January 2005 Archives

Village Idiocy

Bashing The Village, of course, is easy. But out of M. Night Shyamalan’s plodding, over-deliberate bore -- neither intellectually stimulating nor marginally entertaining -- could have been salvaged a good, serious, potentially wrenching exploration of the concept of the social contract.

Pity the Rich Genius

I’m not quite sure how one quantifies it, but Crain’s Chicago Business has decided that writers given half-million-dollar MacArthur “genius” grants become fat, slovenly pigs. Actually, the publication has found a correlation between getting one of these awards and a significant decline in the quality and quantity of an author’s output. There’s even a handy, authoritative chart! Is there a cause-and-effect relationship here, or is the MacArthur Foundation simply an excellent judge of when writers are past their primes? (Via Salon.)

Year of the Biopic

I’ve never put much credence in the Academy Awards, but this year’s nominees represent a particularly strange trend. Three biopics among the Best Picture nominees? I’m a little surprised that Sideways and Million Dollar Baby snuck in, with Kinsey, Alexander, Beyond the Sea, and The Motorcycle Diaries also in the running.

Film Rotation pointed me toward an article that does an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating how motion-capture technology itself (as used in computer-animated movies) is only the means to an end, not the end itself. In the case of The Polar Express, the author argues (and shows), the animators botched the detail work, resulting in bizarre-looking, seemingly possessed characters. By way of comparison, he offers Gollum and the decidedly unrealistic CGI of The Incredibles.

Water Torture

Open Water would barely be worth the effort of dismissing except for some shockingly enthusiastic reviews. So to prevent you from wasting 80 minutes of your valuable time with this piece of shit, I’m wasting considerably less of your valuable time with the piece of shit that you’re presently reading.

With its sixth feature, Pixar succeeds wildly at its first human endeavor. But beyond The Incredibles’ myriad charms as entertainment, the movie could prove to be groundbreaking, building a bridge between the studio’s wonderful family-oriented work and a new way of making fantasy pictures. It portends great things.

Following the lead of Slate’s Movie Club, a group of five movie bloggers — including Snob favorite Liz Penn of The High Sign — has started The Conversation.

Don’t Like Mike

As a longtime despiser of all things Michael Jordan, it’s nice to see that I’m not alone in my distaste. Charles Pierce dismantles the iconic huckster/former basketball player for Slate: “He talked like a man raised by focus groups.” And: “He’s gone from the game without a single footprint. He built upon the work of others, but he left very little of his own behind.”

At the request of my wife — who is irritated that Red Sox Haiku isn’t updated more frequently — I offer this poetry gem, written in crayon by us over beer one night:

A curse that ne’er was
has finally been banished.
Thank you, young Theo.

Memories of Wilco

Culture Snob favorite Fiona Apple apparently is being held hostage by her label. Actually, her record is, and some fans are miffed and demanding the CD’s release. Extraordinary Machine was finished in 2003 and deemed not commercial enough by Sony Music/Epic Records.

A protest action is planned for the week of January 24.

Forced Whimsy

Watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou initially created a pleasant sensation -- ah, yes, my old friend Wes Anderson -- that over two hours turned tedious and finally grating. Anderson has taken his love of artifice and dry humor to its logical end and proves that it doesn’t work. Now, hopefully, he can go back to making rewarding movies.

Butchies, The, Make Yr Life, PJ Harvey’s Uh Huh Her, Tift Merritt’s Tambourine, Probot, and Annie Quick’s Bigger

Music Top 10s

Rolling Stone collects its critics’ individual top-10 lists here.

Join the Movie Club

Slate’s always enjoyable Movie Club is back in action for a pillow fight over the movies of 2004.

Maria Full of Grace is a straightforward, clinical, nearly artless movie that starts out as a rote tract on the human cost of the drug trade and eventually builds itself into a story in which the audience has an emotional investment. In the end, it sits somewhere between the brilliant and razor-sharp British miniseries Traffik and its obvious, too-condensed American re-make Traffic (directed by Steven Soderbergh).