Tag Archive for 'film'

Splat!

It’s been near­ly 24-hours since I relaunched this weblog, and the feed­back has been encour­ag­ing. Thanks to every­one who emailed or left a com­ment.

I talked last night about my desire to use a typo­graph­i­cal grid for this design, but I also knew that this had the poten­tial to look quite anti­sep­tic and ster­ile. I thought of the com­ment that David Car­son makes in the Hel­veti­ca film, as he points to the word “caf­feinat­ed” that has been print­ed out in Hel­veti­ca Black and hung on the wall next to oth­er iden­ti­cal look­ing words: “This doesn’t say ‘caf­feinat­ed’!” To avoid the trap, I need­ed to work in a design ele­ment that would make things a lit­tle more inter­est­ing.

Con­tin­ue read­ing ‘Splat!’

Best of 2003

Well, I’m late with my year­ly round-up. I’ve enjoyed read­ing what oth­er weblog­gers have writ­ten on 2003, and hope­ful­ly I’ve got some­thing to offer. Here goes:

MUSIC

Yeah Yeah YeahsI won’t bore you with my the­o­ries of cor­re­la­tion between poor eco­nom­ic prospects and qual­i­ty rock music—suffice to say, 2003 was a lousy year to look for work, but it was anoth­er excel­lent year for rock. With­out any dom­i­nant “ism” (e.g., Alter­na­tive, Rap Met­al, etc.) defin­ing what was cool, small­er bands were giv­en the chance to exper­i­ment.

  • Stel­las­tar, Stel­las­tar —The 80s are back, and I’m thank­ful for it. But to dis­miss Stel­las­tar as a Goth­ic throw­back would be a crime— Shawn Christensen’s voice is more a post-punk David Byrne, (and I love basist Aman­da Tannen’s back­up vocals). My Coco is a great tune.
  • Blur, Think Tank —Ok, enough New York bands… Let’s talk about Blur. With their sem­i­nal gui­tarist Gra­ham Cox­on gone, and the Goril­laz side project behind him, Damon Albarn and crew turned out some­thing no one expected—a melod­ic, mea­sured, mature album, with some of the best album art by Banksy that I’ve seen. I miss the mod days of Mod­ern Life, but this was a fit­ting evo­lu­tion.

FILM

Lost in TranslationSum­mer movies still baf­fle me—I nev­er saw The Hulk or X-Men 2—but there were a few inter­est­ing films sprin­kled amongst the usu­al trash this past year. There were so many I missed this year, but here are a few worth con­sid­er­ing:

  • Lost in Trans­la­tion—I start­ed a new job this year, and I work close­ly with a Japan­ese girl, whose Eng­lish skills are… well, lim­it­ed. So, this film was my favorite in 2003. I was rolling on the Cin­e­ma floor laugh­ing dur­ing the “why do they switch their Ls and Rs” con­ver­sa­tion. I’d mar­ry Scar­lett Johans­son tomor­row.
  • In Amer­i­ca—Jim Sheridan’s semi-auto­bio sto­ry of an Irish fam­i­ly mov­ing to New York after the death of their son, was about as sweet and mag­i­cal an expe­ri­ence as is pos­si­ble at the movies. I hadn’t expect­ed it to be so emo­tion­al­ly heavy, but there is redemp­tion in the end.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean—John­ny Depp as a pirate and Orlan­do Bloom with a dread­ful mous­tache. What’s not to love?
  • Angels in Amer­i­ca—I’ve nev­er seen the play, but this 2-part HBO movie was exhil­a­rat­ing, inven­tive, and gut-wrench­ing. This film tack­les the big ques­tions of faith, love and iden­ti­ty.
  • Kill Bill—Uma and Quentin were back in 2003, and despite rumors that Kill Bill was going to suck, I real­ly enjoyed watch­ing Uma slice and dice her way through her address­book. Part II is com­ing in 2004, so maybe we’ll find out who the hell Bill is any­way.

POLITICS

Howard DeanFor those of you in late-pri­ma­ry states who might not be pay­ing atten­tion, there’s a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign under­way. Nev­er in my life­time have the stakes been so high—2003 showed us ter­ror­ism, pre­emp­tive war, tax cuts, bud­get deficits, job loss, and gay mar­riage (one pos­i­tive, at least).

  • Howard Dean—Not only has Howard Dean sin­gle-hand­ed­ly hand­ed the Democ­rats their balls back, he’s re-writ­ten the cam­paign hand­book and made blog­ging an impor­tant tool in reach­ing the Grass Roots. Sil­ly estab­lish­ment pun­dits are still dis­miss­ing him as the fla­vor-of-the-week (and weak), but I think he’s going to put up one hell of a fight, and he’ll be walk­ing and talk­ing a lot more like a tra­di­tion­al can­di­date after the pri­ma­ry.
  • Noth­ing else good hap­pened in 2003. sor­ry!

Larry got it Right in Mystic River

salonlogo.gifAn open let­ter to the author of an oth­er­wise good review of Mys­tic Riv­er in Salon:

Hel­lo Ms. Zacharek,

I did enjoy your review of Mys­tic Riv­er, and am look­ing for­ward to see­ing it this week­end. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed your obser­va­tions on con­cep­tions of neigh­bor­hood, and on the film’s sense of place.

While it’s true that Boston’s many neigh­bor­hoods are more self-con­tained than most cities’, I think it’s a leap to assume that this clan­nish­ness is total. It’s equal­ly true to argue that all of Boston is insu­lat­ed from oth­er parts of the coun­try. There is a dis­tinct com­mon Boston cul­ture, which includes things like lan­guage, val­ues, and tra­di­tions (red sox).

And while there may be an evi­dent us vs. them dynam­ic between cer­tain groups in the city, there is always a cir­cling of the wag­ons when Boston is fac­ing out­ward to the rest of the coun­try. So there must be more to this place than the sum of its parts.

Which leads me to ask you about this:

His part­ner is played by Lau­rence Fish­burne, who wasn’t told, unfor­tu­nate­ly, that black peo­ple in Boston don’t speak with a Boston accent.

I know it’s a minor bone to pick, but what expe­ri­ence or knowl­edge did you use as basis for that com­ment? An assump­tion that only Irish-Bosto­ni­ans drop their Rs and As? Michael Dukakis cer­tain­ly would debunk that state­ment.

Vis­it an ele­men­tary school in Chi­na­town, and you’ll see the chil­dren of Chi­nese immi­grants say­ing cah and pahk, just like many of their teach­ers. Maybe not to the exag­ger­at­ed degree that you’d find on the South Shore or in the Kennedy fam­i­ly, but it’s there.

Would you sim­i­lar­ly argue that blacks born and edu­cat­ed in Chica­go don’t speak with a Great Lakes Mid-West accent?

The Boston accent orig­i­nat­ed in East Anglia, when the first Eng­lish colonists came from. It’s been refined and extend­ed by a immi­grant groups of all kinds (not to men­tion a few of us trans­plants from oth­er parts of the coun­try). I think there is a mis­tak­en assump­tion here, and I’d hate for non-Bosto­ni­ans to get the wrong idea when watch­ing this film.

Respect­ful­ly,
Ned ned.suckahs.org

Now, I’m not a native Boston­ian, but I have been here for near­ly a decade — and I know many peo­ple that grew up in this town, and share the local accent– be they from his­pan­ic, black, or oth­er back­grounds. Does any­one dis­agree? Am I over­re­act­ing to a small bit in an oth­er­wise good review?

UPDATE: Ms. Zacharek kind­ly respond­ed to my let­ter:

Hi Ned — Thanks for your let­ter. I actu­al­ly took great pains to make it clear that the clan­nish­ness shown in the movie isn’t total — the neigh­bor­hood of the movie seems to me very much like South Boston (though plen­ty of peo­ple are writ­ing in say­ing, “No, it’s Charlestown!” or “No, it’s Dorch­ester!”) I think the point is, there ARE pock­ets of Boston that are par­tic­u­lar­ly clan­nish, and Lehane’s sto­ry is pred­i­cat­ed on that.

And the L. Fish­burne line…I just went in and cut that from the piece, because it seemed to be a bone of con­tention with sev­er­al peo­ple. I lived in Boston for 15 years (it was only four years ago that I left), and I nev­er heard a per­son of col­or speak the way Fish­burne does. Then again, all of Boston is set up so that a white per­son (like me) nev­er needs to come into con­tact with a per­son of col­or unless he or she makes a great effort to do so. So it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that there are African Amer­i­cans in Boston who speak like Mark Wahlberg and I just nev­er heard them. In any event, it did seem like a mis­guid­ed act­ing choice to me.

Any­way, thank you again for tak­ing the time to write in with your thought­ful com­ments, and best wish­es –

Stephanie Zacharek

I’m hum­bled that she respond­ed so gen­er­ous­ly, but now that I think about it, I’m feel­ing a bit like the PC Police. I didn’t want her to self-cen­sor her­self, but I thought that I should say some­thing.