Friday, November 30, 2007
If Warren Zevon was alive, he'd be singing "Mohammed's Teddy Bear" (And there’d be a fatwa out on him, too.) Rumor has it that, in response to the possible flogging of British teacher Gillian Gibbons because her students named a teddy bear Muhammad, Fox News is advocating that everyone in the United States name their teddy bears Muhammad. In the words of Roger Ailes: “I mean they want to kill us all anyway, right? So what the hey. And if that doesn't cheese them off, guess what we're going to name our toilets?"
Lies, damned lies, statistics, and whatever Karl Rove says out loud Did you hear? Bush didn't want to go to war in 2002--CONGRESS did, and Bush gave in, so it's all their fault we're in this Middle East mess. I swear to Jebus, this is the kind of thing that makes you wish the fecking Hollywood writer's strike was over so you could see John Stewart make this egg-sucking toad look like the smug smirking liar he is with two minutes of aptly-chosen film clips.
This reminds me of a joke. And speaking of egg-sucking toads: The morning Henry Hyde died, Gloria Steinem called his home and asked, "Can I speak to Henry?" "I'm sorry," his wife Judy said, "but he died this morning." "He did?" said Gloria, and hung up. Twenty minutes later the phone rings and it's Gloria Steinem again, asking "Can I speak to Henry, please?" "Like I just told you," his wife says, "he's dead." And she hangs up on her. Ten minutes later, phone rings again, and there's Gloria Steinem asking, "Can I speak to Henry?" And his wife yells: "Will you stop calling here? What the hell do you think you're doing? You've called twice already, and I've told you both times, he's dead, all right? He's dead. Why do you keep calling back when you know he's dead?" And Gloria says: "Because I just love hearing it."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
I'm Not There. I've asked five other Matthews to help me review this movie. Here's what we think.
CRAZYLEGS MATT: When it's not the movie version of a tribute album, it's the film version of a bunch of Greil Marcus footnotes.
LIBRARIAN BOY: It's a movie for anybody who's ever looked at Bob Dylan's life and wondered "What if he died after that motorcycle accident?" (Cate Blanchett supplies the answer, and it ain't a pretty one, but man does she nail the Tarantula Dylan--complete with tarantulas.)
NINETEEN FOREVER: The best Beatles cameo ever. An unrecognizable Michelle Williams as Edie Sedgwick with Madonna's survival instinct. Love Julianne Moore's Baez avatar calling Christan Bale's troubadour a little toad. Adore archival footage of the Village bleeding seamlessly into recreated footage of the Village. And that's really Allen Ginsberg up there, don't let anyone tell you any different.
THE RANDOLPH KID: Will somebody tell me why you hear Kristofferson in the opening voice-over, but you don't see him playing Billy The Kid?!? How. Cool. Would THAT have been.
MATTHEW: A totally refreshing antidote to every musician biopic ever made, it's a movie that does to Dylan's legend what Dylan does to a song when he's performing it live--attacks it from the side, does a riff on the melody, garbles this and growls that, and forces you to see and hear something you not only didn't expect, but couldn't expect, and can't get out of your head.
. . . but all whiffed and swung wild . . .
. . . until the Mighty Abe let loose with a turkey-butt-smashing blow . . .
. . . that gave us all a fistful of goodies!
And in true Thanksgiving fashion, this is the piñata we spared:
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
That's the clock time, anyway. In reality? You got an 11 PM show before the sun had barely set. But then Supagroup always puts on an 11 PM show, mixing tasty hooks and awesome guitar riffs in a balls-to-the-wall set that's half AC/DC, half Van Halen, and all energy.
Seeing these guys rock out in a venue like the Mercury is incredibly dislocating,because by rights they have a show and a sound that can and should fill the Garden. You know how a lot of concerts have the people who came for the music up front and the people who came to talk to each other in the back? When these guys play, nobody talks. When these guys play, everybody's there for the music.
Bottom line: file this group under S, not just for their name, but for Should Be Totally Famous Already.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Ellis comes out a few minutes after 7 and sits down at the piano. “My body is literally still driving down here from Boston,” he apologizes, “so hopefully my fingers will catch up with my playing.” He does Summertime and “a new song, Holy Ghost,” which I think I remember him doing at the Boston Folk Festival.
“I think I’m almost here,” Ellis says as he reaches for his guitar, “I can feel myself hanging over my back, so it looks like my drive down is almost over.” He introduces his band: on keyboard and accordion, Radislav Lorkoviç (whom I’ve seen play with so many other people that I can’t remember who I’ve seen him play with) and on guitar, Don Conoscenti, who kicks guitar ass for the entire night. They do Maria's Beautiful Mess, Alice's Champagne Palace, Take All The Sky You Need, and 3000 Miles, but for me at least the highlight is Jukebox On My Grave, which is that rare mix of mournful and celebratory at the same time.
(And is it just me, or does Ellis look exactly like The Dude with his beard shaved off? I can so see him doing the Broadway musical version of Lebowski Exclamation Point.)
Then we get a song from The Dragonfly Races, Ellis’ children’s album, a song called Road Trip.
ELLIS: I was in California a couple of days ago, and flew back for a show, and I didn’t realize my cellphone was still on West Coast time. I woke up this morning in Boston totally relaxed, plenty of time, until I realized that my cellphone was an hour behind. Then all hell broke loose. [Laughter.] We headed south, but we didn’t have a GPS. So we called for directions from the road, and somebody says “Head south on the West Side Drive and take a left on Houston.” [Beat] Houston goes one way in the opposite direction. [Big laugh, and the hostess in gray, who’s watching from a side chair, calls out “I’m sorry!”] So we ended up on Canal, and swung around, . . .
. . . and then he’s into the opening of the song, talking about all the places on the Road Trip, and there are enough New York locations that you can so totally see the poor guy trying to get to Lafayette Street and Astor Place via the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, and Yosemite Park.
The guys do Black Top Train, then Ellis solos on Million Chameleon March, which he did at the BFF. Here the line about getting the president to change gets such a spontaneous round of applause that it almost stops the show. He does Home, then calls the band back for The World Ain't Slowing Down:
ELLIS: This next one if from a Jim Carey movie. [Scattered applause.] Me Myself and Irene. [No applause. Did anybody actually see this movie?] I wrote this with someone who didn’t like the word ain’t. “It’s not a word,” she said. Well, that ain’t no big deal. [Laughter] ‘Cause the world ain’t slowin’ down. [Laughter] And that ain’t bought my house. [Big laugh.]
The band does one more song together (The Wabi-Sabi Song, from Dragonfly) and Ellis solos on its adult version, The Day After Everything Changed, before bringing the band back for This Land Is Your Land, which is one of those “If you’ve never heard his version of it, then you’ve never heard this song” covers.
The encore is Little Wood Guitar, a Christmas song which is being covered by a country band called Sugarland on an EP.
Great show. And what great show would be complete without an awkward after-show moment. I went up to Ellis backstage (well, at the foot of the steps to the Men’s Room) and shook his hand and thanked him and then introduced myself by saying “I’m Monica’s brother.” And there was this wonderful “Do I know who he’s talking about? I’m not sure so I should say yes” look in his eyes as he said “Oh yeah? Great.”
MATTHEW: I think she saw you last night in Boston.
ELLIS: [same look] Yeah, she did. Great meeting you.
And I didn’t say, “We met at the Boston Folk Festival when my sister introduced us,” because I know if I toured as much as he does, I’d be hard-pressed to remember all my lyrics, never mind who comes to see my shows in Somerville.
The other thing I'll be doing. Starting this weekend I began a notebook for a Christmas novel which will take place during this coming season, and under the Fair Game Rule, I am going to be setting some (if not all) of the scenes at events and places where I will be between now and New Year's. Don't worry, I'll fictionalize all of you, but I'll be creative about it. For instance, the Matthew avatar in this piece will be female and a lot more successful than I am. Which corrects at least one of life's little mistakes . . .
I am SF Old. My niece turned 21 on Saturday. She is now two chronological years older than I am in my head.
Ellis Paul at Joe's Pub. I'll post a review later, if my Crazy Monday allows me the time to transcribe notes and load them up; if not, it'll be tomorrow. Bottom line (boy do I miss that place): great show.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
How good is the comic book? Volume 3 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (The Black Dossier) comes out tomorrow, and according to an article in Time Magazine (of all farging places), it contains the following Orwellian disclaimer on its opening page:
THIS WARN YOU
Docs after in oldspeak. Untruth, make-ups only. Make-ups make THOUGHTCRIME. Careful. Supervisor rank or not read. This warn you. THOUGHTCRIME in docs after. SEXCRIME in docs after. Careful. If self excited, report. If other excited, report. Everything report. Withhold accurate report is INFOCRIME. This warn you. Are you authorised, if no stop read now! Make report! If fail make report, is INFOCRIME. Make report. If report made on failing to make report, this paradox. Paradox is LOGICRIME. Do not do anything. Do not fail to do anything. This warn you. Why you nervous? Was it you? We know. IMPORTANT: Do not read next sentence. This sentence for official inspect only. Now look. Now don't. Now look. Now don't. Careful. Everything not banned compulsory. Everything not compulsory banned. Views expressed within not necessarily those of publisher, editors, writers, characters. You did it. We know. This warn you.
That is gold, folks.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
We'll get back to the book vs. movie debate in a minute, but the key to what the movie does to you that the book doesn't is contained in the two images to the left: the original novel cover, which leaves a lot to the imagination, and the movie poster cover of the novel, which doesn't. The first cover raises no expectations; the second one raises a whole bunch which the movie (like the novel) totally subverts. In other words, if you don't sit there at the end of this movie feeling like you were robbed of something, then you are one of those rare mortals who watches popular entertainment with a totally open mind.
Not me. Watching the film, I was surprised by all the laughter. A lot of it is nervous laughs (a motel scene with gunshots in one room and reaction shots in another room has a lot of those), but since any kind of laughter makes you like the person who's making you laugh, even a bad guy (hello, Richard III), you become invested in what happens to him. And because it's Cormac McCarthy, good luck with that rooting for the good guy thing, pal.
As a Coen Brothers movie, this is Miller’s Crossing good. Everybody in this is fantastic, from Javier Badem and his mountain range of a face to where-do-I-know-her-from Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting; Tristram Shandy). But the two stars are Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. And that use of the word “stars” is where the movie and the book part company.
Basically, because Brolin’s not a star yet, you have no idea whether he’s going to survive the movie. And because Tommy Lee Jones is a star, you know exactly what is going to happen. Except that it doesn’t. Twice.
Not to spoil it too much, but there’s a major confrontation that does NOT take place, even though we want it, and expect it. (And when Brett Ratner does the remake in 20 years, we’ll get it.) But it isn’t in the book (which says one thing quietly) and it isn’t in the movie (which says something else very loudly).
I have to believe, because it's so faithful to the novel, that the Coen Brothers did this deliberately. Because the way your expectations are thwarted, the way you feel sucker-punched at the end, is just how you feel at the end of the novel, only 20 times stronger because it’s a movie.
Be warned. You will not walk out of this movie feeling “That’s how the story ends.” You’ll walk out feeling “That’s how life is.” And it's the rare movie that can make you do that.
Somewhere, Gore Vidal is dancing. Or if not dancing, smirking. And thinking of lines like, "Norman Mailer's body may have died of renal failure, but his body of work died of creative failure decades ago."
No Country For Old Men. How fitting that the weekend Norman Mailer dies, Tommy Lee Jones (who played Gary Gilmore in The Executioner's Song) opens in the film version of a book that Mailer probably would have killed his grandmother to write. Although if he had written it, it would have been 1200 pages long and ended with the words TO BE CONTINUED. (Look for a review on Monday.)
Hypocrisy, n. Foreign policy. When our enemies suspend elections, muzzle the press, and crack down on dissent, it's a crime against democracy. When our friends do it, it's democracy in action.
Bee Movie. C minus, actually.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Let's say the publishing company decides to issue the book as an audio-CD. But because the audio-CD rights were never part of the original contract, I don't see a cent of it.
Then let's say the publishing company decides to upload the book onto the internet, and charges for downloading. But because the internet rights were never part of the original contract, I don't see a cent of that either.
And then let's say I'm not the only one this has happened to, and we all get together and ask to have our contracts renegotiated for our next book to include those peripheral publishing rights, and the publisher says "Y'know, the novels we've published this year are pretty crappy, so we're going to write this year off as a loss and publish nothing but diaries of people who have been dead for a hundred years. So, y'know, don't quit your day job."
Now suppose that was my day job.
It's not an exact analogy, but it explains why I'll be picketing with the strikers in front of Rockefeller Center this weekend.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Sheriff Truman: Lucy, you better bring Agent Cooper up to date.
Lucy Moran: Leo Johnson was shot, Jacques Reneau was strangled, the mill burned, Shelly and Pete got smoke inhalation, Catherine and Josie are missing, Nadine is in a coma from taking sleeping pills.
Dale Cooper: How long have I been out?
Monday, November 5, 2007
Okay, these three on the left sure helped. (Is there any guy who wasn't in love with at least one of them?) (And did you know that Sherilyn Fenn was engaged to Johnny Depp for like five minutes back in the 90's? Is there anybody he wasn't engaged to, besides maybe Prince?)
It wasn't just the babes. Something about the show itself burrowed its way down into my brain like the cathode ray version of a wood tick.
Watching the first season this weekend (the pilot and the first seven episodes) was like visiting old friends. Every time an actor made an appearance a little voice in my head went "Hey--I know her!" or "Wow--he hasn't aged a bit!" (And no, it wasn't a little dwarf's voice.)
Every episode had at least one over-the-top moment where last week's mystery gets revealed (holy crap--Laura's necklace is in Doc Jacoby's coconut!) in a way that opens up even more questions (what the eff was he doing following James and Donna?), or what you'd been accepting as real and honest got turned totally upside down (Horne & Josie? Get. Out.). Which only makes the interspersed TV soap opera episodes of "Invitation to Love" (which I had totally forgotten) even goofier. (Especially since, like Sheryl Lee playing Laura and her cousin Maddie, Invitation also has an actress playing a double role.)
Watching that first season? Twin Peaks is the creepiest soap opera ever. By the time the mill's on fire and Cooper gets shot at the end of Season One, you don't know who to trust.
And as for who killed Laura Palmer -- in retrospect? So. Totally. Obvs.
Dance us out, Audrey:
Friday, November 2, 2007
Tom Stoppard commits this sin in his introduction to the script for Rock 'n' Roll, when he writes: "Dramatists become essayists at their peril." Six words that never made a single appearance in the pamphlet-sized notes that accompanied the program for Coast of Utopia.
I bring this up not just to point out how writers, like governments, are always re-fighting the last war they lost, but to offer Rock 'n' Roll as an example of a play where Stoppard's inner lecturer only makes a guest appearance here and there. (And do I know from inner lecturers.) The rest of the time, the stage is taken over by characters embodying history the way good actors embody characters: seamlessly.
It helps a lot that the play is more than a little autobiographical, in a what-if way. It helps even more that it's performed by most of the original British cast. Sinead Cusack doubles a mother and daughter and makes them totally different. Brian Cox goes from zero to eighty in two seconds and only ever takes his foot off the pedal to gun the engine up to a hundred. And Rufus Sewell, well, what can I say. The man is a god.
So what's the play about? Sappho, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, cancer, the Great God Pan, the Prague Spring, Communism vs Capitalism, betrayal (in a minor key), and a love story. Spiced with some very deliberate echoes of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (which definitely needs to be added to my novels list) and dished up with a soundtrack that serves as an example of the play's main theme: true rock 'n' roll always is and always will be political.
Go see it.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
And I do mean see Kevin Kline. Which means you shouldn't see it like I did, by sitting in the absolute last row of the second balcony. No, spring for something a little closer to the stage, where you can actually see and hear Kline work.
It's not that Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata are bad, actually. But because, like most of the cast, they speak in Theatre Voice, they can't say "Hello" without trying to give it two or three deep meanings at once. (Bonus points to the actor playing LeBret, who delivers the line "What are you trying to tell me?" by declaiming "WHAT! Are you trying to TELL ME!!!") The overall effect is reminiscent of one of those British imports where the RSC star does the lead and all the other parts are played by the equivalent of recent Juilliard grads, or this year's crop of Yaliens.
And then there's Kline (also a Yalien), who's quiet, subtle and sticks out like a sore thumb (or a huge nose). The odd thing is, it's Kline who's acting for the cameras, while everybody else is acting for people five blocks away. Usually in productions of Cyrano, the lead is the only one performing for the entire play. In this production? He's the only one acting.
And by the way. "Neuvillette" is not pronounced "NERV-uh-let." It's "Ner-vuh-YET." He's French, okay?