Monday, August 31, 2009

Current print issue of FILTER magazine w/CALVIN AND HOBBES tribute.

Now that John Hughes has passed away, cartoonist Bill Watterson (creator of the classic and short-lived child-and-his-imaginary-tiger-friend classic comic strip CALVIN AND HOBBES) is now the leading J.D. Salinger hide-away figure for members of Generations W and X.

The current issue of FILTER magazine (with Mos Def on the cover) has a must-read excerpt from a forthcoming book by Nevin Martell on Watterson and CALVIN AND HOBBES (LOOKING FOR CALVIN AND HOBBES)--featuring interviews with Berkeley Breathed (BLOOM COUNTY, OUTLAND, OPUS), Jonathan Lethem and Patton Oswalt.

Nikki Finke on Disney's $4 billion purchase of Marvel empire.

Apparently if you're Bob Iger and the Walt Disney Company board of directors, it's better to buy out the Marvel Comics empire (including its motion picture division) for $4 billion than to improve your in-house product (including the recent 3-D guinea pig nonclassic G-FORCE).

Here's Nikki Finke with details (including Paramount stating that they're hanging on to Marvel-produced movies including IRON MAN 2):
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/shocker-disney-buying-marvel/

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aaron Hillis now rivals Hugh Bonar as one of the tackiest LA WEEKLY film reviewers ever.

There's a student-film-level geriatric romance/sex comedy called PLAY THE GAME opening this weekend (not planning to see it, having suffered the give-just-about-everything-away trailer) with Andy Griffith in his first major role since appearing in Adrienne Shelly's WAITRESS.

Aaron Hillis' negative review (don't know if it originated in the LA WEEKLY or with one of the other Michael Lacey alternapapers) of the film (look it up on http://www.laweekly.com) starts off okay in a young-man-writing-to-his-age-group fashion. But Hillis goes for the worst kind of insensitive-to-cruel snark in his final sentence:
"We're thankfully only treated to a chaste closeup of Griffith's doughy puppet face as he's [receiving a certain sex act]--think AVENUE Q [the adult NYC musical with imitation Muppets]."

Great, Aaron. Just freaking wonderful.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Roger Mudd's 1979 CBS special with Ted Kennedy.

Since Edward Kennedy's passing, the cable news outlets (particularly MSNBC) have been shaping a portrait of Kennedy: the Liberal Lion of the Senate, who had triumphs and tragedies (Chappaquiddick is now considered a Teachable Moment in the Kennedy story) and ultimate redemption. With a healthy portion of "had Ted Kennedy been alive, we'd be thisclose to passage of health care legislation" on the side.

Roger Mudd's 1979 CBS interview with Kennedy seems to be left out of the equation. Apparently Kennedy stumbled on articulating just why voters should eject sitting President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 primaries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TkhNWPspM

And this moment, even moreso than Chappaquiddick, may explain why Kennedy was denied the Presidency and settled for nearly three more decades of service to our nation as a Senator.

Monday, August 24, 2009

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: Quentin Tarantino now emulating late-period Howard Hawks.

As recent Quentin Tarantino films go, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is an improvement on the too-indulgent DEATH PROOF, but not up to the standards of KILL BILL (note: I'm still waiting for a special-edition DVD; maybe Harvey and Bob Weinstein need to buy the film back from Disney for that increasingly nebulous event to take place).

Essentially, BASTERDS is akin to the later films of Howard Hawks (specifically RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, RIO LOBO) where the premise is just a loose framework for a series of setpieces. Some of the setpieces work quite well, some less well and, every so often, they wander into Tarantino recycling himself (the opening farmhouse scene, at a certain point, will remind some viewers of the Christopher Walken/Dennis Hopper dialogue in TRUE ROMANCE).

Two observations:
1. Controversial critic Armond White was correct when he recently mentioned that Tarantino won't make a film running no longer than, say, 80 minutes.
2. Tarantino, with the five-chapter structure of BASTERDS, obviously wanted to rechannel the interlocking structure of PULP FICTION. But BASTERDS, while managing to fit everything into place by the movie theater finale, tends to back-burner depth of character in favor of a bunch of long (sometimes too long), suspense buildups of the "can we keep the Bad Guys from discovering The Truth" variety.

Feel free to post comments agreeing or disagreeing with the opinions above.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another piece of deathless wisdom from Tim Green of RATTLE.

"But you can't make money writing poetry. And I'm thankful for it. Our poverty keeps us pure."

That's Tim Green of RATTLE from a recent blog post of his called POETRY IS NOT A RACKET.
Mr. Green's wonderful, fragrant aroma of self-regard and poetry protectionism can be found on his blog: http://www.timothy-green.org/ And I never fail to be irritated by poets proclaiming there's artistic purity in the valleys of obscurity.

It's a given that, in an America which chooses to treat poetry as something equivalent to the foods that children are forced to eat because they're "good for you," poetry is generally not going to sell in mass quantities. And, when it does, the knives tend to come out--with Billy Collins now being a new target of literary scorn. (How much of this is jealousy and how much a referendum on Collins' continuing worth as a writer post-success may never be totally quantifiable.)

But it would be nice to see small press poetry volumes try to sell more poets' works in, say, the multiple-thousands--or at least see more poets-published-by-small-press' works available in bookstores of their hometowns (noticing, for example, that Brendan Constantine's LETTERS TO GUNS isn't easy to find in L.A. bookstores--indie or corporate).

[UPDATE 7/13/11: here's a comment from cfisher:
Tim Green also spams you if you submit to his journal. (Although to be fair, I think 99.5% of these obscure and useless journals do that now.) To me, that shows how little these journals respect their writers. But Green is quite upfront about it: he actually says that if you don't want the spam, don't submit!

Well okay then, no problem!

As for Billy Collins, I wrote to him once and never received a reply, and thought it was kind of dickish.] 

Victor Infante wrinkles his nose re Bukowski--and my poem about the latter.

http://ocvictor.livejournal.com/789438.html
[in the link above, Mr. Infante basically agrees with Tim Green of the litmag RATTLE that Bukowski wasn't the world's greatest human being and not all that great of a poet/author. Green--who has a way of making one cringe in this particular piece whether or not one agrees with him--plays the You Are Banned game with a poster in the comments section--at one point, adding the new twist of Start Your Own Blog. All in all, it's another round of the old argument "must an artist be an exemplary human as well?" superseding any detailed debate over what Bukowski actually put on paper. ]

NEVER MET BUKOWSKI

I never met Bukowski.

I didn’t even know who he was
until I saw BARFLY in 1987
when Mickey Rourke played the fictional Bukowski
with a voice blending Marlon Brando with the cartoon character Snagglepuss.

In 1993,
I went to a rare bookstore in Hollywood
and knocked on the door
and a grizzled old man answered
and barked out WE’RE CLOSED TODAY
and it was awhile later that I found out
that the grumpy old man
was someone who knew Bukowski.

Sometime around 1999,
I read one of Bukowski’s poems
onstage at the now-long-dead Poetic License reading
at the Moondog Café on Melrose
and the pretty girl who was a waitress there
paid attention to me for the first time.
I told her that it wasn’t one of my poems,
but one of Bukowski’s
and it was the last time she paid attention to me.

During this same period,
I met Frances Dean Smith aka francEyE
who, with Bukowski, created their daughter Marina.
francEyE started out liking me
until I argued with an Eminent Poet friend of hers.
I can tell you this:
I liked francEyE for who she was
and didn’t annoy her with questions
about what kind of man Bukowski was.

Bukowski, never shy about displaying his honesty,
often railed about bad poetry and bad poets.
And, if I had met Bukowski
and showed him one of my poems,
he likely would have grabbed me,
ripped me in two
and sucked the marrow out of me
like a diner eating crab legs
at a seafood restaurant.

Afterwards, he would have called me a bad poet
and said that anyone telling me otherwise
was blowing smoke up my ass.

Maybe it’s a good thing
that I never met Bukowski.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Disappointments big and small.

The insurance companies, lobbyists, conservative Blue Dog Democrats and take-down obstructionist Republicans are likely cheering President Obama's failure of nerve (as first signaled over the weekend) in dropping the "public option" from health care reform:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-healthcare17-2009aug17,0,2687148.story

At this writing, it's safe to say that Obama has whiffed in the same way that Bill Clinton did when he failed to stand up to bullies like Sam Nunn on gays-in-the-military in 1993. And it may be not that much of a stretch to presume that Dick Morris is currently faxing his resume to the White House in hopes of offering more pander-to-the-Right advice to another sitting President.

Now, on to the "what the hell was The Walt Disney Company/ABC thinking" topic of the day re the decision to add maestro of corruption Tom DeLay to the fall cast of DANCING WITH THE STARS: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2009/08/tom-delay-brings-his-twostep-to-dancing-with-the-stars.html

Guessing that Glenn Beck may be considering an offer for the Spring 2010 season.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mixed feelings about the new documentary film THE COVE.

THE COVE--in case you're part of the 86% of this country who haven't heard of it--is a documentary film which tries to do two things at once. The first story it tells is of a former employee of Ivan Tors' FLIPPER TV series who changes from a dolphin trainer to a set-them-free-close-Sea-World-down-everywhere extreme activist. The gentleman in story one intersects with story two--about a Japanese town where big money is to be made from selling dolphins to Sea World-type parks and/or aquariums. Smaller money is made by brutally murdering dolphins in a secret cove and selling their meat (dangerously high in mercury), sometimes passed off as whale meat.

It's easy to get behind story two (and there's a bit of activism on the film's website to get the Japanese government to stop this mass slaughter), but a bit harder to accept story one unquestioningly.

The genie can't go completely back into the bottle re discontinuing the existence of dolphins and/or porpoises at Sea World or aquariums. But more stringent regulations regarding the care of dolphins--and an end to the "average everyday humans can swim alongside dolphins" tourism-- are necessary.

Here's Fisher Stevens (a co-producer of THE COVE) with a letter about how the film is being cold-shouldered by both the Tokyo Film Festival and Japanese distributors:
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/hypocrisy-thy-name-is-tokyo-film-festival/

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jann Wenner hits a huge low: a special ROLLING STONE Jonas Brothers issue.

I guess I should have seen it coming, given the tendency of ROLLING STONE to regard the teenpop act Jonas Brothers (now currently on a Disney Channel series that channels, in style, episodes of THE MONKEES) as legitimate-because-they're-making-money rockers.

But, a couple of hours ago at my local Costco in Northridge, CA, I discovered IT in all its malign banality.

Yes. Jann Wenner and Wenner Media just gave the world a ROLLING STONE Jonas Brothers special issue

Wenner didn't do this in the 90s for Hanson--which, if I remember correctly, got more respect from rock critics.

Wenner didn't do this in the 70s for The Osmonds or David and Shaun Cassidy. They only received articles and/or cover stories at best.

But now Jann Wenner, chasing preteen dollars, has devalued the ROLLING STONE brand in supplicant service to a teenpop group [and their Svengali father] which, earlier this year, had a less-than-successful foray into concert moviemaking (even with the power of the Walt Disney Company behind them).

As Sylvester, Jr. used to do in Warner Brothers cartoons, I will now put a paper bag over my head and say: "Oh, the shame of it!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How news is mundane-ized.

I'm still noticing it's too-visual-to-ignore for the cable networks (and their Major siblings) to swear off footage of town-hall health meeting disruptions (safe to say, most of them are scripted). This is probably because actual pro-and-con debate of change in national health care policy is considered too boring--and boring isn't what corporate-controlled news wants to be.

For some reason, I'm expecting health care coverage to be drowned out soon by overcoverage of Miley Cyrus' (and her Stage Parents) continuing desire to morph into a second-string Britney.
[UPDATE 8/18/09: Didn't happen--and I'm glad to have guessed wrong.]

Much easier for today's news directors to pay detailed attention to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When attendance for a poetry reading ranges from slim-to-none.

An old poem of mine, based on nonattendance experiences--one I had at a now-very-long-gone reading in San Gabriel and the other happening to someone I knew (who was a veteran of the scene, unlike the character in the poem) who did an "evening with" reading at a now-long-gone venue in Sherman Oaks where only two people (I was one of those people) came and the owner eventually pulled the plug on the night:

AN EMPTY ROOM

8:00 p.m.
Poet has his first featured reading
at a local bookstore.
No one is there but poet
and the bookstore's owner.

8:10 p.m.
Poet reassures himself that other poets
will soon arrive at the reading.
Poet knows that poets often arrive late--
what is known as "poetry time."

8:20 p.m.
No one else shows up.

8:30 p.m.
Poet begins to panic.
He handed out flyers at other readings
and publicized his feature on the Internet.
He thinks: My poetry can't be this bad!

8:40 p.m.
Host arrives at store.
Host apologizes profusely to poet
for the lack of audience.
Host says to poet: You don't deserve this.
Host and poet stare at five rows of empty chairs.

8:45 p.m.
Bookstore owner wants to go home early.
He turns out the lights.
Bookstore owner, poet and host leave the store.
Once outside, the host promises the poet
a ten-minute minifeature on another night
when a popular poet is booked for a regular feature.
Poet swallows pride and agrees.

9:00 p.m.
Poet sits in his parked car.
He's aware that it's not a level playing field.
But he wonders if, someday,
the poetry community will want to hear him
read his work for longer than ten minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes, comedy auteur, RIP.

From the John Hughes canon, there are a few films which are keepers for me: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, SHE'S HAVING A BABY (which, in the Hughes canon, is the equivalent of Judd Apatow's FUNNY PEOPLE), SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES and, yes, HOME ALONE.

Hughes, using his Repetitive Formula Machine, also cranked out a lot of underachieving junk--some of which (DUTCH, the inexplicably-beloved WEIRD SCIENCE and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF, THE GREAT OUTDOORS, CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, the live-action remake of 101 DALMATIANS) that I saw and some (DENNIS THE MENACE, BABY'S DAY OUT) I instinctively knew to avoid.

An irony (which Hughes obituaries will probably ignore) is that one-time Hughes ally Chris Columbus recently had a flop with the 80's-teencom homage I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER--a film I also avoided. From the trailer, it was obvious that BETH COOPER offered some shoutouts to earlier Hughes fare such as WEIRD SCIENCE and FERRIS BUELLER (with Alan Ruck cast as a parent).

But there will be a run on DVD copies of SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, WEIRD SCIENCE, PRETTY IN PINK, FERRIS BUELLER, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, UNCLE BUCK and the first two HOME ALONEs later today as thirty-and-fortysomething adults express a desire to relive their lost middle-to-upper-middle-class suburban youth watching Hughes' movies in shoebox multiplexes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When corporations run network news, corporations exempt themselves (and each other) from news coverage.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-not-everything-i_b_244050.html
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/01/ge/index.html
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/08/04/olbermann/index.html

Something interesting I read in the last link above. Glenn Greenwald links to David Sirota's article re the "Keith Olbermann told to stop criticizing Bill O'Reilly so Fox News can quit reporting on General Electric" mess. In the comments section of Sirota's piece, one gets the idea that some people are okay with Olbermann standing down in this matter as long as he has an opportunity to be a "progressive" voice on a cable news channel.

Question is: How progressive can you be if you work for a news organization that has no firewall between its operations and edicts from the corporation that owns it?

Paula Abdul, Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz now on the unemployment line.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/05/ben-lyons-ben-mankiewicz-_n_252150.html
http://www.popeater.com/2009/08/05/ryan-seacrest-paula-abdul-leaving-american-idol/
http://www.popeater.com/2009/08/05/paula-abdul-replacements/

It's safe to say that Lyons will keep his E! job and Mankiewicz may be seen again on TCM, but Abdul will face the kind of Industry sexism which hates tantrums and dysfunctionality from women, but turns a blind eye when it erupts from members of the male gender.

So I'll predict Paula's immediate future on TV will be solely as a salesperson of her jewelry line on QVC.

But here's a more positive assessment of Paula Abdul's past, present and possible future from Richard Rushfield, who used to be on the AMERICAN IDOL beat for the LOS ANGELES TIMES' Calendar section: http://gawker.com/5330632/five-reasons-paula-abdul-quit-american-idol?skyline=true&s=x

[UPDATE 8/6/09: TMZ post says that negotiations could still be going on:http://www.tmz.com/2009/08/06/paula-leaves-a-i-a-hoax/?icid=mainhtmlws-maindl3link3http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tmz.com%2F2009%2F08%2F06%2Fpaula-leaves-a-i-a-hoax%2F And perhaps it's time to bring former President and current crisis envoy Bill Clinton in as an arbitrator.]

Monday, August 3, 2009

Marie Lecrivain explains her good behavior for you.

Time for me to make a public apology to Marie Lecrivain. Awhile back, I had submitted some poems to POETIC DIVERSITY and had wondered (in an earlier entry) why I heard nothing and was negative over what I then characterized as rejection.

In the other portion of her editor's note in the latest quarterly POETIC DIVERSITY, Marie sets the record straight regarding poetry submissions to the webzine:
"First, I owe many of you who submitted work in Winter/Spring 2009 an apology. During this time, the server for poeticdiversity was switched, and in the process, several hundred emails were lost - well, more to the point - EVERY email, I had, up until that point, became a brand new email - and since there are over 5,000 emails with no subject lines (going back to 2005), I was, due to time constraints, unable to sort through them all. I would ask, if you submitted work, and I did not answer you, to please re-submit work, either through the submission form on this site, or to submissions@poeticdiversity.org. "

Having said that, I'm not withdrawing my opinions about Marie (on another poetry matter) in the post written earlier today.

Marie Lecrivain explains her bad behavior for you.

From the current issue of POETIC DIVERSITY; ladies and gentlemen, here's editor Marie Lecrivain:
"Over the past seven years, I've suffered the slings and arrows - and, in some cases, stalking and harassment - of angry poets who have labeled me as an insensitive, uber-bitchy dragon lady of the poetry scene. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spend a great deal of time working with other poets through this publication, with little help, except from my exceptional staff, and with no funding other than what I am able to raise to keep poeticdiversity going. I am not doing this to secure a place in the "Los Angeles Poetic Pantheon." Frankly, there is no such place in my mind! I am not telling you this to bring a tear to your eye. I am saying this, because, with all due respect to my detractors, none of you really know what is going on with myself, or those who represent poeticdiversity at any given time. And, unfortunately, if you would take the time to actually inquire to what is happening, instead of lecturing, or wagging your fingers at me, my staff, and this publication in your blogs, through nasty emails, or at poetry readings, you might learn that we are all on the same side - the side of poetry... and its promulgation as an art form. And, when you are ready to talk, I am here to listen, as well as, dialogue with you."

Since Marie's gone public, I can now say that I e-mailed her in private about some dubious behavior from her during the publication reading for THE LONG WAY HOME at Beyond Baroque.

Marie called out by name a certain Eminent Poet who didn't include one of her poems in his eminent publication. I personally had no problem with that.

What I DID have a problem with was when Ms. M proceeded to mock (as in make pitiful fun of)the people who expressed unhappiness with not being included in POETIC DIVERSITY.

Not long afterwards, she blew virtual air kisses to G. Murray Thomas for including one of her poems in the Santa Barbara-based publication SAGE TRAIL. It didn't hurt that Murray was one of the evening's two hosts.

Needless to say, my e-mail received a response that overlapped with her public address above--with a final sentence which can be paraphrased like this: "I won't talk to you ever again unless you address me with maturity."

In finality, I guess I liked the Marie Lecrivain I used to know (particularly when her poems were less pretentiously engineered-to-impress) better than the one who commands and demands diva-like attention and "understanding" now.

Steven Spielberg needs more of the public's love--so he's remaking HARVEY.

The 1950 comedy/fantasy film HARVEY, from the Mary Chase play, isn't all that familiar to today's audiences (I don't think I've seen anything but clips). But it had James Stewart as a lovable alcohol-challenged man who alone saw a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey--and the film became a hit in its day.

Now Steven Spielberg plans to remake HARVEY for his next film as a director:
http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2009/08/dusty_rabbit_ea.php
http://www.movieline.com/2009/08/is-there-any-actor-who-could-make-spielbergs-harvey-remake-interesting.php
And it's safe to conjecture that Elwood P. Dowd (the protagonist of HARVEY) will be sober.

Here's a spot-on quote from Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE column linked above:
"Spielberg almost always puts on the waders and sloshes right into the swamp. He's always looking to touch or melt hearts, even when the film would be better off without this. He'll never know from subtlety."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here we go again: another Westwood theater closing.

Thanks to Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE for first linking to this story:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/08/theaters-fading-to-black-in-westwood.html

In recent years, the body count for movie theaters in Westwood (the area near UCLA):
Mann Westwood Four--converted to a Whole Foods Market
United Artists Westwood--now a chain drugstore
Mann Plaza--torn down
Mann National--torn down
UA Lindbrook turned Cineplex Odeon Festival turned Mann Festival--closed as of this past Thursday.

In spite of the speculation re the fate of the Fox Village and Bruin Theaters (Mann's planning to wash its corporate hands of them), I'm guessing they'll stay around a few years longer for their continuing value as staging grounds for gala World Premieres.