« "London" calling | Main | Suddenly, last night... »

July 07, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Well...I guess it's probably good that things didn't work out, then, isn't it?


And in a not dissimilar vein, Stephen Holden in the latest COMMENTARY explains why he doesn't like "Bonnie and Clyde."

Matt Miller

His move to BigHo was a net plus for me, as I was able to wean myself from my unhealthy Libertas obsession.


I could only take a few minutes of looking at that. As Nietzsche says, if you gaze long at Big Hollywood, Big Hollywood inundates you with stupid.

James Wolcott

It's Stephen Hunter, not Stephen Holden of the NY Times, who goes after Bonnie & Clyde in Commentary.

You would think one Terry Teachout would be enough.


Jackson was awfully cute in "Casual Sex?," an underrated, fluffy little 80s comedy in which Andrew Dice Clay was actually kind of appealing. Her IMDB bio shows a fair amount of work, so I guess her coworkers don't mind being harangued about Communism and infanticide between takes.

"Hey V, wanna run some lines?"

"LINES? I'll tell you about the LINES we'll be standing in under Barack BERIA Obama..."

Glenn Kenny

@ James Wolcott: Yes, I kind of figured as much, as I desultorily scanned comments from my imbibing/reading alfresco perch in Carroll Gardens with no real internet-scanning capabilities. Hunter certainly fits the bill, but I did get a kick out of imagining Holden doing it. What would have made him turn? Does John Podhoretz find his sensibility "interesting?" How did he get around The Times' rules against staff film critics freelancing? Etc. Hunter is, alas, a much better fit for such a dopey (not to mention ill-timed) bit of contrarianism.

@Campaspe: You crack me up, you genius you. I would love to talk with you some time soon about the Gilda/Marienbad link. And a lot else.

Rudy Mett

"Casual Sex?" is probably one of the worst movies ever made.


Having not met Nolte personally, I can only judge him from what he writes. And one thing that comes to my mind is his take on "Paths of Glory." To quote --

"Said this before but it’s worth repeating: If present-day Hollywood were capable of making anti-war films half as powerful as this, al-Qaeda would own Iraq and 25 million innocent Iraqis would either be dead or enslaved."

First of all, the lack of effective anti-war films in modern times has not prevented Nolte from complaining endlessly about the anti-war films that have been made.

Second, he's essentially making an argument against "Paths of Glory" while praising it. If such a film could bring about that level of misery, then you shouldn't make it. And yet he apparently wants it to exist. I have no idea why.

Whatever Nolte's enjoyment of films, it will always be swallowed by his political hackery. Big Hollywood is right where he should be.


Well, Rudy, I don't know what to say to that. It isn't The Awful Truth, hell, it isn't even Sixteen Candles, but it's a sex comedy I found pleasant enough at the time. If it's one of the worst movies ever made, I do wonder what category we have left for "Caddyshack 2" or "Monster A Go-Go."

Account Deleted

The worst movies ever made are "Batman and Robin" and "Speed 2: Cruise Control". I had the misfortune of seeing them both on the same evening and I still haven't recovered.


"Paths of Glory" is not a film against "war" in general - it's a film about WWI. If it's "against" anything, it's "against" that particular war...which most sane people these days consider to have been particularly pointless and senselessly brutal and destructive. Compared, to, say, WWII, where you could kinda see the necessity of fighting and resisting Hitler etc.

Presumably Nolte is too big of a moron to get this "subtle" point. Or perhaps he's just defensive of pointless and senseless wars - WWI and Iraq, namely. Vietnam too, one assumes. How dare anyone make a movie showing how sad it is when piles brave, idealistic young men (and now women) are turned into fertilizer by idiotic/lying/misguided politicians! Glorifying pointless death for stupidity and/or lies is the hallmark of the true Patriotic Conservative.

When others do the dying, of course.


On the same evening??? I am aghast and agog.

So what you're saying here, Mark, is that whatever Ms Jackson dishes up, on the computer screen or the silver screen, will be small potatoes comparatively speaking.


Cereal, Kubrick himself called "Paths of Glory" an anti-war film.

"How dare anyone..." etc. I'll stop you right there, because you're clearly missing Nolte's point. He thinks "Paths of Glory" is an excellent film, and is not complaining that it questions the necessity or execution of WWI. The rest of his point wasn't really meant to be taken literally.

Hey you guys, isn't it hilarious how Obama keeps calling Putin "President Putin"? And how he gave Gordon Brown a bunch of DVDs? Or are verbal flubs and tacky public relations moves on the part of US presidents no longer funny, for some mysterious reason?


Also, I must be a simple-minded contrarian, because I don't like "Bonnie and Clyde" either. I can't stand Stephen Hunter either, for that matter, but whatever.

Glenn Kenny

@bill: Maybe if you dislike both Stephen Hunter and "Bonnie and Clyde" the two cancel each other out, like matter and anti-matter.

In fairness to Hunter, he did some really great guitar work on Lou Reed's "Rock n Roll Animal." I don't know why he gave up axemanship for film reviewing, which he's much, much less good at. Oh, wait they were two different guys. Never mind.


Well, Glenn, I don't like Hunter because he does stupid things like write down on paper, for the whole world to see, that he doesn't like "2001" because it didn't come true. But I would guess that his reasons for not liking "Bonnie and Clyde" are similar to my own. Although, then again, this being Stephen Hunter, he might not like it because Penn got the guns wrong, or something.

By the way, why is it bad timing to start claiming you don't like "Bonnie and Clyde"? Before asking, I did a quick search to see if Penn or Benton or Dunaway had died, but they haven't. So what's the deal?


@Bill -- I would say it's a bad time to aim a peashooter at Bonnie and Clyde because public indignation over people robbing the poor, defenseless banks is, shall we say, at rather a low ebb.


Further digression on the prior digression: As far as I know, Kubrick said Paths of Glory was directed at the authoritarian mindset rather than war itself, but it's a distinction without a difference in my view. Not only is Paths of Glory an anti-war movie, its portrait of the military is so scathing that France effectively pulled it until the 70s. And the U.S. military got the point, too--they refused to show it in Army theatres.

It's usual to have a number of films with antiwar themes in the decade or so after a war, and World War II isn't an exception, even if few are as bitter as the Kubrick film. Attack!, for example--if that film were released now I would be covering my ears from the sound of BH columnists and commenters shrieking about the portrait of our Brave WWII Vets. Nor does anyone at BH seem to appreciate that the spate of antiwar movies after Vietnam was part of that pattern, or that the bitter, violent ex-veteran character has roots that go decades beyond the 1970s. The site suffers from a dearth of columnists with much in the way of film-history perspective. Except Robert Avrech, whose Hollywood history posts I commend to readers from all points on the aisle.

I do think, however, that John intended for us to take his point literally. Whatever else one can say about his site, Nolte sincerely believes in the power of movies, and he's held forth frequently on Iraq movies as deliberate attempts to undermine morale.

Finally, as I look at Ms Jackson's post again (can't help it, rubbernecking I suppose) I am starting to wonder if this is actually performance art. She warned us in an earlier post that she was going to roam the streets denouncing the coming Communism at every point. If she starts bringing along video crews I will be convinced she's doing a Borat.

Glenn Kenny

@bill: I think it's because, unless you can make a startlingly new and brilliant case for not liking it, that it's kind of beside the point, like strolling into a party and announcing you dislike buttermilk fried chicken or something. I mean, the Blu-ray disc of the thing came out like, what, a full year and three months ago?

Clearly this is my old-school print mentality lead-time obsessed self talking. Still, I ask, why now? I might have to actually look up the article to find out. And I'd kind of hate to have to do that.


@Campaspe - What about public indignation over murdering the poor, defenseless bank tellers?


@Glenn - Maybe its the release of "Public Enemies"? I've seen reevaluations hung on thinner motives than that.


@Bill - The teller's death is clearly and tellingly portrayed. It is possible for a movie to suggest, as Bonnie and Clyde does, that the greater crimes are being done by the system, and simultaneously show that going up against that system is also going to result in innocent victims. The two are not mutually exclusive.

papa zita

Re: Victoria Jackson and performance art. A) One Borat is enough. B) People have been saying this about Ann Coulter for years, and it isn't any more true now than it was when she wanted the NY Times building blown up.

Glenn Kenny

@bill & Campaspe: My own two cents about "Bonnie and Clyde;" while I admire some of its particulars, particularly the work of the supporting cast, it's not a movie I ever particularly warmed up to, and I don't believe, objectively, it has retained all of the power that it seemed to have when it was having its way with the zeitgeist, a time I remember pretty well. That said, I think Penn was going after something kind of complex with the violence, painting Parker and Barrow as careless children who didn't know quite what they were doing, and depicting their massacre at the end as killing a fly with a bazooka. But the trope of the charismatic killer is always with us, in films both great and lousy...

And Bill, about our esteemed President: Yeah, the DVD gaffe was not his finest hour, particularly for those among us who understand region coding. In his defense, he's supposed to have staffers who figure out this kind of thing for him, isn't he? (Remember that Goldie Hawn picture "Protocol?" Hey, that wasn't half bad, as such things go...) And as for the ever-entertaining "President" Putin, well, there's a debate raging about it over at Politico:


where one wise commenter brings up a not-insubstantial "who gives a shit" argument by pointing out that the U.S. got Russia to open up their land and air space for use in the war in Afghanistan, which, as Rocky The Flying Squirrel says, is something we all can enjoy. Well, not "all." Probably not the Taliban.


@Campaspe -

In other words, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, right? Does this philosophy extend to taking out Hussein? I imagine it doesn't.

The main point that most of the detractors of "Bonnie and Clyde" make is that the actuall Bonnie and Clyde weren't going against the system. They were low-down greedy killers. And they killed far more than a single bank teller, by the way. They left a trail of corpses behind them. If a film were made about a conservative authoritarian figure with a scandalous past, even if it didn't include multiple murder, but that past was white-washed in order to make him someone who stood up for conservative values, that film would be fucking shredded by the same people who hold "Bonnie and Clyde" so dear. Artistry be damned.


Glenn, I wholeheartedly love Bonnie and Clyde despite my very real resistance to the whole "charismatic killer" trope. I think the control of tone is simply stunning, the bursts of violence alternating with the moments of quiet, like the family picnic that serves as the funeral the couple will never have. The film isn't just portraying B&C as anti-heroes, it also looks at the origins and consequences of glamorizing criminals.

And rooted in the 60s it may be, but the attitude toward bank robbers portrayed in the movie is not so far from the contemporary truth. When I asked my grandparents and multiple great-aunts and uncles about criminals in the Depression, what I got was a bellyful of the banks. (And they were Alabama farmers, hardly radical-chic material.) It wasn't that they admired Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, but that sort of criminality didn't rate on the scale.

In any event, "Bonnie and Clyde" has worn a great deal better than poor old Bosley Crowther.


I could have set my watch by the "omelette-eggs" reference. No, that is not what Bonnie & Clyde is saying nor is it what I was driving at. Violence has consequences, a viewpoint you're a lot more likely to encounter in something like B&C than in the action genre -- which does indeed, on many many occasions, show fundamentally conservative figures leaving behind trails of corpses in the name of upholding law & order, the right to bear arms, etc.


But, Campaspe, there's a fundamental difference that you seem to be deliberately ignoring. In a conservative action film, the trail of corpses are those who are killing and oppressing the innocent. Bonnie and Clyde killed innocent people. I don't expect this argument to change your party affiliation, but how can you not understand the difference?


Wait, I'm confused -- bill, your last comment can't possibly be serious, can it?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad