The un-funniest story ever printed in Salon. Plus: Charles Taylor blows on Godard, and yes, Hitler was human.

By Salon Staff

Published September 16, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

[Read Stuart B. Siegel's "Ferris Bueller, Carrie Bradshaw and Me" here.]

Stuart, some words of consolation. Your "Fast Times" comment was perfectly fine. The dick is Broderick, not you. And by the way, your buddy the lawyer is a star-fucking sycophant.

-- James Ball

Please. This is the worst, most unfunny article you have ever published. Come back from vacation, people. Summer is over.

-- Paul Agostinel

You should have asked Matthew Broderick, "In 'Ferris Bueller,' how did you and Jennifer Grey get gentile parents?"

Some rabbi you'll make. As Maimonides would have said, "Oy carumba!"

Irony, in its popular but misapplied usage, is arrogance posing as humor. It was a prerogative of Episcopalians, who usually have thin eyebrows that easily arch. Today Ivy Leaguers, having used the same washrooms as Robert Benchley and Cole Porter, assume the wit has rubbed off: "Ivius, ergo comicus." Of course, confusing arrogance with wit is the classic definition of irony.

Stick to shtick. It is funnier, and with 4,000 years of tradition and inbreeding, it will come naturally.

Arrogantly perhaps but never ironically yours,

-- The definitely non-Episcopalian Eugene Finerman

After reading the first page of Mr. Siegel's story, I was expecting him to debunk the cult of celebrity. By the time I finished the second page, I realized the guy is irredeemable. He just can't stop himself from wallowing in the in jokes, the name-dropping, the obsession with the hip. I'm certain Rabbi Siegel will have a most devoted congregation, because I can name its members:

1) Stuart Siegel.

-- Scot Billman

So all you have to do to get an article in Salon is say something stupid to a famous person? Because if that's the case, I once said something stupid to Robin Williams, and his reply to me was actually something a Salon reader might find amusing. I bet there are several thousand people who say stupid stuff to famous people every day. Look at all those Salon stories stacking up!

This waste of space was the all-time most pointless thing I've ever found on Salon. I can't believe I lost three minutes of my life reading it.

Call me if you're still scraping the sidewalk for material. My Robin Williams story is pretty funny.

-- J. Nole

Stuart Siegel's cringe-inducing anecdote about his brush with Matthew Broderick compelled me to relay my own star-struck geek-outs when I lived in New York.

1) 10th grade. Backstage passes to meet the Dead Milkmen. While leaving: "Catch you guys in the fast lane!!" Yikes.

2) Working retail at the Banana Republic, 6th Avenue and Bleecker. Gushing profusely over Julianne Moore, whose career I had followed from her "As the World Turns" soap opera days. She had just appeared in "Jurassic Park." She was a doll. I was a dork.

3. Banana again. "Baywatch"/Calvin Klein model/demigod Michael Bergin is in the house. He's fingering the last of some merino sweaters. Horny and ballsy, I approach and sputter eagerly, "Oh, we have more of those at our 16th Avenue store ..." He smiles knowingly: "16th Avenue, huh? In the Hudson River?" Doh.

Strangely, like Siegel, my middle name is also Bennett.

-- Jack Armstrong

[Read Charles Taylor's review of "In Praise of Love" here.]

Did Godard ever have anything to say? The secret of his early success is spelled "Truffaut."

-- Eric Fralick

Please be so kind as to go see a Bob Dylan movie, and confine your efforts to writing right-wing agitprop for the New Republican or something. I am thrilled by even bad Godard and bored by the best of Spielberg. I find that it is you who have nothing to say. I'll never click on your stupid name again.

-- Robert Ferrell

It's funny that Charles Taylor, in his review of Jean-Luc Godard's new movie "In Praise of Love," refers to the director's eschewing of personalities. I have been thinking that this is what characterized his later work, and what makes it so hard to appreciate. In the earlier films, as Taylor points out, you've got Belmondo, Seberg, Karina, Bardot, Palance, Léaud and others. Where the personalities are more muted (as in "Les Carabiniers," "Weekend," "Le Petit Soldat") there is bombastic, "Épatez le bourgeois" stuff -- that is to say, thrills -- to make up for it. Godard has stripped that stuff away, for the most part, and that is what makes his newer films hard to take, especially by Americans, who expect that stuff from movies. You would think a film critic would understand that, and appreciate that the American way is not necessarily the way.

-- Gordon Winiemko

I read with great dismay Charles Taylor's truly awful review of Jean-Luc Godard's latest work.

It is astonishing that a quality publication such as your own would publish a review I can only describe as a total, misinformed mess.

After reading Taylor's review I was left to muse whether Charles Taylor is really a film critic or Salon's poor choice of a schizophrenic, wannabe Pauline Kael?

Anyone familiar with Godard's oeuvre will shake their heads at the numerous errors of interpretation and generalizations present in the review, and they are too many to fill the page here.

But in Taylor's constant quest to compare the cutting-edge value of Godard's early films (now some 30 to 40 years old!) to the narrative quality and diversity of his later works, I would like to remind Mr. Taylor of Foucault's famous utterance:

"Don't tell me who I am, and don't tell me not to change."

Mr. Taylor, Godard has not left the building, he has simply left you behind.

-- Kevin McCarthy

[Read David Talbot's "Was Hitler Human?" here.]

Repeatedly, Mr. Cusack defends this portrayal of Adolf Hitler as a view divergent from the historical newsreel-type pictures we see of a raving, evil man. Remember, those newsreel-type clips are real history; that is, those events really happened. Conversely, this movie is staged. I look forward to seeing the movie, but let us not become too sympathetic. History is accurate and if we diminish it we risk repeating it.

-- Bob Rasmus

I understand the knee-jerk reaction of the Jewish community, but honestly, this film needs to be seen. No one wants to believe Hitler was only a man. But he wasn't a demon or a devil; he was flesh and blood. It makes sense to examine his life to see how a man can become so evil.

If we, as a society, can learn to recognize the actions of a despot, we can intervene before true chaos sets in.

-- Jayne Flower

The Holocaust was a horror past the mind's puny ability to grasp. The almost-irresistible impulse of people of decency is to relegate its author to the realm of the Other, the Inhuman, the Not-Us. Thus we have a psychic comfort to which we can cling: Hitler was such an aberration that he could never happen again.

But we imagine this at the world's peril. If we truly honor the victims of the Third Reich, may we never forget that evil can possess ordinary human beings and so create nightmares on earth. May we, endowed with that awareness, have the wisdom and courage to avert the holocausts of the future.

As painful as it will be to watch, "Max" may be the most important film of the year.

-- Cynthia Weston

I'm glad they're making a movie ("Max") that attempts to portray Hitler's true psychology. My father escaped the Nazis just before the war began. I've always been fascinated by the history of it. "Schindler's List" is one of my favorite films, but neither it nor any other film has really accurately portrayed the Nazis. Schindler, for example, worked before the war for German intelligence (the Abwehr), and it was they who freed him from the Gestapo. Did we learn this from Steven Spielberg's film? Why not?

I agree with the producers that we're terribly ill-served by Hollywood's fear of approaching the Nazis' true motivations as people. These motivations don't remove their guilt, nor their responsibility for the murder of 12 million people. Why this awful, knee-jerk fear of examining the truth of that phenomenon, especially a phenomenon that had such enormous and horrible impact on the world? And especially one that's had about a million movies made about it? If a film shows a few of Hitler's frustrations, will he suddenly become a hero? Will we suddenly excuse what he did? Please. Of course we won't. So stop insulting our intelligence. If we continue to show these unrealistic caricatures that we've seen so far, then people won't see the danger that they themselves might someday unwittingly throw their support behind the Nazis of our day. It just won't seem to apply. People will say: After all, Hitler was a madman, whereas our ideas are justified.

-- Andrew Horn

Regarding the controversy -- I think John Cusack's father hit it exactly on the head when he said, "It disturbs me -- I don't want to think of Hitler as a human." He's described the American mind-set exactly. Americans always want to set the egregiously (and overtly) despicable humans apart from the rest of us. These are the same people who insist that Charles Manson and Ted Bundy are insane, based solely on what they did -- as if the act defines the sanity. It's very convenient, because then we don't have to learn anything -- despite the fact that what we learn could save many lives. Sane people do incredibly evil things, incredibly often. If we close our eyes, we're just allowing the next monster the chance to bloom, undetected.

I could never understand Hitler's rise until I was 21. I was often told Germany was one of the most cosmopolitan countries of that era. But when I saw film clips of Hitler screaming like a madman, it made no sense. I put it down to some peculiarity of Germans. Then I saw "Triumph of the Will" in a film class, and the light finally dawned. This film should be required viewing for anyone who takes combating evil seriously. I finally saw the Hitler that seduced the Germans. Because he doesn't start out screaming. He stands there, for quite a long time, just absorbing the applause. When he speaks, it's quietly and seemingly rationally. When he finally gets to it, what seems like screaming to us -- with no preamble -- to his audience surely seemed like the evangelical fervor and passion of a man carried away with trying to uplift and protect his people. That is what they saw. I felt like the information I'd been given up to that point had been censored by a sort of common consensus. As though I'd been deprived of any useful information about how such things as Nazism can happen.

While it's comprehensible that the tremendous pain and lasting damage of the Holocaust could have delayed useful investigation of Hitler as a man, I believe this impulse was mistaken. And by now there's no excuse to oppose it. On the contrary, it's morally wrong to oppose it (especially without even bothering to see the film, get the facts, etc.). People who grasp the pain and damage of the Holocaust should be the first ones doing their damnedest to make sure it can't happen again. At least on that scale. On a smaller scale, it's happened many times. They can't all be crazy nonhumans.

-- Kate Eisenhauer

Salon Staff

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