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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—18 September 2009


Crime And Punishment In Toronto: In a triumph for moviegoers everywhere...okay, in a triumph for film festival attendees everywhere...okay, in a triumph for film festival press people who are sufficiently caffeinated everywhere, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells chronicles his encounter with that maddening specimen known at the Film Fest Napper, or rather, The Film Fest Snorer. Declining to title his post "Did Someone Call Me Snorer," Wells depicts himself heroically trying to redirect the offending noisemaker. Getting no satisfaction from civility, he snaps a photo of the blackguard (my entry for the nonexistent photo-caption contest: "Man, Simon Pegg has really let himself go!") and earns the applause of his followers.

I'm of two minds about this sort of thing. I think everyone on the film festival beat has had at least one mortifying snooze moment. First time I went to Toronto, I napped through about 20 minutes of...wait for it...Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us. Don't think I snored though—Dave Kehr was sitting next to me and we're friendly, so he would have told me or woke me or something. But if Wells' account is accurate, well, the guy shoulda just got up and left and downed a bag of M&Ms and a few double espressos and maybe snorted up half an eight ball before going to the next couple of screenings. The thing is, you're supposed to learn how to do this stuff. (By the way, in case you were concerned, I did eventually re-experience Wind, and stayed awake the whole time, and found it thoroughly wonderful.)

Back to Wells: his heroism proved short-lived; he subsequently put up a welter of gush about Rodrigo Garcia's Mother and Child, complete with defensive you-can't-tell-me responses to imagined caveats ("...sophisticated filmgoers of a certain age are going to cream over this -- trust me. All right, don't trust me...I don't care. I know what I know and I go to sleep with that every night." Okay, okay, we believe you!). He later nonchalantly copped to posting said gush having walked out of a screening thirty minutes before the ending, inspiring a fair amount of disapprobation (including some silly self-righteousness from yours truly). It's so hard to be a saint in the city...

So, in the tradition of "How long does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop," I ask, "How long do you need to pronounce a film a 'masterpiece,' or 'as good as it gets' or what have you?" My personal best was about ten minutes into Rivette's Histoire de Marie et Julien. Of course I stayed for the whole thing, but I knew what I knew and I went to sleep later that night.

Slight Return: We know we promised to lay off that Poland guy, but "fag-hag?" Really?

Prose To Kick Puppies By: Peter Hall at Cinematical is very excited: "I've seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are cause grown men to shed tears. And while I may not share so strong a reaction to it, it's hard to deny that Spike Jonze's gift for truly beautiful imagery combined with Dave Eggers' (the brilliant author behind the WTWTA adapted screenplay) talent for reducing all of us to vulnerable children has created a palpable tingle in the film loving air." I didn't know that reducing us all to vulnerable children was one of Eggers' signal talents, actually, but I'm glad to learn so, I suppose. Geez, what can't the guy do? Nice use of the verb "reduce," by the way. "Vulnerable children:" is that as in "Tony couldn't fly/Tony died?" Just asking.

Armond White-ism Of The Week: "Today, multicultural pop feels less compelling partly because its immediate inspiration and social urgency are gone, replaced by society’s increasingly familiar crossbred—what ’80s British pop magazines called 'beige'—reality." You can tell A.W. really misses those British pop magazines, no? From White's review of Claire Denis' 36 Shots of Rum, a very special piece indeed—one of those positive White reviews that makes you think you'd rather slit your wrists than see the film in question, so ponderous are the descriptions and ponderings. A shame, as Denis' film very much deserves to be seen and hence should have a long engagement at New York's Film Forum.

I wasn’t going to nitpick, but that’s what comments are for! Either I missed a shot, or Claire Denis’ film is a mere 35 Shots of Rum. Maybe she should have kicked it up one last shot, though.
Prose to Kick Puppies By made me laugh so hard the vulnerable child inside me threw up on his Keds.
@ John S.: Ooops! I could have used that extra shot myself!
So, in “35 Shots of Rum”, does “Straight, No Chaser” make an appearance? :::ducks:::
Dear GK, I always enjoy your blog posts (and reviews) and dug the Toronto anecdote above. But your pot-shots at Aaron Hillis’ review seem unfair and beneath you, really. All in good fun, I guess, but it just seemed off-target and more personal than it deserves. I’ve also seen that movie (not sure if you have, maybe you have) and am pretty sure he’s referencing the spelling of “Niggaz” in NWA… Anyway, to each their own, I suppose. Only a suggestion, but perhaps a blog post next time that attempts to focus positive light on things/reviews/films/articles, stepping aside from those that make you irritable? We’re all on this sinking ship (film criticism, and excuse the horribly trite metaphor) that desperately needs to be lifted, or we all go down. Just my humble opinion. Best wishes.
The post referred to by Mr. Phillips has been removed.
Some happy celebratory posts about good writing would be fine, but there is an awful lot of bad writing / bad thinking out there, and if we want film criticism to mean anything, Glenn’s zero tolerance approach seems fair enough. I wouldn’t have the guts to do it, but I love reading it. It’s also fair enough to comment when you think he’s got it wrong — thus, some kind of additional balance should emerge.
re: Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us. I attended an interview and screening by Mr. Kiarostami for this very film a few years back at NYU. When asked something to the effect of, “How do you like your audience to respond to your movies?” the maestro said something like, “I like them to have a little nap.” Now, I can’t say I have any sort knowledge of Farsi humor, but he seemed rather dry. This did create a titter in the audience as they tried to determine if he was being sage or just joking. So, I guess, don’t feel bad about catching a couple of Zs during a Kiarostami film. He did not, although say rather snoring was permissible.

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