Sunday, September 30, 2007

Paul Thomas Anderson...

...is out this December with There Will Be Blood. Here's a strong review from an Austin festival. (Twitch)

Finally...

....an article that makes me really want to see The Darjeeling Limited. (Reverse Shot)

Sunday Music...

...will be here tomorrow. Any requests?

TV talk - Law & Order

Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is a great sidekick; she reminds blogger M.A. Peel of Sharon Small from the Inspector Lynley mysteries on PBS. Small plays a British cop named Havers and is much better looking than the character in the Elizabeth George novels on which the series is based. Although I'm an irregular L&O watcher (there's something about it being always on that makes me want to watch it less, like college basketball), I do think Criminal Intent is the best of the franchise thanks to Erbe and D'Onofrio.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm loving....

...the new Rilo Kiley CD, Under the Blacklight (Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream)

Feast of Love

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Robert Benton's Feast of Love is based on a novel by Charles Baxter; the book is a series of interlocking stories dealing with the mysteries of love and humans' need to keep trying again and again even after they've been disappointed. A coffee shop owner named Bradley (Greg Kinnear) is dumped by his wife (Selma Blair) for another woman. Later Bradley marries again, but his new wife (Radha Mitchell) is still involved with an old lover (Billy Burke). A pair of young lovers (Toby Hemingway and Alexa Davalos) impulsively decide to wed. Presiding over everything is a professor named Harry (Morgan Freeman) who is mourning the death of his son.

You know those French movies where nothing happens, but everything seems life affirming and profound? Well if Feast of Love swapped out a couple of its cast members for say Emmanuelle Beart and Gerard DePardieu, and if Alison Burnett's script was shot in French then I swear no one would be able to tell the difference. That's the kind of film we're dealing with here, full of musings about life and love and free of the formulaic cuteness that marks typical Hollywood product. (Of course it's now offbeat to be romantic. If this year is any indication romantic comedies will soon be replaced entirely by movies about hookups, unplanned pregnancy, and teen guys looking for sex)

I enjoyed Feast of Love because I'd read the book, liked the actors, and knew what to expect. But the film is too shimmery and diffuse by half, containing not one but two scenes where someone asks whether or not love is a trap laid by nature. Every chance encounter is filled with portent and possibility. Despite its flaws I want the movie to do well, since I'm always worried about the fate of cinema for adults. Feast of Love is a coming out party for the strikingly gorgeous Alexa Davalos; her performance is the most soulful in a film where every character is a fount of wisdom. Morgan Freeman does his thing, and even gets to show some vulnerability for once.And of course Selma Blair makes the most out of her few minutes of screen time. The too-little-seen Fred Ward is a welcome face, even though he's stuck with a lame role.

Feast of Love is a for incurable romantics only, and maybe also for those who are getting a little tired of three-act structure.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A New York Mets blogger....

...hangs on for dear life. (MetsBlog)

Hope, we hardly knew ye

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U.S. goalie Hope Solo (300 scoreless minutes) sits. The American women are down 4-0 to Brazil with 11 minutes to go as I write. To be fair, replacement Briana Scurry isn't entirely to blame. (A U.S. player was ejected on a incorrectly awarded 2nd yellow card) But commentators seem to be unanimous that a. the veteran Scurry hasn't had enough game experience leading up to this match and putting her in distracted the team and b. Once the U.S. was down, our substitutions were extremely poor.

We're making you better

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAfter seeing promos for Bionic Woman every time I went to the movies for what seems like months, I'm happy to say that the show's pilot is actually pretty good. I was impressed with Michelle Ryan, who plays crash survivor Jamie Sommers. As Jamie adapts to her new body, Ryan's performance gives a sense of someone realizing just how much they're capable of. As you may have guessed from my post yesterday, I'm a huge fan of Katee Sackhoff. Best known as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff plays fellow Bionic Woman Sarah. The pilot gives us just enough information about Sarah to make us want more; she goes on a killing spree at the supersecret government facility where she's being kept. She also seems to have some emotional issues and definitely has a grudge against the people who turned her into Bionic Woman 1.0.

Michelle Ryan is an appealing lead and Sackhoff potentially a great villain. What we don't get a sense of is what the "mythology" of Bionic Woman will be. The government types want to train Jamie and exploit her offensive capabilities, but what role will scientist Anthony Anthros (Mark Sheppard) play? Anthros is the father of Jamie's fiance and the inventor of the technology that's implanted in Jamie and Sarah. He's broken out of jail by forces unknown at the end of the pilot. I never thought I'd say this, but I'll be tuning in next week to find out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I don't usually find myself....

...agreeing with David Brooks, but he correctly points out that the "Netroots" influence on the current Democratic campaign is vastly overstated. (NY Times)

David Duchovny says...

....X-Files 2 to start shooting this December. (Movieweb)

An underrated American Master?

Director Robert Benton (Feast of Love) in conversation. (Greencine)

I believe character determines action. There are two kinds of filmmakers: Hawks, who believes - I'm putting words in his mouth - who believes character determines action, and other directors like Preminger, in a movie like In Harm's Way, who believes narrative determines character, that you are what you've been through. Not that you've shaped it, but you just are a result of what you've been through.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The great Catherine Keener....

...lends some soul to Into the Wild. (LA Weekly)

Richard Kelly is back

A review of Richard Kelly's Southland Tales. (Cinematical)

John Edwards is....

...the only candidate talking about poverty. Katha Pollitt in The Nation.

John Edwards is about the only presidential candidate who mentions the 36.5 million Americans--12.3 percent--who fall below the poverty line ($10,488 for a single person, $20,444 for a family of four), and the additional 19 percent who are what sociologist Katherine Newman calls the near poor--100 to 200 percent above the poverty line. Only Edwards talks about the need to eradicate poverty, which he claims would take thirty years. So far his antipoverty platform has mostly reaped him charges of hypocrisy in the media for having a big house and getting expensive haircuts, as if there has to be something fishy about a rich man who campaigns against poverty and asks for poor people's votes.

Andrew Sullivan on....

...Obama's anti-polarization campaign. (London Sunday Times)

Wes Anderson's Hotel Chevalier...

....to be distributed on iTunes. Chevalier is the 13-minute accompaniment/prologue to The Darjeeling Limited, and reportedly features a certain frquently-mentioned-here actress baring all. (Silicon Alley Insider)

Same Difference

Yo-Yo Ma on what makes "classical music" and how his Silk Road ensemble works. (The Rest is Noise)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Music: Belly



They don't make videos like this anymore. Tanya Donnelly and Belly do "Slow Dog" from 1993. ((c) 1993 Reprise Records)

Jonathan Demme's new documentary....

...is about Jimmy Carter. More specifically, Man From Plains follows Carter on his most recent book tour. Carter was criticized for comparing the plight of the Palestinians to South African blacks living under apartheid. (Chicago Reader)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

NYT Archives: Yi Yi (A One and a Two)

From October 4, 2000: A.O. Scott on my favorite film, Edward Yang's Yi Yi.

Midway through ''Yi Yi,'' a morose, skeletally thin teenager (whose nickname is Fatty) tells his date: ''Movies are lifelike. That's why we like them.'' In his view, movies don't only resemble the world we live in -- they expand it. ''We live three times,'' he declares, his passion overwhelming his arithmetic. ''Two times as much life at the movies!'' After watching this lovely, absorbing film you'll be inclined to agree. In exchange for three hours of your time, ''Yi Yi'' will give you more life.

A good take on...

Gossip Girl v. O.C.. (The American Scene)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Talk Talk

The role of African-American talk radio in calling attention to the "Jena 6." (Washington Post)

Dept. of Judge for Yourself

Does the fact that MIT students are flaky excuse the Boston Airport "fake bomb" fiasco? (Salon)

A woman from Instructables.com who knows Simpson tells Boing Boing that Simpson's friends at MIT "say she wears the hoodie on a regular basis -- it's just unfortunate that she had it on while trying to pick a friend up at the airport. MIT students don't really do mornings, or worry about what they're wearing, so I can't imagine she'd even think about her clothes before heading out to pick up a friend at the airport before 8 a.m."

Friday Fluff

Brad, Billy Bob, Jonny, and....? Angelina Jolie talks past lovers. The phrase "no word on women" in the headline of this story is my favorite part. (MSNBC)

UPDATE - Friday Fluff, Brady Bunch style (Contact Music)

Green Power

Members of Congress who showed up on the League of Conservation Voters "Dirty Dozen" list didn't fare too well in the election last year. The now involuntarily retired J.D. Hayworth was a sportscaster for my local NBC affiliate (Greenville, SC) when I was in elementary school. (Daily Kos)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You'd think he would know better

GOP Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has had his phone calls with a contractor taped as part of an FBI operation. Stevens has been in the Senate since 1968; he's the longest serving Republican Senator. (USA Today)

Gossip Girl

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Every run-up to this fall's TV season I've read has mentioned the CW series Gossip Girl as a potential bright spot. The show was created by Josh Schwartz (The O.C.) from a series of young adult novels by Cecily von Ziegesar. What is Josh Schwartz's fascination with closed, ritzy, communities? Where The O.C. brought a blue-collar teen into California high society, Gossip Girl is set amidst the social intrigue of a high-end Manhattan prep school.

For those of us in the rest of the country, here's an update from New York. If you're a teenager attending an exclusive, uppity private school there's an excellent chance that you'll spend significant time drinking (no problem getting served), smoking pot, or using an handheld electronic device to catch up on the latest school news. (Face-to-face conversation being so 2005) There's an anonymous blogger at the school ("Gossip Girl") whose site serves as a bulletin board for who's coming, going, up, down, and in bed with whom. The blogger-as-narrator idea is the first thing Schwartz needs to jettison from Gossip Girl, and I say that with full knowledge that the character is voiced by Kristen Bell. Gossip Girl's insights are perfectly obvious to anyone who's paying attention to the plot, and the issue of who GG actually is doesn't seem to concern any of the characters. Bell's narration should go the way of those gradually disappearing black-and-white interior monologues on Once and Again.

Why will Gossip Girl fail to catch on in the same way as The O.C. did? No one is having any fun. I was only a sporadic viewer of The O.C., but it always seemed like whatever else was going on Ryan, Seth, Summer, and even Marisa were getting a kick out of being young, alive, and financially secure. The soap-within-a-soap idea and the self-awareness of Adam Brody's performance were telling as to just how much fun Schwartz was having with the show's fluffiness.

In Gossip Girl, everyone has everything they could want but no one is happy. That includes Serena (Blake Lively, a likeable presence at the show's center), who returns to school after a boarding school hiatus that may have had something to do with a hookup with her best friend's guy Nate (Chace Crawford). Blair (Leighton Meester), the best friend, is just trying to hold on to her guy. Worst of all is spoiled and boozy Chuck (Ed Westwick), who is a character that I thought could only emerge from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Judy Blume sharing DNA. By the time the pilot ends, Chuck has attempted to rape both Serena and the socially climbing freshman Jenny (Taylor Momsen). If nothing else, this speaks to a lack of writer's imagination; in a show about the availability of casual pleasure there are still some things not to be casual about.

I don't know what I wanted from Gossip Girl except to be entertaining on a guilty pleasure level and it wasn't. When a teenager can find self-expression or even fame through a blog or viral video, why should they sit around filled with envy for rich kids? Could Seth please make a guest appearance?

Judge for yourself

The "Full Cut" of Tarantino's Death Proof has arrived on DVD. (Projection Booth)

Religious Conservatives ...

...(like James Dobson) don't have a Presidential candidate. (CBN)

Darjeeling at NYFF

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The Darjeeling Limited
has its pleasures and flaws; the loss of a chance to see Natalie Portman in the opening short Hotel Chevalier would be a tragedy. (House Next Door)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yay! Eyeballs!

Even here, though, Cronenberg overplays his hand, with a shot of a sickle blade slicing into an eye; the balance is tipped, and the scene is spoiled. Why go that far? Must he cling to his schlocky reputation at all costs?

Anthony Lane on Eastern Promises. (The New Yorker)

Dan Rather...

...sues CBS for $70 million. I hope he wins, but wish he'd asked for C.S.I. to be cancelled. (NY Times)

The 100 Best...

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...foreign language films, as compiled by blogger Edward Copeland. How did your favorites do? (Persona is not #1) (Eddie on Film)

Gender Issues

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Amazingly, Cate Blanchett's husband didn't like her in Dylan drag. (Contact Music)

Is this how Bush does it?

One portion of the debate required candidates to pick only ''yes'' or ''no'' by turning on green or red lights on their podiums.

The GOP "Value Voters" debate. (Miami Herald)

Did the...

...tasered Florida student have his free speech rights violated? Well...(Huffington Post)

What's it like....

...to work at Netflix? Pretty good. (Business Week)

Southern politics

More on the ethically dubious Gov. Haley Barbour... (Yaller Dog Blog)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jodie Foster, victim...

The Brave One stinks, and here's why (contains spoilers).....(The New Republic)

K Street Blues

The scariest thing about this article, which examines a not-supposed-to-be-there relationship between Mississippi GOP Gov. Haley Barbour and his old lobbying firm, is that Barbour is apparently well thought of as Vice-Presidential candidate next year. (The New Republic)


But is it possible for a longtime lobbyist to truly leave his former life behind? It's a question worth asking as Barbour runs for reelection this fall amid much chatter about his vice-presidential prospects. (While in Mississippi earlier this summer, Rudy Giuliani pronounced Barbour "on the top of everybody's list.") And the question has become even more relevant in recent weeks as another former lobbyist, Fred Thompson, has joined the presidential race. Barbour is, in many ways, the perfect test case--a lobbyist who had spent his career nudging back ethical lines in the search for corporate cash. Could a man like that really go legit?

Ouch!

If you've looked at YouTube or cable news today you've seen the film of a John Kerry appearance at the University of Florida in which a student was tasered while trying to ask Kerry why he didn't contest the 2004 Presidential election. The officers' (placed on administrative leave, says MSNBC) reaction appears to have been completely out of proportion, but I can't help but be struck by how someone could be bold enough to ask Kerry that question while appearing not to have read a newspaper or watched TV in the last 3 years. Hey, we're at war in Iraq. Instead of worrying about Diebold, how about impeaching Michael Chertoff for the response to Katrina? Why wasn't there a move to impeach Gonzalez? This says something about where we are on the left. (Washington Post)

What does Dirk Nowitzki think?

NBA owner/movie producer Mark Cuban on his involvement with Brian DePalma's Redacted and other politically oriented movies. How surprising to find Cuban isn't Bill O'Reilly's biggest fan. (Blog Maverick)

Don't let the door..

The "TimesSelect" firewall, requiring a paid subscription to view older NY Times content, is going away. (Megan McCardle)

2-0!

Redskins 20, Eagles 12 (ESPN)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Notebook

Everyone alive was at least as scared as she was. Remember that, and a person might come to love anyone.


--Richard Powers, The Echo Maker

Worst case scenario

How to survive bad theatre. (Chloe Veltman)

Calm down

I was no fan of the MoveOn ad, but John McCain has freaked out. (Questionable Authority)

Whenever I think...

...I'm spending too much time blogging, I look at Andrew Sullivan. (Of course, he gets paid) This is my 9th post of the day, Sullivan is up to 27.

Joe Henry

On the subject of Joe Henry's new CD Civilians, a friend writes:

I noticed Civilians was on your short list so I picked it up off eMusic last week - it was the soundtrack to my weekend! I've been recommending it to all my friends as it is extremely accessible and has a lot of style. Thanks for turning me onto a great artist!


When I was in college, Henry came to town to open for Jimmie Dale Gilmore. I was working at the radio station of my college and got an assignment to interview him. I had stumbled on his music thanks to the acoustic Cd Shuffletown and obviously my fandom persists to this day.

Here's an interviewing don't: don't ask your subject about their more famous relatives, as I did when I opened the backstage chat by asking him a question about his sister-in-law Madonna. Bad idea. However once Henry realized that I knew something about his music he relaxed and the rest of the interview went well. It's interesting to think that although I've always liked Madonna, I'm sure I've spent much more time listening to Joe Henry. The point is: pick up Civilians, you won't be sorry....

Tom Perrotta likes....

...the author of Little Children makes a playlist. I share his admiration for Buffalo Tom, a band I've liked since college. (NY Times)

I usually don't...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket...cite the same site twice in a day, but I'll join the crowd that thinks Britney was set up to fail at the VMA's. Get over yourselves people. (Entertainment Weekly)

As for the ''fat'' thing, call Britney a talentless pop robot all you want, but you can't say Nicole Richie's too thin, then turn around and smack Britney like a pi�ata because she doesn't have a six-pack. I thought she looked pretty good for someone with two kids. In the end, Britney's biggest misstep wasn't her dancing or singing (or lack thereof), it was agreeing to the gig in the first place. It seemed rigged for her to fail from the get-go. And in that regard, a lot of people got exactly what they wanted.

Why do...

...people hate Paul Haggis? (Entertainment Weekly)

Director's Commentary...

...for Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is available on this new website, which also includes a blog in which Aronofsky hints he's about to commit to a new project.

A new interpretation

Eastern Promises a religious epic? Maybe. (The Reeler)

Let's Get Out of this Country

Security firm Blackwater gets their license revoked by Iraqi government. (ABC News)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket...was inspired by The 400 Blows. (NY Times, photo by Jean Baptiste Mondino)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Yes.

Andrew Sullivan on MoveOn's anti-Petraeus ad:

I haven't commented on MoveOn.org's anti-Petraeus ad. Maybe I should have, but figuring out the actual issues and decisions on Iraq seems to me to take priority over domestic mud-fights. But of course it was unforgivable. It's one thing to criticize the general - because the president has placed him directly in the cross-hairs of politics. It's one thing to worry that he's too wedded to his own project in Iraq or too easily coopted by the partisan right. But impugning his patriotism is vile and does nothing but discredit the smearers. And whatever worries many of us had, his testimony before Congress this week struck me as honest and candid and restrained. Petraeus and Patrick Fitzgerald are examples of public servants in intense political squalls who managed to keep their heads and their integrity intact. I'm relieved such men still exist in government. We need many more.

Help a Brother out

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Greenville, SC filmmaker/performer Jeff Sumerel gave me my first acting break by putting me in his improv troupe a decade ago. Jeff has just completed a documentary called To My Great Chagrin about the comedian/actor Brother Theodore (above with David Letterman). To help Jeff's film get a wider audience, if you've got a Netfilx account look up "Brother Theodore" and click save. The idea is that if there's enough interest Netflix will add the movie to their roster. Here's a piece from last year's Filmmaker magazine about the project. Many thanks....

No do-overs

#1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden out for season. (ESPN)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How the Republicans...

...could end up with a brokered convention. (New Republic)

Pete Talks!

An interview with Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men. (Giant)

What the...

Who's in the big-screen adaptation of British political miniseries State of Play? Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, of course. (Cinematical)

Heard 'em say...

Kanye West's new CD vanquishes 50 Cent and the last remnants of the thug/gangsta old guard. (The American Scene)

Kanye's record is instantly recognizable as hip-hop, but he transcends the genre even while embracing it, and in the process gives listeners what is almost certainly the best pure pop album of the year, expansive and confident, undeniably clever and creative, layered with ideas and loaded with wit and impressive technical flourishes, but as accessible as anything that ever made a teenage girl scream. It goes down easy, sure, but it's got depth—it's the thinking person's bubblegum pop.

Dirty tricks

My state will get its quadrennial moment in the sun soon, since it looks like the SC Primary will again be a key moment in the GOP race. Here's a report of an anti-Fred Thompson site found to be tied to two of the Romney campaign's top SC operatives. (NY Times)

As I consider...

...the horror of having to review Mr. Woodcock this week, I'm moved to ask: What's the worst film ever made with multiple Oscar winners in the cast? Woodcock has two (Thornton* and Sarandon), but I'll see that and raise Gone in 60 Seconds with Cage, Jolie, and Duvall.

*Thornton's Oscar was for writing Sling Blade

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Love Is A Battlefield

Can sex save a marriage? No, and it can also destroy one. HBO's open wound of a new drama, Tell Me You Love Me: (LA Weekly)

Tell Me You Love Me is probably too frill-less and downbeat in tone to right HBO’s buzz-dissipating fortunes, even if it’s at least a step in the quality direction. Although it manages to be suspenseful about the journey of its jumbled characters, it is an unrelenting examination of the search for the hidden recipe of me, you and us that makes for a strong marriage, and that’s something you ultimately have to steel yourself for in a weekly series. When Dr. Foster proves to be unerring in her prediction of Dave’s first appearance in therapy, and shit gets aired that gouges him and Katie both, Dave breaks the pain with a sarcastic, “This is fun. I’m gonna make sure I come back.” You may not think of Tell Me You Love Me as fun, either, but I have a feeling that those with a taste for provocative, powerful human drama will consider it — forgive me — appointment television.

Dept. of Subtlety and Reason

Bill Maher and the director of Borat team up for a doc on organized religion. (Chicago Reader)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mumblecore gets a job - Mutual Appreciation

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Mutual Appreciation (2005, d. Andrew Bujalksi)

I wasn't too kind to Andrew Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha, a film which I thought gave far too much credit to its protagonist's ennui-filled meanderings. Bujalksi's second film Mutual Appreciation is a far superior effort, a film that displays the director's maturation both as a writer and behind the camera.

Alan (Justin Rice of the band Bishop Allen) has moved from Boston to New York to pursue his music career. He finds himself thrown together with an old buddy named Lawrence (Bujalski) and Lawrence's girlfriend Ellie (Rachel Clift). Bujalski takes a big step forward in Mutual Appreciation by giving his characters jobs and goals, something which the characters in Funny Ha Ha were sorely lacking. Alan's plans for a show and recruitment of a drummer (Kevin Micka) drive the early scenes of Mutual Appreciation, and the film's first act climaxes with a successful (if sparsely attended) performance.

When Alan connects with a music biz player named Walter (Bill Morrison) at the gig, I thought we were in for a low-rent High Fidelity. But the momentum breaks up when Alan heads over to Walter's pad for a long, pot-heavy, evening after the show. There's an awkward encounter with a female admirer (Seung-Min Lee) and a phone call to an ex-girlfriend. It's to Bujalksi's credit that these scenes feel genuinely uncomfortable, but Alan and everyone else are so inarticulate and soulful that it's at this point Mutual Appreciation goes up in a puff of smoke.

The other major plot line involves the attraction developing between Alan and Ellie, the revealing of which is played with all the delicacy such a moment would actually have. Ellie confesses her feelings to Lawrence, but a scene that feels headed for some ugliness is cut short. Bujalksi may be the best actor in his films, but here he's on the side in a subplot about teaching and performance art that doesn't go anywhere.

What does it all mean? Not very much, I'm afraid. In Bujalski's world, smart and sensitive young people spend a great deal of time not knowing what to do with themselves or talk about their feelings without stammering. In his next film Bujalski should trust himself more and let his characters drop the veil of detachment they're carrying around. Bujalksi has grown as an editor; Mutual Appreciation has some slack but is a much tighter film than its predecessor. Here's to the Mumblers, and here's to growing up.

Belated...

..acknowledgement of the passing of author Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) at age 88. (The Corner)

When bands you like...

...don't like each other.

It's Ryan Adams, isn't it? Yeah, it sounds so like, "I wanna be a star!" I liked Whiskeytown though; I really liked their records. The first time I saw them was (when they taped) Austin City Limits. It was great. This new Ryan Adams record is not something I would ever listen to.


Britt Daniel of Spoon, listening to the Ryan Adams track "Goodnight Rose," in the Sep./Oct. Harp Magazine

Sports teams...

...you will read about in this blog (just to get it out of the way): Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, U of Wash. Huskies, Boston Bruins...

Hail to the...

....Washington Redskins. (16-13 overtime winners over Miami) (Redskins Locker)

Game, Set...

The crowd loves U.S. Open runner-up Novak Djokovic, but he'll need a better showing on big points to beat Federer (NY Times):

So Djokovic was probably taking mental notes when Federer dropped to his knees on the Arthur Ashe court in celebration of his fourth straight Open title and his 12th Grand Slam crown. Djokovic, the 20-year-old Serb playing in his first major final, had played valiantly and even brilliantly at times. But he let Federer off the hook in the first two sets, failing to convert set points in each one. So on an evening in which the best player in men’s tennis was not at his best, Federer still won in straight sets no less, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-4. “He deserved better than that,” Federer told the crowd.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The way out?

A positive way forward for the Democrats on Iraq? I'm liking Joe Biden better and better....(Washington Post)

The other...

...film about the band Joy Division. (Cinematical)

Venice Film Festival Winners

  • Best Picture - Lust, Caution by Ang Lee

  • Best Director - Brian DePalma, Redacted

  • Best Actor - Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

  • Best Actress - Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There

    Details. (Bloomberg)
  • Once over lightly

    Fred Thompson on the campaign trail. (NY Times)

    Cate Blanchett...

    ...gives the best performance in the Dylancentric I'm Not There. (Sydney Morning Herald)

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    You may remember ...

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket...Elizabeth Reaser as the woman on this season's Grey's Anatomy who was disfigured in a ferry accident, lost her memory, and wound up looking (after surgery) quite a bit like the above picture. Reaser stars in Maria Maggenti's Puccini for Beginners, which is out on DVD. If Woody Allen made a lesbian comedy it would be something like this; everyone is a smart New Yorker who when they aren't writing who talks compulsively about relationships.

    Allegra (Reaser) has just been dumped by a girlfriend (Julianne Nicholson) when she meets and beds Grace (Gretchen Mol) and Philip (Justin Kirk) in quick succession. Only catch: Grace and Philip just broke up with each other. There's a good deal of farcical plot mechanics but the more important thing is that Puccini may be the first post-sexual orientation romantic comedy; the idea of rigidly defined roles isn't important and in fact is laughed off by most of the characters. Sure they're all New Yorkers, one might say. But a world in which received ideas about identity politics and the fluidity of sexuality may be the next great breakthrough for the movies.

    3:10 to Yuma

    Good review of 3:10 to Yuma which I liked very much and will post my thoughts on soon. I liked the ending a bit more than Orr; the final shootout is well done but the coda a little too ambivalent for its own good. (The New Republic)

    Tomorrow I'm...

    ...auditioning for a production of The Seagull, and the director wants a song. (It's not a musical) I'm singing this.....

    A movie we don't need to see?

    Stephen Holden on Griffin Dunne's long on-the-shelf Fierce People, which has a good cast and way too much plot. (NY Times)

    When F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked that the rich “are different from you and me,” he might have been thinking of someone like Ogden C. Osborne (Donald Sutherland), the reclusive, moody billionaire who casts a long shadow in Griffin Dunne’s film “Fierce People.” With his blue-eyed, wide-as-the-sky stare, white beard and patriarchal rumble, Mr. Sutherland is the embodiment of a proud old aristocrat, slowly going to ruin, who knows too much about the dark side of human nature for his own comfort. He knows, for instance, that many if not most fortunes begin with crimes.

    The case for...

    ...Bill Richardson. Is he the best candidate to help down ticket Dems win in red states? (MyDD)

    Yes! (Did I say that out loud?)

    Britney Spears to perform at MTV Video Music Awards. (MTV)

    Dylan, Godard, Gere

    What do the names in the title of this post have in common? They all figure to varying degrees in Todd Haynes' new film I'm Not There. (Film Comment)

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    I've never understood...

    ...why "Brick" is Ben Folds' most popular song. (It has its own Wikipedia page) I liked his first album but most of what he has done since is dull and "Brick" is pretty mean-spirited. It's good to know I'm not the only one...(Pandagon)

    Who's Green?

    The environmental website Grist has interviews and factsheets about the greenness of Presidential candidates. (Dems only so far, make your own jokes.) There's a good deal of information here - here's a page on my man John Edwards.

    Bad Education would be more difficult

    A defense of screen-to-stage adaptations, on the occasion of a British stage version of Almodovar's All About My Mother. (The Guardian)

    My concern with Berlins' argument is that it tries to keep art forms in their separate pigeonholes and treats individual pieces of art as exhibits in some dusty cultural museum where we can forever look but never touch. In fact what appears to be cultural vandalism to one person can often turn out to be a cultural rebirth as artists take a work from one medium or decade and transform it into something similar but different. It is fine to love a movie or a piece of music for what it is, but to embalm it with your affection and deny access to it to be used by other artists and upcoming generations in what ever way they desire not only has a petrifying effect on art and artists, but on audiences too.

    For no good reason...

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    ...a picture of Maggie Gyllenhaal...


    (photo - Reuters)

    Terror's Advocate

    An interview with director Barbet Schroeder (Single White Female, an Oscar nominee for Reversal of Fortune), whose new documentary Terror's Advocate profiles French defense attorney Jacques Verges. Verges is infamous in France for defending Algerian terrorists and a host of other politically nefarious characters. (Greencine)

    Early reviews...

    ...of In the Valley of Elah and The Jane Austen Book Club at Cinematical. I'm avoiding them since I may have to write about one or both later.

    My father's attempts...

    ...to turn me on to opera never took, but I pause to note the passing of Luciano Pavarotti at age 71. (NY Times)

    Who's (further) right?

    Who got the best of the Huckabee-Paul smackdown in last night's GOP debate? My sympathies are with Paul; Huckabee's view acknowledges the fact that whatever has happened to this point, we are there. (The American Scene)

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    The naked truth about Chevalier

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    Apologies for lame post title and salacious subject. There's one report that Wes Anderson's short Hotel Chevalier won't screen in theatres before The Darjeeling Limited. More importantly (?), the short also includes a Natalie Portman nude scene. (/film)

    Are blogs on candidates' websites....

    ....worth your time? An analysis. (MyDD)

    The Argument (chapters 1-3)

    Matt Bai's book The Argument is a look at how the Democratic party transformed itself from the low point of Election Night 2004 to the takeover of Congress in the 2006 Midterms. (The book's subtitle is "Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle To Remake Democratic Politics") Remember Election Day 2004? Bai opens with euphoria among the Democratic establishment as early exit polls show a big Kerry victory. Joy turns to sorrow as the tide turns and Bush squeaks out a win in Ohio. Where does the party go from here?

    One of the major players in the post-election soul search is a consultant named Rob Stein, determined to convert others to the idea that Democrats need a "message machine" (well-funded think tanks feeding talking points to media, etc.) to match that of conservatives. Stein traces the conservative ascendancy to a memo written in the early 1970's by Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell calling for a massive investment in a conservative infrastructure to fight off what Powell perceived as an assault on the free-enterprise system. Stein's increasing access to Dems with deep pockets leads to the formation of the Phoenix Group, an organization of wealthy celebs and venture capitalists who all chip in top dollars.

    What everyone is looking for is "The Thing," the succintly put argument that will define the Democrats mission going forward. Congressional Dems embrace bestselling pop political science books such as What's The Matter With Kansas and Don't Think of an Elephant, but ideas are still lacking. The analogy Bai draws between Democrats and a floundering General Motors is apt. At the close of Chapter 3 we've arrived at what one progressive funder calls the "Shareholder revolt," the point where change begins to come from the bottom instead of the top. here come the bloggers.

    Selma Blair is cool....

    ...with kissing girls. The Advocate and other gay magazines like to celebrate straight actors who deign to play gay roles (as Blair does in the upcoming Feast of Love). What makes these actors so enlightened? I'd wager the one common trait is that they think of acting as a career rather than a path to fame. I couldn't find a link to the article in which Selma drops the bombshell that the kissing experience varies depending on the gender of one's partner but as you can see, people are excited about her playing gay. (QueerSighted)

    It's a wrap for The Wire

    The Wire has wrapped for the last time; the final season starts airing in January. (Washington Post)

    Bring on the mess

    Sen. Craig to stay in office? (Boston Herald)

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    How Big Is Your Love?

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    We all have to admit when we're wrong sometimes, and for this blogger this is one of those moments. Since coming back from my trip to NYC I've been catching up with missed episodes of assorted shows and I've just finished watching the second season of the HBO series Big Love. After the first season of this drama I wrote a not especially well written post (I was a new blogger) in which I accused the show of being sexist and expressed a desire to see the show get into an exploration of the similarities between Bill (Bill Paxton) and his nemesis, the patriarch of the Juniper Creek compound, Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton).

    So I'll own up to an important sin for any critic or blogger; and yes the best bloggers (of which I don't consider myself one) are critics, but that's another conversation. My own religious views lie somewhere between agnostic and liberal secular humanist, and because of them I judge the Henricksons. I don't like Bill and I want the show to explore how the family might change if he had a professional or financial setback. I want one of the wives to get a spine and leave, an idea which was commendably introduced this season. Most of all, I want to see what happens when the big messy world intrudes on Bill's utopia.

    Season 2 of Big Love addressed some of my issues but still frustrated. A major plot line involved Bill's attempt to acquire a company called Weber Gaming, which installs video poker machines in bars and convenience stores. Bill made the acquisition despite concerns raised by senior wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn in the role of a lifetime) that the company wasn't compatible with the family's lifestyle. Bill countered by pointing out the business would provide financial security and also allow the family to "be themselves" since apparently people in Utah who work in the gaming industry don't care about polygamy. Telling was a central theme this season; girlfriends, neighbors, employees, and potential fourth wives all got the news and reacted with varying degrees of incredulity. The desire to assert a polygamist identity smacks of a kind of generic liberality that ignores the logic of the situation. I find it a little hard to believe that the neighbor who wanted wife #3 Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) to be a surrogate mother won't be ticked when Barb tells her it won't happen, and are all of Bill's new employees cool?

    The Weber Gaming story arc did expose fissures in the family, many of which were centered around Barb. Still reeling from her humiliation at the end of Season 1, when she was axed from a Mother-of-the-Year contest after being outed, Barb's issues come to a head in the season's penultimate episode "Take Me As I Am." Alarmed at her son Ben's (Douglas Smith) interest in "Living the Principle" (of plural marriage), Barb reconnects with her estranged mother (Ellen Burstyn in a great guest shot) on the day of her mother's wedding. A plot to send Ben away for the summer with his grandmother is foiled when Bill arrives at the wedding with angry Margene and other wife Nicci (Chloe Sevigny) in tow. Barb does choose Bill over her mother and (in the season finale) assert her dominance as first wife, but Bill's selfishness promises that Barb's lingering hurt at Bill taking other wives and concern for her children will jump up again in Season 3.

    Speaking of the children, some of the best stuff this season centered around Ben and his teen sister Sarah (Amanda Seyfried, whom I gushed about here). Ben is forced to end his relationship with his girlfriend (Sarah Jones); his unhappiness, guilt about his sexual activity, and a desire to please his Dad push him towards a chilling fundamentalism. Sarah goes to an ex-Mormon group and meets an older boyfriend (Aaron Paul); by the end of the season she is the first Henrickson to take an affirmative step away from her father's control. Her rejection of her father at the aforementioned wedding is one of the most important (and best acted) scenes in the series, since it means that as much as Bill wants to keep his family insulated he will have to deal with the secular world on some level.

    Much more happened in this season of Big Love that I haven't mentioned. The Juniper Creek storyline about Roman and his power-hungry son Alby (Matt Ross) huffed and puffed and finally served to reintroduce the long-simmering rivalry between the Henricksons and the Grants, which isn't over yet. In addition to the actors already mentioned I have to call out Grace Zabriskie for her batty turn as Bill's mother. I have to also give credit to House Next Door, where the weekly wrapups (which I don't always agree with) inspired me to engage this with this show.

    I got my wish. The Henricksons stepped out into the world this season, and the series worked because that choice risked everything Bill had worked so hard to keep safe.

    Doc doubts?

    The director of the kid-paints-Pollock documentary My Kid Could Paint That discusses his qualms about his power to determine reality. (TIFF Doc Blog)

    Not so fast...

    ...says Paul Bremer. The pass-the-blame for disbanding the Iraqi Army continues. (NY Times)

    Since I'm...

    ...more than a little worried about the sway that a blogging elite has over the Democratic Party, I'm going to be sharing my thoughts about this book as I read it.

    DePalmaTube

    Brian DePalma's Redacted: part movie, part Internet mash-up. At the NY Times blog Screens, Virginia Heffernan notes DePalma is doing what anyone with a computer could do. The only difference is scale:

    One good thing about not being Mr. De Palma: no lawyer to send you mean notes! Unlike filmmaking, scanning for clips on the Internet — and mashing them together with editing tricks to tell a slanted story — is not just for people with Hollywood budgets and editing suites the
    size of ranch houses.
    But, as anyone who mixes it up on YouTube knows, you steal from the Internet and the Internet steals back. It’s been only a few vacation days since the festival premiere of “Redacted,” and already the site is flickering. First, the good news:
    + That standing ovation in Venice.
    + The attention paid by German television … and Italian.
    Now, the less-good news. American patriots don’t take this stuff lying down. Here’s a guy who still remembers “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” and is tired of filmmakers hating on the armed forces

    Ethan Hawke...

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    ...has plans. More novels and filmmaking from Mr. Hawke, whose latest directorial effort The Hottest State (based on his own novel) is by all accounts a turkey. I've never been the biggest Hawke fan, but I do appreciate him more after seeing him on stage in The Coast of Utopia in New York. The guy has skills; maybe he should try directing someone else's script or take a role in a good cable series. (Filmstew)

    Darjeeling data

    A roundup of (mixed) reviews of Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, now showing at the Venice Film Festival. (Greencine Daily)

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Oops!

    I gave Ron Paul $10. Here's why I shouldn't have. Do your homework. (Megan McCardle)

    But then every time I hear about his actual policies, I'm pretty thoroughly appalled. He voted against CAFTA and wants us to withdraw from the WTO. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he's also hardline on immigration. He favors the stupid Cuba travel ban even though the Communist Menace evaporated almost two decades ago. And last week, sitting with one of his supporters at a wedding, I found out that he wants to move America back onto the gold standard. I cannot, in good conscience, even entertain the hope of electing a man who wants to outsource our monetary policy to Anglo-American.



    The Nation says he is anti-Roe v. Wade, so there's another reason.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Why can't I get this song out of my head?



    The video for "The Underdog," by Spoon.

    Juno

    A review of Juno, directed by the up-and-coming Jason Reitman of Thank You for Smoking. This comedy (limited release in December)about friendship and teen pregnancy stars Ellen Page and my early Best Supporting Actor candidate Michael Cera (Superbad). (Cinematical)

    Who got rid of...

    ...Iraq's army? Don't ask President Bush. (The Daily Dish)

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    Bobby in brief

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    This photo says it all about Bobby, Emilio Estevez's film about the denizens of the Ambassador Hotel on the day of Robert Kennedy's assassination. Bobby is an overcrowded,busy, purposeful, but dull film, designed to remind us that there was a time when we all got our news from Walter Cronkite and weren't cynical about politics. The "plot" can only lead to one end, but on the way there are a few minor acting gems. Laurence Fishburne has a fun, relaxed scene trading barbs with the hotel's Latino kitchen staff; but then there's a pointless bit of business involving the transfer of some baseball tickets. Lindsay Lohan underplays her role as woman marrying a classmate (dull Elijah Wood) to keep him out of Vietnam, and it's always good to see Martin Sheen. Sheen's storyline seems particularly irrelevant, he's a depressed stockbroker trying to reconnect with his wife (Helen Hunt). Is there another actress of Hunt's stature who communicates such a lack of enjoyment at being onscreen? Bobby feels like a prestigious TV movie that fills up 3 hours on a holiday weekend.

    I wouldn't want to be Lloyd Carr

    A Michigan football blogger reacts to the Maize and Blue's loss to Appalachian St. (Michigan Football Saturdays)