31 July 2007

According to Wikipedia's biographical article on Harry Potter, Harry was born on July 31, 1980, exactly two months after my own birthday. I'm always jealous when I hear about someone my age who has accomplished slightly more than I have...

27 July 2007

There's no Sideshow Bob. Mr. Burns is criminally underused. And on some level, any version of The Simpsons Movie was bound to be a disappointment, if it wasn't the funniest movie ever made. Yet there's something sinfully satisfying about replaying the best jokes in your head afterwards. There are ten or fifteen moments in this movie as good as anything The Simpsons has ever produced, which mean that they occupy the highest, most rarefied levels of comedy. (I'm also drooling at the prospect of the inevitable DVD. With its deleted scenes and ultimate commentary track, there's a good chance that this will be the greatest DVD ever released.)

I don't normally quote other critics on this blog, but I'd say that A.O. Scott gets it about right: "The Simpsons Movie, in the end, is as good as an average episode of The Simpsons. In other words, I’d be willing to watch it only—excuse me while I crunch some numbers here—20 or 30 more times."

26 July 2007

I was very sad to see that Ulrich Mühe, who recently gave one of the decade's richest performances as the Stasi officer in The Lives of Others, has died of cancer. This is a major loss, but it's some consolation to know that his career ended on the highest note imaginable: "It's for me."

15 July 2007

I have a new hero - Maurice Flitcroft, a man whose claim to fame was sneaking into Golf's British Open and playing terribly. After his first entry in 1976, where he shot a 121 (the worst score in British Open history), officials became vigilant to prevent him from entering again. But like all great heroes, Flitcroft beat them - not once, but twice. In 1984 he entered as Gerald Hoppy from Switzerland, and then in 1990 he entered with the last name of Paychecki. Flitcroft passed away this month, and we can only hope for an Errol Morris retrospective.
This NY Times article is a good follow-up to my post of a couple of weeks ago speculating that lots of school districts might soon try income-based integration plans.
Patton Oswalt, the voice of Ratatouille, has a sensational interview over at the Onion A.V. Club. Check it out (and make sure that you listen to the audio clips, too). This guy is really cool.

11 July 2007

That mysterious trailer, or whatever it is, is finally online. (If this turns out to be nothing but some weird promotion for the new season of Lost, I'm going to be really mad.)

08 July 2007

"I'll bet those leeches are real," my friend whispered halfway through the amazing Rescue Dawn, referring to the repulsive creatures clinging to Christian Bale's bare torso. Well, yes. It's a Werner Herzog movie. Of course the leeches are real.

05 July 2007

Transformers is a lot like Babel, except with giant robots. Oh, and it's better than Babel. The best reason to see Transformers on the big screen, though, is for the chance to watch one of the best trailers I've ever seen. I only wish I knew the name of the movie. I don't think the trailer is officially available online, but you can see a lousy bootleg copy here, and then read some of the speculation, which is pretty, uh, interesting.

I have a feeling that this movie, whatever it is, can't possibly be as good as its marketing campaign. But wouldn't it be great if it was?

03 July 2007

Half an hour into Live Free or Die Hard, I was thinking glumly, John McClane is no Jason Bourne. An hour later, I was thinking, Jason Bourne is no @#$%ing John McClane. By the end, I was convinced that even with a PG-13 rating and a villain who can generously be described as nonthreatening, there hasn't been an action movie like this in years. Why the reversal? I'm not sure, but maybe it was on account of the scene where McClane, driving a semi-truck with trailer attached, takes on an F-35 fighter jet, and wins.

02 July 2007

I could have guessed this would happen - Bush commutes Libby's prison sentence, and leaves his fine intact. Apparently this is a Solomonic compromise so Bush could say he didn't grant Libby a full pardon (and thus he's respecting the rule of law), but he can placate political supporters who say Libby got a raw deal.

All I can say is, I have experience in this line of work, and the general public has little or no appreciation for the subtle differences between a commutation and a pardon. It all looks like the same thing - someone got special treatment and is evading the sentence imposed by the judicial system. (That's not to say commutations are never justified, just that you can't easily tell the public that a commutation is justified where a pardon isn't).

As for the propriety of this particular commutation, I think it's only fair to commute sentences when the justice system is incapable of adequately addressing the underlying issues of fairness and compassion in the case. Libby paid millions of dollars for the best legal representation he could get, and it's not like there was hidden evidence that only came to light after his conviction, or some horrible human tragedy that would compel an early release from prison. I think the justice system did its job in this case, and commutation is a slap in the face of the hardworking people involved in the case.