Shoot 'em Again, Atticus

David Edelstein and Nell Minow

Shoot 'em Again, Atticus

David Edelstein and Nell Minow

Shoot 'em Again, Atticus
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 28 1998 5:50 PM

David Edelstein and Nell Minow

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The great monologist Josh Kornbluth writes to suggest a possible last line of defense for the President: "Monica didn't inhale."

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As for Ken Starr modeling himself on Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird: Didn't Atticus shoot something that looked and acted like Ken Starr?

Meanwhile, I can't believe that I see eye-to-eye with the Movie Mom on Clinton's alleged trysts! Nell, you're going all relativist on me! Or maybe not. I'd like to think that our standards are actually a lot less relativist than many of the witchfinder generals who want to burn the president at the stake and toast marshmallows over the embers.

On Blockbuster: I admire Sumner Redstone for sticking with the company through some alarming quarters and for steering it into the black. But I despise the chain and always have. Blockbuster's policy of not carrying NC-17 films is one of the key reasons that so many studios and filmmakers--including independent filmmakers--are terrified of receiving that rating from the MPAA. Ask someone at Blockbuster why it doesn't carry NC-17 movies and you'll hear: "We're a 'family' store." A glance around that family store confirms that there are scores of schlock hack-'em-ups, soft-core made-for-cable "erotic thrillers," and video boxes on which long-legged models lie supine with stockings wrapped around their necks. It's not that I support NC-17 because I'm a porn-hungry degenerate. (I am, but it's not that.) It's that I see nothing morally wrong with a cinema exclusively for adults, where movies like Henry and June, Tie Me Up Tie Me Down, and Happiness can examine (or exploit) sexual issues without fear of corrupting minors.

As to the Kevin Williamson-ization of modern cinema, I feel sick about it. Fifteen years ago, every damn movie was a teenpic. Such pictures drove "grown-ups" away from the movies; made certain that whenever someone did make a "grown-up" film it was by Merchant-Ivory; and, worst of all, saddled us with actors like Andrew McCarthy, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jud Nelson. Even interesting projects were perverted. I remember talking to the co-screenwriter of Lost Boys, which was originally a nightmarish retelling of Peter Pan--only the children discovered that Peter and the Lost Boys were vampires. What a poetic idea, until the studio made them rewrite it as a teenpic, and director Joel Schumacher turned it into another one of his fruitily overdesigned, overlit, overcostumed monstrosities.

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It has been a long and awful day, and I think I'll go play with my baby daughter.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. Nell Minow's reviews of movies and videos appear on her Movie Mom Web page. Her book The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies is forthcoming.