Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Movies and cell phones

Cell phones as aids and obstacles to drama. (LA Times)

"You would normally do scenes where people would come together face to face," says Josh Schwartz, executive producer of the network TV shows "Gossip Girl" and "Chuck." But now, "Why would they come to the door? They would just call."

Could "24" exist without cellphones? Jack Bauer would spend 20 minutes every episode searching for a phone booth. The "Gossip Girl" characters would die of boredom without their stream of salacious electronic chitchat.

The great JH

John Hodgman on fame. (GQ/Kottke)

At that very moment, a waiter passing a tray of cocktails with luminous sci-fi ice cubes in them comes by and says he hopes I am feeling better. And it takes me a moment to realize that he is referring to a television advertisement in which I pretend to have a sneezing fit.

I laugh and tell him thank you.

Then, like a sneezing fit, it does not stop. One person after another comes up to me, talking about the ads, wanting to say hello. Soon an Academy Award–winning actress is shaking my hand and congratulating me for a job well done on the television.

Che chat

Soderbergh speaks on Che, baffles blogger. (SpoutBlog)

Soderbergh, who showed up to today’s post-NYFF screening press conference wearing a scruffy Che-reminiscent beard, admitted that he began working on the film (he and Del Toro started discussing the project in 200) long before he managed to define his attraction to his subject. “Sometime you say yes, and you’re not sure why you said yes,” the director said. “I went in with ore of an idea of what I didn’t want to do than what I did want to do.”

“It wasn’t until the films were finished, right around Cannes, that I realized…it was about engagement versus disengagement. Every day in our lives, we’re making decisons. Do we want to participate, or do we want to observe? And I realised that what was compelling to me about Che was that when he decided to engage, he engaged fully.”

If only the same could be said of the filmmaker.

New Decemberists song

No MP3 here, but a "video" of sorts...(Stereogum)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Do the Shuffle #14

  • Neko Case - Margaret vs. Pauline
  • Joe Henry - Time Is A Lion
  • Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - My Heart Is Broken
  • The Rolling Stones - Loving Cup
  • The Avett Brothers - Murder In The City
  • Fiona Apple - Carrion
  • Nada Surf - The Blankest Year
  • Madonna - Mother And Father (American Life is actually one of Madonna's better albums aside from a couple of unfortunate raps, see this track for an example)
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood
  • Conor Oberst - Souled Out!!!
  • Neko Case - The Needle Has Landed
  • Throwing Muses - Golden Thing
  • The Spinanes - Sunday
  • "Aw....it's you again."

    Ebert on a 1969 set visit with Paul Newman.

    I walked into his trailer. He did not regard me as an intruder, a possible source of irritation, someone who was invading his private time. He casually welcomed me to the flow. He looked at me openly and accepted that we were talking with each other, and that such a thing was natural. There was no "getting to know you" process with Newman. He acted as if he already knew you. I am not naive. I don't believe I have ever truly known an actor--or a director either, with a few exceptions. When you approach them as a journalist, they are there and you are here. But sometimes they can act as if the line isn't there. Lee Marvin was that way, too. Martin Scorsese. Meryl Streep. Robert Altman. Werner Herzog. Tilda Swinton. Paul Schrader. Joan Allen. Gregory Nava. Mile Leigh. And others, but my list is limited.

    Never mind what happened in 1969. I'll dig up the old magazine and put it on the web site. Let's move forward to 1995, and listen very carefully. When I walked into his room, he said, "Aw...it's you again." The point is not that he remembered me. The point is how he said "aw..." Imagine it in Paul Newman's voice. It evoked feelings hard to express in words. The "aw" wasn't "oh, no," as it sometimes can be. To it me it translated as, "Aw, it's that scared kid, grown up." Whatever it meant, it put me right at home.

    Marvel marvel

    I try to stay away from stories about in-the-works casting and other news because there are just so many. But I'm intrigued to pass on this report, that Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct Marvel's 2010 film version of Thor. (Variety)

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Kristin Scott Thomas is...

    ...taking her performance in The Seagull to New York and getting raves for roles in two French-language films. (NY Times)

    Some critics have suggested that Ms. Scott Thomas is virtually two different actresses, and that she’s warmer in French, a theory she dismisses. “I suppose it’s a bit more difficult in French,” she said. “Sometimes I get nervous about pronunciation, or I used to. I think maybe I’ve conquered that now. The main difference is just that I get different roles in France. They don’t make films about the 1930s in country houses there.

    “When I speak English, I’ve been told, I have this patrician way of speaking that’s very irritating. It’s the whole class thing. But the French they have no inkling. Another thing is that your first success tends to mark you. In England the first time I was ever on screen I was playing an Evelyn Waugh character in ‘A Handful of Dust,’ and people loved it. But that sort of thing just grows, and people want to see you reproduce your own work. In France, thank goodness, they don’t really get that.”

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Dept. of Attention Must Be Paid

    Paul Newman has died at age 83. (NY Times)

    If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

    He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless.

    Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into a craggy, charismatic old age even as he redefined himself as more than Hollywood star. He raced cars, opened summer camps for ailing children and became a nonprofit entrepreneur with a line of foods that put his picture on supermarket shelves around the world.

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    DFW's last

    A harrowing article about the last days of David Foster Wallace. (Salon)

    Unbeknown to most, Wallace had suffered from clinical depression for the past two decades. Family and close friends knew of it, but few others did. Over those years, Wallace had taken powerful anti-depression medication that had allowed him to work and write, according to his father, James Donald Wallace. But recently the drugs had been having very serious side effects. In June of 2007, Wallace and his doctor decided that they would have to try another course of treatment.

    Dept. of Don't Let the Bastards....

    If you are looking for a story that encapsulates all the short-sightedness, greed, and plain old dumbassery bringing down the music industry right now, I’ve got a candidate for you—Muxtape.

    Sasha Frere-Jones on RIAA idiocy.

    Best Blog Post of the Day #10

    "My Solution to the Financial Crisis" (The American Scene)

    Is there some way the United States can be made an Emirate of the United Arab Emirates? I’m pretty sure this plan will only work if we drill here and drill now. I know what you’re thinking: “Yes, this is a pretty plausible plan in broad outline, and declaring Islam the state religion should do down pretty smoothly, not least with civil libertarians. But who will be Emir?” John McCain has many admirable qualities, but he likes what you might call regal bearing. Barack Obama has it, but he is a devout Christian, which, of course, disqualifies him from the job.

    For Breakfast

    Tom Perrotta's second look at The Breakfast Club reveals John Hughes as the beginning, not the end, of American teenage cinema. (Guardian)

    For more than 20 years now, The Breakfast Club has occupied a place of honour on the list of Movies I Love to Hate, right up there with Jerry Maguire, another overrated film that commits crowd-pleasing moral hara-kiri in the third act. But 20 years is a long time to despise something that most other people claim to enjoy, and the release of a new DVD box set - John Hughes High School Year Book: Sixteen Candles/Weird Science/The Breakfast Club - gave me a good excuse to revisit my old nemesis and find out if one of us had changed.

    There are a couple of things I can say with certainty after my second viewing of the film. The first is that the editors of Entertainment Weekly must have been high when they compiled their list. There is no way in hell that The Breakfast Club comes close to deserving the title of best high school movie of all time. It shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, for example, which is funnier and more perceptive, far more authentic and alive, and much more interesting as both social history and cinema. To claim that Hughes's film is somehow superior to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, American Graffiti or Superbad, among others, borders on wilful perversity. The second thing I can say is that I no longer hate The Breakfast Club.

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Burn After Reading

    Is it about anything? No, not unless it's read as a tar-black satire of the human need for reinvention and the American government's inability to find its you-know-what with both hands. I wonder whether the pre-Oscar Coens could have gotten so many top-line actors into this precision-engineered farce. Pitt has never been so carefree onscreen, Clooney nails a particular type of male bluster, and Frances McDormand will probably never have another role like this again. Okay, Clooney and McDormand would probably sign up for just about anything the Coens do. (If Joel Coen had dreamed this entire movie, I swear John Malkovich would have played the disgraced CIA analyst) Stars aside, what prevents this from being just another Oceans Twelve is the inclusion of actors like Richard Jenkins (the only character whose fate resonates) and J.K. Simmons. It's refreshing to see the Brothers go back to their dark comic roots after the imprimatur of Oscar; in case you were afraid that success would suddenly unleash a desire to do some megalomaniacal remake, you don't have to worry.

    Gordon Willis

    At Hollywood Elsewhere, you can link to a chat with cinematographer Gordon Willis about the new Godfather DVD's and the lost art of storytelling.

    Criterion criteria

    A visit to the folks at Criterion; they're getting ready to release their first batch of Blu-ray discs. (Gizmodo)

    "Grain reduction has become such an industry standard that people, when they see grain, they think it's a problem rather than what film looks like. Film is a physical medium that has this grain structure to it," says Phillips. That being said, they realize that consumers buying restored HD films on Blu-ray are expecting near-pristine quality prints. It's a tough balance to strike. Essentially, "it's trying to stay on the side of not overprocessing but not leaving so much film artifact that it's distracting from getting engaged in the film."

    So how do they go about getting a film prepped for Blu-ray? Well, they start with the best version available, be that a camera negative, a positive or a print, depending on the qualities available. Most of the time, they need to travel to the negative rather than having it shipped to them, especially if it's an original print. So if it's a Kurosawa film, they go to Japan; if it's a Truffaut film they go to France; and if it's an Olmi film, well, they go to Italy.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008


    August, a strangely insular yet urgent indie drama, feels like a well-observed snapshot of a now vanished subculture. I've no idea if director Austin Chick or writer Howard Rodman are intimate with the late-'90s/early 2000s dot com bubble that the movie catches the tail end of (the movie is set in August 2001), but the muscular vapidity of Tom Stern (Josh Hartnett) seems right. Stern is the head of a rapidly hemorrhaging company called Landshark, and it's a wise choice that it's never explained just what the company does. Stern floats along on an air of possibility, bluffing an ex-lover (Naomie Harris) and blustering with his liberal intellectual parents ("Go tell the maid to dust the Godard posters" is a great kiss-off line). But it's all falling apart. Josh Hartnett has always been more enjoyable to look at than to watch for me, but here he plays both Stern's bravado and the confusion underneath in every scene. Still, it's telling that he gets blown off the screen by David Bowie of all people in the climactic scene. I also wanted a bit more of Adam Scott as the brother who may be the real genius behind it all. August is an odd duck (even the electronic score feels so 2001) but worth a look.

    A bit of gossip

    Happy to report that NP has ended her relationship with this person. (ITW)

    Suzanne Vega, audiophile goddess....

    Who knew the NYT had a songwriting blog? Suzanne Vega tells the story of "Tom's Diner" and its subsequent remixes, and reveals her role in the development of the MP3. (Measure for Measure)

    One day in 2000, I dropped my daughter, Ruby, off at nursery school and was approached by one of the fathers I didn’t know very well. Imagine my surprise when he said, “Congratulations on being the mother of MP3!” he said.
    “Sorry?” I said, wondering what he was talking about.
    “There is an article this week in a magazine called Business 2.0, calling you the ‘mother of the MP3.’ They used one of your songs to create it.”
    “Really. Well, thanks. I’ll check it out.”
    I ran home and found the article online.
    The title was “Ich Bin Ein Paradigm Shifter: The MP3 Format is a Product of Suzanne Vega’s Voice and This Man’s Ears.”

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    Everybody wants one

    Pavement's Brighten the Corners to get deluxe reissue treatment. Color me disappointed I can't find a You Tube of "Shady Lane." (Matablog)

    Take the gun....

    Even the negatives of the Godfather films (newly restored on DVD and Blu-Ray) fell victim to studios' inability to preserve their heritage. (Dave Kehr)

    Wish I'd Thought of That

    New Yorker music writer Alex Ross is part of a scientist-heavy lineup of MacArthur "Genius" grant winners. Ross, who wrote the early-20th century music history The Rest is Noise, blogs here. (NY Times)

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    "The vomit has too much hang time."

    Gender politics on the set of of Diablo Cody's Jennifer's Body. (LA Times)

    Kusama and Cody face an unusual challenge with "Jennifer's Body": While the film is populated with gorgeous women, they want to make sure the movie isn't lecherous. "That's something you have to grapple with when you are making a monster movie -- the girls have to look hot," said Cody, who describes herself as a radical feminist. "We didn't have to worry as much about ["Juno" star] Ellen Page's lip gloss" as how Seyfried and Fox look in this film.

    "But horror is a surprisingly feminist genre," Cody said. "The last person standing is usually a woman. And most of the guys in this movie are vain and insecure. You'll notice there are no fathers in this movie. I didn't want there to be any male role models -- I didn't feel these were girls who were loved by their fathers."

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Up with Ryan

    New Ryan Adams & the Cardinals CD out 10/28...(Stereogum)

    Rant with your coffee?

    Diablo Cody:

    I am not Charlie Kaufman or Sofia Coppola (much as I supplicate at their Cannes-weary feet.) I'm not Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm not even Paul W.S. Anderson. I am middle-class trash from the Midwest. I'm a competent nonfiction writer, an admittedly green screenwriter, and a product of Hollywood, USA. I am "Diablo Cody" and if you're not a fan, go rent Prospero's Books again and leave me the fuck alone.

    I may have won 19 awards that you don't feel I earned, but it's neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you're not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved Arrested Development! Aren't we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks? Hey, let's go bitch about how Black Kids are overrated!)

    I'm sorry that while you were shooting your failed opus at Tisch, I was jamming toxic silicon toys up my ass for money. I get why you're bitter. I took exactly one film class in college and-- with the curious exception of the Douglas Sirk unit—it bored the shit out of me. I also once got busted for loudly crinkling a bag of Jujubes during a classroom screening of Vivre Sa Vie. I don't deserve to be here. We've established that. But I'm here. Five million 12-year-olds think I'm Buck Henry. Accept it.

    (Incidentally, if you were me for one day you'd crumble like fucking Stilton. I am better at this than you. You're not strong enough, Film_Fan78. Trust me.)


    The Whole Earth Catalog as an early blog. (Kevin Kelly)

    Three recent books (From Counterculture to Cyberculture, What the Doormouse Said and Counterculture Green) plus a slew of newspaper articles have examined the influence of the Whole Earth Catalogs and periodicals upon on our culture. I am not the first to notice that the style of the Whole Earth Catalogs can be seen in the style of blogs and fan web sites. An article billed as the "oral history" of Whole Earth Catalogs just appeared in Plenty magazine. It says:

    How did a publication with just a four-year run help shape a community so prolific that it went on to inspire Google, Craigslist, and the blogosphere; save six American rivers; and shape sustainable business practices as we know them today? Forty years after the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog, this oral history of the publication, as told by those who made it and those who read it, tracks the long-lasting impact of a short-lived journal that altered the course of the world.

    Dept. of Not Enough Pictures

    Keira Knightley's Best Costumed Roles: (Cinematical)

    1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
    This is Keira's ultimate costume movie. As Elizabeth Swann, she gets to look beautiful instead of severe or dumpy, she gets to run around with boys, but best of all, we get the great "corset" scene. Her corset is so tight (even on her -- what -- 20-inch waist?) that she blacks out and falls over the edge of a castle, necessitating her rescue by a dashing hero. That has to the ultimate comment -- and the final word -- on costume movies. (Let's forget the expensive, lifeless sequels, which, besides sitting there and doing nothing, also had the unfortunately ability to suck the soul from the original.)

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Cave In

    Nick Cave: He's writing the score for this fall's The Road. (Soundboard)

    I know you’ve been fascinated in the past with writing the classic love song. Which of your songs has gotten closest to the platonic ideal?

    I think “The Ship Song” is good. I’m always proud to sing that song even though it’s kind of one of those songs you could crank out. It’s simpler than I normally do. There are a lot of them, actually, that I’m very pleased with. I don’t do that sort of thing very much anymore but I spent a lot time trying to achieve a certain kind of emotional power within a classic format. I don’t know whether I achieved it or not but I did the best I could. I’ve decided to move on to other things.

    Demme on Rachel

    The director talks Anne Hathaway, music in films, and much more....(Spout Blog)

    Q: Can you about how you incorporated the music into this, it is so complicated and it sounds like it is environmental that it is part of the scene as well?

    A: Jenny had it in the script, she had written this to me wonderful startling odd thing and now the wedding party begins and Brazilian samba troupe shows up in the backyard of this [inaudible 16:43] home. And that made me think that you know, let’s make this… Their friends can be he is a record producer, of course there would be a bunch of musicians there, and of course it is a house that is permeated with love of music. Their father, Paul, is a music business executive and the artists kind of love him, we can hear that during the toast when Donald Harrison speaks to him. So, we will have lots of instruments around.

I was very excited about the idea of… again with this idea of wanting it to be real, wanting it not only to seem real.

    I was hoping to try to make everything as real as possible. So, well, they’d really be a bunch of musicians and I house a lot of instruments, let’s go for it. 

And I was very excited about the possibility of doing something that I’d sort of wanted to do for a long time, which is the idea of normally what we do is we shoot the movie and than a composer comes in and there’s a composer’s response to what the actors did. And that music gets made and put on top of the movie.

 But, what if the actors you flip it and the actors get to respond to the music that we’re hearing when we watch the picture. The music in the moment.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008


    Brad Anderson's Transsiberian manages to be about something thanks to Emily Mortimer's performance as Jessie, an American journeying home from China after a mission trip who is forced to reconsider her marriage to bland Woody Harrelson after running into a couple of travelers (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara). The movie has all the trappings and pacing of a thriller, including a highly seasoned turn by Ben Kingsley as a Russian narcotics cop, but Anderson has something more personal and unexpectedly dour in mind. Personal reinvention is a familiar subject in movies, but I've rarely seen someone pushed to such lengths just to cling to the life they already have as Jessie is here. Anderson won't give in either; there's still plenty Jessie's husband doesn't know about her when the movie ends. Mortimer uses her expressive eyes to great effect here; sexuality, guilt, excitement, they all flicker through and almost jump off the screen. Mortimer's is one of the best female performances of the year.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Lights, camera....

    NP's first feature-length directorial effort will be a Hebrew-language version of Amos Oz's A Tale Of Love and Darkness. (Variety)

    Richard Wright

    He didn't write this one, but "Wish You Were Here" serves as a fitting tribute to Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. Wright died today at the age of 65. (NY Times)

    Song of the Year?

    ....and this film that we saw was reviled for its flaws/but its flaws were what made us have fun.

    -"Singer Songwriter" Okkervil River

    Maybe not the best song, but certainly the funniest. Their new CD The Stand-Ins is a must-buy if you haven't already. I want to see this band live. (Muzzle of Bees/photo by Ed Oliver)

    Western swing

    A chat with actor/director Ed Harris (Appaloosa). (Wall St. Journal)

    "...moved into greater darkness."

    The deepening sense of futility in DFW's late work. (Salon)

    Perhaps someday we'll be offered an explanation for why David Foster Wallace took his life on Sept. 12, but any reader can see how his fiction had, in recent years, moved into greater darkness. "Infinite Jest," though "sad" in accordance with its author's stated intentions, bubbled with humor and the sort of creative energy that is a kind of hope, the belief that, in the telling, the tale might redeem what is told. The story collection "Oblivion," the last book of fiction Wallace published before his death, shows character after character flailing away at the impossible task of making life endurable. While Don Gately and Hal Incandenza, the heroes (more or less) of the novel "Infinite Jest," fight to stay on the road through the desert, the men and women of "Oblivion" mostly can't manage to convince themselves that such a road exists.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    DFW, pt. 3

    I've read Infinite Jest, the profile of David Lynch, and lots of other David Foster Wallace, but I had never seen this piece on a late '90s Updike novel. (Fimoculous/NY Observer)

    I'd happily be a fourth

    NP and Charlize Theron at the U.S. Open Men's Final. (Gossip Girls)

    DFW, pt.2

    Glenn Kenny recalls a friend and a stand-up colleague. (Some Came Running)

    I, too, was angry, as I had not agreed with how the piece had been, finally, altered, and I was preparing to resign from my position at the magazine. I mentioned this to Dave in one of our several harried exchanges about the situation. I heard from him again soon after that. He told me that, yes, he was furious with Premiere and that, no, he never intended to write for it again, but that he was not angry with me personally and I shouldn't quit on account of the situation; "I think what you do there is good, and you should keep doing it." And that, yes, he and I would continue to be friends.

    And so we did. (I used to joke that had this been any other writer of stature, he would have enthusiastically approved of my quitting, and then stopped returning my calls.)

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    David Foster Wallace

    Writer David Foster Wallace is dead of an apparent suicide at age 46. (LA Times)

    Wallace won a cult following for his dark humor and ironic wit, which was on display in "The Broom of the System," his 1987 debut novel; "Girl with Curious Hair," a 1989 collection of short stories, and "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments" (1997). In 1997, he also received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

    A year earlier he shot to the top of the literary world with "Infinite Jest," a sprawling, ambitious novel with a nonlinear plot that ran 1,079 pages and had nearly as many footnotes. Critics marveled at the prodigious talent evident in his imaginative take on a future world, comparing him to Thomas Pynchon and John Irving.

    In a 1996 profile in New York Times Magazine, Frank Bruni wrote, "Wallace is to literature what Robin Williams or perhaps Jim Carrey is to live comedy: a creator so maniacally energetic and amused with himself that he often follows his riffs out into the stratosphere, where he orbits all alone."

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    What's up

    Posting has been a little light lately because I'm playing Malvolio in a production of Twelfth Night. Also, we're at that stage in the movie year where all the best films are at festivals that no one is paying me to go to. Hang in there. In a way, I'm glad I didn't go to the Toronto Film Festival because I wold have had to watch someone hitting Roger Ebert. (NY Daily News)

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    FCDF follow-up

    Lauren Wissot goes further at HND; in addition to the fact that Wissot is apparently obsessively self-involved her vision of a film industry in thrall to the "moviegoing public" would result in either an infinite number of niche markets to be filled or films so broad and pointless that they might as well not exist. (Which is pretty much what we have now)

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Film Critic Dance Fight (Volume 3)

    Lauren Wissot: Traitor is a badly written cliche fest, and not only that the people I discuss films with in between S/m sessions are just as worthy of good movies as the "cultural elite."

    Glenn Kenny: Wissot can't write, and descriptions of her sexual encounters hide a lack of critical judgment behind identity politics.

    Steven Boone: The idea of a film critic is by definition elitist, and Kenny needs to get laid more. (Kenny engages both Wissot and Boone in the comments)

    The winner: Kenny. Wissot's take on Traitor is simple-minded, and she misses no opportunity to work her completely irrelevant sex life into her work. Boone's post is call to the cinematic proletariat with a large dose of machsimo thrown in.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    "Get him the cow" - Fringe

    Besides bad dancing scenes, there's nothing I like better in movies than scenes in which characters spew scientific gibberish to justify their crazy plans. The new J.J. Abrams series Fringe looks to be a bonanza of such scenes, since Abrams and the rest of the show's braintrust have promised that there will be enough action from week to week so that casual viewers won't feel intimidated about tuning in. That's all very well, but I wish the premise (that privately developed technology is the next great threat to our safety) didn't feel cribbed from something Michael Crichton scribbled on the back of a grocery list. Still, sexy/pouty Anna Torv (as driven FBI agent Olivia Dunham) and the mock gravitas spewed by John Noble, Lance Reddick, and Blair Brown might bring me back for a second week.

    Pack rats rue the day

    The 160GB iPod Classic has been discontinued; the 120 GB model will now be the biggest. (Boing Boing Gadgets)

    Sonic Signs

    Sonic Youth has joined the indie-friendly Matador Records, and the label wants everyone to know...(Matablog)

    For Matador, the opportunity to work in partnership with a group who’ve made such an profound impact on our roster/hometown/collective consciousness was one to jump at. Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley will commence recording the new Sonic Youth LP/CD this autumn and we look forward to sharing further details in the very near future.

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Henry O

    I love this short piece on character actor Henry O, probably the only actor working today who can put "Cultural Revolution Survivor" on his resume. (Boing Boing)

    Michelle Williams

    Long profile of Michelle Williams in yesterday's NYT. Williams has been a busy actress (4 movies) in the past year, including a buzzed-about role in Wendy and Lucy. (NYT)

    Despite her claims of burnout, she still talks about acting with a kind of reverential awe. “I’m a Virgo, and I want everything to be fair and equal and clear, and acting just isn’t,” she said. “It’s kind of an incantation or a rain dance.” She loves the research process but is less thrilled about watching the end results (and often doesn’t). “If only the damned things never came out,” she said. “I get far too self-critical when I watch myself.”

    In an e-mail message a couple of weeks later, Ms. Williams said she had been mulling over the questions that came up in the interview. “I’ve started thinking more clearly, my head hasn’t been so switched on recently,” she wrote. “I’ve always identified with loners and outcasts, I don’t know why. I guess this is why I found a home in independent film.” She added: “I wanted to work outside the system, which is why all this fame is a real brain teaser. What am I supposed to do with it? Can you work the system without it working you?

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    Porn chat!

    Carl Newman of New Pornographers: (Valley Advocate)

    Q: They don't look at you sideways when you tell them the band name?

    A: No, not really. I try to tell them about my solo project first, to try and deflect some of the attention. 'Well, I play as a solo artist, under A.C. Newman.' Most people just don't say anything. Although, when I go into Canada, I get quite a few people, border guards, going, 'Oh, yeah, I've heard of you guys. You guys are doing pretty well.' Then you have the guys who—I remember one guy who was pretty creepy, saying, 'Yeah, I really like the name.' He wasn't a border guard, though; I think he was a guy at the car rental place. We have a New Pornographers Amex card that says 'Carl Newman, New Pornographers Inc.,' so I think that's confusing to people, and kind of embarrassing; and looking back, I wish we hadn't had written it, written those words on our card. Guy's looking at me saying, 'I like the name.' And I'm trying to tell him I'm not a pornographer. I don't make pornos.

    Why indeed?

    Mac McCaughan (Superchunk/Portastatic) answers the question "Why Obama?" (largehearted boy)

    Politics in my adulthood has been a fairly numbing experience. I was first aware of politics when during Watergate my favorite PBS shows in the morning were preempted day after frustrating day. My dad had us stay up to watch Nixon resign. My parents voting for Carter was the first election I clearly remember, and then my teen years were dominated by Reagan. Reagan was good for punk rock but not much else. Democrats in the 80's failed to threaten the falsely-sunny facade of the deregulating Reagan years and while a Clinton win was good (both times), he squandered a lot of his good will with both his sellout moves to the center politically, and of course his dalliances. Of course I voted for the lukewarm and incompetent campaigners Gore and Kerry, but there has never been a politician that I could vote for and also feel emotionally invested in their campaign and how it relates to the future of our country.

    Meta better?

    This may turn out not to be as interesting as anyone thinks it's going to be, but Wired is blogging all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into a forthcoming profile of writer/director Charlie Kaufman. (Synecdoche, New York)

    Laugh at your own risk

    I remember watching Chris Smith's American Movie and not being sure whether I was supposed to laugh. The relationship of the doc's central subject to the rest of his family was particularly troubling. IFC collects assorted links for a discussion of condescension and directorial intent.

    No sleeper holds here

    Good buzz for Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. More here. (Hollywood Reporter/In Contention)

    Master class

    Ebert on how to read a movie:

    Of course you don't simply creep along and talk about what you're looking at. It helps to have a grounding in basic visual strategy. When the Sun-Times appointed me film critic, I hadn't taken a single film course (the University of Illinois didn't offer them in those days). One of the reasons I started teaching was to teach myself. Look at a couple dozen New Wave films, you know more about the New Wave. Same with silent films, documentaries, specific directors.

    I bought some books that were enormously helpful. The most useful was Understanding Movies, by Louis D. Giannetti, then in its first edition, now in its 11th. He introduced me to the concept that visual compositions have "intrinsic weighting." By that I believe he means that certain areas of the available visual space have tendencies to stir emotional or aesthetic reactions. These are not "laws." To "violate" them can be as meaningful as to "follow" them. I have never heard of a director or cinematographer who ever consciously applied them. I suspect that filmmakers compose shots from images that well up emotionally, instinctively or strategically, just as a good pianist never thinks about the notes. It may be that intrinsic weighting is sort of hard-wired. I am not the expert to say. I can observe that I have been through at least 10 Hitchcock films and not found a single shot that doesn't reflect these notions.

    I already knew about the painter's "Golden Mean," or the larger concept of the "golden ratio." For a complete explanation, see Wiki, and also look up the "Rule of Thirds." To reduce the concept to a crude rule of thumb in the composition of a shot in a movie: A person located somewhat to the right of center will seem ideally placed. A person to the right of that position will seem more positive; to the left, more negative. A centered person will seem objectified, like a mug shot. I call that position somewhat to the right of center the "strong axis."

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Axe Facts

    Get the same guitar Jeff Tweedy plays...(Muzzle of Bees)

    Playing around

    Music writer Amanda Petrusich offers a diverse playlist that includes: (Paper Cuts)

    3) White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes. On her NPR blog “Monitor Mix,” Carrie Brownstein – guitarist and vocalist for the monstrous, currently-on-hiatus punk band Sleater-Kinney – declared Fleet Foxes’ live audience “bromantic,” which is a rather delightful way of describing the mooney-eyed crowds of 20something fellas often spotted gazing tenderly at the stage while the band plays. Indeed, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut LP (rightfully) inspires mass reverence, from both genders: “White Winter Hymnal” is one of the loveliest songs I’ve heard all year, a hazy, harmonized ode to snow that manages to nod to the Beach Boys, Gram Parsons and 100 years of acapella sacred-harp singing

    Sufjan Stevens...

    ...is scoring Natalie Portman's directorial debut. (The Playlist)

    The short is evidently about a about a girl (Olivia Thirlby) who finds herself intruding on her grandmother's romantic date, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the film was warmly received "crowd pleaser," though our tipster noted that a boom mike was distinctively visible three times in the short and it was a bit "embarrassing," considering Portman was there in the audience.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    My review of Gossip Girl...

    ..is up over here. (SDD)

    I was writing about One Tree Hill in another context, and I described watching the show six seasons in as being similar to having a conversation with a very good-looking mental patient - you know it doesn't make any sense, but you can't look away. Gossip Girl aired its second season premiere last night, and is the superior show if only because it's funnier. But that's not what you really want to know, is it?

    Wilco/Fleet Foxes - "I Shall Be Released"

    This one's all over the place...(I Am Fuel...)

    "If you're that frightened, you should do it."

    Chris Cooper on choosing roles, and how career and life intersect. (Greencine)

    Q: Is there a role that you passed on, for whatever reason, and then have thought, "I wish I'd taken that role?"

    A: I'm sure there is. [Pause] But on the other hand, the roles in both Adaptation and American Beauty, particularly American Beauty, the more and more I read that script, it seemed so dark that I was really tempted to pass on that. I was sort of afraid of the role and my wife really gave me a great thing to remember. She said, "Well, if you're that frightened, you should do it." And I'm very grateful for that. For Adaptation, I just thought that nobody has ever cast me as a character like that and my chances of getting that role, I thought, were near impossible. But I was so captivated by the character and I saw the character possibility going so may ways.