Mailbox: 10.07.09-10.13.09

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Roller Derby Bomber

I have just read this week’s New York Press, especially Linnea Covington’s film review of Whip It (“Babes & Bruises,” Sept. 30-Oct. 6), the roller derby comedy directed by Drew Barrymore and starring Ellen Page.

While I really enjoyed Ms. Covington’s review of the film, I caught a serious error in it. According to Ms. Covington’s review of the film, and I quote, “But even though roller derby has become more popular in the last decade, Whip It is the first time the sport got its due on the big screen.”

That’s not correct, because before Whip It was made, there were two Hollywood films about roller derby made in the early 1970s when the sport was in all its glory and at its maximum popularity. Those two films were Kansas City Bomber (1972) starring Raquel Welch as K.C. Carr, a young single mother who is also the best roller-derby player on her team.

Also, the 1972-released film, The Unholy Rollers, produced by Roger Corman and released by famed exploitation studio, American International Pictures, which stars 1970’s Playboy Playmate of the Year, Claudia Jennings, aka Queen of the B Movies of the ’70s. [She] plays the leader of the female roller-derby team in the film. Both films have a really big cult following, especially among roller-derby fans and followers. And both of the films are available on video.

—Alan Bobet

Moral Quandry

A debate began online regarding Armond White’s review of A Serious Man, “The Humor in Gloom” (Sept. 30-Oct. 6). It began with one reader supporting the Coen Brothers: “[There’s] so much wrong here, it tempts complete dismissal. I think you should try and understand this—I will write it very clearly—[The Coen Brothers] have become cinema’s premier moralists (that use to not be a bad thing, though it is what probably leaves a bad taste in your rationalized mouth.).

“But back to the Coens’ perceived hatred. Not so: If you look over their filmography, there is a begrudging love for even their most callous characters, though they look down on bad behavior, the interlinking connectivity of characters in a Coen Brothers movie is the key to why they care to be moralists at all. It affects us all, actions are not without consequence and their judgment of said actions is not nihilism or hatred of mankind, but observations on things they think are not so good for us.

“For sheer cult credibility, nothing Tarantino made in the last decade comes close to what The Big Lebowski has attained. Complaining that hipster fangranpas[Is this a legit term]? like it? Cinema poetry?

“There are more indelible images from Lebowski than in all of Tarantino’s films put together. The Coens make movies for a smug, art-house crowd.You might want to take a poll of all the hip art-house folks who saw Burn After Reading and ask them how much they enjoyed it. As for Tarantino, what’s to defend? Either you drink the Kool-Aid he hands out so that you get his movies—or you call bullshit.

“Like that wonderful South Park episode,Tarantino is a carnival barker trying to get your money and promising you the world. Some people like that kind of thing, others like to let the movies speak for themselves.”

King of Nihilists

Another reader reacted with more vitriol against the Coen Brothers and defended Tarantino: “I guess that ‘ironic new comedy’ is the new term for the Coen Brothers’ brand of hatred of people shown through the way they treat all of their characters. It is absolutely hilarious how Tarantino is always derided for using his characters as action figures for his own amusement when the Coen Brothers are the king of all nihilists.

“Whether the Coens are dealing with self-hatred is more than irrelevant; the important issue is that they believe that humans have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. You can feel free to mock Neil LaBute as much as you want, but there is no denying his social experiments as just that, not a comment on the stupidity of humans. Not only are the Coens helplessly negative, but they completely miss the point of borrowing from past cinema.

“The Big Lebowski is horrendous for taking the worst qualities of Chandler novels and is worth nothing more than to see hipster fangrandpas imitating the titular character while drinking away their sorrow. If the Coens understood how to create pop poetry the way Tarantino does (via Godard’s ’60s cinema), then maybe the Coens wouldn’t have such a vacuous filmography.

“Scorsese’s indictment of Pulp Fiction is only because he wishes he could have made a gangster film with as much insight into pop culture than his poor excuse for a morality tale. Tarantino is not of the pretentious smug art-house crowd that will be reveling in the Coens’ hatred for humanity. There is a reason why Inglourious Basterds opened nationwide, while A Serious Man won’t even get past your local art house.