Tuesday, July 31, 2012

13 Days

Remembering a forgotten decent film.  More from Armond White.  He's right about this bit:
So Thirteen Days is a little nostalgic; at least it hasn’t the sanctimony inherent in Traffic’s know-it-all, up-to-the-minute slickness. Critics have made a cause of the self-congratulatory Traffic. People won’t realize it until the fashion has passed, but Thirteen Days timelessly clarifies political behavior through the emotional investment made by private citizens such as Costner’s O’Donnell.
I re-watched Traffic a little while ago and it is a pretty terrible film. Basically on par with Savages.
Must Read

I can't stop reading random Armond White essays and film reviews.  Here is one from 2005 on Smugness.  Check it:
At no time in my experience reading cultural journalism was there a period when the culture was as hostile as today. Awful movies are foisted upon the public through critics’ hypocritical confusion of bad taste and private interest. Propaganda for themselves. They automatically acclaim movies that align with their personal beliefs while shunning any intellectual challenge.
Conflict-of-interest duds—from The Squid and the Whale to Good Night, and Good Luck—represent boomer vanity; their implicit values denote the backed-up sewage of the ’60s counterculture’s self-importance. These are films only people who fancy themselves New York intellectuals could love. Such lousy movies and their critical praise signify an attempt to create a cultural consensus. One social set’s prejudices get validated based on the unexamined acceptance of particular class priorities. This hegemony is put into effect by pundits with no grace or humility, who assert their difference—their smartness—from the general public.
No one has written anything smarter or more honest about movies since I started film school. I don't agree with everything the guy says...but thank god he's out there working.

Real wages for working men have plummeted over the past 40 years.  Drum makes a keen observation:

So I'll repeat what I said the last time I wrote about this: if you want to understand why marriage has declined among the working and lower middle classes, you have to understand what's happened to male wages. It's not the whole answer, but there's simply no way that it's not a big factor.
I imagine so.
Celebritism and Hype

I actually caught this disappointing moment in the Olympics when Jordyn Wieber didn't qualify for the all around.

The gigantic reaction has to do with America's strange relationship to celebrity and sport.  For some reason, we find it only worthy to pay attention to people who are "the best" and have adopted a strange over-compensatory attitude in sports that boils down to "winning is the only thing."  In some ways, it is the exact opposite to the prevailing cultural norms of the "trophy" generation and the entitlement and "we are all special" attitudes we see amongst young adults these days.  But I actually think these attitudes are related and our attitudes towards competition are dysfunctional and problematic.

All you hear about on sports radio are men talking about "rings" and winning.  As if your career as a sportsman is meaningless without rings or championships.  Nevermind that teammates matter, competition matters, timing matters, and luck matters enormously.  The chattering mass pronounce sport victories as if they were predestined from the beginning, that there was an inevitability to so-and-so prevailing over so-and-so.

This Jordyn Wieber had apparently won a lot of gymnastic competitions and NBC was gearing up with the full-court coverage to maximize her celebrity in order to sell car commercials.  They hyped her up, basically neglecting the other incredibly strong gymnasts on her own team.  They made her an alpha-dog because that's the easiest way for people to consume ideas.  But she lost in a tight competition that comes down to judging.  Is this really an immense surprise?  I don't actually know because I know nothing about gymnastics.  Per the hype, it seems like a big deal.  But I feel sorry for both of the girls.  Jordyn because the hype makes her feel like a gigantic disappointment, even though she is undoubtedly an exceptional athlete and competitor who had perhaps a "bad" or just "so-so" day when it mattered.  And then there is this other girl who took her spot who was basically ignored until this moment and although all American gymnast fans should be celebrating her, they are actually disappointed because they were sold Jordyn Wieber.

Anyhow, strange business this celebrity.  Disconnected from reality and unhealthy if you ask me.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Film:  Rebecca by Hitchcock

A timeless classic with a universal message to be remembered in all ages:  stay away from crazy bitches.
Getting There...

...towards explaining why Girls and other twenty-something rants are awful and boring.

In Koenig's world of twentiesdom, and on Dunham's lightly parodic but also sincere show, kids are stumbling around with a "aren't I a beautiful, fascinating mess" attitude that prizes self-imposed ennui and quirky angst over anything, well, productive. It's all stumbling for stumbling's sake with the vague but entitled hope of a bestowed reward at the end. The twenties depicted on Koenig's blog are all inward-facing, mannered irony and ineptitude, though a win is ultimately still expected. This kind of thing confirms a creaky "kids today" stereotype that frankly isn't fair. The implied universality -- the assertion that this is everyone's 20s -- is really what gets Koenig in trouble. And sinks plenty of other young millennials too. Look at many of the headlines on the for twentysomethings, by twentysomethings blog Thought Catalog — "5 Things You Need To Do In Order Survive Your 20s," "Why Are People My Age Having Babies?," "If We Could Be Boring" — and it's clear that this rather small handful of kids is positioning itself as the arbiters of the entire generation. This is maybe owed to the universal arrogance of youth, which is of course nothing new, but the trouble is now we're rewarding it. It's become a trade, a vocation, a field of oblivious yet increasingly lucrative study. Youthful confusion and wondering and wandering are all part of being alive, but we seem to be increasingly indulging it -- especially a particularly cushy subset of it -- in a way that's not doing anyone any good.

Let LA be LA.

There is something goofy when people talk about LA in terms of why can't it be more like New York - with respect to transportation and living space, etc - but isn't half the pleasure of living in LA the fact that it isn't New York?

TV:  Breaking Bad S. 5, E. 3

Another awesome episode.  I hope they can keep this up.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


An astute review of Margaret.  Hat tip, Andy.

I was going to quote money bits, but there were too many, so it's just worth reading the whole thing.

Friday, July 27, 2012


TV:  Louie Ep. 5, S.3

Some review referred to this episode as "so good, she couldn't even talk about it."  Whhhaaaa?  I've grown disenchanted with the excessive praise of Louie by the TV critics, particularly because the enthusiasm for season 3 seems to be partially about make-up for missing enthusiasm for seasons 1 and 2.  I have yet to see an episode as good as the Bully episode, the Joan Rivers episode, or the Afghanistan double episode.  Or moments as fantastic as his claiming the steps of his dream house or his date going off in a helicopter.  Maybe it was because those types of moments felt so fresh and out of character for television when I first saw them, and now, similar moments feel like seeing a magician pull the same rabbit out of a hat.  Season 3 feels like Louie has become aware of his own success and is tightening up at the plate, both taking too many pitches and then swinging too hard at other ones.  I can't blame the guy nor does it lower my opinion of him.  If anything, I'm disappointed with the way our culture interacts with interesting things -- it tends to ignore it at first, scoff at it second, and then suddenly, when some sort of popular moment hits, jump all over it like an insane crazy obsessive teenage girl and gushes over it shamelessly..... and then.... what ultimately often ends up happening, this gushing, god-like praise turns the maker into something weird.  Basically, Robert DeNiro.

I wish we treated moments like the first two seasons of Louie the way baseball teams treat pitchers throwing no-hitters.  Just don't fucking talk about it, because it jinxes the moment.  We all know what's going on, just let it play out and see how long the magic can continue.

There seems to be a growing consensus about what will happen in Afghanistan.  America is exhausted.  We do not want to continue to pour blood and treasure into a country with a weak and corrupt central government.  We cannot afford to.  We set out with two goals in Afghanistan:  1)  get rid of Al Queda central and 2) set up a stable, democratic government.  We achieved the 1st goal.  The second goal is partially successful, but only by expensively keeping the US troops in place and bribing a coalition of warlords and the Karzi government.  That spigot is going to be soon cut off and almost no one thinks the Karzi central government will hold.  The Taliban continue to exist in a different form from pre-9/11, but we cannot defeat them so long as they are supported by Pakistan.  The Taliban are waiting for us to leave and will take over a large part of the country.  I do not imagine they will house Al Queda or other like-minded terrorist groups again.

What do we call this?  A stalemate?  It is beginning to look a bit like the Korean war.  I wonder if these smaller wars American has fought post-WW2 to stalemates or indecisive victories are cost-effective proxy battles that are essentially preventative and allow us to avoid massive conflicts or whether they are stupid diversions.  That is to say, did our positions in Korea and Vietnam, help to prevent an all out shooting war with the Soviets and/or the Chinese?  Did this war in Afghanistan help to prevent a future nuclear battle with Pakistan and/or an eventual battle with the Saudis and/or the Iranians?  Who is to say?
Google vs. Facebook

Just listening on the radio today a caller calls into a business program to discuss Facebook's falling stock price and makes an incredibly astute point.  He said, when people use Google, they look up commercial services - restaurants, clothes, stuff they want to purchase - which is why Google can successfully advertise.  On Facebook, users go to "hang out" and see what their friends are up to.  They do not go to Facebook to spend money or make purchases, which is why advertising will always feel like an encroachment on the users and will never be successful.

Smartest thing I've ever heard said about Google and Facebook.

Film:  Dark Horse

A new Todd Solondz movie.  I wanted to like the film more than I did.  It started off excellent, soon gives way to sloppiness, then almost totally veers off a cliff, only to collect itself and have a very interesting ending with a few surprisingly emotional moments.  The movie itself felt to me like they shot a very promising 2nd draft of a script.  I don't think I've enjoyed any Todd Solondz movie since Welcome to the Dollhouse...and so in his oeuvre, I'd say this comes in a solid 2nd place.

Book:  The Modern Temper by Joseph Wood Krutch

A very excellent book about metaphysics and Western civilization.  I cannot summarize better than the author himself:
The universe revealed by science, especially the sciences of biology and psychology, is one in which the human spirit cannot find a comfortable home.  That spirit breathes freely only in a universe where what philosophers call Value Judgments are of supreme importance.  It needs to believe, for instance, that right and wrong are real, that Love is more than a biological function, that the human mind is capable of reason rather than merely rationalization, and that it has the power to will and to choose instead of being compelled merely to react in the fashion predetermined by its conditioning.  Since science has proved that none of these beliefs is more than a delusion, mankind will be compelled either to surrender what we call its humanity by adjusting to the real world or to live some kind of tragic existence in a universe alien to the deepest needs of its nature.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writing and Money

Does money make one a better writer?

Book:  Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

A good read.  Oddly relevant given the recent news with the mass theater shootings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Like That Idea

Creating an infrastructure of resistance.
Oakland A's

I said it earlier in the year after watching them play, if they hadn't traded away their two best pitchers from last year, and got one more bat, they'd be a decent team.  I guess I was wrong.

They are a decent team and are a bat or two away from being a good (ie wild card) team.  Also, let's face it, they are hot and their run differential suggests that over the long run, they are a little above .500 team, not quite wild card caliber, especially in a division with the Rangers and Angels.  But still, the A's are a lovable.  Always have been.  Also, the Coliseum is a pitchers ballpark, so it always skews pitching stats.

Monday, July 23, 2012


TV:  Breaking Bad, S.5, Ep. 2

Another fantastic episode.  This year is getting really exciting.

Film:  Beasts of the Southern Wild

I really enjoyed this film.  Very much deserves the praise.  It is a good palette cleanser from the mess of Margaret from the night before and an example of how the spirit of independent film in American still lives.  The film is about living.  I recognize the fight and the humanity in these people, whereas I don't recognize the characters in Margaret -- people who have conceded and surrendered even before the battle of life begins.  They are caught up in litigation and assigning blame to accidents and excusing small duties, whereas the characters in Beast face such gigantic obstacles of death, the modern world, eating, the destruction of their homes with verve and panache and courage.

Beasts is a good example of the notion that the audience does not know what it wants.  The movie doesn't pitch itself - a magical realist tale in post-Katrina New Orleans about a 5 year old who being taught to survive by her dying father.  Not my cup of tea.  But in watching it, I was immersed and enjoying myself.  One of the best debut films by an American filmmaker in awhile.

Film:  Margaret

Not an enjoyable film.  Tedious, 3 hour director's cut, hailed by some NPR critic as an American Masterpiece.  I wasn't a fan.  I don't recognize the people in this world -- the upper middle class east coast liberal -- similar the the world of Girls.  Are people really like this?  Do teachers let kids get away with cheating in school?  Do parents give advice to their kids to not tell the truth to the authorities about an awful, tragic event?  Do bus drivers who run over people lie to the police about it?  Do teachers allow their students to flirt with them shamelessly and then have them over to their apartment and have sex with them?  Do teachers catch kids smoking pot, let them get away with it, and then allow the kids to mock them?  Do drama classes really entail the teacher insisting all the kids bring up their public grievances with one another?   Do dad's living all the way across the country abruptly cancel their summer vacation plans with kids they don't see because they don't "feel" like going?

Maybe they do.  But then the question is:  does this make good drama?  I don't think it does.  What was I rooting for during the film?  The honest truth: for it to be over.  Not a good sign.  I just don't see who sees this movie.

UPDATE:  Another thought on this subgenre of film/tv - the exploration of upper west side New York post Seinfeld and post Woody Allen -- what annoys me about this setting is how the characters in these films think they are worldly and just-about-the-most-sophisticated-people-on-the-planet and it almost couldn't be further from the truth.  These characters are narrow and almost provincial in their attitudes and concerns -- and they don't realize it.  At least rednecks know they are rednecks.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Film:  The Dark Knight Rises, Ride Lonesome

The plotting and story telling is all over the place in the Dark Knight and you can barely understand Bane speaking, but overall, for a summer event movie, I enjoyed myself.  The theater was only half full - my favorite Westwood Bruin theater for event movies - during the day on Saturday.  Felt like less of a let down than the 3rd Act of the last Dark Knight movie.  The thing that stands out to me in these Batman movies is a bit how much Christian Bale seems to recede into the background.  He isn't the first thing I think about in these movies and he is obviously a skilled and great actor.  Take, the Fighter, for instance and it is his performance that really makes the film, but in Batman, he is a bit of an afterthought.

Ride Lonesome is perhaps the best Boetticher/Kennedy/Scott film.  The final shot is one of my favorite in all of cinema.  Saw a gorgeous print (I think) at the Billy Wilder theater.  Wish I wasn't tired and half drunk watching it -- but still enjoyed the film quite a lot.  "She ain't ugly."  Still for my money, one of the great lines in any Western.

What has the world come to when a man wants to turn himself in for rape for having drunken sex with his wife?

Friday, July 20, 2012

How Does She Do It?

Terry Gross gets a truly revealing interview out of Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin talks about his own corniness, his lack of story-telling strength, his lack of action, his lack of visual awareness.  Remarkable in that, it doesn't feel like she is criticizing his work, and yet, the interview it totally revealing about Sorkin as a writer.

I'm not a big fan of his work.  I'm not a fan of the flourishes of dialog, which I think embody the type of people depicted in the recent "Busy Trap" article.  Basically, yuppies trying to ward off existential despair through constant busy-ness.  Sorkin's character ward it off by talking too much and being concerned with credentialism and other forms of status and power amongst people-just-like-them.

He talks about the West Wing "walk and talk" which was invented because the scripts were boring to watch.  I knew this without him saying it.

His training was the theater and listening to the stylized dialog of playwrights.  Very telling.  His writing is not cinematic and it took the great visual artist Hollywood has - Fincher - to Sorkin his Oscar.

And yet, though the interview, I came to like Sorkin more.  I'll never revere his work like others, but I respect his craft and the span and duration of his career and his concerns of what he calls "heroes who don't wear capes."  So good on him for being open.

How elites build America's economic wall.

Really interesting piece.  And as a person who has basically always lived in these elite places where people are obsessed with not building and regulating the development of the areas, the results are clear: existing homeowners see the price of their property skyrocket and no young families or middle class people can afford to live there - see Marin, see Santa Monica.
Theater Shooting

Horrible, of course.  I used to have stronger reactions to these inexplicable acts of mayhem and violence, especially the Columbine shooting.  The fear of such things, of course, is that they could happen more frequently and allow nutjobs to dictate how we live our lives because of the availability of powerful guns, etc.  But from a systemic perspective, such events could never happen a lot - in fact they only are able to happen because they are infrequent.  If such events happened often, people would simply start carrying around guns and put an end to it quickly.  9/11 demonstrated this - within 45 minutes of the first plane being hijacked, passengers on United 93 had already figured out the counter-response.  And it didn't even require trained experts or governmental authority to use force.  The story of United 93 is so amazing every time I stop to think about it - how ordinary people within the span of such a short time, in this day and age, went from ordinary folks into heroes.

I suppose the finger pointing will commence for the next couple days and then we'll all remember there are disturbed people who will always do insane things for the same old reasons people have always done insane things.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Peter Thiel kills Google's Eric Schmidt in a debate over what Google is.

I did not know Google is hoarding $50 Billion in cash - that they have no clue how to spend.  Thiel tries to get Schmidt to admit Google is no longer a tech company -- because they have zero new ideas.  Ouch.  The proof is in the pudding -- Google no longer makes new products, they just tinker endlessly and pointlessly on the existing ones (like blogger).

Google is a utility now.

IDEA:  Maybe they could pay down our Iraq/Afghanistan War debt.

Film:  Act of Valor

Wanted to see this film mostly out of curiosity, not expecting it to be good.  They should show this film in film schools to demonstrate how technical ability does not translate into cinema.  You will come out of it appreciating the basics a whole lot more:  acting and writing.

Another Red Box selection.  I've figured something about about Red Box - they make their DVDs so you are required to watch previews and advertisements.  I find this quite annoying, but it partially explains why they are so cheap.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Old David Brooks Column

I like how David Brooks is sort of the "tolerable conservative" for the NY Times.

He observed some student discussions and makes a good point:
The discussion also reinforced a thought I’ve had in many other contexts: that community service has become a patch for morality. Many people today have not been given vocabularies to talk about what virtue is, what character consists of, and in which way excellence lies, so they just talk about community service, figuring that if you are doing the sort of work that Bono celebrates then you must be a good person.
LeBron Laughing

This Dwight Howard nonsense has got to be relaxing LeBron James quite a bit this offseason.  Look out, league.


Maybe I just won't vote.
A Sign of the Times

Movie critics threatened by internet commenters with violence.

Strange times, indeed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Found via Instapundit.  Ouch.  Romney makes a compelling case.
The Progressives

A liberal humanist critique of Obama's Life of Julia.
A perennial question that divides the political left and right is this: what sort of beings are we? Do we have an immutable, perhaps transcendent, nature that will surrender everything utopia for autonomy, agency, and freedom (Elvis)? Or is there no inherent nature, and humans are just socially constructed, plastic, seeking nothing but safety and a reliable sense of well-being (Julia)? Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology cannot answer that question, and the sciences can only measure what is measurable. The liberal arts and humanities, however, insist that we are like Elvis, and that those who trade liberty for comfort always live to regret it.
I grew up in liberal Marin County. The reason the public schools were good isn't because of Federal Grants. They are good because the citizens of Marin pass a parcel tax and locally tax their own property more to help the school system. It obviously helps that the community is well to do and the parents insist on good public schools, etc, but it has very little to do with Federal money. Some other school districts may be different, but my basic understand of education is that it is state-funded and run.

I went to college and grad school. Yes, Federal loans were available and yes, they also inflated the tuition costs. I basically consider this a wash. In grad school, I received grants and stipends. I think that money came from private people donating back to the cinema school. That was a lot more valuable in dollar terms than loans. 

In school, I got mandatory health care by paying for it through the school. Afterwards, I got health care from my employers, not the federal government. There was a brief period where I paid for it myself unhappily.

When I'm old, I'll get Medicare and Social Security. But along the way, I get money taken out of every single paycheck on the way there to pay for these things, so it's not like President Obama is exactly doing me a grand favor by taking money I earn and then giving it back to me without any interest after 35 plus years. I participate because I have to and view it as sort of a social insurance, but it isn't exactly some great deal. For alternative examples, I pay for car insurance and when I've gotten in an accident, it has paid for it. This system works without the Federal Government.

I have yet to get any sort of Federal backed small business loan or mortgage.

I do appreciate the FDIC insurance on my bank account.

I appreciate the military and the FBI keeping Al Queda off my back.

I appreciate cops keeping the streets safe.

I appreciate roads and bridges being free, but it isn't as if we couldn't figure out how to build roads and bridges like they are some sort of invention of liberal governance.

In any case, I suppose I'm bringing up the Life of Greg to contrast with the life of Julia only because the life of Greg happens to be real and the Life of Julia some theoretical construction of how Obama's policies are helping people. The liberal retort will be something along the lines of - well there are other people not like Greg who need help from these Federal programs. I'm sure there are. I'd like to hear their stories. In fact, I'd much prefer those stories to some fake progressive cardboard cut out figure.

A RANDOM ASIDE: Two major goals of progressives are a return to more financial equality and better public education. I would like to point out how women entering the workforce in large numbers have the unintended side effect of hurting both of these goals. One, women are no longer financially dependent on men and therefore the divorce rate is much higher. This is good for women's rights, but arguably bad for the well being of children. One can go into the nuances of the debate, but it is a pretty safe thing to say, women getting equality opportunities to men has coincided with higher divorce rates. I imagine this will probably be true throughout countries all around the world. It probably hurts the financial prospects of children as well, as splitting up all the assets make the kids worse off in a financial way and this may hurt their opportunities in addition to any psychological or emotional problems associated with a split home (some kids are barely effected, while others are, I imagine).

The second reality is that American public school education used to be better because overqualified women became teachers. Is this unfair? I suppose it is unfair for the women to have less opportunities, but the beneficiaries of this unfairness were kids getting a better education from top-minded women, who now are more likely to go into more lucrative or rewarding fields of work. This isn't suggesting that I favor a policy of making women have fewer opportunities, merely pointing out that our educational system was benefitting from it.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Film:  Ghost Rider 2, Spirit of Vengeance

There is about a 25% of a good movie in this film.  My favorite scene, by far, is toward the beginning when Nicolas Cage is interrogating some thug while trying to restrain the Ghost Rider from coming out.  Laugh out loud.  Cage - you kind of have to admire the guy just for his sheer insanity - I think some spirit from beyond or the animalistic portion of our minds (whatever your ontological view) motivates his acting choices.

Among my dream jobs is to write a Nic Cage action movie or a James Bond film.  Better yet, why not both in the same movie?

Matt Forte and Ray Rice got contracts.

I used to have no sympathy for pro sports players.  I figured even if a guy got paid $1 million per year (a low salary in pro terms), the guy was getting paid to play sports and he was a lucky bastard.  I no longer see it that way.  I see it as a ruthlessly competitive and stressful occupation that requires an inordinate amount of work and luck.  And, these guys have ridiculously short careers that can end at any moment due to injury or even just losing a step or two.  Running backs in the NFL have it the worst.  They do a tremendous amount of work on offense and are easily replaced.  Their salaries relative to other positions are significantly lower.  To add on top of that, I know these guys are paying huge management fees and are likely carrying many relatives and friends.  A contract like Forte and Rice just got gives these guys financial stability for life -- unless they get injured (NFL contracts are not guaranteed) or do something stupid with their money.  People who perform at their level deserve this.  Certainly a lot more so than the TV executives or league executives or legal counsel who seem to get similar financial stability and have much less rarified gifts and talent.
Lost Generation of Homeowners

On why millennials are not buying homes.

There is a simple reason: we can't afford them.

I suppose there are many, more complicated reasons for why we can't afford them - mainly - the economy pushing out middle class jobs, underemployment, a general insecurity about future employment (I'm leaving out unemployment because even though it is high, most college aged millenialls are not suffering), taking longer to settle down because of many factors (longer life expectancies, cultural expectations, etc), prices overvalued relative to renting (in my case, I live in Santa Monica in a rent controlled apartment and to live in an equivalent location as an owner would cost maybe 3 times as much plus a down payment).

Film: Savages

It isn't very good, which I suppose shouldn't be a surprise.  I get easily fooled by trailers for classical action movies.  Basically, if I see a trailer for an original action movie, my mind automatically thinks - oh, maybe that'll be good.  Even though common sense and experience should tell me better.  For chrissake, I though the Tourist looked good.  And I justify all these things by saying - oh, well, it's The Lives of Others director or maybe Oliver Stone has something left in the tank, rather than reading the writing on the wall.  Maybe it is just that hard to make a good movie and the system has pivoted just enough in a funky direction to make it all but impossible.  I don't mean to say this as some sort of "movies-are-going-to-hell" old man diatribe, but you do find, more often than not, disappointed at the movies rather than delightful surprise.  Only really two films have delighted me recently - The Grey and Knight and Day - and these aren't even very recent, when I was like "holy shit, those were actually pretty damn good movies."

Tim Riggins doesn't play on the big screen.  Sorry, Riggins!  He seems to lack intelligence, if you ask me.  And to carry a movie, I think you need to come across as bright.  Not intellectual, but bright.  Think of how smart Bruce Willis is in Die Hard.  Even Schwarzenegger and Stallone, who in essence made their bones by being "dumb action heroes," if you analyze it and examine their works, are actually much cagier and smarter than a trailer of their films would have you think.  Stallone - you can tell - is just playing dumb.  Mumbling, ugh, ugh, Adrian, I'm not so bright.  Yeah, right, dude.  He knows what he is doing.  Same with Schwarzenegger.

As for the rest of the movie, Benecio is watchable, but there are too many characters doing too simple and too stupid of plans.  The POV is strange and at times you are way ahead of your main characters.  There is a totally annoying voice over.  Blake Lively is bleh.  The 3-way relationship makes no sense to anyone whose been in any type of relationship.  Anyhow, I could go on, but really, what's the point?

Sunday, July 15, 2012


TV:  The Real Housewives of the OC, Breaking Bad S. 5, E. 1

Thank god Breaking Bad is back.  Something fun to watch on Sunday nights.

I hope Hillary Clinton has her state department employees watch Real Housewives.  It seems to me an interesting and complex dynamic that could be useful in foreign affairs.  One of the housewives has a new boyfriend who is unpopular with the other friends and this causes riffs and strange alliances.  He accuses one of the housewives of giving his girlfriend the "evil eye" after she made a comment and it explodes into a chaotic episode of shifting alliances and betrayals and is very complicated.  One can easily see how WW1 broke out.  Clinton should study this show.
On Friendship

Interesting thoughts on friendship.

I'm no communist, but this is rather interesting:
Writing in the Times Comments Section, he sees the demise of friendship as a result of late-stage capitalism: "Life has become increasingly isolated for more than a century now. This happened when we left the large extended agricultural family and community for the economic competition of our growing urban centers.

 We are increasingly encouraged to live single lives and the single life has become a growing trend. Romantic coupledom and lifelong unions are decreasing radically in favor of serial monogamy. We are alone more often than ever before.

 This is simply an economic condition of consumerism. Solitary consumers need more goods than family groups which shares its appliances, cars, housing...." And "[a]s everything in our lives becomes commodified (time, leisure and relationships) we become less generous and less skillful with others."

Obama keeps talking like this, and he's losing my vote.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Spoken like someone who's never built anything of value in his life. I suppose the lesson here is...what?...don't bother building anything because even if you do, you didn't? Ummm...I'm confused. On some level, I get what he is trying to say, that it takes a village and we are standing on the shoulders of giants and all those other cliches. But perhaps, and this might be the problem with professional politicians, is that having not built anything themselves other than their own image, they do not understand what it means to have created something from nothing and feel no guilt and shame from taking money from productive activities and spreading it around however they see fit.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


A 40 year old Brooklyn mom tells all about her reversion.
When “Girls” hit this spring, I was shocked by how true the show rang to my life—not my old life as a post-collegiate single girl but my new one, as a married, monogamous, home-owning mother. My generation of moms isn’t getting shocking HPV news (we’re so old we’ve cleared it), or having anal sex with near-strangers, or smoking crack in Bushwick. But we’re masturbating excessively, cheating on good people, doing coke in newly price-inflated townhouses, and sexting compulsively—though rarely with our partners. Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions—Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce?—by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.
These folks are in competition for the worst people on the planet. A slot is opening up now that most of Al Queda is dead.
I Wants To Go There

Bikini clad Israel woman soldier dangles her machine gun while catching some rays.

Makes me feel a little soft.

Film:  Zidane a 21st Century Portrait

Glad I finally got to see this movie.  An interesting experiment, but nothing profound.  In fact, I found the filmmakers to be a bit annoying and clueless as to what they were attempting to say.

One of my commenters got mad I found Pam Grier's face boring in Jackie Brown.  You want to watch a face?  I give you Zidane.  That is a face.

And...can you name anyone else who pull off bald so good?  Good lord, if Zidane had won that second World Cup, I swear to god, people would've started going faux-bald.
WASPs vs. Meritcrats

David Brooks on why our elites stink.
The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service. 
Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this. 
If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.
I used to articulate this by saying our elites needed more of a sense of shame to self-regulate themselves.  But look, I'm part of my generation and interact with people who will become the elite (a bit young, yet), and yeah, I don't have a lot of confidence in people doing the right thing time and time again.  I do have confidence in lots of them "getting ahead."

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Busy Trap

On why yuppies are always busy.
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’ĂȘtre was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion.
Busy yuppies are totally annoying.

TV:  Aborted attempt to continue with Girls

There is nothing on TV.  At lunchtime, when I'm eating, I like to turn something on and take a break from the computer, but there is really nothing.  So I tried this week to pick up again with Girls on the episode when she goes home.  Over the course of five days, I've turned the episode off 5 times.  I find the show to be unwatchable, but thought it deserved a second chance basically because of all the shop-talk amongst the chattering classes.  Why does the show make me cringe so?  My only feeling while watching is just "get me out of here."  In that respect, it resembles my experience trying to watch torture porn movies - they just don't interest me.

In some sense, I find relief in this, and hopefully will find myself in no more debates about the show.  My repulsion is primal and similar to the smell of bad milk.  I don't feel no need to debate or explain why I don't want to drink bad milk or why it is bad.
Michael Keaton

Great interview.

I just laughed my ass off at one of the Nicholson stories.  Oh man.

TV:  Louie s.3, e.3

Louie goes gay.

I suppose this is pretty obvious to say, but this show is thematically and character-wise heavily influenced by Seinfeld and Curb.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Film:  Jackie Brown

Oh boy, do I hate to say it, but this film does not hold up as much as I hoped.  There are a few great moments and obviously a fantastic soundtrack.  But the story?  The heist itself?  The ridiculously long takes on Pam Grier's face?  Come on now.  This is a fetish film and I suppose such films can be good from time to time if you are in the mood.

I really loved this movie when it came out, perhaps it was just like morning sex with Pulp Fiction, I don't know.  Also - and I didn't remember this at the time - they clearly cut out an entire storyline with Pam Grier and Michael Keaton having some type of borderline romance going on that gets referenced throughout the movie and then casually alluded to in one dinner scene.  I guess when spend 30 minutes on long tracking shots with single characters (no action), you need to find cuts elsewhere.

It certainly isn't a disaster and I watched the whole 2.5 hours even though I wanted to go to sleep and intended to just watch until DeNiro had sex with Bridget Fonda and then I found myself waiting until DeNiro killed Bridget Fonda and by then, I was like, might as well see what happens.

Robert Forester should be in more movies.  What the hell?  Do directors realize how old this guy is?  Can someone put him in some more movies before he dies?

Someone is going to write a great book years from now about the effects of underemployment on the long term earnings potential and lives of young people (if they haven't already).

They talk about students falling behind in school - I imagine underemployment has the same effect.  It makes you less attractive to future employers, less skilled, and less confident.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interesting Genre

A review of a movie called People Like Us.  I've been paying attention to this film since I saw the poster - a glossy picture of Chris Pine with the other actors smiling and the title "People Like Us" at a mall - and started immediately laughing uncontrollably.  I figured there was almost no way this could be watchable.

Here is the reviewers take:
Call them Lying Dingbat Procrastinator movies: films in which a main character, motivated by selfishness, cluelessness and fear, postpones telling the truth to another main character and winds up digging himself into a huge hole.
Well put. Your Sister's Sister also falls within this genre.

Book:  Twilight of the Elites:  America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes

A really good diagnosis of the problem and really underwhelming solutions.  More redistributive taxation?  Estate tax?  These are considered big ideas?  Does anyone actually think this magically solve the problems in America?  Gimme a break.

The solutions to these problems, I imagine, are going to be much more localized and specific.  This huge, nation-wide efforts are just not the way to go.  It's all theoretical.

Why do all these "smart people" try and focus on making, say...eduction in America better?  Or solving the healthcare problem?  Wouldn't their energies be better spent, say, making one public school in one underserved area into a really great school.  And I don't say this flippantly, like this is some really easy task.  I actually think it is an incredibly hard task.  But you have an author saying we need more meritocracy and meritocracy starts with equal opportunity to education -- so why not employ all your genius and be a teacher to kids that need it and help them and then spread your wisdom to the school -- and then go from there.  Or likewise, rather than having some big time expert opinion on how to resolve the healthcare problem -- make a functioning, profitable hospital.  Just one.  Is it just me or isn't this the way to actually fixing things?  These people just want to be pundits and I'm not convinced we need any more pundits.

In my industry, the equivalent of this type of "too large" thinking is people who think about re-imagining the entire studio system or say things like "movies are dead" or perceive an entirely new way the movie business need to work or people who say things like "the digital revolution" and this type of stuff.  I've come to think that thinking in these terms is avoidance of the infinitely more difficult and more needed project of just making one good movie.  And making one at a time.  That's all this business is, really, a bunch of people working on one movie at a time.  In any case, I suppose what I'm saying is our thinking ought to be less broad and perhaps more focused and precise when it comes to dealing with any sort of problem.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


TV:  The rest of the Newsroom pilot

Bastard.  The second half of this ridiculous pilot is strangely watchable.  Sorkin...what a slutty romantic bastard...with his soft gloss (not in Newsroom, whose look is actually grainy) but content-wise this guy is borderline Capra cheese.  The second half of this show is the American President.  He mocks "second year undergraduate poli-sci majors," but that's who Sorkin is at heart, just one of those guys in US Congress class who talks a lot and loved Paul Wellstone.

It's weird watching a news show about actual news that happened two years because well, the urgency feels, I dunno, two years ago?  I fail to see how this can explore any territory that hasn't already been covered by Network, Broadcast News, or the Insider.  Then again, he's doing his best to rip off all three.  (Network's meltdown, Broadcast News relationship, the Insider corporate paranoia)

Monday, July 09, 2012


TV:  The next 10 minutes of Newsroom first episode

Who are these people?  Is it just me or does everyone in the show talk like a hysterical homosexual?  Am I allowed to say things like that?  Between this and Girls, who is ever going to want to live in New York?

This huge British banking scandal is just another in a series out outrageous behavior by the "meritocratic elite."

What a fraud all these people are.
Beyond Bailouts

Forms of cronyism.  Free market competition is for suckers.  That's the message.

Streaming?  Not So Fast

DVD still accounts for 47% of revenue for movies in the UK.
The BVA says it expects discs to remain consumers’ preferred option, “for the foreseeable future.”
Until someone has everything I want to watch On Demand, DVD rentals still work the best.
Discord at the Supreme Court

Oh, great.  It sounds like a sewing circle, not the greatest legal minds on the planet.

In any case, the prior post is shaping all the realities.  Health care costs are high because there is too much labor involved with health care (ie cost).  Soon, technology will make health care cheaper, but then of course, the jobs will be the issue.  Lovely.
I've Been Saying This

We are entering the post-employee economy.

We need X number of people to operate the economy and X*2 people want to work to make money and have a sense of purpose.  This is a problem.  The Amish ask this question and they are not wrong to.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sounds Good

Brzenenski's new book.

"Assad's days are numbered."  Is it stupid to point out if Bush said something like this, he would be considered brash, dumb, and overly aggressive?

Nevertheless, if the Assad regime falls it will be Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria in 8 years - four major autocracies in the Middle East gone and replaced with fledgling democracies.  Maybe the Arabs aren't "capable" of democracy as many here (and there) believe, but we're going to find out.  And I rather think they deserve at least a shot at it.  Dictatorship will always be able to return, if the experiment fails.

Imagine 10 years down the line when Iran and Saudi Arabia are surrounded by democracies, oil consumption is dropping and we get most of our stuff from fracking fields in the US and Canada.  Is that foolish to hope for?


TV:  The first five minutes of Newsroom

Maybe I'll watch this show.  I need to justify the 10-15 bucks I spend each month on HBO.  Sorkin is talking about an issue that concerns me: American malaise.  He is wrong and stupid and bullying of course about the whole thing, but maybe he'll slip in some insights here and there.  Even a broken clock, right?

In the Daniels opening lecture he says "people hate liberals because they lose."  Ugh?  Really?  I guess he forgot we have one of the most liberal presidents in modern American history.  No...the issue with liberals is not that they lose, it is that they are lazy and don't have any answers for the problems facing our nation.  They bring out tired old cliches born out of the 1960s to solve our present problems.  They misread the role of government in American society.  They don't like to address the big questions and instead focus on the smaller ones.  They are cynical.  

And they keep self insulating themselves from the realities facing Americans today.  They misdiagnose their own problem.  Sorkin thinks liberals are right and are just too big of wusses to force their arguments down everyone's throats.  That isn't the issue.  Good ideas are good ideas.  If the ideas don't speak to people's experiences, people won't swallow them.  Liberals can support unions all we want, but if the jobs are dying and disappearing, what good will the unions be at all?

Saturday, July 07, 2012


Film:  Red Belt

Don't get tired of this film.  Love the ending.
Arresting Adrian Peterson

I would not want to be the cop trying arrest AP.

Film:  Silence of the Lambs with Commentary

One of the more unique commentary features with five different people featured on it - Demme, Foster, Hopkins, Tally (screenwriter), and John Douglas (the FBI consultant on the film).

My favorite part was Hopkins saying how he imagined Lector being like Hal from 2001.  You can kind of see it...

TV:  Louie S3, E2

The Melissa Leo episode.  Not one of the better ones.  A good test to see how much you like the show. I imagine enjoying this episode means you'll enjoy whatever Louie chooses to do.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Da Burger

Five Guys vs. In and Out.

I'm liking Five Guys right now, probably just for the change of pace.
Netflix Streaming

I just cancelled because the service is garbage.  I may start back up again with DVDs at some point.
Real Tax Rate

An argument that the "real" tax rate is 75% on middle class people.

And he doesn't even mention sales taxes.  The government does take a bite.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Worth A Try

Local governments and an investment fund to seize underwater properties and re-finance.

Try it small.  See if it works.  Go from there.

Play:  The Exorcist

At the Geffen theater, with Brooke Shields.  Started off bad, but in the end, it was all right.  A decent night out.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


Wants to play until he's 40.

Me too.

Film:  Red Road (dir. Andrea Arnold)

A 2006 indy film, did the festival circuit about a CCTV operator who becomes obsessed with a mysterious man she sees through surveillance.  Mysterious and tense for awhile, the end was ultimately anti-climatic.  But still, a good film festival movie in the truest sense.  No stars.  Small.  Economical.  Modest filmmaking.  Per Wikipedia, this got her compared to a young Von Trier and Michael Haneke. It strikes me in thinking about this, the indy world does the same thing Hollywood does, picks their favorite sons and does what it can to self protect and self promote.  I suppose that is the business we are in.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Anxiety Nation


When did we become such a bunch of babies?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Dying Business

Am I in a dying business?

TV:  Louie, season 3, episode 1

Louie's wife is black.

My favorite part of the episode was the puzzling over the rules for parking.  Chaplin-esque, without the physicality.  A great example of the problem with the modern nation-state.  Gives me little hope for Obama care.
Good Question

How does the film industry make money?
Euro Final:  Spain 4 - Italy 0

Disappointing game.  Very boring, almost sad, to watch.  I suppose Spain are that good.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Film:  Fright Night - 2011 Remake

Girls Conversation

Had an interesting conversation about Girls, the controversial Lena Dunham show today after breakfast.  Here are the bullet points:

-I don't think Lena Dunham likes her own characters (hence, why should we?)

-The only reason Lena Dunham is considered "brave" for getting naked is the fact that she is not good looking.  If she were good looking, she would be a more more educated (but not necessarily more intelligent) Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.  Has anyone ever called Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian "brave" for releasing a sex tape?  Why not?

-People who like the show often cite the realism and say things like "this is what 24 year olds are really like."  And yes, perhaps some 24 year olds are like this in the same way some people probably have the same POV as ridiculous Aaron Sorkin characters.  But I'm not really willing to believe all 24 year olds are naturally selfish, entitled, self-centered brats.  Not even all the ones living in New York.  I guess what I'm trying to say is: the POV of the show and characters isn't all that age-specific.  I think Lena Dunham at 35 won't have much of a world view shift.  Nor at 45.  The continued living lives of unexamined privilege will go on and on, much like Woody Allen's neurosis, Michael Mann's obsession with lonely men finding solace in their work, and Ed Zwick's continued quest to marry social issues and big action movies.

-I would argue that a bit of this show's popularity stems from misery loving company, that it is more cathartic to watch the painful, awkward sex, when that is the sex you know.  And while this is certainly a valid reason to enjoy the show, I do not envy those in such a position.
Meritocracy and Religion

Interesting blog post about the book I'm currently reading.

Film:  Blue Velvet

Don't think I've watched this film since college.  I'm not sure if it is Lynch's best film, but it is certainly his quintessential film.  I don't love the movie.  I think the movie means more to people who saw it in 1986 in the barren landscape of commercial cinema at the time - and especially if they were disposed to the avant-garde - or just at an impressionable time in their lives.  I'd argue Blow Up has the same quality.  Say you saw it in 1966 in some art theater in New York and the week before you were watching the original Fantastic Voyage or whatever else was out (just looked it up and actually The Good, The Bad, The Ugly came out that year).  But I think these movies mean more to people who viewed them in such a context versus me, who saw Blue Velvet as a douchy college student who really wanted to like it knowing the critical revisionism and late celebration of the film.  And I like it, don't get me wrong.  I just don't love it.  I don't get joy from it.  A telling thing for me, was what I remember from the movie.  I remembered the ear, the closet, Dennis Hopper sucking god knows was gas from that mask, and Isabella Rossellini seducing Kyle Mclaughlin at knife point.  Watching it the second time, I think I'll remember the same exact things.  They are the highlights of the movie.  Oh yeah, and the scene with Dean Stockwell.

People LOVE this film.  I wonder what that is about.