Jose Sinclair – Movie Critic Interviews

Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

I’m proud to welcome Lawrence Jose Sinclair to the latest edition of Critical Juncture, a weekly feature where we discuss the art of filmmaking with movie bloggers and critics from across the Internet.  Jose has plenty of experience to draw from when answering these questions, as he received his BFA in painting and drawing at the University of Georgia in 1972.  While there, he lived in the house of professor and experimental short filmmaker James Herbert, a visionary whose works (including the first music videos for REM) are now enshrined in the film archives at the Museum of Modern Art.  He also grew up with lifetime friend and Emmy-winning documentary film editor Charlton McMillan, who is married to Emmy-winning producer-director Shari Cookson (Living Dolls, The Memory Loss Tapes). If you’re in the mood for something other than film, be sure to check out Jose Sinclair’s works of art.  And when you’re ready to read about movies, he’s got two blogs that’ll keep you entertained for hours on end.  The first, World’s Best Films, includes plenty of polls and lists, while 1000 DVDs is reserved for high-quality film reviews.

Now that you know a little bit more about Lawrence Jose Sinclair, let’s jump right in and see how he responded to our questions.

jose-sinclair

Only Good Movies:  What’s the first movie that you remember seeing?
Jose Sinclair:  My granny raised me on Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts, still hilarious today, and I believe the first racial integration in the nation.  I remember watching a 30’s film with her on tv around age four, a good dog story called The Biscuit Eater.  I’ve since seen about 10,000 more, 80% of which are unfortunately a waste of time.

OGM:  What’s the most recent movie you’ve seen?
JS:  Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, a riveting war film about a bomb squad in Iraq; yet it is somehow dispassionate and non-emotional.  I much preferred the Iraqi-Irani film Turtles Can Fly, filmed with actual Kurdish war orphans, who defused land mines then sold them to black marketers.  An armless kid did this with his teeth, and he also took care of a blind orphan baby, saying simply that someone has to.  That film has passion and heart and is more inspiring than any western war film.

OGM:  Is there a particular film which you feel is criminally underrated?
JS:  Like many others, I’d have to mention several here.  Zhang Yimou’s Hero is a great action film and a beautiful story.  I can’t fathom why Babe is not on all-time great film lists, it’s my favorite kid’s film.  I think Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding to be a neglected drama classic with terrific acting.  My fave Coen Brothers’ film is Raising Arizona, not only hilarious but also innovative cinematically.  I was very puzzled by Ebert’s comment that “people don’t talk like this”, when they definitely do talk this way in states I’ve lived in from Georgia to Nevada.  Turtles Can Fly should be ranked on all polls.

OGM:  Which director do you feel has turned out the best overall body of work?
JS:  Stanley Kubrick has made the greatest number of all-time classics, and never a bad film; he’s my favorite because of 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and Dr. Strangelove.  The same can be said of master storyteller William Wyler, whose overall Oscar count is likely to remain unbroken; 13 of his films got best picture nods.  Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan, Martin Scorsese, Zhang Yimou, and Michael Powell never made a bad film.  Of the newer directors, Darren Aronofsky is brilliant, and has no clunkers; same with Christopher Nolan. 

OGM:  From an artistic standpoint, which film do you think is most important?
JS:  Several come to mind.  The silent Russian film Man with the Movie Camera (1929), which still looks modern 80 years later; and Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), which won the only Oscar given for Artistic Film.  Riefenstahl’s frightening Triumph of the Will and Olympia are documentary masterpieces.  Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai was a breakthrough in great action films.  Antonioni’s L’avventura is a b/w visual masterpiece that was the first to tell a story with images and almost no dialogue.  2001: A Space Odyssey for science fiction, it thankfully changed forever the way the genre looks, from schlocky to realistic. 

OGM:  All artsy considerations aside, which movie is your personal favorite?
JS:  As a visual artist, I prefer visually oriented films.  Currently I think the greatest combination of story, cinematography, and sound (and therefore my favorite) is Zhang Yimou’s Hero, the highest grossing Chinese film in history, yet neglected in the west and never present on all-time film polls.  Lawrence of Arabia always entrances me; I’ve never felt as transported in any other film in the theater.  The most moving films for me are Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, with De Sica’s Umberto D close behind.  I love the heart and soul of Babe, best kid’s film ever.  Mindless guilty pleasures?  City of God, Aliens, The Road Warrior, Raising Arizona, Godfather II, Close Encounters, Apocalypse Now, Singin in the Rain.

OGM:  In your opinion, which film is entirely overrated? 
JS:  Gone With the Wind, easily – an overlong soap opera (as was the book); I actually fell asleep in the theater on it’s re-release.  It’s only memorable scene was the silent shot of the wounded at the train depot.  I know this is blasphemous, as I grew up in Georgia; my mom, who attended the premiere in Atlanta, is now squirming in her grave.  Having three directors shows in its uneven styles and lack of pace and coherence.  It’s one plus is beautiful color.  I’m baffled by the high rankings of both Star Wars (Empire was better sf) and Pulp Fiction (Chungking Express, which inspired it, is far more artistic).

OGM:  Have you ever walked out of the theatre during a film? If so, what movie was playing? 
JS:  My only walkout was The Hills Have Eyes, perfectly awful to me, on a double-feature bill with Halloween – but then I don’t admire horror films whatsoever; there’s only so many ways you can kill people, or cook a hamburger, which I find more rewarding.  To me, good horror is Laughton’s Night of the Hunter or Silence of the Lambs (or Aliens), which are really homicidal suspense mysteries and not traditional horror.  I did fall asleep during the Burton-Taylor Cleopatra and should have walked out.

OGM:  In your mind, what’s the ultimate goal of a movie critic? 
JS:  I really don’t like the complete story synopsis reviews that give away the film’s surprises; let the audience discover these for themselves. A good critic will clue people in on whether they may want to view something, and give comparisons to other films or that director’s other work.  The best critics will introduce us to obscure films we might otherwise overlook, or give us a library of great films, such as the post-war Italian realism of Fellini, De Sica, and Antonioni.  I’d rather read critical essays about directors, movements or genres after seeing the films.

OGM:  Time to look into the future. Do you predict any major changes for the movie industry over the next 25 years?
JS:  If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t 3-D tried in the 60’s, and isn’t real 3-D called theater?  One innovation I like on DVD is various camera angles selectable by viewers on live music concerts, like the Police Synchronicity concert directed by Godley and Crème.  I like the trend toward longer director’s cuts on dvd’s, and including alternate endings.  Profitability and product tie-ins are killing innovation; films are now giant enterprise products of major corporations, allowing video games and toys to dictate cinematic decisions.  I also hate remakes, especially of modern films  (Bad News Bears), and those of good foreign films like Bier’s Brothers (hey, learn to read subtitles); and tv films like Sex in the City.  These trends should be publicly executed on reality tv. 

OGM:  Here’s another chance to predict the future. Name a relatively unknown actor or actress who’ll be a huge star within five years. 
JS:  Saoirse Ronan dazzled me in Atonement, though she may already be a star thanks to The Lovely Bones.  Amanda Seyfried from producer Tom Hanks’ cable hit Big Love, who starred in Mamma Mia and proved that she can actually sing and isn’t just another young beauty, should be a big star within five years.  The kid that played Satellite in Turtles Can Fly, Soran Ebrahim, has more screen charisma than any young western actor; in the U.S. he’d be a big tv star.

OGM:  Besides yourself, who’s your favorite movie critic to read?
JS: I’m not a bona-fide critic, I’m more of a film historian, more interested in lists and polls of great films by genre, director, and country.  My reviews are never of bad films, and are short intros that never reveal the plot. I enjoy the entertaining Roger Ebert, and the erudite John Simon, but in all honesty I read more director interviews than critics; I like the creative minds more than the critical ones.  I like to see a critical consensus from the group as a whole, such as critics polls.  I read a lot of individual reviews at IMDB, especially foreigners talking about their country’s films – you learn a lot from them that you don’t read in the U.S.  I also check out online polls at They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, Metacritic, and The Auteurs rankings based on 100,000 viewers like us.  I’ve compiled a consensus of all the online polls I could find for my own Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Internet, which I intend to update annually.

Thanks so much to Jose Sinclair for his willingness to share his thoughts on cinema with us.  Be sure to visit his websites, and join us again next week for another thrilling edition of Critical Juncture.  Until next time…

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 at 9:23 am and is filed under Movie Critic Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Jose Sinclair – Movie Critic Interviews”

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January 23, 2010

Jose Sinclair

One film I sadly neglected to mention is CINEMA PARADISO (1988), in Italian from director Guiseppe Tournatore about the power of film to allow us to both escape and transform our lives.. winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar and a Special Jury Prize at Cannes.. This film, more than any other, shows us the magic and power of films and their effect on our lives.

January 25, 2010

Steve

Rock on Jman!!!!!
Excellent stuff dude!!!!!!

January 26, 2010

Shubhajit Lahiri

Thanks for getting across to us Jose Sinclair – the man behind the wonderful blog 1000 DVDs to See, a site that I like visiting. Great interview!!!

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