An extra on the Criterion edition of The Royal Tenenbaums (which I received from my parents for Christmas) is an episode of “The Peter Bradley Show,” which is essentially a parody of “The Charlie Rose Show.” It is absolutely hysterical. The show is structured exactly like “Charlie Rose.” The host, however, apparently booked several actors from Wes Anderson films who played extremely small roles (including Sanjay Matthew, who was the tennis player who beat Richie during his meltdown match, and Brian Tenenbaum, who played the EMT driver who took the broken-boned priest away from the wedding). The interviews go badly after Peter Bradley realizes he’s interviewing extras. He tries to salvage things by asking about the actors’ day jobs (e.g. steel salesman, payroll manager at Dean & DeLuca, Vegas performer) and what it was like to interact with Tenenbaum‘s actual stars. Deadpan comedy, to be sure. But no one ever broke character, and the result is pure gold.
December 30, 2006
Somehow I convinced myself that seeing Spy Kids was a good idea. For those of you out there that have so far spared yourself the experience, continue on that path. It is borderline unwatchable. I nearly turned it off, and I can count on my hand the number of films I’ve turned off.
The only redeeming aspect of having watched Spy Kids is I got to see Alan Cumming create the character (Fegan Floop) that Johnny Depp would later appropriate, at least partially, in playing Willy Wonka.
December 29, 2006
i guess i subscribe to salon for other reasons than movie reviews. i have not seen any of the movies on the list or even heard of them. they dont interest me at all either. little miss sunshine was incredibly overhyped and when i fianlly got the dvd it swore me off any other such movies. who are these people portrayed in these movies? no wonder the dems keep losing.
While many award ceremonies are geared toward reaffirming that at least some of the films you have seen, or are consciously meaning to see, are worth seeing, I think critics’ lists serve a different purpose. Especially year end lists. And especially from critics, like O’Hehir, who cover the relatively obscure film beat (as opposed to Stephanie Zacharek, who covers the relatively mainstream beat, and Roger Ebert, who covers everything). The purpose of these lists is to encourage you to see films you likely would not have seen, either because you thought the risk too high that a particular film would turn out to be painfully unwatchable or you had never even heard of a particular film.
So, Anonymous, of course you hadn’t heard of some of the films on O’Hehir’s list. That’s the whole point.
December 28, 2006
Coming home on nearly empty 355 articulated. As I’m about to disembark, I look to the elderly and disabled seating on the right. An apparent boy of about eleven is surrounded by dozens of Safeway bags. Traveling alone. Fingering fifty cents. My thought: is this an actual child, or a man-child? Was this real life eleven year old traveling alone with groceries? Or is this a stunted adult–a reverse Duncan, if you will–acting as a normal adult would, only with a certain boyish innocence about him?
Nearby the building in which I work, there are two large parking garages, facing each other across First Avenue. One is called “Five Star Parking.” The other is called “Allright Parking.” I have never been inside either, so I do not know what amenities the former provides that the latter does not. But both serve the same district. Both have the same rates, including a $10 weekday early bird special. Both looked in fairly good repair. Both had swarthy, shifty men manning the register. I could not tell why one would make such a brazen appeal to mediocrity. Or, alternately, why the other would raise and dash expectations so carelessly. Curious, no?
December 27, 2006
At various points in my life, I have willfully exposed myself to a variety of Spike Lee “joints,” usually on the recommendation of strangers. Some “joints” turned out to be worthy, if flawed, efforts; see e.g. Inside Man, Do the Right Thing. Some “joints” were largely unsuccessful works, with flashes of something worthwhile glimmering in the background; see e.g. Malcolm X, Summer of Sam. And some “joints” were unmitigated disasters; see e.g. Crooklyn, Bamboozled. “When the Levees Broke” falls into the middle category.
At four hours, “Levees” feels overlong. Given the complexity of the Katrina story, this surprised me. But Lee apparently failed to do the legwork required to make as comprehensive a documentary as the situation warranted. He took what was powerful imagery at the start and repeated it until it was no longer shocking or meaningful. He undermined the effectiveness of the interviews with the relevant talking heads (e.g. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco) with interviews with irrelevants (e.g. Rev. Al Sharpton, actor Harry Belafonte). He spent too little time on locations other than New Orleans (e.g. Houston, New York, small town Alabama) to add much to the story, but too much to avoid distraction. On some level, there were too many players, so that few interviewees stood out as people; on another level, the perspectives seemed too narrow because certain interviewees were featured too frequently.
There were scenes that I liked a lot. I thought the he-said-she-said contrast of Nagin and Blanco discussing their meeting with President Bush was effective. I thought the guy who went back to his mother’s house months after the story, and found her body inside, and after the house was labeled as searched and clear, was moving. I dug the story of the police officer who spread rumors of child rape.
But much of the time, Lee ends up either repeating things everyone already knows or interviewing idiots about things they don’t understand. Perhaps for posterity, it is important to rehash a lot of the news footage; but I found myself bored with the pacing and overuse of CNN, especially only a year or so out. And when he talks to non-New Orleans natives about race and the ineptitude of government, the discussion came off as uninformed and childish. A clean presentation of what went wrong and why would have been nice; instead, we were treated to muddled conspiracy theories and appalling sentiments of entitlement.
Still waiting for Spike Lee to wow me, and still waiting for a good Katrina doc.
December 26, 2006
A few months ago, for reasons I cannot recall, I subscribed to Cracked. Several months later, I received an issue in the mail. And I have to admit, the magazine, which revamped itself earlier this year from a Mad knock-off, is actually pretty funny. There are multiple references to eating babies throughout, which appeals to baby eaters like myself. The format is an odd hybrid of amusing content and content about other things that are amusing, which is at least somewhat different that everything else out there. And the New Yorker parody is spot-on and hilarious. So I think that I owe thanks to whatever force convinced me to throw a couple of bucks in Cracked‘s direction in the first place.
December 24, 2006
Let me preface this by noting that I have so far only seen a few dozen films released in 2006. And have not yet seen, for various reasons, a number of films that may eventually make it on to a later edition of my “best of 2006″ list (e.g. Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Volver). But I’d like to get a few thoughts down now for posterity:
- Street Fight. The second greatest documentary I’ve ever seen (after Fog of War), Street Fight covers the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey. One-sided of necessity and circumstance, Marshall Curry simply and competently gets the right shots of Cory Booker and Sharpe James, and creates exactly the right sort of tension that ultimately sways elections.
- Thank You for Smoking. A consistently funny film, with a lovely script, some great performances, and exactly the right level of intelligence. Aaron Eckhart, who has been in my good book ever since In the Company of Men, proves himself once again a very likable and capable leading man. Jason Reitman (son of Ivan), assuming he hasn’t peaked here, demonstrates he is a director-writer to watch. And Rob Lowe turns in exactly the sort of performance he ought to be canonized for.
- The Child. A special sort of coming of age story, The Child looks at the transformation of an individual from amoral child to moral adult. The Dardenne brothers have created something here that displays the purity of youth in all its destructive glory, and have done so in a very entertaining and moving picture.
- V for Vendetta. The Wachowski brothers’ V is about as good an adaptation as I could have expected. And I expected a lot, considering the source material. The film is exciting, contains some great fight scenes and explosions, and some cool lines. One of the better popcorn films to come along for some time.
- Clerks II. Kevin Smith’s return to his roots turned out to be exactly the right decision; rather than slumming, it is an acknowledgment of his strengths as a filmmaker. The film succeeds precisely because it is raunchy, scattered, pop culture conscious, and absolutely hysterical. Also, Rosario Dawson, by making approachable-sexy-quasi-slumming believable and giving me a pleasant crush-stiffy, is now forgiven for Pluto Nash and Men in Black II.
December 20, 2006
I recently read Lore Sjoberg’s “Aspects of Santa, Part 1” rating again, just in time for the holidays. Which reminded me of the “tiny reindeer” appear in “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” With an emphasis on “tiny.” Odd, that.
I also came across a version of “Visit” drafted entirely in legalese. I’m modestly ashamed to admit I found this text rather amusing. But only modestly so.