Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review: Movies

**** Moonrise Kingdom
*** Frankenweenie
*** Hitchcock
*** Men In Black 3
*** The Dark Knight Rises
*** To Rome With Love
** Dark Shadows
** Skyfall
** The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
** The Pirates! Band of Misfits
* The Three Stooges

2012 In Review: Music

**** AC Newman - Shut Down The Streets
**** Aimee Mann - Charmer
**** Cate Le Bon - Cyrk
**** Corner Laughers, The - Poppy Seeds
**** Hospitality - Hospitality
**** Kooks - Junk of the Heart
**** Raveonettes, The - Observator
**** Scout - All Those Relays
**** Shins, The - Port of Morrow
**** Shonen Knife - Pop Tune
**** dBs, The - Falling Off the Sky
 *** Beach House - Bloom
 *** Bob Mould - Silver Age
 *** Condors, The - 3 Item Combo
 *** Eux Autres - Sun Is Sunk (ep)
 *** Frankie Rose - Interstellar
 *** Garbage - Not Your Kind of People
 *** Imperial Teen - Feel the Sound
 *** Lightning Love - Blonde Album
 *** Metric - Synthetica
 *** Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
 *** Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks
 *** School of Seven Bells - Ghostory
 *** Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
 *** Soundtrack of Our Lives, The - Throw It To the Universe
 *** World Record, The - Freeway Special
 ** Anne Soldaat - Anne Soldaat
 ** Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
 ** Field Music - Plumb
 ** Goldfrapp - The Singles
 ** Invisible Cities - Meet the Lampreys
 ** Jeff Lynne - Long Wave
 ** Keene - Strangeland
 ** Peter Buck - Peter Buck
 ** Stag - Chameleons
 ** Susanna Hoffs - Someday
 ** Woods - Bend Beyond
 * Ringo Starr - Ringo

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)**
Some spectacular CGI, particularly Gollum and the Great Goblin, Ian McKellan is in fine form and Martin Freeman makes a proper Bilbo Baggins, but it is far too long, too repetitive and too much of the same mold as The Lord of the Rings you get the feeling you've seen it all before.
Hitchcock (2012)***
Lackluster biopic enlivened by a superb Anthony Hopkins, a strong Helen Mirren (although miscast) and a stunning Scarlett Johansson.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Haywire (2011)****
It's a shame Steven Soderbergh is planning on retiring after his next film or two. No other director I can think of is so good at using unknown or non-actors to such great effect. A tight, action packed, tense, paranoid thriller, much more effective than any Bond picture, or other mega-million franchise. Highly enjoyable.

Thursday, December 06, 2012 Roman on read option: ‘The result was not the intent of the play call’:
"Still, does he regret calling the play?

“'I’ll just say the result was not the intent of the play call,' Roman said. 'I always look back and say, ‘Did it work. Didn’t it work? Why? Why not?’ And then move on from there.'

"The play, of course, has inspired more scrutiny and criticism than any other call during Roman’s tenure. He agreed it was a hazard of his job."

Hmm...seems like whenever there was an unusual play called when Mike Martz was OC, it was due to his massive ego only. No mention of the word "ego" in this article. Perhaps Martz is one of the few OC's or head coaches in the NFL to possess such a thing?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Affair (1949)***
Enjoyable, if predictable, rom-com that happens to take place during the Christmas holidays. Snappy dialogue and fine work from the leads (even the kid) and a nifty final sequence aboard a train.
Bill Murray, Star of ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ -
"Q. There seems to be so much serendipity in your life. Are you actively cultivating these moments or just hoping that they come to you?

"A. Well, you have to hope that they happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, 'Oops,' and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering."


Monday, November 26, 2012

Fight Club (1999)****
Exceptional rant against corporatism and much of modernity, lead by excellent lead performances, design and direction.
Animal House (1978)***
One of the first "R" comedies to hit it big. Still enjoyable, but unfortunately it's success meant that we end up with dreck like this.
Three lost trying to save family dog - SFGate
"When a state park ranger arrived on the scene, he had to park a half mile away and travel on foot because of the steep terrain around the beach, Jones said. The ranger saw the mother and pulled her out of the water, and he and a bystander began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The ranger then pulled out the father. Both parents were pronounced dead at the scene. The dog survived and the teen remains missing."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Trial (1962)***
Orson Welles said in an interview that he felt this film was the best he had ever made. While I wouldn't go that far, it's certainly one of his best and I think why he felt that way was because it looks like he got everything he wanted to do with the film done. It's an impressive intellectual achievement but ultimately fails to engage, which I feel is a consequence of the kind of tale it is. Still, there are many impressive sequences and the acting is top notch, especially Anthony Perkins in the lead. Always interesting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bernie (2011)***
Director Richard Linklater almost achieves an Alexander Payne-esque tone to this film, but the casting of Jack Black as the lead does him in. Black is fine, but he is unable to overcome his persona which has us waiting for the inevitable winking at the camera and that creates a bit more distance than the film needs.
FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation | Glenn Greenwald |
"So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime - at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people - and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Cat in Paris (2010)**
So-so animated flick about a cat who helps a cat burglar save a young girl who gets into some trouble.
Skyfall (2012)**
Spectacular opening sequence can't rescue the latest overlong Bond flick that tries way too hard to explain everything and thinks the use of extreme facial closeups is the way to do that. Watchable to the end thanks mainly to Naomie Harris and some nifty pyrotechnics.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Grey Owl (1999)**
Interesting, standard issue biopic of a real Canadian fur trapper turned conservationist in the 1930's, hampered by the casting of a non-actor as the female lead.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Black Sabbath (1963)**
Rich in creepy atmosphere and vibrant, with a terrific opening tale of terror. Things go downhill from there to a hard-to-believe second act and end up with a too long third story. Karloff is solid as usual. Impressive production on a limited budget.
It Happened Tomorrow (1944)**
Desperately needs a stronger cast as the script is very weak and the direction stays too laid back, too droll when more screwball is needed.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Rope of Sand (1949)**
Burt Lancaster, as well as Peter Lorre and Claude Rains are wasted in this strange flick that wants to be Casablanca but is far too crude and rude and just plain non-sensical at times. Weak female lead doesn't help.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)****
Highly entertaining send-up/homage of '50's horror/sci-fi flicks mashed with '70's punk rock put together with care and wit. Tim Curry is tremendous in his film debut and the rest of the cast is top notch as well. Great tunes and well directed.
Madhouse (1974)**
Fun to see Vincent Price and Peter Cushing together in a film, even a poorly directed and even more poorly written one as this.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)***
Creepy, visually arresting horror flick with Price playing a character who never opens his mouth. Lots of nifty art deco interiors and laidback direction that lets the story unfold in its own time.
The Keep (1983)**
Early, interesting Michael Mann effort, with a stellar cast including Ian McKellan and Gabriel Byrne, nevertheless fails to amount to much more than a middling allegory about the allure of fascism. Could have used a better soundtrack and better effects.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Quantum of Solace (2008)**
Reasonably successful Bond, but the action sequences are edited so it's impossible to know who is hitting/shooting/maiming whom until it's all over and the dust clears. So it's just a succession of ultra-short clips. One action sequence is top-notch, the Bond perennial of falling out of an airplane with only one parachute between two, or more, people.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pete Peterson Has Won - New Economic Perspectives:
"The truth is, we’re not broke.The US dollar comes from the US government (not from China, as we’re led to believe). The US government is not revenue constrained. It is the Issuer of the currency, not the User of the currency like you and I. It plays by a completely different set of rules, yet it behaves as if it is still bound by the shackles of a gold standard. It behaves irresponsibly when it proposes policies to reduce the deficit when unemployment is high and inflation is low. We’re letting millions of Americans suffer because Pete Peterson and his ilk have convinced virtually everyone that we face a fiscal crisis in this country. We live in fear of the Chinese, the Ratings Agencies, the Bond Vigilantes, Indentured Grandchildren, and so on. And this fear is used by politicians on both sides of the political aisle to sell “sacrifice” to the rest of us. And we keep buying.

"And here’s the really sad part. It will never be enough."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)***
Echoes of Taxi Driver and After Hours haunt this film also about the mean streets (sorry!) of NYC and three days and nights in the life of an EMS medic who is having a crisis of self. Well put together by Scorsese, with Nicolas Cage in fine form.
Casino Royale (2006)***
Possibly the best Bond film, markedly different from all the rest. Gone are the cutesy wink-wink double entendres, as are the excessive gadgetry. Bond is about as physical as he can get and the action sequences are unsurpassed while at the same time appearing plausible. The female lead is a weak spot and the film is, as are most Bonds, too long. But the direction is smart and involved and Daniel Craig puts a fresh spin on the character.
Die Another Day (2002)**
The best of the Brosnans, with some top notch action sequences plus Halle Berry, but director Lee Tamahori adds a bit too many camera tricks and they start to feel forced and gimmicky as hour two comes around.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)***
Viewed solely as a movie on its own, it's a failure. But viewed as a sort of meta-satire/homage of pop culture, which is what Pee-Wee is, it's a triumph. Director Burton, admirably, makes no effort to clue the audience in to what he's up to, expecting them to either get it or not, which is also Pee-Wee's aesthetic.
The Washington Post Tries to Scare You on Public Sector Pensions | Beat the Press:
"At their peak, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were costing an average family about 2 percent of their income or around $2,400 a year in the current economy. In the same vein the patent protection that we give to drug companies costs the average family around $1,800 a year in higher drug prices. The implicit subsidy that the government gives large banks by protecting them against failure costs an average family around $500 a year. This is in effect the money that we are being taxed to help the struggling CEOs and top executives at the major banks.

"The other part of this story is that workers did work for these pensions.This was part of their pay package, which is generally comparable or even slightly less than the compensation of private sector workers with the same education. Most public sector pensions are relatively modest, with the median less than $20,000 a year."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Frankenweenie (2012)***
Clever and witty stop-motion riff on the Frankenstein story that is essentially an homage to horror films of yesteryear. Expert animation and design, but a flawed ending keeps this very good film from being a great film.
The Week the World Stood Still: The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World
"The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are: How did it begin, and how did it end? It began with Kennedy's terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962. It ended with the president's rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would have undermined the fundamental principle that the U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. To establish these principles firmly it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple and admittedly fair ways to end the threat."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Read This Book, Win The Election | The Baseline Scenario:
"In Ms. Bair’s persuasive account, both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations were primarily focused on protecting the large banks. Both administrations consistently ignored the relationship between the need to fix our bloated, free-wheeling financial sector and sustaining our broader economic prosperity. And both administrations paid insufficient attention to the persistent problem of mortgages."

This is essentially the message of Neil Barofsky's book. Also pretty self evident by looking at the actions of both administrations. Is there a new FDR somewhere?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)**
Tom Stoppard directs, for the first and so far only time, his own play and the result is flat. It's well-written of course and the actors, costumes, sets are fine, it's nice to look at but not engaging. (I was shocked to find that it was released in 1990 since the film has a definite 1970's look and feel which is interesting.)
To Paris with Love (1955)**
As presented onscreen, the story of a father-son vacation trip to Paris is a sophisticated, civilized roundelay between consenting adults. But as read between the lines and in the margins of the film, it's quite risqué which provides much needed interest. It's colorful and well paced, but ultimately not memorable.
The Return of the Vampire (1944)*
Tries some mildly interesting twists on the Dracula myth, and inexplicably includes a wolf-man sidekick for the vampire, but it's just barely above Plan 9 level and must have gone through a dozen fog machines during filming.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)**
Considering the cast includes both Teri Hatcher AND Michelle Yeoh, this Bond is disappointing. It is also not very well shot with lots of background glare and dark interiors. Brosnan does the action scenes well but appears annoyed otherwise. Lots of car crashes, explosions and gun play but not much in the way of breathtaking stunts. Mercifully clocks in at just under two hours, which helps.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Salome's Last Dance (1988)***
Witty, funny and risqué, this Ken Russell riff on Oscar Wilde is fast, colorful and fun.
Hocus Pocus (1993)**
Intermittently enjoyable Disney Halloween kiddie-flick with a few jarringly inappropriate sexual jokes to keep the adults from snoozing. The lovely Vinessa Shaw accomplishes that all by herself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

GoldenEye (1995)**
Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond and it's very uneven. Spectacular opening stunt work and a few nice action sequences, but some very slow parts that feel awkward and out of place. Huge plot holes, not unusual for a Bond picture, and why bring Joe Don Baker back? He's a terrible actor. Brosnan's Bond is as hard-edged as predecessor Timothy Dalton's but with a much more aggressive libido which reduces his charm somewhat, and gives the film a crudeness not expected of a Bond picture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hamlet (1996)***
Long, complete text version of Shakespeare's tragedy is visually spectacular, with mostly very fine acting on display. Inherently stagy and talky, but Branagh uses lots of camera movement in long takes to keep things moving.
The New Daughter (2009)**
So-so horror flick that's really an elongated X-Files/Kolchak style monster episode. Some possible allegory to parental fears of pubescent change, but not enough to make this film more than a throwaway.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ghostbusters (1984)***
Entertaining and likable mix of SNL/SCTV style laidback humor and supernatural special effects. Rick Moranis and Harold Ramis are great in support of Bill Murray who hit his stride with this flick.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Noam Chomsky on America's Economic Suicide, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Laura Flanders:
"Take 9-11. That means something in the United States. The 'world changed' after 9-11. Well, do a slight thought experiment. Suppose that on 9-11 the planes had bombed the White House ... suppose they'd killed the president , established a military dictatorship, quickly killed thousands, tortured tens of thousands more, set up a major international terror center that was carrying out assassinations , overthrowing governments all over the place, installing other dictatorships, and drove the country into one of the worst depressions in its history and had to call on the state to bail them out Suppose that had happened? It did happen. On the first 9-11 in 1973. Except we were responsible for it, so it didn't happen. That's Allende's Chile. You can't imagine the media talking about this."

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Haunting (1999)**
Begins as a sort of cartoon version of the original and goes downhill from there. What Robert Wise was able to do with shots of wallpaper and sound design takes Jan de Bont $80M and lots of noise. Except for the lovely Ms. Zeta-Jones, not worth the time.
Licence to Kill (1989)**
Timothy Dalton's second foray as Bond suffers from a severe lack of quality supporting actors (except for stunning Carey Lowell) and from the producers' continuing decision to make Bond more generic. There is a middle ground between self-parody and blandness and this one swings too far towards the latter.
A Fine Madness (1966)*
Wants to be, no, NEEDS to be, an outrageous farce but it's directed like dozens of other mid-'60's NYC based comedies and the result seems to have been acceptable at the time but now is quite jarring. Hard to recall another "comedy" that includes a scene of the protagonist slugging his pregnant wife in the jaw. I get it that it's supposed to be a scathing satire of artistic temperaments, but to see that you really have to do director Irvin Kershner's work for him.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Launch of The Nutrition Science Initiative:
"NuSI was founded on the premise that the reason we are beset today by epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and the reason physicians and researchers think these diseases are so recalcitrant to dietary therapies, is because of our flawed understanding of their causes. We believe that with a concerted effort and the best possible science, this problem can be fixed."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

U.S. Missions Stormed in Libya, Egypt -
"The film's 52-year-old writer, director and producer, Sam Bacile, said that he wanted to showcase his view of Islam as a hateful religion. "Islam is a cancer," he said in a telephone interview from his home. 'The movie is a political movie. It's not a religious movie.'"

"Sam Bacile"? Seriously? Sounds fishy, a bit too close to "imbecile".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stalker (1979)*
If you enjoy watching 3 dirty, grimey guys walking around dirty, grimey places, talking philosophy intermittently for two hours and forty minutes, then this is the flick for you. Is it sci-fi? Is it an allegory? You won't know and you won't care you'll just want something, ANYTHING to happen and it never does. Maybe that's "art" and I just don't get it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Bush White House Was Deaf to 9/11 Warnings -
"But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day."

Patriot Day.
The Living Daylights (1987)**
Apparently the world was not yet ready for a reboot of the franchise as Timothy Dalton was pilloried as he took over the role from Roger Moore. He's not bad, actually, but it's the entire production that is such a jarring change from the previous films. The sex and jokes are virtually non-existent, and the action/stunts are more realistic and less fantastic. Joe Don Baker stands out in a bad way as the required megalomaniacal villain, you'll cringe as you watch Bond make pals with the Afghan "mujahadeen" (present day Taliban), but mostly you'll be looking at your watch halfway through the 130 minute running time. Seriously, these Bond films would all be much better with a good 30-40 minutes trimmed. Spectacular stunt work near the end as Bond and adversary battle from just outside the cargo hold of a flight.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Barbarella (1968)***
WAY more entertaining than it has a right to be. Jane Fonda looks great and the seemingly dated sets (wall to wall to ceiling shag carpeting!) actually work pretty well in the context of the story, such as it is. A comic book flick that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Naomi Wolf: 'Neural wiring explained vaginal v clitoral orgasms. Not culture. Not Freud' | Books | The Guardian:
"It all started with a problem Wolf was having in her own sex life; the quality of her orgasms suddenly changed from being full of light and colour and what she describes in terms of transcendental experience, to something dull and lifeless. She went to see 'New York's pelvic nerve man', which required a certain presence of mind. A lot of people in her place would have gone to see a psychotherapist.

"'I'm not that crazy,' she says. 'I knew that there was something physically wrong. It was physical. It was a physical experience.'"

EVERY thought, feeling, sensation you experience is physical. Everything.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Work in Progress Blog Archive: Remembering Phyllis Diller:
"How about hecklers? 'I never had hecklers. Here’s my rhythm: Either I am talking or they are laughing. You would’ve had to make an appointment to heckle me.'"

Monday, September 03, 2012

A View to a Kill (1985)*
Roger should have quit while he was ahead with Octopussy. This is one of the worst Bonds. Completely nonsensical story, and since apparently 1 old fuddy-duddy playing a superspy isn't enough, they had to recruit former TV Avenger Patrick Macnee to join the fray. And for Bond "girls" they get Tanya Roberts and Grace Jones? Not the producers' finest hours.
Octopussy (1983)***
It took 10 years, but we finally get the best Roger Moore Bond film. Colorful Indian locales, a fairly plausible story line (no incredibly wealthy yet deranged villains intent on world domination), lots of action and lots of startling stunts. Great theme song by John Barry.
Le Notti Bianche (1957)**
Some nice directorial touches by Luchino Visconti and some lovely black and white camera work, but it's a 20 minute story stretched to 100 and it can't take the strain.
Barefoot in the Park (1967)***
Like most Neil Simon, the first half is much better, but thanks to Redford and Fonda, especially Fonda, that first half manages to carry the picture. Funny and cute, then not funny and awkward.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Scalphunters (1968)**
Strange mix of humor, extreme violence and social commentary as fur trapperBurt Lancaster has his pelts stolen and vows to get them back by any means necessary. Fine cast, but veers from violent gore to silliness a few times too often.
The Rose Tattoo (1955)**
Anna Magnani tears up the screen as a volatile Sicilian trapped in another Tennessee Williams southern melodrama. Burt Lancaster keeps up but the rest of the cast can't.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)**
Disappointing Aardman stop-motion flick suffers from an overload of puns and drollery and not enough characterization. Still technically impressive and a merciful length. Should have made another Wallace & Gromit instead.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Kings Row (1942)****
Remarkably effective melodrama succeeds despite the ludicrous casting of Robert Cummings in the lead. Superb visuals, sets and a brisk pace help immensely. Even Ronnie's great!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Rome with Love (2012)***
Despite some serious casting missteps (Ellen Page as a femme fatale?), this is one of Woody's funnier and more enjoyable late period films. His eye for color and composition and his ear for dialogue are undiminished.
Moonraker (1979)**
Roger's starting to look tired and the writer's have jumped the shark with the plot which stops making sense altogether. (Incidentally, why must nearly every Bond flick involve sharks at some point?)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Todd Akin ignores first deadline to drop out of Missouri race. Now what? - Yahoo! News:
"A Public Policy Polling survey of Missouri voters taken on Monday and released Tuesday could also encourage Akin. It found him leading McCaskill 44 to 43 percent. Though another poll, by SurveyUSA, showed that 54 percent of Missourians want Akin to step aside."

If he wants to be a U. S. Senator, Akin should stay in. If 2000 and 2004 proved anything, it is that being an idiot is no impediment to political success.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)**
Roger Moore is now too old for Bond but after the zany plot of Moonraker, this flick is at least in the ballpark of plausibility. Nice locations, Topol is always interesting and likable, a few startling stunts, but as the second hour draws to a close with no sign of closure, you start to think "enough is enough".

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Three Stooges (2012)*
They've got the look, the voices, the bits, but cannot replace the spirit of the originals and don't even come close. So failing that, they go for sappy sentimentality and it hurts. Badly.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Boarding Gate (2007)**
Modern noir is too convoluted and seems to be missing a few scenes.
Never Say Never Again (1983)**
Some nice locations, well shot, but it's very long and repetitive. Good cast though.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Wild Geese (1978)**
If you can overlook the excessive length, the heavy-handed direction, the questionable politics and the fact that the "good guys" are cold-blooded, heartless mercenaries, then this is an enjoyable vehicle for some fine older British actors who look like they are having fun together. Sort of a proto-Expendables.
Room Service (1938)***
Takes place almost entirely in a single hotel room, but a superior Marx Brothers movie nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies - Yahoo! News:
"'Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge,' he once wrote, 'all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. No thing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.'"
Writer Gore Vidal, 86, has died -
"'Style,' Vidal once said, 'is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.' By that definition, he was an emperor of style, sophisticated and cantankerous in his prophesies of America’s fate and refusal to let others define him."

I found him and his writings always interesting, intelligent, entertaining, remarkable.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)**
Just when Roger Moore really gets into the role, Barbara Bach shows up comatose. Still it's probably the best of the Moore films with lots of money on the screen and exotic locales.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)**
Britt Ekland looks great in a bikini and Roger Moore is more awake in this Bond flick that boasts Christopher Lee as one of the better villains. Too long, but some nifty car stunts utilizing, probably for the only time ever in a major film, an AMC Matador and Hornet. A Matador!
Ride the High Country (1962)**
Interesting mainly because of the casting, but this is a pretty good old fashioned Western with some characters able to hit targets a long way off and others, inexplicably unable to hit the broad side of a barn at close range.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More TARP Bashing | Beat the Press:
"The serious question is how bad could we reasonably expect the downturn to have been if we had gone the cold turkey route [no bailout]. The place to look for insight on this question is Argentina, which went the financial collapse route in December of 2001. This was the real deal. Banks shut, no access to ATMs, no one knowing when they could get their money out of their bank, if they ever could.

"This collapse led to a plunge in GDP for three months, followed by three months in which the economy stabilized and then six years of robust growth. It took the country a year and a half to make up the output lost following the crisis.

"While there is no guarantee that the Bernanke-Geithner team would be as competent as Argentina's crew, if we assume for the moment they are, then the relevant question would be if it is worth this sort of downturn to clean up the financial sector once and for all. I'm inclined to say yes, but I certainly could understand that others may view the situation differently.

"Anyhow, this is the debate that we should have had [at] the time and at least be acknowledging in retrospect. The cost of not doing the bailout was not a second Great Depression."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

J. Craig Venter: The Biological-digital Converter, Or, Biology At The Speed Of Light @ The Edge Dinner In Turin:
"The idea that you're basically a DNA-driven software device is not the view that people necessarily have of themselves. But every cell on this planet works that way in a biological-to-mechanical kind of fashion. No brain controlling what happens with DNA reading and protein synthesis in your cells. The combination of one hundred trillion cells gives different people different abilities to make wonderful music, to make science advances, to think, but every one of those cells operates in the same fashion. And that means we will be able to decode how the brain functions by understanding these same mechanisms. There's no need to evoke mysticism or a higher being. That's what Schrodinger did seventy years ago. He couldn't explain things, so he did what people do when they can't explain something. He evokes mysticism. But science is getting very advanced with regard our understanding life. We know what it is, and we now know how to reproduce it. We produce life by writing new software."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Last Command (1928)**
Emil Jannings is wonderful as the former Russian general now working as an extra in Hollywood, but he can't do all the heavy lifting himself. The film is too hurried and uninvolving.
Live and Let Die (1973)*
Not good at all. The "action" consists of extended stunt scenes usually involving automobiles or speed boats. Roger Moore as Bond confuses somnolence with "cool" and the script...could this have been considered "hip" and "urban" in 1973? Today it's cringe worthy from start to finish. Embarrassing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)***
Preposterous, overlong, relentlessly cynical and exploitative, this is nevertheless a supremely well crafted film. Avoids most cliches and has a good ear for dialogue for an action flick. But seriously, it is WAY too long and could have lost a good hour of editing without damaging its very fine finale.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fred Willard fired from PBS after arrest | Daily Dish :
"The 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy' star, 72, was taken into custody on Wednesday night after undercover vice officers allegedly caught him masturbating while watching a porn film at adult movie cinema Tiki Theater in Hollywood....Ironically, his arrest comes almost 21 years to the day that actor Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman, was booked for indecent exposure in July, 1991, after police officers allegedly caught him masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Fla."

Do we really need to have cops patrolling ADULT cinemas looking for pervs? I mean, isn't that the whole point of adult cinemas? Isn't there enough REAL crime around to keep these cops busy?
Blow (2001)***
Sort of "Goodfellas"-lite, this is another example of our keen ability to self-delude. The protagonist is only likable because Johnny Depp plays him but director Ted Demme admirably lets the viewer make up his own mind with a fast-paced (almost TOO fast paced) script and a fine cast.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The High Commissioner (1968)**
Top notch cast and nice production values don't quite make a satisfying spy thriller. Holds interest and has some really sharp moments, just not enough of them. The script and direction needed tightening.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)***
Bond enters the '70's. Possibly the creepiest of the series, with strange, sadistic bad guys and a much older looking Connery. The production values are appropriately schlocky as befitting the times and much of the action takes place in big bad Las Vegas in those pre-Disneyfied days. Jill St. John never looked better and Shirley Bassey never sounded better.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)*
Starts off great with Criswell in full closeup intoning ominously. Then...well let's just say it really is as bad as everyone says.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)**
Basil Rathbone is the only one here who takes this pic seriously unfortunately. Lots of mugging and winking at the camera with southern California obviously filling in for "jollye olde Englande". Nice sword fight at the finale.
Murphy's War (1971)**
As a man obsessed, Peter O'Toole is appropriately over the top but there's not enough story here to carry the picture.
Sunrise (1927)***
Pretentious melodrama that nonetheless acts as a showcase for some pretty advanced special effects and production design for its time. For that reason it's an important film. Minimal use of title cards helps too.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Rum Diary (2011)**
It has a good cast and beautiful Caribbean locations but the story never gels and it is shot so darkly you'd think it was a 3D film.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)**
George Lazenby really isn't that bad and this one has Diana Rigg too. But it's very long, very talky and takes itself a bit too seriously.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Solaris (1972)**
Desperately needs to be edited, but manages to maintain interest thanks mainly to Natalya Bondarchuk. Steven Soderbergh's 2002 remake was far superior.
Play Misty for Me (1971)***
In his directorial debut Clint Eastwood shows he has a good cinematic eye in this proto-stalker flick set in and around Carmel, CA. Lots of quirks in style and cast as Clint eschews the typical thriller cues and tropes.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Malta Story (1953)**
Despite location filming and actual footage taken during the siege of Malta, this British war pic is dull and drab. Not a good performance by Sir Alec Guinness.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

When Eight Bells Toll (1971)**
Interesting, realistic spy adventure flick at least until the finale. Jack Hawkins is unrecognizable as a shipping tycoon and Anthony Hopkins does well as a super spy. Soundtrack is wildly out of place though.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Men in Black 3 (2012)***
Enjoyable, silly comic book flick doesn't take itself seriously and that's a welcome relief. Barry Sonnenfeld keeps the action and sight gags moving with a very mobile camera, obviously for the 3D effect. Still the overall effect is fun.
From Here to Eternity (1953)***
Slick melodrama about life on an army base in Hawaii in 1941 made compelling by almost all the lead actors. Even Sinatra is good. It's Montgomery Cliff that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Naked Jungle (1954)***
Highly entertaining old style Hollywood adventure/drama flick with Chuck Heston almost a self-caricature at times. But it's colorful, interesting and the two leads work well together. This is the one with all the ants.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)**
This film has a lot of truthful and serious things to say about human relationships. Unfortunately it's trying to be a comedy and failing miserably. If you think about it, it's a good film. But the actual watching of it is not entertaining or enjoyable, even with a stunning Kim Novak.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)****
It's like a live animated film. You get the feeling that every blade of grass was selected specifically by Wes Anderson, it is that controlled of a film. Kind of a romanticized remembering of a childhood dream or feeling.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)****
It has its flaws (Sinatra, miscast Laurence Harvey, heavy close-ups) but enough interesting quirks to make it special.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some Facts, Insights Into The Whole Discussion Of 'Ethics' And Music Business Models | Techdirt:
"No one has ever had a 'right' to make money from what they create. They have a right to try to do so. And many people have figured out how to do so under the current system. Those complaining don't seem to understand that you don't just get to sit back and have people give you money. You have to work at it, every day. That's the lesson Amanda Palmer provided everyone with her massively successful fundraising. She didn't raise that money based on any 'ethical' arguments or anything having to do with copyright at all. In fact, she's explained how infringement has always helped her. She's able to do that because she works hard every single day to not just create great music, but to connect with her fans at a very deep level. She doesn't scold her fans -- she celebrates them. And because of that, she can make a ton of money and her fans love her for it."

via Boing Boing

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thunderball (1965)**
Can't recall another mainstream picture with so much underwater photography. Trouble is most of the action takes place there. Laughable villain.
Goldfinger (1964)***
Bond hits his stride in this stylish, gadget-filled caper. Set the mold for future Bonds. Great Shirley Bassey theme song.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Innocent (1993)**
Graham Greene-ish melodrama set in 1950's era Berlin with spies and counter spies trying to one up each other. Anthony Hopkins is fun playing an American but Campbell Scott doesn't have enough star power in the lead to overcome a too long script.
Certified Copy (2010)****
Smart, stylish, compelling introspection on originality, truth, relationships, you name it. Gets to the painful truth of all of it. Juliette Binoche is astounding.
White House refuses to reveal ties with Monsanto — RT:
"Michael Taylor, a former attorney for the US Department of Agriculture and lobbyist for Monsanto, was recently appointed to a federal role as the deputy commissioner for foods at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since then, the FDA shot down requests from consumer protection groups to label genetically modified products as such. With a White House-Monsanto connection already established with the appointment of Taylor, PEER and others are interested in what other ties could exist between the two."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vertigo (1958)****
Superb film with Hitchcock working all the buttons at his disposal. Kim Novak's performance gets better each time I see it, especially when she's the brunette. ;-)
The Rules of the Game (1939)***
Some nifty camera work, sharp dialogue, and a very modern sensibility elevates this dramady of manners among the elites and their underlings in pre-war France. Compare and contrast with Gosford Park.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)*
Also known as "Extremely Long & Incredibly Annoying". The epitome of "ham-fisted". Makes a Steven Spielberg flick look like "Last Year At Marienbad". Get the drift? If you like being hit over the head with a sledge hammer, repeatedly, this is your movie.

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Russia with Love (1963)**
Second Bond picture is an improvement over the first, but that's not saying much. Still, this one has Robert Shaw and a terrific, iconic score by John Barry.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Champagne for Caesar (1950)**
Starts out as broad satire, settles into a rom-com vibe and ends with a thud. Strange in a bad way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Stage Fright (1950)***
Lots of interesting shots and sequences in this "minor" Hitchcock murder mystery. A fine cast, particularly Marlene Dietrich and Alistair Sim, with the notable exception of Jane Wyman, who sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)****
The kind of sci-fi film they don't make any more, probably because it's not based on a comic book, I mean "graphic novel". Sharp direction from anti-auteur Robert Wise.
Dr. No (1962)**
More interesting as an historical artifact than film, this "action" flick is quite dull now with only Ursula Andress providing any spark. Too bad she arrives late in the picture.
Smile (1975)***
Not as sharp as The Candidate or The Bad News Bears, but still a fine portrait of American delusions from Michael Ritchie.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Barney Frank: Obama Rejected Bush Administration Concession to Write Down Mortgages | naked capitalism:
"I tried to get them to use the TARP to put some leverage on the banks to do more about mortgages, and Paulson at first resisted that, he just wanted to get the money out. And after he got the first chunk of money out, he would have had to ask for a second chunk, he said, all right, I’ll tell you what, I’ll ask for that second chunk and I’ll use some of that as leverage on mortgages, but I’m not going to do that unless Obama asks for it. This is now December, so we tried to get the Obama people to ask him and they wouldn’t do it."

Let's face it: Obama just does not give a shit about you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Suddenly (1954)**
Cheap looking melodrama has a hackneyed script and a quite good performance by Sinatra as an assassin for hire.
A Bridge Too Far (1977)**
By the numbers direction hampers what could have been a terrific WWII flick. All star cast turns in fine, restrained performances. Needed about 45 minutes cut.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lifeguard (1976)****
Terrific character study that resists cliches and sticks to realism. Exceptional, appealing actors, spare, truthful script, nicely restrained direction. Fascinating glimpse at 70's culture.
Spellbound (1945)**
At the time of its release perhaps not, but nowadays a pretty laughable blend of murder mystery and psycho-babble. It has some interesting moments, particularly the goofy Dali designed dream sequence, but not enough of them. I also don't believe there was a frame of film without music in it. Overbearing.
The Self Illusion: An Interview With Bruce Hood |
"LEHRER: If the self is an illusion, then why does it exist? Why do we bother telling a story about ourselves?

"HOOD: For the same reason that our brains create a highly abstracted version of the world around us. It is bad enough that our brain is metabolically hogging most of our energy requirements, but it does this to reduce the workload to act. That’s the original reason why the brain evolved in the first place – to plan and control movements and keep track of the environment. It’s why living creatures that do not act or navigate around their environments do not have brains. So the brain generates maps and models on which to base current and future behaviors. Now the value of a map or a model is the extent to which it provides the most relevant useful information without overburdening you with too much detail."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dark Shadows (2012)**
Tim Burton lite. VERY lite. Actually quite shocking that such a script was actually produced and he put his name on it. 2 stars for Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, the only reasons to see this.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tom Brokaw Doubles Down On WHCD: 'If You Go, It'll Steal Your Soul' (HUFFPO):
"'I do feel strongly that it's gone way too far,' he said. He added that the dinner, which has drawn more and more Hollywood celebrities ever year, gives off a 'let them eat cake' air to the rest of the country, and seemed to say that 'we're more interested in celebrities than we are in the concerns of real folks who are out there.'"

Oh please. Saint Tom is in a tizzy because there are too many celebrities spoiling his little soiree with politicos. Yeah I guess that could be an issue. But Tom fails to realize that the REAL problem with the WHCD is the schmoozing and inter-mingling of the "journalists" with the very people they are supposed to be having an adversarial relationship with. Yukking it up with the people they are supposed to be keeping a critical eye on concerns "real folks" much more than celebrities. Tell you what. Ditch the politicians and keep the celebs and we'll call it even.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)*
Bad, even for Herzog. It's interesting to note how much he likes to film driver-less autos going around in a circle. And chickens. Oh there is also a pig, and then [spoiler alert!] at the end a camel shows up.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stroszek (1977)***
A case of Werner Herzog's off-the-cuff film making style paying off. Shattering, unflinching look at the conflict of hopes and reality as played out in the bleak Wisconsin midwinter. Final sequence is unique and memorable.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cactus Flower (1969)**
I realize the premise of the plot is preposterous and exists only to set up the "sophisticated" comedic situation, but it is appallingly misogynistic and distracting especially in a film rescued by the performances and appeal of its two leading ladies.
Bullying the Nuns by Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books:
"It is typical of the pope’s sense of priorities that, at the very time when he is quashing an independent spirit in the church’s women, he is negotiating a welcome back to priests who left the church in protest at the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. These men, with their own dissident bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, formed the Society of Saint Pius X—the Pius whose Secretariat of State had a monsignor (Umberto Benigni) who promoted the Protocols of the Elder of Zion. Pope Benedict has already lifted the excommunication of four bishops in the Society of Saint Pius X, including that of Richard Williamson, who is a holocaust denier. Now a return of the whole body is being negotiated."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Play Dirty (1969)***
Well done WWII actioner, sort of a British Dirty Half Dozen. Sharp script, enough eccentricities to push it above the average.
Rififi (1955)**
Nicely directed French noir and one of the first heist flicks.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

George W. Bush and torture: America’s highest officials are responsible for the “enhanced interrogation” of prisoners. - Slate Magazine:
"That the United States operated secret prisons anywhere on earth just so we could place our prisoners and jailors outside the reach of U.S. laws prohibiting torture is outrageous, of course. But there’s something especially perverse about basing one of these facilities in a country whose 'bitter recent experiences' include first Nazi occupation and extermination camps and then four decades of communist oppression. Out of those experiences, the people of Poland created a state that embraces, without reservation, the absolute ban on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and the first thing the United States does is degrade that state by setting up and running a secret torture chamber on Polish soil."

And that in itself was illegal, right? Hello? Is this thing on? Anybody there? Anyone at all?

via @theharryshearer

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Do (2006)**
So-so French rom-com that plays like a Hollywood rom-com which is not a good thing. Watchable for the two leads, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Alain Chabat.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)****
Werner Herzog makes serious films, there is no doubt about that, and that deserves respect and admiration. However, his style of direction is so minimal, so matter-of-fact, it tends to minimize the impact of the what is taking place on the screen. You can read the script and be very moved by the story but you watch the film and it lays there flat. Restraint is one thing, but overwhelming lifelessness is quite another.

UPDATE 11/09/15: Second viewing experience is much improved. The casting is superb, the images quite impressive and once you know the story and the "enigma", the nuances and subtleties in the film come to life and are quite moving.
Scoop (2006)**
Enjoyable "minor" Woody Allen comedy with the director performing as a magician who could have been in Broadway Danny Rose. Top notch cast, lots of good one-liners, light, breezy and fairly forgettable.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Metropolitan (1990)***
Enjoyable Jane Austen-meets-Woody Allen light comedy about modern Manhattan young elites. Another way to describe it would be "Pretty In Pink" among the 1%-ers. Literate script, concise direction, nicely shot, appealingly cast.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Chase (1966)***
Bizarre flick about a small Texas town that apparently goes berserk every Saturday night, fueled by an unending flow of alcohol, sex and violence. All-star cast and crew undermined by an overzealous producer. Still the film holds interest and closes with some real power.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Office Space (1999)***
Hilariously accurate depiction of the life of a modern office drone with exceptional supporting characterizations. The lead character however is vacuous and not very interesting and this weakens the film a lot. A better actor as the lead may have helped.
My Best Fiend - Klaus Kinski (1999)**
Essential viewing for movie buffs, but the casual moviegoer will be nonplussed. At the start, Kinski seems to appear insane but by film's end it is clear Herzog has the real problems.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

...And They Lived Happily Ever After (2004)**
French farce about, what else, marriage, fidelity, sex, etc. Light and playful, sometimes absurd.
The Hot Rock (1972)**
Breezy heist flick with an appealing cast and smart script. Ron Leibman is a hoot.
Age of Ignorance by Charles Simic | The New York Review of Books:
"Where else on earth would a president who rescued big banks from bankruptcy with taxpayers’ money and allowed the rest of us to lose $12 trillion in investment, retirement, and home values be called a socialist?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Banks, debt creation, and the financial takeover | eats shoots 'n leaves:
"This is the clearest explanation we’ve heard yet of the mechanisms used by politically powerful financial institutions to capture both public and private wealth.

"The fundamental principle: Creation of money by banks in the form of debt allows banks to use compound interest as a mechanism to capture the commons, while government creation of money through investment in public infrastructure and services creates wealth."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Downhill Racer (1969)****
Stellar directorial debut for Michael Ritchie in this tale of a young man with a talent for skiing and little else. Best skiing sequences on film. Tight, spare script, no filler. Marred only by the occasional heavy handed soundtrack.
Cobra Verde (1987)**
Klaus Kinski is exceptional yet again, in another Werner Herzog tale of crazy men in South American. This time he's a ruthless bandit who manages to become a slave mogul. Interesting in parts, but as a whole it feels like we've been down this road before with Herzog/Kinski.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)**
So-so direction mars this otherwise fine character driven tale of old time mountain men. Will Geer is terrific.
Anthony Zimmer (2005)**
Gorgeous Nice locations and Sophie Marceau are the highlights of this French thriller.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Housemaid (2010)**
Impeccably photographed, well acted and visually interesting, but the film never seems to reach its full potential.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Neuroscience And Justice Edge Master Class 2011 | Edge:
"And so the whole notion, I think, there's a realization for me, that the whole notion of this free will and the brain and determinism has been miscast. We just accept the fact that we have this automatic brain, and we use this as our metaphor. So cars are automatic, and yet cars with all their determinism that we can specify, in no way tell us about traffic. So when the cars start interacting in a social setting, you get all of a sudden, incredible new capacities that cannot be described in any way by studying the individual cars.

"I would just say the same with brains. Brains are automatic. But our freedom and our sense of personal responsibility come from the interaction, the social interaction, the glue of the environment, of the social grouping. And that's where you look for responsibility, and that's why even though we are these finely tuned machines and narratives and all the rest of it, we hold people responsible because that is the nature of the social exchange between people, and that's how you should look upon responsibility."
The Skin I Live In (2011)**
Strange Frankenstein-ish tale of revenge attempts to serve as some sort of metaphor for gender identity. Compelling, but a misstep for Almodóvar.
The Candidate (1972)****
Still the best film about modern politics and still, unfortunately, relevant and topical. Redford is quite good, Karen Carlson is stunning, director Michael Ritchie at the top of his game. Smart, witty, spot on script.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fitzcarraldo (1982)**
Like an opera it is far too long, but there are many fine moments as well as the lovely Claudia Cardinale.
They Might Be Giants (1971)**
Dated counter-culture fable in gritty NYC nevertheless watchable due to the performances of Scott and Woodward in the leads. Focus on them, ignore the supporting cast and shoddy direction.
Woyzeck (1979)*
Kinski is impressive again but, as usual, Herzog's off-the-cuff style undercuts him.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)**
A film made off-the-cuff in difficult conditions and it shows. Klaus Kinski gives an interesting and potentially great performance, some remarkable river rafting scenes, some stunning photography but Herzog's bizarre seat-of-the-pants directing style fails to capitalize.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Elaine Pagels on the Book of Revelation : The New Yorker:
"You can’t help feeling, along with Pagels, a pang that the Gnostic poems, so much more affecting in their mystical, pantheistic rapture, got interred while Revelation lives on. But you also have to wonder if there ever was a likely alternative. Don’t squishy doctrines of transformation through personal illumination always get marginalized in mass movements? As Stephen Batchelor has recently shown, the open-minded, non-authoritarian side of Buddhism, too, quickly succumbed to its theocratic side, gasping under the weight of those heavy statues. The histories of faiths are all essentially the same: a vague and ambiguous millennial doctrine preached by a charismatic founder, Marx or Jesus; mystical variants held by the first generations of followers; and a militant consensus put firmly in place by the power-achieving generation. Bakunin, like the Essenes, never really had a chance. The truth is that punitive, hysterical religions thrive, while soft, mystical ones must hide their scriptures somewhere in the hot sand."

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Artist (2011)**
This picture was apparently made by and for fans of silent movies. It is made well enough, but the story is pedestrian at best, and the acting is not enough to overcome that. Dull.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Love Crime (2010)**
Kristin Scott Thomas is her usual compelling self but Ludivine Sagnier can't match her and looks perpetually in a state of shock in this circular tale of corporate back stabbing.
Hugo (2011)**
A nearly constant and distracting score, an extremely mobile camera for no other reason than 3d gimmicks, scenes that are oddly paced, a story that seems to be saying that movies are far better than books and none of the trademark Scorsese vitality. Technically superb but it's over-designed and cluttered.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)***
After seeing the picture a second time, I have a theory: Blake Edwards knew he could never film the actual novel in a realistic way and get away with it, so he decided to stylize and colorize the whole thing so he could pretend it was a satire. "It's just a cartoon." Yes, it's a silly cartoon with a buck-toothed Mickey Rooney as a Japanese landlord, ultra-colorful Manhattan scenes, odd dialogue and situations, a luminous Audrey Hepburn, a lovely, haunting theme song which she sings perfectly and an undercurrent of sadness and melancholy. I still, however, think George Peppard is all wrong.
Detour (1945)****
Extremely low budget proto-noir with one of the all time great femme fatale performances by Ann Savage. Director Edgar Ulmer keeps the pace brisk so you can't tell the film was shot in essentially two locations: a hotel room and a car. Great fun.
Ruthless (1948)**
Overwrought melodrama about a voracious power fiend whose only motivation seems to be because somebody else has it. Sidney Greenstreet does a good job but he is badly miscast as a rival.
Wait Until Dark (1967)**
Alan Arkin is having a blast but the movie gets tiresome pretty quickly. One of the first to employ the not-dead-yet villain trope.
How to Steal a Million (1966)**
You can't beat the pairing of Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in Paris. It's a shame the material is so woefully dull.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)**
Bleak, horrific story of immediately post-war Japan and two siblings struggling to survive. Not an entertaining picture despite excellent realistic animation.
The Natural (1984)**
The picture is fine in the first half with nicely restrained yet stylish direction, but falters in the second when the score becomes obtrusive and the momentum slows considerably. Then the abrupt ending.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever |
"Once you start questioning the reality of memory, things fall apart pretty quickly. So many of our assumptions about the human mind—what it is, why it breaks, and how it can be healed—are rooted in a mistaken belief about how experience is stored in the brain. (According to a recent survey, 63 percent of Americans believe that human memory “works like a video camera, accurately recording the events we see and hear so that we can review and inspect them later.”) We want the past to persist, because the past gives us permanence. It tells us who we are and where we belong. But what if your most cherished recollections are also the most ephemeral thing in your head?"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Woody Allen, Exclusive Interview | OUT OF ORDER Magazine:
"That’s the easy part; the technical part is easy. Where you fail all the time in movies, or ninety-nine percent of the time, is in the script. That’s the problem. If you have a good script, a really good script, you can give it to a mediocre director and he’ll get, you know, not a bad movie. If you have a bad script and you give it to the best director in the world, it’ll look nice but you’ll never be interested in it. So it isn’t the cities or the technical part that ever trips you up. It’s always the script. Every country has good actors, every country has good cameramen and technicians but it’s hard to write something that works and that people enjoy and get interested in. That’s really the hard part."

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Descendants (2011)**
Disappointing follow-up to Sideways, this is NOT a comedy. This is a stark, raw and uncompromising look at the privileged classes and how utterly divorced from reality they can be. A bit too under directed by Alexander Payne, which makes it hard to determine exactly what he is going for with this material.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Amadeus (1984)**
Cut about 45 minutes and you have yourself a fine film. As it stands, unless you love Mozart's operas, you have something less. Prague fills in nicely for Vienna in the external shots.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dick Tracy (1990)**
Stylish, colorful and technically impressive take on the comic cop ultimately cannot transcend its material.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The China Syndrome (1979)***
Extremely plausible and prophetic film about the dangers of unregulated corporations, played out in reality all too often, such as the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline disaster. James Bridges directs with style, wit and extreme restraint eschewing a music soundtrack to great effect. Fine, understated performances.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Anthony Hopkins: I've never been really close to anyone | Film | The Guardian:
"What's your idea of a good night?

Staying in and watching Mob Wives on TV. I don't have many friends; I'm very much a loner. As a child I was very isolated and I've never been really close to anyone. Ask nothing, expect nothing. That's my creed. We're all just a bunch of sinners crashing around in the darkness."
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
"...Third, our brains are composed of vast, complex, and shifting collections of subparts, most of which we have no access to; this book was written over the course of a few years by several different people, all of whom were named David Eagleman, but who were somewhat different with each passing hour."

A succinct summary of the book from the afterword. Free will advocates will have to do some pretty fancy footwork to keep up.
The Remains of the Day (1993)****
One of Anthony Hopkins finest performances in a film of several layers, but ultimately about how the human need for meaning causes us to ignore what is right under our noses, and our despair when and if we finally realize it. Director James Ivory nails it.
Howards End (1992)***
Well deserved Oscar nom for Vanessa Redgrave and generally fine performances from the rest of the cast along with impeccable production by Merchant Ivory, but it's just a tad too long which tends to dissipate its impact.
Papillon (1973)**
Well-shot Hollywood bio-pic of French petty thief sentenced to Devil's Island in Guyana and his several escape attempts. Works ok as an action flick, but the acting is wildly uneven and it goes on for too long.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Mike Martz Retires; The University of Miami Is Getting Tough on Boosters - Business - The Atlantic Wire:
"Mike Martz, engineer of the pass-happy offensive gameplans that helped the turn-of-the-millennium St. Louis Rams reach two Super Bowls in three years, says he's done with coaching at the age of 60. Martz was offensive coordinator of the 1999 Rams team that defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV and scored 526 points during the regular season, which at the time was second most in NFL history. Two years later, he was the head coach of the Rams squad that lost to the 14-point underdog New England Patriots in the biggest upset Super Bowl history. Martz was bizarrely fired by the Rams in 2005 after taking a medical leave of absence, but resurfaced as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears, improving each team's offense before departing on less-than-ideal terms. This was particularly true of his time in Chicago, which ended earlier in the month when head coach Lovie Smith -- his defensive coordinator during the Rams glory years -- helped to push Martz out the door after two seasons."

Refreshing to read a report about Martz free of hearsay, rumor and unfounded cliche. Sadly, those things keep following Martz and inhibit his ability to be even interviewed for head coaching and OC positions around the league. The fact of the matter is, for an OC whose team was in the NFC Championship game a year ago and, if not for 2 devastating injuries to key personnel, would have at least qualified for the playoffs this year to not be sought after is highly suspect. When someone like Brian Schottenheimer, who hasn't done a thing with the Jets, is coveted and Martz is shunned, something is wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Of Gods and Men (2010)****
Great performances by the 8 leads makes this an absorbing drama of coming to terms with the inevitable.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) **
Decent Hollywood (i.e. rife with factual errors) biopic of the famous aviator's first transatlantic voyage, nicely shot by Billy Wilder.
The Freshman (1990) ***
Nifty screwball comedy with enough gimmicks to overcome a few traces of '80's movie cliches. Brando shows a deft comedic touch.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011 In Review: Movies

**** Tree of Life
*** Midnight In Paris
*** Rango
** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
** Melancholia
** Rio
* The Muppets

2011 In Review: Music

**** Army Navy - The Last Place
**** Dengue Fever - Cannibal Courtship
**** Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams
**** Lindsey Buckingham - Seeds We Sow
**** The Strokes - Angles
**** The Title Tracks - In Blank
**** Wild Flag - Wild Flag
*** Beirut - The Rip Tide
*** Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing
*** Blondie - Panic of Girls
*** Brilliant Colors - Again and Again
*** Charlotte Gainsbourg - Stage Whisper
*** Everybody Else - Wanderlust
*** Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
*** Kathryn Calder - Bright And Vivid
*** Mates of State - Mountaintops
*** Pugwash - The Olympus Sound
*** REM - Collapse Into Now
*** Ralph Covert & The Bad Examples - Smash Record
*** Raveonettes - Raven In the Grave
*** Rockpile - Live at Montreaux 1980
*** Scout - Pi
*** Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams
*** Surfer Blood - Tarot Classics
*** The Wrong Words - The Wrong Words
*** Wilco - The Whole Love
** Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
** Carole King - A Christmas Carole
** Cut Copy - Zonoscope
** Fruit Bats - Tripper
** Human League - Credo
** Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow
** Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer
** She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas
** Sloan - The Double Cross
** Spoons - Static In Transmission
** TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light
** The Bangles - Sweetheart of the Sun
** The Cars - Move Like This
** The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
** The Ettes - Wicked Will
** The Feelies - Here Before
** The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
** The Sounds - Something To Die For
** They Might Be Giants - Join Us
** Viva Voce - The Future Will Destroy You
** William Shatner - Seeking Major Tom
** Woods - Sun and Shade
** Yes - Fly From Here
** Young Galaxy - Shapeshifting
** Yuck - Yuck
* Destroyer - Kaputt
* Michael Bublé - Christmas
* Robyn Hitchcock - Tromso, Kaptein
* The New York Dolls - Dancing Backward In High Heels

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Our Selves, Other Cells - Boing Boing:
"How many people have left their DNA in us? Any baby we’ve ever conceived, even ones we’ve miscarried unknowingly. Sons leave their Y chromosome genes in their mothers. The fetal cells from each pregnancy, flowing in a mother’s bloodstream, can be passed on to her successive kids. If we have an older sibling, that older sibling’s cells may be in us. The baby in a large family may harbor the genes of many brothers and sisters. My mother’s cells are in my body, and so are my daughter’s cells, and half my daughter’s DNA comes from her dad. Some of those cells may be in my brain. This is squirm-worthy."