CATCHING UP WITH...
Reading over the novel over the last couple of days has been a rewarding, reassuring experience. But it has left me scant time to focus on writing anything else, and I am behind on writing about things I wanted to here. So, I catch up with some capsule reviews of things I've taken in over the last couple of weeks, including the few moments of respite I've allowed myself in the Everlasting process (I have not been reading anything else while I am reading my manuscript, so as to keep my mind on that single track):
Undertow: The new film by David Gordon Green, who made the excellent movies George Washington and All The Real Girls is based on a true story about two young boys who have to go running from their murderous uncle. It reminds me of '70s films like Deliverance and Southern Comfort (which was actually '80s) where we are taken through a deep American South that we barely recognize as the real world, the people are so foreign to us (see also Cold Mountain), where at every turn we find some sweaty, grimy peril. As in his previous films, Green manages to capture performances that convey a quiet, studied reality, but this time around, I think I ended up enjoying the style more than the story, which was more conventional plot-wise than his earlier efforts. He uses grainy freeze frames to mark his cuts in a way that hasn't been done this well since Goodfellas. Philip Glass' score is also excellent.
House of Flying Daggers: Zhang Yimou's follow-up to Hero is another stylish kung-fu movie full of forest fights, exceptional archery, and the super-powered flying daggers of the title. The camera work in the fight scenes are just as beautiful as Hero, and the early scene in the Geisha palace is a cornucopia of color that dazzles in much the same way Yimou's last film worked with thematic color schemes. For those who felt that Hero didn't conform to narrow definitions of plot properly, House of Flying Daggers has a more conventional story, with lots of twists and betrayals. Zhang Ziyi continues to prove why she is becoming the go-to gal for the top Chinese directors, taking on a challenging role that demands she change her character on a quick spin. (I'd go into more detail, but the plot has so many turns, I'd feel like I would be doing a disservice to those of you who will want to see this film.) The love triangle is also tragic and beautiful, and Yimou is unafraid to inject heavy emotion into the action. Easily one of my favorite films this year.
The Incredibles: Believe the hype. This is as funny, clever, and exciting as everything would lead you to believe. And Pixar finally proves once and for all that you can do computer animated human characters and not have them look stiff and lifeless (compare the plasticity of the Shrek films films; the forthcoming, awful-looking Polar Express; or David Hasselhoff in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie).
Music-wise, the new Eminem is really good. He expands his lyrical base, exposing more of himself and going after some bigger targets than his ex-wife (who still doesn't escape his ire, but her tracks are fewer and weaker than the rest). The new Snoop Dogg, on the other hand, despite being produced by the Neptunes, is on autopilot. There is nothing at all inspired here. Chad and Pharell continue to lose sight of their once innovative musical vision. Their spirit seems to have infected Mos Def, whose New Danger album suffers from the same overreaching as N*E*R*D's Fly Or Die in that it sees him trying to be a rock star and tossing out a bunch of half-baked songs that suggest he's not very good at it.
A Perfect Circle have released their third album, Emotive, and it's a covers record. A damn good covers record, bending the likes of Joni Mitchell, Devo, Marvin Gaye, and Depeche Mode in surprising ways. And Depeche Mode have a new remix retrospective, spanning two discs on the regular edition and sprawling to a third on a limited version, which features some newly commissioned tracks. They have gone for the more abstract, more adventurous reinterpretations, and though some of them date back to 1981, it's the most futuristic sounding batch of songs that I've heard in some time. And for another great compilation, Travis' Singles collection is a tremendously satisfying grouping of A-sides
The Go Fug Yourself blog, which winnowed its way to me via Greg McElhatton via Kelly Cute, makes me laugh every day. Those vicious little backbiters have a wit and sense of style those old whores Mr. Blackwell and Joan River can never touch. Praise be to the mean girls!
As for the reading of The Everlasting, it's all done, and I only need to implement the changes, which will probably take a couple of days. I have some doubts about some parts, but at this point, it's really hard for me to judge. I need to push the boat out and see how she sails.
Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, Remixes 81-04 disc 3
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich