Kon-Tiki (1950), Thor Heyerdahl, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, November 28th, 2005

My only complaint is that this movie is way too short at 74 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I need a lot more bearded, half-naked, Norwegian sailing-man action. Actually, an interesting study — in that Heyerdahl’s book goes into so much more fascinating detail (as books normally do) but there is something about seeing actual documentary footage that makes the story more real. When you see the actual Kon-Tiki craft — basically a bunch of logs bobbing up and down in the middle of the Pacific — and think that these men lived on it for 101 days. . .it is all quite striking. Thor Heyerdahl rules and this is the only Norwegian film ever to win an Oscar.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (1977), Anthony Page, C

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, November 28th, 2005

Or: The Batshit Teenager Is Batshit But Decides To Get Better In The Last Reel. I have no doubt this is a good book. You can almost kinda tell from the movie. The movie is an outright disaster of exploitative horror. I rate it as high as I do because of the many over-the-top “Shock Corridor” scenes. The talk therapy scenes between young Kathleen Quinlan and Bibi Andersson are facile and the fantasy sequences are vapid. However, the meat of the film (and, I have a hunch, not so much the book — this is a Roger Corman production) is simply a catalogue of crazy house horrors the likes of which makes “One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest” look like a trip to Club Med. (Call this Club Meds, perhaps.) Anyay, there is screaming screaming screaming and arm-burning and wide-eyed head-bashing and babbling galore! It is awesome! (How young Kathleen always manages to look calm and clean when she’s with the therapist isn’t explained, though. Actually, not much is explained. I kinda had to learn the basic plot of the movie by reading a Wikipedia article on the book.) So, for camp reasons, yes, I strongly recommend this movie. For an actual, gripping story about emotionally challenged stick with David and Lisa or Ordinary People, as this is, I admit, a hunk of turd.

Papa’s Empanadas of Steinway

Jordan | Out & About | Sunday, November 27th, 2005

You know that dream you always have about discovering a separate wing of your apartment and you wonder, Why do I never hang out here? That’s how I feel about the stretch of Steinway between 30th Ave and Astoria Blvd. It is opposite the direction of the subway and, as a result, I never go there.

Well, I used to never go there. Now I will go there more than a probably should, specifically to hang out at Papa’s Empanadas, the greatest empanada shop on Earth.

With 40 or so styles of Empanadas (we *almost* got the Elvis Empanada, banana and peanut butter) there’ll be plenty of excuses to go back.

I had a pollo, pernil (chopped, marinated pork) and a Hawaiian Empanada featuring melted cheese, ham and pineapple. Ann had a beef and an Athenian Empanada featuring spinach and feta. They’re like a buck or a buck and a quarter a piece.

Empanadas don’t really photograph well, but here are some shots. The owner also gave us free rice pudding.

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Three Portraits of Goober

Jordan | Goober | Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Goober in Hard Light:

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Goober At His Wash Station:

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Goober Preparing For Bed:

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Yes, I Guess I Am That Immature

Jordan | E-motions | Saturday, November 26th, 2005

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What, I’m not going to giggle at this?

From a book of coupons we got last week when we were running around Chinatown. (Incidentally, the small but worthy Museum of Chinese in the Americas is deserving a quick pop-in if you are down there.)

Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Woody Allen, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, November 25th, 2005

When this first came out I thought it was very funny, yes, but I kinda wrote it off as a piece of fluff. There actually is some meat here — and it ends very, very darkly. One could even say this is a tragedy. Much like Woody’s Melinda and Melinda, one could go the serious route on the themes of this picture. Is great art worth more than a human life? Are we attracted to artists solely for their art? Is it wrong for someone who aspires to make art, but lacks the talent, to give up if it makes him happy? The cast here is perfect. Which of the three women are funniest? Dianne Wieist, Jennifer Tilly or Tracy Ullman. Even though Ullman isn’t in it much, she steals every scene.

Julia (1977), Fred Zinnemann, C-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, November 25th, 2005

Very watchable and very beautiful but, at the end of the day, pretty lame. The first half features Jane Fonda as a troubled young Lillian Hellmann (look at her type! look at her smoke! look at her brood as she walks on the beach!) and the second half is a spy thriller. The spy thriller is similar to Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal mostly because it is a steady, slow-burn procedural. But then it hits you — it is all so proposterous. Fonda is smuggling something into Nazi Germany, and she has all these helpers along the way, guiding her from the train to the cafe and back. Why the hell didn’t these helpers just do it themselves? There’s one woman who is literally with her for almost every step of her journey! It’s very dramatic, but completely ridiculous! Then the movie gets all emotional at the end and, while I admit I liked the sets and locations, I could give two shits for any of the characters. How this won so many awards is beyond me.

They Hate Us For Our Freedom!!

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Friday, November 25th, 2005

The greatest video in the world is right here. Click if you want to see a bunch of assholes trample each other to buy crap at Wal-Mart at 5 AM the day after Thanksgiving. And then blame the store for not protecting them. God Bless America and The Sanctity of Jesus’ Birthday!!!!!

The Sheltering Sky (1990), Bernardo Bertolucci, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Maybe I am lucky because I haven’t read the book. Most reviews scream and yell that the book is unfilmable, but from my uninitiated perspective, I found this to be pretty frickin incredible. Beyond beautiful cinematography (what sacrifice to Satan exactly was it that Vittorio Storaro had to do to get all his films so breathtaking?) and score and performances and costumes bah bah bah bah. I also just dug the journey. Many internet critics complain there is no plot. I don’t know how you could say that. It is a big fat soap opera set among the most remarkable backdrop this side of Lawrence of Arabia. It’s funny, I have had the book on my shelf for about 10 years — I think now I’ll finally read it. When I do, who knows, maybe I’ll hate the movie like everyone else.

King Kong (1933), Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Great. But, I gotta admit, not quite as great as I remember. Fay Wray was one hot nonagenarian.

Stray Dog (1949), Akira Kurosawa, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Imagine an episode of “Law & Order,” but with really complex characters and heavy philosophical themes. And shot in a world that, according to the commentary track, really only existed for a few short years — the desperate black market underworld of “apres-guerre” Japan. Kurosawa’s camera becomes documentary-like, particularly in a splendid 8+ minute montage of stolen and candid shots through Tokyo’s mean streets. The story itself, a police procedural, is straightforward but juicy and good. The performances are terrific, particularly the mentor Takashi Shimura. I was certain I’d seen this movie before, but I hadn’t. Here I was, thinking I’d seen most of the important Kurosawa films already, and this comes a long. A real treat.

Madagascar (2005), Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

I usually really dig these mega-release family pictures loaded with snarky asides to the parents forced to bring their kids. And, indeed, I was enthralled by the first half hour. Seeing the Lion, Zebra, Hippo and (especially) Giraffe run around a surprisingly accurate New York City (Temple Emanu-El is in, like, 15 shots!) is a hoot and a half. Then, as we moved into act two, I started getting exhausted. And fidgety. The movie just became way to manic for me — and I got really anxious. I actually had to turn the DVD off for a few hours. It was a visceral reaction — too loud, too much slapstick, too much quick-cutting. Maybe I’m getting old. Y’know, I’m sure they didn’t mean it, but there is a remarkable philosophical undercurrent to this film about Nature/Nurture and, in a way, society reversing natural tendencies. (I mean, a Lion and a Zebra are friends?!) When Lion tries to eat Zebra, it actually made me a little sad. Not because I cared about the Zebra, but for the young kids going to see this movie having to face facts about the fallacy of fun anthropomorphized animals.

Ghost World (2001), Terry Zwigoff, A+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, November 21st, 2005

One of the all time best movies ever. So painful, so funny, so much fun to look at. The scene where Scarlett Johansson proudly displays her ironing board is one of the subtlest and most crushing emotional deaths you’ll ever see in a film. I ditto everything I wrote when I last watched the movie (link) and by now I’m at the point where I’m analyzing every cut. Enid’s at the bar, watching Seymour try to hit on the Blues Hammer fan, and she looks around at the yutzes in their uninspired clothes. She frowns. Then she sees herself, decked out like a flapper (or something) and frowns and takes off her hat and glasses and puts on her regular glasses. Does she see her flapper outfit as just another lame facade like the others around her? But her normal look is (to quote the drama major) “funkayyy” too. Does young Enid even have her own identity yet, or does she still define herself by what she is not? Also, could it be that we know to whom Enid gave her virginity? Is it the fat kid at the graduation party she’ll never see again? Is it the anti-Semite at the comic book shop? Is it (and I think it is) Josh? With characters this three dimensional it isn’t stupid to wonder such questions. It is a game you can play only when you encounter truly sublime art. I still don’t think I’ve seen Thora Birch in a movie since “Ghost World,” but this performance does rank in the highest echelon of cinematic acting.

Belated Mazel Tov!

Jordan | E-motions | Monday, November 21st, 2005

It’s about a week late, but Mazel Tov to Dr. Jurgen Fauth for landing a literary agent. It’s all downhill from here. Or so I am told.

Late November Photo Dump ’05

Jordan | Out & About | Monday, November 21st, 2005

You All Know Who You Are:

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What I Want For Chanukah This Year

Jordan | E-motions | Monday, November 21st, 2005

Is a Canadian Senior Citizen of my own. Been travelling with a busload of ‘em for two days and they are with-it, attentive, inquisitive and great tippers. O Canada!!!!!!!

Witches’ Hammer (1969), Otakar Vávra, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, November 18th, 2005

Mittel European witch trials in the late 1600s. Basically “The Crucible” with the focus on gorgeous B&W photography instead of clever dialogue. The most fascinating takeaway: the movie claims to lift much of the dialogue from actual transcripts. And, apparently, there were very distinct rules concerning torture back then. The accused could only suffer three thirty minute sessions per day, f’rinstance. If that doesn’t sound like Alberto Gonzales. . .

Zemsta (2002), Andrzej Wajda, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, November 18th, 2005

Droll farce about competing neighbors. Wajda keeps this a filmed play, asides to the audience and all. (Apparantly this 19th Century play is, to quote “To Be Or Not To Be,” world famous in Poland.) Roman Polanski portrays a hilariously impish coward playing both sides, reminding us that he really should act more. Severely hot Katarzyna Figura (age 40 during production) plays the buxom widow of everyone’s fancy. Alas, there may be one too many reversals of fortune and surprising reveals in the last half hour of this film. Still, funny.

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