Friday, March 31, 2006

King Kong (2005)*
A bad idea to begin with, made even worse by very bad directorial decisions. At least half of this picture could have been cut including the entire first hour. Painfully bad script. Just a chore to sit through. Yes, the action scenes with Kong and all the other assorted creatures are very well done but they still don't add up to much. A near total waste of time. It's a shame it made so much money.
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)****
Writer/director/star Miranda July is quite possibly a major talent. This is an original, daring, extremely confident film. I can't wait to see what she does next. A movie about love, loss, loneliness and life.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Up With Grups - The Ascendant Breed of Grown-Ups Who Are Redefining Adulthood -- New York Magazine:
"(d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band..."

I guess that alone makes me a grup. I wouldn't say she is the heart of the band but she certainly kicks them into overdrive when she sings. I've also really wanted to like her solo stuff but even though her singing is in fine form, the songs just don't grab me. Certainly not like Newman's or Bejar's NP compositions.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)**
A well intentioned film, an important film, a film of great ideas and great truths just not an especially entertaining film. George Clooney is still finding himself as a director and it's admirable that he tackles material that is difficult to film and is able to make reasonably decent films out of them. It just doesn't seem like he has found that story that he HAS to tell.
A History of Violence (2005)**
Well-acted and some scenes show a remarkable restraint from David Cronenberg but I just didn't find the overall effect of the film to be all that powerful. It's well-done and makes some good points, but it just wasn't exceptional to me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Chicken Little (2005)*
Thank goodness for the Disney-Pixar merger or we would have had to suffer through a whole series of films like this. It's just very hard to imagine, with all the wonderful fully formed stories out there, how a film like this which costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time and involves a lot of people working very hard can be made. An embarrassment.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)****
A great script, near-perfect performances and tight, concise direction. Funny, sad, real. Brilliant film.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I went to see Belle and Sebastian and The New Pornographers last night at The Concourse at The San Francisco Design Center. While I am a fan of both groups, I was most looking forward to seeing TNP live, especially because of Neko Case who has just this incredible voice that I wanted to hear live. Unfortunately, she is out on tour in support of her new solo album so she wasn't there. Also not there was the #2 songwriter and guitarist Dan Bejar who is on tour with his side project Destroyer. Still, the band came out smoking, running through a blistering set of tunes in rapid fire succession. I wasn't counting but they must have done 12-14 songs in under an hour with nary a glitch in the bunch. They were great, but I was hoping for transcendence which Ms. Case might have provided. Maybe next time.

Belle and Sebastian were good, but they seemed a little road weary to me. In fact both groups had a few too long lulls between groups of songs which brought a complete stop to the flow of the performances. They are nearing the end of the tour so maybe that was it. They also seemed overwhelmed by the size of the soldout crowd, which was probably 7-8 thousand or so, and the size of the venue itself. It's like a hangar with no seating, pillars everywhere and the sound was murky in spots and extremely bass heavy. I'll think twice about going to another concert there...unless Neko shows up!
Asia Times Online : DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA : Interview with Chalmers Johnson : PART 1: Cold warrior in a strange land: "The Soviet Union imploded. I thought: What an incredible vindication for the United States. Now it's over, and the time has come for a real victory dividend, a genuine peace dividend. The question was: Would the US behave as it had in the past when big wars came to an end? We disarmed so rapidly after World War II. Granted, in 1947 we started to rearm very rapidly, but by then our military was farcical. In 1989, what startled me almost more than the Wall coming down was this: As the entire justification for the military-industrial complex, for the Pentagon apparatus, for the fleets around the world, for all our bases came to an end, the United States instantly - pure knee-jerk reaction - began to seek an alternative enemy. Our leaders simply could not contemplate dismantling the apparatus of the Cold War.

That was, I thought, shocking. I was no less shocked that the American public seemed indifferent. And what things they did do were disastrous. George Bush, the father, was president. He instantaneously declared that he was no longer interested in Afghanistan. It's over. What a huge cost we've paid for that, for creating the largest clandestine operation we ever had and then just walking away, so that any Afghan we recruited in the 1980s in the fight against the Soviet Union instantaneously came to see us as the enemy - and started paying us back. The biggest blowback of the lot was, of course, September 11, but there were plenty of them before then."

Interesting interview which also reminds us that the real reason we are not "pulling out" of Iraq is because our bases aren't complete yet. Once they are, the troops will come home...except for those on the 3 permanent bases. This was the true reason for the war, Helen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

President Finally Calls on Helen Thomas, Says He Only Semi-Regrets It
E&P make this sound like some kind of smackdown, but she got to ask ONE question, no follow-up and Bush was able to spout his lies without any confrontation with those pesky facts. There is no dispute that upon winning the election in 2000, his administration began preparing the Iraq invasion. 9/11 to these people was a convenient excuse. We've got the Downing Street memos, numerous eyewitnesses, internal memoranda you name it confirming this. And he still is able to get away with the "9/11 changed everything" bullshit. And this juicy canard also went unchallenged: "And when he [Saddam] chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him." Um, sorry pardner but YOU decided to cease inspections. I don't really know why I blogged this item because these press events are so unbelievably lame they hurt me. The brazen laziness and timidity of the press corps is repulsive.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Am Done With Violence / Enough scenes of horrid brutality, bloodied faces, tire irons to the knee. Can you purge?
"Maybe, deeper down, you can also choose to try and cultivate that seemingly impossible Buddha-blessed, Christlike ideal so completely forgotten by the rabid pseudo-Christians of this country: Forgiveness. Wisdom. Turning the other cheek. Rejecting the Bush-fed all-American kill-'em-all, eye-for-an-eye thug mentality in favor of actual ... I don't know what. Subtlety of mind? Nuance of intellect? Elevation of spirit? I know, it's completely crazy."

Crazy, yes, but necessary.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)***
Breathtaking animation, astounding visuals one right after the other. 2 hours of imaginative and beautifully composed scenes. Yet the story is so convoluted and it is so busy with characters and plots and sub-plots, that the overall effect is less than the sum of its parts. Still, very worthwhile if only for the beautiful images Miyazaki has once more prepared for us.
Commentary - The Beatles Now: "It is, I suspect, no accident that after 1970, none of the four Beatles would write any songs or make any recordings comparable in quality to the ones they made as a group. Together, their musical limitations had been offset by the creative synergy of their collaboration (as well as by the discreet guidance of George Martin, their producer-mentor). When they began to work independently, the limitations overwhelmed them, and they spent the rest of their lives struggling in vain to rival the achievements of their youth."

I don't know about you, but I could make an awesome 5 CD boxed set of post-breakup Beatles songs and each one would be comparable in quality to songs in the Beatles' work. I also don't think their "musical limitations" (!) got the better of them individually. If anything, the LACK of limitation meant that a number of lesser material made its way into their work that otherwise would not have. And isn't it unfair to compare the Beatles individually to The Beatles as a group? Let's compare them to everyone else and they stand up quite respectably as individuals.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)***
Enjoyable adventure continuing the story of a young wizard's education. I don't think it reaches the heights of the previous film in the series, but it does all right. Certainly preferable to this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The New York Review of Books: The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It:
"We're talking about large cost savings. Indeed, the available evidence suggests that if the United States were to replace its current complex mix of health insurance systems with standardized, universal coverage, the savings would be so large that we could cover all those currently uninsured, yet end up spending less overall. That's what happened in Taiwan, which adopted a single-payer system in 1995: the percentage of the population with health insurance soared from 57 percent to 97 percent, yet health care costs actually grew more slowly than one would have predicted from trends before the change in system."

I believe the "tipping point" for this to happen is fast approaching because General Motors needs this. The only problems, and they're big ones, are the AMA and the insurance lobby. If enough momentum can be achieved politically, a long shot I know, they may be overcome.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush pays surprise first visit to Afghanistan - Yahoo! News
These people have absolutely no shame. W, Rummy, Dick, Condi, they all have to make these "surprise" visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. If things are going so well, why the secrecy? What are they afraid of?