Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remembrance of things present

A pleasant Memorial Day Weekend in New York City is too good to pass up. In the parlance of THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES* (1942), which I watched on Turner Classic Movies**, this one "hits it right out of the park," a relative rarity, given so many that have been grounders (my teeth are still chattering from the rain-soaked MDW 2003, where the temperature struggled to reach 55 degrees, setting the tone for a dismal summer). But it's been in the 80s since Saturday afternoon, with a perfectly balmy Monday on the horizon, and I'm not much in the mood to consider the semiotics of the X-MEN, intertextualize THE BREAK-UP, or calculate the odds of the Cannes winner of 2006, THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, reaching $200M at the multiplexes with such a rousing title. I spent part of the afternoon chowing down at the DanceAfrica Celebration in my Brooklyn neighborhood, which had the usual Manhattan street fair items like sausage and peppers but improved mightily upon them by adding Caribbean/Muslim items like jerk chicken wings to the mix.

The old neighborhood was much on my mind this weekend, as I visited my parents in Randolph, NJ, home to us for 35 years this year. It was basically a large construction site at that time, with the manmade Shongum Lake as its central attraction. When I was a kid I set a short story about mutant killer bass there, which I may want to rework for the Sci-Fi Channel someday. There's am island in the center of the lake, once barren, now wildly overgrown. I thought it might be a good place to base a FRIDAY THE 13th-type scenario but again I was behind the curve. Such destructive fantasies back then.

The once-migratory Canadian geese, known for their great honking noises when flying overhead, took up permanent residence in the community long ago. The family-album shot is cute but they can be rather ill-tempered creatures, easily ruffled and provoked. I probably contributed to their overstaying their welcome by feeding them bread when I was a lad.

The long-necked swans are newer, more graceful residents of the lake, pictured with their young. They live near the narrow, shallow inlet. There was a considerable scandal a few years back at a neighboring lake when teens killed two of the birds, an unconscionable act I would not have considered for even my most morbid short story. I hope they got the book thrown at them.

To end on a wistful note appropriate for the day, a closeup of one of my mother's rhododendrons, which should be in flower for another week. They're being cut back this year, which, as I recall, means no new blooms for another three seasons. Memories are all they will be.

*PRIDE is a favorite of my baseball-loving cousins, and a film I had not seen in its entirety. It has its cornball moments, like the hokey, much-parodied scene where Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (the real Babe Ruth, viewed on the very day Barry Bonds broke his record) square off to hit homers for the potentially crippled kid in the hospital--but how wonderfully that scene pays off at the very end of the picture, which is a gale force of tears. Such an actor Gary Cooper was; the way he plays the tremors, the imminent collapse of Gehrig's faculties. But what's the story with that three-minute interlude at the midpoint, where the movie stops absolutely dead for ballroom dancing and an orchestral performance? Did producer Samuel Goldwyn find baseball, mom (a Freudian subplot), and apple pie a little lowbrow, that the picture needed a little "classing up"? [Not likely.] Did he have the nightclub performers under contract? So strange, and I'm sure most TV stations over the years simply cut it, to fit the two-hour film into two-hour time slots. Imagine the characters of BULL DURHAM suddenly taking in a New York Philharmonic performance and you'll have some idea of what it's like.

**TCM, as usual, is bombarding the airwaves with war movies. The most interesting is Otto Preminger's IN HARM'S WAY (1965), with the stoic heroism of John Wayne contrasted with the psychosexual bent of Kirk Douglas in a stew of soap and sadism set during the Pearl Harbor era. Saul Bass' expressive end credits, a series of waves, magnificently encapsulate the entirety of the Second World War***. How nice, though, if TCM devoted one Memorial Day Weekend to movies about peace****.

***I assume the most fictionalized conflict ever. Does the Civil War even come close?

****Which is what the 194-minute director's cut of Ridley Scott's KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, now on DVD, is all about--if you can get past the beheadings and catapults. It is an even-handed, even-tempered film about the Crusades I would have thought impossible this day and age, with the accent on brotherhood and conciliation rather than revenge. I liked it substantially more in this edit; liked, but did not love, given the weak casting of the two leads, the faded Orlando Bloom and future Bond girl Eva Green, in the leads. They don't hug the screen, but are forgivable, given an otherwise rich tapestry of 12th century life and a vivid portrait of the wily Saladin, a genuine Islamic hero.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Flatbush Code

So dark the con of man...

So I saw the seriously silly DA VINCI CODE yesterday. The book, which I read three years ago, was never going to make a great movie--lots of scenes of two or three people in rooms, yakking it up about Magdalene theory and the sacred feminine, etc. And it did not, with Tom Hanks (cast for his reassurance factor among the story's nutters--don't take this stuff too seriously, folks!) acting as if he really wanted to go to bed but kept being jolted awake at the very point of sleep, and a few welcome giggles from Paul Bettany's impossible-to-place accent as the albino monk, Silas. More audioguide than cinema, THE DA VINCI CODE is a long, faux-serious two-and-half hours (carefully rearranged for the screen so that the Vatican and Opus Dei are no longer part of the conspiracy to keep all of womanhood down) but to be honest I have no idea how Ron Howard could have gotten more from the material, which is more compelling to read through than see enacted. It's reverent and ponderous in the kitschiest way, and a universe way from the kind of fun a summer movie like JAWS offers.

But it's not all bad if it causes us to open their eyes and take in the visual information that's all around, if we'd just look. Who knows what we might uncover? Catholic conspiracies are just the tip of the iceberg. In that vein, it was time to get out the digital camera and trot up Flatbush Ave., for a visit to the Flatbush Pavilion cineplex.

Except--it isn't a cineplex anymore. Hasn't been for two years. It closed its doors in the summer of 2004, the letters for VAN HELSING, MAN ON FIRE, and one other film still on its marquee. Catnip for the area's literary vandals, who would rearrange them into peculiar anagrams, slogans, and sayings--if you bothered to look.

Can't say I was expecting to see this, though...

The theater, I soon discovered, is now an American Apparel store. And I'm fine with that. How nice the overhanging marquee is intact, unlike, say, at the Beekman, in my old Upper East Side neighborhood. There's not a trace of all the deceased movie theaters there: The Sutton, the Crown Gotham, the 68th Street Playhouse, the 56th Street Playhouse, the Park on 86th, all gone. No markers, nothing, a potter's field of commerce. But here, in Brooklyn, proof of one's passing, with snazzy new neon underlighting as a headstone. [I imagine the name of the place will give way to the store's over time, which is understandable. Can't have everything.]

I was a little irked that the marquee letters were gone. Summer swimsuits indeed. In had not, however, made a thorough, Dan Brown-like investigation. I had jumped to conclusions. I had only to look on the other side...and there it was...

The Flatbush Code, continued, passed on to a new generation--provided that "A.A.," which it would appear has a sense of humor about its place in its neighborhhod's heritage, allows it to keep happening. What more, I wonder, will the sign tell us?

[Thanks to the folks at Brownstoner for creating a link to this item, which led to an exponential rise in my hit count. I almost hate to have to post a new entry, given how funny some of the Google-approved ad have been--step right up for DA VINCI CODE training, ministers!--but blogs, like life, go on.]

Monday, May 22, 2006

And the Drama Desks go to...

Tonight's winners, here on

No real surprises, though I'm getting that sinking feeling regarding JERSEY BOYS pulling off a best musical win at the Tonys. Do your duty, folks, and buy American.

As usual, while the Drama Desks honor all comers from on, off, and off off Broadway with nominations, about two-thirds of the winners were from Broadway. In fact, just one winning show, CHRISTINE JORGENSEN REVEALS, was from anywhere but the Great White Way and off Broadway (three of those won), and it probably helped that its press agent sent along a highlights CD to all voters. Not having seen any of the nommed Unique Theatrical Event productions, I abstained from voting in that category; the Tonys don't even have a like category this year, given a dearth of competition, and just gave the award (happily) to Sarah Jones' BRIDGE & TUNNEL, which was ineligible for Drama Desk consideration.

Could be that the winners are the best of the bunch; I have no real problem with any of them (too much DROWSY CHAPERONE, though), and voted for many. And it could also be that these are the easiest shows for the mass of voters (like me) to see, and vote on, given more coordinated efforts to promote them and a greater number of press seats available over their runs (which translate into articles and reviews that assigning editors actually want, and the big Broadway shows are about all that most mass outlets have an interest in anymore). However it went down, and I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, congratulations to all, winners and nominees.

For the record, here's the (numerous) categories where I diverged from the winners. I voted JERSEY BOYS for Outstanding Musical; Jennifer Jason Leigh, ABIGAIL'S PARTY, for Outstanding Actress, Play; Lisa Emery, ABIGAIL'S PARTY, Outstanding Featured Actress, Play; Christian Hoff, JERSEY BOYS, Outstanding Featured Actor, Musical; Mary Testa, SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE, Outstanding Featured Actress, Musical (really the strongest competitor in the pack); Casey Nicholaw, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Outstanding Choreography (I didn't turn my back on it entirely); Michael John LaChiusa, SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE, Outstanding Music and Lyrics, and Outstanding Orchestrations, Bruce Coughlin, for the same show (such fine work, recognized but unable to go the distance); and Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, JERSEY BOYS, Best Book, Musical (again, the best in its field).

I really fell down in choosing design winners, my presumed metier, but I calls 'em as I sees 'em: Michael Yeargan, SEASCAPE, Play Set (so it doesn't fly?), Thomas Lynch, SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE, Musical Set (too small, perhaps), William Ivey Long, GREY GARDENS, Costume Design (better luck next year at the Tonys); Christopher Akerlind, AWAKE AND SING!, Lighting Design; and, again showing I can get on a bandwagon (but not stay on it), Acme Sound Partners, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Sound Design.

This year's Drama Desk winner for Best Actress, Musical, and next year's Tony winner in the same category, Christine Ebersole in GREY GARDENS, is pictured. [It's going to happen.] I would've liked to have seen this year's winner for Outstanding Actress in a Play, Lois Smith in THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, but somehow the invite never arrived. Not that she needed my help.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A twist of LEMMING

Charlotte Rampling funny is virtually indistinguishable from Charlotte Rampling serious, which may explain why there was so little laughter during her wickedly amusing scenes in LEMMING, which Strand Releasing opens tomorrow in New York (and later in other parts of the U.S.). Come to think of it, she may have smiled, or at least had her lips and a few teeth positioned for smiling, in ORCA, at one of Richard Harris' sea dog witticisms. But that was 30 years ago, and it made little impression on me; if it happened, the filmmakers probably had to pry it loose from her. What you remember about Rampling, and the reason she is such a darling among European directors, is her eerily taut, self-possessed beauty, which has only deepened with the passage of time. It's very useful for a certain type of anxiety-stirring production, like the recent French hit SWIMMING POOL (where, letting her mask slip just a bit, she gave something approaching a sentimental performance) and her confidence in her craft over the last 40 years has become formidable. There's no one like her in her particular niche.

She casts a long, dark shadow over LEMMING, quite literally haunting the picture. The latest from French writer-director Dominik Moll (of 2000's WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY, and again co-writing with Gilles Marchand), this is three movies in one: A consideration of nature and technology, a ghost story clambering up from the depths of disturbed psyches, and, most rewardingly, a WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?-ish portrait of two marriages, one young and reasonably, if nervously, healthy, and the other a vessel emptied of love and refilled with near-homicidal bitterness. Guess which one Rampling is in?

She plays Alice, the wife of high-tech magnate Richard Pollock, portrayed, with his usual unflappable assurance, by Andre Dussollier. Pleased with the work of engineer Alain Getty (Laurent Lucas) on a "mini flying webcam" (which will, of course, be deployed to unhealthy ends in the course of the story), Pollock, a resident of "Beaumont Park," invites himself over to Alain's house in "Bel Air," the new suburb where the engineer and his wife, Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), live. Right off, there's something odd about all this--the American-ish names of the characters and the places, which look like a Euro-Xerox of Silicon Valley, are intriguing, and Moll puts some of the same music Stanley Kubrick used for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, on the soundtrack. I'm not saying it really comes to anything, but it adds another layer of dislocation and impermanence to the story. [As does the casting of Lucas, who resembles a blended version of Daniel Day Lewis and the young Rip Torn and Martin Landau, and Gainsbourg, a simulacrum of her parents, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin--and they both recall the two older performers, in look or mannerism. They don't seem to be their own people, but versions of others.]

Alice, who shows up at the dinner in dark sunglasses (the first laugh-out-loud touch in the film, if you're not intimidated by Rampling's stony gaze) immediately lays into Richard, eventually throwing a glass of red wine in his face. [This image has a more horrifying correlative later in the story, which is full of doubling.] Before their awkward departure, following their uncomfortably late arrival (Richard had been carousing with one of his "whores," typical behavior he no longer apologizes for) Alice irks Benedicte with her insinuating comments about her own placid marriage to Alain. Not one to stop there, Alice turns up at Alain's office and attempts to seduce him, revealing scary secrets about her frayed union in the process. Benedicte, who is as fascinated by Alice as she is leery of her, has her own, deeply unsettling encounter with her, which ends with a jolt...and the younger woman under Alice's seeming spell, which Richard must go to drastic lengths to break as Benedicte, suddenly bored with domesticity, finds cold comfort with Alain.

And I haven't even mentioned the lemming, a non-native animal that mysteriously turns up lodged in Alain and Benedicte's drainpipe, and insinuates itself into their life, and their nightmares, as surely as Alice and Richard. Without spoiling the second-half developments, I'll say only that one puzzle is conclusively solved, but that the other, emotional and metaphysical ones are only somewhat resolved by the close, where everything, and nothing, is restored.

Like HARRY, LEMMING is a consistently absorbing mystery of sorts, reminiscent of last year's CACHE, without the politics. [I think it has as many enigmas as THE DA VINCI CODE.] It contains an at times unnerving sound mix, engineered by Francois Maurel, to go along with its churning undercurrent of lives deranged. And, again like HARRY, it is too long at 129 minutes, but the best of it sticks to you, as uncomfortably as the lemming in the drainpipe...or Rampling's inhuman disdain, which is dead-seriously funny. Laugh if you dare.

Tony time

Tony nominations were announced this morning. The chatterati are abuzz. A few thoughts on the matter:

*THE DROWSY CHAPERONE (pictured; inevitable Tony nominee Sutton Foster in the center, Tony nominee Beth Leavel seated) is a likeable show with a good pedigree, given that its writers also concoct the wonderful SLINGS AND ARROWS TV show, which airs on the Sundance Channel (the first season will be available on DVD in June; a third is in the works). I'm happy for the Canadians. But with a more rigorous examination of its central character, a sad show lover (will Tony voters go for a lead actor who neither sings nor dances?), it could be so much better, and its near-record 13 nominations feel unearned.

*By the same token, I don't get SHINING CITY, either. It dries up and blows away the second you leave your seat.

*The Drama Desk did the right thing in denying THE COLOR PURPLE any nominations. Maybe now the naysayers crying racism will cease and desist. Note that the film and the show both received 11 nominations in their respective contest, with the movie not winning any. There's precedent.

*Hometown favorite JERSEY BOYS got eight noms, not as strong a showing as might have been hoped. There's understandable resistance to giving a jukebox musical, even an excellent one, too much attention. But New Jerseyans are always at their best as underdogs.

*The producers of WELL should have pitched their tent at least a week longer. Not that the receipts would have necessarily shown an "Oscar bump" but an almost-certain is now an also-ran with the show come and gone.

*Congrats to SWEENEY TODD nominee Manoel Feliciano, who I actually, sort of, know. He has a shot if the DROWSY and PURPLE juggernauts don't steamroll over him. I saw his last solo gig at Joe's Pub and recommend his next one, next month. [Hmm...Manoel signed my cast album for the show? Do I sell it on eBay now, or wait till he wins? But if he doesn't win, will it depreciate in value? Decisions, decisions.]

*I'm glad Judy Kaye pulled a nomination for SOUVENIR...and relieved that the vapid Julia Roberts didn't. The Tony Awards will pull the same lousy ratings with or without her. [Oprah will be there, no doubt.]

*LESTAT deathwatch: Two hours and counting. Has the vampire musical breathed its last? I'm weirdly proud to have seen all three. Already washed up: The lukewarm CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL revival, closing Sunday. [LESTAT expired on May 28.]

*For shame: Jason Lyons should have received a nomination--hell, the actual prize--for his sterling work on the otherwise dreary THREEPENNY OPERA revival. FESTEN should have been there, too, even if it is running on fumes till it expires. Other questionable design nods: THE COLOR PURPLE (natch), the overblown THREE DAYS OF RAIN, Michael Yeargan for his ostentatious AWAKE AND SING! work over his very lovely SEASCAPE.

*The winner for Best Replacement Castmember one. The award was created this year but the field was somehow considered lacking, so no nods for Jonathan Pryce in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS or Eileen Atkins in DOUBT to name two deserving candidates. So, err, what was the point of the exercise?

*Fearless 2006-2007 nomination prediction: Christine Ebersole in GREY GARDENS, transferring from Playwrights Horizons to the Walter Kerr in October. Equally fearless prediction: Like this season's SOUVENIR, the cult show won't survive into the new year.

*Finally, as Tony celebrates its 60th anniversary (on June 11; CBS telecasts from 8-11pm), it could not have picked a better recipient for a Lifetime Achievement Honor than the legendary Harold Price. Well done.

And, as of last night, my vote is in for the Drama Desk awards. [Based on its Tonys showing I'd say TARZAN won't be much of a factor in next year's awards.] Showtime's this Sunday. I'll post my picks soon thereafter.

[Photo courtesy Joan Marcus]

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Back to Broadway

Got back from a quick trip to Baltimore to find that the folks at Live Design magazine posted not one, but two, of my "Seen and Heard" columns as the Broadway backlog eases. Unless by some divine act THE CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL and the TARZAN musical displace it, Alan Bennett's THE HISTORY BOYS will be my favorite show of the season as Tony nominations loom (which reminds me--gotta pick Drama Desk nominees sometime before Thursday night). Three of its four grown-up actors, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, and Stephen Campbell Moore, are pictured. [Photo courtesy Joan Marcus]

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Lessons learned from M:i:III

1) That summer has arrived when all movie titles are boiled down into logos;

2) 7-Elevens are ideal places for spies to meet, with attractive opportunities for product plugs (Ben and Jerry's, Kodak);

3) The mountains of Berlin are full of sheep;

4) The bad guy (the real bad guy) is inevitably the actor with the least screen time before the final 15 minutes;

5) There are still cute little neighborhoods in Shanghai, whose residents will overlook pistol-wielding Caucasians beating the hell out of each other;

6) That Shanghai, European cities, and Washington, D.C., are apparently in the same vicinity, so that everyone is fresh, relaxed, and ready to kill again without apparent jet lag;

7) I would like a Philip Seymour Hoffman mask for Halloween.

8) When I learn that my significant other is a spy, whose activities put me in grave danger, I will pretty much laugh it off as one of "those" things;

9) That, with the exception of a few bad apples, and contrary to some of the things you read in the media, government agents will act reliably and resourcefully on our behalf. See also 24.

10) That an infusion of "heart," and an allegedly coherent plotline, do not compensate for a lack of stylistic invention, which a vapid franchise like this needs. The new director, J.J. Abrams, stays within the lines, but the more creative Brian De Palma and John Woo colored outside them. The exploding fishtanks and the balletic assemblages of crashing cars are what linger, not the torment of an ever-intense Tom Cruise.

11) That, to satisfy one's hunger for a real movie, see DOWN IN THE VALLEY, with its hair-trigger turn by Edward Norton, caught up in Western fantasies (and an uncomfortable liaison with Evan Rachel Wood). It does not self-destruct seconds afterwards.

Friday, May 05, 2006

On the boards

The latest theater roundup, as logged on the Live Design website. It's brutal out there, folks; a conscientious Drama Desk voter like me is basically on a show-a-night schedule till about the 17th. That's a little bit of heaven (THE HISTORY BOYS) and a little bit of hell, too (LESTAT). The chatterati at All That Chat are commiserating. But the play's the thing.

[Pictured, Mark Ruffalo and Lauren Ambrose in AWAKE AND SING! Photo, Paul Kolnik]

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


My biggest fear regarding UNITED 93, which I saw on Sunday, was, frankly, fear of boredom. I'd already seen the A&E and Discovery Channel docudramas about the ill-fated flight and was wondering what a feature film could add to them. As it turns out, nothing. What UNITED 93, written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Greengrass (BLOODY SUNDAY and THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) does is take away, stripping the story to its raw-boned essence. This approach has merit; minus cutaways to victims' families and friends on September 11 and most of the trappings of TV drama (including, of course, commercials and tube-safe language), the film has an utter, inescapable immediacy. But it also has problems.

By now, I feel as if I "know" the participants, like Todd Beamer (the "Let's Roll" guy, a sentiment uttered without any Schwarzenegger swagger here) and Mark Bingham. UNITED 93 (more evocatively titled than the original FLIGHT 93), reintroduces you to them, but the introduction lacks cordiality. With a minimum of title cards, very few people (maybe none?) are properly identified, except in passing, which is in keeping with the film's rationale; in extremis, I'm sure they didn't know who they were, either. We are supposed to identify with the collective as they formulate a plan and execute it, in a remorseless storming toward the cockpit that had me gasping (the film version, itself made quickly, allows for considerably more blood, sweat and grit--and better camera and effects work). It works, but at the expense of specificity. I missed the character details that defined the TV shows and news reports, like, for example, Bingham's homosexuality--they fall outside of the narrow focus of the film, and are off in the periphery. As "faction" (fact and fiction) stories go, UNITED 93 is a lean and strong dramatization, and I'm grateful for any film that keeps an audience fully engaged and off their cellphones and portable devices for the duration. It plays like a superb thriller, not that it would ever have been greenlit (too depressing, etc.). But I learned a lot more about the human element from the TV films; I relate to Beamer, Bingham, and the other victims more readily than to The Sweaty Guy, The Wild-Eyed Guy (Bingham, as played by Cheyenne Jackson, the Elvis character in last season's Broadway flop ALL SHOOK UP), and The Scared Stewardess.

While apolitical in tone, UNITED 93 is not exactly without politics. Much of the film is focused on officialdom, those who did their best (the real-life administrator Ben Sliney, playing himself, could be the next Fred Dalton Thompson, so natural he is) and those in government, who, if not dropping the ball entirely, didn't get it rolling till way too late (not that I can see the outcome being any different; the plane was going to crash somewhere--we are spared its death agonies as the screen fades quickly to black--and a military shootdown would have really torn a battered country apart). I'm surprised the conservatives who have championed the film haven't registered its skepticism toward government reaction and response but, like so much since September 11, this truth has been conveniently sidestepped by our leaders.

Issues. John Powell's music is mostly doomy and elegiac, appropriate for the piece, but why a score at all? [And why the drumming over the end credits?] And if I've seen footage of the destruction of the Twin Towers before on the big screen, I'd suppressed it. But I didn't forget it (as bloviating critics and commentators warn us against, as if) and I must say seeing it as big as life again took me out of the story of Flight 93 for a few minutes as I relived the whole bloody tragedy of that day as I experienced it in my mind. The use of the footage is understandable but counter-productive in a way. That movie, WORLD TRADE CENTER, is coming in August. [For maximum frisson, viewers of this one might want to see it in New York's Battery Park, at the multiplex adjacent to Ground Zero. I saw it on home ground in Brooklyn.]

As for the terrorists, they are presented exactly as their victims; unadorned, with no horns on their head to mark them as the Bad Guys but no grappling with or consideration of their "agenda," either. I have a bone to pick with critic and author David Thomson; as much as I enjoy his contrarian views on movie stars and directors (if only to wind me up) I think he really blew it in his Sunday Times op-ed, "Films of Infamy." Much of it is thoughtful, Times-ian liberalism, hand-wringing over Hollywood's appetite for destruction, a perennial topic for editorial writers.

But Thomson would like to see a different film made ("there would be an equal effort to show the courage of the terrorists (without calling them simply 'evil' or 'insane.'")--as if the great THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS or the recent PARADISE NOW never existed, and as if the 9/11 terrorists had any honorable goal in mind other than a war of destruction on "infidels" wherever they live. Five years since and one ongoing, destructive war later, I still don't see any sensible rationale for 9/11 from the perpetrators' side, outside of global anarchy. None has been expressed as the bombings and plotting continue. Their moral "courage" eludes me. What nobler sentiment does Thomson see in a potential "Osama Bin Laden Story"? "The history of terrorism--and it includes the independence of this country--is that in the end you have to understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not," he concludes. "That film has still to come."

In this conflict, however, the terrorists, while big on explosions, have yet to provide a script with a recognizable human element. That may be a failing of UNITED 93, but I understand why the filmmakers made their choice. Al Qaeda, in contrast, is not volunteering much in the way of feel-good, or get-behind-us, sentiment. We are in the dark, and I don't mean the dark of the movie theater. The terrorists changed the course of history on September 11 and put us all in development hell, with no third-act windup in sight. I think David Thomson has gone out on a limb, and fallen right out of the tree.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A day without blogging

Except for this picture of azaleas, which I took on Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was too nice a May 1 here in New York for excess thinking.