The Movie Club

The Movie Club: Taylor Lautner Still Can’t Act
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 6 2012 2:58 PM

The Movie Club

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Are we drawn to the kinds of movies we watched at an impressionable age?

John Huston and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.
Growing up in the era of Chinatown set certain expectations

© 1974 Paramount

Stephanie, Dana, Dan:

Stephanie, your love for the ook in the latest Twilight may have something to do with the flagrant lack of ook, and bodily fluids of all kinds, in the films leading up to Breaking Dawn.

I’ve grown increasingly restless with the Twilight franchise, which up until now has practically frustrated the audience into having intercourse on behalf of the characters. I know waiting makes it all the sweeter, but … And I know he’s the easiest target imaginable, but the more Taylor Lautner has to act, the less he seems to be able to. You’d think his salary by now would’ve given him some confidence on camera. He comports himself like a placeholder for the actor they have yet to locate.

I get the appeal of Twilight, and I certainly appreciated Bill Condon’s dizzying birthing sequence—the only real filmmaking we’ve gotten in the series so far. And good for the producers for hiring him to land these last two movies. But it’s not for me. Literally. It wasn’t made for me. But neither was the Harry Potter franchise, which has held its head and its standards high right through to the end. I’ll take surprises and a sense of craft wherever and however I can find them.

Advertisement

My friend Eric Lindbom wrote with me at the Minnesota Daily once upon a time, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and while we don’t agree on all sorts of things, we do agree on the eerie, almost apocalyptic unfunniness of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. More important, his feelings about the movies on which he was weaned in the ’70s are also much like my own, and I’ve been wrestling lately with how so much in our wiring as film lovers is completely out of our control owing to timing and luck and the dominant strains in the culture.

Here’s what Eric wrote me a while back: “People are naturally drawn to the movies they saw at impressionable ages, whether it’s old Westerns, John Hughes movies, dumb-ass SNL knockoffs. Well, when I was a young teenager I was seeing (because they were the movies that were showing) The French Connection, Deliverance, The Godfathers, Chinatown, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, etc. etc. I suppose I grew to love any movie with an ambiguous or downbeat ending that scuttled audience expectations. I didn’t realize at the time that this was a golden era for American movies.” Slowly coming into our own as writers in the ensuing decade meant considerable reorientation and diminishment of expectations.

I loved a lot of the popular successes that came at the beginning of the blockbuster era : The Black Stallion, for example, and Tootsie. Nothing but commercial, and nothing but wonderful. At the time, the first Alien was dismissed by some as a grim, purely mechanical exercise. Now it looks like Nuri Bilge Ceylan in comparison to something like the Transformers series, which to an entire generation is the symbol of contemporary screen science fiction.

I liked Ghost Town, too, Stephanie, for the record. Really liked it, in fact. But I fear Ricky Gervais is not likeable enough in his dislikeability for mainstream romantic comedy.

Michael

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.