Sunday, March 29, 2009

Timing is Everything

You plan and you plan, and what you plan is to watch Let the Right One In this weekend, both because you've been wanting to see it for months, and so you'll have something fresh to write about today. And besides, it feels like it's been a good long while since you're written a serious post about the horror genre. But your "planning" has actually consisted entirely of assuming that the film was available On Demand. Which, you found out yesterday, is not the case. So fine, go rent the damn thing. Okay, I will. Or rather, my wife says she'll pick it up on the way back from an errand she has to run. But our local video store is all out. There has, apparently, been a run on moody Swedish vampire films. As a result, I have no Let the Right One In to write about, but have learned, instead, a valuable lesson: planning gets you nowhere!

I'll watch some other movie soon and write that up instead, but, in the meantime, anybody else surprised about this?
I haven't seen the film yet, and therefore have no opinion, but I do know that it's hardly being heralded as a major triumph for David Fincher. Criterion has done this before, though, albeit some years after the film's release, with Ang Lee's The Ice Storm*. Maybe I'm just oblivious to the high regard with which Lee's film is held, but that one I have seen, and it didn't strike me as any kind of modern classic (or important, either). It seemed too scrubbed clean and proud of itself. But it was based on a novel by Rick Moody, so the being-proud-of-itself thing was probably built in. Anyway, I could more easily see a Criterion release for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or Hulk, for that matter.

*Of course, Criterion also has Chasing Amy, Armageddon and The Rock under their belt, but I always hoped that was just a phase they were going through.


Greg said...

Uh, I like The Ice Storm, particularly Joan Allen. I thought it was a very good film. I mean, I agree Criterion in a perfect world should restrict itself to movies, say, 15 years or so past their release date (so for now that would mean movies from 1994 and back). But I don't find The Ice Storm to be an offense like Armageddon which absolutely baffled me that Criterion released it. I mean, I've never fully understood that.

As for Button, that one, like the others mentioned, seems far too early for a Criterion. And think about the people who go for Criterion releases. Seems like Button wouldn't fit their tastes. Most reviews I read accused it of being a Forrest Gump retread.

bill r. said...

I didn't like The Ice Storm, though I certainly wasn't trying to compare it to Armageddon. I mentioned that one, along with the other Bay film and the Smith film, as the nadir of Criterion's output.

But The Ice Storm did nothing for me. Though I don't remember much about the performances, I'm sure Allen was good -- she pretty much always is -- but there are a lot of movies I don't like that I still think are well-acted. The main point, though, was that to my knowledge there wasn't a lot of banner-carrying for The Ice Storm, so the Criterion treatment came sort of out of the blue.

Greg said...

there wasn't a lot of banner-carrying for The Ice Storm, so the Criterion treatment came sort of out of the blue.

That's true and the same goes for Button which I don't get at all.

Ryan Kelly said...

It does seem like a perplexing choice, particularly considering the ho-hum reaction it got even from Fincher fans. I don't like it, but isn't Fight Club a more obvious and fitting choice? It seems very un-Criterion to put out limp-dick oscar bait like Button. I wonder if there wasn't someone pushing for it.

Still, the Criterion Collection is so uniformly excellent that we sometimes forget they're a business. If putting out more mainstream stuff helps them pay the bills for the smaller niche stuff, that's fine with me.

Krauthammer said...

Armageddon and the other Bay films are there pretty explicitly to build capital for Criterion, this might be another one of those projects. I actually liked Button by the way.

And The Ice Storm is terrific.

bill r. said...

Ryan - The only Fincher movie I've really loved so far is Zodiac, but just based on what I've heard about Benjamin Button, Fight Club does seem like a more fitting pick, and I hate that movie. At least it's "important".

As far as the amount of time between the movie coming out in theaters and Criterion putting out an edition, I agree with Greg that maybe 15 years or so seems like a fair amount of time. Then again, I love the Wes Anderson discs, and think he deserves them, but I suppose if there were to be such a rule it should be across the board. But I guess there's no such rule, so...

Krauthammer - I wonder if the Bay discs paid off for Criterion. They probably did, but I know that I see more used copies of those for sale than any other title, by a mile (well, okay, I see lot of Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic discs, too...not many Rushmores interestingly).

Here's a question: what major filmmakers haven't received the Criterion treatment yet? Herzog hasn't, unless you count Burden of Dreams, which I don't. Coppola hasn't, right? Who else?

Ryan Kelly said...

The only Fincher movie I've really loved so far is Zodiac, but just based on what I've heard about Benjamin Button, Fight Club does seem like a more fitting pick, and I hate that movie. At least it's "important".

That sums up my feelings more or less entirely. Fight Club, if nothing else, stirs up provocative debate and seems to inspire pretty strong feelings, regardless of if you like or dislike it (I would fall resoundingly in the latter). Again, I find it odd that such self important oscar bait gets the Criterion treatment immediately

But I agree with you, Zodiac is my favorite Fincher, though I'm very fond of The Game as well. Though Fight Club makes my blood boil, Benjamin Button is without a doubt his weakest, I think. Mostly because Fight Club at least has a vision and a sense of energy, and Button has neither.

Uncle Gustav said...

Criterion also released Chasing Amy. I really can't add to that statement.

Anonymous said...

For me, Fincher's a spotty director. I think Zodiac was criminally overrated, it put me to sleep. Fight Club I liked.

Undoubtedly, the Criterion Collection contracted with Fincher et al's studio long before anybody knew the movie would suck. It would have been a good bet, business wise, because of the critical reaction to the criminally overrated (did I say that already?) Zodiac. Alas, Button sucks. I think some of the same thing happened with Anderson, whose Life Aquatic I thought underwhelmed after the wonderful Royal Tannenbaums. You notice they didn't fall for it with The Djarleeng Limited, and it's a pity, because I like that one a lot.

bill r. said...

Flickhead - Read my footnote!

Rick - You Zodiac haters are nuts, but regardless, yeah, you're probably right that it's a contract thing. I do know that, after Zodiac, the build up of hype around Benajmin Button was pretty intense. That movie was supposed to be one of the best things since ever, and then, apparently, it wasn't.

And I guess that's probably why they didn't release Darjeeling but I thought I heard that a Criterion of that one was in the works. Although I've heard nothing since, so maybe someone was just assuming.

Greg said...

I'm no Zodiac hater, I liked it. But I'm no worshipper of it either so I have to agree with Rick about it being overrated, though I don't think anyone should be arrested for it, because it's not criminal or anything.

I just didn't get any sense of what was so goddamn great about it outside of being a good police procedural and no blogger really explained it (no critics did either but for some time now I have held bloggers to a much higher standard).

Still, I liked it and thought it was very good.

By the way, at Cinema Styles there's a kick-ass post on Hell's Angels. Everyone should check it out.

bill r. said...

Some day soon I will re-watch Zodiac and explain it to all you people. Then you'll be sorry.

Brian Doan said...

The best thing about Zodiac-- an ok but very erratic film-- is that it inspired a wonderful review in the Times from Manhola Dargis, where she compared Robert Downey Jr.'s pose in one scene to a Toulouse-Lautrec painting. In fact, I'd generally say the writing about Zodiac has been better than the film itself. Which isn't a bad trade-off.

No feelings on Button, which I haven't seen. But Bill, I'm surprised you don't like The Ice Storm, since it uses that Fantastic Four comic Maguire is reading as such a cool structuring device. I'd think a fellow superhero fan like you would find that interesting (there's a lot more to like in the film, but that's always the thing that leaps out to me).

Ryan Kelly said...

I just didn't get any sense of what was so goddamn great about it outside of being a good police procedural and no blogger really explained it

That's about the long and short of it. I think it's his best because it's about all Fincher has an interst in--- process. All of his films are procedural in some way, but Zodiac wears that on its sleeve and because of that I think it works. Plus, I have a fondness for 70s cinema, and the fact that it felt like something Pakula would have directed certainly didn't hurt. But, you're right, if it is indeed a masterpiece, no one really properly explained why. I hope Bill is up to the task!

After Button, I'm back to thinking I can never like Fincher. He's back on my "Life is too short for..." list. At least to go see in the theater, I'll wait for DVD with him, because he's kind of unavoidable.

Fox said...

As Rick was saying, I think this Button release, along with The Rock etc. are cash cows for Criterion. Which is fine with me as long as it affords them to stay in business.

Which... I don't really know how their business works. I've long wondered about it. I wonder if there are big private donors like Scorcese and the like.

I'm not a Zodiac hater, just a Zodiac shrugger. The only Fincher film I can say I like is Panic Room, and that's b/c Dwight Yoakam.

nd said...

Getting back to your initial attempt to watch Let the Right One In: you should hold off on that. The DVD edition inexplicably replaces the original theatrical subtitles with a completely different (& lousy) translation. Apparently the distributor has promised to rerelease it with the right subtitles.

bill r. said...

Brian - Well, it's been a long time since I saw The Ice Storm, and, to be honest, I don't remember the "Fantastic Four" thing. It sounds like the film is worth a revisit just for that, but also because apparently I'm the only guy who didn't like it. That's refreshing, though, since otherwise I'm coming off as the guy who loves everything. With my defense (sort of) here of Zodiac, and of Changeling over at Arbo's, and of The Aviator at Greg's, I needed to talk about something I didn't like for a change.

Ryan - You and I really seem to be on the same page regarding Fincher -- my next "favorite" is Seven, which I only think is decent -- but the thing is, I really do love Zodiac. I think it was one of the best movies of it's extremely good year. I think it's the only movie that Fincher has nailed, but good Lord, do I think he nailed the hell out of it.

Fox - No idea how Criterion works as a business, and I've been curious about it, too. Even if The Rock, etc., were purely commercial moves that paid off as hoped, how many of those have their been, if we're counting Benjamin Button, which hasn't even come out yet? Two or three? Criterion keeps rolling right along, God bless 'em, but I don't know how.

ND - Yeah, I've been reading about the subtitle SNAFU regarding Let the Right One In, and ordinarily I'd be happy to wait for the re-release, but I have no idea when that's going to be. It could be many months, and I don't think I want to wait that long. Besides, when it does hit On Demand, I'm holding out an unreasonable hope that they'll use the theatrical subtitles, as I don't think On Demand ordinarily has much to do with corresponding DVD releases.

Greg said...

You know you've been the center of like four of the last comments on the Hell's Angels post but you won't respond for some reason. Geez. So here I am, asking, will Spielberg win another Oscar and why is the 2017 Best Picture so shitty?

PIPER said...

Whoah. I like The Ice Storm as well. That's the one with Ricci's butt cleavage in it, right?

I wasn't surprised when I saw this, because Fincher is doing all sorts of major editions of his movies. But am I right that this is the only one of his to go to Criterion? Then in that case, it is surprising. Why not Zodiac? Or The Game? Wouldn't that be an interesting disc?

I kind of wish Criterion would loosen up a bit. Back in the Laserdisc days, they had Halloween on Criterion. But I think it has to do with licensing agreements more than anything.

And like Greg said, it's not offensive like Armageddon and The Rock.