Tuesday, December 28, 2004

2 + 2 = 5.

1) Paz Vega.

Did I mention she's currently my boo? No? Well, after a one-two screening of (the sublime) Talk to Her and (the average-yet-strangely-entertaining) Spanglish, she is. We're very happy, thank you.

2) Cate Blanchett in The Aviator.

Cate owns the screen every time she walks into frame. I think it might be the laugh, or the way she throws her head around. Whatever it is, I find myself hanging on her every word. (Plus, when Paz leaves me for Josh Lucas or some other asshole, Cate is my boo-in-waiting.)

3) "Against Interpretation" by Sontag.
I just re-read Ms. Sontag's essay before the holiday and... It's hard for me to imagine how bold and revolutionary it must have seemed in the '60s. That someone created our notion of "camp." Let's all observe Ms. Sontag's passing by putting on a feather boa and evaluating Hulk Hogan and Loni Anderson's chemistry in 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain.

4) The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson.
Having finished Thomson's overstuffed, feverish overview of Hollywood, I'm not sure that I really have a better grasp of the creation of "Hollywood." I'm not sure that I really care. I enjoyed the ride: 300some pages of Thomson randomly spewing factoids, passing broad and sweeping pronouncements (I'm working on a post about his assertion that film is not art), and his signature acidic opinions. Check out this dismissal (and remember that this is supposed to be a book about the entire history of Hollywood.)
I have nothing to say about Star Wars. To the extent that I have written about movies, it has been because I felt that there was enough of art (or attempt at it) in some films to justify the effort--to justify the excitement I had felt in the dark. But there is nothing to be said about Star Wars because there is not enough in it: the fullest response is "Wow!" or pressing the repeat button. It is, for good and ill, sensational. And I like sensations, like hot water on my back or salt on my tongue. But in recent times there are too many occasions when new films do not deserve the space or the paper it would take, let alone the effort.

As you can tell, it's a trip.
Oh and Thomson says Spielberg has never made a film that could be considered "great." Empire of the Sun is the closest thing in the canon. What about Schindler's List, you ask? "Much of that movie is impeccable and very intriguing; but crucial things in it--like the girl in the red coat--are not just disastrous, but enough to leave on believing in a schizoid chasm in the director's soul."

5) My sister's homemade Garlic/Basil/Fake Chicken Pizza.
Crust from scratch, fresh basil and garlic, topped by her hippie Chicken and lots of soy cheese (and some mozzarella too). F-ing brilliant.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Quote of the day.

"When are today's movie's going to regain that old habit they had, of getting us to the point of fucking?"

--Lucy Thomson, as quoted by her husband David in his book The Whole Equation. (This after Ms. Thomson took in a screening of Love Actually. Before you jump to the conclusion that this quote is a condemnation of the film, it's not. The Thomsons think Love Actually is a charming, old-timey movie that puts them in the mood.)

Relatedly, Mr. Thomson recaps the year in film for The Independent. Among the choice bits, this depressing realization: "Only the other day I calculated that the entire work of Ingmar Bergman must have been made for less than the bill on Alexander." And this prediction: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I think, will be the picture of this year that lasts the longest, and comes into its own - it may be a masterpiece." Always cautious that Mr. Thomson.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas dinner.

Well, kind of.
There wil be real turkey and potatoes and the like, but my sister is a goddam hippie. Hence the Tofurky (which I'm kind of interested in trying) and the Brussels sprouts (which I will be avoiding at all costs).

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Pedro, how do you feel about this one?

I finally saw Napoleon Dynamite and I have absolutely no clue what Jonathan Demme is talking about.
It's Gummo if Harmony Korine was a Mormon with no aesthetic and was happy to just co-opt Wes Anderson's. I will admit that I was amused with the Jamiroquai (sp?) dance, am torn about its racial politics, and at a total loss as to how this thing is the juggernaut that it is.

Is that a compliment?

"She looks just like Meredith Baxter Birney."

--My Dad on Ms. Téa Leoni, after seeing Spanglish.

Headline of the day.

YMCA Chief Fired for Transgender Ball Flap.

Lemony Snicket's Pathetic Playlist.

Y'know, for a mopey bastard, it's pretty damn good.
Mr. Snicket's playlist (via iTunes):

The Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Marianne Faithfull
One Day Late - Sam Phillips
Calculation Theme - Metric
4th of July - Aimee Mann
Nobody's Fault but My Own - Beck
Ramon - Laurie Anderson
Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 "Black Mass" - Vladimir Horowitz
Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7 in F Sharp Minor: I. - III. - Borodin String Quartet
Ever Falls the Twilight - The Gothic Archies

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Quote of the day, II.

"I’ve determined that Whatevs.org represents a sustained assault on our collective mind-state, and that it threatens to reverse the technicization of the lifeworld, in the process obliterating industrial civilization and restoring the planet to a prelapsarian state, when man lived peacefully with dinosaurs in 'clans' not unlike the Clan of the Cave Bear. The process is, by this point, irreversible."

--AndrewSullivan.com's guest blogger, Reihan. I'm guessing that any academic analysis that links a novel-turned-film most noted for its depiction of rear-entry Daryl Hannah sex will please Uncle G. I hope.

Your cover's blown.

David Edelstein is playing all coy over at Slate. Apparently (or so he says) people are begging for the publication of his top ten list. He's refusing to publish it until next week.
Not so fast, Davey. As he is a voter in the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll, his top ten is available over there. So allow me to spoil all the drama and mystery that Mr. Edelstein is building. Mwa-ha-ha. Here's his top ten:

1 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2 Sideways
3 Hero
4 House of Flying Daggers
5 Bad Education
6 The Incredibles
7 Tarnation
8 Spanglish
9 Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
10 Moolaadé

(And just in case you are wondering Salon's Chuck Taylor put 13 Going On 30 in his top 10.)

Bits 'n pieces and whatever.

  • Going through a stack of CDs I haven't looked at since college, I found The Frogs' My Daughter The Broad. I realize we're all adults here and I should have cultivated a mature sense of humor by now, but I laugh every time I look at the tracklist, which includes such gems as "Which One of You Gave My Daughter the Dope," "Who's Sucking Grandpa's Balls Since Grandma Ain't Home Tonight," and, my personal favorite and The Obsolete Vernacular's Best Single of 1996, "Grandma Sitting in the Corner With a Penis In Her Hand Going 'No, No, No, No, No.'"

  • Quote of the day: "He's like a lover you don't want to screw, but you maybe want to cuddle him and tell him it's gonna be okay." --Juliette Lewis on William Hung, in the pages of the January Spin.

  • Speaking of the pages of Spin, props to Matthew Fluxblog for being named "Newest Tastemaker" in the aforementioned issue.

  • Criterion announces their March releases. Goodness from, among others, Renoir, Truffaut, and Antonioni.

  • The new Daft Punk album (titled Human After All) drops March 21st.

  • Fagistan hates me. Oh and not just me, you too. Yes, you.

An open memo.

To Whom It May Concern,

Please note that Kanye West is not the artist of the year nor is College Dropout the album of the year nor is "Jesus Walks" single of the year.

Just needed to make that totally clear.

Thnak you.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shrill and shriller.

I think the most remarkable thing about Joel Shumacher's putrid recreation of Lord Andrew Llyod Weber's The Phantom of the Opera is how reverential it treats the source material. To quote Neil LaBute: "It's not fucking Medea." You'd never know as every single note from the original is preserved, Dolby Digitalized, and blasted back at deafening levels. Every cringe-inducing, subtextless lyric (basically all of them) has been kept for your amazement (I think my favorite goes: "Down once more/to the dungeon/of my black despair!/Down we plunge/to the prison/of my mind/Down that path/into darkness/deep as hell!"). They didn't even tweak the title song (which was dated when it premiered in 1986) with its Flock of Seagulls synth-bass and Kenny Loggins electric guitar solos. The basic fact is, which'll be obvious to most, Lord Lloyd Weber's musical is a complete turd. Joel Shumacher seems to be in awe of this turd (or at least has been paid to be). Shumacher is a worthless director, incapable of directing almost anything. Imagine two and half hours of that combo. It's not pretty.
To be fair, P.T. Anderson could be directing that fucker and I'd hate it. Avoid it, people. Avoid it.
(Just FYI: the second most remarkable aspect of the film is they picked a Phantom who can't sing. It's really humiliating to watch this poor guy attempt these high notes and belt those lyrics and he just can't. People, the Phantom of the Opera can't sing.)

Quote of the day.

"Deciding whether to keep a CD or rip it to MP3 and sell it is a little like deciding whether, given the option of having sex with a certain person any time you wanted to, you would continue to have an emotional relationship with that person."


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A night at the ballet.

I give.
I can't take any more exquisitely crafted, perfectly art-directed, balletic martial arts movies. Hero tested my patience enough (although that had more to do with its alarming "Facism rules!" agenda). This time 'round, I made it thirty minutes into Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers before turning off the screener. (Yimou, by the way, is the one responsible for Hero.) The composition is lovely and Zhang Ziyi is one of the most attractive actresses currently working; In the thirty minutes I saw, there were two long traditional dance sequences that were well executed and a fight sequence that was as technically proficient as anything in Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But it was all so painfully dry and dull. And, like The Life Aquatic, every shot is a sumptuous, meticulously laid out tableau. For Christ's sake, can't we breath a little life and/or spontaneity into these things? I like my epic, richly art-directed films to be a little jagged, a little rough (see also: The Aviator, Boogie Nights, etc).
As Zhang Ziyi was performing her endless dances, I started to long for the ballet sequences in Robert Altman's The Company. Altman shoots them in long, fluid takes but isn't scared to occasionally jolt the audience with a jump cut or an unexpected insert. The sequences are elegant and refined... But edgey.
I suppose I might try to watched the rest of Daggers, catch Ms. Zhang dicing raindrops, or whatever it is she does for the rest of the movie. But I imagine that I'll just be wishing I had a copy of The Company. I guess it's my Western Imperialism shining through yet again.

Smug Bastard Watch.

In between Neil Cavuto and John Gibson kvetching about how the atheists are destroying Christmas, FOX News ran a Christmas commercial (PSA?) that quotes extensively from the Bible, all about how those who believe in God's son will have eternal life, etc. The spot ends with the narrator announcing: "FOX News wishes you and your family a very peaceful, very happy holiday." I can only imagine this is their passive-aggressive, smart-ass way of responding to the atheists and commies out trying to ban the phrase "Merry Christmas." But doesn't the Bible and/or Jesus frown upon petty, mean-spirited taunts? I'll have to check with Bill "Jack-me-off-with-a-falafel-loofa" O'Reilly.


David Edelstein hates Andrew Lloyd Weber. With this in mind, you must read his review of Joel Shumacher's filmed adaptation of The Phatom of the Opera.

A few choice quotes:

Did you ever see those impoverished commercials for Broadway shows like Les Miz—the ones that look dinner-theaterish and feature smoke machines, red and blue lighting, and lip-synching, overemoting performers? For all its budgetary riches, this Phantom is about as cinematic.

I'm more inclined to suggest that it be used to entertain the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo—at least until Amnesty International gets wind of it.


Monday, December 20, 2004

All is lost.

I hate blogging on a Windows computer.
I'd written a lengthy post connecting my love for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator with David Thomson's latest volume of film history, The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood.
This f-ing computer has now lost the thing (twice).
I can't deal with re-typing it tonight. Let me just say: go see The Aviator. You will be entertained and (hopefully) blown away by the insanely consummate filmmaking. If not, you are keeping a flame for some mythic Marty of the '70s or are Lars Von Trier or William Goldman.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hello, goodbye.

Off to the cold, cold midwest for some r&r and holiday cheer with the family. (Oops, holiday cheer? I mean Christmas cheer, don't want the FOX News minions on my case.) Anyway, I hear they have Interweb capabilities in Michigan, so I'll be checking in.

But before I go, a quick story: caught The Aviator last night at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. (I'll get into the movie some other time, but let me just say it's magnificent.) The crowd to see the film was huge and as I'm waiting in the poorly-managed line to get into the theater, who should walk up? None other than British mega-pop-star Robbie Williams (with entourage). They eye the retarded line that is wrapping around the lobby and go to speak to the manager, obvs trying to pull some VIP shit. To no avail. The fifteen year old manager tells Robbie he can wait in line with the rest. The ego has landed, indeed. Welcome to America, Robbie. (Oh and then when we were in the theater, Ray Ramano walked in and necause it's super full, he's forced to sit waaaay in the front and on the side. Ha. Celebs they're just like us, getting screwed at crowded movies.)

Anyway, enough starfuckery, I'm outta here. Everyone have some happy holidays a Merry Xmas Christmas and all that.

Friday, December 17, 2004


"This must be what it's like to be held captive in a Long Island supper club and force-fed hallucinogens."
--Dennis Lim nails Beyond the Sea.

Hyperbole watch.

"The dialogue is worthy of Hemingway." (That's Jonathan Rosenbaum of The Chicago Reader on Million Dollar Baby.) People, the ink and praise being spilled on this film is bordering on the hysterical. Like I said, it's a fine film, albeit one that's not growing any finer in hindsight. If anything, I'm getting more tripped up over certain aspects of the film that I think are really condescending and how damn seriously it takes itself.
Now let me be condescending. I'm wondering which pieces of dialogue Mr. Rosenbaum thinks are worthy of Hemingway. Is it when Clint growls "Girlie, tough ain't enough"? Or mayhap when Morgan Freeman rehashes his Shawshank monologues and wisely intones "Some wounds are too deep and too close to the bone, and no matter what you do you can't stop the bleeding." Either way, I guarantee you that this is the first time a writer for Walker, Texas Ranger has been compared to Hemingway.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sterritt's going to critic hell for that one.

David Sterritt, what happened? You're a real film critic, not some asshole blurb-whore like Larry King or ABC Radio News. So what is up with your review of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events? Obvs, a true blurb-whore would be outrageously positive (like when Larry King calls Phantom of the Opera one of the greatest films of all time) and your blurb is negative. But it's the wretched soundbite quality of it with three--yes, three--butt-clenchingly bad puns that puts you in King country.

Feast upon the offending blurb:
"I hate to sound per-Snickety, but this lemon of a movie is a sadly unfortunate event."

Oh Davey. Dude, you're dead to me for that one.

Is that Geoffrey Rush?

Seriously, did Mr. Rush go gray and replace Adam Clayton in U2? (Sorry for the small pic, but it's the largest version I could find.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Can't jump on the Million Dollar Baby bandwagon, y'all. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine and well-crafted film, with a nice turn from Hillary Swank and some good boxing sequences. But... well, I just can't get on board with those last forty or so minutes. Oh and aren't we all tired of Morgan Freeman as the wise, levelheaded narrator/voice of reason? Good God, I am.
Which reminds me, I was reading David Thomson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film over the weekend and happened upon his Frank Darabont entry. I was looking for an excuse to reprint an excerpt of it in all its delicious snarkiness. Morgan Freeman in yet another role as the sage/voice of reason seems like a valid excuse.

"Of course, Shawshank won many awards and nominations, and among the young it often passes for a profound piece of humanism. Times are hard."

Only from the 'Fork.

From Nick Sylvester's Pitchfork review of LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk is Playing at My House (Soulwax Remix)":
"Think 'Disco Inferno' with tighter pants and less underwear and the best wedgie ever."

"Disco Inferno." Check.
Tight pants minus underwear. Check.
Best wedgie ever. Um. Hmm. Er. I'm gonna have to think on that one for a bit.

For Pete's sake.

Oh Peter Travers, forever trying to come up with the zingiest of zingers. Times are getting rough as evidenced by this limp blurb found in his Life Aquatic review: "When in doubt, just watch Murray do his Bill dance to the bizarro music in his head. "
I know, lame. Especially when just a few years ago Pete was working overtime and taking the cake for ridonkulous quote-whore-ery. Savor on this Pop Rocks 'n Red Bull bit of film crit (from Pete's Mulholland Dr. review:) "For visionary daring, swooning eroticism and colors that pop like a whore's lip gloss, there's nothing like this baby anywhere."
Hey now. That's more like it. I love when a whore's lip gloss pops and love it even more when it shows up in print.

Quote of the day.

"Come on, Hitler, I'll buy you a glass of lemonade."

--One of the winners in David Edelstein's contest to find the worst line of dialogue ever uttered in a biopic. (The line is from Max, that film from a couple years back wherein Hitler is young and a struggling artist and buddy-buddy with John Cusack. Or something.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Poem of the day.

The good people of Defamer pointed out this Craig's List job posting. What they didn't mention is that it's totally a poem. I think. Enjoy:

"Christian fast typist/ writing ass."

completing book needs ass.,
with gift of discernment ,
spirit filled a must to be led by His Spirit, in His moment,to work from that place of peace and connectedness in Christ!
Thank You,

this is in or around Los Angelos{westside}

2 + 2 = 5.

1) Latkes by Tim.

As a strictly honorary Jew, this has been the best Chanukah evs, thanks in large part to Tim's bad-ass latkes.

(Note: that is not a picture of Tim making the latkes. Although Tim does have very girlie hands.)

2) Never Never Land by UNKLE.
I ignored this album for a long time based on the negative buzz surrounding its release. Oops. It's a blast of jittery anxious electronics melded with '60s garage. And can any album that boasts guest appearances by Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Brian Eno and Massive Attack's 3D and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker be all bad? The answer is yes. But not this one.

3) Bad Education.

While I didn't rapturously love this one, I really respected it. What's most striking is while its labyrinthine plot mutates and its characters shed identities on a whim, you can feel Almodovar's control over the material. It'd be so easy for this one to jump the rails, but Pedro is in total command.

4) The trailer for Batman Begins.
I'm a nerd, but I love it. (It could use a good "In a world..." opening, though.)

5) Alexandre Desplat's score to Birth.

I finally bought the soundtrack and am convinced (barring Mr. Brion's score to Eternal Sunshine) this might be the best score of the year.

Honey, I plagarized the piece (or not).

When I saw the concept of Woody Allen's latest New Yorker piece (a transcript from the Ovitz/Eisner trial with Mickey Mouse on the witness stand), I didn't even bother to skim the thing.
I have now.
Everyone's favorite Hollywood-hatchet-lady--the irrepressible Nikki Finke--points out that Rick Moranis wrote nearly the same piece in 1999. Finke--as par for the course--thinks Woody is a plagarist. I'm not convinced. I just think he's a tired old man with a stash of jokes that would've been stale two decades ago and zero understanding of modern Hollywood. Let it go, Woody. Let it go.

Get your nerd on.

I have got to let the current Wes Anderson fixation go. He's popping up on this blog way too much and, you know, I just have to accept that Life Aquatic isn't so hot and move on.
But I ask you: how can I move on when I find a site that explores Wes Anderson's obsession with the futura font in Tenenbaums? That's right I can't.
Having found this site, I feel compelled to tell a personal story. I kind of avoid telling personal stories here, 'cause I feel like I want to keep this site... well, kinda sorta anonymous. (Meaning employers and/or potential employers can't hold shit against me. Basically.) But I have to tell this story, especially after finding said font site.
I managed to see an extremely early cut of The Royal Tenenbaums and, well, long story short Wes Anderson asked me what I thought of it. Now, I was totally blown away and, er, nervous and at a complete and total loss for words. So, I started babbling at length aboout how I loved the world he created and how brilliant it was and how excellent it was that all the fonts in the film were the same. Yes indeed. Wes Anderson asks me about his film and I tell him that I like the fonts.
Yeah, brilliant.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Don't change your plans.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm going to die on Saturday, January 13, 2052. Just thought you'd like to know. (Who's going to live the longest? Leave your death date in the comment section. Winner gets a copy of the Criterion edition of Death Becomes Her.)

(via Expen$ivetm.)

Quote of the day.

"As to movies with staying power, I would put 'Touch of Evil' on that list, of course. (That movie is one reason why I hate 'Bowling for Columbine' and will never have a bad word for Charlton Heston, who did more for film culture by supporting Welles than Michael Moore ever will.)"

--Manohla Dargis in today's "Ask Manohla" column in the New York Times.

(Also: Casey from Boise will be getting a "Violet Sanford" paper doll from The Cinetrix as this question made it into print:
Q. Why is there no picture of you on the main online movie page like there is of A. O. Scott and Stephen Holden? Are you shy?
— Casey, Boise, Idaho

A. The third eyeball smack in the middle of my forehead always poses a challenge for photographers. Mostly, though, because I get paid for what I write and not for the way I look, I just don't see the need for a picture.

Time to start scouring those Boise - Yahoo yellow pages, Ms. 'Trix.)

Aquatic, round 2.

I was going to write a lengthy essay about my second go-round with Mr. Zissou, but it's... well, it's depressing and not really worth it. Guys, I hate to say it, but it's just not a very good movie. Even after the second viewing. (Sorry, Thighmaster.)
Sure, it's got some nice composition, a great Mothersbaugh electo-number, and a few chuckles. But it has no heart. The other three Wes movies work becuase, for all their quirky characters and bouts of whimsey, there's an anchor of humanism and empathy there. Not so with ze Zissou, where we get a solid two hours of masturbatory precociousness that's schtick-coma-inducing. I think what's most telling is that I'm not alone on this one. My friends are a group of Wes-fanatics and none of them liked the film and none of them will even remotely stick up for it.
Anyway, here's hoping for the best when Wes meets the Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2006.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The race card.

Anyone catch David Edelstein's initial review of The Life Aquatic? In it, he called Wes Anderson a racist for his constant use of "non-white actors" as sight gags and wondered why, say, the Village Voice hadn't called Anderson out on it. (Edelstein answered his own question by pointing out that Noah Baumbach's mother is a columnist for the Voice.)
I don't think Anderson is a racist, but I think it's a valid topic to discuss. Last year, when the Lost In Translation is racist campaign was in full swing, I wondered how these people charging Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray could justify their support of Wes and his use of Kumar Pallana. I thought it was refreshing that Edelstein was throwing it out there and opening it up for discussion. Funny thing is: the paragraph is no longer there. I read the review minutes after it was posted, so I have no clue when, exactly, the offending section was deleted. Disappointing.

My reaction to Life Aquatic (second viewing) tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2004

So 20th Century.

I love the critical stylings of Liz Penn/Dana Stevens as much as the next guy. Or maybe I don't. Clearly there are those who like her a whole lot more and seem rather reliant on her. Just a little setup: the day before the election, Liz posted a review of Huckabees tying it into (I guess you could say) the Kerry-zeitgeist and how the film was a call to arms to get Bush out of office. Or something. She didn't post anything else until this week, when she wrote a brief "I'm alive, I'll be back" message. (Hey, cut her some slack, she's been busy over at Slate.)

OK, this is where it gets insane. Check out this (for lack of a better word) outpouring from one James Soundpost, posted in the comment section of the "I'm Back" message. I would find some of it genuinely offensive if it... well, you'll see.

I've been too busy and/or depressed to keep up with you in the past month, liz, for which I apologize. I actually saw Huckabees The Day After and it served as a necessary tonic to the scene I witnessed the night before, when, passing through Times Square just as NBC called Ohio for Bush, I saw a large group of humans (for want of a better term) with Bush/Cheney signs shouting FOUR MORE YEARS in unison. I have met violent criminals; I once had occasion to look a mass murderer in the eyes, I had as a boss a seemingly nice man who was convicted of raping his niece, I have met Klan members and Neo-Nazis, and I have been uncomfortably near two bloody fistfights on the subway (one just yesterday). None of these encounters left me with the sense of truly pure evil dread I experienced that night.

You make a good point when you say that we shouldn't be over it. We shouldn't; it's not them, it's us. After all, it's we who are conscious who are the truly evil ones, continuing to support the war machine with our constant consumption while paying lip service to our souls.

Speaking of which, I saw another movie tonight. Sideways is a fun, well-made film, but after the great existential ramblings of Kaufman and Russell, Payne's preoccupations seem so twentieth-century. Adultery, mid-life crises, unfulfilled ambitions and aesthetic conundrums are fun problems to have when you can afford them, but when our country is turning into the Soviet Union (every day, it seems, another friend of mine is arrested for riding a bike, holding a picket sign or standing in what is suddenly declared to be the wrong place) and when we realize that the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is now officially dead, and that by the time we die, if we're allowed to live out our natural lives, free speech and jury trials will be relics of the past, the polar ice caps will have all but disappeared--well, I never got my novel published. People are sleeping with the wrong people. I'm unhappy and single and aesthetically unfulfilled. So fucking what.

I need inspiration, liz. I saw Obama on Charlie Rose the other night, which helped. We can't wait eight years for this guy. And I just met a 22-year-old woman who just hitchhiked cross-country, who told me that the young red-state punk kids are hopping freight trains these days, and living in house boats they're building out of dumpster materials. Back to hunting/gathering; maybe that's the future; I don't know.

What is truth, liz?

I was going to edit the message, but decided to leave it as is. Am I wrong, or is that the raving of a madman? We could talk about all the shitty, overwrought moveon.org-isms and brain-dead "looking at Bush supporters is like looking into the eyes of a mass murderer" crap, but I'd rather talk about his film crit (as I am wont to do). Isn't it amusing that he elevates the Kaufman and Russell films as being worthy films in these troubled times, but Sideways is just too petty. Hey, I lurve Eternal Sunshine, but when you strip it of all it's fancy footwork, isn't it "just about relationships"? Isn't that just so 20th Century? I should think so. Oy. I have to go hunt and gather, more later (maybe).

(Oh and if you haven't read it, Liz's take on The Brown Bunny is classic. Not to open that can of worms again...)

Quote of the day.

"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate [Passion of the Christ]. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth. It's about the messiah. Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions."

--The always lovable William Donahue, head of the Catholic league, speaking on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. What I love about Donahue is he doesn't see the irony in aligning himself with a filmmaker who rejects modern Catholic doctrine. That and he's so dumb that he can't see that Jews don't like the move because, um, it's a vile, sadistic piece of anti-Semitic garbage. And they love anal sex. That much is true.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Twee as fuck.

I'm currently obsessed with a Rough Trade comp called Indiepop1, a collection of '80s and early '90s 7"s from My Bloody Valentine, The Vaselines, The Magnetic Fields, blah blah blah. Inside, there's a reprint of a flyer that promises a show from one of the bands will be "Twee as Fuck." I love the expression and it's supposed to be endearing, so it's odd that I kept thinking of it as I sat through the airless and flat Finding Neverland.

People, Marc Forster and the good folks at Miramax have scrubbed the JM Barrie story into nothing. I fully expect filmmakers to take artistic liberty when they are telling biographical stories, but Forster and co. have juggled time lines, deleted family members and cleaned up dirty little secrets to aid in creating the worst kind of glossy, feel-good Oscar-pandering fluff. I guess we're supposed to root for this cinematic version of JM Barrie--the grown man obsessed with little boys and their innocene--but if you stop for a moment, block out the Splendatm score and pisspoor editing (and sumptuous costumes! I smell an Oscar nomination!), and think about the situation, you realize just what a selfish dick he is and start feeling bad for his ignored wife.

It doesn't help that when Forster decides to take us into Barrie's much-ballyhooed imagination it comes across as either Diet Fellini or some kind of low-budget musical that's being shot on a Shakespearean fetish-porn set. Hoorah for dancing bears (are we in John Irving country here?) and, um, "stylized" cowboys and injuns.

OK, I'm ending it here. Why am I working myself into a lather over a film that will ultimately wind up as the 4:00 am selection on TCM's Johnny Depp day in the year 2067? OK, I'll say something nice: it wasn't as bad as Beyond the Sea.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Wes World.

Josh, why didn't you tell me your girlfriend interviewed Wes Anderson?

It's one of the better pieces with the Anderson (amid the Aquatic onslaught of press). For one, there's this disarming moment of honesty: "I would kill for a good review in the New York Times, just once, because I always get something pretty mixed. Or, in the case of The Royal Tenenbaums, terrible."

Plus it covers when Wes met Pauline, his love of Truffaut/Renoir/Melville, L'Aquatic as L'Avventura, and Murray as Brando. Not too shabby.

That's rich.

"Kris Kristofferson, as a scaled-down old gray mentor to Blade, still looks like the visual equivalent of your five worst college hangovers. "

--USA Today's Mike Clark reviewing Blade:Trinity.

Quote of the day.

"Once again, the fickle finger of fate has diddled us again."

--Ron, the old dude, on The Amazing Race.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Armond White: hates ignorant film-goers/Todd Haynes/Seven, loves The Life Aquatic/Steven Spielberg/"Billmurray". (Choice quote: "All Anderson's film-loving contemporaries have had their imaginations touched by Spielberg, whether they admit or not. Filmmaking is their great voyage and their best work—Election, Three Kings, Being John Malkovich, O Brother, Where Art Thou?—partakes of Spielberg's cinematic zest and humanist zeal.")

This is why I love Armond. He's all over the place, borderline insane, and compulsively readable.


I'm purposely missing out on the whole "second season of The O.C." zeitgeist. Lucky for me, the Ladies Fug got me up to date on last week's episode:

Mischa: I am incredibly wooden.
Yard Guy: I am the only actor in Hollywood more wooden than you are.
Mischa: I know, it's amazing they found someone with less affect than me.
Yard Guy: Am I supposed to look distraught here?
Mischa: I don't know. I just look as blank as possible all the time.
Yard Guy: Do we make out now?
Mischa: I don't care.

Nothing's changed.

2 + 2 = 5.

1) Natalie Portman in Closer.

I've already covered this one, but I felt compelled to point it out again. The movie might not be perfect, but she is.

2) Depeche Mode: "Halo (Goldfrapp Remix)."
Goldfrapp deconstructs DM's mopey-dance-pop into a a slo-mo orgy of dreamy-slash-menacing sexuality (like a David Lynch sequence in the form of a four-minute pop song). Spend 99 cents and get it here.

3) Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral: Deluxe Edition.
I got the original Downward Spiral as a gift during my freshman year of high school. Even then I saw through its over-the-top angst and silly lyrics, but loved Trent's obsessive attention to detail and sound. Ten years later the album's been re-released and the lyrics are even sillier and the production even more impressive.

4) Richard Avedon's opening title sequence for Funny Face.
OK, so the movie-- not so hot. I was hoping that the filmed/fifictionalized Richard Avedon story (as told by Stanley Donen and starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn) would be a great piece of '60s fluff. Yeah, not so much. But Donen managed to get Avedon onboard as a special visual consultant and he created a snazzy, colorful main title sequence that's better than anything else in the movie.

5) Jeff Bridges listening to Khia's "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" in Door in the Floor.

I watched Door in the Floor over the weekend and found very little to like. (Tony, Manohla-- what are you guys talking about?) Just when I thought aboslutely all was lost, I got to the scene where teenager Eddie has to drive sullen/pissed Jeff Bridges home. Eddie doesn't strike me as an r&b type fellow, but he's always listening to the hot jam radio station in the car. As the two of them drive home in total silence, Khia's "My Neck, My Back" begins to play. Mortified by the song's, um, ribald lyrics, Eddie fumbles to change the channel. "DON'T DO THAT, I LOVE THIS SONG!" Jeff bellows. He then precedes to white-boy dance to Khia. It almost made it worth it. Almost. The Dude abides.

So bad.

Did I mention I hate the Grammys? They unveiled their nominations and, as usual, they're such a joke. When Hoobastank is nominated for Song of the Year... er, yeah, you get the picture. The one saving grace... the bizarre definitions. I love that Bjork's freaky "Oceania" is competing in the "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" against Sheryl Crow and Gwennie and Joss Stone. Ha. Oh and grudging respect for nominating Jon Brion for the Eternal Sunshine score. But that's it. Boo-urns to those noms.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Six years later.

Dear Gus Van Sant,

Well, it's been six years since you decided to do that whole shot-for-shot remake of Hitch's Psycho. I saw it in the theaters (mea culpa and stuff) and was dumbfounded. It was kind of shocking that, despite it being an exact facsimile, there was not a single second of quality in it.
I caught up with your film again over the weekend. By which I mean I Tivo'd it off the Sci-Fi channel and proceeded to fast forward through it in triple-speed. I still don't get it. At all. I mean you filled it with lots of talented actors (Anne Heche [despite being totally insane, she's quality, yo], the P.T. Anderson players, and, er, Rita Wilson) and got Chris Doyle to shoot it, but it is... D.O.A. (And it's not just the whole Vince Vaughn in drag thing. I mean, that's just the rancid icing on the poop-cake.)
Gus, I'd really appreciate an explanation, 'cause I am legitimately flummoxed. Your reasoning/answer can go in the comment section. Thanks.

Your friend,


PS: You also managed to fuck up my buddy The Thigh Master's senior year with that film (see comment section) . You may leave an apology for him after the explanation. Thank you.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

This and that.

  • In case you forgot, Harry Knowles is a poet. (Via Tim.)

  • I watched Short Cuts last night for the first time in years. It's even better than I remember. I still think it could use a little pruning (I could use with a little less of Annie Ross' jazz stylings and think the Lilli Taylor/Downey Jr. stuff could be trimmed), but good God is it rich and overflowing... And the "big moment/showstoppers" (i.e., Jack Lemmon's monologue, Julianne Moore and Matthew Modine's fight) are perfection. Waking up this morning, I was a little saddened to read this quote from Bob (via Ebs): "I used to plan on another decade. Now I'll settle for a few more years."
    Oh Bob. Don't say that. You still have, er, Prairie Home Companion: The Movie (sigh) to make. And hopefully another great one after that. (Ebert's response to Altman's doom and gloom? "I advise him to keep on telling time by making films and he will never die, because it won't be in the production schedule.")

  • The LA Times has a fluff-ball piece on The Life Aquatic. I wouldn't've even bothered linking, if it wasn't for the truly awful picture of Wes. He looks like a pterodactyl.
    Oh and for some reason I found this exchange between Bill Murray and Wes kind of charming:
    "I'm an adult now. I'm not an ingénue anymore. I'm sort of like, who's the girl in 'The Last Picture Show?' "

    "Cybill Shepherd?" offers Anderson.

    Cybill Shepherd, Murray agrees.

    "I'm not an ingénue anymore. I'm a leading lady. But it's interesting, I'm yet unseen as a leading lady."

  • Last night at UCLA, The Melvins provided live accompaniment to three short films by Cameron Jamie. A few days ago they talked to Rolling Stone about film music and why they chose to collaborate with Jamie. I walked away with one clear understanding: The Melvins' Buzz Osborne ♥s Danny Elfman. Dig: "I didn't want to do some Danny Elfman crapola. He must write that shit in his sleep. He might as well be working at a fucking bank." La la la la la la la la laaaaaa....*

    *= An html attempt at creating an Elfmanesque children's choir.

A fist in blood.

I saw Closer and liked it quite a bit. I'm a sucker for stage-y chamber pieces where the characters are hyper-articulate and are forever launching into bold, declarative speeches. It worked for me. Some more random thoughts:
  • I forget that I like Julia Roberts. I find myself annoyed by her offscreen persona and was startled, like Josh, to watch her deliver a compelling performance. Now, that said, during the course of the movie it became painfully obvious that Clive Owen and Natalie Portman are in another stratosphere and Jude and Julia are just along for the ride. What is it with Jude? I like him, I think he's a fine actor and I think he picks really interesting work... but the dude is not on his A-game. Maybe it's that he's been in, like, 50 things this year and the sheer volume of work wore him down. Or something. But dude is off and is in desperate need of getting "it" back.

  • Did I mention Nat Nat and Clive rule? I can now officially forgive Clive for his part in the debacle that is King Arthur (which, despite Vincent Gallo's noble effort, tops my worst of the year list)--the guy is propulsive. That's the word that got stuck in my head watching him. He just go-go-goes with this careening, reckless energy. It's not hambone, '90s-Al-Pacino acting, it's fearless, go-for-broke acting and it's excllent.
    And Nat Nat. Besides being painfully, impossibly gorgeous, she delivers on her early promise. Remember when she was that girl who showed such promise in Heat and Beautiful Girls? Then she got lost along the way, making shlock about getting knocked up at Wal-Mart and getting caught up in George Lucas' computer. Our little girl is all growed up and she's here to knock your f-ing socks off. She's got a lot of the BIG DRAMATIC scenes (that are ace-- don't get me wrong), but what I really relished were all of Nat's little facial expressions that are so natural and so right.

  • Memo to Mike Nichols: fire the music supervisor. I'll admit, I despise Damien Rice and his wuss-folk-shite. It's a personal thing. So I cringed when his shitty "The Blower's Daughter" (yup, that's what that song is called) played over the opening credits and through the first sequence. But I started cringing even harder when Mike took it to an extremely literal place, where Damian is moaning "I caaaan't taaaaaake my eeeeeeyes offa you" and Nat and Jude are locking eyes, etc. Or how about when Owen and Julia get in a heated fight and Owen nearly wallops Julia. Cut to Owen entering a club where Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" blasts. And on and on. It's ridiculously literal and silly.

  • I'm backing up Dave Edekstein and his love of listening to A-listers talk dirty. It's refreshing about watching a big Hollywood picture with a bunch of people who regularly appear on Oprah and spew psycho-babble in People bluntly talk about sex the way real people talk about sex.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Sacred Cows.

I love playing Sacred Cows (a game wherein you go around the table [or bar or whatves] and announce your utter contempt for something that is considered perfection. For instance: I wouldn't mind if the negative to The Graduate was consumed by fire.*)
Those funny old Brits at The Guardian are having a go at it (albeit minus the Sacred Cows brand). I think this blurb, from one Charlie Brooker, is my favorite (mainly 'cause it's so insanely British and because he's taking down one of my personal favorites):
The Royal Tenenbaums: "There wasn't a single character I could relate to or even feel faintly curious about - and worse than that, no proper jokes, just the sort of wry non-funnies that ponces pretend to find deeply amusing in the theatre."

Oh those theatre-prone ponces.

*= Side note: I think the greatest round of Sacred Cows I ever witnessed was when my friend Fraser went really sacred. Usually, people just name random beloved films or revered bands, etc. When it came to Fraser he announced: Othello by William Shakespeare. He then calmly explained how Iago was one of the most poorly written characters the Bard ever created and how the play as a whole was a giant turd. Taking down The Bard... that's balls, my friends.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I know how s/he feels.

Oh Drudge. You certainly know how to spice up your interweb site. Put pictures like that (which accompnies a story about the election scandal in the Ukraine) next to stories about the "SPLENDA SHORTAGE!"
Anyhoo, dear readers (all four of you), this is my long-winded apology for how dead the blog has been today. Work, don'tcha know.
More later.

UPDATE: That picture was hideous. I had to take it down. It was stealing my soul. I've left the link in case you want your soul stolen too. Still drowning is work. Bleh.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

What is a cinephile?

Still reeling from KenJen's Jeopardy!-loss at the hands of the Zerg?
Comfort yourself by checking out his impressive collection of lists for the Top Ten Films of 1921 - 2003.
KenJen has some good taste (mad props for his love of The Archers). Although: 1) Is Hud really better than 8 1/2 (see: Top Ten of 1963) and 2) With Friends Like Harry is really better than Mullholland Drive? (See: Top Ten of 2001) Uh, yeah, no. Whatever, I could go on, but these are minor quibbles. KenJen's done his homework.

(Endless respect to Morgan for the scoop.)

Quote of the day.

"He's kind of like Michael Bay, if Michael Bay were a fucking pussy."

--Morgan on Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I don't necessarily agree with the assessment, but I do love the quote.

The Zen of Henry.

"Every genre will get a fair shake on my show...I love big blow-'em-up films. Yet I want to say to young people, 'Sure, go watch all your action films, get yer ya-yas out. But leave time for 'Cool Hand Luke' and 'The Godfather.' If it's junk into your mind, then it's junk out. [Ed. note: Here's the payoff, y'all. Henry's goin' deep.] If all kids do is watch 'Dumb and Dumber,' then they, too, will be dumb and dumber.'"

--Henry Rollins rhapsodizing to the New York Daily News about his new IFC show. The pilot episode will feature a conversation betwixt Rollins and his mailman, Raoul, about the similarities between Zwick's The Last Samurai and Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Um, yeah. Should be insightful and lively. And why is he discussing these things with Raoul? Sez the Rollins: "Hollywood wants guys like Raoul to shut up and consume, so they can feed him another turgid, overdone, CGI-filled piece of junk. But I want to hear Raoul's thoughts." This coming from a guy who was featured in Bad Boys II. Rawk.

That's one way to start.

The 'Trix has a great post wherein she simultaneously praises and cuts down an essay by Alan Vanneman. Mr. Vanneman writes (the often-written) hatchet-job about how Pauline Kael might be a good prose-stylist, but she's a shitty film critic. Blah blah blah. We've been through all this before. But I must give him credit for his insanely smug opening. Check it:

"What can you say about a woman like Pauline Kael? Well, for one thing, she was a midget, less than five feet tall, although she always liked to claim the full sixty inches.

Life is tough for a midget. People pat you on the head and pass you by. And for the first forty-odd years of her life, Pauline Kael was passed by."

Oh damn. He went there.

The Music Aquatic.

The tracklist to The Life Aquatic soundtrack:
1. SVEN LIBAEK Shark Attack Theme
2. Loquasto International Film Festival
3. DAVID BOWIE Life On Mars?
4. SEU JORGE Starman
5. Let Me Tell You About My Boat
6. SEU JORGE Rebel Rebel
7. Zissou Society Blue Star Cadets/Ned's Theme Take 1
8. DEVO Gut Feeling
9. SVEN LIBAEK Open Sea Theme
10. SEU JORGE Rock N' Roll Suicide
11. JOAN BAEZ Here's To You
12. We Call Them Pirates Out Here
13. IGGY AND THE STOOGES Search and Destroy
14. PACO DE LUCIA La Nina De Puerta Oscura
15. SEU JORGE Life On Mars?
16. Ping Island/Lightning Strike Rescue Op
17. SEU JORGE Five Years
18. SCOTT WALKER 30 Century Man
19. THE ZOMBIES The Way I Feel Inside
20. DAVID BOWIE Queen Bitch

The first Top 10 list of the season...

...and it comes from John Waters. How fitting/perverse. Actually, Waters' list this year is relatively tame, usually he's all about throwing really shitty/shocking films on there. The list (along with Amy Taubin and other ArtForumers) is here. (Link via MCN.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Is he serious?

"To me, Napoleon Dynamite reflects an extremely bold vision, so bold that it alienates some of our august critics. It has enriched my life and brought joy and pleasure into my household... I hope I find in the next year or two that, yes, I too still have the courage and ability to make a movie like that."

--Jonathan Demme to The Telegraph.

I'll admit: I didn't see Napoleon but I'm sure I'll catch up with it. From the looks of the trailers and TV spots I caught, it always struck me as a smug, misanthropic, passive-agressive Wes Anderson ripoff. Apparently Demme saw the Angel Moroni* in that film. Or something.

*= a Mormon joke.

Prok's crock.

Morgan blasts Kinsey and its defenders. While I'm not quite so spiteful towards the film (I found it dull, humorless and condescending, but not that offensive), I'm down with the sentiment.

Apocalypse watch.

From an MTV News story on Jessica Simpson's new album:

"Perhaps some of that Southern feel will end up seeping into her next album, Simpson said, since she's toying with experimenting with other genres in order to make more timeless music. "I want to still keep it pop," she said, "but steer left a little bit. Maybe I'll put a little bit of country in there, maybe a little bit of jazz."
Though she's been listening to Björk for inspiration, Simpson doesn't want to overplan what she does next, lest the tunes sound forced. "I'm not going to put a lot of thought into it," she said.

(Incredulous emphasis added by me.)

Award season begins....

...with the useless National Board of Review. Here are their (always spotty) picks of the year. Don't you love how they try to give something to damn near everything? Oy.

1. Finding Neverland
2. The Aviator
3. Closer
4. Million Dollar Baby
5. Sideways
6. Kinsey
7. Vera Drake
8. Ray
9. Collateral
10. Hotel Rwanda

1. The Sea Inside
2. Bad Education
3. Maria Full of Grace
4. Les Choristes
5. The Motorcycle Diaries

1. Born into Brothels
2. Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
3. Paper Clips
4. Supersize Me
5. The Story of the Weeping Camel

Best Film: Finding Neverland

Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside

Best Documentary: Born into Brothels

Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray

Best Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia

Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Hayden Chuch, Sideways

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey

Best Acting by an Ensemble: Closer

Breakthrough Performance Actor: Topher Grace, In Good Company and P.S.

Breakthrough Performance Actress: Emmy Rossum, The Phantom of the Opera

Best Director: Michael Mann, Collateral

Best Directorial Debut: Zack Braff, Garden State

Best Adapted Screenplay: Sideways, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor

Best Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman

Outstanding Production Design: House of Flying Daggers

Career Achievement: Jeff Bridges

Special Filmmaking Achievement: Clint Eastwood, for producing, directing, acting, and scoring Million Dollar Baby

Special Recognition of Films that Reflect the Freedom of Expression: Fahrenheit 9/11, The Passion of the Christ, Conspiracy of Silence

Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking

The National Board of Review, in keeping with its long tradition of recognizing excellence in filmmaking, is proud to salute the following films, crafted by visionary artists which demonstrate the creativity and determination which have always been vital to the film industry:

(Listed alphabetically)
The Assassination of Richard Nixon
Before Sunset
Door in the Floor
Enduring Love
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Facing Windows
Garden State
A Home at the End of the World
Imaginary Heroes
Since Otar Left
Stage Beauty
The Woodsman