East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


  • I shall be very sad if Tom's and Katie's constantly sonogrammed baby ends up with two heads or something. Very sad and amused.
"Guess what, dear, we're spending $10 million on your Bat Mitzvah!"
"Wow, thank you Daddy!"
"And we're flying in some of the hottest names in music to play for you and your friends!"
"Wow, thank you Daddy!"
"Like 50 Cent!"
"Wow, thank you Daddy!"
"And Tom Petty!"
"And Don Henley!"
"And Kenny G!"
"I hate you, Daddy."
Virgil: "Finally, after 2000 years I was getting sick of this place."

The kids are alright [shorts]

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell): Graham Greene would've considered this paedophilia chic. Doesn't J.K. know that 17-year-old boys don't lust after 14-year-old girls? (It's 50-year-old men who bought all the Olsen twins' nude calendars.) Screenwriter Steve Kloves is really starting to swing: now that we're up to the overlong books, his job is mostly editing. This cherry picking means the movie's never boring in two and a half hours, which doesn't mean it wouldn't be better at two flat. Surrounded by slumming pros, the kids are starting to get their act together, especially Rupert Grint (Ron), whose petulant moments are finely wrought. Shame that after this he'll never get a decent role.

The Legend of Zorro (Martin Campbell): Not as good as the last one, but not as not as good as others would have you believe. You could attribute the drop-off to lack of surprise (yeah, like you couldn't pick every twist of the last one.) More significantly, although I didn't find Anthony Hopkins particularly swashbuckly, at least his role wasn't that of THE FUCKING KID. Big plus: Banderas and Zeta-Jones still hot and are not noticably disturbed at being on the wrong side of 35. Banderas knows the royalty checks from Puss in Boots will be coming for decades. Zeta-Jones probably just expects to inherit soon.

Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright): Hard to fuck this up, unless you're fool enough to change the setting. Cuts must be made, so the elaborate intro where no clear protagonist emerges is reduced to some neat meet-the-characters tracking, in which it's clear we're here to gawk at Keira Knightley's movie. Strictly speaking she's too attractive for the role, but since she's suddenly learned to act, I'll overlook this. (Jena Malone, who's always been able to act, is too old to play Lydia, but the costuming does a fine job of masking this.) Most other characters are drawn broadly (even Judi Dench!), while Matthew MacFadyen, as Darcy, doesn't do much but does what he has to. There's some non-Austen dialogue, necessary even when it doesn't fit, which Simon Woods handles best: he plays Bingley for laughs. Would've liked to see more of him and his IRL ex Rosamund Pike, now dating director Joe Wright, who's good enough to flourish in the ball scenes which are the point of period movies, while getting in all the literary stuff painlessly: Darcy's crucial letter is voiceovered, but the camera doesn't stay on Lizzie reading, because that's lame (unless she's played by Judi Dench); we skip forward. This might seem basic but most first-time feature directors would get this wrong. Watch out young love, it's a losers' game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Learn the epic legends soon, before they get wrecked.

(Link via Second Balcony.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Walk the Line: "My name is Joaquin. How do you do? Now you die!" [movie note]

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
Written by Gill Dennis and James Mangold, from the autobiographies of Johnny Cash
Directed by James Mangold

There's an amazing 1972 recording of Cash reading the Gettyburg Address: unless Lincoln comes back, I'll never hear anyone make that document mean so much. Letting Phoenix do the singing makes him frontrunner for his Oscar, but it's an artistic mistake: Cash's authoritah is irreproducible. Phoenix, to his credit, captures the development of Cash's vocal style: at first barely distinctive at first, he has an epiphany in Sam Phillips's studio (that's the movie's version) and becomes far more expressive. But when Phoenix reverbs his notes inside his mouth, as Cash did, he loses clarity, which is death since Cash was all about putting the words across.

Witherspoon, who would get her Oscar even if they dubbed her with Kris Kristofferson, has the advantage of playing a lesser-known, and lesser (if still likable) artist. She does an acceptable imitation of June Carter's vocal style, although Carter's early recordings had a self-parodic component that doesn't turn up here. With musical accomplishment levelled, June seems like the special one: both effervescent and tough-minded (and yet she's neither the first or the last such superwoman to leave a couple of broken marriages in her wake). So we're left with a love story: hangdog John spends a decade chasing after the girl he used to listen to on the radio as a kid, but must overcome obstacles like their separate marriages, her evangelical beliefs, his addictions and the assholish behaviour that they induce. Their chemistry is terrific; from the moment they're first (literally) entangled we're sure they oughta be together, thoughts perhaps coloured by our knowlede of how it turned out. Only in this vision, June, attracted from the start, really grows to love him not because he's Johnny Cash, but because he's so damn persistent. All you stalkers, there's hope yet.

Cashing in

If you like Joaquin singing Cash, you'll love Cash singing Cash. The easiest point of entry is through his Sun recordings from the Fifties, e.g. The Sun Years (Rhino, 1990). You could argue that at this point he's sui generis, or you could say he's inventing folk rock. The next forty-something years of his career are inconsistent -- unlike George Jones, he needed strong material, and he dried up after his classic summation Man in Black:

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

The recent 4CD The Legend (Columbia/Legacy) organises the good stuff as well as anything has. His final studio album was his best: American IV: The Man Comes Around leads with prophecy worthy of Revelations, follows that with "Hurt" and then saunters through the songs he felt he had to give one more shot while he still could. The culmination: with friends and family, "We'll Meet Again".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The definition of idiot [shorts]

Serenity (Joss Whedon): I've also recently read "Gifted", JW's first Astonishing X-Men arc, which is fun but not as much fun as this. The X-Persons are a fine bunch of personalities (except for walking George Jones song Cyclops), but they're not Joss's, and his dialogue is best spoken by characters he's created. Besides, he's a moving image guy -- the two occasions in the comic where metal Mickey reveals his aliveness are cinematic enough, but they don't compare to the early long take in Serenity where we get to meet and like each member of the crew as well understand the physical shape of the ship's inside. This basically takes the kind of grand storyline he used to arch over 22 episodes and condenses it into two screwball Wagnerian hours, which means this is shallower than it could be, but man is it entertaining. With so much going on, the character development is rushed. But when the dialogue is this sharp -- Cap'n Mal (Nathan Fillion) tells a dying man "It should have been me" and gets "The thought had occurred" as a response -- I shouldn't complain, especially when Chiwetel Ejiofor owns.

Capote (Bennett Miller): Hoffman's performance is fine enough but I can't see it as more than an impersonation. When he played that great writer Lester Bangs he was appropriately cantankerous; here he doesn't have the luxury of a sympathetic character and it's all mannerisms. Capote wears a mask; Hoffman plays the mask and leaves it to the material to evoke what's underneath, which would be fine if the material wasn't leaving this up to him. The filmmakers would like you to believe that Capote befriended and betrayed Perry Smith for the sake of "journalism" or "literature" or some similiar muse, and then was drawn back because he liked they guy. What motivation Hoffman gives is more of the "I want to be really famous and go to exclusive parties" kind. Underplayed psych + overplayed (or just played) tics = not much.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Shane Black): More important is the Ha Ha, which, though here in spades, relies a little too much on the Wink Wink variety, which defuses the Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Or, the smart-assed narration allows a few good jokes (the best is at the end and stars Elvis and Abraham Lincoln) but it came very close to stopping me from giving a shit about the characters. Fortunately the leads prevent this: Bob Downey Jr. is still half-past awesome; Michelle Monaghan makes the most of what seems like the first genuinely witty sex kitten role since Carole Lombard's plane crashed; and even Val Kilmer is as Hot Hot as he's been since Heat. Even the grand moral statement seemed, well, right on.

When poets attack

"...please include in your conversation a proposal for how the actual humans living as perpetual subjects of state violence ought behave, in your measure."

They could vote.

BWAH-HAHHAH-HAHHAH-HAHHAH-HAHHAH-yeah I'm taking my laughs where I can this week.

More seriously, using affirmative action to send all the smart kids to law school has been pretty successful back where I come from. Not that there isn't a way to go.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Eddy Guerrero

Eddy Guerrero, responsible for my greatest moment as a wrestling fan, has died.

It's a cruel industry, wrestling: every time a performer dies a stupid, premature drink- or drug-related death, we say to ourselves maybe now things will change. But they don't, and we keep watching.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Prop. 73 fails, just

Jesus, that was close.

You get what you give

The Pittsburgh Trilogy: Note to self: don't die [movie note]

eyes/Deus Ex/The Act of Seeing with one's own eyes
Directed by Stan Brakhage

Perhaps the chronological was not the best order in which to show these. Brakhage made these in 1971 about Pittsburgh institutions: the cops, the hospital and the morgue, and the last of these, uncharacteristically straightforward, wipes out memories of the first two. I could describe, as others have, how The Act of Seeing is really about the movement of light, or how it's about the elegance of the human form, but this would be bullshit because it's about A BUNCH OF FUCKING CORPSES BEING FUCKING EVISCERATED. We're brought face to face with the reality of death -- that one day we're going to be a carcass on a slab, and if we justify an autopsy, we'll look like something hung in a butcher's window. Not beautiful. But educational.

Near the end of Deus Ex, we see a human heart inside a living body, still beating. Now that's beautiful.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Switchfoot's "Stars"

The best song in support of intelligent design, ever.

"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite"--Bertrand Russell.