Friday, October 9, 2009


so I was wrong. IT WASN'T THE FIRST TIME and blah blah blah the last. FLEETWOOD MAC has some material that I am besides myself with joy about. ESPECIALLY THIS HALLOWEEN SEASON!!! there's "Sisters of the Moon", "I'm So Afraid", "Crystal" and "Rhiannon" to get me in that autumnal mood I cherish inexplicably above all others. There's such a great Black Sabbath-companion pagan-ness to it all.

They also do dreary-sexy better than ANYONE this side of Hope Sandoval. "Dreams" just hit me at work, probably staring at what I had in my hand and barely wondering where to put it - I suddenly knew it was something profound. Ignoring the literal connection, the music sounds like a fine, gray-scaled post-rainstorm spray of water off of tires. It's purely narcotic and I want to marry it for life.

Then there's the sumptuous, smiling, ABBA-esque "Over My Head" and "Crystal" -- A ballad with an anthemic start and a blissful, drugged-out finish. These are both from their self-titled 1975 debut - which seems to be their best.

Then there's Tusk. This one has some curiosities along with some genuine treats like "HONEY HI" which if/when I get my radio show will be a staple of the program. This song doesn't get it's due for its pure blissessence. YES, I will use that "word". This song makes you feel GOOD!

I'm sorry for being a dumbass. IT COMES ALL TOO EASILY, and I just keep surprising myself with what I respond to. Next must be Elton John or god knows what else i've meh'd to death. Wings? Chicago? Mott The Hoople? Tull? SKYNERD? -- NO, NOT THEM! I don't even know how to spell their name, so I must be immune!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

waiting and moping--i mean HOPING!

I'm just about slumped and pouting in the wood, like Ms. Gainsbourg here. It's not that I don't love a classic "summer movie" summer movie (thought Drag Me To Hell was some good clean fun) - I'm just kind of fed up settling when I wanna see go out and see a movie these days. Everything's a crapshoot. What wouldn't i mind seeing? The Hangover, maybe? The new Jim Jarmusch? I went and saw Up. I didn't mind sitting through that. The 3-D was pretty unmoving, but it was satisfyingly sweet-natured. Psyched myself out of seeing Public Enemies, then a good friend reaffirmed my instincts and now its gone. Maybe a rental. Bruno is supposed to either suck or just not be as good as Borat. I will probably see it tonight. But it's been nice out (raining and then not raining and all) so I'd be just as content to shrug all this nonsense off and go for a walk and dream of...


Inglorious Basterds

director: Quentin Tarantino
release date: August 21, 2009

thoughts: Not thrilled with his last three movies, and i don't like eli roth AT ALL as an actor. But this could be fun in a tasteless kinda way.

Das wei├če Band (The White Ribbon)

director: Michael Haneke
release date: December 25, 2009

thoughts: loved both versions of Funny Games. am interested in anything this guy directs.

The Expendables

director: Sylvester Stallone
release date: in production

thoughts:The new Rambo was great. Stallone knows his way around the action genre, ghastly warts and all. pros: Stallone, Lundgren, Rourke, Arnold cons: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin.

director: Lars Von Trier
release date: unknown

thoughts: Lots of controversy. Wasn't nuts about Manderlay, but this looks very promising. As one of the pickiest horror fans on the planet, one helmed by this masterful director is like a dream come true. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are two actors that I've often admired and enjoyed, though Dafoe for perhaps much longer and I adore brutish, bratty filmmaking when it is strong!

The Road
director: John Hillcoat
release date: October 16, 2009

thoughts: this can't miss. John Hillcoat's work is impeccable. The source material is extraordinarily good. And the stills so far are gorgeous. Probably the film in this list i've been anticipating the longest.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans / My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
director: Werner Herzog
release dates: 2009/2010

thoughts: This was the only interesting still from Port of Call that I could find. The poster and trailer are both kinda unmoving. Actually there were a couple of funny moments in the preview-like Nic Cage making time with a hooker, screaming and shooting at people all at once) I don't trust a fair share of promotional stuff anymore anyway, so I'll just go ahead and drop it. Some Herzog films are better than others, but he's never released anything that's at all compromised, so I'm game. ideally, bad lieutenant will be a sick and snappy return to lunatic form for Nic Cage. My Son... is a bit more promising, as it seems to be more of an original story with no marquee names attached. plus it's got the actor who does an amazing job as the unforgettably creepy guy in Bug. I'm pumped for both films, though, as they're sure to be something unique and no doubt profoundly unsettling.

Taking Woodstock
director: Ang Lee
release date: August 14, 2009

thoughts: lots of character actors. not too showboaty. since it's Lee, i'm hoping for something more unexpected and subtle than past films about hippies.

Where The Wild Things Are

director: Spike Jones
release date: October 16, 2009

thoughts: Spike Jonze! Of course I loved this book as a kid, but a new Spike Jonze film is the real cause for excitement. Heard there was some disagreement about the tone an early version of the film. Hopefully the final product isn't compromised in the least, as Jonze is one of the few directors who has a truly flawless track record. And the cast is absolutely dreamy with such favorites as Catherine O'Hara, James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker and Tom Noonan providing voicework.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
director: Wes Anderson
release date: November 13, 2009
thoughts: Reservations about The Life Aquatic aside, Wes Anderson makes refreshingly singular, highly entertaining films everytime out. It's good to see, though, that he's veered from his minutia tableau formula with the travelogue Darjeeling Limited and this, an animated feature adapted from Roald Dahl's book. As much as I enjoyed Up, it'd be nice to see some family movies that aren't so po-mo and winking in style. Something solely in its own world would be wonderful. And if my faith proves out, Jonze, Anderson and Gilliam will be leading the charge.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
director: Terry Gilliam
release date: September 4, 2009

thoughts: So Tideland wasn't so great. It seems that Gilliam's ideas work best on a large scale. I childishly find myself wishing that all the rich aesthetes in the world who love his work would throw mountians of money at him for every film he makes because they are all treasures - box office returns be eternally damned. Okay, so I haven't seen The Brother's Grimm yet, mostly due to the fact that there was a lot written about how Miramax Gilliam's original cut to ribbons and that he didn't stand behind the final product. The guy's had a tough time, and he doesn't deserve ANY of it, because he's a genius. It's too bad about Ledger, but my hope is that Dark Knight fans might open themselves up to why so many talented actors want to work with this director. He's trying to make something pure and original - and I have no doubt that this film will be as much. (Here's hoping Mr.Magorium's Wonder Empormium will ensnare some into and not deter some away from this similarly titled film.)

Life During Wartime
director: Todd Solondz
release date: in production
thoughts: Hopefully this film is an improvement over the provocative, not-Happiness-caliber experiment Palindromes. To be fair, though, I've yet to give it a second look and I suspect it warrants multiple viewings. While I'm still partial to Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse, there's no doubt in my mind that anything he does will be provocative and rewarding on some level. Plus IMDB lists none other than Paul Reubens in the cast! I was hoping his Tim and Eric appearance (as a talking, Mellies-style moon) was a good omen, and this news is beginning to prove that out. In Blow he made a somewhat ho-hum movie a little more interesting - and not just becuase of the pee-wee kitsch factor. I think Reubens is a good actor. I don't know why, with the hamburger train business in Nice Dreams or the farting in Mystery Men, but I see Reubens busting out with something awesome - and where better than in a Todd Solondz film.

A Serious Man
director: Coen Bros.
release date: October, 2 2009

thoughts: Don't know the cast! in an age of occasionally tiresome director/actor partnership trends, it looks like the Coens are making another comedy, this one set in the late sixties. Though I enjoyed it a lot at moments, I'm really hoping its an improvement over Burn After Reading. Something wasn't quite right about it - despite great perfomances from some of the cast.

director: 2010
release date: in production

thoughts: Margot At The Wedding was gorgeous, distressing, depressing and sweet. I liked some of Squid and The Whale as well. So far so good?

Blood Meridian
director: Todd Field
release date: 2009

thoughts: The pure gall of even Todd Field (though, aside from some good turns by Jackie Earl Haley and a couple others, 2006's Little Children pales to his debut effort - In The Bedroom) to tackle this novel is a fascinating turn of events. I would be surprised if it wasn't at least a fine spectacle - but I of course hope for impossibly more. Don't know if the "2009" release date on IMDB is one hundred percent - nor the "R" rating. I think a faithful adaptation of this book would require an extensive overhaul of the existing ratings system. Or maybe, since Cormac McCarthy has had an Oprah book selection (The Road - also rated "R") Blood Meridian is getting a The Passion-like nod of approval. Despite enjoying all manner of depraved material in films I inundate myself with, I get particularly queasy reflecting on the experience of a pretty relentless parade of depravities that is reading Blood Meridian. Field's got his work cut out, and I hope it goes well, because these are some of the sickest, most mercenary bastards I've ever come across in film or literature. Horrifying and brilliant performances would be required - ideally with little to no stars. Look at me - i'm wetting myself over this - i will see this no matter what if it goes through. Cormac McCarthy movies aplenty, I say...

Cep All The Pretty Horses, maybe. Or am I sleeping on a classic? signs point toward nope. Don't care for Matt Damon. Didn't make it through Gerry, not because I dislike Van Sant or minimalism, but because Damon and Casey Affleck were very boring indeed as characters. It's cool, I know. So was James Taylor in Two-Lane Blacktop? Riiiiight... I think characters with nothing much to say have their time and place. But they don't carry movies usually. No one has anything much to say in Last Days - cep Kim Gordon - but it is a strange hypnotic fractal of wonder sensates flaring off continuously rapturously (and not undue to Asia Argento's cute ass). I LOVE Last Days and it gets my highest reccomendation. Gerry was like one of those absurd 90s Calvin Klein commercials with mild-jinx in place of... hot-jinx? ..... well, that's it for me!. Lynch is off the grid, Cronenberg... Eastern Promises if you haven't yet - it's got some good performances and it's grueling but cool in a dark sort of way - like a lot of good Cronenberg. But I digress... with this:


because i said so.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Danny "Squirrel Preacher" Radnor and The Mingo County Massacre

Much as I loved Adaptation and much as I'd love to go on and on about why American Beauty gradually revealed itself to be a trite hunk of dipchaw -- Chris Cooper came on the scene in one of the most exciting places in cinema history. That place is Matewan, West Virginia, 1920 and Cooper is union activist Joe Kenehan -- just about the bravest, stout-hearted pacifist you're ever likely to see. Cooper may be in his first film, but his presence is strikingly keen from the get-go. Maybe in the end you sympathize more with the miners, but that's the beauty part of his humble, yet indelible performance. And Sayles completely vacuum-sealed direction and writing was no doubt a big help. In addition to being Cooper's best film, it's also Sayles. It has the feel of something true -- showing us would-be salt-of-the-earth hollywood archetypes in a patient and rewardingly vivid fashion. When juxtaposed with the over-sized quality of the sinister coal company thugs Griggs and Hickey (Gordon Clapp and Kevin Tighe), this veracity amasses a strong undercurrent that locks the viewer in.

Mary McDonnell (Elma Radnor) is wonderful as always. She has one of those faces that just transfixes you, and her deep accent never once feels even slightly inauthentic. And a young Will Oldham as Elma's son Danny, is the picture of gawky chagrin:

and extremely natural at the same time. His articulate, in-the-fabric presence is pretty amazing for a young, first-time actor. If the film has a heart, it's most certainly his character. David Straithairn is also pitch-perfect as the sullen yet heroic town sheriff:

Then theres the simmering, defiant presence of James Earl Jones as the fearless, big hearted striker Few Clothes Johnson. In addition to his keen eye for acting talent, Sayles has always excelled at writing ensemble pieces with a strong throughline. He's not particularly experimental with this approach, like Altman, but when he applies his impeccable knack for earnest, unpretentious drama to a genre template the results are always equally engrossing. Matewan is like the violent, funny, and unapologetically sentimental blockbuster that somehow wasn't. There are stars in it, as this is a star-making flick with star-making performances, but decidedly not in the ho-hum world of the mainstream (2 oscar noms -- one for Sayles and one for cinematographer Haskell Wexler).

Despite its perplexing relative obscurity, this film feels like something grand. It's whopping 135 minutes go by majestically, where the film builds so much tension and provides so much hard-won endearment, that you'll only check how long it is because you're afraid it's going to end. Despite the "stars" I've mentioned, there really isn't a weak link in the fence. There's little to nothing in the way of deep character study, as the situations at hand are dire and immediate. Yet there's an exceptional balance of setting up a sizable sprawl of events leading to the big union/Baldwin-Felps confrontation in an imperceptible way. It also never forces an ideology on the viewer. Like Fuller's Steel Helmet, the crux of what makes the film exceptional is not its politics but its investment in the plight of it's pain-stakingly rendered characters. Despite the lack of delving, there are just the right amount of signature touches to the performances that you identify with everyone immediately.

There's even a deranged sort of humor at play in the otherwise plain old nasty turns by Clapp and Tighe as the unscrupulous company hatchet-men. Sort of like the bounty hunter at the end of McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Hugh Millais), they're too realistic to be iconic, but just curious enough to be memorable. Also like that character, they can make your blood run cold at the drop of a hat. Somehow, mixed in with the loathsomeness, is a sort of antidote to the mostly somber, unassailable qualities of the townfolk. It's hard not to chuckle when Griggs is picking on Danny at the dinner table -- bemused at hearing he's a preacher -- insisting that he stands on a stump in the woods sermonizing forest creatures. I know that sounds horrible, as though I'm conceding that this decidedly real life sort of situation, requires a little calloused irreverence. But Sayles has made a film that has good guys and bad guys, and while he skates being overtly exploitative, there is still the inevitable pull of that simple dichotomy. What amazes me is how he hooks us with this template, but lets it pan out in a way that is more rewardingly affecting and rich with subtle detail than one would expect. Even the voice-over is pitch-perfect, and its hard to find films that don't turn that approach into something tediously overbearing.

It's more or less a flawless film, and one I'd recommend to anyone who likes a solid, no-nonsense drama that charms you but doesn't overdo it. There's harshness and sweetness in good measure, but unlike Cold Mountain (a good enough movie in its own right) it never veers into groan-inducing territory. My only qualm with Sayles no-frills approach was the scene where a woman (Hazel Dickens) sings at the funeral of a slain worker. Her voice, and the way she carries herself is had me so choked that I felt frustrated by the interspersing of dialogue between Kenehan and miner Al Felts (Frank Hoyt Taylor) concerning violent retaliation. As this conflict is established plenty elsewhere, I'm sure the hymn could've stood on its own (apologies for the no-fidelity):

Matewan is a classic film in the least hyperbolic sense possible. It deserves a proper DVD release with all the trimmings, a re-screening and a gazillion tributes like this one and better. I didn't even mention poor Bridey Mae, a widow, as most of the women in the film are, who takes a shining to Kenehan. Nancy Mette's pouty, wide-eyed performance is a heartbreaker and a half. Then there's one-time film actor Ida William's quietly charming and funny performance as Mrs. Knightes (Danny Radner's Grandma). When Griggs draws on Danny at supper, Granny is quick to pointedly remonstrate him about guns at the dinner table. Joe Grifasi's performances as Italian scab-turned-striker Fausto is instantly lovable, and Sayles even pops up as a fire n' brimstone preacher with a performance that gives Paul Dano's There Will Be Blood flailing a run for it's money.

Matewan is a film whose utter richness knows no bounds and one to go back to time and again. Lone Star may be pretty great as a compelling murder mystery concealing a taboo romance, but I'm pretty sure this is Sayles at his peak thus far.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I've seen your movie Bill Mahr.

I've watched your HBO show as well.

I'm one of the many that likes to see smart people hash out serious issues (Stewart has done his bit, even if Colbert is way ahead of him as far as being funny goes) I'm just a lowly lowly blogger. I don't even bother to update this thing in a timely fashion. As far as my personal life goes, this is just the tip of the iceberg that killed the Titanic.

So I won't pick on your face that resembles a half-melted Sean Penn. The fact that you constantly giggle at your own jokes to what, remind us we're supposed to be laughing at them? I hesitate to identify myself as liberal when people like yourself are at the forefront. Michael Moore, with all his mind-numbingly cloying impetuosity, is funnier if in a cutesy sorta way. Mahr -- you are not cute. You radiate smarm and self-satisfaction and you defer to your knee-jerkoff, crass sense of humor whenever someone challenges you. When you entered the truckstop chapel (a trailer wherein Mahr proceeded to berate their ritual seemingly in the midst of it) and spouted off it wasn't ballsy, just tactless and rude. These guys, whatever you think about their beliefs, don't need to be talked down to by a greasy lizard like yourself. And those "off-the-cuff" ride along interludes are nauseating, leaving only Larry Charles to laugh at your canned crap--I DON'T CARE -- EVEN IF YOU IMPROVISED THAT SHIT, IT IS BOTTOM SHELF PUREED, CANNED CORN. The biggest lesson I learned from your shrill, wack-ass patronize-the-world-ask-questions-later walkabout is that you would be one the worst people EVER to accompany on a road trip.

I'll try not talk about any of these things. Because I queued this shit up. And I watched Real Time, even when I began to notice that Ben Affleck was a recurring guest. The matter at hand is why. Perhaps I'm more agnostic than aetheist, but I have duly seen how religion has been used to justify all levels of atrocity and find it horrifyingly fascinating. It's a direction. Something some of us at a certain point in our lives are utterly, despairingly lacking. So it's a sort of power. An exclusivity. I'm determined to find my way without religion, but I can honestly say I'm more impressed with any given religious body's tenacity than I am Mahrs unfailing, head-shaking chagrin.

After watching this film, I get the sense that I am religious. I'm religious enough to believe that something I do might matter to somebody else besides myself. I'm religious enough to be guilty. I'm religious enough to live in denial. I'm religious enough to entertain fantasy possibilities that are appealing to me on a profound and endearing level. Religious enough to be nostalgic. I guess what I'm saying is -- world in crisis or no -- leave us weirdos alone you snickering, L.A. Looks oozing iguana you! What do you just want everything you come across to be form-fitted to your exalted level of bullet comprehension? Some of us are trying to figure shit out in our own way and sticking your beak in and throwing out your DOA one-liners doesn't come across as a genuine desire to do the same.

Maybe I was drawn to Religulous because I empathize with irreverence and, despite a distaste for the "comedian," I can identify with much of his sentiments. What watching this dweeby op-ed video magazine really hit home is how superficial my enjoyment of him and leadenly brash pundits like him is. It's aggro-fluff for my latent inner self-righteousness. He's high on himself and making a living at it. Jeez, what a waste of bloody time all his nonsense has been! I'm no doubt stating the obvious for my case as heavy-thumbedly as Mr. Skeevy Open-Shirt-and-Blazer did for his own. I just hope that there's something more Borat or Curb Your Enthusiasm caliber down the line from Larry Charles. For a movie that's got a whole lot more to say without nearly as much lip-flapping, I highly recommend checking out the awesome 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi:

I just did over ther at Hulu and it's possibly one of the awesomest things alive. Next time I'll talk about something more in line with this. These negative vibes are killing me. Just killing me!

Saturday, February 14, 2009