News and Notes
The Dusk of Horses
Right under their noses, the green
Of the field is paling away
Because of something fallen from the sky.
They see this, and put down
Their long heads deeper in grass
That only just escapes reflecting them
As the dream of a millpond would.
The color green flees over the grass
Like an insect, following the red sun over
The next hill. The grass is white.
There is no cloud so dark and white at once;
There is no pool at dawn that deepens
Their faces and thirsts as this does.
Now they are feeding on solid
Cloud, and, one by one,
With nails as silent as stars among the wood
Hewed down years ago and now rotten,
The stalls are put up around them.
Danny Boyle's films have proven to be both powerful (Trainspotting) and forgettable (A Life Less Ordinary), but this, his first film, should live forever. The question is simple: what do you do when your stranger roommate dies with a lot of money? Any plot summary would give too much away. Let's just say it's a funny, violent mystery about greed and dismemberment. Ewan McGregor is his usual brilliant self, and Kerry Fox will soon be a major star. Not for the weak of stomach or temperament, this movie is well worth the investment next time you're at the video store.
From Here to Eternity
One of the great American novels about World War II, From Here to Eternity captures the personal struggles of U.S. soldiers in Hawaii in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor. It's a love story, a war story, and ultimately a story about rebellion and conformity. Unfortunately, Jones is rarely given due credit as one of the masters of twentieth-century fiction. And this may be his best work. Although it was made into a classic film, don't take the shortcut -- read the book. There's more here than making love on the beach.
This is the deal: You win the annual Thelonius Monk Competition, you get a record deal. Jazz pianist Terrasson took top prize in 1993 and here's the result -- a brilliant debut album that showcases original pieces of suprising maturity alongside of standards that Terrasson basically reconstructs as his own. "My Funny Valentine" and "For Once in My Life" are beautifully rendered, as is Terrasson's own "Just A Blues."
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
"At noon another load of raccoons comes in and Claude takes them out back of the office and executes them with a tire iron. Then he checks for vitals, wearing protective gloves. Then he drags the cage across 209 and initiates burial by dumping the raccoons in the pit that's our little corporate secret. After burial comes prayer, a personal touch that never fails to irritate Tim, our ruthless CEO. Before founding Humane Raccoon Alternatives, Tim purposely backed his car over a frat boy and got ten-to-twelve for manslaughter. In jail he earned his MBA by designing and marketing a line of light-up Halloween lapel brooches."
Not since Lee Harvey Oswald has anyone gone so quickly from complete anonymity to worldwide infamy. And since Lewinsky's particular brand of destruction is infinitely more palatable than Oswald's, one can only dream of the riches that will inevitably be heaped upon her doorstep. Movies, books, Oprah, perhaps even a tasteful piece in The New Yorker. Ah, the joys of internship!
Silence of the Lambs
Upon its release, Silence of the Lambs made a deep, indelible impression on the moviegoing public. Rewarded with a clean sweep of the 1992 Academy Awards, the film succeeds largely on the synergy between innocent FBI rookie Clarice Starling and cannabalistic uber-villian Hannibal Lecter. Perhaps director Demme's greatest coup was employing a fairly straightforward visual style, allowing Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins to steal the show.
Mariette in Ecstasy
Henri Marriott seeks a kind of sustenance in prayer and kneels for an hour on the hard cold penance of the sacristy floor. And when he gets up, he peers through the grille and sees Mariette in the night of the oratory, intently staring at the crucifix above the high altar, her hands spread wide as if she were nailed just as Christ was. He puts on his biretta and overcoat and half genuflects with difficulty and goes back to the priest's house.
The former leader of the Plimsouls offers up 12 songs of "sin and salvation." At their best, they provide the essence of folk music narrative: a voice, a guitar, and a story. "Horse & Crow," "Small Town Spree," and "Walk in the Woods" are standouts. Guests include John Hiatt, Roger McGuinn, and Victoria Williams. The CD will run you about seven bucks.
Director Juzo Itami's stature among Japanese filmmakers is second only to Akira Kurosawa's. Itami's breakout film, Tampopo follows a cowboy trucker, a restaurant hostess, and their quest to create the ultimate ramen house. Billed as a "noodle Western," this comedy succeeds on the power of free-flowing satire and relentless charm.
The Alexandria Quartet
A literary experiment in relativity, each volume offers a different perspective on events in 1940's Egypt:
"...she listened to the soft clear drumming of the sea upon the long beaches mingled with the cough and stamp of horses in their new stalls beyond the courtyard...in the moist gathering darkness the fireflies had begun to snatch fitfully, filling them both with pleasure to think that already their oasis had begun to support other life than their own."
Death of a Salesman
Here is Miller's greatest creation: the Loman family, patron saints of failed ambition. When it appeared in 1949, Death of a Salesman won both the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
HAPPY, moving about with energy, expressiveness: All I can do now is wait for the merchandise manager to die. And suppose I get to be the merchandise manager? He's a good friend of mine, and he just built a terrific estate on Long Island. And he lived there about two months and sold it, and now he's building another one. He can't enjoy it once it's finished. And I know that's just what I would do. I don't know what the hell I'm workin' for. Sometimes I sit in my apartment--all alone. And I think of the rent I'm paying. And it's crazy. But then, it's what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I'm lonely.
Consummate actress, quintessential beauty, Gena Rowlands has had her share of great roles. She married John Cassavettes in 1958, and in the decades that followed starred in several of his films. Her roles in A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria each earned her an Academy Award nomination. In the Nineties, Rowlands has continued to turn in commanding performances, most recently in 1997's She's So Lovely, directed by son Nick Cassavettes.
The Razor's Edge
Although best known in his own day as a playwright, Maugham has survived the test of time as a novelist. In any case, he is a master storyteller with a gift for vivid characterization. In The Razor's Edge, Maugham takes on the inevitably hit-or-miss topic of man's search for spirituality, but his skilled narration and dry wit yield an engrossing book that is finally amusing and thought-provoking.
Unquestionably one of the brightest talents to appear in the early Eighties, Lloyd Cole cut through the vacuity of New Wave with a combination of lyrical agility and smooth vocals reminiscent of Howard Devoto and early Matt Johnson. Among his later albums, only Mainstream truly lives up to the artistic promise of this debut effort, but don't count Cole out, he may yet return to the sublime form of "Perfect Skin" and "Charlotte Street."
The Man Who Loved Levittown
"You realize what I had to do to get this place? It was thirty-odd years ago come July. I'm just out of the Army. Two kids, twins on the way, a wife who's younger than I am, just as naive, just as crazy hopeful. We're living in the old neighborhood with my folks four to a room. All along I've got this idea. Airplanes. P-40s, these great big 20s. We're slogging through Saipan, they're flying over it. DiMaria, I tell myself, this war is going to end, when it does that's where you want to be, up there in the blue not down here in the brown. Ever since I'm a kid I'm good with machines, what I do is figure I'll get a job making them. Grumman. Republic. Airborne. They're all out there on Long Island. I tell Kathy to watch the kids, I'll be back tonight, wish me luck. I borrow the old man's Ford, out I go. Brooklyn Bridge, Jamaica Avenue, Southern State, and I'm there."
--from "The Man Who Loved Levittown"
Everyone knows that most of the entertaining stuff on the Net is entirely useless. Case in point: The Dancing Baby. From its beginnings as a humble software demo, the baby has gone on to become a veritable Web celebrity. It even showed up on a recent episode of Ally McBeal. So just choose a site, fire up one of the tunes, and sit back and watch the baby groove.
The Coen Brothers
Although they've tasted greater success with Fargo, the writing/producing/directing Coen brothers hit their stride early with this comedy classic. One of the most quotable movies in history ("Boy, you got a panty on your head."), this film is admittedly not to everyone's taste, but if you get the joke, you'll laugh long after the movie's over.
My Favorite Things
Granted, this album of covers will never be regarded as highly as Coltrane's A Love Supreme, but the four tracks here are delicious nonetheless. Backed by McCoy Tyner, Steve Davis, and Elvin Jones, the master saxophonist re-interprets "Everytime We Say Goodbye," "Summertime," "But Not For Me," and the title track. Julie Andrews eat your heart out.
NBA Live 98
The graphics, sound, and game engine all come together here to produce a truly amazing experience. And you don't need to own a speed demon of a PC to enjoy the show; a 100MHz Pentium provides great results. Whether you're simulating a whole season or just playing a quick exhibition game, the details make all the difference -- NBA Live includes everything from player reflections in the polished hardwood to the fluid grace of a Karl Malone finger roll.
Consisting entirely of sonnets, Seth's debut novel traces the romantic entanglements of a small group of twenty-somethings in San Francisco.
"I'm young, employed, healthy, ambitious,
Sound, solvent, self-made, self-possessed.
But all my symptoms are pernicious.
The Dow-Jones of my heart's depressed.
The sunflower of my youth is wilting.
The tower of my dreams is tilting.
The zoom lens of my zest is blurred.
The drama of my life's absurd.
What is the root of my neurosis?
I jog, eat brewer's yeast each day,
And yet I feel life slip away.
I wait your sapient diagnosis.
I die! I faint! I fail! I sink!
You need a lover, John, I think."
Law & Order
Now in its eighth season, Law & Order just keeps going, never shying away from the inherent ambiguities of crime, the police, and the justice system. A great cast, including Sam Waterston and Jerry Orbach, combined with rock-solid writing, makes this more than your run-of-the-mill cop show.
This Illinois trio made a few good albums in the early Nineties, got sick of each other, called it quits, and finally resurfaced as the leaders of Wilco and Son Volt. This was the album that started it all, launching not only the artistic careers of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, but also the entire genre of "alternative country" music.
Oscar & Lucinda
Peter Carey has long been a noted writer in Australia, and the film version of this novel may secure him a larger audience, but do yourself a favor and read the book first. Funny and profoundly rich with intelligence and insight, this is a grand romance between a gambling minister and a neurotic heiress trying to move a glass church across the Outback.
This is probably the best Mexican vampire movie made in the last decade. Not to mention the fact that it co-stars Ron Perlman. The story is about a mechanical gold bug concocted by a 14th century alchemist. The bug bites you and, boom, you're immortal. Del Toro directed 1997's Mimic and, like that movie, Cronos is visually stylish and populated with engaging characters.
1998 Movie and Video Guide
The long-time movie reviewer for Entertainment Tonight provides the best movie and video guide available. Maltin gives you all the trivia you're looking for: director, stars, date, running time, and quick, honest reviews that are often quite funny. The actor and director indexes are particularly helpful, especially if you want to find every movie Louis Malle directed or the name of that movie, you know, the one with William Hurt and James Coburn. This book should have a place next to any movie fan's VCR.
I woke up at 5:25 because the dog was vomiting. I carried seventy-five pounds of heaving golden retriever to the door and poured him onto the silver, moonlit snow. "Good boy," I said because he'd done his only trick. Outside he retched, and I went back up, passing the sofa on which Fanny lay. I tiptoed with enough weight on my toes to let her know how considerate I was while she was deserting me. She blinked her eyes. I swear I heard her blink her eyes. Whenever I tell her that I hear her blink her eyes, she tells me I'm lying; but I can hear the slap of lash after I have made her weep.
-- from "Ralph the Duck"
Here Come the Warm Jets
This brilliant debut album is more pop than ambient, but the seeds of Eno's later sonic noodlings are evident nonetheless, especially in the gorgeous title track. Of course, it does seem a shame that he's forever abandoned the three-minute rock song, but perhaps, after giving us "Needle in the Camel's Eye," Eno felt that he'd already make his contribution to that form. In any case, just be thankful it's still in print -- this one is a classic.
The New Basics Cookbook
Of the many, many cookbooks I own, this is the one that I always go to first. Whether you're after recipes, definitions, advice, or ideas, this 850-page volume never disappoints. Here's a tip: Buy it for a friend and then invite yourself over for dinner -- it's bound to be tasty.
Even before he won the Pulitzer Prize for Independence Day, Richard Ford had earned a reputation as one of the best writers in America, due in no small part to the stories in Rock Springs. The voices are original and the emotions are resonant and heartbreaking. Read "Sweethearts," "Communist," and the magnificent title story and rest assured that you are in the hands of a master.
Perfect From Now On
A close runner-up for album of the year, this disc is not only a testament to the consummate musicianship of Doug Martsch, it's also different from anything else you were likely to hear in 1997. That's not to say that the music is "experimental" -- it's rock and roll, sure enough. Just sonically unique. And Tae Won Yu's art direction on the packaging is inspired. It's a party for the eyes and the ears. Listen to "I Would Hurt a Fly" and try not to be amazed. I dare you...