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The Greatest Films of All-Time! …Probably

2012.08.22

What seems to be the problem, Hal?Every ten years, the film magazine Sight & Sound releases its list of the best films of all time. Before finishing that first sentence, I could hear a collective YAWN—another film list. Why another film list? The Internet is rife with them, and they’re an editor’s go-to feature when a film/music/TV publication needs to shift a few more issues or generate extra page views. And the subsets of lists can get a bit ridiculous; you start with lists of the funniest movies, or most best epics, and can end up with “The 6 Most Depressing Happy Endings in Movie History” or “The 5 Most Ridiculous Martial Arts Movies Ever.”* But the Sight & Sound poll is different for a number of reasons. To begin with, its sheer infrequency. The first list was announced in 1952, and there have only been six further lists since—the latest out just this month, August 2012. So it is enormously helpful in identifying long-term trends. Also, Sight & Sound attempts to be quite exhaustive in its search for canon consensus; this year’s list was drawn from 846 critics, writers, and academics. Each critic was invited to present his or her list of the ten greatest films of all time—however each individual critic chose to define “greatest”—and each instance of a title would simply count as one vote for that film. Read more…

When Bands You Love Disappoint You

2011.03.31

There is a very particular kind of melancholy you feel when a band lets you down.  You know it’s nothing personal, and they probably meant well, but you hear something that makes you close your eyes, hang your head slightly, and imperceptibly slump.

I don’t mean something simple on a song, like, “Uhh… why did the producer put that glockenspiel so up front in the mix?” or “Really?  Another children’s choir in the bridge?” or “Did Method Man really just rhyme cloud with style, wtf how is that even possible?”

Nor am I talking something huge, like hearing “Oh, Rog is gone, yeah, but don’t worry, we’ll still tour under the name Pink Floyd,” or Paul saying “Let It Be is cool, people, but now you can start talking about the Beatles in the past tense, thank you.”  Or a band thinking the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra was necessary for it to rock harder.

I’m talking about when a band drops an LP or a song that is just… wrong, when you hear it.  An album that just doesn’t fit, a direction just too out there, for you really to climb on board the way you may have with their other material.  This has happened a few times to me.

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Apocalypse Now

2011.03.28

 

“I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.”

Stanley Kubrick said that all a director needed to make a good film was six to eight “non-submersible units”–that is, the core memorable sequences of a film.  It is not difficult to see this philosophy in the great director’s post-Lolita output.  From 2001 onwards, Kubrick filmed epic, memorable sequences without caring much how they were strung together, narratively.  This disgruntled critics like Pauline Kael and Stanley Kaufmann, who seemed to see no point in this mode of filmmaking, and viewed Kubrick’s latter output as structurally tortured.  If a film is only its narrative, or viewed only on such a surface level, then such a filmic construction would naturally be displeasing.  But Kubrick frustrated narrative cohesiveness with architectonically perfect thematic form.

 

And lots of people inexplicably looking at their eyebrows.

 

 

I discuss this aspect of the great Kubrick’s filmmaking to compare with Apocalypse Now, a film with more non-submersible units than perhaps even Kubrick would have thought possible.  Considering the end result, it is difficult to believe that Coppola thought his film was a mess that no amount of editing would salvage.  Each sequence is a masterpiece unto itself, Willard’s fugacious encounters serving as signposts as his little boat putters into madness.

(this post is hd image-intensive, and may take some browsers a bit longer to load)

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Black Friday

2011.03.23

I do not have cable.  I do not have TV at all.  I never listen to the radio, save NPR.  I am fairly isolated from pop culture, and I prefer it this way, for I am shielded from the sludge of the Gagas, Twilights, and Kardashians (who, last I checked, were the sworn enemy of the Bajorans, but now seem to be some kind of white-collar whore, near as I can tell).


Caution: the above video has made some sensitive viewers vomit in a projectile manner.  Aim away from your computer screen.

 

But sometimes something is so heinous that it slips through every defense a man can think of and hits me anyway.  Such as it is with Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”  It was described to me as the worst pop song that has yet been recorded.  I shy from such hyperbole, usually; our current discourse is so insanely hyperbolic anymore that if it were a Kepler orbit, its eccentricity would be greater than 1.  With this in mind, I had to hear “Friday” for myself.

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Thoughts on the Tea Party

2011.03.18

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

The Mad Hatter

The Tea Party has been a source of endless fascination for me.  I have been accused in the past of referring to its members as racists, ignoramuses, nincompoops, and other rhetorically offensive but descriptively satisfying appellations.

Pejoratives, however, seem to have fallen out of fashion in todays public discourse.  Rather, it would be more accurate to say that it is fashionable to behave publicly as if name-calling has fallen out of fashion, whilst still saying and doing pretty much whatever occurs to you whenever it occurs to you, and apologizing on the off-chance what you say is picked up by enough media outlets.  In any case, several acquaintances inform me with alarming regularity that my negative views of the Tea Party are wholly unfounded, so I thought I would take this opportunity to see if they are correct.  “They just stand for smaller government, less taxes, and freedom,” my mother says.  “What is wrong with that?”

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Affirmative Action…in Art 2: The Angry Feminist

2011.03.10

I… (name here)… a member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club… Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours – or until I scream bloody murder.


It started with True Lies.  I rewatched James Cameron’s last pre-Titanic effort a couple days ago, and, as I do, I sought critics reviews before my viewing.  I don’t do this with new films, really–films I’ve never seen before I prefer to be surprised by.  But if it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film –and for True Lies 17 years have passed since my last viewing– I like to get a handle on what the critical consensus was back in the day, to understand the context in which the film was released and received, to compare it with my own feelings about how the film may have de-/appreciated in the ensuing years.

 

 

Somehow, though a series of links, I happened upon a feminist website, with a scathing feminist critique of the film.  Did you flinch just then, at the word feminist?  It is a word now with a strong connotation: militant, bull-headed, loud.  I rolled my eyes before I started reading.  I must be classified as some sort of feminist, I guess, supporting as I do women’s suffrage, reproductive rights, equal pay, and the general idea of them.  But the idea of a “feminist critique” of True Lies was enough to make my eyes roll before I began reading.  And during reading.  Frequently.

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I Hate Stupid People. (An angry rant.)

2011.03.7

This is going to be an angry rant.  A bit different from my previous posts, but any fan of Glenn Beck should feel right at home, except that my rant makes sense, is intellectually sound, is rational, and didn’t make me cry for minutes on end in front of millions of people.

This is just a brief precautionary statement, if you will, because after the jump, it might get loud.  Fair warning.  In fact, as a little “I’m sorry” to people who are about to be caught in my grip of vicious rhetoric, here is OK GO’s Grammy-winning video for “Here It Goes Again”:

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