David Carr interviewed A.O. Scott on the subject of movie criticism in a "Sweet Spot" video posted on the New York Times' ArtsBeat blog last Friday. I urge you to follow that link, watch the seven-and-a-half-minute conversation and let me know what you make of it. Carr plays the clown, but I'm not sure how much of it is intentional because most of what he says is so ignorant, and he doesn't even attempt to support it or invest thought in the conversation. Scott, as you know if you read him regularly, is quite eloquent and calls bullshit on some of Carr's more outrageous fabrications.
To help pin down my own thoughts (following up on years of writing about this very subject, including a series of recent posts and comment threads -- "Avenge me! AVENGE ME!," "The Avengers & the Amazing 'Critic-Proof' Movie," "Continuing to argue for the irrelevance of my own opinions," "Cannes and Cannes-not: On being a movie geek"), I've tried to label the various formal and informal fallacies of logic at play here, and link to Wikipedia definitions of them. Of course there are so many (in the conversation and in the list on Wikipedia) that I may have mislabeled some, in which case please let me know.
So, it begins:
"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" is available for streaming/download on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Vudu and YouTube. In theaters March 2.
"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" is a lot like "Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!." They're both experimental video art posing as sketch comedy. In them you can see DNA from Ernie Kovacs, John Waters, the Kuchar brothers, Robert Downey, Sr., Tom Rubnitz, early Beck music videos, Damon Packard, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (and every other Adult Swim psychotic episode) and Harmony Korine, to name just a random few. But it's likely that actor-writer-directors Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim took inspiration from none of these freaks.
The duo's work seems to flow directly from three sources: Bad corporate promotional and instructional videos, absurd local TV programming and assaultive blockbuster films. Their collages of chopped-and-screwed sounds with spastic motion graphics and sloppy green screen don't seem much different (in effect, if not production values) from what's on cable any given Sunday. It's just that they put unattractive, demented-seeming people in front of the green screen instead of the usual telegenic emoters. They spout nonsense where platitudes and corporate messages usually go. When celebrities appear on the show, they flub and stutter like robot hologram versions of themselves. It's as if the show's editor was a spam bot.
Whether any of it is funny is almost beside the point. The creeping surrealism often takes away your ability to blink, especially, I suspect, when, like me, you have no history with the show.
Part I (before I saw "Trash Humpers")
Google "Netflix" and "Trash Humpers" and the first result you'll get is this: Netflix - Watch Trash Humpers. The second result (dated October 20, 2010) is an article from Filmmaker Magazine headlined: "'Trash Humpers' too trashy for Netflix?" Note that the head is in the form of a question, because the article/post itself consists almost entirely of a promotional announcement from Drag City, the DVD distributor of "Trash Humpers," claiming that Netflix was refusing to carry the video, which (according to Amazon.com) was officially released September 21, 2010.
The press release was a useful publicity stunt (what do you expect for a Harmony Korine movie called "Trash Humpers"?), but how much truth it contained I haven't been able to determine, and I haven't been able to find any comments from anyone at Netflix. In its widely reprinted (but evidently unquestioned) October manifesto, Drag City said:
... Netflix has deemed the content of Trash Humpers to be too inappropriate for their subscribers to make it available to them. From their perspective, they may be right: they certainly know their subscribers and their tastes, and might have a better awareness of their breaking point (we thought that might have been fuckin' Avatar). So it's hard to fault them. But we do love a challenge! We don't expect Netflix to carry anything they don't want to, for whatever reason, but it reminds us that this is the price paid when we allow one entity to control the lion's-share of content distribution.
Drag City provided a link to "actual factual mom-and-pop DVD sales-and/or-rental stores" that were carrying "Trash Humpers," including Amazon.com, Newbury Comics and Amoeba.
Q. I was shocked and appalled this morning to learn that Netflix is refusing to make "Trash Humpers" available on its site. In a statement by the film's distribution company Drag City, it's stated: “We don’t expect Netflix to carry anything they don’t want to, for whatever reason, but it reminds us that this is the price paid when we allow one entity to control the lion’s share of content distribution.”
I have before me a schedule of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, which opens Thursday and runs 10 days. I have been looking at it for some time. I am paralyzed. There are so many films by important directors (not to mention important films by unknown directors), that it cannot be reduced to its highlights. The highlights alone, if run in alphabetical order, would take up all my space.
PARK CITY, Utah -- Rosario Dawson should be on those Sunday morning political talk shows, as a guest or a host, either way. She is so intelligent and fiercely opinionated that I forgot, for a moment, I was talking with a movie actress, and got into my Problems of the World mode.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - "Election," "Boys Don't Cry" and "Being John Malkovich" were multiple award winners Saturday at the 15th annual Independent Spirit Awards - but 79-year-old Richard Farnsworth stole the show while winning as best male lead for his work in "The Straight Story."