Monday, December 31, 2012

Turn the Calendar Over

Let us bid farewell to 2012 - I will not miss this year. It was full of personal loss - not only my father, but the mother of a close friend died, and several relatives and friends had serious health issues. We are all getting old I guess. On a less painful, but still very annoying note - I was perfect murder on machinery this year. My main computer died - then I dropped a camera into the Atlantic - then my video camera stopped working (the automatic lens cap won't open)... I bought a new camera, a nice DSLR - but the flash stopped working on that thing over christmas - resulting in lots of orange cats....

Here is where my old camera went in, crossing this stream....

With all the other stuff going on, I did not get as much writing done as I would like - and saw a shockingly low number of films. I'm working on fixing that - watched Heaven's Gate already - will end the year with more Jeff Bridges - True Grit I think... and will start the new year with Django Unchained. Get things going right. The one area where I did more or less do what I hoped to do was in reading and writing about the Civil War - relevant to the Tarantino film (and somewhat to the Coen Brothers) - and relevant here, because, well - today is another battle anniversary. Stone's River - one of those strange bloodbaths out west - here, both sides planned to attack - the Union on their left, the Confederates on their left - the rebels got started first and caved in the Union right completely... But the north was able to pull back into a strong defensive position - the Confederates were stopped. Both sides were fought out the first day - they did very little on New Year's day - resumed the battle on the 2nd, but nothing changed - and finally, Bragg and the rebels gave up and left. It was an odd fight - like Perryville, the south won the fighting on the field, as much as anyone won it - but Bragg pulled out anyway, and gave up the campaign. The biggest effect of the battle might have been that it helped Phil Sheridan build his reputation - he was one of the leaders whose men put up a strong fight on the first day of the battle, helping to save the army.

As far as the war goes - it was a nasty battle - one that the Union had to win, coming so close to Fredericksburg - and with Lincoln making the Emancipation Proclamation official on January 1, 1863. It was a close thing, but the Yankees held the field - and the war went on its way...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fall Film Round Up #3

And finally, the last (well, almost) Fall round up post, this one featuring films that stand out - I cam't quite say they are the best, even the most important, even from an auteurist point of view (Ira Sachs seems to me to be a far more interesting filmmaker than the Wachowskis or Tom Tykwer, even at their best) - but they are the most interesting to gas about. (The "almost" up there refers to mostly to Lincoln, a very big film by any standards, which I have yet to write about. It is well worth gassing about, all the more so since it fits into my ongoing Civil War obsessions - so I am leaving it until I can work up something much more substantial. Maybe until I have seen Django Unchained, since there might be some thematic overlap there.... And of course, films are still coming out, including what might now be the best non-Anderson film of the year, Barbara - I have to think some more about that... I may never catchup...)

Killing them Softly - 12/15 - Andrew Dominick, director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has come back with another artsy take on American tough guys and genre pictures, this one about small time gangsters in the Boston environs... A card game gets knockled over - masterminded (if that's the word, and it probably shouldn't be) by a dry cleaner, handled by 2 schmucks - the point being that the guy running the game did it before and bragged and everyone will think he is doing it again. So Brad Pitt comes in to clean things up, meeting with Richard Jenkins in a car under a bridge - Cogan (that's Pitt) says they have to kill them all, Liotta's character included; the bosses are waffling... The schmucks talk, as schmucks will - so Pitt goes for the drycleaner and the schmucks as well. James Galdolfini comes in because Cogan knows the dry cleaner - but he ain't what he used to be... So, you know... The novel (George V. Higgins) was written and set in the low-70s; this is set in 2008, with the financial meltdown and bailout, and the election, playing in the background - this is mainly for the audio, though; the film looks like 1973, not 2008, and the time shift doesn't make much difference to the story. Mostly, the political soundtrack provides a comical counterpoint to the lowlifes in the film - the lowlifes, I suppose, providing a comical counterpoint to the grand politics as well. As serious political commentary - well, it's a bit too on the nose. But that's all right. It's a tight, nifty little film, mostly talk, but such talk - with a creeping sense of dread and inevitability to it all. As short and efficient as the Jesse James film was long and languorous... very nice work.

Holy Motors - 10/15 - Return of Leos Carax, starring the very magnificent Denis Lavant. Mordant, funny, surreal, strange film... There's a prelude in a movie theater, with ancient films, audiences reacting to sounds (like Shirin), then Carax himself wakes up in a room, and uses a key in place of a finger to go into the theater, where it all changes. Lavant as many people - Oscar, a banker who leaves his house, talks about bodyguards and guns, etc - then has appointments: 1) as an old lady beggar; 2) in a body motion suit, pretending to fight, run, and fuck a woman in a suit; 3) "Merde" from Tokyo!, who bites the fingers off an american photographer's assistant, kidnaps Eva Mendes, turns her gown into a burka, then strips and cuddles in her lap (with a very large very erect penis). 4) picks up a mopey teenager at a party and drives her home.... Then there is an EntreActe where he leads a mob of accordian players around a church... 5) he kills a doppelganger in a warehouse, and is stabbed while trying to turn the other man into himself; 6) he kills the banker from the beginning in a cafe; 7) he plays an old man dying, and hopes to meet the girl playing his niece again, 8) (maybe - hard to say if this is meant to be an "appointment" or a chance meeting) - meets an old flame, who is his reverse - a woman, driven by - Lavant - playing parts... or 8) he dresses as a working class man, goes home to his family in a development - chimps... then - the driver returns the car and leaves and the cars talk to themselves like the Waltons. All this seems to amount to something about the end of the movies - characters pop up like in Cosmopolis to talk to our man in his limo, usually about movies, acting, identity, I guess - notably Michel Piccoli... Movies, acting, identity, image - it's all in there. I can't say it all adds up to much - but it is quite clever and amusing as it goes along. And lovely looking - though what's with all the big C's?

Cloud Atlas - 10/15 - The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer team up to make a big strange sprawling thing, that seems to have bombed completely in the theaters. Convoluted structure (sort of) - 6 stories, intertwined: 1849: a Maori slave stows away on a ship and is helped by a lawyer who is being murdered by Tom Hanks... 1936: a homosexual is chased out of Cambridge, goes to Scotland to help a composer write, does so, but ends badly, shoots the man, finishes his piece and kills himself... 1973: a blaxpoitation film manque - Halle Berry as a reporter, tracking down a series of murders, a nuclear scandal... 2012: Jim Broadbent as an editor who gets rich when his writer kills a critic, but he spends it all, and the writer's gangster pals come collecting, so he runs - he is put in an old folks home by his brother, though it turns out to be a prison - he and some other old timers run away, and he finds happiness... 2144: neo-Seoul, a fabricant (artificially built person) gets a soul, is rescued by a hero, gives a speech, tells her story and dies... 2321: civilization is gone - an advanced woman meets a primitive man, he guides her to an old observatory and they send a signal to the stars; meanwhile, his village is attacked, but they save each other and a child - etc...

All this is very clever, but a bit underwhelming. When it came out, there were some claims that it was confusing, but I can't see why - the stories are intercut, but they are all internally linear, and even with the same actors in all the sections, there isn't much attempt to throw anyone off. Everything makes perfect sense, really - and more, it is all tied together with gimmicky hooks - the cloud atlas sextet, a musical number; a tattoo; the way characters connect across the sections, etc. It does some interesting things with actors - as the same people appear in all the stories - crossing race, gender, age, and so on in different stories... The stories themselves, though, are pretty standard issue stuff. They're all about freedom and the like - love, sacrifice, sentimentality, with a dollop of goofball Buddhism thrown in. Even more disappointing, the film doesn't really do much with the genre possibilities at its disposal - all the sections are recognizable film genres (except maybe the 2012 one, though the comical-shenanigans-of-old-Englishmen type is not unknown), but only the 2144 one really uses the possibilities. This is especially noticeable in the 1973 section - it's got all the makings, the 70s paranoia plot, the blaxpoitation references - and there's almost nothing made of it. Hardly a zoom to be seen! The result is that you get the cliches, but you don't get the pleasures of the in jokes (except maybe in the 2144 one, though event hat is pretty bland) - in the end - the 2012 episode is the only one that really seems remotely fresh. In fact - it is quite good, and not like much of anything else. A lot of that is down to Jim Broadbent, who is just great - but the story is far more satisfying than anything else. Though the film deserved better than it got - all these complaints aside, it was an enjoyable enough affair, with some nice work. Just, nothing special.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fall RoundUp Number 2

Continuing to catch up through the year.... Another batch of film capsules. At least one more to come this week - I've left out a number of the most "important" films I've seen this fall - figuring I can find a bit more to say about some of them... Anyway: here's another bunch of movies seen this fall...

Silver Linings Playbook - 7/15 - all very well made but so desperate! guy gets out of rehab, goes home, his father is just as bad as he is, OCD, obsessed with the Eagles - our hero was in the nervous hospital because he beat up his wife's lover, but is still obsessed with his wife. Meets a girl, sister of a friend, as fucked up as he is - she starts stalking him - eventually offers to help him get to the wife if he dances with her in a contest... etc. Then end up in love. Hooray. Hard to say why it's so irritating, though mostly - it's just noisy and desperate - a kind of endless hysteria until the end when it goes all gooey. Kind of like Dark Horse with a happy ending and - on speed instead of barbiturates. Not sure if that is praise or damnation. It also reminded me, especially the beginning, of Oslo: August 31 - that's not so good. It's not a good thing when the comedy leaves you more depressed than a film you know going in is going to end in suicide. (Sorry for the spoiler there, but Oslo is based on a 50 year old film and an 80 year old novel, so there you go.)

My Worst Nightmare - 9/15 - rather irritating French comedy about an uptight gallery owner with a lazy son and a lousy home life - she runs afoul a man, a sometime handyman, whose son is a bit of a genius, and a great friend of her son. Doesn't take long before the handyman is renovating the flat and hanging around with her live in lover - who promptly takes up with a tree hugger, leaving the woman and handyman to do whatever mismatched pairs are supposed to do in French comedies.... Cultures clash, but both of them, Patrice the apparently Belgian ne'er-do-well and Agathe the snobby Parisian, have a taste for drink and tend to bond by getting falling down drunk... and so on. It ends well, I guess, though it grinds along getting there. Truth is, it's mostly just 4 horrible people (Francois and Julie - the hippy - are no better) irritating one another and us, except that one of them is Isabelle Huppert, and she is Isabelle Huppert. She's worth all 9 of those points; nothing else in the film is worth seeing.

The Sessions - 9/15 - John Hawkes as a writer paralyzed with polio - he can't control his muscles, but he can feel things - so he can have sex. He is a virgin at 38, and after some talk hires a sex surrogate to teach him how. 6 sessions. Inevitably things get emotionally out of hand, so they break it off - but he meets a volunteer at a hospital and all is well. The film is amusing, Hawkes is magnificent, Helen Hunt gets naked, the thing ends sentimentally, there's fun to be had counting the Deadwood alum, and William H. Macy turns up as a hippy priest - it isn't terrible, though it's not much of anything, really...

Argo - 10/15 - When the US embassy was taken in Tehran, 6 of the employees escaped, and were hidden by the Canadian embassy. There they stayed for a couple months, but things were getting tough, so the US plans to get them out. The plan they came up with was to pretend to make a movie - Argo. They set it all up running, so that Ben Affleck's character could go in as location scout and get them out. He does this - funny stuff setting it up (the thing was quite elaborate - including story boards by Jack Kirby himself), then he goes. He gets the permissions, he has to take them on a scouting trip to a marketplace - where they are photographed and threatened, but they get out - but then the mission is canceled. But he insists on continuing. And they escape at the last possible second. All told - it is a first rate thriller, witty and well constructed and written - a nice mainstream film, as good a mainstream film as I have seen this year. Some nice story twists - one guy, who thinks he's smarter than the rest - he talks them into running - then when they are leaving, he tries to talk them into staying - but at the airport, he saves their bacon - he speaks Farsi, so gives a story about the film, about why he dreamed of shooting in Iran, he makes it all make sense. Nice twist. Now, as it happens, a lot of the suspense in Iran turns out to have been invented - but it's very interesting suspense, and seems to turn the film into Argo the film in the film, more than the reality - which isn't all bad...

Alps - 10/15 - Giorgios Lanthimos' follow up to Dogtooth.... a group of people substitute for the recently deceased, ostensibly to help them with the grieving process, though most of their assignments turn rather nasty at some point. They take a while to get intense - the actual replacements seem rather benign at first - reading to a blind woman; taking swims in the ocean, talking about diabetes to a man who owns a lighting shop, etc. Meanwhile, a tennis playing teenager is killed in a car accident, and one of the women in the Alps group, a doctor, impersonates her on her own, without telling the others. About that time, the other stories start coming apart (the blind woman catches her husband and friend in bed; the women with diabetes is obliged to let her lover lick her pussy, etc.) - and the doctor is caught, though by that time she has gone well beyond her role - taking the girl's boyfriend home, etc. So she is replaced, by someone else in the group, and she ends up breaking into the house, then, after she's chased out, hanging around outside the family's door, trying to get in - like a ghost - a fairly clear but of symbolism... It plays like a rather more surreal version of some of Atom Egoyan's films, with live action role playing instead of video, maybe - similar themes - faulty grieving, compulsive repetition of trauma and so on.... This is not quite so brilliant as Dogtooth, but Lanthimos is clearly a filmmaker to watch.

How to Survive a Plague - 11/15 - story of Act Up - particularly the treatment group, which later became Treatment Activist Group (TAG) - the film starts in 1987 and continues on, concentrating on the fight for drugs and treatments. A fascinating film. Fascinating people, who hold it together. It is a strange story - the way, in 1993 or so, they all thought they were going to die, sooner, not later - and then, in 1996 or so - they were saved. Quite a few of the people in the film did die, in fact - but the ones who made it to the late 90s made to to the present. A haunting tale. The film also makes it clear how they made it happen - how crucial they were, their tenacity, working, endlessly to get treatments. Not that doctors and scientists weren't working to get drugs and treatments - but that there were hosts of barriers between their work and the people who needed it, and Act-up and TAG were instrumental in getting past those barriers. A very nice film.

Keep The Lights On - 11/15 - autobiographical film from Ira Sachs: a Danish filmmaker meets a lawyer at Random House through a phone sex line - they meet, they fuck, they hit it off, and before long they move in together. But the lawyer is a crackhead - and over time, his drug addiction and erratic behavior ruins the relationship - though we also see some of the passive aggressive behavior of the filmmaker. Film covers 9 years, 1998-2007 - nice subtle charting of the times - from phones to cel phones to blackberries, to ipods. Sachs has long established a fine sense of the dynamics of bad love, and continues that here.

Looper - 10/15 - We're back to the beginning of fall here.... a mash up of Terminator, 12 Monkeys and the like - loopers are people in 2044 who kill others sent back in time from 30 years in the future - the criminals of the future are the only ones with time travel ability, so they send their victims back in time to be disposed of. Anyway - one of the loopers (Paul Dano) sees himself come back - singing a song he recognized - "closing his loop" (the looper kills his future self, and gets a big payoff and gets to live 30 years on the proceeds)... But this guy hesitates - lets the man go - he runs, but mentions the "rainmaker" - a future villain, killing all the loopers, etc. All right - so Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Dano's friend - but he sells him out.... Then his future self comes back - without a mask... he too escapes, or - does, then doesn't - then we follow him through the future to when he is sent back. But he has spent those 30 years becoming Bruce Willis - tough and professional, a real gangster and gunman - so when he goes back, he isn't so easy to kill. So - all right - Bruce WIllis is on the loose in 2044, and everyone is trying to kill him, including Gordon-Levitt, who wants to live to become Bruce Willis, I guess it is.... But Bruce has his own mission - to find the Rainmaker before he becomes the rainmaker! And JGL finds a woman on a farm with a kid who has telekinetic powers - all this is no more than halfway into the film, and by this time it's clear enough who's who in 2074 and just a matter of seeing how they get there... or don't, if that's what they don't do. Anyway - in the end, someone does the Right Thing and thus negates all the Bad Things, or something like that. It's nonsense the second you think about it - but it's all pretty well done on the way. Though it does bog down some, once the Terminator plot kicks in.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Random 10

Friday music time... nothing special today... I have a couple movie posts a-comin' - just roundups, trying to catch up on writing about what I've seen in the last couple months... Then - tis the season, ho ho ho, for spending money and eating chocolate, activities oft inconducive of blogging, even in the minimalistic way I have specialized in lately.... but for now, it's Random Ten time....

1. Jeff Beck - Rock My Plimsoul
2. Minutemen - The Process
3. Beach Boys - I'm Waiting for the Day
4. Interpol - Barricade
5. Outkast - West Savannah
6. Reed/Cale/Nico - Heroin (live at Le Bataclan)
7. Michael Jackson - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
8. Deerhoof - Odyssey
9. Sleater-Kinney - Ironclad
10. Foals - Like Swimming

Video? The Reed/Cale thing is online, but embedding is disabled... so - here's footage from their dotage:

How about Sleater-Kinney, at a show I should have gone to?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


As we continue to follow along with the events of 150 years ago - today we reach the Battle of Fredericksburg. I've had plenty of occasion to talk about bad generals in the civil war already - but Fredericksburg might top them all...

It was a singularly one sided fight. The Union army crossed the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg today, December 11, 1862. After a day or so of preparation, they launched an attack on the rebels on the 13th. This started south of town, where Stonewall Jackson was - Jackson was spread out, generally on high ground, but it wasn't a commanding position. The Yankees might have had a chance there - but they never attacked with more than a division (though there were two entire army corps on hand, and more available.) The North had some luck there - they broke through, briefly - but nothing came of it. The main attack came due west of town.

There - the Union soldiers had to march across a small plain into the face of a line of hills - which constituted about as impregnable a naturally occurring line of battle as either side was going to face in the war. It looked bad enough - marching across open ground to attack a hill - but it was worse than that. There were walls and a sunken road on the hill that gave the rebels perfect cover. There were various canals and bogs and whatnot on the plain that funneled the attackers right into the center of the defender's field of fire. It was hopeless - but the Union soldiers went in, and were shot to hell, a division at a time, more or less - and kept going in all afternoon. It was a mind-boggling display of pointless slaughter, and has made the Union commander, Ambrose Burnside, a watchword for military incompetence.

He was a character. He was a dreadful general, but a rather fascinating person. He invented a pretty effective breech-loading carbine before the war, though he'd gone bankrupt trying to sell it. He became a governor and Senator after the war. He leant his name to many things - the Burnside rifle - Burnside's bridge - the side burns (since he sported a magnificent set of muttonchops.) And - he stands out as one of the most overmatched men to lead an army in the war. He knew it, too - he had had some success early in the war in the Carolinas, and was offered command of the Army of the Potomac more than once in the summer of 62, after McClellan had conclusively proven his unsuitability for command, but refused it every time. He tried to refuse it again after Antietam, but was finally compelled to take the position, and do what he could... Which turned out to be the battle of Fredericksburg, and then the "Mud March" - an attempt at a winter campaign in Virginia, undone by rain....

But what ruined poor Burnside, in everything he did, was a kind of helpless stubbornness - the kind of pointless repetition of failure you see in the attacks at Fredericksburg. Though it started even before that. He'd begun the campaign with a scheme for crossing the river (at Fredericksburg) while Lee was off to the north and west. It was a decent plan, and he stole a march on Lee, and he might have gotten somewhere - except that the arrangements for the pontoon bridges were screwed up - they weren't where they were supposed to be, and by the time they were brought up, Lee had occupied the high ground around Fredericksburg, and there was no point in crossing there. But - Burnside's plan was to cross at Fredericksburg, so by god, he was going to cross at Fredericksburg - and then attack. He never seemed to be able to hold more than one thought in his head at a time.

It marked his career - especially the bad parts, and he was in the middle of some really big disasters. At Antietam, he was charged with attacking on Lee's south, to take advantage of the main attack to the north. But he had been placed in charge of 2 army corps until the last minute when one was moved to the other end of the line - but he acted as though he had 2 corps, and refused to take personal command of the one he had, even though it's commanding officer had been killed... He was supposed to cross a bridge - and he spent half the day trying to cross this one bridge, over the Antietam creek, which was wadable more or less everywhere. And so - by the time he got across and moved on Lee's army (which had been utterly wrecked) he gave time for one last batch of reinforcements to arrive and drive him back....

Then there was the battle of the Crater - that was part of the siege of Petersburg in the summer of 1864. And as happened from time to time, in the run up to the fight, you can see why Burnside might have been worth something as a general. (Truth is - everywhere but with the Army of the Potomac, he did pretty well - in the Carolinas at the beginning of the war; in east Tennessee in the fall of 1863 - he acquitted himself well. He was cursed when he went east.) The idea at the Crater was to build a mine under the rebel lines, and set off one hell of a bomb - it was a bold, risky plan, and Burnside supported it - and, in the event, when the thing blew up, it worked like a charm, and might well have broken the rebel's hold on Petersburg..... Except... Burnside, for a variety of reasons, most of them good, had decided to use a division of Colored Troops to spearhead the attack. They were, in fact, prepared very well - careful plans made, their roles defined - they were ready to go. But at the last minute, General Meade decided that they could not use black troops to lead the attack. Burnside argued for them - Grant backed up Meade.... it is clear enough that Meade and Grant were dead wrong on this - but they made the call. And Burnside - had no second thought. All he could come up with was to draw lots among the other units - and got the worst of the bunch, whose commanding officer spent the battle passed out drunk. No one bothered to try to get this unit to follow the plan for a breakthrough - so the whole business failed abysmally. (And the black soldiers ended up being sent in after the fight was lost, and were shot to hell.) That was the end of Ambrose Burnside as a civil war general.

And so.... I should note another thing that distinguishes Burnside's failures (and relates, to my last post about underwear, sort of, because war is not just shooting...) His tenure as commander in chief was marked by simply abysmal logistics and discipline. That's almost as much a mark of his failure as his stubbornness - all these campaigns went south on logistics, staff work, preparation, the details of command. At Antietam, no one under Burnside's command thought to find out if the Antietam creek could be crossed anywhere. The trouble at Fredericksburg started because no one arranged for bridges to be brought to the Rappahannock in time for the army to cross. His orders at Fredericksburg were botched - he might have intended for the attacks south of town to be as vigorous as those west of the town, but that is not what he told his generals. The mud march was - a logistical nightmare, with confusion on the roads in addition to the lousy weather. Desertion and bad discipline were at their worst during his days in command. It is notable - other commanders of the Army of the Potomac had their problems - and the army was always a ponderous and rather inefficient organization.... But McClellan was a master organizer, and trained and equipped the army to the very highest standards... and Joe Hooker, Burnside's successor, proved to be just as good as McClellan, giving the army its discipline and pride back. Burnside stands aloe on that score....

Friday, December 07, 2012

Been a Long Lonely Lonely Time

Today for our Friday music post, something a bit different - just got two DVDs - Celebration Day, the film of the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion concert, and Color Me Obsessed, a doc about the Replacements. And they have, shall we say, cast my mind back a piece....

They are both pretty good films, for what they are - though this being music day, I do feel compelled to write about the music more than then filmmaking. And especially because they were both pretty important bands, for me - obviously important in the world at large, too, Zep openly, The Mats rather in secret.... but to me... I could probably call Led Zeppelin the beginning of my - mature, call it - tastes in music. I was a typical small town white kid in the 70s, and liked about what you would expect - from top 40 like Elton John to popular rock, like Kiss and Aerosmith, to more sophisticated versions of that, call it Queen, Styx - to, finally, plain old AOR. And while that included the Beatles and the Kinks and the Stones, bands you heard often enough on all kinds of radio stations, since they made singles too - it was defined, for me, and I imagine for pretty much everyone, by the Zep. You did not hear Led Zeppelin on singles stations. They were pretty much the definition of Album Oriented Rock.... I am not saying anything here that people do not know; but that does not make it less true. For me, they signified moving from being a pop fan (however much rock you liked) to being a rock fan. In practice, that usually meant switching to a different radio station. And that brought with it a completely new set of music - as well as a noticeably different format. Longer runs of songs between commercials - less talk - no news... You know. AOR, FM radio, 1979 edition. And this was most definitely tied directly to the radio. I didn't have money to buy a lot of records; I didn't really hang around with other kids listening to their records; I got my music from the radio. We kids talked about music - but if you wanted to hear it, most of the time you had to hear it on the radio.

I don't know how typical that is. Maybe most kids like me bought more records - maybe they traded tapes - I don't know. I imagine, kids living in cities and suburbs had very different options - more radio stations, record stores, concerts, within their reach... But I was well away from that. It was radio. And - for pretty significant periods of my youth, it was me sitting in my room half the night reading a book and listening to the radio, me alone, me and the music. And so - listening to Zep on the radio might have been an experience shared by millions of kids - but it was an experience I had completely by myself. And so - those songs got inside me, somehow, in my head, where they rattle and echo ever since. Not just Led Zeppelin, of course - and by the time I got to college, other bands were starting to be more important to me, and that went on... But for a year or so - my last year or two of high school - they were the best band in the world to me, the absolute center of the rock and roll universe. (Though maybe not the musical universe. I remember when John Bonham died, a terrible thing; but when John Lennon died, I was in shock, for days... But that's - a complicated equation. The music universe and the rock universe aren't necessarily the same things; and THE music universe and MY music universe weren't necessarily the same thing either - the Beatles were the world; Zep was my world, for a while.)

Okay... so how's the film? Not bad, for a bunch of old farts. Not up to their old standards, but how could it be? They are well rehearsed, they have chosen a very fine set list - they look fabulous... Robert Plante and John Paul Jones don't look a day over 45, either of them... Jimmy Page, on the other hand - looks like someone's granddad, pretending to be a rock star. But frankly, that just makes him cooler - with his white hair, thinning a bit, his little paunch - god knows how those other two do it, but he seems more or less willing to just look like his age. And when he wants the stage, he takes it... But still: in the end - it's a good show, but - missing something - no question what. Maybe, the fact that they are as tight, well rehearsed, enthusiastic, as they are just points up the utter indispensability of John Bonham. I think, when you get down to it, the fact is - they were, from start to finish, a duo, plus singer and bass player. Jones and Plante are very good at what they do - but they were always secondary. The band was a duet between Page and Bonham, plus a backup band... and Jason is not John. And so here - you get a very nice record (and video), but you don't get much point in listening to this instead of something like How The West Was Won.

Okay - that was long and autobiographical and barely mentioned the DVD - but wait 'til I get started on the Replacements! The film - Color Me Obsessed - is an interesting one. A documentary about a band that contains none of the band's music, no footage of them, and very little imagery of them at all. No appearances by anyone in the band, either. Instead - interviews, with fans, other musicians and people around the Minneapolis scene (up to and including Greg Norton and Grant Hart - no Bob Mould, though), journalists, from Robert Christgau to David Carr to Jim DeRogatis, the odd record company stooge, the occasional wife. It's an interesting choice - it is disappointing not to hear or see the Mats, I mean - don't you want that? but it's not a bad way to approach the Replacements. They were kind of a secret - they still are kind of a secret - wildly influential, but in ways that let people talk more about other bands... Though even in real time, they were harder, I think, to get a handle on than their peers. Someone mentions it in the film - that with Husker Du, they had a clear idea what kind of band they wanted to be; with the Mats - they never had any ideas. They slipped under the radar... So - talking about them, instead of seeing them - gets at something. Though I'd still love to see some good clean footage of them...

Digging around the web, I found an interview with the director - who says, every interview in the film started with the question, "Why the Replacements?" Well, I suppose like everyone in the doc, I could tell my Replacements story. I came to them late - after college - after Tim. There's autobiography in that - I grew up in the boonies, where AOR was the cutting edge, where Elvis Costello and U2 came off as exotic oddities - then went to college closer to civilization, though still in the suburbs. But I did what you are supposed to do in college, especially fi you come from the woods of Maine - I heard bunches of new bands, bunches of old bands that never got played up there, listened to a lot more depth of the bands I did like... Listened to records, as well as the radio, as it happened. Especially records I didn't hear on the radio - I got obsessed with Live At Leeds for a while there; some of us would listen to The River, all four sides, three times a week... But I heard new stuff as well - I had a buddy who liked X and XTC and Elvis Costello (as well as being a Springsteen freak) - I started taking newer stuff seriously. Nothing particularly radical - I mean - U2, The Pretenders, Prince - but still... not all Jimmy Page wanking, like high school.

But it stopped. I don't know why, maybe there were too many reasons. The X and XTC buddy dropped out; maybe the radio got more conservative, or maybe the music scene got more conservative (I don't rule either out: the turn of the decade, even on fairly mainstream radio stations, I heard the standard new wave bands, Talking Heads, B-52s, Elvis Costello; The Ramones and the Clash getting airplay on mainstream rock stations; U2, The Pretenders, The Police; you'd hear The Damned, Soft Cell, Romeo Void, Gang of Four... by '84 or so the new stuff was dull and derivative - Simple Minds? The Call? Tears for Fears? The Alarm? - not all bad, I guess, but nothing there that would wake you up the way U2 or The Pretenders or London Calling woke me up earlier... There were still songs on the radio I loved as much as ever - but they were usually by groups I already liked, usually discovered in the first year or two of college: U2, Prince, REM...) Maybe it was me - college wasn't a high point, I tended to stagnate while I was there. Did I grow complacent?

Whatever it was, it changed when I left college - I went to grad school, in the big city, and there I started seeing fanzines and underground rock papers, that mentioned bands I had not heard of - and I paid attention. I started looking for college radio or anything else that went away from the normal stuff on the radio, and heard some of them. Somewhere along the line I got wind of The Replacements - I remember a college newspaper running a cartoon using them to beat up REM, and I think I remember some kind of big time magazine (Time?) running a story about punks on major labels, covering Tim and Candy Apple Gray. (And Three Way Tie for Last - though I guess that wasn't actually on a major label, so I might be making this up). The point is - it gave me a target, and when Tim came out, I got it....

Or maybe I heard it on the radio - I think Hold My Life played a bit.... It doesn't matter, I bought it soon enough. What matters is - when I heard them - Hold My Life, specifically - I was floored. There have been some other songs that had that kind of effect on me - not many, though, few as quickly or completely. (I Will Follow; South Central Rain; Slipping (Into Something); Walk on the Wild Side? London Calling?... there aren't a lot...) With the Replacements - they sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Or - maybe they sounded exactly like what I loved already. They had that quality - to sound like rock and roll distilled to its essence, but like they were inventing it on the spot. I don't know. I still feel it when I listen to Tim - the qualities, the songs, the rough way they are played, the way Westerburg sings - it has a kind of immediacy you don't get anywhere else. Except the other Mats records. (I quickly bought Let It Be, and was blown away a second time.) But that record, Tim, especially - Hold My Life, Bastards of the Young, Little Mascara, Left of the Dial, Kiss Me on the Bus, Here Comes a Regular - I am hard pressed to explain, though it comes to being the best written songs for an awful long time either side of it, and given performances that have an almost inexplainable directness. Loose, almost careless sounding, but still, somehow, precise, sharp, completely committed.... I don't know.

I know that for a year or two, probably roughly from the time I got my hands on Tim to the time - christ - til the time I got Pleased to Meet Me - they were my favorite band in the world. The center of my rock and roll universe. They were what I wanted rock music to sound like. It certainly helped that I saw them, right at the end, a couple weeks before Westerberg broke his arm and they cancelled their tour and a couple months before they fired poor Bob Stinson from his own band... They were as advertised - an odd mix of drunken shenanigans, half serious covers, snarky noise, and those fucking incredible songs, given strange, sloppy, but usually completely committed readings. They were funny and mind-blowingly brilliant at once. They ended up playing Mississippi Queen until the cops escorted them off the stage at closing time. My god, they were great.

And - like poor Led Zeppelin before them, I was not faithful to them. I had some money in my pockets and started buying records and found plenty of other music to love - Husker Du and the like - though most profoundly, the Velvet Underground and Joy Division, whose records I bought up that summer and listened to rather obsessively. And then I saw The Feelies. And then Pleased to Meet Me came out, and I saw them again, and despite a stunning rendition of Within Your Reach (immediately becoming one of my all time favorite songs), they were - just a band this time. Great as that record is - they were just a band. And by now I was fairly immersed in the contemporary music scene - going to shows, buying records - finding the Meat Puppets and Butthole Surfers and a whole bunch of local bands, and later the Pixies and Jane's Addiction and then Public Enemy and BDP and NWA... and filling in all the old stuff, and finding that these bands - The Stooges - Pere Ubu - The Byrds - Hank Williams and Johnny Cash - as well as the Velvets, Joy Division and the like - that was what I really liked - that is what I meant, all along. And the Replacements - didn't keep up. While I was listening to more and more music, they were putting out more and more mediocre material. I saw them a third time, at a theater even - and remember nothing at all about it, not even what record they were supporting (Don't Tell a Soul? maybe...)

And there you have it. You can probably blame the movie for this long piece - the film is reflective and personal, about music's impact on the listener, the fan.... And it took me back there, 25 years, to hearing them, seeing them.... and, by extension, 30+ years to sitting in my room listening to Ramble On... Nostalgia, nostalgia. And reminders that for a while, both of these bands were completely transformative for me. I still love them - I may be more likely, if push comes to shove, to listen to Fairport Convention or Can - or to the Minutemen or The Feelies or the Meat Puppets, here, today, 2012 - but I don't think, without the passion I felt for Zep and the Mats, that I would have ever have heard of those other bands.

This could be me, right down to the stereo on the milk crates...

Monday, December 03, 2012

Film Notes Catchup (Early Autumn Edition)

All right - it has been forever since I have written anything like a film post. Other than a post on the Master and For Ellen, I haven't mentioned any new films since - August? Since August... So - I don't know. We are into December - I might as well do some catching up. These are just captures - it would be nice to write something longer about some of the more important or interesting or just controversial films - but this will do for now. (Though this post does cover the best non-Anderson film of the year....) This one takes us through somewhere in October.

Restless City - 10/15 - Handsome and sober film about a young Senagalese man in NYC - he meets a girl, but she's a whore - he's beholden to her pimp, and things get worse. It's a great looking film (Bradford Young, who also shot Pariah, is building a neat body of work) but the script is very weak - and the filmmaking itself seems thin. It's all montage, all images - nice, but it has to paper over the story. I think it tries to do so to get around the derivative script - but not quite lively enough. Lots of better films have gotten there first, from Green Fish to Mona Lisa to take your pick. Full of flashes of better films - Breathless or Fallen Angels or Goodbye South Goodbye and so on.

Two Days in New York - 10/15 - Follow up on Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris, same principal, this time her family comes to NY to meet her new boyfriend, played by Chris Rock, in the person of Mingus, a writer and DJ. They are a bit uneasy about their relationship, though mostly happy. The French invasion ruins that. The relatives misbehave, Marion has a show and sells her soul, to the most terrifying person in New York, perhaps.... But it all works out.

Cosmopolis - 10/15 - continuing the run of New York films.... Here, Robert Pattinson is very very rich; he heads out across town in his limo to get a haircut, accompanied by his bodyguard, Kevin Durand doing Christopher Walken. He then interacts with a series of people - a nervous employee, his wife, Juliette Binoche who knows of a Rothko he could buy, a computer nerd, another employee, his doctor, his "ideas" woman, a female bodyguard he fucks, a man he goes to a club with, a friend talking about a dead Sufi rapper, Mathieu Amalric throwing pies... he finally makes it to the barber, takes a gun, then gets shot at from an abandoned building and goes in and has a somewhat frought conversation with a schmuck played by the song of a former commissioner of baseball... All this is very arch - DeLillo's style comes through - Cronenberg likes that style, no denying it, the clipped, not quite meaningless language - "I do not understand this" - the cycling ideas... I can't say it's all that good a film, but it was certainly intriguing.

Oslo: August 31 - 12/15 - superb film based on Feu Follet, The Fire Within, the novel and the film by Louis Malle. IN this version, in Oslo, we follow a young man in drug rehab who goes out on leave, to interview for a job. He visits friends, and tells the first one he is thinking of suicide... The interview breaks down in the middle, because of the rehab - he tries to meet his sister, but she never shows, and after meeting a different friend, then trying and failing to call a girlfriend in New York, he goes to a party.... and starts drinking, and once he starts.... he steals money, buys heroin, goes clubbing with another friend and some girls, up all night, but in the morning, as they go for a swim, he walks away from them. Home, his family's home (being sold - empty), and - what Chekhov said about guns applies to heroin too... It's a very strong film - standard euro-Indie look, but with care to the acting and words, and pieces that do what some art does - he sits in a cafe and we hear what he hears, as he attends in turn to the people around him - snippets of conversation... details of the city... people moving about. It is observational and beautiful - and his despair, his apparent decision to end the day in suicide focuses him and us on this world, which is given life in proportion to his own fading. The best non-Anderson film of the year.

Lawless - 8/15 - John Hillcoat directing anotherNick Cave script, this one set in prohibition Virginia. The Bondurant brothers, Howard, Forrest and Jack, are moonshiners - running their wares around Franklin county VA. Well - the law comes in - a special deputy from Chicago (Guy Pearce, looking like Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners), whose main purpose is to get everyone a kickback. The brothers refuse, though everyone else gives in - trouble and violence results. It's all very archtypical, as one would expect from Cave, but disjointed - a series of episodes: they confront the deputy - the deputy beats up Jack - two men cut Forrest's throat, and he is saved by the girl - Jack starts running shine to the next town and sells it to Oldman's big time gangster - he courts the preachers daughter - a guy gets tarred and feathered - the law finds their stills and blows them up, along with a harmless crippled kid. So they go hunting for blood. It's got its points, but not enough.

Compliance - 11/15 - Rather harrowing fictionalized account of a real incident... At a fast food place, a cop calls and tells the manager that one of her employees stole money from a customer's purse. Over the phone, he convinces the manager to bring the girl in, search her bag and so on - then asks her to strip search her. He manipulates the two of them into all this (using classic manipulation techniques - getting the victim to supply info and exploiting it.) The manager goes along - and it keeps getting worse. The caller pushes the manager to do more and more troubling things - like getting a man to guard the girl; then getting the men molest her.... so it goes, until one employee makes a scene. The horror of it plays alongside the sheer awfulness of the workplace - everyone overworked, underpaid, everybody hassling everybody else...Everyone goes along with what happens in palpable fear of losing their jobs.

Paranorman - 9/15 - Norman talks to dead people and watches zombie movies - his parents disapprove, the kids pick on him, except for the fat kid, Neil. Then Norman is visited by his uncle - who has just died. He passes his mission on to Norman, sending poor Norman on a quest - out to the uncle's house for a book, then off to dig up a witch or something.... soon the dead are up and about and zombies are ready to face off against the inevitable armed mob - but Norman figures things out.... It is witty, sometimes handsome looking, and clever enough, especially where it goes at the end - but nothing really special.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Another Friday Music Post

Once again, Friday comes to rescue this humble blog from inactivity. Well, not complete inactivity, if you are interested in 1860s small clothes, but still... Maybe December will offer more time than I have had lately - or more inspiration... Until the holidays rear up once more, that is... so it goes.

So today it's back, once more, to the ol' shuffle, to see what fate has in store for us:

1. The Attack - Magic in the Air [rather cool bit of 60s brit pop, off another Mojo collection - those things are a pretty nice source for some of the more obscure corners of the musical past...]
2. Naked City - Batman
3. Times New Viking - No Time, No Hope [in which a brand of 60s brit pop and American garage is revived for the 21st century, to good effect...]
4. Sonny Sharrock - The Past Adventures of Zydeco Honey Cup
5. Edith Piaf - Polichinelle
6. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Love Comes in Spurts
7. The Raconteurs - Yellow Sun
8. Waterboys - The Big Music
9. U2 - I Fall Down
10. Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth

That, overall, is a particularly neat playlist... So for Video? We can start with a video made for Batman, giving you your John Zorn fix for the day:

And in a different direction - here's a longer piece, very young Waterboys live on German TV - with The Big Music in the middle there...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Drawers in the Civil War

Today in Civil War remembrance, via Lawyers, Guns & Money, comes this - a discussion of underwear in the Civil War. Unlike Mr. Loomis, at LGM, I quite like reading about battles and tactics and generals and the like, and arguing about them when I get the chance - but I admit, that stuff can be rather trivial. Sometimes the things that look trivial - guns and ammo and trains and hats and machines of every stripe - really aren't: and underwear certainly counts. It's easier to track down information on the kinds of rifles people used, or the hats they wore, than the kind of drawers they wore - but it's all just about as interesting. And important - look at some of the things you might learn from that article: how underwear was made, what it consisted of, things like that - but also,standards of hygiene; how much a private got paid and how much women were paid for sewing piecework; 19th century laundry techniques - and a reminder about the gendered division of labor there; how to kill lice... It's fascinating stuff....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks for Friday Music

Another Friday - Thanksgiving week is usually a complicated one, and this one has been no exception. Started last weekend moving stuff from one storage unit to another - a story in itself. (How does U-Haul survive, without knowing how to cash checks properly?) And then vacation, and all the usual temptations to sleep all day and play games all night... And some food shopping and food prep and all the rest, until the happy day arrives and you eat yourself into a coma and then sleep for 12 hours. Unless you have a retail job, and have to get up to be at work at midnight to cater to the stupidest ritual the country knows... that ain't me, thank god.

And so this Friday, what shall we do for music? Well - thank you songs are always in order....

1. ABBA - Thank you for the Music
2. Big Star - Thank You Friends
3. Fairport Convention - Now Be Thankful
4. George Harrison - Thanks for the Pepperoni
5. Mogwai - Thank You Space Expert
6. Neil Diamond - Thank The Lord for the Nighttime
7. Sam & Dave - I Thank You
8. DM Stith - Thanksgiving Moon
9. Soft Machine - Thank You Pierrot Lumiere
10. Xiu Xiu - Thanks Japan!

And video: Sam and Dave is certainly indicated:

And Fairport Convention, live:

And of course, a cat, thankful for that piece of string.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Songs

Well, Friday again... another odd week, full of distractions and anticipations that have kept me from writing anything here. What can you do. Next week is Thanksgiving - coming this early I think is confusing me... All these excuses.

What's left is iTunes and its shuffle and 10 songs for all to ponder:

1. Rocket from the Tombs - Amphetamine [from Rocket Redux, Cheetah singing...]
2. Liars - No Barrier Fun
3. Liars - Pure Unevil [randomizer fail!]
4. Bishop Allen - News from Your Bed
5. The Who - Substiitute (BBC Sessions version)
6. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - What Must Be Done
7. Mercury Rev - Secret for a Song
8. White Heaven - Out [featuring Michio Kurihara, guitar hero]
9. Bruce Springsteen - Growin' Up
10. Little Feat - I've Been the One

Start with Wilco, reworking chunks of Amphetamine (rather like Peter Laughner reworked big chunks of Heroin in the first place):

And you can't go wrong with Bruce - a buddy of mine had a bootleg of grownin' up back in the early 80s that we wore out, for good reasons. Here's a 1980 version...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Armistice Day Poem

As of this February, with the death of Florence Green, there are no more surviving veterans from the Great War. Still - I think it is best to honor the general in the particular - and honor all veterans by remembering the end of this war. It's a good date for it - WWI is more or less impossible to see as anything but disaster - no one wanted it, no one benefited by it - and nothing was resolved by it, its ending spawning another, bigger war between worse governments, 20 years along. No one is tempted to romanticize it, and forget that the fundamental fact of war is that it is hell.

I will turn to Ezra Pound, to provide additional commentary on the war - this from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, written just after the war...


These fought, in any case,
and some believing, pro domo, in any case . . .
Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later . . .

some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some "pro patria, non dulce non et decor". .

walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;

usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.


There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Music Friday With New Scott Walker

Randomly selected.... though a nice day for the singer songwriters, especially some of our more adventurous singer songwriters...

1. Matthew Sweet - Baltimore [doing his best Big Star impersonation]
2. Sleater-Kinney - #1 Must Have
3. Grinderman - Kitchenette
4. The Strokes - 15 Minutes
5. Jacques Brel - J'Arrive
6. Gordon Lightfoot - Cotton Jenny
7. Matching Mole - Signed Curtain ["this is the first verse..."]
8. Fleet Foxes - Heard them Stirring
9. Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - Let the Bells Ring
10. Bill Frisell - Billy the Kind: Mexican Dance and Finale

Video? let's start somewhere else - the first track off the new Scott Walker record, due out in December - oh happy day!

And - how about a cover (John Wesley Harding and Rick Moody) of Matching Mole? "Lyrical complexity"... (less a joke than you think, though; lots of sting in the tail here.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


I admit, last night was an anxious one. Even with the polls pretty clear about who was going to win, there is a reason we hold elections and don't just let Nate Silver and David Brooks decide who will be the next president in the New York Times cafeteria (or wherever they might meet.) And watching the results come in in some of the states, the likes of Virginia, with the rural places reporting first and the big urban centers coming in last - is a recipe for worry....

But it worked out in the end. And seems to have worked out more or less exactly as predicted. Maybe a state here or there might skew a bit off from the polls, but basically, the predictions were dead on. It's a relief. I will add - I actually felt a twinge of sympathy for Romney and company last night, the much mocked Karl Rove even: everyone started calling Ohio with Romney within a couple thousand votes - I was watching MSNBC and they were hammering the Romney people and Rove himself for refusing to concede, but I don't know why they should. Sure, everyone can see where it will end up - but it hasn't gotten there yet - let the votes be counted... Elections are, in fact, decided by the voters, not by the TV anchors; campaigns shouldn't be run for the convenience of the networks. The fact that you could have called the election the night before, and gotten it exactly right doesn't change that...

All right. This is not a time for long policy statements and so on - just a quick note. My main feeling when this one ended was relief - none of the elation and sense of history that surrounded the 2008 election. But watching it, especially toward the end, as the senate races wrapped up and Warren and Duckworth and Murphy won, McCaskill, Kaine, Angus King (even) - Baldwin (which might have been the last one I saw before I went to bed) - it felt as if, in a small, modest way, you could see the country getting better. Little things - I think it was Murphy in Connecticut, leading off his victory speech with a simple statement that health care is a right. At some point, good liberal policies should become conventional wisdom - should move into the realm of things that are taken for granted. And just - the fact of talking about health care (for example) as a right, not as a hope - changes the country for the better.

So - it is a relief, and, in a lot of ways, a sign, even more than the 08 election, that we might actually have a chance to get back on track. It's a little bit more like an election on the policies, a little less the plain rejection of a miserable failure that 2008 was.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Week

I haven't written much about politics here in a while... I haven't written much of anything here lately, but still. I went through this the last time I managed a political post - the political discourse has not grown more edifying in the last three months... I will be happy when this thing is over, providing the Democrats win. I will be very happy to never see another New Hampshire political ad or photoshopped political ad on Facebook again...

That last was a joke. The countries Tumblrs won't shut down on Wednesday - I have seen 4 years of photoshopped bullshit from my tea party cousins, and expect to see another 4 years of it. If the election is close, I expect they will finally, and permanently outnumber cat pictures on Facebook. I despair. I know I am a hypocrite on this subject, for I am as inclined to "like" the Democratic pictures as argue or mock the Republican ones - but... At some point, you ought to be able to say what you want, and say it in words - so far, that seems to favor the lefties... scratch a tea partier, and you get - more Fox News catch phrases and - fantasy... That might be selection bias, for me - my lefty friends might be a bit more literate than my righty friends - but I don't think that's all there is.

There is no point in pretending the sides are equal. The Republicans have not offered any kind of political program with any value to the country in a long time. Their stated policies are all just ways to strip the nation for the benefit of the rich. (Here's Robert Reich on the subject.) Since 2008, they have done nothing to try to fix the economy - they have devoted themselves to stopping Obama from doing anything to fix the economy, and succeeded enough that they have been able to run on the idea that Obama hasn't fixed the economy. It is striking - every issue that comes up, every problem where there are a range of possible ways to deal with the issue, you find that the Democrats basically cover that range, and the Republicans chant slogans and vote to stop whatever comes along. Health care reform? all the debate was on the left (or "left" - the democratic party, I mean, an awful lot of which is not "left" by any real measure) - the GOP just campaigned against whatever was proposed. The economy? the republicans have nothing except cutting taxes, pretending to care about the deficit, and periodically trying to sabotage the whole affair... democrats, as usual, cover the whole range of potentially useful options, from full on Keynsianism to serious efforts to address the debt and deficit. ("Serious" in this instance means, methods that might actually reduce the debt and deficit - I don't mean to imply they would do the economy any good.) Foreign policy? Obama has basically just assumed the Republican positions on this, though this administration has been competent, unlike the last one... I don't see much from the Republicans except criticism for getting involved in Libya and more criticism for not getting involved in Syria. Lots of howling to bomb Iran, though if Obama actually did bomb Iran, they would change sides in a hell of a hurry.

No. There is nothing on the right, no reason to vote Republican at all, even for most of the people I know who are Republicans - at least the ones who have been Republicans all their lives. The most confusing part of the crap I see on Facebook (particularly) is how many of the people posting it will get nothing whatsoever from the GOP. I don't have a lot of rich friends or relatives. And the better off they are, the more liberal they tend to be - though I don't think any of us are at a point where a Romney president would help us, personally. But to look at the people who are pretty marginal, economically, but are enthusiastically Republican anyway - confuses me. I don't know why they vote the way they do - I don't know what they think they are going to get from it. And - I am completely certain they can't explain how Romney is going to fix the economy where Obama failed.

So here we are. All right. One more day. The signs look good, for the most part - Obama is ahead in almost all the important swing states... though you can see already, the Republicans will do all they can to keep the vote down, to make things muddy, and - maybe not openly steal the election - but - guide it in the direction they want... We'll see. I do trust the democrats a bit more these days to fight to the last ditch for every vote - which they did not do in 2000, to the country's sorrow... But... The truth is - I am less afraid of Romney winning than of losing the House and Senate. In the highly unlikely instance of Romney winning and the democrats taking congress - I think we might learn just exactly how unprincipled old Willard is. I don't think he has ever uttered a word in public he meant, maybe not that he believed, except maybe "vote for me" - if he had to deal with congress - who knows... That is not likely, of course: if he wins, the GOP will probably also win the House at least - and unless the democrats adopt the same None Shall Pass attitude the GOP have had the past few years, we could be in for a bad stretch. But... Again - the polls point the other way. Hope hope hope....

But I will end on the opposite of hope. In my darker moments, I think that the 2010 elections were the end of democracy in America. No electorate that understood the economic issues or the politics of the time would have voted in a huge Republican landslide just then - and the republicans who took over were completely committed to nothing more than getting a republican elected president in 2012. Thing have not improved, and even if we win tomorrow, I don't think things are likely to change. The disrouce has not grown more elevated....

So - all right. I will stop. I will vote. We shall see.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Ten, Late Night Edition

Friday is almost over, but there is still time for a random ten! It has been an all too eventful week - hurricane Sandy (not too bad up here), Ezra Pound - plus a funeral, for a friend's mother... eventful. But I think I should post something before I go to bed... habits are good to stick to.

1. Spirit - Animal Zoo (nice start, one of my all time favorites...)
2. Modest Mouse - Lounge
3. Tool - The Pot
4. Keiji Haino - See That My Grave is Kept Clean
5. Wake Ooloo - Age of Reason
6. Devendra Banhart - Carmencita
7. PJ Harvey & John Parish - The Chair
8. Ohio Players - Alone
9. Richard & Linda Thomson - Jet Plane in a Rocking Chair
10. Ghost - Holy High

All right - I am too lazy to look for video tonight - so here's a picture of a tree that didn't come down during the hurricane - though it was certainly shedding branches thorough...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


All right, it's Halloween, and I will never forgive myself if I go the whole month of October without a single post about horror movies. Though this will not be anything like the last couple years, where I actually put some work into it - and dealt with true masterpieces of the genre... I am eye deep in Ezra Pound (not to mention a hurricane, though that didn't do us much harm in Boston), and haven't spent much time on anything else - but still....

Instead - here is an old favorite - one of the high points of the comic-horror sex and gore mashups of the 80s, Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator. Which provided many a drunken evening of pleasure back in the day... There's not a huge amount that needs to be said about it - it's a mix of a Frankenstein remake and a zombie film (mashing up horror sub-genres as well as everything else) - and a success on almost every score. It is genuinely funny, full of oh so quotable lines ("trysting with a bubble headed co-ed - you're not even a second rate scientist!"), and very dark comedy... I wouldn't call it exactly frightening, but it is certainly creepy often enough... and if it isn't quite the meditation on the limits of man and science and knowledge and the boundary between life and death that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was, or even the fairly moving bildungsroman the Universal Frankensteins are - it is a not unintelligent examination of hubris and sexual passion and love and loss, in among the grue and the jokes.... A very fine film to celebrate the season with.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Random Ten

Another hectic week, so not much more than a bare list can I offer you - songs, etc.

Though it is Mahalia Jackson's birthday - that's worth linking to...

And no?

1. Captain Beefheart - Too Much Time
2. Paul McCartney - The Back Seat of My Car
3. Jimi Hendrix - Manic Depression
4. Swell Maps - HS Art
5. Yo La Tengo - Alyda
6. Pink Floyd - Time
7. Three - Domino Days
8. Stephen Malkmus - Hopscotch Willie
9. ...and You will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart
10. Camper Van Beethoven - Devil Song

Well - happy birthday to Mahalia Jackson - some beat up video, but good clear sound, for ancient TV....

And - as we are coming up on halloween, even though this is just audio - some Camper Van seems right... there's a devil in the closet.

Though for seasonal videos - this might prove more timely, if the weather is all it's hyped up to be:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Top Ten Again

Here we are, Friday again, getting well into October, the world is full of stuff - closing in on the Presidential elections, baseball post-season in full career, NBA about to start, it's getting cooler, it's Halloween season, it's - all this, and all I come up with is another Random Friday 10! And the odd compilation of lists... one of these days I am going to embark on a similar project, all on my own, for music... Not sure the point, other than the declaration of loyalties... But not yet....

Today it's all on iTunes:

1. John Cale - You know More than I Know
2. Dungen - Barnen Undrar
3. John Lee Hooker - Whiskey & Wimmin
4. Beastie Boys - Shadrach
5. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Sue
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Roger & The Gypsies - Pass the Hatchet
8. The Seeds - Sad and Alone
9. Keiji Haino/Tatsuya Yoshida - Canal Street
10. Dave Brubeck Quarter - Kathy's Waltz

And video - Beasties on Soul Train?

And - not the song above, but still - Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida, plus Damo Suzuki and Helena Espvall and Seiichi Yamamoto doing what they do....

Monday, October 15, 2012

1950s Voting

And, the Wonders in the Dark yearly poll has finished another decade - the 1950s - a very impressive stretch of films. Here are my votes - I think - this is what I made for myself anyway. Plenty of these choices are capricious enough that I could very well have changed them between composition and hitting "post" over there...

PICTURE: Early Summer
DIRECTOR (Single Film): I think I will say Ozu, for Early Summer - though it is a very tight competition. But this film - overwhelms me when I see it. The precision of the construction of space, the mastery of story telling, the use of movement, the jokes and games he plays with the construction of the story - it is surprising and thrilling from start to finish.
DIRECTOR (Decade): Ozu, slam dunk.
LEAD ACTOR (Single Film): James Stewart, Vertigo
LEAD ACTOR (Overall): Toshiro Mifune
LEAD ACTRESS (Single film): Kinoyu Tanaka, probably in Life of Oharu
LEAD ACTRESS (Overall): I think this would be between Hideko Takamine (especially in all those Naruse films) and Setsuko Hara - probably Hara, but Takamine is a force.
SUPPORTING ACTOR (single): Takasahi Shimura, Seven Samurai
SUPPORTING ACTRESS (single): Thelma Ritter, Pickup on South Street
SHORT: Duck Amuck - pretty much top of the heap.
SCORE (Single): Bernard Herrmann, Vertigo - one of the all time greats
SCORE (Overall): Herrmann - he's in the running over and over...
CINEMATOGRAPHY (Single): Sergei Urevsevski, Cranes are Flying - as I said at the time, this is one of great tour de force moments in cinema...
CINEMATOGRAPHY (Overall): Russell Metty - all those Sirk films can't be denied.

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Sweet Smell of Success, I think, is going to have to win - damn, that's a clever piece of work. I'll do a quick run down, though, of the best of the decade - it's hard to separate script from film (the film, for me, tends to obliterate and encompass all the arts that go into it - separating them out is a bit artificial - in this case, it probably means something like the 5 I would most like to read, something like that...) I am, however, somewhat arbitrarily, going to eliminate the films that make the overall top 20...
2. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
3. Ace in the Hole
4. Good Morning
5. Beat the Devil

Editing: Ozu - this is, I think, the key to all his work. His construction of his films. He doesn't get credit, he's not as flashy as some, but he makes so much happen with the way one shot connects to another... Early Summer, in particular, is a film, like M and the Mabuses, and 20s Eisenstein, where I remember cuts and transitions, that give me chills.

1. Early Summer
2. Seven Samurai
3. Vertigo
4. Ugetsu Monagatari
5. Tokyo Story
6. Touch of Evil
7. Pather Panchali
8. Rear Window
9. The Searchers
10. Fires on the Plain
11. Late Chrysanthemums
12. Sweet Smell of Success
13. Night of the Hunter
14. Rebel Without a Cause
15. Imitation of Life
16. Sansho The Bailiff
17. A Man Escaped
18. Ordet
19. Rashomon
20. Life of Oharu


This is a very tough year for picks. It might lack the films at the very top (like Vertigo vs. A Touch of Evil, last year), but they just keep going.

PICTURE: Fires on the Plain
DIRECTOR: This one is painful - I am tempted to indulge myself in a tie, since I do not want to choose. Ozu at his most Tati-esque, playing all kinds of games with depth and space? or Sirk at his most Sirkian, playing all kinds of games with color and space and set design... I will not choose.
LEAD ACTOR: Cary Grant, North by Northwest - though it pains me not to vote for Lemmon or Curtis, or Funekoshi, or Leaud, or Nakadai, or John Wayne....
LEAD ACTRESS: Marilyn Monroe, Some Like it Hot
SUPPORTING ACTOR: James Mason, North by Northwest
SHORT: Pull My Daisy, almost by default.
SCORE: I shall be a bit perverse and go off the nominations to Toshiro Mayazumi, for Good Morning - it's a strange score on an Ozu film, but it works, contributing, I'd say, to that Tati-esque feel of the film... I should probably say, this is probably not Mayazumi's last appearance on one of my ballots. We're getting into Imamura territory now, and he's integral to those films.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Metty, Imitation of Life

Plus bonus pick:
Script: Good Morning, Ozu and Noda

1. Fires on the Plain
2. Imitation of Life
3. Some Like it Hot
4. 400 Blows
5. Good Morning
6. North by Northwest
7. Pickpocket
8. World of Apu
9. The Key
10. Shadows


PICTURE: Vertigo
DIRECTOR: Hitchcock
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joseph Calleia, Touch of Evil
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kinuyo Tanaka, Equinox Flower (this is one where she actually gets to be happy! it's a gift.)
SHORT: A Movie, Bruce Conner
SCORE: Vertigo, obviously
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Robert Burks, Vertigo (though Shinsaku Himeda tempts me - he'll win most of the 60s, I suspect, whatever the competition - that fish ain't on top of my blog for nothing.)

Plus bonus pick:
Script: Giants and Toys. This is not an easy year for scripts - the films at the top seem to me to be there more because of their direction, photography, set designs, and acting than usual - whether those things are elevating less deserving scripts or obscuring the virtues of the scripts, I don't know. I just know I don't quite know what to make of Vertigo or Touch of Evil, or even Some Came Running... So - Giants and Toys is some kind of masterpiece, and since Masumura is a filmmaker I really like, but I doubt he'll be in the running for any top spots - I'll put in a plug for him here.

1. Vertigo
2. Touch of Evil
3. Some Came Running
4. Summer Clouds
5. Ashes and Diamonds
6. Endless Desire
7. Mon Oncle
8. Equinox Flower
9. Giants and Toys
10. Cairo Station


PICTURE: Sweet Smell of Success
DIRECTOR: Mikhail Kalatazov, Cranes Are Flying
LEAD ACTOR: Burt Lancaster, Sweet Smell of Success
LEAD ACTRESS: Tatiana Samoilova, Cranes Are Flying
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Niall McGinnis, Night of the Demon
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Isuzu Yamada, Tokyo Twilight
SHORT: What's Opera, Doc?
SCORE: Elmer Bernstein, Sweet Smell of Success
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Sergei Urevsevski, Cranes are Flying - this being one of the over the top extravaganzas of all time, after all - whether it adds up as art or not (and mostly it does), it has to be gazed on and marveled at.

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Sweet Smell of Success - this is another outsized tour de force; it's rather a shame it is so good - I have somehow managed not to get anything from Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson? on this ballot - it should be somewhere - it makes a good companion to Sweet Smell of Success - less self-important, less vicious, obviously less moving, but almost as sharp... "Wow - contains 'fallout'!"

1. Sweet Smell of Success
2. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter
3. Cranes Are Flying
4. Tokyo Twilight
5. Throne of Blood
6. Seventh Seal
7. The Tall T
8. Paths of Glory
9. The Lower Depths
10. Full Up Train


PICTURE: The Searchers
DIRECTOR: Sirk, There's Always Tomorrow
LEAD ACTOR: James Mason, Bigger than Life
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, There's Always Tomorrow
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Lee Marvin. Seven Men From Now (my taste for hamming comes out, I admit it)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Dorothy Malone, Written on the Wind
SHORT: I'm going off ballot for The Phantom Ship, a glorious cut-out animation from Japan I managed to see somehow...
SCORE: Steiner, The Searchers
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Russell Metty, Written on the Wind

Plus bonus picks:
Script: A Man Escaped

1. The Searchers
2. Written on the Wind
3. A Man Escaped
4. The Burmese Harp
5. The Killing
6. There's Always Tomorrow
7. Flowing
8. Early Spring
9. Seven Men from Now
10. Aparajito


PICTURE: Pather Panchali
DIRECTOR: Dreyer, Ordet
LEAD ACTOR: Robert Mitchum, Night of the Hunter
LEAD ACTRESS: Hideko Takamine, Floating Clouds
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lillian Gish, Night of the Hunter
SHORT: Night and Fog
SCORE: Ravi Shankar, Pather Panchali
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stanley Cortez, Night of the Hunter

Bonus pick:
Script: James Agee, Night of the Hunter

1. Pather Panchali
2. Night of the Hunter
3. Rebel Without a Cause
4. Ordet
5. The Man from Laramie
6. Floating Clouds
7. Rififi
8. All That Heaven Allows
9. Smiles of a Summer Night
10. Cobweb


PICTURE: Seven Samurai
DIRECTOR: Kurosawa
LEAD ACTOR: James Stewart, Rear Window
LEAD ACTRESS: Haruko Sugimura, Late Chrysanthemums
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kinuyo Tanaka, Sansho Dayu
SHORT: Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century
SCORE: Gojira
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kazuo Miyagawa, Sansho the Bailiff

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Late Cshrysanthemums
Editing: LC - or SS

1. Seven Samurai
2. Rear Window
3. Late Chrysanthemums
4. Sansho the Bailiff
5. Sound of the Mountain
6. Twenty Four Eyes
7. A Billionaire
8. Magnificent Obsession
9. Voyage to Italy
10. The Maggie or Godzilla


PICTURE: Ugetsu Monogatari
DIRECTOR: Mizoguchi
LEAD ACTOR: Richard Widmark, Pickup on South Street
LEAD ACTRESS: Chieko Hagasiyama
SHORT: Duck Amuck
SCORE: Ugetsu Monogatari
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Kazuo Miyagawa, Ugetsu

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Beat the Devil ("I'm going upstairs to read my bible")

The top two films here are as close as they can be...

1. Ugetsu Monagatori
2. Tokyo Story
3. Beat the Devil
4. Little Fugitive
5. M Hulot's Holiday
6. Mr Pu
7. The Naked Spur
8. The Big Heat
9. Pickup on South Street
10. 5000 Fingers of Dr. T


PICTURE: Mother [I guess I can work a Naruse into the top spot! This year is more wide open, with a bunch of very good films, so the choice is just a bit more arbitrary than most, and that makes a fine opportunity to spread the wealth.]
DIRECTOR: Welles, Othello
LEAD ACTOR: Takashi Shimura, Ikiru
LEAD ACTRESS: Kinoyu Tanaka, um - pick em. Say Life of Oharu, for balance's sake.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: this is harder than it look - Michael MacLiammoir is superb, but I think I have to go with Arthur Kennedy in Bend on the River...
SUPPORTING ACTRESS:Gloria Grahame, Bad and the Beautiful
SHORT: Water, Water Every Hare
SCORE: Tiomkin, High Noon

Plus bonus picks::
Script: Ikiru

1. Mother
2. Life of Oharu
3. Ikiru
4. Othello
5. Singin' in the Rain
6. Le Plaisir
7. Lightning
8. Bend on the River
9. Flavor of Green Tea over Rice
10. The Bad and the Beautiful


PICTURE: Early Summer
LEAD ACTOR: Kirk Douglas, Ace in the Hole
LEAD ACTRESS: Setsuko Hara, Repast (competing with herself, but since the other is a bit more of an ensemble, I think this takes the prize.)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Karl Malden, Streetcar
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kim Hunter, Streetcar
SHORT: Rabbit Fire (these films are so deeply buried in my head, how can I not vote for them?)
SCORE: North, Streetcar Named Desire
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Claude Renoir, The River

Plus bonus picks::
Script: here, I would have to choose - the efficient perfection of Ozu/Noda? or the bitterness of Ace in the Hole? All things considered - has to be Early Summer
Editing: again, the Ozu of course - there are 3 or 4 cuts in this film that floor me as completely as anything in any film anywhere. And every cut (in just about every Ozu film) is so perfect... there's nothing like it.

1. Early Summer
2. The African Queen
3. Repast
4. An American In Paris
5. Ace in the hole
6. Strangers on a Train
7. The Lavender Hill Mob
8. Man in the White Suit
9. Diary of a COuntry Priest
10. The River


PICTURE: Rashomon
DIRECTOR: Kurosawa
LEAD ACTOR: Sterling Hayden
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, The Furies
SHORT: Rabbit of Seville
SCORE: (Rashomon?)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Miyagawa, Rashomon

Plus bonus picks:
Script: Winchester 73

1. Rashomon
2. Asphalt Jungle
3. Winchester 73
4. Sunset Boulevard
5. Flowers of St. Francis
6. La Ronde
7. Orpheus
8. The Furies
9. In a Lonely Place
10. Three Came Home

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Very Quick Baseball Post

To follow up - I am rather unhappy to have guessed all the first round right. (Lots of waffling re. St. Louis/Washington, but the Nats are who I wanted to win, the Cards were who I expected...) It knocked out the teams I was rooting for - after the Rangers went out in the wild card game... I suppose it makes it easier to pick, without the strong rooting interests - and it happens that my preferences are the same in both. I think the Tigers will take out the Yankees - I see they are on their way, and greatly aided by Derek Jeter's injury... In the National League - I still fear the Cardinals, but I think the Giants are going to win. I certainly hope they do.

And in the World Series? I think the National League team is going to win - though I will probably be pulling for the Tigers if they make it... And, obvious,y, against the Yankees if it's them.

Finally - last week someone on facebook made a comment about why people call a team their team - it's not like they are owned by taxpayers. But in fact - most of those parks, some of which cost as much as a team might, are owned - or at least paid for - by the taxpayers. Though I mention it here because the teams still alive are, in fact, the least offensive in those regard: Giants and Yankees paid for their parks outright; the Cards paid for 88% of theirs; Tigers 37%. The rest were much more publicly funded. I suppose if the pattern holds, it will be Yankees and Giants, and the Giants winning, since the Yankees did get some public money for the parking (or something like that.) Still - an interesting aside.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Professor Arthur Chipping's Back to School Quiz

Time for another of Dennis Cozzalio's quizzes - PROFESSOR ARTHUR CHIPPING’S MADDENINGLY DETAILED, PURPOSEFULLY VAGUE, FITFULLY OUT-OF-FOCUS BACK TO SCHOOL MOVIE QUIZ this time. I am, as usual, dreadfully late in this assignment - I offer as my only excuse that I am back to school in the atom world, and have been eye deep in William Butler Yeats this past week... so there is that. Still - sooner or later we'll get there!

1) What is the biggest issue for you in the digital vs. film debate?

A: I am not sure, though I think it is probably the question of which films will make the jump. And - the oft-overlooked question of whether digital films will be worth anything in X years. I am haunted by the erosion of digital storage - I have spent quite a bit of time this year digging through photos, for instance - and it makes you wonder. I have 2 video cameras, both mini-DV cameras - both of them still work fine as cameras, but the motors have died on the tape drives. And so - I have a box full of mini-DV tapes full of video that is as inaccessible to me as if they had been thrown in the trash. Meanwhile, a couple weeks ago my brother found a tintype in an old desk our grandmother used to have. Also, a sheet of paper covered in drawings she made in 1936. Digital is very useful, no question - once you get these things on a computer, and as long as you can keep files and software in synch (the latest version of Word has trouble opening files from - pre-2000? more or less...), all is well - but - unless you keep updating everything you have to the latest formats, it fades, in ways that a piece of paper in an envelope stuffed into a desk drawer will not fade, in 100, 120, 130 years. (We have one at home dated 1887, I believe...) And - film is obviously a more volatile format that paper, but it is still an object and it is there, even when the tools to make it work are not. (I refer you to the recently discovered color film from 1902 - an object that no one could use until someone created a projector to play it. I suppose, as long as you have means to reverse engineer the machines and software to run digital files, not much will be lost... but do I trust that?)

2) Without more than one minute’s consideration, name three great faces from the movies

A: Deitrich - Keaton - Karloff

3) The movie you think could be interesting if remade as a movie musical

A: How about Playtime?

4) The last movie you saw theatrically/on DVD, Blu-ray, streaming

A: Theater - Keep the Lights On...; DVD - Good Morning; Streaming - I haven't streamed a film in a while - other than shorts, for the Wonders in the Dark polls...

5) Favorite movie about work

A: This is a good question - there should be more movies about work. Some candidates? Fallen Angels - Blue Collar - Office Space... Fallen Angels is probably the winner, though - those Takashi Kinoshiro parts do something right.

6) The movie you loved as a child that did not hold up when seen through adult eyes

A: truth is, I didn't see enough films as a child to make any judgements like this. The ones I liked, I still like, even if they do seem less than they used to - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, something like that. Still holds up fine.

7) Favorite “road” movie

A: Pierrot le Fou, probably. Obviously there are an awful lot of these, all with their own special appeal - O Brother Where Art Thou? Week End? It Happened One Night? etc. But Pierrot is probably the best of the bunch.

8) Does Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the Republican National Convention change or confirm your perspective on him as a filmmaker/movie icon? Is that appearance relevant to his legacy as a filmmaker?

A: It doesn't seem to have much to do with him as a filmmaker. It's almost like a different person - he's always been at least three people - celebrity, filmmaker, actor - the actor and celebrity sometimes seem to blur, just like the filmmaker and actor sometimes seem to blur - but the filmmaker and celebrity have almost nothing to do with one another - and that appearance was completely as a celebrity.

9) Longest-lasting movie or movie-related obsession

A: I don't know; they don't tend to go away...

10) Favorite artifact of movie exploitation

A: My junk obsessions don't run toward movies, really - they run to toys and books and such I liked when I was a kid. I suppose that's normal, and not being a movie watcher as a kid will do that. I do have a nice Marlene Dietrich picture, advertising a retrospective from 20+ years ago...

11) Have you ever fallen asleep in a movie theater? If so, when and why?

A: I don't believe so; it has been a close thing a few times, though I would have to think long and hard to remember those times.

12) Favorite performance by an athlete in a movie

A: It's kind of a tough question - given the week's events, I should say Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles - which is a good answer anyway. Though I have a soft spot for Terry Crews in Idiocracy (and his cool cameo in Inland Empire...)

13) Second favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie

A: I think it is probably The Marriage of Maria Braun, these days...

14) Favorite film of 1931

A: Favorite film period: M. Quite possibly the best year in cinematic history

15) Second favorite Raoul Walsh movie

A: Thief of Baghdad?

16) Favorite film of 1951

A: Early Summer

17) Second favorite Wong Kar-wai movie

A: Happy Together? these days, I think that would be the answer...

18) Favorite film of 1971

A: McCabe and Mrs. Miller - so far my favorites from all three of these years are in my all time top 5.

19) Second favorite Henri-Georges Clouzot movie

A: Mysteries of Picasso

20) Favorite film of 1991

A: A Brighter Summer Day

21) Second favorite John Sturges movie

A: The Magnificent Seven

22) Favorite celebrity biopic

A: Does Che count? Carlos? I'm also incline to say Superstar...

23) Name a good script idea which was let down either by the director or circumstances of production

A: This sort of thing happens all the time - good scripts that just don't do anything... I don't know if that's what you have in mind though - I'm thinking films like Five Year Engagement - clever, well written, well acted, but with nothing to look at. You could close your eyes and get as much out of it...

24) Heaven’s Gate-- yes or no?

A: Haven't seen it; reserve judgment

25) Favorite pairing of movie sex symbols

A: Happy Together? might be, you know...

26) One word that you could say which would instantly evoke images and memories of your favorite movie. (Naming the movie is optional—might be more fun to see if we can guess what it is from the word itself)

A: Well, two - Ich Musst!

27) Name one moment which to you demarcates a significant change, for better or worse, on the landscape of the movies over the last 20 years.

A: Closing of the Harvard Square cinema last summer? it's emblematic of the past 20 years, I know that - this one might be more disturbing, because the theatrical landscape had stabilized - lots of places closed in the 90s, but things had stayed the same for the last 10 years or so. This closing is very ominous... the loss of all those theaters - mostly small, a lot of them either specialist theaters or art cinemas - changes things profoundly. It's hard to see what you want on film - though DVDs have done a pretty good job of supplying the films, you lose all the benefits of theatrical shows, and, obviously, of Film.

28) Favorite pre-Code talkie

A: Duck Soup or Trouble in Paradise

29) Oldest film in your personal collection (Thanks, Peter Nellhaus)

A: Oldest meaning, first one made? That's Fantomas. Oldest meaning, had the longest? VHS of Blue Velvet, I think....

30) Longest film in your personal collection. (Thanks, Brian Darr)

A: That also might be Fantomas, if it counts as one movie. Histoires du Cinema, if it doesn't (and the Godard counts as one movie.) World on A Wire is up there too...

31) Have your movie collection habits changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

A: I buy a lot more now than I did 10 years ago. The answer to 27 above is probably related.

32) Wackiest, most unlikely “directed by” credit you can name

A: There are probably better answers, but the latter half of David Gordon Green's career would have been very hard to predict (even imagine) from the first half...

33) Best documentary you’ve seen in 2012 (made in 2012 or any other year)

A: I am faced with the shocking fact that I have seen exactly one documentary in a movie theater all year, and I saw it just last weekend - How to Survive a Plague.

34) What’s your favorite “(this star) was almost cast in (this movie)” anecdote?

A: Cary Grant in Bicycle Thieves?

35) Program three nights of double bills at a revival theater that might best illuminate your love of the movies

A: It's a Wonderful Life/Early Summer
Celine and Julie Go Boating/Inland Empire (gonna be a long night, that one)

36) You have been granted permission to invite any three people, alive or dead, to your house to watch the Oscars. Who are they?

A: James Joyce, Frank Capra and Jean-Luc Godard?

37) Favorite Mr. Chips. (Careful...)

A: Um -