The Biggest Pussy

Over at hulu, you can see all of The Missouri Breaks with a few commercials for free. Besides being one of Marlon Brando’s most peculiar and inspired performances, it is a parable for how certain idiots view the idea of honor. The moral ambiguities of so many iconic 70s movies could probably do as well.

Jack Nicholson’s character heads a gang of rustlers and his nemesis hires Brando the Regulator (sort of like a Pinkerton) to vanquish him. Brando turns out to be a pussy because he can’t look his victims in the eye when he dispatches them… besides being a cross-dresser who flirts with and kisses his horses. Nicholson gets the girl, schools Brando, rides off into the sunset leaving us with the moral that sometimes there is more honor among thieves than amongst the law and order.

When a certain someone gets on a high horse and whacks the sheep with “who’s the biggest pussy?” I just have to drain the bath. I don’t know which is worse: stealing horses or riding a magic carpet powered by farts.

Battle in Heaven

Battle in Heaven was the first film that made me examine the Rotten Tomatoes community. Watching it, I was astonished (!) that this film ever got made because:

  • Reygadas had to get “20” permits to shoot with the military unfurling the Mexican flag
  • He probably had to get another 10 to shoot at the Cathedral
  • He had to find very fat people who were comfortable having “sex” on camera
  • He had to find a hot girl who would have sex with a fat man on camera for “art’s sake.”

The film delivered all this with a classy Antonioni confidence of very thought-out long shots, great urban and rural scenery, and a genuinely focused character development.

After looking at the Rotten Tomatoes “critics,” all I can say it is mostly made up of the same sort of idiots who make up the wingnut blogosphere — if it’s not Ronald Reagan, it totally sucks.

You Need These Details

I watched a series of low-budget indie movies in which the details made the movie. In Bruges had a sweet hotel proprietor and a movie within the movie and the amazing city of Bruges; The Visitor featured the djembe drum as well as dastardly true-to-life detention system; Red Road‘s main plot device was the surveillance cameras which are never mentioned by the characters. I was going to go on about this but an old friend is IMing me…. crap.

Olde New York(e)

I enjoy watching old movies shot in New York partly to see how much of it has changed and how much is still familiar. These are from Port of New York (1949) which is to the second season of The Wire, as Blue’s Clues is to A Scanner Darkly. There’s a long scene shot in the old Penn Station but the cinematographer chose not to do a decent set shot.

Aerial view, downtown

Canal Street El station, IRT

Ferry terminal, Battery Park

Update: Great nonfuzzy photos of New York from the 1930s here.

Update II: We must also acknowledge the work of Berenice Abbott. See external links at the bottom.

The Wingnuttery of An Actor as President

I’m watching HBO’s production of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. As others have noted, it would’ve been better if HBO had spent at least a season’s worth of Deadwood-style TV time on it instead of making it a 2.2 hour movie. Given its Hollywood drawbacks (pass the bombast please), we can still consolingly absorb our history vitamins as they are so bestowed on us by those finger-wagging Hollywood elites.

Thompson as Grant
Thompson as Grant

I’m particularly fascinated by Fred Thompson’s portrayal of Ulysses S. Grant, not least because as a youngster my next-door neighbor Roy Engel portrayed President Grant numerous times on Wild Wild West. Lincoln’s bully general (adopter of the scorched earth battlefied tactic) is also buried a few blocks north of me. (Hi Groucho!)

Grant was in the middle of a long line of 19th century Presidents who adopted the yoke of indian removal begun by Andrew Jackson. Grant’s logic in the movie is in agreement with General Sherman’s: We bought the land the Indians are sitting on from the French so it’s ours especially because there’s gold there so it’s our gold. (And those Indians really do freaky things with their tomahawks.) (Note to self: fix image wraparound.)

In this fact-checking and instant polling internet culture, it’s funny when you see the same logical leaps in present-day punditry from Thompson as he appeared on the “circle the wagons” show hosted by Hannity after the 2nd Presidential debate. The GOP talking points have been deemed mostly irrelevant and yet they’re repeated and repeated as though the logic is “Voters won’t get it until we pummel them with repetition.” (Keating Five who?)

And another thing: Failures of irony bug the crap out of me. Another instance of this was over at America’s Shittiest Website™  today where Michael Graham is shocked– ok “informing us”– that an “elite” Harvard professor is suggesting the current administration ignore the constitution one more time but this time, really for the good of the country. Bush went to Yale and some of you people still swing the elite charge around like a dead cat. Meanwhile, a co-chair in the McCain campaign calls himself and Obama “a guy of the street” last week. Connect the ironic elephant dots that are stampeding on your faces.

I’m Not There (but I’m Free)

Be careful of shrinks. If you say the wrong thing (or the right thing depending on your point of view), they will call the cops and put you in the psych ward. There really are shrinks out there who view their job the same way an asshole cop does: whatever it takes to keep the streets free of dirt. Mr. Bad Vibes must not be allowed on television figuratively, or on the 6 o’clock news. Judge, jury, sometimes executioner.

I just watched I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ brilliant film about Bob Dylan’s life in the 60s and early 70s. Yes, it’s brilliant. I’m listening to Dylan’s 1966 “Royal Albert Hall” concert. I’m behind the curve and need to stay up on these things when they hit the theaters. Anyone with a creative life, who has ever been onstage for an extended gig and has ever had to answer for it, or maybe if you’ve been a critic parsing someone else’s jello nailed to the wall — should have an appreciation for this film. If you’ve ever studied film, this is one for the books. The internets have enough written about it already. Do a google®.

In the commentary, Haynes throws out some zingers during the credits regarding freedom. I believe these were credited to Ginsberg and Rimbaud. “You are free only as long as you are free to say no.” And “No one is free. Even the birds are imprisoned by the sky.”

This brings me full circle to crap I usually talk about in this blog: politics. Bush’s insane “conservative” budget was ramped not just by the war on terror, but by a domestic spying program and police state (severe crowd control techniques) designed to intimidate naysayers into silence, as well as an expensive public relations effort designed to overwhelm naysayers and keep them out of mainstream media. I’m dead certain John McCain would continue expanding these mostly needless expenses that basically burn money and manufacture nothing — a largely overlooked black hole in the American economy. A transparent administration wouldn’t need such frivolity. Barack Obama appreciates that freedom without security is meaningless whereas security without freedom is an oxymoron. Obama embraces dialog and that is a breath of fresh air I can believe in.

George Bush has been the world’s (fascist) asshole cop long enough and needs to get in the shrink chair.

Religulous Sarah Palin

Buds walk on water
Buds walk on water

I’m listening to Terry Gross interview Bill Maher and Larry Charles (director of Borat) about the movie Religulous. While I haven’t seen it yet, I think I’ve heard enough to talk about it. Maher picks off low-lying fruit by singling out fundamentalist elements of religion but it needs to be done as it is the shrill element of religiousity that makes religion dangerous. People need their stories for moralism and philosophy but when the stories seriously cloud rational judgments about history, current events, and science, and are accepted as truth, they really do belong in a psych ward.

Later in the show, Terry interviews Steven Waldman, co-founder of Beliefnet — probably the closest thing to an objective platform for faith. The main topic of both interviews turned out to be Sarah Palin. There are Youtube videos and statements that raise all kinds of questions that have not yet been asked of Ms. Palin. Like Matt Taibbi, who has a long rant on Palin published at Rolling Stone and Alternet, I think the Palin phenomenon says really disturbing things about the American psyche in general. Here’s Taibbi’s windup:

The truly disgusting thing about Sarah Palin isn’t that she’s totally unqualified, or a religious zealot, or married to a secessionist, or unable to educate her own daughter about sex, or a fake conservative who raised taxes and horked up earmark millions every chance she got. No, the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: that you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we’ll not only thank you for your trouble, we’ll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for a few hours around election time.

The Palin nomination really boggles my mind. I don’t think I’ll be watching her debate Joe Biden on Thursday. It’s getting too painful to watch this trainwreck.

Recommended: TPM gathers highlights of several economist views on the Wall Street bailout.

A Supposedly Good Book I’ll Finish Someday

Walk this way

I’m pretty sad David Foster Wallace is dead. I first became aware of his writing when “Shipping Out” was published in Harper’s in the mid 90s (later the lead essay in “A Supposedly Fun Thing…”). Besides giving me reason to never go on a cruise ship, he helped me be comfortable with the fact that I would never be comfortable with people who vacation on cruise ships. I never finished Infinite Jest not because I thought it sucked. I’ll give it another go-round one of these days.

Update: Presumably for a short time, Harper’s has PDF downloads of everything Wallace published with them in memoriam.

I watched Kansas City Confidential earlier tonight, another noir classic (viewable for free here). Ski masks were much scarier back in the day:

Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef rock as the bad guys. Most of the action is in Mexico. For another south of the border noir movie that doubles as light comedy see Fred MacMurray in Borderline.

Joy Division, Control

Way, way after the fact: Control, the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic shot by Anton Corbijn (who does not have an official myspace page) is a wonderful film though it was hard to march on with it. The music has been important to me ever since I first heard it. A year after the Curtis story ended (1981) I read Mikal Gilmore’s Rolling Stone reviews of most of the Joy Division catalog (along with ramblings on PiL who I was already into). Punk was dead, I was hanging out with mostly the wrong crowd, and it was good time for Gang of Four and the Minutemen. A couple of weeks later I called a friend up for a listen. I thought it was brill but he didn’t like it and we headed out for beers and I totaled my Japanese compact car that afternoon running a red light.

I like that Corbijn got a real band together and shot real live concert footage. The cast is great. My one complaint is that he didn’t pursue shooting the film with real black and white film stock instead opting for the safety of color and digitally taking it to black and white. So it sometimes has a slight fakey feel. My digital camera does the same thing even if I set it to shoot in black and white. It isn’t black and white film innit? Why didn’t he consult with Peter Bogdonavich who made Paper Moon and Last Picture Show? — masterpieces of noirish black and white cinematography less than um, 40 years old. Taking Corbijn’s word, I suppose they just don’t make the good shit anymore.

Is the car on the right really the only thing that’s supposed to be in focus in this shot? Ha.

I’m at least hoping one can saunter into a decent karaoke bar these days and find more Joy Division besides “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” See this film if you’re a rock fan.
(images used per fair use… will remove if nec)

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

A Michael Jackson/Johnny Cash moment in Walk Hard

I didn’t think all that much of Walk the Line, The Ray Charles Story, La Bamba, Sweet Dreams, The Doors Movie, or even Sid and Nancy. All took their subject matters too seriously to a fault cramming all the iconic cliches of legendary music careers into Hollywood chunks of serialized detergent commercials (“You’re soaking in it!”). The good movies about those music stars are the documentaries. So I had a good chuckle at Walk Hard. It’s the Scary Movie of musical biopics. Highly recommended.


Can’t wrap my 3D fence around it

I’ve been rehearsing the Crimson Grail with over 200 guitarists and these massive guitar orchestra composers never seem to learn anything from each other. The score is in letter sequences that don’t follow one another. Solution: Provide a score that explains the parts in between your cues. Granted, Chatham does provide a lot of that but it’s not presented in an easily understood manner when a conductor is constantly waving at you. (I’m never going to be accepted into another guitar orchestra again.) Each part of the orchestra has different letters. There are conductors trying to cue people when to play and they’re doing hand gestures. Solution: more cue cards so everybody can be on the same page at certain points. Tonight we were in a church and no one had a mic and could not be heard unless their head was pointed at you. There were some cue cards for parts where everybody is supposed to be playing the same note. More cue cards! It still sounds very cool so show up if you’re interested.

My bass head fell five feet on the cold hard marble. Hm. Gotta go in early and test it again

I watched “Natural Born Killers” last night for the first time since I saw it in the theaters and it was way better than I remember. It’s Oliver Stone’s best satire. Stone’s skill is to amplify history through his films regardless of the absolute historical accuracy. With NBK, he made a film about the “popularity of violence” in the same way. With amplification, people might hear you in Poet’s Corner. Tell a story as truthfully as you can and if the facts are in dispute, your story may be the truest of the lot. Maybe it will stick. If the truth sticks, it looks prettier than when the shit sticks. Get off my lawn you kids — buy some guitars and make rad movies.

Ok, what else. I hope you’ve been reading TPM lately which has been following the McSame response to the Russia/Georgia conflict etc. McSame wants to be Nero and Caligula. He really wants the U.S. to follow in the footsteps of every failed empire in history. He’s running a shit campaign that appeals to the worst in America. The YOT (youth of today) must put the crusty old douchebag in an old folks’ home if they want hope.