Velvet Goldmine (2002) purports to be an insider's look at the Glam Rock period. A reporter (Christian Bale) is assigned to find the truth behind a faked on-stage assassination of a rock star (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), and his subsequent disappearance. He first interviews the star's first manager, then his ex wife (Toni Collette). The story of his rise to fame, developing his on-stage bisexual persona, his love affair with another rock musician played by Ewan McGregor, the faked assassination, the split from his wife, and his subsequent seeming disappearance are chronicled with a whole bunch of what we are supposed to believe is music. We do eventually learn what happened to him.
IMDb readers have this at 6.6. Call it a chick flick, kiddie division, as women score it 1.2 points higher than men, with the under 18 set 1.9 points higher. Possibly it is the full frontal from male stars that impressed them. Toni Collette shows breasts and buns in a couple of poorly shot sex scenes.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design, and garnered many nominations for make-up, costume, and even one for music editing. Note that this film full of 80s rock didn't receive a single music nomination, which reenforces my personal belief that nearly no music came from the 80s. There were also no nominations for writing or acting. The 80s Glam Rock music scene didn't much interest me when it was happening, and it doesn't much interest me 20 years later. The story was slow, the surprise ending telegraphed, and I gained no insight into the industry. The only external review I read was Ebert's. He was also not impressed. This is a D+. If you consider Glam Rock music, you might want to see it, otherwise, there is not much of interest.
Red Riding Hood (2003):
Now here's a perfectly plausible premise. A twelve
year old American girl is abandoned in Rome, left only with a crust
of bread, a magnificent apartment, and credit cards without spending
limits. How can she endure the harshness of her existence? She turns
to people-watching. As she observes more and more people, she sees
more and more sins - shoplifting, infidelity, you name it. She
realizes that the police can do nothing about these activities, so
she herself is determined to be the angel of vengeance.
Of course, all angels of vengeance need a theme, so
hers is "little red riding hood", and she has an imaginary friend
who looks like a really high-tech "big bad wolf." Either she or the
author seem to be a bit confused about what a "red riding hood" is,
because she actually wears a black hood, but I guess it's OK,
because she wears red boots. Together the girl and the imaginary
wolf travel through Rome with a box of power towels, bringing
shoplifters and other petty criminals to the grisly deaths they so
... until Red Riding Hood's grandma shows up to
spoil all the fun. Get it? Riding Hood likes the wolf, hates the
grandma. Oh, that's good stuff.
Anyway, Red overcomes this obstacle in a direct
manner - by carving up grandma with some of her power tools.
Then another guy shows up to spoil her fun. This is
a man who sees that she's insane and tries to change her. Although
he's a good samaritan, unfortunately, he's the world's stupidest
samaritan and tries to trick Red by dressing up as her imaginary
friend. I've tried this plan many times myself, and have found that
it has a critical flaw: I don't know exactly what other people's
imaginary friends look like! Drat the luck! Despite that obvious
shortcoming in his scheme, he almost manages to pull it off - he
puts on a disguise and looks exactly like the imaginary friend.
Luckily for the film's exposition, he is such a perfect match that
the audience can't tell the difference!
Red, however, has no trouble telling them apart, and
carves him up with power tools.
A woman named Antonella Salvucci showed up just long
enough to take a shower. If you know how slasher films work you'll
realize that cleanliness is next to godliness, at least in the sense
that those who take a shower will soon be next to God. Salvucci was,
therefore, in the film long enough to got scrubbed up on camera. and
Well, do I need to mention the power tools?
Anyway, I sort of lost interest at that point. I
think maybe Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got directly involved
in the escalating violence in the Roman streets, and was just about
to solve it when he was mysteriously cut up by power tools.
Hmmm. I wonder who did it?
- Antonella Salvucci (1,
"Short Cuts" meets "Two Days in the Valley" meets
"Grand Canyon" meets "Pulp Fiction" meets "Magnolia" - which is to
say it is an episodic ensemble drama which takes place over a short
period of time and features unrelated lives which are somehow mysteriously and
technique has been overused. And, yes, it lacks credibility when
everyone keeps running into everyone else in a metropolitan area of
ten million people. But you have to realize that this is no longer a
trope or a device, but merely a screen convention. Is it believable
that two Nazi officers speak to one another in English? Of course
not. We accept it because it is an accepted convention of English
language films. There are several ways to do it, and we accept all
In some movies they speak German with subtitles. In other movies,
they speak English with German accents. In other movies, they simply
speak the English of native English speakers. Neither of the last
two options is believable, but we accept those choices because they are
conventional. The same is true of the coincidences in these ensemble
dramas. We just accept the fact that any given dozen people in L.A.
will not only run into one of the other twelve, but possibly several
of them. Face it, dude, if I choose you as one of my twelve
people to focus on, there is nothing you can do to avoid meeting the other
eleven. It works just like in that Final Destination movie - your
destiny is sealed. Even if you decide to stay home in bed all day,
one of the twelve will come to the door to sell you Grit Magazine;
another will fly a private plane through your second story; a third
will arrive with the paramedics who respond to the plane crash; and
so forth. It is also noteworthy that the other eleven will not only
run into you, but into one another as well. The kid selling Grit
will be the nephew of the pilot, and will sell a subscription to the
That's a wacky ol' thang I like to call Karakter Kismet.
I blame Thonton Wilder for this convention.
"Thornton Wilder? There's a blast from the past!
Wasn't he a great playwright and novelist from many decades ago?"
Yup, but he's the man to blame. Last week I blamed
Eugene O'Neill and his play Strange Interlude for all the
unnecessary gimmicks used in "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers"
to reveal the thoughts of the characters. This time I blame Thornton
Wilder and "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" for all the mysterious
interconnections that permeate ensemble dramas. That book featured a
humble monk who decided to investigate the lives of some people
killed together while crossing a collapsing bridge. He wanted to determine
why God had chosen those particular people to die that day. He spent
five years researching five people who were crossing a bridge on the
same day and found the highly dreaded "mysterious interconnections."
Since Wilder was a great writer, he was able to use the technique to
create a Pulitzer winning novel, and in the end the interconnections
really meant nothing at all. The monk abandoned his quest for the
link between them, set aside all thoughts of the meaning of their
deaths, and decided to write about the meaning of their lives:
"Almost no one remembers Esteban and Pepita but myself. Soon we
shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and
we ourselves should be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love
will have been enough."
Unfortunately, very few of us remember the beauty
and depth of Wilder's story, but the goddamned mysterious
interconnections live on.
This is yet further proof of my hypothesis that great playwrights
can be blamed for everything which can not be blamed on the Bossa
Nova. It always boils down to that choice. Let's say you get fired
from your cushy job as a drawbridge oiler. Maybe your wife ran away
with her tango instructor, a guy named Raoul with a pencil-thin
moustache. You could blame yourself, but you should not. The culprit
is either George Bernard Shaw or the Bossa Nova.
In defense of Crash, it does earn the right to use
the much despised mysterious interconnections because there is
actually a point to it. The film posits that we seem to hate one
another all too often, and yet we depend on one another.
Sophisticated Thandie Newton hates the racist white cop who once felt her
up under the flimsy pretense of a weapon pat-down, and yet the same
cop later saves her life after an auto accident, by willingly
assuming a risk to his own life that he might have avoided. How
should she feel about him then? She hated him. She needed him.
Perhaps she later hated the fact that she needed him.
Crash is about racism, but not about the kind of
racism that causes us to jail or even hang strangers for their skin
color, but about the kind of racism that permeates the everyday
lives of most of us. What small, unarmed white woman, no matter how
liberal and sophisticated her thinking, has not felt fear at walking
alone on a deserted city street directly toward two large young
black men? Would she feel the same fear if they were white? If the
answer is no, it's racism, and most of us are guilty of it. Oh,
don't act blameless. You are guilty of it as well, no matter who you
are. Yesterday I was in a convenience store, expecting to have to
explain a complicated request to the clerk in words he would
understand. I didn't know the guy, but my mind worked in that
direction because he had an Asian face. As it turns out, he was a
Japanese-American college student who spoke English approximately as
well as William Buckley Jr, but that isn't really germane. He might
have turned out to be incapable of understanding me, just as I
anticipated, but my point would still be the same. I assumed he
would be unable to speak English only because he looked Asian. If he
had been a blond guy in the same job, I would have assumed no such
problem. That's what prejudice is all about. The word itself means
"to judge in advance" - to assume that an individual will behave a
certain way because he or she is a member of a certain group.
This kind of racism is an important part of our
social conditioning. How many times in high school were you reminded
that your school was better than Such-and-such Academy? How many
times did you start a sentence with "kids from that school are ..."
This social conditioning is nothing uniquely American. As an
American expatriate for many years, I can't tell you how many times
I heard how "you Yanks" or "you Americans" think. What the hell is
that all about, anyway? Am I supposed to think like Darth Cheney or
Good Time Ralphie Nader? We seem to want to validate ourselves by
believing that the group we belong to is the best one. Not merely
"as good as" the others, but better. Perhaps it is because we are
unhappy with our personal accomplishments and need the vicarious
superiority of the group we belong to or would like to belong to. Or
not. What the hell do I know? Ask Dr. Phucking Phil.
At any rate, Crash is about that kind of racism, the kind of assumptions we make about individuals. Ryan Phillippe
plays a liberal cop who ends up shooting a black hitchhiker because
a situation escalates from a simple misunderstanding - he gets
irritated and distrustful because the black man says he loves ice
hockey and country music. Phillippe assumes that he's being
ridiculed, and an atmosphere of antagonism develops. As it turns
out, the black guy was speaking without irony, but who would have
guessed? We make assumptions. Even good people. The film goes to
great pains to establish that Phillippe is a compassionate liberal
man, then ends up turning him into a murderer for having made the
wrong assumptions about a black man. The film goes to great pains to
establish that even the "bad cop" (Matt Dillon) is a good man deep
inside, a guy who risks his life for people and cares tenderly for
his dad. Yet he is filled with racist assumptions which in his case
are very close to the surface. Those assumptions are a part of our
lives, not because we are evil, but because, as the old song goes,
"you've got to be carefully taught" to be a racist, and our society
teaches us well.
I don't love this movie the way some of the
critics do (Ebert: ★★★★), but I like it. Assuming you have no problem
accepting the much abhorred "mysterious interconnections"
convention, it packs a lot of emotional punch, and I liked the fact
that it used humor to lighten the load of the ongoing ominous music
and Greek Tragedy plotting.
I really enjoyed the banter between Ludacris and Larenz Tate as two
intelligent black carjackers who are always bickering about how
black males fit into society. They function as kind of a Greek
chorus for the film, and provide the kind of funny, everyday
insights that Travolta and Jackson provided in Pulp Fiction. The
film could have used more of that humor, especially from the
non-black characters. Are black people the only Americans with a
sense of humor?
The director is named James Haggis, so Crash is without a doubt the best film ever
directed by a man named after a
Scottish specialty food, but at this
moment it places only second among all animal offal theme films of
the past year. The Haggis film is rated 7.4 at IMDb, but last year's
Scrapple is rated 7.6.
Firefox 1.1 Preview
- URL says it all:
Spokane Mayor's public and private lives contrast.
He was outed by a newspaper investigator posing as an 18 year
old boy in a gay chat room.
Kingdom of Heaven is #1 by a comfortable margin, but there's
nothing very impressive in this Friday's box office
- . The three new films inspired no passion. Kingdom of
Heaven was hoping to open with $30-35 million weekend, but
that doesn't seem to be in the cards after a seven million
dollar Friday. House of Wax seems to be headed for a limp
$10-13 million weekend, despite being on umpteen jillion
screens. Crash had the same average per screen as House of
Wax, but on 60% as many screens.
Police say man defaced Our Lady of the Underpass
Nerds to honor their own. Lifetime nerdy achievement award to
Jesus Christ can't get a West Virginia Driver's License.
- The authorities must still be waiting for his birth
certificate to arrive from Bethlehem, and proof of his
father's identity. Surprisingly, the Holy Spirit does not
have an FBI file. Washington State had no problem issuing a
license to Mr. Christ, and the U.S. Government has granted
him a passport, but he wants to move to West Virginia,
presumably with a business plan to reduce the costs of
illegal alcohol production by simply changing water into
The Derby - Steinbrenner's horse sucks as bad as the Yankees
Letterman's "Top Ten Little Known Facts About Dave (Presented
By Dave's Mom)"
Letterman's "Top Ten Questions To Ask Yourself Before Eating A
15-Pound Cheeseburger" One of the best of his
Ripley's Believe It or Not! - IQ game
Xtina, see-through blouse, healthy lungs, nipple rings
- This BBC parody absolutely wins the Headline of the Day
Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight.
I love those Cambodian ring-fights. Of course, they have a
special meaning to me because of my three Cambodian ex-wives.
The fifty most influential comedy albums of all time.
- It's an interesting read, and a good conversation
starter for those of us from the comedy album era. I would
have rated An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer much higher
than 34 (Certainly above Albert Brook's Comedy Minus One,
for example. And maybe one of Peter Schickele's PDQ Bach
albums should be in there somewhere ... but the list really
brings back some happy memories.
Top 10 Most Popular Baby Names in 2004
- This is fascinating. I researched my own first name
(Gregory) for the past 100 years (one click) - It was
unpopular until WW2, then climbed steadily - Gregory Peck
made his first film in 1944 - until it reached its peak
(21st place) in 1962 and 1963 (To Kill a Mockingbird came
out in 1962). It has steadily declined since then, reverting
back to the 1940 level, and making the entire trend a
beautiful reverse Bell Curve. I suppose that the name would
have undoubtedly remained obscure except for ol' Atticus
WHO IS THE SEXIEST FEMALE CARTOON CHARACTER OF ALL TIME?
I wanted to vote for Alice the Goon, but she wasn't
among the choices.
- We've run this before, but it's worth another look. In a
world gone mad, one man ...
One of the greatest trailers ever made - by Jerry Seinfeld.
"working title" is the name of a movie which simply
consists of 3200 frames of title screens from other movies
Rare and Valuable Vinyl Records. The original
release of "Bob Dylan - Freewheelin’" has an estimated value
Conan O'Brien cheers up the New York Yankees
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis Presley? Why not, if
he can get the accent. He looks a lot like Elvis, and this
will clear the way for Johnny Knoxville to play James Joyce.
The ultimate in motorcycle design
Foxy Brown Rejects Prosecution Plea Deal. "Her
lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said Brown wasn't interested in any
resolution that involved her admitting to a crime. He said the
offer, a plea to a misdemeanor with no jail time, was
"normally a good one, but she's not guilty."
Abdul ain't layin' low - to make an appearance on 'SNL' this
Baz Luhrmann would like to bring Kidman and Crowe together for
"an Aussie Gone With The Wind"
George Lucas will get a special award at this year's Cannes
Who is Hollywood's most powerful man? I think
you'll be surprised to see Premiere Magazine's answer. I
Jillions of trivia quizzes
- URL says it all:
MarryYourPet - The pet and people wedding specialists.
- "So, you adore your pet, consult him when channel
switching and give him fish every Sunday. But if you really
love him and you're in this for life, isn't it time you
married your pet?"
The Found Footage Festival. Submitter wrote: "This
is a hilarious film festival in which old videos are shown.
The preview clip of the stuff they show is sooo funny!"
MP3 player build from Kalashnikov automatic
The Video Game Music Archive
Two new clips from Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith
Other Crap archives. May also include newer material than the
since it's sorta in real time.
to submit a URL for Other Crap
are the latest movie reviews available at scoopy.com.
- The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the
review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
- If there is a white asterisk, it means that
there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined
there might be something else of interest.
- A blue asterisk indicates the review is written
by Tuna (or Junior or Brainscan, or somebody else besides me)
- If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too
ashamed to admit it.