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August 05, 2009


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Tony Dayoub

I suppose I shouldn't snicker at Campbell's labelling of the film as a "misogynistic dude comedy" while Spout displays a link to another story Campbell wrote in an adjacent column on the page:

"10 Hottest 'Cougars' in Movies."

Zack Handlen

...There are champions of Southland Tales who can be labeled intellectual? That is grim news indeed.

That Fuzzy Bastarrd

Really? You're really gonna start acting as though every film so-and-so is listed as having executive produced is a film they directed and/or wrote? So does that mean we can blame Steven Soderbergh for The Jacket and Welcome to Collinwood? Steven Spielberg for Casper and Deep Impact? Lunacy.

And Southland Tales is an awesome messy lefty freakout---it's like the Walker of the Bush years.

Ed Howard

I don't know if I'm Very Intellectual, but I am a Champion of Southland Tales, a great and messy film that's much better than Kelly's debut.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the fact that Kelly produced a film doesn't really have much bearing on the films he actually directs. Especially since, by the looks of it, he's one of about a dozen producers on that film.

Earthworm Jim

Two words, Zack: Nathan Lee. And his minions. Okay, five words.

Earthworm Jim

J. Hoberman loved it too, actually. I think all of Southland Tales' defenders were of one intellectual stripe or another.

Jason M.

As I recall, Amy Taubin thought pretty highly of Southland, too, or at least the Cannes cut. And I certainly don't think it was the disaster some people thought it was. Which is not to say that it was the Great American Masterpiece of whenever or anything.

Glenn Kenny

Nice little can of worms I seem to be almost opening up here. @ TFB: I would argue that Spielberg and Soderbergh, while not the writer/directors of the disappointments you cite, nonetheless still bear some measure of responsibility for them. That said, yes, I am being a little unfair to Kelly, but that's because I hate Kelly's work and want anything he even peripherally has anything to do with to fail utterly so that maybe he doesn't get to do any more work any more.

And "Southland Tales," a picture I sat through twice so as to better ascertain how hateful, puerile, and sloppy it was, is certainly the reason why. My dislike for the picture has led to some pretty lively dustups in the past (check this out: http://glennkenny.premiere.com/blog/2007/11/messy-aliveness.html), which I wasn't keeping in mind when I dropped the snark about Very Intellectual critics. Not that I'm taking it back. I respect a lot of "Tales" admirers—some of them are good friends—but I heartily disagree with them. Like, to the point that I actually don't know what the hell they're talking about. The problem isn't that they're intellectual, it's that they're Not Right. As for the comparisons above to "Walker"—I get it, but I'm not giving Kelly anything. What's purposefully anarchic in Cox is mere ineptitude in Kelly.

A hopefully amusing side note: at Cannes, it was noted, even among "Tales" admirers, that it was kind of funny that almost all of them—Taubin, Hoberman, Dargis, and several others—were all either current or former contributors to The Village Voice. It seemed, then, almost pre-ordained that Nathan Lee join their number. Although Earthworm Jim ought to know that Lee doesn't really have any "minions," and that he's semi-retiring from film criticism in any event.

When I first heard The Killers, I thought their lyrics were so inane that they were some kind of Zappa-esque put-on. I was particularly amused by "All The Things I've Done," with its gospel choir chanting "I got soul but I'm not a soldier," perhaps the stupidest play on words I'd ever heard in my life. I subsequently learned that those guys were dead serious, just as Kelly was dead serious when he had a bloody t-shirted Justin Timberlake lip-synch that bit in "Southland Tales." Kelly fans might want to keep that in mind next time they snicker, as everyone else with half a brain does, at the question "Are we human, or are we dancers?"

Anyhow, I'm more personally interested in the Traci Lords question...

Jason M.

A quick followup here: judging from what I just saw, it would seem like Hell is not an entirely inaccurate description of this movie, and I certainly hope they serve Beer there because frankly that seems to be the only way it would be remotely bearable. Maybe. There are some things that even beer can't fix.

Tom Russell

I'm also more personally interested in the Traci Lords question.

A number of friends reccomended "Donnie Darko" a number of times, arguing that it was exactly the kind of movie I'd love. So I saw the movie.

Those people aren't my friends anymore.


Glenn - I like that Killers song. More importantly, so does my wife. So, you know...watch it, I guess.

I'm not actually mad or anything, but I do like the song. It may not make a whole lot of sense, but it's catchy, as they say.

Glenn Kenny

@ Bill: The song's catchy. Catchy as hell, as are several of the Killers' other songs. The lyrics, however: dumb, and meant seriously.

Now I have a pretty high tolerance for dumb lyrics that are meant seriously. I revere many early King Crimson albums, and have taught myself to turn off Jon Anderson sufficiently that I can enjoy a good deal of Yes. I once listened, with both patience and sincerity, as Robert Fripp himself tried to convince me that the lyrics to "Ladies of the Road" were not sexist tripe of a particularly dumb order. (His argument had something to do with the groupie situation as it was perceived AT THE TIME OF WRITING, if I recall correctly.)

The scene in "Buffalo 66" in which Christina Ricci tap dances to "In The Court of the Crimson King" is awesome for many reasons, but not because the lyrics to "Crimson King" are awesome. Whereas the whole "Southland Tales" rendition of "All The Things I've Done" is very "we mean it, man," in every particular. Feh.

By the way, did you know that original Crims lyricist Pete Sinfield later went on to make a fortune writing lyrics for Celine Dion songs? It's true. Also, a friend of mine oncer referred to Pete Sinfield as "Pete Seinfeld," which prompted me to start reciting the lyrics to "I Talk To The Wind" in a Jerry Seinfeld voice. Which concept still cracks me up, even as it confuses almost all around me.

I'm sorry, how did I get on this subject...?


I'll say up front that I haven't seen "Southland Tales", and really don't want to. Sometimes, when confronted with the choice of watching a particular movie, about which you know a certain amount, you have to ask yourself "Do I want to be both annoyed AND pissed off today?" The answer to that question is frequently "No".

Still, I can see "All These Things That I've Done" working really well in some other, better movie, just because of how it sounds. Look at Scorsese's use of Donovan's "Atlantis" in "Goodfellas". You wanna talk about earnest and dopey lyrics, might I refer you to the aforementioned "Atlantis". But brother, Scorsese makes it work like gangbusters.

All's I'm saying is, don't rag on the song because Kelly uses it badly. Or go ahead, if you want to, it's your blog.


Interesting note: Kelly posted a link to the trailer on his Twitter yesterday, and I (alone with, I assume, many others) sent replies (mine was a simple "Really?"), and for some odd reason Kelly's original posting (refuse to say tw**t) of the trailer was deleting. I would still like to know what the hell he's thinking in producing that thing.


I doubt there's an artist in existence that hasn't written some dumb or obvious lyrics here and there (certainly Dylan has from time-to-time), but I suppose some are good at not drawing attention to them. Whereas The Killers have a tendency to put them front and center. To be totally honest, though, "All These Things That I've Done" is about the only song by that band that I didn't mind, and that silly lyric didn't really diminish my enjoyment of the track whatsoever.

That said, I believe the lyric to "Human" is actually "Are we human? Or are we dancer?" No plural on dancer. Which makes it even more laughably pretentious. But hey, it catches your attention, which I suppose is better than the complete indifference generated by a lot of music out there.

Anyways, I liked Donnie Darko well enough (I enjoy moody apocalyptic mind puzzles...Mary McDonnell...Jena Malone...am cool with the Gyllenhaals...and that Gary Jules track was quite effective), though feel no compulsion to see the Director's Cut (with all the entirely superfluous plot exposition). Haven't made much of an effort to see Southland Tales, but I suppose it's somewhere near the bottom of my Netflix queue...expect an interesting mess, at best.


OK, I looked up the lyrics to "Human", and every site seems to list it differently...

One says "dancers", one says "denser" (?!), and another says "dancer". Having heard the song a few times on the radio, I'm fairly certain it's the latter.


"I don't know if I'm Very Intellectual, but I am a Champion of Southland Tales, a great and messy film that's much better than Kelly's debut."


That might seriously be the most baffling thing I've read today, and for context, this is the runner-up: http://www.joshiejuice.com/articles/ShitText.pdf (NSFW, if you hadn't guessed)

Anyway, as far as Richard Kelly is concerned: "Donnie Darko" is a great movie, provided you avoid the director's cut, which takes everything enticing and mysterious and beats it into the floor. "Southland Tales" is a disaster on multiple levels, and the only reason people like it is because of the occasionally interesting ideas and the Bush-hating. It's not a good movie by any yardstick.

And I'm very, very interested in "The Box". Yeah, it clearly wants to be a David Lynch movie, but I'm OK with that. It looks like it's actually going to deal with the moral problem that's the center of the story, it's got a rock-solid cast, and I like that they chose to set it in the early '80s instead of the modern day.

As for "Beer/Hell" and Tucker Max...a film adaptation is unsurprising, but honestly, either this'll be "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" all over again or, if they're being "faithful", they'll make the very bad mistake of trying to make Max sympathetic.


@ JC: I like Donnie Darko very much, but like you I have no interest in seeing the Director's Cut, as Kelly clearly has no idea what makes it good. It's a movie I have to dissociate from its director in order to love. Southland Tales is something I went in wanting to dig, since I liked how absurdly convoluted the premise was and its inspirations (Vonnegut, P.K. Dick, Pynchon) are all writers I'm into. I sort of enjoyed some stretches of it, but once Kelly essentially eulogizes humanity with a painfully unfunny catchphrase, I felt a fundamental loathing towards the movie and the juvenile mindset that produced it. Imagine a fuck-it-all satire of American culture made by somebody who doesn't know anything about American culture beyond what political buzzwords seem to be popular at the moment. It's like a two and a half hour episode of Mad TV with a Moby soundtrack.

I often wish for somebody to do an Armond White version of that Killers song with the refrain "Are we human? Or are we hipster?"

And the film whose trailer is under discussion here looks as awful and almost as appalling as Uwe Boll's Darfur movie.

That Fuzzy Bastarrd

Hadn't read the linked stuff before, but wholeheartedly agree that Southland Tales is smart, funny, incoherent, and a great time, while No Country is pretentious, dull, and stupid (the arrival of evil is represented by a shadow falling across the land? really? Kee-rist).

I mostly think Southland gets smacked around because its satire seems directed in all directions at once, like with Sarah Michelle Geller's character, who's at once a tool with which to mock religious types, and a mockery of those who get off on mocking religious types. Well, and 'cause the plot doesn't add up at all. But shit, I'm a fan of Walker and Straight to Hell, so I can totally let that go.

Tom Russell

So, this has been bugging me: about that hypothetical Traci Lords come-back---- I remember reading a while back that Lords was blacklisted by the adult film world, that they felt betrayed, etc. Not, I suppose, entirely without reason.

But does anyone know if this is really true? In this day of the interwebs, is the porn industry really that monolithic of an entity? Was it even that way back in the eighties? Does the industry have a history of blacklisting like the Hollywood studio system of old or today's superhero comics?

Glenn Kenny

@ Tom: Interesting question. I don't think anything like an official blacklist exists, and the porn industry is so inherently dysfunctional and weirdly organized that any such thing would be impossible to keep in place. I can tell you that Lords was and is still deeply disliked in the porn world, the perception being that she burned quite a few people, financially and otherwise, when the scandal of her being underage in almost all of her films broke. I interviewed a few Wicked contract girls a few years back, and Devinn Lane (who was nowhere near the porn industry at the time, but as it happens is actually about the same age as Lords) delivered an impassioned soliloquy about what a double-dealer Lords was and how much she had damaged the industry. On the other hand, with a lot of money to be made, quite a lot can be forgiven as well.

Which is not to say I honestly think any such thing is going to happen. It's just always interesting, given how passionately Lords condemns the industry at any given moment (her autobiography is of interest), that she's frequently willing to trade in on whatever's left of her notoriety in that area when the price is right. Which I suppose only ticks off her porn-industry haters more.


A lot of great pop music has horrible, inane, ridiculous and/or inept lyrics. That first Killers CD is so catchy, I just ignore the words and bop along. This is also a good way to approach ABBA.


Don't know how somebody could hate Kelly so much based on just two films, with DONNIE DARKO (non-director's cut) being a very unique vision with a lot of heart and soul. There's some beautiful acting in the film, and how can you not love Patrick Swayze as that perfect 80's huckster (and that video!)...Kelly is not some hack.


I always felt Donnie Darko was a rather unfortunate mix of David Lynch and Robert Zemeckis. When everyone in college was losing their shit over it, I was fairly "meh." It's David Lynch for dummies.

Ragle Gumm

Long and short of it: Donnie Darko was an accident, Southland Tales is a disaster, Richard Kelly smokes cheap weed and doesn't understand the sci-fi that he reads, and anyone who likes the Killers and Gary Jules wets their bed.


Oh, and I also have a sort of soft spot in my heart for director Bob Gosse's previous film "Niagara, Niagara" -- which hit me pretty hard in my teenage years. I do not think I will be seeing this new one, though.


I read THE BOX it's pretty tight and tidy.

Tom Russell

My problem with DONNIE DARKO is my problem with JUNO. It posits a world where all adults are hypocrites and fools and only The Youngs get it. I think if I had seen either of those films when I was a teenager, it would have seemed really truthful and deep and resonated; I know that's what AMERICAN BEAUTY looked like when I was seventeen. Take that, suburban hypocrisy! Boo-ya!

But as a thinking adult, I have to say that all three are shallow, adolescent, and overrated. And I honestly don't think they'll last. I know this seems a foolish prophecy, especially with regards to a midnight movie like DONNIE DARKO, but give it fifty years or so. When eighties nostalgia has died, it'll die with it.


Wow Tom, that's not true for DD at all. The adults are treated very sympathetically, particularly Donnie's Republican father and the progressive teachers at his high school, as well as his psychiatrist. Some adults are targets, but he hits the teens too. The best deleted scene from the movie is Donnie's dad telling him he's not as fucked up as he once was and it's a beaut. Kelly put that back in the Director's Cut.


Americathon is a more intelligent film than Southland Tales. And it's funnier, too. Which isn't saying much. But that's where ST falls on the continuum. Behind a film directed by Neal Isreal, starring John Ritter, Harvey Korman and Zane Buzby.

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