Monday, October 31, 2011

Somebody Should Educate This Lass on Canine Treak or Treaters... Happy Halloween.

Avast, foul beasts! Get thine muzzle out of mine bag of confections lest you want death or our your innards rendered asunder! Today is Halloween and a blessed day it is for filling one's belly full of candy. Although, I am a little perplexed by the multi-layered costumes of these blokes. Seriously, you are already in a dog costume, what is the need for the convict, Superman or pirate costume? I must say those dog costumes are quite realistic... Wait? Those are dogs in costume... What is all this shenanigans stealing candy from the children and what is the deal with the kid with the candy bucket? Looks like someone is paying the price for putting a tack on Ms. Johnson's stool in geometry... Poor lass.

Let the pumpkins be carved and the innards made in (oh so) delicious pumpkin bread. May the children go door to door begging for the treats that shall rot their teeth. As seen with Bence's post, we here at PORTEmaus enjoy Halloween mostly because of our wee bairns (and it is Lady Funkowitz's favorite holiday) but for the most part, we love sweet sweet candy. All in all, we hope that you have a fantastic Halloween and you should avoid any candy that does not come from a store (we're looking at you, candy apples) or is generic (cheap candy gets an egg to the door, gramps). From all of us here at PORTEmaus, have a safe and fun Halloween. For those visiting the Funkowitz household, we do not believe in generic candy, so do not egg us please.

As always, there can always be too much of a good thing. Case in point:

Skeletons drunk on sugar are always depressing...


A Halloween Tradition

In a wonderful celebration of Halloween a few years ago Twincess and another of the many sisters Funkowitz had the idea to gather all of my DVDs that could be categorized roughly into the "horror" genre. We then attempted to pick one of the movies at random every night for the week to two weeks prior. Since then this has become a favorite tradition of mine and the one film festival Twincess and I share equal(sort of) joy in. The main goal here, like anything else is exploration. This happens to be an exploration of horror. I ultimately end up creating the mix of films, which I try to include a healthy mix of new and old and always have a handful of stuff that neither of us have seen. We abandoned the random choosing quickly and I would describe a few choices (gorefest, sci fi monster movie, kid friendly fun scary, atmospheric and so on) and then let Twincess choose.

There have been some steady inclusions, A Tale of Two Sisters from Kim Jee-Won has appeared every year except for this one, and has the honor of being one of the few movies I hear Twincess REQUEST year after year. The Signal was also seen the first two years. Last year saw a stream of films neither of us had seen. We saw House of the Devil, which I felt did not deliver on what could've been an amazing homage to 70's thrillers. It also marked the first time either of us had seen Paranormal Activity, which I felt was a fun if somewhat hollow experience, but I can't imagine anyone having any desire to watch this year after year. The gimmick itself started to grow old by the end of the film. Who knows maybe we will get to part two this year. But unlike Twincess I relish in the journey and discovery involved with cinema. Not everything can be brilliant or scary in this case.

This year I worked a bit harder on the list narrowing it down much more than usual. Here's what I got.

The Mist - Frank Darabont

The Thing - John Carpenter

Monster Squad - Fred Dekker

Trick R' Treat - Michael Dougherty

In The Mouth of Madness - John Carpenter

Videodrome - David Cronenberg

The list is always subject to change, especially with stuff being released all the time. Sharing the holidays with my family is always rewarding, but this tradition so focused on being with loved ones and sharing the experience of horror films is one I look forward to every year. Also, probably the only time I'll get Twincess to watch The Thing and Videodrome.

Have a great Halloween everybody


One last thought - so ....what would you pick?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Whole Economy is a Pyramid Scheme: Collapse

Film Foray Cavalcade No. Treinta y Dos: Collapse


This Cavalcade posts comes by way of a recommendation from a little over a year ago. I was told to watch this movie because the truths it contains were scary and human civilization is doomed. Thankfully, I had beaucoup hours to kill (roughly a week ago) as I stayed up for about forty-two out of forty-eight hours for a reason that is a tirade for another time. Anyway, I cued up this documentary, screened it and ultimately suffered through eighty-two minutes of frustration as it simply did not live up to the recommendation nor the subject matter... Of course, I am getting ahead of myself.

Meet Michael Ruppert, former LAPD police officer, peak oil theorist and a person very proud of the fact that he has never been asked to testify before Congress. Oh, did I mention that Ruppert thinks that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have made him their number one enemy? This film follows an interview of Ruppert's theories regarding energy consumption and the collapse of human civilization after exhausting all of the world's oil reserves. He makes some compelling points about energy consumption and politics that I knew when I was in my teens. Of course, civilization will take a step back from where it is currently if oil is exhausted... It only is an ingredient in EVERYTHING. How insightful.

The main issue that I have with this documentary is Michael Ruppert. What are his credentials besides being a crackpot? Like I said, better people who have done the research that he was citing and they are the individuals who should be discussing such topics as peak oil or the implications of a world without oil. Ruppert simply is an arrogant and altogether self-aggrandizing individual. Seriously, no believes that you "called" the financial meltdown in the United States... Especially since everyone could see it coming. Secondly, I highly doubt that Dick Cheney and George W. Bush read your blog (sorry chummy, I will not name drop it) and decided to make you a target.

Chris Smith's documentary suffers because of Michael Ruppert and his lack of credibility. I cannot say if it was Ruppert's allegations or the fact he chain smokes through the entire documentary (which could not be good for his lungs considering the ventilation in the "bunker") and this is a shame. I mention that this is a shame as this film provides an excellent venue for discussing the subject matter. Michael Ruppert is correct, human beings will exhaust all of the world's oil and this will force a reevaluation of how we as a species will live (Co-ops, collective farming or Kibbutz's and the return to the urban environment... Adios, suburbs).

Critics state that this documentary is comparable to the works of Errol Morris and completely disagree. The Fog of War mastered this style of documentary film making and while Chris Smith makes use of the style (interspersing of Ruppert's account of peak oil with imagery and stock footage) of Errol Morris, he does not bring this documentary into the same arena as Morris. Since I have had well over a week to ponder this film (as it has been stuck in my craw), I came across an interview with Smith where he explains that the film is less about peak oil and more a character study about how obsession leads to the collapse of the individual.

This puts the film into a different context especially if one considers the text prior to the credits, which states that Ruppert is being evicted from his house. Ruppert's paranoia has cost him almost everything and it is not the ideas that should be blamed (since he has some decent thoughts). Maybe it was the over the top weeping on camera or the pooping on all other forms of energy while offering no solution to the breaking the stranglehold of oil. Again, it was a thought-provoking film (and subject in general) but coming from a less than credible source killed the effectiveness of the message.

Rooney Rating:

(Two generous Rooney's as it is not a good film but people might want to check out the subject elsewhere... Say, a book.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekly WIsh List 10/26 Aliens, Legends, Avengers and Dinosaurs, and a bit of extremism for good measure.

There's so much this week. Had a tough time getting it down.

Attack the Block - Joe Cornish
Brilliant throwback to 80s horror adventures this time featuring aliens who invade the wrong side of the tracks in London.. This is Monster Squad for a new generation. Cornish nails this film, and Boyega's Moses is one of the finest characters this year. Here's my complete thoughts. Oh yah and here's what Manny though.

The Conversation - Francis Ford Coppola
Amazing film. I like Youth Without Youth, but I hear horrible things about Twixt, and the less said about Jack the better. Seeing this we remember that Coppola was at one point the pinnacle of American Filmmaking. This belongs next to your Apocalypse Now Blu.

Captain America: The First Avenger - Joe Johnston
Marvel had a great summer, and I am completely psyched for next year's throwdown between Marvel and DC. Although there's no chance Whedon will outdo Nolan, I'm excited to see the two largest comics studios go head to head. That being said this is the last piece of the puzzle and Johnston manages to deliver on his promise. Lots of thanks goes to Evans for making the ultimate boy scout likable and interesting. Here's my original thoughts.

Jurassic Park Trilogy - Steven Spielberg & Joe Johnston
Let's get this out of the way Parts 2 and 3 are fun popcorn flicks, but far inferior to part 1. With 3 being about as empty a blockbuster as any, still fun, but nothing Johnston should be proud of.

That being said Jurassic Park is one of my top five favorite films of all time, and the last of Spielberg's great blockbusters. War of the Worlds and Minority Report just don't compare. This was the movie of my childhood, obsessed with dinosaurs I made my mom take me to see this film five times in the theater. I even had my dad take me to see it when it played at the 50 cent theater. Spielberg and Winston created magic by bringing dinosaurs to life, and filling this world with real people that we care about. The effects of this film stand up to most any shitty cgi fest hollywood has to offer. This was a blockbuster that had a soul, I cant wait to devour this set and share it with my son. RC "saw" the first film on his first day at home, I hope he grows up loving it as much as I do.


One last thought - holy shit...people have called this masterpiece they have also said that it's an example of depravity and extremism the likes of which Pasolini and De Sade would be proud of. Haven't heard of it? That's what I'm here for. Interested in exploring the dark side of cinema, well here you go, now you can have a companion piece to Irreversible.

New Tune Tuesday 10.25.11 - Tom Waits (as if you need anybody else)

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. New Tune Tuesday 10.25.11

Well, friends, this is the type of week NTT looks out for, when an artist like Tom Waits releases something new. I admit I came a bit late to the Waits party, as the fact he always sold so well in the college circles made me think he might be a bit too molded for the college hipster crowd. I finally gave in a few years back and the first time I listened to Tom Waits was like learning to breathe oxygen all over again, it was so new, fresh and exciting. Even my section of this site is named after a quote of his. The new record? Well, we'll get to it, first up a very brief visit to the News Blender...

New Disc of Old Ideas for Cohen:
I'm happy to hear that FINALLY poet-singer-author Leonard Cohen will be releasing a new LP, Old Ideas, in January after working on it for the past few years (he talked about producing it himself in a brief Rolling Stone interview in 2010) in between his rather large world tour, which was his first time on the road in 15 years when it began in 2008. A few newer tunes of Cohen's made there way to the stage on that '08-10 tour, but from what I understand, the only one played live that will make the disc is "Darkness," which is a bit surprising and intriguing. If he has better songs than "Lullaby" and "Born in Chains" to throw on the disc, I'm excited. His last LP was 2004's Dear Heather, which while good, wasn't quite up to par with 2001's Ten New Songs.

Also, Cohen has not ruled out doing another tour, in fact saying he'd like to do one, "God willing," and if he does, don't miss it. The epic three set, 3-hour show I saw in 2009 is one of the few 5-star shows I've ever seen.

RELEASE OF THE WEEK (10.25.11): Bad as Me, Tom Waits
The seeds are planted here,
But they won't grow,
We won't have to say goodbye,
If we all go,
Maybe things will be better in Chicago,
To leave all we've ever known,
For a place we've never seen,
Maybe things will be better in Chicago...

The sound of someone saying it was a good home they left turns into the sounds of an army's "left, right, left" as machine guns fire and a bomb kills his friend who he weeps for as hell breaks loose (luce). Another man claims he'll finally be satisfied when he's dead and gone, and hopes his skulls and bones will bleach nicely and make a nice home for mice. The dying quiver of sorts of a voice comes on proclaiming itself to be the almost ageless last leaf on a tree as autumn comes, so does another voice, the even more ragged (if that's possible) Keith Richards joins in with him. Another man is paid to get lost and not come home, where-as someone else altogether leaves his family and life behind, heading out with nothing but a couple hundred bucks, his collection of records, and a friend named Charles as they plan to never come back, it's new years eve as they sing about auld acquaintances being forgot. You're either making your way across every dive bar and alleyway in the country listening to every broken down man tell the story of where his life went wrong. That, or you're listening to the newest offering from Tom Waits: Bad as Me.

I had a good home but I left,
I had a good home but I left, right, left,
That big f**king bomb made me deaf, deaf,
A humvee mechanic put his kevlar on wrong,
I guarantee you'll meet up with a suicide bomb,
Hell broke luce, hell broke luce,
Big f**king ditches in the middle of the road,
You pay a hundred dollars just for fillin' in the hole...
...Now I'm home and I'm blind,
and I'm broke, what is next?
~Hell Broke Luce~

Tom Waits is an American music treasure, one of the truest forms of originality in it and one of the finest examples of music recording as an art form at it's creative best. Waits uses whatever means necessary to make his music work, whether it's an actual instrument, adding the sound of crackling vinyl behind the song or the banging of a stick against a pipe or maybe Waits' voice shouting through a megaphone. Whatever works to get Waits that "adventure numbers and halloween music from Torrance" sound he so craves. Last time through - well, not counting the massive 3-disc bootleg series-esque treasure trove Orphans, which came out in 2008 collecting various outtakes, b-sides and non-album tracks - Waits gave us Real Gone, back in '04, which showed him mixing his own unique musical style with some bass and rhythm more akin to a hip hop album, which, unsurprisingly, Waits was listening to his sons hip hop collection at the time. The album was solid, but had it's mixtures of highs and lows. Not so much here, Waits, alongside usual cronies like Keith Richards (who plays on a few tracks including "Satisfied," which name checks Richards and Mick Jagger in more than just song title), Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo (not to mention Waits' son Casey on drums and percussion) goes through his most concise album of music since 1999's Mule Variations.

I was leaving in the morning with Charles for Las Vegas,
and I didn't ever plan to come back.
I had only a few things, two hundred dollars,
and my records in a brown paper sack.
I ran out on Sheila and everything's in storage,
Calvin's right I should go back to driving trucks...
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind,
for the sake of auld lang syne
~New Years Eve~

The album opens guns blazing with an eclectic mix of a rhythm section varying from guitars and banjos to a bit of harmonica and horns. The song is "Chicago," and it's about a familiar theme for a Waits song: a hard-luck case and a second...or third...for seventy-fifth chance. Thing is, in today's world, these hard-luck cases seem a little easier to come by on the street. Beyond it we find love and lust ("kiss me like a stranger once again") and money and war and struggles we all wish didn't exist. This is nothing new for Waits to tackle, who, somehow after putting down the bottle and his booze-hound jazz-lounge piano player character (more than just a little art imitating life or life imitating art for him at the time) in the early 80's and quit vying for commercial success and just, well, did whatever he wanted, found himself making the best music of his career since. This album instead of showing a new side or character of Waits, seems to create a mix and match of the ones he's used over the last 25 years and packs them into one album...and it works. Like so often before, the two unsung (pun to be intended) heroes of this album are Waits voice and his wife, Kathleen Brennan. Waits' voice is a star because it's the instrument everyone wishes their voice can be, because it has so many characters hidden in there. Ragged bluesman, high falsetto, weary soul, phlegm-filled soldier of the apocalypse. His wife? Well, as a co-writer and co-producer on just about everything he's done since 1985, she's the unsung hero for a man who calls "songwriting easy," well, maybe it is. Or maybe he just has a good woman behind him. He also has the gift of, much like Dylan, taking the right line or song title or quote from years old and turning it into something new. Waits has done it before with "Waltzing Matilda" and Leadbelly's "my father always told me to not go down to Fannun Street" quote from his in between song interview on his last sessions. Here, Waits finds the best and most melancholy way to sneak in a bit of "should auld acquaintances be forgot..." (as well as it's melody) in the heartbreaking closer "New Years Eve."

You're the same kind of bad as me,
"No Good," you say?
Well, that's good enough for me...
~Bad as Me~

Final Thoughts: In the end, the ballads are as beautiful as anything found on disc 2 ("Bawlers") of Orphans, the blues tracks would make Leadbelly or Howlin' Wolf jealous and "Hell Broke Luce" may in fact be the most, how should we put it, bad a** song ever created, at least in recent memory. Bad as Me is Tom Waits best since Mule Variations, and thus far, the RECORD OF THE YEAR.
4.5 Rooney's/5

Available on: CD, Deluxe 2-CD set with deluxe book and 3 bonus tracks, Vinyl (including CD copy of album) with deluxe lyric booklet and mp3.

Other Notable Releases (10.25.11)
'Stronger,' Kelly Clarkson
I remember in 2006 reading an interview with Simon Cowell where he heavily praised Kelly Clarkson and said he'd rather have 10 of her than 1 Bob Dylan because "singing poets bore me to tears" and she sells so well. Within weeks of that statement Kelly Clarkson released a new album that crashed and burned and then crashed some more (My December) and Bob Dylan released one of the (almost overly) praised albums of the decade and became the oldest living man to release a #1 record, Modern Times. Point is, I subscribe to the opposite theory of Mr. Cowell. I like music that has SOMETHING to SAY, not SELL. Clarkson was manufactured in a glorified accountants glorified board room and has nothing to say. I'm not saying her first few singles weren't catchy or that she didn't do well by at least TRYING to write her own songs, I'm just saying that she's a manufactured phony of a "musician" created to sell the lowest form of pop music. Her new record? Well, her fans will love it, in all it's highly formulaic ways, and it might find some radio play, but not like her stuff from the mid-2000's I'm afraid to say.
Available on: CD, Deluxe CD, MP3
'A Very She & Him Christmas,' She & Him
Whimsy and TRYING to sound old, I hate it. Zooey DOUCHEenel is a fake who can't act beyond one role (manic pixie dream girl) and who's annoying voice translates into an annoying old sounding voice that only has one range. I wish my Daddy was a famous cinematographer so I could do whatever I wanted to. The LP's back cover even makes me want to punch M Ward, and I actually dig that guy and his music. I liked She & Him Volume one for a brief amount of time, by the way.
Available on: CD, Vinyl, Mp3
'In the Key of Disney,' Brian Wilson
I mentioned Tom Waits as an American treasure of music earlier, here's another guy, a true musical genius, who also deserves that accolade. Brian Wilson we are lucky to have you still making music my friend. I have a record store friend who met him backstage once, and with chance to say anything he wanted to a hero, all he could muster was "I just wanna thank you for still going out there even when you don't have to." With all that he's gone through personally and professionally, I just can't help but SMILE (pun intended for those in the know) that here we have another release, one that finds the former Beach Boys leader tackling various tunes from Disney films. Fans of either Wilson/Beach Boys and Disney films will love this.
Available on: CD, Amazon exclusive version
'The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition,' various artists
Very cool to have this 2-CD set that features everyone from Bruce Springsteen and REM to Sonic Youth to Neil Young to Fleet Foxes and No Doubt to Sheryl Crow and Brian Wilson, all doing live versions of songs for a purpose. Even better is the DVD set that features some great performances by some of these and even more, including Bob Dylan.
Available On: 2-CD Set, DVD Set, Vinyl
'Smokestack Lightning: Complete Chess Masters,' Howlin' Wolf - box set
Have $60 or $70 lying around and want to have a fantastic box set that includes some of the greatest blues music created between 1951 and 1960? Well, this 97 song 4-disc set chronicling the Wolf's Chess Records years is for you. If you don't have at least ONE Howlin' Wolf recording lying around your house, don't every come to me saying how great your music tastes are.
Available on: 4-CD box set, 97 songs MP3
'Mylo Xyloto,' Coldplay
Coldplay. A wannabe U2 who's been accused of ripping off somebody else's songs more times than Lady Gaga's been accused of ripping off Madonna. This new record finds them somehow in the synth-pop/rock revival of 2005 suddenly with plenty of weak, repetitive lyrics to go along with the trashcan full of synth. You could at least say Viva showed them exploring out past their norm, this just finds them being boring and out of a want or need to grow past that I guess. Trash of the Week (it wouldn't be if I reviewed Jo Jonas' new album, but I didn't, did I?
Available on: CD, Vinyl, MP3

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Life's a bit greener on the other side

So an old saying "Life isn't always greener on the other side," I've found to be untrue at this time in my life. Life would be so much better on the other side of the world than where I am at this point in time; I mean really it would be. Right now I'm in a deployed location Kuwait and Iraq. How can I be in two places at once you might ask....well its simple I'm not, but my job requires me to roll up and down the roads of Kuwait and Iraq.

Greetings and salutations to everyone who read this blog. First let me introduce myself, I'm the one who will be corresponding with current events, while jobbing it up in this sand filled beach with no water (Kuwait/Iraq). Not only will I be talking about things that happen here and now, I'll be bringing up some things that are totally uncontrollable and just plain stupid. Allow me to explain, I'm in the Air Force, but have been tasked out to work with the Army. Now don't get me wrong, I love working alongside my brother in arms, but I've seen and heard of some of the most dumbfounding things that make no since. One rule being that we must all wear a reflective belt while in Kuwait and Iraq. Wearing a reflective belt in Kuwait isn't that bad, but when I have to wear one in Iraq....Let me just put a giant bulls-eye on my front/back and hold up a sign that says target practice. I mean it's not like the bad guys can't see a whole line of trucks rolling down the road, with gun trucks, that we have to wear reflective belts. Now I need to clarify, while on the road we don't wear the reflective belts, but while on the base we do. Even then I don't want to wear anything that would give away my position; I mean come on people in-direct fire. Stuff still goes boom even when you aren't on the road.

Anyways as this being my first post, I hope it wasn't dry or dull, as they can only get better from here. Oh, so that old saying "Life isn't always greener on the other side," well for me life is a bit greener on the other side. Being deployed, one seems to work very hard (only if on the road), not FOBit's (different blog for a different day). I get let food, sleep when I can, and talk to loved ones when there are a means to communicate. Just remember at the end of the day, I wake up in the morning and piss excellence.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekly Wish List UPDATE Batman: Year One

PORTEmaus loves Batman. That's a fact. We all have our favorite stories and writers, but we all love Bruce and family. Manny even name checked the best Robin of all time in his own offspring. When it comes to adaptations it'd be hard to deny that Nolan's films, and The Animated Series are the best of what's out there. I know Brave and the Bold has many followers, but I would never put it up against TAS, even if Morrison loves it dearly. Well I'm here to say, that we can add Batman: Year One to the list of amazing Batman adaptations. PORTEmaus gents, feel free to chime back(we don't exactly live in close proximity so I haven't had the chance to run this by them), but this is the best animated Batman story since the 90's.

This is an adaptation of Frank Miller's ground breaking Year One storyline. This really was Miller at his best, and ranks as one of the best Batman stories of all time, and a huge inspiration for Nolan's films and Morrison's extended run. Here we get an introduction to Bruce before he is Batman, and how he first dons the cowl, and his first interactions with a young idealistic cop named James Gordon. The parallels that Miller, drew between the two are mirrored here as well as we see both men juggle with idealism and corruption as well as women who tempt them from perhaps the wrong side.

The animation is gorgeous with just a subtle inspiration from anime with some amazingly clean lines and sharp colors. There are gorgeous night shots as we see our two heroes begin to own the night. This is not tamed down animation, the violence shown is extreme and Gordon....oh my god...just wait until you see what Gordon can do. With that let's talk about the voice cast.

Bryan Cranston owns this film. His James Gordon is almost as good as Oldman. He puts so much feeling into his voice, that you feel the pain and heartache he has as he attempts to make this unsavable city a better place. He brings the perfect amount of confidence and sophistication, and most of all HONOR. When he starts to expose the dirty cops in his unit and when he decides to fight back, he does it with such controlled severity that you can't help but be in awe of him. He is a force and you fully believe that this is the man that will end up being the commissioner we all know. His sense of duty and justice is second only to Bruce himself.

Ben Mackenzie is Bruce Wayne. Now he had a tough job. Cause you know what, Kevin Conroy is the best Batman ever. No one does Batman better than Conroy, not Bale, not Keaton not West, Conroy is Batman. Mackenzie holds his own, and never once sounds like the tough boy from Chino. He even does a subtle variation on Bale's Batman voice. Mackenzie pales in comparison to the energy Cranston brings, but he more than holds his own. This movie would not have worked without him and he definitely delivers.

For those of you that haven't read, the movie chronicles the early days of Batman, which lead to some amazing scenes. The first time Bruce goes out on duty without the suit is great. Its always nice to see our hero bite off more than he can chew. The final scene with Bruce in the daylight trying to save Gordon's life is such a great precursor for their future relationship. Also, being a Batman fan, I love when they show just how awesome Batarangs can be.

This is really just Batman done perfectly in animation. Its a quick story that you wish didn't end. Those expecting crazy villains are going to be disappointed. This is Batman at his genesis, when he was out to clean up the streets, this is Bats against Falcone and crooked cops. But hey don't take my word for it. Go out and buy it. You wont be disappointed.


One last thought -Dushku is here as Catwoman/Selena Kyle. For me it's the weakest part of the movie, but I did love Selena and Bruce fighting out of costume.

Fall Preview UPDATE The Ides of March

George Clooney is one of the most successful actors turned director. I mean that from a quality standpoint(although we all know he has some decent box office clout). He still manages to turn in exciting and challenging roles year after year, and at the same time continue to work on his own films about once every couple of years. Good Night, and Good Luck, showed that he could handle some serious drama and keep a film concise and powerful with a minimalist approach. With The Ides of March, Clooney shows just how much range he has as a director, venturing into Political thriller territory and never taking the Grisham way out of murder and lawyer assassins. This is another taut film about a fresh new candidate for president and the machinations behind his campaign and those of his rival. We see all the back dealings and promises and cover ups, and the effect it has on our hero Ryan Gosling as an idealist who tries to keep up with the tumultuous and unforgiving world of politics around him.

I mentioned in my review of The Student that it was hard to care about anything since we never understood what the characters stood for, other than someone promising a position to someone else. Now, here there is plenty of lobbying for cabinet positions and hustling for votes, but Clooney gives us a broad idea of what each candidate represents. Morris is a new kind of politician dedicated to new energy sources, and promising a change. He is obviously very liberal and solid in his beliefs, not willing to change his stance even if it means garnering more votes and support. By doing this and setting up his opponent as a much more conservative Democrat, we have an idea of why Gosling is so passionate and why the other guy winning would be bad for the country. It gives us reason to care and invest ourselves in the story.

Clooney is great as Morris, someone who has already played the political game and is on his way to the highest possible position. He no longer has to dive in the trenches to get results, his campaign staff do that for him. As the film progresses and events occur that cause him to rethink his political stance, Clooney plays the reluctance across his face wonderfully. It's a small role but Clooney makes every moment count. Gosling turns in another strong performance as the ambitious aid to Hoffman's campaign manager. His arc starts at the height of idealism and diminishes slowly as the film progresses. A great turn in an amazing year for the young actor, I still think his strongest performance was in Drive.

Hoffman and Giammati turn in the strongest performances as dueling campaign managers who have both in the game for a long time. If any awards consideration for acting are to be had it will be for these two. They are both such great character actors to see them here dueling for the spotlight is a real treat. It'd be hard to choose a favorite since they are equally amazing in their roles, although Id say Hoffman edges out Giammati slightly, especially the scene where Gosling comes clean about meeting with Giammati.

This is a well made political thriller with a bit of Sweet Smell of Success thrown in and further proof that Clooney will have a future as both an actor and a director. He knows how to keep his films tight and concise, and uses subtle composition to make some strong visual impacts. I love the first and last scenes, you could just show those two to someone and they could probably get the results of the film, thanks to some fine acting by Gosling. This has been garnering some oscar buzz, which although it's a good film I doubt it would be in my top ten, but hey the Academy is it's own beast. Well done Mr. Clooney.


One last thought - Jeffrey Wright is such an amazing actor, the guy kills it in every film, whether he has a strong role like in Source Code, or he has ten minutes of screen time like here. Hope he is in the new Mendes James Bond film.

Dignity never been photographed: Barry Feinstein

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things vol. Cameras make you Ghosts

"Some people see things - others can't. Barry Feinstein has an eye. Exactly where or when he developed his talent is irrelevant. We are the lucky ones as a result.
~Bobby Neuwirth~

"I liked Barry's photos a lot...just their stark atmosphere. Obviously the subject matter. I liked the angles...the shadows and light."
~Bob Dylan~

"He knew I would make him look interesting - and he was interesting. I knew I was in the presence of genius."
~Barry Feinstein on his iconic 1966 photos of Bob Dylan~

Feinstein as photographed by Bob Dylan

Barry Feinstein, a legendary photographer of both rock n roll and Hollywood, has died at the age of 80. Nothing really more to say (though I'll still say it), the man's work and accolades speak for themselves. He photographed album covers for Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, George Harrison, as well as taking photos of them and the Band, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis and more. His dirty graffiti spewed bathroom photography for the Rolling Stones 1968 album (my favorite Stones album) Beggars Banquet found it's way into heavy controversy at the time. Probably most notably, he's known for his collaborations with, you may have guessed it, Bob Dylan. From his work on the Times they are a-Changin' cover and beyond. Truthfully, if you jus do a google search, or look just skin deep at Dylan photos or albums like Live 1966 or Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home, you'll get to know his work of Dylan before any other photographers, I know I did. He photographed iconic shots of Bob Dylan's controversial 1966 electric world tour, his deep connection with Dylan also led to Dylan writing prose poems during this same period for some Hollywood pictures Feinstein had taken. These pictures and poems can, finally, be found (it only took 40 years for them to be released) in the book 'Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: the lost manuscript.' Feinstein also photographed Dylan's 1974 comeback tour with the Band, worked in Hollywood and Washington finding the likes of Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Judy Garland, Richard Nixon and plenty of other icons in his lens. Every heard of the 1968 film You are What you Eat, well if you have, it was directed by Feinstein.

For me, personally, Feinstein's photography impacted my greatly at a younger age as a man who's rock n roll (and life, really) tastes were still being molded. His death brings me back years, to a different person, remembering now when that mid-60's Dylan was my favorite, when the Rolling Stones were my favorite band before I discovered the Replacements. I'll never forget how I felt the first time I saw a birdsnest hair Dylan in front of that LSD sign or walking in London with a bunch of young kids. When my friends and I would discuss Dylan, those were the pictures we would see in our heads of him as we did, they were ones we would talk about if we discussed him past his music, they are still the image we have engraved of him in our memory - the power of a great photograph. Seeing an album cover like Pearl or Beggars Banquet for the first time, they strike you similarly in a way a run of the mill photo or album cover just can't. When I first got into artists like Dylan, I remember first being most struck by his mid 60's photos of the troubadour, as I said, they seem to be the most known and accessible. They are truly iconic in framing, lighting and Dylan's look. Even now, having moved past that period, I still look back at those photos and am still truly struck, no wonder I so easily got into the artist past his albums, Feinstein's work made it easy, he made him cool, touchable, immortal. I still occasionally find my way to the Feinstein/Dylan tour '66 book 'Real Moments' and get struck by the photos just as much as I did when I first saw them as a teenager. I also remember studying in great detail the cover for Beggars Banquet (something you just can't do on mp3 downloads) and seeing it for the piece of artwork it truly was and still is.

A true artist of his craft, rest in peace Barry, and much love and prayers to your family. Here are some of my favorites of Barry's work...