Film for Art's Sake

Phil Anderson, December 20, 1989


[David] Lynch ranks as the most gifted manipulator of images working in cinema today, and his sense of irony and passion for his work mark him as a singular technician of emotional effects....The fact is, though, the demons in Lynch's imagination jibe well with neoconservative paranoia, from the War on Drugs to the fear of black folks (unless they work in your dad's hardware store, as they do in Blue Velvet) and the danger of seductive women.

Judith Lewis, August 15, 1990


Loads of ink was spilt debating the gals-and-guns equation [in Thelma & Louise], but what it came down to was that most men like women with firearms when the chicks are going along for the ride (Terminator 2) but balk when the barrel turns their direction. I found it sadly telling that Thelma and Louise end up driving off a cliff. In real life, they probably would've trusted in the legal system--and ended up in jail for 50 years.

Terri Sutton, January 1, 1992


Whatever the causes of [Film in the Cities]' demise, it will surely be mourned. FITC was a great leveling field where amateurs and professionals alike worked side by side, sharing insight, excitement, and ideas about filmmaking and photography. Under one roof, young artists could acquire skills, borrow equipment, get funding, and exhibit their final product to the public. It was the ultimate program, but one whose time may have come and gone.

David Southgate, August 25, 1993


In the guise of romance, The Piano acts out a soul's reunion with the living world through the agents of sex and language. It transforms the audience in a similar way, mostly because it's so fertile with story and myth, reaching back into the Brontës, the Bible, Robinson Crusoe, and The Tempest--a drama, like this one, about an island, a magician, and a stranger.

Terri Sutton, November 17, 1993


Far as I can tell, Spielberg's critically enshrined [Schindler's List] isn't about Jews or even about the Holocaust, rather it's a repentant version of The Player, wherein a big-shouldered capitalist redeems his trivial, amoral life by endlessly remaking A Christmas Carol.

Terri Sutton, January 5, 1994


If Philadelphia's sexless portrayal of gays is both insulting and short-sighted, its basic point unfortunately couldn't be more current. Unbiased access to employment and health and love does not constitute a "special" right for anyone, queer or otherwise.

Terri Sutton, January 12, 1994


Truth be told, I know that by the standards of "alternative" arts criticism (including this paper, most of the time), no artistic work of any resonance or merit is supposed to be accessible to straight white men these days, much less universal in its themes; I know how dreadfully retro it is to cut slack for any artist who tries for breadth. And this makes me want to cry. I don't mean to say Philadelphia is a great movie; only that I'm so fucking tired of living in a time when the willingness to genuflect to difference is the main measure of a raised consciousness--and any effort to speak to a broad, diverse audience instead of catering to the delicate sensibilities of this tribe or that is summarily dissed and dismissed.

Steve Perry, January 12, 1994


That Disney's stereotyped depiction of black characters has surfaced again in the early Nineties seems more than coincidental. Just as white-authored blackface minstrelsy emerged as mainstream entertainment during Reconstruction (1867-77), serving to reinforce a sense of newly liberated blacks as wayward buffoons, Disney's recent reappropriation of black humor comes along at a time of unprecedented control over black comedy by black artists.

Rob Nelson, February 23, 1994


At the studio junket for Pulp Fiction a few days later, I ask Tarantino why he thinks normally jaded audiences are so fascinated by him. "You know, I always feel like a complete nimrod pontificating about that," Tarantino says, erupting in a caustic burst of dialogue that could have come from one of his screenplays.

Rob Nelson, October 12, 1994


If [Todd] Haynes's Poison was a film made in anger, Safe adopts the same façade of tranquillity that it's critiquing. Paradoxically, Haynes has delivered a complex argument in favor of using pain as a means to fight the power--this in a film culture that too often values tidy resolutions, and at a time when modern healing strategies are defined by the self-blaming conceit that the best defense against disease is a positive attitude. The profound tragedy at the heart of Safe is that everyone is telling [the protagonist] to calm down, when what she really needs to do is act up.

Rob Nelson, August 9, 1995


For all its digs at Minnesotan culture, Fargo has its weirdly poignant side.

Julie Caniglia, March 6, 1996


Myself, I'm aware that my intense dislike for [Fargo]--for its smug, misanthropic way of equating accent with intellect, and its monotonous litany of grotesque Midwestern caricatures--gives me a feeling of guilty brotherhood with fellow Nice guys like Fargo's own Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a Minnesotan of such pent-up rage that the mere task of ice-scraping his car is enough to send him over the edge.

Rob Nelson, January 1, 1997


[Local] movie lovers meet the passive resistance of some powerful players, not least among them daily-newspaper critics like the Star Tribune's Jeff Strickler. About a year ago, Strickler told a Minnesota Daily reporter that coverage of indies other than Landmark [Theatres] fare is limited in his paper by meager space and resources, then added a revealing comment: "My job is to report and review, not to support local filmmaking. It is not my job to sell tickets to their movies." So if I understand this correctly, the Strib's comprehensive and prominently placed coverage of studio films week in and week out does not constitute "selling tickets to their movies." It's simply a matter of "reporting and reviewing" whatever's most worthy of attention. In practice, this has meant that a movie that's wide-released by a major studio, even if it sucks, is automatically deemed more worthy than a foreign and/or independent movie playing at Oak Street or U Film, even if it's great (and could use a leg up). The justification: The studio movie is the one most readers will be interested in. And the reason for that? It's never discussed, only proven again and again.

Rob Nelson, December 17, 1997


After untold hours spent scratching his beard in monastic seclusion, George Lucas finally has the power to "paint" the frame digitally in any color he chooses--and yet, what do you know, his favorite shade of character is still white.

Rob Nelson, May 19, 1999

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