Film Snobbery Archives
October 22, 2008 More Film Snobbery »
Who was the improbable muse of cult director Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter)?
Why, scraggly character actor Warren Oates, of course!October 01, 2008 More Film Snobbery »
Nextbook, the lively, fun, eminently readable Web site devoted to Jewish culture, has been praised on Snobsite before. But now there’s a whole new reason to visit: Film Snob’s Dictionary co-author Lawrence Levi has launched a blog on the site called Nothing Sacred. Lawrence, a known Jew, will be surveying the cinematic landscape and offering his own Jewy, provocative, tzimmes-stirring gloss on it. Already, he has inflamed passions by questioning why Roman Polanski would ever want to hang out with Brett Ratner.August 04, 2008 More Film Snobbery »
You are urged to check out the new site Parallel Universe Film Guide, created by Spencer Green, an old friend of Snobsite and long a vital cog in the massive blurbing machine operated by Leonard Maltin.
Basically, the site is a remarkably thorough sendup of IMDb and film-geekdom, offering hundreds of listings for movies: listings that include directors, actors, plot summaries, trivia, memorable lines, and cross references–all entirely fictitious, for movies that don’t exist.
Part of the fun, though, is seeing which real films or genres are being parodied in each listing. Some targets are obvious, while others are dog-whistle-obscure, jokes gettable only to the snobbiest of Film Snobs.
Above all, it’s pure joy to just go to the site, click on the alphabetical index at left, and see descriptions of such never-made films as Varmints, Desist (1916), Path to Levittown (1948), Captain Pimptastic and His Anti-Whitey Gun (1972), and Daddy Touched My Secret Place (1983, TVM).August 01, 2008 More Film Snobbery »
Like last year’s indie sleeper hit, Little Miss Sunshine, this year’s model, Juno, combines affecting adorableness with flagrant implausibility. Unlike The Savages, which takes a realistically jaundiced view of the type of person who becomes a Film Snob, Juno includes a tender bonding scene in which Jason Bateman's 40-ish yuppie character communes with young Juno (Ellen Page) by playfully arguing over the merits of Herschell Gordon Lewis versus those of Dario Argento. The concept isn’t bad, but the scene is about as believable as the name Diablo Cody.January 04, 2008 More Film Snobbery »
There’s a brilliant scene in Tamara Jenkins’s fantastic new movie The Savages in which Laura Linney, as a fastidious aspiring playwright, is bickering with her older lover, a married man named Larry (Peter Friedman). Larry declares that their relationship reminds him of The Blue Angel, and he condescendingly explains, “You know–Marlene Dietrich? Von Stroheim?” Linney’s character scowls viciously and says, “Von Sternberg!”
If only poor Larry had read The Snob Cheat Sheet for Confusing Similarities (pp. 30-34 of The Film Snob’s Dictionary), he wouldn’t have gotten himself into this mess.
Overlooked in the Film Snob-beloved New York Times critic Dave Kehr’s roundup of upcoming fall movie releases was this casually tossed-off bit of Snob acidity about Todd Haynes’s unorthodox Zimmy flick, I’m Not There: “At each stage of his life, Bob Dylan is played by a different actor (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw)—a highly original device that dates back at least to Sacha Guitry’s 1937 Pearls of the Crown.”
Oh, snap, Dave!September 12, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
Ingmar, we hardly knew ye. But we knew ye critics–among them Film Snob co-author Lawrence Levi, who, in his Looker blog, offered a contrarian if respectful take on Bergman’s oeuvre. This prompted a somewhat bitter riposte in Looker’s comments section from Glenn Kenny, a reviewer for the (now) Web-only magazine Premiere, using words pinched from the intro to The Film Snob’s Dictionary.
And then it all turned out to be a misunderstanding. Kenny’s ire had been raised by a post in Jeffrey Wells’s Hollywood Elsewhere blog, in which Wells attributed our summary of Snob attitudes towards Bergman to us, rather than to the Snobs we lampoon.* Kenny nobly retracted his riposte. And then Antonioni, in a shrewd comment on the absurdity of it all, croaked. Mime tennis, anyone?
* Wells, bizarrely, also calls Levi’s co-author Martin Kamp, rather than David Kamp.August 01, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
Grindhouse is such a Film Snob-friendly entertainment that more than one reviewer, including this one, has led off his review of the film with our definition of the term “grindhouse” from The Film Snob’s Dictionary.
In the interest of upholding the banner of Film Snobbery, Lawrence Levi, the city-rat half of the Film Snob brain trust–born and raised in Manhattan when Manhattan had an authentic middle class–attempted to revisit the scuzzy thrillz of his youth by seeing the Tarantino-Rodriguez homage-sploitation epic in a midtown theater on what was once known, in the Abe Beame years, as “the Deuce.” Go to Lawrence’s blog, Looker, to read his verdict.April 13, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
Lawrence Levi and David Kamp, the Film Snob brain trust, appeared on Tuesday, February 13, on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show to discuss films, snobbery, and the Oscars. You can listen to us here.
One charming postscript to our appearance: In discussing nominee Helen Mirren’s oeuvre, Lawrence brought up her killer performance in 1980’s The Long Good Friday but couldn’t remember the name of that movie’s director. Seconds after we were finished with our segment, a WNYC staffer alerted us that Martin Scorsese was listening, and had instructed his assistant to call in to tell us that the director of Long Good Friday was John Mackenzie.
Thanks, Marty! What a wonderful way to underscore what we say about you in the book: that you’re an “effervescent enthusiast,” a film buff rather than a snob, because you wish to share your knowledge rather than hoard it.February 13, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
On Tuesday, February 13, the Film Snob brain trust, David Kamp and Lawrence Levi, will be appearing on the noontime Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC public radio (93.9 FM and AM 820). We will be discussing the Oscar-nominated films with the ever-bearded, ever-thoughtful Mr. Lopate, and touching upon such topics as “Is it at last Marty’s year?” and “Jackie Earle Haley–who knew?” We’ll also be taking the liberty of calling Mr. Lopate “Lenny.” Don’t miss it.February 06, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
The idea of Joe Blogspot or Tina TypePad blogging his or her way through Woody Allen’s entire oeuvre sounds execrable, a worst-case scenario of 21st century compu-diddle. But in the hands of a writer as gifted, incisive, and funny as David Rakoff, this exercise (done for a site called Nextbook) produces something wonderful, evocative of the days when The New Yorker let Pauline Kael run free for 20,000 words on one subject over two issues. In his entry that pairs Interiors with Stardust Memories, Rakoff declares that the former film “seems like it was dubbed into English from the original Thorzine”; mapping out Charlotte Rampling’s face in the latter, Rakoff notes “those beryl eyes and an upper lip that looks like she’s simultaneously pushing it out and eating it from the inside.”
Read the whole of Rakoff’s plunge into Woody World here.January 12, 2007 More Film Snobbery »
Recently, one of the co-authors of The Film Snob*s Dictionary, namely Lawrence “Looker” Levi, gave a rather unfavorable New York Times review to David Thomson’s book-length appreciation of Nicole Kidman. This prompted Thomson to write a peeved letter to the Times Book Review in response in which he actually makes a snide reference to The Film Snob*s Dictionary, a book Thomson admits he hasn’t read.
Gentlemen, gentlemen! Please, why don’t you both drop this feud and focus on your common ground, namely that you, along with Levi’s co-author David Kamp, share a spirited enthusiasm for Douglas McGrath’s Truman Capote film Infamous, which at last is getting its U.S. release?October 12, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
September 06, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
A couple of weeks ago, we received this e-query from a reader named Kathy Carter: “I bought and love both books: Rock Snob and Film Snob. Question for you: Today Wolcott posted about Seven Men from Now and calls it a ‘Batjac’ Western. What is Batjac? It is not in the Film Snob book and I searched on your site and got no match. Illuminate, please. You are the only one I trust on such a question.”
We don’t usually do make-a-wish service work for our readers, but even we were stumped by this; our friend Jim Wolcott doesn’t normally speak in Snob code. So we got in touch with the man himself. “Batjac was the name of John Wayne’s production company,” Jim says, “and it was Wayne’s idea to cast Randolph Scott because, as Wayne put it, ‘He’s through,’ i.e., we can get him cheap. The movie revived Scott’s career, and he went off to make a batch of Westerns with Budd Boetticher, which came to be known as the ‘Ranown’ cycle. Anyway, the other Batjac Westerns from Wayne’s company include Hondo and Track of the Cat.”
Thanks Jim, and thanks for writing, Kathy.September 03, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
I was going to hold off on writing about Infamous, Douglas McGrath’s film concerning Truman Capote and the genesis of In Cold Blood, until a date closer to its scheduled autumn 2006 release. But esteemed Film Snob critic David Thomson recently attended an advance screening of the movie, and he has written such an astute, exhortatory analysis of it for the U.K.’s Sunday Independent (read Thomson’s article here) that I’ll put in my two cents now.
I can’t pretend to be impartial; Doug McGrath’s a pal, and way back when, after he’d acquired the movie rights to George Plimpton’s oral history of Capote’s checkered life and adapted it into a screenplay, he started asking acquaintances which actors we thought might make a good Truman. Lots of names were idly tossed about–Tobey Maguire, David Spade, Linda Hunt–but the consensus was that the best possible choice was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Great! Send the script over! Then it turned out that Hoffman had been tapped for a different filmmaker’s Truman Capote/In Cold Blood movie. Uh-oh.
Infamous was completed last year, but its release was (and continues to be) held back for obvious reasons. The precedent that springs to mind is when Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons beat Milos Forman’s Valmont to the theaters by a few months, both films sourced from the same novel by the 18th-century French author Choderlos de Laclos. Frears’s film got all the glory and good reviews, and Forman’s film was treated as an afterthought, shuffling ignominiously to cable.
I pray this doesn’t happen to Infamous, and not just because Doug McGrath is a lovely man. Plenty of lovely men have made crap movies, but this is a fantastic film of entirely different energies and qualities than Capote, and its lead performance, by an Englishman named Toby Jones (pictured above, as Capote), probably best known in America for supplying the voice of Dobby the Elf in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is so beyond good, beyond kitsch, and beyond mere impersonation that he ought to succeed Hoffman next spring as Best Actor winner. (And I like Hoffman–I successfully agitated for him to be a cover story for GQ a few years back; he looked ridiculous all groomed and cleaned up on the cover, but he was a joy to interview and write about.)
David Thomson puts the predicament of Infamous brilliantly: “Understand in advance,” he writes, “that the leading arbiters of culture will tell you it’s the same thing warmed up, a story you know, a curiosity even. It’s none of those. We do not write off this year’s Hamlet because we enjoyed last year’s. We might listen to Mahler’s Ninth tonight and in a few months’ time. You do not really know this story in advance, for a very good reason: you have not been moved by it yet.”June 28, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
On Tuesday, April 25th, the Film Snob brain trust of David Kamp and Lawrence Levi heralded the opening of the Tribeca Film Festival by appearing on John Schaefer’s WNYC radio program Soundcheck.* Have a listen or download the SnobCast onto your portable iSnob player by clicking here.
* Morning Edition newsman and Highland Park, New Jersey, native Soterios Johnson has informed us via e-mail that writer and Columbia journalism professor Samuel Freedman was on The Brian Lehrer Show today, meaning that three alumni of Highland Park High School–Johnson, Freedman, and Kamp–appeared on separate WNYC programs within hours of one another.April 25, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
The current edition of The Weekly Standard includes an amusing review of Basic Instinct 2 in which the improbably named author, Sonny Bunch, packs in as many terms from The Film Snob*s Dictionary as he can, including a nod to I Am Curious (Yellow) by the freshly departed Vilgot Sjoman. This doesn’t mitigate the whole Iraq-war fiasco, Bill Kristol, but give this Bunch kid a raise.April 11, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
In case you missed these pieces, The Film Snob*s Dictionary was the subject of some intriguing writeups in mid-March: a characteristically terse reviewette in Variety and an inordinately weighty think piece by Richard Schickel in the L.A. Times. Schickel’s article is flattering even as he resists falling in love with the book, yet puzzling in its desire to evaluate The Film Snob*s Dictionary as if it were some kind of scholarly tract by Jonathan Rosenbaum. As we’ve said in interviews, the opinions expressed within the book are genuine, but the book itself is, let’s face it, a novelty paperback. Next: Harold Bloom on Why Do Men Have Nipples?April 04, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
The Film Snob*s Dictionary has won an especially big reception in Canada, mostly but not exclusively favo(u)rable. Click here for an evaluation by an appreciative Canadian film critic. And, if you want some more reading material, here’s a brief commentary by a snippy but benevolent Canadian, and here’s a brief commentary by a snippy and humo(u)rless Canadian who flatly asserts that “Office Space is not a film-snob cause célèbre.” Arrant nonsense, hoser!April 03, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
You’d forgive most 90-year-olds for disengaging themselves from the ick and clatter of contemporary popular culture, but The New Republic’s Stanley Kauffmann, bless his heart, not only continues to review new films for the magazine, but has delivered a sporting appreciation of The Film Snob*s Dictionary, a book that (affectionately) pokes fun at him. “That paragraph made me wriggle and laugh,” writes Kauffmann of his own entry in the dictionary. “Gad, was my reaction snobbish?” No, Stanley, it wasn’t, and the idea of you at your age wriggling and laughing evokes welcome images of Jack Albertson singing “I've Got a Golden Ticket” in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
(Free registration required to read the review on TNR’s Web site.)March 13, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
“When I come out to southern California in 1937, the area is still undeveloped, so I am granted the boon of being in a new place fresh and brimming and unawakened, at the beginning. There are masses of bougainvillea, Joshua trees and yucca on the hills, a light shining at the door, the scent of orange blossoms in the evening air, honeysuckle and jasmine.... People work in the citrus groves and in the oil fields, but this activity is slight, and by far the largest part of the preoccupation of the city is with the seven or eight motion-picture studios. It is amazing how they cling to the studios here, how the studios dominate all their minds and lives. The studios exude an excitement, a sense of life, a reach and hope, to an extent hard to describe.”
The words above were written by Daniel Fuchs (1909-1993), great uncle of one half of the Film Snob brain trust, David Kamp. Fuchs was that rarest of Hollywood commodities: a guy who languished for much of his adult life in development hell (with only twelve of his screenplays realized as films) and still reveled in the hustle and flow of the picture industry. He liked being Barton Fink (and actually wrote a wrestling picture, though not for Wally Beery), and he loved the old studio machers like Harry Cohn and Jack Warner–the more vulgar the better. Like so few of us today, Great Uncle Dan didn’t feel that life owed him anything, and, by his calculations, he came out ahead. He won one Academy Award, for writing the Doris Day-James Cagney movie Love Me or Leave Me, and never made more than $60,000 a year.
In the spirit of Daniel Fuchs, Messrs. Kamp and Levi now head out to L.A. for book plugeroo–if you’re in the area, be sure to catch our reading at Book Soup on Sunset this Wednesday eve at 7 p.m.–and to take in Oscars week, the greatest of the Hebraic bacchanals, surpassing even Purim.
And in a delicious convergence, visitors to the Amazon link for The Film Snob*s Dictionary will find that Amazon suggests that if you like our book, you might also like Daniel Fuchs’s collection of Hollywood writings The Golden West, from which the lead paragraph of this item was excerpted.February 27, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
’Twas a busy holiday weekend, with David Kamp discussing the differences between Film Snobs and Rock Snobs in an interview with the Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney, and Lawrence Levi outing himself as the man behind the heretofore anonymous Film Snob blog Looker.February 22, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
The Film Snob*s Dictionary goes on sale in bookstores this Tuesday, February 21, and can be ordered via Amazon by clicking on its cover in the sidebar at right. Already, the New York Times and Washington Post have given the book favorable reviews, and we’ve not even yet heard from the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror!February 19, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
The New York Post’s ageless–ageless!–columnist Cindy Adams (above) writes in today’s column that she has read The Film Snob*s Dictionary and doesn’t get why we say that “the only Tom Cruise movie it’s okay for Snobs to like is Ridley Scott’s Legend.”
Cindy, if you even have to ask... but we will say that, for starters, U.S. audiences only got to see the tragically truncated 89-minute version, while the European version ran nearly a half-hour longer. That alone is enough to create a Snob cause célèbre.
As Cindy herself might say, possibly maybe perhaps we just might elaborate on this when the people who elaborate on such things feel like elaborating some more if they're in an elaborating mood. And when the room service people in the Shanghai Mandarin Oriental figure out how to make a simple bagel with a schmear for Joey. Is all we’re saying.February 16, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
Our friend Spike Priggen at Bedazzled! takes a detour from Rock Snobbery to capture this bit of TV trouvée in which the late Gene Siskel and the then-corpulent Roger Ebert bicker in 1987 whilst recording a promo spot for an upcoming episode of their show. In light of Ebert’s condescension towards Siskel, we can see why Vincent Gallo so loathed the bespectacled critic.February 15, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
At long blessed last, this site has been updated to accomodate the imminent publication (on February 21, to be specific) of The Film Snob*s Dictionary. Please visit this area to read a selection of excerpts from the new Snob book, and visit this area for a clinical yet laffical explanation of the phenomenon/pathology known as Film Snobbery. And ornery Film Snobs who’ve read the new book will have their chance to join apoplectic Rock Snobs by writing into the Nitpickers’ Corner part of this site to complain about things we’ve allegedly gotten wrong!
In related news, the co-authors of The Film Snob*s Dictionary, David Kamp and Lawrence Levi, will be appearing for an “in-store event” at Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood on Wednesday, March 1–just one week after Senator Barbara Boxer's appearance in the same store, and just six days prior to Jack Klugman’s to promote his memoir Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship. Well worth visiting L.A. for a fortnight, if you ask us.February 09, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
Spring is arriving early here at Snobsite. After a long period of dormancy, this site is about to sprout a new section devoted to Film Snobbery, in conjunction with the February 21 publication of the Film Snob’s Dictionary. The “Annals” section will accomodate posts related to Snobbery of both the Rock and Film stripes, while the Nitpicker’s Corner will accept Nitpicks from the Harry Knowleses of the world as well as the Greil Marcuses.
In the meantime, let us herald another welcome Web return after a long wintertime absence, the latest chapter of Yacht Rock, in which the plot takes a tangent into Tull.February 03, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
We’re sorry that the holidays, book deadlines, and the NFL playoffs have contributed to the dormancy of this site. Bear with us just a few days longer–we are revving up for a site tweak to accomodate the forthcoming Film Snob’s Dictionary.January 10, 2006 More Film Snobbery »
We don’t know whether to club journalist Jeffrey Wells to death for reviewing the next Snob book, The Film Snob*s Dictionary, a full three months before it comes out–Jeff, no one can find it in the shops yet!–or if we should be flattered that he cares enough to do so. But since Wells has gone ahead and written at length about his advance copy of the book on his Web site, Hollywood Elsewhere, we’ll go ahead and link to his writeup, which is, we must say, very generous.November 01, 2005 More Film Snobbery »
We were going to wait ’til much, much, much later to run an image of the cover of The Film Snob*s Dictionary, since it won’t be available until next February. But since the cover’s been released on both Broadway Books’s Web site and on Hollywood-Elsewhere, a movie blog by the journalist Jeffrey Wells, we thought we’d do the Apple Computer thing and offer a tantalizing glimpse months before the product is ready for release. Unlike a new Apple operating system, The Film Snob*s Dictionary does not cost lots of money, nor does it take an hour or more to install. It does, however, feature Cupertino-sleek design and have something to do, vaguely, with Pixar. Closer to the publication date, Snobsite.com will accomodate material from this book and a separate blog about Film Snobbery. We will also emit a buttery popcorn aroma via Griffin Technology’s new iSmell adapter for Macintosh.
Here are two preview entries:
Harryhausen, Ray. Animator and visual-effects maestro (born in 1920) behind a series of terrifying films, putatively for children, that combined stop-motion animation with live action. In such films as Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), spray-tanned actors and actresses did furious battle with stiffly moving but nevertheless nightmare-inducing centaurs, minotaurs, walking statues, and other exotic predators. Though his filmography is more familiar to Kitsch Snobs than to kids, Harryhausen was awarded an honorary Oscar for his work in 1992, and was slyly namechecked in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. (2001).
Wire-fu. Modish Snob term for both the genre and the technique in which martial-arts actors are attached to wires and pulleys, the better to suggest such superhuman powers as the ability to leap great heights and to slowly pirouette through the air while dispatching of opponents with combination kicks. Pioneered by the action star Jet Li in Hong Kong movies in the 1980s, wire-fu reached the mainstream with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and the Matrix movies. Some martial-arts purists lament the growing popularity of wire-fu, preferring the “wireless,” and therefore more audacious, stunts of vintage Jackie Chan. Ching Siu-Tung’s ninja extravaganza Duel to the Death is an awesome example of early wire-fu.June 21, 2005 More Film Snobbery »