Wild and Woolly

The dim month after the year-end Oscar drive — Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Bride Wars, The Unborn, Notorious, My Bloody Valentine, Inkheart, Outlander, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, et al. — looked to be brightened by the revival of François Truffaut’s Wild Child at the Ken Cinema beginning January 30. It has been many, many moons since Landmark has put on a revival to rival it, and in truth the theater chain over the past year has cut back on revivals at any level of competition. Unhappily, word came down that there would be no press screening of it, and I hardly feel equipped to write at length about a film I haven’t seen in decades. I could have had a DVD screener of it, thanks very much, but then again I could have watched it on video and written about it at any time I pleased in the last umpteen years. It pleases me instead to see it in a theater. The best I can do for now is to offer the sort of superficial introductory remarks in which Robert Osborne traffics before prime-time presentations on Turner Classic Movies. Picture me in silk tie and creaseless suit, with mouth slightly agape.

Here are a couple of things to be aware of when watching it. The first is that Truffaut — aficionados kindly pardon my ABC’s — launched his filmmaking career with The 400 Blows, and even before it with the short film The Mischief Makers, as something of a champion of anarchic youth, the spiritual heir of Jean Vigo. And as a leading figure in the first swell of the New Wave, not to mention previously as a firebrand critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, he stood for the New Way: anti-Establishment, independent, unconventional, iconoclastic, insurrectionist (albeit apolitical), young and reckless and free. His films, to be sure, had already blended into the commercial mainstream prior to the end of the Sixties — The Bride Wore Black, Mississippi Mermaid — but that’s just life. The compromise, the irony, the joke of life.

The second thing to keep in mind is May ’68. I won’t insult you, nor embarrass myself, by explaining what that was and what it meant, beyond saying for purposes of clarity that the spirit of revolution, sans guillotines, had once again reached the streets of Paris, and especially the students of Paris. See, if need be, Bertolucci’s The Dreamers for reference. Or think Kent State ’70 multiplied exponentially. It was against that backdrop that Truffaut cast himself (a starchy nonactor) in the role of a doctor in the age of the French Revolution, who took upon himself the taming, civilizing, acculturating of the titular and emblematic wild child, the unmythical Mowgli, the nature boy, the fledgling noble savage. Never mind its intrinsic merits, although these would put it in the running for the finest film ever made about the loftiest subject: education. The thought I wanted to convey is simply that this going against the grain — this bucking of the trend — this flying in the face of fashion — to say nothing of this personal reversal of field — is quite extraordinary, quite valorous, quite quixotic, and not quite what we came to expect of the ingratiating Monsieur Truffaut. In a black-and-white period film of nearly forty years ago, that might not be as apparent today as it was at the time. And now, let’s roll film....

Meanwhile, readers of the Reader, by which I mean readers of the tangible tabloid-sized paper named the Reader, will have been unaware of the online appendix to my 2008 wrap-up, in specific the extended volley between two loggers-on whose handles, or usernames, or whatever, are “joshb” and “johnrubio.” I realize that it has become the custom for a writer in my position to wade into the middle of such an exchange and trade blows. Three things deterred me. First, I make it a point of honor never to write anything for free. Even an obligatory thank-you note must be construed in my mind as completion of a contract for goods or services rendered. Second, my mental concept of the paper still seems limited exclusively to what’s printed on actual paper, and my sense of the glamour and romance of the profession runs instantaneously out of oxygen in cyberspace. No doubt embryonic or larval journalists in the 21st Century dream one day of writing for a website when they grow up. I was born too soon. And third, “johnrubio” ably represented my interests, as he has done in the past, without need of my intervention.

All the same, now that I am again scrabbling for filthy lucre, I might belatedly inject a few points that won’t be completely incomprehensible to anyone who failed to wander into the crossfire. First point: the one area where I would have tightened the rein on “johnrubio” is his contention that I go to movies in search of masterpieces. I grant that “masterpiece” is in my vocabulary as well as in my faintest hopes, and furthermore I bitterly lament the devaluation of the word “great” in critical discourse. Great Books of the Western World were never meant to accommodate the works of Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly, and even though it was one of my top picks of the year, The Promotion is not by a long shot, “joshb” to the contrary, “a great film.” (Wild Child, Truffaut’s masterpiece, could be called great. Though I should probably see it again before committing to it.) As a general rule I am well content to settle for nothing more at the movies than a good time, just as long as I don’t, for publication, have to trump it up into a great time. What constitutes a good time is of course no less open to dispute.

Second point: I must lodge a small protest at the distortion of my opinion on the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which I deliberately did not mention by name and which I did not intend to include in the discussion. In context, I reckoned it should be clear that I “wasted my time” at it only in the sense that it delayed the time when I would get around to the unanticipated delights of The Promotion. Obviously, I chose to see Bigger, Stronger, Faster first because I initially had more interest in it, and anyone who had bothered to check the website for my capsule review of it could have discovered that I considered it a respectable little documentary.

Third point: my snap diagnosis of what ails “joshb” is the common misapprehension — other sufferers will have their own individualized versions of it — that the job of a film critic is to express the views of “joshb.” More broadly, he believes that the job of a film critic is to be right, and that no one knows what’s right better than “joshb.” Thus, a good deal of his argument runs along the lines of so-and-so says such-and-such is A, but it’s not A, it’s A-minus. To which the most appropriate response seems to be, “Sez you!” A critic has his hands full just trying to figure out what he himself thinks. He can’t expend a lot of energy trying to placate every taste. As for the sensitivities of his readers: well, anyone who takes personal affront at an opposing opinion really isn’t ready for grown-up conversation. For certain, matters of taste are “personal,” and differences of it may be taken personally. If, for example, you’re on a first date and your tablemate confides that his or her all-time favorite film is There’s Something about Mary, you then have a useful indicator of your future together. But nothing will be served by throwing your chardonnay in his or her face. Such a clash of personalities on the page ought to be so much easier, so much less awkward, than across a restaurant table. Set the offender aside, remove yourself, don’t come back. You needn’t even wait around for the check.

* * *

The Oscar nominations.... Oh, dear. Button, Slumdog, Button, Button, Button, Slumdog, Button, Slumdog, Button, Button, Slumdog, Button, Slumdog, Slumdog, Button, Slumdog, Slumdog, Slumdog, Button, Button, Slumdog, Button, Button. And that’s that. With Sally Hawkins shut out of the Best Actress derby (and less startlingly, Clint Eastwood out of the Best Actor), I have nothing to root for and no new reason to give the awards credence. I saw Hawkins’s excessive display of emotion at the Golden Globe podium as a measure not of how seriously she took the award — God knows it’s next to worthless — but of how seriously she took the work. Young though she is, she must have had an inkling that Happy-Go-Lucky was a once-in-a-lifetime role, whether or not she had an inkling it wouldn’t even carry her through to Oscar night. I can feel relieved that her exclusion at least eliminated the possibility of her spontaneous combustion on stage.

* * *

Festival season opens this weekend with the sixth annual San Diego Black Film Festival, formerly the Noir Film Festival, January 29 through February 1 at the Regal Horton Plaza. You can view the full schedule, heavy on shorts and documentaries, at sdbff.com. And next week kicks off the nineteenth annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival, a nice balance of documentary and fiction, February 4 through 15, at the AMC La Jolla for the most part, and at the UltraStar Mission Valley, the Reading Carmel Mountain, and the Jewish Community Center Garfield Theatre for other parts. Go to lfjcc.org/sdjff to see what’s where, when.

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Far better than Bertolucci’s 'The Dreamers' would be to steer film lovers to the recent movie that Louis Garrel's father (Philippe) made about Paris '68: 'Les Amants réguliers' (Regular Lovers) --available on decent DVD (a real rarity for the video-loathing Garrel). That's the kind of comparison that seperates the adults from the kiddies....

I think Sally "Hawkins’s excessive display of emotion at the Golden Globe podium" was a drop in the bucket compared to Kate Winslet's...now- how do you explain that experienced actress wailing away at winning her two awards? Was she so grateful about her roles in those films? I really don't know.

Anything is far better than "The Dreamers".

Since Duncan replied to the online debate, I'll reply to his reply here. No sense wasting column space on something 5% of the readers will even understand.

First, I'm amazed that you would do a list of the Top 10 movies of the year, and object to me saying one of them was "great". So, I'm guessing your top 10 movies of the year consists of movies that are just "okay" or "nothing special," all the way up to "good, but not great." With such a large volume of movies I'm sure you've seen, that's surprising. I'll bet most critics Top 10 consists of movies they find "great."

Second, for you to think I want a critic that expresses "my views" is insane. I only want a critic to express intelligent views. That doesn't mean to like movies I liked, or hate movies I hated. It means, when someone like Roger Ebert complains that Benjamin Button wasn't a good film because "people are not born old, that makes no sense," and "what is the lesson we learn?"... he must also (in my opinion), not like Batman, because a person cannot fly just because they put a cape on. Ebert does the same thing in picking JFK as one of his greatest 100 movies of all-time, saying that it doesn't matter that Oliver Stone made up facts, "it's "just a movie." Yet, Ebert reviewed another movie about a historical figure, and gave it a bad review because it got facts wrong. See the problem there?

To say that people that get upset and take things personal "aren't ready for grown-up conversation'; I agree with 100%. It seems you might fall into this category, since you felt the need to devote column space to this online debate, instead of a movie review or two.

As for not wanting to "trade blows" and discuss film...well, I would think most film lovers would welcome that, paid or not. I'd like to think of a film critic also, as someone that would go to movies, whether they were paid or not. Perhaps I am wrong in assume you're that way.

The irony of joshb's reply is that, unable to find fault with Mr. Shepherd (other than Shepherd's parsimony with the adjective "great"), he instead bashes Rogert Ebert's analyses.

Basically, joshb has conceded that the only problem with Shepherd's reviews is that he doesn't throw the adjective "great" around enough.

Back in my sophomore English class at U.C. High (as well as from a cursory perusal of Strunk & White), I learned that adjectives don't have the same force as nouns and verbs.

I wonder what joshb's English teacher taught him.

joeb...it's not that I was "unable to find fault" with other Shepherd things. I didn't feel the need to write a long post that wouldn't all fit in the character limit.

There was also a problem with him saying a movie was "wasting time," but then scolding us for not reading his original capsule review of it (100% of the population would assume that if you say something was "wasting time" that means it's a negative review).

And, I am guessing, most reviews DS misses the boat. Not just in agreeing or not with the "majority" of the population. A lot of critics fall into that category. But, it was easier to use examples with Roger Ebert, since I can remember exact ones, and it gets my point across (which was merely defending myself...that I don't need a critic to just "agree" with my opinions).

Blah. Blah. Blah. That's what Shepherd's reviews sound like. They're of no use to anyone considering actually going to a movie. Unless it's French, and playing in the basement of the Museum of Fine Art. The pretentiousness oozes out of every word he writes. Go drink your wine and eat your cheese Shepherd.

Rickey says this. Rickey says that. Rickey says. Rickey says. Rickey says. Odd how some people come to identify themselves by their more pigheaded proclivities. I might wonder from what aching intellectual desperation such people are spawned, but then I suppose I can still remember their stumbling ascent through grade school, middle school, high, and then the gas station—never having graduated or grasped the “elementary.” These were the sorry ones who saw the “end all, say all” of argument resting solely in the blunt force trauma of their tone and vulgarity: “Hmph!” as a universal contention in their debates. In a sense, such ignorance might compel one to believe that a response is not even warranted, that foolishness ought not be given the time of day. But then foolishness unchecked, are like weeds un-rooted. And ignoring (even those most deserving) is the root of “ignor”ance. So, the checklist begins . . .

“Blah. Blah. Blah”—a telling translation—not so much of the work in question, but rather of the translator himself. When one listens to brilliance and hears only static, then we have to consider the comprehension of the listener: the child looking in a clueless panic around the classroom at students who “get” the poem—the child who later declares for a lifetime “that book sucks!” And to this, I must concede that there is much truth in Rickey’s first statement. I’m sure the “blah’s” still echo in his mind after reading Mr. Shepherd. But the lacking here is with the mind, not the reading.

And then of course, there are the generalities, the declarative iron-on patches of illogic—the staple of any good imbecile. “Unless it’s French”—because France is the height of pretense? or because French sounds like “blah, blah, blah”? or because Rickey can’t understand those movies either? Of course, we know the answer: it’s because “rickeysays”. And then there is “in the basement of the Museum of Fine Art.” I would consider inclusion in such prestigious halls to be a compliment to both the film and the reviewer who commends it; but perhaps that’s why it’s only being shown “in the basement,” or so rickeysays.

Finally, while I no doubt will not be able to deter further obstinacy from Rickey and the like, I would make the small request that he refrain from speaking for the movie going public. While I understand that what “rickeysays,” Rickey means, and Rickey-right, and Shepherd-wrong—there do exist those of us in the “anyone considering actually going to a movie” world who value an opinion of expertise over that of the novice grumbler; who find enjoyment in the exercise of our intellects; who appreciate movies because they can inspire such challenging discourse as Shepherd espouses.

But perhaps I’m beginning to “ooze.” I have wine to breathe, and cheese to palette, and Godard is about to grace me with a 10-minute tracking shot overlooking French traffic . . . blah, blah, blah, ra-pa-te-ta . . .

(And I do apologize to Mr. Shepherd for having reduced his own film watching enjoyment to singularly "masterpieces". I guess I sometimes fall to presumption myself when in a fervor to defend.)

God almighty. When a circle of people pisses on each other, daisy-chain style, everyone gets splashed in the end. Less blah-bla-blah and more ew-gross-STOP-IT. How about it, everyone?

johnrubio...here's what I can't understand. you spent all that time on rickeysays. why? i mean, really...not one unkind word for mr. shephard? he spent a lot of time regarding OUR debate, instead of reviewing a film with that space.

rickeysays once sent me an email, when i posted that i liked the movie "paris, je t'aime" a few years back. so what. i liked the fact that he was that fired up about hating that movie, and we had a spirited debate.

my only conclusion is that you are duncan shephard, or you're his best friend. anything else just doesn't make sense (about as much sense as him not writing unless he's paid...as if someone like you, an obviously talented writer that's also smart, doesn't have anything better to do than write on a website post for free). a person that ONLY seems to be fired up when someone attacks duncans opinion of films.


You think this grammatically challenged individual is Duncan? Or even his friend?

The use of "ignor ance" is one clue.


As I’m sure you can well appreciate, these postings take very little time or energy, and constitute a rather derivative passing of a few minutes. In truth, the majority of my day is taken up with reading essays, searching for that flair of comprehension, trying to draw out that student with the “gift”—and of course, trying to encourage those who don’t have “it” as best I can. I suppose some of my daily routine no doubt spills over into my postings. Correcting the popular ignorance is my trade. Perhaps “jhutt” and other such vagrants were even once students of mine, endlessly trialing, but unable to grasp the more subtle uses of grammar, the nuances of a semicolon or a long dash. But I believe my actual motives are rooted elsewhere.

I’ve been a loyal reader of Mr. Shepherd’s reviews for over a decade now, dating back to my high school days when I understood nary a fluent phrase or subtle allusion in his work. But I knew there was something there. I knew I was in the presence of something profound—a man who touched the literary in a journalistic (is “genre” the word?) that generally fails to provide any more insight than flash words and pop promotion. Even the more astute writers in the film reviewer pool tend to be creatures of brevity, never giving their opinions time to gestate and evolve. They, like nearly all in the tentacle orbit of Hollywood, are tools of the business itself. Shepherd is a place of intelligent refuge, a master with deft hands composing what I saw as the last sanctuary of cinematic commentary. With Shepherd, I was able to learn—and indeed, I have; I continue to do so.

Therefore, I’ve come to be rather defensive of these pages. I freely admit that. Now, whether my contribution is welcomed, or needed, or enjoyed—to be honest, I really don’t care. If I seem a watchdog, so be it. But as I’ve commented before, I will not tolerate ignorance and disrespect. I will not let a setting I’ve come to appreciate so much be tarnished by a minority or a multitude of fools. If they rear their empty heads here, I’m going to make an example of it. Indeed, I much preferred “The Reader” and Mr. Shepherd’s reviews before the grand advent of the online version. I like the substance in my hands; it feels cleaner, fresher—it has a quality and texture. The online world, though I habituate it, always makes me feel subject to the leviathan, especially in the tedious pong of comment sections. The internet for all its graces is an unfortunate place where all (the angels and the apes) can be “published,” can see their name in print and derive a sense of ill-gotten accomplishment. It removes the insulation of talent for the writer, letting far too many dullards believe that they can do it, that their opinions are worth the typing, that their sentences are worth the reading.

I have challenged Mr. Shepherd in the past (on a matter of historical accuracy); but beyond such matters, I can’t chide what I don’t find fault with. He makes it clear at the outset of his article that this has been a dismal week for movies, and offered instead a revival review of an older film. This is his prerogative, just as it is yours Josh to defend yourself, just as it is “jhutt’s” to place a finger in his mouth and gag whenever he reads my writing. Mr. Shepherd often forgoes a new review when he finds the current releases lacking. I guess I’m just used to it; and I appreciate the upkeep on grand relics. As I said before, I look for two components in an article: intelligence and respect, and from these I derive all other manner of enjoyment, humor, catharsis, etc. Shepherd keeps me in ample supply of both.

Beyond this, all I can assure you is that I am not Mr. Shepherd (no Bruce Wayne crossover here). I don’t dress in borrowed robes to parlay my opinions under two guises. In fact, I have no knowledge of Mr. Shepherd beyond what he has relinquished in this publication. I have of course “Googled” him in hopes of finding some further contribution to his forte; but alas, “The Reader” appears to be my only avail.

Rubio, your review of my comments sounds just like Shepherd's reviews of movies. Blah. Blah. Blah. Pretentiousness doesn't make you right, and it doesn't make you smart. You and Shepherd should sit in the basement watching your crappy French movies and jerking each other off, and spare the rest of us.

And by the way, Rickeysays is not me. It's an homage to Rickey Henderson, who used to refer to himself in the third person. My name's not even Rickey.

You always make good points, john. And your posts are always welcomed and appreciated.

But...also too, are people like jhutt. Take for example his three word response above. That's a great line. A better line than you'll see in most of todays comedies.

I spent two hours arguing with a woman I met at a party that said the movie "The Reader" was flawless. And, it wasn't because, as Duncan would say, "I want critics to agree with me." It's because, that movie had a few flawless scenes, but it had too many lame scenes, too.

And so...when I read a list of the 10 best movies of the year, and the 3rd one listed is Promotion, I assume he thinks it's great.

I have no problem with him not liking a comedy like There's Something About Mary (although...come on, I would like it if only for the Jonathan Richman songs alone!)...

But as much as you defend Shephard, it would be nice to see you say once in a while, that yeah...he's using bad phrasing if he says "wasting time" on a documentary on steroid abuse, and then giving us crap for not going back to read the capsule review of it.

Hey not Rickey...being unpretentious doesn't make you right either and it seems if you want to be spared, you can easily do it yourself. And joshb...haven't seen The Reader so I don't know if it was flawed or not. But after two hours of arguing with this woman, was either mind changed? Apparently you still think it was flawed. If she still thinks it's flawless, is she "wrong"? I will give you this...I admire Duncan enough to try to see his three to five star movies which is rare in the current reviews. So I saw The Promotion based on his four star review. I enjoyed it, but didn't think it worthy of a rare non Eastwood/Coens four star review Come on Duncan....four stars?!

mike1....this is going to sound completely nuts, but yes, her thinking The Reader was flawless, is in fact "wrong". And, this is a movie that even the critics that loved it (Roger Ebert called it one of the best of the year), would be the first to tell you that it's far from flawless. Hell, the make-up they used on Winslet to age her was horrible! That alone, is a "flaw".

For me, if you want to say a movie is "flawless"...I guess it's the same as Duncan saying a movie is "great". But to answer your question, no...neither mind was changed. She went down the path of "it's my opinion..." and I just kept pointing out the flaws, whether they were the fact that a woman would do 25 years in jail because she didn't want to look silly by admitting to the court she didn't know how to read and write (her argument to that was that she once worked with an adult illiteracy group, and that there's nothing more shameful for a grown person to admit).

JoshB sez<..."not one unkind word for mr. shephard? he spent a lot of time regarding OUR debate, instead of reviewing a film with that space.">

Out of morbid curiosity, can you tell me where one can find this "OUR debate" - at which part of the site "Shephard"'s "regard" of the "debate" can be found? In the spirit of free speakin', I support your rights (or rickeysays's) to dig your own grave(s) with words. Just don't come round my parts itchin' fur a fight. You gonna get your head handed back to you then.

To johnrubio, hello, you sound like someone I must have bumped into at the MoCA or MoPA. Did we once share a fine fourme de Rochefort with a Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac, 1957 ? Seriously, we turned on to Shepherd at about the same time, so we ought to know more about one another. Maybe have tea sometime ... perhaps go beret shopping?

I respect Roger Ebert and think he's intelligent but I also think he's too easy with his reviews. But maybe that's how you become one of the most well known critics in the land. Let's face it, Duncan is not in the mainstream and doesn't use the words "thrill ride" and the aforementioned "great" in every other review. I still would like to hear him in a forum on KPBS for example. Why only Scott Marks, Beth Accomando, and, prior to his dismissal from the U-T, David Elliot?

The debate can be found a few weeks back, in the movie section. I believe it's titled "Favorite Few". And DS responds in this current write up, on all our responses.

Rickey (or not)...your post was a pit harsh. And, I still think you're wrong about the Paris film with all the short stories. The Coehn Brothers/Steve Buscemi was worth it all by itself, but so many of the other vinettes worked (unlike a film like Coffee & Cigarettes, where only two or three of the 10 stories worked).

and mike1, I agree with you on Ebert. I love a critic that is tough on movies. And Duncans command if the language is great. But what he does sometimes reminds me of the way the cartoons in the New Yorker used to be. They wanted to be esoteric just for the sake of it.

And Alias...that was the funniest post of all-time.


I think we come here for quite varied reasons. You’ve raised issues several times (now as a kind of beckoning to my own ability to be “fired up”) concerning Shepherd’s choice to expend energy commenting on our discussion a few weeks past rather than presenting a new review, and his dismissive phrasing for “Bigger, Faster, Stronger.” Now I do not believe that Mr. Shepherd is infallible. I’m not going to take the role of your friend and dub him “flawless.” But still, I do not come to his reviews with the same challenging eye that you do. I do when I peruse the comments, but I’ve never found myself in a position to criticize those who know more than I. Shepherd is a better writer than I am. He is far more educated and experientially versed in cinema than I am, specifically in regards to the quality of film images. This makes him a better appreciator of film than my self. I come to Shepherd’s reviews to learn something; I don’t come to find mistakes or affronts to my own opinion, which I generally leave at the door (or I guess it would be “cover,” or “homepage,” or whatever). At most, I might question what Shepherd has to say, but I’m not in a position to judge him. I know many will judge me as ludicrously sentimental, claiming that all critics are at the whim and disposal of their readers; that if you publish it, then you deserve whatever comes at you. I have no direct argument with this way of thinking; and I would agree with it for the most part, especially given the intellectual dregs that populate much of online publishing. But when I am the novice, I do not shout advice to the big boys.

This is of course my individual take the subject. Yours is obviously quite different, Josh. I actually appreciate that Shepherd does not log on to “trade blows” in a comment section debate. I find a certain dignity in his will to abstain. Now I know you publish on “The Reader” as well; so please don’t misconstrue this as an insult, but I prefer the separation between writer and reader—the one that online comments are so fervently trying to diminish. And I don’t feel that Shepherd is simply publishing a “blog,” where the popcorn frenzy of name-calling, finger-pointing, and an occasional thought are welcomed energy. Shepherd is publishing in a different league. Where I would be inclined to agree with you is wondering why Shepherd even addressed our former discussion at all. That is why I preferred (and prefer) the print version of “The Reader.” The integrity of the articles was better preserved before public commentary was allowed. When I do stroll the halls of the MoCA or MoPA, I would be horrified to see the exhibits tarnished by a roll of viewer comments left scrolling beneath them—toilet paper, pre-soiled. I can already predict the responses: “johnrubio, Do you actually consider Shepherd’s writing on par with fine art?” The preemptive answer: yes I do. That’s my subjective experience.

I know some may find this as merely an extension of my arrogance (and Shepherd’s as well)—let subjectivity reign. However, I’ll offer the contention that arrogance is not so much respecting (and defending) intellectualism as it is presuming an amateur has any justice to pass over an expert. There’s a reason the performer takes the stage while the audience remains in the stands. Onlookers are there to look on. When I read a commenter that attempts to usurp Shepherd’s reviews with his own piecemeal opinion, I imagine arena attendees charging the field to show the professionals “how it’s done.” Can they play? Can they sing? Can they write? Can they review films? Not in the least; but hail to the internet—where any layperson can fancy a talent that he does not possess.

First to "not rickey"...one of the sports shows was talking about how Rickey Henderson didn't speak third person, for the first time ever, at his induction to the Hall of Fame.

And john...the thing with the whole "trading blows" online, to me, makes little sense. Because it's not that hard to post something, and if a person is responding with insults rather than a debate, you can certainly be done with it and move on.

Movie reviews are one segment that this would work best in. As I've said before, I've read books Ebert has written that are wonderful, and love to read his take on a film. Yet when he likes a movie like Congo, I wish I could ask him why. Not to tell him that most people that liked that probably had an IQ below 100...but because I at least want to hear what it was. Did he and his friends (fellow critics?) sit around making fun of it while it played. Did he just really love the ape outfits?

I remember the first time someone heard me say I didn't like Brokeback Mountain, and went down the homophobe path. We had a great debate on the film. But, if the guy that accused me of this wasn't listening to what I had to say, and just kept calling me a homophobe, I would've moved on. It's not that hard to do.

And I can totally understand all DS points for not wanting to log on, do extra writing, etc. But there would be nothing more fun for film lovers than to have a place (ie THIS WEBSITE) that they can discuss their favorite/least favorite movies of the year. And, if they didn't agree with DS, maybe a post or two from him giving more detail than the printed copy allowed for.

On a side note: what were your least favorite and favorite films of the year?


I admit the forum-style discussion board you describe would no doubt be entertaining (perhaps even enriching at times). Unfortunately, the kind of informative questioning you mention is not the garden-variety fare that usually ends up here. People often seem to come with fruits and vegetables pre-packaged in their fists for the hurling. Still, perhaps you are just more communally minded than I am. You are talking about a form of shared communication while I’m seeking to fortify a social hierarchy. And I’ve come to admire your tact with what seems a universal responsiveness. You seem a passionate conversationalist (even if often limited to the digital world) who genuinely appeals to people’s interests in order to make inviting connections. Indeed, I’ve been prodded more frequently as of late to bare my foibles on this message board and indulge in the guilty pleasure of online banter—Mr. Shepherd’s articles being the only on this site (or any other for that matter) that I’ve ever commented on.

I suppose for my own part, whereas I can concede to the “fun” that might be had conversing with my heroes, I somewhat appreciate the novelty of being held at a distance. I enjoy preserving the mystique, even if only a pretense—to build a relationship with one I’ve only known through a one-sided elocution of the splendid and the sublime. In many ways this is why I enjoy film so much, because I can’t interview the characters; I can’t ask direct questions of their fictional motives. I can’t investigate the plot beyond what is given to me. In this sense, I’m permitted to scale my own personal summit of interest with the least amount of tools possible—a restriction that makes the peak of intellectual discovery all the more rewarding. Of course, I still “dream” of meeting my heroes. I still imagine that we would make great friends. I still permit myself the fantasy of ever perhaps impressing them. But I know it’s all fluff. As a teenager, I sent in all the letters and memorabilia to favorite bands, gambling excitement on that brief chance I might receive and autograph or a reply. We eventually shrug off the disappointment that echoes in an empty mailbox.

But what I once perceived as a loss, I’ve now come to appreciate. As before stated, I bask in being able to keep the ideal of my heroes alive—not to make gods out of them, but to insure that I don’t make commonalities out of them either. A professor put it to me once with a situational question: how would my experiential perception of Aristotle be altered if I met him (brilliance intact), but he suffered from unbearable foot odor? Chuckles aside at the conjecture, I could not deny that something would be lost, some chink in the ideal would have been recognized and my image would have been sullied. Of course, this shouldn’t be the case. All of the attributes that make Aristotle so revered to me would still be there. I would still be in the presence of a genius. Our conversation would still be educational beyond any other (conversation or education) in my experience. And yet, for a man whose reputation has become the substance of myth, the humanization process of casual interaction would dim the sheen of icon.

Good points as always.

Regarding Aristotle, I'd say the foot odor would be horrible, considering he probably wore sandals, which would make the smell a lot worse than if he had a nice pair of leather Nike's and socks. They seemed to like their sandals back in those days.

I often wondered if I had a sit down talk with Einstein, if I'd ask him how he could be so smart, and not realize he'd look a thousand times better if he invested in a hair brush.

Kirk Douglas, after his first few films, got a call from Joan Crawford. She seduced him the second he walked in the door (right on her living room floor)...according to his wonderful autobiography. He said it almost didn't happen because of her horrible breath.

But I like the fact that you realized it wouldn't take away from their intellectual prowess.

As a kid, I'd often send stuff to my favorite NBA players. They would usually send back their autograph. But the best experience was when I was 12 years old, and a neighbor was telling my parents how Bruce Dern donated all this money to their charity, and the check had his home address. I asked for it, so I could send him a fan letter. My mom said, "He probably gets hundreds of fan letters a week." I replied, "Mom, are you insane? It's Bruce Dern not Bruce Lee. He probably gets two fan letters a year, if that."

She bet me $10 I'd never hear back from him. I wrote how I loved him in the movie Tattoo the year previously, and how scary he is in that, and Coming Home. I went into detail about how villians in movies are probably so hard to play, but in Black Friday and King of Marvin Gardens, he pulls it off so convincingly. I swear, this letter was about 4 pages long; partly because I was a fan, but mostly because I wanted my moms money.

Two weeks later a letter arrived from him. He wrote that it was one of the nicest letters he's ever read, he thanked me for everything I wrote. And, he enclosed an autographed picture (which I promptly put on the fridge, to rub in my moms face.

Since I have a cool mother, she was actually really happy for me (and she coughed up the cash).

Sorry to hear your heroes weren't as good at responding!

johnrubio, are you lumping my humble offerings with the "toilet paper" you speak of here? I was being half-serious, in fact, I think we may have met at one of those museums..hhmm?

joshb - track back to: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20...

I just found it, forgot that I challenged you about Moore. You said "Okay Alias...let me first ask you this. Have you not Googled the Michael Moore "lies"?". My answer: I don't know what you're refering to. Do you believe those are credible? I'll give you the benifit of not thinking you believe everything you read online...why waste my time with someone who states catagorically that " As if Cuba really has a better health care system than us.". ..per capita, obviously they have a fairer, better system for health care. Still have NO idea what you're refering to with this Shepherd-responded-to-us business. If it's not an ersatz-D.S., I think you need to give me better directions to find this: I have Never read a Duncan response online to single posters, and I highly doubt he'd do that. My initial and second take on you guys is you're full of bannana oil, are two sides of the same silly coin: the pretentious side, and the hoi polli side. Moreover, I doubt Duncan Shepherd even wastes time reading these Internet babblings. If I were he, I wouldn't (even the idol-worshippers bore).


While I tend to agree with you regarding Shepherd's need for (or interest in) responding to the babble that trails his articles, it is not my intention to encourage any kind of response from him. I have no doubt that my comments may "bore," but it is also not my intention to entertain. As joshb chided me for earlier, I tend to only become "fired up" when I read foolish insults flung at Shepherd's reviews. I just feel the need to pick that eyelash out of my Chardonnay and fling it to the garbage where it belongs. I wouldn't include your comments in this refuse, but my "toilet paper" metaphor was really just a conveyance of what you already stated: comment sections (positive or negative) tend to hamper the enjoyment of a well written article (at least for me). But since you asked, the response from Shepherd that joshb is referring to begins in the fourth paragraph of this article: "Wild and Woolly". The original back-and-forth between Josh and I that he's responding to occurred somewhere a few weeks back in the comment section to Shepherd's annual wrap-up: "Favorite Few".

Alias...I didn't just read the Michael Moore things online. Many shows showed the statements he's done that are wrong. In fact, one politician even mentioned how he agreed with Moore, when Moore stood outside asking these politicians sign things to send their kids to war, or whatever that was. Yet, Moore (as usual) edited the piece to make it look like the guy WAS NOT agreeing, or happy, by Moore's presence. Moore also edited an NRA rally after the Columbine shooting, to show people applauding after statements they didn't applaud after. TO me, that constitutes a "lie". Either show the people responding to the appropriate statements, or don't show that thing at all. Now, I had no problem with Moore going to Hestons home and having him dig his own grave, that's fine. But to re-edit an NRA meeting, to make them look like they didn't care about Columbine, I don't believe, is a fair thing to do. And, it saddens me, because he started out with such great possibilities (going back to Roger & Me, and his TV Nation show). But, like Rush Limbaugh, he has proven to just be a big bag of hot air (even if I agree with Moore politically on many things).

John...since you ended with "favorite few"...I'd love to hear your top five favorite films of the year, and least favorite.

johnrubio, well - shut my typing hand. I got a little carried away for someone who didn't read the whole article last week. Thank you for the information I so sorely needed. The truth is, I read l'enfant sauvage the Shepherd's notes on 'L'Enfant Sauvage' then lost track of the sole copy of the Reader I had. Guess I'd better head over to Reader headquaters and get my head straight on the matter. And I didn't mean to suggest that my comments don't bore too. Internet tappings are almost all dispensable. Even the Weblogs by real writers like David Mamet tend to bore me. Now that I'm no longer ignorant on that fact Shepherd does -or at least has once- took a look at this stuff, I feel silly myself now. And I feel very unenlightened that I waste my time reading this and getting worked up about things like the Michael Moore issue (of truth, journalistic integrity, manipulation of the audience, whatever). Who really cares? Either you go for what he represents, or ya whine about it. And I'm ashamed I get bored so easily, with all the interesting happenings in the world I could get involved in... Blank generationalist, no-hoper, till the end, I suppose. Why aren't we all be ashamed at this boredom that drives us Online to virually "discuss", rather than live with a communication of some consequence? Eric Hoffer: "When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored." James Branch Cabell: "Poetry is man's rebellion against being what he is." So let's all strive to live poétiquement (he sniveled)!

And while I'm at it, here's my #1 bete noir with the current Reader website: you can no longer search for Duncan Shepherd capsule reviews by year, can you? Not, at least, in order -alphabetical or otherwise. I always liked that feature...to be able to search by decade: 1970's, by year: 1987, for example. Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes. I'm dieing here, folks (rimshot, muffled crash). If my mental bumbershoot caused any kerfuffles lately, I appologize. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmCpOKtN8ME

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