Archive for November 2011

If Arnold Schwarzenegger Narrated Classic Films


DVD commentary tends to be marginally informative at best, and totally self-aggregandizing at worst. In the commentary for Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger adopts a different tactic: literally state every going-on on screen, with insight such as "Again I got away." Here's a sampling:

But what if Arnold were to apply his considerably nonsensical narrating skill to other classic films? Here's our anticipated results:


Citizen Kane "I love this part! He named his sled Rosebud! Isn't that great?"


Star Wars "And now Luke's about to find out that his father is Darth Vader. You can sense the anxiety on his face."


Black Swan "He tells her the story of Swan Lake even though she's performed it a hundred times before. Isn't he helpful?"


Labyrinth "David Bowie has really big balls. He's no girlyman. Look at him playing with his balls."


Gone With the Wind "This is when he tells her he doesn't give a damn. He's kind of rude, but awesome."

As always, play along in the comments!

Creepiest Thing Ever: "Soft Robot"



If, like me, you sometimes take note of signs of an impending robot invasion in various cities ("Exactly why is that statue quite so polished in this rainy city..."), the invention of the "soft robot" certainly won't help you sleep at night.

Designed by a team of Harvard scientists led by Professor George M. Whitesides, the soft robot mimics invertebrates, and therefore does creepy invertebrate-like things like slinking and slithering and worming.

The chemists used an elastic polymer to house the creature, which moves by inflating and deflating various valves and tubes to squeeze its way through tiny gaps.

If you're not creeped out enough, now watch it in action.

(via engadget)

Glossary of "Harlemisms" from a 1950's Mystery Novel

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Today I present a "Glossary of Harlemisms" from This Isn't Happiness. Before we get to the bottom of this, have a read through.


If you get the sense that someone's having a laugh with the definitions of "black and tan" and "moo juice," you're not alone. They seem to have come straight from the addled brain of Tom Haverford (courtesy of

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Published along with a series of Mapbooks (1950's mystery novels that always had a map on the back detailing the scene of the crime), this "Harlemisms" guide appeared in New York Confidential, a Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer's guide book to the seedier side of the city (you can read more about Mapbooks at Dull Tool Dim Bulb).

I couldn't find a whole lot of information about New York Confidential, but Lait and Mortimer produced a controversial followup, Washington Confidential. This one got in trouble for highlighting some of the more scandalous haunts of politicians and public officials visiting D.C.

Here's my favorite of the Mapbooks at Dull Tool Dim Bulb - Alfred Hitchock's Rope:












Tell me: what's your favorite Harlemism on the list?


Indie Movie Review: Like Crazy



Like Crazy's about a young couple who fall in love, but are separated by visa problems. In terms of the mundane things that could possibly keep people apart, you might find that really disappointing. But as my fellow LSE grads and I have learned over the past 5 years, it's very real and it becomes all the more frustrating because it seems like such an artificial barrier.

So on a basic premise-level, I bought the story. But there were problems with the execution, particularly a lack of obvious chemistry between the leads. But Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones' performances went a long way to making the film work.

In the first ten minutes I was wary. Ohhhhhh so wary. I've realized now that having characters "meet-cute" is a necessary evil in this type of film, and thankfully, Like Crazy got it out of the way in the beginning. I was still deathly afraid this movie was going to turn into Garden State though, especially when she trotted out her love for Vampire Weekend.

But in some ways, this movie's almost an inversion of the manic pixie dreamgirl stereotype. The tension comes because she knows what she wants, every step of the way, and he's caught up in a forceful wave of crazy love. (oh yes, she's crazy).

In fairness, you can't sustain this sort of relationship without some level of crazy. Unfortunately, the most horrifying manifestation of crazy was the decision to "see other people" while they were waiting for their immigration issues to be sorted out.

As we watch them break the hearts of those who love them and are present, all we can think about is how selfish they are, destroying their own lives and others for the sake of a dream founded on 2 months of happiness. Oh, they deserve each other, alright, just so that no one else has to put up with them.

In all fairness, director Drake Doremus did manage to create a visually beautiful film, with some original editing choices. He uses musical montages to denote the passage of time, which are a pleasure to watch and listen to (as, it should be noted, are the stars). But no amount of directorial acumen can overcome the central problem with Like Crazy: a flimsy, improbable storyline.

That said, if Felicity Jones isn't a star by next year, I'll hang my hat on a statue. But seriously, what a colossal waste of Jennifer Lawrence.

Happy Birthday, William Blake! "The Human Abstract" vs. "The Divine Image"

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William Blake was born, on this day, in 1757.

As I was searching for an appropriate work to highlight, I came across a wonderful post at Biblioodyssey, with scanned images of Blake's original relief etchings for Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. I borrowed the images for today's discussion from that wonderful website, but you should go have a poke around yourself, especially if you love pretty things from all over the world.


I already knew I wanted to talk about "The Human Abstract," but it's interesting reading the poem in context. While they were originally published separately, Blake combined both Songs into one, in order to make explicit that they're really two sides of the same coin: original grace versus the fall from innocence.

"The Human Abstract" directly responds to "The Divine Image" from the earlier work.


It's a troubling conclusion: the qualities of mercy, pity, peace and love only become necessary because the opposite is so prevalent. Although these are held as divine virtues, they carry with them the seeds of darkness, at least as practiced by men of religion.

Oddly, though, Blake seems to be extolling the virtues of selfishness. To break the chain between these qualities and their opposites, these values must be conducted without regard for others, they have to be held as personal rules of conduct that eist at all times.

In case you found them hard to read, I've reprinted the two poems below:

The Divine Images

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love 
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.


The Human Abstract

Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody Poor;
And Mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we.

And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase:
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the grounds with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.

Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly
Feed on the Mystery.

And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree;
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain. 


The Weirdest Thing You'll Ever See: Warriors of Goja


Meet the Warriors of Goja, a gang of brick-smashing, fluorescent-light-eating superhumans who are impervious to all pain. Not so impervious are the judges, who sit constantly on the edge of fainting. I guarantee that your jaws will be dropping right alongside theirs.

The likes of these have never been seen on Britain's Got Talent or America's Got Talent.


Why I'm Thankful for Occupy Wall Street

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Good morning to you all on this fine Thanksgiving day! Today I'm going to bite the bullet and write about Occupy Wall Street. I haven't written about it until now, mainly because it feels like wading into a vast quicksand that might swallow me whole.

But it's time to step in. I still have reservations, but they are allayed by two simple observations:

a) It's absolutely amazing to see a unified protest movement come together in the US, even if they aren't coming together for something specific.

b) I cannot put it better than Lemony Snicket: "It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view."

So while I lack the necessary conviction to actually join the protests or support them materially, I am still thankful to them, for one reason in particular: they have turned the media rhetoric back onto the government instead of the silly personality coverage the MSM's been obsessed with for the last year.

I may be watching from afar, but what I see horrifies me. When the police adopt military style tactics on the behest of the government, that is a violation of our social contract. State and local government officials attempting to silence 1st amendment rights? That's a violation of our social contract.

Ironically, given its name, Occupy Wall Street reminds us that the problem isn't one entity or sector. The problem is the realignment of our relationship with the government, which has been steadily moving in the wrong direction for almost 50 years. The U.S. government has ceased to be "by the people, for the people," and has become preoccupied with self-perpetuation and preservation of power. This has been the number one preoccupation in foreign policy for the last century. Unfortunately, this ideology has now taken over domestic policy as well.

I firmly support the principles of democracy and capitalism. But we've allowed the rules to change, and they've been changed to serve those who are already in power and deny agency to those who don't have it.

Representational democracy only works if the representatives take their responsibilities to the people seriously. The influx of money, lobbyists and corruption is making it impossible for representatives to focus on the needs of the people who elected them.

Capitalism can't function in a vacuum. It needs rules. You can't blame the financial sector for pushing the boundaries when the boundaries are so lax in the first place. We also need to find a way to reconfigure capitalism so it doesn't rely on unfettered materialism.

There aren't easy answers to any of these questions, and any movement that purports to have easy answers should not be trusted. We have suffered so long from the impact of black-and-white thinking that we need to clear space for serendipity.

The system as it stands isn't working. But that doesn't mean we should turn back to ideologies that have already failed in the past, or continue to fail elsewhere in the world.

We need to approach this problem like the founding fathers did: thinking through the situation logically, arguing loudly when necessary, and most importantly, considering the future and not just the short-term.

You don't have to support or like Occupy Wall Street to recognize that it's caused a genuine cognitive shift in the media and amongst intellectuals. And for that, I'm thankful.

Street-view: Fernwaerme Heating Plant, Or, Willy Wonka's Incinerator

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Fernwaerme Vien! Magical place of...garbage?

I cannot stress how much easier travel becomes when you visit someone who lives in the city, someone who's equally eager to discover its hidden secrets. If it weren't for Tom, I would never have seen this delightful garbage incinerator (three words that have never been stated in that order before).

The building was designed by Hundertwasser, a man who came to fame with his painted work but then moved to architecture in the 1950's.

Hundertwasser exemplifies a Howard Roark-ian approach to architecture and creativity, which has resulted in some truly original work around the world. He argues against "rationalism" and in favor of freedom. And what freedom. Take a closer look:


As you can see, pretty much anything goes on the building, apart from the old-fashioned straight line. Here are a few words from Hundertwasser's architectural manifesto as to why:

Today we live in a chaos of straight lines, in a jungle of straight lines. If you do not believe this, take the trouble to count the straight lines which surround you. Then you will understand, for you will never finish counting.

On one razor blade I counted 546 straight lines. By imagining linear connections to another razor blade of the same manufacturing process, which surely looks exactly the same, this yields 1,090 straight lines, and adding on the packaging, the result is about 3,000 straight lines from the same blade.

Not all that long ago, possession of the straight line was a privilege of royalty, the wealthy, and the clever. Today every idiot carries millions of straight lines around in his pants pockets.

This jungle of straight lines, which is entangling us more and more like inmates in a prison, must be cleared. Until now, man has always cleared away the jungles he was in and freed himself. But to clear a jungle you must first become aware that you are in one, for this jungle took form stealthily, unnoticed by mankind. And this time it is a jungle of straight lines.

Any modern architecture in which the straight line or the geometric circle have been employed for only a second – and were it only in spirit – must be rejected. Not to mention the design, drawing-board and model-building work which has become not only pathologically sterile, but absurd. The straight line is godless and immoral. The straight line is not a creative line, it is a duplicating line, an imitating line. In it, God and the human spirit are less at home than the comfort-craving, brainless intoxicated and unformed masses.

While the Fernwaerme's loaded with straight lines, you can tell that Hundertwasser designed it to look like shapes are trying to break free of their rigid 2-dimensional prisons.


Is Florence + The Machine's "No Light, No Light" Video Racist?



Well, let's see: Asian man in blackface performing voodoo stereotypes, chasing after the virginal white woman who beats the native threat with the salvation of Jesus. That's not racist at all! Take a look:

There is literally nothing about this video that isn't steeped in the most dangerous colonial stereotypes. Florence is explicitly styled as a Pre-Raphaelite Mary Magdalene, and we witness her literal fall. Her safe relationship with God is threatened by the evil natives and their evil religion.

It's everything that's terrible about European colonialism over the centuries, all wrapped up in a very ugly bow. It's not even a specific native that's threatening her, it's a composite native. An Asian in blackface!

Let's forget the fact that blackface is never ok, unless you're making a specific point about the wrongness of blackface (see Mad Men, Tropic Thunder) or you're playing the role respectfully.

Let's ignore the fact that this video engages with specific racial stigmas that have been used to downplay the autonomy of natives in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Let's even ignore the rabid anti-feminism at the very core of the plotline.

What's MOST offensive is the fact that this concept went past the artist, her musicians, the director, the sound crew, the film crew, the lighting tech, the CGI people, and the record company executives and NO ONE PUT A STOP TO IT.

Flail away in the comments.

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and now...Before Twilight?



Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke announced here that they're working on another sequel to Before Sunrise. So let me offer a tentative "hooray?" (Interrobang).

Before Sunrise has been on my mind lately, not least because I was in Vienna a couple of weeks ago. I've also found myself trying to convince people, yet again, how much better the sequel Before Sunset is (in a nutshell, it's a life stage thing. Ethan Hawke's youthful characters are perfect for a 17 year old, but slowly became pretentious and irritating).


Who we meet in Before Sunset are the logical conclusions of both Céline and Jesse. Céline's found her youthful idealism turned to dark cynicism, while Jesse has become much more at ease with the rhythms of the universe. So now our stars seem to be asking what they would look like after another ten years, as they enter their twilight years.

Is this a question that we really want answered?

Part of the genius of Before Sunset was that its concept was in-built into the first movie, not just in premise, but in execution. Remember these bits from Before Sunrise:

Alright, alright, think of it like this: jump ahead ten, twenty years, okay? And you're married. Only your marriage doesn't have that same energy that it used to have, you know? You start to blame your husband. You start to think of all those guys you met in your life and what might have happened if you'd picked up with one of them, right? Well I'm one of those guys, that's me! So think of this as time travel.

And this:

I had this idea, okay? For a television these 24-hour documents of real time, right, capturing life as it's lived.

Bang! And thus Before Sunset was in real-time, just a 2 hour conversation really (and what a wonderful conversation it was).

That movie left us with a moment of beautiful ambiguity; we have no idea what happens to them, and finding out could never be satisfying.

So while I'm not against a third movie in principle, I'm very concerned about where the story could go (especially since the brief Jesse/Celine scene in Waking Life was incredibly dumb and annoying).

What do you think?

The Good Wife in Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, or, WTF?



This was easily one of the best episodes of the show, period, so forgive me for going easy on the frivolity for a minute.


That opening scene was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on television. Not only does it set up the case, it answers the very question that the case asks of us: did the drone operator receive the message that there were civilians near the strike target?

I don't know what's more disturbing really: that she does know there are civilians and she doesn't care, or she doesn't know, but drone strikes are still accepted as an honorable/legal form of combat.

But to the show's credit, it never directly addresses the latter point. Unlike last week's heavy handed death penalty discussion (which went something like this: "My name is Saint Alicia, and I've never thought about morality in my 45 years of life"), this episode asks us to judge our defendant on the merits of the law. Who cares if the law stinks.

Which is why Judge Kuhn's final salvo is not even slightly comforting, even though it's 100% truth. This woman has been justly served, but so many other crimes have been let past. That doesn't mean this person doesn't deserve jail, but her conviction will be used as an excuse, as a way to say that yes, the system works.


Somehow, this show has made the word "cheese" into a swearword, if not a character in its own right. Can cheese play along with those playground bullies, vegetables and fruit? Not while Amy Sedaris is around!

Over at the state's attorney's office, nothing happens but innuendo. And I mean TONS of innuendo. I almost drowned with embarrassment, until it became clear that what we were seeing is Dana out-Kalinda-ing Kalinda. Which makes her a force too frightening to even contemplate.

Speaking of terrifying, it's the return of Wendy Scott-Carr! In last year's political contest, I could never put a finger on what made her so...scary. It's blankness, hidden behind a smile. There's nothing in those eyes but sheer bloodlust:

Screen shot 2011 11 21 at 5 46 47 PM

Diane, proving herself as awesome as ever, sees right through Wendy. There's none of the professional regard she shows other competitors; she sees Wendy for what she is - petty. And she wastes no time in marshaling the better devil: Eli Gold. And she doesn't just ask for help: she lords her superiority over him, basically forcing him to stop being a cry-baby. I have never been more scared of Diane. Or in love. Stacie Hall really will rue the day.

However, by bringing Wendy in, Peter's proven himself the wiliest of devils. It's amazing how the show has made his presence felt, even when he's onscreen for just minutes at a time, if that. But I wonder if using Wendy as a weapon might backfire. It's not a stretch to believe that she'd want to embarrass him.

In other news, Will's having another very bad day. In fact the worst. First humiliated by a military judge, then given a thread of hope by Kalinda, only to have Diana take it all away. I have no idea how this is going to play out, but I can't wait.

You'll notice that I haven't brought up Jackie. I have but one word: awesome. Alicia took her down in the best way possible, and it was AWESOME!

Next week: It appears that Grace has been kidnapped. We, the audience, are...sad?! Interrobang.

Monday Musical Moments

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Monday Musical Moments time! Mondays don't have to be dreary, right?

Without further ado, here are four musical moments bringing me joy in this genuinely autumnal November. All songs involved are in a handy Spotify playlist here: Monday Music.

1. The bass solo in "The Chain," by Fleetwood Mac.

It's a terrific song by any definition, but the bass solo at 3:04 kicks it into a whole other level. Unfortunately, it also occurs to me that the entirety of what the British call "landfill indie" can probably be traced to this moment. Oops.

2. When other singers channel Stevie Nicks, even for a moment

Stevie Nicks's defining trait (apart from her fashion sense) is her remarkably unique voice. No one has a voice like her. But sometimes, weirdly, other singers become transmitters, if only for mere syllables. And those moments turn otherwise unremarkable songs into magic.

See: The first stanza of Ladyhawke's "Back of the Van", and the second time that Belinda Carlisle sings "In this world we're just beginning," (just after the bridge, at 2:53) in "Heaven Is A Place on Earth."

3. That the New Radicals ever existed

They're just a one-hit wonder band, but some of their album tracks are awesome. Especially "Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough." In it's near 6-minute running time, it manages to incorporate almost every genre that was popular in the mid-90's, from house to Britpop to Ben Folds style melancholy to rap to reggae.

4. That the Vampire Weekend-obsessed lovers of Like Crazy also listen to Paul Simon's Graceland.

Because, um, duh. Vampire Weekend so shamelessly rips off Graceland that they owe royalties to Paul Simon. I've included the two tracks from the film: Vampire Weekend's "White Sky" and Paul Simon's "Crazy Love, Vol II".

Awesome Thing of the Day: The Endless Traveling Sidewalk


If you're into historical things that are cool (and if you're not...there's really no hope for our relationship), you need to start reading Ptak Science, one of the more fantastical blogs that I follow. Think of it as a BoingBoing for yesteryear.

Anyway, Ptak raised an interesting question about the development of transportation:

It may be that the history of human locomotion is the story of fast sitting.  Except for some of the earliest incarnations of powered movement, it seems one of the most significant engineering aspects moving a person forward is how that person should be carried in the vehicle.

Fast sitting sounds so much more exciting that "riding," doesn't it? Unfortunately, the focus on building an infrastructure to support "carrying" vehicles seems to have ruled out that most storied of developments - the moving sidewalk.

That doesn't mean people didn't try. Wine merchant Alfred Speer devised a fairly neat method to solve the congestion problem in NY. He patented the "Endless Traveling or Railway Sidewalk," a moving loop that went around Broadway.

Check it out:


(images courtesy of Allways NY)

Anyway, this would be my favorite bizarre detail: a traveling ladies drawing room! The intent was to provide shelter during bad weather.

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So why didn't it happen?

Let Allways explain:

Speer got as far as proposing his system to the New York State legislature (1873 price tag: $3,722,400) and even won approval from lawmakers. However, New York Governor John Dix objected to the fact that the elevated line intruded on street-level sidewalks. After Speer altered the plans and again won approval from the legislature, Dix again rejected the plan because the elevated loop system would have to cross Broadway twice. By 1874 it was clear that Speer’s vision would not be accepted by the governor in any form, and the hopes for the project were quashed. Speer would again try to sell his idea for an elevated sidewalk in the developing New Jersey towns along the Hudson River bank, and even formed the American Rapid Transit Company to sell stock, but the plan eventually fizzled. Today, New Yorkers are left with the moving sidewalk’s vertical cousin the escalator, and are also most likely to use the nineteen century sidewalk’s descendant hurrying through an airport to catch that great twentieth century innovation, the jet airliner.


Breaking Down the Hunger Games Movie Trailer


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By now, you've probably seen the Hunger Games trailer, right? No? Here:

Allow me to sum up my initial reaction: "ASDK;AKDFAJSDF;KANSDFJA;DFJA;KLFJAS;DFJA;AJKA;SKDJFA!"

One always worries about screen adaptations of beloved novels, but I'm no longer worried about this one. It looks awesome.

When I first read the book, I had grave concerns about its adaptability. Collins's depictions of violence are both brutal and alarmingly specific. Hollywood could never show the full effect without alienating 3/4 of its target audience.

Based on the trailer, at any rate, the film seems to take an angle that perhaps requires less focus on the brutality. The trailer jumps between the dystopian Panem and the spectacle of the games. There's every possibility that the movie will do a better job of hammering the book's political themes.

But enough with the thinking. Let's get down to brass tacks.

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Beloved Katniss. I don't think you could conjure up better casting in a laboratory. "Straight black hair, olive skin, we even have the same gray eyes. But we’re not related, at least not closely. Most of the families who work the mines resemble one another this way." So she doesn't quite have gray eyes or black hair. I'll live.

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Liam Hemsworth is about 20 times hotter than I pictured Gale (but I'm on record as a Gale-hater. That said, the sort of character he plays tends to work much better in films than in books). I'm worried that his extreme good looks will disrupt the Peeta vs. Gale equation in my mind.

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And speaking of beloved Peeta...I wasn't sold on Josh Hutcherson's casting originally, but now he seems to have the right amount of quiet intensity.


Whoever cast Elizabeth Banks as Effie deserves an award. Just look at that shot. In the drab greys and blacks of this horrible mining town, she's not a sight for sore eyes, she's an invasion of neon color. The falseness of her identity jars against the gritty reality of District 12. Which is just how it should be.


I had to find something to complain about, right? I won't lie, despite my near total lack of interest in fashion, I was very interested in how the movie would bring Katniss's interview dress to life.

The description in the book:

"The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire."

The costume designer's response? "Meh, fuck it."

Sartorial mishaps nothwithstanding, I couldn't be more excited to see the film. Let me know your thoughts!

City Lights: New York City



Welcome back to City Lights, a series about films that feature particular cities. Today, we hit one of the greatest film cities of them all: New York, New York!

We're not exactly spoiled for choice here, so I added an additional qualification for myself: films feature the city as its primary setting, or represent an aspect of city life. Even so, I've ended up with a list that not only shows off my favorite New York movies, but includes some of my favorite movies of all time.


I just saw Sweet Smell of Success a couple of weeks ago, and my love for it grows with every passing thought. As I wrote in my review of it: "I don't think even Woody Allen has taken better advantage of the city of New York. The neon lights have never seemed quite so sinister. Like J.J's omnipresent glasses, they watch over events both seedy and magnetic."

This is New York before they cleaned up Times Square, a downtown that attracted lowlifes and power brokers looking to indulge in their worst selves.


From beginning to end, All About Eve captures the rhythms and cadences of the New York theater and all the vultures circling around it. As with Sweet Smell of Success, the only person with real power is the critic, in this case, Addison DeWitt. All these theatrical personalities live their lives and act out their petty coups like they have any control in their lives, and ultimately, loving the theater means worshipping Addison. The only one who seems immune to Addison's power is, oddly enough, Margo herself.


Everyone has their guilty pleasure romantic comedy, and Serendipity is mine (I am not even slightly ashamed). There's something magical about a rom-com that takes the preposterously coincidental nature of the genre and integrates it into the plotline.

So who cares whether they know each other, like each other or anything else, all that matters is that they find Love in the Time of Cholera and ice skate to the sweet dulcet sounds of Nick Drake. Along the way, they hit every New York tourist trap.


Annie Hall: There are probably other Woody Allen films that do a better job of showing off the city, but this is my favorite (I didn't particularly care for Manhattan. Blasphemy, I know!). Since I first saw it, I've seen it about ten times, and each time I love and appreciate new facets of the film (I really, really hate my "first impression" review of it, it's embarassing and jejune).

Annie Hall was the seed that grew into a full-fledged obsession with Woody Allen, whose films seem almost entirely guided by love: love of women, love of himself, and love of film. Because of that, he teases out the best aspects of the settings he chooses.


When I was wee, I was obsessed with this movie. The toy stores, the rube goldberg-like schemes to get Marv to fall on his face, the general being a fucking kid set free in New York! I was always drawn to the mischievous characters in fiction, whether Kevin or Dennis the Menace or the tomboys of Enid Blyton books.

But I'll be honest, this movie introduced me to New York. I learned of the Plaza Hotel and Central Park and Duncan's Toy Shop and Carnegie Hall. At 8 years old, New York was nothing more than a mythical place. This movie made it come alive.

Honorable Mentions: Planet of the Apes, King Kong

Tell me, what are your favorite Big Apple films?

Hot Trailer: Tarsem Singh's "Mirror, Mirror"



The official trailer has leaked for Tarsem Singh's "Mirror, Mirror". This movie looks so amazing I can't even begin to express my glee. Not only is this the Tarsem Singh movie we've all been waiting for, it looks like Julia Roberts has rediscovered her inner "Best Friend's Wedding" evil!

But seriously, folks. I've been a very long-time fan of Tarsem Singh, despite the fact that most of his films are stunning visually and not so great plot-wise (I'd still heartily recommend The Fall to anyone though).

Seriously, look at these visuals:







I'm especially excited by how little time the trailer focuses on the ingenue herself, Snow White. I've long felt that the best way to bring something new to these classic tales is to give more attention to the evil characters (and by the looks of it, Julia Roberts will give us a doozy).

Watch the trailer now. Then watch it again and again:

The Good Wife in Review: "Death Row Trip"



This week, I had the extreme pleasure of watching The Good Wife in Vienna along with an equally obsessed friend (you should see our email conversations, seriously. They all descend into capslock madness). I had a grand ol' time tormenting him with my Kalinda impersonation. But as we're reminded in this episode, no one torments people better than Kalinda herself...


In my favorite side-plot, we see the return of Eli-Gold-Demon-Spawn, more commonly known as Marissa. Well, EGDS connives her way into hanging out with sweet Zach. Faced with the prospect of Gold-Florrick progeny, I immediately ran to the store to stock up on tin cans and bottled water, to better survive the coming apocalypse.

Seriously, Zach+EGDS=


Meanwhile, Fake Matt Dowd continues to earn my enmity by not only referring to our heroine as "Saint Alicia," but ignoring her when she's in the room. I should point out that Real Matt Dowd was one of my college professors, and is a fairly likeable guy, not a douchebag like this dude (though the physical resemblance is uncanny).

The scene between Will and Alicia reminds us that, yet again, this show is about romance between adults. As a result, they can address their problems the way adults do, with reasonable conversation, not teen angst. Though I confess, I was very worried that Alicia was going to go ahead and pull the plug.

In the A plot, we face the return of Moral Quandary Alicia! I thought we'd left her behind in season 1, and to be honest, I wasn't particularly keen on her return. That said, they're also ramping up funny Alicia, and after last week's pantomime of Elspeth Tascioni's mountain of paper, funny Alicia can stay. "A rumor is often a sign of...jealous...competitors...."



KALINDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! It's the magnificent return of Sexy Boots of Justice.

The chemistry between Dana and Kalinda can be summed up as:


Poor Cary is exactly one heartbreak away from turning into a Woody Allen character.

Apart from innuendo-ing it up with Cary and Dana, Kalinda continues her grand masterplan of winning Alicia back through Will. As always, they're charming and 100% hug-free. Though personally, I would have loved if he gave her a big bear hug only to have Diane walk in: "Dear God, Will! Are you sleeping with everybody? Is this why we don't dance in my office anymore?"


In other news, whoever does the sound design for this season deserves about a million awards. Lately, they've been using sound and music with creativity that rivals Tarantino.

When Chris Matthews turned up on screen, I had to resist myself from throwing tomatoes at the screen. Really...really...hate...that...guy.

Love that Jackie's attempt to be an evil mastermind was foiled by Steve Jobs. "WHY DOES ALICIA'S LAUNDRY CONSIST SOLELY OF NEGLIGEES? DOES SHE EVER WEAR NORMAL UNDERWEAR?!?" followed by "HOW DO COMPUTERS WORK?"

Play along in the comments.

On the Oft-Rumored Idea of a New Doctor Who Film

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So the Doctor Who world was abuzz yesterday with the news (rumor?) that David Yates will be directing a big screen feature film of our beloved series. If true, it's not an enormous surprise. The show's about to hit it's 50th anniversary, and the showrunners have long been hinting that something special will happen.

Before we descend into paroxysms of "why, Yates, why?!," let's look at what this might actually mean.

Based on past "film" versions of Doctor Who, there are two ways the new film can go: remaking an existing story and transforming it for the big screen (as with the Peter Cushing films), or as David Yates said, giving it a "radical transformation" (as with the 1996 film).

Well, the show's been back for almost a decade now, and if there's one thing we've learned, both the fans and the showrunners are adapting very well to radical transformations. In fact, constant mutation seems built into the core of the reboot, particularly under Moffat's reign.

So it's fair to expect that if Yates directs a new film, it won't be a familiar plotline, but a shock to the system, like the 1996 film. For those who are unfamiliar, that attempt to revive the show probably put it on the bench for another decade, despite an excellent performance by Paul McGann.

But it suffered from two key problems in my opinion:

  • Overly American in the worst ways possible (and I say this as an American). There was tons of flash and action set pieces, but it wasn't terribly cohesive. (and Eric Roberts as the Master? Not the wisest decision).
  • A strange fidelity to the mythology of the original series, despite the apparent intent to create a new show for a new audience.

However, it set the tone for series to come. It incepted the idea of the Doctor as an attractive, romantic hero, and created a template for new series. It grounded the companion relationship in a way that continued directly from the McCoy era closeness with Ace.

I question whether the show would be what it is today without that movie opening those doors. So who's to say that a new "radical transformation" won't lead to more wonderful inventions down the line?

Also, there's a key difference between now and past attempts: Doctor Who is no longer the last refuge of the anoraks and the ming-mongs. It's a multi-million dollar property with an international audience that will receive a multi-million dollar budget.

Basically, I'm excited about this news. Doctor Who needs constant invigoration to stay alive, and this could be a great move for the series.

And once the project becomes real, we can have a whole bunch of fun debating dream casting and storylines :)

The Oncoming Hope Goes on Holiday



Well, folks, I'm heading off this afternoon on a long anticipated holiday to Bratislava and Vienna. I hope you don't miss me too much, but I'll certainly miss all of you! I'll be back in full posting form on Monday, but until then, have a great week.

Here are a few blogs I've been reading and loving, so make sure and check them out:

Hello Tailor offers analysis of the role of costume design in film, as well as general discussion of how fashion shapes character.

Lets Get Comical will introduce you to some under-the-radar comics that you might not have found out about otherwise.

Zungu Zungu will keep you apprised of all things Occupy Wall Street, and should not be issed.

Naked Capitalism continues to provide great economic analysis for people like me, i.e., numerically challenged.

There are many other blogs you need to be checking out, but unfortunately, I have a plane to catch! Toodles!


Yes, I Miss Firefly: Meet "Augie, the Littlest Reaver"

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Mike Russell created this little bit of genius for the letters column of "Serenity: Float Out". It showed up in my RSS reader, and naturally, I giggled. Make sure and check out his blog, it's full of the weird and wonderful.


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