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Tuesday, Jul 24, 2007

Consolidate This! YouTube takes over the Democratic debate.

As monolithic media corporations continue to gobble each other up, creating vast media empire likes Time Warner and NewsCorp, one may find themselves asking if the common man’s perspective matters anymore. Enter YouTube. The Internet has brought with it a democratic process of the direct participation, which hasn’t been seen since the old-school Town Hall Meeting. The question is: How will the media adjust to accommodate this growing trend?


Much to my surprise, CNN actually had the balls produce an entire Democratic Debate comprised completely of questions submitted on YouTube by average Americans! Ringmaster Anderson Cooper did an excellent job of insisting the candidates answer the questions, and derided them each time they veered off into campaign rhetoric. This forced candidates to directly engage with the voters.


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Tuesday, Jul 24, 2007

Formed in 1989, Morphine created a unique sound rarely heard, “low rock.” This “low rock” sound consisted of Mark Sandman on the 2 string bass, Dana Colley on the baritone sax, and Billy Conway on drums. After releasing Cure for Pain in 1993, Morphine began to tour the world, beginning to achieve fame. In 1997, Dreamworks Records released the album Like Swimming, achieving success, but not enough to break into the American mainstream media. On July 3, 1999, Sandman collapsed on stage from a heart attack, and was soon pronounced dead, disbanding Morphine forever. Although the band stopped, their influence still lives on.


Live version of Cure for Pain:



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Monday, Jul 23, 2007


Hope you’ve been saving your money. Here’s praying that, during those weeks of downtime when SE&L couldn’t be bothered to mention the derivative DVD junk hitting your favorite B&M, you squirreled your available ducats away for a rainy entertainment day. The reason is simple – Hollywood is about to ‘make it rain’ at your favorite retailer, turning this Tuesday into a veritable nonstop spending spree. Among the seven titles mentioned below, other noteworthy offerings include The Host (South Korean monster movie), Raise the Red Lantern (reissue of Yimou Zhang epic), Les Enfants Terrible (the Meville masterwork) and Last Hurrah of Chivalry (one of two John Woo efforts). Indeed, finding a way to stretch that hard earned buck is going to take some serious consumer concentration (and consternation). Even the choices provided herein make 24 July a bank account draining day of digital infamy. At the very least, you have to pick up:


Zodiac


With David Fincher behind the lens and the most notorious unsolved serial killer case in California’s history in his sites, how could this film be bad? In fact, it wasn’t. It remains one of 2007’s best, a three part symphony of personal obsession, police procedural, and public pandemonium. After dispensing with the crimes early on, the man responsible for Se7en and Panic Room plays cat and mouse with the audience, daring them to decipher the seemingly clueless crimes along with the cops. We are also introduced to two sides of the same journalistic coin – a flamboyant beat reporter played brilliantly by Robert Downey, Jr. and a nerdy cartoonist with insight into the murderer. As essayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Graysmith (whose books formed the basis of the narrative) finds himself drawn to the investigation, and he almost loses himself in the process. A strong cinematic effort from a man noted for same, here’s hoping DVD revives this film’s fortunes. It didn’t thrive at the box office as it should have.

Other Titles of Interest


Hard Boiled


Of the two films that really cemented John Woo’s legacy among Western audiences (The Killer being the other), this tale of an undercover cop working with a no nonsense government agent to take down a ruthless mobster and his men is considered his best. Both balletic and brazen, showing violence as both glamorous and grotesque, it remains a definitive action thriller statement. This new Dragon Dynasty version should satisfy those longing for Criterion’s long OOP edition.

Ivan’s Childhood: The Criterion Collection


The debut film from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (who would later go on to helm Solaris), this straightforward story of a orphan boy who works as a messenger during the war is intriguing for the conflicting stances it takes. On one side, it seems to be aggressively anti-war. On the other, it’s clearly posited as pro-Soviet propaganda. No matter the meaning, Criterion cranks out another must-own foreign film classic.

The Monster Squad


Like those holy grail titles that keep messageboards and blog entries pumping for years, this coming of age horror comedy from the 1980s is finally finding its way onto the digital medium. Unforgettable only to those for whom this film was a vaunted VCR rite of passage, the story of a group of kids who interact with real life versions of classic Universal creatures has its moments. It’s more memory than memorable, however.

The Number 23


Jim Carrey gets all metaphysical on us as he essays the role of a morose public servant who becomes obsessed with a novel he swears is mimicking his life. Even worse, he discovers the Discordian ideology surrounding the title integer. Before we know it, Mr. Comedy is going bonkers and director Joel Schumacher is once again pushing the boundaries of believability. Some actually liked this mannered movie. Most didn’t.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


Tom Tykwer, best known for his amazing international hit Run, Lola Run, goes the way of the period piece to present a captivating tale about a young perfumer’s apprentice. His obsession with finding the perfect feminine smell leads to death and destruction. Stanley Kubrick once considered the story unfilmable. That Tykwer succeeds at all – and he does – bodes well for this surreal cinematic experience.


And Now for Something Completely Different
Renaissance


If you married Blade Runner to Sin City, and then let their motion picture offspring inbreed with the aid of a computer, this fascinating animated film from France would probably be its bastard seed. Novel in its visual style, yet wholly derivative in its narrative, this thinly disguised film noir is more private dick lit than full blown speculative fiction. Some of the sequences seem lifted directly out of the Fritz Lang German Expressionism playbook (think Metropolis as a pen and ink parable). Others mimic Ridley Scott’s sci-fi whodunit right down to the formulaic plot beats. Still, the film feels fresh, and the desire by director Christian Volckman to literally avoid any and all shades of gray gives the design a stunningly stark quality. In one of the rare cases where the English dub betters the original French soundtrack, this is a film that’s light on character and heavy on creativity. Luckily, the overpowering optical splendor employed here helps to overcome some of the storyline weaknesses.

 


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Monday, Jul 23, 2007

I reviewed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the Macleans.ca website today. After some discussion with my editor, we decided to run a spoiler-filled piece. There was a lot of debate about this in the office before and after we published. Arguments in favor of the spoiler review: We gave fair warning; no one will decide to read or not read the book based on my opinion of it; readers who haven’t finished the book aren’t reading reviews yet; and reviewing the book without revealing major plot points misses an opportunity to engage with readers who have reached the end. Arguments against: a review without spoilers can say just as much as a review with; people may go to the page and accidentally see something they don’t want to; spreading word about what happens allows jerks the opportunity to ruin it for friends.


Did we make the right move?


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Monday, Jul 23, 2007

Everyone at the airport had extra baggage with them this weekend, namely the 750-odd-page hardcover Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Some readers had just started, others seemed to be over halfway through already, their faces a mask of exhaustion and anticipation. If it seemed like a race, that’s because it was. The point was to finish the book as fast as humanly possible before the ending or any major plot points were ruined by the professional spoilers who were eagerly posting pages on the Internet and spreading the word as fast as possible. (Anecdotal evidence points to adolescent kids, the same kind who like to tell their younger classmates that Santa Claus doesn’t exist—when, that is, they take a second from pulling the wings off flies—shouting out plot spoilers at the midnight release parties.) In some sense, it wasn’t necessary, as most all the rumors floated before the books went on sale turned out not to be actual spoilers but just snarky guesses. For some reason all this guesswork was deemed grand entertainment by many, including the irritating pair of fellow travelers sitting near me who demanded to know, “Who dies?!”


In any case, the weekend is over, the sales totals are still being counted and exclaimed over (8.3 million!), and the book is finished; what next but the hangover? As someone who has never quite felt comfortable with the term “guilty pleasure,” I do find that to be the term that came up in my mind time and again upon completion of each J. K. Rowling book, and now that I have closed the cover on the series as a whole and thought of the books that I could have read in the same time period, I can safely say: I think I wasted my time.


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