Wednesday, May 27, 2009

American movies, 1970-1979

from John Boorman's Deliverance (1972)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beauty, repetition, drone, composition, landscape, movement, meditation

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." -- Mark Twain
(My mother re-introduced me to this quote this weekend, and it stuck in my head after watching The Limits of Control this afternoon.)

With the exception of thoughtful people (who also happen to be good writers) like J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Glenn Kenny, the majority of American film critics have taken a collective dump on Jim Jarmusch's latest movie, the beautiful The Limits of Control. I see it as a stylistic advancement after the enjoyable but relatively complacent Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers in the same way Dead Man and Ghost Dog expanded his repertoire after the comfort zone stall of Night on Earth. Whether you like it or not is not really the issue. You got your thang. I got my thang. You might have excellent reasons to dislike it. However, I'm dismayed at the almost unanimous groupthink negative reaction by the mainstream press. I wish I was surprised by most of it (though I was surprised by Roger Ebert, usually a Jarmusch fan, giving it one-half of a star -- the beauty of the composition alone should have raised it a little higher than that, even if he did dislike it). Newspapers are slowly and painfully dying, and film critics have been among the first to go. They're being axed right and left, and it's no coincidence that most of the good ones lost their jobs first. If they want to keep their jobs, it behooves them to pander to the corporations that either own both the newspapers and the Hollywood movie studios or depend on each other for symbiotic advertising money. Maybe the movie would have received fair reviews if it had been released in the fall. Mainstream film critics have unquestioningly swallowed the mass psychosis that requires us all to pretend it is our patriotic duty to desire giant, expensive, incoherent blockbusters in the summer months, even, and especially, if we avoid these products during the rest of the year. Lower your standards, smarty-pants. It's too hot for anything with artistic value. Ejaculate over Star Trek and Wolverine. It doesn't matter that either one will look like nobody directed it and a toddler edited it. Fuck it, man! It's the summer! The Limits of Control is more your late-fall kind of experience. (An aside. Look at almost any blockbuster from the 1980s. These are, for the most part, well-made entertainments. Look at a blockbuster now. They're shockingly poorly made, and nobody seems to give a fuck! Why? Even Christopher Nolan, a guy who knows how to make a movie, made the two most incoherent, poorly edited Batman movies ever and got praised to the heavens for it. Come on, even mindless fun entertainment should be made with care, heart, and soul. The sense of fun and play that used to exist in the Big Movie Event is gone and we're all pretending otherwise. Maybe I'm just out of touch because I don't want to waste valuable precious ever-dwindling lifetime hours on empty, no-fun imitations of fun. To be fair, I do waste a lot of fucking time on Facebook, so what the hell do I know?)
Let's boil down the criticism to its consensus: This movie is self-indulgent.
A proposal: Let's eliminate the word "self-indulgent" from the language. The uses of it are selfish and condescending. When a person says this to you, especially after you've professed admiration for whatever it is you're discussing, this person has obviously been born without the not-being-an-asshole part of his/her brain. Here's what this word means when used in this context: "Because I didn't like it, obviously the person who created it was only making it for her/himself and no one else." Do you see how shitty that is to say to someone? He/she is telling you that your opinion is not worth a goddamn thing, which is a terrible thing to say to a person. If one other person in the world likes it besides the creator(s), then it ceases to be self-indulgent. Because we all, everyone of us, matter. That's why you can discount my opinion in the previous paragraph if you like Star Trek or The Dark Knight. But please consider it, even for a second or two. Anyway, I'm getting off the track. The Limits of Control is self-indulgent only in the sense that all good and great art starts that way. If a creator can't indulge her/himself first, then how can he/she indulge anyone else? We communicate best with other people when we're being totally and completely ourselves. When we're not hiding our mannerisms, weaknesses, repetitions, humor, enthusiasm, plagiarisms, insecurities, goodness, etc. The road to connecting with others is paved with self-indulgence.
Anyway, I have a few petty reservations about The Limits of Control, but mostly I forgot about other bullshit and accepted it on its terms. I had a great experience watching it. Maybe you won't. Why do I think my opinion matters so much that I need a public forum for it? I still don't know. Maybe because I'm terrible at explaining what I like orally, and because I feel deep, hot rage when something I like gets dismissed in a tossed-off, casual, or smug manner. Anyway, bring on the rappin' grannies. Is that your final answer? You're fired. I wish I knew how to quit you. Get 'er done. Et cetera. Happy summer blockbustering and TIVOing to you and yours.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Musicians on film

Musicians on Film #14: Stiv Bators in John Waters' Polyester (1981)

Right on!

"You are all my guests. That's how I feel. Not the other way around. I am the best filmmaker in the world." -- Lars Von Trier, during a press conference at the currently ongoing Cannes Film Festival to a bunch of pompous film critics who attacked his latest film Antichrist and asked him to "justify" its existence. I'm sure they will take him at his word, not catching his sense of humor (they never do -- see their responses to the Dogme Manifesto, which they seemed to think was as serious as the Ten Commandments), and attack him some more for declaring himself the best in the world. They won't attack themselves for demanding that an artist justify something he made. Ask a fireman to justify putting out a fire, you stupid clods. I will never understand the vitriolic hatred for Von Trier and the gullible swallowing of his poker-faced provocations by the majority of film critics, journalists, and film buffs. I can see why his movies are divisive, but I don't understand where his critics' anger and hate and self-serving outrage come from. Why does he make people so mad? Because he believes in what he's doing? Because he's supposedly "sadistic"? (I think that's a lot of bullshit.) Because he's more formally inventive than most people making movies right now? I don't know. It baffles me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

American movies, 1970-1979

from Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising (1972)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musicians on film

Musicians on Film #13: David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Monday, May 11, 2009

American movies, 1970-1979

from Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Musicians on film

Musicians on Film #12: A Monkee gets wet in Bob Rafelson's Head (1968)

Monday, May 04, 2009

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