Friday, February 26, 2010


Finally, the big one, expanded to ten movies because there are like twenty deserving ones. I present to you the greatest pair of presenters ever to grace any telecast: Robert Mitchum and Sigourney Weaver!


- Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
For Cage's performance, for the iguanas, for gleefully giving in its ending.

- Crank: High Voltage
For the great Statham surviving a fall from a plane, for taking cues from video games and actually meaning it, for sweet, sweet violence.

- Goodbye Solo
For Bahrani's continuing exploration of America, for the chemistry between Solo and Red, for the mountains.

- Hunger
For the shit, for the piss, for the acting.

- The Hurt Locker
For the virtuoso first scene, for William James, for the borrowed scene from Lost.

- Inglourious Basterds
For the gigantic pipe, for the dairy farm and restaurant scenes, for fun with regional accents.

- Pontypool
For the best new virus in quite a while, for Stephen McHattie's voice, for balancing theory, plot, and fun.

- Silent Light
For the sunrise, for the sunset, for everything in between.

- Summer Hours
For making a movie commissioned by a museum that questions the use of museums, for an amazing cast, for looking towards the future.

- Up
For those devastating 10 minutes, for the character design (Doug! Kevin!), for Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer's voices.

The Hurt Locker. So there.

We're gonna try to do an Oscar Preview next week, but God knows I haven't had anything new to say about movies in days now, so we'll see. (I guess luckily I won't have to talk about movies, just the Oscars. ZING!)


Actors! What can you say about 'em? Here's Halle Berry!


- Nicolas Cage for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
It's one of the craziest performances of his career, and you know that's saying something. His hunchback walk, his timing, his eyebrows, they're all excellent.

- Matt Damon for The Informant!
Damon's pretty much always good, but he's never been this funny, nor this good at subtly hinting at darkness even before things start to totally fall apart.

- Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
The final shot of him here is as iconic an image as an actor can hope to have, I think. He has just enough swagger to pull this character off.

- Sam Rockwell for Moon
This movie had the potential to be dreadfully boring, but Rockwell's performance is hilarious and surprising in its wackiness.

- Souléymane Sy Savané for Goodbye Solo
He plays the title character with a kind of aggressive friendliness, but does wonderfully to make that friendliness not a mask to hide his inner troubles, but a genuine part of his personality.

To the break of dawn! If you haven't seen Bad Lieutenant, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Cage is an absolute force of nature as usual, and with Herzog's help he gets a movie that fully rewards his madness.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, to present the Maciej for Best Actress, I have to the honor to introduce two time Oscar winner (sadly neither for Big) and all-around hilarious dude, Mr. Tom Hanks!


- Isabelle Furhman for Orphan
Orphan is a very fun little horror movie that would be considerably less fun if Fuhrman wasn't so charming and evil. Creating a memorable horror villain is not an achievement that should go unrewarded.

- Charlotte Gainsbourgh for Antichrist
I'd assume that Embodiment of the Rage Felt at Thousands of Years of Oppressed Women is a role that many actresses wouldn't mind trying their hand at, but Charlotte attacks it with such a palpable darkness in her eyes that I have a hard time believing many other actresses could pull it off like she has.

- Maria Onetto for The Headless Woman
Lucrecia Martel's film about a woman who might have run someone over on a country road necessitates a supremely detached acting style, and Onetto, with her eyes, her movements, and her mumbling, very effectively gives the impression of someone who just isn't there anymore.

- Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
She's so filled with joy here. The Julie parts of Julie & Julia are absolutely terrible, but any time Streep's Julia Child appears the fog is lifted. I just wanted to hear her talk and see her cook, and see her respond to people by leaning in with her head. My friends and I were left just doing the Julia voice for hours on end. If only this movie were just called Julia.

- Tilda Swinton for Julia
Obviously. She spends no time making her character likable and instead works on exploring the drunken mess for over two hours.

Tilda, predictably. She's hella expressive whether she's wearing a black mask or a very shiny dress. The points in the movie at which you can tell she cares about the kid but not as much as she cares about herself are pure, wonderful character development by facial and vocal tics.


The lovely Liv Ullmann is with us this morning to present an award to the auteurs themselves. I've seen her direct a play and let me tell ya, the woman knows a little something about directing. WOOO!

- Ramin Bahrani for Goodbye Solo
No one else this year synthesized narrative and observation of the everyday life of a community like Bahrani. His subtle nods to melodrama complement his neorealism perfectly.

- Kathryn Bigelow for the Hurt Locker
Who has any superlatives left for what she does here? The pacing, the repetition, the action, you can't fuck with any of it.

- Werner Herzog for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
This screenplay could very easily have been a slightly odd police procedural. Herzog shifts the tone to completely batshit and lets Nic Cage run wild and it comes out the other side as a sort of bizarro masterpiece.

- Steve McQueen for Hunger
Hunger, from the look, to the acting, to the ideas, is a very detailed film, especially considering that McQueen had to basically design three very different parts to it.

- Carlos Reygadas for Silent Light
Reygadas gave us more straight-up beauty this year than anybody else, which might be enough in itself. But he also made a great movie, delivering a story about a group of people I was completely unfamiliar with a nuanced exploration of morality and nature where lesser directors might have gone for exploitation.

- #1
Bigelow. Bigelow. Bigelow. Bigelow. Bigelow, Bigelow, Bigelow.

Obviously I'm running out of things to write about these movies, so luckily there are only three categories left. Sooon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

(original) WORD UP

Our final award of the night (you think the Oscars take a long time), is presented by the lovely Holly Hunter. Have you seen Copycat? You should see Copycat. Harry Connick Jr.'s great in that too. Here's Best Original Screenplay!

- NOM'D:
- Olivier Assayas for Summer Hours
Whether or not you think Assayas coming back from B-movie Land is good, I'd think you'll be able to find something interesting in his reflection on what objects mean to us. The way he ends it (this is not the type of movie that can really be spoiled) with a new generation is wonderful.

- Bahareh Azimi and Ramin Bahrani for Goodbye Solo
The relationship between Senegalese driver Solo and suicidal old grump Red is written with warmth, grit, and an eye towards realism. It's another great movie from Bahrani (his 2nd co-written with Azami) about, to be purposefully reductive, America.

- Mark Boal for the Hurt Locker
Boal's script gives equal energy to investigating the psychological makeup of its characters and investigating the Action/War Movie Hero as a type.

- Ethan and Joel Coen for A Serious Man
It's some of the most effectively dark comedy they've written in a while, and it's overflowing with great ideas, not the least of which a character who for the first part of the movie is only heard screaming from the bathroom.

- Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
I don't mean to keep harping on it, but Death Proof really sucked. So that the dialogue here is filled with so much tension, comedy, hell, even relevance to the plot and characters, is both a relief and an immense pleasure.

I'll give this to The Coen Brothers for taking their style to an even darker place and doing so with a considerable amount of very hard earned laughs. The irony and cynicism not only let the emotion shine through; they enhance it.

(adapted) WORD UP

It was much easier narrowing Adapted Screenplay down to 5 this year than it was narrowing down its Original counterpart category. Nevertheless, these 5 are awesome. Speaking of awesome, here's Gene Hackman to tell you about them.

- Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, and Tony Roche for In the Loop, spun-off from the TV show The Thick of It
Some characters in In the Loop are written so that you're almost scared for them to come on the screen, because they're gonna say something so darkly and angrily hilarious you might not be able to take it. That's a fucking comedy script.

- Neil Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9, expanded from Neil Blomkamp's short film Alive in Joburg
It's an excitingly plotted, politically interesting movie. The trope of a character who works for a giant organization or government and slowly discovers its evils is not an uncommon one, especially in movies about the future or alternate timelines, but Wikus totally works as a naive little prick who is in way over his head.

- Tony Burgess for Pontypool, adapted from his own novel Pontypool Changes Everything
Semiotic Zombie Flick is a great hook (if your target audience is me), and Pontypool delivers, even (maybe especially) when the characters have to talk their way through figuring out how they're gonna get out of their besieged radio station.

- Scott Z. Burns for The Informant!, adapted from the Kurt Eichenwald book of the same name
It's not saying too much that The Informant! had the most entertaining inner monologues of the year, but their progression from slightly unhinged and obsessive to completely out there is an achievement in both character development and comedy.

- Henry Selick for Coraline, adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name
I'm a sucker for kids stories that are both very dark and very gorgeous, what can I say? The differences between the "real world" and "other world" characters are wonderfully written.

- W1NN3RS:
All those In the Loop guys. It was the funniest movie of the year and it's not even close. To reduce it to a lot of cursing doesn't give it nearly enough credit, (though the cursing is really great). There's a wealth of great characters here, and about a billion great lines.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Marty Scorsese is here. You may know him as that guy who only makes movies with Leo Dicaprio. They do look good though, so let's pretend he's standing next to a gigantic screen and gaze with him at stills from the movies nominated for the Maciej in Best Cinematography.


- Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker
Ackroyd gets across the general grit of the Iraqi streets well, and the shootout in the desert looks awesome.

- Sean Bobbitt for Hunger
Whether in the harsh prison sequences at the beginning or the more ethereal stuff towards the end, Bobbit captures the texture of his scenes as well as anyone.

- Anthony Dod Mantle for Antichrist
The opening just looks so incredibly beautiful. I don't think think Dod Mantle deserved all the love he got for last year's hand held sprinting in Slumdog, but his black and white prologue is just unimpeachably gorgeous.

- Robert Richardson for Inglourious Basterds
After the disappointment of Death Proof I was very cautious in my optimism for Inglorious Basterds. The opening shot of the dairy farm immediately made me very comfortable.

- Alexis Zabe for Silent Light
You'd think that, after watching local news my whole life, a time-lapse of the sunrise wouldn't be such a big deal. You would obviously be very wrong.


Alexis Zabe for Silent Light. There are a lot of wonderful uses of light in the movie, go figure, but it's not just cinematography calling attention to itself, it's absolutely essential to the thematic concerns of the movie. I really wish I had gotten to see this on a big screen and hope to at some point in the future.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Two decades after being snubbed for his heroic performance as Balldozer in YMD favorite Vision Quest, Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for a very good performance in the otherwise very boring Last King of Scotland. Good for him. Here he is presenting the Maciej for Best Supporting Actress.


- Marion Cotillard for Nine
Please don't take this as any sort of approval of Nine; it's quite the opposite. The fact that Cotillard was able to pull a memorable, human performance out of such a terrible mess of a movie is simply amazing.

- Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire
Completely batshit and understandable without being the least bit likable, Mo'Nique's performance is as amazing as everyone says it is.

- Samantha Morton for The Messenger
When you first see Morton's character she is reacting to her husband's death by consoling the messengers. She makes it seem like the most natural reaction one could have.

- Lorna Raver for Drag Me to Hell
Granted, a lot of this is makeup. But a lot of it is also awesome physical and voice acting. It's one of the most fun to watch performances of the year.

- Edith Scob for Summer Hours
As the matriarch in Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, Scob is lively and thoughtful. Her eyes in an early scene in which she receives b-day presents are more expressive than Oscar Nominee Anna Kendrick's whole body.

I just can't bring myself to pick against Mo'Nique. Her performance is one of the most genuinely disturbing in years (and to be honest there's definitely residual love from Beerfest and her Real Talk with respect to the Oscar process).


Moving along, here's Fordham University's own Denzel Washington to present an award to some folks who make fake worlds possible. Here it is, Art Direction and Production Design.


- Phil Brotherton, Bo Henry, Tom Proost, and Henry Selick for Coraline
Dark, fantastic, and slightly thrift store-y is pretty much what you would expect from Henry Selick and that's what's here. But it's great, and there's not one but two worlds of it.

- Karl Júlíusson and Tim Pannen for Antichrist
If you're gonna make a cabin/forest to stage Woman's explosion/revenge for a history of oppression, you better design the hell out of it. This is dark.

- Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haig for A Serious Man
Rabbi Marshak's office and Larry's neighbor's house are both absolutely perfect.

- Tom McCullugh and Brendan Rankin for Hunger
The shit-stained walls of the Maze cell have an incredible texture. Hypnotic shit.

- David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco for Inglourious Basterds
The claustrophobic farmer's house, the grand theater on fire, the bar (with its tucked-away, villain-hiding corner), the tower in the film-within-the-film. The sets in this are

The Wascos win it. I was going to give this to Coraline until the last second, but thinking about how many of the sets in Inglorious Basterds I remembered in detail swung it. It might be Tarantino's overall best looking movie ever.


As at least one of the nominees (not to mention A Single Man) proves, pretty clothes probably won't make a terrible movie worth watching. But they can't hurt. Here to present some gorgeous clothes, the gorgeous Jane Fonda:


- Bina Deigeler for The Limits of Control
For Isaach de Banknolé's suits and Tilda Swinton's albino outlaw look (it would be gauche to thank for Paz de la Huerta's transparent raincoat and sweater, though the latter is the softest looking garment in the world).

- Monika Jacobs for The Last Station
Maybe I just got so bored of this terrible movie's plot, characters, and "ideas" that I had to focus on something, but I did really like some of the costumes, from some of Hellen Mirren's fancier dresses and hats to James McAvoy's more utilitarian work shirt, with the three buttons on the side of the collar.

- April Napier for Julia
This one gets nominated for the incredibly shiny green dress with gold shoes that Tilda wears in the opening and the solid black mask she uses later.

- Janet Patterson for Bright Star
It's essentially a movie about a fashion designer, so the costumes better be special. They don't disappoint.

- Anna B. Sheppard for Inglourious Basterds
Nazi uniforms are Nazi Uniforms, but Shoshanna's red dress is iconic and Bridget Von Hammersmark's outfits are even better. Her hat looks like it was made for that card to be sitting on it.


Janet Patterson wins for Bright Star, which is a pretty good movie, by the way. The plaid worn by Paul Schneider is pretty great, but of course Abbie Cornish gets the best stuff. Her collars and hats help us understand the imagination of Fanny Brawne, who miss Cornish then plays quite well.


I think when we do an Oscar preview I'll have our editor friend Jawn come in and explain what a good Film Editor actually does. Until then, let's let a young John Travolta present my nominees for Best Film Editing and pretend we understand!


- Chris Innis and Bob Murawski for The Hurt Locker
It's hard to recall an action movie this decade with so much tension, and I think tension is an achievement that can at least partially be credited to sharp, patient editing.

- Mark Jakubowicz and Fernando Villena for Crank: High Voltage
I don't know for a fact that Crank has more cuts than any other 2009 movie, but it sure seems like it. Neveldine/Taylor's mission of maximum visceral impact relies a lot on sudden, unexpected but meaningful ("WTF" is a meaning) edits.

- Sally Menke for Inglourious Basterds
Quentin's trusty editor again does a great job both in ramping up both the tension (the opening, the dessert scene, the bar scene) and the comedy (any scene with the Basterds and their victims). It's to her and the films credit that none of the scenes I used as examples of tension are free of comedy, and vice-versa.

- Joe Walker for Hunger
The film has three sections, all edited completely differently (rapid images of violence and squalor, a long, one-shot conversation, and juxtaposition of nature and a man dying) and successfully.

- Ti West for The House of the Devil
Ti West wrote, directed, and edited this 80s throwback, and the combination of slow dread, unexpected introductions ("are you the babysitter?"), and violent climax (not as good as the rest of the movie, but that was always going to be impossible) make this exquisitely-paced film an easy candidate for our editing prize.

At the risk of being like AMPAS and confusing "Best" with "Most" in a technical category, I'm giving the award to Misters Jakubowicz and Villena for Crank: High Voltage. "ADD," "MTV," and "short attention span" have been complaints about action movies for decades now, but no one has owned those things with nearly this much flair and insanity. It's an Achievement in Editing indeed.


In proud award show tradition, we retreat immediately from the glamour of an acting category into the depths of a so-called Technical Award. Here to present Best Makeup, the corpse of Jack Lemmon and the shockingly lively Cloris Leachman:

NOM NOMS (make-up design teams are huge, so whoever is most responsible for the winner can step up and pick the award up or have it mailed, lemme know):

- District 9
I think a lot of its best effects were combinations between Makeup and CGI, but the prosthetic work in District 9 is the most impressive makeup achievement in a Sci-Fi movie this year. I was suitably grossed out and interested in the transformation.

- Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi doing a B-horror movie was sure to mean some wonderful, gross prosthetic work, and there was definitely a lot of that in Drag Me to Hell. Most importantly, Lorna Raver gets turned into a walking old-person disease and the world is better for it.

- Hunger
You can't do a movie about a dude starving himself to death without a very committed actor and some good makeup, and Hunger thankfully has both. It's not just Bobby Sands though, and the hair and makeup of the other prisoners in the no wash protest is quite convincing as well.

- Moon
There's a lot of Sam Rockwell in this movie, and while the difference in his clean-cut character and his unshaven one isn't staggering, it definitely helps his character's considerably twisted arc.

- the Road
Viggo gets real gaunt and dirty, and while the movie itself may not be all that great, the look of the characters is never less than convincing.


It's a two horse race here, and I'll take the silly horror make up of Drag Me to Hell in a photo finish over the sci-fi monstrosity of District 9. What can I say, I can't not reward a slobbery old hag with her teeth knocked out biting Allison Lohman's chin.


To introduce our first award of the evening, a very talented actress who you may know as the pre-Fred Thompson DA on Law & Order (or as a two time Academy Award Winner), the always elegant Dianne Wiest presenting Best Supporting Actor:


- Peter Capaldi (In the Loop)
Everyone spits darts in In the Loop, but Capaldi gets the best lines and, even when his character is at a disadvantage, always seems like the most likely to either kill several people or implode completely.

- Woody Harrelson (the Messenger)
In retrospect, it's almost inevitable that Woody was eventually gonna get a part as a a troubled but hilarious alcoholic and hit it out of the park.

- Fred Melamed (A Serious Man)
There were some great monsters in the movies last year, and Fred Melamed's terrifyingly "nice" Sy Ableman is definitely one of them. I cringed every time he touched Michael Stuhlbarg's cuckold, and I'll take him here over Richard Kind's yelling from the bathroom (which was also great).

- Hilmi Sözer (Jerichow)
This is maybe, slightly category fraud-ish, but Sözer doesn't actually have the lion's share of the screen time in Jerichow and I need to honor him somewhere. The film simply doesn't work unless his performance is amazing, and it is.

- Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)
He really is just so damn good in every scene of the movie he's in. Watching IB a second time, knowing the choice that Hans Landa makes at the end of the movie, made the way he builds the character seem even more impressive.


Hilmi Sözer. Waltz deserves every award that he's getting (it's not like the Oscars were going to nom Jerichow), but I have to rep for Sözer here. He's tasked with giving a real emotional performance opposite actors who are being purposefully one-dimensional and he does it brilliantly. This awesome movie would be a disaster if he wasn't so good in it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Maciejs

So the Oscars are coming up in two weeks, and we here at YMD HQ are busy planning the menu for our Oscar party and catching up on the last few pieces of terrible Oscar bait that we have yet to see. And, just like last year, we will get our epic Oscar preview some time next week. But this year, I'd like to spend some more time talking about movies I actually like. So, for the next few days, this blog will be the domain of the Maciejs:

Maciej Elegibility Requirements:
Debut, one-week theatrical run in NYC in 2009.

Oscar Categories that aren't Maciej Categories:
Best Song (they suck), Best Score (Up was the only one I remember standing out this year), Best Foreign Language Film (they're real movies!), Best Animated Feature Film (them too!), All shorts (I'll only get to see the Oscar nominees), Best Documentary (I've seen like two this year), Best Sound Mixing/Editing (I'm just not good with sound), Best Visual Effects (because Avatar ain't gettin' shit).

I've done entirely too much terrible Photoshopping for this. See ya tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

61. Miranda Lambert - "Kerosene" (Epic, 2005)
62. Big Black - "Kerosene" (from the Atomizer album, Homestead Records 1986)

"Kerosene" is a simple, direct title that, with a small amount of context, tells you most of what you need to know about the lyrical content of these songs. The female-sung, country "Kerosene" is about a wronged woman burning her cheating lover's stuff, while the Midwestern 80s noise-punk "Kerosene" is about a disaffected, small-town youth playing with fire. For a talented artist, a clichéd concept is as good a jumping off point as any, and these are very talented artists.

Krazy about Crazy Heart

My expectations going into Crazy Heart were fairly low. Maybe it was the couple of friends who didn't like it, maybe I'm just so neck deep in Oscar buzz for shitty things that I'm starting to lower expectations right off the bat, I dunno. My friend Charles says I love any band that sings about drinking, and this movie has a bunch of drinking in it and treats itself like a big old country song, too.

And I'll definitely recommend Crazy Heart. I think it's a film that owns its clichés (conveniently also many of the clichés of country music). For example, when Maggie Gyllenhaal's character said that Jeff Bridges' character is just like "every other man," putting every ounce of twang available to her into that man, it for a minute seemed to me almost embarrassing. But soon after it became my key into the movie, an example well worn cliché, performed as one, that expressed a very true emotion. These kinds of traditional moments are infused into a contemporary world/story that contains alcohol rehab and songwriting royalties, and it's all filled out with well acted and written characters.

I'm not gonna say Bridges deserves an Oscar (anyways, I feel like his Oscar campaign is even more along the lines of "he's pretty good in this, but really, it's his turn" than most Oscar campaigns), but he's pretty much as good as a washed up country singer as you would expect him to be. His scenes with Robert Duvall are especially loose and wonderful. Gylenhaal is good too, as is Colin Farrell, whose character is a reflection of the movie's relative optimism - a modern country star who does his best to respect tradition while working within the Nashville system. It's not revolutionary, I know, but it seems to me both genuine and interesting, and I'll take that any day of the week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where you from? Oakland, smokin

63. Luniz - "I Got 5 On It (Bay Ballas Remix ft. Dru Down, E-40, Humpty Hump, Richie Rich, Shock G, and Spice 1)" (Noo Trybe Records, 1995)

I was nine years old when this song came out and God knows I wasn't thinking of goin' half on a sack with anybody (maybe a sack of White Castles but my folks were paying for that anyways). Still, if memory serves (and it usually doesn't), this song coming on the radio or Rap City resulted in anyone within striking distance sinking further into their chair by about 6-10 inches (depending on height, starting position, and chair flexibility). I've never been to Oakland and am woefully undereducated on its history, but I have to imagine this is its civic anthem.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cinema Shitaliano

- You might think this screen cap is unflattering towards Penelope Cruz, but I swear it's no more unflattering out of context than it is in the scene I grabbed it from. Rob Marshall's Nine throws a bunch of very talented actors (and Kate Hudson and Fergie) into a creatively dead, ugly, boring movie and watches them try not to drown in a boring, misguided mess. Cruz actually does an admirable job once she starts acting, but before that happens the viewer is forced to sit through the above scene, in which she does a completely embarrassing SEXXY burlesque routine while singing a forgettable song.

- I can't decide whether Kate Hudson's "Cinema Italiano" scene is better or worse. With Penelope I was crying inside for this obviously talented actress trying to perform through a terrible costume and set; with Hudson at least I wasn't too troubled by her suffering. Kudos on casting Kate Hudson as a vapid, one-dimensional American blonde, I guess?

- I'd wager Marion Cotillard would be sitting on Cruz' Oscar nom right now if Harvey Weinstein hadn't gotten greedy and tried to run her as Best Actress (especially once it became apparent that people didn't like this movie). Besides her character having the most Oscar-y role and scenes, she's actually really great as Guido's wife. It's really impressive how much genuine emotion she gets from this material.

- DDL is just stuck here. His accent is silly, his mannerisms add very little, and I couldn't make myself give a shit about anything his character did.

- Fergie is well cast as what is essentially a monster.

- Nicole Kidman has nothing to do here.

- Sophia Loren has nothing to do either. She's just her because she's Sophia Loren.

- Judi Dench could do all of this in her sleep.

- How the hell does a musical based on 8 1/2 not have more interesting set pieces?

- Aside from very admirable performances from Cotillard and Cruz, this movie is exactly as worthless as you'd think.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Get me to the doctor

64. David Bowie - "Blackout" (from the "Heroes" album, RCA, 1977)

I have been making beans and rice a bunch recently, as I don't have too much money and it really seems like something that someone who doesn't have that much money should be eating. Obviously beans and rice are also real delicious when prepared with even a tiny modicum of effort. I felt like really going in on some BnR today, so I thought I'd do the one thing that, in the 21st century, we all seem to agree makes any meal better. I threw an egg on it.

Beans and Rice with a Poached Egg (2 servings or so)

Make the rice however you want. There are hundreds of ways to make rice. I used Basmati cuz I had some laying around.

Start the beans by taking three slices of bacon and chop them up. Throw them into a medium-low saucepan that's heavy enough so as not to be useless. Render the bacon fat and then take it out with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.

Next, chop half an onion and a stalk of celery and throw it into the bacon fat. Cook that stuff until it's soft and then toss in the bacon, a can of kidney beans, a 1/4 cup of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of something spicy (I made some chili powder a while ago, it's delicious, use hot sauce if you want tho), and some salt. Let that cook for like 15-20 minutes until it reaches the consistency you like.

When the beans and rice are done, poach an egg. Don't poach it too long, make it runny. Obviously I was too excited about this meal to transfer the egg properly but it looks even better this way. This should make enough beans for two dinner servings but I'll prolly do it in 1 1/2 cuz it tastes too damn good.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I saw your sister at the market

65. the Exploding Hearts - "Throwaway Style" (from the Guitar Romantic album, Dirtnap Records 2003)

Yeah, they mostly died.


If you enjoy tripping your balls off, laughing at political ads, and actors dressed up as wolves dressed up as sheep, you're probably going to like this gem from this lady:

She's running against Senate high elder Barbara Boxer in the fall, but first must take on her republican opponent in the primary Tom Campell, former financial advisor for the Governator. The gist of Fiorina's argument seems to be that Campbell has called himself a fiscal conservative, but is actually not. Somewhat of a "wolf in sheep's clothing," if you will. I bet you think you get the idea, but would be better served by taking that metaphor and acting it out for you over three and a half minutes:

Was I right? I was right, wasn't I?

It's definitely not TV.

I don't always love everything put out by HBO. Tell Me You Love Me was the the first televised taint, and hopefully the last time I'll ever see one, Dane Cook's Tourgasm was a show starring Dane Cook, Bored to Death although better in the end, is still barely tolerable for me, and Arli$ was the worst thing to ever happen to my TV. Oh, also Entourage exists. My point is, they've had some misses in their past, every network has. And let's be serious, most networks haven't put out The Sopranos, Big Love, Six Feet Under, The Wire and about a dozen other critically acclaimed, obsession worthy shows. But here's my problem with their latest venture, How To Make It In America: they're not even trying. It's just another show about a tightly knit group of friends struggling to make it in the big city while living in their well-lit New York apartments in between going to swanky art openings and parties at rich people's lofts. It combines the relationship faux pas of SATCH (the H doesn't stand for anything, but makes for a more fun acronym) with the utter broness of that Marky Mark bullshit everyone keeps insisting is hilarious (it's not).

Yeah, this looks like the abode of a struggling artist.

This isn't a new thought, people complain about these shows all the time, but there's something so insipid and demeaning about How To Make It In America even for just a bad television show that really sets something off in me. It has a very Up in the Air-like "We're going to talk about the ECONOMY because THAT'S what REAL people are talking about" quality to it that just rubs me the wrong way, well...kind of like Up in the Air did. As someone struggling to make enough money to pay rent in New York (like I am) along with their close group of friends (like my friends) would tell you, it's hard, but also extremely boring. No, I don't want there to be a show about three people sitting in a Brooklyn loft apartment at 9am on a Wednesday drinking coffee, listening to music and talking about TMZ posts, because that wouldn't make for interesting television. But what I really don't want is for television and movie executives to make "relatable" shows that pander to idea that I want to watch anything that remotely resembles my life. Because they will fail. The shows I like have zero to do with my real life. I like to watch shows about deviant plastic surgeons, an island that may or may not be Purgatory, polygamy, and various "reality" shows which if you know anything at all, means anything but. While writing this I'm watching a movie about Nazi zombies directed by Joel Schumacher (I'm very split about how I will feel about this in the end, but you get my point). I know I'm not in the majority, Entourage is still pretty popular as I see from my facebook newsfeed. But I wonder if even they will embrace something as terribly written and produced as this pile of shit (note to writers: bros do not get down to Cobra Starship. Ever). I had high hopes for this show, as the opening title sequence is amazing, and was shot by one of my photographic heroes, Boogie, and I always enjoy a good title sequence.

In closing, this is the worst television show ever made. This is not my opinion, it is a fact. Disagree with me? Read the beautifully phrased subtitle at the header of this page (thanks, MacieJ), or watch the pilot here for yourself and decide. Or don't. I'm going to enjoy the rest of my snowday with some undead SS soldiers and close it with the new episode of Nip/Tuck.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Tonight I will quickly recommend Jerichow, Christian Petzold's riff on James Cain's the Postman Always Rings Twice, at this point one of the foundational texts (Myths, even) of modern noir. Michael Sicinski wrote a great analysis of it at Cinema Scope, and on first viewing it's my favorite movies of last year. Petzold uses the traditional Postman myth to explore modern day Germany and its relationship with Turkish immigrants. So while Benno Fürmann gets the most screen time as the young poor dude who cuckolds the rich dude (and looking suspiciously like Randy Orton), it's the cuckold, a Turkish immigrant who owns a chain of snack shops and is married to a German woman, who is the center of his story. One of the ways this becomes clear is the performance of Hilmi Sözer, whose range of emotion stands in distinct contrast to Furrman and Nina Hoss, who mostly just brood, say their lines, and violently make out sometimes. But this works wonderfully, and is a great example of how by focusing on a single character and shading that character slighltly differently an old Myth can be transformed into something new. Watch a Postman adaptation (Luchino Visconti's Ossessione is awesome) (or, hell, read the book, it'll prolly take you the same amount of time), and then watch this movie. It's an adaptation that very much enriches the source material and is enriched by the viewer's familiarity with it.

(Netflix INSTANT)

An imminent attack upon my heart I fear

67. Lene Lovich - "New Toy" (Stiff, 1981)
66. Lene Lovich - "Lucky Number" (Stiff, 1978)

Now that I've fully humiliated myself with my previous post, maybe I've ruined my chances of anyone reading this ever appreciating the wonderful Ms. Lene Lovich (I should have written this one first). As I said, when my best friend's mother gave me Stateless on vinyl, it rocked my world, and I listened to it pretty exclusively for a few months. These days, it makes a regular rotation every month or two, and hasn't lost a bit of its magic. Why she didn't completely blow up in the 80s will forever remain a mystery to me. All the components were there, but there might have been something about her performance arty way of doing things that turned people off. She wore brightly colored braids she fashioned into bows atop her head, performing her songs as if she was playing the lead in a fucked up gothic version of Grease, and occasionally involving half naked men and buckets of blood. So she did all of this, and made great pop music, and failed.

Yet some greater force allows Lady Gaga to remain alive, and successful. God is dead.

Tell me this song shouldn't have been a major anthem of 1980s materialism, Madonna be damned.

And finally, her biggest hit (to date mind you, she still makes music and I'm still waiting for her to blow up), "Lucky Number." Lovich once joked the song would have had more international success if there wasn't a chorus of men chanting "number two" at the end, but it makes her silliness even more endearing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Short Film Sundays #1

Since I'm usually too lazy (for no reason at all) to post on Sundays, I'm gonna start this thing (which I'm sure I'll forget to do next weekend. We don't watch enough short films. This film is by one of my favorite directors in the world, Guy Maddin, and was commissioned for the 2000 Toronto International film Festival. It's six minutes long, so watch that shit.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Would you like to come back as a laboratory rat?

Way back in the day, I decided my cause of choice was animal rights. I don't know why. Wait, yes I do. Besides already hating meat, my official B-52's fanclub newsletter informed me that Kate Pierson was arrested for storming the offices of Vogue and protesting wearing fur (a New York Post headline read: "POLICE THROW PIERSON INTO LOVE SHACK" and no, I wish I was clever enough to make that up). I was enthralled. This phase lasted for a while, and while I still think that wearing fur, cosmetic experimentation, and vivisection are all disgusting and reprehensible, I'm certainly a lot more laid back about the whole thing these days (I still don't like meat though). When PETA and Rhino Records released a benefit CD together aptly titled Tame Yourself, I jumped at the bit.

Look at how early 90s epic this shit is. With the exception of the B-52's, who simply included a live performance of the classic "Quiche Lorraine," all the artists recorded new songs with messages of animal activism. Although the spirit of the record was respectable and the whole thing entirely well intentioned, it was a mess. The Indigo Girls AND Michael Stipe? No one can handle that. Lyrics like "Tame yourself tame/Blame yourself for you are to blame/Shame shame and with that bigger brain/You must tame yourself" kind of make me cringe to remember 1992 me thinking that this album was a stroke of genius. Yes, I thought the rhythm guitarist from the Go-Go's singing a song called "Fur" was genius. I was shocked and saddened when I couldn't buy a whole album of music by the band Fetchin' Bones. I was what you would call, a huge asshole. Self hatred aside, I found this CD in my house recently, and one great thing came out of this discovery: Lene Lovich. I'll be writing about her this weekend for the 303 countdown, but my discovery of this strange beast came from this very CD where she dueted with Erasure for the dancey number "Rage," and also with Nina Hagen on "Don't Kill the Animals ('91 Mix)." It should be noted that there are no other versions of "Don't Kill the Animals" other than the one mixed in 1991, but that is beside the point. According to an interview Lene says that she and Nina "wrote the song in about five minutes, it was actually really easy" which will soon be utterly shocking news to you as its lyrics are about as moving as a Puccini opera, and it utilizes (read: rips off) the beat from "Top That," the rap from Teen Witch. "How can that be bad?" I hear you asking. It can't. The video has Nina Hagen wearing a tail. I can't say anything to top that, so here it is:

Laugh at me, and my nine year old taste in music, I implore you. When my best friend's mother found out about my penchant for this CD however, she didn't laugh at me. She gave me Lene Lovich's Stateless on vinyl and changed my life forever (thank god).

You'se a Holmes (HOLMES!)

I saw Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes yesterday (you know how seriously I take my Best Art Direction nominees) and I enjoyed it for the most part, though certainly not for the edgy-Dickens art direction nor the Original Score, which was fine or whatever (though, to be honest, paying attention to scores is not one of my critical strong suits). And Ritchie is still very far from an intelligent director; he makes something look interesting once in a while (there's a pretty cool looking scene on a dock with explosions and characters on different planes of action) but he still has absolutely no interest in subtext (the Holmes/Watson relationship here is not a subtext, btw, it's just out there, which is fine). And in a reboot that seems wholly focused on "updating" Sherlock Holmes for a new generation (a fast-paced one that doesn't have attention spans, as we've been told for 2 decades now), they really could barely have found a way to make the denouement any more obvious, clunky, or boring.

Now to Downey's Holmes, which is more obviously human (emotionally) than any Holmes I've seen on the screen. But that's not actually a compliment, just a symptom of the Modern Superhero Cinema, which requires that every Superhero (this is a Superhero movie for sure) be serious and deep (I must thank the screenwriters for sparing us a scene of young Holmes being ignored by his parents or something). It's a tribute to Downey that he is able take this less than interesting rewrite of an iconic character and makes him so goddamn fun (this applies on a smaller scale to Jude Law). Even when the mechanics of the plot, the shallow female characters, and the boring visuals grate, Downey's intelligence and physical skill (he def has some Chaplin in him here, it's not just the hat) keep this movie afloat whenever he's on screen. The Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy was completely on point, it turns out. He's every bit as good here as he was in Iron Man, and probably even more impressive considering the kinda shitty movie he and Law are required to make fun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

L-A-T-E-R that week

68. Len - "Steal My Sunshine" (Columbia, 1999)

I wonder (I also wonder whether or not the following is an example of getting too self-aware of how one enjoys music instead of just enjoying it) (but I don't think it is) whether if a song like this came out today, a goofy ("tribal lunar speak"?!?!) Canadian indie-rap song sampling a song I like (no matter how good it was), if there was any chance that I would like it. I'm not sure.

Luckily, this song came out in 1999 and it's amazing and I love it and I wish it was summer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I am yours now

While I don't agree with the Fader blog's description of Falty DL's remix of the xx's "Islands" (routine rhythms? gentle?! this track bangs!), I must thank them greatly for bringing it to my attention. Two of our favorite flavors of 2009 team up in 2010. I like it. Get the mp3 here.