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All reviews by Joshua Peck of Kinetoscope e zine unless noted


Movies reviewed: Fighter (2001), The Pink Panther (1963), Rock Star (2001) and Ride With the Devil (1999). Book: Revolting Youth by CD Payne.

Fighter (2001, usa) NY--Lincoln Plaza with Robert

Anxious to get our minds off the smoking rubble a few miles away, Rob and I head to the Upper West Side to watch a movie and have supper somewhere. The acrid smell of fire has blown north and hits the nostrils as soon as you come up out of the subway. Fighter is an interesting documentary by Amir Bar-Lev that follows two Czech immigrants who return to Europe to re trace the journey that one of them, the 77 year old Jan Wiener, took to get away from the Nazis. Wiener is a strikingly vigerous man who is the fighter of the title who endured hardships on his journey, fought against the Nazis after escaping to England and then returned to his Czech homeland only to be imprisoned by the Communists. Wiener is still fighting, voice firm, face taut with suppressed rage, majestic mustache vibrating with his venom let free against those who he came across while in Europe. Wiener is the classic heroic, man of action from that era whil his friend accompanying him, Arnost Lustig, is a different kind of heroic figure. Lustig spent time in a concentration camp and then the Communist Party (much to Wiener's dismay) and is more brain than brawn. Where Wiener likes to attack his past head on, Lustig looks into it with complicated angles that seem to take Wiener places he doesn't want to go. There are a few bitter arguements between the two men over what Wiener did and didn't do and seeing the two men's long friendship disintegrate before our eyes after they've been through so much is both fascinating and heartwrenching. Fighter has some funny moments and some poignant ones as well. When Wiener attempts to rekindle the memories of people he remembers as having a profound instant with during the '40s, they don't remember him at all. It's a tragic and realistic moment in the lives of us all. We all have tiny pieces of ourselves, our past, our personal history that are monumental to us and we think others share in their importance, but to them, the precious moment doesn't mean a thing. Time has that effect on us all. Fighter is both a sad and uplifting doc on two remarkable elderly men and I've found myself thinking about that look on Wiener's face when he realizes the people have no clue who he is. It's a devastating moment in his life to witness. Joshua: 4 Robert: 3.5

The Pink Panther (1963, usa)

Blake Edwards' classic capor comedy that I haven't seen since I was about 10. Rented this from Blockbuster, their dvd selection of comedies was slight, all seemed to be checked out, I guess no one wants the heavy stuff here in NY, I know I don't. Peter Sellers, David Niven and a very young Robert Wagner star in this enjoyable film. Niven plays a smooth, suave jewell thief and Sellers is the bumbling Inspector Clouseau that might be the role he's most remembered as (I think of him though for his trio of roles in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove). This is kind of slow to start out with because of all of Niven's wooing of a Princess to get close to her to steal a necklace but the last 30 minutes of the Pink Panther were very good as all this silly, over the top action takes place around the heist. There really isn't much of the capor stuff and the on screen detective work is missing too as Clouseau bumbles into his suspicions much like he bumbles into everything else he comes near. Sellers is like a low key Chaplin or Jacques Tati with his physical comedy and is pretty funny but is given way less screen time than Niven. I would have preferred the reverse. Maybe he's in the follow ups to this more? I can't remember as I saw them all when I was around ten or 11 years old. Still entertaining, especially for Sellers fans. Joshua: 3.5

Rock Star (2001, usa)

Rock Star could have been so much more. Instead, it chooses the safe route to tell the story of what would happen if a fanatic of a metal band is given the chance to be in the band he dearly loves. Set in the mid 1980s, Mark "Funky Bunch" Wahlberg is Chris, living in Pittsburgh with his parents, repairing xerox copiers by day, fronting the metal tribute band Blood Pollution. His love of Steel Dragon's music is so great that it seems to be the one and only thing in his life but his band is squabbling and floundering. When Steel Dragon's vocalist is given the boot, destiny makes its way to Pittsburgh. Chris becomes the Rockstar of his dreams, living out his new stardom to full excess. This could have been funnier as it could have lampooned Mtv much harsher, plus the hair metal movement, fans or groupies too but mostly it chooses to play it straight. I liked the early part of this set in Pittsburgh when Chris is wrapped up in his dreams. When we actually see him living the cliche rockstar lifestyle it really takes away from the innocent charm of the early portions of the film. The movie should have never left Pittsburgh, it should have been about the dream itself, the love of the band and this music itself, that would have been enough and better than what it turns into. Plus, the ending feels slapped on and doesn't ring true on any note. The metal songs, which sound like a pumped up Def Leopard, can get a little repetitive as they aren't the greatest and we hear them over and over. Wahlberg is the most believable as an actor when he plays a regular guy like Chris but he's not an astoundingly talented actor that's for certain. Rock Star is predictable to the end and like I said, lurches forward to get to its end and is at most, an enjoyable diversion that could have been funnier and better had it chosen to go in a different direction. Joshua: 2.5

Ride With the Devil (1999, usa)

This movie is thought to be director Ang Lee's lone real failure as a filmmaker. While I agree that it's certainly not his best film, it's hardly the failure it might have been or was made out to be by some of the critics I happen to read. Often beautiful to look at with lush, soft photography of the green trees or sunsets of yellow and orange, the film is set during the Civil War along the Missouri/ Kansas border. A couple of young friends, Jacob (Tobey Maguire) and Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich), join a band of youngish, long haired irregulars who fight a guerilla brand of war much like "Bloody" Bill Anderson and Quantrill did for the Confederacy. Jake grows tired of the killing and begins to think about getting out before the Union get him or one of his own dangerous men shoots him for being German (other Germans in this area were pro-Union). Ride With the Devil marks the acting debut of the soft rock singer and "poet" (note the sarcasm of the quotes!) Jewell and believe it or not she wasn't the worst actor in here. No, that would belong to Maguire. I can't stand his remote, distant, unemotional and cold acting style and can't figure out for the life of me why he gets these good roles as he's hurt almost every movie I've seen him in. I just don't see what casting directors see in him as he comes off as a robot he's so wooden in this movie. To hear him and others try to say some of the period style words and phrases of speech, you get a sense of his uncomfortable- ness at the words as they come out clipped and don't sound natural at all. It sounds like scripwriting and not every day speech of Missourans. Ride With the Devil is kind of stuck between whether it wants to tell more of a drama about the psychology of war and these men who are numbed by their fighting or go into the politics of the fighting itself. I think it's at its best showing the men fighting and hiding out with each other and when its scope is pulled in and intimate. When it takes on bigger issues outside of the men I feel it stumbles somewhat. Ride With the Devil is worth seeing for its photography as the dvd looks great. Civil War and western buffs may also enjoy it but I got kind of bogged down in its confusion of just what kind of move it wants to be and Maguire's cold performance. To me, he's a poor excuse for a leading man. Joshua: 3

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Revolting Youth (2000) by CD Payne

In the mid '90s CD Payne wrote a giant, deranged farce of a coming of age novel called Youth In Revolt that followed the adventures of a nearly 15 year old by the name of Nick Twisp as he desperately tried to get into the pants of Sheeni Saunders. To say that Youth In Revolt is non-stop mayhem is an extreme understatement as the book is a wild, unhinged journey full of sex, violence, crossdressing, plot twists galore and comedy. Lord, was Youth in Revolt a funny book! Implausible and highly unbelievable but funny as all get out. I read it in '96 or '97 and laughed all the way through it as Nick (and his aliases) cause chaos and havoc. Revolting Youth is more adventures of Nick and company and while very entertaining, it's just not as funny as the first. It's just as outlandish and chock full of sex and outrageous behavior from anti-hero Nick but it lacks a little bit of the surprise attack comedy of Youth In Revolt. It took me about 50 pages to get into this and then I read the next 200+ pages in a day, that's how fun these journal based novels of Payne are. I'm not going into the plot in case someone might decide to read Youth In Revolt (which is highly recommended if you can't tell) but needless to say Nick is still on the loose, on the lam from the FBI and others in his Northern California town. These two books have kind of a cult following of devotees of which I belong, join the cult, your laughter will let you know you belong amid the cult of Nick Twisp and CD Payne.






"





Hello comrades. Movies reviewed include Mission to Mars (1999), Together (2000) and Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996). Book review of Quake by Rudolph Wurlitzer and maybe another, depending on the mood, yes, The Good Brother by Chris Offutt (and a new favorite of mine

Mission to Mars (1999, usa)

This summer release from '99 was much ridiculed by critics from what I recall. And while not setting the world on fire with its greatness, I don't think it is the failure it was made out to be. Brian De Palma is going for some kind of space thriller for the masses with a mystery around aliens on the red planet but all too often the film lacks real suspense and structure. Being cold and emotionless is fine for a lot of sci-fi films but Mission to Mars is hampered by the coldness and the lack of appealing characters. A weak script has severely hindered any sort of character growth at all. These are just astronauts spouting tekno astro-babble into their headsets as they go on a mission to save a crew of fellow astronauts who have ceased their contact on Mars. There is a good cast pretty much unused in this, Don Cheadle, Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins among those who fail to make inroads in the clunky script. Some good effects though, komputers leave their digitized traces all over Mission to Mars. And De Palma, with all his swooping in upside down, gravity less shots, forces what action there is with those dizzying, looping shots. I just kept thinking enough of those shots! As Mission to Mars unfolded, I was expecting something more to happen but the payoff was slight and a little obvious. Maybe Mission to Mars had designs on being some kind of film like 2001 or even Contact but couldn't throw off its big budget, summer blockbuster shackles that often hold it and films like it back from being any good. Too bad more didn't actually go on here as it would have been more fun instead of a meandering, expensive, high tek, genre b-movie, but too little really goes on for it to be much of a success. Although, not as abysmal as I thought, still not something to jump up and shout over. Mission to Mars just sort of exists, nothing more, nothing less. Joshua: 2.5

Together (2000, Sweden) NY--The Angelika

This Swedish drama/comedy set in 1975 at a communal house called "together" has some nice moments but I walk away feeling mostly lukewarm about it. Could be this massive migraine I had while watching it had something to do with my feelings? So bad was the pain, I just kind of lay my head against the chair, unable to move my head without severe pain shooting through my skull. Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, Together really captures the feel of the mid '70s, both in mentality but also in fashion and culture (yes, Abba is heard, among other Swede and non-Swede songs). The clothes, furniture around the house, hair and beards were firmly rooted in that era. Goran's sister is punched in the face by her husband and she goes to live in the communal house with her two kids. When they enter the kitchen they find both a man and woman naked from the waist down while shouting at one another regarding gender equality while other people sit silently at a table and watch the squabble. Welcome to the commune. The whole idea of groups of men and women living this way is to instill a little peace and harmony in their lives. Well, that's not this group as they are just as screwed up as the world they are trying to keep out with their group. There's the divorced couple who split up because she decided she is a lesbian and he doesn't like it. One of their kids is named Tet after the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. They argue about a lot of things but most of it is rooted in their dissolved marriage. There's the hard core Marxist/Leninist who'd rather discuss political theory than bed a willing woman. The willing woman happens to be Goran's girlfriend. Goran, with red beard and quiet demeaner, doesn't really go for her sleeping with the Marxist/Leninist but can't quite bring himself to outright telling her his true feelings. There's another couple who are rigide and didactic and another guy who has a thing for one of the males of the house. As I said, it's a combustable living situation that is probably fairly accurate in all the petty bickering and silly political posturing that went on at the time. Had Moodysson made this the movie I would have liked it more but he spends a lot of time focusing in on the messed up kids, Eva and Stefan, who've been displaced from home into this strange house with oddball freedom loving adults who have more rules to live by in pursuit of their freedom. Plus, all the extreme zooms and just plain old zooms were making me dizzy (and adding to the migraine!). Moodysson is certainly an interesting filmmaker and Together has some good moments but it seemde a little flat and forced regarding key elements of the film connected to the children. Enjoyed the ideology spoofing though of the communal lifestyle quite a bit. Joshua: 3

Comrades, Almost A Love Story (1996, Hong Kong)

I really liked this bittersweet love story from director Peter Chan. Starting out in Hong Kong in 1985 as Li Xiaojun (Leon Lai) gets off a train from the mainland to start working like a dog to save up money for his girlfriend to come to Hong Kong and marry him. Li Xiaojun meets hard working Li Chiao (Maggie Cheung) in a McDonalds and the two form an unlikely bond. Try as they might they never want to admit that they are in love despite the obvious fact they are in love and even sleeping together. Li Chiao doesn't think they want the same things in life so she is willing to turn her back on love to get those things in life she thinks she wants or needs. This is a sad movie to me. It makes me sad when people are like Li Chiao and ignore the feelings they may feel for a person just because it may derail their conceived path in their imagination. Rather than create a new road, they lack the courage to do such a thing and would rather end things than change direction. Such is the case with Li Chiao. As the years go by, they cross paths and spend time trying not to be together when such romantic notions as fate and destiny keep telling them plainly it is one another they should be with. Watching this to the end and seeing whether if they would find this out or not was painful to sit through. Pain in a good, broken hearted, bittersweet, believing in love sort of way. Maggie Cheung is one of my favorite actresses and this is one of her all time great roles. The woman is amazingly electric on screen. She and Lai have a real chemistry together which just makes it more maddening why they don't just grab each other and declare their undying love! Maybe I'm just a sucker? So be it. Bittersweet, tender heartache from Chan and company. Joshua: 4

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Quake (1972) by Rudolph Wurlitzer

I read a lot of this thinnish novel while waiting for the Magnetic Fields who to start. I despised the opener, the full of himself writer Neil Gaimen (?) so much I read this openly during his awful poetry and stories, rude or not! Had Quake been longer I doubt I would have finished it as it is a dated, blast of counter culture chaos and stream of conscious from 1972 that gets very uninspiring with its lack of story arc narrative. "The Big One" has hit California and leaves the state in devistation and anarchy. Mobs rule, anything can and does happen as people become brutal to survive. That sounds better than Quake actually is. Quake is drowning in 1972 conventions, mostly drawn from counter culture mentality, that made me not like this a whole lot. I bet this was popular in the right group of people but 29 years later, Quake has not aged very well. Plus, the hippie stream of conscious take on a ravaged society just wasn't written or conceived well at all. But, it did kill some time on the subway and waiting for a band to take the stage during an annoying writer spouting off.

The Good Brother (1997) by Chris Offutt

First novel by Chris Offutt (Kentucky Straight, Out of the Woods) that I liked a lot, especially the first 3/4, before it becomes kind of sidetracked by plot shifts that belong in another novel. Offutt's writing is so lean and spare that it could cut glass. It has no excess as it tells its story without any showing off and the style is perfectly in harmony with the story of The Good Brother. Virgil Caudill is on an uneventful path in the hills and hollers of rural Kentucky. He works for a garbage and sanitation company, he is involved with his high school sweetheart, he mows his mom's lawn. All this changes when his wild younger brother Boyd is killed. It's common knowledge who did it and Virgil now is expected to revenge his brother's murder with one of his own. That's the code of Kentucky hills, strictly Old Testament, an eye for an eye brand of justice. Virgil comes up with a plan and it will carry him away from Kentucky and yet face to face with it as well. Offutt has a great ear for dialogue as people talk to each other with a believable variety of accents, whether it's the hills or the west. I think a lot of this as its a meditation on your choices that are sometimes not really choices but paths already chosen for you because of the various traditions that make up the mapwork of where your from. Some missteps toward the end but not enough to dampen my excitement of discovering a new writer like Chris Offutt. This is the real deal.



"


Movies reviewed: The Others (2001), The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and Happy Accidents (2000) plus a short review of Grant Speaks by Ev Ehrlich at the end.

The Others (2001, usa) NY---times square

The Others is a cold blooded, slow moving, chilly, emotionally restrained horror/ghost story from Spain's Alejandro Amenabar's first English language movie and I liked it a lot. I was not among those impressed by Amenabar's Abre Los Ojos (remade with Grinnin' Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe with the title Liquid Sky), although I will admit that Abre Los Ojos was a pretty audacious mendbender and was commendable for its out thereness. The Others is set in 1945 on an island in the English Channel and in a giant house, cocooned in thick fog, with a mother (Nicole Kidman), her two young kids and three house workers. The two kids are photosensitive and can be killed by strong light so the curtains have to always be drawn and the many doorways shut and locked so that someone doesn't enter bringing the dangerous light. But there are weird things afoot in the house and Amenabar keeps it so hidden beneath the surface that it barely is witnessed as we watch it. I liked that. If it had been in my face all the time, I wouldn't have thought much of The Others but Amenabar spends his time creating atmosphere and tension, not out of control cliche horror and the film is a success because of this restraint. The bulk of the action is inside the dark house, what few scenes that happen outside are filmed so grainy and atmospheric they almost have this surreal artsy quality to them. The Others really should have been shot in black and white as it has this old style gothic ambience teeming throughout that is perfectly suited for B &W. I haven't seen a ghost story this icy in a long while and its this coldness, imbibed with atmosphere and eery moments, that make the film a very welcome summer edition to theatres. Joshua: 4

Okay, here's a couple of sidebars connected to when I saw The Others. As I was riding up the escalator, I thought I saw the actress Heather Burns (Miss Congeniality, You've Got Mail) who is in the off-Broadway play Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan. Naw, couldn't be, I told myself and went and found my seat and read my book, waiting for the lights to dim. While people watching the woman entered and lo and behold it was Heather Burns, wearing a backless green top, red hair swept into a frenetic mop on her head, with popcorn and soda. She took an aisle seat and slouched down for the movie. I actually now had seen the woman two of three days in different parts of the city.

Sidebar #2. Never again will I sit in a Times Square theatre on a Saturday afternoon as this was the loudest crowd I've ever had to endure in a non-midnight, $ movie setting. Can't go into all the details of chatter, speaking out to the screen, random conversations, loud eating and wrappers being torn and cell phones going off but a few must be mentioned. This effiminate Hispanic guy sitting two seats to my right (and who I moved down so he and his 3 friends could sit by me!) would say, "You go girl!" to the screen about every 5 minutes and he became embroiled in one of the more bizarre things I've ever heard in a movie. After one of his "go girl" comments early in the movie, someone about ten rows down and across gave him a loud "sshhh". The guy was having none of it and gave a "ssshhh" back. There was a response of "ssshhh" and he gave another "ssshhh". All of a sudden they started going "ssshhh" to each other over and over with both refusing to stop! Finally, after about 25 "sshhh"s the person down below stopped the "ssshhh" battle in defeat. Thrushed with victory, he hollers out, "You've got some nerve girlfriend!" Never in my life have I heard a "ssshhh" war like that! Another incident happened about 2/3 into the film. Some guy at the front stood up and walked all the way from one end of the screen to the other, I guess looking for an exit. After he got to the side and realized he wasn't on the correct side, he then proceeded to start back across to the other side, all the while visible against the screen and blocking the bottom images for the entire theatre. "Sit the fuck down!" someone yelled out. The guy pauses, starts walking and when he gets on the aisle starts saying really loud to the darkened theatre: "Kiss my ass bitch! People got no fuckin' respect for others!....." cursing all the way out the door, which he slammed as loud as he could. The guy from the "ssshhh" battle next to me yells out, "ssshhh, girl be quiet!" Ah, New York City movie watching in Times Square.

The Thirteenth Floor (1999, usa)

This was a convoluted sci-fi reality/fantasy movie that was not all that good and I'm not going to spend much time talking about. This company has a new invention where their komputer logs into your brain and can transport you into a komputer simulation that feels just as real as the real world. The simulation is 1937 Los Angeles and one of the inventors has been murdered and while trying to find out who did it, another inventor must start going into the 1937 komputer world to try and solve the mystery. Vincent D'Onofrio is among the cast but this is kind of second rate Phillip K. Dick territory I'm afraid as it just gets kind of goofy by the end. I did sort of like the idea of the time travel back into other people's bodies though. The Thirteenth Floor is too much like some kind of made for tv sci-fi channel production rather than a movie movie. Joshua: 2.5

Happy Accidents (2000, usa) reviewed 5-19-2001 watched: seattle at the Egyptian

(I watched this last year at SIFF. It finally came out last Friday and feel it deserves to be seen. This is the review I wrote for it last year while in Seattle for the film festival)

Second movie from writer/director Brad Anderson, whose first film was Next Stop Wonderland. I liked the title but didn't think much of that movie but was completely roped into this charming, funny romantic comedy with a twist as it involves time travel. I love romantic comedies and time travel so to combine the two ideas: genius! I loved the two leads, Vincent D'Onofrio and Marisa Tomei, who have a real chemistry together. D'Onofrio is surprisingly effective as the romantic lead and Tomei has never been more adorable than she is in Happy Accidents. D'Onofrio plays Sam Deed, the latest odd boyfriend of Ruby. She thinks she's found a great, if somewhat eccentric, new guy and maybe has put all her messed up boyfriends behind her. When Sam confesses he's a back traveller from 500 years in the future, Ruby is tormented by the attachment she has to this man. Is he insane? Is he telling the truth? Do I ruin every chance I have at love? These are the questions Ruby asks herself and her friends. I loved the mix of romance, comedy, time travel and other sci-fi elements and fish out of water situations (plus a funny Anthony Michael Hall cameo). The end doesn't quite hold up to the rest of the film but by that point I was completely entertained and enjoying myself. Happy Accidents is a very charming little movie and is a time travel romantic comedy! How can you top that? Joshua: 4

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Grant Speaks (2000) by Ev Ehrlich

Grant Speaks is a novel that wants so hard to be a raucous, no-holds barred satire and takes a historical figure (Ulysses S. Grant) and completely turns his life story into a dark, comedic revisionist fictional memoir. Interesting idea but it has failed. I'll admit, in the early parts of the novel, I was intrigued by the set up of Grant's counterfeit assuming his identity and therefore his destiny, but that intrigue slowly burned away and left me with a tedious feeling as I tried to slog through the last third of it. Mostly, we get an endless parade of historical figures who are turned upside down from their historical perception and are basically just caricatures, without any sort of weight at all. Everyone is just another flimsy foil for Grant to inflame his ego as he "writes" his memoir on his death bed. That gets old real quick. Maybe that's what memoir writing is about anyway: the writer's ego. My big problem with the book is it feels disengenious to me. Certain historical events in Grant's life are skirted over and all his personal relationships are given very unbelievable angles. A heads up, don't think this is history, it's not. It's just an author using a trick to reinvent a historical figure to tell us the ways that Grant sinned, stumbled into lucky fates, erred and all the people he comes in contact with over his life like Lee, Lincoln, Sherman etc. No one comes off free of being ridiculed in the course of Grant Speaks and I have not a single problem with that as I love to see some come uppance to historical figures that are deified simply because they are that: historical figures turned golden and saintly by the distance of the past. I love satire (TC Boyle is one of my favorite writers) but this brand of reworking just comes off as false and doesn't pay off the Ev Ehrlich thinks it is paying off. Grant Speaks is just so flimsy and phony that it can't five that come uppance because it is always too busy trying to admire just how cute and devilish it is.



"People can generally be classified into two groups: the mediocre realists and the mediocre dreamers."----Haruki Murakami




Hello. Only two movie reviews (more like rants and stories actually) with books on here too, but first off I've got to tell a few Maine stories (one gross and one celebrity). Robert Schrader and I went to Maine last week for five days as the "Get the Hell Out of NY!" summer camping tour. It was so great to get out of the noisy, hot, crowded city for a while and I wish I was still out there driving, heading into Canada, laying in the tent reading and listening to the wind in the trees. Day #2 had us in Belfast, Maine, camped out near the water on nice, soft ground. For supper we ate at a place down the road and had steamed clams, fried whole clams and I topped it off with a pretty big cone of soft serve ice cream. Little did I know this was going to be a dangerous mix that would come back to attack me in a few hours. I woke up at around 1 that night, with the awful rumbling in my stomach and this odd twitching nervousness that always tells me I'm about to be sick. I unzipped the tent, waking Rob up, "What's going on?" he asked. "I think I'm about to throw up." I reply flatly and bound off barefoot down a dirt path, trying to make it to the bathroom before getting sick. I don't make it. I threw up all over the ground near the walkway outside the campground office, five feet from the bathroom door! I rushed in there and spent the next two hours, without shoes and alone, being sick, shivering and cursing my entire existence. There is something about getting food poisoning and throwing up that upsets my entire chemical make-up and I become unbelievably depressed and dark. I just want to die it's such a terrible thing. This is the first time I'd gotten sick like this since December of 1996 when I ate one of those potato things, baked and with sour cream, bacon bits and the works over the top. This was worse though. To be alone, somewhere in Maine, in the middle of the night, wearing no shoes in a semi-dirty toilet and puking up these undigested clams! It's not a moment I want to relive anytime soon. I returned to the tent at almost 3am to find myself shivering with a slight fever and unable to stop my teeth from chattering loudly against each other. The next morning I was weak and ate bland foods but two days later I was back at my usual diet. It has put me off the clams though. Never again will I eat steamed clams.

Maine story #2 is for the film geeks out there and involves a celebrity sighting. We had made up to Bar Harbor, Maine and were staying near the Acadia National Park. We were returning on a shuttle bus from the park and a great couple of hours hiking along the rocky shoreline that had the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the giant rocks while a soft drizzle fell from the sky. It was around dusk and the shuttle bus was stopping at various campgrounds letting people off and get on. At one of these stops a couple of kids get on and this normal looking guy. I noticed him and thought, "That looks like..." but then thought, "Naw, what's he doing up here on a shuttle bus in Maine?" but realized it was him and turned to Rob and said, "Hey, that's an actor named Luis Guzman!" "I was just about to tell you that I knew that was some famous actor," Rob replied. I was psyched. Guzman (Traffic, The Limey, Boogie Nights) is one of my favorite character actors and I always mention him in my reviews. Rob and I made a series of jokes about what we could go up and say to him that would be funny to us and that would catch him off guard being up here in the boonies of Maine and we decided to get off when he got off to at least say hello, thinking he surely doesn't get spotted a lot, especially here. We kind of walked behind him, that saw us having to pass a couple of his daughters to pull up even. I was walking a little ahead of Rob and Luis made eye contact and I said, "Luis Guzman?" "Yeah." "I'm a big fan of your work." "Hey, thanks a lot. All right." "What're you, up here to see the park?" "Yeah, up here for that, watching the whales." It started to rain and I don't recall much that was said after that but we all started running for our various tents or RVs or whatnot. It was cool. Luis Guzman. He seemed nice and kind of into being complimented and had it not started raining I may have gotten a longer conversation but it was funny as we weren't really expecting to see someone like that on this bus shuttle to the campgrounds. Now, to the movies/rants and more Maine stuff during the Rat Race review.

The Score (2001, usa)

The heist film is back in style and I'm glad for it. The Score, starring a bunch of heavy hitters such as Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Angela Bassett, is one of the recent heist film releases (upcoming movies such as Heist (that's original!) and Ocean's 11 (with the above mentioned Luis Guzman I'm sure as he's a Steven Soderbergh regular) also have big starpower around capor action and double crosses). Maybe it's because I'm such a flat out sucker for these movies but I found The Score a pretty solid and enjoyable little heist film. I wasn't really surprised by anything but it follows such a steadfast and winning formula that any any film that adheres to the basic heist bluebook and has good performances, I'm going to recommend. All the actors are very competent (although Bassett is barely used) as De Niro plays a master thief making one last job before (I told you it follows the formula!) and joins up with a cocky, unknown guy (Norton) who is the inside man. Norton is an actor who is often said to be the finest of this generation (I'd probably go with Sean Penn myself) but come on, let's be honest, he couldn't carry De Niro's bags when De Niro was in his prime in the mid to late '70s and early '80s. The Deer Hunter. Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. Just three of De Niro's career defining roles during this period. Maybe he could rise to such lofty heights but those kinds of intense, epic, decade defining roles and movies aren't made these days (horrible state of American cinema is to blame. Again, I'm bashing American Hollywood movies but try and convince me this isn't true. How many great American movies have been released this year anyway? A tiny few at best. Wait a sec, let me see how many American releases I've scored a four or better so far in 2001 Kinetoscope. Here's the list: Traffic, State and Main, Momento, Moulin Rouge, Ghost World, that's it, 5 movies, 2 of which I saw in the first 2 weeks of the year. That's pathetic in any book you look at. Let me count up the foreign films released in America in 2000-01 that I've seen this year. Chunhyang, In the Mood for Love, Afterlife, The Taste of Others, The Gleaners and I, The Foul King, Amores Perros, Eureka, With a Friend Like Harry, Sexy Beast, Seance and Thomas In Love. 12 movies. I don't need to write more on the subject. 6 of the 12 are out of Asia. I'll say it again: the best movies in the world are coming from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong/China right now. It just sickens me that with so much money at their disposal that American films aren't more up to snuff. Nothing but blockbusters and lowest common denominator cinema I'm afraid and I just expect too much I guess because I'm not satisfied by the litany of crap movies they produce. Well, an unexpected rant has emerged to comprise the bulk of this review! American cinema is in such a weakened state I truly feel compelled to go after it at every opportunity.). Okay, now I'm in a downer, don't feel like picking up where I left off. I wouldn't call The Score original but it's a very solidly made heist film with a great "big job" at the end that should be enjoyed as an entertainingly done genre picture. It kind of has an old time feel to it as it is mostly business around the capor. The scenes away from the robbery kind of drag it down but thankfully those scenes are few. Film geeks take note: Gary Farmer is among the cast. Solid, no-frills, pulls no punches heist movie here. Joshua: 3.5

Rat Race (2001, usa) Weir's Drive-In Theatre at Weir's Beach, New Hampshire w/ Rob

Rob and I are on our "Get the Hell Out of NY!" summer tour, New Hampshire portion and happen to be camping out in a little town with a drive in theatre, one of the last bastions of authentic Americana. After we ate supper at a great place called Hart's Turkey Farm (their motto: Where Everyday is Thanksgiving Day! and had the world's largest turkey plate collection that was started by Grandma Mae in the '50s. See this is the real America that you only see by travelling around to small little, off the turnpike towns.) where I had turkey livers, more turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potato, butternut squash and a slice of key lime pie (my clam/ice cream poisoning was in the past as you can see), we drove down to Weir's Beach and the drive-in. Yes, we got in a honk before the film started when we felt that it was dark enough to start the movie (the honking is a part of the experience and tradition of the drive-in). Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the old style metallic window mounted speakers to the fm radio signal that is used now. Sure it sounds better on fm but there's something unique about having to attach this oblong, beautifully silver, heavy object to your window and then adjusting the static filled volume up and down and then making sure you don't drive off with it still on your window. The movie we came to see, Rat Race, is not really worth going into as its an updating of the Cannonball Run genre of picture. A big group of stars go on a chaotic, loopy road race while trying to win a chunk of money by crossing the finish line first. Rat Race is a silly movie that is certainly enhanced by the drive-in setting of cars, night sky with stars, trees next to the screen, people hollering out around us as they sit in folding chairs or in the back of trucks and the flickering image burning its way through the darkness and showing up on the screen that needs painting. My score would have been lower had it nod been seen in the great drive-in atmosphere but that fact added a great deal to watching a not so funny zany road picture. Joshua: 3 Robert: 2.5

(book review time: ***********Tokyo Underworld (1999)*********** by Robert Whiting

The subtitle of this non-fiction book by Robert Whiting is The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan. That American is Nick Zapetti and Tokyo Underworld follows Zapetti from his early days as GI and black marketeer in post WWII occupied Japan. Zapetti managed to make ties with prominent Japanese organized crime branches, the Yakuza, which was unheard of for a gaijin. Zapetti lived an up and down life with riches beyond riches and then trouble with his Japanese wives and money problems that cost him the bulk of his empire. Zapetti also had a highly popular group of pizzarias called Nicola's that were a haven for celebrities and yakuza. My favorite moments of Tokyo Underworld were the Zapetti stories and the yakuza ones connected to him. The exerpts on pro-wrestling as nationalistic ego builder and the America vs. Japan mindset are two of the more enjoyable areas of the book. Unfortunately, the book goes into the details of the past 25 years of the yakuza and the white collar crime as they became more mainstream and moved away from the back piece tattooed, chopped off pinkie finger, sword carrying criminals there were known as in the '50s and '60s. I'm into the old style yakuza more than the new breed who are just basically businessmen with no scruples or ethics (but that might be common for the world of business?). Anyway, I'd have liked more crime and less business at times during Tokyo Underworld. This is the second book by Whiting I've read on Japan. He also wrote the classic You Gotta Have Wa, an examination of the differences of America and Japan throught the viewpoint of American baseball players in Japan and the difficulties they face on foreign soil. I wouldn't put Tokyo Underworld in the class of Wa but if you are into crime/mafia/yakuza/ Japan, then it's certainly worth checking out.

Okay, that's all this time. I'm hoping to catch a few films from the Korean Film Fest here in the next week so it might be all Korean films when I send another Kinetoscope out. Hope you enjoyed the stories and weren't too disgusted with the clam/ice cream one!





Hello. Excited to be getting out of New York for a few days to-morrow. Heading up to Maine to camp and drive around. We're not exactly going to rough it as we are taking a couple of lobster pots with the plan of eating some lobster at the campground/beach. Wilderness man on the loose! I'm sick of the hot, noisy, crowded NY summer that's for sure.

Movies reviewed: Thomas in Love (2000), Brother (2000) and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (1972). Plus, there are two more book reviews at the end, Footsucker and Andy Kaufman Revealed! as I attempt to catch up from the backlog of books I've read this year.

Thomas in Love (2000, Belgium) NY--Cinema Village

Thomas In Love is one of the more unique films I've seen in a while. Directed by Pierre-Paul Renders, it offers us life as Thomas sees it, through his visiophone (new teknology that is the phone and video through his komputer: the visiophone). Thomas is agoraphobic and can only communicate with people through his komputer. This is sort of a sci-fi film because of its futuristic setting and new teknology but the film isn't your normal sci-fi film as it is just a collection of people talking into this digital camera and Thomas' voice as he responds (we never actually see Thomas). I thought seeing everything from the perspective of a single camera would get old but that wasn't the case. The film was visually striking with all these hyper colors and strange face tattoos and makeup that's popular in Render's future world. Thomas' psychiatrist signs him up for a dating club and his agoraphobia scares all the women off except for one named Melody (Magali Pinglaut, who is doe eyed, cute as all get out fiesty actress who has an incredible way of biting her lips as she pauses between sentences that was very beguiling). Melody and Thomas hit it off, she makes video pomes and even considers some taboo cybersex with Thomas instead of having sex in person. Thomas also meets a woman named Eve who works as a prostitute through some kind of komputerized on-line agency. Eve behins to take up more of Thomas' attention as they talk more and more after he sees her crying through his visiophone. Renders has made a film that is really unique in look and he takes this cool idea and runs with it full steam ahead and it's a wonderfully inventive and different movie. It uses some animation (some naughty cybersex bits) and all kinds of digitalized tricks to liven up the images through the visiophone. The screen blips in and out, grows fuzzy and out of focus, uses odd, disjointed framing, photos pulse multiple images behind those who are talking to Thomas and all those vibrant colors and face tattoos. I bet some people would hate this kind of tekked up movie but not me, I found it oddly kind of warm hearted despite the coldness of future teknology and the lack of genuine human interaction. Thomas In Love is a strikingly different kind of sci-fi that should be checked out if you get the chance and this plays in other cities. Joshua: 4

Brother (2000, Japan/usa) NY--Village East

Takeshi "Beat" Kitano's lates sees him making a claim at breaking into the American market more as it is half in English and mostly set in Los Angelos. I'm a Kitano fan and think his Fireworks is one of the best films I've seen in the past few years but Brother is a bad movie and the last half of it is practically an unwatchable mess. I don't know what in the world went wrong here but boy was it a complete and utter disaster. Kitano plays Aniki, his usual quiet yakuza, with facial twitches and extremely violent personality. His crime family is taken over in Japan and he leaves for America to save face for his old partners who are attempting to assimilate into the new gang. He arrives in L.A. to find a half brother (Claude Maki) who is involved in petty drug dealing. In no time Aniki has killed off the competition and has started up his own new crew of American styled yakuza. Brother just devolves into a mindless and silly series of brutal killings that mean absolutely nothing as their is no emotional attachment to any of these guys. Kitano's wordless, Clint Eastwood silent tough guy lacks the personality he's captured in the past. Brother also is missing the interesting visual artsy flair and the bizarre, non-linear editing that have been a Kitano trademark in his past few films. Truly, Brother looked and felt like some kind of straight to video release you see late Friday night on Cinemax with its tedious violence and empty sentimentalism. I really despise seeing a movie from a writer/director I admire and then a sinking feeling slowly creeps in as to how what I'm watching is not working and turning into a failure. It's painful. This is exactly one of those times. Takeshi Kitano has thrown out a massive dud with Brother that's for certain. Joshua: 2

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask (1972, usa)

Early Woody Allen comedy that sees him turn sex into farce by showing seven sketches based around questions such as what is sodomy?, why do some women have trouble reaching an orgasm? (which is in Italian), and are transvestites homosexuals? the sodomy story features one of my favorites with Gene Wilder as a doctor who falls in love with a sheep named Daisy and begins to have a hot and torrid affair with her (hence the sodomy). Allen's early comedies, such as Bananas and Sleeper, are just so silly and goofy and in many ways my favorite of his films in his long career. This is in that vein. It's not always funny as some of the jokes fall flat and Allen plays to the camera with a wink too much, but it's so giddy in its bits of goofy business that its fun for Woody fans like myself. Joshua: 3.5

INKLAB book reviews............INKLAB book reviews.........INKLAB book reviews.......

Footsucker (1995) by Geoff Nicholson

As the title may tell you, this novel by Nicholson is about the world of a foot fetishist who meets a woman with perfect feet and has his world turned upside down because of it. Footsucker is about the most out and out sexual book since I read The Fermata by Nicholson Baker (a great, dirty book about stopping time and sex!) a couple of years ago. The fact that there were large doses of strange sex got me through this as it is not very well written. In fact, it's one of the poorest written books I've read in a while. Nicholson always uses the end of a chapter as an opportunity to toss in a one line teaser of what comes next--a very annoying and cheap ploy by a writer. Footsucker is thinly construcked, poorly plotted and just isn't well done. But, I suppose, if you are into feet a lot (which I'm not) you might want to check this out because you'll like Footsucker due to the amount of sex in it. The book details every kind of facet of foot fetishism and I mean everything and it can get a tad repetitive if you aren't into feet. I mean, there's only so many ways to eroticize licking toes for non foot freaks before it gets old. But, I did keep reading so maybe I'm into feet more than I thought I was? (okay, I read and wrote this in early May, since I've read it I've noticed I spend a lot of time on the subway casually looking at women's feet! either this book infuenced me in that way or I had more of a foot thing than i thought--i still don't think that's the case. It just helps to pass the time on the subway and there are so many women who wear shoes in the summer with feet visible and up front. Another thing that surprises me is just how few feet I find attractive. Very few of them I would consider getting into in the ways that Nicholson does in Footsucker. Thought a little confession might make this a more positive review than what I wrote in May.)

Andy Kaufman Revealed! (1999) by Bob Zmuda/Matthew Scott Hansen

I don't want to repeat myself from earlier Andy Kaufman related rantings in Kinetoscope but I was and am a big fan of this madcap genius ever since I was in my teens and saw him on Saturday Night Live repeats. To me, he was an American original, who was fascinated by the audience and pushed their buttons at every chance he got. He liked it when they hated him (see pro wrestling or wrestling women or Tony Clifton identity) as when they loved him (Foreign Man as Elvis, taking them to eat milk and cookies, I love Grandma persona). I know quite a bit about Kaufman's stunts and antics and act so there were not a lot of surprise in this memoir by Kaufman co-hort Zmuda. There were details in some of the Clifton gags (Clifton was Kaufman's alter ego, a loud, drunken lounge singer prone to verbal abuse and mayhem) I didn't know--the hilarious appearance on the Dinah Shore show for example that I didn't know that much about. Plus some of the Kaufman and Zmuda real life gags were funny too. Lots of details and trademarks from Andy's life that are interesting if your a Kaufman geek like me. But, the only thing that bothered me about reading this was this is Bob Zmuda's version of some of this and you must take that with a grain of salt. A lot of the time Zmuda is trying to pump himself up too much or tries to take credit for a lot of the gags and while I don't doubt he had a hand in some of them, I'm just not sure it's as much as he says it is. If you are interested in Kaufman, watch one of the docs on his life, see Man on the Moon, watch the ABC special and then check this out to get some of the background info. A small part of me will never give up hope that Kaufman has pulled his greatest hoax: the faking of his own death. I know its very doubtful, but I can still hope and believe can't I? That's what being a fan of Kaufman is about anyway: the suspension of belief.





Hello. I've seen a few celebrities since I moved to New York. Way back in February I think I stood in a coat check line a couple of people in front of director Harmony Korine at a Mojave 3 show (not 100% on this, it was very dark and loud in there). A few weeks ago I was walking by a Barnes and Noble in Chelsea and passed Louis Theroux (from TV Nation and Weird Weekends--both of which I love) who was lively talking with a beautiful brunette. Then a few days after that I spied indie actor/director Tom Noonan getting on the N/R train on 8th street. Which leads me to the latest sighting which was at one of the following movies, you'll have to read on to find out who it was. If you like Asian movies then this Kinetoscope is for you as I've 3 from Taiwan and one from Hong Kong.

Rebels of the Neon God (1992), The Hole (1998), Anna Magdalena (1997) and All the Corners of the World/A Conversation with God (198?/2001).

Rebels of the Neon God (1992, Taiwan) NY--Walter Reade Theatre

Director Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature is a brooding rumination on the lonely wanderings of lost youth during the night in Taipei. First time at this theatre near Lincoln Center/Julliard, I liked it, a nice curtain. I sat and read from my book by Asimov as an old school Chinese opera played. Good stuff. I saw a Tsai film a few years ago in Seattle called Vive L'Amour (hello Lola!) and that film was the follow up to this. While I remember not being blown away by Vive L'Amour, it was very idiosyncratic and memorable. Rebels of the Neon God is similar in feel to that one as it uses little dialogue and has damaged, lonely teens that show a version of Taipei with neon lights, seedy wet streets, back alleys, love hotels and video game parlors. Ah Tze lives with his brother in squalor in an apartment that has serious problems with drainage as water seeps up and covers the floor with an inch or two of water. Ah Tze and his pal Ah Ping sleep days and at night commit petty robberies such as stealing from phone boxes so they can play video games all night. Hsiao Kang (Lee Kang-Sheng, who is in all of Tsai's films and is kind of his screen alter ego) is silently drifting through life. Not into school, at odds with his taxi driving father and his mother thinks he's the reincarnated, mischevious god Nezha (which produces a very funny scene with Hsiao Kang pretending to be possessed) and begins to follow Ah Tze around during the night. I like Tsai's style as he will linger on a shot or scene much longer than usual in films today. Sometimes there are these long takes where hardly anything at all is even going on, just a person sitting smoking or wandering around Taipei streets. His willingness to hold the camera on these mundane aspects so fearlessly allows him to really carve into the void of these empty young people's lives. Very good and unique. Joshua: 4

The Hole (1998, Taiwan) NY--Walter Reade

They are having a Tsai Ming-Liang fest here at the Walter Reade (every other city get down and bow to the mecca New York City!) and I enjoyed Rebels of the Neon God so much yesterday I returned to see The Hole. This movie was a part of the series from France (I think) that had various filmmakers doing stories on what year 2000 might be like. Tsai's 21st century Taipei has a monsoon of a rainstorm (he has a thing about severe rain and water in apartments as leaks were in both these films. Does it really rain like this non-stop in Taipei?) Anyway, most of the city has been evacuated except for a man (the everpresent Tsai regular Lee Kang-Sheng) who lives above a woman (Yang Kuei-Mei) in a dingy, faceless, leaking apartment building. Due to the incessant rainstorm leaks create a hole in the middle of their floor/ceiling. This was a strange and interesting little film that mostly takes place without dialogue and in these two crappy apartments. But bizarrely, the woman breaks into these musical song and dance numbers all over the apartment building! She sings and dances in the elevator, the halls, stairwells and all in colorful dresses to the music of Grace Chang from the '50s. These fantasy musical numbers have color that is bright and eye catching when the rest of the film is shot kind of drab and grey. Toss in the epidemic of "Taipei Fever", an illness that makes people think they are cockroaches and which makes them burrow into closets or other lightless areas and you see what I mean when I say this was an interesting mix. These two people don't really talk to one another but something about the hole sparks this interest in one another. I've found a new filmmaker to admire with Tsai Ming-Liang as he's got a unique style and vision and is another example of what is missing in American filmmaking. He's not afraid. Speaking of American filmmaking, as I was leaving I happened to nearly bump into indie dysfunctional nerd extraordinaire Todd Solondz (Happiness, Welcome to the Dollhouse). Slight, geeky and with those large glasses, we both left the theatre and walked to the 1/9 Lincoln Center stop and then entered the same car. Maybe Solondz will be inspired to add a little Tsai into his next film but I kind of doubt it. Joshua: 4

Anna Magdalena (1997, Hong Kong)

Hai Chung Man's romantic triangle is sort of run of the mill and never takes off to break out of the confines of the genre even though it tries mightilly with a lengthy fantasy sequence that takes up the bulk of the last third of the movie. Takeshi Kaneshiro (Fallen Angels, Chungking Express) plays a quiet piano tuner who meets an unemployed rascal (Aaron Kwok) who ingratiates himself into his life and apartment. A beautiful woman moves in upstairs (Kelly Chan) and both men fall in love with her. Like these kind of light comedies around the globe, the wrong guy gets the girl. It's always the same, in life or in the movies. I liked parts of this but it gets too cutesy for its own good on occasion, there's little depth to any of the romance as I have no idea why these people thought they were in love and the fantasy, with its over the top comedy and fairy tale meditations on love about how "some will find and some will fail" didn't do it for me either. Joshua: 2.5

All the Corners of the World (198?, Taiwan) NY--Walter Reade

I returned to the Walter Reade to see perhaps one of the worst movies I've ever endured! And, at $9, it was a painful crap film for the wallet. All the Corners of the World was so bad it has made me doubt my high scores/opinion for the other two Tsai Ming-Liang films I've reviewed before this one. I came very close to getting up to walk out but wanted to give this the one it deserves. So bad! I have no clue when this was made, I'll guess mid to late '80s by the clothes and music. Set in some of the same places as The Hole and Rebels of the Neon God. In fact, Rebels had a few scenes that were near copies of scenes in this. The video was about the cheapest, circa '85 camcorder cheesy images I've ever sat through and the acting was amateurish at best. Something happened in the span of a few years that allowed Tsai to go from absolute dreck (hello Nancy!) like this to great, lonely odes to urban teenage isolation that would follow (Rebels...., Vive L'Amour, The Hole), I don't know what but there was some kind of trigger. I think this had never been shown in the U.S. and won't be again, don't waste time on this, go see his other films I've praised. The theatre also showed a short of about 20 minutes that was done by Tsai and Lee Kang-Sheng that was more travelogue than actual short film. A Conversation With God (2001) was random snippets of Taipei that involve a couple of orgasmic religious experiences blended with long, uninterrupted shots of streetlights blinking, walkways empty underneath the city and other similar things. Shot on mini-dv and with an unedited feel, this wasn't anything but shots of the city but was still more enjoyable than All the Corners of the World! Joshua: 1

That's it. Next time I'll have Cool Hand Luke and some others if I make it back from the Lake Placid area in upstate NY for the lumberjack olympics this weekend! Tree chopping, dog jumping and yes, log rolling!







Hello. Spring is here! Maybe. I'm tired, possible typos will ensue. Late night last night. The subway trains to Astoria take forever after midnight and i'm working on about 5 hours of sleep for the 4th straight night. I like to get my steady 8. Movies reviewed: An Affair of Love (2000), The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957), Momento (2000) and Wit (2000). As always, score is 1-5.

An Affair of Love (2000, France)

Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez star as the couple who meet and begin an affair. Leave it to the French to make a film about sex that doesn't really have any sex in it. The film starts as if a documentary, with the two being interviewed at separate locations. They discuss the key moments and the details of their affair. The affair started as a personal ad to accomplish some sexual fantasy they share and then changes into something more, into some sort of relationship, despite the fact that the two never know one anothers name. The film flits back and forth from the interviews to the actual events of the affair itself and director Frederic Fonteyne directs with a simple but artistic style. I loved the hues of red and blue in the hotel the two used for their get togethers. Since the film is mostly talking, the two with one another or to the camera of the documentary filmmaker, there is a heightened sense of eroticism when we finally see them intimate on screen. A few times fate or the idea of "it was meant to be" was brought into the story. I used to be a big believer in fate, destiny and love, but as time passes, I'm not sure I truly believe in any of those things anymore. They may exist but I'm in a state of severe doubt at the moment. An Affair of Love is a meditation on the themes of love, sex, desire and all the complicated ways two people have a difficulty in staying together that mostly succeeds. JOSHUA: 3.5

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, USA)

After seeing The Longest Day a few weeks ago I decided to rewatch The Bridge on the River Kwai on widescreen dvd. I don't think I've seen this since I was about 11 but I couldn't remember all the details so it was kind of like seeing it for the first time. Director David Lean has made a war epic that has stood the test of time and is deservedly worthy of the term classic. 162 minutes in length, the film's story is multifaceted: the early portion of the film is set in the prison camp and the war of wills between the camp commanding officer (Sessue Hayakawa) and a British officer played by Alec Guinness (who won an oscar for his performance, the film won 7 oscars total) regarding whether or not officers will participate in manual labor. Seems strange to me to endure so much (being put in the sweatbox for weeks) just to not work with the soldiers under you, but this is the British in 1943, when they were still an extremely class conscious society with all kinds of regulated can and can't dos along the strata of class. A second story emerges with the escape of American William Holden from the camp with him in a hospital and is needed to provide information about the bridge being built. After Guinness gets out of the sweat box he begins to force his men and officers to work even harder than the Japanese made them work. With this, the film really exposes the hypocrisy of officerdom (and the upper class itself) as Guinniss' character becomes so consumed with building a bridge just to smite the Japanese and their lack of bridg- building ability. His nationality actually confuses his ability to judge right from wrong for the war effort for England and the Allies. A subplot of destroying the bridge takes over near the end and this gives the film its suspense and what suspense it is as by the end of the film, a spinetingling and gripping movie emerges. This is a real masterpiece of the war film genre that delivers epic scale, suspense, complicated characters and wonderful performances all around. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a bonefied classic and is a must see for film fans. JOSHUA: 5!

Momento (2000, USA)

I just saw Christopher Nolan's Momento and am still trying to figure out all the things that happened. Momento is a headtrip of a movie that offers so many plot twists that nothing is ever what it seems and the main reason for this is the entire movie takes place IN REVERSE! That's right folks, the beginning of the film is the end and the end of the movie is the beginning, I guess. Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) stars as Lenny, a man who is looking for his wife's killer while being plagued by a rare form of short term memory loss--he can't remember anything for more than a few minutes. He has notes, polaroids and crude prison style tattoos written on his body that help him recall key aspects of his life, such as his car, where he's staying and who is good and bad in his life. All of these are variables that can be manipulated by others such as Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix and this season of the Sopranos). Momento is a bit like the Game and the Usual Suspects in that those are thrillers where you never really know just what's going on in the story. I'd say it's better than the Game but not quite as good as the Usual Suspects. The film relishes in its reverse story that is a fun way to incorporate plot twists left and right. One of my favorite character actors, Steven Tobolowsky, gives a sometimes funny performances as a man with similar memory problems. And Aussie Pearce is quite good as Lenny as he lives his life in these bizarrely frustrating short loops of time. If you like your thrillers off the wall and different, check out Momento, as it delivers a grimy thrill ride that will seduce you backwards to the front. JOSHUA: 4

Wit (2000, USA)

Emma Thompson delivers one of the best performances of acting of the year is this made by HBO film based on the play about a woman battling a severe cancer. She undergoes an experimental brand of chemotherapy that, along with the cancer, destroys her. Thompson also co-scripted this along with director Mike Nichols. This is the best thing Nichols has done in a long while, but the utter power and pain of the film is due to the incredible bravura performance of Thompson. She won an oscar in '92 (Howard's End) and if she doesn't get awards for this, a crime will have been committed. Wit is very stripped down, both in set design and in characters. The frame is dominated by Thompson, often directly looking into the camera in pointed, intelligent observations and quips regarding herself, others or the illness that ravages her body. I tend to dislike it when this talking to the camera device is employed, but since there are only a couple of characters in the film, I wasn't as bothered as much as usual. A reason it didn't irritate me has to do with the sets. Spare, unfurnished hospital rooms comprise the bulk of the sets. White is the dominant theme as white or other muted colors are used almost exclusively.When the film has a dash of color it is almost shocking to the eye. One scene in particular, yellowish popsicles look electric and delicious in the face of all this stark whiteness. By having the sets so simple and lacking action, when Thompson would address the camera, I didn't feel as though anything had been interupted. Wit is like watching a person wither 'til death and is kind of a downer but I'm glad I saw it. My cousin Betsy is deep in the throes of chemotherapy back in Oklahoma and Wit made me think of her and the fight she is in with that bastard of a disease. HBO makes some good films and Wit is another to add to their canon. JOSHUA: 4







Hello. I'm on a real spree at the moment. 9 days in a row watching movies. Such a geek. So I'll have a couple of these this week as I'm sort of behind all of a sudden. Films reviewed: A.I. (2001), Sexy Beast (2001), The Closet (2000) and The Five Senses (1999).

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001, usa)

Steven Spielberg's latest is a confusing mix of robot boy who wants to be loved then thriller then fairy tale set in a damaged future that turns into a schmaltzy bit of sentimentalism by the end ( a typical and all too common happening in Spielberg films). A.I. is incredibly made and shot, no questioning that, but this mix never quite gels into something that can rise above its middling base of interesting but flawed stature. Let's get the history of A.I. out of the way and move on. Stanley Kubrick tampered with making A.I. for at least a decade but decided to make Eyes Wide Shut instead and too bad for us. Not only do I think Kubrick would have made a better A.I., I wasn't particularly enamored by Eyes Wide Shut (the presence of Grinnin' Tom Cruise had something to do with that!). The word is Kubrick told Spielberg he should make A.I. and that's just what he did, rewriting it himself for the sole writing credit. Now, I'm not going to say this isn't 100% true, but Kubrick is dead and I believe Spielberg (one of Hollywood's great phonies and image molders) about as much as I believe something Charlie Manson would softly reveal to me (well, maybe more than ol' creepy crawly). Whew, that's out of the way. A.I. has a very clunky beginning with William Hurt giving a monologue about why a child robot should be built and how they are just the group to do it. This is a classic way Spielberg starts and ends his movies nowadays. He can't just tell a soddin' story, he has to start packaging it, explaining it to us in case we aren't swift enough to get his message (and in his mind we aren't or he wouldn't keep doing this). The Hurt character shows up later as a very annoying subplot that is completely forced and should have been excised. The robot boy is built (David, played by Haley Joel Osment) and delivered into a family whose own son slumbers in frozen cryogenic chamber until a cure can be found for him. David is the latest bit of teknology for robots and with the polluted earth comes childless marriages who need little robot kids to heal the painful fissures in their relationships. I don't care how needy and damaged the wife is (played by Aussie Frances O'Connor), I don't buy her near sudden devotion to a boy so perfect and unboylike. David is not lovable, but creepy, I don't care how cute Osment is made out to be, and his devotion to his "Mommy" is on the maniacally obsessive side. A.I. could have turned into some kind of futuristic, high budget, robotic Child's Play had David decided all must die who stand in the way of his spending quality time with Mommy. David's robotic rosy sheen wears off kind of and he's cast off into the big bad future world alone except for his "supertoy" Teddy, a walking, talking robotic teddy bear that was one of the cooler futuristic things in the movie. On the run, he meets robot lover Joe (Jude Law, in leather and rubber like make up) and the two form a bond that sees them on a dangerous adventure while David hunts for the Blue Fairy from Pinnochio so she can turn him into a real boy. A.I. just keeps careening forward, written and directed by a man who thinks every idea he puts on the screen is the right one: wrong. By the time the maudlin end finally comes I'm just relieved that Spielberg is finished laying it on thick and purely sappy. I did like the production design (especially Rouge City, the underwater NY and the sleek architecture and design of the future) and the movie had great photography but all the directions the film goes (especially the ending) ruins the positives. I don't think Spielberg could decide to make an icy, scary Kubrickian film or one of his gooey blockbusters he's known for. The result is he's stuck in the middle with a befuddled mixture of both and neither are all that great. Joshua: 3

Sexy Beast (2001, England) NY w/ Robert

As I said last time with The Killing, I love heist films! The Killing was an old style heist whereas Sexy Beast is thoroughly modern with its flash from first time director Jonathan Glazer. A perfect lean and taut 90 minutes, Sexy Beast is split into two with it being a dark comedy drama before merging into heist crime thriller. I really liked Sexy Beast! Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired criminal in Spain with his wife Dee Dee. He spends his days turning his skin into tan brown leather next to the pool. All this may change with the arrival of Don Logan, who comes to talk Gal into pulling the job. Trust me, Don (played by Ben Kingsley) is not a man who is not used to hearing the word NO when he asks you a question. Kingsley, wiry, shaved head in all its glory, intense, erect and coiled tight like a snake, delivers one of the most entertainingly profane and vicious asshole performances in the past few years as Logan. He's such an unrepentant bad ass that he will just tear a person to shreds, with his British slang heavy verbal attack and not blink an eye. Kingsley is so devilish and wonderful as Don that I've already read talk it's Oscar nomination time again for the one time Ghandi. But Kingsley is not the only terrific performance as Winstone (Nil by Mouth, The War Zone) gives maybe a better performance as soft spoken retiree trying to stand up to the in your face Logan. Glazer comes from the music video world and it shows. Some people may hate that fact but it doesn't bother me if you make good movies that are interesting. Sexy Beast has a stylish, brooding, seething, overtly 21st century heist film feel about it but is not just style as it furnishes some substance as well with a lot of great moments of humor, violence and suspense. Another British director who came from the music video world and who is a fraud to me is Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). I don't think much of the derivitive show off Ritchie as a filmmaker as he's all flash to me and he rings very phony. Sexy Beast and Glazer should get heaploads of more attention and accolades before Ritchie as it is such a better made film and Glazer is not all "See what I can do, how crazy I can be with the camera!" like Ritchie is. Glazer took a story here and bent it, let it bubble, corrosive below and above the surface with his actor's acting. Plus, the heist in Sexy Beast is really cool and unique. Forget A.I., forget other summer releases, Sexy Beast is the film people should be going to see as it is one of the better, new films I've seen in a while. Joshua: 4 Robert: 3

The Closet (2001, France) NY--the Paris

The Closet is director Francis Veber's latest dose of French, mad cap comedy of manors. Daniel Auteuil (who seems to be in every French movie I see along with Gerard Depardieu--wait, Depardieu is also in the Closet!--do the French make movies without these two guys in them?) plays Francois, a dull accountant about to be fired from his job after 20 years with the company. He and a neighbor hatch a plot to keep his job: out himself with the idea that the company would be frightened of appearing anti-gay and be sued by Francois. He's not gay but doesn't want to lose the job so the plan is put into action. Needless to say, co-workers look at the dull Francois anew as he sees this as an opportunity to break out of the confines that held him in reserve, mainly an ex-wife he still pines for without her giving a damn. There were some funny moments in The Closet but not as many as Veber's last movie, the dark comedy The Dinner Game. That movie had a lot more depth and edge/bite to its characters. The Closet, while I admire it for trying to push buttons with its un-p.c. pc satire, tends to be kind of repetive with the bulk of its comedy and bits of business. Although I sure liked seeing the usually dour Auteuil and Depardieu get kind of goofy and silly in a movie for a change. I saw this on July 4th and after it was over I walked into Central Park and sat reading and people watching in the shade. All I need is a book and a spot in the shade in Central Park and I'll kill some hours. All the city's noise is gone a few feet into the park, it's wonderful. Joshua: 3.5

The Five Senses (1999, Canada)

Contemplative drama from writer/director Jeremy Podeswa that ties in aspects of the five senses into its story. Multiple characters and stories intermingle and overlap, all of which explore the senses in usually quiet and somber ways. Mary-Louise Parker and Molly Parker (no relation) lead the cast, Mary-Louise as a fancy cake maker whose cakes don't taste great and whose Italian lover shows up from Milan, Molly is a teacher whose daughter has disappeared. Sprinkle in a man going deaf, a teenage girl who is a voyeur, a bi-sexual man who is smelling all his former lovers to see if they still bear the scent of love and a masseuse whose husband died two years previous and is the mother of the teen voyeur. All cross paths at one time or another. I liked the Five Senses a lot and thought the photography was well done and the film has an intimate artiness to it I enjoyed. The Five Senses is a very well done little film about something that affect us all every single day yet we don't think that much about our senses because they are so everpresent. Joshua: 4

Okay, next time it will be all Asian movies with two from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang (Rebels of the Neon God, The Hole) and one from Hai Chung Man (Anna Magdalena).





Films reviewed: Eureka (2000), Startup.Com (2001), Sweet and Lowdown (1999).

Eureka (2000, Japan)

I'm writing this a few days after seeing Shinji Aoyama's film Eureka and the film is really sticking to me as I find myself thinking about it unexpectantly. That is a kind of high compliment when a film works its way into a person's mind as he is laying in bed or riding the subway. Eureka is a hard film to capsulize because of its odd structure and non-rhythm that breaks up the notions of easy to define subject matter. Let's just say the film is about the psychological trauma in the aftermath of a mass killing spree that only a brother, sister and bus driver survive. All three have their lives irrevocably altered due to the event and then form a bond in the dysfunctional rubble of their world. Koji Yakusho plays the bus driver and I've seen him in a few other films (most recently in the Eel) and think a lot of his understated style of acting. Yakusho has to carry the bulk of the emotional weight of Eureka because the two kids, except for brief bits of telepathy between each other, do not speak at all. Eureka is one of those films where not a whole lot of tangible action is taking place as the camera lingers over scenes with hardly anything happening for minutes at a time, but it is these moments of non-action when Eureka delivers its most powerful scenes. It is these moments where the quiet desperation and misery of these characters can be felt full force and then get into the crevices of the viewer's heart. At one point the trio (plus an oddball cousin who almost seems to come careening from a different movie) embark on a road trip in a converted bus. Although free of the confining house, they are still encapsulated in their constructed mental cages and no amount of sight seeing will burst them free. The look of Eureka is a beautiful, shimmering black and white except for a single shot near the end (of which I'm not too fond of). There is also a kind of subplot regarding a serial killer that I wish had been removed from the story as it just weighs the film with unneeded excess. Eureka would have truly elevated itself into wonderful terrain had this part of the film been left out. Still, even that can not ruin the haunting power of this nearly 4 hour Japanese film about such things as the internal trauma of violence and the companionship between survivors when deep personal bonds are formed int eh aftermath of such events. JOSHUA: 4

Startup.com (2001, USA)

I arrived kind of close to starting time for this interesting American documentary to find it sold out but luckilly a woman had an extra seat and I bought her ticket. I entered the narrow theatre to find very few empty seats. Finally spied one against the wall and crossed the row of standing people to sit down and then discover why no one was sitting in this seat: the guy in front of me was about 6 foot 10! I was fine when I leaned a little to the left but he kept popping his neck and playing with his hair, which distracted me and forced me to lean to my right. I spent a decent amount of time leaning during Startup.com, a very up to the minute movie on what it is to be on the boom and the bust of the internet dot-com explosion. The doc follows the idea of two guys in their late 20s, who have known one another since junior high school, and who start govworks.com, a site dedicated to eradicating slow red tape bureaucracy by facilitating ways to pay parking tickets and other things online. Govworks.com naturally raises a bunch of capital (over 50 million) and has rapid, explosive growth (listen to me talk business, ha!), with over 200 employees at one point. But if you know anything about the world of the dot-com (and you know i'm a real expert), you know the rise will be followed by a plummet and govworks.com is no different than the bulk of these dot-com companies. The fascinating area of Startup.com was as things become difficult within the company to see how this friendship would hold up amid the backstabbing, egos run amok, millions of dollars, legal counsel and other things that make the relationship rife with tension. Startup.com is very low tech, shot on dv that often loses focus and clearity in darker scenes and the sound is sometimes a bit muffled, but these things don't bother me all that much but might someone else. Sometimes the business talk goes over my head as I'm pretty clueless when it comes to "business talk". I find Startup.com kind of humorous, darkly so, because even during the soaring moments of the company, you know a free fall is going to come and will this relationship last is the big question. Or will greed and the business mindset of the dollar above all else win out over these friendships? Interesting and worth seeing documentary. JOSHUA: 3.5

Sweet and Lowdown (1999, USA)

Very good Woody Allen movie that should be seen by all Sean Penn fans as he gives a terrific performance as Emmett Ray, the second best guitarist in the world. Ray is a self obsessed womanizer (one time pimp, although he calls it managing) who puts everything in his world behind his own pleasure and satisfaction. Ray likes to drink, gamble, spend money, chase women and play guitar, not specifically in that order. His idea of romance is taking a lady to the dump and shooting rats with her. Ah yes, he's a world class wooer. Also, he likes taking them to the train yards to watch passing trains (this sort of makes sense to me!). His lifestyle may change when he meets mute laundress Hattie (Samantha Morton of Jesus' Son), a sweet and giving woman to Ray's low down ways. The film is shot with documentary talking heads discussing Ray and then flashing back to various vignettes in Ray's life of adventure and misdeed. Allen does a great job blending the mid '30s period with the score too. Sweet and Lowdown is funny, sad and oddly touching by the end and should please Allen fans everywhere. And Sean Penn, what can you say? The man is a great, great actor. JOSHUA: 4

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The Head Game (2000) by Roger Kahn

Roger Kahn is one of the greatest baseball writers to have ever written about the sport and his latest is a real gem of a book that I breezed through (some readers may not know that i'm a big baseball history nut. true). It's sort of an overview of baseball through the minds of some of the best pitchers the game has ever known. Starts in early baseball with people like Ol' Hoss Radbourne and Cy Young and goes into the '80s with Bruce Sutter. Head Game also delves into the evelution of pitch invention with talk on curves, changes, fadeaways, sliders and spitters to name a few. I particularly enjoyed a lively chapter on Don Drysdale regarding pitching inside, the bean ball and the warfare state of mind needed to compete and win. Sal "the Barber" Maglie is also covered regarding the brushback and why it should always be used. Kahn writes so well that he's a credit to both baseball history and literature. His Boys of Summer is one of the great all time books on the sport. The Head Game is not so epic but it is still worth reading for someone who loves baseball, especially now that I'm more and more dismayed by these modern ballplayers and all the wrongdoings in pro ball nowadays. This ain't real baseball!

The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye (1996) by Jonathan Lethem

Quick one here. For the few who pay attention or know my reading habits know I'm not a big short story reader. Every so often I read one in the New Yorker or somewhere, but rarely do I read a collection. This book is one of those rare times. Lethem is considered kind of a sci fi writer although he's branching out of the genre (recently w/ the novel Motherless Brooklyn) and this book is less sci fi and more in the line of just weird and strange little stories. "the Happy Man" invents what Hell might be like for us all after we die. "Vanilla Dunk" tells what the NBA might be like in the future, when players wear exoskeletons programmed with the skills of past players and combines sports with ideas of race. The last story, "Sleepy People", follows a woman as she discovers a sleep person who is out like a light for days and days on end on her front porch. This is the 2nd book by Lethem I've read this year (Amnesia Moon I reviewed a few months ago) and like his writing as it is a strange ride.





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With this installment of Kinetoscope I will answer the question: Are you ever too old to go theatre hopping in a multiplex? My trusty partner in crime Rob and I attempt to swindle the amc 25 from a few bucks by going to more than one movie, read below to find out the outcome. Movies reviewed: Blow (2000), The Dish (2000), Amores Perros (2000) and Ghost Dog (2000).

Blow (2001, USA) 4-13 NY with Robert Schrader

Blow is the appropriate title for this film. But blow as in suck is the way I think of this very below average movie. Didn't care for this at all. It tells the story of George Jung (Johnny Depp), who was a major cocaine trafficer in the '70s and '80s. An obvious problem with the film that jumps out at you is the extremely flimsy aspect of the story. There is absoletely no depth to anyone--even Jung--as we get nothing but surface from start to end. I thought Blow would give details at how Jung established his network of moving drugs in and across the country--I was wrong. Blow makes it look incredibly easy to make millions of dollars through drug deals at this time. Why weren't more people doing it if it was this easy to make 30 million dollars cash and tax free? Another part of the film I didn't like was the beginning with Jung as a kid with the usual voice over narration. The child scenes were supposed to provide some kind of motivation as to why Jung was so driven to hit the big time in the trafficing world because he states he never wants to be poor. Well, no kidding, who does!? What a waste of time those scenes are. Also, they are filmed with a bright, hyper color that sets it apart from the rest of the film as "nostalgic" that just makes it look silly and forced. Rachel Griffiths plays Jung's mother and for most of the film she looks the same age as Depp. The best thing about Blow was the bearded Max Perlich---one of my long time favorites. This is the 4th drug type of film for Max as he was in Drugstore Cowboy, Rush, Georgia before Blow. What other bad things can I say about Blow? How about it's a bad version of Traffic and at 2:15, it is way way too long. How about the goofy ending. How about the awful haircut that Depp wears throughout? Blow tries to be hip and cool but comes off as a real failure. I can't understand how this is getting good reviews. Joshua: 2 Robert: 2.5

The Dish (2000, Australia) 4-13 NY w/ Robert

Are Rob and I too old to go to a multiplex with the intent to rip off? Evidently not, as we see two for the price of one. It couldn't have been easier and at $10 a pop, I'm planning on a return trip for more free movies. The studios OWE it to me for forcing me to sit through their crap films like Blow. After seeing Blow, the Aussie film The Dish was a real welcome to sit through. The Dish is a pleasing, warm hearted little movie set in 1969 at a huge satellite dish that NASA needs to help capture signals for the Apollo 11 moon landing. The small town is full of eccentrics, no surprise there, who are real proud of their satellite dish. Most of the film takes place at the dish itself as Sam Neill, two other Aussies and a straightlaced no nonsense guy from NASA deal with expected and unexpected events. The Dis is a bit sappy at times but it is so darn charming and winning that I'll forgive it. It's also so simple and to the heart and seeing it after Blow makes me realize just how phony and full of it Blow is (can you get the hint how I didn't like that movie? maybe my 2 was too high a score?). The Dish taps into the innocence of the late '60s when something like walking on the moon is the most riveting event in the world. That kind of innocence probably won't be coming back to us. The Dish just makes you feel good about being a human being, no matter how syruppy, and that's (sometimes) a good thing. Joshua: 3.5 Robert: 3.5

Amores Perros (2000, Mexico) 4-14 NY with Beth

Okay, if The Dish makes you feel upbeat about living then this film from Mexico and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will make you feel soiled and in need of a long hot shower with lots of scrubbing. Amores Perros (Love's A Bitch) is the first film I've ever seen with a disclaimer BEFORE the credits informing us that no animal was hurt during filming. You see, dogs figure mightily in Amores Perros, and mostly it is cringe inducing, eye averting stuff. I'm no sissy with the film violence but seeing bloody, limp dogs over and over was a bit much (almost) for me. The film goes a little too far with the dog stuff actually. The film is a triptych of stories that sort of interweave into one another and converge at a violent, horrific car wreck. The first story is about Octavio, his feelings for his brothers wife and his fighting his giant dog to get money. I don't care what the disclamer says, I've been around dogs my entire life, big dogs who have fought one another. I've jumped into the fray w/ teeth lashing and know what a dog fight looks like, and the dog fights in this sure looked real. This is Mexico after all, do they have some sort of animal watchdog group looking over movies? I have my doubts. Anyway, everything in this story is pushed to a jittery, frenetic pace, aided by lots of handheld camera and the emotional powder kegs of betrayal and violence between the dogs and the two brothers. Betrayal is an interlocking theme used in all three stories as someone is getting betrayed and in two of them it is brothers doing the back stabbing. Story two is based around a man and his model girlfriend he liaves his wife and kids for. They move into a beautiful apartment with a hole in the floor that spells trouble for their dog Richie (I told you, dogs walk a dangerous line in this movie and for a dog lover like me, that's hard to watch. now, had it been cats it would have turned into a comedy! that's a joke by the way.). These people don't seem to care for one another but there are stressful events in their lives. Story 3 is centered around a homeless man who is also a contract killer and has some kind of damaged relationship with an unknown daughter who haunts him. Amores Perros is one of the bleakest films I've seen in a while. It's also one of the most intense, gritty depictions of living on the fringe of society (or like the second story, in the upper class where all is beautiful yet horror lurks very near). At times the film veers too closely to melodrama but it's so no holds barred in its negativity that I'll forgive it that. Boy, this is one hopeless film but it has a feral, unhinged rawness that I really enjoyed. Amores Perros was up for best foreign film at this years oscars and I can see why it didn't win. But there is often beauty and power in the squalid and Amores Perros delivers a few screaming howls from some dark recess of our existence. You can't really say this is a lot of fun, with all the dogs in various strata of disrepair, betrayals and in your face intensity, but good (great) movies are often filled with ugliness and we are better people for having watched them. Not for the overly sensitive but highly recommended. Joshua: 4 Beth: ?

Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (2000, USA) 4-16 Astoria

Ghost Dog is a very cool movie from that lexicon of cool Jim Jarmusch. Blending Eastern philosophy, hip hop gangsta culture and the mob, it is an interesting mixture and largely exists as a mantra of unending style. The always good Forest Whitaker plays the roof dwelling contract killer who leads a solitary life by ancient codes of the samurai. He performs a hit for some low level mobsters who then want to kill him. Ghost Dog works best when these genres collide and the conventions of samurai vs. mafia collide against one another while scored with the hip hop beats of The RZA. There's not an overabundance of story as Ghost Dog is seen doing his bizness of killing or quoting phrases of Eastern philosophy. But he's one smooth mo-fo killer and I haven't seen such cool hit man killing since La Femme Nikita. We also get some funny, off-kilter moments from the cartoon obsessed mafioso and their out of money organization that seems to be on its last legs (possibly due to the killing machine of Ghost Dog). Like most Jarmusch films, Ghost Dog is very pretty and the overall effect of this film is just flat out cool. Joshua: 4

Joshua.............sends his hellos out to the internet space........





Hello. My mom flew in yesterday and brought with her a travelling bag full of bbq from our restaurant back home. I didn't eat all day to work up a nice hunger and then gorged myself on ribs, beef, smoked hot link and beans that evening. Ah, I didn't realize how much I missed our food until my fingers were wet with sauce and I had it smeared across my chin! And best of all, to-day at lunch, more of it!

Movies reviewed: Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Anniversary Party (2001), Legally Blonde (2001) + a couple of book reviews at the end because I'm a couple of dozen books behind for the year and was planning on reviewing everything I read in 2001.

Cool Hand Luke (1967, usa)

Coincidence: I started a new book yesterday called Newjack in which Ted Conover becomes a guard at Sing Sing for a year and writes about his experiences. Early on he discusses the way guards have been presented as sadists in movies and talked specifically about Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman (Luke) gets a two year hitch in some backwater Southern prison for vandalizing parking meters. This place isn't for wimps as it is chain gang time working in ditches, tarring blacktop and the like in the raw heat of the day. Luke becomes sort of a leader among the other inmates (who include a surprisingly good George Kennedy, who I know mostly from those '70s disaster films he did, and Harry Dean Stanton and Dennis Hopper) and will endure the wrath and pain of "the box" and other physical and mental abuses. I actually thought there would be more cruelty in Cool Hand Luke from what I knew about it beforehand (the famous line "What we have here is a failure to communicate" is drawled out in this movie) but the first hour+ is kind of comical with, you could almost use the oxymoron, prison hijinks. That's an odd phrase. This is good with Newman giving a great performance, what's new there? Joshua: 4

The Anniversary Party (2001, usa)

What a mess! The Anniversary Party is one of the most contrived, self indulgent disasters I've seen in a long while. And those out there who know how I love Jennifer Jason Leigh know how hard it is for me to write disparaging comments regarding her, but when the movie is this underwhelming, that makes it a lot easier. Leigh, who co-wrote, co-directed and co-stars with Alan Cumming, is directly in line for the blame for this flame-out of an actor's ego fest gone wrong. Leigh, obviously inspired by the dogma movies (she was in one as an actor, The King is Alive) grabbed a dv camera, found a big house in L.A. large enough to serve as the set and gathered a bunch of her friends to star in the movie. Sally (Leigh) and Joe (Cumming) are a married couple who've gotten back together just in time for their 6th anniversary. All the friends show up with their various neurotic tendencies among others. Alcohol and drugs are consumed, tensions rise and fall, every actor and quirks: Phoebe Cates, Kevin Kline, Jennifer Beals, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jane Adams among others. Alcohol and drugs are consumed, tensions rise and fall, every actor gets a scene or two to show off their skills in scenes that seem to exist just for that purpose as dysfunction abounds. I did enjoy some of the insider references to both Hollywood and Leigh's career as the aging actress who is who is trapped in this doomed relationship with a writer who is directing his first movie. The Anniversary Party is just so utterly false and phony and rings artificial and untrue on every level. Joshua: 2

Legally Blonde (2001, usa)

I did NOT pay to see Legally Blonde. After The Anniversary Party ended, I crossed the hall and walked casually into this theatre and saw another not very good movie. Two bad movies for the price of one. Legally Blonde is an unfunny and ridiculously silly little movie starring Reese Witherspoon (and her chin) as Elle, this pink lovin' Californian sorority queen who is dumped by her pretty boy beau who is off to Harvard Law and then the Senate before he hits 30. He needs a blueblood and not some endlessly perky Delta Nu. What does Elle do? She goes out, studies the LSAT for a week, makes a video with her curvy bosom stuffed into a bikini and wham, she's going to Harvard. Forget that this is so unrealistic that the story is the most humorous thing going for it. In movies such as this, believable plot isn't the first priority, laughs are, and Legally Blonde fails on both areas. Legally Blonde just isn't funny. It's a less intelligent, less well done knock off of Clueless. Legally Blonde knows it's not the greatest as it had more cute dog shots (a chihuahua named Bruiser) than any movie I've seen in a long time. When any movie goes for dogs and cats to get laughs you know you are in trouble. Now, when a second dog (!) arrives for more screen time and I see it's a bulldog named Rufus, I got all behind seeing more of Rufus! A bulldog is one of the most beautiful and charasmatic of breeds yet what good is there in a cutesy chihuahua (ha, Shane!). Selma Blair, who I like, had a role as Elle's rival and there was some ultra nerdy guy who was funny but this piece of mindless fluff is targeted for a completely different audience than me: the teenage girl. Joshua: 2

INKLAB------------INKLAB---------------INKLAB--------------INKLAB-----------INKLAB-----------Inklab

English Passengers (2000) by Matthew Kneale

Kneale's Booker Prize nominated novel is a biting, multifaceted account of sailing to Tasmainia to find the Garden of Eden and at the same time is about the extinction of the aborigine at the hands of British colonists. The book is set between 1820 and 1860 and is basically a scathing attack on all things British (Kneale himself is British so it's a bit of self hating going on). From the English Reverend Wilson, who is pious and full of himself, to Dr. Potter, who uses the trip to back up his skewed ideas of racial superiority (surprise, he places English Saxons at the top of the racial heap), to the English in the colony, all come out looking rather bad. The English need to be taken to task in my opinion so I enjoyed reading about smug folks getting their much deserved come uppance. At times Kneale utilizes too many characters to tell the story as I could have done without a few of the people who pop into the story for a few pages and then disappear. I think the story would have flowed much better had he depended on just the major characters rather than employing new people all the time. My favorite aspect of the story was not the abirigine angle at all but the Manx ship and crew, led by Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley, from the Isle of Man. Kewley and his men are smugglers who spend a lot of their time trying to hide and then sell contraband and keep the silly English out of their way. There were a few very funny moments connected to these Manxmen and their misadventures that almost belonged in a completely separate novel. Kneale really gets into the superior than thou frame of mind that surely existed among such English at this time and 180 years later they come off as silly fools. I really loved the sea stuff and the rest of English Passengers was good enough to make this an above average, darkly comic, complex historical novel with a lot of threads running through it. (This review was written in early April after I read the book. Since then I saw Kneale give a reading and he gave one of the most pleasant readings I've ever seen. I actually had read a book of his in the late '80s called Whore Banquets but didn't realize it until he was announced--the book was not published in the u.s. and I read it when I was in London--and as he was signing my copy of English Passengers I told him I'd read Whore Banquets and he said, "So, you're one of the two dozen then!")

The Gates of the Alamo (2000) by Stephen Harrigan

I got this last year for a birthday present (hello Scott!) and was a little leery of it. I'm a proud Okie, born, raised and someday dead, and naturally, like all self respecting Okies should, hold anything connected to texas at arm's length. Those ego driven texans are always shouting their unique brand of superiority to other states and thought this book was possibly just another exorcise in "rah-rah God bless texas and the saintly men of the Alamo" kind of book. I have a real love for 19th century western lore so decided to give the book a chance. Glad I did because it was not really all glowing in terms of the famous men such as Bowie (comes off a bit of a drunk and land thief), Houston (a cowardly, vain man) and Travis (also in love with himself). These men are barely even in the story and when they are they just intwine with one of the main characters of the novel. Three fictional characters comprise the bulk of the narrative: Mary Mott, a widower who runs an inn along the gulf coast, who teenage son Terrell and the botonist Edmond McGowan. All three are swept into the turmoil of the Alamo whether they want to be there or not. Gates of the Alamo also follows a variety of characters on the Mexican side of the battle with officers, soldiers and even Santa Anna making an appearance. At almost 600 pages, we don't even get to the Alamo til around page 350 or so and that means this book is not really about that one event. It's about the relationships, on both sides of the Rio Grand, as events lead people on adventures and face to face with their own mortality through war or the harshness of this area at this time. Harrigan's prose tends to be a little too flowery at times and the battle scenes can get a little repetitive (he has an obseesion with exposed intestines being gutted with a bayonet! but all in all this is a long book that i liked because of the various perspectives and for the fact it wasn't just an chance for everyone to holler out "Remember the Alamo!" over and over.









Movies reviewed: With A Friend Like Harry (2000), The Way of the Gun (2000) and Moulin Rouge (2001). Also might have a book part at the end w/ James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.

With A Friend Like Harry (2000, France) 6-8 NY with Robert

Enjoyable dark little film from France and director Dominik Moll that is both a sly, macabre thriller and a nasty satire of family life and obsessional friendship. With A Friend Like Harry opens and ends with two polar views of marriage and family living, one a Hellish, stifling suffocation and the other a fuzzy, comfortable glow. What happens between the two is not recommended for those stuck in the mire of raising kids as the sole interest in your life. Michel meets an old friend from high school (Sergi Lopez) at a gas station bathroom and the friend invites himself into Michel's family life. Things will never be the same as Harry is a guy with all kinds of under the surface issues and strange, dangerous ways to him. He gets Michel to start thinking of writing more of his high school sci-fi opus "The Flying Monkeys" (there are humorous conversations and a great fantasy bit connected to the Flying Monkeys) and changing his life from the routine it is in. But don't cross Harry or you could find yourself, or the loved ones around you, in a heap of trouble. I liked all the understated, droll comedy in With A Friend Like Harry and seeing it makes me think that if this would have been an American film, it would have been ruined by absurd showdowns of violence. I prefer the way Moll and co. kept their film: curious, odd and queitly dark all the way to the root. Joshua: 4 Robert Scrader: 4

The Way of the Gun (2000, USA) 6-9 Astoria

Hum-drum and lackluster film that misfires continuously from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (wrote the screenplay to The Usual Suspects). I watched this because I was kind of in the mood for violence and remembered this having supposedly stylized shootouts and an interesting cast, of which is true and saves this from getting an even lower score than what I give it. I didn't expect to have the film so littered with so many bad lines of dialogue, unbelievable and silly plot twists/aspects and down right cliches from past films. McQuarrie takes a story of two outlaw types (Benicio Del Toro and Ryan Phillippe) on the road, tosses in a very pregnant kidnapee (Juliette Lewis), an assortment of "bagmen" (led by James Caan), stone faced security guards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katz) and spins it all together in this absurd concoction. There is not one ounce of originality on display here as McQuarrie and others think they are making the coolest and hippest film of the year. They didn't. The Way of the Gun is one of the most lifeless, useless and biggest wastes of my time watching movies in a long while. I didn't like this movie! Joshua: 2

Moulin Rouge (2001, USA) 6-10 NY

Baz Luhrmann has made one of the most interesting of the summer's blockbuster/Hollywood type of releases. I can't say I liked everything about this over the top, audacious, whirling dervish kaleidoscope of a film. It's definately flawed and takes a few wrong turns but I'm still going to give a strong recommendation to see this blitzkrieg of a movie. I'm not really into musicals so I was hesitant to see Moulin Rouge but it's hard to call this a traditional musical as the songs are truncated bursts and the dancing is filmed and edited with such a frenetic zeal of angles that it's often just a blur of leg, skirt, face, hands, fee, hose. And the songs? They run the gamut of every sort of pop culture mark in the past few decades from The Beatles to Madonna to David Bowie to The Police and so on and so on. I bet Kurt Cobain didn't expect to have "Smells Like Teen Spirit" used like this when he wrote it! Whole songs are not used most of the time, it's just a verse from this song and a line from another all joined into one melody. At times, this was kind of distracting as I found myself trying to place the song and where I knew it from. The setting: Paris, 1900, among a group of bohemians trying to finance a show ("Spectacular! Spectacular!), they approach the star courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). Christian (Ewan McGregor), a poor writer among the group falls in love with the beautiful Satine and she him, until she realizes he's not a duke but a poor writer. A nasty, mean spirited duke competes for Satine's attention as well. Will love win out over money? That is the story and it's pretty flimsy at that with not much depth to anyone, including the two leads. But the prime interest in Moulin Rouge is not character depth but to kick a heap of non-stop splendor in your eyes and ears. It's no accident their show is called Spectacular! Spectacular! as Moulin Rouge is 95% spectacle itself. This movie is one of the most artificial and manipulated movies I've ever seen with crazy graphics, all these komputer aided hyper zooms across Paris and into windows, textures and tints from film to digitization. Moulin Rouge is an orgy of visuals and a sensory overload from beginning to end, it just doesn't let up. It shows that komputers and effects of the 21st century can be utilized for things other than Jerry Bruckheimer explosion fests for the lowest common denominator. If I'm going to see komputer aided movies, I'll take one like this anyday over seeing explosions from 15 different angles. I think Moulin Rouge is a film people will either love or hate and I mostly loved it for it's bravura and guts. I mean, any movie that can have Ozzy singing as a fairy and the great Jim Broadbent cooing "Like A Virgin" definately has something going for it. Moulin Rouge is an uninterrupted burst of histrionic, eye popping, dazzling, quasi pretentious and thrilling image after another with a patch quilt of songs from the cultural landscape of the past and is one of the most daring and outrageously stylish films of the year. Joshua: 4



++++++++++++++++++++++++++INKLAB book review++++++++++++

The Black Dahlia (1987) by James Ellroy

Are you tough enough to handle James Ellroy? He is the leanest, meanest, grimiest, most sordid, most vicious crime writer alive and has written some of the most riveting and intense explosions of literature in the late 20th century. His epic crime novel American Tabloid is one of the zenith marks of the genre and will kick your teeth in with its non-stop staccato attack! The Black Dahlia finds Ellroy in fine form as he tells about "the Black Dahlia" murder investigation in Los Angeles in the 1940s. This murder is one of the most infamous in U.S. history and around it Ellroy has crafted his story. Bucky Bleichert takes up most of the narrative as a tough as nails, one time boxer, take no shit L.A. cop who partners up with Big Lee Blanchard, falls in love with Lee's girl (who has a troubled past too---hey, this is Ellroy, everyone is messed up!) and then both cops become obsessed with Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia). This is a brutal book that the squemish of sissified (!) best avoid, but if you want to take a howling, raging look into the darkness of the human mind/soul, then get this book. I love the cop stuff and at times it is almost too sordid and graphic (and in need of a shower to wash the grime away), but it is still a powerful bit of business. Ellroy writes with short bursts and by the end of it you feel spent, as if you were in the ring, soiled by the events of the Black Dahlia, and repeatedly punched in the ribcage. Maybe I'm overdoing it? This is the real deal.

Okay, next time I will have reviews of Sexy Beast with a nasty turn by Ghandi himself, Ben Kingsley and Japanese bad boy Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive.







Live performance reviews by Joshua...

Okay, here's some more rock n roll reviews, tidbits, stories for you that some may find more entertaining than others. Bands: The Sadies, Pernice Brothers, Blue Mountain, Grandaddy, Autechre.

The Sadies/Pernice Brothers/Blue Mountain 4/21 Bowery Ballroom w/ Rob

Kind of caught this triple bill at last minute after enjoying Indian food with Rob on 6th street, which is known as curry row because it is lined with Indian restaurants on both sides of the street. I'd read a fair amount on The Sadies but had never heard anything by the Toronto band led by brothers Travis and Dallas Good. I know the pair from the Neko Case records I own, but not their own stuff. The Sadies were really good (no intended pun joke!), the best band of the three by leaps and bounds. The Sadies play a genre busting style of music incorporating spaghetti western surf and twang, old school country and western and rock n roll tinged bluegrass. I'll buy the latest Sadies record and see if it is as good as this live show of theirs. I liked the dusty twang songs but the 3 or 4 that utilized Travis on fiddle were the highlight of the show. Travis plays such a hard and forceful fiddle that the horsehair of the bow was hanging in damaged shreds by the time he was done. O my, good stuff. The Sadies closed their set with a rousing, garage gospel hardcore country version of "Higher Power" and Rob and I were both won over and are now Sadies fans. Plus it's a good band name being I have a floppy eared bassett hound home in Oklahoma named Sadie. Next up was the Pernice Brothers. I'm not familer w/ them but did own a couple of records by their old project, the Scud Mountain Boys. Unfortunately no Scud songs were played as the set consisted mostly of lackluster pop songs that didn't do a whole lot for me. The guy, Joe I think, just has too thin a voice and the songs often were too MOR for me. Blue Mountain took the stage and this trio played almost two opposite sets. Starting with acoustic they played countryish songs with a traditional bend and harmonies from husband and wife tandem. But when they switched to electric guitar, I thought I was sent in a time machine with all the '70s power chords and solos I was hearing. The universal symbal for rock n roll, devil horns (invented by Ronnie James Dio for all you metal trivia buffs out there!), were raised high and often by the beer drinking scruffy folks left in the audience. I can't believe I used to love that '70s rock but hell-fire, I was about 11 at the time. Blue Mountain sure reminded me of when I had my '70s music phase and on this one night it was fun. It was great to hear the word y'all over and over from the band. These people say y'all and it sounds natural and real to hear it. I say y'all up here in NY and each time I do I sort of think how it sounds to these yankees, but I will not change my vocabulary for anyone or anyplace. It's a great word: y'all. Say it with me: Y'all!

Grandaddy 4-27 Irving Plaza

First time at the Irving Plaza for a show, wood ceilings, softly glowing chandoliers, large entryway w/ stairs, giant screen projecting Bjork videos onto it. This was an all ager (16+) and it is always a shock to be surrounded by 16 year olds as the rock n roll baton is passed to those almost half my age. My mortality is shoved in my face at events such as this. Grandaddy are from Modesto, CA and look more like carpenters than rock band with their collection of beards and normalcy fashion sense. Jason Lyttle, replete with sweatband and Elton John-esque glasses, lost behind a stack of vintage synths, is singer and leader of Grandaddy. Lyttle, I believe, likes to write these songs that seem to be obsessed with the idea of humanness vs. technology. Grandaddy (Lyttle) has images of machines, nature and the happy/unhappy place of man in the society swamped by nature (human) and technology (non-human) in most of his songs. Grandaddy use a lot of old technology, vintage synths--I counted about 8 or 9 on stage--to promote this slightly anti-technology vision. Boy, do I like the synths as they combine with noisy bursts of guitars to form a skewed pop backbone. For every pop nugget such as "Summer Here Kids" there are two or three slowish techno/nature fusion songs such as "Beautiful Ground", "So You'll Aim Toward the Sky" or "2000 Man". I'm into this kind of idea sifting regarding man's happiness or unhappiness while being buried in our increasingly machine centered society and wish Grandaddy would take these ideas even further. But the band does other kinds of songs too with an odd version of "You are My Sunshine" and a jangly, awashed in synth version of George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" classic. The band also used videos projected behind them that concentrated on the huge windmills located in parts of California, horses, cows, water, komputers that further the nature vs. technology twin duality the band espouses. Enjoyable band with interesting style and viewpoint that more people should know of.

Autechre 5-5 Bowery Ballroom

I guess I'm slightly old fashioned as when I see a gig I expect to see real singing and playing. Apply that notion of realness to a rock show involving electronic bands and I wouldn't mind seeing a synth played or fiddled with every so often. Not in this digital age. Why play anything when it is acceptable and so much easier to store your music in a couple of komputers and then blandly stand in front of said Macs clicking here and there until you get the song you want from your files. Sadly, such was the case with all three acts on this bill of electronic "bands". I showed up expecting to dance down but this night was mostly trance style electronic music. First tip off was when I entered the large ballroom to find no one dancing but a lot of people just laying on the floor or slumped against the wall, possibly aided by some kind of chemical, who is to say? Act #1 was over very quickly, act #2 (as I said, a faceless, nameless guy behind a bank of komputers) was trying to hurt people's hearing with waves of screeching electro static and feedback. I'm not letting some komputer tech geek damage my hearing so I went downstairs to the bar area until this ridiculous mess was over. I've NEVER worn ear plugs in my life and will get into it loudly at the drop of a hat, but I'm not into noise for the sole purpose of damaging my hearing, by data stored in a machine, no thanks. I went back upstairs for the Autechre show and was disappointed by them. I won a couple of their analogue heavy, mostly beatless, atmospheric records and the band on record is much different than the band live on this night. They were very beat heavy and stripped from most melody, I was expecting a more human, a warmer set and not all this precise, avant garde bpm and pulses of digital data from their komputers. Too bad.

Have a lot of shows coming up in mid to late June I'll see: Blood Oranges and the Schrams, Magnetic Fields, Red House Painters and Air to name a few.





Here's some special live performance reviews by Joshua...


I've got some time to kill. I've been writing about/reviewing all these cultural events I'm doing in New York, movies, music and live theatre, everything. Here's some reviews and stories regarding some of the rock shows I've seen. Bands reviewed: Mojave 3, Matthew Sweet, Luna, Autumn Defense, Interpol, LoveLife and Bee + Flower. Enjoy and this will be the last batch of reviews until more film ones next week so I don't want to annoy or load up yr mailboxes.

Mojave 3/Sid Hillman Quartet 2-16 Bowery Ballroom

My first rock show in New York was good but a more interesting experience was at the show outside of the music itself. I got to the Bowery Ballroom a tad early and entered the echoey room when it was fairly empty. I walked past the bar and this attractive girl in a depression era style dress comes runnin' over to me and grabs me by the arm. I'm thinking, "this is great," when she asks, "are you playing to-night?" "No. I wish I was." "You're not Sid?" About ten minutes later, with the ballroom filling up I feel this poke in the ribs and a voice behind me bellows, "Hey Sid!" A few minutes later another person I don't recognize steps in front of me and starts to smile, I cut him off at the pass, "I'm not who you think I am." "You're Joshua aren't you?" I'm stunned is who I am. Who in the hellfire? "You don't recognize me?" he says smiling. "You do look familiar" I lie. "We knew each other in Norman..." and it all comes back to me. I knew this guy in Norman and he worked in a video/record store I went to. Flabbergasted, we talked about NY and Oklahoma and the small size of the world. He had seen my name on the Mojave 3 e-mail list and it rang a bell. It's funny, I didn't know Chris all that well, but I remember talking about Mojave 3 with him back in Norman. I'd even lent him a Slowdive e.p. that I had that is no longer in print. I wasn't expecting this to-night that's for sure. The Sid Hillman Quartet took the stage and I saw why people were poking me in the ribs and grabbing my arm. Sid had a shaved head (y'know how it is, all people with shaved heads look alike), wore glasses and was wearing a western style shirt. Okay, sort of similar as I was wearing this shirt I'd recently bought at this place called Western Dust. I didn't like Sid's music as much as I felt akinship to his look. Unmelodic and MOR alt-country.com style of tunes. AFter their set Chris and I edged toward the stage and he pulled out a tiny dv camera that he was going to use to record the Mojave 3 show. Mojave 3 came out and won me over in about 10 seconds as they kicked it off with "My Life In Art", a beautiful, wistful song from their latest record "Excuses for Travellers". There are some great moments on the new record but hit is kind of hit and miss sadly. They did play an incredibly sad, pedal steel weeping version of "in Love with a View" and a softer than soft version of "When You're Drifting". I really wanted to hear "Love Songs On the Radio" but they didn't comply. Mojave 3 lead songwriter Neil Halstead does most of the singing but I really love it when bassest Rachel Goswell joins in for some of the best boy/girl harmonies you might ever hear. There is a tender, aching intimacy that is between the two (former lovers) as they sing these songs that are usually kind of down and about the loss of love. Near the end of their set a security guy pushes his way through the crowd and grabs Chris by the shoulder and he is pulled out of the crowd. I don't see him again. I never knew his last name and we didn't exchange numbers (it's mid april as i send this out, never seen/heard from him again). After the show I stood in a long line next to the bar in the basement, waiting to get my coat. The guy a couple of spots behind me looked and sounded a lot like Harmony Korine but it was awful dark in there. I walked out into the Lower East Side New York night, humming broken hearted love songs to myself and loving every second of my life.

Matthew Sweet/Josh Joplin Group 3-4 Bowery Ballroom w/ Rob

I've been a Matthew Sweet fan since "Girlfriend" came out around '91 but have never seen him live so I was pretty excited about seeing him to-night. Rob and I showed up just as the Josh Joplin Group took the stage. Never heard of 'em, I think he's from Atlanta. He's one of these weird gyrators on stage who "feel it" so much they contort their body and face in funny "feeling it" expressions. They weren't bad but I was eager for Sweet. From the moment that Matthew Sweet and band took the stage I had a smile on my face. Three guitarists molding tightly around the endless array of Sweet melodies song after song. Let it be known that Sweet can write hooks like nobody's business and this night belonged to him as he played songs from all over his catalogue. I counted 4 songs from "Girlfriend" and 3 from "Altered Beast", all of which made me very happy to hear. I bow to the man for his pop guitar writing ability about the infinite way it feels to lose love, be in love (that's rare, Sweet joked during the show about his TWO happy songs) and again, to be heartbroken. Give me the choice of a song about being in love or the heartsick ache of love and I'll take the ache every time, they make better songs, but that's just me. When I heard "The Devil With the Green Eyes" I could have died right then and there, happy beyond belief in rock n roll joyland. The same goes for "You Don't Love Me". For the encores a 4th guitarist took the stage and it became a loud, rock out, with dancing in the sweaty crowd. I loved this audience. Only one hipster in sight and even he threw off his cool shackles and got into it right up front with the die hards. Yo La Tengo's Ira and Georgia were a few feet behind me among the happy crowd. At the end of the buzzing "Evangaline" Sweet handed his guitar to these two guys in wheelchairs who spent the evening loving it and they struck the strings a ruckus, Sweet smiled at them and walked off the stage. For 1:45 minutes I had about as much fun as possible at a rock show, and I think this is gonna go into my all time favorites, that's how much fun I had.

LoveLife/Bee + Flower/Interpol 3-17 Brownies

Craving rock n roll after that deliriously wonderful evening of pop with Matthew Sweet, I headed down to Brownies to see some bands I haven't heard before. Brownies is dark, cramped with hipsters wearing black and futuristic makeup and 92% of whom are smoking. The top of the ceiling was lost in a smog like haze of nicotine and the staining of my skin will take days to wash out. How to describe Baltimore's LoveLife? Guitars clang into horns and bass, all noisy and heavy, so deep I can feel it in my spine as well as my eardrums, add deranged howling/singing in what sounds like some Germanic language by a woman, that's LoveLife. Very intense and interesting but not my kind of thing. Bee + Flower combined pop and atmospheres and art rock and I kind of liked them. At times working a drone and then becoming noisy, I even understood the words (plus what language it was in!) unlike the LoveLife. Interpol took the stage all wearing suit and tie as some kind of unified fashion statement. I liked Interpol most of all as they combine these icy, slashing guitars in retro-futurist ways. I was standing near the guy doing the sound and the Interpol band members kept complaining about the sound and asking the crowd if it sounded good. AFter one such complaint, the sound guy says, "Fuck you you prick". The best thing about this show was the between band dj. I was next to him and enjoyed him cueing up lots of very good early electronic stuff from the late '70s to the early '80s. He was playing stuff like THe Normal, Robert Rental, Suicide and other great groundbreakers of the genre. It sounded terrific on the loud system of the club. Another band was playing but I couldn't take the fog of cigarettes anymore and the elbow to elbow crowd, pushed my way to the door.

Luna 3-31 Bowery Ballroom

Three words: whammy-freakin'-bar! From note one of the guitar it was whammy bar time. I'm not complainin', I like the whammy bar. Never seen Luna, mostly enjoyed the show, although I wish more older songs were played, as I'm not as familiar w/ the new ones. The ever so cool Dean Wareham and co. did play "Bonnie and Clyde" and the song about living like a trucker without the belly. I like that one. It always makes me smile. Luna closed their set with a great version of "Indian Summer" by Beat Happening that I really enjoyed. You can really tell that Luna has played a lot of shows together because they are very tight and solid as a unit. Enjoyable aside from annoying warm up band who weren't nearly as hot as they thought they were.

Autumn Defense/Cash Brothers 4-12 Mercury Lounge

First time to the Mercury Lounge and it's loungey. Came to see Autumn Defense although I'd never heard of them but Wilco's John Stirratt is fronting them so wanted to check it out. First up was some local name Shannon ???, I spent the bulk of her set wondering why aren't I writing songs anymore, that's how mediocre she was. I came up with a good song title: Lost in a haze of book and film. Next up was the Cash Brothers. They play a brand of guitar orientated twangy rock n roll and were largely enjoyable. The side burned lead singer gave humorous between song banter. I like it when there is some on the spot talk between song, but it's a fine line between good and bad banter. This guy was good yet the Shannon ??? was in a "look at me, I'm a singer, these are my songs and everything i ramble on about is worthy of your rapt attention". That's bad banter. Autumn Defense took the tiny stage and with 7 band members it was a crowded stage. Curly frizzy headed Stirratt was backed by a steel guitarist, two hornplayers and a keyboardist among their small horde of musicians. A couple of women behind me commented frequently about how "cute" he was and how she "might be turning into a stalker." Sounds like me in the print Kinetoscope. Stirratt announced this was the first live performance of the Autumn Defense and I gotta say, it sounded it. Not incoherent bad but a tad sloppy with a lack of cohesive playing for the most part. Stirratt seemed a bit anxious, fidgeting with one of his 3 acoustic guitars, sweating, stopping songs and complaining about the monitors. At one point he commented, "Boy, this fronting a band is hard. I'll have to give Tweedy a slap on the back next time I see him." One of the problems is just how limited Stirratt is as a singer. His limitations--varying key for one thing--made most songs sound very similar. There were a few catchy ones and I liked the pedal steel/horn combo. Stirratt said the band had only had 3 or 4 rehearsals together before to-night, maybe with time, the songs would flesh out stronger than they seemed to-night. I did like the way Stirratt would count off the beginning of the song. Kind of a stomp that reminded me of a horse pawing the ground or when one of those trick horses that can count actually does the addition by stomping his hoof.

I don't know if another of these will come, but I'm supposed to see Grandaddy and Autechre in the next few weeks, I'll at least write about it for myself. Joshua