Last night’s fireworks-over-the-Hudson kick-out (which I saw from the New Jersey side) was fine. Whatever. But it didn’t hold a candle to that euphoric lightshow that burst out of the Eiffel tower nine and half years ago in Paris. The kids and I were there, standing a couple of blocks south, open-mouthed. Once in a lifetime.
Time Out‘s Adam Lee, disappointed with Public Enemies, asks if Michael Mann has “lost it.” My not agreeing is neither here nor there. The point is that Lee doesn’t seem to want to allow that directors sometimes go through slumps only to creatively re-charge.
John Huston began an eight- or nine-year slump in the mid ’70s after The Man Who Would Be King, but came back with Under The Volcano (’84) and then Prizzi’s Honor (’85).
Alfred Hitchcock went through a five-year slump after Notorious (’46) but was back in the saddle and slinging the six-shooter in ’51 with Strangers on a Train. Then he slumped again after The Birds (’62). If you ask me he didn’t really and truly bounce back with Frenzy (’72), although a lot of critics said he did.
Martin Scorsese started slumping after Taxi Driver (’76) but came back guns blazing with Raging Bull (’80) and After Hours (’82) and then slumped back again. Then he really kicked into gear with the magnificent The Last Temptation of Christ (’88) and Goodfellas (’90). Then came Scorsese’s whopper-sized, 13-year Cape Fear-to-Aviator slump (’91 to ’04). Then he re-charged and surged back with No Direction Home, The Departed and Shine a Light. Now he’s slumping again.
Steven Spielberg was on fire and could do no wrong between Duel (’71) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (’77), went off the rails with 1941 (’79), came back with Raiders of the Lost Ark (’81) and E.T. (’82). Then he fell into a nine-year-slump starting with ’84’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and stayed in it until the double score of Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in ’93. He slumped again for five years and then sort of came back with Saving Private Ryan (with a great first 30 minutes) in ’98, and then went into another big slump — 11 years and counting.
Three pages of N.Y. Times movie ads are linked below — a group playing in May 1962 and another from October 1955. How many have you seen or even heard of? How many have any kind of must-see rep today? Maybe 10%, if that. The same rule will almost certainly apply 40 or 50 years from now. What films that have opened over the last six to twelve months will be considered essential downloads in 2049 or ’59?
The hand-carved totem pole on the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, which I wanted Jett to see on our way back to town, was the only old-timey artifact on the entire grounds — and it’s gone. Taken down because of too many termites, I was told. I took a shot of the pole during a visit last April. I was feeling moderately cranked about seeing Ang Lee‘s Taking Woodstock at the time, and wanted to start feeling it.
The Bethel Woods Art Center, which sits on the top of the huge sloping hill, is a combination outdoor theatre and ’60s culture museum. It’s a weird thing to visit a place that tries to portray the hippie era like a high-end museum might display ancient Egyptian art. It’s not a “bad” place, exactly, but it’s awfully sterile and tourist-trappy and corporate-vibey.
There’s a gift shop inside the center — the exact same kind of Disneyland-ish knick-knack shop that they have across from Graceland. They sell all kinds of Woodstock books, CDs, T-shirts, etc. And yet they weren’t selling Michael Lang‘s Road to Woodstock, which just came out in stores a few days ago. A first-hand tale of how the Woodstock festival came together by the producer with the most famous name, and the ultimate Woodstock tourist-trap shop isn’t selling it over the 4th of July holiday and a month before the 40th anniversary? I asked the kid at the desk and he didn’t know a thing.
“Sarah Palin‘s ego is as massive as the national debt. If you listen closely to her fractured, typically anti-semantic speech, she’s eschewing the old-school politics that are mainstays of the Republican Party. Perhaps Lady MacBetcha is angling herself for a third party run because, in her mind, the GOP is as much a liability as she actually is.” — from a Los Angeles friend, received this afternoon.
The Walton Motel has a strict no-smoking-in-the-rooms policy. Naturally, one of the two rooms we rented yesterday afternoon reeked of cigarettes. Because the life forms who had rented the room the night before didn’t care to respect the rules. Management had to scrub the walls, shampoo the rugs, etc.
Friday, 7.3, 8:350 pm.
For sale: $6200.
I don’t know when it was exactly that I began to resign myself to the not-quite-good-enough sound systems in most (or certainly many) plexes. I know I’ve come to expect movie sound to not be all that terrific, and to accept the fact that I probably won’t clearly hear certain portions of the dialogue in certain films. I know I’ll never really hear a film the way it was meant to be heard until I watch it on Bluray or DVD at home and can manipulate the sound until it’s exactly right and flowing right into my soul.
There’s a scene in Public Enemies between Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard that has twice bothered me over the past week. Despite her uncertain accent Cotillard’s lines were fairly discernible, but Depp was brought down by the combination of John Dillinger’s Midwestern drawl (i.e., his conception of it) and the mud-soup sound system in the Leows’ 84th Street (where I caught the all-media screening) and the AMC 34th Street (where I saw it last Thursday night with Jett).
Twice I’ve heard Depp say to Cotillard, “Aughkunuhpallam,” and twice I’ve said to myself “what the…?” I’ve looked through the script and all of Dillinger’s lines are concise and cleanly written. It’s not my hearing — it’s Depp over-muttering with the cornfield accent plus the cheapskates who nickle-and-dimed the sound-system budgets for those theatres.
I tried asking the help to turn up the volume at the AMC 34th Street, and it took about 10 to 12 minutes for (a) the message to be passed down to the manager, (b) for me to return to my seat and realize that they hadn’t turned it up at all, (c) to return downstairs and complain a second time and convey my disappointment in a slightly-more-forceful-but-at-the-same-time-gently-patient tone, and (d) to return to my seat and realize/acknowledge at long last that the sound had improved somewhat.
What got me thinking about aural quality was listening last week to the superb sound in the big downstairs theatre at Manhattan’s Sunshine Cinemas. I wanted to hear how The Hurt Locker sounded before Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal dropped by for their q & a appearance, so I went in and caught about 15 minutes’ worth. Pleasure! I was blown away by the sharp trebles and rich bottoms, by the fullness and crackling aliveness of it all. Great sound turns you on and wakes you up to a film.
I was a licensed projectionist in the early ’80s, and worked at a repertory cinema in Norwalk, Connecticut. I would always ignore the suggested sound levels. I would crank up the bass and sharpen the highs until the crowd was fluttering. I remember showing a print of The Big Sleep once and making it almost sound symphonic. Trust me — most theatre managers want the sound as low and muffled as possible in order to save on wear and tear.
What a shame it still is that 90% of the paying audience never hears movies this way. Don’t even talk about the sound systems in backwater theatres in rural New Jersey or Mississippi or wherever. Houses like these aren’t even in the game.
On one hand I hold Howard Zinn‘s descriptions and perceptions of the United States of America in the highest regard. On the other I’ve always been a sucker for the kneejerk patriotism that James Cagney sold like a champ in Yankee Doodle Dandy. And I’ve always wanted to be able to do this dancing-down-a-staircase routine. And every 4th of July I think of Jimi Hendrix. Go figure.
“In resigning from office with 17 months to go in her first term, Sarah Palin has made herself the bull goose loony of the GOP. Her statement was incoherent, bizarre and juvenile. [It] had all the depth and gravitas of a 13-year-old’s review of the Jonas Brothers’ album on Facebook. She even quoted her parents’ refrigerator magnet. She put her son’s name in quotations marks. Why? Who knows. She writes, ‘I promised efficiencies and effectiveness!?’ Was she exclaiming or questioning? I get it: both!” — Paul Begala in a 7.3 HuffPosting called “Sarah Palin Turns Pro.”
Daily Beast guy Max Blumenthal reported earlier this evening that Sarah “Blood on Satan’s Claw” Palin “may have quit her job today because she was trying to avert a major, yet-to-be-disclosed corruption scandal. It concerns an Alaska building company called Spenard Building Supplies (SBS) having been awarded a contract by Palin to build a hockey arena in Wasilla, AK, and in return having helped construct Palin’s home.
“Many political observers in Alaska are fixated on rumors that federal investigators have been seizing paperwork from SBS in recent months, searching for evidence that Palin and her husband Todd steered lucrative contracts to the well-connected company in exchange for gifts like the construction of their home on pristine Lake Lucille in 2002. The home was built just two months before Palin began campaigning for governor, a job which would have provided her enhanced power to grant building contracts in the wide open state.
“SBS has close ties to the Palins. The company has not only sponsored Todd Palin‘s snowmobile team, according to the Village Voice‘s Wayne Barrett, it hired Sarah Palin to do a statewide television commercial in 2004.
“Though Todd Palin told Fox News he built his Lake Lucille home with the help of a few ‘buddies,’ according to Barrett’s report, public records revealed that SBS supplied the materials for the house. While serving as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin blocked an initiative that would have required the public filing of building permits–thus momentarily preventing the revelation of such suspicious information.
“Just months before Palin left city hall to campaign for governor, she awarded a contract to SBS to help build the $13 million Wasilla Sports Complex. The most expensive building project in Wasilla history, the complex cost the city an addition $1.3 million in legal fees and threw it into severe long-term debt. For SBS, however, the bloated and bungled project was a cash cow.
Alaska bloggers have reported in recent weeks that “a long simmering embezzlement/IRS scandal is still being looked at by the feds.”
“In her press conference today, Palin asked the public to ‘trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual.’ But she also bemoaned ‘political operatives’ who have ‘descended on Alaska’ to investigate ‘all sorts of frivolous ethics violations.”‘ Palin said this ‘politics of personal destruction‘ was one of the key motivating factors behind her decision today.”
From Alaskan blogger “AK Muckraker” via Huffington Post, posted on 7.4:
“Then there is the other matter. In Alaska it’s become known as ‘the iceberg.’ Rumored to be a piece of news that’s so damaging, and so big, it will sink the S.S. Palin. The rumors also exist that it’s coming soon. Speculation about IRS problems, issues with other three-letter organizations, more ethics complaints, and embezzlement abound. Questions have been raised about the construction of Palin’s house by a bunch of Todd’s buddies, at the same time that a giant sports complex was being built in Wasilla, and right after building codes had been abolished by the then mayor of Wasilla, one Sarah Palin. Do we know anything for sure? No. But a recent claim that the breaking of this scandal is imminent seems coincidental to say the least.”
It’s a tough, exacting, unmerciful portrait of a bunch of really bad guys. If Michael Moore doesn’t use Taibbi as a key talking head in his forthcoming financial meltdown doc, he’ll have made a mistake. Taibbi has really made a name for himself with this and his previous piece about the biggest theft in U.S. history.
“The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
“Any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.
“They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage.
“Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They’ve been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s — and now they’re preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet.”