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David Poland

By David Poland

Movie Club Time

David Edelstein kicks things off with his Top 20
And then AO Scott, Scott Foundas, and Jon Rosenbaum kick in

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41 Responses to “Movie Club Time”

  1. PetalumaFilms says:

    Awesome conversation….makes me want to cry though because the best I get in terms of cinematic discussion is “hey dude, is KING KONG any good?” Why can’t *I* exchange emails with those people. Sigh.
    I think the points Rosenbaum raises really solidify why I hated CRASH so much. Those points and the fact that the movie:
    A) Didn’t tell any “free thinker” anything they didn’t already know (ie; we’re all prone to sterotype and also prone to have racist thoughts) but played it off like one of those “sacred appeals” in advertising. The one that basically says, “we know you’re a smart shopper so you wouldn’t think twice about buying this flo-bee…” Appeal to intellegence. That movie didn’t turn ANYONE’S views around…it just bought into the thinking of more liberal types…hell, even non-stereotyping righties.
    B) It was a movie about a white person trying to justify his own views and feelings of judgement. I’m all for white folk making movies that touch on racism, but when your thugs are black, your housekeepers are hispanic, your politicians are white and your crackheads are black….you’re still stereotyping.
    C) Heavy. handed.
    The whole Rosenbaum “email” reminded me of that Joe Dante rant over on Movie City Indie. No one is making movies that dare to say anything new or exciting. If they are, it’s next to impossible to get to see them in a timely fashion. That, or they get chomped to pieces by the “media.”

  2. Goulet says:

    I watched CRASH again last night and, for all of its flaws, it’s still a well crafted, well acted and powerful film. No, it doesn’t change your mind about the issues and it IS heavy-handed, but man, those four or five big operatic scenes deeply move me every time.

  3. Goulet says:

    Oh, and the Movie Club is particularly fascinating this year. Great read.

  4. Crow T Robot says:

    I’d like to know what Spike Lee thinks of ‘Crash.’ He may be full of shit 80% of the time, but his ‘Do The Right Thing,’ ‘Malcolm X’ and doc ‘Four Little Girls’ left me with a complex, sometimes frustrating sense of race in this country that was hard to shake off. What I found frustrating about Crash was the strange pleasure it seemed to take dipicting this brand of “angst” in its characters. Could there be such a thing as racial-porn?

  5. jeffmcm says:

    I found those four or five ‘operatic’ scenes to be the most annoying and insulting aspects of the movie. Contrivance? Check. Threatening to kill a particularly innocent character for the sake of cheap emotional manipulation? Check. Horrible performances from just about every lead actress? Check.

  6. PetalumaFilms says:

    Amen, Jeff…amen. The only film I was more offended by this year was FANTASTIC FOUR…but CRASH was a wolf in sheeps clothing. I’m off to Sundance in 4(ish) weeks and I’m praying 2006 is a year with balls AND entertainment…since 2005 was almost strictly the latter. I hope the one-time bastion of hope and balls in the indie world steps up. Don’t you think they have to? A revolution is headed our way cinematically and it was once headed by Sundance. If not them then who?

  7. EDouglas says:

    Wallace and Gromit is #3? I mean, I loved the movie myself…but #3? That Dave Edelstein is a strange cat.
    Sorry, but I’m in the “loved Crash” camp…that’s my #2 movie of the year. Sure, we all know most of that stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to remind us how easy it is to fall into the traps of racism in this world where we’re all under so much stress and pressure. But maybe it’s a movie that hits closer to home with those who live in big cities.

  8. Melquiades says:

    I’ve lived in big cities (Miami, Washington D.C.) most of my life and Crash really didn’t work for me. Mostly because of the ridiculous contrivances. The plot felt so tightly constructed there was no room for the characters to simply exist, and they ceased to be genuine characters at all.
    Do the Right Thing is an excellent counter-example of a movie that lets its characters dictate the plot rather than vice versa. I believed in every person, every incident, on that Bed Stuy block. I didn’t believe anything in Crash.

  9. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Even if I didn’t like Crash (for it’s excellent acting, technical work and ability to seemingly pull emotion out of thin air) I would still shake my head and wonder where people are pulling that argument from where they’re all “there’s too many contrivances!” like, that’s the whole freakin’ point. Plenty of movies have done it before and weren’t lambasted for it.
    But, i do like it. It’s not as earth-shattering as it thinks it is and the screenplay is actually the worst part, but I was greatly entertained. Plus, Matt Dillon’s rescue of Thandie Newton was one of the most powerful and emotional scenes of the year. Sublimeness (is that a word?) in a 3-minute sequence.
    I think it says something about a person that they could get so easily offended by a movie such as Crash. It sounds rediculous that a movie that is trying to do good and be ABOUT something could be the most offending movie of the year. That it offended you SO MUCH seems to make you appear as if you’re above it all (er, to ME that is). “I don’t need to be TOLD this” – fine, there’s plenty of movies with absolutely no agenda whatsoever out there.
    And, dude, Wallace & Gromit is totally Top 3 worthy!

  10. Terence D says:

    Crash was the one of the most manipulative and weak movies I have ever seen and I cannot see how some people rate it in any kind of Top Ten list.

  11. Melquiades says:

    I’m not “offended” by Crash but neither do I give it credit just becase it tries to tackle weighty issues.
    The Dillon rescue was well-shot, but so ridiculous I found myself chuckling. Not sure what you mean by the contrivances being “the point.” Is the point that the same 10 people’s lives will continuously interesect in increasingly preposterous ways in a city as large as L.A.? Why is that the point?
    Films such as Magnolia and Short Cuts have done this before, but not so clunkily. The characters in those films intersect tangentially.

  12. Josh says:

    There is tackling big issues and than there is trying to slap people in the head and make them feel guilty. “Crash” is the latter. It’s a made for TV movie with a big screen cast.

  13. Me says:

    I really liked Crash.
    First off, it worked as an entertaining thriller – I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and got caught up in the mystery and drama.
    While I agree it was heavyhanded and pretentious (God, don’t see the Squid and the Whale, then), it still had some good messages. If all a viewer took out of it is we’re all racists, then I think he or she missed the point. More than anything else, the movie seems to be saying calm down, relax, breathe, and think about what you’re doing. That doesn’t seem like such a bad message (and maybe one that people who comment on blogs should think about more). ;>
    And maybe I’m a moron (could be), but I didn’t think it was that simple and didactic. Sure, the characters were put into very sharp, almost black and white situations, but I felt the characters existed in the grey in between them.
    I thought Terrance Howard’s arc was one of the most complex – I’m still not sure what his outcome is going to be. I liked Matt Dillon’s rescue and find the conflicts within his character to be interesting. Maybe the script was weak in creating the character, but the way Dillon brought him to life really made him seem authentic and real to me. I think that’s true for a number of the characters.
    Yes, it is wound around some contrived coincidences, but so was Traffic and plenty of other thriller or crime dramas. If you’re into the drama, those probably don’t bother you. If you’re not, then they’ll stick in your craw. (I’m still pissed off at most of the lack of any coherent logic behind Kong.)
    Is it one of the better films of the year (yes, only in that this was such a god-awful year), but even in a year with better films, I would still find this one entertaining.

  14. bicycle bob says:

    matt dillon needs to work more.

  15. Melquiades says:

    I agree about Dillon’s character — he was conflicted in an interesting way and he felt real. Kudos to Dillon for this portrayal.
    Totally disagree about Terrance Howard, though. I didn’t believe for a second that this guy would go batshit in front of the cops and essentially beg to be shot and killed. Not because his wife scolded him and Tony Danza embarassed him at work. Sorry, not buying it.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    What was so heavyhanded and pretentious about The Squid and the Whale? Yes, the title is kind of dumb, but it was a movie about pretentious people…not one that was itself pretentious.

  17. Bruce says:

    “Squid and the Whale” is worth it just to see William Baldwin’s character. Maybe he can actually act too. I was shocked.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Alright, brotha. Baldwin is pretty damn amusing in Squid and the Whale.

  19. Terence D says:

    The Baldwins do surprise on occasion.
    I still think Steve in “Usual Suspects” has been the best Baldwin performance.

  20. Me says:

    I will admit that when it comes to the Squid and the Whale, I just don’t get the great acclaim. It seemed like nothing more than one kid bitching about how his parents were the worst parents in the world. And the heavyhanded way that he added on to his father’s sins just became too much by the end for me.
    Also, that in the end, we’re supposed to believe that he opens up to a school counselor that he was acting all high and mighty against moments before was just silly. And that it’s all like a battle of giant sea creatures – pretentious. Bleh.

  21. LesterFreed says:

    It’s been a good year for Terrence Howard too. I hope he continues it and gets some good roles.

  22. martin says:

    all these guys are a bunch of cocksuckers, fuck them and the horse they rode in on.

  23. jeffmcm says:

    Wow! Why no likee?

  24. Joe Leydon says:

    On today’s Hot Button, Dave posts:
    “Truth is, most of the mainstream films we would normally be discussing as underperformers had solid numbers or even overperformed this year. Did someone expect to see high-grade pulp like Four Brothers to do $75 million, much less more? Was a low-budget kids film like Sky High ever meant to do $64 million?”
    Actually, I did indeed predict both these things, in my Variety reviews.
    I am Joe Leydon, and I feed my ego.

  25. Sanchez says:

    I’m stunned that Sky High even pulled in 64 million. Four Brothers I thought would do well. They sold it well.

  26. Lota says:

    I really like Matt Dillon so much, wish he were in better movies. Crash seems like a Grand Canyon but done with less likeable characters.
    enjoyed the exchange..but i suppose i disagree with each on something. to each his/her own list.

  27. James Leer says:

    Speaking of, anyone want to add their own Top 10 to the mix?
    Here’s mine so far, in alphabetical order.
    The Beat That My Heart Skipped
    Brokeback Mountain
    Good Night and Good Luck
    Me and You and Everyone We Know
    Mysterious Skin
    Red Eye
    The Squid and the Whale
    Still need to see Munich and Match Point, though.

  28. jeffmcm says:

    Grand Canyon is a good comparison, especially since it’s a mere 14 years old and is pretty much forgotten now, which is what I predict for Crash in 2019.

  29. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    I really don’t care if people like Crash or not, that’s their progative, but I just don’t understand how people can be SO offended by it. Hysterical hyperbole isn’t anything new around here though so I should expect it by now.

  30. jeffmcm says:

    Personally, the only reason I go after Crash as much as I do is because so many people looooovve it. If it was generally regarded as merely ok or decent, nobody would care.

  31. grandcosmo says:

    James Leer,
    I’m not criticizing your list as the films you have listed have been acclaimed by many critics this year.
    But looking over your list depresses me because it reminds me of what a dreary year this has been for films.

  32. James Leer says:

    I’ve thought that during this year, but I had trouble narrowing down my list (to my surprise).
    What did you like this year, grandcosmo? Or did you dislike some of the ones I listed?

  33. bicycle bob says:

    leers top ten reads like a liberal fantasy top ten list. wheres syriana???

  34. Bruce says:

    Top 6
    King Kong
    History of Violence
    Star Wars 3
    Batman Begins
    Walk the Line
    I’m not a critic and I just go by what I really liked. These six I know I’ll see again and again.
    Best acting?
    Walk the Line.

  35. jeffmcm says:

    Hey Bob, where’s your list?

  36. grandcosmo says:

    I can’t come up with 10 films that I unequivocally liked however here are 7 films I liked:
    A History of Violence
    Look At Me
    Ice Harvest
    Match Point
    Grizzly Man

  37. LesterFreed says:

    History of Violence
    Constant Gardener
    Batman Begins
    Four Brothers
    Wedding Crashers
    I got more but I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now.

  38. Terence D says:

    Constant Gardener and 40 Year Old Virgin were my two favorite films of the year.

  39. Josh says:

    I still can’t believe Match Point was made by Woody Allen. I’m liking Scarlett J more and more.

  40. Rufus Masters says:

    My Top Seven
    in no particular order
    Walk the Line
    Episode Three
    Match Point
    Layer Cake

  41. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    I haven’t seen a WHOLE TONNE of movies this year (Australian distributers are the devil, i tellsya), but…
    1. Mysterious Skin
    2. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
    3. Pride & Prejudice
    4. Look Both Ways (Australian)
    5. The Constant Gardener
    alas, I expect a couple more to squeeze in there by March, at which time most of the movies from this year will have been released in my country.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon