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David Poland

By David Poland

Just Making Sure…

After some blog commenters accused me on not writing about movies and only business, I wondered if it was true… after looking at the last month of blog entries, my guilt was relieved.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Before The Devil Knows You

33 Responses to “Just Making Sure…”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    Alas that only two of these are movies currently in release.

  2. David Poland says:

    Someone always complains.
    The lesson I hate learning, since it means not bothering to pay respectful attention to someone/anyone.

  3. jeffmcm says:

    Just saying that some of your reviews have a ‘do not open until Christmas’ label on them.

  4. David Poland says:

    Someone always complains.
    The lesson I hate learning, since it means not bothering to pay respectful attention to someone/anyone.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    I was actually wrong, most (but not all) of those movies will be out by Thanksgiving, so only seven weeks to go.

  6. IOIOIOI says:

    You do write about films, Heat. However… all 12 of those are films that folks in the middle of the country will not have a chance to see for a while. So, I ask you; where’s the Resident Evil: Extinction review? Good Luck Chuck? I could go on but you have even turned your reviews into Oscar pieces. Excuse me for wondering where your reviews of current films up and went to all of a sudden.

  7. Wrecktum says:

    Almost all of those movies are extremely niche and will be barely seen.
    Poland writes about the industry and little seen movies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  8. Noah says:

    I could give you a review of both of those films, IO (yes I actually saw them, I see everything for some reason):
    Resident Evil: Extinction is actually slightly better than the previous two installment, but still not approaching anything resembling “good.” It follows a pattern we’ve seen before in a thousand other, better zombie movies where certain conventions are bound to happen (i.e. the guy who gets bitten and doesn’t tell anybody about it). Milla Jovovich is beautiful, but barely speaks a word of dialogue in the entire film. It’s never boring, but it’s never particularly exciting either.
    As for Good Luck Chuck, I think it can safely be said now that not only is Dane Cook not funny, but Jessica Alba has no charisma. But Dan Fogler makes Dane Cook look Steve Martin because Fogler is so over the top and loud thinking that loud = funny which it doesn’t. Dane Cook wasn’t terrible in Mr. Brooks and I think he might have more success in more dramatic roles since he has no comedic timing whatsoever. Alba will never be a real actress because she still relies too much on being cute and the chemistry between her and Cook is weak at best. The movie is uninspired, offensive (in a bad way) and terribly boring. It’s the worst comedy I’ve seen so far this year, unless you count I Know Who Killed Me.

  9. movielocke says:

    hmm, clearly the evidence contradicts the impression I had. On the other hand, how many reviews/actually writing about movies did you do in the three months before Toronto/Telluride? I remember a piece specifically on the Kingdom and another on Ratatouille, but everything about Bourne, Transformers, Pirates, Knocked up etc seemed to have been directly related to their box office or industry analysis rather than about the movie itself.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    I actually thought Extinction was less good than the first Resident Evil or Apocalpyse. Of course, that’s a low bar to start with, but both of the earlier two movies had more energy and better self-contained storylines.

  11. Wrecktum says:

    Dan Cook will surprise in Dan in Real Life.

  12. Noah says:

    I could not even sit through the entire second film. This time around, I actually kind of liked the look of the picture and the desert setting, I think it added a different dimension. But, of course it’s a silly way to twist the genre, “how about zombies in the desert!?”

  13. Hallick says:

    “Someone always complains.”
    Okay, fair point. But it is frustrating that a lot of us are unable to bring anything to the discussion in these blog entries (besides commenting on what we’ve read in other blogs) because we simply don’t have the access to any of those festival films or the way-way-waayyyy in advance screenings until they’re released to the general public. And by the time we do get to see those movies, you’ve moved on to the next batch of future releases and what’s fresh and exciting to us is just last month’s news to you.
    It may sound silly to ask you to throw reviews of something drecky like “Good Luck Chuck” into the mix, but at least it gives some of us a chance to be more than passive readers. Your post on the “Bionic Woman” pilot was the first time in a long time that I could actually respond to your thoughts because I had some of my own since I got to see what you were talking about.
    That’s all I’m complaining.

  14. ManWithNoName says:

    But Hallick, you don’t have or need to write anything on this blog. DP could shut off the comments feature and you could just read his writings (if you choose). I like that he has comments and responds to them, but I don’t think that entitles me to have entries that I want to add comments to. I rarely post, even when I do have something to say.
    Oh, and Jeff, thanks for adding a few more worthless posts. I don’t think I know anybody with this much time on their hands.

  15. jeffmcm says:

    You’re welcome.

  16. David Poland says:

    When have I ever written about a Resident Evil movie?
    When have I ever written about a Dane Cook comedy?
    With due respect, I have spent the last decade assuring that I don’t have to see shit movies just to fill some editor’s pages.
    And if we are getting back to the old saw of “David, you are wasting our time with your tips to film festivals,” sorry… same as it ever was.
    So you know, I get crap from “serious critics” who complain that I don’t write enough about the most deeply esoteric and little seen films that they so treasure. There is no way for me to please all of my audiences… and I hope not to become a hack of many categories by spreading myself to thin… but I have pretty range-y tastes.
    More than half the movies on the list are from studios, major or Dependent. And as we exit September and some of the better movies are also some of the studio movies, things will return to something more like the balance of the summer. I have to say… it happens like this every year. The main difference is that I myself am feeling like I am not writing as much as I’d like. But we are hitting October and a bit more breathing room, so hopefully, it will all even out. It always has.

  17. IOIOIOI says:

    Yes; there are 46 movies being released in October. That’s breathing room! Snarkiness aside; all I have to do Heat is go back in through the Hot Button to show that you have watched a bunch of crap movies in the past, and actually discussed them. It seems like over the last year, that you have decided to be more focused on what films you see or discuss. This is not a bad thing because I honestly enjoy looking forward to films. So all of these early reviews give me something to look forward to seeing the theatre. This feeling of mine does not change the fact that you used to discuss more films then you do now. Also… Noah… nice channeling of Heat. Impressive.

  18. David Poland says:

    Yes, IO… I used to watch more shit. Absolutely. It is concious and intended. About three years ago, I stopped feeling compelled to see EVERYTHING. I like to think it’s called maturity. But it is also still a process of making choices. I also used to go to junkets and have a quote whore scoreboard and write more than 12,000 words a week.

  19. Noah says:

    As someone who watches a lot of shitty movies on purpose, I hope to one day be able to say “no” to more movies that I know will probably be terrible.
    However, I have always felt that it’s important for me to see as many of the bad ones as possible because then I will appreciate the good ones that much more….also, you never know when a “bad” one might surprise you. For me to be able to keep on enjoying movies, it’s integral for me to see all the Resident Evil movies so that I can appreciate it when 28 Weeks Later comes along. It doesn’t make me like the latter film more, but it does make my smile a bit bigger because I have seen films that haven’t done it as well. For some folks that don’t see all these terrible zombie movies, you might just see 28 Weeks Later and think “cool movie,” but for me I can sit there and smile and think “wow, finally, a good one.”
    Another reason I see all the shit is because I try to keep in touch with what the rest of the country is watching. We here on this message board make up such a small percentage of the moviegoing population (as evidence by the grosses of Good Luck Chuk and Resident Evil) and it’s important for me to at least see what the rest of the filmgoing world is paying ten bucks to see.

  20. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat… I do miss the QUOTE WHORE SCOREBOARD because you have sullied — down right sullied — Peter Travers for me. Nevertheless; I get that you refer to not seeing everything maturity. However, does admitting as much make you more of a film reviewer and less of a film critic? Since it would seem that the critics and the two guys from AT THE MOVIES (officially renamed this weekend… boo) see damn near everything. So… I am curious about how you see yourself in light of your view of seeing films now.

  21. David Poland says:

    Really, I think I am more of a critic than most who are out there… meaning that I actually get into the structure and concepts of the films and generally do not waste my time or yours repeating story points or simply trying to express love or hate. This is also why I do not consider a few comments that sugggest my general disposition on a film to be a review.
    If there is anything I am not, it’s a reviewer… unless we are talking past each other on a semantic level.
    When I write well, I dig into the movie and engage in a discussion with the film itself… and by extension, the reader. I do a critical analysis of the film, the filmmaker, and the context. And for me, that is what I consider the best kind of criticism… the thing that compels me.
    But you are certainly free to disagree.
    When someone says I am not a critic, I ask one simple question… how many film writers do they know who write in the kind of depth I write about the films I write about? I may or may not be worthy of Film Comment, but ironically, I think I write more in their style than most any other publication. This doesn’t keep people from reducing it to love or hate… but I like to think that when I am going good, I offer a few points form which any film lover to take off and consider the movie from my unique perspective.

  22. anghus says:

    it’s weird. i write for a little arts mag and jot down 1000 words a week on whatever movie is playing at the local cineplex, and i get weird emails from people who read it and scream “you’re not a real critic, you barely even sum up the story of the movie.”
    i always thought throwing in plot details was kind of lazy. I mean, if you have 1000 words to write about a movie, wouldn’t you think people would want to hear thoughts and criticism on the film for a majority of those words rather than have the whole film spelled out for them?
    I think some people still think a critic is someone who writes the equivalent of a fifth grade book report on the name of the movie, who was in it, the story, and a couple of sentences explaining whether you liked it or not.
    I read reviews now, mostly after i’ve seen the film to hear what other people thought about it. I guess it boils down to whether or not you read reviews before you see the film or after it, but long, in depth plot details are lazy.

  23. IOIOIOI says:

    Thanks for the answer Heat. Anghus; who are you pissing off with the lack of plot-points? What a rather odd reason to complain to a critic anyway.

  24. Joe Leydon says:

    Anghus, I think it depends on whether you’re writing for mainstream newspapers and magazines, or niche publications and/or websites. As I have posted elsewhere: It’s my impression (formed over 30 years of writing for everything from trade papers to suburban weeklies, daily newpapers to esoteric film journals) that most readers really do want a lot of plot detail in reviwes of new movies. Maybe not quite as much as some critics offer, but a lot more than it sounds like you’re providing. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not dissing you. But I think the sentiments of those folks who send you those e-mails are much more common than you think.

  25. anghus says:

    usually i’ll dedicate 200-250 words on the plot or general story. But that’s about it.

  26. Crow T Robot says:

    Dave, if you want to be taken seriously as a critic you’re gonna have to give up a lot of what you love. It’s as much WHAT you write as it is HOW you write.
    And that takes discipline. And it means no longer being an “omnivore” as you say.

  27. Noah says:

    I think when it comes to reviewing films, it’s all about the audience you are writing for and whether or not they have trust in you as a critic to go places they might not ordinarily like to go in a review. I know that for me, personally, my favorite types of film reviews are the ones written by Pauline Kael where she would give away major plot points and devote pages upon pages to disecting the films in an in-depth manner. I hope to one day write reviews like that for MCN, but for now I think it is a bit premature. I think the audience at MCN can handle it, but I don’t know that I’m ready to analyze films on that level yet.
    The best part about Kael (just as with Sarris, Canby, and even DP) is that they might not necessarily change your mind about a film (as I like to read reviews after I’ve seen the film as well), but they definitely make points that cannot be argued. I think the problem with a lot of film criticism today is that the reviews don’t make their points clearly enough or in enough depth to make their criticisms sound. Reviews shouldn’t be bulletproof, you should be able to scoff and think “they don’t know what they’re talking about,” but they best ones make you wonder if they might have a point.

  28. Joe Leydon says:

    Noah: I notice you include Vincent Canby in your group of superstars. Good for you. I know it was fashionable to dis him during his tenure at the NYT, but I would argue that he was a great critic and, perhaps more important, a critic who always maintained a tremendous enthusiasm for his work — and an infectious love of cinema.

  29. David Poland says:

    Truth is Crow… I don’t feel the need to be taken seriously as any specific thing. Self indulgence (on that level) has been enormously gratifying to me… and presumably to some percentage of those who follow what I write.
    I think you are right. I wear too many hats for people to tag me easily. I came to peace with that years ago… had to. For me, it’s not an issue of discipline, it’s a lack of imagination. And unfortunately, when that imagination is pushed to respond to change, we all turn into “bloggers.”
    I have friends who are “serious critics” and I know how interested they are in things outside of their published efforts. But they are happy with the public boundaries that have chosen. And that’s great. Just not for me.
    The freedom to have any conversation with readers, including you who comment (and don’t) on this blog, is my pleasure. And when my frustration at being pigeon-holed overflows, I get crabby. But I should just take the urge as a compliment and keep moving.
    And I get more than my share of respect from more than enough people who “matter” and matter to me. My joy from having a good, real conversation with a great filmmaker… with being able to add something to their thoughts as they do mine… to embrace a great film and to explore the nooks and crannies with others who care about it even more… and to engage in a whole different set of perspectives in here and in the world… I love that. That’s what I want.

  30. Crow T Robot says:

    Having the good mind of a critic isn’t enough, Noah. You have to have the good heart of one too. I find that the few today who show both qualities (Ebert, Maltin, Sarris) are the most respected.

  31. Noah says:

    Absolutely, Crow. Truthfully, I don’t understand people who work in this industry, spending all day writing about it and yet they don’t really love movies. I think I can safely say, though, that the majority of people who post here (and the man who created this blog) truly love film and all aspects of it. A lot of people felt Kael didn’t love film, but I think she did; she just felt compelled to speak her mind in order to make film better. In essence, she was like a lot of liberals today; just because you criticize the administration, it doesn’t mean you don’t love this country.
    And Joe, I really got turned onto Canby when I got the New York Times 1000 Best Movies book and I was in awe of how great Canby’s writing was and his enthusiasm for film was on par with any other film writer I’ve read. I don’t understand how anyone could knock him; but then again, there are folks that knock Robert Frost just because they only think of him as the “road less traveled” guy. You don’t always have to be esoteric to be great.

  32. Crow T Robot says:

    (gah, shoulda hit refresh once more before posting!)
    I hear ya, Dave. Do as you will. But you will have to make peace with not being understood by many of us — which you mentioned yesterday frustrates the hell out of you.
    I mean, even you have to admit, this poet-by-day-lawyer-by-night schtick of yours is a little unusual in the world of journalism.

  33. Aladdin Sane says:

    Noah, interesting way to try and appreciate good films…I dunno, I think that if I went to every shitty reviewed movie out there, it would only leave me more frustrated than I already can be with new films. I have not seen nearly half the amount of films you’ve seen this year, but out of the 40 or so I’ve seen, there is only one that I have seen that I can say I truly can love…and that was Atonement. 10 months into the year and that discovery was only made yesterday…it’s been a crap film year.

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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.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“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