Friday, September 16, 2005


It's Kind of an Award

I just picked this up the other day from the website Coolie, which is a Lizzie McGuire fansite, for coming in second in a trivia contest. Maybe it's a little strange or weird or (at best) eccentric to be proud of it, but I never win anything, so I'm posting it here. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hail Ye, For Preston Has Come

A private room at Cedars Sinai. Britney Spears is giving birth to her first son via C-section, and the doctors are trying to make it as unobtrusive and painless as possible, lest she deviate too long from the recording of her newest album. For a moment, the war is forgotten, and the victims of Hurricane Katrina hold their collective breaths as a light shines from heaven onto the hospital itself, spotlighting Britney's womb with its divine glow.

And lo, the angels did sing:
O Blessed Day! The winds no longer blowing,
It is the day of the dear Savior's birth.
Past these nine months in Britney's womb was growing
The coming lord of the tabloid's self-worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O day divine! O day when Preston's born.

See Britney's eyes, they are vacuously shining,
For US Weekly has paved baby's way.
Hurricane victims, stop all that whining,
Louisiana now reigns in LA.
For now we see our lives have all lacked meaning,
But Preston's birth gives us the will to hope.
He knows our need for celebs we must be weening,
Behold your King! Behold, he's born of dopes!

Truly he'll teach us to love one another,
To love celebs and to give them their peace.
Chains he will weave for the tabloid's our mother,
In his name our oppressions increase.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
The most important story of the year.
Preston has come, and now we can be happy,
America's hope, dispels a nation's fear.

"If only it had been a girl," Britney thinks to herself. "I could have named her Katrina, and she would have made the awful badness of what happened in my dear Louisiana seem so sunny. I wonder if this hospital has room temperature imported water in bottles? And how soon can I get back to the Red Bull?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

STARDOM (2000)
This movie sort of came out of nowhere for me; it’s a Canadian film, told as a documentary about a young hockey player who is discovered and becomes a model. It doesn’t quite have anything overly original to say; what’s really polarizing is the lead performance by Jessica Pare, a beautiful and talented actress in her first major role (she was also in the underrated Canadian drama Lost and Delirious, with Piper Perabo). Actually, watching it, one almost feels guilty for being so captivated by her breathtaking, stunning beauty; the whole point of the movie is that the older men who decide they know best how to guide and shape her career exploit her for themselves, try to hide her from the world so they can possess her, and then punish her–sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically–for being too beautiful in the first place. Like I said, it’s not very original, but it is a good point: that the world often reacts to beauty as something they can own, but when it has a will of its own, they react with frustration and anger and too often, violence. The film was directed by Denys Arcand (The Barbarian Invasions). Jessica Pare deserved a lot of recognition for it. ***1/2 stars.

Here’s a premise I’m sick of: a guy somehow accidentally falls into the world of porn, finds he can make a lot of money directing it, and then whines about how he doesn’t want to make porn. Quit whining! * star.

Ouch, ouch, ouch. This movie was made for television 15 years ago, and purports to tell the story of the Beach Boys. Look, I really believe there’s a great movie to be made out there about what I still consider to be the greatest American band of all time, but when it comes it won’t be 95 or so minutes long and won’t be so cheaply made. Everything gets the short shrift, so nothing really seems important–not even their rocky relationship with Murray Wilson. It skips around too much, too: one minute Brian and Murray are fighting over the bass line in "I Get Around," and it seems like a couple of minutes after that Pet Sounds is done and Brian’s having his airplane freak out. The filmmakers can’t seem to understand what made Brian tick, and every scene he’s in devolves into him sobbing uncontrollably and Mike Love or Al Jardine looking at him in uncertain disgust. The filmmakers can’t decide if Brian was a fragile genius or just insane and oversensitive. Mike Love is portrayed as some kind of hero, even though one could make the case that he’s the man most responsible for taking the Beach Boys to the edge of musical genius and then turning the boat around to head back to pop confections. And did Al Jardine or Carl Wilson even have any lines? The movie also seems to (incorrectly) think that Brian sang the lead on "God Only Knows" (the most beautiful song ever recorded), when it was actually Carl. And then there’s Dennis... Bruce Greenwood tries his damnedest to portray Dennis in a sensitive way, but the major problem is that the movie suddenly shifts focus from the group and Brian to basically just Dennis about halfway through the movie. Dennis’s story is interesting, of course, but we just aren’t ready for him to be the focus; the shift is too jarring. And when Dennis dies in 1983, the movie chooses to rule it a suicide, but I couldn’t quite buy it. It’s made like a lame episode of Silk Stalkings, or something. And the wigs are so bad, they look like a junior high school production about Jesus. And the portrayal of Charles Manson is just fucking ridiculous. If you’re really interested in the story of the Beach Boys, see the documentaries An American Band and I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, instead. I’d prefer to remember Dennis from his underrated album Pacific Ocean Blue and his wonderful Beach Boys song, "Forever," which is almost transcendent. But not this rushed, unfocused, badly made mess. But, on the bright side, Dennis didn’t have to live to hear the band do "Kokomo," either. And Smile was never touched on even once; isn’t that a rather important part of the whole thing? Their tragic musical direction (the band really declined and sounded unfocused for the most part between 1967 and 1974, and with the exception of some great spots on Love You, I pretty much stop listening after "Sail On, Sailor") kind of hinges on the collapse of Smile and, in my opinion, the musical cold feet of Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, and especially Mike Love. And was Bruce Johnston even portrayed in this movie? Or Van Dyke Parks? Man, I was incredibly disappointed in this. Steve Dahl, the famous shitty DJ here in Chicago, produced the movie. You ever listen to him? He really, really thinks that he’s the guy who saved rock radio from disco. And judging by the movie, the blowhard also thinks he knows the story of the Beach Boys. But this ain’t it. 1/2 star for Bruce Greenwood’s performance and the use of actual Beach Boys recordings (badly lip-synched to).

Another shitty musical biopic, a TV movie about beauty queen Linda Thompson (a stilted Stephanie Zimbalist) and Elvis Presley... oh, Elvis. Elvis is portrayed in this film by Don Johnson, and it sets a new low for portrayals of Elvis. Actually, Don Johnson doesn’t so much play Elvis as he plays "What Elvis Would Have Been Like if He Were Don Johnson," high, thin, reedy voice and icky, icky crocodile smile. Why did anyone ever put Don Johnson in anything in the first place? And then he lip synchs to actual Elvis songs, and it doesn’t match. Pointless and laughably stupid; no stars.

This is about the saddest, most heartbreaking movie I’ve ever seen. Sarah Polley (in probably her best performance so far) plays a woman who lives in a trailer in her mother’s yard, along with her husband and two kids. She’s 23, and she works on a night-janitorial crew at a university. And she finds out she’s dying of cancer. So, rather than accept treatment (the doctor informs her that it’s too late for her to live through it), she resolves to keep it all to herself and ease the transition for her family. She records messages for her children’s future birthdays, she tries to find a new wife for her husband that the kids will like, and since she got married and had her first child at 17, she resolves to make a man fall in love with her to see what the experience is like. It’s all done with a sort of fragile beauty, a noble quality, that never flies into how melodramatic it could easily be. It’s a dance, but the tone is just right; her life is never seen to be more heroic or better than any other poor person’s. It’s a normal life, and she has to resign herself to losing it. I spent almost the entire movie crying over how easily one can lose track of one’s life, and what it all means when the end is taken away from you. Beautiful. **** stars.

The story of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, as written and directed by his friend and fellow painter Julian Schnabel. It’s a hard movie to get around in some places; we never really get to know or understand Basquiat, or what motivated him. Instead, we get pieces of him, as though we’re supposed to fill in the blanks for ourselves and make of him whatever we will. In a way, it’s genius, because Schnabel (who is, surprisingly, never intrusive and always objective) never judges his characters but leaves it to the viewer. Like a painting, we’re seeing what we bring to it, and not what the artist says it is. It’s an avant garde film that raises debates about art–eternal or ephemera, commercial or personal–without deciding which way the film should go. On the one hand, the New York art scene is made ridiculous with lines like: "It doesn’t matter how much work you put into something, it’s how much money you get for it." But then you have to wonder if it’s really true or not. The film also puts the idea forth that so many artists are given attention they don’t deserve: "No one wants to be part of a generation that doesn’t recognize another Van Gogh." But the movie doesn’t necessarily compare Basquiat to Van Gogh, either. It leaves that assessment up to the viewer and doesn’t beg the case. This is an approach that usually frustrates the hell out of me, but I got this time. In a way, it’s avant garde enough that it doesn’t matter what the viewer thinks about Baquiat; it doesn’t even matter whether the viewer liked the movie. It is what it is, and it’s up to you to decide. Incredible cast: Dennis Hopper, Michael Wincott, Benicio del Toro, Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, and David Bowie giving an excellent, mannered, perfect performance as Andy Warhol. Jeffrey Wright plays Basquiat with real dedication. **** stars.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Oh, Those Simpson Sisters

Okay, this is the kind of catty, bitchy thing that I enjoy... Photographer David LaChappelle has been out bitching about Jessica and Ashlee, and how he was going to photograph them as, get this, "a favor to Rolling Stone." But he claims they were difficult to work with, and has denounced them as "everything wrong with culture, and everything wrong with art." Funny how he didn't have this problem when he was taking pictures of Britney Spears. He whines that it would be impossible to make them look cool. LaChappelle is very respected in the world of pop art and is a protege of Andy Warhol's.

The best part is that the Simpsons responded by saying that they were looking for a photographer who wasn't a "one-trick pony." Awesome! I'm so glad that someone finally said it! He IS a one-trick pony. It doesn't take much to do a David LaChappelle photo--I could pull one out of my ass in about fifteen minutes; just take a hot chick, take her top down, light her well, put her in a room with flourescent colors, put something phallic in her hand/lap, and get her to cross her eyes slightly. Great, work done.

My girlfriend says that calling LaChappelle a one-trick pony is like calling Picasso a one-trick pony. Well, I don't want to point fingers, but... And you know what? Warhol was a one-trick pony, too. Maybe a half-trick pony. All he ever did was fool people into thinking that not working for a living was some form of self-expression. Act like you believe it, and people will fall under your spell.

Anyway, it comes out today that the photo shoot never took place because the girls wouldn't do what LaChappelle wanted, and he wasn't open to any other suggestions. So the girls walked, and to save face, he tried to draw first blood in the court of public opinion. Which probably means that Jessica and Ashlee wouldn't take their tops off. Just like Beyonce wouldn't a couple of years ago.

Jump, pony. It's all you can do. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Odd Post for Grandparent's Day

I have to chime in and agree with Peter Lynn on this one. Dolly Parton is so very, very wonderful and sweet, and I've never heard of her being mean to anyone. And if I did, I'd never believe it, anyway. This might sound weird, but I always wanted a grandmother as nice as her. Not that my grandmothers weren't nice, but it was just something I thought of. Anyway, Happy Grandparent's Day. Posted by Picasa