Film for Art's Sake

Tom Baglien, December 10, 1980

 

Don't always expect a movie critic to be rational. For instance, I am partial to Ellen Burstyn just because she reminds me of my Aunt Dorothy. And I've liked Tom Skerritt mainly because he was the only non-squishy thing in squishy old Ice Castles. And just because an ancestor once left Canada for Duluth, I've had a long curiosity about our neighbor to the North. Silence of the North has all three of these elements--Burstyn, Skerritt, and Canada.

Phil Anderson, October 22, 1981

 

Stan Brakhage is, in his own way, a present-day Abel Gance, full of audacious theories and prodigious energy....His films can strain the eyes but also open the senses. I'll be there with my Visine.

Phil Anderson, November 19, 1981

 

So, I talked to Al [Milgrom, director of the U Film Society], at length and at leisure. Before his comments roll by, let me just suggest his speech patterns as a way of understanding his character. Working up to a sentence that begins, "Where am I gonna go?" he will spout: "Whudda-wadda-woodya-how'm I-where'm I." Sliding into a comment about programming, he says: "So we have, basically--probably--in one year's time, I think, say, a certain percentage of that student body comes...but lookit: I've survived five or six university presidents, earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes, four different heads of Student Activities, five Gestapo regimes, and maybe three KGB dossier scrutinies. And guys have come, and guys have gone, and I figure nothing can happen, 'cause I'll still be here!"

Phil Anderson, May 6, 1982

 

Okay, it's time to get tough. Every week I show up in this space, politely droning on about this movie or that, being so damn genteel. No more Mr. Nice Guy. I demand that all of you take in the following events....

Phil Anderson, November 25, 1981

Montenegro pits the lives of upper-class, almost ethereal-looking Swedes against the ways of dark Yugoslavian "guest workers" who keep the Swedish state going....The whole point of [Dusan] Makavajev's movie is pretty clear early on (especially if you've seen his other movies), and he doesn't say anything new within his own body of work. Yugos have more fun, okay?

Phil Anderson, May 13, 1982

 

[John] Hanson is making [Wildrose] the way he likes to, in emulation of the great Italian neorealist films of the 1940s, like Open City or Bicycle Thieves. His story grows out of the location [the Iron Range of Minnesota], linking people and land; his cast is a mixture of outside professionals, Twin Cities professionals, and untrained locals playing themselves. This is a singularly lovely way to work, but it's not easy.

Phil Anderson, September 16, 1982

 

This was the year the Minneapolis Star and Tribune's Bob Lundegaard caused a big stink in his review of Star 80 with a mercy-killing crack about former starlet Carroll Baker. Bill Diehl continued to cause quieter weekly stinks of his own at the St. Paul Dispatch, bemoaning (among other things) the "travesty" of Terms of Endearment getting a mere PG even though the "specific sex expletive" was used twice. Diehl also gave the thumbs-up to Sudden Impact. Hmmm.

Michael Phillips, December 28, 1983

 

Any working film reviewer recognizes both [Pauline] Kael's analysis and her implied sense of loss. Most of us took up this job as a lark, feeding off the immediacy and energy of the form and treasuring our instant access to an audience. Most of us stayed in it because it was a vocation, not an occupation--God knows it doesn't pay.

Pat Aufderheide, July 4, 1984

 

Purple Rain's premise is how a selfish artist finally develops a heart, but the premise is transparently self-serving. So when the [Prince character] finally agrees to perform a song composed by two snubbed members of his band (one he previously and adamantly refused to sing), Prince is having his cake and eating it, too, since he actually wrote the song.

Edward Staiger, August 1, 1984

 

Blood Simple was a long time brewing in the Coens' heads, though other things came up before its conception. Joel worked as assistant editor for Sam Raimi, director of The Evil Dead. Ethan juggled his own writing projects. He and Joel eventually hooked up in New York to write a first draft of Blood Simple, one that took six months. Ethan describes the work progress as "pretty much like you imagine collaborations: one of us at the typewriter, the other pacing around the room, tearing our hair out, yelling...."

Michael Phillips, March 6, 1985

 

MTV contest giveaways aside, it's easy to see why Prince's Under the Cherry Moon premiered in Sheridan, Wyoming. If you were the director and you'd made a film this bad, you'd premiere it in an obscure place, too.

G.S. Brennan, July 23, 1986

 

An ongoing stumbling block exists within the notion of how to raise funds for filmmaking. "In terms of investment," says [the Office of Film, Video and Recording's coordinator Randy] Adamsick, "there's all kinds of financial structures in town if you've got, say, a new artificial kidney. Computer, medical technology--that kind of investment is very well understood. Entertainment investment is very different. It's very risky, and there's that conservative, Scandinavian attitude about it."

Michael Phillips, September 16, 1987

 

Nineteen eighty-nine will not be remembered as the year in which [Do the Right Thing] started race riots, but as the year in which the real action took place at Walls (Berlin), Curtains (Iron), and Squares (Tiananmen). Undoubtedly there are several movies there, and even more undoubtedly rights have already been sold. To Americans. But if they cast Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger as Lech Walesa, I will just plain quit.

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