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ABF Friday Bonus Edition

Because we have not done enough traveling already this summer, Jamie and I are off to Syracuse to meet the author of this book and see what she says about his communication skills.  I will therefore postpone the next installment of Irish Blogging (Beckett’s Murphy is on tap for Monday) and devote the day to promiscuous linkdumping and an installment of our ever-popular Arbitrary but Fun stuff.

Link number one: Tony Judt with a provocative essay in Haaretz on the crisis in the Middle East.  Judt is quite critical of Israel’s conduct in recent years, and he even argues that

today, now that the history of World War II is retreating from the public square into the classroom and from the classroom into the history books, a growing majority of voters in Europe and elsewhere (young voters above all) simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behavior in another time and place. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. “Remember Auschwitz” is not an acceptable response.

. . . And so, shorn of all other justifications for its behavior, Israel and its supporters today fall back with increasing shrillness upon the oldest claim of all: Israel is a Jewish state and that is why people criticize it. This—the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic—is regarded in Israel and the United States as Israel’s trump card. If it has been played more insistently and aggressively in recent years, that is because it is now the only card left.

. . . But Jews outside of Israel pay a high price for this tactic. Not only does it inhibit their own criticisms of Israel for fear of appearing to associate with bad company, but it encourages others to look upon Jews everywhere as de facto collaborators in Israel’s misbehavior. When Israel breaks international law in the occupied territories, when Israel publicly humiliates the subject populations whose land it has seized—but then responds to its critics with loud cries of “anti-Semitism”—it is in effect saying that these acts are not Israeli acts, they are Jewish acts: The occupation is not an Israeli occupation, it is a Jewish occupation, and if you don’t like these things it is because you don’t like Jews.

In many parts of the world this is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling assertion: Israel’s reckless behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. But the traditional corollary—if anti-Jewish feeling is linked to dislike of Israel then right-thinking people should rush to Israel’s defense—no longer applies. Instead, the ironies of the Zionist dream have come full circle: For tens of millions of people in the world today, Israel is indeed the state of all the Jews. And thus, reasonably enough, many observers believe that one way to take the sting out of rising anti-Semitism in the suburbs of Paris or the streets of Jakarta would be for Israel to give the Palestinians back their land.

As they say on blogs, read the whole thing.  My humble opinion is that it’s exceptionally thoughtful and judicious.  His remarks on the difference between 1982 and 2006, with regard to the general public awareness of Palestinian dispossession and the status of the occupied territories, are especially interesting.

Link number two: you’re surely familiar with the brilliant techno-video performance of All Your Base Are Belong to Us.  If you’re not, why not?  And if you are, please welcome this brilliant techno-video performance of All Your Snakes Are Belong to Us. Another important sign that we are now in the mature phase of the period cultural theorist Amanda Marcotte has designated as post-post-postmodernism.

You know, I love this here medium sometimes.  I’m a bit sad that all this “snakes on the Internets” stuff is going to prove to be much more enjoyable than the movie, but hell, that’s just the nature of post-post-postmodernism, I suppose.  Post-post-postmodernism:  the period that precedes itself.

Link number three: many thanks to the world-renowned skippy the bush kangaroo (who, it is rumored, may have coined a famous word of some kind) for continuing to read and recommend this blog even though it has fallen out of favor with the people who showed up on Monday to denounce its logorrheic anrcissism and its liberal moral cowardice.  Thanks, pal!  I truly appreciate it.

And speaking of anrcissism and cowardice, it’s time for the Arbitrary But Fun part of ABF Friday!

Before he contributed to yesterday’s comments with a fine reading of “Sailing to Byzantium,” Matt of the Tattered Coat replied to my last post by putting up a YouTube clip from The Big Lebowski.  Which (as I noted in his comments section) was quite strange in a lattice-of-coincidence kind of way, because I had just ordered a plate of shrimp, ah, I mean, rented The Big Lebowski earlier this week.  I had not seen it since it first appeared, and I never liked it.  That’s right, I never liked it. You may begin denouncing me for this precisely one half hour after the usual suspects get through denouncing me for quoting Tony Judt.  But I thought The Big Lebowski was, unfortunately, the film version of the exquisitely silly “I Just Stopped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In” (you remember, from the second Dude-dream sequence) spiced up with quirky-but-contrived vignettes here and there and a couple of mildly fun but sometimes tiresome rewrites of things like Chinatown.  Anyway, I watched it Tuesday night, and it was much better than I’d remembered.  Still too cloying, and the ending is just terrible, but on the whole, more than tolerable, with some very very fine moments.  I don’t know why I was quite so pissy and ungenerous the first time around.

But that’s not the point.  The point is that the local Hollywood video store didn’t have The Big Lebowski in the comedy section.  They had filed it, instead, under “Cult Classics,” a category so fascinating and internally various that I spent fifteen minutes checking it out—and eventually deciding that it was a good time to see Repo Man again after twenty years.  (The interval is due not to the fact that I didn’t like it the first time around but to the fact that I practically memorized it first time around.) Sure, Repo Man falls apart completely in the final twenty minutes, but who cares?  It is iconic.  It is cult.  It has the Circle Jerks.  And I would so pay twenty dollars to see it on the big screen in a double feature with Liquid Sky.  Just let me know when and where.

OK, then, The Big Lebowski and Repo Man.  Cult classics, even though Lebowski was a major-studio release. Donnie Darko, right.  Eating Raoul, good to see that old chestnut in there, with its delightfully strange performances from Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov.  Speaking of Bartel and Woronov, Rock and Roll High School.  Memory lane, that one.  And, of course, the transvestite granddaddy of them all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But then my eye fell upon Napoleon Dynamite.  A lovely and often hilarious little film, no question, but is it really a cult classic already?  I mean, what about the test of time and all that?  Shouldn’t Napoleon Dynamite have to wait at least five years before it is inducted into the Cult Classic Hall of Fame?

You see where this is going.  I speak of aesthetic brilliance one day, and now I’m demanding that works of art be measured by the test of time.  Next thing you know, I’ll come out in favor of Western Civ courses, and then I’ll never be able to show my face in the Cultural Left Café again.

Oh, right, I’ve already come out in favor of Western Civ courses eight or nine times already.  Never mind.

So here are this week’s ABF questions.  How long does a movie have to wait to become a Cult Classic?  Underlying that question is the deeper question: what makes a Cult Classic Classic?  What’s the difference between a Cult Classic and a just plain charming indie release that finds a stable audience over a decade or more?  And why wasn’t Liquid Sky in that bin?  Or Run Lola Run?

See you on Monday with some thoughts upon rereading a novel whose first sentence is “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

Posted by on 07/21 at 12:48 AM
  1. "Jamie and I are off to Syracuse to meet the author of this book and see what she says about his communication skills.”

    I parsed and reparsed this sentence for irony, but sadly could find none.  I trust, however, that you are far from being taken in by the magical thinking of that thoroughly discredited technique, Facilitated Communication.  Indeed, insofar as FC is concerned, you could probably find out what Crossley has to say about Jamie’s (or anyone’s) communication skills without his being anywhere near Syracuse.

    If I’ve misread or misspoke, I apologize.  May you find what you’re looking for.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  08:37 AM
  2. My timing is off. I was too late to post a reply to your Dee Dee Ramone blog entry which I discovered googling the Casuals. So I instead posted it completely OT on the then current entry on fossils - but that turns out to have been written by someone else while you were on vacation and has probable gone unnoticed. Anyways, the same greetings and best wishes apply - and now, in addition to my hopeless quest for a copy or upload of the Casuals’ single “Tokens of Love”, I need to also look for a copy of your book. You will, of course, need to autograph it one day…
    (my email is my full first and last name, no spaces, @yahoo.com)

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  09:26 AM
  3. Hey, I wonder if those techno guys would consider a David Horowitz version: “All Your Network Are Belong To Us.”

    Pedantic footnote, seizing upon a quirk of the formatting of your “blog”: It’s Run Lola Run. No wonder you couldn’t find Lola Run at the store.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  07/21  at  10:19 AM
  4. I will read the Tony Judt piece, but you should know that Judt is on record that the Jewish state is doomed and the only hope for Israel is to become a unified, democratic, bi-national state incorporating the West Bank and Gaza.  See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16671 This is a lovely idea except that (1) a majority of Israelis will kill people to prevent it from happening, (2) a very large number of Palestinians will kill people to prevent it from happening, and (3) there is no example in the history of the world of two ethnic groups with this level of animosity and roughly equal population sizes joining together in a single democratic state.  The sort of person who could sponsor this idea is one whose personal knowledge of Israelis is limited to guys like Meron Benveniste and of Palestinians to guys like Edward Said.

    Anyway, enjoy Syracuse. Jamie might like the Erie Canal Museum.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  10:41 AM
  5. Go to Chris Clarke’s blog today for an especially warming installment of “Snakes On the Internet.”

    The only thing that makes a movie into a Cult Classic is the extent to which people delight in repeating lines from back and forth to each other.  “But this one goes to eleven!” “This . . . <i>aggression<i> cannot stand, man.” And so forth.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  10:46 AM
  6. Gotta work on my text tagging skills.  Sorry about that.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  10:47 AM
  7. Cult status can be reached immediately. Cult Classic status takes ten years of continuous reverence. The difference between a cult film and an indie film: indie indicates, or at least used to indicate that the film was produced using non-industry funds; while the cult status describes how the film was received by movie goers. Hence, not all indie flicks are culty, and not all cultish films are indie.

    I’m not sure there is a single quality that defines a film as a cult film, but certainly, when you see people dressed as the film’s characters outside the theatre - it’s cultish; when people memorize the script – it’s cultish; when it’s not uncommon for people to have seen the film more than ten times – it’s cultish; but most of all, when fans of the film treat it with a holy (aka. irrational) reverence – then you’ve definitely got a cult film on your hands.

    The End!

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  07/21  at  10:55 AM
  8. Yes, JR, but Judt says in this exchange about the NYRB article you cite that the one-state idea is utopian, and he doesn’t set either a timetable for when it could happen, nor specify the process by which it could be achieved. Your point would only hold if Judt were proposing that it happen tomorrow. But he doesn’t propose that.

    Some highlights of Judt’s response:

    “I harbor no Panglossian illusions about the contemporary world ... But when I wrote of binationalism as an alternative future, I meant just that. It is not a solution for tomorrow. Both Jews and Arabs have on various occasions embraced the notion, but not in recent times ... For the present, then, binationalism, is—as I acknowledged in my essay—utopian.”

    Posted by John Protevi  on  07/21  at  10:56 AM
  9. Judt wrote in the NYRB that the only solutions are a binational state or “an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel.” But ethnic cleansing is not a possibility.  Unlike Serbia, Israel is not a totalitarian state controlled by the iron fist of an insane monster; and unlike the Bosnian Muslims, the Palestinians are not isolated, friendless, and disarmed.  Yet the Serbs failed at their ferocious efforts at ethnic cleansing; there is no way that Israel could inflict the levels of terror and death required to push the Palestinians over the Jordan.  Yet Judt says he views the binational option as utopian.  So the import of his thinking is that the end is likely to be the destruction of Israel and the establishment of yet another more-or-less corrupt, oppressive Arab state – theocratic or secular-fascist, take your pick.  A lot of innocent people will die before we reach the end of that road.  Better to continue to hope and work for a bi-state solution.

    But sorry to put a damper on such a nice Friday.  I really would rather talk about the Erie Canal Museum.  I love the Erie Canal.  It was so optimistic, so cutting-edge, so romantic, and such a good example of progressive government at its best.  And locks, canal boats, and mules are so tangible.  The Erie Canal is one of those bits of history that make you feel you really understand what it was like to be alive back then.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  11:27 AM
  10. CCP, irrational reverence, yeah. Because sometimes one person’s cult classic is another person’s “worst movie ever.”
    Sorry, Michael, I walked out of Liquid Sky when I saw it in the theater way back when, although I no longer remember exactly why, just that I was violently pissed off about ...something. The vagina dentata thing maybe?

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  11:40 AM
  11. I actually agree with you, JR, that a two-state solution is best for the foreseeable future. I just wanted to accurately convey Judt’s position. He says continuing for very long with the Bantustan / Wall setup now is impossible. And the two state solution is hardly less so, because to really have two states, you’ll have to either forcibly remove 250,000 West Bank settlers or leave them on the other side of the border. Because if you really mean a “state” in the West Bank, you mean sovereign control of contiguous territory, not a collection of walled-in Bantustans.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  07/21  at  11:46 AM
  12. more pedantry--"The Big Lebowski” was actually intended to be an “homage” to Raymond Chandler and “The Big Sleep,” with side references to Altman’s film of Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye.” I say this because the film’s much funnier when considered a Chandler parody. It’s also much funnier when one watches it high. Or while bowling. Or both.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  11:49 AM
  13. Sorry, but myself off there. To recap Judt’s position.

    1) Greater Israel is impossible, for the reasons JR shows: impossibility of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians out of the West Bank.

    2) Continuing for very long with the present course is impossible, because the Wall / Bantustan system is an incubator of war.

    3) A real two-state solution is highly unlikely, given the entrenchment of the settlers.

    4) So the only real long-term solution is to try to realize what is now a utopia: one-state, binationalism.

    Again, I’m not advocating Judt’s position. I’m just trying to state it as clearly as I can.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  07/21  at  11:52 AM
  14. I’m not sure about the length of time to acquire cult status, but there might be another reliable indicator: if a film can be endlessly quoted by you and your friends but never ever in a million years would your parents even remotely consider paying to see the film, it might be a cult classic.

    Posted by Trout  on  07/21  at  12:02 PM
  15. What happened to the cult classic to end all Cult Classics?

    (That would, of course, be Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  12:07 PM
  16. Maybe this is too obvious, but Snakes on a Plane is already a Cult Classic, so really a movie needs no time at all.

    Captcha: “money,” another sign that MB’s going to lose his Cultural Left cafe privileges.

    Posted by Crazy Little Thing  on  07/21  at  12:14 PM
  17. I was just about to say ...

    Cult Classic status can be had even before the movie exits the big screen, if it’s a Monty Python movie.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  12:16 PM
  18. what makes a Cult Classic Classic?

    For me, it’s gotta be the shoes.

    Posted by Marshall (Bo) Applewhite  on  07/21  at  12:32 PM
  19. What makes a cult classic a cult classic?  Hmm.  Is there problem with semi-Indy Hollywood filmmakers, the Coen Brothers deliberately make a cult film?  With Rick Linklater,either his small films, Waking Life,Slackers or his Hollywood films, School of Rock aspire to cultdom because they do not aspire to a large audience?  I would say the same thing is true with PT Anderson and Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson?  They are also stars who’s popularity is based on cultdom such as recent Bill Murray.  Am I arguing that the important word is cult as opposed to classic?  I do not think that your video star contains nonclassic cult films.  The age thing is interesting because some of us are probably the ages of the younger one’s parents. But, here we are contributing to the same topic so I would argue that the key word is not age but sensibilitty.  Finally, the absence of Lola running from your video store’s cult Classic section is that subtitles probably throw it out. If the store has it, it is in the Foreign Classic section.  I am assuming that they are no foreign language films in the Cult classic section.  That throws out such films, if they were available in video as Jacque Rivette’s Celine and Julie go boating.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  12:33 PM
  20. I take it this was a question more about the “classic” part of cult classic (since the query was whether the movie achieved a temporal staying-power of a certain magnitude).

    There may be, but I think the length of time the film must endure to reach classic status is probably relative to how quickly it tanked at the box office in its official run.  In other years, a film that ran for months in the theaters needs to stay in the cultists’ systems longer to achieve classic status than does a film that closed after two weeks.  (Why?  Because the effects of the longer-running films are amplified by the non-cultists; only after the infidels stop quoting the movie at the watercooler can you get a good reading of the lasting impact of the film on the cultists.)

    Posted by Dr. Free-Ride  on  07/21  at  01:05 PM
  21. When you see an 80-year Chinese grandmother wearing a “Vote for Pedro” T-shirt, there ain’t nothing “cult” about ND.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  07/21  at  01:10 PM
  22. I see that The Royal Tenenbaums is showing tonight at midnight in a local theater. Withnail and I is not, hasn’t been, and probably won’t be. A movie shown at midnight is a cult classic. Therefore, The Royal Tenenbaums is a cult classic, and Withnail and I is not. At least around here.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  01:35 PM
  23. Greetings Michael, the statement; “Controversy centers on who is actually communicating,” is somewhat of an understatement. I remember following this story quite a while back and there was a huge question about the methodology. The method was used with individuals who had severe-profound disabilities. Mostly the problems arose because the participants could not express any recognizable intentions and the question arose, who is choosing the letters the participant or instructor? And there was no way to figure that out! To reiterate this method was being used for individuals who were functioning with no language to very minimal vocalization. Good luck on your trip; I have been a Curative Educator for most of my professional life. Also a long time reader of your posts, thank you for the many insightful and humorous comments and just plain quirky comments! Alan.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  01:37 PM
  24. One question is how long does it take for something to be around before it qualifies as a cult classic. Another is the question of shelflife, how enduring does a cult classic need to be keep that title.

    Re: Question 1: “Snakes on Plane” hasn’t been released, but its trailer has; perhaps, it’s the trailer that will be the cult classic. The internet means that the time by which “word of mouth” turns something into a cult classic is much shorter in the past and, of course, means that trailers, as well as films can become cult classics.

    Re: Question #2: “King of Hearts” was a big cult classic film when I was in college. It was a long running hit at art houses and only “Rocky Horro” gave it serious comeptition as the cult film of its era. “Return of the Secacus 7” was a big cult classic when I began grad school. When I saw “King of Hearts” again near the end of grad school, I had no idea what had made it so special, even though loved any number of the same movies I’d liked when “King of Hearts” was released. And now, you never see “King of hearts anywhere. Can we still call it a cult classic? “Return of the Secaucus 7” still has a following--perhaps because it helped launch the current cycle of indie film and because JohnSayles is still an active and often interesting film maker. Cult classic durability--does it require being part of a movement or or can a cult classic endure on its own?

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  01:43 PM
  25. -what makes a Cult Classic Classic?

    Marijuana, mostly.  It’s the only way anybody’s going to be renting “Nacho Libre” 3 years from now. 

    I agree with CLT about Snakes on a Plane.  I know people who are getting stoned just for the trailer.  If only they could’ve incorporated Sam Jackson’s swearing into the title.  B/c nobody’s ever going to use the sentence “snakes on a plane” without trying to swear like Samuel Jackson.  Why even pretend?

    Posted by Jason  on  07/21  at  01:45 PM
  26. In violent defense of Nacho Libre, may I point out that

    “I believe in science”

    was one of the funnier (haha funny, groan funny, and choke to death funny) lines in recent cinema history?

    If need be, I shall form a cult of one. I shall call it Connecticut for Lieberman.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  02:00 PM
  27. I just don’t know about the whole cult classic timeline. Perhaps it’s like a certain SCOTUS Justice and pornography? May be why ‘Snakes on a Plane’ has already reached cult classic status. People know it when they see it.

    ‘Repo Man’! One of my all-time favorites :D I still use “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are” as a sig sometimes, when sigs are available.

    I don’t drive any more, BTW.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  02:01 PM
  28. CCP, irrational reverence, yeah. Because sometimes one person’s cult classic is another person’s “worst movie ever.” - Joanna

    I didn’t mean in terms of taste - really, who argues about taste? By irrational, I mean that all criticisms of the film are received as personal insult, and are considered always (and I mean always) wrong. That kind of irrationality.

    I was generous when I let movies obtain classicness in ten years. Cars aren’t classic until they’ve been around for 25 years. However, if the classic designation for film isn’t a function of time and value, but rather just an abstract notion of value, coolness, and the like… then yeah, a film can be classic before it’s released. I’d accept either definition… unless someone wanted to charge me more for a DVD because it’s classic.

    On Israel

    It’s errant to claim that the majority of Israelis will kill to prevent a one state solution while only “many” Palestinians wouldn’t consider it. The portion of Israelis that would support a one-state solution is far greater than the number of Palestinians who would support it – last figures I heard were around 35% of Israelis would support it, and 12% of Palestinians. It isn’t a hugely popular notion on either side.

    As for likelihood of such a thing, well, it’s about as likely as the regulating of the Bible and the Koran to the bin of “Hate Literature” – which would be a great start.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  07/21  at  02:02 PM
  29. And why wasn’t Liquid Sky in that bin?

    God what a truly wretched “there’s no there there” film.

    Back when I worked in the film distribution business in the early to mid eighties, I went to a screening of that film as my employer (Films, Incorporated) was interested in getting the film.

    I advised them against it. What a piece of crap so devoted to its own loucheness. It completely lost me when Anne Carlisle shouted “I’m killing people with my c@#$!”

    We left the theater singing Roberta Flack’s greatest hit, but replacing the word song with, well, you know what.

    During the two years I attended the University of Alabama in Huntsville before moving out west to SF State, I ran a film series and my biggest audience ever was for Pink Flamingos. Go figure.

    Great cult film, Michael: The Saragossa Manuscript.

    Good cult film

    Posted by Randy Paul  on  07/21  at  02:11 PM
  30. Cars don’t need 25 years to become classics. The ‘57 Chevy and the ‘64 1/2 Mustang were became classics relatively quickly and have endured. The ‘57 Chevy, in particular, achieved classic status within a few years of its introduction. The grotesque later Mustangs helped insure that the original ‘64 1/2 model would be a collectors item. The ugly Chrysler 300 has achieved cult status, but I suspect it won’t become a “cult classic”. Because there have been many manufacturers of cars over time, there have certainly are rather deep cults (I’m sure a Kaiser-Fraser owner could bore you for hours about those doomed postwar vehicles), but few cult classics (limited production sports models like the Studebaker Avanti and Hawk or the KKiaser Darren).

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  02:36 PM
  31. Rich: I stand corrected! I was thinking “vintage” (though vinatge racing only demands the car be 20 years old - I think).

    So, I guess I’m going for the classic=cool/nofty/status-worthy definition.

    Posted by Central Content Publisher  on  07/21  at  03:05 PM
  32. I don’t think there are any cult classics anymore - it’s a cult classic when the patriarchy tells you it’s a cult classic.

    But for the record, Repo Man?  Greatest.  Cult classic. Ever.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  03:20 PM
  33. Peter wrote:
    A movie shown at midnight is a cult classic. Therefore, The Royal Tenenbaums is a cult classic, and Withnail and I is not. At least around here.

    And Rich discussed the apparent demise of “King of Hearts” as a cult classic in his locale (he also mentions the ‘57 Chevy which attained immediate cultic praise for its tail fin stylings in contrast to all the other bizarre and strange 50’s UFO attempts). 

    I think originally cult classic film status was dependent upon variables of: geography, levels of education and experience, and size of the market niche in which the films were shown.  One of these, particularly in the 60’s and 70’s was whether films were shown at regular midnight screenings, or on special days/themes at “other than studio owned” theaters (think black and white 50’s Sci-fi versus badly colored prison girls films). 

    This all changed with video rental stores, release of DVD’s, and now downloading.  There are marketing networks that categorize “cult classic” to meet a generalized audience niche, while local video outlets use markers such as “employee favorites” within “cult classics” to highlight personal choice.  I suspect that the market categorization for “cult” and “cult classic” is dependent upon sales numbers of theater tickets to films that when originally released defied immediate categorizing.  An indie drama that was also a comedy based in fantastic geography that had huge audience numbers was more likely to be sold as “cult classic” than a smaller sold indie product.  This of course goes right back to personal favorities and choices.

    I love and own King of Hearts, as well as most of the other films mentioned.  That certainly doesn’t make them cult classics, just personal favorites.  I suppose sooner or later, we will find DVD’s on shelves with multiple sticky labels covering numerous niches as fewer and fewer films get rereleased or made available (Disney just this week cutting most of its film production as an example).  That will leave the “cult classic” niche open for DVD’s of TV series.

    As for the Middle East: the following website shows images that are some of the most hideous and darkest i have seen from any slaughter.  If you are even the least bit squeamish, don’t scrawl down at all, but just use your imagination, after you look at the first two pics of the cute little girls scrawling English messages on Israeli munitions (who thought these cute pics were productive abject propaganda is my question?).


    Posted by  on  07/21  at  03:20 PM
  34. A movie shown at midnight is a cult classic.

    As a representative sample, the web site of a local theater (The Oaks - in Oakmont of golfing fame) has a five-year list of their Moonlit Matinees (scroll down towards the bottom.) It has generally what I might expect, maybe a bit heavy on “big” Hollywood pics (This July for instance is Rocky Horror; Lebowski; Cry-Baby; Clue; Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Cuckoo’s Nest.) But it does illustrate the varied nature of what can show up in the category. And seeing something like Cuckoo’s Nest today at a midnight showing versus at a mainline cinema in 1975, is an interesting exercise in contextualization in and of itself.

    For an interesting look at some of the original movies targeted at the midnight/cult audience as well as the phenomenon itself, I recommend seeing Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream - covers El Topo; Eraserhead; Rocky Horror; Harder They Come; Pink Flaminoges and Night of the Living Dead.

    In the vein of King of Hearts, several other previous mainstays that seem to have “slipped” are The Magic Christian; 200 Motels and even Harold and Maude.

    The common element that I see, are movies in which there is some element which the viewers can at least perceive as being directed against some aspect of cultural hegemony. ... and a few, like Eraserhead and El Topo don’t need no stinking perception, they are objectively out of the mainstream.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  05:03 PM
  35. A skeptical take on “facilitated communication”:


    I hope it’s useful.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  05:16 PM
  36. I was wondering when someone would mention Eraserhead.  JP offers the understatement of the week, perhaps a much longer time frame:  Yes, Eraserhead IS objectively out of the mainstream (I haven’t seen El Topo).  The “dancing in the radiator scene” just about put me under.

    Posted by  on  07/21  at  05:44 PM
  37. If five years is good enough for baseball’s HOF, it’s good enough for me.

    Posted by Linkmeister  on  07/21  at  06:08 PM
  38. A quick hello to everyone from Syracuse before Jamie and I head off for some Indian food.  Yes, I’m very familiar with the critiques of Facilitated Communication.  But I thought it would be a good idea to check it out for myself.  Also, I’m very familiar with the critiques of Tony Judt’s position.  I’m in the two-states-for-now camp myself.  But I thought this essay was better than most of the stuff I’ve seen on the latest crisis.  And yes, I know lots of people hate Liquid Sky.  So what?  I’d still pay twenty bucks to see it with Repo Man.  Hell, I saw Eraserhead at the Waverly in 1979 on a double bill with Asparagus, folks.  And it was on a first date, too.  Tell you what.  Just to shoot for the trifecta here, I’m going to take Jamie to see Rosemary Crossley do Facilitated Communication with Tony Judt on a double bill with Liquid Sky.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/21  at  06:13 PM
  39. Michael, you certainly do have some of us scratching our heads.  Off the top of mine, two questions occur:
    1) From your accounts, Jamie seems to communicate quite well.  Do you expect that Rosemary Crossley’s perspective as the originator of FC will give her a particularly valuable insight into Jamie’s communication skills?  I’m not arguing, just asking.
    2) The world being large, I’ve not had a chance to learn much more about FC than that it has an evil reputation, as a tool for self-deception and a vehicle for much mischief.  I would expect Crossley to feel otherwise, and would like very much to hear her answer to the oft-leveled criticism that FC practitioners do not use objective controls to avoid fooling themselves.  I’d like even more to know what you think.

    Posted by jre  on  07/21  at  06:25 PM
  40. Note to self: refresh just before posting, or get left behind.  Godspeed, M&J, and please brief us upon your return.

    Posted by jre  on  07/21  at  06:28 PM
  41. The Judt essay is good, but I’m afraid he’s too optimistic on the degree of informedness among the U.S. public.  The problem is, unfortunately, not just the GOP and the HRC-Lieberman wing of the Dems.

    From a Washington Post article entitled, “Congress Is Giving Israel Vote of Confidence”:

    Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are rushing to offer unalloyed support for Israel’s offensive against Hezbollah fighters, reflecting a bipartisan desire to not only defend a key U.S. ally but also solidify long-term backing of Jewish voters and political donors in the United States, according to officials and strategists in both parties.

    With Israel intensifying its air and artillery attacks on Lebanon and warning of a protracted war, the Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution endorsing Israel’s military campaign and condemning Hezbollah and its two backers, Iran and Syria. A few hours earlier, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) delivered his most strident defense of Israel since the conflict erupted a week ago.
    The House is expected to pass a similarly pro-Israel resolution today.

    At the same time, several candidates in highly competitive races are touting their unequivocal backing of Israel. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), who faces a tough reelection race against a Jewish Democrat, introduced his own resolution charging that “both Syria and Iran are directly responsible for this act of terrorism and should be held accountable.” In Minnesota, Rep. Mark Kennedy, the Republican Senate candidate, is criticizing what his campaign calls Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar’s “deafening silence” on the conflict, calling her a “timid soul.” Klobuchar, however, has staked out a similarly pro-Israel position.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman punctuated the day with a speech to Christians United for Israel last night, declaring that “today, we are all Israelis.”

    Meanwhile, the first-among-equals of the netroots movement to “take our party back” says:

    There will never be peace unless both sides get tired of the fighting and start seeking an alternative.

    It’s clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting...

    This is in a post on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which the entire southern region of the country and all areas of Beirut in which many people live who support Hezbollah have been declared free-fire zones with civilians instructed to leave, while the Israeli air force has bombed the seaports, the airports, every major bridge, and many gas stations, cars, and trucks, as well as various other civilian infrastructure targets.  The declared goal is to make it impossible for the captured Israeli soldiers to be smuggled out; how the civilians are supposed to leave, then, escapes me.  Of course, one anonymous “very high ranking military officer” told the Jerusalem Post that the real goal is to “turn Lebanon back 20 years” in collective punishment for failing to restart their civil war in order to destroy Hezbollah.  All of this occuring of course in response, not to one of Hezbollah’s many acts of small-scale terrorism, but to their capture of an Israeli soldier in an attempt to obtain the release of Lebanese held captive since the end of the last Israeli invasion.

    To suggest that the issue here is one of a cycle of violence, of “both sides” (The governments of Israel and Lebanon?  The government of Israel and Hamas?  And Hezbollah?  Jews and Arabs?) wanting violence, is to display either utter ignorance or straightforward racism.  But in the mainstream political world, including not only the national media but supposedly alternative areas like the blogosphere, this is posed as the left side of the debate, versus a simple unquestioning support of Israel.

    Posted by Kalkin  on  07/21  at  06:32 PM
  42. I bought the Liquid Sky soundtrack on vinyl…

    Posted by Orange  on  07/21  at  07:58 PM
  43. Michael,

    I am curious about what you learn about FC in Syracuse. We have thought more than once about this for Charlie, despite the controversy surrounding it and autistic persons. On the other hand, at SDS last year, I was talked to for a long time by an FR proponent and practitioner whose suggestions for approaching Charlie’s toughest behaviors were, well, over-general.

    But then there is Sue Rubin’s story....

    Posted by Kristina  on  07/21  at  10:00 PM
  44. On Israel

    Israel has what it takes to lay any and all of her enemies to waste. It’s just a question of escalation and political will.

    Israel could end this current conflict by tonight if they wanted to, but they’d face international condemnation for reducing Lebanon- and Hezbollah- to glowing green shards of glass.

    Posted by Daniel B. Sherman  on  07/22  at  12:58 AM
  45. "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls” is a cult classic, but when did it become one? Made by a major studio (20th Century Fox) in the late 1960s, it was released as a sorta sequel to the original, was banned in Utah and condemned by the “LA Times,” and made a lot of money. It wasn’t until about five years later, when it started playing in rep houses in places like San Francisco, did its real reputation as an insanely bizarre parody of all things sacred in the entertainment world start to percolate. Now it’s just been released in a Criterion edition, for chrissake.

    As for Israel, I can’t abide to hear anybody even begin to justify their really sick, murderous behavior any more, just as I can’t listen to anyone try to justify the horror the United States has been perpetrating on Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re the frigging bad guys at the present moment, and it sickens me in too many ways to even think about.

    Posted by sfmike  on  07/22  at  02:17 AM
  46. I too disliked The Big Lebowksi. it seemed like several cult characters in search of a film. Then again, I have never been able to get all the way thru Barton Fink (and I’ve tried four times). I must say I prefer the Farrelly Brothers to the Cohens.

    While I’m here can I suggest that someone makes a documentary about recent political events and calls it Snakes on a Plame?

    Posted by saltydog  on  07/22  at  04:51 AM
  47. I must say I’m impressed. Michael blogs on the middle east and cult movies, and the first post is on facilitated communication.  Imagine, a communication therapy that’s more interesting (and, apparently, even more distrusted) than Israel…

    Israel’s problem is that the people on the other side of its borders hate it, and that’s not a problem that can be solved by changing the borders, inwards or outwards.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  10:54 AM
  48. Oh, Michael, no, no.

    Facilitated Communication has all the characteristics of a hustle:

    It targets people who are desperate.
    There is no evidence for its efficacy and much for its lack of efficacy, save for studies done by the method’s inventor.
    It resembles other hustles; in this case, like Ouija boards, where the agent of communication (the parent) unconciously guides the generation of words.

    I am not a new psychology treatment skeptic.  For instance, I think EMDR for trauma is excellent in many cases.  But I have yet to see anything about FC that would recommend it.

    People who work at specialty autism schools often use a broad range of approaches and technologies that improve functional communication--save yourself some heartache and start with them.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  12:20 PM
  49. JP Stormcrow offers a couple of nice examples (#34) of categorizing films, and also has me wonder: Is it required to have seen the original screen/theatrical release of those odd and weird films to later honor them as cult classics??

    El Topo notwithstanding (i liked it then and now, but it is pretty gross), there were many films during that period that have stood up to the tests, and ravages, of time.  It is unlikely that there are many my age who saw them then, and like them now.  Thus it seems that part of the “loss” of status for some of those older films and movies involves the size of the available niched audiences.  I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind paying $20 to see one of them though???

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  02:41 PM
  50. ” a growing majority of voters in Europe and elsewhere (young voters above all) simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behavior in another time and place. “

    Well, hmm.  It depends on what the “unacceptable” behavior is, surely?  Torturing people and bulldozing towns?  I agree that having been a victim provides no excuse.  Maintaining a Jewish state?  I think it is quite arguable that history justifies this behavior, which would be distinctly weird if history weren’t what it is.

    Yikes, captcha “although”

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  05:34 PM
  51. Ah, no responses to my comment on the U.S. consensus above.  What if I say that the Democratic Party complicity with Israeli atrocities is one of the reasons why I voted for Nader - twice?  That ought to get some reactions. :p

    (I think this makes me a troll.  Damn.  All I can say in my defense is that its true.)

    Israel’s problem is that the people on the other side of its borders hate it, and that’s not a problem that can be solved by changing the borders, inwards or outwards.

    Indeed.  It’s a problem that can only be solved by bombing those hateful people back into the Stone Age.  After all, everyone knows how noble savages are.  Return the Palestians, Lebanese, and whoever else has a historical grievance with Israel to the era of primitive communism, and they will become shiny happy people.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  07:40 PM
  52. And yes, I know lots of people hate Liquid Sky.  So what?  I’d still pay twenty bucks to see it with Repo Man.

    Well, I think I’d rather have Zell Miller give me an enema instead of having to sit through that dreck again. That;s how much I hate that film.

    What satisfaction and sense of vindication I can take is that the careers of the people involved in it went absolutely nowhere.

    Posted by Randy Paul  on  07/22  at  09:06 PM
  53. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1214946,00.html

    Thought you might like this article, Michael.  It’s a profile of a couple with Downs who get married.

    Posted by Laura  on  07/22  at  09:56 PM
  54. People who work at specialty autism schools often use a broad range of approaches and technologies that improve functional communication--save yourself some heartache and start with them

    calling all toasters, sir, my son Jamie isn’t autistic.  What I discovered yesterday is that he learns very quickly how to use word-recognition software, and that’s a good thing.  And yet, jre (comment 39), Jamie does not, in fact, communicate very well.  He’s quite clever, observant, and thoughtful, but his expressive delays are far more significant than any other aspect of his disability, which means (a) there’s a great deal of iceberg under the water and (b) there’s no harm trying to find out whether we can get any more of that iceberg above the water.  But Chris (47) is right:  FC can stir up more fights than an Israeli invasion of Lebanon.  So I’ll blog about Jamie’s visit with Rosemary Crossley in a future post, possibly late next week.

    Kalkin, thanks for giving us Bush! —ahem, only kidding this time.  I just didn’t want you to feel that you were going unheard here.  But w/r/t voting for Nader to protest the U.S. consensus on Israel, translating Middle East politics into American electoral politics is more complicated than that, is it not?  For among the voters who gave Bush his “victory” in Florida in 2000 (that is, among the voters whose votes were counted, and who were not barred from voting in the first place) were Arab-American voters, some of whom thought they’d get a better deal with Bush than with Gore.  Indeed, Sami Al-Arian actually claimed that his organizing (and his own vote for Bush) helped to make the difference.  I ain’t sayin’ that all of Israel’s critics are like unto Al-Arian, mind you.  Far from it!  Some of Israel’s critics are like me.  Some are like Tony Judt.  But I am saying that the politics of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend can have all kinds of unintended effects (see also U.S. foreign policy, Iran-Iraq, Afghanistan, 1980-1990).

    Posted by Michael  on  07/22  at  10:05 PM
  55. Thanks, Laura!  Amardeep Singh called it to my attention yesterday as well.  But I wouldn’t mind reading it every day for the rest of the year.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/22  at  10:28 PM
  56. my son Jamie isn’t autistic.


    Sorry for the misimplication.  I know that Jamie is not autistic--but autism is a disorder where poor communication is a major deficit, and can be even when intelligence is good.  Facilitated Communication, for instance, made its name by working with the families of autistic children.  And autistic children are all different, as much as any other members of a group.  The good autism schools I’ve seen are adaptive and inventive on issues of communication.  I’m not saying he should go to one--I’m just saying they have the greatest experience over a wide variety of difficult cases.  Talking to them is where I’d start, were I in a similar situation.

    I’m sure you’re right when you say there’s “more iceberg under the water.” I wish the best of luck to you and your family in gaining access.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  09:10 AM
  57. Michael,

    Have you seen this?


    Posted by Kristina  on  07/24  at  01:34 AM
  58. PS. My son is autistic and attends a school program utitlizing somewhat as described in comment #56. A Califone Language Master has been helping a lot.

    Posted by Kristina  on  07/24  at  01:37 AM
  59. It takes 8 years, not 5, but you can deduct one year for every significant actor who dies (2 for the director) in the interval.  So a really horrific accident can produce an instant cult classic.

    Posted by  on  07/24  at  04:44 AM
  60. Njorl,

    I take it Snakes on a Plane counts as a “horrific accident”?

    Posted by Crazy Little Thing  on  07/24  at  11:14 AM
  61. "But I am saying that the politics of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend can have all kinds of unintended effects”

    Since unlimited support for Israel is by no means my only problem with the Democrats, I’m not sure how voting Green is the politics of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend.  However, that phrase does seem to precisely characterize the politics of voting for Gore or Kerry to keep Bush out…

    What I’m doing seems to me more like the politics of my-friend-is-my-friend-even-if-she’ll-lose-and-my-enemy-is-my-enemy-even-if-I-have-slightly-worse-enemies-too, if you will.

    Arab-American voters who “thought they’d get a better deal with Bush than with Gore” were, indeed, ever-so-slightly more deluded than those who thought they’d get a better deal with Gore than with Bush.

    By the way, have you seen Alan Dershowitz’ latest?  I do believe he votes Democratic, although even I wouldn’t saddle the Democratic Party with his views.  Money quote, from the conclusion of the article:

    “Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others.”


    On the one hand, the extreme Orwellian resonance there can’t possibly be deliberate.  On the other hand, how could it be accidental?  Maybe the Israeli invasion has just excited him so much that he can’t help himself - in the climatic moment he just lets spill?  “Oh yes, so brutal, so brutal!”

    Posted by  on  07/24  at  06:33 PM
  62. That Dershowitz thing is pretty vile, Kalkin.  On this as on so much else, Digby nails it.

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  09:08 AM
  63. Test - going to try to do one of those html link dealios. Let’s see if I can make either of these work. (Attempting to link to the movie “Freeway").

    Bracket [methodhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116361/].

    href method

    Michael please delete if attepmts are no good. And, if you see the error, can you tell me what I’m doing wrong? I hate pasting those long links that break your comment margins.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  06:52 AM
  64. Looks good to me.  “Freeway,” huh?

    Posted by Michael  on  07/27  at  09:10 AM
  65. Oh hell yeah. You gotta check out Freeway”...but only after Jamie is asleep!

    Well, I’m glad I finally got the hyperlink thingy to work. Hopefully, I can recreate that success in the future.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  09:46 AM





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