Movies You Go to the Mat for and the Ones You Don’t

Last week I updated one of my personal blogs with a series of shots from Nicolas Refn’s 2011 movie, Drive.   There was a brief discussion on Facebook, where I linked to it, among some friends about the scene, about Albert Brooks’ performance and the movie in general.   I liked the film very much as did most everyone who chose to comment.  Then a certain buzzkill that I will not name – okay, it was fellow Morlock Richard Harland Smith – came on and basically said the movie and Brooks were just “okay.”  Richard being Richard, I took this in the spirit intended:  smug, self-satisfied contrarianism.  Oh, I’m just joking (or am I?).  But seriously, I thought Richard was going for a reaction and I thought about what he said and the movie and decided, “Yeah, I like the movie and everything but if someone else thinks it’s a boring piece of junk, eh, who cares?”  Sometimes you go to the mat for a movie and sometimes you don’t.  Drive was one of those times I didn’t.  Like I said, I like it but not enough to spend valuable time arguing my side of the issue.  Sometimes, though, it’s a different matter entirely.

As a parent, you learn to pick your battles.  Children are a handful and require enormous amounts of attention and guidance which is fine except, as a parent, you also have so many other responsibilities which are necessary for keeping your children fed and clothed, that you learn to pick and choose when and where to take your stand, if only to keep your sanity intact.   In short, you let your kids “win” sometimes when they are arguing that you are being, once again, unfair because in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn’t make a person any happier to argue about every little thing and, at the same time, it teaches your kids how to express themselves in argumentation.  Other times, however, the issue is too important and even if it means days of resentment and attitude, you stand your ground.   That’s how I am – all of us, probably – with movies.  Sometimes, it’s just not worth it while other times, I won’t back down.

One of the odd things about this is, it depends on the company.  If I’m with a group of cinephiles who have loved and passionately devoted themselves to the cinema their whole lives and there’s disagreement on Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, I’ll engage them and hopefully have a great discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of the movie in question.  If, on the other hand, I’m with a group of people who see movies as a product to pass the time and don’t know any movies made before last year and one of them says, “I saw some Chaplin movie for a few seconds last night when I was flipping through the channels.  God, it was awful!  How could anyone like that?”  I will completely ignore him.  It’s not worth going to the mat for City Lights with him because he has so little background and/or interest in film, that any arguments I tried to make would more likely than not seem nonsensical or, at the very least, pointless.

When I first started discussing film online several years ago, it didn’t take me long to figure out which sites to visit and which ones to avoid.  There were plenty of film forums where disrespecting the classics was the order of the day.  Writers who fancied themselves as edgy and iconoclastic delighted in telling anyone they thought they could anger that Casablanca was garbage and Citizen Kane was overrated and boring.  (Strangely enough, any work of art can be overrated and still be great so that intended burn is essentially meaningless.  For instance, I think Citizen Kane is superb but if I said, “Citizen Kane is the single, most important work of any kind every created by the human race,” I would still be overrating it.  Also, my blog posts fit that description much more aptly than any stupid movie).    As a result of this disrespect, I quickly arrived upon the curious position of almost never going to the mat for the established classics.  I figured, they’re established.   If someone wants to reevaluate them, I trust they will proceed from the idea that the film is revered and move out from there, arguing that perhaps its day is done.  But what more often happens is someone decides to incense everyone by calling The Searchers a bad movie and thanks, but I’m not going to waste my time arguing with that viewpoint, especially expressed in an incendiary way.

So what do I go to the mat for?  Actually, I probably shouldn’t even reveal what movies I go to the mat for because once I do, the post stops being about that very idea and becomes, “let’s tell Greg that movie stinks and see how hard he argues his side.”  Some other time maybe but, in general, I tend to go to the mat for movies I don’t think are very good to begin with but which I felt are misunderstood.  Movies that might be considered “stupid,” or “trashy,” or “just some dumb genre flick.”  Especially if the person disrespecting also believes that “moving, socially conscious movies” are better based on subject matter alone.

And so, this peculiar behavior of mine, has led to some strong defenses of movies most people would probably reserve for Grand Illusion or The Godfather instead of, say, Smokey and the Bandit.  But that’s misleading.  I’m not really going to the mat for something like Smokey and the Bandit as much as much as pointing out the immeasurable talents of Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason and how spectacularly awesome they both are in their respective roles as well as the none-too-shabby exploits of Jerry Reed, Sally Field, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams and Mike Henry.

Or when I write up The Birds, as I did here last week, I’m not placing it on a higher pedestal than Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt or Psycho but more stressing that it shouldn’t be underrated.

Or with Somewhere in Time and The Final Countdown from my post two weeks ago, it was less “these are the greatest time travel movies ever” than “these are both really good as well as undervalued.”

You see, I endorse the school of thought that most movies, not all but most, have something worth recommending them in some capacity.  When I watch a movie like Drive, I think about the performances and the nature of the violence and I think there’s a lot there that someone might be the better for seeing while, at the same time, I realize it’s not for everyone and if someone tells me they don’t like it, I can only recall the wisdom of Sy Benson and say, “Hey babe, we’re not married to it.”   I shy away from strenuously going to the mat for the established classics only because they’ve had decades of defense written in their favor already and don’t need my voice to save their reputations.  But for other movies, I will. To paraphrase Tom Joad, wherever there’s a fight over whether an actor is good or bad, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a critic beatin’ up an underrated movie, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in the way guys yell at the screen, the way children laugh at meta-jokes in Pixar movies and when someone says science fiction movies are silly and shouldn’t be held in the same esteem as epic dramas – I’ll be there, too.

0 Response Movies You Go to the Mat for and the Ones You Don’t
Posted By Timothy Lantz : September 19, 2012 9:30 am

A lot of what you describe has led me to form my own movie blog, http://cinema-irregular.com/ I was really growing weary of all the negativity and decided to start pointing out that even in bad films, there is often something worth looking out for. Not that every film is great and should be watched without question, but there are a lot of films that are easily dismissed, though they may still have some admirable qualities. Often context is key, a movie you would watch with friends on a Friday after mid-night, may not be the same you would watch with your mother on a day off. A lot of review sites want to judge everything on a level playing field, but I think that is too limiting.

Posted By Timothy Lantz : September 19, 2012 9:30 am

A lot of what you describe has led me to form my own movie blog, http://cinema-irregular.com/ I was really growing weary of all the negativity and decided to start pointing out that even in bad films, there is often something worth looking out for. Not that every film is great and should be watched without question, but there are a lot of films that are easily dismissed, though they may still have some admirable qualities. Often context is key, a movie you would watch with friends on a Friday after mid-night, may not be the same you would watch with your mother on a day off. A lot of review sites want to judge everything on a level playing field, but I think that is too limiting.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : September 19, 2012 10:45 am

I give this blog post four stars. The feel-good blog post of the year! A triumph!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : September 19, 2012 10:45 am

I give this blog post four stars. The feel-good blog post of the year! A triumph!

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 19, 2012 11:17 am

Favorites,may it be Films or Novels or Songs,are a deeply personal Affair.It is nice when People share your Love.
If not,no big Deal.We are not talking about Idiots who don´t
get City Lights of course.These are Zombies without Soul anyway.
If People, for instance dont get the beauty of El Dorado,and think it is just a poor Remake of Rio Bravo,it is their lost.
It is one of my favorite Movies,but if they dont get it,i wont
explain it to them.
As a matter of fact,i dont want them to like it.It´s mine.
And Drive was GREAT.Just saying.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 19, 2012 11:17 am

Favorites,may it be Films or Novels or Songs,are a deeply personal Affair.It is nice when People share your Love.
If not,no big Deal.We are not talking about Idiots who don´t
get City Lights of course.These are Zombies without Soul anyway.
If People, for instance dont get the beauty of El Dorado,and think it is just a poor Remake of Rio Bravo,it is their lost.
It is one of my favorite Movies,but if they dont get it,i wont
explain it to them.
As a matter of fact,i dont want them to like it.It´s mine.
And Drive was GREAT.Just saying.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : September 19, 2012 11:27 am

I love El Dorado.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : September 19, 2012 11:27 am

I love El Dorado.

Posted By Kingrat : September 19, 2012 1:06 pm

Good post, Greg. I will go to the mat for films which haven’t been blessed by any official group of critics, but have all the qualities I admire. To name a few off the top of my head: KING RAT, DEEP VALLEY, THE LONG NIGHT, LES AMITIES PARTICULIERES, HIGH BARBAREE, FOUR’S A CROWD, JOHNNY EAGER.

I’ve found it especially difficult to discuss Samuel Fuller because his admirers will not even respond to the suggestion that his weaknesses as a writer undercut his strengths as a director, which would seem to be the most obvious feature of his work. To me, Fuller is the most overrated director of the classic era. He made two films I admire very much, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET and THE STEEL HELMET, but quite a few directors unblessed by auteurists made two films equally good.

Posted By Kingrat : September 19, 2012 1:06 pm

Good post, Greg. I will go to the mat for films which haven’t been blessed by any official group of critics, but have all the qualities I admire. To name a few off the top of my head: KING RAT, DEEP VALLEY, THE LONG NIGHT, LES AMITIES PARTICULIERES, HIGH BARBAREE, FOUR’S A CROWD, JOHNNY EAGER.

I’ve found it especially difficult to discuss Samuel Fuller because his admirers will not even respond to the suggestion that his weaknesses as a writer undercut his strengths as a director, which would seem to be the most obvious feature of his work. To me, Fuller is the most overrated director of the classic era. He made two films I admire very much, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET and THE STEEL HELMET, but quite a few directors unblessed by auteurists made two films equally good.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:42 pm

even in bad films, there is often something worth looking out for.

So true. I never tire of pointing that out and a lot of it has to do with knowing how much work and dedication goes into every film so when you say a movie has nothing to offer, you’re selling a lot of people short. Sure, there are a lot of bad movies but many of them still have one or two great elements lurking in there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:42 pm

even in bad films, there is often something worth looking out for.

So true. I never tire of pointing that out and a lot of it has to do with knowing how much work and dedication goes into every film so when you say a movie has nothing to offer, you’re selling a lot of people short. Sure, there are a lot of bad movies but many of them still have one or two great elements lurking in there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:43 pm

I give this blog post four stars.

I rescind my accusation of buzzkillery.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:43 pm

I give this blog post four stars.

I rescind my accusation of buzzkillery.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:45 pm

Ghijath, I totally understand not wanting to explain a favorite movie to people. I have a lot of films that are so personal to me that I don’t even bring them up and if they do come up, I ignore the conversation because I don’t want to argue about a movie I love with people who don’t get it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 1:45 pm

Ghijath, I totally understand not wanting to explain a favorite movie to people. I have a lot of films that are so personal to me that I don’t even bring them up and if they do come up, I ignore the conversation because I don’t want to argue about a movie I love with people who don’t get it.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : September 19, 2012 2:02 pm

Darn. I was hoping for a no rules cage match between Greg and Richard.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : September 19, 2012 2:02 pm

Darn. I was hoping for a no rules cage match between Greg and Richard.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 2:05 pm

Sorry, Peter, maybe next time.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 2:05 pm

Sorry, Peter, maybe next time.

Posted By DBenson : September 19, 2012 2:17 pm

The fatal trap is when you can’t refrain from trying to explain a comedy to someone who doesn’t hate it so much as . . . doesn’t laugh.

Posted By DBenson : September 19, 2012 2:17 pm

The fatal trap is when you can’t refrain from trying to explain a comedy to someone who doesn’t hate it so much as . . . doesn’t laugh.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 2:20 pm

Explaining comedy is, I daresay, impossible. Only Johnny Carson, after a joke bombed, could make explaining the joke funny.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 2:20 pm

Explaining comedy is, I daresay, impossible. Only Johnny Carson, after a joke bombed, could make explaining the joke funny.

Posted By esco20 : September 19, 2012 3:35 pm

Great article, great comments; Ah! if only life was always so intelligent and cultured.

Posted By esco20 : September 19, 2012 3:35 pm

Great article, great comments; Ah! if only life was always so intelligent and cultured.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 3:37 pm

Why thank you, Esco, thank you very much.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 3:37 pm

Why thank you, Esco, thank you very much.

Posted By chris : September 19, 2012 3:39 pm

I figure, I like what I like. If others like, cool. If they don’t, I understand that everyone else doesn’t like the same cup of tea. And, I love the Sy Benson quote from one of my favorite cups of tea.

Posted By chris : September 19, 2012 3:39 pm

I figure, I like what I like. If others like, cool. If they don’t, I understand that everyone else doesn’t like the same cup of tea. And, I love the Sy Benson quote from one of my favorite cups of tea.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 3:40 pm

Simply put, Sy Benson, that tower of jello, is one of my favorite characters of all time.

“I read your bullfighter sketch last night. Dozed off halfway through it. Hey, come on. don’t get the wrong idea, kid. It’s not that it wasn’t funny. It’s that it wasn’t funny.”

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 3:40 pm

Simply put, Sy Benson, that tower of jello, is one of my favorite characters of all time.

“I read your bullfighter sketch last night. Dozed off halfway through it. Hey, come on. don’t get the wrong idea, kid. It’s not that it wasn’t funny. It’s that it wasn’t funny.”

Posted By tdraicer : September 19, 2012 5:02 pm

Greg, I love the Tom Joad ending.

And the rational part of my agrees completely. But the irrational part of me still wants to give a clout on the head to anyone who insults Casablanca.

Posted By tdraicer : September 19, 2012 5:02 pm

Greg, I love the Tom Joad ending.

And the rational part of my agrees completely. But the irrational part of me still wants to give a clout on the head to anyone who insults Casablanca.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 5:05 pm

tdraicer, I used Casablanca because I’ve had that happen a few different times online where people make really smug comments (one I recall vividly was some know-it-all who said, “Casablanca is an objectively bad movie so the burden of proof is on those who say it’s good.” Yeah, whatever you say, pal.). People love to call established classics “boring” and “overrated” in the hopes of making someone mad.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 5:05 pm

tdraicer, I used Casablanca because I’ve had that happen a few different times online where people make really smug comments (one I recall vividly was some know-it-all who said, “Casablanca is an objectively bad movie so the burden of proof is on those who say it’s good.” Yeah, whatever you say, pal.). People love to call established classics “boring” and “overrated” in the hopes of making someone mad.

Posted By Gene : September 19, 2012 7:28 pm

1) I love Drive, but I can see how some would be either repulsed by its violence or just not interested. Dismissing Albert Brooks’ performance though would be something I don’t get. It was stellar whether you like the movie or not.

2) I confess I am underwhelmed by Casablanca, as were Ingrid Bergman and Bogart, but I also see that films can be great for different reasons. Unless a film displays an utter ineptness on the part of its maker(s) I try hard never to dismiss it altogether.

3) I once recommended Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie to a fellow cinephile. He just sneered after seeing it. I expected at least a discussion about the film rather than just him shrugging it off.

What this builds up to is that I expect so-called cinephiles to take the medium seriously. Certainly no one can like everything but liking and appreciating are different things. I think that’s what separates someone who just likes to go to the movies and those who love cinema.

Posted By Gene : September 19, 2012 7:28 pm

1) I love Drive, but I can see how some would be either repulsed by its violence or just not interested. Dismissing Albert Brooks’ performance though would be something I don’t get. It was stellar whether you like the movie or not.

2) I confess I am underwhelmed by Casablanca, as were Ingrid Bergman and Bogart, but I also see that films can be great for different reasons. Unless a film displays an utter ineptness on the part of its maker(s) I try hard never to dismiss it altogether.

3) I once recommended Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie to a fellow cinephile. He just sneered after seeing it. I expected at least a discussion about the film rather than just him shrugging it off.

What this builds up to is that I expect so-called cinephiles to take the medium seriously. Certainly no one can like everything but liking and appreciating are different things. I think that’s what separates someone who just likes to go to the movies and those who love cinema.

Posted By Gene : September 19, 2012 7:38 pm

Before I get “clouted” about Casablanca … Let me say that I think it’s a good movie, but the hype and lauding I was exposed to over many years before seeing it built my expectations up beyond reason. I now have a policy that when any new film becomes overwhelmingly praised by a vast majority of people I wait a few years to see it. That way I can approach it more rationally and not expect more out of it than I should.

Posted By Gene : September 19, 2012 7:38 pm

Before I get “clouted” about Casablanca … Let me say that I think it’s a good movie, but the hype and lauding I was exposed to over many years before seeing it built my expectations up beyond reason. I now have a policy that when any new film becomes overwhelmingly praised by a vast majority of people I wait a few years to see it. That way I can approach it more rationally and not expect more out of it than I should.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 7:40 pm

Gene, I thought Brooks was excellent too and wished he’d been nominated.

And I totally understand being underwhelmed by any movie that has been considerably hyped up. I had several movies I saw for the first time after hearing about them for years and felt underwhelmed. Then, returning to them later, with the experience of seeing them for the first time under my belt, I liked them more. Many great foreign films I saw way too young and only truly appreciated them later.

As for Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie, I wouldn’t ask how someone could shrug that off but why?! Luis Buñuel made avant-garde exhilirating and surrealism sharp and funny. And if you’re a cinephile and you don’t agree, as your acquaintance clearly didn’t, it seems, as you said, that you’d at least get a good discussion out of it. Oh well.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 7:40 pm

Gene, I thought Brooks was excellent too and wished he’d been nominated.

And I totally understand being underwhelmed by any movie that has been considerably hyped up. I had several movies I saw for the first time after hearing about them for years and felt underwhelmed. Then, returning to them later, with the experience of seeing them for the first time under my belt, I liked them more. Many great foreign films I saw way too young and only truly appreciated them later.

As for Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie, I wouldn’t ask how someone could shrug that off but why?! Luis Buñuel made avant-garde exhilirating and surrealism sharp and funny. And if you’re a cinephile and you don’t agree, as your acquaintance clearly didn’t, it seems, as you said, that you’d at least get a good discussion out of it. Oh well.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 19, 2012 8:39 pm

This is of course a topic that’s near & dear to my heart because here at the Movie Morlocks I go to bat for movies I feel are deserving (typo fixed!) every month. It’s why I started writing about film in the first place and why I continue to write about it. Defending the undefended or cheering on a film in need of some support is my M.O. but I have my limitations as well. Defending Orson Welles for example seems silly to me. He’s one of my favorite directors but it’s been well established that the man’s a genius so I don’t have the urge to go to the mat for him. But for some reason the “Stanley Kubrick hates humanity” brigade really gets on my nerves even though it’s been well established that he’s a genius as well. Go figure?

On a funny side note… DRIVE is a point of contention in my own home. My husband REALLY liked it. Me, not so much. Although there were aspects of the film I appreciated. We’ve currently reached a truce with DRIVE but I suspect the topic will come up in conversation again and he’ll go to the mat for it.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 19, 2012 8:39 pm

This is of course a topic that’s near & dear to my heart because here at the Movie Morlocks I go to bat for movies I feel are deserving (typo fixed!) every month. It’s why I started writing about film in the first place and why I continue to write about it. Defending the undefended or cheering on a film in need of some support is my M.O. but I have my limitations as well. Defending Orson Welles for example seems silly to me. He’s one of my favorite directors but it’s been well established that the man’s a genius so I don’t have the urge to go to the mat for him. But for some reason the “Stanley Kubrick hates humanity” brigade really gets on my nerves even though it’s been well established that he’s a genius as well. Go figure?

On a funny side note… DRIVE is a point of contention in my own home. My husband REALLY liked it. Me, not so much. Although there were aspects of the film I appreciated. We’ve currently reached a truce with DRIVE but I suspect the topic will come up in conversation again and he’ll go to the mat for it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 10:41 pm

Kimberly, I hate the Stanley Kubrick crap, too. Kael used to do that a lot, which is where a lot of it comes from. She jokingly (and condescendingly) referred to him as HAL9000 several times in post 2001 reviews because she felt he was cold and lifeless. I think the problem with many is that they confuse filming something with a dispassionate eye, as Kubrick did, and being passionless. I agree with Martin Scorsese that Barry Lyndon is one of the most passionate films ever made.

And I’m more with your husband on Drive but, as I said at the start of the post, I’m oddly not drawn to really defend it in any way. I just liked it and thought it was good and that’s as far as I need to take it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 19, 2012 10:41 pm

Kimberly, I hate the Stanley Kubrick crap, too. Kael used to do that a lot, which is where a lot of it comes from. She jokingly (and condescendingly) referred to him as HAL9000 several times in post 2001 reviews because she felt he was cold and lifeless. I think the problem with many is that they confuse filming something with a dispassionate eye, as Kubrick did, and being passionless. I agree with Martin Scorsese that Barry Lyndon is one of the most passionate films ever made.

And I’m more with your husband on Drive but, as I said at the start of the post, I’m oddly not drawn to really defend it in any way. I just liked it and thought it was good and that’s as far as I need to take it.

Posted By tdraicer : September 20, 2012 12:06 am

I’m not going to go into detail on the great things about Casablanca (though I will say two words-Claude Rains) but part of its impact for me stems from knowing that when it was made the tide of WWII had only just begun to turn, and if there was some reason for confidence we’d ultimately win there was no knowing how long or costly the struggle would be. The Germans were in Paris, and when Ingrid would get to wear that blue dress again was a real question.

Posted By tdraicer : September 20, 2012 12:06 am

I’m not going to go into detail on the great things about Casablanca (though I will say two words-Claude Rains) but part of its impact for me stems from knowing that when it was made the tide of WWII had only just begun to turn, and if there was some reason for confidence we’d ultimately win there was no knowing how long or costly the struggle would be. The Germans were in Paris, and when Ingrid would get to wear that blue dress again was a real question.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 20, 2012 1:54 am

Kingrat
About Samuel Fuller.I realy like him but even i have to admit,
that sometimes the Man,or the “”Idea”Sam Fuller is more pure
Joy than his Films.I dont think that i can name one realy coherent
Fuller Film.I realy like Underwold USA but the Crooks are all
look like miscast Actors.Shock Corridor has great parts,Hari Rhodes Klan speech for instance.But the overall Structure is very
uninspired.The dumb Scene in “The Big Red One”where the GI´s
throwing a sharp Handgrenade one to the other(in the Dark)
weakend an otherwise powerful Film.
White Dog has great moments,the House Invasion,the little Boy and
the Dog around the Corner,but also pretty wooden Dialogue and
Acting.It is not that most Fuller Fans dont see his shortcomings,
but we learn to love the good Things more, than we loath the bad Parts.It also helps,when you have a Heart for Pulp.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 20, 2012 1:54 am

Kingrat
About Samuel Fuller.I realy like him but even i have to admit,
that sometimes the Man,or the “”Idea”Sam Fuller is more pure
Joy than his Films.I dont think that i can name one realy coherent
Fuller Film.I realy like Underwold USA but the Crooks are all
look like miscast Actors.Shock Corridor has great parts,Hari Rhodes Klan speech for instance.But the overall Structure is very
uninspired.The dumb Scene in “The Big Red One”where the GI´s
throwing a sharp Handgrenade one to the other(in the Dark)
weakend an otherwise powerful Film.
White Dog has great moments,the House Invasion,the little Boy and
the Dog around the Corner,but also pretty wooden Dialogue and
Acting.It is not that most Fuller Fans dont see his shortcomings,
but we learn to love the good Things more, than we loath the bad Parts.It also helps,when you have a Heart for Pulp.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 7:44 am

tdraicer, Claude Rains in Casablanca is, to me, one of the greatest fully realized expressions of character in the history of cinema. Maybe that’s the kind of hype that turns people off but I think his work in that film is extraordinary. He doesn’t over-deliver one line and makes that sardonic, cocked-eye delivery the means by which we can see who Louis really is behind the dialogue. As an actor he says the written line but makes sure the audience gets information behind the line with his eyes and inflection. There’s a reason the “shocked, SHOCKED” line is so famous, so used, so repeated by so many who probably don’t even know its origin, and that reason is Rains initial, brilliant delivery.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 7:44 am

tdraicer, Claude Rains in Casablanca is, to me, one of the greatest fully realized expressions of character in the history of cinema. Maybe that’s the kind of hype that turns people off but I think his work in that film is extraordinary. He doesn’t over-deliver one line and makes that sardonic, cocked-eye delivery the means by which we can see who Louis really is behind the dialogue. As an actor he says the written line but makes sure the audience gets information behind the line with his eyes and inflection. There’s a reason the “shocked, SHOCKED” line is so famous, so used, so repeated by so many who probably don’t even know its origin, and that reason is Rains initial, brilliant delivery.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 7:48 am

Ghijath, I agree with you on White Dog. I’ve always liked the film and the idea of it more than the execution. It’s got a lot to like but Kristy McNichol doesn’t draw you in like she needs to. Paul Winfield and Burl Ives are two great actors who don’t have a lot to do in the movie. It’s not a bad film but feels a little lifeless next to other Fuller work.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 7:48 am

Ghijath, I agree with you on White Dog. I’ve always liked the film and the idea of it more than the execution. It’s got a lot to like but Kristy McNichol doesn’t draw you in like she needs to. Paul Winfield and Burl Ives are two great actors who don’t have a lot to do in the movie. It’s not a bad film but feels a little lifeless next to other Fuller work.

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 11:51 am

Not to get to far into it, but I’m somewhere in the middle on Drive, but loved Albert Brooks. I also thought Ron Perlman gave a great performance that I think in a movie where he wasn’t playing against Brooks. As I believe I said to you, right after RHS’s comment, included my belief that I’d very much enjoy a movie about those two guys.

I agree completely. There are so many reasons why defending “underrated” – probably in itself as useless a term as “overrated”, but it will do here – movies is more rewarding than defending the established classics. Or at least celebrating them and calling out the joys they bring me.

I say that last part because I’m less and less interested in debating any of this… which isn’t helping my blog a bit, I’m sure.

If I had more solid knowledgeable movie fans in my real life circle of friends, I’m sure I’d get into more discussions as a kind of discussion of pros and cons. Online, it’s too easy for even seemingly productive discussions to degenerate.

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 11:51 am

Not to get to far into it, but I’m somewhere in the middle on Drive, but loved Albert Brooks. I also thought Ron Perlman gave a great performance that I think in a movie where he wasn’t playing against Brooks. As I believe I said to you, right after RHS’s comment, included my belief that I’d very much enjoy a movie about those two guys.

I agree completely. There are so many reasons why defending “underrated” – probably in itself as useless a term as “overrated”, but it will do here – movies is more rewarding than defending the established classics. Or at least celebrating them and calling out the joys they bring me.

I say that last part because I’m less and less interested in debating any of this… which isn’t helping my blog a bit, I’m sure.

If I had more solid knowledgeable movie fans in my real life circle of friends, I’m sure I’d get into more discussions as a kind of discussion of pros and cons. Online, it’s too easy for even seemingly productive discussions to degenerate.

Posted By Heidi : September 20, 2012 12:22 pm

See, this is why I read these blogs. I know when I like a movie, and I know when I don’t, but I can’t say it in so many flowery, smart sounding words! This lack of verbage makes me shy away form actually talking to anyone, other than my husband, about a movie. I can talk to him because all I have to say to him is “I liked that one guy from that one movie,” and he knows who I mean. He did that once and he was right! So, I guess he understands me. Saying to someone that it is good and you are silly not to see it don’t get one too far! So, I just come here and read all of your posts and nod sagely to myself, knowing that you get it.

Posted By Heidi : September 20, 2012 12:22 pm

See, this is why I read these blogs. I know when I like a movie, and I know when I don’t, but I can’t say it in so many flowery, smart sounding words! This lack of verbage makes me shy away form actually talking to anyone, other than my husband, about a movie. I can talk to him because all I have to say to him is “I liked that one guy from that one movie,” and he knows who I mean. He did that once and he was right! So, I guess he understands me. Saying to someone that it is good and you are silly not to see it don’t get one too far! So, I just come here and read all of your posts and nod sagely to myself, knowing that you get it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 12:25 pm

Heidi, I totally get that.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 12:25 pm

Heidi, I totally get that.

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 1:42 pm

Specific language is an interesting thing, and a double-edged sword.

It is, as a start, a good quick way – consciously or unconsciously – for people who know a subject to identify others who also do. In fact, it’s one of the best ways for people who don’t know a subject very well to break into a conversation with experts is to learn to use the specific language.

That’s the story of how the Phone Phreaks and early Hackers were able to learn about the phone system and communications systems. They could speak the language of the phone company, and then there was only The Phone Company, so people at the phone company were naturally lulled into assuming that people who spoke in the phone company language were also part of The Phone Company.

Therein lies two issues for the modern movie lover.

First, our language is more “out there” than many others. There are so many of the blogs that Greg referred to running into and learning to avoid, speaking “our language”, but not bringing with it the depth of experience to carry on the conversation in a manner that their language instantly implies that they should.

Second, for me, is people like you, Heidi, as well as my wife. My wife is very smart, however she doesn’t know the “language” of movies. She loves movies, but not in a way that brought her to explore them in that way. She processes and considers her movie experiences in an intelligent way, but she doesn’t have the same “language” to express it.

Unfortunately, this leads to the ignorant and not necessarily that thoughtful people who have learned to speak the language getting a certain amount more instant credibility than people whose insights are more interesting, and, in many cases especially interesting for being intelligent and presented out of consideration and love and experience with movies themselves, but not as much out of having read all the same books and criticisms, so, in many cases, having a freshness not having been bogged down with all of the same conclusions.

Blogging has filled that gap to a certain extent, especially since I think most of us movie fans find ourselves moving away from the sites of people who put up a good front, but aren’t able to deliver, and people who express themselves differently but insightfully tend to find an audience over time, if they’re willing to stay at it.

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 1:42 pm

Specific language is an interesting thing, and a double-edged sword.

It is, as a start, a good quick way – consciously or unconsciously – for people who know a subject to identify others who also do. In fact, it’s one of the best ways for people who don’t know a subject very well to break into a conversation with experts is to learn to use the specific language.

That’s the story of how the Phone Phreaks and early Hackers were able to learn about the phone system and communications systems. They could speak the language of the phone company, and then there was only The Phone Company, so people at the phone company were naturally lulled into assuming that people who spoke in the phone company language were also part of The Phone Company.

Therein lies two issues for the modern movie lover.

First, our language is more “out there” than many others. There are so many of the blogs that Greg referred to running into and learning to avoid, speaking “our language”, but not bringing with it the depth of experience to carry on the conversation in a manner that their language instantly implies that they should.

Second, for me, is people like you, Heidi, as well as my wife. My wife is very smart, however she doesn’t know the “language” of movies. She loves movies, but not in a way that brought her to explore them in that way. She processes and considers her movie experiences in an intelligent way, but she doesn’t have the same “language” to express it.

Unfortunately, this leads to the ignorant and not necessarily that thoughtful people who have learned to speak the language getting a certain amount more instant credibility than people whose insights are more interesting, and, in many cases especially interesting for being intelligent and presented out of consideration and love and experience with movies themselves, but not as much out of having read all the same books and criticisms, so, in many cases, having a freshness not having been bogged down with all of the same conclusions.

Blogging has filled that gap to a certain extent, especially since I think most of us movie fans find ourselves moving away from the sites of people who put up a good front, but aren’t able to deliver, and people who express themselves differently but insightfully tend to find an audience over time, if they’re willing to stay at it.

Posted By Emgee : September 20, 2012 3:59 pm

I agree some movies ( or directors)can fend for themselves and others need moral support, and indeed, there’s no point in discussing movies with people just looking for an argument.

Personally i wouldn’t forgive anyone who wouldn’t agree that The Hitch-hiker isn’t one of the most chilling movies ever made.
The tension never lets up and Talman’s performance is that scary cause he’s totally convincing as a sociopath. Movie history is full of creeps, but they tend to overdo it. Talman nailed it perfectly. Is it better than Casablanca? Is there any point in discussing that?

Posted By Emgee : September 20, 2012 3:59 pm

I agree some movies ( or directors)can fend for themselves and others need moral support, and indeed, there’s no point in discussing movies with people just looking for an argument.

Personally i wouldn’t forgive anyone who wouldn’t agree that The Hitch-hiker isn’t one of the most chilling movies ever made.
The tension never lets up and Talman’s performance is that scary cause he’s totally convincing as a sociopath. Movie history is full of creeps, but they tend to overdo it. Talman nailed it perfectly. Is it better than Casablanca? Is there any point in discussing that?

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 4:47 pm

Is it better than Casablanca? Is there any point in discussing that?

This is always a sticky point. In the case of The Hitch-Hiker perhaps one could make a discussion of it easier by comparing it to something by Jacques Tourneur or, more obviously, Hitchcock. Otherwise, the conversation becomes close to “Is Duck Soup better than Shoah?” Does it matter? Has anyone in the history of time been torn between which sounded like the one that best fit their mood for that evening?

But I think here is where our society’s obsession with ranking and lists and such comes into a weird place.

Even within genres it’s meaningless. “Is Duck Soup better than Young Frankenstein?” The points of comparison are numerous, at least on the surface, yet it would be rare for me to not be in the mood for one rather the other without conflict.

I think that’s where making an argument for the joys of something such as Smokey and the Bandit is valuable. It’s a valid point. If you’re into the mood for something that serves the entertainment points of Smokey and the Bandit, you’d find it nearly impossible to find anything that does it better… out of all of the Southern car chase adventure romantic comedies you might be tempted to compare it with, of course.

So, if you want to argue whether it speaks to what it is to be human than, say, Ikiru, you’d have a long distance to go in convincing me you even really think that, even less that you’ve made a good argument.

To me, it’s all about finding what a movie is trying to provide me and meeting it there as best I can.

Which isn’t to say discussing these matters has no merit. I guess I just find the head-to-head, ranked list element to not be the most valuable method of getting to it.

That said, that’d be lists I’d be interested in seeing from my favorite critics/bloggers… movies I’d go to mat for. Though Greg is right, that’d be troll bait.

Posted By Neil : September 20, 2012 4:47 pm

Is it better than Casablanca? Is there any point in discussing that?

This is always a sticky point. In the case of The Hitch-Hiker perhaps one could make a discussion of it easier by comparing it to something by Jacques Tourneur or, more obviously, Hitchcock. Otherwise, the conversation becomes close to “Is Duck Soup better than Shoah?” Does it matter? Has anyone in the history of time been torn between which sounded like the one that best fit their mood for that evening?

But I think here is where our society’s obsession with ranking and lists and such comes into a weird place.

Even within genres it’s meaningless. “Is Duck Soup better than Young Frankenstein?” The points of comparison are numerous, at least on the surface, yet it would be rare for me to not be in the mood for one rather the other without conflict.

I think that’s where making an argument for the joys of something such as Smokey and the Bandit is valuable. It’s a valid point. If you’re into the mood for something that serves the entertainment points of Smokey and the Bandit, you’d find it nearly impossible to find anything that does it better… out of all of the Southern car chase adventure romantic comedies you might be tempted to compare it with, of course.

So, if you want to argue whether it speaks to what it is to be human than, say, Ikiru, you’d have a long distance to go in convincing me you even really think that, even less that you’ve made a good argument.

To me, it’s all about finding what a movie is trying to provide me and meeting it there as best I can.

Which isn’t to say discussing these matters has no merit. I guess I just find the head-to-head, ranked list element to not be the most valuable method of getting to it.

That said, that’d be lists I’d be interested in seeing from my favorite critics/bloggers… movies I’d go to mat for. Though Greg is right, that’d be troll bait.

Posted By swac44 : September 20, 2012 8:10 pm

To me Casablanca is like the Mona Lisa. It’s earned its status, and you could argue forever about its intricacies and beauty. Or, you could simply acknowledge it and move on to the other thousands of artworks that haven’t graced nearly as many (if any) postcards and T-shirts.

As for Citizen Kane, it’s more like the Sistine Chapel, familiar as all get-out, but with enough detail to keep returning to again and again.

Posted By swac44 : September 20, 2012 8:10 pm

To me Casablanca is like the Mona Lisa. It’s earned its status, and you could argue forever about its intricacies and beauty. Or, you could simply acknowledge it and move on to the other thousands of artworks that haven’t graced nearly as many (if any) postcards and T-shirts.

As for Citizen Kane, it’s more like the Sistine Chapel, familiar as all get-out, but with enough detail to keep returning to again and again.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 11:17 pm

Neil, thanks for the great discussion. A lot of interesting points made. I wrote a whole piece here when the Sight and Sound poll was released all about my problem ranking movies, especially just ten, and a big part of that problem is the sheer variety of film work out there. I personally don’t ever want to compare The Bride of Frankenstein to The Great Escape which I don’t ever want to compare to Chinatown. I love all three but for very different reasons. Vastly different. And I think each one brilliantly succeeds at what it’s trying to do and I think those are completely different things. So, I’m with you Neil, and Emgee, that it doesn’t matter to rank Casablanca or anything else against anything else. Why does it have to be a contest?

Neil, I think a list of what movies one might go to the mat for would work better on Facebook where we’re, essentially, among friends whereas, on a blog, I guarantee you, the second you write that you’d go to the mat for a movie, some jerk’s going to come over and take you up on that.

swac, I love the Casablanca-Mona Lisa-Citizen Kane-Sistine Chapel analogy. That's a good way to think about those two.

And emgee, I love The Hitch-Hiker but it’s been a long time. I definitely need to see it again.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 20, 2012 11:17 pm

Neil, thanks for the great discussion. A lot of interesting points made. I wrote a whole piece here when the Sight and Sound poll was released all about my problem ranking movies, especially just ten, and a big part of that problem is the sheer variety of film work out there. I personally don’t ever want to compare The Bride of Frankenstein to The Great Escape which I don’t ever want to compare to Chinatown. I love all three but for very different reasons. Vastly different. And I think each one brilliantly succeeds at what it’s trying to do and I think those are completely different things. So, I’m with you Neil, and Emgee, that it doesn’t matter to rank Casablanca or anything else against anything else. Why does it have to be a contest?

Neil, I think a list of what movies one might go to the mat for would work better on Facebook where we’re, essentially, among friends whereas, on a blog, I guarantee you, the second you write that you’d go to the mat for a movie, some jerk’s going to come over and take you up on that.

swac, I love the Casablanca-Mona Lisa-Citizen Kane-Sistine Chapel analogy. That's a good way to think about those two.

And emgee, I love The Hitch-Hiker but it’s been a long time. I definitely need to see it again.

Posted By Emgee : September 21, 2012 3:26 pm

“To me Casablanca is like the Mona Lisa” swac44, i agree and for the same reason, that is overfamiliarity and incessant praise over the years, i’d rather (re)watch a movie of lesser stature and reputation. Do i think The Hitch-hiker is a better movie?
As Greg rightly pointed out, it’s not a contest. Just that to me, there’s more to enjoy in a movie like Dark Passage, even though most people don’t rate it that highly.
Just like i enjoy an obscure fresco in a village church more than the Sistine Chapel.

Posted By Emgee : September 21, 2012 3:26 pm

“To me Casablanca is like the Mona Lisa” swac44, i agree and for the same reason, that is overfamiliarity and incessant praise over the years, i’d rather (re)watch a movie of lesser stature and reputation. Do i think The Hitch-hiker is a better movie?
As Greg rightly pointed out, it’s not a contest. Just that to me, there’s more to enjoy in a movie like Dark Passage, even though most people don’t rate it that highly.
Just like i enjoy an obscure fresco in a village church more than the Sistine Chapel.

Posted By Gene : September 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Dark Passage. Now there’s a movie to go to the mat for. It was so ahead of its time, daring, and modern in its approach. It’s certainly not iconic like Casablanca which is why it needs to be championed. Thank You Emgee for mentioning it.

Posted By Gene : September 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Dark Passage. Now there’s a movie to go to the mat for. It was so ahead of its time, daring, and modern in its approach. It’s certainly not iconic like Casablanca which is why it needs to be championed. Thank You Emgee for mentioning it.

Posted By Jeff : September 21, 2012 6:14 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I really love old movies. But I don’t get this whole group of ‘cinephiles that love and devoted their whole lives to moveies’ thing.

Isn’t that just a bunch of people who sit around watching old movies and then spend their lives talking about them?

Frankly, that seems a little over the top for me.

Posted By Jeff : September 21, 2012 6:14 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I really love old movies. But I don’t get this whole group of ‘cinephiles that love and devoted their whole lives to moveies’ thing.

Isn’t that just a bunch of people who sit around watching old movies and then spend their lives talking about them?

Frankly, that seems a little over the top for me.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 22, 2012 11:21 am

Jeff, I’m not sure what you mean (honestly, no snark). I’m not sure what’s not to “get.” People have passions about things in life. For me, that’s cinema, music, science and history, for starters. I also could spend an afternoon with a friend discussing the best bourbons and cuts of meat, preferably while drinking a great bourbon and having a thick, red ribeye. It’s shared experience, common loves and community. What I don’t get are the people I’ve met who seemingly have no interests. I think most people do but, shockingly, I’ve met some who don’t. But in the end, that’s all any of this is, just people with common loves talking about it, whether in person or online.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : September 22, 2012 11:21 am

Jeff, I’m not sure what you mean (honestly, no snark). I’m not sure what’s not to “get.” People have passions about things in life. For me, that’s cinema, music, science and history, for starters. I also could spend an afternoon with a friend discussing the best bourbons and cuts of meat, preferably while drinking a great bourbon and having a thick, red ribeye. It’s shared experience, common loves and community. What I don’t get are the people I’ve met who seemingly have no interests. I think most people do but, shockingly, I’ve met some who don’t. But in the end, that’s all any of this is, just people with common loves talking about it, whether in person or online.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 22, 2012 1:36 pm

That is so Great !
Posting on a Special Interest Website,and telling them to change the Subject, because you dont share the Passion for it.
That is like saying,you know,i love old Books like everyone,
but reading Tolstoi and talking about how great he is,is way
over the Top.Reading Grisham and go to Work is enough already.
Or someone who loves Muscle Cars,is a proud Owner of an old
Dodge or something and loves to discuss on Internet Forums with
other Gearheads.Maybe you could tell him he should shut up and
drive a Saab or a Toyota,like everyone else.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : September 22, 2012 1:36 pm

That is so Great !
Posting on a Special Interest Website,and telling them to change the Subject, because you dont share the Passion for it.
That is like saying,you know,i love old Books like everyone,
but reading Tolstoi and talking about how great he is,is way
over the Top.Reading Grisham and go to Work is enough already.
Or someone who loves Muscle Cars,is a proud Owner of an old
Dodge or something and loves to discuss on Internet Forums with
other Gearheads.Maybe you could tell him he should shut up and
drive a Saab or a Toyota,like everyone else.

Posted By Gene : September 22, 2012 5:07 pm

Cinema is one of several great loves of my life. I have been fascinated with it since I was very young. To find people who like talking about obscure horror films, great classics, and art house fare can be difficult sometimes. To have a forum like this and mubi.com, amongst others, is awesome. It is sad to think that there are people who are satisfied with an anemic existence when there is so much to find fascination with.

Posted By Gene : September 22, 2012 5:07 pm

Cinema is one of several great loves of my life. I have been fascinated with it since I was very young. To find people who like talking about obscure horror films, great classics, and art house fare can be difficult sometimes. To have a forum like this and mubi.com, amongst others, is awesome. It is sad to think that there are people who are satisfied with an anemic existence when there is so much to find fascination with.

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