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Home » Culture and Criticism

Cinemarch Madness: Demme Division

Submitted by on March 19, 2013 – 9:41 AM9 Comments

grunge film background

The Demme Division presents a by-now-familiar Cinemarch Madness dilemma: what’s your third vote? The Deer Hunter is so challenging, so visually dark it seems to have been filmed from inside a keg, Walken’s face so hollowed out of humanity that it’s a shoo-in — and I know I’ve told this story before, but a movie that you can rent from the video store with the two tapes in the wrong order, watch it that way, and still get knocked out by it is a serious contender. Million Dollar Baby is not exactly depressing, just sad and frustrating — not to mention manipulative, but the manipulation is successful. It got so many name-checks during the nominations that it should proceed easily. (The lack of hyphen notwithstanding.)

So what’s your third? We have a number of novel/play adaptations here that didn’t work as well for me onscreen; Bridge to Terabithia is a very good rendering, but certain associations I have with the book from childhood mean that bringing it out of my imagination would never quite work. Spacek’s performance in ‘night, Mother is way too hectic. Beloved…I mean, what do I know, but my feeling is that Morrison’s prose is too much itself ever to quite catch fire the same way in another medium. It’s like a river stone outside the river, not shiny and perfect anymore. Add to that that I don’t think this is her best book, or even close…it’s not for me.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley got a lot of noms as well, so that could get to the semis, but I’m going with Deer Hunter plus two docs: The Bridge and The Brandon Teena Story. I highly recommend both, but neither is for babies, that’s for sure; you can read more about The Bridge (and comments from one of the subjects’ parents) right here, but…you know. It’s people jumping to their deaths. It has an elegiac beauty, and it’ll have you smiling and saying “have a nice day” as a prophylactic measure for weeks (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean), but it’s stern stuff.

The Brandon Teena Story is the real-life Boys Don’t Cry, and it’s a tough sit. I made the Biscuit go see it back in the day and when the lights came up, we just sat there for about five minutes, and then he made a joke about pull-quotes on the poster chirping, “A defeat of the human spirit!” Not a joke, really, though. We had physical difficulty leaving the theater and going back out into a world where that had happened. Teena/Brandon’s hard head and iron spine are amazing; you almost still think it’s going to turn out okay, because s/he’s awesome, and then s/he’s pulverized by reality, and that ferrety little fuck Tom Nissen, you can’t even. Vile — but fascinating.

But it’s Hunter, Baby, and probably Wind. To the polls!

Demme Division: Vote for the THREE (3) harshest films.

  • The Deer Hunter (21%, 119 Votes)
  • The Brandon Teena Story (21%, 118 Votes)
  • The Magdalene Sisters (9%, 52 Votes)
  • Million Dollar Baby (9%, 51 Votes)
  • The Bridge (8%, 47 Votes)
  • Bridge to Terabithia (8%, 47 Votes)
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley (6%, 31 Votes)
  • Night, Mother (5%, 30 Votes)
  • Beloved (4%, 24 Votes)
  • The Days of Wine and Roses (4%, 22 Votes)
  • The Proposition (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Men with Guns (1%, 5 Votes)
  • Romero (1%, 4 Votes)
  • The Things I Cannot Change (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Shanghai Gesture (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 212

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Not sure what’s going on? You’ll fit right in around here (heh) but in the meantime, the Cinemarch Madness FAQ is here, and a poll overview is here.

edited for more inclusive pronounage




  • Lisa says:

    Aw, man. The Wind That Shakes the Barley. I cried for hours afterwards. HOURS. Damn.

  • redacted says:

    “Brandon Teena” and “He”, please.

  • ferretrick says:

    I do think Beloved is Morrison’s best, at least of what I’ve read of hers, but both Beloved and Bridge to Terabithia are books that were destined not to translate that well to screen. Sorry, Oprah.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    No offense intended with pronoun choice, of course.

  • Tarn says:

    I just read the Wiki recap of The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Damn. That is an onslaught of cinematic depression right there.

    I can’t vote for Million Dollar Baby. The ending just pissed me off more than anything and didn’t seem to jibe with Hilary Swank’s character up to that point.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Oh, damm, The Proposition. That film left me as sere as the Australian outback. The realization that revenge can’t be taken no matter what the outrage perpetrated, that it runs through the fingers like blood down a young criminal’s back…

  • cayenne says:

    OMG, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. I have no idea why I love this film, all things considered, but maybe it’s that it was my kickoff film for TIFF’06, which, as I recall, was not great, so it could just be residual love for the high point that year (in comparison, the Norwegian film I saw right after TWTSTB had a guy get repeatedly – and graphically – run over by a train for at least 10 minutes, and also had a reel melt during the screening O_o)

    (note to Sars: Title is wrong above)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Title edited.

  • Kitty says:

    “The Deer Hunter” is a movie that I watch at least once a year. Why? I don’t know. It destroys me in different little ways each and every viewing.
    The Pennsylvania parts were filmed in my mom’s hometown so that’s part of it. But it is for me DeNiro’s finest performance and my second favorite from Streep.
    And Walken…no words. He is devastatingly good. Totally deserved the Oscar he won.

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