Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
For the rest of the film, Chigurh walks a line between the past - when sheriffs didn't carry guns, and outlaws had principles -, to the present - where sheriffs are defeated, and outlaws run amok. He's a one man avalanche, an unstoppable destructive fist. From Chigurh's first moments on screen, it's absolutely clear that he cannot die.
In the dialogues of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is where No Country... finds its center. "Age will flatten a man", he says, and it has. The sheriff sees things bluntly and clearly. He seems to know the conclusion to the crime before it barely begins. The sheriff's path never collides with Chigurh's - it comes close in a tense hotel sequence - further giving him a mythic quality. It suggests that Chigurh is a ghost, an abomination on a mission to clean slates and hit the reset button.
Chigurh's violence is a force of nature. "You can't stop what's coming", an old man says, you can only hope to get out of the way. The Coens latch on to this idea early - from the blood trail Llewelyn follows to the loot, to the skid marks left behind by the boots of a strangled deputy - and portray death as a plague. Even Chigurh wants no part in it. After shooting a man point blank with a shotgun, he calmly lifts his boots out of the way of the man's spilt blood.
In other words, the Coens have given their violence a motive and a language. And when we least need to see it - Llewelyn's death, and his wife's death - we don't. With No Country... the Coens have corrected what felt flimsy about chintzy about the gangland killings in Miller's Crossing (their most misguided film...), and parts of Fargo. And while there are definite bumps on the surface of Intolerable Cruelty (a movie I like), and I wasn't a fan of The Ladykillers, there is something fresh about both films. Maybe we've entered Coen Bros. : phase II, and maybe No Country For Old Men is this period's first gem.
David is a movie poster artist that takes his son into town to buy groceries after a bad storm. The storm brought it a cloud of mist, and the mist brought in an unseen evil. 50 or so townspeople are now holed up in the grocery store and in a fight for their lives. Like Lord of the Flies, the mob mentality vs. clear rationality subplot pops up. Among Corn Flakes and flank steaks, Marcia Gay Harden (in an awfully awful performance) converts a majority of the store-bound stragglers over to her Pentecostal, end-of-days, wrath of god mentality. (Didn't Stephen King already do this in Children of the Corn? Move on, buddy...)
Because Darabont injects social and political commentary into what began as a healthily, fun premise, he brings The Mist to its knees. Before the mist hits, a customer in line randomly opines "Why doesn't our government spend money on education instead of using it for corporate handouts....". BLARGH, YAWN, SNOOZE.... MEMO to Hollywood: If you want to be topically aware, please at least make it pertinent to the film. Simply planting agenda in script is not commentary, it's sideways propaganda (and poorly executed at that).
Frank Darabont's blurry-eyed, buried message within The Mist is that if we didn't spend as much money on the military - the group directly at fault for the mist - we'd live in safer, happier towns. Writers strike?!?!? Pfft.... if this is best you could produce then bring on the scabs.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Jets in New York, and this happened:
On Sunday, visiting Steelers fan Dawn Gottschalk unknowingly walked into the crowd where she says hundreds of men singled her out and screamed for her to show her breasts.
"People were touching me and things like that and it was very, very frightening," Gottschalk said.
When Gottschalk refused, it got ugly.
"They started yelling obscenities and throwing beer bottles," Gottschalk said. "And spitting and it was really intimidating.
"As I was looking for my husband I saw a security guard walking by. I thought 'Oh great! He'll stop this.' But he didn't. He just kind of was shaking his head. He kind of chuckled to himself. He didn't stop it. He just kept walking."
John Santangelo of West Milford, Conn., said that type of behavior has been prevalent at Jets games for a long time.
"They really get going and they start chanting," Santangelo said. "I wouldn't want my wife over there." ((WCBS)
Hey Jets... remember when you caught Belichick cheating a few months ago and you couldn't stop chanting "CHEAT-ERS.... CHEAT-ERS"? Well, I gotta assume that's much better than what people will be chanting at you now: "RAP-ISTS, RAP-ISTS".
Meanwhile, in Alabama, college coach Nick Saban compared his teams embarrassing loss to Louisiana-Monroe with .... the attacks on the World Trade Center!?!?
Alabama fans aren't the only ones treating the Louisiana-Monroe loss as a monumental event.
Coach Nick Saban described the humbling defeat in almost apocalyptic terms Monday, mentioning the 9-11 terrorist attacks and Pearl Harbor in talking about how his team must rebound like America did from a "catastrophic event."
"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said. "It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event." (Sporting News)
"What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy, everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events," football spokesman Jeff Purington said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."
In other words, he was making a comparison.
Monday, November 19, 2007
This makes sense. Charles Burnett was a student at UCLA film school when he made Killer of Sheep. No doubt, that during the American critical awakening of the 1970's, films such as The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D, and Germany Year Zero were discussed and screened frame-by-frame in university film classes. Burnett's movie was made for $10,000 and on the DVDs commentary track he says "I made this thinking of no audience, that nobody outside of class would see it". That inherit limitation paid off, because Killer of Sheep is a raw, yet hopeful, look at lower-class, black, America, circa 1972.
Killer of Sheep's portrayal of a poor, black, Los Angeles neighborhood is refreshing. Yes, it was a different time, and as Burnett acknowledges, a safer time, but it's a portrayal we rarely see in the films of Spike Lee, John Singleton, or The Hughes Brothers. Those filmmakers pour on the white guilt, and in doing so, end up eschewing the lives and struggles of their characters.
In Killer of Sheep's best moment, Stan responds to a friends guffawing at his middle-class aspirations: "Man, I'm not poor... hell, we give away things to the Salvation Army! You don't do that if you're poor. Hmph...sometimes it may seem like we don't got a damn thing.... but poor?!?! Nah, I ain't poor." Such wisdom and sensitivity from a, then, college student. It exposes how much of a huckster Spike Lee can sometimes be, and how his bitter movies are nothing more than a disservice to the black community.
The easiest and most effective way of cutting our contribution is to change our diet and go vegan. It is that simple."
Sunday, November 18, 2007
As soon as I unwrapped the 2-disc soundtrack to I'm Not There, I - of course - immediately went to my favorite songs. One of those was "As I Went Out One Morning" from John Wesley Harding (1967), maybe my second favorite Bob Dylan album.
I don't know who Mira Billotte is, but she wisely sticks to the original structure of the song: the crisp snare, and the walking bass. They're as funky as you can get, if folky can ever truly get funky. It's an ideal back beat for a song about a man that goes for a walk and encounters a damsel/temptress. (Steve Shelley, and studio musician Tim Luntzel, play the drums and bass on this cover.)
Doting and respectful, Mira Billotte does "As I Went Out One Morning" as a modest tribute.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"For all y’all smart dumb cats out there." Legendary Hip Hop artist, Ghostface Killah, settles into one of his most popular characters "Pretty Toney" and offers readers a hilariously unique perspective on life via guides to and advice on everything from sex to gambling, family to education, even how to eat on just $5 a day, better known as The Hustler’s Diet. A singular twist on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the hip hop generation complete with illustrative photos.
Here are some clips from the MTV 2 spots he did that inspired the book:
Friday, November 16, 2007
Kirk's got a freakin' death grip on that award while John looks like he's tweaking the old man's fingertips. What a perv! And that hand on the back!?!? That might be the creepiest. Do you think Travolta may shooting some Scientology serum in Douglas' mouth? Like... that's the way they convert people, or something? Like Body Snatchers???
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Imagine if this trend had been around for decades? ... We woulda had : The 3hird Man... Se7ev Samurai... 4ourty 9inth Parallel... nah! it just doesn't seem very classy, does it?
I think your film's gotta be kind of grimey to pull off the "numb#r" gimmick. If the movies in this category have something in common, it's that.
But the movie is a 2 hour flog, a sick and nasty beat down of middle class aspirations. It's as if the bad advice of "tune in, turn on, drop out" has aged into "give in, move on, shoot up". Lumet and Masterson don't wanna peel back part of the onion, they've decided the whole damn bulb is rotten and would prefer to chop it up and punish your watering eyes until they're red with exhaustion.
Because Lumet is skilled, he's able to move Masterson's limp and bitter script along at a qualified pace. The story of two brothers (Hoffman and Hawke) with a plot to knock off their parent's jewelry store is given the jump-around narrative structure of Pulp Fiction, or more appropriately - in sharing its cynicism - , 21 Grams. You'll get a little buzz at first, but once the charge wears off, you're back in Million Dollar Babel Crash-land. (Watch the Before... script get nominated for Globes and Oscars just like that former triptych of trash did.)
An underground diamond dealer says in the film's climax: "The world is an evil place". Hmmm... good one. Is this the sad, sour point Lumet has progressed to since the soft humanism of 12 Angry Men some 50 years earlier? If so, Before... could be a tragic bookend to a varied and illustrious career. We should expect more from veteran craftsmen like Lumet.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Director Craig Gillespie also directed this year's Mr. Woodcock. I haven't seen that movie, yet, but because of it, I expected Lars and the Real Girl to not waste an opportunity at slipping in some juvenile sex jokes. Quite the opposite happens. Lars is oblivious to the doll's sexual functions, and once the movie settles in and reveals itself to be about humans and the emotional comfort we find in inanimate objects, you realize that some of the laughs you coughed out in the beginning may have been misplaced.
Gillespie shows a real awareness for mental disorders and the understandably unsettling reactions it can stir-up in all of is. There is quick panic by Lars' brother Gus (Paul Schneider) when he realizes the full-on delusion his brother is suffering from. "We need to put him in a hospital" is Gus's immediate reaction, echoing our culture's new age solutions (medication, hospitalization) to age old problems (mental illness). Lars and the Real Girl argues for behavior modification via a community-wide support squad. From church ladies to auto mechanics, it's a small town kindness crew that sweeps the pathway of Lars' road to recovery.
The supporting cast of Lars - Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Kelli Garner, and Schneider - are all wonderful, but give Gillespie credit for wrangling in some of these actor's previous instincts. For example, Schneider and Clarkson worked together on David Gordon Green's All The Real Girls. That film, along with Green's George Washington, bastardized small town eccentricity in favor of creating a failed southern-gothic fantasy land. (Green gets close to finally achieving this in the overlooked Undertow.) Gillespie tweaks Green's mistakes, and gets the actors to deliver the exact notes that those previous films lacked.
In a perfect world, come award season, Lars and the Real Girl would get a few nods. But since you leave the theater with a positive feeling, that seems kinda doubtful.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Hasn't been with Jerry O'Connell in quite some time...
SHE'S GONNA MARRY PRINCE WILLIAM!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Please Kate, don't make this mistake... come to Texas and start over. Posh and Becks did it! Look how much media love they're getting! And Americans hate soccer, so it's got nothing to do with that.
Yes, I'm happily married, but we could be friends! My wife would like you too. Y'all can watch Americas Next Top Model and Project Runway together. And when American Idol starts you can point out all the differences between our version and the British version. It would be soooo cute! We'd laugh and giggle and hug and tickle each other to death! Yay!
I see photos of you outdoors a lot. I could even learn to enjoy that lifestyle...for you. And if you miss Haute Couture or high price shopping, we have just the right place.
Oh!... and if you start getting homesick for the homeland, I just happen to know the U.S.A.'s #1 anglophile! She even calls cookies "biscuits" and drinks "tea", just like y'all do!!
So come on Kate, Texas and America awaits.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The Addiction is a "vampire movie" in that you can find it in the horror section at your local video store (if you live in a town like Austin you'll actually find it in the "vampire" section...), but it's not a horror film. That may explain the cold reception the film gets from traditional fans of the genre. For example, my wife - who last week told me that Chopping Mall is "fun" - hates The Addiction.... and I mean HATES it. Was it coincidence, then, that when she spotted a VHS copy of it on our TV last week, it just happened to be the same day she came down with "stomach flu"?
Kathleen Conklin (Lilly Taylor) is a NYU philosophy student on the verge of completing her doctorate. She's searching for that final theorem to help lay the groundwork for her thesis. She's a doubter, a cynic bordering on full-scale nihilism, but she still holds on to a sense of trust, or good, in man. On a walk home one night, she's accosted by a woman that says to her "tell me to go away and I will...make me go away!". Kathleen doesn't comply and the woman bites her on the neck. Empowered by this incident, Kathleen feels she's found a truth: "Our addiction is evil. The propensity for this evil lies in our weakness before it." Or, in other words, as good as we humans think we are, eventually - and inevitably - we will submit to evil.
To prove this truth to herself, and others, Kathleen goes on a rampage of vampiric assaults on strangers and friends. She asks "come with me..." or challenges them with the same "tell me to leave...tell me you want me to go!". None of them do, and so Kathleen's defeating revelations about human nature grow.
But on the evening of her graduation, Kathleen approaches a man passing out "Jesus Loves You" pamphlets. "Come with me..." she states. "You want to come with me..." she instructs. But the man is unfazed. "No thank you... here, Jesus loves you". And here, like a flash, Kathleen's godless, hopeless philosophy falls apart. Outside of intellectual thought appears this force of faith, a force she once considered naive and weak and shallow. Her hunger and tolerance for blood (and human trust) subsides, and Kathleen ends up in a hospital facing philosophical questions at a much more immediate moment in her life. As she says, clear-sighted: "To face what we are in the end, we stand before the light and our true nature is revealed."
After the commercial success of King of New York , Abel Ferrara became a deeply personal filmmaker. His next film, Bad Lieutenant, made waves - mainly because of some full frontal Harvey Keitel action -, but in it was the beginning of Ferrara's heart-on-screen sharing of the soul. Perhaps this is the only way Ferrara knows how to communicate...with loved ones, and with himself. A string of films that followed - Dangerous Game, The Addiction, The Blackout, New Rose Hotel, and R' Xmas - were all cinetherapy: spousal relationship, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. Damn the audience, he thought. Or some, at least; to me, Abel Ferrara - despite some flawed films - is the bravest modern filmmaker.
I'm not a person of faith, myself. Like Ferrara, I was raised Catholic, but I'm not a believer. What I enjoy about Ferrara, and the representation of Catholicism in his films, is that he still finds comfort in the purest of the church's teachings. Despite some grudges he may still carry - lampooned in his film Ms. 45 - Ferrara doesn't feel the need to piss all over it. It's a sign of maturity in a man that found a way to balance who he is with what he was taught, ...or what he once thought.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Not that I condone hitting people with cars (note: Reeves says he barely tapped him...), but isn't that an "understood hazard" that comes with being a paparazzo? I mean, it's kind of like Guerrilla warfare in that line of business.
p.s. How many celebrities were secretly fist-pumping when they heard what Keanu did?
BUSH: Iran tops our agenda. If they get a nuke, they could proliferate. They could become perpetuators — er, prosecutors — um, perpetrators — of attacks on freedom’s march. And Democrats wouldn’t recognize Hitler if they sat down to breakfast with him.
SARKOZY: Up to a point, George. As I’ve said, the choice could be between the Iranian bomb and the bombing of Iran. Tough diplomacy is how to avoid that. You want three wars in Islamic states?
BUSH: It’s mucho, amigo, but Dick’s still hungry!
SARKOZY: Anyway, no daylight between us — that’s my motto!
BUSH: Paris by night between us. That’s mine! One decider to another!
SARKOZY: I address Congress tomorrow. What should I say?
BUSH: That they’re a bunch of U.N.-hugging, French-speaking, garlic-eating, cheese-loving losers! (NY Times)
Yes, Cohen pulled one of those today in his NY Times column.... "those" being the "I've-run-out-of-commentary-so-I-will-cheat-readers-by-making-a-funny" columns. Yawn, Roger. That is like soooo MoDo (circa 2004) ... oops, actually, it was just MoDo (circa last week).
So let it go, Rog. While your screenwriting is much better than a Paul Haggis or Fonzie Cuaron, you're still a columnist, not a humorist. I can count the number of people that can pull that off on one hand... or maybe just one finger?!?! (Mark Steyn is the only one that comes to mind...).
But if ending the strike means Tina Fey gets back to writing more 30 Rock episodes, I hope it ends soon.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
There is a song being played on Dallas radio called "Pull Your Pants Up" by some unknown rapper named Dwayne Browne (aka Dooney Da Priest). (I think his claim to fame, so far, is that he has a MySpace page).
"In Dallas, in some of the schools, some of the kids are starting to pull their pants up because of the song," he said. "Peer pressure has a better effect than any law. I was just trying to make it uncool." (Houston Chronicle)
Trouble is, some activists that say Dwayne is trying to make baggy pants seem "uncool" by implying that it's "gay" to wear them that way. [NOTE: I could be wrong, but I don't think I've ever seen a gay man wearing big-ass saggy jeans. Frankly, I don't think gay men would have such poor fashion sense.]
The dispute is over the way the phrase "down low" is used in the song. "Down low" can mean a lot of things, but its use in "Pull Your Pants Up" seems to be pretty clear: "You walk the street with your pants way down low/I dunno; looks to me you on the down low."
I think Mr. Brown, er... Dooney Da' Priest, should focus more on his rhyming skills, and less on how the kids are wearing their pants.
p.s. All you readers in The Big D, let me know if you've heard this song on the radio yet. For some reason I imagine it being as bland as that "Put Texas In Your Corner" tags commercial or the jingle about staying away from powerlines in the 90's.
The gleaming chrome-plated wheel rims beloved by gangster rappers and wannabes are already threatening to become a thing of the past.
If Bryan Davis, president of Led Wheels has his way, pedestrians and fellow motorists will soon be able to watch televisions mounted inside the wheel rims of other cars driving by.
"We basically reinvented the wheel," said Davis, who envisages his company's invention catching on with taxi and public transport companies wanting to attract advertisers as well as private consumers keen to go to ever greater lengths to distinguish their cars.
"Mobile media, mobile advertisement, personalized graphic wheels for consumers," Davis enthused, saying he expects his hi-tech wheel rims to go on sale next year.