Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Matador

The Matador is about the chance meeting of a hit man and an average joe in a bar in Mexico. Sounds like the setup to a joke, and in a sense it is.

Most movies regarding this subject would make the hitman (Brosnan), too cool and intelligent, while making the average joe (Greg Kinnear) a nitwit. Even the wife (Hope Davist) has an interesting, storied character.

Things kick into gear when the hitman is reminded that it's his birthday. Time for a party! Right? Time to call old friends! Time to find out hitman don't really have friends!

Pierce Brosnan gives one of those vanity-be-damned performances that usually puts an actor in danger of getting an OscarTM. He's funny, moving, scary, touching and debauched as hell. One scene where he crosses a hotel lobby will forever stay in my "greatest movie moments ever" mental montage.

What's great about the movie is it never cheats on its premise. (Which puts it in the rare air of 50 First Dates and Primer.)

This is not to say this movie is realistic. I mean, it might be; but I'll bet the while real hitmen are probably this flawed, none of them are this benign.

So, if you can suspend disbelief - and I think this movie makes that easy - you will be treated to one of the great character creations I've seen on film.

I haven't enjoyed a movie with this much sheer glee since Just Like Heaven. I couldn't wait to see where it would go next.

This one goes into my top ten for the year. (My year anyway; it was released in 2005.)
It's getting ugly out there.

I wonder why so many wingnuts labor under the illusion that they can criticize Democrats all they want, but the second someone snarks about their boys/girls, it's treason.

Or they have to be escorted out by the guards.


Happy news. Sometimes a thrown beer is just a beer foul and nothing else.
30-Second Bunnies Theatre Troupe

The Exorcist in 30 seconds, acted out by bunnies.

More classics here.
In Honor of Roger Ebert's Continuing Recovery

And having just finished Awake in the Dark, his latest anthology (and I agree with Whisky - a nice little bon-bon of a book), I figured I'd go through his listing of the top ten movies of each year and see which ones I'd seen, and what I thought of them.

(Bold means I've seen it.)

1. Bonnie and Clyde: great movie, agreed.
2. Ulysses
3. Blow-up: thumbs up. Still engrossing. (And I love Blow-out, it's red-headed step-child.)
4. The Graduate: a classic.
5. A Man for All Seasons: saw this, but don't remember my impression.
6. The War Game
7. Reflections in a Golden Eye
8. Cool Hand Luke: decent movie, but aged. I still think of it when I eat more than one hard-boiled egg. Also, this was my younger brother's nickname.
9. Elvira Madigan
10. In the Heat of the Night

1. The Battle of Algiers
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Groundbreaking, but dull and impenetrable. I only know what happened at the end because I read the book.
3. Falstaff
4. Faces
5. The Two of Us
6. The Producers: cute, but not all that. Haven't seen the remakes (stage or film). I also have trouble with "FUN!" fiction with Nazis.
7. Oliver!
8. The Fifth Horseman Is Fear
9. Rachel, Rachel
10. Romeo and Juliet: great film. The score still haunts. It's shocking to see how young the stars were (but the director wanted realism).

1. Z
2. Medium Cool
3. Weekend
4. if...
5. Last Summer
6. The Wild Bunch: classic.
7. Easy Rider: dated, but worth one view if you haven't ever seen it.
8. True Grit: classic. The Duke at his best.
9. Downhill Racer
10. War and Peace

1. Five Easy Pieces: good, but somewhat dated. Still worth the Nicholson performance.
2. M*A*S*H: awesome classic. A must-see for anyone who likes movies.
3. The Revolutionary
4. Patton: good, but a tad dated.
5. Woodstock: still fun, but long. Make sure the stereo is on.
6. My Night at Maud's
7. Adalen 31
8. The Passion of Anna
9. The Wild Child
10. Fellini Satyricon

1. The Last Picture Show: still good, but muted. I recommend the source novel and its sequels more. Texasville is a comedy classic (the novel, not the movie).
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
3. Claire's Knee
4. The French Connection: great early action flick. Yes, that's Roy Scheider.
5. Sunday, Bloody Sunday
6. Taking Off
7. Carnal Knowledge: doesn't stand up. And a nekkid Art Garfunkel screwing a corpse is just gross. He should've left well enough alone with Catch-22. (Trivia, when Garfunkel went to make Catch-22, Simon wrote "The Only Living Boy in New York" about his missing Garfunkel. The lyric, "Tom catch your plane on time. I know you'll be ready to fly now," is a direct reference to Garfunkel, as they called themselves "Tom and Jerry" before they were "Simon and Garfunkel.")
8. Tristana
9. Goin' Down the Road
10. Bed and Board

1. The Godfather: fuhgeddaboutit. If you haven't seen this, there's something wrong with you, or you're 12 (and thus shouldn't be reading my blog).
2. Chole in the Afternoon
3. Le Boucher
4. Murmur of the Heart
5. The Green Wall
6. The Sorrow and the Pity
7. The Garden of Finzi-Continis
8. Minnie and Moskowitz
9. Sounder
10. The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

1. Cries and Whispers
2. Last Tango in Paris: kinda ok. I see why it was revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time, but I don't think it holds up. And I still squirm through the butter up the dirt road scene.
3. The Emigrants / The New Land
4. Blume in Love
5. The Iceman Cometh
6. The Exorcist: still the scariest movie ever (upon first viewing).
7. The Day of the Jackal: not a bad action flick, worth a couple hours.
8. American Graffiti: one of the best movies of all time, and make sure you see Linklater's homage Dazed and Confused.
9. Fellini's Roma
10. The Friends of Eddie Coyle

1. Scenes from a Marriage
2. Chinatown: still a great flick.
3. The Mother and the Whore
4. Amarcord
5. The Last Detail: holds up, but is a tad dated. And it's excruciating.
6. The Mirages
7. Day for Night
8. Mean Streets: I know I've seen it, but my memory of it isn't clear.
9. My Uncle Antoine
10. The Conversation: ok, but slow going at first. I started this like 5 times before I finally got to the meat of the movie.

1. Nashville: ok, but I'm not a big Altman fan. I think his excesses show here. The stripping scene left a bad taste for days (as it was supposed to).
2. Night Moves
3. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
4. Farewell, My Lovely
5. The Phantom of Liberty
6. A Brief Vacation
7. And Now My Love
8. A Woman Under the Influence
9. In Celebration
10. Dog Day Afternoon: great flick. Still has the punch. One of the few movies that has everything but a musical number. Must-see.

1. Small Change
2. Taxi Driver: good movie, but still hard sledding after all these years.
3. The Magic Flute
4. The Clockmaker
5. Network: good, but dated. The speech - you know the one - is still fun.
6. Swept Away...by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August
7. Rocky: still good, even after being done to death, and the latest zombie is in production now.
8. All the President's Men: still pisses you off. More relevant than ever. It's fun watching Hoffman trying to be pretty next to Redford. He almost does it.
9. Silent Movie: one of Mel Brook's successes. Still lotsa larfs. I love Madeline Kahn in anything, including a pantsuit that matches her car.
10. The Shootist: 'nother good Duke outing.

1. 3 Women
2. Providence
3. The Late Show
4. A Woman's Decision
5. Jail Bait
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: still holds up well, even though the clothes and hair scream '70s.
7. Aguirre: Wrath of God
8. Annie Hall: one of the best comedies of all time. I still quote this one.
9. Sorcerer
10. Star Wars: need I even waste another kudo on this one?

1. An Unmarried Woman: I liked it, even though I saw it when that stage of life (middle age and divorce) was still unimaginable. I'll never forget the guy reaching out and pulling Jill Clayburgh to him by grasping her nipples.
2. Days of Heaven: meh. It just doesn't move me. Thought it was dull and unrealistic.
3. Heart of Glass
4. Stroszek
5. Autumn Sonata
6. Interiors: boring. Go outside instead.
7. Halloween: I'm one of the few people on the planet who didn't find this very scary. I still quasi-enjoyed it, though. The Capn Kirk mask is a hoot.
8. National Lampoon's Animal House: comedy classic. Knowledge is good.
9. Kings of the Road
10. Superman: yes, a man flew. May he rest in peace. Currently getting the ultra-deluxe DVD treatment, and a new cut of the sequel.

1. Apocalypse Now: loved it and still do. I pull this one out about every few years, and am enthralled every time.
2. Breaking Away: "He smelled like breath mints and Lavoris." Cutters rule.
3. The Deer Hunter: I didn't get this the first 57 times I saw it (I worked it and I loathed the wedding scene because it took an entire reel), but eventually when my grandma said, "there's no story, it's just about friendships," that unlocked it for me.
4. The Marriage of Maria Braun
5. Hair: I don't like musicals as a rule, but love this one. There are some jaw-dropping scenes thanks to director Milos Foreman. Great flick.
6. Saint Jack
7. Kramer vs. Kramer: good, but dated. Very 80s (decades don't necessarily start on the date line). For the George Costanzas among us, full frontal on JoBeth Williams.
8. The China Syndrome: loved it at the time, still dig Lemmon's performance, but it is a movie of its time. Was Jane Fonda ever able to act?
9. Nosferatu
10. 10: still a hoot.

1. The Black Stallion: like Ebert says in his review, the first hour of this movie is perfection.
2. Raging Bull: meh, was Ok. Don't think it's the masterpiece others do.
3. Kagemusha
4. Being There: still moving and enigmatic.
5. Ordinary People: good, but dated.
6. The Great Santini: great, if somewhat hard-to-relate-to flick, unless you're from a military family.
7. The Empire Strikes Back: c'mon, it's Star Wars.
8. Coal Miner's Daughter: merely ok. I still like the line, "Wanna bump uglies?" Biography films are kinda the same, imvho.
9. American Gigolo: very dated. Kinda silly.
10. Best Boy

1. My Dinner with Andre: still fun.
2. Chariots of Fire: ok, but a sports film after all.
3. Gates of Heaven: great documentary on pet cemeteries. Check it out.
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark: Karen Allen still gives me the good shivers. The only lighthearted movie with Nazis that got that aspect correct.
5. Heartland
6. Atlantic City: meh. Yeah, it was nice what Sarandon did with the lemons, but this movie just didn't grab me.
7. Thief: great stylized fun. Good guy flick.
8. Body Heat: one of the best ever. Coming out now on a deluxe DVD.
9. Tess: boring.
10. REDS: a spinach movie. Good for you, but enjoyable only if you like spinach in the first place.

1. Sophie's Choice: most heartbreaking ever. I couldn't sit through it now that I have kids.
2. Diva
3. E.T.: still a classic.
4. Fitzcarraldo / Burden of Dreams
5. Personal Best: meh. So she's a lesbian. Next.
6. Das Boot: great action film, too bad you gotta read subtitles.
7. Mephisto
8. Moonlighting
9. The Verdict: good Paul Neman film. Still holds up.
10. The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time

1. The Right Stuff: great movie. Hasn't dated at all. I particularly love how it took time to show even the wives' stories. If only that were done more often.
2. Terms of Endearment: great movie.
3. The Year of Living Dangerously: meh. So the dwarf guy is really a dwarf gal.
4. Fanny and Alexander: odd then, odd now.
5. El Norte
6. Testament
7. Silkwood: dated but watchable, if not for the shower scenes (and Meryl's flash).
8. Say Amen, Somebody
9. Risky Business: still comedy gold. "Guido the killer pimp."
10. The Return of Martin Guerre

1. Amadeus: classic for all time.
2. Paris, Texas
3. Love Streams
4. This is Spinal Tap: more relevant and real than ever. See "cookie monster vocals".
5. The Cotton Club: nice try, total flop.
6. Secret Honor
7. The Killing Fields: harrowing, wouldn't want to see it again.
8. Stranger than Paradise
9. Choose Me
10. Purple Rain: how did this get here? The soundtrack is good, but the movie? C'mon.

1. The Color Purple: didn't really like it, but mostly due to the source story (kinda feminist dystopia stuff). However, I saw this with folks who were from the African country used in the film, and they translated the lines on the spot for me. That was fun.
2. After Hours: one of my favorites. A great circular movie. Don't know why this isn't mentioned more often anymore.
3. The Falcon and the Snowman: ok, but mostly for the performances.
4. Prizzi's Honor: third-tier gangster film. Only the performances are worth it.
5. Ran
6. Witness: still a wonderful movie. Unique in that it respects all the characters and their stories.
7. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: meh. The Road Warrior is still the one to see.
8. Lost in America: Albert Brooks trying hard, but it's hit and miss unless his brand of humor connects with you.
9. Street Wise
10. Blood Simple: gripping low-budget film.
[Ebert excluded Shoah from his list, not because he thought the other ten films were better, but because he felt it was in a class by itself and it wouldn't be appropriate to rank ordinary movies against it.]

1. Platoon: one of the better war movies ever.
2. Round Midnight
3. Hannah and Her Sisters: still good. Michael Caine's part is still wonderfully sad.
4. Sid and Nancy: merely ok.
5. Lucas
6. Vagabond
7. Trouble in Mind
8. Down and out in Beverly Hills: I didn't like this movie. Thought the comedy was too broad.
9. Peggy Sue Got Married: great little comedy gem. Still love the line in math class, "I know for a fact, sir, I will never use this."
10. Hard Choices

1. House of Games: merely ok. Mamet being Mamet.
2. The Big Easy: big wet kiss of a movie. Still good. One of those rare guy flick/chick flick combos.
3. Barfly: meh. Bummer, then they die.
4. The Last Emperor: one of the few period epics I liked.
5. Moonstruck: still a classic.
6. Prick Up Your Ears
7. Radio Days: doesn't hold up.
8. Broadcast News: dated, but still full of fun performances.
9. Lethal Weapon: classic action film. It's edgier than you remember.
10. Housekeeping

1. Mississippi Burning
2. The Accidental Tourist: yawn.
3. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being yawn.
4. Shy People
5. Salaam Bombay
6. A Fish Called Wanda: one of the funniest movies ever made. I wasn't DISAPPOINTED.
7. Wings Of Desire: actually, kinda good if you watch it on its own terms.
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit: merely ok. Could'a been a contender.
9. Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam
10. Running On Empty: meh. That's for sure.

1. Do the Right Thing: I thought this was preachy and annoying. Couldn't decide which it was more of.
2. Drugstore Cowboy: meh.
3. My Left Foot: good show. One of the few bio/disease movies that's uplifting.
4. Born on the Fourth of July: ok, but harrowing. One of the three times Cruse actually acts.
5. Roger & Me: I liked it at the time. But now it think the sentiment is kinda wrongheaded.
6. The Mighty Quinn
7. Field of Dreams: if you like baseball, this is your movie. I don't really like baseball.
8. Crimes and Misdemeanors: don't remember how this went.
9. Driving Miss Daisy: thought it was kinda cutesy, and I didn't like the black servant angle.
10. Say Anything: good romance, but not as good as Cusack's previous The Sure Thing.

1. Goodfellas: who am I to argue with the bazillion people who think this is one of the best ever. I found it entertaining, but find actual evil banal and scary, thus it taints the movie for me.
2. Monsieur Hire
3. Dances with Wolves: loved it. Still holds up, even it if is complete fantasy bearing no resemblance to actual Lakota Sioux culture. (Was filmed 5 miles away from where I grew up.)
4. The Grifters: cute con man film. And you get to see Annette Bening naked.
5. Reversal Of Fortune
6. Santa Sangre
7. Last Exit to Brooklyn
8. Awakenings: Ok, but any of Oliver Sacks writings are better than this was.
9. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover: hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.
10. Mountains of the Moon

1. JFK: fun conspiracy theory stuff. Stylistically wonderful.
2. Boyz N the Hood: meh.
3. Beauty and the Beast: one of Disney's best. I think "Mermaid" is better.
4. Grand Canyon: nice try, but no cigar.
5. My Father's Glory / My Mother's Castle
6. A Woman's Tale
7. Life is Sweet
8. The Man in the Moon
9. Thelma & Louise: this was fun, but eventually the tone shift from fun road movie to tragic victimhood didn't work for me.
10. The Rapture: odd movie. Spooky. And the person who wrote it doesn't get Christian theology (any form of it) at all.

1. Malcolm X: good bio, for once. Longish. But if you want the story, here it is.
2. One False Move
3. Howards End: dear Lord, spare me from all costume dramas.
4. Flirting
5. The Crying Game: if the jack-in-the-box was your favorite toy as a kid, this movie might hold some interest for you. For those of us who find transvestites kinda tragic, this is a one-trick pony. (C'mon, was I the only one who figured it out the first time the character appears?)
6. Damage
7. The Hairdresser's Husband
8. The Player: Besides M*A*S*H, this is the other Altman movie I love. Opening shot is brilliant, and the rest of the movie follows suit.
9. Unforgiven: great western. Bit dour, of course.
10. Bad Lieutenant

1. Schindler's List: as good as it gets, but I just can't wade through something this sad more than once.
2. The Age of Innocence: dear Lord, please spare me from costume dramas.
3. The Piano: I hated this movie. One of the handful I walked out on (the part when she goes into the drink). I think Campion has spiders in her soul.
4. The Fugitive: great popcorn movie. Still a lot of fun.
5. The Joy Luck Club: read the book, saw the movie, got the t-shirt, but neither connected with me all that much ('cept the t-shirt).
6. Kalifornia
7. Like Water for Chocolate: liked it. Was unique and sensual in a way I didn't expect.
8. Menace II Society
9. What's Love Got to Do with It: meh. Performances are great, but again, most bio films are just big screen versions of VH1's "Behind the Music" - maybe partially because screenwriters feel the need to force messy real lives into the constraints of fictional expectations.
10. Ruby in Paradise

1. Hoop Dreams: didn't get what all the fuss was about. Yeah, it's a bummer when he doesn't make it, but, I dunno, most of us have some of our dreams thwarted, and there's always something else to take its place, if you look.
2. Blue / White / Red
3. Pulp Fiction: classic, of course. Still the only movie where extreme violence is always a comedic punchline.
4. Forrest Gump: classic. Doesn't age.
5. The Last Seduction
6. Fresh
7. The Blue Kite
8. Natural Born Killers: this one has aged. Still a fun ride if you can stomach the ultraviolence. It wears out with repeated viewings.
9. The New Age
10. Quiz Show: merely ok.

1. Leaving Las Vegas: I'm split because I see how it's a good movie in terms of movie making and storytelling, but the story is just a pocket of puss.
2. Crumb: great doc. The man is sick, but at least he's found people who are ok with that.
3. Dead Man Walking: harrowing, worth one viewing. I like the way it walks the line on its opinion on the death penalty. I expected a more biased view.
4. Nixon: ok. Fun if you know the story.
5. Casino: I didn't much like it. Yet another banal gangster story.
6. Apollo 13: amazing movie. This one will go down in history as a landmark. Not a false step anywhere. The director's commentary on the DVD is one of the few worth listening to - it's a mini film school.
7. Exotica
8. My Family
9. Carrington
10. A Walk in the Clouds

1. Fargo: you betcha, by golly, then. (I went to college where this take place - it just nails the accent and culture.)
2. Breaking the Waves: eh, kinda depraved for my tastes.
3. Secrets & Lies: rich decadent people being rich, decadent and incestual. And there are bugs, too. If that floats your dingy, dive in. (Notable for one of the few commercial movies to show a guy with a boner.)
4. Lone Star: kinda dry.
5. Welcome to the Dollhouse: an interesting attempt at a view into a girl's life, but smacks too much of being written by a boy. Had actual girls been involved in the writing, this might've been something.
6. Bound: stylistically it's cool, but the story is yer standard lesbians on a crime spree. Some folks can't get enough of the genre, but I find it kinda rote.
7. Hamlet
8. Everyone Says I Love You: nice try, and fun viewing for seeing how close it gets, but ultimately it just doesn't work.
9. Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam
10. Big Night

1. Eve's Bayou
2. The Sweet Hereafter: achingly sad, and boring, sadly.
3. Boogie Nights: outside of the titillation of being about the porn industry, and a glimpse of the stunning Heather Graham nekkid on skates, I didn't really dig this slice of underlife. Though Philip Seymour Hoffman's heartbreaking turn as a gay guy in love with someone who's not was stirring, but when is he not?
4. Maborosi
5. Jackie Brown: decent entry by Tarantino. Not revelatory, but he hasn't made a bad movie yet.
6. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control: another must-see documentary.
7. L.A. Confidential: great period flick.
8. In the Company of Men: meh. The cruelty kinda got to me. I guess if I'm gonna watch a story about mean people, there's gotta be something more for me than witnessing the evil.
9. Titanic: classic. One for the ages. I still hold my breath when the boat makes its final plunge.
10. Wag the Dog: was slapped together and it feels like it. Still, as a cultural reference, it's a must-see. And it is enjoyable. Dustin does a good job.

1. Dark City: great sci-fi visualization of a complex idea. Striking. Plods a little in the middle, though.
2. Pleasantville: clever concept, overdone. Were it more nimble on its feet and about 1/2 hour shorter, it would be golden. Still worth it if you're stuck at home and it comes on the tube.
3. Saving Private Ryan: great flick, but harrowing. A one-time viewing did it for me.
4. A Simple Plan: clever and fun.
5. Happiness
6. Elizabeth
7. Babe: Pig In the City: awesome flick. Kids of all ages will dig this.
8. Shakespeare In Love: fun re-imagining. Contains one of the few sex scenes I consider well-done and legitimately erotic.
9. Life Is Beautiful: Jerry Lewis lives! Again, I have trouble with comedy and Nazis in the same broth. Still, this comes close to getting it right.
10. Primary Colors: great artifact, but not much of a flick out of context. Except for the two performances of Travolta and Thompson.

1. Being John Malkovich: I liked it, but it's a love it or hate it kind of flick. For the record, I can't stand John Malkovich, and the fact that he would allow this kind of send-up made me finally enjoy him in something. The half-floor concept is brilliant.
2. Magnolia: meh. Biblical and nihilistic just don't mix. Great acting. Story - such as it is - sucks.
3. Three Kings: great gonzo war flick. Don't miss it.
4. Boys Don't Cry: I hated, hated, hated it, relaxed a bit and then came back and hated it even more. This movie essentially tries to make a career criminal a hero merely because she was gender confused. What's worse is there's a scene where they terrify a baby (babies can't act, so this child was really that distressed) only to serve the scene (they won't let animals be treated that badly for the purposes of getting a shot). Unforgivable.
5. Bringing Out the Dead: nice try, but ultimately doesn't adhere to its tone correctly and sorta falls flat.
6. Princess Mononoke: over the top, weird Japanese Anime. Compelling story, but only if you're a fan of the genre in the first place.
7. The War Zone
8. American Beauty: I loved this movie. It manipulated me exactly like it should have.
9. Topsy-Turvy
10. The Insider: good one-time viewing, just for the true story and the performances.

1. Almost Famous: good flick. One of the few bio flicks that's fun (perhaps because there're no big tragedies, and because the subject himself wrote and directed it).
2. Wonder Boys: meh. Nice try, but too messy, and doesn't gel in the end.
3. You Can Count on Me: I have no idea why this got the kudos it did. It's dull, meandering, and not one character in the movie is sympathetic.
4. Traffic: another nice try, but ultimately too scattered and stylized to be enjoyable. (Yes, the color coding of the stories was clever, but other than that...)
5. George Washington
6. The Cell: great visual feast that ultimately makes no sense, and not enough sense to persevere through the icky serial killer stuff. I can see impressionable teenage boys digging this more than they should, but that's about it.
7. High Fidelity: nice slice of life, with great performances by Cusack and Black.
8. Pollock: a grand misfire. Think it's accurate, but Pollock was kind of a jerk, apparently, and it's hard to watch a long film about a jerk (unless it's Steve Martin).
9. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: beautiful visuals, silly story. Basic swat-fu once you remove the flying ballet stuff.
10. Requiem for a Dream: critic's darling, but essentially mind-garbage. I don't know about you, but watching the beautiful Jennifer Connelly descend into a drug-addled, sex-show bimbette is just too much to bear.

1. Monster's Ball: I've always wondered if the title referred to the penultimate sex scene. I thought the characters were preposterous and rather flat.
2. Black Hawk Down: harrowing war movie about a real event - that manages to be a popcorn movie at the same time.
3. In the Bedroom: another critics darling about "real people" doing "real things" but duller than hell. I don't even remember what the plot was, if there was one.
4. Ghost World: mildly interesting slice of life that ultimately goes nowhere. Thora Birch in a batgirl mask is hot, though.
5. Mulholland Drive: the only contender in David Lynch's branch of abstract films that really works. Worth a few viewings. The first time should be "cold," then research on the web as to what people's guesses are for various meanings, then watch a few more times and get the soundtrack.
6. Waking Life: interesting if flawed experiment. If you like late-night dorm room philosophizing mixed with trippy visuals, get out the bong and fire it up.
7. Innocence
8. Wit: I don't like disease movies - Terms of Endearment being the only exception because it was so much more. She gets hardcore, inoperable cancer, has lived a quasi-squandered life, and realizes it before she dies. The end. Enough of our lives are going to end this way, so unless you watch this as a warning or as a kick in the pants to get going on something, don't watch it at all.
9. A Beautiful Mind: great attempt to portray insanity from the insane's perspective. I didn't enjoy much outside of that. (Will Jennifer Connelly ever be in a good movie? Let's hope so.)
10. Gosford Park: meh. Too long, too little mystery. Even my buddies who like Atlman gave this one a "meh."

1. Minority Report: good sci-fi, though this is one of those that movies on the unfortunate trend bandwagon that uses a tonal color palette to mute the colors because the director really wanted to do it in black and white. And then there's the Tom Cruise thing. Also, the mag-cars are completely unrealistic; they would make everyone hurl their brains out in reality if they moved around like that at that speed. Worth getting past all that for a decent story, though.
2. City of God
3. Adaptation: I really dug this one, but then I'm a fan of Charlie Kaufman's Chinese-box plots. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite movies ever, another of Kaufman's. This one has a lot of great twists, and there's one mind-blowing scene with Meryl Streep grinding away on top of Chris Cooper. I dropped my popcorn. And of course, Nicolas Cage does one of his bravura performances.
4. Far From Heaven
5. 13 Conversations About One Thing
6. Y Tu Mama Tambien
7. Invincible
8. Spirited Away: see Princess Mononoke above. Same same.
9. All or Nothing
10. The Quiet American

1. Monster: interesting portrait, but she was such an evil and tragic character, you get to the end and want to take a shower and watch a few Disney cartoons to recover.
2. Lost in Translation: I liked this Bladerunner meets Save the Tiger tone poem set in Japan. Not the revelation critics said it was, but still a nice, sedate voyage.
3. American Splendor: interesting in the mechanics of telling the story using actors, the real people, and animation, but ultimately is about the guy on the bus whom you avoid, so it's knee-capped by an unlikable main character.
4. Finding Nemo: my family did not enjoy this at all, thus we were one of the three people in that tiny minority. We felt that EVERYONE being handicapped was a bit over the top. (I think the only character that was not damaged in some way was the baby turtle.)
5. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: great ripping yarn. The rare guy flick that the chicks can enjoy.
6. Mystic River: harrowing topic handled well by surprise auteur Clint Eastwood. However, I don't like anything that deals with children being killed or molested, so that diminished it for me.
7. Owning Mahowny
8. The Son (Le Fils)
9. Whale Rider
10. In America

1. Million Dollar Baby: the controversy surrounding this pissed me off, and that may have spoiled the movie for me. I don't like boxing, so I couldn't get into it that way, either. I'll admit the movie is well done, but the topic just didn't do it for me.
2. Kill Bill Vol. 2: clever ultraviolence from Tarantino. I enjoyed it in spite of myself, but the harsher edges of the story derailed it for the most part. (Like when the nurse is selling Kiddo's body out while she's in a coma. Yuck.)
3. Vera Drake
4. Spider-Man 2: one of the comic-book-based movies done right. The scene where the crowd passes an unconscious Spiderman over their heads is iconic.
5. Moolaade
6. The Aviator: nice outing, worth a viewing. It does gloss over the more disturbing sides of Hughes' life, like his huge, personal espionage ring. So it kinda gold-plates a turd of a human being.
7. Baadasssss!
8. Sideways: perfect little movie that does what little movies should do. Very entertaining.
9. Hotel Rwanda: Couldn't get through it. Consummate bummers have to have a little something extra to get you through the bad stuff. Amistad has this same flaw. So if even Spielberg can't make this kind of material float, no one can. Well, maybe Spike Lee needs to try.
10. Undertow

1. Crash: I thought this was a contrived piece o' shite. I have no idea why this got the awards and the kudos.
2. Syriana: thought this was duller than an accountant's explanation of the new tax regulations. And this is about real spies!
3. Munich
4. Junebug: couldn't get through it. Started fast-forwarding after 20 minutes. Glad I did.
5. Brokeback Mountain
6. Me and You and Everyone We Know: I hated this movie because all the children say and do graphically sexual things while the adults merely have cute little flirty conversations. I don't like seeing child actors made to do adult things for the sake of a movie. Had this movie confined itself to the adult romance, it might've been something.
7. Nine Lives
8. King Kong: too long, too loud, too much. (Someone should trim this monkey down to about 90 minutes; that would be a great flick.)
9. Yes
10. Millions: nice try (the visuals are stunning), but the parents-being-dead topic has got to be handled just right in kid's films because that's their biggest fear, and this one doesn't achieve that.

So, I've notice that as time goes by, my tastes have diverged from Ebert's when it comes to the "little films." We still agree on the big movies and documentaries, but we just no longer have the same taste in indie films whatsoever.

If I had the energy, I'd go back and construct my top ten for each year (I'd have to start about 77, because before that I was just too young), but getting a list of all releases, combing through them, etc. is a mind-bending challenge. Recently when the blogs I visit attempted to name "The best modern American film," I found I wasn't up to it - because picking just one is impossible, and eventually riffling through the lists from each year is ... dull.

However, let me just say here are ones I would plop in there somewhere, in the place of lesser entries:
- Airplane!
- Alien
- Aliens
- Big
- Blade Runner
- Blue Velvet
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Dazed and Confused
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Fight Club
- Groundhog Day
- Jaws
- Little Big Man
- On Golden Pond
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Peter Pan (The live-action 2003 version, done perfectly. No kidding. This story is as iconic as the Wizard of Oz and "Star Trek." Think about it, do you know anyone who doesn't know those three stories? A perfect companion movie to this is Finding Neverland, though I promise it will make you cry.)
- Primer
- Raising Arizona
- Silver Streak
- The Big Chill
- The Elephant Man
- The Little Mermaid
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
- The Matrix
- The Silence of the Lambs
- The Sixth Sense
- The Thing (John Carpenter's - my top fave movie of all time)
- The World According to Garp
- Young Frankenstein

Remember this list starts in '67, so it's missing top faves from way back, so no Philadelphia Story, Best Years of Our Lives, or Wizard of Oz.

Also, I almost put Smokey and the Bandit on the list, because for a redneck, over the top comedy, it still stands alone. I caught part of it on TV a couple months ago, and it's still funny. But, I just couldn't bring my self to put it up there with the other movies, so consider it the one runner-up.

My final impression is the sheer amount of great movies there really are out there. We've had a bad couple years in movies (and there is always a gem or two even in bad years - see The Matador above), and reviewing the greats is heartening. If you even see a third of this list, you've seen some great stuff.

Anyone else care to have a whack at this?

Monday, October 30, 2006

hey ya

I think the following shows to go ya that a great song is a great song, sometimes no matter the delivery.

Hirsute Mat Weddle does an acoustic guitar cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya!"

Isn't that wonderful?

Nab the MP3 here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

That Ubiquitous Dove Ad

By now you've probably seen that ad for Dove soap that's all over the video sites, but if not, see below.

What's so shocking is it looks like yer standard no makeup vs. makeup time-lapse thingy with the moral being "put some on before you leave the house," but then we flip into Photoshop and they essentially move all her facial proportions around.

So, we go from this (still a babe by anyone's reckoning, btw):

To this:

But here's a step along the way; they resize her eyes:

Watch the whole thing:
You're Pitiful

No, not YOU!

"Weird Al" Yankovic has a new album out, and you gotta give the guy his due, he has one or two parodies on every one of his CDs that make you laugh out loud.

Frinstance, "Canadian Idiot" on his latest just made me snort, especially this couplet:

They think their silly accent is so cute
Can't understand a thing they're talking a-boot

So I told you that to tell you this: one song he did for the album, "You're Pitiful," based on James Blunt's gag-fest which will join "Feelings" and "Run Joey Run" in the pantheon of "songs to end the party and clear the room at 3:00 A.M." classics, he had to leave off because Blunt's label freaked (even though Blunt himself gave approval) and wouldn't allow Al to release it. Fools.

History will record these times as having a three-way tie in terms of the most clueless entities on the planet at the start of the century: the George W. Bush administration, Big Record Labels, and Scientology.

Anyway, it's free on Al's website. Scroll down to "YOU'RE PITIFUL!" (and while you're at it, snag "Don't Download This Song"). Or, right-click on the title of this post if you just want "You're Pitiful." Lyrics are here.
The Hypocrisy Rattles My Bones

NBC won't show trailers for the new documentary on the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up & Sing because, "are disparaging of President Bush."

Do any of the folks at NBC people remember the Clinton years?

And, ain't this the country where we can disparage the president if we want to?

I think it's time we start taking away the price breaks the networks get for using public airwaves.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musical Mystery Tour

Had some interesting musical voyages lately.

At this year's Guy's Campout (a much-needed yearly big-boys-only retreat), the musical selection leaned heavily towards metal riffage and a certain style of vocal based on those of James Hetfield of Metallica. Now, I sometimes like a steamin' slab of screaming guitars under attack by gatling gun drums, but when we entered the third hour of someone sounding like they'd deep-throated the mic and were trying to hork it up, I asked for a reprieve, which resulted in the discovery of Meniskus, a happy accident.

So, when I came upon this recent reviewlet of "Mastodon" by Blood Mountain in the Oct. 20 "Entertainment Weekly": "A concept disc about a quest for a 'crystal skull,' this is a slam dunk if you practice mixolydian scales and own 20-sided dice; for others, liquid arpeggios and rhythmic shifts may not outweigh Cookie Monster vocals." (Sean Howe) - I howled with recognition.

Ever since this vocal style regurgitated onto the scene, I've been trying to put my finger on what it reminded me of. Now and forever, when I hear it again, I will envision a blue-furred, google-eyed pastry abuser. Perhaps these bands should all get together and do a Sesame Street cover album.
Update: Whisky Prajer provided a great link to an article on the phenomenon of the Cookie Monster vocal. Thanks Whisky!

As a music lover, it just bothers the hell out of me that I'm increasingly out of touch with what I presume are the popular tastes.

Take Beyonce's lates release, "B'Day." Please.

It did great on the charts. Critical reviews were glowing. Amazon reviews are mostly positive.

But, to me, it trots out every freakin' hip hop cliché that I detest. Canned beats (which never fail to remind me of those sad fake drums available on electronic organs in churches everywhere). Song topics limited to "let's fuck," "I'm leaving you," "I have no self-esteem issues whatsoever." The melodies, such as they are, are often sing-songy retreads of established hip hop melodies, or variants on the schoolyard taunt "nyah nyah nyah nyah."

Y'know, even the blues, when is sticks to just eight bars of the same notes, can have complexity and shading of meaning I just don't hear in most hip hop.

Why is this compelling music for so many kids? The simplicity and repetition? Is it because it's like a lot of children's music in that regard?

Oh, on top of all that, Beyonce's singing is nothing special. If her voice was as pretty as she is, then she might have something.

Saw Jonathan Demme's Neil Young concert film Heart of Gold.

It was enjoyable. Neil's songs are good. It's amazing that Emmylou Harris is still such a hottie at her age.

But this outing is not the revelation that Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is. And, Neil is a love'em or hate'em kinda guy due to that voice.

Fans should check it out. Everyone else should see Stop Making Sense, if they haven't.

Oh, and if you're a fan, Young's new greatest hits is a nice set. The remastering alone is worth the purchase. This, along with Lucky Thirteen, a compilation of his controversial Geffen years, will get you a good collection of his best stuff. (Completists will want to nab a copy of Everybody's Rockin' before they're no longer available.)

Finally, if you're interested in kind of an instant record collection, you could do worse than buying a used copy of this vanity set (it's not worth the full price): Capitol Records 1942-2002. I wouldn't go much over $40.

(Or do what I did and borrow it from the library and cherry pick the songs you don't have yet. This is the only place I've found Radiohead's "Creep" anthologized.)
Speak Up!

This is nothing short of amazing. Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert," lost his voice about 18 months ago, but got it back by.... well, go read it. (Via Kottke.org)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Alfred E. Bush

Alfred E. Bush
Alfred E. Bush,
originally uploaded by Grabthar.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hello Mary Sue...

... Goodybye art. (With apologies to Ricky Nelson.)

Since I've never been a big fan of "Fan-fic" - stories written by rabid fans based on an existing series (TV, movies, books, w/e), "Star Trek" being the progenitor - I'd not heard/read the term "Mary Sue" until today, but what a beautiful coinage it is.

Via Syaffolee, here is a good definition of it, and here is a quasi-famous litmus test.

Since those two pages kinda say it all, that's about all I have to say about that. (I posted this mostly as part of my quasi-effort to bring to this blog things of interest regarding writing and fiction.)

TLD: Actually, the one piece of fan fiction I've read - and probably because I didn't know that what it was - involved "Star Trek - The Next Generation" - a series I loathed for the most part because it was so politically correct and took all the fun out of gallivanting around the galaxy. Ironically, the character who was most representative of what was wrong with the show was the character I liked the most (not for what her role was on the ship, but the personality of the character) - Counselor Troi. I mean, a freakin' shrink sitting right next to the Captain's chair? For crying out loud! How freakin' Oprah can you get? Had Kirk been in that situation, the original "Star Trek" would have had another first besides the first inter-racial kiss and the use of the phrase (then shocking in TV): "Let's get the hell out of here," it would've also been the first TV show where the Captain said to the bridge counselor, "Shut the fuck up!"

Anyway, I found this story on a CD that contained the latest shareware for the Macintosh. Back in the days before the web, several companies compiled freebies, shareware, pictures, and fan-fic onto CDs which you got by subscription. It was always fun to explore the goodies, because it was the first "surfing the web"-like experience available.

Anyway anyway, the story was they encountered a Borg cube, and when they finally get a look inside, most of Hollywood had been assimilated (apparently after a Borg sweep of LA in an alternate universe or something like that), which leads to the punchline, uttered by Data, "My God, it's full of stars!" (the famous line of Dave Bowman's near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey), ignoring the fact that Data would never use an interjection, particularly one that referenced God, or use a contraction.

It was worth it wading through the turgid, amateur prose (common to the form) for that punchline.

Check out this wild picture.

I stumbledupon a page of quotes yesterday, and it reminded me of how much I like those kinds of things. Maybe you do, too.

If so, here's the one I found, and here's one I put together years ago.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quickie Electronic Library

I'm pretty sure this is way illegal, so shame on you if you follow this link and nab the books out there, such as all of J.R.R. Tolkien, most of C.S. Lewis, Dan Brown, and Frank Herbert and so on.
Monday Morning Eye Candy

Some clever photos.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Recent Viewings, 10-13-2006

I am an Adam Sandler fan. I think he has a gift for understanding of the inner lives of the majority of regular, "salt of the earth" Americans - much like Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart, Milton Berle, John Wayne, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, and Jerry Lewis.

Of course, this sets him up as a punching bag for critics, particularly those who sniff at anything that doesn't include glacial pacing and nude starlets.

But for those of us who face aggravating commutes, the corporate grind, and over-scheduled kids, he knows our fears and dreams and somehow manages to evoke them vividly and pungently. And he manages it without insulting anyone's intelligence.

Click is not a great film (like 50 First Dates is), but it is a good flick. As my wife pointed out, it's a bit flat and should've been funnier. But it's still plenty funny, imho.

It has been accused of being an update to It's a Wonderful Life with fart jokes, and it is if you consider Body Heat and update to Double Indemnity with a good dash of softcore. But if, like me, you appreciate the very different movies the "updates" are, then you'll probably enjoy Click.

Be warned though, it made my daughter, who's 10, cry because it deals pretty directly with the idea of the death of parents. (For the record, we covered her eyes for the two or three racy scenes.) So if you have children who are currently worried about you dying (and it is one of the most common fears children have), or if they're sensitive about such things, watch this when they're in bed.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Of course it's the "last" stand. [Innocent look.]

Sure. Garth Brooks is retired, too.

Anyway, this is pretty much like the other two. Very consistent (even though it has a different director than the first two). Watchable. Fun, if you like comic book movies.

But, it's a lot like a donut - enjoyable while it lasts, but soon forgotten once your body recovers from the sugar hit.

(I think one of the reasons X-Men doesn't do all that much for me is the built-in dues ex machina where any kind of superhero talent can and does surface for plot convenience. For instance, SPOILER ALERT this movie has a character whose power is that it nulls out any other mutant's powers END SPOILER ALERT. On my planet, only Bugs Bunny gets away with stuff like that.)

The last two Superman and Batman installments were better than this X-Men installment, but then it's been a pretty dry couple years for good movies overall, so if you want a decent popcorn movie, here ya go.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Laugh, thought I'd Die

On the "new arrivals" shelf recently was I Killed, a collection of road warrior stories from hundreds of comedians - wild and amazing things that happened to them on the road. I haven't been able to put it down.

Here's an excerpt from an experience of John Bowman's (edited for length):

I had a reasonable expectation that at the zoo I would see some dangerous and unfamiliar animals, but protected by a fence, a moat, or at least some plastic sheeting. I certainly wasn't worried about the animals in the petting zoo.

So I had no fear when this llama ran to this little three-foot-high fence, made eye contact with me, and started to make a gurgling sound in its throat. Its lips were moving. Trying to be funny for my date, I said, "That llama wants a kiss."

She said, "Oh look, he's puckering his lips."

I started mimicking the llama's lip movements and throat sound. Which of course in llama meant, "Let's throw down, bitch."

I found out later that the llama could have nailed me from a hundred yards away. But I turned it into a slam-dunk contest by getting about two feet from the fence and doing a funny little cabbage-patch dance. I kind of remember my last words were, "I'm turning him on."

It was like one of those terrible accidents when you see everything in slow motion. I actually saw something coming for my face, and instead of a decent defense reaction, like closing my mouth and eyes or turning away, I went slack-jawed and wide-eyed. The bile not only filled my eyeballs but shot down my throat. It lifted me off my feet. I landed on my back, completely blinded, choking and vomiting. What followed was a smell that I still can't describe. I would have huffed a skunk's ass to get away from that llama stink. A week later I noticed that flies still buzzed around my head.

I don't know why humor involving projectile vomiting amuses me so much; perhaps it's just a defense mechanism due to my phobia re the same.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Was thinking this morning...

Back on the old TV series "Mission: Impossible," it always began with Mr. Phelps getting a dossier and a tape recording which outlined the mission, then self-demised in a smoky hissy-fit. If you've seen the show, you know the drill.

Wouldn't it be funny if for once it went like this?

Tape Recording: "Good morning Mr. Phelps. Your mission, should you decide to accept it is to infiltrate the Bzyarmi tribe in southeastern Bukkakkistan. You will assume the undercover role of apprentice yak shampooer, using a traditional soap made from lye and sloth droppings. During your mission, you will be required to shave the yaks, as it is yak shearing season. A tradition among the men of the Bzyarmi tribe prior to the shearing season is a ritual that involves getting what is known in Hollywood as a "Brazilian wax," which considered a necessary purification rite before the shearing commences. You are to locate the Chief's Medicine Man, who is in actuality an uncover operative for a pharmaceutical concern from Austria and secretly poison him over the course of a year by slipping a few grams of the substance in the vial you're holding into his morning Kava Kava. He eventually will experience explosive and fatal diarrhea. Another Bzyarmi tradition is for the men to eat the scrotum of the deceased Medicine Man, as it is considered a tribute to the dead and an aid to sexual vitality. As always, should you or any of your I. M. Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds. ... SSSSHSHSHPT!"

Mr. Phelps (after a pause): "Well fuck that."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Superman - The Album

Back in 2001, after "Five for Fighting" had a hit with "Superman," it dawned on me that there were quite the handful of songs about Superman.

So, with my prodigious CD collection, I put together a CD for myself of all the Superman songs to see how it would hang together. Here's the song list:

Jimmy Olsen's Blues - Spin Doctors
Kryptonite - Three Doors Down
Non-Toxic - SR71
O Superman (For Massenet) - Laurie Anderson
Superman - Sister Hazel
Superman - Five For Fighting
Superman - REM
Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies
Superman - Barbra Streisand
You Don't Mess Around with Jim - Jim Croce
Superman - Lazlo Bane

It was pretty good, except for the jarring inclusion of the Barbra Streisand track. If you're a straight guy, you've gotta be in the mood for Babs, and that's not often.

It then occurred to me that someone oughta release this commercially, because I bet it would sell. I sent an email to Rhino records saying maybe they should do this, included the song list (sans Babs) and included some homebrew legalese saying I was giving them this idea freely and didn't expect any compensation, except maybe a free copy if they were feeling generous.

Well, last week a buddy whom I made a copy of the Superman CD for comes by with this CD. From Rhino.

Apparently they used my idea!

And, no, I did not get a free copy.
From "The Fix" on Salon.com:

In an interview as part of the New Yorker Festival over the weekend, Jon Stewart told New Yorker editor David Remnick that there's no chance he'll run for president, and that the T-shirts that are part of a fan-driven campaign endorsing him and Stephen Colbert "are a real sign of how sad people are" about the state of American politics. Said Stewart, "Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you, my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08.'" (Fox)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Maybe I'm Not Getting It...

There seems to be a question about the newly minted "Military Commissions Act of 2006" where essentially habeas corpus has been suspended.

The question is, suspended for whom?

It's hard to tell by the language of the act if it means just non-citizens (as this article seems to say), or if American citizens can be declared an "enemy combatant" and shoved in a deep hole forever, too.


Once in a while I need to inquire what those around me think, because I doubt my understanding of the issue and wonder if there's something I'm missing. Please let me know where I might be wrong here.

Here's the thing: I'm not sure if it bothers me that the Pres - even Bush - can finger a non-citizen as an enemy and remove them as threat. Even though I'm a liberal, I feel that many folks in the Middle East from Islamic nations just want us gone (as in dead) or converted to Islam - in short, I think it's pretty clear that they do have hostile intentions (or at least their political and religious leaders do). So if our government needs to stick someone from another country in a prison to keep us safe, I think they should be able to. They shouldn't be able to torture them, or even imprison them forever (which I think the act allows, which is bad). But hold them for a while? Why not?

(Hell, if I were Pres right now, I'd close the boarders to all Middle Eastern and Islamic nations for now. Naturalized citizens could stay, but everyone else - students and green cards - out out out!)

Now if it allows the same power over citizens, well then fuck no.

That would be abused nearly immediately because we know many many wingnut Republicans who'd quietly put innocent American citizens in jail just because they could. There's no question about that. (Check out this movie and see what they did to Susan McDougal.)

But a foreigner that can't technically be a political enemy, but can be someone with obvious hostile intent against America? Yeah, lock'em up.

(For the record, I don't think there's a country in the world that DOESN'T do this. Maybe France and Denmark don't. I dunno.)

Help me out. How fucked in the head am I? Or am I? (On the assumption this new power doesn't extend to American citizens.)


The 2blowhards linked to this interesting article about first-hand experience in the Middle East, which in turn had a link to an account of Jill Carroll who was kidnapped, which I've converted into a PDF (right-click to download) because the Christian Science Monitor article requires you to click so many links the article is hard to read.

Short version: we are dealing with people so radically unlike us, we can assume nothing about their motivations or resulting actions.