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Archive for October, 2006

Kid and Kidman.

The first official pic from The Golden Compass is now online, featuring Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) and Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) in a tete-a-tete.

Blue and Orange (and Red), ’06-’07.

With Larry sated and Rose wilted, I suppose the Knicks are as ready as they can be for the 2006-2007 NBA season, which starts tonight on TNT (although the Knicks don’t play until Wednesday.) Hopefully, it won’t get too ugly for New York too early. (Also, before embarking on basketball’s future, a moment to honor its past: R.I.P. Red Auerbach 1917-2006.)

Krypton, Kumar, Halo, & Che.

Quite a bit of movie news lately: Bryan Singer’s next Superman achieves liftoff, as does Harold & Kumar II. (I didn’t think much of Superman Returns, but am willing to give Singer another shot, particularly given how much better X2 was over X-Men. As for H & K…yeah, I’ll see it.) Meanwhile, the Peter Jackson-produced Halo is off for now…probably not a great loss, I suspect. And, finally, Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro’s Che is now two films: The Argentine and Guerrilla, to be shot back-to-back.

Flagging Fathers.

Like Million Dollar Baby (and screenwriter Paul Haggis’ (sigh) Academy-Award-winning Crash), Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers is, alas, an egregious schmaltzfest, padded to the brim with shallow, one-note characters and ridiculous sentimentalizing. I said of Crash that it “mighta been the most daring movie of 1991,” and Flags has that same sense about it. At best, its attempt to demythologize WWII by making the Battle of Iwo Jima a bleak, desaturated deathscape feels like a retread of Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and various other, better films. At worst, Flags of our Fathers subverts its own enterprise by trafficking in blatantly over-the-top symbolism, making the battle close to incomprehensible, and wallowing in “Greatest Generation” kitsch like it’s going out of style (which, pretty clearly, it isn’t.)

As its conceit, the film follows the six soldiers pictured in the famous photograph of the Iwo Jima flag-raising, of which only three made it out alive: John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillipe, better than usual), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach, also very good). As it turns out, surviving hell on earth was only the first of their trials: Once the federal agitprop powers-that-be figure out what a spectacular image they’ve stumbled upon, these three soldiers — who in fact were putting up the second flag of the day — are forced into a whirlwind publicity tour across the United States to drum up support for war bonds. For Gagnon (and his ridiculously golddiggerish fiancee), this is an unexpected stroke of luck. For Bradley, this is grist for several artfully timed flashbacks of the actual battle. And for Hayes, a Pima Indian forced to confront not only the twin demons of racism and alcoholism but also his own feelings of guilt and inadequacy on the road, the war bond schmooze train seems like it might just be worse than the battlefield… (There’s also a framing device involving Bradley’s son (the author of the book) interviewing the participants in the story, but it’s basically Greatest Generation filler.)

Between the battle itself and the opportunity for trenchant social criticism offered by the war bond tour, this may sound like it has all the makings for a quality film. And, to their credit, the players all acquit themselves decently, with lots of good character actors (say, Robert Patrick, Harve Presnell, and look for Luther of The Warriors (David Patrick Kelly) in a cameo as Harry Truman) around to leaven the likes of grunts Paul Walker and Jamie Bell. That being said, virtually every character in Flags comes across as shallow and inert: From start to finish, Bradley’s a polite, well-meaning cipher, Gagnon a boyish opportunist, and Hayes a weepy drunk, and they’re the well-rounded ones. Moreover, as Ed Gonzalez of The House Next Door aptly put it, “the stink of Crash hovers over Flags of Our Fathers.” Cheap, reflexive sentiment is the order of the day here, and even scenes that should be powerful — say, Hayes being refused service at a white-only bar, or America learning of the death of FDR over the radio — are ruined by Haggis’s usual brand of in-your-face hokum, baldly sentimentalized and applied as a paste. By the time we’re forced to sit through some deathbed histrionics about daddys and heroes — a scene which would seem to undermine the film’s earlier emphasis on not valorizing war simply for its own sake — I’d pretty much completely checked out of the film. In short, Flags of our Fathers means well, I suppose…but it’s far too saccharine here to do its subject justice, and is basically a long-winded, ill-conceived bore.

Rush to Judgment.

Breaking news: Rush Limbaugh is a fat junkie asshole. But you might’ve already known that.

Frazzled | Stupid Halloween Tricks.

Hey…you ever had one of those weeks? You ever had one of those fortnights? You ever…well, you get the picture. Suffice to say, it’s been kinda rough around these parts of late, and, so, obviously, the blog’s been suffering. Sorry about that, y’all. At any rate, in happier news, a side project that I’ve been working on for several months to pay the bills — and that’s been all-consuming for the past couple of weeks — is nearing its end, and should be off the table in very short order. And, it’s Halloween, so that’s good.

By the way, one word of advice for the holiday: If you perchance decide to throw together a last-minute Shaun of the Dead outfit for a costume party, and the cheap-o vial of glycerine-based fake blood gel you bought at Ricky’s says heat first in the microwave, do not actually heat the vial in the microwave, as it will explode almost immediately. And, whatever you do thereafter, absolutely, positively do not remove said bubbling gel from the microwave, as it will now be a cheap-o vial of super-sticky, burning hot napalm, and you will sear the &$@% out of your hands. (On the bright side, when I spent the night cannibalizing the bar for ice, random folks were like “Hey, Shaun of the Dead! And you’re putting ice on your wounds! That’s so perfect!’ Also, typing with blisters on your fingertips is a strange and actually not altogether unpleasant feeling, sorta like having a laptop mouse button grafted under your skin.)

The Declaration of Independents.

It’s true in the West, it’s true in the Southwest, it’s even true among the reddest of the red. And, in perhaps the final straw for the GOP this November, a new poll puts independents breaking for the Dems 59%-31%. Yes, y’all, it looks like a wave is coming…(provided, of course, Diebold doesn’t ride to Dubya’s rescue.)

> Examine Film.

“In the early years of the microcomputer, a special kind of game was being played….in the early 1980s, an entire industry rose over the telling of tales, the solving of intricate puzzles and the art of writing. Like living books, these games described fantastic worlds to their readers, and then invited them to live within them.” Found via Genehack and Recursive Bee, a filmmaker by the name of Jason Scott is prepping Get Lamp, a documentary on the Golden Age of text adventures. I’ve said this several times here in this space, but I’d pay top-money for a new Infocom game any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Course Correction.

As Medley pointed out yesterday, Dubya and the GOP are now “cutting and running from ‘stay the course.” Instead, Tony Snow tells us, “What you have is not ‘stay the course’ but in fact a study in constant motion.” And that motion, folks, is a full-out freefall. As even Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted yesterday, “We’re on the verge of chaos” And, frankly, that’s being charitable.

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