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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—23 October 2009

But Not Me Baby, I'm Too Precious, I Hadda...: Oscar blogger and World's Biggest Sunrise Fan Tom O'Neil is perturbed that Precious (Full title: Precious Based On The Novel "The Charterhouse Of Parma" By Stendhal, oh sorry, Precious Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire) didn't get nominated for a Gotham award this year. And he knows who's to blame: "is this just one of those ridiculous, irrelevant side shows we should all just ignore because it's a fluke — a case of huffy film critics acting stubbornly against a popular trend when permitted to decide the nominees of an awards group?"

I know, right? Effing film critics and their huffiness and their effing refusal to go along with a popular trend. What's up with that? For more of O'Neil's critic-hating, check here. As a Snob and a Bad Person, I have to admit: part of me is hoping that Precious Based On The Novel "Can You Forgive Her?" By Anthony Trollope gets into theaters and lays a big fat (you'll excuse the term) egg. And that all of this putative "buzz" around it will pretty much dissolve right there. Wouldn't that be something? It actually could happen, too, which would work out great for me, because if you think I'm actually looking forward to seeing the damn thing you are too high.

But seriously: so much of the publicity surrounding Precious has come off like a preemption of sorts; an attempt to create a sacred cow (again, you should excuse the term) that's automatically above/immune to criticism. It might be "worthy" but it also might not be any good. (In a scathing Slant review, Ed Gonzalez calls the film "one for the Stuff White People Like canon," which seems borne out by O'Neil's piety about the picture; on the other hand, judging from the verdicts of some of my fellow New York Film Festival press screening attendees, it's more like Stuff White People Are Afraid To Admit They Don't Like.) All of which makes O'Neil's presumptive bullying come off even sillier than it normally would. Which is plenty silly indeed.

Greatest Comments Thread Ever?: Maybe it's on account of it being a slow news week, but the action at Dave Kehr's site, predicated on a batch of horror DVD reviews, has grown into a virtual Finnegans Wake of cinephilic erudition, touching on Doris Day, camp, Broken Blossoms,Johnny Guitar, the concept of the "ridiculous" in film, Howard Hawks, and much, much more. Maybe Joyce is the wrong reference here—perhaps one of Borges' mythical libraries is the more apt metaphor. In any event, a lot of the conversation puts most of what we call film blogging to shame. And another lot of it is just kinda weird.

Film Blogosphere Revolving Door: It was a question that once seemed as insoluble as "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?" That was, "How many years will the otherwise dignified New York Times writer David Carr countenance having to refer to himself as 'The Bagger'?" And now we know the answer: four. Carr, who really couldn't trade on outsider status for much longer,hangs up his Oscar-blogging shoes, and his persona of a movie-liking cynic bemused by awards campaigns, this year. Times style writer Melena Ryzik takes over on December 1. Ryzik once observed "Catherine Deneuve is not as universally beloved as one might think." So okay, then.

"For better or worse...I am the biggest careerist I know." proclaimed Spout's Karina Longworth last week. And this week Spout co-founder Paul Moore announced that Longworth's tenure as editor of the Spout blog would end after October 31. "We’ve amiably decided to part ways," Moore says, "the result of a difference in vision over the direction of SpoutBlog." Hmm. Wait, lemme guess...actually, I'd better not go there.

Anyhoo, lest anyone think there's some sort of cause/effect linking the two pronouncement, rest assured: "I’ve known for awhile that this was going to happen and I think I’m as psychologically prepared for it as I can be," Longworth says on her own blog.

So it looks like after Halloween (how's that for timing?), Spout's not gonna have any original content up at all. The general consensus is that Longworth will land on her feet. But where am I gonna go for those crazy Christopher Campbell lists? Campbell's tenure at Spout has of late coincided with his blogging over at MTV.com, but said blogging doesn't include those crazy lists— you know, the stuff that only he could come up with, like, "Seven Dirty Dancing Spin-Offs That Could Have Inspired The Clitorectemy Scene In Lars Von Trier's Antichrist," that sort of thing. (Okay, I made that one up.) I NEED LISTS, CAMPBELL!!!

Armond White-ism Of The Week: "...von Trier has no sense of humor—beyond being sadistic. Images of bound, wounded, still-born animals culminate in He and She maiming each other, including She’s self-inflicted clitorectomy—the counterpart, I guess, to castrating He, then masturbating him to ejaculate blood. It’s only funny if you’re looking for significance." Speaking of Antichrist. Heck, I didn't know it was supposed to be funny at all!

Speaking Of Antichrist, Again: I cannot believe I missed this, but apparently Willem Dafoe was explaining the film on Thursday morning to Regis Philbin and that hyper, skinny woman who took over for Kathy Lee. That had to have been awkward!

Loved the CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? joke— while it doesn’t have any of the “controversial” content of PRECIOUS/PUSH, from all I’ve heard about the latter it for some reason seems apt to compare it to the weakest, dullest, most overlong and just plain maddening of the Palliser novels (yes, weaker than even THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS and THE DUKE’S CHILDREN). Not to veer too much farther off-topic, but I’ve often wondered why there hasn’t been a proper PHINEAS FINN movie. Such a compelling, charming, complex character. Though it’d be hard to find an actor who could match Donal McCann’s performance in the still-superb BBC Palliser series.
The full title for “Precious” reminds me of one of Frank Tashlin’s gags involving screenwriting credits.

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