An Incredible Study

I’m Not There is an incredible film. Granted, it demands the viewer be invested in the context, the history, and the impetus for creating the film as a creative study of a life and a time.

This movie received stellar as well as dismal reviews from viewers. I’m not surprised at the poor reviews; some people will always want their books and movies to spoon feed them story, to not ask them (reader/viewer) to do any intellectual work whatsoever. Viewers who have no prior knowledge of Dylan or of the history of the time will probably be disappointed; those viewers should do their homework before viewing, then they’ll have a context for making the connections so many  amateur reviewers say are missing. What do folks want? Voice-over narration explaining the context and extended meaning of every scene? Todd Haynes: nice piece of work.

Recently Seen and Heard

Guilty as charged: terribly remiss in my blogging. What have I been doing? Cool projects like this one:

It is amazing how breaking crayons and organizing the colors into various patterns can occupy a four-year-old for days. 200 degrees, six to eight minutes, and you’re all good. Additionally, I’ve been grading many essays and working on the NOVEL. And then, for some reason, I’ve gotten all hyped up again my non-fiction project, the proposal for which I had shelved close to a year ago.

To get my feet wet again, I thought I’d review some recent goods. 

The Chieftains were awesome. Thanks to some fabulous folks, we also had incredible second row seats at the Fox.

The Pogues show was great, but a show at the Tabernacle following on the heels of a show at the Fox got me a little down about the acoustics at the Tabernacle.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee = worst movie ever. Maybe it was written and directed by eighth grade drama students?

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten is an impressive documentary. I must get me some Clash.

I read Katherine Anne Porter’s Old Mortality, the first of three tiny novels in Pale Horse, Pale Rider. I enjoyed it, and I admire the size: plenty of impact compressed, generations tied into a little bundle.

Letters to the Weekend

Flight of the Conchords: You rock my world. Where have you been? Oh, I love you Netflix, for your spot on recommendation. And, Stephanie and Adam, if you are reading this, I know you recommended these dudes too!–but I failed to make the connection until Matt told me so. But now I know. Everyone: rent season one.

Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay: You were a waste of time, I’m afraid. I was disappointed in you. You could have done better.

El Tesoro: You have such a nice little location in that old house where the Decatur Jake’s Ice Cream used to be, next to Twain’s. I was going to eat at Twain’s, but then I saw you. Your tomatillo salsa is delicious. Your tacos are wonderful, especially the three mushroom kind. Your vegan chipotle tacos are impressive by their mere existence.

Taj Majal Imports: I finally came to you, after recommendations by friends years ago. You have the best deal on authentic nag champa in the whole city. I bought the last 12 pack box you had. I will be coming back.

White Oleander: You are the best juicy escapist novel I’ve read in a while. I know a good friend gave you to me, probably years ago, and you sat on a shelf with all the other unread orphans. BUT, I love you now that I know you, now that I finally took the time. Dear reader, if you gave me this wonderful book, do speak up.

Netflix: The Good, The Bad

Son of Rambow  was a fantastic, fantastic movie. If you miss the 80s, you gotta see this one. Everyone should see Son of Rambow anyway because it’s a wonderful story, but plenty of 1980s clothes, hair, hobbies, and little things (scented erasers!) give a nice warm gloss to the film. Really good movies about art and creation are hard to come by. Son of Rambow is about narrative, art, film-making, creation of all sorts, and also friendship and family. That may sound cheesy, but the plot has a enough adolescent-boy grit and edge to keep things interesting.

In completely unlike fashion, Sex and the City was completely terrible. Now, if what people like about your show is that it is half an hour of very punchy dialogue and quick scenes and raunchiness and cynicism and things actually taking place and happening to people, then how can you have nothing happen for the first hour of the movie? And notice I said first hour, because there were multiple hours, which made the movie all that much worse.

My theory for why there were not Special Features on the DVD is that they didn’t cut anything out. Samantha’s dog? That bitch wasn’t even really supposed to be in the movie. Some camera guys just filmed her doggy humping for fun, so then the “writers” worked it in, all proud of coming out ahead of such a challenge, proud to have worked in such a storyline just so they could lead up to the “Pooch” joke at the end of the movie after SAMANTHA GAINS 15 POUNDS, which is the only great fall from anything in this story. And it’s only 15 pounds, which is not that tragic. I mean, really.

And the plot didn’t even make any sense. So, was it first the little Chinese girl’s fault that Big ditched Carrie? And, then it was Miranda’s fault? You’re asking me to buy the premise that Carrie would do the whole don’t see the groom the night before the wedding thing? You’re asking me to buy the premise that Big wouldn’t have had the balls to get to Carrie around, oh, maybe five in the morning of the day, instead of trying to hunt her down a couple of hours before? It just doesn’t make sense.

And then why in the world did FIVE MONTHS have to pass after the fact?–I can’t figure that one out except to imagine someone had the sadistic goal to accomplish the great filmic feat of making one hour feel like the actual five months. I felt like I had done work, like I had unpacked all those boxes in Carrie’s apartment and done all Charlotte’s running and Miranda’s barking.

Sex and the Citywould make the perfect Choose Your Own Adventure book. Want to see the aftermath of Charlotte pooping her pants? Turn to page eighty-five. Want to skip all the not-so-hot, slightly disturbing sex scenes? Do skip ahead. What to skip five months of minutae? OR, do you want to see, scene by scene, Carrie unpack all her shit? It’s up to YOU: Choose Your Own Adventure.

Seen and Heard

Where in the world was I when Nick Cave was putting out so much good stuff? Hmmm? I don’t know. But I love him! The many minutes of “Bring it On” are incredible. I suppose it could take a lifetime to study the whole discography.

We finally saw Sweeney Todd. It was AMAZING: a fantastic and beautiful piece of art. I won’t try to summarize all the ways in which it is wonderful. Flannery O’Connor says something along the lines of If someone asks you what a story is about, the only appropriate response is to tell them to read it. I will say, go watch it. I want Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter’s) dresses, desperately. They are all beautiful black lace and shiny rags and corsets–oh!


Don’t you want those dresses? Now I’m going to go upstairs to hack an old prom dress; it’s gunmetal gray with a corset…all I need is some black lace.

Hellboy 2 was all right. Maybe this is one for the teenage boys. It was a feel-good super hero movie with lots of flashy scenes and sub-par jokes. Despite all the violence and explosions, it’s one of those movies during which I could not perceive of there being any real danger (psychological or physical) to any of the characters, which makes me think So what?  Moving on: the first time I saw For Your Consideration I laughed a lot (though it wasn’t as great as Best in Show), but this time I fell asleep.

Sexy Beast

The other night I watched Sexy Beast for the first time. (I love you, Netflix!) It was a fantastic film–brilliantly shot, perfect dialogue…The beginning of the film, well, the beginning after the big boulder incident, is all suspense and fear and wonder and waiting. But, about what? About a person the audience has never seen and knows nothing about. But all of these other people are talking about him–Don Logan–and that builds tension.  The stakes are raised pretty damn high before he even arrives; this is done through subtle dialogue, facial expressions, and body language. Gal, Deedee, Aitch, and Jackie sit around being edgy and stressed out, and it works brilliantly. Then Don shows up, and Ben Kingsley turns it all up a few notches.

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