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Siskel & Ebert & Roeper & You
August 1, 2007 11:59 AM   Subscribe

On At The Movies this past weekend Richard Roeper announced: 1) The past 20 years of At The Movies (formerly Siskel & Ebert & the Movies) is going to be archived for free download online. That's several thousand reviews -- from Adventures in Babysitting to Zodiac. Unfortunately, the first ten years of of the show was poorly preserved. Ebert writes, "Starting Thursday, Aug. 2, visitors will be able to search for and watch all of those past debates, including the film clips that went along with them, plus the “ten best” and other special shows we did. The new archive will be at www.atthemoviestv.com, and will be the web’s largest collection of streaming reviews." 2) Roger Ebert will be a guest for an online chat Thursday at 8:00 Eastern (7:00 Central). You can submit questions in advance here. The chat will be at this link.  (Until the actual archive shows up online, you can enjoy these links.)
posted by McLir (75 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love pretty much anything that turns the internet into a better archive library. I wonder how useful this will be to people. Maybe people can use it if they are thinking about renting old movies. I doubt I'd ever use it, but I fully support it.
posted by Phantomx at 12:07 PM on August 1, 2007


Two thumbs up.
posted by mazola at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2007


AWE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks McLir!
posted by The Deej at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2007


This is a cool resource.

But, why is metafilter all about Roger Ebert?? I swear, we post more about him than anyone else! Is it metafilters' 30something liberal demographic? Is it our shared (with Ebert) obsession with staring at screens all day? It certainly can't be some particular brilliance on the part of Ebert, who is a perfectly fine but in my view, not particularly interesting reviewer.
posted by serazin at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm an elderly conservative, so that's not true for me.

OK, well middle-aged. Elderly to some, I guess.

I read and recommend his reviews precisely because he is a particularly interesting reviewer.
posted by The Deej at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2007


I agree with Phantomx. The more stuff we archive on the web, the better. It would be great if they could integrate it with IMDB. In my office, we're constantly looking up old movies from the 80s and talking about them.
posted by JeremyT at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2007


Completely fantastic. I'm going to hammer their bandwidth something fierce over the next few weeks.

Makes me quite happy to own a Mac Mini HTPC. Just checked, and this site won't work with the Wii browser, sadly (requires a later version of Flash).
posted by porn in the woods at 12:32 PM on August 1, 2007


We talk about Ebert a lot because we want to see our usernames in the Sun Times again.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:33 PM on August 1, 2007


Anyone who's seen, say, Siskel and Ebert's epic battle over the merits of Blue Velvet will understand at once how and why this is awesome. It's not just a quick n' easy what-to-rent resource, or even just entertainment in its own right, but a document of how films with long-cemented reputations were received by major critics at the time of first release. I'm probably way more excited about this than I should admit to in public, but there ya go.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ebert strikes me as an unusually literate critic. He also has very interesting lonviews on the film industry and technology. As for his appeal to MeFites... when he was a kid, he contributed to Science Fiction fanzines and his personal bio includes hobbies: "Reading, cyberspace, walking, travel, sketching, cosmology, Darwinianism, and using the Japenese rice cooker to cook almost anything." For all we know, he might be a contributor here.
posted by McLir at 12:40 PM on August 1, 2007


Do they have the one where Ebert ate Siskel?
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on August 1, 2007


For all we know, he might be a contributor here.

I suggest testing people by asking how they thought about Space Jam. Ebert liked it, somehow.
posted by JHarris at 12:45 PM on August 1, 2007


Damn you, McLir! I saw this earlier, and filed it away in my "to be posted tomorrow" folder.

This is gonna be a sweet resource. It's too bad the first ten years were 'poorly preserved'. (I take that to mean the tapes were probably erased.)
posted by graventy at 12:48 PM on August 1, 2007


That is fantasticamazing. Note to self: never, ever do laundry during At the Movies, again. Thanks!
posted by steef at 12:49 PM on August 1, 2007


I don't always agree with Ebert (he really liked The Rose fer crissake), but he tends to be even handed with his reviews. I find his books and website a great resource for movies I missed the first time around. The video reviews will be the butter on the popcorn.

Oh and you might well be a conservative, but if you're elderly, Deej, I might as well skip the rest of life and get myself embalmed right now. Ya whippersnapper. Hell, I'm old enough to be your, um, older brother.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:51 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm with kittens for breakfast on this. My favorite TV show growing up in Chicago was Sneak Previews, the original PBS version of At The Movies. There was a lot of talk then about the relationship between Siskel and Ebert ("Do they really hate each other?") but they had a real chemistry together and they appeared to be largely unscripted. When they debated the merits of a movie they were authentically arguing, not performing that practiced, TV-ready acrimony that gets paraded out as 'reality' these days. I'm really looking forward to watching these- Thanks, McLir!
posted by maryh at 12:53 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


[...] Space Jam. Ebert liked it, somehow.

It was completely plausible. If anyone could save the world from aliens in a basketball game, Michael Jordan could.
posted by graventy at 12:56 PM on August 1, 2007


Adventures in Babysitting

GAAAAAAAARGH

*chops off thumbs, buries them*
posted by loquacious at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2007


Don't fuck with the babysitter!!!
posted by The Deej at 1:02 PM on August 1, 2007


graventy, it is a mistake to think any real problems can be solved with basketball. Remember, after the movie ended and the Harlem Globetrotters had proven victorious, the castaways were STILL on that damn island.
posted by JHarris at 1:07 PM on August 1, 2007


This is gonna be a sweet resource. It's too bad the first ten years were 'poorly preserved'. (I take that to mean the tapes were probably erased.)

According to Wikipedia those years seem to line up with time when they worked for different production companies. So it might just be a polite way of saying there are legal issues.

Or maybe they read his claim that Tommy Boy had "no memorable lines" and they burned all the tapes out of disgust.
posted by Gary at 1:07 PM on August 1, 2007


Remember, after the movie ended and the Harlem Globetrotters had proven victorious, the castaways were STILL on that damn island.
posted by JHarris


Damn, JHarris!!!! How 'bout a spoiler alert huh?!?
posted by The Deej at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2007


Ebert seems a decent chap, but in all non-snarkiness, they're just reviews. I've never based whether or not I'd see a current movie on what a reviewer, even Ebert, says, and am much less inclined to do so about an older flick. Guess it's good to go into the time capsule but subjective data about old movies does not seem very useful.
posted by edgeways at 1:26 PM on August 1, 2007


For all we know, he might be a contributor here.

I suggest testing people by punching them all in the face while yelling, somewhat quizzically, "Ebert, motherfucker?", and see who talks though the blood and shame."
posted by found missing at 1:28 PM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


subjective data about old movies does not seem very useful.

Useful... maybe, maybe not. Interesting? Hell yes.
posted by flashboy at 1:37 PM on August 1, 2007


I really like Ebert--I'd argue that he's more of a critic than a reviewer. Some of his writings are reviews of films in the same way that T. S. Elliot reviewed Shakespeare...

Not that I'm putting "I Hated This Movie" in the same class as "East Coker" or anything, but they are more than just, "Here's who will enjoy this film"
posted by Squid Voltaire at 1:38 PM on August 1, 2007


I heart Ebert. Thanks for this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2007


The "poorly preserved" era also coincides with the time period when the BBC was erasing old videotapes of classic television series, including Doctor Who. Alas, given the economics and the era, it makes perfect rational sense not to keep those. For just one thing, there wasn't a market for "old movies" except among a select few hobbyists and film societies. If the college celluloid addicts could only get "The Great Dictator", that's what you went to see. I know, I know, it's hard to believe that the human race soldiered on, but we did.
posted by dhartung at 1:47 PM on August 1, 2007


What kinds of mashups will people do with this?
posted by LarryC at 2:09 PM on August 1, 2007


I know, I know, it's hard to believe that the human race soldiered on, but we did.

Was the tape erasing as widely popular in America? I've read about the lost Doctor Who episodes before and it's baffling. I grew up watching reruns of Batman and the Brady Bunch, so it's hard to believe that TV stations would ever throw anything out. Especially a series that was still going strong (Doctor Who, that is).

I can see the rational behind erasing a movie review show. It still seems weird, though.
posted by Gary at 2:15 PM on August 1, 2007


Who is a more interesting reviewer? Who has the history, the humanity?

Ebert struck me as a teenager with his great mixture of intellect and good-natured humor. I spend high school hoping to be a film critic too. Then I discovered film academia... and I still love Ebert.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Excellent!
Loves The Ebert, misses The Siskel something fierce.

Roeper will never measure up. Sorry.
posted by willmize at 2:20 PM on August 1, 2007


Ebert seems a decent chap, but in all non-snarkiness, they're just reviews. I've never based whether or not I'd see a current movie on what a reviewer, even Ebert, says, and am much less inclined to do so about an older flick.

Personally I don't read/watch his reviews to judge whether or not I'm gonna see the movie. You can tell the man really loves movies, they're like his religion, and I relate to that. I see it more like having a conversation with a friend who shares my passion. Luckily a really intelligent, articulate friend who can sometimes show me new ways to think about the institution of Film.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


YAYYY, So glad to now have some good movie reviews and suggestions!

Great post. so useful! Much appreciated McLir. Suggest you might consider including films, movies and moviereviews in your tags.
posted by nickyskye at 2:30 PM on August 1, 2007


Well, all I know about Roger Ebert is this review where he likes one of the stupidest, worst-written. poorly-acted and most boring movies I ever saw, not even bad enough to be funny.

The reason I know about this review is that after I saw the film (my next door neighbor lent it to me), I searched for all the positive reviews of it so that I could avoid ever reading those reviewers again.

Re-reading the review, I'm still astonished, and glad I never read Ebert again.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2007


Who is a more interesting reviewer? Who has the history, the humanity? Pauline Kael?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:31 PM on August 1, 2007


*enjoyed Adventures In Babysitting*
*sticks out tongue at everybody*

"Roeper will never measure up. Sorry."

Who said he has to? Sheesh.

Roeper may not measure up to Siskel & Ebert, but let's be honest - Siskel's shoes were pretty big damned shoes to fill, and Roeper has done his level best. I think people should cut the guy a little slack. Let he who is with more cojones cast the first nut. Translation: You think you can, but you could not have done better in his position. You woulda choked and you know it, so quit digging a hole for Roeper - you're the only one who's gonna end up in it.

With all that said, Ebert's always been my favorite. Even, and especially when I disagreed with him, I could see his side of it, and I've (almost) always respected his opinion. Ebert epitomizes what a film critic is supposed to be. Not an opinionated blowhard - but a man who examines and researches what's available, and informs his audience with what he has learned. Then - and this is the most important thing - he makes it clear you have to decide for yourself if he's right. Ebert never tells an audience what it should do. He just calls them like he sees them and leaves it at that.

In a word: Ebert ROCKS.

I will definitely be taking advantage of this archive when it comes to fruition.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:34 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


John Mellencamp subs for Ebert in the review of Lonely Hearts.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:46 PM on August 1, 2007


Siskel's shoes weren't particularly hard to fill. He never really compared to Ebert in his knowledge and passion for movies.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:50 PM on August 1, 2007


lupus: another of my personal heroes, and the only (arguable) answer I'll accept. A+
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:55 PM on August 1, 2007


What about Andrew Sarris?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:01 PM on August 1, 2007


"Who is a more interesting reviewer? Who has the history, the humanity? Pauline Kael?"

Pauline Kael loved the incoherent mess of Last Tango in Paris, and proclaimed it "the most erotic movie ever." I blame her, at least in part, for my viewing of that steamer.
posted by klangklangston at 3:33 PM on August 1, 2007




Ebert sold-out a long long time ago.

He's been afraid to pan any film with a huge advertising budget for at least a decade.

You cannot be a high-profile "successful" critic nowadays if you bash any major, big-budget release.

Tony Scott at The NY Times was the really the last major critic one to sell out.
posted by wfc123 at 3:42 PM on August 1, 2007


dhartung writes "If the college celluloid addicts could only get 'The Great Dictator', that's what you went to see."

Not a bad choice at all ...
posted by krinklyfig at 3:51 PM on August 1, 2007


ZachsMind writes "Then - and this is the most important thing - he makes it clear you have to decide for yourself if he's right. Ebert never tells an audience what it should do. He just calls them like he sees them and leaves it at that."

Yeah, but sometimes you have to figure out for yourself if he "gets it." Like with Fight Club. He panned it, mostly because he didn't like the violence. I can understand that, but I'm glad I saw it before I read Ebert's review. Even so, I think he's the best film critic alive today, because he does such a good job of straddling the mainstream and arthouse/foreign/limited-run. And he truly does love good film (as well as entertaining movies).
posted by krinklyfig at 4:00 PM on August 1, 2007


Ebert struck me as a teenager with his great mixture of intellect and good-natured humor.

I am so sorry. I hope that didn't leave a bruise.
posted by tristeza at 4:22 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I grew up watching reruns of Batman and the Brady Bunch, so it's hard to believe that TV stations would ever throw anything out.

At one time, I worked for a broadcast museum, and not only had some involvement with "archiving" efforts (a term used loosely here) but attended symposiums on archiving digital material as well.

The reasons that TV stations threw stuff out, or (equally often) reused the tapes for other things, are pretty straightforward:

1. The further back you go, the bigger the recordable media gets (all the way back to 2" tape on reels), and storing that media -- even if you store it improperly, by stacking it flat-side down in big videotape tire piles for maximum density -- you're talking about a lot of storage space. Factor in the costs of doing it properly (on edge, in big cabinets capable of holding more weight than you can imagine) and you've got a huge cash drain for (at the time) no real purpose.

2. The further back you go, the more expensive it was at the time, not just because of the more significant raw materials usage of the larger media, but because of the reduced economies of scale for video media of the time. Given a choice between spending $100 on a new reel and spending a small amount to store an old reel of a TV show nobody cares about versus reusing that old reel for a net outlay of $0 was a no-brainer at the time.

3. Nobody really knew how long the media would last. Conventional wisdom at the time (carried over from film) was that storage in a dry, cool place would keep the media from disintegrating, but videotape turned out to be much more fragile than film. More importantly, it was impossible to determine whether the electromagnetic signal was still around, even if the media itself looked fine, without running it through a VTR -- and you'd help degrade the media simultaneously. Correctly storing the media, then, meant following the processes used by the computer guys, who had big bucks and a much more compelling reason to keep their data around -- a pricey option. Since the media looked fine, TV stations around the globe threw reels of valuable stuff into boxes or on racks and assumed they'd be able to pull it back out if they needed it. Sometimes it panned out (which is why some episodes of old local podunk teevee station shows still exist despite nobody caring about them at the time) but sometimes it did not.

Historical interests have always taken a back seat to economic realities, and modern preservation/restoration efforts are so prevalent because (a) the costs of storage, and of raw media, have gone down significantly, (b) there's a market for this stuff, enough to make a profit, (c) we now have the hindsight to recognize that short-term economic decisions can destroy the opportunity for profitable reissue later on down the line, and (d) we now know which storage methods are both cost-effective and can preserve the media the longest.
posted by davejay at 4:42 PM on August 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


Ebert comments on the early shows, "Gene and I knew those old shows would be worth saving, but for a long time nobody agreed with us. In the years before home video, it seemed like a waste of expensive video tape to preserve hundreds of episodes of our earlier incarnations on “Opening Soon at a Theater Near You,” “Sneak Previews” or “At the Movies.” After all, the movies we were reviewing weren’t going to be opening again, and who’d want to watch a show of old movie reviews? Right?"

It's a shame. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert had one of the most compelling televised relationships -- up there with Lucy and Desi or Kirk and Spock. Sadly, those great "Dog of the Week" segments may be lost to fragile brain memory.

PS: Adventures in Babysitting is solid. Elizabeth Shue is smokin' hot, and no one gets outta here without singin' the blues.
posted by McLir at 5:13 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


What, no The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension?

Their loss. 'Cuz...

...RAWHIDE LIVES!
posted by humannaire at 6:16 PM on August 1, 2007


Well, all I know about Roger Ebert is this review where he likes one of the stupidest, worst-written. poorly-acted and most boring movies I ever saw, not even bad enough to be funny.

Cracking on Ghosts of Mars? You, sir, have no joy in your soul. If you can't see what's awesome about Ice Cube fighting an eight-foot-tall Marilyn Manson clone on top of a moving train on Mars with a huge nuclear explosion on the horizon...well, you and I may be able to have a deep and rewarding conversation about Rashomon, but at the end of the day, we probably just can't hang. I'm sorry.

One of the things I like about Ebert is his unabashed love of genre movies, which he's never too cool to take on their own terms. We're not always on the same page, mind you -- I mean, sometimes it's Ebert raving over Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and other times it's...uh...Ebert liking Dark City so much he named it best film of the year and recorded a feature length commentary for the DVD. I don't always agree with him, but I always love to listen to his reasoning (I don't think I'll be renting Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties on his or anyone else's recommendation any time soon, however).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2007


Okay here's a crash course on reading Ebert for those who don't get it. He tells you whether or not he liked a film. He explains why. That may or may not help you. What you gotta listen for is when he starts talking about who is the audience of a particular movie, cuz that's when he may be talking about you. Like for example maybe he'd say Joe Dirt is not his cup of tea but if you happen to have a mullet and think fart jokes are really funny, you might wanna try it - just realize while you're watching it that the film is making fun of you for having a mullet and liking fart jokes.

krinklyfig, that's one of the times I agreed with Ebert. Fight Club was gratuitous, and not just in its violence. When I figured out the two lead characters were the same guy, or rather, when it became clear the movie was going to go with that as an explanation of why everything had been happening the way it was, I realized this film was so full of itself and its 'message' that I wanted to walk out on it. Unfortunately I was watching it on DVD at a friend's house and hadn't paid for it. My friend thought I'd love the movie. I shoulda listened to Ebert. I wish I could erase Fight Club from my brain.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:29 PM on August 1, 2007


I really like Kael and really respect Sarris, but you can't beat Ebert for that feeling of holding your hand and leading you down the film appreciation path, maybe yanking you back onto it if you stop to admire the Jolie. As a lover and a student of film, his accessibility appeals me, and is bolstered by the fact that his stridency is usually moderate and his coverage diverse, sponsoring, I believe, the greatest number of thoughtful viewers as a result. I really value that, even though it sort of comes down to having the market on readership over Sarris or Kael. I get more out of Sarris/Kael, but I get all their references. I also think Ebert's most edifying reviews are for the lousier movies, whereas the other two shine in discussions of great works, and are more depressive or straight snarky about poor ones. Plus, hello? BTVOTD?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:42 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


so full of itself and its 'message' that I wanted to walk out on it.

Without devolving to a rousing chorus of the "how much of a hack is Palahniuk" song, I want to point out that this is (in my colorful experience as a darn good recommender of movies) popcorn movie fan's #1 critique of wide-released arty film x,y or z (x=Magnolia, y=Dancer in the Dark, z=Waking Life, the list is long.) Ebert's reviews would not save you from these, all were 3.5/4 stars. Soemtimes I wish movies like this didn't get such wide renown.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:51 PM on August 1, 2007


I've posted it in a comment before and I'll do it again in a heartbeat. Siskel and Ebert go at it.
posted by tellurian at 8:49 PM on August 1, 2007


Ambrosia Voyeur- As much as I admire Ebert (in spite of his abuse of the imperial we), I think, judging by your x,y, & z examples, you'd be my critic of choice.
posted by maryh at 9:02 PM on August 1, 2007


In my office, we're constantly looking up old movies from the 80s and talking about them.

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
dir Wil Friedkin, 1985

Discuss..
posted by autodidact at 6:09 AM on August 2, 2007


I realized this film was so full of itself and its 'message' that I wanted to walk out on it

What was the message of Fight Club, to you?
posted by autodidact at 6:13 AM on August 2, 2007


To not talk about it?
posted by found missing at 6:30 AM on August 2, 2007


Anyone else having problems with clip playback on the site?
posted by bz at 8:33 AM on August 2, 2007


I am to, just getting a corner of the video.
posted by Snyder at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2007


See also, Mark Kermode's reviews archive including:

"Well they should all just be thoroughly ashamed of themselves."
"It's perfectly fine."
"I do think it's the work of the devil."
"Tertiary syphilis."
"The Exorcist."
"It's evil."
"There's no such thing as torture porn."
"And can I just say..."
"Bananarama"
"Hello to Jason Isaacs."
"Suddenly a black hole arrives and it's Julian Sands."

ETC.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:41 PM on August 2, 2007


"What was the message of Fight Club, to you?"

Pick one:

* Domestic terrorism can be fun!
* Everyone be individuals the same way!
* Crazy is the new black!
* Crash corporate financial institutions for fun and profit!
* Be violent, grunt and scratch yourselves to success!
* Women think being sweaty, bloody, and crazy is hot! Would we lie to you?

I probably completely missed the point the writers and director were trying to make, but I fail to see the interest in most popular sports for similar reasons. Ultimately Fight Club was a sweaty homophobic male fantasy of modern day raping and pillaging and armchair diplomacy by urbanized mullets and rednecks. I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I see enough of that on an every day basis. The first Lethal Weapon covered some of the same themes but did it far less annoyingly, and wasn't so full of itself in the process. As for the 'twist' of the two lead guys being the same person, when M. Night Shamaylan throws in a twist ending, he's almost as egotistical about it, but somehow doesn't leave me wanting to slam my fist through a glass window. Or the screenwriter's head, for that matter.

Zero stars. Zach-Bob says don't check it out.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:29 PM on August 2, 2007


I feel like I'm 18 again by arguing over Fight Club, but I think a pretty huge part of the point is NOT that anything Tyler Durden does is cool, but that the main character found his ways alluring and that the main character had a void which, for a time, Tyler Durden seemed to fill. Brad Pitt plays up the cool because that is exactly how the main character would see him, but the movie assumes you're intelligent enough to realize that he must ultimately be rejected. The movie's themes concern the void Durden intends to fill more so than Durden himself.

And then the movie trots off without a simple answer of what to do, because it's not like a movie is going to be able to tell you how to save yourself (or the world). It's a much more ambiguous movie than people give it credit, IMHO, but your mileage may vary.

...

Ultimately Fight Club was a sweaty homophobic male fantasy

Chuck Palahniuk is gay, FWIW. I don't see how the book or the movie were homophobic, either. And I don't see how mullets or rednecks come into it - if anything, the film is geared towards college-educated men who feel empty and lost, and have few positive myths about masculinity that they're aware of.

The "mullets and rednecks" crowd are not people who leave college feeling lost - they don't go to four-year college, strictly speaking - and they don't feel the need to indulge "bottoming out," because to actual poor people, being broke isn't a stage in the sort of fun-but-phony bohemian nonsense Durden spews.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:06 PM on August 2, 2007


"It's a much more ambiguous movie than people give it credit, IMHO, but your mileage may vary."

AMBIGUOUS?

JACK
I'm sorry... you met me at a very
strange time in my life.

Marla looks at him. ANOTHER BUILDING IMPLODES and COLLAPSES
inward... and ANOTHER BUILDING... and ANOTHER...


He destroys the country's entire financial system, essentially meaning that tomorrow morning, everything will be owned by the bullies of the world. He thinks this means we're starting over - that all claims of ownership are a clean slate. He effectively gives the planet over to mob rule and chaos. That's ambiguous? Seems pretty cut and dried to me. He chose to go with his alter ego. He let chaos win over order. Not my idea of a fun hour and a half's entertainment.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:47 PM on August 2, 2007


AMBIGUOUS?

Sure it is. It's not ambiguous as to what concretely happens, but the film doesn't tell you what to think of it. Then the movie waves a dick in our face and a song about scuba diving tears us through the credits. Marla seems pretty terrified to me, and the Space Monkeys only know how to destroy - not create. The main character filled his void, but at what cost? And unlike Caché, the movie doesn't jump from foot to foot while screaming "LOOK AT HOW AMBIGUOUS MY ENDING IS." I find the ending satisfyingly Strangelovian.

Sidenote: I also like how, until the twist arrives, Marla appears to be insane, and Tyler is the authority figure. But in retrospect, and especially in the second viewing, it's all the more clear that the main character should have been listening to an actual person - a woman - as opposed to knocking around inside his own skull to fill his hypermasculine inadequacies. The Fight Club might satisfy some aspect of your male id, but is it really the way to put yourself together?

Maybe you disagree. Maybe you just find the whole thing lame in general. That's fine. You don't have to like the movie. But the idea that Tyler Durden is truly awesome and that blowing up Delaware is going to be our salvation is not something borne out in the movie, in my opinion, nor is it something the filmmakers say themselves.

There may be plenty of dingbats who come away from the movie thinking that, but then again, plenty of people come away from A Clockwork Orange thinking that Alex is awesome, even though the film comes down pretty heavily on his representing baleful impulses and hateful animal urges. For all of Alex's charm and love of Beethoven, he remains a psychopath to the very end, and the ending assumes you are able to RECOGNIZE that. I don't see that as the movie's fault.

Just because something bad happens in the movie, it does not mean that that is what the filmmakers want you to go out and do. After all, it's not like the message of Do The Right Thing is to firebomb your local pizzeria.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:13 PM on August 2, 2007


Sticherbeast: "Just because something bad happens in the movie, it does not mean that that is what the filmmakers want you to go out and do..."

I used to be one of those people who wondered why Hollywood never makes films with unhappy endings. Then I saw Fight Club. (and then Donnie Darko). I don't say that anymore.

I have learned that I like happy endings. I like movies that either give me a happy ending, or leave the ending in such a way where I can make it happy or sad if I want to. Blair Witch Project is for me a perfect ending. Is it a snuff film, or did the tape just run out? Or is the happy ending that it's a hoax, and in real life Heather Donahue lived on to have an indistinguishable film career, but at least she's still breathing? Ultimately, I get to decide that for myself. I like that kinda movie ending. Terry Gilliam's Tideland has an ending that's like that. You fill in the blanks. You connect the dots however you want.

Tyler Durden destroys civilization as we know it. Humanity may survive, but it'll be despite him, not because of him. I see no ambiguity. I see no dots left to connect.

Sticherbeast: "...the idea that Tyler Durden is truly awesome ...is not something borne out in the movie... There may be plenty of dingbats who come away from the movie thinking that, but then again, plenty of people come away from A Clockwork Orange thinking that Alex is awesome, even though the film comes down pretty heavily..."

I came away from Clockwork Orange thinking that Alex was awesome, even though I couldn't condone what he did. I came away from Citizen Kane thinking Kane was awesome, even though he was a sociopathic spoiled little brat who never grew up and had more power than any man has a right to, then selfishly dealt out the pain to anyone who got in his way. Still, Kane was cool. An ass, but cool.

This may be a matter of degree, directorially speaking. Kubrick was admittedly at the height of his game as a storyteller with Clockwork Orange. Or maybe it's just that Malcolm McDowell made even mascara look cool, and Brad Pitt couldn't make a Harley Davidson look cool (IMNSHO).

I came away from Fight Club having no opinion of the characters whatsoever, because the entire film was completely unbelievable to me. By the end I'd lost any interest in the characters because the 'twist' completely destroyed any remnants of suspension of disbelief I'd had up until that point. I could not believe this was where the writer had strived all this time to take us. Taking the scenic route to get to the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota would have been more aesthetically pleasing.

The film Sliding Doors had a better resolution to it, and I can't even remember what that was! Ebert gave Fight Club two stars and I think he was being unnecessarily compassionate.

EBERT: " ...'It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything,' [Tyler Durden] says, sounding like a man who tripped over the Nietzsche display on his way to the coffee bar in Borders..."

Have I mentioned Roger Ebert rocks?

EBERT: "...eroticism between the sexes is replaced by all-guy locker-room fights. Women, who have had a lifetime of practice at dealing with little-boy posturing, will instinctively see through it; men may get off on the testosterone rush. The fact that it is very well made and has a great first act certainly clouds the issue..."

I disagree with Ebert here. I don't believe the film had a great first act. I don't think it had a great anything, except a great marketable meme that was entertaining the first five times I heard it, and makes my skin crawl now, whenever someone mentions it in polite company, trying to be funny.

"What's the first rule of -- ???"

*screams and runs out of room*

I will begrudgingly bow to the fact Fight Club was "well made." From a standpoint of effects, lighting, and sound, it's an exceptional work. I give kudos to the entire behind-the-scenes crew, lay the failure of the film on the shoulders of the writer and director, and Brad Pitt makes me wince in pretty much anything he does.

Sticherbeast: "I also like how, until the twist arrives, Marla appears to be insane..

Really? I just got that Marla was a ditz who liked dangerous men. The twist didn't change my opinion, but then by that point the film had completely lost me. Carter seemed distracted in her performance, like there was something just off camera more important, like an article in Cosmo she was anxious to finish reading.

Norton spent most of the film looking like before every shot someone spun him around thirty times. It's the "where's my valium" school of fine acting at play there. Betty Davis was most proficient at it in her heyday.

...

I had no idea how much I love to hate this film! Thanks, MetaFilter! =) There's only one film I hate more than Fight Club, and that's The Godfather.

Notice by the way that both of these films were critical and financial successes. This is why I don't have my own film critic newspaper column. My top three favorite films of all time are Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride. Two of those three films were financial bombs, and some today question whether or not (the original) Star Wars deserved the critical praise it got at the time of release - even its director felt it needed improvement.

So my opinion and a few bucks'll gitcha coffee at Starbucks: it's not worth the light now reflected in your retinas. Not that this stops me from sharing it, but at least I know where my opinion stands in the universe, which is more than I can say about Chuck Palahniuk.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:33 PM on August 2, 2007


Oh. And Galaxy Quest, Ghostbusters, and Monty Python's Holy Grail are in my top ten of best films ever. I think this means Elvis Mitchell wouldn't spit on my grave.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:43 PM on August 2, 2007


I know where my opinion stands in the universe, which is more than I can say about Chuck Palahniuk.

This is vague.

Do you mean to say that you think Palahniuk's worldview is revealed to you in your interpretation of Fight Club (an adaptation of a novel he wrote, which is fiction) and you find it amoral, or do you mean that you don't know what his worldview is, or do you mean that you think he may not know "where his opinion stands in the universe?"

Other than that, I have no reason to argue with your anti-Fight Club yammering, but I get the sense that you do not have what I would call an appreciation of movies, you have a list of criteria for them, with digestible do-good didacticism being at the top of the list. You likely have no use for film criticism or exploration, you can choose from what's advertised on tv and be set for life.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2007


I had no idea how much I love to hate this film! Thanks, MetaFilter! =) There's only one film I hate more than Fight Club, and that's The Godfather.

Notice by the way that both of these films were critical and financial successes. This is why I don't have my own film critic newspaper column. My top three favorite films of all time are Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride. Two of those three films were financial bombs, and some today question whether or not (the original) Star Wars deserved the critical praise it got at the time of release - even its director felt it needed improvement.

So my opinion and a few bucks'll gitcha coffee at Starbucks: it's not worth the light now reflected in your retinas. Not that this stops me from sharing it, but at least I know where my opinion stands in the universe, which is more than I can say about Chuck Palahniuk.


Hey, to each their own. I'd only be offended if you liked Caché. ;)

Although I will disagree on one point and state that Fight Club is a cult movie first and foremost. It was neither a critical nor a commercial success at the time. Not that it makes much of a difference either way.

I will agree with you, however, that Galaxy Quest is awesome. Because it is.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:52 PM on August 2, 2007


After all, it's not like the message of Do The Right Thing is to firebomb your local pizzeria.

Uhhhhhh ohhhh. Guess I better write an apology letter.
posted by The Deej at 10:28 PM on August 2, 2007


Second on Galaxy Quest. None other than David Mamet described it as a "perfect movie." (Click listen)

Simplifying Do the Right Thing to an incitement to violence is like calling Huck Finn an instruction manual on how to go to Hell. Ruby Dee's performance is wonderful filmic shorthand for the horrific contradictions over which the film challenges us.
posted by McLir at 12:39 AM on August 3, 2007


"Do you mean to say..."

I mean to say I know my opinion is worthless, but I don't know Chuck Palahniuk from Abraham. All I know is he made this story that was full of itself, and I can only presume he is too, but that makes a pres outta u and me.

Anything more than that and you're reading too much into it.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2007


Oh. And Galaxy Quest RULES.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:46 PM on August 3, 2007


There's only one film I hate more than Fight Club, and that's The Godfather.

It insists upon itself?
posted by Gary at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2007


There's only one film I hate more than Fight Club, and that's The Godfather.

It insists upon itself?


Wow. I take back 75% of the bad things I've ever said about Family Guy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2007


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