Saturday, January 28, 2006


You don't always have to agree with a critic to appreciate his perspective on a film. Take Bubble, a movie that I think works more as an interesting experiment than a fully-realized film. That doesn't stop Roger Ebert from loving it, and I think he raises several good points about its merits and the wisdom of its day-and-date "simultaneous delivery" strategy.

music as more than just something to pass the time

Sometimes reading a glowing review about a piece of work is more colorful and evocative than experiencing the actual work itself.

I still remember being a kid and reading Roger Ebert's ecstatic raves for Apocalypse Now and Raging Bull and wanting desperately to see movies that inspired such jubilant praise. (Consequently, when I finally got a chance to see those films, the resulting feeling was akin to hearing a game on the radio versus watching it on television -- or reading the book versus seeing the film adaptation -- in that the image I created in my mind was more personal, special and unlimited than the real thing could possibly turn out to be.)

These thoughts were swirling around in my head after reading Ted Conover's discussion of Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones (also known as Dance With the Devil: The Rolling Stones & Their Times). Beyond simply reviewing the book, which chronicles the band's 1969 U.S tour and sounds like a terrific read, Conover reflects on the value of popular music in society -- and how that value has changed over time. Booth puts it succinctly: "In the sixties we believed in a myth -- that music had the power to change people's lives. Today people believe in a myth -- that music is just entertainment."

I couldn't agree more. And it makes me really want to read the book.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Why Nobody Has Heard of Hou Hsiao-Hsien or Jia Zhangke, Part Two

The recent redesign of the LA Weekly website has made it a little tricky to find a lot of archived articles at the moment, but thankfully I was still able to hunt down David Ehrenstein's report from last summer, during the height of the "boxoffice slump" media frenzy, about foreign films' challenges in getting into U.S. theaters.

Ehrenstein lays out the sad economics of the situation -- and why, like with the major studios, independent distributors have to rely more and more on DVD sales to shore up their bottom line.

(Note: Part One of this thread is here.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why Nobody Has Heard of Hou Hsiao-Hsien or Jia Zhangke

Recently, a friend's father lamented that today's cinema has no Bergman, no Fellini, no Antonioni. Where, he wondered, were all the great new foreign filmmakers?

The answer is that they're still very much out there, but that American audiences hear so little about them. This piece by Anthony Kaufman in the New York Times helps explain why foreign filmmakers are becoming an endangered species on U.S. screens. The culprits range from lack of media attention to the competition for art-house space, but here's a succinct summation from the head of a small distribution company:
"I feel as if there's almost no auteur draw anymore. As opposed to 20 years ago, you were marketing the movies around the filmmaker -- Fassbinder's new film, Godard's new film. We still do it, but the honest truth is that the filmmaker matters increasingly little today."
Which I think is very true and really sad.

(Note: Part Two of this thread is here.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

a great start to 24

Glowing reviews of Kiefer Sutherland's hit show, Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada highlight my latest installment of Consumables.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

glory road

Another January, another inspirational true-life basketball story. Here's my review of Glory Road.

springsteen, without cliches

Bruce Springsteen is such an instutition -- more icon now than man -- that it's hard for a reviewer to judge anything beyond the mystique. Such difficulties are no problem for Robert Christgau, though, who starts his review of the re-release of Born to Run this way ...
The biggest problem with Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 breakthrough album was always how unabashedly it proclaimed its own greatness. The wall-of-sound, white-soul-at-the-opera-house Born to Run is definitely full of itself — its lead track emoted over five minutes of portentous piano, its title track laden with glockenspiel and guitar guitar guitar, its thematic burden an unresolved quest narrative, its groove as grand as a V-8 hearse. Newcomers may not get why its class-conscious songcraft provided a relief from the emptier pretensions of late-hippie arena-rock. Yet it sounds greater today than it ever did.

Monday, January 09, 2006