Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Place in the Sun

In 2006, the age of tabloids and celebrity gossip, it is sometimes difficult to remember that once upon a time Elizabeth Taylor was a respectable actress, and also stunningly beautiful. Of course part of this is her fault, for reducing herself to a punchline, but when you go back and look at some of her earlier films you realize what a great screen prescence she was. Her performance in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun is just one of many things to absolutely love about this film, and she was not even as good as Montgomery Clift!

I'm gonna say something outlandish here, but there is absolutely nothing that I did not like about this film. There is nothing that I would change about it. I loved every scene, every line, every performance. Visually the film has to be a masterpiece of black and white pictutres. Every shot looks so crisp. Close ups of Elizabeth Taylor make it seem as though the water in her eyes will seep through the screen. Scenes of the rich anmd wealthy in LA and their swank dance parties are done nearly as perfectly as similar scenes in last year's Pride and Prejudice. And when you step into the apartments of the less well off the mood and yearning for something better is palpable.

I was also suprised by my reaction to the story. Montgomery Clift plays George Eastman. He has hitchhiked out to LA after his very well off uncle promised him some work. He starts off with menial work at his uncles mill and winds up romantically involved with one of the coworkers, whom as an Eastman, he is not supposed to socialize with. Eastman's are a class above these other workers. However, as he works his way into his Uncle's good graces he also catches the eye of Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). The Vickers are in the same heightened social sphere as the Eastman's. Their vacations become front page news in the papers. As a romace begins to develop between Angela and George, he finds out he has gotten his previous lover pregnant. Of course, this can only end badly.

Now, in almost any other circumstance I would be livid and find myself thinking that George has to stand beside his pregnant girl, and provide for her. Yet, here I found myself hoping that something would work out for George that would allow him to continue his ascent to the upper class and be with Angela, whom he truly loved. Somehow, the story of the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks had me so much that I put aside moral obligations and rooted for George. And I didn't think twice about it till afterwards, the story had me that caught up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shock Corridor

One area of film I admittedly know nothing about is what is referred to as film noir. I can't recall any "classics" of that genre which I have even seen. I do however know that Samuel Fuller is associated with that scene, so when Shock Corridor in his half of the Netflix queue I had to make a point to see it.

The film is written, produced, and directed by Sam Fuller. It stars Robert Breck as Johnny Barrett. He aspires to win a Pulitzer Prize by solving a murder committed in an insane asylum that cops have been unable to solve. In order to solve it he will fake insanity and be admitted to the asylum after his lover (a wonderful Constance Towers) files a fake complaint under the guise of his sister about unwanted sexual advances. Of course this does not come easily, she first balks at the idea fearing that the insanity will rub off on him and he will be made insane himself. It doesn't take long though for her to go through with her part of the plan, apparently out of love.

Once in the asylum everything takes off. We are introduced to a black man who is a white supremacist and dons a KKK mask. A War Vet who believes he is a Civil War general, an large opera singing man who makes murderous gestures with his hands in the middle of aria's, and a nuclear physicist who has regressed to the mind of a 6 year old. All of these characters seem written very over the top, but thats perhaps part of the point. As Barrett tries to solve the murder he is forced to take part in their delusions to get the information he wants.

Sometimes during the stories that the inmates tell Fuller cuts away from the black and white that the story is told in and gives us stick color footage that loosely pertains to the issues the inmates are talking about. Racism, war, etc. These moments are really jarring but somehow do not take you out of the story. They seem to compliment the over the top story telling of the mental patients. Yet, one has to think that surely, they are there for Fuller to get across a political agenda, at least in part.

In my opinion Breck carries the film. A lot of the film is focused on his facial expressions as it seeemed at least half of it was voiceovers as his character Johnny Barrett walked the line between sanity and insanity. As I mentioned before it;s shot entirely in black and white, yet even in a well let mental hospital Fuller found good use of shadows and lighting at times for appropriate darker moments.

The film begins and ends with the quotation from a philosopher, "Whom God wishes to destroy, he first turns mad." And while at first we don't think much of it, when it shows up again at the end, it seemed to me Fuller was attempting to teach us something about the risk such foolhardy selfish ambitions as Barrett's.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Weekend Quick Hits

It's been an on and off week of posting here. Mostly due to tiredness, and the fact that it hurts to type. That wrist injury that I mentioned earlier, suffered in the soccer game hasn't gotten any better. And really, I think that something in there may be broken. Of course, there is a game Sunday, so I need to play. And after that I am not free till Wednesday, when I have a day off from work. So, that's when we will get it checked out. Ugh. But, some films and wild card fever have taken up my mind in the meantime.

3:10 to Yuma - Suddenly I am on a bit of a westerns kick. 3:10 to Yuma is one of the better one's I have seen though. It clocks in at just about 90 minutes so it is a quick watch. The last hour is incredibly tense and just fly's by. You think you are seeing maybe one of the better films you have ever seen, until the ending. A friend tells me to ignore the ending as it was just symptomatic of Hollywood at the time (1957), and that makes a bit of sense. It's based on an Elmore Leonard story, so the dialogue is quick and a bit more grey than some black and white moral dilema westerns. Given the way teh story progresses the camera also focuses much more on the faces of our characters than the expansive lanscapes of some other westerns. Apparently this is being remade,
and apparently Russell Crowe is due to star. I guess Elmore Leonard's name is still gold, with good reason. Now let's see if they can do something bout that ending.

Les Carabiniers Apparently critics hated this when it came out. It's certainly not the prettiest Godard to watch. Full of stock footage and title cards it's interesting as hell. It's a dark sometimes comedic ant-war film. The payoff comes during a postcard scene at the end. Much like the apartment scene in Contempt or bedroom apartment scene in Breathless during the scene at one point or another I felt as if it will never end. But then that eventually passes and I felt like I was seeing something special, or at least something different than I have seen before. And, it's those moments that keep me coming back to Godard, and make him my favorite director.

And finally, your eventual 2006 World Series Champion Philadelphia Philles. I've held off writing about them because I don't wanna jinx them. And it seem absurd, as I had written off this season as a disaster 3 or 4 times already. But somehow this team keeps fighting back. And now they are only 1 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. They are doing this with players like Chris Coste, Shane Victorino, Abe Nunez, and Joe Thurston getting regular at bats. Are you kidding me. If you told me those guys would be starting in August, I woulda guessed we have been mathamatically eliminated. What's even better? On a clear night I can get 1210 AM the Big Talker on my car stereo, and driving around to the final inning or so on my way somewhere hearing "Put this one in the win column for the Phitin' Phils!" is about the best phrase of summer. 2 months ago I never woulda guessed following this team would be so fun down the stretch, but they have made a believer of me. I fully expect this team to win the Wild Card now. How did this happen? I'll try not to analyze it and just enjoy it. Cause really, few things are more exciting than a competitive baseball team in September. It's as good as it gets.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Your 2006 Summer Session Eagles Update

I haven't written much since the first game of the season about our soccer team. There have been a few reasons for that. The first game of course we won, 10-2. Your truly made like Dado Prso, though with much less physical fitness and scored two goals. A flying start and we were 1-0.

5 weeks later our team is 3-3. Not terrible mind you, especially for a team that is only in it's first sesssion together. Not terrible when you consider how half the time we need help remembersing some of eachothers names.

This past week was the most frustrating game. A 6-0 loss to a team that coulda likely scored more goals if they weren't just dicking around. What made it even more frustrating, was that it was the first time I had played in nearly 3 weeks due to a pulled quad. What's more? I sprained my wrist fouling some chump into the wall with a few minutes left in the game.

I wonder if I will ever be 100% healthy during the course of the season. I am far to stubborn to let stuff heal properly. The pulled quad, the wrist, the lacerated ego. I was running a few times a week on my pulled quad, which never erally 100% healed. Yesterday I went down to 16th Street and kicked around for an hour, did some sprints, and ran. All on what might be the hardest soccer field in all of Indiana. It might as well be concrete. Again not good for my quad really.

At any rate, I can't picture not playing. My homeboy Spitz has new shoes for this weeks game and assures me they are championship quality. Can't miss that right? Besides that, i just have a place set in my mind where I want my fitness and match fitness (I love that phrase) to be by the end of this session. I definitely wanna keep playing more sessions. I may be joining even a second league. Now that I am out there the competitive itch is back. If only my body would catch up with my mind.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Henri Langlois - Phantom of the Cinematique

"I haven't seen that film yet, but I hope they mentioned how Langlois nearly singlehandidly save Western Civilization from the Nazi's in his bathtub"

That was the response of a friend on hearing that I had just viewed the documentary Henri Langlois - Phantom of the Cinematique. And while that statement sounds like ridiculous overstatement it's actually not far from the truth. As Langlois's woefully short Wikipedia entry states he was a pioneer of film preservation. But that really only tells a fraction of the tale.

Langlois risked his life numerous times to preserve films from the Nazi's. His passion for cinema led him to be called the Godfather of the French New Wave. His preservation of films allowed him to show films all the time at the Cinematique which was attended religiously by Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol. Put simply and bluntly, film would not be the same today were it not for the efforts and passion of Langlois.

The documentary itself is about 2 hours long, and while it may seem a bit overlong at times to those who don't have an interest in the subject, to those who do have an interest in film history, it is essential viewing. Vintage interviews with Langlois, footage of Truffaut and Godard, interviews with Chabrol. Footage of the demonstrations in the streets after Langlois was ousted from his position at the Cinematique. All of this is edited extremely well, and you can tell the documentary was a true labour of love. And really, few subjects are more deserving.

I can't speak highly enough of this viewing experience.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A bit more on St. Duncan Oughton

Yeah, I coulda just thrown this in as an update on yesterdays post. But it's game day, and it's the most excited I've been for a Crew game in at least 2 months. The Columbus Dispatch reports that Duncan will be inserted into the starting lineup this evening. After missing a season and a half with injuries he starts his very first game back. In a must win situation. There is much that can be said about why it's a smart move to bring him back, and what he means to this team. But Dunc's own words sum it up best...

"People can think what they want, that I’m going to put the team on my back or whatever," he said. "That’s untrue. The 30 guys next to me will be carrying me along as well. I’m just glad to be back in the swing of things, with the Crew emblem on the front of me and the No. 8 on the back.

God Save Columbus Crew.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Can a season be saved?

After the midweek loss to Real Salt Lake Columbus Crew head coach Sigi Schmid stated that this may be the darkest part, right before the dawn. It's been so dark, so long as a Crew fan it feels like the team and it's fanbase have been relocated to Alaska.

Before the Salt Lake game here were some depressing stats about Crew records within reach, compiled over at bigsoccer...

The league record for fewest goals in a season is 29 by Colorado in 2004. With 12 games left, the Crew has 16.

Fewest assists in a season: Columbus 2004: 32. Thus far in 2006: 12.

The MLS record for fewest shots in a season is held by the 2001 Crew with 331. Currently we stand at 226.

In 2003, Dallas had a record low of 133 shots on goal for the season; the 2006 Crew has 84 as of today.

So all those facts are encourging. Yet this weekend, we get Duncan Oughton back, and some of us, including me are very excited about this. Yes, it's true Duncan Oughton is not the most talented player on the block. It's also true that he has only 1 goal in his Major League Soccer career. It's further true that he is not a playmaker or someone to hitch an offense too. As a defender he has a propensity for awful fouls, and he wasn't the quickest kid on the block before Surgery that has kept out since the end of 2004.

Yet, I find his return as something that can turn this team around. We are only 5 points out of a playoff spot, though we have platyed two more games. And Duncan, was and can be again the heary of the team. This is a guy who loves to put on the black and gold. And after missing a whole season and a half, when he puts it on tommorrow night, he'll be ready to play.

This season has been disaster. And moreso than that it's just left me cold. Watching the games feels like chore more than joy.It's hard enough only having made it to one game this season, down from the 10-15 I have made it to the past few years. But if I was there, watching a team who has yet to win at home this season, shuffle through a different lineup each game, I doubt I would feel any stronger connection. There is some pieces there, it just hasn't worked. But I think my friend Hughesy summed it up best...

Absent a quality striker, there is some talent on the field and I'm excited as can be about Duncan's potential to get out there and emotionally put this team on his shoulders. If nothing else, he provides that one connection to the Crew that I've always loved and that has been missing this year, especially with Busch and Hejduk being injured.

Shit. Let's finish the season strong, boys....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Great New Wonderful?

Is Maggie Gyllenhall about to be typecast as a 9/11 actress? Of course not, because people will always remember Secretary. Yet, she's front and center in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and now she's at least close to that in The Great New Wonderful which is a movie set in New York exactly 1 year after the attacks.

I knew nothing about this film, it wasn't even on my radar, and here it is opening in Indianapolis this weekend. What's strager? It's from the guy who brought us Dude, Where's my Car> and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Strange. Yet, it opened at Tribeca to at least respectable reviews, if not very positive. And Ed-Johnson Ott seemed to like it enough. There has to be some deeper reason that I am attracted and wanting to see this film and World Trade Center for that matter. I just haven't taken the time to figure it out yet.

At any rate, this seems at least from the trailer to be headed a much different, maybe more delicate direction than Stone's film. It opens at Key Cinemas on South Keystone this weekend. I may just head on down and see it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Young Mr. Lincoln

After watching Young Mr. Lincoln earlier this week I found myself immediately starting the film over and watching it again. It seems to me that Young Mr. Lincoln more so than a simple biopic is one of the first superhero pictutres.

John Ford is a director who was known to have a certain vision of what America was, is, and should be. The many westerns he made through his career show a view of the West and of community in the West. And this community is sometimes brought about by legend. Remember the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance when we are shown in the West that legend is sometimes more important to community than truth. So it's really no suprise that in this "highly fictionalized" account of Abe Lincolns earlier days we see him set up as hero in waiting.

The first shot we get of Abe Lincoln (Henry Fonda, who was absolutely pitch perfect) here is leaning backwards in a chair before after being introduced by a friend as a meber of the blessed Whig party. He gets up to give a very short speech to a gathered crowd, and is modest throughout. It doesn't seem like much but children look at eachother and grin afterwards, Ford's way of telling us the respect he has of his community. Compare this with a scene further down the line in the movie when Lincoln stops a lynching singlehandidly by giving throwing himself between a mob with torches and teh door. He starts out saying he can lick anyone in the mob, but then goes onto to self depreciating humor and Bible quoting. As Stephen Douglas even mentions, he has a certain talent.

There are also those iconic Ford shots. Lincoln walking by the river which plays a huge role in the movie. A shot also after he becomes a lawyer that freezes him in the frame in the hat and suit which many of us picture Lincoln in as a President. Ford obviously know what he was doing here.

But there is also that enigmatic side to him. He cheats at a game of Tug of War at the fair. That's not the Honest Abe that we know. When he takes money from the clients that he defended, even though "it's all they have to give" is it because he knows that it would be a bigger insult not to take it or is it because he just wants the damn money? Is he talking down and patronizing to the people of the town, or is it a genuine self depreciating humor? Whatever the case, all those moments are there because if we will have a hero at all, it needs to be one we can relate to somehow.

There are those who think this is a weaker Ford film. And sure it's formulaic, but that's part of the point, isn't it? It's the building of a legend, it follows certain rules, and in the end it only works of the legend is told well. And here, it more than works thanks to Ford and Fonda.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Great News from Criterion Collection

It's a short list of things make me happier than a 13-0 victory for the Phillies over the Mets. But at the top of that list is films by Krzysztof Kieslowski. And waking up to confirmation that Criterion Collection is issuing The Double Life of Veronique, well that made me very happy.

And check out these extras...

• Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf
• Three short documentary films by Kieslowski: Factory (1970), Hospital (1976), and Railway Station (1980)
• Kieslowski -- Dialogue (1991), a documentary featuring a candid interview with Kieslowski and rare behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Double Life of Veronique
• 1966 -- 1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker, a 2005 documentary tracing the filmmaker's work in Poland, from his days as a student through The Double Life of Veronique
• A 2005 interview with actress Irene Jacob
• New video interview with cinematographer Slawomir Idziak
• New video interview with composer Zbigniew Preisner
• The Musicians (1958), a short film by Kieslowski's teacher Kazimierz Karabasz
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A book featuring new essays by Jonathan Romney, Slavoj Zizek, and Peter Cowie, and excerpts from Kieslowski on Kieslowski

I gotta assume that will be a double disc. I can't wait.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'm exhausted, and there is still one night left

The Midwest Music Summit has been several kinds of fantastic. I don't think I have been to bed before 3 the past two nights. I have seen far too much good music.

Quick observations and thoughts

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's sre still phenomenal and made the Vogue the place to be Thursday night.

Even if not for them, Silversun Pickups would have made the evening fantastic. The crowd was eating them up, and I don't think I have seen any band on the stage of the Vogue look more appreciative towards a crowd in years. That is always great to see.

Last night, the Songwriters in the round was unbelievably good. Vess Ruthenberg, Otis Gibbs, and Richard Edwards just trading off songs on the same stage. That alone was worth the $20 for a wristband.

Few things are as cool as just hearing silence come over a room when Otis starts into a song. He's just got an effortless commanding stage prescence like no other.

The Musical Family Tree showcase could not have been more fun.

I don't know how I will make it through this evening, or even more so work until 6pm, but I will be trying!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

MMS starts tonight, angels!

It will be a rather hectic three days and nights for all the scenesters, hipsters, and wannabes (like myself) as the Midwest Music Sumnmit kicks off here in Indianapols starting this evening.

11 am Air Raid, has touched on this, as has Consuming Indy, and Dodge over at MOKB has been all over it. In fact Dodge spotlights The Musical Family Tree showcase on Friday, here. Personally, this is the lineup is what I am looking forawrd to the most. Straight through from 920 through 2am there is not a dud in the group.

And for those who haven't heard Gentleman Caller yet, do so. The more I listen to their Until We Are Missing the more it's difficult to keep it out of my top 10 for the year. A great album and a great live show. So yeah, you should be there at 1140 on Friday night at Locals Only. What the hell else are you gonna be doing at that time? Possibly seeing one of the 30 other shows in that time slot? Okay, that might be acceptable.

Other shows and bands I am looking forward too? Obviously, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's will be great tonight. As will Silversun Pickups.

Songwriters in the round at the Jazz Kitchen on Friday night round 7pm will be fantastic. Featuring Richard Edwards of Margot fame, Otis Gibbs and others.

Somehow I need to find a way to see Lunar Event while not missing anything at Locals Only on Friday. I don't know how to manage that yet.

And Early Day Miners as part of the Secretly Canadian showcase at the Alley Cat Saturday night should be lovely. I am really looking forward to hearing their new stuff.

And why not cap it all off with Dr. Octagon later Saturday night.

It's gonna be a great weekend. And wristbands are still available for $25 at a variety of places to get you in everywhere you need to be. Mine is actually already on, I accidentally snapped it on last night before realizing it doesn't come off easy. Fantastico!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just some thoughts on the World Trade Center film

Last nightI saw a commercial for World Trade Center. The film opens today and it was about the 25th time I had seen the film advertised over the past week or so. One who also saw the advertisement remarked snidely, "Wow, I can't wait to see that!" When I mentioned that I would probably see it at some point, the response was, "Don't worry, we won't judge you." I smile now thinking about that. Don't worry, I won't judge you either for not seeing it. But I'd imagine I am in a drastic minority in my group of friends that is actually wanting to see this movie.

I have not seen any advance screenings. More or less, all I know is what I have read about the movie. It is said that it is a story about the how the events of 9/11 unified a large portion of our country's population. And they focus on two main persons stories to get across this point. When I look back on that day, after the initial shock, and before the "Oh shit, we are gonna enter an wnwinable war" feeling I was stuck watching CNN and whatever else like millions of other Americans. I couldn't do anything much else. I gave blood at a blood drive at my place of employment to feel like I was doing something for the victims. I knew people who while very much against where national policy has gone since then were feeling helpless when they realized they were not able to be in New York and help in recovery efforts. Thing is, initially and for a brief moment, the American reaction, by and large did transcend politics. Granted, it was only very brief. Our president made damn sure of that.

The events of 9/11 were both significant unifying events, and horrible awful tragedy. Fair enough. This movie apparently decides to focus entirely on the unification part of the story, by way of showing persons responses to tragedy. Which, I think is fair game.

I also think that persons initial responses to this film, especially without seeing it, show more about the person than the actual worth of the film as a piece of art. And I mean that more on a political scale than do as actual eternal worth of the person, I should clarify that at least.

Is it exploitative? Without seeing it yet, I can still say absolutely. Any film that uses a historical event as a selling point is exploitative in a sense. I mean, Schindlers List turned the Holocaust into a story of a triumph of the human spirit, and it was hailed like crazy, for whatever that is worth. Life is Beautiful turned it into a damn puppet show and was also universally acclaimed, at least at first. So, yeah, this film is definitely exploitative. Does that mean it shouldn't have been made? I don't think so. It's a few persos response to events 5 years down the line. It's not the artistic statement to end all artistic statements on 9/11. It's far from that. We are only 5 years out.

I really want to see it. It could be the biggest turd of a movie ever. I don't think I have enjoyed an Oliver Stone movie in the past 15 years outside Any Given Sunday. But, I don't think it is neccessarily too soon for this film. It's an instant response age already. In a day and age where we can watch a whole damn war on the internet, and some do, this, at least to me, seems far less concerning.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Dear Netflix,
It shouldn't take you 3 days to ship a damn movie within the same city. Sometimes, I hate you.

Looking Forward...

Radio Radio has put up a pretty decent amount of their end of summer/fall schedule up and it looks very promising. One suprise addition, at least to me was the IMOCA Film Series. Now maybe I am just a dunce, but I couldn't really find anything on IMOCA's website about the series, or if there is a theme for the series. But from what I can gather, it's every other Thursday beginning September 7. Admission will be $3 and the bar will be open. Whether or not the films will be followed by boozy discussion, I do not know.

What I can tell you though is that the three films on the schedule so far are

8 Women, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary and.....One called The Taste of Tea which seemed to be quite a hit at the 2005 Aasian Film Festival in New York. AND, it's featured in that unique picture above!

Lovely. I am really looking forward to these events.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Weekend Quick-hits

Just a few quick thoughts on weekend events for me, sorted on a 5 star scale.

Jean Luc Godard's Weekend - Three Stars. In the extras to this disc you have Colin McCabe interviewing Godard's cinematographer on this film, Raoul Coutard. Coutard says something interesting to me when he suggests many Godard films can be very boring, but there are those 20 minute moments that are absolutely brilliant. Whereas other filmakers make a 90 minute movie that is boring then Godard makes a 80 minute movie that is only boring for 70 of those minutes. Anyway, I found that funny, at least. Weekend is my least favorite Godard movie. At times it is entirely unwatchable. At times you think Godard may have lost his mind. But then, there is even a dark humor underneath those times that keeps you watching. And there are a few scenes that are absolutely brilliant. Also, Coutards cinematography keeps it at least great to look at throughout. During the painful times, it is saved from being an outright disaster due to how interesting it at least looks. I could probably write a whole book about what I liked and didn't like in this film, and I am sure others probably have. But i need far more time to gather my thoughts and more likely, additional viewings.

The Brickyard 400 - Two and a half stars. My seats were great, right at the start/finish. The atmosphere was, um different. However, the race itself just didn't seem very interesting to me. Maybe it's because the Formula 1 race I watched in the am before leaving for the track was the strangest and most exciting race ever. But the last ten laps were exciting, for sure. I'd go back again if I recieved free tickets, but I am unsure I would pay 50-100 to go again.

Having your car vanish - O stars. Friday evening I my car was not found where I had parked it on Mass Avenue. I have filed a police report and called the insurance company and have not heard from my adjuster or the insurance company yet. While, I am sure stuff will work out in the end, I mean this is what we have insurance for. I am not looking forward to this next few weeks getting everything straightened out. I hope to recieve a call sooner rather than later.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Should I cut my hair into a mullet?

Yours truly just scored a free ticket to the Brickyard 400. I know nothing about NASCAR, nothing. It should be an interesting spectacle though if nothing else. If I ever remember to recharge my camera batteries, maybe I will have pictures.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Au Hasard Balthazar

A few nights back I watched Robert Bresson's Au hasard Balthazar. I've been trying to get my thoughts together to write down what I want to say about it but it isn't easy. It's difficult especially because of the effect this film had on me and that I would easily classify it as one of the greatest films I have ever seen. The synopsis I had read beforehand intrigued me. It mentioned how this was Bresson's religious fable of a girl and her pet donkey. While they eventually become seperated the girl suffers at the hands of her lover and the donkey at the hands of various owners. But, their suffering becomes a vehicle for spiritual transcendence and redemption. That gave me an overarching idea, but could not have entirely prepared me for this.

From the very first moments of the film I was caught out and entirely sucked in. During opening credits you have Schubert's beautiful Piano Sonata 20 played while at the same time hearing the cries of a donkey. At that point it doesn't matter if these are playful cries or cries for help. The initial juxtaposition of that sound against Schubert's sonata is enough to give the viewer and listener a jolt and tell them they are about to see something very special, and very different.

Jean-Luc Godard has been known to overstate his point in film criticism, and arguably in film as well but when asked about Au hasard Balthazar he stated it is "the world in an hour and a half." There are many ways of course that can be taken and while it may again be Godard overexaggerating it isn't far from the truth. In this film you see very plainly mans capacity for evil, you see man fall destructively into the depths of pride, you see brokeness. But you see mercy, you see love, and you see the capability for so much more. And you are not beat over the head with these themes, they are told extremely delicately and carefully. The restraint with which the story was told and with how Bresson used the camera reminded me more of Ozu's Late Spring than any other film. Though I guess I should say that feelings brought forth by this film erssonated much deeper in me that that.

One of the extras on the Criterion Collection release of the DVD is a conversation with film scholar David Richie. It seems at times while discussing the film he is close to tears himself. He makes mention of the reaction that Bresson's films bring forth in him and that this is what he appreciates most about them. He claims to find out more about himself by examining the reactions within himself to Bresson's films. He goes on to state that he likes the films moreso because they bring out a reaction in him of care and love. And I paraphrase here a bit, so I apolgize, but I understand completely what he is saying.

For myself the film resonated so deeply on a number of levels and when I ask myself why that is I come back to my Christian faith and also my veganism. Let me state first off, I do not believe this film to be an outward statement for animal welfare, I do not believe that was Bresson's intention. However, throughout the film I was extremely uncomfortable throughout in my fear for the donkey. This fear was of course compounded by Marie's troubles with her family, her lover, and her obvious care and love for Balthazar (the donkey) but her unwillingness or inablity (I am still unsure what it is in certain scenes in the film) to save this donkey from some of it's hardships. This uncomfort in me then stems from my faith as I mentioned earlier. My choice to go vegan is founded in my Christian faith and my belief that all creation is God's creation and loved by God. I believe that when we as human beings were given dominion over creation it was not a dominion in the sense that has been peverted today to mean domination. When in the Chritian faith one looks at Christ's dominion over the church it is not domination, but a continues Love. The Church is God's bride. And thus if we are given dominion over all teh beasts of the earth as human beings, that is the model which we should follow.

Now, throughout all this uncomfort in the film which I mentioned there are also those moments of love, mercy, and care that soften the blow. And the final scene, which I wil, not give away here in case someone wants to watch, may have been the most beautiful and affecting scene I have witnessed in all of film.

Films of course are always open to interpretation. And I am sure there are many who would see this film and write it off. And there will be many that love it, but for far different reasons than I do. Whatever the case, I do believe that those who find anything of value in this film will cherish it very deeply, and probably like me be treasuring it for a long time afterwards.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mark Wahlberg and Hope

After seeing an advance screening of Invincible I can comfortably say that the Philadelphia Eagles will win this years Super Bowl. It made me believe in a team I had written off, even though it was about the team 20 years ago. Place your bets now.

Phillies 2007 Slogan Ideas

Yeah, the Phils won last night and are only 4 1/2 games out of the wild card, but that hasn't changed the fact that management has given up on the team for this year and next year according to Pat Gillick. The 2006 Phillies slogan was, "Red Means Go!" Apparently someone forgot to tell the Phils that as they had another abysmal April and were playing catchup ever since.

So, now that Pat Gillick says we won't contend till 2007 the faithful over at Phillies Phans have a few 2007 slogan ideas...

- Red Means Sell
- Not as good as the mets, Not as promising as the marlins, Not as smart as the braves. But we've got the raddest, reddest uniforms
- At least we're not getting your hopes up again.
- Come and watch Utley and Howard waste their best years away.
- The 2007 Phillies, you'll laugh, you'll cry.
- Red means embarrassment.
- 23 Games Back in the Division, But #1 In Your Hearts
- The time was then
- Your 2007 Phillies, Cheaper But Worse.
- You Gotta Believe We Can Win Almost Half Our Games.
- Our GM gave up on can too.
- We Promise to Meet Lowered Expectations
- We Set Our Standards Low And Then Fail To Meet Them.
- Watch our new prospects turn into stars.....oh wait, nevermind.
- We're still better than the Nationals! (We think.)
- The 2007 Philadelphia Phillies: Expect Nothing And You'll Never Be Disappointed!
- Grade A Ballpark, Single A Talent
- See baseball's best. A new team coming every few days.
- Your 2007 Phillies: Another Page in the 130 Year Plan
- At Least We're Not the Pirates............yet
- Our promotions will bring you to the park, our team will send you home.
- The 2007 Phillies: More Suck For Your Buck
- Only 2 to 3 years away from being 2 to 3 years away.
- Over-promise, Under-deliver
- We'll be in contention for the wild card at least until your taxes have to be filed!
- 10 generations, 1 recipe

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Onto 2008, then.....

Before the 2006 Major League Baseball season started the Philadelphia Phillies hired a new General Manager, Pat Gillick. I was not overly thrilled with the hire, but he seemed to be saying the right things. He mentioned that a primary objective was to get the team 5 more wins in 2006 than they had in 2005. This would get them into the playoffs. It seemed logical at the time, the Phils inspite of their ineptitude finished 2005 only one game out of the Wild Card spot. Though I was puzzled with the trade of Vincente Padilla, the aquisition of David Delucci and Abraham Nunez, and the way they ignored our need for another starting pitcher in the offseason I was willing to give it a chance. I didn't see how the offseason made us better, but it's baseball. Strange things happen.

Onto this past Sunday then. Pat Gillick was standing before a microphone singing a completely different tune about this team than he did 6 months back. After trading Bobby Abreu and Corey Lidle and getting 4 players back (none of which are expected to get time in the major leagues this year, Gillick said, In all honesty I don't expect this team to compete until 2008. So write off this season and next. Don't worry, it's only been 13 years since we have seen postseason baseball played in Philly. We've been through this before. A few things stood out to me about this though.

First off, this was a total salary dump trade and a terrible one at that. Let's look at the Baseball Prospctus analysis...

The name prospect in the deal is Henry, the Yankees' 2005 first-rounder. He's very much the kind of prospect Gillick can get worked up about, an ath-a-lete's athlete: fast, strong-armed, rangy and still pretty far from growing up to be a baseball player.

As Kevin Goldstein put it, "you're really betting on his athleticism--if it works, he's sort of a bigger Jimmy Rollins, if it doesn't, he's nothing." If this deal depends on Henry's panning out, you should have an idea of how much the package received from the Yankees depends on your ability to wishcast all sorts of dreamy things.

Which basically means that this deal is about the money saved, and whatever the Phillies use it on in the future. Even then, by failing to get value for Abreu, Gillick has failed in his responsibility to help his club, and has perhaps betrayed a fundamental disinterest in the team he inherited from Ed Wade. It wouldn't be atypical of Gillick that he's more invested in the long-term goal of fixing one of the game's most fundamentally broken franchises, but you could consider my bringing it up after he's screwed up dealing Abreu for value as badly as he has as an overly charitable gesture. But even there, he didn't even acquire significant farm players, not the Philip Hughes or Erick Aybar types necessarily, but at least players who might shine amidst the rest of the dreck he inherited from Wade down on the farm. Instead, all Gillick got from a major move is a major-league-ready lefty, three guys who fit right in as far as populating a farm system longer on hype than talent, and financial freedom. Although we have to see what he'll do with the last of those three, this was what we might politely refer to as a setback.

So, that's encourging right?

But something else that I moaned to my father about was this. Part of the reason we didn't get value for Abreu is the same reason we didn't get value for Schilling or Rolen in years past. The media in Philly and fans throw these guys under the bus.

Now don't get me wrong. I am proud to be a Philadelphia fan. I think that I am part of the most passionate fanbase in America. But, every group has its share of idiots, and often the idiots shout loudest, and those who shout loudest are often heard over calmer, more reasonable voices. In my opinion this was certainly the case with Abreu.

On sports radio and in teh print press the common notions were that Bobby Abreu played terrible defense and did not hit well in the clutch. One of many excellent Philadelphia Phillies blogs The Good Phight did what they could to dispell that notion, showing that through last year Bobby Abreu was actually one of the Phillies better clutch hitters. And while he may not have been the top right fielder in the league as his Gold Glove from 2005 seemed to indicate, the fact that he won one shows he was far from the worst in the league.

This of course did not matter to many talking heads, writers, or fans who just wanted to prove they were smarter than the numbers and thought the best way to do so was to shout about Abreu. When a player becomes a fan favorite his value is higher. This happens across all of sports. When a player is relentlessly beat down in the press and in teh stadium, his value becomes somewhat tarnished. I find it interesting now that Abreu is gone, the same people who shouted how terrible he was for the team are the one's crying the loudest that we didn't get full value for him. It was the same with Schilling and Rolen before. It will be the same in the future. Such is the case with Philadelphia Phillies fans.

So about 2008, then....