4/30/2004 11:45:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Movie moments II
Part one is here.
90.Charles W. Kingsfield Jr's first lecture in "The Paper Chase." (1973) The brilliant, warmly menacing professor opens his classroom sheet, calls on a person at random, and asks him to state the facts of a case. He grills Timothy Bottoms so bad that he runs outside and pukes.
89."We're gonna need a bigger boat" from "Jaws." (1976) "We're gonna need a bigger boat."
88.Peter learns to be a gangsta in "Office Space." (1999) Peter (Ron Livingston), newly hypnotized, learns to dick around at work to the soundtrack of "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta" by Geto Boys. He finishes by gutting a fish. On his desk.
87.Nigel talks guitars in "Spinal Tap." (1984) Yeah, this is the "goes up to 11" scene, but it also contains footage of Nigel (Christopher Guest) playing his guitar, and then a guitar with his feet, and then he plays the first guitar with a violin as a pick. And he SUCKS.|W|P|108333994525971269|W|P||W|P|4/30/2004 10:21:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|I'm a racist, part II
After my column was published I got some upset e-mails from people I quoted. One person, indeed, had her opinion misrepresented in the article. Apart from misquoting a source, this is the worst thing a reporter can do. And it was so unnecessary - the first draft of the column was correct, but to cut the word length a vital quote was extracted and bad information was introduced.
The resulting furor on the letters page reminds me why I much prefer reporting to opinion-writing. There is one comment about the error, then a whole bunch that basically denies me the right to have an opinion. The activists who disagree with me demphasize what I said (taken directly from the student government bill I was talking about), expand upon the stuff that makes them look reasonable, and then call me a liar.
I take lying really, really seriously. I sweat and rave about mistakes when they'd appear in articles I'd edited. But the impression I gave of a few protest-obsessed Asian American student groups and an administration that doesn't like being mau-maued is completely true.
I expected as much from this little article, though. It's the last thing I'll write about NU's student groups.|W|P|108333486573728274|W|P||W|P|4/29/2004 01:06:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|I'm a racist
I wrote a fairly deeply-researched column on a proposal to bulk up NU's Asian American Studies program, and got one piece of mail that surprised me. Here was my lede:
They may be the only students fighting to take more classes. The activists working to expand the Asian American Studies program, who have lobbied the administration fiercely all year, are gathering tonight to support an Associated Student Government bill demanding more faculty and Asian-American courses in at least 13 disciplines. And students like me are wondering why.Then I got this.
Your opening statement about Asian Americans fighting to take more classes reflects a stereotyped view of Asian Americans. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but realize you've offended almost 20% of the student population at NU. Please understand that your sarcastic and inaccurate judgments will not go unnoticed.Honestly who reads that first sentence and says "he's stereotyping Asian Americans"? Is it not strange that student activists would pour their energy into getting more classes? College students, who are better known for having keggers, playing frisbee, and protesting war?|W|P|108325841124224384|W|P||W|P|4/28/2004 11:13:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|More Specter
John Tabin has comments, paid and unpaid. I should add that I'm enormously pleased by the eventual results. 51-49 are as close an election as you can get without the other side demanding recounts or staging coups. And the portents are good:
- Specter overcome 11th hour expectations of defeat. Among conservatives - those most likely to hold a grudge against him - he seems like a winner again.
- That he won at all is thanks to the efforts of Bush and Santorum, two conservative favorites. It bodes pretty well for their electoral clout - not ideal, but it's there.
- The Club for Growth has been losing the races that pit free-market social conservatives against social liberals. They got destroyed in Schwarzenegger-McClintock. They got pipped this time, in perhaps their most high-profile race. But when they throw cash toward more libertarian candidates, or throw it in the way of statists, they do well. As David Mark wrote in a prescient Campaigns and Elections profile, they turned Mark Kirk (IL-10), Scott Garrett (NJ-5), Mike Rogers (MI-8) and Ric Keller (FL-8) into congressmen, and John Sununu (NH) into a US senator. Kirk and Sununu would never pass the litmus test that NRO subjected Specter to. These are the candidates they should back - not wallpaper-dry cultists like Toomey.
- I'm reading John Farrell's excellent Tip O'Neill biography at present, and there are some great chapters about how O'Neill's politics slowly, cynically metamorphisized whenever there was enough pressure back home. Most notably, he went from pro-Vietnam War to anti- after constituents pressed him and defeated pro-war state senators in Massachusetts. There's no direct comparison to make, since Specter would be serving a final 6-year term. But activists shouldn't write themselves off because he's their senator. They should use the Toomey organization (whatever it was) and form a conservative pain-in-the-ass group that hounds Specter on the Hill.
I spoke to other issues previously.|W|P|108316521413052627|W|P||W|P|4/28/2004 10:22:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|The march of progress
I was writing a review and sought to explain how something was like a softer version of something else. I wrote that it was "low-cal." Then I backspaced and wrote "low-carb." Says it all.|W|P|108316212851794192|W|P||W|P|4/28/2004 08:17:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|NYT on SP
Virginia Heffernen's view-from-the-top of South Park is equal parts informative and incorrect. To begin with, she says "The Passion of the Jew" (episode 8-03) "proved that the show's still got it or that it's made a comeback or that it's better than ever." I thought it sucked. But I didn't know the scenes of Mel jumping around in underwear were from "Lethal Weapon." I've never seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies. I sort of just quote them second-hand, like when I say "DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!" I think that's from the second one.
In any case, Heffernen is wrong. South Park has been on a steady upward bend since the third season in 1999 - the season which coincided with the beloved "Bigger, Longer and Uncut" movie. The season opener had the kids joining a choir (which actually sang along to tapes) called "Getting Gay with Kids," and sent them to the South American rainforest. When the kids nearly die there, the episode turned into a public service demanding the destruction of the rainforest. The rainforest! The season's pinnacle was episode 3-10, "Chinpokomon," in which the kids of America get addicted to a familiar Japanese cartoon and game which happens to be subliminally recruiting them to join the Japanese army and bomb Pearl Harbor. This played on all of our latent stereotypes about Japanese (there's a running gag about the Chinpokomon mastermind and his tiny penis) while bashing a truly hateworthy fad. The season ended with the introduction of South Park's God - a short, ugly platapus creature. That's brilliant enough to do without explaining.
The fourth season was another step up, opening with "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime," in which the fat kid goes to federal prison for hitting the town's black kid - Token (!) - with a rock. Since the kids need Cartman to win a sledding competition, they present a commonsense case to the governor on how hate crime legislation is inherently wrong and prejudicial (after all, Cartman just pelted the kid because he's an asshole). The next episodes saw a serious metamorphosis in the series, as the original character Pip got his own episode (narrated by Malcolm McDowell as "a British person") and was written off the show. In his place came severely handicapped Timmy, a boy in an electric wheelchair who can only say one word - his own name. Naturally, he joins a metal band that threatens the popularity of Phil Collins (shown clutching an Oscar - he beat South Park's "Blame Canada" with one of his treacly "Tarzan" songs in 2000). Then it was back to social commentary, as Cartman, seeking mature friends, joins NAMBLA (episode 4-06), holistic medicine nearly kills Stan (4-07), Chef demands the end of South Park's racist flag (which depicts four white guys hanging a black guy), and Cartman starts a boyband named "Fingerbang." The season climax, "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell? (410-411) showed the kids taking their parents' bullshit defense of religion too seriously and becoming a revivalist, Billy Graham-style cult. The season closed with an episode called "The Wacky Molestation Adventure," which should be self-explanatory.
Season five had higher highs and one very low low - the unfunny 9/11 episode "Osama bin Laden has Farty Pants," the first attempt (to be copied by "The Passion of the Jew") where a hated public figure is taken down with homages to old Looney Tunes skits. Beyond that, the series came back into the spotlight when Comedy Central allowed them to use the word "shit" 162 times. Naturally, the kids end up having an adventure where the curse word unleashes an ancient evil and they learn that curses are only funny in moderation. Most of the season's highlights were more pop-culture friendly than political. "How to Eat With Your Butt" had two parents with butts for faces arriving to find their lost son, who turns out to be - Ben Affleck. "Towelie" was a high point in the show's insanity, introducing a mascot for towels who was hopelessy addicted to pot (his catch phrase: "You wanna get high?"). Along with "Butters' very own episode" (dedicated to a pathetic character who temporarily replaced Kenny), this ushered in the show's meta period. They were very aware that insane, death-defying events were going on around them, but they didn't care, and they just waited it out. In "Towelie," the kids are constantly in danger, involved in a war between spies and aliens, but they sort of blow it off and try to get their video game system back. In the Butters episode, when O.J. Simpson, the Ramseys and Gary Condit appear to form a support group for Butters' mom (who thinks she killed her son, then blamed it on "some Puerto Rican guy"), the episode ends with a speech by one of the repentent characters. Whenever he says that he felt like a "murderer! liar! lying murderer!" the focus cuts to one of those special guest stars. It was a nice companion piece for "Here Comes the Neighborhood," in which rich black celebrities move into town and the white folks of South Park try to kick them out in vaguely offensive ways ... like burning a giant lowercase T on their lawns ("For 'time to leave!'")
Season six got no media attention, which was too bad, because it deviated completely from the show's origins. Kenny, who used to die in every episode, was now just dead. Butters replaced him, badly. The kids hated their new sidekick and made sure he knew so. In the premiere, they dress him up as "Chin-Ball Boy," who has a scrotum on his chin, and send him to the Maury Povich show in order to win money for being a freak. In "Jared has Aides," they make him obese in order to run a Subway-style ad campaign for Chinese restaurant "City Work" - he'll lose weight on their food and become their star. After five episodes (including one in Aspen that becomes a parody of all 80s teen movies, complete with a montage and a song called "We're Gonna Have a Montage") they expel Butters from the group and he becomes a "supervillain" (actually just himself with a helmet and cape) called Professor Chaos. Thus begin some cute plays on the actual nature of childhood games and pranks which continue into this season. But they're not the point of season six. "Jared has Aides" is all based on one homonym - the Subway poster boy admits to the boys that he had aides - assistants - help him lose weight. When he tells this to the world at large, he says "I lost weight because I got aides" - which sounds a lot like he has Acute Immo-Deficiency Syndrome. The following 15 minutes play remorsely on that, as he happily tells his girlfriend she'll get aides ("When we have kids, they'll get aides, too!") and promises to give aides to "every child in the world!" Subsequent episodes deal with Catholic priesthood scandals, wrongheaded political activism (the boys accidentally get involved in a "Free Mumia"-style group), the beginnings of womanhood ("Bebe's Boobs Destroy Society"), 9/11 cash-ins ("Ladder to Heaven"), John Edward ("The Biggest Douche in the Universe"), and child abduction. But the crowning achievement of the season was "The Death Camp of Tolerance." When the kids' teacher Mr. Garrison (now out of the closet) realizes he can sue the school if he gets fired for being gay, he hires a teacher's assistant named Mr. Slave, paddles him, and inserts a gerbil into his ass. For not accepting this, the kids are sent to "Tolerance Camp" - a forced labor facility bearing a very close resemblence to Auschwitz. While this unfolds, the gerbil - named Lemmiwinks - has a musical, Watership Down-style adventure in the leather man's intestinal tract. The episode set new standards for televised filth and insanity.
The seventh season never reached these heights, but was probably funnier overall. It began (after Kenny rejoins the group with no explanation for his resurrection) with a multi-faceted sci-fi tribute in which the kids learn Earth was created as a reality show by strangely Jewish alien media moguls. Next, Christopher Reeve regains mobility thanks to fetuses (which he cracks open and drinks like juice boxes) and tries to destroy Gene Hackman. The sublime 100th episode portrayed the debate over the Iraq war as a big concert showdown between Donnie Osmond-style rock 'n' roll and Marie Osmond-style country. The rest of the season settled into a pattern of highly succesfuly pop culture and religion parodies, topping it off with the masterpiece "South Park is Gay," in which the whole town becomes metrosexual before Kyle realizes the men behind it - the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy team - are actually members of a devious subterranean race, The Crab People. There was an amusing pro-smoking episode (which ends with the death of Rob Rainer) and Wizard of Oz-style journey to Canada, but the gay episode is the one people remember.
Basically, this was the show Heffernen shallowly attempted to sum up because she liked the Passion episode. It's the best thing on TV and has been for a few years now.|W|P|108315462327418359|W|P||W|P|4/28/2004 07:26:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|I was right
Specter won, with a little more than six months left to rebuild his finances and reputation before the general. Toomey: Get a personality transplant.|W|P|108315157579147957|W|P||W|P|4/27/2004 06:27:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Specter-Toomey
I've been following the PA senate primary as a concerned Delawarean, and I'm surprised that the only great coverage to come from the entire affair was The American Spectator's. Young reporter Shawn Macomber got into the race the way CNN, The NYT, and (especially) National Review never did, even with their greater resources. NR's coverage was simply disgraceful, cooked-over press releases and wishful thinking with a dash of gut-clenching, horrific prose (I'm looking at you, Jack Fowler).
The conservative hand-wringing about this race has given me pause, too. It looks for all the world like a complacent conservative movement is trying to purify itself and root out the unfaithful in the Republican party. I don't like that. It smacks too much of how Democrats frittered away their majorities in the late 1970s, engaging in stupid wrestling matches with an insufficiently liberal Jimmy Carter. Both of the parties have earned their majorities by including clusters of dissidents in their caucuses - see the Southern bloc that maintained the Dem majority in the 1950s and 1960s or the small number of moderates who keep up the GOP majorities today. It's a good thing when our parties cast wide nets - it's been proven good in the UK, when the Conservatives and Labour became governing parties by including elements from the far right and far left.
More specifically, I don't like Toomey. My gut tells me he's a dull, gnomish candidate who bores non-believers from the word "go." I've watched him perform on C-Span, built up by glowing reviews in college newspapers and NRO, and seen a very doctrinaire conservative who is unable to explain how he came to his views. According to Michael Barone, Toomey actually has an interesting story to tell - he was born blue collar in Rhode Island, won a scholarship to Harvard, and made a fortune in investment banking which he parlayed into restaurant businesses. He COULD explain why a free-market policy works better than the Democratic alternative. Bob Ehrlich, a Republican with a similar background, did that successfully in Maryland. But Toomey doesn't have the skill.
I'm guessing Arlen Specter will win a fairly close race by under 10 points.|W|P|108310484278325468|W|P||W|P|4/27/2004 10:19:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|The real world ... dude
In the words of Greil Marcus: "What is this shit?"
The former executive of Dance Marathon, NU's overpublicized yearly philanthropy, has some of the most banal, rich-white-guy observations I've read since I folded up the last Nation with a Jonathan Schell story.
In college the solution to social problems seemed so easy. But after working for food stamp reform for LA county, Rachel realized nothing is simple. I realized that myself after DM chose its first social charity. And it wasn't just because the original charity we selected was linked to Opus Dei. [Ed: Who cares?]
By using private dollars to provide a good education for inner-city students, we were taking the pressure off the government to use public dollars. Educations should be a problem left to private charities.
We were accused of contributing to a complacent attitude that when government falls short, private charities will pick up the slack. One student gets the scholarship to a private high school, but the majority are still stuck with an inadequate school system. There are no easy answers. This was a theme from "The Fog of War" that we absorbed as we sat in the independent movie house in early February.
I often wonder if my number will be up, and I'll be forced to return to my parents' house on a midnight train to Georgia to wait tables. I remembered Rachel admitting she wasn't sure if this life of public service would pay her bills. This realization hit her especially hard when she visited consultant friends in New York who made more in one day than she did in a week.
But then I remembered that look in her eyes as she stared down the humiliation of a starving homeless man on the sidewalk of Sunset Blvd. Her eyes reflected a mixture of compassion, conviction and disillusion. The fog of student groups was gone, and we will never stare down at our eggs again.I'm thinking: You had to go to college for four years to realize there were problems in the real world, and solutions were tricky? Christ, I'm glad I did a useful major.|W|P|10830755660970567|W|P||W|P|4/26/2004 03:44:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Best of 2003, revised
I've now seen all the 2003 releases I had hoped to and can revise the list I posted in December. Mystic River still sucks.
10. *Better Luck Tomorrow
Well, obviously the best movie ever made with help from MTV. A sickly relevant portrayal of rich kid ennui - a modern "Less Than Zero."
9. Kill Bill Vol. 1
8. Bubba Ho-Tep
7. 28 Days Later
6. *The Fog of War
A really exciting documentary. It's not good for all the reasons anti-war folks like it - it's good because a smart and eloquent man, who's responsible for millions of deaths, explains how and why men decide to wage war.
5. X2: X-Men United
4. A Mighty Wind
3. Lost in Translation
2. *Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Instant classic, terrific character study, beautiful visuals, perfect plotting and dialogue.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King|W|P|108296547639980928|W|P||W|P|4/26/2004 03:32:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|More movies
Good Bye, Lenin!
I was taken aback at how ... cute this whole production was. It's basically a Marx Bros. farce set in the geopolitical climate of 1989/90 East Berlin, with some heart-tugging familial drama introduced in the last act. The farce is very, very funny - there's a particularly wonderful scene where Alex's (Daniel Bruhl) efforts to give his fragile mother (Katrin Sass) an old-style Communist birthday is nearly undone by a certain megacorporation's sign unfurling on the skyline. The measures taken to protect his mother from the truth of the DDR's breakdown are goofy and increasingly sad, as are the undertones of political bitterness between East Berliners and "Wessies." Even so, I felt that the movie added too many plot threads and outlived its welcome by 15-20 minutes. A mild recommendation.
An excellent revenge movie disguised as a terrible one - I agree with Roger Ebert's assessment that "there's so much that's well-done here that you sense a good movie slipping away." Thomas Jane's excellent acting and the successful opening act make it look like we're in for something smart, and then a set of goofy neighbors are introduced ... The Punisher tortures a goon with a popsicle ... he makes his presence known to his killers for no apparent reason ... threads are tugged at and unravel one by one. The final is an encapsulation of all this. Finally, The Punisher is presented as a serial-killing sociopath whose "heroism" is disturbing to us, and his quest seems unfulfilling. Then he takes out his archnemesis by exploding a bunch of cars in the shape of a giant skull. A decent b-movie, but below my expectations.
The classic example of shit served on a silver platter. A dopey heist story is given a stellar cast and knowingly overcooked dialogue. But I felt it so overcooked that I could never really enjoy it. A misfire.
Children of Dune
By many miles the best adaptation of a Frank Herbert novel ... which is faint praise, but I want to make it sound like a ringing endorsement. Basically, the first "Dune" novel was a masterpiece that has been made into mediocre movies, and the second and third novels were slightly dull and goofy reads that have been turned into a thrilling miniseries.
The gist: Paul Atriedes (Alec Newman) has reigned as divine emperor of Arrakis for 12 years, while his followers have spread murder and jihad across the galaxy. He's become bitter and afraid of fate, waiting for his enemies to pounce. When a plot finally arises, he manipulates it in a way that allows him to bring two children into the world while sending himself into exile in the desert. The children grow up and have the choice of following the divine path their father never could.
There are very few weaknesses in the entire production - acting is excellent (although Susan Sarandon gives off the impression that she's slumming), the plot is cut together to make sense, and the action is movie-quality. When Keanu Reeves beat up dozens of Agent Smiths, it was a CGI display with no purpose. When Leto II effortlessly dispatches a wave of soldiers, it's a forceful and compelling moment that brings the plot into focus.|W|P|108296473331420162|W|P||W|P|4/26/2004 03:09:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Crushing dissent
Dean disagrees with my opinion of Master and Commander. I see where he's coming from - I should have made it more clear that this is a character/era study in an action movie shell, and not an action movie that happens to be set in 1803.|W|P|108296338138454280|W|P||W|P|4/25/2004 02:55:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GUIDED BY VOICES
After almost 20 years, assorted lineups, and countless albums, EPs, singles, triples, stolen bases, misdemeanor convictions, and broken hearts, Dayton, OH's fortunate sons are taking leave of your senses. 'Half Smiles Of The Decomposed,' to be released August 24 on Matador Records, will be the final album from Guided By Voices, one of the most acclaimed independent rock bands of all time.
"This feels like the last album for Guided By Voices," explains Robert Pollard, GBV's lone constant member, lead singer, and famously prolific songwriter. "I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it."
'Half Smiles Of The Decomposed' is the band's 15th full-length studio release, following 2003's 'Earthquake Glue' and retrospective box set, greatest-hits, and DVD releases. Although its tour later this year will be the band's last, Robert Pollard will continue writing, recording, and (possibly) touring as a solo artist. "I love the guys in the band, but I'm getting too old to be a gang leader," he explains. "There's a sense of maturity, and even integrity, I think, in continuing as one's own self."
- satisifed. "Oh, well, at least I saw them live twice! Once with original guitarist Tobin Sprout! And I got the whole band to sign the GBV poster that hangs above my PC."
- bitter. "Motherfucking BULLSHIT. GBV break up and Coldplay and their mongoloid lead crooner are still around, still making aural sewage in tandem with Nickelback and Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews and the rest of the crowd that can't write songs.
- optimistic. "I rather enjoy Bob's solo albums. Perhaps he'll make many and they'll rule!"
- altruistic. "Maybe Bob can get his drinking under control now."
- bitter, again. "Goddamn, Coldplay suck ass."|W|P|108291934741790900|W|P||W|P|4/23/2004 03:43:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|You can stop wondering
Here's a formula for determining how many ways those lovely spammers can mispel "Viagra."
I've got nothing but ire for the inventors of viagra at this point. I'm an abstinate 22-year old who sees no reason to ever use this product. All it's done is unleashed 10 or 12 fraud e-mails a day into my account and spawned the worst advertising campaigns since "this is your mind on drugs."|W|P|108270621013414783|W|P||W|P|4/22/2004 02:30:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Movie review: Master and Commander
Friends had told me that this adaptation of several Patrick O'Brian novels was plodding and plotless. Friends were wrong. This is a perfect movie, smart and high-minded where the overrated "Gladiator" was lunkish and simplistic.
Like "Kill Bill," there's a simple plot which undergirds more human, interesting stuff. It's 1805 and the H.M.S. Surprise has been ambushed by a French ship, the Acheron. Capt. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) has lost nine men and his ship has suffered huge blows, but he resolves to send his man-of-war after the frigate - a faster, tougher ship. The next two hours of movie are spent with the captain, his friend and ship surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), and the crew of nearly 200 as they chase the French ship. We see them eat, complain, undergo surgery, turn against each other, and vocalize superstitions, all while rigging a massive ship under a captain whose judgment is increasingly called into question.
Just about everything here worked. The two naval battles are tremendous, especially when we get to know the bodies being flung across the bow by cannonballs. The quieter segments are funny and realistic, and the big conflagration at the finale is simply awesome - it begins with the ambush and death of one of the characters we've gotten to know best.|W|P|108261542383843685|W|P||W|P|4/20/2004 04:27:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|How to solve a problem
UPDATE: In a bad mood, I posted about the destruction of my cell phone. I've since replaced the phone and don't feel like wasting this webspace with a whiny rant.|W|P|108249286174743382|W|P||W|P|4/19/2004 09:00:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Notice
Thanks to Evanston's 40mph winds and rickety trees - and their proximity to power lines - I'm facing my monthly internet connection problems. Updates will be postponed until tomorrow night at earliest.|W|P|108242283272417860|W|P||W|P|4/19/2004 03:52:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|A new time-waster
Ain't it Cool News is a guilty pleasure, like masturbation and Little Debbie products. (I will allow you to connect those three dots further.) The writing sucks, the "talkbacks" are cesspools of retarded Americana, and holy Jesus the design is rotten.
But if you're a movie geek, it's fun. I'm a mini-movie geek (compared to my sick record obsession, at least), and I really enjoyed the feature posted on the site yesterday. Some guy listed his 100 favorite movie moments. Some guy with bad taste ("Dumb and Dumber"?).
I've got time between work to cobble together a list of my own. As little thought as possible shall go into it. And rankings are meaningless.
100.Harold in the cab in "The Long Good Friday." (1980) It finally dawns on Harold (Bob Hoskins) that his enemies have completely hoodwinked him, and he's going to die. As he sits in the cab en route to his execution (which we don't see), Hoskins' face goes through denial, anger, acceptance, humor, and he keeps stewing as the camera just sits there.
99.Baron Harkonnen in the mood in "Dune." (1984) The repellent psychopath (Kenneth McMillan), having explained his plot to his inner circle, ascends into the air, lets oil run over his face, floats over to a terrified servant boy, pulls out a plug attached to his heart, and bathes in his blood. The soundtrack is by Toto and we have reaction shots from Sting, of all assholes, but the scene is just so disturbing and wrong that it's unforgettable.
98.Bob kisses Charlotte in "Lost in Translation." (2003) I'm a big fan of the kiss. I thought "LiT" ascended to greatness when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson's climactic whisper and spit-swap appears and you realize "wow, that made every sex scene ever look like an episode of Gumby."
97.Gale and Evelle escape from prison in "Raising Arizona." (1987) Basically, a mud-covered John Goodman screams. That's all you need.
96.The opening ride in "Akira" (1988) Kaneda et al ride their motorcycles througn Neo-Tokyo to the music of Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Will convert anyone into an anime geek.
95.The elevator corpse in "Die Hard." (1988) "Now I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho."
94.Ruth's daughter gives birth in "Threads." (1983) The absolute bleakest way to end the bleakest movie ever - the semi-retarded child of nuclear holocaust delivers a stillborn mutant. Party!
93.Jesse and Celine in the record store in "Before Sunrise." (1995) Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy enter a Viennese CD record store's listening booth and hear Kath Bloom's "Come Here" while standing awkwardly.
92.Dr. Raymond Stantz reads Gozer her rights in "Ghostbusters." (1984) "Gozer the Gozerian: good evening. As a duly designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activities and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension." Followed, of course, by Dr. Peter Venckmen (Bill Murray): "That oughtta do it. Thanks, Ray."
91.Dirk Diggler's recording career in "Boogie Nights." (1998) Dirk (Mark Wahlberg) sings the theme from the Transformers movie ("You've Got the Touch") and emotes like it's Billie Holliday.
To be continued ... ?
Yeah, to be continued.|W|P|108236113128724715|W|P||W|P|4/19/2004 02:02:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Recommended link
I'm on a huge David Kushner kick, and before I finish "Masters of Doom" I plan on reading the rest of his PC-centric journalism. As should you.|W|P|108235455135994648|W|P||W|P|4/18/2004 02:51:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Why I love Evanston, reason #4056
"Get your friend and get the fuck out." - a cop, to me, when I showed up at a friend's party to congratulate him on finishing his MCATs. The cop was there to bust up the other rowdy partiers, but I was sober. And 22.|W|P|108227109074646177|W|P||W|P|4/17/2004 04:08:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Kill Bill Vol.2
Now that I've seen both parts of this movie - adding up to 4 hours and change - I'm convinced that it should have been one 3 hour epic. The four hours we get are just plain indulgent. I'm reminded of Katie Holmes' character in "Wonder Boys," who reads through Michael Douglas' bloated manuscript of his second novel and reminds him that "writers have to make choices." They have to cut inessential stuff in order to tell the story. Tarantino didn't cut ANYTHING. For all you fuckers who complained about "The Return of the King," be warned that "Kill Bill V.2" has TWO SETS OF CREDITS. One in color with rah-rah music, one in black and white with a torch ballad. Same cast of characters. As one of my friends said after sitting through the credits for 5 minutes - "These obviously are never going to end."
But is he really telling a story? Is that it? I guess not. Tarantino has this very basic concept of a deadly assassin killing everyone who stands between her and her daughter. That's the scaffolding upon which he piles all the cool shit he wanted to put in a movie - chicks with eyepatches, training montages, walking-through-the-desert montages, and like 10,000 badass speeches. Hell, even an irrelevant character in a strip club gets a 4-minute speech so he can look hardcore as he fires Michael Madsen.
So I guess the degree to which you'll like "Kill Bill V.2" is incumbent on how much of this shit you think is cool. I thought about 80% of it was - I liked about 80% of the movie. My friend Hime was enraptured all the way through, because he loved even the black-and-white desert scenes and the slow-burn finale. I was bored - no foolin', BORED - by some of the early scenes and the looooooooooooooooooong buildup to the finale. The 17-year olds in front of me got bored after the last big fight and were laughing and rolling their eyes at the 25-minute conclusion.
The movie's worth your while if you like martial arts or hitman movies, or badass "I'm gonna kill you while quoting a comic book" dialogue. If you want a real movie by a director whose feet are still touching earth, look elsewhere.|W|P|108223252626018451|W|P||W|P|4/16/2004 06:14:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Let the healing begin
The Pope finally apologizes for sacking Constantinople. A banner day for the Roman whores!|W|P|108215368856263203|W|P||W|P|4/14/2004 06:32:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Nickleback - masters of the new!
I've been directed to an MP3 that will blow your mind. Someone has meshed Nickleback's hit singles "How You Remind Me" and "Someday" without edits, one song overlapping the other.
It's a perfect fit. They are the same song.
|W|P|108198195361560403|W|P||W|P|4/12/2004 08:20:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|How DARE you not let me heckle?
The New Yorker's profile of Aaron McGruder is funny and revealing. Personally, I like McGruder's cartoons as much as I disdain his politics. I certainly liked this:
... the last straw came when he “dropped the N-word,” as one amused observer recalled. He said—bragged, even—that he’d voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish, the host of the party, “it got interactive.”
Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, “Thanks for Bush!” Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, “Try these nuts.” Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When asked about this incident later, McGruder said, “I ain’t no punk. I ain’t gonna let someone shout and not go back at him.”
Alterman walked out. “I turned to Joe and said, ‘I can’t listen to this crap anymore,’” he remembers. “I went out into the Metropolitan Club lobby—it’s a nice lobby—and I worked on my manuscript.”So, Alterman was offended that McGruder wouldn't let himself be heckled? By a guy who appears in national magazines at least twice a month? Self-important windbag.
|W|P|108181563447931960|W|P||W|P|4/12/2004 07:06:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Jesus Fucking Christ
"The Swan" is a hit.
Curse your black heart, American TV viewer. Read a book. Watch "Angel". Do not watch each new reality show as they hit newer and bleaker standards of awfulness. When Fox finally rolls out "Aborted by America!" it'll be your fault.|W|P|108181120490427210|W|P||W|P|4/12/2004 03:49:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|We deserve better!
After a week of objective journalism, giving him his own bio sheet and full-bore coverage, The Daily finally lays into pathetic stoner student government candidate Andrew Kaufman.
Andrew Kaufman ... has run perhaps the worst campaign in ASG history.
Kaufman has failed in his effort to run the "funny outsider" campaign. Despite being an outsider, Kaufman is anything but funny. When faced with questions about his absurd ideas, such as retinal scanning for student safety, Kaufman did not provide an explanation or make a joke -- he simply mumbled about not having researched his ideas.
Kaufman's failure is important. Northwestern has a long history of candidates who mocked the process while still being intelligent. From Nafis Ahmed in a Spider-Man outfit to "Evil" Dave Sheldon's People of the Lake, plenty of candidates have shown that you don't need to be completely serious about student elections to make a point.
Still, Kaufman's campaign raises a major concern for Lee, even if she wins the election. How will she, an ASG insider, reach out to the Andrew Kaufmans at NU?I agree, except for the "perhaps." Kaufman's the kind of boring faux-hipster that stinks up NU like a hog rendering plant. There are tons of Kaufmans who really do nothing interesting, struggle through their easy workloads, and lead the rest of us to wonder: Is it just impossible to flunk out of NU?
I might actually have to vote in this election, just to stick another knife into Kaufman.|W|P|108179937166426532|W|P||W|P|4/12/2004 02:08:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Ann Arbor in full
Hopes were high. I took the 4-hour hellride to Michigan with the expectation that the University of Michigan got right everything that Northwestern got wrong. This proved to be 80 percent true.
I got into town later than anticipated, at around 8:30 p.m. First stop was the home of Ruben, executive editor of the Michigan Review and my host for the weekend. He was out with his girlfriend for the forseeable future.
There was a total of one bag to drop off - I travel light. After some orientation I followed one of Ruben's roommates onto the campus, asking the names of stuff as we went. When he slid into the main library, I kept walking the campus, intensely interested in every detail.
I took one sortie into town but didn't get much done. The redoubtable hippie book stores were closing. With a few minutes to kill before I saw Ruben, I picked up the new Atlantic at a Borders and avoided the first of many disgrunted panhandlers. But the man soon arrived, and we headed back to his place to find some sort of evening plan. We waited, and Ruben got tired. Eventually, I broke away and went out to a bar called Scorekeepers with Ruben's decked-out friends.
The bar pretty much sucked for me and no one else. By this I mean that it was an ideal Big 10 nightspot - packed to the gills, an unspoken cutoff for attractiveness, cheap pitchers. But I loathe nightclubbing. I wandered in various directions, got ignored by a few dozen girls, then headed off. I stopped at State Street, a few blocks from the house, when I saw five people playing ragtime and a drummer dangling a sign that read: "Like what you hear? Buy us a beer?" This just cheered me up instantly. I listened to a few songs, bought the band a six-pack, and got invited up to their co-op (yes, they were hippies) where we ate organic pizza, talking San Francisco politics, and played the theremin.
On Friday I resolved to visit all the independent bookstores and CD exchanges in town, and I lingered. On the way in, I saw a pack of Christians playing some crap in front of the library.
I started at 11 a.m. on State Street, wormed down to Liberty, and picked up $8-15 of books wherever I went.
At 4 p.m. I had enough to sit down in a cafe and read. For the next few hours I finished Whitney Strieber's "Warday" and poked into Lou Cannon's first Reagan bio, then got the call from my old friend Mike to participate in some drinking.
We met at the Michigan Union, which made NU's student center look like the anemic cafeteria that it is. I snapped a photo of the building's map.
Mike extended my tour, pointing out all the campus buildings I'd been mystified before. We stopped at his off-campus apartment before heading back out for sangria, then piling in a car to play drunken card games at a friend's house. At this point I started to notice a startling homogeneity among UM undergrads, but the beer nullified any attempts at hard analysis.
After I got home, Ruben and a roommate shopped for additional beer.
The next day I visited the Review's office, hit the rest of the bookstores, picked up four incredibly rare CDs, and had more coffee. Against my better instinct, I followed my hosts out to another UM bar, got ignored by women for another 55 minutes, then blew it off and took a 90 minute walk around the city and the campus. It was another instance where my ignorance of architecture left me hamstrung. The campus was pretty, sure, but was it bold? Would I get bored if I'd stayed here for four years instead of Evanston? I didn't decide.
I left for home early the next morning. Chicago's public transportation continues to suck.|W|P|108175011219106614|W|P||W|P|4/10/2004 12:37:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Ann Arbor
Until Sunday evening I'll be in scenic Ann Arbor, MI, home to the University of Michigan. The first day proved weird and exciting - the second day was relatively typical but, yeah, exciting. I expect to post a full report on Monday.|W|P|108161506969541556|W|P||W|P|4/07/2004 08:39:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Some movies
With time on my hands, I've been watching the kind of movies I had no time for since ... well, the year 1998, pretty much. See CJ for some more mini-reviews.
What would our pop culture be like if David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of "Dune" had been a "Lord of the Rings"-sized hit? It's pretty easy to argue that "Lord of the Rings" is a happy fit with Americans' notions of power, justice and war. But "Dune" is Osama bin Laden in space. A religious leader on a desert planet, contested only because it contains the most precious substance in the universe, rises up against corporatism and empire and kicks their asses.
Lynch's "Dune" was a legendary flop, a 2-hour spin on a 500-page novel panned by every critic in the hemisphere. John Harrison's 6-hour miniseries is generally seen as a superior adaptation, but it's much less stylish and fun. Lynch's Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is a diseased, blobby Caligula who murders a servant for fun and wets his face in the spurting jets of blood. Harrison's Harkonnen is a fat guy who rhymes a lot. William Hurt practically stinks up the screen in Harrison's version - I mean, he's following in the footsteps of Jurgen fuckin' Prochnow. Disappointment is a given.
But the 6-hour royal treatment is really what Frank Herbert's story deserves. It's necessary to trace the development of the hero, Paul Atreides, from teenager to messiah. That arc works better as a lumbering "Jesus of Nazarath" style picture than a blast-'em sci-fi extravaganza.|W|P|108138475977370741|W|P||W|P|4/07/2004 08:05:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Another aside
I've retired from the Chronicle after four years writing and editing the weekly paper. I'm generally really happy with the experience and hope I successfully trained the new editors so that they may make me look like crap by comparison. Still, while I spent the better part of my college life lifting up an alternative campus paper, brushing aside mindless criticism, and creating stuff that people liked to read, I feel like someone should be congratulating me or asking me "how'd you do it?" So I'll expurge my thoughts right now.
- It's crazy how much work I did to meet deadlines. Much of it went unappreciated. I've always said that readers don't care how much you sweated for them, so I didn't mention, in our pages, that I usually stayed awake through Wednesday night-Thursday morning, or that I occasionally wrote someone's story for him if he fell asleep, or that I occasionally redesigned a cover from scratch if a story fell through, or that I (more than once) biked across campus after 3 a.m. in freezing weather to badger an editor for his pages. I thought it was more important that the reader take us seriously.
- In four years, NU saw a few campus magazines that folded or closed even though people had written articles for them. The articles never got published. I vowed never to let that happen to the Chron, and I published 40 issues even when we were in debt and I had to dig into my own pocket to pay the publisher. I still haven't asked for my money back from the paper's expense account.
- I sacrificed a lot to get the paper out. The stress got me hospitalized, contributed to the breakdown of a relationship, drove down my grades and put me into a funk during which I got out of shape. There were several compelling reasons to claim I'd "burned out" and just quit. I refused to until it was clear the paper could go on without me.
Is any of this remarkable? Well, I don't know any other college students who produced weekly newspapers without an office. A lot of the credit should go to my staff. But the rest should go to me. Screw humility. |W|P|108138274682603516|W|P||W|P|4/05/2004 03:10:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Damn straight
You are Thomas L. Friedman! You're the foreign
affairs expert. You're liberal on most issues,
except you're a leading voice in the pro-war
movement. You're probably the most popular
columnist at the Times, but probably because
you play both sides of the Iraq issue and
relish your devotion to what you call
"fanatical moderatism." You sure can
write, but you could work on your sense of
Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla|W|P|108119222284662878|W|P||W|P|4/03/2004 02:23:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|As a personal aside ...
I've stated before that this blog is a way of collecting the spare energy worked up when I'm not doing my job. It's not an extension of my reporting career, viz Matthew Yglesias. At the same time, since it's read by people I work with, I'm automatically discouraged from writing anything cathartic during one of my black moments. I'll waive that guideline for a moment.
I am very, very glad to be saying goodbye to Northwestern. Simply put, I hate it here, and I have hated it here since mid-2002. That's when a confusing relationship - my first - finally crumbled, and I began to associate the school with my ill feelings. An attempt to reverse that by sheer force of will failed at the end of 2002. The school just ceased to be inviting - when I talked to anyone, I felt as though they were talking to the Dave Weigel who'd been humiliated and institutionalized. So I gave up on maintaining friendships and buried myself in my work, mainly the newspaper. If we had a good issue, I had a good week. That was the new touchstone of my well-being.
Tonight I went to the birthday party of one of my few real friends with a fairly positive attitude. I've got a job starting in 6 weeks, and I've transitioned the newspaper to a new staff. Didn't matter. The people I'd made middling efforts to become friends with had moved on and developed bonds with new people. I moved from room to room trying to break into conversations with people I knew, or wanted to meet, and they pretty much universally shunned me. When I did feel comfortable, I quickly convinced myself that my present company was sick of me and wanted to be talking to someone else, and I'd move on.
By night's end it was clear: I've unlearned the ability to enjoy myself at college. I suspect the worst out of the people I meet. I assume every conversation would proceed better with out me. I assume the girls I meet would rather talk to someone else, because I'm pathetic.
It's not really fair that someone of my skills, hobbies and humility could be so lonely at college. But so it is. I can hardly wait until the next college student I meet is one of my interns.|W|P|108097700090313559|W|P||W|P|4/02/2004 11:06:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|I'm a propagandist!
Honchos at The Daily Northwestern expressed interest in having me write a weekly column for them this quarter. Since I was done with classes and hanging up my duties with the weekly paper, The Chronicle, I said "sure." And hey, there's a torrent of criticism!
Take C.J. Willey, a Weinberg senior, who questioned the inclusion of two conservative columnists in the weekly lineup.
"I'm just afraid that there's no counterpoint (to conservative opinions) in the issues that a lot of people care about on this campus," Willey said. "The issues might not be given adequate treatment."
Although Willey said he would reserve judgment until reading the columns, he expressed concern that rhetoric would trump the free exchange of ideas.
"It would be just as bad if all the columnists were liberal," he said. "But I'm hoping there is going to be a good debate, rather than just propaganda."This is a strange column to run on a Friday. Four days ago, I offered my manifesto to readers.
No, I'm not going to be the token conservative columnist.
Sure I've spent most of my campus life working at the Northwestern Chronicle. Working for that particular sweatshop taught me political rants are the worst way to spend 550 words.SHOCK! HORROR! Seriously, I hope this torrent washed over the newsroom before I actually appeared in the paper.|W|P|108092197950311294|W|P||W|P|4/01/2004 07:58:00 PM|W|P|Dave|W|P|Shorter R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
I strongly dislike Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, I will assert, based on no inside information, that she is angling for the White House.
(Repeat twice a week.)|W|P|108086753321791744|W|P||W|P|4/01/2004 02:14:00 AM|W|P|Dave|W|P|South Park strikes out
Like Dean, I was sorely disappointed by Wednesday's highly-touted episode of South Park. The jokes didn't work. The satire was as subtle as a beaver shot.
If you haven't seen it, I'll spare you: The gang sees "The Passion of the Christ" to different reactions. Cartman starts a Mel Gibson fan club predicated on the hatred of Jews. Kyle is overcome with guilt and dreams (in one funny sequence) about his own responsibility in the death of Jesus. Stan and Kenny hate the movie and head to LA to demand a refund from Mel. In Act II, Cartman's fan club meets to listen to him speak in full nazi regalia (minus the swastika on the red armbad) while Stan and Kenny reach Mel Gibson at home. He's a maniac who tears off his clothes and ties himself to a torture device before chasing them around his house with a gun. Back in town, Kyle decides that Jews must repent for the death of Jesus. As he goes to say this at the synagogue, Cartman assembles a crowd of "Passion" fans to goosestep to the synagogue and slaughter the Jews. But the Jews are on the way to the town's cinema. Both crowds converge there as an insane Mel Gibson arrives in pursuit of Stan and Kenny, crashing his "Road Warrior" truck and running out screaming. This convinces the crowds that Mel and his message are bunk, and the episode ends with Gibson shitting, literally, in Cartman's face.
I'll come out and say that this is set to be the low point of the season, just as "Osama bin Laden has Farty Pants" was the nadir of season 6. Parker and Stone just can't tackle modern religious controversies - they go overboard and end up being stupid. But the rest of this eighth season has been brilliant, and I expect a comeback next week.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan begs to differ:
If you didn't see South Park last night, my commiserations. Watching a cartoon Mel Gibson in his tighty-whiteys jumping onto his own sado-masochism machine was one of the more sublime sights of the year. Yes, he is clearly bonkers. And yes, Stone and Parker are geniuses.OK ... that's a pretty loose definition of "sublime."|W|P|108080369665440461|W|P||W|P|