Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Go the other way!

News today is that the expanded DVD of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King will add 50 minutes when really it should be removing that much.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Why we like Hitchcock

" I can understand why Hitchcock had a history of farming out dream sequences as he felt he had no knack for them; he dreamed about mundane episodes like waiting for buses. "

Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog, at http://www.mhvf.net/forum/general/posts/124258985.html

Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi 2004)

1.  Despite reviewers’ comments about maturity and complexity, the film still dumbs down the comic to Hollywood levels.  Much may be made about Peter’s moral choice but he chooses “correctly” (others over self, action over complacency) and is rewarded with a happy ending so ridiculous that I thought it was a dream sequence.  The comics aren’t Bergmanesque but Peter’s life never gets that simple.

2.  Having a street musician sing the cartoon them song was a mistake.

3.  Speaking of moral opacity, obviously an ambiguous “villain” isn’t acceptable summer movie fare so Octavius gets something of a reprieve with arms that apparently cloud, if not outright take over, his mind.  Guess it never occurs to a physicist that if there’s one thing you want to never ever happen then the safest course is build a removable, easily damaged failsafe chip and put it in an open, accessible spot.  And of course additional safeguards are just a fool’s game.  In any event, Marvel comics are filled with characters who’ve swapped sides so to speak but the moviemakers probably figured nobody gets to make their own choices.

4.  Responding to a common complaint about the first film, Raimi and writers found several ways to get Spider-Man’s mask off, some a bit less inspired than others to be charitable about it. 

5.  Too bad they’re locking the next movie into the Green Goblin again.  Perhaps they had this story line about Harry but couldn’t figure out any way to resolve it in this film.  On the other hand, maybe if the next film features Spider-Man menaced by the Goblin only to have the two band together when the Secret Six start destroying downtown Manhattan….

6.  You can see Raimi go timid in the scene where Peter confesses to Aunt May his role in Uncle Ben’s death.  Instead of exploring Peter’s conflicting and not entirely noble motives for this, he just has May pout one night and then forgive Peter.  Where’s your complexity now monkey-boy?

7.  In the scene where Spider-Man’s costume shows up at the Bugle, Robertson gets a look that seems to indicate--along with surrounding dialogue--that he knows it’s actually Peter’s costume.  Nothing ever comes of that so is this just a transient interpretation or was it a dropped plot point?

8.  There’s still too much CGI.  Maybe Robert Rodriguez should direct the next one.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Memorex Moment

I flipped past TBS running Analyze This during DeNiro's first visit to Crystal's office.  DeNiro warns him "If I become gay" only that's not the original line and the odd thing is that the looped voice didn't sound remotely like DeNiro, almost like some soundboard engineer was pressed into service.  You could hear the sound levels change between the surrounding original dialogue and the dubbed parts.  Casino also had amusing dubbing when it aired on USA a few years ago, especially because the lip-reading was so easy and very clearly didn't match the sound.

Top Shelf interview


Those Kochalka diaries are great things.

Why I Don't Have Cable

Sort of like the previous post:  I never watch TV while eating but this summer got in the habit of Seinfeld at dinnertime.  However it was just replaced in that slot by Everybody Loves Raymond and since the alternatives are limited due to my reliance on actual broadcast and much worse (local news and a couple of bottom-feeder "comedies") I've watched that a couple of days which is probably all the human mind can take.  It's bluntly obvious, a by-the-books sitcom with little imagination or charm.  Aren't consolidated production and capitalist competition supposed to result in acceptable quality and greater choice?  Not that Seinfeld is exactly the landmark usually claimed:  People who says it's a "show about nothing" have clearly not seen it, merely sat in front of the TV.  But at least its twists on sitcom formulas are in fact twists and often fairly inventive; that it never abandoned or even twisted very far the formulas is why it maintained popularity.  At any rate, I caught the first ten minutes of something called Quintuplets starring Andy Richter that I honestly thought was some skit show's parody of a sitcom.  Y'know, the "whacky" premise, stock characters like the befuddled dad, completely unfunny punchlines accompanied by startlingly loud laugh tracks, continual business.  Too bad it appears to be real.

Why does this justify my lack of cable?  Because even though it multiplies choices I'd still end up deciding among junk, garbage and trash.  Guess it's back to those Merbow discs at supper....

Reality Shift

There's always a few unsettling minutes when a radio station changes format.  You expect these things around April 1--in my city we've had an all-Zeppelin station and a hard rock one that went easy listening for a day--but otherwise it's an "What am I hearing" moment or two.  The only stations I listen to regularly are two college non-commercial ones neither of which has changed much in at least 20 years.  The commercial stations are ones I flip through when bored or needing the aural equivalent of comfort food and I rarely listen to any of these long enough for any changes to register.  So this station that just went from classic rock (radiobizspeak for major label white-boy rock from very late 60s to early 80s) to some kind of adult contemporary with a goofy name may have been that way for a couple of weeks before I noticed this afternoon.  When the last one went from oldies to all-talk it immediately left my presets; this one will probably stay around just long enough for me to reconsider setting #3 to the R&B station at the top of the dial that I usually never scan high enough to hear.  Or not:  This is why I have a CD player in the car.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

My Decasia Review


Wish this had turned out a bit better because I really like the film the more I've seen it but somehow I never quite found the perfect "angle" (as magazine editors say).  I do think it's great that TCM published something on a film like this.

Boxing My Past

It’s kind of odd to see my youthful rebellion (such as it was) repackaged as nostalgia but that’s exactly the case with Rhino’s just-announced Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground, due out in October. Their website doesn’t mention it yet but a track listing can be found elsewhere. A slightly odd mix since some of this--Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy--was never underground, though come to think of it neither was R.E.M. even at their most indie.

Anyway, I co-hosted a show called Progressions on the University of Alabama’s student radio station from 1983 to 1987 and a lot of this is much like a playlist. In fact I count 35 songs that I definitely played, including my favorites by The Jam, New Order, Minutemen, the dB’s and others. Not that it’s typical since I played big doses of punk, reggae and avant but then they aren’t putting out a box set of my show.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Canadians thinking about things


Is "mulatto" offensive? Wonder if any U.S. news sources ever bothered to

do this kind of investigation and then share the results? (And am I the

only person who thinks capitalizing "black" when refering to race is, well,


Films of 2003

I'm nothing if not not-timely so here's my

Best Films of 2003

Usual rules: Anything is eligible if seen for the first time from January

1 to December 31, 2003.

1. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly 2001)

2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki 2001)

3. Winstanley (Kevin Brownlow 1975)

4. Les Destinees Sentimentales (Olivier Assayas 2000)

5. Waking Life (Richard Linklater 2001)

6. video for Johnny Cash "Hurt" (Mark Romanek 2003)

7. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich 2003)

8. Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov 2002)

9. Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki 2001)

10 Gozu (Takashi Miike 2003)

11. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski 2003)

12. Gohatto (Nagisa Oshima 1999)

Honorable: the first two-thirds of Adaptation (Spike Jonze 2002), Audition (Takashi Miike 2000), Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Kinji Fukasaku 1973), La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento (Jacques Rivette 1991), video for "Ben" (Crispin Glover 2003), Beware of a Holy Whore (Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1971), The Blood Drinkers (Gerardo de Leon 1966), Buffalo Soldiers (Gregor Jordan 2001), The Cat's Meow (Peter Bogdanovich 2001), Comedian (Christian Charles 2002), CQ (Roman Coppola 2001), Daredevil (Mark Steven Johnson 2003), The Devil's Backbone (Guillermo del Toro 2001), Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall 2002), Giants & Toys (Yasuzo Masumura 1958), 8 Femmes (Francois Ozon 2002), In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard 2001), Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarrantino 2003), The Lord of the Rings: The Two

Towers (Peter Jackson 2002), Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola 2003), Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda 1964), Pioneers in Ingolstadt (Fassbinder 1971), video for The Notorious B.I.G.'s "The Sky's the Limit" (Spike Jonze 1997), S.W.A.T. (Clark Johnson 2003), Timecode (Mike Figgis 2000), Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Jacques Becker 1954), X-Men 2 (Bryan Singer 2003).

Crimes: the final third of Adaptation (Spike Jonze 2002), Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 2000), Bringing Down the House (Adam Shankman 2003), Bruce Almighty (Tom Shadyac 2003), Bruiser (George Romero 2000), The Castle (Rob Sitch 1997), Chicago (Rob Marshall 2002), The Comedy of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur 1964), Eugenie (Jesus Franco 1970), The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff 2003), Head of State (Chris Rock 20030, Homework (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo 1990), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Stephen Norrington 2003), A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest 2003), The New Guy (Ed Decter 2002), Novocaine (David Atkins 2001), Scream and Scream Again (Gordon Hessler 1969), Secret Ballot (Babak Payami 2001), Shanghai Knights (David Dobkin 2003), Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines (Jonathan Mostow 2003), Visitor Q (Takashi Miike 2001), Wendigo (Larry Fessenden 2001).

Worst of the Decade (so far): Bad Boys II (Michael Bay 2003)

Best Revival: the "restored" The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (Leone 1966)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

He's going to pretend they're literature

Good NYT article on "serious" comics. You can tell that it's not by a comics person because there's no mention of Eisner or Tezuka and he seems a tad unclear about exactly what function Stan Lee had. Plus referring to From Hell as "a story about Jack the Ripper" is like saying Ulysses is about a guy in Dublin: true but completely inadequate. It's no surprise that the author avoids superheroes entirely even though there's work there at least as substantial as anything mentioned in the article. (Though here I'll have to admit that I've always found Maus to be second-rate and feel that its acclaim comes from what it is than what it achieves, sort of like the response to Johnson's walking dogs.) That's one thing that interests me about superheroes is that in a world where horror films, Buffy, dime Westerns and roadside attractions receive serious attention, superhero comics are still disreputable. Spider-Man 2 is racking up rave reviews (93% at Rotten Tomatoes, the highest for a studio film so far this year) but it doesn't have anywhere near the depth or complexity or even smarts of the comics (where Parker definitely makes sacrifices; the movie rewards him for nobility with a smugly happy ending).

Friday, July 9, 2004

Lego Spider-Man


Great short. It helps to have seen S2 (S-M2 doesn't seem right) but isn't necessary. (Comics fans note the Todd McFarlane webbing.)

By the way, if you're interested in the opening credits to the Japanese Spider-Man TV show (complete with giant robot!), that's at http://www.side-7.us/images/SmanOP5806.wmv

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Taking the TCCI

My score on the Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index is 62% with unanswerable questions counting as zero. Really, I don't and will never know the difference between Balanchine and Graham let alone prefer either and the same is true for any of the other dance-related choices. But others like Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe I don't have the slightest interest in either one and since I don't drink the red/white wine thing is irrelevant. Plus the only reason I chose Steely Dan over Elvis Costello is because E.C. has been an embarassment for the past few years.

If it wasn't too much work (& I thought anybody was reading) I'd make my own:

1. Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby?

2. Greil Marcus or Lester Bangs?

3. Michelangelo or Leonardo?

4. The Wire or Wired?

5. The Sex Pistols or The Clash?

6. Al Jolson or Eddie Cantor?

7. Sound or noise?

8. Godard or Truffaut?

9. Unreal Tournament or Quake 3?

10. Chandler or Hammett?

11. Marlowe or Jonson?

12. Verve or Blue Note?

13. Blonde on Blonde or Sgt Peppers?

14. John Cage: late or early?

15. "either" or "or"?