It was only last week, though it seems like a lifetime ago, that I was standing on top of the Empire State Building, squinting to the south with my two older children toward the proud twin towers of the World Trade Center.
(Co-written with Chris Otsuki) "Those who made us," Joe explains to David, with a glance at the statue of the Blessed Mother, "are always looking for the ones who made them."
That said, 2001 was still a pretty lackluster year for film. All spring and all summer, only a tiny handful of worthwhile flicks stood out in a vast wasteland of dreck. The summer’s big special-effects extravaganza, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, was big on effects and short on absolutely everything else, including excitement, humor, charm, characterization, and narrative logic. The annual Disney animated release, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, continued the studio’s dismal slide into modest entertainment values and increasingly glaring New-Age rot. Then the end of the year came with such an onslaught of new releases that it hardly seemed possible to do them all justice. And, unfortunately, Hollywood continued to reap the rewards of its bad behavior with ever-higher box-office returns.
What is it about this film that’s pulling in ordinarily subtitle-phobic U.S. audiences and eliciting cheers and applause from jaded American critics and festival audiences, yet leaves the kung-fu fans of the East cold? Is this a good martial-arts movie, or not?
Does he think of himself as being part of a generation of filmmakers? Smith reflects. "If I am part of a generation of filmmakers," he says with typically self-depracating candor, "it would be the generation that got in too easily." He recounts the epiphany he had after seeing Richard Linklater’s 1991 low-budget indie comedy Slacker: "I thought to myself, ’This counts? This is a movie? ’Cause I think I could do that!’" The result of this epiphany was Smith’s first film, Clerks, a cheerfully obscene comedy that Smith admitted he "never expected to play outside Monmouth County" in New Jersey.
Movies this year were so bad that theater attendance was at an almost ten-year low; yet, paradoxically, box office revenues hit record highs — thanks largely to increased ticket prices. Never before have so few paid so much to see so little.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.