Welcome to The Morning Read.
I guess I knew that my piece on criticism was going to stir up some noise when I published it last night, but I wasn't prepared for the e-mail flood this morning. I touched a nerve with many of you, and, look... I'm happy to be challenged on my position on this. I believe that this... all of this... only works as a conversation. I don't ever want to turn into one of those guys who issues WISDOM FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP, unassailable and never listening to anyone else. Some of you thought I was dead wrong, and you were offended that I would "target" Roger Ebert.
I wasn't targeting anyone. The columns I linked to were all published, designed to be read and commented on in public, and every one of those sites has a comments section, so it's obvious that feedback is part of the deal. I don't think Roger Ebert is worried that someone's going to come repossess his Pulitzer just because I felt like he blasted the wrong target in a column, so you guys who feel the need to write to defend his honor can probably tone the shtick down a little, okay?
I mean, Christopher Rosen wrote much the same thing. Admittedly in a lot fewer words, which makes him the winner. But he understands that it is madness... absolute madness... to blame the audience for the movies. I recently wrote that "Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen" is the movie that fanboys have been making down payments on for a while now, and I do think that studios look at what makes money and they try to imitate it. But blaming the audiences for what gets made is like blaming a gunshot victim for the bullet. People see what is marketed, what gets the most screens, and what other people are seeing. Just as they always have. Just as they always will.
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Personally, I believe that the best thing a critic can do is advocate for what they love. Write the most persuasive article you can if you want someone to go see something. If they don't... then they don't. That doesn't make them stupid. I just don't see the upside in attacking the audience on this one. That doesn't mean I want terrible movies... it just means I think there are smarter ways of reaching out to viewers than to call them names.
Moving on, let's kick things off today with a look at the UK trailer for "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus." Greg forwarded this to me last night, flabbergasted that a movie with this trailer, regardless of how the film itself is, can't get picked up by an American distributor. I know it's been a hard road for the film so far, but I have heard that a deal is close to finished to release the film in the U.S. on Christmas Day this year. If that's true, then it's going to be a lovely gift for Gilliam fans. Until I can pin down the truth of this rumor, consider it unconfirmed, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of this verrrrry soon:
Uh, yeah. That looks like a Terry Gilliam film to me. And if you didn't read my recent two part interview with this legendary filmmaker, check out part one and part two next time you have a few free hours.
UPDATED! Sony Pictures Classics is the winner! Looks like after I published this piece, word finally broke that SPC will be the distributor for "Parnassus." Nice catch, guys. Thanks!
We also have some new "District 9" clips for you this morning. I'm already seeing some critics start to push back, alarmed at what they see as this film's annointing by the critical audience. I don't want to overhype you on it, but I'll say that I think it's a smart and serious film of real consequence, and I hope it does tremendously well. This first clip takes place early on, but it's important because it sets up much of the rest of the movie.
This next clip is from earlier in the same sequence, and it sets up exactly what the MNU is doing in District 9.
Moving on. Next item.
Jonathan Lethem loves Dick, and he doesn't care who knows it. For the record, I love both Lethem AND Dick. So this sounds great.
I'm a big fan of Esquire in general. They typically hire great writers and give them room to really indulge their interests, most of the time to fascinating results. This new two-part piece on the "Birther" movement is an absolute must-read, though. Above and beyond. I am generally a man who believes that people should be allowed their opinions, but there comes a point where the idea that every opinion is equal goes from being "wrong" to being "terrifyingly dangerous," and we are approaching that moment in American culture right now. Facts aren't really up for grab, folks, and the moment we start indulging the crazy out of some fear of being politically incorrect, we are failing not just ourselves, but everyone who comes after us. "Birthers" are lunatics. Period. And I suspect there is a darker, uglier side to this panic of theirs. You really should read part one and part two of this exceptional piece.
There's a really lovely piece in the LA Times today that fills in a few important gaps regarding "Julie & Julia."
Oh, Miss Fox... you just keep doing everything right, don't you?
I really hope I see that one in Toronto this year.
When Paul "What Script?" Anderson's "Death Race" came out, I heard many people apologize for it, saying it was a decent action film, even if it's not a very good remake. Balderdash. It is a preposterous misfire, if only because there is no actual death race in the film. Sure, there's that prison gladiator thing, but the hell with that. The mad genius of Paul Bartel's original was the idea of a race across America, where every single pedestrian is worth points. THAT IS THE FILM. That's really the only value. Either you enjoy the satirical value of that, or don't make "Death Race." People told me, "Well, at least if he makes a sequel, now they can do the one out in the general population." Sure. If they weren't making a prequel instead. I really don't think it's possible to be any more off-base than Anderson is, time and time again.
Xeni Jardin wins the Internets this morning with part one of her "Mighty Boosh" interview. I missed them in San Diego, they performed in LA while I was out of town... in general, I could not have done it more wrong when the Boosh was in the US, and it absolutely ruins me to realize that I may have just blown my one chance and interviewing them and seeing them perform live, especially when I see how much fun Xeni seems to be having here:
She says part two will be up tomorrow. Can't wait.
We'll wrap today up with another bedtime story from Mary-Louie Parker. Talk about sending contradictory messages to my brain... Mary-Louise Parker sets off one set of impulses, while the whole "bedtime story" thing sets off a totally different part of my brain. In the end, I'll just have to bask in the confusion. She's worth it.
The Morning Read appears here every day, Monday through Friday. Except when it doesn't.
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