Archive for the 'movies' Category

Russ Meyer, R.I.P.

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

From Roger Ebert (who, I just found out, co-wrote the screenplay for Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens) comes this fond farewell to moviemaker Russ Meyer: King of the funny skin flicks.

Prayers of the Rational

Sunday, August 29th, 2004

You know that scene in The Verdict where Paul Newman gives his closing argument? Some folks at Florida State University stole a transcript of it from, and then the latter folks let their link go 404, so I’m going to steal it again and present it to you:

So much of the time we’re just lost. We say, “Please God, tell us what is right — tell us what is true. When there is no justice, the rich win, and the poor are powerless.”

We become tired of hearing people lie — and after a time we become dead — a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims and we become victims. We become — we become weak. We doubt ourselves. We doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions and . . . we doubt the law. But today, you are the law. You are the law. Not some book. Not the lawyers. Not a marble statue or the trappings of the court. Those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer — a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say act as if ye had faith, and faith will be given to you. If we are to have faith and justice, we only need to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See . . . I believe there is justice in our hearts.

I’m reminded of that speech by the following two items I’ve read in the last few days, in which concerned citizens go out of their way to make a rational, unbiased case against voting for Bush (in the first case) and in favor of voting for Kerry (in the second case). Both authors present powerful arguments that I by-and-large agree with. But it’s not so much the arguments that I’m struck by. It’s the act of making them.

In a country where the kind of lies represented by the Swift boat ads can apparently be effective with a sizable chunk of the electorate, and people base their voting decisions on things like the weather (as described in that Menand piece I linked to this morning), merely being willing to invest the effort to make a rational case is impressive, I think. It amounts to a “fervent and frightened prayer,” in screenwriter David Mamet’s phrase, a prayer that the electorate will, in fact, behave rationally.

Anyway, from Publius of Law and Politics: The case against Bush — Part 1, the War on Terror. And from Scott Forbes of A Yank in Oz, as guest-blogged at Donald Sensing’s One Hand Clapping: The case for Kerry.


Krugman on Fahrenheit 9/11

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

I pretty much can’t not link to this, given my personal linking history. Paul Krugman’s comments on Fahrenheit 9/11: Moore’s Public Service.

More GI Joe Shorts from Fenslerfilm

Thursday, July 1st, 2004

I guess we can excuse a little enthusiasm on the part of the good people at Fensler Films, who finally have the complete set of de-evolved GI Joe public-service announcements available online for your viewing pleasure: LAST ONES!! PSA19!! PSA23!! PSA25!!

The Filthy Critic on Fahrenheit 9/11

Monday, June 28th, 2004

Still yet one more additional review of the #1 movie in America this past weekend. (By the way, have I mentioned, Bush supporters, that you have a problem on your hands with this? Because you do. I’m not saynig the movie is going to force you to renounce your Bushism. But for those tragically flawed people who don’t actually make up their minds until election day, having a powerful piece of propaganda like this out there showing Bush’s My Pet Goat moment in real time is really, really problematic. And so far, I don’t think you’ve come up with an answer for it.)

Anyway, this review is from The Filthy Critic. Having still not seen the movie myself, I can’t really evaluate the criticism, but it sounds like the sort of thing I find myself thinking, mostly, about Michael Moore.

Citizens United against Fahrenheit 9/11

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

I heard about this the other day, but haven’t really had a chance to look into it untill now. Citizens United (“America’s premier conservative research organization”) has filed a complaint with the FEC claiming that TV Ads for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 should not be allowed to air durring the month of August, becuase they make reference to President Bush, and thus: “qualify as ‘electioneering communications’” (which are not allowed to be paid for with corporate money one month prior to a Primary).

The AP and the Boston Globe both have decent stories on the complaint, which point out some interesting questions about the multitudes of issues involved: Moore’s First Amendment rights; Preventing foreign and corporate influence in the election process; and the power of the FEC to (potentially) prevent a company from marketting its completely legal product.

As usually, when controversy follows Moore, he seems to have the last word: Thanks for the free press. Again.

Kottke on Fahrenheit 9/11

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Can’t throw a rock without hitting a Fahrenheit 9/11 review these days. Here’s one by Jason Kottke that I found interesting: Fahrenheit 9/11.

Chris Parry on Hitchens on Fahrenheit 9/11

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

As you probably noticed, I couldn’t summon the energy required to refute Christopher Hitchens’ anti-Michael Moore screed point by point. And guess what? I didn’t have to, because now Hollywood Bitchslap’s Chris Parry has done just that: Slate’s Chris Hitchens does a hatchet job on Michael Moore.

Turan on Fahrenheit 9/11

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

The LA Times’ Kenneth Turan is normally a pretty tough reviewer. He occasionally gets a bee in his bonnet and trashes something I actually think is pretty good, but I’m not sure I can remember a single time when he liked a film that I ended up thinking wasn’t worth my time. So the crass Bush-hater in me is happy to see that Turan is impressed with Michael Moore’s latest: Fahrenheit 9/11. An excerpt:

What Moore has constructed in “Fahrenheit” is more ambitious and more complex than anyone had reason to expect.

This film isn’t about the Bush family relationship to Saudi Arabia, the excesses of the Patriot Act or the pitfalls of the invasion of Iraq, though it touches on those topics. Instead we get a full-blown alternate history of the last three-plus years. Moore makes a persuasive and unrelenting case that there is another way to look at things beyond the version we’ve been given.

What anger Moore has left over after savaging the administration is directed at the mainstream media for being too in thrall with the official line (“Navy SEALs rock!” exults “Today’s” Katie Couric in one clip.)

The core of “Fahrenheit’s” appeal comes in Moore’s alternating familiar images with footage many Americans may not have seen. The resulting mosaic, the cumulative effect of experiencing everything together in one place, is easily the most powerful piece of work of Moore’s career. Though it’s more likely to energize a liberal base than cause massive switching of parties, anyone who is the least bit open to Moore’s thesis will come away impressed.

Bush supporters: you have a problem.

Hitchens Is Losing It

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

Christopher Hitchens, who broke with fellow liberals in order to support the war in Iraq and has been having a very public near-nervous breakdown trying to justify that position ever since, ratchets up his rhetoric another notch in order to take on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: Unfairenheit 9/11 – The lies of Michael Moore.

Not having seen the movie, I’m not in a very good position to criticize Hitchens’ criticism. But what I can say is this: Hitchens is seriously losing it.

Hitchens compares Moore to Rush Limbaugh, which I suppose is fair on some level. Both men are partisans with a gift for weaving a certain kind of spell, one that combines a little information with a lot of entertainment in a way that helps true believers chuckle while their pre-existing views are reinforced.

Which wouldn’t be bad in and of itself. But along with the information comes a certain amount of disinformation. In Limbaugh’s case, I’d say that amount goes well beyond what an honest person, partisan or not, would include. In other words, I think Rush Limbaugh is completely aware that he’s misleading people, and does so intentionally and aggressively.

In Michael Moore’s case, though, I think the stray embellishments and misdirections are more innocent. Not because I happen to agree with Moore’s positions, or not only because of that, but because I think Mooore himself is more or less sincere in the conclusions he presents.

I’ve looked carefully at the arguments Moore’s critics have previously offered of Bowling for Columbine, and comparing those criticisms to the actual movie, I think the critics are making a mountain out of a molehill. I’m fairly confident that I’ll end up thinking the same thing about Hitchens’ criticisms of the latest movie, once I’ve had a chance to see it.

In the meantime, if you feel strongly one way or another about Michael Moore, you should read Hitchens’ piece and see what you think. Hitchens tries to weave a spell of his own with a combination of information, exaggeration, and embellishment, but it doesn’t have the power of the stuff Limbaugh and Moore do. There’s an air of desperation in Hitchens’ arguments, a sense that what we have here is a guy who’s hanging on by a very thin thread. While there’s a certain entertainment value in that, it’s a different kind of entertainment from what you get in a Michael Moore movie.

I’m not sure I can point to any particular point in Hitchens’ screed where he reveals his own fundamental insecurity. It’s more a sense that emerges from the piece as a whole, from the extended run-on assertions, the racing from one half-formed thought to the next, the hypercharged emotion.

Moore, Hitchens charges again and again, is not “serious”. (The word, or a variation of it, appears six times in the review.) But it is Hitchens who comes off as unhinged, incoherent, unserious. Or maybe it’s that he’s too serious, too caught up in defending his own increasingly untenable intellectual position on the war.

Raising the Call: Boycott the Opening Week of “I, Robot”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

(This isn’t the usual fare, but I have a pulpit and I feel compelled to use it. Besides, I’ve never mocked jbc’s LOTR and Winona fetishes, so hopefully he’ll humor me on this.)

Simply put, I want to spread the word that people should boycott the movie “I, Robot” during its opening week in protest of 20th Century Fox’s blatant abuse and misuse of Isaac Asimov’s classic book. I don’t expect that anything I say will make a dent in the movie’s bottom line, but maybe — just maybe — the studio will get the message: don’t mislead your audience.


Not Growing Up

Saturday, May 8th, 2004

I’ve mentioned how I end up going to pretty much every little-kid movie that comes out. It’s an easy way to give the Mrs. a break from tending the herd, and while some of the movies might leave something to be desired as grown-up entertainment, you get the occasional surprise.

Like last year’s Peter Pan. I ended up seeing that one with my 6-year-old son, my 12-year-old daughter, and (inadvertantly) a group of thoroughly obsessed barely-teenaged girls who sat in the row in front of us and squealed uncontrollably whenever Jeremy Sumpter (the boy who plays Peter Pan) was looking especially cute. Which was a lot. By the end of the film my daughter was disgusted with them, but I thought they added to the ambience.

Now that the movie’s out on DVD I was curious to see if I’d like it as much without the hormonally-crazed accompaniment. And it turns out that I do. This movie is amazing. It’s beautiful. And yes, it made me cry.

As with other films I’ve felt compelled to gush about here, I love it in large part because director P. J. Hogan, along with his cast and crew, was willing to risk a complete commitment to the story’s emotional potential. The downside to that is that it makes the movie easy to criticize, if that’s what you want to do. For an example, see this review from Bruce Kirkland of the Toronto Sun: A sexualized Peter Pan. Or, for someone whose panning is a good deal less repressed and more fun, see Mr. Cranky.

Mr. Cranky is funny but wrong, while Kirkland is just wrong. For some reviews that put things in proper perspective, see Roger Ebert, Michael Atkinson, and Harry Knowles.

Yes, the movie is occasionally dark, and doesn’t skirt the issue of its characters’ emerging sexuality. Attention prudish doofuses: That’s what the story of Peter Pan is about, the sanitized Disney version notwithstanding. Deal.

My son is a pretty sensitive kid, even by 6-year-old standards. I just this moment asked him if he liked the movie.


The scary parts, the serious parts, didn’t bother you?

“No. They were good.”

You sure?

(Hint of annoyance.) “They were good.”


He’s right. This whole movie is good. It’s magically, heart-achingly good. I feel really sorry for those of you who don’t have a kid or two of your own to entertain, since you might very well end up missing it. Take my advice: Go find some kid-encumbered friend or relative, and offer to babysit. Then settle in with some microwave popcorn and this movie. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I sure was.

Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush

Wednesday, May 5th, 2004

I saw this little ditty in IMDB’s Movie News, I’ll lay off the personal commentary, and just link to Mike’s Message and cite a few passages from the NY Times Article

… Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America. …

Mr. Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney’s chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb, is governor.

A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax’s distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore’s film is deemed to be against Disney’s interests not because of the company’s business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore’s film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.

Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.

Crying at Movies

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

What with the logistics of kids and babysitters, I tend not to see too many movies during their theatrical runs. (Well, except for kid movies. I see pretty much all of those, whether they deserve it or not.) Eight or nine months after everyone else has finished discussing the latest cool movie, I finally get around to seeing it on DVD, and suddenly find myself wanting to discuss it with my friends, friends who are already all talked out about whether Matrix Reloaded sucked or not (not, unless you’re willing to stipulate that the first one sucked, too), or whether Lost in Translation was an aimless piece of nothing (sorry, no) or a masterful mood piece (a-yup).

So it was something of an aberration that my wife and I saw Love, Actually in the theater a few weeks before it officially opened, at a sneak preview in Santa Barbara. The audience was chock-full of Hugh Grant/Emma Thompson/Colin Firth fans from the city’s British-expat community, which may have helped it receive an especially warm reception, but even without the supportive crowd, I’m pretty sure I would have liked the movie a lot. Anyway, I did like it a lot, and now that it’s out on DVD and I’ve seen it again, I like it even more.

I’m quite the sucker for romantic comedies. An argument can be made that Love, Actually isn’t really a romantic comedy, but is more of an extended highlight reel from six or seven of them, but the fact remains that Richard Curtis (the film’s writer and director) has a distinctive sort of output that was very much in evidence in his previous work (he wrote the screenplays for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones’ Diary), and if you liked his work there (which I mostly did) you’re probably going to like it here.

Not so, however, for Chris Orr, a writer for The New Republic. In a new review timed for the DVD release he pretty much pans everything about Love, Actually: Crap, actually. While I admit that his review’s title is kind of cute, he’s just completely, tragically wrong about the movie. It is a great film, a beautiful film, a hopeful, uplifting film. That a movie with nine (or so) separate storylines is not a mess is a tribute to Curtis’s deft writing and to his effective use of the stunningly good actors in his cast. Improbable as it seems, Curtis has taken the stuff of several light, frilly comedies, stripped it down and mashed it together, and delivered not only laughs, but a deeper movie that is actually about something.

Okay; I admit there are comic bits that aren’t going to work for everyone. For my taste, there were too many fat jokes, and the storyline about the loveless Colin (Kris Marshall), who goes to America to become a sex god and succeeds beyond any reasonable expectation, was pretty silly. (Though I liked it better on subsequent viewings.)

But those are minor quibbles, given the things the movie does right. The most unexpectedly powerful moment for me comes when Thomas Sangster, playing the 11-year-old stepson of Liam Neeson’s character, steps into Neeson’s arms to be hoisted and turned in the air, his arms spread wide in a moment of exultation that is pure, heartfelt, and thoroughly moving.


I don’t think I was particularly prone to crying at movies when I was younger, but since becoming a parent I’ve noticed a definite tendency toward emotional waterworks, especially in tear-jerking scenes involving children. I cried when I saw that scene in the theater, and cried again when I watched it on DVD, and again when I watched the DVD the second time to listen to the audio commentary. It’s powerful stuff, and it’s powerful because Richard Curtis and his cast and crew were willing to risk making a movie that talks honestly and openly about the most vulnerable of human emotions.

It’s easy to cut down a film that is sincere and hopeful about love. It’s easy to be cynical and snarky. Easy, but wrong.

This is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. If you have seen it, see it again. Go ahead and mock me in the comments for being a silly girly-man; I don’t care. I love this movie.

Oscar Predictions

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

Because I like the idea of people dangling out there in public view with predictions about unpredictable phenomena, here is my ballot, just now prepared, in anticipation of the Oscar-viewing party that will be taking place here in a few hours.

Note that these are not necessarily who I think should win, but just who I think will win. Or at least, my best guesses in my effort to secure bragging rights among the other losers who’ll be attending. Follow the link below, or scroll down, for the full picture.

Paris Hilton: Porn Director

Friday, February 27th, 2004

I saw this the other day, but the significance of the claim didn’t really register in my mind untill today. Rick Soloman has filed a lawsuit against “Marvad Corp”, for displaying still shots taken from the well known video of he and Paris Hilton having sex on their web site. The basis of his suit is copyright infringement — which is key to keep in mind, because Marvad’s lawyers have responded by claiming that as “The Producer”, he is commiting fraud by claiming copyright without the consent of Paris Hilton, “The Director”.

From their petition: “Ms Hilton offered directorial comments and physically controlled and directed the camera. Solomon’s failure to identify Ms Hilton as a co-author on the application for copyright registration renders the certificate of registration invalid and fraudulent.”

Stryker on Widescreen Movie Formats

Monday, December 29th, 2003

Stryker is tragically broken in his non-appreciation of LOTR, but otherwise makes a good point about the weirdness of people who prefer panned-and-scanned over widescreen: Challenging your beliefs.

The Cat in the Hat Sucks

Friday, November 21st, 2003

I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll hope you’ll forgive the title. But it seems a pretty safe bet, based on the assembled comments on this Defective Yeti page: The Bad Review Revue: We Did Not Like It, Not One Little Bit.

Smoke Free Movies

Sunday, October 12th, 2003

SmokeFreeMovies recently came to my attention when my girlfriend told me about a lecture (PPT) she’d just attended by Stan Glantz. Dr. Glantz is somewhat of an eccentric in the Public Health community and started the project on a lark, knowing that Big Tobaco has a history of working with major movie studios — but then he discovered that smoking in movies does significantly stimulate smoking in kids.

Personally, I thought the idea was a little goofy, but he presents some pretty interesting statistics (like: characters in movies smoke 300% as much as people in real life) and their goals are very modest, and seem completely reasonable to me. In particular, they’d like to see smoking given the same consideration as profanity and alcohol in determining if a movie should get an R Rating.

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see some of the Ads the organization has run in industry publications to promote their cause within the Hollywood system. (They are listed in reverse chronological order, so I suggested starting at the bottom and reading up). Of particular interest to me was the Ad they made after finding out about the letter writting campaign of a group of High School kids in New York who wrote 202,000 letters to various Hollywood big shots and got only two replies: one refusing delivery, and one from Julia Roberts’s people threatening legal action if they sent any more letters.

Gollum and Smeagol Review the Two Towers

Monday, September 29th, 2003

If you haven’t seen the trailer for The Return of the King yet, you must go watch it. Watch it now! Heh. It made the Mrs. start bawling, and I got pretty misty-eyed myself. Appears to be available from various places, like Apple’s download page.

But anyway, in the meantime, here’s a fun item: Gollum and Smeagol debate The Two Towers DVD.