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TV/Movie heresies

1. Christ, I Love Lucy is boring. So boring. So boring and awful. Perhaps there is a world in which Lucille Ball deserves her sterling reputation as a comedienne, but it ain’t this one.

2. Speaking of boring, Iranian film counts among its most highly touted products some of the most deadly dull, uninvolving, flat shit I have ever seen. Jonathan Rosenbaum and a bunch of other smart critics champion these flicks to the ends of the earth, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t put me right to sleep.

3. I say this as someone who bows to no one in his unabashed love of comic books (in other words, a hypocrite): sci-fi movies and television, for the most part, fully deserve their rotten reputation. Most of it is just utter grade-Z crap, and I’ll tell you something: go ahead and tell me what an ass I am for saying it because I have a billion Justice League comics, but there is nothing -- nothing -- I have ever seen with the words “Star Trek” attached to anything that even remotely justifies its level of popularity. Star Wars is marginally better insofar as it produced about one and a half good movies, but it’s still not enough material of decent quality for me to fathom why everyone is gaga over it.

4. In recent years, I’ve come around to the opinion that The Sopranos is a lot better than I gave it credit for at first, but the critics who were calling it the greatest artistic achievement of the last quarter-century still have their heads up their asses. It’s not even the best show on HBO; The Wire and Deadwood are both far better and don’t get nearly the same amount of attention. Other criminally underrated shows: American Gothic, G vs. E, Profit.

5. I got no use for Henry Jaglom, Whit Stillman or Mike Leigh. None.

6. While it’s not nearly as good as it was in its prime, The Simpsons isn’t nearly as bad now as people say it is. If people are bored with it and aren’t watching it anymore, fine – but it’s not like it’s stinking up the joint week after week. I realize it had a long way to fall, but it’s not nearly as bad as a good episode of Family Guy. Other animation stuff: American Dad really is as bad as its reputation; South Park at its funniest is just deadly, but it’s far more often mediocre to bad; and as much as I love Brad Bird’s stuff, I can’t fully relax when watching it because of that ever-present creepy libertarian vibe.

7. 3rd Rock from the Sun is still underrated, dammit. American Idol is as good or better than any other reality show I can think of, and Starship Troopers was a good, verging on great, movie.

8. People whose continued success I don’t quite get: Tina Fey, David Boreanaz, Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson, David S. Goyer.

9. TV sketch comedy, despite being a favorite medium of mine, has a pretty dismal history. Better than people give them credit for: Exit 57, Stella. Overrated: The Kids in the Hall, Upright Citizens Brigade. So bad that it's stunning it wasn't canceled decades ago: Saturday Night Live. Mr. Show and SCTV were so good they really need major critical reassessment to realize what a high level those guys were operating on; Monty Python's Flying Circus is probably the best example of the genre imaginable, and it's too bad that legions of slavering geek devotees have given it something of a bad reputation, because it was literally untouchable for much of its runtime, and still is. The Ben Stiller Show, in retrospect, wasn't nearly as good as it seemed.

10. Citizen Kane is a perfect example of something being every bit as good as its reputation. Some Like It Hot, The Best Years of Our Lives, and American Graffiti are perfect examples of things that are not nearly as good as their reputation. Also, if I had to name one filmmaker whose work falls farthest short of the degree of praise, importance and hype surrounding them, it would be Charlie Chaplin. Finally, why anyone would think of Jackie Brown as Quentin Tarantino's best movie is beyond me; I still think it's his worst.

NOW YOU!

Comments

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rjwhite
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
Agree wholeheartedly with Nos. 1 and 6 and 97% of No. 9.

- The Muppet Show was not the great cultural touchstone that my generation seems to think it is.

- Donnie Darko is an overwraught, pretentious mess, made by someone who thought they were making something much deeper. I'd almost give the guy more credit if he had cynically made something that made idiots think themselves deep because they "got it," but that would be far too generous.

- Marlon Brando had one truly great film. It wasn't one with him screaming.

- Jon Stewart's early syndicated late night talk show (not the MTV one) was one of the finest examples of the format.
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
Agreed with most of that, but I'd give Brando two, maybe three great movies, depending on how charitable I'm feeling towards Apocalypse Now that day.
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zulkey
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
my friend jessica and I discovered that we both secretly liked "3rd Rock" too. I really like Kristen Whats her face too, the amazon from the show. But I still remember some good jokes from it.
archaica
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
My friend acted with her in a summer playhouse in the Berkshires and said she was a man-eater.
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archaica
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
I think Star Trek has just given people a lot more opportunities to show people the ways in which it can suck. I mean, they've done ten movies, about a zillion hours of TV .... that's a lot of fodder for picking it apart. I happen to like it, but I can respect those who don't.

I'm with you on The Simpsons, Jackie Brown, and Whit Stillman, though. I'd like to see that fucker Chris Eigeman beaten to death.
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
The original show didn't run that long, though, and I think for the most part it was pretty awful.
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zulkey
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
Tina Fey has redeemed herself to me with 30 Rock but I was getting pretty mad with her the last few seasons she was at SNL b/c everyone was kissing her ass for Mean Girls (which, by the way, I feel like was not THAT fucking good that we all fell for Lindsay Lohan. I mean it was good/fun but it's not like her acting was so good in it it cured cancer) but meanwhile the shittiest, shittiest sketches were on SNL and she was head writer.
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, agreed -- Mean Girls was good, but it didn't herald the arrival of a world-changing comic talent or anything, and her tenure at SNL coincided with some real garbage writing.
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tritium
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC)
I don't think these are terribly heretical.

1. I agree, but would add that the vast majority of sitcoms are equally as boring.

2. I got no horse in this race.

3. Well, sure. I remember distinctly the day I watched the Star Wars trilogy for what must have been the 2,000th time, and it occurred to me, these movies are not really very good. And what's more, most of their flaws could be linked pretty directly to George Lucas. On that day, I became a man.

4. I haven't actually watched The Sopranos, so again, no horse in that race. Both G vs. E and American Gothic were before their time.

5. I got no use for them either. Hell, I don't even know who they are.

6. Mmm-hmm. Regarding Brad Bird, I hadn't noticed a creepy libertarian vibe, except maybe for The Incredibles.

7. The few times I've watched American Idol, I was simply shocked at how horrible all the singing was, and how no one seemed to notice.

8. I happen to really like Wes Anderson (most of the time; I did not like Zisou.)

9. I quite like Kids in the Hall. Other than that, I agree.

10. Oh, sure, yeah. The AFI calls it the best American movie ever made, and I can live with that.
littlewashu
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
Hey Leonard, do you still have a political blog? If so, what's the address (and why isn't it posted in your userinfo)?

And don't you have some other blog? Oh yeah there's a drinking one, right? Are there any others?
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, boy! Let's do a rundown.

1. I have a political blog of my own called Clown Central Station. It is not updated very often.

2. The reason for this is that I also do political blogging for Sadly, No!, and they pay me.

3. My drinking blog is Draining the Glass. It's not updated as often as I'd like, but I'm working on doing better with it.

4. This is really my 'main' blog these days, but I still maintain the Ludic Log for longer-form stuff. It's updated, oh, about every quarter or so. But again, I'm hoping to update it more often with short humor, as I'm trying to get back into writing more of that.

5. I am also a regular blogger about movies, especially independent film, for Nerve.com's film site, The Screengrab.

Thanks for asking, Washu! I have no idea why you do so, but I feel like I should slip you a twenty for it.
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rjwhite
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
- Elizabeth Taylor- not that attractive, lousy actress, no presence.
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
She won one of the least-deserved Oscars in movie history for Butterfield 8.
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lester22
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
Crap, I can't hardly argue with any of that, except the cheap shot at Family Guy, which I absolutely love, and your love for 3rd Rock, which I absolutely hate. F*cker.
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
That word has a "u" in it.
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ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
I largely agree with you on Futurama (as an article I'll probably never finish for the next High Hat will illustrate, and while I don't think Touch of Evil is better than Citizen Kane, it's pretty goddamn great. I didn't like either version of Sabrina, though.
ortho_bob
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
As heresies go those are pretty mainstream, sunshine. Where's the truly contentious stuff like how bikini'd chicks drinking worm and roach smoothies on Fear Factor is NBC's greatest contribution to humanity? Or that Buffy is for girls?
ludickid
Sep. 20th, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)
Buffy was terribly inconsistent and Joss Whedon gets a pass for stuff that would get other people crucified. That said, everything he's done has at least somewhat interested me.

A lot of people would say that NBC's greatest contribution to humanity is Seinfeld a show which was occasionally very good but, may my colleagues at Sadly, No! forgive me, is terribly overrated.
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rjwhite
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
- The series finale of Seinfeld? Pretty much how it should have ended.

- MASH was very boring.

- All in the Family was one-note and grating. Pretty much the same as all of Norman Lear's supposedly "groundbreaking" work.

- Being There has exactly one joke and repeats it for five hours. Yes, society and the corridors of power are on autopilot and bereft of morals and conviction. Chauncey Gardner is an innocent in an evil modern world. WE GET IT. Perhaps it would have been better as a short sketch on The Goon Show twenty years earlier.
archaica
Sep. 20th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
To be fair, MASH was stuck for eleven years in a war that lasted only three.
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roseyv
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
With you on Chaplin, SNL, UCB (I probably find their popularity even more incomprehensible than you do), Tina Fey, Citizen Kane, and the Simpsons. I hate to admit it, but Family Guy has actually grown on me. I laugh at it in the way that I would occasionally laugh at an episode of “Drawn Together:” with mingled horror and shock eventually giving way to dawning, pleasant surprise that it’s still legitimately funny even after I’m done feeling shame and guilt for having found it funny in the first place. Plus Scott McFarlane is insanely cute and tall and apparently likes musicals, so I like to throw him a bone.

Agin you on KITH, Some Like it Hot (although maybe it’s supposed to be better than I realize), and Mr. Show, which I like better now than I did at first, when frankly I thought it was just utter crap with an occasional brilliant concept thrown in (confusing Anne Frank with Hitler, Bob telling just a little too much about himself in the “tell the audience a little about yourself” bit), but I still find it absurdly overrated. I am also probably in the extreme minority in that I actually find Bob Odenkirk funnier than David Cross.

On my short list of people for whose careers I would like immediate and detailed written explanations: Sarah Silverman, Carlos Mencia, Kathy Griffin, Scarlett Johansen, and the bald guy who used to be on The Daily Show. But I doubt there’s anything too controversial there.

Oh, and YES! to Elizabeth Taylor's baffling decades-long reign. I mean, she was gorgeous until she was about twenty, and then turned into a pneumatic dressmaker's dummy. And, what, there was a shortage of those back in the day?
rjwhite
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
and apparently likes musicals

Thank you! Another reason to intensely, irrationally hate that program!
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And for the thread above, too - mrwomack - Sep. 20th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
roninspoon
Sep. 20th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
I don't get the accolades that Kubrick continues to get. Full Metal Jacket? That was a decent film. Eyes Wide Shut? Some of the most boring dreck I've ever had to sit through.

What the hell happened to Geena Davis? She used to be so hot. Did Susan Sarandon ruin her for everyone?

I don't give a shit what anyone says, I liked The Transformers. It didn't make any damned sense, the title characters rarely spoke, and the plot was ludicrous at best, but god damn did I have fun watching it and I left the theater with a smile on my face.

Hudson Hawk is one of the most continually and unjustifiably underrated films. Paul Haggis' Crash is the other side of that coin, continually and unjustifiably overrated.

Some people have the grace to realize when they've ceased to be artistically credible and creative, they take their one or two laurels and step back from the light to allow other people more talented to fill their spot. Why can't Quentin Tarantino do that?

Bill Murray didn't get the oscar for Lost in Translation because he didn't deserve it. He wasn't acting people!

One of the most consistently funny comedians on tv right now is Mike Rowe. The world needs more like him.

Scrubs makes me laugh, but it's mostly John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn doing it.

If the Geico Cavemen was such a resounding culturaly hit that a network felt the impetus to create an entire sit-com surrounding them, why remove the original actors who made the roles so compelling?

I like the American version of The Office far more than the British version.

archaica
Sep. 20th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
Bill Murray didn't get the oscar for Lost in Translation because he didn't deserve it. He wasn't acting people!

Man, right on!

However, using Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut as the two sides of the Kubrick coin is unfair, I think.
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ounceofreason
Sep. 20th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)
I can't express enough my gratitude for leaving Mad TV off of your list of sketch comedy. That show is comedy in the sense that dog food is meat.
rjwhite
Sep. 20th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
- The current SNL cast will go down as one of the better ones they've had.
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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