Joe Dante

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Unfortunately, I was too late to get in on the Gremlins discussion a couple posts back, but I'd like to discuss Dante a little further. The man's had a huge influence on me. Being a big Chuck Jones fan myself, I love how he's taken that cartoonish style and applied it to live action. Not to mention the fact that it's just fuckin great how he constantly bites the hand that feeds him. I admit, I'm not much of an admirer of Gremlins, but it's almost completely worth it just for the fact that it's such a blatant riff on the cuddly, sentimental style of producer Spielberg, who actually went to great lengths to defend Dante's vision. And though the first one isn't my favorite Dante movie, I won't hesitate in calling the sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, one of my favorite movies of the 90's. It's an essentially plotless excercise in comedic invention; it's as freewheeling and self-concious as anything Godard did in his early days. Dante finally really nailed the Jones style with this one, while simultaneously manages to satirize the original film. Plus, the very concept of dropping those little Gremlins in the middle of corporate America and letting them run rampant is a stroke of satiric genius.

It's also nice to see that Dante's still got his touch. I think his most recent film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, is one of his very best. Not just Dante's most explicit tribute to Chuck Jones, it's a film that confirms Dante as the quintessential anti-celebrity. Plus, the very idea of a major corporation turning consumers into monkeys to build their products, then turning them back into humans to purchase said products has a lot to say about the marketing strategies of today's uberbrands.

In short, Dante is the man.

Anthony (Anthony F), Thursday, 16 September 2004 00:35 (seventeen years ago) link

I totally agree. Will have to check out the Looney Tunes film soon.


The 'Burbs
Gremlins 2
The Howling
Small Soldiers

Girolamo Savonarola, Friday, 17 September 2004 01:52 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd really like to see The Second Civil War.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Friday, 17 September 2004 05:01 (seventeen years ago) link

I totally forgot about that one! Q'lassic.

Girolamo Savonarola, Friday, 17 September 2004 15:43 (seventeen years ago) link

What's your take on The Howling? On its own terms, I absolutely love it, but within the entire Dante canon, I think its beginning to look like only a minor work.

Anthony (Anthony F), Saturday, 18 September 2004 02:29 (seventeen years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Chicago movie reviewer Johnathan Rosenbaum has the best writing on Dante. There's an essay in his book "Movie Wars", the name of which escapes me, comparing/contrasting "Small Soldiers" and "Saving Private Ryan" (which came out within two weeks of each other, and Spielberg sat on as a producer of SS) which actually made me want to run out and see Small Soldiers. Check it out!

wilye, Wednesday, 6 October 2004 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

I just got Piranha in the mail today, probably gonna watch tonight. I'll let you guys know what I think afterwards. My gf seems to remember watching some of this when she was 9 or so and getting freaked out.

Girolamo Savonarola, Thursday, 7 October 2004 07:23 (seventeen years ago) link

seven years pass...

so has anyone seen The Movie Orgy? Introduced by Joe at NY MoMA on Friday eve.

incredibly middlebrow (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 13 October 2011 16:45 (ten years ago) link

two years pass...

I loved Explorers when I was a kid but just realized yesterday when Joe Dante tweeted an old pic from the shoot that it starred River Phoenix AND Ethan Hawke:

Immediate Follower (NA), Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:44 (eight years ago) link

I watched Explorers for the first time several months ago on Netflix. Thought it was moderately enjoyable up until they reach the spaceship. Seriously, the shit with the alien doing all the radio/tv voices is like nails on chalkboard and it goes on F O R E V E R. It's agonizing.

circa1916, Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:07 (eight years ago) link

Ha well I haven't seen it in like 20 years.

Immediate Follower (NA), Wednesday, 13 November 2013 21:08 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

I watched "Gremlins" with my 10-year old daughter tonight. It's always been a favorite, but man, what an astoundingly subversive Christmas movie that has not only Santa being attacked by gremlins, a gremlin in a Christmas tree attacking mom, but obviously also Phoebe Cate's monologue, which really serves no purpose other than to be totally dark and perverse. I was looking online for opinions of age-appropriateness, and seriously, one of the biggest complaints parents have is that Cates speech, which ends with her saying there's no such thing as Santa (or whatever).

But get this. My daughter was a little freaked out by the movie, on the cusp between enjoying it and being scared. That was to be expected. But no joke, right after the gremlins multiply and begin to cause havoc, the power to the house (and the whole block) suddenly goes out and the basement goes pitch-black! She freaked the fuck out and refused to leave my side for the next 20 minutes (the power came on a few minutes later). William Castle would be proud.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 24 November 2014 04:40 (seven years ago) link

six months pass...

on his new one, and cinephilia

There are more movies available to see than have ever been available in my lifetime – movies that haven’t been seen in seventy years have been taken out of the vaults and dusted off – but nobody outside of a very small group of film buffs knows what the hell these movies are, or who the actors are. That’s why I started Trailers From Hell.... But film literacy in general is becoming a smaller and smaller field. Even when you meet with an executive, you have to be very guarded about what references you make, because if you refer to something that they haven’t heard of you’re not making your point and they’re getting confused. It’s just what happens. We’re evolving into a different society – movies are a twentieth century art form and the twentieth century is over. Now what we have are tent pole blockbusters and small independent films that may or may not – probably not – get a theatrical release before streaming directly into your home or computer. The problem is that my generation got into this because we love the act of going to the movies and seeing movies with an audience. It’s funny, before Small Soldiers I never shot a movie in ’scope because I knew everybody would see them on TV and it would be panned and scanned. Now that I can make them in ’scope because the TVs are the right shape, they’re not running in theatres!

the increasing costive borborygmi (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 16 June 2015 17:30 (six years ago) link

nine months pass...

Dante's appearance on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast from last month has a lot of good stuff in it, while somehow still feeling way too short even at 1.5 hours (they never discuss my beloved Eerie, Indiana, or indeed anything he did after Matinee). Some great tidbits I knew nothing about include his work on the never-shot half-pardoy/half-sequel Jaws 3, People 0 and his talking Dino De Laurentiis out of his planned sequel to Orca (the premise needs to be heard to be believed).

rhymes with "blondie blast" (cryptosicko), Thursday, 24 March 2016 04:28 (six years ago) link

The Second Civil War looks pretty interesting, from the 7 minute clip that's on youtube

Milton Parker, Monday, 28 March 2016 19:37 (six years ago) link

three months pass...

NYC retro in August includes rep picks from Dante, plus The Movie Orgy

helpless before THRILLARY (Dr Morbius), Friday, 22 July 2016 19:17 (five years ago) link

no mention of the forthcoming Matinee BD on Arrow? now I can finally get rid of my uninspiring Pathe DVD. the Blu is encoded for R2 but looks packed to the gills with great stuff; I preordered it along with the remaster of The Human Condition since they're coming out around the same time:

I also managed to get a copy of The Second Civil War (my actual favorite Dante movie ever) for like $8 shipped and it really holds up well. I wonder why HBO doesn't at least make it available to stream on Go or wherever; there's a lot of stuff in year that plays way better in 2016 than it did when I first saw it around 2001ish.

thos beads (jamescobo), Sunday, 31 July 2016 02:38 (five years ago) link

saw Matinee today... JD introduced it and admitted the teenage lead (who's kind of a drip) is basically him. It's lovingly mounted and Goodman is delightful to watch tearing into that producer/huckster role (Cathy Moriarty's deadpan delivery is v funny too), but most of what i found really funny was in Mant! itself. (also the Disneyesque 'shopping cart' movie)

The Hon. J. Piedmont Mumblethunder (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 7 August 2016 01:34 (five years ago) link

I seem to recall seeing that in a theater when it was released and having the Mant appear in the aisles of our theater at an appropriate point in the screening.

The Rest Is A Cellarful of Noise (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 7 August 2016 01:43 (five years ago) link

oh and the secret screening paired with Gremlins last night was Hellzapoppin'!

The Hon. J. Piedmont Mumblethunder (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 7 August 2016 17:39 (five years ago) link

three months pass...

Second Civil War is a comedy for these times

Milton Parker, Friday, 25 November 2016 08:32 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

i can confirm that innerspace remains a v entertaining movie and that visual effects oscar was v much deserved

martin short's interiors (bizarro gazzara), Sunday, 13 May 2018 18:49 (four years ago) link

It's been a few years since I've seen it but yeah, it rocks. Very few things are not improved by the presence of Kevin McCarthy, Robert Picardo or Dick Miller, and this movie has 'em all!

incel elgort (cryptosicko), Sunday, 13 May 2018 18:53 (four years ago) link

two months pass...

^tot forgot it was by JD; due for a rewatch, esp w/ small roles for Kathleen Freeman, Dick Miller et al

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Monday, 23 July 2018 15:17 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

Joe Dante talking about the Psycho remake is my new favorite thing.

— 🏳️‍🌈Kneel Before Cod🏳️‍🌈 (@tj_mackey432) August 2, 2020

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 21:20 (one year ago) link

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