March 19, 2004


Naturally I echo Simon and Robin's recommendations for David Stubbs' new site. Mr Agreeable/ Mr Angry was one of my favourite bits of the old MM, so it's great to see all those sacred cows ritually slaughtered on the Reaper page. Contrary to Luka's admonitions - 'if you know you're not going to like it, don't listen/ read/ watch it' - the Reaper revels in disdain, in the perverse pleasures to be derived from loathing. Actually, though, the Reaper pieces I've read - which is most of them, having sat here disingenuously promising to myself, 'just one more, then I'll move, honest' - strike me as remarkably understated models of critical acuity. Between guffaws, you find yourself nodding in agreement at the obvious correctness of it all. The film targets are particularly well-chosen: the depoliticized, middlebrow worthiness of Brit lame ducks like 'The Full Monty' and 'Billy Elliot' (Britannia Moribundia in a bad sense) on the one hand and the oppressive, posturing Cool of Americans like the wretched Coens and the appalling Tarantino on the other, constitute the double pincer of contemporary cinema, counterposing forelock-tugging mediocrity ('no intensity, please, we're British) to quip-a-minute, meta-referenced, megaviolent porno-PoMo. And 'Gladiator', that long, thick phallus of a film, is skewered beautifully.

(Incidentally, I assume that Tarantino's career will be allowed to slink away and die in peace after the embarrasment of 'Kill Bill'. Talk about worst films ever, forget Ed Wood, that turgid, twin-necked, triple-album folly must be one of the most inept and indulgent movies ever to achieve mass distribution.)

Actually, in these days of PR hackery, it's great to read something that departs so totally from obligatory positivity and mealy-mouthed politeness. Stubbs' anti-hagiographies are essential antidotes to what he pointedly calls hype-notism (great neologism, just what I was looking for when I was in pursuit of Poptimism). So many of his rants are inspired by absurd over-estimations. 'Gladiator' best film ever? 'Dark Side of the Moon' best album? 'The Stone Roses' second best? Such ludicrous critical inflations demand the kind of meticulous lambasting at which David excels. His deliriously intoxicating invective is a corrective to what, with painful accuracy, he identifies as 'a collective softening of the braincells and slackening of the wits since about 1990 within popular culture.'

Can I make a request for David to post up his takedown of Marvin Gaye? I'd love to see that.

As for other artists/artifacts I'd like to see get Reaped: Bobs Marley and Dylan, T-Rex, David Lynch (apart from 'Mulholland Drive'), Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, U2...

Posted by mark at March 19, 2004 07:36 PM | TrackBack

yes...his dissection of Miles Davis is spot on.

Dylan is due a right kicking: most over rated artiste *ever*. I bloody hate his music and his fucking 'legend'.

Posted by: Baal at March 19, 2004 07:56 PM

the thing is... everyone's due for a skewering for one reason or another. if you continue with it then you end up with "i hate music" which, like the reaper, was fun for a while but then just got tiresome. positivity is better is what i'm saying.

Posted by: philT at March 19, 2004 08:41 PM

I know you're not being entirely serious here, and obviously fully appreciate the point of relishing a good trashing of something whilst still liking it. But 'David Lynch (apart from 'Mulholland Drive'),' that seems a weird position to take (especially since many have taken the opposite position ie MH marking a decline). Is it just because of the inclusion of Lesbo Action in MH? ;-) Surely you're not going to dismiss Eraserhead, Elephant Man, Lost Highway, and even The Straight Story...? Or is it just because of the blanket adulation Lynch receives? On that principle I suppose I _would_ enjoy a good 'Reaping' of Twin Peaks...

Posted by: undercurrent at March 20, 2004 01:02 PM

No, I'm fully serious about Lynch. Blue Velvet = PoMo pasteboard apart from when Hopper is onscreen. Wild at Heart = unspeakable indulgent PoMo wankfest (certainly the worst film I've ever paid money to see).

Straight Story = charming enough divertissement.

Elephant Man - haven't seen it for yrs, you made it sound interesting on Undercurrent though.

Eraserhead - haven't seen this for ages, either...

Lost Highway - has its moments, but largely I find it to be an empty folly and a confidence trick, depthless in every bad way, gripping on first viewing but a desperate disappointment once you realise that Lynch has clearly no more idea what it's about than we do.

Fire Walk With Me - kinder to say nothing, really...

Lynch's much-vaunted 'weirdness' too often strikes me to be a carefully calculated pose, a predictable repermutation of the same few memes. IMHO MH was a quatum-leap better than anything else he's done; hauntingly oneiric rather than Breton-by-numbers 'dream-like'; thickly, densely, consistent, seemingly emerging from the cold clarity of the unconscious rather than from the half-assed confusions of a Prog daydream.

I said some stuff about MH on this thread on alt.movies.kubrick.
Padraig's comments are, as ever, well worth a read too.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 21, 2004 03:56 PM

I'm surprised...weirdly enough your comments reflect my prejudices about Lynch before I started getting into his stuff. After resisting for years (mainly because everyone I met who praised lynch was a pretentious filmschool twat), I was persuaded against my own will, by the sheer imaginative force of the work, that he is a truly important artist. And surely 'Lynch has clearly no more idea what it's about than we do' is a recommendation! What I love about all his films (actually I haven't seen them all : have avoided Wild at Heart because of Cage, who I irrationally loathe since Leaving Las Vegas - ) is that they are absolutely consistent, there is always the unshakeable sensation of an occult logic at work somewhere, even when events are utterly incomprehensible. This has to be due to a remarkable facility in channelling the unconscious, his unique courage in not interfering with its product, and is his whole appeal - and the reason why his work _isn't_ at all contrived juxtafest pomo (IMO of all his stuff Twin Peaks comes closest to being annoying deliberately quirky-for-the-sake-of-it). None of the movies have any prog qualities about them that I can think of: in all of them, as in dreams, weird and bizarre events mesh with prosaic realities (prog's full lift-off from the quotidian into flaky disconnected hobbitworlds being the source of its impotence).

I demand a recount! Also I recommend reading Lynch on Lynch, I'm sure you'd enjoy it...

Posted by: undercurrent at March 22, 2004 12:08 AM

I demand a recount!

Actually, if you look at it, we probably don't disagree on that much, since I'm noncommital about Elephant Man and Eraserhead, and you've avoided - wisely, wisely - Wild at Heart. (btw how could ANY loathing of Nic Cage, still less one inspired by the sickening Leaving LV, be 'irrational'? Now THERE'S a film in dire need of a reaping. And an actor. But does ANYONE like him?)

'Lynch has clearly no more idea what it's about than we do' is a recommendation: well, yes, my criticism wasn't well-put. My sense is that what Lynch's films sometimes lack is 'the sensation of an occult logic.' On the contrary! Too often I get the whiff of cook-up: conscious, all-too conscious, but lacking any of the benefits of that (i.e. foresight/ planning/ coherence).

Twin Peaks I'll level with you, I got bored of it and didn't see much of the series....

Yr absolutely right about the prog comparison being bankrupt; I was way off beam there.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 22, 2004 10:12 PM

LLV needs something more serious than a reaping, IMHO...

Posted by: undercurrent at March 23, 2004 12:51 AM

Simon says that some of the victims of The Reaper are actually among The Real David Stubbs's favourite things...anyone know/can guess which ones? I must admit they're so well and persuasively written that I can't tell.

I particularly liked the bits about "Songs in the Key of Life", Marlon Brando, and Raging Bull (no doubt simply because I agreed with them! Except for the comment about "On the Waterfront," the one Brando performance I think is brilliant.) I wonder if some of the others are really sacred cows though...I mean, surely everyone agrees that Gladiator is shit? And is Billy Elliott really so oppressively canonical as to need demolishing?

I'm personally quite perversely attracted to the idea of someone doing a j'accuse about some of my favourites...Prince (when he was good) and Kraftwerk spring to mind.

Posted by: Angus at March 26, 2004 02:26 PM

Or why not go straight for the jugular: "I Feel Love"! (the song, that is, I don't believe the blog yet qualifies as a sacred cow.)

And I adore David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks, so yeah, him too.

Posted by: Angus at March 26, 2004 03:05 PM

You'd have to live in the UK to understand the - otherwise incomprehensible - utterly oppressive canonic status Billy Eliot and its like enjoy here. Films that in any normal context would be regarded as passable divertissements for a wet Sunday afternoon (if you've got nothing better to do) are, in the hothouse atmosphere of Britfilm-reception, hastily and indecently elevated to the status of the critically unimpeachable. As Stubbs points out re: Shakespeare in Love, it then becomes our PATRIOTIC DUTY to cheer them on, to hope that nasty, exciting Hollywood films are replaced by Britfilm's compulsory drabness and worthy provincial mediocrity. So, yes OPPRESSIVELY CANONIC just about has it...

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 26, 2004 05:38 PM