Wednesday, January 31, 2007

DEREK JARMAN






















Happy late-in-the-day Birthday to Derek Jarman.
He died early, at age 52.

I really admire his imagery and originality.

The Last of England and War Requiem are relentless, sweaty films.
Jarman's politicking worked because his point-of-view was personal, not ostentatious.

Wittgenstein is fun...

...and The Garden is sweet, and sad.

TRACTOR FACTS QUIZ

Below is a news story...or...is it a "news story". As our world gets wackier it's sometimes hard to separate the legit from the illegit.

The below story is either a genuine AP news item, or it's from The Onion.

The first reader to guess correctly will win full access to the Tractor Facts facilities for a day!!


PARIS - The French already enjoy a 35-hour work week and generous vacation. Now the health minister wants to look into whether workers should be allowed to sleep on the job.

France launched plans this week to spend $9 million this year to improve public awareness about sleeping troubles. About one in three French people suffer from them, the ministry says. Fifty-six percent of French complain that a poor night's sleep has affected their job performance, according to the ministry.

"Why not a nap at work? It can't be a taboo subject," Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said Monday. He called for further studies and said he would promote on-the-job naps if they prove useful.

France's state-run health insurance provider will send letters explaining the importance of good sleep. The Health Ministry's Web site offers tips on how best to get a good night's rest.

The ministry's online "Passport to Sleep" recommends cutting down on coffee, tea, colas, and athletic activity after 8 p.m., shunning TV time or working late in the evening, and listening better to the body's own sleep signals, such as yawning.

Bertrand said sleepiness causes 20 percent to 30 percent of highway accidents across France each year.**

**SOURCE WITHHELD FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME

DERANGED















Dear Texas Rangers,

You guys suck.
Your uniforms suck.
Your fans suck.
Your color commentators suck.
You're in the American League (which is pansy baseball!).
You had a manager with the last name "Valentine".
Your only glory was riding the gravy train of a former Houston Astro.
You've never won anything...
...You never will.






















Now you signed Sammy Sosa?!? HA!
His torn, soggy muscles won't get you anywhere.
You once signed a fresh A-Rod, and you still came in last!

The Texas Rangers: Sucking since the 70's!

**If this seems harsh, remember that sports always bring out irrational emotions.**

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

SCREEN DREAMS





















whooooa there.....sloooow down....don't get all excited....

It's not a real movie.
It's a movie that Matt Zoller Seitz wants to be real.

Read about "Moby Dick" and 4 other fantasies of
MZS's over at The House Next Door.

Monday, January 29, 2007

PAUL SIMONON





















Paul Simonon is so damn good on the new The Good, The Bad and The Queen album. His playing on the record is a little Jah Wobble, a little John Entwistle, and all Simonon cool. From the first song ("History Song") to the last ("The Good The Bad and the Queen"), he is the secret weapon. He rides melodies, he walks it around, he provides the ground....rock on dude!

----------->BASS IS COOL!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

SMOKIN' ACES












Is January "dump month" for the movie studios?
It sure feels like it.

Check out what dropped into theaters this month:

Alpha Dog
Arthur and the Invisibles
Blood and Chocolate
Catch and Release
Code Name: The Cleaner
Epic Movie
Happily N'Ever After
The Hitcher
Primeval
Smokin' Aces

I've only seen two of those, so I'm not about to rip films before I've seen them, but two of them (Catch and Release & Code Name: The Cleaner) had been clunking around in preview land for over a year, and the rest (save Alpha Dog & The Hitcher) I hadn't even heard of before New Years Day.

So today it came down to seeing either Inland Empire or Smokin' Aces. Inland Empire is 17 hours long, which makes it hard to fit into your day, so I chose Smokin' Aces. Weird, weird movie. It's like True Romance meets The Usual Suspects with Alicia Keyes and Common walking around. Well, I didn't like True Romance or The Usual Suspects, so...bad start. Also in the movie: a 12-year old kid with an eye-patch and a boner, Jason Bateman in bra and panties, homoerotic neo-nazis (wait....maybe I was at Inland Empire....) and a lot of hardcore violence. A lot of you readers may be saying "Cool!",but no, it wasn't cool, it was way bad.

I guess there is a segment of Ain't-It-Cool kids that will have a ball at this kind of film, and the wife kinda liked it, so who knows...go for it. Just don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, January 26, 2007

CASUAL FRIDAY

[Time for some substitute teachers to take over. I'm feeling all cross-wired today. Maybe it's b/c I woke up late and missed my shower. I smell like a soft pretzel.]


THE MULTICULTURAL PROBLEM



"The first prong of the solution is to recognise that the old multicultural model has not been a big success in countries such as the Netherlands and Britain, and that it needs to be replaced by more energetic efforts to integrate non-western populations into a common liberal culture. The old multicultural model was based on group recognition and group rights. Out of a misplaced sense of respect for cultural differences—and in some cases out of imperial guilt—it ceded too much authority to cultural communities to define rules of behaviour for their own members."

-- Francis Fukuyama


Two good essays on the debate of modern day migration in Europe and America:

----------> Identity and migration by Francis Fukuyama

----------> Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists? by Pascal Bruckner


p.s. (MAJOR tip of the hat to Hobbes for these two links).

A VAGINA MONOLOGUE


















Last month Christopher Hitchens wrote an essay in Vanity Fair about how women aren't funny.

Today in Slate, Laura Kipnis writes a rebuttal.
Thing is, her essay is so humorless that she helps Hitchen's argument along.

She claims her "proof" is in Patricia Marx, a "a former writer for Saturday Night Live, was the first woman elected to the Harvard Lampoon, and now writes occasional comic pieces for The New Yorker..." Isn't that last part an oxymoron?

Kipnis continues "...meaning that she's been certified by various arbiters of American humor as "a funny woman."

Oh, brother.
Ms. Kipnis, I advise you to stop.

---
UPDATE
from a reader:

I think you've either misread or misrepresented this essay; it's not a rebuttal to Hitchens. It does address a few points, and point out some places where Hitchens has made some braod generalizations (no pun intended), but the context is a review of the Marx book. That's why she spends so much time discussing Patricia Marx. It's not that she's holding her up as proof against Hitchens; she's reviewing her book, and in the process occasionally referencing the Hitchens piece. It looks to me like you've presented this as something it's not.

"TURN ON ME" - THE SHINS













The first four notes of The Shins "Turn On Me" are identical to the Ronette's "Be My Baby". Every pop music fan has that intro permanently stationed in their heads. It's one of those cross-cultural (and generational) phenomenons.

"Turn On Me" is a break-up song ("Be My Baby" is the polar opposite), so it's no coincidence that James Mercer decided to reel in listeners with those first four notes. He props us up on pop friendly footing, and takes advantage of our emotional expectations.

But the song is bittersweet, "you have to know/that I was fond of you/(fond of Y-O-U)" (that last part comes off sounding like "why? oh, you."), so the play on "Be My Baby" isn't totally shredded. In fact, invert the last two words of "Turn On Me" and you're in happy land again. That's how silly this relationship crap can be.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

BROKEN SKY















Broken Sky works like a silent film. There is a soundtrack, but roughly, only 2 pages of character-to-character dialogue over it's entire 140 minutes. Director Julian Hernandez turns that into an opportunity to fill the screen with sensual imagery and camera movements that emote louder than words. Watching Broken Sky is a reminder to the eyes, and an argument for why you should avoid bathroom breaks.

In 2003 Julian Hernandez made his first feature, a student film, A Thousand Clouds of Peace. I don't remember it or Broken Sky getting any theater runs outside of New York. So big thanks are due to Strand Releasing for putting both out on crisp DVD (it makes up for Strand's release of the homophobic, self-hating Two Drifters last year).

Beyond anything else, Broken Sky is a love story between Gerardo and Jonas. Hernandez extends the time they share by filming in long shots and tracking shots. Some of the tracking shots only move 6 feet, but it's essential in locking in on the eternity of the moment. The rooms and hallways and streets of Broken Sky are of the modern world, but Hernandez makes us feel like we're in la-la land, walking around with tunnel-of-love vision.

But as the title suggests, Broken Sky isn't just a love story, it's a lovesick story too. Post-breakup, the camera moves in, especially on Gerardo. The freckled skin on his back once looked like that of a marble statue, but in grief, it stretches a bit and wears the age of a pock-marked old man.

More than twice, a scene is as simple as a hand on a shoulder (this made me think of the finale in M where a man puts his hand on Peter Lorre's shoulder in a sign of compassion). With two bodies and their eyes, these actors say more silent than a monologue in the rain by Ben Affleck. Props to Julian Hernandez for saying so much with so little and making the viewer feel every moment of it.

ANNA FARRIS

















The Washington Post gives her some deserved attention -----> Anna.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SAW III/TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE - THE BEGINNING

THE JAUNDICED SCREEN
















I tested myself last night. I got a double-fisted pow to the jaw in a double-feature of Saw III and Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Beginning. Both franchises are out of ideas, so both movies had to fuel up on backstory this time around. Saw III wins (its enlightened serial killer shtick is stupid, but not boring), only probably b/c I watched it first.

To be fair, the Michael Bay-era TCM films shouldn't be grouped in with the original Tobe Hooper TCM and TCM2 films. The popular modern horror film's objective is to gross you out with goop, not make you jump or scream with alarm. Now, audiences peek through fingers and ball up in seats because they can't take anymore skin peeling or chainsaw sodomy (it happens in the latest TCM), not because their survival instincts have been triggered.

This new crop, let's call it "urine-bag horror", is different than the "serial-killer chic" that the French are becoming famous for (Calvaire, Sheitan, Haute Tension). Urine-bag horror likes yellow flesh (often obese), milky medical supplies, farm tools, rusty things...think of the nastiest gas station bathroom you've ever seen, and that's the palette. Cabin Fever, Wrong Turn, Fear Dot Com, Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes (remake), House of Wax (remake) are among the U-Horror graduates.

TCM - The Beginning and Saw III, like their other U-horror brethren, reach for political subtext, but it's just too silly to take seriously. I let out a deep throat snort when one of the teens trapped in a car at the Hinkel house says "We need to stay the course". Saw III takes on the ethics and morality of vengeance, but it clouds the filmmakers intentions when the camera guy is getting off on filming a naked woman's slow death.

Last night, before the double-feature, wifey and I had a chat about the responsibility of artists. Not responsibility bound by law, but by social influence. Sometimes I think there's not much difference between a tobacco lobbyist and Eli Roth.

BAD WORDS



















Sometimes people with good intentions do silly things.

Everyone can agree that the "n-word" is ugly.
But should it be illegal to say it?
It may happen in Brazoria, TX.

The mayor, Ken Corley, qualifies the "illegal" part a bit:


The ordinance wouldn't forbid anyone from saying the word, Corley said, but would outlaw using the word in an offensive or aggressive manner. Violators would be charged with disturbing the peace, he said.

"It would be up to somebody who was offended to file a complaint, like any other disturbance complaint," he said.
(Houston Chronicle)


Just imagine the can of worms this could open. There are a lot of slurs out there. And can a third party be offended? What if my buddy calls me a "cracker" and the mailman overheard it and was offended? Does the mailman have a right to sue? You know the modern day lawyer, they could spin anything as "offensive". Plus, isn't it already against the law to use speech that would incite violence, or criminal behavior, or "disturbing the peace"?

I like what a Brazoria minister says about this:

"they have a constitutional right to be stupid."

Indeed.

NORTH ATL/SOUTH ATL

This is bizarre....


ATLANTA - A potentially explosive dispute in the City Too Busy to Hate is taking shape over a proposal to break Fulton County in two and split off Atlanta's predominantly white, affluent suburbs to the north from some of the metropolitan area's poorest, black neighborhoods.

Legislation that would allow the suburbs to form their own county, to be called Milton County, was introduced by members of the Georgia Legislature's Republican majority earlier this month.

Supporters say it is a quest for more responsive government in a county with a population greater than that of six states. Opponents say the measure is racially motivated and will pit white against black, rich against poor.(AP)


I've heard of big cities annexing (growing up in Houston, it happened a lot), but this is the first time I remember hearing of a part of a city talking about seceding.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SEPARATED AT BIRTH # 3




SUNDANCE 2007








Please tell me that the BC on his hat doesn't stand for Butch Cassidy.


------
UPDATE:
A Tractor Facts correspondent found the stars of the controversial
film Zoo hanging out before the premier.


ALIENS ARE FUNNY

Best crop circle ever ---------> boo-yah!

THEY LOVE TRASH





















Well I sure was wrong about my Oscar predictions...

Crash got nominated again, but they called it Babel this time.

In the BEST SONG category:
3 from Dreamgirls
1 from Cars
and
1 from....An Inconvenient Truth???

I would like to see Martin Scorcese (or Stephen Frears), Penelope Cruz, Mark Wahlberg, and The Black Dhalia win...and that's about it.

The full list is here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

STEVE PERRY

Today is Steve Perry's birthday.
Steve Perry of Journey.
That doesn't really mean anything to me,
but a memory about his music does.

It was my 9th birthday.
I had my party at Meadowgreen pool.
It was time to open gifts, and one of
my friends gave me a dual gift:

The "Oh Sherrie" 45 single

&

an "Oh Sherrie" rock button.

I thought I was so awesome.
I played that 45, 4500 times.
(I though "Oh Sherrie" and Duran Duran's "Wild Boys"
were the 2 most genius pieces of music ever written when I was a kid).

Being a kid was the best.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

VOLVER

BROAD AMBITIONS

















There are a basket full of enjoyable things about Pedro Almodovar's new film Volver, but the thing I enjoyed the most was that it was the first film of his I liked since Live Flesh. It's not so much a throwback to his previous work, but a sign that he may have gotten over the bumps of his last three projects (especially Talk to Her and Bad Education).

A few weeks ago, my friend Victor playfully said that Penelope Cruz's breasts "were great in a supporting roll". Maybe he wasn't being playful after all. I don't think Almodovar is just trying to titillate (no pun intended) the audience with his more than three overhead shots of Cruz's bosom. One of the best shots in the film is a moment of fetching foreshadowing. Cruz stands at the sink, the camera about 3 feet above her head, and her shirt is open so much you can see down to her midriff. Her body looks beautiful, and you can't help but gaze. Once you stop being a pervert, and your eyes move left, you notice she's (sc)rubbing a sharp knife up and down...up and down...up and down. I didn't know if I should be excited or put my hands over my lap for protection.

Shortly thereafter, that knife makes its presence felt, and the movie shifts on its action. Did I arouse your interest? Good, cuz I'm not gonna tell ya anymore.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

MOUCHETTE

ANGEL EYES
















It makes sense to think of Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark when watching Robert Bresson's Mouchette. Both directors put their female leads through hell (and more hell), and that hell doesn't end until each woman dies. But that should be where the comparisons end.

Mouchette is a 14 year old girl. She lives in poverty, her mother is dying, and her brother and father show her no affection (the closest Mouchette gets to a warm embrace is when a flirtatious young man hits her with a bumper car). She's an outcast at school, she wears ratty clothes, she does dirty chores...a peasants life, not dissimilar to pre-princess Cinderella. In fact, Bresson makes a nod to the fairy tale when Mouchette loses her sandal in a rain storm. But Mouchette's retriever is no prince, he's a creepy small game hunter that takes advantage of her.

So how does Bresson make this tale surpass cheap cynicism? How can he make Mouchette's beat down worth it? Bresson was raised a Catholic, and like many religious artists, he was often obsessed with the idea of transcendence. (The whole point of the film is really for the last shot, Mouchette's moment of transcendence, that's given a lift by the hymnal-type music playing behind it, and then into a black screen). Despite the young girl's tortuous ride, Bresson's point-of-view doesn't feel exploitative or borderline sadistic, like that of Von Triers. The camera doesn't pry, but along Mouchette's journey you can feel the filmmakers warm sympathy hovering around her. With Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, even after the two woman get their relief through death, the entirety of the films just feels like a big "fu*k you!".

The last 20 minutes of Mouchette is where its heart lies. Mouchette plays mother (taking care of her baby brother), loses her mother, and then crosses paths with three mother figures in the film's final sequence. Each of the the three women show her kindness, the next more than the previous, but it's too late for Mouchette, she's already accepted her fate. It's simply the rising action before the resurrection.

Friday, January 19, 2007

THE BOYS OF WINTER

I couldn't go into the weekend without calling my shots!
It's NFL CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND!

Maybe it's luck, but I've been 6-2 with my playoff picks so far.
Not bad, eh?
I warned people not to trust my picks for bets,
but I guess you can go ahead now since I've been 75% accurate.*

---
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

This is the real Super Bowl. The dynasty of the Patriots vs. the choking of The Manning. Will he finally get over the hump, or will he have to eat it for another year? This is drama, folks. Even non-football fans should tune in. The Peyton Haters aren't gonna like this, but I feel the drought coming to an end. The stage is just set for it!

In past "chokes", The Colts were riding high, fans expected them to advance to the Super Bowl, and under the expectations they collapsed. I think we have some reverse-psychology-mojo working here. Everyone expects the Patriots to man up and dominate, and for Peyton to breakdown. In other words, the Colts have nothing to lose. Less pressure. Oh lord....I can't believe I'm going against Belichick(!!), but....................Colts win?

winner : Indianapolis Colts


NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears

I'm happy for the Saints, and especially for the people of New Orleans, but this game just makes me yawn. Both teams are inferior to the possible AFC opponent. Regardless of the downgrade in quality football, this should still be a good game. I haven't checked the weather in Chicago yet, but you have to think that it's really gotta hamper the Saints to play at Soldier Field. But....something in me sees Deuce McAllister lowering his head and going crazy on that Bears defence. My gosh....The 'Aints in a Super Bowl??? Nah, man....that cain't happen.....cain't? YES, it cain!

winner: New Orelans Saints
---

p.s. Pats fans, don't take this personally!! It's what I think...not what I want!

*DON'T ACTUALLY TRUST ME

JE SUIE AINSI PASSIONNANT

What a treat!
What an opportunity!

People of Austin, TX, Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game is playing at the Dobie this week.

















**Also, in today's Austin-American Statesman Chris Garcia interviews David Lynch.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ON THE CUSP















The top 9 at 9 on the local rock station started with the new Shins song, "Phantom Limb". Yummy. The new Modest Mouse song, "Dashboard" was on "the 9" too, but I don't think I like it yet. It's too busy...just like their new band photos. They have 6 (?) members now, and you can hear it. You can definitely hear Johnny Marr's guitar. And I don't get the appeal of Blue October. They sound like Soul Coughing, G. Love and Special Sauce, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus all mixed into one....and that's a very bad thing. God, Soul Coughing (and M. Doughty in general) were so annoying...

I got my first issue of my Rolling Stone subscription today. It got me excited for 2007 music. They had a Shins review by Christgau. In fact he did about 3 reviews. I sure hope they use him more now that Village Voice fired him. Oh, and my fave music writer Rob Sheffield has a new book!! Exciting. Although I'm not really into reading first person autobiographic-type stuff right now...but I will make an exception for him.

As we gear up for next week's first real new releases, I've been listening to:

2nd disc of Life After Death - Notorious B.I.G.

Diary - Sunny Day Real Estate
Pink Album (self-titled) - Sunny Day Real Estate

The new R.E.M. greatest hits thing (the I.R.S. years)

and...

The New Romance - Pretty Girls Make Graves


Next week will be good. It will make up for this week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

BRRRRRRRILLIANT

Ahhhh....I feel the ice slipping away....ahhhh....go away ice, melt and die!

Tomorrow should be normal again.
Cool...
because I almost ate it at Whole Foods,
and woulda looked like a total boner in front
of the girl smoking a cigarette outside The Container Store.

But one cool thing did happen...

A wise woman once said:
"If peeing your pants is cool, then I'm Miles Davis"

Well...If ice sculpting is cool, then I'm Leonardo DiCaprio.

Before going to work I had to chisel my car free from the ice.
I took the tools in my hand, and went to work.
Ice flakes were flying everywhere.
I was like Edward Scissorhands.
Two kids stopped on their bikes and watched...
Cars slowed as they went by...
Dogs were wagging their tails...
The Baptist church rung their bells!...

...ok, so that's a little exaggerated,
but when I freed my car from the tundra,
I was really proud of myself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

SNOW POO

All right already!
Now I agree with my wife that moving to Minnesota would not be cool.
I mean...yes, it would be cool, but not in the awesome way.

Me and wifey took advantage and spent some quality time together, but I think by the time I was doing my Shakira dance along to American Idol, she was ready to go "click" on me like some Adam Sandler on Kate Beckinsale type sh*t. (yeah, work that one out in your head....I mean, it's a "snow day", you ain't going anywhere, you got time.)

So.......God, Al Gore, Mr. Freeze, Al Qaeda??....whoever is doing this, please stop!! I will do whatever you want, I just want to be able to get my latte from Starbucks tomorrow, DAMMIT!!!

CARPY

















Today is John Carpenter's birthday.
I love that damn guy.
He wanders around, making good movies & bad movies,
He composes cute lil' oddball movie scores on his cute lil' keyboard.
He has the face and mane of somebody that smokes 2 1/2 packs a day.

Most people know him from Halloween, Escape From New York, & Big Trouble in Little China, so I'm gonna spend a few minutes on the stuff I feel is overlooked.

---

* Christine (1983)
My absolute favorite Carpenter film. A fun movie about men and their obsession with cars, and how they sexualize them.

*Vampires (1998)
Good b-movie. I understand that some people find this movie to be misogynistic. They have a good point...but James Woods comes off as a bastard in the movie too, so it's balanced! And sometimes...come on...women can really, really just suck.

*They Live (1988)
This movie is straight-up retarded, and I like it. 20 minute fight scene over a pair of glasses. Oh yeah!!

*Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Best 4-note keyboard score ever! Worst timed detonation of a blood pack ever!

---

I really think someday, that Carpenter and Wes Craven will be given more respect as honorable b-movie gods. And not just some dudes that make nifty horror flicks, I mean b-movies that matter. Their failures can be fantastic.

BALL OF FIRE





















I would never describe classic film star Barbara Stanwyck as a love-at-first-sight knockout, but as a contributor to The House Next Door notes, "Stanwyck filled the screen with the promise of sex." That is dead on accurate. She seduced with her confidence and wit (and a little help from those curls), not her breasts or high thighs.

Before I sound entirely superficial, she was also a great actress. Another admirer at The House Next Door, picks 5 great career moments ---------------------------------------> here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

STOMP THE YARD















In new film, Stomp the Yard, the cultural fraternity stereotype is upended. Director Sylvian White treats the college men like regular students, and the frat house as a place of comfort, not a sex and vomit domicile. In a stereotype eschewing scene, D.J. (Columbus Short) visits the Heritage Center and looks at famous black Americans with roots in the Greek tradition. The scene is a bringing down of D.J.'s (and the audience's) misconceptions, but also an embrace of his cultural past.

The meat of Stomp the Yard revolves around another tradition...the tradition of "stepping". In the past two years, Hollywood has put out a handful of youth dance movies (You Got Served, Honey, Step Up) that give rise to dance as a form of release, sport, career and most importantly, social expression. It's a nice break from the miasma on screen that teens get off on, but that never leaves them with any self-worth. (And Stomp the Yard makes a nice contrast, this weekend, to the release of Alpha Dog).

D.J. comes fresh to the fictional Truth College, jaded and just wanting to get this higher learning experience over with. In a kind of comical (and probably unintentional) display, D.J. comes off like an urban Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, jutting around with an expressionless chip on his shoulder. His bully confidence is intimidating, but also seductive and sweet.

This is where the fraternity plays it's role, but Stomp the Yard is no Animal House or Old School. D.J. joins, and we get no scenes of debauchery, but montages of companionship, work, and loyalty. These scenes deserve to not be smirked at. It's hard to sit still, and grow from such easygoing Hollywood fare in these cynical times, but it can happen.















The finale is a send up of the conclusions in Drumline, 8 Mile & The Karate Kid. D.J. has his bad boy rival in Grant (Darrin Henson), and their step battle is a back-and-forth of dancing wit and physical contortion. At films end, the typical plot points have fallen into place, but what stands out are Sylvian White's attempts at portraying a different and honorable collegiate experience.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

ALPHA DOG

















Alpha Dog
has the fragments and shards of a good movie somewhere in that 115 minutes. I didn't know it was a true story until the movie was over, and that probably helped me enjoy the parts that I did. When the story takes a turn, a turn that was true, the movie goes downhill fast. Don't get me wrong, the movie is a mess, and even if it didn't make that downhill slide, it would've been below average.

Alpha Dog is about privileged, Southern Californian, 18-25 year olds that have it so good they don't have anything to worry about except who they'll screw tonight and where the dope will come from. The film begins with old home footage of the boys, and goes into a brief mock interview with Bruce Willis about parenting. That's about it as far as backstory, and how the boys skipped from the happy times on that super 8 footage to the hedonism in the west hills. Sadly, most of Alpha Dog is just Bully & Kids-lite exploitation.

What director Nick Cassavettes does do right is make the pseudo-gangstaisms of the young men into a farce. He doesn't mock their wannabe egos, but he shows how the music video world they worship isn't so easy to duplicate in real life. In a scene between Johnny (Emile Hirsh) and Jake (the always good Ben Foster), the smaller Johnny tries to collect owed money from Jake, and when negotiations don't work, Johnny gets tough. But he's not as smooth as Al Pacino in that Scarface poster hanging on his wall. They both stumble and fumble, and Johnny is eventually bested. Being tough is more than just slang and a backwards LA Dodgers baseball cap.

It's also pretty damn clear now that Sharon Stone is one of the worst actors around. The Austin Chronicle calls one of her scenes late in the movie "mind-boggling". This is no exaggeration. The wife and I just kind of sat there stunned.

WINCING THE TIME AWAY





















Boo...Boo...Boooooo

I'm waiting to see The Shins play on Saturday Night Live,
and I'm having to suffer through this bad crap.

"Get off the screen...get off the screen...."

"Let them play!!...Let them play!"

Phew, after this next break I think they'll be on.

....Freedom Writers trailer....Lexus commercial....Gridiron Gang DVD commercial....McDonald's breakfast commercial....some car commercial...YES, FINALLY...

mmm, they sounded good. I like the song. It will take a few spins for it to sink in, like most of their stuff does for me. Cheers to James Mercer for wearing a tie. The song kinda moved like a GBV ballad, Under the Bushes...-era. Although Mercer is a much more refined writer than Robert Pollard.

Friday, January 12, 2007

NO CHILDREN OF MEN

















China's "one-child policy" is starting to bite back.
Especially in rural areas where the family unit survives off of itself.
Because of this, it is more practical for couples to produce males.
Because of this, in 2020 there will be 30 million more men than women.


------->Babies


"China Daily said one way to solve the problem would be to create a proper social security system so rural couples would not feel they needed a son to depend on when they get old."


Solve the problem?

Maybe for the parents of the 30 million men, but what about....the 30 million men?!?! Solutions like these leave out the human element. Sure, maybe social security will help the men with financial stability, but what about companionship and family? What about emotional and mental stability?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

MY TUNES



















Almost every year, from the last two weeks of December thru the month of January, there is a lame duck period for new music.

So....I use that time to catch up on late December releases and old stuff (meaning anything that happens to tickle me, from 1960s to 2006).

Here's what's been getting me through The Great Drought of 2007 (soon to be ended on January 23rd with new releases from The Shins, Deerhoof, and Damon Albarn's new band):


*Kingdom Come - Jay-Z
*Hip-Hop Is Dead - Nas


Both albums are uneven, but still better than most. If Nas woulda shaved off 4-5 songs from Hip-Hop Is Dead it coulda been excellent.


*"Trill" from Hell Hath No Fury - The Clipse

Don't understand the hype about the album. It's average. Sounds great, but lyrically kinda bleh. Anyways, I've been listening to "Trill" a lot...especially when hotties in a Chevy Berretta roll up next to my Ford Focus.


*The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani

Much, much better than they will lead you to believe.


*The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place - Explosions in the Sky

Wifey was watching Friday Night Lights (TV) last night, and I've listened to this album twice since.


*"Sh*t Luck" & "Trucker's Atlas" - Modest Mouse

Whenever I wake up from my nap, I like to listen to some songs while I get ready for the night. These two have been very popular lately. And it's cool b/c they run back-to-back on the album. They are also great "air guitar"/"air drum" songs.


*The first 6 songs on The Killers' Sam's Town

Really good stuff.


*The Black Parade - My Chemical Romance

Even the songs I didn't care for initially ("House of Wolves", "Mama") are starting to win me over.


*The Clash & London Calling - The Clash

Don't really know why. I guess I heard a song somewhere and it got me excited to go listen again. Always loved both, but I think I like London Calling best, now...which wasn't always the case.


*After The Goldrush - Neil Young

This album will never leave my side.
(SIGH)















This is super duper silly, and insulting.

As of 11:26 PM, there is no mention of it on the ACLU's web site.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

WALTER HILL

















Happy Birthday to Walter Hill.
He's 65 today.

He rules in exploring the ethics and morals of street justice!
In his westerns...The Long Riders, Last Man Standing
In his comedies... 48 Hours
In his action flicks...The Driver, The Warriors, Streets of Fire, Trespass
and the made for TV...Undisputed, Broken Trail

Sadly, he seems to be considered a second or third tier director.
Well, today, Mr. Hill, I will bake you a four tiered birthday cake,
and put a little plastic you on top!!

------->Here is an interview he did with GreenCine a few years ago.
MISUNDERSTOOD JEANIUS
























Murmer, a teacher at Monacan High School, was suspended inDecember after objections were raised about his private abstract artwork, much of which includes smearing his posterior and genitals with paint and pressing them against canvas.

His paintings sell for as much as $900 each on his Web site.

The unique approach to art became a topic when a clip showing Murmer, wearing a fake nose and glasses, a towel on his head and black thong, turned up on YouTube.com.

That video inevitably made its way to the high school.

Murmer contacted the American Civil Liberties Union after he was suspended, and ACLU executive director Kent Willis said Tuesday night the case is far from simple. (
AP)


------------>click here to check out this creepy guy in action

(p.s. for some reason he's wearing duck tape on his shoulder)

------
UPDATE - not only is this guy a freak, he's a hack!
from a reader:

"Murmer is hardly a unique artist. People have been doing what he's doing for years. Most notably, Yves Klein."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

DEATH (part II)


The death penalty post from Sunday generated a lot of good e-mails.
I added some to the original post below, if anyone is interested.

Thanks for reading this little blog.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY




Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday resembles Robert Altman's Prairie Home Companion. Both films are about the end of a generation, and the overtaking of a younger, more modern one. Like Garrison Keillor, Coach Tony D (Al Pacino) is being nudged out the door for something bigger, faster, stronger. The modern football game is a high dollar business as much as it is entertainment, or rather, for Tony D, a tradition to be respected.

Stone sees this as a great casting opportunity and for each major, aging actor he casts a younger, fresher actor as the contrast.


















The Old Guard:

Al Pacino as the coach
Dennis Quaid as the quarterback
Ann Margaret as the ex-owner's widow
James Woods as team doctor

The New Guard:

Aaron Eckhart as the new coach
Jamie Foxx as the new quarterback
Cameron Diaz as the new owner
Matthew Modine as the new doctor

Along the way, each duo collides in a battle of "what is the future?" vs. "what of the past?" (or, "what of tradition?").

Stone's visual effects, quick edits, and layering of images also give Any Given Sunday a cross-generational aroma that lingers within the film. Random images and sounds are spliced into scenes (not unlike that of Natural Born Killers) as reminders and mood setters, not as clever nudge-nudges or subliminal symbolism (like that of Natural Born Killers).

(it's funny how a technique that can full-on irritate, as Stone's style did in Natural Born Killers, will have the opposite, pleasing effect in a different film).

The film is fun too. It's 2 1/2 hours long, but it sprints by. Moments like an alligator in the shower, an eyeball popping out of a players socket, Willie's music video, Willie's throwing up, and the unrealistic acrobatics on the field are playful, and give the movie a gritty slapstick edge.


What's also refreshing is that Stone turns away from some of his past defeatist tendencies (something that made Heaven & Earth so abysmal) and makes the last 45 minutes of Any Given Sunday a Frank Capra-style redemption rundown. The film hinges on a tradition that is cemented in strict ethics, and by sequence end, both Willie (Jamie Foxx) and Christina (Cameron Diaz) accept their roles and fit into the bigger picture.

Monday, January 08, 2007

COME ON RIDE THE TRAIN


















"Hey baby, I think my green line is approaching your tunnel..."

Oh, New York.


NEW YORK -- New York City Mayor Bloomberg is set to unveil an "NYC" brand of free condoms that will be in packets with a variety of colors representing the different subway lines.

The "New York Post" says New York will be the first city to have its own signature municipal condoms.

The city health department hopes the millions of free condoms set to be handed out will help promote safe sex. HIV/AIDS is the third-leading cause of death among New Yorkers under 65.
NFL PLAYOFF WRAP-UP/ON TO WEEK 2




Hmmmm...I went 3-1 with my predictions. Not bad.
If it wasn' for a choke job by the Cowboys I would've been purrrrfect.

Thoughts....

The Colts looked good, but vulnerable...especially against a very bad Kansas City team.

New England is freakin' good! Belichick is like the best coach ev-er.

The Giants had heart. Dude, Jeremy Shockey's helmet came off and he still kept chugging (I was scared his head was gonna get exploded, like in Scanners). But as I said, the Eagles have destiny on their side.


WEEK 2


AFC

Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens

I know I said the Colts were vulnerable, but I'm calling an upset here. Maybe with the pressure on the other side of the field, the Colts won't choke. Look for them to go for "the big play" early and often.

winner: Colts


New England Patriots vs. San Diego Chargers

Game of the playoffs. No doubt. I'm calling another upset here, but I don't really consider this an "upset". New England has the post-season experience, while San Diego's premier players are still a little wet. Should be fun to watch.

winner: Patriots


NFC

Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears

I'm not really sold on the Bears, but dude, the Seahawks are weak!

winner: Bears


Philadeplhia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints

I take it back....the real team of destiny is the Saints. I mean, come on, what American isn't pulling for the Saints? But like the Bears, I'm not really sold on them (In fact, I think the NFC, in comparison, is pretty weak overall). I have a feeling that the Saints' run is over. After all, the eagle is very American too.

winner: Eagles

BYE BYE BIRDY























I am being overly paranoid & hysterical, but if "the birds" had bird flu, then I'm not leaving my house for 3 years!

Although, maybe Batman came out from under the bridge last night and killed the birds for us!!!

Batman loves us, he protects us!
GOOOOODNIGHT!























Good lord!!

Night at the Museum is absolutely making a killing at the box office.
Three weekends in a row at # 1

Get ready for Night at the Museum's II & III, Mr. Stiller.
I wonder what they will be???
For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, there is a relic in the museum that brings everything to life at night. Surely they wouldn't use the museum setting for the sequels.

What about Night at the Toy Store?
or...Night at the Graveyard?
or...Night at Whole Foods?
or...Night at Chuck E. Cheese's, and all those freaky animatronic machines come to life?
or...Night at the Hippie Coffee Shop, and all those freaky automatonic machines come to life?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

DEATH





















I totally respect the anti-death penalty opinion. Truly. For religious, or moral (or both) reasons, I think it's a well-meaning position, but to use Saddam as the poster child for this current surge is a little awkward.

OK, saying that Saddam is the movement's current "poster child"
may be unfair. I'm pretty sure 99.9% of anti-death penalty activists feel that
Saddam was a demon bastard. I know it's just the "topic" being brought
up again that activists are seizing on.

But still....if anyone ever deserved it, Saddam was on that short list.

Now, I agree that the execution of "the execution" was very, very poor (you would think US officials would make sure no recording materials were present), and grisly, and that now another bastard - Muqtada al-Sadr - has some fresh propoganda and recruitment footage in his hands......but still.

Anyway...what I'm sloppily trying to get to is this:


Rome's Colosseum lit up in death penalty protest (ABC)


Rome has lit up the Colosseum as part of an Italian campaign for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, launched after the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

For the past seven years the Roman arena, once the site of bloody gladiatorial battles, has been lit whenever a death sentence was commuted anywhere in the world.

Italy said last week it would take its campaign to end all executions to the United Nations General Assembly.

A member of Italy's Radical Party, Michele Lembo, says the case of Saddam had focused many people's minds on the issue of capital punishment.

"The execution of Saddam Hussein has raised the debate," she said.

"The public has started discussing the issue again because the execution took place.

"We're asking people to think about what happened and to propose an alternative to it."

Meanwhile UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has called on the Iraqi Government to suspend executions that may be carried out in the near future.

Two of Saddam Hussein's former aides, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, are expected to be hanged soon.

They were found guilty along with the former Iraqi dictator of ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite civilians from the town of Dujail in the 1980s.


I don't mean to dismiss the moral argument (I think it's a legit one) by asking this, but what exactly are the main "non-moral" reasons for being against the death penalty?

Possibly...

"What if the prisoner is innocent, and proof of innocence eventually surfaces?"
or
"The prisoner may have valuable information for us in helping to prevent more crimes"

I think those are valid.

If it sounds like I am all over the place in this post...well, I am,
because my opinion of the dealth penalty is too.
I used to be against it.
Then I was for it.
Now I am 70% for it and 30% unsure.

The one argument that I can't shake, and that convinces me of being pro-death penalty 100% of the time, is when I think about my wife, my sisters, my mother and how I would feel if someone murdered them....I would want that person dead. I would probably want to kill them myself. I'm not proud of that. I think it's pretty sick. But it's the truth. And the truth is pretty hard to argue with.

------
UPDATE:
My friend Bryan has a response to this post here .

------
And from my friend Chris:



"There is clear evidence available to support that numerous mistakes have been made by the justice system that have resulted in the deaths of innocent people. Also, the death penalty poses very little threat as a deterrent. Those are reasons enough for me to be against it. Certainly if someone killed my mom my position would likely change but i do believe that we should have a justice system that does not make laws and create policies that are founded on revenge."
------
UPDATE
from a reader:



"I don't deny the criminal justice system has serious problems. We should fix the implementation. If someone is on trial for their life, their lawyer shouldn't fall asleep during the trial. (Apparently it happened; it's one of my friend's favorite anecdotes when discussing the death penalty.) But what about the larger moral issue? Do we have the right to kill people like Saddam Hussein for what they've done to other people, what they've done to society, humanity, whatever? Is execution an appropriate punishment? Are there crimes which call for that response? As far as revenge, do some crimes DESERVE to be avenged? I don't think I can ever be convinced that the answer to these questions is no."

------
UPDATE
from a reader:


"I appreciate your blog entry today because it is also an issue that I struggle with. Though, I'd probably say I'm 70% against and 30% for. The images of Saddam were frightful and disturbing. I definitely agree that he deserved to die as do so many evil people. However, personally, I don't feel like I am in a position to declare justice or revenge or whatever. War, Killing, death, everything....is terrible. I don't feel like I am in a position to say who has the right to live and who doesnt. So, for me, this isn't so much about politics as it is personal feelings."




------
UPDATE
more!:

Here is a link to a blog from another reader responding.
I'M TORN


Wow...the Dallas Cowboys just totally choked away a win.
I kinda even feel bad for them.
I know, I know...I am a Cowboy hater, but it's just human nature
to think "damn, dude..." when a team commits suicide like that.
Plus, they ruined my predictions!

Although, I don't feel bad for T.O.
What a jerk.
When he dropped another easy pass today,
I just couldn't help but snicker.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

CHILDREN OF MEN

LONDON'S BURNING






















When I saw the trailer for Children of Men this fall, I expected it to be dour. What I didn't expect was for it to lack total imagination.

Director Alfonso Cuaron plays off of hot-button, political issues like illegal immigration & terrorism. Thing is, he offers nothing interesting on either topic, just more Hollywood hysteria. For example, Jasper (Michael Caine) says to Theo (Clive Owen), "Those immigrants came from dead Western countries. They come here to survive, but we kick them out." Well, logic would tell you that a country of England's (we see on the news that England is the only nation left standing) size wouldn't be able to sustain an influx of 5,000,000,000 people. But Cuaron isn't concerned with logic or real emotions, he just wants to ignite a fire in the belly.

Coincidentally, in a book I am currently reading, the topic of P.D. James' novel Children of Men comes up. The context it's in is one of childbirth rate and how it ultimately effects the rise and fall of powerful nations. I was holding out hope for some of this in Cuaron's movie. True, the film is about the world post-conception, but its effect is boiled down simply to "the world can't survive without the sound of kids".

Now, I'm not one to complain about a movie "betraying" the book...not at all. The book is the book, the movie is the movie. I'm just curious why Cuaron chose to ignore, what seems like, rich material and make 109 minutes of tired, fashionable cynicism. One thing for sure, though, it makes for a very bad movie.

Friday, January 05, 2007

3 WOMEN






On paper, the title to Marizeh Meshkini's (wife of the great Mohsen Makhmalbaf) The Day I Became a Woman, sounds liberating. But for three women in southern Iran, it means constraint. Told in three 25 minute shorts, The Day I Became a Woman shows the sad truths of Sharia law.

The first story is about Hava, a girl waking up to her 9th birthday. In her village this means goodbye to childhood, hello to womanhood...literally. It means goodbye to hanging out with her best friend Hassan, it means hello to covering herself with a chador. Hava cleverly convinces her grandma that she was actually born at 12:00PM this day, and since it's only 11:00AM she has one more hour left to be with her friend Hassan. Before she races off, Hava's grandma gives her a stick to put in the ground. When the shadow of the stick disappears, Hava must return home. The kids decide to spend their last moments together sharing candy. They don't talk, just giggle and stare, sharing licks off a lollypop. Hava's grandma comes to retrieve her as the shadow of the stick fades. She puts a chador over Hava...she puts a shadow over Hava. As the two "women" walk away, Hassan stares at them, Hava standing small in size next to her grandma. She looks like a shadow.

The second story is about a young woman named Ahoo. Our introduction to her is in the middle of a bicycle race, but she's also riding away from the rule of her husband. In short time, Ahoo's husband finds her. He arrives on horseback and demands her return to the village. She ignores him. He leaves and returns with the village Mullah. He threatens divorce, she ignores him. Then the town elders come after Ahoo. They arive shirtless, like primitives on horseback, demanding she return or there will be severe punishment. Here, director Meshkini contrasts the primitive men (stuck in a 7th century mindset) on horseback with the freedom seeking Ahoo on bicycle. Ahoo rides a machine. She peddles with feet. She is relentless towards progress. The cemented path Ahoo is riding on feels endless. It emotionally connects the audience to the film by giving us visual clarity to Ahoo's daily struggle.


The final segment is about an eldery woman, Hoora. She is long in life, and it's suggested that she may be near death. Hoora has inherited a large sum of money, and has decided to spend it on luxuries she's always desired, but was forbidden to enjoy. A group of young boys escort her on a shopping spree. They follow her in tandem, carrying her items. This isn't an allusion to a "reversal of servitude", this is a display of respect. The boys bring Hoora's items shoreside and build rafts to float her and her luxuries out to a white boat in the distance. Hoora is finally getting her peaceful transcendence.

In the 90s' & early 00's there were great films coming out of Iran. Maybe I'm wrong, but the stream seems to have dried up. Is this a result of the current regime that squeezes freedom of expression and ideas with an iron fist.

In the first story, Hassan observes the customs being forced upon Hava. He's looks on confounded and is wearing a European soccer shirt. This isn't just a random item of clothing, it's Meshkini's acknowledgement of the desire for Western freedoms.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

MADRID


This is not good news.

...especially being on the heels of this.
WALK THE LINES

























This post will probably resonate with exactly .06 of you readers out there, but I just have to do it. When I catch a fever I can't pinch it back, and I have NFL playoff fever (bzzzzzzt....there went the reader...).

My team (the Houston Texans...stop laughing...) isn't in the playoffs this year, but that doesn't keep me from getting all knotted up with excitement about the drama about to unfold. In fact, there are only two reasons I have an antenna for my TV....baseball and football (and biennially, during elections, I like to watch debates...a sport in itself).


WEEK 1

NFC

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts

Two habitual "choke" teams, but the Chiefs will never win anything ever, so the edge must go to the Colts. Peyton Manning is gripping because he doesn't wanna go down as another Marino (aka...a great player that couldn't win the big one).

winner: Colts


Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks

I won't lie about my bias here. I hate the Cowboys. I want them to lose. However, Seattle have been wet birds (hee hee...Seahawks..."wet birds"...hee hee) ever since they sucked in the SUPER BOWL last year. Cowboys survive for at least one week.

winner: Cowboys


AFC

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

The Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The other team is the Jets.

winner: Patriots


New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

I enjoy watching both of these teams play. They are both scrappy and gruff, just like their fans. But the Eagles have that "team of destiny" vibe going on right now, and isn't there something about "destiny riding a horse", or something?

winner: Eagles


There it is. I will recap on Monday with either my head held high or my tail between my legs.

**one note: last year I was 0-4 in my predictions for WEEK 1 of the playoffs. If you are planning on betting money, please consult with a professional.**



Wednesday, January 03, 2007

YOUIYPUIYPUUIPYIUYUYPYPIUYUHBGKBKBHKBHB



The 100 Most Annoying Things Of 2006
(and the Boise State football team isn't one of them....dammit!) :

------> you know you're curious.
EGAD, LAD













This is fun.
The Lamest Superheroes of All-Time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007 IS GONNA BE CRAZY, YO



You've got to be kidding me!

But you gotta love the first line of the article:

"Kate Moss has married her drug addict fiancé Pete Doherty in a private New Year's Day ceremony on the Thai island of Phuket."

"Phuket" is right.
That must've been the logic they used when making the decision.
Hey, I mean...when in Phuket, do as the Phukets do, right?