Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
To honor the idiosyncratic talk-show host, here's a montage tribute that includes, among other wonders, a glimpse at a ridiculously young Steven Spielberg, and an unsettling exposure to pure evil.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Talk about a blast from the past: More than two decades before Red Dawn, Jack Webb warns America about threat of a Commie takeover in this paranoia-infused artifact from the Cold War era. Just keep telling yourself: It's only a movie... It's only a movie... (Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the tip.)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
“It’s quite simple: I hate these movies. I won’t see these movies. Never saw Saw or its sequels, never will. I’m not impressed with the ‘quality’ of the gore or the ‘wit’ of the filmmaking. I’m not enjoyably scared; I’m horrified, and not in the way horror fans get off, groaning and screaming with pack-mentality excitement. Instead, my horror is one of disturbance and anger: Who makes this vile crap? What is remotely defensible about a movie like Captivity, in which a woman is abducted and tortured for the sake of ticket sales? Nothing, that’s what. While moviegoers can vote with their wallets, I vote with my computer keyboard. Or rather, the silence of the keys, as I stay away from stuff I have no stomach for seeing, even on the job.”
Monday, July 23, 2007
"It’s silly to insist that the critic never spoil. In practice, spoilers can be irresponsible, motivated by laziness, vindictiveness or snark, but if the ambition to inform the reader outweighs the need to protect them, then spoilers are warranted on principle. The integrity of the critic doesn’t revolve around whether or not they’re willing to spoil, but why they chose to do so.
"Our obsession with spoilers has a diminishing effect, reducing popular criticism to a kind of glorified consumer reporting and the audience to babies. People outraged by spoilers should avoid all reviews before going to the movies or reading the book they’ve waited so long for, because the fact is all criticism spoils, no matter how scrupulous."
BTW: It's worth noting, by the way, that spoilers were being sprung long before the advent of the Internet. I still get angry -- well, OK, maybe not angry, but at least mildly miffed -- when I recall how I learned (accidentally and unwillingly) the identity of Luke Skywalker's father long before I got to see The Empire Strikes Back.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
BTW: According to early weekend box-office reports, Knocked Up (which, Denby rightly notes, “feels like one of the key movies of the era — a raw, discordant equivalent of The Graduate forty years ago”) has grossed enough to remain in the top ten for the eighth consecutive week. Not shabby at all.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The following are verbatim excerpts from actual student term papers I have received over the years. They're not all from one class, one semester or even one institution. But I promise you: Not one is the work of a student enrolled in a Remedial English or an ESL course. And most are from juniors or seniors.
Again, let me emphasize: These excerpts aren't from e-mails, or blog postings, or hastily scribbled answers on exams. These are from term papers.
“By killing so many people at war, I can see how mental illness can come to you.”
“There is this one part when a gun comes out his coat and starts shooting people.”
“Travis Bickle, portrayed by Robert De Niro, portrayed a psycho-pathic veteran, eager to dispose the world of anybody associated with death, corruption or sexual practices.”
“Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, stretched his emotional limits to a high notch.”
“From the Left that perspective centered on negative nations of our evolvements inherent immorality, racism, stupidity, duplicity, and overzealous world police role.”
“Now America had leaders who lied and made broken promises, similar to the 1980s war films, the government’s trust shook the nation.”
“America was viewing some truth to a veterans’ eye.”
“In films, bloody killings, drugs, sex, and rock music overshadowed films and people wanted the truth.”
“However, there was the American film industry that gave the normal public of what Vietnam was really about.”
“As the films goes on the audience see it develop as a path that the characters metamorphosis into something that they were not originally.”
“Both films truly a masterpiece set the standards for all films which came and went that 'Platoon' and 'Apocalypse Now' are the pioneers of films portraying the horrors of war.”
“Throughout the course of the semester coincided with the growing face of war through time.”
“As time progressed, the wars being waged out in the world and the movies shown in and around these times increased, not only in tactics and technology, but in a war’s ability to be supported and evocative of compassion if the proper means of setting public agenda.”
“Martin Sheen plays a character distraught by war, accompanying feelings of carelessness for life and people in general.”
“Politically, I know that I am allowed to say such things at the expense to which such mentality has provided mine, as well as the rest of the nation’s security.”
“The film being that it was made in the late eighties, times were turning and the nineties, more expressive views were becoming prominent in America.”
“Deniro’s character comes out better of the two but only proving that he has a strong will to begin with, that war not for the weak of heart, which I guess is everybody who has a problem blowing their brains out.”
“This ‘madman’ is played by Marlon Brando and is a man who has figured it all out but seems to have crossed some line in doing so.”
“This movie was criticized by not portraying the war how it really was and I believe it was not to the American’s public appeal because this war to begin with had a rough start.”
“I also believe that by having this movie be narrated in the thoughts of this soldier hits the audience at home that this is how their loved one feels and suffers out there.”
“Among those three friends, Steven that was married just before he came to the Vietnam War loses his leg and become a legless amputee.”
“There would be a lot to take on in production, budget and marketing with the real situation of the front. Film makers accurately representing the war on screen would be quite difficult to portray on low budgets, not to mention all the negative attention toward our own soldiers and our bleak situation would look bad to the people.”
“Morality is always an issue when such brutal incidents occur.”
The horror. The horror.
Dick Wolf, executive producer of Wounded Knee, said the clutch of nominations for his HBO movie was a validation of a very difficult project: "Anybody who says it's not nice or it doesn't mean anything to get this many nominations, it's the ultimate sour grapes because it sure feels great.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
Naturally, Ms. Steinem is not at all shy about stating just what that appellation should be.
Over at The Hot Blog, we’ve been having a very, uh, animated discussion about the demographic breakdown of the audience for Transformers. Some of the more heated debate has revolved around the question of whether a movie seemingly aimed squarely (if not exclusively) at young guys really could, as exit surveys indicate, have so much appeal for females of all ages. And the ongoing discussion over target audiences has reminded me of…
Well, let me put it this way: Anybody else out there remember Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills? It was an exuberantly junky Mighty Morphin Power Rangers knock-off that made the Rangers TV show look as lavishly produced as Transformers (the new live-action feature, not the '86 cartoon movie). The half-hour series ran briefly on the USA Network 1994 to ’95 – and, yes, I frequently viewed it with my son. Of course, it was a bonding experience, completely innocent and wholesome. (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) But if you look at this clip, you’ll see the reason I suspect other fathers wanted to watch that “kid show.” At least one of the “teen” protagonists went through a very dramatic change whenever she transformed from mere mortal to alien fighter. Like, from a C cup to a D cup, I'd say.
From Reuters: "Talk of monetary union and wine quotas gave way to controversy over orgasms and innuendo at the European Commission on Wednesday as it defended a risque Internet video clip highlighting its backing for European cinema.
"The EU executive's usually dry daily news briefing sprung to life with questions over whether a 44-second clip of 18 couples achieving ecstasy in a variety of positions and venues was the best way to show how Brussels uses taxpayers' money.
"The raunchy clip is made up of snippets from various general release films that have been funded by the EU, including Amelie and Good Bye, Lenin!
"Some reporters also took a swipe at the title of the sequence, asking whether 'Let's Come Together' was acceptable innuendo -- and if it was, whether the pun worked in the 27-member Union's other official languages.
"A Commission spokesman insisted it had not received a single complaint in the 14 weeks since the clip first appeared on Internet site YouTube, suggesting the Brussels press corps should relax and get with the times.
"'Let us for once also have a good sense of humor and let us not start the old wars of the fifties about what is sex, what is pornography and what is simply normal to watch on television,' spokesman Martin Selmayr appealed."
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I can easily see how this restored 1776 might eventually become a holiday season staple (much like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story) over years and years of TV reruns. For some background on the restoration, along with fair appraisals of the movie itself, see here (at the end of a review of the 1997 New York stage revival) and here.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
In honor of the holiday, I give you the ridiculously corny yet tremendously affecting speech given by a beleaguered U.S. President (played by Bill Pullman) to rally a final push against invading extraterrestrials in Independence Day. Seeing this clip again reminds me that, as recently as 1999, you could portray the Commander in Chief as the take-charge hero of a summer blockbuster without inviting derisive jeers from mainstream moviegoers. Flash forward to today, and you have Michael Bay's Transformers, an even bigger blockbuster that depicts the U.S. President only fleetingly, as a mostly unseen doofus with bright red socks and a taste for Ho-Hos, while a grimly determined Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight, who played the heroic FDR in Bay's Pearl Harbor) does the heavy lifting. Gee, do you think this says something about how the makers of Transformers view -- and how they assume mainstream audiences view -- the current resident of the White House?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
True enough. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how the debate over Moore might be affected -- if at all -- if the documentary that has become Pierson's pet cause would get some theatrical play.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Houston film critic and bon vivant Michael Bergeron has posted on YouTube this clip of a 1992 TV featurette on White Men Can't Jump. Ace sports broadcaster Spencer Tillman is at the top of his game here. But one of his interview subjects -- a rather portly Houston Post writer -- most certainly is not. Thanks a lot, Mike.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
There’s just one problem: I didn’t review Live Free or Die Hard for Variety – Todd McCarthy did. And he liked it. And, not incidentally, so did I.
So what review is Moviefone quoting? My 2006 Variety review of the similarly titled Live Free or Die – a movie that, to be brutally honest, really did deserve a 30 score. You can see for yourself by clicking on the “Read the full review” link on the Moviefone page – it’ll take you right to this.
This would be, at best, mildly amusing if it weren’t for the nasty e-mails I’ve been receiving from people who really, really like Live Free or Die Hard, and who want to, ahem, chastise me for daring to give it a mere 30 score. (A verbatim quote cut-and-pasted from one: “Some of us are looking for real constructive cricism[sic], not some washed out loser who can't hack it with the ladies, so i'll[sic] take out my problems on people who have a real job...The movie was great, it was action packed, and kept my attention, definetly[sic] not a 30.”) I wouldn’t describe the response as a flood – more like a trickle, actually – but the fact that anyone would send me such an e-mail is.... well, pretty freakin’ weird. See, these people had to have clicked to the full Variety review to get my e-mail address, right? But if they did this – well, couldn’t they see it was a review of an entirely different movie?
You know, I read in Time magazine recently that, according to the latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than a quarter (27%) of high school seniors are functionally illiterate. I see evidence of this in college classes I teach all the time. But it’s a bit disturbing to see more confirmation in my Microsoft Outlook inbox.