Tag: Armond White (Page 2 of 2)

Thursday night movie news dump

I usually do this on Friday, but the interesting film related stories have been coming fairly hot and heavy all week and it’s time to play catch up. I’m telling you right now, as long as this post is, whatever the most important and interesting story from this eventful week turns out to be, it’ll be the one I skip.

* When I first heard about the project a week or so back, I was taken by the prospect of screenwriter Dustin Lance Black segueing from a biopic about the first openly gay U.S. politician in “Milk” to one about by far the most powerful closeted gay man in American history, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was the first director of the FBI starting in 1935 and, in a real blow to our democracy, intimidated several presidents into keeping him in the position until his death in 1972, a shocking 37 years later.

An already interesting project got even more interesting, however, a couple of days back when word got out that none other than Clint Eastwood, who will be joining the very smal club of octogenerian directors this May, might choose to helm it. (The Playlist broke the news on the 10th that Eastwood was “set” to direct; yesterday Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that he was merely “eying” the project.).

Taken together with “Invictus,” this would be the second time the right leaning but independent-minded Republican would be taking on subject matter that deals obliquely with a significant moral failure of American conservatism. Nearly all well-known conservatives tacitly supported both the racist and fascist pre-Mandela South African regime and Hoover’s uninterrupted reign.

In the case of “Invictus,” the idea of him doing it turned out to be more interesting than the film. However, for the man who embodied “get tough” law enforcement concepts as Dirty Harry to take on a law enforcement figure who enjoyed getting tough with anyone who dared to espouse politics he deemed radical — but not the mafia — that’s a horse of a potentially very different color. One to watch.

Clint Eastwood will take your question later

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How many Schickels is an Altman worth?

Probably for the same reason that you don’t often see movie stars diss other movie stars for their acting, or directors critique helmers they think are less imaginative, film critics and writers tend to avoid making negative public comments about each other’s work. There are exceptions, however. Armond White of the New York Press has made a habit of, apparently reflexively, viciously attacking most of the films praised by other critics while praising whatever all the other critics hate, and then adding an extra step and implicitly, or not so implicitly, attacking all the other critics and viewers who may agree with them for being so intellectually lazy as to not see things in  the same eccentric way as he. So, he’s taken some well-deserved crap, although some writers still harbor some affection for his earlier reviews and sometimes even still find him occasionally insightful. Not me. I could never stand the guy’s insanely self-important writing or verbal pronouncements.

Richard Schickel, however, is a more complicated case. Also a strong documentary filmmaker who mainly covers filmmakers of the classic era and his favorite contemporary director, Clint Eastwood, as well as a highly readable writer, I’ve nevertheless have always felt somewhat suspicious of him going back to his eighties reviews in Time Magazine. Those feelings crystallized to some extent when I heard him and critic Emanuel Levy take to task a rabbi on Los Angeles public radio while discussing Robert Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful.” They all but called him a bad Jew for not finding the film offensive and daring to admit he was moved by it, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Still, I’ve enjoyed not only several of his cinephile-friendly documentaries, but also some really good audio commentaries recently featuring Schickel discussing another one of his — and my — favorites, Howard Hawks. I’ve been in a forgiving mood.


Then, however, some editor at the L.A. Times had a very bad idea last week. I guess there’s no law that says, say, that if someone hates Picasso or Oscar Wilde or whomever, they should not review a new biography of them.  Ideally, I suppose, by itself that should not be a deal-breaker — as long as the writer in question can step away from their dislike of the subject enough to actually review the book rather than simply yell to the heavens that the revered creator being chronicled is wildly overrated while slipping in some snide remarks at the author’s expense for daring to think her subject is worth composing an entire book about.

Schickel, however, is clearly not big enough to do that, as he proved in writing this anti-Robert Altman screed disguised as a book review for the Los Angeles Times.  You can read Anne Thompson‘s take and then Patrick Goldstein‘s critique and defense of Altman, which also includes a letter from Altman’s one-time protegee, Alan Rudolph, a pretty strong and prolific filmmaker in his own right.

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A few things I missed

* You’ve probably heard it elsewhere by now, but Bryan Singer has been signed to do a “Battlestar Galactica” movie, though of course it’s still very preliminary. I hope it stays that way.

The show will apparently not be related to the recently wrapped, broadly acclaimed TV series, but will be a complete redo of some sort or another and original producer Glen Larson is involved.  That Universal would want to do another reboot on such a recently and brilliantly rebooted property makes absolutely no sense to me at all and shows a real failure of imagination. Moreover, if the idea is to return to something more like the original, I have only one question: Why? One of the things that makes the new series so remarkable is how worthless its original was.

A few years back, I took a fresh look at the first few episodes after dismissing it in my younger geek years and, sorry, the show was three times as bad as I remembered. It was nothing more than a listless knock-off of “Star Wars” with an addition of some surprisingly blatant rightwing agitprop and all the poor characterization and infantile plotting that made seventies television that vast wasteland that it really was back then, with a few exceptions. There is nothing to be nostalgic for here and most modern viewers only know the new show in any case. Bryan Singer’s a smart guy and I just don’t get this.

* Speaking of Singer, his sometime writing partner Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) has been signed to do the next Wolverine flick.

* In other superhero related news, we are back at the start of it all with some new litigation which returns some of the control of Superman to the estates of his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. It may dramatically speed up, or slow down, production of upcoming Superman projects since the ruling goes into effect in 2013 and Warners might want to keep more money for itself by starting sooner rather than later. Regardless, as someone who remembers the “creators’ rights” movement in the comic book world of the late eighties and nineties, I have to think the good guys won here.

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Your Weekend Movie Choice: “Up” in the Heavens, Or Dragged to “Hell”

Yes, we’ve got a weekend of strong contrasts and a real rarity, two critically lauded films that each have a chance of doing some seriously good business.

Of course, the big movie this week is Disney/Pixar’s “Up” which is already, predictably enough, a huge hit not only with our own David Medsker, but with critics across the board, rating a mondo-boffo-socko 98% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. As I write this, only two critics have seen fit to turn thumbs down — and one of those two is the increasingly mindless contrarian, Armond White, who, I gather, loathes us all. (See David Hudson at IFC for more review excerpts and a concise reaction to the ever-more self-parodying White.)

It seems logical to expect something like the money that past smashes from the studio have made (Variety is saying about $60 million for the weekend), but there is always the possibility of audiences turning contrarian themselves, mindlessly or otherwise. If people were concerned that a gourmet rat or a wordless robot might turn off audiences, then a crochety and rather uncute 78-year-old lead could bring out latent movie ageism. Though, as others have pointed out, it doesn’t seemed to have harmed Clint Eastwood much. In any case, the experts seem convinced that the Pixar name, and the fact that this is the very first 3-D production from the amazingly reliable studio, will ensure that the Emeryville studio’s unprecedented track record of critical and commercial success should continue for one more film. (For more on “Up” you are commended, if not commanded, to read Medsker’s interview with director Pete Doctor — at least until the place where David suggests that maybe you should stop.)

As if that weren’t enough, this weekend brings that rarest of all cinematic creatures: A PG-13 horror film that not only is not drawn from an Asian hit, but was actually shown to critics in advance, and got a Pixaresque 96% positive RT rating. I speak, of course, of Sam Raimi’s return to his humor-spiked pulp horror roots with “Drag Me to Hell.” Now, this seems to be less of a sure thing in that the conventional wisdom has been that audiences don’t trust the cinematic chocolate of comedy — even in relatively small doses — combined with the peanut butter of actual scary horror, but Raimi’s name and some credible frights will perhaps cause filmgoers to decide these are two great tastes that go great together. All in all, this could be a canny bit of counterprogramming for teens looking to avoid the wholesomeness of “Up” and the still potent “Night at the Museum” sequel. Besides, Bloody Disgusting gave it 4 and a half skulls.

Also, cinema-chicken though I be, emboldened by that PG-13 rating, I personally, as well as world famous, horror-lovin’ cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and, I’m told, numerous friends and filmic potentates, will be pumping up the grosses of “Hell” in the place where, some say, pulpy horror movies may best be viewed. I speak of the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair, California. If you’re in the area on Saturday, 5/30, there may be more hellish things to do, though if you stay for co-feature “Angels and Demons” all bets may be off.

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