31 August 2004

According to today's Quentin Tarantino interview in USA Today, Kill Bill: The Complete Epic could be released in theaters as early as next year. Here's hoping. After all, this is the movie that I once predicted would wound God himself.
Apparently Rep. Ed Schrock (R-Va.), one of the most conservative members of Congress, is retiring at the end of his current term, after muckraking site blogactive.com revealed that he'd made numerous calls to a gay phone sex hotline. Aren't politicians allowed to do anything fun?

30 August 2004

Maybe you already knew this, but apparently John Kerry's ex-girlfriend, a former Harvard graduate student, has written a steamy novel called Hedge Fund Mistress:
James Willard, self-made billionaire, is one of the original 15 hedge fund managers. Although the industry has grown to more than 8,000 funds, Willard, after 30 years, is still the undisputed king. Willard learns that money does not buy peace from the past. Obsessed, Willard ruins lives in his warped penance for his his deep secret - his hidden torment. Will his obsession with "fixing" the wrongs of the past influence the world?

Poor Nicki Mathews has stepped into a real mess! After a heart-wrenching romance with a United States senator, Nicki Matthews wanders the United States eventually ending up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Although it is years later, the repercussions of that relationship influence her future and that of a nation. She becomes the unwitting pawn of ruthless, powerful titans obsessed with money, power and revenge.

In the end who will be her savior? Will it be Margo Hallworth, the beautiful but fragile heiress to the Hallworth Pharmaceutical fortune. She is in love with the one man she cannot have, William Grant the devoted scientist and CEO of Omega Corporation. Will it be Tammy - the pitiful but strong voice of the jilted, who knows what it's like to soar and to be abruptly shut out of the world of mega-wealth.
In another article, which I can't link to here, the author is characterized as a "self-described recluse," which seems like an oxymoron. Poor dear.

27 August 2004

By the way, where is everyone? Things seem really quiet on the blog and on the comments.
Not only is the finally-about-to-be-released Hero famous director Zhang Yimou's first attempt at martial arts, it also stars: Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, and Zhang Ziyi. It's a who's who of Chinese cinema.

What would be a comparable lineup of U.S. directors and actors?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. Especially because however much I love Chow Yun Fat, he just isn't a martial artist. It'll be good to see a beautifully coreographed and shot martial arts epic starring people who know martial arts... (Though, does Tony Leung actually know any martial arts? I can't remember seeing him ever doing it before...)

26 August 2004

Perhaps that last post deserves greater comment... There have been trailers before that use music that I love (cf. Garden State), even trailers that use music that I love and have for a long time (cf. any of the dozens that have Under Pressure), but I think this is the first time that a trailer has used a song that's my music. Not music that I like and everyone else does, but music that's mine that most people have never heard of, that's one of my presonal favorites and I doubt I'll ever meet someone who also has it as one of theirs. This song made my best of Suzanne Vega list, but not Erin Larkspur's for example. Its not even most SV fans top few favorites. But it is one of my songs.

And its in a trailer.
Closer... Has... Suzanne... Vega's... Caramel... As... Trailer... Music...

I think I'm about to feignt.

25 August 2004

As several of you probably know, the trailer to Garden State is my favorite trailer ever. I've been watching it frequently for months. At any rate, I finally saw the whole film today, and it lived up to the promise of the trailer. That is not to say that its my favorite film or anything, its still something that works much better in trailer form, but it was more or less the movie that I hoped it would be after seeing the trailer. It's visually a fun film to watch. The characters are fascinating. Natalie Portman is adorable. And, to quote Jack Black, the soundtrack kicks fucking ass. Sadly, the last 10 minutes are pretty disapointing. But otherwise it was highly worth seeing.

The highlight for me though, was when I knew we were approaching the moment that was the key moment in the trailer. I expected good music from this film, but I expected good music that I'd never heard. In this scene I was surprised to hear one of my top five songs. But the one of them that I never remember about. It was a delightful surprise and went well with the scene.

Which song? Well, you'll just have to see the film I guess.

23 August 2004

I spent this evening doing work on my laptop at the kitchen table. During the few hours I was there 4 different people came in from their days and chatted for a while before disappearing off to there rooms. At some point it hit me that this was very familiar, that there was another time I used to hang out in the common room like this while people came through. After being very confused for a few minutes I realized it was sophomore year visits in H-42 where Heather, Tamara, Joyce (and usually Ezra) would make appearances while Bessie and I were hanging out in the common room. Each person would cause half an hour of new fun conversation about their days or whatever. It was always fun to just stay in one place and have lots of fun people come by without my having to go anywhere. This house feels almost like that. It's pretty nifty.

22 August 2004

Sean Penn in his brilliant cameo in Being John Malkovich suggested that many actors would choose to move in the direction of puppeteering once they could do so without seeming like immitators. After a few years puppets seem to have finally hit main stream pop culture (Avenue Q, Team America: World Police). Discuss.

21 August 2004

One of the small joys of gmail is that if you send an email RSVPing for a potluck and saying you'll make guacamole you don't even have to bother googling guac recipes, cause they all come up as google ads.

18 August 2004

I don't know if I'm allowed to divulge our top-secret sources, but let's just say it wasn't me. And since his girlfriend doesn't read this blog, I can say that yes, he is speaking from experience. And that he has had far more success getting girls in Spain than in New York. I will pass your query on for further comment.
One last shoe option. What do you all think of this pair?
I was recently shocked to realize that Wikipedia didn't have an entry for mix tape. Needless to say, I've gone ahead and created one. Obviously, this topic is too large for one man alone, so please, please add and edit to your heart's content.
Speaking of Tom Cruise, word is that his upcoming Steven Spielberg-helmed adaptation of War of the Worlds is set to become the most expensive movie ever made, with a budget slated to top the $200 million spent on Titanic. Sources also state, rather improbably, that Cruise and Spielberg will each be entitled to 20% of the box office gross, which, by my reckoning, means that the movie would need to gross upwards of $1 billion worldwide to turn a profit for the studio. In other words, it needs to become one of the two or three highest-grossing movies in history just to break even. "Steven wants to make the movie of the decade," notes one source. We'll see....
So, Dave, who wrote the guide on How to Get a Girl in Spain? And what are his credentials? (Is it easier to get a girl in Spain than in New York? Or in the Bay Area, for that matter? Should I invite an attractive Spanish girl to "go exploring" with me in Brooklyn? Or is this part of the mystique of studying abroad?)

17 August 2004

After a summer of scheming and coding, today John and I are officially launching three Internet sites under our new company, Fact Tree Enterprises. We are happy to report that, while we have yet to get rich because of this, the Internet is now a more useful resource for classical music aficionados, beginning sailors, and study abroad students.

Our three sites are:

You can help! If you ever want to by anything from Amazon, first go to ClassicalCDGuide.com and click on an Amazon link. Then buy whatever you were going to buy! You'll get the book or toaster you want, and you'll help us improve our relationship with Amazon. Clicking wildly on our ads will not help, as we will get booted off of our advertising networks (although we do appreciate the gesture).

Please check out our sites and let us know what you think -- is something not working, or have we forgotten a key element? You can e-mail me or the business address (facttree@gmail.com) with your comments.


It's also instructive to compare Tom Cruise to Arnold Schwarzenegger, another vivid example of an actor for whom the process of self-invention seems to have extended to the shaping of his offscreen life. (A third would have to be Cary Grant, who once said, "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.") The difference between the two is that Schwarzenegger seems to have always considered acting as a stepping stone to something bigger, whereas for Cruise it is evidently an end in itself. Schwarzenegger lacks Cruise's shrewdness and range, but on the other hand, he seems to have retained an active internal life, which is something that Cruise doesn't have.

Even more illuminating is the case of Marlon Brando, who also could have been the Perfect Human, but grew fat, it has been suggested, out of contempt for Hollywood and its ideals of perfection. Brando in his prime was more beautiful than Cruise ever was, but it's arguably in the later, monstrously obese Brando, forcing us to love him for his talent alone, that we get a glimpse of a higher level of humanity.

16 August 2004

This month's Rolling Stone interview with Tom Cruise, which can be found here, is worth reading, in particular because of a few lines that neatly express why I find this guy so interesting:
Cruise is a dedicated student of the action-hero disciplines: He wants to gain competence, he says, at rock-climbing and flying; he is loath to use a stunt double, preferring instead to spend months training in swordplay, Nascar racing and bike-riding for films. As he talks about his adventuring skills, one gets the feeling that in the event of an apocalypse, an action hero would have a more likely chance of survival than most ordinary folk.

Cruise considers the idea. In fact, there's nothing that you can say that he won't seriously consider. He pays attention, almost to a fault. "I can live out in the woods," he begins. "I would eat bugs. I can use a sword and a pistol and stuff."

Cruise, ultimately, is a survivor. "There's a confidence that comes from knowing you can work, no matter what," he says. "I can deliver papers. I can take care of myself."
Obviously, there's a lot to unpack here, but I'll give it a shot. When you compare Cruise to his costars in The Outsiders—Matt Dillon, Partick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez—it's pretty clear that he isn't the best looking or most talented of the bunch (Matt Dillon is probably the best actor; as for the best looking, well, take your pick). So why is he the biggest movie star in the world? Maybe because of a systematic, ruthless drive for omnicompetence. Cruise's career is the ultimate example of how a short, modestly talented guy can, by dint of hard work, discipline, and obsessive single-mindedness, transform himself into some proximate version of the Perfect Human. A great movie star, yes, but one who could also repeople a desolate earth given a Perfect Woman or two, or risk everyhing on one turn of pitch-and-toss, lose, and start again with the same relentless ambition as before.

Note that this quest for perfection doesn't seem to have extended to politics, where Cruise has no professed opinions, or to his philosophy, which consists entirely of Scientology. Still, for all his flaws, he's still the most visible exemplar I can find of the heights to which the impulse for self-perfection can carry an individual who, as created, was arguably less than superhuman.

As for the hidden psychic costs, the Rolling Stone interview with Cruise makes these regrettably clear, too. As somebody once said about something else: "There's no there there."

14 August 2004

I can't believe the way time flies. Davan and Branwen have been dating for over a year now! Since the July 7th 2003 strip. I feel really old.
I've been waiting for this moment for months -- the Errol Morris ads for MoveOn PAC are complete. The idea was nothing short of revolutionary. Take a master of filming ordinary people, and have him get them on film talking about why they want to vote for/against somebody. The credibility of these ads, I imagined, would be infinitely greater than the faux patriotic backdrops and anonymous voice-overs of normal political ads.

Now that they're here, I'm disappointed.

The best of the ads are available for viewing here. The winning ad is ok, and so are all the others (although I must say that the ads featuring women with southern accents seemed more gripping to me -- I'll leave others to speculate as to why). The problem is in how the thing was set up. First off, Morris only interviewed people who voted for Bush in 2000. That leaves out a lot of viewpoints, and means that the ads are really only going to be good at attacking Bush. You cannot lay out much of an alternative agenda, and really shift people to a more long-term political movement, when you focus all your energy on the shortcomings of one man.

That said, the ads aren't even as hard-hitting against Bush as they could be, because no one person represents America, and any one person can be dismissed as a whiner outside of the mainstream. I wish, I wish, I wish that he would have made a mini-documentary, maybe a one minute or two minute piece, pulling together five or so of these people and cutting between them. Maybe he has plans to do that. In the meantime, I hope (and I plan on writing to MoveOn with the suggestion, for whatever it's worth) that they use these ads in rotation, and not focus on airing just one.
And they're off!!! Braving fierce winds, the olympic rowing competitors have begun. Harvard athletes are well-represented at these games, and so is fair Adams House. Pat Todd and Artour Samsonov, both 2002 grads and Adamsians, are rowing for the U.S. Pat is in the lightweight four which begins prelims tomorrow, and Artour, rowing in the men's pair, started today, advancing to the semis with the help of a very favorable draw -- they finished 9 seconds behind a boat that didn't advance because they were in a different heat. Here are the results.

Other Harvardians in the rowing events that I know of: Henry Nuzum (men's double), Wolf Moser (men's four), Caryn Davies (women's eight), Michelle Guerrette (women's four), Greg Ruckman (men's lightweight double, in a boat that I think is coached by Harvard's Charley Butt). I apologize for anyone I miss. Additionally, a high school classmate of mine, Josh West, is in the Great Britain eight.

As some of you know, I will soon be traveling to Athens myself to cheer these people on in person. I leave 8/20 and I hope to be able to make posts while I'm there.

Drunken cycling may be illegal, but it sure is a lot of fun.

In case you're wondering, on a 10 block bike ride through south berkeley at 4:30 A.M. one runs into two skateboarders wearing all black, one homeless person with whom one has the conversation: "hey" "hey, how are you?" "just trying to survive." And one car with unknown people in it.

13 August 2004

Today's blog activity is to help Noah find new shoes. I'm sick of having the same New Balance shoes that I buy every time. Especially cause this particular model seems to be the unofficial shoe of math deptartments everywhere. On the other hand, I can't buy from anyone but New Balance or the shoes won't fit. Anyway here are the new options I'm deciding between:

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4
Option 5
Option 6

Please vote and comment in the comments section.

12 August 2004

Apparently this Porter Goss fellow, the presumptive successor to George Tenet as director of central intelligence, was a classics major at Yale when he was recruited by the CIA. In an article with the eye-catching title "Can Classics Enrich Me Financially?", he's listed along with a handful of other famous 'n' successful classicists, like Ted Turner, and the late Eudora Welty.

11 August 2004

My favorite online read these days is Daily Howler, which is the next best thing to not watching cable news at all. Lots of good stuff in their archives: one of my favorites is this column, which does a nice job of slapping around the New York Times over their weak attempt to determine whether Kerry is a flip-flopper. More recently, the account of the recent confrontation between Bill O'Reilly and Paul Krugman on Meet the Press reminds me why I'm sometimes glad that I only get one fuzzy channel on my TV these days, and it's always tuned to The Simpsons.

Incidentally, I began reading Daily Howler after looking for material on Jon Stewart's recent interview with Congressman Henry Bonilla. You can find the clip here. I can't view it on my computer, but I've been told that it's well worth a download.

09 August 2004

I made a few phone calls to figure out what was wrong with my logon for the REM fanclub... And then when i finally got it figured out I found out that tickets are $85 for seats and $50 for standing room... That's just obscene.

I'll have to see if i can sneak up to the hill behind the concert.
Is the last of the great poker reads at this ESPN article the memoir by your colleague alec? ("Poker Face" by Katy Lederer?) The funny thing is after enough jetBlue flights watching ESPN2 I know both of the siblings mentioned. Annie Duke in particular is great, she cuddles up with her feet on top of her chair and likes to listen to her iPod.

In other news, yet again something has gone wrong in my attempts to buy fanclub tickets from REM. First time they got sent to Harvard who wouldn't forward them because they came in a package. Then last year there was another big mess with them being sent to an address right around when i moved and UPS being a pain. This year I can't even buy them. Apparently when i set up my username and password I was supposed to magically know that if I put a symbol in it that it wouldn't complain when I set it up, but if I ever tried to login it would inform me that passwords had to be alphanumeric. Grrrr...

08 August 2004

BTW, I scored a 73 on the love-shy test, whatever that means.
AM started med school this past week, and on Saturday her entering class had a "white coat ceremony." I had never heard of a white coat ceremony before, and apparently UNM has only been doing one for about 7 years. Basically, it's a ceremony where friends and family are in attendance, and the dean puts a white doctor's coat on all the entering students, and then they take the Oath of Geneva.

The Oath of What?

I had been under the impression that the Hippocratic Oath was still in play here. AM's dad speculated that the Oath of Geneva was an updated version written by lawyers. So, I did some research, and got even more confused. Apparently the Oath of Geneva was written in 1948 because the Hippocratic Oath no longer was suited to "modern conditions." You can read both the old and the new here. While this website cites Nazism as the reason for the rewrite, one cannot help but notice the prohibition on abortion and euthanasia (I had no idea the abortion part was in the original).

To make matters even more confusing, the Oath that AM made wasn't even the same Oath of Geneva that is listed here, and in fact I can't find an exact version anywhere. Some differences: AM doesn't have to consecrate her life to the service of humanity, she only has to give respect to her deserving teachers, apparently she doesn't have to keep her patients' secrets after they've died, and she has to respect human life, but there is no mention of it beginning at conception.

I wonder what other changes will need to be made 50 years hence.

07 August 2004

Turns out that the campus wireless network extends to Cafe Strada. So now I can sit a coffee shop, sip tea, listen to the goats on my ipod, and write a math paper on my computer, all in the outdoor berkeley pleasantness. Have I mentioned that I love my life?
By the way, I'm usually skeptical of the use of digital video in studio films, but over 80 percent of Collateral was apparently shot on video cameras, and it's almost breaktakingly gorgeous and atmospheric. I still think that digital video is a poor choice for most conventional movies, but Collateral is clearly a film that was conceived as an ideal vehicle for this new technology, and it shows that in the right hands, video can be devastatingly rich and painterly. It should teach George Lucas a thing or two.
Three weeks, three great thrillers: The Bourne Supremacy, The Manchurian Candidate, and now Collateral, which may be the lushest, most textured B-movie I've seen in years. It features two of the most ambitious men in Hollywood, Michael Mann and Tom Cruise, working on a studiously modest scale, and although I vaguely wish that these two guys had tackled something of more epic dimensions, it's hard to argue with a movie this tasty. It falls below the level of the great Tom Cruise "problem" pictures that ran from Eyes Wide Shut through Minority Report, but Cruise himself seems to be having a better time than he usually does, and his deadpan "Yo, homies!" may be the best catchphrase he's ever had.

Collateral also makes me want to revisit Thief, Michael Mann's first movie, and arguably his best, with James Caan as a retired safecracker enlisted by the mob for one last heist. The story may be old, but the ending isn't: Thief's last twenty minutes set a standard for orgies of revenge that still hasn't been surpassed, and I can't think of that movie's incredible final shot, with Tangerine Dream pulsating on the soundtrack, without feeling a genuine chill or two. It's well worth the rental if you haven't seen it yet.
Now that Garden State is out in the theaters it's time for a new best trailer ever: Team America World Police.

05 August 2004

Recently I bought several adorable apple computer products. Several of which say very prominently on the packaging: "Designed by Apple in California." Now I understand that it's typical to include made in America to appeal to people's patriotism or whatever... But why the emphasis on California? Are Californians more likely to buy California products? Or does everyone have some happy association with California that makes them think, "oh, it's from California, how sunny and innovative!" Any guesses?

(Oh, which cute apple products you ask? iBook G4 14" and a 4th generation iPod. Yes I did get one the first day they were available in stores. And yes I am counting on the adorableness of my computer products rubbing off on me.)

04 August 2004

More shocking than USA Basketball's blowout loss yesterday, or their necessity of AI/Devine intervention to win today, or even the likelihood that they won't bring back the gold is that if the U.S. Virgin Islands had a basketball team 10 years ago then team USA wouldn't even be a threat to medal. Tim Duncan is really the one thing that gives the US a chance to be competitive.
I just got home from poker and I left when I wanted to. Not when the bus left. Not when my ride left. Not 40 minutes before I wanted to leave because it would take that long to get home. I left when I wanted to, and it feels great.

Moving to this new house feels like getting out of a bad relationship. I mean sure the old house was really really hot, but damn it's great to have my freedom back.

03 August 2004

Those controversial articles are great fun, I highly recomend the one on Sealand the "independent nation" off the coast of England.
Since we haven't gotten our wireless hub yet I'm working off some random other person's wireless network. It has a filter, and it's the most annoying draconian filter ever. It's called "lightspeed systems." No IM, no telnet. Matthew Yglesias (spam), Volokh Conspiricy (porn) and Ampersand (porn) are all blocked. Sigh.

My theory is that this is the wireless of the elementary school accross the street.
Speaking of Meg's wedding, it was quite lovely. The last time I went to a wedding I was 11 and the bride was Joel's sunday school teacher. The ceremony was elegant, and Meg managed to find a dress that was both stunning and stunningly Meg. I got to be introduced to her cousins as her "longest friend" since I've known her for 11 years now. The party was great fun, intergenerational parties with drunken adults and amusing little cousins always are. And I managed to get home without a hitch (stupid lack of public transport in the US). There was also something quite delightful about a wedding where everyone was so confident in Meg and Thom being such a great couple.

Oh, and now I'm officially old.
So I took the test at the love-shy site, just cause tests are so amusing.

I got 85. Typical score for an average college male is 104 and a Love-Shy man of similar age is about 48. Putting me about where I'd have guessed.

The reason for the lowness of the score is essentially: I do not initiate conversation without a good solid in. Unless I have the first several sentences of conversation and an idea for a direction to take it in I will almost never initiate a conversation with someone whom I'm not already good friends with. Furthermore I assume that people don't want me to introduce myself unless I have some solid reason to guess that this person in particular wants me to talk to them now.

A result of this is that when I meet people they're usually people who are good at meeting people, because I can't carry the water in the first 5 minutes of conversation. In particular this means i meet girls for whom there is typically a lot of competition. On the other hand, I've managed to be able to go into a room of mostly strangers and usually meet some people and have a decent time.

This weekend was an interesting example, where between the wedding and the gathering the night before I had several hours of socialization with people none of whom (other than Meg, Thom, and Meg's parents) I'd met more than twice. I somehow managed to actually keep myself busy talking with people, but for the most part it was people who did a good job initiating conversation with me. The girl I spent the most time talking to I was standing next to at the gathering in different conversations and when hers ended i looked over and she gave a sort of "i'm trying to remember who you are and am about to introduce myself look" which was all i needed to introduce myself. But had she been as shy as I was and looked away I never would have said anything. The result is that I can meet people whose company is wonderful for a day or two, but not necessarily the sort of person who would want to date me or who I should want to date. Because the girls I meet skew outgoing I think the girls I meet tend to have plenty of options better than I.

But anyway, I can now meet people who are substantially less outgoing than those i met a year ago, so I think I'm improving and will work my way down the ladder to more difficult people to initiate conversation with.
By the way, I found the article on love-shyness through Wikipedia's list of controversial issues, which makes for great browsing. It includes everything from "Abortion" to "Israel" to "Inherently Funny Word."
I've been reading, with great fascination, a book called Shyness and Love, which can be downloaded in its entirety from this site. It's a seven-hundred-page work on a clinical condition called "love-shyness," which apparently affects 1.5% of American males, predominantly characterized by, well, the inability to ask a girl out on a date. The Wikipedia article on the same subject bears quoting in full:
Love-shyness is a form of chronic, severe shyness of men or women who have never been able to form sexual or emotionally intimate loving relationships with others, but who have been constrained to remain that way because of severe shyness in informal social situations involving possible sexual partners. It is believed to be the result of a genetic-biologically rooted temperament, experiencing feminist ideology, and of learning experiences with peers, family, and organized religions.

Love-shyness can be found among people of all ages and of both sexes. However, research evidence indicates that the problem impacts far more severely upon males than it does upon females. Shy women are just as likely as non-shy women to date, to get married, and to have children.

Love-shyness is a life-crippling condition. Victims of love-shyness are unable to marry, cannot have children, and do not participate in the normal adolescent and young adult activities of dating and courtship. Moreover, the heterosexual love-shy are often misperceived as homosexual. The never-married, heterosexually inactive man has long been known to be vulnerable to all manner of quite serious and often bizarre pathologies. In most cases, these men do not allow themselves to become involved in anything or in any activity, wholesome or otherwise, for which there is any kind of existent social support group. The love-shy do not have anybody to relate to as a friend or to count on for emotional support.

Love-shyness afflicts approximately 1.5 percent of most male populations. More succinctly, love-shyness will effectively prevent many of its male sufferers from ever marrying and from ever experiencing any form of intimate sexual contact with others.
Yikes. What's to be done? Shyness and Love recommends some interesting courses of treatment, including, in all seriousness, "nude Jacuzzi therapy." The chapter on the movie and music preferences of the love-shy is also quite fascinating.

I should note, of course, that none of the authors or regular readers of this blog meet the clinical profile of true love shyness, which is usually characterized by the lack of any romantic experience whatsoever. Still, there are details here that hit pretty close to home. The book's discussion of "Higher Education as a Mode of Compensation," for example, deserves a thoughtful look by those of us who always hoped that girls would be impressed by a PhD.
The film that I've always been tempted to edit on my own is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I love that movie, but I've always felt that its flow and pacing would be improved tremendously by dividing the long flashback in the desert into two parts: use the first half as a prologue to the entire film, up until the point when Xiou Long disappears into the desert, and then insert the rest of the flashback where it currently stands. This would: 1) Establish Xiou Long 's character from the beginning of the film. 2) Provide a more exciting opening, as opposed to the talky first reel that currently exists. 3) Prevent an overlong flashback from interrupting the flow of the story. The simple change, I think, would make Crouching Tiger a perfect film.

The Hulk would also benefit from a few judicious edits.
Speaking of spoilers, 50 First Dates contains a Sixth Sense spoiler. It's hard to think that someone wouldn't know the Sixth Sense ending yet, but then again I didn't know what Rosebud was till I saw Citizen Kane freshman year, so I feel the need to be conscientious about spoilers.
Here's Slate's review of 50 First Dates which was the reason I watched it instead of The Mexican or whatever the latest Julia Styles Cinderella movie is called. It is more or less spoiler free and does a decent job hinting at how charming it is, and gives a good solid warning about the awful bits of it. With 10% of the scenes and a quarter of the characters cut from this movie it really would have been one of my favorite movies ever, but that 10% is pretty annoying. As the slate writer points out these were probably added after they got Adam Sandler and not in the original film.

Which leads to a question I was thinking about the other day in reference to the LOTR extended versions: How long until making ones own cuts of films becomes a popular internet activity? Especially with LOTR one could edit them down to the 2.5 hours that you really liked. This would be especially fun if anyone could ever be convinced to release huge extended versions with lots of extra footage. Do you folks think this will catch on when personal computer technology hits the appropriate point?
I've been meaning to reply to Nat's counterargument on soccer as spectator sport. But I don't have the time at the moment (unpacking in my new house). But here's a link to a Guardian Op-Ed on why americans hate soccer. Basically his argument seems to be that basketball is like soccer but better, and so americans have no need to pay attention to soccer. I don't buy it, but since it's relevant I figured I'd pass it along.
Speaking of movies seen on flights, on my flight back from the Netherlands I saw several. (Ugg... I have such a backload of posts I ment to send right when I got back but then I hurt my hands.) Most of them were mediocre to poor (Jersey Girl and Man on Fire), while Hidalgo was downright bad.

However there was one amazing surprise: 50 First Dates is the best romantic comedy I've ever seen not starring John Cussack. It absolutely blew me away. I wasn't expecting much at all, in fact I saw Jersey Girl and Man on Fire both before I saw it. My line every time I passed a poster for it was: "The scary thing about that movie is that it means someone saw Memento and thought 'That would make a really great romantic comedy.'" I guess the really scary thing is that person was right.

Warning, it is a romantic comedy, and if you don't like romantic comedies you won't like this one. It doesn't "transcend the genre" or anything. And it is an Adam Sandler film, if you hate him with a passion then this movie may annoy you.

That being said I really really loved it. It's the best film I've seen this year.
Between when I flew to the east coast a week ago and when I flew back, jetBlue has added to its extensive DirecTV coverage the option of watching several films. In typical jetBlue fashion, rather than paying a bunch to show crappy recent releases they've chosen to show good classic films. Currently they're showing: Moulin Rouge, The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and (only on the redeye) The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I must say that the first act of The Princess Bride (from the beginning to "as.... you.... wish...") simply makes my happier than any act in the rest of the movies. It's just delightful.

It was pointed out to me several times that the music from Moulin Rouge has way better instrumentation in the actual film than it does on the soundtrack. (Not to mention that the soundtrack doesn't have the showstopping Jim Broadbent "Like a Virgin.") My memory for music was simply not good enough to even notice the change in instrumentation after I saw the film the first time, but this time after having listened to the soundtrack for years, it was pretty obvious how much better the music is in the film.

Not only is the instrumentation better, it's often easier to understand the lyrics. I find it remarkable how much music I own that has never really sunk in. There are so many songs I have that I've never really listened to. This time the big revelation was that I'd never caught the lyrics of the first line of this section in "El Tango Roxanne"

"You're free to leave me
Just don't deceive me
and please, believe me when I say 'I love you.'"

I think that may need to go on my list of mottos from songs.

Finally, Moulin Rouge is one of those films that really drives in for me that even in expensive spectacular special effects and busy films really often most of the joy comes from just the simple pleasure of watching movie stars. What makes that film so much fun is just that Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are just so damn fun to watch. Well that and Nicole Kidman's wardrobe.

02 August 2004

After hestitating briefly over Zatoichi and She Hate Me, I finally went with The Manchurian Candidate. It's easily the most intelligent thriller I've seen all year, bearing in mind the fuzzy distinction between "intelligent" and "smart" that I try to outline a few posts below. Even if it doesn't have the raw energy of The Bourne Supremacy, it achieves something even more impressive: it doesn't confine its ingenuity to action sequences and plot points, but it thinks its way out of its genre, and even sends a tendril or two into the brains of the audience. The movie deflates a bit in the last ten minutes, and you can sense it backing away from a truly demonic ending, but even with its flaws, it's the first film so far this year that managed to make me forget, for long stretches, that I was watching a movie, so seamless and frightening are its connections to the real world.

Almost incidentally, it also includes the single most satisfying moment of movie payback since Terence Stamp picked himself up from the street and went back into that warehouse, gun drawn, at the beginning of The Limey. It's a punch in the face so sinfully satisfying that the editor seems to have added an extra ten seconds of footage to the beginning of the following scene, to prevent the audience from drowning out some crucial lines of dialogue with laughter and applause.

Sequels and remakes are supposed to be creative voids, but in light of Spider-Man 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Shrek 2, Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Manchurian Candidate, this looks to be the first year ever where my list of the year's ten best will include more than one title with a numeral at the end.
After reading a handful of horrendous reviews for The Village, I decided to skip it, but not before searching online to see if I could learn the twist ending without actually having to sit through the movie itself. (I'm a cultural critic, after all; it's my job to know these things.) I wouldn't dream of revealing the ending here, of course, but I should note that a careful perusal of the cast and crew listing on imdb.com should give the secret away.