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September 30, 2002

Fermata

Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a novel about Arno Strine, a guy who has figured out how to stop time. He is aware that he could use this gift for philanthropic purposes, yet all he can really think to do is undress women and ogle them. And write smut. He writes a lot of smut.

I read this book a decade ago and while it was a good book, I thought it would be a superb film. It is quite overtly cinematic. Consider the sequence where he spies a pretty girl, freezes time, takes keys from her purse, lifts a courier off his bike, cycles through the silent traffic and the paused rain of a Boston day, and eventually enters into her apartment to find the woman's cat in mid-leap off a counter top. It is but one of many highly visual scenes that could turn up in a narrative driven by Arno's voice over as he tries to write out the story of his life. These stories would be woven into the present tense, while he obsesses over the woman he came closest to sharing his secret life with, yet didn't. And the aloneness of the character, the silence of the world he lives in, the secrets he lives with, the perversion he has come to know only too well, all of these things could add up to make this one of the bravest films ever produced by a mainstream Hollywood filmmaker. Not because it dares to deal with the horrors of War, or the resoluteness of Erin Brokovich, but because it focuses keenly on the depraved inner landscape of the modern-day male.

Maybe this is what concerns me: It's being adapted for the screen by this guy, so that it can be directed by Robert Zemeckis. Tough to explain my feelings about Zemeckis. Certainly Back to the Future was great, and so was Jewel of the Nile. The sequels to Back to the Future were, however, unremarkable, as was, frankly, Roger Rabbit. Death Becomes Her was too long, Contact had its moments but it was also too long, Forrest Gump was a rank pile of manure, and What Lies Beneath, otherwise known as 'that film where Harrison Ford played a bad guy', completed the director's descent from the best PG filmmaker of his time to the most tired hack on the block. So that it became clear to me what I thought about this Zemeckis chap: he was good at making Tom Hanks look like he was expert at ping pong, or making Bob Hoskins appear as though he were actually conversing with a cartoon, that sort of thing, you know. He made good kids' movies, or at least, if you were a kid you thought so. And that was about it.

But I'm not about to condemn him for trying his hand with adult contemporary fiction. Truth is - and it's embarrassing to say this - but I didn't think Cast Away, his last film, was half bad. There was a kind of bravery in allowing a film to be that silent, and I think that sensibility has to win out if the film version of The Fermata is to have any power.

My only real regret is that it is being made now, during a time when movie going audiences are still not able to deal with a sex scene that does anything beyond some cursory nipple kissing and a pan to the ceiling. Too bad too, cause I think a scene that focused soberly upon the Van Dilden Heavydick with movable balls and suction-cup base, or the Swiss-made TorqueMaja Desnuda with its twelve special 'power-frig' torque settings, or the four foot long double headed Royal Welsh Fusilier with dual slidable foreskins, would most likely be a good thing.

Posted by at 07:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 24, 2002

The Funk Parlor

This article, about the similarities between "Six Feet Under" and Gwen O'Donnell's "The Funk Parlor", (which was registered as a screenplay in '98), is not for the faint of heart:

Both the film and TV show are about a dysfunctional family that owns and lives in a funeral parlor.
Both projects begin with the unexpected death of the family patriarch who bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.
In both, the younger brother lived with his father and, at the story's start, is a closeted gay, although he has attempted to deny his homosexuality by proposing marriage to a woman. He is uptight and conservative in manner and dress.
In both, the older brother left home years earlier, is a free spirit, and, although he hadn't planned on it, returns home and finds innovative ways to breathe life into the family business.
In both, the brothers try unorthodox methods of raising money, like allowing the mortuary to be used for dancing.
In both, the older brother is involved in a complicated relationship with a mysterious woman who is psychologically damaged and sexually obsessed. The older brother eventually becomes engaged to her.

I suppose the proper thing to do is wait for the trial, yet I confess I've already reverted back to my feelings of moderate contempt for Alan Ball.

Posted by at 09:34 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

September 23, 2002

Sad news

This happened awhile ago but it eluded me until yesterday. Nothing to say about it really, other than how strangely sad I felt reading it. I saw her in a few films, but it's her work with Mike Leigh, particularly in Career Girls and Naked, that made me into a sincere fan. She was a real talent. And 41?

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Tanganyikan Laugh-Attack

"Consider the bizarre events of the 1962 outbreak of contagious laughter in Tanganyika. What began as an isolated fit of laughter (and sometimes crying) in a group of 12- to 18-year-old schoolgirls rapidly rose to epidemic proportions. Contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months."

Continued here.

Ive heard The Great Laughter Epidemic discussed as the single most overlooked event in human history. Apparently the people responsible for keeping records during the laugh-attack fell directly under the spell of the epidemic, and the result is that the whole episode has become shrouded in mystery. Things it would be nice to know:

A) What were these girls discussing when they lost it and did the subject of their conversation play a direct role in inducing the epidemic? Youd think after something of this magnitude happened that a somewhat detailed account of what set the ball in motion would emerge.

B) Wheres the footage? Could it be that news agencies, learning thousands were injured and a handful had actually died, saw fit to keep reporters out of the area? Did they simply not think it merited news? Seems unlikely that not a single photograph of the laugh-attack exists today, but from what Ive gathered this is the case.

C) What made it stop and what - if anything - is keeping it from happening again?

Posted by at 06:04 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 20, 2002

Destroyer Tour Dates

Craig D. Lindsey of PhilidelphiaWeekly.com has this to say about the latest album, due out in a few weeks:

"On 'This Night' (Merge), Destroyer--aka Dan Bejar plus lots of other Canadians--picks up where his last secret Goth missive left off, but this time, his hipster Edward Gorey tunes have more bite; the tunes here are fractured, beautiful, honest, and in that great way that is missing from the rock-is-back deal, authentically messed up in a tradition in keeping with Chilton, Robyn Hitchcock and yes, girls, T. Rex."

More bite?! T-Rex?! Holy Fucking Christ!

10.22 * Albuquerque, NM * Launch Pad
10.23 * Boulder, CO * Fox Theater
10.24 * Lawrence, KS * The Bottleneck
10.25 * St.Louis, MO * Off Broadway
10.26 * Chicago, IL * Abbey Pub
10.27 * Cleveland, OH * Beachland Ballroom
10.28 * Hoboken, NJ * Maxwell's
10.29 * Boston, MA * Paradise * w/ Black Heart Procession
10.30 * Philadelphia, PA * Theatre of Living Arts * w/ Black Heart Procession
11.01 * Washington, DC * Black Cat * w/ Black Heart Procession
11.02 * New York City, NY * Knitting Factory * Merge CMJ night! w/Crooked
Fingers, Radar Bros., Portastatic, Britt Daniel and more!
11.04 * Atlanta, GA * Echo Lounge
11.05 * New Orleans, LA * The Parish / House of Blues
11.06 * Houston, TX * Mary Jane's * w/ K from Ida
11.07 * Austin, TX * Emo's
11.08 * Dallas, TX * Gypsy Tea Room
11.09 * Tulsa, OK * Hercules Motor Co.
11.12 * Los Angeles * Spaceland
11.13 * San Francisco, CA * Bottom of the Hill
11.15 * Portland, OR * Blackbird
11.16 * Seattle, WA * Crocodile Cafe
11.17 * Victoria, BC * Thursdays

Posted by at 12:40 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 19, 2002

... Twice-- "Shame On Me"?

"There's an old saying in Tennessee I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, fool me once, shame on shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again." George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

Classic.

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September 17, 2002

Counting Sheep-blog

Last night while falling asleep ten blogs in rapid succession but the computer is off and laziness has a grip.

You recall one:

Saying to Blaine Man, its hard to get comfortable knowing just anyone could be looking over your shoulder and hearing him say back, Yeah but man, you get comfortable. When he starts talking about how his friend keeps an on-line journal open to comments and that's what you should do too you dont tell him about that mysterious "" symbol that you dont even know how to pronounce and barely know how to type and you ask for her journals web-address but he doesnt have it on him. Theres a pause for a minute - a slight hiccup - brought on by the fact that you didn't say what was on the tip of your tongue, which happens more often than it should.

Posted by at 08:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Axl on Creely

Axl is back stage in Singapore getting ready to go on.

He checks himself in the mirror. Hes happy his ball sack has started to hang more with time and he wonders who else has noticed. Also, he's happy he shied from the army shorts and stuck with the spandex after all. Image being everything, the image is of Axl turning slightly to the side, raising his chin with pride, clenching his teeth with anger, still a mans man looking out of the mirror back at him - an angry man in control.

Posted by at 08:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Creely on Axl

Are we innocent before we learn to formulate a thought? Are we guilty if we pretend we can? Creely had it in a poem: "The unsure egoist is not good for himself."

Posted by at 08:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Independent filmmaker

So to be taken seriously you paint a world where everyone is confused and no one knows their self and repression is rampant and you shatter the last taboo on earth by...

capturing every last bodily fluid excreting out of every last orifice-- ultimately its by mixing ear wax, finger grease and one slightly curled ear-hair caught under a blackened fingernail and filmed in close up that makes absolutely everyone admit they cant believe how much youve seen of them and you keep it to yourself that youve known all along that you knew just a little bit more about everyone than they knew about themselves because you know if you mention it the jig will be up and it will be clear to all that you raided the picayunes for subject matter - that you did so mercilessly - that you did it not as you said: to free the repressed neurotic from his tangled web by holding up a mirror, but rather, for the vanity of your own art and the rush of an authentic superiority complex. Still theres a secret youre keeping, and you know if it ever got out just like that the whole festival circuit would disown you and someone would make a pun using the word secret and secretion that would cause those around you to see metaphor where there had previously been snot, and this stigmatization of your work would cast you out of vogue with the post-indie Zeitgeist and next thing you know youre looking at a nasty piece of graffiti on your latest movie poster that reads: Repressed young girl + bodily fluids oozing from orifice = 'thinking-mans artist'.

Posted by at 08:14 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Popular Politics

How one time you and a friend had joked about it: Just as survivors are voted off the island, celebrities should be voted off the magazine covers, off the airwaves, out of the theatres, out of the public eye, back to the anonymity they came from.

How these decisions should be absolute and irreversible, with elections occurring on a monthly basis, and questions of basic taste being raised and debated on the news each night. All issues of campaign-finance-reform are resolved once and for all in a matter of weeks because people care more about leveling the playing field to oust the latest boy-band than they do about listening to Bill Bradleys message, even if he did have Jordans vote.

Posted by at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Axl

I watched the MTV Awards a while back, and something has been lingering over me ever since: Are Guns NRoses coming back?

Is this actually happening? How can people who have heard this mans voice talk about his "new sound"?

I remember reading, maybe it was a decade ago, about how Axl was pleading with Slash to go grunge to keep up with the times. I dont know if this happened, but its funny to think it did. Image being everything, the image is of Axl feeling the need to re-invent himself as a sensitive Seattle gas-station-clerk in calico, more specifically, how he sulks when the opportunity is denied.

Now, at age 40, hes come up with an album entitled "Chinese Democracy", which was been designed to make you, the non-fan, ask if hes found a political conscience. Putting guitar riffs aside, the answer can be found here.

Posted by at 08:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 14, 2002

Dream Machine Studios

Live in the Toronto Area? Have a cousin, nephew, niece, younger sibling or child with an interest in/passion for animation? You couldnt ask for better teachers than these guys. Want proof? Check their gallery to see what the kidsve come up with under their supervision...

Posted by at 03:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Post Siskel Universe

For whatever reason, I dont think "Ebert and Roeper" is going to stick as a tv show title.

Its been a few years and most people I know still refer to it as "Siskel and... What is it again?"

Often, when I look at Roeper, I sense this has been a scarring issue. I can't help imagining he never ceases to pretend he has opinions, and does so with such a passionate conviction that his discomfort manifests, somehow, bewilderingly, as personality. I find his personality interesting mainly in its proximity to a fleet into madness, brought on by the imminent prospect of exposure, but I have to shut up about this kind of thing, as it helps no one, really.

Curiously, the Anglican way of dealing with the German language is to pronounce "oe" as "ay". Because I was theoretically born "Anglican", I'm on some level encouraged to be aware of a rather unfortunate meaning in R"ay"per's name. I wonder if this doesn't play a role in his weirdness.

Last week my Mexican film-school friend Mutante paid an all-too-brief visit and upped the ante by referring to them as "Roger and Raper." This brought me much happiness and joy, though the show's name has, in my mind, since been shortened quite simply to "Raper." I am a little sorry to say this here but I can't help it. I mean, look at them.

Posted by at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2002

The Four Feathers

A British soldier named Harry resigns from the army in the 1880s on the eve of being posted in the Sudan.

His fellow soldiers mail him white feathers to let him know they think him a coward. His fiancee calls off their wedding and his father ceases to consider him a son. Disgraced, Harry goes off into the desert all-by-his-lonesome hoping to do something - though he's not sure what.

Along the way is a funny black guide named Abou, who - as luck would have it - has a thing for helping out British guys. Abou leads Harry to those who doled out the feathers, and soon enough a rescue mission is underway. But will Harry get his fiancee back!?

The cinematography by Robert Richardson is very good. James Horner does the score, which sounds like an epic war movie/period piece. I think Heath Ledger is pretty watchable, but because the movie feels like it's mechanically going about the process of completing itself, it's hard to care when he gets to do that thing where he slides down the dune half unconscious with a sunburn and parched lips. The characters are never established, so their evolution doesn't even begin to feel engaging. Its unfair to judge a film by its tag line, but its fair to consider the tag line in the context of the film: "Freedom. Country. Honor. Passion. To save his best friend, one man must risk everything he loves". To which one might respond: "His best friend? Was he the guy with the moustache?"

I give this movie zero stars.

Posted by at 03:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 03, 2002

Wong-Kar Wai

My mexican film-school friend Mutante tipped me off to this video directed by Wong Kar-Wai. I'm not a huge fan of his feature films, but it's fun to watch a talented narrative filmmaker cut loose in the world of non-linear rock video, and you gotta love anything that ends with a quote that fine.

Posted by at 05:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack