Friday, July 25, 2003

Yanks/Sox Round 4

As I write, the Yanks and Sox are all tied up at 2. Pedro having thrown 100 pitches through 6. The stakes for this game couldn't be higher. Two years ago, the Sox stayed competitive with the Yanks until they faded in their now patented fall swoon. This season, the Sox's potent offensive attack leads the league in every important offensive category except homers, and Theo Epstein may have now assembled a staff with staying power. With the Yankees restocking (Williams and Nick ".900 OPS" Johnson returning, and Benitez added to fortify their shaky bullpen), we can't count on them to self-destruct. With the Sox 2 1/2 games back (and Pedro's start moved so he can face the Yankees), taking 2 out of 3 is crucial. If the Sox lose the series, the rest of the summer will be spent bracing myself for the swoon. Such is the curse of the Sox fan.

[Addendum: Misery averted!]

Pandora's Box (Pabst, 1929) A- Diary of a Lost Girl (Pabst, 1929) B+

Whoever's maintaining that altar to Louise Brooks, save some incense. I'll be there for worship tomorrow.

In Pandora's Box, Brooks plays Lulu (basically Aphrodite in a Lulu bob), goes around bewitching men with just by batting her eyes and curling her lips. She's irresistible, shuffling men like a deck of cards. What's thrilling is that Brooks makes you believe that even Jack the Ripper would turn helpless and weak when Lulu throws The Look at him. Brooks is *that* enchanting. Let's not forget the director Pabst, who's an extraordinarily lyrical filmmaker with a superb way of cutting between iconic close-ups and beautiful master shots that frame figures to one side. Pabst is like a materialist Sternberg, gazing pitilessly at people's capacity for greed and avarice. His is a world where the bottom line ultimately trumps everything -- loyalty, blood ties, friendship, even desire.

That materialist strain runs through the more sentimental melodrama Diary of a Lost Girl, which is exactly the kind of movie you'd expect from that title: an innocent's downward spiral of sexual degradation (which recalls for me the subsequently made Life of Oharu (1952) and Blonde Venus (1932)). The Mark, not psychosexual anxiety, ultimately dominates the lives of those who live in Pabst's Weimar Republic, though Pabst does a little bait-and-switch by playing the film first as an attack on the cruelty of traditionalism, especially its insistence on female purity. That's what motivated the family to abandon virginal Thymiane (Brooks), who was impregnated by her rapist. By throwing Thymiane into the gutter, Pabst places that pre-Reich German anxiety about money and livelihood in bold relief: "I gave the money to my sister so she wouldn't live the life I lead" the Brooks' fallen woman declares near the end of the film. Lost Girl lacks the electricity of Pandora's unabashed sexuality and chiaroscuro lighting. The trajectory is rather conventional, but it's sparked by a powerfully restrained *performance* by Brooks and Pabst's keen eye for gestures, walks, necks, and the elegant way in which a body turns. By emphasizing above all else smoky ambience, posing, gesture, dramatic lighting, iconic acting and human weakness, German Expressionism is the really the most *interesting* and timeless silent granddaddy of them all, the progenitor of everything from noir to Fassbinder to Wong Kar-wai. But above all, these Pabst films are loving odes to one of the most seductive movie goddesses of all-time. Where have you been all my life, Lulu?

The Most Annoying Current Topic

"Hey, you think Kobe did it?" "Ryan, you're a lawyer. What do you think? Guilty?"

You know what my answer is? "How the fuck should I know?" This case depends on primarily (1) physical evidence of rape, meaning bruises, tears, etc.; (2) and absent strong physical evidence, the other key factor is credibility of the parties, which is simply about playing into the biases of whomever is judging. Thus far, we know nothing about what the actual physical evidence is (all we have is that the prosecutor's office is confident in their assessment of that evidence). As for (2), I have no idea how anyone figures they can presume to *know* what a person is capable of simply because s/he watches the guy play basketball on TV 30 or 40 times a year, but everything being spewed on this front has been unpasteurized bullshit. Who can really know what anybody else is capable of?

One thing I would bet on is that race will be an issue. Kobe's accuser is white, in case you haven't heard. The race angle can cut many different ways. Black Conspiracy specialists will no doubt see this as another attempt to bring down a successful, clean-cut black man. On the other extreme, the Kobe conviction may well perpetuate the myth of the Untamable Black Penis popular amongst racists ("if even Kobe, all-around good guy can't control himself, what hope does a lesser black man have," this line of thinking would go). But Kobe is, like Jordan, Tiger, Will Smith, and, yes, OJ, one of those "cross-over" non-racially-coded black celebs, so he'll be less likely to be hampered by the kind of racial baggage that someone like Allen Iverson carries. Still, somehow, some way, race will become an issue -- perhaps not in the legal setting, but sociologically. Stayed tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

A Hasty Prelude

What am I into? Best to first answer the negative. I dislike self-delusion, tripe in pho, Forrest Gump, ideology, moral certitude, Ja Rule, religious fundamentalism, people who lack of curiosity, cold sores, humorlessness, dogmatic anti-intellectualism disguised as "macho common-sense" (read: talk radio), dogma, Dancer in the Dark, hyper-nationalism, neocons, feel-good British "art films", scabs (by that I mean blood-dried flesh wounds, not strike-breakers), identity politics, and pessimists (and I do recognize the irony of including this item here).

Let's answer the other question. I like looking at facts before rendering judgment, Eric Rohmer, Coltrane, reality unfiltered (or as unfiltered as possible), folks who are passionate about something, dumplings, Wong Kar-wai, Carole Lombard, Vertigo, trip-hop, the Chairman of the Board, screwball comedies, and the Boston Red Sox, among a host of other shit.

I expect that if I get any readers at all, it'll be folks looking for opinions on movies. Sorry guys, you all have to wade through the other crap. And I promise future entries, if any, will be funny. Or thought-provoking. Or at least free of spelling errors, though I can't promise impeccable grammar.

Getting vacuumed into this thing called the blogsphere

I'm not here to splurge my personal life in obsessive detail for strangers to dissect. No doubt some dirty laundry will be hung here, but this is mostly a way for me to memoralize some of my thoughts on various personal obsessions -- film, culture, electoral politics, and human relationships. If anyone can tell me how this blog will not descend into an orgy of navel-stroking narcissism, let me know. I'm not hopeful.