Amid the 25-Minute Ovation, a Surprising Criticism.

Amid the 25-Minute Ovation, a Surprising Criticism. May 19, 2004

While it’s true that Michael Moore received an 25-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival for his Dubya-bashing film Farenheit 911, here’s an interesting detail, courtesy of

Legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard became one of the few persons in attendance at the Cannes Film Festival who had negative things to say about Michael Moore’s controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 film (although he admitted that he had not seen it). Godard, who described Moore as “halfway intelligent,” told reporters that films like Fahrenheit “help Bush more than harm him … in a very vicious way that [directors like Moore] are not conscious of.” Bush, he said, “is less stupid than [Moore] thinks.”

Godard is visiting Cannes to support his latest film, Our Music, which is being screened outside of the competition. Like Moore’s film, Our Music explores the conscience of nations in conflict. At one point in his news conference, he invited Olivier Derousseau, a leader of the part-time actors and technicians who have been staging a demonstration at the festival to protest cuts in unemployment benefits, to say a few words to the reporters.

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  • Martin

    I seem to be the only one playing the game this time. About the first paragraph of the Incredibles review I’ll just say that the reviewer seems blissfully unaware of the history of animation. Someone should point out to her that animated features go back to Disney’s Snow White in 1937—looooooooong before Titan AE and The Iron Giant. Putting moral lessons into animated films is nothing new either—witness Dumbo and Bambi. And Chuck Jones was scattering “grownup” jokes throughout his Warner Bros. shorts (originally made to be shown in cinemas) before Shrek was even a little green glint in his father’s eye. The reviewer shoulda/coulda written a paragraph about how computer animation, starting with the digitally composed shots in Disney films like Beauty and the Beast, has helped to revive a genre everyone thought was dead. Instead she comes off looking as though she hasn’t seen an animated film made prior to 1999.

    Verbosity is the main problem with the rest of the review. There are omnibus run-on sentences, and four-sentence paragraphs with two sentences’ worth of ideas. On the plus side, this reviewer does seem to be striving to work from a Christian worldview. One could edit this mess down to a competent, cogent essay, if one had all the time in the world. Which I don’t.

  • Martin

    I should hasten to remark that while my edits add clarity to the review, they don’t add any depth. This review is just a step above the “David Spade video-store clerk” level: “Romantic comedy, Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, nice running time!” And I see that as an even bigger problem, given that the review comes from what purports to be a “Christian” publication. Now I know that such publications don’t want to sound too “churchified” because they hope to stay—for lack of a better word—relevant to the culture at large. But when there’s nothing, nothing in your reviews indicative of a Christian worldview, you’ve gone too far. I can read reviews like this one all day long in mainstream publications; there’s no need for a “Christian” publication to waste ink on them.

  • Martin

    Comments on the Sideways review (I found the original, and once again I am shocked but I ain’t surprised):

    For starters, that first sentence isn’t even a sentence. Methinks that second “in” was meant to be an “is”—but even at that it’d be painfully long.

    The reviewer is too self-conscious. He doesn’t need to tell us about his “history with this very talented filmmaker.” If he compares this film to another Payne film, we’ll assume he saw both films. Really. And what the heck does he mean about “a coming of age story for old people”? Paul Giamatti is only 2 years older than I am, for pity’s sake.

    He’s too fond of cliches—even of the ones he doesn’t know how to use. “Needless to say a movie like this seems to only come around once every few years”? Hey, if it’s needless to say, don’t say it. And there’s more than a little of what Daffy Duck called “pronoun trouble,” especially at the end of the first “home stretch” paragraph: “It lends a hand in his has-been status as an actor.” The reviewer means to say that Jack, Church’s character, is a has-been actor, but syntactically, it seems more likely that he’s talking about Payne—or about Church himself.

    Anyhow, here’s a 15-minute slice-and-dice job on the paragraphs Jeffrey quoted. Same ideas, fewer words, clearer language. But I’m sorry, Jeffrey—I am not volunteering to edit this stuff. If they want it edited they’ll have to pay me. A lot.


    Alexander Payne’s films tend to exist in a little bubble of truth. They are heartfelt, comedic, hopeful and tragic—often at the same time. The latest offering from the director of Election and About Schmidt is the charming Sideways, a coming-of-age story for graying Gen-Xers.

    The story here is a quiet one. It doesn’t seek to be deeper than it is—which saves it from striking any false notes. Sure, Jack’s womanizing is despicable, but he’s not; it’s no mystery that the women fall for him. Thomas Haden Church, best known for his role on TV’s “Wings” (and remembered by a few devotees as Lyle in George of the Jungle)—is a great asset to this film. Bigger names, including George Clooney, wanted the part, but the role of a has-been actor looks better on a pleasant but relatively unknown mug like Church’s.

    Paul Giamatti, as Jack’s sidekick Miles, lends his more ordinary mug to the role of a self-pitying Everyman. Miles isn’t hard to love either, and is better off than he thinks. While Jack is the same lovable jerk at the end of the film as at the beginning, Miles goes on quite the journey. Change is possible, even in your 40s, and Giamatti’s singular gifts make the trip utterly believable.

    Sandra Oh as Stephanie and Virginia Madsen as Maya both deliver a fetching blend of strength and sensitivity, asserting their independence while celebrating the good traits in both the men they get involved with. The script, adapted by Payne and Jim Taylor from the novel by Rex Pickett, is well crafted and shows a good ear for dialogue, never betraying the characters for an interesting plot point.

    Camera work is deft and simple, including one glorious sequence of the four characters sitting against the setting sun in the hills. Compared to the meandering About Schmidt, this film suggests a surer, stronger hand. With Sideways, Payne proves himself an expert filmmaker.