Friday, October 29, 2010
The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air discuss "Hereafter."
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!
BETH ACCOMANDO: They are available on DVD.
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.