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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—11 September 2009

A Note On The Illustration: Not to be all self-indulgent, or anything, but it will all make sense here.

I Found Your Diary. Actually, You Left It Out. Actually, You Advertised Leaving It Out: It's an interesting side-effect, it seems, of the death of print journalism and the rise of internet journalism: film festival coverage often reads like diary entries. Particularly at the outset, before the films can be seen. Hey, look at this guy I saw at the airport, doesn't he look like David Carr? Whoa, the wi-fi in this burg, despite some superficial improvements, is still pretty crappy. Hey, I don't have enough hangers in my hotel room, for heaven's sake! Hey, my internet access is kinda dubious too! And so on. One supposes that complaints about internet access and wi-fi constitute something of a reader advisory. Nevertheless. It seems that the personal touch is a real hallmark of internet film fest writing—you won't, for instance, read about any of Harlan Jacobson's problems in his Cannes dispatches for USA Today, and while A.O. Scott and/or Manohla Dargis might make note of the weather or ambiance of where they're filing from, they're not likely to detail their inconveniences. Two questions: what do you think drives this sort of thing—mere self-indulgence, the "feed me" ethos of website/blog maintenance, or something else entirely? Second question, do you like this approach? Does it work for you, are you engaged/diverted by it, or do you just want to hear about the goddamn movies?

In the spirit of removing planks from one's eyes, I admit that I myself am not blameless in the respect described above. See here. Boy, those were the fucking days.

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, And, Understanding?: His soul riven by the pain, hatred, and misery that haunts Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells determines to transform his site into one where only thrifty, brave, clean, reverent and pertinent to movie love comments are allowed to bloom. His solution? A "Stalinist Purge," and/or "Night of Long Knives" for "snarkheads." Hey boys and girls, can you spell "inherent contradiction?" The resulting thread is a veritable That's Entertainment of mote-in-your-eye versus plank-in-mine of accusation and recrimination. ("I believe in beauty, redemption, catharsis and the daily cleansing of the soul. I live for the highs of the mind -- for the next nervy retort, impertinent crack, witty turn of phrase, turnaround idea or wicked joke," says The Man in articulating his credo. That's awesome, dude. Remember this one? "You've got to get up every morning/With a smile in your face/And show the world all the love in your heart/The people gonna treat you better/You're gonna find, yes you will/That you're beautiful as you feel." Maybe not, you don't strike me as a big Carole King fan. But anyway...)

How's the love experiment working out? Not so great. In a later post, wherein Wells avows that he can tell how good a film director you're going to turn out to be by merely looking in your eyes, J.W. rages that he can't ban snarkheads via iPhone, which brings to mind memories of that animated sitcom Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home. Remember kids, it's all in the name of elevating discourse!

Armond White-ism Of The Week: Go back in time with A.W., to a screening, at an undisclosed location, of the last Tyler Perry movie. Not the current one. The last one. When was it? We don't know. Where was it? No clue, won't get one. Such specifics are for politically confused hipsters in any event. "As a screening of Tyler Perry’s previous opus, Madea Goes to Jail, came to its treacly end, a stout, middle-aged black woman said to her cohorts, 'Huh? Is that all!' It’s gotten to the point that even Tyler Perry’s core audience has become more demanding. The slovenliness of Meet the Browns, Madea Goes to Jail and the tortuous if dramatic plotting of Why Did I Get Married?, Daddy’s Little Girls and The Family That Preys doesn’t pass muster among moviegoers with (undervalued) sophistication about the pop culture they enjoy." Even? If? Undervalued?

Unless We Get A Little Crazy: I don't know if you've been following the series that just wrapped over at GreenCine Daily, all about insanity in cinema. I'm sure it's admirable, but I have a hard time every time getting past the mesmerizing byline: Simon Augustine, M. Div. "Simon Augustine" is evocative enough for a frequently lapsed Catholic such as myself, but what really sells it is the "M. Div.," which stands for "Master of Divinity." Knockout! Various internet searches turn up precisely nothing by this person. Is he a fictional character? If not, how does GreenCine editor Aaron Hillis meet such interesting people?

Big Balls: I never thought I'd say such nice things about Brian DePalma's Body Double as I wind up doing in my piece "The Pleasures Of Being Cuckolded (Or Is It Castrated?): Notes inspired by some links between Brian DePalma's Hi, Mom (1970) and Body Double (1984)." But the DePalma Blogathon, concocted by the fine folks at Cinema Viewfinder, proves a superb venue from whence varied critics and bloggers can reconsider the work of this ever-provocative filmmaker, and if you've ever had a violent or perplexed or delighted response to a DePalma film you'll get something out of checking it out.

Re: those diary entries, it really all depends on the quality of the writing. I really like Filip Bondy’s little dispatches from Wimbledon in the Daily News, for example. It may be partly the context—I’m not expecting to read anything particularly witty or self-effacing in the DN sports section—but it’s also that you get a sense of what it’s like to be covering the tournament on a day-to-day basis. And the tone is never, “Oh, poor me that has to put up with internet access problems or whatever.” Perhaps he has an innate understanding that many of his readers would happily take his place.
The social (and anti-social) experience of the film festival is just as important to me as the films, so I want the discussion placed within its viewing space, and that’s not just the theatre, but what surrounds the theatre too.
I’ve been struggling with that same “personal diary entry vs. helpful mood setter” quandary. Mr. Ebert addresses it quite nicely here, I think: As for my own verdict, I still don’t know. As Josh Ralske stated above, I too think it depends on the quality of the writing and the voice/attitude behind those words. Like the movies we’re watching, this is all very s-u-b-j-e-c-t-i-v-e.
I don’t like the diary approach. It reminds me of the mumblecore movies I’ve watched and didn’t like: fishing for meaning (and, really, I’m looking for information, not meaning) by being mundane, day-to-day, “real”. When I read festival news, I just wanna hear about the goddamn movies — how they were received, maybe what the director said in a press conference before / after, that sort of thing — for the purpose of remembering what to watch next year, when the films become available outside of festivals.
Yes, I’m a real person! Thank you for noting my article – I hope you can get past the byline and read the rest…! I just discovered this site, and it’s very much like one I was writing for called Filmcatcher, where I worked for a really cool editor named Damon Smith (same set up: watch, read, comment). Unfortunately that site is on indefinite hiatus, so I wanted to see if I might be able to write something for The Auteurs. I just started back up as a freelance film critic after a long illness – that’s why there is not much by me floating around yet. Glenn, is there an editorial department where I could send queries or submissions? Regardless, I’m happy to have discovered this site and joined and I’m going to take a look around…(the middle name is Paul, which makes things worse or better, not sure). Oh yeah, and I noticed there are a bunch of posts about ‘disturbing" films – my next article for GreenCine is "Disturbing Night At The Movies’ a list of the top 25 or so – should be fun! Thanks Simon
Simon, thanks for solving this mystery! Contact me at and I’ll give you the info you seek.
As to the ‘diary entry’ style of writing, it depends on the author. If you write in a witty and interesting manner, I’m likely to read about anything you’re doing. Look how interesting David Foster Wallace made that Lobster Festival, for example. That guy could visit a port-a-potty on a construction site in Philadelphia and I’d want to read about it (of course he’s dead, so that adds to the buzz). Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of wit and writing ability on these, the internets (not on this site, obviously). I appreciate your stamina in being able to keep up with the exploits of Jeffery Welles, as I stopped caring a few years ago. Keep up the good work!
Supporting Josh’s “keep up the good work” proposal. I read the notebook often but never have any constructive to say. Hopefully it will encourage the writers to know that there are probably more of our kind, appreciating their posts in silence. Keep up the good work!

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