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

MSNBC.com: 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.