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pomattovich

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About pomattovich

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  1. pomattovich

    Episode 163 - Zodiac vs. Shaun of the Dead vs. Magnolia

    Is it time for those who voted for MAGNOLIA to change their votes to ZODIAC for the greater good? We gave MAGNOLIA a good showing, but I think many of us will be fine with ZODIAC taking it over SHAUN.
  2. pomattovich

    Episode 163 - Zodiac vs. Shaun of the Dead vs. Magnolia

    It was so great to be able to call into the show and plead my case for MAGNOLIA. Thought I would refine my words slightly and weigh other options. MAGNOLIA is a very personal choice to me. As I said in my call, I was obsessed when it came out. I had already been quite taken with HARD EIGHT and especially BOOGIE NIGHTS, so I was excited by the prospects of a relatively new filmmaker doing such promising work. Here's one interesting tidbit. The first time I saw MAGNOLIA it was a defective print. The film ran smoothly except for when the frogs started to fall, during which every individual shot began to run backwards, with the frogs falling up instead of down. It was oddly hypnotic and at the time, we in the theater were not completely convinced it wasn't an artistic choice. There was so much going on in the film though that it confounded me, and being younger at the time, I embraced the chance to discover every little secret meaning hidden in the film. I poured over the shooting script, I read every interview with Anderson, and ended up writing a needlessly ambitious 50 page term paper on the film, much to my A.P. English teacher's chagrin. I probably watched the film about 12 times within the first few films of its release, and then not at all for a long time. I recently saw it again on the big screen and the effect was dizzying. I was flooded with the original memories I had watching it during its theatrical run. It didn't always mean the same thing to me as it did then and I started to see some cracks that never quite occurred to me, but it was still an emotional experience. I still don't understand why Anderson decided to cut a subplot involving the murder of the man in the closet, but continued to keep in numerous references to that subplot. While I think that Tom Cruise is truly outstanding in the film, with his seminar scenes and breakdown over Robards' deathbed being highlights of the film, his interview scene felt rather contrived. Why does this reporter think or know that a question about his parents will be such a "gotcha" question. This guy is a misogynist asshole. Can you really not find a better way to take him down than saying that she found out that he lied about which one of his parents died? And while I think there's some great stuff within the subplot, I think the film might have been stronger without the centerpiece of the game show. Though I am very curious as to what Burt Reynolds would have brought to the role of Jimmy Gator, as was Anderson's original casting intention. We get a bit too much of Stanley and not enough of adult Donnie to draw the correlation between the two stories. I feel like expanding William H. Macy's role so that you feel all the history of that character without its modern counterpart would have been enough. But without these plots all fitting together, perhaps the film wouldn't quite have the same impact. As I said before, this ensemble cast really completes the film, with not a weak performance among them. For me, my favorite scenes are between Hoffman and Robards and Reilly and Walters, but to comprise the film solely of these smaller stories like a cop falling for a girl after showing up to her place on a call, might just feel like a fleshed out but still thin love story, not unlike PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. To call MAGNOLIA "a spectacular mess" may be giving it too much credit. Caller Cody was right to point out how indulgent the film is, with Anderson flying a bit too close to the sun with creative freedom after the success of BOOGIE NIGHTS, which I do think is a tighter, more superior film experience. So can I vote for a film based purely on nostalgia even as I am aware of various imperfections? Like I said in the episode, sometimes I believe we can learn more by a director's missteps than we can from their successes. I think that Anderson knows that MAGNOLIA wasn't always successful in balancing his stories and perhaps did tip into the indulgent, but that prepared him for the experiments that he would go on to make with his next few films. While I don't love THERE WILL BE BLOOD, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, or INHERENT VICE as much as MAGNOLIA, I do appreciate a lot of the craft that goes into these films, and I genuinely love both THE MASTER and PHANTOM THREAD. There's never an Anderson movie that I'm not happy to watch at least a few times so that I may wrap my head around them. Were MAGNOLIA up against BOOGIE NIGHTS, I think I would vote for the latter, and perhaps we shouldn't overcrowd The Canon with Anderson films so that we may leave room for what may be his greatest work, either from the past or a film he's yet to make. My nostalgia and love still lies with MAGNOLIA, but does my vote? Everything that was said about ZODIAC in this episode was spot on. My mother grew up in the bay area and would (inappropriately) tell me stories growing up about her mother not letting her ride the bus for fear that the Zodiac killer would make good on his promise to shoot children as they exited. This is a real horror story that still lingers in the memories of Northern California residents today. Some out there (my brother-in-law and I have fought about this repeatedly) believe that ZODIAC is anti-climactic. A story with a great beginning but no ending. But this is precisely why I love it. It captures the frustration and obsession of an unsolved crime. The film is thrilling for the first hour when we are seeing the murders and watching our players get clues with hopes of solving them. And then the clues stop. There's no new information. And all we have to observe is our characters haunted with not knowing the truth. This is also one of the best depictions of realistic police procedure and its many faults and imperfections. I particularly love the sequence when the detectives from multiple counties get together and finally compare notes, discovering that by not initially sharing information with each other they are all more in the dark than they realized. In the midst of this serial killer movie, one suddenly starts to think about all the potentially innocent people who may have been convicted based on one investigation, while the information that might have absolved them was in the possession of another precinct that didn't practice communication with local colleagues. This is a phenomenal film. Without question my favorite by Fincher. I think it has justifiably become the go-to film that depicts what the true crime obsession has ultimately become. My wife was watching some awful Ted Bundy movie last night, and it just can't compare. So I think for the time being I am going to keep my vote for MAGNOLIA, because it's what 17 year old Johnny would want me to do. But I am inspired to watch my umpteenth screening of ZODIAC this week just to see if it can sway me, as I do think it is probably the better and certainly more influential film. I may change my vote later in the week, especially if ZODIAC looks like it is going to be in a runoff with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, one of my favorite comedies of this century but a film I can't measure up next to the other two. Thank you, Amy, for giving us this show. I don't write about film professionally anymore but coming to the message boards every week gives me a chance to stretch those muscles and converse with some like-minded individuals. I eagerly anticipate the return of the show, in whatever form it comes, and hope you find a co-host worthy enough to sit beside you. In the meantime I'll get my fix with UNSPOOLED. Have a great year with that and Canonize us again soon.
  3. pomattovich

    Episode 162 - Scream (w/ Benjamin Lee)

    I saw all the SCREAM movies once and never felt much of a need to revisit them. To me, they were never all that much more deeper or satyrical underneath their standard slasher surface. And the longer the franchise went on, the more strained the satire seemed to be. So I rewatched the first SCREAM this weekend with an open mind I gotta say I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I had forgotten how serious the first film was, before it became enveloped in its meta jokes and references. I remember the murder of Henry Winkler's principal at the time of my first viewing really disturbed me. That's not fair. He's not part of this! This isn't how the game is supposed to play. Suddenly this movie of slasher tropes stepped a bit into the real world, which was genuinely shocking and unsettling. The movie doesn't stay there too long though before moving to the last act in the house, and then it mostly roots itself in the ground that the franchise would settle into, but seeing the cheap robe and mask in daylight made that killer seem a lot more human. Anyone could put it on and be a killer. I don't respond nearly as much to Jamie Kennedy's character and the conceit of following rules of a horror movie. I think a lot of this wasn't as original as fans claimed it to be. I'm a fan of the somewhat similar film POPCORN, and there's another 80's horror film that is even closer to the beats of SCREAM but for the life of me I can not remember the title nor find it online. It's something like "Enter Screaming," "Die Screaming," "Die Laughing..." Any ideas, Forum? I feel like the legacy of this film, aside from inspiring dozens of pale imitations, was that this was the franchise that acknowledged the tropes of horror movies to the point that its characters realized they were inside of one. But although I love the horror genre and have many many favorites, I don't think the lore and mythos of its structure is always so deep and uniform that it lends itself to four movies worth of insight to its themes. By the time they got to the third film they were really spinning their wheels, and the fourth film I remember desperately trying to make you remember what you liked about the first, while hoping you won't notice that they were just copying its same beats with just a rather forced twist ending that was preposterous even for this franchise. But this film was undeniably hugely influential, and even if it was also influenced by others, this certainly made the bigger cultural splash. We're fortunate enough to have a lot of the films that SCREAM references already in The Canon, so I don't need to make difficult decisions there or weigh their quality against each other. And SCREAM remains influential and is continuously relevant in some ways, whether it be connections to real life school massacres or the rise of the incel movement. I was rather floored by Amy's connection there, never considering that Ulrich and Lillard act out of sexual frustration or revenge for past breakups. Perhaps Lillard's decision to kill McGowan is a preemptive measure to save himself humiliation for when this goddess realizes she's dating such a dweeb. While I've grown a fonder respect for this film than I ever thought I would have, to me the franchise never quite tops that opening sequence with Drew Barrymore. Watching it again, I forgot how much it scared me the first time I saw it. How being home alone did indeed add a new layer of fear from then on out. The sequence really is one of the most iconic for the horror movie genre, and for that alone I think I would vote YES into The Canon, though I'm surprised that there is a lot more to this film than just a great opening after all.
  4. pomattovich

    Episode 192 - Striptease: LIVE!

    While I would never defend this garbage movie, I will say that Carl Hiaasen's original novel is quite good. It's very funny, makes its villains far less ridiculous and bumbling, and has Erin as a much more professional stripper. She is passionate about her work and genuinely enjoys it. None of this reluctant "i'm just doing this for my daughter" act. And she doesn't look down on her industry or co-workers. It's been years since I read the novel. I remember having very high hopes for the movie. Burt Reynolds actually would have been great casting if he had been directed to be more like the character in the book. It's a shame the adaptation was such a disaster.
  5. pomattovich

    Episode 161 - Grey Gardens (w/ Alissa Wilkinson)

    I love how Amy said that GREY GARDENS is the kind of film that many people could disagree on what the film is ultimately about. It's certainly a film that changes for me the more I see it over the years. I've always found it to be an incredibly sad piece. One that shines a light on the kind of people we stop thinking about and forget. The film always makes me think about some of the legendary Hollywood actresses who disappeared into obscurity after retiring. The vanished from the silver screen, but can you imagine Greta Garbo or Betty Hutton going to the supermarket or tidying around the house? The Beales were never really famous on any national level, but they had their society, and they certainly hovered around noteworthy individuals. But what becomes of these people when nobody is interested in them anymore? We stop thinking about how they live but that doesn't mean that they stop living. I don't think the Beale's lives changed all that drastically as a result of the film, but it did offer them some attention that they forgot they craved. Little Edie especially just seems overjoyed that she has another human being to talk to, though one gets the sense that she might be rattling off these speeches and songs even if she were alone. I've never found the film all that exploitive, although I guess that's somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I just spent two weeks at a film festival and every documentary screening seemed to be accompanied by a debate of whether the subjects were exploited or not, and while my opinion would vary from film to film, I usually found myself at odds with the overall perception in the room. To me, GREY GARDENS gave the Beales a new life and a bit of reassurance that they mattered. A way for them to be seen. There may not be a grand overarching story in the film, but if it didn't exist, who would ever remember that these women existed? That alone makes this an easy YES for me.
  6. pomattovich

    Submit your pick for The Canon's Ultimate Listener's Choice!

    I have so many films that I want to submit for The Canon. How to choose? The show has been covering a lot of newer films lately, or at least ones made during my lifetime. So I'd probably go back to the first half of the 20th century. So many to choose from. What are some of The Canon's blindspots. We certainly could do with some more westerns in The Canon. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST? THE OX BOW INCIDENT? STAGECOACH? MY DARLING CLEMENTINE? RED RIVER? THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE? Or if I'm going to get so hung up on John Ford, why not one of his films set across the pond, like HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY or THE QUIET MAN. Ok. Enough of that. Perhaps a classic animated film. We don't have many of those. PINOCCHIO? BAMBI? We certainly could use some Kurosawa, Bergman, or Fellini in The Canon. Or another musical. THE BAND WAGON. SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. A STAR IS BORN. All fine choices. But the kind that I'd have to fight for. No, I think I'm going to go with a layup. We need a Preston Sturges movie in The Canon. My personal favorite is THE LADY EVE, though I could also argue the case for THE PALM BEACH STORY or MIRACLE AT MORGAN CREEK. But the easy choice is to nominate his most popular film that still resonates today with younger audiences. So I'm going to submit SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS to The Canon. Who could ever refuse it?
  7. pomattovich

    Episode 160 - Tommy (w/ David Fear)

    I just revisited the film, start to finish (oooff) and I still think I have to let my NO vote stand. What it boils down to me is whether or not this is a prime example (good or bad) of an important genre that is underrepresented in The Canon. People call TOMMY (the album and the movie) a rock opera. But I think the idea of a rock opera is a sub-genre at best. There aren't many others that I would categorize it with. Isn't something like this close enough (though inferior to) THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW? Surely we don't need both in The Canon. Perhaps TOMMY should be considered more along the lines of films featuring a band showcasing their own music (such as A HARD DAY'S NIGHT or MRS. BROWN YOU'VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER), but to me it doesn't succeed that well on that front either, with the members of The Who often getting lost in the background, including Roger Daltrey who is a complete blank slate until the final act of the film. I would say that the other musicians upstage them, but from Clapton to Turner, none of them are doing all that great work. To me, this film is about on the level of the abysmal but less frustrating SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEART'S CLUB BAND. Ken Russell really swings for the fences here, and I admire him for that, but to me it misses the mark. I do love Ken Russell though and would love to have him represented in The Canon. WOMEN IN LOVE would be an excellent choice. In terms of his musical catalogue, have you seen THE BOY FRIEND, Amy? I think you would rather enjoy it. It's Russell's tribute to Busby Berkeley. I revisited it this week as well and it's even more fun than I remember it being. Far less subversive than something like TOMMY, but I do feel that it greater succeeds at what it's trying to accomplish. I wish I liked TOMMY. I've tried too many times. I think I'm going to finally give up on it. But I envy its fans and supporters. Just can't count myself among them.
  8. pomattovich

    Episode 160 - Tommy (w/ David Fear)

    How do I put this delicately? I hate TOMMY. Alright, maybe that's a bit extreme, but I've had a complicated relationship with the film for most my life, to say the least. I'm a devoted fan of The Who and have fond memories listening to the album TOMMY since I was about 3 years old while swimming at the neighbor's pool. I love the music and I love almost all of the actors and musicians featured in TOMMY. So why could I never connect to the film. Well, perhaps I saw it at too early an age. It was all a little overwhelming for young Johnny to handle, and while plenty of the story went over my head (particularly Uncle Ernie), much of it I just didn't enjoy and was rather disgusted by (Beans). Although I don't think this is exclusively what turns me off about the film, I think David is right about some music being too ingrained in one's own mind that seeing a visual interpretation that doesn't match one's imagination can be off putting. The original album of TOMMY is especially designed to tell a story, so when Ken Russell's film starts to stray from what I always perceived the narrative to be, perhaps I misconstrue it as being poor quality when it's really just less than what I've idealized. I have a similar reaction to Alan Parker's film of PINK FLOYD'S THE WALL. But is this reason enough to down vote it for The Canon, or is it far too personal for a thing for me? I'll concede that I didn't rewatch TOMMY this week to prepare for this episode. The last time I watched the film was last summer when it was shown theatrically at The Quad in New York. Since most my interaction with the film in this century had been the occasional DVR'ing of it on cable so that I could fast forward through it to get to my favorite scenes and songs, I thought I should try to watch the film start to finish again. I still didn't much care for it, even though I find a lot of the imagery and tone to be quite striking. I just wonder if it doesn't go far enough or perhaps it arrived too late. This film would have felt right at home more or less around the release of the album. At that time, The Monkees made their cinematic opus with HEAD, and I think that film had more of the spirit that The Who's album was going after. I always thought that the film of TOMMY had come earlier than it actually did, partially because Jack Nicholson's cameo would have felt more at home in that era when he was not yet too famous to participate in such a thing, but perhaps I make this connection because Nicholson co-wrote HEAD and I have trouble separating the two films. I guess I feel that the time that it took TOMMY to get to the big screen made its mod culture and imagery seem like a pale imitation rather than one authentic to the late 60's when it was first conceived. This is a movie I always wish I could love more than I do. It's certainly a fascinating curio. Fun to see The Who perform in a film. Great to see the likes of Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed in these roles. And theoretically great to see music legends like Elton John, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton performing these songs, though I'll agree that their performances aren't quite as good as one feels that they should be. I appreciate the imagery of Pinball Wizard more than I do Elton John's performance of the song itself. So even as I list these things to convince myself that I like the movie more than I do, I'm going to vote No. However, I feel like despite seeing it numerous times in my lifetime, maybe I'm not giving it a fair shake and should look at it with new eyes, keeping the discussion in this episode in mind. It's airing Thursday night on TCM. I'll try to watch it then and perhaps I'll see enough to change my vote later in the week, but I make no promises.
  9. pomattovich

    Episode 159 - Caddyshack (w/ Alex Schmidt)

    I too grew up watching CADDYSHACK and it shaped many of my young comedic sensibilities. I still really enjoy it though years of exploring its history has made me discover that what makes the film such a fascinating little milestone in comedy history is because its success was almost entirely accidental. As was touched in the episode a bit, Ramis, Doyle-Murray, and Kenney barely knew what movie they were making. Cocaine may have played a part in that, but there was enough script for about 3 movies, and so much was added on top of that in the midst of shooting do to improvising and discovering new ways to utilize their starry actors, all of whom were initially supposed to be glorified cameos, basically doing background comedy to the real stars of the film, Danny and the Caddies. The stories behind the evolving of the film are fascinating and would almost be enough to grant it Canon entry, but I really don't know if we need another one of these. We have an example of Doug Kenney's National Lampoon brand of comedy with ANIMAL HOUSE. We have vintage Bill Murray with GHOSTBUSTERS. Part of me enjoys CADDYSHACK more than either of those movies (mostly for nostalgic reasons), but the purpose of the Canon is to not just create a list of films we like. No, we are creating a syllabus for a world that has forgotten the history of cinema and needs to be presented with examples of its most important representations of classics and varied genres. That's not to say that the Canon can have only one Hitchcock movie, one Capra movie, one Kurosawa movie, etc, but for what CADDYSHACK represents, I think we have it covered. And should we really give too much credit to a comedy that happened to be really funny in spite of so much working against it? I do think a lot of this is great comedy, but they also kinda got lucky. The only argument I could make for its inclusion, and what Susan* touched upon immediately above me, is that we don't have a Chevy Chase movie in the Canon. Chevy Chase, for as dismissed and forgotten as he's become now, was at one time one of the biggest stars in America. There weren't many comedy stars like him before his arrival, and there haven't been many since. He deftly juggled a persona that was equal parts charmer, goofball, and asshole. And he was really really great at his height. His movies were box office smashes, he hosted the oscars multiple times, and then, in the early 90's, he basically had 3 bad flops in a row. This started just about a year after the release of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, a film still very much beloved by many people today. He took a job hosting a talkshow that probably would have been a disaster for anyone entering the late night fray at that time, and was instantly labeled a comedy relic. This is after a 15 yeah streak of almost nothing but success. Can you imagine Will Ferrell being completely unemployable in Hollywood after only 3 flops? Now on set demeanor and a diminishing list of friends willing to work with Chevy contributed to his downfall, but I still always felt he unjustly had his career yanked out from under him, and at his best, he truly was one of the greats. Now, I wouldn't necessarily pick CADDYSHACK as the best example of his talents (maybe NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, yet another film we probably don't need to admit into The Canon based on its creative talent alone), but I did want to acknowledge his impact on the industry, and remember a time when he was riding high. Despite some firsthand accounts of how he's been to work with recently, I still have a real soft spot for films like FOUL PLAY, SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES, SPIES LIKE US, FLETCH, and FUNNY FARM. As for CADDYSHACK though, it's in my own personal Canon of favorites, but for the time capsule we're creating for society, I think most people can skip it.
  10. pomattovich

    The French Connection

    In a way it's a shame that this film was followed up with FRENCH CONNECTION II, adding punctuation to a story that seemed to intentionally end with a frustratingly unsatisfying ellipsis, however while I'd agree that the film is rather unnecessary and doesn't quite fit in conjunction with the first, it does provide a pretty outstanding performance from Gene Hackman. In fact, I kind of prefer him in the sequel than to the original film. It's a tough role and he manages to play addiction and withdrawal in a way that feels authentic and painful.
  11. pomattovich

    Episode 158 - The Talented Mr. Ripley (w/ Tom Bissell)

    I have a bit of a soft spot for this movie. At 17 years of age, I too was very impressed with it upon its theatrical release, having not yet seen PURPLE NOON, which I believe to be superior though I don't find its remake sacrilegious. I think Anthony Minghella was a talented director who made imperfect and sometimes overpraised films. I wouldn't have chosen THE ENGLISH PATIENT as the Best Picture of 1996, but I still find much of it to be cinematically stunning. Likewise in RIPLEY, I think Minghella filmed Italy with a romantic eye, with designs to lure future expatriates there to search for a Europe that doesn't entirely exist anymore. The film also serves as a nostalgic memory for the exciting new arrivals of its stars. I don't get giddy with excitement over every new Damon, Law, or Paltrow performance today, but at the time of its release, the relatively recent introduction to a new generation of young stars was something worth noticing and even celebrating. The film's time capsule quality for these vintage performances from Law, Hoffman, and Blanchett is reason enough to hold it in some high regard. But as a Highsmith adaptation, it does leave a little something to be desired. While I get Minghella's intent of showing Ripley as a blank slate who adapts and morphs his personality, he robs the character of much of his cunning and malice, mostly depicting him covering his tracks in an effort for survival, rather than any wants or desires. It's a very different Ripley than we see him some of Highsmith's novels and other adaptations such as PURPLE NOON, RIPLEY'S GAME, or THE AMERICAN FRIEND. I think these multiple interpretations can co-exist but if we are looking to let in a thriller based on the idea that Highsmith needs some representation, I don't think that this is the best we can do. And I truly can't allow it into The Canon based on the factoid that this served as some inspiration for THE ROOM. True or not, THE ROOM's Canon acceptance was its own reward, and we don't need to delve deeper into its mythos and origins to provide more context for its inclusion. I was happy to watch THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY again and revisit some late 90's formative film memories, but I think its place as a diverting curio of the era is fine where it is and we don't need to label it essential. A respectful No vote for me.
  12. pomattovich

    Swing Time

    I'm a great fan of this era of musicals, but while SWING TIME has a few phenomenal songs and dance sequences (the meet cute in the dance school is one of my favorites), it wasn't ever my favorite Rogers/Astaire film. I've always been somewhat partial to TOP HAT. That one still has a paper thin plot, but it's ever so much thicker than that of SWING TIME. Plus, it has stronger comic relief, with the assist of a staple of so many of Astaire's films, Edward Everett Horton. I'm actually quite surprised that SWING TIME remained on the AFI list when they revised it in 2007. They actually revised it quite a bit, and removed several "problematic" titles. Amy remarked about how BIRTH OF A NATION didn't make the list, but it was in fact originally on there, but was replaced with the more positive and less controversial INTOLERANCE after the revision. I might have put TOP HAT on in place of SWING TIME, or maybe my favorite Astaire film, THE BAND WAGON, though that doesn't have Ginger. I'm also a dear fan of the Busby Berkeley films but I'm not surprised they didn't make the cut. I believe that even in the late 90's, his films such as the GOLD DIGGERS series, 42ND STREET, and FOOTLIGHT PARADE, had somewhat fallen into obscurity. I think they got more attention and a big revival in the early years of this century, thanks to heavy rotation of Turner Classic Movies, as well as the boom of the DVD medium, where many of those films saw their first release in the home video market ever. Even as they made their comebacks, they still managed to be ignored by the AFI. Pity.
  13. pomattovich

    Episode 157 - Grease vs. Hairspray (w/ Adam Egypt Mortimer)

    Seconded!
  14. pomattovich

    Episode 157 - Grease vs. Hairspray (w/ Adam Egypt Mortimer)

    For as seemingly iconic it has become, and for as infectiously its songs worm their way through your ears, I have never been a fan of the movie GREASE. I believe its origins began as something of substance but generations of misunderstanding have watered it down into something completely flavorless. The original play is more akin to the work of John Waters than what the movie and its legacy ultimately made it become. There was real comedy in the original play of GREASE surrounding the idea that these wholesome teens of this beloved era were actually a bunch of sex crazed deviants and jerks. GREASE was a parody of 50's nostalgia, not a celebration of it. It pointed out the silliness and banality of absurd dances of the day, like a "Hand Jive," and made fun of empty meaningless lyrics like "Rama Lama Lama Ka Dinga Da Dinga Dong." I believe that some of GREASE's songs were intentionally written to be bad songs, or at the very least, cute songs that were still making fun of how bad songs of their ilk were. It makes me think of the way Trey Parker and Robert Lopez wrote songs for "The Book of Mormon/" They're simultaneously celebrating various genres and tropes of musical theater, while also sending them up and turning them on their ear. The fact that GREASE is now looked at an affectionate look at the charming innocence of the 50's is unfortunate, but I think it's even beginning to move beyond that. Kids today don't even see this as commentary at all of a specific era of 50's rock music, they just see it as a movable and universal portrayal of a past generation. This might be why productions you see now, (that live abomination on television last year, for example), feel like they might as well just be a musical of "Saved By the Bell." It's just a general view of "teenagers who aren't of the current generation," using that as an excuse to portray some bad behavior that doesn't quite live up to our modern ideals but in a neutered relatable way. Now that is the extreme of what I believe GREASE has become, but this movie is a bit better than that. John Travolta shows a kind of star power in this movie that you won't find matched by many young celebrities of today. I appreciate the sprinkling of former 50's icons in the cast, (Eve Arden, Joan Blondell, Sid Caesar), to lend the film some comedy and credibility. And yes, some of those songs, even and especially the bad ones, can remain in your head for weeks after a single viewing. I somewhat envy Adam for having recently seen the film with a packed audience, because I can imagine that such an experience would effectively work some magic on me and fill me with an infectious group enthusiasm, but with my last experience with the film being in my living room, I just didn't feel the love. And so I'm going to be voting for HAIRSPRAY to be admitted into The Canon. Since we already have FEMALE TROUBLE inducted, I would love to get the other side of the John Waters coin to be let in. The debate over the camp factor somewhat surprised me, because I don't think there's such a strict definition that doesn't allow elements of it to be featured in both of Waters' styles. To me, early films like FEMALE TROUBLE, POLYESTER, and MULTIPLE MANIACS have more of a camp edge because its presenting characters that Waters and him movie world clearly love, but they're almost daring the audience to hate. They're showing fringe characters in a way that one would expect to be making fun of, but instead is an affectionate celebration. To me, HAIRSPRAY is a more sincere effort than that. Aside from the cynically villainous Arvin Hodgepile and the Von Tussle clan, there seems to be no suggestion of characters that we're not supposed to dislike or find unsympathetic. Waters is presenting us with characters usually relegated to background extras in these genres (fat people and minorities) and putting them in the foreground and showing their humanity. It still devastates me that Divine never lived to make another film, because this was a whole new side of her persona. Even past all of the social messages and integration idealism, this is such a wonderful mother/daughter story. What if the mean mother who stood in the way of your fantastical dreams became an active participant in achieving those dreams? I love her and Ricki Lake's relationship in this movie. It's also worth pointing out that like GREASE, HAIRSPRAY too has evolved and been embraced by a new generation. Frankly, I think that HAIRSPRAY (at least within the generation of high school musicals) is beginning to eclipse GREASE a bit, helped by is progressive and positive messages that end with a climax that isn't a sexual one. It's no coincidence that both musical adaptations aired live on television in the same year. But John Waters gives a big stamp of approval on his musical adaptation, which I feel keeps true to the spirit of its original creator. It doesn't shy away from the ugliness of Waters' filthy view of Baltimore, but still manages to celebrate it. It may not match the purity of the original, but at least this new generation is continuing to celebrate its legacy while focusing on the specifics of what made its roots so unique and personal to Waters. GREASE has obviously made the bigger cultural splash and is probably an inevitable addition to The Canon, but GREASE had a head start and I think its brightness is starting to fade. There are still young people everywhere who feel a bit different and outside of societal cliques who are discovering John Waters as their alternative teen angel. He certainly was mine. I vote enthusiastically for HAIRSPRAY!
  15. pomattovich

    Episode 156 - Legends of the Fall (w/ Kendra James)

    I was pretty astonished that anyone would consider LEGENDS OF THE FALL to be great enough to grant entry into The Canon, though there were several factors about it that I didn't consider. Having not seen it since its original release, I had forgotten that the film was primarily sold on and remembered for its sentimental, melodramatic love story, the equivalent to airport romance novels. In fact, I had forgotten about Julia Ormond's presence entirely. I know. Basically the entire plot of the movie. I had remembered this more as a "death of the West" movie, one about father/son bonding and betrayal on the new frontier. Kind of a more serious Bonanza, if you will. Watching it again now, I was astonished by how little those elements stand out. And it's a shame, because that sounds like a great movie to me. I too lament that we don't get nearly enough World War I stories, (the recent JOURNEY'S END adaptation wasn't bad), but when I look to the elements of what WWI was about to me, very little of them are touched upon in this film. The other thing I remembered about this film is that it had pretty stunning cinematography. John Toll's Oscar win was at the time the deciding factor for me to want to see this movie at all. I also remembered at the time that this was about when, post Oscar, Anthony Hopkins started to really phone in his roles. I remembered this being up there with BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA as one of his lazier performances, but watching him again now, I found him to be quite good, which might be more of a testament to how much worse it got for him later on. The only other really positive thing I can claim for this movie is that it made me really miss Bart The Bear. I'll give props to any film that uses a real bear, rather than the CGI animals that we get today, which even at their best look fake. I love the setting of this movie and individual set pieces, but I just couldn't care about the story at all. It was somehow even duller than I remembered it being. I appreciate Kendra's passion for films like these. I too enjoy a good epic melodrama. I just don't think this is the best example of one. I don't even think it's the best example of one featuring Brad Pitt. I wouldn't consider A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT for The Canon either, but I like it more than this film. There are so many epic family romantic melodramas I would submit for The Canon. We could go as big as GONE WITH THE WIND, to something more modern like GIANT, to something a bit smaller scale like THE SOUTHERNER. LEGENDS OF THE FALL just doesn't make me fell anything. I try not to make these decisions too personal and consider the film's legacy with a wider scope, but it seems to have slipped so far out of cinematic consciousness that I had quite forgotten it even existed. So while I feel like I should be perhaps abstaining from a vote, I'll be mean and cast a solid NO.
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