News and Notes
Burnt by the Sun
Mikhalkov wrote, directed, and stars in this story of Stalinist Russia. Beautifully photographed, the film manages to be simultaneously idyllic and ominous. Of course, the details of history dictate the outcome. Nevertheless, watching Mikhalkov's aging war hero play gracious host to the agent of his eventual undoing, you can't help but wish that history will be unwritten, if only for a few hours.
Love Is A Dog From Hell
Nobody could inject the sublime into the vulgar quite like Charles Bukowski. In Love is a Dog from Hell, as in his previous collections, he documents love, sex, booze, classical music, and other basic human needs. Bukowski died in 1994. Here's a snippet of what he left us:
call it love, you
skewer it good, add
cabbage and applesauce,
then heat it from the
then heat it from the right
put it in a box
give it away
leave it on a doorstep
vomiting as you go
--from "it's the way you play the game"
When you come across an instrumental trio fronted by a violinist, you build up some expectations. Bluegrass. Maybe a little Vivaldi. However, when that trio releases their records on Chicago's notorious Touch and Go label, look forward to your expectations being smashed into itty bitty pieces. It's probably best to just put them aside and enjoy the sonic landscape. The album's third track, "Hope," is a gentle and inviting place to start.
Watch the carnage unfold as Catherine Deneuve, a young beautician harboring some serious psychosexual demons, slowly and painfully goes out of her gourd. Ever had trouble at work? Ever been irritated with the opposite sex? Let Roman Polanski offer you some perspective. Also keep an eye out for the original Decaying Rabbit Corpse, as later seen in Eraserhead and Fatal Attraction.
This two-volume set of wartime journalism features familiar names--Hersey, Murrow, Pyle, Bourke-White, Steinbeck, Agee--and familiar places--the Sudetenland, Poland, Paris, Yugoslavia, Guadalcanal, the Phillipines, Berlin. Documentary history is inherently fascinating, but when you add the global impact of the events covered in these volumes you've got pair of books that are very hard to put down.
Eight Men Out
So you think free agency, skyrocketing salaries, and tantrum-prone players are ruining professional sports? You ain't seen nothin'. The "Black Sox" scandal of 1919 had the Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series to benefit gangsters and gamblers. In Eight Men Out, the underappreciated Sayles looks at baseball under the influence of money, corruption, and gambling. While the film may appeal primarily to baseball fans, there are also some fine performances from Michael Rooker and David Strathairn. Look for writer/director Sayles as legendary sports writer Ring Lardner.
The Coast of Good Intentions
Twenty-eight-year-old Byers writes about people plagued with disappointment and confronted with possibility. Most of the stories take place among the rivers, mountains, and rainy streets of the Pacific Northwest, and Byers' compact, able description of landscape is put to good use in service of his genuinely interesting characters.
Godzilla vs. Tamagotchi
Considering the damage that tamagotchi have unleashed over the past few months--from causing traffic fatalites in France to their TV counterparts inducing epilectic fits in Japan--it's no wonder than they're the frequent target for satire. Here, you'll take the role of immense mutant reptile to stomp the bejesus out of the annoying LCD critters. Ah, if only Mothra was this easy to squash.
Four of the five songs on this EP have been recast as the core of Creeper's upcoming I Become Small and Go. Let's hope the Dust Brothers, the hot production duo behind the knobs on the new album, didn't screw around too much. Songs like "Dear Deadly" and "Second Chance" sound pretty damn good on this first take.
Things That Make Us Smart
Why is the Yahoo! directory better than a plain old search engine? Well, even before Mosaic was a glimmer in Marc Andreesen's eye, Donald Norman was laying out the ground rules:
"McGuckin's Hardware Store shows to what we might aspire: efficient, intelligents agents, coupled with a functional arrangement that makes browsing a pleasure and a source of unexpected finds...With modern tools, it is perfectly feasible to develop artifacts for maintaining information files without any particular ordering. That is, one can store the information internally in any format one wishes but reconfigure it in numerous flexible ways at the whim of the user."
Growing up in the '70s, Creedence Clearwater Revival meant two things to me. They were the old band that was constantly advertised on late-night TV. And they were the old band that my father had recorded on his reel-to-reel along with another old band called the Beatles. Of course, the operative word is "old." I was young. They were old. I didn't get it. Now that I'm old(er), I've started to get it. With a vengeance. I don't know when it started or why. Maybe it was hearing "Bad Moon Rising" in An American Werewolf in London. Maybe it was the Minutemen covers. Or maybe it was my dad's reel-to-reel tapes.
He always played the schnook. The loser. The screw-up. The guy who is congenitally unable to do the right thing, and yet is entirely unaware of his shortcomings. Such were the characters of John Cazale. Unlike those characters, Cazale wasn't a loser. Anything but. In fact, each of the five movies he made was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. Three of them won. They are all classics. So is Cazale.