On this episode of the podcast, we're talking about three movies that are currently playing in theaters around the country: The Visitor, Stop-Loss, and Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure, and we'll also hear a brief interview with the writer and director of The Visitor, Thomas McCarthy.
2:12 The Visitor (McCarthy)
9:31 Film Critic as Consumer Guide
12:37 Interview: Thomas McCarthy
20:59 Stop-Loss (Peirce)
27:32 Standard Operating Procedure (Morris)
45:40 Outro and Photo Caption Contest Winners
As usual, our takes on these movies should be considered definitive and absolute. Except, well, next time, we'll see if more recent events — J. Robert's interview with Morris in Chicago, Rob's re-viewing of the film in San Francisco, and Morris's essays and comments on the film — have changed our view of Standard Operating Procedure.
UPDATE (1 June 2008): Episode 17 features a followup discussion of Standard Operating Procedure, including an interview with the director.
A cliffhanger? But I want to know if the Lone Ranger is going to be able to rescue Silver from that dust devil NOW!
Don't we all!
The fuse is lit and leaving a dusty groove in its wake across the saloon floor, throwing sparks ever closer to that barrel of gunpowder that sits just outside of the Ranger's kicking range as he dangles above the Dunk Tank of Death into which he is being systematically lowered one millimeter per minute toward the circling and nipping piranas, his boots having been ceremonially thrown onto a burning heap, his toes still numbering ten, for now, while — meanwhile! — the anachronistic futuristic laser beam and giant circular saw blade move slowly toward each other across the room, reflected in the giant mirror, screaming as metal does against metal, threatening to meet at the Ranger's tethered head.
Gosh! If only Silver weren't standing so idly in the path of the dust devil which unbeknownst to all steeds is moving closer to said steed; if only he weren't standing dumb with indecision, torn between pulling oats from the burlap bag hung on the fence, one at a time, as he has done for the last half hour, and heading over to the saloon where the Ranger is likely to involve him in some sticky business. Perhaps another oat will help him think. And another.
The wily Man with the Black Smile, seeing no chance for the Ranger's escape, holsters his pistol, tosses back one more shot of rotgut for the road, and laughs his way to the exit.
What will happen tune in next time secret decoder ring box of cereal next week same critical time same critical place same critical tone, give or take a few days/oats/toes/snarky remarks, tune in tune in tune in what will happen next time find out find out next time crescendo and freeze frame.
Rob: Great to see (hear?) Errata back on track. I do feel, however, that for this particular podcast it would have been great had the musical interludes not been some jazzy dude plunking on a bass; but, perhaps yourself endeavoring the djembe? Just an idea.
Enjoyed your interview with Tom McCarthy, more by way of comparison with my own. It's always a bit of a reality check to see how someone else handles an interviewee. I laughed when McCarthy commented on the fellow who grilled him about why a MidEasterner was playing an African drum, hmmmmm? Now let me see, where's the MidEast again? Where's Africa? Sheesh.
Especially appreciated your conversation on Standard Operating Procedure. The two of you have articulated your problems with the film very well. Did you, by any chance, see Secrecy at SFIFF51? I felt it added insight (if not complete clarity) to the very issues that you suggest Morris failed to achieve. Perhaps because it was less concerned with the dog and pony show of accountability and took a broader, more philosophical, in fact more poetic, look at the problem, particularly with regard to Abu Ghraib. I'm forgetting the name of the individual at the moment who cautioned that the problem with secrecy is that it allows human beings to dip back into the well of darkness and fundamental evil within the human being. His words were supplemented with an animated sequence that suggested the contours of that evil, including the barking dogs; but, in this instance, I found the supplementation effective and powerful. I'd be interested to know how you felt about same.
Further, now that you are no longer a fellow San Franciscan, I find myself worried about whether or not The Evening Class will be shifted to sites you would recommend without hesitation. You had an easy out when you lived here.
Thanks for listening, Michael. I'll be back to full speed shortly. I can't believe how much junk I've accumulated since I drove my Plymouth Colt to San Francisco in 1995. Moving has been much more complicated this time, but it's just about done.
I've added links to your interviews with Jenkins and McCarthy above. You're right, it is interesting to compare our conversations, not only because of the different approaches we took but because they were done some months apart. Sundance is such a chaotic environment that the few interviews I do there are often wedged into the corner of some makeshift press room where someone also seems to be setting up for a big talent show or something (sheesh, keep it down) and they're often wedged into my ridiculously tight screening schedule. I like reading your casual conversation and would have preferred that, myself.
With McCarthy, though, I was glad to discover right away that in an interview he's quick, efficient, and thoughtful, a good combination at Sundance 'cause it meant I could make good use of my sliver of time: Davis asks terse but leading question, McCarthy gives compact and interesting answer, repeat.
You know, I saw Secrecy in the middle of that chaos and liked it but didn't draw much from it, and it hasn't stuck with me. I haven't written about it -- aside from a blog capsule, if I recall -- in part because I felt I should see it again to figure out what I think, but I missed it when it played at SFIFF. Some of the animation felt like filler to me, imitating Morris to a fault, and I was hoping for a somewhat more cohesive argument, but I do like the thrust of the film and several of the articulate comments from talking heads, although I can't remember which ones at the moment. I'd have to check my notes. And I completely forgot about the Abu Ghraib portions! Now I do need to see it again, for sure.
Did you see Robb Moss's earlier film at SFIFF a few years ago, The Same River Twice? Liked that a lot.
Finally, Michael, you'll be glad to know that after the last Errata board meeting we've decided to add an Evening Class link to a new section of our sidebar called "Recommended with Minor Hesitation". Congrats! (Of course, this will be on a trial basis.)
By the way, Danny Elfman wrote the music for Standard Operating Procedure, and although it's not mentioned in the credits, he lifted the first two cues from the piece he wrote for a Carnegie Hall performance called Serenada Schizophrana. The music wasn't written for a film, but it actually works very well in the movie's opening minutes.
I talked with Elfman about Serenada Schizophrana back in 2006. Here's a transcript of our chat.
Another footnote about Standard Operating Procedure is that I was surprised to see how much older Lynndie England and Sabrina Harmon look compared to the photos of them that we're familiar with. They were young when they were involved in this, and I'm not surprised that people change; I'm surprised by how long we've been in this war and how quickly time has passed. To see people now alongside photos taken of them earlier in the war just brings that to light.
I hate it how minors always hesitate around me. Boom. Ka-THUMP!
As for the passage of time, you now how have your very own blue-eyed testament. Nothing--not even war in my estimation--underscores evanescence so convincingly.
To this day, all I have to do is shut my eyelids and I can see Iris staring at me. Amazing.
One of the "characters" in Rob Moss' _The Same River Twice_ is a family friend (or, one of the subjects is my friend through an ex who feels like family): I know Jim Tichenor as Jimbo. Last time we talked he said he was thinking about installing a sprinkler system inside the house so when it's hot out he can sit in the shade with water falling on him. Sounded great to me. But I don't know if he's gotten to that stage of development yet. I saw his house last spring, and may see it again this summer, and it's coming along, if slowly: he's got the roof up, no walls. For the record: He plays the best cover of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" I've ever heard because it's almost plaintive despite being a song of praise. I think that characterizes my reaction to Rob's movie. My bias may be unavoidable but I still think it a strong, lovely and smart picture with plenty to say about memory, and rivers (duh), which are both pretty cinematic topics. --I didn't attend _Secrecy_ because I didn't have time and I didn't think it sounded very cinematic; a friend who did happen to catch it said my latter reservation proved true, but felt the movie was not a waste of time.