Saturday, August 31, 2013


From what I can tell, it looks like we are going to attack Syria in a "limited" missile strike kind of way.  Bill Clinton was a fan of such strikes.  They cost us nothing at home.  It is "war" without really being war.  Of course, the people on the other end of such strikes don't feel this way.  They feel angry and bitter and resentful and plot their revenge.  But this doesn't matter for the US election cycle and our politicians are creatures of this cycle.

And I'm not sure the alternative to Assad is preferable.  Are we?  I understand the logic of punishing for the use of chemical weapons.  But are we supposed to be the world police?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Best Restaurant In Town

Chengdu Taste is my new favorite restaurant when factoring in taste, affordability, variety, and volume.  I could eat here every night.  Order $35 worth of food and it will serve two people for lunch and dinner, ie four meals.

The drawbacks are location (Alhambra, although pretty easy to get there and park, just the distance), bad service (partly because they are always super busy), and the questionable healthy quality of the food.  It is very tough to get a table.  They don't take reservations.  There will always be a line.  I order takeout to get around this.  A smart thing to do is call ahead before you leave and place your order or go at a non-peak time.

When I think of my favorite dishes in LA, these things come to mind:

Father's Office Burger
The turkey sandwich w/ the works at Bay Cities
Chicken parm at Dan Tana
Steak plate at Tender Greens with spinach salad
Hainan chicken rice at Savoy Kitchen
2x2x2 Salt's Cure breakfast
Langers #19
Hard Asada tacos at Tacos Por Favor
Spicy Pork at Soot Bull Jeep
English breakfast at Ye Old Kings Head

And now, the fish boiled in red chili sauce at Chengdu Taste.

If Chengdu Taste only had this one signature dish, I'd go there just like Father's Office or Hainan Chicken.  But here's the thing:  the menu has literally 10-15 other dishes I really want to try.

The toothpick mutton is great.  The dam dam mien is great.  Kung Pao chicken is okay.  Here's my point:  there are a few restaurants around town I love, but they don't have a signature dish.  I love Cora's.  I love Little Doms.  I love Larchmont Wine and Cheese.  I love Joe's in venice.  And none of these places I love for one single dish...Chengdu Taste is like having an all-around restaurant you love with an awesome signature dish.  I will note, I don't think anyone considers this particular dish the signature dish -- just me.

Anyhow, I'm sure there are fine dining establishments, etc that are better objectively, but when I talk about food, I'm talking about places normal people actually go.  The steak at the Palm was great, but what kind of insane person would eat there more than once or twice a year.  Not just because of the cost, but the indulgence.  You'd have to be 250 lbs.
Nothing to Worry About Here

Facebook announces new privacy rules.
Facebook plans to start using your profile photo as part of its photo feature that suggests that people “tag” you in photos.
Facebook uses facial recognition software to suggest these tags when photos are uploaded to the service.
In layman's terms:  every photo of you taken and uploaded to Facebook will be tagged and potentially tracked.

Orwell might was a bit wrong. It isn't Big Brother who is watching -- it is going to be Big Data Corporations.  And you're insane if you don't think police departments are watching people on Facebook.  I would if I were them.

It astounds me the degree to which I've accepted all of this tracking.  I realize the entire contents of my blog and email could be read.  I realize my cell phone can now be tracked wherever I go.  I'm not a criminal, so I'm not worried about getting arrested, but I'm a thinking, opinionated person and all thinking, opinionated people should be afraid because tyrants of all kinds - government, business, whoever - all hate hate hate thinking opinionated people.

Film:  Kick Ass

If you take for a premise that superheroes and comic books are meaningful, I can see the delight this movie might offer.  If you see comic books and superheroes for what they are:  juvenile pastimes for guys who can't get laid, this movie is maddening in a way other super hero movies are not.  Here's why: it is a well executed deconstruction of comic book movies.  The very act of deconstruction presupposes a universe where comic books are of fundamental importance.  What a horrible world view.

Perhaps if I saw this movie at a different moment, I could enjoy it more.  Part of me feels guilty in a way for not being able to enjoy it, since it certainly is well executed.  But if you can like a movie for having its heart in the right place despite the flaws, the converse also must be true, you can hate a movie when its heart is in the wrong place, even if well executed.  This is the accusation I would throw at Kick Ass: the heart of the film is in the wrong place.  It is derivative of other derivations -- of comic books, of Luc Besson, of John Woo, of Quentin Tarantino -- its violence is mindnumbing and meant to be comic.  It delights in torture and having an 11-year old girl running around murdering people.  The characters draw their value from being watched and popular as opposed to being good.  Within the film, the characters choose to be good -- not because good has some sort of value or meaning unto itself -- but rather, because good is what people will root for and watch.  The same logic is why women film film sex tapes.

I suppose all these same type of cricitisms could be leveled againt Tarantino, particularly in the Kill Bill movies.  And maybe if I were 35 years old when Reservoir Dogs came out, I have felt a similar way.  I dunno.  We live in strange times.  But I can't help but think after watching this film:  what happened to the movies?  Why have we allowed this great American art form to be hijacked by the nerds?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cinema Begets Cinema

Friedkin on the movies.
Finally, he offered a piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers. “If you are in a cinema school, leave immediately! Nobody can teach you how to do cinema. It’s something you learn by doing and seeing. Cinema begets cinema.”
His points make a lot more sense than Lucas and Spielberg, if you ask me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Great Shift

Fewer and fewer Americans are working.  Money quote:
Yes, the unemployment rate has fallen. But almost the entire reason it has fallen is the drop in the number of people in the labor force — either working or actively looking.
A couple of things:

1.  Is Office Space one of the most prescient movies of the last 20 years?  Office Space captured the absurdity of what the workplace had become for most working Americans -- how so much of our workforce was mostly doing nonsense or managing nonsense.  When the financial crisis hit, all the corporations got rid of all the dead wood and didn't replace them.  This is why corporate profits are doing fine, but fewer people are working.

2.  Americans should be more upset at our political system for not even recognizing this issue.  To hear the politicians say it, unemployment is going down.  Absurd.  We need to be re-thinking how American life is going to be different for the next 50 years, how healthcare cannot be directly tied to employment, how retirement is going to be funded, how Americans can work less and still earn an honest living (since there is less work to go around), how education costs and healthcare costs can be curtailed.

I had a random idea the other day regarding healthcare.  Why not create an insurance system that more accurately is "insurance," ie for catastrophic issues?  Basically, all healthcare costs under $5000 a year become of the over-the-counter variety, pay as you go type of thing?

De-couple health insurance from employment.  Make sure the savings go toward wages and not into corporate profits.

Everyone can buy "catastrophic coverage" for their family and it covers everything over $5000.  If you make below a certain wage, you qualify for discounted catastrophic coverage and perhaps the government has some free clinics for all other under-$5000 issues.  Sort of like food stamps.

I imagine this system would be a lot cheaper than our present system.  Over the counter stuff would be cheaper and driven by market competition.  People would be more incentivized to stay healthy as it might save on the out-of-pocket expenses.  Health insurance would only be used rarely, in the true cases of horrible accidents, diseases, and other really awful, costly stuff that only happens rarely.

Just an idea.
Gut Feeling

Psychiatric woes might be able to be solved by targeting the digestive system.

Very interesting.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Affirmative action failure.
But the Times story conveys a subtler point as well: Racial preferences are not just ill advised, they are positively sadistic. Only the preening self-regard of University of California administrators and faculty is served by such an admissions travesty. Preference practitioners are willing to set their “beneficiaries” up to fail and to subject them to possible emotional distress, simply so that the preference dispensers can look out upon their “diverse” realm and know that they are morally superior to the rest of society.
Thoughts on Breaking Bad and Rewatchability

I watched last nights episode while the lady fell asleep.  I agreed to re-watch with her tonight, but couldn't sit through it.  Clearly, Breaking Bad's final season is going well so far and everyone is putting it up there as "one of the best shows of all time" or certainly one of the "best final seasons of all time," etc, etc.

In contrast, I can re-watch any Game of Thrones from any season multiple times with joy.  So what is the difference?

For one, there are future mysteries embedded within the Game of Thrones story -- hints at major movements and things to come -- on a much larger scale than Breaking Bad.  Breaking Bad -- we know what is going to happen -- Walt is going down -- and we're just waiting to see how.  Also, Game of Thrones has more up and downs.  Moments of great triumph and great failure and surprise.  Some characters we initially despised, we later start to like.  With Breaking Bad there is only one movement: down.


Film:  The Gauntlet

I enjoyed very much.  Jazzy score is nice.  Is that a record for most bullets fired in a single movie?
Not An Insane Theory

Hitler was an obsessed beta male for four years with a Jewish girl.  Is this what the holocaust was really about?

Monday, August 26, 2013


Film:  The Keep

Wow.  A true disaster of a movie.  At the Cinefamily, people were laughing at the film.  Yet, people still applauded at the end.  Strange.  Maybe the 3.5 hour cut makes more sense, but I somehow doubt the experience would be more enjoyable.  The 1.5 hour cut doesn't make a whole ton of sense.  I think I would defend every other Mann film, but this one was a sure misstep.  Still a pretty damn good batting average.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My History Lesson

I don't fully regret supporting the Iraq War, given what we knew at the time, but there was one point about which I made a huge miscalculation:  the situation in the Middle East could not be any worse.

Egypt is now in flames and the Coptic churches are being attacked.

The lesson is - especially when it comes to the Middle East - things can always get worse.  And a horrible state of affairs that lead to 9/11 (yes, I still believe it was a regional and religious thing, not just the discreet issue of Al Queda) seemed to have gotten to such a bad place, I figured in some ways, the Iraq War would work as a reshuffling of the deck to a more optimal outcome for America and the world.  I would be wary of such thinking again.

Film:  The Secret In Their Eyes

I loved this movie.  While watching the first half, I realized I was clearing space amongst my top 10 films of all time.  Could this really be up there?  Was I really watching a film better than Zodiac?  Better than Memories of Murder?  By the end, I'm not quite sure whether it ascends to all-time levels, but the film is easily the best movie I've seen all year and I can only remember No Country For Old Men - of recent films - affecting me more on first viewing.

The film has the greatest long take shot I can remember -- considerably better than the memorable long take from Children of Men and the far less impressive long take from Atonement.  And the end...I wish I wasn't looking for a surprise...and I didn't find it deeply emotionally satisfying, but it was certainly unique and made the film about something.

Brilliant.  I read the filmmaker directs American television.  I look forward to seeing his other, earlier films.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not Bad

Sorkin and PSH ought to work together more.
A Bit Sad

When I was at USC in 2003-2006, Matt Leinhart was on top of the world.  Now, he's a twitter joke.

Sports are rough, particularly at the end.  Another sad story:  Iverson "retires."
The Moviergoers

A new episode is up.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood

Are the decedents and partners of the Nazis.

Before Tony Blankley died, he was incredulous we did not support Mubarak better in Egypt.  The guy was our ally and kept the peace with Israel.  More and more it is looking like he was right.

TV:  Orange is the New Black cont...

I take back the compliments I was heaving at the show earlier.  It gets pretty lame in the middle episodes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


TV:  Breaking Bad, 2nd episode, final season

The show is truly on fire.  It manages to both be slow and ponderous within scenes and still make major plot movements.  It felt like the number of scenes in this last episode was minuscule, with the super long Hank-Tyler scene, Walt digging for half the episode, Jesse sitting around doing nothing for all his scenes.  But the Lydia scene (holy shit awesome -- one of the best cutaway from the crime I've ever seen) and the baby scene.  What tension.  The direction and sound in this show was spot on.  The efficiency of the writing - admirable.  They are on fire.

TV:  Orange is the New Black

Getting me to watch this was like forcing me to eat spinach as a child, but I'll begrudgingly admit to enjoying it.  The writing is quite good and the premise is very good.  This is arguably Netflix's best effort.  The lead actress, Taylor Schilling, is a find.  The show is a comedy and doesn't deal in the hard-boiled.  A spoiler:  a missing screwdriver causes panic around the prison because someone could use it as a weapon, but it is discovered to be fashioned into a dildo instead.  That perfectly sums up the tone of the show.

A comparison to Girls seems apt - a cable comedy about the east coast young and privileged - and so when I think about it that way, I'm inclined to like it a whole lot more.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Film:  Rosemary's Baby

Caught at the Egyptian.  Enjoyed the film, but didn't love it.  Ruth Gordon must have won the academy award...looking it up...and yes, she did.  She was on fire.  Reminded me very much of Repulsion and for some reason, I started thinking about Cuckoo's Nest.  I wonder if they used it as inspiration.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Film:  The Birds

I always fall asleep when watching this film, yet, I have a bizarre appreciation for it.
War is Happening

Right now.  Scary thoughts.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

No Big Surprise

When it comes to meritocratic admissions, white Californians are in favor of it, except for Asian-American students.

Most people's feelings on race-based admissions, gender equality, and other forms of egalitarian policies are rooted in self-interest and not the greater good.

Friday, August 16, 2013


TV:  The Killing, The Bridge, Broadchurch

Three mysteries.  None of them are great, yet I watch.  The most peculiar is The Bridge, which prior to Breaking Bad returning, was probably the only show I made a point of watching during the week.  Funny thing is -- the show isn't very good -- but I'm hooked.  The subject matter - the El Paso and Juarez border is an incredible location and deserves a little higher end treatment.  Demian Bichir is an absolute find.

Broadchurch is a BBC show.  Typical British mystery.  A morality study.  Again, not great, and looks like garbage, but for some reason I'm hooked on mysteries at the moment.

One thing you gotta say about the guy: he's definitely an auteur.  If you're into that kind of analysis of film and see film through the lens of the director, this is a guy who is making a body of work.  Yes, his films seem to have fallen apart from a purely commercial standpoint, but in terms of a director who deserves a section at a video store and who you can expect a certain type of formal expertise and themes which turn up in all of his work, his stuff is going to last.

Not only foresaw Facebook, but also the pointlessness of it.

The episode where Kramer puts pictures up of everyone in the building is also the germ of the Facebook idea.

Great line "It's very important for human beings to feel popular and well liked by a large group of people they don't care for."


Film:  Signs

Was this supposed to be a return to form for Shyamalan?  I thought it was pretty weak.  In some ways I prefer "The Happening" for the sheer ridiculousness.  If you view The Happening as a goofy B-movie that 25 years from now will play in hipster bars, it actually comes across pretty well.  In some ways, Signs is the same, but without the insanity.  I did like Joaquin Phoenix in it, though.  And there was one terrific little scene in the car when Joaquin explains to the little girl about how and why nerds are making the crop circles.  One of the better anti-nerd tirades I've heard (and I believe we've reasonably gotten to the point when anti-nerd tirades are needed).

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Film:  The Happening

Shyamalan's later work reminds me more of Hitchcock than Spielberg for whatever that's worth.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Film:  The Lone Ranger

They use a storytelling device that really ruins the movie - this idea of the story being told by Tonto in the future.  Probably adds 30 minutes to a two-and-a-half-hour kids movie.  And it is a kids movie.  But I'll say this:  the action set pieces rival anything Spielberg can do.  In particular, the finale.  They should show it in film schools.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Film:  The Hospital

George C. Scott.  They don't make 'em like they used to.

Lesser companion piece to Network.  Super intelligent and a bit goofy.  Wonder what it was really like in the 70s.

Film:  The Last Wave

Peter Weir is an under-heralded filmmaker.  I prefer his early super-natural/paranormal films to Spielberg's - The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock - to Close Encounters and ET.

Film:  Nebraska

I really enjoyed the film.  Saw a pre-screening and I'm not even sure when it comes out.  Felt like a companion piece to Sideways.  Probably won't be as big a hit, but I found the movie to be soothing and relaxing after a spotty start.  Felt very unlike any recent American films.  The only film other than Sideways to come to mind is Paper Moon.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Film:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I remember being bored by this film as a kid and my experience didn't change as an adult.  I appreciate the formal quality of the work, but I just find the psychology of the characters so basic and boring, I just don't get engaged in any way.

Too much of the characters being "in awe."  Not for me.  Maybe why I enjoy Indiana Jones the most of all his movies during these years.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Film:  The Act of Killing

"The word gangster means 'free man.'"  Not in English, it doesn't.  A reminder of the power of words.  This little linguistic factoid was used as the basis for why all these guys felt justified doing terrible atrocities.  Looking it up on the internet, the Indonesian term "preman" does in fact originate from a Dutch word meaning "free man" and means working for organized crime in Indonesia.

A unique and amazing film.  Unlike any documentary I've seen.  The sheer bravado and candor of these killers is unbelievable.  In America, this would be like hanging out with Aryan Nation or MS13 and just shooting the shit.  I can't imagine a documentary filmmaker being able to gain that sort of access.  And perhaps the most terrifying aspect is the comfort these men feel within their own country because of the government complicity in their crimes.

The surrealist visuals all make a strange sort of primitive sense, although I often did not understand any of the logic.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The 401K Scam

A great article about how Americans were defrauded their retirements by the financial services industry.

I suppose it would be way too much to expect some politician would have done anything about this.
The truth is this: the concept of a do-it-yourself retirement was a fraud. It was a fraud because to expect people to save up enough money to see themselves through a 20- or 30-year retirement was a dubious proposition in the best of circumstances. It was a fraud because it allowed hustlers in the financial sector to prey on ordinary people with little knowledge of sophisticated financial instruments and schemes. And it was a fraud because the mainstream media, which increasingly relies on the advertising dollars of the personal finance industry, sold expensive lies to an unsuspecting public. When combined with stagnating salaries, rising expenses and a stock market that did not perform like Rumpelstilskin and spin straw into gold, do-it-yourself retirement was all but guaranteed to lead future generations of Americans to a financially insecure old age. And so it has.

Mini-Series:  Top of the Lake

Awesome.  Despite the fact I could see both of the big twists coming from a long way out, I still really enjoyed the series.  And it got better as it went along.  The result of watching too many films is the plotting fails to surprise anymore.
The Counselor

I have a sneaking suspicion this movie will make no sense.

Monday, August 05, 2013


Film:  Elysium

I really didn't like District 9, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised about the terribleness that was Elysium.  The acting/writing basic craftsmanship was about the level of a telenovela.  A lot of injuries, drama infused by sound stingers, and completely on-the-nose, expositional dialog.  If you step back and think about the movie more broadly, basically nothing makes any sense whatsoever.  And it is also plagued with an adolescent, high school level understanding of political issues like immigration and healthcare.  The basic premise is that Elysium can cure all diseases and be home from everybody, but an evil Jodie Foster doing her best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, shoots immigrants down because...well...I'm not sure why.  I wonder if this is what high schoolers around the world think of America?  Do they think America has perfect healthcare and everyone just sits around all day at cocktail parties and swimming in bikinis and we shoot immigrants down as they innocently come into our country just to make their children healthy?  I guess it wouldn't surprise me if these kids sit around all day reading comic books, playing video games, and getting their "education" from disgruntled Marxists.

Prediction that tech companies will own all content of the future.

Film:  Alphadog

Surprisingly interesting film.  Based on real stories are able to get away with so much more structurally than straight movie-movies.  No Zodiac or The Onion Field, but still an interesting little movie.  Emile Hirsh...not bad...couple this with Into The Wild...and a few of his smaller stints in Milk and The Savages (I didn't enjoy either film, but he was fine in them)...might be a guy worth a little more attention.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

This Makes Me Feel Like An Ignoramus

The list of great books.


Films:  World War Z and Fruitvale Station

Universal City Walk might be the best place to see a double feature in Los Angeles.  All day parking works out to $2.  Lots of movies showing.  Showtimes posted above the theater doors.

World War Z isn't bad.  I enjoyed myself in the film.  The directing - especially in the beginning - wasn't very good, if you ask me.  Everything was super tight and it was difficult to comprehend space and speed and it just felt cluttered and messy.  It got better.

My big note on WWZ is that the human fighters did not take an offensive enough position.  Had I been in charge of military stuff, I would have used the fact that zombies were attracted to noise to create more traps for them -- hoard them into huge spaces like warehouses or fields -- and then blow them up or trap them inside and light a fire.  I would even use humans as bait if you needed to, since we were getting totally overrun.  They were just on defense all the time.

A similar note, at the end, Brad Pitt and them should have used diversionary tactics initially to get those last 80 zombies out of the facility, rather than sneak around them.  I suppose that's a different ending, but that would have made more sense.

Fruitvale Station was a buzzkill.  I wanted to see Lone Ranger of all movies, but the damn thing isn't hardly in theaters anymore.  Strange.  Anyhow, Fruitvale suffers from trying to build a movie out of an incident, so there isn't much in the way of story.  I was not a fan of the film.  I liked some of the Bay Area details (the use of "hella" in particular), but overall it suffered from what I'll call the "tyranny of sympathy" where certain types of films are obsessed with make you like a character.  The two bits that stood out as annoying:

The dog scene -- for some reason a random car runs over a dog and the main character chases after the car, yelling.  odd.

The waiting for the ladies scene - where the main character starts talking with a random guy and he offers to "help him in any way he can."  has this ever happened to anyone in real life?

And one last thing -- why when faced with police after a fight do all the guys start yelling at the cops and acting tough and getting up and taunting and fighting?  What is the point?  Why would anyone knowingly provoke anyone else with a gun - cop or not - white or black?  It's the height of stupidity...and yes...young men are as stupid as they come.  But is sort of makes the case for just everyone being involved being stupid.
Blue Jasmine

I want to see it, and just watched the preview.  Isn't this Streetcar Named Desire?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Something To Be Proud Of?

Facebook shares exceed the IPO price and this is all over the news.

I've been a harsh critic of Facebook and the IPO, so this news should be humbling.  But allow me to make this point.  In May 2012 the SP500 was floating around 12500.  Now, it is at 15500.  That's a 25% increase.  Or, in other words:  HUGE.  So, if I had $10,000 and invested in the SP500, it would now be worth $12,4000.  If I had done the same with Facebook, it would now be worth $10,000.

Point is:  if you were in the stock market the last year and quarter, you'd have to try really, really hard to lose money.  Sort of like not passing classes in high school.  Facebook squeaked by.  And we're supposed to be impressed?  Heh.
No Jobs

I'm trying to find a silver lining in the statistic that only 58.7% of adult Americans have jobs.

I can't find one.  I suppose, in theory, less labor means cheaper prices, but I see no evidence of it.  My grocery store absolutely sucks ass -- they keep two lines with actual check out people and then do self-check out for the rest and it is a total cluster fuck all the time.  Do I see a drop in grocery prices as the result of this?  I haven't noticed.  Maybe the stock price ticks up .5%.  Maybe the executives get a little bigger bonus at the end of the year.  But I don't see the benefit to society here.  Maybe I'm missing something.  And I'm not even close to some protectionist liberal.  If you read Public Musings, you'll know this.  I skew libertarian.  But it would take a blind person not to notice that no one freaking works in this country anymore because there are NO JOBS.  Maybe LA is skewed, but my buddy is on summer break and he's been coming down to LA because "no one in LA works, everyone can just hang out all day."

This is something I find particularly irritating about Republican and Libertarian ideas about economics -- this idea that we just need to back away and the free market do it's magic.  You know what the result will be (and already is, in some ways)?  50% of people (at least) on the dole.  And they criticize people for being on the dole and want to take away the dole and then have no ideas about jobs except some mumbling about entrepreneurs and lower taxes.  Any experience with human beings, you know, very, very, very few are self-starting entrepreneurs with the skills, talent, patience, and resources to be independent businessmen.  And those few who are successful in such pursuits take years of trial and error and failure to get there.  What do people do in the meantime?  What do people who can provide a role in society, but simply are not capable of starting and running a business?  I mean, haven't these people ever taken a P.E. class?  Not everyone is a team captain.  Not everyone is good at stuff.  And what happens when we just let all this free market take over?  I'll tell you - 1% will be super rich and everyone will work as their personal servants and do jobs that cannot be automated or sent overseas.  Nothing sounds worse to me.  It will ruin opportunity for future generations.  It will spell the end of anything resembling democracy.

Nice move.  Clooney lays the smackdown on this hedge fund joker.
“[Loeb] calls himself an activist investor, and I would call him a carpet bagger, and one who is trying to spread a climate of fear that pushes studios to want to make only tent poles,” Clooney said. “Films like Michael Clayton, Out of Sight, Good Night, And Good Luck, The Descendants and O, Brother Where Art Though?, none of these are movies studios are inclined to make. What he’s doing is scaring studios and pushing them to make decisions from a place of fear. Why is he buying stock like crazy if he’s so down on things? He’s trying to manipulate the market. I am no apologist for the studios, but these people know what they are doing. If you look at the industry track record, this business has made a lot of money. 
 “It’s crazy he has weight in this conversation at all,” Clooney continued. “If guys like this are given any weight because they’ve bought stock and suddenly feel they can tell us how to do our business — one he knows nothing about — this does great damage than trickles down. The board of directors starts saying, ‘Wait a minute. What guarantee do you have that this movie makes money?’ Well, there are no guarantees, but if you average out the films Will Smith and Channing Tatum have made, you will take that bet every time, even if sometimes it just doesn’t work out.” Clooney also said he believes that down the line both films have a chance to be a wash.
Clooney was particularly sensitive on the subject of job creation. “Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do,” he said. “On the movie we just made, we put 300 people to work every day. I’m talking about nice, regular people, and when we shot in a town, we’d put another 300 people to work. This is an industry that thrives; there are thousands of workers who make films. You want to see what happens if outside forces start to scare the industry and studios just make tent poles out of fear? You will see a lot of crap coming out.”
I gotta say, I agree with almost everything Clooney says -- and I don't usually.

There is something strange about the movie business where it attracts a lot of criticism from outsiders -- like how the studios are running things poorly, how the movies suck, how any old joe could write a better screenplay, etc, that most businesses don't.  Even the American auto industry, which is also a glamor product, I don't feel like a lot of regular folks feel like they could step in and run things better.  But for some reason with movies, everyone thinks they know a better way to do things.  You can gather as much just by reading internet comments.  My challenge to any of these people is to do one simple thing:  make a good, profitable movie.  Don't buy a studio.  Don't fire a bunch of executives.  Don't write criticism.  Don't write a book on how to write a screenplay.  Don't become an agent.  Just make one good movie.  You don't even need to do everything.  Be a producer, or a leading actor, or a director, or a screenwriter.  Any major, above-the-line job and make - and I'm serious here - one good movie.  Then you can join the club and the discussion.

This is why Clooney's best point is that "it's crazy the guy is in the conversation at all."

I wish the studios never sold out to the big corporations.  I've never understood why they did this.  If I were a big shot, I'd try to buy one of them back.

My favorite story about outsiders getting involved with the movie biz is this -- when the Japanese bought what the studio was called before Sony they came in and looked at the numbers and said -- the way to make profit is to only make hit movies.  Go for it.  Good luck.

Restaurant:  Tacos Corona

The famed breakfast burritos in a little stand in Atwater Village across from the greatest tennis shop in the world (approximate), The Racket Doctor.  Good little burrito.  I got bacon added for $2 extra.  I imagine the $3 plain breakfast burrito is the better deal.  I would eat here every time I'm in the neighborhood for breakfast, but I'm never in that neighborhood for breakfast.

Someone could make good money by opening up another small coffee shop along this strip.  Groundworks should open up a little thing like they have on Main Street in Santa Monica.
Bolano on Writing The Short Story

Depending on my mood, I'm either impressed by the guy or think he's spinning some major bullshit.

I've begun The Savage Detectives.  Other books I anticipate reading the near future:

Under the Dome by Stephen King

The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

I'm also reading some non-fiction, most of which is too boring to mention here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Discount Theaters

There are discount theaters around LA, just not in LA.  Too bad.  I wanted to see World War Z tonight and felt like it should be at a discount place.  Maybe not yet.
Foreign Policy

Fantastic article.  The finale:
And that is precisely the point: foreign policy at its best is subtle, innovative, contradictory, and truly bold only on occasion, aware as its most disciplined practitioners are of the limits of American power. That is heartrending, simply because calls to alleviate suffering will in too many instances go unanswered. For the essence of tragedy is not the triumph of evil over good, so much as the triumph of one good over another that causes suffering.

Books:  Books 3-5 of Game of Thrones

Each is roughly 1000 pages.  Read the first two in one month and the last one in one month.  I'd say that's pretty into it.  There's something to be said for being able to live in a world for 2000 pages for that long without getting tired.  I would read the next book right away if it were printed.  There are certainly story-lines I enjoy less than others and I am probably a little GoT's out.  But still.  A lot of fun.  Tremendous imagination.  A good complement to the tv series.

Film:  Silver Streak

A strange film from 1976.  I'm guessing it was the first Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor collaboration.  Very episodic.  Pryor doesn't enter the film until at least the halfway point, if not later, and then plays a major role.  They would never make a film quite like this today - it belongs to a bubble of films like Foul Play, Fletch, 48 Hours, and even Midnight Run - which are essentially crime thrillers which happen to be cast with comedic actors.  We think of them as comedies because they have comedic set pieces.  In this film, the big bit is when Gene Wilder needs to hide from the cops and Richard Pryor dresses him up in black face and he pretends to be black to get on the train.  It's very funny.  Reminiscent of Eddie Murphy playing a cop in the hick bar in 48 Hours, Charles Grodin and DeNiro improving Treasury Agents to steal money in Midnight Run, and Dudley Moore revealing himself as a sex maniac in Foul Play.

But the key difference with these films and the comedies of today -- the plots and scenarios of the film are treated as realistic and serious -- and they actually aren't technically comedies.  Take The Heat, for instance, in the end, they are still trying to wiggle jokes out of the bad guy taking Bullock and McCarthy hostage by sticking a knife into her thigh.  This would never happen in any of the above-mentioned movies because our heroes are actually in danger.  They might say a funny quip, but the scenes are designed for action, not for comic bits.

I definitely think this film influenced Midnight Run, but Midnight Run is a far superior movie in nearly every respect.  The scenario is better.  The acting is better.  It is much funnier.  Silver Streak is actually a bit clunky getting going if you ask me.  Also, there is a gigantic train crash at the end which is pretty pointless, but nevertheless pretty cool to watch because I'm thinking:  jesus, I really think they destroyed some stuff to get this shot.

One last thing - Silver Streak and Foul Play are very much riffing on Hitchcock scenarios and adding on top comic actors.  The later (and better) action comedies, like 48 Hours, Midnight Run, Beverly Hills Cops, etc, tend to be riffing off more Western themes of justice, masculinity, etc.