Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Corman and Cinematical

Yesterday, Devin Faraci of the movie website C.H.U.D. posted the following to his Twitter, I can't believe Cinematical is running an Oscar story shit-talking Roger Corman! That hurts.

So I found the offending article, Hints About 2010 Oscars Emerge: No More Five-Person Presenting by Eric D. Snider, right there at the top. It says, "Corman, who has directed more than 50 films and produced nearly 400 (!), has never been nominated for an Oscar, probably because all of his movies are terrible"

Now, I'm the author of the post Roger Corman, my idol, so obviously I'm not the one who would take this well.

But really, if you said that all of the New Concorde movies are "terrible", I'd think you were kinda wrong, but I'd understand the point, the vast majority are certainly not good. Not a whole lot I'd make any effort to defend.

Since we're lumping in his work as a director and his work as a producer at New World Pictures, however, it's just flat out wrong and shows a jaw dropping level of ignorance for a site about movies.

Seriously? House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, Bucket of Blood, The Intruder, X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes The Trip, Not of This Earth? All of these are terrible?

Hell, I forgot to even get around to the delights of the movies he produced, such a Targets by Peter Bogdanovich and Death Race 2000 by Paul Bartel! Among many, many others. Entertaining, somewhat subversive efforts that genuinely gave an opportunity to moviemakers who would go on to other magnificent things.

I, and I'm assuming others, suggested we would stop reading Cinematical. People I know who were previously unaware of the site, became aware of them only as a site where casual ignorance was bounced around for snark's sake, kind of a pompous AICN, which actually acquitted itself remarkably well with Roger Corman Won An Oscar The Other Night... by Mr. Beaks.

Chris Stangl of The Exploding Kinetoscope, Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles and Peter Nellhaus of Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee posted excellent, reasoned comments to the post, largely to the echoes of equally lazy and ignorant references to things like Carnosaur 3.

The backlash clearly led Faraci to follow-up with Hey, Cinematical is a good site I really enjoy reading. A couple of uninformed opinions shouldn't make you slander the whole gang. and In fact, Cinematical has some of the most diverse and interesting voices on the movie web today.

Todd Gilchrist wrote, "you guys are aware that a lot of different people write for cinematical, right? i mean, do you assume that because devin feels one way about a movie that everyone on chud does?"

To which I replied, "I am quite aware, but then I've not read anything that ignorant and offensive to me as a movie fan on CHUD."

And he said, "regardless, it's reductive to assume that an entire site is unworthy because of one person's opinion. there are a lot of great, great writers on cinematical, and i'm not counting myself among them; but if you disagree then leave a comment on the article and engage the writer, don't penalize the rest of us who didn't write the thing you disagree with."

I agreed that I understand and respect what Faraci and Gilchrist are saying, I really do. And I'm considering that viewpoint.

But, I also said, "... there's a principle in there that's still weighing on me. I know that different people work in the kitchen of the restaurants I eat at, but there's only so bad a meal I can eat at before I'll think twice about eating there again.

"Partly just as a snap judgment, given a choice of two places, I'm more likely to pick the place that didn't serve a bad meal the last time I went there. On a deeper level, if the meal was bad enough, I'm challenged to trust the management that would hire a cook that bad and a little wary to offer my support to a place that employs him. But that may be easier for me, as Cinematical was always just a Denny's to me. I'm still considering on it, though."

I also haven't shaken the feeling that I wasn't just served a metaphorical burnt meal, but a shit sandwich.

This morning the site has two follow-ups, the equally lazy and only slightly less ignorant Why Roger Corman Doesn't Deserve an Oscar as well as Here's Why Roger Corman Deserves That Honorary Oscar the opposing view by Scott Weinberg.

Is this becoming the interesting debate that should have there to start out with? Not really. Snider's still hiding behind opinion as fact without even an attempt at supporting his positions. Frankly, I'm challenged to believe that a site that continues to hold up his writing is demonstrating a desire to hold intelligent informed debate, discussion, review or criticism.

Certainly the reply didn't show nearly as much concise, reasoned and informed judgments as the comments by the individuals listed above. I think there is a standard to which a site should be held.

And frankly by the same dubious logic that Snider used against Corman, that his lesser works should be averaged against his better works, I think Snider's writing may take the average of Cinematical down below my reading threshold.

But let's leave this on a joyous note. Here's the video, 2009 Governors Awards – Jonathan Demme Presents Oscar Statuette to Roger Corman, provided to me by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog and host of the Roger Corman Blog-A-Thon.

That is what is all about!

Congratulations, Roger! Well earned!


Kimberly said...

You go Neil!

I missed all the drama but I'm glad you shared a link to the clip of Corman getting his Oscar. I wrote about Corman's award awhile back when I first found out and I'm really disappointed they won't be airing it live during the Oscar telecast.

I will add that I'm not all that surprised by the Corman dismissal. What passes for paid film criticism these days (or any day really) is often very questionable. Most of the major film sites hold very little appeal for me. These sites seem to be overflowing with clueless folks who don't know a whole hell of a lot about the topic they're paid to write about. I'd bet money the guy who dismissed Corman has only seen maybe 1 or 2 of his films and even that's doubtful.

These people may own computers, have access to the net and a Netflix account. They also probably have college degrees and have attended one or two film fests, but that doesn't make anyone a film expert overnight. I can smell a film neophyte a mile away no matter how well they talk the talk and horror film neophytes have a particularly sour smell.

Neil Sarver said...

Thanks Kimberly!

Of course we agree here.

The one thing I didn't say that I regret, is that I do, of course, love criticism that challenges my beliefs. I am in no way suggesting that no critic should criticize Corman. I have, in fact, read a couple of things in the past that caused me to think seriously on the subject... even though it, obviously, didn't ultimately change my views.

The enraging part is the lack of perspective. At no point does that come in. Although several commenters offered notes, similar to the one I listed, on movies that rose above "terrible" (or even "mediocrity") but the poster never addresses that to make even the humblest suggestion that he's aware of these works.

Corman has 15 movies as a director that rank above 6.0 on IMDb, including THE INTRUDER which is 7.77, and 26 as a producer.

But, yes, there is a reason I give much more priority to blogs like yours, or the people listed above commenting, as well as any number of others, above these others. Because they are interesting, informed and show the depth of understanding that leads me to respect them even when I may disagree with the specifics.

Mark C said...

"Corman has 15 movies as a director that rank above 6.0 on IMDb, including THE INTRUDER which is 7.77, and 26 as a producer."

Using IMDB scores as a measure of a movie's worth is far weaker than any logic in the original article. Those Corman movies would be completely unknown to the average film fan, so the IMDB scores are greatly inflated by Corman's small, but devoted, fan base.

I'm sure I've only seem a small fraction of the Corman produced/directed films that you've sat through, but if two of the best examples you can give are Targets and Death Race 2000, then I'm not missing much. You seriously can't see how anyone could consider movies like those to be utter trash? (And I really enjoyed Paper Moon and The Last Picture Show)

If this Oscar was given to Corman for the great work he did in giving far more talented film makers a break, then, yes, he deserves this award (a probably a couple more). But if you're really suggesting that it's the quality of those movies that merits this accolade then, seriously, you must be kidding.

Corman really doesn’t deserve this aura of geek cool he seems to have attracted.

bill r. said...

Yes, I really can't see how anyone could think that TARGETS is utter trash. You didn't ask me, but I'm still telling you.

Neil Sarver said...

Bill, thanks, and yeah. That's the part that's making it hard for me to address the argument being made at all. Death Race 2000, sure. I mean, it's trashy and it embraces it's trashiness rather spectacularly, and it's satire is certainly other than subtle, so someone dismissing it as "utter trash" is wrong, in my opinion, but still comprehensible.

Targets? "Utter trash"? We might as well live on different planets! I have no comprehension of this or room to co-exist in a way that allows room for me to respect the rest of the argument, the opinion is so outside my understanding that, while I do try, I'm unable to find it a respectable or "legitimate" viewpoint.

Because it's not, "Targets doesn't work for me.", which is a point of view I can respect and allow some give and take for discussion.

I will address the IMDb issue, as I agree and disagree to varying extents. I agree that IMDb ratings are hardly a good measuring system. The weighting system, while well intentioned, is flawed, and, as pointed out, ratings favor people who are interested in the subject matter and compelled to go and rate.

But then that would be more a matter if I was arguing specifically that they were good over that the demands of good movie writing demands more than a simple throwaway dismissal if one intends to be taken seriously.

The IMDb ratings do show that an accumulation of opinions has built up to the quality of these movies that needs to be argued against.

Look, I've held enough contrarian and otherwise unpopular beliefs in my day to know that once the weight of opinion is against you, you need to actually put up an argument. Dismissing them out of hand as "utter trash" is lazy and doesn't make you look smarter than the larger group - even if as an individual and not a group, you almost certainly are - it makes you look stupid.

I don't disrespect Eric D. Snider or Mark C. for daring to disagree with my opinions, I disrespect the lazy way they offer them.

Neil Sarver said...

Just one more thing, before I finish my troll feeding for the century.

I've used the IMDb ratings 2 or 3 times in a decade, and each time for basically the same purpose - I remember a previous time was demonstrating the accumulation of acclaim for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which was once again being lazily dismissed as inherently less than other entries in the Bond series - and each time I get this same utterly pathetic excuse for a reply.

Look, I do not believe, nor have I ever suggested, that IMDb ratings are an end all-be all, however they do show which way the wind is blowing, and if you're going to stand against them, you have to have an argument.

Simply dismissing the flaws in another person's argument does not prove your argument. And, if it's all you have to offer, it makes you look lazy and stupid.

So, conceded. My argument is flawed.

But it is an active argument and not a reactive argument and it has some actual substance, while yours has none.

So, now I'm done.

I've written plenty of arguments celebrating Roger Corman, and many more can be found in the links above, such as the excellent writings on Tim Lucas's blog-a-thon, and anything that doesn't bother addressing those writings isn't worth my time reading or replying to.

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