This is Andrew Wyatt's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Andrew Wyatt's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Andrew Wyatt
Recent Activity
I kind of think that part of the difficulty critics have had in talking about WowS with one another is varying definitions of ""justice," "comeuppance," and "getting what he deserves". Personally, I don't need to see Belfort get put away for life in some grimy hellhole, or get shivved by one of the people whose lives he casually destroyed. That would be justice in the sense of Greek tragedy sense of the word, I suppose, but tragedy seems to require that the protagonist be at least a little sympathetic to the viewer. Scorsese goes out of his way to make Belfort as *unsympathetic* as possible. It's the rare film told from a villain's point-of-view which does not invite us to feel for the guy in any way. (I quipped to a friend after seeing the film that Frank in MANIAC gets treated with more empathy than Belfort in WOLF.) At any rate, it seemed to me that Belfort's deranged level of excess is itself a kind of comeuppance. I mean, who looks at the depravity in this film and thinks it looks appealing? It doesn't matter how attractive the women are, how mind-blowing the drugs are, how heavenly the liquor is, how opulent the manor and yacht. Nothing he does looks *fun* in any sense I recognize (and I have been known to enjoy the, uh, finer things in life in my time). Belfort and his minions aren't having fun--they're yawning chasms of need who have convinced themselves that relentless consumption equals fun. Every orgy in the film has the reek of flop-sweat on it. I wouldn't trade places with Jordan Belfort for anything, even if I only got to experience the dizzying highs. It looks awful. And that's the film's strange achievement, I think: It makes my stomach churn at the idea of being filthy rich. That's kind of brilliant in its way.
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2013 on More "Wolf of Wall Street" at Some Came Running
I got into a bit of heated Facebook discussion recently---I know, I know---about GRAVITY, and specifically about whether or not the back half of the film was a death bed hallucination or perhaps even a post-death, afterlife experience. As far as I could discern, the evidence that the "pro-dream" / "pro-heaven" side was able to marshall was that A) Ryan' survival of her ordeal seemed really, really, really improbable, B) Her hallucination / fantasy about Matt's reappearance establishes that nothing presented in the film can be assumed to be "real", and C) There's no convincing reason one *shouldn't* believe Everything Is a Dream. What frustrated me most is that no one could explain how such a reading of the film changes much of anything about either its visceral thrills or its themes. It's almost incidental. I was ready to throw in the towel with, "Okay, fine, you win: Ryan was dreaming the whole thing. AND?" I don't even know where to begin with these discussions. I'm not sure what originated this impulse to mistrust everything that we are shown on screen and assume every narrator is unreliable---FIGHT CLUB? TOTAL RECALL? BRAZIL? GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET? (Kidding. Kind of.)---but it needs to stop. Viewers are no longer interfacing with what is on the screen and are just making up their own films in their brains. Is it a cute thought experiment to imagine that Ferris Bueller is not an actual person but a manifestation of Cameron Frye's id? Sure. It's diverting to think about. But for Christ's sake, I would hope no one would try to defend it as the "obvious" and "only correct" interpretation of the film.
A friend from my RPG-freelancing days had a great line about Lovecraft page-to-film adaptations, which he may have repeated from someone else: The Lovecraft adaptation that would be most faithful to the spirit of the man's work would be two guys with Boston accents screaming for two hours at something horrifying just off-screen.
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2012 on "Prometheus" at Some Came Running
Huh. I hadn't thought of the AtMOM connection, but it does kind of map onto PROMETHEUS somewhat, doesn't it? Elder Things -> Engineers, and Shoggoths -> Xenomorphs. Weren't there some rumblings about Guillermo del Toro being attached to that ATMoM adaptation? Cuz in spite of PROMETHEUS, I would still love to see del Toro's take on the tale.
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2012 on "Prometheus" at Some Came Running
Dan: You're correct to an extent. Yes, authorial intent doesn't *really* matter in Film Analysis 101, as you say, and if one wants to craft a feminist analysis of ALIEN, one can certainly do that, regardless of what Scott or any of the other filmmakers involved "really" intended. However, I was responding to Don's assertion that a feminist reading is arguable silly, since Scott has exhibited no subsequent interest in feminist themes. And that just seems counter-factual, given, again, G.I. JANE and THELMA & LOUISE. (And, to an extent, HANNIBAL and MATCHSTICK MEN as well.) So, yeah, perhaps we're arguing about something that doesn't really matter in the realms of rigorously text-centered criticism. But it still raises a red flag for me when whole swaths of a director's oeuvre are disregarded for convenience's sake.
Don: Recall that Scott *did* make G.I. JANE and THELMA & LOUISE, two of the better films with explicit feminist themes to come out of mainstream Hollywood in the 1990s. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your skepticism re: ALIEN's feminism, but it's not inconceivable that Scott had feminism on his mind even at that early date.
I'm a bit closer to Glenn's sentiments on this than the emerging disappointed-to-annoyed consensus, it seems, although the film's flaws are sticking points for me, perhaps to greater degree than they were for Glenn. I adore the early scenes of David roaming the ship along, crisply performing all the trivial little maintenance tasks--That medium-long shot of him bending to pit up that speck of detritus on the floor! Love it!--and also finding ways to fritter away the time while the crew sleeps. It's a mysterious, funny, and somewhat ominous sequence. Also: That self-surgery scene! Jesus. It is, in essence, a bomb-defusing sequence? I loved how Rapace spends the whole final third of the movie *drenched* in sweat and increasing battered by her travails, yet she never stops moving. She reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones or John McClane (alebit without thier winking charisma). It gives me a bit of pleasure to see that Glenn (on Twitter) noticed, as I did, that Chekov's Gun was in play. Scott seems to have picked up from Cameron the rule that if a science-fiction technology is mentioned and shown, it *will* come up later in the plot. Still, there's quite a bit that irked me: paper-thin characterization, awful dialog, shockingly clumsy pacing, the wheel-spinning final fifteen minutes, and a kind of narrative muddiness--Why is this person doing that? And why is it shot and scored as though we should understand its great significance?--that reminded me unavoidably of LOST's worst traits, given Lindelof's reworking of the script. Consistent with Glenn, however, it *did* pleasantly recall the science-fiction features of old. Specifically, its worldview seems to be a successor to the sort of shitty 1950s and 1960s alien films that used to get lampooned on MST3K regularly. I'm thinking of stuff like THE CRAWLING EYE, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, and NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST. Sure, they were amateurish crap with dime-store special effects, but they had a real sense of menace and cynicism, wherein the universe is filled not with hope and revelation but with malevolent and stomach-churning entities. Quite Lovecraftian, in their way. PROMETHEUS seems to me the kind of film that Burt I. Gordon would have made fifty years ago, had he several hundred million dollars, today's technologies, and greater directorial skill. And I mean that in a complimentary way.
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2012 on "Prometheus" at Some Came Running
That's a great Farber quote, Evelyn. It crystallizes my own reaction whenever I am asked if I'm "really" as aspiring filmmaker. Not to get all Grandpa Simpson here or anything, but it seems as though the Interwebs have served as a double-edged sword. The alleged "democratizing" effect of the Web has undeniably improved access to and platforms for good criticism, but also enhanced the effectiveness of the "That's just, like, your opinion, man" attack on good critics. The "democratization" metaphor creates the illusion that everyone's assessment of a film is equal, like a vote in an election, and therefore the incoherent gushing (or grousing) or a commenter on Rotten Tomatoes is "just as valid" as A.O. Scott's well-crafted and well-reasoned reviews, essays, and so forth. There's no need to actually engage with Scott's arguments, to challenge them or scrutinize them for fallacies of their own. Now one can just impugn his motives, and point out that lots of people like something that he loathes (or is just lukewarm on!), as if that were an argument. The access that the Web has provided for great criticism (and great inter-critic dialogue) is invaluable, but the price is apparently that hefty swaths of the consumer population couldn't care less about actual criticism, and treat cinema like a kind of tribal warfare or sports team rivalry. Or has this always been the case?
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2012 on I believe in criticism at Some Came Running
Bill: More to the point, you don't need to have worked as an design engineer at BMV to observe that a car's handling can be sluggish at high speeds, or that the layout of the dashboard is not especially ergonomic. I wonder it this would invite snorting from those engineers, "You don't know what you're talking about. Have you ever even *built* a car?" Art isn't engineering, of course, but still.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2012 on I believe in criticism at Some Came Running
The "Those Who Can't Do, Critique" canard irks me, not only because it's a non sequitur, but also because it doesn't apply to me at all. I'm not interested in directing or writing or shooting or acting in a film. I'm not a creative type. I don't have a screenplay in me, or a play, or a novel. I don't write criticism because I failed at what I "really" wanted to do. I write criticism because--surprise, surprise--I like writing criticsm, and I am at least notionally good at it. God forbid my writing should be judged on its own merits, for its observations and arguments and analysis. But since I've never done anything "in film" (other than, you know, writing about it for four years, and even getting paid a paltry sum for it now!), I guess I should turn in my Emperor of All Things Good and Horrible badge and go hang my head in shame.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2012 on I believe in criticism at Some Came Running
I, too, applaud the term "erotic unobtanium". To have it in our lexicon is to make the existence of PROJECT X a worthwhile thing.
I try not to use "uncinematic" too much for the reasons outlined above--it's inherently fuzzy and applied chiefly to films the user doesn't like--but I would say the closest to a useful definition for me would be a flat, unimaginative use of blocking, composition, shot selection etc. that doesn't exploit the qualities of cinema as a medium. You see this with some romantic comedies, indie dramas, and especially documentaries. If you see a film and you're reaction is "Why was heck was this released in theaters and not as a basic cable telefilm?," I'd say you're probably dealing with an "uncinematic" work.
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2011 on What is "cinematic?" part deux at Some Came Running
To ranks of "Physically Constrained but Cinematically Interesting" alongside 12 ANGRY MEN and ROPE, I would add BURIED from just last year. I think it's a great film, terrifying and even absurdly funny, but not many folks seem to agree with that assessment. That's fair, I suppose, and that's where the "taste" factor comes in. But I don't know how anyone can look at what director Rodrigo Cortés did with the film and say that it isn't objectively cinematic. It's one actor in a 6'x3'x2' box for 95 minutes with only naturalistic lighting. Any filmmaker that can make that such a movie as a honest-to-god thriller (and not, say, as an experimental film a la Andy Warhol's EMPIRE) is by definition a director who understands the craft of cinema.
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2011 on What is "cinematic?" part deux at Some Came Running
"But I think that while conversation about movies can absolutely be about the vagaries of taste, criticism has to go beyond that." THIS.
Toggle Commented Sep 29, 2011 on What is "cinematic?" part deux at Some Came Running
Andrew Wyatt is now following The Typepad Team
Sep 29, 2011