Monthly Archives: November 2011

On Being Quoted


It happened to me. After years of mocking quotewhore critics for using sensational prose to get their names and their publications names into movie trailers, it happened to me. My TIFF review for Bunraku was quoted on the back of the DVD.

From the box:

Bunraku blends spaghetti westerns, film noir and graphic novels to create a “visual masterpiece… unlike anything ever put to celluloid” (James Battaglia, The Film Stage).

Yes, my friends, I wrote those words. I did. I admit it. Reading them in the context of the box, I wanted to slap myself for it. “Unlike anything ever put to celluloid”? A “visual masterpiece”? Who do I think I am, Peter Travers!?

It bothered me. A lot. Those words are there for as long as the movie is there. People will pick it up and read it and say “Oh James Battaglia liked this, I will too.” Then if they don’t like it they’ll blame me. Maybe some of them will mail me angry letters. Maybe Woody Harrelson read it and said “James Battaglia is an idiot.”


I had to know if I was right to say those things or if waiting in the rain for an hour to see the movie at midnight with hundreds of excitable fans and the director and cast could have swayed my early opinion, so I watched the movie again.

It turns out I knew what I was talking about.

(Please read my review now if you haven’t. I’m not going to go through a plot synopsis in this post, and it might not make much sense if you don’t know anything about the movie.)

See, Bunraku really is “unlike anything ever put to celluloid.” Sure, it borrows themes liberally from dozens of other, (often better) classic movies. The thing is, none of those movies are anything like the entirety of Bunraku. It succeeds in taking bits and pieces from timeless cowboy and samurai stories and putting them together to create something completely new. Other critics are right when they say its characters and plot aren’t well developed. They’ve missed the point, though. Bunraku isn’t about details, it’s about retelling classic tales in a new way  and in that, the film is a wild success.

Visually, it’s also unlike any other movie I’ve seen. Some compare it to Sin City, but that’s not a fair comparison. Sin City used color and graphic novel conventions in interesting ways, and so does Bunraku, but Bunraku is ultimately staged in a big popup paper foldout world. There just isn’t another movie that looks like that. It really is a visual masterpiece unlike anything ever put to celluloid.

It’s also a long movie. Too long, probably. Here’s part of my quote in its original context:

The fact that there are two storylines to first connect and later resolve adds length to the movie that impatient viewers won’t appreciate, but I refuse to complain about a single frame of this visual masterpiece purely on the basis of time.

Yes, they pulled the words “visual masterpiece” from a sentence on how I don’t mind that the movie is too long.

Everything else I have to say about Bunraku is in my original review (on The Film Stage, the best film news site on the net).

And yes, I bought myself the Blu Ray. Because this is cool.

Why I Love Movies: Music

I’m taking a few minutes out of my Skyrim Weekend Marathon Play Session to draw what little attention I can to the excellent music of Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. I watched (and loved) the movie for the second time yesterday, and one arrangement in particular, Zbigniew Preisner‘s Lacrimosa, has been stuck in my head all day. The Tree of Life blu ray begins with a warning that the film is best played at full volume. Put your headphones on, crank the levels to 11, and play the track below.

In the context of the film, the requiem’s history and lyrics are also really cool. I wiki’d that for you.

Netflix Pics: ‘Winnebago Man’ is one of the best docs you’ve never heard of

If you don’t know about the Winnebago Man, stop what you’re doing, read no further, and watch the video clip below.

That, my friends, is Jack Rebney a.k.a. Winnebago Man a.k.a. The Angriest Man in the World. About 20 years ago, he starred in a Winnebago sales video, entertaining the crew so much between takes that they kept the cameras rolling and distributed VHS copies of the outtakes to their friends after the shoot. Those friends made copies and showed their friends, who made copies and showed their friends, who did the same and who’s friends did the same. In a time before YouTube, Winnebago Man became one of humanity’s earliest viral videos.

Where is the Winnebago Man now? How did his viral fame affect him? Is he really the angriest man in the world? Roughly two decades after the now infamous video went viral, documentary filmmaker Ben Steinbauer attempts to track down and interview Rebney to answer these questions and more in Winnebago Man.

But there’s a catch: Nobody’s been able to find Rebney since the video emerged years ago. A private detective finds only a string of old P.O. boxes, and a web search nets just one old classifieds listing – for a boat. Where is the Winnebago Man, what is he up to, why is he so secretive, and is he even alive?

No spoilers here, folks. All I’ll say is that Winnebago Man made me laugh – a lot – and managed to humanize viral video victims along the way. Check it out on Netflix next time you’re in a docu-comedy sorta mood.