UP: The Film Babble Blog Review

UP (Dirs. Pete Doctor & Bob Peterson, 2009)

Another summer, another wonderful colorful emotionally-involving awe-inspiring magical masterpiece from Pixar. UP had me from the get go – I was crying within the first 5 minutes. It would be a critical sin to reveal the exact narrative that sets up the premise of an old man named Carl Frederickson who one day decides to tie thousands of helium balloons to his old home in order to fly it to Paradise Falls in South America, so I’ll try and keep this relatively Spoiler-free. As voiced by the gruff Ed Asner, Carl is utterly sympathetic and not completely the cranky curmudgeon you might expect, though he is tasked when finding that there’s an accidental stowaway on his makeshift aircraft: an 8 year old “wilderness explorer” named Russell (Jordan Nagai) who is full of spunk. Like Asner’s classic Lou Grant character, Carl hates spunk but they form an alliance regardless as they brace a dark thunderstorm that is the first of many obstacles on their journey.

“No rap music or flash dancing!” Asner mildly growls as they set out over the terrain making their way through a jungle full of exotic birds and a pack of vicious dogs that amusingly communicate through translating collars. The boyhood hero of our protagonist, famous explorer Charles F. Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer) appears, at first welcoming but soon suspecting that his visitors are here to undo his life’s work: the securing of an extremely rare tropical bird. Saving the bird, which the plucky Russell previously befriended and named Kevin (not know it was female), from the clutches of Muntz becomes the crux of this delicious cinematic biscuit as we sail through glorious set pieces and gripping chase scenes at an invigorating pace.

UP may lose some of its sense of invention in the second half, yet it’s a gem that stands with the best Pixar productions. It maybe didn’t wow me as much as last summer’s WALL-E but that’s a tiny quibble. Pixar continues to do amazing work by consistently making quality family films that hip, intelligent adults can enjoy. The sentiment is sans cynicism and the worlds they create are eye-poppingly and mind bendingly beautiful. It’s a joyous feat to have a senior citizen as the lead battling another ornery old-timer while what could have been an obnoxious tag-along kid bounces around them. Surround them with patented Pixar inspiration and the result is pure exhilaration. Keep ’em coming, Pixar – there’s no reason to look back or look down when you’re this high in the sky.

Post note: There was a great UP sight gag in the season finale of The Simpsons this year. It may be the first time a movie was referenced on the show before it was even released. Actually, come to think of it, probably not.

More later…

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10 Repeated Lines That Define Their Respective TV Series

Though this blog is called “Film” Babble Blog I’ve written about TV shows from time to time because the worlds obviously overlap (Simpsons, SNL, X-Files, etc.). Since this season many folks will be giving and receiving multi-disc box sets of popular programs (most likely of one or more of those listed below), I thought it would be fun to sum up 10 series by repeated lines, both comical and ominous, and sometimes said by more than one character. Oh yeah – these are all from the last 10 years because you know, shows like Seinfeld (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”), Friends (“We were on a break!”), back to ancient Happy Days (“Sit on it!”) reruns and other Nick At Night fare have been pretty covered already on the internets. So here goes:

1. “I’ve made a huge mistake”Arrested Development (2003-2006) This is said by nearly every character in nearly every episode. The stated self realization coming usually in a moment of panicked frenzy defines the rampant disfunction on heavy display. There are a few other choice lines like: There are a few other choice lines like Maebe’s “Marry me”, Michael Bluth’s (Jason Bateman) disapproval of George Michael’s (Michael Cera) plain girlfriend Ann – “Her?”, and my personal pick – Gob’s (Will Arnett) mouthy cover-up of a failed magic trick: “Where did the lighter fluid come from?!!?”

2. “This is the business we’ve chosen.”The Sopranos (1999-2007) Actually this is a quote from THE GODFATHER: PART II. It is repeated in a few variations (“the life we’ve chosen”) by Tony Soprano (James Gandofini) and numerous other mobster buddies and foes. They all worship Coppola’s gangster classics so the quote is both a reference and affirmation of the crew’s code. Honorable mention goes to “all due respect” which is an episode title *. I had originally thought of Tonys (and others) angry “this is how you fuckin’ repay me? line but couldnt find as many examples.


* Also a title of an episode of The Wire funnily enough.


3. “It’s a gift…and a curse.”Monk (2002-present) In the “memorable quotes” section of the IMDb’s entry on this obsessive compulsive disorder detective show every quote is a repeated line including: “Here’s what happened”, “You’ll thank me later”, and “Unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not…” All of which are pretty representative, don’t you think?


4. “You of all people should know that.”Six Feet Under (2000-2005) This line usually spoken by Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) comes in handy when admonishing somebody’s misguided attitude even if it comes off as holier than thou itself. It can also be used as a grounding reminder as when guest star Mena Suvari tells Claire (Lauren Ambrose) “None of us may be here tomorrow. I mean, you of all people should know that.”

5. “And just like that…”Sex In The City (1998-2004) As newspaper sex columnist (bet in todays ecomony that’s not a job that’s very secure) Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker in voice-over often uses this short-cut to describe an abrupt change as in: “And just like that she was a woman again”. It’s even used in the movie released last summer (yes, I saw the damn movie!).


6. “Everybody lies.”House M.D. (2004-present) Pretty much says it all for Dr. Gregory House’s (Hugh Laurie) world view and the show’s thematic thrust, huh? Like Monk there are a handful of repeated lines: “You need a lawyer”, “We’re missing something”, and the odd but handy prognosis: “It’s not Lupus.”


7. “Pretty good. Pret-ty pret-ty pret-ty good.”Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present) Larry David is rarely doing “pret-ty good” in the farcical follies that make up his hilarious HBO hand-held camera comedy and when he is it’s as extremely short-lived experience but the line persists nevertheless. “Hey, let me ask you something” is also often said but it doesn’t bring the voice of David to mind like the “pret-ty good” line. His long suffering wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) has her own repeated query: “Why would you do that?” That question seems to be asked every episode as well.

8. “So, this is how it ends.”Dexter (2006-present) Since this show was just renewed for 2 more seasons the ending isn’t coming anytime soon for blood splatter analyst/serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), but with the myriad of close calls and sticky situations he gets trapped in, it’s sure to make more appearances in his voice-over inner monologues. Possible Spoiler! – It was spoken out loud by one of his victims in season 1, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) incidentally.


9. “That’s what *she* said!”The Office (2005-present) Yeah, this joke has been around way before this American adaptation of the British work place sitcom made it Michael Scott’s (Steve Carrell) go-to tag-on comeback, but you’ve got to admit that now it is both owned by the show and it says everything you need to know about its delusional lead character.


10. “Ya happy now, bitch?”The Wire (2002-present) I’m only just a recent convert to this gripping gritty cop drama but I’ve come to the understanding this line which was in the first episode of season 1 is Detective Bunk Moreland’s (Wendell Pierce) crusty catch phrase always said to partner James McNulty (Dominic West). Seems to show up on every message board as many fans’ favorite lines so I’m sure as I make my way through the DVDs I’ll soon see why.


Well, that’s that. A lot of shows don’t have definitive repeated lines – unless I missed it my favorite show of the last year, Mad Men, hasn’t had any catch phrases yet and may not as the show moves forward through the 60’s. Anyway, it’s the holidays and I got a Freaks And Geeks DVD boxset as well as more The Wire discs from Netflix a-callin’ me.


So as Krusty the Clown would say: “So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip Top Tet, and a solemn, eventful Ramadan.”

More later…

A Film Babble Blog Pop Quiz Reprise

To celebrate this being my 200th post (which I know in the bloggosphere is no biggie – my prolific pals at The Playlist have had 1471 posts this year alone!) I decided to re-post a quiz from my 80th post (May 6th, 2007) that didnt get a very satisfactory response first time out. Ive had a lot more hits since then and I ve added a new EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT question so I hope film freak folks will roll up their sleeves, get their #2 pencils, and tackle:

Film Babble Blog’ s Movie & TV Mind Teasers!

The major unanswered questions in the realm of modern pop-culture in a quick n easy pop-quiz format.

1. What was in the briefcase in PULP FICTION?


2. What was in the package that Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) leaves in the care of Barton (John Turturro) in BARTON FINK?

3. What state is Springfield in on The Simpsons?

4. Why (or how) is Chance the Gardener (Peter Sellers) able to walk on water at the end of BEING THERE?

5. How (or why) did Groundhog Day keep repeating to Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in GROUNDHOG DAY?

6. What is the one thing that 13 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING is about?

7. Did Mookie (Spike Lee) do the right thing in DO THE RIGHT THING?

8. When the Fonz (Henry Winkler) moved in over the Cunningham’s garage on Happy Days – did he actually pay rent?

9. How on bloody Earth did those images get on that damn videotape in any version of THE RING?

10. Who killed chauffeur Owen Taylor (Dan Wallace) in THE BIG SLEEP?
(Man, if you can answer this…)

EXTRA CREDIT :

Who put the monolith on earth during the opening apes BC segment and on the moon in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY? God or Aliens? Discuss.

EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT:

What does Bill Murray whisper in Scarlett Johansson’ s ear at the end of LOST IN TRANSLATION?

Okay film folks! Don t let me down – take the quiz and send your answers to me as comments below or to my email:

boopbloop7@gmail.com

More later…

Time For A Re-Appraisal – GODFATHER PART III Is The Best Of The Series

This is definitely NOT my contribution to the BIZARRO BLOG-A-THON (June 23-25th) hosted by LazyEyeTheater or EnergeticEyeTheater or whatever:


We all can admit now that both GODFATHER PART I & PART II were just overrated populist mock epics that got overwhelming acclaim because of early 70’s pop politics and they got Oscars because producer Robert Evans scored a deal with the Devil that would make Joseph Kennedy proud. The series was only redeemed when GODFATHER PART III arrived in 1990. It featured re-casting of the highest order and a script that out has Mario Puzo out-Shakespeare-ing Shakespeare mounting in a grand sweeping sense of neccessary closure. When we last saw Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) it was the late 50’s and he was left all alone by those who once loved him sitting on a bench at his Lake Tahoe estate – with dead eyes and a cold withdrawn demeanor. If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’d want to see more of the decline of this guy, right?

Made to order, GODFATHER III picks up 20 years later as Michael tries to finally go legit with a deal with the Vatican, harasses his ex-wife, destroys his children’s dreams (or maybe just his children), and ends up yet again on a bench now much older and still alone but this time we get to see him die! Yep, all necessary events that solidify once and all Michael Corleone into the classic character we all love and make us completely forget the first 2 films.Michael’s snazzy new look – the spiky bleached hair-do and more stylish attire show that the man has gotten hipper – see how he puts down Sinatra stand-in Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) with this crack: “I’m just gonna go into the kitchen and listen to some Tony Bennett records.” Snap! His voice is gravely to the extreme and his arm motions are more flailing – while the old Michael was stoic and subtle, new Michael is in your face with his bug eyes and exclaimations: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

Then there’s the case of the recasting of one of the main members of Michael’s posse – previously D-lister Robert DuVall barely registered as lawyer Tom Hagen so it’s a major improvement to bring in the grand gentleman actor George Hamilton to be the consigilere. Hamilton, with his ultra-tan and slick lovable posing, alone provides a gravitas that the early entries were sorely missing. It only gets better – when Winona Ryder was too ill to participate, director and co-writer Francis Ford Coppola drafted his daughter Sophia to take on the role of Michael’s daughter Mary. Sophia Coppola’s performance was originally derided but in recent years it has been re-evaluated to be considered one of the best in all cinema. Her death scene (sorry Spoilers!) when she realizes after a few seconds that she has been shot and says “Dad?” in an unaffected blank manner is as heartbreaking as it gets. I get choked up just blogging about it.

It’s well known that Joe Mantegna as a Armani suitted John Gotti-esque competitor of the Corleone’s parlayed his role into the beloved long-running character Fat Tony on The Simpsons but how many know that Andy Garcia parlayed his role into playing a bunch of other likewise thug but still charming parts in a bunch of other notable films I’m too lazy to look up right now. Oh, wait – the OCEAN’S 11 movies – see, pretty much the same type guy, right? We’ve got GODFATHER III to thank for that. The involving plot with the Pope dying and a montage of murders, which the other GODFATHER films concluding murder montages hold nothing on, also rule. Diane Keaton returns as Kay to do some more much needed finger waging at Pacino and reportedly they resumed the set romance they had during the first 2 flicks – good for them. For comic relief we’ve got Don Novello who while he never says anything funny is still amusing to see because we can say ‘hey it’s Father Guido Sarducci!’ So disregard what everyone says about I and II being ‘all that’ and savour this saga statement that is up there with SON OF THE PINK PANTHER, LICENCE TO KILL, STAR TREK V, and THE PHANTOM MENACE as being the undeniable best of their respective series. Just when you think you’re out, GODFATHER III pulls you back in – again and again.

More later…

New DVD Diatribes For A Dreary Rainy Day

Yep, a few NetFlix envelopes torn open and their contents digested on a cloudy drizzly May day goes somethin’ like this:

MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev, 2007) Is Marla Olmstead just a regular 4 year old who likes to paint or is she a artistic genius on the scale of the great masters? Bar-Lev’s documentary filmed a few years back follows the Olmsteads – a family from Binghampton, NY whose youngest daughter’s abstract canvasses cause a sensation in the art world. Her paintings are sold for thousands attracting media attention and then controversy. A 60 Minutes piece claims that Marla’s father (Mark Olmstead) actually coached the work out of her or actually produced the paintings himself. This is where the narrative arc becomes “a story about a story” as Elizabeth Cohen (the columnist who first broke the original story of Marla as child prodigy) says. Parents Mark and Laura Olmstead are outraged at the accusation that they are exploiting their child and attempt to prove that Marla is the sole author of her work by filming her with a hidden camera. The plot thickens even more as filmmaker Bar-Lev has growing doubts and voices them, at first alone to his camera in the car driving from the Olmstead home then directly to the parents in an extremely uncomfortable but still compelling scene in their living room.

The cleverly named MY KID COULD PAINT THAT is one of the best of the current crop of documentaries and one that leaves you guessing about what really went down much like CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS or the more recent THE KING OF KONG. Having been introduced to these folk through these visual essays, whether or not they are balanced portraits, we can follow up through the further internet coverage and make our own conclusions. In Marla’s unique case we are shown many of her paintings and much footage of her at work. Her father Mark does seem to have a controlling influence and her work when filmed on her own appears to be different by style and method to the previous examples. Mark Olmstead also seems overly defensive and makes some ‘digging a hole’ type comments like: “I don’t want this documentary to be about 60 Minutes although everybody wants to talk about 60 Minutes but I’m not! Because I don’t talk about it ever until you guys are around!” Still, as Bar-Lev sensitively stresses through-out the film Marla and her family seem like nice people who got caught up in the craziness of modern art marketing and manipulation. It’s hard not to have sympathy for their situation but if the attacks on the arts authorship have truth to them it’s pretty damning nonetheless. Mother Linda at a frustrated moment says “documentary gold” right before tearfully walking off camera – she says it extremely sarcastically but it may be the most truthful remark made in this movie. When Marla comes of age it will be interesting to hear what she says about her parents and painting dominated childhood – a prospect that I’m sure Bar-Lev is looking forward to.

CONSPIRACY (Dir. Adam Marcus, 2008) I’ve been working on a book about conspiracy movies for some time so I feel obligated to see every such related movie so it’s obvious why this made my NetFlix queue. A quasi-remake of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK this awful unimaginatively titled film features a chunky Val Kilmer acting as wooden as possible returning from Iraq to seek out a fellow soldier friend from the war. He travels to a town in the South West which is being re-built as a corporate-run old timey tourist trap by an evil millionaire played by the slimily charming Gary Cole. Kilmer, suffering from constant over dramatic Iraq flashbacks, finds that his friend is missing and everybody is mum on the subject and of course that Cole wants him out of town. One cowboy hatted cliché even says: “ Throw in local hottie Jennifer Esposito, a Keystone cluster of corrupt cops, the most predictable shoot-outs this side of YOUNG GUNS II and the result is craptacular.

Cole, an under-rated actor (TALLADEGA NIGHTS, OFFICE SPACE, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE), is the only one who seems to be having fun with his hackneyed character. His smirking scene stealing makes me think that they should have handled this material satirically. Kilmer can do comedy too, as his performances in TOP SECRET, THE REAL McCOY and even in his overblown impression of Jim Morrison in THE DOORS (well, I laughed) attest so really I wish they had gone that route. Instead all we have is this predictable retread through the leftover plot devices of the before mentioned BAD DAY… mixed with the lowbrow aesthetics of the WALKING TALL series and severely sucky remake. As a lover of both good and bad conspiracy themed movies I couldn’t even make counting the clichés a fun game with this being just downright dreadful and well deserving of its Direct-To-DVD status.

I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH (Dir. Jeff Garlin, 2006)

Garlin’s debut as triple threat leading man, writer, and director is somewhat slight but like Garlin himself – it’s a lovable schlub of a movie. Best known as Larry David’s manager Jeff Green on Curb Your Enthusiasm Garlin has a long list of credits in comedy and casts lots of longtime buddies from his Second City days and sitcom background in this film. Garlin plays a guy not unlike himself – had he never left Chicago and lived with his mother (Mina Kolb – an original Second City Player). He hears about a remake of the classic Ernest Borgnine movie MARTY, a film he’s convinced he’s perfect for, and pines for an audition. He meets a quirky ice-cream parlour clerk played by comedienne Sarah Silverman and he pines for her too. Then there’s Bonnie Hunt as a “chubby chaser” school teacher (as Amy Sedaris labels her in a nice cameo) who actually may be a more sensible choice for Garlin. That’s about it for what we’ve got here plotwise but Garlin makes it a breezy affable affair at an economical 80 minutes with a nice helping of heart.

I’m glad that I watched MARTY (Dir. Sydney Lumet, 1956) for the first time not long ago. I think it’s the definitive good, not great, movie to win the Best Picture Academy Award. Garlin’s I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH references MARTY so often that it posits itself as a companion piece. It indeed would make a good double feature. If you want to make it a triple feature throw in John Candy in ONLY THE LONELY (1991) – another film about a frustrated fat man that owes something to Ernest Borgnine’s turn. I, like many, can relate to Garlin’s struggles with his weight, love-life, and crumbling career. The tone and timing with so many recognizable comedy folk including Dan Castelletta (Homer Simpson!), Tim Kazurinsky (SNL in the 80’s), and Richard Kind (Mad About You, Spin City), all hitting their marks is right on the money – and I mean the low budget money. Jeff Garlin says on the commentary that he feels he made a good, not great movie. He’s right – like the movie he’s giving props to (MARTY of course) it is good and while it would never get an Oscar I’m sure it’ll gain a lot of fans. Now I’m gonna go check out if I have any cheese…

More later…

A Birthday Tribute To Orson Welles With 10 Welles Wannabes

“I’m not very fond of movies. I don’t go to them much.” – Orson Welles

Tomorrow is Orson Welles’ birthday (May 6th, 1915). Since he died of a heart attack hunched over his typewriter in Los Angeles in 1985 his legend has grown immensely. The accolade “cinematic genius” as well as sayings like “larger than life” feel like they were coined for him. CITIZEN KANE still tops critics’ lists, including mine, of the greatest movies ever and the rest of his fascinating filmography (what’s available, that is) is both passionately studied by scholars and enjoyed by movie-lovers by the millions. Along with his birthday there are also a few notable anniversaries this year to pay tribute to – the classic thriller TOUCH OF EVIL turned 50 a few weeks back (it was released on April 23rd, 1958), his magnificent MACBETH hits 60 (Oct 1st, 1948), and this Halloween will be the 70th anniversary of the famous War Of The Worlds broadcast (Oct. 31st, 1938) that put Welles’s name on the media map.


Since, as the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I thought it would be fun to look at Orson Welles as played by others. Many films and television shows – both live action and animated, have had actors portray the mighty moviemaker. IMDb even lists a separate page: Orson Welles (Character). Some of course pull off the impression better than others but they are all amusing attempts to capture the offbeat charm of one of the most well known figures of the 20th Century. So let’s take a look at the men who would be KANE:


10 Orson Welles Wannabes

1. & 2. Maurice LaMarche & Vincent D’Onofrio – Why am I listing 1 & 2 together? Because LaMarche and D’Onofrio have both played Welles more than once and one time they played him together! LaMarche, a gifted mimic, has provided his pitch perfect approximation of Welles’ voice to The Simpsons, The Critic, and his character of the Brain on the cult favorite cartoon Pinky And The Brain is heavily based on Welles. D’Onofrio who has a striking resemblence to Welles also played him in the short film FIVE MINUTES, MR. WELLES but in Tim Burton’s 1994 tribute to the twisted filmmaker ED WOOD, D’Onofrio appears with LaMarche’s voice dubbed in – that’s right it took two people to play Orson Welles. Tempting to make a fat joke here but I’ll let it go. Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) spies Welles sitting at a table in a bar nursing a cocktail, smoking a cigar, and working on pages of a screenplay.

Wood introduces himself to Welles and shares his movie production frustrations with Welles who sympathizes offering: “I’m supposed to do a thriller at Universal, but they want Charlton Heston to play a Mexican. It’s a good line but highly inaccurate – Heston insisted on Welles directing the project which was TOUCH OF EVIL but this doesn’t marr the scene. Wood’s meeting with Welles is relevatory to the aspiring director – the light of inspiration that glows in his face when Welles tells him: “Ed, visions are worth fighting for, why spend your life making somebody else’s dreams? is a nice touching effect. Burton pulls off a bit of movie magic – for a brief instance we have Welles back and it’s the young robust Welles not the bloated wine swigging caricature that most people think of when his name is dropped. Watch the scene on YouTube.

3. Angus Macfadyen in CRADLE WILL ROCK (1999) Far from as convincing as D’Onofrio & LaMarche, MacFadyen does have plenty of Welles’s theatrical flair as he moves like a storm through Tim Robbins’ romantised re-creation of the world of the theater in 1930’s New York. Based on the true story of a troubled production for the Federal Theater Project, Welles with the aid of John Houseman (more accurately portrayed by Cary Elwes) he fights to get the play of the title staged. Macfadyen does at key moments have the right Wellesian swagger though as Roger Ebert, a huge Welles scholar himself, wrote “Welles comes across as an obnoxious and often drunken genius in a performance by Macfadyen that doesn’t look or sound much like the familiar original.” Very true and also Macfadyen is too Scottish for the part too. Still though in the context of Robbins’ fine film he somehow makes his Welles work.

4. Liev Schreiber in RKO 281. This a bit of stretch but a tasty one. This telefilm made for HBO tells the story of the making and aftermath of CITIZEN KANE. Schreiber is in way over his head for the role and the facts are fumbled with ferociously. Still, the talented Schrieber does a fair impression of Welles speaking voice though only when imitating his soft spoken tones. RKO 281 (named after KANE‘s studio issued working title) is so littered with annoying inaccuracies and cheesy cliches that Welles expert (and longtime friend) Peter Bogdanovich said that it “was poorly acted by just about everybody” and that It had about as much connection to the Orson Welles I knew as the man in the moon. Ouch! Okay, let’s move on…

5. John Candy on Second City TV (1976-1979) – Of course the obvious reason that Candy was cast as the later day Welles in many SCTV sketches is his ginormous girth. He didn’t really look like him facially and his voice doesn’t quite sound like him but the material was funny and Candy could definitely bring the battered bombast. Check out this clip of Candy as Welles in a bit based on a tape of Welles recording a British frozen-peas audio advertisement (which you can listen to here).

6. Eric Purcell in MALICE IN WONDERLAND – I haven’t seen this TV movie from 1985 about the gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper played respectively by Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Alexander. Obviously I can’t judge Purcell’s performance – nor can I find any info about it online but I’m including it here because the film has Tim Robbins as Joseph Cotten! Maybe it’s just me but that sounds like pretty juicy casting. Anybody out there seen it?

7. Danny Huston in FADE TO BLACK (2006) – Another I haven’t seen but did locate the trailer. Judging from the preview Huston doesn’t really seem to have the Welles vibe going. That’s only based on 1 minute 46 seconds of footage mind you. From one of only a few reviews that are online of this British production set in Rome, Xan Brooks of the Guardian U.K. writes: The role of one great director falls to Danny Huston, the son of another, who comes weaving through the action with his theatrical bearing and disreputable air, a cigar between his teeth and his pockets rattling with slimming pills; every inch the faded Hollywood idol. Sounds like it may be worth a viewing – that is if it were available on NetFlix.

8. Paul Shenar in THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA – I saw this TV movie years ago and I do recall that Shenar did a pretty decent job of mimicing the master. He should also get props for being the first actor on film to play Welles. Dramatising the historic War Of The Worlds broadcast inside and out this sadly isn’t available on DVD but I hear that it pops up on TV from time to time. That’s good ’cause I’d love to see it again.

9. Christian McKay in the upcoming ME AND ORSON WELLES – Richard Linklater’s next film (set for 2009) like CRADLE WILL ROCK depicts the theatrics both onstage and off of Orson’s literally go-for-broke 1930’s lifestyle. McKay has portrayed Welles on stage and the word is that he has got the delusion of grandeur goods. Of McKay’s performance in the Broadway production of “Rosebud: The Lives Of Orson Welles” The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Christian McKay plays this celluloid colossus to perfection… anticipating the many facets of Welles’ personality that then sparkle through the show… The stories are so fantastical and various that Rosebud would mesmerise someone unacquainted with his work as much as a film buff. The arc of his career, from overachieving wunderkind to an overweight clown who endorsed frozen peas in television commercials, has the simplicity of classical tragedy and makes for compelling theatre.” Since Linklater is one of my favorite current directors and Orson is a ongoing obsession for me I’ll be really looking forward to this one.

10. Jean Guérin in HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994) – It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie and to be honest I don’t remember Guérin as Welles in it. He makes the list because he also played Welles in LA VENGEANCE DE LA FEMME EN NOIR (1997) – another film I haven’t seen and can find very little info on. Sigh.

There you go – 10 Orson Welles impersonators. It should be noted that Linklater’s film isn’t the only Orson related activity on the horizon. Reportedly Peter Bogdanovich is looking to finish work on one of Welles last films – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. The excellent site Wellesnet has this insightful article about the project.

That’s all for now – Happy Birthday Welles wherever you are! Such a great if compromised career – from Martians to the Muppets! Hope you’re grandly laughing it up at the great moviehouse in the sky.

More later…

The Film Babble Blog Top 10 Movies Of 2007

I’ve hesitated making a list of the best of what has been an exceptionally good year because there are still many potential candidates that I haven’t seen yet – THE SAVAGES, GONE BABY GONE, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES…, PERSOPOLIS, and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY among them. I should be able to see those all fairly soon but then, come on, there will always be 2007 films that I haven’t seen out there. So here’s my Top Ten:

1. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

The Coen Brothers frighteningly faithful adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel is undoubtedly an immediate classic. I’ll refrain from Oscar predictions but there’s no way this goes home with nothing from the pathetic press conference that the Academy Awards ceremony is threatening to be. With incredible cinematography by Roger Deakins and great performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and especially as evil incarnate – Javier Bardem. Read my original review here.

2. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

An uncharacteristic film for PTA and another based on a literary work (Upton Sinclair’s “Oil”) this is a mesmerizing masterpiece with a showstopping performance by Daniel Day Lewis as an evil Oil baron. That this and the Coen Bros. are meeting in the same desert area where both films were shot (the West Texas town of Marfa) for a Best Picture Oscar showdown makes it sadder that for this competition there may be no show. My original review here.

3. I’M NOT THERE (Dir. Todd Haynes)

It was wonderful that Cate Blanchett won a Golden Globe and got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Jude Quinn – one of 6 personifications of Bob Dylan (the others being Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin), because she was the one that really nailed it. Roger Ebert wrote that Julie Taymor’s Beatles musical ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was “possibly the year’s most divisive film” but I think this divided movie goers to a greater extreme. I heard some of the most angered comments I’ve ever heard about a movie in my theater’s lobby and there were many screenings that had multiple walk-outs. To me though these folk were crazy with the same moronic heckling mentality of those who booed when Bob went electric back in ’65-’66. This is a movie as far ahead of its time as its subject: the Fellini, Godard, Altman, Pekinpah, and Pennebaker visual riffing throughout will take decades to fully absorb as well the context of the classic music presented – cue “Positively 4th Street”. Read more in my original review here.

4. ZODIAC (Dir. David Fincher)

An unjustly overlooked new-fangled stylized, though with old-school ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN tactics, serial killer period piece procedural – which I know makes it sound either too scary or too boring (or both), but damnit this is a knock-out of a movie. Fincher utilizes every bit of info available about the original late 60’s to 70’s case about the Zodiac killer through his baffling coded killings to the sporadic nature of his possible identity, through the incompetent technology of the time and the mislaid evidence because of separate investigations. So fascinating, it will take a few more viewings to fully appreciate how fascinating it is – and I haven’t even seen the Director’s Cut! With passionate performances by Jake Gyllenhall, Robert Downey Jr., Chloë Sevigny and Mark Ruffalo. Read my original review here.

5. 3:10 TO YUMA (Dir. James Mangold)

In this remake of the 1957 film based on the Elmore Leonard short story set in the 1880’s, Christian Bale is a down on his luck handicapped farmer who takes on the job of transporting evil yet poetic outlaw Russell Crowe across dangerous terrain to the scheduled train of the title. An amazing sense of pacing plus the ace performances of the principals help this transcend the “revitalizing the Western” brand it’s been stupidly stamped with. A stately yet grandly entertaining movie with an extremely satisfying ending. Read my original review here.

6. AWAY FROM HER (Dir. Sarah Polly)

Julie Christie is going to be hard to beat for Best Actress this year because her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s is as heartbreaking as it gets. Gordon Pinsent is understated and affecting as her estranged husband – lost to her mentally and helpless as she is institutionalized. He’s sadly confined to the sidelines as she falls in love with a fellow patient played by Michael Murphy. My review (based on the DVD) is here.

7. RATATOUILLE (Dir. Brad Byrd)

Flawless animation enhanced by an ace script with embellishment by star Patton Oswalt (he voices the rat) makes this story about a Parisian rodent that happens to be a master chef as tasty a dish as one could salivate for in the proud Pixar present. My original review – of course it’s right here.

8. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (Dir. Sydney Lumet)

Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are brothers who plot to rob the jewelry store owned by their parents. Tragedy ensues – some hilarity too but it’s of the cringe-variety. Read my review here.

9. THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (Dir. David Silverman)

Some may think that it’s funny that in this year of worthy candidates that my choice of this big screen version of one of the 20 year old TV cartoon family’s adventures, but as Homer says “I’ll teach you to laugh at something that’s funny!” This is definitely here because of personal bias but isn’t that what these lists are all about? Original review – here.

10. MICHAEL CLAYTON (Dir. Tony Gilroy)

A surprisingly non glossy legal thriller with a downbeat but nuanced George Clooney. Didn’t really pack ’em in but got respectable business and critical notices. Despite enjoying and obviously thinking it’s one of the year’s best, I was surprised it got a Best Picture Nomination – I really thought INTO THE WILD would get it. Since this is the superior picture I’m happy to be wrong. Also nice to see Tom Wilkinson getting a nomination for his intense turn as Clooney’s deranged but righteous key witness. My review? Oh yeah, it’s here.

Spillover:

The ones that didn’t quite make the Top Ten grade but were still good, sometimes great flicks – click on the title (except for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE which links to its IMDb entry) for my original review.

NO END IN SIGHT (Dir. Charles Ferguson)
HOT FUZZ
(Dir. Edgar Wright)
ATONEMENT
(Dir. Joe Wright)
BREACH
(Dir. Billy Ray)
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
(Dir. Julie Taymor)
SiCKO
(Dir. Michael Moore)
THE HOAX
(Dir. Lasse Hallström)
2 DAYS IN PARIS
(Dir. Julie Delphy)
AMERICAN GANGSTER
(Dir. Ridley Scott)
SUPERBAD
(Dir. Greg Mattola)

So that’s it for now – I may revise this at some point but I’m thinking it would be better to let it stand.
This post is dedicated to Heath Ledger (April 4th, 1979 – January 22nd, 2008). He, of course, was one of the Bobs (pictured above) in my #3 Film of the year and I enjoyed his performances in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE BROTHERS GRIMM, and MONSTER’S BALL (those are the only ones of his I’ve seen so far). As I write this many pundits on cable are pontificating on the cause of his death exaggerating every tiny detail of what should be his private life. I prefer to just look at the work he left behind. His role as the Joker in the upcoming Batman sequel THE DARK KNIGHT is surely going to be the most anticipated role of 2008.

R.I.P.

More later…

Buscemi Now?

“It’s simple for everybody else. You give them a Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and they’re happy. I just can’t relate to 99% of humanity.”
– Seymour (Steve Buscemi) GHOST WORLD (Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

I’m right there with you Seymour. Everybody I know – every fellow film fanatic, co-worker, and passerby on the street (yes, I’ve polled people) loves Steve Buscemi. I’ve never heard a hating word from anyone about the hero of indie cinema who right after 9/11 donned his old fireman gear and put in weeks of 12 hour days to sift through the rubble at Ground Zero. Every time out – whether it is in his run through the classic Coen brothers canon, scene stealing appearances in Quentin Tarentino flicks, and his should have gotten an Oscar appearance in my personal favorite – the above quoted GHOST WORLD he pulls off the enviable task of being extremely creepy yet incredibly lovable at the same time. So why is it that his last 2 films, both critically acclaimed, did not get wider releases and are virtually unknown by those same fellow film fanatics, co-workers, and passerbys? Neither INTERVIEW (which he directed) nor DELIRIOUS came anywhere close to a theater near me. In fact apart from his brief but brilliant appearance in PARIS, JE T’AIME (again with the Coen bros.) his most visible showing at the multiplex in recent years was the voicing of Templeton the Rat in the live action remake of CHARLOTTE’S WEB!

INTERVIEW, Buscemi’s 4th film as director (the others – TREES LOUNGE, ANIMAL FACTORY, and LONESOME JIM) was just released on DVD but unfortunately I’m going to have to wait til March to see DELIRIOUS. That’s a shame because after reading director Tom DiCillo’s frustrated email to Roger Ebert in which he says “I’m kind of struggling on my own to make sense of how a film I put my soul into, that Buscemi put his soul into, a film that generated such strong, positive reviews, had no life in the market” (you can read more here on DiCillio’s blog) – I’m really dying to see it. However I am happy to have just viewed INTERVIEW which I’m also happy to review:

INTERVIEW (Dir. Steve Buscemi, 2007)
This remake of the 2003 Dutch film by Theo van Gogh (1957-2004) is an engrossing vehicle for the acting directing Buscemi. The sweet rub here is that his cynical political journalist (for the fictional Newsworld) character Pierre Peders is in danger of being seriously one-upped by his assigned subject Sienna Miller as Katya – a complicated and possibly deranged B-movie/TV show star. Apart from the waiter and a few restaurant patrons and some voices on cell phones this is a two person show. It is essentially a stage play, being that it appears to happen in real time and takes place mainly in one location – Miller’s opulent and over-sized loft.

“Why do you choose only the most commercial crap that’s out there?” Buscemi attacks. Miller counters “I enjoy entertaining millions upon millions of people.” She goes further – “How big is your readership?” He smugly replies “Oh, you know, I have dozens of readers.” With that only being the icing on the acidic exchange cake we follow these two through a series of mind games and mood swings and never lose interest in either character. Both are deluded and seem to base their existence on their ability to bullshit more articulately than most people to the point that their careers hinge on it. Their tortured talk is never tedious and feels almost all too natural so if you get past the initial cringe factor INTERVIEW is well worth the time.

So since I have to wait to see DELIRIOUS I thought it would be fun to recount:

5 Classic Steve Buscemi Characters

1. Seymour GHOST WORLD (Dir. Terry Zwiggoff, 2001) “I couldn’t imagine you’d have any interest in me except as an amusingly cranky eccentric curiosity” he tells Enid (Thora Birch) but there’s a lot more to him than he lets on. This old jazz record collecting, Cook’s Chicken archiving, and desperate personal ad declaring dude may be a “dork” as Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) calls him but he’s our dork. Buscemi is at the top of his game here and there’s a nice bonus after the end credits – there’s a reversal of fortunes of sorts. A scene in which Seymour has his ass kicked in the convenience store is replayed but this time he kicks ass and even yells “Motherfuckers! Fuck with me?”

2. Mr. PinkRESERVOIR DOGS (Dir. Quentin Tarentino, 1992) This is the role that turned the world on to the beauty of Buscemi. As the smartest of a crew of jewelry store thieves (though that’s not saying much), Buscemi had the most memorable dialogue (“I don’t tip because society says I have to”) and the most entertaining ‘tude. His reaction to the name his character is given is also cemented in cineste’s psyches – “‘Mr. Pink’ sounds like ‘Mr. Pussy’. Tell you what, let me be Mr. Purple. That sounds good to me. I’m Mr. Purple.”

3. Carl Showalter FARGO (Dir. Joel Coen, 1996) Another thief but this time far from smart, Carl is constantly described throughout this stone cold classic as “kinda funny lookin'”. Nothing ever seems to go right for the guy – he’s beaten up, shot in the face, and finally wood chipper fodder but every time I see this film I cherish Carl’s crisises more and more. When he angrily says to a airport lot attendent “You know these are the limits of your life man” I feel the Carl that is within us all smile.

4. Donny, Who Loved Bowling * THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Dir. Joel Coen, 1998) Yes another Coen bros. outting but one I couldn’t leave off the list. Theodore Donald Kerabatsos (betcha didn’t know his full name) is probably the stupidest character Buscemi has ever played – he never seems to follow what the Dude (Jeff Bridges) or Walter (John Goodman) are talking about, always weighing in way too late with comments like “His name’s Lebowski? That’s your name, Dude!” Still, talk about a lovable lug! Like his other Coen Brothers parts Donny doesn’t live to see the end credits. Semi-narrator The Stranger (Sam Elliot) breaks the 4th wall and says to us at the end of the tale – “I didn’t like seeing Donny go”. I didn’t either.

* I call him such because it’s not just the way Walter eulogized him – it’s also the name of a electronica band from Austin, Texas.

5. Tony BlundettoThe Sopranos (1999-2007) It was sweet that Buscemi came aboard the HBO powerhouse as a major player in the 5th season. He played Tony Soprano’s (James Gandofini) just released from prison cousin Tony B. At first he tries to go legit as a licensed massage therapist but gets pulled back in to the mafia underworld. Seething with rage but still armed with cutting oneliners – this was primo Buscemi and that he directed 4 episodes of the series was pretty sweet too.

Okay, that’s my fave Buscemi five – if you have prefered other characters of his (perhaps Nick Reve in LIVING IN OBLIVION, Rex in AIRHEADS, or even Rockhound in ARMAGEDDON maybe?) then send ’em on!

Also it used to be said that somebody has only truly made it if they were on the cover of Rolling Stone or if they hosted Saturday Night Live, these days I think it’s if you’ve appeared on The Simpsons which Buscemi has twice – first as himself in a typical celebrity cameo and second as Dwight, a bank robber who Marge tries in vain to help.

Okay! I’m all Buscemi-ed out now. As Carl said in FARGO “that was a geyser!”

More later…

The Real Napolean Dynamite *

* I would not usually put an asterick denotation in my blogpost headline but I felt this needed qualification – hit it Wikipedia from an entry on the movie of the same name: “The name “NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE” is a pseudonym used by Elvis Costello on the back of the album “Blood and Chocolate” (released 1986). Writer/Director Jared Hess has denied that this was his source for the name, once claiming that rather, the name came from an old Italian man he met in Chicago, and that the Elvis Costello connection is a coincidence.”

Coincidence? As if!

So, last night I went to see Elvis Costello (real name Declann McManus) – who is one of my all time favorite performers – backed by the North Carolina Symphony at Regency Park Amphitheater in Cary. Elvis didn’t even remember his last time to the area – he pronounced Raleigh – “Rally” (as in his song “Night Rally”). The show is reviewed below but first I thought it would be fun to look at his film work – such as his many onscreen appearances in what I call:

Costello Cameo Cavalcade!

Costello has done many bit parts in films and TV since the late 70’s. His first was as Earl Manchester in AMERICATHON – a barely seen 1979 John Ritter comedy. Appearances followed in likewise obscure works like the British one seasoner sitcom Scully, as inept magician Rosco de Ville in the film NO SURRENDER (both by Alan Bleasdale), and rounding his ’80’s acting oeuvre out was a cameo as Hives the Butler in Alex Cox’s (REPO MAN) odd thin-tie punk opus STRAIGHT TO HELL which had a bevy of cult musicians in small parts (Joe Strummer, Courtyney Love, members of the Pogues and Circle Jerks, etc.) These appearances were way under the radar mind you, Costello was heading towards the mainstream in the 90’s starting with:


The Larry Sanders Show
(HBO, 1992-1998) Garry Shandling’s satirical talk-show within-a-show featured just about everybody in the business doing exaggerated versions of themselves and Costello was no exception. He appeared first in an episode in the third season – “People’s Choice” (aired: 7/20/94). In one of his long time backing band’s (the Attractions) last TV appearances, Costello performs “13 Steps Lead Down” complete with “Radio Radio” coda before storming out of the studio leaving a trashed dressing room behind in reaction to bad back stage treatment.

The next appearance in “Everybody Loves Larry” (aired: 11/13/96) – also titled “Duchovny’s Crush – Hank’s Lemon” – involves Elvis selling a supposed classic car to Sanders’ co-host Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) which turns out to be a lemon – man, I love stating the obvious. While he performs a beautiful solo acoustic “Little Atoms” from “All This Useless Beauty”, Hank dons glasses in a weak attempt to mock Costello.

SPICEWORLD (Dir. Bob Spiers, 1997) I’ve already written about this cameo before in the post “20 Great Modern Movie Cameos” – so I won’t go on about it again.

AUSTIN POWERS : THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME (Dir. Jay Roach, 1999) Because of his vintage brand of swinging pop Burt Bacharach has appeared in all three AUSTIN POWERS movies tinkling the ivories in a downtime romantic setting. Since it coincided with Bacharach’s collaboration with Costello “Painted From Memory” – it was expected that Elvis would show up to sing to Burt’s accompaniment. Elvis said of the scene: “It’s the 1960’s, not to give away the plot, but in some sort of magical way we end up in the 1960’s doing a song.” (Late Night With Conan O’Brien 11/23/98) Austin Powers (Mike Myers) breaks that ole fourth wall by introducing Elvis and Burt as if they were his guests on a talk show and they do a smooth (mimed and lip synched of course) rendition of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”. Austin attempts to woo Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) by way of Comical dancing as the song flows.


200 CIGARETTES
(Dir. Risa Bramon Garcia, 1999) The soundtrack to this late ’90’s take on a 1981 New York New Year’s Eve is filled with what they used to call New Wave (Blondie, Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, Ramones, etc.) so of course Elvis would not only be heard with his definitive cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” but also appears in a cameo as himself. After a night of mishaps and drunken revelry Janeane Garafolo wakes up to find Elvis’s glasses and she realizes she slept with the man in question.

PRISON SONG (Dir. Darnell Martin, 2001) As big an Elvis Costello fan as I am I was not aware of this film until I began this post and am surprised that it has him playing 2 roles – Public Defender/Teacher. Again I’ll defer to the mighty Wiki “The film was originally intended to be a full-fledged musical, but this tested poorly with audiences, so most of the musical numbers – except the most essential to the story – were cut. This helps explain the mysterious appearance of Elvis Costello in two roles in which he does very little.”

3rd Rock From The Sun (NBC 1996-2001) The final episode (aired: 5/22/01) of this beyond silly sci-fi sitcom starring John Lithgow had the family of aliens holding a farewell bash. They hire Elvis Costello who still in full crooner mode sings “Fly Me To The Moon”. I guess this could confirms a lot of pop pundits belief that Costello is the punk rock Sinatra.

The Simpsons (1989-forever) Of course this would be mentioned here – I mean, have you met me? In the episode “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” (aired: 11/10/2002) Homer goes to a Rock ‘N Roll Fantasy Camp run by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, Brian Setzer and yep, our man McManus as instructors. When Costello tries to discourage the guitar as instrument of choice to the aggressive students, Homer storms his tent calling him “nerdlinger” and knocks off his glasses. Elvis exclaims “my image!”

Frasier (NBC Sitcom 1993-2004) Maybe a contender for the best Costello cameo – the man appears, not as himself for a nice change, as Ben – a coffee house folk guitarist with a heavy Scottish accent. Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) take immediate offence at Ben taking up performer residence at Cafe Nervosa in the episode “Farewell, Nervosa” (aired: 4/22/03). Costello is hilarious as he performs exaggerated amped up versions of “Wild Rover”,”Tie Me Kangeroo Down”, and especially when he announces that he’s selling CDs (not his own recordings – mind you) outside during a break in his performance – “10 dollars is still the best price for ‘Quadrophenia’!”

DE-LOVELY (Dir. Irwin Winkler, 2004) Credited as “musical performer” Costello appears back in crooner mode on stage at a costume party singing “Let’s Misbehave” in this somewhat surreal Cole Porter bio-pic. Though he’s given a few close-ups, Costello is mostly seen in long shots or heard in the background as Porter (Kevin Kline) and his wife Linda (Ashley Judd) have a plot-point moment.

TALLADEGA NIGHTS : THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY (Dir. Adam McKay, 2006) From reports he filmed this cameo in one day and it shows – he didn’t have any actual lines of dialogue. There were just shots of him having tea with Mos Def at Will Ferrell’s title character’s rival driver Jean Girard’s (Sacha Baron Cohen) mansion. Too many Costello songs to fully note have been in movies over the years but HIGH FIDELITY (Dir. Stephen Frears, 1999) must be singled out because it was named after a Costello song (see also LESS THAN ZERO AND CLUBLAND) and it had “Shipbuilding” featured on its motion picture soundtrack. Now on to the show:

Elvis Costello and the North Carolina Symphony @ Booth Amphitheatre, Cary, North Carolina Sept. 13th, 2007

“Me doing a romantic song is like Steve Buscemi playing the George Clooney role in a movie.”
– Elvis Costello introducing “She” 9/13/07

The best concert I’ve ever seen was Elvis Costello and the Attractions on the “Brutal Youth” tour in Raleigh on June 19th, 1994. I was a casual fan up to that point but witnessing the man’s vocal range and attention to melodic detail made me a hardcore fan. Since then I’ve collected his many discs and absorbed his many styles but always preferred the rocking stuff. Well the prospect of Costello singing with an orchestra might have raised my eyebrows at first but there was still the possibility that the man under any circumstance could still rock.

Rock he did – viciously strumming an acoustic guitar he and longtime Attraction/Imposter cohort pianist Steve Nieve offered up a number of Costello classics (“Accidents Will Happen”, “Green Shirt”, “Veronica”) that pleased the audience but the real focus of the evening was the embellished arrangements of the more challenging genre exercises of his canon. “Watching the Detectives” was given a complete workout with mighty percussion and sax involvement and the obvious but still vital “Alison” had a significant rephrasing and affecting as Hell addition of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” added in its coda.

Costello bantered with the audience in a casual and amusing manner even when mentioning “the war” – he brought that up when introducing his Oscar nominated (for COLD MOUNTAIN) song co-written with Allison Krause “Scarlet Tide” and of course when performing Nick Lowe’s immortal “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding”. A song that I stupidly didn’t even anticipate – the gorgeous Chet Baker arranged “Shipbuilding” fit the agenda beautifully as well. I know I’m not alone in my rocking preference – when Costello mentioned his album with the Brodsky Quartet – “The Juliet Letters” he got scant applause but a mere reference to his co-writing a song with Paul McCartney got people to roar. The bottom line whatever the genre, arrangement, or setting is – the man can seriously sing. You have to see him perform live to fully appreciate that I believe because the man’s pipes can’t be contained on a CD or in your iPod’s earphones. So yeah, when it comes down to it – the man rocked.

Postnote – for a complete setlist of the show go here.

Okay! Thanks for indulging me for my birthday week pop music in the movies postings. Next time out – actual recent movies in theaters and on DVD. Stay tuned.

More later…

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE REVIEWED!

“I can’t believe we’re paying for something we get for free on TV!”
– Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Canstellaneta)

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (Dir. David Silverman, 2007) This being my personally most anticipated movie since STAR WARS : THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) I’m pleased to report that is beyond mere cromulence. I will not divulge plot points or quote dialogue (except that line above – D’oh!) or give any other spoilers like so many other reviewers are doing – I’ll just say that this film delivers a lot of big laughs, small laughs, and well…just a lot of laughs. Homer and family are great to watch on the big screen with animation that has a nice new lush look. Of course there is not enough time to indulge in the second tier series regulars such as Barney, Gil, Principal Skinner, Apu, Moe, Disco Stu, etc but it’s THE SIMPSONS MOVIE for Christ’s sake! They do have some choice moments involving Mr. Burns, Ralph, Krusty, Milhouse, and Mr. Teeny (Krusty’s monkey) among others but again no spoilers here.

Understandably to make for time lots of material has been cut from trailers and previously released rough-cut material. Reverend Lovejoy’s “here’s the money shot” is cut and though most of the Homer’s whipping of the Alaskan sled dogs scene remain – this bit : “that’s enough whipping for now…with this arm!” (switches arms and continues whipping) is not in this theatrical version. I can only hope for a deluxe DVD edition with some of the best of the excised footage. Also making long-time character Ranier Wolfcastle (voiced by Harry Shearer) who was created as a parody of Arnold Swartzenneger just become Swartzenneger as President of the United States seems to just pander to a multiplex crowd. But those are just the bitchings of a fanboy – the movie is out and out wonderful – a lavish cinematic 87 minutes that is a worthy addition to the Simpsons classic canon. Go see it.

More later…