Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 72

It's like the sound of one hand clapping. . . deep man. Uh, wait, no it's not. It's just pretentious!

What movie isn’t as deep as people think?



Panelist: ScottDS

It would be easy for me to pick any number of indie or foreign films that I've Netflixed over the years but I will go with Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, a film I was dragged to see which stars Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and my on-screen alter ego Jesse Eisenberg. It tells the story of two boys in 1980s Brooklyn dealing with their parents' divorce. This is one of those "We get it, you're all miserable" movies. On one hand, families can be a source of both comfort and pain... BUT on the other hand, characters can only do stupid and mean things for so long before I start to lose sympathy. Great actors but if I want to watch a movie about a disintegrating family, I'll watch Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums instead. (Anderson is also a producer on this film but I don't know the extent of his involvement.)

Panelist: T-Rav

V for Vendetta. It’s not a badly-made movie, don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed it while I was watching it, and I can understand why some people think it’s a great philosophical look at liberty and tyranny. But honestly, everything it has to say is pretty much right there on the surface. Authority is evil, multiculturalist intellectuals are awesome, especially if they can throw knives. The only thing I was left pondering was whether the Wachowskis are really a one-hit wonder. That, and why they felt the need to have a bald Natalie Portman.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

I never understood why on Earth The Kids Are All Right got nominated for an Oscar. At best, it was a good made for TV afternoon special. But the nominating committee must have seen something that I didn’t.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

Probably the most obvious answer is Pink Floyd's The Wall, which fans think can only be understood when you're high. Hardly. Even short-bus high schoolers get that one. But I'm going with another film. Traffic. Seriously, this was supposed to be part opus, part expose. . . a no-holds barred upturning of the drug trade to show all the horrors none of us knows. Uh. Sadly, the film was pretty much an episode of Miami Vice without the cool. It exposed nothing that everyone didn't already know. It broke no new ground. It didn't even tread old ground all that well.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

I'd say Psycho. Nothing all that deep there. Anthony Perkins played a fruit loop named Norman Bates with a fixation on a domineering mother. Too bad for Janet Leigh, great for shower scenes.

Comments? Thoughts?

103 comments:

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I'd say most of the Oliver Stone and Lars von Trier catalog... bitter and nihilistic masquerading as depth.

2001: A Space Odyssey has to take the prize... it commits the ultimate sin -- YAWN.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

It's not that 2001:A Space Odyssey isn't deep, but even the Marianas Trench has a bottom... That film is ponderous and self-indulgent -- pretentious; the second half of Full Metal Jacket is similarly so. Kubrick could do depth well... most of his classics Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Barry Lyndon, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange... all have a ton to say about human nature, war, justice, violence, etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I saw a Lars von Trier film last night -- Antichrist staring Willem Dafoe. Besides the fact it was dull and intensely pretensious, I had to laugh because it reminded me of this fake movie Dafoe makes in Mr. Bean's Holiday, where he plays famous pretensious director Carson Clay. Same. . . damn. . . film.

AndrewPrice said...

As for Kubrick, I am no longer convinced that Kubrick is the genius I once thought he was. The more I look at his films, the more I think they just give the appearance of depth -- they include lots of meaningless symbols meant to make you think that there is something deep going on, when there really isn't.

PikeBishop said...

Agreed on 2001, and Full Metal Jacket might as well end with Private Pyle's suicide. The first forty five minutes are magnificent and nothing can top that. I really don't care about anything afterwards, and do we kill or not kill the girl sniper (Yawn).

How about American Beauty? Great performances are not enough to make me think that this "Suburbia is conformist Hell" breaks any new ground or says anything really different. Gee, our neighbors aren't what they seem to be; sometimes people wear different masks in public; teen agers hate life.......Yawn!

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, American Beauty really rubbed me wrong. I almost walked out of that one when we saw it. It felt like an insult from Hollywood aimed at the rest of us.

Tennessee Jed said...

well, I liked the soundtrack to American Beauty, and it had a couple of funny scenes, but sure, it is an obvious candidate as a good answer to the question. The whole Kevin Spacey shower scene was a little much, I think.

I can't disagree on 2001, but are we condemning Kubrick or Arthur C. Clarke? I never read the book, so I really can't say. On full Metal, I never got the impression it was really trying to go that deep. It did have some great lines though ... the "shit sandwich" and "you can walk the walk, but can you talk the talk." None of the guys my age wanted to go over there and get shot up on the evening news. That was billed as the struggle of communism vs. democracy. I get that, but the Diems were pretty bad. The real issue for most of us though was that politicians committed Americans to die, but wouldn't back them to win. Not exactly something we haven't seen since.

Never saw Squid or The Boys are all right. V for Vendetta wasn't all that. I didn't think Traffic was so bad, but agree, it was nothing groundbreaking. I may have missed the hype.

K said...

IMO the absolute definitive pseudo deep movie of all time is "Story of O" 1975.

See LINK

The movie came out about the time the SCOTUS ruled that films which had "social significance" were protected by the first amendment even if they had naked people whipping each other.

The Story of O, a French production (natch), was bursting with so much social and philosophical significance - plus high arty goodness - that my wife and I, ignorant simple bumpkins that we are, snickered and face palmed all the way through.

The climatic scene had us on the floor in stitches as the female protagonist demonstrated to her lover (well one of them anyway) how far she had moved beyond staid social mores by attending a dinner party for the social elite buck nekked, wearing an owl's head mask and a leash.

I should point out that this movie, along with some of the later Russ Meyer true classics were shown in ordinary neighborhood movie theaters in those days and not the sticky floored emporiums that people like Paul Rubens frequent now.

Anonymous said...

I'm generally a simple guy, but I don't mind the odd deep movie but it's not my go to type of movie.

Off the top of my head I'd have to agree about American Beauty. Also Donnie Darko comes to mind, while I like the movie it is trying to be all deep and meaningful but doesn't deliver.

Scott.

ScottDS said...

Re: American Beauty...

...it's beautiful to look at but yeah, there's not much to it in the end. It appealed to me when I was an angst-ridden teenager who just needed an excuse to hate on everything. Now that I'm an adult, I have no interest in seeing it again.

The creepy boy next door was parodied in Not Another Teen Movie - they have a kid who's always standing around with a plastic bag, so whenever I'm out with friends and I see a plastic bag floating in the wind, I always say, "It's... so... beautiful." :-D

ScottDS said...

Re: Kubrick -

Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, and even A Clockwork Orange (despite the language Alex and Co. speak) are relatively straight-forward stories IMHO.

Now when it comes to 2001, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut... yeah, those three films have fans who like to dissect every little thing. Essays have been written and entire documentaries have been made about things like the objects in the Overlook pantry, and the significance of the individual masks in the EWS orgy.

And of those three films, the only one that continues to baffle is 2001 - I can enjoy the other two for what they are without digging too deep, but 2001 kinda forces you to do it.

And I still think Kubrick's a genius. After all, he's still got us talking about this stuff! :-)

Outlaw13 said...

Re: 2001, The book makes the movie very understandable and I read the book when I was in 7th grade. On the other hand when I first saw the movie I actually went out to the lobby to make sure I was in the right theater.

I generally try to avoid movies that are trying to teach me things so this is a hard one for me.

Thin Red Line is one that I think falls into this category... Could, Not, Stand, It. Never read the source material so I don't know how close it came to it.

ScottDS said...

K -

I for one do NOT consider myself "an ordinary bumpkin" - I know you were being facetious - but movies like The Story of O (which I've never seen) just don't appeal to me. I might be more flexible than others when it comes to my entertainment choices but even I have my limits.

Even artistically-inclined film school grads can have boundaries!

And don't knock Paul Reubens - that was a one-time incident. Knock Fred Willard instead! :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott (DS) - you were an angst ridden teen?? Say it ain't so, Scott; say it ain't so! BTW, I tend to agree about Kubrick. My take on him was I appreciated his eclecticism. Period classics, dystopian England, anti-nuclear proliferation, star child, insanity. His films weren't perfect, but they were almost always well made for that time, and got people talking about them. The three I have seen recently (all nice restorations) are Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon and The Shining. Clockwork really disappointed compared to the original screening. Barry Lyndon re-affirmed it's greatness, and The Shining pleasantly surprised.

Tennessee Jed said...

Outlaw - I really agree with you on Thin Red Line; particularly the remake with Sean Penn and Jim Caviezel. An anti-war theme (surprise!!!) and totally self-indulgent. I did like the children's choir soundtrack music, though.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Ha! I wasn't nearly as angst-ridden as my peers, not by a longshot, but I did go through a relatively brief "Everything sucks, you're all drones, I know more than you!" phase.

But again, 'twas thankfully brief.

Re: Kubrick, WB actually did a new restoration of Clockwork a few years ago but they didn't use it for the Blu-Ray. I imagine we haven't seen the last of these movies on disc.

I'm still surprised by how much I love Lyndon - some movies just cast a spell over you and I'm not exactly known for my love of 3-hour costume dramas. But there's so much to appreciate, so much to take in, the craft... it's spellbinding.

WB needs to give that film the Special Edition treatment with all the bells and whistles. I can listen to production designer Ken Adam talk about his work for hours.

Eyes Wide Shut is another one I enjoy for unknown reasons. At the time, it was promoted as this salacious "sexy!!" movie and it's anything but that. But again, there's just a lot to take in.

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting choice K, and backed up with the Supreme Court seal of approval too! Bravo!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm with you on Donnie Darko, the movie thinks it's much deeper than it really is.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, On Kubrick, My problem is the way he always adds things that don't make sense to films to try to make them seem deep. He doesn't do that in his best movies -- The Shining, the first half of Full Metal Jacket and Paths of Glory. But in all the rest it's like he thinks adding an acid trip or something "surreal" will give a movie meaning. When I was young, I believed the hype and tried to find the meaning, but I realize there is no meaning, just symbols. If he at least had a particular point he was trying to make, then I could respect it, but I've realized he never has a point except to make you think he's saying something.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I should review Not Another Teen Movie, that is a devastating funny look at the genre. And unlike so many other parodies, this one really hits home time and again.

I think the operative word in American Beauty was hate. A friend of mine said at the time that this was "pervert Hollywood trying to tell the rest us that we secretly are just like them... only, we're not."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The difference between The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut is that the symbols he includes in The Shining are just things in the background people are guessing about -- like the Indian head on the baking soda. Eyes Wide Shut is an example of a movie that runs off into messed-up bizarro land supposedly to give you some meaning from the fantasy, but it's ultimately meaningless.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I totally agree about Thin Red Line. That was an angry, crappy film which struck me as an attempt to re-live the leftist fable of Vietnam and shove it onto World War II characters.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I am not a fan of Fred Willard at all. His presence in a movie, like Eugene Levy and the woman they are always with in Guest films, is enough to turn me off a film.

What's wrong with porn? ;P

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I saw Clockwork Orange for the first time in 20 years last year and it really disappointed. I remember the first time it seems much bigger, much more interesting. Now it seems kind of silly and dated.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Nothing is wrong with porn. All things in moderation, after all. ;-)

I mentioned Willard since he was recently busted for a similar thing whereas Paul Reubens' incident was 20 years ago. (And I'm a lifelong Pee-Wee fan so I'm biased.)

Re: Not Another Teen Movie, I HATE HATE HATE the disgusting toilet gag but the rest is pretty much gold, especially the token black guy and the lead character's stick figure artwork. ("That's me and my mom." "She has your eyes.") Ha! :-D

The thing with American Beauty is that, at the very least, Spacey does somewhat redeem himself at the end. But yeah, I think most people are over it and it's not nearly as talked about as it used to be.

I'v grown comfortable with suburbia over the years, not to mention my place in it (see my comments to Jed about angst). However, I think it's also natural for artistic/creative types to "uncover the lid" so to speak to see "what's really going on."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, LOL! You'd never make a good pornographer -- porn is about anything BUT moderation!

The toilet gag was hilarious, but gross. I LOVE the token black guy, especially the moment at the end where he thinks the hero is about to say something nice. That movie is packed with hilarious moments and they all fit the things they are parodying perfectly.

On American Beauty, when I first started the blog, I wanted to do a Top 25 list of films that were supposed to be earth-shattering and would live forever, but which were forgotten the moment they left the theaters. American Beauty is definitely on that list -- so are most Oscar winners.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Lifting the lid on something requires you to expose something that is both real and known, but not really talked about. The problem with American Beauty is that it was just Hollywood listing all kinds of twisted things and pretending this was normal.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Bring on the list - it sounds like fun!

Re: Beauty - here's a list of the other nominees from that year:

The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Insider
The Sixth Sense

It's safe to say at least two out of four are more fondly remembered today.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I haven't been able to come up with a complete list -- largely because I never thought about it fully.

BUT, I can tell you that The Green Mile and the Sixth Sense are not the kind of films I'm talking about. I'm talking more about critical darlings that we were told would be with us forever... things the critics fawned over because they saw this as lessons for us proles... but which pretty much died a quick death. American Beauty is a great example. The critics raved about it because it really put the boot to suburban America, but it's basically been forgotten. Another example might include Gandhi which had the critics virtually playing with themselves to tell us that this was going to be remembered as one of the greatest films of all time (because they loved the subject matter) and its vanished into the celluloid ash heap. A likely recent example was The Hurt Locker.

These are films that won massive awards, where hyped beyond belief, which the critics loved at the time, and which they told us we needed to see to be a good American... and which the public saw right through.

That's a hard list to create though because you need to see how the films were taken at the time and how they've lasted over time.

ScottDS said...

Hmm... interesting. Perhaps the best way to approach it would be to pick beginning and ending years to work with. Don't do The Hurt Locker - too recent. Best to stay with pre-2000...?

My point with the list was that The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense were BETTER remembered today than American Beauty, despite critics telling us otherwise.

One more thought and then I'm dropping the subject. :-)

There was a show that premiered to a shitload of controversy called The Book of Daniel about a reverend who actually talks to Jesus.

As you can imagine, the usual suspects had a fit over this and the show was quickly cancelled (this was in 2006 or so).

Here's the thing - not only was there the Jesus angle (which would've bothered some people regardless), EVERY character was a f--k-up! The priest was on drugs, his wife was a drunk, their son was gay, their daughter was in and out of jail, and I haven't even gotten to the supporting characters yet! It becomes too much after a while!

So my problem with American Beauty isn't so much its portrayal of suburbia but the fact that there's really no one to root for, at least not for the first 4/5 of it.

Yeah, it might be fun to imagine ourselves quitting our job and schtupping the hot girl next door, but there still needs to be at least one grounded, relatively "normal" person. That's something I always try to keep in mind when I get creative and put pen to paper - let one character be the audience. In this case, have one character who can sit back and say, "You know what? It's not so bad!"

I hope some of that made sense. Sorry for the rambling - we can go back to the topic now. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think the problem with American Beauty is twofold. First, as you note, there are no good people -- everyone is presumed to be bad, which just reinforces the idea that this was an unfair attack. It would be like doing a movie about a Catholic priest who molests kids and then having every other priest also be a molester or saying they think it's great.

Secondly, it was scattershot. If you want to do an "expose" on something, you need to pick and choose your targets. If you just start presenting a laundry list of everything you can think of all rolled into one, then it's ham-fisted at best and just slander more likely.

Doing a list about films the critics trashed, but which ended up becoming loved would be a good list too. Though, there you have two problems with the critics. First, many of them actually go back and "re-review" films like that and then scrub their original reviews so you can't point to how wrong they were. Secondly, there are so many "after-the-fact" critics at places like Rotten Tomatoes that you can't get a sense anymore about how a film was received at the time.

As an aside, here's another film for the overrated/smug list -- Crash. "Everybody is racist!!!" After all the hype about that one, it died a very quick death.

Tennessee Jed said...

I haven't seen all of Kubrick's films. Nor have I read many of the books upon which they are based. In my view, Kubrick was, above all else, a great innovator and a great cinematographer. A couple of examples: Spartacus was the first big film shot in 70mm. It was spectacular. There was a modest sop to homosexuality thrown in, but that film was Kirk Douglass' baby, and Stanley but a hired gum. I'll tell you it was pretty awesome up on screen in a Philly movie palace at the time.

The Killing was a nice film that explored non-linearity in plotting long before Pulp Fiction came along.

Barry Lyndon - was filmed with Carl Zeiss lenses developed by NASA for use in low light. Something that is just now becoming popular in home digital camera products. At the time, in the theater, it was an awesome spectacle, a masterful blending of soundtrack, and it
still holds up well today.

2001 - Sure 20 to 30 minutes of apes in silence was self-indulgent to beat the band, but it was a quantum leap forward in special effects.

Lolita - If anything, he toned down the subject matter in the book. Sex was a big deal back then. Now, all you have to do is tune into two and a half men.

Honestly, I think the problem is less with Kubrick, who never called himself a genius, as with people that tried to make some of it more than it ever was.

T-Rav said...

Speaking of American Beauty and all, you know what another kinda shallow film is? Pleasantville. It's not exactly a bad film, and it had a decent cast, but it's so predictable in its basic message: '50s suburbia was terrible and repressed, housewives had no idea how restrained and exploited they were, then there's the sexual revolution and "expressing yourself" and suddenly everything is wonderful. I guess Hollywood doesn't realize it's made variations on this theme like fifty times already.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

If you want to see the flipside of Pleasantville, check out the Brendan Fraser film Blast from the Past. :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

"Laundry list" is a good way of putting it. :-)

If you do your list of movies that took time to be respected, you can use Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, The Shawshank Redemption, Office Space, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Blade Runner.

I know I've said it countless times before but this is why I hate it when the media - left and right - treats box-office numbers like the f---ing Gospel. The truth is no one knows what will be a hit and TIME is the only true barometer of success.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Re: Kubrick, I still haven't seen Spartacus (I know, I know!) or his first film Fear and Desire which he later disowned.

But everything between Dr. Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut... I never get tired of them.

(I've seen Lolita once but it's just not my kind of movie.)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That could well be true that the problem with Kubrick is Kubrick's fans more than Kubrick himself. All I can say for certain is that while I think he's done some great films and I respect his work, I don't see him as the genius he's supposed to be.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Don't you know that the 1950s were a horrible time of pure evil? And we'd still be there today if it wasn't for that thing that somehow changed everyone from the way they were to the way they are now. Yep... saved the world.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Bladerunner immediately came to mind. The critics trashed that, but now they love it, and several of them have actually gone back an scrubbed their reviews to pretend they saw it as visionary. A-holes.

On the success of films, I find box office and critical acclaim to be meaningless. To me, the true value of a film is longevity. Does the public (not just film school geeks) still embrace the film ten, twenty, thirty years later. That's the real test. And you can typically measure it by how often the film appears on television, how often it still gets mentioned in the popular culture, and if people start clamoring for a remake or a re-release.

ScottDS said...

Andrew (and Jed) -

One last thing re: Kubrick.

Sometimes the problem, as Jed puts it, is not the filmmakers but the other people. Unfortunately, all too often, people take into account the opinions of nattering nabobs, etc. when all that should really matter is the quality of the work.

But we're only human and I'm guilty of this myself. It's one reason why I have a rather antagonistic attitude towards HBO's Girls. Lena Dunham's show might be great - I watched two episodes and felt "meh" - but to the critics, she might as well be God! She's loved by the "right people" but unfortunately, that kind of thing can cloud our judgement.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Being loved by "the right people" is usually the surest sign of anti-quality. Typically, when those people pimp a show it's because they've found something they think insults the rest of us.

ScottDS said...

Sometimes, but not all the time. I'm thinking of a show like The Sopranos that: a.) was loved by critics, and b.) was watched by Joe Q. Public as well.

In my case, a lot of recent shows I've enjoyed are loved by critics but were cult favorites at best (Fringe, Community etc.).

It's a sliding scale. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, "The right people" aren't just critics. They are the smug elitists who look down on the rest of us. And the Sopranos was widely praised, but I don't recall anyone taking thinly veiled shots at the rest of us as they praised it. That's the difference.

T-Rav said...

Often, I have kind of a contrary reaction to what critics are saying. Take Girls, since Scott brought it up. I don't watch it, mainly because it sounds repulsive from what I've heard of it--and more importantly, I no longer have HBO. :-P But also, any time critics are just falling over themselves to praise a show like that, I automatically get suspicious, and often conclude it must not be that great. So, yeah. (I'm sure it's a huge shock I wouldn't watch that show....)

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

[Claude Rains voice] "I'm shocked!" :-)

I do NOT want to turn this thread into a Girls fest... all I'll say is some people are just at the right place at the right time, but even her fans must know that Dunham seems to have gone from 0 to 60 pretty damn fast and her work (such as it is) doesn't necessarily warrant that kind of attention.

I like USA's Psych - why doesn't that get any essays on Salon.com? (he asked rhetorically)

Tennessee Jed said...

an interesting thing about film makers, screen writers, and directors as it relates to the question originally framed. As a kid growing up, we rarely paid much attention to who was director or wrote the script. Normally, it was who was in the cast. There were a couple of names that jumped out around blockbuster films such as William Wilder or Alfred Hitchcock. With Kubrick, I don't think he really was considered "all that" until 2001 came out. People began to go back and look at his other films, and say "you know there is a pretty good body of work here, and you can't just typecast him" as a westerns guy or whatever.

I say this not so much to keep beating a Kubrick horse, although clearly he has a few that fit the definition. Just that you guys are a lot more hip to this stuff than I ever was.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that felt that way about Thin Red Line and Andrew please do a review of Not Another Teen Movie which has to be one of the best parody movie made in the last 20 years.

Scott.

ScottDS said...

Anon/Scott -

It might be the last good parody. The genre has since gone down the toilet with all those "_____ Movie" abominations.

Having said that, Chris Evans had great comic timing in that movie and it's nice to see his star rising (as Captain America, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Okay, since Kubrick's been beaten up more than Rocky Balboa in his first match with Clubber Lang, I'm taking aim at another target: Orson Welles.

My nomination for this category is 'Citizen Kane.' I last saw this movie during my second year in college and really haven't needed to see it again since. Basically, a guy comes into money, thinks of his power before family and friends, and ends up a lonely jerk. I get it. This film could've been trimmed by an hour without losing its plot points.

Basically, this is supposed to be the story of American capitalism. Yes, I know, it was supposedly based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. But the original title for the film was 'American.' Was this supposed to mean that the American system only produces power-hungry creeps whose goal is to control people and that only artistic types can enlighten us to this?

You know, I'm going to stand on the soapbox for a moment and say that if you can't find a premise like that to be pretentious...then you're French to me.

Did I go too far on that one? I just really don't like this movie.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I agree with you about the critics. When I hear the critics like something, my first thought is usually that it's not something I want to see.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, She definitely went from 0-60 impossibly fast and I'm not sure why. I suspect the real reason is she's connected to insiders, but who knows? That's usually the case with people who suddenly get elevated from "unknown" to super star over night -- they are related to important people.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think the film industry has changed since they broke the studio system. In the past, everyone was pretty much "work for hire" and only a few big names existed. These days, everyone is trying hard to make a big name for themselves. And with the ease of information gathering these days because of sites like IMDB and blogs like this one, people are more in-tune with it.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Let me see what I can do. I need to watch it again first. I do agree though that this was one of the few parodies that really did parody right, as compared to most of the other recent parodies which just toss in whatever joke they can think of.

Yep, you are not alone on Thin Red Line. Not an enjoyable movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Those "___ Movies" are horrid. They really feel like they just tossed in anything they could think of.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, "You're French to me." LOL! Bravo!

Yeah, I'm forced to agree with Citizen Kane. I think there were some good innovations in it from a technical standpoint and it was a well done movie, but it doesn't strike me as the least bit deep or groundbreaking and I don't understand why this is supposed to be such a great film?

5minutes said...

I'll invite ridicule and nominate "Inception". It was interesting and entertaining, but not really deep.

AndrewPrice said...

5 Minutes, I go back and forth on that one. On the one hand, it does touch upon a lot of deep issues and it offers quite a bit to think about. On the other hand, I think the movie itself isn't as deep as people say and it ultimately fails to remain coherent, which I see as a problem.

Tennessee Jed said...

For what it is worth, Citizen Kane was largely ignored commercially. It was not until later that the critics resurrected it. Sometimes it is hard for us to properly evaluate films from that far back in the past. Film making has changed so much since 1940, and at the time, a lot of the filming techniques utilized were apparently quite innovative. Well, that addresses why a film can be highly rated, but doesn't really address the issue of presumptuousness or false "depth."

At the time, it had the notion of being a big sweeping epic which can give a false sense of gravitas in and of itself. But, I really think the reason "Kane" holds it special place in film history is just that. Hollywood has always been socialist in nature, and taking down a robber baron -- what could be better?

Anonymous said...

Andrew, Jed...

I've been thinking about my comments on 'Citizen Kane,' and I think there's one scene that does the movie in, or at least shows why it's shallow. It's that intercut scene between Kane and his wife at the table. It's the one where the camera moves back and forth, showing Kane getting older and becoming cruel and dictatorial. Technically, it's a marvel. In terms of story, it's a wasted opportunity.

Before that, we see the young, idealistic Kane who has a set of principles. After this scene, he's suddenly an egotistical jerk drunk on power. How did that happen? Are we just to assume that he was corrupted off-screen? Must be the case. The rest of the film is a repetitive set of vignettes showing Kane being mean and people leaving him. After the cycle repeats several times, he says 'Rosebud' and becomes a hermit.

(continued...)

Anonymous said...

We never see what led Kane to become this way. Was it a noble goal gone wrong? Maybe we could've seen his first act of 'yellow journalsim' (lying) to get America into the Spanish-American War (just like Hearst). Perhaps he later says the ends justified the means in freeing Cuba from Spain. Then later, he uses his paper to launch a campaign against a politician he doesn't he like. (Maybe he said- correctly- that the city couldn't afford all of its shelters under the current revenue system.) Again, for some 'greater good.'
Along the way, Kane realizes the power he has in running newspapers and influencing the public. He comes to see lying as good as long as he achieves his desired result. He also sees dissenters as being against his causes and, therefore, against him as well. He thus demands obedience. His inner circle stops questioning him and turn into 'yes men.' He sees the world in his own terms and only cares to alter to his desires, with causes gradually taking a back seat to just using power because he has it.

From that point, the movie could continue as before, maybe leaving out the second wife. Gradually, everyone abandons him as his once-powerful collapses on his foundation of sins.

(continued...)

Anonymous said...

And that, I think, is why the movie was made the way it was. Welles was trying to indict the American capitalist system as always corrupting people, regardless of how well-intentioned they are when they get started. To show Kane in the manner I described- IMHO, of course- might show the opposite. It would show the system presenting Kane with different options or paths to follow. Ultimately, his choices would be his downfall. It would be the story of a flawed person, not a flawed system.
And given that the original title, as I noted above, was supposed to be 'American,' I think it's a safe guess that Welles meant to indict the system- in this case, powerful newspapers. A character study would've completely changed the theme.

Well, I didn't mean to go too far. I just spent a little overthinking things, I guess.

Any other ideas?

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

And that was supposed to be "once-powerful empire." Cursed typo.

-Rustbelt

ScottDS said...

Well, since we're doing sacred cows, here's one:

Taxi Driver.

I mean, I get it. It's well-made, well-acted... there's nothing technically wrong with it... but it's just unpleasant, and to what end?

Tennessee Jed said...

Rustbelt - I wouldn't disagree at all with your analysis. In some respects, that message is not all that different than a early Robert Redford political film, "The Candidate." Capitalism = money, and money is the root of all evil. Young well intentioned crusaders quickly get corrupted, etc.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - I know what you mean. There is nothing wrong per se with films that try and present how modern society tends to be cold and alienating, particularly in urban settings. It's been done enough, though, that the key is doing it in a way which is memorable and quality. I suppose we could say the same for "No Country for Old Men." Talk about futile nihilistic no hope messages.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I still haven't seen No Country for Old Men.

A film school friend and I went to the theater and our choices were that and There Will Be Blood. We saw Blood and enjoyed it a lot.

My friend saw No Country a few months later and said, "Scott, we made the right choice! No Country was awful!" He didn't like it and we both think the Coens are a tad overrated... but that's another story. :-)

tryanmax said...

Sorry I'm late, but I'm si-i-i-ick. Don't worry, it's not a computer virus.

I can't disagree with anything on the list, and it's pretty hard to add at this point, too. I'll throw out Revolutionary Road as another "suburbia is evil" entry.

ScottDS said...

I know no one here cares but I caught Seth MacFarlane's opening of the Oscars and it's actually kinda awesome.

A certain starship captain even shows up!

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Get well soon!

I haven't seen Revolutionary Road yet. I'm sure I will one day but no rush. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, That could be. I haven't really thought that much about what Welles was trying to say because it struck me more that he was just telling a vignette type story by hitting the highlight. Those stories always leave out the descriptions of how things happen and tend to just focus on the first moment they are very pronounced.

I'm also not sure Welles was anti-American capitalism so much as he just seemed to be perpetually angry at the studios.

That said, I can definitely see your interpretation.

AndrewPrice said...

I didn't like Taxi Driver either. It felt like a movie made to win an award but with no real purpose to me.

I didn't like No Country For Old Men either. That one struck me as trying very hard to have meaning, but not really being anything more than just another slow-motion action flick in disguise.

AndrewPrice said...

No excuses, Mr. T. Max. :P

tryanmax said...

Okay, so I commented to my friend that I think Adele is attractive and he replied, "Yeah, but you like big girls." Now, was that necessary?

AndrewPrice said...

That's the way people are, my friend.

tryanmax said...

Wah, wah.

ScottDS said...

Sadly, any girl who isn't anorexic is now considered "big."

AndrewPrice said...

True. But honestly, when I see a stick-figure girl, I just want to toss her a sandwich.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this one has been mentioned, but I had to watch the movie Far From Heaven for an English class and it was dreadful, in every sense of the word. Every cliche cliche about the 50's being racist and sexist is there, to the point that it is almost comical. Thankfully this film has disappeared completely off the radar, like so many of those pretentious Oscar bait films from the early 2000's.

AndrewPrice said...

I've never heard of it, but I just looked it up and you are right -- it won all kinds of awards. It doesn't look very good though.

shawn said...

"Naked Lunch"- I'm still not sure what the heck it was about.

Commander Max said...

When people say a movie is deep, that's when my antenna go up. Especially when you hear a lot of people saying the same thing.

I agree on Kubrick, any director who cannot give a clear line on what is going on in his films. Has failed miserably on the communication front. Or nobody would stand up to him with the question. "What is going on?". It's like actors sucking up on DVD extras, they know it's crap but the show must go on(along with the paycheck).

Another one I'll toss in, Ridly Scott. Since so many were into Blade Runner, sure it looked great, but the plot was choppy. Ford's and Young's performance was stiff(when they were kissing I thought she did what she was programed to do, it was supposed to be love?).
That's where casting big names, turned into a big dud.

ScottDS said...

shawn -

Ditto! When I was at film school, a friend bought the Criterion DVD and we watched it.

And uh, yeah... I should probably see it again but I doubt one more viewing would help.

Here's the thing - I don't know if that fits the question. In order to know if a movie isn't deep, we need to understand it first! ;-)

rlaWTX said...

Pocahontas

Avatar

but I repeat myself...

PikeBishop said...

Speaking of Adele, anyone catch the most bizzare image of the whole red carpet thing? Kristin Chenowyth, who is 4'11" on her best day is is interview Adele, probably about 5' 9" and she's wearing heels, and as someone mentioned Adele's not a skinny girl. It looke like some bizarre WWE interview as Chenowith's arm was practically at full extension to reach Adele's mouth with the mike.

Koshcat said...

I would have to nominate The Matrix Trilogy. The first movie was really fun. The second one was ok and they put in all these little clues but who cares, let's see the fights. After the first one came out I think the Warchinski's thought too highly of themselves and basically over did it which ruined the last two movies.

Alex said...

Geez, is everyone here reading my mind? I would have cited Donnie Darko, American Beauty, The Matrix Trilogy, 2001: A Space Odyssey (read the book, skip the movie), Crash (more like Trash).

I have to disagree on The Wall: I don't know how anyone could possibly even argue that it is "deep"; all I know is that Pink Floyd were awesome (but Roger Waters is an insufferable anti-Semitic communist tool).

My original nominee for this category may ruffle some feathers, but I'm going with The Graduate. The premise is pretty obvious and not all that original or deep, but the execution is, how shall I say it, very sixties. And I mean that in a bad way.

PikeBishop said...

In looking back at Kane and other classics: I use the dictum

"You must judge a classic against ITS TIME rather than against TIME.

Go back and look at the cinematic and editing brilliance of Welles and Toland and then look at just about any other film made in 1942. They look like filmed stage plays.

And for comparison look at my Avatar. Go back and watch any Western made in the late sixties and then compare it to "The Wild Bunch." No comparison. I once read that the average film had about 400-600 "edits" (or seperate shots) Peckinpaugh's clasic had 2200.

ScottDS said...

Pike -

Interesting dictum! And in that respect, Kane was quite revolutionary.

Re: Kane, people have certain expectations and when those expectations aren't met, they're disappointed. "Best movie ever made, my ass!"

Time has been kind to it but the constant critical accolades work like peer pressure and that's not a good thing.

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, I'm not a fan of The Graduate either. It strikes me as a film that may have meant something at the time it was made, but today is an anachronism without any meaning to which we can relate.

I agree on Pink Floyd -- great band, but Waters in an asshole.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWXT, Pocahontvatar?

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, The Wild Bunch is awesome. :)

I agree about Kane. At the time, it was probably quite revolutionary and it had a lot of innovations. And for that, it deserves it's place. But whenever I see it at the top of Top 100 lists, I kind of shake my head because I just don't think it deserves that accolade.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, I've put up the word verification for the moment because we're under spam attack again. We got 400 comments in the past ten minutes and over 2,000 the other day.

Alex said...

Speaking of Pink Floyd, Andrew, are you guys ever going to do a series on music movies? Or have you already, and I just missed it? (lack of sleep is bad for memory, and I have a six-month old son, so forgive me if I'm missing something here!)

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, What do you mean? Do you mean a question music in film or a question on musicals?

Alex said...

Andrew, I mean films involving or by musicians; not necessarily concert films, but films more akin to, say, the movies the Beatles made, or This Is Spinal Tap, or the aforementioned The Wall, things of that nature.

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, We haven't done of those. I'll write a note and we can do it the next set.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to make a comment about Pleasantville. I watched it with a hipster friend of mine right afte it came out on Netflix. She absolutely adored it, and cheered along with the woman "finding herself" and shacking up with her bohemian artist guy.

That's all well and good, and perhaps I was unable to see it from that angle. My problem though was with the protrayal of the father/husband. Kevin H Macy did an excellent job I thought (though he is a little typecast as the kind of sad, under dog, middle-America guy), but the film puts him in a negative light. I get that he is SUPPOSED to be the kind of wishy-washy, reactionary, status quo kind of man who will get his eyes opened by this "New Reality" being thrust apon him.

My problem with it is that his character was basically a good man, who worked hard for his family and tried to do the best he could, who is being pushed forward as "The Enemy". He was trying to cope and bring the best outcome for everyone around him while they all seemed only interested in their own selfish goals.

My friend had the exact same idea, but approached it from the other side. She actively wanted him punished, wanted his world shattered, wanted everything he was, believed, and fought for to be torn down then held up to him and reticuled. My response was "Okay, so that happens. He quits his job, dumps his wife, runs off with a flaminco dancer. Who puts dinner on the table tomorrow night?"

I see this also as a problem with Benny and June (another over-rated 'Classic'). Benny and June are so fun to watch with their zany antics and goofy clothes. June's brother is a mean old troll who is more concerned with things like not walking into traffic, taking your meds, going to work every day so that we can afford our house than he is with making grilled cheese sandwhiches using a steam iron, the big meanie! It's sort of touched on that he's basically given up his life (sans his weekly poker games) to take care of her sister because she should have been committed years ago. But in the end he sees the error of his ways, learns a valuable lesson, and lets the lovebirds go on in madcap bliss. I would have loved to see the seen two weeks later with the ambulance pulling away from their new apartment and everyone looking sad.

The take away from these movies seems to be: "You're stupid. The way you live is dumb. You're uptight and just yearning to be free. We're more enlightened than you. You will be made to see the error of your ways. This will make you happy. Resistance is futile."

Thanks for letting me go on a bit. When I saw this topic today I just had to jump in. I apologize to all the comma's I've abused in the making of this post. .-)

-Drew

ScottDS said...

Anon/Drew -

Interesting comments, and as I mentioned to someone above, if you want to see the flipside of Pleasantville, check out Blast from the Past.

It's funny... I saw Pleasantville when I was in high school so, naturally, I was for anything that threatened conformity.

But as I've gotten older (and slightly wiser), I've come to see it in a different light. And not unlike American Beauty, it's another film that makes me think everything about life is miserable so I have no interest in seeing it again.

Actually, now that I think of it, the movie had the raw material (individuality vs. the collective, playing it safe vs. taking a risk, racism, etc.) but it just didn't go as deep as maybe it should have.

AndrewPrice said...

Drew, I had the same reaction actually. That film came out at a point where Hollywood really was pounding away at fathers because they wanted to prove that being a single mother was a good thing, and the result is a bunch of films that are simply offensive to me.

ScottDS said...

Nothing to add here... just comment #100.

Woo-hoo! :-)

Alex said...

Andrew,

No need to change the content of the blog on account of me, but it's nice to see you're responsive to the fans.

Regarding The Wall, and although it would make Roger Waters pass a brick, if you know what I mean, you can see that there are several conservative themes hidden in the work. I won't hi-jack this thread further, but you see resistance versus an oppressive education system, the importance of fathers and the problems their absence creates, the dangers of living a selfish, hedonistic life without a thought for others, and the problems created by constantly blaming others for your own misfortune instead of getting your head out of your posterior and doing something about it. Now that I think of it, despite the somewhat adolescent perspective, maybe The Wall is deeper than I thought...

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, Those are actually great points. I think people get caught up in the chaos of the message and Waters seemed to contribute all of his problems to war and "the system," that he clearly missed the real point. Interesting!

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I do my best to be responsive whenever possible. :)

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