Grinding Away

One of the most compulsive conceptual projects of the last several years, the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez “Grindhouse” has at last been released on Blu-ray in its original theatrical format, scrupulously recreating the experience of sticky-floor film-going in a nearly deserted downtown movie palace in the late 1970s. As clever as these simulacra may be — Rodriquez contributes an exaggerated zombie apocalypse picture, “Planet Terror,” while Tarantino inventively cross-breeds the car chase and the slasher film for his structurally daring “Death Proof” — they both seem wildly overproduced and far too self-conscious next to the real thing, as exemplified by the recent releases of William Lustig’s elegant 1983 “Vigilante” and Amy Holden-Jones’s fascinatingly conflicted “Slumber Party Massacre” of 1982. Reivews of all here in the New York Times.

If you see only one new Hollywood film this year (and at this point, I wouldn’t blame you), make it David Fincher’s “The Social Network.” As ecstatic as the reviews have been, the film is actually better than the “social document” it has largely been described as: Like all of Fincher’s mature films, its underlying themes are loneliness and impermanence; it is executed with a spectacular sense of tempo that modulates from percussively Hawksian dialogue duels to achingly silent long takes; the visual style seems to blend Gordon Willis’s robust Cinquecento “Godfather” lighting with the thin, fluorescent buzz of on-the-fly digital shooting. Fincher’s attention to detail is as fanatical as Stroheim’s but he never loses sight of the overall emotional structure, which circles back to a “Rosebud” ending as devastating as anything I have ever seen. This one is going into the history books.

77 comments to Grinding Away

  • Johan Andreasson

    Scott, I hate to disappoint you in that the consensus here seems to be that the Stieg Larsson books are often better in translation than in Swedish. I’m lacking as a patriot in that I still haven’t either read the novels or seen the Swedish version of the movies. The books are well liked in Sweden as entertaining page-turners, but no one seems to care all that much about the movies. That David Fincher is doing the U.S. adaptation is big news here, and his movie is eagerly anticipated. The only thing I’m a little worried about is that according to newspapers Fincher have decided to give the U.S. movie a more “authentic” feel by having the actors speak with Swedish accents. Well, John Wayne actually did a decent Swedish accent in THE LONG VOYAGE HOME thanks to coaching by a Danish actress, so maybe we can hope for the same by Daniel Craig. An added attraction for me is that I have some hope of getting a glimpse of my own work in the Fincher movie. This week they’ve done some scenes in a tattoo parlor right next to a gallery for comic art and illustration for which I’ve designed the logo – so with one exterior shot and no digital erasing that logo might find its way to movie theatres all over the world next year.

  • Alex Hicks

    It’s doubtful that Stieg Larsson’s books can be sufficently better in Swedish than in English to much shift their page-tuner status. But the page-turner/literature distinction has often, if not usually, meant lttle for the quality of cinematic adaptations.

    For some, Eastwood’s “Hereafter” will have to overcome the challenge of adequately addressing “big ideas.” For others it will have to overcome the challenge of starting out from dumb ones.

  • One of the prominent reasons I am interested in Facebook and making “Friends” is that it allows me to better know the new people that I meet. If I meet someone, especially through a friend, in a social situation. The Facebook “add” would be a reminder of their names and that we have met,it would allow me have a better understanding of their interest (was it Andrew Sarris who said the best way to psychoanalyze someone is to ask them what kinds of movies they like?), who are our mutual friends, and looking through their pictures can familiarize me with their typical settings and behaviors. It goes without saying that on the internet personal identities are maleable constructs. And just how I spend countless hours watching movies, it feeds my curiosity too see what narratives these people can make up for themselves. It is never a be-all and end-all.

  • As a Clint Eastwood fan, I think that even his latest films offer much interest, pleasure, continuation of earlier themes, and technicallly adress how he is adapting to new technologies. Even the films that were not well critically received, like “Flags of our Fathers”, “Changeling”, and “Invictus”. A co-worker saw “Hereafter” and told me it was bland and with all the negative comments here, I am wondering, is it truly that despairing? I still look forward to see it, any supporters in our mists?

  • Scott

    Tom, thanks for the interesting perspective. It’s true, “Benjamin Button” benefitted from its late year release that coincided with awards season. And the main draw was obviously Pitt. However, from my own narrow anecdotal evidence, the non-cinephile people who went to see the movie because of Pitt came away baffled by it. (I remember quite a few people saying they found it slow and boring.) Meanwhile, most everyone I’ve talked to has loved “The Social Network”. I agree its box office is modest in the big scheme of things, but it’s still impressive that a proper, intelligent movie for grown-ups (without any stars, aside from JT) can open wide and find an audience. Though, I do find it a bit puzzling that the film isn’t player stronger to 20-somethings, the generation that it depicts. I guess it’s not a given that the age group that first embraced Facebook would be interested to see how it came about.

    Also, after the success of “Inception” and “The Social Network”, I suppose the next test will be to see how Aronofksy’s “Black Swan” is received. I saw the film in Toronto, and it seemed to me by far the most buzzed-about movie of the fest (tickets for all THREE public screenings were snapped up and apparently the press screening was riotous). I’m not sure how I felt about the film (it’s enormously entertaining, but also batshit crazy and ultimately pretty cruel and exploitative), but it’ll certainly get people talking, which isn’t a bad thing.

    Johan, that’s really cool that your work might be featured in a Hollywood movie! I’ll have to remember to look out for it. I don’t have much to say about Larsson, aside from expressing bafflement as to his enormous popularity. (I was particularly appalled to read in NY Mag that Salman Rushdie called it one of his top five reads of the year!)

    Oh, and speaking of remakes of Swedish films, I have to say Matt Reeves’s “Let Me In” might be my biggest movie surprise of the year. Having really liked Tomas Alfredson’s original, I wasn’t expecting all that much. But it’s an assured, atmospheric, affecting work that’s well worth checking out. It’s also made me want to go back and re-assess “Cloverfield”, a movie I dismissed at first but which is growing in my memory.

  • Larry Kart

    I mention this because surely I’m not the only one: The reason why (at age 68) I got on Facebook was to find out what my 34-year-old son and his acquaintances were up to. Then I discovered that he and others of his ilk who post things there about what they are up to with great frequency not only do so with a high degree of usually non-embarrassing openness but also (and inseparable from this) with a consistent air of sprightly self-mocking wit. In fact, any Facebook post from those quarters that did not have that tone would be, based on my Facebook experience, startling. Finally, one soon begins to step in and respond/comment on a selective basis in one’s own variation on that manner. It’s like trying to keep a collectively generated soap bubble intact and up in the air.

  • Larry Kart

    Saw “The Social Network” tonight and agree with the Dave’s account. Yes, the Sorkin script is a bit Sorkin-ish at times (though it’s good Sorkin, for the most part), but Fincher’s cinematic music, so to speak, deepens and darkens that tone considerably — in much the same way that the more or less buffo developments and resolutions of Da Ponte’s libretto for “Cosi fan tutte” are rendered problematic by the depth of Mozart’s music.

  • RD

    My first post here so Hello Everybody! *takes deep breath, jumps in, starts paddling*

    “A co-worker saw “Hereafter” and told me it was bland and with all the negative comments here, I am wondering, is it truly that despairing?”

    I’ve heard it said more than once that Hereafter’s sensibility is distinctly European what with its languid pace & ‘big start, quiet finish’ frame, one that would seem guaranteed to frustrate the expectations of a certain type of American moviegoer. On the other hand I also hear of US viewers who were deeply moved by the film. One such of my acquaintance compared Hereafter’s emotional impact to that of Million Dollar Baby which certainly got my attention as that film happens to be, IMO, Eastwood’s greatest achievement as director (& quite possibly actor as well).

    Eastwood’s recent directorial work is interesting to me not least because while Changeling & Invictus were coolly received in the US they did much better, both critically & commercially, abroad. Invictus packed cinemas in France, indeed enjoyed a huge opening for an Eastwood film. In Japan Changeling ended up as Kinema Junpo’s #3 on its list of Best Foreign Films of that year (Gran Torino, unsurprisingly, was its #1 pick). I wonder if Hereafter will continue that trend & if so it will echo the early phase of Eastwood’s career when most American critics would dismiss his films but abroad, completely different story.

    Maybe it goes to something Eastwood himself said recently when he described his own filmmaking sensibilities as European. When he headed the jury at Cannes the year Pulp Fiction won everybody assumed Eastwood was the driving force behind that win but his own preference was Zhang Yimou’s To Live.

    I’d like to think that anyone paying attention to Eastwood’s output over the decades would have realised that here was a director happy to put plot aside in order to burrow into character & whose gentle way with a scene is often all too glibly dismissed by impatient types as ‘bland.’ Admittedly I haven’t yet seen Hereafter so I’ll have to see how it all shakes out but I’m sceptical of these dismissals to say the least. Eastwood seems to have been enduring them since he first began directing & yet considering the body of work he’s amassed it’s pretty clear who won that argument.

    I look forward to Hereafter whenever it gets to my own third world country.

  • Barry Putterman

    RD, and which third world country would that be?

  • Shawn Stone

    I’m looking forward to HEREAFTER. The preview was action-packed but not very revealing about story–except for pushing the theme that Matt Damon’s character wants to leave his life as a psychic behind but people keep trying to pull him back into it. (I saw the preview yesterday before a screening of NEVER LET ME GO, a film with a trailer that unhelpfully included almost all of the film’s “big reveals.”)

  • Not only does the NEVER LET ME GO trailer spoil everything in the movie, it spoils everything in the movie in chronological order. It’s a two-minute distillation of the film.

  • While I don’t consider HEREAFTER to be top-tier Eastwood, there’s a lot I value in it. The three stories are rhyming narratives of loneliness. Damon wants to live in the present (and ignore his psychic visions of the dead), Cecile de France seeks justification of her own visions of the afterlife, while a British child seeks any evidence at all that his loved one lives on after death. It’s a film about searching for solace, and Eastwood balances their stories with his ever-skillful parallel editing.

    I found each story to have strong local (and character) details, avoiding the essentializing characteristics of the people in other “network narratives” like BABEL, wherein each is a walking symbol.

    Like INVICTUS, which is as much about the political uses of sporting events as the sport itself, HEREAFTER is not about the afterlife, but the process of grieving and searching that could lead to this belief.

    Eastwood’s visualization of the afterlife is cliched (gauzy silhouettes in a blue haze) and thankfully brief, and his use of a dramatic sound cue to underline Damon’s psychic readings unfortunately recalls SNL’s parody of THE DEAD ZONE. But these missteps are, for me, separate from the central concerns of the film.

    And while it also suffers the forced coincidences necessitated by the “network narrative” structure, it is pulled off with admirable subtlety. I think it’s a flawed but interesting film, and look forward to other responses when the film gets released.

  • RD, It is great to have you here! Your comments on Clint Eastwood are truly fascinating. The same goes to you Robert Sweeney, I now look forward to see “Hereafter” even more.

    On Clint Eastwood’s reception abroad, I know Cahiers really liked “Invictus”. The review I read mentioned that he uses fiction as a guise to bring up contemporary events and compared the plight of Nelson Mandela with the American presidential election of Barack Obama. What I find truly curious and fascinating about his new work is how he incorporates new technology. In “Flags of our Fathers” there is a scene where the American military ships are on their way to Iwo Jima and you can see a grid of identical CGI ships moving forward, the ripples in the water behind them are the exact same too. In “Invictus” at the packed stadium with a semicircle camera movement – no lingering – he fills the rafters full of nondescript CGI fans. “Hereafter” is supposed to be a digital projection and there is a tsunami CGI scene, which is supposed to be stunning. These scenes, for me, express an engagement with the possibilities of evolving technologies, an advancement and reflection of past technological efforts, and a speculation of what he will come up with next. With all the obituaries that have been written in the last little while and at 80 years old, I look forward to as many new Clint Eastwood films that I can get.

  • Don’t forget the incredible street scene that ends CHANGELING, which was almost entirely a digital recreation of period Los Angeles. I was really surprised to learn that.

  • I’m very happy to see these defenses of Eastwood, even if I was not happy with HEREAFTER. (I blame Morgan.) Richard Brody wrote that he’s “Hollywood’s latter-day version of John Ford,” and I’m inclined to agree – not just for his integration of a personal and political vision, but his command of form is almost without peer in American cinema right now.

    CHANGELING is great, LETTERS TO IWO JIMA is great, so is MILLION DOLLAR BABY. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and GRAN TORINO probably are, too, although I’d like another look. BLOOD WORK was seen by some as a low point, but I don’t agree – it’s great, too. Then there are the triumphs of his career during the ’90s, ’80s, and ’70s: UNFORGIVEN is the obvious one but who can argue? Of the truly justified Best Picture winners of all time (from an auteurist standpoint), it’s up there with THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. And then there’s A PERFECT WORLD, which has the single best-directed scene he’s ever done (the family Costner holds hostage toward the end), BREEZY, HONKYTONK MAN, HEARTBREAK RIDGE, BIRD, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART (unbelievable he made it the same year as THE ROOKIE, in my opinion his lone bomb*). And there are others that are highly-regarded either that I haven’t yet seen or don’t quite see that way: THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, PALE RIDER, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, BRONCO BILLY, and others.

    * I haven’t seen THE EIGER SANCTION, FIREFOX, or THE GAUNTLET, which I’m led to believe are grotesque. Hey, even Ford had BORN RECKLESS.

  • RD

    David, thanks for the welcome. Eastwood’s use of CG is obviously indicative of his willingness to try new things which is of course one of the hallmarks that distinguishes him as a filmmaker. Although it will probably be of more note that all of this has come about in the last decade, beginning with Space Cowboys, when the director was already pushing 70!

    For me it’s interesting that he uses these big effects sequences in Flags of Our Fathers & Hereafter, not as the climax of the story but just as part of it & if you look at the structure of these things not in the places you might expect. For instance the big Iwo Jima landing in Flags occurs 15-20 mins into the movie & then the following two & a quarter hours concentrates on the men who raised the flag rather than bigger & bloodier & longer battle scenes. Hereafter, so I gather, opens with a blockbuster style tsunami sequence but then becomes this gentle examination of troubled individuals, a shift in tone so apparently radical for TIME’s Richard Corliss that he praised the effects work in his review but then complained that it had nothing to do with anything that followed afterward. I’m not entirely convinced that’s true but I do think that these ‘radical’ shifts of tone & narrative are nothing new in Eastwood’s work.

    On Robert’s excellent point about Changeling I completely agree that the final shot is impressive. I believe it was done using the Universal backlot (the one that subsequently burnt down in that awful fire) & then digital effects extended the perspective to the horizon & augmented what buildings, figures & vehicles were actually there (which weren’t many). But the shot I remember is the one near the end just after Jolie gets the telephone call that a child has been found. There’s an exterior scene in which she’s driven up to the police station in a taxi, she gets out & runs up the steps.

    Now apart from Jolie, the taxi, a couple of extras & those steps – everything else in that shot, the buildings, pedestrians, vehicles moving in the background, the sky, even the reflections on the windshield of the cab, they’re all CG. It’s a completely convincing shot even though common sense tells you that there must be trickery involved because there couldn’t possibly be a location like that so unchanged. Nontheless, to all appearances, flawless.

    And while we’re talking about Changeling, it also struck me as one of the few recent big studio period pieces where the effects, costumes & sets actually didn’t swamp the story or the characters. When I watched it for the second time I couldn’t help thinking of Road to Perdition. The production values seemed to be sharing equal billing with Paul Newman & Tom Hanks in that one & the director seemed content to waste a lot of screen time allowing the sets & costumes to preen admiringly for the viewer. Changeling never fell into that trap.

    One final observation & then I’ll shut up (promise!); It’s well known that Eastwood likes to shoot efficiently & with a minimum of fuss & again he seems to have become quite taken with how he can use CG to that end. On Invictus, all those bruises on the players faces & bodies? Those were added in post & apparently saved a lot of time waiting around on the set for makeup. The tears that fall from Saigo at the end of Letters from Iwo Jima & Clint in Gran Torino? Both CG tears.

    Eastwood seems to have developed a very shrewd grasp of how to employ digital effects to enhance the kind of movies he wants to make. At his age then, still flexible, still adaptable & quite willing to experiment. Obviously he has the advantage of an expert crew but even so, decidedly impressive.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Jaime

    The Gsuntlet is major Eastwood, one of his first really important films.

  • Scott

    RD: I hadn’t heard that Cannes anecdote before. I remember Clint saying that “Pulp Fiction” wasn’t his choice for the Palme, but it’s interesting to know that he was a fan of the Zhang. If anything, though, it’s a wonder that Kieslowski’s “Trois Coleurs: Rouge” went home empty-handed that year. In light of Eastwood’s European sensibilities (and especially in light of the manner of film “Hereafter” is), you’d think he would have responded to a film like “Red”. And I recall reading somewhere that Tarantino actually thought Kieslowski deserved to win the Palme. Go figure!

  • John M

    “…all those bruises on the players faces & bodies? Those were added in post & apparently saved a lot of time waiting around on the set for makeup.”

    How did you hear this fact, RD? I must say, it seems…unlikely. In any case, while adding CGI bruises might save Clint time on set, it would add vast amounts of time and money in post-production. If it’s true, it seems like the kind of choice-delaying tactic for which another director might get hell on this site! (Same with the observations about INVICTUS and FLAGS: robotic repeating bodies and identical ships might not be an revealing directorial choice so much as sloppy CGI…does anyone know if Eastwood involves himself greatly with this part of the process?)

    Eastwood is a beloved enough director at this point that the traces in his direction that would be seen as flaws for others are often embraced as virtues–a seemingly detached working process (“no fuss” might be an understatement), a sometimes Manichean worldview, obvious CG effects, an undying faith in actors and at times overtly schematic screenwriting. He’s loved for exactly the things Fincher, another well-liked director here, seems to work obsessively to avoid. They’re the reasons I value him, actually: not so much because I find his qualities “European,” but “old-fashioned American.” He has strong, mature opinions about both life and drama, and he makes no efforts to hide them.

    And he is perhaps the oldest director working still under something that resembles the old auteur system (with Fincher, Scorsese, et al): project to project, he pursues what interests him using largely unchanged scripts and generous budgets and big stars.

    I enjoyed CHANGELING and MILLION DOLLAR BABY a great deal, and admired GRAN TORINO, but, to my mind, Clint’s no-fuss approach doesn’t go very far in improving Peter Morgan’s sometimes affecting but more often very awkward script. [sort of spoilers ahead, nothing that would really…spoil the experience…] Admittedly, I found the premise somewhat hard to swallow once Clint offers up a photographic representation of the afterlife as essentially a hologramatic screensaver. This seemed like a major mistake–vague and simplistic and syrupy. The film never really recovers from that one misstep–it presents three fitfully interesting story threads that circle almost randomly around…clairvoyant holograms. Themes are evident, for sure, but only in the broadest strokes, and Clint never shakes the absurd paradox in Morgan’s script. As Robert Sweeney says above, it’s about “the process of grieving and searching that could lead to [a belief in the afterlife].” True enough, but unfortunately, Matt Damon’s character seems to function in the script solely to invalidate the concept of the “hereafter” as a coping mechanism; that is, he’s there to say, “Yes, it’s all real, there’s a Great Beyond, and we’ll show it to you.” We’re left with something not so much ambivalent as vague and, at times, risible.

    But as always, there are things to chew on. And it certainly wasn’t the worst film at this year’s NYFF. That honor belongs to Julie Taymor’s THE TEMPEST.

  • Tom & Jaime, I usually tell people that “The Gauntlet” is one of my favorite romance films. The outsider Detective Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) and the down on her luck hooker Augustina “Gus” Mally (Sondra Locke) are treated with so much compassion, I was really moved by the film. In “The Gauntlet” there is Mr. Eastwood’s reoccurring interest in the harshness and disadvantages of growing up poor alongside a marxist critique of how politicians and those with power take advantage of those less fortunate.

  • Regarding the VFX of “Invictus” (and the other Eastwood films mentioned), here is an interesting article:

    http://www.studiodaily.com/main/searchlist/What-Makes-Invictus-a-VFX-Film_11650.html

    The problem for me with VFX is, that I almost always recognize it as such (especially bluescreen shots) and thus it breaks the suspension of disbelief.

    An example of great VFX that I only recognized after reading up on it is the birth scene in “Children of Men” – but then it’s pretty dark, which helps a lot.

  • RD

    John M,

    It is evident to me that our opinions of Eastwood couldn’t be further apart. Anyone who suggests that Eastwood has flaws as a filmmaker but only gets away with them because he is ‘beloved’ is frankly not someone with a great deal of critical credibility in my book. I seem to recall this same argument from Pauline Kael all those decades ago. It wasn’t any more convincing back then.

    As regards your specific question re Invictus, here is the key quote from a piece – well worth reading in full – from the CGSociety website;

    ‘In a previous film [Gran Torino] Michael Owens worked on closely with Clint Eastwood, he was asked about the possibility of exaggerating the damage to a fist after Eastwood had punched it through a window.

    “We ended up putting the digital make-up effects on him throughout the rest of the movie,” explains Owens. “Through that experience, it opened up a valuable technique for him. He said, ‘you know, I’m never doing makeup effects on the set again!’ Not that you wouldn’t need make up people because they are a valuable asset.” About 200 shots needed that ‘digital dust up.’

    On ‘Invictus’, the action on the pitch was furious and fast-paced. The dialog in the scrums and half time pep talks etc, had to be captured as quickly as possible. “These guys were really getting the hell beaten out of them as the game progressed. In 300 shots or so, we put blood smears, black eyes, the beginnings of bruises and even dirtied and scuffed costumes, all in digital makeup,” says Owens, “and it made a huge emotional difference and a huge dramatic takeaway. This was a great technique to be able to amp up the emotion of something. It plays dramatically but you can’t tell we were there.”

    In Letters from Iwo Jima there was one shot where a soldier had to cry quietly. Then in Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood had to do the same style of shot but he knew that when he cries, it would appear too messy.

    Michael Owens was asked to digitally create just one tear. Eastwood put in the acting performance and Owens found he could light and time the tear, mould and move the tear. “It’s a subtle thing but it truly helped to move the emotion of those scenes so much better,” he says.’

    http://features.cgsociety.org/story_custom.php?story_id=5461

    On the tiresome canard that Eastwood shoots every single thing in one or two takes the director had this comment during the Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima press junket:

    ‘“Everybody says that — ‘I hear you do everything in one take,’” Eastwood says. “If I did everything in one take, you might not [like what you see]. … Let’s just say I do what it takes to get the material right. When it seems right, I move on and don’t stay around beyond when the job is done. But that reputation — I sometimes joke about it. I’m willing to do whatever is required, and [these two films] required a lot.

    “It’s true that I’m old-school in the sense that I have worked with a lot of people who are not afraid to print and move on if they like something. I do like that decisiveness, and the fact that you can make up your mind. I understand that John Ford was like that, and he is certainly an idol of most directors. But I’ll experiment when the situation calls for it. I know people who still won’t [edit on] Avids, but I’ve become very comfortable with the Avid. So I’m not at the point where I [should be considered] a traditionalist. I have to keep investigating and keep up with the times.”’

    http://digitalcontentproducer.com/di/depth/video_clint_goes_digital/

    Edit@ Yann Heckmann: I missed your post while I was putting mine together. Interesting to see Michael Owens credit Eastwood for the idea of using digital makeup on ‘Invictus’. Thanks for the link!

  • John M

    “Anyone who suggests that Eastwood has flaws as a filmmaker but only gets away with them because he is ‘beloved’ is frankly not someone with a great deal of critical credibility in my book.”

    Your book doesn’t leave room for much, I’d imagine. Dare I say lighten up? (Maybe Clint can lighten you up in post?)

    You didn’t read my comment very carefully, RD. I’m saying he is celebrated for the very things some other well-established directors get vilified for–more an observation than a criticism as I myself, as I point out, celebrate him as well. I was moved, for example, by Gran Torino, even by what I saw as sometimes stale supporting performances and sometimes very awkward staging and (yes) sometimes race-baiting. Eastwood is a big-picture director–unlike most in Hollywood, he’s working with a vision–but I don’t think it’s an act of dismissal to say he doesn’t always strike me as 100% attentive–which sticks out when scenes are set and designed and often lit with an aim toward realism. (Also, I don’t know if that second bit is aimed at me, but I could frankly care less how many takes Eastwood does. I will say that, in my not-unusual opinion, Matt Damon doesn’t do his best work in Hereafter, and Bryce Dallas Howard is awful.)

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up the Dreaded Pauline Kael. I see you’ve learned the best shorthand way to dismiss someone ’round these parts. Very original. I remember now why I stopped commenting on this site.

  • I remember now why I stopped commenting on this site!

    Can’t say that I missed you, John M!

  • John M

    Yes, and I can’t help but notice that I’m not the only one who’s left the commenting portion of the site, and that your posts here seem to attract fewer comments with each passing week.

    Mr. Kehr, I respect you very much as a critic and learn a great deal from the comments on this site, but to be dismissively compared to Pauline Kael (shorthand for a knuckle-dragging ape) just for venturing a slightly dissenting opinion about Clint Eastwood suggests a kind of auteurist epistemic closure. I state an opinion–not even a terribly negative opinion, and besides, as I understand it, opinions are welcome here–and my intellect and “credibility” are attacked.

    It’s a very selective atmosphere, in more ways than one.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Considering that recently there have been multiple threads each week, with often up to three active at one point, I find this site is as active as ever.

    In any event, a comments section is best judged by the quality, not the quantity, of posts.

  • John M

    “I find this site is as active as ever.”

    I do not.