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Welcome once again, my knowledge-hungry champions of the Art of Film! This last month has been an exhausting whirlwind for me of campaigning and ducking reporters. It has surely been harder on my family than on me. And hardest of all probably on my tireless volunteers. I must say, I honestly didn't see this Bush win coming. And I had never heard of John Kerry before his concession speech! I was too busy on the campaign trail, mingling with my "peeps" and, of course, with my people, too.

I actually worked a little harder this time and I think my speeches and off-the-cuff remarks were always very well received but I guess that no amount of positive coverage or even the tremendous momentum we built up as we crossed this magnificent continent of America was enough, in the end, to overcome the hurdle of not being officially on the ballot. Now, I'm not sure what the law is on the contributions--if I have to return the money or if I can roll it over into next week's elections or the week after, etc. If you're one of those donors affected, I will check it out shortly and get back to you very soon.

I am exhausted, too, because I have contracted a rare form of the West Nile Virus, the South Nile Virus (I haven't been to the doctor for an actual diagnosis. I just started feeling bad like I was Ethiopian or something.) But, take heart, I was not too unwell to sneak into a recent advance screening.

I feel compelled, however, to interrupt my discursive narrative at this point and acknowledge the tremendous amount of attention my humble little column has been receiving and the growing volume of email it has engendered. First time pilgrims to Film Qua Film might notice I have a unique writing style which defies typification as to whether or not that which I am writing is true or completely made up. This demanding writing technique is called "Embellished Truthifaction" or, more properly, "Eumorphic Dissembly" except when speaking informally in which case you might hear it referred to as "Amplified Verifalsitude," but this is a misnomer.

As far as I am able to determine, I am the only writer living or dead who has ever taken this literary device seriously which I, personally, call "Ramping the Herd" or "surreal exaction" but often simply "supraexplicational inditition." (It's not such a difficult style to master; One simply leaves one's Ritalin at home and waits for the folie.)

Recently, I have been receiving rather harsh criticism from people for whom their time is valuable. May I say to those of you who are left with a feeling of animus toward me after reading my reviews, maybe the problem is you. Have you ever stopped to consider that? No, of course not, because you never stop. Time is too precious. Still, if you're reading this and you have an Internet connection, Mr. Smarty-Pants, you might do a little research, and find that I actually really did run for U.S. Congress here in California in 1982. You might also find that my platform issue was to prevent the conversion of our classy and historical Pounds System into Kilograms. Or worse, Stones, which is the punishment for many crimes in other countries practicing Shari`ah Law besides our own.

And Speaking of Oliver Stone, let's not right away. Let us speak about Film:

Film, The Medium versus Film, The Art.

I often feel like the HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick's seminal work, "2001 Things To Do With A Computer." (I'm joking of course. I know full well that "2001 Things To Do With A Computer" was written by Stanley Trum-Bull, that Seminole Piece-of-Work. And frankly, when it only took him to "Thing #5" to get to "stack it on top of the empty beer bottles in the corner of my trailer" I lost interest. It's widely believed that if he had ever lived to see his people building and managing the beautiful and magnificent casinos that are their livelihood today, he might have finished his second novel, "An Additional 53 Things To Do With Your Computer That I Didn't Think Of Originally." Alas, it is the world's loss.)

But what I mean about feeling like the HAL 9000 is that I feel as if I am a computer programmed for a mission to Saturn to discover the reason why a monolith beamed a signal there when it was uncovered on the Moon who has become friends with the astronauts and yet my orders are to keep information from them causing me to suffer a paranoid nervous breakdown as my feelings of friendship conflict with the necessity to keep the truth from them revealing that I am not just an unfeeling machine but have developed a truly independent consciousness with real emotions just like a human being. And who among us has not, at one time or another, killed someone we loved? But, I ask you, if I were unable to overcome my program to keep secrets from my friends, can we really say I have "Free Will?" And if I don't have "Free Will," am I truly a "human being?" A "living" being to be sure, but "human?" And do you think this will be a smart defense? It's a difficult question. And it is a place that I, for one, do not intend to go.

And by all of that I mean, I don't think I'll ever be a real boy. And by that I mean, perhaps my desultory-with-alarming-alacrity style of writing and thinking (which is referred to in "Sweet Willy's Fast Grammar Guide to Grammar, Third Edition" as "Prose Tangents" or "Wiggle Toes" but which I have since come to discover is actually called "Irrecoverable Dynamic Ellipsis," in the "hard" sciences or, if used as in a literary form, "Tangential Orthographic Poetrometry" but which I have heard referred to, probably mistakenly, as "Saint Vitus Dance") may be the result of me writing this column with two conflicting purposes.

I call this "Transitory Divergent Emendation with or without Thematic Emancipation."® Put simply, as an assistant to one of the 20th century's greatest film theorists in the last years of his life, Slavko Vorkapich, a man who discovered and meticulously codified a complete set of rules for Film Grammar, I want to share with you some of his theories and some of mine that are guaranteed to turn you all into more sophisticated film viewers. Not only will you come to enjoy films more, but you will know exactly why you are enjoying them and be able to defend that position to reporters. However, my mandate here, handed down to me in the hallowed cyber-hallways of Modern Mirth by a gentleman who looked very much like our publisher but was much taller, is to use as little bandwidth as possible. I took him to mean, no colored charts or graphs, if I have slides they must pertain to the film I am reviewing and I have to have all releases in order, no singing after 9pm, no putting comforters or blankets in the machines and I must go to the bathroom before I get here because I am not allowed to use the Modern Mirth facilities.

And so I devised my "Insta-Reviews™" and "Insta-Impressions™"

The kind people who manufacture Modern Mirth for us each month are working closely with my staff to come up with a way I might be able to satisfy both of my competing impulses: One, to pass on to you that which I have learned at Slavko Vorkapich's knee and from a lifetime of watching, analyzing and making movies and, two, the "get it quick while you can hot off the presses," instantaneous analysis of the latest films. Perhaps when that day comes, these introductions will contain less of what "McManus's Writing For Success Through Writing" alliterally calls "Motleying Metaphor Metamorphoses." For now, though, I must be content to offer you only the latter proposition. But know this: My Quick Takes ( ™?) on a film are like no other. And they are no mere trifles.

My patented Insta-Impressions™ and Insta-Reviews™ are the Haiku of Film Criticism.

And by that I mean, they are to Film Criticism what Hai Karate is to your face. Simply splash it on, rinse, repeat. And by that I mean, when your time is precious to you, you don't want to waste it sitting in a theater watching a bad movie. But if your time is so terribly precious as that, you also don't want to waste it reading a review, sifting through the name-dropping and elitist references to finally arrive at some sort of equivocation on the part of the reviewer because even though "The Dreamers," for example, is a Marxist piece of crap, it's by Bertolucci and who, anymore, has the intellectual honesty and/or courage to criticize a genius like Bertolucci? Certainly not I.

It would be nice to have a film expert -- Someone conversant in the history of film as well as its technical subtleties. Someone versed in literature and critical studies, philosophy, music and art. Someone who can see a film and instantly perceive the subtle nuance of character, the interrelations and, having dissected that out, be able to separate it from the writer and director's intent. Someone able to remove the director's overlay, thoroughly analyze it and put it back again. Someone who can sit through the film for you (often several times by accident) and cut right to the chase: Yes, there is full frontal nudity in Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" but you don't buy for a minute that she's underage. Or that she's even really a "she" for that matter. (Unless I am once again confusing her with the fascinating young actor who plays the male lead, which I do with alarmingly too much regularity. But still, he didn't seem to be underage either, really. And if I had no penis, I sure as Hell wouldn't do full frontal nudity! It wasn't even in Italian.)

But even that much of a concise and cunning evaluation may be too engaging for the "Viewer-on-the-go." You want to get to the meat...

OK. Sorry. I just got it.

What I mean to say is, you want an "easy to remember," poetic description that can at once give you a sense of the quality of the film but also resonate deeply in sync with the tone of the work, illuminating subtext and character. A work of art in itself. And that, my children, is what I give you.

As I regard my life in retrospect, I now see that I have been honing this unique gift since I was a toddler. But in my early years there was no room for genius. No. I was appreciated for being gifted but the rule was always: "No Presents!"

And now, approaching the November 7th Modern Mirth Deadline of my life, I'd like to give something back.

Let's dispense with plot description. Let's dispense with nods to the actors, directors and producers, hoping in vain that they'll invite us on another junket in spite of the Pinot debacle. Let me reveal the greatest "spoiler" of them all. Let me use my finely honed perceptions, my years of experience and my gift with the written word to convey to you my "INSTA-REVIEW™" of Oliver Stone's "Alexander the Great:"

Alexander the Great ... Alexander the Poop


©2004 by Jeff Mandel

The title Film Qua Film and this article's entire contents are copyrighted ©2004 by Jeff Mandel however, due to lack of any intellectual content whatsoever, this article and excerpts may be copied copiously and freely as long as you include the proper attribution. And if you do find some use for this column, please let my boss know about it soon as there is a big money bet riding on it. Well, "big" by my standards anyway.

This copyright notice and the one above this one are also ©2004 by Jeff Mandel but are not policed as stringently.

©2004 by Jeff Mandel

(The law says we have to put this one here, too, if we intend the above copyright notice to be copyrighted.)

©2004 by Jeff Mandel