The House


And Away We Go

Hustle and Flow

Oscar nominations were announced this morning. Post your comments below. Knee-jerk responses:

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TAGS: amy adams, brokeback mountain, capote, cinderella man, dan futterman, diana ossana, hustle and flow, jake gyllenhaal, junebug, keira knightley, larry mcmurtry, munich, paul giamatti, pride and prejudice, terrence howard, the new world


Countless emails and messages were circulated throughout the arduous selection process of Slant's 100 Greatest Dance Songs list. The emails were mostly informative and insightful, sometimes infuriating and self-important, but almost always funny as shit…at least to us. We've picked out the best ones for your reading pleasure:

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TAGS: 100 greatest dance songs, armond white, donna summer, house, madonna


Top Gun In Part 1 of our interview with Alonso Duralde, arts and entertainment editor for The Advocate and author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men, Alonso analyzed the gay subtext of Carrie, conceded that he might consider jumping the fence for Gina Gershon and said Brokeback Mountain had the potential to be the Uncle Tom's Cabin of homophobia. In Part 2, he praises The Apple, defends Kevin Smith and Chasing Amy, and explains why Top Gun isn't in his book.

Matt Zoller Seitz: Purely on a synopsis level, I'd imagine there was no way you could have excluded Gods and Monsters. But that movie was troublesome for some viewers, particularly young gay men who came of age in the era of AIDS activism. I personally know two gay film critics who despised that film because to them, James Whale represented sort of a worst-case-scenario gay artist, the broken down old queen lusting after the hunky young straight handyman. For all the film's intelligence and period sophistication, doesn't Whale's character seem like a gay white equivalent of Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy? By which I mean, a representative of a particular type of man who irrefutably existed, and continues to exist, but who makes the supposedly "enlightened" world more uncomfortable by the year?

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TAGS: albert maysles, alonso duralde, chasing amy, david maysles, gods and monsters, grey gardens, i have heard the mermaids singing, james whale, jersey girl, kevin smith, patricia rozema, quentin tarantino, the apple, top gun


One "World"

The New World

I'm going to take a chance here and guess that if you're reading this blog, you're either not totally sick of hearing about The New World or else you're visiting for the first time and have yet to realize that you've stumbled into a hotbed of Terrence Malick fanaticism (and a fair amount of heated dissent, let's not forget). I haven't posted anything new on this masterpiece in ages—five whole days, as a matter of fact!—but this gigantic sailing ship of a movie just keeps gathering wind speed as more and more people discover or rediscover its majesty. For now I urge you to check out Friday's posting on the Reverse Shot blog, where Robbiefreeling beats the drum for Malick one more time. This particular cause has maunevered them, me, Philadelphia Weekly critic Sean Burns, Philadelphia City Paper critic Sam Adams, New York Magazine's Bilge Ebiri, Los Angeles Times critic Corina Chocano, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, Armond White, much of Slant Magazine, most of the critics who post on The House Next Door, much of the Cinemarati circle, and many other critical sources who almost never agree on anything into the same camp, where they now find themselves speaking with a more or less united voice—an urgent, idealistic voice, the likes of which has not been heard in America for some time.

Malick awakened this goodhearted beast. As I keep saying, The New World is not merely a movie, but a generation-defining event, and perhaps a decisive moment for Hollywood cinema. To continue to praise it (or knock it, or just talk about it) is to pour more fuel on pop art's long-smoldering fire. To buy a ticket is to express faith in the notion that the phrase "blockbuster art" need not be an oxymoron. Go see it; and if you've seen it, see it again. It's money well-spent.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.

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TAGS: armond white, bilge ebiri, corina chocano, manohla dargis, reverse shot, robbiefreeling, sam adams, sean burns, terrence malick, the new world


The News You Need

Ted Koppel's post-Nightline career has barely started, and already it's shaping up to be as valuable as the one he left behind. At the Television Critics' Association press tour in Pasadena this month, where Koppel and ex-Nightline producer Tom Bettag promoted Koppel's deal to make stand-alone documentaries for Discovery Channel, the longtime ABC newsman sloughed off the network-imposed vow of silence he'd taken for years and talked shop, affording the rest of us an intriguing glimpse of hard TV news realities as seen from the inside. (For an account of Koppel and Bettag's comments, click here and scroll all the way to the bottom.)

As it turns out, that appearance was sort of a preview of Koppel's other new role as a Sunday columnist for the New York Times, which began today. I'm not aware of any promise by Koppel to focus his column on TV news exclusively, but wouldn't object if he did; his first column, titled "And Now, a Word for Our Demographic," paints a portrait of TV news' confusions and weaknesses that you have probably read elsewhere, but with a sense of first-person professional authority that's badly needed right now.

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TAGS: anderson cooper, bill o'reilly, bob woodruff, keith olbermann, nightline, sean hannity, ted koppel, the new york times, tom bettag, world news tonight


Alonso Duralde is the arts and entertainment editor of The Advocate, a longtime friend and one my favorite people to argue with. His first book, 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men, is not a straightforward grab-bag of expected high points, but something more complicated and fun: an elliptical history book, recounting fifty-odd years of queer and queerish cinema in the form of movie titles and fan's notes. Affectionate sketches of everything from The Apple and Bear Cub to Xanadu and Zero Patience nestle comfortably alongside personal anecdotes, appreciations and must-memorize snippets of dialogue. On top of that, Alonso is just flat-out fun to read. His bulldog eloquence inspires me. I invited Alonso to discuss his book at The House Next Door. Excerpts will be posted in two parts this weekend. Part 1 is below.

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TAGS: 101 must-see movies for gay men, alonso duralde, ang lee, basic instinct, bear cub, brokeback mountain, miguel abaladejo, paul verhoeven, showgirls, the advocate


Whassup, Witch?

Witch Mountain

When you think of Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain, do you think of Thomas Pynchon and Thomas Mann? Then you'd better read this PopMatters article by Michael Ward. It's the most surprising piece of autobiographically-fueled criticism I've come across in a while. Fun, too.

I'm not so enthused about Jonathan Rosenbaum's year-end wrapup declaring The World the best film of the last two years. Rosenbaum's in my pantheon of major film critics, but his what-the-fuck unpredictability sometimes verges on M. Night Shyamalan country. I admired The World and saw what it was trying to do, but thought it would have worked better as either a documentary or a Robert Altman picture (which it clearly aspired to be). Less a coherent statement or even a coherent tale than a series of tableaus illustrating a political/economic thesis; great for folks who wrote dissertations on simulacra, I guess, but in the end, more heady than artful, more ambitious than fullfilling. Good but overrated. Definitely a Village Voice movie.

That said, I am amused by the fact that when I posted this item, Rosenbaum's web page was sponsored by Mancow.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.

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TAGS: escape to witch mountain, jonathan rosenbaum, m. night shyamalan, michael ward, popmatters, return from witch mountain, the village voice, the world, thomas mann, thomas pynchon


Talking Back to DocumentariesWhy is it so hard to make myself write an appreciation of Christopher Penn? Because I know that on my best day, I can't convey one hundreth of his roiling, unstable excitement.

Chris Penn was a human hand grenade who lived to pull his own pin. He scared the shit out of me. He was on a short list of great contemporary character actors (Keitel, Walken, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Jason Leigh) who truly seemed capable of anything. It's always easier to write an appreciation of someone who makes you feel good. Chris Penn was a great actor—a vital and important actor—but I suspect he'd have been the first to admit that generating warm and fuzzy feelings didn't rank very high on his "To Do" list.

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TAGS: at close range, chris penn, david mamet, fast times at ridgemont hight, footloose, jennifer jason leigh, mulholland falls, r.i.p., reservoir dogs, sean penn, short cuts, the funeral, the wild life, true and false, true romance


Just Beautiful

The New WorldOn the desk beside my keyboard lies one of my most prized possessions: a ticket stub from the January 21, 9:30 p.m. showing of The New World at BAM-Rose Cinemas in downtown Brooklyn.

At this showing of this movie, at this time on this day, in this theater, in this borough of this city, I bore witness to American commercial cinema's ability to astound, move and inspire masses of people—an ability that reached its fullest realization during the heyday of the blockbuster art film, the 1970s, but has rarely been exercised since.

The history of American studio blockbusters includes a handful of indisputable high watermarks, moments when entertainment and art merged to create not just a hit, but an origin point for new ways of thinking about, and making, popular cinema; a rallying point for anyone who still believes in the blockbuster's ability—and responsibility—to deliver more than escapism; a secular house of worship for anyone who prizes ambition, mystery, and beauty over familiarity and neatness; a transformative experience that can be had for the price of a movie ticket, and that anyone who ever called him or herself a movie lover must seize now, or forever regret having missed.

The New World is a new watermark. It is a $50 million epic poem made with Time Warner's money; it is an American creation myth that recontextualizes our past, present and future as fable, as opera, as verse. It is this era's 2001: A Space Odyssey—a musical-philosophical-pictorial charting of history's slipstream and the individual's role within it.

It is nothing less than a generation-defining event.

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TAGS: 2001: a space odyssey, 2046, a history of violence, apocalypse now, badlands, bam, brokeback mountain, cache, das rheingold, hiroshima mon amour, john smith, munich, pocahantas, ralph waldo emerson, richard wagner, terrence malick, the new world, the thin red line, willa cather, wings of desire


On the Horizon

Ducks and Fireworks

First off, apologies; this is the longest I've gone without a new post since opening The House Next Door on New Year's Day. But the subject is The New World, so I've been taking my time with it. I expect to post a draft sometime today. I thank you for your patience, and I look forward to your comments.

Matt Zoller Seitz is founder of The House Next Door.

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TAGS: the new world







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