Alito Is Toast

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I can’t wait to see the Democrats get tough and stand together when Bush tries to get this Alito guy on the court. Wait. What? You’re kidding.

The Boys From Brazil (1978), Franklin J. Schaffner, C

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, January 30th, 2006

I figured that since this was based on a book by Ira Levin this would be fun in a “Stepford Wives” or “Rosemary’s Baby” way. It is not. It has some creepy moments, but it is too silly to take seriously, so why try to play it straight? This is a B movie, and if it was played B it would be a success. Laurence Olivier gives a performance almost as over the top as he does in “Khartoum” (the only time in history Charlton Heston has the furniture out-chewed on him.) I don’t know much about the real Simon Weisenthal but I know that Olivier’s kvetchy, annoying caricature is a disgrace to his memory.

Checkers Vs. Shithead

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Monday, January 30th, 2006

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Come take a look at the 100 greatest famous dogs.

Beware the Blue Goo!

Jordan | E-motions | Monday, January 30th, 2006

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We’ve recently gotten back in the habit of putting blue tablets back in our toilet. I used to do this for years, but recently fell off the wagon. I endorse it — it really makes the toilet a borderline pleasant looking object. (Dear Lord, can you believe we actually keep these things in our homes? A backyard privvy may’ve been more civilized in retrospect.)

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I used to think I was crazy, but I coulda sworn going blue could lead to more toilet stop-ups. Turns out I wasn’t the only one and, indeed, there is some hard science behind it.

Zabriskie Point (1970), Michelangelo Antonioni, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 29th, 2006

One of the most openly derided counter-culture 60s classics, I actually prefer this film to “Easy Rider,” “If…,” “Two-Lane Blacktop” and “Medium Cool.” (Though perhaps not “Le Weekend” or “Midnight Cowboy.”) It’s was too boring and arty to excite the intended psychedelic audience back in the day (I mean, shit, “2001: A Space Odyssey” at least has monkeys and space!) and straight audiences could neither get down with its anti-bourgeois sentiments (why destroy such a lovely soutwestern home??) or its extreme earnestness. Anyway, it’s heavy shit, yeah, and there were an awful lot of snickers in the Moving Image audience, both from hipsters and some 15 year old neighborhood girls who wandered in by mistake. The dialogue gets pretty awful at times (but, you know, people on a lot of drugs do talk funny. . .so it’s realism!) and the acting is dreadful. But it is all for real. I mean, the lead actor, the guy you never heard of, gave all of his money from this film to a commune and then robbed a bank. So, you know, this ain’t BS. Nearly every shot is gorgeous — the LA shots packed with signage, the stark naked desert stuff, the color-saturated sleek offices with nifty furniture or the Pink Floyd-enhanced explosions at the end. Dig, man, dig. I love every minute of this pretentious, awful film.

Stroszek (1977), Werner Herzog, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 29th, 2006

In my memory, this was one of the greatest films of all time. I still like it a great deal, but it wasn’t as antic as I remembered. Still, quite a great mix of character and location. Shag carpet, beer with pull tabs, fast talkin auctioneers, septuagenarians with shotguns. The souvenir stand at the end is just freaking fantastic.

The Knack. . .And How To Get It (1965), Richard Lester, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Fun. Soderbergh’s favorite film. Fun. A little sexist. Did I mention fun?

Naked Pictures of Famous People

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Sunday, January 29th, 2006

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Not as funny as “America: The Book,” but what is? I particularly liked the bit about Martha Stewart’s vagina and JFK’s anti-Semitic rants. The lost Gerry Ford tapes weren’t bad either.

The Odessa File (1974), Ronald Neame, C-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Jon Voight puts on a phony accent and runs around looking for Nazis. Stick with The Day of the Jackal or even The Dogs of War for a better Frederick Forsyth feeling.

The Stranger (1946), Orson Welles, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Nazis in Connecticut! “Shadow of a Doubt” redux, but with Edward G. Robinson instead of little kids. There are some nice touches, but it gets kinda sloppy toward the end.

Irréversible (2002), Gaspar Noé, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Oh, man, I really wanted to cry “bullshit!” on this film. I hated the first 40 minutes. Pretty much everything up to and including the notorious rape scene. I had already half-composed my “F” review. But stick with it. It isn’t all gimmick and style-over-substance. The characters do become rich and the extreme (and I mean extreme) violence becomes earned. A noble film, one that I am willing to defend in a coffehouse arguement as I am sure there are those out there ready to denounce this film not only as bad but as exploitative filth.

Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law (1974), Cliff Roquemore, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Rudy Ray Moore is a rhyming comedian/ladies man/kung-fu expert who runs befoul of “Lou Cipher.” Featuring pimp hats like you’ve never seen and exploding watermelon. Politically incorrect and hilarious.

Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World (2006), Albert Brooks, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, January 27th, 2006

I love Albert Brooks. Listening to him kvetch about the minutae of life is some of the funniest stuff you’ll ever see. This movie is small and stupid, but, man, did I laugh my ass off. Serious belly laughs. And the thing is — there’s hardly any jokes. It’s all situational, it’s all in Albert’s inflections, in his double takes, in his strange word choice. Not as good as his masterpiece “Modern Romance,” but a worthy addition to his canon. (And critics who say Albert pales next to Larry David is an idiot. Larry is angry, Albert is inconvenienced.)

Nike Ads Ain’t Pollution

Jordan | E-motions | Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I’m not one of those people to hang around the water cooler and talk about TV commercials. I hate TV commercials. I yell at my TV when it tries to sell me something. When it is particularly egregious I throw pillows. But the other day Ann and I saw this unusually long and beautiful Nike “Just Do It” ad which was, no joke, the most fantastic short film I’ve seen in months. It is a montage of athletes waking up early, looking miserable, beginning their work out, set to AC/DC’s “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.” It’ll probably run during a lot of sports (were Ann and I watching sports???) Check it out, it is sublime.

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004), Adam Curtis, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I’ve been consumed with this film. I can’t stop turning it around in my mind, arguing with it, agreeing with it, playing devil’s advocate. This in itself proves that it is a worthy film, whether or not it is “right.” About the content: the first two 60 minute segments show in great detail the rise of two very powerful cults. One: the current cabal of extreme Muslim fundamentalists, who for the first time are neither fighting for specific domestic goals, or focusing their violence against their own people who have strayed into decadence — rather they are attacking, vaguely, The West, with the intent of rallying their own populace into change. And two: the neo-conservative theorists who have allied themselves with Christian fundamentalists (even though most of the important neo-cons are Jews — something this film doesn’t point out, but I will) and jingoism in an effort, again, to change the nature of the American populace. The first hour of the film goes to great lengths to give the 60 year history of these two groups, their leaders (Said Qutb and Leo Strauss) and point out the eerie similarities. The second hour shows the two working together — in Afghanistan, fighting the Soviets. A little bit of a BS detector went off in my head when the film suggested that the military positioning of the US was not what led to the downfall of Communism. “It was a house of cards doomed to fail from internal corrosion” one talking head says. That may be true, but why was it so screwed up? I feel confident that one of the main reasons the Soviet system collapsed was that they were unable to spend their full energies on, you know, factories and grain, and had to get caught up in the arms race with the US. Had the US ignored the Soviet Union, they probably would have prospered. But this is all a maybe, and the arguements presented in the first two-thirds of the film are very plausible. The third hour is where the film kinda loses me. The dot-connecting of the film does its best to prove that Al Qaeda, the gigantic terrorist network, is actually a lie constructed by Bush administration. And they make a pretty good case. That Al Qaeda is not an organized mafia-like system, rather just a single idea that appeals to angry young Muslim men, is the thesis of this film. I say, Who cares? Catching Bush, Blair & Co. in another lie is hardly news. The trains in Madrid and the tube in London still blew up. Lone gunman or a conspiracy — hardly matters to the dead. Some will watch this film and call it left-wing propaganda. The first two-thirds certainly aren’t. They are remarkably fact based and fascinating. And amazing to watch — I can’t believe how much of this footage I’ve never seen before. The last segment does have a point of view, but I don’t know if it is specifically left-wing. By the end, I was left with a taste of overall nihilism in my mouth. The film seemed to be saying “everyone is corrupt.” Some good news: as recently as 1997 things were looking up in the Muslim world. Egypt and Algeria had overcome its own extremist element. (Remember all that fighting in Algeria — when the Algerians tried to democratically vote in a party that would then abolish democratic voting? Man, isn’t that a mindfuck?!!) Anyway, 9 years ago feels like a long time, but it isn’t. There’s hope yet. Keep and open mind and see this movie if you can. The film is very well put together, has remarkable footage and even is funny at times. Right now, the only way to see it is to download it, for free and legally, from the internet. Or have someone lend you their burned copy.

The New World (2005), Terrence Malick, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

A gorgeous, dreamlike meditation on the alchemy of cultures, landscapes and forbidden love. I was going to rate this an “A-” but I cannot deny that I came away wishing for a little more of a punch to the gut in terms of understanding the characters. I got that in Malick’s similar (on a formal level) “The Thin Red Line” and “Days of Heaven,” but not here. That being said, I was kinda so-so on “Thin Red Line” the first time I saw it. The second and third times I was convinced of its absolute genius. So who knows what I’ll say when I see the 3 hr cut on DVD? Some remarkable things about “The New World” — Even though there is very little dialogue, there are hardly any long takes. Cuts come at a furious rate, and there are very few sequences. Each shot is like its own little world, independent of the shot before and after it. When dozens of these are strung together it forms something that isn’t a sequence and isn’t a montage. . . and the heavy-duty voice over (which many critics have poo-pooed, but I’m cool with) just kinda spills over it. Far out. On a very prima facie level, there’s just a lot of images of a young Indian girl hopping in Nature, and a few dozen interchangable tribesmen and settlers. How did Malick know this would all come together? Better yet — how did he convince anyone to invest money in this film? And what did a shot list look like? “Day 15 — AM — Today we shoot walking through the trees and glancing at each other, then lunch?” I am in awe of this movie, but I’m not sure I connect with it totally. Ann Farrell, by the way, was over-the-moon for it, graded it at “A,” said it didn’t feel long at all and eagerly awaits the 3 hr cut.

H Gang Banger

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Donald Fagen’s new single “H Gang” is available for download on iTunes. I feel a little retarded spending 99 cents for a song I am going to buy when the CD comes out in May. But I just can’t wait until May to hear a new Donald Fagen song.

It’s terrific.

And, yes, I do have my tickets already for the show at the Beacon Theater. I’m in the front row of the cheap section — although at $53.50 a pop, that’s hardly a cheap section. I was gonna splurge for the $92 orchestra seats, but then I couldn’t afford to bring Ann. So now Ann gets to come with me. (Even though she hates Steely Dan. . .but I have a hunch she secretly is happy she is going, from a sociological point of view.)

Red Room. Over There

Jordan | Out & About | Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

This was the only worthy thing in the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. The current show, Gone Formalism, is a disaster. And the other thing (a 3-D “Don’t Tred on Me”) is idiotic.

However, this constructed space of oddness has an otherness and a negative capability that I found quite confounding and intriguing and . . .well. . .you know. . .

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