Friday, December 30, 2005

Just the facts.

  1. I'm back.

  2. Munich is now my favorite film of 2005. I'd also argue that it's Spielberg's best film since E.T. (Depending on your view of Spielberg that might mean a lot or nothing at all.) More on this topic when I have a second to gather my thoughts and write something cognizant.

  3. It's the end of the year and I still have not seen a film by Ozu, Fassbinder, or Tarkovsky. I have seen Fantastic Four. Sigh.

  4. Did I mention I loved nearly every shitty, grade-Z second of Fantastic Four? I mean, c'mon, how can you deny Jessica Alba making her grand entrance and being introduced as "This is Sue Storm, head of Genetic Research and Development"? So maybe loved is too strong a word... Strongly liked? I strongly liked nearly every shitty second of the movie? (Do you think less of me now that I've admitted this?)

  5. I wish I could write with this clarity.

  6. More later.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A quick one while (I'm) away.

Hey there. In my pre-vacation haste, I neglected to mention that I was leaving the land of the Internet connections for some vacation and stuff. So a quick hello and goodbye from Ginny's eCafe & Antiques (?) and a giant call of BULLSHIT to Ken Turan who has seen fit to include seventeen films in his "top ten."

Happy Holidays, people. Back in a few.

Side note: I didn't copy/past the Ken Turan link properly on the first go-round. Instead this message from the previous guest of Ginny's eCafe & Antiques appeared:
thnx to every1 hu came 2 the gigmilly n rach my new guitar is sick cheers nick for the picshannah l says:
i guess u gt shaven haven not bein pervy
thnx to every1 hu came 2 the gigmilly n rach my new guitar is sick cheers nick for the picshannah l says:

Anyone? Translation?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fun and games.

  1. Aimee Mann just posted an iTunes-only e.p. of Christmas music. Like Wes Anderson, Charles Schulz, and Wong Kar-wai, Mann embraces the melancholy in the season and the songs are better for it. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is the unquestionable high point, with "The Christmas Song" a close second. (The chamberlain outro on "The Christmas Song" is a perfect touch: it flirts with the melody to "Auld Lang Syne" before fading out.)

  2. The Family Stone is a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the Christmas movie canon. I'm not going to go so far as to compare it to Molière--one guess which critic made that comparison--but it's funny, unashamed of its sentimentality, and, above all, aware of the bittersweetness of watching Christmas movies late at night.

  3. A year ago I attended a UCLA event where Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis gave a joint lecture. (Really it was more of a rambling chat, but that's neither here nor there). At some point during the evening, Amis brought up a drunken party where he, Hitchens, and Salman Rushdie dreamed up a new game. Woody Allen had just give an interview regarding the Soon-Yi scandal and had summed up the brouhaha by saying "The heart wants what it wants." Rushdie chortled at this and said something along the lines of "More like the dick wants what it wants." The three authors then spent the evening replacing the word "heart" with "dick" in famous sayings/titles/phrases. I was reminded of this parlor game yesterday as I was reading/thinking a lot about Match Point and what it reveals about the Woodster's sense of morality. That's a long way of saying: what better way to kill some time on a Friday than with the Heart/Dick game? I'll start, you follow in the comment section. The commenter with the best entry gets... uh, my undying admiration.
    1. My Dick Belongs to Daddy. (Just for Mr. Allen.)
    2. The Dick Is a Lonely Hunter.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Understatement of the year.

Not to beat up on the old fucker, but...

"I felt I didn't do as good a job as I should have on The Curse of the Jade Scorpion."
--Woody Allen to the LA Weekly. (For the record, he doesn't understand why people hate Hollywood Ending: "I felt that I did a very good job on Hollywood Ending and for some reason that picture wasn't appreciated sufficiently; I felt it was a really wonderful comic idea and that I executed it just fine and it should have been very enjoyable." Should have being the key words, Woody.)

Don't believe the hype.

What is it? Are A.O. Scott, Dave Kehr, and Roger Ebert (among others) so desperate for Woody Allen to make a film that's not an outright disaster that they're willing to trumpet the lugubrious and tin-eared Match Point as some sort of return to form? Look, the film is fine; there's a pleasant clip to the setup, it looks gorgeous, and certain scenes have a surprising grace. Hell, it's probably Woody's most solid achievement since Deconstructing Harry-- as if that really means much. But c'mon, guys. A return to form? Which form? Interiors? Match Point is fine in theory but a wreck in execution; it's all overheated acting and expository-heavy dialogue. (And Scarlett... It's OK, baby. I don't blame you. That was a thankless task handed to you.)
I think I'll leave it at that-- Woody's got some tricks up his sleeve and I don't want to reveal anything that would screw up your viewing of the film, but come back when you've seen it and tell me what you think and then we'll debate Match Point's merits.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Heeding the call.

I hate to disappoint Anonymous, but, uh, the searing wit and coruscating erudition that has become a hallmark of this Interblog is just not compatible with 2005 Golden Globe Nom commentary. Or something.
But I'm not one to let my peoples down, so, Anonymous, this one's for you.

2005 Golden Globe Nominations, I ain't mad atcha. You're a notoriously fickle/silly/dumb award (insert tired Pia Zadora ref here) but this year's crop of nominees aren't so bad. Sure, you gave a bunch to The Producers (I haven't seen it, but it looks shrill and tiresome plus it stars Nathan Lane which is never a good sign), way too many to George Clooney's Murrow hagiography, two too many to Opie's Cinderella Man, and three prime spots to Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardner (bleh). Oh and you gave a nomination for Best Original Song to Christmas In Love's titular theme. Of course, the film was never seen in the U.S., doesn't have distribution here, and was released overseas in 2004, so go figure.
On the plus side, The Squid and the Whale got more nominations than Munich and King Kong, Alexandre Desplat earned a richly deserved nomination for his Syriana score, History of Violence was shown some love (despite my resistance to the film, anything that will allow David Cronenberg to make more movies is a good thing), Cillian Murphy's Breakfast on Pluto performance was recognized (as was Keira Knightley's excellent turn in Pride & Prejudice), and Rent was entirely shut out (Sorry, Josh). And I have zero qualms with the Brokeback/Walk the Line love--but that was entirely expected.
Thus ends this edition of The Whine Colored Sea By Request.

Film crit/quote/rant of the day.

"Mickey Kaus (whose genes, presumably, don't want him to get a colonoscopy either) restates his aversion to cinema that might make his muff-loving sensibilities uncomfortable with the “wild hypothesis is that more people will go see a movie if it features an actor or actress they find attractive! If heterosexual men in heartland America don't flock to see Brokeback Mountain it's not because they're bigoted. It's because they're heterosexual.” Kaus goes on to claim that Brokeback Mountain “is a gay movie” based on the fact that, well, a gay guy took pleasure from it. First of all, there's no such thing as a gay movie, unless that movie has an apartment in Chelsea where it spends its time working out and sucking other movies' dicks.
Secondly, didn't a bunch of people flock to see that chick boxing movie? You know, the one that won Best Picture last year? Were they attracted to the two geriatrics or the chick who played the chick playing the dude in Boys Don't Cry, a film which we're guessing gave Mickey the same unpleasant feelings in his (twat-adoring) nether regions. In any event, Kaus is no more an expert on film than he is on anything else outside welfare reform and the 1993 Cutlass Cierra. The whole point of his post is to a) make himself feel better (and, it goes without saying, bolster his reputation as a guy who just loves vaginas) for having problems with a couple of homo cowboys, and b) tell the people who don't have those problems that they're the ones who are out of touch with the (pussy-pounding) general public. And maybe he's right. But he hasn't made the case. It's not enough to criticize a movie by saying it's based on ass-fucking. You have to say whether the ass is gently lubricated or roughly fissured."

--The Minor Fall, The Major Best Ever.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Things that are best.

  1. The White Stripes's "Walking With a Ghost." I know, I know, in Internerd time it's way late to be raving about this track. I don't care. Those double-tracked Jack vocals! The backward guitar bit that kicks in around the 1:51 mark! Mmmmmm.

  2. Dozing off on a hungover-Sunday afternoon in front of Glorious Technicolor, only to wake up just in time for the segment on Powell & Pressburger.

  3. The Los Angeles Film Critics resisting the urge to give Paul Haggis's Crash anything, while the New York Film Critics were smart enough to give the 2046 cinematographers some love.

  4. Mary Kate's mad respect for Freud.

  5. Jewel's A Night Without Armor: Poems for $0.01. Yes please.

Needless to say...

...Aaron is my new hero for providing the world with, among others, this new Armondism:
"[Spielberg making both War of the Worlds and Munich in the same year is] the greatest achievement since 1944, when Preston Sturges made both Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek in the same year."
(link via Girish.)

Update: The Reeler went to the same event and has more, including this bit:
"'Everybody has an agenda,' White said. 'So I'm not ashamed to say my agenda is that I want a movie that does not insult me, and very simply, basically, I want what everybody wants from art: I want art to show me something about myself, something about others--tell me something about the world that I wouldn't have understood until I encountered this work of art.'"

Happy Monday.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Adventures in description.

"Not long afterwards, I was strolling along Tenison Road and saw, I swear, a wheezing second- or even third-hand motor belching towards me. Behind its wheel sat a man of impossibly fly-blown and lugubrious appearance; his skin sallow and wrinkled, an unfiltered cigarette in his mouth; his eyes like piss-holes in the snow. Only one detail was required to complete the scene, and at first my disordered senses almost refused to register it. Stuck in the corner of his windscreen was a faint and tattered card that read 'PRESS'. It was yellow all right. It might as well have been stuck in the band of his hat. Christ knows where he had been - perhaps to a bad day at the Newmarket races - but it took little imagination to see where he was bound. And this was not a Giles cartoon but a glimpse of the future I thought I wanted. I cheered up immensely. Cliches and caricatures are there to be overcome, after all. And I had my Orwell books to go back to."
--Christopher Hitchens in The Guardian. How can you deny that?
(via Sully.)

Snap judgments.

  • Rent:
    Yup, it's awful. Clunky, inert, D.O.A. Thank God I managed to see it on an Academy DVD Screener and not stranded in a movie theater. As bad as the movie is, I think it's nearly impossible to deny some of the music. The lyrics are incredibly dubious in places, but Jonathan Larson had a great sense of melody; Even Chris Columbus couldn't lose that in the translation.

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood:
    I saw this for the first time yesterday and as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen at a Saturday matinee. I loved it. A lot. Errol Morris,uh, Flynn is magnetic, there's a peerless supporting cast (Basil Rathbone is so wonderfully oily), a classic score, and some of the best use of Technicolor ever.

  • Syriana:
    Memo to Gaghan, Clooney, et al.: Guys, I like to read sprawling indictments of Big Oil in The New Yorker and The New Republic too. But when those journalists go on and on for thousands upon thousands of words, they usually do it in a crafty and clever way; That is, they find a hook, an angle, build some sort of dramatic arc, and then wallop you with the information. You guys forgot that part. Two hours of geopolitical babble spewing from bland wonks does not a movie make. And what's worse, you guys cast actors like Jeffrey Wright--Jeffrey Fucking Wright!--to play two dimensional stock characters. See, you guys have the pedigree (those actors, Robert Elswit shooting it, Alxandre Desplat scoring it, Tim Squyers cutting it, the Section Eight banner, etc.) but someone forgot to mention that you have a hollow and dull script. Were the suits too scared to look dumb? That if they mentioned that there wasn't a single compelling and/or entertaining character to be found, Clooney would rag on them about "BEING THE MAN" and "BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM IN HOLLYWOOD" and "BEING ON BILL O'REILLY'S SIDE"? Guys, what happened? (Oh and Tim Blake Nelson... You're cut off. No more. Nope.)

  • And finally: David Ansen provides the first real Top 10 List of the season.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kiki, Sofia, and New Order.

Get your cake on.

Hat tip to the J. who, for the record, hates the trailer. Personally, I'm sucker for this Barry Lyndonesque stuff, especially when it's improbably set to New Order. (That said, I'm alll for dumping/redesigning the Sex Pistols-ish logo.)

Quote of the day.

"Honorable people can certainly agree to disagree. However, here today I accept a second oath. I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character. It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price. So, at this moment, I begin my tenure in this Chamber, uncertain of what history will say of my tenure here."

--Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), in her first speech as a Member of the House of Representatives, September 9, 2005.


I know this is old news, but I just saw that quote and couldn't resist.


I'm currently vetting Christmas Card List number 5 of 7.
Why couldn't my work place be more like the South Park production office? (Right now the McRib challenge sounds like a nice break from this bullshit.)
R. Emmett Sibley, Production Assistant:
This is the last night of production for South Park. I could tell you about the wacky antics of the week or reminisce about the run but honestly who cares. I sure as hell don't. The only thing I do care about is:


PA "The Notorious Nasty" Nate has been offered $1000 to eat 6 McRibbs, drink 1 Venti Egg Nog Latte and 1 Venti Peppermint Latte. He has to do this in 30 minutes and must keep it down for 1 hour.

Factors to consider:

1. This is a lot of food. I don't have the stats in front of me but it's somewhere in the ball park of 3000 calories and 300 grams of fat.
2. This is going to be done at a fancy Hollywood restaurant (so fancy Ashton Kutcher owns it, you know what that means, trucker hats and 43 year old women with 3 kids, you're a lucky man Ashton....instant family)
3. Nate will be dressed up in a suit and tie. Not the usual Jack Boots and nipple shirt that reads "A Man's Man."
4. PAs are desperate for money. Desperation and eating contest don't mix well. Now with gluttony and self loathing... you are in business.
5. Medical bills must be payed if Nate has a heart attack or medical problems. It would be nice if Matt and Trey would accompany Nate to the hospital, hold his hand and get him ice chips. "You are going to be ok are going to be ok."

That makes me miss college. (Even though my college experience was nothing like that.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bane, existence, etc.

Christmas cards people.
This is what I have spent my week doing. My boss's f-ing Christmas cards.
And they're far from done, which means... yeah, I don't have much time to do what I'd rather be doing... Namely, you know, not working, counting down the days till vacation, Internerding, etc.
This is what my college education has come to.
Compiling 800-some names, checking addresses, buying stamps, and on and on and on. I won't bore you with the details.

Before I go back to Christmas Greeting Hell, I'll bore you with a few bullet points:
  • Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto is far better than the talking CGI Robins in the film's opening sequence would lead you to believe. If you make it past that treacly bit of sub-Amelie whimsy, Jordan delivers a glam-Candide that features a great performance from Cillian Murphy, a perfect wall-to-wall pop soundtrack (Nillson! Dusty! T. Rex! Van!), and cinematography so rich I wanted to eat the celluloid.

  • "Conceived"--the new single from Beth Orton, produced by ex-Sonic Youther/Wilco mixer Jim O'Rourke--is an obscenely proficient bit of folk-pop; I can't ask much more out of an Orton single. Double props on the marxophone solo.

  • I can't believe how much I loved David Mamet's Spartan. Val Kilmer works better than expected--although he does occasionally chafe against the dialogue (I'm thinking specifically of a speech he stumbles over that begins "You don't gotta...")--and who would have thought that mother-fletchin' Ed O'Neil could rip the shit out of Mametspeak?

  • Confession: I've made it this far in life having never read Nabokov. Based on guilt and Girish's VN gush, I finally picked up Lolita the other day and... What the fuck is wrong with me? Seriously. The prose is so rich and diabolically clever, I... yeah. I... I have no excuse. It's a crime that I hadn't picked it up sooner.
    Realted: the cover design to the 50th anniversary edition is excellent.
    Related, the second: Christopher Hitchens on Lolita.

That's it for now. More soon. Maybe. Hopefully.

Friday, December 02, 2005

She invented the remix.

Josh has an excellent post on Camille Paglia's
triumphant return to where he excerpts most of the vintage Paglia hotness. The piece--chiding Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor--does contain this amazing bit, which Josh did not include:
Few of [Confession's] songs are as distinctive or poetic as any number of dance hits of recent years -- Amber's "Sexual," Deborah Cox's "Mr. Lonely," Sunshine Anderson's "Easy" (Groove Armada), Aubrey's "Stand Still," Billy Ray Martin's "Systems of Silence" (the remix), Motorcycle's "As the Rush Comes," Ciara and Ludacris' "Oh," or even Annie's "Heartbeat" (by a Norwegian woman DJ).

Camille hearts Annie! Jesus! That 'wegian fluxpop-star now bares the imprimatur of Pitchfork, the entire blogosphere, and the author of Sexual Personae. I'm thinking that this is a very rare occurrence. (The inclusion of Annie and Ciara is almost enough to negate the high proportion of Euro-NRG-cheeze.)

Camille has also seen fit to create a master list [from her vinyl collection!] of the Best Soul/Funk/Disco Tracks from the '60s - '80s. Revel in it kids.

And just so we're on the same page here, Camille wants you to know that she does not dance to disco:
I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation. (Of course, this may partly descend from my Agnes Gooch marginalization in the old bar scene, where I was -- as Nora Ephron would say -- a wallflower at the orgy.) Giorgio Moroder's albums, which I listened to obsessively on headphones, were an enormous inspiration to me throughout the writing of "Sexual Personae" in the 1970s and '80s. Disco at its best is a neurological event, a shamanistic vehicle of space-time travel.

Inhale deeply... and exhale. Camille's baaaaaaack.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy 70th.

Happy Birthday, Woody. From the quote below, I can see that old age is suiting you just fine.

"I think there are small oases when we forget the abysmal nightmare of human existence, like a cold drink on a very hot day. I don't have a good feeling about" -- he took a reflective breath and looked around the auditorium --"anything at all."

(The quote's from a Variety report of Monday's Match Point screening/Woody Allen tribute at Lincoln Center. [via The Reeler.])

Is this for real?

Slate posted a conversation with Spike Lee. Here's the thing... It feels kind of Onion-y to me. For instance:
Slate: You know, I go to a Clint Eastwood movie, and I see that time after time, Morgan Freeman is playing Clint Eastwood's sidekick. Everyone loves these movies; they always win awards. But nobody complains about that. There's no black group that complains and asks, 'Why can't Clint Eastwood be Morgan Freeman's sidekick?' Would you like to see a black uproar over that?

SL: Oh, man. We have more things to have an uproar about than Morgan Freeman. But the point that you make is true, that we just don't have the lobbying power that other groups have, and it has to do with political and financial clout. So, that's that.

Don't you get the feeling they're fucking with Spike? Or how about this one:
Slate: Do you think there's a difference between a black acting style and a white acting style?

SL: No, I'm not gonna—no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not. Nope.

Slate: Because I look at a great actor like Jeffrey Wright—do you like his stuff?

SL: Yeah, I love Jeffrey.

And I see that he's not an actor in the mold of, say, Brando, or Sean Penn. Wright disappears into his characters like a British actor, and I see a lot of African-American actors doing that—Cuba Gooding, I think, does that also.

SL: You're putting Cuba Gooding in the same league with Jeffrey Wright?

Slate: No.

Oh, thank you.

"Oh, thank you." Classic.

And where was the Rent question? Spike worked for years to get a Miramax-funded version into production; I'd love to hear what he has to say about what finally made it to the screen. (I get the feeling that Spike is probably a huge fan of Chris Columbus's oeuvre.)