One hit, one foul out.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped admittedly had me racking my brain for dim memories of the original (Fingers), and I never really got past reading the lead–who is astonishing–as a gallicized Keitel. But this film was gorgeous and engaging and always a beat off the conventional rhythms of any of the genres it riffs on: noir lowlife melodrama, Rafelson-ish/Tobacksian existential guy stuff, the destructive passions of the artist. Whatever its roots in that earlier film, it goes in its own direction.

Left of the Dial is also five blocks shy of interesting. It’s a documentary about the birth pangs of Air America, but it lacks any kind of narrative focus, instead Real-Worldishly cycling from clips of on-air personalities to back-office financial shenanigans to the occasional articulation of liberals-fighting-the-good-fight-against-conservative-media-domination blah blah. None of those narratives get explored in any depth, let alone synced together. I wanted more Marc Maron, a lot less of everyone else. But, hell, I hate talk radio, whether it’s Rush or Franken or whomever–if I want people yelling their opinions at me, I’ll hold another poker night and break out the Cointreau. Least that way I might walk away with five dollars in addition to the headache. Crap film. (But I have two other interesting-looking docs on deck: Kirby Dick’s Twist of Faith and Mark’s and now Chris’ recommended Mondovino.)

I also highly recommend the new Flaming Lips album–just put “It Overtakes Me” on constant rotation–and the novel _The Futurist_ by James Othmer, instead of watching basketball.

I’d like my $50 now.

I was browsing through the Univeristy of Bouler Police records website, as i usually do on Saturday mornings, and saw that they are offering $50 to identify pot smokers, so they can be arrested and no doubt jailed until they are rehabilitated.

Well, I’ve identified this criminal mastermind to the proper authorities, and am now just waiting for my $50.
Continue reading I’d like my $50 now.

United 93

This is one intense film. It is relentless and doesn’t let up until the very. last. moment. I was moved and angered but mostly impressed by the economy of the writing and filmmaking (United 93 makes Munich look like a baroque opera). The “villains” are presented as human (for the most part); you certainly feel their passion and their fear. The passengers lack character per se, but their growing desire to try to do something is palpable, admirable, heroic even (though, by the end, things do go a bit Lord of the Flies . . . puns not intended). The chaos on the ground (in Boston, New York, Newark, Cleveland and some military location) is both outrageous and completely understandable–forgiveable even. There are a couple of ideologically loaded moments (the hijackers in the airport walking past large, glossy, back-lit advertisements for various consumer products. The FAA and the military frustrated by their inability to locate the President to make a necessary leadership decision (the gossip that the Vice President over stepped his bounds by ordering planes shot down is not broached). The audience with whom I sat were visibly emotional and very, very quiet. If one was in any way close to this event, I just don’t know how they could sit through the film.

The Corporation

I think Mark commented on this doc once before, but I couldn’t find the entry. Smart, biting, engaging. Yet…. besides a new case history or two, a sometimes-unfamiliar set of talking heads (academic and corporate), and its useful condensation (and surrealization) of the history of the corporation, I didn’t feel like I really got pushed in new ways by this film. Maybe I’m–we’re?–not the audience for this documentary; I know I’d be very keen to teach the thing, as I think it would provoke and entertain equally well.

But my own engagement with its politics and history was lesser than with Richard Powers’ very fine novel Gain, which told a clearer, more incisive story because… well, it was a clearer story, I think. Or even Michael Moore’s The Big One, which makes many of the same points with more jokes, albeit less depth or breadth of information. I recommend it, but almost like I recommend eating 5 servings of fruit a day. Good for you, probably even as tasty as the pretzels that make up 46% of my daily caloric intake. Alas. (The dvd, it should be noted, does have some very nice extras.)


Mondovio is a documentary about the state of the wine industry worldwide, that is funny, mean, a little sad, terribly shot, and excellently edited. It’s surprising in fact that something that so craftily reveals its story the way Mondovino does can suffer from such poor sound recording and camera-work. More amazing that despite the distractions of director Jonathan Nossiter seemingly trying to figure out how his camera’s zoom lens works while interviewing people, I can forgive him that because the rest of it is so well done and he tells the story so well.

The film starts off with an apparently simple story of some small independent vintners in France that successfully managed to fend off a buy-out from a huge American conglomerate. We also meet rather quickly, a rich, heavy, bearded, smoking wine consultant, on the phone non-stop in his car as he races from vineyard to vineyard tasting their wines and giving them all the exact same advice: “micro-oxygenate,” whatever that is.

So far, this is exactly what you’d expect in a documentary about the state of the wine industry worldwide, right? Of course. But for the next 2+ hours, Nossiter manages to almost constantly throw new wrinkles into his story. Continue reading Mondovino

nizhalkkuthu (shadow kill)

this is adoor gopalakrishnan’s most recent film. adoor is one of the most lauded figures in india’s new cinema, and, of course, all but unknown outside of the film-festival circuit outside india. as far as i can tell, this is the only one of his films that is available on dvd–as part of some global cinema initiative (see comment 8 here). i hope more of his films will become available. this partly because while this film is interesting enough, and certainly quite beautiful to look at, it isn’t close to his best. it is about a hangman in the colonial era state of travancore (the film is set in 1940) and his spiritual/physical crisis around his work. there’s some dwelling on the ritual role of the hangman in the community–he doubles as a healer (his proximity to death making him closer to the goddess kali)–and some passing references to social justice/injustice, but it just didn’t all come together for me. in a director’s statement on the dvd adoor writes that this is a film to be understood after it is seen, not during, so maybe i need to think about it more, or maybe watch it again.

i would recommend it anyway (netflix has it). i’ll also repeat my earlier recommendations of the early films of shyam benegal (which netflix also has). as far as i can tell, no one but jeff has taken these up.

Life Aquatic

So I reacquainted myself with Steve Zissou last night–Kris hadn’t seen the film. I had, and felt positive but less enthusiastic … it felt that first time through a bit scattered, familiar in tone and some of its technical and thematic peccadilloes, but somehow less cohesive than my favorite Wes Anderson films. I think it’s worth re-assessing, however. I found myself struck by the expanded range and nuance of Anderson’s style and concerns, and I was even more thunderstruck by the emotional wallop of the last scene. Continue reading Life Aquatic