October 12, 2007


When Bill asked me to contribute to the blog--and the blog only--as a guest, I was reticent. I’m a counter-puncher by nature: passionate but cautious, a leader only among followers. But thanks to e-mail’s unique ability to prolong the answers to simple questions, I had enough time to think things through and accept. All I needed was a topic.

“Write what you know,” you know?

I’m not terribly interested in the concept of a “guilty pleasure.” Just because you got high and laughed your ass off during
Norbit, it’s unlikely that you’d really say it’s good. I’m far more interested in a “shameful ethical stance.” I genuinely think Pumpkin is excellent, but I’ve struggled to articulate exactly why that is, so I’m left with awkward pronouncements like, “No, I really do think it’s good.”

But sometimes, we don’t even bother with the stance. No one wants to look like a dumbass, especially since everyone’s born with the psychic ability to sense the impending judging eyes of dumbass accusation. So we hide our unpopular beliefs.

Well, I’d like to call them out. About a week ago, I found myself defending Fantastic 4: Rise of the Awkward Cultural Artifact, and mocking Nicolas Cage. I feel dirty about it. If we can’t honestly discuss art, how can we discuss that which is truly important in life, like socialized medicine, or the role revenge plays in morality, or Jenna Fischer?

So if you secretly think Billy Joel is the greatest recording artist of his generation, tell us. (Remember, I don’t want to know if you occasionally enjoy singing Piano Man karaoke. You really have to believe he’s good.)

If you think, as I do, that After Hours is the only truly great film Marty’s ever made, tell us.

Still not sure exactly what I'm looking for?

Hi, my name is John and I think
Ben Affleck is the most underrated actor of his generation. He was just unlucky to run into a couple of directors who were incapable of protecting him.

Your turn. I refuse to believe that everyone is cooler than I pretend to be.


Sean said...

My name is Sean, and I don't have any issue with Titanic winning the Oscar in 1997.

There. I said it.

Jefferson said...

My name is Jefferson, and I think Ang Lee's Hulk is better than Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, and more than that, a better and more daring work of ART than every comic book movie before it.

Also, I had dibs on Ann Paquin before Bill.

Seattle Jeff said...


I'm Jeff and I think Claude LaLouche's "Les Miserables" And Wierd Al's "UHF" are both criminally underrated.

I also loved "Zodiac" yet despise Robert Graysmith.

And I hope John can contain his hostility towards me.

cw said...

My name is Clint and I think "The Way of the Gun" is brilliant.

and I really enjoy "Waterworld"

raphael said...

My name is Raphael and i did like the endings to Artificial Intelligence and War of the Worlds.
Also love Hulk but it comes in third after Batman returns and the Crow.
And speaking of Alex Proyas,i'm a huge fan of Isaac Asimov and am aware of his comments about "eye sci-fi" yet i still dug the hell out of I,Robot.

Still related to literature,Peter Pan 2003 maybe the best translation to screen i have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

My name is Matt,

I love Jaws 4, Corvette Summer, and Staying Alive....

Dave Gibson said...

My name is Dave. It has been several months since my last confession.

I really enjoyed (and in some instances, revere the following films)

Hudson Hawk
Blast From the Past
The Postman (Costner's postman)

I have never seen two of the three Lord of the Rings movies and have no intention of ever doing so.

I really like Kevin Smith, while not actually liking most of his films.

I can't stand anything by Peter Greenaway.

I will watch anything with Sandra Bullock in it. I love her.

Wow. That felt good.

Seattle Jeff said...

The first time I saw The Postman, we also watched Battlefield Earth...that was quite a night.

Alex Jackson said...

I always kind-of-joke that the only movies I feel guilty about liking are ones that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Apollo 13 is always one I blush about, though I felt validated that this was a common answer, along with Ronnie's Parenthood, in response to the "Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule" quiz question: "Name a good movie by a bad director".

There's To Kill A Mockingbird, a textbook example of paternalistic racism, but fuck man The South is an Achilles' Heel for me when it comes to movies.

Then there's As Good as It Gets, can't explain that one. Though I should feel even more guilt about liking Spanglish.

Speaking of which, have you guys been reading your Armond White lately?

In reference to I Know Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: "It’s a modern classic (despite a cheap-shot plug for Giuliani). By comparison, Hollywood’s most celebrated gay comedies -- In and Out, Chuck and Buck, Blades of Glory, even the laughable Brokeback Mountain -- were all failures of nerve."

On Transformers:

"When the Transformers explode from common tools into super beings, the kinetic imagery fulfills the surrealism of Fernand Léger, El Lissitzky—if only they had digital. Bay’s advertising eye creates shots that make you stare back, baffled at the intense clarity and depth. A couple of magnificent low-level shots, looking up at the Transformers overhead and traveling alongside their movements is the damnedest thing. One is suspended in awe—a triumph of TV-commercial aesthetics. Bad Boys II and Pearl Harbor had shots like this, but they lacked the fantasy context. That is, a context sustaining both dreams and dread. Bay’s desert battle with aliens is as terrifying as Starship Troopers yet, when linked to conflagration in our own streets, lacks Paul Verhoeven’s masterful use of absurdist nightmare. Even Sam’s high school rivalry scenes lack the terrific daydream quality of boys + speed in Joseph Kahn’s Torque."

God, I love that guy.

And on Nicholas Cage, I might be alone in liking Next. Think I could write a coherent defense, though it would probably involve using the excerpt from Dr. Strangelove to justify an obsolete nuclear holocaust thriller and eventually come down to just saying Nicholas Cage in Las Vegas is another one of those weak spots for me.

dennis said...

Armond White has been more absurd than usual lately. His pan of The Assassination of Jesse James was a surface-deep reading at best, he panned 3:10 to Yuma in favor of Seraphim Falls and that War movie with Jet Li and Jason Statham. He liked that Larry the Cable Guy comedy!

Anonymous said...

I'm always in the mood for a good confession.

Sean beat me to it, but Titanic was my favorite film from 1997. And The English Patient was my favorite of 1996.

I also love Transformers. Both versions. But I do think the animated one is kind of crappy in a lovable way, whereas the Michael Bay film is just perfectly ridiculous.

Finally, I really detest Raging Bull.

brandon curtis said...

My name is Brandon and I love Gigli. I think that Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima were a grand undertaking that was deeply unsatisfactory. I think Jaws 2 is as good as Jaws and feel the same about the first two Halloween films as I do about the first two Jaws films.

I also prefer Emily to Zooey Deschanel.

I can't say that I have any real intention of watching all of Stanley Kubrick's movies.

Once Upon A Time In America is the great gangster epic that I prefer.

Anonymous said...

My name is Stu and I think the Daily Show, always and forever, has been criminally stupid.

O'JohnLandis said...

Good start, everyone. Let's keep 'em coming. And don't forget music, literature, theater, etc.

But let's also move on to Phase Two, where we explain some of our choices and discuss the choices of others. Feel free to ask questions.

If you tell me why you think Jaws is great, I'm not going to learn much about you. But if you tell me why you think Jaws 4 is great, I'm going to learn plenty.

I don't care that the Bedazzled remake is bad; I like it anyway. But I really think that Dave Barry's novel, Big Trouble, is the novel of this generation. I'm more interested in "Big Trouble" confessions than "Bedazzled" confessions.

Other than Sandra Bullock, I agree with everything Dave said. I still find it hard to believe that Clue is less worthy of a Best Screenplay nomination than Back to the Future.

I kinda enjoyed watching Gigli, but I can't exactly say it's good. Give it a shot, Brandon.

Nate, I'm interested in a defense of Transformers. I can understand enjoying Bay's Transformers, just like I can understand enjoying sex with a blow-up doll: people need release. But just like a blow-up doll isn't a good woman...

Stu, I understand why The Daily Show might be shallow or limited, but how is it stupid?

Alex, what do you think of Tom Hanks in Apollo 13?

Raphael, please defend the ending of War of the Worlds.

I'll be back Sunday night. Blow my mind.

O'JohnLandis said...

Oh, and Jeff, please don't interpret the fact that I didn't specifically single you out as a form of hostility.

Alex Jackson said...

I know you asked Raphael, but the ending of War of the Worlds has the same stupid-but-yet-entirely-usable justification-- it's all a dream.

Don't know what I could say about Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 aside from that he does what Tom Hanks does.

Ah, and while I would never say Titanic was the best film of 1997, I do feel comfortable in saying that it's better than The Sweet Hereafter.

jack sommersby said...

I happen to think:

The much-maligned Eye of the Beholder is a near-masterpiece that showcases Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd giving career-best performances.

Roger Corman's hugely entertaining Forbidden World to be the best of the Alien clones.

Blake Edwards's A Fine Mess, starring Ted Danson and Howie Mandel, a giddily silly slapstick comedy that boasts awesome widescreen framing by the veteran cinematographer Harry Stradling.

Rob Liebman's uproarious martinet Sgt. Liceman in Mad magazine's Up the Academy to be one of the best comedic performances to grace the silver screen. ("Say it agaaaaaaaaain!")

Maniac Cop 2's action scenes are simply spectacular.

Anonymous said...

Hi, name is Markus and in the year 2006 something changed.
I disliked Pans Labyrinth, The Fountain, Children Of Men and United 93, especially for their simplemindedness.

I thought Running With Scissors was great, it was dark and unhinged. Same goes for Black Dahlia - plus Josh Hartnett was perfect.

Sunshine is almost a masterpiece, but Aliens is dull, repetitive and almost a Michael Bay film.

I used to publicly defend Mel Gibson as a great filmmaker.

I dislike everything I've seen by Nicolas Roeg, Godard, Bruno Dumont and Paul Verhoeven.

Oh yes, and I can't stand the pleasing sounds of The Beatles.

Bill C said...

Armond, is that you?

Markus said...

ha, well, when the top tens came out last year and Armond published his "no to this/rather that" list, I thought I had found a homie, but then I checked out his no.1 Broken Sky and it was one of the worst films I've ever seen. The rest of that list is equally insane.

rachel said...


I find Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera pleasingly 80's. If it boasted more animatronics, and had a cameo by David Warner, it'd be sort of perfect.

And I like Emmy Rossum. I like that she's cheerfully arrogant, classically trained but talentless, an "It" girl that has resoundingly failed: a shit-peddler equal parts privilege and barely-disguised desperation. She's like a fairy tale princess who tries to not notice that she rules a snowglobe. There's a satisfying consistency to her product, something charming about the fact that she is, despite cleavage fluffed to hell, never sexier than a wool blanket. She's like Mitt Romney with more glitter makeup.

In terms of The Daily Show, I wouldn't call it stupid, but I definitely understand those who argue that it fails. The show does real satire and it does dumb jokes, and the latter often sabotage the former, as they reinforce the points of the MSM; the show thus becoming another tentacle-arm of the media it exists to mock. For instance, my friend goes nuts when the Daily Show does jokes about the cultural divide which she sees as largely illusory and a distraction, as she sees the DS ignore, as the media ignores, the real problem of the economic divide. (To that, I'd add the asshole divide.) Obviously, though, it's harder to make fun of economic inequality than it is the fact that some people drive tractors while other people drink lattes.

Of course, she also has a problem with the Colbert Report because "there aren't Republicans like that"; that is, the Bill O'Reilly types tend to be far more secular (and in fact, are fairly condescending to the religious right) than is Colbert's character. Of course, I'd sacrifice some accuracy for comic versatility. But I definitely see her point, where there's a broadness there that threatens to obfuscate as opposed to enlighten about the nature of the people being parodied.

Jefferson said...

Rachel, you may have just encapsulated everything I've ever thought about Emmy Rossum, when I've thought of her at all, but had no words to express.

dennis said...

I'm Dennis, and I think Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is better than the following entries in the trilogy. Lady Vengeance is beautiful nonsense.

I'd rather watch Scoop again than Match Point.

Déjà Vu was overrated by the critical community. Domino is a more interesting movie.

Shortbus was ugly and obnoxious in its shallow navel-gazing.

Grandma's Boy was one of last year's best comedies.

Jessica Bendinger's Stick It was a fabulous pop entertainment.

Crank was one of the best movies of '06.

The Lake House was a lovely movie, half-baked pretensions and all. Ditto Down in the Valley.

raphael said...

RE:War of the world.
Sometimes, i wonder if im the only one noticing that in the movie´s last shots Tom Cruise's character remains literally distant from the family he had struggle to rejoin but he just doesnt move forward.Despite all that he´s been through its now to late for him to become the father he hadnt been up until the invasion.
His little girl escapes his arms to join her mother´s and the teenager who had previously abandoned his family amid the chaos once again runs away from the safety of his home into the streets to embrace a father whose as unreliable and imature as he is.

Jonathan said...

All right:

(1) Saving Silverman works as a subversion of / commentary on the gender politics of its genre (frat comedies like Van Wilder and Tomcats). None of it is particularly subtle, but neither is Hot Fuzz, which most all right-minded people seem to agree is pretty terrific. Also: Jack Black in Neil Diamond tribute band > Jack Black in Tenacious D. And Neil Diamond's recent album with Rick Rubin, 12 Songs, is worth a listen, now that Sony reissued it without the spyware.

(2) The Virgin Suicides is easily Sofia Coppola's best film, the one in which her emphasis on tone is most well-matched to her material. Also, Kirsten Dunst might want to consider some kind of Thurman / Tarantino, Mortensen / Cronenberg arrangement with Coppola.

(3) That's enough, Tilda Swinton.

(4) Though it's admittedly flawed, and the extended cut on the recent DVD box set didn't help matters much, Alien 3 is the best film in its franchise. Not counting the fanboy spooge of AVP (or its forthcoming sequel with poor dead Michelle from 24), Aliens is the worst to start and has aged the most poorly.

(5) For pretty much all of the reasons Bill stated in his review, A Very Brady Sequel is one of my go-to comedies. And, for that matter, so is Clue.

jacksommersby said...

4) Though it's admittedly flawed, and the extended cut on the recent DVD box set didn't help matters much, Alien 3 is the best film in its franchise

I disagree on the effectiveness of the direct's cut -- I think it's very much preferable than the original cut (especially the footage of that crazed inmate freeing the alien from that waste-material chamber). But I still can't work up much enthusiasm for the film as a whole in either form -- it lacks any semblances of narrative drive and grows pretty monotonous after the 45-minute mark. Even though I think Aliens overly mechanical, it still bests Alien 3, which places it last in the series being that (and I know I'm in the minority on this) Alien Reurrection is the second-best of the series.

Dave Gibson said...

Pleasures: Extended Addition

I saw “Clue” when it was released in the theatres and have returned to it many times since. Aside from boasting one hell of a great comic ensemble: Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Lloyd, McKean---come on folks! It’s also willfully, unrepetentendly farcical and damn refreshing in an age when physical comedy is seen as interchangeable with shameless mugging (Stiller, I’m looking at you) and I’d add vastly superior to the similar “Murder By Death” without any of the lame Neil Simon jokes. Watch Tim Curry’s third act explanation of the crime to see a genuinely brilliant comic actor totally kill. A tight, 90 minutes from a sorely underrated director which is what you need after Judd Apatow’s latest 147 minutes on gettin’ some (btw-not hatin’ on JA—but come on, edit man!)

“Blast From the Past” is simply, a wonderfully sweet movie—evoking the cartoonish nostalgia of Joe Dante at his best with Brendan Fraser in the role he was born to play—and great turns by Walken and Spacek. A rare film which honours the value of family and parents (!) without being cloying about it. This is one I plan to watch with my daughter when she’s old enough.

“The Postman” great earnest, irony-free limburger cheese from the master. Sure, I still giggle when I think of lines like” “Postman, you hand out hope like it was candy in your pocket!” and its way too long—but it’s still what I need as the committee made superhero flicks continue to disappoint—would that any of the recent comic book movies dared to be as singularly ludicrous and visionary as this film Also, Will Patton—needs more gigs.

Bullock—I can’t really explain—if Meg Ryan was America’s sweetheart then Bullock is America’s cool girlfriend you can eat cheese doodles with. (not much of an explanation, but attraction is thankfully an unknowable beast) I will say that Bullock has made a LOT of bad movies—but, she’s one I keep rooting for—love will make you do strange things.

RE: John’s Scorsese comment. I agree that “After Hours” is Scorsese’s best film—“GoodFellas” and “King of Comedy” can’t quite allow me to put him in the society of the overrated—but, I will say that I haven’t much liked any of his films since “The Age of Innocence” (I’m probably alone on that one) I think he’s an accomplished craftsman, but honestly not much of an artist. Spielberg has taken far more risks with his recent films—but still (for some reason) is never considered Marty’s creative equal.

jer fairall said...

- Vanilla Sky is Cameron Crowe's best film, after Say Anything and much, much better than Almost Famous.

- Still, Fast Times at Ridgemount High < The Last American Virgin.

- I intensely dislike Borat and Fight Club.

- I never got into The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd.

- I haven't listened to In Rainbows yet, but I haven't liked a Radiohead album since Kid A. And Pablo Honey is way underrated.

- I can't stand Sufjan Stevens.

- I haven't listened to her in a while, but I really like Alanis Morissette.

- Clue? Yes! After Hours Scorsese's best? Yes!!

Anonymous said...

My defense of Transformers goes something like this:

Visually, it's simply one of the most impressive films ever made.

Shia carries the movie from a human standpoint in a surprisingly likable way.

It made me feel like an 8 year-old kid again, in a good way.

All of the stupid things that hurt other Bay films are easily excused by the inherently silly subject matter.

I saw it in a packed theater with hundreds of people who liked it as much as I did. I'm kind of scared to watch it on DVD, but of course I'm still going to buy the transforming 2-disc special edition.

Jer - "Kid A" is Radiohead's best album! And "In Rainbows" is quite wonderful. I suggest you download it today for $1. I actually think "Pablo Honey" and "The Bends" are terribly overrated, both containing a number of songs that I find nearly unlistenable ("Anyone Can Play Guitar"?). Overall, I think they're getting better with age.

Shrug said...

Dennis: I respect Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance more than the two films that follow it, but I find Oldboy a lot more watchable. Mr. Vengeance is good enough at what it does that it makes Oldboy and Lady Vengeance sort of unnecessary (Esp. Lady, which plays like Park stuck the previous two films in a blender and hit liquefy). Oldboy is exhilarating, though, and that leavens the unpleasantness that Mr. Vengeance seems to wallow in.

I saw Alien in its Halloween re-release a few years back. Ever since I've maintained that, as admirable as its craft is, the film loses almost all of its impact when you're familiar with the life-cycle of the Alien.

jacksommersby said...

I'm familiar with its life cycle, but that doesn't in any way spoil the suspense the film is still able to work up, no matter how many times you've seen it. Yes, the life cycle is very short, but this doesn't exactly lessen the danger the alien represents to the crew of the Nostromo -- it's a quintessentially violent specimen from start to finish.

I'm glad this got brought up, because I've been getting into arguments with some people on the message board of the film at imdb.com. I basically take the position that its life cycle is rather moot being that the info pertaining to this is not in the film. Even in the director's cut, it's moot -- though we learn that it's transforming Brett into an egg and incapacitating Dallas to be the host, this still doesn't lessen the danger the adult alien still poses for the remaining crew members.

Anonymous said...

All this hating on Marty and Radiohead. Where's Bill when you need him?

Walter_Chaw said...

My name's Walter and I have a problem:

I like 80% of Kevin Costner's films, including The Postman which is the best example of earnest dunderheadedness that I can think of.

I like Dabney Coleman's Short Time a lot a lot.

I don't "get" The Beatles even a little bit, but I really like John Lennon - especially "Bring on the Lucie".

I don't like Pauline Kael.

I think Christopher Moore is funnier than Carl Hiassen.

I don't like David Sedaris in print (in person: very much).

I don't understand ballet and feel aggressive about it.

Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury are for, respectively: Adolescents and Children.

I hate Bette Davis.

I hate Bagdad Cafe and Tampopo.

No disrespect to Marty, but Spielberg is the better technical filmmaker. I say that not as a confessional thing, but as a matter of fact sort of thing - doesn't everyone know that Spielberg is the best technical filmmaker in the history of the medium? Seriously. That being said - I don't think Spielberg has the muscle to ever do something like Kundun. . . though Catch Me If You Can is playing on the same instrument and, I think, the best Spielberg film since Close Encounters. . . which I don't like all that much even as I admire it.

I love the remake of the Manchurian Candidate - and the remake of Dark Water is better than the original.

I think that 50% of movies are better than the books upon which they're based.

I think we're making as many if not more great, enduring films in Hollywood as we ever have.

Patrick Pricken said...

You're allowed not to like Pauline Kael? Thank god.

My name's Patrick, by the way, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the only winner of the nobel prize for literature that I read and liked. In fact, even though I read probably a book per week, I think China Miéville or Ursula K. Guin can be as good as it gets. I also don't get the hate people have for the final book in Pullman's trilogy.

I love School of Rock. It is one of the best movies containing children I've ever seen.

The Postman is a wonderful piece of film. I love the final confrontation so much in its cheesiness and earnestness and everything that I get a smile just thinking about it.

I like the Magnificient Seven over The Seven Samurai. I like Eastwood's Fistful of Dollars better than Yojimbo (I hope that's the correct equivalent there).

I have no idea what the end of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is supposed to say, but I have pretended that I do.

I cry when Braveheart dies. I think Apocalypto is a great movie that could not have been done by a sane man.

In accordance with Walter, I think the music business still produces plenty of classics and a lot of very good songs.

Bill C said...

It's not fashionable to like Scorsese right now (Jonathan Rosenbaum is no doubt throbbing to squat-and-dump on Marty's grave), but I still think he's the shizznit, the reasons why being fairly self-evident. These things are cyclical, so I take all this so-called "hating" with a grain of salt.

That said, in the spirit of this post, there are days when I'm prepared to call Cape Fear his best movie.

Also, "MADtv" at its worst is better than "SNL" at its best. Moreover, "The Jerk" is the funniest movie ever made.

jacksommersby said...

I like Dabney Coleman's Short Time a lot a lot.

Amen, buddy! If it weren't for Jason Patric's mesmerizing performance in After Dark, My Sweet, Coleman would've won Best Actor in Sommersby's yearly awards. There isn't an emotion Coleman isn't required to display, and he does show with phenomenal ease. Maybe one day someone will get of their ass and make this available on DVD.

dennis said...

You brought up Dark Water again, Walter. I wonder, what did you make of the remake's ending? Was it supposed to be bittersweet? That was one deviation, along with the absence of the "water elevator" climax, from the original that I really missed.

Speaking of Japanese horror remakes, I like Verbinski's The Ring more than Ringu. I also think the oft-maligned/ignored Ringu 2 is a genuinely inspired bit of creepy lunacy.

Shifting to the Ju-On series, the original TV movie is the one everyone should have seen first instead of the inferior Ju-On: The Grudge. As for the American entries, the second, while still not particularly good, is better than Shimizu's first attempt.

Going back to the Alien theme, I'm one of the few who really likes every entry in the series in its own right. Part of what makes the series so fascinating is how every new interpretation of the universe is blazingly individualistic. The theatrical cut of Alien 3 is superior to the longer cut released on DVD for the reasons discussed by Bill in his review, and the Newborn at the end of Resurrection is perfect. I'm amazed that so few people seemed to grasp that it was supposed to be a pathetic abomination, not some sort of bad-ass ultimate Alien.

Since I'm watching it tonight, the House on Haunted Hills remake isn't half bad, and the Thirteen Ghosts remake is easily superior to the terrible original.

Cat People is one of the least interesting Lewton movies. Its sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, is better, and one of the most gorgeous evocations of a child's mind I've seen.

Season of the Witch is the best Halloween sequel, because it doesn't retroactively fuck with the original, and it's just a fun and charmingly scrappy B-movie in its own right.

Oh, and The Deer Hunter is an unenlightening chore to sit through.

jer fairall said...

Nate (Nate! Hi!): I didn't think Pablo Honey had enough cred to be overrated. It's not a perfect record by any means, but I think the "How Do You"/"Stop Whispering"/"Thinking About You"/"Anyone Can Play Guitar" (sorry) stretch is fantastic, and I think that "Creep" is rather charmingly of it's era, rather than annoyingly so. Dunno what to say about Amnesiac and Hail To The Theif other than that I find them boring. In Rainbows is sitting here on my iTunes waiting for my attention right now, though.

Patrick: I never thought anyone had to feel embarassed for liking School of Rock (Walter's dis of it notwithstanding, wasn't it generally well reviewed?), but if it makes you feel better, I too thought it was charming and marvellous. Haven't seen The Newton Boys or Fast Food Nation, but The Bad News Bears is the only Linklaer that I don't love.

And on the subject of remakes, Soderberg's Solaris kicks Tarkovsky's ass. I don't even understand anyone thinking otherwise.

Alex Jackson said...

Cat People is one of the least interesting Lewton movies. Its sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, is better, and one of the most gorgeous evocations of a child's mind I've seen.

I just saw these two! Month of October I've been watching nothing but horror movies, and given my new job as night watchmen I've been seeing an average of eight to ten a week. Haven't gotten sick of them yet.

Have to stick up for the conventional wisdom here and say that Cat People is a classic and better than Curse of the Cat People. My biggest reservation with Curse was actually Sir Lancealot as the house servant. His presense in the film inhabits this uncomfortable netherland between too progressive and not progressive enough. Racial caricature has a kind of stylization, but without it I began to find myself asking questions like "Doesn't he have a family of his own?" The character is dictated exclusively by his relationship with his employer's family. I think the film actually might have been better without him.

I didn't really get what was with that old woman who thinks her daughter has died and the woman who is living with her is an imposter.

But, the whole thing about her parents trying to force her into stop dreaming isn't as heavy-handed as it seems.

What's interesting about both Cat People and Curse of the Cat People is that they aren't horror films and in a sense we should be criticizing Val Lewton for false advertising. But all is forgiven because they're actually very good films about, respectively, the difficulty of maintaining a marriage and being a parent.

In Cat People, the fear of turning into a cat isn't just about her fear of sex but her fear of intimacy. Her husband isn't a pig for wanting to make love to his wife, he's normal. The film is very sympathetic to him. Her reluctance/inability to connect with him through sex makes him feel alone within his own marriage. In Curse of the Cat People, her parents are pressuring her to grow up and fast and kind of erase everything wonderful about the world of childhood. But they're right. Being lost in dreamland is making her lonely.

I was recently arguing with someone about Adrienne Shelly's repulsive Waitress in that it oversimplifies domestic abuse and romanticizes parenthood. I got the "it's a fairy tale, not a docudrama" defense. The Cat People movies are kind of the perfect antidote to the Shelly film; in that they use fantasy to explore the problems that surface in marriage instead of using that as an excuse to suppress them.

Pete said...

Hello, my name is Pete, and Deep Rising was the most fun I had in a theater in the beginning of 1997. It was so awful it was perfectly awful, and that made it perfect in its own way, becoming the best Aliens on a boat movie of the year. It was certainly more fun for me to watch than Titanic.

And I saw it before I saw Alien Resurrection, so I thought that A:R was just Deep Rising in space, what with the crew of lovable misfits and underwater combat sequences. Which made me always think of A:R as a ripoff of Deep Rising, which would make it Aliens on a boat... in space.

And yes, I like Alien3 better than Aliens, because Alien 3 had its own cold logic (kill off everybody you love, including yourself) while Aliens pulled its punches in the end. For that same reason, I prefer Mr. Vengeance to Oldboy -- Mr. Vengeance has its cold logic that it sticks with to the bitter end.

pete said...

Can I also confess I'm bad with years? Deep Rising and Titanic were both in theaters in the beginning of 1998. And I didn't see A:R until it came out on VHS.


O'JohnLandis said...

Rachel, all I can say about your glorious Phantom/Rossum defense is: I’ve rarely wanted more to be convinced of something truly silly.

The Daily Show is, I guess, culturally important. But its novelty was already wearing off when Kilborn left, and they’re really running out of people to put on camera. Still, no one makes fun of anything as well as they make fun of cable news. And Jon Stewart needed to be on something.

Colbert is important because his are the best interviews on television. I tend to think his show would be better if he broke character occasionally, but I understand why it won’t happen.

Scoop may not have the one clever story construct that Match Point has, but it’s better overall. Oldboy is miles better than Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which is the clear warm-up. (People used to say Reservoir Dogs was better than Pulp Fiction, too.) Crank is one of the best movies of ’06.

Alien 3 is still the worst of the four that count. The setting is arbitrarily chosen for its ugly hopelessness. Well, the story’s already ugly and hopeless enough, thanks. Aliens is excellent: it should have ended the series.

And do I really have to be the one to do this? The Beatles were very good. If you haven’t heard their stuff, you should.

I enjoyed Knocked Up while I was watching it--and sure it’s WAY too long--but the bigger problem is that the movie dies whenever Paul Rudd leaves. Yet, what would have to be cut if the movie was to be made a reasonable length? Paul Rudd. I wouldn’t be shocked if Apatow never made a better film than 40-Year-Old Virgin.

I think if there’s any way to defend Transformers, it pretty much begins and ends with Shia. He might be a genuine star. But you get absolutely no points from me for being visually impressive if you can’t handle spatial relationships. Visually, it’s one of the busiest films ever made.

I’ll get to Scorsese and Spielberg another time, but Kubrick is the best technical filmmaker in the history of the medium.

rachel said...

Always glad to be of service to the ridiculous.

Also, for those interested there's a neat bit up here of Colbert discussing his interview method. I'll add that I think Colbert is a fine actor who should really star in a proper film one day. Too bad Hal Ashby isn't around to make it.

I enjoyed Knocked Up while I was watching it--and sure it’s WAY too long--but the bigger problem is that the movie dies whenever Paul Rudd leaves. Yet, what would have to be cut if the movie was to be made a reasonable length? Paul Rudd.

I thought it was generally accepted that that movie is about the wrong couple? In any case, Knocked Up has one of the most misleading one-sheets in recent memory. It totally lies about who we'll be identifying (or even, able to identify) with. Instead of the sheepish Rogen getting us pregnant, the poster should have featured the horrifying visage of Katherine Heigl as it asks, "What if you impregnated this cipher?"

A few more lonely cans to kick down the street:

Jake Gyllenhaal is a marginal talent. He is also stupid. I realized this as I watched him promote his new movie; he revealed that he accepts, uncritically, the ticking time bomb scenario. What a duck.

Evan Rachel Wood is an awful actor who only stars in shit.I greatly admire the effects artists who spread the veneer of prestige and importance over everything she does. I hope she thanks them when she wins her Oscar.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would have been entirely successful if they'd done two things: 1) fix the end so that Arthur and Trillian don't get together, and 2) replace Zooey with Emily Blunt. Easy.

To add to Bill's MADTV mention, I'd say David Herman is hugely underrated and underused. "Escaflowne" is better than "Evangelion." "Escaflowne" is excellent; it has one of my favorite endings of any show.

My heart sank, as did my esteem for the series, when I realized the writers of "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" can't write pathos. "The Critic" might be the best looking North American animated series. Go back to it: after a diet of South Park and Family Guy, it feels almost frighteningly lush. (Also: when I saw Brad Bird and Judd Apatow's names in the credits, one right after the other, I nearly had a seizure.)

The best band I've ever heard is Sparks.

O'JohnLandis said...

I don't think you could make a better movie out of Rudd and Mann: the story structure would be boring and you'd probably want to kill them, so Apatow is right in thinking that they are strong secondary characters only. It's Apatow's peculiar gift that he can only handle periphery.

I like Zooey in Hitchhiker's, though I don't think that project was fixable. Luckily, the BBC version is still readily available.

The Critic did have some genuine Art Direction, and though it doesn't seem dated to me, the material does lend itself to that criticism.

Thanks for the Colbert link. I liked him a lot in Great New Wonderful. At some point, I should probably get around to watching Strangers with Candy.

Craig said...

Hi, this is Craig, long-time listener, very occasional caller, hailing from distant shores. My confessions are thus:

- I concur with previous comments that Eye Of The Beholder and Alien 3 are near-masterpieces.
- Full Metal Jacket is the only Kubrick film I like, with special venom reserved for The Shining.
- Sgt Pepper (the album) is not very good. Nor is Blonde On Blonde.
- I liked Jersey Girl.
- I thought Hulk was excellent and shits all over any of the Spiderman films, which leads me to...
- if not for Alfred Molina, Spiderman 2 would be a terrible film.
- despite some obvious money-grabbing whoring of his name, I don't dislike Nicolas Cage.
- Domino aside, I'm a sucker for Tony Scott. In fact, I'll go as far to say that I generally look forward to seeing his latest.
- I like quite a few of Ron Howard's movies (Ransom, Apollo 13, EdTV, The Paper, Parenthood, even frickin' Backdraft, like 'em all).
- Under Siege is the best pure action movie post-Die Hard.
- if pressed, I'd probably confess preferance for Ordinary People over Raging Bull.
- Scorsese does not deserve his Oscar.

There will no doubt be more that I'm temporarily forgetting.

Bill C said...

I thought Ordinary People being the better film was fairly conventional wisdom at this point. What I can't quite get behind is Tarantino's assertion that Dances with Wolves is better than Goodfellas.

Jefferson said...

- Stephen Colbert is probably the best comedic actor to emerge in the last ten years, and too good to be contained by one show. I'd love to see him do drama sometime.

- Scorsese does not deserve his Oscar for that particular film.

- Anything good about Transformers -- Shia LeBoeuf, anything -- is undermined and all but erased by three (three!) screaming pickaninny caricatures and the Hispanic soldier who could speak English, but doesn't feel like it, even when his friends might be jeopardized by his refusal, just so someone can make a cheap Lou Dobbsian lowest-common-denominator political point.

- Mid-period Beatles -- Revolver and Rubber Soul -- buries everything else from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" all the way to "The Love You Make." And in a just universe, Paul McCartney will be forced to listen to the Plastic Ono Band for all eternity, to make up for his ongoing campaign to retroactively expunge Lennon's contributions.

- Blanket statements of belief are fun and liberating. Thanks, O'John and Bill!

Seattle Jeff said...

I paid $95 for a $25 ticket to a Ween concert and feel I got off cheap.

I second the Revolver and Rubber Soul comment and also think Abbey Road is a very fine album. I also love the musical journey on the white album.

Things that horrify me: I once was so into Nanci Griffith that I bought 10 of her CD's. blechhhh...will one day possibly feel the same way about having anything by Nellie McKay.

If Booth Tarkington had been far less prolific, he'd be held in higher regard today.

Sinclair Lewis also deserves to be remembered. His Nobel speech is one of my favorite reading expereinces.

Also, Hemingway's misogyny is endearing to me.

I feel it is unfair for Chinua Achebe to expect Joseph Conrad to portray Africans accurately in Heart of Darkness, but find him justified in disliking it.

I love Survivor as a game show.

If it weren't for the Rockies magical run, Dane Cook would singlehandedly be ruining the baseball playoffs this year.

I had no idea who Emmy Rossum was.

Seattle Jeff said...

oh, and I don't get the Sandra Bullock love and I never will...

but, as far as impregnating Katherine Heigl, sign me up.

(This is based on never having seen Grey's Anatomy and not having to stick around like Seth Rogen.

But having seen Carlito's Way last night, I'd opt for Penelope Ann Miller over both of them.

Benaiah said...

What does everyone, and particularly Walter given his home state, think about the Rocky Mountain institute? Sometimes it just feels like things are too fucked up for it to ever improve, but stuff like RMI gives me hope.

But on the subject at hand:

Steely Dan were the closest thing rock and roll ever got to classical composers and I prefer them immensely to the Beatles or the Stones.

I don't really like the Beatles or the Stones.

The American Office has jumped the shark. It should have ended after season two and it is now an object lesson in why long narrative is just as much an albatross as an opportunity for television as a medium. What if you just don't have enough to say?

Seattle Jeff said...

Seeing Steely Dan in concert last year was a true joy.

But as Paul Rudd's character in Knocked Up specifies, it's old Dan that is solid.

Benaiah said...

The new albums aren't their best, but they are pretty solid. Christgau (who I don't understand as the genre's tastemaker, how can art criticism be reduced to blurbs?) likes their early stuff best, but my two favorite albums are "The Royal Scam" and "Aja" which were later. SD's worldview would rival David Chase's for negativity and a lack of faith in humanity.

Dave Gibson said...

I think "The Office" has a lot of juice yet, but the hour long episodes were a not a good idea--all of the episodes thus far have been obviously padded, and multiple outdoor scenes in an undisguised Los Angeles, makes me wonder why they're bothering with the Philadelphia setting anyways. Enough great stuff however to keep me watching, though I do hear the Fonz revving up in the distance. Yeah, why does everything have to last forever? Eg--would Arrested Development really have still been great after 3 seasons?

Dgibson said...

Errata--Scranton, wrong fake locale.

Jared said...

I like parts of The Beatles catalog but come on, Paul McCartney was a hack and proves it with every new shitty ass CD that comes with your $8 latte. Anybody who doesn't think 99% of that band's talent was George Harrison is dreaming, of course, Lennon was stoned and goofy enough to be a really entertaining guy...not much of a musician but still a cool blank slate to project all over.

I don't really care for Harrison Ford in anything but comedies. For that matter, I think Peter Weir is a hack. The Truman Show is the only decent thing he's ever made and that was really Andrew Niccol's movie. I also think Steven Spielberg's pre-2000's output isn't very good and that Munich and Catch Me If You Can are far superior to E.T., Raiders, Jaws, hell, pretty much anything he made before 2002 but Duel.

I thought that "The Break Up" was one of the very best movies of 2006. It is dark comedy in the vein of After Hours and it was promoted as some goofy Jennifer Aniston rom com with some cliche conflict and happy ending, it's not, rent it.

I thought Superman Returns was worse than Superman IV: The Quest For Peace but then again so did everybody else but this site.

I think John Cusack is one of the best actors working today. He is aware that a lot of the movies he is in are crappy and done for the money - would it be better if he did them and thought they were good?

I find Christopher Walken genuinely terrible in comedic roles. He was better when he could be funny without forcing it - ironic Walken gets no love from me.

I'm totally straight and not in any way attracted to Jessica Alba or Angelina Jolie...they're just not doing it for me.

Arrested Development would've been good for 5 seasons of the full length of the first one, after that it probably would've ran out of steam. As for the US Office, i think it's a lot funnier than it was for the first two seasons - the first one being absolutely dreadful and just a waste of space compared to the UK original. I kind of like the hour long episodes since the show isn't exactly what you'd call tightly plotted, it's just a bunch of goofy character moments. The Fun Run episode's first half did kind of test the strength of the format though. I think the 40 minute super sized episodes were a better length, in fact, all of their episodes should be that long instead of doing an hour. 30 minutes without commercials is about perfect for comedy - see Curb Your Enthusiasm for another example.

dennis said...

From Dusk Till Dawn executed the same concept as this year's Grindhouse a decade ago, and it was better the first time around.

The Bourne Supremacy is the most potent entry in its trilogy.

Ocean's Twelve is the most entertaining entry in its trilogy. Thirteen deserves the venom that was heaped upon its preceding chapter.

Alex Jackson said...

I don't really care for Harrison Ford in anything but comedies. For that matter, I think Peter Weir is a hack. The Truman Show is the only decent thing he's ever made and that was really Andrew Niccol's movie.

Cringe. Cringe. Witness wasn't as good as Truman Show. Have to say that Picnic at Hanging Rock, Master and Commander, and especially Mosquito Coast were better.

I have great difficulty discerning much of a difference between Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13.

In the interest of revenge for the painful bit of Scorsese hate, let me retaliate by saying that I find Akira Kurosawa overly sentimental and I marvel at how people can take the sentiments expressed in a film like Ikiru seriously.

So there.

cism ltyh said...

I don't get "The 400 Blows", or much Truffaut at all beyond the suggestion that someone should do an adaptation of "First Love" in Japan.

Chinua Achebe's dissection of "Heart of Darkness" is of infinite more worth than that piece of shit book.

I love "Meet Joe Black" and "Hulk" is the best comic book adaptation to date.

jer fairall said...

Ack. I keep forgetting that Howard made The Paper. Fun movie, that one. I also do like Parenthood, though it's been a while. He's still pretty bad, though--Ransom and The Da Vinci Code, in particular, prove that he should never be let anywhere near anything that might require evoking suspense or dramatic tension.

Match Point is slightly overrated and Scoop is slightly underrated, I think. The problem with the former is that it's basically just another Crimes and Misdomeanors, 'cept the characters are younger, sexier and dumber. It's an entertaining and watchable film, but doesn't really stick--like, when it's over, it's over, ya know? Scoop just seems like the kind of light screwball comedy that Allen seems to make these days when he feels that he doens't have anything real to say at the moment. Neither it nor Small Time Crooks nor The Curse of The Jade Scorpion represent his best work, but I geuess I feel that he does this kind of film well enough.

Oh, and not only is Die Hard With a Vengeance a better post-Die Hard action flick, it's the best Die Hard movie period. By far.

Andrei said...

I love Freddy Got Fingered. I own it and I've probably watched it a dozen times.

Joan said...

Everything that Patrick said, a million comments upthread, plus:

ITA on Die Hard with a Vengeance, a completely satisfying, stupid action flick -- which brings me to the realization that I will watch Bruce Willis in anything, even his more ridiculous sci-fi outings (adore 12 Monkeys and will even watch that one where he's a cabbie and the freaky chick from The Messenger literally drops in on him? You know what I'm talking about.)

Also: I love John Williams, yes I do, even though his stuff can be as maudlin and button-pushing as a dead little girl in a red coat in a film that's otherwise b&w. I thought his score for Catch Me If You Can was brilliant and more than makes up for the stuff he phones in.

I disliked Transformers because the fight choreography sucked, I could never tell who was doing what to whom, and it was very hard to tell who was winning. That said, I think Shia has something more than just potential.

Actors I will watch in anything: Gene Tierney, Heath Ledger (Ten Things I Hate About You, esp the "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" scene), Ewan MacGregor, Ann Hathaway.

I love Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as much as I love HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban, because the movie does something the book glosses over: it makes a big deal of Hagrid's redemption, and I'm a total sucker for the redemptive arc. Also, Kenneth Branaugh was hysterical.

I think J.K. Rowling is master plot technician and quite serviceable, if not brilliant, writer, and I think everyone who dumps on her for being "inferior" in any way is just expressing sour grapes. Yes, there are clumsy bits here and there, but the stuff's highly readable and for the most part, fun.

Last: I can tell you why all the hate for Pullman's third book: Pullman's an idiot, and his adolescent views on religion and sexuality completely fall apart under the weight of the plot he has piled upon them. Having reached the point where he has to have some kind of fantastic denouement, he gives a senile "God" who is incapable of anything, and yet someone is still responsible for all the evil in this universe, and all the attendant parallel universes. It has been a while since I slogged through it, but I wanted to throw the book across the room when I finally reached that climactic battle scene. What a joke. Also: Pullman is a hack -- quick, what does Lyra look like? (No cheating looking at movie promos!) He rarely describes anything, it's all breathless this happened - then this -- then this -- and yeah the animal familiars are cool and sex is just the best thing ever! and religion is just soooo stupid. I found Paolini's ultra-tedious Eragon/Eldest trilogy in the making less pretentious and more mature than "His Dark Materials." Which is not to say that Paolini's stuff is good; it's not. It's derivative, but could've made a great a movie, stripped down to its essentials, minimizing the Star-Wars-iness of it. Screwed that one up, they did. Same story, also, with The Seeker, apparently -- I loved the Susan Cooper books, but I won't go near that monstrosity. (sigh)

I hope that Beowulf is awesome. I fell asleep during 300, which looked great but dragged, and suffered from a too-literal translation from page to screen.

Why does that happen so often with adaptations? Either they go completely insane and leave the story entirely behind, of they hew to it completely and you end up with non-stop exposition and boredom on screen.

O'JohnLandis said...

I entirely disagree that The Office has jumped the shark. The most recent episode was great. They might have actually managed to find real depth in a Dwight, Angela, Andy triangle! I mean, seriously.

I'm not sure that McCartney's lameness can retroactively damage The Beatles.

Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are average, with a couple great moments each, but at least Coppola didn't include the framing device and Conrad didn't include Brando.

I think Superman Returns is the best Superman movie and horribly underrated. Yeah, I could use a better ending and real film, but I buy the emotional damage of Clark, Lois, and Luthor, and it has three truly great scenes. The original Donner Superman is worse than all but the fourth, with the dumbest movie ending I can currently remember.

From Dusk Till Dawn might be better Grindhouse, but Death Proof and Don't (and possibly Machete) are better art. Meanwhile, Hot Fuzz is better than Shaun.

I really can't say which of the first three Die Hards is best. It's too close.

Is there too much John Williams music out there? Sure. But that doesn't mean that a whole bunch of it isn't great. Even Jurassic Park. And I'll defend the red coat. If it's manipulative, I don't think it's manipulative in a bad way. Think of it as a shortcut to add more detail to the frame.

Anonymous said...

Just off topic a little, here...

I've read your review of The Graduate (one of my favourite films, for the record), Walter - I'm kind of surprised that for all the positive things you've said about it, you've only awarded it 2 1/2 stars. Still, well worth reading, as usual.

Although I actually think the film ends on the perfect note - the whole irony being that for all his attempts to be something "different", Ben's ended up with the very girl his parents, and Mr. Robinson, wanted him to end up with. You COULD argue, just like in Raiders (where Indy's efforts don't prevent the Ark ending up with the Nazis), that this conclusion was coming no matter what Mrs. Robinson's feelings were. (Then again, but for her interventions, would his "quest" for Elaine have been as long or complicated?)

I also have to single out Norman Fell, terrific in his few scenes. Not to mention Murray Hamilton - I liked him in Jaws, but he was better here. (The "Do you want to tell me WHY you did it?" confrontation is genuinely memorable.)

See, I can't rate it as low as you... it's left too strong an impression.

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter -

Congrats on your local MLB team. It must be amazing to have the World Series come to your town for the first time (we dream of that in Seattle)...

But if the Rockies face Cleveland, I'd be worried that the sports gods might want a balance in The Force and let Cleveland break Denver hearts for a change. Cleveland is a long suffering fan base and Denver played a big role in that football-wise.

Kenneth said...

I've long held that McCartney was the best Beatle by far, and had a better solo career too.

Vikram said...

I love this topic

theoldboy said...

Meanwhile, Hot Fuzz is better than Shaun.

I guess it depends on genre preference. Since I hate Michael Bay and Tony Scott and love George Romero (with equal amounts of passion), then I like Shaun better, since it's not so much that Hot Fuzz doesn't replicate the effect of Bruckheimer productions, because it does amazingly well, but that I don't like the effect of Bruckheimer in the first place. I get the same numbness from the film that I get from the films that it perfectly pastiches. Having said that, I really do want to see it again.

As for something totally fucking embarassing:

-I used to think Larry The Cable Guy was funny.

-Braveheart used to be my favorite movie.

-I actively avoid shitty movies and this has bred an unfortunate tolerance for that which is sublime.

-My favorite John Lennon song is Mind Games. I don't have a particular favorite Beatles song, but I do know that I like their music a lot better after Bob Dylan gives them weed.

Dave G said...

Not a fan of Singer's morose, pretentious, needlesly violent and resolutely boring "Superman Returns". As a feature-length meditation on the idea of Superman, I suppose it has some minor interest as a mythology 101 text--but as a "Superman" movie--it totally misses--but it's pretty much of a piece with the self-important, joyless comic book films done by directors who should really be challenging themselves more. While I can't say I really liked the Fantastic Four movies they at least tried to be fun.
Best part was the opening credits. Go John Williams! For someone who's scored so many beloved films, he sure gets a lot of flak.

Strangers With Candy--that reminds me of how much I adore Amy Sedaris--and how loath I was to admit that the SWC film was pretty shitty.

Benaiah said...

I don't know what a "Superman" movie is, but it sounds like something Michael Bay specializes in. "At least they tried to be fun" equates to: Comic book movies, like the kiddie genre they come from, should keep any 14 year old boy on the edge of his seat. Well, I watched LXG and it didn't improve on the adult source material by making it more like "Indiana Jones: the Ride!"

Superman Returns was the first time I felt like I was watching a truly arthouse comic book adaptation. Brian Singer is probably the only director I am sure could make the Watchmen, Zach Synder on the other hand I wouldn't trust to make a decent adaptation of The Babysitter's Club.

Sean said...


I agree on your opinion of Superman Returns, but I refuse to count out Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" just yet. I tend to think the flaws of 300 (and they're legion), stem more from the fact that the book was no different. I hated the book, and I hated the movie as well.

What I'm saying is that I think if the source material is strong, Snyder is a capable enough director to transfer it to the screen without much loss....just don't expect any extra pizzazz. The thought of Bryan Singer making "Watchmen", though, is enough to tighten the pants a little.

Benaiah said...


Think about what Zach Synder put into the 300 movie: all of the political intrigue, the rape of Queen and the loud talk of freedom that repositioned the movie as an allegory for the war in Iraq. The book was still about a bunch of erect penises fucking things as hard as possible, but at least it didn't pretend to be much more than that. Zach Synder- and more precisely all of the people I know who love his work- terrifies me.

Our only hope is his slavish devotion to the source material limits him from injecting too much idiocy into the Watchmen.

James Allen said...

Sorry I'm late for the meeting... can I bring my beer in with me?

Hi, my name is James, and I will defend Bakshi's Lord of the Rings to the death. A sadly unfinished flawed masterpiece that pissed off the diehards but managed to hit some key moments that even the god Peter Jackson flubbed (he did a good job overall but was stroked way too hard for his efforts). Examples you say? The flight to the ford (Jackson putting Arwen there was a stupid mistake), the first meeting of Aragorn and the Hobbits actually made more sense and was somewhat moving, The Council of Elrond actually explained a few things and wasn't a "me too" fest, Weathertop was more chilling, Moria was creepier, etc.

And someone kind of mentioned it before, so I'll say I think the first Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie was hilarious. Then they (collectively and individually) drove the concept into the ground.

And while I'm on stand-ups, I thought Andrew Dice Clay (his first HBO special) was extremely funny. I think maybe some people took the character he was playing seriously, not realizing he was putting everyone on and all but winking at the audience (unfortunately for Clay, he shot his wad with his first special, as he had nowhere else to go with it). Maybe it was ahead of its time, as repulsive character comedy, like Borat, say, gets praised to the skies for showing what assholes we all are. Or something. All I know is in a nightclub setting it can work because audiences have a good idea wht they're in for, but going out of your way to piss of people who are trying to be nice to you (while completely misrepresenting your intentions) is not my idea of sharp post-modern comedy.

Ditto to those who gave props to Short Time. In general I think Dabney Coleman is a damn fine actor who I'd be hard pressed to cite a film (or TV show, yes, even "Drexel's Class") he was terrible in.

I like the version of Blade Runner with the narration.

I still liked Craig Kilborn's "Daily Show" better.

I know I'm expected to like him because I'm from New Jersey, but Bruce Springsteen does nothing for me

Mike Nesmith is my favorite Monkee

I feel better know.

dennis said...

Sorry to keep responding, but I just post these as they come to me:

Escape From LA was the last time we saw the real John Carpenter. Not only that, but I like it more than Escape From NY, which has aged the worst of his early classics.

His remake of The Thing is good, but commonly overrated by the horror community. Phillip Kaufman's less hyped Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake is a better movie.

jacksommersby said...


Hi, my name is John and I think Ben Affleck is the most underrated actor of his generation

Though I can't agree on this point, I will aver that I've never had a problem with Affleck in general, it's just that most of his performances, like Edward Burns', are bland and teeming with timidity (excepting his wonderful supporting turn in Boiler Room and starring one in Changing Lanes, where he was unexpectedly touching). I put him in the Rob Lowe vein (which isn't meant as an insult because I've never had a real problem with Lowe, either): capable but undistinguished. I think he's going to grow better as he ages.


I've listened to all of Carpenter's commentaries, and in one of them with Kurt Russell he said that Escape From L.A. was, like Big Trouble in Little China, ahead of its time. But I gave that film another look earlier this year (after anxiously seeing it opening day at the theatre), and I don't think Carpenter's claim holds so much as an iota of truth. It's a lazily-scripted sequel that more or less copies the original in way too many ways to even remotely be considered risk-taking as Carpenter claims. Still, I'd love to be afforded an audio commentary with Russell on an L.A. DVD (c'mon, you tight asses over at Paramount Home Video -- give us a damn commentary!) so Carpenter could try to validate his claim.

Alex Jackson said...

Superman Returns was the first time I felt like I was watching a truly arthouse comic book adaptation. Brian Singer is probably the only director I am sure could make the Watchmen, Zach Synder on the other hand I wouldn't trust to make a decent adaptation of The Babysitter's Club.

Well, I'm still nuts about Tim Burton's Batman. But Superman Returns was at least the first superhero film I've seen which really seemed to reflect some of the key ideas of Watchmen.

I think Watchmen can be adapted. But only if you don't make it look like a comic book. Peter Greengrass was once working on bringing the book to the screen, and I still think he would actually be the best person for it. I think it's precisely the right fit. Better probably than Singer and certainly better than Snyder.

Anonymous said...

This is Stu
I agree with your points on the Daily Show, John. But I think its stupid because the target audience should already know what they present, and I think that laughing at it allows some sort of release that leads to an evasion of responsibility. It may be funny (sometimes) but it is ultimately self-defeating. We chuckle at Bush being an idiot and feel like we have done something relevant. Colbert took it to the extreme and its much more entertaining, but it still validates Fox news in some weird way to watch the show.

Craig said...

I should have added the disclaimer that Scorsese doesn't deserve the Oscar for that particular film. Despite the mild backlash against him of late, he's still a master. Which reminds me: Bringing Out The Dead and Cape Fear are, by some distance, my favourite(s) of his films.

While I won't say that Ben Affleck is amazing, he is unfairly maligned. If he avoids crappy blockbusters and keeps up with the Hollywoodland-type stuff (not a great film, but he was good in it), history may just look back at him more favourably than Matt Damon.

I don't think Costner deserves the venom projected his way either. Speaking of which, I'll take Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves over any Indiana Jones movie (Raiders is great, but it's not *mine*, if that makes sense).

Licence To Kill is my favourite Bond film.

O'JohnLandis said...

OK, so I was cheating with the Affleck comment. "Underrated" is intentionally vague. I might be able to fit him into the top twenty actors of his generation, but people act as though he was sent from above to invent bad acting in America, and I don't at all think he's bad. Or bland. Just limited. However, without any cheating, I'll go out on a limb and call Surviving Christmas my favorite Christmas movie. And since I really liked Sky High, too, I guess I'm a Mike Mitchell apologist.

I don't know what responsibility Daily Show has to provide anything more than decent media satire, but I tend to think the show won't go off the air if a Democrat wins the election. So whatever the weaknesses of the show, I think it exists to do more than make fun of Bush.

I can understand Living Daylights being a favorite Bond, and Dalton may be the best actual actor to play Bond, but Licence didn't much interest me.

The genre parody isn't the main course in Hot Fuzz. It's a movie about a dull, skilled man dumbing himself down to fit in an unskilled world that hates him, only to find that his best chance for survival is to become a parody of himself. All this is set in a world in which Bad Boys 2 can save the day. That's just harder to conceive than zombie allegory.

The Thing (Carpenter) is better in all ways than the Invasion remake, and that's not because Kaufman's film is bad.

Superman Returns isn't any kind of arthouse movie and Hollywood movies are morose and violent all the time. The only possible reason for assuming that Superman wouldn't resent his duty is fidelity to the source material. No adaptation should ever make stupid decisions because they're the same stupid decisions others have made. Once the world is opened up, everything else works perfectly.

Love Gorilla said...

O/T Has anyone come across this particular shindig?

À l'intérieur (Inside)

Alex Jackson said...

Superman Returns isn't any kind of arthouse movie and Hollywood movies are morose and violent all the time. The only possible reason for assuming that Superman wouldn't resent his duty is fidelity to the source material.

Huh? What do you think that whole passing out and striking the Christ pose thing was about?

The actor playing that role was a cipher and that's the whole point. If he resented his duty that would make him human and the whole idea is that he isn't human. He's Superman. He's beyond our empathy.

Like Dr. Manhattan, right?

jacksommersby said...

The Thing (Carpenter) is better in all ways than the Invasion remake, and that's not because Kaufman's film is bad.

Better in characterization? I think not. Not that I'm one of these close-minded critics who aver that the characters in The Thing (as well as Alien) are two-dimensional -- like Ridley Scott aptly explained, the characters are beautifully defined in that you know all you need know about them given the kind of film they're in. Still, with fewer main characters (Sutherland, Adams, Goldblum, Cartwright), I think the ones in Invasion have a bit more texture and depth.

jacksommersby said...

Oh, and here's one:

Out of all of Wolfgang Petersen's films, my favorite is the Hitchcockian thriller Shattered, which critics tore apart quite severely. Yes, it's got a major frigging logic loophole right at the core (someone can't have the same voice as someone else), but it's so suspenseful and stylish that I'm willing to overlook it. I mean, you've got a solid Tom Berenger in the lead, a scene-stealing Bob Hoskins in the supporting tier, sultry Greta Scacchi's nudity, and the rarely-tolerable Corbin Bernsen making a decent impression for once.

Kenneth said...

Hi, my name is Ken.

Paul was the best Beatle.

A Clockwork Orange sucks.

John Carpenter's Halloween is boring.

Presenting 300 as an allegory for Iraq is a willful misreading.

George Clooney's serious political movies are all shit.

Matchbox Twenty's third album is fantastic.

Final Destination 3 is the best horror film of the past five years.

jacksommersby said...

John Carpenter's Halloween is boring.

I'll do you one better -- I think Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is the best of the series.

(On a sidenote: I've been to Loleta, the small northern California town that this film was shot. The motel is now a rundown apartment complex, and the huge milk factory building that served as the Silver Shamrock headquarters was still there and looking good.

Jason said...

Hi, my name is Jason.

- I agree that Carpenter's Halloween is somewhat boring, but I chalk that up more to performances and script than pacing or tone. What I mean is, that while there's nothing bad that you can really say about the last 30 minutes - that's all damn good filmmaking - getting to that point is such a damn slog, because no character is that well-defined, or interesting enough to give a shit about. Because of this I can't decide if John Carpenter is:
a) a great director ruined by being pigeonholed into one genre;
b) a good director who's general interests kept him from moving beyond genre limitations; or
c) a mediocre director who managed to touch greatness twice (Halloween, The Thing).

- Licence to Kill is the most faithful Bond film to the tone and tenor of Ian Fleming's novels, ever. The less you know about Ian Fleming's James Bond, the less you will get out of this movie. It's one of my favorites, though it still can't quite beat the overall perfection of From Russia With Love.

- Continuing that, Timothy Dalton is the closest we've ever come to seeing Ian Fleming's James Bond on-screen. Daniel Craig is still far too angry, too bloodthirsty, and too egotistical. I have high hopes for Craig, though - he could end up being the best.

- I agree with Ken: Final Destination 3 is the best horror film of the last five years, though Freddy vs. Jason was the best of the decade. The Descent was overrated, boring, and not at all scary.

- Fuck The Ring. Fuck it's sequel even harder.

- I agree with all the Superman Returns hate. That movied gobbled goat balls.

That feels better.

jacksommersby said...

Licence to Kill is my second-favorite Bond behind Octopussy, with the great Robert Davi emerging as the best Bond villain ever.

Rick said...

The Daily Show seems to be for hipsters who know NOTHING about politics.

And I agree, Peter Greenaway films are uninspired and fucking boring.

rachel said...

The Daily Show seems to be for hipsters who know NOTHING about politics.

Except that's not true.

"Daily Show" viewers know more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television news, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey.

Unless you're looking at politics outside of "election issues." Still ...

Jefferson said...

Jason said...
... though it still can't quite beat the overall perfection of From Russia With Love.

FRWL wins my heart just for having the most gripping fight scene in any Bond flick. No music, no guns, just two guys pummeling each other in a tiny train compartment, scrapping as hard as they can to survive, doing everything short of punching each other in the balls.

Seattle Jeff said...

I tend to think of The Daily Show as a critique of the media moreso than something political...Stewart's seems pretty moderate...

O'JohnLandis said...

When someone says "better in all ways," there's an implied "that matter." The Thing (Carpenter) isn't a very good black-and-white film, either, but who cares? I won't go so far as to agree that its characterizations are poor, but even if that's true, it's still a magical, inspired version of the same basic idea. Kaufman's film, no matter how expertly handled, is very much a remake, and in order to consider it superior to the original, you have to bring along a mountain of theory. It's very good, but not special. Carpenter's film could have been called something else. Other than the title and the same basic setup, it's its own unique thing. Originality is not in itself a standard determining factor of quality, but when you're comparing two remakes, it has to enter into the discussion.

And Alex, what did you mean with:

Huh? What do you think that whole passing out and striking the Christ pose thing was about?

I don't at all accept your assertion that Superman isn't human for the purposes of analysis. Morally speaking, Superman should be considered human. If you have every single human trait but happen not to have been born on Earth, why should that matter? He has feelings and his job sucks. What more do you need? Call it deal-breaker revisionism if you want, and I'll counter that there is no such thing in art, only in comic conventions. The Superman character in Superman Returns is better in all ways (there it is again) than any previous version of the character. Sure, the actor isn't better, the ending was clunky, and shooting on digital shit was nearly a disaster. So it's not a complete success. But all I have to prove is that it's the best of its series, and it's not really close. As good as Reeve is in the first, the movie is just so dumb it can't really be in the discussion.

Alex Jackson said...

Huh? What do you think that whole passing out and striking the Christ pose thing was about?

Well, that scene was so pretentious on such an epic scale that I realized that Superman was beyond human. That I could not empathize with him and his failings are monumental compared to my own.

Obviously he doesn't have feelings (as we understand them) or else he would expose them to us. And he has plenty of traits that put him far beyond merely human including the ability to fly and his invulnerbility.

I mean nobody other than Superman knows what it's like to be Superman and as thus it's impossible to properly empathize with him.

jacksommersby said...

I won't go so far as to agree that its characterizations are poor

Oh, I wasn't saying that the characterizations were poor -- far from it. Just that they didn't quite have the organic clarity of the ones in Invasion. In fact, I think I have more faith in the characterizations than Carpenter had, because, as he made clear in the commentary, he pointed up the MacReady character because he thought with all the heavy clothing audiences would have a time differenciating them, which I think was ludicrous. MacReady was supposed to blend in with the characters, so his becoming the leader not by choice but necessity would come off. Unfortunately, Carpenter points him up from our first introduction of him as the eventual leader -- with only Kurt Russell's name in the opening credits futher solidifying this. So, no, I'm not in that sorry spectrum of critics who think the characterizations are subpar. I get so pissed when I read someone tossing this criticism off. I mean, what the hell would they have preferred? Having each cast member deliver a going-for-the-Oscar monologue so they can spell out what we can probably infer for ourselves? Pitiful.

Benaiah said...

I mean nobody other than Superman knows what it's like to be Superman and as thus it's impossible to properly empathize with him.

Nobody knows what it is like to be ANYONE, empathy is the ability to transcend that fundamental distance and feel for someone else. I felt empathy for Superman, and for Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ and for you when you said that.

Dave Gibson said...

The allegorical gravitas of Superman and other comic characters has been hashed over for decades at comic conventions in and smoky dorm rooms that it’s hardly daring or original to posit our good buddy Kal-El as a cosmic Jebus surrogate, which is why it’s baffling that Singer chose to literalize the subtext (ie. The aforementioned Christ posturing) throughout his misguides opus-- thus foisting psychological complexity on an iconic figure where there should be none. In other words, nice suit—but, it’s not Superman. Aside from this fatal flaw—on a purely reactionary level, I’ll take the “Can You Read My Mind” Supes over the “Luthor brutally stabbing Superman in the back/Supes stalks Lois Lane/Parker Posey BS—capped with a stirring hospital convalescence” version any day. Much agreed that deal-breaker revisionism does and should not exist in art—but, given that there is so much passionate discussion of “source material” and ideal directors for other beloved comic books on this same thread it’s definitely alive and well, far beyond the velvet ropes at the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con—and that’s a good thing.

Meandering back to the original question—the natural extension of my harangue should then be this: I enjoy comic books. Comic books do not need to be validated by a film version. I do not care if there is ever another comic book adaptation again, ever. I think that the Watchmen is just fine as a comic book. Transcendent even. I would like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer et. al—to do something else. Anything. Please. Put down that "Green Lantern" script--I know you have this genius approach where the Lantern is actually-blue--but, please--just put it down....

Seattle Jeff said...

I just can't relate to Superman on a human level...the Christ pose just reinforces that...can't relate to that guy either.

jer fairall said...

Off topic, or at least off *this* topic, but fantastic Monster Squad review, Bill! I suppose I haven't retained my generation's fondness for the film, as I don't remember anything about it aside from Dracula's mass murder of police near the end (fun for the whole family!. Still, kinda bummed to learn that Mitch Hedberg stole that whole "Dr. Acula" line from somewhere, though I can't tell you how ecsatic I was to read the words "the great Last American Virgin."

Alex Jackson said...

D'oh on the Monster Squad review. Now I'm going to have to work extra hard to justify my praise for Dr. Giggles.

The difference between Last Temptation of Christ and Superman Returns is that Last Temptation is told very subjectively on a street level. The Christ imagery in Superman Returns is like a throwback to the age of the Silent Movie. Being God seems reasonable enough in Last Temptation, but the absurd weight of the notion is the spin Superman Returns puts on it.

O'JohnLandis said...

Clearly, because he can fly, we can't empathize with the fact that the mother of his child is with another guy and he never has a moment of peace. I maintain that I know exactly what Superman is thinking during every frame of Superman Returns. And though Routh is no Reeve, he was good enough to make that statement true.

In other words, well said, Benaiah.

Dave, you'll never see me talking about ideal directors for comic books, because full disclosure, I don't think comic books are strong enough works of art to be worthy of my empathy. Superman is pretty much a disaster of a world and a character without something like Superman Returns coming around, and not because it's serious or vicious, but because it has some internal logic.

thus foisting psychological complexity on an iconic figure where there should be none.

What possible reason is there to avoid psychological complexity in anything? If the Superman world is so violently resistant to psychological complexity, why is it so worth the defense? The ending of the Donner film is simply bad: not charmingly bad, or any other kind of "bad with modifier" that mitigates a stunning lack of imagination.

And what's wrong with the Christ imagery? Superman is a guy who fights crime, and yet he's unfortunately burdened with the powers of a god. Which is more interesting from a storytelling perspective: trying to save mankind and abstractly dying for man's sins, or trying to save mankind and dying because of man's sins?

Jack, our Kaufman/Carpenter argument is barely an argument. I think one is a bit more special than the other, and you disagree. I just think that the difference is pretty clear, due to The Thing being a more original remake. Also, ice helps.

brandon curtis said...

Talking points:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but "Final Destination 3" is not the best horror movie of the last five years its "The Hills Have Eyes" remake. Or maybe "Feast".

"Beautiful Girls" is the best romantic comedy/drama I have ever seen.

I don't like it when James Cameron has his hands in a sequel when he had nothing to do with the original.

"Requiem For A Dream" sucks.

I paid to see "Dragon Wars"

Hated "Superman Returns" the first time, but was duty bound to see it again and Walter's review had a hand in changing my mind/life.

Though I think Park Chan Wook is a great director "Oldboy" is good precisely because it isn't his story. The other two films in the trilogy love to make with the fucking boring.

eddie said...

there's a couple of things that i need to free myself from:

i spent almost a year badmouthing Saw to anyone that would listen before realizing/admitting that i liked it a lot.

i'm not quite sure what the hype is all about in regard to Six Feet Under. it's fine television, but The Wire is the pinnacle of hbo's series, as well as the best show to ever be on the air.

You Got Served holds a special place in my heart.

Final Destination 3 as the best horror film of the last 5 years? i'm not sure, my preference would be Identity.

The Eye is the only j-horror movie to have a positive affect on me.

i'm in league with the people that say The Daily Show is lazy. whatever comedy school taught Jon Stewart that saying something that's not funny and then smiling at the camera/audience until laughter abounds should be be hurt.

Jason said...

More things that I have to say:

- I don't quite "get" the appeal of Dario Argento. I've seen exactly one film of his that I enjoyed (Tenebre). The rest were mediocre to outright terrible. The violence and some of Goblin's music had a kind of artistry; everything else, not so much. I was very interested in pursuing his works, and, quite frankly, I'm incredibly disappointed. I don't even know if I'll bother seeing The Third Mother, even though I saw Suspiria and Inferno.

- I think Child's Play 2 is a pretty underrated film. It's a solid and effective little slasher film, which benefits from the expansion of the Chucky character. Sure, he's got his Jack Nicholson impression thing going on, but the expansion of his sick sense of humor really helps make the movie work.

It also has some great art design, and a knowing, not winking, relationship to film history: A set of twisting staircases comes straight from a German expressionist film, the opening shot parallels part of the aftermath of Pyscho's shower scene, and the signiature kill (Chucky beats a teacher to death with her ruler) has an inversion of the opening montage from Citizen Kane. All in all, a really solid and effective film.

- As for overrated films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? More like The Texas Chain SUCK Massacre! Am I right? Am I right?

Seriously though, I fucking hate that movie.

- brandon curtis: The Hills Have Eyes 2K6? Feast? When you have some actual bad news to bear me, I'd be glad to hear it. Until then, I'll be sticking with my original choice without worry (though, props to eddie, Identity is a good choice too).

- I'm glad jefferson and I can agree on how awesome FRWL is. But, jacksommersby... Octopussy? Really? For me, the tonal difference between the Kamal Khan, jewel smuggling portions and the General Orlov, nuclear disaster portions sink the film. It's a bastard child between For Your Eyes Only and A View to A Kill... not as serious as the former or as campy as the latter.

- I used to enjoy The Monster Squad when I was a kid. Once I turned 7 or 8, I never really watched it again. Then, last year, I went to go see it at a Fred Dekker doubleheader, and all I can say is... ouch.

- RoboCop is the best comic book movie to not be directly based on a comic book. Since a comic book series came out of this, I'm retroactively nominating it for Best Comic Book Movie Ever, as well. (At least until The Dark Knight comes out.)

- "Doctor Who (2006)" is an awesome show, despite what Walter thought of the first season. It's lost a lot of the things that were holding back that first season - farting aliens, a prissy attitude, and that annoying blonde baggage. I think David Tennant could be one of the best Doctors around, and the series keeps hinting at a level of depth we haven't seen in the character in years. Plus, The Master was just kick-ass, and awesome villains are always bank.

I guess I'll shut up now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go off-topic again, but Orson Welles' Oscar for Citizen Kane is up for auction in December. Kinda gross; it is for charity, but still, I would feel dirty having that in my house. I hope it gets donated to some museum, although I am not sure what would be appropriate besides the Smithsonian.


Patrick Pricken said...

Just to comment on Superman: I agree that Supes is not a human being. Human beings are interesting. Superman is boring. He's impervious, he can fly, he's superstrong and superfast, he's got an array of magic eye rays... why wouldn't he fight crime? On the other hand, saddling him with human weaknesses can *only* work if you have more than a two-point arc.

Superman Returns might be the best Superman movie, but that doesn't make it a good one. Superbaby? Giant Rock of Kryptonite? Hospital Recovery? And why, exactly, does the world need Superman (according to Lois Lane)?

There are great moments in the film: when Superman lifts the island into space, when he's up in space listening to cries of help, and the plane crash intro as well. But that's just a small island of good scenes in a sea of bad ones. And what kind of hero is it that takes the time to live a normal life when all around the world people cry out for help, without going insane? Is that the kind of hero you want?

Superman acts in mysterious ways, I guess. And that would be an angle worth exploring. Not how he's Christ and to be adored.

Love Gorilla said...

The Master was just kick-ass

"Hey there baby baby, you are my voodoo child, my voodoo child"

I really, really hope you're joking.

Benaiah said...

And what kind of hero is it that takes the time to live a normal life when all around the world people cry out for help, without going insane? Is that the kind of hero you want?


Isn't that the point? Superman was raised as a normal person, and then he discovered that he had these bomb powers and man was it sweet to be 13 and able to fly. Now he is on the verge of being middle aged and people expect him to stop being a human being and just be a 24/7 fixer of all the bad shit people are doing to one another. But here's the kicker, Superman is still just the alter ego for his human personality. Clark asks Lois out about five times before he decides: "Fuck it, whats the point of being Superman if you can't show off for the cheerleaders." Side note, that is my favorite part of Walter's review, pointing out that Superman is using his powers very dishonestly in that scene to seduce Lois from an honest man.

The idea that Superman owes the world something is pretty sticky, did all of those firefighters owe us when they ran into the towers? I think it cheapens the fact that sometimes it really, really sucks to do what you think is right, but you should do it anyway. Superman's favorite person in the world is in danger out on the horizon, but he returns to Metropolis because he knows that is what he is supposed to do. Because of that, Tom gets to Lois first- though Superman eventually gets a chance to save everyone.

Beyond that, it is just a really good movie. The layers of myth and allusion (Prometheus, Atlas, Jesus, Lucifer), a perfect hammy performance from Kevin Spacey and that draw dropping airplane sequence just plain do it for me.

davea said...

Hi, my name's David.

* The best comic book movie is of course the first Blade. However, I think that movies based on comic books are always inherently silly and I wish directors/writers would stop wasting their time on them already.

* The best horror movie of the last years is Kairo aka Pulse, and I think that Identity doesn't even qualify as a horror movie.

* I forced myself to sit through Tarkovsky's Stalker and regret it to this day.

* I think it was a wise decision to put Idiocracy straight to DVD. It's essentially a mediocre MadTV sketch stretched to fill a whole movie.

jacksommersby said...


I think Child's Play 2 is a pretty underrated film.


It's a solid and effective little slasher film

Yeah, it's one of the few that genuinely exudes a sense of sustained menace.

which benefits from the expansion of the Chucky character.

...and the deliciously stylish direction by John Lafia along with knockout cinematography by the great Stefan Czapsky, who made The Thin Blue Line the best-looking documentary ever.

But, jacksommersby... Octopussy?

Did I stutter? (Just kidding.)


As sure as George W. Bush pronounces nuclear "nu-CU-lar)

I don't think the film a masterpiece or anything, but it's consistently bouncy and fun and doesn't have the stop-and-start pacing that afflicts For Your Eyes Only (which falls apart after Bond leaves Cortina) and A View to a Kill (which falls apart when Bond arrives in San Francisco). The nuclear-device thing? Hell, it's just a plot element so Bond can save thousands of lives, as usual. As for Kamal Khan and General Orlov, they're enjoyable villains portrayed by actors having a good time at what they're doing.

Overall, I think the tone is consistent from start to finish, which can't be said for Casino Royale, where the tone shifted all over the place. And, believe me, I'm one of those who will definitely kick a film's ass if its got jarring shifts in tone, and I don't think Octopussy is guilty of this.

Bill C said...

Wow: I literally just watched CHILD'S PLAY 2 for the first time before checking back in with the blog, and I'm glad to see that my positive reaction to it as a piece of sinny is not unprecedented.

Jer: Thanks for the kudos. Monster Squad makes the Baby Je--Baby Supes cry.

jacksommersby said...

Bill, what exactly does "sinny" mean?

Jefferson said...

davea said...
* The best comic book movie is of course the first Blade.

Shit, forgot about Blade. I may have to rethink my whole theology.

Bill C said...

Short/slang in some circles for "cinema," Jack; I like it because of its obvious implications.

dennis said...

The twist for High Tension works emotionally, viscerally, and is not homophobic. That movie is also a lot better than The Hills Have Eyes, which I thought was insultingly smug.

Final Destination 3 is one of those "nothing" movies that I forget about two days after seeing. All I got out of it was Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Final Destination 2 was a lot more fun, and really, what else do those silly movies have to offer?

Transformers is evil, all the more so because its feigns fun-for-all entertainment.

Fruit Chan's Dumplings is one of the best horror movies from the last few years that everyone forgets/hasn't seen. KK's Pulse and Cure are my favorites.

Miami Vice was better than The Departed.

Femme Fatale is possibly Brian De Palma's best movie

Secretary is one of the best romances of the new century.

The Fountain is neither as difficult to understand as half of its detractors claim, nor is it as shallow as the other half argue. To the latter group of folks, I can only scoff, given the depth of what commonly passes for popular entertainment.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a lot of fun, and better than Desperado.

Dave G said...

Totally on board with "Miami Vice" over "The Departed"--interested in an expansion of the case for "Femme Fatale" as BDe's best--I thought it was great too--but, I'll still give the edge to "Blow Out".

Kudos to everyone who is able to differentiate between the Final Destination installments--though I'll concede that I enjoyed each one of them.

"Beautiful Girls" yes, yes. I miss Ted Demme.

I've always been indifferent to Bond movies--maybe because "Moonraker" was the first one I saw.

jer fairall said...

Ok, I just thought of a pretty shameful confession: I don't really dig horror movies all that much. It wasn't til I became exposed to the likes of Chaw and Jackson that I ever thought of it as much of a problem either. The problem may be one of exposure, I realize. I was a kid in the age of Freddy and Jason and Chucky but watching them again now--the appealing minimalism of the first couple Fridays notwithstanding--I mostly find them cheesy in a way that highlights some of the least attractive elements of that era, to me.

By somewhat random fluke, I happen to be seated in front of a wall of horror movies at this very moment, and scanning the collection I can say that have at least seen and liked (as in, I would rate them 3-stars or higher) the following:

The Blair Witch Project
Final Destination 3
Rosemary's Baby
Session 9
The Shining

the possibly misfiled The Sixth Sense

Know that I've never seen any Argento yet, nor do I have clear enough memory of any of the Dead films I saw years ago. Saw 20 or so minutes of Devil's Rejects and hated it (unfair, I know). Eli Roth is a talented visual artist dedicated to making meaningless shit, and the first Hostel in particular seems to go out of its way to avoid the subtext that stares it in the face. It's been a while, but I'm neither here nor there on The Exorcist and at any rate wasn't that scared of it. Murnau's Nosferatu bored me to tears both times I tried to watch it. Loved the atmosphere, setting and cinematography of Carpenter's The Fog but thought the story was deeply unsatisfying. Still haven't seen his The Thing.

Is there hope for me?

Patrick Pricken said...

Benaiah: I don't think Superman would "owe" anybody anything. I'm saying if you're able to hear the world scream for help, and are all-powerful (a god, really), and you decide to be a good guy – how can you spend your day at a newspaper agency knowing that at the same time kids are stepping on landmines you could detect and disarm with a few looks, to name just one thing. But Superman Returns is not dark enough to really speak to that – it's got this awesome scene, and the promise of Lois's Pulitzer-prize winning article, but that promise is not fulfilled.

And any threat to Superman is boring, because it's either nonexistant or kryptonite, what we've seen before. I mean, as soon as the kryptonite mountain was off to space, why should we still be afraid for Superman?

In the end, a hero is not only defined by his deeds, but also by the cost he pays for them. And Superman simply does not pay any cost. He's the quarterback being born with a golden arm and then hailed for using it.

All of which, admittedly, is more to do with the character than the movie.

dennis said...

You need to widen your exposure Jer, that's all. It sound as though you haven't really explored the genre beyond the same movies that everyone else has seen. I'm sure it goes without saying that the most widely recognized movies in any given genre aren't necessarily the best, or at least the ones that will affect any given viewer the most personally.

Mario Bava's body of work is still woefully neglected. I hope more people discover it through those wonderful box sets being released by Anchor Bay.

As for Femme Fatale being the best De Palma movie, it just strikes me as the apotheosis of his artistic sensibilities. It's about as spellbindingly De Palma-esque as I can imagine a movie being, and it may be his most overtly (and touchingly) introspective work as well. Every time I watch FF, its spell on me strengthens.

Sean P said...

I love this topic so much, I want to give it a hug.

Alex Jackson said...

Oooh, I just got a new one.

I like the 60s version of Casino Royale a whole lot. Much more than the Daniel Craig version.

Alex Jackson said...

Ah, and also I wasn't much a fan of Murnau's Nosferatu either and actually prefer the Herzog remake.

O'JohnLandis said...

All of which, admittedly, is more to do with the character than the movie.

Exactly. It's hard to establish dramatic tension or internal logic in a Superman movie, so any attempt is greatly appreciated.

I miss Ted Demme from The Ref.

I like the original Casino Royale, but I don't really know how to compare it to the remake, other than that everything one does well, the other does poorly.

The Last Broadcast is MUCH better than The Blair Witch Project.

Miami Vice is marginally better than an episode of Cops, though it's comparable artistically.

The Fountain and Three Extremes are great, but Once Upon a Time in Mexico better than Desperado or El Mariachi? Really?

Blade 2 is better than Blade and everything else Del Toro has ever made, including Pan's, which is a clear second. Mimic is third.

I believe strongly in tonal shifts.

Benaiah said...

My favorite movie is The Big Lebowski. I love Miller's Crossing, Fargo, O Brother, Raising Arizona, et al, but the Coen brothers made a movie that was all punch lines and I still laugh uproariously after seeing if about 30 times.

davea said...

dennis said:

The Fountain is neither as difficult to understand as half of its detractors claim, nor is it as shallow as the other half argue.

Indeed, although I'd still say that Aronowsky willfully obufscates the story.

And since somebody may have missed it: Aronofsky's audio commentary (which for some reason is not on the DVD) can be freely downloaded from his homepage (www.darrenaronofsky.com).

Bill C said...

To anyone who thinks "The Office" has jumped the shark: nope. Last night's ep was just about the most deeply-felt, emotionally intelligent hour of network TV I've ever seen. How perceptive was it that Michael was considered cool at his telemarketing job? How genuinely anguished was that stairwell meltdown? How lovely was that cinematic shot of Michael and Jan's legs dangling off the train? And that stinger was just all kinds of melancholy.

The show basically has one trump card (the core compassion of its ensemble), but it never fails to reduce me to a heap no matter how many times they play it.

Chris said...

Dwight's line about Shrute Farms being wireless was maybe the worst joke in the run of the show.

Otherwise, Bill, I'm with you one hundred percent. The "whoever/whomever" exchange in the conference room was The Office at a new peak.

BLH said...


I think Arthur Penn is the most overrated of the American New Wave filmmakers. Each of his films of the period, even the good ones, would have been better had they not been directed by Arthur Penn. Night Moves is a tremendous script that struggles to completely blossom under Penn's juvenile, ill-considered direction. Jerry Schatzberg would have worked magic given the same tools.

For some reason, I've always found Frank Sivero's offscreen line "Shit! I just got water all over myself!" from The Wedding Singer extremely funny. I've laughed harder during that one moment that possibly any other in film history. I don't know.

I've never liked Akira Kurosawa or Sergio Leone as much as everyone tells me I should and I have no current plans to rectify this situation.

I frequently cite The Thin Red Line as one of the best films of the 90's even though it's been years since I've seen it and my recall of the film is almost zero. I'm scared to watch it again and find something missing.

Also, I noticed today that in one of his archived reviews Walter refers to French actress Sandrine Bonnaire as "Embeth Davidtz doppelgänger Sandrine Bonnaire" - as if Embeth Davidtz were the logical point of reference in that comparison. That's like calling Christopher Reeve "Brandon Routh look-alike Christoper Reeve".

dennis said...

I haven't seen El Mariachi, but Desperado is mostly just a big old "meh" for me. OUATIM is messier and less coherent, but it has a much larger roster of engaging (if underutilized) characters, it look looks brilliant visually, and Depp's storyline is just too much fun.

Three Extremes would have been better without Park's glib, incoherent middle chapter, and the climax to Miike's lessened its overall impact. I actually like Dumplings more as its original full-length feature, which is fantastic (and eye-popping).

Mimic is great to look at, and the first half hour is brilliant, but from there it gradually peters out. The Aliens-esque ending is a total anticlimax.

Seattle Jeff said...

Watching The Office last night was one of those times where I really didn't know how to react while watching it...yet when it was over and I could reflect on it more, my appreciation just grew.

Michael's story alone...the depressing realization he was entering a telemarketing office than at the end, Jan sticking with him and citing her appreciaiton for him...

Very well done.

Jefferson said...

Really finely-written set of reviews this week, Walter.

Benaiah said...

First, that was probably the least funny episode of the Office ever. It had a couple of uproarious moments (who/whom and the discussion of Die Hard 4 especially) but it hardly even tried to be funny for most of the episode.

That said, it was easily the best episode of the season. It didn't have any high concept idiocy and was the first episode in recent memory where they didn't have a party. It felt like a real day at the Office, poignant and emotionally resonant, albeit with a detour through Dwight's beet farm. It was a very nice episode, but it still didn't come close to the heights of an episode like "The Dundies", "Casino Night" or even "Gay Witch Hunt."

I do agree with you about the trump card though, I literally say "Awwwwww" when those good Jim and Pam moments happen.

Rick said...

My favorite movie is The Big Lebowski

Line for line, funniest movie ever made.

jacksommersby said...

I found the countless shoutings of the "Fuck you in the ass." line to be grating after about, oh, two minutes. Not a whole lot of comic invention in a film that relies on this kind of stuff for laughs, that's for sure.

Rick said...

I do not find it accurate to sum up and dismiss The Big Lebowski as a collection of cheap laughs, when most of the humor was actually very clever and calculated. You seem to be as good at stonewalling as Larry was.

Seattle Jeff said...

The fact that The Big Lebowskiis set in SoCal, and the Coens attention to regional dialect results in the movie containing 257 F-bombs just makes me giddy.

Patrick Pricken said...

It seems I need to expand my confession. I don't get the love for the Big Lebowski. I was bored silly by this movie. There were a couple of nice moments, that's all. The rest was as unfunny as it gets.

Benaiah said...

If you don't like, cool. But I feel a little sorry for you because it is one of the great pleasures in life and you can't/don't enjoy it.

"Say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, but at least it's an ethos."

"Ma'am for your information the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior constraint."

Sounds like a bunch of "Fuck you in the ass"es to me.

jacksommersby said...

Well, let's also think back to the appallingly overrated [i]Adaptation[/i], where Nicolas Cage is in his agent's office and the agent first says "I'd love to fuck her in the ass." and then less than two minutes later, "I'd love to fuck [i]her[/i] in the ass." Same old pathetic attention-getting ploy.

Further, in Lebowski, it's not just John Goodman's repeated usege of this but the character's overall gratingness. Maybe you adore a character shouting at the top of his lungs a lot to be funny; I do not. Just a matter of preference, man.

Seattle Jeff said...

The character's overall gratingness is why he's such a great character.

I find the gratingness hilarious and realistic as I'm related to people just like Walter.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is David.

- I think Blade Runner is incredibly overrated.

- I believe Commando is a masterpiece.

- I think Class of 1984 is far better than A Clockwork Orange.

- I believe Kubrick's films post-2001 (minus Eyes Wide Shut) are absolute bores not worth the effort, and are not nearly as clever or insightful as Kubrick thinks they are.

- That being typed, I think the novel The Shining is so much more frightening than Kubrick's adaptation. Think about the story in Kubrick's flick for even a second, and so much of it just falls apart. It's awful, AWFUL writing.

- I believe Peter Hyams to be, for the most part, an incredibly underrated director. Yes, I really loved End of Days. I'm sorry.

- Can't lie...I seriously enjoyed Van Helsing AND Day After Tomorrow. Again, I'm sorry.

- I think The Hills Have Eyes remake is brilliant, and completely blows the original out of the water.

- Same goes for the Texas Chainsaw remake.

- I think Tarantino should stop making pastiche movies. I don't need to be reminded why I love movies, or what made certain actors amazing...this is something I already know. Sure, I adore the ingenous love Tarantino clearly has for these genre films, but still. Put something of yourself in your movies, please (all conversations of what defines a personal style, given that all styles are really combinations of others, aside). Give them a soul. I beg of you.

- I think Jason Goes to Hell is the best Friday the 13th film (warts and all), right behind Friday the 13th Part 6.

- I believe The X-Files (seasons 1-5) to be the best television show ever.

- David H.

dennis said...

Do you mean that Commando is a kitsch masterpiece, or a genuine one?

Tarantino's "pastiche" movies (the connotations of that label being debatable) have no soul, and yet you like the soulless remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre more than their forebears?

I haven't seen much by Peter Hyams, but I seriously despised Sudden Death. I'm usually an easy-going guy, so only a few movies have ever genuinely pissed me off, and that was one of them. The shot of the burning helicopter crashing down reflected on the lenses of Van Damme's daughter's glasses made me want to punch Hyams in the face. Otherwise, Stay Tuned, Timecop, and The Relic registered at unremarkable levels of badness.

I agree that Blade Runner is overrated, but I still find much to admire.

Speaking of Friday the 13th movies, I think A New Beginning is underrated. The sequence with the couple fucking in the woods isn't half-bad, and the movie as a whole is rather amusing (and funny) in a wholly trashy sorta way.

Dave Gibson said...


"Office". Yes. That was a brilliant episode. I will no longer even entertain notions of shark-jumping --unless Ted McGinley shows up next season as the new copy boy.

Determining the best Friday the 13th is akin to picking the most gourmet menu item at McDonalds. I'll take the Quarter Pounder--and the Final Chapter please.

I am a fan of the TCM remake--but, it could never replicate the effectiveness and guerilla genius of the original.

Neither of the "Hills Have Eyes" movies are particularly good.

Wes Craven is not particularly good.

RE: Tarantino--know what you're getting at--but, think that there's much soul to be found in Kill Bill and Jackie Brown. "Death Proof" would have been much better as an hour long "Masters of Horror" type dealie.

Speaking of TV--there's just too freakin' much of it and too much of it is bad, and not in that sloppy, transcendently stupid manner that occasionally gives bad movies a bit of purposeless fun (see Boll, Uwe)--that I cannot justify giving most shows, even the modestly promising ones, a chance--which is why I can appreciate the obvious merits of stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica etc...but, I'm just never interested enough to keep watching--so much of American TV seems to primarily be about pretty people doing pretty things--and stretching these meandering narratives well past the breaking point purely for commercial reasons. When I miss certain movies at festivals etc--I feel a real sense of frustration, whereas I feel that I can turn the TV off for six months and not miss a damn thing. Another reason, I guess, why "The Office" is unique and I think that Bob Newhart should guest star.

Keeping the confessional nature of this thread alive---I'll add these:

Star Trek bores me to tears.

X-Files. I only like the stand-alone "Mulder and Scully go to a weird town" episodes.

I was deeply cynical about the new Indiana Jones movie--until the day I saw the picture of Karen Allen on-set and my inner child wept with joy. My heart is yours, and primed for breaking Mr. Spielberg.

Speaking of long narratives--guess the Sox won. Hip. Hip.

Rick said...

I never viewed Walter as an angry cartoon character, but more as an intensely loyal and passionate person who happens to have bipolar disorder. I think the character is more human than device to yell out one-liners. John Goodman's self-pitying sociopath in Barton Fink is another of my favorite characters in film.

Joan said...

I was deeply cynical about the new Indiana Jones movie--until the day I saw the picture of Karen Allen on-set and my inner child wept with joy. My heart is yours, and primed for breaking Mr. Spielberg.

Alas, yes! (We are so screwed -- what is that line, something about the triumph of hope over common sense?)

Seattle Jeff said...

I think that was an H.L. Mencken line...love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

rachel said...

...while a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.

Jefferson said...


I think I read in some Rolling Stone profile that it's not a Coen Brothers movie unless there's a fat man yelling.

Bill C said...

I think I read in some Rolling Stone profile that it's not a Coen Brothers movie unless there's a fat man yelling.

They say the same about Film Freak Central reviews.

jacksommersby said...

[i]I think Blade Runner is incredibly overrated.[/i]

Yeah. It's definitely the classic case of style over substance. (I prefer the original ending, by the way.)

I believe Commando is a masterpiece.

I think Class of 1984 is far better than A Clockwork Orange.

Ah, definitely a fan of Mark L. Lester's work. I just read a review of the newly-released Commando DVD where he avers that it's still his favorite film that he directed.

That being typed, I think the novel The Shining is so much more frightening than Kubrick's adaptation. Think about the story in Kubrick's flick for even a second, and so much of it just falls apart. It's awful, AWFUL writing.

Agreed. And I wholeheartedly agree with King that his original choice for the lead role, Michael Moriarty, was definitely better than Kubrick's.

I believe Peter Hyams to be, for the most part, an incredibly underrated director.

Thank you. Yeah, he's made some dogs (The Musketeer, The Relic, Stay Tuned), but Outland, The Star Chamber, Running Scared, 2010, Timecop, Sudden Death, Narrow MArgin are all solid films.

Yes, I really loved End of Days. I'm sorry.

Don't be. It's neither good nor bad, just somewhere in between. Never understood why it got such a lambasting when the awful Terminator 3 was let off considerably lighter.

dennis said...

Terminator 3 was definitely garbage. I still can't believe that the critical community was as openly accepting of it as they were. Ditto for Burton's abominable Chocolate Factory remake.

Another confession: I just watched Alfonso Cuarón's A Little Princess, and honestly, what's the big deal? It's brimming with shallow exoticism, possible racism, and one of the most insultingly pollyannaish endings I can recall. It sure does look nice though.

Seattle Jeff said...

The season finale of Mad Men was fantastic...can't really say anything more than that...

Anonymous said...

Dennis –

and yet you like the soulless remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre more than their forebears?

That I do. But that’s because I don’t find them soulless in the least. And visually, they punch me in the gut every time.

Do you mean that Commando is a kitsch masterpiece, or a genuine one?

A masterpiece of its genre, definitely. I should have clarified, but I’ll usually refer to a film I love as a masterpiece of whatever genre or combinations of genres it belongs to. I’m always a little hesitant to compare films in different genres directly, just because the conventions and expectations are different in each. So yeah, Commando is definitely a genuine action masterpiece for me. If that makes me look a little kooky, well, so be it.

There are two exceptions to that rule for me: Once Upon a Time in America and Man with the Movie Camera. Those films are just too damn amazing, and are above pretty much everything else in my mind.

dave gibson –

but, think that there's much soul to be found in Kill Bill and Jackie Brown.

I definitely agree on Jackie Brown. Marvelous film.

- David H.

jacksommersby said...

What I admire most about "Jackie Brown" is that it has the fucking guts to rely strictly on story and character to carry the show, which takes a hell of a lot of guts in today's age, that's for damn sure.

O'JohnLandis said...

Nothing against Jackie Brown, but Pulp Fiction is still his masterpiece. Kill Bill might be a close second if it was one movie. And Death Proof is a flawed gem precisely because it has a soul.

Terminator 3 made one really stupid mistake: it introduced consistent time travel in a series that depended on inconsistent time travel. If the events of Terminator 2 don't prevent the war, what's the point of the series?

2010 is solid? Really?

Full Metal Jacket is the only Kubrick film I've seen that wasn't special.

I'm not a fan of Blade Runner, but I absolutely object to the idea that it's an example of style over substance. Its style is unspectacular, and whatever merit there is to the film, it's in the plight of the replicants. Hauer's last speech somehow works, despite the fact that it really shouldn't.

House is the best whatever-it-is on television (as opposed to The Office, which is the best show), and Veronica Mars and The Class shouldn't be gone.

Benaiah said...


The American Office was the best show on TV two season ago, but it has fallen off a bit. The first season of "Flight of the Conchords" was pretty much perfect and we can't forget The Wire. Maybe "The Office" is the best show on network television, but that is as much a function of the fact that it has no competition as its own merit.

The British Office is worlds better. That show is more thematically rich and interesting in 7-8 hours than the American Office is in 30-40. I say this as someone who has seen "Casino Night" about 10 times.

Dave G said...

I think the two "Office" shows are now distinctive enough that it becomes increasingly difficult to judge them as transatlantic mirror images. American comedy has always had a pervasively sentimental streak which precludes the US "Office" from replicating the inherent blackness of the British original. The language of British and American comedy have some fundamental tonal differences which pretty much ensure that the shows would have some inherent differences. The US Office would never have survived if the audience were not allowed to like and identify with the characters--I'm just impressed that they've been able to teeter on the razor wire between sentimentality and darkness so well.

Brendan said...

The U.S. Office is inferior not because it's not as "dark" as the original, but because it's as worried as David Brent that someone won't get its jokes. The British show made an artform of "confessional" style interviews, usually segueing from a tangential or sly commentary upon the action toward absurdity and often surreality -- with a grace that suggests the actors' and writers' total understanding of the way the human mind's instincts toward self-edification are tripped up by its own machinations. But the U.S. Office confessional-style interviews are rhythmically predictable, to the point of exasperating, and work mainly as Greek Chorus explanations of immediately foregone punchlines, which have already been telegraphed by the hamfisted shakycam work.

And I believe you do come to like or at least empathize with many of the UK Office characters, around the middle of the second season, which rewards multiple viewings. Whereas in the U.S., YOU MUST EMPATHIZE NOW.

I actually like the U.S. Office, but it just doesn't compare.

Anonymous said...

I finally caught up with Hostel II on DVD, and yeah... Pugh gave Roth waaaaay too much credit in his review. What a stupid, juvenile movie. Hell, the Saw movies are better, as they are at least honest about and have the courage of their convictions. Blech.

CoryM said...

It's nice to hear some love for Clue and The Hulk.

For my part, I think The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one of the best TV shows ever made, and it's odd brand of surrealism directly influenced Arrested Development.

Also, Jose Saramago is a fraud and should have his Nobel Prize taken away. He's absolutely incapable of creating anything like a real character. The people in his books are chess pieces and the author himself hides behind an impenetrable wall of detachment.

If you like James Joyce, you've stopped reading books for any reason that I can identify with.

Charlie Kaufman's Human Nature is at least as good as Eternal Sunshine or Confessions and better than Adaptation. You could write a great essay about the relationship between civilization and shame after watching it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll play too. I confess the following...

-Zach Braff was sent from above to save our mortal souls. I still have not seen Last Kiss even though it was filmed in my beloved town of Madison.

-The Beatles are perhaps the most overrated band of all time. Their offkey caterwaulering has always been grating on my ears. Ingesting copious amounts of psychadelics does not always bode well for a pleasant listening experience.I also don't like the Beastie Boys, ha.

-Earnest Hemingway was simply not that great of an author. Why his work continues to be in the canon of most required high school reading I'll never know.

-I hate, hate, hate Hot Fuzz. It's the most unnecessary film ever created.If I could get those 2 hours of my life back, I certainly would. If anyone can provide a compelling argument as to why I should like this movie, it would be greatly appreciated.

-Finally, there are 2 movies that make me cry no matter how many times I see them, and those are Mask and Titanic.

I feel better already...

O'JohnLandis said...

Bill, you deleted your "I want to fuck Veronica Mars from behind" comment. Where's your courage? You should see the Reefer Madness musical.

As for The Class, I think it had the potential to be a rather good sitcom in the Friends style.

I've only seen the first season/series of The Office UK, but I think it's pretty awful. Despite being darker, it doesn't have any dramatic weight because of the inhuman characters. It's a dark cartoon: fake and self-involved and much easier to write than something with human beings. But in the spirit of this debate, I'll rent every episode, and if I reconsider, I'll let you know.

I saw the UK version before the US, which is why I gave the US version a chance so late in the game (about five weeks ago). The US version is superior in every respect, which is strange from an odds perspective, that every scene and performance would be worse in the original (though Martin Freeman is quite good). Even the originality of the eventually recycled story elements, of which there are many, doesn't matter as much because of the constant detachment that doesn't accomplish anything.

The British show made an artform of "confessional" style interviews, usually segueing from a tangential or sly commentary upon the action toward absurdity and often surreality -- with a grace that suggests the actors' and writers' total understanding of the way the human mind's instincts toward self-edification are tripped up by its own machinations.

I suppose I should reserve judgment on this statement until I see every episode, but my initial impression is: if I created a work of fiction about which the above analysis is appropriate, I think I'd be pretty depressed and try again.

When it comes to late Seinfeld, or The Office UK, or most of what's on HBO, exactly how artificial do you have to be these days to be considered good?

Bill C said...

Ha--who doesn't? (But for the record, you're heavily paraphrasing me!) No, I realized I had written something that sounded unintentionally hostile vis-a-vis your like of "The Class". The point of this post is confessional and I made a kneejerk judgment call. Oh for Dr. Mierzwiak's Lacuna technology.

Brendan said...

All right O'J, I probably said that stupidly. Let me try again:

The UK Office confessional bits expand the humor, hone in on the characters, and make the show funnier. Also they really seem like real people talking out their asses, trying to sound smart, and ending up hilariously far from their mark. Like my earlier comment. See Gareth's "Softly softly catch a monkey" soliloquy. Or google it; I'm sure it's quoted all over the internet.

The US Office uses the same confessional interview mainly to explain the visual joke that just came before. Which saps the humor out of the joke and also out of the show by forming a very predictable rhythm. Isn't comedy supposed to be about surprise? After 2 hours, everything about the US Office confessionals is entirely predictable: when they're coming, where they'll go, and how many beats they'll hold the frame before they cut to commercial. And instead of making the characters seem like real people, it makes them sound like tools of insecure writers.

And I don't buy that the US Office is more convincingly sympathetic. The US Office has flashing neon signifiers of sympathetic characters. Past Season 1, nearly every character is a fucking puppy dog, even (especially) Dwight, though the most sympathetic characters behave just as cruelly toward him as before.

UK Office takes some warming up to but is ultimately more rewarding, and I think the human moments strike a louder pang in its more barren environment. Martin Freeman in one episode agrees to go out for a drink with Ricky Gervais rather than watching him squirm a second longer waiting for someone to take him up on his offer. Compare to the "warmer" US Office where puppy dog Jim is so afraid the boss will ruin his keg party that he literally ignores the dude as he practically begs on his knees for an invitation.

When Dawn in the UK Office (season 2 I think) admits that she no longer calls herself an illustrator who works as a receptionist, but now just calls herself a receptionist, anyone who doesn't feel that punch in the fucking chest, I think, isn't going to get any of the rest of it.

O'JohnLandis said...

Bill, be hostile; I can take it. What good is courage if there's no chance of being criticized? The point isn't only to give people an open forum to confess, but to do so knowing that they might finally get a chance to explain their shame. The conventional wisdom is that The Class was bad and deserved its fate, and I specifically think that's wrong. It was well acted, often funny, and its sentimental-sitcom style is charming, probably because of how rare it's become. Was it as good as The Office or even 30 Rock? Of course not. But was it better than hideous garbage like New/Old Christine and Rules of Engagement? Easily.

You're right, Brendan, that there are certain structural differences between the confessional interviews of the two Offices. The US interviews seem much more organic: either the unseen filmmakers asking for clarification or the workers grabbing the filmmakers to comment on something ridiculous that just happened.

The UK series isn't as densely constructed, which gives the specious impression that it's more realistic. But remember, in neither series are we watching raw footage, so the self-referential moments of awkward silence, and acknowledging the filmmakers, and abstract confessional interviews that seem less like documentary footage and more like...

Something weird.

...all damage the "realism" defense.

Even if everything you say about the UK confessional interviews is true--and I'm not really sure that screaming why you're weird is better than whispering why you're weird--the one thing they don't make the UK version is better art. Better art pays more attention to its structre.

And I don't know if comedy is always about surprise. Surely comedy is sometimes about imminent disaster. Of course, I wouldn't call The Office US a comedy at all. Its comedic virtues are all a result of its underlying sadness. But at least in the US there's some hope that people will care about people, even grudgingly, and not always act like sketch-comedy robots. It's not that the US is warmer exactly--Jim is certainly colder than Tim--it's just less self-consciously devoted to being dark.

However, the UK Season/Series 2 and Special are in the mail, and again, I'll let you know if I change my mind. I'm capable of being persuaded by an argument. Isn't that the point of arguing?

Seattle Jeff said...

I never gave The Class a chance due to it being a Monday Night CBS sitcom...

Jefferson said...

If you like James Joyce, you've stopped reading books for any reason that I can identify with.

Tried Dubliners?

Benaiah said...

To say that the American Office, with all of its wonderful quirks and leaps of logic, is more realistic than the British Office, in all its public bathroom florescent lit horror, is just wrong. 70% of the episodes of the American Office are built around parties, field trips or bizarre digressions (charity runs, basketball games, Office Olympics). I have worked in a cubicle, and people get excited when a car alarm goes off because it is something different. People in the American Office pretend that it is a horrible place to work, but from what I can tell they work at a carnival.

I love the American Office for what it is, but its aspersions are so much lower than the amazingly existential and perfect British version. There is a real sense of desperation to the characters that makes their small moments of grace so much more poignant. It is a remarkable show, on a completely different level than its wonderful counterpart.

Anonymous said...

I love Blast from the Past.
That is the funniest movie...