Friday, December 31, 2010


*The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, written and directed by Andrew Dominik, based on the 1983 novel by Ron Hansen, starring Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt, featuring a bazillion other crazy talented actors, scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and shot by the renowned Roger Deakins.

Three Up:

1.  The Cinematography--Movies ought to be a synergistic explosion of compelling characters saying interesting things in a beautiful-to-watch way.  This movie was beautiful.  I loved the vistas, I loved the coloring, I loved the costuming.  BONUS.  This is one of the few recent movies that realizes that movies are less about plot than they are about characters and visuals.  A certain director of increasingly bad movies could learn a lesson.

2.  The Acting--Casey Affleck, I think we all know, is an amazing actor.  Brad Pitt is surprisingly underrated, despite creating great characters in a lot of movies lately.  (Did you see him in Interview with the Vampire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or Mr. and Mrs. Smith?)  Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, and Paul Schneider support the leading duo like professional actors.  Mary-Louise Parker turns her 6 lines in 24 minutes into a brilliant study of the devoted wife of a larger-than-life man, and Zooey Deschanel turns her 6 lines in 2 minutes into a fascinating study of the supporting girl of a crumpled man.  There are too many brilliant actors doing too many brilliant things to list it all.  When you watch it, pay close attention to the scene when Jesse James comes over for dinner.  Brilliance on cellophane.

3. The Score--Long story short, I haven't enjoyed a score this much since Moon.

Three Down

1. The Running Time--First, a caveat.  This movie is terribly long at 160 minutes.  Second, an admission.  I cannot think of 2 minutes that could be cut without taking away from the movie.  Still, I can't see myself popping it in on a Tuesday night when there's nothing on TV.

2.  The Mumbling--Being from the quasi-South (Is Texas Southern?  Is Maryland?  I never know.), I can appreciate a good Southern accent.  Mumbling is part of it.  But interesting dialog is only interesting if it is understood.  I think I missed out on half of the great lines.

3.  The Long Title--I dread telling my friends at work, "Have you seen The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford?  It's great!"  And, since I have a Texas mumbling drawl, they'll be all like "Wha--???" and I'll have to repeat it.  And I can't shorten it because I despise shortening titles.  Sigh.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stargazing in the Wee Hours of December 21, 2010

The moon in the sky is a peach
That dropped in and bounced out of the bleach.
I'd go if I could.
I hope that you would.
So let's gaze at the stars and let's dream.

We lay on our backs and we stare
Past the trees and the dust in the air
What's up with the moon?
It's orange, not blue.
It's the end of the world--I'm scared.

The moon hides behind its big brother
To get out of the glare of its mother
It'd rather be seen
In a faint orange gleam
Than to be drowned in her kisses and smother

A sign of the end of the times:
The moon is a fat copper dime.
So turn back to God
You ignorant sod
And don't be the one left behind.

I hope you enjoyed these weak rhymes,
That they feel on your lips like cheap wine.
Now, I know the truth--
So don't disabuse
By complaining I've wasted your time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Inverted Pyramid

According to Wikipedia:
The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate the placing of the most important information first within a text. It is a common method for writing news stories and is widely taught to journalism students.
I guess nobody taught the AP staff covering the Baylor-Bethune-Cookman game that.  This little nugget of trivia is stuck down in the very last paragraph of Yahoo!'s version of the copy:
Baylor’s [school record] 12 wins in a row at the Ferrell Center isn’t even the longest active winning streak by a Big 12 men’s team in the building. Oklahoma has won 14 in a row there.
Come on.  How is that not lede material?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Philadelphia Heat


Cliff Lee has signed with the Phillies.  No Rangers, no Yankees, just Phillies.  That makes him (apparently) the second starter after Roy Halladay and before Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  I don't want to say anything rude, but I hope that the Phillies flop and die.

I hope the Giants go 7-155 next year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: 4/5


Basically, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) accidentally lands a role in some movie, gets shipped out west to L.A., meets Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), learns how to be a P.I., and reunites with his first love (Michelle Monaghan).  Oh, Shane Black (Predator) writes and directs.


1.  The Characters - A post is brewing in my head about how characters are the real meat of any story, be it written, spoken, or shown.  The characters in a story are what brings people back to it years and years down the road.  Harry, Gay Perry, and Harmony are the kind of people I want to hang out with for a couple of hours.  (I don't know how long this movie was, sorta like losing track of time while hanging out with friends.)  I can't say much about the characters that will explain why I like them, but I'll try.  Harry is a lovable Every Man who walks the fine (in the movies) line between irrelevant brilliance and hopeless incompetence.  Gay Perry has the competence and confidence that makes you want to be his friend, as well as the social resistance that makes him irresistible (especially when he agrees to be your friend).  And Harmony has the brains, the body, and the face of the girl you hope you marry.  Why wouldn't you want to hang out with these people?

2.  The Opening Sequence - It reminded me of my favorite opening sequence of all time.

3.  The Depth - I am POSITIVE that there is more to this than one viewing can reveal.  For example, the title comes from an Italian movie poster which, translated, said simply, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."  According to a famous reviewer, those four words are "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies."  That is, we watch movies to imagine ourselves living a life full of sex and violence.  A lot of bad movies will use sex or violence (usually both) to pump up a dead scene or draw in crowds that wouldn't otherwise watch the movie.  I like to call that "gratuitous sex or violence (usually both)."  Ironically, almost all the sex and violence in this movie serves some purpose within the movie, beyond mere gratuity.  (The lone exception I can think of is itself an allusion to how Hollywood exploits young actresses, which, some say, is Shane Black's theme.)  So, all that to say, a movie promising sex and violence from the title card that limits itself to meaningful sex and violence?  There must be more here than meets the first viewing.

Three Down

1.  End Credits - First, this was quite possibly the most disappointing end credits I've ever seen.  Please note my use of the word "disappointing" rather than bad.  The end credits were fine, but even bad movies usually get that part right.  Happy (bad) movies end with happy music; sappy (bad) movies end with some sappy song.  You want triumphant or introspective or celebratory music that resounds with the ending of the movie, not some random, disconnected song.  Maybe these end credits can be explained by 3-Up, but this fan-of-end-credits-music was not happy.

2.  The Plot - I know it's a parody, but I would have liked a little more sense.  At least, something a little clearer about what the plot was supposed to be.  I will admit, though, that using the telegraphed "hint" about the two deaths being connected (as in, a double murder) as a red herring was alright.  After a week's thinking, I'll also admit that the plot falls clearly within 3-Up as well.

3.  The Finger - I am really confused about (a) how a slamming apartment door could cut a finger off so cleanly and (b) how exactly he lost his right ring finger.  I can't figure it out.  Is Shane Black making fun of me?  Try it and let me know what happens.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Do the Paul Morphy

The joy in a battle of chess
Is fighting your damnable best.
But I like to win
Again and again:
Losing's a pain in the neck.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


They tell me that one death is fine
As long as at least two survive.
But what if my two
Go blow up a nuke?
Equations go weak late at night.