Lancelot Links postsWednesday March 02, 2011
- After watching him as a talking head in Robert Stone's doc, “Owald's Ghost,” I began to miss Norman Mailer all over again and sought him on the Web. Came across Joseph Mantegna's documentary, “Norman Mailer: The American.” Anyone know if it's playing anywhere anytime soon? SIFF maybe?
- Also came across that great interivew Norman gave to Charlie Rose two months before the war in Iraq. Norman got everything so right and Charlie got everything so wrong—and was so vehement in his so wrongness. That particular discussion starts at about 22:40.
- Also this: the amusing sucker-punches of Muhammad Ali.
- “Jews and Baseball” finally comes to Seattle, as part of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival this month. I've got tickets, with Patricia and Paige, for the March 13th screening. I'm hoping for something that approaches the quality of “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.”
- Why wait for the end of the year for top 10 lists? Andrew O'Hehir's “The Movie List” ranks films as the year progresses. His 2011 list already has 33 films on it (poor bastard). Makes me want to see “Poetry,” and “Putty Hill,” and “Of Gods and Men.” Meanwhile, “I am Number Four” is apparently ill-named. It's No. 33. And dropping.
- A guy named Bill, guesting in Rob Neyer's former slot at ESPN.com, takes down people who still don't get “Moneyball.” He says it exactly right. “Moneyball” isn't about OBP or closers or how well the Oakland A's have done since 2006. It's about small-market survival. It's about finding what is undervalued and buying it and finding what is overvalued and selling it. OBP was once undervalued; now it's not. Now you find something else to survive. (Psst: Pitches per at-bat.)
- What's the right-wing is obsessed with these days? Salon's Alex Pareene keeps track and mocks so you don't have to.
- Hendrik Hertzberg writes on the decline and fall of labor in America. is it also the decline and fall of democracy?
- This is pretty cool: a 26-year-old sells 100,000+ copies of her nine self-published books per month. Amanda Hocking. Anyone read her?
- The Cesars took place the night before the Oscars. Best picture? “Of Gods and Men” (see above). Best director? Roman Polanski for “The Ghost Writer.” Best foreign film? “The Social Network.” Richard Brody's got le scoop.
- Brody also has a nice, short, sharp piece that not only references everyone's favorite actressexual but gives another reason, a pretty profound reason, why the Academy didn't honor “The Social Network.”
- My friend Joe Day alerted me to this bit from Jimmy Kimmel's show, a takeoff of “The King's Speech” called “The President's Speech.” It gave me my biggest laugh of the week.
- I've had my differences with Patrick Goldstein in the past but I liked his “Oscars: Most embarrassing moments” post. Particularly his last most embarrassing moment.
- I referenced it in my live-blog of the Oscars, but now you can see for yourself: best speech of the night, Luke Mathey winning live-action short for “God of Love.”
- Finally, here's a clip of Jodie Foster opening la troissixieme ceremonie de Cesars le samedi soir dernier. Nice French, Jodie! Yale education, kids.
- Someday I should do a “worst of the worst best-picture winner lists,” but even writing that makes me sleepy. I thought of it, however, when a Facebook friend posted Barry Koltnow's worst best-picture winner list from the Orange County Register, approvingly, and ... what can I say? Mr. Koltnow objects to “No Country,” “Rain Man,” and “The Hurt Locker” but not “Crash” and “The Greatest Show on Earth”? His argument against “The Hurt Locker” is particularly lame and could apply to 90% of best picture winners. Plus, yes, travesty on “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan,” but, in hindsight, the latter shouldn't have won, either, since that was the year one of the greatest movies ever made was nominated. Maybe that's how you should lay it out: what won; what, given the year and guild awards, should've won; and what, in hindsight, really deserved it.
- Speaking of “Crash”: Apparently if it wasn't for Scientology, Paul Haggis might not have gotten where he got and “Crash” never would've won best picture. Another reason to hate Scientology. And, yes, I know a posted a link to Lawrence Wright's piece a few weeks back but I only now just finished it. In the magazine it goes from pages 84 to 111. Oof.
- In this video from Time Magazine, Jesse Eisenberg of “The Social Network” (and “Adventureland” and “The Squid and the Whale” and “Roger Dodger”—nice career so far, kid) talks up seeing Michael Shannon in my friend Craig's Wright's play, “Mistakes were Made.”
- Studios and theater chains should be careful about where they play the trailer for Terrence Malick's “Tree of Life.” Whenever I see it, I lose all interest in the movie I'm about to watch.
- Coming down a bit in quality: The second “Thor” trailer is better than the first. But does this mean the focus of the movie has changed? Or simply the focus of the trailer?
- An organization calling itself the Internationial Cinephile Society picked their best movies of 2010, and their best was my best: “Un Prophete.” Their second-best, “Carlos,” is not in my Top 10; I was actually disappointed in it. So apparently I'm not quite international, not quite cinephile. But stay tuned.
- Pacino to play Matisse? “L'expression, pour moi, ne réside pas dans la passion qui éclatera sur un visage. Elle est DANS TOUTE LA DISPOSITION DE MON TABLEAU!!!”
- My friend Jerry Grillo recounts meeting Stan “the Man” Musial, who was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and whose stats are even better than I thought. Three-time MVP, three-time runner-up MVP. Led the league in hitting seven times, in OBP and slugging six times, in OPS seven times. Retired with 3,630 hits—at the time second only to Ty Cobb, and all these years later still fourth. Has anyone checked George Will's numbers? 3630 hits: 1815 at home, 1815 on the road? Beautiful if true. Touch 'em all, Stan. And Jerry.
- My friend Andy Engelson recounts his recent family trip to Bali. Hate. Him.
- Michael Lind over at Salon.com lists off the reasons why Glenn Beck-bashing is counterproductive. Makes sense. On the other hand, the mainstream media ignores Rush Limbaugh for years at a time and he's only gotten stronger. These guys are weeds; he doesn't need mainstream media light to grow.
- Is this the book that may bring Sarah Palin down? Please please please please. P.S. Thanks for nothing, Bill Kristol.
- Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, amid much protest, is currently attempting to neuter public unions. Paul Kruman says it's about power, not money.
- So how did Gov. Walker get into office? According to Mother Jones, with the help of the Koch brothers of Kansas, who are also infamously attempting to undermine Pres. Obama. The billionaire brothers were the second-biggest contributers to Walker's campaign ($43K), plus they contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors' Association, which spent $65K on Walker, plus they spent millions attacking Walker's opponent. “What's the matter with Wisconsin?” now has the same answer as “What's the matter with Kansas?”
- All of which is a good reminder to buy Phil Dray's book “There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor In America.” (Extra: Here's Phil on “The Daily Show” last October.)
- A ditty by the same name from Billy Bragg.
- Finally, really enjoying Bright Eyes' new album, particularly “Ladder Song,” in these early, crappy months of 2011. Sample:
No one knows where the ladder goes
You're going to lose what you love the most
You're not alone in anything
You're not unique in dying
- Go west, young ballplayer! Dave Allen at The Baseball Analysts has graphed the U.S. birthplace of ballplayers in five eras. The first map (heavily Northeast) is almost the mirror image of the last (heavily Southwest).
- The original lyric sheet for Bob Dylan's “The Times They Are A-Changin'” sold for nearly half a million dollars to a hedge fund manager. Harry's Music parses the irony.
- Some smart, chicken-or-egg talk about world cinema and U.S. audiences from Salon's Andrew O'Hehir before his equally smart review of “Carancho,” a film he thinks can entice U.S. audiences with two word: “sexy” and “bloody.”
- Also on Salon, Bob Calhoun counts down the top 10 stunts of Judo Gene Lebell, a judo champ and Hollywood stunt man. Be sure to check out no. 1, an old episode of “Ironsides,” for the early work of Bruce Lee. Holy crap. Not a wasted movement. Everything is so clean.
- Speaking of stunts: Remember Danny MacAskill? The cyclist who did insane shit around Edinburgh? Well, he's taken to the Scottish countryside now in his new viddy “Way Back Home.” And he's gotten better.
- Five favorite movies with Elton John. The man, or the Sir, has got good taste. He also says smart things about each one.
- Five favorite books about movies with Darren Aronofsky. I've read three. Didn't even know about the Vogler, which seems right up my alley. Anyone read it?
- At the end of this snippet of February reviews, Joe Morgenstern tells us the story of how Lionel Logue, the hero-therapist of “The King's Speech,” helped, in a sense, create FOX-News.
- Roger Ebert has 13 smart questions from watching 11 1/2 minutes of Glenn Beck. I only made it to minute 7, and then just barely.
- Related: I can't stop reading Alex Pareene.
- From the “About Time” Dept.: Shirley Sherrod is suing Andrew Breitbart for defamation and general idiocy. OK, just for defamation. But I know a lot of lawyers, the super variety even, who would handle her case pro bono.
- Someday I'll have to post about my ideal search engine (something with a greater respect for original content, and chronology, and which can distinguish between sites that are linked to positively (“I love this!”) and negatively (“Look at this idiot!”)), but in the meantime here's another good piece by The New York Times on a search-engine snafu: How did J.C. Penney become the no. 1 Google result for everything from “dresses” to “bedding” to “area rugs”? And just in time for the holidays? Short answer: it wasn't legit.
- Finally, in this review of the latest attempt at a J.D. Salinger bio, Jay McInerney has both the best first sentence I've read in a while (“J. D. Salinger spent the first third of his life trying to get noticed and the rest of it trying to disappear”), and the best second paragraph I've read in a while (not reproducing it here; give the Times some love and click on the link). I read poor Ian Hamilton's attempt at a bio in the '80s so doubt I'll read Kenneth Slawenski's. I guess I'm waiting for definitive. At the same time, though I knew Salinger fought in World War II, I didn't know he was a one-man “Band of Brothers.” From McInerney:
For this reader, the great achievement of Slawenski’s biography is its evocation of the horror of Salinger’s wartime experience. Despite Salinger’s reticence, Slawenski admirably retraces his movements and recreates the savage battles, the grueling marches and frozen bivouacs of Salinger’s war. It’s hard to think of an American writer who had more combat experience. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Slawenski reports that of the 3,080 members of Salinger’s regiment who landed with him on June 6, 1944, only 1,130 survived three weeks later. Then, when the 12th Infantry Regiment tried to take the swampy, labyrinthine Hürtgen Forest, in what proved to be a huge military blunder, the statistics were even more horrific. After reinforcement, “of the original 3,080 regimental soldiers who went into Hürtgen, only 563 were left.” Salinger escaped the deadly quagmire of Hürtgen just in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and shortly thereafter, in 1945, participated in the liberation of Dachau. “You could live a lifetime,” he later told his daughter, “and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose.”
- WTF? Rob Neyer is signing off from ESPN.com? What happened?
- Oh, he's going here. I wonder if there's any story behind the move? Besides a guy wanting to switch jobs after 15 years.
- I guess this is the story. I'm not a fan of the in-your-face Snickers ads but ... I'll follow him. Why stop now?
- Did you know? The MLB Network is counting down the 20 greatest games of the last 50 years, and it turns out I was at no. 15. It's the fifth and final game of the 1995 ALDS, M's vs. Yankees, but people in the Pac NW just call it Game 5. (We don't have many Game 5s.) Patricia and I watched MLB's show last night. Fun revisiting—I have respect for David Cone for showing up, and wow does Lou Piniella look great—but so bittersweet. The M's won the battle but lost the war. Bigtime.
- But buck up, M's fans! Inside the Book has discovered something that Chone Figgins does better than anyone in baseball.
- Wow. Bill O'Reilly is dumber than we think. And remember: he's the smart one on FOX-News.
- Richard Brody has some interesting snippets from an interview Philip Roth gave to a German newspaper two years ago. But doesn't Brody mean Roth made comic hay of Jewish anger and paraonia in the first of the Zuckerman trilogy, “The Ghost Writer,” rather than the third, “The Anatomy Lesson”? “Ten Questions for Nathan Zuckerman,” and all that. Resurrecting Anne Frank, and all that. Just talking about it makes me want to read it again. I haven't read any new Roth in years, and it'll take more than Brody's passing recommendation to get me to try “Nemesis.” Anyone else read it?
- Man, I just loved this takedown of memoirs, or at least three out of four memoirs, by Neil Genzlinger (Gunslinger?) in the Jan. 30th New York Times book review section. The one he liked? Johanna Adorjan's “An Exclusive Love.” One of the three he didn't? Allen Shawn's “Twin,” which received a positive write-up in The New Yorker. For a second I wondered if ol' Genzlinger was being too hard on his charges ... until I remembered: “Shawn,” as in William's son, and The New Yorker, where William once reigned. I'd link to the NYer review but it's subscriber only. Odd thing to keep from the masses, isn't it? “Books Briefly Noted”? Yeah, that'll get 'em to subscribe.
- “Why the Arab World is Seething” seems like an Onion infographic, but this one from The New York Times is helpful.
- On the new “Roger Ebert Presents...” show, correspondent Jeff Greenfield takes down, in very humorous fashion, one of the worst tropes of political movies: the insulting speech that wins everyone over.
- Meanwhile, Ebert co-hosts Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and Christy Lemire go over the smaller Oscar noms they're pleased with, including John Hawkes for “Winter's Bone.” Couldn't agree more.
- Glad to see them disagreeing with each other, too, as with “The Green Hornet.” She views it as a Hollywood genre film (thumbs down), which it is, and he views it as a Michael Gondry film (thumbs up), which it also is. I'm mostly with her, but the movie is still messing with the heads of its audience, even if the audience doesn't know it.
- Does this mean I have to like Paul Haggis now? Nah.
- Never has one critic (A.O. Scott) devoted so much space (two big NY Times pages) to a subject I care so deeply about (foreign films), and told me so little.
- The Brothers Coen talk here about the surprising box office success of “True Grit.” “When we finished, we put it out there and thought, 'This might cross over,'” Ethan says. “For us, that meant doing the kind of business that 'No Country for Old Men' did. What's happening now, this did not seem to be in the realm of possibility.”
- Finally, the best headline I've read about the AOL-HuffPo thing comes from Kim Voynar over at Movie City News: Arianna $300 Million, Writers 0. I say this as a reformed HuffPost poster. (“Hi, my name is Erik. It's been more than two years since my last Huff post.”) They got me when MSNBC stuff was drying up and kept me because I had something to “say” about the 2008 election. Eventually I realized I was part of the problem. Now I never even go to the site. If there's a writer you care about, you shouldn't either.
No. 15 for the MLB Network. No. 1 in the Pac NW.
Hold onto your seats; it's going to be a bumpy Lancelot Links.
- To start. The Star-Tribune's Colin Covert recently asked me, vis a vis my review of “Vincere,” what responsibility the critic has in parsing fact from fiction in historical dramas. I shrugged, adding, “Historical context should get more play if the filmmakers fudge history in a way that makes the film less interesting.” To wit: “The King's Speech,” which Christopher Hitchens' reminds us, gets its facts wrong in its drive toward the obvious and comfortable conclusion. In reality Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) was a Nazi sympathizer while George VI (Colin Firth), our sympathetic, tongue-tied hero, was an appeaser who wanted to stick with Neville Chamberlain even after Sept. 1, 1939, and whose first choice as successor was another appeaser, Lord Halifax. “And so the film drifts on,” Hitchens writes, “with ever more Vaseline being applied to the lens.”
- Then our old friend Michael Cieply gets into the act. He writes of the attempts by other filmmakers, not to mention Hitchens, to take down frontrunner “The King's Speech.” The Weinsteins, he adds, are ready to fight back:
And it is lost on few here that a primary competitor, “The Social Network,” has also faced questions about the veracity of its portrayal of the Facebook entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, so any showdown between that film and “The King’s Speech” over matters of fact and fiction might end in a draw.“
- To which Richard Brody of The New Yorker parses the difference between the two movies:
“The King’s Speech” is an anesthetic movie, “The Social Network” an invigorating one—and their scripts’ departures from the historical record serve utterly divergent purposes. The tale of royal triumph through a commoner’s efforts expurgates the story in order to render its characters more sympathetic, whereas the depiction of Mark Zuckerberg as a lonely and friendless genius (when, in fact, he has long been in a relationship with one woman) serves the opposite purpose: to render him more ambiguous, to challenge the audience to overcome antipathy for a character twice damned, by reasonable women, as an “asshole.”
- To which Tom Shone, former critic for The London Sunday Times, objects on grounds that indie films like to wallow in misery as much as Hollywood films like to revel in happy, stupid endings:
It is the reigning aesthetic consensus of the day. In Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher we have a pair of twin dark princes for whom life is misery and pain and unpleasantness not just every now and again, but all the time. Black Swan is virtually a primer on developing-your-own-dark-side, in much the same spirit that teenagers take up smoking to annoy their parents, but presented as if this represents the loftiest of artistic aims.
He thinks I’m complaining about pleasantness, and about viewers who enjoy “The King’s Speech”; not at all. ... “The King’s Speech” is pap, but I have no argument with the people who enjoy it. I’m not against the film’s existence or the audience’s pleasure, I’m against giving it awards for any supposed artistic merit. Because, as it turns out, my point of view regarding character in art is one that has some precedent. It is, in fact, the core of what we call Western art: inducing the audience to overcome feelings of repugnance or derision (i.e., prejudices or settled moral values) and enter into sympathy with people who, despite (or even because of) their virtues, make themselves into monsters (in tragedy) or asses (in comedy)
- Updates as they come. In the meantime here's a nice Sundance rundown from MSN's James Rocchi, who chronicles the hits (”Martha Marcy May Marlene“) and misses (”Son of No One“). But it's his list of superlative documentaries that most intrigues me. From Morgan Spurlock on product placement (”The Greatest Story Ever Sold“), to the daily newspaper in the internet age (”Page One: A Year in the Life of the New York Times“), to personal injury lawsuits (”Hot Coffee“) to the man inside a muppet (”Being Elmo“), I kept thinking, ”I'm there, I'm there, I'm there, I'm there.“
- I haven't read Daniel Zalewski's profile of Guillermo del Toro in The New Yorker yet, but his video on del Toro's monsters, particularly the ”pale man“ from ”Pan's Labyrinth,“ is way, way cool.
- Are you reading Alex Pareene over at Salon.com? Here he is on media coverage of events in Egypt: ”It goes against the nature of the medium to suggest that we just watch and analyze the events of a faraway nation and examine America's role only in a historical sense.“
- My friend Jerry Grillo takes a break from Facebook (for non-Tom Shone reasons) and makes a list of what he's missed. Answer: Not much.
- Finally, we have a new Superman: Henry Cavill. Here he is talking about his role on ”The Tudors." Yeah, he's a Brit. Like Batman (Christian Bale), the new Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), the young Beast (Nicholas Hault), and the old and young Professor Xes (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy). But the U.S. still has Ghost Rider! Plus Iron Man, of course (Robert Downey, Jr.). Who also plays Sherlock Holmes. Is that our tit or our tat? Either way, it feels like a trade deficit.
After yonks, Cavill wangles the bleedin' superbloke. Brilliant.
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