Sunday, January 03, 2010

Michael Haneke, Supreme Confounder

A mssg received from my friend 'txt critic' today.
Lincoln Plaza is the WORST! Half of my audience was literally snoring through "The White Ribbon" -- in unison! -- and one half-deaf woman bellowed an hour in, 'I THOUGHT THIS HAD TO DO WITH THE HOLOCAUST.'

I swear UWS seniors ruin more movies than anyone.
I wasn't there but I can attest to this phenomenon. You will always get a perturbed earful when you see a Haneke picture on the Upper West Side. Should we presume the AMPAS members on the foreign film nominating committee will feel just as impatient with its mysteries and its implicitly projected "25 years later..." horror? AO Scott certainly didn't boost this Cannes Winner's Oscar cause with his recent review either.

But then I'm not currently speaking to AO anyway. He disses Haneke's always provocative direction just two weeks after raving about Clint Eastwood's work on Invictus??? What a world... what a world... [argh] don't make me talk about Invictus, AO. don't make me. I can't. I can't. It's just so ham-fistedly unworthy of discussion... [argh!]
*

31 comments:

Marshall said...

It's the same everywhere. They're the tyrants of our society, even more than young kids. I saw THE yOUNG VICTORIA last night in Bethesda, MD, and when Prince Albert is wounded (hope that's not much of a spoiler), an old woman behind us literally yelled "Oh My God is that Prince Albert!!!!"

Marshall said...

Still not as upsetting as the old man who kept going "Uh oh! Uh oh!" during the very tame romantic scenes. And also oddly whenever Mark Strong was on screen.

Sean said...

I LOVED this film. Beautiful, fascinating stuff.

OtherRobert said...

When I was in NYC, I avoided Lincoln Plaza like the plague unless I was personally invited to a screening by someone I knew. Even then, I wouldn't always go. I had much better luck with the downtown independents that were at the same level as the subway system and poorly soundproofed. At least there would be an excuse for the ridiculous ammount of noise in the theater.

Daryn said...

My grandma was from the Upper West Side. Once she called on the phone and said, "I'm watching this movie on HBO and I don't get it. Why do they call it Four Weddings and a Funeral?" After I explained to her that it was a pretty straightforward reference to the five main scenes in the movie, she told me she must have missed those parts. "But they're throughout the movie!" I protested. "Do they come after the part where the doctor performs the surgery on the girl?" I finally figured out that she was watching "Malice" instead.

NoNo said...

Really? And to think the Magic Johnson theater in Harlem gets a bad rep.

Robert said...

Good thing we have young, fresh minds like Nick, Guy and you to give us REAL film criticism.

Okay, I'll stop the back-patting now.

Jim T said...

OMG! Seconds before seeing this post, I recalled that I had slept a bit during that movie. It wasn't the movie so much as the fact that I was sooo sleepy that day.

Michael C. said...

Plus Lincoln Plaza has those ridiculous long theaters that make it feel like your watching a movie by peering down a subway tunnel. Yet I'm still probably going to end up there in a few days because I want to see Me and Orson Welles so much.

BTW. As a guy who went to the mat to defend Unforgiven a few days back, just want you to know if you do get around to discussing Invictus's shortcomings you've got some back up right here. Oh, brother.

bbats said...

Txt critic has captured a nation. more more more.

Bensunce said...

Yes, A.O. Scott has some weird taste sometimes... but he LOVED Where the Wild Things Are, so he redeems himself. He even put it 5th in his list of the best of the decade! That was a bit too much maybe. It's a very special film that I like a lot, but 5th of the entire decade?

Kurtis O said...

Ugh, totally agree about "Invictus." The thought of Eastwood being a Best Director frontrunner is so frustrating and disheartening.

John O'Neil said...

Don't be dissin' on AO! He and Michael Phillips SAVED "At the Movies" from the treacherous Ben Lyons. That show is 10x more interesting and thought provoking, now that two reputable critics are in charge.

Although, I do agree with you on Invictus. Ick.

The Know Nothing Know It All said...

"Ham-fistedly unworthy of discussion." That is a perfect summation of how I feel about "Invictus." It's not exactly like I walked into that movie expecting anything better, but I'm still pretty miffed that I was lured into "Invictus" both by Eastwood-happy friends and by promises of a shirtless/sweaty Matt Damon only to sit through a rugby game in real time.

Beau said...
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Beau said...

I can't wait to see it.

'The White Ribbon', that is. Not 'Invictus'.

I haven't loved a film (liked, for that matter) from Eastwood since 'Million Dollar Baby'. I like elements of 'Mystic River' but it's a peculiar film for me.

I just LOATHE that every film he releases, even one that got a tepid critical response (SO RARE FOR HIM) and bombed at the box office is STILL IN CONTENTION for an Oscar. No other director on the face of this planet has as many apologists for his oeurve.

Andy said...

Invictus. Now that's a movie worth snoring through.

Arkaan said...

I dunno - I thought The White Ribbon had major major issues. And Nathaniel, I have to ask - why did you bother with Invictus? Seriously - there wasn't a hope in hell you'd like it (Biopic + Sports Drama + Eastwood), and given that you've found Eastwood's last six films overrated, I have to wonder what the point is.

RC said...

Haneke does take some patience, I wonder if an audience is the best way to view it?

For example watched Cache by myself, and can't imagine watching it with a crowd...a big group of people staring at a house on a street for awhile might seem a little strange.

Arkaan said...

Cache with a crowd was AWESOME. Seriously. The post film discussions were some of the best I've had. The White Ribbon with an audience was weird, though. A lot of laughs. No, I'm not kidding.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I got to see White Ribbon as part of a local film festival audience. There was stunned silence throughout the film and awed gushing through the credits. Or maybe because of the film's hypnotic pull, I completely tuned out of my environment and was projecting my own stunned-ness and awed-ness. In any case it was a wonderful experience, and at the end of the festival, I was on the verge of weeping at having to return to arthouse cinema audiences riddled with perennially confused grandmas who like to announce their confusion regularly and adamantly.

NATHANIEL R said...

@Arkaan ...you will never believe me but i try to go into every film -- even those by Clint Eastwood whom everyone knows i find jawdroppingly overrated -- with something approaching an open mind. I have been disappointed with filmmakers i love before (my response to this year's Broken Embraces is proof of that) and i have been surprised by filmmakers i didn't care for before (The Last Station is a big step up for Michael Hoffman I think... and that's just the first example that comes to mind.) so it's not like i've made up my mind before i go in.



so why do I bother? that's an easy answer: Because I write about the Oscars

NATHANIEL R said...

oh and Caché with a crowd was awesome. especially the films one big jolt. I don't think i've ever seen an audience gasp in unison that viscerally before... except for maybe in THE DEPARTED but that came with a big loud gunshot sound cue.

but that said the crowd wasn't uniformly ecstatic about it. also UWS and also some loud discontents.

Jeremy Helligar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arkaan said...

But.....

Okay, I'll be honest. I was tempted to bet someone what your grade for Invictus would be based on the trailer and Eastwood (I guessed C+, which was your original grade). Truth be told, I don't think it's even possible to go into films with an "open mind" sometimes. You think I'm gonna go see a Cate Blanchett performance with anything less than complete devotion behind me? Even when I don't love her performances, I enthralled by watching her.

For you, it's the opposite. For whatever reason, Eastwood's masculine classicism doesn't do it for you. Watching his films has become homework you do to write about the oscars. Except.... what interests you about the oscars in the first place? Too many writers have succumbed to watching movies through the oscars; to celebrating the oscars as opposed to celebrating the movies. You aren't one of those writers, thankfully. But if you're solely watching a film to complete an oscar checklist (a checklist created predominantly by pre-ordained hype).... doesn't that strike you as.... wrong?

Okay, that'll be my last word on Eastwood this season. I feel like I'm picking fights on this subject.

How cool is Bigelow's absolute domination this season?

Cluster Funk said...

This is off-topic but Bigelow & Co. just won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor from the NSFC. How likely do you think it is that Jeremy Renner can nab an Oscar nomination? In which case, who would be left out of the line-up? My hunch is Morgan Freeman and Invictus might have a rude awakening to a disappointing tally come the big announcement.

Cameron said...

An old couple ruined The Hurt Locker for me. Basically the old man couldn't hear and his wife had to repeat all of the dialogue to him. Then amidst all of the dialogue repeating, the old man decided to boast loudly his predictions for who would get shot/ bombed next, and he proceeded to follow it up with sound effects ("Here it goes! KABOOM!"). Honestly, I've never had more justification for euthanasia in my entire life.

Lev Lewis said...

Is there even anything in "Invictus" to talk about?

I thought "Frost/Nixon" was about as dull a best picture nominee as you can get but it looks like Eastwood is going to set a new standard.

NATHANIEL R said...

@Cluster... i don't think anyone has to be left out for Renner to be in there.

the precursors seem to have said clearly that it's: bridges, firth, clooney, freeman and renner.

anyone else making it would be quite a surprise at this point (though i still worry for renner because he's so damn good but the least "traditional" choice)

@Arkaan... i like plenty of "masculine" directors but yeah, Eastwood doesn't do it for me. For one thing I don't really even understand the "classicism" argument because to me if you didn't know who directed Invictus or any of his more middling efforts, i doubt that adjective would be thrown around. You'd get a lot of "unimaginative" or 'journeyman' like words being bandied about which can amount to the same thing but they're a lot less complimentary and usually don't result in the person being called a "master"

when i think of classicism I think of someone like Ang Lee who isn't reinventing the wheel with his filmmaking but has such precision with his shot choices and such perfectly executed emotional throughlines. but maybe someone can school me on why the absolutely generic Invictus is classical? i swear you could just arbitarily change a few shots in any scene and you wouldn't notice. it just feels so haphazardly constructed.

i actually liked the story -- and i could see why it appealed as a movie topic -- but it's just so blase in execution and that's the directors job! And to get prizes for that over people like Neill Blomkamp? I don't even love District 9 but that guy is working his ass off to make that movie work.

Invictus. Blank walls everywhere. pedestrian cutting of two heads talking. so boring... and then with some really hokey choices (seriously? a vanishing ghost of mandela WITH mandela's voiceover with francois is thinking of Mandela? God, we get it!)

just about the only thing that kept me into it was the basic emotional arc (hard to screw up those triumph of the human spirit narratives), matt damon (who i always think is good even in unrewarding parts like this) and the admittedly enjoyable game of 'i bet this happens in the next scene or i bet this happens at the climax or i bet these two characters end up totally friends or i bet they're going to end up hugging that little black boy who they're eyeing with suspicion by the end of the game' with my friend.

we were right on every predictiozzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzz

i was fine when i watched it but the more i'm forced to think about it due to the good reviews and the precursor love and the inevitable oscar nominations the more i'm angry.

total waste of nominations. this is not supposed to be for movies that sound important. it's supposed to be more movies that are at least above average!

IN REGARDS TO BIGELOW: Yes!

Glenn Dunks said...

I saw Hidden (that's it's title in Australia, so that's what I'm calling it) at the cinema and I rarely ever speak to fellow moviegoers after a movie if I don't know them, but I did with that movie. I overheard two men discussing it in the corridor of the cinema and they'd completely missed the bit of the final scene that helps explain some stuff (but not all of it) and we went from there.

I spoke to a woman sitting next to me at a sold out film festival screening of The White Ribbon. She wasn't impressed. I didn't really know what I thought.

Marshall1 said...

As an Eastwood fan, I actually hate to admit it, but I do agree with Nate about Invictus. The main problem of the movie is the direction, and the blame can squarely falls on Clint with such an uninspired and lazy direction. Emotionally, it wasn't really that satisfying (unlike let's say M$B). The story and everything is predictable, and the ending? The slow-mo 5 minutes sequence or rubgy players hammering each other? 1 minute is even too long. I think this and Up in the Air is two films I'm extremely disappointed. Avatar at least has stunning visuals that masks the weakness of the writing and story.