Sunday, August 26, 2007

THE SLIFR FORUM: SUMMER 2007 FEEDBACK


If things have seemed a little quiet here on the SLIFR ranch this past week, it's not because they were anywhere near quiet in other worlds, both real and virtual. Perturbing events raised their head in the blogosphere last week, and they've inspired tough questions for those directly involved in those events, as well as those of us who are trying to bring a modicum of seriousness to what we do here with film writing in this still-new format. I was more than just a little depressed as I turned all this over in my noggin over the weekend. And then I clicked on Jim Emerson's post "The Stepford Critics", which I didn't see until tonight. Jim posted it on Friday night, right about the time a friend and I were draining an unsuspecting diner of their Diet Coke supply and hashing over this issue and many others during a lovely three and a half-hour sit-down, the likes of which I hardly ever get to enjoy these days. The sit-down cheered me up immensely, and Jim's post, and the excellent comments that follow, hit me like a cold drink of water at the end of a dry, dusty day. I urge everyone to please head on over there, read it and chime in. I promise I will too, Jim.

Speaking of cheering up, I got another shout-out this week on The Hucklebug, a very funny podcast hosted by SLIFR reader and blogger Stennie and her jovial compadre Bet. I'm relatively new to the joys of podcasting, but I love listening to these two chat their way through their very loosely formatted show every week. As I wrote to them on the Hucklebug Web site, "I’ve always gotten a kick out of listening to conversations like the ones you guys have, where I feel like I’m an outsider, yet I understand enough to keep me engaged. (There aren’t so many in-refernces that I feel shut out, or that I couldn’t become familiar with after an episode or two more of listening in.) It’s like eavesdropping in a place where you’re welcome. (I love movies like this too, where you know there’s important stuff on the sidelines or outside the margins, but you have to work to find it or draw conclusions without it-- this is why I like Altman.) And I really enjoy the pleasure you two take in each other’s company. That’s something that can’t be faked." If you find yourself with an idle hour, do check out the chat on The Hucklebug. You may find yourself hooked... like me. (And when you do, tell me if Stennie doesn't sound like a certain Oscar-winning actress with a new movie about to come out in the next couple of weeks...)

Finally, as the last week of August comes shuffling in, I was thinking about the summer movie season and how relatively few big blockbusters I saw this year. I just could not muster up the energy to see many of the big three-quels-- Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and I remain unacquainted. (I did see Shrek the Third-- twice-- but I'm a father of two who likes to take his kids to the drive-in, so I would like to claim mitigating circumstances, right alongside claims of bad judgment.) I also skipped Transformers (though if it showed on a tasty double bill at a drive-in, I could easily be convinced to give it a look) and the new Harry Potter picture, only because I haven't yet seen number 4. The Bourne Ultimatum has to be the summer's biggest disappointment, based on the anticipation-to-rewards ratio. I did see Ocean's Thirteen and thought it was pretty keen, though less engaging than Eleven (I find Ellen Barkin in full sex kitten mode hard to resist, though.) Live Free and Die Hard and The Simpsons Movie were delightful, the former in a very unexpected way-- it was really funny!-- and the latter in a very expected way-- it was really funny! Knocked Up was just about as wonderful as I had presumed it would be-- but I was unprepared for how painful it was as well. On the short list of minor surprises would be Vacancy, 1408 and Hostel Part II. I would term Hot Fuzz a mild disappointment, but I have to admit that I was VERY tired the night I saw it, so its recent appearance on DVD should be one I gravitate to pretty quickly.

But as August wound down this weekend, the movies that topped my summer list were an eclectic bunch, emblematic of the things summer movies can and should do best, but so often do not-- thrill us with the sheer audacity of their command of craft, of character, of their desire to entertain us by keepng us company with vibrant, surprising characters and rich, subtle, sometimes shaggy craft. And one of them was a freakism, a reminder that oddities do float around the perimeters of the so-called popcorn season, as they used to in the less demographically dominated dog days, and sometimes people will go to see them (even if they have to get duped into doing it).

My best movies of summer list, in ascending order:

4) BUG William Friedkin's startlingly effective psychodrama dares to cross the line from relative sanity to unabated madness right along with the lead characters, played by Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. It's Friedkin's most unhinged, balls-out movie in decades, and Judd never shies away from the possibility that she'll be misunderstood or look foolish-- hers is a brave, brilliant portrait of the thin veneer that separates the appearance of normalcy from paranoid tragedy.

3) HAIRSPRAY For sheer joy, happiness and unerring ability to strip away every one of my preconceptions, Hairspray has every other movie I've seen this year beat in a walk, or a twist.

2) RATATOUILLE Pixar rebounds from the relative disappointment of Cars with another thrilling technical achievement wed to the ever more prodigious and full-bodied storytelling mastery of writer-director Brad Bird, who, with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and now this family-friendly consideration of what it is to be an artist, is fast approaching national treasure status.

1) SUPERBAD Hairspray defeated my resistance. Superbad not only fulfilled my expectations, but easily surpassed them. This mind-bogglingly profane paean to the penis, and the unexpectedly tender ties between two high school guys who happen to sport 'em and obsess over 'em, reaches the rarefied air where Freaks and Geeks once reigned. Director Greg Mottola transcends the teen movie comedy with ease and a subtle, surprisingly tender hand, as one night in search of booze and babes spirals off into giddy comic highs and emotional grace. And the funk soundtrack! As a friend of mine simply stated in a one-word e-mail to me about this movie, brilliant.

What are your thoughts on the summer movie season? Any big surprises? Any disappointments? And is there anything on the horizon that looks to shake up your expectations and pull you away from that ever-growing stack of DVDs that you haven't gotten a chance to see yet? I have every reason to believe that, as schoolwork comes to a head this week that things on the SLIFR ranch may be as quiet again this week as they were last, so I invite you to pop in a check in with your thoughts. What about the state of internet film criticism? Are the Stepford Critics taking over? What about the Hucklebug? And feel free to log in on the Summer of 2007 in the SLIFR Forum too. What did the movies do for you besides provide reliable air conditioning and overpriced M&Ms from June through August?

62 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

...
..
Well, I'm awful about seeing newly released movies. I always feel like I should catch up on the old ones I haven't seen first. I do see the new movies, it's just that more often than not I see them on DVD.

Anyway, glad to see you were reading the Stepford Critics post on Scanners. I was wondering when I would see a comment from you and one never materialized. If you're going to comment do it soon. Jim's been posting like a madman these last three days. Soon the critics post will be relegated to the nether regions of his blog.

bill said...

I've seen very movies in the theater this summer, but I did see "Superbad" this weekend. I loved it. I don't know the last time I've laughed so consistently at a movie. Michael Cera's line, early in the movie, describing the kind of world he'd like to live in is possibly my favorite line in the movie, and it is so...relatable, let's just say, that I was pretty much with the movie from that point forward.

Also, I've gathered that some people are comparing, or at least associating, "Superbad" with "Dazed and Confused", which I coincidentally also watched this weekend. I'm sorry, but the two are nothing alike. For one thing, "Dazed and Confused" forgot to have any jokes.

The Shamus (formerly TLRHB) said...

Oooh...trashing "Dazed and Confused." Dennis, I'll leave that one to you!

bill said...

Here's my problem with "Dazed and Confused", in a nutshell (this also applies to "Animal House"): It seems to me that there are essentially two ways to approach this kind of nostalgiac material, at least as far as comedy goes. One is the approach that "D&C" makes, which is more or less, "Weren't we all cool and funny back then?" The other approach, which "Superbad" takes, is "Weren't we all dorks back then?"

I much prefer the latter.

bill said...

Also, in my first post, I think I could have used the word "movie" a few more times. Five times in four sentences (!!) just doesn't seem like enough.

Jonathan Lapper said...

But we were all funny and cool back then. Weren't we?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill, remember the old Certs breath mint ad campaign? Well, to paraphrase, your comment has two, two, TWO arrows to my heart in one! Dazed and Confused AND Animal House? As Redd Foxx once said, ‘Lizbeth, this is the big one! I’m comin’ to join ya, honey! (Enough arcane TV references for now.)

I don’t think the point of comparison between Superbad and Dazed and Confused (at least the comparisons I’ve seen) are that they are necessarily after the same thing in terms of the experience the viewer has. They are both generational portraits, and Superbad seems poised to almost instantly ascend to that kind of milestone status that Dazed shares with American Graffiti and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Dazed is, however, a bit more from the slice-of-life side, its nostalgia cut with Linklater’s ear for conversation, which is derived more from Altman than Lucas. I don’t think Dazed is after jokes so much as the pangs of recognition which are situated in the vivid recreation of the reality of that last day of high school in 1976, which in turn gives rise to the comedy.

Where Dazed crosses paths not only with Graffiti, but with Superbad, is in its portrayal of the intangible import of those last school days. The kids in each of the three movies sense they’re on the cusp of something important, life-changing, meaningful, but they can’t really describe it—they’re too overwhelmed by the future, they’re having fun skating through the present, and fortunately the filmmakers resist the temptation to pile on prescient signifiers of what lays ahead on the road toward maturity. (Graffiti, of course, goes beyond signifiers and baldly states the fates of its characters—the male ones, anyway—a tactic expertly parodied in Animal House.) Superbad gets after the same subject, but in a raunchy new way that goes for telescoping everything down to the three main nerds, exploding the situations out to their most absurd extremes, and then settling down for its surprisingly heartfelt and moving conclusion.

I think that what makes each movie (five, if we include Animal House) effective is that they are each vivid, warts-and-all pictures of how each of those generations sees their experience and themselves. I think Jonathan is right—we were all funny and cool back then. Even Terry the Toad has his moments. The Delta House boys are social outcasts with their own hierarchy of cool guys and nerds within their own walls. The inhabitants of that dazed Texas town would definitely recognize their counterparts in Cameron Crowe’s Redondo Beach high school. And Superbad’s Seth and Evan rotate in a world where awareness of Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking and YouTube and iTunes have made it possible for the dweeb to create his or her own self-glorifying scenarios, ones that don’t have to rely on the blatant stereotypes of Revenge of the Nerds. What’s great about movies like Animal House, Dazed and Confused, and now Superbad, is the coexistence of dorkdom and cool. And in Superbad’s Seth and Evan, the two are joyously fused.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Hey and as long as Shamus is here (somewhere floating around this magnificent series of tubes) I want to say I was not trying to call anyone out by omission on Jim's Stepford Critics post. I was worried after posting that by mentioning certain bloggers and not others this may occur. Shamus, my comments on your blog were little throwaways and I certainly did not expect or demand any response. The fact that you offered up a "mea culpa" anyway says a lot about who you are and how you think, and my respect for you has only grown.

And don't worry, soon enough your blog will be plagued by my trademark long-winded, "when the hell is he ever going to shut up" comments. And then you'd better reply you sonavabitch:D
(in case the emoticon didn't work I am of course joking - I would never consider myself longwinded.)

See Bill, we're still all funny and cool. Right?

bill said...

Dennis - I see your points (except for the one about Linklater's ear for dialogue being akin to Altman's...what are you, nuts or something?), especially what you said about how each of these movies is a portrait of how these different generations see themselves. However, I still really, really disliked "Dazed and Confused".

A good example of what I was talking about before is the scene where Adam Goldberg is talking about how he no longer wants to study law, and doesn't think he wants to do any of the things he thought he wanted to do anymore. When one of his friends asks him what he wants to do now, Goldberg says, "I want to dance!"

Now, that might have been funny if the character was sincerely saying that he want to dance, but instead it was the character trying to be funny, and it made me cringe. You say the comedy arises from the pang of recognition, but when exactly did that happen? And how? And which? Once, I heard some comedian say that the difference between American humor and British humor was that American humor always began with "Isn't it funny that...", whereas British humor began with "Wouldn't it be funny if..." To me, the humor in "Dazed and Confused" began with "Wasn't it really funny back in the 1970s when I said the following..."

Also, there was a smugness about the whole movie. I mean, honestly, was the coach asking the players to sign that "no-drugs" form really that unreasonable? Of course, they stack the deck by making the coach a sneering blowhard (because that's funny?), but his side could have been very reasonably argued. Then again, if that had happened the quarterback would have seemed so noble.

Also, I'm sorry, but I don't care what decade you grew up in, smashing people's mailboxes is a really dick move. What I'm saying is, I really didn't like the characters very much.

I hope I'm not coming off as a jerk about this, but I was just really put off by the movie. And watching it a day after seeing "Superbad" really highlighted things for me. If you want, any of you "D&C" fans can bash a movie I really like. That might be difficult, as most of the movies I like are pretty awesome, but feel free to have a crack anyway.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

“You say the comedy arises from the pang of recognition, but when exactly did that happen? And how? And which?”

Well, I’m not sure how old you are, Bill, but as someone who lived in a small town in Oregon and graduated high school in 1977, Dazed and Confused was, first and foremost, wall-to-wall recognition for me—of fumbling, childish, asinine, fearful and sometimes even friendly and inclusive behavior, all of which was on plentiful display both in the halls of my high school and in Linklater’s movie. The apes that bash the mailboxes are supposed to be lunkheads—but we can see that, at least in “Pink” Floyd’s case, lunkheadedness can coexist with humanity. That’s one of the points of his character, as I recall. In fact, yeah, the coach could have been portrayed more evenhandedly, as could have his request for the drug test. But I think they weren’t largely because the movie originates from the point of view of the conflicted Floyd, whose sense of being pulled in different directions, being influenced by authority figures he may not perceive as evenhanded, and feeling his way out to his own sense of morality is one that Linklater (accurately, for the most part, I think) projects onto the generation (his own) being portrayed.

And I didn’t mean to imply that Linklater is Altman’s equal when it comes to how he uses conversation in the film. I meant only to suggest that his sense of how he wants to make it work (sometimes with success, sometimes not) was clearly influenced more by Altman than by Lucas’s more prosaic approach.

Now, then, a list of your favorites, please… 

bill said...

I didn't mean "where is the recognition in this movie?", but "where is the comedy that's supposedly arising from it?"

I really think you're giving Linklater more credit than he deserves, regarding the conflicted morality of the main character. It came off as typical teachers- and-coaches-are-squares! "rebellion" to me.

This is now my fourth Linklater film, along with "A Scanner Darkly", "School of Rock" and the "Bad News Bears" remake. My favorite so far has been "School of Rock", which I think means that he and I aren't really soulmates.

And my two favorite movies of all time are "Babel" and "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace".

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I tried mightily to make it through A Scanner Darkly, but I just couldn't. At least Waking Life didn't make me feel like I was missing out on all the connective tissue, because there really was none. And, strangely enough, I've heard some good word of late about The Newton Boys, which is one of those movies that gets the kind of negative reviews that make you suspect, after a while, that it might be worth checking out. For the essence of Linklater, I'd recommend Slacker, or Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. But if you found Dazed and Confused maddening, then those movies would really drive you bats.

As for your last sentence, if that can of worms is labeled "bait," then I will politely cede the floor and go back to work... :)

bill said...

Damn it! Maybe if I'd tied a rope around "Crash" and thrown it out there...

I've always been curious about "The Newton Boys", but I'm frankly dubious about how Linklater would handle the law in that one. Would I get more of the cops-should-leave-thieves-alone vibe I'm so weary of? I wonder...

I've heard nothing but great things about "Beyond Sunrise" and "Beyond Sunset". I'll probably give those a whirl some day. Also, my brother, whose tastes have been known to match my own from time to time, liked "Slacker". So who knows?

The only thing I can say about "A Scanner Darkly" is that it made me want to read more books by Philip K. Dick, but it didn't make me want to see more movies by Richard Linklater. I'll give it an A for effort, though.

But hey, that "Superbad" movie...that was some funny stuff, am I right??

Jonathan Lapper said...

I think the greatest film ever made was Porkys 2: The Revenge. Any takers? I didn't think so. Pretty indestructible choice. First there's those guys in it that do that stuff with that thing. Then you got all that, uh, you know, other stuff that's totally super cool good.

And did I mention Jar Jar Binks is a kind of personal god for me?

All of the above is not not untruthful.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Superbad has the highest ratio of belly laughs to bits that don't work of any comedy I've seen in a long while. Throw that in as a bonus on top of the sharp, unobtrusive filmmaking and the unexpected emotional weight it effortlessly carries like a detergent tub full of beer, and you've got a contender of the top ten of 2007 in my book.

And that funk soundtrack! Are you man enough?!!

Porky's 2?! Where's that goddamn bouncer?

stennie said...

Hey, thanks for the plug for the Hucklebug ("Huckleplug")! I'm so flattered you've graced our humble little podcast.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Huckleplug! We're busy coining catch phrases here on a Monday morning-- whoops, afternoon.

My pleasure, Stennie. I've really enjoyed getting to know your show. It really reminds me of what I used to love about honing in on nighttime AM signals from God-knows-where, or listening to mysterious shortwave talk radio broadcasts as a kid-- The Hucklebug has a spontaneous, broadcast-from-the-foot-of-Mount-Belzoni* quality that one can relax into and build a little theater fo the mind around. Plus, I love to listen to smart, funny, unperetentious people sitting around bullshitting. I'm glad to be even the tiniest satellite in the Bet and Stennie universe!

* Five points for the first person who pinpoints that reference!

bill said...

srAgreed on all points regarding "Superbad". The dead spots were very few and far between, and the heart was genuine. Apatow, Rogen and the rest of that group are the people in comedy these days.

And Michael Cera...has there ever been anyone in movies as funny as that kid is at his age? I can't think of anyone.

bill said...

God, what a mess. "Agreed" and "people to beat in comedy".

Jonathan Lapper said...

Geez, I can't buy a thrill on this site. Well, you'll be happy to know I'm now wrapped up in your pretzel logic. Anyway, I can't talk now, I'm on a countdown to ecstasy. And by the way, Gaucho, Katy lied. We haven't seen the last of good king Richard, it's just that everyone's gone to the movies.

I know I go by the name Jonathan Lapper, but I've been thinking: They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call me Deacon Blues.

bill said...

Jonathan Lapper - What the hell is that, the the last words of Dutch Schultz??

Ordinarily, I get what we in the business like the call "references", but that, on top of Dennis's "Mt. Belzoni" submission, has me stumped.

I may have to turn in my "Gets Obscure References" merit badge.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Okay now I'll just say it. Fagin's first solo effort, The Nightfly.

Forget Bitches Brew, Fagin was the best person ever at concocting a jazz/rock fusion.

Of course this is coming from someone who likes everything he did, including Time out of Mind. And yes, I am holding the mystical stone.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Dennis: Judges, your decision?

Judges: You almost Peg-ged it, Lester. Try waltzing between the raindrops toward the new frontier.

Dennis: Jonathan, why did they call you Lester?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Jonathan Lapper - What the hell is that, the last words of Dutch Schultz??

Pretty damn funny, I must say.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Direct from Lhasa too! All right, kids, back to your cages.

(Sorry, Bill, everyone...)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Don't give me any goodbye looks, Ruby baby.

Dennis and I are now speaking in code to befuddle the masses.

bill said...

I have heard of Fagin. I suppose that's something. I don't list to a lot of music that can be described as "blank/blank fusion", though, so that should explain my bewilderment.

Boy, this is an epic day for me and typos. I very nearly ruined my one good joke.

bill said...

LISTEN, not LIST!!! What in the hell!! Fagin's magical sword or whatever is dazzling my senses or something.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Donald Fagin and Walter Becker made up Steely Dan of whom I'm sure you've heard.

Adn what tpyos? I hnavn'et notiecd any.

Say, aren't we all at work right now and... crap, boss coming, gotta go!

bill said...

Indeed I have heard of this "Steely Dan" person you speak of. He sang "More Than a Feeling", right?

So, anyway...who here likes Tom Waits? Randy Newman? Warren Zevon?

Oh, and screw work. Work is stupid.

The Shamus (formerly TLRHB) said...

Jeez. One nasty comment about "Dazed and Confused" can lead to all this. And I didn't even make it this time!

Jonathan: No problem, but I realized I hadn't responded to a couple posts myself.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan. And just so you know, the piano has been drinking, NOT ME! I tell ya, they're trying to wash us away.

Anonymous said...

How come I never do what I'm s'posed to do? Don't you know there ain't no devil, that's just God when he's drunk. And that son of a bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head.

bill said...

That was me, above. My fingers do not work today.

Bet said...

Wow, thank you for the kind comments. To which I say:

1. If you're a fan of the original "Hairspray" - I mean, really have an affinity for it - is the new version going to mess with your mind?

2. I wanted to see Ratatouille. I didn't. I'll enjoy Superbad on dvd where its raunch won't turn me red in the theater.

3. Ahhh, drive-ins. The wonderful memories I have of my sister and I in our pajamas, being taken to the drive-in by the folks. Falling asleep during the second feature on blankies in the back seat. I'm convinced I saw The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming that way, but have no hard and fast proof.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

While I can see why one might compare Superbad with Dazed and Confused I think they are different species that should be allowed to exist independent of comparison, or fighting. Which is to say, I really like them both -- for different reasons. And let's face it: D&C is a "better" movie. But the flip is true, too: Superbad is HILARIOUS.

But enough of that. As you may have guessed by my thing on The House, I think Ratatouille is probably the best movie of the year, let alone the summer. I couldn't be happier with Pixar's latest because Brad Bird isn't one to ape his boss, John Lasseter, and extol the greatness of animation: he simply makes movies. He makes excellent, smart, funny, touching movies that clown most other Hollywood efforts out there now. It's only real rivals this summer were the aforementioned Superbad and, I'll keep saying it until somebody besides Ted Pigeon believes me, the third Pirates movie.

The third Bourne movie was surprising, actually, in that it was better than its predecessor, but it still cannot compete with Liman's first entry in the series. I may write more on the movie elsewhere but for now here's some thoughts: The thing that distinguishes the third one is its enclosed spaces: the frantic aesthetic works better boxed in here than in the majority of Supremacy's action scenes because there's a better sense of the (screen/scene) space being split up and fractured. Still, all those scenes of people watching data on huge information boards and typing into computers (in a CIA base of operations located in a NYC highrise?) are a pain. And Julia Stiles needs to stop looking like she's smelling shit all the time.

Really wanted to see Bug; DVD!

5th Harry Potter better than 4th, more later, in other webspaces.

Transformers made me hate a lot of things and I try my best not to hate anything. I went in with extremely low expectations and boy were they not low enough. I'm not sure another movie has made me that angry in a while, save, perhaps, Pan's Labyrinth. At least Del Toro's film doesn't trust the military's influence; Bay thinks it's the only thing worth a damn, apparently. In fact, he wants us all to join up! I support those who are out there in the desert eating a lot of shit so I can spout nonsense about movies in my spare time but, fuck, I don't want to be bombarded with that kind of propaganda. And I know it's just a movie, but c'mon, it's retarded: Greengrass' aesthetic sense is better than Bay's.

But enough vitriol. I think now it's time for a beer. School starts tomorrow and I am not ready to subscribe to that routine again just yet. That summer school idea was slightly misguided and quite draining. Oh well. Time marches on, right?

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Oh yeah, I recently re-watched 28 Weeks Later and it is really good, if a little wrongheaded. But I guess that was spring, not summer? I forget. Regardless, peep this.

Sal said...

Who is this BILL entity and why is he allowed to breath the same air as we humans do?

bill said...

What the? Because I didn't like "Dazed and Confused"?? Well, you can cram it with walnuts, pal!

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I'm a bit anal about this, but when it comes to Steely Dan, I know no mercy: it's Donald Fagen, not Fagin - that's a character from "Oliver Twist". Now write that on the board 100 times. ;)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Hey everybody look! Bill's an entity. I wish I were an entity. Are there any dues you have to pay to become one? Man, I so want to be an entity!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Anonymous,

I'm reviewing the situation.

Also, I can't seem to find any chalk.

bill said...

Attaining entity status is actually pretty pricey. Not only do you have to go through all the physical stuff, like the daily jumping jacks, and the obstacle course at the end, but you actually have to pay 25 bucks for the certificate.

While I do enjoy the perks, like the free sodas and 15% discount at participating Sam Goody's, I still can't help but feel that I was used. I mean, they took a lot of pictures of me going through that obstacle course, and I've seen them posted all over the place, and haven't received a dime.

Sal said...

Look, if we want to believe in the almighty Wikipedia, here is what Wiki describes as an ENTITY:

"The word entity is often useful when one wants to refer to something that could be a human being, a non-human animal, a non-thinking life-form such as a plant or fungus, a lifeless object, or even a belief; for instance".

So there you go... Bill is a non-thinking, lifeless fungus who wants to be human.

You mess with D & C or Steely Dan, you get the horns.

bill said...

But "Dazed and Confused" is bad. What am I supposed to do?

And I didn't see anything about the rock/jazz cosmic fusion explosion that is Steely Dan.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Gee, I'm a huge Steely Dan fan and I really loved Dazed and Confused, but I had no idea they could inspire such wink-wink vitriol.

Not to be a party pooper or anything, but could we redirect the conversation away from fungi and entities and back to the movies, please?

Bet, RWK, I have some thoughts, but I'm a little tied up with work right now, so they'll be coming soon. But I did want to say that I'm with you, RWK-- Ratatouille struck me as being good enough that even awarding it a Best Animated Movie Oscar seems like ghettoization. This movie outstripped just about everything out there this year. I can't say anything about Pirates 3, however, as I have abstained from seeing it. In a nutshell, what did you love about it? You're perhaps the only writer I know who did.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

I think I said it pretty well here but to reiterate/recap...

1. I think it's fun.

2. The special effects are plain amazing.

3. It, like last summer's predecessor, works as a great sequel, like, uh-oh, Empire and Aliens in that it complicates the first film, expanding its scope and meeting the challenge of imagination the first one sets down.

4. If you watch it as if it were a cartoon, like, say, Kung Fu Hustle, you might start to get why I think it's so much fun, and so smart, and worthwhile. I think that's the ticket: it's a cartoon! It doesn't subscribe to the same demands we normally place on live-action narratives. Think about why people like, or love, Tati: he is all images. This movie may not be as "brilliant" or something but it's using a similar strategy.

5. It's deliciously immoral.

6. Keira Knightley looks best when dressed as a boy. Yup.

But I don't really want to beat a dead horse and get called names again all that much so if any responses can refrain from the ad hominems that'd be much appreciated. I mean, it's a fun, silly movie that does not warrant all the hate it generates. In fact, it boggles my mind why people would be so averse to this and adore the new Bourne movie, or Stardust, which seems to be enjoyed for a lot of reasons I like the Pirates movies. Joy and good tidings! Fall semester begins... NOW!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

No name-calling here. It’s interesting that you would mention Kung Fu Hustle, because that’s a movie that fits exactly your criteria (except it’s not a sequel… And I don’t know how immoral it is… and Keira Knightley ain’t in it…) yet one I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of in relation to Pirates 3. Do you think the rejection of the movie by critics is based more on preconceptions about its status as a sure money-making franchise product? Or was it perceived as overkill in all departments (which is, admittedly, why I stayed away)?

And it makes me think of a good question for a future quiz, but one that I’ll test out here for everyone just because: As RWK has Pirates 3, and in the spirit of avoiding the actual personal attacks as this thread proceeds, is there a movie you’ve endured disdain from your peers for unashamedly loving while all the other reasonable voices are trashing it?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Oh man, and I was having so much fun talking about entities and Steely Dan. Thanks, Dad.

And how 'bout that "reviewing the situation" line? Straight out of Oliver! sung by Fagin. Pretty clever, I thought.

Now, back to movies, there are a couple that I love while others despise them but unlike most choices I really think mine truly would open me up to ridicule. And I'm not sure if I want that right now. You see, most people would go with a "cool" choice like POTC or Die Hard where others may disdain it but you don't have to feel like a total dork for liking it. But mine... well, even my wife makes fun of me for it. AND my kids. Pretty embarrassing. I have never successfully convinced anyone else to like it. So I just can't bring myself to reveal it now. Let's just say it's more than a couple of decades old and it's a total "chick" movie and ... oh, I'm just gonna shut up now. Someone might guess it.

bill said...

Hm. Well, I liked "POTC 2", and the critics blazed away at that one pretty good. And I do wonder if the beat-down it took has anything to do with a certain amount of shame some critics felt for praising a movie based on a ride. (I haven't seen the third one yet, but plan to catch it on DVD.)

Also, I like "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison". So sue me. I think liking those two really helped me appreciate "Punch-Drunk Love" all the more.

There must be others. I liked "Hudson Hawk" when I used to watch it as a lad...hey, maybe I ONLY like movies everybody else hates.

Jonathan, if Sal hadn't called me an "entity", I don't think Dennis would have put the kibosh on our conversation. Some people just take things too far.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I was thinking of a couple of other rip-roaring skull-and-crossbones adventures that no one seems to think are any good—Roman Polanski’s Pirates, which I liked well enough the one and only time I saw it, back when it was first released, and Michael Ritchie’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s modern-day pirate thriller, The Island, with Michael Caine and David Warner. There must be other examples that don’t involve pillaging on the high seas, though. Still thinking…

bill said...

I liked "Pirates", too, although it's been years since I've seen it, and remember very little. But even now, a pirate movie starring Walter Matthau and directed by Roman Polanski...how can that not be worth a second look, no matter what one might have thought about the first time around?

Oh, I have one: "The Core". I think I've actually mentioned this on this site before, but it's a damn fine B-movie, with no pretensions beyond that, which no one seemed willing to hunker down and look at eye-to-eye. If "The Core" had been made in the 1950s, it would be beloved.

Sal said...

Who the hell is Sal anyway?

Dennis, an apple for the teacher..sorry!

Bill, POTC 2? OK, can't let that one go by without saying HUH????

Dennis, why would you abstain from POTC 3, but run out to see Bourne Ultimatum? Curious?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Hehheh. Well, Sal, I certainly have nothing inherently against a movie with a "3" attached to the title-- I even saw Jaws 3-D. For me, Pirates 2 failed to grab me in the way it was clearly intended to. I thought it was diverting, but also a textbook example of "more is not necessarily more." I guess I just wasn't in the mood to find out if part 3 fit that same mold. Bourne, on the other hand, was a second sequel directed by the same guy who I thought did such a fine job with the first sequel. Yet his smash-up-the-frame style didn't work for me very well here, largely because I kept having to work so hard just to orient myself-- it seemed much more like a cover-up for the thinness of the story this time around, and I found myself a couple days after seeing it unable to remember a thing about it. Whereas in Supremacy I can still recall individual sequences with clarity because Greengrass didn't rely exclusively on this disorienting, fragmented approach. Ultimatum disappointed me, though, because it seemed like a rehash, like it was treading water, and the whole series of reveals at the end just made the filmmakers, not to mention the characters, look none too bright. It's kinda like how I felt after seeing The Godfather Part III-- I'd rather just remember the first two.

bill said...

Sal - I don't have detailed reasoning behind it, but I just thought that "POTC 2" was fun. And I really liked the effects.

Oh, hell, you just don't like me because you think I'm an entity.

Sal said...

Hi Bill,

Nice try!!

Dennis, I didn't get the same feeling as you did of Bourne 3. That disorientated look and feel was kind of exhilirating to me and let me to believe that Greengrass's intention was to show Bourne's kinetic determination to find and destroy those rotten bastards that had fucked with his head for those past couple years.

Of POTC 2, I was also let down to some degree and yet I surely could not wait to see how this all played out and how all that confused mess of a film could play itself out. As I've said to you before POTC 3 was an entertaining delight and a satisfying conclusion.

Now Godfather 3... wow I could see that slug coming from a mile away.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Do you think the rejection of the movie by critics is based more on preconceptions about its status as a sure money-making franchise product?

Most definitely. Nobody watched the movie as it is -- just as they wanted it to be.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bet-- Sorry to have ignored you for so long, but this henhouse got pretty wild there for a while!

To address your questions:

If you're a fan of the original Hairspray- I mean, really have an affinity for it - is the new version going to mess with your mind? That's where I was coming from originally. I loved the original film and was pretty dismissive of the ideas of both the Broadway musical and the movie from the start. I figured, why mess with and (I assumed) homogenize a good thing? But Waters always looked at Hairspray as his most perverse movie in a way, because it was a PG film from the man who made Divine's snacking habits a household horror, and if you look at it, the 1988 has some twisted elements (Waters' own cameo as the hypnotist who attempts to exorcise Penny), but it's largely a pretty wholesome affair. The movie musical stays true to that spirit--sharp and irreverent, but also squarely in favor of some ideas that, even in 2007, are still (unfortunately) in need of being termed as progressive, ideas like positive body image, integration and (gasp) a little innocent miscegenation. The performances are all top notch, especially Travolta, who I couldn't imagine being anything but horrible when I saw the trailers. And the music is exceptional and exceptionally performed. And the cherry on top-- Waters himself gives the movie his blessing by another cameo appearance, this time as "the flasher next door" who happily prances past Tracy Turnblad as she belts out the film's opening number, "Good Morning, Baltimore," just before hopping a garbage truck to school. Give it a chance. It'll win you over.

I wanted to see Ratatouille. I didn't. I'll enjoy Superbad on DVD where its raunch won't turn me red in the theater. Why did you resist Ratatouille? As far as Superbad, part of the fun of the movie is testing your own limits of embarrassment. I wasn't sure there was a dick joke that could make me blush, but there are a couple of other things that did. Thank goodness the lights were low!

Ahhh, drive-ins. The wonderful memories I have of my sister and I in our pajamas, being taken to the drive-in by the folks. Falling asleep during the second feature on blankies in the back seat. I'm convinced I saw The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming that way, but have no hard and fast proof. Proof, dammit! I demand proof! If you search for "drive-in" at the top of this blog, you'll come up with lots of stories and images culled from my own little rennaissance experience with drive-ins over the last two or so years. It's been really fun rediscovering them and introducing my daughters to the fun of seeing a movie under the stars. I have videotape of the night in 2000, when my first daughter was only about four months old, when my wife and I took her out to the drive-in. At the time I assumed they would all be gone by the time she was this age and old enough to enjoy them. (I videotaped myself explaining to her was a speaker box was!) Fortunately, she and her sister are now veterans of three excellent summers (and winters too) full of drive-in movie memories. I hope I can keep the dream alive for them, and that drive-ins will be here when they're old and decrepit like me. What about you? Any drive-ins in Texas where you're at? I'll bet there are!

Ted Pigeon said...

It's always nice to know that I am not the one lone defender of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Ryland. I still hold that your review of the film is one of the best articles I've read this summer. And you summed up the major problem with so much criticism in your last, brief post. We so often see what we want to see; the movies themselves are almost incidental, as it is the ideology of the privelaged spectator that dictates how s/he is to watch and react to the movie. This is especially the case with movies like POTC.

Ryland Walker Knight said...

Thanks, as ever, Ted, for the kind words. It's a thrill. Cuz when I step back a second I realize I'm just a guy who lives a silly life like any other guy or gal. My Friday nights are often blurry, or completely evaporated. It's weird, given one's knowledge of one's self, to know people will arrogate to you. (That's a weird sentence to write, not sure if I got it right.) But, it's a great pat on the back. I'll get over it some day but that little clustermap thing I put on VINYL tracked a hit from Iraq. (Sorry to go off topic, Dennis, but I felt compelled.) (It seems the whole post should be in parentheses.) (Haha.)

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