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by Daniel Ferm

6 Jul 2007

Comedian Patton Oswalt’s career has reached celebrity status, but his comedic presence has not waned. His most famous roles consist of Spence Olchin on The King of Queens and Rémy in the new animated feature Ratatouille. As a comedian, he started the Comedians of Comedy tours and Comedy Central series, bringing together comics such as Brian Posehn, Zack Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, and himself. On July 10th, 2007, Patton will be releasing his second comedy album, Werewolves and Lollipops.

Link to a track off his new CD: The Dukes of Hazzard

Appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien:

by Rachel Smucker

6 Jul 2007

American Photo
July/August 2007, 93 pages, $4.99 USD

By Rachel Smucker

Upon reading American Photo, I have, like the little kid who wants to be a lion tamer after going to the circus, pledged to buy myself a Polaroid camera and get to shooting. Or, perhaps I should look into the 2007 Editor’s Choice Canon EOS-1D Mark III D-SLR, if this is going to be my new career. I can’t wait to use its special stealth mode when I’m taking pictures of squirrels in their natural habitats!

But really—American Photo’s simple layout and easy-to-read charts will have even the most novice photographer drooling. The “Editor’s Choice 2007” feature takes up most of the magazine, but not without good cause. It is divided into categories of cameras and camera-related accessories, creating top-10 lists and including essential facts like price, special features, and advantages over similar products.

From camera cellphones to professional digital single-lens reflex cameras (D-SLRs) to imaging software, American Photo picks out the best of the best for every kind of photographer. Though there is one very high-priced camera in the magazine that would appeal to only professionals (the $32,000 Hasselblad H3D-39), most of the other cameras are just under four digits, and reasonably priced for serious photographers.

by Bill Gibron

5 Jul 2007

It’s overwhelmingly oppressive, and there’s no relief in sight. No, we’re not talking about the blistering July heat. We’re discussing the absolute dearth of entertainment options available for the interested audience member. Tinsel Town has a few more juicy bon mots waiting in the wings – including a beloved wizard whose fifth film opens one week from today (13 July) – and the basic broadcast networks are regurgitating old reality show faves (Big Brother) to spark excitement. But unless you missed most of last year’s popcorn movie season, the selections provided by the premium pay channels will feel like a severe case of redux déjà vu. Indeed, Saturday night will feel like August 2006 all over again what with the choices offered. Still, there’s some value here, especially the somewhat forced funny business of the SE&L selection. Indeed, you could do a lot worse for your 7 July jollies:

Premiere Pick
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

There was a time there when supposed funnyman Will Ferrell was in danger of dropping far down the list of Hollywood humorists. After a very shaky start in cinema (A Night at the Roxbury, anyone?), the trifecta of Old School/Elf/Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy substantially shifted his big screen fortunes. But then bad script choices (Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched) threatened to unseat him once again. Turning to Burgundy’s creative team of Adam McKay (writer/director) and Judd Apatow (producer), he twisted the current fixations of NASCAR nation into a sly take on racing and the sport’s beer belly bravado. The result was a solid summer 2006 hit, a box office bonanza additionally aided by the appearance - and supporting performance - of soon to be Borat phenom Sacha Baron Cohen. Sure, some of the jokes are dumb and/or dopey, but the Method madness to the creation of this fictional hero is so detailed that you sometimes forget you are watching fiction – or Will Ferrell. (07 July, Starz, 9PM EST)

Additional Choices
The Devil Wears Prada

Every season, a movie sneaks under the pre-hype radar and illustrates the truth about what audiences really want. In this case, they apparently required a witty, acerbic take on haughty New York couture featuring a fresh faced newcomer and a grand dame diva of the acting trade. And that’s actually what this undeniably charming movie delivered, much to their delight. (07 July, HBO, 8PM EST)

Miami Vice

You’ve got to give Michael Mann points for trying. Who else would take the important iconic elements of their own mid ‘80s TV series – pastel colors, fashion plate cool - and strip them away for a big screen revamp? Granted, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx may be enough human eye candy for the neo-nostalgic audiences, but somehow, this is more South Florida Heat than an update of Crockett and Tubbs. (07 July, Cinemax, 10PM EST)


An American Haunting

It was advertised as the only true case of a ghost ever killing a man, and for a while, the trade paper ruse worked. Then viewers discovered that the storyline was set in the early 1800’s, and was based on that most unreliable of evidence – the anecdotal kind. And even then, the filmmakers still screwed it up. A powerhouse cast is wasted on a paltry PG-13 spook show. (07 July, ShowTOO, 9:50PM EST)

Indie Pick
Incident at Loch Ness

With his latest fiction film – Rescue Dawn – about to hit theaters, this oddball mock doc from 2004 gives fans and the unfamiliar a chance to see another, more satiric side of famed German auteur Werner Herzog. As a favor to neighbor Zak Penn (A-list Hollywood scribe and self promoter), the director lent his considerable cult of personality to a semi-success spoof about ego, excuses and exploration. Together, Penn and Herzog play themselves, and head out on an expedition to discover the secrets inside Scotland’s most famous lake. In between are staged conversations and conflict, lots of self deprecating humor, and an ending that doesn’t really satisfy. In fact, this is a frequently one note vanity project that trades on Herzog’s calculated cool to appear more substantive and sharp than it really is. Still, with his seductive German accent and well-earned gravitas, it’s always fun to see this Teutonic titan in action – even if the results are rather routine. (10 July, IFC, 2:25PM EST)

Additional Choices

Vampires don’t get a lot of cinematic respect. Whatever made solid stars of these bloodsucking members of the undead community has long since dissolved into pools of pointlessness and stereotypical slop. So it’s a relief to champion something different within the neckbiter genre, and this amiable indie effort from 1996 is just that. It’s disturbing, sexy, and most importantly, quite original. (08 July, IFC, 10:35PM EST)


When one thinks of the ‘60s, certain concepts instantly come to mind – The Beatles, free love, flower power, and the agricultural egalitarianism of the shared living community. In this fascinating documentary, writer/director Jonathan Berman explores the real life Black Bear Ranch, and how it was centered more on philosophy than fornication. Indeed, it remains a perfect depiction of the real counterculture.  (09 July, Sundance Channel, 9PM EST)

Fearless Freaks – The Flaming Lips

They’ve been around since 1983, and yet like their brothers in sonic arms, Guided by Voices, The Flaming Lips continuously fall outside the mainstream music scene. Hoping to increase their popular profile, filmmaker Bradley Beesley went about creating a documentary focusing on founder Wayne Coyne, and the dichotomy between his rock and roll and real life personas. It makes for fascinating viewing. (11 July, Sundance Channel, 10PM EST)

Outsider Option
Barton Fink

The Coen Brothers stunned audiences at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival with this brilliant deconstruction of Hollywood hack commercialism and writer’s block. They won the Golden Palm (the highest honor) while Joel earned the best director nod. Even star John Turturro picked up praise – and an award – for his brilliant turn as the title character. Playing a self-important New York playwright whisked off to Tinsel Town to act as patsy to the standard studio merchandising machine (his charge – write wrestling pictures), Fink finds himself locked up in a decrepit hotel, visited frequently by his loud, lumbering next door neighbor (an equally genius turn by co-star John Goodman). When the inability to create becomes too overbearing, he tries to tap fellow scribe W. P. Mayhew for help. He soon learns that a life in service of schlock can kill you – literally. Among their many masterworks, this is one of the siblings most symbolic – and satisfying. (11 July, Indieplex, 7PM EST)

Additional Choices
Curse of the Demon

Symbolism is everything in horror. Give the audience good ghouls and you’ll win them over (almost) every time. Night of the Demon (the original title before a Tinsel Town reedit) offers a floating devil head that is still creepy fifty years later. The rest of the movie is fairly ordinary, but that disembodied fiend will haunt your nightmares for years to come. (6 July, TCM Underground, 2AM EST)

Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cover

How desperate is the slasher film, and those who make them, to rely on a zombie pirate to provide their slice and dice delights? And how derivative is an undead buccaneer, considering the entire plot of the initial Curse of the Black Pearl installment of Disney’s blockbuster franchise? Who knows, and with something this potentially cheesy, who cares? Here’s hoping it’s so bad, it’s good, instead of just plain awful. (08 July, Sci Fi Channel, 3AM EST)

American Gothic

This long forgotten cult creepfest deserves to be rediscovered. It has Oscar winner Rod Steiger and former Munster Yvonne DeCarlo chewing up the scenery as a sinister couple, and an unsettling premise about a backwards/woods family who don’t take kindly to strangers. So naturally, a group of misguided travelers land on their doorstep. Eep! (11 July, Drive-In Classics Canada, 7:15PM EST)


by Jason Gross

5 Jul 2007

A friend of mine who works for an indie label once said “when artists are ready to pack up and out their albums, book their own tours and do all of their own marketing, then we can start worrying about our jobs.”  He was being facetious of course, thinking that most artists didn’t want to do this dirty work and instead concentrate on their craft.  To some extent he’s right but with other promo opportunities available, this might not be such a far-fetched idea anymore.

by Rob Horning

5 Jul 2007

Is Islamic terrorism an expression of class struggle? Or, in other words, is it a consequence of the deprivation that comes from disparities of income and the injustice that derives from systematic exploitation? Is it merely a religious expression of proletarian discontent? In his Capital column in today’s WSJ, David Wessel takes a look at the research Princeton economist Alan Krueger has done on the closely related question of terrorism’s relationship to poverty levels.

“As a group, terrorists are better educated and from wealthier families than the typical person in the same age group in the societies from which they originate,” Mr. Krueger said at the London School of Economics last year in a lecture soon to be published as a book, “What Makes a Terrorist?”
“There is no evidence of a general tendency for impoverished or uneducated people to be more likely to support terrorism or join terrorist organizations than their higher-income, better-educated countrymen,” he said. The Sept. 11 attackers were relatively well-off men from a rich country, Saudi Arabia….
“The evidence is nearly unanimous in rejecting either material deprivation or inadequate education as an important cause of support for terrorism or of participation in terrorist activities,” Mr. Krueger asserts. The 9/11 Commission stated flatly: Terrorism is not caused by poverty.
So what is the cause? Suppression of civil liberties and political rights, Mr. Krueger hypothesizes. “When nonviolent means of protest are curtailed,” he says, “malcontents appear to be more likely to turn to terrorist tactics.”

This line of inquiry reminded me of some of the issues at stake in Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. (I expended so much mental energy trying to extract coherent ideas from that dense thicket of opaque abstraction that I’ll grasp at any occasion to make reference to it now.) Looking at the Marxist tenet that the working class has a unique interest in socialism, they argue that politics may not necessarily spring from economic interests—that the politics and the ideology supporting them may develop independently, that they are contingent and constructed ad hoc by discursive practices at any given moment. (In some ways this is an elaborate way of making Frank Luntz’s or George Lakoff’s point about framing. Carefully crafted language can shape the debate surrounding issues in ways that influence people regardless of what their economic interests dictates they should believe.) Hence demagogues or interloping intellectuals can attempt to contrive a unified movement around basically any idea that generates a reaction, that seems to address sources of discontent, which themselves may be recharacterized in various ways by a skilled rhetorician.

If politics, when separated via language and identity-construction issues from economic grievances, indicates the possibility of the “radical democracy” Mouffe and Laclau theorize, then terrorism detached from economic misery may not be an symptom of the lack of democratic values, as Krueger and Wessel suggest in the article, but may instead be a twisted expression of them, a misguided belief that the “people’s will” is being implemented directly rather than through institutional change, whether it be revolutionary or incremental. The idea that politics is merely a matter of discourse, of momentary tactics of garnering attention and magnetizing eyeballs, opens it to the conceivable possibility that it can be shifted dramatically not by building up awareness of class struggle, formalizing class unity, intensifying the contradictions inherent in the relations of production and so on—working with a theorized praxis backed by a historical analysis—but instead through sudden irrational interventions, terrorist acts designed to assign a different valence to governing notions in circulation. Such a theory of “radical democracy” may make desperate acts seem credible and efficacious. If you rule out subjects in history and plausibel ends such subject may have, then terrorism—a means with no achievable end—seems a reasonable political practice.

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