Friday, September 30, 2005

Your weekly Armondism.

In my silence, I bet some of you haven't been keeping up with your weekly Armond White film crit. Shame on you. To remedy the situation, here's a dose of Capote-hate:
Hoffman's entire performance is on his knees (begging), utilizing his perpetual albino aura. Not just a new Dustin Hoffman, he's our Charles Laughton doing more acting than others would dare and more than is necessary. Director Bennett Miller closes in on every tic (even Catherine Keener's humdrum turn as Capote's beard among the Midwestern rubes). Capote won't be complete until Hoffman makes his Oscar season rounds, burnishing the shameless display. Blame Roger Ebert (Hoffman's next role?) for overpraising Monster. Now all SAG's a madhouse.

Feel the burn, Ebs. Buuuuurn.

100 years ago today...

Happy Centennial, Mr. Powell.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Michel donne un coup de pied l'âne.

Le Gondry spills the beans on the The White Stripes' "Denial Twist" video:
"It's going to be a real — how do you say it? — a mindblower. It is based on one day in Jack and Meg's life. It's re-enacting a day when they went to play on the Conan O'Brien show, in a very bizarre way. We see them playing on the stage, then they talk to Conan, and then they take their car and drive amongst giant people, and then they go home and watch their performance on TV. But the whole time, they will be distorted and stretched."

Signez-moi vers le haut.

In a world...

Best. Trailer. Ever.
The "Solsbury Hill" cue is killer.
(Give the file a second to load... Hat tip to The J for pointing it out.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


So here's the deal: last week, some swift thief-type(s) broke into the place that I call Work, and made off with all of our four-year-old computers. Way to go dude(s), hope that gets you a couple of twenties over at the pawn shop. Even though we had things backed up (the wicked smart thief-type(s) missed the server... oops...), it's a bitch and a half to get everything up and running and back to the way it once was.

This is a long way of saying, "Hello" and "This is why things are still quiet." In the meantime, enjoy one of the most irritating, pathetic, and--ah hell, I'll just say it--racist pieces of pop commentary I've seen in quite some time. (Memo to Mr. Morford: not all of those blinged out colored fellas say "Yeah Boyeeeee.")

Friday, September 23, 2005


Just a quick hello and a "My office was burgled on Wednesday, the thieves took our computers, and that's why things are quiet around these parts."

More later when things are back up to speed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Which piece of Tim Rutten's snark-filled Geraldo essay should I excerpt? Too dificult to choose just one paragraph. Try these two:

"Seeing [Geraldo Rivera] descend bright-eyed and sweaty on wretched New Orleans, as he did in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, was like watching a vulture on crystal meth. The word that came to mind was not 'reporting,' but 'feeding.'"


"The notion of one employee of a news organization interviewing a colleague about his beef with another news organization seems to render the very notion of solipsism somehow inadequate. Still, it was worth the price of admission to hear O'Reilly describe Stanley as 'a committed liberal' and the New York Times as 'a pamphlet for the secular left.' Oh, why not go all the way, Bill, and use the words that really are in your heart … like 'infidel dogs.'"

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sharing the wealth.

It wasn't until I was stuck in post-theater traffic that I really realized what I had seen. Meryl Streep and Peter Dinklage and Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Thewlis (among others) on a stage performing radio plays by Charlie Kaufman.
That just doesn't happen that often.
Needless to say, Theater of the New Ear was hilarious and funny-sad and well-acted and, er, meta. (What one would expect from a night at the theater with Mr. Kaufman.) As I'm in the middle of the Monday-work blahs, I don't have a whole lot of time to get into the show, but I understand that an mp3 of the London version of "Hope Leaves the Theater" is--cough(scroll down to the Sept 18 entry)cough--floating around on the Internets. Maybe if you're wicked smart you can track it down and listen to the radio play yourself. Shrug.
Happy Monday.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Tivo alert.

If you get TCM, don't you dare miss Powell & Pressburger's radiant Technicolor experiment A Matter of Life and Death. It airs tomorrow--Sunday the 18th--at 8:00 eastern/5:00 pacific. (And if you're feeling extra saucy, make it a double feature: The Archers's sublime Black Narcissus follows AMOLAD.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Romanekian Redux.

Oops. Two more things:

  • One day, Harris Savides, God among cinematographers and d.p. of the "Scream" video, was returning from a lunch break and was shooshed the second he stepped onto the stage. "Be very quiet," a producer whispered. Savides looked over and saw Jacko engaged in a "secret dance" with Grandpa Munster and a few of the original (and very aged) Munchkins.

  • Romanek hearts Edward Gorey.
    Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies:

    A still from Romanek's video for Nine Inch Nails' "The Perfect Drug":

Thursday, September 15, 2005


For the past two nights I've scarffed down the newly released Work of Mark Romanek DVD. As if having this trove of pop art goodness wasn't enough, the set is loaded with docs and commentaries. Here are three of my favorite anecdotes, gleaned from Romanek's commentary track.

  1. Because he was directing a Madonna video and the height of her popularity, Romanek wanted to use that power. They agreed on the concept of the video--we watch as Madonna makes an arty commercial/video--and decided to aim for an iconic director to play the role of the director. First choice: Jean-Luc Godard. Madonna writes a fan letter/request and faxes it to JLG. They never hear from him. Second choice: Fellini. She faxes a request to Fellini and hears back promptly. He loves the idea and seems to loves her, but he's too frail and ill to make the shoot. They ultimately dropped the iconic director idea and went with a uberfamous Japanese pop star. (I'm too lazy to look up his name.) But can you imagine? Romanek directing Fellini directing Madonna? The mind reels.

  2. After hearing Fiona Apple's "Criminal" (a song, by the way, that's about a woman feeling guilty for getting exactly what she wants via her sexuality), Romanek knew he wanted to do something (a) provocative and (b) that looked like a series of snap-shots brought to life. (Hence, Fiona often has that photographic red eye and, if you notice, everything is lit like a flash just went off in a dark room.) When Romanek heard the middle eastern sounding chamberlain riff at the end of the song, he knew he had to address that musical flourish with something visual. So he decided that, as it's an erotic piece, the video needed a visual orgasm. Thus, Fiona and the floating detergent.

  3. At Janet Jackson's request, Romanek was signed to do the Michael/Janet video for "Scream." To accommodate everyone's schedule, Romanek had only a few weeks to get everything designed and constructed and ready to go. When one of the executives at Sony saw the proposed budget, he called and cursed the director out. Romanek shot back that he'd been given so little time to get this executed and he was dealing with two megastars that wanted the video to be an event and besides, the video was set in space, on a spaceship, and "if Michael Jackson owned a spaceship, it'd be expensive." On the other end of the line, Romanek hears an emphatic, high-pitched "Yeah!" He hadn't realized that Michael had been on the call the entire time, silently listening. Romanek got his seven million dollar budget.


I'm not the biggest fan of Jon Stewart/The Dail Show. (Yes, I am that one person... Feel free to leave hate messages in the comment section.) It's moments like this that make me waver and wonder if I'm too critical. Then I think back to Stewart's handjob of an interview with Rick Santorum and I remember why I can't abide by that shit.

Either way, this bit featuring the good Senator Pussybitch Coburn is excellente.

E-mail of the day.

"I went to oprah's website and it was sort of hideous. Faulkner just doesn't seem suited to gatherings of multi-racial women laughing and wearing capri pants and drinking limeade, but what do I know? They have some professor guy on hand to answer difficult questions ("I can't help but think Anse may have had ulterior motives in taking his wife to Jefferson for burial .. . am I right?") and lots of bright graphics and great hints (Are you lost? Go back to the beginning of the chapter and see whose name appears on the first page) for understanding Mr. F. It's kind of awesome. I hope people enjoyed the books -- since they had to read frickin' three of them."

--The Sovereign Leader of the People's Republic of Fagistan on Oprah's online Book Club community. (For the record: I am all for the Oprah encouraging people to read crazy-dense works of art. The online community... Not so sure about that.)

Monday, September 12, 2005


I'm not sure why, but every time a critic or a friend assures me that the latest Woody Allen film is a "return to form," I believe them. This is always a mistake. After the interminably tedious/unfunny Melinda & Melinda, I swore that I would never fall for this ruse again.

So what do I do about this?

"Woody Allen has made some 36 movies; the best are Annie Hall (1976), Hannah and Her Sisters (1987), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Match Point, which premiered at Cannes 2005."

That's Mr. Ebert in a new "Great Movie" essay on Crimes and Misdemeanors. Ebs, you're making this very difficult for me.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Aiming for the institution, assassinating the inmates.

The Contender* came up in a conversation I was having today. I mentioned how depressing it was that a majority of critics (not to mention The Academy) fell for that pandering bit of fake-liberal crap.
Metacritic confirmed my fears: J. Hoba, Charles Taylor and Jonathan Rosenbaum seemed to be the only critics who didn't fall under its spell.
But what about Armond White?
Metacritic may not count the Armond's crit, but the Whine Colored Sea sure does. (So what if he lavished praise on The Transporter 2 and claimed Red Eye was a great 9/11-informed thriller?) If ever there was a critic to rip the shit out of painfully naive cinematic politics, it's Mr. White. Unfortunately, he didn't cover The Contender back in October of 2000.
However, in my search of Armond's archive, I did find one of the most lacerating appraisals of Spike Lee I've ever read (via a review of Bamboozled). You know you're in for a ride when the opening salvo is "It is a national tragedy that the best-known filmmaker dealing with African American subjects and characters is as small-minded and undisciplined as Spike Lee."
You should go read the entire piece (Armond never fails to impress me), but I have to excerpt a couple of paragraphs dealing with Lee's relationship with other black members of the entertainment industry:
Lee's willingness to disparage anything black celebrities do grew out of the license and arrogance of a group of New York-based black writers and performers newly acquired during hiphop's advent. (Remember those 80s Village Voice pieces discrediting Michael Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, then celebrating Lee?) In Bamboozled Spike similarly targets the flipside of such black pop authority-variety shows and low-brow sitcoms. He lambastes along the showbiz spectrum from Wu-Tang Clan to Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover to Oprah Winfrey, Jimmie "J.J." Walker to Quentin Tarantino because they don't present blackness his way. But you could make a strong argument that no single mediamaker in the past decade has fostered more black stereotypes than Lee.
Yes, Bamboozled is Lee's poison pen letter to Hollywood. And so what? He doesn't allow for the prevailing irony of show business: the often discomforting sacrifices made by performers who claim the privilege of the spotlight (read any black star autobiography). Lee's distrust of any blacks the mainstream media authorizes besides himself becomes so bilious that he denies the complicating factor of talent--the reason people respond to certain performers, and our mixed reactions to Mantan Moreland, Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniel on up to Ben Vereen, Martin Lawrence, M.C. Hammer, etc. Aiming at the institution, Lee assassinates the inmates instead.

That's just a sample. Go gorge.

* The odious political thriller starring Joan Allen. You know, the one that claims to be uplifting, profound, and progressive, when really it's dull, offensive, reactionary, and sexist beyond belief. Not to be confused with the failed Stallone reality show of the same name.

Go ahead and print it.

Josh hipped me to this Salon interview with Mike "Not the guy in R.E.M. but the graphic designer slash director" Mills. I've been looking forward to his feature debut, Thumbsucker (you mean one film has D'Onofrio and Tilda and Vince Vaughn and Keanu...?), and this interview amped up my anticipation. In addition to describing himself as "a total Criterion Collection guy" and dumping haterade on both Garden State and American Beauty, Mills drops this hilarious not-at-all-blind item:
A very famous supposed "friend of the director," a big producer-financier guy, said, "Friday night, people looking for what they want to see, and you've got a movie called 'Thumbsucker'! You might as well fucking name it 'Buttfucker'!" I was curious -- here's this homophobic statement, you know what I mean? It is similar to homophobia. Another person told us we might as well call it "Masturbator." But it isn't masturbating, or butt fucking -- not that either of those things are bad, right? But it's an interesting conundrum you get into. Actually, It was James Schamus who said that, the "Buttfucker" thing. Go ahead and print it.

For the record: Gay cowboys? James says yes. Thumbsucking? No.

And I would be remiss if I finished this post without ever mentioning that Air named one of its very best songs after Mills. You best all own that shit. It's a prerequisite or something.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Quote of the day.

God bless those British, er, journalists at The Sun (via Stereogum):

“Besides lifting weights, Jacko plans to wear shorter wigs, less make-up, and generally try to look less of a freak.”

--"Music biographer" and author of Alien Rock Michael Luckman.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Film nerdery, part 4,029.

I felt compelled to give the Criterion design team some love. The cover to Bresson's Pickpocket is outstanding. (Oh and here are the specs for Criterion's upcoming deluxe edition of Shoot the Piano Player.)

A surfeit of whimsy.

Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown got its first major review via Variety. I really want to like this film--especially after the worthless Vanilla Sky--but after skimming Leslie Felperin's write up it's looking rough. Here's why:
  1. Look at the second paragraph:
    Although presumably in development for some time, basic set-up sounds like a sunnier, studio version of Zach Braff's indie hit "Garden State," which beat "Elizabethtown" to the punch by a year and a half. "State" was a similar tale of a depressed young man who travels back East for a parent's funeral and ends up finding love with a gorgeous, hip chick. But where Braff's pic was riddled with slacker angst and featured characters with jagged edges, nearly everyone in "Elizabethtown" is as gosh-darn nice as a warm sunny day.

    Wait, the characters in Garden State were edgy? This is Diet Garden State? Hoo boy.

  2. Worse: the opening paragraph.
    "[E'town's] busy, neo-screwball script--about a shoe designer planning his father's funeral in a Kentucky town while falling for a perky stewardess met en route--suffers from arch editing and a surfeit of whimsical subplots."

  3. It's bad enough that Orlando is the leading man... But Cameron has to up it and make him a shoe designer. Worst.

  4. The film's running time is 138 minutes. For a zany carpe diem rom-com, that's a lot of whimsy.

Fear of God.

I love violent hip hop as much as the next guy, but I never love Christian hypocrisy (Via MTV News):
The deal for Mase to be officially signed to 50 Cent's G-Unit Records isn't done yet, but the first recording from the new alliance surfaced on mixtapes last week. It's a record called "300 Shots" that finds 50, Mase, Young Buck, Mobb Deep, M.O.P., Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks trading verses for more than seven minutes.
[Mase's contribution includes]: "Put guns in n---as' mouths like, 'Who you dissing?'/ Be a year before they know you was missing/ I pop n---as in the chest, they never breathe again."

Mase, in case you forgot, has Ph.D in theology from St. Paul's Bible Institute and is founder and head pastor of Mason Betha Ministries in Atlanta.


Tuesday morning dispatch.

A couple of links and whatnot on this Tuesday morning. I'll be back soon to rant and rave and tell you about the Mandrillosaur. But let me just be a buzzkill for a second.

I was channel surfing on Friday and happened upon Fox News' Shepard Smith giving an update from the New Orleans Convention center. If you've ever seen Shep deliver the news on Fox, you know he's a bland talking head who plows through the day's events with a GOP tint as per the Fox News dictum.
Not last Friday.
The man was seething. He was calling it as it was: FEMA was nowhere to be seen, people who had been stranded for four days were without food and water, corpses were just laying on the ground... You know the drill. Sean Hannity was doing his damnedest to give it a positive spin and to reel him in, but Shep was having none of it ("Shep, let's put it in perspective..." "This is perspective!").
Finally, the facade is cracking and, worn down by the horror surrounding them, these journalists are beginning to ask tough questions and reject the bullshit.

Jack Shafer has more accounts of journalists rebelling and Crooks and Liars has video of the Sean/Shep exchange. (Warning: the video also contains Geraldo Rivera grandstanding.)

Thus ends my first and only entry on Katrina. (Yeah, what he said.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Its own form of sublimity.

First there was the Mandrill-osaur, then "the eel" (pictured above), and now this:
"Slogging through a future Chicago overgrown with killer vines and menaced by ape-lizards, a character is heard to remark, 'This can't be good.' No, it can't... [A Sound of Thunder] achieves a level of badness that is its own form of sublimity. You almost - please note that I said almost - have to see it to believe it."

Tony, there's no almost about it. I can't f-ing wait.