Carreyed Away

When he appeared in Ben Stiller’s pitch-black, Hitchcockian comedy “The Cable Guy” in 1996, Jim Carrey seemed poised to become the successor to Jerry Lewis as an inspired physical comic with a gift for tapping into the the darkest and unruliest aspects of the (North) American self.

But the blistering reviews for that film seemed to drive Carrey back into the safe terrain of mildly provocative likeability (“Liar, Liar,” “The Truman Show”), from which he has only occasionally emerged (as in last year’s long delayed “I Love You, Philip Morris”). As Carrey approaches 50, is it too late for him to recover the brilliance he displayed in his 1990s peak?

A new Blu-ray of “The Cable Guy” features nearly 30 minutes of trims and cut scenes, all fully mixed and scored — which suggests that they were cut from the film at a very late stage in the production process, most likely after some unfortunate preview screenings. In particular, the family dinner sequence — now almost doubled in length and full of some of the most grotesquely creative contortions Carrey ever imagined for himself — offers concrete evidence of just how substantial Carrey’s gifts are, and how little he’s been allowed to explore them. A review here in the New York Times.

It’s a sad day for the movies, and I’m not referring to the results of last night’s Hollywood party. We’ve lost both Annie Girardot — perhaps the most representative French actress of the 1970s, as well as the female lead in Visconti’s “Rocco and His Brothers” — and the director and producer Gary Winick. Gary, who was only 49, had a talent and ambition beyond many of the films he was allowed to make, after his 2004 “13 Going On 30″ helped establish the outlines of the contemporary chick-flick. I had the privilege of working with him on a book that regrettably never came to fruition about his experiences as a pioneer of low-cost, digital filmmaking with the company, InDigEnt, he formed with John Sloss in the wake of his unexpected commercial success. He was a lovely guy and a genuine visionary; I’ll miss him very much.

82 comments to Carreyed Away

  • dan

    Barry, everything is perfectly fine, and if anything was insulting in my part i will kindly ask your pardon in return. Anyway, it was clear to me you were reacting to Michael’s description, but as those were are just “descriptions”, meaning a matter of someone else opinion, its just impossible for you to conclude anything or even hint at it. In regard to my initial descriptions of the film that sparked your resentment, im still buffled as to why those were problematic or unfocused in your opinion. I thank you for trying to help make better case for films in the long run, but how could you offer such help if you can’t really judge if those were unfocused in the first place. I sensed in your first reply you felt something was morally off in my description of the character’s actions and my believe that those were somekind of statement about capitalistic society. Well, i see no problem with that description and line of thought, and i can’t really understand how can you judge me being “unfocused” if you haven’t really “focused” yourself on this particular film. When i first wrote of LIAR LIAR i was writing to those who’ve seen the film and can understand the context of my thoughts of it, dont be surprised if you didn’t get them because you really shoudln’t or couldn’t.
    Now lets leave that behind us, as we both didn’t mean any harm in this argument to one another.

  • dan

    Glenn, thanks for the clarification. I can’t speak for the so called “Ferroni Brigade” but i do find it hard to argue with Peranson (if he really did write it) that in the last films of Tony Scott there is a sincere identification in his part with the working class. Maybe I wouldn’t go as far as calling him their “friend”, but i believe the writer’s (assumed) intention isn’t so far fetched. There is even a point to be made in this regard as to Tony Scott style. It always seemed to me so “over the top” that i could actually “smell” his sweat ,working so damn hard as he does just to to sell his ideas visually, from my seat in the theater. Maybe his indentification with manual labor comes from that? it might be pushing it to hard, but maybe its still legitimate in a certain peculiar way?… maybe not…

  • Barry Putterman

    Dan, I agree that we should put this behind us and not go over the same disagreements again. However, since you are still a bit baffled about what I was up to and trying to accomplish, try to think of it in the following terms. Let’s say that your post was an analysis of LIAR LIAR which you had submitted for publication and I was the editor assigned to work with you on it. It wouldn’t be necessary for me to have seen the film because my job would be to improve the presentation you were making. In fact, in many ways it would be better for me not to have seen the film since it would free me to concentrate strictly on how convincingly the presentation is being made to a neutral audience.

    Now you may feel it presumptuous of me to assume that kind of attitude towards your post. And maybe it is. I won’t blame you if you resent my attitude on that. But I am not trying to debate the merits of the film with you. Just saying “persuade me why I should see this film through the force of your argument.”

  • By coincidence, I have some brief comments about the appreciation of that fast approaching “Unstoppable” train within a larger post on my website. Here is the url : http://torontofilmreview.blogspot.com/2011/03/formidable-schizophrenie-de-la-planet.html.

  • For me, the key to understanding Tony Scott’s rehabilitation – of which I too have participated; unsolicited links will follow at the end of this message – resides in the uncommon power of DEJA VU, which I would point out precipitated the publication of Peranson and Huber’s outstanding piece. With that film, which I would argue stands with Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL as one of the two finest works of blockbuster-mode filmmaking of the previous decade, Scott provides a powerful metaphor for cinema itself in the Snow White technology’s two-way mirror, while offering a useful taxonomy for differing means of formulating diegetic space – whether the viewer activated, gaming style diegetic space of the Google Earth-like surveillance imagery or the more classical formulation of diegesis that houses the action, and into which Washington’s character disappears in order to rewrite an act of homegrown terrorism. In this latter sense, I also found DEJA VU a powerful engagement with American popular trauma, post-9/11 and especially post-Katrina.

    All of that, then, is to explain why I think DEJA VU registered, beyond the fact that it represented an exceptional example of visual and sound decoupage construction. So with UNSTOPPABLE, I, like I suspect a number of others, who again like myself I also suspect spent some time reviewing Scott’s career in the meantime, really wanted to like this one. To find some of the same virtues as we did in DEJA VU – and I think they are there. Again, beyond the filmmaking, which to me is never less than viscerally engaging (with Pat Graham doing a very nice job on his post), there is the surveillance technology, which in this case takes the apparent form of the twenty-four news channel, placing UNSTOPPABLE even more concretely within its present moment – while also offering the opportunity to revisit its usage in prior Scott. Then there is also the prevention of tragedy, immediately post-9/11. I won’t go on further here, but I just kind of suspect UNSTOPPABLE excited us because it fulfilled expectations – for me, not at all unlike THE SOCIAL NETWORK post-ZODIAC.

    As for the promised links, I wrote on DEJA VU for FILM CRITICISM a couple of years ago with the essay republished on my TATIVILLE blog here: http://tativille.blogspot.com/2010/11/resurrecting-rube-diegesis-formation.html. Also, my expanded thoughts on UNSTOPPABLE are available on the same website: http://tativille.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-film-unstoppable.html.

  • I didn’t and wouldn’t accuse Mark Peranson of “bad faith” — he’s a nice guy and Canadian, which would necessarily preclude such things. I’m just asking for a coherent reading of the film that goes beyond empty phrases like “working class metaphysics” (presumably morally superior to ruling class metaphysics) and “the typical strengths of Tony Scott’s direction and cutting,” which do not seem at all self-evident to me. I think one could make a much better case for Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch,” “Wanted”) if one were interested in sheer digitally-enhanced stylistic extravagance, but I guess he lacks he lacks the kind of blue collar credibility that Scott achieved while studying painting at the Royal College of Art.

    Pat, I hardly think the screenplay of “Unstoppable” (by Mark “Live Free or Die Hard” Bomback) could be more formulaic — it’s strictly from the Syd Field playbook, complete with ticking clocks, heroes in need of personal redemption (somehow, the act of getting that train derailed makes them better husbands and fathers), and a most annoying chorus of appreciative applause and glowing reaction shots from the built-in “audience” watching the proceedings on (of course) Fox News, thus telling the theatrical audience exactly what to feel at any given moment.

    In any case, Scott’s manic over-direction seems almost unrelated to the script, rather as if he were embarrassed by its threadbare qualities and was trying to distract our attention with the ancient and venerable MTV array of stylistic smoke and mirrors. (When he’s got a decent screenplay, like Quentin Tarantino’s “True Romance,” he usually shows the good sense to stay out of its way.) I can’t see anything systematic in the visual plan of the film — the geometrics you describe are inherent in practically any movie about trains and train tracks, from “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat,” through Gance (“La Roue”) and Renoir (“La Bete Humaine”), and countless other example: give me Konchalovsky’s “Runaway Train” anytime. I can’t buy the analogy between Janso’s carefully choreographed crowd and camera movements and Scott’s manic fiddling with camera angles (from what I understand, he shoots mountains of “coverage” which his long suffering editors are then required to massage into something like coherence) and those goofy, abrupt zoom-ins he uses to punctuate some close-ups but, mysteriously, not others — something disturbingly close to a literal nervous tic. This isn’t a considered formal approach — it’s what’s known around the DGA as a “run and gun” style, used to goose up material without ever really engaging it.

  • D. K. Holm

    Just to offer a minority view, my interest in Tony Scott has followed the opposite path. I liked most of his films until lately, when he has become obsessed with stars, the characters themselves often separated from each other by distance, though that is probably the point and his big theme, with technology connecting them, and with the concomitant relegation of supporting actors to anonymity or elimination. Worst of all for me, however, are the nonsense establishing shots, which are not the sole tendency of Scott himself. Technically they aren’t just establishing shots, but any kind of transitional or linking shot to a new scene. These sweeping, dipping, counter-moving shots provide no new information. They come from CGI movies and animation, and in some cases are inspired by the famous tracking shot in Roshomon. Mann mimicked that shot twice in Heat but the image contained new information and the shot told the viewer something about Al Pacino’s character. And by the way, I agree that Collateral is a great film; love the calm and quiet of the opening sequence. Anyway, these sweeping shots attempt to provide grandeur, activity, and motion without providing any new information or advancing the story, be they in a Narnia movie or in a romantic comedy or anywhere else. They are a crutch, replacing the little used zoom in, copied stylistically but emptily from film to film, director to director, DP to DP. Nevertheless, I am going to read all this Tony Scott links in order to follow the argument. As usual these days when confronted with controversy, I find myself wondering, What would Robin Wood or Raymond Durgnat think? Not that they were always “right” – Wood hated Masque of the Red Death.

  • Glenn Kenny

    There are lots of “nice guys” out there. Hell, I’m actually relatively nice, once you get to know me. Richard Brody is terribly nice. Dave Kehr is nice. And so on. But nice guys in real life aren’t always quite as agreeable on the page, printed or web-based. And for me, Peranson’s particular approach to the role of critical not-quite-enfant terrible—the almost-fixed-in-place sneer at every other working journo and/or critic who doesn’t share his exalted worldview/sensibility, the expedient shifting of aesthetic goal posts depending on which hobby horse he is riding at the moment—well, that and more practically scream “bad faith,” and worse. But it’s true, Dave, YOU didn’t make the accusation of bad faith, and that should be clear if this discussion goes further. I made it, and I’m sticking with it. Nyah, nyah, and nyah.

  • Peter Henne

    “these sweeping shots attempt to provide grandeur, activity, and motion without providing any new information or advancing the story”

    Are you in favor of chopping down those parts of films that do not advance the plot? If grandeur does not include some information particular to it, then what distinguishes it?

  • Alex

    Glad to see that “current films” — hell, MOVIES– “are getting aren’t discussed… around here” for a change.

    Glad to see there are other fans of “Deja Vu” and, maybe, “True Romance.”

    Not that I’d risk getting my metaphysical hat all twisted around trying to square “Unstoppable” with the railroad films of Gance or Renoir or, even, “True Romance” with prime Tarantino-directs-Tarantino (e.g.,”Pulp Fiction”). However, I think a case could be made for preferring “Deja Vu” to “Inception,” “Unstoppable” to “Runaway Train,” and the the Hopper-defends-his-son-from-Christopher-Walken exchange from “True Romance” all but the VERY best of the Tarantino-directs-Tarantino action/dialogue riffs.

    Might Ridley Scott be falling from the rather high level of “Less than Meets the Eye” directors?

    Could we be talking “expressive esoterica” Re Tony?

  • dan

    Glenn, you’re a great guy, i’m sure of it, but i sometimes come across your ranting on some critics you don’t agree with, which is absolutley ok in my book, and i even mostly tend to agree with you (at least from reading some of the writing at your blog). Peranson does the same from what i red, and it doesn’t seem less legitimate. I like what he wrote in his column about Cannes 2010, under the title “The Year We Made Contact”. It doesn’t seem to be about fairness or politness, but just about feeling so passionate about a film or “a king of cinema”, that being its jealous advocate is really the only option left. I see it as complete “devotion” not just “sneering”. Like protecting something you care about from the ones who don’t like it. It is sometimes childish maybe, but never just meaness for the sake of being mean. would you consider this as an possible option?

  • Thanks Dan. I see your point, and I have to confess that in trying to add to Dave’s clarification as to who said what about whom, e.g., the “bad faith” claim, I did perhaps come down too much on Peranson. With whom I DO genuinely take issue a lot of the time, but really, if we’re gonna focus on irritating Tony Scott love, I felt the “Ferroni” guys were really the most egregious offenders. That said, I have detected what I consider real strains of cliqueishness and what some might perceive as perversity in what Dave calls “the Cinema Scope crowd,” and no, don’t even get me started on its championing of the heinous “Import/Export.” I really don’t like “ranting,” and I’m sad that some of my more outlandish rhetorical flights read that way, but in times such as these keeping the proper tone can be a real challenge. I had to do part-time demolition work to make ends meet last summer. I’m not saying that to elicit pity, just by way of explaining why I might react with something less than wry amusement when an individual such as Christoph Huber, who could likely sever his own finger merely by LOOKING at a circular saw, champions Tony Scott as some kind of working class hero. I mean, really.

  • pat graham

    dave, maybe surprisingly i can agree with a lot of what you say about scott’s style (or nonstyle, if you’d rather): mountains of overshooting–i.e., “coverage”–massaged by diligent editors into some form of aesthetic coherence (and arguably yet another example, to cite a favorite cultural bromide, of the road of excess leading to the palace of “wisdom,” or something equally peachy, unless of course your name is tony scott … but i digress), work that’s engineered into existence rather than directed, where the hired help fills out the auteuristic signature, etc * well, so what?–we’ve been over similar ground with other filmmakers in the past and not held it against claims of authorship: he’s lazy, he’s wasteful, everyone else is doing the real work of craft, blah blah blah … but whose is the organizing touch? * and what makes it so consistent from one film to another? * i’m certainly not arguing that tony scott is “better” than konchalovsky; hell, of the two “train” movies from last year–UNSTOPPABLE and benning’s RR–i wouldn’t give up a second of the latter’s prismatic epiphanies from the corrugated sides of boxcars for ALL of scott’s rumbling, rolling stock * because it IS all predictable, the marshaling of battle plan options, and he’s not taking you anywhere you don’t already know you’re going * but gosh, the thing’s a giddy lark–and he does really layer it up, if ultimately in thoroughly familiar classical compositional ways * but: no battle plan?–best look again! * if anything, the problem is in the way the same strategies of point/counterpoint get repeated over and over and over again (incidentally, not a lot of train movies shot through so many interposing layers of tinted glass–eat your heart out LA BETE HUMAINE!–with, e.g., camera dynamics butting against the direction of movement in, let’s say, the engine cab, but that’s just one example, and just in the dialogue close-ups) * as i indicated earlier, typically we’ll get ascending sweep pan left, descending sweep pan right, bisecting overhead shot from below grade to horizon, camera moving laterally one way while the literal action goes another (like in car commercials on tv!), then competing diagonal vectors suddenly juxtaposed against slashing lines of helicopters (pretty hilarious, i think), followed by a lonnnng arcing shot of the whole groaning behemoth traversing the screen side to side, a bit like a dying doppler effect, to break up the otherwise unrelenting bang-bang rhythms of aggression * so it’s run through and repeat, run through and repeat–a bit like your old high school football cheers actually, in an exotically formal way: turn to the left, turn to the right, stand up, sit down, fight fight fight! * that’s tony scott … and, for what it’s worth, nobody does it better, not THESE days anyway …

  • Glenn Kenny

    I interviewed Bertrand Tavernier yesterday, and our discussion touched upon some of the difficulties he had in the post-production of his Louisiana-shot “In The Electric Mist,” and we had the occasion to reflect upon the irony of the fact that much of the American filmmaking industry now disdains the very grammar and style that directors such as Bertrand actually learned, and were inspired by, from American films. A further irony is that a new template of sorts was gifted to Hollywood filmmakers by Tony Scott, an Englishman. Not Scott alone, of course; the ethos of movement so eloquently described by Pat Graham above was certainly pushed by producers Don SImpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. I’d agree with Pat that Scott “owns” this method in a way that sets him apart. What made “Unstoppable” a better-than-watchable Scott experience for me was that its script didn’t allow Scott the opportunity to indulge his worse instincts, which I’m not sure are something apart from his method or intrinsic to it, e.g., the meretricious, 1000-yard-stare “I’m gonna kill these guys” theatrics of a picture such as “Man on FIre.” In any event, historical/cultural ironies certainly do seem to abound here.

  • Pat, if you’re saying that Scott is only interested in creating a sense of constant agitation on the screen, regardless of what’s supposedly going on dramatically, then I completely agree with you — it’s something he’s been doing since “Top Gun” and basically it’s just a way of hiding the hollowness of the enterprise behind a lot of surface flash. I fast-forwarded through “Unstoppable” again and couldn’t find any of the systematic alternation of panning shots that you describe; maybe the parallelism there in isolated moments but I suspect that’s more of a question of the roomful of monkeys typing out Shakespeare — with that much randomness, something of apparent significance is bound to emerge.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that Scott didn’t supervise and “own” his editing — I’m quite sure that he does. But perhaps this kind of thing is better confined to the 30 second car commercial (of which Scott is one of the acknowledged masters) than a feature film. With a project, like “Unstoppable,” so packed with blunt, crude manipulation of audience sentiment, I feel less of a sense of “a giddy lark” than a forced march — the movie is trying to work me over, in an all but physical sense, and whip me into a wholly artificial emotional state. Which is why I didn’t join my high school cheerleading squad and why I’m not so fond of Leni Riefenstahl movies, either.

  • Brian Dauth

    I have ended up seeing a good number of Tony Scott films, since the quid of my husband seeing foreign films with me is the quo of my watching Denzel Washington movies with him. I think the observation that Scott does “it” better than anyone else is correct: I am always surprised at the pleasure I get from these films. It is not the thrill of Astaire/Charisse/Minnelli, but more than I encounter in most Hollywood product.

    As for the disdain factor: I am not sure that these filmmakers are equipped with any more disdain than the abstract expressionists had when they turned their backs on figurative painting. Each generation of artists works (to varying degrees) in response/oppostion to the artists who came before them.

    For me the question is: while I can have similarly deep aesthetic engagements with both figurative and non-figurative painting; I have been unable, so far, to achieve equal engagement between films employing the grammar Glenn refers to and those using nanosecond-editing/ever gliding-reframing camera work. Of course, this may be just the way my brain got wired when I started watching films as a teenager and/or my own limited intellectual abilities, but I do wonder if stable/longer-held images afford a particular autonomy to a viewer that quick-edit/gliding camera images do not; and that this autonomy is experienced as freedom/pleasure which feels denied by these other techniques which seem, by comparison, authoritarian.

  • Brian, I wonder how much of Scott’s hysterically hyperactive direction is overcompensation for Washington’s now nearly catatonic screen presence. They do make an odd couple.

  • Tony Scott’s not a key editing force? Maybe. (Tony must not be an auteur!)

    Well, I didn’t mean to say that Tony Scott doesn’t have a certain style that shows through in the editing (and camerawork, color grading, sound design etc.) – that much is obvious, (though, e.g. “Crimson Tide” is very different from “Domino”). And of course an editor like Lebenzon will change gears when he works with Burton or Scott respectively. But I’m pretty certain that none of these directors micromanage the work of a long-term collaborator and that the actual putting together of the shots (i.e. the editing) is in Lebenzon’s hands. Most likely they have developed an intuitive understanding as to what is required and wanted, so that the editor can do his work while the director does his.

    Paul Greengrass’ editor Christopher Rouse describes their collaboration thusly:

    very rarely will we talk about the specifics of the editing — what pieces should be joined with which in what particular order. We never speak in that regard. It’s always about the larger aspects of the piece. Over the course of three films it’s become like any relationship — the more time you spend with someone, the less talking you have to do. You begin to intuit what it is that they’re after. When the footage rolls in, generally I can tell by the way it’s shot that there’s a certain attack that makes sense to me and I’ll pursue that.

    It’s an interesting interview that also touches on some other points discussed above: http://www.studiodaily.com/filmandvideo/currentissue/8546.html

  • Brian Dauth

    Dave: you may be right. I also wonder to what extent changing camera, editing, and other technologies have contributed to these new styles (and do these new technologies and styles then engender new acting methodologies, e.g., the transition from boom microphones to body mikes). Is there a difference in how a Classical Era director thought/worked when she knew that the vast majority of her image would be composed of what she filmed, and a director today who can add so much to what was “live” before her camera?

  • Glenn: Lav Diaz likes Tony Scott? Really? I’m floored.

    I can agree on the Scott camerabatics and all, fun in a Rube Goldberg way, I suppose, and can even see (if not quite agree) on Scott the Serious Artist in Deja Vu (need to view that again, maybe it all comes crashing to me the second time around), but I like my working-class train movies simple, gracefully made, even moving–Kurosawa by way of Konchalovsky (as Pat G. pointed out earlier).

    If we’re talking recent odd-couple movies, how about Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen’s Hornet? I thought they trashed the genre quite nicely, and Gondry for one has at least one bravura moment (you know what I mean if you’ve seen it). And have we thoroughly parsed the Coen’s True Grit yet? Or digested Tom Six’s The Human Centipede?

  • Alex

    Tony Scott is a master, indeed a notably original stylist, of what is perhaps the major commercial “genre” of the past quarter century –the action spectacle/action thriller shifted into a displacement of the narrative-centered classical Hollywood toward sheer spectacle of (elaborately edited and incredibly survived) explosions, car chases, gun fights, FX extravaganzas, and the like (McTiernan, Donner, Hardin, The Wachowskies, Cameron, Bay, McG, etc., etc., etc.,). Geoffrey King has written with analytical precision – if excessive sympathy — about this genre (or family of genres) and its tensions with narrative and character centrality, credibility and coherence. Within the not-sonew action spectacle, hyped-up over-active direction is the norm –indeed a defining trait– and some semblance of credibility to keep the set pieces from spiraling out into chaos for want of narrative coherence and character ballast is the challenge. Among action spectacle directors, Tony Scott is one of the best at hyping up the action to roller coaster effect while achieving –at least from time to time (Enemy of the State, Unstoppable, Déjà vu if one’s okay with considerable sci-fi fancifulness)– a decent bit of narrative coherence and character ballast. This isn’t high praise for the now seriously hamstrung action genre, but it provides a window for allowing Tony Scott some relative merit in his time. (And who knows what portions of one era’s drek might come in retrospect to shine.)

    Not that Tony Scott ever has or ever will come up with a “North by Northwest” or a “French Connection,” much less a “La Bete Humaine.”

  • Alex, I haven’t read Geoffrey King, but isn’t this style what David Bordwell identified as “intensified continuity” back in 2002? I can’t say its my favorite mode of filmmaking, but within it I find a number of directors — John McTiernan here and there; the early, more agitated David Fincher; the wildly imaginative Timur Bekmambetov (I’m eager to see his forthcoming “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer”), Michel Gondry when he actually seems to care about the project (which he plainly doesn’t in the dreadful “Green Hornet”) — whose work seems more concentrated on exploring the material and providing a more pleasurable, congenially engaging experience for the viewer than the kind of brute, high-pressure salesmanship I sense in Tony Scott, McG, Michael Bay, Mark Neveldine (“Gamer”), Baz Luhrmann, etc. So there are certainly distinctions to be drawn within this style — and we may as well learn to live with it, if only because (Fincher’s amazing rebirth as a classicist not withstanding) it is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

    Noel, it was I who proposed “Runaway Train” as a less noxious alternative to “Unstoppable,” not Pat.

  • Alex

    Dave K., King’s “genre” might well be what David Bordwell called “intensified continuity” back in 2002, for King builds off Bordwell, off the benchmark of his classical Hollywood cinema in particular. I certainly prefer the a McTiernan or three and early Fincher to Tony Scott, but I utterly prefer Tony Scott, to Harlin, McG, or Michael Bay. (Veveldine and Kekmambetov I don’t know.) I think Luhrmann’s hyper-direction is so ambitious and far-ranging as to be something alse (though i look forward to his GATSBY with far more trepidation than hope).

    Still, I do think TS can entertain with counterproductive distraction or enmbarrasment and that he isn’t quite as limited by his excess of hot air as you think because he works in a genre that’s mainly aimed at speed and kicks and quite happy with hot air machines. (I confess to enjjoying as overtly a roller-coaster contrivance as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”)

    Just saw another stylistic go at mundane thriller material (of another, more narrative-centered era) stremimng at Netflix, Sirk’s SLEEP, MY LOVELY. Terrific, rather classical entertainment, as crisp and rational as its Sutton Place-GASLIGHT-inspired script allows, and as gorgeous as a Preminger-LaShelle collaboration (or close). Even more fun than ENEMY OF THE STATE or UNSTOPPABLE –though conceivably not as profound as DEJA VU (or, more likely, not so silly).

  • While “intensified continuity” might be most obvious in action films, Bordwell identifies it as a general trend in contemporary cinema not restricted to certain genres or even Hollywood films:

    A fast cutting rate, the bipolar extremes of lens lengths, a reliance on tight singles and the free ranging camera are salient marks of intensified continuity. Virtually every contemporary mainstream American film will exhibit at least some of them.

    (The Way Hollywood Tells It, p.137)

  • Barry Putterman

    Well I had thought I had filled my Tony Scott quota many years ago, but the current discussion does make DEJA VU sound as though it might be worth a look-see. And, after all, who wouldn’t be curious to find out what “working-class metaphysics” actually is?

    I hadn’t considered myself to be really up on these films. But, as a baseball fan, I have to sit through more than my share of car commercials. Also beer commercials, which are basically the haiku versions of current mainstream comedies. So possibly I’m more aware than I thought. (I also saw Luhrmann’s MOULIN ROUGE!, which struck me as the longest commercial I had ever experienced). Is this why we use the words “ride” and “buzz” as superlatives for these films? I don’t know much about theme-park metaphysics, but if I wanted to have a roller coaster ride, why wouldn’t I just buy a ticket to ride on the roller coaster?

  • Alex

    Yann Heckmann and David K.,

    Sounds like “intensified continuity” does indeed apply to Luhrmann.

    Barry,

    I think “working-class metaphysics” was direct attibuted to UNSTOPPABLE, not DEJA VU — and means (if it means anything sensible at all) nothing very meta-physical except an apparent working class vantage point, or a story told mostly from the viewpoint of working class protagonists (venting, showing competence and grit) — plus lots of helicopters, and a bit of Fox News. What working class empathy emerges is all within the limits of Fox (News) marketting, though I suppose that any degree of media empathy these days with Stateside people who might get dirty at work merits some commendation

  • Barry Putterman

    Yes Alex, DEJA VU and, in addition, UNSTOPPABLE for the “working-class metaphysics.” Although, it that is just a fancy way of misspelling “A Raoul Walsh Film,” I’ll simply put on another Raoul Walsh film. My guess is that Fox News is far too concerned currently with the doings of government workers and their pension plans to have any particular feeling one way or the other regarding people who might get dirty.

  • My condolences on Gary Winick.
    I loved his version of CHARLOTTE’S WEB (2006). This is a thoughtful film that really works in the story telling and feeling levels. It is definitely one of the better multiplex movies of recent years.
    *
    The only Ben Stiller directed film seen here is ZOOLANDER. Thought this was funny, and had some good satire and political points. Its raucous humor is definitely a bit lowbrow, but it’s also good fun.
    *
    In the 1980’s, enjoyed Jim Carrey’s TV sitcom THE DUCK FACTORY. This took place in an animation studio.

  • Eric D.

    What was wrong with the Cinema Scope crowd’s championing of Import/Export?

  • If we’re talking Jim Carrey’s TV work, I liked what he did in In Living Color. His sendup of Julia Roberts in Pretty Buff Woman was something to see.

    Apologies for the mistake, Dave–you did mention Runaway Train.

    If we’re talking of master of a genre, or a master of intensified continuity, I don’t know if Scott measures up–surely Scorsese’s recent work counts in there somewhere (I’d call him a master of the style sooner than Scott). Early Fincher, maybe. Some John Woo might count (does Red Cliff count?).

    If there’s anything at all interesting in Scott, I submit that the choice of material he works on helps make it so (Deja Vu, Enemy of the State–which I keep mistaking for something by Ibsen).

    If Unstoppable were to make fun of itself, I might take it more seriously–in terms of gravitas, of presenting the anguish of the lower classes, I’d say Runaway Train’s far more persuasive.

  • Oliver_C

    All this talk of Runaway Train and ‘intensified continuity’ reminds me — here’s a January 2011 article on Andrei Konchalovsky from a London newspaper, in which he bemoans Hollywood micromanagement of his films, in particular the studio’s insistence that “the camera should move all the time”:

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/film/article-23914414-i-want-my-films-to-leave-a-little-wound-in-the-psyche.do

  • Eric D. asks “What was wrong with the Cinema Scope crowd’s championing of Import/Export?” Well, I suppose if you were an admirer of “Import/Export,” nothing. But if, like me, you found the film schematic and nearly sniggeringly exploitative, you might have found much of the praise for it hitting similar unpleasant-in-a-really-bad-way chords.