19 January 2008

Ballast W/O explained (relative to forthcoming highbrow acclaim)

"A rock-ribbed sense of committed personal cinema and a core belief in people being able to pull themselves out of misery supports Ballast, an extraordinary debut by editor-writer-director Lance Hammer.

"Hammer quickly establishes himself with the only film he's ever made as a humanist artist...

"...is certain to command high respect as a film that operates by its principles [sic; there's no antecedent to that pronoun in the preceding unquoted text] and engages audiences' best human responses.

"Praising this well-intentioned mediocrity, with its mannered silences, omnipresent shakycam and artlessly inexpressive performances, makes me feel good about myself."

-- Robert Koehler, Variety

(You have to kinda squint to see the last one.)


Keith said...

The antecedent is "film" - the critic should have inserted an "own" before "principles."

md'a said...

Thanks, Keith, but I was on top of that. I just wanted to make it clear that this remark was in no way contextualized by earlier unquoted text. My actual point was that it's impossible for a movie not to operate by its [own] principles, since whatever principles it has are encoded within the movie itself, not some extratextual entity to which the film either succeeds or fails in living up to.

Anyway, I hadn't anticipated that David Hudson would pick up this snide remark, which was really meant for friends and longtime readers familiar with my antipathy for the critical notion that humanism is per se laudable. My Sundance coverage should start appearing on Screengrab soon, and I'll be writing something a tad more considered on Ballast.

Keith said...

Oh, I'm sure you were on top of it, but it wasn't conveyed that clearly - what the critic wrote wasn't an incomplete statement as might have been inferred, it was just in your estimation an indefensible one. But clearly there is an antecedent for that pronoun "its", and that's what threw me in your "sic" explanation.

Now, I have seen BALLAST in its entirety, and while I understand it's not going to wow most folks, it's no disaster, and I wasn't ever compelled to walk out - it in fact improved through its running time, I thought. I certainly can understand why you walked out of it, but in this case that's more an endorsement than an indictment.

Frankly, thought, I'm curious as to why you fled THE WACKNESS and FROZEN RIVER, neither of which I was compelled to pursue at Sundance, even after they won the audience and jury prizes, respectively. Did they suffer from the "too much heart, not enough heat" bug that apparently you believed plagued BALLAST?