A Word about Not Getting What You Wish For, ‘Birdman’ and the Oscars

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Michael Keaton and Zach Galifinakis, in ‘Birdman’.

I need to see ‘American Sniper’, just getting that out of the way up top.

Many of the people reading this haven’t seen ‘Birdman’. That’s not faulting you: It was a small film, playing on a few hundred screens across the country. It wasn’t accessible or easy to market to the demographic that watches Jimmy Fallon or <insert trendy TV show>. It wasn’t built to win out over a colossal marketing juggernaut like ‘American Sniper’, nor a critical lovefest darling like’The Imitation Game’ (which I have heard good stuff about from people I respect — I promise to see it).

But it overcame those things. Here’s why.

When Hollywood looks itself in the mirror, as it was forced to do by the casting of Michael Keaton in the starring role, it recognized something true. It wasn’t a pretty image, just like in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (yes, the movie). Yet, it was an image that was truthful and fully-realized. It was a reflection of what the movie-going audience sees when it looks at Hollywood and its bloated and self-referential excesses, its vanity, its detachment from real emotion and real art.

The great triumph of Alejandro Inarritu’s ‘Birdman’ is that it won the Best Picture Oscar, the night when the throng of hypocritical do-gooders pats itself on the back for “feeling” for others, spouting slogans at the podium. And gives most of the awards to people it likes and “owes” something. There’s an echo of that in ‘Birdman’, for sure, in the person of a crusty, old, white Broadway critic who feels she’s above everyone else.

What an honest and rewarding film ‘Birdman’ is! It’s nothing if not an ensemble film. (Though I might have wished for Michael Keaton to win Best Actor, but he got recognized at Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards for that.)

Not only is Keaton spot-on as the aging, former big superhero star, trying to resuscitate a career on the Broadway boards. But Edward Norton lights up (literally) on screen as the seasoned, Broadway talent who’s brought in to bring gravitas to what might otherwise be written off as a the former star’s vanity project.

Emma Stone gives a bravura performance as Keaton’s daughter, a young woman trying to come to terms with growing up with divorce and her own bundle of life issues. There’s one scene between Stone and Norton, involving a game, that you must see. And the surprise of surprises here — Zach Galifinakis kills in a straight man role as the agent for Keaton’s character. He’s the calm center that the craziness of this whirlwind of a film flies around.

If you’ve heard anything about this movie, it’s the editing. The first 20 (might be 30-seconds) of the movie look like one continuous shot, and it’s performed while looping down winnowed hallways, around stairwells. Your brain knows it can’t be one take, but it’s just superbly done. If for no other reason than to marvel at the cinematography (the first of three Oscars ‘Birdman’ took home Sunday), go see it for the way it starts.

Just see it.

This Editor’s note: On a personal note, please pray or send good thoughts for myself and my family over the next hours and days. God knows the details. Thanks.

  

Characters and Space and Chuck Johnson

dark twitterIt’s difficult to know where to start. Do I start with the story, the pinpoint in time from which the drama unfolded? Do I start with the tweet, the reaction, the verbal beatdown? Or do I start with some other, unknown point, the feeling that somehow allies are being asked to make dizzying and untenable choices, over something that will blow over in time?

Sometimes, I feel that, by having less experience in politics, less education in journalism or history or some other subject, less fiery passion when speaking on the subjects that others do — that these are signs I’ve taken the wrong turn. That I don’t belong here in this space, in the conservative blogosphere. Maybe that’s true.

But even someone who doesn’t have the background many others do knows something about people and their actions. One can learn about honesty and deception, about motives and desires, without spending a lifetime around politicians. And from that study, it’s clear that it isn’t always the words and actions which people in power say and do that discourage their fellow Americans to fall out of love with activism and with staying active in politics. Or political writing.

Often, it happens because of the words and actions of those who write about and engage with those same politicians and activists and their world. They poison the waters and make it unhealthy for many others to thrive and desire to remain a part of it.

What I experienced on January 20th on Twitter, surrounding Chuck Johnson’s story about Holly Fisher, made me want to leave politics entirely. Not just the GOP, or conservatism, or whatever term you like. I’m not exaggerating. It was that bad.

I used to think that the way Twitter shortens the English language was largely responsible for the communication problems that happen there. But I started thinking differently, after that day. The problem isn’t how many characters people have to talk with one another on Twitter. It’s how they choose to use that space.

But it does seem that, in teaching ourselves to communicate in smaller and smaller quarters, in tweets and Facebook messages and smart takes on our blogs so that the attention deficit crowd will bother to read it, we’ve stunted our ability to relate to one another as human beings. We’ve made it more difficult to intuit what someone really means, and why they say what they say.

Essentially, we’ve become distrustful and questioning of the motives of those who think differently from ourselves – even by the most minute of degrees. We make tribes and teams, and no amount of common sense will bear understanding among them.

Enough people have written intelligently about the controversy – the story at the center of Johnson’s expose. You can find a few options in the Related section below, if you’re interested enough to sift through them.

But that leaves me with the unknown, and with feelings — mostly, those I’ve expressed. As I said in a short rant on Twitter on the 20th, we make a mistake to think we can read the hearts of those we don’t truly know. We err when we think we are the authority on how someone else ought to live his life – someone whom we assume to know all about, but we do not know the first thing about them.

I fear that this trend will only get worse, the less we depend on long-form and in depth forms of communication. Face to face conversations, phone calls, letters and emails, books. More misunderstandings, more recriminations, more division and distrust will mount. And our culture and our lives will be diminished as a result.

It’s important, while we still have time, to look at ourselves. We’re better than this. At least, I think we are. When I was invited to write about this political world, only a handful of years ago, by R. Stacy McCain and Jimmie Bise and many others, I was excited that there was space for my voice.

Isn’t that why many of us started writing, blogging, podcasting? The right side of the sphere has more space for more, and different, voices. They aren’t always voices we recognize or even agree with all the time. But we at least respect them, while the left doesn’t.

It would be amazing if we could remember to expect that –sometimes — voices that are coming out of the unknown will bring something wondrous instead of something to shun out of fear. You might just be surprised.

Note: This post was written before Johnson published his article on Dana & Chris Loesch.

Related:

IJReview/ Woman Known For Making ‘Liberals’ Heads Explode,’ Was Discovered Having an Affair Last Year
American Power/ Holly Fisher, Army Wife and Conservative Hottie, Busted for Infidelity

The Other McCain/ Well, This Happened
With Bias/ Sex, Lies And A Real Problem

  

Courage is the Same Word in Two Languages – English and French.

Credit: Twitter/@thibaudcryl

Credit: Twitter/@thibaudcryl

When you hear people talk about courage recently, it’s likely they meant someone who was standing on principle, or about a vote their favorite politician made against the majority of his party. But it’s a whole other thing to say you would stand in the face of evil and do what’s right.

As I was writing this post, one of my favorite bloggers, Virginia attorney Aaron Walker, shared his take on the murders and some other, related things.

In it, he quoted an amended version of the Mission Statement for his now-defunct website centered on the social media event, ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.’ Walker mentions that Comedy Central hasn’t had the best track record on this issue:

Finally, South Park made a two part episode in which they took on the controversy and Comedy Central censored the image of Mohammed, explicitly citing the fear of violence.  And for their 200th and 201st episodes, the guys at South Park did it again, and under threat from a bunch of idiots called Revolution Islam, Comedy Central censored them again.They even censored a speech about the need for courage.

It’s simple enough to see that some media outlets, in the wake of brutal, disgusting murders at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, have printed the work the vile murderers claim they were killed for printing. Others have not.

You can find analysis in articles and tweets on the distinction between the two – those places in the media world which understand that there’s only one lesson to be learned from what happened around noon in Paris yesterday, and those who do not.

What’s the lesson? That we are the civilized, and those who seek to silence opinions they don’t like with terror and death are not.

The truth is that they don’t deserve our respect or any hint of an apology. They don’t gain any victory with this abomination against all religions – yes, even Islam.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

https://twitter.com/BecketAdams/status/552991178048544768

I caught in Adams’s article that AP also had used images of the “offensive” cartoons from other sources – and cropped or blurred the images to remove any parts showing Mohammed. Where was this AP today?

https://twitter.com/kraigehm/status/553019549810167808

Jim Geraghty of National Review Online noticed another institution (in the entertainment realm, though) that once stood strong against the barbarism that radical Islam unleashed on innocents today.

https://twitter.com/BeccaJLower/status/553005654776881152

A place that belongs on Adams’ first list – the list of places that seem to understand what I mean by civilized and uncivilized – is Ricochet. One of their writers was accidentally on the scene just minutes after the killings, and it’s worth reading in full (as is this piece by their Jon Gabriel).

No censoring pictures or coddling evil here:

https://twitter.com/exjon/status/552859831150055424

But for me, the best example of courage today was someone rather unlikely: Corrine Ray, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo who survived the attacks by hiding herself and her young daughter under a desk. She happened to be the first staff member to encounter the terrorists. You’ve likely heard the story by now: Corrine punched in the security code which opened the doors and allowed the madmen to do their evil work.

In that moment, the mother, the parent, chose what many of us would have chosen, if placed in her shoes. Corrine chose the protection of a loved one, and – in this case – the next generation, over what would likely have been a foolhardy attempt at bravado to save her colleagues. Because her daughter would have grown up without a mother to nurture her, to hold her, to see her start a family of her own one day, perhaps.

What a choice to have to make in a split second. But what courage – in whichever language you speak.

https://twitter.com/thibaudcryl/status/552895417764290561

  

The Radio Show You’re Not Listening to (But Should Be)

I admit that I’m writing this review of “The Jim & Mickey Show” for selfish reasons.

My friends are probably getting tired of hearing me talk about the show. So I figured: give people a short review and a shortcut to take a listen themselves (find a player with the most recent podcast below).

But why should they, or you, listen at all? Aren’t there already too many online radio programs now, which drone on about the same topics week in and week out? Sort of.

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Image credit: Mickey White/Facebook

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Image credit: Jim Geraghty/Facebook

“The Jim & Mickey Show,” a new, one hour show that sounds like it’s live but is really a podcast which comes out Fridays, is different. It’s not heavy on hard-boiled political strategy, griping about the Establishment or throwing red meat to the masses. It’s not even acidly sarcastic, which is easy enough to do.

If it’s anything, “Jim & Mickey” is good-natured and funny and sometimes goofy — many of the things that people on the right forget to be when they’re in front of a mic or looking into a camera lens. It’s also real.

Among the subjects they discuss on the most recent episodes: Nobel Peace Prize winners and TIME Person of the Year winners, Jim bringing up the NFL’s woes overshadowing the start of the new season’s action on the field, Mickey singing a line from They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” during Jim’s recounting of his experiences in Turkey, why stupid people are famous (Mickey thinks it’s our fault, but Jim doesn’t completely agree), with some nuggets of political stories of the day mixed in. While they’re discussing a high profile kidnapping case in the D.C. area, Mickey shares her thoughts on the U.S. drinking age and the wisdom of the buddy system.

If you’re unfamiliar with Jim Geraghty, he writes about politics at National Review Online, and has a new novel, The Weed Agency. And Mickey White has been a political and radio broadcasting stalwart for years.

There is another reason I’m writing this. Because there are so many shows vying for your attention, any newcomer needs a review. And that’s fitting, too, since “The Jim & Mickey Show” is itself a review show, with the hosts deconstructing the world much as Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert used to deconstruct movies on their long-running TV series “At the Movies.” There’s a depth and importance that thoughtful conversations like these have – conversations in which people aren’t agreeing 100% – which will be welcome as we pass the November mid-terms and into another presidential election cycle. More importantly, it’s the kind of conversation that’s just fun to listen to.

The things that Jim and Mickey talk about are, as the show tagline reads, “what you’re talking about.” But they don’t do it in a glib or superficial way. There’s more to any given topic than, “you should be interested because my opinion is so funny/racy/outrageous that you need to repeat it to your friends.” Something else is going on here. Take a listen. And try not to annoy your friends, telling them how great it is.

  

Weekend Arts Roundup & Potpourri- Sept. 13

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So, there’s something new happening. I’m finding that I have stories I want to share, but they aren’t all about entertainment or the arts. This time, you’ll find some “potpourri” mixed in with the arts stories. And as always, let me know what you like and what you don’t. Thanks!

The stories:

Dazed: The film that made Bill Murray quit acting

“Bill is actually a very religious guy — educated at Loyola by the Jesuits, who are really kind of brutal about drumming it into your head,” Byrum told The Old Corner, a fansite dedicated to The Razor’s Edge, in 2003. “I think one of his main draws to this book was the religious theme.”

There’s a dead link in the source quote. Find the full interview with the film’s director and co-writer, John Byrum, here.

Paste: David Lynch-Directed Duran Duran Documentary to Screen in 300 Theaters

[Singer Simon] Le Bon continued, “The most surreal moment for me is when he intercuts footage of somebody barbecuing sausages into the song ‘Come Undone.’ Not what we had it mind, but it’s absolutely hilarious.”

A/V:

Telegraph UK: How Isil doctored the image of Obama, making him appear haggard in videos

Daily BeastThis Charming Man: Meet ‘Ronnissey,’ Brooklyn’s Fake Morrissey

Pacific Standard: The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking Is Healthy

And not just (red) wine, either. A compelling and possibly important read, especially for anyone who abstains from alcohol.

NY Daily News: Mel Brooks leaves 11-finger handprints in cement ceremony outside Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre

Who else thinks this was long overdue?

Yahoo! News via Good Morning America: Minnesota Lottery Winner Going Back to Waiting Tables

Remarkable. The family won 11.4 million… and in case you’re wondering, that lottery pays the state & local taxes on it.

FTR Radio Podcast: “The Dark Side”: Kira Davis returns from hiatus, and talks about her son beginning homeschooling for the first time this school year and other topics: September 9, 2014

Top image credit: Sony Movie Channel

  

Weekly Arts Roundup – Sept. 4

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Paul Mazursky, right, directs Robin Williams (Vladimir Ivanoff) and Cleavant Derricks (Lionel Witherspoon) on the set of “Moscow on the Hudson” in 1984.

The stories:

Paste: Prince Releases Two Songs Ahead of New Albums

For Warner Brothers, no less…

Prince returned to Warner Bros. in April, after a bitter split with the company 18 years ago. Appeased by a deal that gave him the rights to his catalog as well as the promise of a 20th anniversary re-release of Purple Rain, Prince has wasted no time supplying new material to his old label.

Stereogum: Brandon Flowers [The Killers] Is Recording A Solo Album With Ariel Rechtshaid

 NME reports that Ariel Rechtshaid, who had a hand in [Danielle] Haim’s Days Are Gone as well as other amazing 2013 releases by Vampire Weekend, Sky Ferreira, and Charli XCX, is working with Flowers on a solo record for release next year….

Flowers had this to say about working with Rechtshaid: “He’s taking me out of my comfort zone. Normally I make demos and they’re pretty similar to how the song ends up. but he’ll take a song and be like, ’I hear this.’

Unfortunately, you can’t find those nekkid Jennifer Lawrence pics at Blackmailers Don’t Shoot… but Gene has other goodies on display. Check it out!

You can watch the original ‘Ghostbusters’ on the big screen!

via Fandango:

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, the original 1984 film has been restored and remastered in 4K and will be returning to the big screen, in the United States and Canada, for a limited engagement starting August 29 (Labor Day weekend).

EDIT: Read Kira Davis’ essential tribute to the late Joan Rivers. RIP!

Somehow I missed this obituary, while the blog was on hiatus (emphasis mine):

LA Times: Paul Mazursky dies at 84; director chronicled trends of ’60s and ’70s

After the disappointments of “Willie and Phil” (1980) and “Tempest” (1982), his next hit was “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984), which showcased Robin Williams as a Russian musician who defects in the middle of a Bloomingdale’s department store.

“Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986) was Mazursky’s greatest commercial success. A farce inspired by the 1932 Jean Renoir film “Boudou Saved From Drowning,” it concerns a wealthy couple (Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss) who live in a mansion with a dog that has its own psychiatrist. Their posh life is disrupted by a homeless man (Nick Nolte) who tries to drown himself in their pool. Sympathizing with his plight, the couple invite him to move in.

The purpose of the film was “to reflect on the absurdity of having it all and still having nothing,” Mazursky told the Chicago Tribune in 1986.

Read the whole thing.

I’m a huge fan of ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills,’ which I saw in the theater and still remember the crowd reaction: continuous, rapturous laughter. You sometimes missed lines, because the audience was still laughing. Another film I love by Mazursky is ‘Tempest,’ his modern take on Shakespeare’s story. It marked the film debut of a young Molly Ringwald, and also included John Cassavetes, Susan Sarandon, and Raul Julia.

There’s a great YouTube interview from 2011 with the director here, covering his entire career.

Related:

The Wrap: Paul Mazursky in His Own Words: Director Rates His Movies in Vintage Interview

 

Image credit: LA Times/Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

 

  

Labor Day Weekend Arts Capsule – August 31

TV films of the weekIt’s not you, baby, it’s me. Here’s your new Weekend Arts capsule. Say you’re not mad

NY Daily News: Sheila E. confirms engagement to Prince, describes niece Nicole Richie’s adoption in new memoir 

NYT: At DuArt, Thousands of Unclaimed Films

You may not have heard Howard Stern’s ‘Robin Williams’ story from August 18. Worth a listen.

I got Netflix about a week ago (no cable since the move west), so will be catching up on movie watching. Soon, I’ll have a review of a recent film I watched. I’m also planning on watching more documentaries, which I’ll write about in a future post.

While we’re on the subject… via Paste: A handy list of movies leaving Netflix’s library starting September 1st.

The Wrap: Martin Scorsese Planning to Direct Movie About The Ramones

This isn’t his next project, but the article hints (subtly) that it may be released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut record (2016).

Billboard: Album Sales Hit A New Low
That’s it. Record executives are finally admitting that streaming is the death knell of the mega-hit album.

So, this seems like a creative project worthy of support: A photographer is compiling a book, Art Desks, which captures images of artists and other creatives at work, which includes the state of their desks and apparently some of their cats as well:

Just an aside- my fave title of the participants: ‘Director of Identity and Outreach, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’. How cool is that, seriously?

Make sure to stay tuned for my next post — Lowering the Boom turns 2-years-old! In case you missed my last post, here’s a preview of the new Interpol album. See you…

Related: At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert review, ‘Ghostbusters’

Popcorn graphic, image credit: Mirror UK

  

First New Album From Interpol in 4 Years — Free Streaming

Interpol

Image credit: The Guardian UK

Now a three-piece, and after a four-year hiatus, New York’s Interpol return in early September with a new album ‘El Pintor’ (and something of a sunnier demeanor. See the Guardian UK interview below).

Earlier this summer, two of the new songs acted as a teaser for the full album. Now the whole thing is streaming for free (courtesy of NPR).

Take a listen!

If you just want one of the teaser tracks, here’s the video for the album opener, “All the Rage Back Home.”

H/T Stereogum

Related: The Guardian UK: Interpol on supermodels, surfing and (not) hanging out with the Strokes

  

Video: Flashback,1991: Siskel & Ebert ‘Review’ a Film Parody Made By Howard Stern


After watching a YouTube of a “Siskel & Ebert” review for ‘Murphy’s Romance,’ a James Garner/Sally Fields film I remembered fondly, I spent a few hours over the weekend watching old episodes of “Siskel & Ebert.”

Then I came across this bizarre mismatch of an interview: both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel appeared on Howard Stern’s Channel 9 tv show, along with sidekick Robin Quivers, in 1991. Howard and his gang had made a parody short film based on the Robin Williams/Robert DeNiro movie ‘Awakenings,’ and asked the vaunted reviewers for their honest opinion.

There’s a version of the full interview in one video here.

  

Memorial Day Weekend Arts Roundup

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Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper, in ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’ (1992)

My apologies for being away so long… enjoy the stories:

Slate: The “Missing Pieces” From Twin Peaks Are Finally Seeing the Light

The Camp of the Saints’ Bob Belvedere says “Arrivederci, Amico Mio, Genari” to singer Jerry Vale.

Let’s meander out to the left coast, look at some entertainment biz news and check in with our friend Gene…

THR: Coen Brothers to Write Steven Spielberg’s KGB Movie for Tom Hanks (Exclusive)

Mashable: MTV Video Music Awards Returning to California After Only 1 Year in NYC

Blackmailers Don’t Shoot: Emilia Clarke Unleashes Dragons on Hollywood Boulevard

Bloggers Corner:

Jimmie Bise writing at Freedomworks.org: Rock Star, Ninja, or Guru: Which One Are You?

Anyone who would like to support the “moving to the southwest fund” may do so through the tip jar. This is the area where I’ll be living. So cool!

Thanks for all of your encouragement and prayers. They have made a difference in my life! Until next weekend… some great rock music to inspire you: