Lost in Translation

Not rated yet!
Director
Sofia Coppola
Runtime
1 h 42 min
Release Date
31 August 2003
Genres
Drama
Overview
Two lost souls visiting Tokyo -- the young, neglected wife of a photographer and a washed-up movie star shooting a TV commercial -- find an odd solace and pensive freedom to be real in each other's company, away from their lives in America.
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Millennial Woes1
Scandza Forum



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

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  • My Entire DVD Collection [multi-parter] | Lost In Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | 22:19 | 👎🏻
    ...
    (Review Source)

VJ Morton4
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • TIFF — Day Two (plus day 3 and early day 4 grades)

    TIFF — Day Two (plus day 3 and early day 4 grades)

    Three more short reviews, with vague spoilers for all three films, and some fairly explicit ones for BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS and LOST IN TRANSLATION.

    THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ (Ted Kotcheff, Canada, 1974, 8)

    This film, Canada’s first international prestige success, starred a young AMERICAN GRAFFITI-era Richard Dreyfuss, and shows some of his early cheekiness (before he became A Great Acting Institution) and even made good use of Dreyfus’ showboating ways. Duddy IS a showboat — a young working-class Montreal Jew always trying to make connections and impressions for the purpose of social climbing, and Dreyfus gives him a kind of annoying laugh (think Tom Hulce in AMADEUS cranked up to 11) that never ceases to be at least somewhat endearing in its roguish charm.

    The film is like Duddy in many ways — a bit too eager to show off its plumbing knowledge, but one too many dog poo reference is a small price to pay for the very funny gag at the end of the opening band march. In another era and class, Duddy would have been someone like Julien in THE RED AND THE BLACK — each rises through the ranks of society through a mix of roguishness, moxie, charm and ruthlessness, except that Julien’s contempt for society and its unwillingness to accomodate him as he sees fit is closer to the surface and more explicit.

    It’s there in Duddy, just more thoroughly sublimated. In what has been a theme these first few days, DUDDY KRAVITZ suffers from Adaptationitis — the swelling of a film beyond its capacity to develop by the need to get every subplot and every supporting character in the novel. It results in rushed, telescoped plotting. The McGill snobs at the beach get their comeuppance too quickly and too precisely symmetrically, and the roulette wheel scam is reversed in the very next scene. In addition, there’s the dean whom Duddy persuades (don’t ask how) to reverse the decision to expel his brother Lenny (really) from medical school. The dean appears only once after that (too) short sequence, and merely to be told off by Duddy for no reason that makes much sense in the context of the film.

    But to every cloud, there’s a silver lining — one of those strictly-unnecessary supporting characters, A Prestigious Film Artist, gives the film its best sequence by far, one of the funniest films-within-a-film ever made (and, seperately, it gives us another look at the young, dumb Randy Quaid). But this Bar Mitzvah film ranks alongside “Springtime for Hitler” from THE PRODUCERS and “The Shrinking Lover” from TALK TO HER for sheer demented fun.

    BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (Stephen Fry, Britain, 2003, 8)

    Another adaptation with the Itis Disease here (there was one more on Day 3, as I write this on the middle of Day 4), It’s the film’s (bounteous) blessing and its (mild) curse in telling its story of the newest of new money — the bright young things, the “dot.com billionaires” of late-30s Britain and the tabloid journalism that fed them and consumed them. Like with DUDDY KRAVITZ, it produces a somewhat telescoped third act — World War 2 takes, like, 5 minutes of screen time. There’s also some subordination of plausability to allegory (e.g., the symbolically-named central character Adam buys back his love from her cad of a husband for *all* the 37,000 pounds he eventually gets his hands on) and to running time (the old major is killed *immediately* after handing over the money to Adam).

    Still, this is Evelyn Waugh’s VILE BODIES they’ve got a hold of, and, even though I have no idea how faithful an adaptation this very funny and bright film is, it clearly has all of Waugh’s Catholic wit and anti-modernism and at least some of his Very Politically Incorrect Opinions Therein. I would be stunned if you see another film this year or for many years to come where pansy-like homosexuals are more plainly used as a symbol of decadent, sybaritic vice than this one. Even some tortured Catholicism is here. One of the two “author’s message” speeches is a jeremiad given by a revivalist preacher with some touring angels pure as the untouched snow, who are both in some ways a figure of fun both to the Bright Young Things and we modern descendants in today’s audience. But she tells it like it “tee-eye” is. So there’s plainly enough of the novel there (though I have obviously not read it, but now really want to) to merit a strong recommendation, when combined with the typically fine Scepter’d Isle cast (seemingly every other British actor has a part, even John “yes, I’m still alive … gimme my first cocaine role” Mills).

    Acting honors go to the previously unknown-to-me Fenella Woolgar in the role of the ditziest of dumb party-girl blondes, who gets the two best scenes in the picture, the racing car scene and the other author’s message scene — where she speaks the only moments of self-knowledge in the film. At a dread-full price.

    LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sofia Coppola, USA, 2003, 8)

    This movie deserves some kind of award as the first movie about two bored people, their boredom and their attempt to connect in friendship that is never itself boring. As THE VIRGIN SUICIDES showed, Coppola is a director interested in moods, auras and feelings — there the tactile quality of the sun shining on Kirsten Dunst’s hair and how it can make you feel so incredibly sad; here the neon lights of the Tokyo streets and in its bars and karaoke clubs and how they can make you feel so incredibly alone. And looking for companionship.

    So yes, LOST IN TRANSLATION, is somewhat slow and light on the plot points, but that doesn’t really matter for two reasons — Coppola has two great performers that can do the acting equivalent of the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. Is there anybody alive who can get more laughs out of fewer muscle movements than Bill Murray? A longtime master of deadpan underplaying, about 40 of the first 60 minutes of this movie (quite a few such moments are in the trailer) are basically Murray reacting to this alien world into which he had been thrown. We can be grateful that he’s cast opposite Scarlett Johansson, who, while not a comic, has a marvelously opaque face that can suddenly come to life with the quickest of gestures.

    What’s also admirable about this film, plotwise, is that it takes the time to develop the relationship between the two. They’re first shown together in an elevator and share a meaningless catching of the eyes (while a funny visual gag is going on elsewhere), then a hello, then a brief conversation, then … etc., rather than the quick roll in the hay that the romantic comedy template, which LOST IN TRANSLATION follows in some ways, leads us to expect. There’s a long conversation between the two that takes place while they lie in bed together, fully clothed. In fact, this is fundamentally a film about a man and a woman (both married) who create a friendship without sex. In fact, the friendship is in some senses premised on its chastity. The movie’s one sex encounter (it’s not really a sex scene — we see the pickup and the morning after) is a fall for Murray that Johansson finds out about and in a few seconds, as noted above, her face says it all. She’s at the hotel-room door and when she overhears the giveaway, she gives a knowing-but-low-key “I know what you’re hiding, big boy” half-smile. Then when Murray closes the door, it turns into disappointment — “I thought you were better than that.”

    One more thing — the people who attack this movie as racist (and you know who you are) because of a few accent jokes need to ask themselves — have they seen a non-Japanese movie that portrays a Japan as richly varied as the country shown here (while maintaining the otherness essential to any “innocents abroad” movie like this one)?

    Also, just to get Word of Mouth out — here are my grades for Day Three and the first part of Four. And don’t worry Vadim, I will be writing a capsule for all of them.

    MATCHSTICK MEN (Ridley Scott, USA, 2003, 6)
    CHOKER BALI (Rituparno Ghosh, India, 2003, 3)
    CRIMSON GOLD (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2003, 8)
    ELEPHANT (Gus Van Sant, USA, 2003, 1)
    BRIGHT FUTURE (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 2003, 6)
    ONG-BAK: MUAY THAI WARRIOR (Prachya Pinkaew, Thailand, 2003, 9)

    THE MAYOR OF SUNSET STRIP (George Hickenlooper, USA, 2003, 7)
    TIME OF THE WOLF (Michael Haneke, France/Austria, 2003, 8)

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    September 7, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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  • Fearless prognostication, part 2
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Fearless prognostication, part 2


    The Golden Globes were handed out last night (a complete list of the winners is here), and the two films that won Best Picture (unlike the Oscars, the Globes divide some of the movie categories into comedy and drama) were THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (drama) and LOST IN TRANSLATION (comedy).

    Other key winners were Sean Penn (MYSTIC RIVER) and Charlize Theron (MONSTER) for best drama lead performances, and Bill Murray (LOST IN TRANSLATION) and Diane Keaton (SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE) for best comic lead performances. Peter Jackson won best director for the third part of the Tolkien trilogy, and Sofia Coppola won best script for TRANSLATION. These are all pretty much locks for at least a nomination.

    I do hope, though, the supporting actor award given to Tim Robbins for MYSTIC RIVER was the result of the ballots being sent by mistake to The Deaf and Blind Academy giving out their Braille novel awards and that “Tim Robbins” in Braille forms the shape of a Playboy centerfold. That’s the only acceptable excuse I can imagine.

    The Oscars have a tradition of ignoring or downplaying comedies (and rewarding the tic-ridden handicapped role — have I mentioned that I HATE Tim Robbins in MYSTIC RIVER?). One fact suffices to prove this: Cary Grant was nominated just twice — for PENNY SERENADE and NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART. Yes, the greatest film comedian ever got nominated for an orphanage tear-jerker and a Clifford Odets bit of cockney social consciousness. So most of the time, the Golden Globe drama winner has the advantage over the Golden Globe comedy winner. So, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that LORD OF THE RINGS 3.0 will win the Best Picture. Unless there’s pictures of Peter Jackson with a dead girl or a live boy — only in Hollywood, that might even improve its chances.

    More seriously, all the extracinematic reasons that films win Oscars are pointing LORD’s way — it was the capper to one of the most commercially successful series of all time, and, unlike say THE MATRIX movies, it was a succes d’estime as well. Neither of the first two films got much love from Oscar (the first got 13 nominations, but only four victories in minor categories; the second got just six nods and two minor victories) — so voting for it becomes a way both to salute the whole trilogy and to make up for past snubs. There’s also not a clear alternative front-runner right up Oscar-bait Alley, like there was with CHICAGO last year. So my Magic 8-ball sez the man who made HEAVENLY CREATURES takes home the gold in a month.

    Now, I have to *see* the damn thing.

    October 2007 update: Never did see LOTR3. Don’t feel the slightest bit unfulfilled.

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    January 26, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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    1. […] nomination for Bill Murray, and he might even win, though my money would be on Sean Penn (insert this rant from yesterday about the Academy giving short shrift to comedy and comic […]

      Pingback by Love and hate about the Oscar nominations « Rightwing Film Geek | January 11, 2008 | Reply


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  • Love and hate about the Oscar nominations
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Love and hate about the Oscar nominations

    Having trouble with my phone line at home (cursed ice storm), so I couldn’t write up my reaction to the Oscar nominations until now (the complete list is here.)

    Good surprises:
    The year’s best film IMNHO was CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS, which was unfortunately was a documentary and therefore in years past its quality and critical popularity would have guaranteed that it would not get a nomination as Best Documentary. But not this year. Not only was FRIEDMANS nominated, but the other candidate for the year’s most widely-praised documentary, THE FOG OF WAR, was picked too. Though I’ve expressed my doubts and crushed high expectations about FOG, it’s also good that finally the Academy acknowledges the existence of the country’s most important documentarian — Errol Morris. And all three of the others were films that I have heard of, that played in theaters, and that was generally well-liked by the few critics who saw them. The documentary branch for years had a nearly perfect record of ignoring the one film that year that *had* to be on the list — Morris’ own THE THIN BLUE LINE, ROGER & ME, CRUMB, HOOP DREAMS, HEARTS OF DARKNESS. But this year and last, they seem to have gotten their heads screwed on straight. Last year, four of the five nominees were BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, WINGED MIGRATION, SPELLBOUND and DAUGHTER FROM DANANG — all films that, regardless of my varied particular opinions of them, were strong enough *as films* to get substantial critical praise and to win (with the exception of DANANG) a very broad and hugely popular commercial release by documentary standards.

    Some major nominations going to foreign films. THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE scored a nomination for best animated feature nomination and one for best song. And then there was all the love for CITY OF GOD — four nominations, including two major ones (script and director). I’m under no illusions that either is likely to win anything — for a foreign film, it is really true that the honor is just being nominated (some exceptions duly noted, including last year’s script win for Almodovar’s excellent TALK TO HER). According to the Associated Press, when director Fernando Meirelles heard of the nominations, he asked “Has the Academy gone mad?” No, Fernando: you just did good. I’ll have more to say here about this great film, which will be out on home video in a couple of weeks, when I do my Top 10 essay this weekend.

    The near-shutout suffered by COLD MOUNTAIN in the major categories — film, actress, director, script (yes … adapted script). I don’t begrudge Renee her nomination (and likely win), but what exactly was distinguished about Jude Law? Have I mentioned that I don’t care for this fantasy for the art-house audience? One Southerner of my acquaintance high-fived me, and told me that when he had heard of the film’s Oscar flop, he was dancing on the toilet bowl.

    Finally, a Best Actor nomination for Bill Murray, and he might even win, though my money would be on Sean Penn (insert this rant from yesterday about the Academy giving short shrift to comedy and comic actors).

    While I’m not crazy about most of the particular choices, it is good to note that the Academy actually acknowledged that films get released in the first 11 months of the year. Last year, all five nominees were released Dec. 18 or later. This year: LORD OF THE RINGS 3 on Dec. 17; MASTER AND COMMANDER on Nov. 14; MYSTIC RIVER on Oct. 8; LOST IN TRANSLATION on Sept. 12 and SEABISCUIT on July 25. Perhaps the shortened awards season this year (and the screener ban) made the end-of-year booking strategy not viable. Or maybe the voters just didn’t care for MONSTER, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, 21 GRAMS, THE COMPANY, COLD MOUNTAIN, IN AMERICA, BIG FISH, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING and CALENDAR GIRLS.

    Bad surprises:
    The absolute shutout suffered by THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS. That’s not so much a surprise, I guess, as a disappointment about what I think was the best American fiction film of last year. I well realized it wasn’t gonna be a major player, since it was released in August and did poorly at the box office. But it still hurts that there was no room at the inn for its script and that Campbell Scott has nothing to show for the two of the best performances by an American male of recent years (this one and ROGER DODGER — so amazing because the characters in question are nothing like one another). Grrr … oh well: DENTISTS came out on home video last week and I heartily recommend it as one of the most realistic and dry-eyedly romantic depictions of family life I’ve ever seen.

    The nomination of Tim Robbins and his collection of gestures masquerading as a performance in MYSTIC RIVER for anything other than a Razzie. Have I mentioned here before that I *hate* that performance. I suppose I can see the logic … that’s Acting. In fact I’ve never so *much* Acting in a noncomic performance in my life. You see every twitch and halt, and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this, The Ultimate Performance. It’s discouraging that even professional actors are again mistaking playing a handicap (or someone of the opposite sex, who ages 100 years, etc.) as acting.

    No Scarlett Johansson. She gives two of the year’s best lead female performances — in LOST IN TRANSLATION and GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING — and gets shut out. And not because neither film was up the Academy’s alley — LOST was one of the big winners and PEARL was a December prestige release that did get several (very deserved) nods in the technical categories. Maybe the two performances canceled each other out. Or maybe the Academy just prefers telegraphed collections of body-language tics to using your eyes and face and just *existing* on camera.

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    January 29, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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  • That time of the year
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    That time of the year

    I will be leaving tomorrow to fly up to Canada for Film Geek Woodstock … aka the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs until the 13th. That’s the place where you can feel like a piker for only seeing more than 40 films in 9 1/2 days (weeks … I almost said).

    So until I come back, most or all of my updating will be quick opinions of what I see during those days. So expect a lot of capsules about Turkish art films, Brazilian social comedies, Thai kick-boxing flicks and a few films that you might actually have a chance to see at a future date.

    Among the films I’m scheduled for that will find an audience of one size or another are some big fall prestige releases — Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, Robert Altman’s THE COMPANY with Neve Campbell and Malcolm McDowell, and Ridley Scott’s MATCHSTICK MEN with Nicolas Cage; Cannes prize winners DISTANT, AT 5 IN THE AFTERNOON and ELEPHANT; also THE FOG OF WAR, a Robert McNamara documentary by the top American documentarian (I mean Errol Morris, of THIN BLUE LINE, MR. DEATH and GATES OF HEAVEN sorta fame); and the latest films by art-house gods Michael Haneke (TIME OF THE WOLF), Lars Von Trier (DOGVILLE plus the documentary FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS), Guy Maddin (SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD), Tsai Ming-liang (GOODBYE, DRAGON INN) and others. It’ll be a hectic two weeks.

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    September 3, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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Soiled Sinema2
Soiled Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻


  • Lost in Translation
    Sofia Coppola never had to “struggle” as a budding director because her father Francis is one the most famous American filmmakers to ever l...
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Population: 1
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    As much as I despise musicals, especially those made during the decisively dreadful and innately soulless 1980s, I cannot help declar...
    ...
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Mark Steyn1
Fox News



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Lost In Translation
    Aside from Alec Baldwin's Tony Bennett impression (which was so spot-on I won't hear a word against Baldwin for as long as he lives), I thought the "Saturday Night Live" 40th anniversary show was pretty much a snoozeroo. But the sight of Bill Murray's
    ...
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Counter Currents Staff1
Counter Currents Publishing



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

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  • From Groundhog Day to Gilmore Girls
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    groundhog

    [1]5,120 words

    Groundhog Day [2] (1993); 101 minutes. Director: Harold Ramis; Writers: Danny Rubin (screenplay), Harold Ramis (screenplay); Stars: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky

    Gilmore Girls [3] (2000–2007) Created by Amy Sherman. Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Edward Herrmann, Melissa McCarthy.

    “She began to sing about trying over and over again until you succeeded. Ignatius quivered as the philosophy of the lyrics became clear. He studied her grip on the trapeze in the hope that the camera would record her fatal plunge to the sawdust far below. On the second chorus the entire ensemble joined in the song, smiling and singing lustily about ultimate success while they swung, dangled, flipped, and soared.

    “’Oh, good heavens!’ Ignatius shouted, unable to contain himself any longer. Popcorn spilled down his shirt and gathered in the folds of his trousers. ‘What degenerate produced this abortion?’

    “‘Shut up,’ someone said behind him.

    “‘Just look at those smiling morons! If only all of those wires would snap!'” Ignatius rattled the few kernels of popcorn in his last bag. ‘Thank God that scene is over.'”

    — John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

    In recent months I’ve been finding more and more evidence in film and TV of an archetypal pattern in which our protagonist endures an indefinite repetition of events until he manages to escape by offloading his karma onto another and rising to a new, higher level.[1]

    So it might seem natural to think I had seen, and possibly been inspired by, the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis comedy Groundhog Day. Truth be told, not really. I like a lot of Bill Murray’s stuff, but in general I have a mulish resistance to seeing “what everybody is seeing,” and especially if there’s some kind of “uplifting life lesson” involved and/or “indie cred,” as in too many of Murray’s more recent, “Academy-worthy” works.[2]

    However, since you Constant Readers have come to rely on this writer as an honest broker and committed profession — and it being the 20th anniversary, after all [4] — I recently girded my loins to sit down and by God, watch this thing.[3] These thoughts are my results.

    For the same reasons above, it’s probably not necessary to give a detailed account of the plot (if necessary, you can find a synopsis all over the internet, such as here [5]) but for convenience you can think of it as having a classic, Syd Field three act structure[4] with two plot points; it’s even used in online courses:

    Define the three acts according to the two main plot points.

    At first his normal life where he is a weatherman, the second act would be once the days start repeating themselves and he feels like a lost soul and even killed himself a number of times, the third act would be once he starts doing something good with his gift when he tries to redeem himself and becomes basically a good citizen instead of the selfish and arrogant weathermen he was at first[5]

    And, of course, a character arc

    Describe the hero’s transformation (called the character arc)

    At the beginning he was a total jerk self-absorbed and arrogant weatherman, then with the day started repeating themselves and slowly he started to lose it, after a while he began to realize that maybe there was something positive he could do with all this time and started improving himself which at first was for personal gain (like when he used it to get with Nancy and the dozens of times he tried to get with Rita) but after a while he realize that becoming a better person was the best way he could deal with what was happening to him, and so he did become a model citizen saved a number of lives. At the end of the movie Phil Connors was completely different to when he started being now kind, unselfish and generous . . .

    Or, for a more detailed analysis:

    “Will Phil become a good person, get Rita, and get out of Groundhog Day?”

    Answer: Yes.

    Inciting incident: Phil and Rita go to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day.

    First beat: Phil wakes up stuck in Groundhog Day, is freaked out.

    Second beat: (end of 1st act, point of no return) Phil wakes up in Groundhog Day again, realizes he is really stuck. He begins his journey by taking advantage of the situation.

    Third beat: Phil, having grasped the ego-centric power of being stuck in the same day, begins to pursue Rita to no avail.

    Fourth beat: (midpoint) Phil, stuck and miserable, tries to end his life and can’t.

    Fifth beat: (highpoint) Phil, humbled, finally becomes friends with Rita. She urges him to self improve.

    Sixth beat: (end of 2nd act, emotional low point) In the process of self-improvement,
    Phil realizes that the old bum dies at the same time, no matter what Phil does to prevent it. As the bum dies in his arms yet again, Phil looks up to the heavens.
    Seventh beat: (resolution beat) Phil has become great, and his greatness inspires Rita to bid on him at the Bachelor’s auction.[6]

    Obviously, the notion of indefinitely repeating the same day is the innovation here, and what fits it into my area of interest:

    “[F]ormer Monty Python member Terry Jones also included Groundhog Day in his top 10. “What’s so remarkable about it,” Jones observes over a pint in a north London pub, “is that normally when you’re writing a screenplay you try to avoid repetition. And that’s the whole thing here, it’s built on repetition.”[7]

    But Phil does not pass the buck; rather, he manages to overcome karma, or fate, by “changing himself.”[8]

    It’s all expressed in the trajectory of his relationship with Rita. He wants her, he tries to seduce her—first with meanness, then by fraud, then with recitations of French poetry and engineered perfect moments. It is only when he gives up, when he accepts the blessing of her company, free from desire—at which point she, too, magically becomes a far more interesting character—that she is delivered into his arms.[9]

    “Magically”? This is man in the street magic, Disney magic. The ‘magic’ that Evola spoke of — and he was aware of the unfortunate connotations of the English word — was the serious, difficult, even dangerous science of the mages, or in other words, spiritual initiation.[10] And in line with the Disneyesque “boy gets girl” angle, our script analyst above adds this devastating sting to the end of the character arc:

    . . . although you could argue that he became everything Rita said she wanted her ideal men to be, thus staying a selfish individual only looking to please Rita and didn’t do all those things out of pure kindness and generosity.

    Is Phil’s “transformation” anything other than what the manosphere would call “Game”? Act Two certainly looks like Phil is developing his game, and when that fails, does he “become unselfish” or merely develop a more subtle game?[11]

    Perhaps that is, actually, a strength of the film; with all the talk about Game over the past few years, Phil’s character is a bit more ambiguous than is realized by the hordes of “spiritual enthusiasts” who have claimed the movie for their own.

    However, the simpler interpretation — Phil decides to be good — seems more in keeping with the simple gimmick of the repeating day. I confess that one of my qualms was that the movie would, in fact, repeat the same day, with Murray simply reacting differently, but the filmmakers have, admittedly, come up with many subtle and amusing ways to suggest the passage of time without hitting you over the head with it.

    Still, how plausible is the whole idea? Anyone who takes seriously the ideas of the alt-Right should find this more than a little dubious. After all, no less a pop culture authority than TVTropes evinces it as an example of:

    Rousseau Was Right [6]: The film’s message: There is love, kindness and decency in everyone; you just need time to bring it out.

    Just time? Isn’t this just a variation the liberal shibboleth “we just need more education”? As Charles Walter Aubrey recently wrote

    This all stems from the Socratic idea that people only hurt one another through ignorance. Therefore if only everyone were educated and enlightened then we can achieve a multiracial utopia where everyone is equal and peaceful because everyone understands one another. Of course, it’s a childish idea that Nietzsche utterly destroyed in Beyond Good and Evil.

    There are people out there whose will to power involves harming others for its own sake, and liberals don’t seem to understand this. They believe that people have a default position of “good” and that “evil” only happens when they steer away from this default position (education, as they see it, seeks to preserve the “good” in people, not to make people better, smarter, or stronger).[12]

    Is it really plausible that Phil would learn to be “good” at least as conventionally defined by the movie or by Rita? Let’s look at some variations on Groundhog Day’s three acts that come to mind see if they seem more likely.

    California Doubling [7]

    “The movie was shot in Woodstock, Illinois.” – TVTropes.com

    One immediately suggested itself when Ramis, on the commentary track, noted that the film was not shot in Punxsutawney, PA but in Woodstock, IL. The need to find a “more filmable” substitute for a run-down hick town, and the name “Woodstock” immediately called to mind The Gilmore Girls and my own meditations on what I’ve called “liberal psychogeography”: despite their “big city”, cosmopolitan airs, liberals, when they have the money and choice, prefer to live in small, even rural towns — once they’ve been cleansed of those actual unfortunate rural townsfolk (they don’t have to worry about the darkies, since they’re kept out by the same price of admission mechanism, which is “fair” because based on meritocracy; no need for embarrassing signs and bylaws, and the ones who do “make it” can be kept around to “show how diverse we are here”).[13] Such towns, ranging from Martha’s Vineyard to The Hamptons to even small “college towns” like Ann Arbor or Madison, or remote outposts like Billings, MT, are the real life equivalents of movie stand-ins like Woodstock, IL.[14]

    Thus did my mind turn to The Gilmore Girls as a more subtle version of Phil’s Dilemma.[15]

    The GG show pitch or set up[16] can be succinctly captured in the title of the first in a series of GG-inspired “TV novels : Like Mother, Like Daughter [8], which already hints at the repetition theme. Rather than one protagonist repeating, or trying not to repeat, the same day for an indeterminate lifetime while manipulating others, we see each generation of the Gilmores[17] seeking to manipulate the next into repeating their own life.[18]

    The backstory is that at 16, the rebellious Lorelai Gilmore becomes pregnant with the boy next door.[19] Perversely, her parents are delighted, since they view Christopher as an ideal match, but Lorelai ups the ante by running away to the impossibly quaint and conveniently nearby small town of Stars Hollow, raising the child herself in a potting shed out back of the bed and breakfast where she works first as a maid, then manager, and ultimately owns. As the series opens, Rory is now herself sixteen,[20] and to finance private school, Lorelai makes a deal with her estranged parents: in exchange for paying Rory’s tuition, they will both appear each Friday night for dinner. The series follows Rory from entering Chilton Academy to graduating from Yale, as parents and grandparents attempt to help (or “control”) both children.

    We can begin to see the parallels here with Groundhog Day, especially when we realize that rather than playing out the same day over and over, it is Lorelai who, rather than changing over the last 16 years, has stayed the same, and is now trying to superimpose her life on the now 16-year-old Rory, under the guise of “don’t listen to your controlling grandparents,” while her own parents, especially the grandfather (the ur-WASP Edward Herrmann), see a chance to change Rory’s life on their own terms and make her develop as Lorelai should have, into another WASP matron.[21]

    Thus, we have a smug, egotistical, verbally quick and witty person[22] who is thrown out of their usual routine and lands in a bed and breakfast in a charmingly eccentric small town, where they relive their life through another, while trying to “improve” not themselves but the other by more or less subtle manipulation. It’s Groundhog Day without the redemptory third act.

    Since Lorelai’s smug hip Leftist character is written from the perspective of smug, hip Leftists, thus petted and pampered,[23] we have a chance to watch the second act of Groundhog Day from Phil’s perspective: mocking the eccentric but dumb townspeople and doing everything to avoid making a commitment to others (except, Lorelai would point out in her pointing out way, her wonderful daughter, but of course she is her anyway).

    Phil: “They’re hicks!”

    The main character, Phil Connors, despises everyone around him. They are all his intellectual inferiors. So naturally, his version of Hell is to be stuck in a town with a bunch of dumb hicks. But Phil is not evil, so his Hell turns out to be a kind of Purgatory, from which he can only be released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love.

    Phil . . . learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, the dumb hicks and their values. He decides to improve himself by reading poetry and by learning to ice-sculpt and make music. But most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.[24]

    This, of course, is what Lorelai — and Rory — never do — shed their selfishness and ironic detachment, and certainly learn to appreciate the hicks and their values.[25] That, apparently, would be to give in to “the parents” — the elder Gilmores, or the Establishment in general — and join their world of coming out parties and D.A.R. teas; just as Phil has to become Rita’s Mr. Right. By the series finale, Rory has dumped another guy after he, Good Phil-like, proposes, while Lorelai seems to be starting up, for the third time or so, with Luke, whom she left at the altar a few seasons back, to marry Rory’s father 16 years too late, then dump him . . .

    Speaking of Luke: if it seems odd to think of a female Phil, most of Phil’s more masculine characteristics have been offloaded to Luke, who’s sort of a ruggedly handsome Bill Murray; unshaven, sloppily dressed, misanthropic. His scraggly beard, backwards ball cap and open plaid shirt suggest nothing as fashionable as grunge but rather the classic Bill Murray dirtbags from earlier Murray/Ramis collaborations such as Stripes, Meatballs, and above all, Carl the Groundskeeper from Caddyshack (who fights his own repetitive war with a rodent).[26]

    Lorelai, on the other hand, has Rita’s list of Perfect Man requirements, at least implicitly, and presumably more PC, but not being, like Rita, “raised a Catholic” she never lets that stop her from bedding down with someone new.[27] Anyone hooking up with Lorelai would be well advised to follow Phil’s advice and “rent first.”[28]

    Luke also facilitates one characteristic the Gilmore Girls share with Bad Phil: sitting around diners stuffing themselves with childish comfort food (smoking would be un-PC, though). Like Phil, neither one changes, so weight gain is not a problem. And speaking of diner owner Luke, director Ramis in the commentary track makes much of the diner waitress being played by one of his favorite comediennes, Robin Duke. Our Luke dispenses the junk food while ragging them for it, the odd combination — why is he serving it if he thinks it’s bad for her? — bringing together Duke’s waitress and Rita’s censorial voice, underlining his oddly feminine role to Lorelai’s Phil.[29]

    As for the other locals, the Girls, like Phil, have acquired encyclopedic knowledge of the townspeople and their colorful foibles, but, as I pointed out my earlier essay, they exist entirely as figures of fun and mockery (in which Luke, though a townsman himself, joins in, thus underlining the doubling of Phil) for “brilliant” Lorelai and Rory, rather than, as with Phil, growing from “hicks” to “people to help.” And since, as we said above, the show, unlike the movie, is conceived from her point of view, they are beloved by the naïve townsfolk, (well, maybe not Luke so much) and even subject to periodic festivals, just like Good Phil at the final dance.[30]

    Rather than diss Groundhog Day, I should salute it for providing a contrast that opens up a new perspective on Gilmore Girls. Lorelai has stumbled into the same, or similar, time warp as Phil, but persists in her egotistic exploitation of others — just nicer than Phil does, since his misanthropy is offloaded onto Luke — passing the buck, I knew I’d find it somehow!

    Real-Lorelai seems just as clueless about her role; in “the last Lorelai Gilmore interview,” we are told

    I felt every year, even under Amy’s leadership, that the show evolved. For the last episode, we tried to match the final shot with the first scene from the pilot, so we went back and watched the pilot — which I haven’t seen for so long. And the show is really different from that pilot, which was more dramatic at the time than your typical WB show. And I think it evolved and got more comedic over the years; every year was an evolution.[31]

    Really, evolved? They why on Earth try to match the last shot . . .

    [9]

    . . . with the final shot of the pilot episode; especially since no one knew the show was being cancelled yet?

    [10]

    In Stars Hollow [11], like Woodstock, it’s always Groundhog Day.[32]

    Notes

    1. See, for example, my three part series on Mad Men and Advise and Consent starting here [12], as well as forthcoming essays on A Dandy in Aspic and the Coleman Francis trilogy [13].

    2. Off the top of my head: such as Lost in Translation (saw first 10 minutes on cable), The Life Aquatic (bought the Criterion release, watched it, then sold it), Rushmore (watched it on cable 10 years later), etc. Conversely, the same quirk no doubt also accounts for my interest in films – lousy or just ignored — like the ones cited in the previous note.

    3. I felt rather like Walker Percy when forced to finally read A Confederacy of Dunces: “There was no getting out of it; only one hope remained—that I could read a few pages and that they would be bad enough for me, in good conscience, to read no farther. Usually I can do just that. Indeed the first paragraph often suffices. My only fear was that this one might not be bad enough, or might be just good enough, so that I would have to keep reading. In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.” — Preface in John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1980).

    4. Although some guy named “Lon” argues for a 5 part model [14], based on Kubler-Ross’s stages of dying.

    5. Creative Writing 101 http://bbacreativewriting.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/groundhog-day/ [15]

    6. The Hidden Structure of Movies, Rules #4 and #5, here [16].

    7. “Groundhog Day: the perfect comedy, forever” by Ryan Gilbey; The Guardian, Thursday 7 February 2013, here [17].

    8. This is the reverse of what seem to happen online, in accord with “The G [18]reater [18]I [18]nternet [18]F [18]uckwad [18]T [18]heory [18]. First given a name [19] by the boys at Penny Arcade [20], it is a theory that seeks to illuminate why so many people seem to degenerate into antisocial Jerkasses [21] online, when they might only be mildly unpleasant or even polite in-person. The equation is “Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad [21]” … normal people become more aggressive when they think their behavior carries no real-world social consequences.”

    9. “Reliving Groundhog Day” by James Parker, The Atlantic, February 20, 2013, here [4].

    10. See his An Introduction to Magic. Reviewing the English translation of Volume I in New Dawn, Jay Kinney first notes that “Magic (or Magick, as it is sometimes spelled, in order to distinguish it from stage magic) is a word fraught with dubious connotations. It summons up images of robed figures, surrounded by clouds of incense, standing within magical circles, and conjuring demons to do their bidding” and then succinctly describes Evola’s concept of Magic as “there is a capacity inherent in Man to raise consciousness above the call of the body and the distractions of the mind; a capacity that can lead to an immortal awareness. The means to this awareness is through a rigorous discipline wherein the transitory ego is shed, and the individual consciousness is wedded to the Eternal. In so doing, one passes beyond the conventional notions of Good and Evil, to a place where, in Gustav Meyrink’s words, only “truth” and “falsehood” exist. To know this is not a matter of intellectual knowledge, but of spiritual experience, i.e. of gnosis.” See “Magic and Awakening [22].”

    11. Phil first succeeds when gaming Nancy, then fails with Rita. The situation reminds me of Overdrawn at the Memory Bank [23], a wonderfully dreadful sci/fi tele-movie co-produced by US and Canadian public television. Imagine Total Recall crossed with Tron and done on a Wang computer. Anyway, Raul Julia (who must have thought he was signing on for some Masterpiece Theatre production) finds his mind sucked into a computer network, so, since he can now imagine his own reality, he decides to amuse himself by cyber-seducing one of his co-workers. His outside monitor, who rejoices in the name of Apollonia James and somewhat resembles Andie MacDowell, is disgusted by his “playing with himself” and inserts herself into the simulation, bearing stone tablets with rules of proper cyber-conduct, lest he be terminated; needless to say, they eventually hook up and escape from their dystopian world. Raul’s control over the crap-cyberized world corresponds to Phil’s predicament, frustrating them but also giving both godlike powers which they initially misuse, although in Phil’s case it’s the co-worker who lays down the law. Oddly, a reviewer at IMDB insists that “There was a time when I watched this film over and over because I was so addicted to it,” while another insists that “Red Zone Cuba [wasn’t] as hollow and boring as this.”

    On the other hand, TVTropes.com insists that Phil’s transformation is, in fact, an example of the “Crowning Moment of Heartwarming [24]“ trope: “And the best part of this? He wasn’t even really “arranging” it, and certainly not in any attempt to take advantage of Rita. The dance and all that follows is his “reward” for being able to earn genuine admiration and love from both Rita and the citizens of Punxsutawney under no selfish pretenses.” We’ll soon suggest reason to question how pure Phil’s motives could be at that point.

    12. “The Egalitarian Oversight” here [25].

    13. See Paul Kersey’s “Because Life is So Brief and Time is a Thief When You’re Undecided: The Racial History of Gary, Indiana and the Need for Restrictive Covenant [26]s [26].” We can see the inverse process in the descent of Detroit from “The Paris of the Midwest” (Wall St. Journal) to national punchline; see Kersey’s Kindle book Escape from Detroit: The Collapse of America’s Black Metropolis [27].

    14. See “The Gilmore Girls Occupy Wall St.” here [28] and republished in The Homo and the Negro.

    15. Although, to be fair, it’s easy to be ‘subtle’ when you’re doing a TV show that could last, say, seven seasons rather than a 100 minute movie.

    16. If you don’t know the series, or haven’t read my article previously referenced, you can get up to speed on Wikipedia here [29] or on any of dozens of websites. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest [30] by Jennifer Crusie and Leah Wilson provides a mixed bag of essays in the “Philosophy and” mode; for serious academic headaches, consider Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity: Essays on Family and Feminism in the Television Series by Ritch Calvin (2008); Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls by David Scott Diffrient and David Lavery (2010); or most recently and most perhaps deadly, Gilmore Girls – Sieben Jahre in Stars Hollow: Der inoffizielle Guide zur Serie by Peter Osteried (2013).

    17. Lorelei named her daughter, known to most as Rory, after herself; an egotistical act that, typically, she cloaks as a half-assed “feminist” gesture. Later, we learn that she herself was named after her paternal grandmother, who also married her own cousin, which discovery is played as an “icky old rich White people thing” while actually, of course, again demonstrating the deep strain of egotism in the family line as well as the almost Gothic repetition motif.

    18. The mother/daughter of Absolutely Fabulous, despite occasional flashbacks to Edina’s youth, are the opposite; daughter is completely different and openly hostile to mother’s lifestyle. Watching “Modern Mother and Daughter”, the French & Saunders skit that birthed Ab/FAB, it’s easy to see now-a-comic-superstar Melissa McCarthy and whatever-happened-to Lauren Graham in the roles. Other than Ab/Fab once or twice appearing in the trademark pop cultural references on GG, I don’t know of any influence.

    19. Dr. Hannibal Lecter: “No. We begin by coveting what we see every day… You know how quickly the boys found you. All those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out. Getting anywhere, getting all the way to …” Stars Hollow, CT? The relevance of Lecter will become clearer as we move on.

    20. The age difference of Lorelai and Rory is the same as Claggart and Billy Budd, another fun New England couple.

    21. The superimposition of the two lives only becomes blatant in a late episode where Rory’s father’s new wife gives birth, and Lorelai – of course – spends the episode daydreaming about the events around Rory’s birth.

    22. Bill Murray of course is the master of this kind of pre-emptive verbal assault hiding as humor. According to Wikipedia [31], “The New York Times noted that the character talks fast and uses words to keep her “loneliness at bay” which, while opinion, seems to be a relatively insightful view of her … On the characteristic of talking fast, Sherman-Palladino noted: “Just by listening to Lorelai’s vocal patterns, it says volumes about this woman: First of all, that she’s bright enough to put that many words together that quickly… and it says a lot about her emotionally, that she’s got a deflection shield that’s sort of the way she gets through the world.” Lorelai’s ego-driven verbosity recalls James Joyce, at least as interpreted by Colin Wilson, who concludes that Ulysses “remains the kind of book that must be read while one is young and impressionable, and willing to take Stephen Joyce-Dedalus at his own valuation as a rebel who was determined to fly close to the sun. Once we begin to see him form the Wyndham Lewis point of view — as a rather tiresome young man clamoring for attention — it is difficult to read the book without impatience.” The Books in My Life, Hampton Roads, 1998, p139.

    23. We welcome Rory’s acerbic Jewish school rival, Paris Geller, who is acutely conscious that no matter how smart she is, everyone will always do whatever Rory wants, because “you look like birds dress you in the morning.”

    24. Comments at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/07/groundhog-day-perfect-comedy-for-ever [17].

    25. Again, there’s a lot of Lecter (or in this movie, “Lecktor”) in Lorelai: “I’m glad you came. My callers are mostly clinical psychologists from some cornfield university. Second-raters, the lot.”

    26. According to The Onion’s AV Club [32], “Scott Patterson was just awful to deal with on-set, I’ve heard, much like Chevy Chase.”

    27. Lorelai even managed to dump the future Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm; he talked too much about his Porsche.

    28. There’s almost a running gag of people buying or renovating a house for Lorelai, including Luke and her mother, only to get the shaft when Lorelai’s adorable little mind changes. It’s another manifestation of the “you look like birds dress you in the morning” syndrome.

    29. “For Luke Danes, food identifies the duality of his character. This is a man who runs a greasy diner . . . and yet is himself a health nut. . . . These contradictions symbolize the duality between what Luke projects on the outside — a gruff .belligerent, and uncharitable personality — and what he truly is on the inside — a sensitive softy who, despite his vocal protests, is always there when people need him.” Coffee at Lukes p123. Luke thus incarnates both Phils simultaneously, in keeping with the theme of superimposed rather than sequential time.

    30. Typically, despite thus adding to their number, the Gilmore Girls regularly mock the various local customs and traditions, just as Phil becomes more and more openly hostile to Groundhog Day. Either of these rants would easily be delivered by Lorelai or Luke:

    Phil: “This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. (raising his voice) What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. (turns to the crowd) You’re hypocrites, all of you!”

    A few loops later . . .

    Phil: “Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this . . . (silly voice) tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . . (serious) There is no way . . . that this winter . . . is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s gotta be stopped. (beat) And I have to stop him.”

    31. “Gilmore Girls Forum” here [33].

    32. Having already cited Portlandia in my previous essay as an updated Stars Hollow, it’s interesting to note that the show that started singing about “The dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland [34]” opened its second season with took note of the “hipster luddite” trend with “The dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland [35],” thus becoming even more like Stars Hollow, or Woodstock, Il, continuing the theme of everything new is old again. Meanwhile, Stars Hollow itself goes on and on: “If you’ve had a Stars Hollow-shaped hole in your soul ever since Amy Sherman-Palladino abandoned “Gilmore Girls,” . . . “Bunheads” will fill that vacancy. If “Bunheads” were any more like early seasons of “Gilmore Girls,” the CW could probably file suit. The tone, the music, the giddy repartee, the pop-culture shout-outs, the jingly-jangly almost magical realism of it all has been perfectly maintained and transplanted from Stars Hollow to a sleepy coastal town in California . . . “Bunheads” centers on Michelle (Sutton Foster), who is basically Lorelai Gilmore minus 15 pounds . . .  Mom is Fanny Flowers (Kelly Bishop, essentially reprising her role as Emily Gilmore). “Stars Hollow Gets an Ocean-Front Makeover and Wears It Well” By Dustin Rowles, here [36].

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The American Conservative Staff2
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Chris Rocks, Chris Rolls
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Pop Culture There will be something to irritate almost everyone in this Frank Rich interview with Chris Rock, but you know what? There are some real gems here too. I love that Chris Rock. Excerpts: What do you make of the attempt to bar Bill Maher from speaking at Berkeley for his riff on Muslims? Well, I love Bill, but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative. In their political views? Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive. When did you start to notice this? About eight years ago. Probably a couple of tours ago. It was just like, This is not as much fun as it used to be. I remember talking to George Carlin before he died and him saying the exact same thing. More: Before Obama arrived, you were saying that there’d been Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and then black leaders in America became like substitute teachers. I mean, you got to realize, there’s not a need for it the way there was. Back then, we needed that guy for our day-to-day existence. Now you only feel the need in special cases. So, okay, Ferguson goes down. You’re like, Oh, it’d be great if we had a guy. When Al Sharpton goes down to Ferguson, it feels like a media ritual rather than an actual civil-rights action. It’s a revival, where King was doing an original play. It’s a good part. The lead is open. One more: Where else besides Ferguson would you hypothetically want to interview white people? I’d love to do some liberal places, because you can be in the most liberal places and there’s no black people. I assume one such place is Hollywood. I don’t think I’ve had any meetings with black film execs. Maybe one. It is what it is. As I told Bill Murray, Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich. Not in the sense that people are being mean to you. Bill Murray’s in Tokyo, and it’s just weird. He seems kind of isolated. He’s always around Japanese people. Look at me right now. We’re sitting on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park. And there’s only really one black person here who’s not working. Bill Murray in Lost in Translation is what Bryant Gumbel experiences every day. Or Al Roker. Rich black guys. It’s a little off. Whole thing here.  ]]>
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  • Upper Middle Brow
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    William Deresiewicz is right about the “upper middle brow”: But now I wonder if there’s also something new. Not middlebrow, not highbrow (we still don’t have an avant-garde to speak of), but halfway in between. Call it upper middle brow. The new form is infinitely subtler than Midcult. It is post- rather than pre-ironic, its sentimentality hidden by a veil of cool. It is edgy, clever, knowing, stylish, and formally inventive. It is Jonathan Lethem, Wes Anderson, Lost in Translation, Girls, Stewart/Colbert, The New Yorker, This American Life and the whole empire of quirk, and the films that should have won the Oscars (the films you’re not sure whether to call films or movies). The upper middle brow possesses excellence, intelligence, and integrity. It is genuinely good work (as well as being most of what I read or look at myself). The problem is it always lets us off the hook. Like Midcult, it is ultimately designed to flatter its audience, approving our feelings and reinforcing our prejudices. It stays within the bounds of what we already believe, affirms the enlightened opinions we absorb every day in the quality media, the educated bromides we trade on Facebook. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, doesn’t seek to disturb — the definition of a true avant-garde — our fundamental view of ourselves, or society, or the world. (Think, by contrast, of some truly disruptive works: The Wire, Blood Meridian, almost anything by J. M. Coetzee.) Deresiewicz concludes by arguing that the purpose of upper middle brow art and entertainment “is to make consciousness safe for the upper middle class,” whose “salient characteristic” is an “engorgement with its own virtue. Its need is for an art that will disturb its self-delight.” But the cultured upper middle class is what almost every educated person seems to aspire to these days: not the vulgarity of the very rich, but something beyond life in the suburbs — a brownstone in Brooklyn that’s just small enough to make you feel non-ostentatious, say, and a set of cultural touchpoints (Deresiewicz gives a good list) that you can check off with your friends over a nicely hoppy microbrewed IPA at what you like to call “my local.” Challenge any of those aspirations, or suggest a wholly different set of touchpoints, and you’re instantly excluded from the Inner Ring. And who can bear that? All I know is that I rarely manage it. So where do we turn for “an art that will disturb [our] self-delight,” an art accomplished enough to demand respect but offering a serious challenge to complacency? My usual recommendation is to look for books from the past, since the past is, after all, another country, and its thoughts are full of challenges for us if we will listen without condescension. But what about art of today? UPDATE: The general view of my followers on Twitter seems to be that by endorsing W. D.’s post I have, more or less, kicked all their puppies. Didn’t expect to get so much heat. Let me just say, in response, first, that I love puppies and would never kick them, and, second, it might help if we distinguish four points: Has Deresiewicz rightly identified a currently prominent aesthetic position? Has he rightly named it as “upper middle brow”? Has he given convincing and useful examples of it? Has he given convincing and useful counter-examples, that is, examples of a more useful aesthetic tendency? I think it’s the fourth point that he’s weakest on; most others seem to agree as well. I repent in sackcloth and ashes for not saying this when I first posted. Please forgive me, y’all. [Ed. – Noah Millman and Jordan Bloom respond here and here.] ]]>
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PJ Media Staff3
PJ Media



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  • The Greatest Television Commercial Ever Made
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/1/5/the-greatest-television-commercial-ever-made/ ]]>
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  • Let's Count Down the Top 9 Must-See Films of the Fall
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Disney's Big Hero 6 - Official US Trailer 1', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); 9. Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7)Disney’s big animated film of the season is a Japanese animation-influenced tale of a boy and his comically inept friend the inflatable robot who form an adorable team of superheroes and save the world. The combo of humor and action looks reminiscent of The Incredibles. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/9/5/lets-count-down-the-top-9-must-see-films-of-the-fall/ previous Page 1 of 9 next   ]]>
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  • All 8 of Wes Anderson's Films Ranked From Worst to Best
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'The Official Trailer for The Darjeeling Limited', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Wes Anderson’s eighth film, a screwball comedy based in 1930s central Europe called The Grand Budapest Hotel, has hit theaters. How does it stack up against the Texas-born auteur’s other works? Here’s a ranking of all of his movies.8. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)A character study of three feuding brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) meeting up on a train in India to reconnect after their father’s death, this lackluster, aimless film made little narrative use of its exotic and colorful setting. Though less obviously art-directed than most of Anderson’s other films -- location shooting in teeming cities made it impossible for him to control every millimeter of the frame the way he normally does -- it’s Anderson’s least funny film and it also suffered from a lack of much of a message. When the brothers finally and climactically meet their mother (Anjelica Houston), who is living as a nun in the mountains, not much happens. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/3/7/all-8-of-wes-andersons-films-ranked-from-worst-to-best/ previous Page 1 of 8 next   ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

Steve Sailer1
Taki Mag



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Get Low: Stellar Cast, Shoddy Screenplay
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Get Low, a dramedy starring venerable elders Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Cissy Spacek, is promisingly based on a prime slab of Old, Weird Americana: the true 1938 story of an elderly hillbilly (played by Duvall) who hired an undertaker (Murray) to throw him a huge funeral before he died. The Southern period setting is reminiscent of two of the most imaginative films of the last decade: the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Tim Burton’s Big Fish. Not surprisingly, Get Low has garnered 100 percent positive ratings among Top Critics on RottenTomatoes.com. Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice said of her spotlight-loving father, “He wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening.” In this same spirit, the illiterate Tennessee codger Felix Bushaloo Breazeale decided to enjoy hearing his own eulogy. Breazeale’s whim captured the fancy of the nation. Soon, he had a publicity agent and newspapers were treating the faux funeral like the biggest news in Tennessee since the Scopes Monkey Trial. About ten thousand people from 14 states swarmed the festivities. A two-mile long traffic jam left Uncle Bush late for his own funeral. The “living corpse” savored every moment of the “doin’s and goin’s on,” chuckling “Folks, I’m tellin’ ya, this business of having your funeral before you die beats sparkin’ in a buggy.” Afterwards, he autographed fans’ programs with his “X.” The 74-year-old backwoodsman then went to New York and appeared on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Radio Show, but reported back that big city “victuals weren’t worth a dern.” He lived on another half decade, entertaining his numerous visitors by having his mule (named “Mule”) perform tricks. The one thing you shouldn’t do in filming this tale is leave out all the Appalachian absurdity to render it tasteful, subdued, bittersweet, quasi-tragic Oscar-bait. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what first time director Aaron Schneider and the various screenwriters attempt. ”Get Low fails like a recent Shyamalan movie at the basic blocking and tackling of putting the camera in the right place, cutting shots at the right moment, and swelling the right chords.” The 79-year-old Duvall is being talked up for a second Oscar, based, apparently, on the Commutative Property of Film Appreciation. See, last year Jeff Bridges got his first Oscar in Crazy Heart, another ornery coot movie in which Duvall played the best friend. So, this must be Duvall’s turn, right? He might indeed win for Get Low, because Duvall here delivers Acting for the Sake of Acting in the tradition of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. If you read beyond the critics’ blurbs, though, you’ll notice the strain of talking themselves into liking Get Low. Reviewing movies—making the basic Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down call—isn’t a terribly difficult trade … because making good movies is. Compare the execution of the last two Christopher Nolan movies, Inception and The Dark Knight, to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender and The Happening. You may not understand what’s going on in Nolan’s movies, but you’re obviously in more capable hands. Therefore, when reviewers uniformly overrate a film, it’s typically due to either politics—as with the mediocre lesbian sitcom The Kids Are All Right, which critics praised as if it were the second coming of It’s a Wonderful Life to heroically stand up to the Mormon Media Juggernaut—or respect and nostalgia. Get Low fails like a recent Shyamalan movie at the basic blocking and tackling of putting the camera in the right place, cutting shots at the right moment, and swelling the right chords. Those aren’t weakness that we reviewers can explain in 800 words, though. The screenplay’s faults, however, are more easily explicable. Duvall’s character is turned into a recluse with a mysterious backstory, which the tortured soul feels the need to confess to the assembled mob, Jerry Springer Show-style. Another anachronistic touch is turning the presiding minister from white to black. I kept expecting the 1938 Tennessee crowd to react like the Western townsfolk eagerly awaiting their new sheriff in Blazing Saddles, but nobody notices. (Veteran character actor Bill Cobbs shows self-respect by playing his silly Magic Negro role with a strong note of contempt.) Murray’s portrayal of a shady Chicago car dealer who has washed up in rural Tennessee as a funeral director starts out strongly. After whining about the unanticipated local death dearth, he hears that Duvall has hitched up his mule and come to town flashing a roll of cash. The salesman exclaims with avaricious expertise, “Ooh, hermit money!” But Murray’s character slowly fades. Murray is that rare phenomenon—a low energy movie star, the anti-Tom Cruise. In Lost in Translation, he flourished as the still, sad center of swirling Japanese wackiness. In Zombieland, he floored audiences in his cameo as a golfing Bill Murray in living dead drag. Yet, pairing the minimalist actor and the minimalist director Jim Jarmusch in 2005’s Broken Flowers inevitably sputtered out. Similarly, Murray is ultimately undermined by Get Low’s overarching flaw: lack of incident. googletag.cmd.push(function() {googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1456852648633-0');}); if(display_ads_server){document.write('');}; SIGN UPDaily updates with TM’s latest // delete this script tag and use a "div.mce_inline_error{ XXX !important}" selector // or fill this in and it will be inlined when errors are generated var mc_custom_error_style = ''; var fnames = new Array();var ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';fnames[1]='FNAME';ftypes[1]='text';fnames[2]='LNAME';ftypes[2]='text';var err_style = ''; try{ err_style = mc_custom_error_style; } catch(e){ err_style = 'margin: 1em 0 0 0; padding: 1em 0.5em 0.5em 0.5em; background: ERROR_BGCOLOR none repeat scroll 0% 0%; font-weight: bold; float: left; z-index: 1; width: 80%; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial; color: ERROR_COLOR;'; } var mce_jQuery = jQuery.noConflict(); mce_jQuery(document).ready( function($) { var options = { errorClass: 'mce_inline_error', errorElement: 'div', errorStyle: err_style, onkeyup: function(){}, onfocusout:function(){}, onblur:function(){} }; var mce_validator = mce_jQuery("#mc-embedded-subscribe-form").validate(options); options = { url: 'http://takimag.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe/post-json?u=0ba7696a8a378946b7e688500&id=f7706afea2&c=?', type: 'GET', dataType: 'json', contentType: "application/json; charset=utf-8", beforeSubmit: function(){ mce_jQuery('#mce_tmp_error_msg').remove(); mce_jQuery('.datefield','#mc_embed_signup').each( function(){ var txt = 'filled'; var fields = new Array(); var i = 0; mce_jQuery(':text', this).each( function(){ fields[i] = this; i++; }); mce_jQuery(':hidden', this).each( function(){ if ( fields[0].value=='MM' && fields[1].value=='DD' && fields[2].value=='YYYY' ){ this.value = ''; } else if ( fields[0].value=='' && fields[1].value=='' && fields[2].value=='' ){ this.value = ''; } else { this.value = fields[0].value+'/'+fields[1].value+'/'+fields[2].value; } }); }); return mce_validator.form(); }, success: mce_success_cb }; mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').ajaxForm(options); }); function mce_success_cb(resp){ mce_jQuery('#mce-success-response').hide(); mce_jQuery('#mce-error-response').hide(); if (resp.result=="success"){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(resp.msg); mce_jQuery('#mc-embedded-subscribe-form').each(function(){ this.reset(); }); } else { var index = -1; var msg; try { var parts = resp.msg.split(' - ',2); if (parts[1]==undefined){ msg = resp.msg; } else { i = parseInt(parts[0]); if (i.toString() == parts[0]){ index = parts[0]; msg = parts[1]; } else { index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } } } catch(e){ index = -1; msg = resp.msg; } try{ if (index== -1){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } else { err_id = 'mce_tmp_error_msg'; html = '
    '+msg+''; var input_id = '#mc_embed_signup'; var f = mce_jQuery(input_id); if (ftypes[index]=='address'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-addr1'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else if (ftypes[index]=='date'){ input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]+'-month'; f = mce_jQuery(input_id).parent().parent().get(0); } else { input_id = '#mce-'+fnames[index]; f = mce_jQuery().parent(input_id).get(0); } if (f){ mce_jQuery(f).append(html); mce_jQuery(input_id).focus(); } else { mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } catch(e){ mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').show(); mce_jQuery('#mce-'+resp.result+'-response').html(msg); } } } ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

Kyle Smith1
National Review



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Best Actor Oscar Buzz
    (”Lost in Translation” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lou is up in Toronto while I’m covering Fashion Week until Friday. Lou seems to be having a good Festival: He loved “Argo,” “Cloud Atlas” and “The Master” though he thought David O. Russell’s latest was like “I Heart Huckabee’s” – the kiss of death. He also says Bill Murray has a good shot at an Oscar nomination for playing FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” I wouldn’t rule out Murray, and of course this is the kind of role that’s precision-engineered to get a nomination, but after a lot of strong performances he’s still only got one Oscar nom, for “Lost in Translation,” when he easily could have been nominated for “Rushmore” and “Get Low.” The ugly fact is that Murray has a strong reputation for being “difficult” and may have annoyed enough people on enough sets that his colleagues are disinclined to vote for him. As for Richard Gere as a Bernie Madoff-ish financier coming unglued in “Arbitrage,” which opens Friday — there is no way this is an Oscar-level performance. It’s a completely ordinary turn as a completely ordinary character in a completely ordinary movie. Oscar noms usually go to larger-than-life figures. I predict Joaquin Phoenix gets nominated as a cult fanatic for “The Master,” plus Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” John Hawkes as a quadriplegic for “The Sessions” and Brad Pitt as a serial killer in “Killing them Softly.” Suddenly there’s only one slot left. Someone from “Seven Psychopaths” might be a contender because it’s a Martin McDonagh movie, plus Denzel Washington figures to be a contender as a pilot who survives a plane crash in “Flight,” and then there are December performances that could be interesting — such as Murray as FDR, Russell Crowe in “Les Miserables,” Leonardo DiCaprio in “Django Unchained” and Paul Rudd in “This is 40.” I hasten to add that I haven’t seen any of the films I’ve just mentioned except “Arbitrage,” but there is absolutely no room for Gere to get an Oscar nod for a movie that’ll be forgotten by November.]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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