Episode 659: Famous Movie Staircases

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12 Responses

  1. Juhani Kenttä says:

    I’ve been with you guys on Fight Club for a long time but only recently found this article by Film Crit Hulk that contains the most eloquent dissection of its problems that I’ve come across. The article is quite lengthy but well worth reading.


  2. bob says:

    you mentioned Labyrinth and it’s Escher-esque stairs, but omitted Inception?! j/k, not nearly as big a part of the plot.

    A Quiet Place has a crucial set of stairs – with an implausibly upturned nail? The only real flaw in that movie.

    Jake G descending the stairs into the guy’s basement in Zodiac

    Iconic Descending the Stairs sequences i can’t remember if you mentioned or not: She’s all That, Gone with the Wind, and of course It’s a Wonderful Life.

    Likewise: the end of Batman (1989) – lots of fun in the belltower & throwing henchmen down the wooden stairs.

    And as for The Last Jedi – i’m with Tyler. It was a flawed but noble attempt with good ideas. I think Chris McQuarrie said it best (i’ll paraphrase) – The challenge is to give people what they expect in a way they don’t expect it (and/or: subvert expectations at your own risk).

    Kind of like Ebert’s old “it’s not what your film is about, it’s *how* it’s about it.”

    • Battleship Pretension says:

      Wasn’t there an explanation for how the nail came to protrude from the stairs in A Quiet Place?

      – David

      • bob says:

        i think at one point they show it getting snagged, but anyone who’s made/repaired stairs like that know the nail would never protrude UP, no matter how it got snagged.

  3. Philip says:

    I know this isn’t where he’s coming from, but it made me laugh that David KIND OF sounded like he was saying “I don’t like streaming services except for the ones that give me stuff for free.”

  4. FictionIsntReal says:

    Not only does Dick Miller and his wife show up in the sequel, but it is explicitly stated there that nobody died in the first one, even though it definitely seemed like the old woman did.

  5. Sabrina says:

    One of my favorite films is “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” dircted by Mikio Naruse. The stairs are a literal part of the story, which the protagnist has to climb to reach her job, and a metaphor for her finding her own way and navigating life as a single woman in post-war Japan.

    Also, I’m a hardcore Star Wars fan (cried at all the new trailers, etc) but The Last Jedi was exactly what the franchise needed, and it’s so disappointing to see the studio panic and tread back into familiar waters. I lay all the blame on Disney for wanting to hire three different directors to write three different screenplays and thinking that would result in a cohesive trilogy. That’s insane. I’m not expecting much from the next one, considering it will be an act of contrition and fan apology more than a good film.

  6. Ray (@RaySquirrel) says:

    With the first mention of Psycho made me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious with the staircase which serves as the climax. I recall there being an essay discussing the importance of staircases in Hitchcock films.

    Though when the discussion turned to hatred of Star Wars fans that is when I stopped listening.

    As a cinema fan who is not a Star Wars fan, watching The Last Jedi and its critical reception has been an interesting experience. It has been nothing less then an intellectual suicide on the part of professional film critics and the press outlets which they represent. To quote Sam Harris, “The body yielded to the rope; the neck snapped; the breath subsided; and the corpse dangles in ghastly discomposure even now—and yet polite people everywhere continue to celebrate the great man’s health.”

    How is it that the exact same critics who pilloried the prequel trilogy for its bad dialogue, wafer thin characters, jarring tonal shifts, awkward humor, nonsensical plot, inconsistent characters, and empty spectacle. How do they look at The Last Jedi, and not only not see everything listed above but call it one of the best Star Wars films in decades? Professional film critics are heaping nothing but effusive praise on this film, not even taking notice of its blindingly obvious flaws.

    The criticism I see coming out of the Star Wars fan base if not the most measured, have been some of the most intellectually consistent and well-informed of not only of Star Wars lore, but of recent film, television and literary history, storytelling conventions, and filmmaking technique. Meanwhile the response of the professional critics to Star Wars fans has been mischaracterize their criticism in the form of straw men arguments, such as, “it didn’t fit your own personal fan theory.”* And at worst, professional critics and media outlets have or engaged in out ad hominem attacks against the Star Wars fandom and fandoms of any stripe. Characterizing their criticism as the whining of “straight white manbabies.”**

    The divide between fans and pros has been replicated with Joker. The pros dismiss the film as “dangerous.” Meanwhile the Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker paint has become the face of many popular protest movements across the globe. It is very obvious that the character and Phoenix’s portrayal of the character resonates with the fans in the way that pros don’t see. The cartoonist Scott Adams, when talking about contemporary American cultural conflicts, makes the analogy of one screen projecting two films. Half of America is watching one film while the other half is watching the other. So when one half comments on the film they have been watching the other half doesn’t understand what the other is talking about. But in this instance we are watching the EXACT SAME FILM and seeing radically different things!

    This has been mulling over in my mind for some time. But to hear critics which I respect reiterating these weak straw man arguments and attacks on fandoms is simply depresses me. I have come to accept over a lifetime of movie viewing that different audiences will have different views on different films. Art is inherently subjective. But the response from the pros, the people who should be rational and informed is just plain irrational and hateful.

    Thank you for your time and attention. I hope you got something out of this response, and this didn’t come off as an unhinged rant.

    *If anything the fan critics of Star Wars steel man their criticism. YouTube user MauLer in his epic three part several hour dissection of The Last Jedi:




    **The frequency in which race, sex, and sexual orientation are invoked is disturbing. As if these immutable characteristics are a character flaw. The Star Wars fandom I have seen is incredibly diverse in terms of age, race, sex and I assume sexual orientation, as this mashup of various fans reacting to The Last Jedi:


    • Battleship Pretension says:

      I’m not necessarily upset by film critics who incorporate their own politics into their reviews. I am, however, frequently bothered by the readiness with which critics do it these days, apparently feeling that the divisive times in which we live somehow require it. I also don’t like when critics praise a movie primarily for the ways in which it affirms their belief system. I am all in favor of bringing yourself to a review, but a film’s politics are artistically neutral; it’s how the film uses them that matters. This seems to be something that is forgotten – or perhaps ignored – more often these days.
      The reason that I say this is that I hope you’re not lumping me in with those critics who would dismiss all criticism of STAR WARS as a function of “straight white manbabies”. While I have encountered several Youtube channels that regularly criticize the new STAR WARS movies (not to mention GHOSTBUSTERS and the new TERMINATOR) for its “wokeness”, I would never assume that that is everybody’s objection to the new films.
      My problem with modern STAR WARS fandom is my problem with any fandom that becomes both limiting and possessive. It’s the problem I have when I see people in a Horror-based Facebook fan group bashing movies like THE BABADOOK and THE WITCH because “nothing happens”. It is the insistence that certain characters “would never do that” or that the tone is being pushed too far.
      Undoubtedly, there are some film critics who praise the new STAR WARS films primarily for more inclusive politics. For myself, I found movies like THE LAST JEDI and ROGUE ONE refreshing because they were willing to explore more elements within a universe that was growing increasingly repetitive. While several commentators have dismissed critical praise about “subverting expectations”, there is something very welcome about certain cliches being turned on their head, especially if it involves deepening certain characters (like Luke Skywalker, for example).
      I have no problem with fandom. I myself am a fan of many things. My issue is not with somebody loving a work of art so intensely that they begin to identify with it. It’s when they feel entitled to something solely because of the love they have for it, never allowing it to grow and change, always insisting that it remain exactly what they want it to be.
      It’s why I was so discouraged at the incorporation of Palpatine in the new film. Perhaps they’ll handle it well – and I have no doubt that I’m going to enjoy the character himself – but at my core I’m disappointed. It’s the kind of decision that suggests that the filmmakers don’t trust the fanbase enough to challenge them.
      And, frankly, based on what I’ve seen from some of the more hardcore fans, that distrust appears warranted. People want what they want, how they want it, when they want it, and any slight variation of that is met – not by all, I’ll grant – with suspicion and dismissal.
      As it happens, I already watched those Mauler videos, just as I watched the ones from Red Letter Media, World Class Bullshitters, and many others. I want to hear the opinions of people that I don’t agree with. Sometimes they sway me and sometimes they don’t. In fact, sometimes they only further confirm my opinion. And while I may have been overly dismissive of the STAR WARS fanbase in general, and am willing to grant that not everybody falls into the camps that I’m talking about, the fact remains that those camps do exist, and they represent something that I find very frustrating – even maddening – about fandom itself.
      If you see everything that I’ve just said as a straw man argument, then I don’t know what to tell you.


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