Tuesday, May 31, 2005
My first thought upon hearing all this is that I've already seen this film, and I liked it better when it was about three guys and a horse named Seabiscuit. Yet if I eventually go see it in the theater, then I won't go in with any preconceived notions. It could very well tread this similar and recent ground yet still be original in it's own way and, overall, a darn good film.
All of this backstory is building up to a commercial I saw for the movie this morning that ran critic blurbs throughout. The final blurb announced something along the lines of, "This is one of the best movies ever made!". Quite a statement. Then I saw that it was uttered by Larry King.
I'm not saying that Larry King isn't entitled to his opinion, but it's pretty much conventional wisdom that those whose job it is to interview celebrities are going to have nothing but platitudes to say about them and their work. Of course, we don't see similar quotes from Katie Couric and the like in these commercials, but then again I imagine they restrain themselves from making such out-and-out praise. At the very least, they refrain from saying anything so blurb-worthy as King's comment.
It's not as if there are any laws being broken here. Yet scruples would seem to dictate that the studios not use such quotes from someone whose position restrains him from being an impartial...er...critic. And it's not like they would be reaching for straws, here, in terms of positive press. There appears to be plenty of actual critics that like the film. The Tomatometer rating for Cinderella Man currently stands at a high 87%.
So it may very well be that good a film. Hell, it may be an Oscar contender, for all that signifies. But let's leave King's sliced bread pronouncements out of it.
And a side note to the people who designed the Cinderella Man website: As good as it is, I think the soundtrack to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is pretty much played out for it's use in trailers and promotional material. They got it playing during Iron Chef montages, for crying out loud! Give it a rest!
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
I adore this film, though I will admit to its faults. Acting-wise, some of the players are lacking. Jason Mewes can get on your nerves after awhile. Finally, they could have easily lost a monologue or two and drastically sped up the pace of the film.
Yet the dialogue is also the strongest part of the film, notably in the two major exchanges between Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) and Metatron (the priceless Alan Rickman). Yet, given the choice of one scene to present as an example of the writing, I have to choose a tense scene between the two angels Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon). The character development of these two semi-villians is wonderful, and gives us a real feel for them.
Bartleby: I was close. You know, I was so close to slittin' that bitch's throat. You know how that felt? Righteous. Justified. Eager, even.
Loki: You all right, man? Your eyes are kinda...
Bartleby: My eyes are open. For the first time, I get it. When that little innocent girl let her mission slip, I had an epiphany. See, in the beginning, it was just us and Him. Angels and God.
Loki: Uh huh.
Bartleby: Then he created humans. Ours was designed to be a life of servitude and worship...and bowing and scraping and adoration. He gave them more than He ever gave us. He gave them a choice. They choose to acknowledge God, or choose to ignore him. All this time we've been down here, I've felt the absence of the Divine presence. And it's pained me... As I'm sure it must have pained you. And why? Because of the way he made us. Had we been given free will, we could choose to ignore the pain. Like they do. But no! We're servants!
Loki: Okay... You know, all I'm sayin' here, is one of us might need a little nap.
Bartleby: [claps hands] Wake up! These humans have besmirched everything He's bestowed upon them. They were given Paradise - they threw it away. They were given this planet - they destroyed it. They were favored best among all His endeavors, and some of them don't even believe he exists. And in spite of it all... He hath shown them infinite f*cking patience at every turn. What about us? I asked you... Once, to lay down the sword, because I felt sorry for them. What was the result? Our expulsion from Paradise! Where was his infinite f*cking patience then? It's not right! It's not fair! We've paid our debt. Don't you think it's time... Don't you think it's time we went home? And to do that... I... I think we may have to dispatch our-our would be dispatchers.
Loki: Wait. Wait. Wait. Kill them? You're talking about the Last Scion for Chrissakes! And what about Jay and Bob? I mean... Those guys were all right.
Bartleby: Don't. Don't my friend. See, don't let your sympathies get the best of you. They did me once. Scion or not, she's just a human. And by passing through that arch, our sins are forgiven. No harm, no foul
Loki: My God. I've heard a rant like this before.
Bartleby: What did you say?
Loki: I've heard a rant like this before
Bartleby: Don't you f*ckin' do that to me
Loki: You sound like the Morning Star.
Bartleby: You shut your f*ckin' mouth!
Loki: You do! You sound like Lucifer, man! You f*ckin' lost it! You're not talkin' about goin' home Bartleby, you're talkin' about f*ckin' war on God. Well f*ck that. I have seen what happens to the proud when then take on the throne. I'm goin' back to Wisconsin.
Bartleby: [Bartleby violently throws Loki against a pillar in the parking garage] We're going home, Loki! And no one, not you, not even the Almighty himself, is gonna make that otherwise.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Also check out Outpost Daria for more Morgendorffer goodness.
I'm considering volunteering at next year's festival. I don't know what capacity I would do it in, but I would like to perhaps have some input on the introductory clip they tacked at the beginning of every show. The purpose of the clip is to welcome everyone to the festival, mention the sponsors and command everyone to turn off their damn cellphones. The style of visuals and music, however, seems like a dreamy, art school Night of the Living Dead piece. After watching this for the seventh time on Sunday, I can say that this could definitely be improved.
Theater Jacksonville and the San Marco Theater, which are within a block of eachother, are the only two Festival venues I visited. This made for an easy Friday as I could just park and hang around the square all day. The last time I went to the San Marco Theater a year ago, their chairs were structured so that they slid forward, which is really uncomfortable for movie theater seats. This design flaw has since been fixed, and the seats are now mighty comfy. Add to this the fact that there are tables where every third seat should be and this pattern is staggered with each row. This results in seats with an aisle to one side and a table on the other. Suffice to say that I made quick claim of such seats for each showing.
The reason for the tables is the various foods that the place serves up. You can order a mini pizza and stay at your seat with one of those vibrating-LED-coasters to let you know when to pick it up. Very cool. The theater also serves up beer by the pitcher, which pleases a number of theater goers including the director of Murderball in the Q&A session after the film (He announced to the audience that was the first time he had ever had a beer in a movie theater).
I was happy to discover that one of the films I saw, Brothers, won the Audience award. That film and Murderball are my favorites from the festival, overall. I get the feeling these may be big films come later in the year.
And that's it. Slow posting for the rest of the week and no posting for the weekend as Mrs. Mosley and I attend a family reunion in town. I'll see you after Memorial Day.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Brothers (Official Distributor Site) tells the story of two brothers in Denmark. Michael (Ulrich Thomsen) has his life totally in order with a wife (Connie Nielsen), two kids and a career in the military. His brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) has a total mess of a life after getting out of jail. Shortly after Michael is deployed to Afghanistan, his helicopter is shot down and he is taken as a prisoner of war. The grieving Connie is soon comforted by Jannik, who inserts himself into her life for both the purpose of helping her and himself. Just as the feelings between the two get complicated, a traumatized Michael comes home to find it changed as much as he has.
Oddly enough, a review of this film appeared in Entertainment Weekly earlier last week (it got an A-). It's currently being put out in limited release, but I'm guessing that, barring a sudden wave of critical raves that turn into decent box office, it wouldn't have gotten out to our little berg if not for the JFF. I'm glad we did get it for this one showing, because this is a great little film.
What is it about European films that seem far more real than Hollywood fare? The director, whose previous effort Open Hearts followed the "Dogme" school (i.e. a completely bare bones, unglamorous filmmaking style), has passed over those rigid rules but has retained the spirit. Music is used minimally and never overshadows the action. There are a number of handheld shots that are used for a natural feel rather than as a gimmick. All the characters, places and dialogue feel real and substantive. All the better to be able to connect with these people.
The actors are uniformly good. Kaas, who resembles Jurgen Prochnow in his Das Boot days, plays the rebellious younger brother with a quirky charm. Thomasen has the meatiest role of traumatized prisoner of war (Think Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter. Big Time.) and continues to torture himself long after the Afghans are finished with him. And then there's Nielsen, who is most familiar to American audiences through her roles in films like Gladiator and One Hour Photo. Her character is required to run the gamut of emotions, and she does so splendidly.
Roger Ebert has famously said, in regards to film lengths, that good movies are never long enough and bad movies can never end too soon. With Brothers, I felt the movie ended short. There is a resolution of sorts at the end, but I felt there was so much more story to see, and I was ready to see it. Still, the movie in its present form packs a helluva wallop and is one not to be missed if it happens to get to your neck of the woods. Nine out of Ten.
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright (Production Company Site) is a hard film to peg. At first, it seems that it's going to be a romantic comedy that takes on the unromantic subject of mail order brides. In this case, the title character Max (Patrick Warburton) is tired of looking for a woman that will put up with his boorish ways, so he decides to order a mate from China named Mai Ling (Marie Matiko). Little does he know that she will eventually change him for the better. And little do we know that the story itself will also change for the better.
This was the one film that I brought Mrs. Mosley to. When the woman introducing the film mentioned the change halfway through, I was worried that Mrs. Mosley might not like it since I described it as a romantic comedy (as I honestly thought it entirely was). I should have had more confidence in her, because she liked it as much as I did. It's hard to discuss such films that take such thematic changes (Such as Million Dollar Baby and Something Wild), so I will leave the plot description above to speak for the story while I discuss other aspects of the film.
Those of you looking to see some variation of Warburton's work on Seinfeld will be disappointed. Rarely has a bigger assh*le been portrayed on the screen. We're not talking your average jerk, but a completely violent and perpetually pissed off human being (on the bright side, ladies, you do get a glimpse of Puddy's...er...puddy). Still, he's endearing enough of the time for the audience to want to follow his story. Matiko's calm presence strikes a balance to Warburton's frothing-at-the-mouth. Such a character can fall into cliche, but she makes the character human by small touches in the dialogue she shares with Warburton in the more intimate moments.
The supporting roles vary. Eric Roberts does a surprisingly touching turn as one of Max's oldest friends. Roberts has had a tough time since, hell, Midnight Train twenty years ago, getting good roles. Maybe this film is an indicator that as the years wear on him, he'll start getting the respect he deserves. John Glover, who really excels at playing creepy, also does well in the straight role of a preacher. As I said with Matiko's character, the city preacher character is often in danger of becoming a cliche, but Glover gives it a very human touch. Finally, with all due respect to Jennifer Tilly, there are some roles that some actors are simply unable to play convincingly. Tilly playing a smart, seen-it-all doctor falls into that category.
There are some defects in the film. As I mentioned, the film goes to rather extreme lengths to illustrate what an utter bastard Maxwell is. There is also a running joke throughout the film where the misogynist Bright is always running into female cops, never male ones. This is good the first several times it happens, but by the time one shows up outside his house looking like she's fresh off a photo shoot, it gets a little unbelievable.
This is a unique movie experience, overall, and a great way to end the festival. Eight out of Ten.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Keep Right is a simple action film of one armed man played by Lance Henriksen (Bishop in Aliens) chasing another played by Ewan Bremner (Spud in Trainspotting) in an underground parking lot. Although this sounded pretty unoriginal, I wanted to see it because of the two people involved. The short actually has a funny twist that I won't spoil here, but it makes it all original and definitely worth seeing. On a side note, these two actors recently costarred in Alien Vs. Predator, which makes me think that they knocked this thing out during a coffee break. If only my coffee breaks were this much fun. Eight out of Ten.
Desastre is a comic film about a man who was born French. That is, the first words he speaks are French (despite being born to American parents in the U.S.), he only has interest in French food, and so on. It's a broad satire, but it does work. It may go on a tad too long for it's own good, especially when a group of "French Resistance" shows up wearing black turtlenecks, goggles and baugettes strapped across their backs, but it's all still very amusing. Seven out of Ten.
Fields of Mudan is, like Moondance the day before, a short from students at Florida State University. This is a far more somber affair about a young Chinese girl sold into prostitution by her mother. It seeks to paint a portrait of this tragic way of life for some children, and it is genuinely touching. The outlook of the film is bleak but, really, is there any other way to depict child prostitution? See it if your interested in a good dramatic short. Eight out of Ten.
The Raftman's Razor is a quirky tale of two teenage boys who develop an obsession with a comic that is far more intellectual than those of their classmates. This is an odd story about odd kids and their odd comic obsession, so the people who will probably enjoy it know who they are already. It's cute enough and, unlike some other shorts I've seen so far, doesn't over stay its welcome. Seven out of Ten.
Mott Music is the true story of a historic Piano factory on a corner of the Bronx and the individuals who work there. One would think that such a subject would be sufficiently interesting in and of itself for a short subject documentary, but the filmmakers decide to go for a much artier approach with more discussion about the meaning and nature of music that the manufacturing process itself or the history. It creates a sluggish pace that nearly kills it. See it only if you're really interested in the subject matter. Six out of Ten.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Elephant Palm Tree is a quiet and austere slice of life concerning an elderly black couple with marriage problems. The ending was the biggest problem for me with this short. The short as a whole felt incomplete and the message, well, incredibly depressing. That's not saying that a short doesn't have the right to be depressing, but the downer ending on this one made the entire escapade seem nigh pointless. Six out of Ten.
Moondance is perhaps the most entertaining short I saw, and I'm proud to say that it was created by some film students at my Alma Mater of Florida State University. Basically, it's Kill Bill told as a fairy tale where Little Red Ridding Hood dispatches characters that have fallen under the spell of the Big Bad Wolf. There's also a bit of Xena Warrior Princess, here. Great use of locations, costumes, and decent actors. Nine out of Ten.
Pee Shy is the story of a red headed boy in a Boy Scout troop with the inability to pee and tell scary stories (separately, that is). That all changes one summer when the troop stumble upon something in the woods. The story is charming enough, if not predictable. The main deficit is the actors. The Scout leader is supposed to be a jerk, but he overacts his part just a tad. The kids, on the other hand, are a little wooden (I know, all kids can't be Haley Joel friggin Osmet, but they could have cast a kid in the lead role who could speak lines convincingly). Seven out of Ten.
Ryan is actually the Oscar winner for Best Animated Short earlier this year. The technical achievement is amazing as the narrator leads us through a mirror and we see characters in terms of their mental states. In the case of the narrator and an older animator he goes to interview, their creative output has been troubled and this is represented, among other things, by thickets of colorful wire that explode from their heads. It's a very surreal piece where the young animator takes audio recordings of his interviews with him and then reinterprets the interviews with his own visual style. Nine out of Ten.
The Act is the story of a standup comedianne going through her act concerning a recent divorce from her loutish husband. Footage of her on stage is crosscut with her returning to her lonely apartment and settling in for the night. It's a very tender piece with a nice twist ending. Eight out of Ten.
Waiting for the Man is basically Waiting for Godot except with a beaver and a she...and tired dialogue...and that's about it. What novelty there is in this wears out way before it's over. This was made by the same guy who did Phil the Alien, which was shown the previous night, which makes me glad I skipped it. Five out of Ten.
Kings of Christmas is a documentary short subject on a bunch of guys living in New York City who go way out in the decoration of their houses for Christmas. This is an amusing piece. I had to note that one of these guys is actually an electrician, which means that at least his block won't be shorted out by all this excess. Eight out of Ten.
Days Like These is a shot-on-video comedy about some poor shmuck trying to get to a date and encountering obstacles in the form of a smiley face pin, a cup of expresso and a case of the runs. It's a real goofy piece that likes to constantly flash back minutes, days, and even years backwards to illustrate how certain obstacles came to be. Cute. Eight out of Ten.
And now on to our documentary and feature.
I, Crumudgeon (Production Company Site) is a documentary about, simply, famous grumps and why they are the way they are. These many interviews are led by the director Alan Zweig, a self confessed crumudgeon himself who takes many times to talk to the camera about his past experiences.
I actually had really high hopes for this one, but it all kind of fell flat for me. I think one of the biggest mistakes of the film is that there are never any subtitles to indicate who the person is being interviewed. This may seem like a small thing, but any flow to the film is broken by the fact that we have no bearings with any of these people. I only recognized Comic book writer Harvey Pekar, former Kids in the Hall Scott Thompson, and Andy Rooney (who appears in exactly one clip compared to the multiples of all the others, and in that one only expresses bewilderment at what Zweig is trying to do here).
So what we have is a roundtable of people bitching about their lives of bitching. Zweig does try to put some form to the work on occasion, such as his repeated question to several subjects about the "Emperor Has No Clothes" story, but it's not enough. There are amusing anecdotes and stories here (most memorable is one guy describing how he could start developing a positive outlook on life if it weren't for the existence of jetskis), but it's not enough to hold it together. In it's current incarnation, the film should be at least 30 minutes shorter, and that's still providing they put in subtitles to identify people. Oh well. Six out of Ten.
The Works (Official Site) at first glance seems to be a 50/50 splice of Office Space and Brazil. The specific plot involves a guy named Victor (Joe W. Anthony) who is sick of his mind-numbing job at a bland corporation and tries to quit, but the bureaucracy refuse to let him go. Amongst his current problems is an office relocated to a public restroom and some leaky pipes. Fortunately for him, this period of his life brings him in contact with two special people: Eve (Danielle Taddei), who works on the building's plumbing, and Mr. M (Corey Allen) who is the crazy old man who owns the building.
Some films are so eccentric they seek to do it just for eccentricity's sake; filling up every frame of film with it. The Works, however, chooses its eccentricities carefully and ground the film nicely so it doesn't go flying off into weird oblivion. The creators of this film are not telling an entirely original story, here. But that's OK. You don't need to reinvent the wheel every time to make a good film. Leave that to Charles Kaufman. It is enough to just tell the story well and have a heart at its core, which this film does.
The quibbles I have are few. The sets they use are very good, but I wish the floor of the building that Eve works in looked better than a dark, empty theater stage with about a dozen vertical pipes and multi-colored lighting. Also, I'm not exactly satisfied with how they handled the Eve character and her ending. It seemed very confusing to me and was the only nagging point as the film closed.
The rest of the cast is very good. Joe W. Anthony actually looks at times like a slightly heavier version of Ron Livingston, the lead in Office Space. I have to wonder if this is intentional, because it gets to be damn eerie at times. Corey Allen is primarily a TV director these days for tons of series, but he also, long ago, had a teenage acting career that included Rebel without a Cause. His performance here is restrained and sweet, which is what is needed for the film's tone. The most recognizable face is good old Armin Shimerman, Quark himself, who has also has a number of non-Ferengi roles under his belt, including a recurring role as Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He plays Victor's boss with a nice mixture of paranoia and snideness that also strikes a nice balance. This is a good flick to catch if you possibly can. Eight out of Ten.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Friday, May 20, 2005
To kick off the festivities, there were two films screened on Thursday night: Phil the Alien and Murderball. The former is a quirky comedy and has been chosen as the official festival opener, being accompanied by a ritzy premiere reception. The later is a documentary that won the Audience award at Sundance earlier this year. Being the introverted sumbitch that I am, I just stuck with the later flick.
Murderball (Official Distributor Site) is in some ways a very familiar story of a group of handicapped people overcoming their disabilities while engaging in a popular sport. But instead of being a warm, fuzzy schoolday-afternoon-special piece, we have some lean and mean guys who engage in a variation of perhaps the least-genteel sport on the planet: Rugby.
After starting with a quiet moment with featured player Mark Zupan, and the struggles he has with such a simple task as changing a pair of pants, we're launched into a speed metal montage of Quad Rugby (nicknamed by some as Murderball) footage. During this, we're given a quick illustration on how the various levels of quadriplegic injury factor into game play as well as the game rules themselves. We're also introduced to all the players, who all seem to be fierce competitors and none, none of them what anyone would call "helpless". The beginning of the documentary makes clear that there is no pity here, only the excitement of living.
Near the end of this montage, we're introduced to Joe Soares, who the audience learned during the Q&A after the screening was really the guy who convinced the director that there was enough material in this sport for a documentary. Joe was a star player for a long time with Team
When it comes to these sorts of spinal injuries, you don't see a lot of data entry clerks who get injured. Though it's true that car accidents cause a great deal of these injuries, quite a few are also caused by playing high speed sports. In this light, the people who are injured have an even more severe adjustment to make as their former daily life is even farther removed from what they have to look forward to.
Mark Zupan was a rough and tumble football player in high school, and the particular activity of Quad Rugby gives him a feeling of freedom, athleticism and energy that would be lacking in other sports. Dearly on, we meet Keith Cavill, a young man who recently became a quadriplegic after sustaining an injury while riding his motocross bike; a passion of his since he was very young. It's heartbreaking to see him have his friends drag the bike out of the garage after the accident, and he realizes that there's extremely little chance he'll ever gain the excitement of riding again.
That makes it all the more touching when Zupan visits a group of Quads, including Keith, in order to introduce them to Quad Rugby. Keith's face lights up when he sees the chairs and the speed and the action. This isn't motocross, he realizes, but it could give him the same adrenaline he once thought was lost. Keith doesn't get as much attention as Mark or Joe, but he becomes the heart of the film.
This is a great documentary, folks, and a great way to start the festival.
Nine out of Ten
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Tom Tomorrow - Onward Christian Soldiers
Al Franken - What in God's Name is Going On?
Daily Kos - Manuel Miranda Responds
Fred Kaplan - How to enrage Iraq's Sunnis
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Beast will be played by Kelsey Grammer.
I'll let that soak in for you folks. Bye!
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
As a matter of coincidence, I am currently watching Get Carter on DVD, which was last year named #1 British film of all time by Total Film Magazine. As much as I love watching Michael Caine, I would have given up watching one kick-ass Brit this morning in lieu of this other one.
"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. And neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf."
"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice."
"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction."
"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda."
"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001."
"I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning."
"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."
"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false."
"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein."
"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his."
"If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth."
"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer."
"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it."
"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."
Let's see now...
The Newsweek retraction story is on Page 1 of the New York Times, Page 1 of the LA Times, and Page 3 of the Washington Post. That's pretty strong coverage for a story about a newsmagazine retracting a small error in a short piece from two weeks ago.
And how did these same news organs respond three weeks ago to a leaked British memo making it clear that President Bush had already committed himself to war with Iraq by the summer of 2002 and was actively "fixing" intelligence and facts to support that decision? It eventually ran on Page 3 in the LA Times, Page 18 in the Post, and nowhere at all in the New York Times aside from a buried Page 9 piece that treated it as strictly a British election issue.
That's some top notch news judgment, guys.
What is the reasonable course of action?
(A) Ignore the reporter (he'll get reprimanded by-the-by), and then find the brother in order to beat the crap out of him and then turn him over to the police.
(B) Humiliate the reporter within and inch of his life, preach about integrity and what-not, and completely ignore the brother.
Monday, May 16, 2005
So it is on this particular occasion on this particular day that I would like to post a response to a malicious lie told about myself ever since September 13, 1996:
I, for one, couldn't care less for Raymond.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2005
Thursday, May 12, 2005
We get to know this small railroad town that Ruth and Idgie live in pretty well, and can't help but be swept into the nostalgia of this simple place. The movie ends when Ninny leaves the rest home and, to her disappointment, finds that her old house has been torn down because it was deemed unsafe. The house is in that same old town, but now everyone is gone and the buildings are overgrown with weeds. It brings home the sadness that Ninny must feel of time that has passed and old friends long gone.
All this led me last Thursday to post a link to Ghost Town Gallery, a website I stumbled upon years ago but was put in mind of again after watching the movie. These images of western towns can be achingly sad and beautiful. On my family's last trip to St. Louis, we went to visit what my parents kept saying was a town my Uncle owned. By "town", they meant a cluster of four old buildings bordering a stretch of the old Burlington Northern. This was once downtown Moselle, Missouri (Google Maps is damn near scary at times), which was once upon a time near Route 66. The buildings included what was once the local post office, general store, hotel and what must have been a very handsome two story residence in its day. How he ended up owning these buildings I don't recall, but I remember being struck hard by the living history in those old structures.
(Incidentally, it's interesting to contrast these western and mid-western towns with their southern cousins, with which I'm better acquainted. Both kinds contain derelict buildings and rusting machinery, but the desert towns seem more serene and appear as if people simply up and abandoned them. Southern towns, however, feature a decay fraught with prodigious vegetation, making it appear as if the residents were driven from their homes by rampaging kudzu.)
So, a number of things have put me in mind of old, abandoned towns lately, and as a result I have been Goggling for links. That's pretty much the whole point of this post when it comes down to it: me being all gooey and nostalgic and passing the savings along to you.
Ghost Town Explorers - A site specifically geared to those who want to go exploring these sites
Ghosttownpix.com - Yes, even Canada has Ghost Towns
Ghost Towns - Seems to be the most ubiquitous Ghost Town site on the net
Western Ghost Towns - Apparently a running series of KD Radio California
Legends of America - A travel site for nostalgic and historic minded
Abandoned Railroads of the United States - Less towns, more tracks
The Digital Desert - Ghost towns & mining camps in the Mojave desert
Ghost Towns by Night Light - A photo exhibit feature by Smithsonian Journeys
Ghost Forts of the Southwest - If this doesn't put you in mind of some Westerns, nothin' will
Ghost Town Links - Full of lots of links that I didn't want to list myself
And, finally, here's two links to the story of Centralia, PA. I first read about it's history in Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods a year ago. Go and read it for yourself. This is one ghost town whose creation was anything but conventional.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
As for myself, I love me some shrimp-kabobs...
...and shrimp gumbo, pan fried shrimp, deep fried shrimp, stir-fried shrimp, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad...
Monday, May 09, 2005
Mansfield Park is the estate of Sir Thomas Bertram (Harold Pinter), who has decided to take in his wife's niece, Fanny (Hannah Taylor-Gordon) who has lived a very poor life with her parents and siblings. She grows up into a very fetching young woman (Frances O'Connor) of uncommon intelligence. Sir Thomas takes it upon himself to find her a husband, though his choice is not met with her approval as she has eyes for his son Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller), who she has come to know quite well while living there. At this revelation, he turns her back out of his home into the squalid life of her childhood, but you'd be a fool to think the story ends there.
As I said, Austen proclaimed this to be her favorite work. Although we can only guess as to why, one cannot help but be struck at how much darker this story is compared to her others. Though there are always consequences to the actions of characters in her stories, the class warfare that is engaged in is often portrayed as a parlor game writ large. Feelings may get hurt, but nothing more. Mansfield Park, on the other hand, is determined to make those consequences real for their characters.
In 1995's Sense & Sensibility, the Dashwood sisters are ejected from the estate they have lived on for so long and forced to live in a cottage. We get the point that it's a step down and the quarters can be somewhat cramped, but compared to Fanny's squalid accommodations at her parent's home, it's downright luxury (especially when the Dashwoods retain their servants). Also, in the same year's Pride & Prejudice, there are scenes where young Lydia runs away with a suitor of ill intentions and endangers the family name. The consequences for this action are huge, yet the scenes that we are shown of her and this cad are never as insidiously portrayed as they could be. In Mansfield Park, there is a scene where a young married woman sleeps with another man and is caught in the act. We are not shown anything graphic (this is still Austen, after all), but such imagery is not typical of her other adaptations. The story continues to take dark turns in this way, and we actually fear for our protagonist in a way that we do not fear for the Bennet and the Dashwood sisters.
It should also be noted that there are some modern touches to this story that have upset Austen purists. One is the inclusion of actual letters written by Austen as monologues for Fanny (spoken to the camera) as she writes to her little sister. For such a genre that seems forever encased in it's Masterpiece Theater trappings, I can imagine how such tactics as breaking the fourth wall are taken by her fans. There is also an interesting filming technique where a camera glides and swoops onto characters only for them to freeze when the camera stops and Fanny fills us in on the characters. It's done with a finesse that does not bring the story to a jarring halt, but rather serves to move the film along quite smoothly.
The cast works well with the material. Frances O'Connor is completely charming as Fanny, and she easily entices the audience to share her thoughts as she negotiates the social circles that intersect at the estate. Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller is fine enough as the just-out-of-reach Edmund, but perhaps I'm being unfair when I half expect some James Bond trivia to spill out into his speech. Perhaps most memorable are the characters of Henry and Mary Crawford, portrayed by Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz. These visitors make quite a pair as they weave their way into the Bertram family and showcase their shrewdness for upward mobility.
Despite the modern spin, this is a well told tale with a charming lead performance. Like the Shakespeare devotees who cringe at modern adaptations, Austen fans who prefer their films straight up, no chaser will remain unsatisfied with this version. But the rest of us who are enthralled with the story itself will find much to appreciate and enjoy here.
Eight out of Ten
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
The second festival, held in May of last year, had a number of interesting films being screened. I had time on that weekend to see only one and ended up passing on such films as The Saddest Music in the World, Rick and Slasher, hosted by director John Landis himself. The film I eventually chose to see was none other than Napoleon Dynamite, and thus did we here in little old Jacksonville become privy to this breakout comedy long before the rest of the nation did. And, yes, I heartily laughed my ass off, as did the rest of the audience.
And so we come to today. Two weeks from today begins the third annual festival and I plan on catching at least one film per day, if not more. Here are the films that I'm considering and the descriptions as provided by the JFF website:
Murderball (The San Marco Theater at 9:30 PM) - The notion of quadriplegic athletes may be unimaginable to some, but Murderball shows that they can be as great as any. The film chronicles these men as they overcome unimaginable obstacles to become world-class athletes.
Four-Eyed Monsters (Theatre Jacksonville at 2:00 PM) - Arin and Susan, two lonely city dwellers meet online. Tired of traditional dating conventions, the pair opt to communicate through writing notes, chatting on the net and videotaping themselves.
The Works (Theatre Jacksonville at 5:00 PM) - In a nameless, faceless corporation, Victor tries to hold onto his humanity, despite the escalating humiliations and his failed attempts at resignation.
Childstar (The Florida Theatre at 9:30 PM) - A spoiled child actor's mother leaves him in the care of their driver, resulting in a relationship that changes both of them.
Plagues And Pleasures On The Salton Sea (Theatre Jacksonville at 5:30 PM) - Once a place for vacationers that was more popular than Palm Springs this desolate vacation spot is filled with the most unusual characters, all trying to keep Salton Sea alive.
I, Crumudegon (Theatre Jacksonville at 8:00 PM) - Director Alan Zwieg (Vinyl) looks at his fellow cranky people (including Fran Liebowitz and Andy Rooney) and how they got that way.
Brothers (The San Marco Theater at 11:00 AM) - Disturbingly realistic portrayal of two brothers: the younger one, the loser, fresh out of prison for a bank robbery that turned into a horrific assault on a bank teller; the older brother, the golden child, with a fantastic wife and two adorable kids who goes to do his duty in Afghanistan. While the "good" brother is in Afghanistan, the horrors of war triggers a reversal in the brothers' roles.
The Civilization Of Maxwell Bright (The San Marco Theater at 1:30 PM) - Arrogant, misogynistic, Max Bright wants a woman who will be supportive, clean up after him, be constantly sexually available, and oh, yes, beautiful and submissive. So he buys a Chinese mail-order wife. When Mai Ling arrives, she seems to be all that he wanted, but she turns out to be so much more. What could have been the set-up for a situational comedy becomes an incredibly moving story of one man's transformation, beautifully grounded in the performances of Patrick Warburton and Marie Matiko, ably supported by Simon Callow, Austin Pendleton, Jennifer Tilly and Eric Roberts.
I plan on doing reviews of each one that I end up seeing as well as commentary on the festival itself, so stay tuned.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
As you can imagine, the residents are not happy with this. They had seen a similar onslaught after the original film and thought they had seen the worst of it pass. They're doing their best to fend off the tourists whose annoyance factor seem to outweigh any money they bring in. One particular statement I found funny was this: "The Library's policy is to stay out of it".
Now, there was no elaboration on this statement (It was a short sidebar), so I'm forced to do some conjecturing. Considering how they hype the movie with the "based on a true story" malarkey and how, I'm told, the characters in this new version do visit the local library in order to research their house and the town's history, does this mean the actual library is turning away people wanting to do research?
The librarian purist in me wants to be offended. However, as is the case with all professional people who go through their education as idealists, the reality of the working environment puts a different spin on things. There are situations and patrons that are disruptive to the point where the time being used to deal with them prevents librarians from helping others.
A quick perusal of the library's website does not reveal any comment about the film. It's quite possible that the "stay out of it" party line means that librarians will point people where possible sources are, but they'll be damned if they spend any more of their own time helping you. If you want to do research on the goofy house that thousands before you have done, then you'll have to do the legwork yourself, which is ultimately fair.
Now, if only the town could do something about those damn sharks...
Is it a perfect solution? Not at all. Earlybirds such as me will still have to sit through a lot of crap before getting around to the film, and this solution does nothing to those attending opening weekend films who know that if they get there closer to when the movie starts, they're likely to guarantee themselves bad seats. However, this eliminates the guessing game some people who plan their evening have to play in order to figure out how late they will be getting out of the theater. If they known the running time of the film and the posted start time, then the calculation is now easier.
There is no news update at the Captive Motion Picture Audience of America website, either lauding or criticizing this development. As for myself, I applaud their efforts (even though I personally will not benefit from this since there are no Loews theaters in Jacksonville). It's a step in the right direction, at least. The less time we waste watching dishwashing detergent ads on the big screen, the better.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Memo to ABC: Guys, would it have killed you to put a "Pfc" in the headline?
Rush Limbaugh? Granted, he's balanced out by Michael Moore on the list, but still.
Dr. Phil? Folks, lets try and maintain some perspective here. He may be hot sh*t now, but it's very likely that no one will know this guy's name in ten or twenty years. The same cannot be said for everybody else on the list pretty much. Is Dr. Ruth Westheimer his backup?
Laura Bush? Again, she seems to be balanced by Hillary Clinton here on the list, but what exactly has Laura done besides be as non-controversial as possible? I'm not saying she isn't a nice person. I'm sure she is, but does she need to be on the list? I guess that stand-up thingy she did over the weekend boosted her popularity more than I thought.
Pat Tilman? It's hard for me to argue against this man without some people getting all upset that such an argument would be besmirching the man's memory. I respect the sacrifice he made for this country as I do all 1,500 plus soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he is not the first nor the last celebrity to heed the call when his country needed him, and it would have perhaps been more fitting to chose someone such as Jimmy Stewart to take that slot.
And then there's the notable absence: Gerald Ford. The automobile magnate that shares his name gets a nod, but our thirty-eighth President does not. He's the only President between FDR and Dubya that didn't get a mention. Granted, I can't think of any major accomplishments of his administration (of course, I was 5 years old by the time he left office), but I have to think that if they have room for Brett Favre, they could have made room for old Jerry.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Batman Begins looked good to me, and of course the cast is stellar (no sign of Gary Oldman in the trailer, unfortunately). Having not read the comic book, I cannot profess to be a Batman expert, but it seems to me that part of why this one looks promising from a general audience standpoint is in the villains they chose. Like it or not, people still have images of the TV series in their heads whenever Batman is discussed, and the particular campy way the villains were portrayed on the series seemed to carry over to all four of the films that came out between 1989 and 1997. With this new film and new villains, the ghosts of Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and Otto Preminger have been laid to rest and been replaced by villains that most people have no pre-conceived notions of, which I argue is a very good thing.
As for Land of the Dead, I was stoked. I had seen all three original Romero films and enjoyed the recent resurgence of the genre with 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake and Shaun of the Dead. I was really, really excited about this one.
What changed? Well, I have four words for you: Zombies firing machine guns. Fast zombies I was able to accept, folks, but not this. Of course, the trailer could be misleading as trailers often are. That could be a good, living guy disguised as a zombie for the purpose of an ambush, but I'm fearing the worst. I may chalk this film down a notch on my "must see" list. Besides, the presence of Dennis Hopper simply doesn't inspire as much confidence as it used to.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Monday, May 02, 2005
And in case you're wondering, "Cowford" was once the name of Jacksonville before the city fathers decided to name us after a President that really had very little to do with the region. So there.
[Mr. Delgado] wasn't happy when, even before his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans.
"He laughed," Mr. Delgado said, "and everybody in the unit laughed with him."
The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."
He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice. "I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.' "
"Haji" is the troops' term of choice for an Iraqi. It's used the way "gook" or "Charlie" was used in Vietnam.
Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.
Furthermore, my sincerest wishes for the Today show and all the other morning programs and news channels is that I am not subjected to, for the remainder of this week, to interviews with the groom, the father of the groom, the mother of the groom, the father of the bride, the mother of the bride, the uncles and aunts of the bride, the various brothers, sisters and cousins of the bride, the bride's High School friends, the bride's High School Sweethearts, the bride's High School prom date, the bride's High School bus driver, woodshop teacher or cheerleading coach.
I also have no interest in hearing from the Georgia State police, the New Mexico State police, the North Dakota State Police (because they have nothing to do and have been watching the current coverage intently and have therefore become experts on the story), the Mayor of Duluth, Georgia, the District Attorney of Duluth, Georgia, the entire City Council of Duluth, Georgia (concerning current plans of naming a local sinkhole after the bride), and Gore Vidal, who once wrote a novel titled Duluth (but not about the one in Georgia).
I also have no interest in hearing from guest psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, therapists, physicists, astrophysicists, marriage counselors, grief counselors, camp counselors, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Joyce Brothers (There's an old reference), Dr. Frist, Dr. Pepper, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Pope Benedict XIV.
I also have no interest in hearing from the wedding planner, the wedding caterer, the wedding florist, the wedding band (renowned winner three years running of "Best Foghat cover band in North Georgia"), any and all of the twenty-eight groomsmen and bridesmaids, the minister, the usher, the limo chauffeur, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the tinker, the tailor, the soldier, the spy and, for no particular reason, Donald Trump.
Finally, I most definitely don't want to see a live via satellite interview from the Hollywood Hills with Julia Roberts, Richard Gere and Garry Marshall on the plans for filming their next new film this summer, Runaway Bride II: Georgia on my Mind.
Back to you, Katie.
(This can also be viewed at Blogcritics)
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Cantrell: My name is Cantrell
Shemp: How do you spell that?