January 09, 2008

The Rest is Up to You: Wild at Heart


If Blue Velvet was about the similarities between romantic love without sexuality and fetishistic love without identity--the search for balance from both leading to a violent collision--then David Lynch's next film, Wild at Heart, seems to further internalize that struggle by applying it to an exploration of non-directional passion and youthful infatuation. Through its careful consideration of maddening guitar riffs and exploding matches, the film points to a yearning for identity that will burn no matter where it is applied, and in doing so questions the validity of the romance between Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) and Lula Fortune (Laura Dern). As is his usual practice, Lynch deliberately avoids any definitive explanation of his craft on Wild at Heart's DVD documentaries, and he takes a similar stance on his cast, speaking of them in only the broadest, most obvious terms: "Elvis became a key to Nic--Nic is more than that for sure, but that was a key element." A small, almost negligible example of Lynch's trust for his actors can be found in a contemporary making-of clip, as he gives Cage a simple direction of timing and finishes it off with, "...and then the rest is up to you, man." So it is--in exploring Sailor Ripley, Cage turns in a performance that becomes a self-examination and criticism of his own obsessions.

As ne'er-do-well Sailor, the influence of Elvis Presley on Cage is finally, completely, obviously unavoidable. He speaks in that familiar drawl and shoots karate moves at the air, given an introduction almost identical to that of Elvis' character in Jailhouse Rock, Vince Everett: killing a man in the heat of the moment and convicted of manslaughter. It strikes me as significant that Everett's two acts of violence in Jailhouse Rock should involve physical representations of music (punching his manslaughter victim against a jukebox; smashing his guitar to frighten a customer who is interrupting his performance at a nightclub), because they emphasize that Everett/Presley is at his most brazenly energetic when music is involved--a passion that eventually brings him fame and love. Cage seems to recognize this, and through the double-edged inspiration from Presley that defines character and actor, he establishes Sailor as a man suffering from the opposite problem; a man who feels too much looking for somewhere to pour his feelings, living in the shadow of an icon. It's an idea that dictates the manslaughter that sends Sailor to the pokey at the opening of the film: we are told that Sailor
loves Lula, but you can't see that love when he brutally beats hired killer Bobby Lee Lemon (Gregg Dandridge) to death as she screams his name, terrified--nor when he points a blood-stained finger at Lula's mother, Marietta (Diane Ladd).

Sailor's attempt to locate his passion, his identity, is further exemplified by his painfully obvious attempts to convince others of his complexity. Once he is released from prison, he begins to recite a rehearsed mantra about his snakeskin jacket (the property of Cage, written into the script at his request) and how it "represents a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom." He says this again after a punk at the local nightclub makes the mistake of grinding against Lula during a strobe-lit dance sequence, which ends abruptly when Sailor silences the room with a wave of his hand. Beginning with this Fonzie-like act, you're never quite sure how much of Sailor/Cage is a put-on. He now delivers the Elvis accent in a sweaty growl, offering this guy the option to apologize and walk away but already burning with a resolution to kick his ass. Once the punk insults the jacket, you know that it's over; it's almost a relief when he smacks the guy down with minimal incident, as we're already kind of scared to learn what else this man is capable of when his fragile self-image is questioned. But then comes his rendition of "Love Me," an even stickier moment in which Sailor/Cage attempts to emulate Presley down to every little vocal quirk--later in the film, while traveling through New Orleans, he will recite the first verse with precisely the same inflection. Just what is his self-image? Does he see Lula as an extension of it? Is there really anything to Sailor himself?


Like Eraserhead's Henry Spencer or Blue Velvet's Jeffrey Beaumont, Sailor is the closest approximation to the viewer in Lynch's world, thrown into a bizarre realm of the subconscious only to find that he himself is not as normal as he once thought--his superficial adulation consumes him in such a way that he attempts to pawn himself off as detached and superior. When Lula tells a story about her schizophrenic cousin Dell (Crispin Glover, of course), Sailor/Cage stares directly at us through the fourth wall, as if quietly looking for sympathy from somewhere outside of this weird world; note that Sailor's own stories (a weird, bawdy sex tale; the sad fate of his parents) attempt to throw him into a role of blamelessness. This nonplussed façade is a cornerstone of Cage's performance, a sometimes-conscious avoidance tactic that attempts to anything that could associate Sailor with his frightening surroundings through New Orleans and Big Tuna: his latent rage (after several short-fused bursts of anger, Sailor's accusatory finger at Marietta is revealed to be a carefully considered, slow-burn "don't fuck with me"), his uncertainty (a sex scene between Sailor and Lula is interrupted by a brief, contemplative pause between thrusts) and his fear (his wonderfully frantic, impossibly athletic dance number at Lula's frenzied behest--after searching the car radio for a broadcast that doesn't involve murder or rape). He belongs here, but he's trying so hard to deny it. Dern's response to Cage is an interesting one--a victim of incest, Lula seems slightly more aware of what the world is capable of (being the one to declare that the world is "wild at heart and weird on top"), but attempts to imitate his suave indifference while exposing her faults more readily, particularly when her man is involved. Does she believe that Sailor is her messiah, or is she humoring him?
The little tics in Sailor/Cage's own self-crafted personality only accentuate when Sailor meets Willem Dafoe's sleazy Bobby Peru, who confronts him with a can't-miss plan to rob a local feed store after he sexually assaults Lula. As they discuss this over a round of drinks, listen to Sailor/Cage's voice as he pieces together that Lula has told Bobby that she's pregnant--slowly feeling the birth of a hangover, struggling to maintain his superficial demeanor. He has an inkling that this creep has done something to her, but he seems more concerned that he could not extract that information himself (she had to write it down for him); that his failure to do so will adversely affect his manhood in the eyes of others. Once the robbery is revealed to be a botched murder plot and Sailor is face-down in the dirt, the gentlemanly accent has completely disappeared, replaced by a frightened quiver that approaches Cage's own timid squeezebox from Peggy Sue Got Married.

Once Sailor is released from prison and retrieved by Lula five years later, Cage takes an interesting turn, slowly building his character up from his humble stance and back to his ivory tower of cool. At first gentle and smiling at the sight of his son Pace, he sees an opportunity to resuscitate his personality when his presence forces Lula to collapse into an emotional heap. Quickly determining that he must leave this situation with cinematic bravado to keep his image intact, Sailor/Cage does his best to separate himself from the situation--offering dispassionate, forget-me kisses to Lula and Pace (along with a quote from a Cisco Kid flick) and slowly walking off as if expecting the film to end here, in a Shane-like fashion. Lacking the heartbroken self-loathing of H. I. McDunnough's would-be departure in Raising Arizona, his demeanor brings into question how much he really loves Lula (or, at least, how much he thinks he loves her), so consumed with his symbols of individuality that he can't see anything else. But we continue on, following Sailor as he runs into a gang dressed similarly to the man he assaulted at the nightclub; he pulls a cigarette from the carton with his teeth, takes a long drag, and casually dismisses his assailants: "What d'you faggots want?" It seems phony, the moment that Sailor/Cage completely submits to his media-driven swagger--and it's immediately followed by the moment that the crowd beats the shit out of him.
A hallucinatory encounter with The Wizard of Oz's Good Witch (Sheryl Lee) humbles Sailor/Cage again, a voice-crack in his own claim that he is "wild at heart" repeating the mere hint of that scared little boy underneath. He staggers to his feet, apologizing and thanking his assailants as that familiar good ol' boy--but then, for a moment, he breaks free of those pretensions, screaming Lula's name to the heavens through his busted nose and making an uncharacteristically hasty exit to find her. With his ego deflated, he finally realizes that he does love Lula because she knows that there's more to him than what he projects, and she has forced him to understand it as well. Cage's subsequent rendition of "Love Me Tender" (Sailor's marriage proposal) is a beautifully imperfect scene, the most genuine moment of undying love in the whole picture--the performance of the song shaking uncomfortably between Elvis imitation and that other personality that we the audience never formally meet. But you eventually realize that this is how Cage has been playing Sailor the whole time, only now allowing Sailor to understand that the images that we try to impress upon others still speak volumes about ourselves. It would have been a cheat to abandon Elvis altogether, because the very fact of this scene demonstrates that "E" is still a big part of who he is. There's no changing who Sailor is, or what comprises his personality; the snakeskin jacket is intact, the pretensions are still there, but we can still sense the "eureka" moment of self-understanding. It somehow brings the plastic-fantastic musical Grease to mind and, if it had been an honest film, how it would have ended like Wild at Heart*: with a loving affirmation that you are who you are--a fucked-up alchemic blend of your idols, influences, and emotions.

* Seven years before Face/Off, the directly contradictive themes of Grease and Wild at Heart (including the treatment of nostalgia for the same approximate era) presented their own little rendition of Travolta versus Cage which, however indirectly, would similarly question the nature and structure of identity and subvert the knee-jerk concepts of "good" and "bad." Consider dark, deadly Sailor Ripley (Cage/Troy)--who finally realizes who he is in totality thanks to his girlfriend's love--and place him against the sanitized good guy Danny Zuko (Travolta/Archer), prepared to make superficial changes to his lifestyle but abandoning them when his girl appears willing to (more permanently) conform to his own comfortable parameters of reality with no questions asked.

49 comments:

Jefferson said...

Great assessment, Ian.

It probably hasn't escaped your notice that Cage's filmography features TWO characters sent to the pokey after heat-of-the-moment self-defense killings -- the other is Cameron Poe in Con Air. I hope Birdy is somewhere on your future list, because even though it was technically Matthew Modine's vehicle, Cage was a revelation.

Alex Jackson said...

Don't know if it makes him the best necessarily, but Ian is the only critic I know that I actually feel jealous of. Don't care if I'm circle jerkin', needed to get that off my chest sooner or later and with this and the Adventures of Indiana Jones review things just came to a head.

And speaking of circle jerkin', everybody wish our editor-in-chief a happy 33rd birthday.

Love Gorilla said...

Happy Birthday!!

Matt Zoller Seitz said...

Brilliant, Ian. I hated "Wild at Heart" when I first saw it, and subsequent viewings didn't change my mind. But now I need to see it again, through your eyes.

Ian Pugh said...

Indeed, Jefferson -- they also share a lovely, awkward moment when Cage offers his hitherto unseen child a stuffed animal as an introductory gift. I struggled on whether or not to include that connection as a footnote (because I fuckin' love Con Air!), but I concluded that it would more relevant to a direct discussion of the prison trilogy, in relation to the progression of Cage's career.

Alex -- I'm not really sure what to say, except that, speaking of Con Air, I hope everyone took the Blu-Ray opportunity to re-read the definitive review up on the mothersite. If I weren't concentrating on Cage's performance, it would be an impossible act to follow.

Matt -- thanks, man.

And, indeed, a happy birthday to Bill--for without the benefit of a year (and counting) with his infinite patience and wise editorial counsel, I don't know where the fuck my writing would be today.

And I don't care if that's circle-jerkin', either. Think of it this way--at least we're not in a Brett Ratner commentary. Zing!

Bill C said...

Thanks, fellas. And as always, this was a pleasure to read, Ian.

Sorry for the lack of mothersite updates; it's taking some time to get the loco(motive) running again.

jacksommersby said...

Best of birthdays to you, Bill, my man -- the guy who has absolutely no peer in writing fabulous DVD reviews.

rachel said...

Happy (belated) birthday, Bill!

Vincent said...

Bill - Happy Incept Date!

jacksommersby said...

Oh, and Matt Zoller Seitz, I used to read you like wildfire when you were writing for The Dallas Observer back in the day. Used to have a routine on Friday evenings -- I'd go to Irving and buy an LD at Sound Warehouse then go to Whataburger and have my meal while reading your reviews. It was bliss, I swear. Glad you're still around. Your [i]Unforgiven[/i] and [i]Just Cause[/i] reviews are classics, I aver.

Rick said...

Billy Bush...Eh, I was going to make a joke but its not even worth it.

Alex Jackson said...

Was I the only one who cackled when he said "Tim Burton and Johnny Depp one of those great director/actor combos like Scorsese and DiCaprio"? The long-term memory of the entertainment press only goes as far as maybe five years apparently.

Depressing hour of television by the way.

Seattle Jeff said...

I can't beleive they figured out a more horrid way to present the Golden Globes than the actual award ceremony.

My god...I'm horrified.

I'd much rather have seen the guy from Mad Men be honored at the real show.

I was foolish for being gleeful about them being cancelled.

Rick said...

Billy Bush was as well-prepared as the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" guy.

"David Duchovny is cool. He is just so cool" Haha.

Seattle Jeff said...

Is that the guy with black hair who looks like a hobbit? Or was that the guy who looks like a cheap knock-off of the guy who was in Sugar Ray?

Jefferson said...

Many thanks to Travis for the excellent appraisal of The Jazz Singer DVD package. Just learning that it contains the cartoon short "I Love to Singa" makes it worth my purchase, since I remember that piece from my childhood -- when unexpurgated '30s-'40s cartoons (Daffy Duck's gun exploding and painting him in blackface, Tom and Jerry's lawsy-lawsy housemarm) aired on my local pre-cable TV stations.

Bill C said...

Fuck: Brad Renfro is dead.

Always held out hope for that guy.

DJR said...

I just saw Juno, and I'm with you all the way, Walter. Seriously, why the hell is the critical community so slavishly falling over themselves to praise this thing? It's almost depressing. There's hardly an honest moment to be had, and it's not even particularly funny!

Anonymous said...

Just saw the news about Brad Renfro. God dammit, that's sad. Watched Tom and Huck way too many times as a kid and always hurt for him anytime some news about his troubles was released. RIP...

Alex Jackson said...

First Vampira now this!

Very tragic indeed.

Rick said...

An observant individual emailed Ebert's Movie Answer Man with a spot-on criticism of Juno, and the response was probably the weakest justification I have ever heard:

Email: ...I was distracted to the point of annoyance at the implausibly hipper-than-thou sentences zipping out of the lips of the movie's characters. Juno is hip. Juno's friends are hip. Juno's parents are hip. Even Rainn Wilson's character, the guy behind the counter at the store, is hip...

Response: ...would argue that the dialogue in "Juno" mostly works because Ellen Page sells the tone so convincingly. She wins us over. Think of Diablo Cody's words in the mouths of Page's contemporaries, and you cringe. Yes, her parents talk that way: Where do you think she learned it? As for the drugstore clerk and Juno's best girlfriend, it's as if she affects the linguistic weather when she enters a room.

Me: Wow. Linguistic weather? Um, yea. Is this assertion based in reality? Because the reality I have been a part of, actual human beings do not co-opt other people's identities on the spot.

Love Gorilla said...

Walter, any chance you'll tackle Cloverfield?

Walter_Chaw said...

Alas - been on a little unexpected vacation the last couple of weeks and missed such sterling (appearing) flicks as Bucket List and, yes, Cloverfield. I'll try to catch it during it's run, though, can't say that I'm not intrigued especially after looking at The Host again the other day. What a great flick that was.

Working on a couple of bigger projects as we speak - doin' my best to get back on the horse as 2008 gets revved up. Seems Ebert's the biggest horse's ass for sticking Blade Runner in his Great Movies list in such a middling way. I understand revision - we move along, we change, yes? - what I don't understand is this equivocal stance he adopts now in lieu of actually saying anything. What good's an opinion if you don't use it to opine on anything?

Anonymous said...

I nominate Walter's There Will Be Blood peice as the best review of the year. Seconds?

I'm just kind of disappointed it wasn't his favorite film of the year. I thought, as great as NCfOM was, it got its ass kicked big time by TWBB. I said this on Alex's board, I think TWBB is the best film of the new millenium.

-- HMSM

Anonymous said...

Also TWBB is the definitive film for the dire 00s in a way that Apocalypse Now was for the 70s and Die Hard was for Reagan-omaniacal 80s.

Anonymous said...

TWBB is too easy. Apocalypse Now is slippery, multi-faceted, and haunted in ways TWBB can only feign. It's a staggering technical achievement, but I'm not convinced it has a soul, or much else to savor beyond its ridiculously on-the-nose allegory and sheer alien-ness. It sure does pander to types like Chaw though, that's for sure.

jer fairall said...

Seconds if we mean it's his best review so far in 2008, I guess, but I gotta say that last year's pieces on Knocked Up and American Gangster/I'm Not There/No Country For Old Men are my faves. I've read each a bunch of times already.

And speaking of awesome writing on the site, Travis' Jazz Singer piece is, to paraphrase of one of his colleagues, a fucking masterpiece. I damn near *bought* the DVD today after reading it.

Anonymous said...

Ebert has his flaws, but at least he doesn't use every other review he writes to inject this tiring, high-brow nihilism Walter's decided to embrace.

Not only are Walter's "Eden was never ours to begin with" just pithy one-offs that he's never taken the time to fully develop, they're constant. How many more Paradise Lost and William Blake references will we get in 2008?

Seriously, folks, be honest: When Magnolia came out, did it completely turn you off because its religious overtones? Did you come out of it or Syriana turned off because its theme boils down to "be nice to your kids?" Who writes that? All this movie's about is being nice to your kids!

Never mind that this Web site misses all kinds of relevant (and pertinent movies (what - Travis, Ian, and Alex never see any of 100 movies Walter misses every year?), it's become a parody that would fit nicely inside Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word:" The subtext of the movie is better than what's actually onscreen. Its "meta" value is more important than the craft, the story, the acting, anything.

Bill C said...

Gotta say, I'd be a lot more inclined to listen to your objections if you had the courage to sign them.

Seattle Jeff said...

Yeah, the site doesn't seem to focus on those relevant movies like "First Sunday", "Mad Money", and "27 Dresses"....

Walter wastes too much of his time worrying about say, what a movie's theme is or...you know, what kind of warped view the filmakers have.



Sarcasm aside, never trust anyone who uses the word "folks"...

Bible readin', pork chop eatin', just plain folks! - A Face in the Crowd

Dave G said...

Sorry, the best unpronounceable acronym for 2007 is TAOJJBTCRF.

RE: Blade Runner, big Ebe actually responded to my e-mail over the same subject wherein I asked him why he is now equating his "Great Movies" series with some sort of generic clearing house for "canon" works, especially because he doesn't seem to have revised his opinion of "Blade Runner", so instead equivocates to popular opinion. Weird choice for this treatment, given that "Blade Runner" has many detractors despite its longevity and many rabid devotees. In my e-mail I asked him if he will now revise his opinion of "Blue Velvet" given that his review of that film runs contrary to that film's critical reputation I don't think that's gonna happen.

Our "Anonymous" clarion calls for "honesty" would be far more engaging if you followed one of the basic tenets of intellectual honesty and signed your posts. After the requisite dozen thwacks of the exclamation point key, even Tom Wolfe put his name on turns of phrase like: "clam-broth-colored current"

permazorch said...

Well, I don't know about y'all, but I think 'folks' is fine to say, any time.

Anonymous is asking for the big shots to stretch. Well, we all should, as much as possible, on this I agree. I also agree that it's lame to criticize without at least a 'screen name'.

Finally, I find Tom Wolfe to be kind of lame.

Anonymous said...

Well, i think its kind of futile to criticize Walter's review for its brevity and lack of explanation. One, because thats his style and doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of conviction or understanding of it. If I were to speculate, it would enough be much to the contrary. And two, because really ,hiw much could you squeeze into a review that size that we expect to read at FFC. Now if it was on Viddied, you'd get to read about it and its mother and grandmother. In no way a criticism of that style, since I wrote a 6000 word essay over there.

And fuck, give me Blake or Milton anyday over entertainment writing any day. You say as if its a bad thing. Dude like his Blake, hang him for it.

Anonymous said...

Fuck, the post I just put up sounds retarded. I can't delete it though because it was posted as anonymous. I'm not able to post with my id for some reason. Maybe its my firewall or cookies or something. I dunno.

-- HMSM

Anonymous said...

This is awful "anonymous" again...that fool without courage. I'd sign my name, but considering people on this site have told e-mailers to go fuck themselves and "get a fucking dictionary, read a book" in the past, eh, anonymous is about the response that's deserved.

Anyway...call me Omaha Wade. Will that work?

Seattle Jeff...depends on how you define "relevant." Popular? Important? A big deal? Good? I figure if the site has time to explore the virtures of Harry Potter it has time for National Treasure, The Great Debaters, Cloverfield, and Charlie Wilson's War - whether they're good or not.

Beyond that, my bigger point is this Web site - well, Walter - has largely become dismissive of any movie that even has a whiff of uplift in it. If it's about Paradise Lost, or the dismal tide, or our shitty, fucked up universe, it's got some depth. If it doesn't, it's pablum. Whether that's intended or not, that's the vibe I'm getting from this Web site: Unless you embrace misanthropy and some loopy Randian nonsense about the differences between good and great people, well, fuck you, you're stupid.

Like Ebert, Walter imposes his "I like it because I agree with it" worldview so fiercely on a piece of art that the review is not merely subjective, but at times irrelevant. Just like I know Ebert's a gravy train for certain subjects and big-breasted actresses, I've come to see Walter wants hopelessness and chaos. Or some reflection of "Eden is a lie," " our dying collective dream," "entropy," or "apocalypse."

For example, whether or not The Kite Runner review is well-written - or accurate - is secondary to the point that, considering the above worldview, it had no chance of getting a good review anyway. Its very essence disqualified it.

And in reading it, that becomes clear. Its story is meaningless, irrelevant. In fact, you don't have foggiest fucking clue what the movie is about - only that it's a Disneyland piece of shit concerning a child rape, and that Afghanis hate rape and American money. Huh?

IMO, part of being a reviewer, is doing a little due diligence for the reader, putting in the effort of setting up your critique instead of blowing through with ten sentences of fevered rhertoric. The Kite Runner is exploitation? Garbage? Ignoble as all get out? OK, fine. Why? Isn't evidence just the least bit pertinent? Context? Something?

I dunno, to me it's just sloppy. The finishing touches aren't there, the clarity of thought, actual passion. Too many reviews like Woody Allen's recent movies.

Bemis said...

I must admit that, though I basically agree with Walter's review (best movie in my lifetime), I found the last few sentences of the review a bit reductive (or, at least, a false dichotomy). That said, it's a little early to start making a straw man out of Mr. Chaw. The idea of "unnatural pursuits" is at the heart of the film, and Walter's is one of the only reviews I've read that gets at this in any depth. And thank God it's not just a grocery list of Anderson's influences. Even when Walter's reviews are disputable, they're indispensable. Besides, I like William Blake.

Rick said...

Beyond that, my bigger point is this Web site - well, Walter - has largely become dismissive of any movie that even has a whiff of uplift in it.

Ratatouille? Once? Stardust? Those films and many others have received positive reviews from Walter in 2007 and were not driven by nihilistic themes.

Just like I know Ebert's a gravy train for certain subjects and big-breasted actresses...

Also, any film containing friendly African-Americans, and literally any movie set in Chicago.

Rick said...

The Kite Runner is exploitation? Garbage? Ignoble as all get out? OK, fine. Why? Isn't evidence just the least bit pertinent? Context? Something?

And why can't Walter be apathetic about films he dislikes? He certainly is passionate about the ones he does like.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous. I like reading Walter's reviews, though they range from spot-on to incomprehensible. And enjoy the whole blog. But if I never saw the word "reductive" again, I wouldn't exactly mourn.

Walter_Chaw said...

I dunno - movie's I like (or at least got recommends) from 2007 that are uplifting: Ratatouille, Darjeeling Ltd., Persepolis, Superbad, Simpsons Movie, Hairspray, Exiled, Go Master, Die Hard 4, Surf's Up, Knocked Up, Spider-Man 3, The Hoax, Hot Fuzz. Do I reference Blake and Milton too much? How much is too much? When a movie reminds me of themes from Blake and Milton, I guess I'm inclined to like them.

Isn't the real question of whether I impose it? I guess I don't know if I do or not. I don't remember where I wrote it, maybe in the intro to the new annual, but I think I say something along the lines of "I don't know if I'm imposing it or not, but suddenly it's there during the course of the year." Anyway - I'm not critical of Ebert because he imposes himself on his reviews, but because he doesn't anymore. I don't care if he liked tits. I do care that he likes Juno enough to make it his best pic pick, regardless of quality.

I'm vulnerable to attacks like our Husker pal's - I like them, too. He's read a few of the reviews or, more probably, read the Top Ten list and done a little skimming here and again - and they're informed to the point that they're informed because of his research. I'll cop to talking about Songs of Innocence and Experience in about 1% of the reviews that I write, but I'd wager that it's that 1% that's the most read.

Here's a list of movies I liked from 2007 that don't mention Blake or Milton or an idea of Eden: Zodiac which, unfortunately, does mention Kirkegaard and Longfellow (sorry); The Lookout, Grindhouse which mentions Frost, but the movie does, too, so I wonder if it counts; Spider-Man 3; 28 Weeks Later; Knocked Up/Surf's Up; Ratatouille; Die Hard 4, Bourne 3. ..

Phew, I'm tired. I have to search, too, you know. I wonder if the bile is directed at the Top Ten which, I understood, was to be a survey of the year and its major, as I saw it, theme/s.

This is the concern: that reasonable criticism like that up there sometimes sounds awfully close to unreasonable criticism like me always talking about race or me always bringing up misogyny in my reviews thus making me oversensitive to race and women's issues. Is it reductive to treat There Will Be Blood in three paragraphs? Absolutely. Alex, to his credit, treats Snakes on a Plane to something like thirty paragraphs. Is my thought that the best films of this year were all to some degree interested in addressing a past that's not so rosy, thrown out there without much exposition? Maybe. If you haven't seen all the movies this last year (minus 100) that I've seen - and with my eyes, to boot - I'd wager it's even more mysterious.

My criticism doesn't have much meaning in the wider sense without the films in question - I don't agree that I owe the reader "due diligence" - I don't agree that I owe the reader anything. If I'm beholden to you, I'm your gimp, and you can get gimps anywhere. I'm not interested in explaining the plight of the Arab Street: lack of education, lack of intellectual resources, impoverishment of institutions of technology and the advancement of learning, blah blah blah blah - the most insane, bellicose, young Arabs had to use our training and our planes to crash into our buildings because their infrastructure couldn't provide the training or the technology. And it's that lack that probably got them pissed off in the first place - mainly because American money has made it possible for their societies to persist despite having nothing of real value to offer in their headlong race to the 8th century. We bomb Afghanistan and we're actually bombing them forward. There's been no Enlightenment on the Arab Street.

Boring.

Read Thomas Friedman - he's more interesting than I am on this topic.

I regret the Kite Runner review because there's nothing to say about the movie that you didn't already know. If you didn't know it, I can't help you. A lot of movies deserve a haiku at best - a lot of movies, you know, only deserve judgment. I don't agree with the "thumbs up" review; but I do agree with the concept of a "thumbs down". 'nuff said.

But that concern again: that brand that the things I like I support with high-falutin' language and references to poetry; while the things that I don't, I don't even bother reviewing anymore (that's the new one; the old damnation was different). Not true. A lot of stuff wasn't reviewed because I didn't have time. I'm not sure if Alex or Travis or Ian had time, but I wouldn't ask them to go to the trouble for free.

That would be really fucking presumptuous, wouldn't it?

Shit, man, we can't even get most of you to buy a book to support the site for chrissakes. Makes it pretty hard to muster the balls to make demands, don't it? We do what we can - we put ourselves on the record and up for public scrutiny - and we don't even expect civility most of the time in our discourse with our adoring public. We must really fucking love movies.

Walter_Chaw said...

Oh yeah! Stardust is great! Anyone seen it, yet? Very romantic. When Danes glows, and I'm of the mind now that she glows a lot, she really fucking glows. No Milton, Blake, or Eden in that review either, I think, though I suspect I mention "The Sandman" or The Princess Bride. I wonder if I should have given due diligence to those references for fear that I've left a few behind.

As for being incomprehensible. Yeah, guilty. I don't envy Bill's job sometimes.

Alex Jackson said...

Didn't like Stardust. Looked up to see what I said on somebody else's blog:

Well, I thought it was a mess. It simultaneously had way too many and way too few rules. That whole thing about stars not being able to enter the village. I didn't get it. Why couldn't people leave the village? Why couldn't the star enter? Did the people of the village know that stars are young girls who live in the sky? The hero doesn't seem to be too surprised with the idea. But if that's so, why did the hero offer to bring the star back sight unseen?

Too many/not enough rules, and there are way too many characters and storylines. Pirates, and ghosts, and witches; all with seperate agendas. It's exhausting.

Also, I saw it right after Ratouille. Compared to that film, the sociological attitudes of Stardust feel regressive. The protagonist becomes king or whatever because it's his birthright, he's the rightful heir. It's not because he's better suited to govern or anything, hell I'm not sure that he even knew this universe existed. You know, compare it also to Pan's Labrynth, there's more going on there as well by implicitly comparing the little girl who is the "queen of the faries" to a Spanish fascist.

Maybe they should have kept the material simple and then worked out a more sophisticated angle to it all. The "fairy tale that doesn't take itself seriously" seems like kind of a cop out.


So there you go. And I've been meaning to ask Walter. What DO you think of The Princess Bride? You say it's "a pretty good film by Meathead" in your review of Marathon Man and that it's "pretty good and pretty overrated" in your one for Alex and Emma; but then decry it as a piece of shit when you write up Stardust. Whatsa deal?

Also, you guys can put in an alias under the nickname prompt instead of signing into your blogger account. Not that hard.

Walter_Chaw said...

Piece of shit. Been declining for years.

Seattle Jeff said...

Took the wife to see Stardust and really enjoyed it. Thought Deniro a little bit much, but overall it was a fun evening.

It's takes like that that prevented me from being a critic and led me to being a CPA.

DJR said...

I'd buy your FFC books, but I'm an uninsured college student who can barely afford to eat. Lay off the guilt trip, man!

Anyway, I feel you, Walter. This site has been invaluable to me for years. I appreciate all of your efforts.

Speaking of Stardust, I agree with Alex that it was a total mess, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi that I found terribly charming. Danes most definitely is luminous in her role. I was disappointed that you didn't stick it in your honorable mentions. Same for Spidey 3, which I didn't feel was close to deserving the backlash it received.

Anonymous said...

I'll buy it, I promise. Just squeezed by the fucking student loans right now. I'm telling my buddies too.

p.s. keep putting the guilt trip all year, Walt. We do seem to be a bunch of apathetic fuckers that need a kick start.

Anonymous said...

-- HMSM

clint said...

The rebuttal against Omaha Wade was basically already written before he voiced his argument- Mr. Chaw's review of Reign Over Me.

Anonymous said...

Enough about HIPSTERS:

http://www.catandgirl.com/view.php?loc=455