Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review: Music

**** Bye Bye Blackbirds, The - We Need the Rain
**** Cate Le Bon - Mug Museum
**** David Bowie - The Next Day
**** Everything Everything - Arc
**** Lisa Loeb - No Fairy Tale
**** Saturday looks good to me - one kiss ends it all
**** Strokes, The - Comedown Machine
**** Surfer blood - pythons
**** Travis - Where You Stand
**** Veronica falls - waiting for something to happen

*** Albert Hammond, Jr. - AHJ
*** Anna Hillburg - Anna Hillburg
*** Belle & Sebastian - The Third Eye Centre
*** bettie serveert - oh, mayhem!
*** Cut Copy - Free Your Mind
*** Fleetwood Mac - Extended Play
*** Frankie Rose - Herein Wild
*** Haim - Days Are Gone
*** House of Love, The - she paints words in red
*** Medicine - To The Happy Few
*** Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
*** Neon Neon - Praxis Makes Perfect
*** Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors
*** Sam Phillips - Push Any Button
*** Sounds, The - Weekend
*** Superchunk - I Hate Music
*** Upset - she's gone
*** Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
*** White Lies - big tv

** Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
** Chumbawamba - In Memoriam Margaret Thatcher
** Colleen Green - Sock it to Me
** Dengue Fever - In The Ley Lines
** Elvis Costello And The Roots - Wise Up Ghost
** Joy Formidable, The - Wolf's Law
** Lake - the world is real
** Lyn Saga - Venice
** Marnie Stern - The Chronicles of Marnia
** Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
** Morcheeba - Head Up High
** My Bloody Valentine - m b v
** Ocean Blue, The - Ultramarine
** Of Montreal - Lousy with Sylvianbriar
** Orange Peels, The - Sun Moon
** Pastels, the - slow summits
** Pet Shop Boys - Electric
** Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True
** Richard Thompson - electric
** Rilo Kiley - RKives
** Smith Westerns - soft will
** Son Volt - honky tonk
** Suede - bloodsports
** They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
** Those Darlins - Blur the Line
** Throwing Muses - purgatory - paradise
** Toad The Wet Sprocket - New Constellation

* Dean Wareham - Emancipated Hearts
* Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Unvarnished
* KT Tunstall - Invisible Empire - Crescent Moon
* Kate Nash - girl talk
* British Sea Power - machineries of joy
* Camera Obscura - desire lines
* Chris Stamey - lovesick blues
* Dido - the girl who got away
* Justin Hayward - spirits of the western sky
* Renaissance - Grandine Il Vento

2013 In Review: Movies

**** All Is Lost
**** Blue Jasmine
**** Enough Said
**** Frances Ha

*** Bling Ring, The
*** Gravity
*** Mama
*** Monsters University
*** Mud
*** Side Effects
*** Twixt
*** Upstream Color
*** Wolf Of Wall Street

** Conjuring, The
** Counselor, The
** Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The
** Lone Ranger, The
** Much Ado About Nothing
** Europa Report
** Star Trek Into Darkness
** Stoker
** To The Wonder

* Insidious: Chapter 2
* Man of Steel
* Now You See Me

The Conjuring (2013) **

Some "A" level talent lend some gravitas to yet another "based on true events" horror flick from jump scare master James Wan. The first half is much better.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ****

Well deserved evisceration of stock pushers in this lively, but a bit too long, film from Martin Scorsese. Sort of Casino goes to Wall Street. Pulls no punches and doesn't hammer you over the head with judgments, but just shows the despicable creatures from their point of view and the takeaway is pretty clear.

UPDATED 09/02/2015: On second viewing, this is a masterpiece. Magnificent soundtrack (as good as Goodfellas), the writing is sharp and witty, Scorcese is firing on all cylinders here.

All Is Lost (2013) ****

Pares it all down to the essence and just shows it. Brilliant idea, expert execution.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Return of the Musketeers (1989) **

Second sequel to the original has the same lead actors, similar style, tone and production values, but lakes the wit and quirks. Director Richard Lester's cut is probably much better.

Walking and Talking (1996) **

Subtle depiction of female friendship and the men in their lives. Pleasant enough, but feels like something is missing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Week with Marilyn (2011) **

Watchable but uninvolving bio-pic of Marilyn Monroe having a tough time dealing with Sir Laurence Olivier and the local lad who helps her through it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enough Said (2013) ****

Thoroughly enjoyable and perceptive Allen-esque dramedy, with a breakthrough performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Martin Scorsese in conversation: Guilt trips of the great director - Features - Films - The Independent

"'Basically, I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, that is the key one, that is when I realised you could do something on television.' Scorsese even appeared in an episode, playing himself in a season opener."

Director John Lee Hancock on 'Saving Mr. Banks': We Went for the Truth, Not the Facts - TheWrap

"When I was a producer on the movie “My Dog Skip” years ago, we compressed 10 years from Willie Morris’ book into one year, and we added some stories that felt like they could have happened to him. I asked him about the inconsistencies, and he said, 'John, there are the facts and then there is the truth. This is the truth.' I thought, OK, that’s a decent way to put it. Don’t worry about the little factual details. Get to the heart of it."

The use of the word "truth" in the interview really means "truth as I see it" which of course is not Truth at all. I don't have a problem with someone making a movie based on a true story if they change the names of all persons and places concerned. It is a fraud and a lie to present a film as historical fact which is what John Lee Hancock is doing no matter how comfortable he is with it. He should make Aaron Sorkin's next flick since they both seem to have the same attitude to reality.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) **

In the first installment, the first hour of setup was almost forgivable, but now Peter Jackson is just stalling for time. Superfluous characters, meandering plot threads, this is a film out of control. Still there is no denying the technical accomplishments.

It's a Disaster (2012) **

Droll look at contemporary 30-somethings suddenly faced with no more tomorrows and promptly ignoring it. Shot sparingly with lots of talk but unappealing characters (probably the point). Some laughs and zingers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Man of Steel (2013) *

Leaden and ponderous "reboot" of the Superman comic book flicks. The only good that can come from this, aside from providing work for the luminous Ms. Lane, is that maybe this most overblown of films will finally kill this idea of treating comic book/action movies as Serious Art. One can dream anyway.

Being John Malkovich (1999) ****

Terrific, original, chock full of ideas, brilliant art direction, top notch and quirky cast who turn in stellar performances and the best puppetry ever in a Hollywood picture.

Scholarship and Politics - The Case of Noam Chomsky -

"It’s just that while language is powerful and creative, its power and creativity have limits; and since language is thought rather than an addition to or clothing of thought, the limits of language are the limits of what we can fruitfully think about. Nor, Chomsky declared, are those limits capable of being enlarged or transcended in time. This is as good as it gets. There is 'no evolution in our capacity for language.'”

[possible subscription required]

Monday, December 09, 2013

Martin Scorsese says he only has a couple more movies left in him / The Dissolve

“'I have the desire to make many films, but as of now I’m 71 and there’s only a couple more left if I get to make them,'” he told film school students in Marrakech, where he was serving as jury head of the city’s film festival. 'I miss the time when I had the desire to experiment and try different kinds of films, I miss that time, but that’s done, it’s over. There is obligation as you get older, you have family. I’ve been very lucky in the last 10 years or so, to have found projects that combine the desire, the subject matter—from The Aviator to now—with, as best I can, fulfilling the obligation to my family and the financiers.'”

Very, very sad. Inevitable, but that doesn't make it any better.

The Cheerleader Effect: Scientific American

"All of these visual illusions demonstrate that what we 'see' is not always a simple or direct reflection of what is right in front of us. Instead, what we see depends on both the physical stimulus coded by our visual systems (what cognitive scientists refer to as bottom up processing), and a blend of contextual information, expectations, and prior knowledge (known as top down processing)."

So much for "seeing is believing".

via Arts & Letters Daily

Friday, December 06, 2013

Boogie Woogie (2009) **

Spectacular cast (Heather Graham needs to be in more movies!) in a so-so satire (I think?) of London's art world. Thankfully it's brief.

Hard Eight (1996) **

Another flick that seems to be missing something. It's got style and a terrific Gwyneth Paltrow performance but it's not enough to fill in all the blanks.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Stoker (2013) **

Stylish and visually appealing, but one struggles to find some sort of point to it all. Something is missing.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tristana (1970) *

Maybe this was supposed to be a black comedy. Either way I didn't get it.

Ball of Fire (1941) *

Interminable and insufferable "comedy" hopelessly mines the eggheads vs. regular Joe trope to disastrous effect. The leads are miscast and the whole thing goes on way too long. Embarrassing.

Looking for Richard (1996) **

Director Al Pacino hedges his bets and backs off a full fledged version of Shakespeare's Richard III for a combination "making of" and "Cliff Notes to". It works some of the time, especially in the last third of the film, but Al, please, next time lose the baseball cap huh?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paris Review – C. S. Lewis Reviews The Hobbit, 1937, C.s. Lewis

"For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Black Widow (1987) **

Appealing leads but a rather simplistic and all too slick noir. Lots of big hair and shoulder pads date the flick to VERY '80's.

A Neuroscientist's Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious - Wired Science

"According to Koch, consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be. That’s just the way the universe works.

“'The electric charge of an electron doesn’t arise out of more elemental properties. It simply has a charge,” says Koch. “'Likewise, I argue that we live in a universe of space, time, mass, energy, and consciousness arising out of complex systems.'”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blancanieves (2012) ***

Beautifully made take on the Snow White tale set amid the Spanish bullfighting culture of the 1920's. Seriously. Just a tad long, but inventive and inspired, and much more successful as a silent film than this poseur.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Now You See Me (2013) *

A smug, arrogant movie about smug, arrogant people. The director apparently is in love with the 360 degree camera shot where it wraps around the subject. Major annoyance.

Twixt (2011) ***

Pared down to the essentials, this is a well made lucid dream of a flick made by a master who obviously still has a lot to say, and still has the skills to say it with style. Puzzling and a shame it wasn't given a standard theatrical release. Highly entertaining.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Europa Report (2013) **

"Found footage" style sci-fi thriller impresses with its realistic production design on such a low budget but loses some of its impact at the reveal.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Strange Silence on Success in Removing Syria’s Chemical Weapons | Common Dreams

"The policy lesson is clear: when the United States has worked through the Security Council and other U.N. agencies, it has succeeded in ridding the region — including in Iraq in the 1990s and Libya in 2003-04 — of most weapons of mass destruction (except, of course, those possessed by Israel.) While the threat of American military force may have played a role in each case, the effectiveness of the U.N.’s inspection and disarmament capabilities is indisputable and will remain essential as the world seeks to remove weapons of mass destruction from areas of likely conflict."

via @DeanBaker13

Do Our Bones Influence Our Minds? : The New Yorker

"But Karsenty has long believed that our skeletons do a lot more than just give our bodies their shape. In 2007, he suggested that bones play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar: mice engineered to lack osteocalcin were essentially diabetic; they were less sensitive to insulin, and produced less of it. When he provided osteocalcin, however, their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar normalized."

Undernews: Canada's health insurance bill was 13 pages long; Medicare used index cards to enroll 20 million

"Physician, scholar and advocate, Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program says that 'complexity is baked into Obamacare.' ... Over forty years ago, Canada’s single-payer system was enacted with a 13 page bill that covers everyone for less than half of the cost per capita than the U.S.’s waste-ridden, profiteering, corrupt medical-industrial complex that drives honest practitioners up the wall. And, the Canadian system produces better health outcomes at this reduced cost."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Vietnam releases dengue-blocking mosquito - Yahoo News

"It's unclear why mosquitoes that transmit dengue do not naturally get Wolbachia, which is found in up to 70 percent of insects in the wild. But O'Neill doesn't believe that purposefully infecting mosquitoes will negatively impact ecosystems. He says the key to overcoming skepticism is to be transparent with research while providing independent risk analyses and publishing findings in high-caliber scientific journals.

"'I think, intuitively, it makes sense that it's unlikely to have a major consequence of introducing Wolbachia into one more species,'" O'Neill says, adding that none of his work is for profit. 'It's already in millions already.'"

They do all this science to figure out why mosquitoes are the transmitters of Dengue fever, yet when they come up with a solution they rely on INTUITION to claim it is safe? Sure it FEELS like it won't hurt anything, let's do it!

I, Cringely The Google File System makes NSA's hack blatantly illegal and they know it - I, Cringely

"This is a huge point of law missed by the general news reports — a point so significant and obvious that it ought to lead to immediate suspension of the program and destruction of all acquired data… but it probably won’t.

"That probably won’t happen because Congress seems hell-bent on quickly passing an intelligence reform bill that not only doesn’t prohibit these illegal activities, the bill seems to give them a legal basis they didn’t have before.

"Some kind of reform, eh?"

Friday, November 01, 2013

Real Steel (2011) *

A flick that revels in its cliches and un-originality in an incredibly annoying way. Wall-to-wall soundtrack and reaction shots to make darn sure we get the point.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Elvis Costello Talks to Judd Apatow About Wise Up Ghost, His Album with the Roots, and His Musical with Burt Bacharach | Vanity Fair

"It’s essentially Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with songs. It’s pretty dark stuff, but we’re hopefully injecting into it a little bit of pace here and there. We’ve written 12 songs in the last six days."

The Counselor (2013) **

Too vague for its own good, but full of beautiful people and colorful places and cheetahs! Cameron Diaz makes a lovely femme fatale.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haute Cuisine (2012) ***

Delicious French food porn along with a spare, restrained portrait of a cook's life from the presidential palace to literally the ends of the Earth.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Last Love / The Dissolve

"It’s been three years since she died, but the former philosophy professor struggles to will himself out of his Parisian flat to face the world."

I'm sorry but I'll have to skip this picture since there is no way I could suspend my disbelief enough to accept that anyone, under any circumstances could feel that way living in a flat in Paris. ;-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Last Exorcism (2010) *

Not very frightening pseudo-doc about a preacher coming clean on fake exorcisms finally confronting the real thing. Or is it? Keeps going on like that until it ends up downright silly.

World Series Game Three Ends After Bizarre, Rare Obstruction Call - Connor Simpson - The Atlantic Wire

"By the book, Middlebrooks was dead or alive on that play. There was nothing he could do. 'If he lies prone on the dirt, he might be obstructing, according to the rulebook. If he gets up, he might be obstructing, according to the rulebook,' writes Samar Kalaf."

Sorry, Samar, but you are creating an either/or fallacy. All Middlebrooks had to do was put his legs down, like anyone would do if they were not TRYING to trip Craig! Craig tried to step over him and if his legs were down he would have. And despite the Atlantic Wire's histrionics, runner obstruction is NOT an incredibly rare call. Any regular baseball fan has seen it called before. It is a good rule and a valid, necessary rule. It goes hand in hand with fielder obstruction by the runner. Both players need to be cognizant of each other's right to move on the field and if they don't there are consequences. Ball players and coaches know this. It's really not that controversial.

German Astronaut Fact Checks Gravity Starring Sandra Bullock - SPIEGEL ONLINE

"SPIEGEL: It doesn't sound like a very nice way to go, drifting through nothingness in a spacesuit, waiting to die.

"Walter: On the contrary! When you're slowly running out of oxygen, the same thing happens as does when you're in thin air at the top of a mountain: Everything seems funny. And as you're laughing about it, you slowly nod off. I experienced this phenomenon in an altitude chamber during my training as an astronaut. At some point, someone in the group starts cracking bad jokes. Our brains are gentle with us. A person who dies alone in space dies a cheerful death."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) **

Apparently mutilated by the studio, this movie probably wouldn't have worked anyway since Holmes is misplayed by Sir Robert Stephens a bit too fey to make the story's conceit believable.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Great Gatsby (1974) **

All the principal actors in this flick should have sued the director. They look awful! Shot in tight closeup with sweaty, oily faces no matter what the conditions are supposed to be. And how in the world did Mia Farrow get to be the object of Gatsby's obsession? The whole movie is not cast very well. Still it moves along briskly and seems to be a fair depiction of the '20's.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Craig Venter: 'This isn't a fantasy look at the future. We are doing the future' | Science | The Observer

"Venter thinks that with the 2010 announcement he finally answered the question posed by physicist Erwin Schr̦dinger in his 1944 book written for the lay reader Рand of which Venter owns a first edition РWhat is Life? 'Life is a DNA software system,' says Venter. All living things are solely reducible to DNA and the cellular apparatus it uses to run on. The DNA software both creates and directs the more visible 'hardware' of life such as proteins and cells.

"With that question settled, says Venter, it's clear that if you give an organism new software by rewriting its genome, you have rewritten the software and life itself. He dismisses his scientific critics who say there is more to remaking life than creating DNA molecules as guilty of a kind of modern day vitalism, the pre-scientific notion that an intangible something sets life apart from other things made from atoms and molecules.

"Although Venter works on single cells, he says he believes it holds true for even the most complex organisms. 'I can't explain consciousness yet, but like anything else it will be explainable at the molecular level, the cellular level and therefore the DNA coding level.'"

Simple Sitting Test Predicts How Long You'll Live |

"People who scored fewer than eight points on the test, he found, were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher; those who scored three or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than eight points."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mitch Hurwitz on Jeremy Piven, Loose Seals -- Vulture

"But I just think, even though we talk about character, what we’re really wired too as species is just story. It’s what keeps us interested in things, it’s how we turn these crazy, random firings in our brains at night while we sleep into a story. Our brain’s just trying so hard to say, ‘then that caused me to do this,’ so it’s a funny thing."

The Witches (1990) ***

Like another beloved Roald Dahl adaptation, this film was made by folks who cared about the material as an end in itself. Never condescends to its audience. Nic Roeg falls in love with the fish eye camera lens a bit much here and there but overall the pace is crisp and the actors play it straight as it should be.

Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly -

"For instance, an update about the T.S.A.’s Transportation Security Enforcement Record System, which contains information about travelers accused of 'violations or potential violations' of security regulations, warns that the records may be shared with 'a debt collection agency for the purpose of debt collection.'

A recent privacy notice about PreCheck notes that fingerprints submitted by people who apply for the program will be used by the F.B.I. to check its unsolved crimes database.

“'The average person doesn’t understand how much intelligence-driven matching is going on and how this could be accessed for other purposes,' said Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which has fought to block these initiatives. 'There’s no meaningful oversight, transparency or accountability.'”

Just a reminder, this is not a movie this is real life.

via @theHarryShearer

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) **

Takes its subject matter seriously and features a top notch cast doing fine work, but ends up a mixed bag with the script going nowhere in particular.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Creator (1985) *

As if one needed any, this flick provides all the proof necessary of Peter O'Toole's acting ability. He is light years beyond the dreck of this screenplay. Nonsensical nonetheless and a waste of time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lady in White (1988) *

This flick is not just bad, it's offensively so. Tries to be To Kill A Mockingbird one minute then A Christmas Story the next and not hitting either target. Many scenes feel staged and arbitrary.

Twilight (1998) ***

Stylish neo-noir with a stellar cast and a tight, witty script. Feels like it was made in the early '70's.

Planet of the Apes (1968) ****

Iconic and deservedly so. Sci-fi about ideas rather than spfx. Crisply and imaginatively directed with a cast and script that takes things seriously. A classic.

South Dakota's cattle cataclysm: why isn't this horror news? | Carrie Mess | Comment is free |

"Can you even imagine what that would feel like? Standing with your hands tied as your life's living, breathing and mooing work is destroyed. I can't imagine, I don't know how I would recover from a loss like that. This wasn't just one or two herds of cows. This wasn't just one or two families that lost animals. This wasn't just a few cows. Tens of thousands of cows are gone. Some ranchers lost their entire herds. All of their cows, gone."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Dr. Strangelove sequel by Terry Gilliam? Stanley Kubrick wanted it to ... / The Dissolve

"But according to a recent interview with Terry Gilliam at Twitch, Dr. Strangelove director Stanley Kubrick didn’t see it that way. He actually entertained the idea of a sequel called Son Of Strangelove, and worked on the concept with Strangelove co-writer Terry Southern. But rather than direct it himself, he was interested in Gilliam leading the project."

Bleak House by Charles Simic | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

"Anyone who averts his eyes from the hopeless lives many of our fellow citizens lead and tells himself and others that these men and women only have themselves to blame, is either a fool or a soulless bastard."

Or a human being caught in the myriad built-in brain biases that can make it so easy to believe that *I* am the victim of circumstance but *they* get what they deserve. Which explains the GOP voting base. I don't know how to explain the Democrat's voting base.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gravity (2013) ***

Stunning technical achievement but falls short in the emotionally engaging department. A little disappointed in a couple of choices made by director Alfonso Cuarón (too much music, dialogue), but some incredible action sequences. Can't imagine this film being watchable on a small screen though.

NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally - The Washington Post

"Spam has proven to be a significant problem for the NSA — clogging databases with information that holds no foreign intelligence value. The majority of all e-mails, one NSA document says, 'are SPAM from ‘fake’ addresses and never ‘delivered’ to targets.'”

Lovely spam, wonderful spam!

via @theharryshearer

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Last Days of Disco (1998) ***

The same sort of folks we saw in Metropolitan about 10 years later, still messed up but in the same witty and self-unaware way. Great disco soundtrack.

The Efficiency Expert (1992) **

Amiable but formulaic fable of productivity consultant who has let his work take over his life and the goofy but charming moccasin factory workers who set him right.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Zookeeper in Mo. killed when charged by elephant - SFGate

"Several employees were with Bradford at the time because Patience had a history of being aggressive, she said. The zoo has two female and two male elephants. Another female, named Connie, died earlier this month. Zoo officials said they did not yet know what would happen to Patience."

I'm conflicted. I grew up going to a great zoo and have enjoyed many other zoos around the country, but I am beginning to think that perhaps this is an idea whose time has come and should be gone. Let's move towards virtual zoos or holographic, interactive museums instead.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mama (2013) ***

Jessica Chastain is mesmerizing in an otherwise so-so ghost story/creature feature. Some exceptional work in a few brief dream sequences.

World Bank Insider Blows Whistle on Corruption, Federal Reserve

“'This is like crooks trying to figure out where they can go hide. It’s a mafia,' she said. 'These culprits that have grabbed all this economic power have succeeded in infiltrating both sides of the issue, so you will find people who are supposedly trying to fight corruption who are just there to spread disinformation and as a placeholder to trip up anybody who manages to get their act together.… Those thugs think that if they can keep the world ignorant, they can bleed it longer.'”

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


"The song 'Mother and Child Reunion', meanwhile, had taken its title from a dish of that name he'd been served in a Chinese restaurant—a dish composed entirely of chicken and egg."

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Exorcist III (1990) **

Might have been better had the producers not insisted on making the film fit the title, but it has some scary moments and some well written scenes before it goes off the rails.

New Yorker Festival Dispatch: Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig : The New Yorker

"'We didn’t set out to write something that didn’t have any heterosexual romantic relationship in it,' Gerwig said. 'There was no thesis statement that we were going to accomplish something like this. But once we did it, it struck me—I almost can’t think of a single movie where a woman doesn’t either fall in love, or fall out of love, or lose love, or love is an issue, and I can think of so many movies where men—it’s not even part of it at all. It’s not even in the equation at all.' She went on, 'Movies and theatre and television shows—we look to them to tell us what’s important in the narratives of our lives, and what moments count. And if the only moment that counts is whether or not he likes you—that’s not good enough. You know?'”

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Requiem for a Dream (2000) ***

Searing examination of addiction features some intriguing visuals, and a knockout performance by Jennifer Connelly. Pulls no punches and is tough to watch at times.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) *

Evil tooth fairies terrorize a young girl and her family. Seriously. And they look like hairy Gremlins. Guillermo del Toro should know better.

To the Wonder (2012) **

Director Terence Malick's most abstract, impressionistic film doesn't quite work despite gorgeous cinematography of some pretty bleak places. A beautiful, ambitious experiment.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) **

Clunky melodrama that's way too long, with a great Bette Davis performance as an aging child star who has a relationship problem with her invalid sister. To say the least!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Insurance industry pricing climate risk as a dead certainty - Boing Boing

"Insurance underwriters generally operate in the real world, where science trumps ideology (that's why terrorism insurance is pretty darned cheap -- despite the politically successful posturing of our leaders, terrorism just isn't a very big threat). That's why climate change insurance costs big bucks -- insurers know that it's real, it's coming, and it's really, really bad news."

Looting Public Pensions: A New Study | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

"1) Many states and cities have been under-paying or non-paying their required contributions into public pension funds for years, causing massive shortfalls that are seldom reported upon by local outlets.

"2) As a solution to the fiscal crises, unions and voters are being told that a key solution is seeking higher yields or more diversity through "alternative investments," whose high fees cost nearly as much as the cuts being demanded of workers, making this a pretty straightforward wealth transfer. A series of other middlemen are also in on this game, siphoning off millions in fees from states that are publicly claiming to be broke.

"3) Many of the "alternative investments" these funds end up putting their money in are hedge funds or PE funds run by men and women who have lobbied politically against traditional union pension plans in the past, meaning union members have been giving away millions of their own retirement money essentially to fund political movements against them."

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media | Media |

"He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

"Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends 'so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. 'Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true,' he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Woody Allen on Blue Jasmine: 'You see tantrums in adults all the time' | Film | The Guardian

"'Ninety-nine per cent of decisions are predicated on feelings – instinctive, emotional, fears, conflicts, unresolved childhood problems. They're our dominant motivating factor, not reason or rationality or common sense. And that's why the world is in a terrible, terrible state. Human relations are hard and brutal and painful, and the world is in a dreadful state politically. And that's because feelings govern almost everything in every sphere.'"

Phenomenology Never Goes Out Of date - 3:AM Magazine

"On the other hand, there is another side of the issue. If I look angry to you, it would be completely understandable if you ended up believing on the basis of how I look that I am angry. After all, believing your eyes is normally a reasonable thing to do. What else are you supposed to believe, if you have no contravening information? And so we have a philosophical problem. The challenge is to negotiate between the idea that perception is a rational guide to belief when you don’t have any explicit reason to doubt it, and the apparently absurd conclusion that your fear-induced or prejudice-induced experiences could rationally support the very fears and prejudices that give rise to them.

"Writ large, this problem is an instance case of a type of situation that pretty much everyone has encountered. If someone is repeatedly mean to you but has no idea he is acting that way, then does he have a reason to stop? Yes, because he’s being mean to you. But No, because he has no idea what he is doing.

"If Jack looks angry to Jill, but only because she fears he is mad at her, should she believe he’s angry? Yes, because that’s how he looks to her. But No, because his looking that way is not the form of perceptual openness to the world that it seems to be."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Undernews: Why are lobster prices so low. . .until you go to the restaurant

"Since most customers don’t know what’s been happening to the wholesale price of lobster, cutting the price could send the wrong signal: people might think your lobster is inferior to that of your competitors. A 1996 study found that restaurants wouldn’t place more orders with wholesalers even if lobster prices fell twenty-five per cent. As the study’s authors put it, 'A low price creates suspicion.' This helps explain one of the interesting strategies that restaurants have adopted to take advantage of the lower price for lobster: they keep the price of lobster entrees high, but add lower-priced items—lobster bisque, lobster mac-and-cheese, a lobster B.L.T—to the menu. That way, they can generate more business without endangering lobster’s exclusive image."

Another thing to keep in mind the next time you read/hear about how supply and demand and "free" markets work.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rosemary's Baby (1968) **

Roman Polanski tries hard but the material is quite flimsy and the big payoff is more risible than horrible. Well shot though.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) **

13yo Jodie Foster is great in a low budget weird little creep-fest. Excellent art direction and cinematography but not especially memorable.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) *

Even sillier than the original with one jump scare after another, 1 dimensional characters.

Woody Allen: ‘I’ve spent my whole life under a cloud’ - Telegraph

"This last is no minor consideration, considering that Allen – born Allen Stewart Konisberg in The Bronx – claims to have become aware of his own mortality and the existential abyss at the tender age of five. 'I remember the dark cloud descending then, and I've walked around under it my entire life,' he says matter-of-factly. 'There's a neuro-biological theory that these things are imprinted, hardwired – this guy's gloomy, this one's sunny – and there's nothing you can do about it. We're not born with a clean slate, as Sartre would have you think; rather, we have a little photograph on our negative and it's how you manage that in the developing fluid. Some manage that process better than others, but the imprint is always there. So I need to work to keep my gloom at bay.'”

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Think About Sugar - James Hamblin - The Atlantic

"... Charts like these paint a correlation that seems to be changing the world. Mexico, for example, is second in the world in adult obesity, first in type II diabetes (the leading cause of death in the country), and fourth in infant obesity. It's also second in added sugar consumption per person, and second in soft drinks consumed per person."

Can that soda consumption chart be correct? USA *averages* over 160 liters annually per capita?!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mud (2012) ***

It's different enough from the typical coming-of-age flicks and features some good actors doing good work especially a terrific performance by Tye Sheridan in the lead. It's too long though and overemphasizes its point with too many plot threads. Would have been a classic at 90 minutes with a straight story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Insidious (2010) **

Fairly effective ghost story with lots of jump scares and plenty of references to other flicks.

DNA Double Take -

"But scientists are discovering that — to a surprising degree — we contain genetic multitudes. Not long ago, researchers had thought it was rare for the cells in a single healthy person to differ genetically in a significant way. But scientists are finding that it’s quite common for an individual to have multiple genomes. Some people, for example, have groups of cells with mutations that are not found in the rest of the body. Some have genomes that came from other people."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It Captures Your Mind by Cass R. Sunstein | The New York Review of Books

"Because they lack money, poor people must focus intensely on the economic consequences of expenditures that wealthy people consider trivial and not worth worrying over. Those without a lot of time have to hoard their minutes, and they may have trouble planning for the long term. The cash-poor and the time-poor have much in common with lonely people, for whom relationships with others are scarce. When people struggle with scarcity, their minds are intensely occupied, even taken over, by what they lack."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Chomsky: Instead of "Illegal" Threat to Syria, U.S. Should Back Chemical Weapons Ban in All Nations | Democracy Now!

"NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Noam Chomsky, supporters of the U.S. plan say that the only reason that Assad agreed to hand over, relinquish control over chemical weapons was because of the threat of military force, of U.S. military force. And what interest does the U.S. have in striking Syria militarily?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The first comment is correct. The threat and use of force can be effective. So, for example, Russia was able to control Eastern Europe for 50 years with the threat and occasional use of force. Hitler was able to take over Czechoslovakia with the threat of force. Yes, it often works, no doubt. That’s one of the reasons it’s banned under international—under international law.

The reason—the pretexts for imposing—for carrying out a forceful act have generally declined, to the point that even the British government hasn’t accepted them, and the Congress was apparently going to reject them, and the United States, the government, resorted to the—what is usually the last—the last resort, when everything else fails, saying our credibility is at stake. That’s correct. U.S. credibility is at stake. Obama issued an edict, and it has to be enforced. That’s a familiar doctrine. It’s one of the leading doctrines of world affairs. Credibility of powerful, violent states must be maintained. It’s—occasionally called it the Mafia doctrine. It’s essentially the doctrine by which the godfather rules his domains within the Mafia system. That’s one of the leading principles of world order: Credibility has to be maintained."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012) *

Muddled ghost story is big on atmospheric (though nonsensical) scenes that don't add up to much. Thankfully brief.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Greenberg (2010) ***

Sort of a West Coast male version of Frances Ha (with a MUCH less appealing title character), it is well acted, directed and written, however Ben Stiller doesn't seem to fit the lead role and it is distracting.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Social Life of Genes: Shaping Your Molecular Composition

“You can’t change your genes. But if we’re even half right about all this, you can change the way your genes behave—which is almost the same thing. By adjusting your environment you can adjust your gene activity. That’s what we’re doing as we move through life. We’re constantly trying to hunt down that sweet spot between too much challenge and too little.
“That’s a really important part of this: To an extent that immunologists and psychologists rarely appreciate, we are architects of our own experience. Your subjective experience carries more power than your objective situation. If you feel like you’re alone even when you’re in a room filled with the people closest to you, you’re going to have problems. If you feel like you’re well supported even though there’s nobody else in sight; if you carry relationships in your head; if you come at the world with a sense that people care about you, that you’re valuable, that you’re okay; then your body is going to act as if you’re okay—even if you’re wrong about all that.”

But what is the "you" that creates it's own experience?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Rabbit Hole (2010) **

Well made, excellently acted film but watching very wealthy, attractive white people having a tough time dealing with grief is a little hard to take.

Monday, September 02, 2013

His Kind of Woman (1951) **

Poorly thought out noir with only interesting aspect being Vincent Price as a ham actor with a penchant for armaments. Robert Mitchum looks as confused as we are by the convoluted and nonsensical plot.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blue Jasmine (2013) ****

San Francisco stands in for New Orleans as Cate Blanchett's Jasmine crumbles before our very eyes. Director Woody Allen uses his actors and cameras superbly and Blanchett turns in a master class in how to carry a picture. One of Allen's better written films.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lineup (1958) ***

Nifty crime drama about a couple of creepy gangsters after some heroin imported by unsuspecting tourists. Excellent use of San Francisco locations, nicely shot with long takes, incidental music only, and a terrific and twisted screenplay.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Aaron Sorkin: What I Read - John Hudson - The Atlantic Wire

"It's only by having smart people ('elites') who disagree with each other that we arrive at what we hope is the best solution to a problem."

This HAS to be a parody, right? If not, and Sorkin really said this, he is simultaneously more arrogant and more naive than I imagined possible.

US Department of Justice wants Bush and senior cabinet members exempt from Iraq War trial — RT USA

"The reason for the decision is connected with the ‘Westfall Act’ certification. The 1988 law gives the Attorney General the power to personally decide whether the United States is actually a defendant in the case. This in turn allows the granting of absolute immunity to politicians for actions carried out while in the government’s employ."

Let's think for a minute: what would be the consequence of enacting a law that allows one government employee to grant absolute immunity to another government employee?

Big Wheel Keeps On Turning: Elvis Costello Interviewed

"EC: Well, there was really no plan in my mind to make any more recordings after National Ransom, because quite honestly, and not to be morbid, I know that I don't have an endless amount of time left, and I was trying to divide it up for the best of my mental and emotional health. The plan was to just pursue my vocation as a performing musician, which I do really well, and that's how I make my living. I couldn't honestly justify the time away from my family to make records, even at that high level. National Ransom has The Imposters and [bluegrass A-listers] The Sugarcanes on it, the two best bands I've ever worked with, you can't actually work with any better musicians. On top of that, there's the best producer in the world [T Bone Burnett] who happens to be my friend, as close as a brother, and it's difficult to imagine ever trumping that. It was one of the two or three records of mine that I will always value above all others; I like the contents of all the other albums, in terms of the songs, but I can't say I like the way the records sound, retrospectively."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bursting the Neuro-Utopian Bubble -

"We know, for instance, that low socioeconomic status at birth is associated with a greater risk of developing schizophrenia, but the lion’s share of research into schizophrenia today is carried out by neurobiologists and geneticists, who are intent on uncovering the organic 'cause' of the disease rather than looking into psychosocial factors. Though this research may very well bear fruit, its dominance over other forms of research, in the face of the known connection between poverty and schizophrenia, attests to a curious assumption that has settled into a comfortable obviousness: that socioeconomic status, unlike human biology, is something we cannot change 'scientifically.' That it is somehow more realistic, 'scientifically,' to find a way to change the human being itself than it is to work together to change the kind of environment that lends itself to the emergence of a disorder like schizophrenia."

Schizophrenia may be "associated" with low socioeconomic status but to make the leap that there is a "connection" between the two has nothing to do with any sort of science. Correlation is not causation. Wealthy people can and do become schizophrenic. I think Mr. Fong needs to crack open a science book or two from his UNDER-graduate studies before he continues work on his manuscript. And please drop the annoying quotes around scientifically.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) **

Admirable effort notwithstanding, this production of the Shakespeare play comes up short as entertainment. The modern dress and setting are distracting as is the horribly washed out and flat black and white cinematography. The acting is fine with Amy Acker a standout as Beatrice.

Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) ***

Entertaining filming of the Shaw play which could be subtitled "Pygmalion in the Sand". Nicely produced, impressive art direction.

Laura Prepon on the Mystery of Real-Life Alex -- Vulture

"I read that your family has a tradition of singing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” around the holidays.
"Oh, every time we get together. It’s our family anthem."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ancient redwoods in growth spurt of a lifetime - SFGate

"The data are important not only for ecological reasons but also because ancient redwoods could become a valuable commodity in California's emerging carbon market. Redwoods store three times more carbon than other types of forests, according to researchers, and have unique decay-resistant qualities that allow them to hold carbon even after death, thereby keeping climate-warming gases out of the atmosphere."

Perhaps a part of Gaia's response to an excess of carbon in the atmosphere?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Bourne Legacy (2012) **

Writer Tony Gilroy does a pretty good job but director Tony Gilroy is just not up to the task of breaking out of the modern action movie malaise of hyper-cuts, ultra-dark lighting and nihilistic regard for human life. Essentially a souped up modern take on Three Days of the Condor.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Revengers' Comedies (1998) **

Pleasant enough attempt at droll comedy among the British upper crust with an appealing cast.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) **

This is a dated film and nothing about it, save the script/play, transcends that fact. The direction is ham-fisted, typical of Kazan, and he lets Vivien Leigh overact badly. Yes, I understand Blanche is supposed to be obviously "putting on airs" but Leigh just comes across as a bad actress.

Woody Allen Interview - Esquire

"I love Mel Brooks. And I've had wonderful times working with him. But I don't see any similarities between Mel and myself except, you know, we're both short Jews. That's where it ends. His style of humor is completely different. But Bob Hope? I'm practically a plagiarist."

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

5 Surprising Genetically Modified Foods | Mother Jones

"4. Squash and zucchini: While the majority of squashes on the market are not GE, approximately 25,000 acres of crookneck, straightneck, and zucchinis have been bioengineered to be virus resistant."

via @NekoCase

Friday, August 02, 2013

The League of Gentlemen (1960) **

Straight forward, undistinguished British bank heist film. Maintains interest despite being too long. Probably considered fairly racy for its time.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Decades of books have vanished because of US copyright protections - Quartz

“'Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability,' Heald writes. 'Shortly after works are created and proprietized, they tend to disappear from public view only to reappear in significantly increased numbers when they fall into the public domain and lose their owners.'”

And the writer/artist will profit from shorter copyrights because more people will discover them sooner and be a larger market for their NEXT book/art work. This is the reality the shortsighted, just-get-the-stock-price-higher business mentality cannot understand.

via The Morning News

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles - Peter Biskind - Google Books

"My theory is that everything went to hell with Prohibition, because it was a law nobody could obey. So the whole concept of the rule of law was corrupted at that moment. Then came Vietnam, and marijuana, which clearly shouldn't be illegal, but is. If you go to jail for ten years in Texas when you light up a joint, who are you? You're a lawbreaker. It's just like Prohibition was. When people accept breaking the law as normal, something happens to the whole society. You see?"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is it Legal Malpractice to Fail to Get Holder to Promise not to Torture your Client? | New Economic Perspectives

"The idea that the Attorney General of the United States of America would send such a letter to the representative of a foreign government, particularly Russia under the leadership of a former KGB official, was so preposterous that I thought the first news report I read about Attorney General Holder’s letter concerning Edward Snowden was satire. The joke, however, was on me. The Obama and Bush administrations have so disgraced the reputation of the United States’ criminal justice system that we are forced to promise KGB alums that we will not torture our own citizens if Russia extradites them for prosecution."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cardinal Burke labels social justice Catholics communists | National Catholic Reporter

"So the person whose heart is filled with charity wants to do good works will, like Mother Teresa, give his first intention to the worship of God so that when he goes to offer charity to a poor person or someone in need, it would be at the level of God Himself, and not some human level."

Um, not TOO full of ourselves are we Ray? Jeez, dial it down a notch would ya!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Goldman Sachs Took $5 Billion From Consumers By Moving Metal Around

"Regulators are busy trying to catch up to the manipulation of commodities that banks like Goldman Sachs is making a fortune off of, but the banks always seem one step ahead. Now Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and BlackRock have bought over 80% of the world's copper on behalf of their investors and will begin moving it to warehouses much like Goldman did with aluminum. Companies are now fearful that the prices of copper will soar, and consumers will carry even more of the burden."

So much for supply and demand. "If only government would get out of the way so the markets can work their magic" right? EVERY commodity market is being manipulated by these people. ENRON was just the tip of the iceberg.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements - Paul Offit - The Atlantic

"Although study after study showed that he was wrong, Pauling refused to believe it, continuing to promote vitamin C in speeches, popular articles, and books. When he occasionally appeared before the media with obvious cold symptoms, he said he was suffering from allergies.

"Then Linus Pauling upped the ante. He claimed that vitamin C not only prevented colds; it cured cancer."

via @robotwisdom

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013) **

Typical modern action flick based upon a production design rather than a story. Violent, illogical, inconsistent, and way, WAY too long.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Comedy Central Stole Louis C.K.'s Routine | TheWrap TV

"And even being ripped off by fans can have an upside: Kevin Hart has said he owes his success in part to bootlegged copies of "Soul Plane." He is now one of the top-selling comics in the country, and his new concert film, "Let Me Explain," has grossed more than $26 million since its premiere earlier this month."

Why are people still surprised by this? If they would just drop the whole "ripped off by fans" terminology and call it what it is, ADVERTISING, it might start to make sense to these idiotic corporate hacks.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) **

Less than the sum of its parts, enjoyable in portions but ultimately much like its protagonist: shallow, self-absorbed and unbelievable.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Frances Ha (2012) ****

Refreshing and delightful character study of aimless 20-somethings in NYC. Smart, restrained, confident direction from Noah Baumbach and a breakout performance by Greta Gerwig.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Some Came Running (1958) **

Late '50's lurid melodrama made much bigger than necessary. But Shirley and Dean give you a reason to keep watching until the boffo finale.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) ***

Pretty good coming of age flick comes right to the edge of maudlin sentimentality several times but somehow manages to avoid it. Ezra Miller helps a lot.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Monsters University (2013) ***

The animation capabilities of Pixar continue to expand even as the stories start to peter out. Enjoyable for the technique alone.

Croupier (1998) ***

Stylish, noirish tale of a writer who takes a job as a croupier at a London casino. Or does he? It gets a little too vague for its own good but maintains interest.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) ****

Watch this and try to believe this film was made and released in 1955. Goes places with style and panache that modern films can't touch. Robert Aldrich pulls out all the stops in a tour de force directing job that elevates the material instead of overwhelming it.

Pi (1998) ***

Taut, stylish examination of obsession, madness and the possibility that there is a pattern to it all.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lured (1947)**

A top notch cast are not enough to push this run-of-the-mill serial killer on the loose thriller into the upper tier. You'll be able to spot the murderer easily.

The Wages of Fear (1953)**

A few striking scenes, original for its time, but weak performances and a completely ridiculous ending are too much to overcome.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Midnight Cowboy (1969)***
Gritty and harsh view of life in The Big Apple for a couple of determined low life drifters desperate for a free ride to Miami. Hoffman is terrific.
8 1/2 (1963)****
There's almost too much to like in this tale of a film director suddenly feeling bereft of inspiration. Many fine set pieces, some more successful than others, but always with a great visual sense. It is too long and repetitive at times, yet a lot of influential and beautiful scenes.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Bling Ring (2013)***
Almost documentary style look at a group of young house burglars who target celebrities. Subtle and relentless with Sofia Coppola's trademark soundtrack touch and eye for human behavior.
Sorcerer (1977)***
Gritty adventure yarn about desperate men in a desperate situation. Becomes more surreal as it goes along but always with interesting visuals, production design.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Upstream Color (2013)***
Thought provoking, disturbing, meticulously designed and shot, original and no super heroes! Paced at breakneck speed which tends to distance the viewer from the already challenging material and will leave most film-goers cold.
Lulu on the Bridge (1998)***
Incredible cast in a strange tale of a musician who has his life changed by mysterious events. Mira Sorvino is exceptional in this offbeat, well written but cautiously directed film.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985)****
Superb "claymation" film based upon the writings of Mark Twain, particularly his later, darker period. Fine voice work, literate and focused script, colorful, fantastical animation.
The Last Wave (1977)***
Aboriginal dreamtime seems to merge with real time in this well made Australian thriller.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Assassination Bureau (1969)**
Alternative history of a turn of the 20th century group of wealthy murderers-for-hire played for laughs. Well, the genteel Ealing sort of laughs. Colorful and well shot, with a lovely Diana Rigg.
Margaret (2011)***
Thoughtful, meditative, somewhat oblique drama mainly, but not entirely, about an upper middle class NYC teen girl coming to terms with mortality and guilt. Very long but plays like it should be longer. Many riveting performances of a superb script, but teenage angst, no matter how well played, isn't my idea of great entertainment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)*
Are they still making these? Whatever for?
The Day of the Locust (1975)**
Terrific final 15-20 minutes, but the l-o-n-g road to get there hardly seems worth it or even connected, logically, to it. Nobody to care about, nothing particularly interesting visually, no transcendent performance. Just that ending really.
Cannery Row (1982)**
If you've read the novel Cannery Row be advised that this move is actually based more on its sequel Sweet Thursday. It has some very good actors, and some good atmosphere, but fails to really bring the characters to life like the novels did. They remain cardboard cutouts in the film.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Teddy Bears' Picnic (2002)**
All-star comedy cast in a deadpan satire of elites on "retreat". Sharply written, but there's nobody to root for in this uber-cynical world. Plays more as a documentary than comedy.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Center of the World (2001)*
Another disappointing feature from director Wayne Wang who hasn't really yet made a film as good as his first. Maybe if Catherine Breillat had seen this film first she wouldn't have attempted this with which it has a lot, unfortunately, in common. Forgettable, despite a very good performance by Molly Parker.
Re-Animator (1985)**
Pretty good gross-out/zort-of-zombie flick which pioneered "R" rated mainstream horror. Top notch makeup work, a lovely Barbara Crampton and a desire for "realism" makes this one interesting, and a good choice for Halloween viewing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Going Places (1974)*
I suppose it is supposed to be a biting social satire but the director plays it way too straight and all we end up with is one scene of misogynistic humiliation after another. I guess I just didn't get the joke.
Witness (1985)****
A double rarity: a very good '80's film and a very good Harrison Ford film. Terrific supporting turn by Jan Rubes as the Amish farmer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The House Across the Bay (1940)*
Not quite sure what they were going for with this strange-goofy tale of a hood, a dame, a devious lawyer and an annoyingly pushy aircraft designer but whatever it was they didn't get it. Cardboard characters in a story that makes no sense.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Airport (1970)****
Impeccably crafted soap opera/disaster flick that's a mite too long but star power, production values and a few stellar performances make that irrelevant. Highly influential film, for better AND worse, extremely entertaining.
In Time (2011)***
Imaginative alternate reality actioner about haves versus have nots only instead of money it's life time as the separating factor. Cleverly filmed on an apparently extremely low budget, it's fun, intriguing and mostly able to suspend your disbelief until you notice that Amanda Seyfried is running all over the place with no difficulty in 6 inch heels.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)**
Not really anything like any of the previous incarnations of the Star Trek series and probably something that would horrify Gene Roddenberry, this is a nearly non-stop modern action pic complete with gratuitous babe-bikini shots, gaping plot holes, psychopathic attitudes toward murder except when the one being murdered is close to you and/or of your tribe and a penchant for not only justifying revenge but reveling in it. A couple of well done CGI set pieces.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Ghost Writer (2010)***
Fine Hitchcock-ian thriller from Roman Polanski. A bit too long and a bit too dark, photographically speaking, but entertaining.
Impromptu (1991)***
George Sand woos Frederic Chopin amidst the backdrop of superstar artists of the early 19th century behaving badly on retreat at a fawning patron's villa. Smart and sassy stuff.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How To Be Gracious - Esquire:
"You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can't muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others."

via kottke

Monday, April 29, 2013

'I Thought I Was Bulletproof': William Friedkin Looks Back on the '70s -
"'Certainly I regret that it wasn’t a critical or a commercial success. The zeitgeist was changing. It came out a week after "Star Wars,” and “Star Wars” really changed the way people think about, What is a movie? Right to this day, and beyond. All these films about the Avengers and the Transformers, video games and comic books, that’s what, for the most part, Hollywood cinema has become. That just automatically opened the floodgates to people wanting pure entertainment that could be seen by people of all ages, basically. Would my film have worked if there was no “Star Wars”? I don’t know. But without “Star Wars,” I think American film would be different today.'"
Sir Ben Kingsley: 'Without a mask, I haven't got a clue' - Telegraph:
“'I have a dear friend, Tony Palmer, who made a documentary on the life of Richard Burton,' he says in his precise, measured tones. 'It featured some interviews, in many of which he was a little the worse for wear. But the spine of the documentary was a mosaic of his performances. Put them together, pull back, and there’s Burton. I think, when I leave the planet and the equivalent of Tony tries to construct something similar, then fragments of my roles, those bits, would form a composite portrait of me. Without a mask I haven’t got a clue. Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.'”
North West Frontier (1959)**
A miscast, though quite lovely, Lauren Bacall sticks out like a sore thumb in this overlong train actioner set in British ruled India.
The Cable Guy (1996)**
Jim Carrey tries hard but the story and script go off the rails eventually. Poorly directed by Ben Stiller.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Undernews: America's copyright laws kills music:
"Among countless other undesirable things, this means that American record companies that aren’t interested in reissuing old records can stop anyone else from doing so, and can also stop libraries from making those same records readily accessible to scholars who want to use them for noncommercial purposes. Even worse, it means that American libraries cannot legally copy records made before 1972 to digital formats for the purpose of preservation—not unless those records have already deteriorated to the point where they may soon become unplayable."
Moneyball (2011)**
A lot of Brad Pitt, and I mean a LOT, in an overlong sports flick which makes darn sure you "get" its point. It's a lot of first world problems so it's hard to care too much.
Life of Pi (2012)***
When it's at sea, it is riveting and compelling, but all good sea survival tales have to have an ending...and a beginning. A difficult book to adapt to a film and Ang Lee opts for the literal approach which makes for a good film but not a great one.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Loud Family - Scott Miller:
"I wish it weren't true, but as much as it pains me to write these words, Scott passed away on April 15, 2013. He was a wonderful, loyal friend as well as a brilliant musician, and I will miss him for the rest of my life."

We all will, Sue.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)*
Technically impressive with seamless old school special effects, but unless you enjoy watching a group of human beings who seem to do nothing but drink and pass out while living in a pile of garbage, skip it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One of a Kind Is Now None of a Kind | Vanity Fair:
"Winters drew out of quieter resources, which made his comic gift a fragile thing, not something that could be rushed and goaded, and there were be long gaps in his public appearances, periods when he seemed to hibernate into himself. But unlike so many comics who suffered from drink and depression, Winters didn't acquire a bitter edge as a performer, he maintained his wonderment."

He could be wildly uneven, but when he was on, he could make you laugh so hard it was painful. Always an interesting performer.
The Hunter (2011)***
No nonsense, straightforward hunter/hunted tale well played, well written, showcasing a part of the world rarely seen in film, Tasmania.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lover (2005)**
Korean "romance" flick has appealing leads, some nice twists but never becomes believable.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Lady Eve (1941)***
One of the better Preston Sturges screwball comedies has some nifty repartee and a fistful of great supporting character actors. Manages to slip in some fairly racy material but you have to pay close attention.
The Damaging Links Between Food, Fuel and Finance: A Growing Threat to Food Security - naked capitalism:
"As the graph shows, co-movement is nearly complete. Co-movement suggests that supply and demand fundamentals in oil and broader commodities markets, which are indeed independent of one another, no longer determine price. UNCTAD attributes this to 'herding behavior' among financial investors still flush with speculative capital in search of quick returns.

"UNCTAD’s conclusions: 'Because of these distortions, commodity prices in financialized markets do not provide correct signals about the relative scarcity of commodities. This impairs the allocation of resources and has negative effects on the real economy. To restore the proper functioning of commodity markets, swift political action is required on a global scale.'”

Fat chance of that happening.

via @theharryshearer

Monday, April 08, 2013

Elvis Costello - Tramp the dirt down - YouTube
"When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam. And the future looked as bright and as clear as the black tarmacadam."

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Nobody Else But You (2011)**
Interesting but forgettable French mystery flick. Showcases a part of France we seldom see in films, the eastern Swiss border area in Winter.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Tempest (2010)**
Helen Mirren is superb and compelling as Prospera, the usually male lead in Shakespeare's last play but the direction is confused or at best bland and could have used a more stylized approach as in Prospero's Books. Come to think of it this would have been better as a remake of that with the bonus that Mirren would speak all the lines.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Breathless (1960)**
Influential French flick which broke new ground in camera movement, editing and style. Really depends on whether you like Jean-Paul Belmondo or not.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)**
A prequel to the excellent groundbreaking TV series with a terrific lead performance by Sheryl Lee but none of the humor, wit or style typical of the films of David Lynch. Disappointing.
Lincoln (2012)***
Proof that a great screenplay and superlative performances can overcome directorial failings. A little too dark at times (referring to the lighting) but overall an intelligent and often inspiring look at a few weeks in the life of our 16th president. Spielberg just can't trust his script and actors and has to frame each "important" scene with the equivalent of neon signs and flashing arrows to make sure we get it. Annoying.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Obama signs 'Monsanto Protection Act' written by Monsanto-sponsored senator — RT USA:
"With the president’s signature, agriculture giants that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds are given the go-ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even as questions remain largely unanswered about the health risks these types of products pose to consumers."

Not surprising he would sign it given this. So we don't let companies build airplanes and use them for commercial flights without ensuring their safety, but they can throw things into our food supply and bear no consequences for what might happen. Yeah that makes a lot of sense.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Argo (2012)*
Ben Affleck the director takes great pictures of Ben Affleck the actor. That's the most praise I can lavish on the man since this is a middling effort (at best) shamefully trumpeting and relying on it's truthful basis, which is minimal, and never mentioning that its main plot point...never happened. Guys, look, I'm ok with basing your film on a true story, but change the names and don't pretend you're doing a documentary when you're not.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Forgotten (2004)**
Starts off well and Julianne Moore tries her best, but halfway through the story goes in a silly direction.
The Paper Chase (1973)***
Quality film, but seemed more meaningful and special on first viewing. Subsequent viewings reveal major weaknesses such as the female character not socking the wildly abusive law student in the jaw, and all the tension in Kingsfield's class is might get called on? Still, John Houseman is great as Kingsfield and Lindsay Wagner is fetching as his daughter. Another good time capsule of the early '70's.
Targets (1968)***
Accomplished debut for film buff turned director Peter Bogdanovich. Interesting, well written script, quite good performances and some nifty camera work.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Anatomy of Hell (2004)**
Not exactly sure what the director was going for in this film of basically, two naked people getting to know each other for a few days but it's definitely not a rom-com! Lots of talk, lots of sex and genital-related activity, some closeups of areas that aren't usually shown in closeup, and an interesting use of a garden tool. A little too direct to be successful, but mercifully short. ("The woman" character gives new meaning to the term "sound sleeper"!)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Staggering Guardian Report Ties David Petraeus to Iraq Torture Centers - Philip Bump - The Atlantic Wire:
"There are other amazing details in the story: that U.S.-funded cameras were used to capture torture footage for an Iraqi TV show; that much of the information came to light thanks to the secret documents Bradley Manning sent to Wikileaks."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Legend (1985)***
One of Ridley Scott's more visually arresting films but this "myth"-mash fails to engage. The actors try their best and Mia Sara (all of 15!) makes a lovely heroine, but the production design and cinematography are the true stars and the script seems more like an afterthought.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Ffolkes (1979)**
"A" list cast stuck with a "B" list director, but still manage to make a watchable and enjoyable actioner about a quirky former soldier and his own team of mercenaries coming to the rescue of Queen and country.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Hunger Games (2012)**
Technically well filmed and watchable despite its length but suffers from the first-in-a-trilogy story issues, and from the fact that the story just isn't all that well told. Unfortunately, its massive box office success has spawned far too many similarly dystopian sci-fi epics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lawfare › Kill-List Baseball Cards and the Targeting Paper Trail:
"Following the vetting and validation of targets, participants in the kill-list creation process also have an opportunity to vote on whether a name should be nominated for inclusion on a kill-list. In the Obama administration, Dan Klaidman, Jo Becker and Scott Shane have reported that this this debate and voting process was colloquially referred to as Terror Tuesdays. (Interestingly, during the Vietnam War targets were approved by the President at what become known as Tuesday luncheons, it seems Tuesdays are a bad day for America’s enemies)."

How can so many persons in positions of power go along with this? "Baseball cards"? "Terror Tuesdays"? And this line is especially rich: " On the one hand, many hands means many eyes, and impropriety may be discovered or reported by whistleblowers." I believe he says this un-ironically. Well I guess as long as there is some process and an extensive paper trail...

via @theharryshearer

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ruby Cairo (1993)**
Starts off rather well and for the first hour is actually kind of engrossing. Then the lovely Andie MacDowell gets to Egypt and the movie falls off a cliff.
The Evil Eye (1963)**
Mario Bava tries his best to make a Hitchcock film with a limited budget, limited actors, and a very limited script. Still, watchable for the many Bava-rian moments.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Side Effects (2013)***
Slick, old-fashioned noir with the usual Soderbergh touches: strong acting, clean, modern production design, superb cinematography. Could have used some Hitchcock-ian humor and perhaps one more twist.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Elles (2011)***
Reliably explicit and frank French film concerning an uptight, upper middle class female journalist haunted by a couple of interviewees' sex lives. Juliette Binoche is very good.
Rescue Dawn (2006)**
Reliably quirky Werner Herzog movie about the survival of a US fighter pilot shot down over Laos in 1965. Some fine performances but some Herzog touches, such as near constant background music and an ending that goes on too long, drag the film down.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rhodes (1936)*
Ill-conceived and ill-executed biopic of the legendary imperialist which glosses over trivialities such as the Second Boer War and much of Rhodes' chicanery. Walter Huston is watchable in the lead.
Faulk still reeling from 'being cheated' : Stltoday:
"•Mike Martz’s playcalling was awful. The Patriots lined up in a nickel or dime defense with extra pass defenders on 75 percent of the Rams’ plays. Belichick correctly concluded that Martz wouldn’t have the patience or discipline to stick with running the football. Indeed, the Rams attempted 47 passes and only 22 runs."

Ok, once more for the all incompetent sports writers, the number of plays called and the type of plays called as a meaningful statistic bereft of context is MEANINGLESS. Just looking at the stats, the Rams offense was incredibly successful in terms of yardage despite the supposed superiority of the Patriots' defensive scheme. The 3 turnovers directly resulted in 17 Patriots points and was the difference in the game.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Hospital (1971)****
Exceptional Paddy Chayefsky script, terrific George C. Scott performance, and innovative direction from Arthur Hiller which would be copied 20+ years later by ER and others. Another great movie from the 70's.
House by the River (1950)***
Nifty noir with interesting touches from director Fritz Lang. Jane Wyatt is very good as is the b/w photography.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

'Zero Dark Thirty' Is Osama bin Laden's Last Victory Over America: Rolling Stone
"But forget about all of that. The real problem is what this movie says about us. When those Abu Ghraib pictures came out years ago, at least half of America was horrified. The national consensus (albeit by a frighteningly slim margin) was that this wasn't who we, as a people, wanted to be. But now, four years later, Zero Dark Thirty comes out, and it seems that we've become so blunted to the horror of what we did and/or are doing at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and Bagram and other places that we can accept it, provided we get a boffo movie out of it.

That's pathetic. Bin Laden was maybe the most humorless person who ever lived, but he has to be laughing from the afterlife. We make an incredible movie that celebrates his death – a movie so good it'll be seen everywhere in the world – and all it does is prove him right about us."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Boogie Nights (1997)****
Vibrant, compelling, hilarious and a tour de force for director PT Anderson. Clearly influenced by Scorsese, with a near perfect performance from Marky Mark. Period detail is spectacular as is the use of popular songs of the era.
Woman of Straw (1964)**
A complicated murder mystery with a fine cast, well written and shot, but needs a good 30 minutes cut. Gina Lollobrigida is quite good.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986)*
If a director is going to significantly change a novel in the adaptation to the screen, he really should change the title. Or perhaps Mr. Lyne didn't INTEND to play it as a rom-com after all. Only worth watching for Kim Basinger. Apotheosis of the "80's" movie.