The company line is because attendance is typically down -- people don't want to go to the movies when it's cold -- and that the movie studios have already spent all their money on the big holiday movies or are focusing on pushing their Oscar prospects (fuck you, Les Mis), so they dump anything they're willing to take a loss on in January. The same thing happens in late August/early September as the summer season dies down. But over the last few years, I've noticed a shifting trend in what comes out in January. As more and more of the movie calendar gets eaten up by big, bloated blockbusters (the summer season has basically crept all the way up into March), more mid-budget, interesting movies are getting pushed to the edges. There's not really room on the release schedule for movies like Haywire or The Mechanic or Man on a Ledge or The Last Stand or this weekend's Parker, because they're genre movies but they're all too small to compete in the blockbuster marketplace. Don't get me wrong -- there is still a LOT of garbage released in January, but there's also crazy stuff like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which is probably going to be the worst, and which I am totally going to see). The stakes are so low in January that almost anything good counts as a pleasant surprise. Very few months of the year offer the same promise.
Everyone loves nudity (boi-oi-oi-oing!), but has there ever been a situation in which an actor or actress (hopefully actress) shedding their clothes was essential to a movie? I'd like to think yes, but...
I have a hard time arguing NECESSARY nudity, even though I NEEDED to see Carla Gugino in Sin City and Katie Holmes in The Gift. I think there have been instances of "effective" nudity, even when it's not essential. Julianne Moore's bottomless monologue in Short Cuts is a case where the nudity works as subtext and text. There are plenty of movies in which actresses play strippers (sorry...DANCERS) where I guess it's necessary that they be naked, but to accept that argument is to accept the fact that it's "necessary" that the character in question be a stripper. And I guess any time a filmmaker shows a sex scene, it makes sense that the participants are naked. But that begs the question of whether or not it's ever necessary to show sex? But then I remember that, yes, that is a human experience (not the way I do it) and is just as deserving of being reflected on film as love and sadness and jealousy and the Need for Speed. Like violence -- which, one could argue, is also never "essential" -- nudity is a tool (hee hee). It can be used to enhance a scene or a movie, or it can be gratuitous. I am ok with either.
What are some of the worst moments from your favorite films?
That's hard (TWSS), because I have an annoying (lovable?) tendency to rationalize what might be seen as "bad" scenes in the movies I love. Those looooong scenes of the girls bullshitting in Death Proof? They're both necessary to the story and true to the movie's exploitation origins! But here goes anyway:
While I can now watch it without flinching (it's just part of the movie for me now, and I don't know what I would do without it), the endless psychologist wrap-up at the end of Psycho is pretty famous for being a bad scene -- and with good reason. YIKES. I really love Danny Boyle's Sunshine, which, for most of its running time, is one of the best science fiction movies of the last 20 years. Unfortunately, the last half hour turns into a dumb horror movie and ruins (a little) what would have otherwise been a masterpiece. Michael Clayton is a great movie, minus the secret tape recorder. Very few movies can make the secret tape recorder work. I like The Dark Knight a lot, but could do without the "ferry" scene, even if (or maybe because) it's the scene that makes the movie's themes the most explicit. The ending of Unbreakable is pretty lousy, because it turns the movie into an episode of COPS. I'm sure there are many, many more (I would need to rewatch Good Will Hunting to see if I still like it, but Ben Affleck's "Yah suspect!" scene always stuck out to me as being tone deaf and terrible), because these are all pretty recent. But this is a hard question, and I'm mad at you for putting me in this position.
Conversely, what are some inspired moments from movies you dislike?
The first one that comes to mind should make you happy, because I know you love this scene: the travel montage from The Rules of Attraction. That movie is mostly garbage, but that's a good scene. I'm also not a fan of Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's attempt to revive the iconic character while at the same time slavishly worshipping at the altar of Richard Donner, but there's a scene in which Supes rescues a bunch of people on board a plane that's crashing that's pretty spectacular -- if that had been Superman's introduction into the movie, it might have actually turned things around. While I don't hate The Phantom Menace as much as a lot of people (I think it's still my favorite of the prequels, a statement that's likely to get my tires/face slashed), it's obviously not good. But it does have that kickass three-way lightsaber battle between Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Ray Park. For a few minutes, everything that was fun and exciting about Star Wars made its way into a prequel (possibly for the first and last time). The attack on Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor is some good filmmaking if you can divorce yourself from the fact that Michael Bay turned a national tragedy into a thrilling action movie. The opening sequence of 28 Weeks Later is crazy good; the rest of the movie, not so much. No one anywhere is talking about Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, because why would they? But there's a scene in which Ameila Earhart, played by Amy Adams, gets to fly for a few seconds, and Amy Adams is so good in the scene that it can practically make me cry. Her pants in that movie also deserve some recognition.