Best of Enemies
A rich, extraordinarily fascinating account of the Buckley-Vidal debates that’s sure to have many viewers’ minds constantly shuttling between then and now.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Psychologists say that depression is rage turned inward. Stand-up comedy, on the other hand, is rage turned back outward again. (I believe George Carlin had a routine about the use of violent metaphors directed at the audience in comedy: "Knock 'em dead!" "I killed!") In the documentary "Heckler" (now on Showtime and DVD) comedian Jamie Kennedy, as himself, plays both roles with ferocious intensity. The movie is his revenge fantasy against anyone who has ever heckled him on stage, or written a negative review... or, perhaps, slighted him in on the playground or at a party or over the phone or online.
"Heckler" (I accidentally called it "Harangue" just now) is an 80-minute howl of fury and anguish in which Kennedy and a host of other well-known and not-well-known showbiz people tell oft-told tales of triumphant comebacks and humiliating disasters, freely venting their spleens at those who have spoken unkindly of them. At first the bile is aimed at hecklers in club audiences (with some particularly nasty invective for loudmouthed drunken women), then it shifts to "critics" -- broadly defined as anybody who says something negative about a figure whose work appears before a paying public. Some of the critics are actually interested in analysis; some are just insult comics who are using the Internet as their open mic. It gets pretty ugly, but it's fascinating -- because the comics, the critics and the hecklers are so much alike that it's no wonder each finds the others so infuriating.
We critics can't be too careful. Employers are eager to replace us with Celeb Info-Nuggets that will pimp to the mouth-breathers, who underline the words with their index fingers whilst they watch television. Any editor who thinks drugged insta-stars and the tragic Amy Winehouse are headline news ought to be editing the graffiti on playground walls. As the senior newspaper guy still hanging onto a job, I think the task of outlining enduring ethical ground rules falls upon me.
Screeeeech! The "jewel"-encrusted Sidekick doesn't help.
Edward Copeland asks: Do certain performers affect you like the sound of nails on a chalkboard? He lists Danny Huston, Kevin Costner, Kate Capshaw and Kim Cattrall among his most shudder-worthy. Some have charisma on the screen, and some don't. Or, at least, some of us are mystified by what others see in them (I could never understand the whole Ronald Reagan-as-president thing; he always seemed to me like a minor audioanimatronic attraction at Disneyland: Doddering Moments With Mr. Reagan, the Non-Communicator).
For me, it really is an involuntary, visceral response. I'm not sure I can adequately explain my instinctive revulsion for the following (in some cases the reaction has developed over time, like an allergy, as if I've built up antibodies against them), but here they are, in no particular order:
Tom Cruise. Incapable of convincingly expressing any emotion beyond grim determination. Unless it's intensely focused ambition.
Adam Sandler. Pauly Shore, but with a more limited range. Always looks as though he's going to start laughing at how funny he thinks he is. (Yes, I make an exception for "Punch Drunk Love," but I still would rather have been watching someone else. And that one had Mary Lynn Rajskub. She saves America every week on "24," and she saved Sandler's behind in this movie.)
Robin Williams. Not well-cast in human roles. (See all of the above.)
Cuba Gooding, Jr. His career after he won an Oscar for "Jerry Maguire" has made it almost impossible to sit through any of the good stuff he did before then. Tried to watch "Boyz N the Hood" recently? It's so preachy and sanctimonious it almost looks like a Matty Rich film now, but in fairness that's probably more John Singleton's fault than Gooding's alone.
That blonde heiress with the dead-trout eyes who's famous for her night-vision porno video and being in the tabloids a lot. Perfect example of "horrisma." She's like Ann Coulter in drag. Or not in drag. I'm not really sure which. But both have all the appeal of impetigo.
Chris Rock. The comedy version of Tom Cruise. Always trying way too hard to convince you... of something.
Sandra Bullock. Like watching a coconut on a stick.
Mel Gibson. "Braveheart" finally did it for me (and that was a whole five years before "What Women Want"). He enjoyed torturing himself way, way too much. Just as there is Young Elvis and Fat Elvis, there's Young Mel (pre-"Lethal Weapon 2") and Creepy Mel ("Air America" forward). Watching "The Road Warrior," it's hard to comprehend what later became of that cool guy who once played Mad Max.
Harrison Ford. Once he had a sense of humor about himself -- on screen, at least. It doesn't help that he hasn't made a decent movie ("Clear and Present Danger") in 13 years. He's great in "The Conversation," though.
Katie Holmes. Zombified. Why do I even know who she is?
Shaved vagina girl. Has she made any movies or is she just on the Internets?
Lindsay Lohan. From Mean Girl to Lucky Girl (cast with Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin in an Altman movie). Now it's over. She's the Alicia Silverstone of tomorrow, but without the comic timing. Ten years ago, John Waters might have been able to salvage her career. Now it's too late. (OK, I'm sorry: That Alicia Silverstone crack was too mean -- to Alicia Silverstone.)
Jim Carrey. See Chris Rock, above.
Natalie Portman. It's as though she aspires to be forgettable, like generic "citrus"-flavored Pixy Stix. For some reason she reminds me of Veruca Salt on Xanax and I want her to swell up into a big blueberry. But I feel that way about nearly everyone who appeared in the "Star Wars" prequels.
More comments at Copeland's place.
Q. Regarding the "pink zone" that the laser-sword fencers pass through in "Star Wars -- Episode I: The Phantom Menace," you quote George Lucas as saying, "That's one of those areas I'll probably fix in the Special Edition." What? Has Lucasfilm become the Microsoft of moviemaking--releasing an inadequately quality-controlled product, and planning to fix the bugs later? Lucas's explanation doesn't answer your reader's question: What IS that pink zone? Yes, it's a set of forcefields designed to separate and delay the people running through it. But why would anyone build such a thing? Is Naboo some kind of puzzle-crazed society where the engineers drop huge, elaborate, clever, energy-wasting contraptions in the middle of utility catwalks, just for fun? I suspect that when the hardcore Star Wars fans analyze this film frame-by-frame, they'll look at the wall switch that Darth Maul hits to activate the pink zone, see a label written in the Star Wars alphabet, get out their secret Star Wars code books and decipher its real name: "Plot Device." (Chris Rowland, Plainsboro, NJ)
Q. Apparently there is a new movie coming out named "An Alan Smithee Film," written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Arthur Hiller, and it has led to a lot of publicity about "Alan Smithee" and his checkered career. What is your favorite Alan Smithee film? (Casey Anderson, Schaumberg)
Q. Re the problem of motion sickness in films that make use of hand-held cameras: Actually the easiest way to get over it is just close your eyes and the sensation passes quickly. (Doug Fletcher, RN, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, Mesa, AZ)
Q. Re your discussion of the time travel paradox in "12 Monkeys:" To understand what's going on, one merely needs to disregard the common perception of time as a linear dimension. The time theory at work in "12 Monkeys" is that time does not start at point A and travel along to point B, but rather that all moments in time occur simultaneously. Time is not like a line, extending, stretching, and leaving a path behind, but rather like a painting, with each point and brushstroke being a different moment in time. At any given moment in time, we only see one little point in the painting, but all the others are still there, including present, future and past, and together they make up the universe, which is timeless. (Dominic M. Armato, Winnetka, Ill.)
Q. Don't we pay enough to attend the movies? More and more theaters are showing TV commercials before the previews. I used to boo during theater commercials, but my wife threatened to divorce me if I continued. Moreover, the audience, unfortunately, did not join my boos as I had hoped. I complain to theater managers, but the decision to show ads seems to be out of their control. -- Larry Brown, Lincolnwood, Ill.