Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh Snap!

Maria Falconetti in the Passion of Joan of Arc. A perfect movie.

My boyfriend and I share many things in common, movies, is not usually one of them. He has it seems, a love for the neurotic male tale/fantasy. Of a NY variety. I, on the other hand can't think of anything I like less, aside from many other tired male cliches. But he fancies himself a movie nerd and aficionado and I would only venture to call myself an opinionated fan.
Things he loves I can't stand: John Cassavetes
Things he considers genius and well written, I think are infantile/sociopathic tripe: Woody Allen
He loves french new wave, I find it to be overrated, film school boy masturbatory muck, but it's muck he loves. And to be fair, I took an entire class in undergrad basically ripping it apart by the groin. It was a class full of some head bashing, tea partier's (click me!) nightmare. Many angry young women wearing menstrual cups shredding apart Goddard with a lifetime worth of frustration at their fingertips. Really, truly, electrifying class! I used to just sit back and listen to the awesome angry seething as my classmates and I tore apart culturally loved icons. It was liberating to say the least. "You are wrong Roman Polanski! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! And a hack!" But I digress.
I LOVE the Godfather 1 and 2, he thinks its boring- that's just insane to me, but he can't sit through it.
I can't handle Wes Anderson, I find him to be precious and precocious and overly styled in an attempt to hide his offensive "ethinic" fetish.
He laughs when I rent things like Whip It, or Jennifer's Body as late night guilty pleasures and is shocked when I find them smart, moving and complex. They aren't great film masterpieces to be sure, but they aren't that bad! And noble attempts to three dimensionalize the female teenage experience. The world can do without, A Walk to Remember, schlock.
He hates Blade Runner, it's probably my favorite movie. He cant stand Terry Gilliam, I can't live without Brazil and Life of Brian.
To be a critic is really, truly a biased thing, no matter how hard you try to be objective, you just never will be. Art is like politics, no amount of me telling Nick that, Babe: Pig In the City or WAll-E are great films not just for kids, will make him want to see them. And no amount of art film talk will convince me that Goddard is not a giant tiny penis. You find the critic you like, then follow them to the end. Hopefully you don't follow Peter Travers though, cos that guys just an idiot.

Pauline Kael is a personal hero of mine!

"The acting that is so bad it's embarrassing sometimes seems also to have revealed something, so we're forced to reconsider our notions of good and bad acting. . . . Faces has the kind of seriousness that a serious artist couldn't take seriously – the kind of seriousness that rejects art as lies and superficiality. And this lumpen-artists' anti-intellectualism, this actors' unformulated attack on art may be what much of the public also believes – that there is a real thing that "art" hides. . . . Faces is being taken as a religious experience. It's almost a form of self-flagellation to go to a movie like this – "to see yourself," which, of course, means to see how awful you are." – Pauline Kael, Faces
"[Cassavetes] replaces the exhausted artifices of conventional movies with a new set of pseudo-realistic ones, which are mostly instantaneous clich├ęs. As a writer-director, he's so dedicated to revealing the pain under the laughter he's a regular Pagliacci." – Pauline Kael, Husbands

"The romantic view of insanity is a perfect subject for Cassavetes to muck around with. Yet even in this season when victimization is the hottest thing in the movie market this scapegoat heroine doesn't do a damn thing for him. He's always on the verge of hitting the big time, but his writing and directing are gruelling, and he swathes his popular ideas in so many wet blankets that he is taken seriously – and flops. . . . Acute discomfort sets in, and though some in the audience will once again accept what is going on as raw, anguishing truth, most people will – rightly I think – take their embarrassment as evidence of Cassavetes' self-righteous ineptitude." – Pauline Kael, A Woman Under the Influence

"The way I figure it, if Pauline Kael ever liked one of my movies, I'd give up." – John Cassavetes, to Frederick Elmes

I've always admired Roger Ebert's gentlemanly ways. He also thought Cassavetes was an indulgent child in man pants:

Husbands: Peter Falk Harry: Ben Gazzara Gus: John Cassavetes Written and directed by John Cassavetes . Produced by Sam Shaw and Al Ruban . Running time: 138 minutes. Classified PG. 1970. By Roger Ebert

John Cassavetes' "Husbands" is disappointing in the way Antonioni's "ZabriskiePoint" was. It shows an important director not merely failing, but not evenunderstanding why. "Husbands" has all the confidence of Cassavetes'masterpiece, "Faces," but few of the other qualities of the film thatpreceded it. It has good intentions, I suppose, but it is an artisticdisaster and only fitfully interesting on less ambitious levels. Still, it comes to us with incredibly good New York notices, a specimen ofwhat Pauline Kael calls media-hype. Every season there are one or two filmsthat are decreed as great by the New York critical establishment, againstall common sense. The best critics, like Kael, weren't won over by"Husbands," but the Luce magazines apparently decided by fiat that it wassuperb. Life had Cassavetes on its cover, and seldom has Time given abetter review to a worse movie. Cassavetes once again uses what I guess you'd call pseudo-cinema veritealthough his film is acted by professionals and (allegedly) scripted inadvance, it's given a documentary look. "Faces" was too. But "Faces" actuallywas photographed in 16mm., with available light and sound, so of course itlooked that way. With "Husbands," a deliberate effort has been made to simulate the 16mm,cinema verite look, even though the graininess isn't necessary. That isn'tdishonest-a director has a right to do anything he can to make his filmwork-but it doesn't grow organically out of the material. Nothing in thisfilm, in fact, seems organic to it; the idea, the style, the narrative, theacting, all seem laid on to a reluctant film. "Faces" was all of a piece;"Husbands" is in pieces. The story sounds promising when you hear it. Three friends (Cassavetes, BenGazzara, Peter Falk) mourn the death by coronary of a fourth. Mourningleads naturally into drinking, and after an extended binge (including thesinging of maudlin songs, the expression of undying friendship, copiousbeer drinking and even more copious vomiting) the friends find themselvesflying to London. They pick up three complaisant girls (rather easily, itseemed to me), and in wine, gambling and lovemaking they seek truth. Fair enough. Here we have three characters on the edge of middle age, andthe fact of their friend's death is the shadow of their own. Consideringthe talent involved in the making of "Husbands," it is surprising that solittle was made of such material. There are a lot of problems. One is withthe script. "Faces" was almost totally scripted, and seemed almost totallyimprovised. A really excellent script should always seem improvised, ofcourse, to the degree that the actors seem to be saying real things and notreciting dialogue. "Husbands," which Cassavetes takes a writing credit for,sounds improvised in the worst sort of way. There are long passages of dialogue in which the actors seem to be tryingto think of something to say. This in situations where the words shouldflow naturally. (Is a drunk ever at a loss for words?) There are lineslike: "You know what you are? You're a ... you're ... I'll tell you whatyou are ... you're ... I wish I could think of what you are." Followed bythe actors breaking up and slapping each other's backs, etc. I said"actors" deliberately, because characterization is destroyed by all thismessing around. I can't believe the scenes of this nature were scripted, because youwouldn't deliberately set out to write such antidialogue. Nor do I believethat Gazzara, Falk and Cassavetes (fine actors all) could have acted thesescenes so awkwardly if they were working from scripts; what we see are notperformances, but the human beings themselves, photographed while tryingnot very successfully to improvise. There are other things wrong with "Husbands," but the script (or non-script)problem runs throughout the movie, undercutting a lot of potentially betterscenes. There are some good scenes, even so. And some good ones that becomeunbearable because they run on so long. And there is always the presence ofCassavetes, who, whatever else his sins, doesn't protect himself from theconsequences of his inspirations.

And for extra fun, Ebert being bombarded by Howard Stern and somehow managing to not only maintain his composure and dignity, but make Howard look like the childish bully that he is.

At the end of the day, were all just nerds who never learned how to throw a ball. I mean, look at this guy! And I love him the most.

Actually, I love this guy the most! Just not his taste in films, but I appreciate his taste in cats.