Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fealty to the Wretched

The King’s Speech is lovely. Some of my colleagues have, disparagingly, called it middlebrow, but I guess that depends on where your particular brow happens to be located.

In a world more perfect than the one we live in, my favorite movie of the year, Sofia Coppola’s extraordinary, steel-rod-delicate Somewhere would be on this list. It’s not a movie about a rich, spoiled, “Why should we care about him?” movie star; it’s a story about a human being who’s lost his way. Apparently, that’s just not as interesting as watching Paris fold over on itself. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Stephanie Zacharek’s Oscar Picks: Middlebrow Schmiddlebrow,” Movieline, 25 Feb. 2011)

"King's Speech" makes not only aesthetes but rights-of-man folk nothing but self-indulgent, self-serving parasites. It makes the duty-to-country crowd just plain right, and those who aren't quite prepared to cowtow to what's ordained -- specifically, King George, in planning to marry out of love, and in cutting down ancient trees (being old doesn't make you grand, it just makes you old) just for a better view!, the worse than Fredos of the family. You wanted "Avatar's" Grace to do more chain-smoking; I'd have preferred George -- the one, we remember, who turned down the to-Bertie acceptable idea of having a kept mistress in preference to being allowed the company of a wife he actually loves -- be given more a chance to extrapolate on the flaws of be-be-be-be-Bertie's positively medieval sense of women, commoners, loyalty, and subjugation. I'm not sure what kind of brows I've got, but be sure they're both frowning away.

- - - - -

Re: "In a world more perfect than the one we live in, my favorite movie of the year, Sofia Coppola’s extraordinary, steel-rod-delicate Somewhere would be on this list. It’s not a movie about a rich, spoiled, “Why should we care about him?” movie star; it’s a story about a human being who’s lost his way."

My particular complaint about Social Network isn't that it would have us care about someone rich and "spoiled" -- I am very interested in knowing about and caring more for Zuckerberg; he most certainly IS worthy -- it's what it suggests for those not either just moved along by genteel lineage or blessed with a genius to seize the zeitgeist of the time: people like Harvard-insufficient Erica Albright, blessed it would have appeared with some innate goodness and keen intuition, but without anything that would surely keep her in the game, whom you have a sense is given some chance to say something real, wounding, and sticking because its her last words before he finds himself a societal fixture and she is dispatched to irrevocable irrelevance. Seemed appropriate that Sorkin betray even this to a class of people he would see dispatched entire, as he further stomped her out (at the Golden Globes, I believe) in establishing Zuckerberg a true benefactor, not the asshole she had prophesized he was doomed to become. Way to go, Aaron! For your fealty, let us anoint thee also.

Link: Stephanie Zacharek’s Oscar Picks: Middlebrow Schmiddlebrow (Movieline)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Great movies we appreciate but also rightly mock

Happy Oscar week, you third-class stowaways. Quoth the thespian Bill Paxton, “Are you ready to go back to Titanic?” The point is you’re not. It’s 2011 and we’re still 192 years away from comprehending Titanic’s world-paralyzing success, its Best Picture win, and Jack Dawson’s hack drawing skills. He’s just never going to get into Oberlin at that rate. You won’t find explanation for James Cameron’s sorcery here, but near, far, wherever you are — you will remember and recoil at the royal badness of Titanic. (Louis Virtel, “Bad Movies We Love, Oscar Week Edition: Titanic,”Movieline, 23 Feb. 2011)

- - - - -

I have never understood why people liked this movie. James Cameron has never been the greatest at dialog, but this was by far the worst script he's written. You know it's bad when Billy Zane plays a one-dimensional character that would actually have been more complex and nuanced if they had given him a mustache to twirl. And I never understood the concept of a rich woman falling in love with an eleven-year-old boy that likes drawing boobies. And what makes it so much more disappointing for me is that many of his other movies (Avatar, True Lies, Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens) rank among my favorites. (Tommy Marks, response to post)

Whatever the dialogue, Tommy -- and I don't dislike Cameron's dialogue as much as so many others seem to -- the situations the characters are in play out very real. I guess I'll take as genuine that many discerning were wholly uninvolved in the movie, owing to its stereotypical characters and embarrassing dialogue -- though I don't buy it, really -- but however one-dimensional (rigid? uncomplicated?) Billy Zane, when he slaps his wife-to-be around for making him a fool: that was real. He was beyond pissed off, and you felt it: he was a terror. I think most important, the film got at -- with the mothers' constant watch and difficult-to-rebuff moral code -- how difficult it was going to be for someone with a lot of natural spunk -- Rose -- to ever really free herself. I believed that even given how considerable she already was, without Jack, she was for-sure caught and done for life. But with her constant dialogue, interaction with him, you believed she could slowly come to free herself from a whole upbringing of duty, move beyond insufficient truculent rebellions -- like a preference for the New, like Monet -- to untether herself for good, even without the facilitation of a dislocating disaster. People could say that the reason this romance works so well for so so many people, is because they're just filling their own expectations and dreams onto what is really so thinly put before them, but for me at least, this just isn't true here. Cameron's magic isn't just in his action and exempt everywhere else; his genius owes to his really understanding what breaking free is, what romance and play is, and he wouldn't tolerate creating films where you couldn't hope to realize it some for yourself as well.

The problem for me with Cameron is that though he clearly got somewhere really good, it certainly wasn't SO good he shouldn't have moved on a considerable some from there. I think it's false to say he's a forever adolescent, because I would cheer if adolescence actually meant even for a brief while feeling as uninhibited as he is. But still, once you yourself have made passage from being the trimmed rose to being the wild one -- and most of you blessed discerning, haven't -- you really only need revisit him now and again out of friendship, to say thank you. He's set, in a fairly good place, but further progress lies with you.

. . .

This film, though, does deserve to be in the "great movies we however rightly mock" category, however. A service is done, by pointing out the numerous things in this film that really are problematic, that if viewers weren't onto, they're not a sufficient number of steps away from stupid.

Most central for me is that it helps keep the truly ignorant and stalled feeling smugly enlightened. If YOU know who Freud or Monet is, this knowledge doesn't mean you're in the same position as Rose ostensibly is: she is supposed to be an early appreciater of the New, possess sufficient sense of independent judgment that she is on to quality from the start, while as someone alive now your knowledge of these folks only means you're in the same position the Edwardian mundanes were when they'd long accustomed themselves to once rabble-rousers, now ho-hums, such as Darwin or Dickens. That is, your being onto Freud or Monet could easily mean that you're really just the prosaic Cal, who actually has no appreciation for new genius, not the avant-garde Rose -- and given how the not-especially-inspiring mass went for it, probably does. The question you fairly ask yourself as you remember those who found such meaning in "Titanic" (including yourself, if you, like me, are one of them) is how many of them could pass over the film's knuckleheadedness out of fair faith to its mighty spirit, and remain those of praise-worthy, TRULY sophisticated taste? It's a question which would have you juggling around greats like Ebert and Zacharek, ultimately deciding to let one or the other -- or even both -- "fall."

Knuckle-headedness isn't always damning, though. Sophistication isn't always a sign of elevation. The '60s generation were not sophisticated, and its elders constantly hoped to blast them back into supplicants for their untutoredness, their lack of refinement, their "stupid" discare for how things had been and "really were," but were spiritually evolved and Good. Late 20th/early 21st-century products like Franzen and Martel are hugely sophisticated, smart, aware, but maybe in the end mostly deferent and perhaps defeated and warped -- not so good.

Link: Bad Movies We Love, Oscar Week Edition: Titanic (Movieline)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Knifing the f*cker back in return

Seeing two 3-D movies in a row is pretty much my idea of torture, and a colleague and I came very close to decamping to see The Touch (with my beloved Elliot Gould), which is being shown as part of the festival’s Ingmar Bergman retrospective. In the end, persuaded by a few enthusiastic colleagues, we — with much eye-rolling and many deprecating remarks — opted to check out Wim Wenders’ Pina. I’m glad we did.


I’d always avoided Bausch, assuming it was all bony dancers in drab skintone leotards, miserably acting out the angst of mankind, or whatever. I now know how wrong I was. Some of Bausch’s ideas may not result in anyone’s idea of conventional (whatever that is) beauty: She might scatter the floor with peat moss, which would mingle with the sweat clinging to the dancers’ dresses, resulting in damp, mother-earth stains; a man in a tutu, being pushed along slowly on a railway handcar, appears to be carrying some pretty heavy-duty German sorrow and guilt on his shoulders.

But Wenders makes it all seem accessible, framing and connecting images — sometimes very strange ones — in a way that draws us closer rather than alienating us, without ever softening the intended effect. [. . .] Wenders hardly pretends this is business as usual. Rather, he coaxes us into understanding, or at least reckoning, with the jarring but wholly compelling image in front of us. It’s as if he were saying, “I realize this woman has stuffed raw meat in her toe shoes, but trust me, go with it.” (Stephanie Zacharek, “Berlinale Dispatch: Wim Wenders Takes His Place in the 3-D Vanguard,” Movieline, 14 Feb. 2011)

Your friend Laura Miller (kinda) wrote recently that precise prose and careful delineations are also tiring to the eyes and mind -- slows down reading speed, sometimes to a crawl, when you know you've got a whole book ahead: I'm wondering if some people have to prepare for your reviews akin to how you did this double-feature: in this case, with a bit of "Oh God, another load of particulars and careful delineations about some film I have no sense of!," to gird for themselves some countering camaraderie within the melee of stimulation they may soon be treated to? I'll wait 'til I've seen what you've seen to make reading your review more an immediate experience of compare and contrast -- "look, sister, I take your point, but this is what you didn't see --." For now it's the reality-possibilities ... like is it true that what is jarring can also be compelling? You seem sure of it, for how else last time would "the land look menacing and alluring at once?" Mind you, "menacing" already has something of the alluring within it -- you're wanted-enough to be wholly devoured; "compelling" here is a smart wink, and a hinted-at better path ahead, after having had a door slammed in your face: it's harder to see how you'd ever after let yourself just be drawn along, when all the time you're surely mostly thinking how you can knife the f*cker back in return.

Link: Berlinale Dispatch: Wim Wenders Takes His Place in the 3-D Vanguard (Movieline)

Link: Why We Love Bad Writing (Laura Miller, Salon)

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Factory System

When you see an article titled “The Day the Movies Died,” you can probably expect a boatload of negativity. That said, Mark Harris’ polemic in this month’s GQ on the state of Hollywood is pretty even-handed. After all, it blames the upcoming string of lame comic book movies and sequels on the one group you might not have expected: Us, the people who do most of the hand-wringing. “We can complain until we’re hoarse that Hollywood abandoned us by ceasing to make the kinds of movies we want to see, but it’s just as true that we abandoned Hollywood,” Harris writes. “Studios make movies for people who go to the movies, and the fact is, we don’t go anymore. […] Put simply, we’d rather stay home, and movies are made for people who’d rather go out.” The moral? If you like movies, start supporting the good ones and ignoring the bad ones. [GQ] (Christopher Rosen, “Only You Can Save Movies, and 7 Other Stories You’ll Be Talking About Today,” Movieline, 18 Feb. 2011)

Anyone who reads Movieline would note that the particular "adult" movie -- Inception -- Harris laments hasn't become the model for Hollywood, is exactly the one Stephanie here blasted for being at-the-core infantile. And something of a sham: putting itself in place of something -- Hitchcock -- that truly was adult, so that the truly childish could never not know themselves to be not-adult (I hope I got that right). They'd also know that The Social Network was hit hard by Armond White for its uncritical look at what is essentially immaturity and a-whole-generation-spread psychological disorder -- autism. Black Swan, too, again by Stephanie, for being so obviously cliche-driven, and yet flummoxingly completely ignorant of it. And though she really liked it, still made aware by her that The King's Speech was first reacted-to by friend critics as essentially middle-brow -- which it is: a taste for luxury and refinement, mass taste/opinion disregard, equals Bad; mostly maintained anal-retentiveness -- this, taking into full consideration all the expletive-exhalation exercises -- just-assumed self-sacrifice for the nation, equals Good. And personally, though I loved True Grit, it had the feel of satisified film-makers who've found their peace (congrads! you deserve it!), and are mostly now offering the field to self-assured new-comers they'll insist to themselves represent a vital, respect-worthy energy, rather than the likes of the gibbering nincompoops we hear of in the film, inflated to emboldened crusader status for embodying an energy way more foul than that (I'm not actually so much thinking Hailee with this -- but more what's to follow). If the lament in the article is mostly that there are few good films being made, I'd say for me it's that the problem Harris identifies throughout his article -- a preference for formula; abandonment of anything "hard" or truly challenging -- afflicts the sort of films he would see more of.

His point that stars aren't as requisite as franchise is interesting. We are living in an age where that previously so often aired wished-for truth for Tiger Woods by sour-grapes, other-pro golfers -- that he wasn't bigger than the game, when, apparent to all, he couldn't more have been at the time -- which has become truth for him, is true now for movie stars as well. It seems to me that what this means is that there isn't going to be anything going on within a film, that out of its uniqueness and budding power, will extend out and set a new standard. The shell, the encasing armor, won't permit it, and the only people who'd step inside it are the ones who wouldn't really think to try it -- whatever their ability to contort themselves, fundamentally they just want their place (I'm more than kinda even looking at you, James Franco and Anne Hathaway). Perhaps that's mostly why the smart stay out of theatres: once we agree to go, we're not really agreeing to participate, but following into the Depression' factory-mode like everybody else. The '60s generation was once told by its elders that they needed to learn the language to have a real voice; they responded -- smartly -- instead by attempting to levitate parliament buildings through love.

I prefer their theatre, but maybe their descendants -- us -- are showing in our own way that we're onto the same truth: participate as directed, and they've got you. We'll let some time pass; let the stupidity follow and take root; and take advantage of stopping surprise and dumbfounding bafflement to hit them with a Citizen Kane at some point, and stay more in the game after that.

Link: Only You Can Save Movies, and 7 Other Stories You’ll Be Talking About Today (Movieline)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grabbing hold

Filmmaker, writer, performance artist, what-have-you Miranda July ambled onto the scene in 2005 with her debut film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, which became a surprise arthouse sort-of smash. Since then, July has published a book of short stories, created art projects for the Venice Biennale, and put together a performance piece. She’s working hard at becoming the Woody Allen of the “Meh” Generation, and she’s getting closer, and not for the better, with her new picture The Future, which premiered at Sundance and is one of the competition films at the Berlinale.

In The Future, a youngish couple (they’re in their mid-30s), stalled out in their careers and their relationship, decide to adopt a sick cat that will require constant care. It’s never spelled out exactly why these two — they’re named Sophie and Jason, and they’re played by July and Hamish Linklater — have decided to embark on this shaky adventure. Is it a trial run for a baby? Or just a joint project that they hope will make them feel more connected to each other and the world? Neither they nor we nor anyone else knows, least of all the poor cat, who we hear in voiceover reflecting on his sad, lonely life as a former stray and counting the days until his new people will pick him up. He needs to recover for a month at the vet’s, though the couple is warned that if they don’t pick him up on the assigned day, he’ll be immediately euthanized.

[. . .]

Close, but no cigar. There’s just too much July in The Future, and a little goes a long way. She looks like an alien flapper doll, with her arms and legs attached at slightly off angles, and the false modesty of her character’s spacy observations and pronouncements comes off as a perverse kind of self-importance. Sophie and Jason moan about their not-so-horrible lives, while their potential adoptee, lonely and desperate in his little cage, waits. And waits. And waits. We know just how he feels. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Berlinale Dispatch: Miranda July Can’t Quite Read The Future,” Movieline, 16 Feb. 2011)

She had her husband in "Me and You" burn his hand before their kids, and you had a sense throughout that anything vaguely dependent was being kept around, sometimes for knowing commentary, but just as much to be savy but still for-sure compliant deposits of sadism. If this proves the voice of a generation, it's one that wants to be put out of its misery. Seems untenable; can't go on like this. There's got to be some purpose to make self-sacrifice seem just plain necessary or, even better, noble, rather than so apparently just a grotesque entrenched impulse to repeatedly play with sacrificing themselves or near-obvious "them" substitutes into the cairn. A generation that indulges too much in being, not profoundly lost, but repetition-driven, pointless, is going to stop licking and pointing to its wounds when it fears that too much time is passing to keep their old wounds and wound-makers relevant to their current behavior; at some point, with even entrenched old tormentors surely now onto many other things, with even the recent past, in the increasingly rare instances we really focus on it -- as today's daily survival and urgent reverberant events commands all our attention -- at best just a bafflement of how could they have done or thought this?, their urgent scrambling for a hold will mean their taking whatever proffered to upgrade from "meh" to become the "greatest" generation: what the post 1920s depression generation did as it went from the crowd that doesn't get to have any fun to one that entrenched itself into cultural memory for maybe millenniums.

Even poor cats are a bit hard to imagine as having pleading eyes, or as ever really being that attached to you; the death-dealing vet could probably near as easily provoke it into one last purr as readily as a ten-year owner might: I wonder if she selected a cat so to be an improvement on the kids in her first film; something actually stronger, more distinctly alien, to push back with an empowered unrelatingness against her scary, rebounding play with snuffing the vulnerable but "hip to" out? I wonder if she’s already looking for a better hold, and not so much just waiting, agonizingly?

Link: Berlinale Dispatch: Miranda July Can’t Quite Read The Future (Movieline)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Over John Dewey's dead body

Heads up, Harvey! Incoming fire at 10 o’clock! Don’t let the Academy get anywhere near this hot potato: A writer at Big Hollywood has finally said what needed to be said about the vexed stutterer whose dramatic, heart-wrenching travails have touched the hearts of awards voters everywhere: Who the hell feels sorry for the King of England?

Take it away, Ned Rice:

My main problem with The King’s Speech is that the character we’re supposed to identify with, the down-trodden-schmuck-who-can’t-catch-a-break-but-we-root-for-him-anyway-because-for-all-his-faults-he’s-got-a-heart-of-gold just happens to be…THE KING OF ENGLAND! That’s right: in order to enjoy this film I’m supposed to feel sympathy for a man who, almost by definition, is an unsympathetic character. Like a Frank Capra film about the riches-to-mega-riches life of Donald Trump, this movie simply doesn’t make any sense to me despite fine performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.

I had the same problem with The Queen, which, you’ll recall, was about the trials and tribulations of a woman- oh, let’s call her THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND!—whose big life crisis was being criticized for not grieving enough after the death of Princess Diana. Well, ain’t life a bitch? I’ll bet you after those nasty British tabloids had their say about her Queen Elizabeth cried all the way home to her…ENORMOUS CASTLE. […] Call me heartless, but I just can’t feel sorry for anyone who has their own moat.

My antipathy towards the royalty genre in movies goes beyond the absurdity of being asked to identify with bejeweled billionaires seated on solid gold chairs. I frankly find it appalling, in this progressive, politically correct, anti-Establishment age, that supposedly civilized people like us continue to tolerate, and even celebrate, royalty. Slavery, as we’re reminded by the mainstream media on almost a daily basis, was a terrible, evil institution. So was Nazism. So was, and is, communism. So, I would argue, was disco. But you know what was a really, really bad institution? Royalty, the notion that God considered some men more valuable than others, that one’s class is an unchangeable accident of birth, and that the lower class should be, in effect, the slaves and property of the nobility. Does anybody not grasp the evil of this? Who could not be enraged by the fact that by law one man should bow down before another simply because the two men’s ancestries were different- and that refusing to do so could cost the commoner his life?

Scott Rudin and Team TSN couldn’t have said it better themselves! (S. T. Vanairsdale, “Will This Awesome King’s Speech Takedown Rock Oscar Race?,” Movieline, 10 Feb. 2011)

You don't get much in the way of bejeweled billionaires seated on solid gold chairs in this film, though. THOSE kind of royalty -- the ones that are for the most part indulgence -- are hated on in this film: witness the portrayal of King Edward VIII, and his life of you: indifference, me: self-concern. Or perhaps more accurately, what you get mostly is, "what would it be like to sit on a solid gold throne for hours on end?"--"F*cking painful!" "How the hell did you do it?"

The film argues that the reason the good king deserves all this attention, to have every resource tried to assist him, is because there is something royal kindling in him that is absent in most of you. God may or may not see something more valuable in him, but we certainly do. When we need uplift, some erection of solid nobility nobody else can put forth -- for spending most of our lives in rendering, distracting domestic sociability -- he still has the resources to deliver -- given, perhaps, just the right sort of guidance.

This is still an awful, very undemocratic message. Very disparaging to the constant, casual sociability ultimately responsible for the king's sure speech delivery. Very disparaging to the Deweyite message the therapist for much of the film (but maybe not, ultimately) embodies. But I don't think it's mostly fought off by responses like this one, that out of its ravaged spirit, its skittering, wayward progress, conveys mostly a longing to be saved, as if the complaining masses have already leveled everything down for so long that the energy that excites their purpose now is covertly mostly a managed hand out for a rescue.

This reviewer had better not be an Obama fan. If he is, he is beyond laughable.

Dear Ned Rice,

I think you missed the point. I'm sorry you are blinded by illusions that money can buy happiness and freedom from difficulty. I’m sorry that you cannot step outside of your little bubble (or off of your high horse) and put yourself in the shoes of another human being that is struggling to overcome an extremely debilitating problem. It seems to me that you would have been able to relate to the ‘average’ man who had this same issue, but you cannot relate to someone you perceive as NOT WORTHY of YOUR concern due to his place in society. I’m sorry you’re a complete hypocrite. (cerealface, response to post)

But the film is maybe not so much FOR the average man who has this problem, concerned as it is for giving "them" the one and only dose of support, before launching them off to unrelenting even-worse deprival. Yes, once they're all either half-downed in combat or shell-shocked from bombing or winnowed spiritless from endless endurance, the film would have it that they receive receptive tending-to for their ailments -- if the world were just. Without that, if you already have the look and carriage of a pathetic Tiny Tim, it's for you as well, just as automatically as it is for the king. But if you ultimately romance and legitimate the suffering part, the overcoming should seem suspect. I know it's not clear-cut with this film, but it's certainly not uncontestedly against the ridiculous tortures people have endured for no actual purpose: no film that is actually for war, for ennoblement through collective, shared sacrifice, is against all that. Every aesthete in the world should tell this film to go scr*w itself. To right its wrongs -- for one thing -- for what it did to Edward VIII.

Link: Will This Awesome King’s Speech Takedown Rock Oscar Race? (Movieline)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The inconvenient '60s: sorry guys, they happened

Judging by the trailer, the eight-part miniseries The Kennedys, which has endured nearly as much bad luck as its titular family, is even worse than you’ve heard. Which is saying a lot considering how much has already been said about the project — starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes as the fabled first couple in Camelot — that the History Channel, Showtime, FX and and Starz all flat-out refused to air.

[. . .]

But Katie Holmes. Poor, poor Katie Holmes. Attempting to play Jackie Kennedy was a losing battle from the start and here, Holmes is able to look elegant and poised. The problem appears to be when she opens her mouth. In some parts of the trailer, she delivers a back alley acting class rendition of Upper Class Massachusetts and in other parts, she speaks with no accent at all — relying on that lop-sided grin and constant blinking that Anne Hathaway parodied so effectively on Saturday Night Live. (Julie Miller, “Katie Holmes’ Performance Is the Biggest National Tragedy In This Kennedys Trailer,” Movieline, 2 Feb. 2011)

Anne Hathaway is a giant compared to Katie Holmes -- SHE, like Jackie, actually HAS presence -- so I can forgive her more than sneaking a laugh at Katie's expense: seems but appropriate. But the aim might be with this to make the '60s seem more like Mad Men-light, as if everything was the same but got muted after the '50s, rather than intensified, wholly changed -- finally awakened. For those of us who sense none of the charisma about Obama that others seem to, we're wondering if this is all a plot to keep him and the rest of the talented but still shortchanged (even lovely Anne Hathaway?) the absolute perfection of human kind, rather than themselves, significant slippage.

I know this is supposed to be a Republican take. I don't think that's quite right: it's just the anti-hippie take.

Link: Katie Holmes’ Performance Is the Biggest National Tragedy In This Kennedys Trailer (Movieline)

Worrisome flips more than flops for scripts

In the interest of scientific exploration, I offer a few random dialogue samples from the 3-D cavediveapalooza survival adventure Sanctum: “Life’s not a dress rehearsal — you gotta seize the day!” “The exit! Shit!” “Where’s my mask? Goddammit!” “I am not wearing the wetsuit of a dead person!” “You spend your lives wrapped in cotton wool! You want to play at being adventurous? Yeah, this is it!” And last but not least, the ever-popular “We’ve got to get out of here — now!”

Sanctum wasn’t directed by James Cameron — he’s merely an executive producer — but the script is pure Cameron gibberooni, the kind of language that would embarrass a ’40s comic-strip character if he found it penciled into one of his voice balloons. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Sanctum Wasn’t Directed by James Cameron, But It’s Dumb Enough to Seem So,” Movieline, 3 Feb. 2011)

For what it's worth, I really like this bit of dialogue from "Avatar":

Alright, look -- I don't have the answers 
yet, I'm just now starting to even frame
 the questions. What we think we know -- 
is that there's some kind of
 electrochemical communication between the 
roots of the trees. Like the synapses
 between neurons. Each tree has ten-to-the
-fourth connections to the trees around 
it, and there are ten-to-the-twelfth
 trees on Pandora --

That's a lot I'm guessing.

: That's more connections than the human
 brain. You get it? It's a network -- a
 global network. And the Na'vi can access
it -- they can upload and download data --
memories -- at sites like the one you 

: What the hell have you people been 
smoking out there? They're just.
 Goddamn. Trees.

The dialogue's not embarrassing. What is is Cameron being completely unaware that Selfridge here comes close to being the Ripley to Grace's Carter Burke -- if only the "network" had something else on its mind rather than jungle homeostasis.

 No good. How do we know it'll
effect their biochemistry? I say
 we take off and nuke the entire 
site from orbit. It's the only 
way to be sure.

 Now hold on a second. I'm not
 authorizing that action.

 Why not?

 This is clearly an important 
species we're dealing with here. 
We can't just arbitrarily
 exterminate them --


Link: Sanctum Wasn’t Directed by James Cameron, But It’s Dumb Enough to Seem So (Movieline)

Script excerpts from IMBD.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"The King's Speech"

"The King's Speech" should be a film I like. Being a Dewey democrat, that is, I should applaud that a film respecting of aristocracy spends so much effort showcasing what democratic, truly mutual relationships are like -- and apparently arguing them as superior to others. People need and deserve to be treated with respect. People deserve our efforts at fully understanding them; they need and deserve to be constantly listened and attended to. They need to be encouraged to enjoy doing what they like to do, to resist doing what they hate doing -- so long of course as this doesn't mean their staying with comfort zones born of deprival. No one person is really superior to any other -- whether you be King or other. This is what the film teaches.

Or does it? At the end I admit that the sense of this film as mostly in the democrat's camp, was perhaps more alien to it than I thought and wished it to be. What perhaps we most get from the film, is that FOR THE KING, and for the long-deprived, long-suffering, selfless king mostly only, all this attention is requisite and required, but not so everyone else. THE KING needs to be buttressed, faithfully understood, have everything we can give provided to him to the point of rattling every previous protocol, so he can be lead to lead a country through a war effort which would deprive everyone else for decades. All those faces we see at the end, listening to his speech -- the soldiers, the families, the multitudes of ordinary bar denizens: everyone -- know they're about to go through a period of sustained sacrifice, and what they need, we are told, is leadership to inspire them to nobly suffer through their deprivations, to ensure they endure. There is NO sense that what these people truly need is for this war effort to somehow become unnecessary, for some miracle of diplomacy to be tried and actually work, and so each of them can come to know more about what the film is for so long on about, like the need for constant, nurturing attendance, of playful, non-denying domestic life, to learn reason to know more about yourself and come to appreciate self-love. Such a thought would be traitorous in this film because it is at base FOR the war before being for anything else. If through the war, you found way to somehow be consistently playful and satisfied -- mutterings of Shakespeare; enjoying family life; every moment, every day an added treasure to your memory store -- you would not so much be the playful but highly sagacious "fool" of a therapist, but the irresponsible, indulgent Edward VIII: the film would hold you to that, be sure. And you would be his equal because he was a king in title only. Real kings, the film teaches, REALLY ARE the best of men -- holders of a pure, regal flame that remains alight when everyone else finds theirs diminished or out entirely, out of attending mostly to their personal needs, their own daily concerns.

Alas, no democrat’s film, this. In fact, I mostly fear it, and dread its upcoming Oscar knighthood.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Discussing "The Social Network": film about the maker of facebook

"Immoral", Patrick? What word is left for people who steal and rape if you're gonna call a group "immoral" for disagreeing with you on film quality. Jesus. (Daniella Isaacs, response to post, Mike Ryan, “Armond White Responds to Lisa Schwarzbaum’s NYFCC Complaints by Calling Her Racist,” Movieline, 20 January 2011)

I think it's high quality, Daniella, but I do think it immoral -- meaning that I think it's a film aiming for high acclaim that couldn't really care less for those without the talent to reach a kind of co-equality with entrenched Mayflower-descendent types: the bulk of most joe and jane facebook users out there. I think it "argues" that we really ought to be keying in on these people, be fascinated by them, because, despite their debauch, they CAN work significant wonders, while the rest of you out there enjoy the genuine magic but only to come up with your own flat notes of nothing. When people are at real risk of losing under-girding for their already highly suspect and susceptible respectable social standing, I don't much like films which "argue" that if it further beyond-all-doubt looks like we've moved from something that could at least pretend to be a Jeffersonian democracy -- with each "man" the equal to any other — to simply an Asian khanate, it actually pleases, because it's more in-sync with core truth of the distribution of focused talent or descendant-born corporeality, with the proper regard owed those who either are or who actually do matter.

I know there's the moral girl, the one who couldn't do Harvard, but despite being named and brought up at beginning and end, she's still undistinguished. (Probably, she's MOSTLY a haunt, only owing to her insubstantiality.) We find that you can't properly moralize 'till you've proven you're matter. Otherwise, she's just the sharpest swish a slight, untenable cold breeze could manage: She could completely fade away, and it is only YOUR obsession, grand facebook-maker, which matters.


Link: Armond White Responds to Lisa Schwarzbaum’s NYFCC Complaints by Calling Her Racist (Movieline)

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Essays on the Lord of the Rings Draining the Amazon's Swamp Wendy and Lucy, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings (and free at scribd...