Rightwing Film Geek

New York openings

Abel Ferrara’s MARY, which I saw … gulp … back in 2005, is opening today in New York. It’s a meta-film about the problems making of a Jesus movie in which Matthew Modine was the director and Star, and Juliette Binoche played Mary Magdelene. Forrest Whitaker plays a New York talk-show host who wants Binoche on his program. I didn’t care for the film at the time and I’ve hardly thought about it since I posted the following quick inadequate thoughts at Amy Welborn’s combox (slightly changed here) a couple of years ago:

As for MARY, the less said, the better. I have no doubt that the prize it won at Venice was an f-you to Mel Gibson. It is not worthy of a prize at the world second-most-prestigious juried festival (and there’s lots of films I don’t like that I realize are aesthetically distinguished and “prize-worthy”. MARY is not. It is lazy, padded, unfocused and just felt unfinished and phoned-in.

For example, if you know anything about movie editing techniques (I don’t mean by that you have to be able to write about them — I mean **know anything**), you realize that apart from a brief opening scene, Juliette Binoche, probably the picture’s biggest “name” thespian plays her entire role alone. Never sharing a frame with any other name actor — her role consists mostly of phone conversations and phone messages. Some shots of her are by herself. But basically she is like something stitched in, only you can still see all the seams and the grafts that didn’t quite take. Having your lead actors almost never in the same world tends to underline a stitch job.

And then there’s huge chunks — and I mean several minutes at a time, which feels much longer than it is — of the film literally given over to monologs of talking-head theologians spouting on this and that in re their views on Christianity, straight from the “a minister, priest and a rabbi” school of religious diversity. Except for their views. Elaine Pagels was among them, there were no representatives of religious orthodoxy I recognized, and the one obvious Catholic set off some of my alarm bells.

When director Abel Ferrara gave his post-film Q-and-A when I saw MARY at the Toronto Film Festival (he insisted on doing it sitting on the stage and not using a microphone), he said he had been to Catholic schools but never heard of Mary Magdelene. I’m thinking … whaaaaaa….?????

On a happier and better note, here’s a link to my Toronto review of Mike Leigh’s HAPPY GO-LUCKY, an excellent film which opened last week in the Big Apple and is starting to make its way around the country today, including Washington.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Abel Ferrara, Mike Leigh | 1 Comment


AN AMERICAN CAROL (David Zucker, USA, 2008) — 5

AN AMERICAN CAROL is basically conservative pornography — it is enjoyable, effective in making us (laugh) hard, but primarily does so by appealing to our lowest natures. And in the end has left us with not much more than the slightly guilt-tinged feelings associated with having gratified ourselves but done so in the cheapest, easiest, most-narcissistic way possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind my sneak at Playboy and the semi-voluntary bodily reactions happened. But I also know there’s more to satire, to moviemaking, to sex, to conservative movie-thought, to love and to comedy than the AMERICAN CAROL centerfold. In fact, shortly afterward, I watched a DVD of the incendiary-titled but more-serious MICHAEL MOORE HATES AMERICA, recently picked up at a Borders bargain bin, and thought it was easily a better film because in part it’s about that very point — the ease of the admittedly-gratifying cheap shot.

Directed by “9/11 Conservative” David Zucker of Naked Gun and Airplane fame, AN AMERICAN CAROL, though vastly inferior to those films, is still often very funny from the simple pleasure of seeing the piss taken out of ideas and people that jolly well ought to have the piss taken out of them. Sometimes Zucker makes funny things that just aren’t funny, and is able to do so precisely because they aren’t funny. (Cue reactions: “Huh?”) Continue reading

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Conservative films, David Zucker | 9 Comments