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by Lara Killian

12 Sep 2008

The Wall Street Journal published an article today about a renewed interest in private libraries in the US. In “Why Libraries Are Back in Style”, June Fletcher writes that it’s not exactly a new obsession with books (though they’re still selling well despite the generally acknowledged economic downturn), it’s the comfort factor – the need for an escape within the home from everyday stress.

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image credit: Ottox

Apparently, your cosy home library is not simply a place to keep books, it’s a place to reconnect with memories (via framed family photos) and escape the TV or home computer. I was personally dismayed to read that decorators will hunt for books with interesting bindings at flea markets and used book sales in order to decorate wealthy clients’ ill-used libraries – even buying books in foreign languages that the new owners are unable to read, just because the binding looks pretty. Blasphemy! After speaking with various architects and interior designers, Fletcher sums up their consensus:
Because libraries are public rooms, oftentimes the books are purely decorative and don’t say as much about the family who lives there. The books that people really read, like paperback novels and how-to guides, often are kept out of sight elsewhere in the home.
As long as something is getting read, somewhere, I suppose. In related news, the current issue of Oprah’s O at Home magazine gives readers an “inside look” at the talk show host’s private library, with matching leather-bound first editions galore. Somehow the idea of identically bound Pulitzer Prize winning volumes doesn’t give me a cozy feel, but to each her own! Do you have a library-like space where you can escape from your computer and other distractions to just relax? If not, what features would your dream library include?

by PopMatters Staff

12 Sep 2008

PopMatters Video Premiere


Sonya Kitchell
Borderline - Behind the Scenes Vignette [Video]

Go behind the scenes with Sonya Kitchell to hear all about the recording of “Borderline” from her new album, This Storm. Kitchell blends the sounds of the indie and adult contemporary worlds and has collaborated with jazz giant Herbie Hancock on a number of live events as well as a bonus track for last year’s Joni Mitchell tribute album, The Joni Letters. She kicks off a new tour on 24 September, backed by the Slip.

George Clinton
Ain’t That Peculiar [MP3]
     

Her Space Holiday
Sleepy Tigers [MP3]
     

Common Market
Tobacco Road [MP3]
     

Tomer Yosef
Underground [MP3]
     

by Stephen Becker / The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

12 Sep 2008

Opening Sept. 19:

THE DUCHESS - Keira Knightley goes 18th-century this time, playing the extravagant Duchess of Devonshire, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage.

GHOST TOWN - Ricky Gervais momentarily dies during an operation and gains the ability to talk to ghosts.

IGOR - John Cusack, John Cleese and Eddie Izzard lend their voices to this animated film about a lab assistant who dreams of becoming an evil scientist.

LAKEVIEW TERRACE - A police officer (Samuel L. Jackson) isn’t at all happy that an interracial couple has moved into his neighborhood.

MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL - Jason Biggs, Dane Cook and Kate Hudson star in this story of a man who asks his best friend to take out his ex to show her what a great boyfriend she is missing.

TOWELHEAD - Based on Alicia Erian’s novel, the story revolves around an Arab-American girl who battles a sexual obsession and a tough family during the Gulf War.

by Bill Gibron

11 Sep 2008

Sometimes, an excess of talent can lead to very little in evidence. Put another way, you can overload a film with artistic aspirations, failing to see that several pluses can still create a great big minus. Ten years ago, any film starring Robert DeNiro and/or Al Pacino would have been cause to celebrate - or at least to pay attention. And after Spike Lee’s sensational take on his Inside Man, screenwriter Russell Gerwitz also represents a fairly hefty amount of commercial viability. Toss in a decent supporting cast that includes John Leguizamo, Donny Wahlberg, Carla Gugino, and Brian Dennehey and stick them all under Jon Avnet’s capable if sometimes clunky direction and the results should speak for themselves, right? Well, in the case of the new cop thriller, Righteous Kill, the resulting oration is not exciting. In fact, it’s ordinary at best.

Turk (DeNiro) and Rooster (Pacino) are two longtime partners in the NYPD. Both have seen their fair share of injustice, and when a child killer is set free, the duo decides to frame him. Shortly thereafter, more scumbags start turning up dead, their bodies riddled with bullets, a nursery rhyme like poem left at each scene. With the help of officers Perez and Riley, and forensics specialist Corelli, the pair hone in on the potential murderer. One lead takes them to a nightclub run by suspected drug dealer Spider. Another takes them directly to the door of one of their own - namely Turk. Seems everyone on the case considers this seasoned veteran the prime suspect. After all, he had access, motive, and a means of covering it up. Of course if it does turn out to be a cop, it could be anyone on the squad…even someone himself desperate to solve the crimes.

Righteous Kill is so average that the standard bell curve can’t calculate just how general it is. Locked into the standard crime and punishment paradigm, with a genre mandated twist at the end, this is not so much a missed opportunity as a subpar story making the most of its limited appeal. The pairing of our former powerbrokers, each one covered in the less than appetizing patina of tainted Oscar, has none of the indomitable force we were promised. Instead, as in Michael Mann’s Heat, DeNiro and Pacino play off each other marvelously - and then that’s about it. The script provides inadequate opportunity for the (former?) A-listers to move beyond their basic personalities. Of the two, Pacino comes out the clear winner. His Rooster character is a collection of snarky comments and lightning one-liners. Most of the time, Big Bob is like Travis Bickle with a goiter, indigestion, and a tight fitting truss.

The rest of the cast is really no help. Leguizamo and Wahlberg pull shtick that seems left over from their often spotty resume, and Gugino is given the thankless role of a polished professional who trades it all in once the badge comes off for some dangerous and kinky sleazeball sex. With 50 Cent along for added street cred (which the movie fails to capitalize on, by the way) and various faceless performers playing random felonious archetypes, DeNiro and Pacino are left doing most of the movie’s manual labor. There are scenes where you can literally see the former giants pushing the plot forward. Avnet, for all his hit or miss mannerisms behind the camera, really can’t be faulted here. He’s firm, if a tad too flashy. No, all the flaws extend directly from Gerwitz’s work. The story is less than solid, and some of the sequences definitely needed another trip through the word processor - or a toss in the trash.

Maybe the real reason Righteous Kill is not more engaging is that, as an entertainment, the police procedural has gone the way of the romantic comedy and the erotic thriller. Call it the CSI influence, or better yet, the overexposure of the category via the direct to DVD market, but every time your turn around, another 88 Minutes or Untraceable is stinking up the Cineplex. DeNiro and Pacino would have to be packing major motion picture moxie to reinvigorate the format, and they don’t appear too excited to be taking on the challenge. While not quite the perfunctory payday of some of their recent efforts, Kill does contain enough problems to prevent its straightforward embrace.

And yet, thanks to the inherent nature of the storyline, the desire to get to the end and see how everything wraps up, we more or less stick with this unspectacular stuff. Oddly enough there are some big laughs here, moments where Rooster ridicules his fellow boys in blue with a kind of loveable crassness. We also find some solace in that the victims are all vile, indefensible scum of the earth. But then Gerwitz gives us the aggravating narrative device of having DeNiro appear on screen, right up front, and ‘confess’ to the crimes. It deadens the impact of the true finale. The film would work much better if the story was left open, the eventual lead to a cop coming from hard work and deduction, not a cinematic gimmick. But then we wouldn’t get those meaningless monologues, Turk looking into a surveillance lens and spilling his (or someone’s) guts about the joys of killing.

Because they do work well together, because we get the innate appeal of having the two major league Method actors tumbling within a formula they are familiar with, Righteous Kill gets off easy. Taking away our touted leads and substituting any number of nominal celebrity skins would result in something almost wholly unwatchable. But with DeNiro and Pacino at the helm, and Avnet doing little to get in their way, we end up with a decent, derivative journey through material that should have crackled with sizzling urban suspense. Such lax results couldn’t have been part of the plan. But then again, putting these firebrands together was never a guarantee of success in the first place. Nothing they’ve done since turning in their talent for some trinkets indicates otherwise.

by PopMatters Staff

11 Sep 2008

PopMatters gave The Old Believers’ Eight Golden Greats an “8”. “The Old Believers have built a cozy, comfortable world—strange but at the same time utterly familiar—and it’s one where you want to spend more time,” writes Maura Walz.

Keeley Boyle and Nelson Kempf settle in to share some of their strange worlds with PopMatters 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Keeley Boyle Dr. Zhivago.
Nelson Kempf I’ve never cried in my life. Horton Hears a Who put me damn close, though.

2. The fictional character most like you?
KB Wendy from Peter Pan.  I’ve always been terrified of growing up.  I started an anti-adolescence club in 4th grade, and swore I wouldn’t go through it.  I also promised myself I’d be playing with my dolls until I was 40. 
NK No way, dudes. Questions like that scare me.

3. The greatest album, ever?
KB Flying Cowboys by Rickie Lee Jones.
NK Ummmm. Trout Mask Replica! and Blood on the Tracks and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Kings of the Wild Frontier and Sexy Back? And Imperial Bedroom.  And also, The Fugs First Album.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
KB Both.
NK Star Trek is great and all, but definitely, definitely Star Wars

5. Your ideal brain food?
KB National Geographic.
NK French New Wave movies at night, Tape Op magazine in the car, weird cheeses at lunch.  But mainly, that peace of mind that comes once a whole moon when life actually seems to be moving at the proper pace and everything seems to fit just perfectly and you know you’re exactly where you should be.  I can write songs like a motherfucker when I tap that shit.

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