East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Critical hits: Better load that shotgun, Stephanie

According to Movie City News, Salon critic Charles Taylor was fired last week, which means one of two things: either Salon's broke yet again, or their new CEO Elizabeth Hambrecht is about to pull off her mask and reveal that she's really Lars van Trier. Poor Charley can't even try the Time Out trick of fooling his wife into thinking he's still going to work every day... It's impossible to imagine a writer of Taylor's ability not popping up again somewhere. But I'll still mourn the end of a wonderful relationship. Here's some of Charley at his best, which is his most acid:
  • On Guy Pearce: "All I could get from Pearce in L.A. Confidential was a stiff actor playing a dullard straight-arrow whose conflicts didn't go deep enough to seem interesting. [In Memento], done up in a shock of spiky, dyed-blond hair and various creepy tattoos (designed, it would appear, after Robert De Niro in Cape Fear), he's a blank, not even a man tormentedly trying to recover his past. He's so affectless that being a blank seems what he aspires to. The loss of short-term memory is his fulfillment."
  • On Hannibal: "[Ridley] Scott appears to think that if he shows us man-eating boars and spilling guts and cannibal gourmet dinners, and if he does it with studio production values, and if his source is a writer who has won not inconsiderable acclaim, then the result is not a crummy horror movie. Scott will undoubtedly get by with this farrago; audiences will almost certainly make it a hit, and that's almost enough to make you accept his and Thomas Harris' crummy view of humanity. The two of them are like the story's wild boar trainers: They've turned their potential audience into murderous swine. They're convinced that if they lure us in with human screams, we'll come a runnin', happy to gobble up whatever they've placed in front of us, to foul ourselves rooting around in the guts and the shit."
  • On Elephant: "Van Sant's defenders may claim that he's trying to show us the affectlessness of the teen killers. But depicting the attitudes of even the worst characters does not prevent a filmmaker from taking his own attitude toward them. It may look as if Van Sant is exercising discretion when two characters who have taken refuge in a meat locker back out of the frame and we see two hanging sides of beef while the kids are gunned down. But in Van Sant's scheme, the beef has as much distinction as the kids. This, I think, is what finally marks Elephant as a true exploitation movie. It's not that Van Sant is getting off on the killings or asking us to get off on them, but that he is simply using a real-life tragedy as fodder for his little art movie, and that he hasn't even done the thinking that would allow him to say there are no answers for these killings."
  • On Dogville: "If there's any irony to Dogville it's one that von Trier hasn't intended. The movie is being acclaimed as a great indictment of the incipient fascism in American life, or a powerful statement about human venality. And yet it's been made by a director who sees his job as that of a puppet master ('To give up control you have to trust somebody, and it's easier for me to convince females to do this, for some reason'), who is willing to sacrifice the talent on-screen and the characters they portray to the greater glory of his 'vision.' If von Trier's supporters are really concerned with the themes of power and freedom and enslavement he pretends to address, should they really be kissing the backside of the fascist behind the camera?"
Addendum: Matt Zoller Seitz is not happy: "What the fuck was Salon thinking when it fired Charles Taylor, intellectually serious film critic and one of the finest, funniest wordsmiths in American journalism? Will Salon, a haven for provocative criticism and fresh cultural commentary, now become yet another unpaid arm of the entertainment business, serving up 'features' that are actually long, snarky ads for the latest movies?"

For the sake of Matt's blood pressure, nobody show him what happened to Salon's music section.


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