Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baseball Prediction, 2011

Time for a baseball preview - the surest sign of spring, the start of the baseball season.

AL East:
1) Boston - There is obviously a lot of hype this year - they had the most active and successful offseason - and they were not far off last year, a game worse than Texas even with all the injuries, the underachievement (Beckett, Papelbon, Lackey), and so on. I think if they had brought back last year's team, they would be favorites - even without Beltre and Martinez, they would be contenders - but getting Crowford and Gonzalez is a lot more than that. It's hard not to pick them - they didn't have anyone really playing over their head last year - if the breakout players (Buchholz and Bard, notably) regress to the mean, you'd think Beckett, Lackey, Papelbon coming back to their mean would more than balance it out.... and I don't think the kids are all that likely to regress - Buchholz and Bard have been top prospects all along - they didn't overachieve last year. The team bolstered all their options - they have depth almost everywhere, including pitching... So - if they stay healthy - they should be formidable. If everything clicks, they might be awe inspiring.

2) NY Yankees - not exactly slouches, though. The team on the field is still pretty good - they also are more likely to get bounceback years from the likes of Jeter and Granderson than any regression from Cano or Gardner. They might be carrying some defensive holes - Jeter has been bad for a long time; A-Rod is getting old and slow as well - but the rest of the field seems pretty well covered. The pitching is another story though - Sabathia is a horse - Hughes, like Buchholz, has been a big prospect for a long time, and one imagines he'll continue to be an asset for a long time.... But then you get AJ Burnett - who seems to me a lesser version of Beckett and Lackey - not as good to start, and less likely to turn it around. And then - Bartolo Colon? Freddy Garcia? Ivan Nova?? I'll take Dice-K, thanks...

3) Tampa Bay - still a strong rotation, still the likes of Langoria and Upton, maybe Zobrist will bounce back - there's Manny and Damon with a lot to prove, but no real expectations - so they are still relevant... They should still have strong starting - they certainly have lots of good options to choose from, behind a very good ace in Price. The pen? Probably keeps them safely in third.

4) Toronto - they have a mob of good and intriguing young pitchers; they have some interesting players on the field - if Lind or Hill come back, if Snider continues to develop, if Bautista doesn't revert to the mean - they could be dangerous. A couple breaks and they could be fighting for third.

5) Baltimore Orioles - they have what - 3 good young players - and a mob of has-beens; and some promising young starters, and Jeremy Guthrie; and - Kevin Gregg? really? They might score some runs - they might not be embarrassing. Showalter might still be on the upward slope of his inevitable rise and fall... but fourth place would be an upset.

1) Detroit - I think - assuming Cabrera stays out of jail and all. They have some nice pitchers, especially at the top - Verlander and Schzerzer; they have decent players on the field. I think it's a fine line - they have to stay healthy, stay out of jail, stay out of the old folks home - if they do, they should be in contention. Truth is, I don't have a clue who will win this division - the top three teams all have some real stars, but some gaping holes as well - any of them could break in either direction.

2) Chicago - Why put them 2? call it - strong pitching, Dunn, etc. If Peavy were healthy, yeah, maybe... they have Juan Pierre still, though, and that has to be a major point in Detroit and Minnesota's favor.

3) Minnesota - No - actually, I expect them to win the division, as usual. Mauer and Morneau (if he is healthy) are too good - the Cuddyer Span Young Kubel Thome etc. supporting cast is decent - the pitching is decent - Joe Nathan is back, and the pen becomes deeper for it - so... I should put them first.

4) Cleveland - sooner or later something good might happen; though probably the best thing that could happen is they get enough of of Sizemore or Carmona to peddle them off to a contender at the trade deadline.

5) KC - wait til next year! actually - literally - wait til next year - they have some guys on the farm just waiting to shine - hopefully they will be more Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Billy Butler than Alex Gordon. Who's still around too, isn't he? The organization keeps running out stiffs like Francouer and Melky Cabrera - but maybe, this time next year, all those kids will start to make a difference...

1) Texas - they are somewhat weaker, without Lee, but the division is not strong - they should be safe favorites. They did more to improve their offense than pitching (adding Beltre), but they actually have some nice young pitchers - they should be all right.

2) Anaheim - an offseason which saw them fail to get any of the players who could impact the team, then trade for the worst contract in the game - but they have enough that they could be back in the mix. They should have a pretty good rotation (potentially a very good one, with Haren and Weaver in front of the likes of Santana) - they have enough hitters that they should survive... They are soft, though - getting old in kay positions - they are rteading water at best.

3) Oakland - If they had a little more offense I would be more optimistic - they have some great pitchers. The danger is getting too excited about a good young rotation that isn't backed up by much of a team on the field. Sometimes it works (last year's Giants) - usually, it regresses (last year's Mariners.)

4) Seattle - quite hopeless, until some kids develop. The encouraging thing is that the best player on the team is barely more than a kid himself - King Felix has been around forever, has become the class of the American league - and he's not 25 yet.

National League:

1) Phillies - another superteam, it seems. That is a heck of a rotation, I won't deny it. And a good team, as well - though Utley's absence is bad - and they aren't getting younger. This is the baseball equivalent of the Celtics of the last couple years, I think.

2) Atlanta - they were pretty good last yearm and I suspect they will be better this year - as Heyward and Hanson develop, adding Uggla to hit home runs - they should be solid, a wild card contender.

3) Florida - there's quite a bit of talent here - starting with Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson - with nice younger players, some interesting veterans - will Javier Vazquez do his usual NL thing? will Nolasco come back? they never seem to catch all the breaks - but they seem a little stronger coming in than usual - maybe they will move up...

4) NY Mets - this is with Bay & Beltran & Reyes all year. Without them, they go to fifth.

5) Washington - there's actually quite a bit to like here - I think Werth's contract was ridiculous, but he is a good player to have on a team like this - he and Zimmerman are a nice middle of the lineup. They have quite a number of good young pitchers, too - though they also have Livan Hernandez (and may for the next decade, for all I know.) I think if the Mets run into their usual health and sanity issues, the Nats could get 4th...

1) Cincy - they have a lot of players who seem to be on the rising slope of their careers - Bruce and Stubbs and quite a few pitchers - I'd worry a bit about some of their pitchers maintaining their success - but not too much. They look like a pretty good team, on balance.

2) Cards - without Wainwright, they are nothing special. They aren't bad - though the pitchers may find Lance Berkman's stylings in right field something less than optimal. They will never be out of it - but...

3) Milwaukee - Greinke's out already? there's a degree of hype about them, too - and certainly if things were to work out, they could be a breakout team - Greinke and Marcum at the front of the rotation could be very very good - or - could put in a lot of time on the training table... I think they're more uncertain than the teams I have ahead of them - not necessarily worse, though.

4) Cubs - I have no idea what the Cubs will do. I rather like the chances of Garza and Zambrano mounting nice comebacks - I suspect Pena will get back over the MEndoza line and whack 35 or so bombs - but how it all fits? So stick 'em here...

5) Houston - in fact, I don't know if I believe this. They are a boring pointless team, actually. Even if they stay ahead of the Bucs, who cares?

6) Pittsburgh - that is to say - though the odds of getting out of the cellar aren't great - they are actually sort of an interesting team. McCutcheon is an exciting player - Tabata, Alvarez, even Jones are intriguing. if they find any pitching at all - htey might start moving. If they somehow get some pitching before McCutcheon hits arbitration, they might even approach .500 in a couple years.

1) SF Giants - that is one hell of a pitching staff. As for the offense - they have a hell of a pitching staff. Though any kind of recovery from Sandoval, a full year of Posey - they should be okay.

2) LA Dodgers - they have a pretty good staff as well. Kemp and Ethier are first rate hitters, too. The rest fo the team does not thrill me.

3) Rockies - they tend to walk a tightrope - they too have a pretty nice staff (strange thing to say about the Rocks) - and some great players (Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, particularly.) And are thin behind them...

4) Diamondbacks - they are actually not half bad themselves. Need to get Young and Upton both playing well at the same time - and the young pitchers (Hudson, Kennedy) need to come through. They oculd be quite respectable...

5) Padres - another team with a fine staff and not much offense. Older mediocrities and promising youngsters who have not yet done anything... I imagine as the organization reloads, people like Heath Bell should probably keep a bag packed...

OKAY! Predictions!
AL: Boston - Detroit - Texas & Yankees for the wildcard. Boston comes out, I think.
NL: Phils - Reds - Gints & Atlanta - Phils should win it, but this is harder to predict - Giants will be hard to beat with those arms.
Leaving the Sox winners, though - I hope.

AL MVP = I'm gonna say Carl Crawford - watch him use that center field tringle as a triple machine! watch him steal 40, drive in 100, his .325!
Cy Young: make it a Red Sox sweep - Lester!
Rookie - oy - Hellickson seems like the safest bet.

NL MVP = default of course is Pujols. If not Pujols - Tulowitzki or why not Matt Kemp? AT least until the Marlins make the playoffs, which will give it to Hanley.
Cy Young = Halladay and Lincecum are the default choices there - my money would be on Lincecum.
Rookie = do I know? Belt in SF? could be.

Anyway - off we go! games tomorrow! all is well!

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Records

I can see that my posting has slowed down again - three Friday posts in a row.... At least this time I can vary it a bit. I've managed to buy a decent selection of new records this year - there seems to be a particular concentration of things I want out in the early going this year. WIth more to come (whenever the TV on the Radio record is supposed to come out - April 12?) Not only buying it, but listening to it - though in the 21st century way, all the new stuff in a playlist on the iPod, set to shuffle... It's like listening to the radio, back in the day! 2011 feels like 1977 sometimes. A theme that may return.... Anyway - I can't pretend to review these records - just offer some impressions from what the iTunes fairies have chosen to play...

Danielson: The Best of Gloucester County - haven't has this long, and only a couple songs have come up - but - nice stuff, more normal sounding than usual, though Daniel Smith's voice can never quite be normal. If their early career seemed to be built on variations of The Art of Walking - this is their Cloudland...

Decembrists: The King is Dead - they seem to have moved from remaking the Waterboys to remaking The River. (Though with more than a few early REM moments.) They remain quite good, though nothing on this record has compelled my attention like The Crane Wife did... Still - they are a pretty reliable act - I guess I liked their Waterboys act better...

Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil - nice stuff as always, a bit different, less jagged than before; they appear to be mellowing. Quieter instrumentation, and when the guitars and drums come in, their softer, gentler, with a bit of a latin lilt... interesting....

Gang of Four: Content - not up to their old stuff, but it still jumps out at you - I once confused a group of people at lunch by saying if I could be anyone other than myself I would want to be Andy Gill... that statement is still operational.... I admit too, every time a song from this CD comes up on shuffle, I like it more than I did the last time.

Iron & Wine: Kiss Each other Clean - Mr. Beam and company channeling Little Feat (or is it Harry Nilson?), between the prettier folk songs. Maybe it is 1977 - the bands that weren't actually around in 77 or 79 seem determined to sound like they were... This should not be taken as complaint though - this in particular is full of lovely songs, and a couple really cool songs, when they really dial up the Little Feat vibe - I've had Big Burned Hand running in my head over the last couple weeks.

Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You WIll - even Mogwai is sounding rather mellow and 70s-ish these days - well - maybe it's the context; I'm not sure there's much difference from their usual sound - slightly different nuances of 70s style prog metal? Though then you get the end - "You're Lionel Richie" - which lifts it's main riff straight from Earth, and does it justice...

PJ Harvey: Let England Shake - this requires careful attention - Polly Jean is at the height of her powers. I feel inadequate to say anything about it now... if there's a classic in this bunch of CDs, this is it.

REM: Collapse Into Now - not sure why I bought this, but here it is. Nostalgia can be cruel. Though what little I have heard of it so far sounds - promising. Neat opening riff, that comes back again at the end, after a song that appears to have Patti Smith singing while Stipe does a fake Patti Smith thing - interesting. Looping back to the start is a neat little effect... In general - the songs that have come up on the iPod do seem more appealing than on the last REM record, whatever that was called. SO maybe...

Six Organs of Admittance: Asleep on a Flood Plain - Ben back to the classics, acoustic drones and layered sounds and percussions, and now and then, a blast of electricity coming through in waves...

Wire: Red Barked Tree - the music seems a bit softer than in the past, but the words - "please take the knife out of my back and when you do please twist it" - are up to expected standards.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Random Friday Music Post

Welcome to another Friday. Today I think I will revert to randomness -though one of these weeks I want to put up something on some of the new records I have gotten this year. For some reason, a host of bands I like have released records in early 2011 - I believe I have 10 new CDs since the beginning of the year, which given my diminished music buying is rather impressive. Good stuff too - Decembrists, Gang of Four, PJ Harvey - I'll try to run up a post before too long.

Meanwhile, I managed to get through Evacuation Day without posting anything by the Pogues - the last couple years, I have done that more at Facebook, but I even managed to avoid it there. I have also been haunted all week by the Blue Oyster Cult - "history shows again and again how nature points up the folly of men" - funny how stoner rock stars and monster movie filmmakers have a better grasp of how the world works than politicians and businessmen. I'm not alone in noticing this of course - Andrew O'Hehir had a piece in Salon about Japanese apocalyptic films - they have a strong track record of finding striking images of disaster, that illuminate as well as terrify. History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of men.... framing these images as something that seems less that serious just confuses people - the original films are derived pretty directly from real, horrifying events - and the BOC may kid, but they know what is going on:

But enough of that... today, let's stick to iTunes shuffle:

1. Xiu Xiu - Sad Pony Guerilla Girl
2. Mars Volta - Son et Lumiere
3. Decembrists - Summersong
4. Elton John - Bitter Fingers
5. James Brown - It's a Man's Man's Man's World
6. Public Enemy - Hannibal Lecture
7. Pavement - Type Slowly
8. Neutral Milk Hotel - Avery Island - April 1st
9. Ruins - Muoljimbog
10. Boogie Down Productions - Breath Control

For video - a nice long stretch of The Ruins:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Music and Best Wishes for Japan

Today's terrible news out of Japan has rather put a damper on my enthusiasm for fun Friday music posts - but I shouldn't let that stop me. Since some of my favorite bands are from Japan - and particularly, one of my favorite musicians over the last 20 years or so - it's not hard to come up with some. Hope things come out okay...

You Ishihara & Friends:

Ghost, playing Hazy Paradise:

And - completing the Kurihara trilogy, backing Damon & Naomi on Song to the Siren:

And because that is such a beautiful song - here's Tim Buckley playing it live on the Monkees TV show.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Korean Film Blogathon - Announcement and List

Today is the first day of the Korean film blogathon. I have been looking forward to this very much. Korean films have become one of the most exciting national movements in the world in the past decade or so. I know there was a strong Korean film tradition before that - unfortunately, I have seen very few Korean films from before the 00s, almost none from before the 1990. That is something I hope to change....

One of the things I like about Korean cinema is that it is so varied. Most of my own experience has been with auteur cinema from Korea - that is a strong point, with Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-Wook, Lee Chang-Dong, Hong Sang-soo all among the world's very best, and several others (Im Sang-soo for instance) - not far behind... But beyond auteur cinema is a thriving pop cinema industry - and even the auteurs often work in popular genres, and have produced some of the biggest drawing films of the decade. (And pop cinema has produced some fine directors - Kim Jee-woon, for example.) Leaving aside my own personal preferences, that is, to me, the surest sign of a powerful national cinema - the ability to produce exciting popular cinema as well as art cinema. It's what marked American cinema during its highest periods - it's a characteristic of Japanese films through most of the 20th century, of Hong Kong in the 70s through the 90s, and so on. At the moment, I'm not sure any national cinema now does as good a job of playing both sides, art films and pop films, as South Korea...

So then: I hope to write more as the week goes along - but I think I'll start like with the Iranian blogathon a couple weeks ago, with a list. These films are, again, heavy on the auteurs, though I did try to spread it out among several of them... and Song Kang-ho, who's in 4 of them - and could have been in even more, since he's in a number of near misses as well. He is, I think, one of the great stars of the decade - possibly THE film star of the decade.... Even if I weren't inclined to see any Korean film that got an American release on principal, I would see any film he is in on principal.

1.) Secret Sunshine - Lee Chang-dong
A woman and her son move to her husband's home town after he is killed in a car accident. En route, she is rescued from car trouble by a Mr. Kim (the almost inevitable Song Kang-ho), a mechanic, who soon takes her under his wing. Helps her find a place to live, start up a piano school, etc. - keeps trying to romance her without much luck. She slowly integrates into the town; she is trying to reinvent herself, cutting off all ties with her family and inlaws - and almost starts to manage it when - something worse happens. So. There is a pharmacist in town who annoys her with religion - desperate now, she takes it - converts, zealously, and decides to make the grand gesture of forgiving the one who had harmed her most. But when she does, he says he too has found god, and god has forgiven him already.... She is understandably outraged. She replaces zealous evangelical christianity with self-destruction and vengeance, but.... It's an extraordinary film, rich and complicated and full. It swings from comedy to horror to despair to comedy again, turning on a dime, and committing itself completely to every mode. When it runs down, as it does, as she runs down, it turns to the basics, the camera turning down to the sun playing on the ground - one must find salvation in the earth... All through, it poses Song against Jeon Do-yeun (the woman) - as she breaks down, he waits - standing over her shoulder, in the background, half in focus, shot after shot - watching, waiting. This does tend to become symbolic - he's God: real God - he's waiting for her, but she has to save herself. He can't save her - he's singing karaoke to himself when she comes for help with her son; he gets mad when she makes a pass at him, while trying to insult him. But he's always there, watching and waiting, but not insisting. It works.

2) Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - Park Chan-wook
A deaf mute who works at a factory has a sister who is dying for lack of a kidney. He can't donate, but he can sell one of his own and buy one for her on the black market - or try - the black marketeers double cross him and he is left without money or kidney for his sister, and down one himself. Well - when a kidney becomes legally available, he has no money, but he (and his anarchist girlfriend) come up with a cunning plan - kidnap the boss's daughter. This almost works, even, until the sister discovers how they are getting her kidney. After that, no one gets out alive.... A film about guilty consciences, where everyone has good reasons, but do stupid, careless, selfish things - and are ruthlessly punished by someone else with a guilty conscience. Add to this politics - anti-capitalist, while mocking (but seeming to understand and half agree with) anarchists; add to that allusions to one of the greatest thrillers ever, High and Low. A rather plainer, more direct film than Park's later films - as well as harsher than his earlier films.

3) Memories of Murder - Bong Joon-ho
Korean policier set in 1986 in a village where women start turning up dead. The local police are don't get very far, they're hacks, and brutes who are more interested in torturing suspects into confessions than catching the killer. A professional from Seoul arrives, with bright ideas and attention to the evidence, and they try to investigate for real. Things move, but not always forward - they make progress, they fail, women keep getting killed, they work on suspects but can't prove anything (they might even be innocent), and the cops themselves change places, the Seoul detective turning brutal, the locals thinking about the evidence and the process - but in the end, none of them get anywhere.... It is a striking and remarkable films, though - witty and strange from the beginning (a little kid imitating the cop - Song again - investigating one of the murders), funny and weird and a bit political (the old military rule is crumbling - students and radicals are protesting, talking back to the cops - culminating in a brawl that pretty much destroys everything), and featuring first rate performances by all...

4) Mother - Bong Joon-ho
A girl is killed, head bashed in and left on a roof; a local kid, brain damaged, is arrested and pinned with the killing - he was drinking, he went home that way... His mother insists on his innocence, fighting the cops, hiring a lawyer, pamphleting the neighborhood, but nobody cares. But she manages to falsely accuse her son's no good pal - he starts to shake her down, but then decides to help her - together, they uncover evidence and piece together the story... Like Bong's other films, it is a masterful mixture of tension and wit - everything happens at an angle, high melodrama played against straight comedy. There are strange flashbacks and details, there are hallucinatory sets and giddy shots and odd misdirections. A great looking film - big, wide shots and tight closeups, blurry (but active) backgrounds, beautiful compositions, high comedy....

5) Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors - Hong Sang-soo
Like most of Hong's films, a love triangle - here, a gallery owner and a film director pursue a much younger girl. It is a very highly structured film - told twice, more or less in the same order, once roughly from the gallery owner's point of view, once more explicitly from the girl's. There are interesting variations between the two - some attributable to different perspectives or memories - some seem completely playful. Scenes are flipped around, dialogue is different - in one half a fork falls on the ground; in the other a spoon... It's a lovely, fascinating film - hard to pin down, but moving... Shot in black and white, quite lovely, though both the DVD and print I saw of it seemed to be in pretty bad shape - though not so much damaged as glitchy - I almost wonder if that's what it really looks like.... (I also just remembered that this film was the subject of a blog-a-thon of its own, back in 2007...)

6) Lies - Jang Sun-woo
A 38 year old sculptor and an 18 year old student meet and fuck, about that abruptly. They have their reasons, and get together again, but then he starts to draw her into his more exotic habits - he starts by spanking her, then moves on to whips and sticks and wires - things get harsh. She takes it,though - and then he takes it - but they are happy enough. But nothing lasts forever.... It's a very strange and radical film - the sex is real, the beatings are mostly real - while the filmmaking is very stylized. There are documentary moments, with the actors (in and out of character) talking to the camera, discussing the film; the artifice of the film is foregrounded, the constant assertion of the presence of the camera in the room with the actors - which comes to a head in a scene where the crew appears to comfort the girl after a terrible fight with another girl - or when someone off camera seems to start talking to the characters (the devil has no smell). All this does a couple things - at once reminding us that we are watching an art film; but also that what we are watching is really happening... it keeps the tension of the depiction of what we see and the act of depicting something present all the time... Well, I'm not going to pretend not to be a nerd about things like that - I love it...

7) The President's Last Bang - Im Sang-soo
The assassination of Park Chun-hee, told in a strange, dark comic style. A parade of nincompoops pass through the film - the president, his oafish bodyguard, the KCIA man with a bad liver and worse breath, various underlings, some competent, most not, various whores and singers and actresses looking for a break, unflappable waiters, drivers pressed into emergency service as assassins, cowardly generals, etc. It reaches a crisis point at the president's meal with 2 girls, an actress and a Japanese singer, the bodyguard (who isn't armed), an obsequious secretary, and the KCIA man - who halfway through stages a coup, apparently deciding to do it on the spot. Mayhem and screwups of all sorts follow.... It's a marvelous film - the style, ice cold, sharp as a knife satire - the absurdity of it all, the incompetence, everywhere. Played, though, against a number of characters whose competence or decency seems to be stranded by events, and who bring out a surprising depth of emotion.

8) Why has the Bodhi Darma Left for the East - Bae Yung Kyun
The first Korean film I ever saw... The title comes from a zen koan, the film is structured somewhat like a koan. It is slow and very beautiful, shot imaginatively and expressively - things constantly change, move, change significance. The story is very basic, and slippery - it works you into its rhythms, you fall into its patterns and it makes sense on its own levels. Though there is a plot, I suppose - a young monk, who leaves his obligations, seeks enlightenment, and in the end, decides to return to the world in order to learn to love it - told in an oblique way...

9) Thirst - Park Chan-wook
Vampire film combined with Zola, with all that ought to entail. Song Kang-ho, again, plays a priest who volunteers to be infected with a disease (the Emmanuel Virus, named for a Dr Emmanuel) for science - he dies, of course, coughing up blood through a flute, but comes back, whispering a prayer under the sheet. He goes home and gains a following who think he can heal - then meets an old friend, who thinks he has cancer. The friend invites him to his house for mahjong - he discovers that the girl he thought was the friend's sister was a foundling, now his wife - abused! miserable! But our hero gets a whiff of her blood, and - the sun burns him - but - the blood is the life... Soon he's drinking blood from a fat guy in a coma and flirting with the girl - she seduces him - he tells her what his disease is - she isn't quite as terrified as he'd like... in fact, everyone who finds out about him wants a bit of the action. Anyway - he and the girl act out Therese Raquin (and every other story where a wife gets a sap to help her kill her husband) and are duly consumed with guilt and paranoia - and sooner or later, he shares his disease with her - and she takes to it like a natural.... blood and gore and comedy follow, before a genuinely moving end. Like most of Park's films, morality shifts and blurs all over the place - the priest is guilt ridden and tries not to hurt people, unless he has to, and then he has a great ability not to stop things he wants to be true. The girl loves it, she is sensuous and wild. Park shoots the whole thing without ever quite committing - to a point of view, a moral position, a consistent tone - it's always funny, but has that consistent undercurrent of sadness in his work.

10) Woman on the Beach - Hong Sang-soo
Another triangle, and another diptych from Hong. Here, a film director and his friend go to the beach so the director can write - they take the friend's girlfriend with them. But she is not his girlfriend, she says (he is married) - soon enough, she and the director are lovers, though this has complications. They leave, but the director comes back and starts pursuing another girl, who he seems to think looks like the first one - then Moon-sook (her name) comes back, finds out about his affair, gets drunk and makes trouble. They hang around for a while, he hurts his leg, he writes his script, then leaves after a confrontation with Moon-sook (after she has one with the other woman) - he leaves, and she lets him go, and she and the other woman say goodbye. This is made in the full flower of Hong's style - the long takes, the little zooms to reframe, the arrangements of 2-3 people in shots, the conversations, the twists and turns of emotion and plot. Very well done - very much like Rohmer, like those early films, their emotional mazes, etc. It is hard, in fact, to pick one of Hong's films over any other, easier to talk about them in the mass - he is one of the most consistent filmmakers going, revisiting the same kinds of stories, in the same style, but endlessly reworking them, finding new nuances to them. They are lovely films, everyone one engaging from start to end...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Ritual Music Post

Right? Plus a little bit more. Like - after a year or so when they seemed to be out of fashion, blogathons are everywhere. Another big one (for my money) coming up next week - Korean Film Blogathon, at New Korean Cinema and cineAWESOME. Conveniently, in Boston, this is the week Lee Chang-dong's Poetry opens, one of the films I am most anticipating.

And, looking back (in more ways than one) - I found out late about the Jean Harlow blogathon in honor of her 100th birthday - it started Monday and continues all week, and is well worth a few clicks.

Now, music - the year's off to a lively start, a bunch of nice records out - PJ Harvey, Mogwai, The Decembrists and so on - not that I've actually listened to most of them yet. One of these days I will have to make some kind of stab at reviewing them... not today, I fear. Nope - we're back to straight random 10 posting today!

1. Amos Milburn - One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer
2. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Elmo Delmo
3. Ramones - California Sun (live)
4. De Rosa - Steam Comes off Our House [another mojo collection special.]
5. Heavens to Betsy - Waitress Hell
6. The Stooges - ATM
7. OOIOO - Ring Ring Lee
8. The Beatles - Here, there and Everywhere
9. Grateful Dead - Sugar Magnolia
10. James Brown - I'll Go Crazy (live)

Amos Milburn, doing Bad, Bad Whiskey:

And - another thing I could use right now - California Sun: