Saturday, June 30, 2007

This better not give anybody any ideas.

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The chef calls the Ratatouille Basil because he puts quite a lot of basil in it

Pixar will have to swim upstream-tee hee-to do better than Finding Nemo; Brad Bird will have to put in a lot of hours to make anything closer to perfection than his Iron Giant. But Ratatouille is a great film, showing the Pixar team back on track after the unmemorable Cars, and Bird has surpassed, IMO, The Incredibles.

The filmmakers keep the movements fast but always clear. Sequences like the one where our star rodent is separated from his family and washed away down into the sewers of Paris will dumbfound appreciators of animation.

It can fairly be said that few of the rat characters are really exceptional apart from that star.

But the humans make up for it.

The plot creaks a bit in places, with some scenes feeling obligatory. You can almost hear the filmmakers saying "Ok, let's get this over we can go back to the fun!"

And fun it is. How fun?

Imagine watching a young Jerry Lewis or Steve Martin at or near the height of their powers as physical comedians, in a film directed by Blake Edwards at his peak as a director.

That fun.

There's also something of what I think they call meta when one animated character says to another "You're an illustration! Why am I talking to you?"

PS: Be sure to stay through at least the first part of the end credits-the most beautiful I have ever seen and worthy of an Academy Award in their own right if there were such a category (is there?).

PPS: And after you've seen it (but only after you've seen it) come back and follow this link to Brad Bird talking about the role of the critic in the film.

Friday, June 29, 2007

5 Questions from the Samurai Frog

The latest meme that all the cool kids are doing has an interview theme. At Electronic Cerebrectomy, SF took his turn center stage on the mike, then threw the floor open to candidates.

I wanted to see what kind of questions I would get ("What others reproach you for, cultivate; it is yourself." - Jean Cocteau) so I volunteered.

Here's what I got.

1. You take a lot of quizzes on line. What have you
learned about yourself that was surprising or
something you hadn’t considered?

Assuming, in the spirit of the interview and the quizzes that we take them seriously...I was surprised to learn that the Peanuts character I "am" was Rerun. As I said at the time, I always saw myself more as Charlie Brown, Snoopy or Linus.

Being called a post-punk indy kid came as a surprise, too. I'm a totally tubular '80s child, damnit.

This one didn't surprise me personally, but Johnny Bacardi took the sex role inventory test recently and turns out, he's even girlier than me.

I already talked about my surprise at the R rating...Some just amuse me. Most recently, my alleged soul match with Frida Kahlo and Eva "Evita" Peron did, not least because I know Madonna wanted badly to to play Kahlo, too (but they decided they's rather go with an actress).

And the fact that two separate quizzes have now said I'm Catwoman. I guess someone really wants to see me in that suit. On the extra arm, three out of four online quizzes said I would be Zaphod Beeblebrox, which seems like a consensus.

This wasn't a quiz, but a handful of the celebrity lookalikes certainly took me by surprise (Andre Braugher?).

But I suppose I was most surprised to learn that, if the quizzes are correct, "my type of girl" is a girl-next-door type with the face of a young Britney Spears and the body of Angelina Jolie. I do like Jolie's shape, or rather I did a year ago when I took that quiz (which I never posted here, so don't look for it).

That was before she started getting so much thinner lately...

But I can't say that, without the scientific accuracy that is online quizzes, I would have named her body as my number-one example of perfection.

Of course, as we all know, the real PWFMA is Maura Tierney.

Oh, and Jimmy Stewart caught me off-guard. As did Tom Waits.

Finally, I must thank you, SF, for sending me looking for some of those quizzes. I had completely forgotten about being told I was Tyra Banks.

You'd think that would stay with you.

2. I don’t get out of the house, yet I crave human
contact, so I get online. What drove you to start
blogging in the first place?

Well, the boring (though true) answer is that I was offered a place to blog by the Ink 19 site, where I used to be an editor and reviewer ( I do still review occasionally). What keeps me blogging, though, is the chance:

The chance to record my depressing attempts to bring my characters to a wide audience.

To write about people and things that are important to me, and share them when I can.

To indulge myself with occasional political thought (though that's been a lot more rare lately).

To make people laugh (not that I can hear them).

And, of course, to mock Tennessee.

3. You have an appreciation for beautiful women.
(this part of the question made me want to make like Pat Stevens on the SNL of 20 years ago: Thank you!)
What’s the sexiest part of a woman’s body?

Not to make myself out to be sensitive new age guy or anything but the truth is, it depends on the woman.

Some women are sexiest with their face and eyes, especially if they radiate an amused intelligence that makes it seem like they know how to receive, give, and enjoy pleasure.

Christa Miller-before all the Botox-would be an example of this kind of sexy.

Like most men I'm a fan of big breasts, but I don't think I fetishise them to the extent that some do.

I hate silicone and all other makes of fake boobs which only call attention to how fake they are. I think my being repelled by augmented breasts was shaped by a girl I used to know who did in fact become a minor porn star.

She had absolutely perfect breasts (IMO) that she chose to turn into something...frightening.

I hate most kinds of remodeling and refurbishing of that sort, actually. Look at what people like Demi Moore and Lindsay Lohan do to themselves, and compare their results to someone like Uma Thurman.

I hate, in a way, to talk as though I can separate out what parts of a woman's body interest and excite me. Because the truth is also that it's the whole package, including the way she talks, what she says, whether or not she feels comfortable with her body. Whether she herself is thrilled to be giving you a thrill.

And there'll always be something to watching a good-looking woman walk away.

(for some reason, it also seems to help if they had a spy or two in their past...)

4. What cartoon character do you most identify with?

It changes, of course.

Duckman (still overdue on DVD!) would be one.

Sylvester the Cat would be another sometimes, but only in the cartoons where Porky leaves him alone to be terrorized.

Kuzco in The Emperors' New Groove is arrogant and cynical, a smart ass, single-minded and selfish. So it's no wonder I don't identify with him at all. Or Dan Backslide.

I also identify sometimes with Dr. Zoidberg on Futurama, which probably doesn't say much for my self-esteem. Oh, and Lisa Simpson. Her grace kills me.

5. Given the choice, how would you spend eternity? to answer this? Should I be grand and say I'd spend it at a neverending dance, to the masterful tunes of Kern, Berlin, Hammerstein, Gershwin, Porter, Coleman and Rogers?

Because the truth is I would enjoy that, especially with classy dames like the above to dance with.

Or should I be common (but humble) and admit it would involve Ginger Lynn...

...Kristine DeBell and a desert island with a freshwater stream and lots of fruit but absolutely no hope of rescue?

Here's looking at the rules, sweetheart:

Do YOU want to be interviewed?

Interview rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview
someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

"...revulsion towards food and, in one case, a phobia of bridges"

I'm Charles the Mad. Sclooop.
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

Some choice quotes from the bio provided by Rum and Monkey, with commentary by moi:

At a royal masquerade, you and your courtiers dressed as wild men, ending in tragedy when four of them accidentally caught fire and burned to death. You were saved by the timely intervention of the Duchess of Berry's underskirts.

I've been waiting years to see that sentence said about me.

In 1405 you stopped bathing, shaving or changing your clothes. This went on until several men were hired to blacken their faces, hide, jump out and shout "boo!", upon which you resumed basic hygiene. Despite this, your wife continued sleeping with you until 1407, when she hired a young beauty, Odette de Champdivers, to take her place.

That was thoughtful of her...

Nerd alert!

Patton Oswalt and Brad Bird, star voice of and filmmaker behind Ratatouille, respectively, are interviewed on NPR. Bird also made The Incredibles and (even better and much closer to my heart) Iron Giant.

the sheer thoughtlessness of apparently putting politics ahead of artistic realization

"That's exactly the way it happened to me," says Keitha.

Headline via Feministing, a blog that this week tarnished their usual brightness for me by including a link to an article about "Knocked Up." Without warning that said article contains utter spoilers for the ending of the film "Waitress," which I kinda had been looking foward to seeing.

Maybe the writer spoiled "Knocked Up" too, I don't know because I'd already stopped reading at that point, annoyed at the sheer thoughtlessness of apparently putting politics ahead of artistic realization.

I commented on this at Feministing, someone else seconded it, but neither the writer of the original article (who showed up to comment) or Jessica, who posted the link, has seen fit to apologize.

Nice. I'm sure they don't take it all that seriously and truth be told, I know it's not all that serious in the wider view of things. But still: Nice. I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

Science insusceptible...Logic so inflexible

Hey...women left wing extremists...if you learned to use the power you have to put men into a trance to do your bidding, we'd have this whole thing wrapped up in five minutes.

Left-leaning men and lesbians: Do what the boobs tell you to do...

(image courtesy of the Monkey Muck)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bye, Guys And Dolls

My thoughts on the final Studio 60:

  • I'll admit I cried a bit (a very, very little bit) in the final moments, but I'll deny that if you ask me in a day or two. I'll even deny I wrote that.

  • I still remain pissed that "30 Rock" was saved not because anyone wants to watch it any more than they did "Studio 60," (they don't) but because of network politics and finance.

  • I shook my head, knowingly but with affection, at Sorkin's latest attempt to cast his mirror character, played by Matthew Perry, as a hero. Sorkin, Sorkin Sorkin... :)

  • But oh man, that last line. What a thud. What a clunking, clunking thud.

Media Life Mag has a good handle on the "Studio 60" signoff. I can't argue with most of it, though I do query this assertion:

Aaron Sorkin, the man behind “West Wing,” turned off many viewers by taking on political issues like religion and freedom of speech that were “Wing’s” mainstay.

I don't think it was his taking on those issues that turned viewers off, it was that he didn't do it as well as he is capable of. He didn't write well enough to get over the humps fate had in mind for this one.

No Salt On Her Tail

Samuel L. Jackson does so many movies, it's no wonder most of 'em are rotten. But occasionally, when he has a good director and script, he reminds us why he gets a chance to make so many in the first place. Black Snake Moan is one such movie.

The performances by Jackson and his acting partner Christina Ricci are far and away the best part of the film, their scenes together are easy to imagine as a stage play. In that sense it reminded me of Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel's work in Holy Smoke, a film it resembles in one or two other surface ways as well.

This is a much better movie than that was, but sadly not perfect.

If you've heard anything about it at all, you've probably heard that Ricci spends much of the time with her body on display in cutoff t-shirt and white underpants or less. This is true, and yes, she's hot and sexy, if distressingly gaunt at times (this may have been a character choice, to be fair). But that doesn't (and shouldn't) overwhelm what a good performance it is.

Ricci comes across here a lot like Susan Sarandon does in films from the first few years of her career, all naked (in both senses of the word) sensuality and big eyes. But she's better than Sarandon was at the same age when it comes to convincing us that this person, in this situation, would act exactly the way she does. Everything she says seems to come from deep inside her (of course, she already has much more experience than Sarandon had at her age).

Even Justin Timberlake, it must honestly be said, shows a modest talent in his role. But he is also the least helped by director Craig Brewer's screenplay. Everything about his character seem imposed on the script, rather than living in it as Jackson and Ricci do.

He's a plot device, pure and simple, and Brewer doesn't seem to have cared about him as anything else. At least, he didn't put the work in of making us care. And he clearly expects us to in the end. More on that in a moment.

This might seem like I'm wandering a bit, but trust me, I'm going somewhere. The movie Escape To Witch Mountain has a lot of memories for me, not least because the first half hour or so of it was filmed at the Peninsula School, where I attended theater and music classes as a teen.

So it was a (literally, for me) jaw-dropping surprise to see that the actress playing Christina Ricci's mother in this film is former teen actress Kim Richards of the Witch Mountain movies and Hello, Larry. It's an an entirely belivable performance, too.

Brewer deserves credit for helping his actors get those performances, and the movie does look good, even beautiful once or twice. Remarkable considering it was filmed on location in that state.

(One character in the movie is a white trash, woman-beating, acquaintance-raping, quarter-dick racist. I can't remember his name, but I like to think of him as "The Spirit Of Tennessee.")

But back to the script...I had an easier time accepting the film's first, bizarre premise than the sentimental phlegm it coughs up at the end.

An old, formerly great bluesman (the wall-to-wall music adds greatly to the film's impact) attempts to "cure" a young nymphomaniac by keeping her a prisoner in chains? I'll buy that for four bucks.

I'm not just being glib. At least he's trying to help her even in his own fucked-up way. Something which, the movie takes great pains to show us, no one among her friends or family is doing or has done.

As I say, any time Jackson and Ricci are alone onscreen together, the film works. But when the movie tries, at the end, to make us care as much or more about the least-interesting character (Timberlake's) as we do about the two of them, it left me wishing the film had ended 25 minutes before it does.

A bit of ambiguity would have gone down a lot better than the slick, quasi-sugary way in which this film attempts to tie up loose ends.

But then, any movie in which "escaping" to Knoxville is the plan of any major characters is not the kind of thing I can wholeheartedly support.

Lower the curtain down on Memphis...

that sound you hear is my head hitting ever harder against the desk.

At Property of a Lady, Deborah has an entry about going to see the musical Wicked, which I haven't seen but would like to-the couple of songs I've seen from it on the Tony Awards and the Jay Leno show were awesome. She writes:
The word “feminism” is never spoken. Indeed, neither is the word “women” except perhaps in passing. No one talks about women or sisterhood or empowerment. Not one bit.

But Wicked passes the Bechdel Movie Test (aka the Mo Movie Measure). The show is about two women (Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West) and their relationship to each other. Secondarily, there are other relationships, including the Witch’s with her sister and her father, and both women’s relationships with male and female teachers and a romantic handsome prince. But primarily, it’s about the women.

Not to make a point, not to Say Something About Women, but because these are two complex and fascinating characters that carry the show, as complex and fascinating characters can do.

Bam! (ow) Bam! (ow) Bam! (ow) BAM! (OW)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Miss Potter is the kind of movie that criticising would be like shooting Peter Rabbit himself in the head. At times it may seem the filmmakers are following the recipe for biopics too closely. But they do it with such a sweet and light touch only someone much more cynical than I-there are such people-could complain.

A conceit of the film is that Beatrix Potter, played (and very well indeed) by Renée Zellweger, talks to her creations, who are realized in extremely well-done animation that seems to come right off the pages of the books we all remember.

A young actress named Lucy Boynton plays Potter at 10 in flashback scenes, and is equally as captivating as Miss Zellweger.

This movie could almost be a musical-in fact, for one scene, it is. Miss Potter and her romantic interest/publisher Norman Warne, played by Ewan McGregor-also terrific-are alone in her room for the first time.

She shows him a music box her father gave her when she was six, and is surprised when he knows the words to the tune, which she does not. So he sings them to her, and they dance (remember, this is Edwardian England)

Charming is the word.

PS: Just so you shouldn't think I've been completely taken over by the side of me that's girly, here's a couple images of Renee Zellweger that have nothing to do with this film.

Some afternoons the universe just gives you gifts.

Or, "Roses (a true story)."

Today, driving to the supermarket, listening to Yaz, I looked out of my open driver's side window and there was a woman walking alone down the sidewalk.

This all took place in a matter of seconds, but I'd put her somewhere between her late teens and early-to-mid 20s. She was wearing a black, sleeveless top and on her head, a do-rag, also black. Her skin was white, I think that what I could see of her hair was brown. As was her skirt, darker than her hair, wrap around and lightweight-looking.

In each of her hands she held rose petals, letting them fall onto the path as she walked.

My first thought was that she was scattering them, as you might at a wedding.

Part of me wanted to pull over, slow down, and say, "That's beautiful, what you're doing," but it was a long one-way street and it would have meant going around the block and I didn't want to look foolish.

But anyway, I did say aloud, "Thanks for that one, God."

A few minutes later I thought they might also have symbolized blood dripping from her wrists.

Photos follow for an obvious reason.

Never mind the White House, here's...

The heck with Cheney, Iran, Schwarzenegger, Cruise, Scientology and Nazis, let's watch a classic cartoon. The title characters of this one from 1942 are "The Dover Boys" but we real cartoon lovers know the best character is the "baddie:"

Dan Backslide (coward, bully, cad and thief)!

This might be my favorite Merrie Melodie that doesn't features any of the classic WB characters (no surprise, it was directed by Chuck Jones).

Magnificent vocal performance by Mel Blanc as Backslide, too ("Dear rich Dora Standpipe...HOW I LOVE HER-father's money.")

Where flowers fade

Lightning Seeds:

I'm pushed and pulled and shunted,
Man-handled and manhunted,
By those faceless names,
You've got nine lives,
I've got eight,
I just can't wait,
To lock the door,
And throw the keys away.

I'll call as soon as it's all over,
Let's wait until the world is sober.

The World is wide,
Manhattan chase,
Misguided missles spin in space,
Feel like a sundial out in the shade,
Where flowers fade.

I feel like the poor relation,
Passing through an empty station,
On this empty track.

I'm half poverty,
Half oysters,
No morals,
Tarnished laurels,
Going nowhere fast.

You don't get smoke without a fire,
Next time I'll vote for Billy Liar.

I hate liars, I hate cheats,
Waving flags, and saving nations,
Good bye love, Goodbye Peace,
I hate war,
It ruins converstations.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There's nothing to say, but: The great Carole Lombard

More posted without comment

Just because I like them.

Emma Watson.

Unidentified art nude model.

photographer: Andrew Anderson-Bell

Found via Cape Cod Photo Workshops

Two easy shots, no waiting

Her friends called her "subtle."

I only post this image because, well, I saw Neve Campbell's nude scenes in When Will I Be Loved (crap movie, BTW) and...this is a superb bra. This has been a public service announcement.

What this song needs is a hook

Blame PJ for this one...she quoted the song in a comment, and it reminded me that I hadn't heard it in what seems like nine or ten years. Here's Cornershop with "Brimful of Asha" (the Fatboy Slim remix).

Taking on Thompson.

Ok. As you might imagine, my feelings on Fred Thompson don't run much deeper than this: He's a former senator from the black-hearted, amateur, spooky-ass, idiotic, anti-sex, vituperative state of Tennessee. Such a man cannot possibly be healthy for this country.

But as it turns out, there are actually other reasons to oppose his apparent (though as yet undeclared) candidacy, although frankly, the above should be enough for any of you. And it's not because he used to be an actor, either-he was the bomb in Hunt For Red October and Die Hard 2.

Although that other career does make me suspicious of him as an opportunist. But I'll get to that later. Speaking of the Die Hard movies, here's the deal. Thompson's whole schtick-seen in his recent appearance on the Tonight Show-is to cast himself as a kind of John McClane of politics.

In the "Best Action Movies" issue of Entertainment Weekly which came out recently, Bruce Willis is quoted as saying of his character,

"...if he had the choice of someone else stepping up and doing what he had to do, he would let them do it. But since no one else shows up, he has to do it himself."

Keep that in mind. By the way, just as a side note, pro-Willis forces, paid or otherwise, are obviously pumping up the IMDb ratings for Live Free Or Die Hard. Check out the "filmography by rating" at Willis' page there.

Live Free is rated fourth. This means that, according to IMDb readers, this movie, which is not even out yet, is better than The Sixth Sense, the first Die Hard, 12 Monkeys, Moonlighting, Unbreakable and Nobody's Fool.


And now back to Thompson. Remember what Willis said in the quote above? Here's what Thompson said to Leno:

The actor and former Tennessee senator appeared on the "Tonight Show," telling Jay Leno he's never "craved" the job but he wants "to do some things that only a president can do." And he made a point to mention the Web site for his political committee. He also griped about campaigns he says are "entirely too long."

Thompson is best known for playing a prosecutor on NBC's "Law and Order." He quipped that after eight years in the Senate, he "longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."

The reluctant hero! Only problem is, it's hard-or it should be-to cast yourself as anti-Government when...well according to an item on Yahoo! News:

Fred Thompson, a likely Republican presidential candidate, on Tuesday defended his work as a Washington lobbyist, telling The Associated Press that lobbying is an important part of life because "government's got their hands in everything." hates the political process; he thinks it's dishonest. He sees lobbying as a necessary evil but if he had the choice he'd like to see the Government take more of a "hands-off" approach. Being a good republican and all.

Does that sound like an accurate reflection of what he'd like us to believe? I mean, saying he may believe that but he doesn't mind getting rich from it would be cyncial. As cynical as he is. Read on.

The actor and former U.S. senator from Tennessee added, "Nobody yet has pointed out any of my clients that didn't deserve representation."

Well, fair enough! The man believes in representative government. Let's see, who are some clients that, from Thompson's own lips, we know he thought "deserved representation?"

Thompson, who likes to cast himself as a political outsider, earned more than $1 million lobbying the federal government for more than 20 years. He lobbied for a savings-and-loan deregulation bill that helped hasten the industry's collapse and a failed nuclear energy project that cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.

He also was a lobbyist for deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was widely criticized for endorsing "necklacing," the gruesome practice of execution where gasoline-soaked tires are thrown over a person's neck and set ablaze.

All emphasis mine. BTW, that bit where the writer, Erik Schelzig, recorded a statement Thompson made and then reported whether or not the evidence tended to support it? That is called "fufilling the role of the press."

It may be scary because we see so little of it these days, but don't let it throw you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Who's that girl?

Can you name these women?

I can't think of an excuse for posting this image

I like it for the same reasons you like it.

Just a photo I came across today

It's Marilyn Monroe.

What strikes me about it is how unselfconciously lovely she seems. We're used to Monroe being beautiful in a super sex-symbol way. But that of course is at least as much based on her screen personas and image as anything about the real woman.

This seems, to me, to be a rare glimpse of that real woman.