Friday, May 21, 2004

Postscript on Iraq attack and 2046

- Wedding celebration or insurgent hideout? The Guardian, predictably, sez wedding. The LA Times juggles both stories and seems to split the difference. Frankly, I don't see how all these bombing victims and witnesses can be making up the same story. But whenever I'm about to be sold on the wedding story, the word "Jenin" pops into my head, stirring doubt.

NB: Never mind. Check out this story, with an AP reporter verifying the existence of childrens' corpses, fragments of musical instruments, etc. The American General Kimmitt sounds less sure of their previous contentions that the strike killed mostly insurgents. Hmmm...

- 2046: the verdict is in -- as predicted by many, it turned out to be gorgeously incoherent. Variety liked it but wanted Wong to trim the last reel. The Guardian raves. Screen Daily really dug it. And SD's survey of critics has it in the lead for the Palme. The Frog reaction is still to be determined, though early reports have a split verdict. On the other side, Our Man at Cannes was underwhelmed, to say the least. He also reported only a polite reaction at the screening and mixed buzz on the streets. We'll see.

Frankly, my biggest disappointment is that Wong chose to spotlight the exceptionally limited Zhang Ziyi instead of the divine Maggie, who appeared for about 2 seconds according to the Variety review. Ugh. Well, maybe the mixed reaction will stir him to resurrect Maggie.

P.S.: if you haven't already done so, check out this post from V-Mort's blog, especially the comments. An engaging debate on the political significance of the Beheading of Berg v. Abu Ghraib.

P.S.S.: Who will get his Dogville/Dogshit review out first? Me or Michael Sicinski? Bets taken here.

One more techie item:

You're at a bar in SoMa and you're wondering who's around. Here's a new service that lets you alert your nearby friends (and friends of friends) where you are. sounds like a good idea...for hardcore scenesters and relentless networking tools. The search for the new Friendster continues.

Gmail: Or ain't I special?

So a number of people using the Blogger interface were invited to test Gmail, the much hyped Google e-mail service that started beta testing at the beginning of May. Hyped by techies and non-techies alike, demand for a G-mail account is reportedly so high that addresses have been auctioned off on E-Bay and a Gmail swap site has sprung up.

Too bad I didn't know how difficult it was to score a Gmail invite when I signed up, else I would've tried to score an address like or (Shortly after writing this, I found out that Gmail requires a minimum of six characters as your user name to counter spamming -- good job, Google.)
    Initial impressions:

    * Ease of use: the revolutionary feature of Gmail is that messages are threaded. That makes the layout work a little like ezboard, with the e-mail exchanges feeling conversational. It also eliminates the need for automatic copy of previous text (the dreaded ">").

    It's hard to overstate how much easier this feature makes e-mail browsing.

    * Search: As expected, the search function is pretty amazing. You can search by filters -- sender, subject line, text, etc. In fact, Gmail uses search filters instead of folders to sort, so you never have to spend eons moving messages to folders.

    * Address book: addresses are automatically saved, with a feature that allows for sorting by frequency of correspondence.

    * Shortcuts: haven't tried this yet, but one-stroke shortcuts are supposed to be a great feature.

    * Storage: 1,000 megs, man, or 1 gigabyte. More than I'll ever need. And hopefully, I'll stop paying for fucking Yahoo! mail's extra storage space. (The storage space is one key selling point for Gmail; I wonder how Yahoo! will respond?)

Absent a major revamping by Yahoo and Hotmail, I expect Gmail to eventually overtake those internet e-mail accounts in popularity. It's probably the first step in Google's eventual domination of the portal market.

I'm pretty loyal to Yahoo, easily the site I most frequently use, but you gotta hand it to Google for their innovations.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wanker comes in under the gun.

Wong Kar-wai reportedly flew in from Bangkok last night with the missing reels of 2046, which he had been cutting up until then. By wanking past the deadline, Wong forced the festival to reschedule some of the film's screenings.

Well, let's hope they were able to slap on some subtitles on this belatedly arrived section. And let's hope Our Man at Cannes, squeezed out of the first press screening, can make the midnight screening to assign that 61.

Added: Initial reaction from the first screening of 2046: gorgeous but confusing (like Ashes of Time, as I predicted?).

Another link! A.O. Scott, in the fastest turnaround in the history of the Times, fires off a (mostly) glowing piece on 2046 and the other Asian films at the fest. He didn't even dis Hong and actually liked Tropical Melody!

[Thanks to my buddy Mumon for the link.]

for V-Mort

Enjoy, bud.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Wedding in Blood

As citizens, we tacitly consent to the actions of our government. The government is our public voice, and that's one reason why any American citizen serious about personal and public morality should be deeply disturbed by Abu Ghraib, and the Iraq operation as a whole. At the very least, I would demand that people should not be conducting depraved acts or engage in careless killing of innocents when acting in our name.

Now, reports are in that U.S. helicopters have just slaughtered attendees at a wedding party, including numerous women and children. Their apparent crime: shooting celebratory shots in the air.

To be sure, we've gotten numerous reports of this kind of "collateral damage" in the last three years. There was a similar tragedy in Afghanistan, and there were times when harmless families were gunned down for not heeding a "halt" in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the army appeared to have taken strong measures to prevent unnecessary deaths, even as they carpetbombed the caves. Disturbed as I was by such reports of civilian deaths from Afghanistan (the LA Times provided fine and balanced coverage), I ultimately solaced myself by concluding that such accidents are unavoidable consequences of a necessary war.

By contrast, I can find no way to rationalize the slaughter of innocents in Iraq in our name. None. Some nutcases have been making the case that the Berg beheading video showed why we need to toughen up and destroy the enemy at all costs. Even putting aside their predictable hypocrisy and total lack of moral seriousness, these wingnuts never made the distinction that Abu Zarqawi, the man who beheaded Berg, is not in fact an Iraqi insurgent but an al Qaida associate. (Which further begs the question: do we really need to watch a gruesome beheading to understand that al Qaida is ruthless, demonic and Public Enemy #1?)

Zarqawi and his ilk should've been our target from the start. Zarqawi is an undisputed evil terrorist, the man who's likely behind the Spanish train attacks. Instead, we've been concentrating our resources on the legion of enemies we've created as a consequence of this invasion and botched occupation, including Islamo-nationalistic Iraqis like al Sadr and Sunni insurgents.

It turns out Bush had a couple of chances to take Zarqawi out before the war, but refused, reportedly fearing that such actions would jeopardize, politically, the rationale for war to depose the toothless dictator Saddam. Moreso than his failures to take al Qaida seriously before 9/11, taking out Zarqawi probably would've prevented 3/11. In switching enemies mid-war, Bush made the world more dangerous for us all.

If God really exists, a willful imbecile like Bush should by all rights be running a Radio Shack in Omaha into the ground. Would some Benovolent Supreme Deity really have put Rufus T. Firefly in charge of England during WWII, unless that Deity is also kinda sick & twisted?

It's no exaggeration to say that these last two months have been the most demoralizing of my life, entirely because our "elected" leaders, acting on our behalf in the world, have proven themselves to be a blight on humanity. I have little doubt that 100 years from now, historians will note the cruel joke that a badly designed butterfly ballot put into power the most inept American presidency since Warren G. Harding. [Link to this fascinating historian survey found via the Salon blog.]

NB: The Pentagon is now disputing the previous wedding party report, stating that they launched the AC-130 against insurgents and "foreign fighters" after being fired upon. The quotes from some Iraqi witnesses appear unreliable ("100 bombs?"). But corpses of children are seen on TV. Hmmm.....who to believe? Who to believe?

Parallel Universe + Guy Maddin Superstar

Apparently, this LA dude blogs largely about politics and film, and now posts daily reports from some cyclist cineaste at the Cannes Film Festival. He even linked to my Greencine post! And I would've never known had I not checked the referral page from Sitemeter.

Also check out: Matt Prigge's blog Kidney Bingos, who frequently updates with new substantive musings on movies old and new.

Other interesting hits to me from Sitemeter recently (because I have so much random text on my links section, this blog really fuck up a lot of google searches):

- A google search of "Ivan Drago photos"

- An AOL search for "Josh Beckett site"

- Some horndog looking for see-through photos of Kerry's daughter from Cannes: "Matt Drudge + Caroline Kerry + Dress + Cannes" (Here, I'll help you out, bud. Plus, it's "Alexandra"; seems you've confused Kerry with another JFK.)

- A google search for "Metric Assayas Clean" which led to me this story about the band Metric being featured in the new Assayas film. (Please let this movie be awesome.)

Final note: The Saddest Music in the World is much better than I've been led to believe. Typically demented and hilarious, but with melodramatic core that Guy Maddin that kinda takes seriously. It's a beautiful document of Maddin's mature style -- a potent stew of German expressionism spiked with bursts of Kino-eye kineticism that, unlike some of his less successful works, is completely keyed-in to the film's emotional ebb and flow. Nominee for scene of the year: Serbia v. Spain.

Can Cowards Bend the Knee be anything other than completely amazing?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Farenheit 9/11's Cannes Bow

From early reports here and here, Moore's made a surprisingly sober polemic that ties together well established facts about the catastrophic failure of the Bush presidency. He even appears (thankfully) to have kept his self-congratulatory persona off-screen most of the time in this new film. I never expected much new information from Moore, but if he can assemble these previously documented facts into a graceful form, I'll be ecstatic.

Given Moore's demonstrated disinterest in fashioning coherent arguments, I'm rather doubtful this new movie will be of much use to me. However, to take Moore's film as a work of art or journalism is almost beside the point. (Film, as an artform, has never been suited for rigorous political argument; a typical lead essay in Foreign Policy journal contains about 3000% more meat than the typical cinematic polemic. The medium's limitations is one reason why I'm generally not a big fan of cinematic political screeds.) Moore's clearly agitating for publicity and votes with the timing of this Bush broadside. And if his film can swing even 100 votes away from Shrub, all the more power to him.

Fact is, Moore has now filled the niche as the face of the populist Left. While Moore's demogoguery and cheap provocations aren't especially palatable to snotty pointy-heads, he nevertheless provides an important corrective to the right-wing propoganda that permeates the media, most prominently on Rupert Murdoch's Faux News Network. In other words, Moore's a necessary evil given this No Holds Barred political atmosphere. Speaking of Fox, John Carroll, the editor of the LA Times, delivers this stinging rebuke to that alleged news channel's disgraceful "journalistic" practices.

Hopefully, Our Man at Cannes will shake off his mid-fest despondency and give us a report.

Three more days until the new Wanker Wai...