East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Note on a certain illegal Todd Haynes movie, viewable on Google video

That was the most I've cried in a while.

Though it doesn't approach my all-time tearjerkers Time Out (for duration) and the ending of Earth (for intensity).


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar liveblog: About bloody time

  • I couldn't bring myself to watch Babel, it just sounds so Crash-y, except at least Crash was kind of proud of how contrived it was. I'm pretty sure Best Picture is a three way race, Letters from Iwo Jima is too low profile and not enough people are sufficiently excited about The Queen. Babel's the value bet, but The Departed still seems like it'll ride in on Scorsese's win.
  • Bubblehead interviewer, talking to Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, asks Nic how her career changed after winning the Oscar. Watts doesn't look pissed off at all, showing that she really is a great actress.
  • Patricia Field is dressed even worse than her costumes for The Devil Wears Prada.
  • I don't care what you all say, I still think Cameron Diaz is amazing.
  • Eddie Murphy is acting really cool. Great earring, too.
  • Del Toro, Cuaron and Inarritu just got compared to "Coppola, Ford and Lucas".
  • Except the woman who namedropped Brakhage., this unfunny nominees sequence seems endless and pointless.
  • Even if Errol Morris made it.
  • Ellen's material is pretty bad, but she's pulling enough of it off.
  • Have I mentioned that I wish I was Steve Carell?
  • Art direction. Should be Pan's. Kidman has to deliver a really awkward line about the "mutually exclusive worlds of white America and black America in the Fifties and Sixties". Daniel Craig looks amused that she manages to mispronounce "Dreamgirls".
  • Whoo! It's Pan's.
  • OK, Ferrell, Black and Reilly already officially own the show, but why the orchestral accompaniment? We want rock opera.
  • Makeup: another for Pan's. When they first cut to Del Toro is glowing, but then doesn't seem that pleased. Maybe he's wondering how the hell he didn't get a Best Director nom.
  • Animated short: something that'll piss off John Kricfalusi. Live short: West Bank Story. Oooh, high concept.
  • Yeah, we came for the fake musique concrete. I'm going to check my email.
  • Have I mentioned that I wish I was Steve Carell?
  • Sound editing: Letters from Iwo Jima. The guys survive the Flags of Our Fathers vote split.
  • Sound mixing: Hey how come Iwo Jima isn't up for this? Anyway, it's Dreamgirls.
  • Supporting actor: Murphy's the favourite, Arkin has a really good career achievement chance. Marky Mark deserves it, even if his clip is lame -- I guess it was his only line in the movie that didn't have profanity. Oooh, it's Arkin. Well, there goes Eddie's only chance ever.
  • Yeah, we came for the interpretative dance. I'm going to make tea.
  • How can Randy Newman's Oscar songs be so bad? It's not like his own albums are short of good straightish ditties. And now Melissa Etheridge is singing. And now my tea's ready.
  • Mutual congratulation between Leo and Al Gore: the Oscars are green! Expect the CMAs to start burning trees in retribution. (Hey, you're lucky I said "trees".)
  • Animated feature: George Miller, one of the greatest of all directors of popular film, finally gets his Oscar. I'm overjoyed.
  • Montage time: there have been many movies about writers! Just think how much of your life has been wasted on trite typewriter scenes!
  • Adaptation: If The Departed doesn't get this, it's in trouble later on. It's pretty apparent that Borat doesn't have much of a screenplay as such, but give Sacha his gong. Nah, it's The Departed. Based on "the Japanese film Infernal Affairs". Most international Oscars ever, and we've already had this and Ellen calling Penelope Cruz Mexican. At least Monahan gives Mak and Chong a shout out.
  • Wes Anderson's American Express ad is the funniest thing he's done in some time.
  • Costume design: Anne Hathaway is terrible. I have new respect for Ang Lee for making her seem decent in Brokeback. They're trying to claim that the costumes in The Devil Wears Prada were parody. The ones in Marie Antoinette were funnier. Marie wins. Yay.
  • Sherry Lansing gets the humanitarian award. Maybe she's done enough to atone for producing Titanic, and maybe not. From a distance, she looks amazing for a sexagenarian, and then we get a closer look, and she can't move her jaw vertically.
  • Ellen just dissed Spielberg's framing. Even Godard didn't get away with that.
  • Cinematography: People cheer for Children of Men. Good taste. It goes to Pan's. Navarro did terrific work, but... Lubezki must now be near the top of the "How come he still doesn't have an Oscar?" list.
  • Visual effects: I really liked the use of effects in Superman; they weren't all slam-bang, they had an air of melancholy about them somehow. Anyway, Pirates gets it.
  • Yeah, the Foreign Film award created the audience for subtitles. It all makes sense.
  • Fuck you! I've yet to see Shoeshine, and now I know what happens. I'm closing my eyes before the montage shows any more spoilers.
  • Of course it probably doesn't matter now, because that was just about the only good foreign film to get the award.
  • The Academy Awards: trivialising foreign film for fifty years.
  • Wow, The Lives of Others. Didn't see that coming. I guess I should see it. Did he just thank Schwarzengger?
  • Supporting actress: Yep, it's Hudson. But what does she do now?
  • And there's your tearful breakdown for the evening.
  • Wait, did they say Celine Dion is going to perform? Even the Grammies know by now that's not cool.
  • I'm still pissed off about Shoeshine.
  • Eva Green and Gael Garcia Bernal: as attractive as humanly possible? Discuss.
  • And the sound just went out on my TV. Oh no, I won't get to hear Celine.
  • Someone gets a Documentary Short award.
  • Seinfeld says something that's presumably funny.
  • I can get some sound; there's just a lot of static.
  • Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim. He sure looks like a Davis Guggenheim.
  • I would've liked for Al to just keep talking, daring the orchestra to cut him off.
  • I'd also like for Clint to come out in support of global warming now.
  • A Morricone montage, complete with animated notes flying around. I understand he's about the best there is at what he does: that John Williams has five Oscars and he has none is a crime. I just can't get that excited about his work when taken out of context. Still, he deserves better than Celine. Have you ever noticed how terrible her gestures are when she's singing?
  • He may be a reactionary hack, but Clint has class.
  • And we're going to run long again.
  • What? GM took the suicide part out of their suicidal robot ad.
  • Hugh Jackman and Penelope Cruz: hot, but not nearly as hot as Eva and Gael.
  • Babel's score scores. This may or may not be an indication of anything.
  • The President's speech, pretaped and just over a minute. I thank them.
  • Screenplay: Now this will be an indicator. Sunshine in particular needs it. Of course Del Toro deserves it. Your winner: Sunshine. There was an article in Slate that acknowledged the lameness of the film's quirkiness and sentimental while running the "but it was funny" defence, while failing to realise that this was precisely why it wasn't funny. (Apart from Steve Carell. Have I mentioned that I wish I was Steve Carell?) Ken Jennings agrees (love the Bee Girl line).
  • Dreamgirls medley. To oversimplify Dark's point; it's impossible to accept Jennifer Hudson as necessarily a better singer than Beyonce: probably impossible to accept this under any circumstance.
  • Say it with me: Oscar-winner Melissa Etheridge. A big night for lesbian hippies, then.
  • Still no end in sight.
  • If Schoonmaker gets her third, The Departed camp will be confident. If Babel wins editing then it's wide open.
  • I appreciate that they're getting Real Filmmakers to do the montages, but they're still a waste of time. Having said that, I'm impressed that Michael Mann managed to fit Do the Right Thing and Talladega Nights into his Wow America package. Plus, James Brown.
  • So how up the all-time nominees list do you think Kate Winslet will get before she gets gonged? It's inconceivable she won't eventually get her award, but you would've said the same about Peter O'Toole.
  • Editor: Schoonmaker.
  • The departed montage: alright, who died without me noticing about this year? No one I've heard of? Guess I've been reading the Greencine Daily sufficiently carefully.
  • No Anna Nicole.
  • Actress: Streep gave the best performance, but she has two already. Mirren deserves it. She goes on stage with her handbag. Hey Sherry, that's how you age gracefully. God save the Queen.
  • That's midnight Eastern.
  • Next on Kimmel: Ellen, Gwen Stefani and renowned thesps Dr. Phil.
  • Forest Whitaker was awesome, but...
  • Come on Peter, come on Peter, come on Peter...
  • Doesn't Reese Witherspoon make you want to say "awwwww"?
  • Ryan Gosling's reaction shot rivals Carell's.
  • Ah well, how can you not love Forest when he's all choked up?
  • Even James MacAvoy seems near tears.
  • And it's Marty time.
  • He may be a reactionary hack, but Clint did the best work this year.
  • Marty's old mate Spielberg reads the name.
  • And there is much rejoicing.
  • Even the other nominees seem genuinely happy.
  • Here come Jack and Diane for the big one. Happily they get on with it.
  • I'd say the odds are 60% The Departed, 20% Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Yep, it's The Departed.
  • Spielberg has to tell Marty to get excited again.
  • The Departed wasn't a worthy critics poll winner, but it's fine as an Oscar winner.
  • Marty just hangs back in the wings.
  • And we end with environmentally unfriendly confetti raining down.
  • Time: 3:51.
  • Summary: lots of people who were overdue got theirs, but not Peter O'Toole.
  • I need a new TV. I've got half a year before football season starts.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Utopian Oscars oh-seven

Stylus has their Alternative Oscars up, including my swoony blurb on Maggie Gyllenhaal in World Trade Center. While their awards may be "Alternative", they're not "Utopian".

Standard caveat: the likely contenders I haven't seen are Running with Scissors, Days of Glory, The Painted Veil, The Pursuit of Happyness, Notes on a Scandal, For Your Consideration and no others.

1. Army of Shadows
2. Inland Empire
3. Casino Royale
4. Children of Men
5. Pan's Labyrinth
Also: Three Times; Shortbus; Why We Fight.

1. Jean-Pierre Melville, Army of Shadows
2. David Lynch, Inland Empire
3. Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men
4. Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
5. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Three Times
Also: Paul Greengrass, United 93; Eugene Jarecki, Why We Fight; John Cameron Mitchell, Shortbus.

1. Laura Dern, Inland Empire
2. Maggie Cheung, Clean
3. Sook-Yin Lee, Shortbus
4. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
5. Karen Young, Heading South
Also: Helen Mirren, The Queen; Gretchen Mol, The Notorious Bettie Page; (oh, alright) Isabelle Huppert, Gabrielle.

1. Lino Ventura, Army of Shadows: He underplays, except when his character thinks he's going to die, which is often. Fear has rarely been so convincing.
2. Peter O'Toole, Venus: Sexiest septugenarian ever.
3. Will Oldham, Old Joy: Please quit your day job.
4. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
5. Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Also: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat; Clive Owen, Children of Men; Enrique Arreola, Duck Season.

1. Shareeka Epps, Half Nelson: She and Gosling are crazy good together. Her reaction to the fluffed joke at the end makes for the best ending of the year.
2. Eva Green, Casino Royale: Huh, she learned wit. Didn't think that was possible.
3. Maggie Gyllenhaal, World Trade Center
4. Simone Signoret, Army of Shadows
5. Viola Davis, World Trade Center
Also: Maribel VerdĂș, Pan's Labyrinth; Luminita Gheorghiu, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu; Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada.

1. Jean-Pierre Cassel, Army of Shadows: I've used this word before, but I'll use it appropriately this time: Gabinesque.
2. Nick Nolte, Clean: Can we finally start giving the guy some respect?
3. Sacha Baron Cohen, Talledega Nights: Cohen acts!
4. Andrew Bujalski, Mutual Appreciation: The best thing about his movie is that he's in it.
5. Bruce Willis, Fast Food Nation
Also: Mos Def, 16 Blocks; Robert Downey Jr, A Scanner Darkly; Jeremy Irons, Inland Empire.

1. Pan's Labyrinth
2. Shortbus
3. Duck Season
4. Inland Empire
5. Letters from Iwo Jima
Also: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu; Talladega Nights; Three Times.

1. Army of Shadows: Its fiction is as unsettling as The Sorrow and the Pity's fact.
2. Heading South
3. Tristram Shandy
4. Casino Royale
5. Fast Food Nation
Also: Fateless; A Prairie Home Companion; Old Joy.

The techie awards:
CHILDREN OF MEN: Best cinematography
IDLEWILD: Best music
INLAND EMPIRE: Best sound, best editing
PAN'S LABYRINTH: Best effects

Person of the year: the smart-ass in me really wants to say Paul Haggis. But really, 2006 was Melville's belated year.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And I don't even get matchmaking credit, well, maybe a little bit

The two people to whom I sent Valentines this year are now going out with each other.

GRUMPY CLARIFICATION: No, I did not send myself a Valentine.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

No Madonna? No Pet Shop Boys? No Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam?

My 40 favourite songs of the Eighties, compiled without overthinking:
  1. New Order, "Bizarre Love Triangle"
  2. Funky 4 + 1, "That's the Joint"
  3. Franco, "Attention Na SIDA"
  4. Straitjacket Fits, "She Speeds"
  5. Franco, "Tres Impoli"
  6. Public Enemy, "Bring the Noise"
  7. New Order, "Temptation"
  8. The Go-Betweens, "Right Here"
  9. DeBarge, "Time Will Reveal"
  10. Orchestra Super Mazembe, "Shauri Yako"
  11. Van Halen, "Jump"
  12. George Jones, "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
  13. Prince, "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"
  14. Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"
  15. Mahlathini, "Fair Fight"
  16. Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime"
  17. Prince, "Little Red Corvette"
  18. Sonic Youth, "Teen Age Riot"
  19. Lucinda Williams, "Passionate Kisses"
  20. Prince, "Kiss"
  21. Grandmaster Flash, "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel"
  22. Afrika Bambaataa, "Looking for the Perfect Beat"
  23. Yoko Ono, "Walking on Thin Ice"
  24. The Replacements, "I Will Dare"
  25. Mahlathini, "The Stream of Music"
  26. Franco & Rochereau, "Lisanga Ya Ba Nganga"
  27. The Swingers, "Counting the Beat"
  28. Taana Gardner, "Heartbeat"
  29. A-Ha, "Take On Me"
  30. Public Enemy, "Rebel without a Pause"
  31. Sonny Rollins, "G-Man"
  32. Ornette Coleman, "Jump Street"
  33. Joy Division, "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
  34. Wayne Smith, "Under Me Sleng Teng"
  35. Neil Young, "Rockin' in the Free World"
  36. Joan Jett, "I Love Rock & Roll"
  37. Sonic Youth, "Kissability"
  38. Teena Marie, "Square Biz"
  39. The Pretenders, "Back on the Chain Gang"
  40. Double Dee & Steinski, "The Payoff Mix"
(Yes, there's more than a passing resemblance to this list.)


Monday, February 19, 2007

Probably related: the New Zealand cricket team is winning for once

Unfortunately, and for no obvious reason, I've been too happy all weekend, which made it too hard for me to sit through all 450 miserable minutes of Satantango. I should note that the 4.5 hours I stayed for were pretty, uh, entertaining, especially if one emphathises with drunk scenes.

Aside: why is it that when I'm too happy, I go back to my favourite Eighties singles -- "That's the Joint", "Time Will Reveal", "He Stopped Loving Her Today", "Bring the Noise", "Temptation", a few dozen others? It's not like these are all happy songs: he stopped loving her today because he died. And it's not exactly nostalgia -- I'd never heard any of these until at least the late Nineties.

ADDENDUM: Note that yesterday I saw Children of Men, another mostly pessimistic movie, and loved it -- the action scenes are great enough to overcome the lack of story. My mood certainly helped me to believe in the disbelievable Spielberg Moment.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Try a wider interval

Now I have to see Music and Lyrics. (Via Heaneyland.)

Retro-pastiche tip: Sure, you can make something amusing by just being terrible. But if you want to be really funny, you need to retain the most wretched elements of the original and yet make something good enough that it's plausible that people might've liked it back in the day. Yes, this is much harder. Call Fountains of Wayne for help.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Top ten: RetroSex/SnugSounds

A better-than-usual ten, probably because I'm cherry-picking from the tops of 2006 singles lists from reliable sources.
  1. Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "Darling Nikki": Don't tell Tipper Gore, but they had casual sex in the Thirties, too. The band plays loose around Bernstein's tight arrangement, polyphony degenerating into dissonance, stopping, restarting and turning more raucous than ever, before bursting into clear horn lines at the end. A band on top of their game: you have to be to cut Prince.
  2. Yo La Tengo, "The Story of Yo La Tango": Long guitar freakouts bookend what sounds like Yo La's second-best album (after I Can Hear the Heart...). This is the suitably epic closer, which could be mistaken for a career summation if it weren't for the silly name. Of course, they're not a band so easily summarised.
  3. The Thermals, "A Pillar of Salt": After the jumpy lead line peters out, Hutch Harris sings "We were born to sin" over a guitar wall, only hinting at defiance and regret. Playing not Lot but just someone who knows the story, he's scared shitless of losing his baby and is pissed off that it's come to this. God: what a dick.
  4. Neko Case, "Margaret vs. Pauline": Not that Canadian women are indistinguishable, but this is so Alice Munro. Plotwise, that is -- Pauline thinks her life is terrible, which it is, and envies Margaret, who's in a coffin -- not language-wise, where like too many rock writers, Case relies too much on the obscure image (even though hers are cooler than most: "parking lot eyes"?) Hey, at least I didn't mention Joni.
  5. Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, "Vampire Girls": "You know those girls who seem like they're really cool, until you realize that everything that's cool about them is something they sucked out of their ex-boyfriends?" As a vampire boy myself, I contend that it's a plus that the girls in question want to be interesting. Having said that, at least I read a book or two every now and then.
  6. Escort, "Starlight": The song I can't get out of my head right now is Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" (All-Time Bass Line Ranking: 7th, between "I Can See for Miles" and, controversially, "Square Biz"). This disco revival (ATBLR: just outside the top 100, despite starting out like it's just gonna be one of those one-noters) is a fun enough Larry Levan imitation. Plus: scratchy guitar. Minus: no handclaps.
  7. Yo La Tengo, "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind": Meanwhile, this one ends the album. Douglas Wolk says this is their "Tomorrow Never Knows" and yet isn't implying its eleven minute length is excessive.
  8. The Knife, "Marble House": It's got the minor that's really a major thing going, which with the synths reminds me of Erasure's "Always". No soaring chorus, though; that would be too normal, something post-A-Ha Norwegian popsters avoid at all costs.
  9. Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra, "The Schnube": Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. OK, and Rollins: it is a calypso.
  10. Maria Muldaur, "Moonlight": If you still don't think nu-Dylan is up to snuff, listen to how this minor track on Love and Theft holds up against the more renowned throwaways on Muldaur's covers album. For her part, Muldaur shows sincerity can be useful, as long as you're witty with it.
Ten more: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, "Cry Baby Cry"; Clipse, "Mr. Me Too"; Ghostface Killah, "Shakey Dog" (I'll get to More Fish next time, promise); Girls Aloud, "Somethin' Kinda Ooh"; Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, "Ellen's Bicoastal"; Kano, "Reload It"; Scritti Politti, "The Boom Boom Bap"; TV on the Radio, "I Was a Lover"; Tom Waits, "Bottom of the World"; Yo La Tengo, "Beanbag Chair".

Don't quit yer day job: Thom Yorke solo.

Coming soon: Rhyming couplets.


Monday, February 12, 2007

But what's with the bunnies?

The East Bay View processors are currently computing whether or not Inland Empire gets an A+: to reach that standard, it would have to be 35% as good as Mulholland Drive; early estimates suggest it's somewhere in the thirties. What is clear is that Laura Dern's performance is 57 varieties of amazing. You think Lynch worked Naomi Watts to the bone? Well, her role was a walk in the park compared to Dern's. She has to be brilliant in the rehearsal for the banal movie she's in (admittedly, she's had practice being brilliant in banal movies) and when delivering a monologue (which I hear was filmed in one take, Jesus) with a huge bruise below her mouth. She has to play who knows how many variations on the same character, each slapped around in a different way, and seems to give each a unique set of facial expressions, strong enough to withstand Lynch's disfiguring close-ups. I demand you see this performance. Don't make me pull out the Falconetti comparisons.

Also, Jeremy Irons is quite witty.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

16 Blocks: Wack on both sides

Review for Stylus here. Haven't written in this kind of style in years. Might take me a while to get the tone right.