29 June 2007

Sorry for my prolonged absence from the blog.

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision striking down the Louisville and Seattle de-segregation plans weren't a huge surprise given the Court's 30-year unease with affirmative action. I think diversity in schools is an important goal, and I think a lot of school districts feel the same way. One mechanism for achieving diversity that would pass constitutional muster, and which I wouldn't be at all surprised to see enter the limelight, is school placement (and affirmative action) based solely upon wealth. Given the unfortunate fact that wealth correlates strongly with race and ethnicity, some school districts will look to wealth as a proxy for race/ethnicity when devising school placement plans.

I don't necessarily like the idea, in general, of government officials using one categorization (wealth) for another (race) because it seems dishonest, but I think there will be a strong temptation to do so. Personally, I think integrating students of different economic groups is educationally and socially desirable in its own right.

I haven't yet read the opinions to see if any of them address this issue specifically.

28 June 2007

Corinne Crawford, a UC Berkeley graduate student and a good friend, was killed earlier this week in a senseless accident. I got to know Corinne as a fellow Classics major in college, and was as impressed by her as anyone I ever met at Harvard. (Among other things, Corinne could read nine languages, including two forms of Akkadian that I didn't know existed.) We met at a college production of the play Wit, and a few days later, Noah and I went with Corinne to see a quirky little psychological thriller that had been getting some excellent reviews. She was an important part of my life for the rest of the year. I lost touch with Corinne after graduation, but she made occasional appearances in the lives of the people on this blog, and I'm bitterly sorry that we'll never know what else she might have achieved, if only she had been given more time. The world has lost an extraordinary person, for no good reason, and far too soon.

26 June 2007

The Guardian's list of the 100 most memorable moments in movie history is possibly the best movie list I've ever seen. The most glaring omission, aside from the absence of anything from Citizen Kane, is the hotel room scene in Vertigo. Still, this is close to a perfect list, and gets extra points for giving plenty of love to The Third Man.

My own favorite moments range from the cut to the sunrise in Lawrence of Arabia (which, with apologies to 2001, is the greatest cut in the history of cinema) to Kevin Spacey's valediction in L.A. Confidential (which thankfully makes the Guardian's list). In the end, though, my favorite movie moment has got to be this one.

25 June 2007

Harrison Ford finally dons that fedora again, and you know what? He looks pretty damned good.

24 June 2007

Another surprising thing about the AFI 100 list is the unexpected resurgence of director Alan J. Pakula, who scores two movies on the list for the first time. One wonders if this has something to do with the fact that Pakula died in a freak accident the year after the original list was released. In any case, All the President's Men is a great movie that deserves to be here, but Sophie's Choice? Really? Maybe this is like comparing apples to oranges, but is there anyone in the world who thinks that this was a better movie than The Third Man?

(The Third Man, incidentally, was dropped from the revised list, which is so outrageous that I'm not going to waste another word complaining about it.)

21 June 2007

Oh, and I didn't see My Blueberry Nights after all. My friend and I stood in line for an hour, only to be told that the screening was full. We were offered tickets to see Mr. Brooks instead, which, to put it mildly, was something of a comedown.
The revised AFI list of the top 100 movies of all time contains some good news (especially the huge leaps forward by Vertigo and The Searchers), but more than anything else, it gives me an excuse to talk about the most overrated movie in history, which is currently at #5. Ready for it?

Raging Bull.

Before you start throwing things, I should make it clear that I've done my best to love this movie. I've seen it on the big screen. I own the DVD. I even had the poster on my dorm room wall, for chrissake. But the more I see it, the more I agree that it represents, in David Thomson's words, "artistic will rising far above experience." I don't think that Scorsese understands boxing, or Jake LaMotta, and I think that by creating such a stark, schematic, obsessively designed movie, he slights his natural gifts for life, humor, and teeming movement, which are so much in evidence in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, and The Departed. Sure, there are great things in Raging Bull. But more and more, whenever I watch it, I ask myself, along with Pauline Kael, "What am I doing here watching these two dumb f—ks?"

17 June 2007

Last night I caught a preview screening of Ratatouille, which is easily the best Pixar movie since Finding Nemo. The plot's a little thin—it feels like the premise for a great twenty-minute cartoon stretched out to two hours—and it lacks the rich supporting cast of the best Pixar features, but in its ambition, intelligence, and respect for its audience, it stands as a massive rebuke to such movies as, say, Shrek the Third. No gimmicky celebrity voices or snarmy pop cultural references: just good storytelling and amazing animation—probably the best I've ever seen. And Remy, the central character, is the most charismatic rat (or mouse) in the history of the medium.

Best of all, I also managed to snag a free pass to a test screening of this movie on Tuesday. Needless to say, I'm a little excited.

15 June 2007

Maybe you've already seen it, but this clip from Britain's Got Talent makes me absurdly happy. (And he's made it to the finals!)

13 June 2007

The excellent 33 1/3 series, which was mentioned on this blog long ago, recently published a volume devoted to 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields, which I guess is my favorite album. I picked up a copy of this little book (written by L.D. Beghtol, who designed and contributed to the album itself), and was generally pleased by its quality. However, I was somewhat nonplussed by the author's curt dismissal of the song "Sweet-Lovin' Man": "My least favorite song on the album," he writes. To be honest, I was shocked, shocked by this—because there are times when I firmly believe that "Sweet-Lovin' Man" is the best song ever, cowbell and all. (The only thing it really needs is, yes, more cowbell.)

Incidentally, looking at the titles of the books in this series, which cover every band from the Smiths to Neutral Milk Hotel, fills me with a strange sort of jealousy. I know for a fact that I could write a helluva book about, say, Very by the Pet Shop Boys. Maybe I should talk to my agent about this...

08 June 2007

According to the New York Times, there's a new art installation in Queens that allows visitors to physically transport themselves into the movie Blue Velvet. Obviously, I'm going. Hopefully I'll survive long enough to report back...

06 June 2007

A mere 6 months into 2007 I've finlly accomplished my resolution for 2006: Malia and I had a crossword accepted by the New York Times! We don't know how long it'll take to appear, but it'll probably be on a tuesday.