Ari, you don’t like The Warriors … or Dances With Wolves … and now, “Schindler’s List is a bad film …”
Exactly what makes your cut?
The Warriors is fun. I never said I didn’t like it. Just that it was overrated. I’m not sure how disliking Dances With Wolves and Schindler’s List creates impossible standards of what I like (in fact if I take a quick look at your profile, Christopher, we probably have more common than we don’t) but it does mean that I have a strong dislike for simple-minded self-important filmmaking. Let’s put it this way, for a film that deals with a similar topic, Little Big Man is 100X better than Dances With Wolves. For films that deal with the Holocaust, Europa Europa, La Tregua, The Grey Zone, and the Pianist are all far better than Schindler’s List (although Schindler’s List is much better than Life is Beautiful, the worst film on the topic that I’ve seen).
Ralch, I’m not sure why you tried to “take apart” my argument when you didn’t dispute anything or even try to give an argument against what I’m saying. And, no, I’m not fucking kidding. “Telling a story” means nothing at all. The value of what it’s telling is precisely what’s at question. And, yes, Costner’s involvement in a casino enterprise is relevant to the discussion because it unveils how he himself is guilty of ignoring contemporary native reality while mythologizing a past. So, again, what exactly is the political point of the film? You take its message and thus its value as a given.
I do not dispute because your are asking me to justify a “point” of a humanistic nature under utilitarian terms. You might as well ask “Are these Native Americans useful at all to our progress as a society?”. It does speak for itself as a film. It is not an essay, but a story with elegiac notes. I was hoping you actually were kidding.
No, I was asking you to justify your own prior comment that the film is “more important than it is good” which then proceeded to argue for its importance in explicitly utilitarian terms (in “raising awareness”).
I haven’t seen Dances With Wolves and probable won’t unless maybe a million other films I haven’t seen disappear. I’m with you on Schindler’s list, Ari. The film is well shot but, at it’s core it is pretty much the same film as Jurassic Park, Jaws or many of Spielberg’s . Unstoppable monsters vs. helpless victims. The subject matter is vitally important, the film is hopelessly shallow.
There was a hilarious interview that Costner did on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” when he was promoting Swing Vote. Conan kept, seemingly, insulting him unwittingly. Plus, Costner pulled out a sheet of paper and read off how much in royalties he gets from his films (apparently they play more in europe).
“Waterworld: 68 cents. That’s paying for itself.”
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching him on screen, except, I kind of enjoyed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when I was 10, but that soon passed.
Yes, Dimitris, it was John Berry. I get the two confused all the time. As far as best cinematography is concerned, I don’t have anything else to compare it to that’s better, since I haven’t see the other films you mention.
Costner as a filmmaker is right up there with that other great oscar winning director Mel Gibson. Puke. They both put me to sleep. Gibson is a more loathsome person than Costner, but both belong in that middle brow school of filmmaking ie. Ron howard, Barry Levinson, Robert Redford you get my drift, and what do they all have in common. They all won best director Oscars for crap movies. .
For one thing, Fuck You, Ralch, this is the only reason I don’t watch Dances with Wolfs, being picked over Goodfellas, that is fucking impossible, Goodfellas, is one of thee greatest Gangster Films ever made, It being snubbed made me shun the Academy forever, anyone who says Dances with Wolfs is better than Goodfellas, either hasn’t seen Goodfellas, or has a Vendetta against Scorsese, I respect everybody opinion, but yours is complete bull fucking shit.
I think Goodfellas is a better film, although overlong. Not crazy about Lorraine Bracco’s performance, either. Mary McDonnell, however, was great in Dances with Wolves… ( :-D)
Man alive, you’re making me want to defend Costner, Ira, by comparing him to Mel Gibson. Nothing Costner’s done is even as remotely offensive as anything Gibson as done. I’ll take Costner’s misguided liberalism over Gibson’s Catholic fascism any day of the week. At least Costner has good intentions. I also don’t understand the Oscar fuss. I think it’s a mark of pride for a director not to get an Oscar. Why the outrage? Most of my favorite American directors never won an Oscar. I was sad when Scorsese finally won for a film that didn’t deserve to win.
I agree with Dimitris. I don’t know a lot of people outside the U.S. that enjoyed Open Range as much as those within. Perhaps it’s something to do with growing up with that kind of aesthetic, or not (as mentioned earlier, the Proposition was a much better western). Anyway, Costner isn’t a great director by any stretch of the imagination. Dances with Wolves was alright. He’s just doesn’t have any individuality as a director. No vision. Pretty typical fare really.
And Ralch, simply because a film lights on an important topic doesn’t automatically make it a great film. Yes, Native Americans have been underrepresented (an understatement actually), but that’s not going to save Dances with Wolves from being the lackluster film that it is.
“And Ralch, simply because a film lights on an important topic doesn’t automatically make it a great film.”
I never made that connection. I have no problem with people thinking DwW is a lackluster, mediocre or terrible film. I like it very much, but that is because it appeals and gets to me and I think it has merit on various levels, regardless of whether it consolidates Costner as an auteur or not.
The film’s importance is a topic apart from its quality. Pay more attention to what you read, Mr. Croix.
“I don’t know a lot of people outside the U.S. that enjoyed Open Range as much as those within.”
Careful guys. I could flip that around and point out that Angels & Demons was a lot more popular outside the U.S. than inside.
And why do people criticize a film by saying another film was better? I’ve never understood that mentality.Yeah ok The Proposition was a better western. So what? Unforgiven was better than The Proposition so does that mean The Proposition sucks? And The Searchers was better than Unforgiven, so does that mean Unforgiven sucks? You see where I’m going. Can’t Open Range just be judged on it’s own merits? If it sucks it sucks. If it’s good it’s good. I think multiple films in a genre can equally be deemed good.
Regarding Costner and Gibson, Costner may be a better director but Gibson is a much better actor. I’ll take Lethal Weapon over Field of Dreams any day of the week.
“Careful guys. I could flip that around and point out that Angels & Demons was a lot more popular outside the U.S. than inside.”
Just to clarify, I think Dimitris was talking about critics and cinephiles, not the masses of any countries. I could be wrong but that’s how I read it.
I never said that Open Range sucked becuase the Proposition was better, I only mentioned the film because someone said something about it earlier. Open Range was alright. Like Costner himself it was unimpressive but decent. And with the U.S. comment, I mean that perhaps the affinity for it derived from being more culturally insync with the subject, no criticism of the U.S. or anything.
yes Mike,i was talking abt this stronghold,if i were to say masses,then believe me,i know a lot of people who worship this Notebook trash than all the women in the U.S. do ;)
and besides,here in Auteurs,the masses are of no importance to me…
and Fredo,Proposition might be somehow inferior to Unforgiven but its significance makes it most of the times to qualify on the same league as with Unforgiven,the league of Open Range is wayyy below..
Lester,i know it was John Barry who wrote Dances music,why are you explaining it to me? :P maybe you meant Ralch?
I wouldn’t say that Dances With Wolves is, in any significant way, about Native Americans, or at least not exactly. I would say it is more about coming to terms with the abuse they suffered at the hands of the U.S. government and its people. It is, to a large extent, like a time travel movie in which Lt. Dunbar represents Costner’s, and by extension our, modern sensibility; beginning from ignorance or disinterest in Native tribes and U.S. interactions with them, presuming some generalized sense of our government is behaving responsibly or is doing what is necessary, and then slowly growing to realize that this isn’t the case, that what he’s learned has been lies, that the native tribes are not savages as portrayed by those with a stake in wiping them out, but are people just as we are. Dunbar in this sense stands outside of realistic time and becomes a sort of projection of Costner’s changing feelings on the history of North America. The native tribes then are not the direct subject of the film but symbolic representations of the guilt Costner seems to feel regarding “our” role in their destruction.
This, of course, doesn’t mean the film is profound, in fact I would suggest it isn’t. It has the effect of absolving modern audiences from real and on-going culpability in the fate of the Native American’s still living in, often, squalid conditions and simultaneously pats us on the back for our being so much wiser than our predecessors. Lt. Dunbar’s acceptance into the tribe is troubling because it presumes, in some sense, that his new “modern” understanding is all that is needed for forgiveness from the Native Americans and works as a form of apology for past wrongs. By separating himself, as Dunbar,from the actions of the other white men he seems to be, in effect, saying that we wouldn’t do the same things again, we know better now, we aren’t like those people then. It is a fine first step to comes to terms with the real history of the U.S. but I think he presumes much too far here. It is one thing to take on the symbolic role of the white men in showing an understanding of their role in genocide, but it is entirely another to presume simply doing so is enough to win the affections of those whom such actions have been perpetrated against.
I have to side with those that find Costner a decently adept, but intellectually undistinguished director much in the vein of Ron Howard and others. I do find however he has an interesting persona that could still be used effectively is he hadn’t come to be seen as box office poison in recent years. His best work, perhaps unsurprisingly, seems to come when playing characters from more blue collar backgrounds, characters not that well educated but somewhat savvy, athletes and characters from westerns are an excellent fit for him, and he is better than most actors in those roles since he has a physical believability in his actions that non-sporting actors just don’t have, as well as his ability to show that peculiar mix of boyishness and underlying anger at being treated boyishly that seems to often come from those who make their living with their bodies like athletes and blue-collar workers do. He is one of a small amount of Hollywood actors who doesn’t seem to need to be treated as if he was brilliantly smart and that is a skill of no small use sometimes.
As for the cinematography debate, don’t confuse the Academy’s lousy voting record on the Best Picture with that of the Best Cinematography. Only other cinematographers vote on the award and the list of winners is much more distinguished than that of Best Picture winners.Here’s the list if you’re intereseted; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_Award_for_Best_Cinematography
That said, it seems like there is a greater emphasis given to filming great landscapes outdoors than there is studio work, and, I imagine, there is a propensity to reward those one knows and likes personally as there would be in any fellowship like this so those form overseas are not as likely to be rewarded. I also must say that there is usually more great cinematography in any given year than there are great pictures, so making an outright terrible decision is much harder since there is such a high level of skill represented by all the nominees, as well as by many of those not nominated. It helps that cinematography has a much stricter technical component than say acting or directing where interpretation plays a much greater role. (Not that there isn’t an interpretive side to lighting or a technical side to directing, but it is just easier to measure the difference in a more qualitative way in the former I think.)
Wow, that’s far more words than I ever thought I would type about Kevin Costner, weird…
Wow, that is a lot of words on Dances with Wolves!
I would quibble with your assessment that the Academy has a better record in the Best Cinematography category. Is Slumdog’s cinematography even worth a nomination, let alone a win? Hell no, not when compared to Doyle, Savides, or even Pfister’s work on The Dark Knight. The Academy has a long standing tradition of excluding great DPs in the same vain that they do directors. Gordon Willis, who is arguably one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) cinematographers in the history of cinema was only nominated twice – and NEVER won! And you know what films he was nominated for? Zelig and The Godfather III. The guy shot All the President’s Men, Manhatten, and The Godfather and yet his only recognition from the Oscars is for Zelig and Godfather 3? Come on. The Oscars are weak in all categories.
Excellent post Greg. Your analysis of Dances With Wolves I think is pretty much spot on. Incidentally – what would you have voted for in the cinematography category that year?
Gordon Willis is great but he has done much better stuff than Godfather III who was nominated,seriously…part II had the most bleak tones for example thanks to him….(he is one of the most excellent ones,no doubt,but there’s not just ONE great)
again with the Oscar smalltalk,damn..well..i’ll play the game…i’d vote for Storaro for Dick Tracy or Rousselot for Henry and June(2 amazing cinematographers that they had to go to the U.S. to be recognized,a shame..)
outside of the bloody Oscars,i’d go with Pierre Lhomme for Cyrano and the double collaboration for Ju Dou…and War Requiem and Match Factory Girl and the 2 Oscar choices,and others i forget…
Dean Semler for Dances,so what?
Oh, I agree, I don’t think the Academy is great when it comes to cinematographers, just much much better than they are when it comes to picking best pictures. I do think there is a lot of behind the scenes buddy buddy voting going on, but at least the nominations are often respectable, not worthy of being laughed off the stage like the best film choices are. Out of the nominees that year I leaned towards Vittorio Storaro’s work on Dick Tracy as being the one I would have voted for, but I am a sucker for studio work so take that as you will. Over all, I’d have to look more deeply into the matter since I don’t have a good list of what came out that year. Offhandedly, Mo’ Better Blues stands out in memory, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, and Cyrano de Bergerac were impressive, Wild at Heart was interesting and I seem to recall liking the look fo State of Grace, The Sheltering Sky, and Henry and June in lesser degrees. I was also quite impressed with Hardware’s look for the budget it must have had, but I’m sure there were other films that I’ve watched more recently from that year that were as good since the list I have of that year is mostly Hollywood films.
Oh, definitely Ju Dou would be on the short list as well, I missed that one the first time.
Greg,true,Hollywood films come in mind most of the times because it’s easy promotion…not that DIck Tracy didn’t have a fine cinematography but why should we forget the obscure ones?just because there are some Oscars,it doesn’t mean we’ll give them a positive or negative attitude all the time,we can simply ignore them.
for starters,Dances had too many nominations and in cinematography it needn’t be there the first place…
Its been a little while since I’ve seen it, but aside from the haircuts, I found Dances with Wolves to be a great film.
Well, I could hardly disagree with the idea that non-Hollywood films deserve more notice. They certainly do, but without a handy guide to the films of 1990 nearby I had to rely on a list I made around that time which doesn’t have many films from other parts of the world on it since I don’t get much chance to watch them until many months or years after the fact if at all. Distribution determines as much of the way we view a the history of film as anything, hell, more than anything, even promotion comes second to those who really want to find good films from wherever they are made. So, to be clear, I am not boosting Hollywood over any other part of the world, but being from the U.S. it is almost inevitable that I will see more films from here than anywhere else, and my choices will be less constrained by someone elses idea of what should be viewed.
That said, two things are also important to keep in mind regarding the Hollywood vs the World debate. One is that Hollywood does excel at the technical aspects of production, which isn’t to say that there isn’t great technicians elsewhere, but that the average level of technique is quite high there so in less interpretive aspects of film-making Hollywood does quite well. Secondly, and somewhat contradictorily I suppose, it is hard to get a good grasp on the “typical” film from areas of the world other than those in which we live since we tend to see a hand-picked few, the alleged best, or at least the most likely to be appreciated.So while the heights of film-making may be greater outside of Hollywood, the depths can be pretty low indeed. Stories as ridiculous as the worst of Hollywood but with even less technical competence. That, of course, isn’t as likely to be true from areas with equally vibrant and long standing traditions of film-making like Japan and France, but even in those cases the money put into films can play a big part in how well-made they are and who makes them. Hollywood “steals” so much of the best talent from around the world because they can throw money around and entice the best to come here. Of course their idea of the best in the world is predominated by the notion of who will provide the biggest box office returns so many great artists are ignored, which is good and bad since seeing some directors get the budgets and help required to make the films they want would be wonderful, but having them remain in their own countries often means they are free of the restraints of having to provide big box office returns on their films. So they keep working with more limited financial means but with more freedom to experiment and develop new language for film. It’s a strange mixed bag since many great directors often must struggle with other sorts of censorship problems in their home countries. It’s sometimes hard to tell which is worse, lack of financial backing or government interference. In any case, I heartily agree that Hollywood is not the innovative engine of film-making; it is instead where film-making goes that has already been tested and is ready for further production in similar modes. While the occasional odd work escapes that is truly innovative or the occasional film-maker breaks free and finds an audience for ground breaking work, usually in genre pieces, it isn’t where I would look for bold new visions.
Regarding Dances cinematography, I do wonder if the added difficulty of working with natural lighting, as opposed to the more readily controlled studio lighting, should be considered more seriously, or more seriously by me at least. It seems like outdoor photography is more highly regarded than indoor or studio photography by those in the industry, which means while I’m considering it only from the final result on screen there are those that might be thinking more of the inherent difficulty of the work accomplished. Presuming that could be the case, and it is only a presumption since I don’t know that much about the specifics of the work involved, I can accept a film like Dances with Wolves might be more impressive from a technical point of view even if it is less impressive artistically than some others made that same year.
i am glad you refer to it as Hollywood and not as the cinema of United States,in conclusion i mean..
i too being a non-English speaking person(originally)have come to check more English language films than usual,primarily because of my passion for English philosophy and history and secondary,to train in the medium of the language…
yet,distribution needs to change,if not for the benefit of other countries,at least for the benefit of Cinema regardless of language…i don’t blame Dances for being a film belonging to the Oscar shortlist(because every Costner film belongs in that degrading category..),i blame the System of United States Commercialism that has brought Dances’ status to a higher degree than other films deserve it(and am not saying it to promote a Mission or a Black Robe or an Apocalypto,speaking of all tastes,hehe)
in the end,it’s mainly the public’s fault all around the world that they actually “buy” this stuff that’s been served as something for granted…you know,the common fact that we “must” know the Oscar picture winner and NOT the Goya,Cesar or Donatello to name a few winners…this trend has withered and unfortunately,not many know of it(outside of Auteurs site i mean..)…well,maybe amidst the forums here too…
Dances with Wolves is a GREAT film. genuinely moving, epic, quiet and a story to tell. Whilst I also like Goodfellas I do think Dances is one of the better movies of its time. People tend to forget it was called Costners Folly before release (a part-subtitled overlong dead genre western – like thats gona succeed!). Agree Open Range is awesome too (Wyatt Earp hoever correctly lost out to Tombstone). It’s a shame Costne is now pilliored so much now – even if much was of his own making…