Month: December 2006

End of Year Spins

The last few days I find myself listening to the amusingly named CD “Naive and Sentimental Music” by John Adams. It’s three tracks consist of variegated styles — some quite “modern” and others just triumphant. Quite terrific stuff. Also: on frequent repeat: Shoot out the Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson. Definitely the best thing either of them ever did (and that’s saying a lot) this, too, is a collection of very different moods. “Man in Need” has a bouncy march tempo and fabulous harmonies; “Walking on a Wire” is absolutely heartbreaking and the title track ties with “Idiot Wind” as the greatest song ever recorded that manages to be both filled with tenderness and with rage. (And the guitar solos ain’t bad, either.) It’s less than 24 hours from the New Year’s Eve countdown. Anything peppy and party-like? I whipped out “Little Creatures” today as we cleaned the bathroom (still aching over all that inhaled bleach.) I’m going to make a bold statement. Of the 8 studio albums Talking Heads released, this is my least favorite. That doesn’t mean it is anything less than brilliant. I’ve always been particularly fond of “The Lady Don’t...

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The Way Things Go (1987), Peter Fischli and David Weiss, A

It’s 100 feet long and takes 30 minutes to get from one end to the other. And you spend most of your time watching it muttering “awesome. . . ” There are some edits along the way, but I’m of the belief that they are just time ellipses for the foam to reach the top or the smoke to reach a critical point. Either way, like I say, “awesome. . . ” I will not deny, though, that the Honda Cog ad created 15 years later doesn’t have one or two moves that outshines the...

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Day of the Dove, TOS 3

There are some episodes of Star Trek that transcend TV and become small masterpieces of literature. City on the Edge of Forever deals with themes of fate, Amok Time with identity, A Taste of Armageddon with social conditioning. “Day of the Dove” is a parable, an examination, a rumination on the sources of war and violence. It treats its premise — an alien life force that feeds off of the human emotion of anger — with surprisingly little depth. Clearly the intention is to allow the viewer to make current paralles (as easy to do in 1969 as today) and try and fill the real-world gaps. If world bodies are instigated to fight, who gains? Where does human nature end and manipulation begin? When is it noble to be strong and when are we just caving to our baser instincts? What does one do when a foe refuses to accept reason? What if a foe would prefer mutually assured destruction to peace? These are very deep, fundamental questions — certainly nothing that can be answered in fifty minutes of television. And perhaps “Day of the Dove’s” dovetail into peace is far-fetched. It is still welcomed to see these themes played out — and played out in a cogent, strategic, well-structured manner. . .a manner that is also thrilling what with the fighting Klingons with swords and self-incinerating dilithium...

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Clash of the Titans (1981), Desmond Davis, B+

A lot of people talk about how when they were kids they watched King Kong and Godzilla. I did, too, but the two movies that really hit me hard were Dragonslayer and “Clash of the Titans.” (Tron came out a year later.) I can’t deny that, until I moved to Astoria, most of what I knew about Greek culture was derived from this film. Some of the remarkable things about the film (other than that they got Laurence Olivier to play Zeus) is the rather frank way they don’t pull their punches that much for a kiddie film. You want mythology, well, here’s your violence, depravity, catty fighting, adultery, beheadings, genocides. . .all is glorious color stop motion! Also: some quick glimpses of real nudity. Like, more than Janet Jackson on the Super Bowl (“Dragonslayer,” if you watch it on frame-by-frame, even has a flash of bush!) 1981! What a time!! Anyway, the scene in Medusa’s palace — I musta watched this 900 times as a kid — seeing it again I was amazed at just how many of the shots were burned in my memory. Good fun. And the Bobo, the little Robot Owl, got Goober interested in the movie,...

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Garden State (2004), Zach Braff, C

There’s nothing in this movie that delivers quite what is advertised in the image posted above. It is a spectacular image and it is shoehorned into the film (early, thankfully) simply because it is spectacular, even though it serves no purpose story-wise. But tone is good for a movie, right? But not if said tone is the only thing driving your movie. If your conflicts are tired and your characters are phoned-in, then when you cut to a groovy shirt/wallpaper shot (or fade up an emotional Simon & Garfunkel song only to fade it down six seconds later) the tone will actually detract from your film. And you wind up feeling cheated. There are plenty of great love stories with emotionally disturbed characters. This isn’t one of...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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