Thursday, February 23, 2006

And how is your day going?

Blah blah blah stupid job blah blah blah blah blah don't miss Matthew Ronson's version of "Just" featuring the Dap Kings Horn Section over at Fluxblog blah blah Happy Belated Birthday, David Byrne blah blah etc.

Monday, February 20, 2006

In appreciation of James K. Polk.

Dear James K. Polk,

I've always admired the fact that you were the original dark horse candidate, plus that whole manifest destiny bit was pretty rad. But today, JKP, I'd like to thank you--well, you and your fellow Presidential brethren--for allowing me to sit at home, eat waffles, watch garbage on television, and, you know, do whatever else might happen on President's Day.

Thanks again.

Your pal,


Friday, February 17, 2006

A dose of haterade for your Friday afternoon.

Oh man:

"[Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch] is a fractious fiasco: whiplash camera movement set to raging blasts of death metal, a story so incoherent it made me wish I was watching, instead, the collected outtakes from Van Helsing."

--Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly.

Feel the burn.

The A.V. Club.

  • A short doc about Mark Romanek by Hillman Curtis.

  • Diane Martel's dirrty vid for Goldfrapp's "Ride a White Horse." (Link via Goldenspence.)

  • Matthew Fluxblog has two excellent Talking Heads demos from the new re-release series.

  • Old lists are good lists: Slant's 100 Greatest Music Videos (from 2003). Where, pray, is Bjork's "All Is Full Of Love"?

  • Can it be? Pitchfork's four star review of the new Prince single: "It's harsh and alien, like he's been listening to Mu or some shit. Finally, someone cancelled his subscription to The Watchtower."

  • The Onion A.V. Club listens to Michael Bay's Island commentary track: "My job is to make Scarlett likeable, and her picking up this wrench is the first sign of her doing something badass."

  • Aimee & Michael vs. John & Paul over at Girish's.

  • If you're into aliens, manwhores, booty girls, and Lawnmower Man-style cybersex, the video for The Juan Maclean's "Give Me Every Little Thing" is gonna make your head explode.

  • You didn't forget about David Edelstein did you? Good.

  • Armond's review of LVT's Manderlay isn't nearly as vitriolic as you'd think. Oh, he hates it all right ("Manderlay is so ignorant of authentic American behavior that the calculated outrageousness of its premise is dull rather than scandalous."), but where's the intensity? Fear not, he does manage to work in some Spielberg love in the form of a Hook (!) shoutout.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Deeply depressing.

There's something depressing about artists disavowing their work. It sucks knowing that if you see Prince in concert, you're going to hear something from The Rainbow Children instead of "Sexy MF" or "Gett Off."

That's the first comparison I thought of when I found this interview with the late, great Moira Shearer. It's from 1994 was the last interview that she gave; it's clear that her strained relationship with Michael Powell hadn't improved over the years:
Your last film appearance for Michael Powell was his notorious Peeping Tom.

Yes, I did that out of kindness of heart. Michael Powell arrived on my doorstep in 1959, with an ashen face and a large script under his arm. Could I help him? A small part - it would only take four days - the actress he had cast, Natasha Parry, had flown off to New York. At least, would I read the script? So I did, and thought it quite interesting, stupidly forgetting his sadistic streak. It was only four days in the studio and I saw nothing else of the filming, so the finished article was quite a shock.

Was it horrifying to do?

No, it wasn't. There was such an air of unreality and artificiality on the set and, as I've already said, Michael Powell was hardly the man to release emotion in his actors. I thought the critics were absolutely right about it*. I am only sorry that, recently, those violent boys, Scorsese and Coppola, have tried to make it into a cult film. It is deeply depressing.

Isn't that sad? She's in a work of art that's so cereberal, visionary, and raw that it took people decades to catch up to it and... she just dismisses it.

Deeply depressing, indeed.

*A critical sampler:
"The sickest and filthiest film I remember seeing" (Isabel Quigly, The Spectator);
"I don't propose to name the players in this beastly picture" (CA Lejeune, The Observer); "sadism, sex and the exploitation of human degradation" (Leonard Mosley, Daily Express);
"from its slumbering, mildly salacious beginning to its appallingly masochistic and depraved climax, it is wholly evil" (Nina Hibbin, Daily Worker).

"A perfect storm of anemic indie conventions."

Because I have a chunk of coal where my heart should be, The Reeler's takedown of Winter Passing made my morning. Revel in the snark:
While Passing does not quite float up from the same burbling gastric swamp responsible for, say, Flannel Pajamas, it implodes spectacularly enough as [Adam] Rapp's rambling drama-ectomy removes any sense of conflict the way one might remove an opponent's spine while playing Mortal Kombat. It seems unlikely--if not impossible--that such inoffensive principals could be so repellent together, but you would not expect the vice-president to shoot someone either, so chalk it up to bad chemistry or a misaligned cosmos or whatever. Shit happens.

Yee-ouch. Have you seen Winter Passing's trailer? Even the Focus Features Marketing Department can't save this one. First of all, it looks like the film was shot on Super 8, sent to a lab to be developed in bacon grease, then blown up to 35mm. Secondly, it's one of those tortured indies where the father and his estranged daughter are trying to reconcile, but in this case the father is J.D. Salinger (played by Ed Harris). Of course, they can't call him J.D. Salinger, so they call him Don Holden. Get it? Get it? Subtle, Adam Rapp. Subtle.
Okay, enough beating up on some helpless indie I haven't even seen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2 + 2 = 5.

When I started this blog, I used to make a weekly list of pop cultural artifacts that were lodged in my head. I stopped making the lists a year ago for no real reason. It wasn't a conscious decision, I think I just forgot to do it one week and never picked it back up. A year later, I'm back at it.

  1. Obsession [DePalma, 1976]
    AKA DePalma does Vertigo. It goes a little something like this: that dude who plays Uncle Ben in Spiderman goes to Venice on business and spots a woman--played by that woman with the mutant uterus in Dead Ringers--who looks exactly like his deceased wife. Obsession follows. Yes, it sounds almost exactly like Vertigo. Yes, it's another exercise in DePalma's never-ending Hitchcock fetish. Yes, there's more to it. For starters, there's John Lithgow doing a really bad N'Awlins accent; a script by Paul Schrader that's full of his overheated psychodrama schtick; and a killer kidnapping sequence set to Bernard Hermann's ripe score. You know that sounds tempting.

  2. "I Know" (Live Recording from iTunes Originals) by Fiona Apple.
    In its original incarnation, "I Know" was a wrenching bit of melancholic jazz-pop; basically Fiona in a nutshell. In this version, recorded live for an iTunes Originals session, Jon Brion's weepy string arrangement has been replaced by a warped-calliope synth line, giving the song a narcotic charge that sounds like those Julee Cruise/Twin Peaks songs.

  3. ACME Novelty Library No. 16 by Chris Ware.
    I'm not trying to reignite the war over Mr. Ware's merits, but the latest edition of his ACME Novelty Library series is stunning. The graphic novel's themes (suburban ennui, midlife crisis, burgeoning/ misplaced sexuality, high school angst) are well-worn, but they're handled with such empathy and effortless creative ingenuity (the narrative is told from two POVs that run simultaneously for the length of the book) that it feels entirely original.

  4. The House Next Door.
    As if being a colleague of The Whine Colored Sea's Favorite Rebel Critic wasn't enough, Matt Zoller Seitz gets massive props for [1] being a fucking great film critic in his own right (I'd link to his excellent essay on the use of space in Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol, but the New York Press's website is acting crazy) and [2] for his blog, The House Next Door. If you're a film nerd and THND isn't a daily destination, shame on you; MZS's writing is too sharp to be missed. Por ejemplo (dig the Casino metaphor!):
    [Leonardo DiCaprio] deserved the acclaim he received early on; his work in "This Boy's Life," "The Quick and the Dead," "The Basketball Diaries" and "Titanic" (a great young male ingenue performance, unironic and sincere)were as good as almost anything the late River Phoenix came up with, and Phoenix was close to a genius. (I still miss him.) But DiCaprio, like Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst, seems less complicated and charismatic the older he gets. And his partnership with Martin Scorsese has been a disaster -- symbiotic, dysfunctional and fundamentally unsatisfying. DiCaprio gets Scorsese the funding he needs, and in return, DiCaprio delivers a performance that's more like oil than glue; I thought he was competent in "The Aviator" and borderline dull in "Gangs of New York," and miscast in both. If Scorsese is Ace Rothstein in "Casino," DiCaprio is his Ginger, the beautiful blond who brings the whole empire crashing down.

    While I'm a shameless defender (enabler?) of later Scorsese, I think MZS is onto something here.

  5. Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek [Polson, 2005].
    Who knew that the director of the ludicrous Swimfan@ could flip the killer kid genre on its head and deliver a surprisingly effective horror/thriller? I certainly didn't and I'm not ashamed to admit that I gobbled up every minute of the damn thing. Director John Polson isn't bad at creating atmosphere, but he's way too fond of tired genre tropes*. Regardless, it's Dakota Fanning's performance that carries the show. Well, maybe "performance" is giving her too much credit. Look: it's undeniable that Dakota is a preternaturally talented actress; Spielberg's War of the Worlds proved that. In Hide and Seek, her performance consists largely of casting those enormous eyes directly at the camera and staring DeNiro/us down. With that Wednesday Addams hairdo and the dark bags under her eyes, it's enough. Trust me. Every time she did that shit, it gave me the heeby-jeebies.

* He's especially fond of ike Surprise!-It-Was-Just-A-Cast and Doesn't-It-Look-Creepy-When-I-Shoot- Through-The-Slatted-Closet-Door?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fug yeah.

A suggestion: stop what you're doing and remind yourself that the Ladies Fug serve up the best snark on the ITs.

While not overtly snarked-out, this seemed especially dead-on:

"Maybe Meryl [Streep] is going to take Lindsay under her wing and whip La Lohan into shape. Wouldn't that be an exciting development? I feel like Meryl wouldn't let Lindsay run all over town drinking and sleeping with inappropriately old men and accidentally running things over with her car. Meryl would have Lindsay studying, like, Strindberg, and practicing accents alone in her room until late in the night. And then Lindsay would start crying and call her and be like, 'Meryl, this is so hard,' and Meryl would be all kind, but very firm, like, 'I don't want to hear your whining, Lindsay,' and then Lindsay could realize her full potential and I wouldn't have to apologize for liking her anymore."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Quote of the day (Sartastic Edition).

"Studies that I have read indicate that having babies is a sign of a faith in the future. You know, unless you believe in the future, you're not going to take the trouble of raising a child, educating a child, doing something. If there is no future, why do it? Well, unless you believe in God, there's really no future. And when you go back to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the whole idea of this desperate nightmare we are in -- you know, that we are in this prison, and it has no hope, no exit. That kind of philosophy has permeated the intellectual thinking of Europe, and hopefully it doesn't come here. But nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining birth rate. And they just can't get it together. Why? There's no hope."

--Marion "Pat" Robertson on The 700 Club. Way to destroy the future, JP. (Via Hit and Run.)

Eye to eye.

I've been debating if I should purchase Eros, 2005's wildly uneven omnibus. Steven Soderbergh's segment is instantly forgettable, Michaelangelo Antonioni's is so screechingly bad it's depressing, but Wong Kar-wai's piece... It's such an elegant and precise piece of short-filmmaking that I considered buying the DVD just to have those twenty-some minutes. Then Dave Kehr dropped this morsel and now the purchase is a done deal:
Eros: This three-part film on sexual themes with segments by Wong Kar-wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni received mixed reviews when it was released theatrically last April, but its DVD release is remarkable for the one great extra it contains: "Michelangelo Eye to Eye," a 19-minute short directed by Mr. Antonioni and included here out of the sheer goodness of Warner Home Video's heart.

Largely silent, with the exception of some choral music by Palestrina that rises slowly during the film's last five minutes, 'Eye to Eye' depicts the 93-year-old Italian filmmaker (effectively rendered mute by a stroke in 1985) as he pays a visit to a work by another Michelangelo: the sculptor's marble statue of Moses, created for the tomb of Pope Julius II. No words are pronounced, and none need to be as Mr. Antonioni's slowly moving camera caresses the curves and textures of the monumental artwork while it closes in on his own aging, almost translucent flesh. Crosscutting between his own clouded eyes and the frozen, eternal regard of the sculpture, the director establishes a dialogue across time. The artist ages; the art does not. This wise, reverberating piece contains unspoken volumes.

I'm putting my faith in Mr. Kehr on this matter; if Eye to Eye bares any resemblance to Antonioni's Cinemax Eros segment, I'm'a be pissed.

Land of the lost.

'Fess up, you watched (some) of the Grammys. Me too. For some strange reason, I thought the much-hyped Sly tribute was going to be something special. (I know, I know, I know, shhhh.) Was there anything more depressing than Sly actually showing up and, uh, half-miming a keyboard solo for thirty seconds before departing?


I now present some of my favorite comments from the I Love Music gang re: the Sly & The Family Stone Tribute.
Does he have a hunchback? DOES HE HAVE A HUNCHBACK?
-- Michael Daddino (epicharmu...), February 9th, 2006.

how could sly in his worse throes of coke binge be worse than this
-- dan bunnybrain (bunnybrai...), February 9th, 2006.

ok, it's official, there's no God
-- Thomas Tallis (tallis4...), February 9th, 2006.

He *is* hunchbacked.
-- Michael Daddino (epicharmu...), February 9th, 2006.

To quote my wife: "He looks like my grandfather crossed with a dragon!"
-- Josh in Chicago (Vitesse9...), February 9th, 2006.

Even the cameraman can't look.
-- Michael Daddino (epicharmu...), February 9th, 2006.

i loved the shots of steven tyler looking around to see whether he should be making any rawk noises or not.
-- Kim (grimstitc...), February 9th, 2006.

Steve Tyler did say "Sly, let's do it like we used to do it" ... he was obviously talking about leaving the stage to go snort some coke.
-- NoTimeBeforeTime (mbvarkestra197...), February 9th, 2006.

He looked to me like one those Land of the Lost Chaka people had started interbreeding with the Sleestaks.
-- Redd Harvest (louder...), February 9th, 2006.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's too late in the day for me to come up with a witty title.

This picture makes me laugh every time I look at it:

Oh Stipe. I used to be the biggest R.E.M. fan, but it's been a rough couple of years. (And by couple of years, I mean decade.) If the Micahel 'n Dolly photo has you feeling nostalgic, I've got two suggestions:
  1. Try to catch the episode of Sundance's "Iconoclasts" with chef Mario Batali and Stipe. It's completely charming and features quality cameos by (among others) Bono, Mark Romanek, and Jonathan Glazer. Plus it actually made me enjoy an Around the Sun jawn. (That would be "Wanderlust" in case you're wondering.)

  2. Read this excellent bit of memoir/New Adventures in Hi-Fi analysis by Michaelangelo Matos.

Ringing endorsement of the day.

"Last night [Howard] thought about masturbating but decided to watch 'Brokeback Mountain' instead. Howard said he tried to watch that 'Wife Swap' show but it was horrible... Howard said that 'Brokeback Mountain' might be one of the best movies he's ever seen. There's one ass scene that doesn't last all that long."

As found on, a daily digest of the goings-on on the Howard Stern Show. (Via Sully.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Doll parts / bad skin / doll heart.

  • If you told me that you thought Bubble was an interminable piece of shit, I'd disagree with you, but I'd understand. I chafed against the latest "Steven Soderbergh experience" (as it's touted on the DVD cover) for the first fifteen, twenty minutes; then what I'd found banal and rote became surprisingly hypnotic and effective. I won't get into a plot discussion (it doesn't have much in that department and the little there is involves twists), but I've gotta tell you: it looks great.

    Thanks to Collateral, Caché, and Bubble, I think I'm coming around on my staunch anti-digital filmmaking stance. I've always respected the medium's fluidity and the freedom it afforded certain members of the Dogme95 crowd, but deep down I always thought it looked like crap. Soderbergh's Full Frontal was an especially ugly case as I recall, which is why I'm stunned that Bubble is one of the best looking digital features I've seen. There's still a discernible video sheen to it, but I was genuinely floored by how majestic it looks. Soderbergh has eschewed the frenetic hand-held camerawork of his last few films for meticulously framed, mostly static composition. Sodey credits Michael Winterbottom's In This World and Gregory Crewdson's photography as aesthetic inspiration. I'm really fond of Crewdson's work, but haven't seen the Winterbottom film. Have any of youse? Let me know. And go see Bubble and tell me if I'm crazy.

  • So, look, I've gotta get this off my chest: will you think less of me if I admit that I've gotten choked up not once, but twice while watching In Her Shoes? Seriously, when Cameron Diaz reads that e.e. cummings poem... Forget about it. I'm way too much of a softie to make it through that.

    Why don't critics cut Curtis Hanson some slack? I'll be the first to admit that the first fifteen, twenty minutes of In Her Shoes are awkward and conventional. And, sure, there's some eye-rolling Hollywood hokum throughout. Fine; accepted, admitted, moving on... What I think is exceptional about the film (and Hanson's work in general) is how textured it is. I love how meticulously detailed and distinct each character's world is; I love that Hanson surrounds his stars with quality character actors who should be seen more often. I shouldn't have to mention that Hanson can pull genuinely great work out of unlikely sources, but Diaz's performance in Shoes is so far beyond what she normally does, it reminds you that she actually is a really good actress and not just the hottness. I guess what I'm driving at is: I'm sick of hearing about how Hollywood doesn't make any adult entertainment anymore, blah blah blah, when Curtis Hanson is continually delivering it and no one seems to notice. Wong Kar Wai he's not, but I can't think of a much better Hollywood journeyman. (Before I forget, what happened to Shirley MacLaine's goddam Oscar nomination?)

  • Despite the ace "Father Figure" sample, PM Dawn's "Looking Through Patient Eyes" is best left where it belongs: on B106 FM in 1993.

  • Happy weekend.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mimi and The Boss.

I bet you thought that Armond White, resident rebel-critic hero of The Whine Colored Sea, was all about film, right? Not so. The results of the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll were released today (nothing all that shocking; the top five albums: Kanye, M.I.A., Sufjan, Sleater, Fiona) and Mr. White allowed his voice to be heard.

His picks:

1. Carey, Mariah: The Emancipation of Mimi
2. New Order: Waiting for the Sirens' Call
3. Bush, Kate: Aerial
4. West, Kanye: Late Registration
5. Elliott, Missy: The Cookbook
6. Common: Be
7. Chesney, Kenny: The Road and the Radio
8. Scott, Raymond: My Kind of Music
9. Springsteen, Bruce: Devils and Dust

1. Urban, Keith: Better Life
2. Amerie: 1 Thing
3. Elliott, Missy Featuring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop: Lose Control
4. West, Kanye Featuring Jamie Foxx: Gold Digger
5. Chesney, Kenny: Who You'd Be Today
6. Bentley, Dierks: Come a Little Closer
7. Paisley, Brad: Alcohol
8. Wilson, Gretchen: All Jacked Up
9. Scott, Raymond: My Kind of Music
10. Underwood, Carrie: Jesus, Take the Wheel

I've gotta admit, I'm feeling vindicated (see pro-country music screed below). Not sure about Mimi's status as number 1 (I just can't get on that love train), but I wholeheartedly endores albums 2 through 6.