April 2006 Archives

The Accidental Band


It’s not quite miraculous that The M’s are touring in support of a new record, but given the group’s origins, it’s a surprise that the band is making public appearances at all.

Films in 17 Syllables

In response to a call for movie-related haiku, I submitted the following on Robert Altman’s The Player:

The pitch, in 10 words:
Griffin Mill kills the writer,
and he steals his girl.

The handsome Good Night, and Good Luck is a joy to behold but short on ideas, drama, and humanity. It ends up being a dull film documenting the dull work of dull television journalists, when it really wants to be a sober but nostalgic reminder of heroic muckrakers bringing down the big bad bigot of the Red Scare. Perhaps most crucially, as a lesson for our times it’s a deeply flawed comparison.

On the Uses of Horror

At The House Next Door, Matt Zoller Seitz hosts a discussion on whether the new wave of grisly horror movies means something culturally, and what these films are saying.

The discussion is high-grade and wide-ranging, even if it puts more weight on the current crop of gore porn that it can reasonably shoulder. One commenter noted,

“Sometimes, a mutilated German Shepherd is just a mutilated German Shepherd.”
That’s true with many horror movies. Torture, dismemberment, and splatter are easy, cheap ways for film-distribution companies to make money right now. More importantly, many of these movies (e.g., Saw) simply suck and are devoid of genuine ideas, political or social agendas, or even honest provocations.

The Truman Show

Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance in Capote, one I found a mite calculating. The film as a whole suffers from a similar malady: It seems to operate more cautiously than deliberately, a hint too restrained and with a trace of self-conscious uncertainty. Yet, fundamentally, the studied, low-key choices work.

A real-time discussion of Billy Ray’s 2003 movie about New Republic faker Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) and his editor (Peter Sarsgaard). This commentary track is meant to be listened to while watching the movie. The audio file (mp3 format, roughly 16 megabytes, 94 minutes) features Culture Snob joined by River Cities’ Reader film critic Mike Schulz, with important contributions from Bride of Culture Snob, and at least one interjection from Bad Dog Ginger. Click to download.

Used in conjunction with author Robert Bly, “Iron John” has come to symbolize gatherings in which men drum and dance in the woods, unleashing their own wild sides. It has been credited as a spark to the “men’s movement,” and attacked as trying to equate the emotional suffering of men with centuries of oppression of women. All of those things carry at least a hint of truth, but they ignore what Bly’s Iron John is really about: the idea that men are worn down and worn out, even as they’ve become more sensitive to the planet and their mates.

Vanity Fair’s James Walcott revealed himself to be both puzzlingly moronic and a fine wit in separate posts last month. In dissing in-depth readings of The Sopranos’ recent in-coma movie, he wrote:

“Dream sequences are a curse on series TV, equal in their artsy-kitschy intrusiveness to ghostly visitations from deleted characters, and perhaps even worse than dream sequences are dream-sequence interpretations, which compels [sic] talented critics to smack at every symbol that pops up from the watery unconscious with wooden paddles.”
While it’s fair to criticize dream sequences for being lazy and tired crutches, the offending critic’s close reading gave voice and clarity to David Chase’s elegant but dense inner narrative. Walcott’s claim is bafflingly dumb, and hints that any attempt at interpretation is not just futile but a priori invalid.

But in another recent post (on V for Vendetta), he offers this gem:

“I’m going to monitor myself at future movie screenings to ensure that my responses are age-appropriate and befitting of my status, income level, and cultural sophistication.”

Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies is a work whose very title, with its cheesy double meaning, portends bad, blunt things. If it works at all, it’s as an act of self-parody, in which the filmmaker’s heady concerns are consumed by the tripe of his ostensible subject matter. Plus: the tedium of 2046.