erik lundegaard

Lancelot Links posts

Friday December 18, 2009

Lancelot Links (Is Pissed at QT)

  • "Iron Man 2" trailer, dudes! Questions: 1) Are they overdoing Tony Stark with the "Yes, dear" line? He was so good in the first movie, but sequel writers tend to exaggerate the actor's first-movie exaggerations (see: Capt. Jack) and ruin 'em. Hope that's not happening here. 2) Iron Man makes a nice metaphor for America in the 21st century, doesn't he? Initially cocky and triumphant while enemies gather; then dazed and hurt; then ready for action. The difference is that Iron Man was smart enough to get a partner. An equal partner, Mr. Blair.

  • Related: Sam Worthington as Captain America? It's an unfound rumor, and some object because he's Australian, but he sure looks like he'd fit the part.
  • Phil Contrino of boxoffice.com wonders if "The Hurt Locker," which is garnering all the critics' awards, can possibly win best picture when it made only $12 million at the box office. "Crash is this decade's lowest grossing Best Picture winner with $54.6 million," he writes. "Technically, Annie Hall has the lowest domestic gross of any Best Picture winner since 1970 with $38.3 million in 1977, but that equals around $124 million when adjusted for inflation." Contrino seems to suggest moviegoers are at fault for the dismal box office, and maybe they are, but Summit Entertainment never really put the movie out there, either. Its widest release was only 535 theaters.
  • Speaking of "Crash": Manohla Dargis goes off on the sexism rampant in Hollywood: the lack of female directors, the lack of smart female movies, the fact that time and again Hollywood executives seem to think women don't go to the movies—despite all evidence to the contrary. Spleen is definitely, and legitimately, vented. Then there's this beauty: "Let's acknowledge that the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them. But they are important commercially... I've learned to never underestimate the academy's bad taste. Crash as best picture? What the fuck."
  • There's a great piece by Jeffrey Toobin in the Dec. 14th issue of The New Yorker on the legal issues surrounding Roman Polanski's arrest on statutory rape charges in 1977—not to mention his flight from, and attempted extradiction back to, the U.S. earlier this year. You need the print edition to read it in full, though. The abtract is here. Toobin is smart on the ways Polanski's celebrity both helped and hurt his case. There's little doubt, from Toobin's description, that Polanksi committed a crime in 1977. There's also little doubt, from Toobin's description, that those charged with that crime—that is, statutory rape—rarely did prison time back then. His recent incarceration in Switzerland, meanwhile, resulted from renewed interest in the case because of a documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," which more or less declares him not guilty, and more or less on the strength of an interview with then-deputy district attorney David Wells, who implied misconduct on the part of the presiding judge. But Wells has since recanted that portion of the interview. Leaving us where? In a big fat no-man's land.
  • Quentin Tarantino is starting to piss me off. Not as a filmmaker but as a critic. Here he lays out his top 8 movies of the year. I like that he includes "Funny People" and "Observe and Report," two underrated serio-comedies starring Seth Rogen. But "Star Trek" at no. 1? The thing is lukewarm "Star Wars." Does he like it s much because J.J. Abrams kills off the sacred in the "Star Trek" universe (the planet Vulcan) as QT kills off the profane in ours (Hitler in "Inglourious Basterds")? That's not enough of a reason. The accompanying video of QT adds little, but I suppose I should cut him some slack because he is taking this seriously. He talks of going to see certain movies again to see if they've risen in his estimation. That's more (twice more) than a lot of Academy members do.
  • Finally, via my friend Mr. B., a Season's Greetings from the Seattle Mariners, who are getting smarter all the time. It's a clip from a game last...September? Ichiro hitting a walk-off homerun off some hack named Mariano Rivera. Makes. Me. Smile. Touch 'em all, Ichiro!
Posted at 07:25 AM on Dec 18, 2009 in category Lancelot Links
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Thursday December 17, 2009

Lancelot Links (Wants to Deck Someone)

  • John Perr's blog, "Crooks and Liars," takes Sarah Palin apart for her massive ignorance of the history of our country, but equally important, not to mention related, is the accompanying graph (below) on the recent tax rate of our lowest and highest income brackets. During World War II, which Palin insists, in a Washington Post Op-Ed of all places, was paid for by war bonds (volunteerism), the top income bracket was taxed at 94%. Ninety-four percent! So much for voluteerism. Now they're taxed at 35 percent. Me, I'd raise it back to at least 50 percent —at least—as it was from 1982 to 1986. Reagan years, people. Everyone in this bracket is making tons of money off of a system they were born into and it's time they showed their appreciation to that system, and the long-term stability of that system, by, yes, "volunteering" to give back. Read the whole piece, it's worth it:

  • My man! Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) takes down Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on the health care bill. Franken, by way of Pat Moynihan, has given us a mantra for this age of disinformation: "You're entitled to your own opinion, you're not entitled to your own facts." I particularly like how frustrated and angry Franken gets by the end. You can tell he's fed up. These people keep lying.
  • It's actually worse. These people make careers out of accusing the opposition of doing what they do. It's the absolutist right, not the relativist left, that's as close to a fascistic organization as this country has ever had. The Nazis, remember, started out as a vocal minority, an absolutist, bullying, hateful group that wheedled its way into power and then shut out all opposition. That's the absolutist right in this country. And their latest alley-oop accusation? Via the Daily Show: Global-warming debunkers are now accusing global-warming proponents (i.e., the scientific community) of believing what they believe...for money! The idea being that global warming is big business so it doesn't matter if it's true or not. Nice. Because we all know it's the opposite of that. Global warming continues because of big business, because of the money that's made pumping what we pump into the air. The whole thing is so awful it makes you want to retch. It makes you want to deck somebody.
  • A voice of reason in this wretched political world? Hendrik Hertzberg. Again.
  • And another. It's worth watching Pres. Obama interviewed by Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes." He's a serious man in serious times surrounded by the unserious and the moronic. By people who are dicking around. And not just the absolutist right and not just the mainstream media but you and me. We create all of this. Every second, with every decision, we create our world.
  • And even this serious interview gets an idiotic response from Dana Perino, whose 15 minutes, in a normal world, that is a non-cable, non-fragmented world, would be up. Yet she keeps talking. She says that President Obama's suggestion that President Bush "was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war...is demonstrably false." The obvious follow-up? "Can you demonstrate it?" But she was on FOX News so they didn't ask the obvious follow-up. Here. Here are the three words that demonstrate the truth of what Pres. Obama implied about Pres. Bush: "Bring 'em on." Do we need more? Do we need to recall the swagger and the smirk? The aircraft carrier and flight suit? The "Mission Accomplished" banners? The talk of good and evil? The covering up of America's war dead? Damn, people, it wasn't even 10 years ago.
  • But apparently some people can't even remember January 19, 2009.
  • First, The Daily Show helped expose Glenn Beck's inciting panic/encouraging gold-buying and repping for Goldline. Now it's  The Colbert Report's turn. "'Pray on it.' Like we're preying on you." Brilliant. Here's an in-depth look from the L.A. Times. The question that needs to be asked—and I mean this—is: Why is Glenn Beck trying to destroy this country?
  • To end on an up note, here's Pres. Obama's speech after winning the Nobel Prize. It's a serious speech by a serious man in serious times. Read the whole thing. An excerpt:
    • We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth:  We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes.  There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
       
      I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago:  "Violence never brings permanent peace.  It solves no social problem:  it merely creates new and more complicated ones."  As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.  I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
       
      But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.  I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.  For make no mistake:  Evil does exist in the world.  A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies.  Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.  To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
Posted at 07:00 AM on Dec 17, 2009 in category Lancelot Links, Politics
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Friday December 11, 2009

Lancelot Links

  • The New York Times gives us their top 10 books of the year. I haven't read any of them but I'm still disappointed with the fiction offerings. Or maybe I'm merely disappointed with the Times' synopeses: "concise yet finely grained..."; "narrated by a Wisconsin college student who hungers for wordly experience..."; "the theme is feminism..." It all feels dry and small. Only the Lethem and Walls' books open things up.
  • Meanwhile, the best bookstore in Seattle is moving.
  • I'm not a big fan of the "forgot" school of commentary ("In your list of top 10 superhero movies, you forgot "Daredevil, dude..."), but NPR gives us an article on the top villains of the decade, complete with a poll of five possible picks... and doesn't mention Anton Chigurh? Nice work, friendo.
  • Two years ago Variety's Peter DeBruge's watched an Oscar montage of best foreign films and was, in his phrase, "floored," and became determined to watch them all. He did so this year and reports his findings here. He talks about the excitement of the early years: "Bicycle Thief," "Rashomon," "The Nights of Cabiria," "The Virgin Spring"...

And then a curious thing began to happen. Questionable winners started to sneak in. Mushy French melodrama "Sundays and Cybele," a Stateside hit in 1962, won (submitted over Francois Truffaut's far superior "Jules et Jim"). De Sica's overripe "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" (1964) trumped the existential masterpiece "Woman in the Dunes," while massive French phenom "A Man and a Woman" (1966) bested "The Battle of Algiers" and so on.

The category was fast devolving into a popularity contest, with the B.O. sensations beating what many thought was their more deserving competition. Great films carried the category into the next decade, including De Sica's heartbreaking foiled-by-WWII romance"The Garden of the Finzi Continis" (1971), Truffaut's playful meta-movie "Day for Night" (1973) and Kurosawa's pensive non-samurai epic "Dersu Uzala" (1975). But corruption allegedly set in as well, which might explain how "Black and White in Color" (1976) beat "Seven Beauties" and "Cousin, Cousine" when those two films were nominated for five other Oscars between them.

My two most satisfying discoveries — 1978's "Get Out Your Handkerchiefs," a nutty menage a trois from French provocateur Bertrand Blier, and 1985's "The Official Story," a wrenching look at the children of political dissidents put up for adoption during Argentina's Dirty War — fall during this questionable period.

  • Via Hollywood Elsewhere, James Cameron talks to a French journalist about the making of "Avatar." The questions are tough and the answers are smart. I don't know if "Avatar" will work, or will sell, but I like the way Cameron's selling it. He includes a kind of callback to Wiliam Goldman's famous dictum that nobody in Hollywood knows anything: "I think people in Hollywood don't really know what's commercial," Cameron says. "What's commercial is what people want to see. It's that simple. Sometimes they want to slow down and experience something. It isn't always dack-dack-dack, boom-boom-boom, rocketing along. This is what Hollywood has convinced themselves people want to see." ... Even better are Cameron's comments about how the best movies alter our perceptions. "It's not just about literally seeing [the Na'Vi] but about perceiving differently —perceiving through the eyes of the other person. That's what cinema's all about to me. You come in one door and you come out through another door. And that's a door of perception." The comment reminded me of the days when moviegoers would do this literally: enter one way, exit another (through the exit doors). We don't do that so much anymore. We tend to leave the same way we entered. Both literally and, sadly, metaphorically. (BONUS FOR FRENCH STUDENTS: The interview is subtitled in French so you can practice as you listen.)
  • In baseball, the rich get richer.
  • Finally, I'm a long-standing Marx Bros. fan, so A.O. Scott doesn't say much that either surprises or thrills me in his video critique of, or homage to, "Duck Soup." But watch it anyway—particularly if you haven't seen them in action. Halfway through, we get a scene where Chico and Harpo, spies for Sylvania, report to Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern), who simply asks for the records of Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) of Freedonia. One simple question and the gags come rapid-fire:
  1. Harpo produces a record LP from his trenchcoat.
  2. Trentino throws it in the air in exasperation and Harpo takes a gun from his trenchcoat and shoots it like a skeet.
  3. Chico rings a bell, says "And the boy gets a cee-gar," and hands Harpo one of Trentino's cigars.
  4. Chico closes the cigar lid on Trentino's hand and Trentino rubs his hand in pain.
  5. Harpo pretends to take Trentino's hand-rubbing for excitement and rubs his hands in excitement, too.
  • Five gags in 10 seconds. Brilliant.
Posted at 06:35 AM on Dec 11, 2009 in category Lancelot Links
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Saturday December 05, 2009

Lancelot Links

  • The awards from the National Board of Review are out, a harbinger of exactly nothing, but I'll let Nathaniel Rogers over at Film Experience parse the awards and the awarders. Few do it better. ADDENDUM: After doublechecking it appears that NBR—which was originally founded in 1909 as an anti-censorship organization, and has been doling out film awards since 1929—has picked the eventual Oscar winner in the last two years; but this is in stark contrast to the rest of the decade when they didn't come close. I know that's not their task, and sometimes I agree with them, but I've never really gotten over their "Finding Neverland" choice; or choosing "The Hours" in a year when "The Pianist" was released:
    • 2000: Quills
    • 2001: Moulin Rouge
    • 2002: The Hours
    • 2003: Mystic River
    • 2004: Finding Neverland
    • 2005: Good Night, and Good Luck
    • 2006: Letters from Iwo Jima
    • 2007: No Country for Old Men
    • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
    • 2009: Up in the Air (coming soon to a theater near you!)
  • In part two of his video essay on the revenge motif in Clint Eastwood movies, Matt Zoller Seitz expresses the same doubts I expressed two days ago after watching the first part of his video essay. Money line: "Is Eastwood an exploitation filmmaker with aspirations to importance, or an artist who uses violent action to entice viewers into experiencing his films' more complex aspects?" Both, I'd gather. See: the cake-and-eating-it-too line from earlier in the video essay.
  • Jesse Ventura is making an ass of himself with his conspiracy show but who knew he had such good taste in movies? Here's his top 5 films via the Rotten Tomatoes site, and while they're not my top 5 they're a good top 5. "Riding Giants" is one of my favorite docs. Love what he says about "Full Metal Jacket." And I love his talk about the character development in "Jaws" and how this is unfortunately missing from today's action movies. What does this say about the state of our movies when Jesse "The Body" Ventura can be viewed as a highbrow connoisseur?
  • Via Moira Macdonald's movie blog on The Seattle Times' site, there's this pretty funny Seattle-area festival, beginning Dec. 7 at Central Cinema and hosted by James Schmader: "Almost Human: Madonna on Film: A five week exploration of how the world's greatest pop star became the world's worst actress." Doubt I'll make it. Who wants to watch "Shanghai Surprise" again? But I bet it's funny. And fun. And deserving.
  • Boy, St. Louis Park's own Tommy Friedman is really pissing me off. First he pimped for the Iraq War back in 2002-03, and now he blasts Pres. Obama's efforts to do whatever the hell we can in Afghanistan (which, I believe, is our official slogan). "This I Believe." Sheeeeyit. Here's what I believe: A more measured (if equally dispirited) response to Obama's speech came from Andrew Sullivan. Here's what I also believe: Obama's been given a shit sandwich, and he put the best possible sauce on this shit sandwich, and people are looking at it and crying, "Why are you making me eat a shit sandwich?" No, YOU made you eat a shit sandwich. 51% of you anyway.
  • In this spirit, my friend Tim pointed out this column by Mark Morford of The San Francisco Chronicle on how we're actually living through some pretty amazing times. He mostly attacks the left for their disappointment that things haven't changed more quickly but he also gets in some nice digs at the right:

Conversely, there is all manner of incoherent noise spewing like radioactive urine from the far right, a nonstop wail of childlike panic claiming that, because Obama behaves with unnerving calm, shakes hands with foreign dignitaries and doesn't seem interested in bombing everyone in a turban, he must be a socialist Muslim Nazi hell-bent on banning machine guns and killing all old Republicans in their sleep ...

The only real exception [to center fielders with only six good years not making the Hall] is Kirby Puckett, who was elected by the BBWAA in his first year of eligibility. Both were Gold Glove center fielders who finished their careers early and were forced from the majors by physical maladies. The difference is that where Murphy suffered from a knee injury, Puckett retired because of degenerative vision, and while still near the top of his game. When Puckett's name first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, his greatness was still fresh in the minds of the voters.

  • Here's another difference. Murphy, known for his power, was a career .265/.346/.469 player, while Puckett, known for his hitting, was a career .318/.360/.477 player. Yes, allowed to continue to play into his 40s, these percentage numbers would've declined, but I don't think they would've declined much. More: How many post-WWII players have posted such a high lifetime batting average, with as many at-bats as Kirby, and not made the Hall? I don't know if there's anybody. (Todd Helton will test it again in 5-10 years.) Also, while it's hardly fair, Kirby played in two World Series and had that great performance in Game 6. That stuff's indelible. You could also say—and, again, it's hardly fair—that Puckett himself was indelible. His personality was big and positive, while Murphy's was...? I don't remember. Which is the point. As Jules says: Personality goes a long way.
Posted at 08:52 AM on Dec 05, 2009 in category Lancelot Links
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Tuesday December 01, 2009

Lancelot Links

  • “Star Wars” Facebook status updates from collegehumor.com. The first one had me laughing out loud.
  • The best reason to sneak popcorn into the movies isn't the price of theater popcorn. It's this.
  • I haven't seen “Nine” yet, which opens this month, so can't comment on Jeffrey Wells' assertion that Marion Cotillard's acting, while fine, and perhaps deserving of the Oscar nom the producers of the film are pushing, is actually better in Michael Mann's “Public Enemies.” But his posting of this scene made me want to watch “Public Enemies” all over again. There's a frantic and frivolous quality to modern life, and Mann, by slowing the tempo of his films, by focusing on the essential—on the details of the details of the details, as Johnny Depp once said—actually relieves us for a time of this burden, of the unbearable lightness of being. He makes things matter. That aspect is in this scene and every scene. And that's part of why I want to see the movie again. The bigger reason is that some people caused a ruckus at the theater where I saw the film at the end of June and I ended up missing some of Cotillard's better moments. Wells is right right about this one, though. Man.

Posted at 07:11 AM on Dec 01, 2009 in category Lancelot Links
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