Brett Ratner's Rat Press Books

Brett Ratner has a new publishing imprint, the Rat Press, through which he's going to release new titles as well as make some of his favourite out-of-print books available again. Speaking to Movieline, the ever unpopular director announces his motivation in putting out editions of James Toback's Jim, Lawrence Grobel's compiled interviews with Marlon Brando and Robert Evans, and Scott Caan's collections of photos.

Caan's photo collection – which includes snaps of some of the actors Caan has worked with as well as "a lot of naked girls", naked girls that Ratner seems almost too keen to tell us he's into too – seems likely to sell out first, though for me it's the Grobel interview collections that hold the most appeal. Pictures of naked girls are ten a penny, whereas this kind of long-haul interview journalism is relatively rare.

Toback and Caan have definitely worked with Ratner before – Black and White and Cop House, for example – but I wasn't sure what the man's connection to Grobel is. Here's a quote that explains how Ratner came to re-publish his interviews:

I have the most incredible book collection; they're just a big part of stuff I love to collect. But the Brando book is one that I've always loved, and when I met Lawrence Grobel, I told him: "I love your Capote book! I love your Brando book!" And he said, "You know, the Brando book is available." I said, "What? I want to publish it! Will you write a new outro for it?" And then he said, "And I interviewed your friend Bob Evans." I said, "Really? Can I read it?"

I know, I know – many of you are rolling your eyes back into the top of your head. Poor ol' Rat Brettner, he can't catch a break. I know he's definitely not popular amongst the /Film readership but we should thank him for these Grobel books. Any real cineaste will, at the very least, be requesting them at the local lending library.

Ratner derides a certain type of journalist in the Movieline interview for simply presenting him with others' opinions of him and his work. Hmmm. If he's really that interested, I'll definitely tell him what I think.

Personally, I think Brett Ratner is underrated. In the same way I think Shawn Levy – him again – or Paul WS Anderson are underrated. These are filmmakers without any great grand sylistic maneuvres to compare with – say – Fincher or Scorsese or Oliver Stone. Comparatively, they are the folks that get called hacks.

Let's use the third X-Men film as an example. is it really that horrible? It's definitely not as bad as its reputation suggests. The opening shot, establishing the Grey family name on the mailbox and showing the car pull up is perfectly fine. That's just the first example that comes to mind – but really, its hard to rip that shot to shreds. I'm not excited about it, but I definitely don't hate it.

But there are a lot of mistakes in the film. Bad choices. So much of that stuff, however, is rooted in the screenplay. It simply doesn't compare to those of the first two films (and the first one was hardly perfect itself). What Ratner has done is render a sometimes off-key, occasionally totally smooth but most of the time utterly indifferent version of the film that script describes.

With a better screenplay – The Family Man, for example – he ends up with a better film.

And that, really, is as good a working definition of a hack that I can come up with. Let's say that X-Men 3 comes out at 3.5/10. For his part, accepting that he's a director for hire and not in control of all aspects of the picture, then Ratner's work would likely score a 4 or 4.5/10. He's done better work than the finished film.

On the other hand, I don't think I like the guy personally at all. I'm prepared to suspect everything I think he's said has come to me through the media, and therefore hardly solid evidence, but he does come across as a bit of a jerk. Too much testosterone? That's his public image anyway.