Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Carlson, Kael, Criticism, and Carrie

Daniel Carlson argues against eight movies that received the Oscar for Best Picture. (I think it shows strong restraint to limit it to eight.) In addition to kicking up a lot of comments -- a great many from people, like me, who don't share his love for Mystic River -- Carlson also unearths this gem from Pauline Kael's review of the 1988 winner:
Rain Man is Dustin Hoffman humping one note on a piano for two hours and eleven minutes.
Priceless, and that sent me running to my copy of a book everyone should own, to see what else she had to say about the film. Here's a bit from later in the review:
Everything in this movie is fudged ever so humanistically, in a perfunctory, low-pressure way. And the picture has its effectiveness: people are crying at it. Of course they're crying at it -- it's a piece of wet kitsch.

(Director Barry) Levinson -- it's his temperament -- stretches out the scenes until they yawn. You may sit there thinking "And more?" "And again?" and "We've already been here!" This is the kind of moviemaking in which you've been there before you get there.
This small taste led to me madly flipping through the book again, and I'll share just this one more sample, from near the start of her take on Carrie:
Scary-and-funny must be the greatest combination for popular entertainment; anything-and-funny is, of course, great -- even funny-and-funny. But we come out of a movie like Carrie, as we did out of Jaws, laughing at our own childishness. It's like watching our team win a ballgame -- we're almost embarrassed at how bracing it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article. Of course, I agree with some of it and disagree with other parts.

Raging Bull over Ordinary People, that's obvious. Ordinary People is viewed today like a Lifetime movie, a melodramatic soap opera.

I think that Goodfellas is the best mafia film of all time, including besting the Godfathers I and II. So yes, Goodfellas should have won that year, but lay off Dances With Wolves. Give credit where credit is due, Costner made a beautiful and engaging western epic. The only compromise he made was casting Mary McDonald as the love interest vs. having his character get into a relationship with an actual Indian woman.

I agree with his comments on the Academy going nuts for actors who portray retards. Neither Rain Man nor Gump deserved their awards.

On Titanic, I'm not a big fan of its competition that year either. L.A. Confidential is overpraised, The Full Monty was one in a line of the cute British comedies of the 90's, Good Will Hunting was also overpraised, and As Good As It Gets was entertaining enough but nothing special. Titanic, on the other hand, was a visual spectacle that deserves praise. Yes, the story itself was a bit hamfisted (rich people = bad, poor people = good), but the overall effect of the film was impressive. I enjoyed it even with its flaws. Cameron used the effects to create something grand and effective, unlike, say, George Lucas in recent years.

I agree on Traffic over Gladiator. I loved Traffic.

I am not a fan of Lord of the Rings, and the third one was almost unbearable. Mystic River was good, but not amazing. Better than Lord of the Rings, though.

I actually rather enjoyed Crash, but we've had that discussion at length already.


1:08 PM  

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