30 April 2006

Wha-a-a-a? Apparently The Red Shoes has just been remade as a Broadway musical, except it's called Hot Feet and set to the music of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Also, it doesn't seem to be very good. Moira Shearer must be pirouetting in her grave.

27 April 2006

Alida Valli, 1921-2006.

I wasn't even aware that she was still alive, but I'm really sorry that she's gone. She was the final survivor of The Third Man, my favorite movie of Hollywood's Golden Age, and the melancholy focus of attention in the greatest closing shot in the history of the cinema. If you don't know what shot I'm talking about, well, darn it, you really should.
In more legal news, 18 grandmothers were acquitted on disorderly conduct charges arising from a protest outside a Times Square military recruiting office. The women tried to enlist in order to "give their lives for those of younger soldiers." The article is worth reading; the trial itself sounds like it was hilarious. Here's an example:

Prosecutor: "Did you personally believe that you would be allowed to enlist?"

Grandmother: "I wasn't sure. I do have a skill set...[I] could be used to deploy equipment."

(Prosecutor follows up with question about whether she was prepared to go to war.)

Grandmother: "Yes. I was totally prepared. I had just recently gotten divorced. I was ready."

One really has to wonder who in the District Attorney's office had the brilliant idea to take this case to trial. Couldn't they be focusing on cases that are a tad more important - like criminals who actually hurt people? Or were they trying to make some larger point - that grandmothers should be held accountable like everyone else?

25 April 2006

I'm not sure this is exactly what Kenneth Lay meant to say on the witness stand yesterday:

"I've said before, I accept full responsibility for everything that happened at Enron," Mr. Lay testified. "Having said that, there's no way I could take responsibility for the criminal conduct that I didn't know about."

24 April 2006

Maybe someday I'll actually do a full triathlon. The "college nationals triathlon" I attended in Reno this weekend had the swim eliminated because it was too cold. Instead, we ran, then biked, then ran some more. The real shame in all of this wasn't that they prevented us from swimming - the water really was too cold for the event to go off safely - but that the thing was scheduled in Reno in April in the first place, and the people who arranged it should have been well aware that it was too cold to handle outdoor swimming. (The original location for the triathlon was New Orleans, and the location was moved last fall for various reasons.)
For while, I thought that I was coming to terms with my Finnish roots, but now I'm not so sure.

20 April 2006

I know that I've taken some fairly absurd positions on this blog over the years, mostly involving Tom Cruise, but now I find myself obliged to defend Roger Ebert's sexiness. Ebert recently came in third on the Boston Phoenix's list of the 100 Unsexiest Men in the World, right behind Gilbert Gottfried and Randy Johnson, and...I mean, I don't really know how to say this...but if I were an eligible young woman, I would marry Roger Ebert.
I was feeling pretty good about my tax refund until I looked at George W. Bush's return and saw that he got back almost $40,000. Then I looked at Dick Cheney's return and he got a refund of well over $2 million. I wonder if he gets that in a normal paper check, or if he gets in via direct deposit, or if he gets in in the form of gift certificates to Target and Lowe's.

15 April 2006

Today I'm sorting out all my summer travel plans. They're a bit chaotic between three weddings and working in South Tacoma Washington. Anyway most of them aren't too bad to find good fares for. However, Seattle to Detroit is apparently impossible to fly. Most flights seem to be expensive *and* redeyes. Anyway, there's a special circle in hell for the algorithm that came up with this idea for USAir:

Depart Seattle, WA at 10:45pm
Transfer in Charlotte, NC at 6:32am
Arrive Detroit, MI at 9:22am

13 April 2006

I was just scrolling through some of the old NBA drafts on wikipedia, and kept noticing how many good players went undrafted. So here's my top all-undrafted team of active players:

C: B. Miller, B. Wallace
PF:U. Haslem, R. Evans
SF:B. Bowen, A. Nocioni
SG:M. Daniels, R. Bell, D. Jones
PG: M. James, E. Boykins

They wouldn't score a whole lot. But still, with a bit of practice I bet they'd beat the Knicks.

12 April 2006

Gyllenhaal and Sarsgaard are engaaged!

11 April 2006

And yet Kiefer seems curiously unhappy in this month's Rolling Stone interview. I did enjoy this paragraph, though:
He once heard that some college-going 24 fans had developed a drinking game in which you have to down one shot for every time Jack Bauer says, "Damn it," which is the show's "fuck" and "shit" substitute. So during one episode, in one scene, he took it upon himself to say "Damn it" three times in a row, "Boom, boom, boom. And that was just one scene. By the end, there had to be fourteen 'Damn its.' And I could just see all these college kids going, 'Oh, fuck!'"
It's sad, really: he's making $40 million over the next three years, he's Jack Bauer, and yet he's living alone, without a girlfriend, in a converted iron foundry. (I know how that feels.)

10 April 2006

Speaking of Kiefer, I note with some pleasure that he's been signed to an additional three seasons of 24, which guarantees several more years of ass-kicking, as well as exchanges like this one, from tonight's episode:
Agent Pierce: Are you aware that President Logan has issued a warrant for your arrest in connection with David Palmer's assassination?
Jack Bauer: No, but that makes sense.
Also, I spent about half an hour today on the Fox website reading synopses of the 24 episodes that I missed while I was in Bombay. Holy Christ—did they kill off everybody while I was gone?

09 April 2006

Inside Man is great fun, by the way. It's the ultimate David Mamet movie, mostly because Mamet had nothing to do with it. It's an unusually successful example of the sort of clever thriller that Mamet has been trying to make—with mixed results—for the past decade. All of the trademarks are here, including the clever, vaguely anticlimactic plot, the preference for elaborately worded threats over actual bloodshed, and the sometimes inexplicable hints of hidden agendas and unspoken motivations. Even the dialogue has something of the Mamet rhythm, although Mamet has never been able to get his actors to loosen up the way Spike Lee does here. Like Mamet's recent movies, it's a bit hollow, but it's a lot more satisfying—at least to this critic—than Heist or Spartan or even The Spanish Prisoner.

However, Jodie Foster's role in this movie—as a classically Mametesque ice queen—reveals one of my limitations as a film critic. As we left the theater, my friend said: "They should have fired their costume designer. Her clothes were badly cut. And she could barely walk in those heels." Needless to say, such things don't even register on my radar. Then I read the following in Manohla Dargis's review in the New York Times:
[Jodie Foster] stalks the sets in form-fitting suits and nose-bleed heels that show off her spectacular legs wonderfully. (She could kill with those things!)
Obviously, there's a critical debate brewing here in which I am utterly unqualified to participate. It isn't really surprising. In all seriousness, I've often suspected that my indifference to fashion has blinded me to key aspects of the movies I see. I'm reminded of the friend of a friend who accurately foresaw the ending of The Sixth Sense, because she noticed that Bruce Willis wore the same outfit throughout the entire movie....
I caught Inside Man last night, which incidentally allowed me to catch up on the trailers for summer movies. (That's why I love going to the movies in April—it reminds you of the drought you've survived for the previous three months.) The trailer for United 93, for example, strikes me as the canniest trailer ever made: instead of focusing on the movie, it focuses on actual interviews with the families of the victims, all of whom apparently agree that the time for the film is right. Shrewdly done. It doesn't exactly seem like my idea of a good time at the movies, though—just watching the trailer made my popcorn turn cold—and it certainly cast a pall over the trailer for Keeping Up With the Steins.

Also very shrewd, in its own way, is the teaser trailer for Mission: Impossible III. It pulls the same sleight-of-hand as the trailer for Collateral, which is to conceal Tom Cruise for as long as possible while focusing on a key supporting player—in this case, Philip Seymour Hoffman—before producing Cruise halfway through the trailer, like the prize in the cereal box. It's a silly trick, but it works, and it does a nice job of side-swiping the Tom-haters in the audience. (Frankly, though, it's unclear what sort of trailer would have convinced me not to see Mission: Impossible III. I guess, in my weird way, I'm its target audience.)

But, I'm embarrassed to say, the trailer that got me the most excited was for The Sentinel. I'm not really sure what this movie is about—something involving Michael Douglas as a Secret Service agent implicated in a plot to assassinate the president. Well, great. But this movie has Kiefer Sutherland in it, and based on the trailer, he's basically doing a riff on Jack Bauer the entire time. The result: I'm going to buy a ticket. That's what movie stardom is all about. If you'd told me five years ago that I'd spend ten dollars just to watch the star of Flatliners and Freeway bark orders for two hours, I'd have told you that you were crazy. But here we are.

07 April 2006

And where's Toy Story or Toy Story 2?
I guess I'd better rant for a bit about the WGA's list of the greatest screenplays of all time. I don't really have any issues with their inclusions (at least they don't have Fight Club), but there are some perplexing omissions. There are only a couple of foreign films, for example, and no mention of The Seven Samurai, which is probably the most beautifully structured movie ever made. No Powell and Pressburger, of course. I'm used to it by now, but it's still a gross oversight. Maybe there's so much going on in The Red Shoes that the screenplay is relatively obscured, but surely The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp deserved some recognition.

Of course, you only need to look as far as Robert Altman and Wong Kar-Wai to realize that there's another level of cinema entirely where a good, well-structured screenplay is less of an asset than a handicap. A list of those movies would probably be a great deal more interesting.

Incidentally, and apropos of the Gospel of Judas, I recently realized that my favorite screenplay—narrowly edging out Casablanca and L.A. Confidential—is Paul Schrader's script for The Last Temptation of Christ. Scorsese and his cast weren't entirely able to do it justice, given the limited time and resources, but as an example of complex, intractably literary ideas expressed in vivid dramatic terms, I don't know anything else that even comes close. It's worth a rental, if you weren't able to get past the picket lines (or were in the third grade) in 1988.

06 April 2006

Speaking of the classics, I'm a little annoyed that they've finally discovered the lost Gospel of Judas—and it's in Coptic? What's the point of knowing ancient Greek if you can't even read the latest heretical gospel? (Even in English translation, it's still immensely interesting, even if a lot of travelers, like Kazantzakis, De Quincey, Graves, and Borges, have gone down this road before. As De Quincey wrote, "It is not one thing, but all the things which legend attributes to Judas Iscariot that are false.")
I'm not sure why I never noticed this before, but today I stumbled across Vicipaedia, the Latin version of Wikipedia. As the home page notes, Super quattuor milia articulorum apud Vicipaediam Latinam! In other words, someone has actually found the time to write 4,846 online encyclopedia articles in Latin. (But why no featured article on Katalina Holmesia?)

01 April 2006

Note to self: when preparing an April Fool's prank, say, by screwing around with the alarm clock, remember that March has 31 days.

Question for world: would anything really bad happen if someone cooked a balloon in the oven?