Monthly Archives: September 2009

Roman Polanski Arrested

The film director was flying in to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Swiss. Psyche! Now he’s behind bars and facing extradition to the U.S. Polanski has been living in France since fleeing the U.S. in 1978.

For the details, I’ll let the Associated Press fill us in (it is their job, you know).

This is a warrant that stems back 30 plus years. Yet the U.S. has been seeking his arrest since 2005? Me no understand!

Well, if you’re like me, you’ll want to  go and see this documentary. I did.

Besides the fact that it’s the only documentary on the subject, it’s a terrific biography overall and gives you a great perspective on the situation. What Polanski did was deplorable, absolutely despicable. But, it’s kinda sorta been settled. The victim is joining in the bid to release him even. It’s over. Can’t we just call it even?

Update: Alright, I can’t just let this go any longer. Roman Polanski IS a fucking criminal. I don’t like the idea of anyone hurting another, and that’s what he did. I also don’t like the idea of a celebrity using that status to escape or otherwise evade justice. And that’s going on too. Bring him in, I say. But this time, let’s have a fair trial. I’m also against (and this is probably what I should have said earlier) these media trials, like O.J. or Phil Spector, these men should receive a fair and balanced trials, like everyone. Bring in Polanski. No one hurts a young girl in my country and gets away with it.

Quick Top Five Polanksi films.

5. The Pianist– Polanksi won an Academy Award for best director, over notables like the then winless Martin Scorsese, despite not being able to be there due to this whole flee from justice bit. The Academy shows a bit of a backbone for once.

4. Knife in the Water– An early Polanki film, full of dread and mystery. It’s captivating, it’s creepy. I love it. A stark black and white filmed brilliantly by a young auteur.

3. The 9th Gate-No. Wait. This movie sucks.

2. Rosemary’s Baby– So freakin’ scary, even though nothing really happens for an hour and a half. Then, bam! devil child. Polanksi gets actors to create characters so real and fully imagined. I believe it’s one of his greatest gifts. Everyone in a Polanksi film gives the performance of their lifetimes. Except Johnny Depp. Damn 9th Gate was awful.

1. Chinatown-Of course it’s Chinatown. How could it not be? Made in 1974, it might be the film of the decade. And the 1970’s is the greatest decade of American films. So this could be the Greatest American Film OF ALL TIME.  Feel free to argue me on this, but I’ll come after you. Hard.

“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

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Don’t Burn After Reading!

After a long literary dry spell, I have begun reading some books again. I’ve always been a fan of reading. If Levar Burton taught me anything, besides not to take his word for it, reading is a great way to relax and forget your own miserable boring life ( mine anyways) and enter worlds of imagination and wonder. This is probably why I mostly like books with some element of fantasy or creative fiction in them, if only a dabbling. No Abe Lincoln biographies or ruminations on the intricacies of the dung beetle please.

Here is a rundown on some of my newly collected and conquered works.

I used to work in this cafe, connected to a book store that often had signings and readings. This cafe made sandwiches named after authors. Our ham on rye was called the Bukowski and so forth. When Tom Robbins was in town, I made him his own nom de plume sandwich, a turkey and jack cheese with extra mayo, just the way he likes it I was told. I know. Big deal. Wup de doo. Get on with it already.

Jitterbug Perfume is right up there with my other favorite Robbins extravaganzas. It takes place over centuries, involves the secrets of the human condition, and generally plays out as hilarious as it is intriguing. The main body of the novel deals with Alobar, an ancient king destined to die, until he decides that’s basically bullshit. He, along with his love Kudra, lives out the centuries immortal and young, after learning some monk’s techniques of course. Those monks, is there anything they can’t do?

Cut to the present where a host of characters are all intertwining across the globe, all after a mysterious scent, as this books main subjects are beets and perfume you see, and everything culminates in a fantastical and enjoyable read. I loved it. If you’ve never read Robbins before, start at Still Life With Woodpecker. But then move onto Jitterbug Perfume. It’s really very lyrical and poignant.

Four bookmarks out of five.

I have been eating up Dick like crazy lately ( ummmm there’s gotta be a better way to say that) I mean Phillip K. Dick of course. He’s already considered one of the most influential and important writers in any genre, let alone Science Fiction, so my praises are like a handful of dirt on a mountain of accolades. But here goes.

Now Wait For Last Year is one of best books concerning time travel, interplanetary war, and the strains of marriage I’ve ever read. It centers on Eric Sweetscent, love that name, an anti forg surgeon-meaning he specializes in replacing dead or dying organs with artificial ones-being called into service for the Commander in Chief of the freaking world. This guy, Gino Molinari, aka the Mole, is losing a war against one planetary race while being in an unfornatate alliance with another.

Basically, there’s also this drug that allows you to move through time and the parallel universes that exist and Eric starts doing this. He travels into the future and then returns once the drug has worn off, though he seems to return, oddly, one year into the future. Long story short, he is the key to fixing the intergalactic shit storm we’re involved in and winning the war. Can he do it? Will he do it? Find out for yourself.

NWFLY is as brilliant as anything I’ve read so far of Dick’s. The story is absolutely addictive and compelling. I found myself just mesmerized through the whole thing, not able to put it down. Dick’s novels and stories all encompass a visionary quality, as if he was actually there relating events. It’s the best of SF as far as I’m concerned, and this is at the top of that list for sure.

Side note-If you have a chance, download or otherwise get yourself a copy of A Scanner Darkly on audio book, as read by Paul freakin’ Giamatti! It’s basically the best thing on this planet if you’re too lazy to read or just love hearing that gruff stuff over the course of 12 hours.

Five bookmarks out of five.

This book sucks! N is for Neck? X is for X? How about G is for Get the Fuck out of here!

Zero bookmarks. Take that educational art book aimed at 8 year olds.

This is some fucked up shit right here. Having only read Volume One of the Books of Blood (there are three) I can tell you without a doubt that Clive Barker is one sick puppy. As if Hellraiser wasn’t proof enough. The stories contained in here are gruesome, depraved, and sometimes comical accounts of butchery, demons, and a whole town’s worth of blood rushing at you.

Maybe the most recognizable yarn in the collection is “The Midnight Meat Train” since it was made into an awful movie about a year ago. It’s truly disturbing and twisted, but much more creepy and ominous than the film made it out to be. My favorite story is “The Yattering and Jack” about a demon tasked with menacing a poor widower until he snaps. The problem is this Jack character is the most clueless, dim witted, befuddling opponent the Yattering has ever faced. Or is he? It’s a power struggle the likes of which I’ve never seen, and a story I read over and over. Some of the other stories are decent, it’s just all very bizarre stuff. I mean really fucking out there. Not sure if I’ll take on Volume Two or Three, but my interest is peaked. Like a kid who’s covering his eyes in the gory scenes, only to split his fingers open and peek anyways. Nightmares be damned!

Three bookmarks out of five.

Full Disclosure- I’m still reading Kafka On The Shore, but I wanted to talk a bit about Murakami. This is one of the last Haruki Murakami books I have yet to read. And considering he’s got about a dozen printed in English, that’s saying something. So far, it’s a lot like his other novels. A young disaffected man goes off searching for something he can’t quite put his finger on. He meets some mysterious women, sits around reading and listening to music (Murakami is a music fiend!) and there’s a sub plot involving mass hypnosis and talking cats. So, yea. It’s shaping up to be a great read.

Murakami has such a unique way with language. Maybe it’s his inclination towards rhythm in his writing or the fact that it’s translated from Japanese, a very different literary structure from English prose for sure, but Murakami’s books are so different from anything else I’ve read. They are usually very simple stories, with incredibly relatable characters, living out these surreal dream like scenarios. I’d imagine Murakami being in a sort of trance while writing, everything coming out super zen. It kind of always puts me in that place, a calm and peaceful mood, when I’m reading him. I walk away a bit dazed, but very satisfied.

Rating reserved until after completion.

So that’s about it. If you have any recommendations, I’m always looking for a good read. Let’s get lit!

-Charlie

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How Cool is Max von Sydow?

So cool. Maybe the coolest. I don’t want to rush to any conclusions, but I will. I’m going to bet that Max is the Swedish equal of Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and Richard Gere all rolled in one! ( I figure Richard Gere will NEVER get another mention in this blog, so why not?)

How many great movies has Max been in? Wait, let’s see… um about a million. The old guy is in his 80th year on Earth, but he has embodied so many great characters in so many great films, he seems timeless, utterly invincible, fucking immortal. We will never lose Max von Sydow. On the last day of the world, Max and Clint Eastwood will be sitting there on some plastic furniture (plastic never dies either), sipping their respective drinks (I imagine whiskey for Clint, maybe a fine white wine for Max) and shooting the shit about life, death, and the unknowable.

Max has played God, the Devil, and everyone in between. He’s been in great films, awful movies, and even a Bond flick. For now, let’s quickly look at Max von Sydow’s more than illustrious career. And we’re starting with the heavy shit.

The Seventh Seal

The Seventh Seal is one of the most essential films of all time, film only being in existence for a hundred odd years. This film heralded the arrival of not only von Sydow, but director Ingmar Bergman. The iconic Swedish film maker and von Sydow, himself a Swede, worked together more often than De Niro and Scorsese. Which means they worked together a lot.

The Seventh Seal takes place in midieval Sweden, right smack in the middle of the black plague, and everyone is basically losing their shit. Max plays chess throughout the film with Death. He and his squire roam around, with not much to do after ten years crusading the Holy Land. They show up and see how disgusting and abhorrent their homeland is and figure, maybe death ain’t so bad after all. I know I’m trivializing it, but really this is one of those films that is so heavy, so dense and dark and packed with such confronting philosophy, that to really talk about it would take forever. It should have its own post, but then I’m lazy.

Safe to say Mx would appear in many other brilliant Bergman films, some as stunning and sacred as the Seventh Seal, some merely minor masterpieces. Here’s a couple of ones I’ve seen

The Virgin Spring- The most bad ass Bergman film, Max totally fucks up these two guys that killed his daughter. (I told you this stuff was dark)

Through a Glass Darkly-No, not the Phillip K Dick story, you nerd. But where do you think Dick came up with his title? Max is married to a schitzo who talks to God, who is a giant spider. I love this stuff.

The Exorcist

In Sweden, Max von Sydow’s name is synonymous with deep philosophical thought, existential malaise, and a yearning for the meaning of life. In America, he may just be known as the guy who gets pea soup barfed up on him.

As classic as the Bergman films were/are, von Sydow’s American legacy will always begin with the Exorcist. I mean, he is the Exorcist. As the priest with a compelling power, he fought the Devil. The Devil, people. You wanna fight the Devil? Or you wanna call Max and have him duke it out with the prince of darkness?

Max von Sydow was only 44 years old when he made this, so I’m hoping there was a fantastic make up man on set. (In fact there was, his name is Dick Smith and he made the scariest little girl I have ever seen. Good job) The whole movie is a classic, but especially Max, I really think it’s his performance that sells it.

So now that you’re a famous actor in America, Max, what are ya going to do now?

Steppenwolf- Max’s performance is this film. He is everything we take away from the screen.

Awakenings- Max is so good at playing doctors, priests, fucking 14th century knights! These are men of respect, of character, of honor. Coincidence?

Conan the Barbarian-Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. “What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance!… I salute you.”

Dune

OK, let’s talk about David Lynch’s Dune. This film is best known as one of the most monumental failures in film history. But really, let’s talk about the film, not the story around it. Dune is a sweeping, stunning opera of sci-fi allegories and moralities. And while hot shot Kyle Maclachlan gets the reward, old Maxxy is there to back him up and kick some sandworm tail!

I like Dune. I like anything David Lynch will do, but really, I feel that Dune wasn’t his thing. Lynch was an upstart himself, coming off the success of the Elephant Man and the reputation he earned with Eraserhead.

Sooo, those whip smart executives figure that the guy who’s been making all of these dark and bleak character studies, who can unravel nerves and confound the most poignant of critics, let’s give him the multi million dollar budget mess we’ve been prepping in the Mexican desert for a year. Why? How does David Lynch directing Dune make any sense on paper? And yet the guy sort of pulls it off. He gives us creepy, he gives us scary. He gives us Sting. What more do you people want from him? Truth be told, Dune is just too big a story for one film.

As for Max, let me say this. As a lead in the films he leads, he is fantastic. As a character actor, usually in a supporting role, he is unbeatable. So many movies he’s in only briefly are changed because of him, enhanced, richer for his involvement.

Come to think of it, Max has starred in a lot of sci fi, weird right?

Flash Gordon- Oh yea. He’s in this.

Judge Dredd- Yes, he is in this too. Don’t judge him too harshly. Get it? Judge him? I crack myself up.

Minority Report-ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz Huh? Wha? Oh, I typed the words “Minority Report” and suddenly became so sleepy I just ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The Ice Pirates- Seriously? Yes and yes on this one.

One last mention. Max von Sydow was uncredited for but was in fact the voice of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters 2.

I mean it. This is not a joke . Motherfucking Vigo. So, how cool is Max von Sydow then? You tell me. Tell me he’s not the coolest old guy acting it up out there right now. Tell me this, and I’ll call you a fool.

Personally, I can’t wait to see him next in Shutter Island, the upcoming thriller/mystery from Martin Scorsese himself. Max is looking good too. As fresh as the day he beat the Devil.

-Charlie

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Today in Unecessary Supergroups

The latest thing in music seems to be the super friends phenomenon. Musicians, prompted either by lackluster sales or lacking inspiration, just can’t seem to get enough of palling around with other elitist musicians and creating the dreading supergroup. It’s a sight all too common since Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and a Beatle(!) got together for the stupidest-band-name-in-history finalists The Traveling Wilburys.

But theyre so old...

But they're so old...

These days, any Tom, Dick and Harry in the indie world is scanning their ranks and pairing up or forming teams a la recess softball. And now, here come the hippie’s entry with Monsters of Folk.

Clockwise from top left: Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, M Ward

Clockwise from top left: Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, M Ward

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start.

1. You’ve got four reasonably talented songwriters, apparently sharing duties and collaborating, and this is the best they could come up with for an album cover? For a name? Monsters of Folk? Are you freaking kidding me?

2. The very notion of this even being a folk group is dispelled upon first listen. Sadly, the three tracks released prior to the album, out Sept. 22nd like you care, are about as trivial and misguided as anything the men could have done on their own. Maybe Oberst. That snot nosed little brat is always fiddling with some brand of suck.

Psst. You look ridiculous.

"Psst. You look ridiculous."

Just listen to their turntable laden falsetto crackin’ jive talkin’ BeeGee’s derived “folk” hit Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)

NO REALLY. LISTEN TO IT. Dear God is right. Dear God make it stop!

3. I mean, besides the quality of the actual recording process (is that even there?), this kinda blows right? Am I off on this one? Am I the only dimwit out here who’s thinking, “maybe a band with the word folk in it should play folk music?”

Yes? No?

It’s true that I’ve never really been a fan of My Morning Jacket or Jim James, I’ve seen them, I’ve heard them, no big whup.

And M. Ward is alright, but no big deal to me either. (and I like She & Him even less. Take that hipsters!)

And I don’t even know who Mike Mogis is. But really, Mike Mogis? They couldn’t get one more famous pseudo folkster on for something called Monsters of Folk? Mogis?

Sorry. If you’re fuming in disbelief right now cause My Morning Jacket is, like, the best ever or M. Ward is so fucking amazing he makes you cry like a little girl then I guess this sounds a bit blasphemous, but I’m willing to take that chance.

Really, I just hate it when kids today are listening to absolute shit out there and, instead of teaching them the good stuff, musicians are more apt to resort to whatever means necessary to get a slot on The Tonight Show or MTV or Rolling Stone, or any of those spotlights that could not care less about actual music. And I see this as one of those moments.

C’mon guys. If you are the Monsters of Folk you claim to be, step up and play some fucking folk music! Hmmmm. Whatever. The real tragedy is, these guys don’t even really inspire that much emotion out of me. I’m already over it.

Give me the Monsters of Rock!!!

-Charlie

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Disney bought Marvel and already the world is collapsing

Yesterday, the Disney Corporation bought Marvel Comics for $4 Billion.

All that time I was wondering what to think of this deal. It could be awful. It could be the downfall of comics and comic movies. It could be great. I’m not discounting that. Disney owns Pixar, and you love Pixar. Don’t deny it.

So Disney might not muck up the whole Marvel empire, but you know what will? Every other studio currently making Marvel titles.

FOX studios, for example, has now reported that they are actively working on a new Fantastic Four movie. Ummmm. What?

That’s right. Under the Disney/Marvel agreement, any other studio with rights to Marvel properties, like Sony with Spiderman and FOX with Fantastic Four, can keep making those movies, as long as they don’t stop.

So FOX has decided there’s a little blood left in the Fantastic Four turnip, and they’re aiming to squeeze that fucker to death. And here’s the kicker, from the A.V. Club:

“Fox now plans to start over under the guidance of writer/producer Akiva Goldsman—because if there’s one guy who knows how to get superheroes right, it’s the screenwriter of Batman and Robin

Oh God no.  I am literally speechless. As if FF wasn’t already the worst series in Marvel’s movie canon, the guy who almost single handedly brought down Batman is going to run the show?

The only silver lining here is that one movie should be more than enough to kill off the FF franchise but good. Have at it, Goldsman. Do your worst. I will go on ignoring Fantastic Four movies as I have done before. Just don’t tell Hitler, I have a feeling he won’t like this whole deal one bit.

-Charlie


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