Seasons Go

Interesting that Shepherd liked Batman Begins but criticizes the drive "heighten, deepen, broaden, lengthen, strengthen the experience" of a movie. That is what the first movie without argument did. (He also criticizes the fake death, which I happen to agree about; but he cannot possibly think Gylenhaal survived the explosion. A better example for his point might be Harvey Dent, though Eckhart has said that he's really dead. He shouldn't have had to, though.) The massive anticipation for the Dark Knight occurred for the following reasons: 1) It's Batman, 2) People loved Batman Begins, 3) The Joker is in it, 4) Heath Ledger died. IN THAT ORDER. Ledger made another movie before his death, and despite a huge cast (Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, etc.), no one is going to see it. Shepherd's main point is that movies today fill a quasi-religious or -mythological need, that we need "event movies" that enrapture us all rather than pure story-telling. Come on! Does he really think this is anything new? Let's make a list, going backward: Titanic, ET, Star Wars, Godfather, Sound of Music, just about anything with Charlton Heston - but let's say Ten Commandments, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind... etc., etc. Now, to his credit, as I look back through the archives, Duncan isn't particularly enraptured with any of these movies, but the idea that this phenomenon is new is silly. The only difference, nowadays, is the focus on gross revenues, but that has little to do with quasi-religious devotion to movies but instead with a final acknowledgment of the massive control money has over the movie industry. (Oh, and as a total aside, it is dumb to say that the gross of a movie of Titanic or the Dark Knight is smaller than that of Gone with the Wind because of inflation. There were no DVDs or home video in the 30s. The best estimate would be to compare tickets sold with tickets sold + DVDs sold, but they might not even have those numbers.)
— September 5, 2008 12:35 p.m.

The Dark Knight clocks in

Johnrubio, of comments 3, 4, etc..., is a fool. He attempts to show (no, "tell," actually, is the word) how unimpeachable Duncan Shepherd is by displaying his own superior command of language and ability to recognize genius. This is ironic, considering that one of (perhaps, the central) Shepherd's own critiques of The Dark Knight is its pretentiousness. Oddly enough, I agree with most of what johnrubio was saying, but a single sentence would have sufficed. To whit: Shepherd has a flair for the language, a knowledge of cinema, and a discerning taste. To which I would add: he unfortunately doesn't have much time for all but the most wink-nod types of humor, all but the most brief types of action, all but the most affected types of sincerity. I personally was only in San Diego for a short time when I noticed (and loved) his reviews, and have been reading them online as soon as I found them here. But I rarely read them to guide me to movies I would like; tastes diverge. Put it this way: among Pixar pictures, Cars got a more positive review than Toy Story 2, the Incredibles, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and surely more and I can't be bothered to look up? One star to Pan's Labyrinth but four to Mimic(!)? I could go on, but there's not point. As to The Dark Knight: to be sure, Bale is a bad Batman (though not a bad Bruce Wayne), mostly because of that god-awful whisper-voice thing. And yes, he should be able to turn his head. But I thought Ledger was brilliant - one can't really talk about Oscars without seeing other potential candidates, but I can't complain about the Oscar he's sure to win. And to people who really think he's overacting, I ask you: what movie are you watching? Or, to be more precise: what *character* are you watching? When it comes down to it, however, I think Shepherd gets more than a little thrill in taking down huge movies - huge in the sense of popular among both crowds and critics. If he really thinks Nolan takes childish glee in crafting terrorism, he's a brute and and an idiot. To try to "invest some psychological realism and topical relevance into this figure" (that is, the Joker), is wholly missing the point. And does Nolan have a "lack of faith in the fairy-tale form"? Of course not; that's why he made this movie. But does Shepherd - you betcha: "bat ears and clown makeup ill become a crisis of conscience." In sum: TDK isn't a great movie, but it's a good one, maybe very good; Shepherd only puts in a few real points against the movie, and they're either not really right or essential; and he's still the best (my favorite, anyway) reviewer to read, even when you only sometimes or perhaps rarely agree with ihm. [By the way, why does it seem like every couple of weeks Shepherd doesn't publish? Is he not supposed to write every week or was he just taking a week off for some - who knows, personal/family, maybe - reason?]
— July 29, 2008 10:44 p.m.

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