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13 January 2005



Filmbrain, I think you may have partially answered your own question regarding Spiderman 2 in your defense of Oldboy. A superhero film, like a revenge film, is a genre piece that can be elevated to something far greater (while still remaining respectful to the genre) at the hands of a good director. Raimi made a spectacular and moving superhero film, but there's no getting around the fact that if one doesn't like superhero movies, one probably won't appreciate what Spiderman 2 has to offer (in other words, it doesn't entirely transcend the genre, but while working within its confines achieves a fairly unprecedented level of perfection).

In complete agreement with you on The Brown Bunny, though. It's probably not high enough on my own (unnumbered but still sequentially ordered) year end list.

And if you've seen Patrick Marber's play in its staged form, I'm curious about whether or not you think the film is an improvement over the play (which had a slightly different punch at the ending). I think it's drastically better, and I wonder if Mike Nichols should be credited with the alterations -- I wouldn't be surprised if he suggested them.


But even if I learn to stop worrying and love the arachnid, isn't Spiderman 2 a bit...preachy about its morality?

Also, what about the insufferable dialog? Peter and K Dunst (sorry, don't remember her name) are in a cafe. She asks him if he loves her. He says no. Car crashes through window, start of big final action sequence. Reunited, she says "You do love me. Even though you said you didn't in that scene just about ten minutes ago, remember?" Feh!


Sadly, I missed the play when it was in NYC. It might have affected how I feel about the film, but that wasn't the case with Nichols' Angels in America, which I thought was equally as powerful as the stage play.


To indulge in a bit of fanboyish attention to detail, I think the "You do love me" line was tied in to her discovery of Peter's secret identity, which in turn is tied into her kiss with Spidey in the first film. As for the morality -- I do vaguely remember one sequence in the middle of the film where Peter has a rather didactic dream involving his dead uncle, preceeded by an equally preachy visit to a doctor; but ten overwrought moments did not a (negatively) bombastic film make, in this case.

Had you seen Closer, I think you simply would have looked forward to the film a bit less, and then been pleasantly surprised.

And I guess I never answered your initial question, as I intended to in my first post: I think that if onewere to judge all films by the same minute criteria, it would be a disservice both to the film and to one's own self. I think Filmbrain's criteria are fairly spot-on, and explain why his list can contain both Oldboy and The Brown Bunny, or why I can list Notre Musique a few spots away from Spiderman 2 on mine. The fallacy of the mass audience is that they always want to see the same thing (or at least they think they do, or at least the executives with the greenlights think they do), when one of the beautiful things about cinema is the enormous range of possibilities.

James Russell

Well, as far as I'm concerned, there's only one thing I expect from a film when I see it, and that is that I am not bored by it. Being dull is a far worse artistic sin in my book than being bad.


Not to heap on abuse or anything, but Filmbrain, please do not start criticizing film dialogue in a post primarily defending The Brown Bunny. Regardless of all your other defenses of the film, are you really going to try to say that 90% of the dialogue (not that there's even all that much of it) isn't trite at best?

A note on Closer to "dvd": I did see the play on Broadway, and the thing I remember most is liking it very much. In fact, I remember liking it more than the film. But that's all I remembered about it, which I found interesting. I have a feeling that in another year, the same thing will happen to me with the film. I might remember my reaction, but I won't actually remember anything about the actual movie. In my book, that's a negative -- for both the play and the movie.

And lastly, James Russell, you're 100% right.


I strongly disagree about the dialog in The Brown Bunny. No, it's not particularly witty, or even clever, but it's suited to the characters. I found Bud's dialog to be appropriately and consistently awkward. (Again, I point to the scene with Daisy's parents.) Bud is like an introverted Billy Brown, and though his crying speech at the end might be a bit immature, I wouldn't call it trite.


"The redemption story has been done to death -- it's time to call a halt."

actually i'd say that these days the characters-don't-change story is just as common and cliche and a film shouldn't be praised simply because they don't change. it's hardly revolutionary.


"actually i'd say that these days the characters-don't-change story is just as common and cliche and a film shouldn't be praised simply because they don't change. it's hardly revolutionary."

No, it's not, but I know where Filmbrain's coming from, and I agree. It's not whether characters change or not, but why: in a good film, the characters change or don't change based on the logic [or illogic] of their inner workings as both a character and a person; in a bad film, they change or don't change based on, among other things, generic expectations, audience expectations, or just plain bad writing and direction. In other words, they cease to be people, but instead become braindead chess pieces without a scrap of free will to their name [of course, no character in a fiction film has free will, but you know what I'm talking about].

But, then, at the same time, what's to be said about characters who appear in great films and yet are one-dimensional chess pieces, and quite obviously so? I'm thinking of Femme Fatale and other such formal outings.

But on the whole I agree with Filmbrain. There are always going to be exceptions to the rule, of course, but I like characters who can think for themselves, so to speak.


That's it Matt -- exactly. I don't know why I had such difficulty yesterday in successfully getting my point across.


Can we point out how witty and brilliant the dialogue in Buffalo '66 is, proving that while Gallo has the capacity to write such dialogue (just read his off the cuff remarks in interviews). The fact that he chose to use such direct, childish language is testament to the character (proof that personal is not necessarily autobiographical). Didn't Jay McInerney write somewhere that men never mature past age 19 anyway?

Matt - I don't see RRS to be one-dimensional in Femme Fatale at all. While I'm not one to trump female empowerment, etc. I found her to be a strong, unifying presence, and a multi-faceted character, in a performance that pushed beyond its initial operatic stylings. That, coupled with De Palma's almost always on spot camera made, for me, FF, one of the best of 2002.


Wow, Dave. You obviously fall heavily into Filmbrain's camp and definitely not mine. No, we can't say that what I would call the inane dialogue of Buffalo '66 was either witty or brilliant. It was grating. It was annoying. It was absurd. But for me, neither witty nor brilliant apply.

Additionally, as I've written repeatedly on my site, I'm a huge Brian De Palma fan (or at least once was), but I found Femme Fatale to be a poor attempt by De Palma to recapture his old magic by simply repeating what he has done before. And personally, I found RRS to be utterly awful. Matt's got that one right -- completely one-dimensional.


Aaron - Whereas I can understand why The Brown Bunny might not be your cup of tea, I really don't get your aversion to Buffalo '66. Hysterically funny without ever cracking a joke. Billy Brown is such a brilliant, original character. Yes - he's annoying, but that's the whole point!

As for Femme Fatale, I'm still struggling with what Matt wrote. RSS's character is indeed one dimensional, but was that by design or by her limitations as an actress? But then again, characters are often chess pieces in DePalma films -- and I mean that in a positive sense.


I'm with filmbrain on Spider Man 2 - cross town fucking train? Get the fuck out.



A question to those who were dismissive of, disinterested in, or downright opposed to The Brown Bunny, but who did in fact see it: opinion aside, do you think the landscape of current cinema is nonetheless better for Gallo's contribution, or would you rather suffer a thousand innocuous entertainments upon the public than one artiste's (italicized to suggest pretension) solipsistic navel gazing?


Regarding my comments on Femme Fatale, which may have been taken the wrong way.

"As for Femme Fatale, I'm still struggling with what Matt wrote. RSS's character is indeed one dimensional, but was that by design or by her limitations as an actress? But then again, characters are often chess pieces in DePalma films -- and I mean that in a positive sense."

Exactly. I loved Femme Fatale, and that's what I was talking about. The characters in that film were one-dimensional chess pieces by design, and to great -- indeed necessary -- effect. What I meant to say is that, while for the most part I like a character that can think for themselves, sometimes a formal symphony of cinematic elements -- in which character is treated as just that -- an element -- is just as pleasing to me. It all depends. It's a case by case thing.

Eddy Faust

Aaron, I haven't seen Brown Bunny yet, but I can't see how anyone can be sour over the dialogue in Buffalo '66. Yes it was "absurd", but very funny dialogue usually is...and if you've spent a lot of time in white trash America, it may hit you as a poignant reflection as well. Similar to The Big Labowski, the dialogue enforced how none of the characters ever connected to one another; everyone living and chatting away in their own private world.

"We love each other, we span time together, but we don't touch."

Classic stuff.


Eddy: Without getting into a big argument about it because I simply can't talk about Buffalo '66 anymore, I am completely sour on everything in that movie, and I did not find the dialogue funny or interesting or real. (And I actually have spent time in "white trash America" but I don't think that qualification has anything to do with whether or not this film is reflective of that society.) I know some people worship the film; I'm in the camp that will never understand why. I tried watching it again recently, and I really just couldn't. 10 minutes in, I was so annoyed and pissed off again at this complete waste of celluloid that I had to turn it off. Since the film isn't from 2004, I'm going to, respectfully, not feel the need to discuss it any longer in this forum. Sorry if that's a cop-out.

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