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September 15, 2011


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Yeah, I can't really explain it. I just never did.

Gordon Cameron

Sorry for the tangent, but have you got the Citizen Kane Blu-ray, Glenn? I haven't seen much blogchat about it yet, which surprises me.

I spent much of last night watching it. It's very good, though not as crisp as I remember a 35mm print I saw at USC film school in 92/93 or thereabouts. Sweet Smell of Success is still the most gobsmacking black and white Blu I've seen; they must have had a wonderful source element.


Brody's enthusiasm is kind of infectious. I don't share his taste, but he's probably the only person who makes me regret not seeing Gentleman Broncos, or feeling like I may have misunderstood Funny People. Even though Restless looks aggressively irritating, and even though Brody praises the movie in terms that would have seemed excessive for Moby-Dick or the King James Bible, I might have to see it now.


Enough with the fucking remakes.

Scott Nye

Joel - Ain't that the truth? Brody's writing reads sometimes as an aggressive attempt to discover a new auteurism, but more often than not as a complete openness to whatever a film wants to be. Both are always worth reading, and what would come across as annoying in almost any other writer is somehow for him..."infectious" is quite the right word.


To get back on-topic: Glenn, they clearly stated that her father had recently died, and that she was going to repair the house and then sell it. He came along not only to be supportive but also because he (foolishly, it turns out) thought it would be a nice, quiet place to finish his screenplay.

Glenn Kenny

I know, Cadavra; I didn't find the space to convey that I knew in the review. But as Jonah Goldberg likes to say, what you cite only strengthens my point. That the farm sojourn here was explicitly meant to be temporary, and since any sentient being might have been able to suss out in ten minutes that Blackwater was neither quiet nor nice, the fact that the Sumners don't turn tail almost immediately puzzles here in a way it does not in the original, which posits its protagonists as "stuck" in a myriad of ways.

Paul Brunick

Ed Gonzalez makes Carmen Miranda look like Margaret Thatcher. He lisps harder than Daffy Duck at a Succotash Recipe Swap. The man is like an extended family of Cuban refugees paddling to America on a gay-pride parade float. He is so serious that Batman himself wonders why he's so serious, and so flamboyant that the Human Torch feels like a burn-out, limp-dicked match head next to him. I have been waiting SO LONG for someone to speak Truth to Power and break up the figurative and LITERAL sewing circles that have choked off fun film commentary on the Internet. Lex, more than a great thinker and a consistently hilarious read, you are a great American. I thank you for your service and salute you.

Glenn Kenny

As Samuel L. Jackson said in "The New Age," "Now THAT is a man!"


I think of "Paranoid Park" as Van Sant's nadir, if not his only wholesale misfire. Though it does have some Early Taylor Momsen.

But for real, while I'm a huge fan of whatever you consider the Gerry/Elephant/Last Days trilogy to be called, PP has a foul, nearly sociopathic undercurrent. It's kind of shocking, coming from a humanist like GVS. The movie SO utterly sympathizes with its utterly vacant and worthless "protagonist," it's akin to a love letter to a serial killer; Van Sant has treaded that line consistently in other movies with his sleeveless-jean-jacketed misfits and junkies and killers, but at one point in "Paranoid Park," a tubby security guard is killed in a truly shocking way, and Van Sant sort of glosses over it like, "Eh, whatever, some fat guy did, who CARES, let me get back to ogling this pretty kid." It's a shocking lack of basic decency, at least as it plays. Then again, movies from all stripes cavalierly off innocent bystanders all the time... Just to pick something out of a hat, how many likeable and innocent people do dumb-ass Slater and Arquette get murdered in "True Romance," yet they're the nomimal heroes. So maybe he was trying in some subconscious way to address that kind of thing. But I don't think so... it felt foul and wantonly cruel, maybe the cruelest thing any basically "warm" director has sprung on audiences in recent memory, all the more so because it's basically tossed off, as though the character is worthless because he isn't as dreamy as the UTTERLY CONTEMPTIBLE piece of human garbage GVS is so busy mooning over.

Also that part in "Milk" where Emile Hirsch is chanting "Anita,ya lie-uh, your pants are on fie-uh!" is pretty cringe-inducing too on the Van Sant wall of shame.


Well how about that, I basically agree with Lex about PARANOID PARK. The audience is somehow supposed to feel elevated at the end because this kid has moved past his...I can't even call it guilt. Whatever psychic inconvenience resulted from the death of the security guard, though, our guy has risen above it. Well that's a relief.


Mr. Kenny, I want your thoughts on Soderbergh's Contagion, ethical concerns be damned. Give your audience what it wants. Thanks!

Glenn Kenny

Sorry, Will, but this household has gone past the point of "ethical" "concerns" and into the realm of actual (albeit handshake) agreements that have to be honored. Which I admit to finding irritating right now, as I DID like "Contagion" a lot and noticed some interesting formal touches that nobody else has seen fit to bring up. (Two words: "Pillow shots.") That said, I now must quote Eleanor Bron in "Help!": "I can say no more."


Bill, have you seen MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO yet? That's still my favorite Van Sant film, and you should definitely check it out if you haven't.

Eddie Carmel

Agreed 100% with Lex in his referencing TRUE ROMANCE as part of the PARANOID PARK riff...I think that's part of the reason TR ended up being a halfway unpleasant experience for me, with all the senseless slaughter of seemingly decent people in the service of...what? A hedonistic screw-happy movie-love that is such a load it seems toxic? It's remarkably different what Tarantino does differently re: carnage/deaths of the innocent in the films he's actually directed (though KILL BILL seemed a bit of a step back in that department.) INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS of course complicates matters a bit.

And as for getting back on topic, Glenn, I'm glad you referenced Fuller in your STRAW DOGS review, because I often think of the restored BIG RED ONE as the epitome of truth-in-violence, sort of a gold standard for war movies at least, and I think in his less haywire moments that Fuller really communicated a world-vision where violence was sick but inevitable, devoid of romance or thrills, but never anything out of the ordinary. (Of course, that discussion would best include FUNNY GAMES, another film I thought of reading your SD review, but a discussion of which is perhaps going WAY off topic here! As a film professor of mine used to say "NO, that is going to take a LONG talk and we don't have the TIME!")

David Ehrenstein

"Paranoid Park" is one of Gus' very greatest films. There is absolutely no "eh, whatever" to the guard's gruesome death. The entire film is about the state of shock its protagonist is in because of said death.


But it's about the protagonist getting past the shock without ever having to own up to anything, not about the death itself. It's about how that death screws up HIS life, and Van Sant gives credence to teenage solipsism in a way that is deeply unpleasant.


And Brian, no MY PRIVATE IDAHO yet, either. I missed all his early big movies, and have been very scattershot in my viewing of his films since then, as I think should be obvious by now.

David Ehrenstein

Of course it's deeply unpleasant. That's the point. Gus let's no one off the hook.

Seek out "Mala Noche" Bill. It's shot in the very same area in Portland used for "Drugstore Cowboy" and "MOPI"


I like a lot of Gus Van Sant films, but - in my humble opinion, of course - I think he never made anything better than MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO. Bill, check it out.

I also think - and this is not just my opinion - that his status as a major filmmaker is quite safe. Sure, RESTLESS sounds troubling (I haven't seen it myself), but here's a guy who made EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES and went on to the Cannes Palme D'Or, two Best Director Oscar nominations, and at least one third of the "trilogy" (GERRY, ELEPHANT, LAST DAYS) has a permanent place in the heart of 9 out of every 10 cinephiles.

Cut him some slack!

Brian Dauth

Van Sant hardly glosses over the death of the guard in PARANOID PARK. As David points out, the entire film revolves around this act and its aftermath. But while it is easy to get stuck on a realistic level with this film, the death (or better yet - severing) of the guard works on other levels as well. PARANOID PARK moves even further from the realm of realistic narrative than the previous trilogy. PP is about queer teen desire and how the experience of such desire severs a person from the world (and often from herself). What leads Alex to the rail yards is a desire he is not in full comprehension of, and when he does comprehend it, he is split, as represented by the severing the the guard(ian)/protector: Alex has run off the (sexual) rails. It is not that guard is worthless as Lex states, but that the domain of regulation will be severed in the face of powerful desire.

Lex is correct that the film ogles the teenage boys, but it is a film about queer teen desire, so that is where the stress should fall. Another severing: Van Sant severs the film (shot in classic Academy ratio) from the traditional heteronormative ogling that movies do. I remember watching the film, and wondering what possible interest it could hold for a non-queer heteronormative male/female spectator, since there seemed to be so little presented for them or from their perspective (I thought the same thing with MILK which was a radical re-thinking of the bio-pic genre).

Of course, Van Sant's genius is to make films that appeal to a wide audience while he continously deepens the queering of the form/materials he is working with at any given time.


I don't understand the controversy. To say that Van Sant doesn't properly account for the fallout for the guard's death is like saying Kane doesn't feel bad about Susan leaving him because he doesn't say it out loud. It's just really, really obvious that that's the subject of the movie for pretty much all of what follows after the incident, and that Alex's guilt makes him start to crack up. Not sure how one could miss this unless they skipped out after the first reel or something.

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