The Movie Club

All She Wrote
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 6 2007 4:02 PM

The Movie Club

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Dear Carina, Wesley, and the guy who liked The Lake House (kidding! Keith Phipps, critic extraordinaire!):

The Departed did have "pop crackle" (and plenty of snap, too) but I have to agree with Wesley that Jack did too much jacking off—at times literally, like in that movie-theater scene with the big purple dildo that, I've read, Nicholson insisted on keeping as a prop over Scorsese's objections. Nicholson stuck out from the rest of the movie like—well, a big purple dildo. It was nice to see him having such a good time, but I'm afraid it was at Marty's, and the movie's, expense.

Dana Stevens Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

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Mark Wahlberg has been my personal locker pinup ever since he locked horns with William Petersen over a teenaged Reese Witherspoon in the irresistibly cruddy thriller Fear. I'll see anything with him in it, even Invincible. He's the high point of The Departed, dealing I-f**ked-your-mother jokes like so many poker chips. But I can't forgive Scorsese that final shot of a rat running across the balcony ledge. (That doesn't count as a spoiler, does it?) After the suffering and carnage he's just (however stylishly) inflicted on us for the past two hours, where does he get off pretending it was all a joke by closing with that cutesy visual pun? I wonder if one of you can defend this shot to me, but now it's too late to do it publicly—the Movie Club is over, and I'm cursed with having the last word.

Carina, I will too accuse My Super Ex-Girlfriend of being misogynist (and I did, here.)  But I take back what I said about there being no great love stories on film this year, no Eternal Sunshines or Truly Madly Deeplys. (Anyone else but me adore that 1991 Anthony Minghella film with Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman as two completely ordinary, passionate, and believable lovers, one of whom just happens to number among the undead?) There's at least one 2006 movie that rises to that standard: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's languorous and delectable Three Times, which I madly gobbled on DVD in between posts to the Movie Club this week. (Writing this feature feels sort of like cramming for the exam for a really great college film seminar.) I wish I'd managed to see it on the big screen, though; with its long takes and lovely faces and jewellike color palette, it's a movie to get lost in. Which brings me to my last point.

Keith, I haven't yet read Denby's piece about the "platform-agnostic" iPod generation and their contribution to the death of cinema, but his fretting sounds premature to me, like the periodic fear among bibliophiles that CD-ROMs or digital files will replace the traditional codex-style book. All forms of information storage are mortal—you don't see a lot of cuneiform tablets at Borders—but the successful ones last a long, long time, and both the ink-and-paper book and the onscreen feature film are wonderfully simple and successful ways of delivering meaning, in packages that people like to receive. And to leap from abstraction into crass materialism, domestic box office was up 5 percent this year! So I'm not wringing my hands yet in anticipation of a time when we'll want to stop gathering in dark rooms to stare at white rectangles.

At cocktail parties, people I meet are sometimes understandably jealous of my job. We may not be rolling in Goldman-Sachs bonuses and Will Smith "Successories," we may have to spend the long winter months dragging ourselves to the likes of Smokin' Aces (though, who knows, maybe it'll turn out to be somebody's best film of 2007), but holy shit, we get paid money to sit in those dark rooms and watch whatever flickers onto the screen. As I happened to catch Steve Perry singing on the radio this morning, "Oh, the movie never ends/ It goes on and on and on and on." Don't stop believin'. Really.

Dana