Monday, October 31, 2005

But does she know the history of psychiatry?

I know blogging about things that the Simpson sisters say is sooooo '03, but when you find a pearl like this, you gotta jump on it. Says Jessica (in an upcoming Teen People profile): "I respect knowledge of the psyche. I would be a therapist if I weren't an entertainer."
Isn't that best? So earnest and oddly phrased. And contrary to other reports, it was Johnny Knoxville's knowledge of the psyche that made Jessica Simpson melt.

Friday, October 28, 2005

We're a long way from The Man Without a Face.

Mel Gibson gave a press conference to discuss his upcoming film Apocalypto. "What I'm doing is making in action-adventure film of mythic proportions," he said. Gibson has cast the film, set in 16th century Central America, with unknown Mexican actors who will speak in the Mayan dialect of Yucateco.

And what's next for Gibson?
Apparently he's preparing for the titular role in The Saddam Hussein Story.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Semi-apologetic nostalgia trip.

Speaking of cliched-film-student-circa-1998 flashbacks, a friend sent me a link to Cassette Jam '05 and (sorry to get all Thurston Moore-y here) it made me all nostalgic. UR 90s! XLIIs! Ah, the musical canvas of my angsty teenage years. How I miss dubbing Peter Gabriel's "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" as a Side B closer and thinking it was a profound expression of my ennui. Thanks for the link, J.


I know he has a huge investment to sell (and, hell, the movie could actually be good), but this quote from Mr. Shmuger makes me mental:

"'[Peter Jackson's King Kong] is a three-hour feast of an event,' said Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures, who described the film as a tragic love story between the ape and Naomi Watts, who plays Ann Darrow, an actress. 'I've never come close to seeing an artist working at this level.'"

You want to know why that is, Marc? Because you're used to sitting through rough cuts of films by Stephen Sommers. You want to see artists working at great heights? Give Hou Hsiao-Hsien or Todd Haynes a sliver of Mr. Jackson's budget and see what happens.

This concludes my "I'm-a-pissy-cliched-film-student-circa-1998" rant. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Oops, they did it again, or: No Maus?

After all the blogosphere grumbling over the inclusion of Watchmen on Time's Top 100 Novels (1923-Present), the mag ups the ante and drops a list of The All Time Top Ten Graphic Novels.
They are (in alphabetical order):
  1. Berlin: City of Stones (Lutes)
  2. Blankets (Thompson)
  3. Bone (Smith)
  4. Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Deitch)
  5. The Dark Knight Returns (Miller)
  6. David Boring (Clowes)
  7. Ed the Happy Clown (Brown)
  8. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Ware)
  9. Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories (Hernandez)
  10. Watchmen (Moore/Gibbons)

Let the grousing begin.

"It sure did the old pornographer's heart good."

Bear with me while I prattle on about my addiction to the nerd crack for one more second. The other day I began Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking*, a memoir of the year that followed the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne. While I've read a bit of Didion's previous work, I'd read nothing by Dunne. On a whim, I fired up The Complete New Yorker to see if there was any Dunne in the archive and--huzzah huzzah--I scored. Among others, he'd written a lengthy piece on Billy Wilder. It's ostensibly a book review of Cameron Crowe's Conversations with Wilder, but is actually an anecdote-laden overview of Wilder's life and work.

It's refreshing because Dunne, like David Thomson (and unlike Crowe), refuses to write a typical hagiography and knows how to blend the, ahem, sweet with the sour. I could probably find a better example of this to excerpt, but I love this story the most. Does Billy come across as a sexist old fucker? Yup. But you gotta love him:
The critical reaction [to Kiss Me, Stupid] was incendiary--smut, pornography, and worse. In this magazine, Brendan Gill called it "squalid" and "repellent." An unqualified rave came from the unlikeliest place--Vogue. "It is a profoundly affecting picture," the Vogue critic wrote, "as witnessed by the number of people who walked out on it." The Vogue reviewer, coincidentally, was my wife.
Today, Wilder maintains that Kiss Me, Stupid is no good, and that he would like to burn it, but the Vogue review did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. "Dear Joan Didion," he wrote, "I read your piece in the beauty parlor while sitting under the hair-dryer, and it sure did the old pornographer's heart good. Cheers, Billy Wilder."

* And how is TYOMT you ask? Just as you've heard: heartbreaking, crystalline, unflinching, stripped to the marrow, excellent.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday, Monday.

Hey kids, no time to write but I had to post this nifty picture of Josh discovering the joys of Aahs! on Sunset Blvd. (Photo credit: Jessica.)

Now go stream some new/live Wilco and behave. Back in a few.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Quote of the day week.

"Fuck me. Sendak and three treacle horsemen of the sensitive man-boy apocalypse. That oughta be good. Optimists, I have just three words for you: animatronic 'wild things.'"

-- The cinetrix reacting to the news that the film version of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is being directed by Spike Jonze, written by Dave Eggers, and produced by Tom Hanks.

Friday, October 21, 2005


  • Sarah Hepola has a great piece in Slate on Cameron Crowe's oedipal issues. (While we're on the topic, have you listened to the Almost Famous commentary track? Cameron shares the track with his Mom... and it's really creepy. Worst moment: when Mom goes totally off topic and starts praising a line that Cameron wrote for Vanilla Sky. Now, she doesn't quote the entire line, but it's that horrible one that Cameron Diaz has to deliver... The one that begins with, er, her talking about swallowing Tom Cruise's, uh, Thetan-juice.)

  • More lists! In light of the IMDb's, gulp, 15th anniversary, its staff lists the Top 15 Movies Since 1990. The results? Uh... well... They're nerds. T2 is on 4 of the 9 lists. For God's sake, frickin' Stargate makes a list. (Hat tip to N for feeding my list addiction.)

  • Have you noticed I've been really good about keeping my urge to regurgitate Armondisms in control? Well, that's over. His take-down of Charlize and North Country is just too good to ignore. A morsel:
    Horribly condescending, they put working-class people in the dark ages of social progress, and only seen rising-up to salute Theron in an insulting I-Am-Spartacus ending. Sissy Spacek's quiet conviction in a couple of scenes results from a career with real moral authority such as Theron may never attain. Theron's insistence on playing vengeful, grandstanding masochists suggests she hasn't learned the real meaning of beauty.

  • Just so youse know: all the cool kids read The Pop View. Well, I don't know that for sure, but I encourage you--cool or not--to read that shit.

  • Topics that I wanted to bring up and then opted not to or wrote and deleted: Orlando Bloom's earnest-ass playlist at the iTunes Music Store, the good old days when Prince would write a chorus that went "Sexy Mother Fucker shakin' that ass, shakin' that ass," Richard Kelly's career prospects after seeing those pictures that Spencer linked to, Tom Delay's plastic surgery, and so on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


"The similarities between being a terrorist and being a male model are not that disimilar, you know. It's like a certain pose, and you're sort of distant from your career and you're just sort of apathetic in a way."

--Donovan Leitch, comparing himself to the male-model-turned- terrorist-protaganist of Bret Easton Ellis's Glamorama, as quoted in The New Yorker, February 15, 1999.

Mr. Ellis, Mr. Leitch, please get in touch with Ben Stiller. He owes you some money.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Which part of you does that?

Best. Pitchfork snark. Ever.

Kim Jong-Il: cinéaste.

What I got out of this article:

1. Kim Jong-Il has probably/maybe seen his marionette incarnation.

2. He owns (and has hopefully viewed) Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter. I hope he realizes this is--to quote someone else--the fillet of the series. Crispin Glover and Corey Haim together, in one slasher film? You're just not going to get much better than that.

3. I need to get my hands on an English translation of On the Theory of Cinema Arts.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Okay so I guess I did comment.

From: Ben
Subject: List! (Care to comment?)
Date: October 17, 2005 10:51:17 AM PDT
To: Josh

Time Magazine Top 100 Books (Since 1923)

From: Josh
Subject: Re: List! (Care to comment?)
Date: October 17, 2005 12:10:36 PM PDT
To: Ben

No. These lists are stupid. The critics are clearly
trying to cram in as wide an array of literature as
possible, and show their soft side (Judy Blume!) and
give nods to contemporary writers (Infinite fucking
Jest? Are you kidding me?) while stacking the deck
with big prize winners and no duh's -- The Confessions
of Nat Turner seems safe, even though it caused a huge
scandal when it won the Styron the Pulitzer, because
it's about slave revolution. "A Death In The Family"
is in the same category. Recognized as great chiefly
because it won the Pulitzer, and James Agee is a fine
writer, but come on. This list is so calculated and
boring. I mean, okay, I was pleased to see "Red
Harvest" on the list but it seems to me that anyone
seriously interested in particular aesthetics will be
pissed off -- I mean does it seem possible that the
same crtiics actually liked all of the following

1. Gravity's Rainbow
2. Mrs. Dalloway
3. The Corrections
4. Death Comes For the Archbishop
5. Tropic of Cancer
6. An American Tragedy
7. Deliverance
8. Never Let Me Go [which is actually a bold choice
--it was just released this year, or late last]
9. The Lord of the Rings
10. Are You there God, It's Me Margaret


Really? I just don't buy it. Or I do, in that these
guys are clearly hacks who care more about appearing
to love literature than actually loving it. Lists of
100 are unwieldy anyway, and the impulse to recognize
the entire spectrum is strong, but I'd much prefer a
really strong list of great novels that cohere and
make a solid statement. This is, like, English
Language Literature 101. Snoozers.

Okay so I guess I did comment. Oops.

Haiku Review: Domino.

Keira is lost in
lighter fluid cinema.
Why, Tony Scott, why?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Boner (Clearing up some questions surrounding Elizabethtown).

  • Yes, Elizabethtown is that bad.
  • No, Kiki is not wretched (despite all those trailers and TV spots that seem to indicate that she is).
  • Yes, Orlando Bloom is the worst actor currently getting A-list work. (People, we are talking sub-high school musical acting here. It's... I'll just leave it at painfully amateur.)
  • Yes, Judy Greer is still best.
  • Yes, Mr. Crowe's script is nothing but mawkish cliche after mawkish cliche.
  • Yes, even after a really awful Cameron Crowe movie, I still want to go home and make a mixtape CD.
  • Yes, the infamous Susan Sarandon stand-up routine/tap dance is that bad. And, yes, the big punchline in her routine does contain the word "boner."
  • No, that is not funny.
  • Finally, head over to the Obsolete Vernacular for a more expressive review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Nerd crack.

May I make an investment suggestion? If you've got 60 bucks to spare, head over to Amazon and snag the The Complete New Yorker while it's on sale. You'll have every single issue from 1925 to Feb. 14, 2005--4,109 of them--spread over eight DVDs. I don't own the thing yet (mine's in the mail), but I took a test drive over the weekend. In a matter of minutes, I'd printed uncollected short stories from J.D. Salinger, Donna Tartt, and Jhumpa Lahiri; a Salman Rushdie essay comparing Crash (the Ballard novel/Cronenberg film) to the death of Princess Diana; an on-the-set report of Wes Anderson making The Royal Tenenbaums; a casually anti-Semitic profile of Cecil B. DeMille from 1929; and Pauline Kael's notorious (and impossible to find) review of Shoah*. I know I sound like a shameless shill for the magazine, but I'm just trying to hip you to some of the finest nerd crack out there. (And if you know of any old-timey New Yorker pieces that I shouldn't miss, by all means leave me suggestions in the comments.)

* It's notorious because Kael is, shall we say, flippant. She refers to the nine hour Holocaust documentary as "a long moan."

The unforgettable fire.

If Bono and co. are as pissed as they say they are about Sens. Clinton and Santorum using U2's DC concert as a fundraising opp, they should use their jumbo video screen creatively. Might I suggest pulling some content from Or how about using the screen to ask if the $90 million that Sen. Clinton is requesting for a study on the effects of video games on children might be better spent elsewhere.
Just an idea.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Julia Ormond's my wife?

I'd've completely missed this Village Voice interview with Justin Theroux if the trusty people of LynchNet hadn't spotted it. Theroux drops some tasty/vague morsels about David Lynch's upcoming Inland Empire:
He's much more enthusiastic about Inland Empire, though the Lynch process apparently isn't any less baffling the second time around. "You're so used to directors who have a clear idea what they want, but with David, you have to be flexible enough to just trust him—and it's more fun, it frees you up from all that actor bullshit baggage." As for details, Theroux says, "David's playing his cards typically close to his chest." He reveals that the movie contains "some completely bizarre sex scenes," but adds, "I couldn't possibly tell you what the film's about, and at this point, I don't know that he could. It's become sort of a pastime—Laura [Dern] and I sit around on set trying to figure out what's going on.

"I do know that something David really liked about Mulholland Drive was that it had this previous life as a TV show—he equates it to doing a painting that's shelved, someone gives you money to finish it and says, here's three more feet of canvas. With this one he's just giving us scenes—and me, Laura, and Jeremy [Irons] have to justify and make sense of whatever that is. Sometimes someone will show up on set you didn't even know was in the movie. Julia Ormond showed up two weeks ago and David hands me a scene where she's my wife! I'm like, I wish I'd known that! But in a weird way you're glad you didn't."

(Batshit) Quote of the day.

Since Josh called dibs on my favorite batshit quote of the day (Ann Coulter on what she'd be doing if Gore had been elected in 2000: "I'd be storing away all my summer burkas and, accompanied by a male relative, taking my winter burkas to the dry cleaners to be freshened up."), I present to you this piece of wisdom from Marion "Pat" Robertson:
These things [earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis] are starting to hit with amazing regularity. If you read back in the Bible, the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonia, he said that in the latter days before the end of the age that the Earth would be caught up in what he called the birth pangs of a new order. And for anybody who knows what it's like to have a wife going into labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit. I don't have any special word that says this is that, but it could be suspiciously like that. What was called the blessed hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know would change into something that would be wonderful that we'd call the millennium. And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child.

Got it kids? Natural disasters are a new thing and, thus, the end times are upon us.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Reading tip.

Before it disappears off the stands forever, try to pick up a copy of the October 10 New Yorker. In it you'll find a perfect slice of bittersweet short fiction by Jeffrey Eugenides. Trust me, it'll be the best story about a clavichordist that you read all year.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thank you, Jack Shafer.

I guess I'm not alone. Jack Shafer at Slate:

"If Jesus Christ no longer satisfies your desire to worship a man as god, I suggest you buy a ticket for Good Night and Good Luck, the new movie about legendary CBS News broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. Good Night and Good Luck's Murrow burns cigarettes like altar incense. He speaks in a resonant, godly rumble. And he plods through the greatest story ever told about the hunting of communist hunter Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy like a man carrying all the world's sins."

And with that, I'm finished with the topic. No more.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why Sasha Frere-Jones is the best, part 376,478.

In the flurry of all the Fiona Apple/Extraordinary Machine press, he sits down with her and gets a pretty clear picture of what actually happened re: the shelving drama and subsequent re-recording. And you gotta love this one-two punch:

SFJ: The second record—I’m curious if you actually can say the whole title.

FA: I could: “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight And He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest Of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand Then You Know Where to Land And if You Fall It Won't Matter Cuz You'll Know That You're Right.”

SFJ: Apparently you can also play Schubert.

Cheap laughs.

I need to hate on George Clooney's Good Night, And Good Luck for just one more second. But to do so I need to digress, so here we go. After seeing Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous in the theater, I had a conversation with my friend Fraser. We both loved it, but Fra absolutely nailed a problem we both had with the film, a problem I've come to call "Fraser's rule of cheap comedy." (I guess one could also call it "anachronistic humor.")
There are two truly hideous examples in Almost Famous:
  • Ben Fong-Torres: A Mo-Jo, it's a very high-tech machine that transmits pages over the telephone! It only takes eighteen minutes a page!

  • Dennis Hope: If you think that Mick Jagger will still be doing the whole rock star thing at age fifty, well, then, you are sorely, sorely mistaken.

Isn't that the worst? But you know everyone in the theater laughs at that base shit. Because that humor is so ridiculously easy and pretty much guarantees a laugh (no matter how cheap), the writers of period pieces just can't seem to resist it. Which brings us back to Clooney.

In GNAGL, Clooney tries to inject a couple moments of levity into the proceedings. He lets a vintage Merit cigarette commercial run in full (titter titter... can you imagine? They used to advertise the smoothness of cigarettes... har har) and, in a move that's really dubious, he recreates a Murrow interview with Liberace. Of course, the big joke there is Murrow asks Liberace a series of questions about marriage. The audience I was with roared because, nudge nudge, we all know Liberace was queer. Ho ho ho, we can laugh 'cause we're all good-hearted liberals, right guys? Sigh.

There is justice in the world, however. Armond noticed and didn't let Clooney off the hook:
Murrow's "Person to Person" interview with flamboyant pianist Liberace provokes laughter even though in human terms the circumspect Liberace is only being as forthright about his personal life as he dares. He's no more secretive than Murrow, just fully aware of the era's threatening hurricane of homophobia. In Clooney's pompous cultural artifact, Liberace is the TV entertainer we're free to ridicule and question, not Murrow's TV saint.

C'mon, you knew I'd somehow work Armond into this discussion.

Blind item.

We here at The Whine Colored Sea are super well-connected with all the high-powered industry types. Or something. I've We've been sworn to secrecy about a potential project for one of our favorite filmmakers, so, uh, we'll have some fun keeping this one vague. Try to spot this one:
Which punch-drunk auteur got Focus Features to snap up the rights to David Grann's sprawling New Yorker piece "The Lost City of Z"*?

And in a completely unrelated note, I stumbled across an online version of an Esquire piece I never thought I'd see again. In December of 1999, the magazine asked various critics (and Martin Scorsese) "Which young filmmaker is The Next Scorsese?" The answers run from the obvious (Todd McCarthy picks, ahem, Paul Thomas Anderson) to the sad (Andrew Sarris opts for Kevin Smith). For the record, Martin Scorsese says The Next Martin Scorsese is Wes Anderson.

* I can't find an online link to the piece, but it appeared in the Sept. 19, 2005 edition of The New Yorker. Trust me when I say it's an unbelievable feat of writing/journalism. Grann synopsizes it thusly: "For centuries, adventurers have searched for evidence of a lost civilization in the Mato Grasso region of Brazil. Many of them have been swallowed up by the 'green hell' of the Amazonian rain forest--which has been described as 'the last great blank space in the world.'"


Bergman. Ford. Kurosawa. De Sica. Criterion kicks 2006 off good 'n proper.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I miss the tooth shooter.

I've been holding off on writing about David Cronenberg's A History of Violence for a week and a half now. I think it's largely due to my frustrating ambivalence towards the film and I'm not sure how to square that against all the roaringly positive buzz.

It's not like I hate the film; It's so aesthetically sophisticated and filled with moments of greatness that I can't just dismiss it. That said, I find some of it so completely slapdash and jarring that I can't jump on board with the raves.

First, what I like:
  • The violent sequences are handled perfectly. There's a gravity to them, but there's just enough Cronenbergian perversion. The camera lingers maybe just a second or two too long on the gore, rubbing our noses in it.

  • There are two sex scenes that seem entirely right to me. One is fairly innocuous, but it's treated bluntly and honestly, which is something you don't see often in commercial filmmaking. The other is raw and violent and painful, but no less truthful.

  • Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, and (to a lesser degree) Maria Bello are excellent.

  • Little directorial things: the wiiiiiide composition. The fluidity of camera movements. That Cronenberg doesn't cheat the night scenes, he shoots them dark, dark, dark. (No glowing-blue cheats.)

As for what I didn't like... I guess I'd say the Rockwell setting/device. Obviously I understand what Cronenberg is doing by setting it in a Gee Golly Indiana town, but it felt less than organic and entirely smug. The obvious comparison is to Twin Peaks or Blue Velvet's Lumberton, but Lynch heightens everything to almost parody level and then commits entirely to the convention. In Violence, it seemed like Cronenberg knew he wanted to work with something similar, but much of it was tepid, as if he wasn't entirely sure of the choice. Other times it was so over-the-top and insincere that it yanked me entirely out of the film. (I'm thinking of the bedside meeting with Dad and Son and little JonBenet to discuss the reality of monsters and the entirety of the Son's subplot.) My other big problem was the shift to Philadelphia. (Yes, that includes William Hurt in all his scene chewing glory.) It was a dramatic fizzle, where my problems with the film were cemented. The drama was building to that?

What kills me about all of this is that I'm a champion of Cronenberg's body of work... I love nothing more than sitting an unsuspecting friend down and popping eXistenZ or Videodrome or Dead Ringers on. Finally, the man gets universal acclaim and his film is the talked-about film of the fall, and I'm outside looking in. I guess I can always take comfort in the mutant amphibian lunch special and sexy leg wounds.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I didn't think that Nicolas Cage could do anything more deplorable than being involved in Lord of War (currently no. 1 on The Whine Colored Sea's Worst of 2005). I was wrong.

Good afternoon, and whatever.

Dear George Clooney,

I'm glad to know that you had that social studies class about Joseph McCarthy, too. He was one nasty fucker, wasn't he? And, yes, Edward R. Murrow had a pair of brass ones to take on that unholy bastard. So you went and made a movie about Murrow and McCarthy. Not a bad idea, it could be interesting... Oh, uh, but it isn't.

Part of the problem, George (it's cool if I call you George, right?), is you've made a 93 minute movie, wherein a good chunk of the film is just historical recreation. You have an actor doing a crackerjack impression of Murrow, reciting Murrow's speeches, acting opposite of actual McCarthy footage. Those bits are pretty good, but every time you cut away from Murrow's newscasts, the energy and tension bottom out. Why not cobble together all the actual footage into a doc and release it that way? I know you think this era is very prescient, and there's something to that, but you forgot to dramatize the backstory.

Let me tell you something else, George. I saw the film at a screening where you and a whole bunch of USC journalism-types held court afterwards. I get the romanticism of crusading journalists, I really do. But you guys are so insanely self-congratulatory that it borders on delusional. Remember when that USC Prof/former CBS Newsman said that Murrow's 1958 speech (where he argued that TV must illuminate and educate, rather than placate and entertain) was second only to the Declaration of Independence in terms of historical importance? And no one flinched, they just applauded? Yeah? Well, that's crazy talk. (And as for the triumphalism vis-a-vis Cronkite's Vietnam reporting that "ousted" LBJ... Need I point out that Johnson was replaced by R.M. Nixon?) I know that your Pop was a newcaster and I'm sure that much of the Murrow-worship is ingrained, but it's... well, it comes off as a little fanatical and hella naïve. And that fan-boy naïveté informs/infects way too much of the film. Sorry to sound so rough, George, but someone's gotta say it.

There's always Lake Como,