Posted in: Commentary

George Lucas: The Last Champion of Colonialist Cinema

Way back in the original Star Wars (before it was branded with a “IV” and subtitled “A New Hope”), it did not escape notice that at the end of the film, it was human heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo who got the glory while the non-humans – the wookie, Chewbacca, and the two robots – stood to the side to watch the royal blessing laid upon the Republic’s two great white hopes.

What’s a Wookiee need to do to get a little respect?

After six feature and countless spin-off reiterations, not much has changed. The Jedis (mostly human, though at least those ranks are not completely Caucasian) roam around the galaxy like the master race, swooping in to save the lesser races with their gift of protection and leadership. There are a few token races sprinkled through the supporting parts, mostly providing exposition and exclamations, and only Yoda has any real authority or distinction among them. The droids are essentially happy slaves. These robots talk and offer opinions and often suggest emotions, while R2D2 and C3PO have distinctive personalities. They’re offered up as characters as real as the humans, but in the scheme of this enlightened era of interstellar unity, they are treated as servants or pets at best and cannon fodder at worst. Decades after Blade Runner and Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s a little arrogant to give a robot personality and self-awareness without suggesting they might be, in their own way, people.

All right, maybe that’s picking apart a little point, but the last two Star Wars features introduced the Clone Army, a race of genetically hatched humanoid soldiers designed solely to fight. They are treated, essentially, as organic robots, flesh and blood slaves sent to fight the Republic’s battles.

I’m sure Lucas never thought any of this through, which is really the point. What began as his paean to the innocent attitudes of the old sci-fi serials and the swashbuckling thrills of classic Hollywood adventures and pirate movies feels more and more like Rudyard Kipling’s imperialist adventurers in the stars. Read More “George Lucas: The Last Champion of Colonialist Cinema”

Posted in: Movie Controversies

Going “The Full Retard”: How Far is Too Far?

All they want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T: “Tropic Thunder” protestors in Middleton, CT

Many thanks to Roger Ebert and his website editor Jim Emerson for posting my letter to the editor regarding the protests by some disability advocates over the “retard” humor in Tropic Thunder. As stated in my letter, I think most people will see the film and understand that its target of satire is not the developmentally disabled but rather the silliness of Hollywood, specifically the spoiled-brat nature of pampered stars and the venality of devious agents and greedy producers. As far as it goes, the Hollywood satire in Tropic Thunder is spot-on and, for the most part, hilarious. Ben Stiller really knows what he’s doing here, and clearly this is his most ambitious film to date. Which is to say, I enjoyed the film on its merits and I’m pretty much aligned with Ebert’s 3 ½-star review. And while I have no intention of using this blog as a political forum, it must be stated that these protests — over the frequent use of the word “retard” and the film’s demeaning depiction of developmental disabilities — are worthy of serious mainstream attention. But, as always happens with protests by minority groups that the majority don’t appreciate or understand, the objections over Tropic Thunder have already been swept under the carpet, as far as the public and mainstream media are concerned. It’s obvious (from Stiller’s promotional appearances on “The Daily Show” and elsewhere) that DreamWorks publicists have declared the protests off limits for discussion — either that, or the talk-show hosts have no desire to prod Stiller (and others in the film) with questions about the controversy. One way or the other, discussion of this matter has been effectively squelched by those in charge of the film’s promotion. As a result, it’s not much of a controversy as far as the public is concerned; it’s already risen and faded in the course of the past few days.

Now, I happen to believe that when it comes to humor, nothing is sacred and nothing should be sacred. Everything and everone is fair game, and we (the public) have the luxury of deciding what’s funny and what’s offensive. I’m not easily offended, so most of Tropic Thunder was right down my alley…and really, isn’t it about time someone applied some satirical payback to Willem Dafoe’s Christ-like death in Platoon? One of the joys of watching Tropic Thunder is seeing how Stiller & Co. dismantle the symbolic excess of that scene and Oliver Stone’s heavy-handed direction of it.

So, when Stiller first shows us a clip from “Simple Jack” — this movie’s answer to Sean Penn’s Oscar-baiting performance in I Am Samit seemed clear (to me at least) that the satire was (1) way over the top and devoid of malice, and (2) the target of satire is the fact that Stiller’s character, whose film career is slumping, has made a last-ditch effort at respectability by playing a character who’s mentally retarded, since everybody knows the running joke that playing disabled is a fast-track to an Oscar nomination.

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Posted in: Actors

Is that Downey? Okey DoQui

Robert Downey Jr.

Is it just me, or does Robert Downey, Jr., seem to be channeling the the great character actor Robert DoQui (of Nashville and Robocop fame) in Tropic Thunder? Mind you, I haven’t seen the film yet, but I do know that he plays a method actor in the movie who goes to extreme measures to play an African American (in the movie within the movie), apparently drawing his examples from American exploitation cinema of the seventies. But all I saw in the previews was an uncanny resemblance to Robert DoQui, who passed away in February of 2008.

Posted in: Parallax View

About Parallax View

Parallax View is a loose collective of like-minded professional film writers in the Seattle area. We like to get together and talk about cinema. This site is a place to put some of those discussions, as well as essays, reviews, interviews and other thoughts on movies, out to a wider audience. And hopefully have some fun with it.

Posted in: lists, Parallax View

Winners Announced in 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards

Forget about a recount! There will be no manual tally, no divining of intent, no lost ballots “discovered” behind the polling booth. The Seattle Film Critics have determined in no uncertain terms (okay, there is one tie) their choices for the best films of 2004.

The Puget Sound area’s fourteen most prominent print critics have fallen for the gym-rat nobility of MILLION DOLLAR BABY, naming it their best picture and giving the director nod to Clint Eastwood. We are pleased to encourage this fresh young face in his filmmaking endeavors.

Acting honors went to Jamie Foxx, for his dazzling diddy-bop through the life of Ray Charles, and Imelda Staunton, for her finely-tuned VERA DRAKE portrait of a housewife whose homely ministrations include back-room abortions. Supporting awards went to the lovingly re-discovered SIDEWAYS duo of Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen.

The Seattle Critics Awards are unique in bestowing a “Living Treasure” award, given to a long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s winner is Henry Bumstead (born 1915), one of Hollywood’s greatest art director/production designers, whose astonishing catalog of films includes VERTIGO, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, TOPAZ, THE STING, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, THE FRONT PAGE (74), THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, CAPE FEAR (91), MYSTIC RIVER, and MILLION DOLLAR BABY.

(Previous “Living Treasure” winners: Maureen O’Hara, Christopher Lee.)

A “Special Citation” for restoration work went to Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson, for their efforts in restoring 50 previously-unseen minutes to Samuel Fuller’s splendid 1980 film THE BIG RED ONE.

With that, the winners and runners-up in the Seattle Film Critics Awards. See below for voting members.

BEST PICTURE

Million Dollar Baby
Runner-up: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

BEST DIRECTOR

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
Runner-up: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

BEST ACTOR

Jamie Foxx, Ray
Runner-up: Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor

BEST ACTRESS

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
Runner-up: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
Runner-up: Clive Owen, Closer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Virginia Madsen, Sideways
Runner-up: Laura Dern, We Don’t Live Here Anymore

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman)
Runner-up: Vera Drake (Mike Leigh)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Sideways (Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor)
Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby (Jim Haggis)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

(tie) Control Room and Touching the Void

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Maria Full of Grace
Runners-up: Blind Shaft, Hero

BEST ANIMATED FILM

The Incredibles
Runner-up: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Hero (Christopher Doyle)
Runner-up: Collateral (Dion Beebe, Paul Cameron)

BEST MUSIC

The Aviator (Howard Shore)
Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)

LIVING TREASURE

Henry Bumstead

SPECIAL CITATION

Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson, THE BIG RED ONE

The voters in the 2004 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
Tim Appelo – Seattle Weekly
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – Seattle Times
Robert Horton – The Herald
Richard T. Jameson – Queen Anne News
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Paula Nechak – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bradley Steinbacher – The Stranger

Posted in: lists, Parallax View

Winners Announced in Second Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in Second Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

December 18, 2003

Jack Valenti be damned! The second annual Seattle Film Critics Awards are here, despite Hollywood’s notorious ban on screeners. Fourteen of the most prominent print critics from the Puget Sound area have voted on the best in the film year, perhaps naively believing that movies should be seen on the big screen anyway.

The Seattle critics, all from print-only publications, handed major awards to small movies–yet found room for hobbits, too. AMERICAN SPLENDOR, the pixillated tale of Cleveland comic-book creator Harvey Pekar, won Seattle’s best picture award. The film’s screenplay, and leading lady Hope Davis, also got the nods in their categories. Meanwhile, Bill Murray won the best actor prize for LOST IN TRANSLATION, which makes us wonder how you say, “Now get outta here, ya knuckleheads” in Japanese.

In a category unique to the Seattle critics, a “Living Treasure” was also named, an award that honors some long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s award went to Christopher Lee, the magnificently suave and sinister English actor whose work is gloriously associated with Hammer horror films, notably as perhaps the finest screen Dracula. No stranger to straight roles (THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE THREE MUSKETEERS), Lee has lately found acclaim in both the newest STAR WARS trilogy and THE LORD OF THE RINGS…even if he was unceremoniously cut from THE RETURN OF THE KING. (Last year’s “Living Treasure” was Maureen O’Hara.)

A Special Citation was awarded to Rialto Pictures, for their stirring restorations and/or re-releases of a series of French classics in the past year, including LE CERCLE ROUGE, QUAI DES ORFEVRES, and TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI.

Without further ado, the winners of the Seattle Film Critics Awards:

BEST PICTURE

American Splendor
Runners-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Lost in Translation

BEST DIRECTOR

Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

BEST ACTOR

Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Paul Giamatti, American Splendor

BEST ACTRESS

Hope Davis, American Splendor
Runners-up: Charlotte Rampling, Swimming Pool, Charlize Theron, Monster

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Runner-up: Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River
Runner-up: Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
Runners-up: Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds); A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson)

DOCUMENTARY

Capturing the Friedmans
Runner-up: Spellbound

ANIMATED FEATURE

The Triplets of Belleville
Runner-up: Finding Nemo

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

The Man on the Train (France)
Runner-up: The Man Without a Past (Finland)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Andrew Lesnie)
Runner-up: Girl With a Pearl Earring (Eduardo Serra)

MUSIC

A Mighty Wind (songs by Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Annette O’Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston)
Runner-up: Lost in Translation (Brian Reitzell, Kevin Shields, William Storkson)

LIVING TREASURE

Christopher Lee

SPECIAL CITATION FOR FILM RESTORATION

Rialto Pictures

There is no Seattle film critics “group,” but a poll of the area’s top print film critics. The poll is organized by Parallax View: A Film Society, a group of film enthusiasts, professionals, and critics. The members of Parallax View are NOT the voters in the awards.

Critics voting in the 2003 awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
Tim Appelo – Seattle Weekly
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – Seattle Times
Robert Horton – The Herald
Richard T. Jameson – Queen Anne News
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Paula Nechak – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bradley Steinbacher – The Stranger

Posted in: lists, Parallax View

Winners Announced in First Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

Press release

Winners Announced in First Annual Seattle Film Critics Awards

December 19, 2002

Alarmed by the dearth of year-end movie awards, the film critics of the Puget Sound area have raised their voices in unison for the first time. Twenty-four of the area’s top critics have been polled for the first annual Seattle Film Critics Awards, and the results are in.

Todd Haynes’ FAR FROM HEAVEN proved close to critics’ hearts, winning in six categories, including best picture. The homage to the 1950s melodramas of director Douglas Sirk also won for Julianne Moore as best actress and two awards for Haynes, for best director and best original screenplay.

The Seattle critics also created a special annual category, the “Living Legend” award, which honors some long-cherished movie notable deserving of career recognition. This year’s award went to Maureen O’Hara, the Irish-born, flame-haired Hollywood star whose long career included her many collaborations with both John Wayne (THE QUIET MAN) and John Ford (HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY).

The awards were organized by a new Seattle organization, Parallax View: A Film Society, a group of film enthusiasts, professionals, and critics. The members of Parallax View are NOT the voters in the awards. A committee formed by Parallax View polled the area’s leading critics.

Herewith, the results of the 2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards – Winners

Best Picture

Far From Heaven
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Best Director

Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven
Runner-up: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Best Actress

Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Runner-up: Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Runner-up: Michael Caine, The Quiet American

Best Supporting Actress

Bebe Neuwirth, Tadpole
Runner-up: Toni Collette, About a Boy

Best Supporting Actor

Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Runner-up: Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven

Original Screenplay

Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes
Runner-up: Y Tu Mama Tambien; Alfonso Curaon, Carlos Curaon

Adapted Screenplay

The Hours, David Hare
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair

Documentary

The Kid Stays in the Picture
Runner-up: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Foreign-Language Film

Y Tu Mama Tambien
Runner-up: The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)

Cinematography

Far From Heaven, Edward Lachman
Runner-up: Gangs of New York, Michael Ballhaus

Music

Far From Heaven, Elmer Bernstein
Runner-up: Punch-Drunk Love, Jon Brion

Editing

Femme Fatale, Bill Pankow
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, D. Michael Horton

Production Design

Gangs of New York, Dante Ferretti
Runner-up: Far From Heaven, Mark Friedberg

Living Treasure

Maureen O’Hara

PARALLAX VIEW: A FILM SOCIETY is a newly-formed group of Seattle film professionals, enthusiasts, teachers, and critics. Our goal is to champion the cause of film literacy, foster public discussion of the place of movies in society, and promote the serious, sometimes delirious cause of film as art. To that end, we sponsor public events featuring filmmakers and critics, publish provocative writing about film, and present the annual Seattle Film Critics Awards, voted on each December.

Critics polled in the 2002 Seattle Film Critics Awards:

Soren Andersen – Tacoma News Tribune
William Arnold – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Axmaker – freelance/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sheila Benson – freelance/Seattle Weekly
Jim Emerson – freelance/cinepad.com
Gillian Gaar – freelance/Tablet
Shannon Gee – freelance/Seattle Weekly
John Hartl – freelance/Seattle Times
Robert Horton – Everett Herald/KUOW-FM
Richard T. Jameson – freelance/Pacific Press Newspapers
Moira Macdonald – Seattle Times
Derich Mantonela (Mike Anderton) – Seattle Gay News
Michael Medved – freelance/syndicated
Brian Miller – Seattle Weekly
Kathleen Murphy – freelance/SteadyCam
Paula Nechak – freelance/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sean Nelson – The Stranger
Mark Rahner – Seattle Times
Bruce Reid – freelance
Jeff Shannon – freelance/Amazon.com
Steven Shaviro – freelance/shaviro.com
Keith Simanton – Internet Movie Database
Andy Spletzer – freelance
Tom Tangney – KIRO-AM

Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors

Limelight: Seattle film year 1973, cut and dried

[Originally published in Movietone News 29, January-February 1974]

Where were you in ’73? … Nope, doesn’t make it. But neither, in some ways, did ’73. I’m not sure what was lacking. Shuffling together the most pleasurable and significant-seeming memories of films that arrived in the Jet City and its environs this past year, I’ve managed to come up with better than fifty titles to be considered for honors. Yet something eludes me, did most of the year. Certainly there was no sleeper masterpiece of 1973, nothing to stand as the Gumshoe or Bad Company of its season; and ingratiating surprises like Gumshoe and Bad Company are the breath of life to the Constant Filmgoer. The Last Tango in Paris was so incessantly and all-pervadingly hyped that it never had a chance to do what it should have to our sensibilities, individually and collectively; as Kathleen Murphy has remarked, “Imagine just walking in off the street some night and going into, say, the Broadway and having that jump off the screen at you without forewarning”; and if I am less sure at the moment that Last Tango would have jumped off the screen, I’ll still have to cop a plea and try to see the film again as a movie rather than a rite of spring.

Read More “Limelight: Seattle film year 1973, cut and dried”

Posted in: Books, by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors

In Black & White: ‘The Marx Bros. Scrapbook’ and ‘Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo’

[Originally published in Movietone News 31, April 1974]

IN BLACK & WHITE

THE MARX BROS. SCRAPBOOK. By Groucho Marx and Richard J. Anobile. W.W. Norton. 256 pages. $13.95.
GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO AND SOMETIMES ZEPPO. By Joe Adamson. 464 pages. $10. Simon and Schuster.

Can anyone seriously attempt to deny that the Marx Brothers are in control of the United States today? Transparent shysters and incompetents fill high government offices. A naked student lopes through a med school amphitheatre. The Seattle Opera stages Siegfried. And until recently, at least, gas station operators turned on their beacons, blocked their entranceways, put out signs that they had no gasoline, and sold that gasoline to red, white, and puce automobiles with odd-numbered or fractional license plates between the hours of 6:53 and 7:0l a.m., with time out to parlay with Arabian sweet-gum merchants. That honking behind you isn’t the next car in line; it’s Harpo trying to tell you he can’t get your trunk open with his can opener.

The Marx Bros. Scrapbook achieved a pronounced notoriety late last year when Groucho Marx made it known he was seeking an injunction to prevent its publication. According to Mr. Flywheel, he never dreamed that Richard Anobile, compiler of such previous (and posthumous) collections of pithy sayings as W.C. Fields’ Drat!, would transcribe their private conversations unedited, so that all the world could be treated to Groucho giving voice to all the things he was sublimating in Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business. etc., not to mention calling Nixon “a dirty crook” and Eisenhower “a schmuck.” He didn’t get the injunction and copies of the Scrapbook now proudly wear a gold seal promising “unexpurgated Groucho.”

Read More “In Black & White: ‘The Marx Bros. Scrapbook’ and ‘Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo’”