Saturday, November 27, 2010

detournement links

---"The Production of Meaning"

---"The Story of Electronics"

---Dargis considers filmmakers on the internet:

"Although David Lynch’s name is still attached to several sites, his entertaining davidlynch.com is inactive. There you could buy his coffee or artwork and watch videos of him delivering hypnotically entertaining weather reports from his home in Los Angeles. (Forecast: Sun.) He still reports the weather via Twitter: “Here in LA: Blue skies, golden sunshine, a gentle breeze. 59°F 15°C. Have a great day!” Microblogging turns out to be the perfect vehicle for his oracular utterances (“I’m pretty sure I’m connected to the moon”) and cheery salutations. On separate occasions he has wished Dennis Hopper happy birthday, given a shout-out to Demi Moore and asked Werner Herzog, “Can you tell the story about saving someone’s life in front of your house?”

Mr. Herzog’s own Web site, wernerherzog.com, meanwhile, is a one-stop emporium for all things Herzogian, including DVDs and testimonials. This is where you can read his celebrated “Minnesota Declaration,” a brief manifesto and salvo against cinema vérité which he delivered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1999. (“Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.”) You can also learn about the time and place of his next film seminars, the so-called rogue film school (London, March 2011), which has its own Web site (roguefilmschool.com), and why in January the jury at the International Berlin Film Festival gave the prize for best director to Roman Polanski for “The Ghost Writer.” Simply put, for Mr. Herzog, “no other film in competition which showed such apparent excellence of its director.”

---Robert Palmer's documentary about punk rock

---Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle: "what appears is good; what is good appears"


"The solitude. Of men, sometimes women, who refused to settle on a place, a role, a “stable” identity. They walked through my life for a few years when I was a boy—carpenters, child-care workers, counselors, psychiatric patients. Some of them were my teachers.

Were they happy or sad, kind or mean? None of the above. They were discontented with the choices offered to them. They were acutely aware of their discontent, and they were trying to find a way to act on that awareness. Now, in 2010, when conformity comes in an endless array of shapes and sizes and styles, these people would be classified under “the sixties,” and then assigned one of the following subheadings: Selfish, Lost, Narcissistic, Alcoholic, Bipolar, Privileged, Disturbed, etc. But that’s not the way I remember them. Back in those days, no one categorized, celebrated, or condemned them. You just watched and listened, and read their personal dissent in their eyes, their silences, their gestures. It’s a kind of existence that is largely gone now. The people who lived it either adapted or shifted gears, stabilized or imploded. Some became realtors or contractors. One of them, the one I loved the most, took off one night and wrapped his car around an oak tree.Five Easy Pieces was and is a great film because it gives us such a clear and unobstructed view of this particular type of American exis tence, brought into being at a certain interval in our history when the expectations of class and family carried more weight than they do now—“Auspicious beginnings—you know what I mean?” Film production is a cumbersome and lengthy affair, and the finished product, no matter how good, almost always lags behind or stands apart from its moment. Occasionally, though, when the conditions allow, movie and moment are one. Like Warner Bros. at the dawn of sound or Preston Sturges at his blindingly brilliant peak, Five Easy Pieces speaks with eloquence and simplicity from and to the America of its time, from melancholy opening to ineffably sad closing shot. In 1970, it was a revelation. Today, it remains a shattering experience, in part because it contains an entire way of life within its ninety-eight minutes."


---Nathan Ihara notes the culture of appropriation:

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.” --Jim Jarmusch

---Sean Young, Dune, and David Lynch

---"This Sporting Life, Billy Liar, and the British New Wave" by Movieman0283

---7 billion people on this earth

---Two in the Wave trailer

---It Came from Kuchar

---Gareth Edwards of Monsters

---Richtel's "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction"

---lastly, the internet's cyber radicals

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows, and the mystery of the suspicious Entertainment Weekly review

Have you seen Liza Schwarzbaum's review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--Part 1? I don't know the writer, but after having watched the underwhelming movie (and noting how the narrative effectively stops dead once Harry, Hermione, and Ron go camping), I returned to Schwarzbaum's reaction with renewed interest. The writing is so vague, so smitten, and so reverent, it left me wondering if a fix was on:

"We all know the end is near. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 breaks the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's epic modern literary classic into two movies, and haunting every frame of this assured and beautiful first half is the knowledge that soon, in 2011, the screen journey will be over. I don't know which had the greater effect: my real melancholy at the thought of looming finality, or the elegance of this necessarily dark and serious penultimate film, in which characters/actors we have watched since childhood are now resourceful young adults. But I do know I felt a swell of love and awe wash over me from the very first wickedly creepy scene until the profoundly moving last one. Under the direction of David Yates — in Goldilocks terms, he's Just Right, having gently guided the series to more consistent excellence in pace and tone with the last two installments — Part 1 is the most cinematically rewarding chapter yet.

What a marvel it is, this Harry Potter movie business! What a spell the experience casts, now that every detail is so familiar to us, from the ghostly sound of the signature minor-key musical theme to the sight of Voldemort's hideous noseless face! All the grand British thespians who bring Rowling's convocation of wizardly characters to life, from Alan Rickman and Imelda Staunton to Michael Gambon and Robbie Coltrane, do so with utterly serious gusto. As for Hogwarts besties Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, we've lived side by side for so long with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint that their (re)appearance carries honest emotional weight: We've known them since they were kids! [snarky italics added]"

Well, yes, Deathly Hallows trots out the usual gang of top-notch British actors, and it has its occasional fun scene, but the playfulness of the love potions in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has now been replaced with much concern over wands, specifically which wands will be used to fight that last BIG BATTLE (ZAP!) between Voldemort and Harry in Part 2 due to be released on July 15, 2011. Voldemort wants a super nuclear mega-wand with big black bulges for his side of that special effects extravaganza. Harry gets his broken. Much heavy duty wand activity is going down in this film.

Still, can one respectfully ask if this is a review or further promotional copy? I looked around the Entertainment Weekly editorial page and found that it is owned by Time Inc. Then a bit of internet research led me to this Time Warner webpage, where one learns that the Harry franchise and this magazine are owned by the same company. Hmmm.

Perhaps, there wasn't marketing pressure on Schwarzbaum to love this film. Perhaps she's doing all of the swooning on her own, but I found The Deathly Hallows oddly Twilight-esque once the Emma, Harry, and Ron threesome start hanging out in one blank, beautiful, gloriously-lit landscape after the next. A romantic triangle? Much nature imagery? Emma Watson even appears to adopt the sulky mien of Kristen Stewart. Given that the filmmakers need to find some of the few places on earth free of the omnipresent marketing of recent Harry Potter product, I suppose that scenes of sunset-enhanced nature would do the trick (one can see the same pretty dead tree behind them in various scenes). Anyway, back to EW's review:

"In The Deathly Hallows, of course, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are deep in their struggle toward adulthood, truly on their own and unprotected, except by one another. (Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is nowhere to be seen this time.) The final showdown between the Chosen One (Harry) and the Dark Lord (Voldemort, embodied with chilling, hairless silkiness by Ralph Fiennes) is still to come. Meanwhile, the schoolmates are on a continued mission to find and destroy the Horcruxes, those magical bits of his black soul that Voldemort has hidden in order to hang on to immortality. The world is an anxious, paranoid place, what with the Dark Lord's Death Eaters on the loose. The look of the movie is apocalyptically desolate too — when it's not baroquely sepulchral, as it is in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic. An early scene at Voldemort's dinner table, surrounded by his senior Death Eaters, is terrifying."

The Voldemort dinner scene mostly boils down to some PG-13 torture of a minor Hogwarts teacher and one CGI snake attacking the camera. I actually preferred the Ministry of Magic Brazil-esque paranoid sequence when Harry, Hermione, and Ron assume the disguises of middle-aged bureaucrats to infiltrate the proceedings (although I find it ironic that a movie with such a totalitarian hold over the media threatens its characters with a fascist takeover). Still, Schwarzbaum fails to mention that an excess of "apocalyptically desolate" imagery can be a drag after, say, four or five, or six or seven movies in a row. I always wonder if Rowling feels obliged to include all of this requisite gloomy mise en scene as a way to counterbalance the basic silliness of the magic. As the threesome face down various terrorist-wand attacks, I found myself wondering--as the franchise feeds off of so much nostalgia and teenage brand-identification, does anyone mind how repetitive the franchise has become? Does it bother anyone that J. K. Rowling now has her threesome hunt around for a sword, a locket, a mystical symbol, etc., just like the young characters do in Sucker Punch, The Hobbit, not to mention the innumerable other kiddie-quest flicks already released? At one point, Harry finds a much needed magic sword in a frozen pond, and these lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail came to mind:

"King Arthur: I am your king.

Peasant Woman: Well, I didn't vote for you.

King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.

Peasant Woman: Well, how'd you become king, then?

[Angelic music plays... ]

King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king.

Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Arthur: Be quiet!

Dennis the Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!"

Anyway, back to Schwarzbaum's gushing:

"All this takes a toll on Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Or maybe, as Rowling so astutely weaves into her books, it's the not-so-magically dispelled fears, doubts, and longings of true adulthood that weigh the trio down. Either way, Yates, working with cinematographer Eduardo Serra (Girl With a Pearl Earring), keeps the picture poised between the gaping future (i.e., Harry's scheduled showdown with Voldemort) and the groping present, as the three friends test their adult support of one another. In one of the movie's sweetest wordless moments, Harry comforts Hermione. Ron has stormed off after a fight with Harry, Hermione is sad and troubled, and Harry spontaneously leads his dear friend in a dance. The scene isn't in the book; it's the rare deviation of an addition to the sacred text, rather than an unavoidable cut made for Muggle-driven movie purposes. Yet the gesture is so tender, and such a welcome breath of warmth in such a dark time, that the grace note demonstrates an integrity I feel sure Rowling would applaud. This is who Harry Potter has grown up to be: a young man strong enough to love his friends (including dear, devoted Dobby the house elf; O Dobby!), clever enough to outwit his foes, and brave enough to face his future. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 also bravely faces the future, slipping with expert ease among the thrilling mass of complications (and complicated set pieces) that Rowling throws fans in the final sprint, then guiding the faithful to the fate that awaits everyone in this world, the moment called The End. A-"

After a review like that, what is the minus for? I imagine Rowling did applaud that sweet "tender" moment because she produced the movie. For this reviewer, Potter's little dance briefly alleviated the tedium of the entire second half of the film, but I wouldn't want to interfere with the nostalgia of the "faithful" as they all "bravely face" the next big Warners Brothers' cash-in this summer. I, for one, will be glad when all of this expertly marketed Horcrux huggermuggery is over.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter-free links

---David Foster Wallace's archives

---if other directors made The Social Network

---an interview with Isabelle Huppert

---Kevin Patterson's "Diseases of Affluence":

"Here is our normal: 40 percent of North American adults have metabolic syndrome. The syndrome is caused by being fat, even at levels North Americans would not recognize as abnormal. Obesity prompts the receptors that insulin acts upon to become numb to its effects. As we grow fatter, and insulin resistance proceeds, higher and higher levels of insulin are necessary to get the sugar out of the blood. Eventually, overt diabetes may supervene, as it has for 8 percent of North American adults, a tenfold increase since the turn of the last century. But even prior to the development of diabetes, metabolic syndrome insidiously eats away at the bodies of those it affects.

Metabolic syndrome’s elevated insulin level is why we order a second Whopper; getting fatter, cruelly, stimulates our appetite. It is also why high blood pressure is more common among Westerners, too, and why our cholesterol panels are more alarming. Ultimately and especially, it is why heart attacks are almost unknown among traditional peoples like the Pashtun, while half of us will spend our last minutes with the impression that a large kitchen appliance is sitting on our chests."

---Duncan Jones' Source Code trailer

---the Brighton Rock trailer

---behind the scenes of Peeping Tom

---Google and money

---the dangers of teaching nowadays

---problems with Facebook messages (and Zuckerberg's take on the idea)

---A. O. Scott wonders why he goes to the movies

---the new data journalist:

"The open data movement campaigns for important information -- such as government spending, scientific information and maps -- to be made publicly available for the benefit of society both democratically and economically. The linked data movement (championed by the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee) campaigns for that data to be made available in such a way that it can be linked to other sets of data.

That means, for instance, a computer can see that the director of a company named in a particular government contract is the same person who was paid as a consultant on a related government policy document. Advocates argue that this will also result in economic and social benefits.

Concrete results of both movements can be seen in the US and UK -- most visibly with the launch of government data repositories Data.gov andData.gov.uk in 2009 and 2010 respectively -- but also less publicised experiments such as "Where Does My Money Go?", which uses data to show how public expenditure is distributed, and "Mapumen-tal," which combines travel data, property prices and public ratings of 'scenicness' to help show at a glance which areas of a city might be the best place to live based on individual requirements.

But there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of similar examples in industries from health and science to culture and sport. We are experiencing an unprecedented release of data -- some have named it 'Big Data' -- and yet for the most part, media organisations have been slow to react.

That is about to change."

---molecular animation

---"This is your brain on metaphors" by Robert Sapolsky

---19 movies that double as movie criticism

---Sheila considers her eight years of blogging:

"I started the blog, randomly, on a day when I was home from work for some reason. I was living in this crazy apartment I shared with my good friend Jen in Hoboken, and we had moved into it on September 4, 2001. It was in a slum-like tenement building (seriously, the outside of it looked horrendous), and we were on the 5th floor, a walk-up. When our moving guys moved us in, I thought one of them was going to have a heart attack. I have 4,000 books and as my father always said, “Nothing heavier than a bunch of books.” I remember one heaving sweaty moving guy tromping up the stairs for the 50th time, holding the 25th box of books, saying to me in a warning tone, “There had better be some Stephen King in these boxes!” Best comment of the day. Thankfully, I could reassure him on that score.

The apartment was wall to wall white linoleum, even in our bedrooms. The ceiling looked like that of a grade school, and you could put push-pins into it if you wanted to have a Valentine’s Day party and have dangling red hearts everywhere (which we did). It had a big open living room and kitchen and two bedrooms. We were struggling actresses, with big school loans, so this was the apartment we could afford. Our bedrooms were both on the east side of the building. Jen’s was a better bedroom, with huge windows on two walls, but we were happy enough with our weird linoleum palace. We both could see the World Trade Center out of our bedroom windows, for the brief seven days we lived there before the 11th came."

---OK Go and the art of the viral video

---NYC timelapse

---the welcome return of Whit Stillman

---Angelina Jolie

---@CraigatPorlock reviews The Best American Noir of the Century

---Ted Koppel reflects on the death of real news

---lastly, Jasan Bellamy and Ed Howard consider An Autumn Afternoon

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jonathan Lethem explains They Live and other links

---Hugh Jackman has too much iced tea

---the new golden age of the documentary, by Sean O'Hagan:

"I really do think we are living in a golden age of documentary film-making," says Walker, over the phone from Los Angeles, where she is currently on a frantic promotional schedule. "There is a frustration with traditional media and a hunger for documentaries that have the stamp of integrity. The week it opened, my film was number one at the box office in terms of what they call 'per-screen average attendance'. Of all the movies playing in America, a Portuguese-language documentary about the lives of people living on a garbage dump in South America had the highest per-screen average across America. That tells me that people are looking for bigger truths about the way we live now, truths they are not getting from Hollywood or the traditional media."

To a degree, this has always been the case, but today, with the coming of affordable high-end digital camera and laptop technology, it is possible to prep, shoot and edit your own film in a fraction of the time – and the budget – it would take to make a traditional film. In many ways, cheap technology has energised film-making for a fast-forward generation who have little time for the slowness of traditional script-based film-making. "I've been in development hell for four years for a fiction film that never got made," says Walker, bullishly. "I don't have that kind of time to waste. I want to get on and make films that I think need to be made."

---Karina Longworth and The Big Lebowski

---the animated Gettysburg Address (thanks to @KelliMarshall)

---America, a superpower in decline and yet Americans can still stand out confidently in a crowd

---punks on film:

Carlson has Seattle roots at Scarecrow Video (one of the largest video rental stores in the country, possibly the world), which aided and abetted his and Connolly's lunatic dream to catalog not just punk rock movies but every single movie with a punk in it. From the beloved "Punk on Bus" in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (he receives the dreaded Vulcan death grip from Spock for public obnoxiousness) to the runaways of Penelope Spheeris' classic slice of SoCal disaffection, Suburbia, every punk rocker, real or fauxhawk, who ever appeared in a movie from 1974 to 1999 is noted in a capsulized review/commentary, with accompanying artwork (in the classic punk shades of black, white, and hot pink). Accompanying the reviews are tons of interviews with directors and punks/actors (Rock 'n' Roll High School's Allan Arkush, Spheeris, Kirk "Punk on Bus" Thatcher, Clint Howard), all primed and loaded by Richard Hell's fine introduction. Destroy All Movies!!! is more than a reference book for the Mohawk-obsessed: It's a feat akin to taking your shitty punk rock band on a world tour in a crappy '72 Ford Econoline circa 1983. Hard work, but man, when you're done you know you've really been somewhere."

---"Z-Channel: The Uncommon Denominator" by FX Feeney

---there's something fishy about this Brian Eno interview

---the Great Evil returns

---Jake celebrates Seven Samurai

---James Ellroy shapes his noir persona:

But the more powerful subtext of the book describes Ellroy’s lifelong quest to become a serious writer. As a child, he began to develop the habits and compulsions that could have made him either a criminal or a novelist: “I loved to read, brood, peep, stalk, skulk, and fantasize”. His first literary model was Mickey Spillane, his father’s favourite writer. Then, as he said in a Paris Review interview, “I began to read mystery books: the Hardy Boys, Ken Holt. My father would buy me two of these things a week. I could read the damn books in four or five hours. I started stealing them when I was ten years old”. After his father’s death in 1965, Ellroy dabbled in petty crime but also read obsessively in public libraries, stoking his energies with Benzedrex inhalers. He was always thinking, he told the Paris Review, “how I would become a great novelist. I just didn’t think that I would write crime novels. I thought that I would be a literary writer, whose creative duty is to describe the world as it is. The problem is that I never enjoyed books like that. I only enjoyed crime stories. So more than anything, this fascination with writing was an issue of identity. I had a fantasy of what it meant to be a writer: the sports cars, the clothes, the women.”

---Zadie Smith considers The Social Network

---remembering Jill Clayburgh

---media surfaces: incidental media

---the Last Night trailer

---a 1978 seminar with Steven Spielberg

---21st century stoic

---50 ways to celebrate Tilda Swinton as she discusses I Am Love

---Jonathan Lethem explains They Live (1988):

"Holly, played by Meg Foster, enters story and frame in an explicitly Hitchcockian shot, derived from the opening of "Marnie" particularly: walking away from a worm's-eye view, our sense of receding perspective enhanced by her framing in the center of the pillar-and-beam architecture of a parking garage. A neat pale-gray purse and matching heels, plus Foster's hypnotically smooth stride, complete the reference.

Nada's lurking in the garage. Improvising a plan to convey himself out of the bank's vicinity, he'll carjack Holly, making her the last arriving of the film's major characters. Here, "They Live" slows, to give the two a chance to make their pensive, peculiar connection -- a truth-sinking-in interlude for both Nada and the viewer -- and to tempt us briefly with notions of solace, exchanged confidences, even romance. But it's to be a wrong number, in the end.

There's a tenacious movie archetype afoot in this next six minutes of film: the persecuted (usually wrongly accused) man who attaches himself to or absconds with an unwilling female, who then finds herself challenged to evaluate his protestations of innocence, and/or the credibility of the paranoiac plot he claims to be the target of. The point of origin is probably "The 39 Steps" (1935); if some earlier denominator exists, credit for conveyance of this narrative gesture into the filmgoer's imaginative stockpile surely goes to Hitchcock anyway, and he reuses it, with variations, in "Young and Innocent," "Saboteur," and "North by Northwest." (Even "Rear Window" has an element of paranoid-guy-pleads-his-case.)"

---the welcome return of Debra Winger (one of Pauline Kael's favorite actresses)

---Courtney Love, fashion icon

---an interview with Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County

---lastly, "Borrowing Culture in the Remix Age"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Slapping the corpse: For Colored Girls and the polarized critics

After seeing Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, I was both intrigued by the ambitious intensity of the film and appalled by its ramped-up man-hating histrionics. While the film's extremity ultimately got tiresome for me (Perry is the Nigel Tufnel of directors, always keeping his melodrama cranked to 11), I still found the ideological, gendered, and cultural divide on display amongst its critics fascinating. While a friend wondered why I would go see the film, tickets for For Colored Girls sold out for two days at our local cineplex, and the librarian proclaimed Shange's "Choreopoem" the best book when I checked it out from the public library. Ntosake Shange constructed her original play out of a multitude of voices, so I thought I'd do the same here with critical reactions:

---"[For Colored Girls] is a film destined to polarize. Many will hate it. Hopefully more will love it, or at least allow room for it, for its raw brutality, its extremes, its difficult truths." ---Betsy Sharkey

---"The film is based on Ntozake Shange’s electric play, the self-described choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” Inspired by “our mothers,” including Isis, Zora Neale Hurston, Anna May Wong and Calamity Jane, the work, first staged in 1974 as a work in progress and performed ever since, including on Broadway. It is a classic of its unapologetic feminist era, consisting of some 20 poems accompanied by choreographed movement and music, including a blast of Martha and the Vandellas. The characters are seven chromatically differentiated women (brown, yellow, purple, red, green, blue and orange) from points across the country, who recite “dark phrases of womanhood” (the first words in the play) involving infanticide, incest and other horrors. (Mr. Perry adds two more women.)

That might sound unbearable, but done right it’s thrilling — specific in its pain, universal in its reach — and Mr. Perry works very hard and gets it mostly right." ---Manohla Dargis

---"Indeed, the stories Shange tells in the play are socially relevant enough for a showman like Tyler Perry to want to capitalize on them for a contemporary black audience. But Perry's commercial impulses have little to do with Shange's radicalism (she refers to her writing as `cultural aggression'). How likely are we to feel for lady in red and her losses when we're busy watching Janet Jackson struggle to act from behind her perfectly applied lip gloss?" ---from Hilton Als' "Color Vision"

---"Perry's version is set largely in a rundown Harlem apartment building. In one unit is Tangie (Thandie Newton), a bartender and freelance whore whose little sister, Nyla (Tessa Thompson), is starting to follow in her wanton footsteps. Across the hall lives Crystal (Kimberly Elise), whose alcoholic veteran boyfriend, Beau (Michael Ealy), beats on her and their two young children. Kelly (Kerry Washington) is a social worker who checks on Crystal's kids. Crystal works as an assistant for Jo (Janet Jackson), a mega-rich fashion-magazine editor with nothing but disdain for poor people. Juanita (Loretta Devine) is a nurse who runs a non-profit organization helping inner-city women. Tangie and Nyla's mother, Alice (Whoopi Goldberg), is a hellfire-and-brimstone religious fanatic. Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose) teaches dance to Nyla and other teenage girls. Gilda (Phylicia Rashad) manages the apartment building and tries to keep an eye on her tenants. . . .

The mortar that Perry has used to assemble the bricks of Shange's play is the cheapest, crappiest material available. The plot points that fill in the details are standard Lifetime Movie Channel fare: secretly gay husbands, nice guys who turn out to be rapists, infertility caused by STDs, back-alley abortions administered by a chain-smoking crone who sterilizes her instruments in bourbon, etc. Sometimes this banality can be saved by the matriarchal strength of Phylicia Rashad, or by Kimberly Elise's unadorned sincerity. Usually, though, it's just laughably trite. And I do mean laughably. When a rape victim sees her attacker dead in a morgue and her response is to slap his dead face as if challenging him to a duel, what reaction other than laughter can we possibly be expected to have?"

---from Eric D. Snider's review "All the Trite Cliches of the Rainbow"

---"Tyler Perry is no stranger to kitchen-sink melodrama. But “For Colored Girls’’ is the kitchen sink, the washing machine, the curling iron, the sofa, and the ironing board. It’s Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Razzie. It’s astounding. It’s terrible. It’s astounding. Then terrible again. It’s too much — too much screaming, too much crying, too much preaching, too much reaching, too much healing, too much feeling, and, by the time a man dangles two small black children from an apartment window, it’s too much too-much. The audience I saw it with didn’t seem to know whether to clap when it was over or start taking Lipitor." ---Wesley Morris

---"The last thing I wanted (or needed) to see was another film that painted the black man as society's stammering uber-demon, who comes to steal, kill and destroy; or another project that portrays black men as this nation's perpetual delinquents — jobless, thoughtless sexual misfits who can't stop screwing long enough to pick our heads up and realize how we're letting down our women, our children and families, our God and our America.

Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husbands, too ... (you know the rest).

Quite frankly, it's a narrative I've had enough of, thank you very much.

In For Colored Girls, yes, there is a disproportionate number of troubled black men. There is one redemptive male character who isn’t a killer, a rapist, or a liar." ---from Lee Hill's "Finding a Place for Colored Boys"

---"American feminism has changed a lot since 1975, and takes a less monolithic attitude toward male sexism and female suffering, conceding that while men can be oppressors and women oppressed, women do, after all, have free will; they can (and should) take responsibility for their pain as well as their pleasure. and exert control over both. These are more complex attitudes than Perry's broad-brushstroke filmmaking might seem capable of articulating. Articulate them he does -- not that critics notice or care. In their eyes he'll always be an interloper, and he'll never get credit for being anything but a vulgarian bumpkin who made a fortune pandering to black churchgoers and kissing Oprah Winfrey's ring.

I've barely touched on what I like best about Perry: the fact that, in film after film, he gathers together some of the greatest African-American actresses in America -- actresses who are lucky to get one or two scenes in a film with a predominantly white cast -- in leading roles that let them chase dreams, make mistakes, fall in love, have their hearts broken, flirt, seduce, manipulate, preen, pout, rail against injustice, and endure and transcend Old Testament-level suffering. And they reward Perry with performances so heartfelt, and often so accomplished, that they make all of his films worth seeing no matter what you think of him as a director." ---Matt Zoller Seitz

---lastly, Loretta Devine's thoughts (who stole the movie for me):

That said, the movie critics who will help shape that legacy are predominantly white men who’ve always had it out for Tyler Perry. Isn’t that a disadvantage in the immediate term?

"You know. White men run everything. Don’t start me up. [Laughs] There are people who love it. There are people who think it’s not necessary. There are going to be black men who say, “I don’t want to hear this any more.” But this is a drama, you know? This is a piece of entertainment for people to go into and come out of and have things to talk about and reflect on their own lives and say, “Oh, God, that was me in my 20s,” or, “That was a problem my girlfriend had.” Because the movie resolves itself, and it teaches you that you have to find that thing inside you — and you have to love yourself spiritually. That’s the last thing that the film tells and teaches every woman: No matter what has happened to you, you have to go inside and love yourself. We’re in a country that still embraces all kinds of cultures, and there’s racism across the board for everybody. The people who run this country are primarily white men. So what you gonna do?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

links

---Fear on Film discussion with Landis, Carpenter, and Cronenberg

---a parkour video gallery

---a Who's Who of Doonesbury

---Jamie Stuart's video interviews with Eastwood, Damon, Assayas, and Dante

---Philip Kemp's profile of Burt Lancaster

---"Toward a Universal Cinema," an interview with Steven Soderbergh:

WPJ: Let’s look to the future. Where do you think we’re going to be in 25 years in terms of global cinema?

SODERBERGH: Well, it’s hard for me to talk about where cinema is going to be in 25 years because I’m not convinced that it’s going to be relevant. I think it’s absolutely conceivable that the world is going to be in a lot worse shape a lot sooner than anyone thinks.

I think this place could be “Mad Max” in ten years if we don’t really start to act. And I can’t say that I look around and feel confident that that will take place. Whenever I start looking ten years or so into the future, movies immediately get pushed to the side because I feel like that’s really not what anybody’s going to be thinking about. If we don’t go through another variation of the Enlightenment soon, I really think we’re going to be in trouble.

---NPR's guide to blogging

---The Anthology of Rap

---Boon's In Praise of Copying

---"Having nothing is almost incredibly futuristic."

---Rachel McAdams on the brink

---Dean Treadway likes Greenberg:

Greenberg is a movie that exudes the sensation of being 40 and lost in the this now-2010-world. Ben Stiller's Roger Greenberg is a man who's sad that his reference about Albert Hammond's one-hit wonder "It Never Rains In Southern California" is lost on a new friend. When he mentions it to his brother's assistant, Florence (Greta Gerwig), she responds with an awkward silence, and you can feel that spurring him on to a bottle of whiskey (which he puts on to a to-get list, along with ice cream sandwiches, when she asks him if he wants anything from the grocery store).

I have absolutely never felt like a movie had opened up my brainbox, peered in, glopped its mits into the remains, and slathered it onscreen as I have with Noah Baumbauch's Greenberg. It's MY movie. I feel protective of it, like I did with SCTVway back in 1977 when no one else I knew got or watched it. I think it's a movie that heartbeats on where the forgotten tadpoles are coming from--you know, that tiny clan called X, smooshed in between the overwhelming Boomers and Ys. Baumbach is my age, so, given his newest movie (after The Squid and the Whale's excellence and the muddy Margot at the Wedding), I'm now even more convinced he knows abandonment intimately, and is bound to paint its details.

---the 25 most creative web videos

---a video camera ad

---Suster's "The Future of Television and the Digital Living Room"

---Atomic Tom and their iPhones

---Un Chien Andalou and Detour (among others)

---Jim Groom's commentary on The Shining

---lastly, Bellamy and Howard converse about rock films