[Ken Kifer's Writing Pages]

ARTICLE: What Goes on under the Hood?

A spoof of both modern movies and of their reviewers, written as a term paper draft.

What Goes on under the Hood?


NOTE: The following spoof was written to meet a class assignment which was for us to each produce a term paper within a few days, which could be incomplete, so we could practice exchanging comments about them using the computers. Many students took the assignment seriously, but others like me saw this as an opportunity for fun. The names of the reviewers cited in my papers were names from the class, thus making the joke even more fun. The professor was Dr. Raymond, and one of his favorite terms was "bricolage." Notice that the responses were also mainly humorous. While this -- by no means -- is a serious piece of writing, it has a quality that every piece of writing should have, as much as humanly possible: it is interesting and enjoyable to read.

In these days of gratuitous sex and violence, it is refreshing and original to see a movie that can tease and titillate without satiating, that can thrill and chill without horrifying. Such a movie is the recent release by Roman Polanski of Little Red Riding Hood, starring Warren Beatty and an unknown 12 year-old Rumanian actress.

Some movies are remembered for their splendor, such as The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur, others are remembered for their drama, such as Gone with the Wind or Rio Lobo, but only a few will be remembered for their poignant interpersonal relationships, such as Last Tango in Paris and Little Red Riding Hood.

It is true that some critics have indicated a mild distaste for Little Red, such as Steve Featherstone in the Harvard Review of Books (who called it "a pretty piece of trash traipsing around like a whore in front of a seedy hotel at five in the morning" {123}) and Katherine Ledford in the New Saturday Evening Post ("definitely not the kind of movie I would like to go to on a blind date" {64}), but most critics have been somewhat kinder. For instance, Ted Sabarese, in The Hot Movie Review ("Not bad at all!" {12}) and Dr. James Raymond in the Tuscaloosa News ("We should not be too hasty in forming a judgment"{4}). Perhaps a careful appraisal of Little Red Riding Hood will reveal the reason for the mixed results.

The first scene is felt by many critics to be one of the two crucial episodes in the movie. The storyline is short: the wolf stops Red and asks her where she is going; Red replies that she is going to Grandmother's house. But the subtle, nonverbal messages that pass between the two speak volumes. For instance, while answering the wolf, Red is not exactly the quiet, demure, innocent child that many would prefer to see her as being. Instead, she is rather insolent and playful, and she frequently rubs or examines her body while answering. Warren Beatty, in his role as the wolf, is hardly politely disinterested himself. As he watches her rubbing herself, he slobbers droll down the front of his apricot scarf, and his eyes gleam with a special fire, found only in all his other movies. As John Barrett has observed, "There is a lot of hidden significance in this scene." {34}

I tend to feel that the second scene detracts from the movie. I realize that the same wolf appears in more than one story, but I find it disconcerting to discover Warren Beatty stopping at the First Little Pig's house on his way to Grandmother's house. Still, as Ken Kifer has pointed out in Boy's Life, "The need for a thematic shift is the nexus of this apparent conundrum." (67) [PAPER NOT COMPLETED]

Works Cited

Barrett, John. "Another Putdown for Women." Ms. Jan. 2, 1992:34.

Featherstone, Steve. "Little Red Panties." The Harvard Review of Books. Jan. 2, 1992:123.

Kifer, Ken. "From Reds to Red: The Thematic Shift." Boy's Life. Jan. 2, 1992:67.

Ledford, Katherine. "Warren Beatty Strikes Out Again." The New Saturday Evening Post. Jan. 2, 1992.

Raymond, Dr. James. "Bricolage at the Movies." The Tuscaloosa News. Jan. 2, 1992:A4.

Sabarese, Ted. "Wow!!" The Hot Movie Review. Jan. 2, 1992:12.


Response from U12

I found your review of the movie insightful and your quotes from others' reviews to the point, but I wish you had spent more time contextualizing this film in the light of Polanski's other work. For instance, a comparison/contrast of the relationship between Red and the wolf and that of Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown would have been scintillating.

Response from U16

Your second paragraph ("Some movies") could tie in tighter, though all-in-all, your intro is tight. Your treatment of the content of this fine almost-masterpiece does it justice. You insert your source materials in smoothly and support your views with hard evidence. By the end, I'm sure this will be a nicely done piece.

Response from U25

I don't know who you are, but your farce is hilarious! Thanks for making a dull assignment enjoyable. On a more serious note, the style and content of your "review" are good: you complete the assignment of integrating secondary "sources" into your own ideas/interpretation of the "film.".

Response from U23

The sources you cite are well chosen, especially the quote from Steve Featherstone, which lends a real, shall we say, "je ne sais quoi" to the piece. Your own interpretation is particularly insightful (although, not quite as cutting as Steve Featherstone's), especially in the second paragraph where you speak of the "subtle, nonverbal messages." Also, the reference to Ken Kifer's criticism (while it wasn't exactly as well thought out as Steve Featherstone's -- I mean, what is all that crap about the "nexus of this apparant conundrum" (note the spelling of "apparant"). Ken Kifer is a complete hack and should never be found in print, which also says loads about his publisher) in your last paragraph illuminates your criticism (and what criticism wouldn't be illuminated next to Kifer's. You did well in choosing this source.) Well, besides a few spelling errors, this is a fine start. Perhaps we could talk more over lunch sometime about what a shame it is that Steve Featherstone was overlooked when the Pulitzers were given out last year!

Response from U26

This is wonderful. The phrase "many would prefer to see her as being" is less graceful than the rest of your prose, but you know, it aint nothin', really.

Comments | DIRECTORIES: | The New World | Writing | Thoreau | Home | Bike Pages |
PAPERS: | Hamsters | Nelson-Denny | Computers | Lefthand |
WRITINGS: | The New World | RedRide | Negative | Firewood | Any Cave | J'ville | Carbiding |
http://www.kenkifer.com/writing/redride.htm | copyright © 2000 Ken Kifer