Friday, November 30, 2007

Southland Is Your Land,
Southland Is My Land...

From California... I keenly appreciated 'Southland Tales,' the glorious, ambitious, apocalyptic mess of a film by Richard Kelly I saw Tuesday night with David at the Angelika. (Kelly's previous, first film, 2001's time-and-genre-bending parable 'Donnie Darko,' is an Aaron favorite. It was a sleeper hit in art houses and did much to propel the careers of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal...)

In 'Tales' a huge and unlikely ensemble cast (Wallace Shawn and Sarah Michelle Gellar!) tackles a huge and all too likely premise - our country, reeling from a 2005 nuke attack, goes into repressive lockdown.

This film is not for everyone - your litmus test: would you prefer to watch a provocative, thought-inducing mess or a predictable, well-constructed mediocrity. And you might respond: "Are there any other choices?" : - )

But Kelly is all about ideas, imagery, dialogue and juxtaposition, rather than clearly etched plotlines. Below, we examine 'Tales' through the lens of 5 Critical Parameters...

1. Four Words That Encapsule: Apocalyptic alternate universe kaleidoscope.

2. Haiku: (5/7/5)
"Is this the future?
Cartoon tyrants and rebels..
Parallel L.A."

3. Oblique Comment(s): This film and its maker are influenced by the Coen Brothers (irony), Quentin Tarantino (brief cartoonishness), David Lynch (stylized musical numbers), and even Robert Altman (sprawl). There are amplified echoes of Kelly's first film, Donnie Darko: use of time travel and space-time continuum, life or death choices, campy sensibility, framing 'chapter' themes.

4. Insight: In 'Southland,' Kelly is concerned with the loss of civil liberties stemming from terrorist threat, control of information and the truth, the fallout of war, and the vapidness of our pop culture. He clearly over-reaches, and allows a mess of characters, plotlines, and concepts spin and interact for two hours while reaching no conclusions and tying nothing together. There's a fine line between artsy and incoherent.

5. Metacritic Link.
Many reviewers were not kind. Metacritic average of 25 reviews was 43 out of 100 points. But I'd give it 75-80.

and here's the preview, for your viewing pleasure:

Exam Paper Howlers, Part 1:
from actual junior high examinations:

"In mid-evil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature."

Cartoons du Jour:

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Welcoming Mom to High-Speed Internet

with this 84-second Mel Brooks-penned classic:

Smiling Faces Sometimes

First photography, then (unintentional) humor... Three weeks back I created this snapshot montage of Christi and me goofing around at Starbucks after we saw 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' on Broadway. Broadway is now open again! - so many shows to see!.

Below, a new blog feature focusing on verbal humor... If they're new to you, prepare to howl! Otherwise, enjoy revisiting the classics...

Hilarious mis-statements from actual insurance claims, Part 1:

1. "I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way"
2. "The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again"
3. "I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment."
4. "The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention."

Cartoons du Jour:

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All Misc-ed Up

Here are some miscellaneous good shots from three weeks ago, followed by a few timely cartoons and some hilarious overheard dialogue.... But first: Will tree roots devour São Paulo? Interesting post by Thomas..

I like unusual angles and lighting on ordinary objects.

Where The Boys Are: Before the Broadway strike, Christi & I saw 'Putnam County Spelling Bee.' In keeping with the junior high gym decor, the men's room was demoted to 'boys' room...'

I've seen the future, and it works. With video/internet, these are not your grandfather's phone booths (and you thought they were disappearing. didn't cha? didn't cha?)

from Morgan Friedman's 'Overheard in New York' site - an instant classic...

"You Tell Me -- He's Right There Next to the Tuna"

Fish guy: Yeah, my dad died of colon cancer in 2001.
Blonde: Oh, how's he doing?

--Grocery store, Astoria, Overheard by: Dustin, Headline by: Mr. Gee

Runners-Up Headlines for this quote:
· "'Great Listener' Is On Her Resumee" - Denny
· "Decomposing Quite Nicely, Thank You for Asking" - RBNY
· "I'd Say His Condition Is Stable" - Tadzio
· "Rolling Over About Now" - Kaitlen
· "Rotting, No Doubt" - Katy
· "Well, Mom Won't Share a Bed with Him Anymore." - Cassie
· "Worst Pick-up, Best Blow-off" - halfknot

Cartoons du Jour:

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Great new posts from Emerson: Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the Undisovered Country within....

E.V.E.N. Hopscotch

Today's perky, bouncy Song of the Week, is suitable for dancing, house-cleaning, exercise, or even hopscotch. I hope it's a tonic in this blustery weather.

...or maybe especially hopscotch, with a childlike chorus rhyming and spelling out words...

"D.A.N.C.E." is an infectious pan-European chart-topper by Justice, and is fairly unknown in the US. Their debut album is surprisingly solid for this sort of catchy 'clubble gum.'

The video is groovy, too - see below.

Have a great day, everyone....

Have fun....

Our building's holiday display is a winter wonder-LAND... it evokes the nutcracker suite and other high-end seasonal fables and tales for tots...

Cartoons du Jour:

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Rajat!

Rajat's surprise party yesterday was a great moment, though today's his actual birthday... Below are some photo highlights, followed by a review of 'A Mighty Heart' and Angelina Jolie's award-worthy performance therein... Here are Rajat & Norberto, looking particularly adorable together - they just moved into a new house out in Clifton, NJ over the past week...

The surprise was a dinner at Bona Fides, a lovely, spacious, inexpensive Italian place in the East Village on 2nd Ave. Here's a group table photo, left to right: Rajat, Varun, Norberto, Fernando, Ed (behind Fernando), and Sunil...

On the way home, I heard Christmas music blaring from inside a car. I turned to look, and this lady had a multi-screen work station, inside her front seat, going full blast. Now that, I said, deserves a picture...

It's Out There

Meaning Karachi, Pakistan and hundreds of place like it. Meaning millions and millions of Muslim people, exotically garbed and speaking many tongues, strong of heart, fatalistic of outlook, eeking out a living.

A different world, often merciless, harsh, unrelenting.

This hotbed of simmering discontent is not only the backdrop of 'A Mighty Heart,' but arguably deserves star billing.

This film concerns the tragic fate of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl, as seen and felt by his widow, Marianne Pearl, his colleagues, and stalwart Pakistani police on a desperate race against time to find him.

Should this film have been made at all? My answer is a resounding 'yes.' It's compelling personally and an important reality check in a world Americans largely don't understand. Most impressive of all - the complete transformation of actress and tabloid sensation Angelina Jolie (above center) into Marianne Pearl (above right)- you totally forget about Angelina or anything Hollywood. Her acting is at times astonishing....

Bring on the 5 Parameters of Criticism,,,,

1. Four Words That Encapsule: 'Courage stretched too far '

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
"Do we realize how
others risk their very lives,
so that we can know..."

3. Oblique Comment: a) I feel guilty for the linguistic pleasure I felt watching this film. Urdu, Pakistan's language, is spoken and subtitled at several points in the film - it is about 95% identical to Hindi, and I found myself understanding Urdu fragments from my 2001 Hindi crash course before I went to India. b) it is jolting when Musharraf is referred to, it is a reminder that the landscape hasn't changed an iota for the better since March 2002 when this film took place.

4. Insight: 'A Mighty Heart' very effectively blends the 'police procedural' technique of investigation with Marianne's ordeal, and with flashbacks of both Daniel Pearl's last day of freedom and his better days with Marianne. This elicits two reactions from us and juxtaposes them: a) identification and sympathy with the Pearls and the desire to save Daniel; and b) fear and shock as we see hundreds of Pakistanis harshly grilled and/or arrested, even tortured, by the authorities as they investigate.

5. Metacritic link:

Cartoons du Jour:

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Up, Up, Up, Up, Up

I visited David & Alex Friday in their brand new 18th floor apartment, high above 10th Avenue & 52nd Street... I managed to capture the views, without conveying their dominant presence in the apartment itself - it seems at times like a fourth wall of sunlight and sky...

Baby, it's cold outside! The temperature plummeted 30 degrees on Thursday and left New York icy and windy, though sunny. David & Alex, who've lived in warmer climates, are wisely bundling up.. David is pictured on the building's glorious rooftop terrace, Alex, in their lovely 18th floor apartment, prepares to face the elements..

Meet George Jetson... Jane, his wife... Futuristic touches abound in the spanking new building David & Alex call home. When you receive a package, this appears on a screen right over the mailboxes..

On Thanksgiving Gene showed me his carpentery workshop - serious machinery with sharp edges. I could tell Gene really knows what's he's doing here, from both the high quality of his handmade furniture and the presence of all ten of his fingers. : - )

Cartoons du Jour:

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Big Guy

Rio de Janeiro has two emblems. One is Sugarloaf mountain (see last Saturday's post), and the other is Cristo Redentor, the massive 125-foot Jesus statue perched on Rio's highest peak, Corcovado, which means 'hunchback' in Portuguese. I have my own nickname for this statue: I call him 'The Big Guy.' As with Sugarloaf, fate handed us a cloudy, low-visibility day. Undaunted, we sallied forth and seized the moment!

Those who love The Big Guy can take the train. In these cars we climbed the 2,330 foot mountain, a 2.4 mile long, 20 minute journey. This engineering marvel was opened in 1884!

As our train climbed the mountain, Bevan tried to capture the lush flora and fauna and self-constructed shanties darting by our windows... Not an easy task.

Almost at the top, one last foggy panorama of Rio before the city faded into the mist...

A full-on view of Corcovado Monument, pedestal and all, from behind..

Fogbound, The Big Guy could use a red-nosed reindeer...

From Wikipedia, a look at Corcovado and The Big Guy on a sunny day... Different, huh? : - )

This isn't a holy roller, just a common position for photographing the enormity of The Big Guy.

I calmed my hunger with a 'cro-KET-chee,' a Brazilian meat pie heavy on starch and fried to a crisp crackle. Brazil abounds in such snacks, their equivalent of a New York hot dog stand...

We were hoodwinked into an expensive, crowded van ride back to town. Then the driver had the nerve to make us wait while he conned more suckers into his cattle car. I took revenge by wreaking havoc on his pre-set radio stations and cranking up the volume. On the way down, down, down back to the train station, I hung out the window taking pictures such as this one...Then we took a cab to Rio's Modern Art Museum. But that's another story...

Cartoons du Jour:

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