Saturday, January 22, 2005

Think, McFly, Think!

Ah, Crispin Glover. He's best known to all you plebians as George McFly from Robert Zemeckis' rightfully beloved teen-sci-fi-comedy classic Back to the Future. But Glover's actually had an extensive career, both in music and in filmdom. I particularly enjoyed him as the title character in 2003's woefully underseen Bartleby, but he's also quite good in the somewhat more popular films Willard and, of course, Charlie's Angels.

I even wrote Mr. Glover a letter last year. Not even an e-mail, mind you, but a personal letter. He never wrote me back.

I wrote him because of an interview I'd read with him in the Onion A/V Club. He lamented that America lacked a truly undergroud, counter-culture movement in film. He's interested in avant-garde filmmaking and surrealism and abstract visual art, you see, and feels that, while there's plenty of room for American filmmakers to explore a variety of themes and storytelling styles, there isn't really an audience or a group of filmmakers passionate about truly experimental filmmaking.

And I fully agree. In fact, at the time I read this interview, I had just completed my own Bunuel-inspired surreal script (titled "Evil Will Prevail"). I was upset myself that no one seemed interested in producing my script, even though all who read it agreed that it was interesting, well-written and strikingly different.

But the purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn or brag about my phenomenal writing skills. You people come to this blog often enough, I'm assuming, to know better than that. I'm simply informing you of some background on this topic before I get to the exciting news:

Glover has apparently finished work on his first feature film as a writer/director (not to mention producer/star). He's credited by his full name, by the way: Crispin Hellion Glover.

The film is entitled What Is It?, and just as he promised in that interview long ago, it seems to star people with Down Syndrome and make no discernable sense. I can't wait.

And I encourage you to view the trailer here. That is, if you don't mind seeing weird naked people climb out of holes set to atonal semi-music and shrieking. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Ileana Douglas' student film Mirror Father Mirror from Ghost World. And I mean that in the best way possible.


I'm a big fan of Guillermo del Toro's American work. Well, most of it. Blade 2 and Hellboy are two of the strongest comic book movies we've yet seen from this current onslaught. Mimic proved pretty forgettable, after all.

I think it's that del Toro's not afraid of dealing with Big Themes in silly genre movies. Hellboy, in particular, doesn't shy away from a romantic sub-plot or a touching father-son story arc, even though it's about a giant red demon who fights Lovecraftian monsters for a secretive government agency.

And Cronos, the Mexican vampire film that introduced Del Toro on the international scene, focuses on the tender bond between an aging antiques dealer and his grandchild. When it's not following the moves of bloody clockwork scarabs granting eternal life.

See, that's a scarab attaching itself to someone's bald head. It will then insert that scorpion-like needle into the victim and add some sort of toxin or whatever to the blood, rendering that person essentially into a vampire. Once you've been stung, your body grows younger and stronger and more virile. But, you know, you kind of develop a thirst for human blood. Still a pretty good deal, no?

So, anyway, this antiques dealer, Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) finds this scarab hidden inside an archangel statue someone has left in his store. We know, because of a brief prologue, that it's the handiwork of a 16th Century alchemist, and that its use carries with it a terrible curse.

Gris, a hardcore Catholic who wants no part of eternal life, is accidentally stabbed by the mechanized insect, and thus begins his transformation from kindly old man to ghoul. In one truly terrific sequence, a drop of blood left on a bathroom floor by a man with a nosebleed drives Gris insane with temptation.

And through this entire ordeal, young Aurora (Tamara Shanath), Gris' granddaughter and best friend, follows him along dutifully. She's privy to both the good and bad of Gris' condition, and never judges him or reacts in fear.

Oh, and also, there's an elderly insane millionaire (Claudio Brook) after the Cronos device for his own self-preservation. He's sent his goon newphew Angel (Ron Perlman) to steal it from Gris, leading to a violent confrontation, in which the old man dies. But now that he's been stung by the Cronos device, is he really dead?

More of the plot, I will abstain from mentioning. It gets horrifying but not terribly bloody, with Gris slowly deteriorating, and losing control of his violent, fiendish impulses. In the end, of course, he must make a choice between remaining on Earth forever as a blood-thirsty monster, or taking the noble way out and dying for the sake of his loved ones. I won't say which he chooses, but...duh...

Del Toro once again demonstrates his mastery in this film of mise-en-scene and lighting. The sets look great, and the specific objects, such as the archangel statue or the scarab itself, are crafted with remarkable attention to detail, giving the movie a lived-in, realistic quality most monster features lack.

Cronos was, at the time of its production, the most expensive Mexican film of all time, and while it wouldn't stand the scrutiny of a blockbuster American horror film, it has a very professional look and a tremendous amount of verve, style and best of all, humor. Though, as I stated above, Del Toro refuses to make his story ridiculous or his characters less than vitally believable, he infuses the film with a tremendous amount of personality. Ron Perlman, who would later star in Del Toro's terrific Hellboy (and who is best known to international cinema fans as the star of Jeunet's City of Lost Children), turns in a charming, witty turn as Angel de la Guardia, obsessed with his appearance even as his nose gets repeatedly broken.

But the centerpiece here is the love story between Jesus and Aurora. His love for her propels the salvation of his immortal soul, and her love for him allows her to care for her grandfather even after his disgusting metamorphosis. The tone is just right, aided in particular by subtle work from the young actress Shanath, who never goes into the sunkeneyed, coached demeanor of most young performers dealing with weighty material.

Cronos is a bit slower and more simplistic than Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, also filmed in Mexico with a similar crew (and Federico Luppi in another terrific role). I prefer that later film's allegorical ghost story to this film's melodramatic vampire tale. But both movies share a dramatic sensibility that's both more engaging and more mature than standard horror fare, making Del Toro one of the most important names in the genre at this point.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Pen Island!

What's the best place on the Internet to find custom-made pens? Why, Pen Island, of course! But, they should have rethought their choice of URL...

Oh, guys...Come on...


After about two minutes of research, I have deduced that the site is a hoax. There's far too much obvious innuendo in the copy for it to be real. Well played, though, Internet pranksters!

He Likes Killing People Because It Is So Much Fun

Aint It Cool News reports that David Fincher will helm an upcoming film about the Zodiac killer. This is one of those meetings of director and material that's almost too perfect to work out well. With Seven, Fincher's already crafted one of the defining films of the entire serial killer genre. Why the urge to return to such similar material, particularly now that his popularity has increased, post-Fight Club.

Anyway, the film will be based on two separate books about the Zodiac by Robert Graysmith, the same guy who wrote the book Paul Schrader turned into Auto Focus, a ridiculously entertaining comedy about the depraved friendship between Bob Crane and John Carpenter (not that John Carpenter!) I hope that the Fincher film is much better than Auto Focus, but that retains some of that film's morbid, sarcastic sensibility.

Any news is good news as concerns a new Fincher film, I say. Let's hope this one actually gets made, unlike the last 10 or 12 projects he's started working on.

Little Mikey Powell, The Kid

Mike Powell, son of Fmr. Secretary of State and five-time Cable Ace Award winner Colin Powell, will retire as FCC Chairman. Thank God. And not just because of his horrific crusade against the free speech of Howard Stern and other radio and television personalities.

But because of all of his disastrous policies. The deregulation and favoritism extended to massive media conglomerates has significantly weakened the power of the American media. I have to look to the independent or European press to find out any real information about American foreign and domestic policy. It's a travesty that policies allow companies to maintain this level of a strangehold on the our national airwaves, and Powell and his cronies are largely responsible.

Here's Howard Stern's official statement from today's radio show, which I have copied over from his website:

"Michael Powell resigning is a great thing because he did not deserve the job in the first place. He was appointed because of his father. Michael Powell was no more qualified, perhaps less qualified, than the other members of the FCC and had no right to be there. It was strictly patronage and a pay off…And what does Michael Powell do when he gets to be head of the FCC? He squanders every opportunity! A billion dollars in tax payers money that was targeted for inner city schools and poor school systems so that computers could be place in the schools, squandered under Powell. To make matters worse Michael Powell then said let's put all the power into the hands of a couple of companies with radio and television. And lo and behold, all the politicians were against him. And in order to win favor with politicians, he went against his own statements about how the market place should determine what is said on the airwaves, that sponsors and listeners will determine what should be on the airwaves. He kowtowed and went ahead and started fining me unbelievable amounts of money….And that made him the hero of the religious right and the liberal left, who were all looking to win favor with the public by making it look like they were cleaning up the airwaves….Michael Powell's legacy: Appointment by his father, a billion dollars squandered of the tax payers money, ruining the first amendment, going back on his own words about how the market place should determine. Putting the radio stations in the hands of the few…and he forced radio stations, blackmailed radio stations into bowing to his will by telling them secretly, you are not going to any court! You are going to have your licenses held up! Shame on him! Shame on the FCC! Thank God he's gone, but God help us with what's next."

Extraordinarily Petty Theft

This is my second gossipy celebrity item in as many days. This blog definitely needs more culture. I should go see an opera or something.

But, actually, I'm bringing it up not to humiliate the celebrity in question, but to question whether or not this celebrity should even feel humiliated. (Everybody got that? Good.)

I'll be less vague. Paris Hilton is being "investigated" after an alleged incident in which she threw some change at a newsstand employee before taking a copy of her bootlegged porno tape One Night in Paris. What happened was, Ms. Hilton went to the West Hollywood newsstand to buy some magazines, saw that they were selling the pornographic video she made with Rick Solomon (which she claims to have never intended for public consumption) and got angry.

So, she threw about 80 cents at the guy behind the counter, grabbed a copy of the video and took off.

Most mature thing she could have done in this situation? Probably not. I mean, that guy working at the newsstand probably doesn't give a shit what porn they're selling one way or the other. I personally work at a video store that rents out One Night in Paris, and wouldn't appreciate an heiress/reality TV stars showing up at my place of business to lob quarters at me.

But does this extremely minor incident really deserve front page of Yahoo treatment? And look at the headline!

Hilton Investigated in Alleged Petty Theft

I mean, granted, the get the word "petty" in there, but it still makes it sound like she deviously stole something, and not that she had words with a magazine salesmen before making off with a porno video starring herself.

Also, do you think it upsets Nikki Hilton that her sister can now be referred to be simply the last name "Hilton," and everyone still knows who they mean? It used to be, not too long ago, a headline would have said "Hilton Sister Investigated"...or "Paris Hilton". But she's become such a juggernaut of fame that just the last name will now suffice. Poor Nikki's been left behind.

Stop Motion Zombies

That's about all that's required to get me excited about a movie. "What? There are stop-motion animated zombies chasing Johnny Depp? Yeah, okay, I'll see that 9 times minimum."

And that would be even without a kickass trailer like this one. The movie is Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, opening this coming Halloween everywhere, provided, you know, the world hasn't been blown up by then or something. Hey, we just kicked off Term #2, folks! What will happen? I don't know!

There are only a few movies that have me this hyped up this year. I'm considerably more excited about a follow-up to Nightmare Before Christmas than, say, oh, just for an example, Episode III.

Also, I should have included David Cronenberg's upcoming History of Violence in my Most Anticipated Films list, by the way. It's n adaptation of a graphic novel about a family man who commits a murder in self-defense, starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris.

The Coachella Valley and the Carrot Festival Therein

Anyone recognize the quote? Yes, it's Bugs Bunny from the classic short Bully for Bugs. You know, the one where he burrows into the bullfighting ring, and becomes a matador briefly?

Usually in Bugs Bunny cartoons, he's tunneling to the beach (often Pismo, although sometimes Miami Beach) for a vacation. But on this occasion, he was attempting to go to the Coachella Valley Carrot Festival. Of course, he still neglected to make that left turn at Albaquerque.

I bring this choice piece of 50's animation up because I just received an e-mail from Ticketmaster urging me to buy Coachella Music and Art Festival tickets early this year. And every time I hear the phrase Coachella Festival, I think of that prescient Bugs Bunny cartoon from years ago.

I went to Coachella last year (the music one, not the carrots...I don't really like carrots). It was a blast, as you may have read about in my Best Concerts rundown. Bands included Radiohead, The Pixies, The Flaming Lips, Beck, Broken Social Scene and ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

But the line-up for this year's show hasn't even been announced yet. Do Ticketmaster and the organizers of Coachella really expect me to trust them enough to shell out $120 in advance for tickets to a mystery concert? I'm sure some people are snatching those babies up even as we speak, but I'll wait to hear who will actually be playing the concert, thank you very much.

I mean, if Coachella was amazing every year, I could sort of see just trusting them sight unseen. But some years are definitely bigger than others. I mean, I'd have been pretty peeved to pay all that money and go some year when the Red Hot Chili Peppers are headlining, you know? Unless they play that great "Under the Bridge" song...then it's okay.

Women Make the Darndest Allegations

By now, you may have heard about the allegations of sexual misconduct being brought against Bill Cosby by a Canadian woman. Like most people of my generation, I suspect, I hope this is not true. Not because I can't appreciate the comic possibilities inherent in a man associated with family-friendly entertainment being accused of placing a woman's hand on his genitals. But because I grew up watching and enjoying the comedy of Bill Cosby, particularly his concert film Bill Cosby: Himself, and I would hate to have to reconsider his legacy in light of charges of perversion.

But I also have a hard time believing that a woman would just randomly come forward and make this sort of accusation. You'd have to be a real simpleton to trump up a charge like this against a known celebrity as a money-making scheme. Sure, you might get a legal settlement out of it, but your life is pretty much over. Look at Kobe's accuser, or the family of the child accusing Michael Jackson of malfeasance.

Plus, the reaction from the Cosby camp has been odd. In addition to cancelling a "town hall meeting" and a trio of comedy performances, Bill's attorney offered this statement:

He would not discuss the specifics of the allegation — which he called "utterly preposterous" — but said it amounts to, at the most, "inappropriate touching."

No charges have been brought against Cosby. Phillips said the accuser, who lives in Canada, knows Cosby and the alleged incident in question happened about a year ago.

First of all, this guy is a high-powered lawyer. He should know better than to make a statement like that first sentence. I learned in high school debate that, to offer effective argumentation, you don't provide two separate, incongruous explanations. So, you would say, "These allegations are preposterous" or "These allegations refer to an incident that was, at worst, inappropriate touching." You would under no circumstances say "This incident didn't happen, but if it did, it would only have been a case of inappropriate touching." This is confusing, and kind of gives away your whole argument anyway. If it didn't happen, what does the exact nature of the fictional crime matter?

Also, if the alleged victim knows Cosby, this makes it even less likely that they are making up some wild story in an attempt to extort money from him. If it was blackmail, the whole idea would be to keep the story out of the papers in exchange for money, right? It wouldn't make much sense to go blabbing to the media before getting paid.

But, really, I have no idea. We'll have to just wait and see how the story develops. It's not like Bill O'Reilly or something, where you just know the guy is a guilty scumbag. I mean, come on, folks, admit it. You knew something wasn't right with Billy O long before his producer came out and confirmed your worst fears.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicolas Roeg movies are weird. All of them. Well, all the ones I've seen, which includes Don't Look Now, Walkabout, The Witches and Performance. But this space oddity from 1976 is definitely the weirdest of them all, a trippy experimental sci-fi drama with an odd sense of humor and a lack of narrative cohesion, telling the story of an alien isolated by his own success at blending in to human society.

In perhaps the most appropriate casting of all time, David Bowie plays that alien. It's a completely natural performance, perhaps because in 1976, David Bowie actually believed himself to be an alien. It's all there on the albums, people!

A lot of the outer space mythology that would occupy Bowie's attention and music during this time weaves itself through Man Who Fell to Earth, and not just Aladdin Sane's wig. The movie even includes a wailing, glam-rock soundtrack, though its spaced-out psychedelia doesn't hold a candle to actual David Bowie music of the period...Why didn't he just do a soundtrack album himself?

The story follows a fairly typical sci-fi pattern for the first half-hour or so, before completely skipping the rails and going its own way. Bowie's alien falls to Earth, taking the name of Thomas Newton, and quickly heads to New York to find a good patent lawyer. He does, in the form of Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry), and thus begins his own corporation, World Enterprises, to sell his fantastic, space-age inventions.

And, just like that, he's a multi-millionaire head of a major corporation, married to the sweet but simple Mary-Lou. Roeg doesn't bother giving us time to "get to know" Thomas, keeping him completely distant and inscrutable. Of course, this is the idea. He's an alien, unable to relate to humanity in any real way, and the more he ingratiates himself into human society, the more of an outsider he comes to seem.

Once the money's been earned, Thomas reveals his plans to Mary-Lou and a scientist named Bryce (Rip Torn) - his planet suffers from a horrific drought, and he must build a spacecraft to fly water back to them from Earth.

This is a very silly plan, and for reasons not fully explained in the film, Thomas never actually carries it out. We see a few flashbacks to his home world, where he left a wife and two children languishing in a barren desert wasteland via a small, Star Wars-looking sand vehicle. But he seems rather content to remain on Earth, enjoying his vast fortune, and after revealing his true nature to Mary-Lou, there no longer seems to be much reason for him to make the risky, uncertain voyage back across the stars.

Like in his previous films, Roeg's really making use of the conventions of a genre to suit his particular purpose. Just as Don't Look Now borrows the tools of horror films without really going for scares, Man Who Fell to Earth seems a bit bored with telling an actual science-fiction story. The big questions behind Thomas' journey - how he got to Earth, how he plans to get back, his feelings towards humanity, his understanding of the mysteries of existence - are repeatedly pushed aside for experimental montages and kinky sex scenes.

So many strange ideas are brought up in the film, only to go unexplored. The narrative spans decades, as World Enterprises builds an international reputation only to sputter out, and as Mary-Lou ages, leaving Thomas and coming back to him and leaving again. But Thomas never ages. And as he's increasingly seduced by vice, from alcohol to sex to greed, Thomas begins to seem more human, and even better able to relate to humanity. After a symbolic final tragedy, rendering Thomas ultimately unable to return to his home planet, the movie kind of peters out without offering up any real insights into these many issues. Unlike most great sci-fi, it's more concerned with intimate human stories than big metaphysical questions.

But what is present in the movie is interesting enough. Roeg's especailly concerned with time, pushing through Thomas' life at an erratic clip, focusing in only where he pleases. At one point, Thomas appears to pierce the fabric of space-time itself, rocketing his car back 100 years to a time when settlers pushed across the wind-swept landscape of his New Mexico home. Like much else in the film, nothing more is done with this concept. Roeg throws it in almost as an afterthought, allowing for the flavor of science-fiction without really making a genre film.

Roeg's insights into the relationship between sex and violence are intriguing as always. One love scene finds Rip Torn throwing his lover around and taking her picture in a variety of prone positions. And in one of the most peculiar love scenes in a major motion picture ever, Thomas and Mary-Lou cavort with a blank-loaded pistol while making extraordinarily messy alien love.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a difficult film to follow, and an even more difficult film to penetrate. As many ideas and facets as I was able to connect, there are many other whole sequences that still didn't quite seem to fit. An investigation into Thomas by government agents, including a series of cruel experiments, came out of nowhere and didn't really lead to anything conclusive. And though the connection between Thomas' strange behavior and that of another famous corporate mogul, Howard Hughes, is made, it's not followed up on.

Oh, and television plays a major thematic role in the film (Thomas watches several TV's at once; he claims to have learned about Earth initially from television broadcasts; Farnsworth's name is probably a reference to Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the television; at one point, Bryce even spots Thomas on television in a World Enterprises commercial). But what is Roeg getting at here? That TV is alienating people from one another, that technology splits us apart and keeps us stationary? Or that watching television (and any kind of art) is a poor way to understand human nature? Or something else entirely?

I'd have a hard time recommending this film to any casual movie-goer. Unlike Don't Look Now, which is a long but very rewarding piece of entertainment, Man Who Fell to Earth is a odd bird. Roeg fans and those who enjoy dense, peculiar 70's films will find a lot to savor here, however, and I managed to enjoy it for what it was. Dated or no, a thoughtful, well-shot movie with David Bowie is a thoughtful, well-shot movie with David Bowie.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Many Consider It the Classiest 90 Minutes of Television Anywhere in America

Just wanted to issue a last-minute reminder for anyone wasting their time reading blogs on the West Coast...Tonight is the season-premiere of one of my favorite shows, "The Apprentice." It's not quite the best reality on TV. That title goes to a little girl I like to call Ashlee Simpson. But it is a great show, very involving and addicting. Between this and "American Idol," looks like there's no need for me to get a social life in the forseeable future.

This season, they're mixing it up a bit. Instead of a team of men vs. a team of women, it's people with Ivy League graduate degrees vs. people with high school educations. What a fantastic idea. It works because you breed distrust between the two teams before the game even begins. The grad students will feel like they're being judged for getting a top-flight education and not working their way up the ladder, and the high school grads will feel like everyone thinks they're stupid or ignorant. Brilliant!

Somehow, Trump's managed to turn his near-universal reputation for being a rich, pompous asshole into a career as a beloved television personality. There's something to be said for that, no matter how ridiculous he seems on camera.


Okay, just finished watching the show, and predictably, it was terrific. Looks to be another great season.

One thing kind of bothered me, though...Despite his own educational background, Trump seems willing to play into the bizarre American strain of anti-intellectualism we've seen developing over the last few years. The show tonight was fiercely anti-collegiate.

A team of high school graduates was accepted to the contest who earn, per capita, three times the salaries of the college graduate team. This is not an accident, or coincidence, as it was presented to be on the show. These people are meticulously vetted before Trump, producer Mark Burnett and NBC put them on television. They purposefully selected a team of high-achieving high school students to make this faux-dramatic point. I could easily find a team of successful high school grads and a team of successful college grads who make 5 times as much. You know?

But beyond that, none of the college students was shown making a single crack about people without a proper education. But the high school team (known as "Net Worth Corporation"...ugh...) was displayed over and over again rebuking their opponents for "wasting time in college." When maverick idiot Danny encouraged his teammates to write a song with him, the Net Worthians sneered. One member requested that, rather than "Team High School," they be referred to as the "wealthier team." And, in the most gauche speech I've seen on television in a while, team leader John encouraged his fast food staff to work extra-super-hard to show them snobby college kids up the street what for. Has he no shame?

So, this kind of anti-intellectualism always rubs me the wrong way. Probably because I have a Master's Degree that I don't use. But also because I follow the culture, and it saddens me to see younger people embracing the idea that dropping out of school is always the right choice, that an education doesn't help anyone succeed. Sure, exceptional people with drive and motivation will find a way to succeed, with or without a degree, but that doesn't mean we don't want a population that is educated, aware and intelligent. I mean, duh.

Iran: The Ultimate Red State

I should stop reading the columnists in the New York Times. After David Brooks' nonsensical column about the media, God and tsunamis, I promised myself I'd stop taking these morons seriously. But now Tom Friedman's gone and pissed me off again.

He's writing a column basically making fun of Europe for not loving that adorable George W. Bush. Sure, he pretends to write a fair column about the lack of popularity of our President throughout the so-called Old World (alert the media!) He even gets in a few cracks at the administration before all is said and done

But check out this quote:

The logic of the Europeans' position is that they should now be anti-American, not just anti-Bush, but most Europeans don't seem to want to go there. They know America is more complex. So there is a vague hope in the air that when Mr. Bush visits Europe next month, he'll come bearing an olive branch that will enable both sides to at least pretend to hold this loveless marriage together for the sake of the kids.

What's the implication here? That Europeans are fickle, and if our President goes over there and makes nice, they'll run back to him with open arms, returning his sweet embrace? The European community has every reason to be upset with this administration. We started a war without sufficient cause and lied about it. We pulled out of international treaties that had taken decades to set up, and most of these treaties fall apart without our support (as we're the largest post-industrial economy in the world by a massive amount). We're right now in Congress defending our right to torture people we suspect of being terrorists.

Why shouldn't Europeans have the right to hate America? Shouldn't their consideration of us as a people depend in some way on how we behave? Right now, I hate Americans. Not the ideals that we stand for as a nation, and not the individual people that I know and love and live amongst. I don't hate my community. But I hate the way Americans behave socially and politically (especially politically). And I'm one of us. Who the hell is Friedman to chide Europeans for their distaste for the President, or recommend how he can make them like him better. He should do the right thing for once in his fucking life, that would probably help his case.

And then, there's this abysmal, insulting, horribly destructive final section:

Funnily enough, the one country on this side of the ocean that would have elected Mr. Bush is not in Europe, but the Middle East: it's Iran, where many young people apparently hunger for Mr. Bush to remove their despotic leaders, the way he did in Iraq.

An Oxford student who had just returned from research in Iran told me that young Iranians were "loving anything their government hates," such as Mr. Bush, "and hating anything their government loves." Tehran is festooned in "Down With America" graffiti, the student said, but when he tried to take pictures of it, the Iranian students he was with urged him not to. They said it was just put there by their government and was not how most Iranians felt.

Iran, he said, is the ultimate "red state." Go figure.

Funnily enough, this is not funny at all. A nation of people so desperate for liberation from their vile, repressive theocratic government that they would welcome the chaos of invasion and civil war is not an amusing bon mot to be tossed out for shits and giggles in a political commentary.

Why doesn't Friedman treat this more seriously? What's with his flip "they hate anything the government likes" angle. Is he genuinely reducing the political opinions of an entire nation of people as mere contrariness?

And then, calling Iran a "red state," saying they "support Mr. Bush." It's damaging, it's damaging to the discourse. Because simple-minded people will read this and believe this fool. And then, in a few years, when G. W. wants to invade Iran, and says "the people there want America to invade," they'll think, "Oh, yeah, that's right...I read it in the New York Times."

Just like what happened the last time around, to that other country that's right fucking next to Iran and is spelled almost exactly the same.

Okay, I'm going to stop talking about this now before I have a massive coronary.

On Being Generally Mean-Spirited

A while back, I wrote a post about my least favorite movies of 2005. Although, to be fair, I hadn't seen Catwoman or The Forgotten yet.

In that post, I wrote the following line:

"I fucking hate you, Zach Braff. I hope you get cancer."

At the time, I did not give it a second thought. Now, I don't really really hope Zach Braff gets cancer. I mean, I've never met the guy, and cancer's pretty painful. Unless everyone with cancer is just faking it and laying it on a bit thick, you know, for the attention.

Not that I'm suggesting they're really doing this. But still, I think if I had cancer, even if it didn't hurt, I'd probably pretend that it did. I mean, hey, I've got freaking cancer here, if ever there was a time to milk your fellow human beings for sympathy, this is it.

But anyway, I don't really want Zach Braff to come down with a nasty case of leukemia. To me, "I hope you get cancer" is a rhetorical device, colorful language to adequately describe the depth of my disregard for Braff's non-opus Garden State. It's just like if you watched Ghost World and then turned to your friend and said, "I love Scarlett Johansson." You don't really. You don't know Scarlett Johansson (unless you actually do know Scarlett Johansson, in which case, I hate you and I hope you get cancer).

But my point is, you don't even have any concept for what she's like, other than that she's really hot and a great actress. It's a turn of phrase. In that same way, it does me no good if Zach Braff's prostate swells up to the size of a grapefruit. I just hated his movie.

So, Jimmy, the guy who left the comment deeply offended about my Braffian cancer curse, I'm sorry to hurt your feelings, or to imply that having cancer doesn't suck. I know it does, and I'm glad you're feeling better. I'm sorry you didn't like the blog. I'll try to do better next time.

Hello? Is This Thing On?

I look at that hit counter far too often. I try not to, because I tell myself I don't really care how many people visit the blog or what stories they read or whatever. But this isn't true. I do care, even though I try not to. So I look at that hit counter at least once a day.

And I've noticed over the past few days, this blog has become an echo chamber. I think 5 people have visited thus far today, which is low even by newbie Inertia standards. So, is there anybody out there? Why hast thou all forsaken me?

I know yesterday was heavy on the film reviews, but I've fallen behind and wanted to catch up. I've actually been watching a lot of different stuff as well, like Million Dollar Baby (which is good!). So many films, so little time, you know?

So, anyway, if you have a specific reason you think people are jumping blog, so to speak, why not leave it in the comments section below? I can always use some constructive criticism.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

Okay, I've learned a valuable lesson. I should not ever try to post a Best of the Year list of movies before February at the earliest. There's just no way to see all the worthwhile films accredited to a year by December 31st. I've already had to mentally do some re-jiggering after seeing the incredible The Woodsman earlier this week. I'm seeing Million Dollar Baby soon, and that could very well find a place on the list. And I've just seen Kim Ki-duk's awe-inspiring masterpiece Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, which basically trumps Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow for a spot in the Top Ten, as much as I loved that film's CG robot smash-em-ups.

Juvenile though my tastes often seem, I'm actually going with the serene Buddhist monk movie over Jude Law Battling the Nazi Robots. I've impressed even myself.

No, seriously, many reviews I've seen have made this film sound like an art house chore, like the kind of film you see so that you can later tell your friends you saw a movie about monks that was in Korean and didn't feature a single Chingy song on the soundtrack.

But Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (hereafter SSFWS) moves right along like any other enjoyable piece of entertainment. There's a lot of depth to the narrative, of course, but it's not a film that requires intense concentration to enjoy. It's simply a beautifully rendered, exquisitely photographed, and delicately moving story about one man's development from troubled youth to chastened adult to wizened elder.

And it's not just a catchy title! The film really does consist of four main vignettes, each set in one of the seasons, with a brief coda set back in the spring. And this format allows Ki-duk to not only skip around in time as he pleases, focusing in on the most significant, salient events in the monk's life, but also provides the film with a splendid visual motif. As the seasons change, so does the main character, whose destiny, along with that of his Master, seems peculiarly tied to the lush valley landscape (amazingly photographed by Dong-hyeon Baek).

The monk and his master live on a floating monastery in the middle of a lake. I'm not sure if any surroundings actually exist like this in present-day Korea (when the film is set), but I certainly hope they do. The setting is phenomenally realized, with the faded greens of the treetops off-setting the murky blues of the river, all set around a drifting temple.

In the opening sequence, we see the monk as a child, tormenting small animals by tying them to rocks. He takes strange delight in watching a fish, a frog and a snake struggle under the weight of the burden, and doesn't think twice about his cruelty until he is caught by his master. His punishment consists of searching for and freeing all the animals with a large stone tied to his own back. This will be the format for all of the vignettes - the young pupil behaves rashly or without proper consideration, he is reprimanded sternly but fairly by his master, and in fulfilling some sort of meaningful task, learns a valuable lesson bringing him closer to the sage enlightenment of his elder.

Of course, the monk's transgressions will only get worse as he ages, and Ki-duk doesn't shy away from making his protagonist considerably unlikable during certain portions of the story. But just as the older monk sees through his missteps to the worthwhile man underneath, Ki-duk invites us not to judge the young man, but to search his story for meaning in our own lives.

I will not go into the further goings-on of the plot, because specific narrative is hardly the point of this film. In some ways, it's the ideal foreign film for people who usually dislike "movies with subtitles." There's very little dialogue, and the narrative drifts along languidly, like the small boat the characters pilot across the lake to the rocky shores across the way. Save any cultural references or historical allusions I may have missed, the film likely plays very similar to Korean and American audiences, which only enhances its themes of mutual understanding and unspoken bonds.

Like a Zen koan, the simplicity of the storytelling disguises the reservoir of possible meanings and interpretations lying just under the surface. Ki-duk fills the corners of his story with mystery and intrigue, allowing us only so much access to the inner lives of his characters and the circumstances which surround their world.

What Ki-duk clearly brings with him is a reverence for Buddhist philosophy, particularly the ideas of repetition. His film is structured around repeated occurances, moments, imagery and music. The pitch-perfect score reminded me of some of Phillip Glass' work for films like Koyaanisqatsi, but obviously with native Korean instruments. You know, the repetitive, minimalist thing.

There are so many repeated images, I stopped trying to recall them all for review purposes. The animals to whom the monk is cruel during the opening scenes are revisited occasionally, particularly when the monk faces his own trials and challenges. Statues of the Buddha, especially one taken by the monk during one of his several trips away from the monastery, play an integral part of the story. And even individual images seem to hold intricate mysteries merely because of their undeniable, odd beauty. A red cloth floats down a recently-thawed stream. A woman with a covered face carries a baby across a frozen lake. A man does calligrophy on a wooden dock with the tail of a white cat. I could go on, but there's no point. The storytelling is almost entirely visual - the film must be viewed to be appreciated at all.

So, I'll leave you merely with an entreaty to watch this film. It's availble now for rent or purchase in fine DVD stores everywhere. I'll be updating my Best of the Year list to include some of the films I've seen recently, so be on the lookout for this title, which is certain to make the list in some capacity.

If You're Already President, Why Do You Need To Get Inaugurated Again?

Seriously, why do we even bother with this? It's a totally meaningless ceremony. G. Dubs is already fucking President. Nothing will change after this ritual. Yet we're spending weeks talking about it and $40 million pulling it off. It's like the Jerry Lewis Telethon or something.

So, if you want to weep about how messed up this country is, check out this list from of the costs of the inauguration, and some other statistics to give you some level of comparison. Oh dear...

$40 million: Cost of Bush inaugural ball festivities, not counting security costs.

$20,000: Cost of yellow roses purchased for inaugural festivities by D.C.'s Ritz Carlton.

200: Number of Humvees outfitted with top-of-the-line armor for troops in Iraq that could have been purchased with the amount of money blown on the inauguration.

$10,000: Price of an inaugural package at the Fairmont Hotel, which includes a Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon reception, a chauffeured Rolls Royce and two actors posing as "faux" Secret Service agents, complete with black sunglasses and cufflink walkie-talkies.

22 million: Number of children in regions devastated by the tsunami who could have received vaccinations and preventive health care with the amount of money spent on the inauguration.

1,160,000: Number of girls who could be sent to school for a year in Afghanistan with the amount of money lavished on the inauguration.

$15,000: The down payment to rent a fur coat paid by one gala attendee who didn't want the hassle of schlepping her own through the airport.

2,500: Number of U.S. troops used to stand guard as President Bush takes his oath of office.

26,000: Number of Kevlar vests for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan that could be purchased for $40 million.

Being a twisted drugged-out wannabe cowboy who somehow got elected President twice: priceless

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ready to Die

My friend Jason sent me some troubling news. It seems up-and-coming Montreal rock stars The Unicorns have broken up after recording one album. That's a real shame, because that one album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone, is fucking brilliant. It's like this sing-songy, bizarre, humorous indie-pop confection about death and decay. And the songs have really neat keyboard lines and lyrics about Biggie Smalls and drifting out to sea.

And, yeah, they also had an EP, but that only had two new songs on it. And only one of them was any good.

I listened to little else during the third quarter of 2003, though, and saw two Unicorns shows during their trips to Los Angeles. I must say, neither of the shows was terribly impressive. The band basically came off as a bunch of snots who thought they were too cool to play in Los Angeles for Americans, and for some bizarre reason the venues were overloaded with frat boys, even though there was nary a Nickelback cover to be heard and the beer selection at the Echo always leaves me unsatisfied.

How are you going to break up after one album? At least McLusky had a couple of albums. Hell, even Axl Rose managed to keep his bandmates around for a bloated two-disc concept album before they ditched his ass. As much as I dig their music, these Unicorns guys are starting to seem like real jerks.

If Stern's Not Enough Reason To Get Sirius...

Oh, man, this is incredibly excellent. I can't wait until the end of this year, when I'll subscribe to Sirius and be able to listen to quality talk radio like this.

Anyway, on the Mike Signorile show on Sirius satellite radio, he totally made a complete ass out of noted anti-gay crusader, Alabama Sheriff Mac Holcomb. Holcomb, you see, posted on his website that, speaking as a sheriff, he thinks homosexuality is an abomination. What does this have to do with being a sheriff, you may ask? Well, it's, he was just...the government has the...cause, nothing, but he sure don't like what with them gay homosexuals. Ya know, folks?

Here's a key excerpt from Sheriff Holcomb's website:

I was raised in era, the 1940's as a child and the 1950's as a teenager, which I remember with great affection. During this era, love of God, family, and country abounded. Men were men and women were women and there was no mistaking which was which. Both were proud of their individual roles. Homosexuality was very queer and a despicable act… an abomination. During this era, those parents that owned televisions didn't have to worry that their children might be subjected to filth on television such as nudity, the use of God's name in vain, and other profanity because it was unheard of. Parents could allow their children to go to a movie without having to screen it first because the good guy always wore the white hats. There was no question who the "Good Guy" was. Even the "Bad Guy" in the movie didn't use foul language. During this era our nation had a conscience including the television and movie industry.

He's a smart one, yesirree. He wrote this in advance, and still managed to ramble and start talking about "good guys in white hats." Can you imagine talking to this guy, when he doesn't have hours to prepare his remarks, like on a website? It's like Grandpa Simpson!

But I digress. The Last Midnight has a transcript of the entire radio interview (thanks to Atrios for the link!)

I'm going to clip out the juiciest excerpts for you, faithful Inertia readers. Cause I'm a swell guy like that...

Oh, and by the way, H means Holcomb and M means Mike Signorile.

M: Aren't you then saying that it should be public policy to view homosexuality according to the Bible?

H: No. Yeah, I think it should be, because I'm a Christian. I'm not a Buddhist or an atheist. Certainly, I was. I've campaigned on family values, which is foreign to all these folks. You know, let me tell you. Your listening audience, if the homosexual element has their way in this chapter[?], all the [unintelligible] that the liberal element does about overpopulation, the state of the Amazon forest, not drilling for oil in Alaska, don't have to worry about that, because if everybody turned homosexual, my friend, there will be no more children. That's-- I would fear that, then the only thing that would inhabit the earth would be the free creatures now that roams the Amazon forest or the ice lands[?] of Alaska.

Oh, man, greatest interview ever. So, lets try to follow the thought process here. If homosexuals get their way, everyone will be gay. And if everyone is gay, then there won't be any more children. And humanity will die out. And the only things that would inhabit the Earth are rainforest animals and caribou? This guy is fucking insane.

H: I don't have to go into it, because apparently most of your audience understands this and are for it, and they know what homosexuals do. Nothing could be more despicable. If there was no God, if there was no Bible-- Even animals don't do this despicable act. If a dog, a male dog, tried this with another male dog, he would probably lose a vital organ.

M: Don't you believe that-- First of all, there are male dogs who do that with one another. There are gay dogs. There are -- Homosexuality exists throughout the animal kingdom.

H: You guys never got dogs in New York we got down here, cause our Southern dogs don't -- male dogs don't do that to one another.

Tears, folks. When I read this paragraph, tears literally began streaming down my face. New York dogs might be gay, but not our Southern dogs! It's like Jerry Falwell and Yosemite Sam had some sort of demon offspring that managed to get itself elected sheriff.

M: Do you believe that this country should be theocratic, that religious leaders should be leading the country?

H: Christian-- Yes, Christians should lead this country, which was founded on Judeo-Christian -- If this is Egypt, Muslims or whatever should lead this -- that country. I wouldn't expect -- I don't think a Christian would be the King of Saudi Arabia! If I was over there and there was a Ten Commandments-- if I was a Muslim and there were a Ten Commandments in Muslim law, then that's where I live.

Okay, you can't top bi-curious New York dogs, but this is very telling. He's repeatedly wrong throughout the interview with his "Judeo-Christian Founding Fathers" nonsense. I don't even think he knows what Judeo-Christian means. If he means religions that believe in the Old Testament, that's Muslims as well. And if he means the religion that most of the Founding Fathers ascribed to, he means Deism or none at all. I think he means "that religion that I believe."

And the fact that he wants America to model its government on Saudi Arabia. A monarchy. A theocratic monarchy. Where Osama bin Laden's from. That's not so good either.

And this is how the interview ends. And why I need Sirius radio:

H: Okay. Do you want to describe what homosexuals do to each other?

M: Are you asking me a question?

H: Yeah. Why don't we just, you know, if it's not such a terrible thing, a despicable thing, just in common language, let's put up here[?] what these gays do to each other.

M: Well, you know what they do, sir? They fuck, just like straight people fuck. That's what they do. Okay? You know, straight people--

H: --All I'm saying is [unintelligible]

M: You know, you put your dick in your wife's vagina and a lot of you Christian conservatives also put your dicks in other women's cunts when you're not -- you know, when you're married, and are hypocritical. So gay people, yeah, they fuck just like you fuck. That's what they do. And for many of them it's an act of love--


M: And for others of them, just like many of you heterosexuals, it's an act of sheer pleasure, because we live in a free society.

Wow. That's fantastic stuff. And educational. I know know never to require the services of an Alabama sheriff. Oh, wait, I totally knew that already.

Scooped by Suicide Girls!

Suicide Girls is the semi-porno website featuring all girls that have mutilated their body in some trendy way or another. Many of the Suicide Girls favor tattoos and many favor piercings, and some favor the all-too-rare tattoo and piercing combo! Cause they're dangerous! And they just might commit suicide if you don't look at their naked photos!

But the point of this post is not to make fun of Suicide Girls (although it is really easy...I mean, they sell Suicide Girl-themed skateboard decks on there. But it's not about the merchandising, man! It's a lifestyle...or something!)

The point is that the news section of Suicide Girls (it's the section next to the girls with pubic dreds) has announced that Ricky Gervais will join the writing staff of "The Simpsons." Allow me to repeat that, in case you're not leaping out of your chair to do the Dance of Joy. Ricky Gervais, co-creator and head writer for "The Office," will join the writing team of "The Simpsons."

Check out this quote from Gervais on meeting Matt Groening for the first time:

The pair met for lunch before Wednesday's British Comedy Awards in London, where Groening was given an outstanding contribution award. Gervais and co-writer Stephen Merchant also won a prize for their work on The Office.Having agreed to write the script with executive producer Al Jean, Gervais said he had already completed a first draft. "I bang it down, give it to them, they make it funny and I claim the credit," he said. "I feel like I know Homer. It's a joy."

Now, "The Office" and "The Simpsons" combined represent an unholy juggernaut of comedy. These are two of my favorite shows of all time. The very idea that the talent behind these two shows are getting together is incredibly exciting. "The Simpsons" has been going through a dry patch for a few seasons now...maybe this is just the injection of new talent they need to keep that franchise alive. Or maybe my darkest fears are correct and it has just run its course. We'll find out soon enough!

The Surrealist Compliment Generator

To lurch queasily on the radiated styles of three monks passing cups. Interestingly, no one came to feel the dishwasher's salad dressing except the bishop. Brown trees scrape wads of chalk from the cieling of the Sistine chapel, scattering fish eyes and mice on to the heads of the tourists milling below. Woof, woof, said the moustache.

The Forgotten

Why did I rent this? Oh, that's right, because I can rent movies for free. I must have...FORGOTTEN.

For about 20 minutes, I seriously thought this might be a really good movie that had just been shamefully overlooked. It's got a nice, washed-out look that, while derivative of The Ring still worked really well. And Julianne Moore's great as always. And the story doesn't go quite where you expect it to right away. There were some very well played early twists.

But once the story proper is set in motion, that's about all she wrote. You can see all the changes coming a mile away, even as you tell yourself that these twists couldn't possibly be in an actual movie, because they're so stupid.

I'm trying to be vague, becaues this movie folds in on itself several times, so it's hard to talk about the story without giving something away. But, what the hell, it's already on DVD. If you don't want any knowledge of what happens in The Forgotten beyond what's in the previews (Julianne Moore's kid is dead and everyone else but her becomes unaware that he ever existed), stop reading now.

Okay, for all you non-wusses, here's the lowdown. About 15 minutes in, we're told that the son Julianne's been mourning (har!) never existed. That she had a miscarriage and her mind reacted by inventing a nine-year stretch of motherhood, followed by a fictional "tragic" death for her fictional son in a fictional plane crash. Her husband (a blank played by Anthony Edwards, a professional blank) and psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) both insist that her condition (paramnesia, they call it) is perfectly treatable, if only she'll admit to herself that her son, Sam, was never real.

But she can't do that. She's sure that he exists, even if all the evidence points to the contrary. So she takes off running.

And so far, I was totally with the movie. I thought, "Wow, I genuinely have no idea where this is going. Is she crazy? Is everyone else crazy? Is this some sort of glitch in the Matrix?" Unfortunately, the explanation provided by the film is so daffy, so obscenely ridiculous, the movie just falls apart. The deeper we get into explaining how some power is capable of shifting around space-time in order to pull off this elaborate trick, the more I wanted to just shut the damn movie off.

I won't blow the entire film for you, but here's a taste. Moore has found a man, played by Dominic West of HBO's "The Wire," who lost a daughter in the same plane crash that took her son. He has forgotten his daughter Laura, but with some coaxing, he has begun to remember her, and agrees to help Moore in her quest to find out what the fuck is going on. At one point, she explains to him her thought process.

They both remember their kids, so they can't both be crazy. If they're not crazy, someone is manipulating everyone around them, and even physical materials like photos and pictures, to convince them their children never existed. The only group powerful enough to pull this off? Aliens!

Okay, but I've said enough. Once you venture down that particular rabbit hole, there's no going back. The Forgotten basically amounts to a mediocre half-hour "Outer Limits" episode needlessly extended to 90 minutes. By the time we actually meet the nemesis responsible for the disappearances and the forgetfulness, the movie has become a parody of itself.

And everything I enjoyed about the first 20 minutes basically falls by the wayside. Moore's fine establishment of this woman as a real human being ceases to matter once she becomes a vehicle for this moronic plot. She spends the entire final 45 minutes of the movie running from one drab location to another. And even the crisp cinematography becomes less interesting as the film goes on. The entire climax plays out in a dark warehouse (seriously!), giving it the lush look and feel of a made-for-cable erotic thriller. And the so-called "special effects," in which people are snatched up by an invisible hand and shot into the heavens, don't really amount to much.

The film was directed by Joseph Ruben, also responsible for the atrocious Money Train and Sleeping With the Enemy. This guy's career started with the cult classic The Stepfather. Where is the fiendish wit and vitality evident in that film? How can you go from making something utterly genre-defying and original like The Stepfather to completely vapid wannabe horror like The Forgotten?

Honestly, I've wasted too many words on this dumb crap already. I haven't really blown the entire film for you, but I would recommend just avoiding the film entirely and waiting for J. M. to act in something more worthwhile.

Cape Fear

Every single review on the Net I've checked out for this movie starts by referencing the original film. But, the thing is, almost everyone has seen this movie, and not very many people at all (at least, any more) have seen the original film. So, why even bother to make the comparison? Suffice it to say, I have seen both, and Scorsese's is better, but the two takes on the material are different enough to provide this film an adequate reason to exist. So, 'nuff said. On with the review:

After seeing Meet the Fockers this week, I've been reconsidering the recent career of Robert De Niro. I'm tempted to say that he's just in it for the money at this point, and has abandoned even the notion of actually acting in a real movie. Granted, I liked Fockers. It's pleasant enough, and had a few big laughs. But the real stars of the film are Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Except for the few carried-over routines from the original film (like De Niro's threatening "I'm watching you" gestures to Ben Stiller), he's barely even present in this film. Combine this with crud like Godsend, Hide and Seek, City by the Sea, Shark Tale, Analyze That, Showtime, The Score, 15 Minutes, Men of Honor and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and you have a pretty good idea about this guy's level of commitment to his craft.

Man, can you believe how many fucking awful movies I just typed? I can only imagine that doing such strong, draining, intense work in so many quality films throughout the 70's, 80's and most of the 90's just took it out of this guy, made him turn his back on his art and embrace commercialism. So, anyway, my point is, it's unbelievable that the guy who played Max Cady in 1991 would find himself hamming it up as Fearless Leader less than a decade later.

Cady, for the uninitiated, is a recently released ex-con with a strong backwoods accent and a penchant for rape. He blames his court-appointed attorney, played ably if stiffly by Nick Nolte, for his extended sentence, as he discovered in prison that a key witnesses testimony had not been entered in as evidence.

Unlike Robert Mitchum's Cady in the first film, who was a quiet but intense man, consumed from within by anger and vengeance, De Niro's take is a brilliant yet psychotic horrorshow, a monster in the tradition of Leatherface and Jason. His Cady is almost unbelievably clever, as he threatens and terrifies Nolte's family without ever actually violating a single law.

The ineffectual police (led by Mitchum in one of the film's many references to its predecessor) can't go after Cady, and Nolte finds himself alone in his efforts to protect his wife (Jessica Lange) and their 15 year old daughter (a wonderful Juliette Lewis, in the role that made her a star). He hires a private detective (Joe Don Baker) and files a restraining order, but Cady just keeps coming back, muttering threats under his breath and possibly even killing the family dog (a charge he continually denies).

Soon enough, Nolte and Company drive out to their houseboat on Cape Fear, apparently ignorant of the concept of irony. And this leads to the insanely dramatic, chaotic final confrontation, in one of the most grandiose action set pieces Scorsese has ever attempted.

The film's a lot of fun, and the violent climax, on board the houseboat as it careens through rapids during an impossibly intense storm, lives up to its hype. But a good deal of the film feels a little flat. De Niro's Cady so overwhelms all the other performers, and even the sure-handed Scorsese direction, everything else begins to feel like a distraction. No matter how well-shot the scenes showing Lange and Nolte's marriage dissolving, we can't help but yearn to return to De Niro, just to see what the mad tattooed freak is up to this time.

That being said, when the film is good, it's really goddamn good. An extended dialogue between an incognito Cady and Lewis' teenage Danielle provides Cady with a rare level of depth and nuance for a villain in this kind of thriller. We sense that, when he's in control of his mind, when he's not obsessing over revenge or indulging in his perverse, lustful fantasies, he's probably quite an intelligent, charming guy. Likewise, in a seduction scene at a bar where Cady woos Nolte's possible mistress (an alternatingly funny and chilling turn by Ileana Douglas), we realize how he may have pulled off his horrible sex crimes. There are several Max Cady's, and he can sometimes turn off the psycho switch in order to get what he wants. That's a wonderful innovation on the part of De Niro, Scorsese and screenwriter Wesley Strick.

So, you see what I'm getting at. De Niro as Max Cady? Good. Direction by Martin Scorsese? Good. Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker? Good as always. Juliette Lewis? Good. But it's a doughy two hours plus, and I can't help but think that everyone would have benefitted if we'd gotten to Cape Fear about twenty minutes earlier. Scorsese's best pictures have such an immaculate flow to them, they seem to pass by in an instant. Every time I watch Goodfellas, I feel like it's just getting started when the credits start to roll. And when he misses the mark, pace-wise, as he does here, it's instantly noticeable.

I think the biggest problem, as I stated above, is Scorsese's exuberant indulgence of De Niro. Max Cady kidnaps not only Nick Nolte's family, but this entire film, in much the same way people claimed Daniel Day-Lewis walked off with Gangs of New York. The difference is that much of the detail going on around Day-Lewis in Gangs is similarly interesting (such as Brendon Gleeson's Monk character, or Jim Broadbent's Boss Tweed), while the remainder of Cape Fear can't help but seem dull when compared to De Niro's hambone, frothing-at-the-mouth madman.

The Avary-ator

It's almost work-time once again, folks, but I wanted to share with you all a brief encounter from yesterday's workday that I didn't get a chance to talk about yet.

I'm helping out this customer, with a big bushy brown beard. He's buying a few DVD's, and I'm ringing him up, and like I always do, I ask him his last name. We have this really obnoxious policy at the store, where we have to check if people are in our computer system, even if they aren't renting any movies. So, people come up to buy a Used DVD, and I have to get their full name. Some paranoid weirdos (there are a surprising amount coming into the cult DVD store at 2 on a weekday) won't give me their name, for fear that our Laser Blazer computer will sick the CIA on them or something, so they give fake ones or make me leave it blank. One guy told me to "just use White Hawk," as if this was a standard response to my asking his name.

But back to the story. I ask this particular gentleman his last name, and he says "Avary," then he spells it for me. A-V-A-R-Y. "Hmmm....," I think to myself, "the only guy I've ever heard of spelling the last name Avary with two a's was that guy who co-wrote Pulp Fiction with Quentin Tarantino." Then, after I type in the name, I have another thought..."Didn't Ivan tell me Roger Avary was a frequent customer at our store?" Then I see only one name come up on the computer. Guess what it was?

So, basically, I made a fool of myself in front of a personal hero. Avary comes in all the time, and the entire staff knows him, and our owner was hanging out with him discussing movies for about a half hour, and there I am grilling him about his ID at the front, like I have no freaking clue who he is at all. Yeah, it's no big deal. The guy only co-wrote the Greatest Film of the 1990's. And then wrote and directed Killing Zoe. And then Rules of Attraction. But we can overlook that last one.

So, anyway, Inertia-keteers, if I had known, maybe I could have hit Mr. Avary up for a production deal or something, but as it is, he just took off with his copy of The Opening of Missy Beethoven, never to be heard from again. (No, no, I'm kidding...I'll keep Mr. Avary's purchases anonymous, for the sake of his privacy. And cause I don't remember what they were.)

Billy Shats

Yesterday was the first day since I started Crushed by Inertia that I have not updated. And let me just say, I missed all of you horribly.

I had to work all day, was the thing, and then I went out to dinner with a friend and watched "American Idol" and the next thing I knew, it was early Wednesday morning and Inertia had withered untended for an entire day.

And, to make things worse, I'm really tired and in no mood to write up some movie review or whatever this evening. I still owe you all a review of The Arcade Fire show at the Troubadour the other night (short version: HELL YES!).

But, I just wanted to post this small note before bedtime. Someone pointed out to me that I neglected to mention William Shatner's Golden Globe win for "Boston Legal" the other night, despite my alleged fan worship of Billy Shats aka James T. Kirk aka T.J. Hooker aka paranoid, leisure-suit-wearing conman/gigolo Matt Stone.

If you got that last reference without clicking the IMDB link, congrats. You're a total dork.

Anyway, my oversight was due to the fact that I've never seen "Boston Public," and have little to no input to offer about the show or Shatner's level of performance. So, I neglected to mention it, though clearly some observation of Bill's considerable achievement was in order.

I've been listening to Shatner's new album, made in tandem with musician Ben Folds, "Has Been." It's a spoken word/experimental/rock/pop/lounge thing where Shats babbles somewhat aimlessly over Folds' musical wankery. Pretty cool, and it features Bill's take on the Pulp classic "Common People" as well, so you can't go wrong, really.

So, Anonymous Poster, thanks for the heads-up. I'll be sure to keep you all much more closely updated on the comings and goings of the Rocket Man in the future.

And I promise to update tomorrow a bit more, even though I'm working all day at the video store for the third day in a row. It's a rough life, I know.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why Garden State Sucks...Explained!

I know, I know, I'm obsessed with the awfulness of Garden State. I can't stop hating Zach Braff just because you're sick of reading about it, you know...I have to live with these feelings 24 hours a day.

So, anyway, I stumbled across an interview with Zach Braff from IGN Filmforce from July. Okay, stumbled is the wrong word. Purposefully sought out and then read diligently would be more like it. And I've figured out why he sucks...He spells it all out for everyone, clear as day. I couldn't argue why he's the worst writer/director of 2004 better myself...Check out this quote, for starters, about how he came up with the idea:

"Well, I went to film school and I wanted to and I started thinking about what my first feature would be and I knew all the things I didn't want it to be, and so I decided I wanted to do something really personal, and for me, this is what I was going through in my twenties, these are the problems I was sort of obsessing about and worrying about and I decided well, why don't I, since what I know is coming home as a actor who hasn't worked much, why don't I write that story?"

Okay, right, fair enough so far...It's a bit strange that he's describing a movie about a guy who accidentally kills his mother and then zonks himself out on prescription drugs for most of his adolescence and 20's as 'personal' describing 'the problems [he] was sort of obsessing about', seeing as he obviously had a very productive 20's. You know, what with going to film school and landing that sitcom. But, anyway, if that's the personal story he wanted to tell, fair enough.

But check out this quote just one paragraph later:

"There [are] lots of anecdotes and such that are true, they didn't all necessarily happen to me, they happened to friends and some happened to me, some I read about in the paper and they were the real basis, they were the foundation on which I started writing the script."

So, it's a personal story describing problems he was obsessing about, based on things he read in the paper. Hmmm...still, not completely idiotic. A bit strange. But not completely idiotic. What things did he get from the paper, I wonder? Medieval Times employees going out with middle aged stoners? Epileptics in helmets on mopeds? Houseboats at the bottom of empty lakes in canyons? There's nothing in the entire movie that feels real enough to be in a newspaper, but I'll give Braffy the benefit of the doubt.

So, here's when the interview gets hopelessly dumb. Here's Braff on writing the character of Sam, played in the film by the stunning Natalie Portman:

"I just sort of found this male fantasy of like, of like a girl that will come along and rescue you and she will be unlike every girl you have ever met in your entire life, and she will just stand out and be eccentric and different, so I just sort of wrote who, in my mind, of who Large was, who that perfect girlfriend would be."

Okay, anyone who has ever written anything in their lives will tell you that this is retarded. He didn't start by trying to write a character that would feel real, that had any internal life of her own, or personality. He wrote a character who would fit into the plan he already had for the main character, who itself is just a stand-in for Zach Braff. Remember, it's a personal story about feelings and obsessions he had...So, basically, he made a character out of a wet dream. This is why she seems so empty in the film, despite the talented Ms. Portman's best efforts.

And here's the final dumb quote:

"Well, I learned a lot in film school but Scrubs has been a grad school in a lot of ways because I can meet a different director every single week and I get to see how all these different people work."

That's just dumb because "Scrubs" sucks.

So, there you have it. A pretty good explanation for why Zach Braff sucks. He writes characters with no souls, ciphers he can filter his goofy adolescent fantasies through, and then act them out on screen and pretend to be a great filmmaker. I just don't understand why so many people are going for this nonsense. Have they seen so few movies? Do they simply lack perspective? Someone explain this to me, I genuinely don't get it.

Meet the Fockers

The career of Dustin Hoffman has been much discussed here on the blog recently. See, what happened was, I wrote a review of Three Days of the Condor (check it out in the Now on DVD section to your right, won't you?). And in that review, I implied that Sydney Pollack was not as good a director as usually indicated, and that his crowning achievement, Tootsie, isn't the comedy classic most critics would have you believe.

And I heard about this from a few people. A few people who feel that Tootsie very much deserves its place in the Great Comedy pantheon. It's not a bad movie, mind you, and Hoffman's very good in it, but I still don't find it entirely satisfying. It's a little obvious in some ways, and I feel like it wants to be a pointed satire but lacks a truly great target. As I commented to Yancy in response to his calling Tootsie flawless, the subjects of the film are cheesy soap operas and hammy actors, and these are not terribly important or worthwhile subjects for ridicule. They're already ridiculous.

But this is a roundabout way of getting to my point, and that is Dustin Hoffman's tremendous comic timing and ability. It's easy to forget how funny Hoffman can be in the right role, particularly after several years of performing in dour, pointless crap like Outbreak, Mad City and the awful, atrocious Moonlight Mile. But in 2004, he was given not one but two prime opportunities to delight audiences with laughter, and he knocked both characters completely out of the park.

Film #1 was David O. Russell's charming, twisted I Heart Huckabees. And, much to my surprise, Film #2 is the wholly successful Meet the Fockers, which significantly improves upon the first film's dynamic by adding Hoffman and Barbra Streisand to the cast.

Just in case you're wondering: no, I'm not gay and yes, this review is going to gush about the greatness of Barbra Streisand. Now, I've never been her biggest fan, although I'll admit that she can do flighty, plucky and funny as well as just about any other actress of her generation. The problem is, she takes herself entirely too seriously and usually makes utter tripe. (The Mirror Has Two Faces, I'm looking in your direction).

But here, she's given a terrific, funny role and she's consistantly a treat to watch. Streisand and Hoffman so completely outclass the rest of the cast of Meet the Fockers, I found myself shuffling about in my seat whenever they weren't on screen. Fortunately, director Jay Roach keeps them front and center for most of the film's running time.

What little story there is follows the first film's dynamic pretty closely. Gaylord (Ben Stiller) and his fiancee Pam (Teri Polo, in a dull dull dull thankless role) are meeting up with Pam's parents (De Niro and Blythe Danner) and her infant nephew en route to Miami. See, once they're all in Coconut Grove, they'll get a chance to spend a getting-to-know-you weekend with Gaylord's Mom and Dad, Bernard and Roz Focker (Hoffman and Streisand).

And that's all there is. Uptight, nebbish, taskmaster Jack Byrnes clashes with free-spirited, ex-hippie Bernard while warm sex therapist Roz teaches Dina Byrnes to spice up her sex life. Plus, a dog humps some things, toilet water gets everywhere and several people take a stun gun in the chest.

After two films, the physical comedy schtick in this franchise has begun to wear out its welcome. Except for one very well-planned gag involving a brick, an RV and a windshield, most of the slapstick, which was the best part of the first movie (save Owen Wilson's cameo), just doesn't work here. A late sequence in which Gaylord and Father are pulled over and harrassed by law enforcement goes on far too long without ever really taking off, and a few different takes of Stiller or Hoffman falling over a table fail to get the big laughs that were clearly intended.

And thankfully, the delightful Blythe Danner has more of a role this time around. She's a great actress that works so rarely, who was utterly wasted in the first movie. In a 2 hour comedy with so much padding that could be removed, it's surprising to me that Danner and Teri Polo aren't given even more to do. Why waste two attractive, talented actresses by giving them nothing roles? Surely if writers John Hamburg and James Herzfeld could write such a plum part for Barbra, they could come up with something for Teri Polo to do.

Thankfully as well, this sequel is far less dependant on cheap physical comedy than its predecessor, investing more time on exploring character relationships and mining more flavored, nuanced human comedy. There isn't a lot of nuance in Roz Focker pummelling Jack's back in an effort to relieve his muscle pain, but the interplay between the four parents is a good deal more sophisticated than anything in the first movie.

In fact, it's in the shifting family dynamics that Meet the Fockers actually becomes a bit interesting as social commentary (but just a bit!) The first film made Ben Stiller's Gaylord the focus of most of the humor. We laugh because we predict Jack's outraged reaction to Stiller's juvenile or dishonest or just plain klutzy shenanigans. This time around, it's De Niro's uptight, repressed curmudgeon that's held up as the subject for comedy.

The Fockers themselves are an unconventional duo. They're extremely sexually open (as you'd expect, I suppose, from an open-minded sex therapist and her stay-at-home husband), frank, free-thinking, and very outspoken about their liberal, neo-hippie beliefs. A running joke concerns the different methods of parenting preached by the conservative Jack, who ignores a crying baby to teach self-reliance, and the goofy Bernard, who only wants to hug everybody all the time. And the film even gets somewhat political at times, with Bernard mocking the surveillance technology of the CIA and refusing to participate in "macho" activities like football or hunting.

I found this outlook extremely refreshing, particularly considering the cultural climate in America in early 2005. That the most popular comedy in the country would preach understanding over intolerance, common humanity over competition, frank sexuality over repression and compassion over tradition really says something positive. And if you're sneering right now and thinking to yourself that all movies preach these values, you don't see enough movies. Why, just before the film, I saw a preview for Beauty Shop, a film teaching us that black and white people are fundamentally different, and that any attempt between the two races to intermingle will produce hilarious, wacky results.

So, yeah, Fockers has some serious problems. It's too long, many many jokes don't work, and I still can't shake the feeling that Roach plays things too safe. It's odd that a film so obsessed with sex simply must come out with a PG-13 rating. This is clearly an adult comedy, appealing to older people. I know Ben Stiller's a hit with the kids, but thematically, these movies aren't all-ages appropriate anyway. Why can't I see a real, honest sex comedy from Hollywood any more?

Happy Martin Lucifer Coon Day

Oh, man, I feel dirty just having typed that. For those of you who don't get the reference, and are currently sharpening blades intended for my duodenum, allow me to assure you that I am not an actual racist. That's a quote from Daniel Carver, the former KKK leader who appears regularly as the subject of scorn and ridicule on The Howard Stern Show.

But the reference is here for a very good reason. A Las Vegas weatherman has been fired for referring to Martin Luther King as a coon on the air:

Rob Blair of KTNV-TV was delivering the extended forecast Saturday morning when he said: "For tomorrow, 60 degrees, Martin Luther Coon King Jr. Day, gonna see some temperatures in the mid-60s."

Ouch. That's bad. That's even worse than the scene in Anchorman where Will Ferrell accidentally tells the city of San Diego to go fuck itself. What could have possibly possessed the man? I mean, if that's a Freudian slip, it doesn't reflect well on Mr. Blair's attitude towards our black friends. And King and coon don't even sound very much alike, really. Just embarrassing, hideously, hideously embarrassing.

But what do you think? Should this guy's life be ruined because of a moment's error? He's apologized profusely and says he didn't intend to offend anyone. Here's his quote:

"On a weather report earlier this morning, I made an accidental slip of the tongue when talking about the Martin Luther King holiday, and what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive. For that I offer my deepest apology. I in no way intended to offend anyone. I'm very sorry."

It's kind of an odd apology. He says "what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive." Well, of course it was offensive. You said "coon" in referring to arguably the greatest Black American of the 20th Century. A better apology would have been "my uttering a racial slur this morning was horribly offensive, and I deeply apologize." You know, something that reflects his knowledge of how bad the incident was, rather than place the blame for the situation on easily-offended viewers.

Inaugurations are teh r0x0rs

Thanks to Wonkette for this schedule. It's the line-up of all stars performing at the Inaugural celebration AMERICA'S FUTURE ROCKS TODAY tomorrow. You've got to love that title. And it's so apt to describe this unique gathering of entertainers:

Artist, Description
-- JoJo, Pop/Top 40
-- Hillary Duff, Pop/Top 40
-- Ruben Studdard, Soul
-- 3 Doors Down, Rock
-- Boxkar, Rock
-- Jason Sehorn, Athlete

Woo-wee! Hillary Duff, Ruben Studdard and Three Doors Down. America fucking rawks. It's so appropriate having Ruben Studdard perform at the President's Inauguration, too, considering that his first big single was entitled "I'm Sorry (2004)". That could easily have been Bush's campaign slogan.

Seriously, who the hell is Boxkar, though? If they're important enough to entertain the president's favorite decrepit old white cronies, shouldn't I have heard of them? They're not even featured on the All Music Guide, and those guys have every band in all of Creation. All I could find there was an Australian electronic group from the 90's, and I'm pretty sure they haven't found their way to Karl Rove's iPod just yet.

But a quick Google search led me to the band's official website. And, I gotta tell you, this is some of the funniest shit I've ever seen. This is the first line of the band's bio:

From festivals of 9,000 people and sold out venues, to packed college clubs, Boxkar continues to turn heads of masses in the Midwest and numerous industry folk.

Ha ha! I think G. W. may have written this himself. "Boxkar continues to turn heads of masses"? What the hell does that mean? "Numerous industry folk"? Aw, shucks, them industry folk sure does like these here melodies.

There is no doubt in many people's minds that Boxkar has intangibles that will take them to the national stage.

No way this is real. This is another sophisticated Internet parody, right?

Their music impressed someone in the Bush camp—not only were they asked for a business card to be contacted about a possible inauguration gig, but also received a compliment directly from the President.

“He said we sounded great,” recalled Szebini of a private meeting with the President and First Lady. “I gave him one of our CDs.”

They get the President's seal of approval! All right!

No, in all seriousness, folks, you've got to sympathize with the Inaugural planners. Almost no real music acts of any quality support the President. He's got no choice for these events but Ben Stein, Brooks & Dunn and Kid Rock. So, yeah, he'll go with an unsigned band from Wisconsin that bills itself as Matchbox 20 meets Aerosmith (really!).

I Have a Dream

It's MLK Day, so before I go to work, I thought I'd let you know about the weird dream I had last night. Hey, that's themed!

I was at an airport and didn't know why I was there. I knew it wasn't LAX, so I assumed I had just flown somewhere. Then, my friend Tim and comedian Patton Oswalt (this is true!) came and met me at the terminal and told me I was late, that we all had passes to see a movie that started in 20 minutes.

So, I was at the Sundance Film Festival. Aren't I a nerd? I dream about watching foreign movies.

But for some reason, Sundance was being held this year in a big city, at a hotel, instead of Park City, Utah, in movie theaters. And this is where the dream starts getting too strange to describe. It ends with me nervous about getting back to LA for some reason.

All my dreams are like this. When my friend Aaron has a dream, it's always this big narrative thing he likes to tell me about the next day. But mine are always just little situations I'm in that make me nervous. I guess it's telling that I'm always scared of something in my dreams. Scared of what, I don't know.

So, there you go. Martin Luther King dreamt of racial brotherhood, I dream of film festivals in strange far-off cities. That's why he's a Reverend and I work at a video store, I guess.

Blood Has Been Shed, Jerry!

Two bodies were discovered in a used car office in Tampa on Saturday. Police aren't releasing any more investigation on who the dead people are, or how their bodies wound up inside a used car dealership in Tampa.

It's kind of a grisly, semi-amusing story that wouldn't normally be blogworthy. It did give me an idea for a funny headline that will only be appreciated by dorky people who remember obscure movie quotes.

But the part that really made me want to post the story was this quote from near the bottom of the article:

Maria Jose Acevedo said her boyfriend discovered the bodies. He stepped out of their car, peeked into the office and saw the body of a man, she said.

"He came back out running to the car,'' Acevedo said, speaking in Spanish. ``We called the police. I'm here on vacation, visiting, and this happens.''

She's just in town visiting, folks. How dare these people die and leave their bodies for some innocent tourist to stumble upon. It's just good manners to have your murdered corpse disposed of properly, for some local to find. That's the Florida Difference!

The Golden Globes Are Bullshit

But I'll still post my reactions to the winners and losers. I didn't watch the show tonight, as I had tickets for The Arcade Fire at the Troubadour (an incredible show I'll review tomorrow). But I've found a roundup of the results.

Before we get to the awards, I thought you all might not know The Truth about the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation, the organization putting on these so-called awards. The Truth is, they're just a bunch of Los Angeles journalists/junket whores who enjoy all the free swag and goodies studios have to offer come award season. To quote TV Barn:

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the Golden Globes, is comprised of between seven- and eight-dozen part- or full-time reporters, all of whom are based in Los Angeles for international publications. The organization has limited its membership to a fraction of the number of foreign reporters who cover the entertainment industry. In large part, this has been done to prevent its rather substantial kitty – from which benefits and travel expenses are drawn (and charitable donations) -- from being sliced too thin.

As a whole, the HFPA is a rather cranky, unkempt and demanding lot. The studios accord to its membership exclusive screenings, press conferences and access to stars of movies and TV shows at private receptions. Members are free to participate in all-expenses-paid junkets to exotic locations and, until recently, as much swag as they could fit into their closets.

The most famous example of HFPA "payola" involved Pia Zadora. She won "Best New Star" in 1982 for Butterfly, a film which everyone on Earth basically agreed was awful. She's the only woman to win both the Golden Globe and The Razzie in the same year for the same film. And, of course, it came out that her billionaire husband had "donated" a good deal of money to the HFPA around the same time as Zadora's unexpected win. Hmmm...

So, anyway, the Golden Globes are bullshit. Meaningless as anything other than an early predictor of who will win the Oscars. The only people who should care at all about this crap are Hollywood PR types. But, anyway, here's my thoughts on some of the winners:

Best Motion Picture - Drama

A fine selection. I hope this film does well at the Oscars. Along with Sideways, it's the major player in contention for big awards that's actually a great film I enjoyed. Please note, I still have not seen Million Dollar Baby, though I fully intend to soon.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture - Drama

Haven't seen it. I'm sure Swank is great. But I'm disappointed that Uma Thurman didn't win for Kill Bill 2 after her surprise nomination.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture - Drama

I had read some analyst earlier this week theorizing Depp would win for Finding Neverland. Thank God that shitkicker was shut out.

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

Out of the nominees, I'd have gone with Eternal Sunshine, but this would have been my second choice. A great film, and one of my favorites this year. Now, if only Giamatti's performance had won.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

Did not see this film. In fact, the only actress nominated from a film I've seen was Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture -Musical Or Comedy

Duh. This one was an easy call, though both Jim Carrey and Paul Giamatti did exceptional work this year.

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture

This is a surprise. Portman edged out favorite Virginia Madsen from Sideways and the amazing Cate Blanchett from Aviator. She was great in this role, however, and it kind of introduced her as a grown-up, mature actress. Plus, you get to see her in a thong, which is award-worthy in and of itself.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture

Clive is finally getting the recognition he deserves Stateside. He would have been my pick out of this category, as much as it pains me to overlook Carradine and Thomas Haden Church.

Best Director - Motion Picture

The only nominated director whose film I have not seen. I'll have to get to it some day soon.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

Again, I'd have probably picked Eternal Sunshine, but this would be the silver medal. Fortunately, the two best scripts of the year won't have to compete head-on at the Oscars. Sideways will compete as an adaptation, while Eternal Sunshine is an original screenplay by Charlie Kaufman.

Best Original Score - Motion Picture

I preferred Rolfe Kent's jazz score from Sideways or Explosions in the Sky's unnominated work from Friday Night Lights.

Best Television Series - Drama

I like Nip/Tuck, but it's not as good as Sopranos or Deadwood.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series - Drama

Most deserving performer on television this season, hands down. McShane makes this already great show even more stellar. Swearengen is a classic, classic character, a villain who's also the most relatable, likable character on the entire show.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series - Musical Or Comedy

Bateman's good on Arrested Development. But I'm just so thankful that Zach Braff didn't win this for Scrubs. Can you believe he was nominated? Didn't I tell you the Golden Globes were bullshit?