Monday, December 13, 2004

What have you seen, read, heard over the last week?

The New Cynicism? Are they nuts?
NYT article today starts this way:
Whatever happened to tidings of comfort and joy?

Once upon a time, Christmas movies were defined by the heartwarming journey of James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." Lately things have become a lot more ill-tempered.
It goes on to lament the passing of old-fashioned Christmas-loving movies in favor of those that "make fun of the holidays."

But it was the 1990 blockbuster "Home Alone," with Macaulay Culkin spending his Christmas confounding a couple of thieves, that really set off the trend. Since then, Hollywood has created its own subgenre of Christmas comedy, including "The Santa Clause" in 1994 and its 2002 sequel; "Jingle All the Way" in 1996; and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in 2000.
I'm sorry. Home Alone set the standard and broke new ground in cinematic cynicism? Have they ever heard of "Bah Humbug"? That translates into something pretty darn Christmas-hating doesn't it? And don't they know that whole Grinch thing didn't really come about in 2000? (psst,'s an old beloved Christmas classic, not some new-fangled sign of the apocalypse). Even if it were new, here's a memo: family dysfunction is funny. Oh so funny. Especially if it ends with a positive message about togetherness and overcoming our differences in the spirit of the holidays.

Besides, what kind of movie is just about how much everyone loves Christmas and how great it is? Aren't holiday films always about people that don't care or don't believe, who become convinced (or else humorously beaten up) by the end? Is there any other kind of Christmas movie? There have been alot of bad Christmas movies; I'll give her that. But not bad because of the cynicism. What is she talking about? Am I missing it?

Not that I've read any of these
NYT Best books of 2004:
--The Master
--The Plot against America
--War Trash
--Alexander Hamilton
--Chronicles: Volume One
--Washington's Crossing
--Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare

Free Speech in Wartime
Not sure this is holiday reading materials, but Professor Lessig is advertising this new book by his dean. It does look interesting. Meanwhile, his own great book made the Business Week top 10 of 2004. I never thought I'd have read a book that topped a business mag list.

David Byrne is keeping a tour journal
It's an interesting read:
Scroll down to read his thoughts on BzzAgents. He read the same NYTimes Magazine article we did.

NY Film Critics Online
Sideways. Kaufmann wins best screenplay. Fahrenheit 9/11 ties for best documentary.

NY Film Critics Online are not to be confused with the more austere NY Film Critics, who also picked Sideways, and named Fahrenheit best non-fiction film.

LA Film Critics Weigh In
"Sideways" is the big winner. Eternal Sunshine gets runner-up for best screenplay...
Has anyone seen Sideways yet? What's the verdict? After grades are in this week, it's on my list of things to do.

Golden Globe Nominations Out
Best Picture, Drama--"The Aviator," "Closer," "Finding Neverland," "Hotel Rwanda," "Kinsey," "Million Dollar Baby."
Best Picture, Musical/Comedy--"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "The Incredibles," "Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera," "Ray," "Sideways."

No secret where my hopes are, though Eternal Sunshine is hardly a comedy (do they only have to have some funny lines/scenes to be comedies?). If it is, then surely Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is. I suppose they are only trying to find ways to recognize all the best films/performances regardless. Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey both were nominated in acting categories, and Charlie Kaufmann the no-brainer for original screenplay. Entire list is here. Apparently all desperate housewives are worthy of praise.

Wasted Time
I'm not saying I have a ready list of powerfully important, or at least interesting questions to ask Bob Dylan in an interview. But then I don't write for Rolling Stone. Shouldn't a professional be able to do better than this?

Weekend Box Office
1. Ocean's Twelve
2. Blade: Trinity
3. National Treasure
4. The Polar Express
5. Christmas with the Kranks

Has anyone seen any of the "Blade" movies? I assumed the first one was a flop--didn't hear much about it. So, I was surprised there was a sequel. And now I'm completely confused that there is a third. Is this a personal-mission effort for Wesley Snipes, the way the Matrix was for Keanu Reeves? Is there a cult following here I don't know about? I suppose if Daredevil can have a sequel then anything can.

The Pixies--New York Times reviews a recent show on their reunion tour. Seeing them live at the Ryman remains the music highlight of the year. And among other things, they were incredibly tight...almost none of the "raggedness" referred to here, although it's only barely lamented. They still play and sing with furious energy and pace. Beautiful, fun, complex, loud songs that will last.

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