Making Kaka on Some Recent Movies:

The promising UP IN THE AIR (, with classy Vera Farmiga and a beautifully chilling beginning, is a grandchild of Frank Capra (not a bad lineage), and like the Whitmanesque Capra sings the body American and its weathers and wet snow and visible breath. But like all Capracorn it turns into a Christmas movie.

Not one of the reviews of AVATAR I've read ( remarks that it's an indictment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—though that's the whole thrust. There's nothing else going on in it but a nod at astral-body metaphysics.

In SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK Ionesco for some reason isn't credited among the writers, but then it lacks his grace. I approve of theft (bad poets borrow, good poets steal, etc.), but why hijack something as hard to sell as miserablism?

MULHOLLAND DRIVE (is that still recent?) is a poisonous Presbyterian vision of sinners in the hands of an angry God.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS treats us to the sight of women being shot in the back by a sniper as they try to escape a burning cinema because they sleep with the wrong soldiers. No more Tarantino movies for me—he insults the intelligence of a nine-year-old.

And no more Oliver Stone. He gets nothing right.

AMERICAN BEAUTY (is that still recent?) is a hypocritical mass of clichés. The Marine disciplinarian who's secretly gay—we haven't met him for the past ten minutes. A man lusts after his teenage daughter—this simply cannot be faced, so they substitute her nude rose-petal-covered girlfriend and then we have a nice safe little film.

NINE: Fellini didn't smoke. And Sophia was in none of his films.

DATE NIGHT: two characters in search of an author.

IT'S COMPLICATED: does a movie have to be ghettoized for the wrinklies to be watchable?

Not as long as the Coen brothers are around. Their A SERIOUS MAN, a retelling of the Book of Job, is not a happy affair but they're our best American filmmakers.

Nevertheless, after sitting through IRON MAN 2 my Precious One says she doesn't want me to take her to any more American movies.

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