Say what you will, good or
bad , about Paul Thomas Anderson’s
“There Will Be Blood,” it at least has the positive effect of reawkening
interest in Sinclair Lewis’s [or Upton Sinclair's, as my non-addled mind now recognizes] largely forgotten 1927 novel, “Oil!” I don’t think many film critics,
though, have been drawn to read the 500+ page opus.
A few years back a perhaps over-generous local film critic
used to bug the crap out of his colleagues, myself included, by padding his “Ten
Best” list with “ties.” It got so we used to joke, somewhat mean-spiritedly, “so
and so’s ten best list this year only has 14 movies. What happened?” Very
petty. Why should we care?
I pondered this question again this Sunday after reading the “New York Times” critics “Ten Best”
Big surprise: the Screen Actors Guild would give four
to a scenery chewing (and spewing) film about a safe political topic directed
by a pompously outspoken actor in an election year. Makes for good awards
ceremony drama and fine thespian self congratulation.
But back to the opinions that matter, part II in the Boston
Phoenix critics best, worst and most overrated lists:
“Time” magazine’s Richard Corliss’s item “Do Film
Critics Know Anything?” is
the latest in whines from critics about how critics don’t know anything about
what people really like (ie: movies with promotion budgets above $50 million
opening in 5,000 theaters). One might well wonder if “Time” knows anything,
having named Vladimir Putin their “Man of the Year” for restoring “stability,”
presumably by removing such rowdy elements as the right to dissent and a free
The “Juno backlash” notwithstanding, the film’s screenwriter (what happened to director Jason
Reitman, who was so cool last year with his smug and reactionary “Thank You For
Smoking?”), self-promotional wunderkind Diablo Cody has been institutionalized
as cinema cool by such cutting edge journals as "Entertainment Weekly,"
where she now has a blog, and
Criterion, at whose website she has decreed her ten
best selections from that august DVD distributor’s portfolio.
I was lead to believe that the growingsuccess of “Juno” might
be curtailed by its failure to take any awards from the first handful of
critics groups meetings, including Boston, Los Angeles and New
York. Fat chance. The tide turned when groups such as
the Broadcast Film Critics Association gave
it three nominations and the Hollywood Foreign Press (you know -- The Golden
Globes) did likewise and in the same categories: Best Film (in the latter
case, Comedy or Musical), Best Screenplay and Best Actress.
The past week I’ve been “researching” a feature story I’m writing
on the “I Am Legend” mini-genre of Last Man on Earth flicks by watching
DVDs featuring plagues, cosmic
catastrophes, climactic disasters, devastating technological snafus, nuclear
warfare and, of course, rampaging zombies. I watched “Omega Man” again, with a
hip Charlton Heston, now senile NRA spokesman, blasting away at black-robed ghouls
with a tommy gun.