Thursday, June 10, 2004

Bush or Wiggum?

Who said the stupid line? Play the game and try to beat my 89%.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Pistons choke on Jarmusch's smoke

* Detroit lost the series. I don't see the Pistons recovering from their heartbreaking loss last night. They were one foul away from an insurmountable 2-and-0-and-going-back-home-for-3-more lead. But Larry Brown fucked up. All 20 million people or so watching the game knew Kobe was angling to get off a three with the Lakers trailing by three. And most of 'em figured he'd sink it. So why didn't Brown tell his team to foul? Is it because, as Brown repeats in his drone-like way, his teams play "the right way"?

I've no clue what "playing the right way" means, but the decision itself clearly led to catastrophic consequences for the Pistons. This is a no-brainer: When your team's up by three with 10 seconds left, foul as soon as the ball is inbounded. (Detroit had the chance to foul Shaq on the inbounds, but didn't do it.) When you foul, you leave the trailing team two options: (1) hit the first free throw, then try to grab the rebound off an intentional miss on the second, then score a fg to tie or win. (2) hit both free throws, foul immediately, and hope the other team misses one of two, then score a fg to tie or win. For either option to work, the trailing team has to execute perfectly on a host of variables: free throws, rebound, etc.

The alternative is to overplay the three point line, but that strikes me as a particularly poor option when the other team runs out a guy named Kobe Bryant.

* Salon has an interesting article on the effectiveness of candidates placing fundraising ads on political blogs.

* Kevin Drum, the most consistently informative left-of-center political blogger in recent weeks (as Josh Marshall slacks), posted two noteworthy items yesterday. The first is a comparison of Bush to LBJ -- his argument is that Bush misinterpreted the electoral mood and overstretched Reaganism in the same way LBJ misinterpreted the national mood and overstretched the New Deal. I think he's right on.

The second links to a chart that shows Bush voters to be fatter than Gore voters. Or more precisely, the chart shows that voters from states with high obesity rates voted for Bush disproportionally over Gore.

* Coffee & Cigarettes is, of course, uneven, being a collection of shorts that Jarmusch shot over a sixteen year period. But if you're a fan of Jarmusch (as I am), you'll likely groove to the absurdist deadpan humor and shimmering black & white photography of cool cats downing brew and blowing smoke. Like everyone else, I think three shorts stand out: Coogan & Molina, Blanchett & Blanchett (featuring some amazing work with a stand-in to get those perfectly timed reaction shots down), and RZA, GZA and Bill Murray. Jarmusch is a keen observer of the one-on-one dynamic, and at its best, these vignettes key in on the shifting power dimension of personal interactions: the passive-aggressive demands on time and attention, the celebrity narcissism and self-conscious condescension, the interplay between the summoner and the person summoned, etc. Good stuff.

* Can't really identify anything wrong with Strayed, which, to borrow a bud's line, "pretty much defines 'solid'". But you'll excuse me for expecting a bit more out of the director of Wild Reeds than by-the-numbers ToQ fare[1]. Emmanuelle Beart can play these resolute, resilient women in her sleep. Pretty hot sex scene at the end, but otherwise instantly forgettable.

[1] Pedantic explainer for non-geeks. ToQ = "Tradition of Quality": a school of filmmaking associated with commercial European costume dramas like Jean de Florette, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Bon Voyage. Popularized by the French filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, ToQ emphasizes classical elements such as strong narrative progression, big themes, obvious emotional cues, conventional character arcs, and beautiful scenery. Often described as a "literary" approach to filmmaking.

syn. "middlebrow"; "Landmark movie".

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

More Gmail

A few friends (and family members) e-mailed me anti-Gmail articles after I announced an e-mail account switch (and subsequently blogged about it). Those fears are misplaced.

After a few weeks of Gmail use, I still maintain: Gmail rules. It's like using Eudora or Outlook with a web interface, but with some better features. And if it uses a spider program to crawl through my e-mail, well, firewalls and spam-filters do that, too. It's not a big deal. If you require absolute privacy, you should not use e-mail and only surf the internet on public terminals. That's the only fail-safe way to prevent mining for personal data.

P.S. Poked around and found Gmail accounts going for up to $80.00 on eBay. Mostly going for $20 or so, but someone reportedly made a cool grand hawking these invites. Also check out this story on an enterprising 15-year-old re-seller. That's the internet for you: a perfect market where price immediately reflects hype-driven demand.

Btw, I've got no Gmail invites for you. Sorry.

LA Film Festival 2004

So it's not TIFF or NYFF or SFIFF or even CIFF, but the folks programming the Los Angeles Film Festival, which runs from June 16-27, deserve some props. The fest is getting bigger and better.

Among the highlights of the program:

* Cowards Bend the Knee, the acclaimed art installation/film from the audacious Canadian maverick Guy Maddin. This is the big must-see of the fest for me.

* Red Lights, from Cedric Kahn, the director of underrated l'amour fou study L'ennui. This one is supposed to be really good.

* The rare 1948 Mexican movie La Otra starring Del Rio, which is supposed to be an acclaimed classic film. Haven't heard of it, but I'm eager to sample a few from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.

* The Mira Nair curated program, which includes two well-regarded movies from always fascinating (if uneven) auteurs: Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table (which I haven't seen) and Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies (which I saw on video eons ago and can't remember even a second of). More notably, Nair's arranging a rare screening of Guru Dutt's Pyaasa, considered by many to be the Citizen Kane of Bollywood pictures. I saw this one on TCM awhile back, a kind of Borzagian melodrama with relatively controlled musical sequences. Enjoyable enough, though given its reputation, a projected viewing is in order.

* A few other programs I may catch are: the no-budget Cannes' buzz item Tarnation, Raoul Ruiz's A Taste of Murder (never know what you'll get with Ruiz); Leconte's Intimate Strangers, which is likely another Tradition of Quality character study; Untold Scandal, the Korean Dangerous Liaisons (reportedly more intriguing in concept); and the eclectic video series.

* Among the ones I've seen: Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye, Dragon Gate Inn is beloved by the Film Comment crowd but is too mannered by half; Hero, an astounding visual feast, demands to be seen on the big screen (and Miramax apparently will finally release it soon). But Zhang Yimou's awkward fusion of Ashes of Time and Tsui Hark and reactionary nationalism put me off. Both are well worth catching in spite my lukewarm response.

* What ever happened to Scott Caan's excellent Dallas 362? It's not playing anywhere.

* If anyone has a hot tip or would like to meet up, drop a note. Or better yet, drop a comment below.