The Dark Knight Snoozes

Christopher Nolan desperately needs a sense of humor.

The Dark Knight Rises is so grim, so self-serious, that at some point halfway through the 2 hour and 40 minute slog, I just started laughing.

In no particular order, my thoughts:

-Increasingly, I’m beginning to realize and (appreciate) how much Heath Ledger made The Dark Knight watchable. Sure Bane has a weird voice and his neck is freakishly thick, but as a villain there’s not much that makes him compelling. I am not a comic book diehard, so I don’t know if that’s Nolan’s fault or the people that originally wrote Bane’s character. One thing’s for sure though, Heath Ledger’s Joker freaked the hell out of me because there was no backstory, no explication for his wanton, anarchic need for violence. That’s what was chilling. That and the bad clown makeup.  Read the rest of this entry »


Mo’ Better is best

My first exposure to a Spike Lee joint came courtesy of my 11th grade US history class. Actually it wasn’t a class, it was an after school AP review session for all the cool kids who fancied themselves smart and edumacated (sic). The teacher who taught the session was very popular among a certain subset of intelligent social justice types, about half of whom now appear to be in Teach for America. (You did good Mr. D.)

Anyway, we watched Bamboozled, which is not–it’s safe to say– one of Lee’s finest moments. All of his worst tendencies are on display. His heavy-handedness. His lack of focus. Bad acting. (Lawd have mercy–Damon Wayans’s white voice!) It’s supposed to be a satire but the film is relentlessly humorless.

I judged Mr. Lee so hard after watching Bamboozled. It certainly didn’t help that it seemed like Lee was always taking something too far, like a bitter old uncle. But I guess it’s to his credit that I’ve always gotten an avuncular vibe from him. He cares about black people. He’s very earnest in that way.

The problem is sometimes that unbridled passion can make his films too absurd. Jungle Fever and She’s Gotta Have It, had that effect on me. Do the Right Thing I’ve tried and failed to finish. Malcolm X I’ll conquer when I have three solid hours to spare. (UPDATE: Conquered it. It’s up there.) Read the rest of this entry »


Margaret, a masterpiece?

To be 17 again. What a nightmare that would be. Teenagers, through no fault of their own, are generally awful people. By 17, you’d think the worse would be over but watching Kenneth Lonergan’s much ballyhooed Margaret yesterday confirmed for me that sometimes, the worst is yet to come.

First, though, a few notes on Margaret’s production:

Last month, Joel Levell for The New York Times Magazine wrote a pretty breathless piece of sycophancy about Margaret, the so-called masterpiece from critic darling Kenneth Lonergan that no one got to see because issues over whittling down the originally three hour long film to a more manageable 150 minutes were too much to bear. The film, shot in 2005–a lifetime ago, you’ll discover if you watch, was finally released for public consumption last year, but Longeran was so disappointed by that version that, encouraged by a few film critics who clamored for the release of the real thing, ‘ Lonergan went ahead and screened the near-three hour version, soon to come in DVD form, at New York’s Landmark Theater for critics and the public this past Monday. Read the rest of this entry »


Team Ocean

 I can listen to Frank Ocean’s voice for hours on end—and incidentally– I have been. Not only is his falsetto crystalline, his lower register has this fascinating way of sounding reedy and monotone, but yet so beautiful. It’s what made his breakout single, “Novacane” so aurally arresting. His voice sounded as numb as the emotions he described so effectively.

Ocean is having a Moment right now and deservedly so. His major label debut Channel Orange is out-of-this-world good. It gets better with each listen.

I was on Team Ocean ever since I heard “Novacane” and “Songs for Women” on Nostalgia, Ultra, his mixtape. It’s so rare to hear a song that tells a story in most pop music today, but especially in R&B. Historically, R&B has been the genre for lust, love, and heartbreak. Lyrics are usually pretty generic so the listener can insert himself into the narrative, nodding along to Al Green when he sings forlornly, “How can you mend a broken heart?” Read the rest of this entry »


A note

I worry about this generation sometimes. I really do. I’m afraid we live in an America where the greatness of Barbra Streisand is not fully understood or fully appreciated. There are people my age and younger who only know her as Ben Stiller’s ultra-Jewish mother-in-law in Meet the Parents or as the woman that Rachel from Glee keeps going on about. This worries me, because Barbra Streisand  is the second greatest popular music vocalist of our time.* (The first, if you’re curious is, Aretha Franklin.) Do you know that Barbra Stresiand is the best-selling female vocalist ever? Did you know that?  Forget Yentl. Forget Ordinary People, that overrated piece of schmaltz, forget A Star is Born. Forget the EGOT.

Just start with the voice.

Watch this. I know it’s obvious, but it’s the best demonstration of Barbra’s breathtaking agility.  Read the rest of this entry »


About last night…

There is such a thing as too beautiful. This is not a compliment masquerading as an insult. This is just an insult.  Rob Lowe in the rather dreadful 1986 film  About Last Night (yes, I’m that bored) is simply too beautiful. As Lowe has gotten older, his face has inevitably cragged. But as a 22-year-old playing older than his years in About Last Night, his face is otherworldly. Perfectly symmetrical, eyes just blazing, cheekbones sculpted at unbelievable, model angles. It’s weird. It’s distracting.

Rob Lowe plays Danny, a college dropout who works as a restaurant supplier person in Chicago. His best friend is Bernie (Jim Belushi, always, I thought, unfairly tagged as the lesser Belushi. Until I saw this movie. Why invite the inevitable comparisons by playing such a John Belushi-like character, Jim?), a horrible miscreant of a person, who is just so contemptible in this film that how and why Danny and Bernie remain friends is one of the film’s unsolved mysteries. After a softball game, Danny and Bernie go to a bar where Danny picks up the enchanting Debby (Demi Moore), an advertising designer. The subsequent relationship that unfolds draws the ire of Debby’s best friend Joan (Elizabeth Perkins, who I just realized was in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. She is such an underrated fox. Her eyes are beautiful.) Read the rest of this entry »


‘Magic Mike’ review

Magic Mike was exactly what I thought it would be, which is to say, good.  After proving he could use that hard body and dumb face to hilarious effect in 21 Jump Street, Channing Tatum pulls off a more dramatic role in Magic Mike, without any of the wooden acting that seemed to dog his earlier days. In a movie that definitely didn’t need to be as good as it is, Tatum is really appealing–as more-personality-than-I-would-expect-but-still-stuck-in-the-requisite-love-interest-slot, Brooke (Cody Horn) says of Tatum’s stripping, “I get it. I get it.”

Matthew McConaughey is also fantastic as Dallas, the strip club’s head honcho. Perhaps stability in his personal life has emboldened McConaughey to take bigger, crazier risks in his film roles–the years of lifeless rom coms seem far behind him.

And certainly for all the inherent campiness of the genre, Stephen Soderbergh and company manage to make the film feel realistic. The profession certainly isn’t glamorized and the Tampa his cameras capture is at turns, stunning and sinister.

The only weak spot really is Alex Pettyfer as the movie’s naif. He just doesn’t play strung-out-on-ecstasy convincingly.