Tuesday, November 28, 2006

top shits

So I planned to blog a lot while in the throes of this term paper I have to write, but on the subway home from class I became abruptly and unexpectedly stoked about my topic (don't even ask), so I am going to try to absent myself from the internet for a few days. Before I go, though, here's a hack-style list of a few "best" consumer goods I am enjoying these days.

Most coveted item: convertible gloves. Bummer about the leather button on these J. Crew (uh-huh) wool-cashmere beauties:

Top jam purchased from record store:
Fucked Up-Hidden World. Even before this record, I loved this band so much I named my blog after something one of them said prior playing a show, wasted, at like 3am on a bridge in Texas. But seriously, what could you want more than some burly dude shouting about Henry Darger, Masonic symbols, and the afterlife over what are apparently 1990's oi! riffs?!

Top jam arrived in the mail
Bastard-Wind of Pain lp boot. I don't know that much about Japanese hardcore, but some dudes in the know think this is its be-all and end-all and I'm not particularly inclined to argue. THE RIFFS.

Top jam purchased serendipitously:
New Order-Substance. This is pretty severe, since hatred New Order has long stood as an unshakable tenet of mine. But this cassette cost $1 at a street fair and my goodness, how wrong I once was and I'm having trouble listening to anything else (aforementioned records excluded). Since I'm unsure about how to post YouTubes on here, go to that site and search "new order perfect kiss" and watch the nine and a half minute-long video (d. Jonathan Demme, classy [kind of]) of them playing "A Perfect Kiss," while eating some unsalted Snyder's mini-pretzels, and you will have a precise understanding of my current state of being.

Top food product: Tribe (did they jettison the "of Two Sheikhs" for the war on Terror?) Horseradish Hummus.

Top book, fiction:

The idea behind this book is pretty strange: it attempts to piece together a chronological picture of the character of Nick Adams through short stories, bits of larger works and unpublished stories and sketches. But SHIT. Probably my three favorite short stories of all time (that aren't Borges's "The Library of Babel," naturally) all appear in this book.

Top book, non-fiction:
Eichmann in Jerusalem
This is cheating a little since I took it out of the library and presently have no plans to buy it, but this might be the best thing I have ever read that isn't a Hemingway short story.

Top thing I need to buy:
Brown flats, solid color not tweedy and not made out of leather please. Suggestions welcomed.

OH! also, Top idea of the week: My friend and fellow-would-be-librarian Cory R. says that when he writes research papers, he takes all the articles he's printed out or photocopied and takes them to the copy shop to have them bound, thus creating a mini-reference work on a very particular subject. All I could say when he explained this to me was, after a long pause: "THAT IS A GOOD IDEA."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"The 1992 Robert Smith of movies"

*Ben, who also saw this movie last night, uttered that memorable pronouncement, let's be fair.

If descriptions of Casino Royale omitted two key proper nouns and explained the film as something like "conflicted, brutish spy spends three hours playing cards, engaging in tepid banter, scuffling," few--well, fewer--dudes would shell out $11 to witness it. And yet, Bond is Bond, and thus I found myself at a midnight showing of this crap.
I understand that this is supposed to be a "leaner, meaner" Bond, for the days when one might indeed see security camera footage of British agents executing seemingly unarmed civilians on BBC.com (note: I hope you are all following The Guardian's coverage of this Russian spy imbroglio, they've really stepped it up). Yet the movie still demands our apathy for the wanton destruction of construction sites and workers in developing countries, expects our suspicion of people with funny accents, and sets up--once again--an evil, multi-culti ring of international crime that assembles around a card table to decide the world's fate. So no, this movie is not less stupid than other Bond movies; it is, however, less fun. Spattering Daniel Craig with blood and having him profess true love to some fox (further note: You would, both Daniel Craig and Eva Green, although someone decided to assault Ms. Green with singularly unflattering makeup for almost the entire film) does not erase our memories of the charming, suave Bond, nor of Sean Connery's charming and suave yet heartless Bond. The character, in this film, demands the adjective "vulnerable"--whatever! We've seen "vulnerable" action heroes before; they have their place and James Bond has his. Do we really need to see him huddle up, fully clothed, next to a girl in a running shower to know that he feels something when he kills someone? [SPOILER: The film even denies you the payoff of seeing Bond kill the bad guy, which as far as I can tell, is structurally part of a movie in this subgenre]. Also, it's weird to pretend that you haven't seen a James Bond movie before, which is kind of the premise here. We know Judi Dench was Pierce Brosnan's boss in like 2002! WTF!
I wouldn't care about all this if the film had an engaging plot--not really, the epic terrorist-financing card game's about all it has--or killer set-pieces. Besides an excellent parkour-style sequence set in Madagascar, it drags pretty hard, and even a will-this-terrorist-blow-up-this-airplane scene doesn't bring it.
In sum, it is a wack Bond movie, and a wack regular action movie, and it is like two hours and forty minutes long. IGNORANT.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Long Goodbye, indeed

When I got a voice mail message offering me "condolences," I freaked out for one instant and then realized that it must have been Robert Altman who had gone on to the great movie palace in the sky. Sure enough, it was.
Notes on the passing of my favorite movie director of all time:

1)When I think about A Prairie Home Companion, I remember the lighting most of all. He used a soft--but not too soft--warm scheme, that set off the movie's wood-browns and golds and oranges in a way that gave the film the sort of glow you notice when you walk inside on a cold evening. That sounds absurdly hackneyed, but shit, the film's cheesy and familiar like that, and now it's an elegy, but I think everyone always knew it would be.

2)Often, you can say about a great individual who dies that his best work is either past or, what a shame, he was in his artistic prime. The quality of Robert Altman's films varied so consistently throughout his career, though, that we cannot know if he had a masterpiece left to make or another Cookie's Fortune.

3) Let's go back to Prairie Home for a sec: the happy regret of something finally reaching an inevitable end. In the movie, they make the final show of the fictitious radio show just like any other broadcast--no announcement is made, no tributes or retrospective, just competent, joyful business as usual. That's where the movie lies in Altman's filmography, I think.

4)I'm sad about this. It's a little weird to hail Altman as this titanic figure, though, when all his films are concerned with people who're precisely not anyone special--just regular dudes and ladies, who tend to mess up al the time, but even they find a few sparse instants of beauty or grace, even in this terrible, weird place that's America, in terrible and weird times.

5)A few of us (including Lev, who has a fine memorial post up, too) saw Thieves Like Us at the Museum of the Moving Image, and I think we were all blown away by a little part when Shelley Duvall shows up with her hair about 1/4 of the length it was in an earlier scene and a boy she likes says "Cut your hair?" and she smiles and shrugs and says "I dunno."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pre-Thanksgiving Movie Overload

Well, here I am in sunny South Orange New Jersey, full of leftover chard and rice pilaf or whatever (no tofurkey here, my mom and I celebrate the bounty of the fall harvest thankyou) and I will continue the post I wrote before I was rudely interrupted by library patrons and the passing of Robert Altman (see above).

As administrator, I have removed my O.J. post due to its obsolescence, since the American public decided to feign morality for a sec. Whatever, guys! At least I got to hear a truly next-level conversation at Generation Records about it (check back soon for a future post on mind-altering conversations/food delivery orders overheard at Generation Records).
Despite working something like eleven days in a row, I saw a glut of movies this past week.

So, I never saw Back to the Future until Friday. Really. The verdict: it's good and funny and all with some key skating by Michael J. Fox's stunt double but, as with many '80s comedies, I noticed a lot of peculiarly dark moments that overshadowed some of the hilarious bits: the massively depressing scene of the family at the table in the movie's beginning, the constant threat of Lorraine getting assaulted, etc. Robert Altman's butchery of an '80s teen comedy, O.C. and Stiggs, consists almost entirely of these cruel, weird fragments, and I would probably rather watch that any day over something that cuts in saccharine "Professor! TAKE THE LETTER!" shit. Don't get me wrong, though, I enjoyed it.

I took my mom on a date to see Europa '51 aka The Greatest Love at the Rossellini retro at the MOMA. Having not seen a great deal of Rossellini, I could see the potential for his turning this sort of consciousness/morality-awakening plot into something powerful. This movie, however, loaded on the sentiment and melodrama a bit thickly in its account of Ingrid Bergman turning from a thoughtless rich lady into a saint-like figure upon her son's death. A few stunning sequences compensate for some of the movie's more ridiculous parts, such as a several-minutes-long scene in a factory that's a kind of futurist nightmare, and every shot of Ingrid Bergman's face. Further note that the only thing that makes me cry harder than sports dramas is the instant in a movie when a mother realizes her son has died. See: Carmen Maura screaming "Hijo mio" in Todo sobre mi madre.

The next day my buddy Spencer persuaded me to watch Criterion release Gate of Flesh with him, telling me that it was like, the best movie he's seen all year. Naturally, I disbelieved, but my goodness, it took me by surprise. Having seen two other Seijun Suzuki movies, Tokyo Drifter and Fighting Elegy, I expected a twisted and near-incomprehensible plot, pretty insane mise en scene, and a killer theme song, but nothing great. This movie, however, is straight-up awesome, an undeniably powerful combination of exploitation cinema with politicized rage. Spencer made a good point when he said Gate of Flesh reminded him of West Side Story; the movie often acts like a musical, with its core group of tough-as-nails post-war Tokyo whores dressed in bright monochrome ensembles, trading off lines and wisecracks, and assembled in the frame like they're about to break out into song and dance. I guess it is some kind of allegory for the way the loss in the war emasculated Japanese men, and the complete breakdown of all social mores in the attempt to survive and comprehend the enormity of this loss? But mostly, what you get is girls hitting girls, hilarious grotesqueries (like when some kid pulls a condom out of a bowl of soup, oops!), and so much anger veiled by stunning Technicolor cinematography.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sports Dramas: Rules of the Game, Major League

You know what they say about fate and its ways, and so the combination of a sleepy me and a soapy carafe two days ago led to yesterday's purchase of an awfully nice 8-cup French press. Come by for a cup of coffee while the leaves here at the end of the world are still hanging on.
A recent proliferation of jobs has left me with little time to watch movies, much less to write about them. But now that I've received a (I hate this phrase but, for lack of better term) shout-out on Mr. Atkinson's super and popular blog, I feel like I'd better step it up a notch. The last two things I've seen are 1) Rules of the Game and 2)Major League.
Roommate and all-around top dude Ned offered that Rules of the Game was "good but not the greatest movie EVER." I may disagree, with only the explanation that--as dull and cliched as this may sound--this movie rewards multiple viewings more richly than perhaps anything else I've seen.
I cried a couple times this last time, and the pal with whom I watched it this time around told me he thought that was "cute," to which I replied that I cry during lots of movies. While true, this statement requires some nuance: I cry during every sports movie. Rules of the Game not only uses sporting as a metaphor and a plot element, but also has a similar payoff. The brief, intense outpouring of high-stakes emotions that challenges the status quo (feelings elicited by the aviator, or by your run of the mill rag-tag bunch of misfits) but ultimately, proves inconsequential (society will return to normal; Odessa, Texas will not find redemption through its high school football team) holds a great deal of the tragedy in both this film and your average sports drama or sporting event.
[Side note: that's weird about sports, isn't it? That fandom relies on an individual attaining this state of pure emotional involvement with an event that can have no tangible consequence for his own life?]
While we were watching Major League for the 10,000th time, Ned made me stop folding my socks and rewound a few seconds of the movie to show a bizarre, purposeless, and inept tracking shot. "That's not filmmaking!" he said, with happy indignation. No, it's not. This movie's inexplicably weird in wonderful ways, as seen best in Charlie Sheen's strange performance, playing the "tough guy" as a laconic naif, albeit one with amazing comedic timing (oh man, the part in the restaurant when he subtly holds the menu upside down). Once my pal Patrick said, "This is why they invented the internet."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kitchenware I hope to acquire

During a marathon afternoon/evening/night of cooking, baking, drinking, and eating at 1988 Amst., I came up with this list of kitchenware that I would like to own someday.

-Garlic press: An inessential yet time-saving and absurdly fun tool, this would be nice to have since most things I make feature a shit-ton of garlic.
-French press coffeemaker: My present miniature coffeemaker hails from the late 1970s or early 1980s and makes just enough for 2 people. Coffee brewed in a French press generally tastes better, anyway.
-Tea spoon/strainer/brewing device: Despite the amount of coffee I consume, I also drink a great deal of tea, and we all know that loose tea makes a more delicious cup than teabags, unless you get those fancy pyramid-shaped teabags, which let's not go there.
-Pepper grinder: How can my rice and beans be appropriately piquant if I use old, mellowed-out black pepper? How?
-Heavy-duty plastic baking sheet: These make you seem tough and professional, and obviate standing in front of the sink for ages while trying to scrub crusty marinade gunk off of your roasting pan.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Buy this if you see another copy at the record fair

Mason Proffit-Wanted! Mason Proffit

We all know I'll buy just about any record that has dudes in flannel shirts and fringed vests kickin' it under a tree or on a porch, and that most of it's pretty mediocre and, at its best, convincingly imitates the Byrds or CCR or whoever. I'm on my second listen to this, though, and I'll go ahead and say it's one of the best screen-door-core ("country-rock" or uh, "rural psych" to you uninitiates) records I've ever heard. Seriously, I almost never recommend this stupid music to others, but it also doesn't usually blow me away the way this record does. If you like Notorious Byrd Brothers, you'll probably like this; that's how good I think it is. Thank you, Dan from Gimme Gimme Records, for using its cover art on the "rural psych" mix cd you made, without which I might not have remembered to pick this up.

In other news, I bought some other stuff at the record fair that I may listen to at some point when I can stop listening to Mason Proffit (actually, I'll probaby give The Saints Eternally Yours a spin now, since I'm so happy to own it at last)and I saw The Rules of the Game, which is yeah, what everyone else says it is. Reader, if you plan to go see it while it's still at Film Forum (through Nov. 16), let me know and I'll watch it again.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Groceries pt. 2

Maybe in this age, post-that wack Allen Ginsburg poem, "Lost in the Supermarket," and endless, redundant analyses of aesthetics of consumption (as seen, to less wack effect, in that Andreas Gursky photo), it's a little silly to blather poetically about going to the grocery store. But then, if an enormous fiberglass cow and chicken sat atop your local supermarket, you would probably veer right a little every time you got off the subway, figuring that you either need something now or will tomorrow.
Where clothes shopping holds the possibility of total disappointment--you won't want anything, what you want won't fit or will cost too much, or the truth that you probably don't genuinely need whatever it is plagues you--grocery shopping is all about endless promise. If the flourescent lights in dressing rooms draw out all your blemishes, the ones at the grocery only make the bananas yellower and more endearing. It is warm in winter, cold in summer, and I have probably spent more time in my life shopping for food than I have engaged in any other single activity (save, maybe, sleeping or complaining) so really, the grocery store's just as good as home.

Today I got
Soymilk (most necessary food item)
Pita bread (to accompany leftover lentil curry. I sprang for the slightly more expensive pita bread, using the later expiry date as an excuse)
Frozen spinach (cheaper than real spinach and a-ok in most things)
Newman's Own Cabernet Marinara Sauce (tomato sauce has myriad uses, really!)
Butternut squash (theoretically, for use in bean/squash/tomato/peanut soup. post-colonial!)
Tofu (for which I always have grand plans but will probably crumble up in tomato sauce or dump into miso/noodle soup)

Grocery store bummer/2 things about words

I planned to reward myself with a post-homework midnight trip to Fine Fare, but since I still have homework and already put on p.j. pants (fact: they have snowflakes on them), I can neither go to Fine Fare nor write about the pleasures of late night grocery store runs, because they are many and it'll just sadden me out to ponder what I'm missing.
Here are two things about words I should have figured out before today, though, which I only learned this afternoon while reading an article about spirit possession (note: unrelated to my homework) at the Mid-Manhattan Library:
1)The word "xenoglossia" exists, to describe the ability to spontaneously speak foreign languages, typical in spirit possession
2) The word dybbuk--the Jew type of malignant possessing spirit--comes from the Hebrew root which pertains to sticking, gluing, or attaching. I'm into that.