Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the hurt locker, and the los angeles film festival

I'm not due for another Consumables column for about a week, but I've seen so much good stuff lately that I decided to publish the new one now. I review The Hurt Locker, The Girl From Monaco and Soul Power, but the real highlights are the three movies included in the Los Angeles Film Festival's "Films That Got Away" series: Musica Nocturna, United Red Army and especially The Silence Before Bach.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

wilco (the album) review

Because it leaked online so long ago -- and then the band streamed the album on their website for a little while in response -- it seems weird to think that Wilco (The Album) isn't officially commercially available until this Tuesday. (For a lot of people, it's an album they've already consumed and fully absorbed by this point.) Nonetheless, my review is now up at About. As you'll see from my write-up, I'm not afraid of dad-rock.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

manohla dargis on the silence before bach

Like a lot of people in last night's audience at the Billy Wilder Theater, I had my mind blown by The Silence Before Bach, which screened as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival's "Films That Got Away" series. It's an extraordinary movie. I'll have my review in my next Consumables column, but for now, here's Manohla Dargis in The New York Times:
Edward Said once wrote of Bach’s counterpoint: “The listener is aware of a remarkable complexity but never a laborious or academic one. Its authority is absolute. For both listener and performer, the result is an aesthetic pleasure based equally on immediate accessibility and the greatest technical prowess.” I didn’t find “The Silence Before Bach” immediately accessible, though this is far from a complaint. The film demands engagement and a kind of surrender, a willingness to enter into a work shaped by correlation, metaphor and metonymy, by beautiful images and fragments of ideas, a work that locates the music in the twitching of a dog’s ears, in the curve of a woman’s belly, a child’s song and an adult’s reverie. Like the music it celebrates, this is a film made in glory of the world.
I, too, needed to meet the movie halfway, but once I did, it was an overwhelming experience.

Friday, June 26, 2009

wilco - you never know

A song off Wilco's forthcoming album, Wilco (The Album). Between Iran and Michael Jackson, this is one of the few things to make me feel better this week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

remembering michael jackson ...

Reflecting on Michael Jackson's death, I thought back to a piece I wrote in 2003 about the ABC documentary Living With Michael Jackson, which was quite a tabloid sensation at the time. Looking at it again, I'm struck by how much it sums up how I feel about the artist, especially this passage near the end:
Near the beginning of Living with Michael Jackson, [British journalist Martin] Bashir asks him about some of those famous dance steps. After admitting to shyness, Jackson eventually acquiesces and performs a few moves. It's absolutely startling; they're still perfect and precise. It's as if 20 years have melted away and we're all back in the happy '80s. Jackson probably wishes the same thing; he seems so at peace during this brief flicker of magnificence. When art is your release, it allows you to escape the tedious crap of normal life -- insecurities, doubts, loneliness. But when that outlet dries up, when that level of adoration goes away, you're just stuck with yourself, trying somehow to bring it all back.
Sadly, he never got that chance. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Michael Jackson for some of the things he allegedly did. But like I said at the time, even though everybody wants me to hate him, I mostly just feel sorry for him.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

public enemies review

I know that some people are less enthused about Public Enemies, but I think it's Michael Mann's best film since The Insider. My review is up at Screen International.

anthony harvey talks about working with stanley kubrick on dr. strangelove

Glenn Kenny's interview with editor Anthony Harvey focuses on the famous pie-fight scene we never got to see from Dr. Strangelove, but this tidbit caught my eye:
Working with Kubrick overall was remarkable. I just learned a hell of a lot. As an example he always thought if an actor is giving a brilliant performance, don't cut to the other actors but keep going on the same performance. And leave it to the viewer to imagine the other person's reaction. The more simple it is, the better—which I thought was tremendous. I think you can over-edit things and you lose momentum rather than gain it.
Wait till he sees Revenge of the Fallen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

chris brown, perez hilton, will.i.am and me

It occurs to me that three of the biggest celebrity news stories of the week involve people I interviewed for Blender: Chris Brown, Perez Hilton, and Will.I.Am. I suppose I should offer some juicy, behind-the-scenes commentary on what these individuals were like in person. Sorry, that's not my style -- I'll let the published interviews speak for themselves.

transformers: revenge of the fallen review

Remember when Michael Bay made good movies? That's a serious question, one I try my best to ponder while reviewing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in Consumables. Also, I spotlight Up, Seraphine, Whatever Works, Cheri, and Moon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

indie rock alphabet book

Truly magnificent.

eels interview

It's been six years since I last interviewed E, the brilliant singer-songwriter who leads the L.A. indie-rock collective Eels. On their occasion of the release of their latest album, Hombre Lobo, I spoke with E about writing as a fictional character, the lack of sex in indie rock, and the right reason to make a polka album. I thank him for his time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

eels - in my dreams

If all goes well, I'm interviewing this guy right now. (No, not Letterman.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

los angeles film festival

The Los Angeles Film Festival kicks off this evening. As always, L.A. Weekly is all over the festival, offering dozens of capsule reviews and longer pieces on special sidebar presentations. You can read my reviews of Branson, Harmony and Me, Turistas, and Zero Bridge here.

superstar (or is that super star?) review

Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milani's latest movie, Superstar (also written as Super Star), concerns the exploits of an arrogant celebrity actor who learns important life lessons from a young girl who claims to be his long-lost daughter. My review is at L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the musical history of los angeles

I put together a piece for the June issue of the Los Angeles Times magazine that was a musical map of our fair city. It didn't make the print edition, but it's online currently. The piece ended up being organized by year, and I should advise that some events have been placed in the incorrect year, but the article does give a sense of the breadth of musical styles and legends that have made an impact on Los Angeles and its cultural landscape.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the proposal

Here's my review for The Proposal. I thought Ryan Reynolds was especially good in it, though I wish I wish I wish the film wasn't nearly as predictable as it is.

I should also point out that my wife and my mom both liked it much more than I did. With this movie, you may want to take their word for it over mine.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

game 5: lakers 99, magic 86

I've been pessimistic about this team's chances all season -- in retrospect, I think the experience of losing to the Celtics in last year's Finals really stuck with me. Apparently, it stayed with the Lakers as well -- again and again, they talked about that humiliating elimination loss that occurred June 17, 2008. They remembered and they didn't let it happen again.

Kobe and Derek have their fourth championships, all of which were won on their opponents' court -- that's killer instinct.

Being a pessimist means you get a little bit of consolation in being able to tell other people "I told you so" when things go bad. But tonight, I'm very happy to report that my more-optimistic friends were right all along about this team. They told me so.

Update: You know how I said the Lakers never won a championship on their home court? Forget that -- they won the 2000 crown at Staples. Duh.

Friday, June 12, 2009

the temptations - just my imagination

My parents are in town, so this one's for my dad -- my thanks to him for turning me onto it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

game 4: lakers 99, magic 91

Life got in the way tonight -- I only saw the last quarter and overtime, and even then it was only in little bits and pieces. But I will say this. Derek Fisher is a guy I've always loved. Watching him go through a slump for most of this year's playoffs has been really depressing. But he's played great in the Finals -- and from what I gathered from tonight, he was the difference maker. I could not be happier.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

albert brooks' real life at the cinefamily

In 1979, writer-director Albert Brooks made his feature debut with a very funny comedy about reality television. It was called Real Life. Thirty years later, it plays like a documentary about the way we live today. Comedian Bob Odenkirk will be hosting a special screening of the film this Friday at the Cinefamily. I explain all the ways Real Life was prescient in L.A. Weekly.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

game 3: magic 108, lakers 104

I actually thought the Lakers were dead meat about halfway through the third quarter, so give them a lot of credit for fighting back the way they did. I'm not sure what to say about Kobe. He didn't have a great fourth quarter -- it happens.

I do think it's crucial that they win Game 4, though. The Magic played at a very high level tonight and still only barely won -- I think it's fair to say that the momentum still favors Los Angeles at this point. But that will change if the Magic even the series Thursday night.

On a side note, does anyone actually watch the halftime analysis? Have those four morons made a single interesting point yet?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

game 2: lakers 101, magic 96

The Lakers deserved to lose tonight.

Of course, both teams did. It was just a sloppy game -- lots of bad calls, cruddy shooting, a real lack of flow throughout. It was one of those games that if your team wins, you're mostly just relieved -- and if they don't win, you have a thousand reasons to moan about what could have been.

Magic fans will spend every second between now and Tuesday's Game 3 thinking about The Miss. Courtney Lee makes that layup at the end of regulation, and we're having a whole different conversation. That's the most obvious lament for the Magic faithful, but I also think Orlando's inability to get Lamar Odom to foul out will be missed in all the post-game analysis. Andrew Bynum was doing very little, and if Odom had picked up his sixth foul in the fourth quarter, I think the Lakers would have been in big trouble. Instead, Odom iced the game with those free throws at the end.

Laker fans will probably walk away with this thought: Kobe Bryant didn't play all that great, Orlando started shooting like they can, our team as a whole didn't have an inspired outing, but we still won. That's all true, but they almost didn't pull it out. Some games you win, some games you lose, and some games fall into the weird nether region were, really, it could have gone either way. Game 2 was one of those. We were just lucky it bounced our way. And that Lee missed that shot.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bill Withers - "Hope She'll Be Happier"

I saw Soul Power this week, the forthcoming documentary about the epic 1974 R&B concert that was mounted in conjunction with the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" title bout in Zaire. The James Brown stuff is amazing in the movie, not a big surprise, but another clear highlight is Bill Withers doing a pretty stunning acoustic version of "Hope She'll Be Happier."

I tried to find anything remotely comparable online, and this is the closest I got. The strings might be a bit much, but the emotion comes through all the same.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

game 1: lakers 100, magic 75

Game 1 of the NBA Finals played out like a best-case scenario for the Lakers. The Magic, who live or die by their three-point shooting, couldn't hit a thing, and the Lakers, whose toughness has been questioned in these playoffs, were locked and loaded pretty early on, grabbing offensive rebounds and hustling like crazy. Bottom line, the Lakers looked like killers tonight.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers were blowing out the Magic early, but they let Orlando hang around, and the Magic came back to beat them. I think that made the difference in the entire series -- it proved to the Magic that they could hang with the big boys (without home-court advantage, even). That didn't happen tonight. The Magic had the lead after the first quarter, but once their shooters went cold (and stayed cold), it was over.

What will be really interesting for Sunday's Game 2 is whether the two teams will go back to their normal selves. I don't put it past the Lakers to take their foot off the gas again -- they've done that a few too many times this playoffs -- and I expect Orlando to shoot better. (There's no way they can shoot worse, right?) I went into this series picking the Lakers in 7. Despite the Lakers' dominant performance tonight, I still think there's a long way to go.

corked!

Corked! is yet another indie mockumentary aspiring to Christopher Guest-ian levels of comedy gold. This one's about a bunch of eccentric characters who work and live in California's wine country. It has its moments, but not enough of them. My review is at L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

francis ford coppola doesn't want critics calling him pretentious

In an interview with Movieline's Kyle Buchanan, Francis Ford Coppola talks about how he deals with criticism:
What I look for with critics is more that they’re going to write about something I did and I’m gonna read it and not make those mistakes again, I’m gonna learn something from it. Often, though, they don’t do that: they say, “It’s a muddled mess.” “It’s pretentious.” I can’t learn a lot from someone saying “It’s pretentious.”
(I'm sure most people will be more interested in the part of this interview where Coppola says there should have only been one Godfather film.)

Monday, June 01, 2009

dave matthews band - big whiskey and the groogrux king

Like it or not, the new DMB record, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, is very much a traditional DMB record, despite the fact that a lot of the songs reference the untimely passing of band member LeRoi Moore. Ornate arrangements, tasteful melodies, vaguely philosophical musings in the lyrics -- you know what to expect, people. My review is at About.