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Film Snobbery Selected Entries (Page 2)

NOTE: Given the complexities and interconnectedness of the Snob universe, cross-references between entries are common and are spelled out in CAPITAL LETTERS for easy identification.

Dolemite. Cinematic alter ego of Rudy Ray Moore, a pudgy, vainglorious stand-up comic who established his own subgenre within the 1970s blaxploitation movement. The title character of his “Dolemite” films was a foulmouthed, cunnilingus-obsessed lady-killer in pimp attire who annihilated his nemeses with kung fu moves and withering jive and compulsorily revealed his large buttocks in sex scenes. An unusual crossover figure, Moore is hailed by both melanin-deficient trash-film geeks and hip-hoppers such as Ice-T and Snoop Dogg, who consider him an influence on gangsta rap.

Ealing Studios. English film company best known for its clipped, clever-clever comedies of the late forties and early fifties, many of which (Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers) starred Alec Guinness. In their drollery and amphetamine-quick pacing and dialogue, Ealing comedies prefigured and directly influenced the Beatles and Monty Python. In 1988, an indebted John Cleese exhumed the elderly Ealing director Charles Crichton to direct A Fish Called Wanda.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Landmark 1999 history of the so-called American New Wave filmmakers of the late ’60s and 1970s, written by Gene Shalit-lookalike journalist Peter Biskind. Interweaving the narratives of the denimy, sideburned mavericks who bucked the crumbling, top-heavy studio system by making inexpensive, idiosyncratic films—many of them influenced by the French New Wave and mentor ROGER CORMAN’s quick ’n’ cheap ways—the book was an instant industry and Snob must-read upon its publication, not least because of the prurient details it revealed about the drug-taking and sexual proclivities of such figures as Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Margot Kidder (who sunbathed nude!), Robert Towne, and Hal Ashby. Though many of these figures have registered their displeasure with their portrayals—with Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin coming off as particularly hubristic and asshole-ish—Easy Riders, Raging Bulls has actually served to cement their legends and preserve their names for posterity, lending them a collective identity that the term “American New Wave” never quite explained..

Facets Video. Comprehensively stocked video shop in Film Snob-choked Chicago, renowned nationwide for its array of foreign titles and Francophile pretensions; it prefers to be known as a “videothèque,” not a store, and its adjunct theater—which offers “cinechats” with such visiting directors as GUY MADDIN and Peter Greenaway—is called a “cinémathèque.” Arguably the only video shop with a self-imposed mandate to turn impressionable children into Film Snobs, Facets offers a “Future Filmmakers Membership” that allows kids to rent such titles as City Lights and Silas Marner for free.

Freaks. Genuinely aberrant studio film from 1932, directed by Tod Browning for MGM, that featured malformed sideshow folk (including pinheads, Siamese twins, and an armless, legless man known as “the Living Torso”) as the cast in a plotline about a traveling circus whose comely trapeze artist meanly manipulates an amorous midget, only to get her gruesome comeuppance. Renowned among cultural-studies dorks for the number of “pop” references it produced, including the Ramones’ “Gabba gabba hey!” cry (an approximation of the affronted freaks’ chant) and Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead cartoon character (based in part on Schlitze, the male pinhead who padded around in a housedress).

Fuller, Samuel. Grizzled, irascible, ultra-prolific director and ex–crime reporter (1911–1997) who defined the first era of independent film with his violent pulp pictures in the 1950s and sixties. Though his Snob repute is unimpeachable, many Film Snobs would be hard-pressed to actually name one of his films. (His 80s comeback movies, The Big Red One and White Dog, are the fallbacks.) In the latter part of his life, he relocated to France and basked in his auteur status there.

Pam Grier Grier, Pam. Tall, regally beautiful black actress who made her name in W.I.P. movies in the early ’70s before becoming the reigning empress-mama of blaxploitation, kicking and baring ass in such vehicles as Coffy (1973; tagline: “She’ll cream ya!”) and Foxy Brown (1974), both of which werewritten and directed by Jack Hill, a career B-picture director hailed as a genius by Quentin Tarantino for his ’75 girl-gang movie Switchblade Sisters. After a quiet couple of decades of TV work and supporting roles in movies, Grier was lovingly rehabilitated by Tarantino in his 1997 film Jackie Brown, in which she was again a leading lady. Novice Snobs frequently make the mistake of crediting Grier for playing the title character in Cleopatra Jones (1973); that role was in fact played by Tamara Dobson.

Grindhouse. Posthumously coined genre term for the tawdry scuzzploitation films that flourished in sticky-floored adults-only movie houses before the advent of videos and the tidying up of Times Square. Though some film theorists extend grindhouse’s reign back to the anti-syphilis scare films of the 1930s (and even lump Tod Browning’s FREAKS into the category), slumming Snobs associate grindhouse with the late sixties, early seventies golden era of W.I.P. (women-in-prison) films and the deathless “classics” I Dismember Mama, Gutter Trash, and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.

Hammer Films. British production company that, in its factory-like production of blood-soaked, decolletage-heavy horror flicks from the 1950s to the 1970s, was an overseas cousin to the U.S.’s AIP, only with a better roster of actors. The Albionically gaunt Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing became famous for playing endless iterations of, respectively, Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein (eliciting the admiration of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and, especially, George Lucas, who cast both men in Star Wars films), while Oliver Reed hammed it up as a werewolf, and Bette Davis, in the throes of her run as a ROBERT ALDRICH horror hag, starred as the title character of The Nanny, in which she got to drown a child in a bathtub.

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).

Hellman, Monte. Hitless cult director, among ROGER CORMAN’s many protégés, who found his muse in scraggly character actor Warren Oates and remains best known for three of his earlier films: the “existential” (read: slow) Western The Shooting (1967), in which Oates starred with Jack Nicholson; the meandering (read: slow) road movie Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), in which Oates starred with James Taylor and the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson; and the offbeat (read: slow) drama Cockfighter (1974), in which Oates costarred with some roosters and didn’t actually speak until the final scene.

Hixploitation. Curious seventies –SPLOITATION subgenre in which Hollywood devoted an inordinate amount of attention to the redneck, yee-haw South, resulting in a spate of films about car chases, vigilante justice, road trips, and backwoods terror. Tracing its roots to John Boorman’s hillbilly-hell opus Deliverance (1972) and the vengeance-in-Tennessee tale Walking Tall (1973), hixploitation blossomed with The Klansman (1974), in which Alabama sheriff Lee Marvin presided over residents O.J. Simpson and Richard Burton, Citizen’s Band (1977), SAM PECKINPAH’s timely capitalization on the CB and truckin’ crazes, Convoy (1978), in which Kris Kristofferson’s trucker outsmarted Ernest Borgnine’s fat cop, and Clint Eastwood’s massively successful orangutan movies, Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980). The apotheosis of the hixploitation movement was Smokey and the Bandit (1977), the directorial debut of Tennessee-born veteran stuntman Hal Needham, who actually cast Mel Tillis, Foster Brooks, and Ruth Buzzi for unironic effect.

Howard, Clint. Cult actor with squeaky voice and enormous cranium, best known for his brief appearances in the movies of A-list older brother Ron, though more regularly employed in TV shows and B pictures, often as a Deliverance-esque hillbilly threat. Like Ron, Clint acted as a child, notoriously starring, at age seven, in one of the oddest Star Trek episodes ever, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” in which he played a babylike alien, mouthing words spoken by an adult actor.

Pauline Kael Kael, Pauline. Revered film critic (1919–2001) whose work, most of which appeared in The New Yorker, stood out for its bracing, provocative prose and its author’s loony, nonsensical taste; no one was smarter and more cogent about Cary Grant’s career and Steven Spielberg’s early films, yet no one was more reckless in overpraising grim 1970s murk and unbearably blowsy female performances (e.g., Elizabeth Taylor in X Y & Zee, Karen Black in Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Bette Midler in Big Business). A tiny woman, Kael nevertheless inspired fear in her legions of movie-critic acolytes (known as “Paulettes”), full-grown men and women who tremulously sought her unforthcoming approval and pilgrimaged to her home in the Berkshires in the vain hope of being anointed her heir apparent.

Kehr, Dave. Third- or possibly even fourth-string New York Times movie critic. Though often relegated to reviewing DVD releases, he is preferred by Snobs over A. O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden.

Harry Langdon Langdon, Harry. Baby-faced star of 1920s two-reelers who briefly ranked among the comic greats (alongside Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton) but died in 1944, semi-forgotten and in reduced circumstances, thereby setting himself up to be posthumously rehabilitated by the critic James Agee, and, later, by toking proto-Snob college students during the silent-comedy revival of the 1960s. Langdon earns further Snob points for having been Frank Capra’s conduit to the big time, starring in Capra’s first two features, The Strong Man (1926) and Long Pants (1927), before getting a swelled head, dismissing Capra as his collaborator, and proceeding to flounder as his own writer-director.

Laser disc. Outmoded digital-video format, introduced in the early 1980s but superseded by the DVD in the late nineties. Though the unwieldy, pizza-size disc never caught on in the mass market, Snob purists insist that it offers superior picture and sound quality, and pride themselves on owning out-of-print, special-feature-enhanced discs from the CRITERION COLLECTION. Dude, I just found a laser disc of Blade Runner on eBay!

Lewis, Herschell Gordon. Dilettante filmmaker hailed by Snobs as the Godfather of Splatter. On a lark, Lewis, who to this day works full-time as an advertising executive, began making low-budget, excessively gory movies in the early 60s, among them Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, and The Gruesome Twosome—all required titles for anyone wishing to flaunt his trash credentials.

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