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February 07, 2011


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warren oates

The connections between these three pull-out quotes and what they say or don't say about the current state of film criticism--all that's beyond me this morning. But I very much like Zahedi's IN THE BATHTUB OF THE WORLD, to which I remain grateful for, among other things, introducing me to The Innocence Mission's "Birds of My Neighborhood."

Glenn Kenny

I'm being a little oblique, if not obtuse, I admit; in any event, my objections pertaining to the first quote aren't about Zahedi per se (although, and I don't care who knows this, the fact that he now lives in my neighborhood pretty much totally skeeves me out); just the whole "Nick-Pinkerton-making-his name" bit. No offense to Pinkerton, he's a completely decent writer and all that, but in terms of having a "made" name, I'd say he's still a wait-and-see. (Which is not to imply, incidentally, that I have any illusions or pretensions pertaining to my own "name," such as it is. Just bringing the sarcasm, as I sometimes do.)


Pinkerton's Maurice Pialat RS article was phenomenal. More phenomenal than the movie he was talking about =P!

I also liked his Eustache piece.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jake: Um, since you bring it up, I find the Pialat piece among his least impressive—a lot of chest-puffing disguised as self-effacement, and "you can't handle the truth!" bluster directed against both critics and the popular audience as he imagines it. Meh.

Mark Asch

Thrilled/chilled to be included in such august company. Admittedly Nick's ascension to Village Voice second-stringer is hardly an arc of world-historical import, and it certainly wasn't my intention to wax solipsistic about my own extended social circle. But, I dunno, as a Reverse Shot reader since around the time of "Sex Addict"'s release and my own beginnings at the L, I figured a somewhat personal acknowledgment of years elapsed and minor milestones passed seemed in keeping with the merits, as I see it, of the Zahedi oeuvre. (All of which is of course entirely evident in the passage quoted above.)

Forgive the nit-picky defense of a perfectly legitimate criticism, and please do take it in the spirit of conversation rather than obsessive online image-monitoring.

Glenn Kenny

@ Mark: What can I tell you? It's an old journalistic convention that any trendmongering piece, even a fake one, needs at least three examples to "work." Please accept the intended compliment when I say the one I culled from your piece was the weakest.

Kohn's absurd supposition underscores the need for every would-be film journalist to make a study of, you know, actual marketing. The particular poignancy in this case is that, for an accident of temperament (and, most likely, ill-directed parental encouragement) Kohn himself might have made a perfectly acceptable marketing executive.

But pride of place of course goes to poor David Denby. If I didn't know any better I'd say he tripped on 'shrooms with Brody and kept notes. I just adore the idea of someone saying, "Oh, yeah, I love Osborne's work on 'SpongeBob,' some day he's gonna be recognized as the Ollie Johnston of his generation..."


I don't know, man, SpongeBob sure can be funny...


Looking forward to Joe Swanberg's remake of 'Frank & Ollie', in which (presumably) they do nothing but hang around with Jack Kerouac.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Not sure what the problem with Kohn's piece is either... As far as I could tell, SPvTW was marketed as a fantasy adventure starring Michael Cera, rather than "The guys who brought you SEAN OF THE DEAD now bring you a romantic comedy about video games!" Dunno that the latter would have helped---the gaming blogosphere seemed pretty aware of the movie, and that didn't translate into sales---but nu, it's a reasonable enough post. As for Denby: Well, yeah, SpongeBob is better known (though maybe more for its art than its writing) than any contemporary cinematic movement argued about by festivalgoing types like, say, that-core-which-shall-not-be-named. But for Henry James references and generational warnings, nu, I understand, it is anathema to suggest 'round these parts that any thought at all goes into the making or viewing of Swanberg's movies, so whatevs.

Glenn Kenny

@TFB: The only thing Kohn gets right is the fact that "Scott Pilgrim" was poorly marketed. As much as I love Edgar Wright's work and respect him as a human being, the notion that playing up HIS name in the marketing would have helped it out is complete wishful thinking, as Kohn comes close, but not close enough, to admitting. As much as I don't like citing Joe Queenan's old Movieline stuff (he was the COMPETITION!), he really was on to something with that snarky piece for which he hung around outside movie theaters—in Manhattan, yet!—asking people if they knew the director of a given film playing at the venue, and getting all sorts of "huh?"s. Similarly, a campaign touting "from the folks who brought you "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead'" might have worked, but probably would not. (It did nothing for "Top Secret!," which was from the folks who brought you the mega-smash "Airplane!," as you may recall.) And the idea of a "Michael Cera backlash" only plays if you believe Michael Cera ever sold tickets in the first place. Seriously, this is the worst of his bullshit: Jeff Wells and some fanboys decide that they're sick of Cera's face and that constitutes an actual, in-the-marketplace backlash? Nice research there, fella.

As for that other guy, you are right. While I insist you are free to make the suggestion of which you speak, I'll never buy it. Someday, if you push hard enough, I may crack and tell you what I REALLY think of Swanberg, and it won't be pretty. But don't think I don't sympathize. I understand that these United States are dotted with young aspiring filmmakers who have a certain amount invested in the notion that Swanberg has an IQ somewhat above the (fahrenheit) temperature of lukewarm water. But like J.J. Hunsecker says, don't kid a kidder. As someone smarter, wiser, nicer and more prominent than myself has noted (or at least strongly implied) elsewhere on this blog, that Criterion top-ten list of his reads very much like the work of a Dumb Person. To which I can only add, Q.E.D. And I've been in the same room as the man, and seen him move his lips while texting. I give him credit for a certain feral cunning, which has enabled him to bamboozle some intelligent people of good will. But that's all I give him credit for.

Fuzzy Bastarrd

Wait, are we asserting that Michael Cera didn't sell tickets? I mean, I agree that most moviegoers don't care about the director, but they definitely care about the star, and Michael Cera was definitely a ticket-selling star, between Superbad and that lame-ass teenage version of After Hours. And there did seem to be a backlash during the SPvtW lead-up---messageboards and IMDB posts (the semi-literate vox populi) were filling up with dumbass "he only plays one character" whines.


Whatever you think of Pinkerton (full disclosure; he's an infrequent customer at our store, and he has always been nice and personable), his writing on Zahedi that Asch linked to came across as fairly lucid.

Glenn Kenny

@ lipranzer: I LIKE HIM! I LIKE HIM! I was just saying he's NOT THAT FAMOUS is all!

@TFB: "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" did a little better than $30 million domestic, a pretty good return on a $10 million production budget. "Superbad" did $120 million domestic, a FRIGGING AWESOME return on a $20 million production budget. But Cera was hardly the only draw here. (Full disclosure: I'm friendly with "Superbad"'s director.) The picture was riding a particular zeitgeist wave, possessed an Apatow touch, was a summer release that fit into a recently minted mini-tradition of summer comedies, and got great word-of-mouth, partially based on some of its more envelope-pushing humor. It's a complicated equation and it's almost impossible to reproduce those circumstances in a fashion that'll yield you a consistent result. The challenge for "Scott Pilgrim" was getting a maximum return on a $60 million production budget. With a number like that, the Cera factor, seemingly paradoxically, becomes less crucial, because in order to get the most satisfactory return on investment the corporation has to successfully market the film to a substantial segment of the general moviegoing audience that may not even have heard of Michael Cera, This renders the ostensible backlash, which occurred in what is, when you deal in real numbers, a relatively small and inarguably insular segment of cyberspace, less of an issue than Kohn believe it to be. Damn. I should have gotten that M.B.A. when I had the chance.

Account Deleted

Joe Queenan's Movieline piece was immortal. The two highlights were the person that thought Jurassic Park was directed by Stephen King, and Queenan going up to the box-office worker and asking for a ticket to the new John McTiernan film, to be met with the reply: "We don't have any films starring him showing at the moment."

Tom Russell

What the heck is a beejs? Is this some kind of Russian film theory term?


Well, how about the theory that Michael Cera fans go to see him do emo-y roles in high school movies, but aren't so into graphic comic sci-fi? So there is a Cera factor; it just doesn't work when he steps out of the genre to which his fans are accustomed. I mean, that's just as credible an explanation of the limited data as any.


How about the fact that Scott Pilgrim is the single worst movie of the last 25 years?


That's right, Tom. Remember that Kuleshov experiment, in which shots of an expressionless guy were intercut with various other things? For instance, those who saw his face juxtaposed with a bowl of soup thought he looked hungry. Well, those who saw it intercut with a beej thought he must be dead.

Tom Russell

I feel like I'm missing a joke here.

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