In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”


Steve Jobs

The fact that he doesn’t try to redeem these flawed, fascinating figures—or even try to make you like them in the slightest way—feels like an…


Knock Knock

As a piece of social satire, Knock Knock winds up being not just toothless but anticlimactic.

Other Reviews
Review Archives

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…


Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives


Waterhole No. 3


"Waterhole No. 3," advertised as a Western comedy, is approximately as hilarious, as a pail of limp grits.

I think I've figured out why. James Coburn is not funny. What's more, he's actively unfunny, and what he does to a funny line shouldn't be done to a dog, although it often is.

There are a few rare geniuses who cannot help being funny. All Jack Benny does is cross his arms. Groucho Marx needs only to walk. W.C. Fields was so funny that you'd laugh if all he did was stand there. Even with his back to you. There was something about him.

Coburn has exactly the reverse effect. He can corrupt good comic material by his mere presence. Most good comedians have a certain abandon while they are working; they are not afraid of appearing foolish. Not Coburn, who comes across on the screen as one of the most self-conscious actors now in the movies. Every wink and twitch is calculated, and you can almost see him thinking about how he looks while he's doing it. Coburn is never ridiculous. He is always cool. Supercool.

Another problem is the leer that lurks beneath many of his movies. In the Flint series, and again in "Waterhole No. 3," there is a disproportionate amount of, well dirty stuff. Subtle, filthy little double meanings.

There's certainly nothing wrong with humor based on sex, as such widely separated films as "What's New, Pussycat?" and "My Little Chickadee" abundantly demonstrated. But the recent Coburn movies spoil the fun with their smirks and leers and raised eyebrows. If they'd only joke out in the open, we'd laugh; but they seem to prefer a sly and almost obscene approach.

The "seduction" of Mae West by W.C. Fields in "Chickadee" was a superb example of sex approached hilariously. For the precise opposite, Coburn's approach has no peer.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Of Rats and Men: “Black Mass” vs. “The Departed”

A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.

NYFF 2015: "No Home Movie," "Microbe & Gasoline"

A NYFF report on new films from Chantal Akerman and Michel Gondry.

The Unloved, Part 22: "My Soul to Take"

Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus