Sunday, December 31, 2006
yeah, I'm backdating...
The Prestige - Kirsti didn't care for this much, but I found it very engaging. Does Ricky Jay need to show up in every magic/con man offering?
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny - I enjoyed this a lot, but was still disappointed. It came about two years late, for one thing.
Cars - Admittedly much of the problem here had to do with the dying television I watched it on: the brightness kept fading in and out. Still, it was pretty clear that this was the weakest Pixar feature.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
We forgot to bring one bag with us to MN. Unfortunately this bag contained nearly all of my gifts to Kirsti, as well as something I picked up for her on Mom's request. So yesterday I boxed and wrapped some random household items and attached notes describing the actual presents. I think this has a lot of potential. It is silly, of course, for us to buy each other gifts at home, travel 400 miles with them, wrap them, unwrap them, and then take them 400 miles back home. Plus, the joy of watching my beloved open a box containing three cans of lawnmower oil is going to be a Christmas sight that's sure to melt the heart of even the Grinchiest Grinch.
Monday, December 18, 2006
My grandma is 88 and is more or less in good health for her age. She really likes Johnny Cash. So in finishing up my shopping today I got her his last album, American V: A Hundred Highways. As this was a used copy, I gave it a listen myself. I'm glad I did because three songs in, I'm considering getting her something else. The first track is a Kris Kristofferson cover whose first lines are:
Lord, help me walk
Another mile, just one more mile
I'm tired of walkin' alone
Then later on there's "Down on the 309," the last song Cash ever wrote. It's about taking the pre-emptive measure of getting placed on that last train...
Take me to the depot, put me to bed
Blow an electric fan on my gnarly ol' head
Everybody take a look, see, I'm doin' fine
Then load my box on the 309
Man. Grandma's tough as hell; she still lives at home and works at her town library. Still, I don't know if she needs an album's worth of reminders of mortality from the Man in Black. I mean, I'm pretty healthy and I was getting a little depressed. I'll probably stick with this present, but she can't have so much as a cold when listening to it.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I have nothing to say about this batch. Rules of Attraction was the worst of the bunch; it happened to be on IFC when we were at the in-laws'.
The Last Detail
The Year of the Yao
V for Vendetta
The Rules of Attraction
You Can't Take It With You
MST3K: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
Thursday, November 30, 2006
We got an email at work today saying that a sister division is consolidating and relocating its offices in Itasca and Addison. That's not the odd part. The new offices will be in the Rolling Meadows building which housed (and actually still does house the shell of) my former corporate masters.
Monday, November 27, 2006
as unsuccessfully practiced by Kirsti's 10-y.o. second cousin:
*misread die rolls
* "Oh, I drew this card by accident but *this* is the one I should have drawn"
*shortchange nearly every payment
*shift your evenly-spaced houses to 1-2-3 when it suits you
*lowball your estimated income tax payments
*pilfer from the bank (an audacious move when you aren't the banker)
*best one ever: go upstairs for a moment, cash in hand; then come back and try to pass this off as a C-note:
This was all in one game, mind you. Kid pulled out all the stops, including claiming that landing on GO awarded you an additional $200. This was at least applied evenhandedly, so I consider it more of a lame house rule than a cheat. Still, truly a virtuoso display of chutzpah.
Friday, November 24, 2006
These are no longer in any order.
Cat Ballou - This was probably a lot funnier when Westerns weren't a moribund genre. I liked the bit about the dad (who would later end up with a horse's head in bed in The Godfather insisting that the Indian character was one of the lost tribes of Israel and could speak Yiddish.
It Should Happen to You - This was pretty cute. Judy Holliday wants to Be Somebody, so she puts her name up on a number of NYC billboards. Just her name. Of course, life imitated art many times over ever since, with Angelyne in LA, and various internet/You-tube quasi-celebs. Jack Lemmon makes his film debut, and is his dependable self.
Severance - Dumb, predictable British horror that wants to be Hostel meets The Office, but isn't in the league of either.
The Host - The last, and best, thing I saw at the Chicago FF. An excellent Korean monster movie.
Top Hat - Another of the interchangeable Fred Astaire movies; more enjoyable this time because it lacked blackface.
Attack the Gas Station! - A few years ago at Gen Con I briefly checked out the Hong Kong marathon and caught the very end of this Korean (not HK) tale of a seige at a gas station. I was completely confused, and also didn't know the title. Well, it's aptly-named.
Broadway Melody of 1938 - This was on TCM the other day. Apparently Eleanor Powell was a big deal back when. Also, Judy Garland shows up. What an unappealing pig-nosed girl.
Home Movie - A documentary by the makers of American Movie, this sprung from a series of commercials. The homes I'd most like to live in had the most annoying owners, and vice versa.
Space Mutiny - An MST3K movie that used stock footage from the original Battlestar Galactica and had Reb Brown cavorting with some woman who could have been his mother. Good times.
The Constant Gardener - Well done overall, but there are still bruises from where The Message hit me.
College - We bought the in-laws a DVD player. Kirsti's dad had picked up a couple of DVDs at the dollar store, and this Buster Keaton feature was the first thing we watched.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Kohler kitchen and bath products, particularly their Sterling shower door customer service. A roller on one of our shower doors disintegrated the other week. We didn't install the door and have no idea who actually made it, but a trip to Home Depot led me to believe it was a Sterling door of indeterminate model. Even though I had very sketchy information, and am still not sure if I even *am* one their customers, they're mailing us some replacement rollers free. Rawk.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Those Up movies are designed for the viewer to make all sorts of snap judgments about the fates of the subjects. We had this running debate over whether one dude's wife was going to leave him. (personally I thought she was fine. I'm not sure why our room full of modern, intellligent, feminist women found her so unappealing).
Such judgments about me would have come in the 14 installment. I'm sure most viewers would predict that I was on the verge of a long downward spiral. This would have been the end of 8th/beginning of 9th grade. Two friends and I had recently been arrested for breaking into a closed school. I had been suspended from school twice, one for an offense that today would have me expelled. I gave myself a botched poseur haircut one day before we got a family picture taken. I'm sure in my interviews I would have lied about the occasional drinking. Academically, I was doing fine. The decision to forsake the high school where most of my friends were going for the inner-city magnet school was a tough one. But I figured I wanted to go into TV.
Of course, all my subsequent interviews would be totally boring. At 21, the first of the loaded Michael Apted questions would have come up (Why did you go to school so far from home? Do you feel that you've failed since you decided not to do broadcasting?). By this time I would be a junior/senior in college, looking to go into sportswriting. I had a long-term girlfriend, and would be trying to figure out how that would work after school. My parents would have recently split up. A product of that was my mom coming out. Questions would include how that affected me (outside of informing my politics on GL issues, not much, as I was away from home at the time).
At 28, I'd be a year married (to the aforementioned GF), and doing corporate quality work. Again with the job/failure questions ("Since you aren't using your degree...")("why'd you suck so bad on Jeopardy?"). I imagine I'd also get asked about eloping and living far from both of our parents, and whether any of that was done to get back at them. 35 would be just last year. Once again in a degree-appropriate field. Homeowners. Probably the only issues of interest would be the decision to be childfree, and growing concern over how to deal with older parents while long-distance.
Yeah, that was pretty boring.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
In anticipation of 49 UP hitting theatres and DVD this month, we rented the set of the previous films in this series (I'm not counting 42 Up in the tally because I'd already seen it), had some people over, and watched them in one 12-hour binge last weekend. I highly recommend this; perhaps not all in one day, but in as close succession as one can stand. The series was never meant to be viewed in this manner, so we ended up seeing some of the recap footage six or more times throughout the day. (Paul really doesn't like greens.) Also, Apted has apparently pissed off a few of his subjects with his line of inquiry. One participant notes she thinks she has a pretty good life until every seven years when she's made to feel bad about it. I think that rather than deliberately trying to provoke, he's testing the thesis of the original film: Britain's class structure is entrenched so that one's life path is pretty well determined by age 7, and deviation from that path might be considered a failure.
Which leads to a potential meme: What would your interviews be like at the intervals in the film (7, 14, 21, etc.)? What leading questions might get a rise out of you?
At age 7...We were still living on the Northeast side. The closest school was far enough away that I had to be bused, and with one car, a 3-y.o. sister, and a mom who didn't drive (long story), I couldn't get to the park-rec stuff that some of my friends were doing. As I recall, this chafed a little. I was reading far ahead of my grade level, but remember struggling with math. I had a fierce "I can do it myself" streak, which meant I was horrible at a lot of things but refused help with them (to date, my handwriting is atrocious). I don't remember what sort of career ambitions I had at 7. Probably a Jedi. The lofty goal of movie projectionist would come later. Girls weren't icky, but I didn't have whatever 7-year-olds call girlfriends. I suppose my parents would say we were poor. Aside from whatever toy I craved at the time and didn't get, I don't remember wanting for much, and we'd own a house within a year.
Thursday, November 2, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Full photoset here. Where's Kirsti, you ask? She escaped Andrew's camera Friday night, but here we are recycling our costumes at Ellen's the next night.
Oh yeah, this project. Anyway, Super Happy Halloween Funtime 5-pack!
Robyn Hitchcock - My Wife and My Dead Wife
Roky Erickson - Creature with the Atom Brain
The Misfits - Skulls
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Little Demon
Suicidal Tendencies - I Saw Your Mommy...
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I also appreciate the Cards victory as a particularly nasty four-year run in the cosmic screwjob bestowed upon the Cubs. First Mark Prior folds like a cheap card table against the Marlins (Bartman, shmartman...let's call it what it was). Then the Red Sox get the monkey off their backs. Then the White Sox do the same. Then the Cubs' hated rivals end their oh-so-agonizing 24-year wait. What can screw with the Cubs next season? Maybe Dusty will land with the Devil Rays and lead them to a title.
Finally, I was sad to hear about Joe Niekro passing. The 1987 emory board incident was hilarious -- during his suspension he showed up on Letterman, wearing a tool belt with a variety of sanders. I went to his first home game after the suspension. The A's were in town, and so was Huey Lewis, of all people. After a quite nice anthem, sung a capella with the rest of the News, Huey whips out this huge sheet of sandpaper while throwing the first pitch. Good stuff.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Monday, October 9, 2006
Here's a recap of the Film Fest things I've seen so far, making this Movie Log 2006: #78-83:
The three shorts presentations were hit/miss. The local filmmakers' program was refreshingly free of students bitching about how their parents ruined their lives, so that's something.
As for features, Summercamp! was a documentary about a session at a nature camp (note that you have to specify "nature camp" now, in the age of "computer camp" and other specializations) in Wisconsin. It was in the vein of Mad Hot Ballroom and I suppose Spelllbound, in that a gaggle of middle school kids goofing off for 90 minutes can make for an entertaining movie.
Street Thief had me really pissed off at the Festival programmers. It's a fakeumentary, but the CIFF listed it in the documentary category. The film itself has its merits: it generates a good level of suspense, and the lead (the director) is a decent enough actor. But that sort of marketing deception for a film festival is lame. I don't want to have to second-guess the entire documentary category.
The best thing I've seen so far was Day Night Day Night. A young woman of undeterminable ethnicity or ideology trains to be a suicide bomber. Very tense; essentially one big slow build. The lead, Luisa Williams, was terrific.
Friday, October 6, 2006
If you've visited Batgirl's site and wondered just what the "Ass Bats" were that she occasionally mentions...they were on display this week.
I'm now pulling for a Tigers-Cards series, as that matchup will please the greatest number of my friends and will tweak the greatest number of locals (and make Selig weep). And of course, the offseason looms. Which washed-up veteran can the Twins take a chance on this offseason (aside from Torii Hunter, of course*)? At least Rondell White proved his worth once he was healthy.
* Still hitting well, but can't play center any more, and seems like he'd pout his way off the team if they moved him to right. This is a guy who said of new
Here's what I'm seeing at the Chicago Film Festival, should anyone want to meet up. All are at River East unless otherwise noted)
Fri 10/6 Shorts: Crossroads & Contrasts 6 pm
Sat 10/7 Shorts: Homegrown 1:30
Sun. 10/8 Summercamp! 2 pm
Shorts: Moment of Impact 2 pm
Street Thief 6:15
Day Night Day Night 8:15
Tues. 10/17 Severance 8:30 (@ Landmark)
Wed. 10/18 The Host 7:30 (@ Landmark)
Friday, September 29, 2006
This was a soundtrack my parents had when I was growing up, and it annoyed the crap out of me then. Thankfully Klaus Nomi came along in the '80s to help me appreciate the film's freakshow aspect. This was quite good; sorta refreshing to see a musical this bleak, and having a homely leading lady worked well, I thought. Kudos to Liza for going out on a limb to play a woman who gets involved with a bisexual dude. There's a stretch.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I haven't updated in a month? Jeezy Creezy! I'd better unload before the film festival starts...
Angels with Dirty Faces - Cagney shooting a gun in the movies is always funny to me. In I guess what is supposed to be a recoil action, he instead shakes the gun at his victim as he shoots. It's like his hand motion is what propels the bullets. He does the same in White Heat. Oh, the Dead End Kids (later the East Side Kids, later the Bowery Boys) also appear, and are pretty good.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - I would have liked this a lot more if not for the interminable Burt Bachrach score. I can't believe he won an Oscar for it.
Borat - I've already talked about this.
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media - Say what you will about Michael Moore but at least political documentaries have picked up the pace in his wake. This one was nearly three hours, and leaden in its pacing. High points included crazy John Silber calling Chomsky a "phony" in a debate, a sequence set in Media, PA, the site of Rosenberg's infamous Gerbil car accident, and seeing a former co-worker's name in the credits.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades - I'd heard decent things about this series of samurai films. This one got off to a bad start, as three rapes in the first 20 minutes drove Kirsti away. That unpleasantness ended soon enough, but on the whole this installment was not as action-packed as I expected. The one set in winter looked pretty cool, though...
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories from the Kindertransport - A Holocaust documentary? That won an Oscar? Surely you jest! This was better than most, though, and didn't make one want to open a vein after viewing.
Syriana - Hey! Oil is bad! BAD! That's pretty much all this film had to say, but Stephen Gaghan, confusing "complicated" with "complex," tried to mask its shallow message in a deliberately abstruse storyline. Yawn.
Concrete Cowboys and Lady in Cement - Steve's Movie Dictator selections (theme was "Don't Take Your Work Home With You," as he works in the concrete industry). The former was a made-for-TV movie starring Jerry Reed and Tom Selleck, as well as a young Morgan Fairchild. She was never attractive, by the way. The latter was a Frank Sinatra/Raquel Welch movie.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Because when you do a musical word-association exercise, "New Orleans" naturally leads to "postpunk." Since the U2/Green Day cover will sell about a metric jillion copies, here's the original. The Skids were founded in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1977. Their biggest song, 1979's "Into the Valley," hit #10 in the UK, and is still the anthem for Dunfermline's Scottish Premier team. Does the soaring guitar sound familiar? Guitarist Stuart Adamson was a Skid for three albums, then refined the sound in his new band, Big Country.
The Skids - "Into the Valley"
The Skids - "The Saints Are Coming"
Thursday, September 21, 2006
As for the film: it's uneven and artless (by design, I suppose). A few of the pieces are retreads from Da Ali G Show, but I don't think anything is recycled. They play fast and loose with geography -- supposed to be East-to-West linear, but they seemingly jump from Mississippi to Virginia to Texas to Georgia, But at least 20 minutes of it had the audience howling. Literally. HOW-LING.
If you've seen any Ali G/Borat and have an opinion on the show, this movie's not going to change your mind.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
In voting on various music tournaments, Leah and I have been called snobs on par with the folks at Pitchfork. So now we can see if we're anywhere in that weightclass in the Pitchfork '60s song tournament. Leah's taken their 200 best songs of the '60s list and turned it into a 192-seed bracket. As a bonus, Leah is making all 192 songs available for download. So come for the free music, stay for the bitching.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
The inner seventh-grade boy never goes away. Reading "Yankees scratch Wang" is always funny. If I were drinking a half-pint of chocolate milk, it would most definitely shoot of out my nose.
The Cubs and I are not pals, but right now Angel Pagan is my favorite baseball name. Only when said like a gringo, of course. Sounds like some goth pr0n star.
Remember a few months ago, when I said I'd throw secondary allegiance behind the Tigers since the Twins were pissing away 2006? Yeah, well, so much for that. Next week provides a bit of a dilemma as the White Sox and Tigers face off. Earlier, with the Tigers running away with the division, I'd be content to root them on and let the Sox fall further behind in the wild-card chase. But now, suddenly the division title is not an impossiblity, and the Twins do not want to face the Yankees on the road AGAIN...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
As more and more and more people get rid of their landline phones and go entirely wireless, is calling directory assistance for a number becoming a thing of the past? Information still only lists landline numbers. The other week, we were trying to get together with some friends who were making a rare appearance in our area. We left some messages; never heard back. Turns out the phone number I had was for the cellphone they had left at home, and the phone they had with them didn't have our numbers in it. We found out what had happed later, and it's cool and all, but our phone number remains available through directory assistance. Random brain fart, or is this just a utility one forgets about when you're totally wireless?
One potential hitch in this is that our phone is listed, but only under my wife's name. If you assume she has my last name, you will not find us. This has led to friction between K. and some of "our" (I guess they're really only "my," it turns out) friends from MN. We've been married for nine years, living together for 12, and in a relationship for 17. I've known some of these people since high school, and they are not only unaware that she kept her last name, but couldn't be bothered to learn how to spell her first name. Few things irritate her more. I'm not so thrilled with it either.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
So here's what I'm going with:
10-Brothers and Sisters (ABC) - behind-the-scenes turmoil and late casting changes...never a good sign.
9-30 Rock (NBC) - Pilot's been retooled. For reasons which may or may not be valid, I think NBC still associates SNL with "Not Ready For Prime Time." The network isn't going to give Tina Fey the benefit of the doubt that they'll give Aaron Sorkin. Kicking Dratch to a supporting role in favor of a more conventionally attractive lead (Jane Krakowski) is a prime example.
8-King of Queens (CBS) - This is an unusually bad year for shows going into announced final seasons. KoQ is the highest-profile of such shows, but I'm taking a risk assigning so many points to a midseason replacement.
7-Help Me Help You (ABC) - Dear John, Trouble With Normal...who keeps greenlighting these support-group shows? Becker lasted a while, so perhaps I'm underestimating Ted Danson's fan base.
6-Men in Trees (ABC) - I just picked this based on a slew of bad reviews. Based on its place in the Top 10, I wasn't alone. It's fashionable to bust on Anne Heche, but I will say she wasn't the worst thing about Six Days, Seven Nights (no, the worst thing was that it was totally stupid and sucked out loud).
5-Gilmore Girls (CW) - the show's creator has left, and neither Gilmore Girl is signed beyond this season.
4-Happy Hour (FOX) See comments for #6, minus Heche content.
3-Til Death (FOX) ditto.
2-The Game (CW) - a sitcom about NFL spouses might not be the worst idea, but placing opposite actual NFL football is.
1-Six Degrees (ABC) - This will fail, but I predict that copycat shows will be huge; most notably CBS's Friendster and Fox's megahit, Myspace.
Monday, September 4, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
We went up to Minnesota the other weekend for a wedding. I've known Kathleen since junior high, giving her seniority among the friends from home I talk to with any regularity. Mike's an outstanding fellow, and I'm glad she found someone as swell as him. Very nice, low-key affair.
I've seen a few movies in between mainlining Season 3 of The Wire, so, in reverse order:
Movie Log 2006, #63-67
MirrorMask - Boy, I really wanted to like this more than I did. The Oz/Alice aspects were a little too obvious, and I imagine our TV is too small for the visuals to suck me in. Pretty clearly not made for adults, though...I wonder if the nephews would dig it.
Bringing Up Baby - One of those what-took-me-so-long films. Exhausting in its screwballness. I'm still not getting the Hepburn mystique, but it was interesting to see her play a total psychopath.
Little Miss Sunshine - I fear this is getting overly praised on a level comparable to Sideways. It's quite good, but the hype needs to be reined in a bit.
Band of Outsiders - Yeah, so I'm lowbrow, but this was just sort of...there. While I'm not close to seeing them all, or even a majority of them, I'm willing to go on record and say that Breathless is pretty much the only Godard film anyone needs to see.
Talladega Nights - It had us at "Eleanor Roosevelt," and I'm ready to start drinking Laughing Clown Malt Liquor. I eagerly await the inevitable Brew & View double feature with Snakes on a Plane.
Friday, August 25, 2006
And now I know why the Sneaker Pimps followup stuff was completely under the radar. Simply awful. Maybe it was wise to abandon trip-hop and sack Kelli Dayton, but now they sound like a lukewarm NIN/Coldplay fusion. Bleah.
In other media news, Spin has yet another new editor, as Andy Pemberton lasted all of one or two issues. It's now less socialite/party oriented and focusing again on the music. Still rudderless, but at least they've given the talent-free Ultragrrrl the boot. I suppose paper music magazines are wholly irrelevant now; for instance, this new issue of Spin just got around to informing me that Sleater-Kinney is breaking up.
Finally, after trying and failing to view the file Dee sent me, I procured and viewed the Heroes pilot. S'pretty good. I still have no idea what goes on my LaPlaca entry, though...
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sure enough, we spent most of the weekend inside watching The Wire. One of the things I love about the show is someone behind the scenes is a Pogues fan. Though I suppose it stretches credibility that cops in Baltimore would send off a fallen detective in a wake using this rare track, I was still surprised and pleased to hear it:
The Pogues - "The Body of an American"
Friday, August 11, 2006
So if Notflixing is the term for sending Netflix movies back unwatched after they sit on the TV forever, what's the term for falsely marking movies as returned so the next discs in the queue (say, discs 3 and 4 of a television series) arrive faster? All of this is purely hypothetical, of course. I guess the term is just "lying."
You should be populating your queues with Brick and The Hidden Blade. Both are movies I talked about earlier, and just hit DVD this week.
Monday, August 7, 2006
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
A Scanner Darkly - Someone finally got Philip K. Dick right. Perfectly cast, I thought. The only major change seemed to be (invisotext spoiler:) Donna was written as more burnt out in the book. Here she just seemed weird and aloof, which made the reveal at the end less powerful.
Bells Are Ringing - Judy Holliday's last film. She was only 38 or so, but still too old for the role. The film spent far too long establishing her ZANINESS!
Kagemusha - I liked this a lot less than I expected to. Too long and self-indulgent. It felt like Lucas had more to do with it than just distribution.
Monster House - Excellent 3D. I can't imagine seeing it flat. It's 3/4 of a decent movie, but falls apart.
Genghis Blues - who saw this and *didn't* attempt throatsinging afterward?
Swing Time Quite entertaining, except for the blackface number.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - I think I still liked Oldboy slightly better.
Jesus is Magic Sure glad I rented.
Humoresque I gotta say, I believed John Garfield could actually play the violin. I also learned that divorced women are better off drowning themselves. Young John Garfield was played by Bobby Blake, who grew up to look a lot like Garfield. Well, I think so.
Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla You know what's worse than Jerry Lewis? A Jerry Lewis impersonator.
She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword LONG! and BORING! This was written by Bob Forward, who wrote of of my favorite lost pulpy paperbacks, The Owl.
Visions of Light - This was a made-for-TV doc about how important cinematographers are. Meh.
Lost in America it was okay. Julie Hagerty needed a sammitch.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
I can see where auto racing would be interesting. But how do you figure out which driver to back? I posed this question to a friend who's into it, and his answer was along the lines of "I was a big xxxxxx fan, and then he died and his team owner signed so and so..." which didn't get to the root of the question.
For other sports there are aspects of territoriality; one tends to gravitate toward the teams/athletes from a hometown or alma mater. For a time I pulled for Alan Kulwicki, just because he was the only driver A) competing as driver/owner, B) hailing from the North, and C) possessing a college degree. But now he's dead and as far as I can tell there's no one setting himself apart in that way.
Anyway: how does one look at this homogenous group of crackers, who all drive one of three types of automobile (so far removed from an everyday model that rooting for Dodge Charger is just silly); and decide to exalt one over all others? Then, how do you decide "I will HATE this other driver. So much so that I will purchase a sticker with a bootleg Calvin peeing on his number."?
Does it have to do with the corporate sponsorship? Because "Tide makes my clothes clean and fresh-smelling...go, Travis Kvapil!" is just dumb.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I am by no means a Pink Floyd fan. I was sad to hear Syd Barrett had finally shuffled off, though. It was especially resonant to hear the news after this weekend's viewing of A Scanner Darkly; itself another example of gobbling obscene amounts of drugs and creating artistic brilliance at the cost of sanity.
I like the Barrett-era PF, even the silly things about gnomes and mice. Piper at the Gates of Dawn, recorded at Abbey Road the same time as Sgt. Pepper, is, I think, a far better album than the Beatles work. At the very least, it makes the Fab Four's foray with "psychedelia" look like they were experimenting with Flintstones Chewables. I don't actually own any in an appropriate medium, so here instead is some Robyn Hitchcock; one of my favorite artists, and himself clearly influenced by Syd. Here's RH and The Soft Boys, first covering a Barrett song, then doing an original which IMO has an element of "Arnold Layne" in it.
The Soft Boys - Vegetable Man
The Soft Boys - Old Pervert
Monday, July 10, 2006
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
this exhibit is highly recommended if you're able to get to Milwaukee in the next six weeks. I think I was most moved by the McCay and Herriman. The Schulz wall was sad in that you could chart his deterioration. The Kurtzman section had as much to do with Wally Wood and Will Elder as Kurtzman, but that's fine by me; and my god are those MAD comics still funny. The Jack Kirby section needed more explanation. What's made him important is the Krackle, but you wouldn't know that from the exhibit.
The only major change I'd have made would be to scrap Gary Panter; I'm not a fan, but the exhibit originated in LA, so maybe there's some sort of connection there. I'd probably put the Hernandez Brothers in his place. And are there any women who could be called a 20th-century comic-strip master? I love Lynda Barry, but neither she nor Alison Bechdel are really artistically significant. Don't even mention Cathy Guisewite or Lynn Johnston.
The rest of the museum is very nice, though there was so much to read and look at in the comic exhibit we really only explored the rest for an hour or so. Still, great modern art section, including a very funny piece involving MMPI statements.
Monday, July 3, 2006
If you're a Sopranos watcher, you'll recognize this song from this season's "Live Free or Die" episode (Vito running to New England). Never mind the stretch that somewhere in reactionary little New Hampshire there was a sleepy enclave of tolerance-- I found it hard to believe that anyone in New Hampshire would be cool enough to listen to X, even their lighter, Billy Zoom-less mid-80s material. Ah, New Hampshire. I kid because I love.
BTW, X is touring this this year, and Billy Zoom is back in the lineup. You should go. Unfortunately the opener is the Rollins Band, so you should show up late.
X- "4th of July"
Monday, June 26, 2006
Sunday, June 25, 2006
this has been sitting in draft for a while:
Call Northside 777 - Jimmy Stewart is a crusading Chicago Times (later merged with the Sun) reporter trying to spring an alleged cop-killer. This was based on a true story, and its authenticity made it slow and less successful, I thought. But it was shot on location in Illinois, which was nice.
An Inconvenient Truth - Yeah, you know what it's about, and have already formed an opinion whether you've seen it or not. I think I'm more interested in your excuses/halfbaked theories for not wanting to see it. Odds are the film debunks most of them, so really "I'm already part of the choir" is the only valid excuse.
Who Killed the Electric Car? - yeah, yeah, Stonecutters, aren't you funny. This was a doc about the ill-fated EV-1, which GM launched, then killed despite the cars being wildly popular with the few people actually allowed to possess one. GM set the project up to fail from the start -- from naming the concept car the "Impact" to talking as many people as possible out of leasing them, to delaying shipments, to finally seizing all the cars (they were all leased) from people willing to drive them forever, and crushing them in the desert -- all the while lobbying to get California to roll back the emissions mandate which prompted the project. In the most telling scene, a mechanic shows you all the service parts in an internal combustion engine which were not part of an EV-1-- This dead golden goose was the reason dealerships wanted no part of the car. And meanwhile, Toyota and Honda ate Ford and GM's lunch on hybrids, while gas is in the $3 range. And no wonder the American automakers are in the crapper.
Choose Me Kirsti says long ago she read a Cosmo-ish article where a guy clamed this was his "can't miss" third-date video rental. Hmmm, yeah, I'm not seeing it; not any more. Must have been a long time ago, because it's very hard to get past the 80s-stylings. This was an interesting mess, anyway. Remove things like the unironic Flock of Seagulls hairdo and you're in Hal Hartley territory. It's been a long time since Keith Carradine -- hell, any Carradine -- could carry a romantic lead role, but he does. Rae Dawn Chong is awful; was she ever good in anything not involving cavewoman bodypaint? The poor man's Susan Sarandon, Lesley-Anne Warren, pulls off a final scene reminiscent of The Graduate that's all worth it.
Monday, June 19, 2006
This first video has two things worth seeing: Don Cherry's suit (at about 2:30), and at 8:00, when "O Canada" picks up. This is what happens when your national anthem is easy to sing and isn't about a dumb war that few people know about:
The next video is the classic Canadian cartoon "The Sweater."
Saturday, June 17, 2006
AICN (via Variety) reports that Tim Burton is finally getting around to shooting Sweeney Todd. Johnny Depp is to star; no complaints there, although whether he can sing remains to be seen.
On the other hand, this being Burton, I fully expect him to trash all the Sondheim songs and have Elfman dash off more of his recycled score crap. Oh, and wedge in an unnecessary subplot about someone's father.
Monday, June 12, 2006
I baked a pie tonight. Completely from scratch, with a pastry crust. We went a little crazy at the farmer's market Saturday, it being our first trip this year. I saw the strawberries, saw the rhubarb sitting right next to them; figured I'd give it a whirl. I like to bake, and might have done this before but I didn't have a rolling pin, of all things. So I went out that afternoon and picked up one that's fancier than I'll ever need. Our knives may be crap, our Tupperware is all old sour cream and take-out containers, but my rolling pin...freaking awesome.
The big pain in the ass was the crust, of course. The kitchen was a little too cluttered to roll comfortably, and there was a slight sticking problem with the top crust. While it was baking, I told myself so *that's* why pre-made crusts are so ubiquitous. But it turned out to be worth it. It's not going to win any beauty contests, but the crust came out nice and flaky, I daresay nicer than any of the family recipes. It's the standard Joy of Cooking recipe. Five ingredients.
So now I guess the big baking hurdle left to clear is bread, of the non-breadmaker kind. I'm in no hurry.
Here's a song I should have used last week, what with the 6/6 nonsense. Over at the music tournament, I've been slagging Nine Inch Nails lately. I think Reznor is basically ripping off JG Thirlwell, AKA Foetus. He was doing the one-guy-in-studio, angsty/evil/tortured industrial thing long before Trent got a deal, and their vocal styles are similar, I think.
Foetus - "Satan Place"
Friday, June 9, 2006
So Leah and I have been running this silly indie rock song tournament for a few months now. We're almost into the round of 32, and to add some voters and cut down on abstentions, we're going to offer all of the 32 songs still in the running as two big zipfiles. Of course the irony of this is we've already weeded out most of the more interesting obscurities, so what remains are things people are most likely to have. Still, free music.
The downloads should be available Monday. in the meantime, you can go there and influence the song selection by voting in the remaining round of 64.
Monday, June 5, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Monday, May 29, 2006
It's been over a week for most of these. Happenstance was a French movie about lots of meet-cute coincidences. The ensemble cast includes Audrey Tautou, who is of course promoted as The Star, though she's really not.
We were a year late to the party on Ocean's Twelve, and whomever warned me not to think at all about the plot or how it relates to the first film was spot on. A bunch of pretty people contrived an excuse to go vacationing in Europe on the studio's bill, and I was mildly entertained.
So Andrew and Cinnamon hosted an MDN and at least fed us well, but the punishment included The Mind Snatchers, an early-70s Cuckoo's Nest/Clockwork Orange-y thing starring the young Christopher Walken. It was just stupid and boring.
X-Men: Last Stand - Not as bad as you might have heard. Halle Berry's still dreadful, the best character from the last film is inexplicably absent, Kelsey Grammer and Vinnie Jones were quite good, and lots of new characters are wasted before they get wasted. If you have a lot invested in the comics, it may not sit well with you.
Monday, May 22, 2006
I haven't counted recently, but I think XTC still occupies the second-most space in our CD collection. I particularly like the early spaz-rock phase, before Andy Partridge had his stagefright incident. This is the final track from their first album:
XTC - "Neon Shuffle"
Friday, May 19, 2006
Not a Sleater-Kinney live DVD or anything, but rather the Robert Redford caper flick, based on the first of Donald E. Westlake's John Dortmunder books. I don't go in much for mystery/caper novels, but the three or four of the Westlakes I've read have been pretty fun. Years ago John Heaton wrote a piece on ideal casting for the Dortmunder movie adaptations that's worth a read.
Two noteworthy things about The Hot Rock: 1. Shot on location in NYC circa 1972, there are many shots of the WTC under construction, if you're feeling nostalgic. 2. The funniest line in the film is delivered by a young Christopher Guest, in his first credited film role.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
I'm more excited than is probably appropriate to be seeing Thomas Dolby this Wednesday, and I have Kevin Federline to thank for it all. A little while ago Mr. Spears sampled a Mobb Deep song which contained a cleared sample of a Dolby song (which K-Fed did not clear). That aspect of the story is fascinating to me; you can be sure that there will be many more lawsuits as people sample more music with second and third-tier sampling.
But anyway, if not for the dustup I wouldn't have been clued into Dolby's small-club tour. Maybe he'll play some of that Howard the Duck stuff. Here is the leadoff track from the overlooked second album (which gave us the minor hit "Hyperactive!"). He's executed in the video, if I recall correctly, making it part of an interesting subgenre.
Thomas Dolby - "Dissidents"
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Of course I don't remember much about the game itself, and there's no indoor-NASL equivalent of Retrosheet to help me out. I think it was against the Tulsa Roughnecks. We were very close to the glass. The only two Kicks I could still name without looking anything up are Tim Twellman (father of current MLS star Taylor), who conducted a brief clinic I went to; and a guy with a funny name who was clearly the best guy on the pitch.
That guy had one of my all-time favorite sports names: Ace Ntsoelengoe. Sadly, he died this week in South Africa. Only 50. Well, I suppose 50 is on the high end of the scale in SA.
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Sunday, May 7, 2006
if you care about the original-recipe Star Wars hitting DVD, then you're in an abusive relationship with George Lucas and you should run like Tina did from Ike. Look, for ten years now he has shat on you, with the horrible "special editions" and then that godawful new trilogy (nope, still haven't seen Sith, but the claim that it's better than 1-2 is no draw). And people just keep lapping it up. Yeah, I was clamoring for SW to get released the right way, but now I'm beyond caring.
Breaker Morant - I'm sure it's no coincidence that the two big Australian movies in 1980-81 (around the 50th anniversary of Australian independence) were about how Aussie soldiers generally got dicked around when fighting the British Empire's wars in the early 20th century. This one is about a courtmartial during the Boer War. Edward "The Equalizer" Herrmann is the title character, and it's his and Bryan Brown's picture. Adapted from a stage play, it does feel quite stagy at times. Of course it's set in South Africa in 1902, and there are maybe two black faces in the whole film.
The title Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia has worked its way into the vernacular like Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo and Snakes on a Plane, but I think few have actually seen it. Noted hack Michael Medved put it in his 50 Worst Films of All Time, but he's an idiot. It's slowish at first, brutal at times, and laced with misogyny, but still surprisingly tender and well worth a look.
Finally, Hostel - you can tell Kirsti's out of town when I netflix all the irredeemable horror movies, and, well, I certainly didn't grow as a person. This one shook me like Audition did. As a bonus, it had moments of wit without the nudge-wink of the Scream movies, and lacked the b.s. preachiness of the Saw films.
Thursday, May 4, 2006
This is how it works: comment on this entry and I will give you a letter. Write ten words beginning with that letter in your [web-based area of blather], including an explanation of what the word means to you and why, and then pass out letters to those who want to play along.
Craig gave me M. so...
Minneapolis - grew up there. Still enjoy going back, though it feels more foreign to me each time.
Michigan, state of - lived there for a year. I've lived all my life in places with winters that are, shall we say, "well-defined," and the most miserable one was spent in MI. Working for Sparty, I did pick up the Wolverine hatred, which is ironic considering the good UM friends I've made through QB, as well as the transplants here.
Music Box Theatre - I claim it's my favorite theatre in the Chicago area. And how could it not be? It's beautiful, got the stars on the ceiling and projected clouds, live organ accompaniment on weekend nights, real butter on the corn. But I haven't been in over two years though...oops.
Metrodome - the (rare) jet-engine sound of a packed house in the post-season, the never-gets-old feeling of getting blown out the doors on the way out... Maybe it's because I only get to go once a year if that, but I love this dump, and I'll be sad when it's gone.
MN State Fair - My mostly-annual festival of gluttony, people-watching and art made of seeds. I'll have to miss this year's though. I try (and usually fail) to abstain from french fries except at the fair, because they're really never as good anywhere else.
Murder, She Wrote - I've never watched, but this show is the reason the family bought my grandma her first VCR. Poor thing kept falling asleep before the killers were revealed.
mommies - most people have one. Heather has two, according to the kids' book. I have four if you count the M.I.L.
Maryland - College Park was the site of Beltway Bandits, the first trash event I attended, and the start of a long Gerbil reign of terror.
Movie Dictator Night - We've been doing these rotating movie nights for six years now. Yikes! About 20 titles have been added since this summary was published a year ago.
married -- for nine years tomorrow. Happy anniversary sweetie! I can honestly say without a trace of sap that it doesn't feel like anything that long.
Monday, May 1, 2006
So these musicians are noodling around. The guitarist, keyboardist, and bassist decide to switch instruments. They come up with a hook that's jarring in its simplicity, especially after their foray into polyrhythms in the two previous albums. The song is more or less ignored in the shadow of a monster single -- but it turns out to be the best love song written in my lifetime, if not longer. One of the myriad reasons to elope is to avoid having a wedding song. But if I were the sort to have a wedding with a wedding song, this is the one I'd lobby hard for.
Talking Heads - "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)"
The Arcade Fire's cover
Shawn Colvin's cover
clip from Stop Making Sense
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
This was every bit as good as a three-hour French-language B/W film involving a mime could be. No, seriously, I know I listed six or seven potential strikes there. I was skeptical myself, having seen some stills that led me to think it was all set in mime-land. But after taking its time setting things up, it was very engaging. Couldn't bring myself to rewatch with commentary, though.
It's hard to imagine, in the wake of Beavis & Butt-Head, Jackass, etc., that there was a time when one couldn't say "butthole" on MTV. Actually they couldn't even depict the word -- one of the network's old features was a local concert crawl, and now and again a mysterious act called the "BH Surfers" would play at First Av.
Before they scored a top 40 hit by ripping off the Nails, there was this little ditty, with which I could endlessly amuse my freshman-year college friends...
Butthole Surfers - Lady Sniff
Friday, April 21, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
And then this extends to poker. I played in the weekly not-for-cash game at lunch today, and forgot all about it by mid-afternoon. Because I don't retain anything about my hand I wonder if I'm doomed to mediocrity, since I'm not analyzing my play and looking to improve it. On the other hand, I'm never going to bend your ear with tales of bad beats. So thank goodness for small favors.
1997 LAA (1IP, 3H, 2ER) L 6-5
1998 LAA DNP W 6-3
1999 BAL (1IP,3H, 2ER, 2BB) L 9-7
2000 KC DNP W 7-1
2001 BOS DNP L 5-4
2002 BOS DNP L 4-3
2003 TOR DNP W 5-0
2004 no game scheduled
2005 BAL DNP L 8-1
2006 MIN (3H, 2ER, 2K) L 6-5
Of course, the best way for a Yankee to honor a Brooklyn Dodger would be to lose, I suppose.
Monday, April 17, 2006
The Thin Blue Line, which is not the Rowan Atkinson Britcom or a long wankish Terence Malick war film, but rather the Errol Morris documentary. Very good but a bit anticlimactic now that the case is discusses are resolved. Compare with the Paradise Lost documentaries, where the cases sit like open sores.
Room at the Top - the 1959 British drama, not the flight-attendant comedy. It's funny that Laurence Harvey's most famous role is one where his war buddies all hate him but have been brainwashed into calling him "the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being [they've] ever known.." He apparently used this part as a training mission, where he's a thoroughly unlikable male golddigger after the town heiress. It played like a British A Place In The Sun.
Novelty month continues with The Dickies. Long before Joey Ramone sang the praises of Maria Bartiromo, the Dickies were pining for a longtime LA newsanchor...
The Dickies - (I'm Stuck In A Pagoda With) Tricia Toyota
Monday, April 10, 2006
Thursday, April 6, 2006
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
In honor of April Fools, April will feature all novelty songs. This band...well, you gotta love a band who put a commercial for their debut LP in the middle of their followup, or who named a song "If You're In A Pop Group, You'll End Up Paying A Fortune Practising at Peter Practice's Practice Place." But here's a track with a much more restrained title.
Toy Dolls - "Dig that Groove, Baby"
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
If you're going to neither event, may I suggest the film Brick, which opens this weekend in apparently-wide release. It's a teen murder mystery done in deadpan-noir style. This is a conceit which sounds fraught, but holds up remarkably well. It was one of the best things I saw at last year's film festival. And with people flocking to Basic Instinct 2, you should have no trouble finding a row all to yourself.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Behold the power of Cheeze! Annette Norberg and Team Sweden have back-to-back world championships, with an Olympic gold sandwiched between. The team they beat was...Team USA, which came very close to knocking them off.
So in the Worlds since 2003 the US women have come in 1st, 4th, 2nd, 2nd. But unfortunately most people will only know about the big Olympic collapse until given a shot at redemption in Vancouver. Anyway, ESPN 2 is showing a highlight package on April 2, from 2-4 PM ET. Check it out. I'd threaten to not be your friend any more if you don't, but I'll miss it myself.
It wouldn't be right to finish Women's History Month without featuring The Runaways. The Donnas lifted their shtick pretty much wholesale. Lead singer Cherrie Currie starred in Foxes with Jodie Foster, while their guitarists went on to bigger things -- perhaps you've heard of Lita Ford and Joan Jett. Finally, the Runaways missed the cut in the indie rock tournament Leah and I are launching, so here's their consolation prize.
The Runaways - Cherry Bomb
Saturday, March 25, 2006
AK - Incurred bar bills that took me six months to pay off
AL - Dined at Steak and Shake with a Div. III softball team
CA - Got outbid on an authentic Sleestak costume
CT - Made first-ever paid sports roadtrip
DC - Squeezed a statue of a small hippopotamus for luck
DE - Paid exorbitant auto tolls
FL - Went out of way to see Perky Bat Tower on honeymoon (this is not a double entendre)
GA - Completed corporate training with coworker who had taken an average of one roll of film for each day of her toddler's life
IA - Went to Japanese-American cousin's wedding at a civic center named for the 5 Sullivan Brothers, killed when a Japanese torpedo sunk their ship
IL - Got groceries last night
IN - Broke down outside of Gary at 1 a.m. with all my wordly possessions and my mom in tow.
KS - May have crossed border during TRASH trip to UMKC
KY - Bought gas on drive to Florida
MA - Finding rare LPs by Twin Cities artists becomes major factor in college choice
MD - Attended CFL playoff game; next day won first trash tournament
ME - Drove to Portland to see REM's Green tour
MI - Created Hobey Baker promo material involving Bryan Smolinski, a hockey stick, and lighter fluid
MN - Went to six high-school proms in 4-year span
MO - Wondered why a McDonald's in the shadow of the one thing in STL you're supposed to see would not carry the Arch Deluxe
NC - Went from one Charlotte airport concourse to another
NH - Played cricket with one of Cooch's eventual ex-bosses
NJ - Had Cuban Thanksgiving with a crazy girlfriend's family
NV - Discovered admission fee to Liberace Museum is not only worthwhile, but is a tax-deductible charitable contribution
NY - Visited NYC during Carrie: The Musical's preview run; still kicking self for not going
OH - Observed the dumpy little hockey rink the Buckeyes used to play in, in the shadow of St. John's Arena
PA - Ate at Morimoto; later observed an 8-foot colon (not mine)
RI - Visited h.s. friend at Brown; 8 years later she has key supporting role in Fargo
TN - Sham sports attended here include women's football, NHL expansion hockey, and quizbowl.
TX - Saw unreleasable rough cut of film starring Gary Oldman as the midget brother of Matthew McConaughey
VT - Consumed no maple syrup or Ben & Jerry's, listened to no Phish
VA - Won a trash event at UVA I remember nothing about
WA - Had bleary layover after staying up all night in Anchorage
WI - Met a team with the greatest logo in all of sport
Friday, March 24, 2006
(Page playoffs: 1 v. 2, 3 v. 4, but the loser of 1-2 bumps down to play the winner of 3-4. The winner of 1-2 advances to the final. )
Monday, March 20, 2006
Time for my favorite active band. I'm not sure this is my favorite of their songs, but when this comes on in the car I typically listen to half of it, then turn it waaay up and hit rewind three or four times. They still don't make Lollapalooza worth it, though...
Sleater-Kinney - "Start Together"
Not quite as extreme as I thought a gathering of three Asian horror/action directors (the aforementioned Takashi Miike of Japan, Korea's Chan-Wook Park, and Hong Kong's Fruit Chan) would be. All the segments were just okay, the first one serving as a reminder that Bai Ling is occasionally useful for something other than being asideshow attraction.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Finally made it back to the theatre in this calendar year with Unknown White Male, a documentary we saw two days before the Oscar shorts. The lesson of the film: Just as you should always wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital, so should you become filthy rich, so if you're suddenly struck with retrograde amnesia, you'll find the experience ultimately liberating.
Kirsti's out of town this week, so I loaded up the Netflix queue with horror she'd never watch. First on deck was Saw II, which was as stupid as one would expect. For all its grindhouse nature, this franchise has a pomposity that annoys the crap out of me.
Next up was Gozu, by J-horror freakshow Takashi Miike. Can't really appreciate Gozu without being versed in Miike's other stuff, as well as David Lynch. I am, and I'm still not sure I appreciated this one.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Women's History Month, plus St. Patrick's Day is coming up. I'm sure they exist, but I was unable to find an all-or mostly-female Irish punk/new-wave act, and I wasn't going to go with Sinead O'Connor (and less said about theCranberries, the better). Anyway, The Pogues are a longtime favorite, and they only recorded one song where original bassist Cait O'Riordan sang lead. The great-yet-overplayed "Fairytale of New York" was supposed to be a Shane-Cait duet, but then she ran off and married Elvis Costello. Anyway, here's The Pogues - "I'm A Man You Don't Meet Everyday"
Saturday, March 11, 2006
After passing the written test and having what I thought was a successful team interview, my teammates and I were turned down for the second round of qualifying for a new TV quiz show. I am bound by an NDA not to discuss specifics, as we are still technically eligible for second-season consideration, if there is one.
So that's three straight tests I've taken and passed -- four if you count the special Netflix test at WWTBAM -- without getting a callback. I wonder to what extent the Jeopardy experience or the quizbowl history is a factor. Which is silly, of course -- does anyone scream "ringer!" at the thought that an American Idol contestant might have taken a voice lesson or two, or have made a little money at an open-mic night?
On the upside, I no longer have to fret about being on time to play in the mixed club championship tomorrow.
Monday, March 6, 2006
Well, those seemed to satisfy no one. While many people are fuming about Crash, I'm pissed about The Moon and the Son. I usually love the clip reels, but these seemed horribly assembled. Jon Stewart acquitted himself well, I thought. The "Negative Ads" were astounding.
Saturday, March 4, 2006
I have now seen all but one of the shorts nominated for Oscars this year. The only one not on the Film Center progam was the live-action The Last Farm.
Briefly, starting with docs:
"The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club" - Profile of the title figure, a war-zone photographer in late-Apartheid South Africa and later Sudan. Haunted by the images he snapped, including a controversial photo of a starving, crawling Sudanese child stalked by a vulture, he took his own life months after winning a Pulitzer. Interesting, but felt slight.
"God Sleeps in Rwanda" - Easily the best of the bunch, despite flat narration from Rosario Dawson. Profile of several women who survived the Rwandan genocide. One mother raises her daughter, a product of rape, after all her other children were killed. A 12-year-old finds herself the head of the household. Another woman is one of the first female police in the country. It's a safe guess that this subject will become the new Holocaust in the documentary category in coming years.
"The Mushroom Club" - A look at Hiroshima 60 years after the bomb. The Peace Garden is noisy, black trucks drive around spouting nationalist rhetoric, and many of the dwindling number of survivors refuse to attend the official remembrance ceremonies.
"A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin" Interviews with and reminiscence on Corwin, a radio playwright and poet.
PREDICTIONS: Rwanda. Corwin's got Old Hollywood appeal, so it's a dark horse, methinks.
"Badgered" and "The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation" - I saw both of these at last year's Chicago Film Festival. The first is the most crudely rendered, but is funny. Plus I saw the director in October, and she's an adorable Scot who'd be fun to see win an award. So I'm pulling for her. The latter is a tedious exercise in onscreen therapy. I expect student shorts to mostly be about blaming parents for screwing up lives, but this was from a 30-plus-year career animator.
"The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello" Overlong but nifty steampunk tale, told mostly in silhouette.
"9" - hard to describe plotwise, but had a nice look to the CGI. A frontrunner.
"One Man Band" - A Pixar entry that had lush looking backgrounds, but was too reminiscent of Tin Toy, I thought.
PREDIX: "Jasper Morello" or "9".
"Ausreisser (The Runaway)" - apparently this is a frontrunner, but I didn't care for it all that much.
"Cashback" - Night-shift supermarket workers kill time. Saw this at the 2004 Chicago Film Festival. It's quite good, but the cheesecake factor might turn off voters.
"Our Time Is Up" - Takes the dying-person-turns-new-leaf trope and applies to psychiatry. Some big laughs, but maybe a little to familiar to win. Nice to see Jorge Garcia from Lost.
"Six Shooter" - dark-comic Irish short. A guy greiving the death of his wife takes the train home and meets a very odd loudmouth passenger. Has a good chance, I think.
PREDIX: "Ausreisser" or "Six Shooter."
Friday, March 3, 2006
*The winner of the Oscar pool will win exactly $99, which I find very funny.
*Gee, loading up on those $10, 1-year subscriptions to Spin sure seemed like a good idea at the time. I think we're set for at least another two years of...well, who knows what we're going to get.
* This baseball article, about bible-thumpin' ballplayer Tony Batista, is worth a read. my fave bit:
If coming to Minnesota and spending a season with the Twins is indeed part of "God's divine plan," then I assume that means having Batista make me miserable for a year while hurting my favorite team's playoff chances is also part of the same plan. That's an odd sort of relationship, like saying that someone dropping an anvil off a skyscraper is part of a plan and a person on the sidewalk below being crushed to death by an anvil falling from the sky is within the same plan.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Took a break from pub quiz and watched this, which arrived this weekend presumably about the time Matt was watching it. Everything he says about the film is right on. The framing scenes set me against the film from the get-go, and frankly Allen's total body of work is such that he can't afford to dig himself into such a hole early on. This guy was much more believable playing a religious assassin in a futuristic dystopia than as a struggling musician with a pad that makes the Friends loft look like a hovel.
As to Matt's theory that Will Ferrell could successfully remake Woody's early-to-mid films: Maybe Sleeper. Anything else would be a bad idea.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Seems like a big gap between movie posts. We've watched a fair amount of TV material on DVD, but I don't count it. I did catch up on a little bit of Oscar fodder with Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and Brokeback Mountain. The former explained very simply just what was going on at that company, and could make one wish the death penalty extended to financial crimes. The latter was as good as everyone says it is, with the exception of Anne Hathaway, who seemed to be playing dressup.
On Saturday one of Dee's MDN selections was the excrable Newsies. It was a complete mess, but thankfully nothing about it really stuck with me.
Crossfading between Blck History Month and Women's History Month, we have the UK's X-Ray Spex, featuring English-Somali singer Poly Styrene. She claimed she'd rather shave her head than be known as a sex symbol -- then she did, pre-dating Sinead O'Connor by a decade. X-Ray Spex cut one album, then Styrene quit and became a Hare Krishna.
X-ray Spex - "The Day the World Turned Day-glo"
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
so, some questions (and I finally updated the ones from last week, too):
How many teams play in the Grapefruit League? 18 - Since this is becoming "guess a number between 2 and 30," I'm invoking the mercy rule.
How many Ramona books has Beverly Cleary written? (that is, books where she's part of the title) eight (Mark) - I came up with five titles right away, but had forgotten Ramona Forever, Ramona and Her Mother and Ramona and Her Father. I am actually going to feel bad once I collect dead pool points for Ms. Cleary's passing.
95 percent of the world's opals come from what country? Australia (Mark) - Two of us independently came up with Madagascar, so we went with it. D'oh!
Who delivered the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral? Ossie Davis (Brian) - I knew this stone cold; not sure why. I think it had to do with reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X for classes right around the time Do The Right Thing was out.
Who was the first president born after the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Martin Van Buren (Brian) - We were one off, guessing Jackson.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Whose concert riders demanded a gallon of coffee backstage? Johnny Cash
According to commentators at the Olympic opening ceremonies, what does the color red in Italy's flag represent? charity - According to Costas, the colors represent faith, hope, and charity. We did go with marinara, along with too many teams to net anyone comedy points.
In what town did Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel? Weehawken, NJ (Craig)
In what Chicago neighborhood did the St. Valentine's Day Massacre occur? Lincoln Park (Alma got it first without looking it up) but we missed a bonus point when I whiffed on the address, going with 2121 (the pizza place Chris talks about) Clark instead of 2122. I should have kept in mind that the west side of the street should have been even, like my on block. Still, Evanston is just contrary enough to reverse that.
It's interesting and scary to read the fan comments on Team Johnson's website. Dig "Sam" from NYC: "Have you ever been to the big city?" Um, check the team gallery: they're better-traveled than you, tool! The declarations of love for Cassie Johnson are something else too, but I'm thinking Maureen Brunt is cuter.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
What star of That 70's Show has two toes fused together? Ashton Kutcher (Kirsti/Alma) - He had a birthday that day, so we figured it was him.
Aside from the US, what two countries have land borders with Mexico? Belize, Guatemala (Brian) - For once, geography doesn't bite me in the behind.
Marshall Crenshaw played what character in the film La Bamba? Buddy Holly (Brian) - Coming after a round entirely on the Holly plane crash, this question was even easier. I'd've rewritten it to make Crenshaw the answer.
What singer gave Sid Vicious his trademark padlock necklace? Chrissie Hynde -- nigh-impossible to get on its own, but this came to us in a "Chrissie Hynde or Debbie Harry?" round, and we knew she was the more UK-centric of the two.
Baseball blogger Aaron Gleeman is counting down the Top-40 Minnesota Twins. Time spent as a Twin is a key factor, so already we have the counterintuitive decision of Scott Erickson in and Jack Morris out - despite pitching THE best game in World Series history, in the end, one season isn't gonna cut it. Anyway he's up to #36 today. Check it out.
Monday, February 6, 2006
One gets the idea the songwriters never actually saw her films and the words "Bette Davis" were inserted into the famous song about her eyes just to fit the meter. Her eyes are her least appealing feature: buggy, baggy, wrinkled, rolling...of course this was 1952, a couple of years past All About Eve and nearly 20 years after the big break in Of Human Bondage. Still, I can't think of anyone this side of Ron Jeremy who had such a fruitful career playing supposedly seductive characters, yet who was so homely. Despite all that, this was a pretty good, not so stagey adaptaton of a murder/con stage mystery.
B-Fest aside, I haven't been to a proper movie theatre at all in 2006. And sadly I don't see this changing until a President's Day screening I have passes for. Anyway, I was thoroughly impressed by Oldboy. More than anything, it underscored my need to restart The Count of Monte Cristo.
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
just two questions for you tonight:
What member of the Miracle on Ice team did not see any Olympic ice time? Steve Janaszak (Craig) - We, like Flax, figured it was the backup goalie, but apparently none of us had seen Miracle. We put down Kurt Russell to be funny, but the team that wrote Tonya Harding actually got points for the laugh.
Gale Norton, Donald Evans, John Ashcroft, and Anthony Principi have all served what position under GW Bush? The "designated survivor" (James D.), or the cabinet member not attending the State of the Union address for succession purposes. The question was worded a little differently, but the gist remained. We got this one, after initially thinking "herald" or "first in the procession"
UPDATE: Curling finally made an appearance in the quiz. The question was: "bonspiel and crampits are terms associated with what sport?" Naturally I knew it on bonspiel, seeing as how I'm going to one in two days and all. But crampit? WTF's a crampit? I've been curling for 4 years now and never heard of one. I asked the quizmasters, and they didn't know, they just picked it off a list of terms. Turns out a "crampit" is a spiked metal platform players stood on to throw the rocks, using a no-slide delivery. These are not used in international or Olympic competition any more, having been replaced by hacks embedded in indoor ice. Crampits are apparently still used in New Zealand as illustrated here.
Monday, January 30, 2006
As if every frame in Shaun of the Dead wasn't supremely brilliant, along came a cover of The Buzzcocks' "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" to seal the deal. Between popping up in commercials and movies (one of the Shreks, for cryin' out loud), it seems the Buzzcocks are finally getting their due. Unless you can find the out-of-print "Product" box set, the "Singles Going Steady" compilation is an absolute must-own.
The Buzzcocks - "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"
There were actually 13 movies on the schedule, but I don't count repeats in the annual log.
This year opened with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, with a screenplay co-written by Reeve. He didn't quite deserve his fate, but he did himself no karmic favors here. Lex Luthor uses a Superman hair to create a silly looking blonde superbeing to take on Superman. Meanwhile Superman goes to the UN and rounds up the world's entire nuclear arsenal (never mind that, as Frank Miller and Alan Moore have illustrated, the Cold War would have ended early with the presence of an invulnerable being in the US). Oh, and the Daily Planet gets bought by some Murdochian character, and his daughter is Mariel Hemingway, who has eyes for Clark. She ends up flying around in the vacuum of space sans any kind of protective gear. Except her shoulder pads.
Next up wasCreature from the Black Lagoon in 3D, which I'd seen. Still fun, but the print was a little washed out. The tints didn't match those of the glasses; the 3-D still worked to an extent, but was headache inducing. On to Godzilla (1998). Ahhh, remember when it was fun to think about NYC getting destroyed? I will give this movie credit for not wasting too much time setting things up; the ass-kicking begins almost immediately. But then we get bogged down in the backstory of the useless Maria Pitillo. The ending turns into a Jurassic Park retread.
Plan 9 From Outer Space Seen this too many times, so I went to the lounge to rest up. I also missed the first half of Coffy, which I saw the first time I went to B-Fest. Woke up in time to see the razor-blades-in-the-Afro bit; a fave.
This year's soulkiller was Gas-s-s-s!, a late Roger Corman vehicle. A nerve gas kills everyone over 25, and a group of hippies, including Ben Vereen, Cindy Williams, and "Tally Coppola" (yes, Talia Shire) go driving off in search of some Oracle. Along the way they meet a football team who practices raping and pillaging, and a group of bikers who specialize in golf. This was one of those films where every scene is supposed to mean something, but it all ends up meaningless.
There's an apparently-minority view that Troma pics don't belong at B-fest. I tend to agree; they try a little too hard to be bad and usually end up dull. Tromeo & Juliet was a step up, but I still gave up about an hour in and crashed for a while. It's the R&J story with all the dismemberment, nudity and lesbian scenes the Bard's tale was sorely lacking. Oh, and it turns out the star-crossed lovers are long-lost siblings. And they don't care and have mutant babies. Heartwarming!
So a few years ago at this event, I saw Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? At the time I thought "who since Anthony Newley has been given free rein to write, star in, direct, and compose the music for such a turd of a vanity project? Ah yes, Prince's Graffiti Bridge! I was wondering how this would go over. The movie is crap, but the music is actually quite good. So it's some time after Purple Rain and "The Kid" and Morris Day are vying for control of The Kid's club, Glam Slam. It's not drawing all that well because his songs are "too spiritual." (I've always found it interesting that while Prince wrote all the music, the songs he gives The Time are mostly better than the ones he performs). Along comes this doggerel-spewing woman (Ingrid Chavez) who is not-so-mysteriously supposed to be an angel trying to save both Morris and Prince. In a nearly-30-year career of looking ridiculous, this movie captures Prince's lowest point: long, straightened hair, a sad excuse for a beard, and some get-ups that defy description. Thigh-high stockings with no pants. Seriously. He also shortchanges himself as a performer -- what made Purple Rain bearable was the extended performance footage. Here he's cutting in and out of songs mid-number, staging too many songs as music videos, and is spending too much time dancing around instead of playing.
Earth Girls are Easy- Not too much bad to be said here. I'd seen this before and it didn't hold up all that well, but it's light, meets its low aims, and Geena Davis spends much of her time in a bikini. And I always liked Julie Brown. Up until Eternal Sunshine this was the best Jim Carrey film, though that's not saying much. Michael McKean is wasted as a surfer-dude pool cleaner.
Rhinestone - Plenty bad to say about this, the third quasi-musical in a row. Among the people who should've known better are Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) and the late, lamented Richard Farnsworth. And Dolly Parton, of course, whom I think has a very likable performance persona, but with the exception of 9 to 5 it's never translated well to screen. Dolly's a singer who wants out of her contract with a sleazy bar owner (Ron Leibman). She bets him that in two weeks she can turn cabbie Sylvester Stallone into a singer able to win over the tough crowds at the bar's open-mic night. And since when is a NYC urban-cowboy bar the make-or-break place on the country scene? Light on the hillbilly stereotypes, but Stallone's-a gotta the parents-a straight out of a Joe Dolce song.
Cobra Woman An explorer finds his fiancee (Maria Montez) has been kidnapped and taken to Cobra Island. They track her there and finds the island ruled by an evil queen (also Montez), and that the good twin is the rightful ruler. Oh yeah, Sabu shows up, and may have top billing; I don't remember. This was good and dumb, and put the true "B" back in B-Fest.
Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 If not for Gas-s-s-s! this would have been the worst film on the bill. Having not seen the original Baby Geniuses, I thought I'd be completely lost, but it turns out the two have very little to do with each other. Okay, so babies speak their own language. Apparently in this language they talk about particle physics and Proust and things. You'd think if they were that smart they'd have figured out potty-training by now, but...well, Iet's move on. One baby in BG 1 was played by some triplets named Fitzgerald. They return in BG2, this time playing a kid superspy named Kahuna. It turns out Kahuna is actually around 70 years old and stopped growing. His full-grown evil older brother Jon Voigt -- that is, ACADEMY AWARD-WINNER Jon Voigt. He's got some nefarious plot to control kids, for all the good that's going to do.
King Kong (1933) Saw it very recently, and have seen it before at the best possible venue (Music Box), so we bailed. Besides, it was clearly too good to show at B-fest.