The Year in Movies

Requiem for Capt. Hook
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 9 2004 7:50 AM

The Year in Movies

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David,

I love your take on Peter Pan, and though it doesn't yet make me retroactively enjoy the film, I think you're totally right about P.J. Hogan's ambition and the interestingness of that ambition, and you've convinced me to give it a more open-minded second viewing. I want to say more, but first I'd like to hang my head for a moment in chick-critic shame. There's nothing like speed writing with no time to consider or revise and then getting stuck traveling all day on Amtrak with nothing but time to mull over one's own rhetorical excess. After being too harsh on men who were too harsh on Jane Campion (Neanderthal is a loaded, uncool word to use), I turned around and dumped too harshly on Tarantino (revealing my own tendency to want to squash what troubles me like a bug?). Aargh, self!

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Anyway, might I like Peter Pan more with someone besides Jeremy Sumpter—so insipid beside the very alive actress who plays Wendy—as the boy who wouldn't grow up? I think so. And I'm curious, given your theory about Hook ending up as Peter Pan's playmate, what you make of the way Pan finally defeats him. He leads all the little kiddies in an insulting anthem that crushes Hook's spirit. Something like, "You're old! Alone! And all washed up! Old! Alone! And all washed up! Old! Alone ... etc." The kids get all giddy and whipped up and triumphant as they repeat it. I can't help but wonder about this, the climax of the film. I mean, sure, it's intellectually interesting to make more explicit the primal, dangerous subtexts of fairy tales, but the audience for this film is 6- to 8-year-olds. Call me square, but do you really want to teach kids that being old and alone are grounds for scorn—even for a kind of fun sadism? Maybe this is where you see Lord of the Flies come in. In this context, though, it strikes me as emotionally coarse.

I haven't seen Looney Tunes or Duplex, but you do make me want to see Duplex. Unfortunately, I did see Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House, in which he plays a stale-archetype repressed guy opposite bug-eyed prison escapee Queen Latifah, who is used like an appliance to perform a variety of useful functions—practice sex mannequin, nurturing mammy to his children—all so that he can get his wife back, and lots of money. This may be my worst movie of the year.

Also David, you laid down the ambivalent point of view on Elephant beautifully. I'm with you there, in the middle of all those question marks.

Manohla, just got your post and must absorb. But briefly, even if you didn't swoon over American Splendor, do you take heart from Hope Davis' character: the abrasive, neurotic, and adorable Joyce Pekar? In terms of women on film, I mean. I thought Davis was wonderful, although her charisma almost overmatched that of Paul Giamatti's Harvey.

Best,
Sarah

Each year, film critics gather in the "Movie Club" to chew on the year in film. This year's group includes Manohla Dargis from the Los Angeles Times, David Edelstein from Slate, J. Hoberman from the Village Voice, Sarah Kerr from Vogue, and A.O. Scott from the New York Times. Hoberman is the author, most recently, of The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties.

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