February 2006 Archives

If the co-directors of the documentary Paradise Lost had made a more forceful movie — one that ripped apart this case they clearly think is so flimsy — they might have actually freed the accused. Instead, they crafted a portrait of a community with its innards exposed. It seems obvious enough that when it’s a matter of freedom, decades in prison, and death, one shouldn’t fuck around, but they do.

Metacritic offers a nuanced perspective on what critics thought of a particular book, movie, or album. Unlike Rotten Tomatoes — which casts reviews merely as “fresh” or “rotten” — Metacritic measures the level of enthusiasm or hatred.

If movie critics chose Oscar nominations, then, here are two possibilities of what they might look like.

Resistance Is Futile

I fought Millions for as long as I could. But in the end, it won. It’s a charming little movie that casts magical realism as the mind of a child. Plus: an easy dismissal of Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

The story of Stanley Dural Jr. is the story of a kid who hated his father’s music. The rich irony is that the kid who hated the accordion and zydeco would become the planet’s best-known zydeco performer. His nickname is “Buckwheat,” and the world knows him as Buckwheat Zydeco — a multiple Grammy nominee and the first zydeco artist ever signed to a major label.

I’m about 15 years late to this party, but I’ve always planned to write a lengthy piece on my love for Oliver Stone’s JFK. My point would simply be that whatever its failings as a credible history (or even a viable alternative history), JFK excels as propaganda, and should be studied for that reason. In a 1993 essay in The Atlantic, Edward Jay Epstein does a good job explaining Stone’s methods:

“The fictional O’Keefe’s story is supported by Ferrie’s fictional confession, which is then given weight by Ferrie’s fictional murder by the fictional bald-headed Cuban introduced in O’Keefe’s story. Since ... Oliver Stone’s audience is not apprised of the substitutions of fiction for fact, this cross-corroboration makes plausible ... the New Orleans plot.”
The irony is that the essay is intended as a tearing apart of Stone and his film. (Beware that the Internet version of Epstein’s article is rife with typos, making infrequent sentences incomprehensible.)

It is a great world in which the names of Nietzsche and Kant can be invoked in a discussion of popular music. This back-and-forth includes the following:

“In Kantian terms, you could say the problem is not with the act (of liking the particular record) but with the maxim — the principle — underlying that act.”
Amen. I think.

David Wong offers “The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed.” (And, yes, it’s geeky.) The title is cool because it’s accurate while having its own little sci-fi vibe. The content is cool because Wong brings to the task a keen understanding of what works (and how it works) in narrative and in movies.

On the Star Wars prequels:

“It’s not just that we knew how the story ended when we walked into the theater. (Me, I would have killed off Obi-Wan in Episode II just to fuck with you.) It’s that this isn’t the interesting part of the saga. Adolf Hitler’s childhood wasn’t interesting.”
(Via Cinemarati.)

Full Throttle

Two articles this week in The Motley Fool explore the practice of “throttling” at online-DVD-rental outlets Netflix and Blockbuster. Basically, if you watch and return a certain number of movies a month, you’re likely to experience longer turn-around times and reduced availability.

At first, this sounds like bad business. Why piss off your most loyal customers? Ummm ... because they drive up costs:

“Netflix probably wouldn’t mind losing those being throttled. If you’re blazing through 20 flicks a month on Netflix, you’ll do it a favor by going to Blockbuster and knocking that company one step closer to bankruptcy.”
But the initial thought is still valid: In the long run, driving away or alienating those most likely to recommend the service to their friends and family is a perilous strategy.

Crash and the Coasts

Blogger Anthony Kaufman makes an astute observation about the divided critical reaction to Paul Haggis’ Oscar-nominated Crash: “According to the top-ten lists available, not a single critic who resides in New York or Los Angeles placed Crash in their top five. ... So the vast majority of Crash fans come from everywhere in between.” Kaufman concludes that this is a function of the movie being simple and unsophisticated.

Imagine a mystery story in which the detective started to explain the killer’s method and motive, paused 30 seconds in, and said, “It’s pretty convoluted. Let’s skip that part.” That’s how the Oscar-nominated documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room works.