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David Poland

By David Poland

BYOB Friday

Last 10 days before the MCN site (& this biog with it) relaunches with a new design. Plus TIFF stuff… plus normal life stuff…
The Tillman Story is worth seeing and The Switch is… okay. It’s exactly what you probably expect from the ads with more of Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis than you would expect as The Wacky Best Friends.
I would probably enjoy Piranha 3D as “fun crap” if I had the time to care.
What are your plans for this thrilling movie weekend?

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67 Responses to “BYOB Friday”

  1. Anthony Singleton says:

    The contents of this article sounds very familiar:

    The Dollar Value of Nerd Love

  2. SJRubinstein says:

    What’s the word on “Mao’s Last Dancer?” My in-laws dug it when it hit Montreal last month, but they didn’t love “Avenue Q,” so I’ve wholly discounted their taste ever since.

  3. Stevehead says:

    Will probably catch “Animal Kingdom” this weekend.

  4. Rob says:

    Totally prioritized Piranha 3D over Cairo Time and Animal Kingdom, and I don’t regret it. It’s a hoot.

  5. Joe Leydon says:

    Too hammered in New Orleans to think about moviegoing.

  6. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “Mao’s” is fairly functional. It’s not bad by any means, but there’s a few additions that weren’t in the book that are relatively obvious heartstring pullers – the “legendary warrior” schtick in particular.
    It’s a while since I saw it, but my memory is that it falls in the blandly “good” region – nothing terribly outstanding to single out, and nothing horrible either. Still, a good look at 80s China/US comparisons.

  7. Not David Bordwell says:

    Okay, I saw The Expendables at an 11:00 showing on its opening Friday night before fleeing into the bucolic interior of the Midwest for a weekend off the grid. So I missed the threads on this flick while they were fresh, but I

  8. a_loco says:

    ^ Well that gave me something to think about.
    But as for the movie itself, I felt during the Li-Lundgren fight that this was evidence that Stallone the director could handle the guns/explosions, which I thought was pretty good, better than the martial arts, which, I agree, was mediocre.
    Also, as for Stallone’s surgery addled face. I remember him saying somewhere that he had a health condition that made his eyelids droop. Do you think that’s the reason he appears to have had his eyebrows stapled to his skull, just above the eye sockets?
    On a more relevant note, I think the reason I enjoy Stallone’s recent career output as much as I do is his awareness of his own career arc, and his awareness that the reason his career died at the beginning of the decade (remember all those DTV movies?) is because audiences felt he went after entertainment-oriented action films rather than something a little more prestigious. Thus, his last three movies have been about trying to find the honour and pathos in his former characters, but still realizing their limits as aging archetypes. Expendables might be the weakest of the three films (the other two being Rocky Balboa and Rambo, obvs), and I think that’s probably due to all the winking at the camera (That Willis/Schwarzenegger cameo was embarrassing), but on the whole, I think he’s been very successful in finding the balance between ridiculous and poignant, and I applaud him.

  9. Nicol D says:

    Mao’s Last Dancer,
    Released in Canada before the States so I saw it last week.
    Vert good but very old school. Takes an almost Rocky approach to the material and all the leads are good with a fantastic turn by Canadian Bruce Greenwood in the co-lead/supporting role. He makes a role that could have been a one dimensional stereotype into a genuine article.
    What stood out the most was the cinematography. If you are looking for slick as snot Fincher like visuals you will be turned off. The film stock is very grainy but used to a purpose as it merges better with the stock historical footage and makes the film feel more like a time and place in history.
    Well done, but perhaps will appeal to older audiences.
    The Expendables- I am elated by the amout of ink being spilled on the subtext or text of this flick. I loved it as a Friday popcorn film but this is not art. It is just Stallone doing a riff on Cannon films from the 80’s which he has a lot of affection for. If you like Cannon you will like the Expendables. If not, don’t waste your time. All of the people talking about the films politics should stop wasting thier time. Stallone is an international star who deliberately down played the politics so it would succeed in all markets. Good for him.
    Get Low: Fantastic film. Every member of the cast is fantastic and one can see why Murray is doing more art films. He can completely hold his own against Oscar greats like Duvall. The film is all atmosphere and mood with a fantastic bluegrass score. It has a deeper message than most films out now but also a fun atmosphere thanks to Murray. And the cinamatography is stunning as is the sound design. Should be hit with plenty of awards nods but probably will be forgotten.

  10. IOv2 says:

    Anthony, I would agree with that guy’s point, if it were not for Cowboys and Aliens. Cowboys and Aliens is going to be one of the big films at Comic Con next year, Favreau is going to go all out there and the film with garner a lot of good will, and probably do Inception level numbers next year. Which makes that guys supposition completely and utterly null and void.
    The fine people at Lionsgate linked to an article today about Scott Pilgrim and the comments in it were illuminating because it brought up that it’s being sold to a tech savy crowd of kids who, as we have pointed out on this blog, have a thing for not PAYING FOR STUFF. I am not stating that downloading hurt this film but it was sold to some of the most shiftless people in this country when it comes to going out and putting their money on the line.
    Nevertheless, I still hold that it did what it did because America really lacks the ability to go for the new and awesome when it’s NEW. Once it’s derived down to different forms of media and what not, then people will GET Scott Pilgrim. Until then, it’s the best movie of 2010, it’s a groundbreaking film, and it puts Wright in the echelon. Disagree all you want but this film will get around and when it does… we will start again.
    Oh yeah… someone has to point out that The Expendables has more to do with video games than even Scott Pilgrim.

  11. leahnz says:

    a loco, just to say your last paragraph there re: late career stallone is an interesting take and kinda touching to boot.
    “If you like Cannon you will like the Expendables”
    apparently not.
    and who is to say what is art and what is not?
    artistic endeavour comes in myriad forms and expressions open to interpretation; whether or not something as subjectively viewed as film – which by nature is a collaborative process involving many people, many of whom are undeniably artists by nature and profession – can be dismissed as ‘not art’ in a declarative statement like that is highly questionable.
    i personally didn’t care for ‘expendables’ – i found it disappointing and thought it messy and crudely absurd amongst other things – but it is most certainly art. declaring it ‘not art’ is hugely and arrogantly dismissive of all the people who used their particular skills and talents and no doubt poured their blood, sweat and tears into creating the movie, to tell the story to the best of their ability at the time. and make no mistake, film-making on any significant scale involves many factors and a significant degree of artistic endeavour is required to achieve the finished product, any way you slice it. whether or not it succeeds is a different matter, so call it bad art or pulp or poorly-made art or silly commercial art or crude art or dull and insipid art or uninspired art or whathaveyou if you must, but art it is.

  12. Foamy Squirrel says:

    At some point, there’s a dividing line between “art” and “shit someone threw in a pile”.
    …although god knows Ebert could tell you a thing or two about declaring something “not art”.

  13. leahnz says:

    “At some point, there’s a dividing line between “art” and “shit someone threw in a pile”.
    well that very much depends on the intent of the person who threw the shit in a pile, but what ever the case i don’t think ‘the expendables’ arguably crosses over the line from art to ‘shit thrown in a pile”. at the very most it isn’t effective as a work of art.
    (and ebert declaring a film ‘not art’ is every bit as misguided and ignorant as nicol doing it)

  14. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Heh… intent of the “artist” is a completely different conversation. 😉
    I was referring to the shitstorm a few weeks ago when Ebert declared that computer games weren’t art.

  15. leahnz says:

    oh…guess i missed that shitstorm
    (computer/video games are absolutely art. as a matter of fact, a couple of close friends and unbelievably talented artists have recently defected to the games world from the vis. effects world, and i’d like to see ebert tell them they don’t create art. that would be an interesting conversation to witness)

  16. movieman says:

    Does anyone know anything about “‘The Exorcist’ Directors Cut Event” (runtime 165 minutes)? It’s scheduled to play for one nite only on September 30th in “select theaters.”
    Huge “Exorcist” fan here, but I’m not aware of any previous version exceeding the two-hour mark.
    Can anyone shed any light on this “Event”?

  17. leahnz says:

    eee, i should probably clarify before any shit hits the fan that i in no way meant any offence re: ebert’s conversational abilities as they stand as the result of his health issues, through which he has been nothing but hugely brave and refreshingly candid; by ‘interesting conversation to witness’ i meant in an esoteric sense, artist debating critic, rather than literally, which is how it might have sounded)

  18. A. E. Ase says:

    @ Not David Bordwell:
    I watched Rocky Balboa again last night and I think you may actually be on to something. Of course you’ve got to factor in that Stallone’s a half-has been movie star out to make a buck and to prove he’s still got it- but the subtext you picked on may in fact be intentional. If Rocky Balboa and Rambo were about his iconic roles gently going into the good night- and if the Expendables is meant to address the rest of Sly’s output- then ‘existential meditation on the end of an action hero

  19. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Looks like Scott Pilgrim is heading for a steep drop this weekend – sorry IO, it’s a shame. :-/
    It’s not unusual tho, it’s something that’s occurring more and more now that the internet has fragmented conversations. If there’s one thing to be said for the monolithic media companies of the 70s and 80s, it’s that they had to present a broad range of messages to represent the broad viewer base they served. With the increased channels these days, it’s easy for consumers to pick and choose the channels/messages that reinforce the things they want to hear.
    It creates a false sense of consensus – you’re only hearing things that are consistently positive (or negative, depending on the subject) so you assume that “everyone” agrees. Then, when it’s finally put to a general test such as a wide release (in the case of media) or a vote (in the case of political messages, the other major arena where this has been prevalent in the last few years), the result can come as a bit of a shock. And the reaction is “How can these people be such IDIOTS?!?!? How can they have ignored (all the things that I have been paying attention to)?”.
    In the case of Scott Pilgrim, for however much geeks/hipsters loved this movie (and probably rightfully so) they either directed all of their word-of-mouth to the Already Faithful ™ or mainstream audiences just don’t trust that segment as reliable. Compare this to Avatar, where they specifically intended preview audiences to act as ambassadors to the mainstream (a strategy I totally agreed with, although I was a bit hesitant about their execution at the time).

  20. Hallick says:

    I think Ebert’s thing for video games has more to do with whether or not they can be works of narrative art in the same way a movie or a book can, not that they aren’t visually artistic, which would be an indefensable position to be staking out. I believe he’s looking for an example of a game that has the power to thoroughly move someone emotionally and elevate the consciousness/soul of the player.

  21. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I thought Vampires Suck was the same as Suck. Can we have some original titles please?

  22. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “When you watch a movie, your imagination is basically being supplied for you, whereas in a book you’re creating it yourself. The same thing applied here: What you recreate in your own mind is more powerful than what we can supply for you. Plus, it’s just fun to write…
    …there are a whole lot of games that aren’t mindless at all. So you say, ‘Wow, this is making me have certain emotions, this is making me feel a certain way. I’m really enjoying this.’ Maybe people should just play more games.”
    – Chris Avellone, interviewed in the New York Times.
    Turns out it was April. I guess my sense of time is going in my old age. 😉

  23. Anghus Houvouras says:

    i understand the whole scott pilgrim fanbase ‘not wanting to pay for stuff’ mentality, but i gotta tell ya, there isn’t one bootleg out there from the usual sites. Expendables, yup. But Scott Pilgrim is basically vacant from the bootleg sites.
    I have no discernable proof of this, but you can almost tell the lack of interest in a film when there aren’t people clamoring for a bootleg. I don’t even see any requests from people asking for someone to post a bootleg.
    i’ve been following bootlegging sites for years out of curiosity. it’s always interesting (to me anyway) to see what people are downloading illegally compared to what is making bank at the box office.
    Scott Pilgrim is tanking fast and has almost zero presence on the bootlegging sites.

  24. David Poland says:

    The “this audience won’t pay for it” is the same line of bull that was “teen boys aren’t going to the movies anymore.”
    We’ve discussed why they didn’t turn the trick, but The Trick is really obvious. There is a cap on geek boys. They didn’t find the teen girls. No girls… no date night… hard movie to sell as what it is… not enough of a sample to get it rolling. Done.
    You, IO, defend ComicCon like there is something wrong with there being a Geek 12. That’s still a nice chunk of money on opening weekend… just as an actor who consistently draws openings in the low teens on their big head in ads is still quite valuable, even though people mock launches like Zac’s Charlie McCloud (or whatever that was called).
    That is why it is a ComicCon Curse though… because marketers forget, seduced by the deep breathing and drool at ComicCon. Great. You found that market. Yay! Now… if you need bigger dollars, you have to go out and sell some people who would not be caught dead taking ComicCon seriously.
    It’s not an either/or… either way. ComicCon doesn’t close the deal for a movie that wants a $20 million opening or better. ComicCon is not a waste of time. It is, however, just one piece of the puzzle for most studio level films.
    You can be sure that Inception and Dark Knight were downloaded a lot more than Scott Pilgrim.
    The two areas where illegal downloading does seem to have a real impact is “urban” films, for which $5 DVDs downtown seem to be considered a real alternative to a trip to the movies, and sexy stuff, like the Jessica Biel stripper movie or the Lindsay Lohan stripper movie, which can’t even get theatrical releases because there is so much wank-off material online for guys who want to wank to them already.

  25. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Finally took in “Charlie St. Cloud” last night. It’s a natural to me as I grew up near the seaside. What do Relativity and U do? Change the setting to the Northwest and cast a pretty boy as the lead. Hollywood knows how to pander to the “High School Musical” crowd yet can’t get a grip on what older and upmarket audiences would like to see.
    The bigger shame is that the upmarket side is now treated by Hollywood as morons just like the popcorn crowd. “Mao’s Last Dancer”? Referencing a movie that won an Oscar in the year of “Batman” is so bass-ackward. “Get Low”? All that Academy Award Winner/Nominee screams I’m a SNOB! I’m a SNOB!
    BTW, tell Sony Pictures Classics that Regal Entertainment and Clearview Cinemas do not use MovieFone.

  26. Anghus Houvouras says:

    most of my projects that have been produced fall into the “urban” category. a friend of mine was in New York City and found a copy of a film i wrote on the street a week prior to the release date sitting next to Star Wars Episode III. A week later, another friend mailed me a copy he found at a flea market.
    One of the producers of another film i wrote was in Jamaica checking into a hotel. On the television in the back office was another film i had written and he had produced. When he inquired, the clerk said it was a film he picked up in a local store. Another chuckle.
    A few weeks back a friend emailed me to ask who we were using to distribute one of our films in Germany, sending me an link. I didn’t know. I called the producer to see if i could get a referral and he said ‘i wasn’t aware we had a deal in Germany.’ He didn’t find it so amusing. Me, i stopped worrying about it because ‘back end deals’ exist in the direct to video market on paper only. I had a film i wrote and produced get picked up by a top DVD distributor in the U.S. and is currently available on DVD 26 markets and played on cable. Still, the producers are claiming a loss saying they have to sue that they’ll have to audit the half dozen parties responsible for making the deals.
    The low end has as much financial drama and bootleg cannibalization as the high end, just with a lot less zeroes.
    And Dave, Inception is being downloaded a lot, but not as much as Salt which lends itself to your wank off theory.

  27. David Poland says:

    I think, Anghus, what Salt vs Inception in the downloading community probably means is that many of those people have chosen to have the theatrical experience of Inception and not so much for Salt.
    And while they are wrong for stealing, they are not wrong about which is more a movie theater experience, though I think Salt is beautifully made. Hard to imagine watching an okay download of Inception on a computer and feeling like I’ve seen the movie. Salt, not as much.

  28. Hallick says:

    On nothing but a purely financial level, without any judgement on the quality of a given film that is shown or previewed there, it seems like 90% of the time buzz coming out of ComicCon is pretty much the equivalent of the buzz that comes out from between a guy’s legs when he thinks he’s about to cum like a firehose and instead goes off like an empty handsoap dispenser.

  29. leahnz says:

    ha, foamy, i even COMMENTED in that thread, obviously in ‘gnat-like-attention-span’ skimming mode; i recall the ‘gaming as art’ theme and discussion now, just didn’t make the connection to ebert.
    ebert’s view is clearly that of someone quite old-fashioned who does not engage in gaming, because while some games are clearly vastly superior to others in their visual artistry and story-telling acumen, implying that video games can’t and never will be art is simply ignorance of the medium. christ, i’m not a gamer AT ALL and when i play even arkham asylum i get so carried away and into it it’s scary. my wee boy started out with ‘halo’ and his connection to and fondness for master chief, whose character is built around a voice, is real and profound; i pity the fool who tells him video games can’t suck you into a story and elicit a range of emotions similar to film as effective interactive art

  30. The Big Perm says:

    I think you could counter argue that you can get sucked into a UFC fight and experience several emotions. Or say the same with fucking. But consider neither of those to be art (although my best fucking acts could at least be framed and hung…if not in the Louvre, then maybe one of those galleries at the mall next to those paintings of cities with the blinking lights in them).

  31. leahnz says:

    video games are interactive art

  32. The Big Perm says:

    Says you, not says Ebert…and if you’re using range of emotions as proof of art I’m saying you can be emotionally moved by things that aren’t art…therefore, emotions in of themselves are no proof to artistic worth. When I played baseball I’d get caught up as hell in it, but wouldn’t call it art…although I guess you could say baseball is an artform.

  33. leahnz says:

    did i ever once say eliciting a range of emotions is proof of something as art? no

  34. The Big Perm says:

    That’s what I took this to mean:
    “christ, i’m not a gamer AT ALL and when i play even arkham asylum i get so carried away and into it it’s scary. my wee boy started out with ‘halo’ and his connection to and fondness for master chief, whose character is built around a voice, is real and profound; i pity the fool who tells him video games can’t suck you into a story and elicit a range of emotions similar to film as effective interactive art”
    You’re using your and your son’s reaction and “range of emotions” to a game as an example of why it’s artistic.

  35. leahnz says:

    no, i’m not actually, sorry. i’m using my reaction to a game as an EXAMPLE that video games CAN be compelling and emotionally engaging because of character and story in ways similar to film, which ebert questions in his ‘games can’t be art’ tirade. either your comprehension skills are questionable or you’re just trying to be argumentative.
    oh and get this: about video games as a form of art, EBERT IS WRONG. shock horror

  36. Anghus Houvouras says:

    I gave ebert a verbal lashing about his position on video games as art. And he just sat there slackjawed staring at me with his mouth wide open.

  37. leahnz says:

    holy shit, anghus

  38. The Big Perm says:

    I know kids who are fond of Pokemon cards but I don’t think of them as artistic.

  39. Dan Revill (formerly Aladdin Sane) says:

    Geez Anghus, I don’t know what’s more evil – the fact you said it or the fact I laughed.
    It’s too bad that Ebert decided to take a month off when Scott Pilgrim was coming out. I was really looking forward to seeing what he thought about it, since it is perhaps the first film that has video game culture roots and uses them in a compelling manner. I wouldn’t call it a perfect movie, but it’s pretty damn entertaining.

  40. Nicol D says:

    “and who is to say what is art and what is not?
    artistic endeavour comes in myriad forms and expressions open to interpretation;…”
    And thus is the fault of your post. In allowing everything to be art…you defacto allow that nothing is art. Art is far more complex than whether or not talented people or artisans created it. You are giving me the academic “if I call myself an artist I am an artist” argument.
    That has been the death of art.
    Art is not just about whether or not one has talent or poured blood and sweat into the work. It is also about an objective aesthetic. And while we may disagree about what that aesthetic is, to deny that there should even be an aesthetic to art vs. wankery is to go down the road that allows everyone with a video camera and access to imovie to call themselves and artist.
    But even that is bullshit and you know it.
    You just hate “Nicol D” and if I had declared The Expendables art you would have taken the exact opposite position.

  41. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I theeeenk you might be giving yourself a leeeetle too much credit there, Nicol.

  42. leahnz says:

    “You just hate “Nicol D” and if I had declared The Expendables art you would have taken the exact opposite position”
    as for the rest, blah blah blah. death of art my ass. nothing even remotely interesting in your comment, typical film school snob blather, v. likely without an artistic bone in your body
    perm: pokemon cards? wow, could you be any more idiotic on purpose
    foamy: indeed

  43. leahnz says:

    “And thus is the fault of your post. In allowing everything to be art…you defacto allow that nothing is art.”
    i missed this sublime bit of lack of comprehension. where did i say, “everything is art”? nowhere.
    what i said was, you declaring something that is clearly a form of art NOT ART because it’s low-brow or whatever your bizarre reasoning is, is asinine. hopefully that clears that up.

  44. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Actually, that really is a brilliant butchering of the aphorism, “If everything is exceptional, then nothing is”.
    You can’t just swap out the adjective and expect the phrase to continue working – especially if the adjective describes a class of items rather than a comparison between items.
    For example, “If everything is pie, then nothing is”. No – I can indeed have a collection where everything is pie. I just can’t have a collection where everything is “the best pie”. It is entirely possible for everything to be art. Whether everything actually IS art is a different discussion.

  45. leahnz says:

    good point.
    (but now i really want some pie)

  46. leahnz says:

    the objective snobbery so often seen in the assesment of art is rather fascinating; when a viewer of a work of art deems said work ‘not art’ because THAT INDIVIDUAL deems it unworthy of the title due to a of a lack of appreciation for a particular aesthetic, such a declaration says everything about the self-important nature of the viewer and nothing about the art itself. a declaration of ‘not art!’ is actually meaningless, devoid of insight into artistic endeavour. from the loftiest and most high-brow forms to my boy’s stop-mo movies, artistic endeavour exists at all levels of creative achievement.
    ‘expendables’ is indisputably a work of art by any definition/measure by virtue of the artistic and technical components and achievement required to tell a visual story/create a motion picture. is it effective art? what are its artistic merits? does it work within the aesthetic used to define/creat it? artistic value is debatable, but dismissing something out of hand as ‘not art’ because it doesn’t fit one’s definition of what constitutes artistic achievement is to show a lack of insight and narrow-mindedness.

  47. leahnz says:

    criminy, clearly that should be SUBJECTIVE snobbery at the beginning of my thing

  48. Lota says:

    no one talking about the Tillman story?
    I read his Mom’s book and it was pretty heartbreaking. You can see he has a great family, and why they didn;t give up. I hope it gets wide viewership. IF more families were like his maybe we’d have some reform.
    Wide viewership I hope would improve how the armed forces do things (or fail to do things).
    For one thing it would be nice if they stop recruiting with high pay bonuses and no more waivers for mental illness, that would reduce some of the problems they’ve had with murder and carelessness.
    Tillman was fragged (jealousy), not much different from Esposito and Allen.

  49. Martin S says:

    Re: Art.
    Ridley Scott defined filmmaking decades ago by referring to himself as a commercial artist. He points at what Leah is stating – individual artistic components are joined together – while agreeing with Nicol’s assertion that the end goal is commerce, not art. It’s what Kubrick dreamed of attaining with AI and what Cameron innately understands.
    Expendables, like Pirahna 3D, can be labeled commercial art, but artistic endeavor is purposely diluted in favor of exploitation which is easier to sell.

  50. Not David Bordwell says:

    Now THAT’S art.

  51. leahnz says:

    martin s, your comment is interesting, but at no point has nicol “assert[ed} that the end goal is commerce, not art”. that is your take. his assertion throughout has been that the particular populist film in question is “not art” by virtue of it’s aesthetic, which is quite different.
    since year dot art and commerce have collided. ‘commercial art’ is still art, commercial artists still artists (i’m one myself). a great many talented artists engage in artistic endeavour – in whatever form that may take – to sell their work/earn $ from their efforts. this does not make said art any less pure, valid or viable, and commercial interests certainly don’t render artistic endeavour ‘not art’.
    if all art created in order to make $ was no longer considered art, our world would be artistically and aesthetically bereft, a much less beautiful and interesting place to inhabit.

  52. leahnz says:

    just to clarify, as if i haven’t babbled on enough on this subject, the end goal of a project can be both art AND commerce, one does not necessarily preclude the other

  53. leahnz says:

    crap, i’m verging on io-esque numbers in this thread (no offence io, really), but i forgot to mention re: lota’s comment that i, for one, am very keen to see ‘the tillman story’, even tho it probably won’t get down here for ages

  54. IOv2 says:

    Leah, if it keeps me from having to discuss stuff, that’s fine by me :D!

  55. Martin S says:

    Leah – Nicol mentioned Stallone downplaying aspects of Expendables so it could play wide in all markets in his first post.
    I wasn’t implying commercial artists are not artist. I just agree with Scott’s perception that in the end, one will triumph the other – commerce or art. Look at Blade Runner or Legend; he went for art and the interests of commercial appeal won out. It’s why I mentioned Kubrick. The man sacrificed the last third of his life trying to decode how to make a Spielberg-size, (now Cameron-size) blockbuster but with his artistry. No one apparently bothered to tell him it wasn’t possible…and they certainly didn’t tell him no one gives a damn about Pinocchio if the word “Disney” is not above it.
    As long as we’re talking about studio theatrical film, one side must win out. Trying both is threading a needle that usually ends in a mess. Stallone’s goal was very simple – get a theatrical release. So he shaved off any edges and created the easiest marketable movie possible which is where the Cannon references are stemming from. If he went the artistic route, it would have been a postmodern, Tarantinoesque, Grindhouse equivalent for action films. That might have been possible if he had gotten his dream cast – Van Damme, Segal, Snipes, etc…as a hedge against the artistic endeavor. But he didn’t, so he couldn’t, which is why it’s surreal to read people, lots of people, trying to drill down into this film. Even the Cannon references are a reach because, there’s no “there”, there.

  56. Stella's Boy says:

    Lota I can’t wait to see The Tillman Story. I haven’t read his mom’s book but recently I read Where Men Win Glory, which is excellent. Tillman seems like a pretty incredible dude.

  57. leahnz says:

    “Nicol mentioned Stallone downplaying aspects of Expendables so it could play wide in all markets in his first post”
    ok martin s, i see the disconnect here. yes nicol did mention that, but you’re bleeding the ‘not art’ sentiment and the political/populist comment together. the political aspect is not mentioned in direct connection with the “not art” sentiment:
    “I loved it as a Friday popcorn film but this is not art. It is just Stallone doing a riff on Cannon films from the 80’s which he has a lot of affection for. If you like Cannon you will like the Expendables. If not, don’t waste your time.”
    “not art” in nicol’s assesment above pertains specifically to his direct comparison of stallone’s film and cannon’s canon, stallone’s film being “just a riff” on cannon according to nicol, which in nicol world apparently renders it “not art” (rather than derivative art, which is what it really is) and quite possibly the cannon films as well, which seems implied, an assumption i think we’ve both made.
    the political comment doesn’t appear to be part and parcel, specific to speculation about stallone’s controversial depiction of the ‘anywhere south america’ villains (so as to apparently offend as few people as possible — except the entire continent of south america), an approach nicol would appear to be in favour of as stallone’s attempt to quash political controversy and succeed “in all markets”; i don’t see how this observation and approval of stallone’s populist methods in watering down the politics pertains to his sentiment that the expendables is “not art”.
    whatever the case, while i get what you’re saying and i agree about watering down film for mass consumption/marketing (which has gotten far worse in recent times to the point where movies don’t even seem to get made unless the marketing machine approves) as problematic, my original point was that EVEN IF a big flick is watered down and neutered for marketing purposes to the ‘mainstream’, while that may indeed make the film arguably less artistically unique or valuable, by no measure does this mean the movie is “NOT ART”, and this is my point (or it was…)
    you say, “if [stallone] went the artistic route”, but what exactly does that mean? people often say this sort of thing, but equating ‘artistic’ with ‘anti-mainstream/anti-mass appeal’ is nonsensical because art is not just ‘one thing’, it is not inherently ‘anti-mainstream’ in content, there is no ‘true’ form or one way to effectively design, art encompasses a vast array of forms, from the most simple design to extremely complex compositions, and one is not more ‘real art’ than the other, they merely vary in form and function.
    i believe people tend to say ‘artistic’ re: film when what they really mean is ‘unique’ or ‘weird’ or ‘interesting’ or ‘challenging’ in some way, be it intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, compositionally, visually, blah blah blah; but while portraying unique and challenging content on screen relies on creative endeavour to achieve, such qualities are not definitive of art or intrinsic to art.
    in this particular case, the assumption appears to be that there was some other more existential, creative path stallone might have taken had he not wanted to market his film to as wide an audience as possible, perhaps an avant garde tarantino-esque art house war movie with complex political subtext up his sleeve…
    but really? stallone’s range is incredibly narrow and limited – he ain’t no tarantino – and the reality is he was probably always going to make pretty much the movie he made, interchangeable cast or no. did the ‘necessity’ for pretend south american countrymen mean stallone sacrificed his artistic integrity, stiffling him and preventing him from making the movie he really wanted to make? most directors have a certain range and skill set, limits under which they function; it’s a HUGE assumption that stallone would have made a significantly different war film, or even could have, if only he’d been allowed to indulge his inner art god. i’d be willing to bet he made close to exactly the film he was CAPABLE of making, and that’s that. any required “shaving off the edges’ is just cosmetic, not an affront to stallone’s art.
    i think i actually put myself to sleep rambling

  58. Stella's Boy says:

    Didn’t Sly say that in the beginning The Expendables was an outright comedy, but he realized it wasn’t working at all so he shifted the tone/focus? I also think decisions like going on O’Reilly’s show to claim it’s not in any way political suggests otherwise (a little wink, wink to a friendly audience perhaps).

  59. Not David Bordwell says:

    @leah et al.,
    Really gratifying thread in response to my “drilling down” into what I think is a pretty bad movie. But I’ve always been of the opinion bad movies can have redeeming facets, and analyzing what makes a bad movie bad, or catching glimpses of the better movie the bad movie swallowed, can be pretty enlightening.
    Whether you like it or not, Sly is an auteur who has written something like 20 films and directed 8 of his own scripts. As leah points out, the guy has a pretty narrow range, but the original Rocky and First Blood films are fascinating character studies that really hold up, and a handful of his other films are admirable as ambitious failures. Even his Rocky and Rambo franchises can be respected for cultural iconicity, and in fact I have a colleague who uses a couple of these films to teach about the 80’s-era cold war zeitgeist.
    It is simply absurd to reject the Expendables as “not art.” It’s an addition to the man’s oeuvre, which of course anyone can despise or embrace freely. But it shouldn’t be so astonishing or “surreal” that some of us want to “drill down,” since others have detected an elegiac tone in his last three films.
    And didn’t John Waters teach us a long time ago that trash can be art?
    Anyway, great discussion.

  60. Martin S says:

    Leah – I was going by the stream of Nicol’s comments. If this shown in tree form, the art argument is a branch-off from his original comment. I really can’t debate Nicol’s full art/not art comment any further since it’s his criteria.
    As for the “artistic route” I see what you’re getting at, but as I initially wrote this applies as long as we’re talking about studio theatrical releases. Once parameters are defined we can gauge the spectrum. Genre. Studio v Independent. Theatrical v Non-theatrical. Tarantino is arguably the edge of that artistic scale, where say, Brett Ratner is his counterweight. Tarantino has a formula that Stallone was initially following but it fell apart for reasons beyond his control. He then had to make a decision and his biggest goal became theatrical distribution.
    I didn’t equate the artistic route with anti-mainstream or mass appeal. Linda Vachon explains it best, but suffice to say, it’s more about making decisions that are in service to the material and not external forces. You can look at numerous decisions made on Expendables to see everything was made in favor of the latter. When Van Damme bailed, why did he go with Jet Li over say, another veteran like Chuck Norris who would have fit his original vision more closely? Because Li has international draw and can guarantee foreign markets.
    …and that gets to the heart of the Stallone question. The man has depth. Forget Rocky, go look at Lords of Flatbush or Copland. That depth has been hallowed out by years of pop movie catering so when he does find his way back, such as Copland, he doesn’t feel comfortable enough to stay with it because it’s appeal isn’t wide enough. His original intent was a postmodern 80’s action film. How far he would have gone is debatable, but what’s fact is that he had to make several compromises along the way beyond casting. Sly was adamant about directing which made securing financing and distribution hard since it wasn’t an established property.
    The difference here is in the interpretation. You’re leaning towards some heavy polemic, and that’s not what I’m implying. I mentioned Grindhouse not Inglorious Basterds. Visually, aesthetically, it appeared he wanted go for a postmodern 80’s film but couldn’t step too far out due to the risk factors. With his original cast, he would have been forced to go further into Grindhouse territory or it would have been unintentionally comical to watch an old group of dudes take down an army. Maybe that’s where the “Expendables-as-comedy” idea comes from. Either way, he was not looking to make Space Cowboys 2 which is why when casting fell apart, he went for Statham and Li and shifted focus from postmodern to retro.

  61. leahnz says:

    yowza i didn’t even realise this thread was still active. the hotblog isn’t working for me properly, pages not refreshing, recent comments not visible unless i do some weird voodoo ritual, pain in the backside.
    at any rate i don’t really have much to add or disagree with here, i’m tired, my brain is mush and i think i’ve already stated my case ad nauseum, and i’m ready to veg out.
    my only point in this whole thing was re: the invalid ‘not art’ argument, all this other stuff is sorta beside the point for me personally. it’s good to have different perspectives, but unless you actually know the people in question or were involved in the production, i think there’s a tendency to read things and hear stories and then form a picture based on second-hand theories and assumptions.
    i don’t know what’s true or not true re: the expendables, but i know from anecdotal experience that unless you are involved in a production maybe 1% of the weird shit that goes down ever comes out, and even when you’re right in the thick of it some things remain a mystery to the bitter end.
    just recently i was involved in production for some additional dvd commentary, and it’s amazing how people put so much stock in that crap. the commentary i worked on was a load of hogwash, people saying basically what they were told to say by the powers that be. i’ve learned one has to be very careful about taking things at face value, even from the horse’s mouth when in a public forum, it may be interesting but it’s not always the straight poop. in my experience people know what they want you to know, which is usually diddly squat.
    i like stallone but i’ve never seen much range at all in his film-making (yes in a few of his perfs but not his writing/direction) so it’s hard to imagine him stepping out of his film-making zone to do a postmodern piece radically different from what we got, which seemed just about what he’s capable of, but i guess stranger things have happened.

  62. Foamy Squirrel says:

    @Leah – hold down the shift key and mouseclick the refresh icon. It forces a complete reload of the page rather than just comparing the cache.

  63. leahnz says:

    i’ll do it, thanks man

  64. leahnz says:

    didn’t work. i think it’s a ghost in my machine

  65. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I probably should have asked what browser you were using… the other one to try is ctrl-F5. I’ve been having similar timestamp issues, and shift-refreshclick works for Firefox.

  66. leahnz says:

    i’m on explorer at the mo, but i had the same problem on chrome. i’ll try ctrl-f5, otherwise fuck it, maybe when DP overhauls this thing that will solve the problem, until then it’s voodoo

  67. Wenchang says:

    There’s actually a prtety interesting post regarding people having more scrutiny for visual representations of something than written representations. I’d recommend it to people interested on the subject, I enjoyed it and thought it articulated some good points.And I’d have to say there’s some truth to it. I read my first Stephen King book, Pet Semetary, when I was ten years old. The book has some extremely graphic depictions of sex and violence, including the detailed description of a toddler being hit by a truck and brutally dismembered as he was dragged under it for a length comparable to that of a football field. And at ten years old, no one questioned me reading this. Actually, I think I was probably congratulated for reading something with that many pages while the other kids were taking out things like Babysitter’s Club and California diaries. I was not allowed to watch Steven King movies nearly until around the time I graduated high school and moved out. My parents just didn’t want us watching stuff like that, I still feel awkward watching a movie with a sex scene in it in my parent’s house. But they were fine with me reading about it. And when I finally saw the Pet Semetary movie, I realized that the violence was EXTREMELY censored from what was written in the book. Taking that same scene with the toddler being hit by the truck for example, in the movie I believe the track just cleanly flips over and squashes him, so you see nothing. And honestly, as intense as that scene is in the book, it just seems much more tasteless to actually show a realistic visual depiction of a little boy being ground apart by a truck than it is to write about it.I do agree with you that games probably face more scrutiny than movies because they’re more interactive and new. I do remember when I was a kid shows like Power Rangers were getting a lot of flack because kids were/could emulate it. Even cartoons, I remember listening to some radio show where a woman was talking about how children shouldn’t be allowed to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons because it will make them more violent, and how you need to take your child aside and explain what would really happen if the coyote had an anvil drop on him , but you don’t see much of that anymore. I don’t know if it’s because kids cartoons have neutered down the violence enough these days or people have found new targets to complain about, or some combination of both.

Quote Unquotesee all »

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