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News from Home, The Music Man

This week, the luck of the release schedule yields what is very likely the world’s first pairing of Chantal Akerman and Morton Da Costa in the same column space as I review the fine new Akerman set from Criterion’s Eclipse label and Warner Home Video’s handsome Blu-ray edition of Da Costa’s minimally altered Broadway transplant “The Music Man” (1962). It’s Robert Preston’s brash, braying performance that makes that one memorable, though Shirley Jones is no slouch. The link is here.

338 comments to News from Home, The Music Man

  • Haven’t had the chance to catch up on this site for a few days, but I just read Richard’s post and…um…I thought it was put nicely. Complimentary-like. I can see how it could be taken the wrong way, though.

    With hundreds of posts each week, I have to pick and choose (perhaps unfairly) whose posts I hone in on, and one of those contributors is Kent Jones. I’ve enjoyed his writing for Film Comment, etc., for years. He also hosts great “filmmaker Q&A”s – the one with John Carpenter, preceding a screening of THE THING, was a job well done. Wish I had time for more.

  • Kent Jones

    Hi. Busy weekend.

    There’s no need to make a big deal out of anything. Since Richard raised the issue, I just figured I’d ask Dave and he answered. But thanks. As Carlye said, you like me…you really like me.

    dan, I’m glad that you enjoyed the Tarantino movie so much. I just didn’t, and I really don’t see evidence of the multiple dimensions you’re attributing to the character played by Waltz. Maybe it’s just me, but your articulation of his actions and possible motives describes “Movie Nazism” to a tee. I’m sure that there were Nazi officers who enjoyed playing with their victims and making them squirm. I’m just sick of seeing them in movies. I thought that Verhoeven got beyond that in a very interesting way with his movie.

  • Nicolas.

    My impression is that Jim Carrey’s aura has started to fade a bit here in the States. He gained new respect with the under 40 crowd with ETERNAL SUNSHINE but he’s had some dogs that have hurt him as a box office draw. And unfortunately THE CABLE GUY is not widely appreciated for its dark comic genius.

    I’m eagerly anticipating I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS though. I really liked BAD SANTA which was from the same filmmakers.

  • Er – forgot to say – I don’t suppose it’s up to any of us to tell anyone else what to do or where to go, but I **suspect** I’m in tune with Richard’s intentions when I say, I enjoy what Mr. Jones (and several others) bring to Mr. Kehr’s blog, but if Mr. Jones woke up one morning and decided to build his own house (= metaphor), I’d go there, too. Here, there, whatever. Keep it up!

  • Richard

    Thanks Jaime and Thanks to Kent, too. (I’m starting to feel a little like a filmmaker whose last work was completely misunderstood.) Not to belabor this, but my only point is that Kent is so ubiquitous here that I’m surprised he doesn’t host his own site. That’s all. (Can I assume that this conversation/thread has exhausted itself?) And to paraphrase Kent quoting Carley: Yes, I like you, Kent, I really, really like you. Especially your insight into film(even those few times when your views that are not necessarily in sync with my own, which is rare).

  • Johan Andreasson

    On how to interpret the interrogation scene in IB: I’ve only seen the movie once, in the theatre, and can’t check it again on a dvd, but as I remember it I think Shawn Stone has nailed it.

    I also like BLACK BOOK very much. There was a discussion about that movie a couple of threads back where it was suggested that BLACK BOOK is pretty daring in that it deals with how fascism can be attractive (which it obviously was to millions of people). IB is not driven by this inquisitive (or should I say voyeuristic) spirit but, as Nicolas pointed out, by anger – and then I can buy the way the Nazis are portrayed (and of course Christoph Waltz’s performance also helps.)

  • Pat

    I’ve been passively reading Dave’s blog for the past few months, never weighing in, but I’d like to step forward, if I may, and offer an observation. Given that this site revolves around a lot of criticism, much of it bracing and provocative and all of it fascinating, I find it odd that something construed as a mild criticism of one of its participants, is met as a shocking afront, inspiring defensive retorts. What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Barry Putterman

    Richard, did it ever occur to you that Dave Kehr himself is NOT ubiquitous on this site? Having the foresight and generosity to host and the time and inclination to post are very different things.

    Jean-Pierre, I know what you mean about catching up when you’ve missed a few days. That said, and with apologies to Bud Yorkin, it is never too late. Just open up with a “by the way,” and take me along.

    Caryle, I don’t really remember it being you that said it, but I do really, really like you. Even more so if you posted more often.

    Fredrik, I suspect it began in the cradle with Hoffman.

  • Barry Putterman

    Well Pat, I always have seen a difference between audience members criticizing movies that they have seen and human beings criticizing each other’s behavior. But maybe I’m just odd that way.

  • I can’t speak for Kent, but I suspect he doesn’t host his own site because he doesn’t want to, and he doesn’t have to. And I don’t understand why that’s so hard to understand, or maybe I should say, intuit, that. Hell, I don’t WANT to host MY own goddamn site. Or blog. Or whatever the hell it is. I would prefer…well never mind what I’d prefer.

    More than once I’ve heard Dave himself say that the main reason he started this particular site was because he thought some sort of online presence was desirable, the better to call attention to his Times column. What it’s evolved into—because of Dave, who he is, what he writes—is a regular gathering place of and a passionate conversation between some of the smartest critics, programmers, academics, and amateur cinephiles the world over. Part of what makes it such an interesting conversation, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s most emphatically NOT made up entirely of other website/blog proprietors. Which is why Robert’s query got as far up my nose as it did, I reckon.

  • carlye

    OK, this is getting juicy.

    To Barry: You nailed it. The appeal of this site is Dave’s generosity. He may be an invisible presence here, but his presence is always felt.

    To Pat: Good question. Why is it that critics can hand out criticism but get snarky or pout when they’re criticized. OK, I know that I may be talking in generalities, but I’ve found that when I write something praiseworthy to a critic, I have a friend for life. A week later, if I question something or write something critical, I’m harshly dismissed. And this isn’t a rare occurance. Perhaps one of the professionals would like to expound on this.

    To Barry (again): You write: “I always have seen a difference between audience members criticizing movies that they have seen and human beings criticizing each other’s behavior.” Sorry but that’s fuzzy thinking. Criticize me back, Barry, if need be.

  • dan

    Kent, I may have not properly explained myself. Landa could very well be a “Movie Nazi” (what is the exact criteria for that definition?), but it all kind of lose meaning when in the same film you also find an heroic nazi, a chikenshit nazi, a young excited nazi who just became a father, and a nazi who is a war hero humiliating himself for the love of a french woman. Take the word nazi off every character description and you have a range of personalities that could not, in any way, be labeled as “movie nazis”.

    “I thought that Verhoeven got beyond that in a very interesting way with his movie”.

    Indeed, and brilliantly so.

    Nicolas and sami, it seems to me Jim Carrey is criminally underrated in the states. It is the similiar case of Jery Lewis all over again. Carrey is hillarious in CABLE GUY, LIAR LIAR, ACE VENTUA, DUMB AND DUMBER and ME, MYSELF AND IRENE. The trend to admire him only when he’s serious is annoying and also quite false (his performances in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, THE MAJESTIC and THE TRUMAN SHOW are the least convincing in his resume). He seems to be back on track now, after very funny performances in THE YES MAN and FUN WITH DICK AND JANE. I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS has the most promising trailer i’ve seen in a while, so i’m very eager to watch it. BAD SANTA was great, a sad reminder of what we have lost with the prematue passing of Burnie Mac.

  • dan

    oh, and Kent is invaluable to this site. Without him it’s like mustard without the hotdog. or the opposite, or maybe not at all. He’s great!

  • “Juicy.” Not the word I would use to describe an emerging sub-thread involving the airing of resentments. Initiated by a former “lurker,” yet. Very glad this thread is about to turn over.

  • I think my main function here is to keep the spam cleaned out, reset the topic once a week and deal with the occasional troll. I’ve never wanted this to be a blog “about me,” and I’m proud and happy that it has evolved, entirely on its own, into a community project. The site averages about 12,000 unique visitors a month at this point, which means that there are a lot of readers who aren’t participating in the discussion. My only ambition is to coax more of them into the pool.

  • Sami and Dan, BAD SANTA is indeed good. I have a tendency to send favourite scenes from it to friends as Christmas e-cards.

  • nicolas saada

    i think Kent is the first person I met who actually changed my whole vision of films, my perception of cinema and also my understanding of filmmaking. To say that he is needed on this site is an understatement.

  • Nicolas, I hope you used copy and paste.

    And Kent, of course I second Nicolas’s statement.

  • Barry Putterman

    Carlye, alright then, let me put it this way. I think that there is a vast difference between saying “I see this film very differently than you do” and “I think you are an idiot for seeing this film the way that you do.” Obviously those are the polar extremes and what we say lies somewhere in between. Also, we all have different personalities and some people are quicker to take slight and/or hold grudges.

    Personally, I see very little malice on this site. Sometimes people get a little carried away with their own intensity and sometimes somebody says something that can be and is taken as a personal criticism. But mostly I see love of movies and mutual respect for the rest of the community that does likewise.

    And like Dave, I wish more people would participate. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen a few people stick their toes in, get a counter argument to their views or have their facts corrected, and never return. I think that is regrettable. We all make mistakes and there is always somebody who can lucidly explain why the films that we hate are masterpieces and the films that we love are stinkers.

    So I don’t see this as criticizing you back Carlye. Just part of an enjoyable conversation between colleagues. I hope that removes some of the fuzz for you. I’m afraid that nothing will ever do the same for my math.

  • Brian Dauth

    Pat: I agree that is a place of passionate, intense criticism, and the criticism usually focuses on positions taken and not people’s actions. For example, I passionately disagree with Dave K “the critic” about the value of Billy Wilder movies; but I am not in disagreement with Dave K “the person.” He has created a space where passionate disagreements about movies can flourish, and not spill over into personal grudges. Heck, I can come out of the closet and say I have deep problems with aspects of John Ford’s work and still be allowed to post and walk the streets of New York without fear. For me, being able to do so is valuable since engaging in that dialogue helped me to better understand both Ford films and my own aesthetic. But the process of critical realization can often be a tangled one, and is a place where that process can occur. I responded to the post because it felt to me (and I probably over-reacted)as if Kent “the person” was been chastised for posting too much as Kent “the critic.” Obviously, I was wrong, but I think one of the things that makes so important is that we can be at complete odds with one another on different issues, but still go out for a cyber-beer after the dust settles and we turn in our 3-D glasses.

    Jean-Pierre: I would be interested to hear your praise of Pollack whenever you feel like posting it.

    Lastly: I know one member posted something about MY SON JOHN (forgive me for not remembering who), and I just wanted to add that I was most impressed by Dean Jagger’s performance this time. McCarey shows both great sympathy for the character and his sincerity and also some obvious alarm at the place where this sincerity has taken him. The father was not quite satirized, but certainly shown as someone who needs an eye kept on him. I still have some reservations about other aspects of the film, but again was seduced by McCarey’s warm, engaging mise en scene where the camera always seems to be in the perfect place with respect to his actors and their movements/gestures.

  • carlye

    To Barry: My math stinks, too. Thanks for the wonderful comeback. I agree with you that we’re all different personalities and sometimes we bump against one another, hopefully in a good-natured way. If you think about it, everyone here comments and criticizes films and filmmakers and often each other’s comments and criticisms. It’s a circle. But you’re right – there’s never any malice, just healthy disagreements and different points of view.

    To Brian: I, too, like Kent the critic and Kent the person, although I never met him – but I get the feeling that Kent the person is much like Kent the critic. As I said earlier, he has respected what few comments I’ve made here. Personally, I think he’d be a terrific blog host.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Richard, did it ever occur to you that Dave Kehr himself is NOT ubiquitous on this site? Having the foresight and generosity to host and the time and inclination to post are very different things.”

    Well, you can always spot Dave’s contributions to the discussion because of the special background, now pink, when he posts something and always it seems at a significant moment in the dicussion or if it’s on a point that he cares a lot about. But the main thing is that not only does he get each discussion going with his NYT pieces but it seems to me that the host sets the tone for something like this. And what I find “invisible” though very present is an implicit call for civility in the face of strong and often conflicting passions. I think we all try to honor this, even if we are certainly imperfect at times.

    Personally, I value everyone’s contributions, only wish there were more women (as Red Will Danaher memorably said in John Ford’s THE QUIET MAN “What’s a house without a woman in it?”–there, now Ford is covered for the next 10-15 posts), and must join Jean-Pierre and Barry in saying that so much goes on here that it can be hard to keep up with. I know for myself, sometimes I’m very interested in a topic (I too am interested in the subject of vocal inflection and enjoyed what was said about it so far and hope it will come back) but if I know I’m not going to have the time I’d want to reply to possible replies to something I post, I’m reluctant to get into it.

    The one thing I most want to avoid if I can is to not reply to anyone who engages me. I know I’ve probably done it because the time just got away from me. Carlye, I’m quite certain that when you addressed me about something around the time you started posting, I made a point to respond.

    I learn as much from disagreements as agreements here, and they always stimulate me to try to sharpen my own responses to films and insights I may have. It’s especially so because I may disagree with someone over a given film or filmmaker even though I mostly am strongly in sympathy with their preferences and the kinds of things that interest them in cinema. I can truthfully say at this point that some of my best friends are admirers of Stanley Kubrick.

  • Blake Lucas

    Obviously, my post was written while Brian’s and Carlye’s were going up. It seems like others feel similar things about these discussions, but that’s no surprise. Meantime, I hope everyone took my last line in the light spirit that was intended–I always feel Barry does these one-liners better than I do.

  • Steve Elworth

    This has been very knowledgable and instructive and thank you Carlye for posting a little more than usual and thanks to our host for never letting this fall into stupid flame wars,
    Yes they are interesting threads which are not developed but over all, this is a great placw where the followers of Kubrick Meet the Quineites and even kind words are said for the films of Morton da Costa and the work of Sydney Pollack as director.

  • Steve Elworth

    Oops. I left out, so when can we move onto the work of Cleo More and the others contained in the two Columbia box sets. Can’t wait for the defenses of the achievement of Hugo Haas which is sure to come.

  • Barry Putterman

    Blake, thanks for the compliment. But nobody does one-liners as well as Vivian.

  • The threads on are by far the most engaging film related discussions I take part in or simply read over. My contributions may seem slight but that is because a lot of films discussed are ones that I have yet to see.

    I know the owner of Invincible Cinema (a local independent film rental store in Ottawa) must read over these threads as each week on their new release shelf there is always the latest DVD Dave Kehr has written about in the Times

  • Thanks, by the way, to the folks who recommended MOONRISE and KITTY on TCM this week. Terrific (though, printwise, KITTY could use a bath.)

  • Tom Brueggemann

    I buy my DVDs from DVD Planet, and I always notice a cause and effect relationship between Dave’s column and their top ten ordered DVDs following his column. There is no question it has influence. I don’t know it for certain, but it is possible that it is the single biggest asset to boosting the viability for risky DVD releases, and is helping encourage the studios to reconsider the value of their libraries.

    (At DVD Planet, their current #1 is the Rossellini set, #2 is the Akerman. Yes, they are Criterion/Eclipse, but still, that is very striking.)

    And it is not just because it is at the NYTimes, though that is important. It is because Dave is the one writing it.

    Kitty was indeed an inferior print. I was excited it was on because my copy from an AMC showing in the late 80s/early 90s was the same quality and needed improvement. Looks like what TMC is as good as it’s going to get.

    (Reseeing it, I was intrigued by how the ending seemed to be in doubt to the last minute, and perhaps the question of whether she made the right decision is left slightly open – not sure if that was intentional or some ambiguity Leisen et al. wanted to convey).

  • Tony Wiliams

    Ian Carmichael (1920-2010).

    Although more well known for his Boulting Brothers comedies, he played the definitive Bertie Wooster according to P.G. Wodehouse in a BBC TV series of the 1960s. Dennis Price complemented him as Jeeves. Although both actors were supposedly too old for the roles according to most critics, they brought a high level of performance to this series that will always remain in my mind.

  • In the mystery world, Ian Carmichael was much loved for playing sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey on 1970’s British TV.
    THE NINE TAILORS (Raymond Menmuir, 1974) was especially good. It’s out on DVD, but I haven’t seen the DVD yet. The book is also probably Dorothy L. Sayers best mystery novel.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Sadly, only one episode of THE WORLD OF WOOSTER (1965-67) now survives.

  • Peter Henne

    “admirers of Stanley Kubrick.”

    And some of the best contributions here come from people who admire R.W. Fassbinder.

    Tom, It’s exciting to think about all the people who will be discovering the Rossellini and Akerman films for the first time.

    Dave’s posts often count as much for me as his columns. While the articles make overviews, may I suggest his posts allow more room for launching into particulars. Dave excels at both. I learn from the homework he does.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Regarding this site, I began posting last August on Wheeler & Woolsey, and will merely quote their number from HIPS! HIPS! HOORAY!: “Just keep on doing what you’re doing.”

    Caught up with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS last night, and having avoided reading about it as much as possible was pleasantly surprised. I expected the entire film to consist of Nazis being beaten with baseball bats, but that really was pretty much kept to Chapter Two, and most of the rest of the film is comprised of the intriguing movie premiere plotline. Liker all of Tarantino’s other films, however (save the Grier-Forster sections of JACKIE BROWN) nothing in it carried any weight, as all of the characters were too schematic and unreal to register as plausible human beings. Having read bios of both Bazin and Langlois, I recalled material about clandestine screenings of rare classics in nitrate prints carried around on bicycles that QT has appropriated here. Langlois would even screen rare German films, much to the dismay of some of the partisan film fans. It struck me that the film’s big set piece is an inadvertent allegory for today’s cinema. A basement full of rare nitrate films (including the Max Linder and Pabst films Shoshanna’s aunt has collected) is torched in a big spectacle that realizes itself in fantasy ultra-violence worthy of a video game (Hitler et al all die), presented in digital flames. The classical cinema is destroyed for a postmodernist moment.

  • Kent Jones

    I think the internet is interesting. There’s a funny tension between intimacy and disembodiment. Which allows everything to mutate.

    Richard made an observation, it kind of surprised me but seemed eminently reasonable, I checked in with Dave and he answered, and then I went to a place where it’s hard to get on the internet for the weekend and many people said nice things about me, which is obviously heartening. But I certainly didn’t feel affronted. Pat seems to think I was, or that someone was affronted on my behalf, or something like that.

    Here’s the important thing. Dave has very generously created something at his own expense (which I hope is minimal, and if it isn’t I think he should let all of us know), given us all issues and juxtapositions and celebrations and observations to react to on a weekly basis, intervened when he’s moved to or feels it’s been necessary, and helped to maintain a sense of civility on the one hand and thoughtful interchange on the other, and that’s pretty unique, perhaps all but unheard of. He is not punitive, and apart from the odd suggestion here and there that we don’t veer too far from movies into jazz or radical politics, he doesn’t impose rules about what can or can’t be discussed. If the thread begins with Chantal Akerman and THE MUSIC MAN and ends with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and mutates along the way, so be it. And the level of intelligent observation and engagement here is quite amazing. There is not one regular contributor to this site from whom I haven’t learned something, and it’s rare that an interesting discussion does NOT develop. On top of that, when someone or something does appear that skews a little too far in a solipsistic or thoughtlessly combative direction, people step in and remark on it. I find it all kind of amazing. I’m sure that the plurality of thoughtfully expressed opinions and responses has helped everyone here to sharpen their own sense of cinema. It all starts with Dave, his love for cinema and his lucid and carefully researched writing – solid bedrock and crowning glory.

    Tom, do you think anyone at Paramount visits the site?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Kent –

    My snarky response would be not since they abolished Paramount Vantage, but in reality, I don’t know about the production/distribution levels – all studios as you know have closeted auteurists and real film fans in their ranks, so it isn’t impossible.

    But I’d think somewhere along the line their home video people should be aware of it; they certainly at some level have to be aware of Dave’s column I’d think – he’s reviewed some of their (rare) library offerings if I remember correctly.

  • Joe

    Kent- You might deny it, but a lot of apparent thought went into your response and you put everything into perspective perfectly, especially your thoughts on Dave, his generosity, his love of film and his invitation to others to participate in his love here. Again, the operative word is generosity. I think what Dave has done here is to take film criticism – which we know has been seriously compromised and threatened in the last couple years due to the changes in traditional journalism – to a fresh, untested area. This site, for me at least, represents a new egalitarian, democratic form of criticism wherein the working professional critic, the avocational critic, the aficionado, the fan and the casual moviegoer all come together for a compelling dialogue. That a “civility,” as you put it, has been maintained so far provides evidence that perhaps, just perhaps, this new criticism is better than the old. It’s no longer a matter of one person pontificating, while everyone else listens. (BTW, think twice before starting/hosting your own site. It’s a lot of work and I can assure you from experience that matching what Dave has achieved here is just about impossible. He makes it look easy and it isn’t. Besides, for some bizarre reason, it’s a lot more fun to contribute here.)

  • I also want to applaud Dave for this great site. And I noticed that you’ve linked to my blog, for which I’m most grateful! I went through all the links you had and two, Andy Horbal and Dave Chute, are dead ends. If you click them the response is that they’re no longer in use.