The Fish
for 26 December 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
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How Many Years Is That In Dogma Years?

Well, here's an interesting side-note on von Trier. He grew up thinking that his father (whom he had never met) was Jewish, and identified strongly as a Jew. Then, on his mother's deathbed, she confessed that she made it all up and he wasn't Jewish after all. Von Trier had a breakdown shortly after that confession. What a way to get cosmically fucked.

Elliot Feldman
<EFeldman@station.sony.com>

Something similar happened in my family. My mother, through certain subtle hints and suggestions — maybe it was the way she carried herself, I don't know — throughout my life implied we were wealthy. Guess what we found out on her deathbed? Ouch!

The upshot is that to earn every third slice of my daily bread I now have to write for Suck.com. I'm not sure if that qualifies me as "cosmically fucked" or not. Let me suggest, however, that in some small way it has made me if not a better person than at least a different one.

Thanks for your aside -

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

As a fellow letter writer quoted Neil Gaiman recently regarding comic books, I think the followers of the Dogme 95 Manifesto may be mistaking a medium for a genre. To clarify, by discounting all genres of films, they make claim there is to be only one sort of film, thus making film the genre. Of course, the whole Vow of Chastity could not have been whole-heartedly serious; what director would honestly swear to no longer be an artist? A clever bit of performance art, more like.

I confess to not having seen any of the films to come out of the "movement," and I don't know if they're rentable. I will cop to being a semi-snob about the movies. But I'm no elitist. I refuse to watch Titanic, but I thought Scream was great fun. I adore the movie musical, as I do the stage musical, but I also enjoy the assorted dark and angsty movies that diametrically oppose that genre.

That said, I feel very said for Mr. von Trier that he is unable to appreciate a more broad spectrum of art/entertainment. The Sound of Music fakery? Maybe contrived, but not with ill-intentions. Besides, if one recalls, Rodgers and Hammerstein perpetrated this "fakery" on stage before it reached the silver screen. In any case, The Sound of Music, which was based on the true story of a family who would become a popular singing group, is less unusual as a movie musical than, say, Oliver! or Annie. Why are orphans breaking out into song? Now that doesn't make sense.

Of course, one mustn't question the true artist's tastes. That will always brand one a Philistine.

Thanks for the piece. Very intriguing as I haven't yet seen Ms. Gudmundsdottir's star turn, but I will rectify that soon enough. I had hoped to avoid the open forum sob-fest, but it seems I'd really be missing something.

Alexia Henke
<alexia_henke@exchangeny.deutschinc.com>

Dear ACH:

As someone who, in a reversal of your position, is an elitist but not a snob, I suggest you run right out and see Björk in Dancer in the Dark. That's some film-critic speak, there, "run right out." I want Gene Shalit's job so bad I can taste it.

If you identify the Dogma's failing as refusing to identify genres, I'm afraid I can't agree. They are explicitly opposed to westerns, crime films, etc.

However, I agree with a point you make, but for different reasons: There are no genres.

I don't see why you can't enjoy both Titanic AND Scream. Was the easy self-consciousness of "Scream" more to your liking than the heavy sincerity of Titanic? Was it the Celine Dion number that got to you? I liked the both of them, even though I only saw about 20 minutes of Titanic on a display-TV at a Caldor (before they went out of business).

Looking back on that, I should see more movies that way. I think I like them better like that.

Thanks for writing in!

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Aside from the fact that they seem to break even their own stupid rules (wasn't The Celebration shot on digital video, not 35mm film, after all?) have those Danes noticed that their dogma sounds suspiciously like Latin America's Cinema Novo/ Third Cinema/ Poor Cinema movement? Those cats wrote manifestos that were a lot more complex and articulate than the control-freak purism of Von Trier not allowing his electrician to get an extension cord out of his car.

The whole thing reminds me of the contrast between the hunger strike of a political prisoner and the Diet Coke swilling anorexia of a teenage suburban girl, actually. To deny artifice, technical or otherwise, signifies differently in the impoverished circumstances of1960s Brazil and Argentina than in prosperous 1990s Europe.

Furthermore, while Third Cinema saw filmmaking as part of the wider political issues they engaged with, these pissy Danish boys never seem to refer to anything but cinema. Like a high-school clique, they never seem to notice the world outside their little in-group.

"We're victims too!" they shout with their tired depoliticized manifesto. Never mind that this supposedly "anti-auteur" tactic has done more to boost their individual careers than any 'George Lucas in Love' could have, these boys want you to know that they've suffered.

Oh, and has anyone told them what hide the truth isn't necessarily as obvious or as easy to eliminate as a tripod?

Looks to me like one more cynical careerist appropriation of technique emptied of content and context.

Julia
<julia_halperin@mail.utexas.edu>

Dear Julia:

Glauber Rocha fans everywhere thank you for writing in.

As for you comments about anorexia, it seems to me that von Trier & Co.'s success with the Dogma has only made them fatter.

Even in their filmmaking: I don't mean to suggest that "Dancer" is bloated, but, let's face it, at 139 minutes, those are some fat reels.

Good to hear from you -

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

There's a beside-the-point feeling to the Dogma, and none of the films produced under its conditions brought down the tyranny of production value and special effect as much as The Blair Witch Project — the film that killed Stanley Kubrick — did.

My apologies for being dense on this topic, but how did that film kill Stanley Kubrick?


<doodles8@postoffice.pacbell.net>

Dear Doodles:

Well, uh, you see, like, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut was trumped at the box office by The Blair Witch Project and Kubrick actually did, see, die around then, and the triumph of the cheap, handheld style of Blair Witch put the final stake in the heart of the rich, traditional mise-en-scene represented by Eyes Wide ShutSlotcar H.Slotcar H. (at least as far as cineplex-audience attendance is concerned), so, um, I was trying to say a few things there.

Maybe you had to be there with me, back in the '90s, during that crazy summer when those two movies came out. It seemed like anything could happen back then. And then Time Code came out.

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Hi Scott,

I enjoyed your Suck.com piece on the Dogme 95 films, and thought you might be amused by a satirical piece I wrote earlier this year.

It was inspired by Harmony Korine's apologia on the "Julien Donkey-Boy" web site. If you've come across it already, then never mind. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it...

Regards,

Kevin
<kshay@ix.netcom.com>

Kevin:

Hey, mister! Didn't you get the memo? Harmony Korine is the savior of the cinema, godammit! Him and Guy Ritchie!

Although I was greatly amused by your Confession, one factual error prevented me from enjoying it as much as I would have liked to.

In a little known addendum to the Dogma Vow of Chastity, the original signers have declared that using a body double for Melanie Griffith is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, von Trier explained that this dictum was "a gentle poke at the work of Mr. Brian De Palma. He gets away with too much and we just thought it would be neat to point out the fakery and phoniness — artifice, you might call it — of his movies, especially the ones from the '80s, but Snake Eyes, too, is marred by his willingness to avoid confronting reality through the deployment of special effects and Nicholas Cage, who is no Peter Stormare."

I hope this clears things up. Keep up the good work.

Slotcar H.

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Awesome Disclosures

Fun Fun Fun. There's nothing more entertaining than exploring the hypocrisy circle-jerk. From the exposed to the entranced audience, we are bullied into giving up either any illusory ideals, or fessing up to being a hypocrite. I'd rather be a hypocrite. Neal Stephenson, (probably better known in the web community for Cryptonomicron, a novel glorifying privacy in the now of eroding privacy) has an interesting discussion of this in The Diamond Age. Some stuffy neoVictorians decide its more fun to have some impossible ideals than to be exposed and completely cynical. As for me, I think I'll just take a new ideal out of my deal-a-meal ethics plan every day, and merrily explore the hypocrisy de jour.

Always digging a shot of TV crit,

John Steill
<steill@sensors.com>

Dear John,

I think you're taking the easy way, bub! Hypocrisy is a highly overrated vice, and its exposure cheap and self-serving when not done as artistically as on City Confidential. At least the hypocrite has the decency to condemn his own actions by his words. It's not as if we would find him more admirable for boasting of his evil, Marquis de Sade-style. Or maybe we would.

But hypocrites at least keep one foot on the straight and narrow path, and what more can you ask in this vale of tears? I suspect that the hypocrites people really choose to despise are the ones that condemn our own vices; it's not the sharing them part that we hate, but the condemnation. What is so wrong about Lobster Boy speaking of being a good father and husband? If he had only lived up to his own press, we would have him with us today.

The Boob

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Sucksters:

I met the Lobster Boy at a carnival in Huber Heights, Ohio in 1990. Several of us paid a buck for the privilege (I know how that sounds, but you had to be there). He was really nice, he told us he'd been in sideshows since he was six years old, that he was married and had four children, two normal and two "like me". He asked if the lines for beer were still long.

You're about to find out, if you don't already know, that Grant Wood's estate is quick to point out that American Gothic is not in the public domain, and they're not shy about asking for a little compensation for the use of the image. I discovered this when I was working for a local newspaper and used the painting in an ad. There was a contractor who used to advertise in those days named Whited and Sons, and it occurred to me that it was a shame that they didn't sell mausoleums. The could have called their business Whited Sepulchre. Nobody thinks that's funny but me.

Let us know how it goes with the Grant Wood people, it would probably make a good Suck.

Logan Rogers
<logerogers@aol.com>

Dear Logan,

A dollar to meet Lobster Boy seems like a pretty good bargain to me. You'd think he would have a six-pack stowed away someplace, though.

Yrs,

The Boob

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

 The Shit
Physical Strength and How to Obtain It, by Eugen Sandow
Bamboozled, A Spectacular New Film by Mr. Spike Lee
G. Beato's all-new Soundbitten
William Demarest, Sultan of Snarl, in The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
George Wallace: Settin' The Woods On Fire, directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler
1995
Bobby Darin, Darin at the Copa (Atlantic)
Shinji-San in the floating world of indeterminate duration, by Peter Richardson
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1996, Merge)
45, by Bill Drummond
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, Singing in the Rain (ASV)
Do you know of stuff that doesn't actively suck? Things so good they deserve to make the Shitlist? Send your suggestions to us.

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