Friday, March 30, 2007

GORING















From an interview with Eli Roth:

Q: What kind of trajectory would you like to see horror take in the future?

Roth: We're in a really violent wave and I hope it never ends. Hopefully we'll get to a point where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies. I'd love to see us get to a point where you can go to theaters and see movies unrated and that people know its not real violence. It's all pretend. It's all fake. It's just acting. It's just magic tricks. Hopefully we'll get to a point where people realize movies don't cause violence. It just reflects the violence going on in the culture. I'd love to see us get to a point where you can make a movie and not worry about the limits of the violence. Then I think they'd get so violent that people would get bored of it.

read the whole interview -----> HERE

------

I don't think movie violence causes an uptick in real life violence either, or, at least I'm not convinced of that yet. Further, I don't know how such an argument would ever be proven. How fool-proof of a study could there ever be about showing the direct effect of one on the other? (If horror movies get more intense and murders simultaneously increase, it's a curious theory but way too weak of an argument.)

But if Roth believes the new horror "just reflects the violence going on in the culture", why would he want to glorify it by making a movie about it? What good comes from thinking "torture happens...so let's show it" (don't kid yourself, this ain't anything beyond snuff entertainment). Sub-par horror directors will always fall back on the foolish "it's a reaction to the current era" when confronted about their empty depravity.

Artists as wide ranging as Sam Peckinpah, Bruno Dumont, Abel Ferrara, Takeshi Kitano, and more, show humanity in violence. Wes Craven and Stuart Gordon used extreme gore in b-movie morality tales. Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson (in Dead Alive & Bat Taste) made gore absurd and cinematically clever. Eli Roth, and the "Splat Pack" (as he refers to them), are nothing but sadistic.

I don't believe that Eli Roth wants to cause harm, but his apathetic attitude is harmful.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CHART WATCHING


Congratulations to Modest Mouse for scoring the # 1 album slot in the USA. Also, the interesting, and strangely sexy Amy Winehouse stays in the top ten for a second week, at #10.

others: This was a weird week...a lot of "indie" artists debuted in the Top 100. I think it's because of iPod culture. Casual listeners of pop music most likely download hits, avoiding buying whole albums, thus opening slots of smaller artists whose fans are typically album buyers: LCD Soundsystems's Sound of Silver debuted at #46. Andrew Bird came in at #76 and El-P at #78.

Meanwhile, The Shins, Regina Spektor, and Arcade Fire are still selling high.

Over on the singles chart, Akon, Beyonce, and Fergie continue their domination...that is, until Timberlake releases his next single.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AUTUMN SONATA

Ingmar Bergman has always been obsessed with the legacy and charity of family. But watching Autumn Sonata, I couldn't help wondering if he was making a slight tip o' the hat to Yasujiro Ozo.

The most obvious hunch is in the title : Autumn Sonata. Near the end (the "autumn") of his career, Ozu loaded up film titles with nouns of seasons....Early Summer, Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon etc.

Next: Like Ozu, Bergman (in Autum Sonata) shoots long, interior shots as frames within frames.





Lastly: Bergman's camera spends 90% of it's time on the bond, history, and break-up of the mother and daughter. I can't think of an Ozu film, I've seen, where some station of a parent/child relationship isn't at the center.

OR...maybe Bergman never cared for Ozu at all, and I dreamed this all up. Who knows. I don't think I even want to know. It would ruin the walks I take.

HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS




















Hershell Gordon Lewis: weirdo, freako, sicko, creep machine, and lousy filmmaker...but I've always kind of admired the man. Maybe it was his D.I.Y. gore-horror in a time when gore was heavily scorned. He had a vision - demented and poorly shot, yes - but he kept on chuggin'. Unflappable freaks turn me on.

GreenCine interviewed him recently. The subject of the new "sadistic horror" (i.e. urine horror, torture horror, rape horror etc.) came up:

---

GC: The verisimilitude of your films is for a specific audience. You're not aiming at the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Yet, even in your outreach, you have been equally specific about what you were not interested in depicting, just as you're indicating now. You drew the line at sadomasochism, for example. Even though your victims died horribly, they died quickly. What do you think of the recent flare-up in so-called "torture horror"?

HGL: "I am personally opposed to it, and I'll tell you why: I don't think it's entertaining. See, what you're then doing is going beyond reaching into the innards of a typical person who might have sat in the Roman Colosseum a couple of thousand years ago with thumbs down. This is a different thing altogether. This is carrying voyeurism to a point at which one questions the aberration of the person who is making that kind of a judgment. That's just not for me. I've seen people who have claimed to have seen legitimate snuff films. I pity them just as I pity the people who were snuffed. It simply is not, in my opinion, part of the formula for an entertaining motion picture. It's too selective a niche."

---

Read the whole interview-------->HERE

SEIZEY STREET


















Robert Mugabe's counter-strategy to political opposition has evolved from "If you can't beat them, beat them", to "If you can't beat them, beat them, and if you still can't beat them, seize them!"

Police stormed the offices of Zimbabwe's main opposition party Wednesday and arrested its leader hours before he planned to talk to reporters about a wave of political violence that had left him briefly hospitalized.

Party head Morgan Tsvangirai was taken along with other political opponents of President Robert Mugabe in a bus to an undisclosed location by officers who had sealed off approaches to his headquarters and fired tear gas to drive away onlookers, the party and witnesses said.

[...]

The European Union said it viewed the arrest of Tsvangirai with "great concern," said Jens Ploetner, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of EU president Germany.

"The EU president holds the leadership of Zimbabwe responsible for the bodily injury to Tsvangirai and calls for him to have immediate access to legal, and if necessary, medical consultation," Ploetner said.(AP)



The problem is, these thugs could give a flip what the EU thinks. What is the EU gonna do? Really. They view this with "great concern". Eww...I'm sure Mugabe is shaking (see photo above). A threat from the EU is like a squirrel fist-pounding the podium to an audience of bears.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"YOUTHS"











My favorite media-lite demographic is making headlines again : YOUTHS.

YOUTHS in Paris started a riot in the subway system today. Afterwards, seven of the YOUTHS were arrested. The YOUTHS threw things, punched officers, and smashed windows.

I wonder if these were the same YOUTHS that burned cars, burned buildings, and terrorized neighborhoods in France a couple of years ago?



----------->From the AP

50 FT QUEENIE



















Las Vegas might elect to erect a giant, 50 ft Michael Jackson robot if the King of Pop decides to perform an ongoing show there (4)


The giant Jacko would be visible from incoming flights as it stalked the desert shooting laser beams, the firm behind the design told the New York Daily News.


Andre Van Pier has apparently designed the Jackson robot and sketched out a stage set featuring a giant audience-interactive video game with human cyborgs controlled by the audience.

"Michael's looked at the sketches and likes them," said his partner at Luckman Van Pier, Mike Luckman.

He added of the robot: "It would be in the desert sands. Laser beams would shoot out of it so it would be the first thing people flying in would see."


If this actually goes down, somebody better warn Macaulay Culkin before he flies into Las Vegas. Imagine being The Culk, and as your plane lands, you look out the window and see a 50 ft Michael Jackson shooting beams at your face? Talk about trauma....good lord!!! The poor guy would probably die on the spot.

Monday, March 26, 2007

THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2


It's not worth writing about the new horror movie sequel to a remake of a film that was already below-average to begin with. But to satisfy the need for some type of reaction, I'll just steal this quote from Matt Zoller Seitz:

"(The Hills Have Eyes II) is essentially a catalog of transgressive images, lighted and edited like a heavy-metal video."

That's enough of that.

What I really wanted to blog about is this continuously disturbing trend of seeing children at screenings of very hard R movies. And I don't mean 12-15 year olds who paid for TMNT and decided to sneak in, I'm talking about 4-8 year olds tagging along with their parents (or rather, bad parents that can't find a babysitter and care more about their own entertainment cravings than the rearing of their kid.)

Before HHE2 started, I heard a baby crying from the top section. "Well, at least the child is so young he/she won't see what's on screen", I thought (regardless of the fact that someone thought it OK to bring a crying child to a theater anyway...) But then, half way through, two kids descended the stairs with a large, empty popcorn bucket. The older one (around 6) was helping the younger one (around 4) down the stairs. Why did he need help??? Because the younger one was holding his hands over his ears, and was visibly shaken. (I don't even wanna think about the fact that these kids parents made them go get a refill for them.)

After the film, a man and his daughter (no older than 5) were leaving their seats. He was holding her hand like it was "daddy's day out with the daughter". And yet he chose to bring her to a hyper violent death movie that shows rape, excrement, and blood??? WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?!?!?!?

Last Friday in the New York Times, there was an article about Congress looking into the advertising campaigns of horror films. I'm generally not a fan of government butting in on art & commerce, but the idea to keep posters/advertisements at certain distances from elementary schools, playgrounds etc. seems reasonable to me.

Or what about not allowing children under 13 into rated R films, even if they're accompanied by an adult? As I typed that, I already became skeptical of it...juveniles under 16 don't have I.D.s, so would parents have to present birth certificates? And I frown on the thought of me or the government being the babysitter for what I may feel is irresponsible parenting.


I don't know....it's just bothersome to me. Maybe it's b/c I'm getting older, or maybe it's because - as I told my wife - I'm preparing myself for fatherhood. But how far will this trend go? Will we start seeing playrooms for kids at strip joints so Daddy can go get his jollies and still "be with" his kid at the same time?

---
UPDATE
from a reader



Sunday, March 25, 2007

REIGN OVER ME













In John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, one shortbuser says to another that 9/11 is the first real thing that happened in these young people's lives. Early in Reign Over Me, during a dinner table conversation, Alan's (Cheadle) daughter asks him about Charlie (Sandler): "Is that the man you talk about when you talk about the planes?", and everyone in the audience knows what she's referring to.

Charlie lost his wife and 3 daughters to one of the hijacked planes on September 11, 2001. In Reign Over Me's best moments, director Mike Binder (of the underrated The Upside of Anger) relies on our universal empathy to connect us with Charlie's misery. It's not exploitative, and Binder is very careful around this sensitive area. But he's too careful. Maybe it was a case of the "it's too soon"s that held Binder back.

After reuniting by chance, Charlie and Alan spark up their college-days friendship. By reliving this old relationship, Charlie gets relief from his pain, and Alan gets relief from his stress. They play video games, eat Chinese food, have jam sessions, go to the movies....it's a celebration of the much sought after "dude time" of adult males, and a fairly accurate depiction of it as well.


But Reign Over Me never delves into Alan's experience with 9/11. He has a wife and two girls, yet we never hear his story from that day. We never hear of the vulnerabilities he felt about protecting his family. Same goes for Angela (Liv Tyler), a psychiatrist. Surely she heard the pains, anxieties, and fears from the patients in her community after the terrorist attacks. Because of these oversights, Binder missed out on broadening his film into something greater and more prescient.

In the film's best scene, Charlie impulsively opens up to Alan about his loss. With headphones hugging his neck, playing Bruce Springsteen (who's The Rising may be the best artistic reaction to 9/11 thus far), Charlie describes the wonderful qualities of "his girls" and then does his best to get through a recounting of the day that he lost them. Angela and Alan look on, and when Charlie's through, so is the scene. Angela and Alan say nothing, share nothing....opportunity gone.

Unfortunately, Reign Over Me devolves into hokum down its final stretch (the climactic court scene oddly brings to mind the climactic court scene from Sandler's Big Daddy). If Binder would have followed the connectivity-through-experience that gave Shortbus its power, he might have had something great.

Friday, March 23, 2007

HMMM












Isn't it strange that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled his trip to the U.N. on the same day that British soldiers were seized in Iranian waters?

I haven't dug into the details yet.

Just ponderin'......

---
CORRECTION:

British authorities are saying the sailors were in Iraqi waters.

MY DAUGHTER THE MARTYR

















The new Palestinian "unity" government - led by Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas - has a TV station, and on that TV station they are playing a music video about a little girl coming to the realization that her mommy was a suicide bomber.

In the song she sings, "Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me? A toy or a present for me?". Later in the video, the little girl discovers explosives in her mom's dresser, grasps them and says, "My love will not be words / I will follow Mummy in her steps."

-------> Daily Mail

WE ANIMAL MEN

***WARNING - THIS POST CONTAINS DETAILS OF SEX TYPE THINGS***
























It's a guy thing.

They say if one puts limitations on mankind, expect mankind to find ways around those limitations. Add lust to the equation, and you have an unstoppable force. And by mankind, I mean it literally...MAN KIND. I know women love the sex too, but men are like crackheads in heat. (I feel bad for actual male crackheads, b/c they need crack and sex...and it's probably easier to score crack.) We'll do anything!!!

Anything?? Within the law of course. Well...the federal & city laws that is. Laws of dignity and self-respect? Ehhh...we break those.

* Holes in fruit (w/minor lubricant)
* Raw pieces of chicken (thawed)
* Socks (best right out of the package)
* Ziploc bags filled with jelly, placed in between the mattress and bed spring.
* Pillows
- Folded (crevice) pillows
- Pillow with soft t-shirts over them.
- Pillow in between thighs


Sometimes the logic is blinded by the lust.
Empty wrapping paper cylinders????
Baaaad idea.

Ah...but there is a line! A line you do not cross. And that line is when you invade other peoples lives with your lust. THEN you become a pervert. Perverts give men a bad name. They are what Pat Robertson is to Christianity.....what Barry Bonds is to baseball.....what CodePink is to dissent.

A pervert in Connecticut got a little too close to his desires recently and was arrested. He had two female roommates, and like any normal guy he thought "I wonder what they look like naked". But then the line was crossed.

He took a shampoo bottle, cut a whole in it, put a camera inside, and peeped away. Crafty little fellow, but disturbing.



"A male roommate, curious why the shampoo wasn't moved for some time, found wires protruding from the back of the bottle, then called police, authorities said."(AP)


Ladies, if you live with a guy, and there is that shampoo bottle that has collected soap scum around the perimeter of the base, then I suggest you inspect it!

Although I condemn this mans actions, I kind of sympathize.

It's a guy thing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY














There's a scene in the Oscar nominated documentary My Country, My Country where the New York Times' Edward Wong is talking with three members of the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunnis) just days before the January 2005 elections. The camera is the fifth member in the room and it's interested in the same answers Mr. Wong is.

I've often felt that social/political documentaries are nothing more than extended news pieces; something you may see on CNN or 20/20. That's not a bad thing, but it's a comparison I feel documentarians tend to scoff at. They fancy themselves as something greater, something that is beyond the limitations of investigative journalism.

The truth, accuracy, and captured "reality" of any documentary is disputable once the footage enters the editing room. What works with My Country, My Country is that director Laura Poitras recognizes this and moves on. She films 6 months (at least) of Iraq during the election buildup and edits it down to 90 minutes. She also avoids turning the camera on herself, but smartly leaves in moments when her subjects make eye contact with the camera while she's trying to be discreet. There's an elephant in the room, and everybody knows it (and performs for it).

But this doesn't mean Poitras misses out on moments of honesty. Her primary focus is on Dr. Riyadh, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party. He's more moderate than his fellow party members, and he's a father of six. The best moments of MC, MC are inside Riyadh's house. Emotions and opinions of family members change depending on the day, and it's in these moments where Poitras makes the best argument for a distinction between a journalist and a documentarian. She's embedded with this single family longer than a Barbara Walters ever would be and she seems to have gained a level of sincere trust.

Sure there are beefs that every viewer will have with My Country, My Country. I wanted to hear more from the American military, and hear more about the Sunni militias. But that's kind of what's good about MC, MC. It's not concerned with being a definitive "document". Laura Poitras knows that's impossible. I wish more documentarians would swallow that "truth".

OUR WEIRDO CAT

















This afternoon, he sat on my belly and took a nap with me.
I like when he does that. It's like having a lion at the gate.

His birth name is Porkchop, but more frequently used nicknames are:

"Bean"
"The Bean"
"P.C."
"P.C. Bean"
"Weirdo Bean"
"Porker"
"Angelface"
"Pitchfork"
"Porkchippitychop"
"F___ Bean"


The truest sign of affection is a nickname.

(picture courtesy of Karen B. )

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MOGADISHU

Sad, sad, sad...

With the transitional government of Somalia trying to get a foothold (the 14th attempt in 16 years...), Islamists that were beaten back at the end of last year have reappeared and killed Ethiopian and Somali troops.

And of course the poverty stricken civilians are caught in the middle (and dying), seesawing back and forth on who the bad guys and good guys are.

---------> The NYT

HEY, MR. DJ



















Hip-hop icon, and fellow H-Town fella DJ Premier turns 41 today. In my heart he's known for his work with Nas and obviously the GangStarr stuff. I can't think of a radio hit he was ever behind, though. His tracks are accessible, but his sound is somewhat narrow in keeping with a rawer "street" sound. He lacks the pop sensibilities of a Timbaland or Dr. Dre or Neptunes.

It's strange...the aging hip-hop artist. It's something that is happening just now. We've gone through the aging rocker, popper, jazzer, blueser, etc....but never the hip-hopper.


The should-be elder statesmen from the golden Eighties aren't around anymore:

Ice-Cube (is acting)
Rakim (still around, but off the radar)
Q-Tip (dating white girls)
Chuck D (lost it)
KRS-1 (gone mental)
LL Cool J (see Q-Tip)
Beastie Boys (overrated)
Run Dmc (dead)


But I think the 90's-present pack will stick around:

Jay-Z
Nas
Eminem
Ghostface Killah
Andre 3000

you have others: 50 Cent, Lil' Wayne, Kanye West, T.I. ...but they still need to prove themselves (in my opinion).

And boy, oh boy do I miss arguably the greatest rapper of all time : Notorious B.I.G.

Like Kurt Cobain, I will forever be wondering, "what would they be doing now?".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BEHIND THE MASK : THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON






















BTM : TROLV is a small example of something that's wrong with independent film today.

The first 10 minutes of the movie are clever: We are welcomed to a parallel universe where Michael Myers, Jason Voorhies, and Freddy Krueger are as real as Dahmer, Gacy, and Manson. Rookie serial killer Leslie Vernon is planning his ascension into this group by staging a murder of high school hotties.

All of this is being filmed by a film crew, a la 20/20. Yes, Scream and Man Bites Dog instantly pop into mind, but the filmmakers do get some mileage out of this already harvested territory. Trouble is, that mileage hits a wall around the 20 minute mark, and therein lies the problem facing many young filmmakers.

Big studios are rightly criticized for not nurturing the careers of young directors, but the festival/indie circuit do the same thing at a smaller level. More and more, what seems to get films screened (outside of being a star director like Almodovar, Cronenberg, Jarmusch etc.) are the "gimmick", the "hook", the "quirky idea", and less the film craft. People talk about "the squid scene" in Oldboy, the pedophile protagonist in The Woodsman, the raw dialogue of In The Company of Men, the horse love of Zoo, the cu*shots in Shortbus, the nazi-jew in The Believer, the pedophile in Happiness, the pedophilia in Mysterious Skin etc.

The aesthetics and scope of a short film are what festival screeners probably look for. It's like American Idol, "you've got 30 seconds to sell us kid!". Young artists aren't encouraged to nurture their ideas just like directors aren't nurtured by the studios.

I don't blame filmmakers. Something like Sundance is a cutthroat business just like any other money fountain. You have to separate yourself from the pack (and you have a tiny window to do it in). Plus, with digital cameras allowing anyone to feel like a "movie director", it's either be seen now, or be gone forever. As a result, the seeds of good art may be getting tossed aside.

"I'LL OFFER HIM SOME REFUSE HE CAN'T MAKE"
















Nothing can ruin a video night more than lousy subtitles.

White subtitles on White background is bad...
Speedy 1 second flashes of dialouge is bad...

Then there is the "dashes w/ italics" problem :

- Who was that on the phone
- Jenny -Jenny?
- Jenny who?
- Thompson - She said she wanted to hang

?!?!

I swear I had an experience like that with an Indian film. I had to rewind, or 2x backwards (or whatever it's called...), 3 times just to get the order of who said what to who and when in what order down correctly.

(sigh)


Efforts by overseas film distributors to cut costs by outsourcing subtitle translations to such countries as India and Malaysia have resulted in creating dialog that makes little sense to local audiences, according to today's (Monday) London Times. The newspaper observed that translators with little understanding of the nuances of English are taking the place of British subtitlers, many with long careers in the business.

[...]

In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Uma Thurman's line, "We have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment" was translated into Taiwanese as "We hold the highest standards for sexual harassment." The Times said that Mexican director Guillermo del Toro was so upset with the English subtitles for his 2001 film The Devil's Backbone that he himself worked on the subtitles for last year's award-winning Pan's Labyrinth.(
c-music)

Monday, March 19, 2007

LIP SERVICE

















Lesbians kicked out of restaurant for a kiss.

If lesbians can't kiss, shouldn't Vlad Putin be "kicked out" of office for making out with a kid's belly?

















The funniest thing about that picture is the kid's reactions in the background. I love that one dude on the left that is scratching his head like "uh...this is kind of awkward."

SUBMIT




















Brutally murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was honored with a statue, this weekend, in Amsterdam. Oddly, many inside the international film circle continue to ignore the incident, or, discussing the filmmaker's controversial film Submission in general.

In a climate when The Dixie Chicks documentary is praised as an expose on free speech, critics turn their heads to real suppression of an artist's freedom...a murder. So far, I've only seen one feature film of Van Gogh's (May 6th), and I wasn't impressed, but this is beyond personal preference.

I wonder if the film community would have raised more of a protest if Van Gogh would've been murdered for a film critical of Christianity, the American military, or capitalism instead of Islam? They absolutely should have, and they should have done it when he was murdered because of Submission.

Watch the short film Submission -------> HERE

BLACKBOARDS














Iran arrests 1000 teachers for protesting about their pay.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

IN THAILAND















The Muslim/Buddhist tension in southern Thailand continues to grow:

SABAYOI, Thailand (AP) - Attackers hurled explosives and opened fire on an Islamic school in southern Thailand, killing three students and sparking a riot by angry Muslim villagers, officials said Sunday.

Shortly after the attack, three Buddhists were shot dead in the same district, raising fears that a festering insurgency that has already taken more than 2,000 lives could erupt into open combat between the Muslim and Buddhist communities.

[...]


Thammasak said police believe Muslim insurgents staged the school attack in an attempt to convince villagers that authorities were responsible and win them over to the insurgents' cause. Villagers, however, refused to believe Muslims were behind the violence and blamed government security forces, he said.

Thai authorities also blamed insurgents for a bombing at a mosque and a grenade attack at a tea shop last Wednesday that killed two Muslims in neighboring Yala province. Those attacks came hours after suspected Muslim insurgents killed eight Buddhist passengers in a commuter van in the same district of Yala, shooting them in the head execution- style.

MUSIC OF MY MIND





















An Italian musician is finding and then compiling music that was written at death and prison camps during WWII. The music was written by prisoners on paper scraps, clothing, diaries etc. One prisoner, Rudolf Karel, wrote an entire 5 part opera on toilet paper. (AP)

"For more than 15 years, working largely alone, Lotoro has been crisscrossing the globe, usually at his own expense, hunting down musical works from museums, archives and antique shops, as well as from survivors or their families.

Lotoro, a pianist, is also rearranging and recording many of the pieces to produce a collection of 32 CDs, five of which have already been published. Musicians and singers who live in or around his southern Italian town of Barletta, and who share his passion, often spend their Sundays working with him in the recording studio.

Experts who are aware of Lotoro's work say it's the first time such a vast effort has been made to assemble and revive in one place a musical treasure trove scattered around the world."


This reminds me of those scenes in Grand Illusion where the men at the POW camp perform for each other on stage, in costume; something none of them would have done in their regular lives.


If nothing else, music was a way for prisoners to stay sane. "Composing for an author is a question of mental survival," said David Meghnagi, a psychology professor at the Third University who is spearheading the creation of the library. "In this way he keeps his humanity intact and allows his mind to imagine a different future."

Friday, March 16, 2007

TERRITOREALITY

Happy Birthday to Noah Sebastian Saldivar (that's a hard t on Sebastian).
He's the new nephew of me...Mr. Foxito, El Tractor Factito!!

I felt like a mob boss holding that little dude in my arms today.
Nobody better ever mess with my niece or nephew!!
....or the future kids of my own.

Am I gonna be that dad? The one that calls little Tommy's parents b/c he made my boy cry? The one that annoys the teachers b/c I wanna make sure they protect my girl? The one that meets the Little League umpire in the parking lot b/c they called strike three on my kid? (please don't let me be that dad....)

For me, there is nothing equal to holding a brand new member of the family in my arms. I felt the same unique feeling when my niece first arrived and I held her. I was nervous. But I did it.

I am nervous....but I'm ready for a child to change my habits.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sylvester Stallone in COPLAND





















Copland is an enjoyably pathetic little movie. It's credits run like a list of monstrous stars you would expect from a movie with a theme park like title. Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, all fighting for the precious screen time. (After all, Copland is where DeNiro gets off his famous "You BLEWWWWWW it!" blast.)

Being the only actor playing against type, Sylvester Stallone is the right man for the roll of Sheriff Freddy. He wears a shield in the town of Garrison, NJ, where the population is 92% Boys in Blue. Stallone plays Freddy calm and steady. He's patient with the role. He also has rolls...he grew a belly for the film.

But unlike Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman, Stallone wears the weight well. He owns the weight. It's not a distraction for the viewer. Sheriff Freddy is a shy, rueful man, a sad-eyed boy in a man's body. The fat looks like baby fat, it makes his smile sweeter and his eyes kinder. In one early scene, Freddy is playing pinball in a bar while nursing a beer. The way Stallone plays it, holding the bottle in his buzzing hand, close to his chest, it brings to mind an infant with a baby bottle.

This discovery of Sylvester Stallone competently playing a beefy wallflower - a soft man with strong hands - makes me even more eager to see last year's Rocky Balboa.

LIFE - THE CARDIGANS















It must have been the January 1997 issue of Spin magazine. It was their YEAR IN MUSIC issue. Back then they always had an add-on to the TOP 20 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR called "THE 10 BEST ALBUMS YOU Didn't HEAR".

That year, The Cardigans' Life made the list. It caught my eye because of the cute blond on the cover. But it looked too fluffy, too schticky, too Swedish.

Then, on 120 Minutes I caught the video for their song "Carnival". I thought "hmm...I kinda like that...but I need to figure out if it will fit well into my CD collection" (I was 21, gimme a break....!!!). I saw the video for "Carnival" again, and was hooked.

(Remember, this was during the whole Lounge/Swing revival. You know: The Coctails, Combustible Edison, Squirrel Nit Zippers etc. "Carnival" had that kinda groove to it, which worried me, cuz I hated that stuff.)

I bought Life and fell heads over for it...big time! Peter Svennson became a favorite songwriter of mine, and the crush on Nina Pierson became more ...... obsessive.

14 songs are on the album and 12 of them are great (even the woozy martini cover of "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath" is chewable). The two duds are "Our Space" & "Celia Inside". The good thing is, they are back-to-back at # 5 and #6, and they are pleasant enough, so you can use it as a breather.

The untouchables?

* "Fine" - 3:09

* "Rise & Shine" - 3:28

* "Over The Water" - 2:13

* "Sick & Tired" - 3:23

* "Happy Meal" - 2:36


That's 14 minutes and 39 seconds of crystallized bliss!!


I'm gonna listen to Life today and remember 1997, my old car, the silly (stupid!) things I did for girls, McFish Fillet sandwiches with French Fries underneath the bun, and watching baseball at the Astrodome (...in the cheap seats, making fun of the Braves' Ryan Klesko).

Monday, March 12, 2007

THE HOST
















After the film's opening sequence, it's hard not to keep comparing The Host to Jaws. And it goes beyond the two film's shore side seamonsters. Director Bong Joon-Ho is shooting for mass appeal: the family vs. (freak of) nature plot, the child in distress subplot, CGI enhancements, adventure chases, adventure time lines etc. Indeed, The Host ended up being South Korea's highest grossing movie of all-time.

Bong Joon-Ho's previous film, Memories of Murder, was a police procedural comedy-of-errors about South Korea's first recorded serial killer case. In Memories... Joon-Ho's wry sense of humor had legs, and it fit along nicely with the out-witted, under-experienced detectives, but in The Host it's what keeps the film from ever finding itself.

In an early sequence, after the death of the family's youngest member, the remaining crew gather at a wake like ceremony. But Joon-Ho turns the scene into emotional slapstick. What gave Jaws its power were the emotional anxieties Martin Brody felt about protecting his family and the community for which he served. If The Host would've had scenes of familial bonding and sacrifice, it could've lifted it above the sub-par monster movie that it is. Midway through, the father makes an emotional plea to his son and daughter regarding their misfit brother, but again, Joon-ho plays it as comedy, missing out on a chance to heighten the emotional stakes. (Following this scene with the death of the father makes this approach of Joon-Ho's even more confounding).

Adding to the already scrambled film, is a subplot about governmental incompetency and secrecy. Joon-Ho blames strict state control for the paranoia and chaos that ensues. It's not a bad play, but it's mishandled, and it becomes too much of the film, not a simple side note (Joon-Ho should've taken notes from another Spielberg film E.T.). Most importantly, it takes time away from what needed to be at the heart of this film: family.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

FEEL GOOD STORY
















A retired Air Force pilot saved his dog's life by giving it mouth-to-snout. The dog was an English Bulldog puppy, which makes the story even cuter.


Lucy was drowning and turning blue, so Randy Gurchin recalled his Air Force training on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

It didn't matter that Lucy is a 10-month-old English bulldog, because he and Lucy are "best buddies."


"Once you get a pet, it's truly part of your family," he said. "You just tend to do whatever it takes to save their life."

Lucy had jumped into a partly frozen lake in pursuit of ducks and geese, but the water was too cold for her.

When Gurchin edged onto the ice and pulled Lucy out of the water, she was unresponsive and her face and paws were blue.

He closed her mouth, put his mouth over her nose, breathed air into her lungs and pushed on her chest, and after about a minute she began shallow breaths.

He drove her to a veterinary clinic, where she was immersed in warm water, given injections and placed in an oxygen tent.

By Friday, a week after her ordeal, Lucy was back to normal, said Gurchin, a pilot who retired from the Air Force two years ago.


Yeah!
Interspecies heroism rules.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"EUROPEAN SON" - VELVET UNDERGROUND






















Today is John Cale's birthday. I'm not a true fan of his, outside of the Velvet Underground stuff, but to be fair, I haven't really heard much of the solo work.

Reason I really like him, though, is for one small, inspirational, improvisational, instantaneous moment that was burnt into pop history forever.

The moment occurs during "European Son", the last song on The Velvet Underground and Nico. The first two minutes of the song is Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison playing wobbly guitar over some non-sensical sing speaking of Reed's:

"You killed your European son/You spit on those under twenty-one/But now your blue car's gone You better say so long/Hey hey, bye bye bye/You made your wallpapers green/You want to make love to the scene/Your European son is gone/You'd better say so long/Your clown's bid you goodbye"

Then you hear "screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeechhh, shuffle, thump....CRASHHHH!" and the songs tempo changes on a dime into a hurried, methamphetime jam for the remaining five minutes (basically, what U.S. Maple sounds like).

What was that "screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeechhh, shuffle, thump....CRASHHHH!" ????

Jim DeRegotis explains:


"the waves of feedback and explosions of noise in "European Son"convey the sheer exhilaration of unbridled destruction. At one point, Cale scraped a chair across the studio floor and shattered a glass in front of the microphone to create the aural cataclysm captured on tape. The magic, he said, was in the way the four musicians spontaneously interacted."

I think that is so cool.

Well done, Mr. Cale.

WHY HOCKEY SUCKS




















Stupid dumb hockey!
You are so dumb and stupid!
You are boring and ugly!
I hate you!

While those are some super air tight and rational reasons to dislike the sport, here is a better one (AP):

With anger in his eyes and purpose in his strides, Simon swung his stick with two hands into Hollweg's neck Thursday night and bloodied the chin of the New York Rangers forward.

Simon was ejected with just over 6 minutes left, and the ensuing power play led to the decisive goal in the Rangers' 2-1 victory.


Incidents like this will only further the debate on whether fights "between-the-lines", in all sports, should be considered criminal. I don't think they should be, but commissioners of leagues are gonna push for it in order to make sure ugly incidents like this don't happen.

Intimidation, holding your ground, protecting yourself (and your teammates) is a part of every sport (or any sport that matters), but taking a hockey stick to someones neck is way over the line. WAY over the line.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

DAMN, GIRL!






















Hilary "freakin'" Duff is in the house!!!
Bring it girl, bring it!


“She lets you think that you found her first / That’s how she works her sick and twisted gypsy curse / Talks with a grin ’cause she’s got no shame / Enjoy the fame, bringing down the family name.”


Ouch!
For those who don't follow pop gossip, the above lyrics are from H. Duff's new song "Gypsy Woman", and they are aimed right at Nicole Richie's rib cage. She's dating Hilary's ex-boy Joel Madden from Good Charlotte.

I'm on Hilary's side b/c she is cool, and pretty, and smart. And she's not even a feisty girl. That's what's so spectacular about this. Maybe Hilary will usher in the "good girl" image again, and make it . We need it.

----------> BOO-YA!

SQUAT NAZIS



















Greek Anarchists lose their sh*t:


The clashes broke out as Parliament debated legislation to increase the autonomy of state-run universities, and relax a ban on police entering campus grounds. The reforms were approved shortly afterward.

Hundreds of youths, wearing hoods and helmets, broke away from the rally to confront police. They threw flares and petrol bombs at police, after smashing storefronts and firebombing two banks. Windows in the parliament building were also smashed.

[...]

"I've never seen anything like it, so many petrol bombs," said one riot policeman, who asked not to be identified. "Five of my colleagues are hurt. We've seized flare guns and wooden bats from the rioters."(IHT)

THAILAND

Another Buddhist was beheaded in southern Thailand yesterday.
Another Buddhist was shot and killed is southern Thailand yesterday.

Police, soldiers and others viewed as collaborators with the government are targeted, along with Buddhists.

Buddhist monks have been beheaded, Buddhist teachers slain, and leaflets have been distributed around Buddhist villages warning that raising dogs and drinking alcohol are offensive to Muslims.

-------------------------->FULL STORY

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

WHY I SHOULDN'T WATCH TV

I think the wifey pulled a big, fast, brutal trick on me this evening.

We had dinner, then plans to come back and watch Flushed Away.
But when we got home she said:

"OH! America's Next Top Model is on."

Okay. Cool, we'll watch 5 minutes of it and then put in the movie.
We watched ALL of it...and I loved it.
"Man that must be a diamond in the reality TV show rough", I thought.

Next on was the Pussycat Doll reality show, meaning, they are doing a search for the next Pussycat. "Oh god...nice show", I sneered. Then an hour flew by. I loved it.

CRAP!!

And I even have my favorites:

ANTM - Renee (see below)
Pussycat Dolls - Sisley





















Touche, wife.
You pulled a good one on me tonight, but it ain't gonna happen again...

....even though I already know that the next episode of ANTM is this Sunday.

CRAP!!

OPERATION : BRITNEY
















Timbaland has been the man behind the pop music curtain for the past ten years, so it's no surprise than when one of pop's darlings runs astray, he comes to the rescue:


Timbaland, who's crafted hits for Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, wants to help Britney Spears reclaim her once-stellar career.

"I feel her pain, it really bothers me," the 34-year-old rapper-producer says in an interview in Entertainment Weekly magazine's March 16 issue. "I'm the type of person who tries to save the world. I just want to take her away, go overseas, and work (it) out."

Timbaland says he invited Timberlake, his "best friend" and Spears' ex-boyfriend, to be part of that plan.

"Save the world?!?", you may be smirking. I would too if someone like Leonardo DiCaprio made such a statement, but we're talking about freakin' Timbaland here! I guarantee he's saved thousands (maybe millions) of lives every night on the dance floors across the globe. People sweat out their anxieties and sorrows to his beats.


EVIDENCE:

"One in a Million", "Pony", "The Rain", "Sock it 2 Me", "Up Jumps Da Boogie", "Are You That Somebody", "Sexy Back", "Work It", "Luv 2 Luv U", "Try Again", "Big Pimpin", "Get Ur Freak On", "Roll Out", "Cry Me a River", "Oops (Oh My)", "Gossip Folks", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", "Pass That Dutch", "Say It Right", "My Love", "What Goes Around...Comes Around"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

BLACK SNAKE MOAN















The trailer and posters for Black Snake Moan wanted viewers to prepare themselves for a sexploitation chow down. For sure, it has those cartoonish B-movie elements (Sam Jackson's "MF"ing, and Christina Ricci's bad acting), but once you're in the theater, director Craig Brewer has successfully baited you into a Southern Gothic fairy tale, complete with storybook ending.

Already there have been charges of "offensiveness". Surely these accusations come from reviewers who've never been below the Mason-Dixon line. Critics twitch every time a movie from the Deep South doesn't show black and whites at war (if it's not Mississippi Burning, it's crap!). Yes, the characters are caricatures, but Brewer's compassion for each one of them washes off any trace of mockery.

Lazarus (Jackson) finds Rae (Ricci) sprawled out, and half dead, down an alley. Lazarus is fresh off of hearing news that his brother and wife are running off together. When he finds out about Rae's dangerous infidelities, their two worlds collide, and Lazarus feels it's his mission to do some moral reckoning.











But the chain that Lazarus wraps around Rae's waist is no Jabba the Hut & Princess Leia slave shackle, it's a chastity belt...or better yet, a poor man's version of a gurney with restraints. In chains, Rae shakes out her sexual addiction like a crack addict. And cheers to Craig Brewer for taking this often scoffed at "addiction" seriously. Some of the scenes do come off as kind of comical, but it's not from Brewer's lack of care. He understands that the drug of love (or lust) can be just as damaging as some smack.

What hovers over Black Snake Moan, and especially in its final third when Rae's boyfriend Ronnie (Timberlake) returns, is the ache and consequence of growing up a motherless child. But where modern psychology may prescribe that we must accept the cards we've been dealt, Brewer constructs a final scene of anxiety combated by clinched fists, tightened belts, and physical closeness. It's an old school method of medicating, just like the bleeding fingers of the blues players Brewer loves so much.

POPPED IN THE HEAD
















On my way into work this morning, the FM radio jockeys were in flashback mode.

House of Pain's "Jump Around" came on. It's aged well. I was surprised. I was kinda of into it. I was way into it when it first came out. It was fun witnessing the red-haired school friends of mine suddenly claiming their Irish ancestry. And then one kid started wearing his Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" jacket all the time. But he was Italian!?!?! He got made fun of. Dude, everyone knows you ain't Irish when you have four "C"s and three "I"s in your last name.

I switched stations....

"Walk Like an Egyptian" was on. Been a long time. I decided to listen to the lyrics b/c I never really had before. I thought, "would people find this song offensive today?" In the video there are people doing the King Tut dance, right? Construction workers, business men, hookers. Surely, in our "walk-on-eggshells" era, somebody would object. And would the Bangles have even recorded it in 2007? I looked at the lyrics when I got to work. They appear to be about nothing.

Never underestimate a simple drive to work in the morning. In ten minutes you can relive a lot.

Monday, March 05, 2007

WHEN FILM IS IN THE BLOOD














Charles Burnett typifies the passionate, struggling filmmaker that won't give up. He makes his living doing TV, and when he has enough money, he makes a movie. He's the Robert Altman that hasn't caught a break yet. His most talked about film, Killer of Sheep, has forever been unavailable on Video/DVD. But NOW, Milestone films is re-releasing it in theaters this spring and on DVD in the Fall.

Alex Cox, another indie stalwart, talked to him for Film Comment Online:

---

Alex Cox: When you became a director, did you have any expectation of making any money?

Charles Burnett: No. That wasn’t the idea. We thought that would be some sideline, something you did in addition to making films. It wasn’t daunting or scary or anything like that; it was expected, that if you want to make films you’re gonna have to do it on your own.

AC: And be relatively poor.

CB: I think part of it came from the UCLA experience. “Here’s a camera, go out and do it.” It made you think that everything was possible. Because you could do it, and you proved it, over and over again. If I’d gone to USC I’d have a different way of viewing things. I’d have thought of things as more complicated, of having to have different things in place before I could do anything.

AC: If you’d been at USC you would have been channeled into being a cameraman, or a screenwriter. Something specific.

CB: I went to UCLA to initially be a cameraperson; at USC I would have ended up staying that.

AC: What’s your impression of UCLA now?

CB: It’s different. Everything culturally, societally, has changed. At UCLA in the Sixties, you thought about World Cinema—whether it was films from Poland, or Czechoslovakia, or Japan. It was like your backyard; you were as aware of Kurosawa, Truffaut making films as you were of some local person. You were waiting for the next film by these people. That doesn’t exist any more, for a whole bunch of reasons. At that time at UCLA you looked at film as an art form, as a means of expression. Not so much for entertainment, it was to do and say something. Now, when you go back there, it’s “How can I get into Hollywood? How do you do get an agent? How do you sell your first script?” The whole culture has changed. It’s a business now, and I think people are more aware of it as a business. I wasn’t aware of it as a business.

---

Read the full interview-----------------------> HERE

PIER PAOLO PASOLINI


















Pier Paolo Pasolini was born today.
He was loved, and hated.
He was lauded, and murdered.

I know one dude whose face will turn red if you ask him about PPP.
I know another dude that claims to really like Salo.

He was a real individual, though, and that's what lures me to his films.
He couldn't be pinned down, and it wasn't calculation.
He tried to answer the questions he had by making movies.


"The mark which has dominated all my work is this longing for life, this sense of exclusion, which doesn't lessen but augments this love of life." - PPP

Friday, March 02, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTIN RITT

















Mr. Ritt, you died already, but I still want to say: "Happy Birthday, Dude!"

You made compassionate films about the South, and about politics, without ever showing any knee-jerk contempt. I think you believed in "a good" inside everybody. That is admirable.

I think your films are somewhat underappreciated. I will carry the torch for you buddy!


1990 Stanley & Iris
1987 Nuts
1985 Murphy's Romance
1983 Cross Creek
1981 Back Roads
1979 Norma Rae
1978 Casey's Shadow
1976 The Front
1974 Conrack
1972 Pete 'n' Tillie
1972 Sounder
1970 The Great White Hope
1970 The Molly Maguires
1968 The Brotherhood
1967 Hombre
1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
1964 The Outrage
1963 Hud
1962 Adventures of a Young Man
1958 The Long, Hot Summer
1957 Edge of the City







Thursday, March 01, 2007

NIGHT MOVES















As if suffering from the most brutal and longstanding Hollywood backlash and witch hunt in recent memory weren't bad enough, now M. Night Shyamalans's neighbors are busting his balls!

"Township officials have ruled that "The Sixth Sense" director's 8-foot deer fence can continue to surround his property in the suburban Philadelphia countryside.

Neighbors complained that Willistown Township erred in granting a permit for the plastic netting barrier, saying it blocked their views and hurt property values."



DAVID FINCHER
















Since David Fincher's Zodiac comes out tomorrow, I decided to revisit some of his movies. Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of Finchers, but I'm always curious about what he's up to. I admire his formalism. To me, he's the Hollywood equivalent of the rock band Tool. Precise, mechanical, methodical. I imagine that his home is very clean, with lots of steel and marble.

Fincher likes to put his characters through some brutal cleansing. In The Game, Se7en, Fight Club and Panic Room, the protagonist has a rite of passage through violence.

In Panic Room, it's exalting. Jodie Foster is an estranged wife, thrust into a new life with her daughter. Overnight, through the siege on her home, she shakes out the blues and ends up happy and confident on a sunny park bench.

The Game feels like a "work in progress/transitional" movie. The ideas are there, but the execution is way wobbly. Michael Douglas plays a Gordon Gekko (1997 Edition!) character, also separated from his spouse, in dire need of a jolt. His brother thinks "the game" is the solution, but it feels more like a hazing ritual for some bizarre elitist cult. Morals and ethics get twisted and confused by games end, and I still don't know why we're supposed to feel content about Douglas being "born-again" through a faux suicide attempt.

Se7en is complete rot. I remember being thrilled by it when I first watched it at the dollar theater. Everytime I've watched it since then, my excitement waned. (This is what happens when a movie's power is based in shock and not real emotion).

It's undeniable the influence Se7en has had on movie (and pop) culture since 1995. It's given us Saw, Hostel, Twisted, Suspect Zero, grisly remakes of formerly tame horror films, The Number 23, The Night Listener, The Dead Girl, Hannibal, The Proposition, post-Blood Work Clint Eastwood, C.S.I., Marylin Manson, Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu, Children of Men, Boys Don't Cry, Stay Alive, The Watcher, The Jacket, Constantine, Valentine, See No Evil....and on and on and on.

Each frame of Se7en is filled with destructive cynicism and pessimism, and because Fincher made it all so flashy and easy to swallow, we may never shake off it's sticky infected influence. Morgan Freeman narrates Se7en's parting shot: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is great, and worth fighting for'....(dramatic pause) I agree with the last part." It's gross that that last thought is all that David Fincher wants Se7en to leave us with.

I haven't rewatched Fight Club yet, and Alien 3 is on it's way from Netflix.

Zodiac is tomorrow.

To be continued....

------
UPDATE
from a reader:

I, too, am anticipating Zodiac, and reflecting on the Fincher oeuvre. I agree that Seven is a grim film whose stylistic and thematic legacies are everywhere, but I'm confused by some of what you see as being inspired by it. Boys Don't Cry? That's a totally fact-based drama that bears no resemblance at all, in terms of either style or substance (that I remember, anyway), to Seven. I also see a number of influences in those items that pre-date Seven completely, though this is all always subjective, anyway. But "post-Blood Work Clint Eastwood"? The man has only made four films since Blood Work (two of them this year, two of them Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River). Even allowing for subjectivity, I can't see any connection at all between Clint Eastwood and Seven. There's no sharing of visual style, no shared iconography. I guess you can point to the grim worldview of Eastwood films, but his films have had that since well, well before Seven. Can you expand on that?


ME: Good points. Briefly, I feel that Seven ushered in a new moroseness. It's true that Eastwood was grim, pre-Blood Work, but in Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Flags of our Fathers, there is a cold, wet, grey nihilism that I never noticed before (also, in something previously grim, like Play Misty For Me, the movie is playful and b-movie like. Eastwood's later work is more "serious"). To me, this influence is indirect. I wouldn't expect Eastwood (or Kim Pierce of Boys Don't Cry) to point to Seven as an influence, but I think the popularity of Seven, and the coolness of it, bled into our culture and ended up showing itself in those particular films.