Bergman’s entertaining “anti-entertainments”

Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly has a fun article up on the late Ingmar Bergman and what Gleiberman calls “the Four Stages of Watching Bergman” (“Youthful Befuddlement”, “Collegiate Awe”, “The Mary Wilkie Phase” and “Really Seeing Bergman”). He also takes special aim at that Jonathan Rosenbaum article:

But something else, too, conspired to make Bergman passé, and that was the rise of a new mystique in art film — a cult of austerity that persists to this day. In a staggeringly wrong-headed but quite revealing harangue that ran in The New York Times five days after Bergman’s death, the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, ”The hard fact is, Mr. Bergman isn’t being taught in film courses or debated by film buffs with the same intensity as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, or Jean-Luc Godard. His works are seen less often in retrospectives and on DVD than those of Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson — two master filmmakers widely scorned as boring and pretentious during Mr. Bergman’s heyday…. The same qualities that made Mr. Bergman’s films go down more easily than theirs — his fluid storytelling and deftness in handling actresses, comparable to the skills of a Hollywood professional like George Cukor — also make them feel less important today, because they have fewer secrets to impart.”

I’m not sure where Rosenbaum is getting his statistics. From everything I’ve Googled and read, Bergman’s films are more popular now, on DVD and in college classes, than those of Bresson, Dreyer, or Godard. (Hitchcock is another story, but then — he’s Hitchcock.) I also don’t know how anyone could think that a movie like Persona, with its naked acting and mind-warp structure, or Scenes From a Marriage, which so captures the music of relationships that I could it watch forever, is lacking in eternal secrets. What’s truly notable about Rosenbaum’s dismissal, however, is the battle line he’s really drawing: between Bergman the middlebrow, an art filmmaker who actually deigned to tell his stories fluidly (how vulgar!), and Rosenbaum’s heroes, such as the arid, oblique Bresson, with his dessicated zombie acting and general lack of forward motion.

Specious as it is, this argument represents what has become a vanguard attitude in the way that foreign films are now routinely celebrated — not for their expression, but for their benumbed lack of expression. You see it in the canonization of directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Abbas Kiarostami, the spiritual heirs to Bresson: filmmakers who fetishize their refusal to dramatize, who create art that is meandering and oblique, at times to the point of madness. For a while there in the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s, Ingmar Bergman’s films held sway as a ”classy” cultural phenomenon, but through all the symbols, the feverish close-ups, the otherworldly chess games, the torment and the tenderness, what you always felt was his deep desire to connect. That’s what made his art, and art film itself, matter.

And so the battle of the brows — high vs. middle — continues!

Canadian box-office stats — August 12

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — CDN $29,430,000 — N.AM $272,005,000 — 10.8%
The Simpsons Movie — CDN $15,940,000 — N.AM $152,237,000 — 10.5%
Hairspray — CDN $9,030,000 — N.AM $92,110,000 — 9.8%
The Bourne Ultimatum — CDN $11,910,000 — N.AM $132,345,000 — 9.0%
Transformers — CDN $27,240,000 — N.AM $302,919,000 — 9.0%

Stardust — CDN $748,946 — N.AM $9,011,000 — 8.3%
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry — CDN $8,070,000 — N.AM $103,849,000 — 7.8%
Ratatouille — CDN $13,660,000 — N.AM $193,369,000 — 7.1%
Daddy Day Camp — CDN $332,956 — N.AM $5,035,000 — 6.6%
Rush Hour 3 — CDN $2,650,000 — N.AM $50,237,000 — 5.3%

A couple of discrepancies: Transformers and Ratatouille were #8 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #11 and #13 in North America as a whole), while Underdog and No Reservations were #5 and #9 on the North American chart, respectively.

Sarah Connor Chronicles — continuity update


Oh my. I just watched the pilot episode for The Sarah Connor Chronicles — or at least, a version of it dated April 23 — and I am now more interested in this series than I expected to be.

For one thing, it occurs to me now that this series could give Sarah Connor and her son John a chance to bond properly as mother and son, which is something the movies never really allowed them to do: John didn’t exist yet in T1, Sarah was dead before T3 even began, and John’s primary relationship was with the Terminator rather than his mother in T2 — and once the three characters got together in that film, they spent all their time running and shooting and plotting and fighting, etc. In the pilot, on the other hand, we see Sarah ask John if he’s met any cute girls at his new school, etc. — and little details like that are a nice touch.

For another thing, this series is definitely pretending Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) never happened, and it will presumably ignore any other sequels that might be in the works, too. And I’m fine with that. The future remains as open as ever.

On a more trivial note, the pilot includes a scene of a Terminator ripping a gun out of its leg — and while it’s nowhere near as smooth or graceful as the holster-in-the-leg shots in Robocop (1987), I still dig that sort of thing, for the reasons I alluded to here.

As for the timeline issues… Actually, this pilot sticks relatively close to the continuity established in the first two films.

In the first two films, John Connor is conceived in 1984, born in 1985, and then he and his mother destroy Cyberdyne in 1995, two years before Skynet would have nuked the world in 1997.

The pilot modifies this just a little. It takes place in 1999, and while no one says so in the pilot itself, all the bumpf on this series has said that John Connor is 15 when it takes place — so it would seem that, as far as this series is concerned, John was born, rather than conceived, in 1984. In addition, the events of T2 are repeatedly said to have taken place “two years ago” — i.e. in 1997 — but I assume this is because the actor who played John Connor in that film was 13 at the time, and not 10 years old like the character was supposed to be. In any case, these are minor, minor revisions.

Beyond that… I can’t say anything. Not without giving away some spoilers that I think I, as a fan, would want to be protected from. But if you read this preview at ComingSoon.net — paragraph eight, in particular — you might get a sense of what I’m avoiding here.

Meanwhile, in related news, ComingSoon.net reported three weeks ago that Fox is going to revise a key segment in the show where a Terminator attacks the school that John Connor is attending — and the network is doing this because of the Virginia Tech massacre, which, coincidentally, took place in April, exactly one week before the finalization of the version of the series pilot that I just saw.

The school scene is nowhere near as bad as it could have been, and I personally don’t think the network has anything to worry about. Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori reportedly told the AP the scene is essential to the show’s themes (“This woman is charged with protecting and preparing her son to be the future leader of the resistance. The one single place a parent has to give up control of their child is school”), and I for one hope they leave it as is.

In any case, I think this pilot sets things up quite well, and there is potential for all sorts of things down the road. Yeah, I could nit-pick any number of plot points, but I’ll save that for later!

AUG 12 UPDATE: One extra spoiler-free point of continuity does occur to me. In the films, all the Terminators are sent back in time from 2029 or some point after that — but in this pilot, the “good” Terminator played by Summer Glau says she came back in time from 2027. So she would seem to be an earlier model.

The thing is, she has a more advanced personality — she blends in with humans better — than any of the other Terminators we have seen so far. The Glau character is so appealing, in fact, that you almost forget that she, like the other “good” Terminators we have seen, is almost certainly a villainous machine that has been captured and forcibly reprogrammed to serve the humans. (Will we see “bad” versions of the Glau model in future episodes?)

Anyway, perhaps this discrepancy — between the more-advanced robot from 2027 and the less-advanced robots from 2029 — can be explained on the basis that the future has turned out different now, following the events of T2. But in that case, how plausible is it that the life or death of John Connor would matter any more?

UPPERDATE: In this IGN.com interview, producer Josh Friedman says John Connor was 14 in T2 and may now be 16 in this pilot.

Indiana Jones IV and its six possible titles


Slashfilm.com reports that Lucasfilm has filled in the forms at the MPAA and registered six possible titles for Indiana Jones IV:

  1. Indiana Jones and the City of Gods
  2. Indiana Jones and the Destroyer of Worlds
  3. Indiana Jones and the Fourth Corner of the Earth
  4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  5. Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Gold
  6. Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Covenant

You have to wonder how many of these titles were included just to tease the fans. There have been rumours about City of Gods and crystal skulls for months now — so either one of those titles is the authentic one, or neither title is authentic but Lucas wants to keep those decoy titles around while he waits to unveil the real title.

And as Cinematical has noted, Lost City of Gold was already used 20 years ago by one of the Allan Quatermain movies starring Richard Chamberlain, which were basically Indiana Jones rip-offs. (Yes, I know the character pre-dates Indiana Jones, but those movies were definitely rip-offs.) So presumably Lucas threw that title in there just to play with us. At least, you’d hope so.

Quest for the Covenant is also interesting, as another rumour has it that Indy will have to rescue the Ark of the Covenant from the Communists in this film — and those rumours may or may not have been bolstered by the image above, which currently sits on the IndianaJones.com home page. The crate kind of brings to mind that giant warehouse that we saw at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), no? And the word “quest” kind of brings to mind the medieval search for the Holy Grail that was the subject of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). So that title kind of combines the sensibilities of the two best Indiana Jones films.

I have no idea what to make of the other two titles, though Fourth Corner of the Earth is a mouthful and rather dull, and for that reason alone I hope they don’t use it. It occurs to me, though, that the expression “four corners of the earth” is biblical in origin (Isaiah 11:12, Revelation 7:1) and eschatological in context, and that would seem to fit the religious orientation of the series.

The title, um, also lends itself to the rumours that this movie may have something to do with extra-terrestrials. So too, alas, does Destroyer of Worlds, for that matter — and if Fourth Corner of the Earth harks back to a couple of the Bible’s more eschatological passages, then Destroyer of Worlds is downright apocalyptic.

This movie takes place in the 1950s, and the world is still here today, so obviously the film won’t be about the Apocalypse. But I would not be surprised if it entailed some sort of “ultimate” revelation that went beyond anything Indy has seen before.

Will Peter Jackson direct The Hobbit after all?

From a Los Angeles Times story on New Line Cinema’s woes:

Eager to move ahead with “The Hobbit,” New Line has quietly been trying to mend fences with “Rings” filmmaker Peter Jackson, who has sued the company over his share of profits from the first “Rings” films. When asked if it was true that company insiders had been in talks with Jackson’s reps, Shaye replied, “Yes, that’s a fair statement. Notwithstanding our personal quarrels, I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in ‘The Hobbit.’ “

From a Dominion Post follow-up story:

British actor Sir Ian McKellen, who played the wizard Gandalf in the trilogy, is in Wellington to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

At a news conference on Thursday, he said there was no doubt that a rumoured reprisal of his Gandalf role in a film version of The Hobbit would be discussed with Jackson and Walsh.

Jackson’s spokesman said last night: “Peter and Fran have always wanted to do The Hobbit but whether that happens is yet to be decided.”

Make of all that what you will.

Product placements throughout history.

The ScreenGrab has posted a top ten list of “The Most Notable Product Placements in Movie History”. Most of the examples come from the past quarter-century, though the oldest specimen is the Pan Am logo on the spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; my comments). The list begins with the following statement:

It’s hard to think that there was a time when movies and TV didn’t regularly feature major subplots touting the life-affirming, alien-attracting, desert-island-loneliness-averting, catastrophic-explosion-shielding properties of popular consumer products. But it’s true. Once upon a time, when a character pulled out a can of beer from a fridge, that can was simply marked “Beer.” . . .

This is probably very true. But brand names did pop up in films way back when. I remember being quite startled when I saw Horse Feathers (1932) in a theatre some years ago, and a woman falls out of a rowboat and cries out for a “lifesaver”, prompting Groucho Marx to pull out a roll of you-can-guess-the-brand candy. Did the makers of Life Savers pay to have their candy seen in a Marx Brothers movie? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, I’m sure the appearance of their product in that film didn’t hurt their sales.


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