Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Life of the Party

I'm sure that none of this will come as a surprise to any of you, but once again the Republican mystic insane religious zealot cabal and I have disagreed on a major issue, this time stem cells. This has been a Cirque du Soleil of ultra-conservative mastery of bad rhetoric: who can forget Bush appearing amid the throngs of Snowflake Babies, senator Brownback's memorable assertion that stem cell research would have killed Mother Teresa, John F. Kennedy and (!) Ronald Reagan, and Michael Steel of Maryland's well-publicized comparison of stem cell research to Nazi medicine? Oh, oh, this makes me tired and mad, almost too mad to blog. As I have said repeatedly over the last six years, this particular ultra-conservative constellation is almost impossible for me to understand. Starting a war in Iraq in order to line the pockets of Bechtel and Halliburton (even I will admit that this is probably not the only reason) is evil but nonetheless comprehensible since it's about money. But blocking stem cell research (like fighting evolution) just doesn't make any sense to me: there's no money in it, and (if the New York Times is right) it doesn't even play well with the moderate conservatives.

Bush has repeatedly justified our continued presence in Iraq as a kind of homage and compensation for the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives there in order to protect American and Iraqi lives in the future. Yet he has no trouble condeming scientific research that consumes stem cells as morally evil? This is classic Party of Life biopolitics: the state is responsible for fostering the production of killable, technically living bodies, not making sure that anyone has a decent life.

If we extend his logic, which casts fertility clinic doctors and research scientists as premeditated murderers, shouldn't we make masturbation and menstruation capital crimes? Every woman who cruelly and selfishly allows herself to go un-pregnant for a month could be murdering the next Martin Luther King! Every man who jerks off to a crudely photoshopped picture of Britney Spears as a centaur could be slaughtering the next Strom Thurmond! In some cases, in the womb, two eggs are fertilized and larger, more viable blastoma consumes the weaker one: FIRST DEGREE MURDER! As soon as the baby is born, it should be sent to a special infant's prison, and its perfidious mother should be tried as acessory or at least beaten with a strap by her husband.

Perhaps reading the Times editorial page or almost any other media outlet will give a more coherent and less histrionic picture of the situation, but this is what happens when we somehow have let ourselves be governed by a bunch of superstitious wierdos who base their decision making on opinion polls and the Book of Revelation. More and more poltical cartoonists and editorialists are catching on to the fact that our home-grown fundamentalist authoritarian oligarchy is not too too different from the Universal Islamic Calihpate that we are supposed to fear so constantly. If my fieldwork weren't turning out to be so oddly, surprisingly uplifting and positive, I would be really depressed now. It's a black pass we come to when the international pharmaceutical industry is doing a better, dramatically more humanitarian job than our government.

A Spotter's Guide to Whelks

We Don't Live Here Anymore
An intimate, very unhappy movie with only four actors and a lot of hugging, but what actors, and what hugs! Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, Mark Ruffalo and Peter Krause are the stars, and the hugs are naked and sometimes against a painful-looking tree. The basic plot is that two couples cheat on their spouses in almost every possible permutation (it's what Closer might have been, had it been a good movie and not an embarassing Livejournal). It sounds leaden and depressing, but it's actually quite funny and completely riveting. From two Andre Dubus short stories. For fans of Six Feet Under, or people who just want to see Laura Dern step in cat poop, this is the can't miss hit of the summer!

Southern Belles
For maybe six minutes I tried to like this independent comedy about two obnoxious girls who (in one of the film's many twee touches) are both named Belle (OK, one is Bell, the other Belle). They live in rural Georgia and are trying to save up enough money to move to Atlanta (in real life, this would take maybe $80). This is an indie movie, and boy does it show, from the inexpert camera work to the NYU film school script filled with alternating leaden moralizing and faux-natural dialogue that sounds as fresh and unaffected as a Harold Pinter play. It stars Anna Faris and some doe-eyed no name - I adore Anna Faris, but she really was not very good or even very funny in the admittedly limited role of Belle (who, unfortunately, is the sidekick). This film looks like it was supposed to be a love-letter to the idiosyncratic south, but was instead a parade of idiotic, un-selfconcious cliches and one-note characters. Terrible.

This could have been a fun voodoo-and-murder filled romp, but instead was just kind of boring. Evil gas station attendant Ray (who I will call Ray Harryhausen) gets attacked by a magic devil suitcase filled with CGI snakes, then turns into a voodoo zombie intent on killing all the sexy teens who wronged him by either flashing their boobs at him or being polite to him. Too slow moving, and too much emphasis placed on the literally colorless bad guy, who kills people with such implements as a crowbar and at one point a tree. Mostly just the crowbar. This does fit into the interesting pop-media theory that post 2000 is the Year of the Zombie (wheras the 90s were for vampires, and the 80s werewolves). Give it a miss.

Movies I would like to see made: Devil Suitcase, Fatal Ablution, The Great Cuttlefish Caper, Those Two who would Steal the Moon (English remake), M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense Two: Ghosts in Da Hood (let me just point out here on the internet, where my voice will really be heard, that I hate Shyamalan and his work about as much as his rival overrated airhead childish auteur Tim Burton)

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Poo World

A Review of The New World
I usually enjoy Terrence Malick (to the extent to which you can “usually” enjoy the work of a guy who has made like three films).  I thought Days of Heaven was spectacular, and I would pick Malick over Tommy Lee Jones to direct a film adaptation of Blood Meridian.  But The New World bored me when it was not unintentionally making me laugh.  All the reviews of this movie have told the truth: the story of Pocahontas’ love with Colin Farrel and marriage to pioneer/psycho Christian Bale does not sustain the movie’s three hour length.  Malick also aligns the Indians with nature and truth and the settlers with artifice and falsehood.  How original.  For all the love that Malick’s gaze lavishes on the Indians, it invests them with very little humanity.  In an early scene beautiful ingĂ©nue Q’Orianka Kilcher and her brother play with one another in a field, mimicking antlers with their hands as if to say, “I am so innocent and connected to nature that I can’t tell if I’m an animal or not.”  In a very tired and predictable way this film ennobles and cuts us off from its savages.  Watch it for some sweet fish-burying scenes and in order to pretend that Christian Bale is about to murder everyone, but don’t expect any character, plot or insight.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Devil Wears Blundstones

A review of The Proposition

Never watch a movie written by a musician.  Australian goth-rocker Nick Cave wrote this movie and it quite clearly reflects his sensibilities of hot, rural, sleazy violence.  I actually kind of like Cave’s music (which doesn’t show up much in the film, except for a moronic ditty about the sun and the moon that Guy Pierce hums on occasion), but his screenwriting so far is not winning me over.  This movie is about Australian bushrangers in the 19th century, and continues that subject’s unblemished streak of sentimental, unsuccessful productions (Ned Kelly, both book and movie anyone?  I’ll admit here in cold cyber-print that I have a particular loathing for both).  It stars Guy Pierce, who basically just grimaces his way through the role of hardened killer Charlie Burns, and Ray Winstone from Sexy Beast, who turns in a wonderfully understated performance as a rural police chief (if you don’t count the first scene, in which he keeps repeating “I will civilize this land!” and acts entirely unlike he does for the rest of the movie).  The titular proposition is the deal that Winstone and Pierce strike: Guy Pierce has to kill his brother, Danny Huston, to save the life of his other brother, who looks like Pippin from Lord of the Rings and whose name is not important.  The New York Times complained that Danny Huston was miscast as a sociopathic bandit with a penchant for elaborately orchestrated rapes, but I thought he did OK. The landscape and characters reel by in a relentless, lurid parade of ugliness and grit, but the plot is at once thin and contrived and the dialogue is wooden in the manner of pop lyrics, unsurprisingly.  Sentimental and too gross, but not an entirely bad film.

A review of The Devil Wears Prada

If this film could have decided if it felt that the fashion industry is an elaborate farce or a vital organ in the body of society it would have been better.  In fact, it should have been a sweetly dumb comedy about the idiotic affectations of New York’s high fashion crowd, but instead it turns into a disingenuous and boring meditation on whether Anne Hathaway should stay true to herself and her two-dimensional boyfriend Adrian Grenier.  Early in the film Meryl Streep (as Miranda Priestly, Lauren Weisberger’s caricature of Anna Wintour) gives a long speech about how Anne Hathaway’s cerulean sweater was actually the product of a complicated series of decisions spanning years and miles but ultimately finding their sole author and parent in none other than Streep herself.  This silly speech is supposed to raise the question of hey uh maybe like fashion is actually important?  But luckily it isn’t.  The movie is at least an hour two long and has too much Hathaway and not enough plot.   I haven’t read the novel but my expectations, should I ever choose to do so, remain very low.  Capable but entirely unimportant.