Monday, January 5, 2009

Supporting Evidence


Like Rick Olson, I haven't seen enough 2008 movies yet to do a full wrap-up and may not before January is out at which point it becomes kind of pointless to do one anyway. But I have seen the two top contenders for one of the big Oscar categories, and that, along with the whole idea of the category itself, is the topic for this post today.

In 1944, Barry Fitzgerald found himself the center of an interesting dilemma. Since creating the Supporting Actor Oscar category in 1936 the Academy had not defined the rules for nomination in any of the acting categories. Before 1936 the idea was to nominate any performance that was thought to be among the best of the year. It could be any role, big or small, but quickly it became clear that lead roles were the only ones being nominated and so they created the Supporting Acting categories to solve the problem. And it did until 1944. That's when half the members voted to nominate Barry Fitzgerald for Best Supporting Actor for Going My Way and the other half voted to nominate him for Best Actor. And the Academy let it stand. Fitzgerald remains the only actor nominated twice for the same exact role in a single film. He won the Supporting Oscar and lost the Best Actor Oscar to his co-star Bing Crosby. After that the rules were changed to state that whichever category the actor receives more votes for nomination in is the category for which they will be nominated. What wasn't defined, and still isn't and most likely never will be, is what is a supporting performance?

In my days of studying theatre in college the discussions of Protagonist and Antagonist were plentiful in class as we endeavored to understand dramatic conflict and the structure of playwriting. Although most people assume the Protagonist is the good guy and the Antagonist is the bad guy the true meaning is quite different. The Protagonist is the lead, or main, character and the Antagonist works in opposition to him. They are not defined according to good or bad. Two plays that were often used as examples were Othello and Amadeus. In both plays, the Protagonist is what would classically be called the "bad guy." Iago from Othello and Salieri from Amadeus are the main characters with more lines, more stage time, more everything. The title characters, Othello and Amadeus (Mozart), operate in opposition to them, and in both cases, unconsciously, unaware there is any opposition at all. Were Othello and Mozart the main characters consciously working against the designs of Iago and Salieri in an effort to "defeat" them, they would be the Protagonists instead.

Both plays have been made into films and in the case of the 1965 version of Othello, Laurence Olivier, in the supporting role of the Antagonist Othello, received a nomination for Best Actor while Frank Finlay, in the lead role of the Protagonist Iago, received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. With Amadeus, both roles, played by F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce, received nominations for Best Actor. And it's happened at other times too.

In 1972, the character of Michael Corleone, the character that clearly carries the arc of the entire story on his shoulders, the character that dominates the film, the character that undergoes significant change from beginning to end, was considered a supporting part by the Academy and Al Pacino received a Supporting Actor nomination. The character of Vito Corleone, the character that can not only be seen in opposition to Michael but as a catalyst for his change (his helplessness in the hospital affords Michael the first opportunity to show his nerves of steel that will eventually take him to the pinnacle of power), a character clearly presented as secondary to Michael, dramatically speaking, was considered the lead by the Academy and Marlon Brando was nominated for, and won, Best Actor.

One other notable occurrence would come in the same year that Amadeus itself swept the Oscars in which another nominee, The Killing Fields, had it's lead and supporting characters flip-flopped in the nomination process with Sam Waterston getting the Best Actor nomination and Haing S. Ngor getting the Supporting Actor nomination.


Which takes us to this years Oscar eligibles for Best Supporting Actor. As I look at polls and critics awards it is becoming clear that there are two front runners for this award, Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight and Eddie Marsan for Happy Go Lucky. The most recent one announced, The National Society of Film Critics, gave the Supporting award to Marsan with Ledger in second. The one just before that, a Village Voice polling of critics, went the other way with Ledger getting the nod and Marsan coming in second.

Marsan winning the National Society of Film Critics award makes me happy for a number of reasons not the least of which is that it lets me know that I wasn't alone in being wowed by his performance. Long before his explosion at the climax, which most people will see as the centerpiece of his performance, Marsan was making quite an impression. After just a couple of scenes of his character Scott's pedantic obsessions with driving my wife and I both turned to each other (I think it was after one of his early frustrations with Poppy where he struggles with the seat belt) and said, "damn he's good in this." But I'm also happy because the character of Scott, the driving instructor, is indeed the supporting part, the Antagonist that works in opposition to Poppy and, like Vito Corleone, acts as a catalyst for change in her (we can assume).

Heath Ledger's character of the Joker on the other hand could be seen to be the Protagonist of The Dark Knight. Like Amadeus and Othello, most people will assume that "Title Role" equals "Lead Role" However, the story of The Dark Knight is, to this viewers mind, the story of the Joker. The Joker sets things in motion and Batman reacts. Batman is the Joker's Antagonist but there's more to it than that. In fact, I would break down The Dark Knight this way:


Joker/Batman - Protagonist/Antagonist
Batman/Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face - Protagonist/Antagonist
Harvey Dent/Joker - Protagonist/Antagonist


In other words, each of the three characters is both a Protagonist and an Antagonist throughout the film. Since the Supporting category is so poorly defined anyway and most Academy voters simply go with screen time (of which Ledger has a great deal) I say nominate Heath Ledger for Best Actor for The Dark Knight, not Best Supporting Actor.

Of course, I know that will never happen but I think it would be the proper category for his nomination. And I want Eddie Marsan to win Best Supporting Actor, an award I think he richly deserves. I understand the sentiment behind a posthumous award and I know how important it would be to the family and friends of Heath Ledger, and how emotional. But I also know that Eddie Marsan is alive and may not get another role like this for some time and Heath Ledger, wherever he is according to whatever you believe in, doesn't care one way or the other.

But apart from the classification of Supporting/Lead there's another reason I want Marsan to win. The character itself, Scott, is more richly written and developed than that of the Joker. Now I know, the award is about the performance not how well the character is written but still, it irks me just a little bit, that a character like Scott, who without giving us many historical details of his life somehow lets the viewer in on everything about him, will be pushed aside for a character like the Joker, who speaks in teenage profundities throughout the film. Heath Ledger does a great job with what he's given but there just aren't many places to go with the character of the Joker.

Finally, my own personal choice for Marsan is also influenced by the movies themselves. Happy Go Lucky took me by surprise. As I watched it I thought it was good. But as I thought back on it and discussed it with fellow bloggers it continued to make more of an impression on me. It's not easy to do a slice-of-life, plotless movie with an always perky lead character but Mike Leigh did it and did it well (and looking back on Sally Hawkins performance, maintaining that chipperness throughout the movie and then not missing a beat at the end when she has to combine revulsion, terror and sympathy into one bag for her final scene with Scott, I have to hope for her to win Best Actress as well).

The Dark Knight, on the other hand, not only disappointed but quite frankly, slightly annoyed. As I watched one scene after another use the Sledgehammer School of Artistic Expression in which pious platitudes and teenage level profundities pass for dialogue I was, I must admit, a bit shocked. I don't know the last movie I've seen that contained as many "Oh Brother" moments for me as The Dark Knight: The prisoner throwing the detonator off the boat to show us the moral righteousness of humanity (oh brother), the line, "I'm an agent of chaos" (oh brother), every time Batman and Dent discuss anything (oh brother) and that ending, that ending! Here is the last line, spoken by Gary Oldman (very good in the movie) to his son who has asked why Batman is running: "Because we have to chase him." He then continues with what should be described as one of the most heavy-handed lines in movie, theatre, television or high school production history: "Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him (pause for effect) because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight." It's exactly the type of line Ben Stiller would do in a parody trailer for a fictitious action movie. And so as to that last line, with all my heart, Oh Brother!

Had I heard nothing beforehand about The Dark Knight I would have thought it an average movie. That is how I think of it now. I find parts of it good, parts bad and much in between that simply feel average. The camera work is uninspired, the editing fairly sloppy and the characters one-dimensional speaking in platitudes to fool us into thinking they're three-dimensional. Nothing wrong with that, not every movie's a masterpiece. And so I choose to think of The Dark Knight as that summer movie I saw that was okay and had some good parts and try to forget how many people there were over the age of seventeen that were impressed by it. And I am impressed with Heath Ledger for what I think is a marvelous performance, given very little to work with.

But as Best Actor, not Supporting. Marsan is the winner there and deserves it. Nominate Ledger for the lead category. Give him the award if you like, just don't cheat Marsan out of what is rightfully his. It's something I believe in. It's an idea I can get behind. It's time to petition the Academy voters to put these two actors in the categories they deserve, lead and supporting. Heath Ledger as nominee for Best Actor, Eddie Marsan as nominee, and winner, for Best Supporting Actor. That's an idea that has my full and unconditional support.

124 comments:

Marilyn said...

You have to give Marsan the spiritual edge, as well, because he created the character. There is no script with Leigh until he and his actors have developed the characters from scratch. Through improvisation to workshop to final script: that's the process.

Jonathan Lapper said...

You're absolutely right Marilyn, I hadn't thought of that angle. And as I said in the post, Sally Hawkins impresses more and more as I think back on her portrayal. In my book, Hawkins and Marsan achieved what all we actors hope to achieve with a performance; they made themselves inseparable from the character. I can think of Hawkins or Marsan in other movies, but in this one they are Poppy and Scott.

It's like when Roger Ebert wrote in his great movie review of The Godfather that when he sees Robert Duvall, he thinks, "There's Tom Hagan," not "There's Robert Duvall."

Adam Ross said...

I actually just started watching "The Dark Knight" last night, still have about an hour left (thanks for spoiling the ending!). But I completely agree about the editing and general storytelling elements of it, there were several times in the first 45 minutes where I was thinking, "wait, what the hell just happened there?"

Jonathan Lapper said...

Sorry about that Adam, but I just used the last really, really heavyhanded line. I didn't actually describe how they come to that point so the line means nothing without you knowing the plot.

The Dark Knight doesn't bother me at all as a movie. Like I said, it seems fairly average and mildy watchable, with a generous dose of groan-inducing moments. But the reaction to it - Where in the hell did that come from??? I have a theory about that, but I fear it would open up a firestorm of debate and I don't know if I feel like dealing with it.

bill r. said...

I assume your theory isn't that a lot people just genuinely liked it?

Fox said...

Jonathan-

Just how you felt validation from the polls about your early feelings on Marsan, I feel that about your thoughts on Sally Hawkins performance on the side of the road with Marsan.

With a lesser actress we probably would have seen a dramatic shift in performance towards the melodramatic and it would have not only felt awkward, but contrasted with who Poppy was for the first hour and a half of the film.

But Hawkins just supresses the peppy Poppy for a bit and lets some of the empathetic come to the front, while also carrying a bit of caution about her own safety. In the way she pulls it off, you don't see a drastic change in her eyes. She's still the same character that we experienced prior to this point and THAT was what wowed me about Hawkins' performance.

Great post overall. It's an excellent way to set-up and think about the differences between the two awards. (I'd always thought it had to do with screen time.)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, yes actually it does. It's about the state of film criticism on the whole. I'll write it up soon and mellow it a bit. It has to do with genuinely liking it but turning that around where "liking it" and "greatest movie ever made" get confused.

So, uh, did you take this post personally or something? I mean, your comment seems a bit defensive. I like the movie fine as an average entertainment to take in. But it peeves me that so many got mad if a critic didn't call it the best movie of the year.

Fox said...

I can't believe Marilyn has given you a pass on this:

"...my wife and I both turned to each other (I think it was after one of his early frustrations with Poppy where he struggles with the seat belt) and said, 'damn he's good in this.' "

Marilyn, JONATHAN TALKED AT THE MOVIES!!!!

(unless they were doing sign-language...)

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, Hawkins performance is the kind that sneaks up on you and stays with you after you've seen the movie. Especially if you think of her in other work, her total embodiment of Poppy becomes extraordinary. Even for those who couldn't stand her character, and since when do you have to like a character to admire a performance, a part of that was because Hawkins commanded the role so admirably.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, I always - Always - whisper in my wife's ear and she with me. We never disturb our fellow filmgoers. And we might make one or two whispered comments at most to each other.

And we fear Marilyn. So we make sure to whisper.

bill r. said...

I don't want to get into this again. I really, really don't. But honestly, look at the language used when people criticize the film:

and actually impressed people into thinking that by throwing in these lines with no deeper exploration of them that this was a profound movie!!! WTF!!!)

...Or referring to anyone who really liked the film as a "fanboy". I truly do not care that you didn't like the film. But any time I take issue with the language -- which turns pieces critiquing the film into pieces critiquing those who liked it -- people think that I just can't take the fact that the movie I obviously think is the greatest film ever made isn't beloved by all.

People take an angle that basically states "What the hell is wrong with all the people who liked it?" and then, when called on it, say, "Why are you being so defensive?"

That's what bugs me. Not what people think of the actual film.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill - Fair enough, but my piece wasn't a review proper but a reaction to the movie contained within this piece on supporting roles. So I do certainly see your point and if you liked it I am not calling you a fanboy. I figure we bloggers know who were talking about with that term - the rabid bunch who insist this film is the best ever.

As for respected critics there is Roger Ebert who gave it four stars and Kim Morgan who put it on her ten best lists. I'd put you with them, not the fanboys.

But I do care that you liked it because coming from you, I could learn more about what prompted that response as I did from Ebert and Morgan as well. I'm sorry you don't care that I didn't like it and are indifferent to my opinion. But I can live with it.

bill r. said...

I'm sorry you don't care that I didn't like it and are indifferent to my opinion. But I can live with it.

Oh, you know what I meant: I do not judge you, or think you're an "elitist", for not liking the film, which a lot of people think us fans of TDK automatically believe about anyone who disagrees with us/me/whoever.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Here's what I liked about TDK, aside from the previously stated (Ledger's performance):

The fact that all graphic violence took place offscreen. I'm sure one could argue that was done to insure a PG-13 rating but it felt like an artistic choice (or at least it worked as one).

The character arc of Harvey Dent. I disliked the platitudinal conversations he had with Batman but with Rachel Dawes and her loss, his character seemed the fullest and most realized.

Maggie Gyllenhaal - So very, very much better than Katie Holmes.

The sparce look of the makeshift "batcave" that Bruce and Alfred use. I thought that was an interesting visual every time.

Harvey Dent dying from a fall from around three stories. In so many action movies these days characters are like Rasputin. You burn them, stab them, fire seven bullets into their skull and they still get up for "gotcha" ending number 4! Providing Dent with a simple demise was a delicate touch.

Marilyn said...

A short whisper is acceptable as long as it is not followed up with a series of short whispers after that. Straight to the dungeon for that infraction. Besides, if I can't give Jonathan a break, what kind of a blogging buddy would I be?

bill r. said...

You want to know something? While I prefer Gyllenhaal as an actress overall, I really didn't care for her in this film. Holmes was no great shakes either, but at least if she'd come back it would have maintained some important continuity. That's my own main beef with the film. That, and the first half hour or so does have some clunky moments, my least favorite being the Dawes's reaction to Dent's reference to the RICO law, which I thought was pretty weakly disguised exposition.

The Dark Knight is still better than everything else in history put together, though. That is what I believe.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, yes, the consistent whispering can be more annoying than actual talking. Like when someone is trying to be quiet in the theatre so they veeeerrrrryyyy slooooowwwwwly tear open their bag of skittles and you want to scream, "Just tear it open quickly and get it over with!"

Fox said...

I always - Always - whisper in my wife's ear and she with me.

Me and my wife have different rules on the whisper cut-off. I still like to whisper during the trailers, but she thinks it has to end when the trailers start. She "shushes" me (I think Marilyn held a conference on this somewhere b/c my wife is very good at it).

So, to get her back, I sometimes let out a "pffffft!" after a really lame trailer that her and the art-housers are holding their palms over their chests over. (Like Revolutionary Road or that Leo DiCaprio carbon footprint documentary). I realize that makes me obnoxious, but it feels good in the moment.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill - I thought she was more believable I guess than Katie Holmes, and seemed very adept at playing 'emotionally torn' between Wayne and Dent.

And by the way, just for you, I have removed the WTF line from the post. But don't you have movies that you can't understand where the love comes from and you just want to say "WTF!" to everyone who likes it? You know you do.

And finally, there has never been in the history of acting in the entirety of the universe, up to and including any and all other species of intelligent life on other planets and the performances they have given, that are better than Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan in Happy Go Lucky.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox - I say talking during trailers is fine but still not ideal. After all, the trailers are a part of the entertainment. But once the movie starts everyone needs to shut the hell up. When I say I whisper in her ear, I mean the sound wave vibrations are so minimal that only her ear drum can possibly pick them up.

By the way, I don't like trailers these days. They're all edited the same way, regardless of the genre.

bill r. said...

And by the way, just for you, I have removed the WTF line from the post. But don't you have movies that you can't understand where the love comes from and you just want to say "WTF!" to everyone who likes it? You know you do.

You didn't have to remove the line, and of course there are movies everyone but me loves that leave me scratching my head, and even quietly judging those with whom I disagree. But what bugs me about the whole TDK foofaraw is the idea that the film's supporters must be psychoanalyzed by those who didn't like it, and the "here we go again!" attitude when someone is called on that. The same thing happened with Crash. That's a film I don't care if I never see again, but the superior attitude taken by its detractors to its fans was maddening.

Fox said...

One of the weirdest "talking" experiences in a movie theater I observed was over laughter.

Now, I have a friend that laughs REALLY loud, so I can understand how people may get irritated over laughter, but the example I'm about to give was over some average, everyday, movie-goer laughter.

After a screening of In Praise of Love, a Frenchman (yep, there was actually a French dude there for a Godard movie) yelled at the guy in front of him for laughing during the movie. "Dis es a moovie... we do not laugh dooring de moovies. O-Kah?!", and then huffed out. And, I mean, the movie has some mildly funny scenes in it. Nobody laughed obnoxiously. We just chuckled a few times.

Needless to say, after the Frenchy left, the ten of us left in there looked at each other and couldn't help but laugh.

Then we all started a chant of "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!".

Rick Olson said...

My wife and I saw Benjamin Button the other day and there were some folks talking very occasionally behind me. They are now dead.

The problem with argument on a blog is to keep it from being personal, and it's hard to do. There is no face-to-face contact, no body language to read, no facial expressions to soften what is being said. I train folks on how to get along on committees, how to exchange ideas without making each other mad, and rule number one is: state your opinion, why it is your opinion (i.e., support it), and then be quiet.

I said this over at Fox's blog quite recently, like Friday, wasn't it Fox? I'm getting quite boring about it, I know.

[I hope Marsan wins, Jonathan, because you will be insufferable if he doesn't]

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, I think the Crash attitude was worse because the supporters weren't ecstatic in their enthusiasm for it like TDK fans. I think that over the top reaction that a lot of them had fueled the negative reaction others had. I believe many bloggers took it personally when Keith Ulrich gave it a negative review at the very beginning (not a hateful, "My God this movie is awful!" review, just a thumbs down) and he got attacked by hundreds of TDK supporters for being "stupid" "illiterate" "elitist" "ugly" "fat" "skinny" and on and on. I mean, he got raked over the coals for it.

With Crash the supporters weren't as fervent so I think the reaction on the part of the detractors was more elitist and without purpose. So the Oscars gave it Best Picture - is anyone going to give that any thought in ten years? Or now?

BTW, Fox has suffered a bit of this himself. Check out the rage in the comments of his Ten Best post.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, the last line of your comment - A perfect ending to a bizarre story. I wish I could have been there.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Rick, the gentleman you were arguing with over at Fox's found your comment weak or unsupported or something like that. If I were you, I'd just back out of it, which I think you already have.

And I hate people not being able to visually read me so this is going to become a Vlog, immediately. From now on I'm just going to sit in front of my camera and say "WTF" with just the right inflection so everyone knows I'm talking about Bill... no, no, I mean, so everyone knows I'm NOT talking about Bill.

Fox said...

I said this over at Fox's blog quite recently, like Friday, wasn't it Fox? I'm getting quite boring about it, I know.

You said it about two weeks ago when me and Bill and Marilyn went 31 Rounds on The Dark Knight.

It was funny b/c you came in with that info. after we all had bloody noses and tired legs. Then Rick walks in and says "Hey guys, here's some advice...".

Fox said...

I don't think Bill is part of this contingent - and when we argued over it a few weeks ago I didn't distinguish enough between the two - but I do think there is an argument to be made about "the fanboy mentality" (made powerful by Ain't It Cool News), having an impact on film culture/criticism.

Some people think this is good, some people don't. Some people could care less. But I think that with The Dark Knight we've seen that that type of fandom (the AICN-type criteria for what makes a film good) perhaps replacing the more traditional, classical type of criticism.

Krauthammer said...

I think I liked the movie a bit more than you did Jonathan, but I mostly agree. The "profundities" aspect of it only really hit me when Two-Face gave his "life is cruel, chance is fair" monologue at the end and I thought to myself: isn't this just like Anton Chigurh except dumbed down and explicitly spelled out? Also, has anyone noticed how bad Christian Bale is in this?

Pat said...

Hi, I'm just popping on my lunch hour and trying to catch up.

I loved Marsan and would love to see him take the Supporting Actor Oscar. I don't agree, however, that he'll probably never get another role this good. He will - particularly if he continues to work with Leigh, and possibly bigger and better ones - but the likelihood that they'll get the same exposure and Oscar potential as his work in "Happy Go Lucky" is not so certain.

I'm still thinking about Sally Hawkins' character, Poppy, now over 6 weeks since I've seen the movie. That was one brilliant performance.

On the subject of movie talking: I have very little tolerance for movie talkers, but I can live with couples whispering occassionally, quietly to each other. What makes me come absolutely unglued is people who talk out loud as if they're in their own living room, especially when they feel the need to "narrate" the film for everyone (with comments like "He's got a gun," or "That's his sister" or reading signs or subtitles out loud to everyone.)

bill r. said...

I remember, when I was a kid, going to see Home Alone, and there was this guy behind me and my brother who, during a scene where someone is in a grocery store, just started reading the names of the products the character was putting in their cart. He'd just say, "Tide. Oh, some baking soda. Coke. Getting some Hershey's Kisses." It was bizarre.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, Bill, Marilyn, Rick, Everyone in the Known Universe - Fox's comment about criticism gets close to my theory about TDK and its critical acceptance but having gone over so much of it on the blogs already I don't think I want to revisit it just yet, but maybe. When I read through Bill, Marilyn and Fox's argument at TRACTORFACTS, I felt that like all blog comment arguments, too much time was devoted to explaining previous comments. For the record, I thought everyone had a good argument (it is possible for both sides to have good arguments without creating a paradox) but (I'm about to play the age card) I do agree with Marilyn that experience counts.

And that's a part of my theory (and forget about TDK for this point, I make this point in general), that with the older established critics being given the can I've noticed that Rotten Tomatoes is filling up with Joe Blow, critic for the Smallville Gazette and Jane Doe, entertainment editor of the Springfield Spruce.

Now I'm not just talking about movie experience but movie love. Most of these reviewers got their degree in journalism or english, maybe a small few in film and got pushed into a reviewing job. For me, the true cinephiles, the true movie lovers, the Roger Eberts and Pauline Kaels and Andrew Sarris' and James Agees and Molly Haskels of the world are now the bloggers of today!

I do believe the critical community has suffered a dramatic slide and I have noticed a considerable difference between what the bloggers generally believe is the best and what the published critics generally believe is the best. In the last three years, I've noticed the gap widen. Anyway, I'll write more about this on a post but I think the difference we're seeing is that the cinephiles, the true movie lovers, are online now, not working as a paid critic. Generally speaking, I think we all know one hell of a lot more about film than 99 percent of those morons in print.

That's why when I said I did care what Bill thought about TDK I meant it sincerely. I trust Bill's opinion on film infinitely more than some Rotten Tomato Cream of the Crop bozo who wouldn't know the face on Bill's banner if his life depended on it. Bill liking TDK is proof that you can know your movies and like it or you can know your movies and not like it. I don't like it, Bill does.

Now I just wish all of us could get paid for this. Seriously.

Pat said...

In reading over my comment, I think I need to clarify/corrent myslef.

Actually, you didn't say Marsan would NEVER get another role this good, just maybe not for a long time. So I stand corrected there. But I do think Marsan will probably get some very good roles in the neart future, just maybe in film we don't have as much opportunity to see.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Krauthammer, since I was concentrating on Ledger and Marsan I didn't bring it up but yes, I did think Bale was wretched. The Batman voice, a brilliant stroke by Michael Keaton in the first Tim Burton film (and Keaton doesn't get enough credit for creating almost all of the standard character traits we now connect to Batman) was horribly overdone by Bale. His voice was so gravelly that you just had to laugh at certain parts. There's whole parody films on YouTube devoted to just how bad a job he did with the voice.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pat, I hate people asking questions that should have an obvious answer to anyone watching the movie.

"Who's he?" someone asks of their companion out loud and you're thinking, "Haven't you been watching the same movie? How can you not know?" (insert whatever movie you want there).

The only time I don't encounter that is at the AFI, which must screen its ticketbuyers or something because the crowds there are always great (knock on wood).

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, maybe he was saying it out loud to help remember so that when the movie was over he could go to the store and buy the exact same list of items. Because... uh... I don't know... he wanted to live his life according to the Home Alone doctrine or something.

bill r. said...

I just checked out Fox's "Top Ten" thread. Holy crap, did I miss out! That is gold!

I would like to point out two things, which I guess I should point out over there, but it sort of applies to the discussion here: 1) all those crazy looney-tunes Fox had to deal with were point to personal insults where there were none to be found; and 2) fans of films like The Visitor and Paranoid Park can be just as insanely unreasonable as fans of The Dark Knight.

As a PS - I liked Bale in the film. His Batman voice worked for me more often than it didn't. And I don't remember Keaton doing a Batman voice, by the way.

Fox said...

I remember, when I was a kid, going to see Home Alone, and there was this guy behind me and my brother who, during a scene where someone is in a grocery store, just started reading the names of the products the character was putting in their cart. He'd just say, "Tide. Oh, some baking soda. Coke. Getting some Hershey's Kisses." It was bizarre.

Bill-

When I was at Benjmin Button this week, I had a very similar experience with a older man in front of me. He was with his wife so I guess he felt like he was talking to her, but he kept stating things that were on the screen:

"... the clock's going backwards".

"... a hummingbird".

"... submarine".


It was if his internal monologue was coming out through him.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, you don't remember Keaton doing the voice? He created it. At the time it was considered quite brilliant. I mean, before him, from forties serials to Adam West's intentional camp, everyone just used the same exact voice but Keaton did his differently ("I'm Batman" in that low, menacing tone) than the one he used for Wayne. You might not remember because it wasn't as over the top as Bale's but he definitely did it.

Fox said...

Most of these reviewers got their degree in journalism or english, maybe a small few in film and got pushed into a reviewing job. For me, the true cinephiles, the true movie lovers, the Roger Eberts and Pauline Kaels and Andrew Sarris' and James Agees and Molly Haskels of the world are now the bloggers of today!

I think that is an important point, and I feel this about music criticism too.

It feels as if there are many reviewers out there that are "technically strong/grammatically strong" writers but don't necessarily share the movie love - that Jonathan mentions - that everyone here has.

Sometimes I feel very limited by my vocabulary and my grammar, but I push through with my love for movies. Sadly, I think a lot of the paying jobs will err on the side of writing skills instead of passion.

bill r. said...

You may be right. I haven't seen the Burton/Keaton films in ages, mainly because they're bad, and the Nolan/Bale films are great!

Man, I sure could go for a hundred tacos for a hundred dollars right about now. Spot the reference!

Fox said...

fans of films like The Visitor and Paranoid Park can be just as insanely unreasonable as fans of The Dark Knight.

This is true...

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill - Doctor Who marathon, Comic Book guy, The Simpsons.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, thanks for noticing the really long comment I made that got totally ignored by everyone else.

I really do believe that the true movie lovers, people well-versed in the language of film, are the ones blogging today. I wouldn't be surprised if in twenty years what's left of the print critics will be hailing Hollywood Chihuahua IV: Leashless in Seattle as the movie of the century.

bill r. said...

Jonathan is correct.

Good day.

bill r. said...

I wouldn't be surprised if in twenty years what's left of the print critics will be hailing Hollywood Chihuahua IV: Leashless in Seattle as the movie of the century.

I don't know about that (I mean, that movie isn't even OUT yet, Jonathan -- let's give it a chance, at least), but I do know that whatever movie people are talking up as the film of the century in twenty years time is a choice that will absolutely piss off a lot of people.

Fox said...

Fox, thanks for noticing the really long comment I made that got totally ignored by everyone else.

Maybe it just left Bill speechless. Bill?

And your glass-ball Hollywood Chiauahua IV reference brings to mind a type of future that Idiocracy predicts.

Jonathan Lapper said...

let's give it a chance, at least

You're right of course. I remember automatically thinking with the fourth installment of Friday the 13th, "Man, by the time they get to the 10th, this is going to be beyond bad!" And I was wrong. By the tenth, they had created a whole new level of bad that couldn't compare with the bad I had originally thought it would classify under.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I never saw Idiocracy or heard anything about it. Was it good? Funny? Worth renting?

Fox said...

You're right of course. I remember automatically thinking with the fourth installment of Friday the 13th, "Man, by the time they get to the 10th, this is going to be beyond bad!" And I was wrong. By the tenth, they had created a whole new level of bad that couldn't compare with the bad I had originally thought it would classify under.

And little did you know that they would be re-making them!!

Marilyn said...

Passion for movies and excellent writing skills are not mutually exclusive. I'm impressed with the number of bloggers of all ages (e.g., teenaged Nick at Fataculture) who have both. Taste, however, needs time to develop.

I just want to say that I'm delighted Fox has a Top 10. He never seems to like anything!

Fox said...

I never saw Idiocracy or heard anything about it. Was it good? Funny? Worth renting?

I like it, and I think it's worth renting, BUT, it is flawed. It's messy, some of the jokes are limp, and it kind of loses itself and some momentum... but I still really enjoy the idea of it.

I can't remember who told me (it was another blogger) but supposedly there is a director's cut. Apparently Mike Judge got screwed on the project. Don't know why or how though.

bill r. said...

I'll have to scroll back up and find your super-long comment, Jonathan. But I'll get back to you!

Idiocracy suffers from an ailment common even to good comedies, which is that it runs out of steam once it decides it had better wrap up its plot.

However, I watched it for a second time recently, and, for most of its running time, it is absolutely funny and worth renting.

bill r. said...

Jonathan, I'm sorry I missed your long comment, but I promise I didn't ignore it. I just wasn't paying attention.

Anyhow, thank you for the kind words, and I have no argument with anything you say there. I never meant to disagree with Marilyn about experience counting; I just don't like it when experience, or the lack of it, is used to explain why some people like a movie and others don't, when time and again any one of us can point to a difference of opinion between experienced movie lovers that throws that theory out the window.

As for the rest of your comment, about bloggers being the Ebertses and Kaelseses of today, I definitely agree with that in general (I certainly don't think of myself that way, but I've certainly read enough of it over the last couple of years). It may swing back, I don't know. This way's sort of more fun, though.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Idiocracy is in the queue. I expect it to be an unstoppable force of movie making genius. I better not be disappointed.

Marilyn, taste does take time. Maturity plays into to it as well. I can specifically remember going out of my way to state that an action or sci-fi movie was great because I felt the genres were under-appreciated in critical circles. I still believe any genre film can be a great movie but many of the ones I championed seem rather dull to me now. And many of the dramas I thought were tepid have a new resonance for me. I was just too young to understand it. People think that technically knowing how well a film is made is all you need to know but watching a great drama where the characters touch on aspects of your life and get it exactly right makes you realize and appreciate that art is more than technicality, it's understanding the world around us and expressing it beautifully.

And it's amazing that when you're young you seem to think you are immune to that. "Yes, yes, I understand what you're saying but I can see that Insert Genre Film of Your Choice Here is a masterpiece and I will always feel that way."

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, thanks. It's definitely more fun this way. I've got a post on it that I'll put up tomorrow or Wednesday. I was going to wait but if I wait too long it will all be talked out anyway. I hope it gets picked up by the Smallville Gazette and the Springfield Spruce. I love those rags.

Fox said...

And it's amazing that when you're young you seem to think you are immune to that. "Yes, yes, I understand what you're saying but I can see that Insert Genre Film of Your Choice Here is a masterpiece and I will always feel that way."


Jonathan-

So are you saying Iron Eagle isn't a masterpiece????

But on your commentabout "taste"...

I used to think that writers should be able to separate themselves from a movie before judging it, that you could leave your life experiences at the door and judge it on an unbiased level.

To some extent, I think doing this can be beneficial, but 1.) I don't think it's possible to leave your life experiences out, and 2.) I think it makes the opinions richer and more varied.

I think Pauline Kael was great at mixing in who she was as a person with her opinion of a film. It wasn't blatant, but you could sometimes read her personality through her words and I really enjoy that. Outside of appreciating her insights, I just think she's a flat-out great writer.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox - Kael, as I've expressed before, definitely annoyed the hell out of me with a lot of her opinions and her slipshod work on the Raising Kane book but on the whole I think she was incredibly readable and I love any critic passionate enough about movies to judge them through their own experiences, which we all do with everything - how else can you judge something? We all base it on what we know, to do otherwise is to enter the HAL9000 School of Film Criticism, cold and reductive. Which is how I assume many film professors to be by the way (not Brian Doan of course). I have nothing to back that up, just a feeling. It's what kept me from majoring in film instead of theatre.

Marilyn said...

I most certainly don't think you should check your experiences and personality at the door. Those are part of the toolbox we all need to make sense of the world around us. But wipe your feet first so all the mud you've also accumulated doesn't cloud your judgment.

Jonathan Lapper said...

But wipe your feet first so all the mud you've also accumulated doesn't cloud your judgment.

That's a beautiful way to put it.

Marilyn said...

There is at least one film scholar whose ideas about film give me pause. Read this and see if you agree with it:

"Cinephiles by contrast tend to be ecumenical. Indeed, many take pride in the intergalactic breadth of their tastes. Look at any smart critic’s ten-best lists. You’ll usually see an eclectic mix of arthouse, pop, and experimental, including one or two titles you have never heard of. Obscurity is important; a cinephile is a connoisseur.

"The real crux, I think, is this. The cinephile loves the idea of film.

"That means loving not only its accomplishments but its potential, its promise and prospects. It’s as if individual films, delectable and overpowering as they can be, are but glimpses of something far grander. That distant horizon, impossible to describe fully, is Cinema, and it is this art form, or medium, that is the ultimate object of devotion. In the darkening auditorium there ignites the hope of another view of that mysterious realm. The pious will call Cinema a holy place, the secular will see it as the treasure-house of an artform still capable of great things. The promised land of cinema, as experimentalists of the 1920s called it: that, mystical as it sounds, is my sense of what the cinephile yearns for.

"This separates the cinephile from the lover of novels or classical music. They love their art, I suspect, because of its great accomplishments. Who with literary or musical taste would embrace the subpar novel or the apprentice toccata? But cinephiles will watch damn near anything looking for a moment’s worth of magic. Perhaps this puts cinephiles closer to theatre buffs. They too wait hopefully for the sublime instant that flickers out of amateur performances of Our Town and Man and Superman.

"That’s also why I think that the cinephile finds the desert-island question so hard to answer. What movies would I want to live with for the rest of my life? All of them, especially the ones I haven’t yet seen."

Italics added by me.

Fox said...

Jonathan & Marilyn-

Totally agree with what both of you said about life experiences and movies.

Now I am going to read Marilyn's longer post...

Pat said...

To Marilyn -

"But wipe your feet first so all the mud you've also accumulated doesn't cloud your judgment."

So, how does one do that exactly? Are we all even cognizant of what the "mud" is that we're brining in with us?

Not necssarily disagreeing with you, but the whole question of subjectivity and how our personal experiences shape our reactions towards the films we see is endlessly fascinating to me. I'm not sure how we determine what "baggage" is useful to bring along with us and what needs to be left at the door.

It takes me back to last week's discussions here on both "Monster" and "Capote," both of which I liked more than most of the commenters here. "Capote" in particular, I have a strong personal reaction to, because the visual style and atmosphere of that film is so strongly evocative of my early childhood (the farm house where the murdered family lives is frighteningly similar to my grandparents' home). And the introduction of horrorfic events into that old,familiar milieu was truly gripping to me. (As was also the introduction of highly sophisticated people like Capote who I never would have encountered in my childhood.) And because of that, "Capote" was mesmerizing to me.

Now that's a really personal, individual reaction to "Capote," and really doesn't have much to do with what the film is about. So probably that point of view has limited value in a critical forum. But how do I get past that?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, I quote that piece by Bordwell in the piece I put together on film criticism. Many people worship at his altar but one of the things that distances me from Bordwell is that he "blogs" but always has comments closed. To me, that's not blogging. That's saying, "Here are my pronouncements which I shall make on high. If you disagree with them or can point out holes in my logic, do it on your own blog. Don't bother me here."

I don't know if you agree with what he says or how many others do (I do know the piece was very well received when he published it) but for myself I find it a bit insulting to many cinephiles. We don't assemble true top lists, we adopt poses. We don't understand the language of film and respond to it, we love the idea of film in general.

To me Bordwell seems just a wee bit resentful. Almost as if he is saying "I was here first and I am a scholar. You amateur bloggers need to respect that."

Well, there you go. I'm sure he knows nothing of my existence nor ever wants to but I sure won't get blogrolled by him now.


And since my comments are open, please feel free to let me know if I'm reading him completely wrong.

Marilyn said...

Pat, I think stepping back from one's visceral reactions is something each of us has to learn to do and not just for evaluating films. We have to do it in the workplace, in social situations, and in loving relationships. It's not always easy, of course, but it's something we can learn. Ultimately, when it comes to taste, we need both our critical and our emotional faculties. Capote may have some objective measures for you (e.g., plausibility of dialog, camerawork), but your subjective reactions are important, too. When I say I haven't experienced an emotional true performance from PSH since Boogie Nights, that's my subjective judgment reacting.

How I learned to separate things out for myself was studying transactional analysis and referring to Games People Play frequently.

Marilyn said...

Jonathan - I really don't like this essay at all for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of them is personal and speaks to what you say--he came over to my blog and bitch-slapped me, but I can't do the same.

Most of all, he seems not very broadly educated in the various art disciplines. A toccato by an amateur musician would be exactly the kind of thing a music lover would enjoy - it shows the musician's passion and to the extent of his or her skill, the viruosity the musician can display. I've enjoyed enormously concerts by young musicians - they are diamonds in the rough Bordwell says we can't appreciate. And I'm sure there's more than one book lover around here who enjoys pulp, scifi, or other genre novels that may not be perfectly written, but that have style, pace, and plotting to admire.

Jonathan Lapper said...

How about I'm Okay, You're Okay. What did you think of that book. It's been years for me. We had both in my house growing up.

Books in everyone's house in the sixties and seventies (sorry Fox)

Games People Play
I'm Okay, You're Okay
Future Shock
The Happy Hooker
The Joy of Sex
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Any others I'm forgetting?

Jason Bellamy said...

I guess it's too late to reply to Marilyn's initial comment. But fuck it ...

You have to give Marsan the spiritual edge, as well, because he created the character.

Great point! On the other hand, I think what impresses me most about Ledger's performance is that he takes a famous character who had been done to great acclaim before (Romero, Nicholson) and he makes it his own, while also making it recognizable -- in a film/role with major expectations. That's a damn heavy load. And yet I leave "The Dark Knight" feeling that Ledger's Joker is the greatest rendering of the character that I've seen. My take: I'd be happy if either guy won.

Marilyn said...

I don't find I'm Ok, You're Ok as instructive because I already understand the principles of TA. For those who don't, it's a must.

I haven't the other books, but there's always a copy of The Joy of Yiddish for me and The Joy of Cooking for the hubby. I used to keep Our Bodies, Ourselves, but I have different issues now than it addresses.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Marilyn, I was typing my book comment while you were responding to the Bordwell comment. I think we feel the same way. I thought the same thing with music and literature. My wife is a voracious reader of what one would call "great literature", i.e., the classics, Nobel Prize winners, etc. But she loves a good pulp mystery from the twenties too. And I love, and compose, music and I'm usually willing and ready to listen to just about anything if given the chance.

bill r. said...

Now that's a really personal, individual reaction to "Capote," and really doesn't have much to do with what the film is about. So probably that point of view has limited value in a critical forum. But how do I get past that?

I really don't think anyone needs to do that. This is probably going to sound anti-intellectual to some of you, but if a film (or book or whatever) hits you, it hits you. Why wring your hands wondering if it SHOULD have hit you? Now, if you're going to write about it, being able to make a case for the film is essential, but if your case stems from your emotions and personal connection, fine by me.

None of which is to say that one shouldn't wrestle with your own taste, and examine in, and try to broaden it. I struggle with Bresson, having not really "liked" any of his movies so far, but I'm happy to do it, and because I sense there's something there that I haven't keyed into yet. Each Bresson film I've watched, regardless of my ultimate negative reaction, has made me want to keep going with him. This is an intellectual struggle for me, almost completely devoid (so far) of emotion, but this is unusual for me. By and large my reaction to films is personal and emotional. If I liked Capote for the same reasons you do (and I do like it, but it's not as personal with me), I simply wouldn't worry about it. The movie worked for me. Good for me, and it.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Jason, Ledger does a great job, no doubt but (and I say this knowing it could ruffle a few feathers) taking on the Joker isn't exactly like taking on Lear after Gielgud and Olivier. Yes, the Joker's been played before but there just isn't much to the Joker, at least in movie form. He's a psychotic who wears his psychosis on his sleeve for all to see. It's not like playing the boiling undercurrent of a Travis Bickle. So yes, I agree, Ledger does a terrific job but I don't think his task was particularly difficult.

bill r. said...

I'm not sure I think wearing psychosis on your sleeve makes the character easier to play.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pat, and Bill, when I brought up Capote last week it was more to call attention to the portrayal of a famous person winning the Oscar that I think should have gone to Ledger for Brokeback. Otherwise though, I think Capote was very good.

As for judging a film on an emotional level that's usually what I do. In fact, I've pointed it out here on occasion in reviews. I think spending decades watching the best movies has taught all of us the language of film and what to look for technically. After that, it's up to us to determine if those technical tricks are being used effectively or not for the story. And that's where our own personal viewpoints and emotions come into play and what separates someone who "gets it" from someone who just understands the technical language.

Marilyn said...

Bill -It certainly does allow for more grandstanding, though. Having said that, I think Ledger's death was a HUGE loss to the dramatic arts. He disappears into his characters and makes them each individual.

bill r. said...

Marilyn - Yes, that's true (all of it, but I'm referring specifically to the grandstanding part). And I'll even go further and say that's often the case. I don't think that happens at all with Ledger as the Joker. I'll put it like this: Never have I seen a character who has both so much potential to be great on screen, and to also be acted down to and turned into a jokey disaster, played so well.

Pat said...

I appreciate everyone's responses/input.

I know how to separate my visceral responses from my behavior towards people in social or work situations. But I have a different relationship kind of art than I do wtih people. I admittedly write my blog "from a personal point of view" because that's the only way I know how to do it. I don't have the depth of scholarly background to do otherwise.

But, Bill, I'm with you - I don't mind struggling with some films or directors, which I why I've been renting a fair number of films by directors like Antonioni and Lars Von Trier lately. I don't necessarily love them, but I somehow enjoy thinking about them, analzing them and challenging myself with them.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I'm not sure I think wearing psychosis on your sleeve makes the character easier to play.

I hope everyone understands I think he did a great job. But based on my own acting experiences, yeah, I think playing a character wearing his psychosis on his sleeve is easier. Every time I've seen an actor struggle on stage with a part it had to do with subtley, giving an internalized performance, trying to express inner turmoil without outwardly showing it. But goin' nuts? Nobody struggles with that. It's easy. But before anyone gets their ire up...

Ledger does not go full psycho, much to his credit ( a conversation in Tropic Thunder suddenly comes to mind...). Certainly an actor can ruin a psycho performance with the darting eyes and the manic body gestures but on the whole, I'd say it's a lot easier than playing the repressed, introverted psycho like Travis Bickle, which DeNiro did to perfection.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, I just saw your comment after typing mine. I think we basically agree. Ledger pulled back where other might have gone "full psycho", very much to his credit. It could have been a jokey disaster and wasn't.

But I still think Marsan is better and I can't really change the way I feel on that. Marsan's character hits me in the gut.

bill r. said...

Jonathan, I've never acted, so I can't say how easy or difficult any of it is, but I can say that I think most of the "crazy" performances I've seen have left me absolutely cold. Far too often, the actor is being "movie crazy" (see Brad Pitt's weirdly praised work in 12 Monkeys), not what I feel, and have seen (in small, non-threatening doses) in real life. Sometimes that can still be fun to watch, but it rarely impresses me. Without getting into the terminology used in Tropic Thunder, it's the same thing with performaces similar to Tugg Speedman's in Simple Jack -- I can't friggin' STAND Hoffman in Rain Man.

The point being, my sense of it is that the Joker, and that type of role, is just as hard to nail as it is to nail any performance. My evidence is simply that I've almost never seen it happen.

bill r. said...

Again, our comments got crossed. I haven't seen Happy Go Lucky so I have no opinion, but I will say that Mike Leigh's films tend to have the best performances, whether I ultimately like the film or not, in a given year, so I wouldn't be shocked if I ended up agreeing with you.

Fox said...

On that Bordwell guy (and I don't say that to be dismissive b/c I really don't know much about him), I've only been to his site a few times and didn't connect with his writing so I rarely go back.

Maybe this is unfair and off-base since I haven't spent a lot of time reading his stuff, but Bordwell strikes me as someone who over-intellectualizes a lot which then ends up making his work seem long-winded. I just tend to walk away from that type of stuff.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I think we keep missing each others comments while typing a response because we appear to be in agreement. Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys has always felt like "full pyscho" to me and even if you've never acted in your life (and to all those that have let me know your take on this) you can probably guess how easy Hoffman's Rain Man performance was. An acting teacher I had always stressed, and was right, that the hardest thing for an actor to do was connect, eye to eye, with another actor. To forget the audience, or cameras, and just connect to that person. But shit, if all you have to do is look down and away and mumble lines well... goddamn anyone could do that. And I say that as an actor who gets annoyed with people not understanding how difficult giving a natural performance can be. But seriously, I could pull anyone off the street, give them the Rain Man lines, tell them "Don't look at me, just look down and say these lines flatly" and they could do it. And Hoffman knows that. He should have refused the Oscar.

bill r. said...

By the way, Simple Jack? One of the most subtly brilliant and hilarious jabs at Hollywood acting I've seen.

Quite frankly, the people who were offended by that should have been applauding.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Maybe this is unfair and off-base since I haven't spent a lot of time reading his stuff, but Bordwell strikes me as someone who over-intellectualizes a lot which then ends up making his work seem long-winded. I just tend to walk away from that type of stuff.

Fox, that's about as good a summary of it as I could think of. People are very impressed over-intellectualizing. Very. You see it a lot online. Some of the driest writers imaginable get constant mention on the big movie sites for their take on this or that while most of the bloggers who write with passion and interest get ignored. Oh well, what are you going to do. I like reading the amateur bloggers, and that's what I'll keep doing for now.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Quite frankly, the people who were offended by that should have been applauding.

Yes! They totally missed the point of that joke. It wasn't making fun of people with special needs, it was making fun of Hollywood for using them as Oscar bait. How in the hell did they miss that? The joke was played in their favor, taking their side. It's a head-scratcher.

bill r. said...

I wish I knew why perfomances like Hoffman's and Pitt's (and probably Penn in Simple J-er, I mean, I Am Sam, but I'll never watch that movie, so I don't know for sure) keep getting praised to the rafters. I want to say it's because those who are doing the praising have never met, or at least spent much time with, actual crazy or mentally disabled people, so they think "Hey, Brad Pitt/Dustin Hoffman is really acting crazy/retarded! As far as I know, anyway!"

Then again, one of my brothers spent a fair chunk of his life working with the mentally handicapped, and he said Penn, at least, was great (he also hates Hoffman's performance), so maybe I'm being unfair to Penn. But I can live with that.

Fox said...

I'm gonna piggy-back on Bill's 4:37PM comment...

Bill brings up being a non-actor. I am too.

My wife, on the other hand, has an acting background and it often shows itself in our differing critiques of films. For example, I didn't think Ledger's perfomance in The Dark Knight was great (I thought it was fine), but she thought it was great.

I can guarantee that she probably approached her opinion from the eyes & heart of an actor. I approached it without that experience. Both opinions are valid, but I concede that she knows more about acting than I do. But can that sometimes blind her???

I'm meandering a bit... but I'm trying to get to Bill's reference to Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. That is a perfromance that my wife and I contstantly fight over. I think it is just awful and she thinks it's tremendous. And the reason I think we disagree so much on it is b/c of our different backgrounds.

Do any of the actors here think that Pitt's performance in 12 Monkeys is good? I'm not asking to argue with anyone over it, it's just a hypothesis I'm testing, I guess.

Marilyn said...

Fox - I don't really have any acting background. I thought Pitt did a good comedic performance, not the easiest of things to do, but it was a little "big." Like Jim Carrey big, only less so. I can see where you both are coming from. My opinion is somewhere in the middle.

bill r. said...

Yes! They totally missed the point of that joke. It wasn't making fun of people with special needs, it was making fun of Hollywood for using them as Oscar bait. How in the hell did they miss that? The joke was played in their favor, taking their side. It's a head-scratcher.

It's the same mentality that dismisses Huckleberry Finn as racist. They claim the filmmaker/writer is doing something that is actually the complete opposite of their very clear intentions. They might as well call Shoah anti-Semitic. It's unfathomable to me how their thinking takes them in this direction.

Fox said...

On Penn in I Am Sam...

I actually think he did a pretty good job. As people may know, I don't really like Penn, but I was impressed with some of the sensitivities and subtleties he gave to that performance. Where as Dustin Hoffman as The Rain Man was just a dude limping around the whole time. It felt one note. Penn's felt layered.

What about Eric Stoltz as Mask?? Sorry... that was probably mean. But I do really like Mask.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, I don't know your wife's acting but I do know that I've met many an actor who thinks over the top is the bee's knees. I'm not saying we all agree if we act, just that I think the actors who struggle with subtlety in their own acting tend to be more impressed by the Brad Pitt type performances in "Twelve Monkeys". That sounds like I just insulted your wife didn't it? But I didn't, or at least didn't mean to. Just tell me to fuck off and we'll call it even.

bill r. said...

I need to jump in before I hit the road and say that I just realized that, in my comment about people who praise Hoffman, Pitt, et al, I did the same thing I've been complaing about people doing regarding The Dark Knight. Oh, hypocrisy...

Fox said...

Yes! They totally missed the point of that joke. It wasn't making fun of people with special needs, it was making fun of Hollywood for using them as Oscar bait. How in the hell did they miss that? The joke was played in their favor, taking their side. It's a head-scratcher.

It's the same mentality that dismisses Huckleberry Finn as racist. They claim the filmmaker/writer is doing something that is actually the complete opposite of their very clear intentions. They might as well call Shoah anti-Semitic. It's unfathomable to me how their thinking takes them in this direction.


Same for Samual Fuller's White Dog.

It's like a pre-emptive strike against offensiveness getting out, but by doing that they make people think it's offensive before anyone's seen it!

Jonathan Lapper said...

Bill, I remember thinking of Huck Finn and my wife and I talking about that when the Tropic Thunder bitchfest began. People hear the offending word, and most likely don't see the movie or read the book at all, and commence judging. I think it's as simple as that.

Fox said...

That sounds like I just insulted your wife didn't it? But I didn't, or at least didn't mean to. Just tell me to fuck off and we'll call it even.

Ha! No... she does like big performances, but I'm also always impressed with what she sees in small performances, as well... things that I don't see.

Fox said...

P.S. This thread is on fire! Somewhere Rick Olson is biting his nails, nervous that you will crush his # 2 comment record of 133 (or something) that he got recently.

Jonathan Lapper said...

And now as we all head home from work, the fire will most decidedly die. I think Rick's safe.

Miranda Wilding said...

This morning early this thread stood at two comments.

It is considerably more lively and fascinating at this point. Believe me.

I actually laughed out loud at two junctures: Fox's story about the French dude at the Godard film and this portion of Rick's comment:

"My wife and I saw BENJAMIN BUTTON the other day and there were some folks talking occasionally behind me. They are now dead."

I don't where to begin. This may seem all over the map. But I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl anyway.

First of all, I BLOODY WELL HATE people talking in theatres. Yeah, everyone paid the same amount of money as me (or my dates/boyfriends) to be there. I'm all for personal enjoyment. But not when it infringes on mine.

People can yak as long as I can't hear the individual words. If it takes me out of the film, it's too loud. That's the only bad thing about DVDs. People are used to hanging out in their living rooms discussing the film while it's going on. So they feel relatively uninhibited doing the same in public now.

I don't dig it. I have shushed total strangers in public if I felt they were being deliberately obnoxious. Nine times out of ten they smarten the hell up. Guys that I've gone to the cinema with are generally not shy about telling people to quieten down either.

But I'm mainly talking extreme cases here.

Jonathan, you know a lot about acting. I'm impressed.

Having just seen a screening - on my birthday - of THE GODFATHER at our Film Festival theatre downtown (I know the trilogy backwards and forwards - and this is the second time in ten years I've seen the original in the cinema), I would say that your antagonist/protagonist theory is DEAD ON.

Al had many more scenes than Brando and was really the heart and soul of the movie. (DAMN, Al was sexy. He was just mesmerizing.) But, in 1972, Brando was...well, Brando - and AL PACINO was just the hot kid with the bright future.

Hence Brando being the Best Actor and Al getting the Supporting berth. I totally call BS on the whole thing. Brando was more iconic than brilliant. Though he has some very fine moments. MOSTLY WITH AL, THOUGH.

Al carries that picture on his back, ends up in Supporting and loses...to JOEL GREY???

Whatever...

It only took him another 20 years to win. Peter O'Toole still hasn't won.

Idiots.

Jonathan, I'm also with you on the whole Michael Keaton BATMAN thing. He is my favourite. (Yeah, for a girl I'm a huge BATMAN aficionado. With villains like my evil twin, CATWOMAN, how could I not be???)

One of the reasons he is because he doesn't appear to be the obvious embodiment of BATMAN. Or even BRUCE WAYNE, really. He has the whole haunted brooding black Irish thing down. That works. But he's not musclebound or has a particularly powerful presence.

He underplays to perfection. He took that role and made it his own. COMPLETELY. He's the best BATMAN in my estimation.

I was horribly disappointed in THE DARK KNIGHT. Don't think it can hold a candle to the 1989 original or to BATMAN BEGINS. I own those two and BATMAN FOREVER. Yeah, I've also seen practically all of the 60s TV episodes and ALL of the films.

THE DARK KNIGHT seemed too nihilistic for its own good. If I want to see that kind of brutality I'll watch A CLOCKWORK ORANGE...and feel better about it at the end of the day. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN ain't no KUBRICK.

The only thing I really liked about TDK was Heath. That's it. That's all.

The other deal is: Fox has visited my site from time to time. He has always been a perfect gentleman to me. I think he's a very nice guy.

I just want to say that I completely disapprove of ANYONE comeing over to anybody's site and having issue with their personal Top 10.

Your Top 10 is your own. PERIOD.

I don't think you need to explain yourself either. Everyone has their own particular tastes, their own personal biases and preferences. Fox should be proud of his Top 10 and he shouldn't have to justify his choices to anyone either.

THEY'RE HIS. End of story...

If someone doesn't like that, they can have their own Top 10.

Also, I like the fact that SALLY HAWKINS and EDDIE MARSAN are sparking a lot of admiration here. SALLY will probably win my BEST ACTRESS award. Eddie made my long list. I want Sally to be nominated for an Oscar. If Eddie is as well, that would be just dandy.

So I guess I'm outta here.

I have to go write a review. Or two.

Carry on, good people...

Peter Nellhaus said...

I feel like I'm watching the "Oscar" films more out of obligation than genuine interest. I finally got the Best Picture nominees from last year out of the way. I'm more looking forward to seeing Age of Consent tomorrow.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Miranda, I think you covered the whole comment thread, which is pretty impressive.

RE: Pacino in 1972. Yes, it has always seemed a little odd that such a monumental performance as his was in The Godfather would not only be relegated to the Supporting category but then lose the award even there. Joel Grey and Cabaret itself were the frontrunners at the time. Cabaret took home more Oscars and was expected to take Best Picture. It got Best Director but in a surprise, The Godfather got Best Picture. I know that seems hard to believe now but it's true. I like Cabaret very much and given that Joel Grey's MC really is a supporting character (and Grey does a great job with it) he probably deserved the award since Pacino was in the wrong category. Still, it seems strange that the central role of Michael got pushed into the Supporting Category in the first place. The National Society of Film Critics got it right that year. They gave Al Pacino Best Actor for The Godfather and Best Supporting was a tie between Joel Grey and Eddie Albert for The Heartbreak Kid. And for the curious, they awarded Best Picture to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

And on to Batman, I wonder if Nolan and company will ever introduce Catwoman, or are they afraid it will hurt the "darkness" of the series. I'm pretty sure there's never going to be a Robin but Catwoman, maybe.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Peter, as we mentioned here last week in the comments, that's one of the Powell movies I haven't seen. I expect you will put up a review of it after you watch it. I'd very much like to read it and see what you thought.

And of course, you will surely provide plenty of screengrabs of Helen Mirren, yes?

Marilyn said...

Powell/Pressburger's Tales of Hoffman was on the other night. I had to DVR it because I was falling asleep, but what a treat for ballet and opera fans. Anyone else will be bored to tears.

Miranda, you haven't hit a talker yet. Come back and talk to me when you do, and we can compare notes.

Pat said...

Oh, damn, if I had realized "Tales of Hoffman" was a Powell/Pressburger film, I would have watched or recorded. I saw it in the TCM listings, but passed it right by.

RE: the 1972 Supporting Actor Awards - I didn't know Eddie Albert had won the National Society of Film Critics award that year (or tied for it anyway), but he certainly deserved. He was so restrained in that role, doing his quiet slow burm in every scene, but so damn funny. I love the original "Heartbreak Kid."

Jonathan Lapper said...

That's true, Marilyn gave an old lady a punch in the arm. Or back. Or something like that.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Pat, the original Heartbreak Kid is terrific. I didn't see the remake but Eddie Albert and Jeannie Berlin (who also won with the National Society that year) were both nominated for Oscars for their performances too.

Marilyn said...

Pat - The Siskel Center showed Powell's Bluebeard's Castle, a rarely seen German TV adaptation of the Bartok opera. I hadn't seen Hoffman and thought it was a rather strange project for Powell, prompted, I assumed, by the downward trajectory of his career after Peeping Tom. Now I see that this was an interest of his for a long time.

Fox said...

We had a movie marathon about five New Years Eve's ago.

We brought our selections and I brought Tales of Hoffman. I hadn't seen it and didn't even know it was an opera. I just loved Michael Powell and watched anything he put his hands on.

Anyway, after twenty minutes my friends girlfriend got up walked to his room and took a nap for the rest of the movie.

I loved it b/c I loved looking at it (The "dolls" sequence is nice!), but Marilyn is right about it being a tough slog if you aren't ready for it.

And speaking of Diary of the Dead, did you know that Tales of Hoffman is one of George Romero's favorite films? He claims it scarred him (in a good way) as a child.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Wait, who was speaking of Diary of the Dead?

Fox said...

I guess I kinda just grabbed it out of the air. I figured it was one of those subjects that hovers over us in whispers. It's always being spoken of.

bill r. said...

You can really see Powell's reverse influence in Diary of the Dead, because that film is the opposite of everything that is good.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I hear it's atrocious.

I also hear Sarah Silverman is a pig.

Maybe she was reverse influenced as well.

Fox said...

Actually, there is debate raging that Sarah Silverman is actually a pug, and that Marilyn may have just hit the "i" on her keyboard when she meant to hit the "u". It's an understandable mistake of centimeters.

I guess we'll have to wait for The 'Lyn's response.

P.S. Marilyn, I'm getting a "FORBIDDEN" error when I try to access your site. It may just be on my end, but wanted to give you an FYI just in case.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Fox, I just tried Ferdy on Films and didn't have a problem. I know both of us sometimes get things blocked by work so maybe that's what's going on in your case.

Marilyn said...

FOX - I haven't forbidden you. I can't speak for my site, however. It has a mind of its own.

Sarah Silverman isn't a pug, nor a pub. She might be a bug, but she is undoubtedly a pig.

Miranda Wilding said...

Msrilyn, I knew you were a strong woman. (And I'm particularly proud of you for that particular fact.)

But you smacked someone in public?

I wish I had pictures of that incident.

My temper is so bad (white hot Irish blood) that I would not ever want a confrontation with anyone to get to that level - especially in public.

When I get going, I'm not big on control. There are people you can ask. Believe me.

Jail is something that I don't think I could endure. Yelling will generally suffice for me.

If it's genuinely needed.

WOW. Seeing as 1972 is a bit before my time, I had NO IDEA that CABARET was actually the frontrunner for BP and expected to win. For all of my Oscar trivia, I wasn't aware of that, Jonathan.

Actually, I do love CABARET. Own it, in fact. Until CHICAGO came along, it was my favourite film musical.

There's just something about Fosse...

BUT IMO if you stack up TG against CABARET (even without the history and the trilogy etc.), TG still wins hands down.

CABARET is an extraordinary MUSICAL. But THE GODFATHER is...THE GODFATHER.

There is no substitute.

And thanks for calling my covering of the thread "impressive", Jonathan.

You're my new personal hero...

Miranda Wilding said...

Oh, I started off my original comment as Msrilyn.

Meant to say "Marilyn". OF COURSE.

Please forgive me, all...

Marilyn said...

Miranda, It was just kind of a hard slap in the arm. A reflex really. I do that - act automatically in both heroic and not such nice ways. But I'm really a powder puff physically. Not verbally, though. I stand up for myself.

Jonathan Lapper said...

You're my new personal hero...

I'll do my best to not let you down.

bill r. said...

white hot Irish blood

I'm pretty sure that's the title of an erotic vampire novel set in the Ring of Kerry.

Kimberly said...

Interesting conversation (yes, I managed to read most of the comments. Go me!).

I'm in the pro-Dark Knight camp since I thought it was easily the best Batman movie made yet and one of the better films I saw this year, which isn't saying much since I've only seen about 8 or 9 films released in 2008 and my top 2 favorites were The Bank Job and Cloverfield (which will be the undoubtedly be the Bladerunner of 2008 in 10 years). I do know comics though since I worked at a comic shop for 7 years and I've seen just about every film adaptation of a comic book ever made.

I also thought Ledger (and the rest of the cast) were pretty terrific in The Dark Knight considering the material they were working with. Is it deserving of a lot of awards and all the hype? No, but in all honesty I'm not all that interested in seeing Happy Go Lucky only because I'm not all that fond of Mike Leigh's films.

Like Bill I've been a bit annoyed with the anti-Dark Knight criticism I've read that seems to have stemmed from some review on the House Next Door blog that made "fanboys" issue empty death threats full of hot air and bullshit. I rarely enjoy any of the writing at the House Next Door and find the attitudes expressed there often really limited and off-putting so I wouldn't be surprised if they managed to piss someone off with a negative review of The Dark Knight. But if you're going to dish out uninformed bile you should probably expect to get a little in return now and then.

p.s. On a side note, I also think Capote is one of the best American movies made in the past 5 years or more so what do I know?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Kimberly, you know quite a bit is what you know. I understand completely where Bill is coming from which is why I took out part of the "review" that was a little over the top. The hype surrounding this film has put everyone on the defensive and I admit I was on the defensive too. I think Ledger was terrific, as I said, but Bale I didn't like at all. But then, the role offers nothing so I probably shouldn't hold that against Bale who is, after all, a fine actor.

And as for a best of the year list I too can't really do one because I've also only seen about eight from this year. God, I could never be a new movie blogger. Hell, I couldn't even be a last ten years new movie blogger. I suck at seeing anything that hasn't made it past ten years yet.

Kimberly said...

I highly recommend The Bank Job to you Jonathan, if you enjoy '70s crime films. Not only is the movie set in the '70s (and does a nice job of conveying a '70s atmosphere) it also tells an interesting story with some compelling and unusual characters.

Like you, I rarely see a lot of modern films but even when I do, I often tend to like whatever the critics hate or dismiss.

Jonathan Lapper said...

See, that's another problem. The new movies I most likely would want to see, I forget about because they get lost in the shuffle with all the bigger movies. In other words, I totally forgot about The Bank Job but I want to see it. Thanks for the reminder.