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November 09, 2009


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Aaron Aradillas

The best description of Napoleon Dynamite. EVER. It gets to the heart of why I don't like that movie. It's depressingly hip.

On the other hand, Welcome to the Dollhouse is the real deal.


Indie movies are my favorite kind of movies.

Ryan Kelly

How could anyone find "Napoleon Dynamite" depressing without finding "Welcome to the Dollhouse" depressing?



Cannonball Jack

What? Napoleon Dynamite is uplifting. All of the characters problems are resolved satisfactorily. Napoleon helps Pedro win the position of school president and begins his friendship with Deb. Kip hooks up with his internet girlfriend and leaves the roost. Grandma recovers. Uncle Rico lets go of the past and hooks up with someone. In no reality I inhabit does such fluffery seem more lugubrious than Solondz's movies. Heh!

Steven Santos

I don't like Jean-Luc Godard, though I still enjoy Akira Kurosawa (different director but still foreign).


Three words: Netflix user reviews. I love to scroll through some of those when I'm feeling masochistic. There are all sorts of subgenres:

I Will Not Like This Canonical Classic- "People only pretend to like CITIZEN KANE because stupid movie snobs have said it's good!"

Old Movie= Bad- "Maybe HIS GIRL FRIDAY was funny in the 20s, but nowadays people demand a well written script! Like WEDDING CRASHERS!"

Misguided Condescension- "Obviously BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN isn't as good as a modern horror movie because it lacks cgi, but it's still good hokey fun!"

I Like Shiny Objects and 'Splosions- "Nothing happens in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN! And it has NO ENDING!!"

And my favorite, the surprisingly common: Comeagainnow?- "HORSEFEATHERS and ANIMAL CRACKERS are my two favorite films but DUCK SOUP is unwatchable crap!" "I love Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and screwball comedy like I love the oxygen that gives me life, but I couldn't get through 30 minutes of BRINGING UP BABY!"

order drugs

I agree with Ryan Kelly both movie are depressing..

Tom Russell

I think Hess's movie (DYNAMITE; haven't seen BRONCOS) appeals to me because I like my comedies to be a little sad and melancholy.

... Don't look at me that way, I'm from Michigan. We're a sad people.

Earthworm Jim

I could write a book comprised of entries for this series. I suppose we all probably could. Getting into conversations with family members or other non-cinephile folks about movies, or bearing witness to such conversations, is such an excruciating experience for me that I'm often tempted to simply leave the room, or at least change the subject as quickly as possible. It'd be one thing if our specialized interest of choice was, say, Latin poetry, but no, we've chosen movies, which happens to be something that almost everyone in America enjoys on some broad level.

Earthworm Jim

Oh, and @otherbill, another category of Netflix user reviews is the finger-wagging, sub-literate soccer-mom: "This movie had lots of Bad Language and gritoitis violence. So Dissapointed!!!!!!"


I don't understand what could be 'hip' about Napoleon Dynamite. How many layers of irony are we allowed to apply to any given term?

Michael Adams

There's a pirate DVD stand on the sidewalk outside the 34th St. entrance to Penn Station. Was walking past one day while an empty suit was studying the text on the case. The female stand attendant helped him out by summarizing the movie concisely: "Men with big guns shoot women. It's good."


The mentally infirm have taken over! It's a done deal man, game over, game over. Most people are stupid! Most people don't care about cinema! Most people make ridiculous comparisons as such! Most people don't get ulcers from this but I do! I do! So why do I care? I have no clue.

James Keepnews

"I didn't like Trouble Every Day. It was depressing.

Though I did enjoy Dawn of the Dead (different ppl but still gritoitis)"

(I initally read that as "grody-otis," which all linguists will recognize as the superlative of "grody"...)

The Siren

At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I will say that I find occasional gems in the IMDB and Amazon reviews. (Netflix not so much; dunno why.) My two favorites so far were for Leisen's "Remember the Night" ("I loved this movie. That's a hard thing for a black man to say about a movie with Snowflake in it.") and the guy at IMDB who wrote a review citing point-for-point evidence that Duvivier's transcendently goofy "The Great Waltz" is an extended allegory for the Anschluss.

Glenn Kenny

You're right, Siren...but those people aren't "normal." They exist in the shadowy netherworld that separates the somehow-officially-sanctioned cinephile and the "still indie!" types. Which must be an uncomfortable place. They deserve our support!


A couple of years ago I was sitting on a T train in Boston and there were two 20-something couples sitting opposite me talking about films they had seen recently. Bear in mind these kids looked like fairly intelligent college grads.

Girl: We finally saw 'Casablanca' for the first time the other night
Boy: What did you think of it?
Girl: I don't know, it's supposed to be this great classic romance but he loses the girl at the end. What's romantic about that?

Then they went on to talk about 'The Incredible Hulk'

The Siren

@Glenn -- Alas no, they probably don't count as "normal." Otherbill's examples are so true that for all I know he lifted them from actual reviews. His first mock-review illustrates why the only explicit rule on my blog is "No Citizen Kane dissing." My patient readers would never indulge in such philistinism even if they didn't like Welles, but I am oppressed by rampant stupidity about Citizen Kane's alleged "boringness" and so I exercise my dictatorial rights in that one instance.

Bruce Reid

I confess, I don't get it. The two films share a setting, a deliberately flat visual style, a dedication to outcast characters. Heder and Matarazzo even kind of resemble each other, facing the world with the same scrunched-face perplexity. Plenty of reviews brought up the similarities between the movies; the writer here does so with justification, since having labeled something often considered sweet and uplifting as "depressing," the contrast is with an acknowledged dark, depressing film--that overlaps in many ways with the one under discussion--they did enjoy. (Not that it wasn't depressing as well, which I think Ryan Kelly misread.)

The "still indie" bit is a useless categorization, sure, but the comparison is far, far from apples and oranges. All due respect to Steven Santos's and James Keepnews's funny parodies, this is closer to "I thought Breathless was too talky, though I did like Shoot the Piano Player" or "I thought Trouble Every Day was too gory and depressing, though I did like Inside." (Neither negative assessments I hold, to be clear.)

The original comment is neither terribly insightful or marvelously expressed, but I'd hardly call such minimal yet undeniable engagement dispiriting, particularly against so many other examples out there.

And if it means no silly attempts at razing Kane, may The Siren's iron hand benevolently protect her blog for all time.


"Men with big guns shoot women. It's good."

That's the best overview of Michael Bay's work I've ever read (except for the "it's good" part).

Tom, I'm from Michigan, too, and I always thought we were less a sad people than a "laughing in the face of calamity" people. I live in Ohio now, and trust me-- that's a state with a sad people.

One more addition for the Netflix Review Categories: I Might Be Writing A Review, But I'm Still Jus' Folks (Don't Call Me A Critic!): "I hate it when the elites condescend to this kind of film! It's just a movie, lighten up! Some people only go to the movies for fun! Why are you taking it so seriously??"

I mean, I like a lot of movies that might be called "goofy" or "dumb fun," but this style of writing begs the question so much that it really gets on my nerves.

Glenn Kenny

@ Bruce Reid: Boy, are you strict!

Bruce Reid

Well, you'll notice I didn't jump in defending Nathan Rabin.

Tom Russell

You're probably right, Brian; "we Michiganders are a sad people" is actually one of my stock phrases that I use when someone asks why I made a comedy about a self-loathing suicidal. I think your characterization is a truer and, hey, I like it just because of the implicit if unintentional swipe at Ohio. (We will never forget The Toledo War!)

David N

After a screening of "The Searchers" for a class studying for a Masters in Film Studies, the consensus among my classmates was basically that it was alright, if a little boring, and that it would be good if, like, it was remade today, with modern production values and "without the corniness" and maybe with "a slightly faster pace applied to the storytelling"?
These would theoretically not be "normal" people, but students who had already studied film to a certain (degree) level, so I guess the moral is that Film Students are even worse than normal people when it comes to such matters.


The most bizarre Netflix commenters are the ones who give a movie one star because the DVD they got wouldn't play properly.


@The Siren- I didn't open a second browser window to pull Netflix quotes, but each of those examples is based on something specific that stuck in my brain. I clearly don't have to tell you that the KANE one is pretty common. The NCFOM example pops up pretty often, especially the bit about the ending. I've seen more than one say that HIS GIRL FRIDAY is poorly written. Contemplate that for a second. The BOF one could be done with KONG (did you know Jackson's was much better thanks to the technology? Me neither), or Karloff's MUMMY, or many others dear to my heart. The Marx Bros and screwball examples are pretty accurate- you can work variations by switching in MONKEY BUSINESS, PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE AWFUL TRUTH, etc.

Understand I offer the above as (hopefully) fun clarification. I didn't think you were accusing me of plagiarism or anything.

@Earthworm Jim- that "So Dissapointed!!!!" is spot on.

Jason M.

What's even better is when normal people run into the avant-garde. (Although, granted, that right there may actually de facto remove them from the normal category).

One of the best such anecdotes I heard was from a former professor of mine: A college football player decided to take one of his film courses to fill a requirement because, hey, all you had to do was sit around and watch movies. Upon viewing Kenneth Anger's "Fireworks" he wrote this one sentence summary:

"A young man tries, unsuccessfully, to join the Navy."

Account Deleted

EarthwormJim wrote: "I could write a book comprised of entries for this series. I suppose we all probably could. Getting into conversations with family members or other non-cinephile folks about movies, or bearing witness to such conversations, is such an excruciating experience for me that I'm often tempted to simply leave the room, or at least change the subject as quickly as possible. It'd be one thing if our specialized interest of choice was, say, Latin poetry, but no, we've chosen movies, which happens to be something that almost everyone in America enjoys on some broad level."

I know EXACTLY what you're talking about here Jim. You just described my day-to-day existence on the planet.

It's reached the stage where when somebody says to me: "That new Star Trek film is AWESOME! JJ Abrams is THE SHIT! That Khan movie everyone goes on about is SLOW AS HELL!", it makes me want to punch them in the face.

Should I seek therapy?

John Svatek

"A young man tries, unsuccessfully, to join the Navy."

Best Review Ever!

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