Wednesday, December 31, 2014

List of 2014 Part Three: Best Movies.

An updated list will be published in a few days.  The following count as the best 2014 releases I saw through today (in no specific order):
FOXCATCHER, THE TRIP TO ITALY, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, AMERICAN SNIPER, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME, JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, SNOWPIERCER, THE DOG, CALVARY, THE LEGO MOVIE
Honorable Mention: BOYHOOD, THE IMITATION GAME, INHERENT VICE, LIFE ITSELF, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM, THE SKELETON TWINS, NIGHT MOVES, BELLE
Disappointments From Major Directors: GONE GIRL, LUCY, THE ZERO THEOREM

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 List Part Two--Underwhelming Film/TV/Music of the year.

OVERRATED-TO-WILDLY-OVERRATED FILMS OF 2014:
BIRDMAN, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, NIGHTCRAWLER
the first is a well-acted sorrow-and-pity wankfest with jazz drum score which overinflates an interesting idea about a movie star seeking credibility on the Broadway stage;  its success is apparently due to pandering to above-it-all audience members who moan about superhero product crowding out smarter films while refusing to seek out and champion the latter; terrific monologue about two-thirds of the way through from Lindsay Duncan playing a stereotypical I-will-destroy-you critic
re GRAND BUDAPEST: Wes Anderson doing a NATIONAL LAMPOON version of 30s-era Ernst Lubitsch films few people in the audience probably saw--but partially saved by brilliant seriocomic performance from Ralph Fiennes; a big step backwards from the excellence of MOONRISE KINGDOM
as for NIGHTCRAWLER: Dan Gilroy thinks he's doing a more profound exploration of the overobvious subject matter of violent, superficial local TV news than he actually is; Jake Gyllenhaal does his best with a two-dimensional cartoon Amoral Nowhere Man, while the real acting comes from Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed
WILDLY OVERRATED BY ROLLING STONE:
HIGH HOPES--an album released by Bruce Springsteen apparently to fill a Sony/Columbia Records contractual obligation; better that Springsteen had just released his versions of the title track and "Dream Baby Dream" as what used to be known as a Double-A side single online
DISAPPOINTMENT FROM A TALENTED DIRECTOR:
Terry Gilliam's mostly-seen-on-VOD THE ZERO THEOREM best serves its viewers by making them want to see BRAZIL again
BEST COMMENT ON CABLE NEWS IN 2014:
Larry King discussing missing-plane coverage of his former employer CNN by referring to its use of the term "Breaking News" as synonym for "Breaking Supposition" and "Breaking Speculation."
MILDLY OVERRATED FILMS OF 2014:
TOP FIVE--not quite Chris Rock's GOOD MORNING VIETNAM
INHERENT VICE--Paul Thomas Anderson's latest (adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel) is better than most of what's out there in the marketplace, but a slight slide downhill after his twin masterpieces THERE WILL BE BLOOD and THE MASTER

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Highlights of 2014 Part One

MOVIE OF THE YEAR: THE INTERVIEW
UNMADE MOVIE OF THE YEAR: MIDNIGHT RIDER (RIP Sarah Jones)
TV SERIES CURSED WITH ABBREVIATED FINAL SEASON (tie):
THE KILLING, BOARDWALK EMPIRE
FALLEN IDOL OF THE YEAR (three-way tie):
BILL COSBY/ROLF HARRIS/STEPHEN COLLINS
REISSUE/RESTORATION OF THE YEAR (tie): A HARD DAY'S NIGHT/SORCERER
WORST MOVIE I SAW IN 2014: JOHN WICK
UNDERSEEN DOCUMENTARIES: OUT OF PRINT, LANCE ARMSTRONG: STOP
AT NOTHING
WORTHWHILE BUT OVERRATED DOCUMENTARY: HAPPY VALLEY






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More Cobalt Cafe and CobaltPoets farewell messages.

Found these in my e-mail inbox:
Tuesday December 30, 2014
Cobalt Reading 20th Anniversary / Farewell Party
It's a potluck! Bring food and drink of any kind and plan on an evening of reminiscing, socializing, farewell and the mother of all group poems. Not so much a reading tonight but the mic will be open for the sharing of memories. We'll also be taking donations to send Cobalt owner Dave off with a little bit to help him move forward... so think generously, bring a nosh, and yourself as we end an era.

"Tell us what the Cobalt reading has meant to you.  Keep it brief."

I won't be attending the Cobalt farewell on the 30th since I believe it's meant for true friends of the host as well as those who stopped attending years ago but want to return.

Thanks to Dave and his former employees for keeping the Cobalt Cafe alive as a music venue which generously  chose to spare one night each week for poets of all types to read and/or just listen.

For exit music, I'm choosing the following:
http://youtu.be/p51Fgm1m6V0




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

EXCERPT FROM THIS POEM IS FOR SALE

Portion of satirical poem I wrote about censorship in 2004--originally centering on Janet Jackson at that year's Super Bowl--that's still relevant with regards to the canceled release of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's film THE INTERVIEW.



HOLLYWOOD REPORTER article: North Korea probably not behind the Sony cyberhacking.

Inside the studio, though, sources say there is little evidence that North Korea is behind the attack. Cybersecurity expert Hemanshu Nigam also finds it hard to believe that North Korea is the perpetrator. Instead, he theorizes an employee or ex-employee with administrative access privileges is a more likely suspect. For the studio — which has laid off hundreds of employees over the past year in an effort to contain costs — the possibility of a disgruntled employee wreaking havoc is very real.
"If terabytes of data left the Sony networks, their network detection systems would have noticed easily," explains Nigam. "It would also take months for a hacker to figure out the topography of the Sony networks to know where critical assets are stored and to have access to the decryption keys needed to open up the screeners that have been leaked." In addition, he says, "Hackers don't use such things as Hushmail, Dropbox and Facebook when they want to engage in what amounts to criminal activity. Real hackers know that these sites collect access logs, IP addresses and work with law enforcement. It is possible that North Korean-sponsored hackers were working with someone on the inside. But it is more likely a ruse to shift blame, knowing the distaste the North Korean regime has for Sony Pictures."

Link to the article excerpted above: Sony Hack: Studio Security Points to Inside Job
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sony-hack-studio-security-points-753509#

Twitter reacts to THE INTERVIEW being pulled from theaters due to threat.

Is it possible that the whole mess was perpetrated by the on-line platforms to make sure people never leave their living rooms?--Ira Deutchman

I fully support the movement for The Interview. Screw the theaters cowering in fear and release your product to everyone. --Alex Billington

Theater chains will soon come out with statements about "patrons' safety." That will be a lie. They are afraid of being hacked themselves.--Josh Lincoln Dickey

., the same company whose CEO wants to introduce "texting safe" screenings? Blames Sony's "wavering support".--Moises Chiullan

The Interview, like Dr. Strangelove, sounds like a satire. Lives should not be threatened over a 90 minute comedy, regardless of the subject.--Jen Connors

Even if no one goes to see it, The Interview will end up being one of the most important films of the decade now. Funny how that happens.--David Neary

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bill Cosby and Sony don't want certain things written about them.

Again not linking to certain things already racing across the Information Superhighway, but I noticed two things earlier today:
1. Bill Cosby is still in rigid denial over his current reputation resembling a mansion of twigs with a tornado bearing down on it.  Well, maybe he's acknowledging the recent allegations of supermodel Beverly Johnson by what-seems-to-be subtly ordering African-American publications to avoid writing negative profiles of Bill Cosby.
2. Sony now wants the genie of public embarrassment returned to its bottle by ordering no more press coverage of e-mail leaks.
[Pausing a moment to again say that the leaking is obviously not North Korean--if North Korea had been sufficiently infuriated by THE INTERVIEW, it would probably have created a truly destructive cyberattack rather than something akin to Anonymous-or a disgruntled employee.]
On one level, I can empathize with people working there not wanting private/personal information such as home addresses and phone numbers to be revealed.
However, regarding the information that has been regarded InstantNews-worthy, it may be worth pausing to wonder how/why the Columbia/Tri-Star/Screen Gems content-producing outpost of the Sony empire employs Jamie Foxx (who won an Academy Award for playing Ray Charles in RAY) and only utilizes him as supporting player in the upcoming, modernized ANNIE--plus, earlier this year, a superhero antagonist in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.
And, thanks to the e-mail leak: one gets a little insight into what movies multinational corporations choose to make, why they insist on making "tentpoles" and avoiding medium-budget projects that aren't comedies--and what kind of limitations are assigned by studio executives to non-Caucasian actors.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Are we learning anything new from Sony e-mail hacks re Hollywood?

I'm not linking to them here, but there have been plenty of lip-licking posts from various gossip and news sites about the private e-mails of Sony executives being recently hacked and revealed to the public.

Here's a few things I processed from what little I've read:
1. Studio execs still love to bad-mouth actors.
2. Women still aren't being paid as much as men.
3. It's more likely that disgruntled employees are behind this--not North Korea.
4. THE INTERVIEW had its climax toned down for the US version--and it will be removed for overseas viewing.
5. For an exec and a producer, it's not yet a post-racial society (regarding certain comments about President Obama and what movies/actors he may/may not like).

In conclusion, today's Hollywood isn't much different than, say, four decades ago.

[UPDATED 4/16/15: Wikileaks has re-released files; Sony has objected on privacy grounds.  At this point, the only thing I found worthy of public notice is current Sony exec Michael Lynton is on the board of famous think tank The Rand Corporation.]

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best performances not getting Awards Season consideration.

In no specific order, here's a list of released-in-2014 film performances being ignored by SAG, Golden Globes, critics' organizations, etc. in the stampede towards consensus nominees.

1. Brendan Gleeson--CALVARY
2. Bill Hader/Kristen Wiig/Ty Burrell--THE SKELETON TWINS
3. Jessica Chastain/James McAvoy--THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY
4. Hilary Swank--THE HOMESMAN
5. Carrie Coon--GONE GIRL
6. Rene Russo--NIGHTCRAWLER
7. Chadwick Boseman/Viola Davis/Octavia Spencer--GET ON UP
8. Uma Thurman--NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME I
9. Jesse Eisenberg/Dakota Fanning/Peter Sarsgaard--NIGHT MOVES
10. Mackenzie Foy--INTERSTELLAR

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Glenn Greenwald on post-9/11 use of torture.

Opening paragraphs quoted from Glenn Greenwald in THE INTERCEPT:
One of the worst myths official Washington and its establishment media have told itself about the torture debate is that the controversy is limited to three cases of waterboarding at Guantรกnamo and a handful of bad Republican actors. In fact, a wide array of torture techniques were approved at the highest levels of the U.S. Government and then systematically employed in lawless US prisons around the world - at Bagram (including during the Obama presidency), CIA black sites, even to US citizens on US soil. So systematic was the torture regime that a 2008 Senate report concluded that the criminal abuses at Abu Ghraib were the direct result of the torture mentality imposed by official Washington.
American torture was not confined to a handful of aberrational cases or techniques, nor was it the work of rogue CIA agents. It was an officially sanctioned, worldwide regime of torture that had the acquiescence, if not explicit approval, of the top members of both political parties in Congress. It was motivated by far more than interrogation. The evidence for all of this is conclusive and overwhelming. And the American media bears much of the blame, as they refused for years even to use the word “torture” to describe any of this (even as they called these same techniques “torture” when used by American adversaries), a shameful and cowardly abdication that continues literally to this day in many of the most influential outlets.

Link to the entire article: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/12/09/live-coverage-release-senate-torture-report/

And remember: the proper word is "torture."

The popular mainstream media synonym of "harsh interrogation techniques" no longer applies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Criterion DVD Wishlist.

1. CITIZENS BAND aka HANDLE WITH CARE and MELVIN AND HOWARD (director: Jonathan Demme)
2. THE LAST MOVIE (director: Dennis Hopper)
3. THE DEVILS (director: Ken Russell)
4. EAT THE DOCUMENT (director: D.A. Pennebaker)
5. ONE EYED JACKS (director: Marlon Brando)
6. BREAKER MORANT (director: Bruce Beresford)
7. BARBAROSA  (director: Fred Schepisi)
8. NEWSFRONT (director: Phillip Noyce)
9. THE LAST DAYS OF CHEZ NOUS (director: Gillian Armstrong)
10. ENEMIES: A LOVE STORY (director: Paul Mazursky)
11. SCHOOL DAZE and CROOKLYN (director: Spike Lee)
12. CANDY MOUNTAIN (directors Robert Frank and Rudolph Wurlitzer)
13. THE LATE SHOW (director: Robert Benton)
14. EAT THE PEACH (director: Peter Ormrod)

New poem: FADED COBALT BLUE

vinyl album covers stuck
to the back of one wall
back room for BANDS ONLY
sticker pasted inside men's room urinal
bygone days when security guards
and refreshment counter employees
were still provided by the owner
open mike that drew young people
eventually replaced by poets with
varying degrees of pedigree
as features plus open mikes
stylishly designed featured poet broadsheets
on the host's adjoining table
plus numerous books by the host
at his personal table
peers of the host who used to attend
more often in the days of Magical Then
less frequent in the days of
LotsofGrownUpThingstoDo Now
readings started at Nine
and, much later, at Eight
and, by the beginning of January,
likely to be
no more events
at all
then all you can do
is turn on your mental DVR
to replay highlights

Los Angeles poetry/music venue Cobalt Cafe, as we know it, will close soon.

The Canoga Park rock club which provided a home for teen bands and Rick Lupert's long-running reading (which, during the years I went there, morphed from an all-open mike into a mostly more conventional featured poet and open readers format) will close its doors at the end of this month.

Assuming Rick will find another venue in 2015--or, at the very least, become a recurring host of special-event readings at Beyond Baroque in Venice CA.

Quoting Rick's letter in its entirety:
Sad News from the Cobalt front:
The Cobalt Cafe is closing
After over 20 years of providing an all-ages venue for music and poetry in the West San Fernando Valley, the Cobalt will be closing it's doors at the end of 2014. We're planning a 20th Anniversary/Farewell event for Tuesday night December 30th at the Cobalt. So please save the date for that.
Thank you very much to Dave Politi, the Cobalt Cafe owner for essentially giving a giant donation to the L.A. Poetry community over the last 20 years by providing the venue for free on Tuesday nights. We wish you nothing but the best in health and success in whatever adventures lay ahead for you.
There's a very slim chance the Cobalt will be sold, and if so we have no idea if the new owners would be interested in contuing to offer the venue for the reading to continue. It's all very unlikely but we will update you if anything develops.
Thanks very much to the thousands of people who have attended the weekly reading over the last 20 years that I've had the privilege to host it.
Word,
Rick Lupert