Saturday, April 08, 2006

Some news items of hilarity. Big brouhaha over Jared Paul Stern and Page Six of the New York Post, and possible extortion. Imagine: gossip columnists might not be the most ethical? Hell: hasn't anyone ever seen "Sweet Smell of Success"? I thought everyone already knew that most gossip columnists were the lowest of the low. So it turns out that George W. Bush wasin the loop regarding the CIA leak (which is a federal offense): this is a surprise? George W. Bush doesn't seem to realize that he is not supposed to be above the law. But it's like all these revelations just keep pelting him, and nothing's happening. No major outrage, nothing. I'm so disgusted i can't even spit.

A full day of screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival. Three docs and one narrative feature. "Two Players from the Bench." I can't even describe it, except to say "oh, those wacky Serbs" because every year or so there's a nihilistic/neo-absurdist/almost-farce which is very broadly done (almost to the point of utter caricature) from "the former Yugoslavia" that allegorizes the Serb-Croatian conflict. And here's this year's model.

However, the documentaries were fascinating, at least to me. The first was "Tell Me Do You Miss Me" which chronicles the last tour of the band Luna. Luna is one of those indie-alternative rock bands that's been around for a long time (i remember their appearance on bills in the early 1990s at places like CBGBs and The Bottom Line), and they've finally decided to call it quits. They've made about a dozen albums, but they've never made it to gold album sales status. So it's the farewell tour, and the four people in the band are remarkably adult. To me, what was fascinating was the idea of "adult rock", of which Aimee Mann is perhaps an exemplar. These people make music which is usually literate and reasonably catchy and rhythmic, but they're adults writing for adults (who've grown up with rock music as a predominant form). So Luna is one of those bands, and this documentary brought up a lot of conflicts (commercial and otherwise) which are part and parcel of today's music scene.

"From Dust" was a doc about some of the tsunami victims, and how, in Sri Lanka, the government has taken so much of the international aid (money, supplies, etc.) and is not giving it to any of the actual victims. In fact, the government is making things tough for the victims because the government wishes these people would just disappear so that all the waterfront property can be redeveloped for tourism, etc. It was heart-wrenching, but it's also sad because it was accompanied by a short, "Putting the River in Reverse", about the New Orleans musician and composer Albert Toussaint, and it's so obvious that the US government is just as horrendous as the Sri Lankan government: parts of Mississippi and Louisiana still have not gotten any of the assistance that was mandated.

Then there was the doc "37 Uses for a Dead Sheep", which was one of the more imaginative documentaries, detailing the lives of the Pamir Kirghiz people... it's an amazing story, because this tribe has been in constant emigration. Their Central Asian homeland was annexed by the USSR, and so they moved to land which then became part of China, and so they moved again to Afghanistan, and then when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, to Pakistan, and now they're in Central Turkey! And all through this, they've tried to maintain their distinctive culture and traditions and language, and now, after more then a century of constant dislocation, they're faced with the fact that their young people are moving to the big cities, to Istambul and other major cities, where they want to continue their education, they want to work in high tech jobs (one young man talks about opening an internet cafe; a young woman is now a nurse, but she wants to further her education and be able to specialize) and this assimilation process is inevitable, yet it means that something (a whole way of life, an entire culture) which had been so resilient is now in the process of being lost forever.

"37 Uses for a Dead Sheep" was incredibly charming (the "premise" is that the documentary filmmakers from England are there to make a film about the history of the Pamir Kirghiz... where they have the son of one of the great leaders playing his father, and people dressing up in heirloom clothing so that they can enact the pilgrimage made by their ancestors, etc.). I liked it a lot, so did Adrienne Mancia, who showed up for the screening.

I stayed up to watch Dreyer's "Gertrud" on TCM. Isn't it amazing how, when that film first came out in the mid-1960s, it just seemed so... archaic? But now, it no longer seems "slow", just... i don't know. Calm.

The other night, i came back from the screening of "Mountain Patrol" and i caught the last half hour of the HBO Rosie O'Donnell special about the gay-family-cruise. But i left it on HBO and watched "The Wedding Date"... i wasn't really that interested, but my eye was caught by the listing of Amy Adams very prominently in the cast. So it would have been at the same time that she was also in "Junebug", and i wanted to see....

Just very fast: the Randy Quaid lawsuit against James Schamus and Focus Features seems (on the surface) a nuisance suit, but it also points to the insecurities of Hollywood now. Amy Adams is an example. I looked her up on IMDB, and she's been working fairly steadily for the last decade (she's in her early 30s now). But Amy Adams is one of those (reasonably) skilled actresses who hadn't (yet) made an impression (the way Naomi Watts did a lot of made-for-TV movies and "B" movies for a decade before "Mulholland Drive"), and so she was willing to take a really low-budget job (as "Junebug" was) in the hopes that it'll bring her to attention. In "The Wedding Date", Amy Adams has the role of the sister who's getting married (which is the reason that her older sister, played by Jennifer Aniston, needs a date so desperately; she doesn't want to show up as the "old maid" older sister, etc.), and she's very pretty in the role, and she plays it well, but it's nothing special. And the movie is nothing special. And enough of those, and you may have a career, but is having a nothing special career really what anyone wants?

One reason movies can make you crazy is that it's such a crapshoot. Amy Adams rolled the dice with "Junebug" and won (it brought her critical attention, which brought her several awards, such as a special award at Sundance, and it went all the way to an Academy Award nomination), but for every Amy Adams, there are dozens of people doing indie movies which aren't getting anywhere.

And that's the reality of it.


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