Call him King of the Mountain….via the newly reconstituted JJG, Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett (who suffered a fainting spell over the weekend) was recently elected to the Australian Parliament. I saw the Oils ten years ago during their WOMAD tour with Peter Gabriel, and Garrett was an electric presence, offering what is still far and away the best stage banter I’ve ever heard. (And, whatsmore, it wasn’t canned…I remember him riffing on their Letterman appearance only a few days earlier.) The people of Kingsford Smith are lucky — in this day and age, you could do a lot worse for an elected rep than Garrett.
Well, I guess this what we get for re-electing a President who thinks “the jury’s still out” on evolution. To help offset exploding Dubya deficits, Congress “has cut the budget for the National Science Foundation, an engine for research in science and technology, just two years after endorsing a plan to double the amount given to the agency.” But, don’t fret: “While cutting the budget of the science foundation, Congress found money for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, bathhouses in Hot Springs, Ark., and hundreds of similar projects.” Yep, priorities, people. (Although granted that cutting-edge cancer research probably costs more than Charlie Daniels’ signed guitar.)
Break out the duct tape…Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge joins the ranks of the Dubya-departed, “noting that he feels exhausted from the grueling hours required for the work and that he wants to make more money now that he has two children reaching college age.” Current names being bandied about as replacements include “former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Frances Fragos Townsend, current White House homeland security adviser.” Given the recent trend to promote Dubya loyalists throughout the cabinet, I’m surprised they haven’t found a new gig for Marc Racicot yet…he’s been the flunky’s flunky.
For those of you who’ve considered moving to Canada after recent events, sorry…it looks like Dubya beat y’all to it. As with his recent trip to England, “Bush will not make a customary speech at the House of Commons in Ottawa where the sometimes raucous Parliament has been known to heckle speakers.” Well, you know how the Prez gets all kinds of incoherent in front of unscreened audiences, even with that strange bulge taped to his back.
Coming Soon gets its hands on another spoilerific bunch of Episode III info, including this shot at right of the battle that opens the film. Looks like eye candy, if nothing else.
Damn, it feels good to be a scoundrel…By way of the slightly relocated Lots of Co., and because the world demanded it, here’s an amateur Geto Boys video (“Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me”) done with Star Wars figures. As you’d probably expect, some harsh language herein, so keep the sound down in your workplace.
“Like the first two ‘Rings’ DVDs, the extended ‘ROTK’ isn’t just for obsessives. It’s a flat-out better movie than the one that swept the Oscars. It’s more emotionally generous and, despite the extra girth, more brisk and exciting.” Along with visiting the set of Kong, Newsweek gushes over the RotK:EE, due out in the next few weeks (Officially, Dec. 14…unofficially, we’ll see.) Speaking of which, the official site is supposed to be releasing a new clip sometime today, so keep an eye on the palantir for it. Update: It’s up…including some choice new stuff from the Crossroads and the journey through Mordor. Update 2: Most of the parley with the Mouth of Sauron is now also available for download…he’s a right rotten bastid, ain’t he?
By way of Follow Me Here, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley warns private audiences that, in his opinion, the US is headed for economic “Armageddon.” “In a nutshell, Roach’s argument is that America’s record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants. The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.”
To its credit, I guess, Alexander shows signs of being an absolute train wreck right from the first reel. After a very brief nod to Citizen Kane, which suggested we may at least be getting a gloriously over-the-top outing from Stone this time around, the film settles in to Anthony Hopkins wandering around the set of the “Losing My Religion” video and spitting out long, interminable chunks of Basil Exposition. (Speaking of which, Stone must have been watching his VH1-Classic…there’s a scene on a mountaintop later that seems lifted straight out of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”) Then, we’ve got Mommy Dearest Angelina Jolie writhing around with snakes for a bit (women = serpents = temptresses = deceivers, get it? Don’t worry, in typical Stone fashion, the point will be beaten into the ground over the next three hours.) Twenty minutes in, by the time young Alexander is channeling the Horse Whisperer, it’s pretty clear we’ve got a real stinker on our hands.
From there on, it’s just a pile-up. Other than a neat camel charge or two, the battle setpieces are completely inscrutable, and not in a good “Fog of War” kinda way. For some reason, the men all speak with Irish brogues, while both women (Jolie and Rosario Dawson) sound like Brides of Dracula. Give them credit, though. Jolie, Dawson, and Val Kilmer (as Phillip of Macedon, by way of Dr. Moreau) seem to be the only three people involved with this project who saw it for what it was and racheted up the hamminess dial to 11.
Much has been made in some reviews of Stone’s decision not to shy away from Alexander’s bisexuality — namely his love affair with the doe-eyed Hephaistion (Jared Leto, who fulfilled close to the same function for Tyler Durden in Fight Club) — and I suppose he should be applauded for it, given the recent trends in Red State country. But, frankly, what with all the earnest looks and pre-established Freudian baggage, it all comes off as high camp, and not nearly as open-minded as it thinks it is. Not that heterosexual relations fare much better, mind you…when Colin Farrell and poor, lovely Rosario Dawson hiss, scratch, and wrestle naked on their wedding night (yes, you guessed it, snake flashbacks are involved), it’s just about the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen.
To sum up, Alexander is a flat-out disappointment and easily the worst Oliver Stone film I can think of offhand. This review notwithstanding, it’s not even fun-bad. Think of it more as Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie.
The trailer for James Cameron’s IMAX-3D extravaganza Aliens of the Deep is now online. I wonder if Cameron’ll get the shakes like Michael Biehn in The Abyss.
No, that’s not a fanboy conventioner…it’s the first pic of Julian McMahon in full Dr. Doom regalia to make it online. Oof, I must say, Fantastic Four is starting to look like an absolute disaster. Elsewhere in comic film news, the full trailer for Batman Begins will apparently premiere in front of Ocean’s Twelve next month.
The cast for All the King’s Men fills out, with Patricia Clarkson replacing Meryl Streep as Sadie, Anthony Hopkins taking on Judge Irwin, and James Gandolfini portraying Tiny Duffy, Willie’s most grotesque sycophant. Hmmm…I like Clarkson as Sadie, but Hopkins screams stunt casting, and (as with Streep earlier) I’m not sure Gandolfini makes sense given that Sean Penn’s playing Willie. I’d love to see a well-done remake of All the King’s Men, one of my favorite novels, but I fear this project may fast be veering into Cold Mountain “Miramax All-Stars” territory.
So, while I was at home this weekend, Ron Artest et al completely lost it (to say nothing of my two home college-football teams.) Clearly, Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O’Neil should never have broken that inviolate line between the court and the bleachers of (rude, inebriated, schmuckish, asking-for-it) Piston fans…but we already knew Artest was a terminal head case. Now, he’s gone for the year, and, for once, I have to say I concur with the crashing-down of David Stern’s iron fist. This cannot happen again.
That being said, while I thought it was interesting to see normally sports-agnostic sites like Drudge suddenly take on the mantle of shocked-and-appalled basketball enthusiasts, I can’t say I see the fracas in Detroit as the end of the NBA, or of Western Civilization in general, for that matter. Then again, I wasn’t all that perturbed by last week’s MNF intro either, so perhaps I’m just a reflection of the sad consequences of a too-permissive society.
Perhaps the strangest fact of that night in Detroit? Rasheed Wallace didn’t get in any trouble (although he’s now making up for lost time.) Ah well, in happier NBA news, at least the no-D-playing, .500 Knickerbockers are inexplicably in first in the awful, awful Atlantic right now.
Word is from AICN that a replacement for Darren Aronofsky has been found to helm the film adaptation of The Watchmen…and it’s Paul Greengrass (late of Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy.) Greengrass hasn’t shown yet that he can handle an FX-laden extravaganza (as the film will need to do justice to Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias), but his edgy hand-held aesthetic might be just about perfect for Rorshach’s part of the story.
Hello all. I just received word that my aunt Joan passed away this morning after a long struggle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was a warm, funny, and brave individual. I miss her already.
At any rate, I’m flying home to be with my family and attend the services, so updates here will be infrequent to nonexistent over the next couple of days. Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Update: As of now (Tuesday night), I’m back in NYC…thanks much for the condolences sent over e-mail and in the comments. They were much appreciated.
Hoo boy, the Red Staters obsessed with “moral values” out there are just gonna love Kinsey. With its unflinching recognition of myriad forms of human sexual behavior, its intimations of bisexuality and wife-swapping among team Kinsey, and its occasionally graphic (albeit antiseptic and not at all titillating) depictions of the act of coitus (to channel Maude Lebowski), Bill Condon’s biopic of Indiana’s famous sex statistician is the closest movie we have this year to a Passion of the Christ for science-minded free-thinkers. In fact, the film seems almost genetically designed to get under the skins of the abstinence-firsters and moralist types who’ve decried Kinsey’s studies for fifty years.
That being said, the strength of Kinsey, and what elevates it to being a better-then-average biopic, is the way it ultimately gets under everybody’s skin. Alfred Kinsey is not simply white-washed as a martyr to science and a hero of sexual enlightenment (although, in its most conventional moments, such as the last ten minutes, the movie hammers those particular points pretty hard.) Rather, Kinsey is portrayed as a man whose relentless pursuit of sexual knowledge often leads him down some troubling and morally ambiguous roads. Even the most open-minded libertines in the audience may find themselves feeling that things seem to have gotten a little out-of-control around the home office in Indiana by the end, and get extremely discomfited when Liam Neeson’s Kinsey sits down with an even creepier than usual Bill Sadler, a pedophile and sexual predator who’s taken some notes of his own.
Kinsey is at its best when it rides this razor’s edge, honoring the professor’s undeniable contributions to science and society while recognizing that his dispassionately treating sexual behavior as he earlier treated gall wasps ultimately opened the door to immense personal pitfalls, particularly for the men and women around him who had trouble maintaining such a scientific distance. Speaking of which, while Neeson is solid and Laura Linney is Laura Linney as usual, the supporting character work in Kinsey is particularly good. Special marks go to a fearless Peter Saarsgard as Kinsey’s #2 (Watch out, Ewan – you’ve got a competitor now for the full-frontal roles), John Lithgow for his bleary final scene as Kinsey’s father (which redeemed an otherwise one-note character), and Dylan Baker as the long-suffering Rockefeller Foundation point person (who must partly have been picked here for his memorable role in Happiness.)
In sum, although it ends with a rather bland huzzah for the march of science, Bill Condon’s Kinsey is for the most part an intelligent, nuanced, and multifaceted appreciation of one man’s probing (and occasionally perilous) quest to illuminate humankind’s most intimate frontier. (And as such, it’ll probably go over like a lead balloon in American Pie country.)
Feeling oh-so-oppressed as usual, student conservatives at Berkeley decry the 7-1 Dem-to-GOP ratio among Humanities and Social Science profs nationwide. Tsk, tsk…they say it like it’s such a bad thing. Well, if you’d prefer that we lefties work elsewhere than academia — say, in government — y’all know how to vote next time.
By way of Do You Feel Loved?, Depeche Mode announces they’re beginning work on a new album. I’d love to see the band get out of the “I adore you like a black crucifix” thematic rut they’ve been in for almost two decades now and try to recapture some of their earlier political period (“Everything Counts,” “Monument,” “Get the Balance Right”) But, Martin Gore’s recent work hasn’t been all that promising in that regard.
Faced with the grim morning-after receipts of Dubya’s feckless splurging and deficit-exploding tax cuts, the Senate is forced raise the debt limit by $800 billion (again) to stop the government from going into default. “Though an increase in the debt ceiling was never in doubt, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress postponed action on it last month, until after the elections, to deprive Democrats of a chance to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility.”
Even in success, it seems, the Right can’t be relied upon to play by the rules. As the House GOP moves to shield Tom DeLay from the Rostenkowski rule they passed eleven years ago (mandating that an indicted leader step down), Senate Republicans look to the “nuclear option” for ending filibusters of judicial nominees, which would allow said filibusters to be ended with a simple 51-vote majority. Finally, in a dubious display of bipartisanship, the Bushies aim to peel off one more Senate vote by offering Democratic Senator Ben Nelson the Agriculture post.
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell set out to produce a non-Raimi directed Evil Dead remake. Um, why?
Another classic Alan Moore property moves to the big screen as Matrix and Star Wars AD James McTeigue takes the reins of V for Vendetta. I haven’t read V in over a decade, but I remember it as being rather dark and political. Well, let’s hope it’s more From Hell than LXG. Is Miracleman next?
“Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win. You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline.” The DLC and other Democratic centrists push Tom Vilsack, Jeanne Shaheen, and a handful of other milquetoast contenders to be the next DNC head (and to thwart the Dean alternative.) Look, it’s obvious the Republican-lite status quo wasn’t working. It’s time to drop the protective camouflage and articulate a progressive narrative that highlights the grotesquely pro-corporate nature of the GOP. With that in mind, let’s sidestep the party flaks, and go ahead and pick Howard. At this point, it’s not like we have anything to lose.
Content to play the iconoclast again now that election 2004 is over, John McCain calls out the Bush administration on global warming. Too little, too late, Mr. Senator…given the water you carried for the Bushies this last cycle, your free-fall on the Murphometer at this point looks permanent.
Yesterday’s anniversary made it occur to me that it’s been ages since we’ve had any gratuitous Berkeley pics around here. So, without further ado, here’s me trying to get Berk to pose next to the Boy and Dog Tom Otterness sculpture gracing my street corner (along with Fallen Dreamer) until this weekend. As you can see, there were more interesting goings-on elsewhere…
Meryl Streep is apparently off the All the King’s Men remake. To be honest, if Sean Penn is Willie and Jude Law is Jack, I don’t think she made much sense as Sadie anyway. Ellen Barkin, perhaps?
The Dems in the Senate have officially chosen Harry Reid of Nevada to be the new Minority Leader (and Chuck Schumer to run the DSCC.) “‘He has absolutely no fear,’ said Jimmy Ryan, a former Reid aide who now lobbies for Citigroup. ‘He knows when to call a vote, and when to let your members know it’s time to walk the plank…He’s probably the best reader of human beings I’ve ever met.’” Well, let’s hope so.
Stick a fork in him, and say goodbye to what semblance of multilateralism has existed in the Dubya era. To Rummy’s relish (and to no one’s surprise) Colin Powell’s ignominious tenure at State is through. Seemingly well-intentioned but weak and sidelined most of the time, Powell’s tour at State will probably be best remembered for his losing battles with the Neocons and his embarrassing and misleading performance before the United Nations in 2003.
Following Powell out the door are Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Margaret Spellings, Dubya’s domestic policy advisor, is taking Paige’s gig…I dread to think who else will sign on for Dubya II. Ken Lay at Energy? John Danforth has been mentioned as a possible Powell replacement, but, heck, why not pull Helms out of mothballs? Update: Looks like it’s Condi…and more of the same.
Ghost in the Machine is five years old today. Well, what a long, strange trip it’s been…I must say, I don’t think I ever envisioned this lasting half a decade when I began back in 1999, particularly when I’ve never been able to keep a journal-journal for longer than a year or so. And to be honest, I had been considering taking a hiatus of late…Even before the election, I’d been feeling thin and stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread, and since then — as with many of you, I’m sure — my frame of mind can get quite Boromir-ish at times. But, that being said, blogging’s in my blood at this point, and the onset of Dubya II seems a particularly terrible time to put the keyboard down. Besides, how else am I going to find an outlet for my political antipathies and terminal fanboyisms? So y’all are just going to have to deal with a nervier, punchier GitM in the weeks, months, and years to come…five years down, and here’s to many more.
Despite harboring one of the more irritating crossword puzzles in recent months (it included characters like %,@,&, and *) and a breathless paean to the wildly overrated Julia Roberts, this week’s special NYT Magazine on film and globalization included a number of interesting reads, including an overview of foreign film trends by A.O. Scott, a disquisition on the problems facing the US industry by Lynn Hirschberg, and an extended interview with Maggie Cheung (late of Hero and In the Mood for Love.)
The dollar tanking? No problemo for this administration, who see a weak dollar as key to offsetting our ballooning trade deficits. “The unsettling worry, however, is what could happen if foreigners suddenly lost interest in holding dollar-denominated investments. The outward rush from U.S. stock and bond markets could send stock prices crashing and interest rates soaring.” Well, at least my college loan debt isn’t in Euros.