Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman RIP

(Taken mostly from Nostalgia Party No. 2 and DVD Beaver)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Guess what I found at a yard sale for $2

A 1967 acetate of the Velvet Underground covering Christmas tunes, including "Here Comes Santa Claus" with an unusually festive Nico on vocals, a 37-minute "Twelve Days of Christmas," and a version of "European Son" with sleigh bells. It also includes an untitled Thanksgiving song about a guy who stuffs his head in a turkey to impress a transsexual and then falls off a construction beam to his death. You can even hear Lou Reed yelp at the end after John Cale drops a viola on his foot. Look out, eBay!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Will success spoil... uhm, this guy?

(Above: Steve Carell, the beefy version)

If watching a dozen or so characters on John From Cincinnati enact their own personal "Waiting For Godot" each week isn't doing it for you, and if you're like me and have come to the cold, hard realization that once The Wire is done, HBO's golden age of dramas is offically kaput (have you heard about their softcore, utterly tedious-looking , relationships-are-hard show?), you might find something watchable on AMC, of all channels. The first episode of Mad Men (check out that blatant HBO ripoff website design), Matthew Weiner's new show about advertising executives in 1960, shows promise of developing into something good. Weiner was a writer and executive producer of The Sopranos, and if you're guessing a Sopranos writer's take on early 60's ad men might be a bit jaded, well then perhaps you can tell me whether or not magic plays a role in the new Harry Potter book. Even for the time period, the first episode overdoes it a bit with the "hey toots" office sexism, and revels too easily in the irony of a prominent tobacco campaign (see this disappointed Slate review for more gripes), but compellingly square-jawed protagonist Don Draper shows enough flashes of Tony Soprano-like duality and shading - mainly during scenes with a female client - that you'll probably want to know where Weiner is taking his character within the context of the boozy, socially uneasy time period. By the final scene, the glimpse of the seemingly unattached Draper's home life even constitutes something of a surprise. The show's production values are also easy enough on the eyes to make us think we're in capable hands. Strong, burly, capable hands. What? You said something? No? Huh. Man, that redheaded secretary is stacked.

The next encore of the premiere is this Wednesday @ 10. As you can tell by the opening paragraph, The House Next Door is pretty enthusiastic about it and has promised the next few episodes turn it up a notch. And hey, what's that in the preview for episode two, a therapist's couch? Oooh, they really are trying to ease my Sopranos withdrawl.

"When do this shit change?" - Bunny Colvin

Alan Sepinwall succinctly summarizes just a few of the reasons why the Emmys are a joke here, and it's a bitter joke indeed that The Wire has been so pointedly ignored every year aside from a writing nomination for season three. Amazingly, it didn't even crack the list of top 10 Best Drama finalists that leaked a month or so ago. Of course, the Emmys are just continuing their tradition of shunning anything that comes out of Bawlmer, beginning with their repeated Homicide snubs in the early 90's (I checked and The Corner did get some nominations in the miniseries category). At this point, I even picture the voters sending David Simon anonymous, taunting e-mails: Hey Baldy, hope you're enjoying your lake trout subs in "Charm City." I was playing squash w/ Kelsey G. when I got a text about your latest goose egg. Maybe some day you'll make a grown-up show in a real city with an actual star like Billy Baldwin or Billy Pullman... or even Billy Connolly (news flash, Mr. Reporter: he's versatile). Until then, go choke on a crabcake, loser. Yerrrp! Sincerely, "Olympia Bukakis"

Of course, Deadwood hardly fared any better, aside from some production nods (nice to see that backbreaking budget pay off!), but that's no surprise as you can only throw out the word "cocksucker" so many times before you start to turn off voters (just ask Bill Moyers). 30 Rock did get a comedy series nom, but a win probably wouldn't do them any more good than it did Arrested Development. And where, oh where, was the love for Daddy's Hoes on the CW, starring Michael Rappoport's brother, Ahmnott? This was their year, cocksuckers!

Friday, July 20, 2007

I've pulled out all the stops for your Friday afternoon frolicking

Back in my "nomad years" (as Bush once referred to a significant chunk of his adult life), I would occasionally kill a few minutes by filling out sarcastic answers to mind-numbingly pointless surveys on MySpace. Some people said they found these amusing, which I could tell meant they actually considered them to be "incandescent bursts of epoch-defining hilarity" (their thoughtwords, not mine). I don't know whether or not the following survey ascends similarly glorious heights, but since I've got a whole blog to sustain with my regurgitated nonsense I thought I'd spit one up and let you be the judge.

Things you may or may not know about me - in particular order

A) Four jobs I have had in my life
1. Pudding impresario
2. Voice actor on “Lil’ Allman Brothers” cartoon
3. Dick Gregory impersonator
4. Manager of legally permissible “Chuck F. Cheese” restaurant

B) Four movies I watch over and over:
1. Lilya-4-Ever
2. Lilya-4-Ever
3. Lilya-4-Ever
4. Is that weird?

C) Four places I have lived:
1. Funny answer
2. Hilarious answer
3. Sidesplitting answer
4. Existential answer peering into the bottomless depths of the human soul

D) Four TV Shows I watch:
1. 30 Rock
2. QI: Quite Interesting
3. John Gibson From Cincinnati
4. Dateline NBC Will Decide Who Lives and Who Dies

E) I have been to:
1. the mountaintop
2. heaven and back
3. paradise, but I’ve never been to me
4. Crackerjack Cal’s Peanut Butter-and-Rape Whistle Emporium in Gaithersburg

F) People who e-mail me (regularly):
1. Jimmy Two Arms
2. Jimmy Four Legs
3. Jimmy Seven Nipples
4. Jimmy Thirty Helens Agree

G) Four of my favorite foods:
1. Veal Smoothie
2. Kiwi Burger
3. G. Gordon Liddy’s Cinnamon Bologna Treats
4. Spice Must Flow… wait, no, that’s my favorite Spice Girl

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Australia (“Lotta flies there.”) What about New Zealand? (“Uhhh…”) Sold.
2. Japan (“What? No you wouldn’t”). Yeah, you’re right. I just wanted to seem worldly.
3. Norwegian cuddle party. Norwegians are renowned for their excellent, highly refined cuddles (“That’s it. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m done with you.”) What do you mean? (“The lame, smart-alecky tone; the stunted frame of reference; the desolate, lonely existence") Hey! ("Look at you, wasting time on this adolescent bullshit at your age because you know that after twenty-eight years treading this planet you've still got nothing original or interesting to say. Well, I can’t take it anymore. You. Are. Pathetic. Goodbye.”) Ah, you’ll be back. You're totally at my mercy. Hey! What time are we going to Chipotle later? (“….”) Hello?
4. The world from Tron. The denizens of Tron reportedly have access to better health care than the United States. (“….”) No? Nothin’? (“….”) Huh. He’s really gone, I guess. (“Oh thank God, you’ve gotta help me!”) Huh? (“Right after I left you I ran over an old lady with my Lexus. I killed her!”) You drive a Lexus? (“What? Didn’t you hear me?? I’m in serious shit here, man!”) … (“Hell-ooo!”) Heh… oh, look a daffodil… heh. (“….”) Certainly are a lot of them this time a year (“You fucker. You fucking… pigfucking… fucker.”) Hey, come on! (“You’re not going to help me are you?”) Well, you were the one who said you were done with me and put on a big production about it. (“You were being stupid! C’mon, remember when I saved you from those drunken frat guys who were going to kick your ass?”) That’s not how I remember it. (“WHAT?”) I was about to put that one guy in the Crippler Crossface. (“Come on, man, don’t do this now, I hear sirens!”) Of course, I would never use that move now, for obvious reasons. (“Oh God, I gotta get outta here. I’ll see you in hell!”) Hey, can I have your Playstation?

I ) Four friends I think will repost:
1. Friends. Hmph. Some friend I am.
2. When my friend needed me, because he murdered an old lady, where was I? Well, I was standing in front of him, but my point is, what was I doing? Nothing except nursing my all-too-easily bruised ego over some petty slight, that’s what.
3. I mean, the way I am, I let my nuts hang everywhere I go. That’s just a fact of life. But where’s it gotten me? Why do I run away from everything and leave the earth scorched behind me? Is it because of some innate flaw in my genetic code or do I have the capacity for change?
4. Oh, I know who will repost this: my dumbass cousin, Leslie. She’ll probably answer with a bunch of stupid shit though LOL.

J) Things I am looking forward to this year:
1. New Coen Bros and PTA movies
2. Exciting new internet memes.
3. Anything that will continue to distract me from the black, tangled morass that is my life
4. Disrupting a hot dog eating contest for no reason. I wonder if bagpipes will suffice or if I should go the IED route.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Edward Yang: a belated RIP.

I didn't want to say anything about the terrible, untimely passing of Edward Yang on June 29 - after a seven-year battle with colon cancer - until I had a chance to rewatch his outstanding, international breakthrough film Yi Yi (A One and a Two), regarded by many as a masterpiece and sure to go down as one of the best films of this decade. It seems like I'm always saying I don't have time to review anything on this blog beyond a couple of paragraphs, and although that's lately been true, I would like to say something more in depth about this film at some point, since a simple description can't convey the deeply cinematic impact of this thoughtful, ambitious study of urban family life in Taiwan (full disclosure: I'm never actually going to get around to it). Unfortunately, this is the only Yang film available on dvd here, or indeed in much of the world, apparently, although maybe distributors will finally get a move on now that the Unintended Spotlight is shining. Criterion released a typically handsome and much-needed edition last year with an absolutely perfect cover (once you've seen the film, you'll know why) that I highly recommend.

And really, how can you not trust me after I proclaimed the Jodorowsky box set to be the release of the year back in January, despite the fact that I can really only recommend the symbolism overload of Holy Mountain? Yes, I'm backing off that claim now that I've come down from my pineal gland high, although I did finally get around to watching HM with Jodorowsky's predictably entertaining commentary and will soon do the same for El Topo. I lost count of the number of times Jodorowsky took credit for inventing or presaging some later trend or event in the film, everything from the internet to the Shining Path to rock stars wearing black nail polish. Just think if Cameron Crowe or somebody had ever filmed their own scene where an androgynous old man breastfeeds someone from two baby leapord heads on his chest. There'd be no end to his crowing (no pun intended).

Does anyone remember that Jane's Addiction album, "Rich Hall Will Hit You All?"*

I just discovered this popular and not-dumbed-down in the slightest (Trebek!) UK quiz show, QI: Quite Interesting, hosted by Stephen Fry, where the panel of comedians are asked seemingly odd questions as an excuse to reaveal and riff on obscure facts. Points are awarded not for boring or obvious guesses but for the most creative. There's lots and lots of episodes on YouTube that I can tell are going to be cheering me up regularly for the forseeable future... once I've exhausted all the Tay Zonday clips, that is. Here's one random excerpt:

*Still one of my favorite Jon Wurster-isms

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yes, Stop Making Sense could have been even better.

Embedding has been disabled, but check out these shit hot Talking Heads live clips filmed for Italian tv in 1980, starting with Psycho Killer. The only thing hotter than Tina Weymouth here is Adrian Belew's ridiculously great guitar work. I'm saying this for free!!!

Oh, and speaking of SMS, I attended an outdoor screening of it a month or so ago in Silver Spring as part of this year's Silverdocs festival, where Jonathan Demme got the lifetime achievement award thingie. It's virtually impossible to tire of the film, and I was surprised by the number of indie-looking kids who joined the thirty-and-forty-somethings in the impromptou dance section. There was even a bit of audience participation during "Life During Wartime" when a group of kids and possibly their parents mimicked Byrne's jogging* by running circles around the screen. Unfortunately, my attempt to dance with a lamp was met with outright mockery and hostility, as it was a table lamp I made in woodshop in eighth grade, and I kept beaming people in the head with it and anachronistically yelling "Y'all ready for this?" until I was chased away by festival organizers. I consoled myself by pondering what the early Rocky Horror pioneers must have endured.

*also pronounced Will Ferrell-style as "yogging," just as I similarly refer to "blogging" as "bjogging," much to my family's shame.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Bicameral Book Club: Prepare to be smited, Oprah.

How many novels leave you not only captivated within the first paragraph, but also moved? Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning second novel - published some 24 years after her renowned debut Housekeeping - accomplished that for me. Gilead is constructed as a series of first-person letters from 1956 written by John Ames, a 76-year old Iowa minister suffering from heart disease, for his young son who will grow up having never really known him. Neither the setting nor choice of narrator are the stuff of which edgy cult followings are made, and the premise may sound a little mawkish, but while Ames has no pretense of being a brilliant theologian, he is nonetheless a wise, mature individual whose thoughtful musings offer readers more than stock platitudes. There are careful considerations of faith prompted by encounters with Ames' scholarly, atheist brother Edward and the works of the philosopher Feuerbach that will likely prove to be crucial selling points for some non-Christian readers. Elsewhere, Ames vividly recounts family history and anecdotes for his son, such as a grueling childhood trek with his father to Kansas in search of a relative's grave, that show off Robinson's period research.

I took my time with this book and will likely read it again at some point, as its meditative pace almost reflexively demands, and certainly rewards, careful consideration. Robinson's characterization of Ames is mostly flawless, only rarely lapsing into uncharacteristically "authorly" sentence structure throughout the letters. Conflict does arise when Ames' unrelated namesake John Ames Boughton, the n'er-do-well son of a dear friend and fellow minister, returns to town after a mysterious absence, stirring feelings of bitterness and anxiety for Ames that thankfully play out in non-melodramatic fashion. Above all, the book transcends bland "life is beautiful" sentiment with its uncommon serenity and, yes, grace. It's one of those works that can almost subtly affect a person's outlook, and may come as a great relief in these relatively vulgar times (yes, this is the second post in a row that derisively references our "times." I'll be further exploring this topic in my new screenplay, "It's Codgerin' Time," which I'm hoping will be picked up for development by Richard Branson's new family channel, Virgin Kids)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Unexamined Hype

(Above: Needs more clutter)
Even in these generally mediocre times, I find the idea of unconditional fanboy excitement for the Transformers movie a little weird (unless you just find the idea of someone wearing a Strokes t-shirt in 2007 delightfully absurd). Market researchers would likely consider me among the target audience for this thing: I grew up with the toys and cartoon series, pestering my poor mother to buy me the latest Dinobot playset... although it wasn't until years later that I found the nerve to get the 2Pac-esque "Collect 'Em All" gothic-lettered tattoo that now adorns my rippled stomach. Yet I can't say I look back on something that was so nakedly about selling merchandise with any sense of fondness or nostalgia. Is there anyone alive who can say their imaginations or development were enhanced in any way by this stuff? Weren't these toys and cartoons nothing more than a placeholder for bored latchkey kids? If anything they might have helped prepare kids to shamelessly covet inessential, clunky, status symbol gadgets like iPhones as annoying adults. I will admit that the Transformers universe wasn't totally devoid of personality: my hazy memory ranks the comic book series as above average, and the original 1987 animated movie was kind of a weird head trip for kids in that it elaborately killed off several of the most popular characters (i.e. the ones that had the best voice actors). It also gave birth to the sub-Journey power ballad "You Got the Touch," which was later hilariously recycled in Boogie Nights. Plus, there were a couple of evil robots that turned into a tape deck and cassette (most likely an R. Stevie Moore mixtape). That's pretty cool.