Revolutionary Road

Movie Information

The Story: A couple fight each other -- and the repressiveness of their suburban environment -- in 1950s Connecticut. The Lowdown: Restrained to the point of being soporific and full of its own importance, most of the film's two hours depicts an overprivileged, upper-middle-class couple complaining about their lot in life and fighting.
Score:

Genre: Suburban-Angst Drama
Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, David Harbour, Kathy Bates, Kathryn Hahn
Rated: R

Watching a Sam Mendes film is like sitting in a room while all the air is being sucked out. His latest bout of Oscar-bait, Revolutionary Road, is no different. It’s one of those somber melodramas that only venture outside during awards season. In fact, it’s essentially a 1950s variation on Mendes’ American Beauty (1999)—and it’s every inch as artificial and condescending as that film. Whether it will be as overrated remains to be seen. Revolutionary Road has the advantage of coming with a literary pedigree in that it’s based on a highly regarded novel by Richard Yates. And it has the box-office dazzle of reuniting Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since Titanic (1997). Plus, it garnered Winslet a Golden Globe for best actress in a drama. So far so good, but it’s also been met with less than overwhelming praise in most other departments—and there’s more.

The question arises as to whether it would have been possible for Revolutionary Road to have arrived at a worse time. We live in an age of downsizing, layoffs, collapsing businesses, mortgage foreclosures and everything else you can think of. Given that reality, is there actually a market for a movie about two self-centered, pretty, overprivileged, upwardly mobile characters living in a big picture-book house fighting and kvetching for almost two solid hours about how miserable their life in suburbia is? The movie has an uphill battle convincing us that there’s one single reason to give a damn about Frank (DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Winslet), their disintegrating marriage and their whining about the life they think they were cheated out of. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a battle the film loses within its first half hour.

Suburbia bashing is an old, old hobby for the movies. Hell, the movies that were being made in the era Revolutionary Road is set took pokes at it. For that matter, Joseph L. Mankiewicz took a pretty solid swipe at it back in 1949 with A Letter to Three Wives (only Mankiewicz was smart enough to swing at wealth and romanticized poverty at the same time). It’s a game city folks like to play to make themselves feel superior without really knowing that much about the topic.

In the same vein, there’s the anti-conformity aspect at work—and who doesn’t respond to that? The question is whether or not Mendes’ film has anything new to add. Considering that his virtually choreographed brigades of gray-flannel-suited businessmen differs not one bit from those in David Swift’s Good Neighbor Sam (1964), I’d say no. The biggest difference is Mendes’ hero doesn’t envision his fellow working men as sheep—the way Jack Lemmon does in Sam. It might have helped if he had, but then we might have gotten the idea that Mendes has a sense of humor and that would never do. This is drama—and he’s not going to let you forget it.

As a result, Mendes gives us an entire movie devoted to two people we’re never given the slightest reason to like as they square off like George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—except, unlike George and Martha, they never say anything witty. In between arguments, they haphazardly plot to extricate themselves from suburbia to go live a “real life” in Paris doing … I was never sure what, except that it would be magically artistic. (My own take is that if you couldn’t do that in Connecticut, you’re not likely to do it in Paris either. To think Paris will help is kind of like sitting on Hemmingway’s barstool in Key West and thinking you’ll be able to write.) The only one who offers something like a valid perception on any of this is John Givings (Michael Shannon), the son of their overly chummy realtor (Kathy Bates). He’s on a furlough from a booby hatch for apparently going after mom with a coffee table—probably one groaning under the weight of picture books that look a lot like this movie.

Along the road to the movie’s decorously grim climax, we’re treated to some grubby affairs (decorously presented), unwanted pregnancies, and various outcroppings of duplicity and angst. It’s all handled with the utmost Mendesian tastefulness and consummate professionalism—complete with beautifully lit images and bathed in an über-restrained score (mostly consisting of a single theme) from Thomas Newman. (That Newman also scored American Beauty, In the Bedroom and Little Children made him the perfect choice here.) It’s all in the service of a great profundity that I never detected. You may feel differently—quite a few people have—but, for me, the end result is a very large, “Who needs it?” Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

119 thoughts on “Revolutionary Road

  1. Nick

    Firstly, the movie is not about the suburbia.You must be an certified moron to think that.(sorry).Secondly, it has a lot of new things to add…if you knew film making you would know…but i’m sure you don’t.The whole review is crap!Newman intentionally used the same theme, it has nothing to do with virginia wolf, the fights are only 20 minutes of the whole movie…i wonder if you actually seen the movie or they paid you to do this.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I not only “seen the movie,” I have seen it twice. I detested it on both occasions. And, yes, of course, I was paid to review the film, but I wasn’t paid to like it or not like it.

    Your arguments are kind of specious, aren’t they? I mean how would the film have a lot of new things to add if I knew filmmaking as well as you obviously do. Are you trying to claim that the film breaks great strides in terms of filmmaking? If there are things you’ve never seen in movies before in this, you should see more movies. I never said the movie has anything to do with Virginia “Wolf.” I said the couple argue like the characters in the play and film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. You perhaps aren’t familiar with the work. As far as I’m concerned, this movie is nothing but a glossy soap opera with an extra portion of pretentiousness on top.

  3. Nick

    Tell me one movie that you’ve seen like that.I the movie eyes means more than words.They might say something else and in their eyes you can see a series of emotions.Go learn acting and you will understand why the acting is unique.In terms of directing, the close ups and the little details come in contrast with the big fight where the scene is shot on hand.The camera becomes less steady as their house and family collapse.And in the breakfast scene the total opposite!It depicts april’s emotions about Frank.She finally realized that it was her fault and frank’s.Every little detail of the movie means something that adds to the story…now you don;t have to like the movie, no one is forced to like it, but making unfair reviews is insulting.You didn’t realize that paris is the symbolism?Of their broken dreams?Of their immatureness?They blamed everything else except from them.And when frank gets a promotions the movie makes a big dilemma!You didn’t see that?I know film making and i can tell you those movies are priceless.Now please delete it and write an appropriate review!No comparison to totally irrelevant movies!Don’t say that the movie is released in wrong times because it’s irrelevant!It has nothing to do with economy or jobs, it has to do with those people and the biggest fear people have…what to do in my life?Apparently you get paid to write all those things but i suggest you to reconsider carrer…maybe go to paris to find your true self…because this is not it.

  4. nick

    Tell me one movie that you’ve seen like that.I the movie eyes means more than words.They might say something else and in their eyes you can see a series of emotions.Go learn acting and you will understand why the acting is unique.In terms of directing, the close ups and the little details come in contrast with the big fight where the scene is shot on hand.The camera becomes less steady as their house and family collapse.And in the breakfast scene the total opposite!It depicts april’s emotions about Frank.She finally realized that it was her fault and frank’s.Every little detail of the movie means something that adds to the story…now you don;t have to like the movie, no one is forced to like it, but making unfair reviews is insulting.You didn’t realize that paris is the symbolism?Of their broken dreams?Of their immatureness?They blamed everything else except from them.And when frank gets a promotions the movie makes a big dilemma!You didn’t see that?I know film making and i can tell you those movies are priceless.Now please delete it and write an appropriate review!No comparison to totally irrelevant movies!Don’t say that the movie is released in wrong times because it’s irrelevant!It has nothing to do with economy or jobs, it has to do with those people and the biggest fear people have…what to do in my life?Apparently you get paid to write all those things but i suggest you to reconsider carrer…maybe go to paris to find your true self…because this is not it.

  5. mrmister

    ken,
    Admitted you saw the film twice, but did you
    fight with your wife both times before the show?
    God! you’re twice as acerbic as Kate+Leo in the film. And without reason too.
    Is the economic depression Sam Mendes’fault? Should he have forseen it before he did American Beauty II?
    Or are you just mad that this Brit’s gone back in time and said-hell you guys were just as pathetic in the fifties?

  6. clkwrkred

    Haven’t seen it yet, but I gotta take Ken’s word on this one. Maybe a rental, but I’m admitting to not being interested at all in this “heavy hitting” drama whose trailer looks oddly similar to Little Children, even if it’s not like that film (which I liked btw, it had some touches of dark humor).

  7. “Firstly, the movie is not about the suburbia.You must be an certified moron to think that.(sorry)”

    Hmmm. Pretty much every other review (good and bad) says that this movie is about 50s suburbia.

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/revolutionary_road/

    I like Sam Mendes and LOVE Kate Winslet, but for some reason I have no desire to see this film. Especially since the new TV Carnage came in the mail!

  8. Ken Hanke

    Tell me one movie that you’ve seen like that

    Go back and watch any number of 1950s Douglas Sirk soap operas. If that’s too far, try Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven.

    You didn’t realize that paris is the symbolism?Of their broken dreams?Of their immatureness?They blamed everything else except from them.

    And your point is? That we get to spend two hours watching two mediocre people kvetch and lie to themselves? That may be great stuff to you, but I’m not buying it — and I’m fully as entitled to that point of view as you are to yours.

    I know film making and i can tell you those movies are priceless.

    I don’t know what you know about filmmaking, but I know a thing or two on the topic, too. Yet I have no idea what “those movies” are you’re talking about.

    Now please delete it and write an appropriate review!No comparison to totally irrelevant movies!Don’t say that the movie is released in wrong times because it’s irrelevant!It has nothing to do with economy or jobs, it has to do with those people and the biggest fear people have…what to do in my life?

    Sorry. This is my review. It will continue to be my review. I’m not saying I might not go back and re-evaluate the film at some later date and feel differently about it, but I’m not going to go write a new review that suits you. Maybe I should tell Sam Mendes to go back and make a movie that suits me. And, you’re quite wrong, about the times being irrelevant, because movies don’t exist in a vacuum.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Is the economic depression Sam Mendes’fault? Should he have forseen it before he did American Beauty II?

    It’s kind of immaterial whether he should have or shouldn’t have. It happened. It is going to color a lot of people’s perception.

    Or are you just mad that this Brit’s gone back in time and said-hell you guys were just as pathetic in the fifties?

    Not in the least. He can say whatever he wants on the topic. I’m no fan of the 1950s. That said, this glossy soap opera — which is based on a 1961 by American novelist Richard Yates (so it isn’t from a strictly Brit point of view) — rings false for me in nearly every regard. It exists in a patently stacked-deck world that doesn’t even recognize the existence of anything beyond the confines of its own little world. But I’m not really mad at anything — other than having this foisted on me as profound.

    At the same time, what did I write? “It’s all in the service of a great profundity that I never detected. You may feel differently—quite a few people have—but, for me, the end result is a very large, ‘Who needs it?'” Well, obviously, you do feel differently, and that’s your right.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I like Sam Mendes and LOVE Kate Winslet

    I liked Road to Perdition, but never felt the need to see it a second time. As for Kate Winslet, I’ve been a champion of hers since I first saw her in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures back in 1995. For that matter, I had — and have — nothing but praise for her performance in The Reader a mere few weeks ago.

  11. nick

    I can;t believe i’m actually hearing this…a critic to give instructions to mendes!Your opinion is valid when you’re saying valid things!In case you didn’t know it.I’ve seen a lot movies my friend but there is nothing like that.So much depth in the story.Just because it takes some skill to see behind the words.Some people can’t see that call the movie suburbia crap, and american dreams, and alot of staff that are just stupid.Some people can see through words.And in some years i hope more movies will be made like this.There is not only the image you see, there;s something behind it.Americans are used to black and white.Go watch dak knight.

  12. Dread P. Roberts

    Mr. Hanke,

    I would like to thank you for your many years of intelligent, well written, honest reviews. I often find your movie reviews to be among my favorite to read of all the critics that are out there. I don’t always agree with everything that you write (nor have I ever agreed with anyone on everything). To me, this is simply human nature, and it is just part of what makes humanity beautiful. What a boring world this would be if we all felt the same about everything and always agreed with one another. If that was the case, then we might as well be robots.

    Anyways, my point is…please don’t allow negative comments to ever disconcert you from writing with such direct – sometimes even (perhaps) brutal – honesty. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I know I’m not alone in this assertion.

    I have not actually seen “Revolutionary Road”, but when I saw the trailer for the first time, the very first thing that came to mind was “this looks rather pretentious”. I found it very amusing that you actually used this word in describing the movie, and this is not the first time that what you wrote was so dead on to what I was thinking. Again, I have not seen this movie (and I don’t plan on seeing it until it’s available on Netflix) so I’m not writing from any sort of claim that I have a right to an opinion on this movie.

    I’m simply writing in defense to you and your more than deserving right to write movie reviews. From what I can tell (based on his comments) Nick is nothing more than a egotistical, rude and immature Sam Mendes fanboy.

  13. T.H.X. Pijonsnodt, Esq.

    Cullionly barbermoger! Whoreson zed and unnecessary letter! How dare you hate this film, this pinnacle of modern cinema? Your distaste is clear evidence of an unhappy marriage, and I can’t say I particularly blame your wife. You are not only a worthless critic but also a worthless human being, unfit even to kneel before Sam Mendes, from whose ears with ceaseless turmoil seething a mighty fountain of cinema momently is forced.

    Patently, in your decades of watching and reviewing over two hundred films per year, you have acquired only the most elementary understanding of filmmakery. In a review some seven hundred words in length, you provided nary a reason for your distaste for Revolutionary Road, that I demand that you immediately rewrite this review in its entirety, or I shall perforce challenge you to an internet duel — to the death!

  14. I now think that this a friend of Ken’s pulling a prank. Mendes hasn’t made enough films to garner such fanaticism.

  15. Ken Hanke

    I can;t believe i’m actually hearing this…a critic to give instructions to mendes!

    Oh, my God! Whatever next? Really, don’t you get the fact that the remark was meant to point out the utter preposterousness of your asserting that I should go back and delete this review (how I’m going to do that with the print edition is a little tricky) and write an “appropriate” one because you say so?

    Your opinion is valid when you’re saying valid things!In case you didn’t know it.

    And, uh, who is to decide what is or isn’t valid? You? Why? Just exactly what qualifies you to decide what’s valid?

    I’ve seen a lot movies my friend but there is nothing like that.

    So how many movies have you seen? What’s the oldest movie you’ve seen?

    Americans are used to black and white.Go watch dak knight.

    You really know nothing about me if you’re trying to link me with The Dark Knight. By the way, what superior culture do you represent?

  16. Ken Hanke

    I would like to thank you for your many years of intelligent, well written, honest reviews. I often find your movie reviews to be among my favorite to read of all the critics that are out there.

    Thank you very much.

    I don’t always agree with everything that you write (nor have I ever agreed with anyone on everything). To me, this is simply human nature, and it is just part of what makes humanity beautiful. What a boring world this would be if we all felt the same about everything and always agreed with one another.

    Good heavens, I would hope you don’t always agree with everything I write. That would be peculiar to say the least. If we all agreed on everything. whatever would there be to talk about? What possible fun would that be? And what would we learn from it? Nothing. I’m human. I like to be agreed with, but it’s not the major point for writing about movies. In fact, it’s pretty far down the list.

    Anyways, my point is…please don’t allow negative comments to ever disconcert you from writing with such direct – sometimes even (perhaps) brutal – honesty. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I know I’m not alone in this assertion.

    You needn’t worry about the first part. For the second part, I genuinely appreciate the support.

    Again, I have not seen this movie (and I don’t plan on seeing it until it’s available on Netflix) so I’m not writing from any sort of claim that I have a right to an opinion on this movie.

    No, but that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to express a level of expectation based on whatever factors are available to you — reviews, advertising, trailers, how you’ve felt about the filmmaker’s previous work. When you catch up with the film, you may find you feel differently. And that can be quite a wonderful thing in itself.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I now think that this a friend of Ken’s pulling a prank.

    I kind of doubt that. Even with the grimmest of tenacity, I don’t think they could pull off the grammar, spelling, and unique typing.

  18. Nick

    Alright.If i say that Robert deniro in taxi driver sucks, it will be a valid opinion?Probably not.What i can say is that’s i didn’t like deniro,no that he didn’t act well because it’s simply not true.A critic should say his/her opinion, but in terms of what is truth and what isn’t.For example you can’t say that the acting in revolutionary road is not good because it will be a lie.You can say it didn’t work for, but you always have to recognize what is truth and what isn’t.I’m not afan o Mendes or anything.I just hate people who think they are experts in movies without even knowing anything about it.Even Mendes is not an expert.Suddenly critics know about acting, directing, cinematography, even make up and visual effects!How?Can you just say your opinion about the movie without denying the artistic value if it?But what to expect from someone who gave zohan 2.5 stars.Really?Anyway i have more important things to do.Keep up and i hope you will realize your mistake.

  19. Dread P. Roberts

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t detect any sort of negative criticism (in Ken’s review) about the performances of the actors, nor did I detect any insults to Sam Mendes directing ability. What I got out of the review, was that the STORY was not enjoyable to him. That the story was merely heavy handed dramatic oscar bait.

    If this truly is a ‘1950s variation on American Beauty’, then I am at least intrigued to see the movie, but the “War of the Roses”-esque (from what it looks like to me) theme of “Revolutionary Road” is not one that immediately appeals to me. I remember appreciating a lot of the subtle ‘artistic’ touches in “American Beauty” (like the repeated use of the color red as symbolism), but I haven’t ever had any desire to watch to movie again simply because it left me feeling sort of depressed without gaining anything (other than artistic appreciation). There wasn’t really any sort of moral lesson and it all felt a bit stereotypical.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I shall perforce challenge you to an internet duel—to the death!

    Shall we say — typos at 20 paces?

  21. Ken Hanke

    Alright.If i say that Robert deniro in taxi driver sucks, it will be a valid opinion?

    Yes, because it’s an opinion.

    Suddenly critics know about acting, directing, cinematography, even make up and visual effects!How?

    How is it you apparently know so damn much? Let’s turn it around, shall we? Let’s make it:

    Suddenly anyone with an Internet connection knows about writing and criticism and movies! How?

    See what I mean? Where are your bonafides? From here, you’re some rude guy who calls himself “nick” or “Nick” and says things like “an certified moron” and “if you actually seen,” while waxing rhapsodic about this film as if your take on it is the only take there is. You presume to dictate that someone else — in this case, me — should go rewrite a review to suit you. And all of this floats on a sea of some of the most appalling typing I’ve ever seen. Now, you’ve descended to the hoariest of all Internet fanboy dodges — the attempt to discredit someone by pointing to another review (without actually noting what the review says).

    Anyway i have more important things to do.

    Learning what the space bar on the keyboard is for would be a good start.

  22. Steven

    I’m so glad Kate Winslet was nominated for her better performance in The Reader.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t detect any sort of negative criticism (in Ken’s review) about the performances of the actors

    Probably you missed it because it’s not there.

    nor did I detect any insults to Sam Mendes directing ability

    Only to the extent that I find his particular, extremely formal style strikes me as airless and depressing.

    I haven’t ever had any desire to watch to movie again simply because it left me feeling sort of depressed without gaining anything (other than artistic appreciation). There wasn’t really any sort of moral lesson and it all felt a bit stereotypical.

    That’s almost exactly my take on both it and this film.

  24. nick

    Ok.But again you are so afraid to tell me any movie that has the same topic.And don’t tell me about the subrbia!It’s not about that.All i’m saying is that you don’t seem to understand the movie considering that what you are saying are irellevant!And i mention all those on previous pots.As i said the movie has many unsaid things.It’s not slumdog, or benjamin button, or virginia wolf…it’s something unique.Very few movies in history have been released that has so much depth in characters.Also it’s revolutionary how Mendes married european techniques with american.

  25. Dread P. Roberts

    No offense to Sam, but perhaps Mr. Mendes would benefit from taking a couple of tips out of Danny Boyle’s playbook (for “Slumdog Millionaire”) on how to approach making a character driven drama. A good starting point would be to have likable characters that the audience actually cares about. Then the suspense would be more meaningful. The truth is that it almost doesn’t matter how incredible of an acting performance you get out of an actor/actress if you don’t like that character when you are apparently supposed to – and vice versa if the character is a villain.

    For example- I found Kevin Spacey’s performance in “American Beauty” to be superb by all accounts, but I positively loathed his creepy stalker character personification. He was supposed to be the ‘hero’ (in a way) that we – the audience – feel sympathy for. I know the poor fool is going through a mid-life crisis in which he is steadily reverting to ‘the-good-ol-days’ of his teenage years, but does that really make his lusting behavior towards his daughters fellow classmate excusable? Am I supposed to just accept that every guy goes through a mid-life crisis like this? That he represents the ‘dark truth’ behind every middle aged man? Screw that!

    Sorry, I have a tendency to get a little bit carried away and drift from the subject matter at hand.

  26. Dionysis

    Hey Nick/nick…just keep telling yourself…’it’s only a movie!’

  27. Rob Close

    See, now I know this movie is just useless pop culture – simply by seeing the idiocy used to defend it via Nick.

    It’s amazing that someone can type that poorly and consider others as stupid.

  28. T_REX

    Wow what a dogfight! I also want to say thanks for the reviews and especially this post that gives film geeks like me a chance to talk back (it’s too bad we can’t on “At the Movies”, so we could tell the 2 ben’s to piss off and get roeper back) The wonderful thing about film is that it is subjective, one film can mean many diffrent things to many diffrent people or nothing at all (i.e, Gone with the Wind IS an overated soap opera) Many times your reviews have pissed me off (WALL-e is one of the best of the year, not at all “cartoonish”, and even though it was silly and filled with bad dialogue 300 was not the worst of 2007) but I respect your opinion.

    Now to the case at hand…I have not seen RR yet but I must say I loved the trailer with its haunting score and look forward to seeing it.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Ok.But again you are so afraid to tell me any movie that has the same topic.

    I thought you had better things to do. I already suggested any number of pictures. Tap into any Sirkian weeper. You can get a much more entertaining picture of marital discord in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and it’s deeper, too. And, I’m sorry, but even the defenders of Revolutionary Road — now officially known as “The Oscar Bait That Failed” — say the film is about suburbia.

    Very few movies in history have been released that has so much depth in characters

    Banana oil.

    Also it’s revolutionary how Mendes married european techniques with american.

    In what conceivable way? If you’re going to make such a remarkable statement, you need to back it up with something.

  30. Ken Hanke

    I’m so glad Kate Winslet was nominated for her better performance in The Reader

    Amen to that!

  31. Ken Hanke

    Am I supposed to just accept that every guy goes through a mid-life crisis like this? That he represents the ‘dark truth’ behind every middle aged man? Screw that!

    Now, there’s someone talking sense.

  32. Ken Hanke

    Wow what a dogfight!

    Swell, ain’t it? If this keeps up we’ll overpower the endless, aimless Ayn Rand wars.

    I also want to say thanks for the reviews and especially this post that gives film geeks like me a chance to talk back

    You’re quite welcome, but the Xpress is due the thanks as much as I am.

    Many times your reviews have pissed me off

    I should hope so. Proves your paying attention as both a viewer and a reader.

    300 was not the worst of 2007

    Wellllll….

    Now to the case at hand…I have not seen RR yet but I must say I loved the trailer with its haunting score and look forward to seeing it.

    And you may well like it. If you liked American Beauty, chances are you will.

  33. For the record, here’s an interview with Sam Mendes that discusses the suburbia element:
    http://www.mercurynews.com/lifestyle/ci_11344897

    Mendes doesn’t deny the interpretation so much as state he’s not on a crusade against suburbia, “but I definitely feel drawn to family dynamics and dynamics between parents and children and men and women.” That’s hardly a unique topic, but the originality of the topic doesn’t determine the effectiveness of the film (and that was never at issue in the review anyway). It’s what the filmmaker does with it. Then, of course, it’s open to interpretation and the *individual* response of the viewer/reviewer.

    But once again, when one person’s response differs from a critic’s (not on issues of craft and competence, which for the most part the review either passed over or even praised as “consummate professionalism,” but emotional response and reaction to the plot and characters), they attack the critic.

  34. Dread P. Roberts

    I concur. This is part of what makes film a true artistic medium, and I believe any true film lover would agree with you T_REX. That is why I find it ironic that Nick is throwing something of a hissy fit defending the ‘art’ of Sam Mendes. If one were to view this review (and any other review for that matter) from a purely subjective point of view, then he/she would respect the reviewers entitled opinion. That is kind of the same point I was trying to make earlier.

  35. Dread P. Roberts

    I cannot deny that the score in the trailer is ‘haunting’, but no matter how good the soundtrack is, this is not always a ‘good’ thing from my experience. Case in point being: “Requiem for a Dream”. When I first saw that movie I could get it’s brilliantly haunting musical score out of my head for the longest time. Even though I loved the score, THAT was not what I considered a good thing. Not from a happy point of view anyway. Of course, I’m sure “Revolutionary Road” won’t be quite like that.

  36. Ken beat me to the punch, but I’m guessing that Nick is pretty young, and might not have much knowledge of film before the 70s. I was going to pretty much recommend everything that he has. MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION just came out this Tuesday by Criterion and would be a good place to start.

    I would say come on by one of my stores, but I’m also guessing that he doesn’t live around here.

  37. T.H.X. Pijonsnodt, Esq.

    Shall we say — typos at 20 paces?

    I shall load my kyboard posthaste. That is, my keyboard.

    Fiddlesticks — a misfure! Misfire.

    I fear I must quit the field. My weapon is malfunctioning.

  38. T_REX

    “And you may well like it. If you liked American Beauty, chances are you will. ”

    Oh yes I have seen it and loved it.I have not seen it since I saw it in a cinema in the great fall of 1999 ( a period so good it reminded me of the great 1970’s films. Fall ’99 had Being John Malcovich, Election, Fight Club [yes Fight Club is wonderful but that is a debate for another thread] Which makes me ask… what is the deal with the American Beauty backlash from friends and critics?… I remember it as a hugely succesful satire on american life itself. Maybe I like Mendes a lot because I also come from a theatre background. What about Jarhead? wasn’t that a good war movie? I thought so, but it wasnt a great one.

  39. Justin Souther

    I now think that this a friend of Ken’s pulling a prank.

    If so, I wish I had thought of it.

    Sam Mendes, from whose ears with ceaseless turmoil seething a mighty fountain of cinema momently is forced.

    If this doesn’t end up as a breakout quote on the DVD box for this thing, there’s not an ounce of justice in this world.

  40. Ken Hanke

    But once again, when one person’s response differs from a critic’s (not on issues of craft and competence, which for the most part the review either passed over or even praised as “consummate professionalism,” but emotional response and reaction to the plot and characters), they attack the critic.

    Back in the olden days, it took a certain amount of energy to villify a critic. You had to get some paper and a pen or a typewriter and compose an actual letter. Then you had to address an envelope and put a stamp on it and mail the thing. If you wanted the letter to see print, it had to be coherent and you had to sign your name to it. Now, it only takes an internet connection, bare literacy, a few keystrokes et voila instant attack accomplished. And all from the safety of a screen name. I’m not tackling the use of screen names, but for purposes of launching attacks, it’s a little like ringing a doorbell and running.

    You see it with increasing frequency and what appears to be snowballing ignorance — as when the populace on Rotten Tomatoes (who tend to make the IMDb fanboys look like giant intellects) go on a name-calling rampage. When you see someone question Andrew Sarris’ credentials for reviewing a movie — clearly with no idea of who Sarris is or what he’s contributed to the very way in which movies are reviewed — it’s depressing.

  41. Ken Hanke

    This is part of what makes film a true artistic medium, and I believe any true film lover would agree with you T_REX.

    You could probably broaden this to encompass any art form, but in any case, the business of a film (or whatever) meaning different things to different people or even meaning nothing at all also applies to the same person at different points in his or her life. You see a movie 20 years later and it won’t really be the same film because you won’t be quite the same person.

  42. Ken Hanke

    MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION just came out this Tuesday by Criterion and would be a good place to start.

    Is this the one that’s paired with the 1935 John M. Stahl version? (I’m personally not all that keen on Sirk, but am very fond of Stahl’s soap operas.)

  43. Ken Hanke

    Sam Mendes, from whose ears with ceaseless turmoil seething a mighty fountain of cinema momently is forced.

    If this doesn’t end up as a breakout quote on the DVD box for this thing, there’s not an ounce of justice in this world.

    I just want to know if our typo duel is on or not. The suspense is unbearable.

  44. “Is this the one that’s paired with the 1935 John M. Stahl version? (I’m personally not all that keen on Sirk, but am very fond of Stahl’s soap operas.)”

    Yes, both versions are on the set.

  45. Sean Williams

    If this doesn’t end up as a breakout quote on the DVD box for this thing, there’s not an ounce of justice in this world.

    It’s all too rare to see an internet troll quote both Shakespeare and Coleridge — in the same vituperation, no less!

    I’m not tackling the use of screen names, but for purposes of launching attacks, it’s a little like ringing a doorbell and running.

    Ease of access breeds contempt. Thanks to the internet, everyone can attack anyone without fear of consequences.

  46. Ken Hanke

    Which makes me ask… what is the deal with the American Beauty backlash from friends and critics?… I remember it as a hugely succesful satire on american life itself.

    Is there a backlash? I was unaware of one. Most of the people I know who dislike it always disliked it. There may have been an increase in their outspoken attitude. I can tell you why I dislike it, if you really want to know. Put simply, I find it smug, self-satisfied and condescending.

  47. Ken Hanke

    I fear I must quit the field. My weapon is malfunctioning

    As duels go, that was pretty easy.

  48. Ken Hanke

    It’s all too rare to see an internet troll quote both Shakespeare and Coleridge—in the same vituperation, no less!

    Well, I think that was a kind of bogus internet troll, since the post was obviously a parody. What bothers me is that I can’t figure out who it was.

  49. Dread P. Roberts

    As much as I like this metaphor (and metaphors in general for that matter), I can’t help but feel like it doesn’t quite do full justice. My point is simply that the whole ‘ring-the-doorbell-and-run’ thing seems to be more about mischievous behavior than it is about cowardice behavior. I can see your point about how easy it is to hide behind the internet veil, knowing full well that you are safe, but I don’t think that everyone uses a different screen name – than their actual name – simply because they are nothing more than cowards. I, for one, am not disinclined to sharing information just so I can ‘talk smack’ without anyone knowing who I am. There are other factors to take into consideration. Like maybe someone is afraid of running into a psycho stalker of some kind. Or, perhaps, it’s just a matter of personal creative amusement to take on another personification.

    Now, what I think often DOES happen is that we get a glimpse into a persons true colors because fear – in essence – has been removed, therefore that individual is no longer sub-consciously, diplomatically restrained in what they are willing to share. The irony in this is that with the ever increasing influence of technological advances as a means of communicating, we – society in general – become less courteous with our communication skills. It is depressing enough to see the death of chivalry without it being replaced by outright rude, primitive behavior. Plus, you have to take into account the likelihood of a rather big age gap. If one person is drastically less mature than the other, it can potentially lead to an unexpectedly annoying conversation. In ‘real life’ you’re probably less likely to end up in a face-to-face conversation with that person over certain topics that you suddenly find yourself involved in while online.

    I just want to ad that I personally try to think about what I type before I type it. With this in mind, there is really not a whole lot of excuse for stupidity given that people have a bit more of an advantage (by means of pausing to contemplate) over a face-to-face conversation. Still, I often catch misspelled words and poor grammar issues in spite of my efforts to avoid such. I humbly admit that I am no expert (on anything really) and that I still have a great deal to learn about a great many things. But, you see, that is why I’m here participating in this blog, because I want to expand my limited wisdom and knowledge (especially in the realm of movies, of course) by paying attention to what older, wiser individuals (such a Ken & company) have to say.

  50. I don’t think Ken meant to generalize that as a reason for using a screen name (as he said, he wasn’t tackling that), but that for “purposes of launching attacks” they can be useful (though as you note, Dread, the removal of inhibitions is a larger issue).

    The same issue applies to editorial page letters, which even when they come from absolute raving cranks, have a name and address attached and, if they hope to see the light of day, a minimal amount of coherence, grammar, punctuation, etc. Thanks to the Internet (and message boards or comment sections attached to the online versions of print newspapers), one can just go online and spew attacks and obscenities. Not to say message boards and comment sections are bad things (which would be patently ridiculous coming from someone who *is* using a comment section), but they basically have few to no barriers, in contrast to a sternly worded letter to The New York Times or what have you.

  51. Sean Williams

    Well, I think that was a kind of bogus internet troll, since the post was obviously a parody.

    Obviously, but I still think the internet would be more bearable if all trolls drew their slurs from the pages of King Lear.

    What bothers me is that I can’t figure out who it was.

    I’m guessing you’d remember if you’d ever met a T.H.X. Pijonsnodt.

    Good heavens, I would hope you don’t always agree with everything I write. That would be peculiar to say the least.

    My opinions tend to differ from yours more in intensity than in substance — I hated Hancock far more than you did, for instance.

    I’m sure that you, as a critic of such towering intellect and such broad experience, find my tastes terribly pedestrian. But I regard myself as a populist in philosophy rather than in aesthetics: I am amenable to accept widely-liked films as classics regardless of how I feel about them personally. I find rather spurious the mainstream critical definition of a classic as a film that is intrinsically superior because of its subject rather than its quality. (Or anyways, that’s my perception of the mainstream critical attitude. As a critic, you may have a different and more accurate perception.) I don’t see why stylishly-made, intelligent films are automatically unworthy of canonization if they’re “only entertainment”. Although I find the Indiana Jones movies clumsily directed and interminably long, they are pop-culture artifacts, and that definition of a classic is as legitimate as any other, more elite definition.

    Anyways, it’s impossible to place art in its proper context without decades of retrospection. I don’t know why everyone rushes to declare any film, pop-cultural or “artsy”, a classic within the week of its release.

  52. Ken Hanke

    I can see your point about how easy it is to hide behind the internet veil, knowing full well that you are safe, but I don’t think that everyone uses a different screen name – than their actual name – simply because they are nothing more than cowards

    This is kind of why I said I wasn’t tackling the subject. It’s actually a topic I try to steer away from as a rule simply because I can’t be certain that I’m not at least a little jealous of the screen name thing since I gave up my right to that kind of anonymity 28 years ago when I decided to publish under my own name. And I can’t very well respond to comments on reviews I’ve written calling myself “Hump, the Wonder Camel,” can I? But I realize this is a choice I made long ago. Perhaps I didn’t understand the full ramifications of the choice at the time. Some of them I couldn’t have even guessed at — the Internet and message boards? — then, but I was certainly aware at the time that I could have called myself “Sneed Hearn” had I wanted to. (At least people would have been able to pronounce it.)

    At the same time, I realize there are any number of reasons people use a screen name. I’ve heard several — some I found rational, some I found preposterous. (And there are some I find wise choices, because I wouldn’t give out my right name either were I spewing some of the things I’ve read on message boards.) But my point here wasn’t screen names per se. It has to do with the use of them specifically for the purpose of waging an attack. I’ve not the least problem with people like yourself (I’m guessing that Dread isn’t your real name), T Rex (though I am curious if this is Marc Bolan or dinosaur inspired) or Dionysis, etc. using screen names, because your intent is very obviously not attacking anyone. You’re civil and polite. There’s a significant difference.

  53. Dread P. Roberts

    Thank you.

    On a completely unrelated silly side subject: how do you post in bold text so as to reference another bloggers post?

  54. Ken Hanke

    On a completely unrelated silly side subject: how do you post in bold text so as to reference another bloggers post?

    Let’s see if I can answer that without causing it to happen. You start the quote with and close it with the same thing, except the b is preceded by /. The same process works for italics by substituting an i for the b.

  55. Ken Hanke

    The same issue applies to editorial page letters, which even when they come from absolute raving cranks, have a name and address attached and, if they hope to see the light of day, a minimal amount of coherence, grammar, punctuation, etc.

    Indeed that is a difference. One of my favorite letters to the editor that came my way never saw ink of print on that very basis. It was a magnificent tirade — somewhat undercut by being handwritten in pink ink — of some incoherence that charged me with being “racist” for not giving a glowing review to How High. Unfortunately, it was signed “annonymos,” and so wasn’t run.

    Not to say message boards and comment sections are bad things (which would be patently ridiculous coming from someone who *is* using a comment section), but they basically have few to no barriers, in contrast to a sternly worded letter to The New York Times or what have you.

    “I’m not in the habit of making threats, but there’ll be an angry letter about this in the Times tomorrow.” — Groucho Marx

    Actually, more often than not, I enjoy the comments section of the reviews and the “Screening Room” entries. The level of discourse is generally pretty civil and intelligent — with notable exceptions, which are to be expected. Then too, as a writer I treasure every opportunity for a distraction. Almost anything that affords an excuse for wandering away from the work I’m supposed to be doing is always welcome.

  56. Ken Hanke

    Obviously, but I still think the internet would be more bearable if all trolls drew their slurs from the pages of King Lear.

    I’ll not be truly happy till someone in a Coleridge frame of mind drops “eftsoons” into a sentence.

    I’m sure that you, as a critic of such towering intellect and such broad experience, find my tastes terribly pedestrian.

    I seriously question whether I have a “towering intellect” and “such broad experience” can be translated into “pissed away so much of your life watching movies.” Moreover, I’ve never found your opinions — or manner of expressing them — “pedestrian.”

    I don’t see why stylishly-made, intelligent films are automatically unworthy of canonization if they’re “only entertainment”.

    Considering you’re talking to someone who counts Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) as one of the best movies ever made, you came to the wrong guy for an argument. And though it doesn’t really apply in any significant manner to that film, I’ll almost always take emotional resonance over the “importance” of the subject manner

    Although I find the Indiana Jones movies clumsily directed and interminably long, they are pop-culture artifacts, and that definition of a classic is as legitimate as any other, more elite definition.

    Now there we part company. I accept them as pop-culture artifacts, but that doesn’t mean I accept them as having genuine merit.

    Anyways, it’s impossible to place art in its proper context without decades of retrospection. I don’t know why everyone rushes to declare any film, pop-cultural or “artsy”, a classic within the week of its release.

    It’s a foolishness that comes from…who knows what exactly? The desire for some weird form of instant gratification or perhaps instant validation? I’ve no idea. There’ve been many films (among other things) that were damned when they were new and yet have been praised on later evaluation and even more that were praised to the skies when they were new and are now all but forgotten.

  57. Let’s see if I can answer that without causing it to happen. You start the quote with and close it with the same thing, except the b is preceded by /. The same process works for italics by substituting an i for the b.

    Hey, this topic is entertaining AND educational!

    Are we going to get that Viking vs. Alien movie?

  58. Ken Hanke

    Are we going to get that Viking vs. Alien movie?

    Your turn to be educational. What the hell movie is this? (And I have a sinking feeling you’re not making this up.)

  59. Dionysis

    You start the quote with and close it with the same thing, except the b is preceded by /./

    Cool. I’ve wondered how you do that too; thanks for the tip and the nice comment (I’m not ashamed of my own name, I just have to keep a barrier between my posts/opinions and my work life).

    I really enjoy Ken’s reviews (and Justin’s too), agreeing with the majority of them, and always finding them educational (and often really funny as well).

  60. Ken Hanke

    You start the quote with and close it with the same thing, except the b is preceded by /./

    That forward slash has to be inside the sideways carrot at the end.

    I’m not ashamed of my own name, I just have to keep a barrier between my posts/opinions and my work life

    That’s understandable. I guess in a sense my opinions are my work life. That’s kind of disturbing to think about!

  61. Dionysis

    That forward slash has to be inside the sideways carrot at the end.

    Duh, I think I have it.

  62. Tonberry

    You know, if “Hump, the Wonder Camel” is not up for grabs…

    And I’ve always wondered how they did this

  63. Sean Williams

    Now there we part company. I accept them as pop-culture artifacts, but that doesn’t mean I accept them as having genuine merit.

    No, that’s exactly what I’m saying: they don’t have any genuine merit as far as I’m concerned. I don’t even like the much-ballyhooed Raiders of the Lost Ark at all.

    My point is that “pop-culture artifact” is as valid a definition of a classic as any more discriminating standard. It’s not a definition to which I personally ascribe, but we agree that the equation of “important” subject matter with classic cinema is just as silly. Anyways, at this stage of the game, we have no idea what films will survive the march of the eons.

    Myself, I define “classic” cinema as cinema that improves or at least retains its impact upon repeat viewings. It has to be technically solid, and, more importantly, it has to reveal what Ray Bradbury called “the pores of life” — emotion, atmosphere, the human spirit. I’ve never particularly cared if films are popular, important, or enduring as long as they have that quality of artistic insight.

  64. Dread P. Roberts

    And I’ve always wondered how they did this

    It would appear that my question has created an epidemic of the use of bold and italic among the “Mountain Express” blogging community. I must admit that I am pleased to have declared ignorance and sacrificed my dignity (not really – this is just for dramatic effect) for the sake of a greater good. Thanks again Ken.

  65. Hey, that looked pretty good. Predatory aliens (’dragons’) against ancient Vikings. Do you carry it at Orbit?

    The Weinsteins are botching it as we speak in a limited theatrical run. It’s too bad because the reviews that I’ve read so far are pretty kind to it and there hasn’t been a good Viking movies since, well, THE VIKINGS.

  66. Ken Hanke

    You know, if “Hump, the Wonder Camel” is not up for grabs…

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it originated in a Johnny Carson “Tea Time Movie” skit in the late 60s or early 70s on The Tonight Show.

  67. Ken Hanke

    Hey, that looked pretty good. Predatory aliens (’dragons’) against ancient Vikings.

    Well, it looks better than Dragonball Evolution, but I can see why they might think the market is limited.

  68. Ken Hanke

    No, that’s exactly what I’m saying: they don’t have any genuine merit as far as I’m concerned. I don’t even like the much-ballyhooed Raiders of the Lost Ark at all.

    I think I could concede that such movies are a “kind of classic.” I’d say pretty much the same thing about such widely accepted classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and even to some extent Casablanca. These, however, have a degree of merit if only because they have become nostaglia, where something like Raiders is this kind of pre-fab nostalgia.

    Myself, I define “classic” cinema as cinema that improves or at least retains its impact upon repeat viewings.

    And I suspect there are those who would say Raiders does this. (Whether or not what it really does is evoke a pleasant memory of childhood is another matter — not that I think that’s without its own kind of merit.)

    I’ve never particularly cared if films are popular, important, or enduring as long as they have that quality of artistic insight.

    I think I can go with that. I admit to prefering films that have a strong single point of view — usually the director, but not invariably.

  69. Ken Hanke

    It would appear that my question has created an epidemic of the use of bold and italic among the “Mountain Express” blogging community.

    It’s a veritable outbreak of posting savviness!

    Thanks again Ken

    You’re more than welcome — and please stick around and post some more.

  70. Ken Hanke

    there hasn’t been a good Viking movies since, well, THE VIKINGS

    Yeah, nothing says Vikings like Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas.

  71. Justin Souther

    Well, it looks better than Dragonball Evolution

    A colonoscopy video looks better than Dragonball Evolution.

  72. josiah

    i have finished the film and must say whether or not there is anything “new” being brought should not matter. we could discuss the merit of new but new today simply isn’t that useful, take pieces of the old and create a collage and in its entirety its “new”.
    what makes this film good in my opinion is the insight into a non-conventional relationship, or what some might call two people who shouldn’t be together who are. these people should be together, but their circumstances were too hard to overcome. paris wasn’t just a dream, it was real, it was an option but the forces of society that suck away your hope and dreams were too strong in the end. the love doesn’t last… and the truth does not prevail. ken… you are just like the land lady in that film… a force against truth and what is good. keep living a lie.

  73. Dread P. Roberts

    A colonoscopy video looks better than Dragonball Evolution.

    I think the argument could be made that there are similarities between the two, considering that they both originate from an excess of crap.

    I don’t even like the much-ballyhooed Raiders of the Lost Ark at all.

    Ironically, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – despite it’s flaws – was one of the first movies that made me fall in love with movies when I was a kid. It does not hold quite the same impact today as it did back then, but it is still a very fond piece of childhood nostalgia for me. It is definitely my favorite of the Indiana movies, (if for no other reason than the aforementioned) and I still get excited when I see the opening sequence, all the way from the Paramount logo transformation to the ‘big rolling ball’. With that said, I can certainly understand and respect another’s dislike of this ‘popcorn pulp classic’ – especially after seeing the god-awful new Indiana flick.

  74. Ken Hanke

    ken… you are just like the land lady in that film… a force against truth and what is good. keep living a lie.

    See, your reading of the film is a lot like my reading of the film — except, for me, the film is the lie. The whole “forces of society” scapegoat strikes me as an easy out for your own failure. For the most part, society is mostly just indifferent. Yes, there’s always someone ready to tell you that you’ll fail and that you shouldn’t try, etc., but they can’t really stop you unless you let them.

  75. Ken Hanke

    Ironically, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – despite it’s flaws – was one of the first movies that made me fall in love with movies when I was a kid.

    And that, I suspect, is a large part of the reason that I’m more or less indifferent to the film — I was 26 when it came out.

    With that said, I can certainly understand and respect another’s dislike of this ‘popcorn pulp classic’

    For me at least, dislike is way too strong. The film itself doesn’t bother me. The idea that it’s on lists of “greatest movies ever made” (a concept that more and more strikes me as pointless) is what I balk at.

  76. Sean Williams

    especially after seeing the god-awful new Indiana flick.

    I don’t mean to sound deliberately contrary, but I actually liked Crystal Skull a good deal more than Raiders. Of course, I also defend the Star Wars Prequels, so make of that what you will….

    (a concept that more and more strikes me as pointless)

    Absolutely. Even generously assuming that a few critics’ tastes are an objective indicator of quality, how can those few critics claim to have seen every single film worthy of evaluation? For my money, one of the best films of 2008 was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, but very few critics even noticed it.

    I think the argument could be made that there are similarities between the two, considering that they both originate from an excess of crap.

    Well played, well played.

  77. T.H.X. Pijonsnodt, Esq.

    ken… you are just like the land lady in that film… a force against truth and what is good.

    My sentiments precisely. To dislike a film so exalted in its artistry is not only an error in judgment but an actual moral transgression.

    I suggest that our civilized nation institute capital punishment for all critics with the gumption (or shortsightedness) to oppose Sam Mendes’ cinematic apotheosis. And let us then say to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the great director, which had a wound by Ken Hanke’s negative review, and did live.

    keep living a lie.

    And indeed he must continue to live this lie, for he received not the love of the truth, that he might be saved, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. His eloquence in this review is merely an attempt to obscure his own doubts.
    When we speak most fairly, then we think most falsely; against wisdom we work with deceit.

  78. Ken Hanke

    I also defend the Star Wars Prequels, so make of that what you will….

    I’ll defend the second one — at least long stretches of it. Not so sure I can back you on the others.

    Even generously assuming that a few critics’ tastes are an objective indicator of quality, how can those few critics claim to have seen every single film worthy of evaluation? For my money, one of the best films of 2008 was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, but very few critics even noticed it.

    There’s probably no such thing as an “objective indicator of quality” in art, since it’s essentially a subjective call. I do think it essential that you back up your reasons for a subjective judgment — assuming you want to discuss it with any degree of seriousness. I’m still waiting for nick/Nick to explain how Revolutionary Road “married european techniques with american,” but I suspect my wait is in vain. (I’m still waiting for the guy from months back to tell me “what emo is and what emo is not.”)

    But the idea that every — or even most — critics have seen every possible worthy film on such a list is pretty far-fetched. I’ve undoubtedly seen thousands and thousands of movies. You can come to my house and find about 4,000 on hand. And I’ve seen nowhere near every possible worthy film. I can almost invariably walk into a room where TCM is on and tell you what the movie is at a glance, but that’s an almost. It’s only in the past year that I even saw Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, City Girl and Liliom. I could give consideration to each of those. In the past few weeks, I bumped into Frank Borzage’s No Greater Glory on TCM. I’d never even heard of it — or of the existence of an anti-war movie that makes its points entirely through gangs of children fighting over who controls an empty lot. Should it be on such a list? Maybe. But regardless of that, I’d certainly recommend it to anyone.

    Does Miss Pettigrew belong on such a list? Beats me. It’s too soon to tell, but I’m more impressed with it each time I see it. And it’s not just nostalgia for a type of movie no longer generally made, because it uses a 1930s format to cover new ground — ground that probably wouldn’t have been covered in 1939.

  79. Ken Hanke

    My sentiments precisely. To dislike a film so exalted in its artistry is not only an error in judgment but an actual moral transgression.

    Gad, that Pijonsnodt fellow is a formidable opponent. If only he’d help me find where I put my hairshirt. And whilst I do my penance, he can explain to me why those who attack me for this review are seemingly incapable of working a shift key. And if, in the process, he can work “eftsoons” into a sentence, I will be more than grateful.

  80. Sean Williams

    There’s probably no such thing as an “objective indicator of quality” in art, since it’s essentially a subjective call.
    at more objective, if only in their own terms.

    The standards by which we evaluate cinema are certainly a priori, since artistic merit has no empirical basis. Still, I think that the evaluations we make based on those standards are slightly more objective, if only in their own terms.

    Subjectivity comes into play when we evaluate exactly how well a particular movie adheres to those standards, what standards are more important than others, and whether adherence to one standard outweighs failure to adhere to another.

    Then, of course, there are the filmmakers who deliberately challenge the universal standards. Even in their cases, “quality” boils down to personal impact, which is why certain standards of cinema have become ascendant in the first place: they effectively impact the majority of viewers. (If you’re really feeling that post-Cartesian existential anxiety, you can question exactly why impact should be the goal of art.)

    Does Miss Pettigrew belong on such a list?

    Just to clarify, I meant for 2008 specifically — certainly not for all time. Lovely movie, though.

  81. Dread P. Roberts

    I don’t mean to sound deliberately contrary, but I actually liked Crystal Skull a good deal more than Raiders. Of course, I also defend the Star Wars Prequels, so make of that what you will….

    I don’t really care about ‘who’ likes (or dislikes) ‘what’ when it comes to the subject(s) of art and entertainment. What I do care about is the reasoning behind ones thought process. In other words, I simply like to know what makes people ‘tick’ and/or why they feel the way that they do about the subject at hand. As a dedicated student of various forms of art, (with a degree & profession in Graphic Design, if that matters whatsoever) I find it a little strange that people are so often personally offended over such subjective subject matter as movies (among other things). We all come from different backgrounds with different insights, and that is OK. In fact, it’s better than just ok, it’s great as far as I’m concerned. Friendly and intelligent debating can be a lot of fun as long as it meets the aforementioned criteria.

    It is entirely possible to keep an open mind without loosing track of where you stand, just as long as you are comfortable and secure with your own footing.

  82. Mrs. Nix

    In spite of my being a huge devotee of Kate Winslet’s who has followed her career with gleeful enthusiasm since Heavenly Creatures, I must sadly admit that I have no desire to see Revolutionary Road. After watching the trailer, my opinion was settled. Poor Ken had to watch the film twice to arrive at the conclusion I reached after a 2 minute trailer…but I don’t pity you too far, Ken, since I assume you review these films for a fee.

    All that blather out of the way, I must say that I am tired to death of suburbia bashing. It’s not smart, original, or cool anymore. It’s certainly not genius.

    People grow up, sustain themselves by gainful employment, have children, and go about daily life in all its mundane glory. Everyone has dreams and aspirations to live for and follow. They also have diapers to change, trash to take out, and collars to iron. Angst over these simple facts of existence feel an awful lot like the tantrums my daughter threw when she was 3. “But I don’t LIKE wearing shoes!” Sometimes, you have to do unpleasant things in this life to get on tolerably. The pleasant things you skip while complaining about the unpleasant are lost to you entirely by your own laziness and folly.

    People who blame a life spent in suburban middle America for their failure to make something creative out of their days don’t interest me in any small way. They’re boring. I’m tired of hearing the narcissistic bleating of feminists and urbanites who enjoy marinating over coffee in self-important misanthropy at the expense of families like mine.

    I like my life. If you don’t…go get yourself a different one.

    Making films about how awful it is to be a comfortable middle-class American just smacks of something a little to ironically selfish to induce me to praise it with my ticket dollars.

    Bravo, Ken. Too few will admit the insipidity of this project because of the talent associated with it. I was refreshed and pleased to see your review.

  83. Part of the reason why I don’t want to see this is because I just don’t want to see a drama right now. In fact, I haven’t had that urge in months. Unless I can laugh or I see a head explode, then it’s not on my must-see list. I dread this time of year because it seems like that’s all there is.

    And hopefully, Mrs. Nix, this film will be the last suburban-bashing film we’ll have to deal with for a long time.

  84. Ken Hanke

    I find it a little strange that people are so often personally offended over such subjective subject matter as movies (among other things).

    In some cases, it is simply the result of saying something bad about somebody’s personal artistic deity (though, as Marc points out, Mendes’ sparse output argues against that here). But it always tends to strike me that the people who get totally bent out of shape over a dissenting voice are insecure in their own opinion. They need the validation of others to shore it up. What they never realize, it seems, is that a raving attack not only reflects poorly on them, but is actually apt to put others off the very thing they’re trying to champion.

  85. Ken Hanke

    Poor Ken had to watch the film twice to arrive at the conclusion I reached after a 2 minute trailer…but I don’t pity you too far, Ken, since I assume you review these films for a fee.

    Not a spectacularly large fee, but, yes, I do get paid to review films. On the other hand, I have only myself to blame for that second viewing. I thought maybe I’d missed something or simply been in a particularly unreceptive frame of mind on that first viewing.

    People who blame a life spent in suburban middle America for their failure to make something creative out of their days don’t interest me in any small way. They’re boring.

    They’re also dodging their own culpability in the matter. which makes them annoying as well as boring.

  86. Ken Hanke

    Unless I can laugh or I see a head explode, then it’s not on my must-see list.

    If I tell you that Sean Penn’s head explodes in Milk will you go?

  87. If I tell you that Sean Penn’s head explodes in Milk will you go?

    Perhaps, but maybe more so if you say that somebody farts.

  88. Ken Hanke

    Perhaps, but maybe more so if you say that somebody farts.

    That’s the worst of you sophisticates.

  89. T100C-1970

    About 1973 when I was a grad student at UNC I went to see a highly rated movie: “Death in Venice”. To me it was AWFUL. The DTH reviewer characterized it as “stultifying”. I think the reviewer may have been trying to find a “big word” for “simply awful” but we clearly agreed that it was. Arguing about art (along with religion) is one of the few things even more futile than arguing about politics.

    Folks should just say what they did or didn’t like and try to REFRAIN from attacking others who do not see it the way they do.

  90. Ken Hanke

    About 1973 when I was a grad student at UNC I went to see a highly rated movie: “Death in Venice”. To me it was AWFUL. The DTH reviewer characterized it as “stultifying”.

    I’d have gone with “beautiful, but boring.” For me, this movie is best summed up in an episode of the Brit TV series The Goodies, in which the show’s leads have bought a movie studio and are screening a movie called Death in Bognor. They’ve apparently already spent over an hour watching someone trudge along the beach. Suddenly, he falls over dead. “That it then?” one of them asks, only to be told that, no, “there’s another two hours of this.” “What happens?” he asks. “Nothing,” is the answer.

    Arguing about art (along with religion) is one of the few things even more futile than arguing about politics.

    Arguing about it — or discussing it — is one thing. It can be fun. It can be illuminating — sometimes a different take on something is useful. Attacking people over it is something else again.

  91. TokyoTaos

    In response to a post above:

    I too had no desire to see Revolutionary Road when I saw the preview (even though I too am a big Kate Winslet fan). Funnily enough it was this thread that somehow tweaked my interest. I love, LOVE, reading Ken Hankes reviews but we are often in disagreement I’m afraid.

    And I have to say, now that I have actually seen Revolutionary Road, that of all the films I’ve seen this year (including Slumdog, Benjamin Button, etc., etc.) it has had the most profound effect on me. It stayed with me for days afterwards and I ended up talking about with lots of different people. The characters in the movie and their dilemma seemed very real to me, thanks to the amazing acting of both Winslet and DiCaprio (who to be honest I’ve never been that crazy about – but in this film, wow!) To me the film spoke about living an authentic life (whether that’s in the 50s or now) and about the choices we make; it made me think a lot about my own life.

    This really isn’t a Mendes film (although it might have all the hallmarks of his directing style); it’s a Kate Winslet film. It was her passion for the material that brought it into being (she just happened to convince her husband to direct it) – and that deep feeling for her character and this story was successfully translated into a beautiful (and very sad) film.

    And whether Mendes believes or not that Revolutionary Road is about ‘suburbia’ Richard Yates who wrote the novel was quoted at the time it came out that he was disappointed that people saw it as such; for him it was about conformity and the cost (at least for some of us) when we go against ourselves in order to confirm.

    I highly, highly recommend this film. Yes, you might love it, you might hate it; to each his own as they say. But make up your own mind and don’t let Ken’s review put you off .

  92. irelephant

    Good review, Ken. I read the book not long ago and thought it was well written, if not an especially great book–though I did read some claim that it was to the fifties what The Great Gatsby was to the twenties. Not being all that fond of either books, I can’t quite validate that, but I will say with regards to the movie of Revolutionary Road that it did a great job of transfering the book to the screen–though the movie was a load of bollocks. Make of that what you will.

  93. Ken Hanke

    Thank you for the kind words about reading me, even if you disagree with me. And it’s nice to see that someone can champion the film without resorting to pitching a mudslinging fit. That’s always appreciated.

    I believe you did get out of the film what the film wants you to get out of it. The problem for me — apart from not caring even slightly about the characters — is that I found it unpersuasive and artificial. Also, for me, I feel like the filmmaker himself feels superior to the characters — and that’s the kiss of death (it’s part of what I don’t like about Benjamin Button, too).

    But by all means, if you’re so inclined, see the film for yourself. This may sound odd, but I don’t really write reviews — bad ones — with the intent of keeping people from going to a movie. (I’m not talking about obvious crap like Date Movie.) I know people use reviews to make an informed decision on what to see — and I understand this because it’s an expensive undertaking. And it’s useful enough if you’re pretty certain that the critic’s taste is very close to your own. And it’s useful you can take what’s said — knowing the writer — and see that you might have a very different reaction. For me, however, I don’t think a bad review has ever kept me from seeing a film if I was already interested in doing so, but many times a good review has caused to me to go see one I wasn’t interested in, which, I think, is the greater (if often less entertaining) goal of criticism.

  94. Ken Hanke

    I will say with regards to the movie of Revolutionary Road that it did a great job of transfering the book to the screen–though the movie was a load of bollocks. Make of that what you will.

    I could be wrong, but I think you just said it was a swell translation of the book to the screen, but since you’re not that keen on the book or its message in the first place, that doen’t mean you liked the film or thought it of any merit.

  95. irelephant

    I like to see how books transfer to film, even if I’m not all that jazzed about the source material in the first place. I was expecting at least some great acting, but I wasn’t that pleased with anyone except Michael Shannon. Good work, Mr. Hanke, you deciphered the gobbledygook. That was an emotional post I wrote: too many thoughts and feelings, too few concrete expressions. Film and criticism are very emotional. Thank you.

  96. Ken Hanke

    I like to see how books transfer to film, even if I’m not all that jazzed about the source material in the first place.

    Someone commented in another review (I don’t remember who) that the film did the book the ultimate disservice by not making you want to read it. That may be true — at least for me — because nothing about the film made me even briefly consider picking up the novel. When I think of all the film adaptations that have driven me to read the source material, I see the point.

  97. irelephant

    That’s the difference for me–if I haven’t read the source novel of a movie, but I have seen the movie and I don’t think it’s very good, I may pick up the book and flip through it in the library or bookstore, but I would be hard-pressed to slog through it. But if I’ve already slogged through the book and a movie adaptation is released, I’ll sit through it for curiosity’s sake. There have been movies that have spurred me to pick up the original novels they were based on; for example, Stanley Kubrick got me to pick up Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, which became one of my favorite books. Also, it is a superb adaptation of a book with such a strong emphasis on language as music. Though I think Kubrick, among others, proved–especially with The Shorttimers, a book which became the movie Full Metal Jacket–that it’s possible to take good source material and make it great. I imagine Revolutionary Road, with the right tweeking, could have been great material also, but Sam Mendes just doesn’t have the talent to alter a limited source into something worthwhile. The book of Revolutionary Road was well written and hooked me from the first chapter and made me want to read to the end, even though I guessed the ending a hundred pages or so before. That takes talent, though the end result didn’t leave an outstanding impression on me. And it didn’t make me want to read another of Richard Yates’ books. But I felt it had the potential to do something, instead of just lie there like a belligerent corpse, which is what my final impression of the movie was.

  98. Ken Hanke

    It would be impossible for me to accurately list the books I’ve read because of the movie versions. I certainly saw things like Dracula and Frankenstein long before I read the books. I know the film The Devil Commands got me to read the source novel, The Edge of Running Water (what a much better title). In recent years, the films of About a Boy, The Hours and The Rules of Attraction caused me to seek out the books. A Clockwork Orange drove me to the book, but more that drove me to some other Burgess, which I liked even better. I can only wonder if I’d ever have read any J.B. Priestley had it not been for the film of The Old Dark House, and now I’ve read (and mostly own) just about everything he ever wrote. James Whale’s film of John Galsworthy’s One More River got me to read the novel — and by extension, I ended up reading the eight other books in the series that lead up to that one. I can’t think of a movie that impressed me favorably that didn’t lead me to its source (if there was one). I can’t think of a movie that I didn’t like that had that impact. Having said that, I admit to being curious about Twilight, but only because I want to see if the book could possibly be as bad as the movie.

  99. irelephant

    There are other works by Burgess that are amazing, but A Clockwork Orange has such a hold on me. The language makes me ga-ga. It is the sort of book I would want to write. Burgess was remarkable, simply put. His knowledge of languages and music and myriad other subjects astounds me. The guy was mad, in the best way. Added to which he had a benign brain tumor for over forty years that he felt was a partial source for his seemingly unlimited creativity. He wrote one of my favorite works on Shakespeare, as well.

    Sometimes I really enjoy movie versions more than the original novels–About a Boy is a great example of that. I liked the book, to be sure, but I enjoyed the way the movie was handled much more. Frankenstein is another example. James Whales’ version(s) is it for me. I like the book merely for the template. Supposedly, Guillermo del Toro is planning a new film version to be shot sometime in 2020, after the two Hobbit movies. If we’re all still alive then, I reckon we’ll be in for a good show.

    I haven’t been able to make myself read the book or check out the movie of Twilight. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural necessity. I feel like it would be more constructive staying in, being intimate with myself, then having a beer. But what do i know?

    I’m impressed with your knowledge of old films and their source novels. Are the works of J.B. Priestly or John Galswothy still in print?

    Bret Easton Ellis…read Lunar Park not long ago, haven’t read any of his other work, nor have i seen the film versions. He’s well regarded in some circles, but Lunar Park lost me toward its end–though it was well constructed. Is Rules of Attraction worth a read? Read anything else he’s written? Seen any of the other movie versions of his work?

    Perhaps someone should start adapting movies into novels. Something like 8 1/2 adapted into a novel by an author talented enough with words to match Fellini’s talent in film–that would be neat. Then someone could adapt the braodway adaptation of 8 1/2 into a novel. And then someone could adapt the film version of the broadway version of 8 1/2 into a novel. It all seems like a good idea to me. I don’t know if there would be a market for it, but some great things might come out of it.

  100. Ken Hanke

    Sometimes I really enjoy movie versions more than the original novels–About a Boy is a great example of that. I liked the book, to be sure, but I enjoyed the way the movie was handled much more.

    I don’t know if I prefer the film exactly, but I think it’s a terrific example of how to be faithful to the spirit of the book even while departing from it considerably. While I’m good with the whole Kurt Cobain (it is Cobain, isn’t it?) issue in the book, it dates it (and not in a very good way). It also works better on the page than I think it would in a film.

    Frankenstein is another example. James Whales’ version(s) is it for me.

    I’d never argue that. The book is a tough slog. It took me more than a couple tries to make it through it.

    I haven’t been able to make myself read the book or check out the movie of Twilight. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural necessity. I feel like it would be more constructive staying in, being intimate with myself, then having a beer. But what do i know?

    You’re probably only right, but since I saw the movie, I’m curious. I am not, however, curious enough to actually buy the book, mind you.

    I’m impressed with your knowledge of old films and their source novels. Are the works of J.B. Priestly or John Galswothy still in print?

    A quick glance on Amazon reveals rather more Priestley than I imagined, but not a lot. There was also a not-in-stock complete set (no contents listed) of Galsworthy for $1749, which seems a little pricey to me. That’s especially true when I realize that I picked a signed copy of The White Monkey in a junk shop for 50 cents some years back. Most of their work is to be had relatively cheaply used. You can often pick them up at library sales for a quarter to a dollar, because they’re just out of fashion. (Don’t think I’ve ever seen a library want more than 25 cents for any book by Hugh Walpole — another 20th century British author I’m fond of.) I think I paid $12 for a very nice copy of Priestley’s Faraway about 8 years ago in Downtown Books and News. (And I was glad to find it, too, since a dog had found the cover of my old copy very tasty.) You’ll generally pay more, if I recall, if you’re after Priestley’s first novel, Adam in Moonshine, his collaborative (with Hugh Walpole) epistlatory novel Farthing Hall, or Benighted (the original UK title of The Old Dark House). Galsworthy’s Forsyte Chronicles should be very easy to find — most are probably in print. Certainly the first three — that make up The Forsyte Saga — are. The other six were out in trade paperbacks within the last 20 years — better make that 30; it’s later than I think.

    Is Rules of Attraction worth a read? Read anything else he’s written? Seen any of the other movie versions of his work?

    I prefer the film of Rules of Attraction to the book. The book seems smug (one chapter is in French) and full of itself. The film is full of itself, too, but less smug and made its point better — that we all go around seeing other people as we want them to be, not as they are, and think we’ll find salvation or at least validation in those projections — for me. It’s a nasty, uncomfortable, disturbing and sometimes hysterically funny film that’s not for everyone. I’ve seen American Psycho, which I liked well enough to buy — but not, apparently, well enough to get around to watching again. I think I saw Less Than Zero on cable once. That I only think I saw it may say it all. The only thing I read was Rules of Attraction.

    Perhaps someone should start adapting movies into novels. Something like 8 1/2 adapted into a novel by an author talented enough with words to match Fellini’s talent in film–that would be neat.

    An interesting concept and a world away from the basic idea of novelizations. Now, finding someone with the talent to really do it who would want to do it may be tricky.

  101. Sean Williams

    Supposedly, Guillermo del Toro is planning a new film version to be shot sometime in 2020, after the two Hobbit movies.

    You know what del Toro really needs to adapt? The Hellboy Christmas Special. Punching out mutant rat demons is a family value that too many Christmas specials overlook in our materialistic modern culture.

    Perhaps someone should start adapting movies into novels.

    I’m not so sure. I’m a forest-for-the-trees sort of viewer, so part of my definition of quality art in any medium is that it exploits the techniques unique to that medium. You can translate a good story into different media, of course, but you can’t write prose descriptions of clever camera angles (or film prose, for that matter).

  102. irelephant

    < so part of my definition of quality art in any medium is that it exploits the techniques unique to that medium. You can translate a good story into different media, of course, but you can’t write prose descriptions of clever camera angles (or film prose, for that matter). >

    Perhaps an adaptation of a movie into a novel, if done well, could become a work of literature of its own merit, just as a film adaptation of a novel can become a brilliant work that stands on its own. I’m all about art as sacriledge–and the sacriledge of art. Sometimes sacred cows have to be sacrificed, because the milk has begun to taste like…er, offal.

  103. Ken Hanke

    You know what del Toro really needs to adapt?

    Yes. He needs to get back to the Lovecraft project and junk the Hobbity stuff. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I’m Tolkeined out — and, while I admired the LOTR picures, the only one I felt compelled to see more than once was the first one, and I wouldn’t trade Pan’s Labyrinth for all three of them. (For that matter, I wouldn’t trade Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures for all three of them either.

    I’m a forest-for-the-trees sort of viewer, so part of my definition of quality art in any medium is that it exploits the techniques unique to that medium

    I’m yes and no on this, though I probably agree that going from film to book isn’t a terrifically viable idea. The thing about film — at its best, mind you — is that it’s the one art form that is capable of fusing together pretty much all art forms. (Now, I just know someone is going to drag performance art into this and that can only lead to a bunch of Karen Findley jokes about yams.)

  104. Sean Williams

    He needs to get back to the Lovecraft project and junk the Hobbity stuff.

    Yes, I’m far more interested in The Mountains of Madness than I am about The Hobbit or about Hellboy III.

    Del Toro said in an interview that the marketing people want him to include a romance and a happy ending, neither of which is possible in the Cthulhu Mythos (although I suppose he could always resort to my suggestion of replacing the protagonists with homosexual cowboys).

    I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I’m Tolkeined out

    I was Tolkeined out after the first film, to be honest. I was Tolkeined out after finishing The Two Towers in the fourth grade…all those centuries ago!

    I wouldn’t trade Pan’s Labyrinth for all three of them.

    I wouldn’t trade Pan’s Labyrinth for any other modern fantasy I have ever seen.

    The thing about film — at its best, mind you — is that it’s the one art form that is capable of fusing together pretty much all art forms.

    That’s an interesting observation, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with you. Actually, that’s part of cinema’s appeal to me: a good film gives you acting, music, and the compositional aspects of static visual art, as well as artistic techniques like camera work that are totally unique to the medium — all for one low price! (Maybe not so low anymore….)

    Comics do the same thing to a lesser degree, with the artist contributing the composition, the visual pacing of cinematography, and “acting” in the form of the characters’ expressions. But again, those are comics at their best.

  105. Ken Hanke

    Wow, ya’ll gettin’ all nerdy with it over here…

    You just now noticed?

  106. Ken Hanke

    I suppose he could always resort to my suggestion of replacing the protagonists with homosexual cowboys

    There’s a concept I could get behind (in a way of speaking).

    I wouldn’t trade Pan’s Labyrinth for any other modern fantasy I have ever seen.

    I’m having trouble finding a point to argue with that statement. With Pan’s Labyrinth we’re in the realm of Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus.

    Comics do the same thing to a lesser degree, with the artist contributing the composition, the visual pacing of cinematography, and “acting” in the form of the characters’ expressions.

    Well, it’s well established that comics are a kind of bete noir for me, so my take on this is highly colored. The best I can ever say about any comic I’ve ever read is that I found them about on par with reading storyboards and my response was kind of, “You could make a good movie out of this.” Comics always read — no matter how well done — like shorthand to me with complex ideas being boiled down to bare essentials by the very nature of the form. My quibble — apart from the obvious lack of music, acting, sound (no, “ZOK!” doesn’t count) and actual movement (none of which you claim) — is that I don’t see how a comic can actually convey visual pacing. It’s impossible to determine how long a person looks at an individual panel, so there really isn’t any controlled pacing in a strict sense.

  107. Sean Williams

    I don’t see how a comic can actually convey visual pacing.

    Aha! Thank you for that prime opportunity to pontificate.

    Comics achieve visual pacing through layout: large panels have great dramatic weight but convey less detail and transition abruptly; small panels are choppier but convey more detail and an illusion of gradual motion.

    There are also tricks of composition that manipulate the readers’ speed of intake: pyramidal arrangements are static, Z- or S-shaped arrangements create the illusion of depth and slow motion, and arrangements with heavy perspective create the illusion of speed.

    It’s impossible to determine how long a person looks at an individual panel, so there really isn’t any controlled pacing in a strict sense.

    Well, one could say that it’s impossible to determine how long a person looks at an individual paragraph in a book, but novelists use compressed and decompressed prose to affect the speed at which readers perceive the passage of time.

    Comics always read like shorthand to me with complex ideas being boiled down to bare essentials by the very nature of the form.

    Isn’t that the nature of narrative art itself? Language can never precisely encapsulate thought.

  108. Ken Hanke

    Aha! Thank you for that prime opportunity to pontificate.

    That was kind of the intention.

    Comics achieve visual pacing through layout: large panels have great dramatic weight but convey less detail and transition abruptly; small panels are choppier but convey more detail and an illusion of gradual motion.

    Assuming I accept this — and in theory I can see it — it works on an assumption that readers are actually taught how to look at a comic. (I’m handing you a kind of counter argument with that statement.) I simply don’t think this is likely to happen naturally in a broad sense. It relies too much on the reader actually taking in the detail as opposed to glancing at it and simply reading the text.

    Well, one could say that it’s impossible to determine how long a person looks at an individual paragraph in a book, but novelists use compressed and decompressed prose to affect the speed at which readers perceive the passage of time.

    While it’s impossible to determine how long it takes for an individual to read a paragraph, it is also impossible for a reader to escape the time it takes to get through one — unless we’re talking about skimming, which isn’t actually reading.

    Isn’t that the nature of narrative art itself? Language can never precisely encapsulate thought.

    Oh, I think language can encapsulate thought. What I don’t think it can do is encapsulate life — merely an impression of it. (But that impression can be very powerful.) My argument with the comic book approach is that it tends to take a complex idea and boil it down to the literary equivalent of a bumper sticker. It’s the nature of the thing. And, yes, film does that as well — it has to — but to a much lesser extent.

    And you still can’t get past the lack of sound (and its unsung companion, deliberate silence), music and performace in comparing the comic book to film.

  109. Sean Williams

    That was kind of the intention.

    Of course, I hardly need encouragement, but thank you nevertheless!

    I simply don’t think this is likely to happen naturally in a broad sense.

    Well, cinematography is a pretty complex art, but it still impacts viewers on a visceral level. In fact, most complex artistic techniques are accepted as effective because they act on a visceral level. I think the effects I described do occur if the reader is attentive to the comic. And if the reader is inattentive, it’s not because of a flaw in the technique itself.

    unless we’re talking about skimming, which isn’t actually reading.

    If skimming a novel doesn’t count as reading, why does skimming the text of a comic without looking at the images count as reading? Even the division of the text alone should affect speed of comprehension. Again, I refuse to blame an artist if his art fails to affect someone who’s too lazy to analyze it on any but the most superficial level.

    My argument with the comic book approach is that it tends to take a complex idea and boil it down to the literary equivalent of a bumper sticker.

    It may be confining to express ideas in a twenty-two-page issue. (That’s one reason the graphic novel format is becoming so popular.) It’s also confining to express ideas in exactly fourteen lines of alternately rhyming iambic pentameter, but I know a guy named Bill who did it pretty well.

    Even the twenty-two-page format is less confining than you might expect. Part of Alan Moore’s enduring popularity is the degree to which he decompresses lengthy conversations and detailed philosophical musings over the length of a page.

    In any case, I don’t think we should ever sell short an entire medium or genre based on its poorest examples. It’s easy to do simply because the the most prominent examples of any medium are generally geared to the lowest common denominator — hence their cultural prominence. But wouldn’t it be intellectually dishonest for me to dismiss all anime as garbage based solely on my experience with Pokemon and without ever having seen Satoshi Kon’s Paprika? (I suspect you’re not much of an anime fan, and nor am I, but if you’ve never seen Paprika, it will alter your entire perception of that medium!)

    Oh, I think language can encapsulate thought.

    See, I have this abiding Postcolonial conviction that language doesn’t reflect thought so much as bend it like the image of a stick in water, as Michael Ondaatje once said. But you’re correct in that the impressions of language, accurate or not, are very powerful. Art is the science of controlling those impressions.

    And you still can’t get past the lack of sound (and its unsung companion, deliberate silence), music and performace in comparing the comic book to film.

    Actually, I don’t compare comics to films except insofar as they both synthesize multiple artforms. Many of the best, most experimental comics are totally non-cinematic in their sensibilities (which doesn’t stop people from trying to adapt them into blockbuster movies). The medium is still fundamentally visual, but many of the visuals wouldn’t translate to the screen. There are some comic authors with cinematic sensibilities, but then, there are also some authors with cinematic sensibilities.

  110. Ken Hanke

    Of course, I hardly need encouragement, but thank you nevertheless!

    Well, I hardly thought you were going to let what I said pass unremarked.

    I think the effects I described do occur if the reader is attentive to the comic. And if the reader is inattentive, it’s not because of a flaw in the technique itself

    I gave you a much better arguing point than that and you ignored it! Even so, I just don’t think the effects are effective unless the reader has been schooled in how to read a comic. I think even you will admit that a large part of the readership of comics — as well as the viewers of the films based on them — are less there for any such subtle reasoning than because the thing is “badass.”

    If skimming a novel doesn’t count as reading, why does skimming the text of a comic without looking at the images count as reading?

    I’m not saying it does. I’m saying that three pages of text is more guaranteed to alter the pace of a book and the artwork in a comic panel.

    Again, I refuse to blame an artist if his art fails to affect someone who’s too lazy to analyze it on any but the most superficial level.

    I would concede that point — in theory.

    It may be confining to express ideas in a twenty-two-page issue. (That’s one reason the graphic novel format is becoming so popular.) It’s also confining to express ideas in exactly fourteen lines of alternately rhyming iambic pentameter, but I know a guy named Bill who did it pretty well.

    Granted, but I’ve yet to encounter the comic or graphic novel that got even in the same ballpark as old Bill.

    (I suspect you’re not much of an anime fan, and nor am I, but if you’ve never seen Paprika, it will alter your entire perception of that medium!)

    By way of answer I submit —

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/paprika

  111. Sean Williams

    I think even you will admit that a large part of the readership of comics — as well as the viewers of the films based on them — are less there for any such subtle reasoning than because the thing is “badass.”

    Oh, absolutely. I’m defending the material itself, not its fan base.

    Anyways, plenty of theater-goers have similar motivations for seeing summer blockbusters. The movies and comics that attract such imbecilic audiences tend to be…you know…the imbecilic movies and comics.

    I gave you a much better arguing point than that and you ignored it!

    I’m just contrary by nature.

    Granted, but I’ve yet to encounter the comic or graphic novel that got even in the same ballpark as old Bill.

    I suppose that begs the question, Who recommends graphic novels to you? According to some of my friends, the best movies ever made include The Shawshank Redemption, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Dark Knight, Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, The Godfather, Dead Poet’s Society and WALL-E. Several highly-ranked Google results confirm these choices.

    If my familiarity with cinema was based solely on those opinions, I wouldn’t be very likely to find movies in the same ballpark as Shakespeare.

    By way of answer I submit —

    Well, there you have it! I accept that comics aren’t your thing and probably never will be, but here’s hoping you find the graphic equivalent of Paprika.

  112. Ken Hanke

    I’m just contrary by nature.

    Well, yes, but I can’t believe you overlooked the idea that it helps to know how to watch a movie just as much as it helps to know how to read a comic. There are passive viewers who don’t actually think about what they’re watching, just as there are (I presume) passive readers.

    I suppose that begs the question, Who recommends graphic novels to you?

    Not easily answered because so many people have done so over the past few years. Some of them match your friends in movie tastes, some of them don’t, and some of them I have no idea (I have noticed a tendency for the ones in this group to find The Fight Club to be the most profound movie ever).

    but here’s hoping you find the graphic equivalent of Paprika.

    I think it unlikely for a variety of reasons, but you never know.

  113. To veer back to the topic for a moment, I caught up with Revolutionary Road the other day. I was quite underwhelmed. Despite the impress technical precision and proficiency from all involved, I just couldn’t give a damn about any of the characters, which I imagine is as much due to the source novel as the filmmakers. And it’s dour. Boy is it dour. All the things I liked about American Beauty – the wit, the moments of joy, the humor, the energy, Kevin Spacey’s wonderfully engaging performance, the fun… All were lacking here. What a decidedly miserable movie. Oh well. Hopefully, Mendes’ next screen project will be more enjoyable.

    Now, back to the comic book discussion…

  114. Ken Hanke

    Now, back to the comic book discussion…

    Alas, the problem with visiting old reviews is that I’m probably the only one — unless someone’s set up to receive alerts that a post has been msade — to see them.

  115. Alas, the problem with visiting old reviews is that IТm probably the only oneЧunless someoneТs set up to receive alerts that a post has been madeЧto see them.

    That is a concern.

  116. Ken Hanke

    Well, now, for some reason, such posts are showing up on the main movie page. This goddamn site needs an exorcist.

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