Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Bono's recent interview with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes stirred up all my mixed emotions about U2's "resurgence" in the 21st century as a watered-down, honorably tame version of their former "classic" selves. Bono is nothing if not sincere about his activism, but the music leaves me ... not cold ... more like vaguely uninterested, with a nagging sense that I should be more impressed than I am.

Staci Schwartz discusses these similar feelings in a recent concert piece in The Village Voice. She's more a devotee than I am at this point, but she nicely captures what it feels like to still love the band -- and she does give the proper perspective on Bono's rare ability to actually get fans to care about the same issues he cares about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

2005: the year people stopped caring about movies

Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times distills Hollywood's paranoia about "The Slump" -- the year-long box-office slide that inspired columnists to bend over backwards with new explanations about what it all meant. Were the movies worse than ever? Had DVD killed off the theatrical experience? This piece isn't necessarily persuasive journalism, but it eloquently sums up every "sky is falling" theory out there.

Hopefully in a few years, we'll be able to look back and laugh.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

john simon

Richard Schickel has a great piece on critic John Simon's new books on film, theater, and music. He and Simon both have valuable things to say about the dangers and necessity of art criticism.

Here's Schickel on the crucial difference between an essay and a review ...

[R]eviews are not essays, those lengthy and leisurely reflections on careers or themes aimed at an audience that has some knowledge of the subject at hand. Reviews, however gracefully written, whatever grander fantasies their authors may entertain, are a form of consumer guidance, written in haste, against deadlines and to space. Worse, the reviewer is always the prisoner of what's on offer at the moment in his field. I would say, based on bitter experience, that well over half the time, he's obliged to conjure up an opinion about stuff on which he would not normally care to spare an idle thought, let alone a thousand or more words.

And here is Simon on why good entertainment matters -- and why it matters that critics cover it ...

Our great problem is that we do not sufficiently understand and appreciate the shortness of our time, that we do not (and apparently will not) comprehend how much great art of all kinds there is in the world in which our time is so short that we can explore only a fraction of its wonders. Hence it is stupid and vicious to entice people into wasting hours of their brief span on … drivel.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

hating 50 cent

A movie as execrable as Get Rich or Die Tryin' is probably best handled by utterly ignoring it. But I couldn't help myself.

Friday, November 11, 2005

harry potter and the goblet of fire

My review of the new Harry Potter film is up on Screen International.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

what's worse: the dodgers or the sports coverage of them?

Great piece in the Los Angeles Times' opinion section (now called Current) about the piling-on mentality of the Times' sports writers, specifically Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers, when dealing with the problems the beleaguered Dodgers have faced this season.

The commentary, written by Matt Welch under Current's Outside the Tent heading, which is an occasional column that allows outside voices to criticize the paper and its reporting, argues that recently fired general manager Paul DePodesta deserved to be let go but also deserved brighter minds to explain precisely how he was screwing up ...

The worst part isn't that the columnists' complaints about DePodesta are wrong, it's that they're often right. (Or at least, that I agree with them.) The young GM was painfully lacking in people-management skills and made a bunch of questionable moves. But if Southern Californians want an intelligent discussion of these issues, one where the truth matters more than either clumsy insults about "spreadsheets" or smooching Tommy Lasorda's behind, they know where to go: the Web. Maybe that's why Plaschke hates the Internet so much: People there are doing his job, only better.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

barry lyndon

Of Stanley Kubrick's studio films, Barry Lyndon is the least celebrated. After seeing a terrific print at the Aero in Santa Monica, I can't understand why -- it's a masterpiece. Searching the Web for the best explanation of why the film works so well, I came upon J. Hoberman's piece. I think he doesn't give Ryan O'Neal enough credit, but otherwise it's spot-on.

jarhead: better than you've heard

When I saw Jarhead before its release, already the disappointed buzz was building. I think it has its flaws, but it's a much smarter and more insidious film than people have realized.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

being fair to bush

It's easy to made snide comments about the Bush administration, but in the spirit of fairness, we should also take into consideration this president's successes. This piece is as eloquent about Bush's political victories as any I've seen.