2008 02 25
Tomorrow’s Oscar Commentary Today–The DAY OF Edition!!

Posted by in: Movies

Apparently, the Academy is doing this because it snubbed this.

Howls of outrage (9)

2008 01 06
On the big screen

Posted by in: Movies

People are always saying that certain movies ought to be seen on the big screen. I don’t get that. It’s not just that whenever I shell out big bucks to see a movie in the movie theatre I always end up stuck behind a basketball team trying out their new top hats, in front of a bunch of obnoxious kids, and beside someone whose bladder gives out before the end of the film. It’s that it really doesn’t make a huge difference to me that the screen is a lot bigger in a movie theatre. If a movie is engrossing, I usually forget how big the screen is. Now of course I wouldn’t choose to watch a beautiful panoramic film on youtube, but you might be surprised how little it would bother me after a while.

Howls of outrage (9)

2007 12 30
Recently watched

Posted by in: Documentaries, Movies

The Golden Compass

I don’t see why the critics were falling all over themselves to pan this movie. I think Steve was much closer to the mark. It was fun! I’ve read the books, but I don’t think it was right to complain (as I saw some complain) that the movie compressed the book to the point of incomprehensibility.


A documentary about wheelchair rugby, as it is also known. The film follows the rivalry between the Canadian and American wheelchair rugby teams, pausing from time to time to explore the personalities and circumstances of some of the players, as well as the coach of the Canadian team. Well done.

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

A documentary about a woman living in a trailer who buys a painting for a few dollars at a yard sale. She becomes convinced the painting is a Jackson Pollack, and then becomes increasingly irritated with the snooty art snobs who think it isn’t. The film is a funny look at the characters involved in this little drama, the class tension between them, and the scientific and artistic dispute about the authenticity of the painting. Not bad at all.

The Man With the Movie Camera

An experimental 1929 silent film by Russian director Dziga Vertov. I watched this twice, the second time with the commentary on, and was astounded at how much I had missed the first time. I don’t know much about film, especially early avant garde Russian film, so I’ll just say that as far as I could tell Vertov was sort of saying, “Hey, look at this new medium! It does things that no other medium could. Could you do this with any other medium? Of course not! Could you do this? No, no, no.”

The Namesake

The Namesake, based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, follows a Bengali family from India to New York City, and in particular the son in the family, Gogol. It’s a beautiful film. My second home growing up was my best friend’s English-Bengali-Gujarati household. So by the authority invested in me by all that experience I say: This movie nails it. It utterly nails the subtleties and ambiguities and difficulties of assimilation and intergenerational conflict in the Indo-North American experience. Slow paced, and perhaps dragging a bit towards the end, but with a gentle sense of humour, real affection and emotion. Recommended.

Trailer Park Boys (All Seven Seasons)

Fucking awesome low budget Canadian tv mocumentary about a couple of guys hanging out in a trailer park in Nova Scotia. Watch it. Watch it now and join the cult of TPBs. You have to give it a chance – the first season is a bit rough. But once you’re hooked, you’re hooked hard. Many thanks to Alif Sikkin for inducting me into the cult. The first five seasons are available on Netflix, but sadly I have no idea how one might go about watching the last two seasons.

The Lives of Others

Very moving story set in East Germany towards the end of the Cold War. If you haven’t seen it I really don’t know what you’re waiting for.


I was very excited to see this film after all the hype it got when it first came out. Not only was it said to have lots and lots of lovin’, but the acting was supposed to be great – how could you go wrong with that? I ordered it from Netflix, and then cooked an elaborate meal for Yoon, hoping for a little after-movie romance. Shortbus was wretched. The actors all seemed to speak with that sort of micro-pause that stupid people and bad actors use in between the wrong words when they’re trying to express themselves. The plot, such as it was, was idiotic. Every character deserved to die. The first scene in particular made me squirm for embarrassment on the part of everyone involved. About 30 minutes into the movie I suffered a wrenching attack of diarrhea – so much for my elaborate meal – and I spent the rest of the movie shuttling back and forth between the living room and the can. As I sat on the can, miserable and shuddering, goosebumps covering my legs, I reflected that at least I wasn’t watching Shortbus. Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh Chris, you saw it in unfavourable conditions, and so you’re surely being unfair to Shortbus.” But the sad truth is that I’m probably being hard on the diarrhea since I associate it with Shortbus. We did finish it, just to confirm that it was awful all the way through. But I would rather spend an evening slamming my cock in a heavy door than sit through that movie again. Not recommended.

How to Draw a Bunny

Documentary about Ray Johnson, an American artist. Wonderful. Music is by Max Roach – the last project he worked on before his death. If you’re at all interested in contemporary art you should see this film.

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Steve Coogan’s 1994 chat show parody. Uneven, but a few really good laughs in there.

Howls of outrage (15)

2007 11 25
Recently watched: The Devil Came on Horseback

In 2004, ex-Marine Brian Steidle signed up for a stint as an African Union observer in the Darfur region of Sudan, where he ended up a first hand witness to the genocide there. When he left, he took with him a large number of photographs of victims of atrocities and a sense of enormous frustration at his inability to do anything more than document the devastation. A Nicholas Kristoff column about his work and his pictures catapulted him into national prominence, getting him into meetings with Condi Rice, Congressional hearings, and onto a host of television programs. Later, he returned to Chad to work on further documenting the plight of villagers displaced by the brutal campaign against them in Darfur. Back in the United States again, he toured the country trying to raise awareness of the issue.

The Devil Came on Horseback follows Steidle through all this, and it does a superb, if extremely upsetting, job of documenting the genocide. But in spite of Steidle’s relentless emphasis on what to do about Darfur, the documentary seems to me much weaker on larger questions about how outsiders can play a constructive role in Sudan. Steidle appears to have little doubt that a military intervention there to prevent further attacks is a moral imperative, at one point remarking that if his camera lens had been a scope he might have destroyed a jeep of fleeing soldiers and allowed terrorized villagers to return to their village. This is, I think, a very human and understandable response to the sort of brutality Steidle witnessed. But I am not convinced it is the wisest. I have no idea what to do about Darfur, just hard questions for anyone pushing military intervention as a solution there.

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2007 07 15
For him, hope is a piece of pocket candy.

Posted by in: Movies, Pop Culture

This is, without a doubt, the funniest thing I have ever seen.

Howls of outrage (14)

2007 07 14
Movie night with Karl Rove

Archives are fun!

Tucked away inside 78,000 pages of documents from the Nixon administration, released by the National Archives earlier this week, is a little gem: a strategy memorandum from the man who would go on to become the architect of President Bush’s rise to political power.

And in the memorandum, this:

In his memorandum, Mr. Rove offered suggestions, from having college Republican clubs show “nonpolitical films for fund-raising (e.g. John Wayne flicks, ‘Reefer Madness’)” to developing a “Student Guide to Lobbying” with a “forward by Bush/Nixon.”

I found the reference to “Reefer Madness” confusing at first. Why in the hell would young Republicans be gathering to laugh at anti-drug propaganda, I wondered? Finally I realized that the interest in the film wasn’t ironic. But don’t accuse me of being stoned for taking a while to appreciate this point. Seriously, have you seen it? Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch the entire thing here.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2007 05 06
Yes, Prime Minister

It’s a real pity that Netflix has chosen, at this stage at least, to do its new on demand service through Internet Explorer. If I understand correctly, this means that you’re screwed if you use Linux, which we do on the hand-me-down laptop in our bedroom (and which actually has the more reliable internet connection). Still, it’s nice to be able to click on a movie and have it start playing – usually without much fuss – almost immediately. And they’re not charging extra to watch a generous number of hours, at least yet.

The offerings are still a bit spotty, I notice. But more than spotty, they’re peculiar. If you were digitizing movies for a new service, would one of your first choices be “Real Genius,” the 80s film starring Val Kilmer? No, it would not. I wonder what’s up with that.

Television offerings are similarly thin and idiosyncratic. But! I recently found they have all of the British television show “Yes, Prime Minister.” This is good. I can watch them now whenever I want, and I can watch them over and over again without even worrying about returning them in the mail.

The only complaint I have about “Yes, Prime Minister” so far is the laugh track. I hate laugh tracks. They make me laugh less, since I hate having it implied that now is a time I really ought to be laughing.

Howls of outrage (14)

2006 10 11
Movie recommendations

Posted by in: Movies

This comes a bit late, but if you’re quick about it it might be useful. Yoon and I watch a lot of crap hollywood movies (and tv shows on dvd) together – hey, I’m a compromisin’ fella. But starting this Saturday and continuing an entire week, Yoon will be out of town. My question for you is: What should I throw into my netflix queue for the coming week to watch in the evenings after the hookers have gone home? Think either: a) Funny in a very dark way or b) My humanity is diminished by the fact that I haven’t seen it yet (and I probably haven’t).

Howls of outrage (43)

2006 07 11
On seeing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” again

Posted by in: Movies

Gosh, what a fast-paced ending.

Howls of outrage (10)

2006 06 09
You must be this tall

I’ve occasionally wondered about the fact that at 5’8” I seem to tower over the average New York City cop. In the thirty seconds that I allot to research for research-based blog posts, I was able to determine that there was some sort of court case a while back that changed entrance requirements to the police academy. Result: a bunch of shorties patrolling our streets.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, if you misremember the details, and squint your eyes a bit it’s totally like the movie Police Academy. This is pleasing.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 03 12

A student recently lent me the movie Alexander. Main impressions: Forget about the historical inaccuracies. That’s between the movie’s historical consultant and his psychiatrist, who will no doubt remind the historical consultant that that’s par for the course in a Hollywood movie. That’s not to say the movie was a success. Even worse than the psycho-babble about Alexander’s motivation was the silly pseudo-Irish accent that some of the actors would put on or take off depending, perhaps, on whether the voice coach had wandered off the set drunk yet that day. These two features were combined nicely in Angelina Jolie’s (playing Alexander’s mother) repeated assurances to the young Alexander that he would some day conquer the “warld.” (I said pseudo-Irish, so I take it that encompasses moments of pseudo-Scottish.)

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 02 03
Shandy, the movie

Posted by in: Movies

Hmmm, a rave review of Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, one of the very best novels in the whole wide world. This may be one of the rare films I actually see in the theatre.

Read the first few chapters and see if you can resist buying the book.

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2005 05 04
Recently overheard in my Dad’s living room

Posted by in: Anecdotal, Movies, Pop Culture

Nine year old boy to my nine year old brother: “Man, Anakin is such a dork.”

I think that about says it all. When I was that age, I wouldn’t have dreamt of saying that Han or Luke was a dork.

Howls of outrage (10)

2005 01 04
Is this your homework, Larry?

Posted by in: Drugs and the law, Movies

Belle Waring at Crooked Timber cites a funny quotation she found:

Tom Riley, official spokesman for federal drug czar John Walters, agrees. �Keith and people like that have banged their heads against the wall for years saying �Legalize pot.� But they�re farther behind now than they were 20 years ago.� Riley says Stroup�s career reminds him of a line from the movie �The Big Lebowski�: �The �60s are over, Lebowski. The bums lost. My condolences.�

Belle also says, as an aside, of course, that she favors “legalization of all drugs”. The comment section then goes abuzz with questions and claims about the propriety of such a position. Unfortunately, the most important issue is never touched on: the quotation is wrong! Duh! As the rest of us know, it’s: “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski! Condolences! The bums lost! My advice is to do what your parents did: Get a job, sir!” I mean, really, let’s not reveal ourselves here as a bunch of f—ing amateurs.

Incidentally, my favorite Big L real-world moment came a year or so ago when I discovered that there were several websites devoted to all things Dude. One proprietor relayed an insight that had been pointed out to him by a reader: the date of the check that the Dude writes at Ralph’s early in the movie is “Sept. 11, 1991″. [The movie itself was released in 1998.] I might have gotten all conspiracy-theorist if I hadn’t read this line: “Even so, I think it’s just a coincidence.”

Howls of outrage (4)

2004 09 29
Very, very, very good news

Posted by in: Movies

It seems that Mel Brooks is planning a sequel to Spaceballs.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)