March 30, 2006

Masculin, féminin

Filed under: movies, photos — ted @ 4:41 pm

On Monday night, I watched Godard's Masculin, féminin, and found it to be most delightful. Plus, this poster is the cutest thing ever:

For words and pictures, check out Tony Scott's review (from when the print was reissued last February).


March 28, 2006

Books I’ve Read: bibliophil.org

Filed under: books — ted @ 4:31 pm

Over the past five or six days, I've been deeply immersed in bibliophil.org, a fantastic website I stumbledupon last week. Since then, I've spent any number of hours stuffing it with information about the books I have read over the course of my life.

Seriously, this site is incredible. I don't think I've been this excited about a website since I started using Wikipedia years ago.

Bibliophil allows you to input books you've read with information like: the date on which you read it, whether you finished reading it, whether you own it, whether you'd like to own it, as well as a rating of one to five stars and a review. They also have a folksonomy tagging system in BETA. Then, after you have a "Library," you can sort your readings by author, date, and several other ways. You can also view your statistics to see how many books you've read, and in which years. Oh, and if you don't like always having it on the web, you can export the whole thing into an Excel file.

And, since it's a web-community, you can see what other users thought of the same book, read the reviews they wrote, and see which readers have libraries most similar to yours.

To see what it's like, check out my library, which is still a work in progress. If you like it, join and be sure to add me as a "Buddy."

March 26, 2006

Ruining Shakespeare

Filed under: literature, theater — ted @ 2:49 pm

Those of you unfortunate enough to have last year’s Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival poster seared into your memory will remember that it was one of the more disgusting design pieces of all time. This year’s, however, gives it a good run:

Now imagine, if you dare, this selfsame image with the slogan, “Life shouldn’t be all work and no plays!” set at the bottom. This imagine, with that slogan, is what you’ll see posted on many bus-depots downtown. Lord have mercy.

March 23, 2006

Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?

Filed under: books, literature — ted @ 4:55 pm

Ingram Frizer, with a daggar-blow to the head, in Eleanor Bull’s house.

The more interesting question is why. It could, of course, have been a drunken brawl over the bil. But in a fascinating piece from the latest NYRB, Stephen Greenblatt reviews two books who pose that Marlowe was a spy, working against English Catholics–and that this fact may have had something to do with his curious death:

Riggs and Honan share with Nicholl the conviction that this death was exceedingly unlikely to have been caused by a quarrel over the cost of lunch and dinner. Nicholl thinks that the killer (probably Frizer, acting in collaboration with the other two) acted on orders from someone in the circle of the powerful Earl of Essex—not the earl himself, in all likelihood, but one of his ambitious associates—who thought that Marlowe was getting in the way of a Byzantine plot to destroy the earl’s archrival, Sir Walter Ralegh. Nicholl is curiously diffident about the significance of this claim: “I am not trying to argue that Marlowe’s death has to have a meaning,” he writes; “My reading tends only to a more complex kind of meaninglessness than that of a ‘tavern brawl.'”

Honan thinks that Frizer, who hoped to thrive as Thomas Walsingham’s business agent, decided to kill Marlowe because he feared that Marlowe’s unsavory reputation was a liability to his master: “As patron of a well-known, flagrant ‘atheist,’ Walsingham risked damaging his own reputation, and so depriving his agent of profits and security.” Riggs, more intriguingly, thinks that Marlowe was killed at the command of Queen Elizabeth herself. She did not have to be explicit: a few ominous words, spoken in the right ears, would have been enough.

Selection from Rilke’s “[Straining so hard against the strength of the night]”

Filed under: poetry — ted @ 10:30 am

Perhaps the angels’ power is slightly lessened
when the sky with all its stars bends down to us
and hangs us here, in our cloudy fate.
In vain. For who has noticed it? And even
if someone has: who dares to lean his forehead
against the night as on a bedroom window?
Who has not disavowed it? Who has not
dragged into this pure inborn element
nights shammed and counterfeited, tinsel-nights,
and been content (how easily) with those?
We ignore the gods and fill our minds with trash.
For gods do not entice. They have their being,
and nothing else: an overflow of being.
Not scent or gesture. Nothing is so mute
as a god’s mouth. As lovely as a swan
on its eternity of unfathomed surface,
the god slides by, plunges, and spares his whiteness.

March 22, 2006

Star Wars on TV

Filed under: culture, movies — ted @ 3:51 pm

This afternoon, BBC news broke a story concerning the intentions of George Lucas and producer Rick McCallum to create a a “TV spin-off series” of the Star Wars movies. Apparently, the time frame will be between Episodes III and IV, and will “cover the 20 years in the life of Luke Skywalker growing up that remains a mystery to most film-goers.”

I have, how to say, mixed feelings about this. Obviously, more Star Wars is a good thing, right? Not necessarily, especially if it’s produced for TV and will “run to at least 100 episodes.” What is Lucas thinking? is a question we should probably stop asking by now, especially when he sees fit to wear hats like this:

We can, I guess, hold out hope that it might be good, or at least better than The Phantom Menace. But without special effects that took at least one full year to create, how much worse would TPM have been? Shudder…

March 7, 2006

“A lot of my friends are black…”

Filed under: culture, movies, oscar — ted @ 7:49 pm

I’ve spent most of today trying to deal with the painful remembrance of last night’s announcement of the middling Crash as Best Picture, alternating between a desire to take the matter head-on and denounce this abominable choice and a desire to forget that it ever happened and stop caring about the Oscars (I have, after all, been dreadfully disappointed three years in a row now).

And while it’s true that the Oscars don’t mean much in the long run, and the Academy rarely honors one of the years best movies, I can’t help but wish that the Academy would get it right for once. I suppose it’s time to give up that hope.

More important to me is the dialog which accompanies the Oscars, at least in the community of critics and moviegoers to whom the Academy Awards are a chance to analyze the year’s films, decide which ones were better than others and why. I can’t go on in life without believing that art criticism is vital to the social and cultural life of a people and a language; film critics especially commit their lives (always with the hope that it will make a difference to someone) to responding to one of American culture’s greatest, most popular, and most enduring art forms. Imagining life in modern America without movies is impossible; movies shape our lives in more ways than we imagine–and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And while big budget Hollywood films seem to get worse with the passing of time, we forget how many truly excellent films are produced each year. So many directors and actors are making art of the highest quality, so I can’t help but find it frustrating when this fact is not fully recognized by the institutions who were created to make such decisions.

At least the critics as a group don’t usually disappoint. For every institutionalized windbag, there’s two or three critics who know what they like, why they like it, and how to explain it with clarity and vigor. Last year in Slate, a handful of such critics exchanged a round of emails about 2005’s offerings. In an email, critic Scott Foundas explained his distaste for Crash; since I’m coming up empty today, I’ll post a lengthy bit:

David [Edelstein] opened the floor to suggestions of the year’s worst movies, and Crash is certainly a good starting point for me. Admittedly, Paul Haggis’ directorial debut wasn’t one of those so-bad-it’s-mesmerizing debacles, like Town & Country or The Bonfire of the Vanities, that Tony so lovingly remembered a few weeks back in the Times—if it had been, it wouldn’t have made my blood boil nearly as much. No, Crash is an Important Film About the Times in Which We Live, which is another way of saying that it’s one of those self-congratulatory liberal jerk-off movies that rolls around every once in a while to remind us of how white people suffer too, how nobody is without his prejudices, and how, when the going gets tough, even the white supremacist cop who gets his kicks from sexually harassing innocent black motorists is capable of rising to the occasion. How touching. Haggis is trafficking in much the same territory here as Michael Haneke is in Caché, only he lacks the guts to pull out his paring knife and fillet his bourgeois characters with the mercilessness they deserve. (Instead, when Sandra Bullock’s pampered Brentwood housewife accuses a Mexican-American locksmith of copying her keys for illicit purposes, Haggis doesn’t condemn her reprehensible behavior so much as he sympathizes with it.) People who say that Crash is an insightful portrait of life in Los Angeles clearly don’t live in the same town I do. Watching it, I wondered if Haggis hadn’t sat down with a copy of Thom Andersen’s brilliant essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself and deliberately written a script that reinforces every bogus assumption about life in the city—from the thesis that the only way people in L.A. connect with one another is by getting into car crashes to the depiction of the untold dangers of driving south of the 10 Freeway—that Andersen so skillfully shoots down. And in a year that brought many (and in some cases justified) accusations of racial insensitivity against movies from King Kong to Memoirs of a Geisha, it was Crash that gave us Larenz Tate and Ludacris as carjackers who view their actions as a form of civilized protest, and Terrence Howard as creepy embodiment of emasculated African-American yuppiedom. Not since Spanglish—which, alas, wasn’t that long ago—has a movie been so chock-a-block with risible minority caricatures or done such a handy job of sanctioning the very stereotypes it ostensibly debunks. Welcome to the best movie of the year for people who like to say, “A lot of my best friends are black.”

Well said.

With this, I’ll hope to put the memory of last night behind me, and try not to get so excited about the Academy Awards from now on.

Then again, there’s always next year…..

March 5, 2006

He Won’t Be in Holywood Tomorrow, So Here’s a Photo…

Filed under: movies, oscar, photos — ted @ 5:06 pm

Woody Allen, 1969 (at which time he had just directed his first movie, Take the Money and Run).

March 4, 2006

High Style, Oscar Style

Filed under: movies, oscar, photos — ted @ 4:34 pm

Two excellent photo bits on Slate today.

First, in the Today’s Pictures section, there’s a superb photobook full of Oscar nominees old and new. Here’s two of my favorites as a sample:

Also, with words accompanying, is “And the Oscar Goes to … Petticoats!” This slideshow promises to explain “why costume designers hate the Academy Awards.” Plus, it’s pretty.

Divine Vinyl: Christian LP Art

Filed under: culture, photos — ted @ 7:50 am

Yesterday I found the site Purgatorio, which describes itself as “a panoply of evangelical eccentricities, un-orthodox oddities & christian cultural curiosities.” I first encountered this post, and then today this one went up.

Here’s my favorite of the Moral Majority era LP covers:

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