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Oscar Recap, ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Red Riding’ And ‘A Prophet’

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Aired 3/10/10

Our critics will weigh in on the 2010 Oscar ceremony, Tim Burton's latest "Alice in Wonderland," the cinematic event that is the "Red Riding" trilogy, and one of the most critically celebrated films of 2009, "A Prophet."

Kathryn Bigelow proudly holds her two Oscars for best director and best film.
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Above: Kathryn Bigelow proudly holds her two Oscars for best director and best film.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): It was still very long, there were still clunky moments, but ratings for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday were up significantly over last year. Was it due to the pairing of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as hosts? Were the 10 Best Picture nominees an audience draw? Or, was it because there were no production numbers for the ridiculous Best Song category? These and other questions will be discussed on this edition of the Film Club of the Air. And the critics will also tell us what they think about new films in theaters, including Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" and Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island." I’d like to welcome my guests. Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic and author of the blog Cinema Junkie. And, Beth, good morning.

BETH ACCOMANDO (KPBS Film Critic): Good morning to you.

CAVANAUGH: Scott Marks is the author of the film blog Emulsioncompulsion.com. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT MARKS (Author, Emulsioncompulsion.com): Hiya, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Hey. One of the big stories for this Oscars was the expansion of the Best Picture category to 10. And some people say that that’s – may have caused the fact that more people watched this show. Do you think it accomplished that, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: I don’t think you can really chalk it up just to the 10 – the expansion to 10 nominees.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: I think it really mostly had to do with “Avatar.” I think so many people saw “Avatar,” and that was one of their concerns was that the films that were being nominated weren’t the films that were drawing large…

CAVANAUGH: That people were largely seeing.

ACCOMANDO: Exactly. And their hope in expanding it to 10 nominees was that they were going to include more of these crowd pleasing sort of films. And it was kind of surprising that a film like “Star Trek” didn’t make it into that top 10. So I don’t think you can chalk it up just to that. I think it had to do quite particularly with the films that were up this year, and I think “Avatar” was a big reason why a lot of people tuned in to watch.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, do you think it added anything to this ceremony, 10 pictures?

MARKS: I’d like to – Can we talk about “Shutter Island?”

ACCOMANDO: Shh…

MARKS: No, not yet?

CAVANAUGH: That’s – that’s later. That’s later.

MARKS: Oh, okay. Okay. How did people know that they were going to cut the musical numbers? Nobody knew this going in.

ACCOMANDO: No, I don’t think you knew in advance.

CAVANAUGH: I’m just joking.

ACCOMANDO: Okay.

MARKS: So, no, I mean, I don’t think anybody knew this. I think they just watched because there was probably nothing else on.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: It was quite rainy in Southern California. That may have kept people indoors. I don’t think you can really account for one single reason why people came and turned out in droves to watch these Academy Awards ceremonies, although I will say when you invite Christoph Waltz to ethnically cleanse the audience, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a remarkable job up on that stage. I thought they were so funny together. Better than Billy Crystal. One of the best opening monologues I’ve seen in years. And a lot of people didn’t think they were funny.

ACCOMANDO: I was one of those.

MARKS: Ah, well, you have no sense of humor. How, when they’re sitting there and talking about Meryl Streep’s collection of Hitler memorabilia, how can you not laugh at that?

ACCOMANDO: That wasn’t a lot…

MARKS: And putting on 3-D glasses to look at James Cameron. You’re laughing now.

ACCOMANDO: Well those are two moments in three hours. They had to put up with a lot…

MARKS: No, I’m just talking about the opening monologue.

ACCOMANDO: They had to do – they did an awful lot of the typical, mindless, boring banter, plus we had to listen to those nominees be introduced, I think it was, four or five times. They brought them all out onstage. They introduced all the nominees, they let them sit down, they introduced them again, they brought them out for film clip montages, then they list them again before they read the winners. We don’t need that much.

MARKS: Yeah, it didn’t bother me, as long as they got rid of the musical numbers except that – that…

ACCOMANDO: But then they brought them back once more.

MARKS: …calisthenics dancing scene. Whatever the hell that was.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, it was a tradeoff. It was…

CAVANAUGH: In the beginning.

ACCOMANDO: It was a very – it was a very cruel taunt to let me think that there would be no production numbers and then they bring them back on to do these interpretive dance numbers for the score.

CAVANAUGH: And it was just to get you, Beth.

MARKS: Exactly. Take it personally.

CAVANAUGH: That’s why they did it.

ACCOMANDO: I took it personally, yes.

MARKS: I’ll tell you what the low point was. In life, the Academy would not give John Hughes the time of day. They wouldn’t even spit on this guy if he was, you know, dying of thirst. And now, all of a sudden, let’s honor him, let’s sit and fall to our knees for John Hughes. You bring Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall on the stage, you don’t let them say anything and you let this punk, John Hughes, get away with that. I’m sorry. I thought…

ACCOMANDO: Well…

MARKS: …that was wrong.

ACCOMANDO: …I mean, I think that’s a problem with the Awards show entirely, is that it’s not really about the winners. First of all, they cut everybody off but they…

MARKS: No, they only cut two people off this year.

ACCOMANDO: But – Okay, but they have a timeframe, they do cut people off. They don’t let everybody speak that comes onstage even though they didn’t cut some people off, if three winners came up for “The Cove,” only one person got to speak.

MARKS: You’re talking about Elinor Burkett?

ACCOMANDO: Wait. They – But they allow all this time for banter which I don’t need. I really don’t want to hear that. And then on top of that, this year the Governor’s Award and the Technical Awards were given such short shrift.

MARKS: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, in the past, they at least listed the Technical Awards, which are deemed too unsexy to even mention on the stage but they always have a cute ingénue or someone giving out those awards. But they didn’t even bother to mention these people. I mean, Gordon Willis got an award, who never got one during his lifetime, and that’s just breezed right over.

CAVANAUGH: And who’s Gordon Willis?

ACCOMANDO: He is a cinematographer who did “The Godfather” films and…

MARKS: “Annie Hall” and, I mean…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: He never won an Academy Award?

ACCOMANDO: No, because he’s an east coast cinematographer who – they’re a bit cliquish over there at the Academy.

CAVANAUGH: Now let me talk about sort of the big rivalry at the Oscars this year. “The Hurt Locker” versus “Avatar.” “The Hurt Locker” won big. Kathryn Bigelow…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …the first women – woman director in history to win the Best Director Award. What are your thoughts on this, that “Avatar,” “Hurt Locker” sort of thing.

ACCOMANDO: Oh, it was so nice to see Kathryn Bigelow stick it to her ex, I’m sorry. That was just… What?

MARKS: Ohh…

ACCOMANDO: She made her worst film with him.

MARKS: You’re looking at this through your own personal experience.

ACCOMANDO: No, I color it…

MARKS: And your – get your jollies off.

ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, I think I – One thing that I appreciate is that when she did win the award, she didn’t make an issue of being the first woman director because her films have always been kind of gender blind. I mean, she – she’s not a woman director who’s allowed herself to be pigeonholed into making chick flicks or films about women. And so I think it was nice that she just accepted it as a director winning for her film.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I’ve got to say one thing, I wish women would make more of a deal about being the first woman to do something because other ethnic groups or other minorities do that and they say here I am, we finally made it. I think women should have their moment in the sun as…

MARKS: But you notice, nobody went off on saying let’s make Lee Daniels the first African-American to win an Academy Award this year. You really didn’t hear much talk about that…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MARKS: …because I think that they figured it was a foregone conclusion as well…

ACCOMANDO: Well, and I think…

MARKS: …that Bigelow was going to win.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, and I mean, I think his work wasn’t nearly as good as hers.

MARKS: They nominated him and it won the Independent Spirit Award. I never thought I’d say the Academy Awards were better than the Independent Spirit Awards, and this year they were. They really, really were. I was shocked.

CAVANAUGH: We have to write that down. We have to write that down.

MARKS: I know. I know.

CAVANAUGH: Sandra Bullock, Best Actress. How do you feel about that win?

MARKS: We talk about “Shutter Island” yet?

CAVANAUGH: No, no, that’s later.

MARKS: Okay. Okay.

ACCOMANDO: I’m so glad she said it was a once in a lifetime experience. I hope it’s not repeated like with Sally Field. She seems like a very nice person but she is not a great actress. That was not a great film. It did not deserve to…

MARKS: No.

ACCOMANDO: …to win an Oscar. But I think she represents actresses today that the Academy likes to honor, women like Reese Witherspoon, too, who have taken control of their own careers. They have production companies. They seek out projects, and they’re financially successful. And those are the ones that seem to be winning for actresses.

CAVANAUGH: Is this like a “Butterfield 8” Elizabeth Taylor award where she, you know, she didn’t win it, really, for “Butterfield 8,” she won it for the – her body of work?

ACCOMANDO: Well, “Butterfield 8,” it was – it was more…

MARKS: Well, that was…

ACCOMANDO: No, no, no, that was because she was – she had pneumonia and they thought she was going to die.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

MARKS: No, that was Jeff Bridges.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see.

MARKS: Where they basically gave him…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: It’s like, ohh, we should’ve given it to him for “Starman” in 1984.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: Okay, we’ll give it to you now.

ACCOMANDO: Or “Big Lebowski.”

MARKS: Right, yeah. Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: So what…

ACCOMANDO: That was a career…

CAVANAUGH: So what explains the Sandra Bullock one?

MARKS: It just – right time, right place. That Meryl Streep had won many awards and I figure…

ACCOMANDO: “The Blind Side” made a ton of money.

MARKS: And so did “The Proposal.” So I think – And then there’s “All About Steve.” So I think that this was just – it was her year. I mean, it was destined. The one thing that really – Another thing that really bothered me…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: …was when Mo’Nique said it can’t be – the Academy proved it can be about the performance and not the politics. That is such hogwash. If the Academy wasn’t so politically correct, we wouldn’t even be talking about “Precious.”

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MARKS: You know, we – I don’t know that she would’ve even gotten a nomination. And she’s the one that made it into a race issue. So that bothered me. That bother – But at least she covered her legs.

CAVANAUGH: Now, now – And you’re talking about the fact that Mo’Nique does not shave her legs.

MARKS: She’s got a Groucho Marx going on with her legs.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, all right. All right, we’re moving on. The New York Times – just going back to your – the fact that you liked the Academy Awards better than the Independent Spirit Awards. The New York Times published a piece claiming Oscars is going – undergoing an identity crisis. They want a big commercial ceremony but the small art films are winning. And I wonder what your thoughts are on that. Is there an identity crisis going on?

ACCOMANDO: Haven’t they always had an identity crisis kind of?

MARKS: I mean, when – I read the New York Times piece and they talk about bringing the youngsters up there.

MARKS/ACCOMANDO: They’ve always done…

MARKS: …that.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: I mean, long before Matt Dillon, you know, won awards, he would go up there. They always get the good – the young, goodlooking actors up there. Now, it would be nice if they briefed the actors not to say stupid things like – it was the last horror film that the Academy honored was “The Exorcist.” Wasn’t “Silence of the Lambs” a horror film?

CAVANAUGH: After…

ACCOMANDO: Yes, yes.

MARKS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I’d say…

ACCOMANDO: Well, but look at the montage they put together.

MARKS: That – What’re you – How dare you complain about that. That was…

ACCOMANDO: I…

MARKS: …for you. Horror films.

ACCOMANDO: Give it – They didn’t pick the best ones.

MARKS: I – “Marathon Man,” one of the greatest horror films ever made.

ACCOMANDO: They left out…

MARKS: “Edward Scissorhands,” scared the hell out of me.

ACCOMANDO: There’s not a single zombie movie. I mean, the whole reason for this…

MARKS: Yes, there was. There was “Night of the Living Dead.” Yes, there was.

ACCOMANDO: There – the whole reason for that montage was just so that they could somehow manage to acknowledge “Twilight” somewhere within the course of the show. I mean, it was a hugely popular film in terms of box office. It has a large fan base. They needed to wedge it in there somewhere because nobody nominated it. But they got Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner out there and I think there was a clip from “Twilight” in there somewhere, wasn’t there?

MARKS: Oh, of course.

ACCOMANDO: Yes, so, I mean, that – that was the whole excuse. There would not have been a horror montage.

CAVANAUGH: Well, there seems to be some distinct disagreement about these Academy Awards between the two of you. Now do you want to see Baldwin-Martin back again next year? Scott?

MARKS: You bet. You bet.

CAVANAUGH: And you?

ACCOMANDO: Well, it – I don’t have a complaint about them themselves. I just hate the scriptwriting that they do for the show.

CAVANAUGH: Ah, yes.

ACCOMANDO: That it’s just hor – I would prefer they just let them out there and let them ad lib their way through the show. I’d probably enjoy that. But…

MARKS: Oh, no, you don’t want that. No, no. No, no, no.

ACCOMANDO: I don’t want – I don’t want hosts at all. Just bring – One year I think they did it where there was just an announcer who announced who the presenters were and the presenters came out. I vaguely remember some show where…

MARKS: I remember they had like six or eight co-hosts one year…

ACCOMANDO: …they minimized – they…

MARKS: …that I remember, but I don’t remember where they minimized the hosts.

ACCOMANDO: I don’t know but if they could just get rid of the mindless banter which is…

CAVANAUGH: No teleprompter? Why would anybody watch?

ACCOMANDO: Oh, I mean, the things, what did they – who ever introduced “The Blind Side,” the line he was given, like ‘it’s as American as football?’ Somebody wrote that line? Please.

MARKS: And it’s – and it’s…

ACCOMANDO: And they got paid?

MARKS: And it suits the film quite well.

ACCOMANDO: Yes, actually.

MARKS: Yeah. Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s move on. Let’s move on to our first film.

MARKS: “Shutter Island?” No, that’s…

CAVANAUGH: No, that’s going to be a little later on, Scott. Just hold on.

MARKS: Okay, okay. I’ll…

ACCOMANDO: If you keep asking, we’re not going to let you talk about it at all.

MARKS: I’ll book passage. All right. Now we got through the opening. We’re…?

CAVANAUGH: “Alice In Wonderland,” directed by Tim Burton. It’s not exactly the story written by Lewis Carroll. Alice is a young woman, not a child. And this is actually her second time in Wonderland. She meets many of the same characters she did her first time around including a bobble-headed red queen and the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. So, Beth, what did you think of this “Alice In Wonderland?”

ACCOMANDO: I was disappointed by it. I know I was not to expect Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland.” I was quite prepared for that. Visually, I thought it was engaging. I didn’t get bored anywhere through it but I just felt that Tim Burton seems more focused on creating kind of visual weirdness than storytelling. I loved his earlier stuff like “Edward Scissorhands,” where I think the – kind of the oddity of the story was balanced with good storytelling. And “Ed Wood” but this one just left me feeling disappointed. And I didn’t – This whole notion of Alice returning to Wonderland and to these characters, but they never really – she never really acts like she’s been there before, that she recognizes who these characters are. She’s got some kind of fuzzy dream memory of it and, in the end, it all seemed to be about kind of capitalism and trade. I mean, at the end, it’s like she wants to be a CEO or something and that was, you know, a female empowerment story that he’s trying to turn it into that turns into that was just kind of bland in the end.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, your take on this film.

MARKS: You know something, I don’t care if it’s not Lewis Carroll, I don’t care if it’s not Walt Disney, because this isn’t Lewis Carroll.

ACCOMANDO: No.

MARKS: This is Tim Burton’s reimagining of the Walt Disney film. I don’t care if it’s well directed, I don’t care if it’s well acted. This is the best 3-D I’ve seen in ages.

ACCOMANDO: Wait. We need to record that and make sure we…

MARKS: Infinitely, infinitely…

ACCOMANDO: …we – we remember it’s – It doesn’t matter if it’s well directed.

MARKS: Not in this case. Not when I’m looking at 3-D. And if I would’ve seen this thing in 2-D, I would’ve hated it. But in 3-D, this thing is astounding, much better than “Avatar.” The use of 3-D, I think, the design in this film is much, much more engaging. It really pulled me into it. I loved all the references to past Disney films. You had the – You had Eva Gabor in “The Rescuers.” I mean, you had that character, and they had Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The dog, Bayard. It’s a hound, that’s it. And I know that you have the more fanciful characters like the Cheshire Cat and the godawful dragon at the end. I don’t know where the hell that came from. But to see this dog that looks like one of the dogs in “Lady and the Tramp” realized in 3-D, this was astounding. This was – this was better than anything – this one character, I thought was – I put it right up there with Pixar. I thought it was terrific. So, is this a good film? I don’t know. Is it a great 3-D film? Yeah, that I know. I think you should see the film in 3-D, and if you go see this film in 2-D, you’re doomed. I would never want to own this on DVD…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

MARKS: …because it’s not in 3-D.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

MARKS: But for a 3-D film, the technology is spectacular.

CAVANAUGH: Well, for another view on this film, I’d like to welcome a guest to the Film Club of the Air. Jerry Griswold is the director of SDSU's National Center for the Study of Children's Literature. He’s seen "Alice in Wonderland." And, Jerry Griswold, welcome to These Days.

JERRY GRISWOLD (Director, National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, San Diego State University): Well, it’s nice to be a member of a club.

CAVANAUGH: Any club. Now what did you think of Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland?”

GRISWOLD: Well, I think, first of all, that Scott should probably be – go back to taking his medication. His enthusiasm I think for the movie is entirely misplaced.

MARKS: My enthusiasm is for the 3-D.

GRISWOLD: It may well be but there’s nothing else besides that.

MARKS: I’m the first to admit it and that’s enough.

GRISWOLD: I – You know…

MARKS: When you have 3-D effects like that, to me, that’s enough.

GRISWOLD: I disagree, that really what we need is something more than the technology, and that’s a story, which seems to be entirely absent. My own experience with the 3-D sitting in, you know, two rows back from the screen was sort of like being in a Toyota Prius in the middle of a PowerPoint demonstration. It was just – it was just fireworks of the, you know, visual imagination of Tim Burton. What was lacking is the kind of story that you run into in something like “Edward Scissorhands” or even, you know, even “Beetlejuice.”

CAVANAUGH: So, Jerry, from your standpoint, if I remember reading your review of this, you didn’t – you never really liked “Alice In Wonderland” to begin with but you were hoping for something in this movie?

GRISWOLD: Well, you know, preparing for seeing this film, I sort of reviewed with some honesty my own sort of experience with the story prior to this and I’d always found the Alice book kind of strange and I didn’t quite get it. And my own sort of familiarity more came from the Disney movie, the 1951 Disney movie where I knew that there was a whole series of characters, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, who plays croquet with an upside-down flamingoes. I mean…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

GRISWOLD: …I understood all these characters but I didn’t quite understand how it – how they all went together. And one thing I certainly didn’t understand – I mean, I felt the sort of underlying cruelty or meanness that was a part of the story but I never quite comprehended it. So I was hoping, anyway, that Burton would elucidate something of the Alice story and make it – have it make more sense to me but I feel in a way like Beth does. By the end, we’re looking at the story of a 19-year-old Alice who seems to be on her way to becoming George Soros. I mean, I’m surprised in the end she didn’t comment about the healthcare situation.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Johnny Depp is a big draw for this movie. He’s got big makeup and he plays the Mad Hatter. And I’d like to know – let’s start a round robin on this. Beth, what do you think of his performance?

ACCOMANDO: Well, it’s a bit like the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” one, too. It seems like he and Burton seem to have as their goal just how strange and bizarre can we make the character and not how good a story can we tell and find a good character for him to play. And in the late stages of this, suddenly there’s kind of, as an afterthought, thrown in some sort of a romantic connection between him and Alice. You know, don’t leave, don’t leave, which seemed like – completely half-hearted. And I don’t know, I just felt disappointing (sic). It felt like the Mad Hatter was only made predominant in the story because it was Johnny Depp, not because there was any real reason in the story or in this vision that he had to make him – So, to me, the film would’ve made a really lovely picture book.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: It already has.

ACCOMANDO: But it is – I don’t – I don’t…

MARKS: You weren’t – you weren’t surprised that he tried to actually make you sympathize with the Mad Hatter? And for me, that – he succeeded. I was – I never expected that. See, I expect nothing from Tim Burton. He hasn’t made a good film since “Ed Wood.” I think the guy is a hack. I think he is a terrible storyteller.

ACCOMANDO: Well, you know, expectations do have a lot to do with what…

MARKS: Yeah, you’re right.

ACCOMANDO: …how you feel about a film. I mean, I wasn’t going in expecting a whole lot because seeing the images of the film, I was kind of feeling like, again, this is Tim Burton focusing on the weirdness and not on finding a really good story to tell. I think he was intrigued by all this because I do think he has a great visual sensibility and I think the fantastical elements of the story match his abilities. But he – Lewis Carroll, to me, has always been so verbal and so much fun with wordplay and – and this kind of nonsensical aspect of it, and I don’t think he was quite as attuned to those elements of Lewis Carroll’s work.

CAVANAUGH: Jerry, I’ll get your observation of Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter after we hear a clip from the film. Johnny Depp, as we’ve been talking about, is the Mad Hatter. He’s having his famous tea party when Alice shows up. The scene begins with Depp walking on top of a long table to meet a tiny Alice at the end of it.

(audio of clip from Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland”)

CAVANAUGH: And that’s Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. It’s a scene from Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland.” And I’m wondering, Jerry, did Johnny Depp do the Mad Hatter for you?

GRISWOLD: Well, I think I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He’s such a extraordinary actor that, you know, you’re always paying attention to him. When he’s successful, and I’m thinking of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” it seems to me that, you know, he channels somebody. I think he reported that he channeled Keith Richards for that role. My own sort of impression was it looked like Rupaul. But, you know, I think here, you know, the question was like did he have the material to deal with. And I think, you know, this is where Tim Burton lets him down. We keep mentioning “Edward Scissorhands.” But I think one of the reasons he was so successful in “Edward Scissorhands” was that Tim Burton was doing a story that was half in the real world and half in the oth – I mean, “Edward Scissorhands” has an Avon lady wearing a pillbox hat dealing with this boy of extraordinary appliances who’s been fathered by Vincent Price. Then you look at something like “Willie Wonka,” which just goes pure into fantasyland in pastel colors and I think that’s when Tim Burton’s losing it. So I think there’s a lot of us who are sort of sitting by the rabbit hole hoping that, you know, Tim Burton will eventually crawl out and do something half in this world and half in the other world.

CAVANAUGH: Right. I wonder, Scott, I know that Helena Bonham Carter is getting a lot of praise for her role as the Queen. Did you think she was – she did a good job?

MARKS: Yeah. No, I laughed at – I don’t know if I would necessarily praise her performance or the special effects and the makeup because that was what was so amazing, watching…

CAVANAUGH: She’s got a big head, right?

MARKS: Huge head and a little body and they make jokes…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

MARKS: …about that, which I thought a couple were very funny. And the way in which they played with size and depth in the frame was fascinating. I mean, you look at them and it never falters. They’re always the height or – or – the height that they should be next to each other. So, to me, this is style is subject and technology is the auteur behind it so…

CAVANAUGH: So for you, this movie is all about the way it looks…

MARKS: Yep.

CAVANAUGH: …in 3-D.

MARKS: Yep. I don’t care about the story, I don’t care about the acting, just throw that stuff in my face. Yeah, just have the stuff sail past me.

CAVANAUGH: And, Beth, it’s just not enough for you.

ACCOMANDO: No, it’s not. I mean, I’m glad I saw it and, like I said, it held my attention while I was watching it and I – I do think – I do admire what he did. I’m not sure I would say it’s the best 3-D I’ve ever seen. I still don’t think there is…

MARKS: Of the new crop.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, maybe…

MARKS: Oh, “Dial M for Murder.”

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, whatever.

CAVANAUGH: Ohh, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: But it just…

MARKS: Come on.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, I think he used depth and scale much more – to much better effect than “Avatar.” I was not I impressed – that impressed with “Avatar” except for the fact that technology was impressive in itself but not in terms of what he did with it. Here, I think you have someone who genuinely is visually clever and inventive using the technology as best he can. So, I mean, it was fun to watch but it just didn’t have enough to hold my interest really.

CAVANAUGH: And, Jerry, are you still waiting for the ultimate Alice movie?

GRISWOLD: No, I’m suffering from CGI fatigue. I’ve, you know, if you’ve spent any time in the theater, if you’ve seen “Lord of the Rings” or “Chronicles of Narnia” or “Golden Compass,” you’ve seen this movie already. You’ve seen the rows of automaton soldiers. You’ve seen the horrible monster lumbering over the landscape. You’ve seen the picture of the longhaired hero. You know, it’s a shot from the bottom up and he’s holding his sword in the air. You’ve seen the forces of darkness versus the force of lightness. You’ve seen all this, and I think the problem with the movie is that it’s more generic than genius.

CAVANAUGH: Jerry, thanks for joining us.

GRISWOLD: My pleasure.

CAVANAUGH: Jerry Griswold is the director of SDSU's National Center for the Study of Children's Literature. We have to take a break. When we return, we’re going to be talking about a very long movie in San Diego theaters, and much more. And I think we’ll talk about Martin Scorsese.

MARKS: We better.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. The Film Club of the Air continues in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Beth Accomando and Scott Marks, and this is the KPBS Film Club of the Air. Our next movie is called “Red Riding Trilogy.” It’s really a three-part film. It started life as a series on British television and is now being released in American theaters as a huge five-hour movie. “Red Riding Trilogy” is set in Yorkshire in northern England and follows the investigations into serial killings. The three episodes cover nearly 10 years and each has a different director. And some of the same actors are in each episode, linking a storyline that’s heavy with death, injustice and corruption. Five hours, Beth, is – that’s quite an event, showing all these three movies as basically one. Talk about the genesis of this project. Why are they screening it this way?

ACCOMANDO: Well, it’s based on a series of four novels and it was done for British television. And, I mean, I – the one frustration I do have about this is that they’re releasing these three films together as an event and – but, you know, nobody picked up the John Woo “Red Cliff” film and was willing to release that in its original two-part form. So, I mean, I appreciate them doing this but I wish they – that had been extended to a film like John Woo’s film as well. But, I mean, they feel that the films – I think the first two films can stand on their own. If you go to see Part – the films are titled by the years that they focus on.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

ACCOMANDO: So if you were to go to see 1974 or the 1980 film, I think they stand on their own. But do not see the third one by itself because it really doesn’t work…

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

ACCOMANDO: …or make any sense. But I think they felt that they were good enough to release in this unit and that they played well off of each other and built up into this kind of epic tale of corruption, really. I mean, to me, the serial killers are kind of of less importance in the story than this tale of really entrenched corruption that goes on through the police department and the government and business. So, you know, they felt it was worth doing and I admire them for doing that, and I think things like this are fun to – well, not fun because it is bleak, but, I mean, I think they’re great opportunities for people to have more of a film event, something that’s a little different than just going to the mall theater and seeing whatever’s in release.

CAVANAUGH: So is this a event? Is this a special thing for you, Scott?

MARKS: No.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MARKS: No, I mean, I just – There’s nothing original in any of these stories. And the one thing you forgot to say in your introduction is, yes, they’re directed by three different people but they’re written by the same person.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

MARKS: So this is a slave to the script. This is the screenplay, the screenwriter as auteur. And visually they’re flat. There’s nothing in here that I haven’t seen before, nothing in the terms of performance that I haven’t seen before and storytelling.

ACCOMANDO: But I think it’s all done well. I mean, I think it’s done well and I think the focus on this kind of entrenched corruption – to me, these are the kind of horror films that are scary because they’re not about some alien or some, you know, boogieman slasher killer, they’re about things that are really disturbing, which is the sense that a lot of the people that you should be going to for protection or for help are the very people who are the evil ones in a sense.

MARKS: How many times have you seen that in a movie?

ACCOMANDO: But it’s done well. Yeah, but a lot of times it’s not done well.

MARKS: I mean, this is done adequately. I mean, this is still…

ACCOMANDO: I…

MARKS: …a made-for-TV movie and, admittedly, British television is different than American television. There’s nudity, there’s violence, there’s profanity. And the one perverse thing that I like is that even though this is made for television, the two latter sections were photographed in Panavision.

ACCOMANDO: Yes.

MARKS: I don’t know what the hell – I don’t know why.

ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, one of the things that I thought was perversely enjoyable about it, too, is that the police commissioner or whatever they are in England, the head of the police, is played by the actor Warren Clarke who was one of the Droogs in “A Clockwork Orange,” who, at the end of “A Clockwork Orange” ends up being a cop. And, to me, there was an odd sort of logic to that. You know, here’s where the Droog ended up and he ended up being this horribly corrupt police commissioner or, you know, captain. And I think it was well done.

MARKS: And I sure wish this was subtitled. I sure wish this was subtitled.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, I agree with you on that. Especially the first one. I…

MARKS: The first one, the lead, the guy who plays the journalist in the first one, I don’t think I…

ACCOMANDO: Well, you guys both watched it on DVD as opposed to – I saw it in the theater and, I mean, I didn’t have…

MARKS: That’s odd.

ACCOMANDO: …trouble.

MARKS: Beth saw a film in the theater and I watched it on DVD. It’s usually the other way around. And there were no subtitles on the DVD because they don’t do that on screeners.

ACCOMANDO: No.

CAVANAUGH: Now there are no subtitles and it was very, very tough going.

ACCOMANDO: I didn’t…

MARKS: I was blasting that TV to hear this thing.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was very…

MARKS: Couldn’t understand half of what he said.

ACCOMANDO: Hmm…

CAVANAUGH: …very bad.

ACCOMANDO: Maybe that’s why you didn’t like it.

CAVANAUGH: So do – Which of these three do you think is the strongest, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: In some ways, I think the middle one, the one with Paddy Constantine – Considine is probably the strongest. But I really like the first two. The first two, I thought, were very well done. The third one, which is the one that kind of ties everything together and resolves it, I found it was disappointing. And the resolution to it, I think, was a bit weak. But kind…

MARKS: If you couldn’t predict who the bad guy was in this film…

ACCOMANDO: No, I know. I – I was hoping…

MARKS: Man, oh, man, the – As soon as I saw the person I knew who it was. This is not good storytelling.

ACCOMANDO: But it was – The first – Like I said, the first two films where you’re dealing with the corruption that’s going on in the police department, I thought it was really fascinating. And I thought, again, this notion of how entrenched that was and how the characters that kind of fade away and slip off are the characters that you’re hoping would continue because they’re the ones who are championing some causes and trying to fight this corruption and they keep getting…

CAVANAUGH: And they’re the ones who actually die off, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: …beaten down.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: And you – I mean, for me, part of the reason why it was grueling is you feel like am I ever going to get any sense of satisfaction or revenge.

CAVANAUGH: Let me get your feeling about this one thing before we move on. “Red Riding Trilogy” has – is being compared by some to PBS shows like “Inspector Morse” or “Prime Suspect.” And even though it started out on TV and I understand your criticism, Scott, of that, this is very different from “Prime Suspect,” wouldn’t you say? I mean, it’s more grim…

MARKS: What’s “Prime Suspect?”

ACCOMANDO: It’s the one with Helen Mirren. Yeah, I think it’s similar to that.

MARKS: I don’t know it.

ACCOMANDO: I haven’t seen “Inspector Morse.”

CAVANAUGH: It’s more grim and it’s more violent.

ACCOMANDO: Probably a little bit more but, I mean, that – “Prime Suspect” towards the end of that series, I think, was pretty grim. And there’s a lot of that that I think was pretty bleak.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: It’s not exactly a feel good police drama…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ACCOMANDO: …”Prime Suspect.” I think both of them share some qualities. This may have been a little more brutally violent.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Anything about this you would recommend, Scott?

MARKS: What time before we talk about “Shutter Island?”

CAVANAUGH: Okay, all right, we’re moving on.

MARKS: Go, go. Go, go, go.

CAVANAUGH: “Red Riding Trilogy” opens this weekend at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. It’s also available On Demand through IFC. And the move we come to next is – No, not Scorsese. It’s “A Prophet.” It’s a French film set in prison. We follow the fortunes of Malik, a harmless juvenile offender who somehow winds up with a six-year prison sentence and it’s in prison that Malik becomes a criminal in order to survive. Through a series of violent incidents and a brutal murder, Malik works his way up to become the right hand man of the mob boss who rules the prison. Now this film is winning a lot of awards, a lot of critical acclaim. It was beat out by – at the Oscars just Sunday by a film from Argentina called “The Secret In Their Eyes.” Scott, do you think “A Prophet” should have won?

MARKS: I don’t think any of the films nominated for Best Foreign Film this year…

ACCOMANDO: “Il Divo” should have won but it wasn’t nominated.

MARKS: Yeah, “Il Divo” should have won but it wasn’t nominated.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: You know, “A Prophet” is about 15, 20 minutes too long. But you talk about a film that glorifies the mob. I don’t know why these guys ever wanted to leave prison. The guy got an education there, got a nice room with a television set. He made friends with people, he became, you know, a big to-do there. This film really kind of – and at the end there’s like a work release program where he can sleep in prison at night and go out and commit these heinous crimes during the day and then just come back. So that kind of fascinated me. I thought the two leads were very interesting to watch. There were a couple of scenes that really got to me, the scene where he’s practicing how to slice someone’s throat by hiding a razor blade in his mouth…

CAVANAUGH: Umm…

MARKS: …and he just keeps cutting the inside of his mouth. That was very, very compelling to watch.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MARKS: It’s a little too long, though. It just…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: …goes on too long. It repeats a couple of things a few too many times.

CAVANAUGH: And Beth.

ACCOMANDO: I thought it was very good. I agree, it was a little too long. It felt a little padded. But, again, sometimes the thing that really differentiates a film from just being average and being, you know, much better is the attention to detail because I think he really does look at the details of this life in prison and how this young man be – rises up through here. You know, he comes in in the beginning, he’s beat up, he’s, you know, he has his shoes stolen, and that makes him easy prey for these mob guys to say, okay, you know, we’ll protect you but you gotta do us a favor, you got to kill someone. And the scene that Scott was talking about where he’s trying to learn how to kill somebody by hiding a razor blade, the reason he does that and practices this and needs to do it is because if he doesn’t do it, they’re going to kill him, and if he does, he’ll get this protection. And he doesn’t really have much choice there.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ACCOMANDO: So the whole process of him rising up through there – and the other thing about the film that taps into what’s going on in France right now is it reflects what’s going on in the country in terms of the cultural diversity. He’s an…

ACCOMANDO/CAVANAUGH: …Arab…

CAVANAUGH: …right.

ACCOMANDO: …and, you know, the other – the mob that he’s trying to get into is mostly – it’s French and what was…?

MARKS: Oh, Iraq…?

ACCOMANDO: Moroccan or something?

CAVANAUGH: Corsican?

ACCOMANDO: Corsican, yes.

MARKS: Entertain yourself, yes. Yes, that’s Corsican, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: Yes, Corsican. So it reflects the cultural diversity that’s going on in France and kind of the turmoil that’s coming – that’s, you know, disturbing the country right now. So it reflects that as well, so there’s an interesting way that the prison life becomes this microcosm for what’s going on in France.

CAVANAUGH: Not in – I haven’t seen this film but it talk – some of the revues talk about explosions of violence. Would you say that that’s how – is how the violence is presented in this film?

ACCOMANDO: I think there’s – the violence is sudden and abrupt and it’s very close quarters and – I mean, it’s the way violence, I think, should be in a film, which is it disturbs you. When he has to kill that guy, it’s not pleasant and it’s very, you know, it’s in a small cell and there’s no way for him to escape kind of the horrors of it. It’s not this desensitized, you know, a gunshot goes off, there’s no blood, there’s no suffering. And it disturbs him, it haunts him for quite a while after that.

CAVANAUGH: Are you both fans of the director, Jean (sic) Audiard?

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, I like him. I liked – “Read My Lips” I thought was a – it’s one of the contemporary European thrillers that I really like that’s kind of low key and slow building.

MARKS: And “The Beat That My…

MARKS/ACCOMANDO: …Heart Skipped”…

MARKS: …is one of the few…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: …remakes of a film that I think outclasses the original. So, yeah, I mean, I – I’ve liked his work.

CAVANAUGH: You know, some critics have pointed out that this is a genre film. This is a prison film.

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Do you think that it was more than that, that it surpassed its little – little genre, Scott?

MARKS: No, it tried to and I think it always tries to be something greater than it is, and it never quite makes it. This is just – it’s a genre film. You hit it on the head.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: And as such, I mean, I had fun watching it. Yeah, I had fun watching it. I don’t care how grisly it was, this, to me, was fun. But by the time it was over, again, I don’t think there’s much original in this film. You know, I mean, not – It’s not as bland as “Red Riding” but there’s just – it – I want someone to make a movie like this that owes nothing to Scorsese. I want to see a film like “The Crying Game,” which is the only suspense film made since Alfred Hitchcock died that owes absolutely nothing to Alfred Hitchcock. This is what I want. Leave Marty alone. I mean, this is like a big, extended prison sequence grafted out of “Goodfellas” and made into a feature.

CAVANAUGH: What’s your reaction to that, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: I mean, I pretty much agree although I think that it’s – I probably liked the film better than Scott did. But I think the acting was very solid, the direction was good. A little too long but – And I do think – I think the way it differentiates itself from just a generic prison film is that it does try to tap into what’s going on in France right now and that does give it something that’s a little unique.

CAVANAUGH: Well, “A Prophet” is currently playing at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas. And since we mentioned the ‘S’ word, we might as well start talking about “Shutter Island.” It’s Martin Scorsese’s latest take on noir and psychological thrillers. It’s based on the Dennis Lehane novel of the same name and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow and more. And so, Scott, our listeners have probably been wondering what you think of this movie.

MARKS: It’s all right. It killed a couple of hours. This is the best thing he’s done in, what, since “Gangs of New York.”

ACCOMANDO: That’s not saying much.

MARKS: No, that’s true because I hated “The Departed.” First of all, if you guess the ending of this film, you’re lying. There’s no way you can tell me that you knew how this film was going to end.

ACCOMANDO: Really?

MARKS: Oh, you really knew how it was going to end? You knew that – Well, now, see, I can’t say it, although I’m telling you if our listeners haven’t seen this film that’s been playing for almost three weeks, I ban you from listening to this show. If you listen to The Film Club and you know how much I like this guy and you haven’t seen this Scorsese film, you’re out of the kingdom.

CAVANAUGH: Well, now I’m going to force you to just tell us just a little bit about what the movie is about, Scott, so we can welcome back those listeners you just frightened away.

MARKS: I – Oh, all right. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a cop who was partnered with Mark Ruffalo. They go to an insane asylum that houses only the elite mental patients, the most dangerous criminals in the world. And it’s “Shock Corridor.” You check into an insane asylum to get a story or find out who committed a crime and by the time it’s over, you’re one of them. You know, you start kind of losing it. So it owes a lot to that. It owes a lot to another film and I can’t tell you what it is because it would give this away. It owes a lot to “Vertigo.” Everything in this film that I thought was going to happen didn’t. Whereas when I was watching “Red Riding,” I knew instantly who the bad guy was. I had no idea what was going – that this film was going to end the way it did. And I’m telling you, this film is even better the second time because once you know, you go back and you watch the characters and their reactions, it’s like watching a completely different film. This is a…

ACCOMANDO: Didn’t you just say you wanted a film that didn’t owe anything to Hitchcock? And owe anything to…

MARKS: You’re right, oh no, but so many of them do.

ACCOMANDO: But this does.

MARKS: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: This feels – And you’re always complaining about imitation being not the best form of…

MARKS: Marty steals and makes it his own. I did not feel that in “Red Riding” at all. I mean, I just felt that it was more of the same.

ACCOMANDO: Really? You felt that he made it his own in this one? Yeah?

MARKS: This film? Of course. Oh, yeah, very much so.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, I mean, Beth, what is your…

MARKS: Don’t ever call Beth Scott again.

ACCOMANDO: Oh, never.

MARKS: Please.

CAVANAUGH: Beth, what is your independent analysis of “Shutter Island?” As separate from Scott.

ACCOMANDO: I will agree with him that this is his best work in quite awhile.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: But I don’t feel it’s saying a whole lot because films like “Gangs of New York” and “Aviator” and “The Departed” were films that really disappointed me. I think this is closer to a “Cape Fear” and – which I enjoyed. I think it is more of kind of a genre film. I wish he would get away from Leonardo DiCaprio. There’s points at which he’s asked to do some heavy lifting and he doesn’t.

MARKS: I thought DiCaprio was fine. I wish he’d get away from Boston.

ACCOMANDO: That, too.

MARKS: I’m tired of the accents. I don’t want to hear the Boston accents.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I agree with that.

MARKS: It’s like listening to the Kennedy clan for two and a half hours.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, there were a lot of things about this I did like. I thought it was too long. I didn’t feel the end was that much of a surprise at all. I mean, there are details about the ending that surprised me but, overall, I felt like I knew where it was going. And, again, it’s hard to talk about a film that has a twist at the end and part of it, too, is that you have a twist and the twist comes at a point where I felt like, oh, okay, in some ways that – it was going in a more interesting direction and I wish I’d spent more time there than I did in the beginning. So I felt a little shortchanged at the end but it’s just not a film I can get excited about. I mean…

MARKS: It’s so well directed. I mean, I don’t think there’s a bad moment’s direction in this film. And when you see it again—and I’ve seen it four times—it makes sense. It all – dramatically, it’s sound. All the fever dreams, all the hallucinations, all the psychobabble, it’s all sound.

ACCOMANDO: No, in a sense it doesn’t. In a sense, it – it reminds me a little bit of the “High Tension” film in the sense of it’s like while you’re watching it, you feel there are all these plot holes and these things that don’t make sense. And then there’s a twist that explains everything and you go, oh, well, that makes sense. And then you start thinking about the twist and you go, wait a minute, that opens up a whole new can of worms in terms of things that I find unbelievable.

CAVANAUGH: I wonder if either of you think that this marks a new direction for Scorsese?

MARKS: Nah.

CAVANAUGH: Nevah.

MARKS: Nah. Nah.

ACCOMANDO: Probably not because he’s still working very much within the studio system and still using people like Leonardo DiCaprio.

CAVANAUGH: Well, if you were – Who would you like to see Scorsese collaborate with? Instead – because you…

ACCOMANDO: Somebody unknown might be nice, too. Can’t he go find someone new that…

MARKS: I’d like him to collaborate with someone who’s going to give him less money to make a movie. I want to see him do another “After Hours.”

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: I want to see him hit – Here’s $20 million, go make a movie.

ACCOMANDO: He needs some restrictions, I think, to beat his head against.

MARKS: That’s what I would like I think that – See, when he made “Gangs of New York,” he said I’ve basically made every film that I’ve ever set out to make. And for the past few years, he’s just been cranking out genre films, and I think this is easily the best of the genre films…

ACCOMANDO: Yes.

MARKS: …that he’s done.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: But I think he needs to take a step back, and it’s not going to happen because from what I gather his next book (sic) is an adaptation of…

CAVANAUGH: Next film.

MARKS: …his next movie is an adaptation of a children’s book that’s going to be shot in 3-D, and he’s making a family film. Blow the pilot light out, oh, Marty, what are you doing to me?

ACCOMANDO: See, I was hoping…

MARKS: A family film?

ACCOMANDO: I was hoping after he won the Oscar that he’d gotten that out of his system…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MARKS: Nah. Nah.

ACCOMANDO: …and that he would go back to make something maybe that…

MARKS: I want to see him make a western.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

ACCOMANDO: Well, that would be fun.

MARKS: I would really – I would love to see Marty on horseback. That would be very, very funny.

CAVANAUGH: We’ll have to shoot him an e-mail. Let’s go on to – By the way, “Shutter Island” is currently playing in area theaters. And another film currently playing is the “Ghost Writer.” It’s a new thriller from Roman Polanski, of course, who’s had a tumultuous year. This movie stars Ewan McGregor and is also based on a novel by Robert Harris who co-wrote the script with Polanski. Beth, what are your thoughts on “Ghost Writer?”

ACCOMANDO: I liked it, and I liked it, I think, for some of the same reasons that I liked “Red Riding.” And in a sense, these three films are kind of similar, the “Shutter Island,” “Ghost Writer” and “Red Riding” in the sense of building – kind of slowly building a sense of dread and also dealing with this sense of – especially “Ghost Writer” and the “Red Riding” films, of this sense of kind of like corruption and something evil that’s so ingrained that it’s not going to be removed easily.

CAVANAUGH: Give us a brief idea of the plot.

ACCOMANDO: Sure. It’s – Ewan McGregor plays an unnamed ghostwriter who ends up being told that he has to finish up these memoirs of a former prime minister, who’s played by Pierce Brosnan. And as he’s putting the memoirs together, he starts uncovering some information that leads him to believe that some of the things the prime minister’s saying are not true. And what’s interesting to me is that when he starts to ferret out information it’s not from this moral sense of I need to find the truth so I can expose it so there can be justice. It’s almost this sense of what’s the best story I can tell in here and the fact that he feels like he’s being lied to. So it’s the universe that he’s working in is not this one of, you know, I have a right that needs to be – a wrong that needs to be corrected or something, it’s more like what’s the best story that I can find.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

ACCOMANDO: And I really liked it. It – it built slowly and methodically, and I think it’s the kind of psychological thriller that Polanski does well.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, what did you think of “Ghost Writer?”

MARKS: I thought the Tony Blair bashing was terrific. Pierce Brosnan as Tony Blair, when the film is talking about politics, it’s on target.

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: The ending of this film is so far-fetched, and ironically, both “Shutter Island” and “Ghost Writer” rely on certain literary techniques…

CAVANAUGH: Umm…

MARKS: …to tell their story. One is an anagram – Well, I know, I won’t tell you. And the ending of this film is so unsatisfying and so silly and far-fetched. The last shot of the film, it’s a great shot…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: …and it’s a great way for something to happen but what brought about that shot should never have happened. It shouldn’t have. It’s just – it’s a tremendous cheat. I also don’t like the fact that it’s self-serving Polanski.

CAVANAUGH: Right. There’s been that comment, that he’s got an axe to grind and in this movie there’s a lot of references to people being sort of protesters, you know, saying that, you know, you have to come clean and you have to be punished for your crimes and those protestors are basically seen as, you know, prob – bad people. And I’m wondering if…

ACCOMANDO: But not really…

CAVANAUGH: No?

ACCOMANDO: …because think about what the context of that is. The character that we’re given is not an innocent man. You know, he’s not – Pierce Brosnan’s character, if you want to make Polanski be identifying with him because…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ACCOMANDO: …he’s somebody who wants to avoid going back to his…

CAVANAUGH: Exactly.

ACCOMANDO: …country because he wants to, you know, get away from facing some charges, you know, if that’s the character Polanski’s identifying with, he’s not a character who’s completely guilt free and he’s not a character who’s held up to be like, oh, we have to sympathize with this poor guy. I mean, one of the reasons I liked Pierce Brosnan in this is because he’s playing a cad. He’s playing somebody who’s not likeable, somebody who creates this complete façade, who’s shallow, who’s, you know, he’s managed to get where he is through, you know, basically playing the charming guy on camera and having other people help him and manipulate him and tell him what to do. So if that’s the case, I don’t think Polanski’s making this film because he’s trying to gain sympathy for his own status.

CAVANAUGH: But, Scott, you think some elements…

MARKS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …are self serving.

MARKS: And he’s been doing that for the past how many films? My God, that’s all “The Pianist” was about. That was all about Roman Polanski. That was all feel sorry for me. And at the end of this film, you hear people saying, oh, he’d be welcomed back in America. Why don’t you just throw bricks at my head? I mean, I just thought that that was so completely out of place and so self serving.

ACCOMANDO: See, I didn’t see that. I mean, I see that he’s working through some things that obviously…

MARKS: He has issues.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, he has issues.

MARKS: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: Exactly. But anyway, I mean, I – I just don’t feel that this is a film about him. I mean, I think there are themes that have been recurrent for him.

MARKS: This is “The Departed.” Let’s take bits and pieces of all of Polanski’s films and stitch…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, this is better than “The Departed.”

MARKS: To me, the screenplay is the same thing. Let’s take a little “MacBeth,” let’s take a little of “The Lighthouse,” – what was the two-character play with Sigourney Weaver that he made in a movie?

ACCOMANDO: Oh, The Maiden and the…

MARKS: “Death and the Maiden.”

CAVANAUGH: “Death and the Maiden.” Right, right, right, right.

MARKS: Let’s take “The Lighthouse” from that, let’s take this from this and this from that. The script was like a pastiche of his preoccupations and I think that’s what appealed to him. But…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, but it’s also a…

CAVANAUGH: Well…

ACCOMANDO: …preoccupation that he’s always had with these psychological thrillers, too, that goes back…

CAVANAUGH: …we’ve got to go.

MARKS: Aww…

CAVANAUGH: “Ghost Writer” is playing in area theaters right now. I want to thank my guests Beth Accomando and Scott Marks. And, Scott, can we really throw bricks at your head?

MARKS: Go knock yourself silly. Go ahead.

CAVANAUGH: If you’d like to comment on what you hear on These Days, go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS. Join us again tomorrow here on KPBS-FM.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Earthling'

Earthling | March 10, 2010 at 10:47 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

I enjoy listening to Beth's movie reviews, but when 'Film Club of the Air' is on and Scott and Beth start arguing, I immediately feel the need to turn the radio off. At times it quickly turns from commentary to bickering.

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