Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes

I hate to see good actresses wasted. Vadim Perelman's The Life Before Her Eyes (just out on DVD) hangs Evan Rachel Wood and Uma Thurman out to dry in a story that can't support all the symbolic and metaphorical weight that's hung on it. Wood plays a teen involved in a school shooting, Thurman the same woman 15 years later. The ending isn't so much a "twist" as it is a "f--k you." Avoid.

Oh, wait a minute

Scenes from Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button have movie bloggers worried. More here. (/Film, In Contention)

The cinematography was beautiful yet subdued from Fincher’s usual flash. Brad Pitt delivers a performance that will make you forget that he’s behind the make-up. The transformation will make you believe that a man can age backwards. I’m still excited to see the finished product, I’m just a little disappointed. Could it be that the film wasn’t what I expected, or maybe not what I wanted?

Dr. Dog

I've been wanting to check this band out and after this review I definitely will. (Marissa A. Ross)

Friday, August 29, 2008

NP award news

NP to receive the first "Movie For Humanity" award at the Venice Film Festival. (Film Festivals)

The award, which was inspired by Italian cinema traditional sensitivity towards social and political issues and by the serious involvement of artists all over the world, aspires to provide concrete support to their engagement in promoting human rights, peace and protect the environment, as well as for showing their compassion towards the plight of millions of children raised in poverty as well as the growing poverty in Third World countries, for speaking out about all those global plagues which cry for a decisive voluntary effort.


All Songs Considered has a 10-minute video of Calexico talking about Tuscon, AZ and playing songs from their forthcoming CD. Here's a full performance of the first single "Two Silver Trees" from earlier this year.

Palin 2

Andrew Sullivan on Palin:

Could this be McCain's Miers moment? Some readers think so: the point at which people suddenly realize that McCain is actually less interested in governing than in politics. And willing to let personal liking and respect for utterly unqualified people trump the sober responsibilities of running a country at war, a climate in flux, an economy in trouble, and an empire close to imploding.


Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is the GOP VP pick; her state is more shaped by direct democracy than any other. (New America)

Recess success

The deleterious effects of changing children's playground equipment. (Good)

The results of these developments are far-reaching. Many kids, with their sense of play stunted by disuse, sometimes don’t even know how to go about it. For a kid raised on PlayStation, a slide isn’t going to get the job done. “People are focusing on getting kids outside and getting them physical,” says Patricia Donald of the innovative Adventure Playground, in Berkeley, California. “But the playgrounds that they have just don’t do that anymore. If you’re used to going from your climate-controlled house to your climate-controlled car to your climate-controlled school and then back to your computer, you don’t go outside and you don’t have to think about creating and manipulating things.”

Above the fray

Appreciating William Gaddis, rising above literary spats. (Paper Cuts)

Best Blog Post of the Day #9

"The Return of Jonathan Demme, Pt. 1" (Some Came Running)

Because Jonathan Demme's latest is about to bow at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I get the feeling critics are dying to welcome back one of their darlings. Rachel Getting Married feels like one of Demme's great early '80s humanist comedies like Melvin and Howard, and less like one of his post-Silence of the Lambs intimate epics. The funny thing is Demme has been with us all this time. His post-Lambs output has been quite remarkable, if stylistically different from his earlier work.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The backlash...

It seems to be Radiohead day here, maybe the overcast weather has something to do with it. Members of the Hold Steady and Silver Jews (as previously reported) take on Thom and the boys. (At Ease)

Radiohead covers...

...Neil Young's "Tell Me Why." (Stereogum)

Blogging shame

How will blogs ever take over society if bloggers are so self-conscious? (Brains on Fire)

But it all went awry with the last quote from the article….

“(Mark) Brooks, a 51-year-old who describes himself as breaking the mold of what people might imagine as a typical blogger, making time to garden in the summer and spend time with his family. ‘I’m not blogging from my mother’s basement in my sweat pants eating Cheetos,’ he said.”

YOU WERE SO CLOSE!! Why…WHY?!?!? You just got CNN to write a whole long article about how respected bloggers are…and you drop the Cheetos-bomb?

Best Blog Post of the Day #8

"17 Simple Rules For Going To The Cinema With Me." (Vitamin Briefcase)

5. If the film is anything other than a comedy, you should not laugh aloud for longer than between two and three seconds at any one time. If you must laugh, do not do so with the ironic air of somebody who believes laughing at the joke is beneath them: I don’t care that you feel bad about going to see a sci-fi film by yourself, I just want you to be utterly invisible.

Marketing muchness

Is the campaign for Keira Knightley's The Duchess too Di-centric? Knightley and the author of the book the film is based on think so. (In Contention/Telegraph)

The trailer for The Duchess, a new film about the aristocrat Georgiana Spencer and her adulterous life, shows a clip of the Princess juxtaposed with the title character and accompanied by the words: "The two were related by ancestry and united by destiny". A voice over adds: "History repeats itself."

Knightley, 23, who plays the Duchess of Devonshire, said: "I am Georgiana. I am not Diana. The film is not about Diana."

The duchess, an 18th-century beauty, was the great-great-great-great aunt of Diana. Both women were born Spencers and married important men who then took mistresses. Georgian's husband, the Duke of Devonshire, had an affair with Lady Elizabeth Foster.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Buzz about Bill

Veteran stage actor/mime Bill Irwin has a meaty supporting role in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married. Should we be thinking of Irwin as an Oscar candidate? I once acted in an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin that Irwin co-authored. (Movie City News)

Foreign failures

Why don't more film writers know foreign movies? (Moviezzz)

When I got serious about film, in college in the early 90’s, I made a point to try to see every major film from the major directors. Once I exhausted the selection at my video stores, I joined Home Film Festival, a VHS rent by mail service that was sort of like what Netflix is today. It was a bit more expensive ($10 a tape) but it was the only way to see certain films that I thought everyone had to see.

I may have gone a bit overboard in my thinking, tracking down all of Godard, Truffaut, Bergman, Kurosawa, Rohmer etc. I found out later than many major critics were still lacking in this regard. But, I took film seriously. I thought it was my “job” as a film fan to see these films.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bell's roles

Kristen Bell casting news. (Cinematical)

So while she may not be Harley Quinn (but I guess it doesn't hurt to fantasize), Bell has three other projects in various stages of production. Unfortunately, they seem to be the usual run of the mill romantic comedies that all young actresses seem to have to make at some point in their career. Bell will also be making a reappearance on TV's Heroes this season as the electrifying baddie, Elle Bishop. But none of these projects will get Bell fans hyped like the rumored Veronica Mars flick -- no matter how misguided that idea might be

Last looks

A good deal of what's wrong with Pineapple Express can be summed up by an examination of the movie's last scene. Dale (Seth Rogen), Saul (James Franco), and Red (Danny McBride, who needs to be sent back to AAA ball) sit around in a diner talking about how much they all love each other; they've just survived a massive gunfight involving Gary Cole's drug dealer, Rosie Perez's crooked cop (How great was it to see her again?), and some generic "Asians." The scene is completely unnecessary and the actors seem to realize it - I thought Rogen was going to wink at the camera. Critics love to go on about Judd Apatow-branded films "explore male friendship," so Seth and the boys are just giving the people what they want. If anything can be called "sweet" in a Judd Apatow movie, it has to be Franco's light-touch performance as the pot dealer. But all in all, Express was a disappoinment.

Consider the last scene of Superbad, which Seth Rogen also cowrote. Our two heroes (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) run into their dream girls (Emma Stone and Martha MacIsaac) at the mall the morning after the chaotic Final High School Party. As they awkwardly pair off to shop for a comforter and some concealer, there's a sense of something slipping away but also the deeper and more fulfulling life yet to come underneath. This scene surprised me as much as anything in a movie last year and actually saved Superbad for me. (There's not much to say for The House Bunny, but Emma Stone holds her own with Anna Faris and is the real thing) I wish the filmmakers could have brought the same delicacy to The Pineapple Express, but the movie tries to be about too many things and ends up not quite being about any of them. It's the cyncial last scene that leaves a bad taste.

Do the Shuffle #13

  • Van Morrison - Checkin' it Out
  • Belle & Sebastian - Me and the Major
  • Josh Ritter - To The Dogs Or Whoever
  • Pomegranates - Thunder Meadow
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Please Read The Letter
  • The New Pornographers - The Spirit of Giving
  • Colin Meloy - On The Bus Mall (live)
  • R.E.M. - Shiny Happy People
  • The Jody Grind - 3rd of July
  • Whiskeytown - 16 Days
  • Mark O'Connor - A Bowl Of Bula
  • Throwing Muses - Hate My Way
  • Poi Dog Pondering - Everybody's Trying (live)
  • Merge at 20

    Info on a cool project to commemorate 20 years of North Carolina's Merge Records. Merge artists include Conor Oberst (above), She & Him, and Superchunk among many others. (Brooklyn Vegan)

    " is waaay too dirty for Broadway..."

    Why Jerry Springer: The Opera probably won't make it to New York. (Parabasis)

    There is something really exquisite about people singing really dirty songs in booming operatic voices, and to making a little mini-aria out of the words "fuck you", and the songs are catchy, funny, dirty and silly.

    Bjork hits back

    Bjork is tired of people not understanding who does what on her albums. Is it a case of lazy critics or something more sinister? (

    2: it could be that this is some degree of sexism . m.i.a. had to deal with this with the respected website where they assumed that diplo had produced all of her kala album without reading any credit list or nothing , it just had to be , it couldn´t have been m.i.a. herself ! it feel like still today after all these years people cannot imagine that woman can write , arrange or produce electronic music . i have had this experience many many times that the work i do on the computer gets credited to whatever male was in 10 meter radius during the job . people seem to accept that women can sing and play whatever instrument they are seen playing .but they cannot program , arrange , produce , edit or write electronic music .

    Juliana Hatfield - "I Got No Idols"

    I had forgotten about this one. Her new one, "How To Walk Away," is worth adding to your library. What's "JBTV"?

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Biden's bow

    The good and the bad of Biden. (Reason)

    3. Don't call it a comeback. It shouldn't matter, but the manner in which Biden has survived gaffes, mockery, and a straight-up plagiarism scandal is pleasing, in a Hollywood kind of way. Biden recovered from his plagiarism scandal by burying all presidential ambitions for a generation and burrowing into his Senate work. He wasn't a foreign policy expert, so he became one. When he says something stupid, he bounces back. I never got why his comments about Indian-Americans staffing 7-Elevens and Dunkin' Donuts in Delaware were offensive, but in any case now Obama gets to look like an above-it-all pol who doesn't care about political correctness.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    A couple of questions

  • Why is former ESPN sportscaster Dan Patrick doing a cameo as a cop in The House Bunny?

  • In his New Yorker review of Tropic Thunder, Anthony Lane discusses the role of the profane studio executive that (depending on whom you believe) either shows Tom Cruise's comic side or is a slap at everybody who thinks Cruise is a washed up nutjob. It isn't a secret that Cruise is playing the part, he isn't featured in the film's advertising, but it's well known he's in the movie. I can't figure out why Lane is being so secretive - the review says he didn't recognize Cruise until halfway through. Either this means Lane didn't read the film's press kit, or he assumes New Yorker readers are too preoccupied with Barack Obama and listening to NPR to bother with Tropic Thunder without his recommendation. Is the tack Lane takes here critical affectation or elitism?
  • Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Reading List

    A review of Daniel Mendelsohn's How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, a collection of arts criticism from the NYRB. (NY Observer)

    Farber's fans

    I haven't written much about the late film critic Manny Farber because I'm still catching up with his book Negative Space. Here's a good brief appreciation and collection of more in-depth links. (EW, IFC)

    From EW:

    With the exception of Pauline Kael, Farber was probably the movie critic other movie critics most often quoted, particularly his hugely influential 1962 essay "White Elephant Art Vs. Termite Art," which came as close to anything he wrote to boiling down his critical creed. In that piece, Farber positioned himself ferociously against what he called the "self-aggrandizing masterwork" that "treat[s] every inch of the screen and film as a potential area for prizeworthy creativity." In opposition to this he championed "termite art," which “goes always forward eating its own boundaries… leav[ing] nothing in its path other than signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity." At a time when crap nostalgia is routinely praised with unthinking effusiveness, it's harder now to appreciate how daring and emboldening it was to read Farber's championing of supposedly such minor work as the then-ignored Westerns of director Budd Boetticher and the face-slamming camerawork of director Sam Fuller.

    Barlow's iPod

    Continuing the whole iPod theme, check out what Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr is listening to. (AV Club)

    AVC: What Turkish music do you have?

    LB: Sebadoh went to Istanbul last month. We had these incredibly gracious hosts, and they were like, "Have you ever heard any Turkish music?" I was like "No!" They were like, "Great, I'm going to bring you a DVD with like a million mp3s on it." And she did, and I swear, like fucking 75 percent of it is amazing: All this amazing '60s psychedelic stuff, and then weird singer-songwriters from the '60s who of course you would have never heard of, doing these really involved '60s production things with really prominent male vocals. The only thing I can think of is something like Leonard Cohen, a big singer-songwriter from '69. Even Serge Gainsbourg, kind of, the Turkish version of that, totally in Turkish, and incredibly well-played. Using traditional instruments, too. But for some reason, those bands, or the way people play together—it's got a really heavy groove.

    Dept. of I'm Working On It

    What makes a good blog? (43 Folders)

    Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Do the Shuffle #12

    My blogfriend forgot his iPod today, and while he constructed a playlist that comments on the very idea of memory I hope he won't mind if I offer the world a dose of musical randomness. Call it "What I Listened To While I Learned My Lines Today."

  • R.E.M. - Half A World Away
  • The Spinanes - Spitfire
  • Ryan Adams - You Will Always Be The Same
  • Fiona Apple - Slow Like Honey
  • Bettye LaVette - How Am I Different
  • Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes
  • Throwing Muses - Civil Disobedience
  • M Ward - Vincent O'Brien
  • Buffalo Tom - You'll Never Catch Him
  • Rush - Fly By Night
  • Iron & Wine - Bird Stealing Bread
  • Erin McKeown - We Are More (live)
  • Throwing Muses - Solardip
  • Okkervil's (and Newman's) Own

    A new Okkervil River song; Carl Newman of New Pornographers sits in. Okkervil River's new CD is out September 9th. Info on Newman and the Pornographers here. (Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan/photo by Bao Nguyen)

    Are you listening George Lucas?

    Greencine reports on a German studio's attempt to fine critics who break an embargo on reviewing one high-profile upcoming release.

    Wal-Mart follies

    The "back-to-school" lists you find at your local Wal-Mart are made up. (Kelby Carr)

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    " this sort of 1913 moment."

    David Berman of Silver Jews: (Pitchfork)

    The record reviews and the restaurant reviews in my newspaper cover the same amount of ground-- sometimes they're of art and sometimes they're of pizza. I don't believe anything I read in that form. My own voice sounds so phony just because of the form, and I couldn't find a way just to get this icky feeling out of me. I guess it has be something to do with blogs, the icky feeling I get from whatever the length of a blog message, and the icky feeling I get from team-making and undeserved praise. I just don't want to be involved in it. It's something that I have to find a way to do because I want to continue to be able to praise people, but the whole existence of the top 10 list culture has made it impossible to the point where I have to turn down pristine writing assignments like, "A page in The Believer: Do whatever you want." I can't do those things right now because I can't stand it. I can't stand the consensus. You know what I'm saying? It's like a cliché that's really just coercive. It's empty. It's just a signal. That's what I feel like top ten lists are. They're not what they say they are. Its function has been completely superceded by meaning in the case of these top ten lists

    Read the whole thing for Berman's contrarian take on Radiohead.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Sundayish Music - The Decemberists - "Song for Myla Goldberg"

    3/31/07 - Goldberg is the author of the novel Bee Season and "Eliza" the main character.

    Woody's working

    The cast of Vicky Christina Barcelona gets together to talk about Woody. (Cinematical)

    Hall also offered some insight into how Allen crafts comedies -- mostly by not making them during filming. "I saw the film in Cannes, which was a completely overwhelming experience ... they gave it this ridiculously long standing ovation, to the point that I began to feel like a right melon. They laughed hilariously ... I knew they were going to laugh; well, I hoped they were going to laugh. Admittedly, Woody did ... if you asked him "Is this a comedy?" he'd say "No, this isn't a comedy." And I completely understand what he was doing, because for it to work, for any of these things to be funny, if it's genuinely funny, it's because it's truthful. And if you've got a bunch of actors who come on-set and think they're making a comedy, then it's not going to be funny, because the funniness about this film is the truth, is about the heart, about the fact that these are recognizable scenarios and recognizable modes of human behavior."

    The finish

    Photos from Sports Illustrated show just how Michael Phelps won that .01 second victory for his 7th gold medal.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Phelps' Flow

    Michael Phelps and his iPod favorites. (Apple Core)

    New Neko

    New Neko Case (she's on the left) CD (Middle Cyclone) out next March. (Muzzle of Bees/photo by Daniel Brielmaier)

    NP is now a cultural artifact

    From Angry John Sellers:

    One of the many unexpected outcomes of writing a book about your musical preferences is that anyone bored enough can recommend new songs and bands to you based on what you've told them you've liked all your life. Often these recommendations lead to nothing: You click on a link, listen to a song that invariably involves fiddles or harps, and decide that, no, this band is not for me -- and why would it be, because I fucking hate fiddles and harps and I made that pretty damn clear in my book. But very, very occasionally these unsolicited tips pay off and you've found another band about which a Natalie Portman character would probably say something anger-making but also spot-on.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Malick's Music

    David Thomson looks under the hood of Malick's Badlands (one of my favorite films) and finds out what that pretty music is doing there. (Sight & Sound)

    Nicholas Ray would have soaked us in Kit's backstory - a tortured home life (so no going home), wretched schooling, premature delinquency, a rough life on the road and a deep if inarticulate denial of the values of Eisenhower's America. Malick's Kit does not buy that package. There is no backstory, beyond our feeling that “Kit Carruthers” is a fancy and suspicious name for so chronic a faker (the model in history was named Charles Starkweather). Kit is a life force and a trickster, beyond pity or social diagnosis. He is vicious, comic, image-fixated - close to crazy. And Sheen plays him with a thoroughly cool detachment that simply underlines how much Dean always ached for pity. Kit is a psychopath given to all manner of conversational curlicues. He can hardly say anything, or hear anything said without adding some trite Reader's Digest footnote. “What you doing?” he asks a man he has kidnapped. “Just thinking,” says the scared guy. Kit chips in with his usual smartass flourish and some fancy nihilism - “As good a way to kill time as any.” He is somewhere between Sam Goldwyn and Wittgenstein. (“Aren't we all?” I hear him reply.)


    A profile of blogger-intellectual-rapper(?) Reihan Salam, whose pragmatic conservativism and high good humor make his a name to watch. (Daily Star)

    NP, auteur

    NP's directorial debut, a short film called Eve, will screen at the Venice Film Festival. Portman is also one of the directors involved in the upcoming New York, I Love You anthology, as is Scarlett Johansson. (CBC)

    What the heck...

    Here's another interview with Whit Stillman and a bit from Metropolitan. Watch the whole thing here. (IFC, Hulu)

    Parker plans

    Donald E.Westlake on getting started; Westlake's "Parker" novels are being reissued by the University of Chicago Press. (U. of Chicago)

    Question: Since The Hunter was first published in 1962, the Parker series has been going for over forty-five years now. Since the basic setup is largely the same—Parker gets into trouble, Parker gets out of trouble—how do you continue to come up with interesting new variations? Do the trouble itself and the way out of it come to you at the same time, or do you, like Parker, have to figure it out as you go?

    Donald Westlake: I’m my own first reader. I don’t outline or plan ahead but every day tell myself some more of the story. I know the characters and I know the subject, and usually I can figure out what happens next. Sometimes the title is almost the only seed needed. Breakout came about when I realized that, in all these years, Parker had never been jailed except once before the first book. Get him arrested, and watch how he handled it. At the end of part one he’s out of jail, but not out of trouble, and at that point I came down with bad Lyme disease, in the hospital four days, unable to work for six weeks, and I kept saying, ”Well, at least he’s out of jail.“ We both hated the experience, and we both worked very hard to get him out of there. When I got back to the book, I realized the title meant the whole book so the entire thing is Parker clawing himself out of places he doesn’t want to be. They usually find their subject and their path that way, and if they don’t I simply give up writing, move to another city and use a different name.

    Waiting is the hardest part

    Or is it getting the financing? Director Whit Stillman is finally, really, absolutely, almost for sure going to make one of two possible next projects after a 10 year silence. Good interview, but I wonder - if you haven't already seen Stillman's Metropolitan (available in a lovely Criterion DVD) how likely are you to discover it because of Hulu? (SpoutBlog)

    And as I think about “the market will speak” or something like that, 50 years ago, the only way someone like Preston Sturges got a chance to make films was there was a good film executive at Paramount, Bill LeBaron, who was a former writer-playwright and very sensitive guy, who gave him his chance, and he was able to make those films. If there hadn’t been a William LeBaron, we probably wouldn’t have seen any Preston Sturges films.

    And my experience was the same. Metropolitan wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for maybe five people. And if each one of those five people hadn’t contributed, it never would have been seen anywhere.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Baby Kermit wants to tell you...

    ...about the best animated spin-offs from movies. No one seems to be expecting Star Wars: The Clone Wars to make the list. (SpoutBlog)

    Who'll stop the rain?

    Or describe it better? James Wood v. John Updike (and Nicholson Baker) on detail in fiction. (Paper Cuts)

    The critic James Wood is a man of firm judgments and strong opinions, and one novelist he strongly dislikes is John Upidke. In his new book, “How Fiction Works,” Wood suggests that Updike’s fiction doesn’t work very well at all, in part because Updike’s prose, like Vladimir Nabokov’s, is oversaturated with pointillist descriptions that, Wood objects, “freeze detail into a cult of itself.”

    No sense of irony

    Critic to Tropic Thunder protestors: Get over it. (Scanners)

    Whenever I hear about a group protesting or boycotting a movie, as certain organizations claiming to represent the mentally disabled (whom the organizations themselves formerly called "retarded") are doing with the lightweight Hollywood spoof "Tropic Thunder," it takes me right back to Randy Newman's "Short People." This song, a bouncy radio hit in 1977, was a field experiment in just how stupid people can be. The finding: They can be very stupid. "Short People" begins:

    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason
    Short people got no reason to live

    NYFF lineup

    The New York Film Festival Lineup includes plenty of this year's Cannes selections. (Cinematical)

    Sacramone sanctimony

    Because of NBC's insistence on chopping up Olympic events to create artificial drama, many will remember Alicia Sacramone as the woman who "cost" the U.S. women's gymnastics team a gold medal. A look at the numbers shows that even if Sacramone had nailed he routines that the result would probably not have changed. (Dallas Morning News)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Fanfare for the common grip

    I can't decide whether I'm surprised at this or not. Aaron Sorkin tells GQ he (and others) weren't crazy about the Writer's Guild Strike.

    Q: What was the dinner like?

    A: The Directors Guild had reached an agreement the day before. We, that night, called the leadership of the Writers Guild. I know it sounds like a bunch of revolutionaries getting together to do the right thing, but you should know the dinner was catered. It’s not like the old days. This isn’t a Clifford Odets Waiting for Lefty thing, okay? Everybody showed up in a German car. And this is exactly why we didn’t want to voice our objections to the strike. We thought, We’re going to get killed. However, here’s what we told our leadership at the Guild: that we feel strongly that the DGA deal is fair, That we should accept from the studios and networks what they’ve given to the DGA. We named who we were in the room and said that if we didn’t see fast action over the next forty-eight hours, that we would have to make our feelings public.

    There will be songs

    Radiohead has contributed a song (and maybe more) to the film version of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke. (At Ease)

    UPDATE - Reports of Radiohead writing the score have been greatly exaggerated. (The Playlist)

    Dept. of Movies Never Made

    What would Joss Whedon's Batman have been like? (MTV)

    Despite losing out to Nolan, Whedon has no hard feelings, and gave nothing but praise to the Director Who Can Do No Wrong. “I just love the respect [Nolan has] for the character and the world,” he said. “I thought Christopher Nolan’s done an amazing job of bringing out the comic book, and I see a lot of movies [coughs “HULK”] — sorry, I had a Hulk stuck in my throat — that don’t really have the aesthetic or the pathos or really get why the comic book works.”

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Brothers buzz

    Rinko Kikuchi of Babel plays an explosives expert in The Brothers Bloom, the latest film from Rian Johnson. Your tolerance for Johnson's last film Brick has something to do with how much you like high schoolers talking like 1940's noir characters. The cast also includes Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz. Trailer for Bloom is here. (Coming Soon)

    Sunday songs

    Cat Power in concert at this weekend's All Points West Festival in New Jersey. Stereogum has photos and coverage, and if somebody wants to tell me why every time I see the Roots someone is playing a tuba I'd appreciate it. (photo by Abbey Braden)

    Do the Shuffle #11

  • Broken Social Scene - Stars and Sons
  • The New Pornographers - Falling Through Your Clothes
  • Rufus Wainwright - Movies of Myself
  • Bob Mould - Brasilia Crossed With Trenton
  • Mark Olson - Poor Michael's Boat
  • The New Pornographers - Challengers (live)
  • The Cure - A Letter To Elise
  • Rilo Kiley - Breakin' Up
  • The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait
  • Guided By Voices - I Am A Scientist
  • The New Pornographers - All The Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth (live)
  • Nellie McKay - Change The World
  • Guided By Voices - My Valuable Hunting Knife
  • Mark Olson - My One Book Philosophy
  • Feist - The Water

    Two things:

    1. Way too much repitition of artists in this set
    2. Elise, if you are reading this, get in touch.
  • No pitch correction here

    Kim Deal and the "All-Wave" recording movement. (I Am Fuel....)

    Their creed is loosely stated as "everything should be an analog sound recording of someone playing or singing, rather than using a computer to generate or digitally manipulate sounds separated from the dimension of time in which they were performed. In short, to record All Wave one must use no computers, no digital recording, no auto-tuning, or any other mainstays of contemporary production. A parallel drawn with the realist film movement . . . is not inappropriate." The 2008 Breeders album Mountain Battles was recorded using All-Wave philosophy, and Deal has even designed a pretty kickass logo (above) to shine as a beacon from the cases of those albums that would choose to adopt this philosophy as well.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Sci Fi High

    Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union wins Best Novel at the Hugo Awards. (Vector Editors)

    Best Blog Post of the Day #7

    ...or certainly the most historically important. This site will be worth going back to. (Orwell Prize)

    Sunday Music - Josh Ritter "Harrisburg"

    Ritter has been around for a little while, but I think he's yet to record his real breakthrough - something that will be looked back on the way we look at early Springsteen now. This clip also includes a bit of a Modest Mouse cover.

    My Olympic Diary

    You know, in ancient Greece the athletes used to....oh, never mind.

    Quick hits

  • What? Bernie Mac has died at age 50 due to complications from pneumonia. (NY Times)

  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is watchable mostly because of Amber Tamblyn, the cast member least concerned with being charming. (That's a little unfair to America Ferrera, who is mostly asked to pout and worry) Tamblyn is unexpectedly funny, and I think could easily headline a romantic comedy on her own. Think early Diane Keaton or Meg Ryan here. Does anyone know why the four girls break into a yoga studio anytime they want to talk?

  • In Walk All Over Me (see previous post),which I've actually only watched an hour of, Leelee Sobieski plays a young woman who loses money her boyfriend gives her to pay off bookies. She runs away to the big city and while impersonating a dominatrix (don't ask) meets a man who has stolen money from gangsters. What a coincidence. Show of hands on whether I should finish watching?
  • Friday, August 08, 2008

    Thank God for the Olympics and John Edwards's affair

    I just did that thing where you mean to reply to someone's email and actually send the message to a whole group. No big secrets revealed or suppressed dislike of someone declared, but I did happen to mention that I have this movie (in which Tricia Helfer of BSG plays a dominatrix) in my Netflix queue. Oh well, at least I'm honest about my guilty pleasures - as anyone who reads this blog will attest. In the spirit of full self-mockery I will write a full review when I get around to watching it.

    Five Rings Things

    Great photos from the Olympics opening ceremonies. (Big Picture)

    Olivia Thirlby

    Juno's best friend (center) on getting started and the future of female-driven movies: (Greencine)

    That is so true, and I think that something really amazing has happened with films over the last year. Between Juno and Sex and the City, I think that we can start to see a revolution of a little bit more female-centric films. Audiences are sending the message that women are moviegoers, too, and it doesn't have to be a pure chick-flick about getting married to draw a female audience. You can draw a female audience with a variety of different subject matter and I'm excited to see that. It's definitely good news for women actors.

    Do the Shuffle #10

    This mini-set is brought to you by my housesitting job, which requires a longer-than usual commute to work:

  • Kristin Hersh - Wild Vanilla
  • Tift Merritt - I Am Your Tambourine
  • David Byrne - The Great Intoxication (live)
  • My Morning Jacket - Off The Record
  • Neil Young - Buffalo Springfield Again
  • Tift Merritt - Mille Tendresses
  • Mark O'Connor - A Bowl of Bula
  • Thursday, August 07, 2008

    "Sometimes, after testifying, one will weep in front of sports reporters."

    Novelist Sherman Alexie on his testimony in the unsuccessful trial attempting to keep the NBA's Sonics in Seattle. (Stranger)

    38. I feel like a failure because I couldn't, with my testimony, single-handedly keep the Sonics in Seattle. I have been punishing myself for my courtroom failures of nerve, imagination, and poetry.

    39. I should have said, "But my father didn't live in Minneapolis, he wasn't a season ticket holder, and nobody in Los Angeles ever lied to him."

    40. I should have said, "I wrote those articles before the Oklahoma City guys started lying to me."

    Oops, wait a second...

    THIS is my favorite post of the day. (Vulture)

    "Who's The Better Action Director: David Gordon Green or Christopher Nolan?"

    Much is being made over Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green's inexplicable overnight transition from indie auteur (the one behind slow-paced tone poems like George Washington and All the Real Girls) to helmer of a Judd Apatow marijuana-glorifying fart comedy, a job for which he has practically no relevant experience. The other night, Vulture took a rare trip outdoors to catch a screening of Pineapple and what impressed us most wasn't Green's ability to coax funny performances out of Seth Rogen and James Franco (this couldn't have been too hard, right?) but the fact that the movie's action scenes — the ones that Manohla Dargis calls "crudely choreographed and just the kind of big finish a dead-ended writer or two might come up with while searching for a third act and lighting up to a Steven Seagal flick in the wee hours" — weren't nearly as crappy as we thought they'd be.

    Best Blog Post of the Day #6

    Keep writing takedowns of The Dark Knight, and I'll keep linking to them. This is dead-on, except for the last sentence: (HND)

    And that's my problem: The Dark Knight pretends to offer up real human problems, but it's just a clunky allegory, and not a particularly sophisticated one at that. Nolan—though taking great strides behind the camera—simply must stop making his characters say things like "Sometimes the truth isn't enough." Is this an action movie or a big-budget remake of Memento? Nolan's movies (all of them, aside from The Prestige, too complicated to be blatant about anything) revel in the simplistic appropriation of philosophical problems recycled as trite dialogue; they should give audiences a suggested reading list on the way out. Ironically, for a film touted by fanboys, this is easily Nolan's most Nolan-like film yet.

    [And yes, it's extremely entertaining. Crazy fanboys give me a break, huh?]

    Points proven here

    A free track from David Byrne from his forthcoming new album with Brian Eno. (email address required) Byrne's thoughts on "word-of-mouth" marketing: (David Byrne)

    I’m also wondering whether the web-curious will allow news of the album to spread more or less by itself. In the past, I might have undertaken all kinds of expensive marketing plans to prepare for a record release: there would be a teaser, live shows, posters, magazine ads, interviews, and advance CDs sent to writers and reviewers. We’ve done a few interviews, but that’s about it. It will be interesting to see if audiences find out about this song — and the record — without all those marketing techniques, and solely through Internet word-of-mouth.

    NP casting update....

    NP is reported to star in remake of horror film Suspiria, with David Gordon Green to direct. One site is reporting this as confirmed while another says it's not true, so we'll see. NP also pops up in this list of cinema's best "Manic Pixie Dream Girls." With all due respect to Elizabethtown and Kirsten Dunst, I can't see that performance topping NP's in Garden State. (Bloody Disgusting,, AV Club)

    Critic to Fanboys: Stop griping

    An unscientific survey finds that critics really don't hate comic-based movies after all. But do they respect the genre? (Scanners)

    I've been hearing from some disgruntled comic-book and superhero fans that they think critics have a prejudice against the genre. Or genres. I think there's a distinction to be made between comic-book, graphic novel and superhero movies (though, obviously, certain pictures overlap categories). So, I thought I'd do a little (and I mean a little) research to see if I could discern a trend. I did, and it was a pretty clear one.

    Dept. of Stuff That Makes Me Like Paris Hilton

    I know you've probably seen it already, but what the hell. From the Daily Dish:

    Watching the Hilton video, a few questions came to mind. First, why is that Paris Hilton’s fake ad includes more substantive talk about energy policy than John McCain’s real ad? Second, if writers helped Hilton with her script, and writers helped McCain with his script, why is it that Hilton seems to have a better grasp on policy details than McCain does? Shouldn’t that be, you know, the other way around? And third, why is it that a 27-year-old heiress/reality-show star can read a teleprompter better than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee?

    Free Apps! Just kidding...

    Apple gets all judgmental about an iPhone app. (Kottke)

    When news of the app got out onto the web, the outcry came swiftly. VentureBeat implored Apple to pull it from the App Store, as did several other humorless blogs. Blog commenters were even more harsh in their assessments. What I can't understand is: why should Apple pull I Am Rich from the App Store? They have to approve each app but presumably that's to guard against apps which crash iPhones, misrepresent their function, go against Apple's terms of service, or introduce malicious code to the iPhone.

    Excluding I Am Rich would be excluding for taste...because some feel that it costs too much for what it does.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    Smack talk

    Print v. new media from a recently retired L.A. Times reporter. (Lodbell's OC)

    There is plenty of uncertainty about the newspapers, but this much I know:

    I made the right decision leaving the newspaper business.
    That’s not to say I’m happy about breaking up with my one true career love.
    But the business model for newspapers is broken.
    No one has figured out how to fix it.
    That’s probably because it can’t be fixed.
    The smaller the newspaper, the longer its life span in print (four exceptions: the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post and USA Today).

    Monday, August 04, 2008


    In the Bob Costas-hosted baseball special on HBO after the All Star Game, I learned that Bob Gibson (who was seated in the audience and not used to any great effect) held Hank Aaron to something like a .215 batting average and Willie mays to under .200. My parents went to grad school and got married in St. Louis and followed the Cardinals of the late '60s there, and a Gibson card my father gave me is one of my favorite possessions. For a good shot of a Gibson card, go here. Roger Angell:

    In 1969, they lowered the mound because of him.

    I see him once in a while. He's still the same, an exceptional guy. He's very quiet and reserved. I spent a lot of time with him doing that long piece.

    He's something. He really didn't like fraternizing. He thought all batters were a pitcher's enemy. I think he half-thought that maybe, somehow, by some weird chance, this weird, forty-year-old, balding writer with eyeglasses would come up to bat against him some day. I told him that, and he said, "Yeah, that could happen." Old time players say that of all the guys, he was the most ferocious. He had a burning concentration and the most powerful sense of competition.

    I'd first noticed him after he struck out seventeen batters in the opening game of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, which is still a record. Well, we went to the clubhouse in St. Louis, and black athletes, we didn't know them as well as we do now. He was silent and scary. He wasn't smiling. Someone said to him, "Were you surprised by what you did today, Bob?" He said, "I'm never surprised by anything I do." You could see the reaction going back in the rows of writers, saying, "What did he say?"

    I hung around, as I often do, and most of the writers went away. I asked him, "Have you always been this competitive?" He looked at me, and he said, "I think so. I've got a four-year-old daughter and we've played about three hundred games of tic-tac-toe, and she hasn't beat me yet." And he meant it! He meant it!

    (If Charlie Parker..., Powell's)

    NYT boner

    The Times appears to have blown a confidential source in its reporting on the local government's harassment in a Muslim-dominated area of China. (Shanghai Scrap)

    Best Blog Post of the Day #5

    "10 Things That Bothered Me About The Dark Night" (Detroit News)

    7. The mayor's obituary. In one scene in the film, the Joker somehow places an obituary for the mayor of Gotham City in the daily newspaper, as a threat. And not some sort of small classified ad, but a full, half-page article, complete with art. Since I work at a newspaper, I know what it takes to get an article in the paper, the amount of meetings editors partake in discussing pages, the layers of editing pages go through before they go to print; it's not like these things just appear. So how did this article get in the paper? Does the Joker have friends at the Gotham Times? Did no editors ever see the pages? Who designed the page? Who copy-edited the obit? And did no one think that if the mayor actually did die, it might warrant slightly more high profile placement than on the obit page? Put it this way: If some crazy makeup wearing villain were to stroll into The Detroit News asking us to place an obit of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, it would probably raise a few eyebrows, and the story probably wouldn't make it to print. My only guess is there's a deleted scene somewhere of the Joker hanging out in the paper's newsroom, peering over several of the top editors' shoulders and making minor tweaks to the page as deadline fastly approaches.

    Back in the day....

    Four hours of nineties hip-hop. Check out the link to Q Tip's T-shirt. (Sasha Frere-Jones)

    Nas: this rapper currently has the #1 album in the country. He said he loves Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson but they are “out of here.” Nas is, according to Nas, the new voice of the young people. “I talk your talk, I dress your dress,” he said. I didn’t see anyone in the audience wearing a white shirt, white jeans, designer sunglasses and a blingy crucifix, so maybe what he meant is that he’s the new voice of Russian real-estate developers. People always talk about what a great lyricist Nas is, and he certainly was when “Illmatic” came out fourteen years ago. Which is maybe why he did more songs from that album than any other album from his catalogue during his set. It was nice of Jay-Z to come out for the “Black Republicans” cameo. Do you know how much people like Jay-Z? More than they like anyone else. I’ve see Jay-Z pop up at three shows, and every time it happens, you remember what it’s like to be at a genuinely exciting event. And then Jay-Z leaves. Bad idea, the Jay-Z cameo, for anyone who is not named Jay-Z.

    How to tell...

    if you're a cinephile, or How To Annoy Your Moviegoing Companions. A fun read. (David Bordwell)

    The promised land of cinema, as experimentalists of the 1920s called it: that, mystical as it sounds, is my sense of what the cinephile yearns for.

    This separates the cinephile from the lover of novels or classical music. They love their art, I suspect, because of its great accomplishments. Who with literary or musical taste would embrace the subpar novel or the apprentice toccata? But cinephiles will watch damn near anything looking for a moment’s worth of magic. Perhaps this puts cinephiles closer to theatre buffs. They too wait hopefully for the sublime instant that flickers out of amateur performances of Our Town and Man and Superman.

    Making an Oscar prediction.... this point is about as significant as a 2007 Iowa straw poll, but nevertheless here's some early love for Anne Hathaway. (Film Experience)

    Sunday, August 03, 2008

    Green + Ganja = ?

    Quick, what American director has the highest ratio of press coverage to films actually directed? Other than Tarantino, I'm guessing David Gordon Green of Pineapple Express with Zack Snyder coming up on the outside. (I happen to think Green deserves the hype) (NYT)

    For 10 years Mr. Green, 33, has been making small independent movies. They have played at film festivals and in art houses. They have been praised for their meditative delicacy, their naturalistic performances, their exquisite visual composition. And they have taken home some very nice awards. His directorial debut, the self-financed $42,000 “George Washington,” a gentle portrait of a group of rural Southern children, was named the best first film of 2000 by the New York Film Critics Circle.

    But even the most successful of his four movies, 2003’s “All the Real Girls,” made less than $550,000 at the box office. And winning something called the Sundance Special Jury Prize for Emotional Truth isn’t something that you can pin to your lapel when you walk into Sony’s executive suites to prove that you’re the guy to make the studio’s next comedy.

    Lolla Holla

    Hear a new Wilco song from their Lollapalooza set; read a report on crowd misbehavior (and possible festival-runner incompetence) during the Rage Against The Machine gig. (Stereogum, Jim DeRogatis)

    Bello's voice

    Just saw the new Mummy film and remain thankful that someone is willing to throw a few bucks my way to watch some of this stuff. The overqualified Maria Bello talks career moves and body image. (Guardian)

    At this year's San Francisco film festival, Maria Bello was honoured for exemplifying brilliance, independence and integrity in her work. You couldn't argue with that, or with the festival catalogue's description of her as "the definition of fearless". Look at Bello's performance as Viggo Mortensen's complex, uninhibited wife in A History of Violence, in which she gets more than a little frisky over the thought that her husband might be a brutal assassin. Or her sassy waitress in The Cooler, where her scenes with William H Macy, as the schlub who represents her chance of happiness, were so explicit they made even non-smokers crave a post-coital cigarette once the lights came up. ("When you shake hands with her," warned a friend before I left to interview Bello, "just remember where those hands have been.")

    Sunday Music - The Go Betweens - "Cattle & Cane"

    Great song. It's probably good I don't pick these on the quality of the videos.

    Saturday, August 02, 2008

    Demme debut

    A trailer for Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married, one of the U.S. films in competition at the upcoming Venice Film Festival. Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt (Midge from Mad Men), Bill Irwin, and Debra Winger. Anyone want to bet on whether David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, or Orchestra Baobab is doing the music?

    Book Man

    After clocking over a decade in the book business you think I might be sick of it, but there's almost no one I'd rather read on bibliomania than Larry McMurtry. This NYRB review of his new memoir of a life selling and scouting books puts McMurtry on my to-read list, but you'll have to cough up 3 bucks to read the review if you're not already a subscriber.

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    The Tracey Fragments

    I linked to this post about Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments a while ago and having now seen the film I commend it to you again. The description of the fragmented and nonlinear visuals is spot-on, but I'm not sure if the "reinvention" tag is quite justified. Making bold stylistic choices in depicting a character's psyche is one thing, but is the same style appropriate for scenes that simply advance the plot? The film felt both enthralling and slow even at 77 minutes, and I think it's because of the forcing of a style on certain scenes. Ellen Page is a wonder.

    Midnight...oh, never mind

    If it weren't a horror film I'd probably write more about the release of Midnight Meat Train getting schnozzled by its own studio, but even in that situation I'd still have to repeatedly type the words Midnight Meat Train.....(NY Sun)

    Best Blog Post of the Day #4

    "Part Company" (Monitor Mix)

    Once a song exists, it never ceases to exist, whether I have constant access to it or not. And much of my music collection is under-appreciated and under-listened to anyway. It takes up as much of a psychological space as it does a physical one. I guess, in the process of downsizing, I've come to the conclusion that memory is as good of a storage space as anything. Sure, maybe in a few years I'll seek out some of these albums again -- but I might not even miss them. It might not even feel like they're gone.

    Not just Monica's father....

    Some love for Elliott Gould and his early '70s work:

    There was certainly an element of bravado in some of his early career decisions. For “Little Murders” (1971), a dark farce based on a Jules Feiffer play, Mr. Gould approached — and briefly secured — Jean-Luc Godard to direct. “I wanted someone really avant-garde,” he said. But the relationship with the irascible Mr. Godard soon foundered.

    Mr. Gould said, “I told him: ‘Look, the establishment here does not want to work with you. I want to work with you, and the establishment wants to work with me.’ ” (Mr. Godard’s response, as Mr. Gould tells it, is not printable.)

    The studio ended up installing the actor Alan Arkin as director. “Elliott was a dream as an actor and a producer,” said Mr. Arkin, who added that the characterization of Mr. Gould as an emblem of uptightness was misleading. “I’ve always thought he had a looseness about him.”

    Should some other films have been included? (NYT, Between Productions)

    Two reasons I'm mad....

    I probably watch a little less ESPN than the typical guy my age, but I do check in for a few minutes a day and more than that during baseball season. So the Red Sox trade of Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers brought out the worst in ESPN's commentators, who seem unable to articulate exactly what was wrong with a player who hit .312 in his eight years with the team. (OK, he's a terrible fielder) Along with Terrell Owens, Ramirez is the prime example of the athlete whose personality is allegedly so outsized that it jeopardizes the very stability of his team.

    Except that it doesn't. Baseball is a team sport that depends on outstanding individual efforts. A great pitcher for a last-place team can shut down a division leader and a well-timed bloop hit can determine who's going to the postseason and who isn't. Ramirez has played a huge part in the team's success in recent years, but the team owes just as much (at least) to Ortiz, Schilling, Lowell, Beckett, and others. So what exactly was the problem? And yet Ramirez's behavior is discussed as if it were the equivalent of lying to Congress - oops, where did that reference come from? Ramirez's high-fiving of a fan should be shown In MLB commercials for the rest of time, but here's a bet that it won't be.

    Reason #2 is this NYT magazine story on "trolling," or the systematic disruption of online communities. The NYTM's recent pieces by Emily Gould (blog "oversharing") and David Carr (harrowing addiction memoir) attracted their share of detractors who wondered if these stories deserved all the hoo-ha. I thought both of those pieces had value, though if Gould and I ever have lunch I'm not using my real name. With regard to the trolling piece I really have to wonder. Writer Mattathias Schwartz doesn't really try to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, but instead presents a kind of pseudo-Nietzschean indolence as a valid lifestyle choice. Will the NYT do a story on why so many comments on its own site are unintelligible garbage? The article concludes with an exhortation to get over ourselves:

    Ultimately, as Fortuny suggests, trolling will stop only when its audience stops taking trolls seriously. “People know to be deeply skeptical of what they read on the front of a supermarket tabloid,” says Dan Gillmor, who directs the Center for Citizen Media. “It should be even more so with anonymous comments. They shouldn’t start off with a credibility rating of, say, 0. It should be more like negative-30.”

    While it's true that Web immediacy makes negative comments and other forms of harassment seem somehow more shocking, pretending that "trolls" are acting out of some sort of coherent belief system gives them more credit than they deserve. It's fair to point out that one of the best things about Web 2.0 is the increased level of self-accountability: this thing is only as good as we make it. But the trolls aren't offering any alternative, and the NYT should have pointed that out.