Saturday, September 23, 2006

Everyone stop

Pretty right-on article in Slate questioning the new positioning of Zach Braff as "voice of his generation." Excerpt:
Braff is tapped in to how young people consume, if not how they think. Sure, Garden State and The Last Kiss resemble overlong iPod ads with less adventuresome music choices. But the soundtracks that Braff compiled for both films have been remarkably successful—the Garden State CD sold more than a million copies, and The Last Kiss is currently No. 38 on Amazon. It makes sense that Braff is so popular on MySpace, a site that exists so people can list what they like—friends, celebrities, music, movies. Braff is, essentially, an aggregator. His soundtracks are lists of his favorite songs. Garden State was a list of funny anecdotes and off-kilter objects rather than a cohesive story. He might not have anything original to say, but Braff does offer this insight on our generation: We are inclined to mistake stuff for substance.

I think the problem is not that Braff isn't talented-he is, but slightly moreso as an actor than a director, and much moreso as both those things than as a writer. But he's been given huzzahs quite out of proportion to his accomplishments--Garden State was good, but it wasn't that good.

It was a promising first film that made me curious to see what the man behind it would do next, and whether he would smooth out some of the rough edges I saw. I guess we won't know until we see another film that he directs and writes whether he belives his own bullshit.

Hat tip to Feministe.

Have I asked you to buy me things from my Wish List this month?

If you look over to the right there and click the View my complete profile link you'll find, among other things, a link to it (updated just last night) If you're amazed at the quality of posts on this site (I know I am), please consider making a small donation to the Buy Ben CDs And Books Fund.

I thank you.

I don't mind telling you, I am a little bit surprised

Joe Normal
39 % Nerd, 43% Geek, 43% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored less than half in all three, earning you the title of: Joe Normal.

This is not to say that you don't have some Nerd, Geek or Dork inside of you--we all do, and you can see the percentages you have right above. This is just to say that none of those qualities stand out so much as to define you. Sure, you enjoy an episode of Star Trek now and again, and yeah, you kinda enjoyed a few classes back in the day. And, once in a while, you stumble while walking down the street even though there was nothing there to cause you to trip. But, for the most part, you look and act fairly typically, and aren't much of an outcast.

I'd say there's a fair chance someone asked you to take this test. In any event, fairly normal.


My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on nerdiness

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on geekosity

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on dork points
Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Friday, September 22, 2006

Teacher, teacher, can you teach me?

Caught the 1984 film "Teachers" On Demand recently. I'd seen it in the theater 22 years ago, and maybe once on video since. If ever there was a film to show the truth of "The good is the enemy of the great," this is the one. There is much that is good in it, but what's bad rings so hideously untrue that it drowns out the rest of it.

One thing that's good is its sense of time and place. I didn't go to an overcrowded high school in Ohio during the mid-'80s, yet that sense is so good that every time I have watched this movie, I feel as though I did.

Great soundtrack, too-all terse bass lines, hard-rock guitars, concise beats and melodic vocals. Bands like 38 Special you might not expect to be my cup of tea (though I contain multitudes), but a lot of material on the album, -which I still have, is the exception that tests the rule.

The biggest problem is the script; it can't decide what tone it wants to have, and neither can one or two of the actors. The script mixes black comedy-a teacher dies sitting up at his desk and no one notices for a few periods-with moments we're supposed to take seriously and be moved by. That's hard to do, though not impossible when a director is in firm control of good material. This movie can't seem to decide where its head's at.

Then there's JoBeth Williams, who should have gotten some sort of award for most valiant performance by an actress. Struggling with one of the worst-written parts for a woman of all time, Williams works like hell to make it entertaining, but there's only so much you can do.

By the time the script requires her to try to make it belivable that a young, professional attorney would strip naked and run down the halls of a school (with class in session, yet) to make a point...

...well, I'm assuming she spent a lot of time between takes thinking nostalgically of the script for "The Big Chill" and sipping Vodka.

Side note: While searching for the above image, I discovered that a few years ago when trying to advertise "Boston Public"...

Those who forget history...

All right, Tucci. You. Me. Outside. Now.

Stanley Tucci makes a lot of bad movies. I'll admit he was fine as Stanley Kubrick in the Peter Sellers bio-pic I mentioned here not long ago, but when I think of him what I think of is how miscast he was as Puck in the 1999 Midsummer Night's Dream (a film I otherwise liked, actually).

But now he's gone too far. Now he's getting too inappropriately "chummy"-and I mean that in a dislikable way-with the love of my life.

Actor Stanley Tucci couldn't keep his hands off co-star Anne Hathaway on the set of new fashion comedy The Devil Wears Prada--because he was fascinated with her breasts.
The actress reveals she had to eventually rebuke her co-star when he kept elbowing her in the chest, because she felt it was inappropriate, and it hurt.

She explains, "There was this one day where he kept elbowing me in the breast. He wasn't doing it to be like a dirty old man, but if we were doing a scene or I was just crossing to get to my mark (on the set) he would just smack me in my boob and elbow me.

"If you're a girl you know that hurts. So, after about the fourth time, I finally turned to him and said, 'Stanley can you please stay away from my t**s?'

"Stanley got really flustered and he said, 'What do you expect, you're flinging those melons around like it's harvest season!'"

Via Saving Face.

No one talks to my future bride like that...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Green Awning II: The Awning Goes West

So I saw Adaptation. The trusty RT consensus says it's

Dizzyingly original...loopy, multi-layered...both funny and thought-provoking
I'm sorry, I'm just not feeling it. I will say this, though. I've just been reading The Sundance Kids: How The Mavericks Took Back Hollywood, by James Mottram. His thesis is that the success of filmmakers like Spike Jonze (who directed Adaptation) has made them, in so many words, a new kind of establishment, or "power players" in Hollywood.

To a lesser extent this is also true of screenwriters like Charlie "bees knees" Kaufman, who wrote it, and is now considered worthy of being mentioned in the same breath with Raymond Chandler, with paychecks (and powers) given in the past only to screenwriters like Shane Black and Joe Eszterhas.

That these powers are a double-edged sword could not be better demonstrated than by the fact that Adaptation ever got made and released to theaters.

There's a story Mel Brooks used to tell to explain the notion of power in Hollywood. He called it "the green awning theory." Picture a young director who has just had a smash hit. I think Brooks used as his example Mike Nichols after The Graduate.

Nichols (or whoever) goes to a studio and he says

"For my next movie, I want to make The Green Awning."
"What's it about?"
"It's just a picture of a green awning. For an hour and 55 minutes."
"Will there be any rap music playing over this picture of a green awn-"
"No! No music. Just the picture."
"Will there be naked girls under-"
"Nothing underneath the awning."
"Will anyone learn a very impor-"
"Can we put any of the hot kids from the CW shows in-"
"They could arrive at a new maturi-"
"Listen to me very carefully. It's a green awning."
"For an hour and 55 minutes."
"That's right."
"Tell me more..."

The obvious strength of this theory in action is that it gives filmmakers an opportunity to take chances and be bold. The obvious weakness is that sometimes it leads to an hour and 55 minutes of a green awning.

By the way, "Dizzyingly original...loopy, multi-layered...both funny and thought-provoking" are all words reviewers use when they don't want to say utterly fails to tell a story.

Okay, the "Bush's rebound" thing

Eric Boehlert, author of Lapdogs, makes a couple of points in this column for Media Matters.

First of all, in the rush to publicize Bush's "rebound" in the polls to the mid-to-low '40s, a poll that keeps him in the 30s is being ignored. Second, in any other White House since Kennedy's, a rating in the low-to-mid 40's would not be seen as something to smile about.

Here's a few excerpts, but read the whole thing.
The Journal has hardly been alone in straining to push a Bush-is-back angle. On Monday, The Boston Globe published the GOP-friendly article, "9/11 anniversary events boost White House," which cited two polls published last week that put Bush's job approval rating at 42 percent. Later in the piece, the Globe quoted pollster Andrew Kohut, president of Pew Research Center, yet the Globe noticeably omitted any reference to a new Pew poll that put Bush's rating at a dismal -- and unchanged -- 37 percent. The Globe, eager to write up Bush's' rebound, simply ignored any evidence to the contrary. (On Monday, ABC's The Note, a driving force in propping up the recent Bush-is-back press narrative, actually singled out the Globe journalist who wrote the misleading article as being "brilliant" and "ahead of the curve." That's how the press game works inside the Beltway; write something misleading that boosts Bush, and you're singled out for praise by your peers.)

Even if all the hopeful, GOP-fed chatter about a bounce were to hold true, it would mean the president would likely end the year right where he started it; around 42 percent. There's not a single White House aid or Republican campaign consultant who in January would have been happy with the president treading water for the entire year. But that's exactly what he's done and the press, unburdened by any historical context, now treats that like an emerging success story.

Just look at the all the press attention paid to Tuesday's Gallup poll showing Bush climbing up to a 44-percent approval rating. In any other recent administration, that kind of rating would be cause for embarrassment. But the media rules are different for Bush. Also note that last week's Pew poll showing Bush stuck at 37 percent received very little coverage. That's because for the Beltway press corps, evidence that Bush-is-back means big news, while evidence that Bush-is-still-down does not.

Too many people have too much invested in promoting the idea that Bush is anything other than what he is: A complete incompetent. And that's why the GOP isn't going to lose the midterms in a couple months.

Things I've found in books

One of the things that somewhere between amuses and annoys me is when you get a book from the library and find that some thoughtful person has written little notes in it. A commentary, their own reaction to some of the wordage contained within.

So yesterday I'm reading Professors, Politics And Pop by Jon Wiener, a collection of essays by the author of Come Together: John Lennon In His Time. Among them, a review of a then-new book by Jonathan Cott about Bob Dylan.

Wiener writes:
In addition to his other absurdities, Cott repeats the moth-eaten cliche that Dylan is "America's greatest poet," which Ellen Willis dispensed with in 1969. "Poetry requires economy, coherence and discrimination," she wrote. Dylan turns out five images where one will do, his phrases are often tangled, his metaphors are silly and he tries to make everything rhyme. He's a great songwriter but a terrible poet.

Now, my own feelings about Dylan are probably well-known to most of you (if not, they involve me not giving a ratfucking piss). But someone who had this book before me was, apparently, a Dylan fan who was simply not having that and so strove to express themselves and correct the record.

They have underlined the last sentence-"He's a great songwriter but a terrible poet"-and added the words
what ever

That's the economy, coherence and discrimination that I choose to see as typical of the Dylan fan's refined taste and ear for poetry.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stupid Canadian hosers

The CBC, which channel I get on my cable system by virtue of living right up close to Canada, showed The Life & Death of Peter Sellers tonight. I enjoyed that film when it first aired on HBO a couple of years ago (when I wrote about it on my old blog).

So I dipped in and out of it tonight, pausing here and there to enjoy a favorite scene or two. And I happened to be flipping past as they were approaching the ending, when the credits began to run.

They squished them to the bottom in favor of an ad for a documentary about some hockey game. Now, this practice is certainly not unknown in this country. But usually, the worst you can say about it is that it denies the many people who work on a film or television program but aren't "above the line" the only recognition they'll likely ever get.

But in Sellers it eliminates the under-the-credits scene which informs the entire film.

Stupid hockey-loving Canadian hosers.

A few short words about tonight's episode of "Bones"

I am now officially sick of the "match wits with a serial killer to save a life" plot.

For those of you playing at home...

Four representatives of three different "Star Trek" series have now appeared on "Boston Legal." William Shatner, Jeri Ryan, Rene Auberjonois, and on last night's season premiere, Armin Shimerman of "Deep Space Nine" (and a recurring role on "Buffy") as a judge.

BTW, looking him up on IMDB, I learned he played, apparently, a role in the play-within-the-show of one of "West Wing's" fan favorite episodes, "Posse Comitatus." I say apparently because I've seen that episode, like all WW, many times and have never seen him.

But it's not at all unlike Sorkin & Schlamme to fill the "bench" on their series with actors who are capable of playing fuller parts; it's one of the reasons their shows are so rich.

(Fair warning: With a new Sorkin series on the air, my references to him may become more frequent if not messianic. I'll be back to normal by the time Tina Fey's series gets cancelled.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I've said it before and I'll say it again

I love Texas women. Here's one (Molly Ivins) remembering another (Ann Richards):
At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there meetin' and greetin' at a furious pace. A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our butts against a table at the back wall of the bar. Perched like birds in a row were Bob Bullock, then state comptroller, moi, Charles Miles, the head of Bullock's personnel department, and Ms. Ann Richards. Bullock, 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no good sumbitch in the entire state. Some old racist judge from East Texas came up to him, "Bob, my boy, how are you?"

Bullock said, "Judge, I'd like you to meet my friends: This is Molly Ivins with the Texas Observer."

The judge peered up at me and said, "How yew, little lady?"

Bullock, "And this is Charles Miles, the head of my personnel department." Miles, who is black, stuck out his hand, and the judge got an expression on his face as though he had just stepped into a fresh cowpie. He reached out and touched Charlie's palm with one finger, while turning eagerly to the pretty, blonde, blue-eyed Ann Richards. "And who is this lovely lady?"

Ann beamed and replied, "I am Mrs. Miles."

It's worth reading Molly's whole eulogy for Richards, at WorkingForChange.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

You know I was anticipating this with all the hope of a young boy at Christmas. And I was trying to be prepared for some "post Christmas letdown." Would it take me a while to train my brain to recognize Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford as characters other than Chandler Bing and Josh Lyman?

Took me less than an episode. These guys are good.

First reaction: I'm home again, Kathleen. It's as if I've been watching television in foreign countries for three years and I finally found a station where the people speak my language. Aaron Sorkin is on television again!

And you can tell-his recognizable themes, favorite names, and character types are already being set up. Funny, smart people working together in a high-pressure situation? Check. One of them is named Danny? Check. (Every Sorkin series has featured a regular or recurring character named Danny). Some of these are people who are extraordinarily competent in many situations but still struggle with addiction? Check. One of them is a woman in a position of great power and responsibilty who wears that well but is something of a klutz in her everyday life? And check.

Now I just have to get used to waiting a week between episodes and sitting through commercials, instead of just being able to pull out my West Wing DVDs any time I want.

Aaron Sorkin is on television again!

Lesbians in the House

House is one of those shows that give me really mixed feelings in its treatment of lesbian relationships. On the one hand, I've recently come to really like the show in general. It took me a while, as I've mentioned, to get past the incongruity (to me) of Hugh "Mr. Music" Laurie playing scruffysexycool. But I think the characterization, performances and writing are excellent.

Besides Laurie, I really like Lisa Edelstein and I'm glad to see her as a regular on a hit. She has just about the most important credit I can see in an actor, she had a recurring role on not one but two Aaron Sorkin/Tommy Schlamme series; that means she can pretty much do anything as far as I'm concerned.

A couple of days ago I completed a two-week process of watching the first two seasons on DVD. In one episode from each season, the medical "case of the week" involved a lesbian couple. The actresses who played them for the most part played it very "straight"-you should pardon the expression-and belivable.

And I like the fact that everyone in the show, all the other characters, took the relationships seriously and accepted them for what they are-good or bad, these women were in a relationship.

In the first season the lesbian couple featured were one of two sets of new parents whose babies had both come down with some unknown ailment. In diagnosing the children, House had to give one medication to one child and a different one to the other, and see if one got better. One did. One didn't. Guess which one.

Again, it was played very simply and movingly, and with great respect for the reality of the terrible loss these women had suffered. But you have to ask-I did anyway-would it have hurt the story if the gay couple had been the ones who got to take their baby home at the end of the day?

I don't think it would've.

I actually liked the second season episode featuring a lesbian couple-at first. A woman offers to donate a part of her liver to save her girlfriends life, unknowing (the doctors think) that her partner is planning to break up with her.

It presented an interesting moral dilemma-which has precedence, your sense of preservation or your sensitivity to another's feelings? But in a deeply cynical twist, we learn that she has known all along. The reason she chose to give up her liver is because she knows her girlfriend will never leave her now, out of guilt.

This resolution changed the picture of a lesbian couple from one prey to the same frailties and screwups as most of us into one in which one partner is trapped, the other manipulative to an arguably evil degree.

Once again we have a show in which lesbian always equals doomed to unhappiness. The writers do give some of the characters happy endings and a chance at new life. It's just that the two times they've dealt with lesbian characters so far, they've chosen not to do that.

On the other hand, I'll forgive almost anything for lines like this:

House: Tonight-L Word marathon.
Wilson: You watch The L Word?
House: On mute.

Only way to watch it, as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Random Flickr-Blogging: IMG_1272

In retrospect, Jimmy would admit that he could probably have come up with a better place to put his time-lapse photography camera than the women's room at a carnival just outside Chicago.

Original source.

You may think you see a family memory that will be looked back upon and cherished in years to come. I see a child experiencing something she'll one day be describing to a psychiatrist.

Original source.

"That's right...just raise the cage a few more inches...that's it...come on...uh-oh, that guy looks suspicious...uh...I mean...the wonderful thing about tiggers, is tiggers are wonderful things, our tops are made out of...there we go, keep raising the cage, sucker..."

Original source.

Slumped in his chair, George could deny it no longer: The punk look was dead.

Original source.

"I don't want to work, I just want to...wait a minute...that is my work! Damnit!"

Original source.

"Tune in again next week for another exciting adventure of Jane Bond, SuperSpy In Training!. Next week, Jane learns the hazards of utilizing too much massage oil before a gunfight in 'There's Many A Slip Twixt Cup And Hit!"

Original source.