May 2006 Archives

Wolf CreekI know Wolf Creek doesn’t seem like an appropriate destination for cultured — and sensible! — people such as you and me, but allow me to make a case for visiting this remote area of the Australian Outback in your cinematic travels.

As Lost as Ever

Back in November, I fretted that Lost would suffer from what I dubbed the “endless hit-TV-series death march”:

“Great shows envisioned with tidy, finite story arcs often become unwieldy and bloated once they become profit centers.”
Oh, my prescience! The show’s second season quickly became tedious, entire episodes passing with seemingly nothing happening. By the time last night’s season finale arrived, I was excited to have Wednesday nights back.

My Father the Hero

It’s been a decade since I read Christopher Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking. I remember it as slight but laugh-out-loud funny, one of the few books I did not hesitate to recommend to anybody.

The movie adaptation, written and directed by Jason Reitman, didn’t make me laugh out loud, but I was surprised at its modest depth — and the sources of that richness.

Mr. Pink(’s) Rules

Funny-lookin’ Steve Buscemi offers his rules for filmmaking:

“2. The script is everything — a living thing that needs to breathe, to be fed, and to grow. Take care of your script; don’t let anybody mess with it. “3. As Abel Ferrara once said, ‘A script ain’t a movie.’ Okay, so maybe the script isn’t everything. But it’s a good start.”
And although MovieMaker curiously doesn’t link to its own article, the Jim Jarmusch rules Buscemi references can be found here.

David Plotz of Slate is undertaking a fascinating project with a terrible name: “Blogging the Bible.” It starts here and is a mix of snarky commentary and a close reading rooted in genuine curiosity. Both can be found in this passage:

“When He rejects the vegan special, God chastises Cain with this advice. ‘Sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, Yet you can be its master.’ This is just about the best advice you can give anyone. It is conservative idealism, compressed into a sentence: We must decide for ourselves to do right. Not that Cain pays attention: He kills his brother in the very next verse.”

Nominated for its brevity, its simplicity, its expressiveness, and its sonic shape:

“They’d boo free pie.”
Google confirms the phrase as original.

Plus: A reader educates Culture Snob about the history of free pie given to tough audiences!

Filmbrain raises an essential issue:

“I have noticed a trend in the film blogosphere of critics who, while talented writers, are so damn clinical in their criticism that I find myself wondering if they actually enjoy film.”Yet at the same time, I feel that even openly subjective critics are less than willing to go all the way — to admit that their reaction is purely emotional ... .”

The post is cast as the eternal battle between “objective” and “subjective” criticism, but I think the above excerpt states the conflict more accurately. Because criticism is by its nature subjective, the question becomes to what degree we allow our emotional reactions, particularly those that might be unique and rooted in personal context, to seep into our criticism, and to what degree we acknowledge them.

In the magazine Cinema Scope, David Bordwell demonstrates how a lack of specific examples undermines a potentially intriguing argument.

Although obviously Andersonian (Rushmore-ic?), The Squid and the Whale is not a movie that Wes Anderson could have pulled off. Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical film is too raw, naked, painful, and real. It fuses The Royal Tenenbaums and Ordinary People at a genetic level that Seth Brundle would appreciate. Although it acts like a comedy, the movie’s familiarity and truth will be as funny to many people as a slap in the face.

After choosing I ♥ Huckabees for the second in the Culture Snob “Drunken Commentary Track” series, I can confirm that my thoughts on the movie are less than cogent. You, dear reader/listener, can now hear long, awkward silences and extended digressions as Culture Snob, Bride of Culture Snob, Bad Dog Ginger, and River Cities’ Reader film critic Mike Schulz try to say something of value about the movie. Click to download the audio file (mp3 format, roughly 24 megabytes, 107 minutes), which is intended to be listened to while watching the movie.

Jim Emerson, whose blog has been given a space separate from Roger Ebert’s, twice recently has addressed our cultural tendency to be lazy with language, particularly in marketing movies. First, he parses the MPAA’s explanatory descriptions of its ratings:

Bad Santa (R): ‘pervasive language, strong sexual content, and some violence.’ (Language is pervasive in Bad Santa.)”
Then, he breaks down some “critical acclaim” for movies and finds it neither critical nor ... err ... acclamatory*:
“Read it slowly, one word at a time. It says almost precisely nothing at all — and could be said (with conviction!) even by someone who has not seen the movie.”

* I made up both versions of that word.