It is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that something that is interesting is interesting them...

30 July 2003 — Wednesday

§ Seabiscuit | Dir. Gary Ross, 2003 | Universal | 140min | IMDb link

Every fourth shot could have been cut (at least for anyone who's heard of the great depression before) but Chris Cooper, the labor organizer in Matewan (Sayles, 1987) who here plays the horse's trainer, and William H. Macy as the hyper-loquacious radio man are worth seeing. • Ebert on Cooper: "Once again Chris Cooper shows himself as one of the most uncannily effective actors in the movies. Here he seems old, pale and a little worn out. ¶ In Adaptation, only a year ago, he was a sunburned swamp rat. In John Sayles' Lone Star he was a ruggedly handsome Texas sheriff. How does he make these transformations? Here, with a few sure movements and a couple of quiet words, he convinces us that what he doesn't know about horses isn't worth knowing."

29 July 2003 — Tuesday

§ Edward Hirsch | "Wislawa Szymorska: Rapturous Skeptic" and "Philip Larkin: Sour Majesty" | Responsive Reading | Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1999 | 102-114, 115-130

"Larkin may have hated the Modernists, but he had more in common with them than he supposed. He now takes his place in a line of reactionary twentieth-century writers—from Yeats, Pound, and Eliot to D.H. Lawrence and Wyndham Lewis—whose lives (and works) were fueled by repulsive right-wing hatreds. But what was for an earlier generation a rising tide of democracy and leveling modern values was for Larkin a flood that had already taken place. He has just about drowned" (124).

28 July 2003 — Monday

§ Unfaithful | Dir. Adrian Lyne, 2002 | 124min | DVD | IMDb link

Diane Lane (above looking a little like Cecilia Roth in All About My Mother) and Richard Gere perform well in a low-key but ultimately paranoid fantasy about excess desire that I'll be hard pressed to remember six months from now.

27 July 2003 — Sunday

§ Times Literary Supplement 5232 | 11 July 2003

• Stephen Burt | "Journal of the Trade" | Rev. of The Poetry Anthology 1912-2002, edited by Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young and Dear Editor: A History of Poetry in Letters: The First Fifty Years 1912-1962 | 11

• Matt Cartmill | "Mystery of the Missing Animals | Rev. of Life on a Young Planet by Andrew H. Knoll | 12

• J.C. on Baraka | 16

• Penelope Murray | "Silent Words, Talking Pictures" | Rev. of The Origins of Criticism: Literary Culture and Poetic Theory in Classical Greece by Andrew Ford | 30

• Liam Hudson | "In Your Dreams" | Rev. of three books on "social dreaming" by or edited by W. Gordon Lawrence | 31

26 July 2003 — Saturday

§ Chris Marker Special Section | Film Comment | July-August 2003

• Paul Authur | "Kino-Eye: The Legacy of Soviet Cinema as Refracted through Chris Marker's Always-Critical Vision" | 32-34

• Min Lee | "Red Skies: Joining Forces with the Militant Collective SLON" | 38-41

• Michael Chaiken and Sam Diiorio | "Printed Matter: The Author behind the Auteur: Pre-Marker Marker" | 42-43

• Kent Jones | "Time Immemorial: Chris Marker's Maiden Voyage into the Uncharted Waters of CD-ROM" | 46

§ Twilight of the Ice Nymphs | Dir. Guy Maddin, 1998 | 91min + Heart of the World | Dir. Guy Maddin, 2000 | 6min | DVD | link to Zeitgeist page for Twilight | link to Artforum interview with Maddin, mentioned here on 9 July.

Melodrama meets constructivism in Heart of the World, a hectic but unerring pastiche of early Soviet cinema. • Twilight of the Ice Nymphs mostly fails along the axis of so-bad-it's-good acting (the so-bad-it's-just-bad script doesn't help), but as a series of eye-arresting stills set briefly in motion it often works.

25 July 2003 — Friday

§ Entr'acte | Dir. René Clair, 1924 | 22min | Included as a feature on À Nous la Liberté | DVD | Criterion 2002

Crouching Satie, Floating Picabia.

24 July 2003 — Thursday

§ Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl | Dir. Gore Verbinski, 2003 | 134min

"Really bad eggs." • From Ebert's review: "And yet the movie made me grin at times, and savor the daffy plot, and enjoy the way Depp and Rush fearlessly provide performances that seem nourished by deep wells of nuttiness. Depp in particular seems to be channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly. Don't mistake me: This is not a criticism, but admiration for his work. It can be said that his performance is original in its every atom. There has never been a pirate, or for that matter a human being, like this in any other movie."

23 July 2003 — Wednesday

§ Marcel Duchamp | Avoir l'apprenti dans le soleil / To Have the Apprentice in the Sun | 1914

21 July 2003 — Monday

§ Björk | Volumen | DVD | Elektra 1998

Fourteen videos—six of them by Michel Gondry—of songs from the solo debut through Homogenic. Gondry's clips include "Jóga" (computer-game camera darts, floats, and hovers over depopulated landscapes and geological formations), "Hyperballad" (cyber-organic overlays like circuits in compost), "Human Behavior" (children's story set with fuzzy/creepy animal costumes and telescoping camerawork, somewhere between Siouxsie's "Spellbound" video and Blood Simple), "Isobel" (b&w image floats on water in the well of an organ), and "Bachelorette" (multiply embedded narrative frames). Among the other clips are Paul White's "Hunter" (starkly framed face morphing into a kind of fractal bear's head), Sophie Muller's "Venus as a Boy" (a crush-struck Björk fries an egg in a kitchen out of Pee Wee's Playhouse), John Kricfalusi's "I Miss You" (an archive of animated figures including some dirtied-up Flintstones), and Spike Jonze's "It's Oh So Quiet" (a Betty Hutton cover turned into a tire-shop musical extravaganza worthy of Doris Day). The conventional movie tie-in video "Play Dead" is the only one I didn't watch to the end. | QuickTime video gallery here. • Screen grab of Gondry's "Hyperballad" below; more grabs available here (choose "videostills" from nav bar at top).

20 July 2003 — Sunday

§ À nous la liberté | Dir. by René Clair, 1931 | DVD | Criterion 2002 | IMDb link | DVDBreakdown link

"Clair is also canny or prescient in linking the new capitalism with emerging fascism throughout Europe — Emile's [phonograph] factory is ordered on crypto-military lines, with uniforms, symbols and leader's iconography.... If Clair's politics are heavy-handed, his visual sensibility is not, and this film transcends itself when it looses its political shackles and gives into subversive whimsy, a rondelay of chases, fist-fights, drunken fracas, Bunuellian iconoclasm" (Alice Liddell on IMDb). • Lazare Meerson's incredible sets alone are worth the rental fee.

18 July 2003 — Friday

§ Marnie | Dir. Alfred Hitchock, 1964 | VHS

Though I've probably seen this film a half-dozen times over the years, my impression of it has always remained a bit out-of-focus and ambivalent. Watching it again last night with greater admiration than before, I was especially struck by 'Tippi' Hedren's disciplined handling of a role that requires her to move from blank and irremediably broken to flipped out frigidity to case-the-joint klepto, with scarcely a "likable" moment to be found anywhere. (What's in it for Sean Connery's character is one of the film's more interesting questions.) Beyond adding a new connotative level to the title of Radiohead's recent single, the phrase "There...there, now" fuses with astonishing concision the putting-to-death of a beloved horse and the originary act of violence worked out in the film's final scenes. | The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) Photogallery for the film, from which the still below is taken, can be accessed directly here. The way that hairdo lifts from the forehead could no doubt sustain serious semiotic analysis....

17 July 2003 — Thursday

§ Laurel Canyon | Dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2002 | DVD

As Roger Ebert puts it: "Laurel Canyon is not a successful movie—it's too stilted and pre-programmed to come alive—but in the center of it McDormand occupies a place for her character and makes that place into a brilliant movie of its own. There is nothing wrong with who she is and what she does, although all around her actors are cracking up in strangely written roles." • There's an AC/DC tee shirt that probably deserved an acting credit of its own, though the still below (from IMBd) commemorates another of the acts that occupied young minds in 1979.

16 July 2003 — Wednesday

§ "These Weapons of Mass Destruction Cannot Be Displayed" | Google result for search term "Weapons of Mass Destruction" when the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button is clicked | direct link here, but beware annoying pop-unders

§ New York Times | 16 July 2003 | link requires registration

The vast budget deficit projected for 2003: $455b, which is $150b more than was estimated even five months ago. Charles B. Rangel comments: "Sept. 11 didn't give us that deficit. The poor people didn't give us that deficit. The deficit is the result mainly of massive, irresponsible tax cuts for the richest Americans and the lack of any real plan to boost the economy and put people back to work" (A1+). • Neela Banerjee writes about how "Rape (and Silence About It) Haunts Baghdad": "Shame and fear compel the lies [physicians often hear], Dr. Younis said. 'A woman's father or brother, they feel it is their duty to kill her' if she has been raped. 'It is the tribal law. They will get only six months in prison and then they are out'" (A1+). "If an Iraqi woman wants to report a rape, she has to travel a bureaucratic odyssey. She first has to go to the police for documents that permit her to get a forensic test. That test is performed only at the city morgue. The police take a picture of the victim and stamp it, and then stamp her arm: 'That is so no one else goes in her place and says that she was raped, that she lost her virginity,' said Ms. Hussein, the nurse. ¶ At the morgue, a committee of three male doctors performs a gynecological examination on the victim to determine if there was sexual abuse. The doctors are available only from 8:30am to 1:30pm. If a victim arrives at any other time, she has to return the next day, without washing away any physical evidence" (A1+). • Alissa Quart, a poet better known for her recent book Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers, points to the commercialization of the school system in her guest editorial "Welcome to (Company Name Here) High™": "Parents and teachers need to work toward further measures aimed at taking commercialism out of schools, including banning advertisements on book covers and on hallway posters. Schools also need to abandon the practice of awarding their naming rights to companies: if you think selling candy bars and sodas at school is a problem, you can agree that children identifying their schools with a supermarket chain or a paint company isn't so healthy, either" (A21). • In Lawrence van Gelder's "Arts Briefing," notice that the ashes of Herbert Marcuse will be placed in an "honorary grave site next to the great German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" after twenty-four years in the United States. Marcuse was born in Berlin in 1898 and died a U.S. citizen while visiting West Berlin in 1979. "His wife, Ricky, had him cremated in Austria and sent his ashes to the United States because she 'felt that enough Jews had been reduced to ashes in Germany,' his grandson Harold Marcuse explained on Marcuse's Web site" (B2). • Also, Billy Collins is shortlisted for the $16,000 Forward Prize, "billed as Britain's richest annual poetry award." Other nominees: Ciaran Carson, Ian Duhig, Lavinia Greenlaw, and Paul Muldoon (B2). See below:

§ John Greening | "The Poet Takes a Morning Off" | Rev. of Nine Horses by Billy Collins | Times Literary Supplement 5230 | 27 June 2003 | 30

"Reading Billy Collins in time of war simply highlighted his poetry's bland indifference to any wider, deeper cultural and historical context." • "[P]oetry of quiet personal insight has no excuse for being vapid and colourless. It is sad to have work like this celebrated, while such essential American poets as David Wagoner, Rachel Hadas, Emily Grosholz, Peter Kane Dufault, and Hayden Carruth remain barely known in the United Kingdom."

§ Roger Caldwell | "At a Suitable Distance" | Rev. of Never by Jorie Graham | Times Literary Supplement 5230 | 27 June 2003 | 30

"Her intellectual range is wide, but there is little sense of the philosophical rigour that some have over-generously attributed to her work. She makes great use of scienfitic lexis—atoms and vectors and infinitesimals—but with no great precision of reference. There are lines which neither make much sense nor seem distinguished as poetry (it is hard to know what to make, for example, of 'O sweet conversation: protozoa, air: how long have you been speaking?')." • On the other hand: "There is a bouyancy in Graham's poetry, a freshness of vision which is rare in contemporary poetry. With her abundance of present participles and her indefinitely extended syntax she is very much the poet of the felt moment and pregnant with possibility. For this, it is possible to forgive many of her obscurities and obfuscations."

nb current | 1-15 July 200316-30 June 20031-15 June 2003

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