May 2004 Archives

Ever since his movie The Big One, I’ve had serious problems with Michael Moore’s approach and ego. In writing about Bowling for Columbine, I said that “The Big One made me feel like all the troubles of the world weren’t quite as important as Michael Moore being famous in his own odd way.” This article/essay/interview, prompted by the filmmaker’s Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes, will confirm most people’s worst fears about Moore, particularly the fairly obvious contradiction of a very wealthy person pretending to be a man of the people. He’s glib and dismisses criticisms without ever addressing them.

Animated Ennui

Most reviews of the Oscar-nominated animated French movie The Triplets of Belleville suggest the film is a wonderfully wacky laugh riot. I liked it, but its strength for me was the way it balanced an inspired visual stylization with a dark human reality: the way people sleepwalk through their lives with single-minded purpose but little joy.

No More Doggie Sex

As someone who has made the “slippery slope” argument on the implications of legalized gay marriage, it was refreshing to see my friend Dahlia pick it apart.

House of Sand and Fog features one shooting, one murder (distinct from the shooting), one suicide, two failed suicide attempts, one hostage situation, an aborted arson, one incident of physical domestic violence, one incident of verbal domestic abuse bordering on physical, and an affair. And the amazing thing is that the portrayals are convincing enough that all this feels only a touch silly.

I don’t expect many people to actually read through this entire list, let alone try to find patterns or analyze it. But it’s an interesting ongoing exercise for me, listening to the collection album by album, song by song, and figuring out which ones I like best.

I don’t expect many people to actually read through this entire list, let alone try to find patterns or analyze it. But it’s an interesting ongoing exercise for me, listening to the collection album by album, song by song, and figuring out which ones I like best.

When Movies Mattered

Nick Clooney hit upon an interesting idea when he was approached about doing a book about film: that movies sometimes should be looked at outside the realm of entertainment. A persistent literary representative kept asking him to write a book, but he kept deferring because of his schedule as host of American Movie Classics. When he left the cable channel a few years ago, the representative told him, “Now you’ve got time.”

But time wasn’t the only obstacle. With list after list about great movies, and with the Internet democratizing film commentary, Clooney wondered, “What can anybody say about films that hasn’t been said before?”

As proof for my recent assertion about the failing health of Roger Ebert’s weekly film criticism, I offer his review of Super Size Me, which belongs in the food or health section instead of entertainment and can barely be bothered with discussing the movie.

I agree with Roger Ebert’s assessment of Errol Morris’ Gates of Heaven as “bottomless,” with the disclaimer that it’s as much a function of the movie’s open-ended nature as its depth. The filmmaker’s debut has no clearly articulated subject or thesis, and it’s so wide-ranging, with so little guidance from Morris, that its effect and meaning will depend a lot on who watches it and where they are in life.

Errol Morris and Werner Herzog sat together in the back of the auditorium, watching Morris’ first movie, Gates of Heaven, with 1,600 other people. Al Pacino joined us by phone, the day before his 64th birthday. American Movie’s lovably clueless protagonists, Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank, were introduced just minutes before Herzog. This was our April 24 immersion in the sixth annual Ebertfest, also known as Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival.

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