Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. It’s that simple and that clean. It’s all here in this Bill Moyers review of how Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency and himself and ended the lives of tens of thousands of young men by being too afraid of the right-wing barking crowd to step up and do the wise and strong thing, which was to say screw it — there’s no way to win, we can’t even define what a “win” is, South Vietnam is quicksand and we’ll drown in it, and you can’t hope to succeed by propping up a corrupt government.
The Afghanistan situation right now contains many similarities to the one Johnson faced in Vietnam in ’65 or thereabouts. It will almost surely will eat Obama up because he hasn’t the courage to call the underlying rationale — i.e., “if we don’t fight ’em there, they’ll come after us here with another 9/11” — the paranoid imagining that it is and always has been. It’s the 21st Century version of “if we don’t stop the Communists in Vietnam, they’ll soon be arriving on the shores of Santa Monica.” (Which reminds me of a retort to this in Michael Ritchie‘s The Candidate — “We can’t allow the Communists to land in Santa Monica because the parking problem is bad enough as it is.”)
Yesterday (11.21) Daily Beast political writer Peter Beinart noted that “in voting to allow debate, conservative Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas hammered some nails in the coffin of a robust “public option” that would allow the government to compete with private insurers. Both senators stressed that if the Senate bill includes a public option, they will ultimately oppose the whole thing.
“And since apostate Democrat-turned-independent Joseph Lieberman and moderate Republican Olympia Snowe have said something similar, and since health-care reform requires 60 votes, that means that liberals will likely face a choice between a robust public option and a health-care reform bill that can pass.
“That’s where the sighing comes in. At the end of the day, Senate liberals will choose something over nothing, but with the knowledge that many of the fundamental problems with American health care will endure. It will be a necessary choice, and a tragic one.”
So now there are three Democratic bad guys, obstructionists, blockers, whores — not just Leiberman but Landrieu and Lincoln. Remember their names and perhaps something can be done some day in some small way to make them pay in some way, and perhaps even cause them personal suffering. They can’t do what they’re pledging to do and skate free. There must be payback.
I have no interest in watching, much less buying, the new Blu-ray of David Fincher‘s Fight Club because the film itself was always so dark and murky and dreary-looking, as if the final negative was soaked in a vat of cappuccino.
Brad Pitt in a third-act scene from David Fincher’s Fight Club.
Unlike Anita Busch I’ve always loved what Fight Club was saying about how we all need to act in bolder and braver ways and embrace the real and the feisty and free our souls from the narcotizing effects of corporate branding, etc. And I worship the final shot of the buildings collapsing but I don’t care for (and never will care for) the third-act revelation about Brad Pitt and Ed Norton being one and the same guy.
But to watch the damn thing has never been all that pleasant and so I think I’ll just it go, now and forever. I’ve seen it twice and read the book once, and that’s enough.
DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze says that given how “this is such a dark film, the improvements in the move to HD are more subtle than one might see in other comparisons we’ve done. However, they certainly exist with the previous DVDs being hazier with a yellow/greenish mask.”
No — not yellow or green as much as coffee brown.
“Grain is very prevalent and blacks are not frequently crushed but I saw a few instances where figures appeared a bit waxy,” Tooze continues. “The visuals have a very artistic and thick look. Just don’t expect to be wowed by the extremely dark visuals. It’s crisp and tight with a frequent absence of light and demonstrative color.”
“Due in large part to your raving about Collapse, I checked it out last night via On Demand. Incredible film. Just hypnotic and completely absorbing and more than a bit troubling. A thinking person’s 2012 is right.” — HE reader Nick Clement, sent this afternoon.
The Criterion Bluray of Albert and David Maysles‘ Gimme Shelter, the legendary doc about the 1969 Rolling Stones tour that ended with violence and death at the 12.6.69 Altamont Speedway concert, struck me as an overpriced burn. It’s a typical Criterion-level high-quality package as far as it goes, but it’s not worth $40 because it doesn’t look all that different from the last DVD, which was issued in 2000 and was clearly an upgrade at the time and looked pretty good on my Sony 36″ analog flatscreen..
Gimme Shelter was originally shot on 16mm so it can only look so good — I understand that. But when you pay $40 bucks you want a little of that ring-a-ding-ding eye-pop schwing, and Criterion’s high-def mastering just doesn’t deliver. It looks good but not “oh, mama.” You could pop in that same nine year-old DVD into your Bluray player and not, I’m betting, see any discernible difference. Or so my recollection is telling me.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I know I was underwhelmed the second I started watching the Criterion Blu-ray. My first thought was, “This?”
I don’t have an amplified stereo system connected to my Bluray player but the sound that came out of my Panasonic plasma speakers sounded murky and distorted and basically unpleasant. Yes, I know — DTS HD Master Audio with surround and stereo mixes, and it sounds like shit.
I was able to detect visual improvement in WHV’s Bluray of Michael Wadleigh‘s Woodstock, which was also shot on 16mm, but not at all here.
Amazon says that the regular DVD version of this Criterion release is going for $30. Even that is too much for what you get.
And of course I had to go to Wikipedia Gimme Shelter page to learn some stuff I never knew.
Frame capture from Gimme Shelter of Meredith Hunter (dressed in green) a millisecond before he was stabbed at the Altamont concert by Alan Passaro (directly to Hunter’s left).
The Grateful Dead are filmed as they approach the Altamont fairgrounds and are told by Santana’s Mike Shrieve that some members of Hells Angels, the California motorcycle gang hired by concert organizers as security guards, have been beating up onlookers and musicians alike (including the Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin, who was knocked unconscious) — but you’d never know from the Criterion Bluray.DVD that the Dead declined to play because of this.
You’d also never know that Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills and Nash also played Altamont.
Amy Taubin‘s essay reports that four people died during the Altamont concert, but she doesn’t mention that aside from the stabbing of Meredith Hunter by a Hells Angel that the other three deaths were accidental — two by a hit-and-run car accident and one by drowning in an irrigation canal.
You’d also never know that Alan Passaro, the Angel who stabbed and killed Hunter, was found not guilty of murder due to a claim of self-defense. You also wouldn’t know that Passaro was found dead in 1985, floating in Santa Clara’s Anderson Reservoir with $10,000 in his pocket. (Wikipedia reports that “foul play was initially suspected but was never confirmed” — hilarious!)
Criterion’s Gimme Shelter Blu-ray and DVD streets on 12.1.
“I think certain criticisms that I’ve heard about myself repeatedly start to linger,” Fantastic Mr. Fox director Wes Anderson has told L.A.Weekly‘s Joe Donnelly. “The things that I think about are whether or not I’m telling the same kind of family stories and whether these movies are so meticulously art-directed or organized that people can’t get into the story.
Fantastic Mr.Fox display in window of Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman.
“The hardest things are just the movies you spend years on. Not everybody’s occupation in their life is [about] this moment where it’s kind of yes or no, where there’s a kind of deciding moment for the three years you just spent. And when the movie comes out, it can go badly.
“I feel like with Darjeeling Limited, I got a lot of people saying I was repeating certain things. But for me, I was doing a movie in India about these three brothers and those things are different. I mean, it’s in India. It’s a completely different movie.
“In the end, I just do whatever I do, probably,” he says.
Variety‘s Pamela McLintock is reporting that Summit’s New Moon will take in $140.7 million for the weekend, which is the third-biggest opening of all time, trailing only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3. With Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest bumped out of the third-highest slot, it’s also fair to say that New Moon now holds the distinction of being the most sluggishly-made, most agonizing-to-sit-through epic grosser of all time. I’m not looking for the “negative angle”…really. This honestly struck me as a fair observation. Has there ever been a worse film that has made box-office history? I’m asking.
I’ve been looking for the Hot Blog or “Blanky Weeks to Oscar” piece in which David Poland predicts that Pixar’s Up will win the Best Picture Oscar. Because that’s what he’s been saying in conversation and presumably believes and intends to state in well-ordered prose sometime fairly soon. If he’s saying that Up should win, fine…no problem, his opinion. But if he’s serious about Up actually taking the Big Prize then I’m flabbergasted.
Up will be lucky to be Best Picture nominated. Enough people believe this may happen that I’ve allowed myself to be goaded into predicting that Up may wind up as one of the ten. But I don’t think it should, and a lot of others feel the same way. My argument all along (and here we go with the old Rio Grande routine) is that animation is Mexico and live-action is the U.S. of A., and never the twain should meet.
Mexican artists should be proud of their own turf and celebrate their unique flavor and culture and personality and brushstrokes…the wholeness that is theirs and theirs alone. Did Luis Bunuel need to be embraced by the mainstream Hollywood industry to feel validated? Of course not, and neither should Pixar or Disney animated features (among others) need the endorsement of the Best Picture category to feel as if they’ve really made it. The Best Animated Feature Oscar is a huge honor. It should be more than sufficient.
But even if people are determined to ignore this reasoning, Up — as I said during the Cannes Film Festival several months ago — is “a fairly square and tidy thing…a spiritually uplifting ride that is nonethless too immersed in buoyant punchiness and mainstream movie-tude, which basically boils down to Pixar’s always-front-and-center task of giving the family audience stuff to laugh at and go ‘oooh’ and ‘aahh’ about, to finally matter all that much. It’s too entertaining, to put it another way, to sink in all that deeply.”
The Up themes are, of course, universally stirring. Perhaps too stirring or, put another way, too all-over-the-map. You’re really working all corners of the room when your film is about warming your heart, the blooming of love, finding your dreams, making a family, dropping your guard, standing up for your friends, finding courage and fulfillment, nurturing the past (as well as letting go of it) and embracing the now. It’s like Up is a politician saying anything he thinks will strike a chord with voters and thereby get himself elected.
Up revels in this thematic smorgsasbord “and in a peppy, delightful and at times Chaplinesque way,” I noted. “Particularly in a silent sequence that tells the story of loving marriage over the course of seventy years or so. And without going cheap or coarse. It’s about as good as this sort of thing gets.”
But I sure didn’t see Up as a metaphor for anything in my life, I can tell you. It’s just a high-strung animated story with a lot of gee-gosh stuff going on and some recognizable heart-and-spirit issues propelling the two main characters.
And I really and truly think there’s something ill-advised about a film creating a morbidly obese adolescent character, Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), since the Up makers knew full well that this balloon-shaped kid represents a high percentage of American kids today, and that this would subliminally be seen as a kind of endorsement of obesity, which is as dangerous and deadly as drug usage. Would Pixar have gone with a Russell who snorts heroin or sips whiskey out of a flask? Of course not, but an obese Russell is fine because half the kids in the malls today look like him so what’s the problem, right? Our life, our country, our culture…diseased and heading for a fall.
“If this gets into the press, I will know it came from you…and I will rain down on you so hard, you’ll have to be reassembled by fucking aircraft investigators. You breathe a word of this to anyone, you mincing fucking [expletive], and I will tear your fucking skin off, I will wear it to your mother’s birthday party and I will rub your nuts up and down her leg…right?”
Peter Capaldi‘s Malcolm Tucker says this in response to a not-entirely-trusted team member who has accused Tucker’s assistant of being a leaker himself with the following rant: “I could draw you a diagram if you like…it’s like a fucking swine flu pandemic…you’re like the man who fucked the monkey who gave us AIDS…monkey shit on your balls, not mine.”
All of which reminds me that “the crowd” (as in King Vidor) never went along with my ardent suggestions that Capaldi be considered as a stone-cold nominee for Best Supporting Actor for his In The Loop ranting. (Not even the fair-minded Scott Feinberg went along with this.) Because, you know, In The Loop is essentially an Armando Ianucci British TV series made into a feature and because Capaldi’s performance is all about profane tirades and it’s hard to understand everything he says because of his Scottish accent and because Loop didn’t make enough money and so on. Right?
But people will be talking about Capaldi’s Malcom in pubs, columns and industry parties for years to come while whomever finally wins the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year….well, I’m sure he’ll be remembered.
There’s a bit of an Invictus screening issue hanging in the air as we speak, having to do with fairness between the coasts. The Left Coast blogging crew saw Clint Eastwood‘s latest directorial effort — an inspirational Nelson Mandela rugby movie with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon — on the Warner Bros. lot two or three days ago. They were told absolutely no reviews or Twitterings until Monday, 11.30. The film opens on Friday, 12.11.
The New Yorkers haven’t seen it yet, and the only locked-down Manhattan screening I’ve been told about is happening on Tuesday, 12.1. There’s also been a mention of a screening here after the Thanksgiving holiday, which could technically mean on Friday the 27th or Saturday the 28th. But when people say “after the holiday” they usually mean “after the holiday weekend.” If this is the case then the Manhattanites won’t be able to see it until Monday at the earliest which means the L.A. onliners will have the first word. (And you know some will jump the gun and go on Sunday night, 11.29…right?)
So in the interest of even-handedness it would be nice if the “after the holiday” NY showings meant 11.27 or 11.28.