Browser, 6/23: One-scene Wonders; N.T. Wright on The Colbert Report; Four Novels for Summer Reading; Sixpence’s Christmas; Enough with the Pixar-bashing; Back to Blade Runner

The Browser: News & links to raise your eyebrows & furrow your brow.

Small wonders

At The Onion AV Club (via Cinematical), they’re counting down their favorite one-scene wonders. What’s you’re favorite?

Personally, I cannot argue with their pick for #1.

But what about Steve Martin in The Muppet Movie?

Or Crispin Glover in Dead Man?

Or David Bowie in Zoolander?

Or Cate Blanchett in Hot Fuzz?

I Am America, and N.T. Wright Can Too…

How did I miss this? Stephen Colbert welcomed N.T. Wright last week!

Some Books and Culture for your summer

Elissa Elliott has your summer reading list at Books and Culture.

Leigh Nash We Have Heard Online

Billboard is giving us a snippet of Sixpence None the Richer‘s upcoming Christmas album, The Dawn of Grace.

Enough with the Pixar-bashing

It’s no secret: There’s a scene in Wall-E in which a buffoonish president uses the words, “Stay the course.” Conservative bloggers are already lining up to denounce Pixar for Dubya-bashing. (In fact, the line became a comedy catch-phrase back when Dana Carvey was doing his impression of the first President Bush. Remember? “Stayyyy the course… a thousand points of light….”) Well, let’s see what Stanton has to say about that, before we blow anything grossly out of proportion spoil what is probably a delightful movie.

MoviesOnline: You do use the phrase “Stay the course” in the movie. That’s a pretty overt political statement.

ANDREW STANTON: It just was such a natural thing to say at the time. I said “Screw it! It’s funny.”

People have been poking fun at presidents for their “pet phrases” for decades, Republican or Democrat. Let’s not villainize Pixar for making a smirking reference in their script. There are so few filmmakers out there who make memorable, timeless entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. Do we really want to stain families’ enjoyment of Wall-E by making a big stink over… this?

“I Want More Life, F—er.”

Jason Morehead is looking closer at Ridley Scott’s revisions in Blade Runner: The Final Cut, like a revision to Roy Baddy’s famous line: “I want more life… Father.” (Hmm. That sure isn’t what he *used* to say!)

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  • A favorite one-scene wonder: Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Miracle Max & his lovely wife Valerie, in The Princess Bride

  • petertchattaway

    I will accept McKellen’s assessment of what went into his performance, yes, but when he steps out of his role and begins to assess the broader film as a whole — and especially when he begins to assess the movie’s source material, which is one step further removed from his performance — then he’s just another reader with an opinion like you and me.

    As for Swinton, I think her performance tends to confirm her claims about the character as she played her, alas.

    I just don’t see why we should take the unreconstructed-auteurist route of assuming that the writer-director is the only author of his film and therefore the only one who can comment on what the film means and what went into the making of the film (especially when the writer-director has a vested interest in playing down the controversy and attracting as broad an audience as possible). There are other authors, as well. Film is a collaborative medium, and all that.

  • So then, you’ll accept Ian McKellen’s assessment that what’s really meaningful about The Lord of the Rings is that the Shire is an ideal society, and that its perfection is made possible by the fact that the Hobbits have no religion, no church, and no creed?

    Or Tilda Swinton’s piercing insights into the character of the White Witch, who isn’t really a villain, but will be whatever we want her to be?

    I’m not inclined to find the truth of a line by asking the actor who performed it, and who may not have even seen the finished product yet to understand the context of that line.

  • petertchattaway

    Only the writer? What about the actor who actually performs the line? Wouldn’t he have some insight into what informed his performance? (I find myself thinking back to how Peter Jackson ambivalently said that Frodo was maybe being heroic, or maybe still under the full sway of the Ring, when he went back to Gollum on the edge of that cliff … whereas Elijah Wood said Frodo was definitely under the full sway of the Ring. I’m sure I’m not the only person who found Wood’s description of what was going on in that scene re-assuring!)

  • The thing is, “Stay the course” was used by Dubya, by his father before him, by Ronald Reagan before him…

    You can argue that it’s a “tired joke,” but you can’t say definitively that it’s a direct jab at Dubya, unless the writer ‘fesses up to that. That’s a line quipped by several presidents. Heck, it’s tiresome when the presidentsays it now, so it seems like a perfectly natural (if not terribly creative) thing to have a president say in a movie to get a laugh.

  • petertchattaway

    For what it’s worth, Dirty Harry actually liked the political humour in Get Smart. From his review of that film:

    In my review of Wall-E I criticize Pixar for yanking us out of the story to fire off a lame, dated anti-Bush joke. Interestingly enough, the few Bush jokes in Get Smart are good-natured and funny, completely in keeping with the vibe of the movie. Ironically, the one awkward story-stopping joke is for conservative consumption, aimed square at liberal Hollywood. While the thought’s appreciated, it’s never been about the politics — it’s about the execution.

  • grdthepoint

    I don’t think it’s necessarily “staining families’ enjoyment” to notice something like that (and “lining up”? I only noticed one conservative blogger saying anything about it. Of course, I may have missed some of them).

    If something’s part of a trend, I think it’s worthy of noting. It doesn’t have to spoil your enjoyment of the film as a whole. I just left a comment over at Dirty Harry’s blog about a similar moment in “Get Smart,” which I thought was a very funny film on the whole.

  • Jason Bateman in Smokin Aces is my favorite one scene wonder.

  • bfriesen

    Soooo – my favorite one-scene wonder is in “Last Days” – when Kim Gordon shows up to make the only solid attempt at a meaningful connection with the main character. That scene was the one moment in the film that made the main character’s downward spiral seem truly, sorrowfully convincing.

  • Actually, noting that it’s a phrase Bush tended to use only at times his policies were failing-but not when they were succeeding? That’s a definite layer of funny. Though I doubt anyone really would catch that. But it is, in the long run, much ado about nothing. But politically minded bloggers pitching a fit over tiny things? Perish the thought! ;)

  • petertchattaway

    Re: Pixar, there are a couple issues here.

    First, why is the line funny, as Stanton claims it is? Is it funny within the context of the film? Or — given that Fred Willard, the actor who delivers the line, has explicitly said that the line is a dig at Dubya (and not at Dana Carvey!) — is it funny because it makes some sort of political comment?

    Second, if the line is a political comment and derives any of its humour from this fact, then what do we do with the fact that the situation in Iraq is increasingly hopeful — as even people like Barack Obama are beginning to acknowledge — whereas the line in the film reportedly takes place within a much more hopeless context? The line might have been funny two years ago, when things did seem hopeless in Iraq, but does taking that sort of dig at Dubya make as much sense now as it might have back then? In a nutshell, is it really funny any more?

    Things are complicated, admittedly, if what Wikipedia says is true: that Dubya used the phrase repeatedly between July 2003 and October 2006, but then stopped using it — just a few months before launching the “surge” that appears to have turned things around over there.

    It would seem that Dubya used the phrase a lot when his policy wasn’t working, but stopped using it just before his policy began to succeed. So the phrase may well apply to the “hopeless” phase of the Iraq situation, and thus be well-placed within the Pixar film … but it would still seem a little dated.