Film Club Of The Air: “Hereafter,” “Howl,” “Jackass 3D”
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Clint Eastwood has a new film, "Jackass 3D" breaks box office records its opening weekend, and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" gets the cinematic treatment.
Clint Eastwood has a new film, "Jackass 3D" breaks box office records its opening weekend, and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" gets the cinematic treatment.
Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic and author of the blog Cinema Junkie.
Scott Marks is the author of the film blog Emulsion Compulsion.com
Anders Wright is the film critic for San Diego CityBeat.
Today we talk about the wildly popular Jackass movie series. The new indie road movie called Douchebag, as well as Howl, that is Howl, an ambitious film about the ode of the beat generation. My guests for the KPBS film club on the air is Beth Accomando, KPBS film critic and author of the blog cinema junkie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Good morning.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott Marks is author of the film blog, emulsioncompulsion.com.
SCOTT MARKS: Good morning.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Anders Wright, film critic for San Diego City Beat. Good morning.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Hello, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We're gonna start off with Hereafter, the new movie from director Clint Eastwood, he threads together three separate stories of people's lives who have been touched by death or by the dead. We meet a French news anchor who almost loses her life in a tsunami, a British boy who loses his twin, and an American psychic who's lost all interest in contacting the dead. The three eventually meet in their search for answers to life's greatest question. So as I say, it's the newest film by Clint Eastwood, Scott? Are you a big Clint Eastwood fan as a director?
SCOTT MARKS: Sure, oh, Maureen, you must know this by new. There's Scorsese then Clint Eastwood.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what did you think of the film.
SCOTT MARKS: I think I'm gonna be standing alone here. I think this is a great film. This has nothing to do with the Hereafter. This is about people whose lives in one way or another were touched by death. I was really fearful of this film, I saw the trailer and the poster and it looked like the poster and trailer had shots of people coming off the close encounters ship. Then I see produced by It. Then it's like oh, my hand, Spielberg has a hand in this again? Much better than Invictus. But Clint Eastwood Mystic River, name me another director who at his age really contemplated his own mortality. He's been doing this consistently, and his films with the exception of Invictus had all really been downbeat.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Anders, what did you think of this movie.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I didn't like it as much as Scott. But there are parts of it that I really liked a great deal. But I felt as though the whole thing didn't really come together. Also feel like one of the things that you see in Eastwood's movie now, he clearly works for quickly. And you feel like he was just cut, wrap, print it, great. Go.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Like he's gonna kick the bucket soon.
SCOTT MARKS: I never get that when watching a Clint Eastwood film.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I got that from this, especially when he works with kids. I saw this in Gran Turino all the time. He did 1 or 2 take, got what he wanted and he decided he'd fix it and post. And there are times when the kids just aren't very good.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth I know you have a really different take on this movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I didn't like it. In fact, I haven't liked most of Clint Eastwood's films that he's directed recently. I find them really somber and pretentious and packaged up like they're for the awards season. And this was no exception. It just it felt like an eternity. I just wanted to get out of there.
SCOTT MARKS: I think one of the reasons is the use of music in the film. Unlike Spielbergs films that take the music and tell you how to think and feel at every second, there's barely any music in this film.
BETH ACCOMANDO: That didn't have any effect.
SCOTT MARKS: That didn't cause a slow down.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No no. I mean, I was not interested in this any of the characters, really. The most interesting story was the one with the young boy, I felt. And I felt that the section with Matt Damon just did not work in part because Matt Damon is just not a very good actor and is not able to convey, I think, what was most interesting about that character.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about the slow pace? I've read several people commenting that this movie actually moves quite slowly. Anders?
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah, absolutely. And I don't necessarily have a problem with that. I felt the way the three stories sort of dovetailed together at the end was a little --
BETH ACCOMANDO: A little? Very contrived.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah.
SCOTT MARKS: How many films have you seen where reel one you're introduced to a bunch of different characters only to get together in the real reel.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Too many.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Aren't you tired of it now?
SCOTT MARKS: No, I wish there was a name for it because that's one of my favorite genres.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But the way they bring them together was horrible!
SCOTT MARKS: It didn't bother me. What was horrible about it.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And that horribly sentimental sappy ending?
SCOTT MARKS: I didn't find it sentimental in the least.
ANDERS WRIGHT: My problem with the found was I found that it often got sentimental in ways that you don't see Clint Eastwood go.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Scott, what could you think about this being promoted as a supernatural movie.
SCOTT MARKS: It's not! This is not science fiction at all. And that's the other reason I like it. Any other direct or, believe me, they would have been on the mother ship leaving. You would have spent all your time in the Hereafter, looking at over hit shots. But there's none of that in movie. That's another reason I applaud him. And you can kill me, I thought Matt Damon was really good.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Oh, my gosh.
SCOTT MARKS: I mean, the Departed --
BETH ACCOMANDO: But I hated the departed also.
SCOTT MARKS: So did I.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I think it takes a character like this, who was a really sort of unhappy person, and actually finds these warm parts of him. I like that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, this film has some special effects that have been feting quite a few comments, notably a tsunami in the beginning of the movie. Clint Eastwood is not known for his special effects. Let me go to you first Scott.
SCOTT MARKS: I think that's the one scene everybody's talking about. Of what's very strange is, unlike anybody else, he gets the big action set piece out of the way six minutes into the movie. I think that's great. I think that's brilliant! And the special effects are flawless. I wish I didn't know that there was a tsunami before going in. But somebody tipped it. But it looks spectacular.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, the idea that Eastwood might have conceived this as opposed to some other second string director is being contemplated by some critics because as I said, he's not known for using any kinds of special effects.
ANDERS WRIGHT: You know what's interesting here? The movie's written by Peter Morgan, frost Nixon, and the queen, and he's a very talented screen write. But he's actually come out and said that he basically wrote a first draft, took it to Hollywood, met with Spielberg who basically gave the movie to Eastwood, then the next thing Morgan knew, his first draft was being shot. Eastwood was like, that's great. Go, let's run. So basically he took a very, very sort of rough draft and outline and create said his own movie from it. Which sort of says that he had this idea that he wanted to work on, and found sort of the perfect vehicle to did it with.
SCOTT MARKS: And I guarantee it, if the movie made 60-million dollars over the weekend, he wouldn't be complaining.
ANDERS WRIGHT: He's not necessarily complaining he's just saying, look, this in not all mine, he's sort of giving credit and discredit.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What do you think about the special effects Beth.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They didn't impress me one way or the other. You say that opening with the big action piece is clever or fresh. To me, it's like he's got nothing else in the film, and he's gotta hook the audience. It almost seem like a cop out to put it there.
SCOTT MARKS: Well, you have to open with a near death experience of that's part of the deal.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, but he could have opened with Matt Damon's character and the problems that he has --
SCOTT MARKS: But you can see why he opened with it.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yeah, because it's a very --
SCOTT MARKS: It sucks the audience in more.
BETH ACCOMANDO: In a very cliched and predictable way.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You wrote a long piece on KPBS.org on your cinema junkie blog about your problems with Clint Eastwood as a director.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It was the emperor's new clothes. I don't understand why everybody adores him so much as a director. I liked his early stuff. I actually find him more interesting as a genre director doing stuff like Outlaw Josie Wales. But his recent stuff just feels really pretend like I'm being told I need to look at these films and feel they're important and I don't.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I just found I have to take his work picture by picture. Because they're very different. I liked changeling. I really did not like Invictus, I really did not like Gran Turino. And I'm fairly ambivalent about this one.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Your piece, Beth, made me think that these we have the wood pieces are presented to the public as important movies, as opposed to play misty for me. Which was a very enjoyable movie. Changeling was like, yes, this is a big movie with a big theme. But when you think about it, maybe it didn't have that big a theme. Do you think that sometimes these Eastwood movies are packaged to be more than they are Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: No. No. Notal all. Not at all. And the whole idea of big themes and all that, Gran Turino doesn't have a big thee. It's dirty racist harry. This was his nod to the American audience, I'm gonna make you one last Dirty Harry film, it's not gonna be official. But --
ANDERS WRIGHT: What about Invictus though?
SCOTT MARKS: You saw it with me! You saw the way I looked after. It was like I was run over by a train. I hated that film!
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Invictus was about South African rugby players. And Nelson man dell ark the one that Morgan freeman basically begged Clint to direct for him.
A. I see. So that one didn't work for you.
SCOTT MARKS: That's Clint Eastwood's worst film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Now you mentioned bell Beth that you thought the resolution at the end was somewhat hokey. Anybody else agree.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I don't know if I'd call it hokey.
SCOTT MARKS: No.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I certainly would call it contrived. I guess the other problem that I have with this film is this: It's called the Hereafter, but there's never any ambivalence about whether there is or is not a Hereafter. In the course of this film, we discover very early on exact leap what it is and what it's about. And we know as the audience exactly what's going on in said here ever. There's never any kind of wondering whether or not it actually exists. So these questions that people are asking aren't questions at all.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, the thing -- it fails for me on multiple levels. But it doesn't -- it neither deals with the notion of the Hereafter and what goes on there or the people living in grief.
SCOTT MARKS: What do you mean by deal with? Do you mean grief counseling or something? He shows you instead of telling you. And I like that.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Fine, except that Matt Damon, I see nothing but a blank slate.
SCOTT MARKS: Actors -- I could name you a hundred movies that you love with terrible performances in them.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They don't make or break a film. But the problem is that mat Damon being the only star in the film, it tends to throw the weight off on those three stories I think. And the stuff that goes on in his thread of it with those cooking classes and --
SCOTT MARKS: You didn't like that? You didn't like the scene with a blind field.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I thought that was a great scene. That's so well done!
SCOTT MARKS: And what happens to the Bryce Dallas Howard character, he's great! Nobody else would do that in a movie nowadays.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And let me ask you, Scott. So what does this movie say about grief as far as you're concerned?
SCOTT MARKS: With all due respect, who cares? I didn't go there to learn about death. Movies are not gonna teach you about that. Movie can show you stories but they're in the gonna teach you how to prepare for death. I like this film because I think it's a very very well made film. I don't think the stories and the way they overlap are bulky. You know what's bad, when Jay Mohr is walking down the stairs with Matt Damon, and he spells all this exposition. I saw this and I was like oh, no, Spielberg edited this script. This is terrible. And after that, it was smooth sailing for me.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Jay Mohr looked terrible too, didn't he? That character was the sort of foil too.
SCOTT MARKS: Right. There to explain.
BETH ACCOMANDO: There to move things around.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Don't you think that a movie called Hereafter is telling the audience that it is going to talk about -- it's going to show them something new about the idea of life and death and grief.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But this is exactly what I'm saying, actually what it does, it spells out very early on, here is what the Hereafter is. Here it is. Of.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It exists.
ANDERS WRIGHT: It exists. Of.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And some people can go there, and some people can come back.
ANDERS WRIGHT: So you're not actually gets to the point of, like, where, is this Hereafter? Do you need to worry about it? Do you have to be concerned with what goes on with the Hereafter? What happens to your lived ones when you they die? You know from the very early on, this is it. This is the deal. That's what I mean. It spells it out. And that is actually something that I have a problem with. Because it's -- these large issues of life and death, and life after death that people have been pondering for thousands of years. This basically says, here, in the world of this movie, here's what it is.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But that would have been okay if it went somewhere after that. I don't mind if at the present times to say, you know what? The premise of this film is there is a Hereafter, this man can go on and visit it, now we're gonna get on with the what the real story is, how do each of these characters deal with death or grief. And it worked on neither --
ANDERS WRIGHT: Wouldn't you say that really what it is, it's about people who have more knowledge of the hereafter than the rest of us.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes. And they're rather smug about it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And for you Scott, it really doesn't meat, it's just a good film.
SCOTT MARKS: A good film is a good film. Is a good film. If I happen to walk out having learned something about the world, fine. But if I walk out of a film learning something about cinema, to me that's just as valuable.
BETH ACCOMANDO: What did you learn about cinema?
SCOTT MARKS: The way this learn is structured. I learned about Clint Eastwood. Ask to me that is cinema.
BETH ACCOMANDO: So you did learn. You just learned about --
SCOTT MARKS: I didn't learn about death.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, but --
SCOTT MARKS: I don't want go to movies to learn about crossing over. I have a television set for that.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But there has to be some level of satisfaction from a film for me.
SCOTT MARKS: The scene where the two of them are blindfolded. Of I thought that was so beautiful. And I got great satisfaction watch think that scene.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our listeners will be able to learn about film making or life and death.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I would say go see Koreeda's After Life or the Sweet Hereafter.
SCOTT MARKS: But they're not playing anymore!
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Hereafter is currently praying in area theatres. We have got to take a break. The film club of the air will continue after these short moments.
This is the KPBS film club of the air with critics Beth Accomando, Scott Marx, and Anders Wright. We move on to Howl. It's the name of the most famous work by poet Alan Ginsberg. In the 1950s, are the poem electrified the beat generation and scandalized mainstream society. Howl is the name of a new film about that poem, and the controversy it provoked. The dialogue is taken exclusive from Howl, and Ginsberg's court proses. This is not really a bio pic is it?
ANDERS WRIGHT: If you could have a bio pic of a poem, that's what it is. The way to think of it is this, the movie is called Howl, it's not called Ginsberg. And it's really about a film about the poem itself. And trying to put the poem into context. We see James Franco as Ginsberg Howl for the first time. The obscenity trial that accompanied it. And interviews with Ginsberg trying to put the entire thing into published am years after it had been published. So it's really about the poem more than it is the person.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Certainly. Beth, what did you think of Howl.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I thought it was like an interesting exercise, and it's kind of almost like an English lit paper on the poem. Like here's what it is, here's how people try to place it in context, here's how he reflected on it. On a certain level, I was interested in it and I enjoyed it, but it's also just not terribly engaging.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Scott, did you like Howl?
SCOTT MARKS: I liked it more than milk. But I don't necessarily think that I ever have to see it again. Some of it's very, very literal. I mean, the poem is divided in four parts issue the film is divided in four parts of the courtroom stuff will kill you. It is just so boring. This guy pays -- has no visual style whatsoever. And both of these guys have a good track record. Celluloid closet is one of the great documentaries of receipt vintage.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Maybe you think it's shot badly in the courtroom, but I think it's interesting, the content of what people are saying and how pertinent it is today. We still have censorship issues.
SCOTT MARKS: But does it have to be depicted in such a bland straightforward --
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's a courtroom!
ANDERS WRIGHT: It is interesting though because today it almost seems quaint to have an obscenity trial about a poem, because what we consider obscene now is so completely than anything anyone could actually just write.
BETH ACCOMANDO: In some ways and in some ways, no. There's still things that, you know, if you watch that film this picture's not yet rated there's still things where the censorship board looks at a movie and can't put their finger on what's bothering them, but it's obscene to them. They still try to get Romeo and Juliet out of the classroom.
SCOTT MARKS: Good, it's filth.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's quite a buzz around James Franco's performance as Alan Ginsberg in the movie. We're talking about Howl. How did you think he did, Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: This is an,a mazing, what is it? Simulation? Is this like beetle mania?
ANDERS WRIGHT: It's not an impersonation.
SCOTT MARKS: No. I'll tell you what's unique about this film, I have never seen a bio pic where you never see the lead character exchange in dialogue.
BETH ACCOMANDO: We just established it's not a bio pic. Where have you been?
SCOTT MARKS: But it is.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No it's not! I don't think so.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I think it's to give you a sense of who Ginsberg what, not necessarily what he was about. It's a good performance though.
SCOTT MARKS: It is. The -- there is not one word in here that Alan Ginsberg did not speak himself. And they take no poetic license, you never see him with Jack Kerouac engaging in dialogue.
BETH ACCOMANDO: These guys both come from documentary, and that's what they've deputy, they've created a simulated documentary. They've created a documentary even though they don't have access to documentary footage, the exact documentary footage they want. So they've used all these real transcripts.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. Exactly. The entire dialogue taken from Howl and transcripts from the Court and interviews Ginsberg --
SCOTT MARKS: And animation.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And animation. I'll get to that in a minute. But I just want to say, so, for you, Scott, that's a limiting thing, that use of that dialogue from only those sources.
SCOTT MARKS: You know, anything can work on film if you have someone doing it properly. And I think it's just clinical, it's very, very rigid. And I think after a while, it's a noble experiment and one that kind of failed.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But it is exactly -- I understand what you're saying, how they didn't step out of that box but they didn't want to.
SCOTT MARKS: Sure.
ANDERS WRIGHT: They did exactly what it was they were trying to do.
SCOTT MARKS: Yeah, yeah.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's move onto the animation in the movie Howl. Because I know a lot of people have a problem with that. Of let's talk about that a little bit. What did you think about it,anders.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Well, I did have a problem with it, really. Of the issue is sort of that, you know, everything that's going on here is very clinical. It is about the trial, it is about the poem, it is about Ginsberg. Then over the course of his reading, you've got these strange animated sequences of one person's interpretation of what the poem is about. And actually, I think the whole idea of this poem, and this trial, is that these things mean different things to different people. I much prefer just watching him read the poem than watching else say is this what the poem is about.
BETH ACCOMANDO: The problem here, the animation doesn't -- the notion of putting animation there is not necessarily bad. The animation they choose, I think does not work. But I think kind of the criticism of putting the animation there comes from the film itself. There's a .267 treat Williams is asked to describe what a particular line mean, and he says you can't translate poetry into prose of that's what makes it poetry. So I think the fact that you try to visualize literally in some way or even kind of abstractly what this poem is saying kind of blows it. The you want to hear the language. You want to hear the cadence that is creates, and you want it to create an image in your own head. And I think to make it poetry. And To make it so concrete with these visual images just doesn't work.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wasn't there an effort by the film makers to give some sort of visual element to what is essentially a very wordy piece of film?
SCOTT MARKS: And to me, cinematically, why am I the one that's liking everything today? Did I fall in the bathtub? To me, the stuff with -- the animated stuff is the only time the film comes to life visually. And I agree with you, some of it is very, very literal. I agree with you. No, I can't say that. Of the billboards blowing smoke rings and some things like that. There's some wonderful little flights of fancy.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Very few.
SCOTT MARKS: I haven't seen an animated film this year, with the exception of my dog tulip, that even comes close to this. But then look at the animation.
BETH ACCOMANDO: This was a bad year for animation. I'm sorry, I vote to throw that category out.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know that you don't like the literal aspect of the animation, but what about the quality of it?
ANDERS WRIGHT: It was fine. It just took me out of what I thought the film was about.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yeah, and I just don't think the particular style of animation they chose or the way the images are rendered worked for the type of poem it was.
SCOTT MARKS: You're right. It took me out of this film, but it put me in a better one. Then when it got to the courtroom it's like, oh, martial counter of law. Get me out of there. It can be done.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It can be done. But I think part of what it was about was the content of what they were saying too. Of and those scenes are not that long. And to me, the courtroom scenes did not bother me. Of and I liked hearing what those people were saying.
SCOTT MARKS: And you got to see Jeff Daniels. He is great. But Mary lieu ease parker? What was that.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But the whole courtroom scene was totally shot so that these celebrities could come in, work for about three half-hours, do their scenes.
SCOTT MARKS: Give them a hot lunch. Yeah. Right.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But you know the fact that this movie was actually made at all about a poem, do you think the film makers deserve some credit for that notion that was?
SCOTT MARKS: If it were not for Milk, we would not see this film. Rob Epstein directed Milk, the original documentary, James Franco is in the Gus Van Sant film, Milk, Gus Van Sant produced this, so this is a milk byproduct.
SCOTT MARKS: Thank you, thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Any kudos for the film makers for making a movie about a poem.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Something that Beth said earlier, it really does put things into context in what we do is don't consider to be obscene today. And what censorship is about today. Now we've got 50, 60 years of perspective on Howl. We recognize that it is actually a very important poem in terms of our literary history.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But you would still have a problem trying to read that in a classroom setting so we still -- we're still so up tight about a lot of things.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah, no, but I guess what I'm upon saying is that we look at the world differently. But the poem has remained the same.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone that Howl is currently playing at the Redding gas lamp theatres in downtown San Diego. Speaking about words, we still have a problem with, we come to our next film, the film is called Douchebag. And it follows two mismatch brothers on a prewedding road trip. Older brother Sam is getting married, brother Tom has no date. So they go searching for one of Tom's old girlfriends, along the way, the over bearing Sam and the clutzy Tom learn a little more about each other. And themselves.
ANDERS WRIGHT: What's the movie called again?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's called Douchebag.
BETH ACCOMANDO: And what's the text next one we're talking about?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That would be Jackass.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's so nice to hear Maureen talking like that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not getting paid enough this morning. Of so do you know bag is considered part of the mumble core esthetic. Can you explain what that is.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Sure. Mumble core is generally a genre of film that is generally made on the cheap, lots of the dialogue is improvised, it's about relationships, it's dialogue heavy. It tends to be hand held, and it's basically something that came up sort of when inexpensive digital cameras started to become easy to use. And the term mumble core was actually coined by a sound editor who was trying to put some sound to a track one day and was like, man, I can't hear these guys at all. We'll call it mumble core.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you guys agree that it's part of the mumble core esthetic.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes.
SCOTT MARKS: Are you using the words mumble core and esthetic in the same sentence? .
Q. I did it.
ANDERS WRIGHT: People don't really set out to be, like, I'm gonna make a mumble core movie of it's more a product of the equipment and means you have at your disposal.
BETH ACCOMANDO: If that were the case, then paranormal activity would be mumble core.
SCOTT MARKS: David Lynch shot Inland Empire on --
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, it has to do with an attitude, sort of a contemplating your naval kind of attitude of it's people who are very wrapped up in themselves. And kind of think they're interesting enough that I request go ahead and just film myself that people will be interested. It's a little bit of the off shoot of twitter and Facebook in a way.
SCOTT MARKS: The coauthor actor and editor, Andrew Dickler was in down for the San Diego film critics, they kid a benefit of Douchebag.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They. We are all members. We can't pretend.
SCOTT MARKS: And we had lunch with them. You weren't at the luncheon. We ate what passes for pizza in San Diego. And I said to him, I said what is with all this hand held cleanup in and I was told to be polite. And they said just be nice be nice. And he said to me, well, sometimes we don't have time to stand up a shot. That's like a stand up comedian saying sometimes I can't bother with timing if you can't take time to set up a shot, go sell tires.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I was there, he also said, it's not always about setting up a shot. Sometimes you're doing things as quickly as you possibly can!
SCOTT MARKS: Because it's the moment's genius of their improvisation! I don't know. This whole idea of improvising a movie where you don't know ending before it starts.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Wait, wait. I think there are some people who can pull that off, and some who can't. If you interview Wong Kar-wai, that's how he makes his movies. Or I don't have enough light so I'm gonna use, you know, a slow are speed. Whatever. I mean, he does --
SCOTT MARKS: But he knows where to put the camera. He knows to put the camera 134 place else other than up the character's nostril.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No. But he does co -- and who knows if he's fessing up to all the truth or No. But the way he talks about the way he shoots is similar to what you just said. Of.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sorry to interrupt, Beth. But we have a caller on the line with a that you feel comment about Douchebag. So here's David calling from Oceanside. Good morning David welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you. Douchebag is John Cassavetes, is this is like 40 years ago.
SCOTT MARKS: Oh, to compare this to John Cassavetes.
NEW SPEAKER: You don't need great actors and talent, you don't need digital cameras, you just need ability.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks for calling.
ANDERS WRIGHT: It should be said that almost everybody who makes films that are considered mumble cores looks at Cassavetes.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But they didn't learn from him.
SCOTT MARKS: They learned nothing from him.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Except to make this hand held naturalistic --
SCOTT MARKS: Because it add a rawness? No, it doesn't. It makes it look sloppy and amateurish.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It reminds me of I think it was Dick van Dike who said when you play a drunk you don't want to play him as somebody who's deliberately walking crooked. You're playing him as somebody who's trying to walk straight and can't. And a problem with the hand held stuff is, they don't care about whether it's shaky or -- it's not like they're hand holding it, and trying to get a good shot, they're going, okay, we're just gonna hold it, and that excuses any form of structure to it.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I think the cinematography is not the key element to these movie. They're about relationships.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does it work on that level? When we get to the acting and the plot of the movie.
ANDERS WRIGHT: This movie in particular?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yeah.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I saw this a second time renal, and it grew on me more the second time. I also think, you know, they do know the ending before they start the movie. They have an outline.
SCOTT MARKS: But they don't be how to get there.
ANDERS WRIGHT: No, they have outlines, they know where the scenes are going to be. They know where they start, and they know where they end. And they just sort of let the actors figure out how to get there. I think this one is funny of it's definitely funny.
BETH ACCOMANDO: It's been one of the better mumble core films.
SCOTT MARKS: What was the one that you sent me? Johno?
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah, I don't know.
SCOTT MARKS: That was a great movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: The other mumble core film I like, is in search of a midnight kiss, which is kind of a romantic film.
SCOTT MARKS: I don't think that's mumble core.
BETH ACCOMANDO: They list it as mumble core though.
SCOTT MARKS: They bought a tripod for that film. It can't be mumble core.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did you all do watching that guy with the horrible beard for the entire movie.
ANDERS WRIGHT: It's actually -- part of the question of this film is actually who is the title character. Because it's I word that's never really --
BETH ACCOMANDO: That's not really a hard question to answer.
SCOTT MARKS: It takes about 15 minutes before you figure out who the Douchebag is. And please, say Douchebag. Don't say the title character. We never get to say these words!
ANDERS WRIGHT: Andrew Dickler who plays Sam, who's this sort of vegetarian, ecofriendly --
BETH ACCOMANDO: Douchebag.
ANDERS WRIGHT: And his attitude as the film progresses, and it's clear, he's very worried about getting married. But his attitude as the film progresses seems to go further and further away from the image he has. So the beard works for that. He keeps doing more and more things that don't seem that are totally incongruous.
BETH ACCOMANDO: But I think all the things that he does along the way are just revealing how much of a Douchebag he is. He's pretentious, he pretends about being concerned about the environment and eating healthy and all this stuff, and he wants to have this social control over other people to do that. And you get these little snippets of him kind of lecturing or insinuating that you're not doing what you should. And that's part of what makes him annoying.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Yes.
SCOTT MARKS: When you have a character like this who's like a confessed vegan, he's not gonna go and eat meat. The only reason that's in there is to get a cheap laugh out of the audience and to make a cheap comment about the character. That would never happen.
ANDERS WRIGHT: Here's one thing that's interesting though. He's never acted before. He's been a film edit are on. He edited door mis's last movie, and he was like, you're hysterical, want to be the star of my next movie.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Here's where I think the whole mumble core attitude runs into its problems. If you have somebody like Cassavetes who's working with Jenna Rolands and Peter Falk, saying, hey, we're gonna improvise a scene, you've got a baseline of intelligence and talent and skill that you're working with. When you take these mumble core films and it's just a bunch of guys who go, like, hey, we got a camera, and oh, you're funny and let's see what we can do, the level at which they're improvising and creating this -- these films is very different from some of these other ones that do work where improvisation and hand held camera and this naturalistic approach has a very different kind of end result.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we have to take a break. Douchebag opens this Friday at landmark's Ken cinema.
ANDERS WRIGHT: And Andrew Dickler will be there Friday night for a Q and A.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, all right. And talking about a bunch of guys with a camera just doing stuff, we're gonna be talking more about that when we talk about the phenomenon of the Jackass movies.
You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And this is the KPBS film club of the air. Our critics are KPBS film critic Beth Accomando, Scott Marx of the film blog emotioncompulsion.com. But we must return to Douchebag one more moment because we have a caller on the line. Good morning John. Welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi. So in this discussion of mumble core movies and what constitutes naturalism in art and film, I think, you know, the idea that the improvisation and lack of structure constitutes naturalism, I think not a reality. I wanted to mention the French film, the clap, which takes the idea of mockumentary style, but still has a structure. Of and you see the use of hand held cameras. But you feel like it's not really -- it's still art. It's not voyeurism. So I just wanted to hear whether anyone had any thoughts on that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sure. Thank you for that call John. Want to add to that?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Well, it's not mumble core.
SCOTT MARKS: And it ain't art.
ANDERS WRIGHT: No, I think that film had more of a script in place too. But it used nonprofessional actors if are the most part. The French film.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, John, thank you so much. I have to tell everyone once again, Douchebag opens this Friday. We're moving on. In describing the phenomenon of the Jackass movies, I'm going to borrow some lineups from the New York Times. After telling us that Jackass three D is rated R, it goes on to say that the movie is populated with clothed seminaked and naked adult men, all apparently stuck in what Freud termed the anal, oral, and phallic stage it is of development. Those men include Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius and Steve O. The movies are a compilation of dangerous, crazy, and sometimes grotesque stunts, and people do get hurt. So Anders, for those of us in our audience who have not seen a Jackass movie or TV show --
ANDERS WRIGHT: Well, are it is one of the things where if you have to ask -- how can you really describe what Jackass is? It is basically this crew of guys lead by Johnny Knoxville doing what -- I guess you could call them stunts but the basic premise is that people are doing, like, horrifically disgusting and painful things in an effort to gross you out or get hurt so that you'll laugh at them getting hurt. Do I have that right Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: So far so good.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Why did you ask Anders to describe it?
SCOTT MARKS: I'm crushed. I'm insulated!
ANDERS WRIGHT: But it's the sort of things that they'll do are so over the top, so unbelievably awful at times to watch, I mean, they're cringe worthy. And at the same time -- people love it. Have you taken Tony?
BETH ACCOMANDO: No.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Scott, I want your full, full feeling about Jackass 3D.
SCOTT MARKS: I was the first kid on my block to find Jackass. And I would bring the tapes over to people's house.
BETH ACCOMANDO: How old were you?
SCOTT MARKS: It was ten years ago. Go read more comic books! Look at you pointing fingers at me. A friend of mine, and if I say her name, she'll kill me, so I can't do it, the first thing I ever showed her was the Jackass skit where they take the dummy baby and put it in a car seat, and pretend to leave it on the roof the van, and these degree, this is bankrupt, these people are morally bankrupt. I've seen Jackass 1, 2, and 3 with her. Okay, it's Gloria Penner, all right?
SCOTT MARKS: This is a phenomenon. It's just something that harkens back to the best and worst in cinema. You watch this and you can't help of think of guys like Harold Lloyd and buster Keaton, these people who would literally break their bones to entertain you. When Keaton wanted to play with trains, he would go and get a train. In this, when they want to go and get an airplane, they go and get an airplane. There's also a lot of the three stooges in here, where you mix the whole idea of comedy and violence. Where you can't believe what these guys are gonna do. And you can't look away. And also throw in scatology. And that's really what these films are about. I've seen Jackass 3D three times already. This is the best use of 3D. Two people knew how to use 3D. Hitchcock, where you explore the narrative potential of that, and Jules White in the three stooges, who just threw stuff at the camera. The Jackass guys follow Jules White. They just throw stuff at the camera. I never thought I'd be entertained by guys shooting paint balls at a camera, and me ducking like a mental patient.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If listening to how you describe it, it sounds as if Jackass movies would have a limited audience. But I mean, this is one of the biggest grossing opening weekends in the -- in a run down of top opening weekends.
ANDERS WRIGHT: For R rating movie, this came in ninth. It made $50 million. It only cost $20 million to make. The basic credit is if it's a niche audience, it's a really big niche because people love it. Scott's seen it three times.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Or a small group of people love it and just go see it repeatedly.
SCOTT MARKS: 40 percent of the opening gross came from women. These are attractive guys, you get to see male nudity. People go, they just go with their boyfriends. I think they want to see this movie. I think they want to laugh. Of.
ANDERS WRIGHT: To call it a movie, is almost a crime. There's no narrative whatsoever. They get to the camera, and it's hi, I'm Johnny Knox have, I'm about to do this insane stunt. It's pretty phenomenal. I saw it the other day, and I almost threw up three times of there are moments that are so utterly vile. Then people on screen are vomiting and that sets off other people on screen vomiting, then you're in the audience, and you're like, yeah, okay, that might be enough for me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is the kind of thing that some people see and say, that's it. Civilization's over. How do you defend that?
ANDERS WRIGHT: You.
SCOTT MARKS: You know, these are the parents that wouldn't let their parents watch the three stages stooges. My mother would put me in a room and give me hammer and a buzz saw, close the door and say, watch the three stooges. Go ahead.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That explains a lot.
SCOTT MARKS: I would much rather look at this than 90 percent of the other comedies out there. Of and my only defense is, this stuff makes me laugh. When people ask me why, I would have to go into Freudian analysis.
BETH ACCOMANDO: You accuse me of saying, I couldn't say a film was good or a comedy because it made me laugh.
SCOTT MARKS: You want more.
BETH ACCOMANDO: No, no.
SCOTT MARKS: The whole idea is you get to see this group of guys that literally spend ten years of their life in front of you. And the camaraderie that they have, and the fun that these guys have. It's like watching a show in the band, like if Jane occur son got the band to laugh. If he said something that was so funny you had would hear doc in the back. The crew is sitting there, and they're vomiting too!
ANDERS WRIGHT: Everything is about somebody getting hurt, and everybody laughs about it. Including the guys who got hurt.
SCOTT MARKS: They used to do a lot of sadistic candid camera stunts, but everybody knows what they look like now. So that you can't do it. You see a lot more wee man in this, and a lot more Preston lacy.
ANDERS WRIGHT: They don't really have the same impact anymore. And Knoxville went off and tried to be a movie star for a while. And had I'd say sort of a limited amount of success.
BETH ACCOMANDO: He was in a John waters film that was good.
ANDERS WRIGHT: They made that dukes of hazard remake.
Q. I don't think that's one to put up there.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But it was a big money movie. But he seems to have left that behind and gone back to smashing stuff.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we heard what Scott fell about the 3D. You think the 3D adds to this.
ANDERS WRIGHT: There are definitely times -- it's more that it's just so appropriate than anything else that you're just -- I took the glasses off a couple of times during the movie and was like, ah, it doesn't really make a difference one way or the other. But they're just like, we're gonna go so far out with this stuff, why not have it in 3D, why not shoot paint balls at you? Again, there's so much fecal matter in this film, why not have it coming at you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was gonna ask you why it got an R Rated.
SCOTT MARKS: I'm surprised this thing was rated at all. There are some things that go on in this film --
ANDERS WRIGHT: I was trying to explain this to some folks last night, and I almost threw up just thinking about it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We won't put you there again. I want to let everyone know that Jackass 3D is playing in theatres all across the country. And before we end, of course we're doing our film club right before Halloween. So I just want to go around and find out what kind of really really good spooky Halloween movies you have to recommend to listeners I'm gonna start with you Beth.
BETH ACCOMANDO: I don't want to recommend a scary or spooky film. But there were two films that kind of captured the weird sensibility of Halloween, and that's Tom Brownings' freaks. And playing off of that is twin falls Idaho. There's a wonderful scene in there where -- the story's about conjoined siamese twins and the only time they go out in public is on Halloween. And people think it's a costume. So those two films for me, I just feel like this Halloween --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, that is creepy. That's a good one. Thank you. Anders.
ANDERS WRIGHT: I've got two movies as well. I always like to go back to Romero's dawn of the dead, are the one that takes place in the shopping mall. Which is one of the first one I saw when I was young, where was where I was like, oh, now I'm starting to understand what social commentary means of it's not so scary but I just enjoy that film so much. When I start to think about what scary films really mean to me, one of the movies that just scared the hell out of me was Coppola's the conversation. It's not a horror movie at all. But it's a conspiracy film. And it just sucked me in and worked me over.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's really creepy too. That's a straight conversation. Scott?
SCOTT MARKS: Pretty woman.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Sex in the city if you want a scary one.
SCOTT MARKS: Val Lewton, the Val Lewton box set. If you love rosemary's baby, seventh victim is a film about devil worshiping, and I'm telling you the use of light and shadow in this film. It's really creepy. Is it scary? I was gonna say what's the last film that scared you. I would have to say paranormal activity two. Have you seen it?
BETH ACCOMANDO: No.
SCOTT MARKS: The first 45 minute system, enough already. When it kicks in, I'm embarrassed to tell you how much I moved in my seat.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is that one of your recommendations then?
SCOTT MARKS: If you really want cheap visceral scary scares, I think paranormal activity is a fine film to see.
ANDERS WRIGHT: But I would say, if you you were the sort who was gonna go see paranormal activity two, you've already seen it.
CARL DEMAIO:y yeah, the same thing with Jackass, the point is a bit moot. But the veil lieuten stuff, it's a merger of film noir and horror, and it came out in the '40s. I walked with a zombie, cat people, ghost ship, seventh victim. There's a box set out there, and these films are just really really atmospheric. Just drenched in atmosphere. But what scares you?
BETH ACCOMANDO: Like Polanski's the tenant.
SCOTT MARKS: It creeped me out, but I don't know if it --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The shining. We're out of time. I've gotta thank you all. Really lively, really fun. Thank you so much. And These Days is produced by Angela Corone, Hank Kirk, Megan Brook, Pat Fin, senior producer Natalie Walsh, our production assistant is Hillary Andrews, and I am Maureen Cavanaugh. I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the week. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.
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