The Cannes Film Festival is “a long way to go to see Sicko a few weeks early. And it’s a rather expensive trip to see next year’s Robert Koehler Collection three months before the highlights all land in Toronto.” — from David Poland‘s 4.20 Hot Blog…funny. But does this mean Poland has figured out a way to see No Country For Old Men and My Blueberry Nights in Los Angeles sometime next month?
“The auteur theory, I’ve finally decided, can kiss my ass,” says Guardian columnist John Patterson. “I’m done with it. It bores me. I flee in great haste from the mere mention of its name. It’s a cult of personality. It’s a marketing scheme. It’s become a misleading umbrella-term falsely uniting a diverse body of collectively created work under a single name.
“And it just encourages the tacky, egomaniacal film-school cult of the writer-director as lone presiding genius. More and more I tend to find myself believing in what the writer Thomas Schatz called ‘the genius of the system.'”
Patterson is right in implying that if it hadn’t been for Andrew Sarris‘s The American Cinema, which popularized the French auteur theory after Sarris wrote his first seminal essay on the topic in ’62 or thereabouts, we might not have had the legend of Michael Cimino and therefore the debacle that was Heaven’s Gate.
Wait, I forgot: Heaven’s Gate has been elevated into semi-respectability (or is it full respectability?) by tireless Cimono pallies like F.X. Feeney and is now…what’s the party line?….a fascinating American pastoral piece that was judged too quickly and harshly when it first came out.
[Note: The Patterson essay was linked earlier today on Movie City News, which means that all linking rights from this point on are owned by David Poland. I am choosing to ignore this for reasons that presumably don’t need explaining.]
I’m not getting a significantly”different” vibe from this Bourne Ultimatum teaser, but it’s still the only summer three-quel I’m even half interested in seeing. I take that back — I’m fully interested because Matt Damon is a wee bit cooler than Daniel Craig, Bourne movies are the action-thriller gold standard these days, and because the gifted Paul Greengrass is once again directing.
“George was very quiet, and verbally inarticulate. It was only in his written work that he spewed these relentless scenes of gore and torture. His job was in the University Bookstore, and when I inquired about him once, I was told he was a good worker, but ‘quiet.’ I thought, ‘Whoa, if some kid is ever gonna blow, it’ll be this one.’ He never did. But that was in the days before a gun-totin’ serial killer could get top billing on the Nightly News and possibly the covers of national magazines.” — Stephen King on the Cho Seung-Hui syndrome, in a new edition of Entertainment Weekly.
If there’s anyone in L.A. who knows know to operate any Windows-friendly video-editing software that’s made for dummies and isn’t too costly (like Ulead Movie Studio 10, which I have a copy of), and (b) wants to earn a little tutoring money, please drop a line. I need to start posting some short video reports on Hollywood Elsewhere by the time of the Cannes Film Festival (if not before), and while I’m sure I could figure it out on my own eventually, I need to learn fast. My laptop, camera, software…will travel.
This four-day-old Lewis Beale/Reeler piece about the do’s and don’ts of remakes (“Re-made in the USA”) is sensible and well-written, but the ultimate pearl of wisdom was delivered years ago by the great John Huston: “Don’t remake good movies — remake bad ones!” Or, to follow the train, “Don’t adapt brilliant books that are praised by Michiko Kakutani — adapt pulp and give it a bit of soul and embroidery.”
“Hollywood’s marketers have become tremendously efficient at getting their core audience to see their big movies. They don’t need critics for that. But critics have a larger utility: to put films in context, to offer an informed perspective, to educate, outrage, entertain. We’re just trying to do what every other writer is doing: making sense of one part of your world. So, dear reader: If our opinions on a movie don’t coincide, I don’t care, and neither should you. I’m not telling you what to think. I’m just asking that you do think.” — Richard Corliss responding to Peter Bart’s 3.15 Variety column in which he trashed critics for being out of touch with the mob.
That final Corliss sentence is a hoot. The vast majority of moviegoers, of course, aren’t interested in thinking, and anyone who goes around presuming that “thought” is some kind of mass-market intrigue or tonic is truly living on a farway planet Movies are about delivering and receiving emotion — it’s what has always made them a mass art form. “Thought” is for the fringe. People today are mostly into being dumbly wowed (via CG flotsam movies like 300, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man 3, etc.), or being made to laugh or cry. I hate dumbass CG movies, but I’m just as susceptible as anyone else to the other two. Everyone is. But release a film that hints that a small expenditure of intellectual rigor may be needed to understand or enjoy it, and you automatically lose 90% of your potential audience.
Bart’s column was posted more than month ago, by the way. Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on response pieces? Shouldn’t you have to write them within, say, five working days?
Those Nervepop guys — Bilge Ebiri, Phil Nugent, Paul Clark, Leonard Pierce, Faisal Qureshi — yesterday posted a two-parter about the Most Historically Inaccurate Films Ever Made, and one of the most deserving, they feel, is Alan Parker‘s Mississippi Burning. They’re not wrong, and yet no one ever gave a damn. For a very fundamental reason.
Basing their film on the FBI’s hunt for the killers of three Civil Rights workers (Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman) in 1964 Mississippi, Parker and Gerolmo “twisted the historical record in the service of what Pauline Kael called ‘a Charles Bronson movie’ ,” they write, “[and] turned the film√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s FBI agent heroes” — played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe — “into Dirty Harry-style vigilantes, trampling on due process in order to bring the guilty hayseeds to justice.
“[The film] even goes so far as to completely fabricate a scene in which a black FBI agent gets flown down to Mississippi with the specific purpose of terrifying a racist small-town mayor (R. Lee Ermey),” they add.
And I’ve never cared. No one has. I’ve always had a soft spot for Mississippi Burning for various reasons — Hackman’s performance (particularly his scenes with Frances McDormand), the cinematography, the editing, the ominous music — but paticularly because of Parker and Gerolmo’s bullshit plot. Because the lies they came up with are emotionally satisfying, and that’s always the bottom line.
I agree with Gore Vidal‘s old line that “the ends never justify the means because there are no ends, only means” and yet it feels very fulfilling to see vigilante tactics used against racist murderers. Especially after watching Hackman and Dafoe go through weeks of fruitless investigation while the guilty crackers smirk and drink cream soda and chew tobacco.
If audiences feel that a film is delivering a form of justice, be it emotional or legal, they’ll always buy it regardless of historical accuracy.
Side note: Why don’t the Nervepop guys use more Permalinks? And if they are using them, why are they so hard to find?