My evaluation can be summed up with the following:
As weirdly mesmerizing as it is to see Cole Hauser wearing a look of perpetual hunger on his face, the sequences devoted to Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard’s cross-country drive are much more engaging. “The Family That Preys” fails to facilitate a more genuine investment in the adultery thread because it leaves out the best part: the initial flirtations, the escalating innuendo, and consummation of infidelity. When all pertinent hearts are flogged and egos shrunken, it’s nearly comforting to recognize that underneath the melodrama of cheating spouses and power struggles sits a road-movie-buddy-picture that could’ve been its own film.
Click here to read the whole review.
Product Placement & Branding: Coke, Wings & A Prayer diner, Easy-Off, Fuze drinks, Luzianne Iced Tea, Mercedes (visual and verbal), Cadillac convertible, Country Crock butter, Nike track suit, Red Bull, Dasani, Budweiser, Doritos, Cheetos, Ruffles Potato Chips, Re/Max.
And now for some fun in the sun.
My alma mater’s Creativity & Arts Initiative hosted a discussion with film critic A.O. Scott and actor-director Todd Field this afternoon. I went because I love Little Children (2006) as a tangential football film. Highlights from the talk include (verbatim and paraphrased):
A.O. Scott: on writing film criticism
–It’s “trying to think and write as deeply and quickly as you can” about the film you just watched with between two days or two hours in which to do it. It is articulating one’s engagement with artistic texts.
–He mentioned “relentless treadmill of new material” but I don’t recall in what particular aspect of criticism. He remarked that writing about film is a “grand literary tradition” that, like all other great (literary) traditions, is “always on the decline.”
–For Scott, film criticism involves three points: as the “daily grind,” relating to other critics, and a “vocation, a calling.”
–He isn’t concerned with whether or not the reader sees a film. Scott may “warn or encourage,” but he doesn’t feel compelled to communicate explicitly if a film is a must-see or a must-not-see.
A.O. Scott: on film adaptations
–“Fidelity is admirable in marriages,” but when it comes to film adaptations? Why should it be hoped for or even a priority?
–He created a super cool way of expressing what happens when market and audience research and filmmaking converge: “subordination of taste to sociology.”
–Scott is a bigger fan of reading film criticism after watching the film.
Todd Field on filmmaking:
–His voyage into cinema is the product of happenstance and girls. A childhood interest in magic and sleight-of-hand brought forth the experience of having an audience and a critic. Then age twelve hit and magic was replaced with an interest in girls, which fed into jazz and musical instruments. The teens gave way to a job at a second run theatre and night after night of Ellen Barkin, Kathleen Turner, and Sissy Spacek on screen. College was on music scholarship at a school in southern Ohio. A fascination with an aspiring actress motivated him to change to theatre major. New York City beckoned after graduation and attending the New York Film Festival in 1984 inspired Todd to decide that moving pictures was it.
–He reads reviews of his work out of necessity; and it’s a surreal experience. Two years have to go by before he feels sufficiently distanced to gain any new perspective.
–“If you really love the book, don’t go see the movie.” A.O. Scott concurred on this point and remarked that some film critics avoid reading the book when reviewing film adaptations.
–Field is the anti-Hitchcock. He needs the actors in order to tell a story, which is told best by collaborating with rather than dominating them. The aesthetic and formal elements of the film are not predetermined. I imagine he knows what he wouldn’t necessarily consider (eg. no classic Dario Argento theatrical colors). I’m wondering if the lighting and color design are more sketched out, and it is the cinematography that is open for ideas or last-minute inspiration.
I wonder what Scott thinks about viewers owing it to themselves to do a little research about a film before watching it. Sometimes it is quite rewarding to know only a title, a country of origin, and maybe a genre. But other times, knowing a bit more about the cast and director or the storyline could save a lot of disappointment. Don’t just buy the hype, dig into the hype. If the hype is about X narrative or Y theme and you abhor either, then skip the hype. Go do something you would enjoy.
Oh look, visual aids:
I asked A.O. Scott what he does when he finds himself reviewing the same film over and over again.
Click here for the original version. Can you spot the difference?
I told Todd Field that I wrote about Little Children as a tangential football film in the epilogue of my thesis. His film is based on the book by Tom Perrotta, who also worked on the screenplay with Field. I haven’t read the book yet, but there is apparently a lot of football in it. In addition to changing the way the movie would end, Field and Perrotta had to figure out how much football to keep in the film. I’m gonna get my hands on this book and then revisit my analysis of Little Children as a quasi-football film.
The Impressionist rendering: