Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Face the music

I've read all about the crime, the circumstances, the flight, the forgiveness, and the capture. I saw the documentary. I question the fairness and impartiality of justice then and now. But I also wonder if the politicians and artists who have leapt to his defense have really thought about it, just as I wish the knee-jerk hang 'em high brigade would give it greater consideration. So let's have it out. It's time for Roman Polanski--a great filmmaker, but as fallible, and as liable for our actions, as the rest of us--to face justice.

For all his trademark bluster and patented pot-stirring, Hollywood Elsewhere columnist Jeffrey Wells has done a good (if typically hysterical) job laying out his opinion, which is shared by others. To wit:

"I also said that Polanski (a) has suffered more than half his adult life in terms of his career and income having been limited and because he's been psychologically living as a fugitive, exactly as he did as a child during World War II, (b) it should be over and done with due to the victim having pleaded with everyone to please drop it, (c) it's a discredited case due to a lack of prosecutorial honor and an element of corruption, and (d) that the LA D.A. pushed for his arrest in order to focus attention to his office and to address the long-slumbering issues brought to the fore by Marina Zenovich's documentary -- i.e., it's partly an attention-getting p.r. move and partly a way of responding to the doc."

But to rebut:

A) Nonsense. He's done just fine career-wise and I can't imagine he's had to rattle a tin cup for work. He won an Oscar, deservedly, while a fugitive.

B) True--but which matters more, the victim or the crime? It's a mitigating circumstance, one that would be edifying to see played out.

C and D are elements of the case that can be brought up in a court of law. It's shabby, it's sordid, it'll take months if not years to sort out. But the time has come to reckon with it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Popdose: Homicide on DVD

David Mamet's third film, long absent on home video, bows on DVD via the Criterion Collection.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Enjoy a banned book this week

What do To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Ask Alice, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have in common? They've all been banned, or challenged--and not in the prehistory of the 20th century, but in the last two years. So do your bit against the ignorant and benighted and participate in Banned Books Week. It's as easy as going to your bookshelf and having a "forbidden" experience between the covers, as I did once with the notorious Judy Blume.

RIP William Safire

He "corresponded" with me once. But he didn't have to do that much, so farewell to the longtime columnist.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Popdose: The Essential, Annoying New York Film Festival

It's back, for better or for worse. A view from the cheap seats, which I've had for 15 years now. Pictured is Penelope Cruz in one of her guises from Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces, which closes the festival on Oct. 11.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I took Larissa on our daily stroll today. I didn't realize that the goons from the Westboro Baptist Church were in town, protesting near Brooklyn Tech, at a local intersection already choked with construction. There were five of them (including earnest-looking teens), about two dozen cops who weren't about to let things get out of hand, and at the time we were there about 100 protesters, mostly students (that figure is said to have swelled to 200-400). It was a pretty jovial demonstration, actually--the church is so extreme it's (almost) difficult to take seriously, as repellent as its signs and literature are. But I was glad to see the neighborhood come together to shout down the voices of bigotry, which manifest themselves more subtly elsewhere and always need to be denounced.

Here's Westboro's picket schedule, which takes them to several Brooklyn synagogues this weekend. Show up and shout them down. God hates fanatics.

I stood up for my own principles today. As I was taking the baby upstairs I noticed someone fumbling with the intercom system in our building. I went back down to see if I could assist. It turned out to be a campaign worker (also earnest-looking, the calm, unruffled face of belief) for David Yassky, who's in an election runoff for comptroller. I took the pamphlet he was offering, the one he wanted to slip under everyone's doors. Thanks, he said--and could he come upstairs to deliver the rest? "No, you cannot!" I barked--I detest Yassky, one of the term-limits turncoats perpetuating the Bloomberg years. It's bad enough that I have a Bloomberg campaign office around the block without having a rep from one of his spineless would-be lackeys accost me in my home. I'm sure another of Yassky's drones will be back before next Tuesday. But in the meantime, and this goes double for the Westboro bunch: Go sell crazy someplace else.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Witchcraft through the ages

I try to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude toward my fellow man, but every so often I read something that brings me up short. As the Wicked Witch of the West said, "What a world, what a world." (Photo from the Scandinavian silent film Haxan, 1922.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Popdose: That Hamilton Woman on DVD

If it was good enough for Winston Churchill and Andrew Sarris, maybe Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh's finest screen pairing, now on DVD from Criterion, will be good enough for you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emmys, blah

I've always been indifferent to the Emmys, which interrupt the new TV season just as it's getting started with reruns from the year past. Instead of tuning in, I watched the new-edition Bob Hope, Neil Patrick Harris, in the winning Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on DVD. Yawn: 30 Rock, a smug show whose appeal I'll never understand, won again, as did Mad Men, Bryan Cranston, Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin--good Christ, what a bore! I think prior winners should be obliged to stand down from time to time, or voters should be forced to broaden their lazy, inbred viewing habits. But congratulations to Cherry Jones (pictured) for her win for 24--luckily for the lengthening-in-the-tooth show, one I stick with year after year like one of those lazy, inbred Emmy voters, she's back again this season as the leader of the free world (and front runner for a second, too-lazy-and-inbred-to-consider-someone-else trophy).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Popdose: Stars Fall, But Streep Soars

Amidst the collapse of the American movie star, 60-year-old Meryl Streep is bigger than ever. An appreciation, beginning with her latest hit, Julie and Julia.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

RIP, etc.

Paul Burke, Mary Travers, Henry Gibson, Zakes Mokae, JIm Carroll, Larry Gelbart, even the woman who inspired Norma Rae--a whole generation that came of age in the 60s and 70s is departing, faster than we would like. It's enough for me to start a sub-blog called "RIP" but that's too depressing. It's enough right now to simply acknowledge their passing with this short goodbye (can you find Gibson in this terrific poster? I love it; a built-in Mad magazine parody).

More from my crib

As Jay-Z's single moves up the charts his reference to our address has gone viral. If he drops dead I can only imagine the candlelight vigils. In the meantime I'm conducting tours.

Monday, September 14, 2009

RIP: Tough times for Texans

No sooner had King of the Hill expired on Fox than Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. I stood by the sitcom for its entire 13-season run, through the thick of some choice episodes where its gently satiric tone was at perfect pitch to the thin of weeks where it was preempted by football (apparently its 10th, and nearly final, season was made up largely of shows that went unaired during its ninth). Mike Judge's other TV shows and movies get more ink but I think Hank Hill and the gang, whose travails held a mirror up to the red/blue state "divide," will endure as his finest work. Though animated, it was the best real-life family sitcom on air. Then again I couldn't not love a show with a character named "Bobby," a name drawlingly syllabilized the way Judge delivered it, with affectionate exasperation. Rumor has it that it may resurface on ABC but like Scrubs it came to a fittingly bittersweet end for me.

As for Swayze: Well, the 80s icon had trouble extending his career past 1990 and his biggest hit, Ghost--his extended cameo in the long-delayed Dirty Dancing sequel is something of an embarrassment. I liked him (maybe for the wrong reasons) in the down-and-dirty camp classic Road House (1989), his out-Zenning of Keanu Reeves in Point Break (pictured) is inspired, and he earned enough of a cult reputation to be a part of the cult sensation Donnie Darko (2001). His final campaign was as valiant as fellow Lone Star statesperson Farrah Fawcett's.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Corman conquers the Oscars

The venerable producer Roger Corman is receiving an honorary Oscar this year, less, perhaps, for his inspired, budget-maximizing direction of Attack of the Crab Monsters, Poe adaptations, and biker flicks than his nurturing of the talent that made the 70s such a watershed decade for Hollywood filmmaking. The good news is that he and a gratifyingly full slate of recipients--Lauren Bacall, John Calley, and Gordon Willis also made the cut--will get a dinner devoted exclusively to them. The bad is that they'll get scant attention on the actual telecast, due to a rules change designed to trim the running time. That's too bad; who wouldn't want to see Corman surrounded by the likes of Coppola, Scorsese, etc., and clips from pictures that never baited Oscar? But It, who conquered the world in 1956 with Beverly Garland by its side, is pleased.

Double header

Breaking radio silence to lighten the load on a more-dreary-than-usual anniversary, two from Popdose: A review of Criterion Eclipse's set of hard-edged Japanese crime melodramas, "Nikkatsu Noir," and an overview of movies featuring John, Paul, George and Ringo after they were fab, tied of course to this week's CD re-release.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Popdose: Summer Hits and Misses

What was In the Loop (pictured)...and what was out of it? Find out as I wrap up the season. (The finger-jabbing Peter Capaldi, all these years after Local Hero, was equally outstanding in this summer's gripping Torchwood: Children of Earth, surely the genre TV event of the year.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hip-hop paradise

A neighbor reported that former renter Jay-Z has immortalized our building in song on his new album. You can hear the address about 30 seconds in. The owner reports that he's unsurprised that Jay-Z, who lived here in 1992, used it as his "stash spot." So, too, did actor-musician Lord Jamar, who lived in our very unit when not reporting for duty on the HBO show Oz. Jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Terence Blanchard also lived here for a time. Rosie Perez almost moved in--but was irked when a would-be neighbor asked for her autograph and backed out of the deal. Come back and visit, Jay-Z, and bring the Mrs.--I think you have the money now to afford to buy your own crib.


Woo-hoo...almighty Time Warner Cable, which taketh away HDNet Movies a few months ago in a corporate snit, hath giveth Turner Classic Movies in hi-def, on channel 782 here in New York (that's exactly 700 up from its standard-def berth, so easy to remember). Terrific. Now if only I could get the HD set downstairs to watch it...

Popdose: Jeanne Dielman on DVD

A bedraggled Delphine Seyrig (no Last Year at Marienbad glamor here) goes from numbing household task to numbing household task in Chantal Akerman's 1975 classic, new on disc from Criterion. Girlfriend, I can so relate.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mobile movies

We've gone from worrying about watching Lawrence of Arabia on cellphones and what that might portend for the death of cinema to this. But the question remains: Does anyone want to see Jude Law in a movie, even a mini-movie on your phone?

"Babelgum, the independent Web and mobile content platform, announced today it will release Sally Potter’s new film Rage with an episodic premiere via its free mobile application for iPhone and iPod devices from Monday, Sept. 21. This is the first time a feature-length film will premiere on mobile phones. The mobile premiere will kick off a multi-platform, multi-territory release that includes the US DVD release on Sept. 22 through Liberation Entertainment; an interactive satellite premiere in the UK on Sept. 24; the online release via Babelgum beginning Sept. 28; and the Adventure Pictures DVD release in the UK and Ireland, also on Sept. 28. The red carpet event and Q&A following the September 24th premiere at London’s BFI/Southbank will be broadcast online commercial-free via live streaming site Justin.tv.

The film will be shown in seven episodes through Babelgum’s mobile application, adding one new episode per day, for a full week. This unique strategy fits perfectly with Potter’s vision for her film, as Rage tells the behind-the scenes story of a New York fashion show through a dynamic series of intimate interviews, as if shot by a schoolboy on his mobile phone over a seven day period. The film, which features Simon Abkarian, Steve Buscemi, Lily Cole, Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, Jude Law, John Leguizamo and Dianne Wiest, premiered at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. Written and directed by Sally Potter, Rage was produced by Christopher Sheppard and Andrew Fierberg.

Babelgum and Liberation Entertainment are working closely with Sally Potter and the filmmakers on the pre-release campaign, which rolled out with custom online and mobile selections featuring the theatrical trailer and selected clips beginning July 24. A Rage mobile channel will premiere on Sept. 21. Beginning Sept. 21 one new episode will premiere per day and build towards all seven being viewable on mobile devices by Sunday, Sept. 27. The online premiere of the seven segments will commence on Monday, Sept. 28 with two episodes released per week. On Sept. 24, London’s BFI/Southbank will host the first interactive, multi-venue film premiere for Rage, tying in 35 theaters across the UK and Ireland for an up close look at the red carpet arrivals, film and an interactive Q&A to follow with Sally Potter and cast members. Audience members around the world will be able to participate in the Q&A through SMS and Skype.

In a statement from director Sally Potter and producers Christopher Sheppard and Andrew Fierberg, the filmmakers said: “We always wanted to incorporate new media platforms into our release strategy and to find a novel approach to bringing Rage to both new and traditional film audiences. We are delighted to be working with Babelgum, who we see as a true partner in crafting an innovative distribution model.”

Oh, and that's Law in the photo, as a tranny supermodel. Hmm, maybe I'll have to dial up an episode.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Popdose: The Last Days of Disco on DVD

Whit Stillman's barbed lament to the passing of the disco era (and his last film to date, 11 years ago) gets the deluxe Criterion treatment. Does it bring me to my feet?