I’ve already written about
the bizarre convergence of Edward Yang, Bob Lobel and myself on a radio
talk show in 2000 when I discussed the
year’s movies with the popular WBZ sports reporter. Asked by the moderator what
my favorite movie of the year was, I bolded pronounced, “Yi Yi.”
“'Yi Yi?’” scoffed Lobel, incredulously.
Recently I trekked north to Salem,
MA to visit the Peabody-Essex Museum
and see the Joseph Cornell exhibit. Pretty
much everybody knows about Cornell’s boxes, but his experimental films were new
to me, and a friend and myself sat in the screening room and watched,
entranced, a selection of his shorts.
Not that he needs any more publicity for his upcoming film "Sicko," but here's a rough transcript of an interview I had with Michael Moore when he made an appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire to promote the movie
Q: You used to be print journalist. Want to go back to that? A little
MM: I often think about how much I like to write and how writing
is more peaceful and sometimes a more personally enjoyable way to spend my
Twenty-five years ago Ridley Scott made “Blade Runner,”
initiating the trend in adapting the works of sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick that
continues to this day. Soon, it is rumored, he’ll be working on an adaptation
of a different kind, starting what might be another trend in moviemaking and one that would seem right out of one of
Dick’s bleakest, satiric dystopian visions: he’s making a movie out of
I first started noticing this trend with the commercials. Here’s
just one of the more obnoxious ones, for Coors beer:
Wife in bathroom checking
to see if the strip for her pregnancy test has turned blue: “Honey, I
think this is what we’ve been waiting for…”
Oafish husband checking to see if label of his beer has turned
blue, indicating it has reached the perfect temperature for consumption: “Yes, I think it is!”
If the just announced Palme d’ Or winner at Cannes “4 Months, 3
Weeks and 2 Days” went mano-a-mano at the box office with “Knocked Up,” Judd Apatow’s new comedy about sexual mores, which
do you think would win?
Here’s a hint: the former has been described as “a devastating Romanian film on back-alley
abortion and daily despair in the communist era.
I find it very thoughtful of the people at Disney to ask
film critics not to reveal the plot of “Pirates of the Caribbean:
At World’s End.” Thoughtful because I doubt if a single critic, myself
included, has any idea what the plot is, not just of this installment but the
previous two, and their request gives us an excuse not to have to try to
I’d just watched Lars von Trier’s “The Boss of It All” (it
opens locally May 25), which is almost Capraesque in its idealism and optimism,
at least compared to the Danish director's other perversely nihilistic, black comic works. So I
was surprised to learn that the notorious eccentric and prankster had suffered
a paralyzing bout of depression so bad that he might quit directing.
Film critics are the spotted owls of journalism. They can
only survive where people respect subtlety, art, depth, meaning, originality
and tradition in movies. The steady progress of million dollar studio marketing
machines and the decline in audience taste and patience -- call it Global
Dumbing -- have wiped out most such environments.
A mini debate has raged of late about the future of film
criticism, and the fact that only film critics seem interested in it suggests
that the future is grim. Nonetheless I plan to weigh in on the topic in the near
future, but before doing so I’d like to point out that behavior like that of John
Boonstra, former film critic for “The Hartford Advocate,” does not make that
future any brighter.
I never read Alice Sebold’s novel “The Lovely Bones” about a
14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania who posthumously observes the progress of the
investigation into her rape/murder, but I was intrigued when Lynne Ramsay, the uncompromising Scottish
director of “Ratcatcher” and “Morvern Callar" signed up to adapt it.
I might have been a little harsh in assessing the late
former MPAA head Jack Valenti’s legacy a couple of postings ago, but at least I
didn’t accuse him of being responsible for the Virginia Tech shootings. We’ll
leave that for David Thomson in the Guardian film blog where the esteemed critic and author of "The Encyclopedia of Film" claims Valenti’s favoring violence over sex in the ratings system contributed
to the atmosphere of violence that resulted in the murder of 32 people.
And speaking of censorship,
the Independendent Film Festival of Boston's Sunday screening of Macky Alston’s’s
disturbing documentary “The Killer Within” might have been your last chance to see it. It’s
been pulled from release in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings. The story
of a mild-mannered septuagenarian psychology professor who suddenly revealed that he not only
murdered a fellow student back in 1955 but had planned a campus massacre that
would have predated Columbine by decades, it even-handedly and candidly
confronts such issues as what causes mass murders and whether such killers are
ever amenable to rehabilitation.
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, and I'm sure otherwise he was a great guy,
but I think in the flood of encomias for Jack Valenti someone should mention
that he was instrumental in putting a stranglehold on creativity in American filmmaking
and ensuring the domination of studio mediocrity for
at least 40 years.