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Quantity vs. Quality of Creative Ideas
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Do creative individuals have better ideas or just more ideas than not so creative individuals? The Coen Brothers acted out this old question in The Hudsucker Proxy:

The Coen Brothers’ most widely hated movie is their 1994 big business satire The Hudsucker Proxy, with help from their friend Sam Raimi. Shot in the style of a 1939 screwball comedy, it’s set in 1959 when Tim Robbins is propelled from the mailroom to the CEO suite by inventing a dingus. He holds up a piece of paper with a circle on it and tells everybody, “You know … for kids!” For complex plot-related reasons, eminence grise Paul Newman orders it into immediate production.

But what to call it? At Hudsucker Industries’ advertising department, the creative bullpen features two live wire guys (perhaps modeled on the Coens, with one of the characters played by Raimi) who come up with dozens of potential names like the Flying Donut and the BellyGoRound, while a third keeps his head on his desk until he comes up with the perfect idea.

My guess leans toward the More rather than the Better camp. Has anybody studied this?

By the way, the whole world loathed The Hudsucker Proxy. Eight years later, Raimi made his Spider-Man with much the same look as Hudsucker, and then everybody loved Spider-Man.

 
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  1. bomag says:

    I’d say the Greats have lots of ideas. Some are more loquacious and let the world know they have lots of good ideas; some are more reserved and only release the ones they think will fly; cf in math, Euler had a prodigious output, while Gauss stated something like “publish less, but make them the gems.”

  2. I might be one of the few people alive who saw the movie in the theater and enjoyed it. It was actually a Christmas movie–that was the time of year in the film–but it was released in June. That probably didn’t help the film’s popularity.

    This was after I had seen Miller’s Crossing in 1991, which remains one of my all time favorite films, and decided after that to go see every Coen brothers film.

    • Replies: @Dhyan Chand
    , @Erik L
  3. My father hung out at a bar after work where one of the Wham-O guys also went. Wham-O made the Hula Hoop. The fellow happy hour regular told my father about the Hula-Hoop era and how they had to lease or hire an extra factory to ramp up production and keep up with demand during the fad. At one point they were making them 24/7.

    One day the Wham-O guy brought an extremely bouncy rubber ball to the bar and everybody played with it. It was a new thing they were working on. It became the Super Ball. The name wasn’t as creative as “Hula Hoop,” but the sales bounced up very high.

    • Replies: @Redneck farmer
  4. TWS says:

    What do you think? Were the Coens ahead of their time?

    I’m guessing part of it was that audience expectations were different for spider Man than for the Coens.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  5. Anon[399] • Disclaimer says:

    Creative people are in the business of recording their ideas and quite often, trying to make money from those ideas. That’s how normies notice that they’re creative. Some people are creative, but rarely express it or try to commodify it, and thus they’re never labelled creative.

    • Agree: utu
    • Replies: @Stan Adams
  6. rodan32 says:

    One of my favorite films, and I can’t believe I never realized Sam Raimi was involved. Looks obvious when it’s pointed out.

    I lean toward “more” ideas as well. A lot of creatives I know just let all sorts of ideas come, not really worrying how odd they are, and in that big pile there are some gems.

  7. “His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

    Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.” – David Bayles & Ted Orland, “Art & Fear”

  8. My guess leans toward the More rather than the Better camp. Has anybody studied this?

    Both.

    Non-creative people are simply not creative. Not a little not creative, they are impoverished of creativity. Your other post notwithstanding, creativity is a form of intelligence. Of a different cloth, I think, than the variety of perceptual or learning aptitudes measured in g, but it’s an intelligence nonetheless and many otherwise functionally intelligent people simply don’t have it. It is of a cloth, I suspect, with attention span though.

    This comes up endlessly in commerce where [to the creative person] : obvious way we can save money is tinker with this, adjust that, cancel this – … and no matter the data, the visuals, the analogies, the hard competitive evidence that you are getting quashed by a competitor who is doing exactly what you are describing, … management just-can’t-get-around-to-understanding-it … and ditto that for new business ventures with overwhelming return opportunities.

    And we can reasonably conclude that this is an intelligence issue because they can be convinced, if and only if: you go behind their back and create the next rev / new widget, and demonstrate in 4 dimensions in real time with fingers on the general ledger, oh then they believe it … or when you jump ship to another employer and run them out of business, then they believe it too.

    But only then.

    • Replies: @jon
    , @Anonymous
  9. Mr. Blank says:

    I have no idea why The Hudsucker Proxy is so hated. I loved it. It still cracks me up. “You know — for kids!”

  10. Well…

    I keep thinking of the one time I tried using speed to write an essay (look, I was a kid, okay?).

    I had lots of ideas. Lots ‘n lots of them. It’s just that none of them were any damned good.

    I’ll go with genius being about quality, not quantity.

  11. I remember watching The Hudsucker Proxy when it first came out and liking it. It was that movie that introduced me to the Coens, and I still regard it well. It’s a good Xmas movie in the same vein as many a Tim Burton film or the classic Meet John Doe (whose finale takes place on Xmas eve)—–no religious iconography or mention, but the setting is Christmas with all the attendant emotional/mystical feel. In fact, Meet John Doe seems to have been an inspiration for Hudsucker.

    Probably the weakest point is Tim Robbins. He’s a one-trick pony—he plays stupid very well, but unfortunately he’s not as likeable as a Gary Cooper or Tom Hanks or Adam Sandler playing stupid, naive, but gold-hearted characters. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Newman carry it.

    My guess is the Coens wanted Raimi’s input to have a wackier, slapstick, lower-brow comedy feel than their other films. I’m not putting down that style of comedy or the Coens’s or Raimi’s, just saying. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Burton or one of his crew had input as well.

    Also, that clip above seems to be the Coens goofing on coming up with the name of the movie itself (the finalists for the product name sounds similar to “Hudsucker Proxy”). I had to look up what the title meant several times, as “proxy” is fancy five-dollar word few people use, so clearly there was work put into it.

    Anyway, Steve’s overarching question is an age old debate, something that can be summed up in three words: Mozart or Beethoven?

    Mozart was famous for almost having no drafts. He simply wrote his fantastic pieces from his mind and edited them very minimally. Like the child prodigy he always was.

    Beethoven, meanwhile, had a lot of dreck that he continuously reworked, like the tortured artist he always was.

    Who knows if Mozart actually reworked things in his mind a ton, just never writing his revisions down, or whether Beethoven was playing into his reputation by playing up his “I have to suffer for my work and churn and churn”?

    Editing is a lot of work, and a different skill than coming-up-with-an-idea. So if you’re not a instant-genius-idea type you’d better develop some good editing skills.

    • Replies: @Autochthon
  12. Do creative individuals have better ideas or just more ideas than not so creative individuals?

    Let’s say that one percent of everybody’s ideas are “creative”. The guy with five thousand ideas will average five. One of his twenty classmates with five ideas each will hit upon a spark.

    The great songwriters of our golden age generally published over a thousand songs apiece. Vincent Youmans only published 92, and musicologists wonder if there are piles of unpublished tunes, or at least drafts, waiting to be unearthed someday.

    How many tunes did Charlie Chaplin write? One, “Smile”, is a classic. As with Merv Griffin and the Jeopardy theme. Fred Astaire with “I’m Building Up to an Awful Letdown”. (Maybe.) Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden”.

    Steve Allen wrote over ten thousand– despite sleeping eleven hours a day, and having another career. But only one is a standard, “This Could Be the Start of Something”.

    two live wire guys (perhaps modeled on the Coens, with one of the characters played by Raimi)

    Wait, I thought the film major Coen was the live-wire one, and the philosophy-major one more phlegmatic. (They joke that their academic parents thought the latter was being more practical.) Or is it melancholic? I can’t keep my humors straight.

    I want to see their Super 8 remake of The Naked Prey in the frigid Minnesota autumn. That’s got to be goosebump-inducing.

  13. Soopy says:

    One day the Wham-O guy brought an extremely bouncy rubber ball to the bar and everybody played with it. It was a new thing they were working on. It became the Super Ball. The name wasn’t as creative as “Hula Hoop,” but the sales bounced up very high.

    Those balls smarted when they hit you in the head. When I was a kid, our house had a long hallway. When my brother happened to walk into the hallway, I would take my Superball, throw it against the wall as hard as I could, and slam shut our hallway sliding door, trapping him in a literal game of Pong, which he would accompany with his mournful wails.

    • Replies: @jon
  14. As a metaphor the scene illustrates precisely nothing about reality, because we the audience already know what the right answer is going to be. Because the scene is made-up, it proves zero. What if the laconic guy had raised his head and said “The Schmeckelberg Circle” and the Coens had made a movie about that?

    I’ve actually been in plenty of rooms where people were spit-balling for ages and somebody then came up with (equivalent of Hula-Hoop, stuff that everybody here knows and has heard of), and there was no Eureka moment, it still took a while longer for a consensus to emerge, and even then we didn’t know we were right until much later on.

  15. Not Raul says:

    What fad gizmos take off and what don’t is mainly luck. Stuff gets popular among some people, then some of the cool people, then it snowballs as people rush to keep from being left out. Remember Furby?

    The same is true with moderately talented pop music acts. For every New Kids on the Block (remember them?), there are 747-loads of teenagers who paid their dues until their eyes bled. In the case of NKOTB, they bought a winning lottery ticket.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  16. “My guess leans toward the More rather than the Better camp.”

    Those who face the empty page on a daily basis would agree; but even the subpar ideas or incomplete characters can be saved, reworked, and plugged into another project.

    OT but concerns our favorite Steve:

    In the car early this morning so I clicked on the radio and tuned in a local conservative talk show. Familiar phrases tingled my ears and I began to realize the show’s host was reading Sailer’s Ford v Ferrari piece from Taki’s. The host’s tone was gleeful, as if reveling in that which is now taboo. This radio station is not a KGO or KFI powerhouse, but the audience probably reaches 1o,ooo+ listeners. My mood brightened considerably as I went about my errands, knowing the message of Sailer’s secret society is slowly spreading.

    In other California news: Governor Newsom flew the transgender flag high and proud above the capital dome in Sacramento yesterday. Newsom is fanatically Woke and afloat on a river of PG&E cash as he continues to plunge this state into the Abyss. Newsom is also a vampire. I will be sending my SOS letter to Professor Abraham Van Helsing post haste.

  17. Anonymous[230] • Disclaimer says:

    Idiocracy

  18. IC says:

    It’s quantity. Look at Hollywood, little creativity from the progressives. It’s mostly awful SJW remakes. The Left has no constraints now which is why it’s slouching towards Bethlehem.

    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    – WB Yeats

  19. @The Anti-Gnostic

    Miller’s Crossing is a great, great film.

  20. @Buzz Mohawk

    And then your dad told this story to Joe Jackson, and music history was made.

  21. Global Citizen [AKA "Moonbeam"] says:
    @MarriedWorker

    Does the same thing apply to comments?

  22. Global Citizen [AKA "Moonbeam"] says:
    @bomag

    Gauss: Few but ripe. I thought that only applied to farts. When I fart, it says Boooomer! Ok?

  23. Dean Keith Simonton, The Origins of Genius: A Darwinian Perspective (1999). Like you, Simonton believes that creativity can be measured in terms of “products”. The more products, the more creative you are. It’s a truly excellent book. I have read it 3 or 4 times.

  24. Also, its interesting about the movie is that I don’t remember anything about the Coens pointing out that the name/toy was part of that era’s fascination with Hawaii chic.

  25. jon says:
    @Mr. Blank

    I just looked it up. Audiences seemed to like it OK: Rotten Tomatoes(79), Meta Critic (7.4), Fandango (79) and IMDB (7.2). Critics were harder on it though, so maybe that is what Steve is referring to/remembering about it.

  26. Lot says:

    Hated? I saw Hudsucker once a long time ago, seemed to be light inoffensive comedy, but well made and written.

    On the topic of 90s business world comedies, James Garner’s 1993 Barbarians at the Gate is excellent.

    The closest I’ve come to hating a Coen Bros movie was the extremely boring Inside Llewyn Davis. The first 20 minutes promised something good with eye candy historical sets and costumes and what seemed like the setup to an interesting plot. Then, nothing at all interesting, for what seemed like another 2 hours.

    • Replies: @Harry Baldwin
    , @Anonymous
  27. What a hard question. Well, there’s applied creativity, where (usually) very bright men think up ingenious solutions that change things, or invent things, etc. My intuition says they are able to have a tremendous number of ideas in their head which they can sort and run-through without bothering with paper, pencil, or prototypes. Didn’t Tesla gave the ability to run machines in his head?

    Then there’s artistic creativity, which often involves selling a product to the general public: paintings, movies, or books, for instance. Pretty sure the best creatives here have a lot of ideas too. The very finest are the product of prolific genius, no doubt, but I wonder if the most financially successful aren’t middling bright folk who haven’t lost the common touch.

  28. Anonymous[230] • Disclaimer says:

    come up with dozens of potential names like the Flying Donut and the BellyGoRound, while a third keeps his head on his desk until he comes up with the perfect idea.

    There are different kinds of creativity depending on personality, outlook, temperament, learning, moods, and etc.

    Creativity in stuff like marketing, advertisement, pop song composition, and standup comedy is like skipping stones. It’s nothing to sneeze at as knack for this is rare and when it works, it really works. Daffy Duck cartoons aren’t meaningful but they are funny as hell, product of pop-genius.
    Some people have skipping-stones creativity. Those who wrote lines for Rodney Dangerfield. Woody Allen who was most formidable as comedian. Albert Brooks’ character of the ad-man in LOST IN AMERICA. This kind of creativity is spark-centric. The neurons have to fire off rapidly and make instant connections and/or combinations to produce something wow or dazzling. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd had this.

    Generally, however, people with skipping-stones creativity don’t have scuba-diving creativity. A good example is Woody Allen. Over the years, through hard work, Allen has been able to make some decent serious movies, esp CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and BLUE JASMINE. But most of his Bergmanesque or Euro-Art ventures have been disastrous. Not for his lack of understanding of art cinema, serious ideas, philosophy, etc. In conversations, Allen has been insightful and intelligent about Bergman and others he admires. But scuba-diving creativity simply isn’t his forte. He hasn’t the eye or radar for it. Most he can do is imitate. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t go to where Dreyer or Tarkovsky went. But when it comes to split second wit and loopy humor, he was one of the best in his 70s heyday. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN never gets old.
    This kind of creativity is like surfing. You gotta ride the waves and be sharp, smooth, ready at every turn. It is truly a gift, rare and precious(and very profitable), but generally it isn’t deep or meaningful. That said, it’s nearly impossible to fake. So many pseudo-artists and even real artists down on their luck have faked seriousness and meaning with obfuscation, intellectualization, or some conceit. In contrast, a joke works or it doesn’t work. A sitcom works or it doesn’t work. A pop song works or it doesn’t work. A pop composer hasn’t the luxury of a modernist serial-music composer where the anxiously snotty audience may be fooled into thinking… ‘but it’s art’ even though it sounds like crap and most often is crap.

    Skipping stones creativity tends to be shallow, even vapid, but it’s real and effective in giving off jolts of pleasure. And it is to be envied in that even most great artists lack it. Tarkvosky was a great film-maker, but I highly doubt if he could have come up with even a handful of jokes. Sibelius was a giant, but I doubt if he could have written pop melodies like Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Paul McCartney, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, and Neil Diamond(at his best).

    One thing about skipping-stones creativity is the need to create things of instant pleasure. The impact has to be immediate upon impact. A pop song is a hit only if the listen loves it right away. This is why the muse is esp tricky with pop music. A classical composer doesn’t have to wow the audience right away. He can explore the depths of emotions and eventually arrive at the moment of truth that gradually dawns on the listener(though there are plenty of classical music that ‘hits’ you right away, which is why Mozart as pop-icon in AMADEUS was such a winner with modern audience). In contrast, if the public doesn’t love a pop song right away, it’s not gonna break even the top 1oo.

    Woody Allen couldn’t make VAMPYR or ANDREI RUBLEV in a 1000 yrs, but then, Tarkovsky and Dreyer couldn’t make SLEEPER in a 1,000 yrs. Skippers tend to be more brilliant, Scubers tend to be deeper and more meaningful. Bergman was like a combination of some of both. Though he’s known for dark and heavy art-movies, he made several fun comedies in the 50s. He could have made it as a sitcom writer in the US. But then, he made some of the memorable art films, esp PERSONA. But being parts of both, he was nowhere near the quickness of Allen(and others like him) nor the depth of the most profound film-artists, which is why Bergman tipped his hat to Tarkovsky and called him the greatest.

    Welles and Kubrick may have been most amazing because they exhibited both extreme wit and extreme depth. In popular music, Dylan has been most admired because he had wit and depth. Paul Simon was essentially a skipper but then came up with Bridge over Troubled Water, both one helluva pop tune and profound piece of music.

    A certain kind of creativity is adept at playing hide-and-seek.
    Most of education is learning what is shown. Those who go beyond learning are those who can look around what is shown and ferret out what is hidden.
    Now, some things could be hidden for ideological reasons, and to find that kind of truth, intelligence matters less than curiosity, honesty, and courage. But even when education tries to reveal everything, no piece of knowledge is complete in the current form. Most minds work like guns. Our minds shoot straight for the targets placed before us. Some guns shoot faster bullets and learns faster, but the truly rare mind is the one that shoots curving bullets that goes around the visible target and hits what is hidden. It seems Einstein had this kind of curvature mind that could warp around conventional knowledge. Larry David has been much admired because he didn’t only shoot off jokes(like funny one-liners on Frasier) but could fold and unfold the plots and situations to reveal a larger pattern at the end in almost swastika-like manner.

    • Agree: Bardon Kaldian
    • Replies: @syonredux
    , @syonredux
  29. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:

    A basic theory of creativity is that creation is nothing more than the combination of preexisting things. Creative things aren’t created ex nihilo, but are combinations of things, combinations of combinations of things, combinations of combinations of combinations…etc. In other words, it’s not some mysterious thing but a matter of combinations and recombinations.

    This is actually an old view, and the Medievals and Classicals believed memory and creativity were related and connected, since obviously if creation simply involves combination and recombination, the things to be combined have to be stored in the memory in order to be operated on and combined. This is in contrast to the contemporary view in which memory is regarded as sort of antithetical to creativity, and the artist or creative person is believed to create things ex nihilo and not to be very knowledgeable i.e. have much in their memories, while people who are knowledgeable i.e. have full and active memories are viewed as being inherently less creative.

    You see combination in all sorts of creative and created things. Puns and jokes are combinations of certain senses of words and situations with others. Practical inventions are like this – a car is the combination of a wagon with an internal combustion engine. Biological life forms as well with genetic recombination during meiosis. Food of course, from recipes that combine ingredients to produce a single dish, or combining 2 dishes like burgers and fries into a meal.

    If creative things are simply combinations of things, and good ideas are simply those that win out in some sort of selective process, which in the case of kids’ toys would be something like what all the kids want for Christmas, it would make sense to try to come up with as many combinations and see what sticks rather than try to find the perfect idea, which seems like an impossible task. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pokemon are 2 hugely popular kids’ franchises whose very names reflect the combinatorial nature of creative things. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combines 4 very simple ideas into 1 new thing, Pokemon combines “pocket” and “monster” into a new thing. I don’t see how you’d deduce beforehand that those combinations would be popular to kids.

    So you’d want lots of memory full of knowledge to have things to combine, coupled with lowered inhibitions to make combinations. I imagine this memory and knowledge aspect is how creativity is connected to intelligence.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  30. David says:
    @MarriedWorker

    Likewise, the best novels are usually written by the more prolific novelists.

  31. jon says:
    @Soopy

    When I was a kid, my parents could only afford a Happy, Fun Ball: https://youtu.be/GmqeZl8OI2M
    Do not taunt Happy, Fun Ball!

  32. @Mr. Blank

    I saw it in an almost-empty theater, and loved it. I guess people weren’t interested in goofy that year.

  33. @TWS

    What do you think? Were the Coens ahead of their time?

    By working as a fraternal team? Yes.

    By still wearing trousers? No.

    • Replies: @TWS
    , @Harry Baldwin
  34. Mr. Blank says:

    Huh. Seems like I’m not the only Hudsucker Proxy fan.

    I guess it’s probably not surprising it has a following in dissident right circles, given the film’s subtle anti-Semitism.

    As someone who leans toward the philo-Semitic side, I’ve always found it weird that Jewish artists produce some of the most disturbingly effective anti-Semitic works — better than anything Goebbels could have come up with.

    • Agree: Ian Smith
    • Replies: @Desiderius
  35. Cortes says:

    What if the creative guys deliberately set out to cheese people off? Hudsucker may be an example. I really enjoyed the biopic of Andy Kaufman “Man in the Moon” and the antisocial stunts he pulled as crooner Tony Clifton were hilarious. Similarly, Rupert Pupkin is wired to some astral body beyond Pluto and creepy but funny.

    The best instance of comic creativity may be John Candy’s Del’s repurposing of shower curtain rings as earrings. Man, I howled!

    And I suspect that some fashion innovations are down to bets among a group of designers about what ridiculous crap- like distressed jeans – they can peddle successfully.

  36. Hint for the clueless:

    The Hudsucker Proxy was about the movie industry. Almost any movie about any industry is really about the movie industry.

    Advice for the clueless:

    Do not make inferences about real world phenomena from movies.

  37. I. Racist says:

    Looking at the way AI “designs” things (iterate all the possible solutions in the design space, rank them), it may be that successful creativity is both about generating a lot of ideas and being able to recognize the difference between good and bad ideas. The second part seems more obviously related to conventional conceptions of intelligence.

    • Replies: @Global Citizen
  38. @Not Raul

    For every New Kids on the Block (remember them?), there are 747-loads of teenagers who paid their dues until their eyes bled. In the case of NKOTB, they bought a winning lottery ticket.

    Nah, what vaulted NKOTB and other such boy bands up was two things: (1) their manager knew somebody; and (2) they were sexually abused by studio execs and producers and others in power.

    • Replies: @Not Raul
  39. @Anon

    I direct all of my creative impulses into crafting witty comments on iSteve (and elsewhere). My hope is that one day someone will be so bowled over by my brilliance that he or she will grant me a generous stipend.

    I also leech off of the creativity of others by posting random pictures at odd intervals. (Sometimes I post odd pictures at random intervals.)

    Remember last year, when Steve posted all of those weird woke renditions of Norman Rockwell paintings?

    And then he talked about how gay Leyendecker was – i.e., the homoerotic rendition of a tall, strapping football player:

    And then I revealed that Leyendecker had been co-opted by the furries:

    And then … the whole thing just kind of fizzled out.

    Creativity is kind of like that. You throw a bunch of s**t against the wall and hope that something sticks.

    • Replies: @Kronos
    , @Pericles
  40. Strange question (and strange example, the Coen brothers). Creativity is not, as yet, described or classified satisfactorily. For instance, invention is somehow connected to creativity, but these terms are not identical.

    Then, there are different types of creativity: “flash” type of creativity, which is “inspiration”, like in Haiku or Zen painting, so different from long, “high structural” creativity, a good example being Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

    Unanswerable question, in my opinion.

    • Agree: Nicholas Stix
    • Replies: @Nicholas Stix
  41. Anonymous[266] • Disclaimer says:
    @MarriedWorker

    Piston aircraft engines often have manufacturing issues you would never see in a car engine. Despite type and production certification, their production volume is so low they never get really good at some things.

    • Replies: @JMcG
  42. Marat says:

    OT – but curious if this is came across your radar Steve?

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-50458051

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @obwandiyag
  43. Supposedly the theoretical physics tag-team of Gamow and Teller worked by Gamow producing a huge number of creative ideas and Teller determining which were good and which were crap.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  44. Moshe says:

    I watched the Hudsucker Proxy a few years ago and abso-f’n-lutely loved it.

    • Agree: Pincher Martin
    • Replies: @Hhsiii
  45. Dean Keith Simonton’s The Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspective on Creativity (1999) sees creativity as consisting of “products”. The more products a creative artist produces, the more creative he or she is. It’s a fantastic read. I think you would love it, Steve.

  46. Do creative individuals have better ideas or just more ideas than not so creative individuals?

    100% both. Their ideas are better and they can generate more of them. Ask any ad agency director for whom they look to hire.

    Truely creative people are like Don Mattingly combined with Babe Ruth — they’ll always get on base, but they’re always aiming to hit it out of the park.

    But even if they don’t grand-slam it, their base-hit is still 100x better than the average person could muster.

  47. Dean Keith Simonton’s The Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity (1999) sees creativity as consisting of “products”. The more products a creative artist produces, the more creative he or she is. It’s a terrific read, and I think that you would love it, Steve.

  48. JimB says:

    My guess leans toward the More rather than the Better camp.

    My guess is that creative people have more and better ideas, combined with an uncanny instinct for knowing the difference between a good idea worth offloading on less creative colleagues and a great idea worth developing personally. It would be interesting applying a contagion model to explain innovation hubs.

  49. @bomag

    …while Gauss stated something like “publish less, but make them the gems.”

    As it turned out Gauss left many gems laying around his home.

  50. El Dato says:

    While on the topic of ideas, a not entirely satisfying interview of Barbara Liskov who created the CLU programming language in ’75 as a confluence of ideas from LISP, Algol and Simula. She is now in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and also a recipient of the ACM Turing Award (among other top prizes) 👌👌:

    https://www.quantamagazine.org/barbara-liskov-is-the-architect-of-modern-algorithms-20191120/

    Sadly, there is not much about tech but a lot of kvetching about sexism at MIT in the 90s and earlier.

    • Replies: @Pericles
  51. @R.G. Camara

    Whatever one may think of Kerouac or Mozart, all good writers know that writing is revising.

    Doubtless exceptions exist, but they are extremely rare, whether in literature (prose or poetry), drama, and music.

  52. I love The Hudsucker Proxy. It’s an unappreciated film. Hudsucker was the first time I realized how well the Coen Brothers use minor actors in brief roles. They do it as memorably as any directors ever have.

    Some examples of this from The Hudsucker Proxy include the scene with the two cabmen in the diner (Benny and Lou) who watch and narrate the first interaction between Norville Barnes and Amy Archer. Another example is the scene with the two women, one a secretary at her desk and one standing on a ladder by the filing cabinets, who provide the first buffer between Norville Barnes and Sidney Mussburger. Another is the mail room boss. Still another is the scene with the three heavy women (including Ms Mussburger) at the stockholder’s ball.

    I see this in all Coen films. No role, however small, is just a forgettable filler. In Barton Fink, Tony Shalhoub is excellent. He’s not on screen for five minutes and he’s unforgettable.

  53. @Pincher Martin

    The outstanding scene in the diner with Benny and Lou that I mentioned:

  54. Anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @Mr. Blank

    I have no idea why The Hudsucker Proxy is so hated.

    Is it really hated? Or was it just ignored? Most movies are flops and soon neglected, but it doesn’t mean they are really hated.

    Hudsucker Proxy is too cute. Coens, being cinecyclopedic, know a lot about movies, but they can’t do Frank Capra or Preston Sturges. There is fundamentally something too cynical about them to pull it off. They can do touching/moving moments, but they can’t make us believe in the magic because a part of them is too busy mocking it. There are clever moments in HUDSUCKER, but we just don’t believe in the ‘innocence’. Throughout the movie, Coens neither fully satirize the innocence nor stand by it. They hulahoop around it until it finally spirals to the ground.
    John Hughes was hardly a great director, but he made PLANES, TRAINS, AUTOMOBILES work because, deep down inside, he is a sentimentalist and a believer, much like Spielberg.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  55. I think Linus Pauling said ‘the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.’ So at least one Nobel Laureate agrees with you.

    • Replies: @Sean
  56. Hhsiii says:
    @Moshe

    References: His Girl Friday, Our Man Godfrey, How to Get Ahead in Business etc (the mailroom scenes pretty direct), Metropolis, Bringing Up Baby, Modern Times, Sullivan’s Travels, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town…

  57. Anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @SimplePseudonymicHandle

    Non-creative people are simply not creative. Not a little not creative, they are impoverished of creativity.

    There is also the matter of non-creative people with keen aesthetic sensibility. They may not be good at making music but they have a fine ear for music. Some such people make excellent critics, even scholars. But they can’t create. They can appreciate creativity but can’t be creative themselves. Well, it’s still preferable to people who are not only uncreative but can’t tell the difference between art and junk.

    Then, there are people who might have the most atrocious or limited aesthetic sensibility but still can be highly, even alarmingly, creative. In interviews, some very talented people say some of the most ridiculous things about their likes and dislikes.

    Also, is there a distinction between creativity and craftsmanship? Some musical composers are remarkable but can never become master musicians. But some remarkable musicians with natural flair for instruments cannot compose anything of worth even if their lives depended on it.

    And there is also the difference between personal creativity and eclectic creativity. James Brown and Chuch Berry were very good at what came naturally to them, but I can’t imagine them doing much else. But there are other kinds of artists who can master various styles in an almost chameleon-like way. Same in acting. Cary Grant could be a great Cary Grant but only a Cary Grant. But Peter Sellers could be lots of things.

    • Agree: sayless
    • Replies: @sayless
  58. TWS says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Steve has an interesting take on the Wachowski brothers, at least I think it was Steve. They should have never indulged their perversions. It sapped their creative abilities and made their work squicky rather than edgy.

    The Coens on the other hand still produce solid work and can actually get things done.

  59. Sean says:

    My guess leans toward the More rather than the Better camp. Has anybody studied this?

    Chairman Mao: ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’. But the flowers were all grown from the same seed in the same soil so they were all different in a similar way. You need to bring an outsider in for truely new thinking.

    Born into an educated land-owning family in Sichuan province, Deng studied and worked in France in the 1920s, where he became a follower of Marxism–Leninism. […] However, his economic policies caused him to fall out of favor with Mao Zedong and he was purged twice during the Cultural Revolution

    The Coens had it right, Robbins is an outsider.

    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
  60. Global Citizen [AKA "Moonbeam"] says:
    @I. Racist

    Please also note constraint satisfaction eg. backtrack. Eliminating bad solutions rapidly is key to finding solutions at all sometimes.

  61. Anon[355] • Disclaimer says:

    I’ve done this several times in my company. Volume definitely didn’t work. It’s what you resort to when you’re desperate. You go through English and foreign language dictionaries. You write a computer program tho combine parts of words. You put it up on a crediting website. Nothing great pops up.

    All of our good names came from one young woman in a low level job who would think about it for a few days and then submit two or three great names. Maybe she came up with a hundred names she never showed us and self edited?

  62. Most people have no ideas at all. Creative people have zillions of which some few when properly developed are good. All lasting changes in culture are the product of a teensy sliver of the population.

    • Agree: jim jones
  63. Global Citizen [AKA "Moonbeam"] says:
    @bomag

    His motto was “Pauca sed Matura” (Few, but ripe)

    Perhaps the secret to creativity is to emit a few ripe ones every so often.

  64. Sean says:
    @SimpleSong

    He was beaten to it by Watson and Crick. James Watson fathered a schizophrenic son, as did Einstein.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  65. anonvam says:

    As regards quality versus quantity, it is likely to be both, with the proviso that intelligent people are likely to winnow out the poor ideas more thoroughly.

    This reminds me of a published research paper which I read way back in 1983 (the paper itself was likely from the 1970s) which posited, from experimental results, that intelligence, measured by IQ, and creativity were independent variables.

    This led to a very interesting result in that one could have
    a) high IQ-high creativity (essentially the movers and shakers of the world);
    b) high IQ-low creativity (usually successful, the accountant type);
    c) low IQ-low creativity (generally at the bottom of society, but resigned to their situation); and
    d) low IQ-high creativity (generally the misfits, often criminal).
    These conclusions were not stated so bluntly in the paper, but they were clearly implied. In relation to the d) type, the authors suggested that they were creative in the sense that they had many ideas but, due to their low intelligence, were not able to discern what was good or feasible. As a result, they were always getting into trouble.

    Although I found the paper extremely interesting, I am really not into psychology ( I came across it browsing in my university’s library while reading Maths) so I don’t remember the authors or anything. A very quick search on the relationship between intelligence and creativity doesn’t seem to indicate it had any repercussion. Nevertheless, my gut feeling was then, and remains so, that its conclusions are correct.

    • Replies: @Harry Baldwin
  66. @Sean

    Chairman Mao: ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’. But the flowers were all grown from the same seed in the same soil so they were all different in a similar way. You need to bring an outsider in for truely new thinking.

    Diversity is our strength?

    • Replies: @Sean
  67. syonredux says:

    By the way, the whole world loathed The Hudsucker Proxy. Eight years later, Raimi made his Spider-Man with much the same look as Hudsucker, and then everybody loved Spider-Man.

    • Replies: @Autochthon
    , @sayless
  68. KunioKun says:

    I’ve seen headlines over the years implying that being prolific trumps toiling away forever on the one great thing.

    Every creative hobby I am involved in has gurus warning you to release more stuff early and often instead of trying to perfect your masterpiece before you are in fact a master. Going through the motions of finishing something somehow helps you get over wasting your time on details that you’ll get better at in the long run.

    The few creative people that I have known who are also successful have gigantic amounts of energy for their thing. I recall some years ago Steve talking about manic/depressive types possibly being good at producing great things during their manic phases.

    • Replies: @Autochthon
  69. Today I learned that we need to smack domestic violence in the mouth. And just keep punching and punching and punching until domestic violence gets back into the kitchen where it belongs.

    • Replies: @Yngvar
  70. @Pincher Martin

    That’s the secret to great live theater as well. If you’re sore about not getting a lead role you can still contribute to a great production if you nail a small supporting one. Keeps the leads on their toes.

    • Agree: Pincher Martin
  71. Cato says:

    The film appears to loathe bureaucracy. So Anglo-Saxon! So world-before-about-1880-in-the-US!

  72. @Sean

    I think Linus Pauling said ‘the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.’ So at least one Nobel Laureate agrees with you.

    He was beaten to it by Watson and Crick. James Watson fathered a schizophrenic son, as did Einstein.

    When asked to “donate” to Robert Graham’s Repository for Germinal Choice, Pauling said he preferred “the old fashioned way”. No Nobelists telesired any babies, but, according to David Plotz’s book, one was a grandsire– his son contributed. Either the son or the child, perhaps both, was a disappointment. Regression to the mean can be a bitch.

    Some “donors” have adapted Pauling’s advice about ideation to procreation, having germinated hundreds or thousands of offspring. Some of them are sure to shine. Just hope they don’t accidentally inbreed. (Or is it “breed in”?)

    • Replies: @Kronos
  73. @Marat

    No, he would never ever. He deliberately shuns any such news, because it shows simple clear direct and obvious and violent prejudice against blacks.

    You see, cherry-picking does not allow for the inclusion of most of the cherries,.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  74. “Creative” is a dumb word. If you don’t know that, then you are dumb.

  75. Kronos says:
    @Stan Adams

    That still looks like the worst Thanksgiving dinner ever. Bread and veggies?! Nobody would look that happy about either.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
  76. I should watch it again, but as I recall my loathing of Hudsucker Proxy was due to Jennifer Jason Leigh, who sounds like she impersonating Katherine Hepburn’s hilarious impersonation of a moll in “Bringing Up Baby”…like nails on a chalkboard.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  77. Kronos says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Remember, it was one of the few sperm banks (if any) that listed biological information to potential clients (hair color, IQ.) One chick chose them because genetic diseases were screened out. Unlike that sperm bank down the street…

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @Reg Cæsar
  78. Sean says:

    Pauling married a student of his I think, her relationship with him was said to be far closer that the one she had with their children. They left their infant child in America and spent a long time abroad together. But then women studying hard science at advanced level are probabally a bit less feminine than average in their interests.

    Many years ago there was a NYC banker with an IQ asserted to be 180 that fathered several thousand children by anonymous sperm donation. He quite possibly holds the all time world record, but it was controversial because the chances of his offspring hooking up was substantial.

    Tech hubs regions are notorious for the clusters of autistic children, likely as a result of associative mating for a more mechanistic type of intelligence. Unusual creativity in the father would be more likely to result in a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, the family trees of artists are full of it.

    • Replies: @Kronos
  79. Kronos says:
    @Sean

    I still find it astounding that Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin both married their cousins.

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @PiltdownMan
  80. Steve,

    Evidence for my sense that the Brain Drain has slowed:

    https://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2019/06/why-some-americans-wont-move-even-higher-salary/157494/

    The Babe Drain may be following suit.

  81. Sean says:
    @Kronos

    Dr. Cecil Jacobson, a 300lb ‘fertility specialist’ as he called himself and who made Harvey Weinstein look like Brad Pitt, early in his career became famous as a pioneer in the use of amniocentesis to discover abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome in developing fetuses. Nobels have been awarded for less.

    For a variety of reasons, some patients had arranged to be artificially inseminated with sperm provided by screened, anonymous donors arranged by Jacobson. In order to preserve the anonymity of the donors, Jacobson explained, he identified them in records using code numbers; only Jacobson was to know their true identities. Investigators found no evidence that any donor program actually existed. Some of Jacobson’s patients who had conceived through donor insemination agreed to genetic testing. At least seven instances were identified in which Jacobson was the biological father of the patients’ children, including one patient who was supposed to have been inseminated with sperm provided by her husband. DNA tests linked Jacobson to at least 15 such children, and it has been suspected that he fathered as many as 75 children by impregnating patients with his own sperm.

    https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/04/06/another-mormon-fertility-doctor-sneakily-used-own-sperm-to-impregnate-patient/
    Another Mormon Fertility Doctor Sneakily Used Own Sperm to Impregnate Patient | …

    Why would anyone do this…? It is what they do

  82. Sean says:
    @Kronos

    Darwin himself was the product of inbreeding, it had a lot to do with him and his wife being grandchildren of Josiah Wedgwood, a business manufacturing and sales genius. Darwin had the old man’s money did not have to earn a living in among the sharks, so could read and cognate. He came up with the theory. or at least his friends said he had shown them a draft of it years before he published, but Alfred Russel Wallace who was always short of money was first to unquestionably have a paper prepared. If Russell had simply sent it in for publication to a scientific journal, Darwin would be a footnote. Incidentally, Hitler was very inbred too, his mother and father addressed one another as ‘uncle’ and ‘niece’.

  83. @Kronos

    It would be even more astounding if their parents had been married to cousins.

  84. @Kronos

    The “bread” is tofurky, I believe.

    • Replies: @Kronos
  85. @syonredux

    Though Defoe shines (when does he not?), national treasure J.K. Simmons’ scenes as J. Jonah Jameson are the most Coen-esque aspect of Raimi’s Spider-Man.

    By the way: Why is Spider-Man hyphenated? Batman, Sandman, Iceman, Superman, Hawkman, Aquaman, Iron Man … Ant-Man is the only other one I can think of whose name is hyphenated; is it something to do with arthropods…?

    (Raimi’s and Nolan’s (along with Donner’s Superman, but that’s from another age) are about the only of these lot of films worth watching, or that I bothered to watch, either; that’s because either of those two are going to make a good movie almost regardless of the material or premise, the same way Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie could make any scenario funny and entertaining….)

  86. Creative individuals don’t settle for an OK solution. They agonise for a long time over finding the best solution. This isn’t good for your mental health btw. That’s why creative people tend to have mental problems.

  87. My sister invented a way of projecting images from within buildings kind of like those Christmas santa images you see in some houses.
    I invented Lawrencepoints which makes post season and regular season college football
    Way better. http://Www.lawrencepoints.com

  88. Kronos says:
    @Stan Adams

    That just makes it even worse…

  89. @KunioKun

    This wisdom embodies another axiom: “Writers write.” (i.e., they produce text, even if it winds up only as mountains of crumby drafts; they don’t stare at the blank page agonising about what to write or how to write it).

    I was thinking about what I wrote earlier (“writing is revising”), and I recalled a very interesting counter-example(?) from an extraordinarily creative (and intelligent) man.

    In the end, I don’t reckon it is all one or the other regarding trying many things (whether publicly or in one’s own mind, workshop, studio, sketchbook, etc.) – something must be said for what can be magical about improvisation or the exigencies forcing SOMETHING NOW, but I reckon that magic is only achieved by persons of the highest calibre. What’s more, a major important distinction occurs between 1) compositional creativity involving a created product or artifact and 2) a creating process – the latter a more ephemeral artistry in time – the score or album v. the concert; the dancing v. the choreography (i.e., notation; the script v. the play; etc.)

    Creativity isn’t all about art, either, though too often the popular connotation suggests so: there’s the creativity that goes into engineering a faster aeroplane, the creativity the best firefighters or police may employ to effectively manage a raging inferno or a maniac with hostages, the creativity soldiers must use to win battles, and on and on….

    • Replies: @Autochthon
  90. @Autochthon

    Curses. I took too long adding this post-script: jump-links to specific parts of videos don’t seem to be retained in posted comments; Mr. Bruford’s remarks relevant to my point begin at 1:04:55.

    Please forgive the additional comment.

  91. JMcG says:
    @Anonymous

    I’ve never heard this. Could you elaborate a little? Lives hang in the balance!

  92. @Bardon Kaldian

    These are qualitative questions, even more vs. better.

    OTOH, I do believe that one can argue about taste, but then the argument would have to be severely limited, which this discussion cannot abide by.

    For instance, which was the greater picture, Citizen Kane or The Best Years of Our Lives?

  93. @Kronos

    Next to the IHOP?

    At least it wasn’t Waffle House.

    St Paul’s Planned Parenthood used to be a few steps from a Pizza Hut. I was afraid to inquire about toppings…

    • LOL: Kronos
  94. Sean says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    You cannot help noticing that Napoleon was a Corsican and Hitler was an Austrian. There are many other examples of outsiders who led.

    Wagner in interviews seems to oppose Trump’s policies, but for the best research team recipe Wagner is more an advocate of the interdisciplinary than multicultural or multiracial.

    • Replies: @RohadtMagyar
    , @Desiderius
  95. @Nicholas Stix

    This complicates things even more. Some time ago I’ve read opinions of different writers on other writers. And John Banville thought that Dostoevsky was simply a bad, worthless author; on the other hand, for William Gaddis Dostoevsky was a supreme novelist who “could do everything what he wanted”.

    Now- where we are?

    Paul Johnson wrote a book “Creators”, but it was, disappointingly, only about artists. What about creators in other fields- sciences, economy, statesmanship, …? All normal people will agree that Michael Faraday was creative, but is this the same type of creativity as with Charles Darwin?

    Then, what about great erudites like Marx? Some think he was not creative, just synthesizing others’ ideas. But – although this is not true- is something creative in re-interpretation of old ideas & molding them into a new, influential mental structure? What about Richard Francis Burton? And even more, Caesar & Napoleon? Does it make sense to compare creativity of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie ? What can we say about creativity of, say, actors or athletes?

    We have confluence of various abilities: intellect, originality, creativity, will, motivation, wonder, doggedness, inspiration, “vision”, circumstances, historical-cultural moment,..

  96. Pericles says:
    @Stan Adams

    The little white girl is blinking T.O.R.T.U.R.E.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
  97. Pericles says:
    @El Dato

    Terrible interview with kvetching Jew tediously fulminating against the white man. It does reveal character though, showing Liskov to be a surprisingly graceless, small-souled MIT professor stuffed with resentment.

  98. @Sean

    I too have noticed this.

    In Hungarian history, there are more than a few examples of the semi-outsider becoming a leader.

    The great Hungarian reformer of the 19th century, Stephen Szechenyi, spoke German like a Viennese, and only re-learned Hungarian in adulthood.

    His contemporary, Alexander Petofi, the firebrand Hungarian poet-patriot, had a father who was either Slovak or Serbian and his birth name was Petrovich (Peterson) — later Hungarianized to Petofi.

    It may be related to the phenomena of the outsider becoming more X than the X, as George Sand said of Chopin, “He is more Polish than the Poles.”

  99. @Lot

    Agree about “Inside Llewyn Davis.” I found too little to enjoy in that one. “Barton Fink” didn’t do much for me either. At the same time, the Coins have made some of my favorite movies and their batting average is remarkable.

  100. Erik L says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    I am one as well. How many times have people asked you “even The Hudsucker Proxy?”

    I honestly had no idea it was “universally loathed” until today

  101. Erik L says:
    @MarriedWorker

    Makes sense but the production of good things is not the same as the production of ideas. Successful people quickly learn that ideas are the least valuable part of the process. Execution is the difference between the successful artists and the wannabes

  102. @Reg Cæsar

    If Michael Bloomberg had passed either of those in the hall at Salomon Brothers, would he have said, “I’d do her”?

  103. Yngvar says:
    @Ozymandias

    We must fight against violent speech!

  104. Moshe says:
    @Pincher Martin

    Tony Shalhoub’s role in The Man Who Wasn’t There is incredible. I mean, wow.

  105. sayless says:
    @Anonymous

    ,,great Cary Grant but only a Cary Grant,,

    Like Katharine Hepburn. I think the directors didn’t demand more of them so they didn’t go beyond that range. May have affected the scripts they were offered.

  106. Anonymous[932] • Disclaimer says:
    @Lot

    The closest I’ve come to hating a Coen Bros movie was the extremely boring Inside Llewyn Davis.

    That’s more a feel movie than watch movie. Desolation Road. If one connects with the feel of the movie, it works. If not, it doesn’t. It’s one of the Coens’ quietest movie, and in some ways their most haunting. There are corners of silence and darkness that remain without revelation.
    Folk singer who sings songs of the common man has no connection with drive-over country and pursues his dreams in two metropolises, NY and Chicago. It’s also about doubles. He thinks the cat is lost, but the cat returns home at the end. He has the latest kid aborted/killed, but it turns an earlier pregnancy that was supposed to end in abortion resulted in childbirth. He is supposed to be the real thing in folk music, but another, Dylan, is poised to break into stardom.
    It is a piece of nostalgia and tribute but also a sharp critique of the irresponsibility of the bohemian hipsters who claimed to represent common folks. Davis and many others are really stuck up and uncaring about others. It has some of the chilly qualities of FARGO and the despair of NO COUNTRY but without the violence. But lack of overt dramatism and action heightens the mood, and I like mood.

  107. @Mr. Blank

    “Anti-” gets abused.

    Nothing more valuable than unsparingly accurate criticism.

  108. @Sean

    Chrurchill half-American, Stalin Georgian, Trump from Queens. More rule than exception.

  109. sayless says:
    @syonredux

    “You’re out, Norman.”

    Looked like that board member was sipping from a Portmerion cup.

  110. syonredux says:
    @Anonymous

    Generally, however, people with skipping-stones creativity don’t have scuba-diving creativity. A good example is Woody Allen. Over the years, through hard work, Allen has been able to make some decent serious movies, esp CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and BLUE JASMINE. But most of his Bergmanesque or Euro-Art ventures have been disastrous. Not for his lack of understanding of art cinema, serious ideas, philosophy, etc. In conversations, Allen has been insightful and intelligent about Bergman and others he admires. But scuba-diving creativity simply isn’t his forte. He hasn’t the eye or radar for it. Most he can do is imitate. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t go to where Dreyer or Tarkovsky went. But when it comes to split second wit and loopy humor, he was one of the best in his 70s heyday. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN never gets old.

    I recently re-watched Allen’s Radio Days. It might be his best film.It’s certainly his most heartfelt. The re-creation of the ’40s was very convincing, and Allen managed to combine humor with genuine feeling.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  111. syonredux says:
    @Anonymous

    Hudsucker Proxy is too cute. Coens, being cinecyclopedic, know a lot about movies, but they can’t do Frank Capra or Preston Sturges. There is fundamentally something too cynical about them to pull it off. They can do touching/moving moments, but they can’t make us believe in the magic because a part of them is too busy mocking it. There are clever moments in HUDSUCKER, but we just don’t believe in the ‘innocence’. Throughout the movie, Coens neither fully satirize the innocence nor stand by it. They hulahoop around it until it finally spirals to the ground.
    John Hughes was hardly a great director, but he made PLANES, TRAINS, AUTOMOBILES work because, deep down inside, he is a sentimentalist and a believer, much like Spielberg.

    Aren’t tragedy and sentimentality intertwined? Take Howard Hawks, one of the truly great American filmmakers. With all his biting wit and cynicism, he couldn’t quite embrace tragedy. His films would always swerve away at the last minute, like in Red River:

    In contrast, the highly sentimental John Ford possessed a true awareness of tragedy. Wayne has brought the captive home, but there is no homecoming for him. He can only wander the winds, forever alone…..

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Soopy
  112. Anonymous[334] • Disclaimer says:
    @syonredux

    I recently re-watched Allen’s Radio Days.

    Like it too. Recall watching it 4 times when it came out. Still, an Allen movie without Allen is like a Bugs Bunny Cartoon without Bugs Bunny. Also, because it’s his sweetest and most family-oriented movie awash in nostalgia, it’s like Allen is holding something back. It’s Allen’s rather successful attempt at Neil Simon. Around the same time, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS came out, and even though it wasn’t a hit with the critics, it’s a really enjoyable movie. A soft kind of Portnoy tale and gentle proto-Sandler.

    Allen’s best film? Apart from his classic early funny ones, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE or MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. Runner-ups would be CRIMES and JASMINE.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  113. syonredux says:
    @Anonymous

    But most of his Bergmanesque or Euro-Art ventures have been disastrous.

    There’s always Euro-Schlock…..

  114. Anonymous[334] • Disclaimer says:
    @syonredux

    Aren’t tragedy and sentimentality intertwined? Take Howard Hawks, one of the truly great American filmmakers.

    PROXY hardly had any tragic sense and the sentimentality was as real as a rubber dollar. It was a work of all mind, no heart(or fake heart). And even the mind engaged only cared for the characters as a bunch of billiard balls whose ultimate fate is decided by some deux ex machina business. Coens were being a bit Gilliamish, and Gilliam sucks.

    Because Coens are naturally cerebral, their ideas need to be anchored to some powerful personality, strong action, or crisis. Otherwise, they can fly off into smartass looneyville, like in RAISING ARIZONA which is just a series of cleverness without one real moment. LEBOWSKI has meaty characters. NO COUNTRY’s tight focus on violence is harrowing. SERIOUS MAN fills us wit anxiety. MILLER’S CROSSING has Finney, Byrne, and Turturro who prevent it from becoming a genre parlor game. Finney is really magnificent. Such a great role for him that it’s almost like a gift. If he deserves to be remembered for any role, it is that one. It fit him like a weathered glove. Tim Robbins can be fine as supporting actor. He doesn’t have enough to carry a movie like Atlas.

  115. El Dato says:
    @obwandiyag

    its not about MUH RACISM you black dunderhead

  116. El Dato says:
    @oddsbodkins

    Teller: Can it explode?? Good!

    …tries to buil gamma ray laser

  117. @Nicholas Stix

    “which was the greater picture, Citizen Kane or The Best Years of Our Lives?”

    The correct answer to that one is, “Grand Illusion.”

    In a pinch, “Smiles of a Summer Night” will do as well.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  118. Soopy says:
    @syonredux

    Aren’t tragedy and sentimentality intertwined? Take Howard Hawks, one of the truly great American filmmakers. With all his biting wit and cynicism, he couldn’t quite embrace tragedy. His films would always swerve away at the last minute, like in Red River:

    Red River, arguably Wayne’s best acting work, was made quite a bit earlier, and directors typically didn’t write the films they were assigned. The ending was about two guys who loved each other. The girl stepped in to allow both characters an out without beating the hell out of each other out of machismo.
    It didn’t “swerve away at the last minute.” It upped the stakes as far as possible for dramatic effect, which is the screenwriter’s job.

    In contrast, the highly sentimental John Ford possessed a true awareness of tragedy. Wayne has brought the captive home, but there is no homecoming for him. He can only wander the winds, forever alone…..

    It was commentary that a rugged individualist with a high moral code is gonna spend a lot of time alone, no matter what good he does. All those folks who walked away from him at the end were the unselfconscious, spiritually weak. Perhaps you’ve run into a few of those people in your life. Unlikely you’ve run into the Wayne’s character archetype. They’re few and far between.

    I guess you missed the “christ figure” thing.

    Bottom line, the screenplays Ford and Hawks were handed back in the day, were from literate screenwriters. Despite the the stringent movie code, they knew what they were doing.

    Perhaps in your world, Rick should have punched out Victor Lazlo, and handed his sad ass to Major Strasser, just like things go in real life, and Michael Curtiz was a sellout pussy, who couldn’t handle “tragedy.”

    • Replies: @syonredux
    , @Anonymous
  119. Not Raul says:
    @R.G. Camara

    What do you think I meant by “paid their dues”?

  120. J.Ross says:

    I liked this movie, but my reason for liking it is probably not a good one: I like outdated communication technology like pneumatic tubes. This movie has some of that stuff, like the non-digital information board listing jobs at the very beginning. Michael Radford’s 1984 (besides obviously being brilliant anyway) has a lot of old and alternate tech (decopunk?).
    Will screwball comedies survive the relaxation of the society around them? The Marx Brothers were hilarious in a world of child beatings and regular church attendance. Without seriousness, deliberate unseriousness just looks supercilious. The other day I came across young people baffled by the success of Airplane.

  121. syonredux says:
    @Anonymous

    Allen’s best film? Apart from his classic early funny ones, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE or MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. Runner-ups would be CRIMES and JASMINE.

    I really like Broadway Danny Rose.The other two are fine, but I don’t care for Manhattan Murder Mystery. I’d swap it out for Purple Rose of Cairo. Sure, Woody swiped the central conceit from Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, jr, but it’s still a very good film:

  122. syonredux says:
    @Nicholas Stix

    For instance, which was the greater picture, Citizen Kane or The Best Years of Our Lives?

    Kane. You only need to watch TBYOOL once to get all that it has to offer. Kane, in contrast, reveals new facets with every viewing.

    Mind you, Ambersons is my favorite Orson Welles film

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Presocratic
  123. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    A basic theory of creativity is that creation is nothing more than the combination of preexisting things. Creative things aren’t created ex nihilo, but are combinations of things, combinations of combinations of things, combinations of combinations of combinations…etc. In other words, it’s not some mysterious thing but a matter of combinations and recombinations.

    This could be said of someone like Chris Nolan who, at his best, is adept at reassembling ideas or expanding upon a simple premise, as in INCEPTION. But even dealing with dreamscape, you know it’s all frontal-lobe with Nolan. He’s fully conscious of what he’s doing and it shows.

    But then, there is someone like David Lynch. He isn’t mad but has something that mad people do. An antennae connection to the world of dreams, visions, trances, hallucinations, and other-dimensionality. Now, one can consciously construct such a world, but the handwork shows when made in such manner. With Lynch, it seems he really becomes immersed in worlds far stranger than what the conscious mind can conceive.

    Most creative people work within conscious perimeters. But some others have an odder way of seeing things. It’s due to a connection to wavelengths that most people can’t pick up. They have a radar for such things.

    Some people, however intelligent and creative, cannot tune into strangeness. In order for us to be conscious and secure in daily life, our mind just be clear and sharp, objective. It is in dreams that any of us can enter the strange world, but in such state, our conscious mind shuts down.
    And mad people may have visions and hallucinations that we aren’t privy to, but the price for this is loss of sanity. It is the rare individual who isn’t mad or asleep but nevertheless can tune into signals from those dimensions. Some such people are borderline nuts, as with Syd Barrett(who eventually went totally nuts with help of drugs) and Brian Wilson(who seemed lost to madness but recovered enough to live a semi-normal life again). And it’s been said of bipolar people that tend to be more creative because of severe mood swings. The transition from gloom to bliss sets off euphoric high that fan creativity, which however comes and goes according to moods.

    Because Lynch isn’t simply a conscious-creative artist but relies on visions & immersions, his works require long gestation periods. He’s a key figure in American cinema but his masterworks have been few and far between. ERASERHEAD and MULHOLLAND DR. Some might say BLUE VELVET. Maybe halfway. After MULHOLLAND, he seemed to tread water with stuff like INLAND EMPIRE. Without long and deep wrestling with ideas, he comes up with silly stuff like WILD AT HEART and LOST HIGHWAY.

    But with a lot of time and input, he can come up with truly remarkable stuff. Other than ERASER and MULHOLLAND, the work he deserves to remembered for is the TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. As with most such TV mini-series, it is too long and meanders at times, but it features some of Lynch’s most powerful passages. Anyway, this kind of creativity goes way beyond frontal-lobe spark work. One has to be immersed and surrounded in something far stranger. One has to surrender to it, channel it, and bring enough it back to conscious memory to use as the raw material for art.

  124. @anonvam

    The “four types” you identify reminds me of the famous classification of military officers by General Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord:

    I distinguish four types. There are clever, hardworking, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and hardworking; their place is the General Staff. The next ones are stupid and lazy; they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the mental clarity and strength of nerve necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is both stupid and hardworking; he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always only cause damage.

  125. syonredux says:
    @Soopy

    I don’t think that you really understand John Ford and Howard Hawks….

    Perhaps in your world, Rick should have punched out Victor Lazlo, and handed his sad ass to Major Strasser, just like things go in real life, and Michael Curtiz was a sellout pussy, who couldn’t handle “tragedy.”

    Are you OK?

    • Replies: @Soopy
  126. @Pericles

    The Stockholm syndrome hasn’t set in yet.

  127. anonymous[391] • Disclaimer says:
    @The Germ Theory of Disease

    Nabokov’s criterion for great literature was this:

    Books he wished he had written were great literature, everything else wasn’t.

    I like Welles, Wyler, Renoir and Bergman but

    They were Expendable,
    Harvey,
    and Cat People are the only movies I have ever seen and said to myself

    I wish that movie was something I could have been responsible for.

    I have very very high standards.

  128. Anonymous[419] • Disclaimer says:
    @Soopy

    All those folks who walked away from him at the end were the unselfconscious, spiritually weak.

    They didn’t walk away from him. They just entered the house with Debbie. It’s Ethan who chooses not to enter with them. At any rate, Ethan is not a pariah among the people in the community. They accept him for what he is. They don’t like everything about him but appreciate much about him.

    Michael Curtiz was a sellout pussy

    Curtiz directed MISSION TO MOSCOW, one of the craziest things Hollywood ever produced.

    • Replies: @Soopy
  129. Anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @syonredux

    Kane. You only need to watch TBYOOL once to get all that it has to offer. Kane, in contrast, reveals new facets with every viewing.

    In terms of sheer cinematic razzmataz, Welles is hard to beat. Also, he used his tricks meaningfully, something that never occurs to Gilliam, the most gratuitous mangler of styles(and one who styles himself as heir to Fellini and Welles; incredibly, his inspiration is from the later bad Fellini than the earlier great one). CK changed cinema like BEST YEARS never did or could. Still, BEST YEARS should be judged on its own merits and intentions, and it works beautifully there. Also, the familiarity of the film’s style suits the material. It’s about men who’ve seen hell in war and have returned to the safety and security of home. This familiarity in the movie is both assuring and alienating because, as horrible as war was, it gave meaning to these men as warriors and heroes. As civilians, they gradually become like everyone else just eking out a living. And even though BEST YEARS is a movie I don’t want to watch over and over, some of its images stay with your forever, esp the one where the guy is walking through a graveyard of bombers. That is a powerful and haunting image. And now, it is one of the most moving and bittersweet portrayals of a Lost America. It was 1946, and ten yrs later, it was REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE already.

  130. Soopy says:
    @syonredux

    I don’t think that you really understand John Ford and Howard Hawks….

    Are you OK?

    I’m top of the pops, old sport!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery from your head injury.

  131. Soopy says:
    @Anonymous

    They didn’t walk away from him. They just entered the house with Debbie. It’s Ethan who chooses not to enter with them.

    Well, maybe that’s the way you issue your greetings when someone who has delivered your daughter from primitive rapacious savages, but Ethan and the rest of us know when we’re not very appreciated.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  132. Anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @Soopy

    Well, maybe that’s the way you issue your greetings when someone who has delivered your daughter from primitive rapacious savages,

    Daughter? Her parents are dead.

    Ethan had meant to kill her. He is ambivalent about himself.

  133. MEH 0910 says:

  134. @syonredux

    The Magnificent Ambersons is still widely and justly regarded as a great movie, but the 1918 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which it was faithfully based has been forgotten, as has its author, Booth Tarkington. Tarkington’s fall into obscurity reminds me of the similar fate that befell the novelist James Gould Cozzens a generation later. I commented yesterday (belatedly) on a post you made about Cozzens last month.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  135. Anonymous[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @Presocratic

    The Magnificent Ambersons is still widely and justly regarded as a great movie, but the 1918 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on which it was faithfully based has been forgotten, as has its author, Booth Tarkington.

    Widely? Within the film community but who knows about it OUTSIDE cinephilia? Not many.

    Also, there were many more great authors and books in the 20th century than film artists and movies. So, Tarkington had lots of competition whereas Welles didn’t. People like John Ford and Howard Hawks, though great entertainers, were not really artists. Rather, they were first-rate filmmakers who, once or twice, came close to making something like art. In contrast, Welles was an artist and a genius one at that. How many others like him did Hollywood produce? Scorsese comes to mind; it’s in the single digits.

    The difference between AMBERSONS the book and film is the book is first-rate but not one of the greatest books ‘of all time’ whereas the film, even in its tragically butchered state, is of the ‘all-time’ great works.

    It’s telling that the literary world doesn’t take pulp writers seriously but film world takes seriously people like John Carpenter. Not putting down Carpenter. He is preferable to all those directors who are now making SERIOUS superhero movies. Carpenter never pretended to be an Artiste and just made really good genre movies. He knew his limitations, thus he knew his real strengths. .

  136. MEH 0910 says:
    @Andrew Gilbert

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