Specials: Defending “Bubble.” Poo-pooing Proulx’s poo-poo. New Issues of Paste and Risen! Bad Refs.

Defending Bubble.
What to do when friends disagree over movies?

Jessica Poundstone wrote in to take issue with Adam Walter’s assessment of Soderbergh’s Bubble:

The real reason I’m commenting is that I think Bubble deserves a much more careful viewing than Mr. Walter has given it. I’m not saying it’s one of Soderburgh’s very best, but I thought the film was a fascinating attempt to make a movie via a method (using non-actors, filming in their own town using elements of their real lives) that yielded a film with a very specific and unusual kind of atmosphere. (It’s as distinctive an atmosphere as the one Mike Leigh achieves using his methods.)

I’m tempted to do a point-by-point rebuttal of Walter’s review, since I disagree with nearly all of it. But due to time limitations, I’ll just take on this one. About the end of the film, Walter states:

“…Soderbergh is able to set up one character’s church experiences as the impetus for a heinous crime. And that’s the note the film ends on, and quite abruptly. Aha, another Christian loony–obviously that explains everything. Say no more, say no more.”

I didn’t love the end of the film either, but the motivations of the character Walter is referring to have nothing to do with Christian faith, and everything to do with a psychological dysfunction. (I don’t want to say too much – it would spoil the ending.) It’s for that reason that the ending falls a bit flat. You’re left with the feeling that the culprit is not truly at fault for the crime committed. But there are fascinating character studies along the way, and amazing performances by the non-actors throughout. Unexpected and intriguing relationships abound; the fact that they are set against such a dead-end town (it’s supposed to look bleak, Mr. Walter, because it in fact *is* bleak!) makes the characters’ investments in those relationships even more poignant. Plus a bonus: you’ll never shake the creepy-comical images of the dolls being manufactured at the factory where the main characters work – those alone are worth the price of the rental. So I say, give Bubble a chance!

Debating Proulx
Remember author Annie Proulx’s bitter rant about Brokeback Mountain losing the Best Picture Oscar? Nothing could have made me less interested in reading her stories than such a bitter meltdown. Apparently Josh Olsen– the guy who wrote the A History of Violence screenplay, and who won ZERO Oscars (whereas Brokeback won three) — is a much better sport.

(Thanks, Christian.)

Sniffing Paste
Andy Whitman gives us a sneak peek at the new issue of Paste!

Raising Risen
And meanwhile, I should note that my film reviews in Risen magazine have gone from a one-page spread to a two-page spread for the new issue. Subscribe now! And thank editor Steve Beard for his work on one of the most visually stunning magazines in circulation.

Razzing refs
It’s a film that the Seattle Seahawks and their fans should love. New Line is prepping a comedy about bad NFL refs who fix games and mess things up. Might as well be based on the recent Super Bowl debacle…

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Gene Branaman

    Sweet! Congrats on the twins, Peter! Very cool.

    I’ll check the Arts & Faith thread. Thanks.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Nope, haven’t reviewed it. Life these days — newborn twins, etc. — is such that I rarely review something I’m not being paid to review. Though I’ve allowed a few of my thoughts to float out there, mainly at the Cars thread at ArtsAndFaith.com.

  • Gene Branaman

    No, Michael, I thought “serpentine” was hilarious. But then I’ve got a warm spot for the Faulk/Arkin version of “The In-Laws”.

    Peter, have you reviewed Cars? If you did, I missed it somehow. I’ll check your site.

  • Nick

    Funny. I took my 5-year old boy to see “The Best of Youth”. When it was finished, he had turned 40.

    Just kidding.

  • Michael Knepher

    I took my 5-year-old boy to see Cars this past weekend, and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, given the expectation set up by the reviews. I know unfiltered nostalgia is unhip these days, but that aspect of Cars hooked me. And it didn’t hurt when my son said his favorite part was when Lightning McQueen pushed the blue car out of the dirt. Oh, and I was the only person in the theater to laugh at “Serpentine!”

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Wow, Cars is the first Pixar film that had me thinking, “Do I really want to get this on DVD…?” If I do, it will be for purely completist reasons; the film itself is awfully stale and generic.

  • Gene Branaman

    “A review of Cars, which I saw tonight and enjoyed immensely. Run, don’t walk… no, wait… DRIVE.”

    I did, too. The more I think about Cars the more I like it & the more I’d like to spend more time in that world. I just wish I had the time to see it again!

  • Magnus

    Anne Proulx: “conservative heffalump academy voters”.

    Heffalump? I know it is a Winnie the Pooh reference, but heffalump?

  • Ellen Collison

    Re. Josh Olson: very classy response! Thanks for the link, Jeffrey.

  • Adam Walter

    I didn’t love the end of the film either, but the motivations of the character Walter is referring to have nothing to do with Christian faith, and everything to do with a psychological dysfunction.

    Not true, Poundstone. To examine this more closely, try the following. Imagine the same film in which only one thing is changed: move the character out of the church and into a mosque for that short scene. If this change were made, the film could only be taken as an attack on Islam–and rightly so. (“This is the sort of thing Islam makes people do.”) And I’d be the first person to berate Soderbergh for attacking Islam in this underhanded way.

    You’re left with the feeling that the culprit is not truly at fault for the crime committed.

    In what way does anyone feel the culprit wasn’t at fault?

    …amazing performances by the non-actors throughout.

    I agree that the non-actors were interesting to watch. But I don’t consider these to be “amazing performances” any more than I would apply such an evaluation to the “performances” in a documentary.

    …it’s supposed to look bleak, Mr. Walter, because it in fact *is* bleak!

    Let’s recall that we’re dealing with a fictional setting. It is what the director makes it. This is not a real place, it’s a set of filmic cues. The job of a good artist is always to try and capture the entirety of a thing, unless he purposefully wants to convey a slanted view of the world. Even in Hicksville, USA there are reasons to laugh and love.

    Take a film like Junebug and it’s depiction of religion, or a film like Tim Blake Nelson’s Eye of God and the winsome character of Ainsley… and you’ll see an artist making strong statements about the weaknesses of the smalltown midwest but also acknowledging that this is a place where fully-formed human beings may have meaningful lives.


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