September 09, 2007

Why I'm Not Formally Reviewing 'Control'

Control is an authentic-feeling biopic about the late Ian Curtis, the epileptic front man for Joy Division who committed suicide--though a revisionist theory absurdly contends that he "accidentally" hung himself from the clothesline in his Manchester flat--in 1979 at the age of 23. Spoiler. Directed by music-video auteur Anton Corbijn and objectively lensed in black-and-white and 'scope by Martin Ruhe, the film overcomes the central miscasting of Samantha Morton as Ian's wife Deborah (though she would've nailed this role in her Morvern Callar days, she's far too long in the tooth for it now) with the near-perfect casting of Sam Riley as Curtis, Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson, and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honoré, a.k.a. The Other Woman. (Morton's incongruous star-power is easily explained by the basis for Control's screenplay: Deborah Curtis' own memoir Touching from a Distance.) The film is admirably not a hagiography while engendering empathy for a gifted asshole more successfully than, say, Man on the Moon, and the song recreations are surprisingly persuasive, although I was a bit disappointed with how literalmindedly the music is applied at times.

Anyway, I liked it and thought it mostly deserving of its Cannes honours, but towards the end of the film, I found myself growing increasingly restless: instead of dreading Ian's fate, I became impatient with any scene I knew wouldn't end with the money shot. Rather than give the Brothers Weinstein ammunition to butcher another film, though, I'm more apt to blame the anti-piracy measures that have been put into effect for this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Throughout the film, some skinny, anime-looking dork attired in a security uniform that was sliding off his shoulders paced the aisle next to me, stopping occasionally to put a pair of infrared specs to his eyes and pivot his head back and forth, Terminator-style. Call me a prima donna, but when a movie is quiet and intense, as Control most certainly is, there's just something distracting about a guy incessantly goose-stepping in your periphery. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when he leaned against the screen, spilling some of the projected image onto his smug expression. I kept hoping someone with a little influence would speak up (Dave Poland was seated in my vicinity) until finally I tried staring down the twerp myself. Alas, he wielded those night-vision goggles like a talisman, using them to shield himself from direct eye contact. Eventually I hotfooted it to the other side of the theatre--the Nazi stationed there was much less obtrusive, seemingly conscientious of Control's fragile tone.

Now, I'm not gonna get all self-righteous about being monitored during these press & industry screenings, even though I think they're very obviously going after the wrong people. Everybody knows that the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's factory comes with some caveats. But at least properly train this Gestapo to blend into the furniture and conceal their contempt for the whole charade, because it's the films--not the spectators--that ultimately pay the price.

My TIFF So Far:
Just Buried *1/2
Angel **
Emotional Arithmetic **
King of the Hill ***1/2
Love Songs *
A Promise to the Dead **1/2
Amal **1/2
Lust, Caution ***
Control ***
Mother of Tears: The Third Mother ***1/2

58 comments:

Jefferson said...

I liked 24 Hour Party People as an introduction to Joy Division on film, although for the sake of brevity it made a necessary hash of Ian Curtis' story -- first he's a self-serious comic foil, then he's a neurologically dicey rock god, then he's dead. It's Tony Wilson's movie, after all. Reading an FFC review on a Corbijn-lensed Curtis biopic would turn my crank, so I'm sorry that festival shenanigans make that unlikely.

Walter_Chaw said...

Sooooo fucking excited to see the Argento.

Condolences on the night-vision Nazi - have had similar run-ins though have not been virtuous enough to resist reviewing the goddamned things anyway. Gotten to the point, I'm afraid, where I figger if they're retarded enough to fuck with their own product in this way, then I'm an asshole enough to review it in a bad mood.

The screening for The Hoax, for instance, was projected through the wrong lens for fifteen minutes.

I took a ton of heat a while ago for venting about how stupid and arbitrary the screening process is: I think the general expressed consensus was that I was being a baby and should be grateful that the studios are allowing me to see Rush Hour 3 a few days early with a bunch of people who picked up a pass at Gunther Toody's.

Well, my response to getting gang-raped by public/peers/publicists is to offer no defense in the belief, pollyannish, that truth will out.

Has it?

It's really only a matter of time before screenings are done away with altogether. If you don't think that studios are figuring out that they don't need critics at all - you're making the bad mistake of underestimating the money men. They're not good at a lot of things - but they're really, really good at balancing the books. How long before the stigma of not screening pictures flakes away before this avalanche of implanted opinion that "critics don't matter" and let's save a ton of cash by not screening anything anymore? When Ebert dies might be the same hour they only screen arthouse.

Film is worth saving as an artform - as a mirror, as a socio-political excavator, as a barometer. Look around, though, and mark that there are fewer and fewer people left to defend it. My friend Bob Denerstein retired from the Rocky Mountain News a few months ago. His replacement? The wire.

Projectionists are non-union now; many audiences are uncouth, many publicists are untrained, and that's all to the studio's benefit. The harder it is to see a film in ideal conditions, the easier it is for the film to be given a pass for those conditions.

Things are worse since that interview I gave almost a year ago now (more than a year? I forget) - and you know what, I still believe that the truth will out. I believe that the avalanche of populist, catch phrase critics and blurb whores will further convince that critics are unnecessary - that making screenings as unpleasant and distracting as possible will lead to more early retirements of actual defenders of the art, heartbroken by the sty that their church has become.

All this talk about spoilers and box office and all that happy horseshit is publicity-fueled. It's the enemy. So are the security nerds - so are the public promo/press screenings. The more we consent (as I've begun to consent) to that kind of befouling, the closer we are to extinction. Thanks, Bill, for fighting the good fight and for the reminder of what it means to give enough of a shit to be quiet. There's a difference after all, between being quiet because you're too disinterested to fight anymore and being quiet because you're not.

Ryan said...

Question for Alex - in a couple of your reviews over on I Viddied it on the SCREEN, you mention the ScreenIt reviewers - do you read them often? What do you make of them? Have you ever come across a film that they liked?

Alex Jackson said...

I can't remember the last time I've been there.

That must have been an old review. Yeah, they're not that great and come to think of it I can't remember a time where they actually saw a film they really liked.

Ryan said...

Me too - they seem to hate everything. I am very happy with the service they provide - nothing at all like that bullshit CAPAlert or its kin, but the critic seems to hate everything with no backing up of information, beginning every review the same way, very crappy writing.

theoldboy said...

It's not that the ScreenIt reviewers don't like anything, it's that they rarely give anything a good numerical rating. Even films they love rarely rate higher than a 7.5, and the only 9s I've seen them give are to Saving Private Ryan and Pulp Fiction. I hate that they call them artistic reviews, because they don't seem to know much about art, and they only know marginally more about criticism.

Still, much better than the once-hilarious now-terrifying CAPAlert. The only thing there that is still funny is that they put "reviews" in quotes on their front page.

Ryan said...

Terrifying is right - how the hell did they just land a bunch of sponsors to actually pay his dumb ass to continue writing "reviews"?

Walter_Chaw said...

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

It's official.

More like "The Kingdom of the Brittle Hip".

Ian Pugh said...

With a title like that, I wonder if it's too early to officially file the project under "trying too hard."

Bill C said...

Quick update:

PARANOID PARK - *1/2
CLEANER - **

Seeing the new Harmony Korine tomorrow. More capsules on the way.

Jason said...

Re: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Anyone else picture that old Nickelodeon game show "Legends of the Hidden Temple"? Somehow, I can just imagine Indy running around that damn Shrine of the Silver Monkey ("Shrine of the Silver Mooonkeeeey"), trying to get out of the cardboard temple so he can win his Schwinn bicycle. That, and fighting Kirk Fogg and the talking foam statue to the death.

I mean, if you're gonna make Indiana Jones IV and make it suck, why stop at the title? May as well go the whole hog...

Ryan said...

I'm thinking more along the lines of Indiana Jones and the Gold-Plated Bucket of Cheese. Not that I'm going to be anywhere but sitting giddily in the theater at midnight on May 22 next year, but for God's sake, how's about a title that doesn't sound like it was lifted from a 12-year-old's homemade comic book.

Mark Palermo said...

I like the imagery in the title, it's just too unwieldy. I imagine in the future people will abbreviate it in conversation as "Kingdom," like "Raiders." Too many nouns in there.

Seattle Jeff said...

Here's a question and I apologize for it being way off-topic...this is mostly for Walter, but anyone else can feel free to chime in...

Sarah Silverman. I was a huge fan. But is it me, or does she get less funny every time she opens her mouth? Is Jimmy Kimmel a bad influence on her career?

Walter_Chaw said...

To me, the biggest bomb at the MTV thing was Silverman, Jeff, you're right on. Who's really surprised that poor Britney was a drugged out showpony? See's on the Anna Nicole express.

Jefferson said...

In better genre news, the Iron Man trailer looks fucking boss.

Bill C said...

Folks (well, Alex), MISTER LONELY is fucking beautiful.

Also kinda liked Romero's new DEAD flick.

Rick said...

How exactly did Ian Curtis "accidentally" hang himself in Control? Is this similar to the revisionist theory regarding Elliot Smith's unfortunate cooking mishap?

Bill C said...

They don't actually show the part where he ensnarls himself in the contraption (and subliminal imagery suggests either that he's getting the idea to kill himself that way or a premonition of doom), so I guess it will ultimately appease both camps--even though the last few minutes of the flick is basically a compressed version of LAST DAYS.

Ian Pugh said...

Right on the nose, Mark. To me it's kind of like calling the third film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the Holy Grail.

Agreed, Jefferson--can't say I ever cared much for the character, but that trailer has me pretty fuckin' psyched. Terrence Howard as War Machine? I'unno, we'll have to see.

Also, am I the only one who really likes "The Sarah Silverman Program"? Applied to those crazed, fractured narratives, her feckless "it's cool" demeanor seems a whole lot funnier to me than it does in her stand-up.

theoldboy said...

So Diary of the Dead--better than Land? I'm pretty psyched.

James Allen said...

Re: Indiana Jones and the Terrible Case of Sciatica

It reminds me of a Simpsons gag from years back where they showed a clip from Star Trek XII: So Very Tired

Re: Sarah Silverman

I agree with Jeff. The jokes from her new show just hit the floor. The lady has nerve, but misanthropy is a tough comedic line to walk, and her material (not to mention her acting) just doesn't get it done.

Also

I saw 3:10 to Uma the other day and enjoyed it quite a bit. Russell Crowe played the quintessential charismatic bad guy with such a knowing gleam in his eye that I actually bought the ending, which was fairly ludicrous when you stop to think about it. Christian Bale was also quite fine in his grim determination. The payoff was a bit of a downer, but that's post modernism for you. (And the two guys I thought were definitely going to die didn't. Shows you what I know.)

The only character I didn't care for was Charlie Prince. I just don't think Ben Foster was playing it as well as he thought he was, and the gay subtext of the character struck me as unneccesary (although when I told my wife about this observation of the Prince character, she thought I was nuts, so maybe it was just me.)

Finally, for the 15 minutes of trailers I saw before the film, only Eastern Promises looks interesting, although I must say a pet peeve of mine is fake Russian Accents. Nails on a goddamn chalkboard.

Bill C said...

DIARY is way better than LAND, but no DAY, NIGHT, or DAWN. It's a film with terrific set-pieces (zombie-fighting Amish!) but no faith in subtext. Will try my damnedest to cover it soon.

Seattle Jeff said...

I could only take a few minutes of Silverman's TV show...and I had been excited about it.

I was thinking last night how some of her schtick has become ripping people at awards shows while they sit in the audience.

But compare her ripping young blonde druggies with Colbert's ripping of the president at that press dinner. Pretty obvious to see which comic performance had some weight to it.

James Allen said...

I was thinking last night how some of her schtick has become ripping people at awards shows while they sit in the audience.

Ah, what Comedy Central Roasts hath wrought. Not that it's bad to get a few zingers in here and there, but it seems to become her raison d'etre.

And you mention Stephen Colbert. Now there's a satirist. And as you say, he has a set of huge ones.

Rick said...

Also, am I the only one who really likes "The Sarah Silverman Program"?

I think so. I am surprised Ian likes the show, considering that The Ten review seemed to declare that hipster irony is dead. "The Sarah Silverman Program" seems to have many elements of that genre, such as "Throwing such a deadly-serious figurehead into a light of silliness" ( in this case, sleeping with God. Boring.) And her ironic bathroom humor is just plain annoying.

Vikram said...

Bill, it might be worthwhile getting kicked-out by bringing a laser pointer and pointing it into the guys's goggles for acting like such a clown.

Then again, that would be mean.

It's hilarious that they do this type of thing at press/industry screenings. It makes no sense except when you realize that somebody's probably making money on selling this type of "security."

Seattle Jeff said...

Forget that I said I was loving "Rome" Season 2...God, the Pullo/Verenus story lines are so awful. Irrelevant and uninteresting. Horrible.

The dynamic just seems way off, as if the writers couldn't get it together after a long layoff.

James Allen said...

Just realized I typed 3:10 to Uma (instead of Yuma) up above. What the heck was I thinking of? Uma Thurman, I suppose (but not in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, that's for sure.)

Paul S. said...

I'd be more interested in why Walter's not reviewing "Eastern Promises". You guys have been reviewing less and less new movies each week. What gives?

Walter_Chaw said...

Dunno. . . I'm thinking that working for free or at a deficit for ten years starts wearing on folks after a while. Just a guess.

That being said - will review the new Crony for certain when I get the chance to see it - it's not opening in Denver until next week and not screening for us until the day before.

Bill C said...

Ironically, we've actually logged more theatrical reviews this year than we had last year at this time.

The grousing is flattering, but it does feel sometimes like we're churning out product to the tune of "dance, monkey, dance," given how infrequently our tip jar runneth over.

Paul S. said...

Sorry sorry. I don't mean to sound unappreciative. It's just you guys are so good, and you spoil us, so we act like a jilted lover when you give us less than we're used to.

Jefferson said...

In fairness, although it's visible on the TIFF capsule page and elsewhere, your PayPal donation button has disappeared from the main page.

Bill C said...

Touche, Jefferson, though there are also donation links at the top of almost every review page.

Anyway, I know you didn't mean anything by it, Paul. Speaking for myself, I think I have post-TIFF partum.

Bill C said...

Just to apprise y'all, my bloated capsule review of DIARY OF THE DEAD is now online, and I'll be periodically updating that page with new material over the coming week.

Bill C said...

Wow, the Emmys awarding Jaime Pressley over Jenna Fischer has to top their list of stupid decisions.

A broken back, a divorce, The Brothers Solomon...it just ain't her year. But anyone not choked-up by Pam's little victories on "The Office" last season truly has a heart of lead. I suppose it's not the comic gold that screeching "Eaaarrrrlll!" ad nauseam is, though.

dennis said...

I finally caught up with Haneke's Funny Games, as I figured I should see the original before his remake, and man... what an asshole. Is it just me, or does he greatly underestimate the value of horror movies,the intelligence of their fans, and the artistic merits of the genre in general? I felt like I was being pandered to as if I was a 6-year-old. And now I've watched the trailer for his remake, and it appears to be a carbon copy of the original with different actors. Talk about a pointless exercise.

rachel said...

Me, I can't wait to see who robs Stephen Colbert next year. Will it be Wayne Newton? Linda Rondstadt? Eydie Gormé? Whatever, it'll be awesome.

Seattle Jeff said...

If anyone from "My Name is Earl" desrerves recognition, it's the guy who plays Crabman.

Ryan said...

Walter, I finally got to see the enormously wonderful Tony Jaa flick "The Protector", and what a balls-out awesome film that was. I can't wait for this to somehow arrive in HD so I can buy it and watch it over and over. Only question is, where was the scene where he took out the guy with his penis?

Anonymous said...

Funny Games is just pure hate for everything, which is admirable in its own way. Who financed it, let alone a remake? Its the movie you show to people you want to leave your house.

Ryan said...

I just watched Haneke's Funny Games tonight, and I'm really confused by your reaction, Dennis. How did you find it pandering? Also, where can I grab the remake trailer?

dennis said...

Pander in the sense that Haneke thought he was being much more clever than he actually was, giving horror fans what he believes they want while subverting those expectations and illustrating their debasedness. He is a pseudo-intellectual talking down to anyone who watches his movie

Nick Pinkerton over at Reverse Shot gives the best take that I've seen for the movie, it's a recommended read.

The trailer can be found here: http://video.msn.com/v/us/v.htm???f=msnmovies/64&g=c85ab50d-6ed1-4ea4-9e72-f281e8d11864&

Ryan said...

This is pretty amazing - CG Reel for Fincher's Zodiac

Alex Jackson said...

Well, Haneke did say something like "Those who leave don't need the film, those who do will stay".

But, the omnipotent post-modern serial killer has been a part of the horror genre since at least A Nightmare on Elm Street (probably much earlier, I'm sure) and the violation of a domestic sanctuary has always been the predominantly employed premise. I never really felt it was placing itself above the genre, but rather that it was implanting itself firmly within it.

I dunno, maybe that didn't address your complaint. Hopefully, later I can come up with something better.

Rick said...

Funny Games may be the most pointless remake in movie history. But I do love the original, and I guess I am dumb if the film is pandering, because to me it felt just as intense as Cache was. Actually, I would love to see the remake if they would cast UF student Andrew Meyer as one of the victims, purely for sadistic purposes.

dennis said...

Funny Games is intense, at least for the first half, until it dawned on me that Haneke was just having a lark at the expense of the movie's viewers, who he clearly sees as below him. He thought he was implicating me with all of his silly self-aware gags, but I just thought they were funny. Sorry Haneke, it will take more than juvenile tactics like that for me to feel ashamed with myself.

theoldboy said...

I guess I'll have to file my love of Funny Games and giddiness at the remake's trailer under the inexplicable. I don't really agree with Haneke's ideas at all, I just like his audacity, his technical control, and the tremendous gut-twisting intensity he achieves while barely showing any violence.

jer fairall said...

Speaking of Tarnation (in Bill's most recent TIFF review), I'm sure we must've all seen ths by now, but I had no idea that Jonathan Caouette was such a Britney fan.

Anonymous said...

I guess the movie bugged me because its only seen by people who watch foreign horror films, and then proceeds to judge the audience. By exposing ourselves to that we are essentially saying we are better than everyone else (at least when it comes to movies) and Haneke calls us on it. Then again that statement presupposes Americans are the only worthwhile filmgoers. So i guess I am an ass.

Jared said...

More dumb than The Office losing out Best Comedy to the horror that is 30 Rock, or even Jenna Fischer's loss (at least she'll always have the whitest sneakers) is James Gandolfini losing to freaking James Spader. Are they just trying to be contrarian? The pool scene with AJ's suicide attempt should be enough to get any actor an Oscar.

Kenneth said...

30 Rock is the best show on television.

permazorch said...

"Faulknerian." You said, "Faulknerian catfish."
Mr. Chaw, I'm going to love you forever.

It's going to hurt, too.

I fancy myself a Subgenius, and I think I want to order the Sublime smoothie, for sure.

You absolutely have to listen to The Gun Club.

Jared said...

Tina Fey is great...if your idea of humor is putting "vagina" into every other sentence.

Alex Jackson said...

"Vagina" is a funny word! Though not as funny as "cooch" or "cooter".

Anonymous said...

Larry Fessenden is the man.

http://ifc.com/news/article?aId=21074

Anonymous said...

Roger Ebert... most powerful pundit in the USA (officially)... recent post on Jim Emerson's blog "Scanners"