I think we all need at least one really nice positive thing about the entertainment business every single day of the year, including weekends. Sometimes it may be something simple, like a video that showcases something fun and sometimes it may be a movie poster that embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to aspire to. Sometimes it may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll be from the staff and extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you readers can get in on it. So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will get a little bit of positivity from one column a day here. Take it with you. Maybe it’ll help you through a bad day or give folks some fun things to hunt down in their busy celluloid digesting day.
By Andre Dellamorte
What I’m Thankful For:
Pauline Kael’s short reviews being available on-line
On Star Wars: One of the biggest box-office successes in movie history–probably
because for young audiences it’s like getting a box of Cracker Jack that
is all prizes. Written and directed by George Lucas, the film is
enjoyable in its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack
of kids to the circus. There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism;
the only attempt at beauty is in the image of a double sunset. The
loudness, the smash-and-grab editing, and the relentless pacing drive
every idea from your head, and even if you’ve been entertained, you may
feel cheated of some dimension–a sense of wonder, perhaps. It’s an epic
without a dream. Maybe the only real inspiration involved was to set
its sci-fi galaxy in the pop-culture past, and to turn old-movie
ineptness into conscious Pop Art. And maybe there’s a touch of genius in
keeping the film so consistently what it is, even if this is the genius
of the plodding. Lucas has got the tone of bad movies down pat: you
never catch the actors deliberately acting badly; they just seem to be
bad actors, on contract to Monogram or Republic, their klunky enthusiasm
polished at the Ricky Nelson school of acting. In a gesture toward
equality of the sexes, the high-school-cheerleader princess-in-distress
(played by Carrie Fisher) talks tomboy-tough–Terry Moore with spunk.
(Is it because the picture is synthesized from the mythology of serials
and old comic books that it didn’t occur to anybody that she could get
For those who are curious about Kael’s writing (most of her books are out of print), this website offers her capsule reviews (as flagged last week by Roger Ebert via Twitter) covering all of cinema up until 1990. Her long reviews are still only available in book form, but her wit still shines in these bite sized pieces. Of course, it’s partly fun to see what Kael pissed on, be it The Searchers (“You can read a lot into it, but it isn’t very enjoyable.”) to Red Desert (“Boredom in Ravenna, and it seeps into the viewer’s bones. Antonioni’s
hazy illustration of emotional chaos may or may not have something to do
with industrialism; he makes the hazy, polluted atmosphere so ethereal
that one can’t decide.”) Kael pulls no punches. She may hate many of your favorite films, but when she’s in love, it’s always exciting (on Stop Making Sense: “a continuous rock experience that keeps building, becoming ever more intense and euphoric.”) and though sometimes she doesn’t get a cult favorite (not positive on Dawn of the Dead), she will surprise you (loves The Re-Animator).
I’ve been reading Pauline Kael for nearly two decades, and she’s one of the great critics I always return to. Though I have all her review collections, many of her capsule reviews were only included in 5001 Nights at the Movies, which is where most of this material is culled from. When I watch an old movie, I love to read her reviews afterward, and now I can check in and see what she thought, and if it was covered at greater length. This is essential stuff.