Rockin’ in the Film World #8: BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (20th Century Fox 1970)

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Sex and drugs and rock and roll!! That about sums up BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, a lightning-fast paced Russ Meyer extravaganza covering the end of the decadent 60’s with a BANG… literally! The movie was originally intended to be a sequel to 1967’s soapy and sappy VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, but Meyer and screenwriter Roger Ebert (yes, THAT Roger Ebert!) changed course and concocted this satirical, surrealistic saga that skewers Hollywood, rock music, the sexual revolution, and anything else that got in its way.


Like the original, the story concerns three nubile young ladies trying to make it out in La-La Land (that’s Los Angeles, folks), only this time they’re a Midwestern rock power trio named The Kelly Affair. Kelly (Dolly Read, former Playmate and soon-to-be wife of comedian Dick Martin), Pet (model/actress Marcia McBroom), and Casey (Playmate Cynthia Meyers), along with Kelly’s boyfriend and band manager Harris…

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‘Life Itself’ Review (dir. Steve James)


“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” – Roger Ebert

I’ve enjoyed film for pretty much all my life, but I didn’t truly come to appreciate and love it as an art form – as something more than simply entertainment – until my first year of college (I know, how cliché). I didn’t just come to love watching film, but (as you can obviously see as I write this) I came to love reviewing and discussing the medium with others as well. The first critic who introduced me to film criticism was Roger Ebert. His reviews were the first to really click with me. It wasn’t because I always agreed with him (because I definitely didn’t); but it was because I truly, truly admired his love of film. It was a contagious sort of love, a passion I never knew could be had for motion pictures. Following his example I too began writing about films and discussing them on forums and blogs. These discussions opened up the door really, and I charged head first, exploring the medium more deeply than I ever imagined I could.

It became a journey that I can honestly say made me the person I am today. Film was, and always will be, what I turn too when I am happy, bored and most importantly when I am sad. The best example I have of this was when my grandfather passed away years ago. It was a special sort of hurt, and no discussions with family or friends could do much to quell that pain. I remember sitting down the night it happened, alone in my dark room, and deciding to watch ‘Amelie’. It is a film I adored, one of the few films that truly moved me with every viewing. When it ended, as it had done many times before, I had a huge smile on my face. It did it again. Film did it again; it was once again one of the few things in my life that could heal, or overshadow, any hurt I happened to be feeling. I don’t think I would have known about or adored ‘Amelie’ if not for the journey my love for film had created – a love that wouldn’t have blossomed without the analysis and discussions I had about them – discussions I would never have started if I hadn’t read Roger’s reviews religiously and decided to start writing some myself.

That is why I was deeply saddened when Roger Ebert passed away. He is one of those rare people for me who although I never actually met or spoke with him, he still managed to have a profound effect on my life. An effect that still moves me, as I learned today as I finally watched ‘Life Itself’. I shamefully had put it off for far too long, partly because I think I knew the sort of emotional response I would have towards it. But as the quote I began this posts says, film helps us “identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us”, and it was about time I took a look at the journey that was the life of Roger Ebert.

And boy, was it rough. It did bring me to the verge of tears, as I expected, but I loved every minute of it. ‘Life Itself’ is an honest and in depth portrait of a man who wasn’t without his faults. But no matter what battles he encountered – either with alcohol, his colleagues, or cancer – he still faced everyday ready for what came next. He had a passion for life that was reflected in his passion for film – or maybe the other way around. This for me is what shined through the documentary, handled with such care and attention by Steve James. It is an affectionate tribute to a man who moved so many, generating the very same empathy that Ebert himself loved about film, and for that I think it deserves two big thumbs up.


More of my nonsense on Twitter.

Embracing the Melodrama #26: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (dir by Russ Meyer)



If I hadn’t reviewed it already, I would definitely have included 1967’s Valley of the Dolls in this series on film melodrama.  However, seeing as I have already reviewed it (and you can read that excellent review here!), I figured why not take this opportunity to review a film that was legally required to acknowledge that it was not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls.

I’m speaking of 1970’s Beyond the Valley of The Dolls, a satirical take on every Hollywood melodrama that had been made up until that point.  It was directed by notorious exploitation veteran Russ Meyer and written by film critic Roger Ebert.  The combination of Meyer’s unapologetic tawdriness and Ebert’s film school in jokes comes together to create a truly memorable film experience.

Okay, so what happens in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?  Let’s see if I can keep all this straight because, in its clearly satirical way, BVD is a bit like the Game of Thrones of satiric Hollywood melodrama.  There are so many characters with so many subplots that it helps to have a flowchart to try to keep track of it all.


Kelly (Dolly McNamara), Casey (Cynthia Myers), and Pet (Marcia McBroom) start a band and, after playing the high school graduation dance, they decide to head out to Los Angeles to become famous.  Accompanying them is their manager, Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), who is in love with Kelly and spends the entire film looking miserable.  As opposed to the three main characters in Valley of the Dolls, Kelly, Casey, and Pet do not arrive in Hollywood as wide-eyed innocents.  Instead, they’re already talking endlessly about their love of weed, pills, and sex but they do so in dialogue that is so deliberately over-the-top, so intentionally artificial, and so cheerfully delivered by the three girls that it’s impossible not to root for them.  More than that, though, these are three strong, independent women and, regardless of whether they’re appearing a film directed by a man best known for being obsessed with boobs, that’s still three more than you’ll find in most American films from both the 70s and today.

Fortunately, the girls already have a contact in Los Angeles.  Kelly’s rich aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis) knows all sorts of people and wants to share some of her fortune with Kelly.  Unfortunately, Susan’s lawyer is the evil Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), who hates free spirits.  Porter tries to keep Kelly from getting the money but Kelly is willing to seduce Porter in order to get that money, even after she discovers that the uptight Porter wears his black socks to bed.  Obviously, Porter is a bad guy but who can help Aunt Susan realize this?  How about the wonderfully named man’s man, Baxter Wolfe (Charles Napier)?


Through Aunt Susan’s influence, the girl’s end up at a party thrown by the legendary music promoter Z-Man (John Lazar).  Z-Man is one of those flamboyant 70s characters who simply has to be seen to be believed.  Z-Man speaks in some of the most florid dialogue ever heard and there are more than a few secrets hidden behind all of that eccentricity.  But, at the moment, what’s important is that Z-Man takes control of the girl’s group — now known as the Carrie Nations (which is actually a pretty good name for a band) — and makes them famous overnight.

Soon, Kelly is spending more and more time with notorious Hollywood gigolo Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett, who gives a hilariously narcissistic performance) and ignoring poor Harris.  This drives Harris into the waiting arms of porn star Ashley St. Ives (Eddy Williams) who, with her unapologetic and non-neurotic approach to sex, is probably the most stable character in the entire film.


Casey, feeling uncomfortable with the Hollywood jet set, is soon popping pills like they’re candy.  She finally starts to find some comfort and happiness with Roxanne (Erica Gavin).

And finally, Pet falls in love with Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page), a serious-minded law student.  However, as much as Pet and Emerson seem to be meant for each other (and they even get a slow-motion montage where they run through a green field), Pet is still tempted to stray by a punch drunk boxer (James Inglehart).

And finally, there’s Otto (Henry Rowland).  Otto is Z-Man’s butler.  Apparently, he’s also a Nazi war criminal.

And, not surprisingly, all of this lust and all of these secrets lead to a suicide attempt, renewed love, and finally a disturbingly violent massacre that leaves the surviving members of the cast feeling wiser and sadder but not necessarily older.  Fortunately, just in case we the viewers might be wondering how all of this could have happened, a somber-voiced narrator suddenly explains what every character did wrong and how those mistakes led to their fate.  Thanks, narrator guy!

So, obviously, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is not meant to be taken seriously.  The film is a satire of all of the self-serious and hypocritically moralistic Hollywood melodramas that came before it .  Fortunately, the largely likable cast plays all of this absurd material with the straightest of faces and the end result is a film that is sordid and oddly likable.  This is one of those films that, if it offends you, you may be taking life too seriously.

beyond the valley of the dolls party

A Few Thoughts On The Passing of Roger Ebert

roger_ebert_54299Film critic Roger Ebert passed away today.  He was 70 years old.

For a lot of people, Roger Ebert was American film criticism.  They waited to hear his opinion of every new film and that opinion was often cited as if it was gospel.  I think most people are like me in that they couldn’t tell you when they first heard the name “Roger Ebert” or when they first learned he was a film critic.  Instead, he was one of those pop cultural figures whose existence we took for granted.  Just as there would always be movies, there would always be a review from Roger Ebert.

I have to admit that it was rare that I ever agreed with Ebert’s opinion.  I once posted a comment to that effect over on the AwardsDaily website and I ended up getting yelled at by the site administrators.  I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the reaction.  Ebert was (and is) a hero and an inspiration to a whole generation of film bloggers and online critics but very few of them seem to understand what made Ebert a great critic.

Roger Ebert was a great critic not because he was opinionated but because — unlike so many other self-proclaimed film critics — he sincerely loved film and that love came through in his reviews.  When Roger Ebert was critical, it wasn’t because he was trying to show how clever or sardonic he could be.  Instead, it was because he understood what film was truly capable of achieving.

(Incidentally, when you see certain pompous and self-important online film critics  promoting themselves as the logical heir to the legacy of Roger Ebert, remind them that Roger not only wrote the script for Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls but that he was also never ashamed to admit it and that it was a pretty good screenplay to boot!  Film snobs may have embraced Ebert but Ebert rarely embraced them.)

As I said, I often did not agree with Roger Ebert.  He was rarely a friend to the horror genre and he was critical of a lot of films I loved and he gave positive reviews to a lot of films I hated (like Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs, for example). I usually tuned him out whenever he started going on about politics.  Within an hour of his death, the political ghouls over on twitter were already quoting him, not about the films that he loved but, instead, on his views about President Obama, as if the only thing that mattered was that they had lost a vote in the next election.  Politics are temporary.  Films are forever.

However, the great thing about Roger Ebert was that you didn’t have to agree with him in order to enjoy and respect him as a film critic.  Ebert was opinionated but he was rarely shrill.  Unlike a lot of the critics who claim to have been inspired by him, Ebert didn’t talk down to readers.  Ebert may have been the most prominent film critic in America but he never stopped writing like a guy who just happened to love movies.  In a world where every critic with a web site is currently bragging about how powerful she believes herself to be, this humility made  Ebert a pleasure to read.  He was a witty and knowledgeable writer and his brave battle with cancer was both heart-breaking and inspiring.

With the passing of Roger Ebert, the world has lost a man who truly loved films.

A lot of the current wave of self-proclaimed film critics and award divas could learn a lot from his example.

Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

4 Late Quickies With Lisa Marie: Bully, For Greater Glory, Sound of My Voice, To Rome With Love

While I try to review just about every film I see, there are times when I don’t get to review a film as soon as I would like.  Fortunately, in this age of Netflix, DVDs, and Blu-ray, it’s never too late to review a film!  I saw the following four films earlier this year.  These reviews are a little late but here they are.

1) Bully (directed by Lee Hirsch)

This documentary, which follows and tells the story of several bullied teenagers over the course of one year, has the best of intentions and it’s definitely effective as far as making you dislike bullies and feel sorry for their victims.  That said, did anyone really like bullies before this film was released? 

Bully got a lot of attention when it was released earlier this year and a lot of people (who should have known better) said that the film itself was a solution to the problem of bullying.  I doubt that this film (or anything else, for that matter) will solve the issue of bullying but it is a well-made look at what kids do whenever adults aren’t watching (and, sad to say, sometimes when they are). 

One problem I did have with this film is that it chooses to limit itself to schools in small towns and rural communities, which gives the whole enterprise something of an elitist feel.  Are there no bullies up north? 

2) For Greater Glory (directed by Dean Wright)

For Greater Glory is a dramatization of the bizarrely obscure period of Mexican history known as the Cristero War.  In 1920s, Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles (played in this film by Ruben Blades) started a violent and relentless crackdown on the country’s Catholic faithful.  Churches were burned, priests and nuns were murdered by supporters of the government, and eventually Catholic peasants rose up in violent rebellion.  The Cristero War lasted from 1926 until 1929, eventually ending with a truce that was brokered by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow (played by Bruce Greenwood).

For Greater Glory set box office records in Mexico but it received some pretty negative reviews from American film critics.  To a certain extent, the negative reviews are not surprising.  The film is long, frequently heavy-handed and melodramatic and it’s also unapologetically pro-Catholic in its storytelling.  (Roger Ebert, who never seems to get tired of apologizing for having been born into a Catholic family, was especially critical of that aspect of the film.) 

With all that in mind, I still enjoyed For Greater Glory.  It’s a well-made and ultimately rather moving film (though I imagine some parts of the film might be a bit confusing if you don’t have at least a little bit of a Catholic background) and it features excellent performances from Andy Garcia and Oscar Isaac as two of the rebel leaders.  In many ways, For Greater Glory feels like a throwback to the epic films of the past and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

3) Sound of My Voice (directed by Zat Batmanglij)

Like last year’s Another Earth, Sound of My Voice is a science fiction film that stars and was co-written by Brit Marling.  The difference between the two is that Another Earth was a pretentious mess while Sound of My Voice is an effectively creepy little film that puts story and atmosphere above trite pronouncements about the state of existence.

Brit Marling plays a mysterious woman who claims to have been sent from the future.  She has a devoted cult of followers who spend their nights sitting on the floor around her, listening to her talk about the horrors waiting for them in the future.  Two journalists go undercover and infiltrate her cult, hoping to expose her as a fraud.  

Sound Of My Voice keeps the viewer guessing as to whether or not Marling is who she says she is and the film’s ending, while not a total surprise, is still effective enough to inspire debate after the end credits roll.  As opposed to Another Earth, Marling gives an actual performance here and is both creepy and sympathetic at the same time.

4) To Rome With Love (directed by Woody Allen)

Woody Allen’s follow-up to Midnight in Paris, To Rome With Love tells four separate stories that all take place in Rome.  Despite the fact that the cast features everyone from Alec Baldwin to Roberto Begnini to Penelope Cruz to Ellen Page, the true star of the film is the city of Rome.  I spent the summer after I graduated high school in Italy and this film brought back a lot of good memories.

Unfortunately, the film’s four stories are pretty uneven and the film’s frequent transitions from story to story are pretty awkward.  The worst story features Alec Baldwin meeting his younger self (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and trying to prevent him from falling in love with a neurotic actress (Ellen Page).  The film’s best story is a satiric fable about an ordinary man (played, in an excellent performance, by Roberto Begnini) who wakes up one day to discover that he’s the most famous man in Italy. 

The film doesn’t really work but I still loved to getting to see Rome once again.

Lisa Marie Defends The Hangover, Part 2 (dir. by Todd Phillips)

Right now, all the little mainstream critics are busy hating on The Hangover, Part II

Check out Christy Lemire from the Associated Press: “Giving the people what they want is one thing. Making nearly the exact same movie a second time, but shifting the setting to Thailand, is just … what, lazy? Arrogant? Maybe a combination of the two” 

And then there’s Roger Ebert (or L’Ebert as the asskissers at Awards Daily used to call him) who apparently took a break from ranting about politics to actually do his job: ‘The Hangover: Part II plays like a challenge to the audience’s capacity for raunchiness. It gets laughs, but some of them are in disbelief.”

Last night, despite not feeling all that great, I went and saw The Hangover, Part II and you know what?  I enjoyed it.  So there.

Yes, The Hangover, Part II is basically the exact same film as The Hangover except now Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis awaken from their hangover in Bangkok instead of Las Vegas.  Also, it’s not the groom that’s missing.  It’s the bride’s younger brother.  Oh, and Ed Helms has sex with another prostitute but it’s not Heather Graham.  No, it’s definitely not Heather Graham.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much the exact same film, a copy so exact that a character gets shot at around the exact same time that a different character got shot in the previous film.

But, honestly, so what?  The people paying money to see this film know what they’re getting into when they buy their tickets.  Helms, Galifianakis, and Ken Jeong are still funny in their respective roles, Bradley Cooper is so fucking sexy I don’t even know where to begin, and there’s a cute little monkey in the movie too.  Is it as good or as funny as the first one?  Of course not but did you think it would be?  The film made me laugh and, especially when I’m not feeling well, making me laugh is more than enough to win my heart.

As for the mainstream critics — well, before you take their word for it, just remember that Roger Ebert loved The Conspirator and raved, “Not many films this smart can be made.”  I rest my case.

(By the way, here’s a link to my review of the worst film of the year so far, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator.)


What Lisa Watched Last Night: The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Last night, I watched the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

Why Was I Watching It?

Why was I watching it?  I was watching it because I love awards shows.  I love them in all of their tacky, silly glory.  I was watching for the clothes, the celebrity meltdowns, and the infamous acceptance speeches.  I was watching because James Franco is hot and Anne Hathaway is adorable.  I was watching because I loved Black Swan and I was only mildly impressed with the Social Network.  I was watching because, as a film lover, my year starts and ends with the Oscar ceremony.  You boys have got your super bowl.  I’ve got my Academy Awards.

What Was It About

This year, the big question was would best picture be taken by the Social Network or by the King’s SpeechI predicted that the Social Network would win and I was wrong.  The Academy gave best picture to The King’s Speech which, unlike Black Swan (my personal choice for best picture), is a film that is very easy to love.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved The King’s Speech and, seeing as how I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of The Social Network, I can’t complain about the Academy’s decision (though apparently almost everyone else can).

By the way, as far as my Oscar predictions went, I ended up going 15 for 22.  I correctly predicted all of the categories except for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography.  So, in other words, I correctly predicted all of the awards except for the ones that actually mattered.  However, I am proud to say that, as the broadcast started, I predicted that it would last for 3 hours and 15 minutes and by God, I was right.

So there.

What Worked

Roger Ebert called last night’s ceremony the worst he had ever seen so I guess it’s no surprise that I actually enjoyed it.  I certainly felt it was an improvement over last year’s ceremony which was pretty boring except for when Kathryn Bigelow won best director.  There weren’t any endless tributes, self-congratulatory speeches about how important the film industry is for the survival of the world, and we didn’t have to sit through any pre-scripted, awkward banter between poorly matched presenters. 

As for the hosts, James Franco appeared to have mentally checked out before the show actually started but he was nice to look at.  Anne Hathaway, meanwhile, was a bundle of nervous energy and you know what?  I would have been too.  For the first time in my history of watching the Oscars, I could actually relate on a personal level to what was happening on the stage.  I’ll take the charming awkwardness of Franco and Hathaway over Hugh Jackman any day.  Ebert disagrees.  He apparently tweeted that Kevin Spacey should host.  And, if I ever felt like spending three and a half hours watching some smug jackass singing Under the Sea, I’d agree with him.

I liked the opening film montage, which featured Hathaway and Franco going into Alec Baldwin’s dreams in order to learn how to host the show.  If nothing else, it paid tribute to just how much of a cultural phenomenon Inception actually was last year.  (At the same time, it also pointed out just how ludicrous it is that Christopher Nolan — who is hot along with being a genius, by the way — was not nominated for best director.)

Probably my favorite presenters were Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake.  Kunis looked great and Timberlake won my heart all over again by announcing that he was actually Banksy.

The In Memoriam Tribute was actually pretty touching this year and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the audience has finally figured out how inappropriate it is to break out into applause in the middle of it.  A lot of viewers were apparently angered that Corey Haim wasn’t included.  Personally, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that Jean Rollin was left out.

For me, the best acceptance speech came from David Seidler as he accepted his Oscar for writing The King’s Speech.  His speech touched me as a former stutterer but on top of that, he delivered it with just the right amount of humility and humor.  Aaron Sorkin could learn a thing or two from Mr. Seidler.

Finally, I said earlier that I was hoping for just one upset win to keep things interesting and, to my surprise, the show provided me one when Tom Hooper beat David Fincher for best director.  Even among those who expected the King’s Speech to take best picture, the general assumption seemed to be that Fincher would win best director.  Personally, I think Fincher would have won best director except for the fact that people tended to think of The Social Network as being an Aaron Sorkin film as opposed to a David Fincher film.  In all of the preliminaries leading up the Oscars (the Golden Globes, the critics awards), the emphasis was always put on Sorkin’s screenplay as opposed to Fincher’s direction.  David Fincher was almost treated as an after thought and, as a result, Tom Hooper won best director.

(Of course, personally, I was rooting for Darren Aronofsky.)

Of the nominated films, Black Swan was my favorite, followed by 127 Hours, Inception, Winter’s Bone, and the King’s Speech.  I thought The Social Network was a good film but certainly not a great film and, to be honest, I’ve come to resent being told again and again by various online, self-appointed film gurus that my refusal to unconditionally love The Social Network is somehow an indication of a character defect on my part.  Seriously, some of these Social Network partisans make the Avatar people look tolerant by comparison.  I’m sure these people have spent last night and today ranting their little hearts out about how the Academy sucks and how The Social Network is clearly the greatest film ever made.  And to them, all I can say is get over it.  If you were watching the Academy Awards because you seriously felt that the awards actually mean anything, then you’ve obviously still got a lot of growing up to do.

That said, I make no apologies for being ticked off over the award for Best Feature Documentary but more about that below.

What Didn’t Work

Well, I’ll get the big one out of the way first.  This was the only time I actually got angry while watching last night’s show.  I’m talking, of course, about Inside Job winning best documentary.  This upset me even though I had actually predicted that Inside Job would defeat Exit Through The Gift Shop.  My objection comes down to this — Inside Job was the Capt. Hindsight of documentaries this year.  Inside Job was basically a documentary that told us what we already know and then encouraged us to pat ourselves on the back for agreeing.  In a year that was actually a pretty good one for documentaries, Inside Job was the least challenging of all of the nominees and therefore, I guess it’s not a shock that it won.  Meanwhile, Exit Through The Gift Shop — a film which should have been nominated for best picture — was ignored.

Add to that, I was really hoping for a chance to see how Banksy would accept the award or if he would even show up at all (or if he would turn out to be Justin Timberlake).  Instead, I got the director of Inside Job going, “You know, nobody’s been arrested for the bad economy yet.”  Well, if that’s what you think should happen then go to talk to the people who make and enforce laws.  But you’re on an awards show, buddy.  And if you think anyone watching an awards show is going to take action just because of some comment you weakly muttered during your acceptance speech, then you really are out of touch with reality.

We were reminded one too many times that we were watching “the young and hip Oscars.”  The young and hip Oscars would not have featured Celine Dion singing.

I really wish the Oscars would stop trying to force some artificial “theme” on each year’s ceremony.  This year, they took time to celebrate “the greatest films” of Oscar Past.  The problem, of course, is that most of the greatest films of Oscar past didn’t win best picture.  Usually, they ended up losing to movies like How Green Was My Valley, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Crash.

Aaron Sorkin won best adapted screenplay as we all knew he would and, as usual, he came across as smug and condescending during his acceptance speech.  The whole, “Daddy’s an Oscar winner now…” thing would have been touching if not for the fact that it’s been used at least once at every single Oscar ceremony in history.

Trent Reznor did not say, “I want to fuck you like an animal” while accepting his award for scoring The Social Network.  However, I must say, Trent cleans up well.

Technically, yes, James Franco was not real impressive as co-host.  The general consensus on twitter was that he was stoned but I can’t say too much against him because he’s James Franco.  Even when he showed up in drag, he was still James Franco.  I know some people looked at Franco last night and thought, He’s not even trying.  I looked at Franco and thought, yum…..

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

There were a few and most of them had to do with Anne Hathaway.  Most of the comments on twitter concerning Hathaway’s performance as host were not kind but I don’t care.  I love her and I think her lack of polish was actually rather adorable.  If I was hosting the Oscars, I would probably take a few moments to brag about my dress as well.  I know I’d certainly probably start giggling at random moments.  I also know that I’d probably get a little bit annoyed with James Franco’s lack of commitment to the show as well but you know what?  I’d still get all sorts of naked with him after the show because he’s James Franco and he just does things to me.

(If anything, last night’s show proved that the difference between a hot guy and all other guys is that a hot guy can get away with it.)

My other big “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment came when Melissa Leo won for best supporting actress for the Fighter and dropped the F-bomb on national TV.  I would so do that too.  I mean, it’s an Oscar!  God knows what I’d end up saying if I ever got one.

Lessons Learned:

I’ve seriously got a thing for James Franco.

Scenes I Love: Beyond The Valley of The Dolls

Since I featured a clip from Valley of the Dolls as one of the scenes that I love, I figured it was only appropriate that I also share a scene from that film’s unauthorized, Roger Ebert-penned sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

So, here’s the Carrie Nations performing the song “Find It” at the high school prom.  I think what makes this scene stand out is, not only the music, but the discovery that apparently, 30 year-olds still went to high school in the 1970s.

Do Critics Matter?

Do critics (specifically, professional film critics) matter?  In a word, no.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, ever since I came across an article by “professional” critic Sasha Stone in which she asked the exact same question and came to the exact opposite conclusion.  Her argument boiled down to one quote: “You see things differently when you’re 20 than when you’re 30.”

And she’s right.  I see things differently at 25 than I did when I was 13.  And I imagine that when 30 comes around, I’ll have a whole new set of opinions.  For that matter, I’m sure that as a Texan I probably see some things differently than how a native of California would see them.  As I mentioned in my previous review of Black Swan, a lot of my reaction to that film was due to my own history and experiences.  Would someone who has never had those same experiences have the same reaction?  Probably not.

So, yes, Sasha is right.  People see things differently.

And I’m even more right when I say that a 30 year-old critic matters about as much as a 20 year-old critic.

At the heart of professional film criticism is this elitist notion that somehow, Roger Ebert’s opinion is more worthy of consideration than some guy who actually had to spend money to get a ticket so he could watch the movie in theater surrounded by strangers while he eats rancid move theater nachos.

Ultimately, criticism is just an opinion and the only opinion that matters is yours.  Just because I hated Avatar doesn’t mean that Avatar is a terrible movie.  It just means that from my point of view, it sucks.  And, as much fun as I have explaining why I felt it sucked, that’s ultimately just my opinion.  Whether or not Avatar is a good film or if Black Swan is a great film , the only person that can answer that question is you. 

When it comes to film (and really, all art) I think we would do best to remember the words of Aleister Crowley: “Nothing is true.  All is permitted.”

This has been on my mind a lot recently as we went Oscar season and so many critics are now taking it upon themselves to announce which films are the best and we’re all expected to follow along with their opinions like lemmings going over a cliff.  Around this time, the old school film critics start to get paranoid about all of us bloggers who have the nerve to offer up our opinions on film as if our opinion matters.  That’s because most of these critics are a part of that generation that was raised to believe that only certain people were allowed to speak and that they only had the right as long as what they said was safe and predictable.  Independent bloggers scare them because it proves what we all know: that anyone can provide an opinion.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve been so enthusiastic about embracing The Social Network, a film that suggests that blogging was the invention of sociopaths.

But ultimately, a critic is just another person providing their opinion.  And maybe you respect that opinion enough that you’ll allow it to influence what you chose to see or not to see.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  To me, the best thing that a critic can do — and what I hope I can do on occasion — is make the viewer aware of a film that he or she might otherwise not be aware of.  If you see a film because I recommended it, I thank you and I hope you enjoyed the film as much (or as little) as I did.  And if you didn’t, that’s cool too.  I’m just a viewer with an opinion.

But when it comes to the movie itself, critics do not matter.  The only thing that matters is the individual viewer.  Art is the eye of the beholder.

At this time of year, we’re reminded that so much of so-called “professional” film criticism is simply about building a bandwagon and hopping on.  Here’s hoping that in the future, we set that bandwagon on fire and let it burn.