The first half of New York City’s late spring/summer season was mostly about rain. Then the rain broke and a sweltering Panamanian heat wave descended and would’t leave until late September. Then some nice fall weather blew in for two weeks and now it’s suddenly winter. Hell, it’s February out there — wet, cold, windy, miserable. A half hour ago a wind gust blew out my cheapie umbrella with two or three loose spokes flopping around in the chill. Weather like this builds character, I realize, but why does it have to be so damn miserable? I feel cheated, spat upon. I’m almost missing Los Angeles.
The name-brand critics not so high on Spike Jonze‘s Where The Wild Things Are include Variety‘s Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt, Village Voice‘s Jim Hoberman, New Yorker‘s David Denby, Charlotte Observer’s Lawrence Toppman, Miami Herald‘s Rene Rodriguez, Chicago Reader‘s J.R. Jones, Slate‘s Dana Stevens, S.F. Chronicle‘s Mick LaSalle, N.Y. Post‘s Lou Lumenick, Toronto Globe and Mail‘s Liam Lacey, L.A. Times‘ Kenny Turan, Salon.com‘s Stephanie Zacharek and Time Out‘s Keith Uhlich. So hold up on that positive emerging consensus I alluded to a day or so ago.
In a 10.18 piece about the BAM/NYFCC 1962 tribute, which starts on 10.23, N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott writes that “one lesson of the great films of 1962 is that the old is always sending out a few flickers of glory even as the new is restlessly being born…the moment of change is always now.”
That’s a rich and exciting thought, but otherwise Scott’s article is an elegantly phrased hand job. The BAM/NYFCC ’62 tribute is far too modest — almost a token shell of a program. As I pointed out in a 10.6.09 HE article, Armond White’s selections — for the most part well chosen — represent only a fraction of the 1962 films that could still be called stirring and provocative. With at least 35 or 36 such films overlooked, the tribute won’t even screen half of the ’62 films that should have been shown. As I mentioned earlier, it’s like issuing an album of Rolling Stones greatest hits and ignoring everything they recorded after 1965.
The one-year anniversary of Barack Obama‘s election is fast approaching, and I’m almost ready to throw him under the bus and start working for Rep. Marcy Kaptur. I’m so frustrated with his unwillingness or inability to stand up and show some steel cojones that I’m starting to feel actual anger towards the man.
For me the tipping polnt came when he wimped out on pushing hard for public option health insurance. I can honestly confess now to hating Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner almost as much as Dick Cheney or any other loathed Bush adminstration figure. Obama wants to adopt a middle-ground approach to waging war in Afghanistan? That’s almost the exact same tune that Lyndon Johnson was singing in the mid to late ’60s about Vietnam.
“Those Obama fans who are disappointed keep looking for explanations,” N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich said this morning. “Is he too impressed by the elite he met in Cambridge, too eager to split the difference between left and right, too willing to compromise? As he pursues legislation, why does he keep deferring to others — whether to his party’s Congressional leaders or the Congressional Budget Office or to this month’s acting president, Olympia Snowe? Why doesn’t he ever draw a line in the sand?
“‘We know Obama has good values,’ Jeff Madrick said to me last week, ‘but we don’t know if he has convictions.'”
WHV’s long-awaited, 8K-scanned North by Northwest Bluray arrives at my doorstep sometime tomorrow. It streets on November 3rd. I’m told that some kind of special theatrical screening will happen in Los Angeles within the next week or so. If anyone knows the particulars…
Six weeks ago I complained about Criterion’s choice of a jacket cover for the forthcoming Downhill Racer DVD (due 11.17). I said I preferred the original 1969 movie poster — a bedroom metaphor for the glamour of Olympic-level skiing — to designer Eric Skillman‘s concept of a droid skiier (Robocop negotiating a slope on the ice planet of Hoth) that came from a Downhill frame capture.
On 10.1 Skillman blogged about the various options he came up with for Criterion and why the robot-droid art was chosen, etc.
“The concept for Downhill Racer came pretty easily,” he wrote. “The film, about an arrogant but talented athlete, has some really dynamic skiing visuals, and a freeze-frame sequence during the opening credits that just begs to be made into a cover.
“There was also this pretty great-looking original poster…but frankly, the film is anything but a love story, and we all felt it was pretty misleading. Better, I thought, to focus on the great skiing cinematography — shot on skis in large part — that’s such a big part of the film.”
Skillman is a first-rate designer and far too perceptive, I’m presuming, to conclude that the original poster was selling “a love story.” It’s selling the sex, money and glamour element that Robert Redford‘s David Chappellet clearly desires — the thing that drives him to be an Olympic-level athlete. He wants to win medals and be famous, yes, but he’s basically a half-educated small-town bumpkin who craves a feeling of social upgrade and opportunity that would come, he feels, from schtupping a classy European hottie like Camilla Sparv. I think it’s clear that Skillman’s use of the term “we all felt” is a diplomatic way of saying that it was mainly his Criterion employers who saw a “love story” impression.
The ’69 poster is obviously aimed above and beyond a mainstream popcorn sensibility. I wrote last August that “this kind of poster would be totally unimaginable by today’s ad-art standards,” and the final Criterion decision on Downhill Racer does seem to bear this out. Movie art posters and DVD jackets generally demand an upfront visual directness that any eight year-old can would not only respond to but feel utterly unchallenged by.