- Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the great, fearless men of my lifetime, a civil rights legend and speaker at the March on Washington in August 1963, denounces voter-suppression efforts in Georgia.
- Two of my faves: Jill LePore on Wonder Woman. I actually prefer the former. The latter did nothing for me in comic book form. Only in Lynda Carter form.
- They've announced the longlist for the National Book Award for non-fiction. None of my guys. No Rick Perlstein, no Michael Lewis. On the other hand, a slew of books I wouldn't mind reading if I didn't have a day job.
- What do Toni Morrison's “Song of Solomon” and Jeannette Walls' “The Glass Castle: A Memor” have in common? They've both been banned by the school system in Highland Park, Tex.
- Hendrik Hertzberg on the death of “Stephen Colbert.” All very spot-on, and highlighting my point that no one's mentioning: to replace David Letterman, they've hired an unknown.
- Nursery rhyme: Little John Boehner has lost his lawyer (in the lawsuit against Pres. Obama) but quickly got another.
- An ump tossing a fan for repetitive, profane language? I like it! (Better watch yourself, Tim!)
- You don't see enough of this kind of thing: Box Office Mojo's Ray Suber grades himself on his summer box office predictions. What did we think would take off and didn't? (“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”) What didn't we and did? (“Guardians,” “Maleficent.”) The comments about July box office were particularly interesting. The studios' fault for putting the wrong movies there? I mean, “Hercules”?
- Here are the awards from the 2014 Port Townsend Film Festival, which P and I attended with friends this weekend. The big winners seem to be the doc “Return of the River” (local) and the feature “Amira and Sam,” which played SIFF and which has been picked up for distribution. We saw our friend's doc “The Only Real Game” (about baseball in Manipur, India: Recommended!) and a showing of “Breaking Away” with a local author presenting. It wasn't a good print; the author didn't have much to say about the movie. So it goes.
- A couple of items from the Sept. 14 issue of The New Yorker, which I finally got around to reading while in Port Townsend for its film festival. First, Kalefa Sanneh's profile of Bill Cosby: “The Eternal Paternal.” It's not bad, and I always like reading about Cosby since he reminds me of my childhood (“Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” comedy LPs) and young adulthood (“The Cosby Show”); but the piece seems tied to Mark Whitaker's biography of Cosby without really being tied to it. It's mentioned and then ... poof! Does The New Yorker do what most media outlets do? Only write about pop cultural figures if it's tied to something being sold?
- Then John Lahr, Bert's son, gives us a portrait of Al Pacino, which is pretty fascinating. I didn't know much about Pacino's life, inner or otherwise, so most of this was news to me. But how Lahr could write as much as he does, and mention as many of Pacino's roles as he does, without touching on “The Insider,” is a mystery.
- Finally, and most importantly, William Finnegan on unionizing fast-food workers and the struggle for a decent wage for a decent day's work. It's both personal (the story of Arisleyda Tapia, who works at a McDonald's in Washington Heights in New York) and panoramic (the fact, for example, that “52 percent of fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance,” or that McDonald's workers over 18 in Denmark “earn more than twenty dollars an hour ... and the price of a Big Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States”).
The Lynda Carter incarnation. Good casting. More thoughts on Wonder Woman here.
Photo of the Day: Mount Townsend, Sunday
This weekend we had friends in from New York, visiting (and participating in) the Port Townsend Film Festival, and what's a visit to the Pac Northwest without a grueling hike? That's what we did yesterday. This is near the summit, along the Little Quilcene trail.
CLICK PHOTO FOR THE BIG VERSION:
I really should've had them a bit more in the lower left, shouldn't I? Oh well. It's the immensity of it all that matters.
McAdvice to McWorkers Making McPay
Maybe old news but worth repeating. Its from William Finnegan's New Yorker piece on the unionization of fast-food workers and the struggle for $15 an hour (or at least more than $7 and change):
McDonald’s has tried to acknowledge the real lives of its workforce by providing counselling through a Web site (since taken down) and a help line called McResource. A sample personal budget was offered online last year. The budget was full of odd assumptions: that employees worked two full-time jobs, for instance, and that health insurance could be bought for twenty dollars a month. The gesture made the corporation look painfully out of touch. The same thing happened with a health-advice page. Workers were advised to break food into pieces to make it go farther, sing to relieve stress, and take at least two vacations a year, since vacations are known to “cut heart attack risk by 50%.” Swimming, one learned, is great exercise. Fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you, McDonald’s declared. A mother of two in Chicago, who had worked at McDonald’s for ten years, called the help line and found herself counselled to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. This was, at least, realistic.
Read the whole thing.
Movie Review: Dom Hemingway (2014)
The biggest problem for Dom Hemingway is Dom Hemingway—not the man but the name. Well, the man, too, but you have to start with the name. How can you not have a tendency toward grandiloquence and megalomania if you’re named Dom Hemingway?
Throughout the movie, Dom (Jude Law), an East End petty gangster and safe-cracker, keeps going through the same cycle. He’s so full of himself that he acts foolish, then he beats himself up for the foolish things he’s said and done while he was so full of himself. Rinse, repeat.
Put it this way: the movie opens with Dom singing a paean to his cock as he’s being blown in prison. He compares his anatomy to a work of art—a Picasso, a Renoir, something that should hang in the Louvre. He says it should be studied by science, win a Nobel Peace Prize. He goes on and on. It’s a kind of masterwork, this soliloquy. It’s Hamlet as ass. More on this thought later.
A poor player
Shortly afterwards, Dom is let out of prison after 12 years. First thing he does? Finds a mechanic named Sandy Butterfield and, as he says, “makes Bolognese” out of his face. Was Sandy the dude that finked on him? No. He simply dated Dom’s ex before she died. He even paid for her tombstone. He’s an upstanding guy. But what do you expect from a guy who sings an extravagant paean to his cock?
The second place he goes is a pub, for a pint with his friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant), who also works for the gangster, Ivan Fontaine (Demian Bichir), that Dom didn’t give up in prison. He lost 12 years because of Fontaine. It still rankles. How much? Even after being presented with two beautiful prostitutes and cocaine and going on a three-day binge with all three, and taking the TGV with Dickie to the south of France for a meeting, Dom resents it. So much so that he belittles Fontaine. To his face. Calls him Ivana. And worse. He gets James Taylor on his ass:
You don’t scare me. You don’t fucking scare me, Anal-toli. I’ve seen death. I’ve seen evil. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen lonely days I thought would never end. ... I eye-fuck you. I throat-fuck you!
For a moment I was vaguely intrigued. “Well, this can’t end well,” I thought. But it kind of does. If Fontaine is who everyone says he is, he’s not going to allow this—even after 12 years of loyalty. Particularly when Dom demands Ivan’s girlfriend, Paolina (model Madalina Diana Ghenea, who is so hot she’s nuclear), as partial payment. Instead, amid a few vague threats, Ivan forgives, then gives Dom three quarters of a million pounds for his 12 years, then is stupid enough to get into a car driven by a drunk/high Dom down a narrow winding road. In the aftermath, Dom has cost a life (Fontaine), has saved a life (Melody, Kerry Condon of HBO’s “Rome”), and has had his three-quarters of a million pounds stolen (by Paolina). So of course, despondent, he returns to London to try to win back his daughter (Emilia Clarke, Khaleesi from HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) and get work from the son of the gangster he was fighting all of these years. The cycle continues. It gets old.
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
What doesn’t get old? The language. There’s a majesty to it, even if there isn’t to Dom. Before it all goes awry, Dom is in the pool with Melody. She tells him he has a noble chin and he says she has noble tits. She mentions her sister is an actress and he says he did a bit of acting, playing the apothecary in “Romeo and Juliet” at reform school. What I like is that by this point we realize Dom is a Shakespearean character. He even talks like one. “Misfortune befell me,” he says at one point. Look at the poster: He’s Macbeth with bad taste. He’s a low-end character with a high-end vocabulary.
That’s purposeful. Here’s writer-director Richard Shepard:
I do think there's something Shakespearean about Dom. He's a larger-than-life character, who by his very nature just shoots himself in the foot. He destroys himself at every turn. If the movie is about anything, it's about, “Dom, just don't destroy yourself any more.”
But we know he will. The movie ends, as it began, on an up-note, another soliloquy:
After much heartbreak and ruin, the pendulum of luck has finally swung back to Dom Hemingway. And I intend to enjoy each moment of its fickle pleasure—whether it lasts for a minute, a day or a lifetime.
I’m betting a minute. Dom’s life is a merry-go-round. Our step off seems arbitrary.
Quote of the Day
Maggie Renzi: You only get so many shots, so quit talking about yourself. Quit talking about what you know.
John Sayles: I always say: Don't write what you know; write what you're interested in—and do the research.
-- During a Saturday afternoon Q&A at the Port Townsend Film Festival (PTFF) when the topic of socially conscious independent film came up. Sayles and Renzi were this year's guests of honor.
Sayles and Renzi the night before at a screening of “The Secret of Roan Inish.”
Movie Review: The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)
The Italian horror/sex genre giallo, popularized by directors like Mario Bava in the 1960s and ’70s, uses elements of nightmare within its narrative but the narrative itself is fairly straightforward. “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears,” a French-language homage to the genre by Hélene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer”), is less narrative and more nightmare.
It’s also boring. The way other people’s dreams are boring.
As Dan (Klaus Tange) returns to Paris from a business trip, we see, intercut, a woman involved in kinky sex games gone awry. At home, Dan’s wife, Edwige (whose name is an homage to giallo actress Edwige Fenech), is missing, yet the apartment door is chained from inside. How?
Dan searches, obsessed, anxious. A detective shows up, suspicious. A older neighbor woman in apartment 7 sits in the shadows (with great legs) and talks of how her husband went missing. She blames the apartment above, but when Dan ascends the stairs he’s on the roof, where a naked woman stands on the ledge. They share a cigarette.
By this point, it’s almost a parody of a foreign movie: the sexuality, the incomprehensibility, the dreamscape.
It gets more confusing. Does Dan wake with his wife’s head in his bed? Doe he wake to get slashed in the back? Is he awake? Where does sleeping end and waking begin? Do we care?
Everyone has their own story, even the suspicious detective. We get his in flashback. When we came back to the apartment, Dan asks, straight-faced, “What has it got to do with my wife?” I laughed out loud.
The movie, suffused in reds and greens, is as repetitious as hell, and includes many closeups of male eyes in panic or desire, and women, losing clothes or encased in fetishistic gloves, forever out of reach. I found a few lines and images in the second half intellectually stimulating but it wasn’t enough, and the resolution was awful: clouding what felt like a rare insight.
Larger question: Why are we getting all of these arthouse versions of exploitation flicks? They were part of my “11 Worst Movies and Five Worst Trends of 2013,” and they still seem with us.
-- This review originally appeared in shorter form in the Seattle Times.
The AL Wild Card: Does Anyone Want to Win This Thing?
In the last week, the Kansas City Royals have vaulted past the Seattle Mariners and into a tie with the Oakland A's for the AL Wild Card lead, so in my mind they're on fire. Except they're not. In the last 10 games, KC has gone 4-6. To their advantage, both the M's and A's have gone 3-7. So “on fire.”
Which means Cleveland must be coming up on all of them, right? Yes and no. They've also gone 4-6 over the last 10 games. As have the Yankees. Toronto and Tampa Bay, in comparison, have been the '71 Orioles: 5-5 over their last 10.
Here's the AL Wild Card race as of today:
Among non-division leaders, the winningest teams in the AL during this period have been the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers. Both are a scorching 6-4.
Quote of the Day
“Minorities trampled on by the democratic process have recourse to the courts; the recourse is called constitutional law.”
-- Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in soundly rejecting the state's argument, in Baskin v. Bogan, that courts should defer to the democratic process in, for example, matters of gay marriage. Via Linda Greenhouse's Op-Ed, “The Moment at Hand,” which focuses on the journey of Judge Posner on marriage equality: from “no” to “maybe” to “yes, and now.”
Greenhouse goes on to comtemplate whether Baskin or one of the other same-sex marriage cases, overwhelming confirmed in the federal circuit, will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court this session. Overall, her article is celebratory—how far we've come, etc.—but there's a dark corollary of past decisions (from Plessy v. Ferguson to Bowers v. Hardwick) in that celebration: the rights of minorities are indeed protected by the U.S. Constitution from the democratic process ... as long as the minority in question isn't too despised.
Women in Cinema: SIFF Trailer
I don't know who created this trailer for the “Women in Cinema” series from SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) but they know what they're doing. I saw it the other night at a showing of “Sagrada” at SIFF Uptown and was blown away. It made me wish I was around this weekend (the series is from Sept. 18-21), but I'll be at the Port Townsend Film Festival with friends—one of whom, a woman in cinema, is showing her documentary “The Only Real Game,” about the popularity of baseball in Manipur, a border state in northeast India.
Lynn Shelton's new movie, “Laggies,” is premiering tonight at the reborn Egyptian on Capitol Hill. Jeff Wells, who hasn't been a huge fan of Shelton's previous work (“Humpday,” etc.), thinks it's her breakout movie.
Just How Bad are the 2014 Yankees?
The following stats are via Katie Sharp at “It's About the Money,” a Yankees blog:
- For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Yankees will not have a player with more than 5.0 WAR, a mark that is considered the threshold for a “Superstar” player.
- For the first time since 1968, the Yankees are not likely to have a player with 75 RBI.
- For the first time since 1968, the Yankees probably won’t have a player with an average of .280 or better qualify for the batting title (Ellsbury is the leader at .273).
- Entering this week the Yankees leader in OPS+ ... was Gardner at 118, meaning his OPS is 18 percent better than today’s average player. If that holds, it would be just the second season in the last 100 years that the Yankees did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an OPS+ of 120 or higher.
When you think about it, it's rather amazing the Yankees even have a winning record.
But don't worry, Katie, you'll get your superstar next year. A-Rod's due back, right?
2014: The year of the sad Yankees fan.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard