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Wanker of the Day

[ 123 ] December 6, 2012 |

Bret Easton Ellis.

Yes, now that we’re letting the hot wimmens direct films, American meritocracy is over. I can’t believe we would allow The Hurt Locker to degrade a Best Picture award that should be reserved for true totems of artistic excellence like Crash, Forrest Gump, and Chicago, all of which had directors with the right genitalia and I’m not sure if they’re attractive or not.

Comments (123)

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  1. Bret Easton Ellis is talking about someone being overrated? Gotta love that. But really, it’s a sign that you’re a great author when every single film adaption of one of your books is better than the actual book itself.

    • CaptBackslap says:

      This is commonly known as Puzo Syndrome.

    • Captain Splendid says:

      Bret Easton Ellis is talking about someone being overrated?

      Works for me: He knows his own kind!

      On a more serious note, while I disagree with his methods, I agree with his conclusion.

    • In any event, Bigelow has been bringing it ever since the late ’80s. Near Dark, her first, is just a brilliant movie, and this is coming from someone who is not inclined to like zombie/vampire movies. But that movie takes a pretty different spin on those genres–it’s both, and neither. And really morally ambiguous and creepy. Highly recommended.

      • Hogan says:

        Seconded.

        • partisan says:

          I actually have to disagree. If you are the kind of vampire who is killed by sunlight, as “Near Dark”‘s vampires are, you would think that (a) you’d have a precise idea of when the sun came up and (b) you’d live somewhere where it is not always extremely sunny and cloudless, like the American south west.

          • Spud says:

            But its got early Bill Paxton. Bill Paxton makes every movie he’s in at least watchable.

            Besides, redneck vampires are a cool concept.

          • njorl says:

            When you live hundreds of years, mildew is a major concern.

          • Halloween Jack says:

            Trying to apply practical considerations to stories that feature creatures that are damaged by sunlight but absolutely no other source of light, no matter how bright, is a mug’s game. (If it’s the ultraviolet in sunlight, then just slap on the heaviest sunscreen you can find, duh.) It’s really all about the atmosphere, and Near Dark‘s shambolic troupe of bloodsuckers (most of whom were already known for taking part in an awesome showdown with xenomorphs), traveling around that bleak, blasted landscape where their victims might not be discovered for some time, are an effective antidote for any number of glitterpires.

          • Hogan says:

            The Flying Snowman: everybody has one.

    • avoidswork says:

      He’s a d-bag.

      Semi-recently, he commented that Matt Bomer (USA’s White Collar, Magic Mike) couldn’t play Christian Grey in an adaptation of “50 Shades of Grey” because he’s gay. Right. Because a gay guy can’t play a sexualized leading man in a Hollywood film…

      And now, Ms. Bigelow is just too darn pretty and that overshadows her actual directorial skills.

      Regardless of any veracity to his claim about Bigelow, if Hollywood is the topic of conversation, then many of us could go off regarding “overrated” persons in front of and behind the cameras.

  2. Sherm says:

    Then why didn’t Point Break get Best Picture?

  3. John F says:

    Not to sound like a sexist pig, but
    she’s 61????
    seriously?
    really?
    wow

    I’m 46 and look way older than her

  4. Warren Terra says:

    She’s attractive, and she doesn’t appear anything like her reported age – but “hot”, by Hollywood standards? Ah, crap, I’m getting sucked into his game, which is dumb.

    I don’t see a lot of films, and I so maybe I can’t judge her oeuvre; heaven knows, I know nothing about film direction. IMDB says she’s done a lot of work, most of which I’m not familiar with. But I did see Hurt Locker, and it was gripping. So far as I could tell, it deserved the praise it got, for reasons having nothing to do with the species of its director, let alone their gender. And I loved Strange Days, which apparently wasn’t so much of a critical success.

    • Rarely Posts says:

      Yeah, Strange Days is surprisingly good/trashy/engaging and yet totally unappreciated. I’ve always wondered why it never got incorporated into the Scifi cannon.

      • Stag Party Palin says:

        Probably the Big Bang theory.

        • Bitter Scribe says:

          Or Ralph Fiennes’ lousy American accent.

          • Rarely Posts says:

            Well, Ralph Fiennes amazing hotness basically cancels every other criticism of him out.

            • Spud says:

              Am I the only one bummed out that the “Titans” films represent a defacto Schindler’s List reunion of Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson?

          • witless chum says:

            Do people really care about bad accents? Maybe because I grew up in the upper Midwest, it’s kinda all the same to me.

            • spencer says:

              Only when they’re bad enough to be both distracting and painful to listen to (cf. Costner, Kevin: “Robin Hood”).

              • njorl says:

                They should have cast Carey Elwes.

                Prince John: And why should the people listen to you?
                Robin Hood: Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.

            • mark f says:

              As a lifelong resident of Massachusettstan, I’m exhausted by the attempts at Boston accents in recent films. Even the actors from here don’t seem to get it right enough.

              • spencer says:

                I only lived in Boston for four years, and even I can tell that actors never get it quite right.

                It’s trickier than it sounds.

                • HMDK says:

                  Actually, it’s not. It’s just that all native Bostonians quack at the same frequency which their own ears somehow can’t pick up. Basically, there has been many good Boston accents. Bostonians are just terribly ashamed that they do indeed sound like that.

              • BigHank53 says:

                In The Perfect Storm, there was one actor who not only managed a North Shore accent, he achieved a Gloucester accent. Everyone else should have saved the effort and just used their plain speaking voice. It would have been less distracting.

                • The Dark Avenger says:

                  A good example of a Boston accent is when Laurence O’Donnell called out Tagg Romney on his show for Tagg’s comment about wanting to punch Obama in the face after one of the debates. He got emotional enough that he reverted to his childhood accent during his challenge, and it’s a pretty good example of a working-class(his father was a cop) Boston accent.

                  I’ve had the same thing happen with my speech, only I break out into Reformed Egyptian.

      • witless chum says:

        I think it probably bugs people to watch a movie that sorta posits the year 2000 as this epochal, meaningful change when they know it wasn’t. Harder to suspend disbelief for that than the virtual reality stuff. I saw it in the theater in 1995 on the night one of my childhood dogs died, so it’s not like that to me, but I imagine it was.

        Basically, the script is pretty clumsy and POV murder scenes squick some people out. And a lot of people hate Juliet Lewis like she was Jewel singing Ross Douthat columns. I actually like her, but I seem to be in the extreme minority.

        For me, Angela Bassett, Michael Wincott, Vincet Donofrio, William Fichtner, Richard Edson and Tom Sizemore all kick ass in this in parts of varying size.

      • Seconded. A damn fine film, with Angela Basset being the highlight. A nice Bigelow/Cameron collaboration (with Jay Cocks also contributing to the screenplay). Plus it had a bitchin’ soundtrack.

  5. Boots Day says:

    Did anyone even know what Kathryn Bigelow looked like until last year’s Oscar night? I mean, James Cameron did, but anyone else?

    • S_noe says:

      If you were this straight stoner film geek teenager (or one of his friends) in early 90s SoCal, you knew what she looked like. My cohort thought Point Break was, well, not Jesus, but John the Baptist or something. Pointing the way forward for American cinema as we approached the millennium!

      Then Reservoir Dogs came out and we lost touch with Ms. Bigelow. But she was a hero there for a while. Still have a soft spot for Strange Days.

      So, fuck Mr. Easton Ellis, in other words.

    • rea says:

      And how cool is it to win an Oscar for best director ahead of your ex-husband?

  6. Linnaeus says:

    Jay McInerney > Bret Easton Ellis

  7. We literally CANNOT WIN. We’re failures if we don’t adhere to arbitrary and often bizarre beauty standards and we’re cheats if we do. Seriously fucked up. FUCKED UP.

    But, hey, nevermind, sexism is over. No need for feminism anymore.

  8. Alex says:

    You left out Titanic, the best movie evAR!

  9. laura says:

    Dude’s objectionable in pretty much every way. He’s famously obsessed with his own childhood and his own sexuality. (His comment on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign was “reality check: it gets worse”, which is probably true if you’re a douche.) Basically he’s endlessly sentimental, albeit in a derivatively macho way, about HIMSELF. All while his schtick is telling other people to toughen up and not get offended when he insults them and/or dismisses their problems.

    • thusbloggedanderson says:

      Plus fantasizing about hooking up women’s breasts to car batteries.

      • laura says:

        Yes but

        [Bateman] was crazy the same way [I was]. He did not come out of me sitting down and wanting to write a grand sweeping indictment of yuppie culture. It initiated because of my own isolation and alienation at a point in my life. I was living like Patrick Bateman. I was slipping into a consumerist kind of void that was supposed to give me confidence and make me feel good about myself but just made me feel worse and worse and worse about myself.

        so all you feminazi pussies should just stop complaining. It’s about ME.

      • expatchad says:

        Questionable way to charge batteries…

        • ajay says:

          Questionable way to charge batteries…

          Well, normally the left nipple nut is used to regulate body temperature, while the right one picks up short-wave radio. But I’ve twiddled these for hours and I just can’t seem to get Jazz FM.

  10. S_noe says:

    To be fair to Mr. Easton Ellis: what would your Twitter look like if everyone who liked your writing outgrew it by the time they were 30, at the latest?

    I mean, Ayn Motherfucking Rand has an audience retention rate of at least a couple percent. But your BEE fans just come and go.

  11. Richard says:

    Why the hate for Chicago? You got a problem with musicals? I love Chicago

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I thought it was pretty meh, especially as a movie. Although it was certainly better than A Beautiful Mind.

      • Rarely Posts says:

        Personally, I think Chicago is really enjoyable.

        It was particularly good coming out in January 2003. The open, easy manipulation of the press in order to evade justice and cover up murder seemed almost like an intentional send-up of Bush II & Rove’s selling of the Iraq War. The movie seemed much deeper/more compelling in the context of that time. The press eating up all the flash and bang and glorying in the blood in the streets, while the innocent go to the gallows.

        I’ve re-watched it two or three times in the years since, and although I still think it’s quite enjoyable, it doesn’t have the same political salience that it seemed to at that time. Back then, it seemed to speak to the moment, whereas now it just seems like a fun movie.

    • McAllen says:

      I think Chicago has a problem that a lot of musicals have in that it’s lesser than the sum of its parts.

    • Warren Terra says:

      There’s the casting, for one. I really don’t rate Zellweger or Zeta-Jones, and I’m not Gere’s biggest fan, either.

  12. brandon says:

    Sorta seems like Slate is a natural home for Bret Easton Ellis, actually.

  13. Scott, you’re reading stuff about Bret Easton Ellis? You must be having one of those nothing really going on kind of days.

  14. Greg says:

    People who win Oscars always get a lot of attention for their follow ups, regardless of merit. Ocean’s Eleven had Oscar buzz, for fuck’s sake.

  15. JupiterPluvius says:

    I find Ellis’s “Pay attention to meeee!” Internet antics really sad. The whole business where he was starting fights on Twitter about his fancasting ideas for Fifty Shades of Grey, as if anyone in Hollywood would have let his dumb ass within a million miles of the hottest property available, made me seriously think he needed help.

    • Tybalt says:

      He was so desperate to land the Fifty Shades gig that his twitter feed was reading like a Gil Gunderson joke from The Simpsons,

      The teaser trailer for his next flick looks like it was made with iMovie.

  16. somosmuitos says:

    Well, as a heterosexual male, I will say there’s an intuition I have that’s similar to Ellis’, which is that attractive women somehow “have it easier”. But I think I know better than to treat that intuition as a truth rather than a reflection of my own awe of attractive women.

    • Bill Murray says:

      I believe Andy Richter covered this in the pilot for Andy Richter Controls the Universe

    • somosmuitos says:

      I should that, while there is evidence that attractive people in general, are more successful (Beauty Pays), I don’t think there’s a shred of sociology that demonstrates that attractive women are not subject to any less vulnerable structural sexism; perhaps they’re subject to even more. The cost of “attractiveness” itself is interesting in and of itself, as, for women, it involves substantially more cost (e.g. the makeup regime).

      • somosmuitos says:

        jeez, typos, sorry :(

        *I should add that, while there is evidence that attractive people in general, are more successful (Beauty Pays), I don’t think there’s a shred of sociology that demonstrates that attractive women are any less subject to vulnerable structural sexism.

    • Leeds man says:

      Well, as a heterosexual male, I will say there’s an intuition I have that’s similar to Ellis’, which is that attractive women somehow “have it easier”.

      As a heterosexual male, I don’t know how you come by that intuition. It’s easier for attractive women to get pawed, leered at, and maybe become models. Taken seriously? Not so much. Attractive males, on the other hand, generally have it made.

      • somosmuitos says:

        You’re 100% right, but the intuition is derived from the experiences of a shy nerd with limited social skills who’s generally intimidated by women (cf Orange Juice/Sebadoh lyrics).

        • Anonymous says:

          Then it’s not intuition you’re talking about. It’s self-pitying entitlement that you’re not banging the hot chicks you’ve been lead to believe you deserve, coupled with your apparent inability to distinguish individual women from an intimidating Monolith o’ Woman, with a dash of misplaced resentment because instead of learning how to speak and interact with people (“limited social skills”) you’ve placed a small minority of women on a pedestal and then decided it’s other people, and, specifically, those same attractive women who are to blame.

          That’s pretty much the textbook definition of nerd misogyny. All that’s missing is some snipe about vain cosplayers or ditzy gamers ruining it for the rest of the real men geeks.

          • njorl says:

            Way to smack down that introspective bastard. Who does he think he is, trying to understand his own irrational subconcious and use rationality to be a better person? Now let’s you and me go rip some prosthetic limbs off amputees! That’s just another form of lying.

          • Leeds man says:

            “Wanker of the Day” is not a competition, Anonymous.

          • Origami Isopod says:

            Anonymous got it 100% right, IMO. Those of us who have been around the feminist block are sick of the “waah what about the poor socially awkward nerds” shite.

            Hilarious that her astute observation upset three different commenters.

            • Leeds man says:

              “astute” doesn’t mean “pulling out of one’s arse”, or “coming to trite conclusions based on one’s ill-considered interpretation of a few words someone else writes”. No need to thank me, I’m glad to help.

              You seem to be confused about the meaning of “upset” as well. Can’t help you with that. Ask your mum.

              • Origami Isopod says:

                LOL. Won’t somebody think of the poor put-upon socially awkward menz? It’s so good of them to realize that women are people too, instead of just scary fucktoys who meanly refuse to sleep with them! Let’s all bake Somosmuitos a sheet of cookies for meeting a minimum standard of decency!

      • bradP says:

        As a heterosexual male, I don’t know how you come by that intuition. It’s easier for attractive women to get pawed, leered at, and maybe become models. Taken seriously? Not so much. Attractive males, on the other hand, generally have it made.

        Women in general, not just attractive women, have problems with not being taken seriously, and I’m not sure if being attractive improves one’s chances of being taken seriously or not.

        • JL says:

          In the sciences and engineering, it’s a detriment, though being otherwise has its own cost. My friends and I who are women scientists and engineers have noticed this for a longtime. If you’re conventionally attractive and femme, you’re seen as frivolous and probably less intelligent. If you’re not conventionally attractive and/or butch, you’re seen as someone who can be taken more seriously as a scientist, but also as a pitiable, repulsive, or bitchy freak.

          I suspect this is not unique to STEM, it’s just noticeable since there aren’t that many women in many fields of it to begin with.

          • bradP says:

            I can see that.

            It would not be surprising to learn that attractiveness could be detrimental in proportion to how male dominated a woman’s environment is.

          • ironic irony says:

            “If you’re conventionally attractive and femme, you’re seen as frivolous lazy and probably less intelligent sleeping with the first sergeant to get promoted.”

            Fixed your statement to apply to females in the military. At least from what I have personally seen.

      • Ed says:

        True, there are potential pitfalls in being a pretty woman. But I doubt any of those ladies would trade places with other women less-favored (who often receive some of the same unwelcome advances and encounter some of the same inconveniences, piggish guys not being known for their selectiveness). All women encounter obstacles based on sexism, but goodlooking people of either gender have an edge over everyone else.

    • greylocks says:

      Attractive people in general have a smoother path through life, but that’s beside the point.

      Ellis is engaging in a particularly sexist form of ad hominem, attacking the attractiveness (or lack thereof) of a successful woman instead of engaging in legitimate debate of her accomplishments.

  17. witless chum says:

    I haven’t actually seen anything she’s made this century, but Point Break was a lot of fun and Strange Days was at least really, really well shot.

    • Emily says:

      I happened to watch K-19: The Widowmaker just yesterday. It’s pretty damn gripping.

      The title is terrible, but the film itself is pretty tight. It’s basically a horror-thriller in a submarine, where the enemy is the reactor with the busted cooling system.

  18. djangermats says:

    File next to ‘Obama only won because he’s black’ in the stack of statements that only sound non-bigoted if you are a huge bigot.

  19. Bitter Scribe says:

    Less Than Zero was one of the most unreadable pieces of crap I’ve ever encountered.

  20. Halloween Jack says:

    BEE is being a shitbird on Twitter? Whoa, is it Friday already?

    • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

      Sorry for the length of quote (it is DFW after all and the previous paragraph provides the context) but it seems like this may be the source of BEE’s Wallace-trashing:

      LM: I agree with what you said in “Westward” about serious art having to engage a range of experiences; it can be merely “metafictional,” for example it has to deal with the world outside the page and variously so. How would you contrast your efforts in this regard versus those involved in most television or most popular fiction?

      DFW:This might be one way to start talking about differences between the early postmodern writers of the fifties and sixties and their contemporary descendants. When you read that quotation from “Westward” just now, it sounded to me like a covert digest of my biggest weaknesses as a writer. One is that I have a grossly sentimental affection for gags, for stuff that’s nothing but funny, and which I sometimes stick in for no other reason than funniness. Another’s that I have a problem sometimes with concision, communicating only what needs to be said in a brisk efficient way that doesn’t call attention to itself. It’d be pathetic for me to blame the exterior for my own deficiencies, but it still seems to me that both of these problems are traceable to this schizogenic experience I had growing up, being bookish and reading a lot, on the one hand, watching grotesque amounts of TV, on the other. Because I liked to read, I probably didn’t watch quite as much TV as my friends, but I still got my daily megadose, believe me. And I think it’s impossible to spend that many slack-jawed, spittle-chinned, formative hours in front of commercial art without internalizing the idea that one of the main goals of art is simply to “entertain,” give people sheer pleasure. Except to what end, this pleasure-giving? Because, of course, TV’s “real” agenda is to be “liked,” because if you like what you’re seeing, you’ll stay tuned. TV is completely unabashed about this; it’s its sole raison. And sometimes when I look at my own stuff I feel like I absorbed too much of this raison. I’ll catch myself thinking up gags or trying formal stunt-pilotry and see that none of this stuff is really in the service of the story itself; it’s serving the rather darker purpose of communicating to the reader “Hey! Look at me! Have a look at what a good writer I am! Like me!”

      Now, to an extent there’s no way to escape this altogether, because an author needs to demonstrate some sort of skill or merit so that the reader will trust her. There’s some weird, delicate, I-trust-you-not-to fuck-up-on-me relationship between the reader and writer, and both have to sustain it. But there’s an unignorable line between demonstrating skill and charm to gain trust for the story vs. simple showing off. It can become an exercise in trying to get the reader to like and admire you instead of an exercise in creative art. I think TV promulgates the idea that good art is just art which makes people like and depend on the vehicle that brings them the art. This seems like a poisonous lesson for a would-be artist to grow up with. And one consequence is that if the artist is excessively dependent on simply being “liked,” so that her true end isn’t in the work but in a certain audience’s good opinion, she is going to develop a terrific hostility to that audience, simply because she has given all her power away to them. It’s the familiar love-hate syndrome of seduction: “I don’t really care what it is I say, I care only that you like it. But since your good opinion is the sole arbitrator of my success and worth, you have tremendous power over me, and I fear you and hate you for it.” This dynamic isn’t exclusive to art. But I often think I can see it in myself and in other young writers, this desperate desire to please coupled with a kind of hostility to the reader.

      LM: In your own case, how does this hostility manifest itself?

      DFW: Oh, not always, but sometimes in the form of sentences that are syntactically not incorrect but still a real bitch to read. Or bludgeoning the reader with data. Or devoting a lot of energy to creating expectations and then taking pleasure in disappointing them. You can see this clearly in something like Ellis’s “American Psycho”: it panders shamelessly to the audience’s sadism for a while, but by the end it’s clear that the sadism’s real object is the reader herself.

      LM: But at least in the case of “American Psycho” I felt there was something more than just this desire to inflict pain—or that Ellis was being cruel the way you said serious artists need to be willing to be.

      DFW: You’re just displaying the sort of cynicism that lets readers be manipulated by bad writing. I think it’s a kind of black cynicism about today’s world that Ellis and certain others depend on for their readership. Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are simply lists of brand-name consumer products. Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. You can defend “Psycho” as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that.

      FWIW, I find even Wallace’s worst, decades-old interviews to be better reading than anything by Ellis.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        If BEE has a mad-on for DFW because of that interview passage, in which DFW criticizes BEE in the course of criticizing himself (and, IMO, with absolutely dead-on accuracy about both American Psycho and BEE’s work in general), then BEE deserves every bad thing that’s ever been written about him.

  21. MosesZD says:

    It’s a stupid thing to say, but the truth is being ‘good looking’ and tall are very helpful in raising the perceptions of others regarding one’s work and perceived worth. Same with having black or dark brown hair.

    So, yeah, rant all you want. But it’s hard-wired into humanity. Being tall. Being good looking. Those things help you.

  22. Paul_D says:

    Do you like Huey Lewis and The News, Brett?

  23. Gabriel Ratchet says:

    I’m guessing Mr Ellis is still smarting over the fact that the movie version of American Psycho — also directed by a woman — is more fondly remembered and critically acclaimed (and, let’s face it, better all around) than the book it was based on.

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