Armond White‘s City Arts review of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln is by no means a savage pan — it’s written carefully and politely with as many attaboy’s as White can muster — but it’s partly negative, for sure. And when you’ve got White, who has kissed Spielberg’s ass in review after review of his films over the years, tapping out a Spielberg assessment that expresses measured disappointment, then you’ve got trouble in River City.
It was sometime in the early ’80s when I began using “happiness pills” as a term of disdain and derision. It came from a phoner I did with screenwriter Ed Naha, who later went on to co-write Honey, I Shrunk The Kids (’89). Ed was nice and obviously bright, but a little too euphoric and positive-minded. Alpha, alpha, gimme-a-break alpha. Like he was scared of even glancing at the sardonic or cynical or battle-weary side.
It got to the point in our conversation that I started to mutter to myself, “Is there anything in the world that you’re not fucking delighted by or blissed out about, you relentlessly Pollyannic fuck?” I complained about him later with a friend, saying that he must have been swallowing great handfuls of happiness pills. Ever since then I’ve used this term whenever I meet someone who overdoes the cheerful. Because it feels like a kind of cover-up. It feels strenuous. Like Sally Hawkins‘ Poppy character in Mike Leigh‘s Happy Go Lucky (’08).
And yet oddly, I haven’t been feeling this way since I stopped drinking.
Happy fascists are still a drag but they don’t bring me down and make me want to run out of the room like they used to. It may not sound deep, but happiness is a choice, I think. You do have to say “I’m not going to be the mildly judgmental, vaguely pissed-off guy…I’m going to be kinder and gentler and more turn-the-other-cheek about stuff and see how that goes.” Which I’ve been more or less doing. A friend told me the other day that I’m less crazy and less funny without the Pinot Grigio. Maybe.
But I still can’t abide the kind of happiness that seems to come from a place of fear and/or avoidance.
From four and a half years ago: “Hawkins’ Poppy character epitomizes a sort of person I’ve never been able to tolerate — the emotional fascist who’s relentless about being happy, smiling and sparkly, but who also insists — here’s the problem — on forcing her bubbliness upon others (acquaintances, strangers, anyone) with the ultimate idea of converting them to their way of looking at life, or at least giving them a contact high to take home.
“What’s especially oppressive and dictatorial about smiley-faced brownshirts like Poppy is their determination to gently bully you into submission. If you don’t get on board with the mutual-alpha, they’ll interrogate you like Laurence Olivier‘s Zell (the Nazi character in Marathon Man), looking at you with a quizzical grin and asking, ‘Are you happy?’ or ‘Having a bad day?’ Speaking from experience, I can advise that the best response is ‘I was feeling pretty good, actually, until you asked me that.’
“The term ’emotional fascism’ was first coined by Elvis Costello in the ’70s, and it’s real, you bet. There’s a scene when Poppy’s friend Zoe says, ‘You can’t make everyone happy’ and Poppy replies, ‘There’s no harm in trying that Zoe, is there?’ I am here to stand up and say that yes, there is harm in it, and would all the Poppy girls of the world please refrain from ever doing so again in my presence? It’s like being beaten with Mao’s little happy-face book during the Great Cultural Revolution.
“There are many of us, I’m presuming, who look upon cheery, cock-eyed optimists as people you sometimes have to speak to at parties — sometimes it’s better just to suffer quickly and get it over with so you can move on — but if you see them coming down the street do cross over to the other side and duck into a book store or something, and then stay there for a good 15 minutes, just to be safe.”
The mid-to-late ’50s, Roger Corman-esque tone isn’t bad, and it’s interesting to be reminded that Lindsay Lohan — God help her — really does have that certain je ne sais quoi. She has hot fires burning, but all she does is make campy junk. That isn’t to say The Canyons is necessarily that, but the idea, obviously, is something fey and ironical in quote marks. Plus the sound editing doesn’t feel quite right. And I don’t know about James Deen. Is it just the trailer in black-and-white or is the feature also?
I have put this carefully as I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I’ve been on my knees about Jean-Luc Godard‘s Weekend since…I forget when but probably at the Bleecker or the Carnegie Hall Cinema in the late ’70s or early ’80s. And then I saw it again on laser disc in the ’90s. And then two days ago the Criterion Bluray arrived and I went “yes!…another meticulously mastered Bluray in 1.66!” And yet I haven’t popped it in. And I’ve been wondering why,
I’m really busy these days, of course, but it’s not just that. I think it’s past-posted. I don’t think it matters the way it used to . I used to think Weekend was the Great Universal Story of the Cancer of Middle-Class Consumerism but now…I don’t know. There’s something about Weekend that’s a little bit over. But I’m very, very glad and proud to have it in my library. I’ll probably settle into it on Saturday or Sunday.
An anonymous Bluray.com reviewer has written that he “can categorically state that the film has never looked as healthy as it does on this Blu-ray release. Detail and especially depth are very impressive. Contrast levels are stable and clarity, particularly when there is plenty of natural light, is simply terrific. There are no traces of problematic lab corrections. Unsurprisingly, the film has a very consistent, very strong organic look. Some of the longer sequences from the first half — such as the notorious sequence where the camera follows closely Corinne and Roland’s car as it passes by the long line of angry drivers on their way to the countryside — look especially good, allowing the viewer to get a terrific sense of what Godard and Raoul Coutard were trying to accomplish in a single continuous shot.”
As Jake Gittes said to Lt. Escobar at the end of Chinatown, “Lou, I’m tellin’ ya…you don’t know what’s goin’ on here!” Has there ever been a lazier, gruntier, hairier ball-scratching default front-runner pick than Argo? Lincoln is a Best Picture nominee, yes, but rarified, Kaminski-ized and all but entombed. Lincoln is inflated because it just opened and is flower-fresh in Guru minds and did well at the box-office…but there are little pin holes that people don’t want to look at. Helium is escaping as we speak.
I should have posted this Jamie Stuart Hurricane Sandy piece (i.e., “Eternal Storm”) yesterday morning when he first sent it to me. But I started to put stuff up and this happened and a Fed Ex guy arrived and I had an early lunch meeting and I wrote a bit more and I had to pick up dry cleaning and then talk to my mom and then I fell behind on the column and I had to wail to catch up. What was I talking about? Oh, right…Stuart and Sandy.
Stuart writes that he’s not sure “if it’s right to create art out of this experience, yet. I don’t know what the time limit is. But I have created something that I hope people can appreciate. And art always helps.”
True artists don’t kowtow to sensitive p.c. bullshit. Compassionate, politically correct notions about what is sensitive and insensitive are the enemies of art. As one who has been beaten up by liberal p.c. Stalinists about this and that viewpoint, I know what I’m talking about.
Imagine if there was a secret community of aliens who landed on the planet with digital video cameras at the time of Ramses and Moses, and a descendant of one of them — his name was Zorkan, let’s say — happened to be in ancient Jerusalem on a day that a man named Yeshua of Nazareth was flogged and crucified on Golgotha, and he tagged along and shot a lot of footage of the whole episode. And then Zorkan when back to his apartment and cut it all together on an alien version of IOS 5 on a Macbook Pro and was about to post it when he said to himself, “I don’t know if it’s right to create art out of this experience yet. I don’t know what the time limit is. Maybe I won’t put it up at all. It doesn’t seem respectful to that poor skinny guy, Yeshua something…maybe I should just erase what I have.” And then he did erase it because he wanted to be sensitive and p.c. about filming something that was not pleasant and positive.
If news of what Zorkan did got out and became known to the world, Zorkan would be one of the most loathed and reviled cameramen and video artists of all time.
“It has become fashionable to suggest that Robert De Niro‘s best work is behind him,” writes N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott in the 11.18 Sunday Times magazine. “But nostalgia is a vice, and a survey of the last four decades of movie history reveals that De Niro has never slackened, diminished or gone away but has rather, year in and year out, amassed a body of work marked by a seriousness and attention to detail that was there from the start.
“So let’s not herald his new movie, Silver Linings Playbook, as a comeback or a return to form. He has been here, more often than not in top form, the whole time. But Playbook, directed by David O. Russell and based on a novel by Matthew Quick, is nonetheless something special — an anarchic comedy in which De Niro plays a wild, funny and touching variation on the difficult-father theme.
“His character, Pat Solitano Sr., is a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic whose dream of domestic peace is undermined by his emotionally unstable son (Bradley Cooper) and his own volatility. Pat is a reminder that De Niro, an unmatched master of brooding silence and quiet menace, can also be an agile comedian and a prodigious talker.”
“Unfortunately, the Petraeus scandal is not weird at all,” writes Esquire‘s Stephen Marche. “It only seems weird because the entire thing, in every sordid detail, has left a trail in the information ether we all inhabit. The story of an older man sleeping with an adoring younger woman is in fact the oldest story there is. It has happened before. It is happening now. And it will happen again. Only the technology has changed.
“Given that in the future everything will be only more recorded, and therefore more available for public scrutiny, now is as good a time as any for America to acknowledge that people in public service have penises and vaginas and that sometimes life gets messy.
“The weirdness of the Petraeus scandal is nothing next to the weirdness of the public squeamishness about the matter. Americans are living in a post-pornography world, where they will do things in bed that were unimaginable a generation ago with regularity and ease. But despite that personal permissiveness, a sexual license that makes the revolution of the sixties look like a box social, Americans have not extended the tolerance they warrant themselves to others.”
The last portion of this recently-posted, English-market Amour trailer, lasting roughly 35 to 40 seconds, is brilliant. Especially the last 10 seconds or so. But you have to watch the whole thing. It only passes along a sequence that’s in Michael Haneke‘s film, but it does so in just the right way.