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13 January 2005



trixie, i've gotta know: is there a policy behind your not-seeing any/all of these? or are you just not interested/haven't had the chance? i'd be the last one to judge, but it seems like anyone who's been following film in '04 (which you obviously have, with a vengeance) would see The Passion and Fahrenheit 9/11. were you just too bored by the hype?


It's true, I do sometimes hit the wall and experience critical fatigue long before a movie ever opens. I am one of those people who enjoys reading criticism for its own sake, and one who'll read reviews before seeing a movie. That said, at the end of the day, nothing I heard about either Passion [with apologies to Caleb Deschanel] or Fahrenheit sounded much like filmmaking to me. They were parlor tricks, polemics delivered by the best, most widespread, most efficient channel available. They felt like bombast, and I wanted subtlety.

On a personal level, moving from blue to red this summer, I was just tired of divisiveness and preaching to various choirs, so I took a time out.

Which isn't to say that I will never watch these films. But neither one seemed to need my help, and I spent the time shouting from my tiny corner of the internerd about worthy stuff that wasn't getting 24/7 blanket coverage. Also, sometimes, being known as a film addict, it's just easier to take a pass than get into an argument that won't be about what interests me about film. It may be perverse, contrarian, childish, but there you have it.

As for the rest, I fully intend to see Ocean's Twelve, and the two 2s I have no doubt will catch up to me, and numbers 4, 5, 6 didn't last long at the proverbial "theatre near you," if they made it at all. I just can't muster interest in any of M. Night's movies. None. And Vera Drake certainly won't find screens where I currently live, so onto the Netflix queue it goes.

And surely you have some strong actor aversions? Two of mine historically are Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey. I nearly didn't see Eternal Sunshine because of my deep-seated uncomfortableness with Carrey dating back to In Living Color. Is that fair? No. But one of the things that keeps me coming back to the movies is that punch-in-the-gut visceral reaction.

Now if only I could figure out how I've happened to see--and enjoy--so much of Kirsten Dunst's oeuvre to date....

Eddy Faust

I can't believe no one is bringing up Kill Bill vol. 2, which has one of the most subversive climaxes in modern-day action cinema. QT keeps building us up to the typical "big showdown" between The Bride and Bill and in the end, the two pretty much just have a long heart-to-heart (I guess there's a bit of a pun in there). And everyone wants to come down on QT because Kill Bill is a collage of influences past, but that's like saying DJ Shadow's Endtroducing wasn't one of the best albums of the 1990s because it was all made up of samples. Kill Bill is post-hip hop film-making, an ebullient Frankenstein monster created by one man's love of every little kick ass-ism he picked up from movies over the decades. And yet...it gets ignored in so much critical discussion.

And what about Wong Kar Wai's 2046? Sure, Filmbrian posted a review, but I don't see any word of it on this blog. Even the few who have the import DVD, are dismissing the film as good but nothing groundbreaking, not Wong Kar's best, etc. Sure, it's a film made for just Wong Kar Wai fans, but who better to make a Wong Kar Wai film for? 2046 totally revolutionizes the idea of a sequel and acts more as a cipher for two previously unconnected films (Days of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love) and joins the three films together to make one enormous, gorgeous, evocative masterpiece. Should 2046 work just as well as a stand-alone film? No. There have been plenty of great stand-alone films. Wong Kar Wai is doing something more complicated, and vastly more engaging. He's expanding cinematic narrative and all artists are now freer as a result.

I don't mean to sound bitchy, I'm just shocked to see no discussion over the above films.


"And yet...it gets ignored in so much critical discussion."

That's because QT masturbating onto celluloid isn't worth discussing critically.

[Clearly, I didn't much like either of the Kill Bill films...]


I think the lack of 2046 discourse is because it still hasn't been released in the U.S. (Does anyone know if there's even a U.S. release date yet? I'm dying here, people. I need that WKW fix.)
Speaking of which, did you guys hear/read about this little bit of WKW news? Make all the botox jokes you want, I'm there. On that note, let me open this can of worms: did anyone else love Birth way more than they probably should have?

Wiley Wiggins

The only movie I saw on that list was Spiderman 2, to which I actually got dragged to twice (this completely ruined the movie for me btw, the popcorn fun of it got soggy with tedious moralizing on the second viewing. I kept hoping Doc Ock would drop Aunt May off a building and we would get to see her squish on the pavement).


Actor aversions? Oh, baby. I essentially refuse to see, on principle, anything with Matt Damon or Ben Affleck; I'm repulsed by Kenneth Branagh; I wake up screaming from nightmares about Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas. Mickey Rooney kind of grosses me out too. But sometimes, inspired against-type casting and really smart directing makes a silk purse out of a sow's ear. That happened w/ Cruise in Magnolia, remember? How all the bad Cruise energy got harnessed into a great performance? That's kind of what happens with Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine. Personally I always thought JC was a great talent, but I never liked actually seeing his movies (except maybe Cable Guy); I thought that, like Robin Williams, he was throwing himself away on stupid roles. But he is really, really good in ESOTSM, everything Jim Carrey never is, subtle and miniaturist and restrained. Didn't you think so? I think he may deserve the Oscar ... whatever that means.


A quick word about QT: I agree with Matt. We all know by now that QT loves movies (I have to admit while I could w/o the Kill Bills, I truly enjoyed the beginning of Kill Bill Vol. 1 with the Shaw Brothers company card. Seeing Hero really brought my dislike for the KBs into sharp relief: Zhang Yimou is able to generate scads of wonderous grace and kinetic excitement in his fight sequences whereas for all of QT's love and aping of things past, the KBs are absolutely listless by comparison.

I had some things to say about The Cinetrix's post and Liz Penn's response but thought about QT have poisioned my mind...

Eddy Faust

In my opinion, "Hero" (though a very beautiful looking film) greatly indulged in traditional Asian period-piece melodrama, whereas Kill Bill (mainly vol. 2) turned numerous martial-art film cliches on their head. To a certain degree, this comes from a personal mindset, but I just connected with the more personal revenge quest of the Bride (which came down to a woman wanting the right to break away from a past life-style), than the negation of personal worth in favor of some broader (and quite elusive) common good. But it's more fare to compare "Hero" against Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger and Tsu Hark's lesser known, but superior, Swordsman trilogy. Both CTHD and the Swordsman movies focused on characters who placed personal fulfillment ahead of the State or some past notion of honor they've concluded is meaningless if not destructive. Again, this comes down to more of the type of person I am, than saying "Hero" is a lesser film than some of these other swordplay films. And I've seen enough stoic Asian women cry after the death of a loved one to last me a life-time. Now Uma's laughter and tears of maternal relief at the end of Kill Bill 2...that was something beautiful and fresh!

And if QT was really about just "aping" things past, then The Bride and Bill would have had that final duel at sunrise on the beach (they did in the first draft of the script...which I disliked greatly). And if you mix ENOUGH old things together, it DOES become something new. But this goes back to the whole sampling debate in music years ago. Do you think Endtroducing, Paul's Boutique, and Fear of a Black Planet are amazing pieces of music...or just a bunch of old sounds stolen? QT is a shameless post-modernist, but he's also very upfront and madly energetic about his influences. Whereas Bertolucci TOLD YOU he loved films in The Dreamers, QT SHOWED you how much he loved films in Kill Bill.


Kidman in a WKW film? Snap! (translation: excellent!)

Dogville has it's detractors, and when I look at it as objectively as possible it has it's problems, but I loooooved watching it, and it was such a joy to see Kidman doing great work in a non-Hollywood, non-US film. Maybe after WKW she'll do a film for Jarmusch or Maddin or others. Snap!

Anyway, I've been wondering? Are there any Paulette's here? Or Bazinians? Or is everyone here a proud film criticism Philistine? (read: film enthusiast)


I don't see why a Paulette or a Bazinian [I suspect that I'm a Bazinian, even though I've never read any Bazin] can't also be a film enthusiast. I think it can be dangerous to operate solely on personal taste -- although I think that's certainly part of the equation and one that a lot of critics tend to betray -- without any critical considerations. I may have despised this year's "Movie Club," but I like to think that I'm closer to those guys [who really just need to learn to pull their head out] than I am to the "characters" in Cinemania, who I found frightening in their inability to defend a film with anything other than abstract and inexplicable movie love [which is great is measured doses, don't get me wrong!].


Oh, I didn't mean that being Bazinian or a Paulette assumes you don't love film (quite the opposite). I guess a few overused emoticons could've indicated that my Kael/Bazin question was largely facetious. Still, it'd be interesting to know who our 'Conversation' members see as their film criticism progenitors, if any.


Mine's Rosenbaum.


Oh, hell. If I'm being honest: Anthony Lane, Jeanette Basinger, Robin Wood, Angela Carter, David Thomson, Geoffrey O'Brien, J Hoberman. A lot of not strictly or not solely "film critics," per se, as much as a lot of really intelligent thinkers and lucid, funny writers who know their stuff, know the theories, but are jargon free and in on the joke that "it's only a movie."

And Elvis, who can be all or none of these things depending on his editor.


Eddy -- I certainly have my problems with QT and the KB films, but I just love the comparison to DJ Shadow. Nice one.

Matt - I quite liked Birth and have been wanting to write about it on my blog, but I'd really like a second viewing to confirm what I think. The ending doesn't satisfy, but who cares -- the voyage there is just wonderful.


I was a Rosenbaumette until he called AI a masterpiece.

Eric Hamilton

Shrek 2 made me laugh a couple times, and it had one redeeming quality that was worth the rental fee: It turned me on to Frou Frou - a beautiful synthpop collaboration between singer Imogen Heap & legendary producer, Guy Sigsworth.


Ben asked about Birth, Filmbrain, not me.

Meanwhile, I find that Rosenbaum's writing style does it for me -- for the most part, the opinions themselves are secondary. I also like Adrian Martin for the same reason. It also helps that neither of them try to dumb their opinions down -- or make them "hipper" -- in any way. They just write and write well.

The critic I've had the strangest relationship with is Manny Farber. I love his writing style -- his ability to jump all over the place -- such prose! -- but find that he's overly negative; it's a downer to read too much Farber too quickly. Even when he's praising something, he does so by finding something lesser to compare it to. I love a good attack as much as the next guy, but it just seemed to me that Farber was always out for someone's blood. His tearing apart of Huston in one of his pieces of Hawks is a good example of how he can mess a positive message up with a negative approach.


Sorry about the mix-up, Matt.

I agree that Rosenbaum is still a great read, but it's getting harder and harder for me to see the man I studied under fall for films that twenty years ago he would have outright dismissed. Still, he's tops on championing smaller, lesser-known films.


You studied under him? That's awesome.

I wonder why that happens? Sarris has also changed for the worst.


I still read and love Roger Ebert, partially for sentimental reasons but mainly for a reason that was elucidated quite well in an article I remember David Hudson linking to not too long ago (I forget in what, or by whom): essentially, that when Ebert loves a film, no matter how offbeat or challenging it may be, he always tries to recommend it in a manner inclusive of the general audience. He never pretends that a Godard or Fellini film is too difficult for audiences who might otherwise choose to see, oh, say The Stepford Wives. And while I sometimes question his taste, these days more than ever before, his obvious love of the medium remains unquestionable; his writing may not be as erudite as that of Rosenbaum or some of the other notable critics I turn to now when I want a more introspective perspectives, but I still find it a pleasure to read each Friday morning.

And, for the record, I believe he'd support this Movie Club over that other one.


Someone should send Ehrenstein a link.


Eddy: I actually talked a little bit about Kill Bill in the comments to another post, but not to discuss its subversiveness. My problem with the two Kill Bill is that I don't think there needed to be two. I think a fused, tighter film, even if it was three hours long, would have been much more satisfied. Instead, we just got QT's ego running rampant; deciding that so much of what he was shooting looked so cool that he just had to keep all of it and make us all pay admission twice.

As for the "pros," I second cinetrix's notion. I tend to read people who are clever and know how to turn a phrase. That's more important than whether or not I agree with them on every film. J Hoberman is probably the best example -- I often disagree with his likes/dislikes (Anatomy of Hell was a painfully annoying film to watch, and absolutely one of the worst of the year. Hell, I'd prefer watching The Brown Bunny again!) but I enjoy his writing. Anthony Lane is probably my favorite simply because there's almost always at least one sentence that I find myself staring at in awe. Sadly, I can name many more critics who make my head hurt than ones who make me smile.


I think I'd like to read that list, Aaron!


Backing up a bit - Rosenbaum is actually my (current) critic of choices as well, even though he called 'Memento' a 'gimmick' but thought Russian Ark was a masterpiece. :-)

You'll never find a critic you agree with 100% of the time (I don't even agree with myself that often).

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