Sunday, December 31, 2006

My 2007 Movie Resolution

Was browsing through Andrew Sarris's (editor) Interviews with Film Directors today and thinking that the interview with Antonioni would be more meaningful if I had recently seen Red Desert. That made me hit on an idea for my 2007 film project.

Sarris's compilation has 40 entries, from Antonioni to Orson Welles. I'll try to screen one film a week, whichever work is most prominently mentioned in the Interview and read that interview. Maybe even blog about it if appropriate.

I figure 40 is a nice number because if I miss a week from getting sick or something, it won't kill me, but it is enough to keep me going pretty regularly.

The first to entries are interviews with Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. I couldn't find the Red Desert at either Netflix nor Amazon. There were some (pricey) tapes at Amazon, but I put a request in at cafedvd and am keeping an eye out on Ebay. The Bergman interview is from 1956, but it doesn't appear to focus on a particular film. Naked Night is mentioned, but that doesn't seem to be readily available either, so I moved Smiles of a Summer Night to the top of my Netflix queue, since it was the closest in proximity to the interview date that I could find.

The third entry is Robert Bresson and consists of an interview from Cannes about the Trial of Joan of Arc. Currently available through, but only for region zero. Will try to track down where and how I might be able to play that.

The fourth is Peter Brook, so I put Lord of the Flies on my Netflix and Blockbuster queues.

Well, I'm off to research region zero/PAL format.

Happy New Year to All.

Favorite Theatrical Film Releases from 2006

My friend Ron Reed over at A&F asked me for a year's best list, and I'm not sure I can come up with 10. I hated this year in film. I mean, really, really hated it. Of the 50 notable films listed in Entertainment Weekly's Year End "Critical Mass" column, I think I saw 12, and one (V for Vendetta) was actually a 2005 release, I think.

So yeah, 2006 is the year I officially went off the deep end, jumped the shark, whatever. Anyone who wants to dismiss my list out of hand because of my increasingly eclectic viewing habits is welcome to do so, though of all the films I haven't seen from the last year, I can only really, seriously imagine that three (The Queen, Pan's Labyrinth, The Death of Mr. Lazarezcu) would have a serious shot at making me like them enough to deem them worthy of some meaningless honorific such as my best of list. Without further ado, then, here's what I liked from the year that I hated, and here's hoping 2007 has some better mainstream, narrative films that are worthwhile:

1) Shut Up and Sing
2) The Pervert's Guide to Cinema
3) An Inconvenient Truth
4) When the Levees Broke
5) Climates
6) Forgiving Dr. Mengele
7) Manufactured Landscapes
8) Requiem
9) Lake of Fire
10) Miami Vice

Put 3-9 in a bag and shake it up and they could come out in a different order on any given day. They were all films I appreciated but which I'm not sure I could rouse myself to champion would anyone else care to take exception.

I can't make a case for Pervert's Guide being a great film, but it was over three hours (I think), and I enjoyed every minute of it, which ain't nothing.

Miami Vice is on there not because it's a great film but because it was a horrible year for studio releases, it's Michael Mann, and I suspect, like Heat it may grow on me in time. I certainly would rather see if again another three times rather than having to sit through the island sequence of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I mean, really, you would have been happier if I had thrown in Who Killed the Electric Car?

Requiem fell a few notches the second time I saw it, but it is the sort of film that I'm still grappling with and could easily work its way back up in my estimation as easily as it could fall off such a list altogether.

The rerelease of Melville's Army of Shadows was also a favorite theatrical experience, but I always think of these sorts of lists as being reserved for new releases.

Note to Self: Practice More

One of these days I'm going to self publish one of those devotional books about the spiritual lessons learned through every day activities. You know, like "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned Playing Disc Golf."

Anyway, I know I should practice more. Sort of a protestant work ethic attached to all forms of recreation, but not just that. I enjoy just playing disc golf, but I enjoy being good at things, too. And being good requires an investment of time and energy into the disciplines that undergird the development of a skill.

That's a long way of saying, I threw a roller over 400 feet today. Yes, I threw four others, none of which went 85% of that distance, and it was on a field so open that my lack of accuracy wasn't an issue. I'm not consistent enough to throw a roller if I don't have to, and most often when I do, it goes off course.

But there's an untapped upside, clearly, that really should motivate me to work on making this a more viable part of my arsenal...

Assuming, you know, that getting better is a good thing.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Good Day

Today I...

had a seasonable December day that allowed me to play Disc Golf doubles at Buckhorn with my wife (and we shot a 54).

was captured by a cat for a morning nap on my lap.

received a DVD of Tarkovsky's Stalker in the mail as an early Christmas present.

had a home cooked meal of past and sausage seeped in Cranberry juice inspired by Rachel Ray's Iron Chef America episode.

had a nice Cianti with dinner.

played Boggle, and was soundly defeated. (Isn't the English prof supposed to beat the art prof at such games? Must have been the Cianti.)

was caputured by another cat for an evening nap while watching the Sopranos.

did a little bit of academic writing for a deadline that's not until February.

wrote a recommendation to graduate school for a worthy student.

Not a bad day, that.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why is this film on Nobody's "Best of" List?

Just saw the first act of Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke.

I'm not saying it's a slam dunk, head and shoulders above the rest, best film of the year, but I'm suprised I haven't seen it mentioned on ANY lists that I've seen to didn't garner a single vote in the documentary category at Indiewire, for instance.

I thought it played in Toronto to make it Oscar eligible, but even if it is not, there are plenty of lists that don't follow the same guidelines. I wonder if it is just the four hour run time that's kept everyone from seeing it, whether it's an anti-Spike thing, or whether people just didn't think it was good.

Everyone I know who has seen it speaks highly of it, though, so who knows?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm #326...

...if I read the PDGA webpage correctly, I think I'm the 326 rated Disc Golfer in the state of North Carolina! (226 among amateurs and behind the 100 registered pros.)

Now if there were only a Disc Golf/Euchre biathalon...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Here's one way to help the environment...

...perhaps all the environmental PACs could stop sending me and my wife sheets of address labels when soliciting donations.

Just got back from a long weekend, and I found four different mailers soliciting donations, each with the requisite "gift" of address labels. One had a globe on them. Others had a leaf or something green.

I worked as a temp for a few months in 1988, and I had a long assignment at a PAC office. All it did was send out mailers (and petitions) and count the money that came in so that it could send out more mailers.

Total number of address labels received this weekend: 100+
Total donations made to each group making the "gifts": zero.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Riverfront Park: Augusta, GA

Well, I planned to play the new Championship caliber course at Wildwood today, but I decided to play Riverfront instead. It is a solid course, and a little closer to my skill level. I shot a 59 despite one out-of-bounds and the club score card actually has 56 as par (two holes are over 500 feet).

I played well enough, though there weren't too many birdie opportunities. I managed to practice my approach game, and I pretty much got up and down in two any time I was inside of 200 feet, excepting the one time I yanked my disc and went out of bounds. I met two locals who helped me find the tees and spot my disc, and they were very friendly. If this course had better signage (especially for the short tees I would like it better). I didn't mind playing the standard tees for this round, but if this were my home course, I'd want to mix it up a bit.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


So I just got back from 27 holes of disc golf on the course (but not the configuration) of last year's world championship. Needless to say, I'm one whupped pup.

The round started out well enough, I shot 29 on the first nine holes (10-18), but I got slaughtered on holes 19-27, taking a triple-circle eleven on the 600+ foot 27th. (A circle designates one or more strokes are penalties for going out of bounds or losing a disc).

I managed to recover a little on holes 1-9, even though the disc I lost was my primary driver (Sidewinder), and made a nice 20 footer for par to close out the round. I shot a 104, which isn't going to get any prizes even if they hadn't bumped me up to advanced since there were not enough Master (over 40) players, except at the pro level. That's about 3.8 strokes per hole, which I'm not ashamed of (especially given the 11, and at least 3 or 4 other Out of Bounds plays.

It was nice to play the course, even if I was in over my head.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Earlewood; Columbia, SC

The first time I played Earlewood, there was a steady rain, it was in the high 40s, I was playing a tournament, I had only retaken up the sport for about a year or so, and I was mostly driving with a beat up Leopard. I think I shot in the mid 60s, which seemed pretty good at the time, so I figured I must like the course.

I went back today on my way to tournament in Augusta, and I figure it is about 3/4 of the way there, so it is a good place to stop. Also, I haven't thrown a disc in over a week (finals, don'tcha know), and it might be a good idea to reacquaint my muscles' memory with what a drive feels like.

Earlewood always (okay, both times I've revisited it) ends up being harder than I remember. There are a lot of elevation changes and tough angles and trees. I get off to a bad start despite throwing a roller from an embankment to save a four on a 300+ foot hole, and a hammer to save bogey on another.

One thing that never works in golf is lowballing expectations, and I reflect that golf is a discipline in perpetual disatisfaction.

I probably should be happy that I shoot 31 on my last 10 holes, but all I can think about is going again. I decide not to, though. I've got 54 holes of World Championship course layout waiting for me tomorrow, and even on a disc golf vacation bender I know the difference between shaking the rust off and leaving it all on the practice field.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What is Hippodrome and Why Does it Scare Me?

I preregistered for the Hippodrome Winter Tournament, a PDGA sanctioned disc golf tournament taking place this weekend.

According to the invite/ad sent me, there will be 27 holes and the layout for one of the rounds will be the same as it was for the '06 World Championships. This year I moved to Advanced Masters division, and I'm usually near the bottom of the tournaments I play in, good enough to compete at the advanced level but not really at the same talent level...combine that with a championship course (read: looooooooong), the fact that the weather in Raleigh and final exams has kept me from regular practice, and I'm thinking I could get roughed up pretty bad this weekend.

But, hey, it's Christmas, and nothing says the semester is over and grading is done like a long road trip to play Disc Golf.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Infamous Review at Looking Closer

My latest review, of Douglas McGrath's Infamous, is now up at Looking Closer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blockbuster continues to shoot itself in the foot...

I adopted Netflix early, and most marketers will tell you that consumers are creatures of habit.

I've continually tried out Blockbuster's online service, though, and I'm always surprised that they have been so poor at utilizing their strengths over Netflix by failing to capitalize on the potential of online/live store synergy.

Sometimes I want a new release, and these are usually long wait online.

Sometimes I want a hard to find title, like, say, Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August.

So you would think that the new Total Access would be just up my alley. Blockbuster has advertised that you can return Online rentals to the store and get a free movie.

More importantly, given the "no late fees" fiasco and the price fluctuations, the problems with Mycokewards coupons not being honored, the on-line coupon reminders being sent to my inbox the wrong day, the way they advertised a coupon for a "free rental" then put in fine print that it was only for a week long rental (not a new release) unless you had particular online service, you would think they would pre-test the Total Access to get the bugs out of the system before going live.

Think again.

Depsite listing my first choices as "available," Blockbuster has consistently sent me films from the bottom half of my queue. When I went online, their help page said:

We review all "Available" titles in your queue, and determine which titles are available for 2-day shipping at your nearest distribution center(s). If the requested title is outside the 2-day shipping window, it will be skipped over for a title further on your list.

We understand this may be frustrating if you are waiting for a specific title that is continuously being skipped. We are currently reviewing this process in order to improve in this area. We appreciate your patience as we do this.

So, um, they will never send me the top item on my list as long as it is not in the nearest distribution center, no matter how long I've waited for it, if there is any other item on my list closer?

Who cares which movie I actually want, they need to be able to say, "x percent were delivered in 2 days or less." Psssh.

They are currrently reviewing this process in order to improve in this area.

I am currently back on the old reliable--Netflix.

You had a window to impress me with your new service, Blockbuster. Instead, it was same old, same old.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Good Year

Here is a link to my review of the new Ridley Scott film.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

West Virginia Makes 31

My quest to play disc golf in all 50 states took a step forward last weekend as I managed to shoot a round at Rotary Park in Huntington, West Virginia to increase my total to 31 states.

I had begun to wonder whether or not West Virginia was going to become a thorn in my side. I lived in Harrisonburg, VA for two years, and I was unable to get to the Woodshed, a private course in WV, despite several plans to do so. It always seemed as though something would come up at work, the weather would turn sour, or a car would break down.

Later, I had planned to stop at Seth Burton Memorial DGC in Fairmont on the way to a job interview in Pennsylvania when an early Spring snow storm changed my plans.

Even this time almost didn't happen.

I had some kind of stomach flu on Thursday that had me throwing up pretty much every half hour for most of the day. By Friday, my stomach and back muscles were aching from convulsions and I was tired and weak.

Nevertheless, Cindy and I had already rented a weekend cabin to stay with our friends Todd and Sherry Truffin, so I poured myself into the car and let Cindy do the driving. I sipped Gatorade, caught up on my reading (150 pages of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here), and found myself in front of a toasty fireplace and amongst dear friends by evening.

The Saturday was windy and cold, and I still hadn't eaten much in last two days, but now that I live in NC, I didn't figure to let another WV opportunity slip by the boards. Todd, Cindy and I had a round of Wolf (a Skins game variant)that allowed us to enjoy the round even though the combination of wind and being at a new course made it hard to shoot a good round every hole.

I'm still trying to get my comprehensive list of Disc Golf Courses uploaded to my website. I thought I had it solved, but apparently a file I made was too big...but, for the time being, I'm happy to report I have 31 states down and only 19 to go. (Getting to Alaska is going to be a bear, I think, but that's why we have life goals, to give us plenty of time...we hope!)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shame on DeepDiscountDVD

So I got a "check" in the mail today for $5 from DeepDiscountDVD.

Odd...I hadn't remembered ordering anything from them recently, but maybe this was a late rebate from a previous order.

Nope, the fine print on the back of the check said that endorsing it and cashing it constituted an enrollment agreement for some service to provide rebates on gas and such for $119 per year.

Do I think a lot of people will be fooled into cashing the check without reading it? Perhaps not. But since I recently called out Peerflix for bad customer service, I thought I'd mention this deceptive practice from DeepDiscount.

It always saddens me when a company tries to win my business not by offering me a product they think I want or could use but by hoping to trick me into buying a product that they apparently KNOW I would not buy otherwise.

Which is what they are doing...and you can't tell me they don't know it.

Shame on you, DeepDiscountDVD.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Best at Kentwood

So having finally shaved that elusive stroke off my Buckhorn score, I've said that one advantage is to get a few new courses and starting points in the rotation. So I decided to stop and play Kentwood on the way to the airport this morning, and wouldn't you know...

Once again, this wasn't the way I expected to post a good score. I usually expect to get a hot start and hang on. Instead, I bogeyed eight to go -2, and then it was birdies for 9, 11, 12, and 13. Getting hot in the middle holes. I suppose one advantage of playing a longer course is that you get better at driving rather than just putting, so you don't have to make ALL the short ones.

2-3-3 2-3-2 3-4-2 (24) OUT
3-2-2 2-3-3 2-3-3 (23) IN 47

And I missed a short putt for par on 8 and a medium putt (straight to the basket) on 15.

Friday, September 29, 2006

New Best at Buckhorn

My calendar tells me the summer is long over (it's week 6 of classes), but the North Carolina weather still allows me to get in some Disc Golf.

Towards the end of the Summer, I flirted with a personal best at Buckhorn several times, at least twice going to the 17th green below my best score only to put my approach in the water.

Well, I don't know if these are the dog days or the Indian days of Summer, but I managed to get out there around 5 on a Friday, and finally got over that hump.

As is so often the case with golf goals, I didn't do it the way I expected. In fact, I failed to birdie the three statistically easiest holes on the course (2, 5, 8), but I had only two fours (4 & 12), and managed birdies on 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, & 13. Most importantly, I finally got an approach over that darn lake/pond on 17 for an easy three. And it needed to be an easy three, because the nerves were getting tight.

So, having finally passed that milestone, I'm hoping that will free me up to try some other things to just work on my game. Maybe play the long tees a few times, start on different holes, work on a flick or a different approach to one or two holes, maybe even go play a few of the other courses in the area to get them back in the rotation.

Buckhorn: (White Tees)

2-3-3 4-3-2 3-3-2 (Out) 25
2-2-4 2-3-3 3-3-3 (In) 25 (50)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Web Host for Viewpoint

I've moved my movie review page to a different web host.

The interface is easier to update, it's cheaper, and I hope the button at the bottom isn't too distracting (I don't think it is).

I will be adding back some content shortly. Right now there is only the most recent reviews.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How to Rip Off Peerflix members...with the company's help.

So Peerflix is a DVD swapping service where you trade DVDs you don't want for credits that can be applied to for DVDs you do want. I got some decent service, but recently I was informed by customer service that I had been docked Peerbux because a DVD I sent was deemed to be a pirated/illegal copy.

Of course I've never sent a pirated copy of any DVD. Not coincidentally, the copy goes from the person it was allegedly sent to to Peerflix with the claim of "hey, this was the DVD I got in the mail." So, you want to rip off Peerflix...this is apparently how you do it...

1) Order a hard to find or valuable DVD.
2) Make a copy of it.
3) Send the copy of it to Peerflix with a note saying it was the DVD that was send to you by another user.
4) Get your cost refunded to you.
[Shame about the person who sent it to you and is now out both the DVD and the credit, but hey...]

Alternate method (this one just rips off the company).
1) Have a broken or unplayable DVD?
2) List it as tradeable.
3) Send it to the user who requests it.
4) They fill out a "broken in transit" claim and send it to Peerflix security.
5) You get credit (Peerbux) for sending the DVD but the other user gets his Peerbux refunded. Post office gets the blame.

So, I've given up on Peerflix for the time being. That's a shame, since I got some good trades.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

9/11 Rhetoric

In the wake of September 11, 2001, several of my friends who followed broadcast news noted how quickly the rhetoric surrounding the events escalated as they unfolded.

As the day progressed, the attacks went from being something like "the largest terrorist attack on American soil since Oklahoma City" to something "the largest foreign attack on America since Pearl Harbor" to something like "the worst disaster in the history of the world." These aren't exact quotes; I'm just trying to give examples of the nature of the tone.

Well, that was five years ago, and I think in the midst of an attack we can be forgiven a bit of hyperbole. One function of time is that it gives us greater room to place events within a context after their immediate emotional impact has subsided.

So this blurb over at IMDB.COM interested me. It seems American Airlines is protesting a scene in an upcoming miniseries called The Path to 9/11. Apparently one scene implies American was lax in its security procedures when the security lapse apparently took place at U.S. Airways.

If I had a business, I'd certainly want to make that same correction. Nothing wrong with that. What made me sigh was the rhetoric in the statement:

The American statement concluded: "That the film directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission is troubling. That it defames dedicated public officials is tragic. But the fact that it misleads millions of people about the most tragic and consequential event in recent history is disgraceful."

The most tragic and consequential event in recent history....

Yeah, I know, the words "tragic," "consequential," and "recent" are all ambiguous enough that this phrase is at least defensible from any parsing, but really, what does it say about us and our psyche?

I suppose I could hammer this point by inviting a list of events more "consequential" than 9/11 or, possibly, even one of those more tragic. But why does tragedy have to be a contest these days? Why do we have to be more put upon and victimized than our neighbors? Why is there no room for us to recognize that being able to recognize the suffering of others does not diminish our own?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lake of Fire Review at Looking Closer

My full review of Lake of Fire is now up at Jeffrey Overstreet's Looking Closer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

TIFF: Shot in the Dark and MacBeth

My Sunday was a bit less successful than the Saturday, but it still made for some interesting viewing. Notes below:

Picture of Light (1994): This retrospective entry allowed me to catch up on the work of Peter Mettler who had been a consultant for Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes. I love the photography of the Northern Lights, but I did find the set up a bit long.

Shot in the Dark (2006): Adrian Grenier of Entourage and The Devil Wear's Prada entered a documentary about his attempts to reconnect with his biological father. I may try to write more about this one. It started fairly conventional but increased in complexity as it revealed more of itself. A solid first effort that managed to go over what could have been well picked ground and still offer a few surprises. It included some interesting reflections on fatherhood and the timeless nature/nurture debate.

Born and Bred (2006): This entry from Argentinian Pablo Trapero was not my favorite. It involves a man in paint who retreats emotoinally and geographically from in order to heal and his eventual decisions about whether and how to try to reconnect.

MacBeth (2006): Geoffrey Wright directs an amped up, violent version of the Scottish play with the characters in a mob-like setting. Undeniably stylish, the film may border on nihilistic (I'll have to think about it some more before I decide). It does a good job creating its own world rather than relying on the shock value of the anachrnistic, but I felt it lose momentum in the second half...though I'm not sure why. (It was the last film I saw, so I'm still processing it). It's worth pointing out for Christians that there is some heavy violence and prolonged nudity. Both worked within the context of the film (though the latter was a bit over-the-top), but it's not directed toward the study hall crowd, methinks.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

TIFF: Of Perverts and Rescues

Well yesterday was packed. As expected the first weekend was busier than even the Friday with the lines growing. I pretty much went non-stop from one film to the next.

Some bullet comments below:
The Pervert's Guide to Cinema--Fun and funny, I've equated this to a college class with a loopy, entertaining professor who doesn't grade hard. You walk out going, "I really enjoyed that class" but when asked what you learn you ramble incoherently about his rambling points. Not that Zizek was incoherent. It wasn't an emperor with no clothes experience. He knew the movies and the individual points were followable and interesting. But structurally it was like ADD on crank.

Manufactured Landscapes:
The artistry was great, and I've said I'll like it more as I get distance from it and some of the "this is neutral" spin going on. When did having an ideology become such a bad thing?

The Lake of Fire:
Tony Kaye's 135 minute, excrutiatingly long abortion documentary. Ends up being more about the debate than the subject. Being called balanced (which it is, but which isn't necessarily the same thing as being fair). I wondered if it achieved that by simply not being selective in inclusion. Everyone has their say...and then has it again.

Rescue Dawn
Werner Herzog's "unfinished business" with the Dieter Dengle story. I preferred Little Dieter Needs to Fly, but it was an interesting film to think and talk about. Like Lord of the Rings, I imagine I would have liked it more had I not had a previous relationship with the subject matter.

In terms of festival experience, directors were at last three films and stars at Manufactured Landscapes and Rescue Dawn. I wish I had scheduled more time for the Q&As (learned something for next year), but it was interesting to see (especially with Herzog) the fanboy side of the slightly more sophisticated audience.

I'm very, very, tired though. Will definitely write more as I get time and distance.

Friday, September 08, 2006

TIFF: Take the Good, Take the Bad

Any first time travel experience is partially about learning.

The good...the dinner was great. Such nice company...finally got to meet Darren, Michael, Girish, and have a great time of fellowship and food. I even liked the Ethiopian food.

The not so good...I've been priding myself on how lightly I packed. But I guess any venue that includes much waiting in line should also include a hat and an umbrella in your luggage. Got rained on trying to rush tickets for The Host. It was borderline whether or not I would get in, but I finallly called it. Figured if I did I would be cold and miserable all through the film.

I think I resolved the conflict for tomorrow. I'm going to try to buy Doug's ticket for Manufactured Landscapes so that I can see it instead of Deliver Us From Evil. At least that's the plan. But first up...The Pervert's Guide to Cinema.

Man, I just like typing that title.

TIFF: Requiem and Climates

Had plenty of time this morning, and it was a good thing. The walk to the box office turned out to be a little longer than it looked on the map.

Toronto was covered with some campaign called "Shinefest" trying to raise money for cystic fibrosis, which meant I had someone offer to shine my shoes on every corner. (I was wearing sneakers, but never mind).

Once I got the tickets it was back south to the theater long last...the first film.

I met up with Doug and we saw Requiem. I was engaged by it and found it to be a serious psychological drama. The comparisons to Emily Rose are inevitable, I guess, but Requiem was a far superior film. I had a few reservations which I'll put in a review when I get back, but overall it was a great start.

One real pleasure of the festival is talking about the films. So Doug and I grapped crepes for lunch (me: apple, banana, cinammon; he: bananna and nutella), talked about the film and worked our way to the Ryerson for Climates.

Boy talk about an agressively quiet film. There were a lot of long takes. I mostly liked it but my sleep cycle was catching up with me and I struggled in a few places to keep concentration. I'm tempted to call it a 100 minute object lesson on the pathetic fallacy and setting, but that isn't right. It was good but it didn't engage me as much as Requiem.

I also checked at the Ryerson for same day tickets of The Host but they were sold out, so I'll have to either try the rush line or let it go. I'm still waffling about whether to see Manufactured Landscapes tomorrow or Deliver Us From Evil.

Arrived in Toronto

Despite a series of obstactles, I have finally arrived in Toronto.

I thought I might miss my flight when there was a car accident on the way to the airport, but once I got to the airport, thinks went smoothly.

Russ picked me up in downtown Pittsburgh, and the pleasure of meeting a long-time acquaintance helped the drive from Pittsburg to Toronto go smoothly.

We arrived about 11 p.m. and Doug met us at the hostel with the keys. It probably would have been a good idea to turn in, but I was wired and so we found a place to chat for awhile. Toronto is a nice city, and the hostel is a new experience.

The only slip up was that it said on the Internet that I did not need a passport if I was driving into Canada but they asked for one anyway. Fortunately Russ had mentioned something on the phone, so I brought it with me just in case. Good thing I did.

Now...let the films begin.

Monday, September 04, 2006

My 2006 TIFF Schedule

Well, I got my confirmation of my advance tickets. Here's my tentative schedule--it could still be supplemented by rush tickets or trades.

Final Film List

Friday September 8, 2006
Requiem PARAMOUNT 1 11:45 AM
Climates RYERSON 3:00 PM

Saturday September 9, 2006
The Pervert's Guide to Cinema CUMBERLAND 3 12:15 PM
Deliver Us From Evil VARSITY 8 2:45 PM
Lake of Fire VARSITY 8 5:30 PM
Rescue Dawn RYERSON 9:00 PM

Sunday September 10, 2006
Picture of Light AL GREEN THEATRE 10:00 AM
Shot in the Dark PARAMOUNT 3 1:00 PM
The Prisoner or: How I Planned ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM 5:30 PM
Macbeth PARAMOUNT 1 7:00 PM

I hope to have a dinner at the Ehtiopian restaraunt with some friends on Friday night.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (5-10)

Well The Life of Moses is short, but like many of the Spiritual Classics, it is slow reading. Also, I've been a bit busy and sporadic in my reading.

Recently, I've been thinking about this quote from the biography section entitled "The History of Moses":

This man saw in one act--the attack on the shepherds--the virtue of the young man, how he fought on behalf of the right without looking for personal gain. Considering the right valuable in itself, Moses punished the wrong done by the shepherds, although they had done nothing against him.

How many of us truly consider "the right" valuable in itself, I wonder, and are willing to fight for it without looking for personal gain?

Then again, is it possible to be too ready to punish the wrong, even if it is not against us? How certain we are that we correctly see and know "the right" and that our anxiousness to fight is based on finding the right valuable and not on protecting our interests.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

What's Best?: Free-for-all Friday

This week's "What's Better?" winners were:

M&Ms [over Eminem]
Being There [over Being John Malkovich]
Bullwinkle [over Bull Durham]
A Man Escaped [over Woman, Thou Art Loosed!]

All those are "better" but which is "best"?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What's Better?: A Man Escaped or Woman, Thou Art Loosed?

Okay, so here's an interesting juxtaposition. I'm not quite sure how I want to frame this other than by saying that these are two titles that just beg the following question....

What's Better?: A Man Escaped or Woman, Thou Art Loosed?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's Better?: Bullwinkle or Bull Durham?

One is a moose, the other a catcher. Neither is a bull, though both are called bulls. One has a flying squirrel sidekick, the other has a slightly crazy love interest. Both have suprisingly good dialogue.

What's Better?: Bullwinkle or Bull Durham?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's Better?: Being There or Being John Malkovich?

Hal Roach vs. Spike Jonze! Peter Sellers vs...well, John Malkovich.
These two items are both comedies that are actually funny but that are also surprisingly thoughtful and slyly provocative.

What's Better? Being There or Being John Malkovich?

Monday, August 21, 2006

What's Better?: Eminem or M&Ms?

One is small and sweet; one is big and bold. One makes music; one tastes like heaven. One is creative; one is created.

Today, I ask, "What's Better?": Eminem or M&Ms.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What's Best? Free for all Friday!

Our "What's Better?" winners this week were:

An American Werewolf in London
Douglas Sirk
"Dancing in the Dark"
The Scream

So, let' s make it short and sweet...which is best of the four winners?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What's Better?: Scream or The Scream

Well, we've had music, authors and films on the blog battle, so why not a work of art? I understand there is an Edvard Munch biopic on the way, so until then, we'll just have to amuse ourselves by asking, "What's Better?": Scream or The Scream?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What's Better?: Dancer in the Dark or "Dancing in the Dark"?

Lars von Trier vs. Born in the USA. Bjork vs. the Boss. Tragic arthouse film versus mainstream pop music. What more could a blog battle ask for?

What's Better?: Dancer in the Dark or "Dancing in the Dark"?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's Better?: Douglas Sirk or Captain Kirk?

One is the captain of the Starship Enterprise. One is the director of Magnificent Obsession and All that Heaven Allows. One means death to red shirts; one uses red, autumnal colors.

"What's Better?": Douglas Sirk or Captain Kirk?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What's Better?: The French Lieutenant's Woman or An American Werewolf in London?

To begin round three of this Internet diversion, I give you John Landis versus John Fowles. A literary adaptation versus a horror flick. Oddly enough, both films are listed in as having been released in 1981.

What's Better? The French Lieutenant's Woman or An American Werewolf in London?

Monday, August 07, 2006

What's Best? Days of Wine and Roses or Umberto Eco

Never overestimate the power of music, I guess. After last battle featured a final between two musical entries, this round features one author and one film.

What can I say that I haven't already. You know the drill:

"What's Best?": Umberto Eco or Days of Wine and Roses?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

What's Better? Umberto Eco or The Insider?

Today's semi-final features an intriguing match up. Say Michael Mann and many think "Genius, cool, hip, and surprisingly deep." Say Umberto Eco, and many people think, "confusing, dense, and impenetrable."

Then again, say Umberto Eco, and many people think, "Genius,cool, hip, cool, and surprisingly deep." Say Michael Mann and many think, "confusing, dense, and impenetrable."

So who's the real deal and who's the emperor with no clothes?

"What's Better": The Insider or Umberto Eco?

What's Better? "Living on a Thin Line" or Days of WIne and Roses?

Ah nothing like a good voting scandal to really rock the house. Malick was in the lead and even declared the winner by one exit poll, but late reports from the precincts pushed The Kinks ahead. No hanging chads here, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the certification to stand.

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick had their own battles to fight...over a band of zombies. So, all due apologies to the Malick multitude. This semi-final asks:

"What's Better?": "Living on a Thin Line" or Days of Wine and Roses?

Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (Prologue)

I'm excited to be reading this book even though it is a busy time of year and I don't know how quickly I can progress.

In the prologue Gregory is making a comparison about how the measurable is precisely that because it has limits, whereas the attributes of the divine are without limit and hence cannot be said to be achieved through measurement. He says:

Just as the end of life is the beginning of death, so also stopping in the race of virtue marks the beginning of the race of evil. Thus our statement that grasping perfection with reference to virtue is impossible was not false, for it has been pointed out that what is marked off by boundaries is not virtue.

This quote is heavy and kind of deep, but the first half resonated with me especially. The whole context of this discussion provides a framework for me to undertand why it is that pursuing good and filling one's life with good can be easier or more successful than eliminating evil.

I think it was either Willard or Foster who tied our lack of understanding of the disciplines to the fear/rejection of salvation by works. We are creatures of habit, though, and sometimes the good in an activity can be extrinsic as well as intrinsic.

Many sayings or proverbs have foundations of truth in them. "Idle hands are the devil's playground." Well, no and yes. Doing nothing is better than doing evil. But it may be easier to not do evil when you are focused on doing something good (or even neutral) than when you are simply trying to avoid whatever it is you are tempted by.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What's Better? Umberto Eco or Echo and the Bunnymen?

You know, I'm a literature person. It's high time a blog battle had a literature enrant. Umberto Eco has done philosophy, literature crticism, even literature of his own. Foucault's Pendulum, The Name of the Rose, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana are titles that just reek culture.

Echo and the Bunnymen may have a funny name, but their talent is dead serious. "Enlighten Me" may be their highest chart topper in the U.S., though they did a ripping cover of "People are Strange" that ought to be familiar to anyone who saw the movie The Lost Boys.

So, "What's Better?": Umberto Eco or Echo and the Bunnymen?

Friday, August 04, 2006

What's Better? The Thin Red Line or "Living on a Thin Line"

Okay, so I said I learned in the last blog battle not to underestimate the power of music. (The two finalists were musical despite a majority of entrants from the world of film.) Couldn't have round two without some musical choices.

The Kinks may be better known for "Lola," and I was tempted to run a "Lola" v. Lolita match, but why pass up a chance to let you all torment me by voting on one of my favorite whipping boys?

Yes, Terence Malick enters the arena as the 800 pound gorilla/heavy favorite, fresh off a recent work (A New World...hmmm...could have matched that against the Aladdin song "A Whole New World") that was so good, even I had to grudgingly admit I liked it. The Kinks...well hard to vote against the band Pete Townsend called "much more quintessentially English." (And give him props for using "quintessentially."

So, "What's Better?": "Living on a Thin Line" or The Thin Red Line?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What's Better? Days of Wine & Roses/Night of the Living Dead?

Now here's a pair of heavy hitters. On one side there is Jack Lemmon at his peak, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, direction by Blake Edwards, music (which one an Oscar, I think) by Henry Mancini. Social importance! Actorly moments.

On the other side, we have perhaps the best zombie film ever made. Mmmmm...zombies.

Did Todd say two things with no business being compared? Well, let's compare them..."What's Better?": Days of Wine and Roses or Night of the Living Dead?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What's Better? The Insider or The Outsiders

Well, time for another blog battle. We'll do eight items this time, so we should be done in one week. We'll see how many replies we get or if everyone is bored by this yet.

Today's match features Director Michael Mann and Russell Crowe in an Oscar nominated performance. In the opposite corner we have young stars, Oscar winning director Francis Ford Coppola, and a beloved young-adult book. So web surfers, "What's Beter?": The Insider or The Outsiders?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

My review of The Devil Wears Prada was recently uploaded at Jeffrey Overstreet's Looking Closer site.

Ritz Waltzes to Victory

Well, thanks to everyone who voted. If I do that again, I think I'll make it shorter (8 entries instead of 16).

In honor of the winner, here are the lyrics from (See hyperlink below)

Puttin' On The Ritz Lyrics

MP3 Downloads

Send Irving Berlin polyphonic ringtone to your cell phone

Have you seen the well-to-do
Upon Lennox Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on the Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

------ short instrumental break ------

(Boys, look at that man puttin' on that Ritz)
(You look at him, I can't)

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on that certain Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

------ piano solo ------

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's Best?: Learning to Crawl or Puttin' on the Ritz?

Well, if I've learned anything from this experiment it's...that I shoulda made a shorter, 8 entry tournament instead of 16 (over in a week).

But if I've learned anyhing else, it's don't underestimate the power of music, even when polling people you mostly meet on a film forum. Beating up on Buford Pusser is one thing; beating up on Natalie Portman (with hair) is something else. And I didn't think anything could stop Se7en (though the Dixie Chicks sure gave it a shot). So, for the record....

"What's the Best of the Betters?": "Puttin' on the Ritz" or Learning to Crawl?

"What's Better?" Semifinal #2; Se7en vs. Learning to Crawl

This one is hard to call. Se7en lingered in a dead-lock with the Dixie-Chicks, actually trailing in OT before a late equalizer sent it through on goal differential.

The Pretenders have been methodically dispatching of the competition, but are people really going to want to musical works in the final? That's anyone's guess.

"What's Better?": Learning to Crawl or Se7en?

P.S. And yeah, I know this isn't the album cover for Learning to Crawl, but I was getting tired of the same visual.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What's Better Semifinal: Puttin' on the Ritz v Inconvenient Truth

On paper, this looks like a mismatch. "Puttin' on the Ritz" rolls into the semifinals with the most cumulative votes of any entry, An Inconvenient Truth seems to be following the Jim Valvano mantra of "survive and advance." Still, we all know what happened when Valvano's Wolfpack took on the mighty Phi-Slamma-Jamma, don't we? I think it may take that kind of upset.

Nevertheless, for a spot in the finals, I ask:
"What's Beter?": An Inconvenient Truth or "Puttin' on the Ritz"?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Better? Quarterfinal #4: Penguins v Pretenders

Ah, thought I had forgotten about those pesky Penguins, did you? No, I just needed to give the Pretenders a break in between their first set and their first (and last?) encore. The Penguins may have marched past the Flight of the Phoenix, but the Pretenders crawled all over Walking Tall So who's the favorite to take the last semi-final slot? Let's find out...

What's Better?: Learning to Crawl or The March of the Penguins?

Monday, July 17, 2006

"What's Better?" Quarterfinal 3: Dixie Chicks vs. Se7en

Well here are a pair of heavy hitters. It seems like even those who begrudge the Chicks their political views grittingly admit they make some good music. And even those who find Fincher's flick full of nihilistic despair still think it professionally and artfully made.

So, "What's Better": The Dixie Chicks or Se7en?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What's Better? Quarterfinal #2: Portman v. Truth

Quarter-Final #2 pits Natalie Portman in Revenge of the Sith v. An Inconvenient Truth.
Now, granted, one is an actress who appeared in what has to be one of the twenty or so highest grossing movies of all time, but the other features a man who did receive more votes for president than the man currently residing in the oval office. So to even things up, I pulled up another publicity photo, one without those honeybun hair braids.

Okay, let's make this official. Web surfer's, "What's Better?":
Natalie Portman in Revenge of the Sith or An Inconvenient Truth?

Let Us Now Praise Dying T-Shirts...

Found a rip in my Kudzu Film Festival 2000 T-Shirt while folding laundry today.

How very sad.

The T-Shirt always strikes me as a poor way of trying to commemorate a memory you don't want to forget. It rarely lasts longer than the memory itself.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"What's Better?" Quarterfinal 1: Redick v Ritz

Today's quarterfinal match pits one winner that went through unopposed and one of the higher vote getters in the first round. Incidentally I drew all the winners out of a hat to have a totally random draw for the the second round.

So today's question is, "What's Better?": J. J. Redick or "Puttin' on the Ritz"?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 8 (Learning to Crawl v Walking Tall)

Well, for me this is a no-brainer, but I'm only batting about .500 in this tournament, so who knows the eclectic tastes of the surfer's by.

On one hand we've got (is it fair to call this) the breakout album of Chrissie Hynde & Co, featuring such memorable ditties as "Watching the Clothes Go Round" and "Middle of the Road."

On the other hand we have the original Buford Pusser biopic anchored by the peformance of Joe Don Baker in the role many think he was born to play.

So, to close out the first round, I ask, "What's Better?"
Learning to Crawl or Walking Tall?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 7 (24 v 7)

Here's a battle of two works that generally are well respected amongst people whom I otherwise consider sane.

I got about 1/2 way through 24 Season 1 and found it outlandishly silly. I watched Se7en and found it morbidly gross. Yet each work has passionate fans that insist that it elevates the genre it inhabits.

So I ask, "What's Better?"

24 or Se7en?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 6

We've had the Dixie Chicks, we've had J.J. Redick, so what else engenders strong emotions? Al Gore and the Vietnam War for two.

An Inconvenient Truth is described on IMDB as follows: A documentary on Al Gore's campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide.

A Bright Shining Lie is described on the same site this way: True story of Army man John Paul Vann, whose military success provided him the fulfillment he never found in his personal life.

Like in the battle between Takin' it to the Streets and Puttin' on the Ritz, though, this one isn't just about the individual works of art. It's about whether or not what is represented by each title, conceptually, is preferable to that which is symoblized in the other.

So, I ask, "What's Better?"
An Inconvenient Truth or A Bright Shining Lie?