Film Critics: Michael Medved

Even before he 'came out' as a Right Wing shill, Medved's criticism of films was always less focused on the thing itself; especially compared to his on air tv partner, Jeffrey Lyons.

Why people feel they need to be so didactic in criticism of things outside of the art they are ostensibly reviewing always says more of the critic than the art.

Here is Medved in full political idiocy, denying the genocide of American Indians:

Ten Lies About America - CBN.com - Celebrity bloopers here

What's amazing is that folk like Pat Robertson would, if they had their druthers, just as soon be rid of Jews like Medved; yet still Medved tries to 'assimilate.'

Three Monkeys (Take Three)

Ok, so I got around to seeing the film- a bit of a disappointment. Visually, Ceylan continues to improve, but storywise, this is a second rate soap opera, and a bit too moralistic.

I wrote of it here, and will have a forthcoming review, but overall, a disappointment.


Film Critics: Manny Farber

No video exists for this critic:

But, he once uttered this inanity, that the role of evaluation in criticism is ‘practically worthless. The last thing I want to know is whether you like it or not; the problems of writing are after that. I don’t think it has any importance. It’s one of those derelict appendages of criticism. Criticism has nothing to do with hierarchies.'

1) he still shows that he thinks of criticism on a like/dislike axis rather than a good/bad one.
2) without hierarchies, there can be no good nor bad. Things HAVE to be better or worse than something else, lest it's all gray sludge.

These sorts of attitudes are why criticism (and especially film criticism) has yet to have a great practitioner- at least one in print.


Film Critics: Pauline Kael

Yes, she's dead, but her dreck lives on. Just look at all these pithy, stolid, and dull reviews, from a woman who bragged she never saw a film twice. It's arguable whether she saw many of them even once since her comments are often at odds with reality.

Here is the woman:

If some of the other critics I've mentioned are Lowest Common Denominator, Kael is overblown, didactic trash.

What say you?


Film Critics: Leonard Maltin

Ok, if Jeffrey Lyons (see last post) is a typical example of Ray Carney's claim about almost all film critics buying into Hollywood's Lowest Common Denominator, then Leonard Maltin may be the emblem of that LCD! Granted, he seems like a nice guy, and he's not as obnoxious as a Michael Medved, but Jeez, is he LCD or what?

Here he 'interviews' Ebert:

I have to say it saddens me to see Ebert in such Stephen Hawking-like shape, but he's made millions doing what he loves to do, so he cannot have many regrets. As for Maltin? Reading his film review books is painful. He's not a good writer, and he makes Ebert look like an Auteurist by comparison. Oh well, he's still a nice guy, right?


Film Critics: Jeffrey Lyons

Jeffrey Lyons was one of the big tv-based film critics in NYC (Channel 11, WPIX), when I grew up in the 1970s. Over the years, though, I noticed that he's gotten more and more Lowest Common Denominator.

Here's his typical sort of tv gig, pimping bad movies:

Film critic Ray Carney has basically declared that critics that kow tow to Hollywood are always (whether giving a positive or negative review) part of the system. This includes not giving spoilers, etc., as if the end all and be all is to sell the art, rather than make good art.

Lyons seems to be a classic (if not the worst) example of Carney's Dictum.


Dark City

Ok, since I'm interviewing Lem Dobbs for later on in the Dan Schneider Interviews, and I mentioned The Limey, here's the trailer for his other great film:

Roger Ebert called it 1998's best film. That's tough to swallow, with Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line around, but this film is everything crap like Blade Runner wanted to be.


Three Monkeys Redux

Ok, I got the DVD of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest and will watch it this week.

He, like Bela Tarr, seems to get better with each film, so here's to trends.

And here's the trailer:


The Limey

Rewatched this last night- it's Steven Soderbergh's best film, easily.

Also, it has an asskicking Terence Stamp.

Oh, and I'm gonna be interviewing the film's screenwriter, Lem Dobbs, who also penned Dark City. Two great films, and the guy's not afraid to opine- should be good!


New Star Trek Film

Here are some trailers:

Ok. It's clearly more in the vein of a Michael Bay film than the classic Star Trek ethos. Also, director J.J. Abrams was a Star Wars, not a Star Trek, fan; and also brought such tv schlock as Felicity, Alias, and Lost into culture. On the other hand, the Star Trek franchise has never lived up to the original series (in sequel series or films). So, a dying franchise and a schlock tv hack- could they somehow alchemically be good?

The War Game

A terrific mockumentary-cum-documentary, directed by Peter Watkins.

It was banned in the U.K. for 2 decades by the BBC, for its depiction of a possible Soviet nuclear strike in Great Britain.

I'll have a full review in the future.

Film Critics: KennethTuran

Don't know if this is from a tv show or not, but Turan lacks the presence of an Ebert or others. I wonder when the LA Times folds, will he be considered just another critic? Overall, not the worst critic, but there's little that distinguishes him from the Internet pack. Roger Ebert has a way with words, even if lacking in greater critical skills. Turan is critically at Ebert's level, but makes no magic with words.

I'll explore some critics with videos. Wherefore Turan?


Fuck Star Wars!

Ming the Merciless.

As a child I recall my dad telling me of the ultimate baddy from his fave serial of all time, the original Flash Gordon from 1936, starring Olympic swimming hero Buster Crabbe.

See a clip:

These serials- Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers (also with Crabbe), The Phantom Menace, and many more) were not only staples of movie theaters in the 1930s and 1940s, but of early morning public television on weekends in 1960s and 1970s New York City. Watch any one of them, and they are so much more inventive and operatic than the lame shit that was Star Wars. Toss in the Yellow Peril meme, and fun galore. And, interestingly, George Lucas touted his crap (a blatant ripoff of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books) as being more realistic than these serials because of the then state of the art special effects. Yet, if one looks at the original 1970s effects, they are as badly dated as these are, but they don't have the fun stories and 15 minute episode structure to fall back on.

This was essential storytelling, something modern cinema lacks. Is it any wonder that Lucas keeps revising his older films, mostly with updated special effects? Why? Because the actual story sucks ass! Charles Middleton, however, as Ming, kicked ass!


The Sound Of Music

I've never been a musical fan, but it was either The Sound Of Music or You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, which was the first movie I ever saw on a big screen. The Ten Commandments may have been #1 ever (on tv, for Easter).

Either way, I saw both at Radio City Music Hall, and the sight of Julie Andrews' face so huge, pretty, and letting out such lovely sound, has always stuck with me. Aside from It's A Wonderful Life, this is the ultimate holiday film.

Herein some lyrics:

Herein the scene of Andrews, at the start of the trailer; now imagine you are about 3 or 4, at the 5th Anniversary re-release, and seeing this 40 feet high, in surround sound:

Good stuff.


Kar-Wai's "In The Mood for Love"

I can hardly think of any Far-Eastern movie maker obsessed with the 60's and the Western (European/American) music of that period like Kar-Wai. His unrealistic stylish camera work and perfect staging capture those days as dream-like moments. In The Mood For Love (2000) centers a trilogy that started with Days of Being Wild (1991) and ended by the troubled 2046 (2004).
Kar-Wai is a good story teller, he doesn't claim any depth more than that. Though from Hong Kong, his movies are famous in the States and Europe: First, they are beautiful to watch; Second: they're love stories, troubled youth...etc, Third: beautiful musical scores. As expected, When Kar-Wai escaped narrative linearity in his 2046, his popularity dropped, yet his style and his movie making remained distinguished. His use of musical motifs is essential, you'll know a character is going to be in frame when his/her specific motif plays... interestingly, the music also play when he/she is "expected" to be there... or just "missed" by somebody.
His camera is mostly static in-doors, mid-low angle (hence mostly framing people's wastes and trunks), outdoors he take more liberty and uses distant tracking shots and open spaces, he likes framing (doors, windows, angles, corners....)

Kar-Wai is famous for purposley re-casting his leads in very similar roles and situations, creating a feel of circularity, continuation... 2046 continues the story of In The Mood For Love, but also intersects loosely with many of his previous leads and movies.

I personally LIKE this trilogy (especially the last two), and whenever I feel like watching and listening to something beautiful, and witnessing nostalgia... I play it... no more than once a year or so, the Criterion double-DVD (for In The Mood for Love) box isn't bad at all.

He is interesting to know his work, he is the least chinese director I saw so far since he moved to Hong-Kong when he was only 5 (as compared to Zhang's Raise The Red Lantern for example)

that's the US trailer
the famous recurrent Yumeji's theme (for the female protagonist), and another collection of themes from the movie.



Miklos Jancso

Have heard that he is a big influence on Bela Tarr, and this is one of three DVDs of his I recently got. I must say, in the few scenes you can find online, I don't see much of a connecting thread.

Here is a clip from his most famous film:

We'll see.


My Dinner With Andre

Found out not long ago that My Dinner With Andre, by Louis Malle, was finally gonna get The Criterion Collection release it deserves, this summer. As a pre-reviewer for some of their titles, I hope I make the list to get a free pre-release copy. If not I'll get it anyway.

Along with Chris Marker's La Jetee and Bela Tarr's Satantango, this film pushes huge cinematic boundaries. Marker's film uses still photos that seem to move in recall, Tarr's film uses super long shots that seem to condense the seven hour film down to the length of a standard release, in recall, and Malle's film is all spoke about a restaurant table, but, in recall, one can 'see' the scenes that are only described. A marvelous film, and one of the best screenplays ever written.

Here are three great 'scenes' from this film:

Terrific writing.



I washed my floors this weekend (my 'interiors' rather) and what else was there for me to do, other than to rewatch Interiors the film for like the 500th time while they dried? Alright, bad pun and joke, but it is one of my faves, even though it's about a dour group of spoiled WASPs who create their own problems.

Above you have Diane Keaton looking dismal. Anthony has written about it here, where he also notes: "And though I am not that sympathetic on my blog to those who lack talent and pump the world full of bad art, I thought the film did a good job of depicting these people who have strong feelings but no talent with which to manipulate those feelings into something artistic."

The film is beautiful to look at, and the dialogue great. It's one of my favorite films of all time and I usually watch it at least twice a year. Also, this stars the great Geraldine Page who also starred in The Trip To Bountiful, and it's hard to believe they're the same actress. That's what great actors do. Both performances are superb. She's great as the cold and repressed Eve, and also the warm and positive Carrie, in The Trip To Bountiful. I encourage everyone to watch both.

I also must add--the sign of a great actor is when you can't imagine how multiple characters played by that actor could even be in the same room together. Imagine Eve and Carrie hanging out? Don't think so. Here is the trailer:

Hobson's Choice

A new review.

And a clip from this fine comedy by David Lean:



Enough with the good schlock, back to serious cinema. Ikiru is a masterful film by Akira Kurosawa.

Many film critics argue that Kurosawa's greatest films were his historical epics. While I've only watched about a third of the man's output, and while Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Kagemusha are certainly terrific films, Ikiru, The Bad Sleep Well, and High And Low, are even better.

The reason is that Kurosawa understood modern man better. Sometimes, even in his greatest historical films, characters would lapse into stereotypes, such as the hero, the villain, the anti-hero, and not converse nor relate to each other easily and naturally. That has never been a problem in the films I've seen of his set in 20th Century Japan.

Here is a trailer for Ikiru:


Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

This is my final schlock classic post tonight. It is of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, starring the timeless Pia Zadora, as a child.

It's arguable whether or not this children's film is as bad (or good bad) as the other films I've linked to- The Beast Of Yucca Flats, Robot Monster, and Plan 9 From Outer Space, but there's no doubt this film has the best scoring. Dog that catchy opening song, Hooray for Santy Claus

Here are the lyrics:

S-A-N-T-A, C-L-A-U-S
Hooray for Santy Claus!

You spell it S-A-N-T-A, C-L-A-U-S
Hooray for Santy Claus

Hooray for Santy Claus
Yay yay for Santy Claus
He's fat and round, but jumpin' jiminy
He can climb down any chiminy!
When we hear sleigh bells ring
Our hearts go ting-a-ling
'Cause there'll be presents under the tree
Hooray for Santy Claus!

Now all year long at the North Pole
He's busy making toys
But he knows just what you're doin'
So you better be good girls and boys!

Hang up that mistletoe
Soon you'll hear Ho Ho Ho
On Christmas Day, you'll wake up and you'll say
Hooray for Santy Claus!

Yay yay! Yay yay!
Yay yay! HOORAY!!!

Hang up that mistletoe
Soon you'll hear Ho Ho Ho
On Christmas Day, you'll wake up and you'll say
Hooray for Santy Claus!

S-A-N-T-A, C-L-A-U-S
Hooray for Santy Claus!

You spell it S-A-N-T-A, C-L-A-U-S
Hooray for Santy Claus!

Hoo-raaaaayy forrr Sannn-tyyyy Clauuuusss!

Hooray for Santy Claus!

Is it any wonder this is one of my most popular reviews of all time, nearing 17 million hits, as I type?

Here is the film:

Schlockfest '09! Perhaps the start of something big?

The Beast of Yucca Flats

Unlike Robot Monster or Plan 9 From Outer Space, this film (starring Plan 9's Tor Johnson), is not quite so bad as to be good.

Note the odd start to the film, and read here for more on it.

This film comes free of commentary


Robot Monster

Ok, like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Robot Monster is so bad it's good. My review explains why.

Unfortunately, like the Wood movie, the only full length version of the film currently online comes as part of a bad self-produced tv show. Oh well, skip the first few minutes, enjoy the good schlock, and avoid the bad.

Here 'tis:

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Ok, this is, by far, the most famous good bad movie of all time, from Ed Wood- the most famous good bad director of all time.

Here is a trailer:

Here is a collection of the best lines from this film:

Here is the full film, as part of an episode of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 knockoff. Unfortunately, there seems to be no full version, sans this commentary, online, or at least embeddable. Still, an interesting commentary:

Pretension is a killer in the arts. For all his crimes against cinema, no one could claim Wood was pretentious.

Anthony Zanetti should like this movie!

The Kid Stays In The Picture

One of the better documentaries of the last decade is The Kid Stays In The Picture.

It gives a good and inventive take on the life of movie mogul Bob Evans, of Paramount Pictures.

Here is a trailer:


Night Of The Living Dead

Ok, you just knew I had to add this freeby, eh?

Here it is:

Still the prime example of a great idea trumping limited budgets. Yes, the acting is hit and miss, but has there ever been a more symbolically political film (ok, maybe the original Planet Of The Apes, released in 1968, as well)?

I'll one day have to review the Millennium Edition of this classic film, but has there been a more analyzed film? Not even 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gone With The Wind, nor Citizen Kane likely equal all the ink spilled over this film.

Like 2001 (also a 1968 release), I saw this film for the first time about a decade after its initial release, and late at night. It really was scary. Granted, I was likely less scared than most kids my age were when they saw this, but that a film could scare me at all is a testament to its craft.

Unfortunately, while director George Romero made some interesting films throughout the 1970s and thru the early 1980s, the last 25 years have been a, ahum....Dead Zone.

This is his masterpiece, and likely a film that will still be watched centuries hence. Give it aanother go, or, if you are a Dead virgin, let it play out fully on you.


Unearthly Stranger

I'd mentioned this little gem of a sci fi horror film from the U.K., in 1963, before (although I may have added the article The to the title), and here it is now online, albeit broken up into chunks. It's a very good little B film; quite superior to Village Of The Damned, and reminiscent of Night Of The Demon. Toss in a bit of Orson Welles' indy film style, and voila- a nailbiter.

Here is part 1:

Follow the link to Youtube and you can see all the parts for free.


First Spaceship On Venus

I erred. In my prior post I mistakenly recalled Planeta Burg as the Venus-based film based upon a novel by Stanislaw Lem- that's what I get for not Googling first!

So, to atone, I will give you the actual film based upon Lem's novel- 1959-1960's internationally cast First Spaceship On Venus. Don't think it's as good as Planeta Burg (nor Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet), but it's a cut above most sci fi of the time. Only Forbidden Planet, made in Hollywood, was as good as these two films.

I watched reams of these sorts of films on tv, and sneaking into old run movie theaters in the late 60s and early 70s. The film's German title is Der Schweigende Stern, but it's a relatively thoughtful film, low on action and high on mystery. For its time, it was 'realistic,' even as it was set in that far flung year of 1985!

Here is the trailer:

The trailer's hyperbole does no justice to the actual film.

Here is the film:

Films like this remind me of youth. Ah, wherefore time?


Planeta Burg

Planeta Burg (aka Planeta Bur) was a 1961 sci fi film from the Soviet Union. It was based upon a novel by Stanislaw Lem, who also wrote Solaris, later made into a film by Andrei Tarkovsky.
[[[SEE CORRECTION in next post!]]]

Here is the film, unsubtitled:

Roger Corman later added some scenes with Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, in 1965, and retitled it Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet. There are scenes within, such as the death of John the robot, that are moving, as well as some scenes with a giant Venus Flytrap-like creature, and odd dinosaur-like carnivores that are really scary, like the Boogeymen in Babes in Toyland, because they are so fake they are realer than great special effects.

Here is that version of the film:

In 1968, Corman let then director, now full time cineaste, Peter Bogdanovich, further mutilate the film into Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women. Mamie Van Doren and a few other scantily clad babes were thrown into the 1965 version (bye-bye Basil and Faith!), for television showings, and....well, it still is a better than expected film, even witht hat title.

Here is the Bogdanovich version. Note the very tv commercial-like start to this version:



The Last Man On Earth

I have yet to watch the film I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince. Richard Matheson's source novel, though, is a great book.

There were two prior adaptations of the novel. In the 1970s, Charlton Heston essayed the role as The Omega Man, and though I loved ol' Chuckles, it was not nearly as good a film as Soylent Green, nor the first filmic adaptation, the 1960s version, called The Last Man On Earth, starring another of my all time faves, Vincent Price. Who could not love Vinny?

The shots in this black and white film are excellent, and that's likely because it was made at the height of Fellini and Antonioni-mania, in Italy. Price made every role he played better than it had any right to be. He brought intelligence and pathos to some of the silliest characters ever invented. That's a great actor. Watch the scene where he has to stake his infected dog, and then you see a blanket with a stake in it. But he was doomed, by his non-leading man looks, to B films. Watch the film, and the case against voiceovers is rent. This film makes excellent use of such.

Here's the trailer:

Here's the film for free:

Now, of only The Unearthly Stranger or Planeta Burg were in public domain.



An indignant resign resides in the box
that shapes his eyes within the frame of the world
windowed and decorated and fluttering
in the motions of motion you largely see
but choose to ignore: his earlier career
was a banal extravagance into here
where the flesh remembers no time he was not
creepy and old and decaying with silent
eyes that entwined you like the billowing cloth
which frames your gaze away from television
and into the real world or out into it
because all is tragic when one is without
as he in between the cloth and the glass or
the divine chaotics of wish and snowflake.


The Last American Virgin.

In light of Anthony's recent post on bad 80s movies, I thought I'd post one of my own. I can't say for sure if this is a bad movie per se, because I think I've only seen it once, a long, long, long time ago. But I remembered the ending and some of the cheesy scenes with the music.

It came out in 1982 and you can see how dated it is. Basically this high school kid is "The Last American Virgin" and like every teen guy, wants to get laid, etc. Then he meets this girl who goes through some trouble with an asshole boyfriend who knocks her up and then dumps her when he finds out she's prego. Virgin boy confesses his love for her, after he helps her, etc. and it seems like they're going to be together. But then in the last scene, Virgin Boy walks in to spot the chick kissing asshole guy, and Virgin Boy is crushed.

Now, you're probably complaining that I'm giving away the whole plot, right? Well, it doesn't really matter because it's such an old and dated movie, and if you really want to watch it the whole thing is available online for free.

Here is that final scene I just spoke about:

Just watch this scene--it's actually really sad. And think about it. How many Hollywood movies really end so realistically, with the nice, Virgin Boy losing and the asshole winning the chick in the end? No, that does not make this film Antonioni or Bergman, but not as terrible as some might think. Granted, I would need to rewatch it in full to make my own conclusions.

Here is another scene that uses the sappy music over the scene:

They did this a lot in the '80s. Can't you see he's just "Crazy With Love"? Well, hopefully he's been laid since then and is no longer the Last American Virgin. Girls always go for the assholes 1st time around. Unfortunately this kid is 2nd husband material, so he has to wait for a nice divorcee who has been treated like shit before she will appreciate him.

Carnival Of Souls

One of these days I have to review The Criterion Collection version of the 1962 horror film Carnival Of Souls. Made by industrial commercial film maker Herk Harvey, it plays like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone, and shows what good ideas and ingenuity can do to overcome a low budget. Its influence on George Romero, the Hammer films, and works by Dario Argento and Mario Bava, are obvious.

Here is the full film, 82 minutes. there are several cuts, ranging between 72 and almost 90 minutes:

And here is the trailer:

The best part has to be the libidinous neighbor of lovely Mary Henry. In the trailer you can see him peeping her through a keyhole. Cheesy, but deeper than far more pretentious films.

Bad 80s movies

The other day I was looking up an obscure actress/dancer from the 80s and came across this movie where she made an appearance. I remember watching this movie, Teen Witch, when it came on either The Movie Network or Family Channel in the early 90s, but I had no memory of the following scene:

I've watched this a couple of times now and every time it just makes me cringe. God, white people can be so embarassing!

Then there's this scene...

Maybe Jessica can tell us if this is what it's really like in the girls' locker rooms?


Werckmeister Harmonies

Saw another Bela Tarr film today, Werckmeister Harmonies. Simply a great film.

Tarr uses only a few dozen shots in this near 2 1/2 hour long film, and, unlike other of his films, no one can accuse this film of lacking emotion. Here are the opening scenes and a great scene central to the film.

Tarr pushes the envelope even farther than Antonioni and Angelopoulos. This is not to say that he's better, simply extending the art. Can't wait till The Man From London hits DVD, and also look forward to his earlier works.


The Hours

After posting about The Reader, I thought I would delve further into the oeuvre of Stephen Daldry, a neglected great director who was responsible for the 2002 masterpiece, The Hours.

Dan shares his feelings about this film in his review on Cinemension: “This tale of three women easily trumps any of Woody Allen’s films that centre on women characters, such as Interiors or Hannah and Her Sisters. Meryl Streep is supernal as Clarissa, and the score by Phillip Glass is sublime. As an auteur, Daldry reaches the heights scraped by precursors such as Fassbinder, or that enfant terrible, Jean Cocteau; one might describe them as protoceratops to Daldry’s triceratops.”

He adds, “As a poet, I must also say that the scenes with Richard in NYC are personally resonant, both in how they capture the emotional truth of being a poet in an uncaring world & how they show Manhattan lofts to be the centre of artistic life, much as they were during my own youth.”

On her blog, Jessica remarked, “It’s well known that I admire artists with problems. Richard Yates was a big old drunk, Rilke had bad breath, and Sylvia…well, we all know what happened to her. So I enjoy The Hours because it depicts Virginia Woolf, who was swimming in problems…until she drowned herself, of course. She had to deal with some really difficult kitchen staff, there was all that stress of running her own press…and then of course, that schnozz of hers was just endless. In addition Woolf’s nose, I am an admirer of her prose, particularly To The Lighthouse, because of her incandescent sentences and her characters that represent the truth about women. Just thinking of this great novel, I can practically taste the boeuf en daube!”

She also remarks, “I love the scene in this film where Meryl Street breaks down wearing her dishwashing gloves; I often like to stand by my own sink and pretend to be a domestic wreck just like her character, Clarissa. When I’m not doing that, I like to lie on my bed and imagine the room filling with water, as I feel such is a powerful image that rings with truth about the female condition. With prosthetic noses, suicide, Claire Danes, AIDS and lesbianism, this film truly has it all.”

With endorsements such as these, how can you resist this film?