“I just saw Warwick Thornton‘s Samson and Delilah, an Australian film selected for Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival,” says Down Under critic Joel Meares. “It’s a tough slog that takes you into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory (basically the outback) and is relentlessly grim in some ways. But also extremely touching. It delivers emotionally like little else I’ve seen recently.
“This is definitely one to look out for. It’s probably the best and most profound thing to come out of this country for a few years at least. Two leads, untrained actors, perfectly natural, great perfs. I said to someone today it was like a good shot of Listerine washing away the bad taste of how ludicrously Aborigines were presented in Baz Luhrman‘s Australia.”
I just got back from a 7:45 pm show of Kirby Dick’s Outrage! at the Clearview Chelsea plex on 23rd Street. Two tickets cost me $25 bills, which I didn’t like at all. Why didn’t they charge $15 a pop? And then I noticed maybe 30 people in the theatre. Chelsea is a gay neighborhood and the locals can’t be bothered to patronize one of the strongest and toughest films about the Washington realpolitik and the denial of gay civil rights? What are they doing, sipping Chardonnay and looking for action?
And then the trailers start and they look like dogshit — washed-out, pixellated, pathetic. This is because they’re being projected off a DVD with some kind of low-rent DVD projection player. And then Outrage! starts and it looks just as bad. I’d seen it initially at a Tribeca Film Festival screening at the School of Visual Arts theatre on 23rd Street (i.e., about a block west of the Clearview) and it looked much sharper, crisper, cleaner.
This is bullshit, I tell myself. I paid $25 for two tickets and the best the Clearview can do is pop a screener into their P.C. Richards DVD projection player and make Outrage! look awful? I paid money to see this? I could have asked Jeff Hill for a screener and watched it on my 42″ plasma and it would have looked just fine. What a rip.
I’ve got a summer cold right now — sniffles, sneezing. It’s not a fever or a flu, but to knock it out I’ve been taking Emergen-C, my Chinese herbal pills, an antihistamine, nasal decongestant spray. In any case I’m standing at the SW corner of Prince and Broadway around 3 pm today, waiting to cross the street, and just as a family van passes in front of me I sneeze. Ah-choo!, moving van with open windows …perfect synch.
And a split second after I sneeze the guy driving the van yells out “thank you!” The guy is moving maybe 20 miles an hour, possibly 25. But he had the idea that my sneezing in the open air as he passed in front of me for maybe a quarter of a second might make him sick. If only I could have met this marvelous specimen inside Dean & Deluca so I could sneeze right in his face.
“Two and a half hour comedies don’t work,” he wrote. “The form isn’t meant to carry that much weight. If you’re doing a comedy, especially one set in the world of stand-up comics, less is more. Always. Comedy is a form that rewards quick set-ups, sharp, fast editing and a rapid pace. They may share the first letter, but in comedy, languid, listless and lethargic scenes do not get the laughs. Victory goes to the hare, not to the turtle. The record on this is quite clear.”
Laughing at the wrong moments and then trying desperately to suppress this laughter can be, as we all know, excruciating. But why do I remember the most intense laughter-killing episodes of my life with such fondness? I smile every time I think of them. It all comes back.
Before I started trying to make it as a journalist I worked as a tree surgeon. Ropes, chain saws, pole saws, leather saddles, metal spikes, etc. In L.A. I worked for an eccentric guy who had a temper. He usually had a steady crew of two or three, and we all got barked at a lot. He never got violent but there was always that threat. I remember his face turning pink with rage.
One time he was spiked into a half-removed tulip tree, about 25 feet up. Myself and a guy named Gary Swafford were assisting from the ground, and at one point we were filling up a king-sized chain saw with gas. Except Swofford didn’t screw the gas cap on properly. The pissed-off boss hauled the chain saw up with a rope, turned it on and then raised it above his head to make a cut. And right away the cap popped off and at least a quart of gas spilled out onto his neck and chest and stomach.
And the boss lost it. Not by yelling but by crying. Except his weeping was a little too dramatic. He was bellowing like a wounded animal. And Swofford and I — God help us — were quaking with laughter, our chests aching with efforts to hide the truth. It was obviously the worst possible reaction we could’ve had, and there was no stopping it for the longest time.
Others have surely experienced such moments.
A friend sent me a demo site URL for the Phillips 21 x 9 Ambilight. A little over $5 thousand bucks so you can watch a 56-inch wide Lawrence of Arabia without black bars on the top and bottom. 21 x 9 = a 2.3 to 1 aspect ratio, which means you’d still have black bars on the tops and bottoms when you watch Ben-Hur or the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty, which have been mastered at the old Ultra Panavision 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio.
The Philips Cinema 21:9 is a full HDTV system with 2560 x 1080p screen, offering 8.3 million pixels. You can watch regular 4 x 3 TV, of course, but with heavy black bars on the side. Content on recent Blu-ray discs will support the 21:9 aspect ratio.
A statement from Des Power, Philips consumer lifestyle senior VP: “With our unique Cinema 21:9 we have developed a television which takes you as close to the experience that you enjoy at the cinema as you can get without buying a ticket. We believe that to really become absorbed in watching a film at home consumers are looking for a real cinematic viewing experience, so we have launched the world’s first cinema-proportioned TV screen perfectly complemented by our immersive Ambilight technology.”
My $60-something-per-month AT&T air card service is golden. It can be twitchy now and then but 97% of the time it hooks me up almost anywhere I happen to be, and usually with four or five bars when I’m in Manhattan. But you can’t use it in Europe unless money is no object.
AT&T is offering international air-card service but — get this — only if you sign up for a year’s contract at $260-something dollars a month. So starting Tuesday morning it’ll be the same old routine in Cannes. Excellent free wifi in the bunker and in the American Pavillion tent, that is, and free wifi in some of the hotels. But no just sitting down anywhere and filing.
And no iPhone service. Last year I bought a meager 100 megs of pre-paid data charges — next to nothing in the grand scheme but AT&T wouldn’t sell any more than that. I didn’t know about resetting the data usage tracker and turning off data roaming and e-mail auto-check. I just figured, “Well, I’ll be careful about going online with the phone and it won’t be too bad.” When I got home I was told I owed AT&T over $2400 in data charges plus regular phone-call charges. This year I’m turning everything off and using the iPhone only as an iTouch, going online with it only in wifi-access areas.
I may buy a European SIM card for a Motorola I have, but mostly I intend to use Gizmo 5 for phone calls. Plus I’ve bought a call-in number. If you miss a call you get an email with an mp3 attached with their voice message. Love it.
I’m in the pad until around 1 pm tomorrow. My flight leaves JFK at 5:30 pm. I’m in Zurich the next morning at 7:25 am and in Nice by 10:10 am.
“In the Star Trek prequel, Spock’s father tells him, ‘You will always be a child of two worlds,’ urging him not to keep such a tight vise on his emotions. Mr. Obama is also a control freak who learned to temper, if not purge, all emotion. But as a young man of mixed blood, he was more adept than Young Spock at learning to adjust his two sides to charm both worlds, and to balance his cerebral air with his talent for evoking intense emotion.
“Just as President Spock pledged to make hope and government cool again, JJ Abrams said he wanted his movie to make optimism cool again. Commanding his own unwieldy starship of blended species, with Cheney, Limbaugh and other pitiless Borg aliens firing phasers from all sides, Mr. Obama has certainly invoked Mr. Spock’s Vulcan philosophy of ‘Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.'” — from Maureen Dowd‘s 5.10 Sunday column, titled “Put Aside Logic.”
“Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month,” wrote David Martin, vp primary research for Nielsen Online, on 4.28. “In other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.”
In short, a majority of users are finding that the lustre of Twitter fades after a period. That it’s a bit of an OCD pain in the ass. That it’s one more digital-electronic circle-jerk distraction that gets in the way and in a longterm way blocks out the sunlight.
“A high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite,” Marting goes on. “There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point. [The above chart] indicates that a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure.
“When Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high. When they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.
“Twitter has enjoyed a nice ride over the last few months, but it will not be able to sustain its meteoric rise without establishing a higher level of user loyalty.”