Thursday, June 26, 2008


I wish to apologize for the last post. I don't know what could have happened there. Some strange disturbance in the universe. Who can explain? In expatiation - this month's Wire cover boy - Mark Stewart, in Pop Group, doing Boys from Brazil...

Anyway - with Piper's folly out of the way, there's not much time to start on the next blogathon I know about - New York in the movies - starts Sunday, runs all week. A subject I need to work something up for....

As for the regular blogosphere - another interesting conversation, about received ideas about films and filmmakers, over at Girish's place. Lots of conversations going on about Entertainment Weekly's new classics, and the AFI's latest list show - but I might as well link to the other blog I'm on - another excuse to post counter lists, always welcome.

And the Film of the Month club is continuing - discussion of DeMlle's 1915, The Golden Chance. It took forever for the damned thing to arrive from Netflix, but it finally did, and I'm looking forward to jumping in. A very eat film, too, if you can get it...

And - another music video, another bit of penance for the last post...

Hell - Bobby Darin, too: this might atone for My Humps...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

5 Musical Geniuses!

I don't have much to say - some quick links: Bizarro Days are upon us again, chez Piper. Great fun! Hijinks galore! I wish I could contribute, but I can never come up with anything appropriate for this kind of spoofery - so I'l leave it to the witty people. And - let's face facts: there are times - haven't we all felt? - when the endless irony and meta-meta-meta-metaness of the internet becomes so depressing - does anyone really need another snarky wiseass pretending to love Jean-Claude Van Damme in order to mock Jean Claude Van Damme? Pretending to pretend to hate Citizen Kane to prove they really love Citizen Kane so snobs won't laugh at them? No, that won't be me. Sincerity is my middle name.

So since I don't have any actual content, I think I will have recourse to that old standby, the Music Post. How about a list? Five Great Songs!

1. Creed - My Own Prison: who doesn't love Creed? speaking of sincerity - truly, has ever a pop star exuded more sincerity than Scott Stapp? Look at that hair! His hair alone is a higher being! Look at him grasp the microphone stand! what a man! what a star! he's created his own prison, you know. Irony is a prison! satire is a prison! snark is a prison! No more snark! Think back to the wonderful days of the late 90s when this might be heard on any radio station in the land! Ah - just thinking about how much we all miss Scott Stapp's hair makes me want to run to a Denny's for a grand slam.

2. Jewel - Foolish Games: better than Joni Mitchell, you know! and from one of the Great films of the 90s - so let us enjoy this fine piece of crooning, and not engage in the "foolish games" of making fun of such a talented artist. Or this high tech and oh so artistic video... these foolish games are tearing her apart!

3. Air Supply - I'm all Out of Love: sadly, embedding has been disabled on this fine piece - taking me back to my youth - many happy hours spent spinning the radio dial trying to find a station that wasn't playing this. Was - was playing this.... what are you thinking of?

4. For some things - words simply can't ...

5. I don't know what this fine song from those toweringly talented nu-metal geniuses, Linkin Park, is called - but I know, it's a worthy addition to this list: words are failing me again... god bless pro tools!

I think I may have caused myself permanent brain damage writing this post. Damn you Bizarro Piper!

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

I wish this is just a Bizarro Blogathon hoax, but I'm afraid it isn't: George Carlin has died. His records were a fixture in my college days - we'd listen to them as much as music... I still think of them, probably because he had something funny to say about almost anthing people do. I've been through the MFA's (quite marvelous) Antonio Lopez Garcia show a couple times, and every time, come to this and start doing Carlin's ice-box man routine. It's Meatcake! (Audio version here, at the 5:34 point.)

So farewell and thanks, Mr. Carlin.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thanks Kevin(s)!

I should come in here to say something about the Celtics' rousing championship - it was dpne in fine fashion: they dominated from the beginning of the season, and outside of a few unduly interesting playoff games, never really let up. (And the playoffs - the first series, Atlanta ran them out of the building in Georgia, and the C's seemed pretty wound up throughout the series; then they had to play Cleveland, which may not have the best talent in the game, but they play hard, and they have the best player in the world. Anyone who wants to try to claim it's Kobe Bryant - compare his elimination game - 22 points, 3 rebounds, assist) to LeBron's - 45, 5 and 6... Kobe's got skills, but LeBron elevates his team.)

Anyway - Pierce was immense, and everyone else contributed (like the sox have done in their world series' wins - everybody seems to end up with a moment or two) - though it's hard to deny that it all comes down to Kevin Garnett. He certainly got off the best lines after the game - quoting Jimmy Cagney (not Titanic - he got the "made it ma!" in there too) - then that exchange with Bill Russell: "I hope we made you proud." I'd say they did - at some level, this team should annoy me - I don't like buying championships, I don't like teams built for the short term - but one of the things that marked this team was that they never quite played like that. Maybe in the Atlanta series... but most of the year, they have played like they have been together for years - or just added one part. They played as a unit, they played defense, they were tough, they kept their heads (except for the Atlanta series) - they were admirable all year.

Finally - thanks has to go to Kevin McHale as well - he should get credit for his 4th Celtics championship, because he certainly gifted us. He bailed out Danny Ainge whose track record until he made that trade was perfectly awful. And much as I have hated Danny Ainge (and Doc Rivers) through the years - it's as if getting Garnett made them smarter. Ainge signed the right players - Posey and House; Brown and Cassell later; Rivers kept the whole roster involved, and able to perform on short notice, while keeping the stars focused and active. You can almost forget that Danny Ainge traded Brandon Roy for Sebastian Telfair (more or less) just a year before. Let's hope it lasts: they ought to have another year or two of contention with this group - if they don't want to relive the 90s, they will have to find some kids to replace them. They'll have to take advantage of what time they have - you can see 4 or 5 teams in the east coming fast - Orlando, Atlanta, maybe Toronto - and sooner or later Cleveland's going to get someone worthy of LeBron, and he'll take a couple rings... But for now - it's a fine thing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Honor thy Father and Mother

I can't quite justify this as a father's day, Dads in Media post - it's more of an honor thy father and mother post. Or - a fortuitous opportunity to revisit one of the questions in SLIFR's Memorial Day Quiz: #32: "Name a favorite film and describe how it is illuminated and enriched by another favorite film." I had the chance to see Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow, and that inspired me to return to an all time favorite, Tokyo Story. The former is often suggested as a direct source for the latter - believable enough. This is not a finished essay - these are notes, comparing them, to draw out some of the specific concerns of each. If it matters - I won't pretend to avoid spoilers; after 50 and 70 years, I hope that's not too much a concern.

1) Seeing them together, it's notable that McCarey's film is a good deal harsher than Ozu's. Make Way for Tomorrow is one of the saddest movies ever made, and the story is quite a bit darker. The old couple in MWFT are forced out of their home - they have nowhere to go, they have to rely on their children. In Tokyo Story, the old couple is just visiting. They have a home to go back to - they are still independent. Not only that - in McCarey's film, the couple is separated - the film is about their forced separation. Not so much in Ozu - when they do separate, it's only for a night,and it's voluntary. (Though this obviously changes at the end of the film - though more later.) The tone is lighter too in the Ozu -and there are decent people - Noriko (Setsuko Hara's character) notably; Kyoko, the youngest daughter, also comes off pretty well. None of the kids redeems themselves in MWFT - strangers,and a shop keeper, treat the old couple well, do them a good turn or two, but the kids all fail.

2) On the other hand - Ozu is more complex and detailed in showing the social relationships in the family. Not only are some of the (extended) family members quite nice, but we see the problems between the old couple. McCarey presents them as happy together - deeply in love - never having any real doubts about one another, despite their failures. Ozu, however, shows a happy old couple that has not always been happy. The father used to be a drunkard, and probably abusive - indeed, the difference between his behavior when he drank and when he didn't might influence the way his children react to him. Shige and Koichi knew him when he was a mean drunk - he stopped drinking when Kyoko was born, and Noriko only knew him after she married Shoichi. In any case - in Ozus film, this is a couple who have hurt each other in the past, have hiurt their children - just as their children are hurting them now. If there is anything like that involved in the McCarey family, it's not in the film.

3) Tokyo Story is more socially and economically detailed. That isn't t say that money and class and all that aren't significant in the cCarey film - they are - but that Ozu digs into it deeper. I think this is a fairly important point - Ozu is usually not treated being particularly socially relevant, yet throughout his career he deals with the social and economic world with good deal of care. Tokyo Story contains a precise set of observations and analysis of the world - he addresses money and class in remarkably subtle and intelligent way. He's more subtle than McCarey - McCarey makes explicit points: about unemployment and foreclosure; about Anita giving bridge classes to maintain a certain standard of living (which is not enough to add another member tot he household - though that's because they are selfish) - as well as jokes, like the idea of old people having millions stashed away. But he doesn't really link it to the outside world. The links are obvious, in 1937 - they don't have to be spelled out... But Ozu, also not spelling things out, does weave the various strands together. The parent's expectations vs. the kids' lack of success; their stinginess, especially compared to Noriko's generosity and very noticeable poverty; the links between the conditions all of them live in and the conditions in Japan, 1953 - a period when Japan began to bounce back from the war, but did so very unevenly. Money was being made, but it wasn't being spread around very well. Those issues probably come out more clearly in Naruse's films, or Ichikawa's, or Kurosawa's contemporary films, but Ozu does a fine job of showing the contradiction. Here the contradictions are implied - in Good Morning, say, the contradictions - the expectations that people should live a certain way compared to the difficulty most people have living up to those expectations - are much clearer. But still - here, the war, the boom, the need to work to survive and get ahead, the ways people work - the social issues involved in what people do (shops in the home and so on) are all implied.

4) A point about awareness. It is interesting that McCarey gives the old couple a chance to take a shot at the kids - when they decide to ditch dinner with the kids, Bark tells Nelly what he thinks of them. The message gets through - they talk about it. It is interesting though that we don’t get to hear it. Compare this to Tokyo Story - where no one tells Shige and Keizo what they think of them - indeed, Noriko and the father remain solicitous to the end. But - Shichiki and Tome do discuss it, as do the three drunkards. (This is similar to Bark and Max talking.) And more importantly, perhaps - after the funeral, Kyoko lights into the rest of them. We hear it - but they don’t. In MWFT - they hear it - we don't. One thing both films have is the middle generation indulging in self-pity and guilt: oh, how awful we are! The end of the McCarey film does this rather neatly - the four of them sit around and say they knew what bastards they were, though it only hurts when Dad says it. And they go on - we really are monsters - but none of them does anything to stop it. None of them is going to raise a finger to change the way things are. They wallow in their misery, they let their self-recrimination take the place of any decent behavior. This is more pointed than the similar scenes in the Ozu film - but it’s there too. Shige wails about mom’s death; Keizo says what a bad son he was (Shige does too, of course) - neither of them lets it do more than fill them with the delight of self-pity.

5) Finally - going back to the first point. MWFT is, ultimately, about separation - the story is almost as much a variation on Love Affair, with it's tragically parted lovers (after an idyllic interlude), as about the generation canyon. It is also about the old couple's helplessness and dependency on their children, where Ozu’s is about the failures of the kids merely to be good enough. Circumstances do not force the couple apart - they have a home to return to. But as if in compensation for this - Tome dies. It's odd - this may be more final than the ending of MWFT, but it does not seem quite as dark. They stay together to the end, after all - though more, McCarey’s ending focuses on the human choices being made. The couple is not parted by anything absolute - they are parted by the selfishness of their children. They suffer directly through the meanness of their children. Ozu’s couple parts by death - something outside the range of human agency.

It's a different dynamic. Ozu is, in the end, less devastating than the McCarey film. Everything is more ambivalent, and the ambivalence is more explicit, closer to the surface - the fact that some of the younger people are nice, the lack of direct complicity by the children in the suffering of their parents, the more complicated relationship between the old people and so on. McCarey focuses the melodrama, the anguish - both by emphasizing the doomed love aspect of the story, and the responsibility the children bear for it. Ozu diffuses it - makes the film about life itself. Allows more time for the other failures of the kids - their mediocrity (present in McCarey, but somewhat underplayed - though interestingly, he plays it up in Bark’s case: he’s shown as a genial mediocrity himself), the broader generational themes, the connection of the generational issues to the specific circumstances of their lives. There is more a sense of flow in Ozu - which is typical of his work.

Indeed - it’s what marks him out: nothing ends in Ozu. I think this also connects him more to Capra than McCarey (a controversial statement I know...) McCarey’s films end - fairly definitively, even if the ending is a beginning (as it is in The Awful Truth.) Capra’s end, but they end on patently artificial notes. It's as though Capra were telling us: this is where we are going to stop; everyone is happy everything has worked out for these nice people. But if you have been watching this film, you know that every time things work out, something new comes along - don't be fooled into thinking this is different, just cause I'm ringing a lot of bells on the soundtrack.

Ozu dispenses almost entirely with the happy endings - indeed, with anything that could really count as an ending. The films end - definitively, but that's because he establishes himself as their maker so forcefully - he ends them formally - as here, with echoes of the opening of the film... But the story - the worlds - the things happening to the people in the film, are usually well on the way by the time he reaches the end of the film. This effect - of continuation, of constant change - is usually reinforced by the fact that soething in the story we have been told almost always foretells the things that will happen next. Even in as devastatingly sad a film as Late Spring - we have been told about the father's marriage, which started badly, was loveless and sad - but turned into something else - became happy. This film (Late Spring), crushing us with the separation of two people who love each other - already contains within it an image of the rest of their lives, where this pain will give way to something else. (A new set of pains, when the daughter has to marry off her children? Late Autumn?)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Quick Hits on Friday

Lots going on, on the blogs:

For father's day, the Dads in Media Blogathon is up and running, at Strange Culture. Good stuff to be had.

The second month of the Film of the Month Club is underway. Cecil B. DeMille's 1915 film, The Golden Chance is on the menu for June - plenty of good stuff should be forthcoming over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, outside blogs and movies, Tim Russert has died. I don't know what to say, other than extending condolences to his family. He's one of those public figures I read about every day, more or less, but might well not have been able to identify from a photograph. Teevision news is not something I take very seriously.

On happier news - I haven't done much blogging about the Celtics, and - strangely enough, have barely watched them since February (a habit I developed in their lean years that seems to have come back this year; I suspect the real answer is - once the baseball games start, basketball is just a distraction.) But they are one game away from a championship. Defense wins, especially if you can score too, and the Lakers do not seem to have the defense they need.... Though 1 game isn't a given at that level: ask the Indians.

And in the real world:

They were shooting a movie last week, on Mass Ave. Pedro Costa is right - shooting a movie is like an invasion: trucks up and down the road, wires everywhere traffic diverted.... This is the tail end, breaking down - still junk everywhere. I don't know what film they were shooting, but I doubt it will be very good. There's something creepy about shooting on location and turning the location into a sound stage - with all that crap, what else can they do? You move away from the artifice of the studio, but then recreate it on the street? Gah...

And, sort of finally - treated myself to a concert last night - Damon and Naomi at TT The Bears, with Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh opening. A fine time was had! I tested my camera - I'm curious about how it works in bad light: some digital cameras work very well - this one, I'm afraid, does not. At least, I haven't found the right setting. This is about as good as they get:

Though this one, of Espvall, gotten by monkeying around with the settings in the dark, looks very cool:

Anyway - enjoy the weekend, and I hope I make it back here with a father's day post before the weekend is out...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Homework - 3 Weeks Late

Once again, from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule - pop quiz! More like a freakin' final exam - that I'm weeks late on... It has gotten a bit ridiculous. It's time to post. Though even now, I'm probably going to have to skip a couple of the questions - the best ones, probably. Though I should maybe make a virtue of it - pin em on the wall, and when I have a good answer for them, it'll be another post! hooray! Anyway - with no further ado, because if I'm not careful, it'll be fourth of July already:

UPDATED (7/9): Dennis has posted selected answers: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3. A good way to kill a morning or two... I've also added links to my "promised" makeup work.

1) Best transition from movies to TV (actor, actress, producer/director, movie/show)
- This isn't easy - I don't watch much TV anymore - what I've seen in the last 20 years I've caught up with after the fact... since it should be someone I've actually seen - I'm tempted to say Fred MacMurray - a fine film career, and then a big TV career - though he's bland on TV. William Demerast then? though I'm tempted to go to something more basic - Edward Everett Horton, whose voice is utterly engrained in my head...

2) Living film director you most missing seeing on the cultural landscape regularly
- Not easy - one way to answer would be to lament the unavailability of films by people like Tsui Hark, Peter Chan, Zhang Yuan... but another - a director gone missing - Whit Stillman? I miss Alan Rudolph, too...

3) Eugene Pallette or Charles Coburn
- Coburn is probably a better actor, but Pallette is in too many films near and dear to my heart. And - he is a wonderful presence n all of them.

4) Fill in the blank: “I pray that no one ever turns _____________ into a movie.”
- Hard to say - maybe Calvin and Hobbes? though I suppose the right people could do it - right now though, I suspect it would end up looking like Garfield or something...

5) Jane Greer or Veronica Lake
- Gotta say Veronica Lake

6) What was the last movie you saw in a theater? On DVD? And why?
- This keeps changing, as I keep putting off posting it. The last couple weeks have been very rich: from Love Eterne (Shaw Brothers, Chinese opera, the first full blown opera film I have ever seen), to 14 Amazons (Shaw Brothers again, 14 Amazons plus Lilly Ko as the son of the family... to The Awful Truth - the HFA has been very good to me lately.
- DVD? - would be Modesty Blaise. Why? David Cairns. (And what I said about the HFA? It's not on their web site yet, but in July - the HFA is promising "The Complete Joseph Losey"....)

7) Name an actor you think should be a star
- I suppose one answer is that I think Louis Garrel will cross the Atlantic in a couple years, to be the French Gael Garcia Bernal; in this land - is Paul Dano a star yet?

8) Foxy Brown or Coffy
- No idea - Coffy I think, but I'm not sure. Haven't seen either one anywhere but on TV.

9) Favorite TV show still without its own DVD box set
- I don't know - I don't pay close enough attention to DVD releases to know what it and isn't available. Though I know that Max Headroom is not available, and that's one of the great shows of the 80s...

10) Jack Elam or Neville Brand
- not much hope here... I'll say Jack Elam, for no particular reason

11) What movies would top your list of movies you need to revisit, for whatever reason?
- Among older films - Kurosawa's The Idiot, which I saw on VHS many years back and didn't get much out of... Dreyer's Joan of Arc, just because it's been too long since I've seen it.... Rio Bravo, ditto.... more recently: The Ice Storm comes to mind... I need to rewatch some Cronenberg's - I might like them better. There are filmmakers I've seen once and want to see again - Olmi, Ichikawa, etc... And - RC reminds me - a couple Coen Brothers films - actually, about half of them, but especially The Man Who Wasn't There...

12) Zodiac or All the President’s Men
- Zodiac - for the way it looks, I think, though there's nothing wrong with how ATPM looks or Zodiac's story...

13) Using our best reviewer-speak, what is an “important” film comedy? And what is to you the most important film comedy of the last 35 years?
- "Important" is always trouble - I don't think I can answer that in any context... Rushmore is the best, for many many reasons - but important? setting Bill Murray on his latter day career path is a good reason - though that if so, maybe the answer should be Groundhog Day... I suppose another way to go might be to say, Evil Dead: besides giving Sam Raimi his career, it ushered in a kind of horror/comedy hybrid... etc. I don't know. I might come up with a better answer later - this is one I plan to hold on to and answer at length if I come up with something good.

14) Describe the ideal environment for watching a movie.
- Any good theater, really - with good seats, plenty of room to prop up the feet without poking anyone in the back - no one in front of you or behind you, but a decent crowd in the building, enough to react to things that need reactions. Clear view of the screen, no talkers, no one coming and going during the film, good screen good projection, good sound - it's not that unusual, really. I see a fair number of films that make the grade pretty well any given year - month, even. Those nice clean Shaw Brothers prints, a modest but enthusiastic crowd - what more could you ask, except maybe better seats...

15) Michelle Williams or Eva Mendes
- Williams sounds right. Sometimes, she seems in danger of turning into Renee Zellweger, but it hasn't happened yet.

16) What’s the worst movie title of all time?
- If translation counts - can anything beat Tough Beauty and the Sloppy Slop? In English - Lucky Number Slevin? I Heart Huckabees? Dumb and Dumberer? Ithere are probably worse,but that's enough to think about for now...

17) Best movie about teaching and/or learning
***- This is too good a question: I don't have a great answer - but I like the question too much to let go. It's kept me from posting these two weeks or so. I have to give up. I will cheat: Drunken Master! I'll say - or 36th Chamber of Shaolin. But I will keep this question around to answer when I have a good one.

18) Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958)
- Dracula, easy

19) Why do you blog? Or if you don’t, why do you read blogs? (Thanks, Girish)
- I like the give and take, I like the conversations, and blogging is how people interact online these days. I have been playing around online for 15 odd years - Prodigy to AOL to message boards and Usenet, now blogging - it's what people do. I do think blogging is one of the best ways to have this conversation about film - it's flexible, easy to do, easily integrated into the broader community, allows you to do anything with it. I certainly hope it isn't replaced by crappy systems like Facebook or MySpace - those things give e the creeps...

20) Most memorable/disturbing death scene
- One that always bites me - the end of Tabu, when the boy reaches the priest's boat and the priest reaches out and cuts the rope he's hanging too, as casually and easily as that...

21) Jason Robards or Robert Shaw
- Which one? Robards, I guess, no matter which one...

22) A good candidate for Most Blasphemous Movie Ever
***- this is another one I can't answer, even after 2 weeks of thinking. Maybe Passion of the Christ? Anyway - another one I will try to return to in the future....

23) Rio Bravo or Red River
- Red River, I will say, though it might be just because I've seen it n a theater and not Rio Bravo.... [Add Rio Bravo to the films to revisit list, I guess.]

24) Werner Herzog is remaking Bad Lieutenant with Nicolas Cage—that’s reality. Try to outdo reality by concocting a match-up of director and title for a really strange imaginary remake.
- I'm very glad this movie is happening. Not that I want to see it, but already, it has Abel Ferrera and Werner Herzog taking shots at each other like Coco Crisp and Carl Crawford. [That reference is already a week out of date! alas!] As for an equally absurd remake - the next two questions suggest a Judd Apatow remake of Max on Amour with Julia Roberts in the lead. Though I wish they didn't.

25) Bulle Ogier or Charlotte Rampling
- Charlotte Rampling. Oh yes.

26) In the Realm of the Senses— yes or no?
- Absolutely - great film.

27) Name a movie you think of as your own (Thanks, Jim!)
***- I should be able to answer this: I will come back to it. This is - like the others that I've skipped, a great question - it deserves an answer worth the time it's taking to think of one.

28) Winged Migration or Microcosmos
- Microcosmos, for no profound reason

29) Your favorite football game featured in a movie
- The easy answer is Horsefeathers - I'm not positive though. MASH, The Freshman, all have their merits...

30) Wendy Hiller or Deborah Kerr
- I'll say Kerr

31) Dirtiest secret you have that is related to the movies
- I don't know what to say to this.

32) Name a favorite film and describe how it is illuminated and enriched by another favorite film.
***- Another question that's too good to answer: this one, especially, is something I want to think about, turn over in my head, all by itself, until I have a good answer. If I don't complete wimp out, this quiz could give me half sumer's worth of blogging material... UPDATE: I answered this one! I was lucky enough to see Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow, and posted about its relationship to Tokyo Story.

33) It’s a Gift or Horsefeathers
- Horsefeathers - now if you asked about "You're Telling Me" that would get dicey...

34) Your best story about seeing a movie at a drive-in
- I don't know if I ever have, sadly enough

35) Victor Mature or Tyrone Power
- Power - I've been watching his films lately, after working through a bunch of Fairbanks and Flynn movis - neat stuff, though he's not in their league.

36) What does film criticism mean to you? Where do you think it’s headed?
- Where it's headed? I don't know - I imagine it will continue roughly as it is. Academic critics will keep rolling along, someone somewhere will be reviewing new releases every week, giving them stars and trying to steer the public toward better films - probably all of us, though, rather than trained professionals - either way - I am going to end with thought from yesterday, that last movie I ended up seeing, in fact: The Awful Truth. Which, as it happened, was shown with an introduction from Stanley Cavell, who wrote about it in Pursuits of Happiness. Two things came to mind - first, I was thinking about why Cavell is so good (for I think his film writing is among the very best there is): it's that he shows us things that are in the films, and in the world, that we might not have thought of. That's what critics should do - make us see things we didn't see - in the film, or in the world, related to the film. And the other - a reference to his description of what marriage is, what a good marriage is, what the comedies of remarriage show: a "deepening of the conversation." That is what criticism should be - a conversation about films, and about life, through films... This might be the answer to the "important comedies" question too - because this is what the contenders do. Rushmore - Groundhog Day - O Brother Where Art Thou - Life of Brian - Fallen Angels (the Kinoshiro half anyway) - White: they tell us about life, they give us life as conversation, and a way of talking about the world, of inventing ourselves and taking responsibility for ourselves in the world... So - if we keep talking about films, criticism should make it, in the end.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Presidential Politics Noted

I thought I'd take a moment to at least comment on politics. I am very happy, and relieved, that Barack Obama has clinched the democratic party nomination for president. Relieved because I'm tired of watching democrats campaign against each other - it's time to get after John McCain. And while the campaign seemed to generate an awful lot of ugly and stupid identity politics down the stretch, it's hard not to be a bit thrilled at the fact that a Black man stands the best chance of being elected president in a few months. And if he hadn't won, a woman would have been nominated, and this year, like Obama, would have to be considered the favorite. The fact that the US has had one president in its history who was not a white protestant man is disgraceful. Hell, we're 20 years behind Pakistan!

Anyway: on the subject of presidential primaries, 40 years ago today, Robert Kennedy was shot. American history has not trended upwards from that point. Political history at least - Nixon to Reagan to Bush have taken the good parts of government out at the knees through the years, while pushing us toward authoritarianism and militarism. It would be nice to see that trend turned. Clinton tried, but did in in the teeth of nasty resistance, and with an annoying tendency to run to the middle... Now - the republicans have run the country into the ground, in ways pretty much anyone can see. And the trends of cultural history have fairly definitively gone against them, as they have been going for the last century of so... There is a chance here, the first in a while, probably, to do more than hold off the most appalling tendencies of the right - there is a chance to actually move the country forward. Do things every other rich country does - health care, decent train systems. Free college tuition! (Though it might be too much for many American's to grasp that getting people educated without burying them in debt might have benefits even to their employers....)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Who do you Love?

I have to post this news: Bo Diddley has died. (Via Glenn Kenny.) Boy, but he made the world a better place.

UPDATE: and, a clip - live on TV, 1966: