Monthly Archives: October 2012

Brazil

 

There is an explanation for this picture.  It’s a perfectly newsworthy photograph.  Seriously.  See below.

 

*****

 

The Cycle - Season 2012

 

When I was a kid, I once asked my father what he thought of the comedian Red Skelton.  My dad said that he didn’t care for Skelton because he laughed at his own jokes.

I’m reminded of that every time I watch the spawn of Bill Maher’s Politically IncorrectThe Five and Red Eye on Fox News, and The Cycle on MSNBC (above).  All three shows feature segments in which a host reads from a prepared “humor” piece.

Problem is, these monologues are rarely laugh-out-loud funny, yet they are greeted with howls of forced laughter from the other panelists.  About the only time something genuinely humorous occurs in the world of politics, it’s spontaneous or accidental — like the angry Iraqi man hurling his shoes at a ducking George Bush.

 

*****

 

Coulter

 

Ann Coulter and activist Kevin Powell engaged in a polite debate on Joy Behar’s show:

Powell:  “You’re clearly a racist.”

Coulter:  “You’re clearly a moron.”

 

Now that’s funny.

 

*****

 

In that same spirit of civil discourse, here is my take on that fat lady singing the blues in Wisconsin:

Stop whining and go home, Miss Piggy.  Your 15 minutes are up, and the only “bully” we’re seeing is you.

 

Livingston

 

*****

 

Geez, Arnold, I watched you hem and haw on 60 Minutes and I almost felt sorry for you.  At times, you resembled a … girlie man?

 

GirlyMan2

 

*****

 

“Television is where it’s at … and I don’t disagree.”Entertainment Weekly movie critic Lisa Schwarzbaum.

You have to feel a bit sorry for long-time film critics like Schwarzbaum and Roger Ebert, who are often reduced to two choices at today’s cinema:  small, independent movies that no one will see, or the latest brain-dead superhero/comic book/special-effects extravaganza, which is made for and marketed to teenagers.  Meanwhile, all of the best writers have migrated to cable channels like FX, AMC, Showtime, and HBO.

 

*****

 

Brazil2

 

That does it.  If Romney wins, I’m moving to Brazil.

 

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Frozen

 

Frozen River     Hollywood was delinquent when it finally gave an Oscar to Melissa Leo for 2010’s The Fighter; she should have won two years earlier for her role in this dramatic thriller, in which she plays a hard-bitten mother of two boys who gets involved in human smuggling on the New York-Canadian border.  The movie, from first-time writer-director Courtney Hunt, has atmosphere up the wazoo, with a near-perfect mixture of blue-collar pathos and nail-biting suspense.  The connection is Leo, who manages to garner empathy for a “trailer trash” mom who’s alternately heartless and heartbreaking.  Release:  2008  Grade:  B+

 

*****

 

Snow

 

The Snowtown Murders     Snowtown is a two-hour journey into hell that — assuming you don’t leave the room — grabs you and doesn’t let go.  It’s the story of Australia’s most notorious serial killer, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), whose sinister charisma sucked in disciples and ultimately led to a rented building filled with bodies soaking in acid.  Everything and everyone in this film is depressing — not just the killings, but also the joyless, blue-collar lifestyle of suburban Adelaide.  Unpleasant stuff, to be sure, but also powerful, and Henshall is unforgettable.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B+

 

*****


Cortex

 

Cortex     This nifty little French thriller is notable for its unusual hero (old) and setting (a home for people with Alzheimer’s).  Andre Dussollier plays a retired detective who doesn’t remember his own son, but whose cop instincts tell him that fellow patients are dying under suspicious circumstances.  Dussollier is magnetic, but Cortex’s pedestrian plot has a few too many holes.  Release:  2008  Grade:  B-

 

*****

 

Carnage

 

Carnage     Near the beginning of Carnage, after meeting the liberal Longstreets (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) and the conservative Cowans (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet), Brooklyn parents meeting to discuss a playground scuffle between their sons, my feeling was, “I don’t want to spend an entire movie with these people.  They are all smug and annoying.”  I changed my mind thanks to some terrific actors and a bottle of Scotch that loosened their tongues and stripped away their social armor.  Director Roman Polanski simply sets up shots and lets his actors roll.  The result is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with a wicked sense of humor.  Release: 2011  Grade:  B+

 

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by Suetonius

Twelve


Complain all you want about our current leaders, but their flaws are chicken feed compared to those of the power-crazed, toga-clad rulers of ancient Rome.  For proof, we have this series of short biographies of the Roman emperors, written by someone who was actually there, the Roman scholar Suetonius.

As I read, I would sometimes begin to cut a given ruler some slack, deciding that – at least compared to the others – he wasn’t so bad.  And then I’d learn that he tortured and executed some unfortunate peasant for a trivial offense.  And that he helped himself to a senator’s comely wife.  And that he did worse.  Much, much worse.

But I’ll give the emperors this:  They didn’t discriminate with their atrocities.  Most of them were apparently bisexual, using men, women, relatives, and children as sex toys, and they were just as likely to decapitate a general as a fruit seller.

 

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False3

 

In the 1990s, if you wanted to make a great film about crime in small-town America, the formula was simple:  cast Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton.  Thornton and Paxton worked magic twice – first in 1992’s One False Move, then again in 1998’s A Simple Plan.  Click here to watch the former, free of charge.

 

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