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by Barry Koltnow / The Orange County Register (MCT)

13 Jul 2009

Can you remember the last time you went out to a nice dinner? I’ll bet you went to one of your favorite restaurants. When money is tight, people generally opt for the familiar, rather than experiment with the unknown. Well, movies are a lot like restaurants, except that the large popcorn costs more than the lobster. Moviegoers are not in the mood for experimentation when they finally make the decision to splurge on entertainment.

That is evident by the current box office chart. Last week, the top two movies at the box office were Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Both films are sequels, and both have made an obscene amount of money, proving that the public is looking for the familiar. Johnny Depp’s critically acclaimed gangster flick, Public Enemies, came in a respectable third in its opening weekend, but the take was considerably lower than the sequels.

Now topping the box-office list is another sequel, Bruno. Oh, please, don’t try to convince me it’s not a sequel. Trust me, I’ve seen it, and it may be a different character from the mind of Sacha Baron Cohen, but it’s a sequel to his very original 2006 hit Borat, only not as funny. People will believe they’re living dangerously by seeing an original film, but they’re just seeing another sequel.

On July 15, the three sequels will cower under the sequel power of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It easily could wind up being the biggest movie of the summer, although the Transformers sequel is giving it a run for its money ($600 million worldwide, and counting).

With sequel fever infecting the multiplex, it was inevitable that I would catch the fever. It also was inevitable that I would write a column about it. That’s what I do. I’ve been pondering the subject of sequels, and I’ve come up with a couple of lists for you to peruse. Feel free to disagree with me.

Barry Koltnow / The Orange County Register (MCT)

 

BEST SEQUELS EVER MADE (They did it for the art, and the money)

1. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Francis Ford Coppola and I have argued over this movie (he insists that it’s better than the 1972 original; I say it’s a close second), but there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best movies ever made, so it certainly deserves this recognition.

by PopMatters Staff

13 Jul 2009

Forro in the Dark
Light a Candle
(Nat Geo Music)
Releasing: 29 September 2009

The Brazilian New Yorkers return with a new record this fall, the songs having been honed during their intense weekly gig at Nublu in NYC. Light a Candle will feature guest appearances from singer-songwriter Jesse Harris, as well as Sabina Sciubba, the frontwoman of Brazilian Girls, another NYC-based band with roots in Brazilian music.

SONG LIST
01 Bandinha
02 Saudades de Manezinho Araujo
03 Nonsensical
04 Better Than You
05 Baiao Embolado
06 Perro Loco
07 Lilou
08 Silence Is Golden
09 Anao de Jardim
10 Lampiao Chegou
11 Caipirinha
12 Forro de Dois Amigos
13 Just Like Every Other Night

Forro in the Dark
“Perro Loco” [MP3]
     

by Rob Horning

13 Jul 2009

I’m generally skeptical about proclamations of the “new frugality,” because I’m not convinced that we know what to do with ourselves if we are not shopping. Consumerism, as an end in itself, has infiltrated most activities, sapping away their intrinsic appeal and making them seem reliant on consumerism, rather than vice versa. Deliberate frugality has a certain novelty appeal, but when that wears off, it will probably feel like privation, not sane living within reasonable limits.

But when viewed through the lens of economic data as opposed to the requirements of consumerist ideology, the potential for frugality looks quite different. In this paper (pdf, via DeLong) economists Christopher D. Carroll and Jiri Slacalek claim that the consumerism party is over:

our best guess (illustrated below by forecasts from a simple
model) is that the drop in overall consumption spending will not be speedily reversed; indeed, we project that the saving rate will rise a bit further from current levels before stabilizing somewhere not far below the saving rates that prevailed before the era of financial iberalization that started in the late 1970s. But we would not be greatly surprised if the saving rate ultimately rises even more than in our most extreme projection. In answer to the question in our title, our view is that American consumers are not merely resting from their former role as the world’s champion consumers, they are permanently reforming their spending patterns, in response to the end of the period of ever-more-available credit that fueled the unsustainably high spending of recent years.

For them, the key factor in the advance of consumerism has been credit availability; implicit in their argument is the idea that consumerist ideoogy flows from such factors—the credit is there, and then its abuse is rationalized by a consumerist ideology. Perhaps. But should we expect a painful lag as the new base economic situation gives birth to a new consumer mentality? Won’t we fight this sudden need to save, having been trained to neglect it? Or is the economic crisis truly traumatizing the spender in us, obliterating it?

Gluskin Sheff analyst David Rosenberg, who was right about so much of what happened in the housing market, argues (pdf) that the American economy had a “consumption bubble,” which now makes an actual “era of frugality” inevitable. As he puts it, “Getting small is the new trend,” but that seems a bit misleading. He doesn’t make the case that people are excited about consuming less. His argument relies more on the fact that Americans accumulated so much stuff during the past decade of consumer credit expansion.

what makes this downturn different and more troublesome than its predecessors is the downside potential for consumer discretionary spending. The level of non-housing durable goods assets on household balance sheets—even after adjusting for the increase in the population and inflation, so we are looking at the ownership of “stuff”—is almost 20% higher today than it was during the last consumer recession in 1990-91 and 40% higher than the consumer recession of the early 1980s.

People have a lot more stuff now, as we speak, so presumably they will find it much easier to maintain a lower level of consumer spending going forward. But that assumes that people were buying stuff because of the stuff, and not for the thrill of the buying—the rituals of shopping, which culminate in acquisition but then must be started anew to provide the same satisfactions. The stuff we already own is sort of pointless in that respect; what the recession perhaps will do is reacquaint us with the pleasures available in the stuff we have already amassed. Maybe we will set about romanticizing the thrill of discovery in our own closets rather than in retail world. But for all that stories about the joys of frugality, I’m not convinced this is actually happening. It still seems that saving is regarded as “painful” and that increased spending will be regarded as a return to health, both for individuals and for the macroeconomic picture.

by Matt Mazur

13 Jul 2009

An excellent little hybrid of noir, thriller, and war-time espionage, Flame & Citron follows two hit men’s journey through Nazi-occupied Denmark. Viva le resistance! Drawing many a comparison to Melville’s Army of Shadows, the film opens July 31st in New York at the Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, and will gradually roll out nationally August 14th. Flame & Citron will also be available On Demand July 29th.

by PopMatters Staff

13 Jul 2009

Our Lady Peace
Burn Burn
(Sony/Warner)
Releasing: 21 July 2009 (US)

SONG LIST
1. All You Did Was Save My Life
2. Dreamland
3. Monkey Brains
4. The End Is Where We Begin
5. Escape Artist
6. Refuge
7. Never Get Over You
8. White Flags
9. Signs of Life
10. Paper Moon
11. Time Bomb (* Deluxe Only)
12. The Right Stuff (* Deluxe Only)

DVD (* Deluxe Only):
All You Did Was Save My Life (* Live in Studio)
Dreamland (* Live in Studio)
Monkey Brains (* Live in Studio)
Never Get Over You (* Live in Studio)
Refuge (* Live in Studio)
The Right Stuff (* Live in Studio)
All You Did Was Save My Life (Music Video)
The Right Stuff (Music Video)

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