And I Am Telling You He's Not Going Along With It Dept.: A little something to add to Karina Longworth's post, observing a swell of critical underwhelment around Dreamgirls: First, let me set the stage a little; amid the layoffs of critics nationwide, there are still three American critics so intransigent that each requires his own time-zone. The first is the San Diego Reader's Duncan Shepherd (here reminiscing about his friend and colleague Manny Farber). In Chicago, Jonathan Rosenbaum still turns out some of the most exacting and smart film criticism in the nation (and here he is comparing Bobby favorably to Robert Altman's Nashville. That's intransigence.) Last, and most intransigent of all: The incomparable Armond White of the NY Press. His paper is a scrappier and sleazier version of the now-beleaguered Village Voice, but the real reason to pick it up is to get White's unique, free-from-the-pack perspective. This can mean stuff that'll make you choke on your coffee. Take White's view that The Good Shepherd is so patriotic that "it defies the snarky, anti-American, self-hatred and nihilism and distrust of Bush-bashers, also known as Borat-mania." Considering the plot of The Good Shepherd, this interpretation is like recalling The Godfather as an Arthur Miller-esque story of a self-sacrificing businessman whose sons fail him. One could, if one was William F. Buckley or something, argue that the finale of De Niro's movie was rich in the kind of Roman classical virtue epitomized in the tragedy -- big fat spoiler alert! -- of the first consul Brutus, the subject of a David painting in the Louvre far more dramatic than The Good Shepherd. But there, I am not willing to go.
White's piece on Dreamgirls is a beaut. He accuses it of "typecasting black behavior into shrillness and frivolity." He cites the parody of the Dreamgirls theater-quaker "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in the movie Camp (and I'm embarassed here because I saw that minor indie movie, and I didn't remember the song was in it). Speaking of camp, he says that Dreamgirls reduces the phenomenal rise of the black sound in the 1960s as mere camp. In this he is right on the money again -- how can one dismiss a band as important as the Supremes as mere dress-up? White writes "What Dreamgirls gets wrong -- everything from the music to the history to the misunderstood cultural iconography -- is more damaging than any entertainment it offers." And lastly he wraps up by suggesting a rental of the film Sparkle in Dreamgirls' place. Have a look at this review; White goes where white critics fear to tread...
categories Cinematical