April 2016 Viewing Diary

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016; d. Taika Waititi)
My favorite thing I saw at Tribeca. It hasn’t opened yet but this is one you want to see. My review here.

Midsummer in Newtown (2016; d. Lloyd Kramer)
I was afraid that my quiet sobbing was disturbing other audience members at the press screening. Tears POURED off of my face. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com, and you can get the gist on what the documentary is all about. Devastating, heart-explodingly moving.

The Last Laugh (2016; d. Ferne Pearlstein)
Is the Holocaust off-limits as joke material? Where do you draw the line? A fascinating documentary featuring interviews with Mel Brooks (Uhm, “Springtime for Hitler” anyone?), Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, and many many others. It’s an interesting conversation about art, whether or not artists are responsible for the connotations/misinterpretations of whatever it is they put out there, as well as the PURPOSE of comedy. I enjoyed it. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

My Scientology Movie (2016; d. John Dower)
I honestly do not know how to describe this because it really isn’t like anything else. The closest thing I can think of is Sacha Baron Cohen’s out-in-the-world performance-art stuff. But it’s different than that. Anyone who has read me for longer than a couple of years, knows my obsession with the topic at hand, and my attempts (with my sidekick Alex) to get as far into that organization as we could, without putting money down. Anyway, it’s a fascinating movie. I thought, “What else does one have to say after Going Clear?” But this is totally different. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Mother (2016; d. Kadri Kousaar)
Really loved this deadpan “whodunit” housewife-malaise film from Estonia. One of my favorites in Tribeca this year. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com. I hope this one has legs. It’s terrific. And helmed by three women. And starring a middle-aged woman.

The Fixer (2016; d. Ian Olds)
Saw at Tribeca but chose not to review. I didn’t really care for it. Good performances from Melissa Leo and James Franco and Dominic Rains, but the plot was so complicated and hackneyed and obvious. Kind of a waste, because the topic is fascinating.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson, “Manna From Heaven” Season 1, Episode 9 (2016; d. Anthony Hemingway)
This whole series astonished me with its depth and complexity. Like I said before, I practically had PTSD flashbacks watching it, that horrible year where one could not escape that story even once you were exhausted by it… and the fact that two people had been murdered so viciously somehow got lost in the narrative, the biggest crime of all. The acting in this series was magnificent, across the board.

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932; d. Mervyn LeRoy)
As hard-hitting and devastating today as it was in 1932. It still shocks. It does not pull its punches. The final moment … It’s both realistic and intensely surreal. The horror of the permanent underclass. Must-see.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 8 “Just My Imagination”(2015; d. Richard Speight Jr.)
Air-guitar guy sobbing, “SHE WAS MY GIRL.” Not over it yet.

Forensic Files Collection 1, Season 14, Episode 11, “Water Logged” (2011; d. Michael Jordan)
A horrible story. But you go out on a stranger’s boat having just met him? Ladies, come on. You must take at least SOME responsibility for your safety in the world – to the best of your ability, that is – and you have to do as much as you can to … not be murdered. There are actually things you can do to lessen your chances of being murdered. You’re not supposed to say that, for some reason, but I think not saying it puts people even more at risk. (Or no, Here’s an essay that should win me tons of friends.) Still: imagining how they died is horrific.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 17 “Red Meat” (2016; d. Nina Lopez-Conrado)
An excellent episode. You honestly wouldn’t think that the death of either one of these guys would have any impact anymore at all. But here it is: THE thing that keeps the show running. Lopez-Conrado did an excellent job at resurrecting that fear in a very real way.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 18 “Hell’s Angel” (2016; d. Philip Sgriccia)
It’s been such a good season. You gotta forgive the couple of clinkers along the way.

Men & Chicken (2016; d. Anders Thomas Jensen)
I just … what? You have to see this movie to believe it. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992; d. Michael Mann)
A re-watch in my preparation for my talk with Wes Studi in Albuquerque.

Dances with Wolves (1990; d. Kevin Costner)
This movie has suffered a little bit in critical acclaim since the time it first came out and I certainly never thought I’d want to see it again. I got it the first time. I re-watched in preparation for the Wes Studi talk, and – interestingly – his plot-line is one of the main things that has stayed with me since its original release. Plus his death-scene.

Heat (1995; d. Michael Mann)
Another re-watch for the Wes Studi talk. I love Michael Mann, and I love the ensemble of this film, but this one is not my favorite Mann, sacrilege though it may be. It’s absolutely gorgeous-looking, for sure, and I love all of the actors involved. However: I think Al Pacino’s over-acting is embarrassing, and and Michael Mann either loved it or couldn’t rein Pacino in. “Don’t waste my MOTHERFUCKIN TIME” is a particularly show-boat-y moment that would be clocked as phony in an Acting 101 class. (I feel the same way, by the way, about the beloved – except by me – “I drink the milk-shake” moment in There Will Be Blood, a movie I LOVE, except for that moment which I think is terrible. Reminder: Louder does not necessarily mean “good” or “committed” or “intense.” Don’t be fooled. Keep your wits about you. I look at that moment and think, PTA was either intimidated by Daniel Day-Lewis, or maybe it looked great “in the room” at the time, or maybe he was so in love with Day-Lewis as an actor that he lost perspective. It happens. DDL’s performance is a great one. That moment is embarrassing.) BUT. Back to basics. The film has a dreamy and blue mood, and every shot is practically a masterpiece, in that very Michael Mann way. I love it, don’t get me wrong but there are other Manns I like better. PLUS: I am so happy I saw this one on the big screen in its original release. Mann’s stuff should always be seen HUGE. Blackhat, Miami Vice. His images fill the frame. You could clock his “look” in a line-up.

Geronimo: An American Legend (1993; d. Walter Hill)
I highly recommend seeking this one out. I remember seeing it on TV at the time and being devastated by it, and that impression remains. Gene Hackman. Robert Duvall. Matt Damon, pre Good Will Hunting. Jason Patric. Wes Studi as Geronimo. Unfortunately – as per usual – we get the story of Geronimo told through a white man’s eyes. I wish this would stop happening, and perhaps it will someday. Jason Patric is our white man, and he’s wonderful in it, and you do see – an important element of the story – how the white allies of the tribes, those trying to work shit out in a fair way – were betrayed by how things went down. Wes Studi is incredible and has some stand-out scenes with Patric, as well as one with Gene Hackman, one of my favorite actors.

Mystery Men (1999; d. Kinka Usher)
So ridiculous! Wes Studi as The Sphinx is the standout. He “teaches” everyone how to be a better superhero, but his language is so circular (“The biggest hero is the man who has the courage to run away.” What??) that Ben Stiller finally is like, “WHAT the hell are you TALKING about?” It was really fun to see Wes Studi in a comedy!

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 15 “Beyond the Mat” (2016; d. Jerry Wanek)
A great example of how the Supernatural crew creates little mini-worlds with each episode. They don’t always do that anymore, or at least not to the level that they used to do – but this one really does exist in that seedy Knights-of-Columbus wrestling circuit world. You can feel the chilly damp-ness of those rooms.

Air Force (1943; d. Howard Hawks)
Such a strong film. One of his most gorgeous LOOKING as well with show-stopping aerial footage.

The Tenth Man (2016; d. Daniel Burman)
Saw at Tribeca and really enjoyed it. My review here.

Magnus (2016; d. Benjamin Ree)
I saw at Tribeca and wanted to cover it but I ran out of time before Ebertfest. This is a wonderful documentary about the chess-prodigy-phenom Magnus Carlsen. Highly recommended.

Crimson Peak (2015; d. Guillermo del Toro)
Ebertfest feels like a million years ago because I went right from there to Albuquerque for my own film. How can one month contain so many events? I was doing the QA with Guillermo after the screening of Crimson Peak, and we had flown down to Champagne together from O’Hare, talking the whole way. (He made me sit in the seat across the aisle from him even though it wasn’t my seat. I hesitated and he said, like a conjurer or snake-charmer, “No, that’s your seat. Isn’t it?” The plane was so small anyway it didn’t matter.) Guillermo del Toro is voluminous in his commentary and enthusiasm. All you have to do is say, “So Notorious …” and you are off to the races. What a pleasure it was to talk about my favorite Hitchcock film with him! (There are so many nods to Notorious in Crimson Peak!) Here’s Brian Tallerico’s dispatch from Day 1 of Ebertfest, talking about Crimson Peak and my talk with Guillermo.

Grandma(2015; d. Paul Weitz)
I love Paul Weitz, I love Lily Tomlin, I love Sam Elliott, but I had missed this on its first release. It is incredible. Please see it. For many reasons:
1. It is very good.
2. It’s a film starring an elderly woman. SUPPORT THIS.
3. Lily Tomlin is a national treasure and here she is not playing a sidekick or a cameo but the LEAD, a role she was born to play. MORE OF THIS PLEASE. Do not throw our elderly actresses out with the trash.
4. The 11-minute long scene with Sam Elliott could be an entire full-length play. It’s breath-taking, that scene.
5. Sam Elliott has a moment that will BURN out of the screen into your blood-stream. Wait for it. You can’t miss it. If the movie had made more money, Elliott would have gotten an Oscar nomination and it would have been well-deserved. Oscar Shmoscar, he gives a great performance.
Here is Glenn Kenny’s review for Rogerebert.com. Paul Weitz was there for the screening and it was a pleasure to listen to him talk, as well as meet him. He’s just as intelligent and funny and humble as you would imagine.

Northfork (2003; d. Michael Polish)
What a strange and haunting and gorgeous-looking film. Reminiscent of Days of Heaven or Badlands, or anything featuring wide-open spaces. Michael Polish and his twin Mark produce, act, direct – and Roger Ebert raved about it, but still, somehow I had missed it. The acting is terrific (Nick Nolte, Darryl Hannah, James Woods), but it’s really the atmosphere, mood, production design, the color palette that is the show-stopper. Highly recommended. Michael Polish, director, was in attendance to talk about the film and Matt Seitz did the QA. Here’s Brian Tallerico’s report on Day 2 of Ebertfest.

The Third Man (1949; d. Carol Reed)
I’ve seen this one many times, of course. It is one of the great accomplishments in cinema, period. There’s a reason it usually has a spot in any Top 10 Greatest Movies Ever Made list. BUT and this is crucial: I had never seen it on the big screen, and the screen at The Virginia is gigantic. It’s how it should be seen. It was one of Roger Ebert’s favorite movies: Check out his Great Movies essay on it. Most exciting of all, Angela Allen, 91 years old now, was the script supervisor on The Third Man when she was 19 years old, and she attended the festival! The stories this woman has! A real highlight.

Disturbing the Peace (2016; d. Stephen Apron, Andrew Young)
Premiere of a documentary about the protest-organization “Combatants for Peace” in Israel/Palestine. The two directors were in attendance as well as two of the main participants, one Israeli and one Palestinian. The film was given the first Ebertfest Humanitarian Award. It hasn’t been screened anywhere else yet and they had to race to finish it for Ebertfest. It’s an extraordinary film. Here’s Nick Allen’s report on the screening of the film.

L’Inhumaine (1924; d. Marcel L’Herbier)
Every year, a silent film plays at Ebertfest, with live accompaniment by the terrific Alloy Orchestra (you can’t even believe it’s only three guys, considering the sheer amount of sounds coming from them in the pit). This year it was the almost indescribable surreal masterpiece L’Inhumane. Seek this film out just to see how “out there” it was – and still is. You KNOW that David Lynch has studied this film with a fine-toothed comb. Here’s Nick Allen’s report on the screening.

Eve’s Bayou (1997; d. Kaci Lemmons)
I saw this in the theatre when it was released, mainly because of Roger Ebert’s review. Director Kaci Lemmons said in the QA afterwards: “Roger MADE my career.” Interestingly enough, one of the producers – financing the film – made her cut a certain character, and they went back and forth on it, and she finally conceded because she’s a practical woman and sometimes these decisions have to be made. This dude was putting up the money and he really cared about the film. So he wasn’t some mustache-twirling villain. (It’s like the war Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams had about the character of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Kazan won the battle, but Williams won the war by having both endings included in the published edition of the script.) Anyway, the film we saw at Ebertfest had that “element” restored, and it’s so essential to the story that honestly I didn’t even remember it NOT being there originally. In other words: I can’t picture Eve’s Bayou without it. Kaci Lemmons was so happy to be there (artists, in general, are: it’s a different kind of festival. You aren’t pitching yourself, or trying for distribution, or hoping for a prize. It’s much more relaxed and celebratory.) I was on a panel about “women in film” with Kaci Lemmons (and Angela Allen and NANCY Allen) and it was great to hear their stories of hacking out a place for themselves as women in the industry.

Radical Grace (2015; d. Rebecca Parrish)
An excellent documentary about Catholic nuns, the now-famous “nuns on the bus.” There are a couple of nuns in my family, so I was very happy to write about the screening of Radical Grace. The film gave me hope, as a Catholic.

Love & Mercy (2015; d. Bill Pohlad)
Glenn Kenny’s review of Love & Mercy is the one to read. This was on my Top 10 for 2015. If you haven’t seen it … please rectify that. Mitchell had never seen it. We sat in the balcony. Within 5 minutes, he looked at me, gulping, almost like, “Oh my God, I’m already crying.” What touched me in the film was what touched him. Or wrecked him. The beauty of Banks’ performance. I thought she should have been nominated. YOU try to play a part that is 90% listening and make that ACTIVE. My GOD. Also the studio musicians thing. Mitchell sobbed through the entire sequence where they were recording “Good Vibrations.” It was thrilling to get to sit there and “show” something to Mitchell, because basically he’s seen everything. A real highlight of Ebertfest, and Mitchell’s favorite film of the bunch.

Blow Out (1981; d. Brian De Palma)
A favorite movie of mine – and another one I hadn’t seen on the big screen. It’s absolutely brutal, even more brutal than I remembered it. That final scene … you could feel the entire audience almost moan and cringe from its black-hearted cynicism. Audiences are way more protected/naive now than they were back then, coming out of the 70s, the decade of ambiguous cynical satirical films with nary a positive outlook in sight. Current audiences may think they’re way more “knowledgeable” now, but the audience at Blow Out (many of whom had never seen the film) cringed away from it like it was the plague. Good. It’s never a good thing to get too complacent. Nancy Allen was there!! It was so exciting to meet her!

In the Dark (2015; d. David Spaltro)
This was a three-state month for me. Or, actually, four. New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and New Mexico! Now we begin the New Mexico portion of our programming. I interviewed David Spaltro about his beautiful film Things I Don’t Understand (highly recommended). He’s a New York indie film-maker and we have a lot of friends in common. Back in 2012, I was looking for an actor to play Jack, the lead in my script, having its first New York reading at The Vineyard. We threw around a million names, and then Aaron Mathias, the romantic lead in Things I Don’t Understand came to mind. I reached out to Spaltro again, who introduced us, Aaron loved the script (his first comment after reading it: “Thanks for ruining my afternoon”), and was available, and the rest is history. He was so incredible as Jack! So now, 4 years later (ack, everything takes so long), one scene from my longer script is premiering at Albuquerque, and what do you know, David Spaltro also has a film at the same festival, a horror film called In the Dark – and Aaron was in one scene! So it was just too cool. It was playing at 9 pm on Friday night at The Guild, the same theatre where my short would play the following day. David Spaltro is an artist. It’s a film about demon possession (with four – not one, not two, not three, but FOUR – strong and complex female leads.) Filmed on a shoestring, as always, his film LOOKS expensive, like a studio production. It was truly eerie, the acting was top-notch, and I was very happy to see it. David, unfortunately, was not there. But it was fun!

Comfort Me With Absinthe (2014; d. Michelle Prebich, animation by Justine Prebich)
In the Dark played with three other “horror”-esque shorts. This one is actually a music video, created for the band Mr. Moonshine. It was terrific: humorous and bizarre, with really cool animation. Both director and animator were there, and it was really fun to talk to them. I love how they use sand in the animation. You can see the whole thing on Youtube already.

We All Go the Same (2015; d. Morgana McKenzie)
Morgana McKenzie is 15 years old. That fact alone is astonishing, especially considering the elegant and planned-out LOOK of this short. Many films at the festival were interesting, in terms of their topics, but not all that well-thought-out in terms of visuals. McKenzie’s visuals are beautiful. Like Comfort Me with Absinthe, it’s an unofficial (but authorized) music video for the song of the same name by Radical Fire. You can watch the whole thing here and remember: 15 years old. It makes you think, “Jeez, I’ve been a slacker my entire life.”

Sleep Now in the Fire (2012; d. Sean Pollaro & Elliot Pollaro)
I wish the film-makers had been there because I had a lot of questions especially about the locations and how they used them. This short was extremely effective: it plays like a horror movie, and it is a horror movie, but what it really is is a portrayal of combat-PTSD from the inside. A US soldier returns home from WWII, to be reunited with his wife and his child. What then follows is a nightmare. Gorgeously filmed and BEAUTIFULLY acted. Upsetting and nightmarish.

East of Hollywood (2015; d. Chris Caccioppoli)
Another short that’s a spoof/critique of the challenges facing Asian actors in Hollywood. It’s smart and hilarious (there’s a fictional acting class called “Orientification” where Asian-American actors learn how to talk with stereotypical “Asian” accents and do kung fu and other stuff). This short is about 20 minutes long but it makes its points. With humor, which is almost better than serious, because it points out the absurdity.

Mi Casa Su Casa (2016;d. Sara Verhagen)
What a bizarre and entertaining little short. A French woman returns from her vacation to find a bunch of lunatics holed up in her apartment. None of whom she has met before. Comedy and absurdity ensues.

Total Awesome Viking Power (2015; d. Morten Forland)
Didn’t really care for this one about a bunch of LARP-ers pretending to be Vikings.

Twinsburg (2016; d. Joe Garrity)
This narrative short – taking place in the annual “twins” festival in Twinsburg, Ohio – was one of the highlights of Albuquerque for me. Twins, along with Wes Studi’s short Ronnie BoDean, felt like a Feature in Embryo. Like, it’s DYING to be a feature. Twinsburg tells the story of identical twin brothers (adults), meeting up in Twinsburg for the Twins Festival, as they have done since they were kids. There’s a ritualistic aspect to it: they wear costumes, they participate in the talent show, they’ve been doing this forever. One is gung-ho, the other one is drawing away from it, wondering why they still keep coming and don’t they want to develop their own identities now? Garrity filmed it DURING the actual Twins festival: the footage is amazing, but definitely not hand-held cheap-looking docudrama style. This is a beautiful-looking film, with a romantic dreamy aesthetic: it’s also very funny and also features something we haven’t seen before. The screen is filled with real twins. Very pleasurable experience.

Ronnie BoDean (2015; d. Steven Paul Judd)
This short, starring Wes Studi, was just so great, and again, just made me think, “Oh God, I need the full-length version.” I wrote more about it here.

Frontman (2015; d. Matthew Gentile)
There were four shorts in the shorts-program where my film was featured, and this was one of them. I found it devastating, and so did my mother. It’s about a rock star who gets the bad news that he’s going deaf. The rock star is played by Kristoffer Polaha, and it’s a terrific performance. The film is shot in a dreamy surreal way, so that the encroaching deafness is felt viscerally by an audience: with buzzing, and low voices and terrifying shots of Polaha diving deep down into a pool of water, leaving the surface behind. It was beautiful and very sad.

The Room Rental (2015; d. Bettina Bilger)
Another short, this about a city woman who rents out a room in her apartment through Air BnB and a gorgeous man comes to stay. Not quite sure what was happening with this one.

One Smart Fellow (2015; d. Timothy Busfield)
Oh my God, this film! It played right before “mine” played and it was the longest short in the program – almost 45 minutes. Timothy Busfield is one of my favorite character actors, dating back to thirtysomethibng, where – as Elliott – he gives basically a tour de force. Because who doesn’t want to hate Elliott? Or scorn him? Timothy Busfield is unique in his willingness to play weak, contemptuous, flawed, and never once plead for sympathy from the audience. There are four people in this film: Busfield, real-life wife Melissa Gilbert, Laura Innes (whom I mainly remember from E.R. – and she plays a totally different kind of character here), and Belle Shouse. The final credit says the film was shot in one day. Each of the four is listed in the writing credits. So I wonder if it was an impromptu improvisation, like “Okay, we’re all here in this beautiful beach house, let’s make a film!” It’s FANTASTIC. I haven’t checked to see if it’s anywhere in its entirety, but keep your eyes peeled for it. Hilarious ensemble drama, kick-ass performances, total Cassavetes-ish chaos, and plays like a bat out of hell for an audience.

July and Half of August (2015; d. Brandeaux Tourville)
I am having a moment, as they say, listing my own film in this viewing diary. Can’t even believe it. It was a high water-mark experience and I knew it as it was happening. I put up some screen-grabs here. I am very proud of it and I look forward to more festivals.

Nathan East: For the Record (2014; d. Chris Gero)
Final night in Albuquerque. Wrote about that extraordinary night here.

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944; d. Preston Sturges)
I love this film. It’s pretty brutal about the political process. And hilarious. That homecoming scene, with the warring marching bands waiting at the train station. Preston Sturges, man.

Dough (2016; d. John Goldschmidt)
Criticizing this well-meaning movie makes me feel like a cynical Bitch. Oh well. If the shoe fits. I reviewed Dough for Rogerebert.com.

A Double Tour (1961; d. Claude Chabrol)
One of my favorite film-makers of The French New Wave, and he worked up until the end (he died in 2010.) His film, La Ceremonie, is one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen. Also one of the best portrayals of folie a deux in cinema. I love crime stories anyway, and have a soft spot for any movie that features a French detective. (A leftover from seeing the Pink Panther movies as a kid.) Chabrol’s style is so BOLD. Those camera moves, especially in this film. The camera is rarely stationary and the moves keep you totally off-balanced. They tell you where to look but they don’t tell you how to feel. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a great PIG. All of the acting is superb. It’s a “whodunit” of course, drenched in color and an incestuous mood.

Supernatural Season 11, Episode 19, “The Chitters” (2016; d. Eduardo Sánchez)
I liked this one. I’m liking this season in general. Like Season 10, it is all over the damn place, and I actually prefer that to having one arc that is too much focused on. There’s lots of wiggle-room in Season 11, and so things can get fucked-up, go off course, lose the track, and it’s okay. I don’t care about Castiel or Crowley anymore, and the show barely seems to either. Sam said, “We’ll get Cas back” and I thought, “No, you know what? Just let him go, kthxbai.” I continue to be intrigued by Amara. But this was a good monster of the week that focused more on relationships than on the actual case itself. The image of monsters fucking in public out in the woods is truly disturbing. That town has been hiding lots of secrets. I love Cesar very much and (SPOILER) was amazed and gratified that he didn’t die. The second he showed up I thought, “Well, he’s a goner. Get ready for it.” But the episode didn’t go there. Now, of course, I see why, because it’s about relationships, and end-game, and “settling down” (Dean? Saying those words? It was like he was speaking a Druid dialect, I barely could register it). For me, the takeaway was: “Sinner.” “Rebel.” The two distinct looks on JA’s face in those close-ups have been seen in out-takes and bloopers from the get-go, but as far as I can remember, never in the show itself. It’s so funny and so STUPID I want to eat it up with a spoon.

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81 Responses to April 2016 Viewing Diary

  1. Patrick says:

    Hopefully the word “Ridiculous” regarding Mystery Men is meant favorably, since it is a comedy. Just the bit where Kinnear gets fried is practically worth seeing the move for (the whole – throw the toggle. Again? – Bit )

  2. sheila says:

    Funnily enough – during my talk with Wes – I didn’t even have to bring that movie up – he brought it up himself! He said that so often he’s offered parts with language like “The spirits are in the rocks and the rocks are the spirits …” and all this nonsense – the very stuff that was spoofed in Mystery Men – so I was very glad I had seen it so I could ask him about it further. :)

    I mainly wanted to talk with him about Mann and Malick and get my actor-nerd on – but it was really fun to hear him talk about the kinds of roles he’s offered (“Leathers and feathers”), and how actors have to deal with that. It must have been a blast to play that role in Mystery Men for that very reason!

    • sheila says:

      AND (lastly) – that was one that was not on my radar at all – so you and Jessie talking about it in that thread was so helpful and helped give my “homework” focus. I knew what I needed to re-watch and also see for the first time, just to get ready.

      It went so well – and I’m very happy that all of those things were fresh in my mind, because I could kind of guide where the conversation went.

  3. Wren Collins says:

    It has been a great season for SPN, hasn’t it? Red Meat was spectacular. Loving Amara. Also, you notice how they re-used the mine from Wendigo in The Chitters?

    Hell’s Angel wasn’t a fave, but even that didn’t strike me as terrible. Annoyed about a couple continuity issues- the vessel thing, for instance- but on the whole it’s been wonderful. And so dark and grim and creepy :3

    • sheila says:

      … and lots of room for goofing off, too. Maybe my favorite part.

      I did notice the same mine, yes!! Hope you have your blow-torch, boys.

      The “maternity ward” was particularly gruesome.

      • sheila says:

        Oh: and the retired sheriff gave a magnificent performance. It was so pained that it almost took over the whole episode for me. He KILLED it.

        • Wren Collins says:

          Wasn’t he fantastic? Perhaps another Wendigo shout-out, too- he really reminded me of the guy in that ep who survived an attack as a kid. I love all this referencing & going back to their roots that they’re doing.

          • sheila says:

            Yes: the totally ruined and haunted old man. His cabin, too, had great atmosphere. Wasn’t that just a bleak and un-homey place?

    • Kit says:

      My friend (who I watch with and who dragged me into the show) noticed the mine right off!

      Thanks to the recaps, I noticed the scene where Dean was surrounded by shadow.

      (I’ve really missed the Open Threads these past few weeks! It’s one of the only places I know of online where I can discuss the episode and not have it turn into “was this moment supporting Wincest or Destiel” arguments.)

      • Jessie says:

        CLEARLY Kit these episodes are setting up a Dean/Sam’s-hair-sewn-onto-a-RealDoll ending, couldn’t be more obvious, just play 11.04 backwards and you’ll see! Shun the unbelievers!

        • sheila says:

          Okay I need this Hair-Real-Doll ending to happen almost as much as I want the Dean-turned-into-a-nude-statue episode that we all collectively made up some time back.

          • Jessie says:

            ten years’ time, 6-part Event Miniseries Supernatural Revival just six hours of Dean websurfing for RealDoll replacement parts big enough to be Sam. Dust everywhere. The spiders have taken over the control room.

      • sheila says:

        // and not have it turn into “was this moment supporting Wincest or Destiel” arguments. //

        hahahaha Oh Lordy Lord!

  4. mutecypher says:

    A documentary about Magnus Carlsen? That goes on the list.

    And “don’t waste my MF’ing Time.” Yes, I watched Heat recently and that just took me out of the movie for a while. I wonder if there are Pacino-less cuts of Heat like there are Jar Jar-less cuts of Phantom Menace. But the bank robbery scene is pure joy.

    • mutecypher says:

      Crud, that reminds me. I haven’t watched the HR Giger documentary yet.

      • sheila says:

        Interesting: in watching Crimson Peak again – and talking with Guillermo – I hadn’t really put together that those hallways look like the inside of some gigantic beast – a ribcage or something – a clear Giger nod!!

        There were so many “nods” in that movie that it made me dizzy!

        • mutecypher says:

          I think I mentioned that in my comments at one point when we were talking about the movie here. What did he say, he spent 9 years thinking about the movie? It shows.

    • sheila says:

      Mute cypher – I’m so glad to hear you say that. A lot of people seem to think that’s a great line – but to me, it’s just Al Pacino showing off and it felt totally random. Not a character thing, just Pacino trying to ‘get something going’. He was wonderful in The Insider – although he did have some “Let me now YELL SUDDENLY SO EVERYONE SEES MY ACTING” moments – but in general, he was understated (for him) and part of an ensemble.

      and yes, this documentary was SO GOOD!! I didn’t know much about him – and I suppose real chess-players would get more out of the film than someone like me, who basically knows how the pieces move and that’s about it. Really really interesting – interviews with him, his family, his competitors –

      AND: the documentary has been “in the making” for 10 years. The film-makers have been following him around since he was 10 years old or whatever (Lord knows how much footage they actually had!) – so you get to see him develop, you get to hear how he talks about chess when he’s a kid, and then later …

      What an amazing story. Really good!!

      • mutecypher says:

        I didn’t recall until the recent re-watch that Dennis Haysbert was the cook/parolee who was killed as the getaway driver. He was so good as President Palmer in 24, and as Snakedoctor in The Unit. I’d buy insurance from him.

        Even Pacino’s “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” from GFIII was too much (a great line, though). It’s interesting to compare him to Robert Duvall, because of the movies they’ve shared, and Duvall getting so much out of going so small. Maybe a WASP versus Italian thing. Camille Paglia would know.

        • sheila says:

          I don’t know – if you think about Robert De Niro, also Italian, he doesn’t go for loud showboating either – when he does get loud, it’s terrifying – because it rarely happens.

          And Pacino was super-quiet and so still in The Godfather that you were drawn to him – especially in comparison to James Caan, so obnoxious and mouthy and all the rest.

          I think Pacino developed some bad habits as an actor – and fell into the trap of pushing in order to ‘remind’ people that he was a “contender” once upon a time – something that De Niro has rarely done. He just keeps going – playing comedies and support staff and cameo parts – I think Pacino has a very hard time with that.

          I’m not sure how anyone could deal gracefully with being the “hope for American acting” and labeled as such when you were, what, 25 years old??

          I have friends who worked with him at the Actors Studio in his various projects (most notably his “Salome” – which obsessed him for years) – and said he is one of the most generous people alive, truly adores talent, is unafraid to say “Oh my God, you are so GREAT” and all the rest – totally not surprising. If you see him in the John Cazale documentary – you can see how much he admired Cazale, even modeled himself after Cazale.

          I think he just has some bad habits and who is going to scold him out of them at this point? Who could say to him, “Dude, stop yelling randomly. Just say the line.”

          You know? I feel like the same thing happened with DDL’s “I drink the milkshake line.” I feel like DDL himself felt that that moment was brilliant – there’s a self-congratulatory feeling in the line-reading. Now that happens sometimes in rehearsal – where you hit upon something and go with it and there’s this thrilling feeling that you’re in line with the “pulse of the playwright” (as my college acting teacher put it) – but a good director will know that those moments should stay in rehearsal, and INFORM what is happening in the scene. That milkshake line could have been subtext – and should have been edited out. But you can see how these great actors can be very intimidating!

          Yet still: directors should protect them from themselves, as much as possible. Part of the job.

          • mutecypher says:

            De Niro proves (false) my conjecture. Mostly meant as shade to Camille, who has been a pebble in my shoe with her ragging on Taylor Swift.

            Continuing to free associate – I’ve been watching Penny Dreadful based on all the great things people were saying about Eva Green (justified). I’m just beginning season 2, so I’m also looking forward to Wes Studi showing up.

            And speaking of Eva Green, I got on a kick and watched her in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (or am I on a Josh Brolin kick after Hail Ceasar?). I think you mentioned that you were considering a long write-up about Sucker Punch, a movie I didn’t love. There’s something similar between the Sin City movies and Sucker Punch that I don’t quite get, can’t quite appreciate. I’m hoping you can help with that. Like Kim Morgan comparing Michael Bay’s Transformers to Luis Bunel’s Un Chien Andalou helped me enjoy those movies. Just like male strippers in Magic Mike XXL can be healers, critics can be guides to give us mooks a way to appreciate a film. I know you write so much, but I’m being Oliver Twist here with “Please ma’am, I want some more.”

            Maybe it’s time to switch to the decaf.

            If you were a director who agreed with the notion that X% (where X is some number greater than 50) of making a successful movie is proper casting, and you got a Pacino or DDL, you’d probably be looking at scenes like the ones we are talking about and say “but this is his thing, this is part of what he brings.” And it would be hard to tell them to dial it back. “I go big, isn’t that why you hired me?”

            Kill your darlings, always good advice. But hard to take.

          • sheila says:

            Camille hates blondes indiscriminately. :) It’s a blindspot. One of many. But God, I love her anyway.

            I’m not sure I see the similarity between Sin City and Sucker Punch. Sin City seems more of a “spoof/spin” on comic books/film noir – but it features charismatic compelling femme fatale women – the kinds of women I really miss in cinema. Strong “sexual personae” (to quote Puglia.) Eva Green is one of those.

            Sucker Punch, for me, is one of the best films portraying what the “patriarchy” feels like. It’s not that it’s a fascist state and we all hAVE to go along – but when you ARE trapped in it – that is a pretty accurate depiction of its double-bind. For me, there hasn’t been a film since, say, the “women’s pictures” of the 1930s and 40s that have really portrayed the issue in SUCH a blatant way.

            The “double bind” thing is DESIGNED to keep women confused/disoriented/unable to even perceive that they have power.

            And in that circumstance: choice is so limited – that is it any wonder that women have gone batshit-insane over the years, trying to bust out. (“The Witch” is another great example, come to think of it.)

            Life as Mental Asylum, Life as Whorehouse. Those are your options.

            Now this is extreme, of course – and the movie is extreme – with its video-game aesthetic. But – like Atwood did in Handmaid’s Tail (so excited Elizabeth Moss will be doing that role on Hul!!) – when certain attitudes prevail, women are always on the chopping block – reduced into pre-conceived roles: child-bearer (i.e. valuable), whore (valuable too, but in a different way), matriarch (not as valuable but very powerful in her way).

            If you don’t “fit in” – well, they may just lock you up. (Metaphorically).

            So that’s why I love Sucker Punch. I love Zach Snyder’s aesthetic – love it way more than silly Christopher Nolan’s. In my estimation, the millennial boys who wrote about Sucker Punch like “This is a feminist film” – mainly because the women “kicked ass” (all while wearing school-girl outfits) – is incorrect and part of the problem.

            I’m actually sick of women being called “badass” and having it be a compliment. I’ve been guilty of it in the past, but sometime in the last year I’ve had it. “Badass” discounts vulnerability, flaws, mistakes, human-ness – If women can only be depicted as “badass”, then that is not a good thing for women in film – or anywhere else. Gena Rowlands in “Woman Under Influence” wasn’t a “badass” and that is one of the greatest performances ever. Now, though, it would be criticized because she’s a “victim” or “weak.” I hate that. Being vulnerable, being flawed, is not being a victim – it means you’re human. (There’s a reason my acting teacher friends tell me that young actresses nowadays have such a hard time playing Tennessee Williams’ tortured yet brave heroines – they actually are unable to do it – because they judge, say, Blanche – as “weak.” This is internalized patriarchy.) I am NOT going to be “badass” all the time because that – like wife/whore/mother – is way too limiting.

            So I’m sick of 25 year old boys telling me what feminism looks like – number 1 (and this from a generation where teenage girls are now looking into labia surgery because the boys are turned off by human-looking female genitalia) – and 2. I’m retiring “badass” as a compliment. Or, at least, as the arbiter of what is awesome about portrayals of women onscreen.

            But what I am left with in Sucker Punch is not so much “badassery” – or “they own their sexuality” (bull SHIT they do) but the vulnerability of those women – cracked psyches from a double bind – and the terrible isolation that the double-bind puts on women. Again: Sucker Punch is an extreme and dystopian version of it (just like Handmaid’s Tail) – but that’s why it resonates. It’s exaggerating to make a point.

            and yeah: there’s another level of Sucker Punch I’d like to address and as always I have procrastinated.

            Believe it or not, I’m going on a 12-day writing vacation end of next week – ha – but whatever fun I’ve been having over the last 3 weeks, it has NOT been a vacation – and I’m pretty tapped out. Anyway, I have a bunch of stuff I need space to work on – Sucker Punch is one of them. Elvis another. A couple of other things. I just need to step out of the work-flow so I can have room to think.

            Thanks for bringing it up though – AND thanks for remembering!

            Oh, and Amen to your last point. Seriously: if Al Pacino says you want to do your movie, you say, “Yes, sir. Thank you so much, sir” and stay out of his way. :)

            But I think that kind of reverence can be bad for an actor – because you develop bad habits, etc.

            His continuing work in the Actors Studio, his passion about acting, is clear – so I’m certainly not throwing out baby/bathwater.

            Every actor has their “schtick”, I suppose – his is just more obvious – and as far as I can tell, it has gotten WAY more exaggerated in the last 20 years.

            From my perspective, he is having a harder time growing older than De Niro is. You know, dying his hair Elvis-black, etc. He’s holding onto something. and there appears to be something in his ego that won’t let him “submit” to being a side character.

            Hard to picture him in the role De Niro played in Joy – or Silver Linings Playbook –

          • mutecypher says:

            //Camille hates blondes indiscriminately. :) It’s a blindspot. One of many. But God, I love her anyway.// So much is explained.

            I was going to bring up Kim Novak in Vertigo, but Camille probably just loves the brunette version.

            You know, I watched Sucker Punch with the “it’s feminism because the women kick ass” as my motivation and ended up not seeing it as any sort of celebration at all. I was a bit Zach Snyder’ed out after The Owls of Ga’Hoole, but wanted to watch it because of those sorts of reviews. And then didn’t get it. Perhaps viewing it as portraying women’s lives under the patriarchy is a better way in.

            When I was comparing it to the Sin City movies I had Jessica Alba’s Nancy in mind even more than Eva Green’s Ava (sorry, I’m bad at providing context when I’m free associating). Nancy provides a way for us to learn that Dwight and Marv and Hartigan are Sensitive Tough Guys, but she doesn’t seem to have much agency of her own. I think she’s supposed to, and I’m just not getting how. Or as you say, perhaps she’s truly “only” supposed to be vulnerable. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez strike me as thoughtful guys, not panderers, so I’m at a loss as to what I’m supposed to feel and think about her. Are they (FM and RR) just like some Patriarch (that word) from Blake, pointing at a sign that says “Woman Is the Nigger Of The World?” I think there’s more than that, though I’m not getting it. Or maybe they think that’s a lesson that needs to be continually taught.

            I didn’t know there was going to be another version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Interesting.

      • Patrick says:

        Missed that there was a Carlsen documentary on my pass through the viewing diary, glad Mute brought that up. I’ve been following him for 6 or 7 years, or whenever it was he reached the upper levels of the chess world. Highest rating ever, best end game player ever, pretty remarkable talent. Another one to look for.

        • sheila says:

          // best end game player ever, //

          Okay: I’m not a chess player. I understand “end game” – but could you please elaborate on what you mean?

          It was pretty much made “clear” in the documentary – and I was picking up a lot on his various strategies and how he thought about chess – but would love to hear more from someone who understands the game.

          What does “best end game player” mean and how did that manifest?

          / Thank you for your time. :)

    • carolyn clarke says:

      Agree totally with your comments about Mr. Pacino. It’s almost like he’s not the in same movie. I mentioned in a prior post that “Heat” is one of the few movies that both my husband and I enjoy but for entirely different reasons. He’s a Pacino fanatic and I love DeNiro.

      Also agree on the bank robbery scene. Sometimes I tape the movie when its on and fast forward to the bank robbery. Michael Mann just does those scenes very well, IMO. You can see the style in “Theif” and “Blackhat” and even “The Last of the Mohicans”. Just gorgeous.

      • sheila says:

        // both my husband and I enjoy but for entirely different reasons. He’s a Pacino fanatic and I love DeNiro. //

        Carolyn – ha! Yes, I remember that!

        I agree about the bank robbery sequence. Masterful. I mean, I can’t imagine how you even begin to film something like that and have it come off.

        It was interesting to hear Wes Studi talk about Mann’s relationship with his crew – and how tough he is on them and getting what he wants. I imagine you have to be that tough – because with an end result THAT impressive – NOTHING onscreen is an accident. It’s all planned within an inch of its life.

        I love Miami Vice too.

  5. Patrick says:

    Sure. First, let me say I fall on the casual player end of the chess playing spectrum. But what I think it means is that if you get into an endgame with Carlsen, you are going to have a real fight. He is so good at the end game that if he has an edge, he is almost certainly going to find the winning line and grind it out, and sometimes that can mean 100 or more moves. If the position is even, the opposing player is going to have to play very precisely or Carlsen will take advantage of any inaccuracies and still find a way to win. And he even will pull out a draw or a win in a slightly inferior position once in a while.

    I was rummaging around in the chessgames.com database looking for a particular game of Carlsen’s with what I thought was a great end game sequence, couldn’t find it, I did put a link below if you are up for a short little demonstration, a game from a few days ago instead I happened to have run across. It’s 50 moves, which sounds like a bunch, but in the move list below the board you can click on the moves and the position will jump to that point, you could go to move 40 and play the last 10 moves or so and get the idea. I understand if what I said above is more than enough.

    Bonus chess geekery for you – These top players are all very gifted. I saw a short video once with Vladimir Kramnik (one of the top players of the last 40 years), it was a post game press conference, they had an easel set up with a board with magnetic chess pieces. He started playing through a just completed game, would get to certain points, play a 4 or 5 move variation he’d considered, then say something like – You can see this would have been a worse position (I couldn’t see it) – and then reset the pieces, play some more moves, then do it again. So he played through a 40 something move game with variations, from memory, and you could see it was absolutely the easiest thing in the world for him to do this. As easy for him as reciting the alphabet would be for you or me.

    Carlsen versus Kramnik from last week, maybe April 27. I thought it was pretty good, maybe Kramnik goofed up a little bit too –


    • sheila says:

      Wow wow wow. This is FASCINATING Patrick – thank you!!

      I will definitely watch the clips you mention – it’s a topic that really interests me, mainly because it’s so obscure to me – and I love people who are the best at whatever it is they do – and trying to figure out how they see things differently, or HOW they do what they do.

      Thank you for laying it all out – I think I can see what you are talking about.

      There’s a sequence in Magnus when Magnus is going for world champion – the big match in India – and it was a total cliff-hanger and you could see the current world champion start off with confidence because Magnus had not been performing well – and then gradually start to panic. and once he panicked, Magnus swooped in for the win.

      It was amazing.

      • Patrick says:

        That part about the championship in India sounds great, I had not heard about this documentary before, I’ll be looking for it. The game I couldn’t find, I don’t know why either because you can be pretty specific in the search, oh well, that was Carlsen versus Anand, Carlsen seemingly pulled a win in an even position out of his hat.

        On another topic in this thread – I’m with everyone else on the bank robbery scene in “Heat”, and in general, I consider Mann to be the best director of action scenes ever. If someone is better I can’t think of who it would be. Miami Vice, Last of the Mohicans, and Blackhat all have some very well choreographed and executed actions scenes. All the gee whiz CGI generated action scenes in the big blockbusters mostly leave me cold just because they are so divorced from anything that might be possible, so they lose any sense of excitement. I’m thinking Avenger type movies, Spiderman, Michael Bay, etc.

        • sheila says:

          //All the gee whiz CGI generated action scenes in the big blockbusters mostly leave me cold just because they are so divorced from anything that might be possible, so they lose any sense of excitement. //

          I totally agree. Mann’s sense of space and time and objects/bodies moving through space – and how all that can be captured – is world-class. It’s like a ballet, some of the things he pulls off.

      • Patrick says:

        “and I love people who are the best at whatever it is they do – and trying to figure out how they see things differently, or HOW they do what they do.”

        To go off on a bit of a tangent (but it’s related, really), I read the Walter Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs, and what I got out of it mostly, setting aside his personal issues, is what you are interested in – best at what he did, and how that came about. What you learn is how obsessive he was about every last detail of the products, and how he considered every aspect of the product – look and usability. He would let nothing go until he was happy with it, no matter how much trouble changing something was going to be. Sort of a long book to read just to get that out of it if you aren’t otherwise interested in the guy, but I did find that part of it fascinating. The movie mostly focuses on the personal relationships, so you wouldn’t see it there.

        • sheila says:

          I’ve been thinking a lot about this because of the passing of Prince.

          Yes, he was an egomaniac. He was Prince. You don’t “get to be” Prince by being humble, or taking “No” for an answer.

          Yes, he was eccentric. He was Prince. You don’t “get to be” Prince by being like everyone else.

          I think this sometimes angers people – especially because we now live in a world where (as the cliche goes) everyone gets a trophy on the baseball team because “we are all winners.”

          Well, yes, we shouldn’t shame people for NOT being “the best” – but “the best” will rise to the top anyway. Talent is not evenly distributed. Some people are “touched” with more of it than others – and who knows what talent actually IS. I think there’s an innate gift, for sure – and Prince was clearly a prodigy – as Magnus was – but it seems to me that the defining difference is that these people do not give up. Ever. They are ABLE to focus on ONE THING for the entirety of their lives. And often it is that obsessive single-mindedness – that can make geniuses difficult to be, say, married to – is what makes them who they are, what makes the difference. At the point where other people get frustrated or lose interest, these people dig in deeper.

          • Jessie says:

            I agree totally. If you’re Prince what’s the point of false modesty? My favourite track from Janelle Monae’s latest featured Prince and he delivers the line I am sharper than a switchblade/first and last of what God made and that’s the truth with absolute sincerity and self-assurance and who is to argue with him? Who could listen to that and QUIBBLE?

            They are ABLE to focus on ONE THING for the entirety of their lives.
            Okay, my other favourite song about Prince is Bill Callahan’s Prince Alone in The Studio which about this very search for perfection and is not sexy but it is inspirational and devastating and hilariously melodramatic in equal parts.

          • sheila says:

            Jessie – wow, that second clip. I have goosebumps. and the lyrics!!! So funny and bizarre.

            and yeah: the quibbling is weird. Almost as bad as the “what a waste” comments about his death. As though any of us can choose when we die. Would you say “what a waste” about Patton Oswalt’s wife? Or “what a waste” about Jim Henson’s life? To say that Prince’s life was a “waste”?? This is just mediocre people happy to see someone far better at one thing than they will ever be at anything fall. There’s this smug concern-troll thing that happens with certain kinds of deaths that seems pretty heartless to me. If he was taking prescription pain pills – then that just puts him line with, what, 80% of the population? I mean, prescription pills are the #1 addiction in the US and probably everywhere else. I don’t know – I haven’t been following along with the coroner’s statements, etc. I just don’t like the tone of such conversations.

            Okay, now to listen to Janelle Monae’s song – which I also haven’t heard before.

          • sheila says:

            Oh my God, Janelle’s song. That is soooooooo hot.

          • sheila says:

            His guitar, too … Ouch.

          • Jessie says:

            So glad you like that Callahan track, I have tried describing it to people and it’s just…impossible ha ha. But I just love it when musicians are inspired to write about other musicians.

            His guitar, too … Ouch.
            always!!!!!! And yes that track is scorchingly hot. It’s so cool to me that they recorded together. I love it. If we were going to play the “next Prince” game, which we shouldn’t, I’d nominate her.

            After the news broke I had a relative who said something atrociously thoughtless and unfeeling and I had been hoping that it was confined to mostly my atrociously thoughtless and unfeeling relatives but alas it seems not. People always gotta build themselves up by being dicks.

          • sheila says:

            // I just love it when musicians are inspired to write about other musicians. //

            It’s one of my favorite things!

            Scott Walker’s song about Elvis witnessing 9/11 – and falling to his knees as the towers fell – say what? – is bone-chillingly bizarre – and like nothing else I’ve ever heard. Also indescribable. These figures – Prince or Elvis – or anyone really – loom in our heads as projector screens somehow.

            and yeah. I had to get off the Internet after Robin Williams committed suicide.

            With all the cushy touchy-feely “let’s understand mental illness” rhetoric thrown around in our culture – it somehow is never remembered or utilized in the moment. I get it, suicide is horrific, and people who have lost people that way find it hard to forgive – also understandable – but it was the TONE of the conversation I found unbearable. Heartless.

            And fuggedabout it when someone overdoses. “They deserve what they got” “Loser” “Well, what did you expect …” etc.

            I can’t stand it.

          • Patrick says:

            I don’t know if there is a sort of expiration date on these comments sections, and I don’t literally mean that of course, but not sure this will come to your attention. Well anyway – mentioning Jobs here got his story rattling around in my brain again (that darn brain of mine, it does that sort of thing) and I was going to blather on some more about him, but re-reading what I said, it wasn’t as vague as I’d thought. It is one of my favorite biographies, I really do think I got something more from it than just – This is what his life was about. I recall specifically thinking as I was reading it – So this is what it takes to be great, to do something great. The book is quite good at communicating how passionate he was, how sure of himself he was, how driven he was.

            I like your last point – obsession throughout a life, plus just plain old innate ability, those are probably it. Another favorite biography is “Genius” by James Gleick, about Richard Feynman (so many books to read……). One of the great intellects of the 20th century. And a very fascinating character. And incredibly naturally gifted, he could do things very few others could do. I dug up a couple of quotes I had some memory of. I put a link to the full article below if you are up for reading it.

            “There are two kinds of geniuses, the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians,’ ” wrote the mathematician Mark Kac. “An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they have done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.”

            And –

            Coleman chose not to study with Feynman directly. Watching Feynman work, he said, was like going to the Chinese opera. “When he was doing work he was doing it in a way that was just — absolutely out of the grasp of understanding. You didn’t know where it was going, where it had gone so far, where to push it, what was the next step. With Dick the next step would somehow come out of — divine revelation.”


          • sheila says:

            Patrick – I love those quotes! Thank you! James Gleick wrote a short book about Newton that I really liked – I think I wrote about it on my site but it was years ago. I loved his writing style. I don’t know much about Feynman so these quotes are very intriguing.

  6. Helena says:

    What a month, Sheila, what a month. Thanks for sharing all this, it’s been so great to read over the past year or so about the progress of your script, the filming, and now it feels like it has made its official debut in the world. The stills were beautiful. I hope deals are being done on its behalf as we speak.

    As usual I’ve put a few of the films you mention on the ‘must watch’ list. Love and Mercy up next, I think. (Watched that doc about the Wrecking Crew and really enjoyed it, I love the musicianship from that era and the idea of that whole network of musicians from all over the country coming together in LA. and being able to do anything asked of them.)

    Grandma, tho – I watched this online a few weeks ago loved it. Just a few things I loved a) that we were given just a glimpse of Elle’s very deep and private grief – enough to see how it colours everything she does in the whole film. b) Just a detail really, the way people would talk about Elle’s relationship and she’d say, ‘it wasn’t quite like that’ really rang a bell for me – I remember a friend whose partner had just died saying pretty much the same thing, that people had a particular idea of who fulfilled which ‘role’ (eg the fighter, the peacemaker, the ‘grounded’ one etc) in the relationship but the reality was much more complicated. c) Elle’s life story cycling round and playing out in different ways with her daughter and grand-daughter. d) I’d heard about the scene with Sam Elliott and it was everything I hoped for, and more. It burned a hole right through the screen. e) the car.

    Oh, and enjoy the writing vacation!

    • sheila says:

      Helena – Yes, it’s been quite a month. It just did not stop, and I thought I would collapse or get sick or not be able to make it through – it was an endurance test – but everything went great!!

      I loved Wrecking Crew!! Love & Mercy re-creates that studio atmosphere you saw in Wrecking Crew beautifully and really commits itself to Brian Wilson’s ART and how he did what he did in ways that other music biopics just don’t. How do you explain or show creativity? So many biopics just don’t even bother because it’s so hard – but Love & Mercy shows it.

      And if you weren’t into The Beach Boys or if you took them for granted then something like Love & Mercy would definitely make you go back and take a second look – which is totally awesome. I am so glad that Brian Wilson – who had so many years of torment and undiagnosed mental illness and 90% deaf-ness in one ear because his father beat him and all the rest – is getting his due in this way.

      I’m so glad you saw Grandma! I love your observations about the relationship – and people’s comments about it and Elle’s reactions. So good – so private. And then there’s that gorgeous sequence near the end when she’s in a cab by herself, touching her Violet tattoo, and thinking about her partner – no flashbacks, nothing – we see the whole relationship on Lily Tomlin’s face – at one point, she starts laughing out loud – randomly – at some memory we will never know – and it was such a beautiful piece of acting!!

      Sam Elliott, man. Yowza. He KILLS. And he was a romantic lead in the same year with Blythe Danner – I’ll See You In My Dreams, I think it was called? – another excellent movie – and so he’s really “having a moment” as a valid elderly leading man – and I’m so happy about it because I have always loved him!

  7. Paula says:

    “No, that’s your seat. Isn’t it?” This makes me giggle, like GdT is this natural force and all will bow to him. What an experience and a memory.

    And you met Nancy Allen! Blow Out was fantastic. She’s so unexpectedly sexy with her kewpie doll eyes and round cherub cheeks cut with this raspy voice and attitude. I love it when she plays against her sweet looks like the evil teenager in Carrie.

    We just watched Mystery Men with our son who went berserk for it and forgot how I loved Janeane Garofalo. On a side note of other ridiculous movies to love and watch more times than necessary, did you ever see Clay Pigeons?

    • sheila says:

      The plane was so small that one side of the aisle had two seats (where GDT was sitting) and the opposite side had just one seat. GDT said to me, “I asked for two seats because of my bottom.” ha. Later, when introducing the film, he said, “So one thing you need to understand about me is that I’m fat, fucked-up, and weird.” He swears like a sailor! One of the questions from the audience was why he had never done a big superhero movie. He said he had been offered huge amounts of money but … “You can’t fuck without a boner.” He was a huge hit with the audience because of loosey-goosey comments like this. He’s so HIMSELF at all times.

      When we were flying down, we started talking about Hitchcock, and I hadn’t read anything where he laid out the “nods” to Notorious, but I had talked about it a lot in my review. I said Notorious was one of my favorite Hitchcocks and he said the same thing – I mentioned the “keys” in Crimson Peak – “and I was so excited because of the keys in Notorious.”

      And he said – and this was so FABULOUS I got goosebumps (I also love how excited he is to talk about his love of his own work. It might come off as egotistical in someone else – but not in him) – He said, “And if you look again, you’ll notice that the key in Notorious has the word ‘UNICA’ on it – which means ‘only.’ The key in Crimson Peak has the word ‘ENOLA’ on it – which means ‘alone.'”

      SO COOL. I’m so glad I brought it up!

      And yes, Nancy Allen was amazing!! She had so many great stories, and talked a lot about how she created that character. She said, “I think my one contribution was that as the character was written – she had nothing going on in her life. But I thought she should have something – a dream, a goal – something – so I came up with the makeup artist thing. And of course you know that she will never be a makeup artist for the movies, like she wants to, but she at least had some goal in mind of what she wanted to do with her life.”

      I really liked that.

      And the WAY she talked about working with John Travolta – twice – was so awesome. They loved working together. And the role in Blow Out was originally written for someone nerdy and obsessive – Richard Dreyfuss was considered – but Nancy Allen (who was married to De Palma at the time) passed on the script to Travolta – he flipped over it and then began a single-minded campaign to get that role.

      He’s so riveting in it. Those huge close-ups of his ridiculously handsome face …

      What a treat!

      I have not seen Clay Pigeons! I’ll look it up – it’s not ringing a bell!

      • Paula says:

        //“And if you look again, you’ll notice that the key in Notorious has the word ‘UNICA’ on it – which means ‘only.’ The key in Crimson Peak has the word ‘ENOLA’ on it – which means ‘alone.’”// I’m dead. This conversation between the two of you has killed me.

        • sheila says:

          Isn’t that the best detail ever? I thought: “I KNEW those Notorious echoes were deliberate!!” But I had no idea HOW deliberate! UNICA – ENOLA. Brilliant!!

      • Paula says:

        Clay Pigeons is so darkly funny and weirdly scrunchy. Janeane is her deadpan self, Joachin is flustered with terrible luck and Vince Vaughan is so good as a serial killer.

      • Todd Restler says:

        Check out Clay Pigeons, it’s something else! One of the best opening scenes I can remember. Maybe Vaughn’s best role outside of Swingers.

        Blow Out is so good, and it’s also one of those movies that got me into movies because it was on constantly in the early days of cable and I’ve probably seen it 20 or 30 times. (This is a problem of mine, I re watch movies I love over and over, I am the anti Pauline Kael! But I get something new every viewing- but I really need to watch more stuff that is new to me!)

        First off, it’s knowledgeable about movies, and watching this was one of my first appreciations for the work that went into what was on screen.

        The scene where he pieces the photos from the magazine together into a “film”, and sync’s it up with his recording, is one of my all time favorites. Movies should “show”, not “tell”, and this is one of the best examples ever.

        John Lithgow is an underrated actor, he seems like a really nice guy in real life, and can certainly play sweet nice guys on film, but MAN, when he goes dark, it’s freakin’ DARK. His bad guy on Dexter still haunts me, and the way he coldly states that he has “decided to make her death look like one in a random string of killings” gives me chills.

        I also love how De Palma inserts a mini-Lumet movie into the film during the flashback to Travolta working on an undercover case.

        Dennis Franz!

        “It’s a good scream. It’s a good scream. ”

        All-time great film.

        • sheila says:


          Blow Out is superb – I saw it the way you saw it for the first time – and I remember thinking (and I was a teenager): “WHAT the hell is THIS.” Especially because of the Travolta factor. This was the Grease/Welcome Back Kotter guy … in this?? What a thrilling bit of casting. I love how transparent Travolta is here – that early scene in the hospital, before he realizes what he’s up against. When he’s getting interviewed and being told that there was no girl in the car. He’s so open – he almost laughs out loud at one point. Like: “What the hell, dude, of course there was a girl in the car because why else would I be here?”

          I love all of the techno-nerd sequences so much. I love the sequence you mention – when he puts together all the images – and of course, the masterful sequence when he’s out there in the woods and the whole thing goes down. It’s so PARANOID. Like “The Conversation”-paranoid. Technology! The fear of it, the utilization of it – obviously Blow-Up was a huge influence on Blow Out.

          It’d be interesting to really theorize on why. I think it was a paranoid time, for sure. Leaders were getting assassinated left and right.

          Also: I think it shows the long-term effects of the Zapruder film – especially for film-makers. Like: here we are, making our movies, but look at what this same technology could capture if we were in the right place at the right time …. And all kinds of paranoia was the result. John Lithgow is the monster in the dark, the efficient emissary from giant collective – massed up to silence this poor young woman. He’s a foot-soldier – and yes, awesome. He can be so warm – have you seen Love Is Strange yet?? oh my God – and then so … otherworldly cut-off and psychopathic, like here.

          I haven’t seen Dexter.

          And yes: Dennis Franz!!

          Nancy Allen sang his praises to high heaven – which always makes me happy to hear.

          • Todd Restler says:

            Dexter was hit or miss, and I stopped watching after the Lithgow season, but he might have played the creepiest killer in TV history. His season was amazing.

            Since you enjoy serial killer stuff you would probably like the show, it’s good, but not perfect. But if you just track down that one season you will be blown away.

          • sheila says:

            A friend of mine is obsessed with Dexter – and I love the lead actor – so I’m sure I would definitely groove on it (especially, as you say, the serial killer part).

            It’s been on for – what – 7 years now or something??

            You intrigue me with your words on Lithgow – I need to see that. I love him.

        • sheila says:

          and thanks Todd/Paula – I will check out Clay Pigeons!

        • sheila says:

          Todd: back to Blow-Out:

          I can’t remember if I wrote about this during Ebertfest (this last month was a whirlwind) –

          but Nancy Allen was so great in her QA about the film – the preparation for it, the casting, the insane filming (that parade that ends it!!) – as well as how she developed that kind of thinly-drawn character.

          During the QA period – she mentioned Vilmos Zsigmond – who, of course, shot it (gorgeously) – who (of course again) just died this year. She didn’t really tell any Zsigmond stories during the onstage conversation – so I “got the mike” in the audience and asked if she had any good Zsigmond stories to share.

          She just lit up – which made me happy (asking a question in an audience of 1500 is daunting) – and she told some great stories.

          One was the scene between her and Dennis Franz in his tiny disgusting apartment. Zsigmond set up the lights, and they proceeded to film the entire scene, which took a day (if I remember correctly). Then they saw the dailies and Zsigmond was not happy at all. He didn’t like the lighting, primarily – which then affected everything else. Whatever his issue was, he was NOT happy – with his own work. So he talked to De Palma about it, and De Palma was like, “Okay, let’s shoot it again.” !!!

          That speaks well of De Palma, for sure, but it also really shows how closely any good director works with his cinematographer.

          This goes back to the Fincher thing again. You do what you need to do to get it right. And you listen to your trusted associates if they have issues – that’s why you hired them.

          So they went back and shot the entire scene again – with different lighting and framing – and then BOOM, the scene popped. (I love that scene.)

          The other thing she said was that in the final months of Zsigmond’s life, she and De Palma and Travolta went to visit him (which, first of all, heart-crack). They sat around and talked about old times. It was a farewell. Zsigmond had on his desk a framed photo of himself, De Palma and Allen, on the set of Blow-Out and that made her feel so happy – that it was a good memory for him, one he wanted to keep around him.

          Beautiful stories – so I was very glad I asked the question. :)

  8. Jeff Gee says:

    Hey, if we didn’t have DDL pushing the milkshake needle to 11, we couldn’t have THIS.

  9. Desirae says:

    Sheila, have you seen Grace and Frankie? I think it’s brilliant and it’s so nice to see Tomlin and Fonda being recognized for the geniuses they are, as well as being capable of carrying a series. There’s a bit in one of the early episodes where Fonda’s character goes to her daughter’s office and has to sit in a bean bag chair that makes me smile whenever I think of it. It’s such a stupid joke, really – but the vision of Fonda struggling with the indignity of trying to get back up from this damn chair. Exactly my kind of comedy.

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t! I’ve been meaning to check it out – it’s a very exciting time for older actresses right now. There are way more options than, say, Joan Crawford had.

      Now I need to see the bean bag chair moment. I think it’s sometimes forgotten – and I know I sometimes forget – how funny Jane Fonda can be.

  10. Patrick says:

    Feynman is someone who would receive your seal of approval. I think a reasonably decent comparison with someone to give you an idea of what the guy is like is Camille Paglia. Different fields of course, but alike in being intellectually honest, intellectually curious about a range of things (she is now on to exploring Native American culture at the end of the ice age), no fear of disturbing the establishment, truth tellers. I fished up something I read a while ago, a commencement address Feynman gave at Cal Tech. He is talking about science, about how hard it is to do experiments where bias does not creep in, and how important it is to watch for such things. Even though he is talking about science, I think you can extend this to many areas – the idea of integrity in what you do. I put the link to Feynman’s talk below and excerpted one short paragraph below the link.

    While I was at it, I found this, speaking of not being intellectually honest, from a Camille interview, this is her speaking –

    I thought, “Well, they’re feminist. I’m feminist. OK. All right.” We had a dinner. We were going to go to a lecture, and so on. We didn’t get through to dessert. Let me tell you about that dinner. Because we had this screaming argument about hormones.

    They deny that hormones have the slightest impact on human life. They said hormones don’t even exist. They told me I had been brainwashed by male scientists to believe — these are women who are in the English department. Wonderful education they had in biology.


    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are
    the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about
    that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other
    scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after

    • sheila says:

      // who would receive your seal of approval //

      Uh-oh. I like what I like, don’t like what I don’t like, but do not consider myself to be the arbiter of what is good. Maybe I just don’t like the term “seal of approval.” But I am intrigued by Feynman, by those who can see more or farther or deeper than others.

      In regards to integrity and bias: I fell down a rabbit hole a couple of days ago reading Retraction Watch – you’re probably aware of it – I forget about that site for months – years at a time – and then I remember it, go back to visit, and emerge HOURS later. It’s a time-suck – especially because the commenters are so awesome. Yesterday I got sucked into the Diederik Stapel situation and finally had to be like, “Sheila, you have shit to do. Turn the laptop off.” But that’s a fascinating case about bias – for sure – but not just bias, it’s really just making shit up because of a mixture of sociopathic ambition and the envy of a Mediocre Man who wanted to Seem Important.

      I love Camille, but I think she has a tendency towards exaggeration. Were they all really “screaming” about hormones over dinner? Screaming? Come on, Camille. I’m sure they weren’t screaming. She loves to be the Lone Wolf, and sometimes she’s spot on, but sometimes I roll my eyes. Her point gets lost, too, in that exaggeration. Also: men have so often have hijacked this conversation, used our words against us, use the hormone argument against us (it’s still happening – politics is filled with people talking about wombs and hormones and vaginas and it’s just unbelievable. There was that one moron from Minnesota I think who suggested that women swallow tubes with a camera on the end of it to show some aspect of their pregnancy and it was like, “Dude. The stomach is not connected to the uterus. Why are you in any way shape or form even a PART of a conversation about women’s health?” If you’re a woman, this kind of talk is terrifying. Because decisions are being made about your body by people who not only don’t get it but don’t CARE that they don’t get it). Meanwhile: who have acted like fucking lunatics since the beginning of time starting wars every other day? Men. And WOMEN are the ones who are judged as melodramatic and emotional and “hormonal”. Guess it’s easier to point the finger than look in the mirror. In my experience, women are far less emotional than men, in general.

  11. Patrick says:

    //Uh-oh. I like what I like, don’t like what I don’t like, but do not consider myself to be the arbiter of what is good. Maybe I just don’t like the term “seal of approval.” //

    Given what I may have been able to deduce about what you like and do not like from reading your posts here for several years, I think, possibly, that Richard Feynman is someone who you would respect for his intellectual integrity and rigorous approach to science and ideas. Better?

    Had not heard of retraction watch, but I’m aware generally of these flawed studies, or studies where the results are actually fabricated. That’s probably a social sciences problem more than the hard sciences, since you are dealing with emotions on both ends – the person conducting the study, the subject being studied. The hard sciences aren’t immune – the cold fusion thing of years ago is one of the best examples, flawed results by two guys with PhD’s in chemistry, I think they just did not know how to conduct a proper experiment.

    Men and wars, well, yeah, there have been a few from time to time. I’m reading a biography of Napoleon, sheesh, wars were nearly constant.

    • sheila says:

      Retraction Watch is super fun! Most of it is crowd-sourced – and those commenters are ON POINT. It’s not so much a witch hunt (although sometimes it is) as members of a community protecting the integrity of said community. and yes, social sciences dominate. If something is too good to be true, it probably is, and etc.

      Stephen Glass (for example) probably wouldn’t have gotten away with his lies for as many years in the world of the Internet. That story will never cease to amaze me! And he’s STILL trying to get out from under it – just recently, the New Republic had to retract ENTIRELY a story written by him – 18, 20 years ago – the first time in their long history they’ve ever had to do that. They’ve had to issue corrections but not an entire story. Here’s his letter in full: http://harpers.org/archive/2016/01/letters-841/

      Here’s Stephen Glass in that RECENT letter: “I fabricated the text from “The man” to “the psychic” in paragraph 5; “Sharona” and the attributed quote in paragraph 6. I exaggerated and fabricated the facts in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, and 10. I fabricated the text from paragraph 13 to “August 1.” I fabricated the last sentence of the first paragraph following “August 1,” the following discussion with Ruth, and the last sentence before “August 3.” I fabricated the events labeled “August 4”; “August 8”; “August 9”; the last paragraph of “August 10”; “August 12”; “August 13”; the first, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh paragraphs of “August 15”; “August 19”; “August 21”; “August 22”; “August 23”; and “August 24.”

      In addition to the content of the article, I fabricated notes in support of this story. I lied to the staff of Harper’s. I fabricated in interviews about this story. I engaged in egregious misconduct. This story should not be relied upon in any way.”

      I mean … wow.

      He’s still trying to clear his name – mainly because nobody will allow him to be a lawyer. STILL. (I don’t think the slate can ever be cleared with that level of lying. He should just throw in the towel and write fiction full time.)

      and my point in re: wars: a lot of times wars are the stupidest things ever, started for emotional or delusional reasons, or the egomaniacal power-trip of one man (I’m finishing up “The End” by Ian Kershaw about the final days of the Reich and all of those men are – quite literally – out of their minds. Not that this is news.). and yet women, throughout history, have been kept out of the house of power because WE are supposed to be the unreliable ones. It’s a conspiracy.

      • sheila says:

        … or Jayson Blair, another fabulist, but I probably shouldn’t talk about him since I work at The Times. :)

  12. Patrick says:

    Funny, I just dug up a link to Blair and was going to toss it in here but you beat me to it. I wonder what goes in the heads of people who do that. I suppose they aren’t thinking of the consequences, they are just looking 5 minutes doing the road and hoping to get some immediate approval.

    The war thing – to even attempt to say anything would require going on at great length about something, and I’m not even sure where one would start. Men are sort of tribal, they can sometimes get their identity or feeling of worth from belonging to the group, maybe? Something along those lines may partly explain things.

    I think men just want power more than women, they’ll go to greater lengths to get it, it’s in their nature, and I suppose having power, it’s easy to keep other people (women) out. Go ahead, beat me up on that one.

    • sheila says:

      The amount of work that Blair/Glass put into their lies show that clearly they had the gumption/ambition to ACTUALLY do reporting – they weren’t lazy – they were just total liars. It’s fascinating! I would be far too stressed out to even begin to attempt to try to pull anything like that off.

      // I think men just want power more than women // Nope. :) I dislike generalizations about huge groups of people but history, obviously, has borne out the fact that men have ruled and women have not. Women also need the group – maybe even more, since historically we have not been allowed political power. Human beings, in general, need the group. In my opinion, it all goes back to the fact that women give birth – and that’s the one power we have over men – and instead of revering women for it and saying “My God, LIFE comes out of her body, women are CLEARLY stronger than men are in ways I cannot even imagine – she CLEARLY needs a seat at the table” – men have twisted it into women are gross, weak, need to be protected – we are both animalistic (ruled by our hormones, we bleed, we are gross and disgusting) and ALSO put up on pedestals where we are supposed to be warm/soft/caring/perfect. There is no way that these two things can ever be reconciled. Hence: women being pissed off about it for all time. How does woman giving birth without anesthesia = weak? Only a man could answer that one. It’s totally absurd.

      Camille’s points about biology are important ones and important ones for women to be aware of – especially since our biology is a political issue and used to hold us back, shame us, keep us in our place. There’s a REASON women get enraged when “hormones” comes up (although I doubt they were screaming at Camille). It’s because that’s an issue used to exile us from the house of power. And fuck that, especially when men have done such a terrible job of running society anyway. And yeah, the stomach is not connected to the uterus. Moron.

  13. Patrick says:

    // (I’m finishing up “The End” by Ian Kershaw about the final days of the Reich and all of those men are – quite literally – out of their minds. Not that this is news.)//

    I’m sure you’ve seen “Downfall”. At the end they show the Goebbels kill all of their children, absolutely brutal, how much more extreme can you get than doing that? You would not think people could get to that point if your experience is just what you see in people in every day life, you would not even imagine such a thing, it is something like that that tells you what people are capable of in extreme situations.

    • sheila says:

      Oh my gosh, Goebbels, I know. I haven’t seen Downfall! I should! I’m just at the point in the book now where the Americans and the Russians have entered Berlin – and it’s the final days in the bunker. Complete madness. These guys all knew they had no future after the war anyway – and Hitler seemed to yearn for death at this point, so yeah, there was no other way (in their deluded minds). But that image definitely haunts me.

      There’s kind of an interesting perspective on Goebbels in this book. Yes, he was a monster. But of all of the men surrounding Hitler – he was the only one who knew the war was lost, and was able to admit it. He still kept running his propaganda schemes but his journals/letters tell another story. So many of these other guys were still parroting the party line – even when it was obvious that it was all over. Goebbels saw the end, knew it was coming – and STILL kept churning out propaganda and making plans to commit suicide with his family.

      It just … boggles the mind.

  14. Patrick says:

    //// I think men just want power more than women // Nope. :) I dislike generalizations about huge groups of people but history, obviously, has borne out the fact that men have ruled and women have not.//

    We are just going to have to disagree on this point, and I don’t think I would be able to defend myself in any convincing way anyhow. There is the external evidence – as you say, go back through the progression of political organization – tribes, city states, kingdoms, modern political entities, and I think you’ll always see men as leaders, it’s virtually universal (I know, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, others, but those are exceptions). That’s got to mean more than just that men are keeping women down. As far as if there is some internal psychological make up in men that is different from women and leads them to seek power, maybe that’s where your big sticking point is on what I said, and that’s not something I think I could get into. I know you aren’t bashful about disagreeing with something, but we’ve probably come to a fork in the argument here where there isn’t too much more to say. (well, I probably could but maybe not to much point – evolutionary theory maybe, that would be fun, wouldn’t it. I’d have to go away and read for a week before I’d feel qualified to leave a comment)

    Regarding the last days in the bunker in Berlin, “Downfall” does convey the idea they were completely delusional, just as your book seems to have, had lost touch with the reality of the situation, which you’d hardly think was possible – I mean, the Russians were in the city, how do you ignore that?

    • sheila says:

      Yeah, I’m done here with this conversation. I won’t budge on it and I would hope that men would try to understand what it is like to be a woman – with this kind of history of total erasure behind us. It’s very important.

  15. Patrick says:

    //Retraction Watch is super fun! Most of it is crowd-sourced – and those commenters are ON POINT. //

    I did poke around a little bit there and found a story about a guy who was asked to peer review an article he’d written and published, and then it had been stolen and submitted again as the work of someone else, that would be weird to start reading it and start to think it looked familiar for some reason – oh wait, that’s mine!

    • sheila says:

      That is just so terrible!!

      I have friends who’ve been plagiarized – and it’s really hard now – especially with the casual-ness of attribution in the online world – not to mention outright stealing. As well as a millennial “what’s the big deal” attitude towards copyright. It’s a huge problem!

      The big problem with Stephen Glass was that he wasn’t plagiarizing. He was just making stuff up – and the system still cannot protect itself against that. It’s like a failure of the imagination. Most people are – to some degree – honest. Most people would not do what Stephen Glass did. Most people would not do what Jayson Blair did. And so editors failed all along the way to really grasp the problem – because even in a news organization, you assume that people are doing their best, and playing by the rules. ESPECIALLY at establishment places like the Times, or New Republic.

      Nobody could ever prepare for a Stephen Glass. The system just is not designed for that level of committed lying. Sure is interesting, though!

      I really liked the movie about Stephen Glass – Shattered Glass – have you seen it? I’ve been meaning to see it again.

  16. Patrick says:

    Have not seen Shattered Glass, actually that name Steven Glass did not ring a bell when you mentioned him, although I’m thinking I knew the story without knowing who the culprit was. These plagiarism incidents just pop from time to time (Doris Kearns Goodwin was accused of lifting some text, I think it was partially not being careful enough with paraphrasing someone else’s work), I’m sure it will always be a problem, probably more so now that it used to be with the ease of finding papers and articles on the internet and then passing them off as your own. This reminded me of something – I actually caught some plagiarist once, a very minor thing. If I like a movie I tend to start reading around about it on the internet, read a review somewhere, some link from Rotten Tomatoes, then read a user review right after that at IMDB, I thought wait a minute, I know this text, some jerk had just copied a real review in as his own, I did rat them out to the staff at IMDB.

    Here is that guy who was asked to review his own paper if you want to check it out.


    RW: This must have been a strange experience – did it ever occur to you that something like this might happen?

    Sayan: Frankly, no. It didn’t. This kind of risk-taking behavior seems almost completely irrational to me.

    • sheila says:

      Wow, that was so interesting!

      It does seem so irrational – something that blatant. Like: why even bother? What kind of sociopath do you have to be to try to pull something like that off? I would be way too scared of getting caught!!

      I will say this: at least in the film writing world: I do my best to avoid any and all reviews before seeing something – so I won’t be influenced. (Hard to do.) But I’m also afraid that I will accidentally plagiarize someone – because I have read what they said, absorbed it via osmosis, and it’s become part of my thought process. I have so many quotes rattling around in my head – because I have that kind of brain – but if I had to track down where the quote actually came from … I might be in trouble. To be clear: I don’t pass these quotes off as my own, but if I had to footnote them – I’d definitely have to do some major digging to find the origin. So I’m very careful about stuff like that.

      George Harrison was busted for plagiarism but that seemed to be a case where he honestly did not realize he was doing it. This may seem incomprehensible – but I totally get it. There’s a difference between a cut-and-paste operation – passing off someone’s work as your own – and doing it unconsciously. (There’s not a difference in the eyes of the law – see George Harrison again.)

      I just know that I have a healthy fear of doing this myself. I think everyone should share that fear. I don’t understand people who get into a field – and yet they can’t keep up with it, or they don’t have the skill to compete – and then just steal other people’s work, hoping to bask in a glow that they haven’t earned. That’s just so fascinating to me. I’m sure you’re good at something ELSE, silly person, why are you trying to “get away” with this?

      I’m not sure if you ever read Matt Seitz’s old blog The House Next Door? (It’s now been wrapped into Slant Magazine as their house blog, but once upon a time, it was run by Matt Seitz.) I wrote for The House Next Door, a lot of people who eventually became my friends wrote for House Next Door. And you could pitch things to Matt. It was a great site. So this regular reader and film-critic-hopeful pitched to Matt a project called “31 Days of Spielberg.” Every day of the month would feature another in-depth review/examination of a Spielberg film. It was a daunting schedule. But the articles started appearing. They got a lot of traffic and a lot of comments because it was Spielberg. I didn’t find them to be well-written – first of all – AND I thought there was a serious lack of analysis in the pieces. They just didn’t sit right with me, so I stopped reading after a couple of days. Halfway through the “31 Days” – someone left a comment saying, “Hey … these posts are lifted almost word for word from …” (and I can’t remember the original source – it was a somewhat obscure book about Spielberg, I think.) Then began a (small) firestorm – that felt very huge at the time. More and more people left comments, showing how much he had lifted – showing side by side comparisons – and Matt was forced to intervene, asking the writer what the hell had happened. The writer came clean, saying, “Yes. I did it. I couldn’t keep up with my own schedule. I’m sorry.”

      This was a case of a movie-lover – an intense movie-lover – wanting so badly to be a “player” in the film critic world, and Matt Seitz is a “star” in that world – that he gave himself the challenge, and then two days in or whatever, realized he was in over his head, despite his love of Spielberg, and so he resorted to cutting and pasting.

      People went APESHIT. Similar to Retraction Watch. It was a film critic community rejecting someone strongly who was doing the community wrong by refusing to play by the #1 rule: Do your own work.

      I thought the whole thing was kind of gross and fascinating but the main thing I was fascinated by was: Okay, so this guy – who worked in a video store, loved movies, and obviously wanted more than anything to be part of a conversation – couldn’t get himself together enough to put into his OWN words why he loved Spielberg so much – and instead of reaching out to Matt and saying, “Sorry, can we cancel the 31 Days of Spielberg” – decided to cheat his way through it, thinking – naively – that people who read a lot about film wouldn’t have read the original source material.

      Matt took the pieces down and wrote a “mea culpa” essay about it, explaining what had happened, apologizing – he did the right thing.

      I was amazed by the people who thought it wasn’t a big deal. I mean, I don’t think this guy was Satan – I actually felt bad for him – he was an amateur trying to be a “player” and he realized very quickly that if you are a “player” in this small world, then you have your shit together in ways that he did not – and – most importantly – you know how to write. Which he didn’t. There’s a difference between loving movies and knowing how to write about them. He failed. He at least came clean. He’s not a sociopath, like Stephen Glass. Unlike George Harrison, this guy knowingly cut and paste stuff from that original source – throwing in different words here and there to “make it his own” (but he often made sentences WORSE in this manner … showing, again, that he was not a good writer). So many people want to be writers and they just don’t have the “ear” for it. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to want to do something, not be good at it, and still decide to do it anyway.

      I don’t have that confidence. I only do stuff I am already good at. I know the stuff I am not good at and therefore I do not attempt to do those things. Or, I work to improve myself on those things I cannot do. It’s important to push yourself, and know where you need improvement. But everything I have tried to do – like acting, like writing – I was already good at. Always room for improvement, but you have to have SOME skill at both of those things to make a go at it. I saw people who literally did not have any skill on any level – and yet acting was their main dream. And a lot of the time, teachers hesitated to say, “You don’t HAVE it, kid. Get another dream.” Which I think was a disservice to those students.

      The whole topic is so fascinating to me.

  17. Patrick says:

    Very interesting comments. I do recall the House Next Door, and I’m pretty sure I remember that Spielberg episode. There is currently a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin regarding “Stairway to Heaven” too – and I just listened to the song they supposedly copied (a group called Spirit), yeah, they grabbed a musical phrase or two, to my ears they did anyway, but at the same time they made it their own song.

    Something I know a little about, landscape photography, has the same sort of issues. Landscape photography is kind of an odd bird to begin with, I’m not always sure just what level of creativity is involved, well, regardless of that issue, someone I follow on Flickr had a general comment about looking for your own stuff, then got more specific with this reply to someone –

    “ah not quite, a big kickup over on 500px where someone basically stole Marc Adamus composition down to the pixel. A decent shot and comp but nothing original. ”

    Marc Adamus, incidentally, is quite a big deal in that part of the photography world. It’s the great outdoors, you can ‘t steal or plagiarize a photo in the same way a person would with writing, but still, it’s not quite right either. My brother once bumped in to a guy who was running around trying to duplicate Ansel Adams’ photos. I just don’t get that, but I suppose people have different goals. There are certain iconic locations, people flock to them, I mostly avoid them, but I was near Mesa Arch one morning though and weakened, I walked out there and snapped off a few photos. It is a great shot, it’s just that it’s been done literally thousands, many many thousands, of times. It’s not stealing really, but it’s not original either. I put one of my shots at the link below, you’ll see what I mean.

    Regarding your writing, I feel like offering a compliment on it – always clear and well organized, you never try to get too clever, but I’ve said that before, so I won’t do it again.

    Mesa Arch, about 6 am one summer morning –


  18. Patrick says:

    Hope you don’t mind yet another comment, well, question in this case – Have you read anything else by Kershaw? I was browsing through his books at Amazon, I had never heard of him, somehow, the book To Hell and Back (same title as the Audie Murphy movie) looks quite interesting, wondered if you had read that, or just generally if he is a pretty readable historian?

  19. Joe Garrity says:

    Thanks for the shoutout to TWINSBURG, Sheila! Let me know if you’d like to talk more about it!

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