Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the Levine movie rating system

Categorizing movies by whether they’re violent or family-friendly is a joke. All the kids that can’t get into an R rated flick – they watch them on Netflix two months later, pausing and playing back in slow motion the good parts. Find me a 16 year-old boy who hasn’t seen Anne Hathaway naked.

Better than categorizing movies is prioritizing them. Label them based on your desire to see them. Like for instance…

D - Movies you’re dying to see – you can’t wait. You’ve watched the trailer a thousand times on line. You plan to see it the day it opens, preferably in costume. Examples for me would be GOLDFINGER, ANNIE HALL, VOLUNTEERS, and UNFAITHFUL.

T - Movies you want to see in the theater – either for the scope of the film or it’s getting a lot of buzz and you don’t want to be left out. TITANIC is a movie that loses something when viewed on a smart phone. Same with UNFAITHFUL.

ST -- Movies you feel you should see in the theater – homework movies. A guy cuts off his own arm. The Holocaust. Any Terrence Mallick film.

HER -- Movies you don’t want to see in the theater but your significant other does – For me that usually involves any movie featuring Helen Mirren.

TL -- Movies you’d like to see in the theater but never get around to – And when you finally do have a night free you check the paper and see it’s now only playing in one theater in the neighboring state.

C -- Movies you watch on cable – They may appear interesting but not at theater prices. So you have to wait a few months for Reese Witherspoon in a circus movie. My guess is most Hollywood movies fall in this category.

N -- Movies you watch on Netflix – Similar to cable but you have more mood flexibility. For whatever reason you’re just not craving a circus movie tonight.

DLTE -- Movies you tape on cable and never watch – At first you say you’ll get around to it, but then your DVR fills up and it’s either delete THE HELP or the last six episodes of CUPCAKE WARS. Say goodbye to Viola Davis.

P -- Movies you’ll watch on a plane – It’s a long flight and the only movie playing so what the hell? You’ll sit through Jack Black’s GULLIVER TRAVELS.

TWA -- Movies you’ll watch on a plane when there are no better movies – You have video-on-demand and twenty choices. You’ve seen six, you’ve heard bad things about ten, and you’ve never even heard of five (always a bad sign). Sure, you’ll watch UNSTOPPABLE.

PBS -- Movies that you won’t see but tell people that you have – Really? You saw MUNICH?

AS -- Movies you just won’t see regardless – Otherwise known as Adam Sandler comedies.

Have I missed a category?


Brian Phillips said...

PS - Parental Submission to the movie that the three year-old wants to watch over and over. It found its way into the house via the, "I bet my kid would like this" rule and then they do. A WHOLE lot.

"Y'know, 'Chicken Run' IS good. Reeally...REEALLY...good."

Mark said...

OK, what was your fascination with Unfaithful? Of all the movies that could have fit into a category, this one made it into 2! Perhaps you had heard about certain scenes with Diane Lane...?

For me, I saw that movie without knowing anything about it. Just a spur of the moment choice when I got to the theater with my mother. Yes, my 70 year-old mother that I was taking to a matinee. So those aforementioned scenes were not everything thay could have been. Awk-ward!

cadavra said...

APB--Al Pacino Bellowing. 'Nuff said. (Though I prefer him that way.)

BTW, I know it seems impossible, but Tony Scott actually did make a terrific movie once. UNSTOPPABLE should definitely be seen in a theatre.

Mark said...

TBS - Movies that you never considered paying to see in the theater or would otherwise make any effort to see. Maybe it even got such bad reviews that you actually avaoided it.... but while channel surfing on a commercial break, you just happen to pause for a second and decide to see for yourself. Someday movies like "Mars needs Moms", "Arthur (remake)", the latest "Underworld" or "New Year's Eve" will end up on TBS or TNT or USA, and I'll probably give them a few minutes.

By Ken Levine said...

There was a glitch with Blogger, which is why comments weren't allowed until about a half hour ago. Sorry about that.

Yes, Mark, my obsession with UNFAITHFUL is due to my uh, "admiration" of Diane Lane. But to be fair, the last half of that movie sucks.

I like the TBS category. That's how most people have seen MANNEQUIN 2.

lolly b said...

WTFS - What the Family Saw - Movies I rented intending to watch with the kids, but missed due to cooking, clean up, popcorn procurement, taxiing of other family members or any other household tasks.

WTF? - What you let your kid talk you into seeing at the theatre.

Mike said...

I was going to say this was a really accurate list for me as well )except changing HER to HIM -- gays, we're just like you!) -- but then I got down to PBS, and realized that encompasses so many of mine I might just be able to have 4 ratings or so (For example, ST and DLTE are just subsets of those.)

I'm not sure if pretending you've seen a lot of the movies you're "supposed to have seen" is a gay thing or not. I've even found myself doing it with machines -- like when Netflix makes a suggestion: "Oh yes, of course I've seen Crash. I was soooo outraged when it won an Oscar." Lying to an algorithm takes a special sort, and I don't want anyone to tell me what that means.

PolyWogg said...

My nephew (age 30+) and I have a pretty good short-hand developed over time...we no longer discuss it, we just use short-hand phrases. If I give them lettters like you, the ratings would be:

a. "TE" as in "I thoroughly enjoyed it";
b. "PG" as in "Yeah, that was pretty good";
c. "W" as in "watchable";
d. "EN" as in "enhh", a grunt to convey you could take it or leave it, so you might not turn it off if you have to reach for the remote (see previous refs to Mannequin 2 and Unfaithful);
e. "OG" as in "oh, gawd, I can't believe it was that bad" (I'm thinking Speed 2).

There must be another category for your groupings to capture "NFC" as in "no fraking clue" -- I saw "From Dusk Til Dawn" knowing nothing about plot, just knowing Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel, thinking it was going to be Reservoir Dogs / Pulp Fiction style. So, if you remember, early on Quentin's character hallucinates in the gas station, and then it snaps back to reality; then he hallucinates with the young girl and then it snaps back to reality. So when the first vampire shows up, I'm thinking, "Now THAT is a weird hallucination". Except it didn't snap back! It went from "Thoroughly Enjoyable" to "Oh, gawd, I can't believe I paid to see this."


Jawaman said...

GP - Movies you watch with guilty pleasure but always claim that you never watched it or just hated it. Like "Dude, where's my car", "Oscar", "Road Trip"...

RCP said...

DERMA - or, Don't Ever Recommend Movies Again. For those movies you love and just can't wait to share with your friends. Then you sit there amid dead silence thinking, Why aren't they laughing? or My god, that was the best scene - and nothing!

Unknown said...

TBM = Totally By Myself = as in any best-selling novel turned into a movie. Why? Because I LOATHE hearing the comment, "Hollywood can never make it as good as the book".

Mike said...

Unstoppable was a decent movie.
Loved The Waterboy and Billy Madison and You don't mess with the Zohan.

Wendy said...

NPA: No Parents Allowed. Trying to watch "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" with my Father-in-Law has scarred me. See also your favorite "Unfaithful," "The Reader," or anything else with overly sensual or graphic sex scenes.

WTH?: Why the Hype? Movies others seem to love that I just didn't enjoy or get. See "Crash," "Wall-E" & "Up" for me. "Black Swan" for others.

iain said...

"HER" used to be known as "Merchant Ivory."

71dude said...

Did you pay to see any of Shelley Long's movies in a theater?

Johnny Walker said...

Some home categories...

DSTY - Movies you pick up on DVD because they're cheap that you have every intention of watching, but just sit and gather dust on your shelf. Related to the ST category.

SHME - The DVDs that were bought for you as a present, that you'd never watch in a million years, but that you can't throw away because they're a gift. And so they sit on your shelf, waiting to embarrass you the next time someone looks at your collection. Rob Schneider films often fall into this category.

Wendy already hit the NPA (aka NCA) category.

Final thought: Diane Lane... what a woman :)

Raymond said...

PSR Movies you claim to have watched but never did. Could be for snobby reasons ("the original German version is much darker") or simple expediency ("Yes, I've seen the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, please put the box set away.")

Ron said...

Volunteers, huh?

Wallis Lane said...

PJ - my rating for Jack Black's "Gulliver's Travels," i.e. movies playing aboard a plane that you would consider avoiding by means of a Parachute Jump.

BigTed said...

I have to admit that I really enjoyed "Unstoppable." It was refreshingly simple: There's a dangerous runaway train, and a couple of railroad employees try to stop it. Relatively realistic action ensues.

Other than Rosario Dawson looking good while she deals with dumb bureaucrats in the command center, that's the entire movie.

(There isn't even a villain, really -- the entire mess is caused by a series of believable screw-ups.)

If you have nothing else to watch on a Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse.

Paul Duca said...

Hey, don't dish on Dame Helen...she's losing her eyesight, you know.

Frank said...

If I was on a plane and forced to watch Adam Sandler's latest "comedy" JACK AND JILL I would bail out and pray I landed somewhere near D.B. Cooper.

Rudy said...

TR - Trailer ruined movies. Movies that are so over hyped or where the trailer gives away so much plot that you feel like you've already seen it without seeing it.

emily said...

NFW -No way will I watch this turkey.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm with Rudy. I can't count the number of movies I might have been interested enough to see if I didn't feel that I already saw the entire plot, complete with twist ending, in the trailer.

These days, I find most movies fall into a category I think of as "BDS," or "bouncing down staircase." They start as something I think should be seen on a big screen with surround sound. But I'm too busy and just can't work up enough interest to make it while they're still in first run theaters, so they get bounced down to the dollar theater level. Still can't work up enough interest in time, so they get bounced down to Blu-Ray level. Go online to check them out and see too many other, more interesting things on Blu-Ray, so they bounce down to "I'll DVR them when they appear on Starz." Then the DVR gets full and there's a new episode of Penn & Teller's "Bullsh*t," so they get bounced down to "I'll catch it on cable if I happen to see it when I'm flipping by" level. Then I'm flipping by and see them, but there's a rerun of Penn & Teller's "Bullsh*t" on at the same time, so I keep on flipping to that.

The perfect examples would be the two "Star Wars" sequels after I got burned by paying to see "Phantom Menace" in a first run theater. With the advent of Blu-Ray and large screen HDTVs, I find about 95% of movies get kicked downstairs these days. Now, what gets me to theaters are first-run indies that I just really want to see, like "A Bird of the Air."

Terrific post, BTW.

Cap'n Bob said...

In my universe there is a NSS rating: No Scientologist Scum. I avoid anything with a member of Ron's cult in it.

D. McEwan said...

F- Forced to Watch. By forced, I mean a social situation where you are stuck. Two examples:

Example A. Moonstruck. I was taken by a friend to a gay Oscar-viewing party the year it was up for awards. Remember, The Oscars end early on the West Coast. So afterwards, they all insisted on watching Moonstruck. My ride wanted to watch it also, so I was stuck there, watching a movie I had deliberately avoided, because what choice had I? I find Nicholas Cage so repulsive to look at that I avoid him on film as much as possible. (Nowadays though, it's easier since he became the king of Direct-to-DVD), and to me the very idea of Cher as an actress, let alone an Oscar-Winning actress, is risible in the extreme. Yes, my gay gene is defective somehow, as I have never enjoyed Cher.

(Ironically, I was the only person at this party who had actually seen Cher work in person, back when she was still half of Sonny & Cher.)

Example B. The Shootist. I loathe John Wayne. I really despised him as a human, and as for his "acting," WHAT acting? He could not act - at all. He couldn't deliver a line of dialogue in a way that sounded like a human being speaking. So in 1993, I'm staying with a friend in his home up in El Portal, just outside Yosemite. He wants to watch The Shootist.

You see, in the movie, Wayne's last, made while he was dying of cancer, he plays a gunfighter dying not as he should, of gunshot wounds like all his many victims, but of cancer. I'm 900 miles from my home. And you see, my friend was himself, at that time, dying of brain cancer. He died 5 months later, in fact. This was why I was visiting him: to spend our last-ever time together. Result: I sat there with him and suffered through the movie in silence for my friend.

(My friend had been a fine actor himself. That he wanted to watch a John Wayne movie was a sign, one of many, that the tumor was eating his brain. Prior to that year, he'd have no more watched John Wayne than I would.)

Watching that movie did not alter my evaluation of Wayne's acting "skill," only reconfirmed it. Today I recall little of it besides feeling very sorry for poor Ron Howard.

Under your "P" rating, I once found myself trapped in a plane watching Beethoven's 2nd. Bailing out wasn't an option. It was a flight to London and we were over the mid-Atlantic Ocean, at night.

Two other ratings should be FMG and FMH: Friend's Movie Good, and Friend's Movie Horrible. This is a movie you sit through only because a friend has a good role in it. FMG is a lovely rating. I apply it to LA Confidential (Kim Basinger's mother in that was a dear, dear friend of mine, Gwenda Deacon, now deceased, and she is terrific in the film.), Garry Marshall's Frankie & Johnny (the hilarious frumpy waitress Nedda is my good friend Jane Morris), and Foul Play (The albino Whitey Jackson who keeps kidnapping Goldie Hawn in that movie was my friend, the non-albino Bill Frankfather, also now deceased. Bill invited me to the set on the last two days of shooting, and I got to go to the wrap party where I sat in a corner chatting with Dudley Moore and Billy Barty.)

But FMHs are as bad as "F" movies, especially if the friend is proud of it. It's more tolerable when the attitude is: "You gotta see this low-budget piece of shit I'm in. It's hilarious for all the wrong reasons."

I have a stand-up comic friend who is in a bunch of these, several so bad they were never released at all, not even on home video, but he has them, and brings them over, and we watch and hoot together.

D. McEwan said...


I am in a couple of movies that are so awful they never made it to theaters, though one of the worst, for a while in the 1990s, got rerun on TV repeatedly. When I arrived in London after that flight with Charles Grodin and the St. Bernard and puppies, I saw that the wretched movie I am in was airing on London TV that week. Oh joy. I dreaded someone on the street, or worse, at a theater, since I went to see plays every night I was in London, recognizing me from that crap. Fortunately, never happened.

I have that movie now on DVD, and another striaght-to-VHS movie I did n VHS, but I have never made friends sit through anything but my scenes (come to think of it, I watched those entire movies only once each), and in fact, there are two other movies I'm in that I have never seen myself. One of them's title has long since left my mind, and as I have found no evidence that it was ever shown anywhere in any format, it's not a problem. The otehr was a big success, a sequel that spawned three more sequels, and shows up on TV a lot. I have never seen it.

Thomas said...

Ah, twenty choices, seen six, ten are bad, and five are unheard of. And there's still one left over!

Levine maths is the best maths!

Tallulah Morehead said...

"Paul Duca said...
Hey, don't dish on Dame Helen...she's losing her eyesight, you know"

Ah, actually it's Sir Judi Dench who is losing her eyesight, but you know, all over-50 English actresses look alike, especially when you're losing your eyesight.

jbryant said...

As the designated John Wayne defender here, I am obligated to blow in and say that I think he was often quite a good movie actor. Since I have felt this way for many years, I'm assuming no brain tumor is involved, but I'll get it checked as soon as possible.

MuffinMan21571 said...

Do you think you can do ONE post without mentioning a certain movie from 25 years ago starring Tom Hanks and his current wife that NO ONE ELSE cares about???

Mary Stella said...

Y for why the hell did I spend money to see this crapfest?

Mike said...

TWAT - Television Without Analogue Transmission.

Recently, the UK shutdown all analogue transmission from terrestrial transmitters. There's only digital channels now. "I've got 13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from." (Pink Floyd, 1979. Referencing contemporary US TV.)

Fortunately, I never made the transition to digital and have happily reverted to radio. Way better programmes. Just for you, BBC Radio 4.

D. McEwan said...

"jbryant said...
As the designated John Wayne defender here, I am obligated to blow in and say that I think he was often quite a good movie actor. Since I have felt this way for many years, I'm assuming no brain tumor is involved, but I'll get it checked as soon as possible"

Do that, because I have observed that the man could not act, and have known this for 50 years, so it's not a tumor with me either.

"Mike said...
TWAT - Television Without Analogue Transmission.

Recently, the UK shutdown all analogue transmission from terrestrial transmitters."

Okay, and this relates to the topic under discussion how?

It's odd to me how proud some people are about refusing to upgrade to a better system for no observable reason. We switched from analogue to digital in the states two years ago. It created zero problems, and the superiority of digital to analogue is unmissable. Why did you refuse to upgrade?

jbryant said...

Love ya, D., but I'm never quite able to figure out how your observations are less subjective than mine. :)

YEKIMI said...

@ D. McEwan: We switched from analogue to digital in the states two years ago. It created zero problems.

Really? Maybe zero problems for you. I refuse to pay the outrageous fees that cable & satellite charge for the channels that they carry that I have NO intention of watching, ever. Therefore I get my TV from OTA antenna. When they switched to digital in my area out of 10 stations available [16 if you want to include the ones that I could pick up from out of my area when I rotated the antenna], I was only able to pick up 2 of them and the only reason I was able to do that is because I lived less than 3 miles from one antenna, 6 from the other. So for a while, all I could pick up was a local PBS station & ION network affiliate. After upgrading to the most sensitive, expensive antenna I could buy, I am still unable to pick up 4 stations with any regularity. Until last year when they put a repeater antenna on the tower closest to my house I was unable to pick up the CBS affiliate, and some days the Fox affiliate. I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the area with this problem. You would think the networks would be screaming at their affiliates & the FCC to fix the reception problems [which usually has to do with the fact that they reduced the wattage output from what they had broadcasting when analog] because I'm sure it doesn't help any with their ratings. My parents live in the south and it's even worse for them, I could put up an antenna the size of a semi-trailer and they'd still would be unable to watch any of the local channels so they had to get cable.

as far as the movie ratings go:

NC [Nic Cage movies] Usually so incredibly bad that they work themselves around to being good, in a train wreck sort of way.

Mike said...

>where the trailer gives away so much plot that you feel like you've already seen it without seeing it.

You mean like The Godfather?

cadavra said...

I can't believe it's 2012 and people are still ragging on Wayne for his "non-acting."

Horseshit. Watch THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, where he runs the entire gamut of human emotion from happy-go-lucky cowpoke to nasty, bitter drunk in two remarkable hours. Or sit through a double feature of THE SEARCHERS and RIO BRAVO and witness his incredible range. Or even a pre-STAGECOACH "B" like OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS, where he blows the far more experienced Louise Brooks right off the screen. Yes, he was in many respects a horrible human being, but that shouldn't have any bearing on his very genuine talent.

And by the way, D., if you really had seen THE SHOOTIST, you'd know that--


--while he does have cancer, he is in fact shot to death by the bartender.

sephim said...

My favourite John Wayne movie has always been BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA...

D. McEwan said...

Cadavra, I did really sit through The Shootist, every tedious minute of it. It was in 1993, and I did my best to forget it afterwards, which for the most part, I have. As I said, I remember little beyond feeling sorry for Ron Howard. So forgive me for forgetting the end. I've forgottent he middle and the beginning also, and have no desire to refresh my memory.

Wayne was, as ALWAYS, just Godawful. As actors go, he was down there with Bela Lugosi and Dudley Manlove. His was one of the least-deserved Oscars of all time, and the example I most often cite when discussing the meaninglessness of The Oscars.

I have seen Stagecoach. It starred a guy who could not act. Great director, of course, and good solid cinematography. But for a good John Ford movie, I always prefer How Green Was My Valley, a sublime piece of work with no cowboys or John Wayne. All good actors in it.

The idea of sitting through a John Wayne double feature is like the idea of sticking red-hot needles into my eyes: torture. Plus every movie you mentioned is a western. I dislike westerns, always have, unless they're comedies. Give me Way Out West with Laurel & Hardy if I must sit through a western, or Cat Ballou or Destry Rides Again. (My dad took me to Shane when I was about 10,thinking I'd like it. I liked the cinematography, and Van Heflin's acting. The rest bored me.

Couldn't I renew my disdain for Wayne's alleged "acting" by watching some of his jingositic pro-war movies instead?

I saw The Conquerer At least that one was funny, albeit not intentionally, though the behind the scenes tragedy where filming the movie on a recent nuclear test sight (Stupidest thing to do imaginable) and then bringing truckloads of the radioactive soil back to the studio so the soundstage sets would match resulted in most everyone involved with the movie dying of cancer over the years that followed drains the fun out of it.

I actually worked with (well, "near" would be more accurate) John Wayne once, 43 years ago. I was a college sophmore, and a comedian I wrote for (I started getting paid to write jokes at 17)was doing the audience warm-ups for a Bob Hope special, and he got me a gig holding cue cards for him on the show for the exprerience.(I got paid, but the main lure was being onset and observing network TV production.)

It turned out it was a Bob Hope "Tribute to John Wayne." I was professional in my very few dealings with Wayne (and with Hope, whom I would be dealing with profesionally again, so I kept my Bob Hope loathing under wraps also), but it was a struggle.

It wasn't just that I was in the presence all evening of two men I disliked extremely; but it was a TRIBUTE, right in the midst of the Vietnam War, so lots of por-war jokes, lampoons on those wacky war protesters (like me), endless nauseating praise (and ovations) for Wayne, and the usual Bob Hope ultra-lame sketches, all to further the glory of John Wayne. It was vile, though I enjoyed seeing Eddie Fisher sing live.

D. McEwan said...

That should say "lots of pro-war jokes.," not "por-war jokes" though they were poor jokes.

I said...

...thinking we should rename this blog, "By D. McEwan, featuring Ken Levine."

jbryant said...

CAT BALLOU is pretty bad. I have observed this. :)

Re-watched it just a couple of years ago, and even sat through it once more to hear the commentary by Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman. Director Elliot Silverstein has a way with slapstick in the same way that Jack the Ripper had a way with women (this may explain why there seems to be no comedy in his credits before or after this film). Lee Marvin is a lot of fun though, and you have to love the Academy for deigning to honor a comedic performance for a change.

Marvin, by the way, made three pictures with John Wayne, practically back to back, and I believe they were drinking buddies despite diametrically opposed political views.

Michael Zand said...

I couldn't upload this yesterday, so I don't know if anyone will see it, but here goes.

Was it my imagination or was there a slight, "slight" to THE HELP in your post today? Is it because you think it's chick flick?

If so, you're not the first. A lot of my friends felt the same way about the film, sight unseen. I'm confused, because it's a terrific movie. Viola Davis is amazing and who would have thought Bryce Dallas Howard would be such a loathsome, funny villain? In fact, everyone is great in it. Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney etc...
My friends who subsequently did see the film and also loved it. So, if you haven't seen this chick flick yet, please grow a pair and do so. If not, it's going to be a looong Oscar night.

chuckcd said...

DVDC - Movies you buy on dvd/blu ray to listen to the commentaries, that are more interesting than the movie.

ChicagoJohn said...

CLRKS- Its indy! Its edgy! And then you see it, and its... its just kinda unwatchable. You watch it the entire time wondering why people were boasting about it when the acting feels like it was done in one take, and the script feels like it was written by your 16 y.o. younger brother.

ROOM You hate bad movies with a passion... but someone convinces you to see this film anyway.
Then you keep watching this film again and again. Because it feels so clueless that you literally feel like you're learning something about film making by watching all of their mistakes.

Its almost as if you are in film-school, and the director has put the film together as the final. He tells you ahead of time: "This film has 150 mistakes. Find all of them."
Your pen is moving within the first 20 seconds and doesn't stop until ten minutes after the film ends.

NUD You would have absolutely no interest in seeing this film. -And you are completely ashamed to admit it... but you heard that (insanely hot actress that you have crush on) is in it, partially nude, a lot of the time.

D. McEwan said...

" jbryant said...
CAT BALLOU is pretty bad. I have observed this. :)"

I didn't say it was good. I said I enjoy it. That can sometimes be a rather large difference. It may have something to do with the age I was when it came out, and a lot to do with Nat King Cole, and a teensy bit to do with how cute I always found Michael Callan. Also a factor, that it so blatently parodies Shane, only without the great cinematography. I tried reading the book it was based on back right after it came out, and didn't get very far into it. I rewatched it about a year ago, and I still enjoyed it.

cadavra said...

D.: Forgetting stuff is something we all do......Where was I? Oh, yes...But you made a very specific point about THE SHOOTIST and then justified it with a scene that doesn't exist. That's what I called you on.

Okay, you want non-westerns? Fine. (For now, we'll overlook your preference for red-hot needles in your eyes over two of the most universally acclaimed and beloved pictures of all time.) How about THE QUIET MAN, a rowdy yet charming romantic comedy set in Ireland? Or SANDS OF IWO JIMA, a tough-as-nails WW2 thriller, which earned Wayne his first and only other Oscar nomination? Or HATARI!, a rollicking adventure about big-game trappers in Africa? Or REAP THE WILD WIND, a lusty swashbuckler with the Duke battling pirates? None of 'em westerns, all tremendous films by legendary directors (Ford, Walsh, Hawks, DeMille).

I still believe you're blending Wayne The Man with Wayne The Artist. Hate on the former all you want (I'll even toast with you on that one), but he was beyond question a splendid actor. The evidence is there in abundance.

BTW, my favorite director is Hawks, and he was a huge anti-Semite. You think it's easy getting beyond THAT?

D. McEwan said...


First, please understand we're having a nice converation. I get testy on this board (as the previous post's "Anonymous" has learned), but you are someone I have respect for, since I know your work, LM. So please don't misinterpret my tone with you. I like you. In fact, I think you are a better actor than John Wayne. (Don't go nuts: When he wants to pretend he's starving beside a half-full food dish, my cat is a better actor than John Wayne also.)

Even as a kid, long before I even had politics, I thought Wayne was a terrible actor. Like I said, I put him right down there on a level with Bela Lugosi, though their acting flaws were highly different, and Lugosi is enjoyably bad, while Wayne sets my teeth on edge. It wasn't until my mid-to-late teens that I started despising Wayne as a person. I always thought he was a crap actor.

I read The Quiet One. Good story. I've skipped the movie because it starred John Wayne. I will continue to skip it. Sands of Iwo Jima is just not my sort of movie. I'd avoid it even if it starred WC Fields. Hard-hitting WWII dramas have their place, and can be excellent films, but I seldom want to see them. Not never, but seldom. You'd be surprised how few war movies I've seen.

Hatari and Reap the Wild Winds are two movies I have always been tempted to watch. They always sound like great fun right up until I get to the words "Starring John Wayne," and then it's a pass. If they had starred someone else, I would see them.

To the left of topic but: DeMille has no business on a list with Walsh, Hawks and Ford. He's not one half the director any of them were. Yes, he is a true film pioneer, and deserves credit for that, but his movies are pretty much dreadful pieces of kitsch.

"{Wayne] was beyond question a splendid actor."

Untrue on the face of it or we wouldn't be having this discussion. It's also an insult to all genuinely slendid actors.

James Stewart was pretty far right, but he was also a magnificent actor. Love his work. Merian C. Cooper was somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun, but a stack of his movies stuff my DVD shelves. Yup, Hawks was a big Jew-hater (How can one be so? Jack Benny. The Marx Brothers. How can one hate them? How can one not love them?), but his brilliance is beyond question.

We should talk away from Ken's threads sometime. A good friend of mine is the son of Harold Jack Bloom who co-wrote Hawk's Land of the Pharoahs with Wiliam Faulkner, generally considered Hawks's worst film. (Though Harold was a good writer. Oscar-nominated) Charlie told me a story or two his dad told him about that film, and especially about the hell of working with Faulkner, or rather, trying to work with Faulkner. One word: alcohol. I met Harold a couple times at Charlie's parties.

Walt Disney is often believed to have been an anti-Semite. He wasn't, but Ben Sharpsteen, who was one of the most-powerful men at Disney in its glory years was, and would not knowingly hire Jews, and the label washed up onto Disney. But Walt's politics and tastes have resulted in my having a lifelong, complex, love-hate relationship with all things Disney. It hasn't stopped me from being a big Disneyland freak all my life.

D. McEwan said...

(to finish)

The list of right-wing actors whose work I nonetheless enjoy is a long one. (Kelsey Grammar anyone?) Whether their politics makes it difficult or impossible for me to enjoy their work I take on a case-by-case basis. Some get a pass, others don't. (Patricia Heaton anyone?) But my disdain for John Wayne's "acting" predates my loating of him.

My favorite director is Hitchcock. The more I learn about what a sexual freak he was, and the way he treated some of his leading ladies, and his streak of Sadism, the more creepy-crawly troubling he becomes, yet I can not imagine I will ever stop loving his best films, nor forget how nice he was to me the one time I met him. Charlie Chaplin liked to have sex with girls who were barely past puberty. On some levels, he was more than a bit disgusting, but he was still Charlie Chaplin, and I spent 72 minutes just last night watching his The Circus.

D. McEwan said...

Sorry. One more. How could I forget to mention Charleton Heston? His politics were odious, he was a terrible excuse for an actor (Another undeserved Oscar), but I've seen many of his movies, and have many of them on my shelves. Of course, he did a lot of historical epics and sci-fi movies, two genres I generally enjoy.

On the other hand, the only movie I have a DVD of with John Wayne in it is How the West Was Won, and if My Uncle Mack hadn't worked on it, I might never have seen it. And if Wayne had a larger role in it, I might not have bought it.

D. McEwan said...


I have no idea why I typed your initials as "LM" when I KNOW> they're "LB." It wasn't a typo. Must have been a brain fart. I need to turn this machine off for a while and eat.

Lladro@Lladro Figurines said...

How about movies you saw once and they were so good or moving you never wanted to see it a second time.

I offer Sixth Sense, The Hurt Locker, and a new movie I saw the screening of titled Act of Valor.

All these are so moving and intense I will never see them a second time. This coming from someone who saw Captain Ron 26 times on DVD and Casino Royal 13 times in the theater.


D. McEwan said...

"Lladro@Lladro Figurines said...
How about movies you saw once and they were so good or moving you never wanted to see it a second time."

Interesting idea. For myself, I can't think of one. If I intensely love a movie, a not-uncommon experience, I will watch it again and again.

But there have been TV shows I watched and loved, caught every episode of, yet when they were over, I was through with them, and have never sought out another viewing of any episode.

Not Lost, which I keep finding myself rewatching all the way through about every 8 months. Not Doctor Who, which I also rewatch the DVDs of a lot.

But like Northern Exposure, I saw the entire series, enjoyed the heck out of it, except for the least season, when it was falling apart. But since it ended its orginal run, I've not been remotely tempted to take a a trip back to it. Same with Picket Fences. Loved it. Saw every episode, and then let it go forever. In fact, that's pretty common in me with David E. Kelley series; I have no interest in rewatching The Practise, Chicago Hope, or Boston Legal either, though I never missed them while they were on first-run.

Roseanne is another, but there, there is no mystery. It was a great show, a really great show, except for the horrific last season. She has since become such a nightmarish turn-off, I'd really like never to see or hear her again.

(A gift for her "presidential" opponents: use this slogan in your attack ads on her: "Do you really want a president who thought the last season of Roseanne was a good idea?" But beware; she attacks back worse than even I do.)

I understand what you mean. I'm sure there must be folks who feel that way about some film-gong experiences. (Though it seems a uniquely feminine response, but that doesn't mean it would only happen to women, just more common in women, I think. Obviously I could be wrong on that.) I just can't think of a movie experience like that for me.

jbryant said...

D.: Cadavra is not LB, but I get the confusion. I'll leave it to him to sort it out with you though.

Pat Reeder said...

To Landro:

I've never seen "The Sixth Sense" a second time. That could be because I figured out what was going on about five minutes after Bruce Willis was shot. When you spot the twist ending that early, you spend most of the movie just noticing the clever ways they hide it until the end rather than getting caught up in the story. BTW, I knew my wife would think I was lying about figuring out what was going on, so I took a pen and a piece of paper out of my pocket, scribbled the plot twist down, then put it back. That way, I could pull it out afterward, a la Penn & Teller, and say, "Is THIS your plot twist?!"

Here's another category of movie that I can't recall if anyone's mentioned: movies that everyone agrees are terrible, and you sort of agree, too, but still are compelled to watch them every time you happen across them. For me, "Casino Royale" is one that I've probably seen 30 or 40 times since I was a kid. I don't mean the Daniel Craig one, I mean the Peter Sellers/David Niven one. Maybe it's Woody Allen's hilarious, almost cameo role; maybe it's that swingin' Herb Alpert score; maybe it's a naked Dahlia Lavi strapped down on a lab table; but for some reason, I just can't look away. Go ahead, try it yourself:

Bryan Dam said...

You forgot AMZ for Amazon's instant watch. For movies you'll only watch if you can rent them for $2 over the internet.

cadavra said...

D.: Fair enough. I think we're both of a like mind, and as I said, I would never dismiss a person's work because of what they did "after five." I'd have missed an awful lot of wonderful film and TV if I did. So I will concede this debate, and leave you to your Duke-less world. :-)

BTW, Disney was in fact anti-Semitic. David Swift confirmed this to me over breakfast one day. Ironically, Walt gave David shit because he thought he was Jewish--but he wasn't!

(And no, I'm not Larry Blamire, just his semi-competent producer.)

jbryant said...

cadavra: Yes, arguing with D. about the Duke is a fool's errand, because for some reason he thinks he's objectively right about what is clearly a subjective matter. But I always chime in with a dissenting opinion, because, let's face it, none of us likes to be told his subjective opinion on something is inarguably WRONG. That usually just leads to, you know, arguments.

D. McEwan said...

"jbryant said...
That usually just leads to, you know, arguments."

Well, let's say "discussions," rather than arguments. We all stayed civil and I hope friendly on this. Arguments are what I'm having with "Anonymous" in the thread from the day before this thread.

Heck, I "discussed" for over 40 years the merits of Nelson Eddy's "talents" with my mother, who had found him the dreamiest, sexiest, greatest movie star ever from the day she saw Naughty Marietta on its original release when she was 14. Now that she's long dead, on my hall wall in a frame hangs her autographed picture of Nelson Eddy, signed in person the one time she met him (When she was over 40 and still swooning for him), and the handwritten letter he sent her in 1959, when she was one of his few surviving and still-rabidly-hot-for-him fans. (He thanks her for her fan longevity)

I have that up not because I find Nelson Eddy to be anything other than torture, but because I miss sparring with my Mother, and it was her most-prized possession. She had, and I now have, an autograph from the incredibly great Jane Addams, to whom Mom was introduced in her early teens by her grandmother, who was a friend and colleague of Addams's, but that meant far less to her than Nelson Eddy.

Cadavra, sorry for my understandable miss-identification. So you're either LP or FMV? You guys have your relatioship worked out, and it is truly none of my business, but if I ever catch my editor or publisher from My Lush Life posting online as "Tallulah Morehead", there will be blood. Besides, Tallulah's sequel book, coming out very shortly, has a different editor and publisher.

(BTW, Mother and I were in perfect agreement about John Wayne's acting ability, and Mother was a Republcian. We didn't agree on much, but we agreed on that.)

D. McEwan said...

PS. Cadavra, Please do tell Larry that I said he was a better actor than John Wayne.

jbryant said...

D.: Of course you're right -- I shouldn't have said "arguments" when I meant "discussions." But since I was playing off of that "inarguably" in my previous sentence, I guess I couldn't resist the symmetry.

Paul Duca said...

Doug...tell Tallulah thanks for correcting me about Judi Dench. There may be nothing like a Dame, but sometimes you just confuse them.

Tallulah Morehead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tallulah Morehead said...

Paul darling, I've never been able to see Sir Judi Dench myself either. Honestly, she plays a man in the James Bond movies. After all, she's not likely to have seen the error.

And anyway, all those British chicks, Dame Helen, Maggie Smith (Why hasn't she been knighted?), Sir Judi, Lady Plowright-Olivier (who has worked with Ken), they're all women you go see onstage in London only if Dame Edna isn't appearing anywhere.

jbryant said...

Maggie Smith is also a Dame.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I Know she's a Dame, Like Dame Edna, but why isn't she Sir Maggie yet, like Sir Judi? Heck, they ought to make her Queen.

(Saw Maggie onstage in Noel Coward's Private Lives back in 1974. My Dog, she was magnificent!)

cadavra said...

D.: Neither; I'm MS. And I'll certainly give LB your best.

D. McEwan said...

Let's see if we can''t get our chat into all initials.

cadavra said...


D. McEwan said...