His movie "The Black Dahlia" opened this weekend, or rather, didn't open. The New York Times insists De Palma is the center of a heated debate among film critics: nothing can spark more controversy than simply saying De Palma's name and watching the sparks fly. Maybe that was true -- 20 or so years ago. To amke their point, the NYT quotes a critic from the New York Press, another one reviewing a DVD for Salon and a series of articles at the online magazine Slant. If that constitutes a battle royal of critics, we've come a long way from Pauline Kael in The New Yorker and even Ebert & Siskel.
The simple truth is that De Palma doesn't inspire heated debate among film critics or moviegoers because most of them long ago decided De Palma simply wasn't that good a director. His most commercial hits -- "Scarface" and "The Untouchables" -- are atypical. And his best movies -- "Casualties of War," "Blow Out" -- are overshadowed by unredeemable movies like "Femme Fatale," "Snake Eyes," "Raising Cain" (though I know members of IRA who swear by that one), "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "Wise Guys" and his most embarassing Hitchcock ripoff "Body Double." One of De Palma's next projects? "The Untouchables: Capone Rising." 'Nuff said.