This is hi-larious … Jimmy Kimmel has been making Matt Damon jokes for years, not just on his current talk show, where there’s a running gag of Damon always being bumped for time, but also on THE MAN SHOW. Now, with help from Sarah Silverman (Jimmy’s post-wife-and-children Hollywood paramour … boooo), Matt gets his own back.
WARNING: Extremely comic-raunchy, but any cleaner and it wouldn’t work — the contrast between the raunch of the lyrics and the mostly chipper delivery and happy-clappy music is side-splitting. Though paradoxically (and this is someone who loved THE ARISTOCRATS talking), I think ABC’s constant bleeping over the f-word actually makes the song funnier by making the word more of a pure abstraction than something with a real referent.
I think Kimmel and Silverman would make a great comedy team, like a postmodern Burns and Allen (the analogy is fairly precise — dry straight man and unwittingly brilliant ditz) if the right format for them could be found.
UPDATE: Jimmy responds and one-ups Sarah brilliantly (thanks Steve in the combox¹, and Mark before him). He’s [bleeping] Ben Affleck:
As Steve points out, it’s even funnier than Sarah’s video, in part (I say, at least) because it mocks the most fatuous exercise in pop-music history — well, the most fatuous one of 1985 anyway² — the “We Are the World” video. As Jimmy pointed out to the New York Times deadpan: “Every once in a while Hollywood rallies itself for a worthy cause. We saw that with the ‘We Are the World’ video, with ‘USA for Africa’ and after 9/11. This is just the next natural step in that progression.”
Indeed … that 1985 exercise in posturing feelgoodism couldn’t survive my first contact with PJ O’Rourke. Here is just a sample of the demolition job he does on it in “Give War a Chance,” proving that the song literally contains neither rhyme nor reason. Some of the detail in the mockery is Proustian in its memory for detail, e.g., having Huey Lewis “duet” with a long-haired blonde. And in an interview, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz hinted that “We Are the World” hatred runs deep in his blood too: “egos all checked at the door for the most part,” something that could not be less true of WAtW, though stated like an ad slogan, if it came from Baghdad Bob himself. To ape that video in service of essentially nothing — a comic lie in response to another comic lie in support of a made-up comic “feud” between two rich celebrities — demonstrates the purity of emptiness in the original.
¹ BTW … if you think my #3 in this combox was serious … you don’t deserve to have your delusions shattered. So, to those deluded ones who think those words were seriously meant, I tell you in absolute sincerity that they were. I stand by every last one of them. And I confess to you, the deluded, that “Victor Morton” is simply a character that I created to cover up my real identity: Fred Phelps.
² Actually … wasn’t that the year of Live-Aid? OK … second most-fatuous exercise of 1985, at least.
THE SORROW AND THE PITY — Marcel Ophuls, France, 1971, 7
Color me impressed by Rod Dreher’s Herculean feat of watching the legendary French documentary about WW2, THE SORROW AND THE PITY, in one sitting. Unlike Rod, I didn’t have the option of watching it in one sitting (and I didn’t take along a girlfriend like Alvy Singer did either). When I saw SORROW a few years ago on TCM, it was shown in the two-hour-or-so foreign-film-of-the-week slot and thus in its two segments a week apart — “The Collapse” and “The Choice,” a division made by Ophuls himself for the film’s theatrical release years earlier. And ironically, Rod reminded me of the film the same day I posted on BLACK BOOK, which, though a fiction film, covers some of the same territory. The nut of what Rod wrote:
The most unsettling thing about the film, though, is not the examples of villainy or heroism, but how most people simply made their peace with tyranny … What you get from the film, which is mostly interviews with a variety of people who had been involved with the drama of the time (most of them inhabitants of the French city Clermont-Ferrand) is a sense of how difficult it would have been to have done the right thing. To be sure, the film does not excuse the collaborators. But it does reveal them to be human, all too human.
As Rod says, SORROW is not an easy film to sit through (and not because of its length or because of “Holocaust porn,” which is absent). But unlike him, I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Or rather don’t consider the film a masterpiece — which equally “not impressed by it,” considering its reputation.
SORROW is obviously as morally fraught as Rod says, particularly for those like us who generally identify, in some sense, with “the right.” And I agree that easily the most interesting person Marcel Ophuls interviews was the fascist-sympathizing Christian de la Maziere (there’s a lengthy clip at Rod’s site), who eventually joined the Waffen SS and is quite quietly eloquent on the why’s — namely the extreme political context not simply of the conquest, but the decade prior. Though I insist that simple or direct comparisons between the post-1946 and the pre-1946 right and between the Continental and the Anglo-American right are dubious in the extreme — I have more natural sympathy for him than I would a Communist. But de la Maziere seemed to have matured in a way that stands for how postwar politics itself did. Still, I remember being a bit annoyed that Ophuls made great sport out of a Vichy official saying Germany was preferable to Bolshevism, but never asked the at least two Communists what they were doing in the whole year between the fall of France and Hitler’s invasion of the Stalin’s USSR, before the bourgeois, imperialist war to fill the coffers of British bankers became The Great Patriotic War.
But I also remember the British homosexual who parachuted into France, in part he says, to prove his courage and because with no family, he had nothing to lose (his story, which involved taking a German soldier as his lover, sounds worthy of a film of its own). And the couple of farmers who joined the Resistance and got captured, but refused to take revenge against their betrayers (whom they said they knew) after the war — “what would be the point,” they say. And the French woman who had her head shaved. And the two German soldiers — the film actually begins with a wedding in West Germany where a man stationed with the Wehrmacht in Clermont-Ferrand is marrying off his daughter and has a son in a West German military uniform.
So there’s definitely an interesting cast of characters here. My problem was that the film seemed a bit pedestrian in its style and presentation. My memory is several years old, but I remember it being mostly talking heads and there not being much of a structure or logical through-thread. It generally followed chronology, but not in a way that was really clear to me. For example, to cite a detail tickled by what Rod wrote, I remember having to look up the postwar fate of Marshal Petain, which Ophuls alluded to late in the film, asking Sir Anthony Eden to comment on whether it was too harsh (Eden demurred, saying that Britain never was conquered, so it’s not a Briton’s place to pass judgment).
In other words, the film just seemed to be a collection of footage more than a film and thus became a bit tiring to watch, and would have been even at two hours. I always felt like I was trying to make sense of “what next” and “why this, now.” We hear at about the 180- or 200-minute mark that Clermont-Ferrand was liberated and go into some of the reprisals, against the Germans and collaborators, and I was asking myself — “how? by whom? with or without a fight? when during the broader war? … actually where the heck IS Clermont-Ferrand??” And the Maurice Chevalier bit at the end struck me as just … bizarre, both in its point (Ophuls’s point, that is, if any) and its pictorial quality. I realize that Ophuls was making the film for a French audience for whom the broadest outlines of history was universal knowledge, but … well … I’m me. (And also, one claim commonly made about the film was its groundbreaking muckraking and demythologizing, which rather suggests that some of this knowledge wasn’t so universal.)
Photos from Kevin Lee of Shooting Down Pictures (his review of SORROW here).
There was an international outcry at the weekend over the Berlin Film Festival, which awarded its top prize, the Golden Bear, to TROPA DE ELITE. The film about a mission by a crack Rio de Janeiro commando team marks the feature film debut of Jose Padilha, who made BUS 174, a documentary that made my Top 10 back in 2003.
Padilha, helped by co-scriptwriter Braulio Montovani (who wrote CITY OF GOD, which also made my 2003 Top 10) topped a field that included PT Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD, Michel Gondry’s BE KIND REWIND, and highly-anticipated new films by masters Mike Leigh (HAPPY GO LUCKY), Hong Sang-soo (NIGHT AND DAY), Andrej Wajda (Oscar-nominated KATYN), Errol Morris (STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE) and others.
You’d think they’d awarded the prize to a fascist propaganda film …
BLACK BOOK — Paul Verhoeven, Holland, 2007, 8
Paul Verhoeven’s BLACK BOOK is the kind of movie that gives me and other Christian critics jock itch. The film’s entertainment and artistic value is, I think, unquestionable but, like the turd in the punch bowl, there’s a couple of “couldn’t leave well enough alone” moments of indefensible Christian-bashing.
In many respects, surface trappings of “Holocaust movie” and the Dutch shadow of “Anne Frank” aside, BLACK BOOK is a throwback to the spy thrillers of the 40s and 50s. Set in a moral muddle worthy of Carol Reed’s Vienna where friend and foe shift from moment to moment, BLACK BOOK mostly follows a single protagonist Rachel (Carice van Houten) weaving her way through wartime intrigue between the Dutch Underground and the Nazis, including infiltrating the SD headquarters, at the very end of the war.
But at the level of a boy’s comic-adventure serial, that might have run in Hotspur or Warlord when I was a wee lad, Verhoeven handles the genre mechanics expertly; I deliberately chose that lead image for its iconic, comic-book visual quality. He also keeps believable the shifts in alliances that take place owing to the war’s fortunes and internal tensions among both the Germans and the Dutch. He handles the set pieces, both violence and suspense, with the aplomb and verve you’d expect from the man who made ROBOCOP and Schwarzenegger’s TOTAL RECALL.
And here is what I DID vote for, with some blathering after each category. Remember, 100 points to distribute to exactly 10 films, performances, scripts, etc.; minimum of 5, maximum of 30. (Also available here; the whole 2007 Skandies site here).
Film (and Top 10)
20 No Country for Old Men
17 Hot Fuzz
10 Private Fears in Public Places
10 Into Great Silence
8 There Will Be Blood
7 The Lives of Others
6 Gone Baby Gone
The top 2 were the only films I saw all year to which eventually gave a 10 grade, and I saw all the top 8 at least twice … hence the big points gap between #2 and #3.
I’d like to think this list at least displays a very catholic taste, at the populist end of the film-snob spectrum — 7 films in English and 3 foreign (though one of the three has very little dialog, and I wouldn’t have been unhappy with none). Two of the films (#2 and #7) that have pretty much nothing “meaningful” to do with anything except having a great time, though I should add that I think all these films, with the exception of #5 and maybe #4, I’d recommend without hesitation to any intelligent adult.
In case it isn’t obvious from my screening log, I’ve been going through a Georges Melies DVD lately, and never in anything less than awe at what he could do. No discredit to Edison and his team or the Lumieres, but they were inventors primarily. ARRIVAL OF A TRAIN, e.g., exists today solely for (obviously enormous) historical interest. Melies, a former magician, was the first man to use this contraption for entertainment or artistic purposes (though he did have antecedents in magic-lantern shows; he obviously brought a great deal from then-current theater and magic shows; plus, he ripped off the Smashing Pumpkins).
To say that “the movies” descend from Melies, in the sense of the entertainment medium that we mostly mean when we use that term “the movies” … that would obviously oversimplify. But as oversimplifications go, it’s true enough. Here’s an example of his work, THE MAN WITH A RUBBER HEAD, one of my favorites from DVD.
I don’t think I’m the easily-dazzled type (special-effect-o-ramas generally bore me silly), but I don’t see how one’s mouth can’t be agape at that film, and Melies’s others (many, including A TRIP TO THE MOON, available at YouTube). Not because I’ve never seen that trick or don’t know it can be done better today; there’s no question, this is a very simple, primitive movie that doesn’t last as long as a Saturday Night Live sketch, though its comic timing and “sell” is as brilliant as gag-writing gets. But you can hardly watch that and believe … that this was made in 1901.
That’s twice as close to Edison’s sneeze (1894) as it is to Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION (1915 … by which time, BTW, Melies’s career was basically over). That’s as close to the end of the French Revolution as it is to today. I do try generally to watch and judge movies in a decontextualized way (I have TRIUMPH OF THE WILL and EARTH on top of two of my 1930s Top 10s, after all). I try to avoid “grade on a curve” for time, but in this case I cannot. Melies doesn’t allow you to do that, simply because his films so specifically date themselves. For example, look at the “acting,” of Melies himself, in that film I linked to. But at the same time, he shows special effects that seem so FAR ahead of their time that they still work today. Some are even in [gulp] … color … like THE INFERNAL CAULDRON.
Melies also had more of an aesthetic sense than any filmmaker in 1900 had a right to — his camera never moved, partly from necessity, but also because he intuitively picked up that he was putting on a magic show and so the spectator should stay glued in his seat. His set designs were busy, baroque fantasies, painted backdrops of unreality 15 years ahead of CALIGARI and contemporary with HG Wells. Anyone with an interest in scifi or fantasy movies owes it to himself to see where it all began.
But even for me (not generally a genre hound), his films do the most basic thing a film can do — dazzle and amaze. Even when we see through it … it’s as if … you don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.
Just a couple of short items …
● A film I saw at Toronto in 2006, VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW was released Friday and I’ve added a link at the right to my review from then. I didn’t really recommend it back then, but I must acknowledge that the memory of it plays better in my head now than the film did at the time.
● I’ve started my 2008 Ten Best List, now that there’s at least 10 films that have releases made or scheduled that I have seen and graded at least 5/”mixed.” This is still only February, so I note simply that there’s only three films on that list that are certain shoo-ins, with two others that are “on the bubble.” The other five, though I’d recommend all at least somewhat, will not even be Honorable Mentions.
● The critics at Christianity Today revealed a couple of days ago their list of the year’s 10 Best Films (technically called Critics Choice), with JUNO on top, followed by the Evangelical Self-Hate Masterpiece THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and ATONEMENT, with NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and INTO GREAT SILENCE on the list. (The slightly different list of the 10 Most Redeeming Films, topped by the German Monk Movie, is here. I’m stunned at the poor showings for HOT FUZZ and GRINDHOUSE!!!) I think I’ll repeat something I said a few weeks ago when the Oscars were announced: that the best films of the year so clearly declared themselves, that there was no denying them.
Not really. This is just a simple link … to an interview with 4 MONTHS director Cristian Mungiu that took up a whole hour on NPR’s Fresh Air, and I’ve already listened through it twice.¹
Mungiu talks about a score of interesting topics, besides 4 MONTHS specifically and the artistic choices he made (like never mentioning Communism per se). He talked for a long time about the system of funding movies in Romania, which is still state-run to a significant extent. As he also notes though, domestic private funding is basically nil since the Romanian box office has collapsed to 1/10 of what it had been because the country has so few theaters now. A thriving artistic culture, which includes a domestic movie industry, is part of the national common good and thus a legitimate thing for the state to support if private means do not. Mungiu tells of how he had to take 4 MONTHS on something like an old-style traveling road show, from town to town and village to village, for his film to be seen in much of Romania (a film about that will be an extra on the DVD, he promises).
He also notes that he was born in 1968, two years after abortion was made illegal, and part of the “Baby Boom” that took place in Romania in the first several years of abortion’s illegality. He says matter-of-factly that he was “not a planned child,” and this was something many Romanians of his generational cohort knew since this was something “our parents wouldn’t hide from us.” But most importantly, he says, “it’s not that our parents wouldn’t love us or that my parents wouldn’t love me.” Exactly. The very notion that Parenthood is a thing Planned is a lie or a rationalization. And every unplanned child was once an unplanned pregnancy.
I’m curious also about something Mungiu said at about the 3:20 mark. He’s giving the history of illegal abortion in Romania and noting that it had nothing to do with moral or religious reasons, especially since religion was discouraged under Communism. And then Mungiu says, with the emphasis that this is important, that in Romania “we are Orthodox, we are not Catholic.” Well, I at least knew that much. But its relevance went over my head. I had been pretty confident that the Orthodox Church condemns abortion too (less so, contraception; also outlawed by Ceausescu). So … what, if anything definitive,² does Orthodoxy teach about abortion and contraception? Peter? Rod?
¹ Don’t let the title “Oppression and Abortion” turn you off. That’s the National Pinko Radio headline-writers. Plus there’s no denying by sane people that the Ceausescu regime was (a) oppressive and (b) did not outlaw abortion for good reason.
² I understand very generally that differences in church structures could make this question, or any similar one, a bit more complicated for the East than the West.
Actually, this isn’t really a “fisk,” more like my saying “Mr. Speaker, permission to revise and extend my remarks” about 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, beyond what I said back in September when I first saw it.
unlike in VERA DRAKE, nobody says abortion is wrong
That isn’t quite true. There is a conversation Otilia has with her boyfriend where she asks what he would do if she were in Gabita’s position. He says, not to her joy, that he would marry her because he’s against abortion because it’s so dangerous. Which doesn’t actually count as “wrong” in my opinion¹ … but it is one reason to be against abortion.
There’s even a hint, only a hint, in Marinca’s performance in this scene, that her question might actually not be hypothetical. And earlier in the movie, Otilia mentions in passing getting notes to lie about her period. (This is one example of 4 MONTHS being so utterly “lived-in” and thus so endlessly rich with details that may or may not mean anything flying off like pinwheels. Another — the abortionist leaves behind his ID at the hotel desk; was it fake?)
Abortion as either a moral matter or a political issue simply does not appear, on either side.
This is mostly correct. Politics certainly never enters the picture (except to the extent that short conversations about the consequences of getting caught reflect decades-ago political actions; which is a stretch), and morality isn’t an explicitly textual matter, for the reasons I there stated.
But it is now inconceivable to me that this movie could have been made by people who didn’t have deep qualms about abortion and the film reflects that, however far the makers may wish to take it — whether they connect the lines, or dot the i’s and cross the t’s (or whatever metaphor appeals to you). It’s not just The Shot, which seemed on second viewing last week to go on for twice as long as it had in my memory, but also the shooting of the subsequent disposal scenes, which use tropes frequently seen in horror movies — dark of night, dog on the soundtrack, running into the middle of a composition where the perspective seems to stretch into infinity.
It’s also the ending, as I wrote in the post below (and which David Edelstein rebelled against; an infallible sign that one is doing something right on this topic). It’s also how the abortion is depicted as a violation itself — Gabita says while lying down “it hurt when he put it in me,” and it’s not obvious whether she’s talking about Bebe’s catheter or his penis (though there be subtitling/translation issues). And director Cristian Mungiu has said repeatedly in interviews that under Ceausescu, “abortion lost any moral connotation and was rather perceived as an act of rebellion and resistance against the regime.” In another, he said at Cannes that he wanted people to consider deeply “the moral issue” of abortion rather than about “getting caught.” All of which presupposes that there is a moral issue in the first place.²
In a discussion at the Arts & Faith discussion board, Steve Greydanus asked a question about the ending of 4 WEEKS, 3 MONTHS AND 2 DAYS (SPOILER warning), and a good one that speaks to part of what the film says and shows about abortion:
Is it Gabita or Otilia who comments in the final scene that “we must never speak about this again”? I remember it as Gabita but I’m not sure. Also, I don’t have the exact wording in my notes — anyone have it? Thanks.
Actually, that final line was spoken by Otilia, the women who arranges the abortion for her friend Gabita and whom the movie mostly follows. And the context is particularly damning. Here is the last exchange from my notes, which obviously are fallible in small details but not the ones I’ll emphasize. The pair are sitting down at a restaurant.
Gabita: Did you bury it?
Otilia: You know what we’re going to do. We’re never going to talk about this. OK?
Then a lengthy, lengthy pause and no words are exchanged between the women, until the film suddenly cuts to black.
Leading into that conversation, they had been served their dinner, and Steve describes it thus in his excellent review:
4 Months comes closest to commentary in the final scene, which finds one of the main characters sitting down to a meal in the restaurant of the hotel where the abortion was performed. A wedding reception is in full swing in the next room, but a fight has broken out in the party. The waiter brings a dish from the reception menu: beef, liver, kidneys, breaded brains. What happens when human beings treat one another as no more than this? 4 Months offers queasy but meaty food for thought.
Look at all the signifiers here: a wedding, the icon of sex, gone wrong; body parts served, as if in response to the “never speak of this again” answer; a lengthy shot of silence, as if absorbing the unspeakable. And then there’s that last question, thus prompting that answer.
The women had been told, quite pragmatically, by the abortionist not to flush the baby down the toilet (it’ll stop up the plumbing and prompt an investigation) and not to bury it (dogs will dig it up for food), but to toss it down a high-rise garbage chute (untraceable and probably never to be noticed). Otilia considered both these alternatives while carrying the towel-wrapped corpse; she even gets the attention of some dogs who can smell the blood in her bag. She did what the abortionist told her. But Gabita asks her “did you bury it?” The answer is unspeakable … and so, we’re never going to talk about this. OK?
One of the scenes that almost made my list as best of the year below was the scene from THE SIMPSONS MOVIE of Bart skateboarding nude — on a dare from Homer, natch. But I said there that “Showing the 8-year-old’s willie was a mistake though,” which has drawn two dissents from uncharacteristically misguided folks, both Christians as it happens. (As I recall, they both commented similarly when I initially wrote about THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, though their comments were lost when I had my Blogspot Booboo.)
And to be honest, I did laugh at that moment. Donna and Adam are right … it’s a brilliantly timed gag, one that works exactly because for so long you get the Austin Powers/Borat “show everything else with some ludicrous groin-covering” gag. Then suddenly, for no more than a second or two, you get the exact reverse: The rest of the screen being blocked out and seeing ONLY Bart’s boyhood — just showing it wouldn’t be funny.
Then, the minute I stopped laughing, I really felt … well … pretty disgusted. And violated. Not because it was news to me that Bart would have a penis (I distinctly remember having one when I was his age too. Younger even.) Not because it made the scene potentially erotic or was anatomically realistic (Bart is a cartoon). And not because the scene be an objective violation of any child (for that selfsame reason).
Since I’m holding off revealing my Skandie ballot, I’ll reveal what I almost voted for but didn’t. My method is to put go through the list of all the films I’ve seen and write down everything that strikes me as memorable or a possibility. And then shuck back to 10. These are the leaves that got shucked. These were what did NOT make my ballot. And yes … I only could think of 12 lead female and 13 supporting female performances.¹
Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl
Is that the Jewish Nazi from THE BELIEVER?
Russell Crowe, American Gangster
Went with him over Denzel cause his character had a bit more of an arc
Brad Pitt, Jesse James
He breathes his own legendness
James McAvoy, Atonement
Didn’t think he had it in him; actually least convincing when trying for Big Emotions
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Doesn’t know how to give a bad performance as a Gen-X everyman
I can only blame myself for this delay, but I was interviewed late Thursday night by Pete Vere of the SooToday, the Web-only daily newspaper of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, about Super Tuesday — explanation, predictions and analysis for a Canadian audience. Pete recorded the interview as a Podcast and put it up here (do a word-search for my name — Apple-F for the cool people — and then download).
Listening to it, it sounds a bit CW now, but it was recorded right after the Thursday night debate, and I was off-deadline and basically finished for the night. I came to these conclusions while watching the debate (which I think Obama clearly won, by matching Clinton’s stature as an equal and letting his superior “candidate” skills shine). And it seems to have played out — the only question being how slight will be Clinton’s delegate lead and with an outside chance existing that Obama might pull off an upset.