The House


Anything But This

Crash

There are whispers that Paul Haggis' Crash might take Best Picture from Ang Lee's gentle-spirited presumptive frontrunner Brokeback Mountain. I really hope it doesn't, because if it does, I'll be so angry that I'll have to retire my long-term posture of benign condescension towards the Oscars and start hating them on general principle.

I realize the Academy has been making lot of wafer-bland Best Picture choices since the '90s (American Beauty, Shakespeare in Love, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago), honoring films that are slick and entertaining and perfunctorily "smart" but not the least bit resonant, films that don't hold a candle to at least 10 or 15 English language films from that same year that didn't win, and that certainly cannot stand proudly alongside such previous Best Picture winners as The Deer Hunter, All About Eve, On the Waterfront, Gone with the Wind, The Last Emperor, Amadeus, the first two Godfather movies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and even The Silence of the Lambs and on and on and on. But compared to Crash, the recent batch of Best Picture winners looks positively brilliant. If Haggis' movie wins, it won't just take home a statuette, it'll claim a new title: the most indefensible Best Picture winner since 1956's tax shelter spectacle Around the World in 80 Days.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: academy awards, ang lee, brendan fraser, brokeback mountain, crash, don cheadle, larenz tate, ludacris, matt dillon, michael peña, paul haggis, roger ebert, sandra bullock, spike lee, thandie newton, todd mccarthy


The Pink Panther

[Author's Note: Andrew Sarris once ended a review of the Russell Crowe-Meg Ryan kidnap drama Proof of Life by telling his readers, "See it. It's better than you've heard." I felt the same way about two mostly maligned Hollywood movies that opened this month, Firewall and The Pink Panther. A review of both movies follows, somewhat expanded from the version that appeared in the last issue of New York Press.]

Firewall and The Pink Panther pose the same problem for critics: how to resist writing knee-jerk pans of movies that look an awful lot like Hollywood Product, and that star aging icons who haven't connected with audiences in years?

On paper, both films seem like tempting targets. The kidnap thriller Firewall expects us to believe that 63-year old Harrison Ford, arguably the most underachieving A-list star in the history of American movies, and very much an emblem of mid-twentieth-century macho, is believable as an early 21st-century computer security expert and a settled-yet-virile husband to Virginia Madsen, who's 20 years his junior. Added to that, Firewall is yet another example of what I call a Business Class Thriller, tailor made to engross upper-middle-class dads who spend lots of time on airplanes. The hero is usually, and not at all coincidentally, a married forty or fiftysomething suburban dad who spends most of his time filing paperwork but can still kick ass when the occasion warrants, a role tailored for Harrison Ford. The Pink Panther, meanwhile, asks us not just to accept an actor besides Peter Sellers in the role of bumbling French inspector Jacques Clouseau, but to believe that star Steve Martin, whose career took a sharp left turn into New Yorker country about 15 years ago, can still work magic in the type of deranged slapstick romp that hasn't been central to his career since the early '90s. Both films seem like the sorts of films for which critics can start composing their pans en route to the screening room.

But there's a problem with this stock response: both Firewall and The Pink Panther are entertaining, well crafted, somewhat eccentric Hollywood movies.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: alan arkin, andrew sarris, anthony mann, beyoncé, budd boetticher, emily mortimer, firewall, harrison ford, jason statham, jean reno, joe forte, kevin kline, mary lynn raskjub, paul bettany, peter sellers, proof of life, richard loncraine, robert forster, shawn levy, steve martin, the pink panther, virginia madsen


To the Point

Liz and Monty Mark Twain once said, "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead." I wonder how much time gets spent on those loglines that describe movies in the little boxes on digital cable menu grids? I've become a bit of an aficionado of these bite-sized descriptions, and often find myself scrolling the menu not simply to see what's on but also to see what the logline writers said about it.

Descriptions generally don't exceed 25 words and often come in closer to 10. That's a tight window, so it's no wonder that logline writers would put functionality first. Yet the best still manage to suggest a point of view towards the material. War of the Roses, for instance, is described on my cable grid (Time Warner of Brooklyn) as, "Rich couple divorce, both get the house." The Turning Point is described as, "Aging ballerina and ex-rival bicker." The first description will tease a grin from anyone who knows what mayhem ensues after the Roses' divorce. The second description suggests thinly-veiled contempt, as if the writer is trying to warn potential viewers, "That's all there is to this movie."

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: a place in the sun, burt lancaster, clint eastwood, elizabeth taylor, mark twain, montgomery clift, the kentuckian, the outlaw josey wales, the turning point, walter matthau, war of the roses


5 for the Day: Branded

The Exorcist

The first "5 for the Day" in a while is a bit more loosely defined than previous ones, and more personal. This time I'm looking for movies or TV shows that contained scenes or images that branded themselves onto your imagination, disturbing or moving you and profoundly altering your view of entertainment and/or life. Interpret that however you wish.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: 5 for the day, benji, emmanuelle in bangkok, holocaust, superman the movie, the exorcist


Altman Weekend

Robert Altman

After being egged on by the proprietors of girish and Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule I'm calling for a blogathon on Robert Altman for March 3, in advance of his receiving an honorary Oscar on the evening of March 5. I am not 100 percent sure what I am going to write about yet, but I know in my bones that it would be a hell of a lot more fun, and way more Altmanesque, if other critical voices joined in on their own sites, creating a cacophony, so that critical monologues overlap and answer each other. (Sergio Leone's Altman celebration is already underway.)

Just pick a title or titles from Altman's filmography, or some other vaguely or tangentially Altmaesque topic, and weigh in. March 3 is the ideal deadline, to give people time to read and process what you've done. But the Altman spirit demands keeping things loose, so I'd say you could post as late as the evening of March 5, when the great man gets his statuette, finally. Just call it Altman Weekend.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: 24liesasecond, girish, robert altman, sergio leone and the infield fly rule, the evening class, the wit of the staircase


Seeing Red

Mission to Mars

The House Next Door's 02/18/06 interview with former Salon critic Charles Taylor inspired some of the most heated reactions of any article yet published here. A number of comments centered on Taylor's defense of Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars, a sci-fi epic that has proved surprisingly divisive for such a gentle movie. To build on that discussion, I've culled a representative selection of reviews, arranged in a spectrum from pans to raves.

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon: "I'm something of an agnostic when it comes to De Palma, but he's unquestionably a director of consummate style and skill, one whose most popular films—from Carrie to Scarface to The Untouchables—have become tremendously influential in contemporary cinema. Sometimes his cannily constructed thrillers (like Dressed to Kill or Blow Out) have struck me as soulless, even sadistic, technical exercises, slavishly devoted to the gospel of Alfred Hitchcock. But one thing De Palma has never been, until now, is a crashing bore."

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: andrew o'hehir, brian de palma, charles taylor, david edelstein, david sterritt, elvis mitchell, giuseppe puccio, j. hoberman, margaret a. mcgurk, mission to mars, ray greene, ray sawhill, roger ebert, wesley morris


[Editor's Note: Today The House Next Door publishes its first piece by a guest contributor, Jeremiah Kipp, whose writing on movies has appeared in Slant Magazine, Filmmaker, Fangoria and other publications. Kipp interviewed Charles Taylor, an influential and compulsively readable film critic for Salon, after he was fired from the online magazine last year. He can now be read in the New York Times, the New York Observer and my home, the Star-Ledger, where he writes a monthly pop culture column called "High and Low." A transcript of their conversation follows.]

Charles Taylor Charles Taylor was dismissed from his duties as a Salon critic in February, 2005. At the time, Salon editor Joan Walsh chalked up the decision to simple economics: their publication had just 22 editorial employees and could not justify employing three film critics. This was disappointing news for regular Salon subscribers and a harbinger of declining standards. Although Taylor's colleagues Stephanie Zacharek and Andrew O'Hehir continue to offer insightful cultural analysis and film criticism, a casual perusal of Salon post-Taylor reveals feature articles that are elaborately disguised press releases pandering to the studios. Gossip, box office reports and hype don't address whether a film has merit as art or entertainment. The latter was Taylor's specialty; he called it like he saw it, often employing the sorts of provocative turns of phrase that spark arguments in parking lots.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: andrew o'hehir, andrew sarris, bill clinton, brian de palma, charles taylor, clint eastwood, david talbot, deeper into movies, dwight garner, fahrenheit 911, joan walsh, joyce millman, laura miller, mccabe & mrs. miller, million dollar baby, mission to mars, pauline kael, robert altman, salon, stephanie zacharek, suzy hansen, terrence malick, the thin red line, tropical malady


Neil Young: Heart of Gold

Jonathan Demme's Heart of Gold, a concert film starring Neil Young, is not just a record of a performance, it's an example of great filmmaking at its most direct. It encourages you not just to contemplate Neil Young, the man and the musician, and connect his music with his life, but also to think about art and what it means to be an artist while admiring a brilliant movie's crystalline construction.

Shot in 2005 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, just five months after Young survived an operation to neutralize a potentially fatal brain anyeurism, Heart of Gold features Young, his backup band, his regular collaborator Emmylou Harris, a horn section, a string section and a gospel choir. The set list is broken cleanly in two. Part One is a live performance of Young's biographical concept album Prairie Wind, the third panel in a series of albums that also includes 1972's Harvest and his 20-years-later followup Harvest Moon. Part Two cherry picks songs from earlier in Young's career. The juxtaposition of older and new material prompts the viewer to realize, with delight, how much of Young's output seems to be told from the perspective of an older man looking back on life or a younger man looking forward to wisdom.

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: andy keir, crazy horse, danny whitten, ellen kuras, jonathan demme, keith uhlich, michael zansky, neil young, neil young heart of gold, stop making sense, storefront hitchcock, swimming to cambodia


Ride Lonesome

Brokeback Mountain Whether or not you love it as a movie, the financial success of Brokeback Mountain undeniably represents a sea change in mainstream acceptance of homosexuality, as least as enacted on movie screens by handsome young stars in denim. But actor and comedian Jerome Cleary isn't too impressed with the accolades that have been heaped on costars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. In his editorial "Hollywood's Straight Jacket," posted on The Advocate's web site, Cleary expresses discomfort with the idea that we should applaud straight actors for convincingly playing gay people when homosexual actors playing straight have not only gone largely unrewarded over the decades, but have had to pull off their alchemy in secret, so as not to let a hostile public know they were gay in the first place. Cleary asks:

More >>

  • print
  • email

TAGS: brokeback mountain, heath ledger, jake gyllenhaal, jerome cleary, michelle williams, the advocate


That’s the Spirit

Quatre Etoiles (Four Stars)

I've enjoyed David D'Arcy's GreenCine Daily dispatches from Berlinale, particularly today's entry, which included the following bit of gentlemanly pugnacity:

"The other French film that I enjoyed against all my expectations was Quatre Etoiles (Four Stars), a grifter farce by Christian Vincent that takes its title from its setting, the Carlton Hotel in Cannes. My friends sneered at me when I even mentioned the film. It's not the first time they've been wrong, and it won't be the last."

  • print
  • email

TAGS: berlinale, christian vincent, david d arcy, greencine daily, quatre etoiles







The HouseCategories



The HouseThe Attic

More »



Site by  Docent Solutions