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December 19, 2014

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Petey

Glad to see Under the Skin made your Top 10. Been nonplussed by how many critics have been leaving it off.

But, years later, you're STILL snubbing Melancholia from your list? For shame, Glenn, for shame.

(Also, any chance of reanimating Casey Kasem to read the list?)

george

Good list, Glenn. Nothing I really disagree with. Having not yet seen INHERENT VICE, my top movie would be BOYHOOD, followed by BIRDMAN.

I assume you didn't see THE INTERVIEW before Sony yanked it? I intend to boycott all Sony/Columbia movies, and all theaters owned by Carmike (which preemptively announced it would not show the movie in any of its theaters), until THE INTERVIEW is released. I wasn't even planning to see it, but now that I've been told I can't see it, I definitely do want to see it.

Kudos to Obama for criticizing Sony's "mistake" in deciding not to release the film.

Imagine if Warner Bros. had shelved CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY in 1939, or if Chaplin had decided not to release THE GREAT DICTATOR, out of fear of how Hitler might respond. What if Marvel had decided not to publish Captain America (with its first-issue cover of Cap punching out Hitler) in early 1941. Marvel did receive threats, apparently from Bund members, but it didn't back down.

I'm afraid this might have a chilling effect on further attempts at satire in movies.

george

Re the Mark Harris article: As I've learned, the fanboys who crave franchise movies regard themselves as the "real" movie lovers. They see people who like BOYHOOD or BIRDMAN or GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL as phonies who only pretend to like those movies, to make people think they're smarter than "real people." They can't imagine anyone actually liking an "art-house" movie. So it must be a pose.

I've also found that fanboys, like conservative Republicans, see themselves as a persecuted minority, constantly under attack -- no matter how much power they have. And God knows that have near-total power over the direction of pop culture today.

Clayton Sutherland

Glenn, I'm just curious about this...

Regardless of how I felt about Interstellar (it's probably my least-favourite of Nolan's films, but I'm gonna give it another look on DVD to see if I respond differently), do you find that people are criticizing it in a way drastically different from how they approach other films (by other filmmakers)? Or is it the intensity of the scrutiny you take greater issue with? There aren't too many current filmmakers that (typically) do so well with the critics, and make a lot of money for the studios, so it certainly seems like the guy has a bigger target on his back than some.

Though, as I stated, I wasn't all that keen on the film (on first viewing, at least), I do find it a little bothersome how folks get so hung up on plot contrivances in films of such a fantastical nature. (FTR, I just didn't find the characters all that interesting.) Yeah, Nolan tries to ground it in some level of reality, but I suspect that's just a basic attempt to make it more emotionally palatable to a wider swath of viewers.

CBJ

I respect Brody. I read Brody reliably. He's in his own league. So there's that. But his ongoing contempt for narrative (unless it's narrative as practiced by one of his pets) and his predictable embraceing of seemingly any image-primary non-narrative doodle (particularly as practiced by one of his OTHER types of pets), gets on my god damn nerves. Some days, I feel like he's practicing an admittedly far more elegant version of Armond White-ism. That "clear the field" stuff was a particularly obvious example of something that feeds this suspicion of mine.

Clayton Sutherland

george -

The funny thing is, Grand Budapest and Birdman, while being a bit arthouse, I suppose, are just damned entertaining films, and Boyhood, while having an ambitious conceit, is hardly that experimental in visual or (scene-to-scene) narrative terms. I would think they'd be very palatable to a wide audience, if given the chance.

Something, like Under The Skin, however, I can absolutely see alienating (no pun intended) those looking for more surface-level thrills.

Zach

Great list, Glenn, and a prompt for me to get out and see more of these movies.

It feels churlish to argue with Boyhood's detractors, given how much year-end love it's getting, but something about the naysaying irks me. Often people and critics have resorted to the charge of it being "cliche," which seems nuts to me. It's more likely, I suspect, that they are missing the trees for the conceptual forest; for me, Boyhood is like a symphony of incredibly small, resonant moments.

Re. Brody - I've grown to enjoy and respect his writing much more over the years, and to take both the overcooked encomia and brusque dismissal with grains of salt. If you read through some of the older criticism in Cahiers, his tone and his preferences begin to make a lot more sense.

george

Clayton: I think a lot of people would find BOYHOOD, BIRDMAN and BUDAPEST entertaining ... if they would go see them. But they'd rather see THE HOBBIT for its five CGI armies.

And, yes, UNDER THE SKIN would be way over a lot of people's heads.

Clayton Sutherland

Zach -

The only thing that bothered me about Boyhood is that they went with the drunken, (vaguely, in the second case) abusive step-father angle twice. I didn't feel like either of those characters had much dimension, and seemed more like plot devices.

Oliver_C

"I've also found that fanboys, like conservative Republicans, see themselves as a persecuted minority, constantly under attack -- no matter how much power they have."

They don't want mere power: they're after total and permanent domination.

george

https://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/18/the_interview_movie_was_replaced_by_team_america_world_police_but_now_paramount.html

Now Paramount has told theaters they can't show TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, which some theaters wanted to show as a replacement for THE INTERVIEW. Better go rent or buy the DVD before it's withdrawn.

Looks like the studios are competing for the most abject groveling before North Korea and the Kim family.

Glenn Kenny

@ Clayton Sutherland: Thanks for your questions. I was actually at a holiday gathering with some friends I hadn't seen in a while last night, and one of them sat next to me at one point and said, "Soooo, you liked 'Interstellar'..." Like I think you are, he's a fan of Nolan's work in general and was frustrated by a lot of its giving with one hand and taking away with the other with respect to the science, and a few other things. All of which I DO consider a legitimate criticism if that's what watching the film was like for you. For myself, I was more involved with the actual spectacle, which worked fine for me. What hits my sarcasm bone are all of the Internet observations concerning "script" "problems," and so on, as if a movie is nothing more than a filmed script, and whatever issues the movie has can be solved with better writing, and the implication that some of these commenters themselves are capable of delivering said better writing. It always strikes me as kind of silly, not to say presumptuous.

Petey

"Imagine if Warner Bros. had shelved CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY in 1939, or if Chaplin had decided not to release THE GREAT DICTATOR, out of fear of how Hitler might respond."

george,

You might want to read just a *little* about how the studios dealt (or, rather, didn't deal at all) with the Nazis between 1933 and 1939, (and to a much lesser degree all the way until 1942), due to a combination of the immense power of the pro-Nazi Joseph Breen, the desire of the studios to sell their films in Germany, and the fear of anti-semitism on the part of the studios. That might help rectify your core ignorance on the topic here. For example, did you know a member of the German embassy was given advance copies of all scripts dealing in any way with the Nazis / Germany by the Breen office to offer cuts and corrections which were almost universally adopted?

(Also, FYI, Confessions Of A Nazi Spy did no business, and is interesting only as an initial and isolated attempt to break through the ice. And The Great Dictator came out AFTER the shooting war began, which made it far less controversial. But even then, you might want to review the state of American politics between Sept '39 and Dec '41, when Congress held very hostile HUAC hearings about the Jewish-run film industry trying to pull the nation into the war for their own sectarian interests.)

Petey

"...the implication that some of these commenters themselves are capable of delivering said better writing. It always strikes me as kind of silly, not to say presumptuous."

Possibly true. But we'll never know for SURE until you deliver those promised copies of Final Draft. C'mon, Glenn. You can use those fat royalty checks from the thriving Premiere reprint business to finance the giveaway.

Jason Michelitch

Good, useful, expansive list. For everyone hanging out in the comments, I just want to throw in a vote for Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves," which I have yet to see anywhere on anyone's lists, and is the latest entry in her bid to eventually be known retroactively as the greatest American director of the first half of the 21st century. (Sorry, I'm not very good at the whole "tempered, even-handed criticism" thing.)

Actually surprised, given Brody's focus on "real independents," Reichardt wasn't more on his radar. He even invokes the rise of the "novelist" model for filmmakers, securing jobs as teachers to supplement their income, which Reichardt is already doing at Bard College.

george

Petey, you're the one whose "core ignorance" is showing. I'd guess you're a fan of that book about "Nazi Hollywood" that Farran Nehme(among others) have totally debunked. That seems to be where your "facts" come from.

THE GREAT DICTATOR came out a year before the U.S. entered the war, so it was still controversial. And are you aware of Fritz Lang's MAN HUNT, which was about a plot to assassinate Hitler? It came out six months before we entered the war.

I'm not saying there weren't examples of cowardice in Old Hollywood. But the utterly spineless conduct of Sony (and the major theater chains, and the other studios that urged Sony not to release THE INTERVIEW) was disgusting.

george

https://flavorwire.com/492985/how-the-death-of-mid-budget-cinema-left-a-generation-of-iconic-filmmakers-mia/view-all?src=longreads&utm_content=bufferad656&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

"How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA"

In case you're wondering why David Lynch hasn't directed a movie in 8 years, or John Waters in 10 years. Or why Soderbergh abandoned features. Or why Spike Lee financed his latest through Kickstarter because no studio will hire him.

george

https://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-collaboration-hollywoods-pact-with.html

As the Siren wrote over a year ago: "In fact there is no smoking gun of a studio head writing to (German consul Georg) Gyssling with "Anything you say, old sport.""

Joseph Breen may have been anti-Semitic, Petey, but that doesn't make him pro-Nazi. Anti-Semitism was VERY common in the U.S. of the '30s and '40s. But not all anti-Semites supported Hitler. There were anti-Semites in the U.S. military who fought AGAINST Hitler.

Interestingly, Ben Urwand dismisses CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY much the way you do, Petey.

Clayton Sutherland

Glenn -

Thanks for the response. As I said, I don't really much care if the hard science in Interstellar was undermined or subverted by its more fantastical elements (I honestly haven't given it enough thought to know either way). That said, I probably have a bit of a resistance to any film piling on that much plot exposition; I just don't find it that emotionally involving, is all.

Actually, aside from most of the characters not having a great deal of personality (they're all pretty gray), I was actually kind of let down by the overall visual content of the film. I mean, they traveled to a few planets, and all we got was Big Wave and Hoth. While I certainly wasn't expecting some sort of lush, Avatar-like world (not a big fan of that movie either, FTR), there just wasn't a lot of visual variety to grab my attention.

I did like the use of models/miniatures, though, and the twist at the end, though a bit ridiculous if taken at face value, was reasonably striking. And some of the video link scenes involving time lapse/aging were very effective.

I just wish I had more of a vested interest in the characters, wasn't so bombarded by Zimmer's overbearing score, and was given more moments to reflect on what I'd seen, rather than having it explained to me. I certainly wouldn't suggest that I could do any better with such material; all I can do it try to articulate why I responded the way I did. I might need a second viewing to nail that down.

Chris L.

This is one ferocious list, good sir. In recent weeks an impression had been gathering that perhaps this year didn't stack up so well against 2013, but this is a welcome argument to the contrary. (And you only had 30 listed last year, right?)

Besides backing up Jason M.'s vote for "Night Moves," my only possible issue would be the lack of even an honorable mention for "Love Is Strange." I can see how it might be faulted as too genteel in some respects, but the precision of the acting by Lithgow and Molina, along with the wallop packed by the last 15 minutes or so (an ending as graceful as that of "Boyhood"), will remain with me for quite some time.

And BTW, I'd also love to read an expansion of your Twitter assessment of "Ida" as "reactionary." Though I admired it greatly on first viewing, and more or less approve of its award success, you might have put a finger on something just below the surface that others have not quite identified. Cheers, then, and a joyous holiday to you and yours!

Mark

Did you see 'Leviathan' yet Glenn? Curious what you think/thought of it.

Glenn Kenny

I haven't seen "Night Moves," or "Love Is Strange." As I said, you can't see everything. I'll got further and risk some disapprobation here. I can't say I was crazy about Kelly Reichardt's cavalier attitude about lifting the title of the Arthur Penn film, and I also chafed at the way Ira Sachs slagged Christian Marclay on Facebook. These things aren't supposed to matter, I know, or I am told, but if I'm going to be 100 percent frank, I have to admit that they made me less eager to see their work, and once the urgency is sapped, the desire to follow up is not particularly ardent either. You can just imagine, I assume, exactly how excited I am about the upcoming "The End of the Tour."

As for "Leviathan," it just didn't hook me. I'd rather see a U.S. release of the Russian sci-fi movie "Target," frankly.

Petey

"As the Siren wrote over a year ago: "In fact there is no smoking gun of a studio head writing to (German consul Georg) Gyssling with "Anything you say, old sport."

First argument of yours with a strawman. My claim was collaboration between Gyssling and BREEN.

"THE GREAT DICTATOR came out a year before the U.S. entered the war, so it was still controversial. And are you aware of Fritz Lang's MAN HUNT, which was about a plot to assassinate Hitler? It came out six months before we entered the war."

Second argument of yours with a strawman. I clearly noted that there was a serious change in degree between '33 - '39, where anti-Nazi movies were verboten, and Sept '39 - Dec '41, where they were merely controversial. And I noted the post-Sept '39 hostile HUAC hearings.

-----

And for all your high dudgeon about how Sony (and/or the theater chains) dealt with The Interview, and how it means no one should ever see a movie ever again, it might be worth checking out some of Jeet Heer's quite insightful points about how Hollywood won't permit even the slightest criticism of anything having to do with China in anything they touch, which seems quite a bit more important than the current kerfuffle.

Quite obviously, China and Nazi Germany are not even CLOSE to being equivalent, but given that Hollywood is willing be part of projects that criticize the US at times, it's notable that they won't do the same with China. In fact, the total blackout on criticism of China is pretty reminiscent of the '33 to '39 period in regards to the German regime. And this time, there's no Joseph Breen to blame...

-----

(And finally, apologizes to Glenn for me getting suckered into george's off-topic rant and amplifying it.)

Zach

Clayton -

I get where you're comin' from. While conceding that Boyhood isn't perfect, I will say that the mother's decision, despite being in many respects a woman with her shit together, to choose two jerks in a row (the second does indeed seem to have a drinking issue, where the first is a going-down-in-flames drunk) struck me as sadly plausible. Added to which that despite the possible common denominator of booze, they were quite different, at least superficially, which is a pretty common human mistake to make.

george

"(And finally, apologizes to Glenn for me getting suckered into george's off-topic rant and amplifying it.)"

And, Glenn, I apologize for getting baited by the childish tantrum that Petey threw at me.

Clayton Sutherland

Zach -

Yeah, it's not that the situation wasn't sadly plausible -- it most certainly was -- it's just that the film so steadfastly avoided melodrama for the most part, that it bothered me a bit that it popped up there (especially in the first case). Melodrama does occasionally happen in real life (two of my immediate family members have bi-polar disorder, so...yeah), but I was just responding more to the subtle beats of the film. Anyways, it's not a dealbreaker, and though Boyhood is not my favourite film of the year, it's certainly an impressive achievement.

The Wes Anderson film is my personal favourite, if only because it was the only movie released in 2014 that completely delighted me from beginning to end (that doesn't happen often).

Chris L.

"These things aren't supposed to matter, I know, or I am told..."

I'm entirely out of the loop on, and quite surprised to learn about, Ira Sachs insulting another artist. (Google is no help here, but whatever he wrote would have to be pretty atrocious to dim my affection for his movie.)

However, this comment instantly brought back the priceless image of Mr. Eastwood and his reluctant debating partner, the Chair-in-Chief. I've loved more of his films than not, and the best of them seemed to cast a different light on his supposed leanings, making him tougher to pin down. Now, though, comes "American Sniper," with early reviews indicating a whitewash of the main character's more unsavory attitudes, and his sadly ironic fate not dealt with at all save in closing titles, and the film's theme boiled down to, "It's a helluva thing, killin' a man...", and where have I heard that before...?

I'm sure I'll see it anyway, and I expect your review will leave me with a markedly different image of what it contains and/or implies. Looking forward to reading it.

Yann

Have you seen "Ida"?

Not flawless but bold, very beautiful and strong performances.

Joona

Two surprises here for me:

No Ruben Östlund's "Force Majeure"?

And what's with "A Walk Among the Tombstones?" Am I just touchy for finding it repulsive? You know, there's a lot to choose from: the manipulative eye-for-an-eye plot that could stand for an NRA propaganda piece? The-evil-without-a-soul bad guys introduced basically as a gay couple? Also, I like sadism in a film as much as the next guy, but when it's for sheer entertainment value it's kind of hard to enjoy it...

Glenn Kenny

As I said before, I haven't seen "Force Majeure," although I am certainly interested. Hard to say just why it flew under my own radar so totally.

As for "Tombstones," while the villains of the piece WERE laid on a little thick (David Harbour's agent should get him some nice guy roles, lest his career succumb to Early Hollywood Jeroen Krabbé Syndrome), I am partial to Lawrence Block, Matthew Scudder, and Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, all of which I feel were well-represented by this motion picture.

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