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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007
Interview

Interview
July 2007, 104 pages, $3.50 USD


By Rachel Smucker


At first, I wasn’t sure why Interview doesn’t get more media spotlight. It’s made up of some brilliant elements: celebrity-on-celebrity interviews, stunning candid photographs, thick, turnable pages. Even the advertisements are tasteful. So what’s preventing Interview from becoming the next Rolling Stone?


Think of it from a chemist’s point of view—you need a catalyst. An enzyme, if you will. After reading the too-comfy interview between Daniel Craig and longtime friend and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood, I realized that what Interview lacked was enzymes, so to speak. I almost missed the awkward, patience-trying interviewing techniques of amateur journalists, desperate to get a reaction and a good story (though I am sure Daniel Craig did not). I can’t help but think of a brief interview with Colin Farrell I once read in an issue of the women’s magazine Jane: a couple of jokes were made, and bam! Less than a page long, the interview was over, and I came out with the priceless knowledge never to joke about relationship status with Colin Farrell. Yikes.


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Thursday, Jul 19, 2007

Alternative rock legends The Smashing Pumpkins have intrigued audiences for years. Their distinct brand of music, combining elements of almost every kind of rock, has achieved critical acclaim and garnered them success. By 2000, the band broke up, leaving little hope for a reunion. Fortunately, in 2006, the band officially announced their reunion and their goal to record a new album. Zeitgeist was released July 10, 2007.


Tarantula from Zeitgeist:



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Wednesday, Jul 18, 2007


No one in Hollywood ever went broke underestimating the entertainment taste of the American public. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is proof of such a sentiment. Geared directly toward the lowest common denominator, with occasional side treks into PC-lite pronouncements of tolerance and acceptance, this is comedy as callous homophobia, a movie constantly having to apologize to the audience for its crass, crude approach to its poorly chosen subject matter. In a current social climate where same sex marriage has been bandied about as a powerful political and pundit tool, to treat the issue as the basis for a frat house level of funny business is disturbing. But then to watch as the plot purposefully backtracks in order to make amends for such lampoon-based insensitivity is disingenuous at best.


You see, this gay marriage movie isn’t really ready to deal with the overriding disputes that arise whenever civil rights and civil unions become part of the human dialogue. Indeed, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry wants to avoid the conversation all together. That’s probably because the premise is so preposterous – more on this in a moment – the film realized it couldn’t make a solid, sincere satire out of the whole comedians as a couple scenario. So the script – written by Oscar winners Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, along with Barry Farno – more or less balks, piling on the overt stereotypes and statements of support in an attempt to keep the easily fooled fanbase at bay. There will be people who love this film and never once think about exactly what they are laughing at. And as long as the creators can keep such up cinematic stealth, everyone will feel vindicated.


But there are holes the size of Christian bigotry all throughout this scattershot story. In order to guarantee that his kids receive his fireman’s pension, decent dude Larry Valentine (an acceptable Kevin James) asks his best friend and noted man whore Chuck Levine (an old looking Adam Sandler) for a favor. Seems if they can establish a believable domestic partnership, the benefits will inure to Chuck, who will gladly turn them over to Larry’s motherless wee ones. All they have to do is convince the City of New York and its crafty, cartoonish investigator (a weirdly arch Steve Buscemi). Calling in the services of sexy attorney Alex Donough (a very good Jessica Biel), the boys hope to bamboozle everyone. Unfortunately, Chuck’s uncontrollable heterosexuality has him lusting after the lawyer, and their ruse, in general, is causing a lot of complicated feelings among their friends and co-workers. If they tell the truth, however, they are looking at long stints in jail for fraud.


The first major fallacy this movie manipulates is that Larry is such a grief-stricken lunkhead (his wife has been dead three years) that his far too clever central casting children - one’s a whiz, the other is a Broadway loving wuss – would be the last thing on his mind. In essence, what I Now Pronounce You wants us to believe is that our heartbroken hero wouldn’t have immediately looked into securing their future. Instead, he has moped around to the point where his application time limits have run out. Even more perplexing is the solution – pretending to be gay. No one is suggesting that Sandler or James are playing geniuses, but even the most feeble minded of village idiots would have thought this plan out a little more thoroughly. Okay, so they fool the city. The government approves their partnership and Chuck is now the appointed beneficiary. They can’t go back to their regular lives now, can they? The first time Sandler’s sex addicted lothario bags another collection of Hooter’s Girls, the jig will be up.


Even worse, the narrative never understands this. Instead, the storyline just keeps stumbling along, waiting for the inevitable moment when an ending will be required. It drifts over into toilet humor (the guys save an obese man from a burning building, and he repays Sandler in particular by farting in his face), high drama (lots of close calls on fire calls) goofy ‘girl power’ montages (Sandler and Biel go ‘shopping’ as a Cyndi Lauper standard bops in the background), and sequences of insincere soap boxing. When confronted by a group of Pro-God gay bashers, Chuck decides to take matters into his own hands…make that fists. He punches the preacher out. Similarly, when asked to an AIDS awareness ball, we anticipate the moment when either lead lets loose with an ersatz hilarious harangue about homosexuals in general. Instead, the script lets the gay party members do it themselves, expressing the kind of archetypal swishery that your average ‘Amurican’ thinks constitutes queer behavior.


Yet perhaps the biggest humor as hate crime committed comes at the expense of usually reliable actor Ving Rhames. Initially viewed by his fellow firefighters as an angry serial killer type, Chuck and Larry’s union brings out the Minnelli in the man, and before you know it, the African American icon once known as Marcellus Wallace is wishing those hillbilly rapists would make a return. He goes from tough to touchy, mincing like a Food Channel chef preparing a delicate bisque. All of this is supposed to play as liberating and empowering, but when a butt naked Rhames is wiggling his ass in an extended “don’t drop the soap’ shower gag, it’s all too much. He, and the character of Biel’s out and proud brother played with far too much ‘fabulousness’ by Nick Swardson, are merely distractions, means of easy laughs at the expense of several decades of prejudice and perception. Instead of concentrating on the relationship between James and Sandler, how the cad makes the depressed dad appreciate his kids while the family man forces the man skank into appreciating the notion of commitment, we wind up with malapropisms about the male anatomy.


And then we come to the finale. As part of some Tinsel Town mandate regarding all hot button issues, our heroes status as a gay couple is challenged in a courtroom setting – in this case, a hearing in front of the City Council. As Buscemi tries everything he can to con a confession out of his witnesses, we can literally observe the moment when the screenplay shifts over from white pages to last minute rewritten colored ones. It’s as if director Dennis Dugan (who helmed Sandler’s Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy) realized at that instant that the narrative was indeed painting itself into a corner that no normal contrivance could free it from. So what did these highly paid hacks come up with? Why, that standard of any ‘issue’ movie – the self-righteous, sanctimonious speech. And just to make sure we got it, several other characters are allowed to wax poetic to save their pals’ kiesters. While the movie tries to mess up the formulaic follow through that usually results after such overdone oration, we’ve long since given up hope of anything original or novel happening here.


Last year, A&E released a lovely little TV movie about same sex marriage and strange political bedfellows entitled Wedding Wars. It featured James Brolin as a pandering politician and John Stamos as a gay activist helping to plan the Governor’s daughter’s nuptials. While it suffered from some pie in the sky fantasizing about a world where homosexual rights would eventually be respected (if not implemented), it was funnier, more emotional, and far more convincing than this flailing, forced farce.  I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is not as hilarious as it thinks it is, profound as it pretends to be, or tolerant as it intends. Yet none of this will matter to the throngs who only think of film as a way to waste two hours. For them, this crackerjack comedy will allow them to remain bigoted and have a belly laugh or two.  And Hollywood scores another monetary hash mark in the category of knowing audience underestimation. 


 


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Wednesday, Jul 18, 2007

When in doubt, bring on the vampires. That is, if you can’t do zombies. That’s the advice which prospective young authors should take from last week’s news that Ballantine was slapping down a cool $3.75 million for the North American rights to a postapocalyptic vampire trilogy. The author is one Justin Cronin, who’s won a passel of awards (like the PEN/Hemmingway) for previous books, neither of which seem to have anything in common with the genre-busting, megaplex-ready trilogy that he’s now indebted to produce. According to New York magazine, there’s good buzz—but that could just mean a couple of agents like the thing (one of whom is quoted as gushing, “Usually I hate this stuff, and I love it!”).


One has to wonder, though, given Cronin’s relatively tony pedigree, whether this development could auger a slew of New Yorker-worthy writers giving up their post-ironic depictions of collapsing marriages and damaged relationships for the wide-open fields of genre. After all, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy have already made the crossover. Just think of the possibilities: Ian McEwan’s lesbian vampire hunters! Khaled Hosseini’s teenage zombie massacre (in Kabul)! Gunter Grass’s alternate universe World War II manga series! And Sven Birkerts could launch his own space opera series in which bookish aliens descend upon Earth and threaten the species with extinction unless we learn to appreciate libraries more.


It’s a thought…


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Wednesday, Jul 18, 2007

Slashdot notes a new service where users can pay to have certain songs re-written the way they like.  While the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Springsteen and U2 haven’t signed up to offer their tunes as such yet, it’s still an intriguing idea and maybe a wave of the future- a new way for musicians to get income if they don’t mind their songs being tinkered with.  Surely to some musicians, their work is sacrosanct and they wouldn’t dream of such a thing but for plenty of other songwriters, bands and musicians, this might be an income stream.


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