From the Chicago Reader (December 17, 2004). I’m wondering now (August 2015) whether I underrated Spanglish as much as I overrated As Good As It Gets. But the fact that I keep changing my mind about James L. Brooks probably says as much about me as it says about him. (In March 2016, having just reseen this, I like it still more, although, as always with Brooks, some irritations remain.) — J.R.
** (Worth seeing)
Directed and written by James L. Brooks
With Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, and Ian Hyland
One reason I can’t regard Pauline Kael as a great film critic is her unshakable belief that she needed to see a movie only once — that she could immediately form an opinion and never have to revise it. She was thought of as an industry gadfly, but her blind faith in first impressions often fit industry calculations perfectly, helping to validate things like test-marketing and seeing movies as disposable.
I readily admit that changing one’s mind about movies days or years later can also be a problem. But we outgrow some films and mature enough to value the challenges of others.… Read more »
From Film Comment (January-February 1975). (January 23, 2012 update: Thanks, once again, to the ever-vigilant Ehsan Khoshbakht for spotting a few typos here and thus enabling me to correct them.)– J.R.
October 8: Victor Erice’s EL ESPIRITU DE LA COLMENA (THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE). I’ve been trying all weekend to come up with an adequate description of this lovely Spanish film, but I can’t get anywhere. A colleague recently spoke of the film as “beguiling,” which seems like an honest start. Two remarkably expressive little girls, Ana Torrent and Isabel Telleria, see James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN at a traveling film show that stops in their village in Castille. Afterwards, Isabel explains to her sister that the monster is still alive — and indeed, he makes a brief appearance in the final reel. The girls’ father is a bee-keeper who broods over Maeterlinck, while the mother writes unexplained letters to someone in France. Isabel plays dead for a bit, and Ana believes her. Ana befriends a fugitive soldier who is eventually killed.
I don’t know what sense to make of either the plot or Erice’s beautiful honey-tone colors and honeycomb compositions, but I find the film haunting and rather spellbinding in a muted way, and emotionally it all seems to add up to something.… Read more »
From The Soho News (June 11, 1980). I’m sorry I haven’t had better luck in finding illustrations for the experimental and independent animated shorts reviewed here. But at least if you hit the first illustration, you can see it move. — J.R.
New American Animation
Film Forum, June 12-15 and l9-22
Thalia, Mondays (June through August)
Did you ever step out of a movie theater in the good old days and exclaim, “Gee, that cartoon was better than the feature”? Whether you did or not, there’s precious little chance of such a thing happening today. Thanks to some of the packaging principles that currently dominate media, short animation is often treated like a ghetto art — quarantined in its own little category and asked to stay there, mind its manners and keep a low profile, in such out-of-the-way corners as kiddie matinees and museums.
Consequently, to write about the New American Animation series at Film Forum — the last program for the season — is a bit like having to write about the Third World (another Film Forum specialty), rather than, say, simply Brazil or Algeria. And Greg Ford’s massive “Cartoonal Knowledge” series at the Thalia – encompassing 13 Mondays this summer, and billed as “probably the largest and most comprehensive cartoon festival ever mounted in a straight ‘theatrical’ context” — etches out an umbrella subject that is equally daunting to nonspecialists.… Read more »