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September 08, 2008


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Personally, I've found myself unwilling to talk about my personal experience when writing a review unless it directly affects my ability to view the film critically. I'm no professional, but I do try to be honest, and frankly it's very, very rare that my personal life warrants mention by that standard.

My problem with the Wissot piece is that her sex life is completely extraneous to the piece, and frankly, I could give a shit. Let's talk about the movie-going public and how they're not stupid because, all evidence to the contrary, there's a strong audience for smart movies. How else does Criterion stay in business? Let's talk about that.

And to be honest, the kind of people she considers "the movie-going public" I just don't want to talk to. They're boring and pretentious and entirely too self-involved to offer anything in the way of a fun discussion about movies. They don't have opinions, they have carefully developed groupthink that they're heavily invested in, because it makes them seem intelligent. No fucking thanks, I'll take somebody willing to meet my arguments with their own, not consensus. That's how my thinking improves!


Let it not go unmentioned, in the dust and heat of the kerfuffle, that "Coney Island Baby" is, along with "Berlin," one of the most severely depressing albums of all time. Listening closely and repeatedly to that album would, I suspect, impair anybody's mental health. Shudder...

Dan Coyle

Man, I really liked Transformers: The Movie, it was a fine ending to Orson Welles' long, storied, and colorful career.



@Dan Coyle

That entire movie is a fairly surreal experience, both for how explicit it is (I know a lot of kids who saw their favorite Autobot get dumped in a vat of liquid metal and burn to 'death') and for just the overall strange choices made by the director and producers, especially in casting (Scatman Crothers?) and music selection. It'll probably go down in history as the ONLY movie with a fight scene scored to Weird Al Yankovic, unless some Kevin Smith-wannabe makes a movie about Transformers fans.

Jason Bellamy

Glenn: I think I disagree with you, but, sorry, I can’t tell here what’s sarcasm and what’s serious. What I do know is that in the case of the “afternoon sex with a bodybuilder" piece, your posted comments at The House Next Door were in relation to Penthouse Forum and Wissot’s “clueless self-regard.” To read the above, you’re now saying that your objection to Wissot’s piece is that she can’t fucking write (unlike Peter Laughner, who can). Well, if that was your objection, why didn’t you say so? That might be part of the reason why people are confused, starting with me.

For the record: I’m not a fan of Wissot. But I have noticed that the most consistent criticism of her writing at THND seems to revolve around her frankness in describing her sex life (and you contributed to this, whether that was your intention or not). So, yeah, it sure seems like that’s where people take offense. If not, why do people, including you, keep bringing it up? Having said that, could I live without Wissot’s candor? Yes. But I can live with it, too.

I don’t want to speak for Wissot, but her argument, it seems to me, is that the life she has no shame living as a grown-ass woman (to use Boone’s words) shouldn’t need to be closeted or edited out, especially if it’s relevant. (I’d argue that there was relevance to many, though not all, of her personal comments in the bodybuilder piece.) To read the above, you seem to think it’s a serious offense to add anything personal to a piece that doesn’t explicitly enhance the criticism – unless, of course, you can “fucking write.” This I find curious since you frequently mention your wife on your blog (no, you don’t discuss your sex life). And just so I’m clear: I could do without those references too. And I can live with them as well. Wissot writes from her personal experiences, honestly. You write from yours. Why can’t both coexist?

I enjoy reading your blog, but this post, yep, made my blood boil (you can laugh me off the Internet now). To make a Penthouse Forum crack on THND and then to follow that up here by saying that, no, Wissot’s writing isn’t even of Forum quality (as if that’s what she was trying to achieve) is petty, misleading and disappointing. In the comments section of the bodybuilder piece, you offered certain criticisms, and now you offer different ones. It’s no wonder people are confused. Do I think you object to Wissot’s sexual lifestyle? I have no idea. And I don’t care. But if it’s about the prose, stupid, then please critique her articles on those grounds.


I don't really know where to begin with all this. The arguments in favor of Wissot's bout of sharing make me more than a little despondent. It's been set up as a lose-lose situation: if you say nothing about this kind of self-regarding, faux-populist, bland horseshit, then it will flourish; if you call these writers out, then you're a jealous prude who "just can't handle it".

Fewer and fewer writers these days are interested in cultivating any sort of style, or developing a felicity with the language. They're content with aping the styles of those who came before, and the easier to ape and the snarkier those styles are, the better. After that, insert as many uses of the word "I" or "me" as you possibly can, and you're off to the races.

Also, I can't say that I'm particularly fond of the Laughner passages you quote, Glenn. He can write, but his self-absorption is every bit as obnoxious to me as Wissot's (but death from acute pancreatitis at 24...shudder).

Tony Dayoub

Jason, I feel like so many of Ms. Wissot's defenders are being deliberately dense when questioning Glenn's criticism's. It seemed perfectly clear that when Glenn made the Penthouse comment on THND, he was:

a) implying a tenuous tie between the Ms. Wissot's prose and film theory by pointing out its apparent stronger relationship to personal anecdotes of sexual escapades found in that men's magazine, and

b) using a little snark to critique the article in a more subtle attempt at humor than most of the other more vicious anti-Wissot comments being lobbed at her.

The points are still the same and perfectly apparent to anyone who reads her article objectively. Her writing is clumsy. Her examples to back up her thesis are vague and inconsistent with the subject being discussed. And more specifically, the fact that she cites such esoteric examples from her significantly fringe subculture to bolster her argument regarding who actually is the general public completely undermines her position in the debate.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jason Bellamy—
Sorry to make your blood boil. I grant you your point, provisionally—it does look like I'm shifting the goal posts, and I should have made the evolution (such as it is) of my thinking about this issue clearer. Which is to say that after getting into it with Boone, I really did ask myself why I would be so dismissive of self-indulgence in one writer, and tolerate or even appreciate it in another. And the answer was that it all had to do with the quality of the writing. And that quality, as far as the Laughner stuff I posted, has at least something to do with his ability to make the self-indulgent stuff germane to a larger point, which is something I didn't (don't) see in Wissot. So I'd argue that all the points tie together, but it would have been useful for me to have explicitly demonstrated how.

And now I'm going to get all up in Steven Boone's face by posting nothing but pictures of my late cat on this blog.

Jason Bellamy

Tony: Honestly, I'm not here to defend Wissot. If Glenn has been a frequent critic of her writing (I haven't kept up enough), then perhaps within that context the Penthouse jab was perfectly clear. Within the context of the other comments objecting to Wissot's post at THND, it sure felt like piling on. Having considered your analysis, I can see how Glenn's initial comments could be read as you did. But I wasn't the only one misreading them, apparently. And I certainly don't have any anti-Glenn or pro-Wissot agenda. So take from that what you want.

Glenn: Thanks for the follow-up. Yep, now it's clear. And I meant to say before that I respect the fact that you not only challenged yourself about your potential hypocrisy but that you shared as much here. If more people were willing to budge from their initial gut reactions -- or even to consider budging -- well, what a wonderful world this would be.

Now back to being tickled and whipped...the Tuesday usual.

Dan Coyle

The Other Dan: Actually, Scatman Crothers had been the voice of Jazz on the original G1 cartoon series.

The bloodiness of the film was a definite shock to my eight year old self (Seeing characters that had been on the show for years dispatched with a brief shot of their blown out corpses blew my young mind) but it was all in the service of new toys. I think in the end it backfired; because in its clearing of the decks it gave the G1 saga something that's anathema to the toy companies- it gave it an ENDING. Sure, the cartoon series went on for two more seasons, but the movie resolves the main plot, as thin gruel as it was.

In retrospect, the writers and producers have said they wouldn't have made it as bloody and they certainly wouldn't have killed off Optimus Prime, given that he was such a fan favorite.

(as for why I brought up Transfomers, I was trying to come up with something as inane as saying Barrymore and Dietrich were overrated)


You still have to admit, Mr. Coyle, that it's damn strange to see Crothers, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Eric Idle (who has quite a lot of fun with his role), Lionel Stander and Welles cast in the same movie together. Let alone all of them run through a vocoder.

I think you're right, it IS an ending, which is probably part of what makes it such an odd duck in the first place. Well, that and it's a movie about a genocidal robot planet that eats other robot planets. That's not something you're likely to see anywhere else.

Also, the Wikipedia page is hilariously detailed:



My favorite piece of Manny Farber criticism is the one on The Sweet Smell of Success, where he tries to get to the bottom of Lancaster's anti-charisma, but is thrown off because he can't stop thinking about the rather vigorous handjob he received at a 42nd street theatre the night before.

I am the anonymous commenter that Boone was addressing, and all I will say is that I was attacking Wissot's manners, not her writing, and not her obvious god-given gift for trolling for lean, muscled, stiff meat. I simply do not like braggarts, and that's what Wissot is, and I find it tacky, just as I would find it tacky if I was out with a friend, and he kept interrupting our discussion about wives and kids to tell me about an epic blowjob he got from a Korean girl he met at Pinkberry.

Again, Wissot: I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE, and if you can't separate the two worlds you obviously run in, if you can't seem to maintain a sense of PROFESSIONAL DECORUM, which, evidence aside, seems to me to still be a virtue, then don't cry foul when people question your credibility.

And this is without even talking about her complete and utter absence of a sense of humor. Had she spun her bench-pressed boff into something funny, something self-deprecating, then I could see how it could be integrated into her criticism, MAYBE. But she doesn't do that. What she does in fart in your face, expect you to think the aroma is mouth-watering, and then take offense when you ask her to please not do it again.

BUT THIS IS WHO I AM, she wants you to know. THIS IS ME, AND I'M NOT CHANGING, which I'm starting to notice is some kind of generation battle-cry for those who were born during Morning in America.

And yes, Bill, I sound bitter, so there's no need for you to point it out.

Glenn Kenny

Damn. Way to bring it, Milkman.

And while I don't presume to speak for Bill, I'd bet real money that he's on the same page as you about this.


Yeah, you're right Glenn, that was an unnecessary dig. My apologies, Bill. I didn't mean it. I was just trying to ingratiate myself with Bill, albeit in a counterproductive way.

And by the way, Glenn: I was listening to Amphetamine by Rocket from the Tombs while I was writing my comment as a nod to you immaculate taste in music.


Man, I've got to start listening to Coney Island Baby and hanging out at Pinkberry.

Dan Coyle

The Other Dan: And you're forgetting Judd Nelson. "Merry Christmas, Galvatron, here's a pack of cigarettes!!"



Yeah, that pretty much sums up my attitude too, only I'm less angry about it. Perhaps it's simply I've known far too many people like Wissot to find them worthy of getting angry over.

Although I'd note you seem to think Wissot is of my generation. Maybe, maybe not, I couldn't find anything about her age, but I really don't appreciate my generation being raked over the coals for being self-centered extroverts. After all, we're only imitating the Baby Boomers.

Glenn Kenny

Dan, I read somewhere she's 38. Practically a "cougar."

Sorry, that was really out of line. And yet there is it. What is WRONG with me?


Sorry to include Wissot as a member of your fine generation, when, in fact, she is a member of mine, and as such, not an anomaly, as one of the key tropes of X'erism is using sex as a shock tactic in lieu of having anything intersting to say about anything other than what method you prefer in order to get your rocks off, something that I'm sure Wissot in very familiar with, seeing as how she spends a good amount of her time pursuing the l-dopa-ish. And how, pray tell, would I know such a thing? Because that's what Wissot told me.

Glenn Kenny

That's interesting, MM, but I don't want to start coloring too far outside the lines here, if you catch my drift. I'm concerned with the work, and if generational currents have something to do with it that's fair game. But I'm not interested in going de facto ad hominem on the author.


Point taken, Glenn. I'm currently sitting in the time out chair and will not resume commenting until I can find a way to behave myself.

steve simels

The difference between Laughner and that Wissot is the difference between painful honesty by an artist and embarassing adolescent self-indulgence by a hack.

Apparently Wissot used to read Amy Sohns' old sex columns in the New York Press a lot.

Dan Coyle



Well, Milkman, I wouldn't call us a "fine generation" but frankly there's been too much shit talked about how everybody around my age is a retard thanks to the Internet. See the recent book "The Dumbest Generation", which really should just have "DAMN KIDS! OFF MY SOCIOECONOMIC/GEOPOLITICAL LAWN!" for a synopsis.


Hey, I didn't see any of this. Okay: Milkman, as Glenn said, I'm on the same page as you on this one, and you, in fact, have basically summed up my feelings on the matter very well. And you didn't even sound bitter while doing it!

Tony Dayoub


This discussion is actually an indirect result of Ms. Wissot's attack on the movie "Traitor", a movie which I enjoyed. But it did make me think...

There are very few critiques being posted in the blogosphere (present company excepted) that are negative. I try to not shy away from seeing and reviewing films I might not like, which I believe is a critic's duty if not an obligation. Still, maybe it's because bloggers do this for their pure love of movies, and not necessarily as a career. I do miss reading negative reviews and rarely find one from even the bloggers I do enjoy.

Am I not looking in the right places? Any comments on that from anyone?


Dan, I don't think Reagan's Kids are retarded. They seem just as sophisticated as any other previous generation of young adults. The only thing I've noticed though, is that your generation seems really, really thin-skinned. The idea that you might be doing something THE WRONG WAY is taken with great offense, always. In other words, you don't know how to take constructive criticism. There is an overconfidence I find annoying, but I shouldn't be surprised, I guess, since you (and when I say you, I mean not just you, but all of you, THE BIG YOU) were born during a very confident time in American history, it was in the air, it permeated your pores. I know that you are just of product of your environment, but still, it wouldn't hurt a little if you, or some of you, just learned to listen and not be so sensitive everytime someone says something you don't like or agree with.


I agree with all of this post, from its Rocket from the Tombs appreciation to its ridicule of Wissot, with one exception. That is the reference to "the (largely exemplary) film website The House Next Door." While The House has always been hit-and-miss since it moved from being the solo blog of Matt Zoller Seitz (such is the nature of group blogs), it has been way, way more miss than hit since Seitz left the helm. A lot more fan-boy-ism, a lot more bad writing, a general feeling that it's amateur hour over there. A disappointment to me, as I used to be a daily reader, and I realized when this kerfuffle started that I was only looking over there once a week or so, without being conscious of that change.


Milkman, I see that all the time...but it's not age-limited in any way, shape or form.

@ Tony

I think you've got a point. I try to watch a pretty wide variety(Hooray Netflix!), and try to fill in any gaps. So generally if I post a bad review it's from a filmmaker I like or of a movie I'm at least interested in; I'm not paid to do this, obviously. That's probably leading to an overall more "positive" tone in criticism, especially since I'd wager most of us lot on here run these blogs for free or cheap.


Yeah, I just re-read my last comment and it dawned on me that I was actually describing myself.

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