May 15, 2012

"Dark Shadows:" Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fey it up again

From my review of Dark Shadows in Taki's Magazine:
In Tom Stoppard’s 1982 drama The Real Thing, a middle-aged playwright and his daughter discuss Elvis Presley’s death:
Henry: I never went for him much. ‘All Shook Up’ was the last good one. However, I suppose that’s the fate of all us artists.
Debbie: Death?
Henry: People saying they preferred the early stuff.
Because film director Tim Burton works in a fairly narrow groove of style, subject, and cast, his career offers an unusually clear opportunity to consider why people do generally prefer the early stuff.

Read the whole thing there.

83 comments:

Lucius said...

"Stagecoach" is an epochal film--Bertolucci listed it in his 2002 BFI Top Ten; but to say "The Searchers" "is slowly edging it out" is like saying "Chinatown" is slowly edging out "Knife in the Water"-- in terms of canonicity, "The Searchers" is as high as Ford goes; it's almost universally regarded as his masterpiece.

This "Darwinian selection" bit is surely fallacious. That a good (rather, 'popular') film empowers them to make more films is true enough, but in and of itself it says nothing about whether the subsequent films will be more or less marketable, let alone better or worse as art.

Perhaps you're trying to suggest that the early work hogs the good ideas, leaving leftover scraps for later work. Doubtless, for bad artists that's true; for great artists assuredly not. Burton, like Neil Jordan, has an idiosyncratic and auteurist vision with a lot of flaws; still, I don't think he's any worse now than he has been.

And however popular "Edward Scissorhands" was, it wasn't as huge as "Batman" or Pee-Wee or his Alice movie. Making one hit movie doesn't kill your shot for making another hit movie. Why, indeed, drag Darwin into this at all? By your own last paragraph's admission, this might be a better film (though that diffident set of verbal shrugs seemed to signal: "whadda I care?" which, this being Burton, may be reasonable enough!). Apparently it won't be a hit; but commercial blood in the water doesn't mean Burton's gone the way of the dodo, at least where the $$s are concerned.

This 2nd point about freshness is more fruitful; but still, this is mostly a present-tense hangup for paying audiences. In every other medium, late-phase work is almost universally the most sublime and celebrated; or at the very least, as in Michelangelo or in Mozart's final piano concerto, it has mysterious qualities that are without parallel in the artist's earlier work.

Only in cinema does this jejune prejudice in favor of earlier (happens to be: 'popular') work prevail. I think history will vindicate late Bergman, late Tarkovsky, late Visconti, late Kurosawa, possibly even late Godard and Rohmer, as their greatest work. Filmmakers, like every other kind of creator, deserve to fall from grace, work in the shadows, and do their deepest, most redemptive work. Obviously, a kook like Burton won't get there. But usually the greats do.

Dick Cheese said...

Depp seems to be in a movie like this every other year.

Anonymous said...

Good Lord, has Hollywood resurrected that old long-forgotten TV show? I remember as a kid being quite into horror movies, especially vampire movies, but finding all those "pregnant pauses" in Dark Shadows silly and the storyline incredibly boring. Had to give up after about 2 or 3 episodes. I hope for his sake Burton has picked up the pace a bit and injected his usual wackiness into the story. This looks like yet another big-budget Hollywood flick I'll be watching on cable or Netflix instead of in the theater.

Lucius said...

re: that "Darwinian point": I'm thinking of Henry James' advice to the writer to hold back no good ideas for The Next Book: to throw everything you have into what you're working on now.

I suppose what Steve's point is getting at is that the early work gobbles up all the good ideas. That's intuitive enough: some version of this critique gets thrown at everybody from Woody Allen to Noel Gallagher. But often (I would say, most of the time) this is just a pat rationalization for the love of novelty.

I think James's advice, as a test of strength for the truly gifted, is correct. A strong artist won't be exhausted. And there is hardly an instance of a canonical creative artist whose best work is early-period.

Even Welles was, likely enough, self-thwarting on this score. He didn't have to go to Brazil.

agnostic said...

Artists tend to be better earlier on because making it big just about makes it impossible to lose your self-consciousness, and you become anxious about whether your fans will like your new stuff. That produces more anxiety than the vague worry about whether anyone anywhere will like your first effort.

Art should conceal art, so self-consciousness makes it tough for the performer to deliver something stunning. And because self-consciousness is infectious, that performer will make it more difficult for the audience as well to just let go and groove with it.

The only sure way to last a long time is, after making it big, disappear from public visibility long enough to not feel so self-aware. Maybe they just fade away for awhile, or maybe they get thrown overboard.

Heart was like that, starting out in the '70s with a hard rock sound, then disappearing until 1986 when they re-emerged to even greater success as a ballad-writing hair metal type band. Just one example of many.

That doesn't mean that everyone who does try to make a comeback is successful, of course, just that the invisibility period is necessary for them to re-develop their ability to just go with what feels right.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that most directors of note have an early, groping-towards-the-light period, then a hot streak of brilliant pictures, then exhaustion. If they are lucky, they might go on to a period of hit-or-miss films, some of which are almost as good as their best. If they are truly great, they can get a second wind and match or maybe surpass their early masterpieces.

But film seems peculiar in that its artists burn out much more readily than, say, composers or novelists. Lots of great composers and writers who got better and better right up till the end. Damn few directors who kept getting better and better throughout their careers. Most directors have about 10-15 good years in them before they crap out.

DYork said...

Henry: People saying they preferred the early stuff.

Sherwood Schwartz -

1964 - 67 - Gilligan's Island

1969 - 74 - The Brady Bunch

1974 - Dusty's Trail

1981 - The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island

The great ones start strong and inevitably fade...

Anonymous said...

Steve, please use whatever influence you have with Taki's Mag to have them stop dividing your reviews into two pages.

Anonymous said...

Coinkidentally I was just watching the (politically daft) PBS "American Masters" doc about John Ford, and their consensus of film-geek commentators seemed that Pappy still wasn't that bullish on Wayne at time of the "Stagecoach" supporting role and remarked, "Who knew he could act" (this casual persecution persisted another 20 years or so). Now I kinda wonder about the Burton/Depp relationship. This new one looks like a mish-mash of "Sweeney Todd" with "Alice in Wonderland"--who's using whom here?

Anonymous said...

The only sure way to last a long time is, after making it big, disappear from public visibility long enough -- hey, worked for the minor L.A. ska band Sublime, not to mention Nirvana or Tupac (or James Dean even). All of them are bigger now than they ever were at the time. The Sex Pistols barely completed 1 album and Sid couldn't even complete 1 tour.

green mamba said...

Without having read your article, I have to say agree with you re:Burton. I liked Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice a lot. The later stuff, not so much. I'm sure your analysis of why this is is painfully intelligent.

The young and surprisingly restful said...

Speaking of gay soaps and the first gay whatever, did you catch that new one from The Bold & Beautiful who's now a lesbian spokeswife? Oh baby

green mamba said...

Sherwood Schwartz -

1964 - 67 - Gilligan's Island

1969 - 74 - The Brady Bunch


Amazing how much that guy imprinted popular culture in those first ten years. He was some kind of goofy pop visionary.

Anonymous said...

"This "Darwinian selection" bit is surely fallacious. That a good (rather, 'popular') film empowers them to make more films is true enough, but in and of itself it says nothing about whether the subsequent films will be more or less marketable, let alone better or worse as art."

What Steve was indirectly referring to, I think, is mean regression - the work that wins an artist lasting fame is probably going to be something way above his usual standards. In other words, he gets lucky. Afterwards his luck will go the way of everyone else's - unpredictably.

I was thinking about this just today in music - that Radiohead never did anything better than "Creep", and for that matter the Stones never topped "Paint it Black", even though both bands are quite the opposite of one-hit-wonders.

It's harder to make a name for yourself than to keep one, so those works which perform the former task tend to be better than those which suffice for the latter.

Anonymous said...

"I'm thinking of Henry James' advice to the writer to hold back no good ideas for The Next Book: to throw everything you have into what you're working on now"
Yep, seems like a sound rule of thumb for society/the Internet.

Steve Sailer said...

Creep is a great song.

I've never been to a Radiohead concert. I hear they won't play "Creep" because it's too popular, and their real fans don't like it. I always wanted to go to a Radiohead show, buy a cigarette lighter, and hold it up before the first encore and shout "Play 'Creep!'" just to peeve everybody around me.

Steve Sailer said...

"In every other medium, late-phase work is almost universally the most sublime and celebrated; or at the very least, as in Michelangelo or in Mozart's final piano concerto, it has mysterious qualities that are without parallel in the artist's earlier work."

Sure, if you die at 35 like Mozart, or if you are Michelangelo. Or assuming you meant Beethoven instead of Mozart, if you are Beethoven. Or if you are Verdi. Or Wagner.

On the other hand, if you are Stravinsky, you peak in 1913 with Le Sacre du Printemps, and live to 1971. (Maybe if the Great War hadn't happened, Stravinsky would have peaked later.) Berlioz peaked at 26 with the Symphonie Fantastique. Okay, Stravinsky and Berlioz aren't quite in the same tier as Beethoven and Bach, but that's because they fell off after early brilliance. They didn't stay on the trajectory they'd established early.

Shakespeare peaked at 37 with Hamlet, and stayed at a supreme level for another half decade with his other big tragedies. His last years weren't as good, although The Tempest is a classic late phase work. He apparently retired at 48.

To take Stoppard as an example, I would predict that history will judge that he peaked in 1993 with Arcadia, 27 years after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (which is what he's presumably referring to in the quote), but that's exceptional for somebody to be at the top of his game so long.

Level 7 cineaste said...

When I hear "almost universally regarded as a masterpiece" I unlatch my iPad... The Searchers of '56 is visually splendid but its vaunted critical popularity in Filmschoolville is a reflection of racial grievance opportunities and modernity angst. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--1962--is not only more enjoyable, it actually brings to bear a timeless moral theme for once instead of just more aesthetic indulgence. It's like a less nerdy Rashomon... Plus you get to see pinko lib Lee Marvin tormenting the old GOP ninny, Mr. Smith hisself. Folks, that's entertainment.

Anonymous said...

oh come on, you know that Republicans/Democrats shtick is all just movie biz kayfabe. Honestly they're both a bit cornball but gotta hand it to Fonda on points.

Legions of Oxfordians said...

He apparently retired at 48.

Whoa there, horsie!!!

Anonymous said...

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Best movie of the classical era [which era ended right around 1962].

The supreme irony is that the best movie of the modern era came only 14 years later.

Anonymous said...

Asked by a journalist, on news of Elvis's death in 1977, John Lennon, the nasty, pithy but immensely talented Beatle came up with the quote to end all quotes.

"To me, Elvis died when he joined the army".

saith Lennon.

Rrrrrroger said...

Another perceptive observation from DYork.

Anonymous said...

And then there is Harper Lee, Truman Capote's childhood chum, who wrote one Pulitzer Prize winning novel, went on a four year victory tour, then vanished.

Apropos of nothing, I gotta say that To Kill a Mockingbird is the most effective piece of Civil Rights propaganda ever written. Since most whites don't really know any blacks, this book is where they get their first imaginings of the noble lumpen minority shat upon by crackers (white folks who work with their hands for a living, as opposed to the noble Atticus Finch).

Anonymous said...

Agreed on Valance as the high point of both mens' careers. But sorry, folks, Radiohead's OK Computer is generally regarded as one of the best and most influential rock albums ever. As good as Creep is (and it's good, as long as you can overlook its debt to the Hollies' The Air I Breathe), it's easily overshadowed by Fake Plastic Trees, which has become their cigarette lighter song.

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/05/16/ows-rip/

"A generation of intellectuals and students raised on Howard Zinn expected great things from this combination. If times don’t improve — and especially if the GOP wins in November and a Romney administration governs from the right so that right-wing rather than left-wing policies get the blame for economic failure — we may yet see a serious movement of left-populism contending for national power. But on the whole, it is harder than it looks to push the United States to the economic left."

Hmm, Obama useful to rich libs and cos to rein in the left and blacks? With him as prez, angry left and minorities less likely to act wild.

Prof. Liz Warrenfeather said...

I put "The Searchers" on my top 10 list in hopes of being invited to a luncheon, a group, something that might happen where I could find others like me, everywhere like such as

Aaron B. said...

I'd throw out novels as another area where people often do their best work first, especially in genres that tend toward serials, like mysteries and fantasy. I always figured that's because the first novel comes from an idea they were kicking around for years, maybe since childhood, so it was very well developed. Later novels have to be invented brand-new, so they're bound to be shallower.

But then I've never had a truly original idea in my life, so I'm fascinated by the fact that some people can just "come up with" ideas one after the other, but I have no idea how it works.

Anonymous said...

I too have examined the question of why artists' earlier work is often preferred, and I've come to the conclusion that in commercial art forms, and to a lesser degree with others, artists simply get lazy after they have established their reputations, that is, once they will sell albums/films strictly based on the following they have created. I notice this most pointedly in later rock music: when did Guns and Roses ever approach the quality of Appetite for Destruction or did Pearl Jam ever do anything after their debut album in the same order of magnitude? Their commercial success softens them. Earlier musicians like the classical European ones peak later--Hayden did his best work in his fifties-- or even the Beatles and Bob Dylan-- continue to improve as they mature. These are the true artists who are committed to their art forms. Perhaps some brains are simply different from others. The poet Rimbaud is considered a classic of Western poetry, but he stopped writing completely before the age of 20. Yeats was not considered a great poet until after the age of 50.

David said...

>the long, meaningful glances inherent in any soap’s [fast] production schedule<

LOL

Anonymous said...

How about painters? The first one who comes to mind who had a long career and kept improving to his death is Winslow Homer. I think Matisse kept it up pretty long, too. Picasso seems like a long sad fade after his 15-20 year greatness.

David said...

>Even Welles was, likely enough, self-thwarting on this score. He didn't have to go to Brazil.<

Post-Brazil he made a financially successful movie, his only one - "The Stranger." Artistically he only got better; but less-shady financing and good distribution only come 'round to good boys whose returns are dependable. Too bad he died before good video and non-linear editing; he might have made "The Cradle Will Rock" for a few thousand bucks. (He was trying to convince the French to finance his version of "King Lear" on Betamax in 1984.)

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that people say they preferred the early stuff out of snobbishness.

"Yes, X is not bad, but I preferred his early stuff, before the rest of you riff-raff heard of him".

It's more one-upmanship by the speaker than a reflection of the relative quality of the artists early and later work.

Anonymous said...

"Steve, please use whatever influence you have with Taki's Mag to have them stop dividing your reviews into two pages."

I think Takimag does it increase clicks, which adds advertising revenue. All sites do that.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what is meant by Darwinian stuff. Does Sailer mean that since STAGECOACH was the formula that proved itself viable--thus progenitor of future successful movies based on that formula--, it's gotten extra credit from film fans?
I suppose it's like the founders of anything get extra credit, like with the Founding Fathers. What they introduced has lasted a long time, and so we give huge credit to the early phase of the US when its successful ideals were laid down.

Lucius said...

I meant Mozart: the 27th is his Mahler's Fourth (as the other Einstein indicates), a reckoning with Final Things, even if it wasn't composed quite so late as originally believed (one doesn't have to be in mortal peril to dedicate oneself to final things).
For Beethoven, one probably looks to the late Quartets for a comparable statement.

Berlioz went on to Childe Harold in Italy, the epic "Les Troyens"-- not to mention his memoirs, which enjoy some sort of place in literature. Barzun thinks he's very big indeed, tho saying he's the best inventor of melody since Mozart is iconoclastic to say the least.

Stravinsky, well: that's just Schoenberg for the masses. Modernism needed something "pop", I suppose; and a Tchaikovsky who goes over to the dark side fit the bill. --But in seriousness: even his "NeoClassical" phase had a considerable impact; Shostakovitch, who we now think a bigger deal (rightly, I'm sure) was flustered by the great man's presence.

Bear in mind, vis-a-vis Shakespeare, that Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest all fit in *very* tightly. If Coriolanus is filler, so be it. For my part, I believe Cymbeline may be the greatest thing ever written.

Not every age can expect to have artists of this caliber; but it's worth prepping ourselves to endure with patience what follies our aging artists produce-- and see if perhaps early successes have dazzled our eyes against what are, in fact, deeper, richer achievements.

For instance, "The Godfather Part III."

Svigor said...

Because film director Tim Burton works in a fairly narrow groove of style, subject, and cast, his career offers an unusually clear opportunity to consider why people do generally prefer the early stuff.

Because any given person only has so much to say?

Svigor said...

Level 7, I guess people take what they will. I quite enjoy The Searchers for its ethnopatriotic themes.

Anonymous said...

Is STAGECOACH really 'early John Ford'? Ford began making movies in the silent era, so one could argue that STAGECOACH is something like his early/middle phase than early phase. Maybe some people mistake it as 'early Ford' because it was the first one that really made him a star director.
Similarly, most people associate Antonioni's 'first film' as L'AVVENTURA, and it was in terms of fame. But Antonioni had already made a series of films before that one. Indeed, it was Antonioni's crucial break from his really early period into something else.

As for CITIZEN KANE, yes it was Welles's first film made when he was only 26, but Welles's creative began began in his teens and he was steeped in theatre, from which he drew lots of inspiration for his first film. So, while it is an early work, it didn't just come out of nowhere either.

Anonymous said...

Some artists possess sensibilities and work with complex material that can expand an dgrow. Others tend to be simple-minded and elemental. Thus, while the former kind of artists can improve with age, the latter kind just gets worse IF he tries to be more serious.
Tim Burton is an immature toymaker. He was okay with stuff like BEETLEJUICE and PEE WEE HERMAN. My favorite is MARS ATTACK. But when he tries to be arty, yech! But worst of all, his later films are both more crass/pandering and more arty/elaborate. Worst of both worlds. SLEEPY HOLLOW was deadly.

Similarly, I can appreciate goofy stuff from Gilliam like his Python cartoons or FISHER KING but I can't stand stuff like BRAZIL and 12 MONKEES. Kids who like to play with toys should play with toys, not pretend that toys are art.

As for Eddie Scissors, I could never stand it. It was like 'kawaii gothic romanticism'. Scissors looked like some meth junkie. And how does he wipe his ass?

Anonymous said...

"I think history will vindicate late Bergman, late Tarkovsky, late Visconti, late Kurosawa, possibly even late Godard and Rohmer, as their greatest work."

My head hurts. So, SACRIFICE is greater than ANDREI RUBLEV?
FACE TO FACE and FANNY & ALEXANDER(something like 'Bergman's Greatest Hits) are better than SAWDUST AND TINSEL and PERSONA?
RAN--which has a looooong sagging middle and a confused ending--is better than SEVEN SAMURAI and IKIRU? Late Godard is better than his key works in the 60s? With Rohmer, yes, he did become a more surehanded filmmaker in his later yrs, especially with LADY AND DUKE, his only film that I really like.
But you don't what you're talking about. There is no rule that says artists do better work later in life. Some do, some don't. Everyone works differently due to personality. I think Chabrol generally got better with age, but Truffaut was at his height with 400 BLOWS and JULES AND JIM. His later works range from very good to bad.
Same with athletes. Tyson exploded on the scene early. Lewis needed time to develop into a top boxer.

Lucius said...

"The Searchers" would deserve its plaudits just for Wayne's onscreen presence: in that chiaroscuro dolly shot of his parting look at the "they ain't white!" women, he becomes the most haunted apparition in cinema: a being something like Milton's Lucifer, as unjustly redeemed by Blake and Shelley.

The film's climactic moment of "uplift" is one of the most moving moments in all of film.

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is the most troubling canonical film I can think of. Stewart's Ransom does everything-- *everything*-- for these people, tho he's utterly unendowed with the means to use force.

The film establishes that Wayne's Doniphon could dispel Valance with one warning look-- but he doesn't lift a finger.

Until finally, finally, he breaks down and helps Ransom out: by shooting Valance in the back. After Ransom has gone out, compounding physical courage with moral, to meet his certain death.

And Doniphon-- lives to regret it, every last damn day of his life. All because: he lost the love of his woman.

But: not really! Because even tho she doesn't know what he did, all this while, she's been pining for him.

And Ransom: well, he's just some old politician. Print the legend, sure. But, but: think, o think, of that lonely broken man in his grave. That "hero" who, er, er,--well, he's the man who *really* shot Liberty Valance! Even if only in the back . . . .

What a self-regarding putz. But what is the film's morality? Stewart is wrapped in the flag, displays incomparable moral courage, all to finally have the film wrest everything from him, display him like a naked weakling, and for what?--

To appease some Irish macho sentiment about Wayne being a man's man?

To me, Doniphon is Dorian Gray on the range, a monster of selfishness, yet the film takes his side.

Anonymous said...

"Artists tend to be better earlier on because making it big just about makes it impossible to lose your self-consciousness, and you become anxious about whether your fans will like your new stuff. That produces more anxiety than the vague worry about whether anyone anywhere will like your first effort."

You're half-right. Yes, self-consciousness can be the death of an artist--unless the artist specializes in one of those art-about-art intellectual parlor games.

But the problem of self-consciousness is not artists wanting to please their fans but the very opposite. Prior to success, artists are hungry and eager to prove themselves. They want to be liked and appreciated. They want to be stars. But once they have success and start taking themselves seriously, their attitude becomes, "I'm doing it for art and I don't care what people think."
Take early Lennon. He wanted to be toppermost of poppermost. But as he became 'serious', he made some awful shitty music with Yoko: stuff like 'Revolution No. 9' And though I love Beach Boys' SMILE, Wilson did it without care of what anyone thought. He was so wrapped in his aura of 'genius' that he wanted to go beyond popular approval. Thus, SMILE overreaches and is, at best, a deeply flawed masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

"But film seems peculiar in that its artists burn out much more readily than, say, composers or novelists. Lots of great composers and writers who got better and better right up till the end."

But lots of writers and especially poets did great work early and burned out. F. Scott Fitzgerald is one. And Hemingway's two best novels are prolly his early one: SUN and FAREWELL.
And there are plenty of composers who lost the muse and didn't do much for the rest of their lives. Sibelius is one of the all-time greats but spent his latter decades doing nothing.
As for filmmakers, there are many examples of directors doing fine work for a long stretch: Huston, Ford, Bunuel, Bergman, Resnais, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and even Welles, who made CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT(best Shakes movie) two decades after CK and on a rather low budget.
I think film directors burnt out sooner in the 60s and 70s due to artistic ego, drug, and radicalism. Guys like Huston and Ford of Old Hollywood didn't go out of their way to be THE ARTIST. They believe in artistry but believe in hard work. And though they were heavy drinkers, they stuck to smoke/alcohol and didn't touch other kinds of drugs.
But some auteurs in the 60s and 70s got to taking themselves so seriously that soon after success, they made one grand folly after another and lost it. It happened with Bogdanovich soon after LAST PICTURE SHOW. With Friedkin after EXORCIST. With Peckinpah after THE GETAWAY. Too much ego, and then too many drugs, new dangerous kinds. But others were ruined by 60s radicalism. Once Godard went radical, he never regained his magic.

But it seems like a new generation of more 'responsible' directors grew up since the late 70s and 80s and they've been doing work for a long stretch: Spielberg, Zemeckis, Fincher, Ron Howard, Scorsese, and etc. Some of these people may use drugs but they are more cautious(knowing past history) and they're also more beta-ish, thus less likely to be reckless like Peckinpah and others.
Scorsese is an interesting case because he could have lost himself to excess--given the kinds of themes he likes--, but his geekery, sense of reverence, and religiosity might have saved him to falling off the cliff.

Anonymous said...

I think 'early' vs 'late' thing is a bit complicated in film because of the delay effect. A young writer can write what he wants to write. A young composer can compose the music in his head. Young painter can paint whatever he wants to. But a young filmmaker with an idea might have to wait 10, 20, or 30 yrs to realize his vision--or never get the chance. Oliver Stone, for example, had been wanting to make ALEXANDER since the 1970s. So, in some ways, he made it in his mind as a young man but finally got a chance to make it as a much older man. (So, is it a young man's work or an old man's work?) I think he lucked out due to success of GLADIATOR and War on Terror. After Scott's smash hit, studios were hoping for another sword and sandals movie. And War on Terror made the theme of white guy bashing Near Easterners appealing. But Stone went for 'art film' than populist spectacle, and so it flopped.

I wonder what other movies got the green light to be made due to extraneous factors? Personally, I like ALEXANDER--deeply flawed as it is--, and in that sense I must give some credit to GLADIATOR--which I hated--for making Hollywood take a chance on ALEXANDER.

EXCALIBUR might have gotten the green light due to success of STAR WARS. Boorman had been wanting to make that film forever since he was a young man(or even boy) but only got the chance in 1980. His crowning achievement.
So, maybe we should appreciate not-so-good movies if they at least lead to studios taking chances on other such films(but done with greater vision and artistry).
STAR WARS paved the way for EXCALIBUR, and GLADIATOR paved the way for ALEXANDER. And the atrocious MIAMI VICE might have made TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA possible.

Anonymous said...

In other words, great movies can piggyback on lesser ones.

Anonymous said...

Maybe one could make the case that, in most cases, the early-middle period is the peak for most artists. Early on, they have energy and creativity but not enough understanding and insight. And their skills are not fully honed. Take Kurosawa, whose early works--SANSHIRO SUGATA, MEN WHO TREAD ON TIGER'S TAIL, ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY, NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH, DUEL, SCANDAL, STRAY DOG, DRUNKEN ANGEL, etc--show signs of great talent that hasn't yet been perfected. Though RASHOMON is generally treated as his first masterwork, that too is rather crude in parts. I think his first true masterwork is IKIRU, and then he made the greatest film ever with SEVEN SAMURAI.

Early in one's career, there's lots of zest, ingenuity, hunger, and imagination, but they have yet to be molded into the whole equation. It finally comes together into full shape in the early-middle period. Same with Beatles whose first hits came in 1962. They did their most exciting work in 63 and 64 but their most masterly work may have come in 1965, their early-middle period, with HELP and RUBBER SOUL. Both albums have the energy of early Beatles but also maturity and finesse. Beatles did great work to the end, but I still say there were at their peak in 65. (Btw, the early vs late dichotomy is confusing within shifting contexts. Early Beatles would be 1962 and late Beatles would be 1970, but early Lennon--as solo artist--would be 1970 and late solo Lennon would be 1980.)

Also, 'early' vs 'late' is confusing because we tend to gauge careers by success and fame. Suppose a writer wrote 10 books but none got published. Suppose his 11th book got published when he was 35. Officially, it would be his first book, his 'early' work, but in a way, it's his 'middle' or even 'late' work.

Another thing... how should we gauge 'early' vs 'late'? According to a person's lifespan or his career. Suppose some painter got serious about painting at the age of 25, had a long fruitful career until he was 45, and then slacked off mostly. Suppose he died at age 80, doing some paintings late in life. Should his last works be considered as part of his 'late' period or should his 'late' period be when he was finishing up his successful career in his 40s?
If we take Dylan's entire life, his albums BLONDE AND BLONDE and JOHN WESLEY HARDING would be early Dylan, with middle Dylan being the work in late 70s and 80s and late Dylan being what he did in 90s til now. But if we take the CORE of Dylan's professional career as an artist--1962 to 1976, when Dylan mattered most--, then BLONDE ON BLONDE could be seen as an middle work.

Similarly, though Kurosawa made movies up until 1993, one could argue this core career ended in 1985 with RAN. (Btw, though RAN was made in 1985, Kurosawa had plans for it in the early 70s.)

Anonymous said...

"The Searchers of '56 is visually splendid but its vaunted critical popularity in Filmschoolville is a reflection of racial grievance opportunities and modernity angst. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--1962--is not only more enjoyable, it actually brings to bear a timeless moral theme for once instead of just more aesthetic indulgence. It's like a less nerdy Rashomon... Plus you get to see pinko lib Lee Marvin tormenting the old GOP ninny, Mr. Smith hisself. Folks, that's entertainment."

No, not really. While it's true that some more PC critics have approached THE SEARCHERS that way, its earliest fans--Sarris and members of the 'movie brat' generation(Scorsese, Lucas, Milius, Schrader, etc) loved it for its racisness, its toughness, its personal vision). They didn't necessarily see Ethan as 'evil racist'. Indeed, TAXI DRIVER and HARDCORE by Schrader is very Ethan-ish. "Kill the savages and save the white girl."

Actually, MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is the more liberal work. Its story of an idealistic progressive guy going to tame the West, intentionally or not, had parallels with Freedom Riders going down to the South to bring 'justice' so that Negroes could be free and be left alone from redneck liberty valances.

mark said...

Steve you could go one better and introduce Radiohead to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and only talk about "Creep" which would be fine by me. Poor Guns and Roses, Billy Joe Armstrong hardly referenced anything after their first album when he introduced them at the Hall of Fame. "You Could be Mine" deserved a shout out. Some bands age well but then their early works weren't all that great to begin with. "Dark Shadows" just seems so safe to me but I am not the target audience.

Lucius said...

"Fanny and Alexander" and "Sacrifice" are the two greatest films ever made.

"Ran" is completely gripping from beginning to end.

"Passion" and "Prenom: Carmen" are as great as "Une femme est une femme" or "Weekend."

"Les Deux Anglaises sur le continent" is Truffaut's greatest film.

With all due respect, what sort of cinephile, or just a decent person in general, could even think to mention the unholy name of "T*s*n" in the same mental breath with Tarkovsky?

You, sir, are a lowbrow and possibly even degenerate.

Anonymous said...

Actually, MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is the more liberal work. Its story of an idealistic progressive guy going to tame the West, intentionally or not, had parallels with Freedom Riders going down to the South to bring 'justice' so that Negroes could be free and be left alone from redneck liberty valances.

NO NO NO NO NO!!!

Liberty Valance is all about the liberal do-gooder acknowledging the hypocrisy that is at the very heart of his life's story - it's about the triumph of truth over lies.

It really is the greatest movie of the classical era, and arguably - maybe even for that very reason - the classical era ENDS precisely at Liberty Valance.

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious. The party of radical policies such as 'gay marriage', 'rights' for illegal aliens, politically correct censorship of 'free speech', government takeover of healthcare, and globalism is accusing the GOP of 'extremism'. Yes, there are extremist dolts on the Right, but they tend to be neocons who pushed 'compassionate conservative' Bush into war.
Anyway, it's amusing, liberal radicals attacking GOP of forgoing 'moderation'. Yeah sure, 'gay marriage' and 'open borders' sure are 'moderate'.

Dahlia said...

Steve,
I loved your comment about 1972 being a cheerful year, but the last year before the mass affliction.

"Creep". Chuck Ross mentioned it the other day and I had neither heard it or heard of it, despite being a teen when it came out; I hated 90's music, too dark and whiny. The other song he mentioned, "The Air that I Breathe", on the other hand, has been one of my favorites since my teens despite it predating my birth.
I guess we really search out what appeals to us, and did this even back in pre-internet days.

Lucius said...

For the sake of clarity-- and because I enjoy listmaking and other games as much as anybody-- let me suggest a few points:

In film, the "late phase" may technically fall before the last spate of production, as with, as someone suggested above, Kurosawa. "Kagemusha" was a project he dreamed upon for years, thinking it would never be done; after it was made, he verbally wrote it off as a "three hour dress rehearsal" for "Ran", by which time he was 75. Understandably, his very last films aren't striving for the same heights of ambition as his last epics.

For me, "late" Hitchcock is the Hedren pictures, arguably his greatest and most personal. After that, Torn Curtain and Topaz are a falling-off, tho "Frenzy" and "Family Plot" are a return to filmmaking form-- but not as thematically resonant as the earlier works. Frenzy's a dark truffle, Family Plot a souffle. He's an old and sickly man, so it's understandable he might not want to embroider upon the multilayered "statements" of his greatest pictures.

Contrariwise, there's almost always an unreadiness in early works for them to be qualified as unadulterated masterpieces. The "Haffner Serenade", "A Midsummer Night's Dream," or "The Thirty-Nine Steps" are all works of superb confidence and achievement; but most people correctly assume there's a perversity in assigning them a preeminence over their later siblings. There is a something of severity in maturity that is wanted in art.

I might insinuate, against the use of "Citizen Kane" as a counter-instance, that "Citizen Kane" is not our greatest film; and that it says something about our era, and its misapprehensions of value, that it has been esteemed so for these many decades.

To say nothing of goshdarn rock and roll . . . .

Anonymous said...

Tim Burton is a good director...

Anonymous said...

Berlioz's finest work is Harold in Italy.

peterike said...

If we take Dylan's entire life, his albums BLONDE AND BLONDE and JOHN WESLEY HARDING would be early Dylan, with middle Dylan being the work in late 70s and 80s and late Dylan being what he did in 90s til now. But if we take the CORE of Dylan's professional career as an artist--1962 to 1976, when Dylan mattered most--, then BLONDE ON BLONDE could be seen as an middle work.

And talk about come-back artists. In 2001 ("Love and Theft") and 2006 ("Modern Times") Dylan puts out two albums that rank in the top five of his career. Dylan is a weird case anyway, with so many re-inventions and "comebacks" that you can't keep track. Neil Young is another one.

On directors, I once heard someone say that directors burn out early because their jobs are so comprehensive. They have to worry about everything in the film. The actors, the sets, the music, the lighting. Does that ash tray move six inches to the left? Should the window shades be down, up, halfway? Every picayune little detail has to be thought about. No other art form or role requires this kind of view, from the big picture down to the tinniest detail, and literally tens of thousands of them in every film.

No idea if this is accurate, but it's a theory.

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/oipQBY7F4YY

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/oosYQHq2hwE

Anonymous said...

If we take Dylan's entire life

Bob Dylan is terrible.

Bob Dylan is not a poet, he is not a musician, he is just horrible.

One of the many bonuses that will accompany the decline of the Boomers is that we'll stop hearing about Bob Dylan.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Dylan is not a poet, he is not a musician, he is just horrible."

yo mamma

Anonymous said...

Many good comments as usual.

I wonder if the careers of artists are great or not so great each in their own way (sorta like Tolstoy's remark about the unhappiness of families).

As mentioned by other posters, probably some artists get lazy (hard to be the champ when you wake up in silk pajamas as they say in boxing), some get distracted (drugs,alcohol, women, or other interests, take your pick), some have a limited creative resevoir to start with (and hence were never destined for greatness), some have bad luck (illness, poverty, lack of financing or support, etc..), and some have a vision that doesn't mature to very late in life or whose greatness is not immediately recognized and therefore labor in obscurity for most of their career.

When I see an artist that is prolific at a sustained high level even if I don't particulary care for their style (such as Dylan or Springsteen) I have to at least admire their endurance and will power.

Regarding Stravinsky peaking with the Rite of Spring. Probably true, but I wonder if he might not be held in even greater esteem today had he produced more pieces in the neo-primitve style of ROS instead of jumping on a new stylistic band wagon every other year (ie. neo-classicism, serialsim, etc. )

It seems that he either got distracted by wanting to be known as an innovator or he was too easily bored with one style of writing.

Anonymous said...

"I loved your comment about 1972 being a cheerful year, but the last year before the mass affliction."

I disagree. I say free abortion for all libs and their allies.

Anonymous said...

"Liberty Valance is all about the liberal do-gooder acknowledging the hypocrisy that is at the very heart of his life's story - it's about the triumph of truth over lies."

But all said and done, he's a decent guy while Liberty Valance was one scumsuckingbunghole.

Anonymous said...

"Fanny and Alexander" and "Sacrifice" are the two greatest films ever made.

--------

They are retreads of what they'd done before and much better. F&A is great in its own way, but it's really Bergman's celebration of himself. Too narcissistic.
And if Tarkovsky took the world seriously in his earlier films, he takes himself too seriously with SACRIFICE. It has some fine moments but it's mostly interminable. And so self-important.

--------

"Ran" is completely gripping from beginning to end.

--------

The movie goes to sleep after the first hr. The long dreary scenes with the old man and Peter Japan(the clown kid) are unwatchable. And the old man's speech over his son's body is among the worst things Kuro ever did.

-------

"Passion" and "Prenom: Carmen" are as great as "Une femme est une femme" or "Weekend."

---------

I have a soft spot for FIRST NAME CARMEN cuz it's the first Godard film I saw as freshman in college in 85. I had no idea what it was about but I thought, WOW, MY FIRST GODARD FILM. Seen it again since and I've no idea what it's about. But, it's still one of his later ones that's watchable.

------------

"Les Deux Anglaises sur le continent" is Truffaut's greatest film.

------------

Very good movie, but he repeats JULES AND JIM essentially in masterpiece theater style. Near-great in parts, but Leaud is fatal as romantic lead. Dull and expressionless actor. He was wonderful as the kid in 400 Blows though.

------------

With all due respect, what sort of cinephile, or just a decent person in general, could even think to mention the unholy name of "T*s*n" in the same mental breath with Tarkovsky?

------------

Why not? Tarkovsky's lesson is that art doesn't exist in a bubble. ANDREI RUBLEV is about holy Russia but there's Mongols thugs sacking and raping, brother killing brother, friend betraying friend, tyranny, corruption, torture, etc. It's part of the world, and Tarkovsky grappled with it. And the character Andrei Rublev discovers he cannot be a pure artist cut off from the world. He must fuse his inspiration from and with the world. Just as tree grows from manure, holiness grows assholiness. There's no saint without sin. Same theme in Scorsese's RAGING BULL.
----------

You, sir, are a lowbrow and possibly even degenerate.

------------

But, I'm still right.

Whiskey said...

Counterpoint: Hitch's last film, "Family Plot," may well be his best. Superb performances by Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris. Then there is Donald E. Westlake, or Stuart Kaminsky, who got considerably better (and funnier) as they got older.

You could counter-argue that like martial arts, or cooking, or anything else depending on skill, the more the practitioner has developed his skill, and learned what works and what does not, the better he becomes.

Steve Sailer said...

I think it's quite possible that many artists get better after public boredom with them sets in. To take one small example, I noticed about a decade ago that Elvis Costello was a much better singer now than in his 1977-1983 heyday. He likely has taken a lot of singing lessons since then and worked hard at his craft. Good for him.

Anonymous said...

---"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is the most troubling canonical film I can think of. Stewart's Ransom does everything-- *everything*-- for these people, tho he's utterly unendowed with the means to use force.---

He TRIES to do lots of things, which is not the same as doing them. But, I'm not sure what you're getting at.

---The film establishes that Wayne's Doniphon could dispel Valance with one warning look-- but he doesn't lift a finger.---

It does not. Doniphon may have an edge over Valance, but neither wants to makes the first move. They are like tiger and lion. Wary of one another but in some way mutually admiring. One is good, other is bad, but they are united by manhood, by swagger, by toughness. Doniphon is one man Valance fears, but Doniphon isn't totally sure he can take on Valance either. In one tense scene, Doniphon uses the giant Negro as backup. In a way, Doniphon owes his status to the likes of Valance. It's because of thugs like Valance that Doniphon is respected as the only man who can stand up to Valance. Without the likes of Valance, Doniphon would be just another guy, just another civilian. And this is why Doniphon, as much as he hates Valance, dreads to see the scumsucker die--it's like killing himself--and why he resents the coming of Ransom. Ransom's new law and order stuff will not only clear the land of Valances but of tough men whose value owes to standing up to Valances.

---Until finally, finally, he breaks down and helps Ransom out: by shooting Valance in the back. After Ransom has gone out, compounding physical courage with moral, to meet his certain death.---

He doesn't shoot Valance in the back, but on the side. Anyway, there's more going on here. Ransom goes out to face Valance partly out of courage but also out of cowardice(which is the paradox). Ransom, the rational defender of the law over frontier honor, finds himself having to prove his honor as a man. He comes to feel, think, and act like Western gunman. Win or lose, he acts on instincts of 'manhood'. THAT is what bothers him later. That, when push came to shove, his faith in law and civilization went out the window and that he was willing to kill or die on the basis of honor and manhood. He let go of 'civilized' virtues and became 'like one of them'. His courage is partly rooted in cowardice cuz he was afraid that people would see him as chickenshit if he didn't take a stand. He was also driven by thirst for blood, vengeance, the very thing he preached against. Deep down inside, he too can be a killer--like what Hoffman became in STRAW DOGS when push came to shove.

Btw, though the movie's explanation is Doniphon is the one that really shot Valance, maybe both Doniphon and Ransom hit Valance at once. If that's the case, one could say Doniphon stole genuine glory from Ransom(even if inadvertantly). Though Valance was much better with the gun, he was drunk that night, and so Ransom had something of a chance.

Anonymous said...

---And Doniphon-- lives to regret it, every last damn day of his life. All because: he lost the love of his woman.---

I mean NO SHIT. What can be more important to a man or woman than love? And it wasn't just any kind of love but deep true kind of love. He really loved that gal, and she liked him. He built a house for her and he saw his entire future being with her. He could have minded his own business and married the girl, but he gave it all up for his sense of justice. I mean what have YOU done that was so noble?
Even before he went out to save Ransom(and kill Valance if need be), he sensed in his girl's anxiety that she may have affections for Ransom. He sensed it but didn't want to believe it. But for whatever reason--out of goodness, out of the concern for his girl, out of a grudging respect for Ransom--, he saved Ransom and then finds the girl hugging and weeping over him. Then, it's confirmed that she really does love Ransom. Even so, because she'd pledged to marry him, he probably could have had her as wife--she would have kept her word. But he doesn't want to steal her away from the man she really loves.
What Doniphon does is noble because he acts against his instincts and interests. Though basically good, his instincts are manly and tough; he thinks all men should stand their own ground and not rely on others. But he stands behind Ransom. And his personal interests are with the girl he loves. But he acts against his instincts and does something that ruins his happiness with her. Nobility comes not when you do something that comes easy. It's when you do something that comes hard. Doniphon, who never took one step back when Valance threatened, walks away from what he wanted most. The man who could have taken on Valance 'loses' to a dweeb like Ransom. It's like a tiger killing a lion to lose the pussycat to a house cat.

---And Ransom: well, he's just some old politician. Print the legend, sure. But, but: think, o think, of that lonely broken man in his grave. That "hero" who, er, er,--well, he's the man who *really* shot Liberty Valance! Even if only in the back . . . .---

You're missing the point. Ransom's guilt isn't about 'who really shot Valance' but what happened AS A RESULT. Ransom got the girl--not any girl but Doniphon's girl--, the fame, the fortune, and power. Doniphon lost everything.

The thing is... since Valance never posed much of a threat to Valance, Doniphon could have let Valance kill Ransom and had a good life with his girl. But he did 'the right thing' for a higher good. He really loved the woman and wanted her to be happy. I think more than anything, he saved Ransom out of his feelings for her. She was a nervous wreck when Ransom went out to face Valance. Doniphon still hoped her affections for Ransom were as a friend. But then, Doniphon discovers she really loves Ransom after Ransom returns with a wound on his arm. She really really loves him, indeed much more so that she could ever love Doniphon.

Anonymous said...

---What a self-regarding putz. But what is the film's morality? Stewart is wrapped in the flag, displays incomparable moral courage, all to finally have the film wrest everything from him, display him like a naked weakling, and for what?----

No, the movie doesn't say he's a weakling. If anything, he's a good guy from beginning to end. And his conscience suffers as a result of having killed Valance. It is Doniphon who clears up the story and tells Ransom he's gotta do what he's gotta do. Doniphon basically says, "I did what I didn't have to do; I lost the thing I wanted most in the world: the woman I loved all my life. Since I gave you all that, just win for the gipper, stupid."

---To appease some Irish macho sentiment about Wayne being a man's man? To me, Doniphon is Dorian Gray on the range, a monster of selfishness, yet the film takes his side.---

No, you got it all wrong. The movie establishes Doniphon as tough and strong, but in the end, Doniphon isn't praised for his toughness but his sense of rightness. Besides, if Doniphon really had to kill Valance, he would have preferred to have it out man to man. But even that was stolen from him. Doniphon doesn't want credit for having killed Valance because he'd felt compelled to do it in a dastardly way. Doniphon killed Valance in a way that fills him with self-disgust.

In a way, both Ransom and Doniphon were forced to betray their principles in the killing of Valance. Ransom acted like a frontier gunman out for revenge and willing to kill/die for honor while Doniphon shot Valance like a 'coward'. Maybe Doniphon could have beaten Valance in a fair fight, maybe not. But Doniphon never wanted to kill a man like a coward, but he had no choice. He kills Valance, saves Ransom, and allows Ransom to take full credit. But when Ransom won't even take that credit and instead wrestles with his conscience, Doniphon finally sets it straight.

In a way, it's like the revelation in GREAT EXPECTATIONS. The old convict is a rough man, but he does something noble in trying to make Pip a gentleman. When Pip discovers the truth, he is both moved and crushed. Same with Ransom. He's appreciative but also troubled that his life and success owes so much to a man who lost everything as a result, a man whose 'values' offended him to the core.

Doniphon may seem 'selfish' but I disagree. He lives by the Western code. He doesn't ask for favors from anyone but he doesn't wanna do favors for anyone either--unless he really has to. But at some point, he realizes that Valance is the darker side of himself. He may be good while Valance is bad, but without rule of law, good or bad is determined by who has the faster draw.
Doniphon also comes to understand two kinds of love. The girl felt love for him cuz he's a fun tough guy, but she really loves Ransom. When Doniphon sees her hugging and weeping over Ransom, he realizes he can never be the kind of man she could really really love though he loves really really loves her.

So, nobility has to be judged according to context. Ransom was raised to be good in a decent family and is, by nature, a nice guy. So, goodness comes easy to him. Doniphon grew up rough and didn't have no fancy learning. He could easily have been an outlaw, but at a crucial point in his life, he chose to be an honest man and, despite his lack of fancy learning, something within him made him do the right thing. There's nobility in that.

Anonymous said...

But all said and done, he's a decent guy

Exactly - and, in the end, his fundamental decency is proven by his strength of character in knowing himself for who he really is - in being honest with himself about the truth of his life's story [and the truth of his wife's story, for that matter].

But at this point I need to be careful not to give away too many spoilers.

PS: Playing fundamentally decent people is just an extraordinarily difficult assignment for an actor - the scoundrels and thugs and criminals are always the easiest parts to play.

Try thinking of any actor in Hollyweird or television these days who could play a man of decency the way Jimmy Stewart [or, for that matter, John Wayne himself] could: Alec Baldwin? George Clooney? Brad Pitt? Matt Damon?

PUH-lease...

Anonymous said...

Well, okay, Steve, but is it a good movie? Are the jokes funny and does the acting work? If I go and see it, will I be entertained without having to resort to pondering Tim Burton's relative rate of artistic decline in comparison to Beethoven, Michelangelo, etc. until after the credits?

Speaking of which, I largely agree with Anon 9:00. It would be possible to go back and forth saying that Dostoyevsky wrote "The Brothers Karamazov" months before he died, while such and such had flamed out before his 21st birthday. I'm sure that there are also many lesser and mediocre talents that maintained a pretty consistent rate of quality throughout their careers. We probably don't immediately think of them because they were mediocre. But long term productivity probably has as much to do with personality, discipline and simple health as with any sort of wellspring of talent or inspiration.

And some approaches, irregardless of talent, are simply more conducive to longevity than others. To run with the sports example, no boxer has successfully fought past the age of 35 fighting like a Tyson or Dempsey, but Lewis could probably drop into title contention if he came out retirement tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I always thought of Keaton as more of a character actor than a comic actor. He made a living playing street smart, tough, blue collar characters and for some reason that transferred over pretty well to the movies he did with Burton. I don't think that anyone has done the batman thing better than he did.

"The only sure way to last a long time is, after making it big, disappear from public visibility long enough -- hey, worked for the minor L.A. ska band Sublime, not to mention Nirvana or Tupac (or James Dean even). All of them are bigger now than they ever were at the time. The Sex Pistols barely completed 1 album and Sid couldn't even complete 1 tour."

Is that actually true about Nirvana? They were absolutely massive at my high school when they first came out, but I've gone years at a time since without thinking about them or hearing one of their songs on the radio. I just assumed that the music of a chronically dyspeptic, heroin addicted hillbilly kid who was married to Courtney Love was too depressing to transfer to the next generation. Personally, I think Nirvana was probably the best rock band that came out in the past 20 years or so, but, still, I don't have any desire to cue up anything that relentlessly bleak.

Dahlia said...

"I disagree. I say free abortion for all libs and their allies."

Thus far, cheap and legal abortion hasn't been working out too well for us. Seems more like poison. When are the purifying effects going to kick in? In the next 40 years?

Mr. Anon said...

"Whiskey said...

Counterpoint: Hitch's last film, "Family Plot," may well be his best. Superb performances by Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris."

And let's not forget William Devane. I agree. I think Hitchcock's last three movies, "Topaz", "Frenzy", and "Family Plot" were, in there own way, as good as "Shadow of a Doubt", "Strangers on a Train", "Rear Window", or "Vertigo".

Lucius said...

"Jules et Jim" and "Two English Girls" are the duo adaptations of duo novels; I regard "Two English Girls" as at once more lyrical and more brutal. It goes deeper and darker into the sexual psyche than "Last Tango in Paris", let alone "Jules et Jim" which frankly, tho great, has a lot of sex lib smarminess and Baudelairean hoo haa. Catherine's psycho behavior, whether plausible or not, feels exaggerated and, by the end, we can only be relieved at her passing. "Two English Girls", by contrast, has one of the very most involving and moving climax/denouements of all time.

To even mention "Raging Bull" vis-a-vis Tarkovsky writes this anonymous off in my book as a film school geek.

I mean really: rebel against the syllabus a little. Should Criterion and Kino cut off all titles post- "La Dolce Vita" or something?

But to be fair: even Bergman disliked "Nostalghia" and "Sacrifice".

BUT to be fair: Bergman can be excused on Anxiety of Influence grounds. You, sir, cannot.

Perhaps you think "Persuasion" needs more belly laughs, like "Love and Freindship" . . .

Lucius said...

As to our explicator/defender of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (who may, for all I know, be the same person):

This is a valiant effort, but all I can say is: if Doniphon were so noble-manly in the Western Code Way, he could've got off his ass, showed Valance the door instead of letting him walk all over Vera Miles' hardscrabble immigrant family, and stopped being such a vainglorious jerk.

Frankly, I'm not sure I buy this "shot in the side" stuff. And what if he did? A shot in the dark's a shot in the dark.

This "paradox" stuff about Ransom being a coward for *facing* Valance is mere sophistry; he's not just some damn "community organizer" here, he's practically Thomas Jefferson.

Think of that poor horsewhipped (pistolwhipped? I forget) newspaperman. Ransom inspired that poor drunk to make somethin of his life. This wasn't just Obama crap; he really gave these people courage.

And let us not forget: Vera Miles is freaking *waiting* for Doniphon to declare his intentions at the story's beginning!

I don't speak of Dorian Gray altogether idly. Is he an "Alpha male" or a proto-circuit queen?

He ain't even living quite alone out there, is he?

That he isn't subjected to a wrathful debunking in the film is itself enough to debunk the film: that ridiculous knife-twist of the "nothing's too good for" line is morally noxious, nihilist. Ransom worked his butt off like a George Washington, and he's supposed to hang his head like a clown while his woman, his whole world, is silently cheering for poor dumb dead Doniphon, who frankly never gave a damn for nobody.

tellemand said...

"As for Eddie Scissors, I could never stand it. It was "like 'kawaii gothic " Scissors looked like some meth junkie. And how does he wipe his ass?"

One wonders. Shudders. I did like the dinner scene with the family of the nice lady who tried to rescue Johnny Depp. I like the way he tried to spear the peas.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Michael Keaton?

After the second Batman movie he made that Multiplicity movie and then disappeared.

I liked him in the Batman movies and in Gung Ho, though he didn't seem like a very good actor. He always acted the same way, and when he tries to act serious he has this nervous and awkward demeanor.

Steve Sailer said...

"Well, okay, Steve, but is it a good movie? Are the jokes funny and does the acting work?"

If you liked Edward Scissorhands, you'll probably find this one about as good, but not as novel. If you found ES too novel in 1990, you might find this one less eccentric and more familiar. In other words, after all these Tim Burton movies, I don't think anyone comes to a Tim Burton movie as an objective Man from Mars without a personal history.

Steve Sailer said...

With the exception of "Ed Wood," which is the least Tim Burtonish of the Burton-Depp movies, Burton doesn't make extremely funny movies. Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango) gets more laughs out of Depp.

This new one is mildy funny, but The Avengers and The Dictator are funnier. But then, again, do you expect a Tim Burton movie to be a load of laughs?

Svigor said...

Edward Scissorhands was creepy. It's even ideologically creepy - how far can we push this "repulsiveness with a heart of gold" thing? Let's find out!

What's next? Joe Hypodermicpenis? He's a really wonderful person when you get to know him!

When you accept a libtard pet project, they'll just find something harder for you to accept, and push that next. It's all a game of "who don't like muh dik in the butta tray?"

As with children or sociopaths, it's best to just nip it right in the bud.

David said...

"Topaz" is a good film if you aren't told who directed it. "Frenzy" - let's just say the trailer is more entertaining than the film. "Family Plot" aspires to the level of "The Trouble with Harry" and misses. No question Hitch went a bit downhill after "Psycho" (age 60), and yet a big part of the problem was that he couldn't get the caliber of writers he had earlier.