Thursday, December 22, 2011

We have to do better on inequality -
"Why has the top 1 per cent of the population done so well relative to the rest? The answer probably lies substantially in changing technology and globalisation. When George Eastman revolutionised photography, he did very well and, because he needed a large number of Americans to carry out his vision, the city of Rochester had a thriving middle class for two generations. By contrast, when Steve Jobs revolutionised personal computing, he and the shareholders in Apple (who are spread all over the world) did very well but a much smaller benefit flowed to middle-class American workers both because production was outsourced and because the production of computers and software was not terribly labour intensive."

This was written by Lawrence Summers. Either he is incompetent, or he is trying to delude us. Either way he is an idiot.

via @bittman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Bishop's Wife (1947)**
Bizarre theology, even by Hollywood standards, and the original casting with Grant in the role of the bishop might have worked better. It just seems like it is all cobbled together just so we can have a tearful "I must go" scene. A Christmas perennial although the holiday has nothing at all to do with the story.
Duck Soup (1933)****
The Marx Brothers' best film. Consistently funny, briskly paced, wonderfully silly.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Obama and Geithner: Government, Enron-Style | Rolling Stone:
"In other words, Geithner and Obama are behaving like Lehman executives before the crash of Lehman, not disclosing the full extent of the internal problem in order to keep investors from fleeing and creditors from calling in their chits. It’s worth noting that this kind of behavior – knowingly hiding the derogatory truth from the outside world in order to prevent a run on the bank – is, itself, fraud!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

No War Crimes Trial for Bush/Cheney, While Chirac Convicted on minor Fraud | Informed Comment:
"Ironically, Chirac was the princpled one here. He opposed the Iraq War and castigated Bush for speaking of a ‘war on terror.’ He quite reasonably said that terrorism (with which the French had a great deal of experience) is a police matter. Bush militarized our heritage of democracy rooted in 1776, whereas Chirac declined to do that to his heritage, of 1789.
"The French don’t put their former presidents on a pedestal, beyond the reach of accountability, the way cult-of-personality prone Americans do."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

John Lennon: "I was sick of White Christmas" | Music |
"Then there's a song he and the Plastic Ono Band will be recording that very night, for their Christmas single. It's called Happy Christmas (War Is Over), and he says that when he first played it to Spector, the producer said that the first line is a direct crib from the Paris Sisters' I Love How You Love Me, which Phil produced back in the pre-Crystals days.

"'I like quoting from old songs,'" John says, "'but you get into such trouble with copyrights. It's a drag.'"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Scrooge (1951)**
Alastair Sim is fine as the iconic miser but the film is too heavy handed and boasts the tallest and healthiest looking Tiny Tim of any version of the oft-told tale.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Empire of the Sun (1987)**
Earnest, uneven account of a boy enduring a Japanese internment camp of British exiles in China during the end of WWII. First and last half hours are terrific, entire middle is sluggish and too long. Spielberg still can't lay off the overbearing music cues either.
Melancholia (2011)**
Wants to be a fable, but it is filmed with such realism and cinema-verité that you're never quite sure what the director is going for. Still, the opening montage is stunning, and if you have to watch the Earth be destroyed, you could do far worse than this group of actors. Pluses for originality and chutzpah.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Bernie Bytes: 5 takes on Pujols, Marlins:
"Sure, he could take the Cardinals' money even if the offer is inferior to Miami's. It's still a lot of money. And he could live happily ever after. But I'll repeat: Pujols is under no obligation to do that. This is his chance to determine his future on his terms. Sure, he has said he wanted to be a Cardinal for life. Sure, he has said he wanted to be like Musial. Sure, he has said that winning is the top priority. A move to Miami would obviously contradict all of those declarations."

It's always the player who is the bad guy. Miklasz pays lip service to Mr. Pujols saying he is not under "obligation" to sign with the Cardinals low-ball offer. But then in a thinly disguised way castigates him for not being Stan Musial. Mr. Musial was incredibly underpaid as a performer and never even had the opportunity to be a free agent so the comparison is ridiculous and erroneous. These sports romantics are always comparing current players' situations to those in the past but there can be no comparison. Yes Musial played his whole career with the Cardinals. HE HAD TO! Unless he was traded or cut by the owner, who of course would have been "obligated" to do so by the player's poor performance. Give me a break. I hope Mr. Pujols moves on from St. Louis. The smugness is getting even thicker than normal there.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Evolved Self-management System | Edge:
"So now, where does the placebo effect fit in? Placebos work because they suggest to people that the picture is rosier than it really is. Just like the artificial summer light cycle for the hamster, placebos give people fake information that it's safe to cure them. Whereupon they do just that.

"This suggests we should see the placebo effect as part of a much larger picture of homeostasis and bodily self-control. But now I'm ready to expand on this much further still. If this is the way humans and animals manage their physical health, there must surely be a similar story to be told about mental health. And if mental health, then—at least with humans—it should apply topersonality and character as well. So I've come round to the idea that humans have in fact evolved a full-blown self management system, with the job of managing all their psychological resources put together, so as to optimise the persona they present to the world."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Muppets (2011)*
Huge step down for the Muppets. Not funny, not original, and the tone is one of contempt for the audience. Even little tots will be affronted.
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)***
How a romantic comedy is to be made. Take great actors, cast them well, construct a believable, interesting story, set it in a place and culture seldom scene on film and direct with style and wit. Treads close to the mawkish at times (hard to believe Scots are ALWAYS loving and kind to everyone) but chooses to remain bound to the real.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mad Love (1935)***
Peter Lorre is sensational as the mad doctor and Karl Freund's direction is stylish and evocative. Only sore spots are Colin Clive and Ted Healy. Unfortunately they are in lead roles.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Timeline of a mass extinction - MIT News Office:
“'The rate of injection of CO2 into the late Permian system is probably similar to the anthropogenic rate of injection of CO2 now,' Rothman says. 'It’s just that it went on for … 10,000 years.

"Rothman says the total amount of CO2 pumped into Earth over this time period was so immense that it’s not immediately clear where it all came from.

"'It’s just not easy to imagine,' Rothman says. 'Even if you put all the world’s known coal deposits on top of a volcano, you still wouldn’t come close. So something unusual was going on.'”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mimicking the brain, in silicon - MIT News Office:
"The MIT researchers plan to use their chip to build systems to model specific neural functions, such as the visual processing system. Such systems could be much faster than digital computers. Even on high-capacity computer systems, it takes hours or days to simulate a simple brain circuit. With the analog chip system, the simulation is even faster than the biological system itself.

"Another potential application is building chips that can interface with biological systems. This could be useful in enabling communication between neural prosthetic devices such as artificial retinas and the brain. Further down the road, these chips could also become building blocks for artificial intelligence devices, Poon says."

Go ahead, cling to your mind is more than the brain beliefs. You'll be able to argue about it with your robot soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Out of the Past (1947)***
Archetypal noir given something extra by the nascent star power of Mitchum and Douglas. Might seem cliched now, and some of the dialogue is a bit too cute but in its time this was thrilling.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Shootist (1976)**
The Duke is fine, but the direction is 3rd rate, the supporting cast, except for Stewart and Bacall, is laughable, the writing is of the most cliched variety. Wayne's final film.
Penn State sex scandal engulfing revered Paterno:
"Sandusky was described by Keith 'Kip' Richeal, co-author of his autobiography 'Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story,' as a loving father of six adopted children.

'I hope to God it's not true because I admire the man very much,' Richeal said. 'All I saw was Jerry was kind to kids of all ages, including the students he dealt with.'"

Jesus H. Christ! There are enough alarm bells in just those few sentences to alert a one-eyed deaf monkey to potential abuse. Paterno et al need to be up on criminal charges. At some point, as a nation, as a society, we have to get back to EVERYONE being held accountable. Not just people on the lowest economic strata of society, but everyone.

Six adopted children. Loves to hang around kids. His fucking autobiography is called "Touched" for crying out loud.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Sleeper (1973)**
More silly than funny as Woody Allen resorts to goofy sight gags too often. Not one of the better Allen comedies.
The Ghost Train (1941)**
Enjoyable comedy thriller from wartime England. Rather bland direction overcome by a good cast.
Neuroscience And Justice Edge Master Class 2011 | Conversation | Edge:
"We have this thing over here, in the left side, that we've called the interpreter. It's not in the right hemisphere, you can't get the right hemisphere to do this kind of thing. The interpreter is just weaving the story, the narrative that makes sense out of these modules that are constantly bombarding us with information, with actual behaviors, with felt states, with everything. We've got to tell a story about what's going on and that's what we think this narrative function does."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Nutty Professor (1963)**
Silly riff on the Jekyll-Hyde legend is nonetheless a showcase for director Jerry Lewis' distinctive visual style, excellently rendered by his frequent cinematographer W. Wallace Kelley. Beautiful looking film.
The Men Behind The War On Women:
"When asked about the dissonance among Catholics and the leadership on abortion and contraception issues, Bishop Lori said that divisions were beside the point.

'It's not for a government to exploit fault lines within religious institutions,' he said. 'We recognize that not everybody shares that teaching; nevertheless, it is a fundamental right for the church to stand by their convictions.'"

Just as in the priest child rape cases, these bishops declare their religious liberty is at stake if they are not allowed to be above the law. This is an extremely disturbing and disgusting group of men.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)**
I suppose in its time this was a daring and risqué film depicting Satan worshiping 12th century Italian 1%ers engaging in depraved, immoral acts. But today it seems rather naïve and quite tame. Still, Corman's use of color and the lovely cinematography of Nicolas Roeg are worth a peek.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

David Lynch: mild at heart - Telegraph:
"In fact, film criticism aside, the harshest thing anybody has had to say about him was when ex-girlfriend Isabella Rossellini blamed their painful break-up on Lynch’s unreasonable hatred of 'cooking smells' in the house."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Body Snatcher (1945)**
Early Robert Wise picture about the procuring of cadavers (against their will) for medical research in mid 19th century Scotland and the moral toll it exacted on those involved. Nicely done with a creepy and believable Karloff the high point.
The Book Bench: Is Self-Knowledge Overrated? : The New Yorker:
"Nevertheless, there is a subtle optimism lurking in all of Kahneman’s work: it is the hope that self-awareness is a form of salvation, that if we know about our mental mistakes, we can avoid them. One day, we will learn to equally weigh losses and gains; science can help us escape from the cycle of human error. As Kahneman and Tversky noted in the final sentence of their classic 1974 paper, “A better understanding of these heuristics and of the biases to which they lead could improve judgments and decisions in situations of uncertainty.” Unfortunately, such hopes appear to be unfounded. Self-knowledge isn’t a cure for irrationality; even when we know why we stumble, we still find a way to fall."
O Lucky Man! (1973)**
It's tough to buy Malcolm McDowell as a naive Candide and episodic films are extremely difficult to pull off especially when they run to 3+ hours. Well made, well intentioned failure.
House of Usher (1960)**
Lush and atmospheric, but a threadbare story line doesn't expand to feature length well. Yawn.
OWS's Beef: Wall Street Isn't Winning It's Cheating | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone:
"That's why it's so obnoxious when people say the protesters are just sore losers who are jealous of these smart guys in suits who beat them at the game of life. This isn't disappointment at having lost. It's anger because those other guys didn't really win, and people now want the score overturned."

The misunderstanding about the protests also has the stench of the "we're the smartest guys in the room these plebes can't possibly understand us" mentality that the 1%-ers carry. That's also reflected in the infuriating copy the financial "journalists" foist upon us, the whole "it's just too complex to explain" lie.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Michael Clayton (2007)**
The film is shot very darkly and may have been better off in black and white since it's essentially a noir with a script intent on keeping viewers confused all the way beyond the ending.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wild Things (1998)**
Sexy neo-noir boasts a fine cast and pretty location scenery, but when it gets to the fifth double-cross, and that's early in the picture, you stop caring about what happens.
The Thing (1982)***
Terrific gross-out monster movie that takes itself seriously. But not TOO seriously. Good fun.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)***
Bold, inventive, confounding film by first (and only) time director Charles Laughton. Robert Mitchum gives a no holds barred performance in a career destroying role for any other star. Weird at times, silly at times, but always interesting. It's a shame Laughton never directed another picture. Very influential film.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Terror (1963)**
Spooky "thriller" from legend Roger Corman. The cast keeps it moving.
Murder by Decree (1979)**
A truly top-notch cast, but appalling script and direction as well as shoddy production values. Not a good Holmes film.
Did Fannie Cause the Disaster? by Jeff Madrick and Frank Partnoy | The New York Review of Books:
"In particular, the authors accuse two quasi-public but profit-making companies, Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), of adding risks to the mortgage markets that resulted in disaster. Much the same criticism has been made by Peter Wallison, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, who wrote an angry dissent to the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), which was appointed by Congress to investigate the causes of the crash.1 Contrary to Wallison, the nine other members of the commission, including three others appointed by Republicans, concluded that Fannie and Freddie were not the main causes of the crisis.

"Along with many other experts, the nine members pointed to considerable evidence that, despite large losses, these government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), as they are known, bought or guaranteed too few highly risky loans, and did so too late in the 2000s, to cause the crisis. But in their new book, Reckless Endangerment, the New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson and mortgage securities analyst Joshua Rosner try to revive the issue of their responsibility."

This is a frequent occurrence: make an assertion, the assertion is proved wrong, write a book reiterating the assertion. This is how "history" and "the facts" are made.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Director drama heats up on "Dredd" -
"EXCLUSIVE: It's not often that a director of a major action film is asked to step aside as the movie enters its postproduction phase. But that's what has happened with director Pete Travis and 'Dredd,' the remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle 'Judge Dredd,' casting a pall over the anticipated reboot."

Wait a minute. "Judge Dredd" reboot? Has our culture just STOPPED? Have we completely run out of ideas?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Secret panel can put Americans on kill list | Reuters:
"Some details about how the administration went about targeting Awlaki emerged on Tuesday when the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, was asked by reporters about the killing.

"The process involves 'going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president, but the National Security Council does the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the situation, you have input from the military, and also, we make sure that we follow international law,' Ruppersberger said."

Oh they have lawyers? Well ok then. Thank goodness they're following international law. At least there is some accountability then, right? Oh did I say "accountability"? Forgot that word doesn't exist any more.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Omen (1976)**
Gregory Peck lends more gravitas to this flick than it deserves. It's well photographed, just a bit too silly to be truly frightening. Intrusive score doesn't help.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)**
Clunky remake of the classic sci-fi thriller tries for a slightly more political angle by placing the main action in San Francisco (liberals can be conformists too!). Interesting time capsule of mid-70's SF.
Walk the Line (2005)**
Bio-pic about the early years of Johnny Cash but the only reason the film exists is because of Cash's popularity. There's nothing bigger going on and the lead performances are not compelling enough.
The Exterminating Angels (2006)*
Now I enjoy watching young French actresses masturbate as much as the next guy, maybe even more than the next guy, but even that has its limits. This "film" exceeds that by an order of magnitude. And THEN it gets silly!
Secret Things (2002)**
Nice soft-porn-ish French "thriller" about 2 young women using their, uh, "feminine wiles" to succeed at business. Too bad the company that hires them is run by Satan himself. Or something close.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Memento mori, Tom:

Our life in this world — to what shall I compare it? It is like a boat rowing out at dawn, leaving no trace behind.

-- Sami Mansei
Under Pressure: Pushing Ahead of the Dame:
“'Under Pressure' is a day’s indulgence by two men past their prime, who were entering a decade that would reward and diminish them; Mercury had only a decade more to live. So there’s a sadness along with the bravado, a sense of loss to go with the heroics. Something is going away, going away for good, and Bowie and Mercury see it, if only in shadows. Anthony Miccio once called 'Under Pressure' 'the best song of all time,' and there are a few days when I think he was right."

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Grifters (1990)***
Very nicely done neo-noir about a trio of cons trying to outdo each other. Enjoyed it despite the presence of John Cusack.
Jaws (1975)***
One of Spielberg's more restrained directing jobs believe it or not. Interesting screenplay is like 2 movies in 1.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)**
If I had seen this film at the time of its release, I would have probably given it 4 stars. But I saw it for the first time 92 years later and it just doesn't hold up. It does a lot cinematically but also for a silent it is very "talky" in that there are a lot of intertitles much of them unnecessary.
The Innocents (1961)**
Deborah Kerr was never lovelier, and the black and white cinematography is very good, but the film only hints at the possibilities in the story and ends up ho-hum.
The Time Machine (2002)*
If you like special effects, you might enjoy this. If you like a coherent story though...
Volver (2006)***
Penelope Cruz shines in this comedy-drama about mothers and daughters and village life in Spain.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis : We should give Israel our veto in the UNSC:
"We are told by the US Government that we will veto the application because we love peace and that UN membership for the Palestinians would be an obstacle to peace. Such pronouncements reduce the American citizeny to the status of mushrooms, a rabble to be kept in the dark and fed horseshit. The truth is that our Israeli masters fear and hate the Palestinians as tribal enemies and do not intend to ever deal fairly with them. All else is lies and mirrors."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The 2 Billion UBS Incident: "Rogue Trader" My Ass | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone:
"Nonetheless, thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed in 1998 with the help of Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Phil Gramm and a host of other short-sighted politicians, we now have a situation where trillions in federally-insured commercial bank deposits have been wedded at the end of a shotgun to exactly such career investment bankers from places like Salomon Brothers (now part of Citi), Merrill Lynch (Bank of America), Bear Stearns (Chase), and so on.

"These marriages have been a disaster. The influx of i-banking types into the once-boring worlds of commercial bank accounts, home mortgages, and consumer credit has helped turn every part of the financial universe into a casino. That’s why I can’t stand the term 'rogue trader,' which is always tossed out there when some investment-banker asshole loses a billion dollars betting with someone else’s money."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Post: Obama Team Feared Revolt If He Prosecuted War Crimes : naked capitalism:
"The process raises a question to anyone who relies on our best-known national news-gathering organizations for political information: Why does a story of this scope arise almost by happenstance more than 2 1/2 years after decision-making by Obama’s top advisers? Whatever the case on that, let’s examine the political implications. Edley’s rationale implies that Obama and his team fear the military/national security forces that he is supposed be commanding.

"It suggests also that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even though voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan: "We Did Exactly What Al-Qaida Wanted Us to Do" - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International:
"SPIEGEL: As you explain in your book, you are convinced that 9/11 might have been stopped if there had not been the so-called "Chinese wall" between the CIA and the FBI.

"Soufan: We always worked together. We worked together during the East Africa embassy bombing. We had a great relationship. But suddenly that wall appeared due also to the misunderstanding of new guidelines organizing the relationship of intelligence and law enforcement. Unfortunately that directly contributed to the lack of knowledge about 9/11. We had actionable intelligence we transferred to the CIA but there was no follow-up.

"SPIEGEL: What kind of information was that?

"Soufan: We were investigating the Cole incident in Yemen. And we had a person who participated in blowing up the ship -- killing 17 sailors, injuring 39 -- tell us he delivered money to a main al-Qaida guy. So people who were involved in the Cole incident delivered money to two people who later flew a plane into the Pentagon. People in our government knew that these two people were in the United States, in San Diego. So, when you're doing an investigation and almost a year before you know about people moving and money and meetings, I think you have to understand that there are some limits to the wall. We had the lead, the CIA knew the identity of the two in San Diego but they did not put them on a no-fly list, they did not communicate their names to the State Department so that their visa would not be renewed."

I don't understand how "We had actionable intelligence we transferred to the CIA but there was no follow-up" is somehow evidence that the "wall" between the FBI and CIA prevented us from stopping the attacks. Apparently all you need to do to breach this impregnable wall is "transfer" the information you have to the other agency. Sounds to me like the problem was not that the FBI couldn't get information to the CIA, it was the fact that the CIA was incompetent.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will : Nature News:
"The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided. As humans, we like to think that our decisions are under our conscious control — that we have free will. Philosophers have debated that concept for centuries, and now Haynes and other experimental neuroscientists are raising a new challenge. They argue that consciousness of a decision may be a mere biochemical afterthought, with no influence whatsoever on a person's actions. According to this logic, they say, free will is an illusion. 'We feel we choose, but we don't,' says Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London."

Why say a "mere biochemical afterthought"? All thoughts are biochemical.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Last Tango in Paris (1972)**
Maria Schneider is beautiful and Brando does his thing but it doesn't add up to much of a movie. Disappointing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Changeling (1980)***
Nicely done, contemporary ghost story with George C. Scott and wife Trish Van Devere.
A Good Year (2006)*
Ridley Scott manages to take Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard and gorgeous Provence locations and comes up with a film that is not only bad, but insultingly so. If he would have just let the actors sit around the lovely estate used for the film and have a party it would have been a thousand times better.
The Haunting (1963)****
Still can bring the chills. Superbly directed by Robert Wise.
M (1931)****
Way ahead of its time and the best film Fritz Lang ever made. Great visuals, use of sound/silence, bizarre story.
All Through the Night (1941)**
Comedy-thriller about Nazi espionage in NYC tries hard but comes up short. Bogey is fine but the script is sub-par. Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers in early supporting bits.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Too Late the Hero (1970)**
Well played WWII Pacific actioner (particularly Ian Bannen) with a British patrol at war with each other at least as much with the Japanese. Lots of anti-heroes, a bit too talky, and a bit too in-your-face with the Vietnam allusions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Robin Hood (2010)*
Preposterous 'prequel' to the legend we all know directed in lazy fashion by Ridley Scott. A waste of a good cast and tons of money. It's essentially a bad comic book movie.
Monkey Business (1931)***
Fine effort from the zany Marx Brothers with more laughs than yawns.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)****
Watched this again recently and was struck by how quickly it moved. Perhaps because I can now see and enjoy the immense detail in nearly every shot not having to worry what it is "about" or narrative points. And there definitely IS a narrative here. One of the finest films ever made. Still.
Red River (1948)**
A very good cast, John Wayne in an unconventional role, Montgomery Clift's debut (before he became a stiff 'method' actor) but the film is way too long and the ending completely destroys any credibility it built up over its 2 hours and 10 minutes running time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)**
The 8th and final installment in the Potter series sees the creaking plot come to a fitful end. Lots of wizardly wand-play and pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo and some nifty special effects. Not much time for character interaction or introspection.
State of Play (2009)***
Slick, well-made political thriller, a bit on the naive side, that amazingly builds to a particular, truthful conclusion about military private contractors, then in the last 10 minutes completely obfuscates that conclusion and offers something petty in its place. Very unsatisfying. Solid, professional performance by Russell Crowe.
Libeled Lady (1936)**
A first rate cast but a crazy convoluted plot, even for a "screwball" comedy, and a dearth of laughs make for a mostly pleasant but unsatisfying flick. It was thought hilarious at the time and was nominated for Best Picture so YMMV.
Go West (1940)***
Marx Brothers movies are always a mixed bag, but this bag contains more gems than rocks. Classic train chase sequence for the finale.
Panetta: Bigger defense cuts would be devastating - Yahoo! News:
"Panetta was asked about news reports that the Pentagon is considering reducing military retirement benefits, which, along with military health costs, have ballooned in recent years."

I used to have a bit of respect for Panetta since he seemed like one of the view principled members of Clinton's cabinet. Now I know he was just a great actor. This kind of statement is absurd. Either he is lying because he is afraid of the generals, or he is just plain stupid. I suspect a bit of both. The Pentagon is notorious for being profligate with money and doesn't even pretend any more to have an accounting system. And nobody seems to care. But to try to scare people needlessly and then to top it all off, to say "Well if we have to cut, it's gonna have to come from the personnel" is despicable. To all my military friends out there, NOBODY wants to reduce in any way the pay or compensation for military personnel both active and former. On the contrary, they need to have their benefits increased at the very least. But there are billions of dollars to be had in cutting the defense AND state departments. And despite Panetta's deplorable bleatings, the security and efficiency of both departments, and our national security, can be enhanced at a much cheaper cost.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pregnant Pacifica woman killed by family pit bull:
"Residents and visitors to the quiet block struggled to make sense of what had occurred. 'They are not barking dogs. They seemed friendly,' Carlson said of the two pit bulls owned by the Naporas. 'I have a pit also, and he's an absolute angel. It's just really sad.'"

It's like having a loaded revolver with the hammer cocked pointed right at you. It may never go off, but do you really need to be in that situation? And here's the thing: there is nothing, NOTHING that breed gives you that other much less volatile breeds don't. Except that sense of danger. Anyone who owns one of these things is an idiot. Yes that goes for this person too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Invasion (2007)**
Well made thriller that doesn't have the guts to stick with the uncompromising source material and opts for the Hollywood ending. Proves Nicole Kidman can still carry a picture all by herself.
Bill Murray | The Talks:
"I feel that pressure in life. Actually I don’t feel like it’s a pressure, it’s sort of an obligation – not to entertain and be funny but to have a certain levity. I don’t mean in terms of just being jocular, I mean that there’s got to be a lightness in your way. There has to be a lightness; you have to be as light as you can be and not get weighed down and stuck in your emotion, stuck in your body, stuck in your head. You just want to always be trying to elevate somehow."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

3:10 to Yuma (2007)*
Wildly implausible and illogical Western trying to be about fatherhood, manhood and honor. Silly.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Book of Eli (2010)*
Exceptionally harsh film that revels in violence and bleak despair for nearly 2 hours and tries to absolve its own sins in the last 10 minutes. The look of the film (harsh light, lots of greys, browns, lots of characters in silhouettes for long periods) is hard to take. Amateurish direction.
Black Snake Moan (2006)***
Nifty little character study of an old bluesman trying to change his life. And if that involves chaining a half-naked Christina Ricci to a radiator for half the picture all the better!
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)**
Edward G. Robinson tries awfully hard, but he is badly miscast as a genius physician out to discover the physical causes of criminality. Ostensibly a black comedy, it's not very funny nor believable.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Legislation That Could Kill Internet Privacy for Good - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic:
"Tracking the private daily behavior of everyone in order to help catch a small number of child criminals is itself the noxious practice of police states. Said an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation: 'The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American.' Even more troubling is what the government would need to do in order to access this trove of private information: ask for it."

Friday, July 29, 2011

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)****
A more forthright depiction of human sexuality in a serious motion picture you are unlikely to see. Once that novelty wears off (early in the picture), you are left with an intense depiction of 2 people trying to remove themselves from the world via sex. Beautifully shot and acted.
The Tree of Life (2011)****
It's original, expertly crafted, ambitious, thoughtful. Terrence Malick continues to create a unique cinematic language that tries to film how humans experience life. Seems to be all in the head of the Sean Penn character as he struggles with ennui and disillusionment. Oh and there are dinosaurs too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Michel Gondry | The Talks:
"He forced me to go see Kill Bill Vol. 2 and I walked out of it, just like every time I go and see a movie by Quentin, besides Pulp Fiction – I finished that one. But all the others are too mean for me. I mean, he is a brilliant director, much more skilled than me. You see great performances, great images. Everything is great, only the message is dangerous. It’s all revenge and vengeance, about being mean and cynical. I would almost say that these movies are not made for my son, but it is exactly those movies that young people love. Even if they are too young they just sneak into it."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Potiche (2010)**
Earns its two stars only because of the iconic French actors Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. It's not funny, it's not memorable otherwise.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Macbeth (TV 1961)**
Apparently produced with a budget of $163 Canadian, what we're left with are the actors and the words. Even in this 85 minute, condensed form the words are marvelous and the actors are not bad. Sean Connery's brogue is appropriate for once and he does a good job as the lead. Quite rushed and stagey.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Statement on the Gang of Six Plan | Press Releases:
"'It is striking that the Gang of Six chose to respond to the crisis created by the collapse of the housing bubble by developing a plan that will give even more money to top Wall Street executives and traders. By contrast, the European Union is considering imposing financial speculation taxes to reduce the power of the financial industry and raise more than $40 billion a year in revenue.

'The plan calls for substantial cuts elsewhere in the budget which are likely to cut into the incomes of large segments of the population, especially the sick and the elderly. The cuts it proposes to the military are just over 1.0 percent of projected spending over the next decade."

This is the plan Obama calls "a balanced approach". Jesus.
Miranda July, The Make-Believer -
"But when she showed me the construction-paper card, holding it very carefully, she was clearly touched by this man’s love for his wife. With her film, she’s trying to understand and excavate something of that love. There was no fetishizing of the oddball, no crippling nostalgia, no lack of gravitas, either in that desire or in its result.

Maybe not everyone will believe this about her. I asked her what, if anything, she would like to say to those people. “I would just say I’m totally not kidding,” she said. “Life is too short. This is all too hard to do to actually be kidding about the whole thing.”"

via @ebertchicago

Monday, July 18, 2011

Synecdoche, New York (2008)****
One of the finest films ever made, builds to an unrelenting crescendo of regret, loss, despair and death. Must be seen more than once to appreciate due to it's unconventional "story".
Timecrimes (2007)****
Nifty time travel pic shows that imagination and talent trumps heavy handed special effects, focus-grouped, muddled scripts and star-driven action movies every time. Keeps you thinking and involved the whole way.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Shining (1980)****
Tremendous production design propels this beautifully shot ghost story. Kubrick tinkered with King's novel, making the supernatural elements much more subtle, but it's still pretty obvious that Jack had a lot of help in his descent into madness.
Is David Brooks Really Clueless About the Inefficiency of the U.S. Health Care System? | Beat the Press:
"This means that Brooks' discussion of our willingness to die when life loses its joys is beside the point. The choices around the end of life are important and difficult, but that is not our health care cost problem. Our health care cost problem is the cesspool [of] corruption that we rely upon for our health care."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stardust Memories (1980)****
Fantasy and reality are indistinguishable (mostly) in one of Woody Allen's best and most imaginative films. It's funny, but it's mainly very serious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Greed, Excess and America's Gaping Class Divide | Taibblog :
"They'd be right, were it not for the relative comparison -- for the fact that out there, in that thin little ithsmus between the Upper East Side and Beverly Hills, things are so fucked that public school teachers and garbagemen making $60k with benefits are being targeted with pitchfork-bearing mobs as paragons of greed and excess. Wealth, in places outside Manhattan, southern California, northern Virginia and a few other locales, is rapidly becoming defined as belonging to anyone who has any form of job security at all. Any kind of retirement plan, or better-than-minimum health coverage, is also increasingly looked at as an upper-class affectation."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Full Metal Jacket (1987)****
How humans are built to adapt to madness. "I am in a world of shit, but I am alive. And I am not afraid."
Man's penis cut off, put through garbage disposal - Yahoo! News
"He was conscious when his penis was removed," Nightengale said."

Hell hath no fury...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The King of Comedy (1982)****
First of all, this is NOT a comedy. It is a harrowing, annoying, irritating exploration or annoying, irritating, crazy people obsessed over celebrities. Great performances, great casting, some absolutely perfect scenes makes this one of Scorsese's best. Not necessarily an "enjoyable" film, but very admirable.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Interview: Donald Sutherland for The Mechanic | The Hollywood News:
"Thats exactly what it was like and we staggered out of the room 3 hours later and you thought maybe you would never have sex again for the rest of your life (laughs). It was devastating but he cut it together in little sections of what appears to be you know conjugal relationships of married people who have lost a child.
They cut it together with no sound no ‘oooahhh’ none of that. Oh I don’t even know what it sounds like anymore-I’ve forgotten. And then the footage of getting dressed and this wonderful music. And what it did was-you don’t remember us making love, what you do when you see that movie is you remember yourself having made love. It’s not voyeuristic-and thats why it stays in peoples hearts. And now, I have a son named Roeg, which really is brilliant."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Research find new way to measure penis length -
"Penis length cannot be determined by how big his hands or feet are -- those and other supposed indicators have been widely discredited for years. But now a team of Korean researchers has produced what may be a more reliable guide: the ratio of the length of his index finger to that of his ring finger. The lower that ratio, the longer the penis may be, the researchers wrote Monday in the Asian Journal of Andrology."

Apparently the author of this piece did not consult any women about the significance of this, because to most women it is width that is more important than length. (At least that is how I am able to make it through each day.)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Klute (1971)***
It's called "Klute" but it's really about Bree Daniel and also very much about the time in which it is set. Not much of a thriller, but the actors are very good and the photography and casting are top notch.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

After Hours (1985)****
A combination New York office drone nightmare about the bad things that can happen "downtown" and an adult riff on The Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland. Any way you look at it, it is entertaining, interesting and filmed with the standard Scorsese visual flair.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The real causes of the economic crisis? They’re history. - The Washington Post:
"The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission detailed the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008. The accuracy and facts of the commission’s investigative report have gone unchallenged since its release in January.

So, how do you revise the historical narrative when the evidence of what led to economic catastrophe is so overwhelming and the events at issue so recent? You and your political allies just do it. And you bet on the old axiom that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can tie its shoes."

See the previous post about Clarence Thomas. NOTHING will happen. So read the article, remember it, try to tell the kids how it all happened, but don't expect any justice. Don't expect any accountability. Don't expect any change. You and your families' lives were just fucked over and there is nothing you can do about it.
John Dean: John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas:
"There is also the reality that as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives there will never be an impeachment of Thomas. Should Democrats regain control of the House, well, Democrats don’t play hardball. In short, nothing is going to happen to Clarence Thomas. No one is going to truly challenge his conduct, and he will sit on the Supreme Court until he feels like leaving."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dead Man (1995)**
Director Jim Jarmusch commits the ultimate movie sin: boredom! Leisurely paced to say the least, but the scenes are just not interesting enough to hold your attention. Maybe it all makes sense but if it does it is SO subtle that you have to do the director's work for him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Red Rock West (1993)**
So-so noir, a little too similar to Blood Simple.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ana Mandara Restaurant ***
This is NOT a "Vietnamese" restaurant in the normal sense. It is a "fine dining" establishment in a touristy part of San Francisco. Despite that, the food I had (fried lobster ravioli appetizer, tournedos of filet mignon and scallops with black rice) was superb. It is priced well beyond my normal range so I doubt I will ever return, but if you have the cash, and the inclination for well prepared, surprising dishes in a grandiose environment, without having to get reservations, Ana Mandera is top notch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Biology of Ethics - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education:
"While Churchland's intellectual opponents over the years have suggested that you can understand the 'software' of thinking, independently of the 'hardware'—the brain structure and neuronal firings—that produced it, she has responded that this metaphor doesn't work with the brain: Hardware and software are intertwined to such an extent that all philosophy must be 'neurophilosophy.' There's no other way."

Every thought you have is a physical process.

via Arts & Letters Daily
Blood and Wine (1996)***
Good neo-noir with a picture stealing supporting job by Michael Caine as a tubercular Brit safe cracker with a temper. Dorff is weak in a pivotal role, and the score seems at odds with the images at times, but a surprising script and Jennifer Lopez keep things interesting.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Swimming Pool (1969)**
A good character study becomes a so-so thriller. Even a lovely Romy Schneider can't save it.
Jon Stewart's Rare, Unexpectedly Serious Interview with Fox News - Entertainment - The Atlantic Wire:>
"Continuing in his serious vein, Stewart admitting that he voted for George H.W. Bush because 'there was an integrity about him that I respected greatly,...'"

Stewart just lost any "integrity" he may have had.
The Stunt Man (1980)***
Good movie-within-a-movie about a manipulative director whose focus is "the shot" and not much else. Or is he the devil in disguise? Peter O'Toole is perfectly cast and gives a great performance, but Railsback is a big problem as the other lead. According to the IMDB trivia, Martin Sheen and Jeff Bridges were highly considered for the role. Either would have been a tremendous improvement. Still, worth watching for O'Toole and the smart script.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)***
Nicely done riff on nostalgia in a city dripping with history. Owen Wilson does a good job in the Allen role.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bishops to learn best practices to fight sex abuse:
"The Vatican said Saturday it is working to give bishops information on the best ways to combat clergy sex abuse, teaming up with the Jesuit university in Rome to host a major symposium on abuse and launch an Internet learning center for follow-up guidance."

I can tell them the best way to combat sex abuse in 3 words: CALL THE FUCKING POLICE! Ok, that was 4 words but still. This symposium is designed to combat criticism of the Vatican only. The main problem all along has been that ever since Becket the priests consider themselves above civil law and beholden to no one but the Vatican. That must be changed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

GM regulators chose ignorance over science |
"In May, the journal Reproductive Toxicology published a paper that showed Canadian women now routinely have GM pesticides – called Bt toxins – present in their blood streams. So, too, do 80% of their unborn babies. Presumably, they acquired the toxins by eating GM corn or from livestock fed on it. By itself, this result does not prove that any harm has occurred – though it is hardly reassuring. And, as the first experiment of its kind, it needs repeating. What it does definitively prove, however, is equally important: the remarkable complacency of the global safety regulators of GM crops who have argued that this was impossible."

via @NekoCase
High Season (1987)**
The picture has everything going for it: gorgeous Greek isle location, luminous Jacqueline Bisset in the lead, top-notch supporting cast, but it ultimately goes nowhere.
Roman de gare (2007)***
Intricate thriller with some intriguing twists featuring the ravishing Fanny Ardant and a nice performance from Audrey Dana.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paul McCartney Talks Beatles Breakup:
"At the time of 'McCartney,' the author considered it an experimental work. 'It's easier in retrospect to look back and say I was doing something that laid the ground rules for people to follow,' he said. 'When you think about it, that's how an awful lot of records get made now – people are in their bedrooms or their garages – because the equipment's better. So I was actually starting a bit of a trend, without knowing it or really intending to.'"

Yeah we know, Paul, YOU were the trend-setter, the experimentalist, the true avant-garde artiste of The Beatles. OKAY. WE GET IT. We love your music, but geez you are a truly annoying person.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pastor's Laptop: Dressing modestly for the Holy Mass despite the summer heat - St. Joseph's Catholic Church:
"The biggest problem I see (and I have a particularly elevated point of view from the sanctuary steps) is cleavage."

If that's the biggest problem he sees, he's never seen a mirror. Seriously, the dude has severe female trouble to say the least.
David Mamet Gets Lanced-a-Lot | James Wolcott's Blog | Vanity Fair:
"If David Mamet wants to become Dennis Miller minus the self-conscious, self-applauding laugh, go ahead, be that thing, watch the Tonys from Colonel Kurtz's cave, who cares."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blood Simple. (1984)***
Some of the trademark Coen touches are there, but this is unusual for them. More like a slasher film than a true noir. I kept being reminded of Halloween.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Illusionist (2010)****
Achingly melancholic, richly detailed near silent animated film about the unrelenting mysteries of life. Takes a bit of effort on the part of the viewer, with rich rewards.
The Second Pass: Behind the Scenes at Studio 8H:
"Chevy Chase and Harry Shearer come off as the most universally disliked. (NBC bigwig Dick Ebersol on Shearer: “He’s just a nightmare-to-deal-with person.” And writer James Downey: “[Bill] Murray can be a real asshole, but the thing that keeps bringing me back to defend him is I’ve seen him be an asshole to people who could affect his career way more often than to people who couldn’t. Harry Shearer will shit on you to the precise degree that it’s cost-free; he’s a total ass-kisser with important people.”)"

Hmm. If Shearer is "a total ass-kisser with important people" how come Dick Ebersol, probably THE most important person at the time, thought he was a "nightmare-to-deal-with person"? Maybe his ass-kissing wasn't all that effective? I guess the moral of the story is don't try to get a complete picture of a person from books like these.

via Robot Wisdom
Atlantic City (1980)***
Nice character study of a man and a city whose past was something special, at least in their own minds. Burt Lancaster is very good.
Bank Shot (1974)**
Early 70's entry in the heist-comedy sub-genre about a crew of endearingly goofy would be criminals who attempt to rob a bank with mastermind George C. Scott. Some funny moments but it tries way too hard mostly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Romney Defends Mormon View of Christ's Second Coming on
"Mickelson switched the conversation to the Second Coming of Christ. 'Your church says it is going to happen in Missouri,' he said.

'No it doesn't,' Romney objected. 'The church says Christ appears on the Mount of Olives and splits the Mount of Olives and appears in Jerusalem. That's what the church says, and then over a thousand years--the Millennium--that the world is reigned in two places, Jerusalem and Missouri. That's what the church says. The Second Coming, the arrival of Jesus Christ, our church says, is in Jerusalem. That's the church doctrine.'"

From "Near the time of the coming of Jesus, the faithful Saints will build a righteous city, a city of God, called the New Jerusalem. Jesus Christ himself will rule there. (See 3 Nephi 21:23–25.) The Lord said the city will be built in the state of Missouri in the United States (see D&C 84:3–4)."

I stand corrected. I was led to believe The Second Coming of JC was to occur in St. Louis. It's actually on the western edge of the state near Independence. Glad to have that finally cleared up.
I, Cringely: iCloud’s real purpose: kill Windows:
"And what happens once all our data is in that iCloud, is there any easy way to get it back out? Nope. It’s in there forever and we are captive customers — trapped more completely than Microsoft ever imagined.
Apple and Google will compete like crazy for our data because once they have it we’ll be their customers forever."

The best thing about the PC has always been it's openness. It's a much more hackable and vulnerable platform, yes, but it's also much more versatile and uncontrollable. I'm gonna start stockpiling hard drives and desktops to keep all my data off the fucking clouds. Anything in there is going to be as bogus as I can get away with. They needed at least another generation to come along who don't really care about privacy to finally make this transition and it's finally here. Sad, sad, sad.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Slipstream (2007)***
Lots to chew on in director/screenwriter Anthony Hopkins' semi-autobiographical excursion into David Lynch territory with outstanding cinematography by the great Dante Spinotti. Non-linear, at times nonsensical, but always interesting.
Weiner admits he sent lewd picture; won't quit - Yahoo! News:
"Weiner gained a national profile during the debate over President Barack Obama's health care plan when he outspokenly professed support for a government-run 'single-payer' program for everyone and later a 'public option' to compete with private health insurance. He got the notice of liberals even though both proposals failed to make it into law."

This is disputable. But there's no question he needs to resign. Anybody this stupid cannot be a member of congress. Wait a minute. What am I saying???
Peter O'Toole Has a Few Words for Directors -
"Q. For this particular character, did you draw upon your experiences with filmmakers who’d directed you?

A. Look, for me, a person, a character, a part is on the page. I don’t invent, I don’t copy anybody or think of anybody. Something happens, and I can’t explain it. I’ve tried to write about it. How the ink from the page comes up into my eyes and forms itself into a part that I want to play, and I’ve no idea how it happens. Intellectually, I can understand that I read it and enjoy it. But why this particular one, I don’t know.

Q.So the notion that Eli Cross was somehow a gloss on, say, David Lean —

A.“That’s Orson Welles?” “That’s John Huston?” No, no, no. It’s Eli Cross. He lives for me. I don’t want to be anybody else, thank you very much. He’s not copying anybody. He’s himself.

Q.Did you do any background research to learn how to play a director?

A.I don’t play directors. I play men. No, I don’t do any of that. Unobserved, uninhibited, private study of the script. I rehearse myself, l lock myself away for a month, before film or any play, and I absorb every word and every moment. And when it comes to the curtain going up or the action being started, I’m there. Ancient old pro speaking."

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)***
Scorcese so changed the gangster genre that it is difficult at times to see a film made well before he came along. Still this French noir is enjoyable and shows an elegance and subtlety sometimes lacking in modern films. Some rich scenes and great characters.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Marlins' Cousins speaks out about Posey injury:
"Giants general manager Brian Sabean criticized Cousins on his weekly radio show on KNBR this week, calling the play malicious and unnecessary. Sabean also said that 'if I never hear from Cousins again, or he doesn't play another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy.'

'He chose to be a hero, in my mind,' Sabean said. 'If that's his flash of fame, that's as good as it's going to get, pal. We'll have a long memory.'"

Um...that's a threat plain and simple. Sabean needs to be relieved of duty immediately. What a completely ridiculous thing to say. The play was not only legal, it was required within the rules and traditions of baseball. The only reason Posey broke his ankle was because he was not standing properly and his leg was caught underneath him when the collision took place. It was an ACCIDENT. These collisions happen quite frequently in baseball and believe it or not, nobody gets seriously hurt. This time somebody did. Deal with it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 - Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It:
If you don't have the time nor inclination to read the book, at least take an hour and listen to the interview. (Answer: It's sugar and refined carbs.)

via @garytaubes
Juggernaut (1974)****
Probably the best "disaster" flick of the 70's. A top notch cast, taut, clever script, and assured, imaginative, restrained direction from Richard Lester.
Facial Recognition: The One Technology Google Is Holding Back:
"'I'm very concerned personally about the union of mobile tracking and face recognition,' he explained, adding that the company feared that these capabilities could be used both for good and 'in a very bad way.' Schmidt described a scenario in which an 'evil dictator' could use facial recognition to identify people in a crowd and use the technology 'against' its citizens."

I'm more worried about a "good" leader using technology to track what people see, read, listen to, interact with, correspond with, talk to, record their movements, and use that to incarcerate them without trial, torture them, and kill them if the "good" leader saw fit. But that could NEVER happen, so don't worry Eric.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Goya's Ghosts (2006)**
A couple of the leads are mis-cast and the overall production feels more like a made-for-tv quickie than Amadeus for example, but it's a fascinating tale and quite relevant to the current political climate.
John Ashcroft Lawsuit Thrown Out By Supreme Court:
"The lawsuit against Ashcroft, attorney general from 2001 to 2005, stemmed from comments he made shortly after 9/11 that the government would preventively detain people suspected of terrorist ties, even if it had no evidence they committed a crime.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, in allowing the lawsuit against Ashcroft to go forward, said using the material witness statute as a pretext to detain someone was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The appeals court also said Ashcroft should have known that such detentions would violate the law.

But the high court has said that an official must be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood the action crossed that line to be held liable. No attorney general has ever been held personally liable for official actions."

Unbelievable that a unanimous decision absolves our top law enforcement officer from any culpability in violating an American citizen's constitutional rights simply because he claims incompetence? Since when is ignorance of the law an excuse? I mean, what else is left for there to be violated? Is there anything left at all of the bill of rights?
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)****
A total joy from start to finish. Can be seen as a 12 year old boy's imagined adult reality or a representation of the fun and camaraderie Anderson feels when making a film, or as a straight up loony adventure with a great cast, great visuals, great heart.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Malcolm McDowell Grilled on the 40-Year Anniversary of 'A Clockwork Orange' | The Wrap Movies:
"Based on the materials on the disc, it’s easy to assume he wasn’t an actor’s director, he wouldn’t talk about character.

No, he wouldn't at all but that doesn’t mean to say that he’s not an actor’s director because it just means to say that he didn't really know."

So many myths about Kubrick but this one really irritates: that he was rigid, dictatorial, un-collaborative, had a fixed idea in his mind of what he wanted before he shot the film. Perhaps once he got a specific idea he was adamant that it was the best way to get the shot, but in all his films he was very open to serendipity on the set.
The Bed Sitting Room (1969)**
Richard Lester has a very good eye, but post-apocalyptic satires are notoriously tough to pull off in film. This is no exception. A great cast, a droll, dryly ironic script, but in a film, no matter how abstract you try to be, when you show the aftermath of the destruction of a great city, it's just not funny. Kudos for the attempt.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)**
Interesting casting choices add to the appeal, and there are parts of the film that are interesting and beautifully done, but they don't all come together.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Night Porter (1974)***
Not nearly as morally depraved as most critics have decreed, this is a well made and well acted character study. Thought provoking.
Wikileaks: Speculators Helped Cause Oil Bubble | Rolling Stone Politics:
"Well, thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that when the Bush administration reached out to the Saudis in the summer of '08 to ask them to increase oil production to lower prices, the Saudis responded by saying they were having a hard time finding buyers for their oil as it was, and instead asked the Bush administration to rein in Wall Street speculators."
Mitch Easter - Beyond and Back | Rocker: The Lifestyle Magazine for Mature Hipsters:
"When I go to a record store Chapel Hill, the vinyl side of the store – that’s where the kids are. And that whole thing of putting the download thing with the songs [when you buy a record] makes all the sense in the world. So yeah, now the thing that is so cool is the bands who are coming into the studio are doing vinyl and downloads and nobody’s doing CDs. Who would’ve thought just a few years ago that CDs would be the endangered format? It’s really on the way out."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)****
Terrific John Huston noir examining the human animal in all his glory. Excellent screenplay, fine cinematography, and a field day for character actors who are all superb. Marilyn Monroe is luminescent in a small but pivotal role.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The secret life of Terrence Malick - Features, Films - The Independent:
"He lifted his veil of secrecy to film a walk-on part in Badlands. He is also said to be such a fan of Zoolander, the 2001 send-up of the fashion world, that colleagues say he watches it regularly and likes to quote it. Ben Stiller, the star of the film, once dressed up in character and recorded him a special birthday video message."

via @ebertchicago

Monday, May 23, 2011

Le Doulos (1962)**
Plot twists abound in this very talky French gangster pic.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Diabolique (1955)***
Nice thriller from Clouzot with remarkably frank murder scenes that still surprise.
Lolita (1997)**
Different actors, different director but the same result. If you're not going to go all the way, stay home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Disputes 'between friends': Obama, Netanyahu at WH - Yahoo! News:
"Obama said in his speech on Thursday that the United States supports creation of a Palestinian state based on the border lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel forces occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The comment drew angry criticism in Israel, and Netanyahu made clear after meeting with Obama that the idea was unacceptable. 'We cannot go back to those indefensible lines,' said Netanyahu."

Translated Netanyahu: If we go back to the 1967 borders, we will be unable to defend the land we stole and occupy illegally since then.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lolita (1962)**
I suppose it was admirable to attempt to film this novel in 1962 as a mainstream movie, but stripped of its excesses what's the point? It feels like half the scenes were left out and nothing makes sense.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Converting Mamet | The Weekly Standard:
"“But I saw the liberals hated George Bush. It was vicious. And I thought about it, and I didn’t get it. He was no worse than the others, was he? And I’d ask my liberal friends, ‘Well, why do you hate him?’ They’d all say: ‘He lied about WMD.’ Okay. You love Kennedy. Kennedy didn’t write Profiles in Courage—he lied about that. ‘Bush is in bed with the Saudis!’ Okay, Kennedy was in bed with the mafia.”
The conversion is complete: This is not a book by the same man who told Charlie Rose he didn’t want to impose his political views on anybody. At some moments—as when he blithely announces that the earth is cooling not warming, QED—you wonder whether maybe he isn’t in danger of exchanging one herd for another. He told me he doesn’t read political blogs or magazines. “I drive around and listen to the talk show guys,” he said. “Beck, Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved.” "

And so another "brain-dead liberal" becomes a brain-dead conservative. Either-or.
Von Trier stirs up Cannes with Hitler, Nazi quips - Yahoo! News:
"Von Trier has a long history of agitating Cannes crowds. His 2000 drama 'Dancer in the Dark' won the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, but the film sharply divided audiences, some loving it, some hating it. Two years ago, his marital saga "Antichrist" aggravated many Cannes viewers with its torture-porn images, though the film went on to win the festival's best-actress award for Gainsbourg.
Opening in U.S. theaters this fall, "Melancholia" casts Dunst as a woman in deep depression that turns her wedding day at the home of her sister (Gainsbourg) into a disaster. The story plays out against an end-of-the-world backdrop as a planet called Melancholia, which fittingly changes colors from blue to black, heads on a possible collision course with Earth.
The film also co-stars Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling and Udo Kier."

What? No Antichrist 2? No reboot for a comic book based "franchise"? I'm not a huge fan of Von Trier, but I love the fact that he makes bold, risky films that aren't based on other films. Having Charlotte Rampling in them is another huge plus.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Goodfellas (1990)****
About as good as film gets. Exciting tale of one man's life as a gangster in the late 50's through the early 80's. Scorsese at full command of his abilities and imagination, a directorial tour de force. Highly influential film.
Bigger Than Life (1956)***
Beautifully shot examination of the effects of a "wonder drug" (cortisone) on the psyche of a mild-mannered school teacher. I suppose it could be seen as a fable of sorts about the consequences of unbridled male ego run amok, but director Nicholas Ray doesn't belabor the point. James Mason is quite good.
Sources: Raiders knew mission a one-shot deal - Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Navy Times:
"U.S. officials believe Pakistani intelligence continues to support militants who attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and actively undermine U.S. intelligence operations to go after al-Qaida inside Pakistan. The level of distrust is such that keeping Pakistan in the dark was a major factor in planning the raid, and led to using the high-tech but sometimes unpredictable helicopter technology that nearly unhinged the mission.

Pakistan’s government has since condemned the action, and threatened to open fire if U.S. forces enter again."

Finally, a more coherent and plausible "official" story.

via Robot Wisdom

Monday, May 16, 2011

Parenting guru Bryan Caplan prescribes less fuss – and more fun | Life and style | The Observer:
"His book, which was published earlier this month, recommends that highly strung parents lighten up not only for their own and their offspring's good, but also for other would-be parents who may think that they cannot afford children. 'What do good sense and economics tell you to do when the prices turn out to be lower that you thought? Buy more. Stock up,' said Caplan. 'Quit fretting over how much TV your kids watch. Don't force them to do a million activities they hate. Accept that your children's lives are shaped mostly by their genes and their own choices, not by the sacrifices you make in hopes of turning them into successful adults.'"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dianne Feinstein sees Osama bin Laden kill photos:
"'I don't need to see those pictures, and no one needs to see them,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein said after viewing the kill photos of Osama bin Laden on Friday."

After all these years, the arrogance and hubris of these people still astounds me.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Osama Raid Video Doesn't Exist: CIA | 25 Minute Video Blackout:
"It has emerged that US commandos were told to assume bin Laden was wearing a suicide vest and must be killed, unless they found him naked. They would have accepted surrender only if they could be sure he had nothing hidden under his clothing, meaning his fate was sealed as soon as he was found in his bedclothes."

via @ggreenwald

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Stevie Nicks: The men, the music, the menopause | Music | The Guardian:
"Nicks and Buckingham met at high school in California and started out as a duo. Had Fleetwood Mac, fame and drugs not entered the picture, she believes, the couple would have stayed in San Francisco and had success anyway. 'And we would have married and had children, 'cause we were headed that way. We didn't really mess up till we moved to Los Angeles. And that was when the whole world just ripped us apart.'

Still, she says, 'Fleetwood Mac was our destiny.' But Buckingham doesn't feel the same way. 'I think he regrets it totally. I think he wishes we hadn't ever joined Fleetwood Mac and had just stayed together. Even though his life has now wound around to where he's married to a lovely girl and he's got three absolutely beautiful kids.'"
Asia Times Online :: How Bush gave Osama a free pass:
"Milton Bearden, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan during the Mujahideen war against the Soviets, observed to the Washington Post two weeks after Bush had rejected Muttawakil's new offer that the Taliban needed a face-saving way of resolving the issue consistent with its Islamic values.

'We never heard what they were trying to say,' Bearden said.

The Bush refusal to negotiate with the Taliban was in effect a free pass for Bin Laden and his lieutenants because the Bush administration had no plan of its own for apprehending him in Afghanistan. It did not even know what level of military effort would have been required for the United States to be able to block Bin Laden's exit routes from Afghanistan into Pakistan. "

Tuesday, May 03, 2011 Man arrested in bra, panties, accused of stabbing goat:
"The police reported that Thompson said he had been on bath salts for about three days. Officers found the small gray and white goat wearing a pink collar lying dead on the floor, blood coming from its neck, according to the complaint, The Gazette reported. There was a pornographic magazine photo lying a few feet from the goat, the complaint said."

What a piece of work is man! How noble in Reason! how infinite in faculties!*

Monday, May 02, 2011

Phone call by Kuwaiti courier led to bin Laden - Yahoo! News:
"The helicopters lowered into the compound, dropping the SEALs behind the walls. No shots were fired, but shortly after the team hit the ground, one of the helicopters came crashing down and rolled onto its side for reasons the government has yet to explain. None of the SEALs was injured, however, and the mission continued uninterrupted."

My guess is they will have to edit that little sequence out of the forthcoming biopic of the event. Nobody would ever believe it.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times, "One of their helicopters stalled and could not take off. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos moved the women and children to a secure area and blew up the malfunctioning helicopter." This was at the end of the mission rather than the beginning and makes a lot more sense.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Brother Orchid (1940)**
Not funny enough to be a comedy, and not serious enough to be a drama, this strange little picture about a racket boss who yearns for "class" misses the mark and ends up being watchable but not memorable.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)***
Entertaining, well-made re-telling of the Faust legend in 1840's New England. Walter Huston is exceptional. Very good black and white cinematography.

Monday, April 25, 2011

David Eagleman and Mysteries of the Brain : The New Yorker:
"Yet “brain time,” as Eagleman calls it, is intrinsically subjective. “Try this exercise,” he suggests in a recent essay. “Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you’re looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here’s the kicker: you never see your eyes move.” There’s no evidence of any gaps in your perception—no darkened stretches like bits of blank film—yet much of what you see has been edited out. Your brain has taken a complicated scene of eyes darting back and forth and recut it as a simple one: your eyes stare straight ahead. Where did the missing moments go?" - Man suspected of child porn simply didn't secure wireless router:
"A Buffalo, NY man had a rude awakening one morning when federal officers broke down the door to his house, threw him down the stairs and aimed assault weapons at him while yelling, “Pedophile!” After the investigation was completed, it turned out that it wasn’t this man but rather someone using his unsecured wireless router."

I'm glad we have our priorities in order. Porn and gambling call for aggressive action, but fraud and war crimes? Look forward!

Friday, April 22, 2011

iPhone and iPad security: iPhone, iPad can track a user's location history -
"Illustrating the data in dramatic, understandable form, security researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan released a software program Wednesday that allows iPhone and iPad users to download and plot their location histories onto an interactive map, showing their trail over time.

The maps show clusters of colorful dots in hundreds or thousands of precise locations visited by the device's user.

"I have no idea what Apple thinks it's doing in collecting this," said Christopher Soghoian, a cybersecurity researcher at the University of Indiana and formerly a Federal Communications Commission employee. "You'd think they would've learned the lesson Google learned, which is: Don't surprise your users on privacy.""

I had assumed this capability was a requirement of The Patriot Act. (And it's not just iPhones, Androids also track user location and upload it for keeping.) Perhaps the beef is that the data is in an unencrypted, easily obtainable format, which probably points to lazy programming and not some nefarious plot. But when are people going to wake up? EVERYTHING you do is being recorded. This is the reality. Bush started it, Obama continued it and now it's institutionalized so it can never be undone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Public Enemy (1931)****
80 years after it was made, still a shocking, relevant and exciting film. Cagney is pure energy, the script is tight and believable, the direction is smart, energetic and innovative. Beryl Mercer plays Ma Powers a bit too broadly almost to distraction. But she can't stop this runaway train of a picture. Heavily influenced Scorsese, especially in Goodfellas.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)**
Let's face it: Hemingway is tough to do on film. A lot of the "action" takes place in someone's head, there's all that uber-macho mindset to deal with, all those location shots all over the world, etc. You try to Hollywood-ize the story and you are REALLY asking for trouble. We have all those things taking place in this picture. Gregory Peck does a pretty good job but the leading ladies are left to fend for themselves in difficult roles to pull off. What I DID enjoy about the film was the modern, almost Scorsese-like cuts during flashbacks with continuing voice-overs from the previous scene. I didn't expect that and it added a lot to the picture. Not enough though.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rio (2011)**
Undistinguished, mildly amusing animated trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One U.S. Nuclear Reactor Uses as Much Water as All of D.C. - Technology - The Atlantic Wire:
"It takes the same amount of water required by a city of 5 million to fuel a typical U.S. nuclear power plant for one hour: 30 million gallons, Fast Company reports. Charles Fishman, author of the book The Big Thirst, notes that 'the U.S. has 104 nuclear power plants--more than any other country, a quarter of all plants worldwide.' As the world's largest energy consumer, '49% of the water used in the U.S. goes to generate electricity,' Fishman notes. That's 'the single largest use of water' in the country."

This cannot be correct, can it? After the water is used is it radioactive?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jane Eyre (TV 1970)***
Strong lead performances and nice production values make this a very good version of this oft told tale, such as it is.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)***
Damning with faint praise, yes, but this is certainly the best of the Star Trek films. It's a weak 3 stars because director Nicholas Meyer can't rein in the cheesy one-liners and the winking at the camera and the scenes that are obvious set ups for self-referential humor. But even with all that, this is an enjoyable and, finally, a worthy follow-up to the original television series.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jungle Book (1942)***
Rudyard Kipling's man versus nature fable imaginatively directed and featuring a charismatic Sabu as Mowgli.

Friday, April 08, 2011

In search of David Foster Wallace's Pale King | Books | The Guardian:
"These lines could support a contention that the novel's apparent incompleteness is in fact intentional. David ended his first novel in the middle of a line of dialogue and his second with large plot questions addressed only glancingly. One character in The Pale King describes a play he's written in which a man sits at a desk, working silently, until the audience leaves, at which point the play's action begins. But, he continues, 'I could never decide on the action, if there was any'."

That's a fascinating premise and might perhaps speak to Wallace's feeling that the "action" of reality takes place after life? Or the feeling of incompleteness in life, that there must be something more taking place off screen or off stage or after the novel has been read, something just beyond our grasp.

via Robot Wisdom

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Scarlet Street (1945)**
The story strains credulity a bit too much even for a noir, and the performances are not strong enough to make it all compelling. Still, watchable.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Household Income Short of $68K? Welcome To the New Poverty:
"So we are now officially living in a country where more than 60% of households are not making enough money for a basic household — the bottom three quintiles of American household income top out at $62,000."

And yet, we have plenty of dough for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Everyone Is Laughing at Alan Greenspan Today - Business - The Atlantic Wire:
"Last night, the Financial Times ran an op-ed from Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve. It starts out pretty dry. Greenspan argues, in effect, that the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act is a bad idea, because 21st-century financial systems are really, really complicated. Greenspan also complains that "regulators are being entrusted with forecasting, and presumably preventing, all undesirable repercussions that might happen to a market when its regulatory conditions are importantly altered." This is an impossible task, says Greenspan. We should just leave it up to the free market, because "with notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global 'invisible hand' has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates."

OMFG. I think the problem is Greenspan actually believed all that "maestro" bullshit and feels compelled to spew his "wisdom" upon us. Just go away. You've done WAY MORE than enough already. Asshole.

via Robot Wisdom

Monday, March 28, 2011

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)*
There is a kernel of a decent film here. And whether it was William Shatner's lack of directorial talent or Paramount's lack of financial support, we may never know for sure. As it stands, this is a pretty awful film. Almost entirely cringe inducing. For Star Trek completists, and other masochists only.
To Have and Have Not (1944)***
Better than Casablanca, the screen debut of Lauren Bacall is an entertaining excursion into the many tropes of Ernest Hemingway upon whose novel the film is based (see Islands in the Stream.) Bogart is solid, Bacall sizzles, and "free French" intrigue abounds in the Caribbean.
Camelot Revisited: The Creators of "The Kennedys" Speak Out -
"Is it fair to say that all biographical films have to rely on a certain amount of reconstruction, and creating scenes where there’s no record of what was said or what occurred?

KRONISH Of course. For example, the scenes between Jack and Jackie in the bedroom, where nobody knows exactly what was said, but we do know what the attitudes were and we do know, for example, that she knew about several of his affairs and was deeply distressed by them, but she stayed with him. Although she would periodically leave, she would always return. We know that. That is historical fact. And so we used those facts to create scenes that had that basis in mind. You’re compressing 50-odd years of a family’s history into eight hours. That compression is going to have to show somewhere. It doesn’t mean that the facts are changed or invented."

I think when you "create scenes" that is kind of equivalent to "invented". I would just like for once to see a bio-pic where not one scene is invented, not one conversation is "imagined". If you cannot or will not do that, then you must not use real names or claim any sort of veracity to your film or book. Because everyone who sees this will believe that ALL the scenes really happened. And that is wrong.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Alice in Wonderland (1933)***
Faithful to the source in spirit and form if not verbatim, this heavily critically disparaged version of Alice defies narrative conventions. There really is no story and no narrative flow which most people demand of their films. Instead we are treated to a literate young girl's fantasy-dream of unusual and surreal encounters with all sorts of creatures, clever word play and strange, unexplained antics. Just like the books.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chloe (2009)***
Not a bad little exploration of identity inside a trashy thriller. Good actors, crisply directed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Somewhere (2010)**
I might revise my rating after a second viewing, but at first blush this is a mis-step for Ms. Coppola, one of my favorite directors. Wonderful soundtrack, wonderful images, sparse, minimalist direction, but it does not seem to add up. Admirable effort, but no results.
Winter's Bone (2010)**
You know, it's an intelligent, well made film with great directorial restraint by Debra Granik and a fine, star-making performance by Jennifer Lawrence, but it's just not very entertaining. Critics would complain about Scorsese making pictures about vile people like Travis Bickle and Jake LaMotta but you know what? Those films were great! Highly entertaining, compelling, stunning. This film is not at that level. It's a passable noir.
Don't Look Back (2009)***
Very entertaining French psychological thriller featuring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci. That's more than enough reasons to see the film.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mailbag: Charlie Sheen, 9/11 Truthers, Oil Prices | Rolling Stone Politics | Taibblog :
"The blame for all of this is going to be laid at disruptions in the Middle East and other factors, but the inescapable fact is that commodity index speculation was up $80 billion last year, meaning that there was $80 billion of new money coming on the market betting on the rise of commodity prices. The total amount of commodity index speculation approached $400 billion last year, meaning the amount of speculative money on the market was roughly twenty times pre-2003 levels – and again, this is all “long-only” speculation, i.e. money betting on prices to go up."