Yes, yes, two movie posts in a row apologizing for a lack of posts. Personal reasons for running silent this time, but I promise, I am also running deep.
Three cheers to Roger Ebert for his essay "I'm a Proud Braniac," which did the geek rounds earlier this week (including disingenuous posts like this one that intentionally pulls out a punchline while leaving the set-up behind in order to foment further fanboy distress--tsk!). In answering the onslaught of Transformers 2 mail, Roger says out loud a ton of things all reviewers think, answering the various and oft-repeated charges that drive us up the wall. Bless you, sir!
My favorite part:
"But am I out of touch? It's not a critic's job to reflect box office taste. The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own. But you know that. We've been over that ground many times. What disturbs me is when I'm specifically told that I know too much about movies, have "studied" them, go into them 'too deep,' am always looking for things the average person doesn't care about, am always mentioning things like editing or cinematography, and am forever comparing films to other films.
A reader named Jared Diamond, a senior at Syracuse, sports editor of The Daily Orange, put my disturbance eloquently in a post asking: 'Why in this society are the intelligent vilified? Why is education so undervalued and those who preach it considered arrogant or pretentious?' Why, indeed? If sports fans were like certain movie fans, they would hate sports writers, commentators and sports talk hosts for always discussing fine points, quoting statistics and bringing up games and players of the past. If all you want to do is drink beer in the sunshine and watch a ball game, why should some elitist play-by-play announcer bore you with his knowledge? Yet sports fans are proud of their baseball knowledge, and respect commentators who know their stuff."
Now, that said, a movie you should see...
* The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's down and dirty drama about members of the bomb squad in the Iraq War. No politics, just soldiers doing a job. Prepare to spend two hours fully clenched.
UPDATED TO CRITERION CONFESSIONS...
* For All Mankind, Al Reinert's tribute to the race to the Moon gets a spiffy new edition from Criterion. And without knowing it, I already had tapped into Ebert's zeitgeist. Remember when we thought it was cool to go into space?
* White Dog, Samuel Fuller's notorious anti-racist movie doesn't fully hit the highest marks of its reputation, but it makes an interesting try at it.
By the way, Ebert totally disagreed with me about my recent review of I am Curious - Yellow. No, he didn't write and tell me, but you can find his reactions from when the movie first came out online here.
Some folks did, however, tell me that they liked some of my recent reviews. Specifically, my review of Lonely are the Brave was met with much excitement and positivity.
Robert Gilmore writes:
"...have had my eyes peeled for this film ever since I heard about it on a documentary about Kirk Douglass' life narrated by his son, Michael. Apparently this was the film that the younger Douglas believed best expressed his Dad's range as an actor and is in effect the archetypal Kirk Douglas performance. It is good to see that this was not a whim.
Thanks for your continued excellence in covering classic film,
Edward J. Holub, Jr., writes to share an interesting factoid:
"I read your review of 'Lonely are the Brave' and...reminded that Kirk Douglas was drawn to non-conforming characters. Rumor has it that he was considered to play Randall Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest after playing the character on stage. I believe that's why his son Michael was attached to the project."
I also like this bit of personal business from Jeff Knokey:
"...just wanted to express my enjoyment. And smug delight in finding someone who's just come across a flick I saw on first release in the theaters. I agree that it's his best picture (along with 'Paths of Glory'). I lived in Santa Fe NM for a bunch of years and once took a few days to retrace as best I could his route through the Sandia Mountains. Nasty rugged country even without May blizzards (which are wet and miserable). It was after seeing it I started noticing Walter Matthau as well. I'll check the DVD out, maybe it'll explain where in hell they got that title from."
The documentary on the disc does tell us that Kirk Douglas wanted to call the movie The Last Cowboy, but the studio saddled them with this title, which is poetic but not totally descriptive of the film.
From Jon Paul:
"[I] couldn't agree more. I saw this film once, on TV, when I was about 15 or 16 (late 1960s), and it has haunted me ever since. I especially loved the location shooting, so different than other movies of the time, shot on backlots or on 'locations' that were used in a dozen other films and TV shows. I have been waiting for this movie to hit DVD for years...."
I also received a couple of responses to Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth. From Jim Dickinson:
"I read your review of 'Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth' and...thoroughly enjoyed your anecdotes regarding him. I have had my own connections with him over the years. The first was in 1972 when he spoke in place of Ray Bradbury at a creative arts event at my high school. Mr. Bradbury had spent the night before at a nearby college, had gotten his nose out of joint from some outspoken students and was a 'no-show' at our event. As Mr. Ellison was attending, they got him to give the keynote speech. It was like an electric cattle prod to the audience. The buzz afterward was evenly divided pro & con but as a 15-year old know-it-all, I loved it. Luckily, I had an afternoon workshop with him and about 20-25 other people. However, by the time it started at least twice that many showed up SRO and he took the opportunity not to speak about the craft but to read aloud to us his short story, 'The Whimper of Whipped Dogs.' I had not heard it before and his reading of it was
chilling on a hot afternoon. I still remember it so vividly 37 years later. The other connection involved my girlfriend in the early '80s whose smoking hot sister was 'dating' Harlan. We tried to set up a dinner together but could never get together, much to my everlasting regret. She did have one funny story about the 'pod' in his home where he could seal himself off from the rest of the house/world. Sort of like a deprivation chamber for the mind. Quite an interesting character and an imposing intellect."
And quite happily, a note from the film's director:
"I must say, it is a pleasure to read a review of the film I MADE, and not the film that someone WANTED me to make.
And even better, a postcard from the man himself:
That is one swell review. Gracious, kind and expansive. Youse is a good guy.
Doesn't get better than that, does it?
Current Soundtrack: various from One Dove, incl. remixes and B-sides
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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich