Devin once told me my distaste for Billy Wilder’s One Two Three infected him so he couldn’t enjoy the film. I felt bad, but only slightly. Wilder strikes me as over-rated in the scheme of things, in that he’s an occasional slugger versus being a good all-rounder. As I’ve said before you only have to have one masterpiece to be canonical, but once you’re in the major leagues, you have to keep hitting good notes, and that’s why (for me) Wilder doesn’t deserve to be with the upper echelon. His ideological sensibilities makes his weaker efforts way less interesting than other great directors making a minor work. When Wilder is off-key, he is close to unwatchable, even though everyone has their Topazes. Maybe I was infected with David Thompson’s distaste for his writing style especially in his latter pictures (essentially, the further he got from Lubitsch) where the snap and cynicism seemed mannered. But I’m watching The Apartment right now (well, I paused it because it’s too good to write and watch at the same time), and it’s one of the most glorious films ever made. Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter (did The Apartment come up a lot when The Baxter was released, because, obviously it was an influence and likely where they got the name- though I think Sleepless in Seattle has the world’s best Baxter) is the nice guy and Shirley MacClaine’s Fran Kubelik tells him “I wish I could fall in love with guys like you.” Knife through the heart. Yet so fucking perfect. So many films want to tell you that with love anything is possible, and there’s both a true and a false to that. As if, dear reader, life hasn’t taught you that already.
Sadly, I’ve found too many nerds willing to self-identify with these characters that it makes me pissed off. Granted, I identify as well to a certain extent, but even if you know you’re that, there’s something about saying you’re that that’s so self-defeating. “I am a walking doormat.” Well, then you are. I guess I believe balls to bone you only admit you’re a failure if you’re saying that to do something about it.
On the boards I’ve gotten into some arguments about Objectivity vs. subjectivity, which makes it funny that I ran across this Q&A from my high priestess Pauline Kael:
Q:Why do you refer to Objectivity as “Saphead objectivity?”
A: I hate to spell it out, but here it goes: Our responses to a movie grow out of our experiences, knowledge, temperament- maybe even our biochemistry. I always thought that the reason why Stanley Kaufmann and I so rarely agreed on things was clear if you looked at his measured walk versus my incautious quick steps. I’m just naturally attuned to jump cutting.
I tried to put my background and predilections right out on top, so that the reader could know what my responses come from. And I tried to suggest perspectives on moviegoer’s emotions, because we’re all susceptible, in varying degrees to dramatic pressure.
Ideally, criticism is a matter of your intelligence and all your intuitions coming into play. Yes, a critic should be disinterested, not have a stake in the outcome of a movie at the box office, but you can’t make an objective judgment in any of the arts, and this should be perfectly clear about movies, because they touch people’s responses on so many levels.
I agree, but also she’s saying that because people want to use objectivity to suggest the greatness of the Stanley Kramer set, whereas I tend to argue for some objectivity against people who want to claim some trash that they grew up with is the best film ever made. Of course they’re “right” it’s just that what Kael said is true and if that’s the summation of your being… well, there you go. Nostalgia is the ruiner of taste, which is probably why I’m not a fan of Almost Famous. When the edges of the picture brown, and you ignore that there was pain around you, that you romanticize what was great and forget everything that was bad, you get a culture that is afraid to evolve.