at least the film played, intelligently, with the notion of Bruce Willis as a robot. Then, when I mentioned the Terminator reference, the guy I had just met said:

"Do you read Walter Chaw's reviews?"

And I said: "Brother!" And we literally fell into each other's arms. Then he said he'd been onto me for ripping off Walter since I had been talking about Michael Bay having a tiny dick.

Anyway, you have at least two devoted fans in Los Angeles, Walter. And I apologize for stealing your arguments at parties.

Alex Jackson said...

And regarding movies about alcoholics, Ebert loved Duane Hopwood. Seriously, what wouldn't he like then?

Well, he also likes movies about drug addicts in general. He gave Less than Zero four stars.

Ebert was also perhaps the only person on the planet who liked Spun; though his three star review is actually a rather interesting and lucid take on the film.

I haven't seen enough of the new releases to comment on the veracity of Ebert's reviews.

But yeah, his Transformers review seems to be a good exhibit of how he has marginalized himself nearly into the realm of entertainment journalism particularly since he reminds us that he wrote scathing reviews of Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys 2 and was willing to retain some critic cred by not only jumping on but piloting the Michael Bay hate train. The review is overly apologetic. Three stars but he was bored during the action sequences?

Still, I was more offended by his The Departed review where he mistakes dropping quotes from Hemingway and Shakespeare with meaningful insight.

jer fairall said...

Any chance FFC will be reviewing the Jodorowsky box set? I know that Alex plans to review El Topo over at his site, which is tantalizing enough, but now that I've finally seen the film (wow, btw), I'd love to hear some more FFC'ers takes on it and Jodorowsky in general.

Oddly enough, I'd never really been conscious of El Topo's existence until quite recently. Santa Sangre is one that I've frequently looked for, with no success, over the years, as it was one Ebert used to talk up a lot back when I was first reading/watching him.

I think it was Alex who once said that Ebert praises crap more frequently than he trashes great films, which he acknowledges is the lesser crime. I think I agree. The only Ebert reviews that ever really pissed me off, though, were the ones where he granted token 3-star ratings to films he clearly doesn't respect but for reasons known only to him he wants to go easy on (Sweet Home Alabama, The Longest Yard remake), particularly in light of his hesitant thumbs-downs to films he admits that he finds challenging and impressive (Henry Fool, the original theatrical cut of Donnie Darko) but finds small, nagging flaws with.

I also remember him being particularly critical of Saturday Morning animated fare back in the 80's and 90's, and criticial of most popular television in general as recently as his review of Dukes of Hazzard, which makes his approval of Transformers particularly puzzling.

Rick said...

I am actually surprised that Ebert gave Talk to Me only 3 1/2 stars. I thought his "Benetton rainbow complex" would have bumped that up to an automatic 4 stars.

And what do you think would be worse; seeing Transformers for a second time, or seeing Rush Hour 3 when it opens? That would be a tough decision.

Patrick Pricken said...

I choose Rush Hour 3 as worse. With Transformers, you might get a somewhat empty theater, but with Rush Hour, it'll be full of people laughing along in between calling friends on their cell phones. It's more demoralizing.

theoldboy said...

The Jodorowsky box set is something else. I hadn't seen anything by him before I picked it up mostly on Vern's typically brilliant recommendation. El Topo is classic plus gains a lot on a rewatch, but Holy Mountain seems to be the one I'll be watching the most because El Topo never gets weird enough for me and Holy Mountain is more consistently audacious and visually alive; it's the one that I watch and ask "How was this movie made?" every five minutes, whereas I ask that question about twice in El Topo.

jer fairall said...

And what do you think would be worse; seeing Transformers for a second time, or seeing Rush Hour 3 when it opens?

Seeing I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry any time.

Rick said...

Seeing I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry any time.

How little of Alexander Payne's and Jim Taylor's script was used? From the commercials, I am thinking zero.

Santa Sangre is one that I've frequently looked for, with no success, over the years, as it was one Ebert used to talk up a lot back when I was first reading/watching him.

I think Santa Sangre is his worst, though I only own a crappy VHS tape of it.

And is there really any kind of call for Rush Hour 3, except for the fact Chris Tucker wants a new Bentley? I doubt idiots will even see it.

Paul S. said...

What the hell is going on with all this Transformers love? I was just told that if I don't like Transformers, then I just don't like movies... and it was from someone with a fairly thorough knowledge of film. I'm as dumbfounded by the movies mass acceptance (by both smart and dumb people) as I was by the movie itself, which is just absolutely incomprehensible in every way.

Paul S. said...

And for the record, I think Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain is actually LESS incomprehensible than Transformers. How about that?

Justin said...

Man, that Aurora film fest looked awesome. Three movies I'm dying to see, and I'm glad to see Journey from the Fall is actually good (sometimes Asian-American indies get praised just because they exist, I feel like, but three stars from Walter means something worth watching.) The documentary I won't be checking out.

theoldboy said...

Holy Mountain and Transformers are like the same movie, but one is a lot worse. One is about shit being turned into gold and the other is about cars turning into robots. Same thing on some level, you could exchange titles and you wouldn't know the difference.

Jefferson said...

Kudos and sympathy to Travis for taking on Ghost Rider. Mark Stevem Johnson is the very darkest side of comic fanboy orthodoxy -- he adheres to the source material so ruthlessly that any charm, drama or potential for transendence is mercilessly squelched from the first scene. The geeks who demand utter faithfulness to their pet graphic novels get exactly what they ask for with him, and so do the rest of us, more's the pity. It's like listening to an idiot savant play the piano, with all the notes and none of the music. Too bad he's found powerful enablers, like Cage, to help pay for his cheap CGI.

mimo70 said...

No comment today, just a plug for my blog - Gotta See It. I feature a new film every Monday. So far, "Seconds", "The Swimmer", "Il Bidone" and more.

www.gottaseeitweekly.blogspot.com

tmhoover said...

News flash: The CanCon portion of TIFF has just been announced, and Les bons debarras- which you may remember a certain FFC member put at the top of this Canadian ten-best list- is playing as this year's Canadian Open Vault. Let me be clear: if you live close enough to Toronto and you don't see this movie, you are going to regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. You have been warned.

Thanks, by the way, for the condolences on Ghost Rider, Jefferson- though the experience of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was enough to make that one look like a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

After watching both El Topo and Holy Mountain, I felt that Holy Mountain was the more comprehensive of the two even though there both pretty far out there.

James Allen said...

Travis wrote:

Thanks, by the way, for the condolences on Ghost Rider, Jefferson- though the experience of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was enough to make that one look like a masterpiece.

It sure is, Travis, just ask Armond White. God, I love that guy!

Anonymous said...

Does Bill Press ever strike you as something of a complete halfwit?

Vikram said...

Thanks for the heads-up Travis, I'll be sure to try to see Les bons debarras

Rick said...

What is up with Rob Schneider channeling Mickey Rooney? It seems like Sandler and his crew are the biggest assholes in Hollywood right now. Watching Punch Drunk Love now is frustrating, because it reminds me of how much talent he is pissing away.

Rick said...

I think everyone has Sideways-syndrome when it comes to Henry Rollins. He is a cool guy (because it seems punk music validates that, I guess) who respects intellectuals, and that one-way street is accepted by intellectuals who want be to friends with the cool guy. I seriously have never met anyone who doesn't like Rollins. But at least it seems like he is trying to make up for lost time in the introspection department, time he lost while doing things like this.

Patrick Pricken said...

Re: Curse of the Golden flower. I haven't seen the film, but I remember German reviews mentioning it as Chinese propaganda, showing the decay of the time before the cultural revolution (when ostensibly the people came to power). Zhang Yimou was said to have finally sold out to the government.

The review here seems to interpret differently. So have the Germans been so off-base?

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

Just a quick comment about the "Miramaxed" version of Hero that Walter references in the opening of his Golden Flower review. As I recall, Walter's four star review of Hero went live on the eve of the stateside theatrical release. I watched the film thinking, "this isn't at all what Walter prepared me for." I suspected something was afoot and now those suspicions are confirmed. These instances are probably rare, but perhaps it might be worth noting when a review does not necessarily pertain to the print we're likely to see. In fact, the existing review might be amended accordingly, lest a reader purchase the Miramax DVD on the strength of Walter's comments only to be very disappointed.

Congratulations, Bill, on going 10 years strong. I fondly recall when FFC was just glimmer in your eye and a staple of our late night chats. Congrats, also, to the FFC gang on your incomparable coverage of the art form we all hold dear.

Anonymous said...

I'll cop to disliking Henry Rollins. Frankly I think he's a tool. Albeit a tool insightful enough to contrast himself unfavorably with Ian McKaye. The contrast applies square across the board--artistically, intellectually, ethically.

The interview is not a conversation so much as a half-baked slumgolian of aborted liberal blog entries. I say that as a leftie tax-n-spend progressive liberal. Rollins is Mark Wahlburg's Shooter character grafted into a Space Ghost Coast to Coast format.

Just read over that bizarre fast-paced morphing of Henry's opinion on critics. Walter was brave to call him on it, but a little too quick to mercy, letting Rollins off the anti-intellectualism hook by projecting Walter's own oft-repeated "the state of criticism is the problem" platform onto Rollins's roiling mess of a viewpoint.

Jefferson said...

I've got to admit I don't follow this new Miramax-Hero hate-- a function of a) not having seen the pre-Miramax version and b) not understanding Mandarin. But is "beneath the sky" really so indistinguishable from "our country" in this context? When an imperial Chinese subject said "beneath the sky," wasn't he really referring to all of China? And isn't it nitpickery to note that the opening crawl sets the action "over two thousand years ago" when the Q'in dynasty in fact came to power in 255 BC, which is 2,262 years ago?

dennis said...

I'm more interested in what the eight minutes are that were cut out of the Miramax release. I wasn't blown away by the movie, and this lack of total enthusiasm wasn't merely the result of "our country", a map, and something about over 2,000 years ago that I didn't even notice.

Otherwise, I agree with Walt that Curse of the Golden Flower isn't anything terribly notable, but it's still better than Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles.

Anonymous said...

The Simpsons Movie is sitting on 80% on RottenTomatoes. No. Simply, no. Any chance one of the FFC will let us know what it's actually like?

Rick said...

So FFC is left with only one option of bashing it to let everyone know what it's actually like?

Anonymous said...

I'd be absolutely amazed if it was actually good. I don't know, I haven't seen it yet. I refuse to feed the evil Fox empire by paying to see it - in a couple of weeks I'll pay for LFoDH and walk into the Simpsons instead - but holy crap, look at the trailers and clips. It's not just unfunny, but moronic and irrelevant - look at the McBain character AS Arnold. McBain was created as a rip on Arnold, so having your parody character play the actual original source is not funny, it's just mindnumbing.

Now, this good RT score is coming from the same scrotums who earlier praised Transformers, before that shit fell back to the Rotten it deserves while the wonderful LFoDH sustains 80%. There's rarely justice in the world, least of all in the realm of movie criticism, but for once it worked proper.

Bill C said...

in a couple of weeks I'll pay for LFoDH and walk into the Simpsons instead

And Fox will get your coin anyway since they also distributed Live Free or Die Hard. Good plan!

Seattle Jeff said...

Wow....you'd think something as iconic as The Simpsons has been for nearly 2 decades, there'd be some slack cut.

Does anyone really need a review of the movie? Doesn't 18 years on TV give you a feel for what it might be like?

Those same scrotums that gave Transformers 80% are the same ones that gave Ratatoille 96%! And now their giving The Simpsons a high grade!

Nice logic.

Besides, I thought Spider Pig was funny.

Paul S. said...

I saw Simpsons, and it was... okay.

It's already a cliché to call it an extended episode (with some extra CGI thrown in), but there it is. I'd say it's about as good as one of the better episodes of the more current seasons, or as bad as one of the weaker episodes of the earlier seasons. There are definitely some solid, clever gags, but as the show has been, every thing about the Simpsons has been so canonized, that it replaces any kind of freshness with overwhelming familiarity.

But overall it's worth seeing - as unlike most blockbusters this summer, it truly is a fun time at the movies without being too stupid, and at under 90 minutes, a breezy one that doesn't over do it.

Bill C said...

Well, here's Walter's review if anyone's dying of curiosity.

Anonymous said...

Those same scrotums that gave Transformers 80% are the same ones that gave Ratatoille 96%! And now their giving The Simpsons a high grade!

Early reviewers, man. The tosspots on RT who praise everything, who get the preview tix that Walter don't, because they're happy to say "EPISODE III IS A TRIUMPH OF FILMMAKING AND IMAGINATION!!" They're later nullified by the real critics.

Seattle Jeff said...

My point was more along the lines of "Rotten Tomatoes percentages aren't really that reliable"...

Rick said...

I think The Simpsons is still consistently clever and more funny than anything else on TV these days. Even though the show has lost much of its edge and topicality, there are still many inspired moments. I also believe some of the apathy has to do with taking a solid show for granted, paving the way for more "fresh" shows like Family Guy, which seem to have much less thought driving each joke. The semi-obscure pop-culture references are just thrown out there, as are most of the jokes, as if to see what sticks after the fact. The Family Guy crew seems to be lazy and less calculated, quickly throwing together episodes and moving on, as opposed to The Simpsons crew who would maybe go back to a scene to try to make it better. There are so many dead spots in shows like Family Guy and South Park, but most fans seem to not care because the obvious and offensive jokes seem to jog them out of autopilot right before it starts to lag. They may be more offensive, but come on, Uncle Fucker? That is funny?

Rick said...

And is 2 1/2 stars a rotten or fresh tomato?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I despise what the Simpsons has become. I think it died around Season 9, in which its clever self-aware satire on America and the nuclear family and pop culture and general American world view went out the window with unfunny nonsequiter humor, pitiful parody and no fingers whatsoever all on the pulse. You simply cannot compare any of the recent garbage - take the lackluster 24 rip off, and then the dull 400th episode "spectacular" - and compare it to the earlier goodness. I'm thinking of that spectacular Arnie-rip off in which McBain emerges from an ice statue in the middle of a meeting of all the terrorists in the world and blows them all away with machine guns, to which the femme fatale emerges and McBain declares he has another meeting in bed. Just one bit of greatness that can never be matched by the completely random, pointless plots we're given now. Cameos and randomness do not equal goodness. I'm left cold by it. I don't like Family Guy much either, but at least that has the good sense to be consistently offensive.

As for South Park, you can plot the evolution of the program from the original crudely animated crudely plotted adult animation as it progressed into something more meaningful and interesting - as an adult cartoon tackling topical issues using some insight as well as crudeness to generate humor - just as you can plot the devolution of the Simpsons. The Simpsons, taking millions of dollars and several months to produce, cannot be topical. Self-parody of self-parody doesn't equal humor, nor entertainment. The ludicrous concept of a 138th Episode Spectacular is fantastic, the concept of a Behind the Music that treats the cartoon characters as human-cum-animated characters existing in a real human world is mundane and beyond the stretch of believability. It's desperate and uninspired. Why bother? Compare that to anything South Park has done, like paint Mel Gibson as insane and extremist for his Passion, and his followers as Nazis, and you have something worth taking an interest in. South Park seems to be pretty depressed that the world is dominated by dumb, while the Simpsons celebrates it, lavishes in it. South Park isn't always concise or correct, but it's much smarter and continually evolving.

On the movie, and Uncle Fucka, when you phrase it like that, it just sounds immature, but it's perfectly hilarious in the film. Five minutes of relatively clean happy Disney cartoon music broken by rampant obsenity in that same cartoon sing song. It's attack on sensationalism and censorship is smart and funny. I can't believe you'd call Family Guy or South Park "lazy" when talking about the merits of today's Simpsons. I can't comment on the movie, but I can't think of anything more lazy than crafting useless retread plots that beat the dead horse with nothing new, nothing inspired, nothing worth giving a shit about. Recent (awful) 24 parody aside, does the show even watch the shows it tries to parody nowadays? It seems to think that it's hilarious to have a reference to The O.C. without having any idea why that show fails. They stole a few of the conventions of 24 for the Simpsons 24 Parody, which would have been funny had they actually used satire, and exaggeration, and actual humor, to make the scenario funny. Since when is merely referencing something funny? The South Park 24 parody shits all over the Simpsons 24 parody. It's just one of many examples of why I find the show to be dead in the water, and has been dead in the water, for a long-ass time.

Seattle Jeff said...

Why am I surprised that all these bitter Simpsons fans have amped up their animosity as the movie is coming out?

Is that a Jehovah's Witness at your door?

No, it's a Simpsons geek trying to convince you the show should never have existed after season 6...

And of course the rest of the world has better things to do than have that conversation.

Anonymous said...

Clever play on the FFC logo! That damn crescent.;-)

Anonymous said...

Only 1 bitter Simpsons fan...

Seattle Jeff said...

There are droves of you at the Onions AV Club...

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the wise! I just can't figure out why people are still going out of their way to congratulate something that is a pale shell of its former self, fellating it like it's something great. It [b]was[/b] something great. Not anymore.

James Allen said...

Put simply, The Simpsons is product, and the film merely a (long overdue) extention of the brand. I saw it, and it wasn't bad, but it didn't seem to have the balls (Bart's notwithstanding) to break away and be something different. In fact, it's reverent to the "Simpsons geeks" to the point of overdoing it. Not much in way of a vision can be expected from the pens of 12+ guys, but there you are.

O'JohnLandis said...

South Park, the show, is impressive mainly for the fact that it's Trey Parker's singular, unified vision. The problem is that he's a wishy-washy, dogmatic moderate. Because of this, the show isn't at all subversive. But his taste is pretty good, so...

The movie is excellent. Unable to avoid a point of view on the MPAA and parental ignorance, he was able to work at the full extent of his ability. There was one great musical theater pastiche after another in a snappy, vulgar, simple masterpiece.

Family Guy is very, very funny. It has bigger balls than South Park AND a point of view, but it's usually too shallow to be art. A real Family Guy movie would be useless.

Simpsons, man. I'm not at all bitter about the current state of the show, since I rarely watch it, but the first six seasons are as impressive as anything ever created for television. They managed, usually, to avoid the self-conscious, "tonight, on a very special Simpsons" feel of the movie. And they certainly never seemed like imitation Family Guy, as they have for the past, oh, seven years.

That said, I honestly don't know what the movie could have done to find that early spark. It's probably just gone, but the only way to try for it is to write a long episode that's conceptually simple in the way that the South Park movie is. Obviously, that's not the approach they chose. They were wildly ambitious (with an emphasis on the "wild"), and yet, even their ambition seems a bit too safe now. The inconsistent execution didn't help.

So yeah, the movie's a mess, but I guess I resent the idea that it's a cynical product, especially if something like Live Free or Die Hard isn't. And even as messy as it is, The Simpsons Movie is still one of the, say, ten best film comedies released in the last few years. Has anyone noticed lately how terrible film comedies are?

A long Simpsons episode in 'scope is about all we can hope for these days.

Anonymous said...

It has bigger balls than South Park AND a point of view

Elaborate on this?

Rick said...

Am I the only person who did not like South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut? I laughed only a couple times, mainly during the operation human shield and satan/hussein scenes. And not because the satan/hussein pairing was irreverent, mainly because they provided insight into the ridiculousness of meaningless bickering. Why does everything have to be subversive and heavy-handed to get respect these days? The Simpsons irony is well-developed and well-thought out, as opposed to Family Guy and South Park, who seem to create good ideas and then get lazy with the execution. There are so many dead spots on both shows, and this lack of consistency seems to be due to the self-satisfaction of generating a good idea/message, then saying, OK lets move on. I mean look at Orgazmo, perfect example of a great idea and botched execution. And the irony within both shows is pretty basic and derivative, hence relying on being offensive for any kind of effect. So The Simpsons empty, self-obsessed cleverness is worthless because it is about nothing these days? Well, Seinfeld seemed to be about nothing for the whole run, anger without a point, so what is the difference? And I do not see South Park as having any meaningful points anyways, it just seems to be pure nihilism to me.

Bill C said...

Our own Alex definitely concurs with you, Rick.

Anonymous said...

Cite an example of this "empty, self-obsessed cleverness" from the most recent season, please.

Anonymous said...

Ahahaha, and now I have to go back on my words and say that I liked the film. I laughed a lot, moreso than I've done for the past few seasons of the show.

dennis said...

Non sequitur here, but I wonder if Walter and Bill still think highly of Black Hawk Down after all of these years? I finally watched the movie, and I have someone trying to convince me that it was neocon propaganda, fudging all sorts of facts about the battle to make it more rah-rah pro-American, which directly conflicts with Chaw's review here.

Anonymous said...

RIP Ingmar Bergman.

Rick said...

Walter, I see in the Rollins interview you mention Mike Patton. Have you heard the "Director's Cut" album by Fantomas? It is a must own for anyone into film.

And Alex is definitely on target with his South Park review. Also, in Albany there is a pretty cool store that sells mostly horror movies and shirts ( the display shirts when you walk by the store are I Spit On Your Grave, Re-Animator, Last House on the Left, Necromantik, Ichi the Killer, etc). Anyways, the owner said he is going to try to order Taxidermia, which seems to be a near impossible find. I will tell you how it is if I end up seeing it.

Arvind said...

hi,

this is regarding a comment you left on another blog.

"The famed Clark Kent/Superman speech, which was purportedly written on the spot."

i was under the impression that this was a QT original and recently i came across this information.

http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1544881

"Previous heroes-- the Shadow, the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger-- were not only more vulnera..."

Patrick Pricken said...

I think Alex's review boils down to a comment I often hear about South Park, namely that it attacks any and all sides instead of coming at it with a certain political agenda.

More probably, though, I'm just too stupid to understand the review. I can't see the nihilism in South Park, sorry. South Park, the way I see it, attacks stupidity everywhere, be it in celebrities or not. And I don't see South Park attacking celebrities with opinions, per se, but the perspective that these opinions are somehow automatically informed and important just because they're held by celebrities.

I for one dislike the fecal humor in South Park, but I love the way issues are treated there. And it's not just cheap and easy, but Parker and Stone are informed about a topic – at least that's what I get from watching, for example, the very acurate World-of-Warcraft episode.

Plus, who on mainstream TV has the guts to actually call out Scientology to sue them?

South Park is a funny skeptical show, and I think they aim very carefully at their specific targets, and hit more often than not. That this happens in concert with farting, shitting and dismemberment is not always to my liking, but so be it.

Bemis said...

Rick, what is the name of that store? I'd like to check it out sometime.

When I heard that Bergman had died, all I could thing about was this. Beautiful how Ingmar did (in one sense, at least) ensure his own immortality.

Pwetz said...

Of all FFC contributors, I think Ian has pinpointed exactly what's wrong with South Park.

"I think "South Park" boasts the occasional flash of brilliance, but I resent that its more flagrantly political messages, particularly in the past few seasons, essentially boil down to 'both sides are fucking crazy: here's how it really is.' Trey Parker and Matt Stone strike me less as philosophers than as contrarians who force their perceived sensible alternatives down our throats as the infallible Solution. It's a shame, too, because Parker and Stone remain two of the most talented satirists of our generation, if not in terms of hot-button topics: the ending of the recent "South Park" episode "Stanley's Cup," for instance, attacked sports movies by reminding us that every game involves two teams with similar aspirations, and, of course, Team America: World Police's caustic parody of "Rent" is as concise and shocking a criticism of that musical as one will find. I'm not taking the stupidly dismissive "I like you better when you're funny" position that Tucker Carlson had towards Jon Stewart on CNN's "Crossfire", but in the world of "South Park", there are only three options when it comes to world events: left, right, and middle, the latter being invariably correct. Compared to the innumerable increments in the political spectrum of reality, three extremes are no better than two."

Really, they're just moderates convinced of their views' correctness to the point of militancy. Which mostly defeats the point of moderatism. You look at their spoof of Al Gore in their ManBearPig episode -- which would be a fine spoof of alarmism, if it were applied to, say, a fucking color-coated chart that describes the daily possibility of terrorist attack. Is "An Inconvenient Truth" work most successfully as a platform for Gore? Perhaps, but painting him as a moron with a casual misuse of language seems to me not only unfair -- unlike some leaders, "stupid" is not a word I'd use to describe Gore -- but intellectually lazy. Better to dismiss the messenger as a self-important (well, maybe) idiot than to actually consider what he says. (The other episode that features global warming, however, was rather hilarious.)

Oh, and the Scientology thing: Yeah, how dare they target such a sacred cow as Scientology. C'mon, I dare you to find an easier target.

Patrick Pricken said...

I agree that Scientology is an easier target. But who's attacking them, really? Or Mormons? Slate actually featured a "Why don't Germans like Scientology"-article recently.

The Global Warming "Day after tomorrow" episode was great, I agree.

I freely admit that I find most public opinions nowadays ridiculous; it's hype and exaggeration and - above all – idiocy. So perhaps South Park has a "preach it, brother" effect for me, but at least something on TV does.

sienna said...

Sorry for the off-topic post (although FFC looks like a site that I will visit frequently from now on) but I was just wondering whether you are Bill Chambers formally of suite 2-1 (I think) at Calumet College at York.

I hope this doesn't seem stalker-ly; I just used to have fun chats (and 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon challenges) with you & I was wondering how you are doing & whether you are, in fact, still working in film.

The reviews are awesome! Take care, Melanie