Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The following conversation was held one week ago in response to B. McC's response to my listing of Crash as one of my 5 movies that just missed the cut (in which he referred to both All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of our Lives as "unwatchable")

--E-mail from B. MacK "Unwatchable?"
The only thing that's unwatchable is your face...okay that insult sucks, but still.

I just saw your response to one of my posts, and rather than argue with a post of yours (because I can't think of anything to argue with) I'll defend my own selections.

1st--No, we didn't see Crash together. And I think you're wrong, I think many people will remember Crash in twenty years, not for being groundbreaking (and for the record, there really are only about 30 movies that are groundbreaking and good, not everything can be a new and exciting form), but, as I said, because we like to look back at where we have been in terms of racial relations, I don't think that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is groundbreaking either, but what makes it stick is the subject matter, and great performances from three incredible actors, Crash doesn't have three great performances, to be fair it has about two above average ones (Dillon and Cheadle) and three or four middling to above middling ones (Ludacris (god that's embarrassing to write), Terrence Howard, Sandra Bullock).

2ndly-- "All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of Our Lives, are both unwatchable." What are you on? I love those movies. They aren't above 85 on my list, but they are on my list. I think they are, by far, among the best war movies I've seen. Platoon is better, yes, so is Saving Private Ryan and Patton is excellent. But at least All Quiet and the Best Years have some middle ground to claim, they aren't ham fisted odes to the glory of the soldier, they're often ham-fisted odes to the pains of the soldier, yes, but the moments of greatest tenderness (I'm thinking here of Myrna Loy's speech in "Best Years") more than make up for the overwrought sentimentality (and to be fair, when isn't Hollywood sentimentality overwrought?) (I'm mostly shocked because I would classify The Postman as unwatchable, I would classify Reindeer Games as unwatchable. All Quiet and Best Years of our Lives aren't superb, but they certainly aren't unwatchable)

Finally--As per your last question to me: "Hasn't Hollywood made 85 better than above average movies?" Yes, but not 85 better than above average movies that last. Do you think anyone in 10 years is going to remember In the Company of Men besides me? Do you think anyone does remember In the Company of Men besides me? Thank you for Smoking? Playing by Heart? 6 Degrees of Separation? Bamboozled (despite the craptastic Damon Wayans)? What's up Doc? There are these movies. These good, lovable, but in no way lasting movies. Perhaps my intial list was playing things a little too safely, but if one of the things we're thinking about is enjoyablity for the populace at large, I'm not so sure I've got a whole lot of movies to add on.

So perhaps I would do well to rephrase this tirade in terms of a question. At what point does a movie that you like, really, really like, become better than a movie that is embraced, adored and cited as a golden example of fine film making by 75% of the rest of the world. As a demonstration of this question Princess Bride V.s. Some Like it Hot: A movie we both love, versus a movie we both feel is vastly overrated. A movie that already has lasted 20 years among people who see it and love it versus a movie that has lasted 60 years on reputation alone. Any thoughts? (besides the fact that I'm a big tool who should be working on his lesson plans instead of opining on what is and is not Unwatchable?)

Chat transcript from the same morning--
9:54 AM me: See my e-mail punk?
9:55 AM Brent: yeah, i'm just starting to read it. this's the kind of fiery, hate-filled response we need on the actual blog
me: I aim to be fiery and hate-filled.
9:57 AM Brent: okay, just finished reading your email
(you should post it on the site, by the way, if only to show that we're reading and responding to this stuff.)
9:58 AM anyway, as for unwatchableness--i don't know, movies with egregious sentimentality just bore me to no end. i'd rather even watch out-and-out bad movies, i think.
9:59 AM me: Really?
Well...I can see that.
I suppose for me sentimentality isn't as much a fault as gratuitous lionizing.
10:00 AM Tears over cheers (I was going to right tears over flags, but I thought I should go for the rhyme).
Brent: but, yeah, i don't know about the list. i mean, how can i make a list that's the 100 greatest movies of all time and not include the 100 movies i like best? what would be the point of doing it any other way? any other way, you just go, "well, everyone seems to like 2001: a space odyssey and it's endured for forty years. let's put that around number three." you know?
10:01 AM i mean, this list HAS to be subjective--not based on reputation. and, yes, "tears over cheers" is much better. always go for the rhyme!
me: I can see that. I just wonder about my own taste in these sorts of things.
10:02 AM I like Playing by heart. A movie that is not enjoyed by anyone other than me and one ex-girlfriend. What the hell do you do with that?
Brent: i think you've got pretty great taste
i think i do too
and even if we don't, if we're not willing to stick up for movies we like better than other movies, what're we doing?
10:03 AM then every movie you watch, you're just going, "i like this, yeah, but i'd better see what roger ebert or joel siegel said about it before i can fully enjoy it."
10:04 AM me: Fair point.
I can agree to that in terms of list making
After all, it's not like this is being seen by anyone other than us, now is it?
Brent: right, exactly. i think two and ONLY two people are reading this blog
10:06 AM i think the reason that critics' lists are useful is that they give you a starting point. if 98 percent of critics on rotten tomatoes like a movie, you at least know that movie probably won't suck. and, with very few exceptions, if a movie made afi's list of the 400 greatest american movies, you know it probably won't suck either.
10:07 AM (i will concede, as long as we're talking about the blog, that "all quiet on the western front" isn't unwatchable. long stretches of it are actually pretty great
10:08 AM i couldn't get through "the best years of our lives," though, i really couldn't
me: You just don't know the value of Myrna Loy do you?
Just fast forward through the stuff with young people.
Brent: no, i do, i do. and i know she's from montana and all that stuff.
me: It's all about Myrna and Fred Marsch.
Brent: it's just that i had to sift through so much nonsense to get to her
10:09 AM me: Fast forward, it's like reading the action of Scarlett Letter and nothing about "the custom's house."
Brent: i also watched it right around the time i'd watched both "mrs. miniver" and "how green was my valley," so i was feeling pretty pessimistic about the film industry as a whole
me: That would do it to you, yeah.
Give it another try and avoid the younguns.
10:10 AM Brent: have you seen those movies? now those movies, those movies are unbearable
me: I think I made it through 10 minutes of How Green was My Valley.
That was enough.
Brent: i will. i'll give it another try. that's how much faith i have in your putatively bad taste
me: I've got to go teach "To the Virgins is to make much of Time"
Thank you for trusting my putatively bad taste.
Brent: sounds hot
me: It's nice to know you'v egot friends.
10:11 AM Brent: i wish i could teach my class about virgins
me: I'm pretty sure my teaching will involve surviving the gales of giggles from 11th grade boys.
But you don't have any virgins left is that what you're saying?
Brent: precisely
me: I will include more of my favorites and less of the stuff I grudgingly let on.
But just know that it will include a Jason Lee movie.
10:12 AM Brent: that's totally cool. i'll have some dubious stuff, too, plenty of it
if they were american, i'd probably include three pink panthers
me: I've got the Lion in Winter based on Katherine Hepburn alone.
Brent: i've never seen it all the way through
10:13 AM just bits here and there
me: Peter O'Toole baby! Peter O'Toole.

And on that note...Peter O'Toole to all y'all fools.

The Rube

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