Sunday, January 27, 2008

Well, the awards were announced last night at the Sundance Film Festival. In fact, one of the big events this week at the Sundance Film Festival was the so-called reunion of the New Queer Cinema: B. Ruby Rich was joined by Gregg Araki, Isaac Julien, Bruce LaBruce and Tom Kalin (as well as Marcus Hu, Tilda Swinton, etc.)... but when i looked at the photos posted on IndieWire, my immediate thought was "What happened?" Quite frankly, everyone was looking middle-aged! When did that happen? Of course, i'm middle-aged now, too, so what did i expect? When was the last time i actually saw Bruce LaBruce? Maybe ten years ago? Maybe more?

As usual, there's a disconnect at Sundance: every report i read (including Manohla Dargis's wrapup in the NY Times) mentioned Aza Jacobs's "Momma's Man", but almost every mention noted that it was the kind of movie likely to fly under the radar of most distributors. Most of the reports did mention Jonathan Levine's "The Wackness" (which wound up winning the audience award for best narrative feature), but i don't recall reading anything about Courtney Hunt's "Frozen River" (which won the grand jury prize for best narrative feature).

Can't believe it: the Miss America pageant happened last night on The Learning Channel but it went over without any real to-do. And we didn't watch it. We didn't even know it was on. That certainly shows the changes in American culture. The Miss America pageant was one of the biggest television events of the year, and was so for over 40 years. It was big news: the winner was always given the front page on every paper around the country.

This talk of the (now dated) New Queer Cinema (i remember when "post-modern" dance was called "New Dance"; David Gordon joked that, now that it's been labelled "New Dance", what happens next? "Newer Dance? Newest Dance? No Dance At All?") doesn't really go into the theoretical/practical rationale for those films... which i should know, since i was there. But it's like the AIDS play template: it's already passed and people have moved on, and are now doing "other" work (Gregg with "Smiley Face", Tom with "Savage Grace", Todd with "I'm Not There"), that is, work without explicit gay content.

Oh, yes: i wanted to mention that on their blogs, Carrie Rickey ( and Joe Baltake ( have had some lively exchanges, but i've noticed how sometimes these exchanges can get hijacked. That seems to happen a lot on Dave Kehr's blog ( Usually, Dave will start out with a link to his weekly DVD column in the NY Times and then make some comment. Sometimes, it's a comment that furthers his review of a particular DVD, at other times, it's a comment on some film that has opened, etc. For example, there was the week when he reviewed the new Twin Peaks boxset, as well as the Facets DVD of a "minor" Bunuel film, "A Woman Without Love". He then commented on how the Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men" had won some of the critics awards, and he explained his antipathy towards that film. Well: once he wrote that, no comments at all about David Lynch or Bunuel, but over 30 comments arguing the merits of the Coens! And people went on and on and on. And Dave finally got tired of these harangues. And said so. And then people wrote in to castigate him some more.

It's like: enough! Most critics are NOT like me (decades ago, when we were sitting at the office of the old Anthology Film Archives when it was located at the Public Theater, i was talking with Linda Patton and Callie Angell, and i was saying how "Faces" was an interesting movie - Linda had declared that Cassavetes was so "commercial", don't you love it, there was a time when Cassavetes could seem commercial to those of us in the avantgarde? - and then i defended Harry Smith's work, i especially loved "Early Abstractions", and Linda and Callie finally just looked at me, and Linda said, "Oh, Daryl, you're just so... generous!" and Callie said, "You always try to find something to like in almost every movie!" Which i still do. Of course, i admit defeat: i sat through "Little Miss Sunshine" and all i could see was commercial calculation and clever engineering; i never could find that much to admire in Ken Russell's movies - though i have to say that i did catch his version of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" on cable TV a few years ago, and i thought it was really splendid, and Joely Richardson was spectacular, and that film seemed truer to Lawrence than Pascale Ferran's lovely but rather decorous new version; and i'm not that much of a fan of the Coens, though "No Country For Old Men" is very well-crafted, because even when they did "Miller's Crossing" and "Barton Fink" there were bloppers that made it seemed as if amateurishness was the aim), and that's the point: if they didn't have a point of view, they wouldn't be critics.

But one thing i've noticed is that... well, one thing is the rudeness of the internet. On so many message boards, people are just so rude. They won't let people have another opinion. I know that Derek Yip (on his blog) noted that he went to see "Juno" and he didn't mind it. When i went to the preview for "Juno", i felt the same way. It was just as engineered as any old Hollywood comedy, and equally unreal, but i didn't mind it, for some reason, it didn't irk me the way "Little Miss Sunshine" did. But now, it's not some "little" movie, it's well on its way to hitting the $100 million mark in domestic box office alone. And the backlash has begun. Big time. And that's ok, too. (It's funny to see "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" constantly being used as the anti-"Juno" in so many of the reviews of the Roumanian movie.) But a few weeks ago, the height of rudeness: someone on one of the boards i frequent to pass the time wrote, is he the only fanboy of Rene Clair? So i wrote that i loved Clair's work, he was one of the most elegant directors of all time... and i was answered with a tirade on how i was an idiot, using words like "elegant" and "well-crafted" and "comic timing" and how i was useless and stupid, and how i didn't have the intelligence to understand Clair, etc. So i simply deleted my post, and yes, that idiot is the only "fanboy" of Rene Clair, because he's such a rude moron.


Blogger Michael in New York said...

Oh yeah? Well, screw you! Just kidding. The internet does encourage vitriol the way talk radio does with even more anonymity and the bonus feature of EVERYONE being able to weigh in on the comments without having to make it past the screeners. I'm not much for slamming movies I don't like, even something like Crash which I really disliked immensely because obviously it was a labor of love and the people who made it had good intentions, I just didn't think they succeeded and whatever you thought of Brokeback Mountain it would clearly have been a better Oscar winner than Crash, which already seems like a mistake but I don't mean to be mean. I'd rather go to a festival and talk about the movies I liked rather than the movies I didn't. I risk being tagged a fool for not caring for Godard but in my defense every year or so when I feel I'm ready I go see another one of his movies with the hope that I'll like it. I don't, but hey, I want to like movies I see. If I'm not thrilled with an "important" film, my inclination is to give it another try once some time has passed. Maybe i"ll be in a more receptive mood. On the other hand, I don't need to see Crash again. I don't suspect anything about it wlll improve with time for me. But when I heard it was being turned into a TV series for Starz cable channel, i initially laughed but who knows? It wouldn't be the first movie to be improved when it was turned into a TV show. And who doesn't like Rene Clair?

12:02 AM


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