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RIP: The Guy From That Show

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Saturday, March 31st, 2007


Ever flip past, like, the Long Island or Jersey PBS station and catch a few minutes of that show where they’re all in the department store? Well, the main guy died. I never knew his name (or the character’s name) but the few minutes I’ve caught of that show here & there were always very funny.

Ann and Jordan See Stars

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Tuesday, March 27th, 2007



The Year of the Yao (2005), Adam Del Deo & James D. Stern, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Tuesday, March 27th, 2007


Should you be flipping channels and come across this well-meaning and simple doc, you won’t be entirely wasting your time. The story of Yao Ming is fascinating. (The documentary isn’t; the documentary is hack work.) Yao Ming, if you don’t know, is a 7 foot 6 inch sweet boy from China who is one of the NBA’s greatest players. Watching the move from his spartan room in his parents’ proletarian apartment to VIP suites in Vegas is highly entertaining. Seeing the new development of a “celebrity culture” in China is strangely compelling. B-Ball’s been big in China for a century (there’s footage of Mao cheering a team on) but it wasn’t until recently that they even kept statistics on individual players. (Those damned commies keeping us from tallying the triple double!!!) Anyway, if you can look past the gloss and cheese of the officially sanctioned “NBA Films” production, there’s lots to like in this movie. And Shaquille O’Neal is a dick.

Cobra Verde (1987), Werner Herzog, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Tuesday, March 27th, 2007


The lost Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski film gets its theatrical release. . .20 years later. This time Klaus plays a notorious Brazilian bandit called “Cobra Verde” whose stare-down of a rebellious slave impresses a local sugar baron. He finds himself the slave overseer on a massive plantation, until he knocks up the boss’ daughter(s). The powers that be realize that anyone who tries to discipline or exact revenge on Kinski will wind up dead — so they come up with a brilliant idea. Shipments of slaves have dried up in the last few years. The British have outlawed the trade, the Arabs have the East Coast of Africa all tied up and their old contact, the King of Dahomey, has gone completely batshit. Any white man who goes over there will surely be killed. Why not send Cobra Verde? He’ll probably be killed, and what’s the worse case scenario if he doesn’t? More slaves! It’s win-win!

So we’re off to Africa, and if this were a Hollywood film here’s where Cobra would find redemption. He’d recognize the nobility of the indigineous African and learn a lot about himself. And while there are trace elements of this arc in Herzog’s film, it’s never as easy as you expect.

For one thing — everyone in this movie is evil. More so than “The Sopranos,” there is not one character with a shred of humanity. What I found most impressive was the stark and matter-of-fact treatment of slavery. When Kinski gets his castle up and running, the images of suffereing are not lingered over Amistad-style. . .they are just there. Men are poked for the muscles, girls oogled for their rapeability. And the place is just ugly. Movies often still retain a Kipling-esque eye for the noble look of imperialism. None of that here. Kinski sleeps in a torn hammock in a hot room full of peeled paint and skittering hermit crabs. The movie smells.

By act three we really fly out into the unknown. Political machinations amongst the tribesmen lead to a radical setpiece of Kinski training hundreds of fierce topless women in mortal combat. We are then treated to a string of (how else to describe it?) Herzog-esque sequences, each topping the other in their strange beauty and haunting peculiarity.

I have nothing negative to say about “Cobra Verde,” yet there is something holding me back from giving this a full-on A. Maybe it is the unlikeability of the central character. He does make a passing reference to the criminality of slavery, but his actions are all opt-in. I’ll have to think about this and get back to you.

Cheney Has Bad Teeth

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Tuesday, March 27th, 2007


Too busy drinking the blood of mutilated virgins to go to the Dentist? Don’t they floss in Hades? What gives?

All Along The Fraktower

Jordan | E-motions | Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

I guess now is as good a time as any to post my thoughts on the Battlestar Galactica season finale.

Bob Dylan is a cylon?

Blockade (2007), Sergei Loznitsa, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, March 26th, 2007


When faced with such devistating horror denial is a natural, and perhaps sometimes healthy, response. So for much of the documentary “Blockade” I simply told myself it wasn’t real. It was easy to do — the “plot” follows so much of the George Romero-esque horror flick format.

War comes to Leningrad. The city digs in. The first bombs hit. A few buildings collapse, but that’s okay. Then more buildings. Then no food. No heat. No water. Then winter comes. And disease. And over 900 days Leningrad slowly mutates into an unimaginable hell — a beautiful city filled with stately architecture and artwork is now strewn with frozen bodies. Citizens chip ice off the side of the street for water. A modern city reduced to wondering zombies, busy streetcars have been replaced with handcrafted sleds dragging sloppily shrouded dead relatives.

Until, eventually, the war ends.

Even if you aren’t interested in WWII or the Soviet Union, I recommend this movie if you are at all interested in sound design. Director Sergei Loznitsa presents us solely with found footage (and what footage!) and nothing else. The sound design, created out of whole cloth, is a mile thick. No dialogue, but a spellbinding drone of realistic humanity. The track alone without the picture is a remarkable piece of work; a standalone objet d’art, the “soundtrack of suffering.”

On line outside the theater I got into a conversation with a woman who was heading into the same screening. I basically asked her “why the hell are we about to subject ourselves to this?” Her response was something on the order of “it’s the least we can do.” I’d like to think that if I experienced something like the Blockade of Leningrad some people would be willing to take a little time out of their day to try and understand what it was like.

Amateur Photographer (2007), Irina Gedrovich, B+

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Monday, March 26th, 2007


A disturbing and fascinating short documentary that, in an alternative universe, would be at the center of a major debate concerning aesthetics vs. ethics. We hear and see the journal entries and photos of a grunt soldier at his mundane tasks. He complains about the food, gripes about the weather, commits the occasional crime against humanity. Between his expressions of blind/bland patriotism and his yearnings for left behind love there are summary executions, annoying train cargoes en route to “special treatment,” pesky prisoners that are easier to shoot than process. Boy, the coffee in the army sucks, but it’s good to know that we’re fighting for the Fatherland — can’t wait ’til I’m done here and can go back. The diaries of “Gerhard M.” could be exhibit A in defending the theories of Stanley Milgram.

The controversy is this: just because Gerhard M. was blase about the horror he was perpetrating, need the filmmaker use that attitude as a gimmick? Irinia Gefrovich scores her film (which is simply a slide show from Gerhard M.’s vault) to proud Teutonic pop songs of the era. This was Gerhard M.’s soundtrack, but the incongruous effect on the audience is something specific. The best example I can think of is from Kubrick — Malcolm McDowell singing “Singin’ in the Rain” during the rape of the author’s wife. It was controversial enough in fiction — is it downright vulgar over “real” images?

Gideon in Time Out

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Sunday, March 25th, 2007


We’re still coming down from his birthday party on Friday (was that me, or was there really a conga line going through the streets of Brooklyn) and, as usual, I forgot my camera.

So instead of shots of that debauchery, you can read the short piece on Gideon in TONY from a few weeks ago. Happy 25th, cuz!

Gorky Park (1983), Michael Apted, D

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, March 25th, 2007


So fucking boring.

Justice, TNG 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, March 24th, 2007



Now we’re getting somewhere! This episode may be just as idiotic as the last one, but it gets major comedy points. Riker & co beam down to the Sex Planet. Here, all the women look like Suzanne Sommers and the men look like Gay Nazis. When they aren’t fornicating they enjoy running and capital punishment. And young Wesley Crusher just broke a law (by stepping on flowers, I kid you not) and must be killed! Picard won’t allow it, but to interfere with indigenous laws violated the Prime Directive! But Picard better do something, otherwise Wesley’s mom won’t shut up! Such drama!

All I know is that there are a LOT of shots of greased-down hunky buttocks in this episode. A LOT!

Lonely Among Us, TNG 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, March 24th, 2007



If they stuck with the B story (two races of fish monsters who hate each other are both being escorted to a peace conference) then this wouldn’t be so bad. But that story was told in the Original Series. Instead we’re fed some story that warps from lame to kinda dumb to unbearably asinine.

The lameness is when some “energy mass” infects the ship’s computers (yeah, seen this before, haven’t we?) and then temporarily possesses members of the crew. Since that old saw might seem a little dull, some genius decided it was a good idea for Data to fall in love with Sherlock Holmes. Yes, seeing Brent Spiner in whiteface cry “Indubitably!” over and over again is my idea of fun. We end with Picard being zapped out into space as pure energy, but somehow he swims back to the ship, inhabits the soul of the computer, goes back in time a few minutes, recreates his solid form with the transporter and then — doesn’t remember a thing. I remember enough to say This Episode Blows.

Into Great Silence (2007), Philip Gröning, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, March 24th, 2007


I wish I could be a tough guy and tell you that I absoultely loved “Into Great Silence” or — as I heard it described at a recent party — “The Three Hour Monk Movie.” But I won’t lie to you (which is why I must point out it is a mere two hours and forty minutes): I liked the movie, found it interesting, heck, I’m not even sure I was ever officially bored, but I wasn’t riveted and I’m not about to zealously demand that everyone drop whatever they’re doing and go.

The movie is a bold experiment — but that’s what it is, an experiment. Gröning got himself access to something no one else has ever shown before and, for his own artistic purposes, I’m sure, decided the best way to tell us about Carthusian Monks was to record record record. What we’re left is just a parade of moments. It is the closest I’ve seen to screensaver-as-cinema.

It is an excellent mood piece. Enormously hypnotic. And if your mind wanders for a few moments and then you land again a few minutes later, well, hey, that’s probably the intention. I was in quite a lenghty daze after walking out of that theater.

My biggest complaint is that after two hours and forty minutes of intense scrutiny of Carthusian Monks, I know nothing about them. I know what they eat, what the doors to their rooms look like, how they dress, how they cut their hair, how they shovel snow and chop wood. And how they mumble in Latin. But I don’t know anything about their context (a quick glance at Wikipedia scratched that post-viewing itch) but, more of a let-down, I don’t know what makes these guys tick. And this film might very well have been the world’s only shot at getting some insight there.

The Earrings of Madame De. . .(1953), Max Ophüls, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, March 24th, 2007


Many great critics cite this as a masterpiece, but I can’t lie to you — this movie ain’t all that. The first half is frilly, silly Ernst Lubitsch/Preston Sturgis goes-to-France style fun. Mix-ups, ironic twists and fake swooning. Definitely amusinc. Then things get dark and nasty. It is implausible, unearned and, ultimately, uninteresting. Like. . .imagine if the last half hour of “Ruthless People” became a weepy treatise on failed relationships and death? One is left with the question, “what’s up with the French?”

Shoe. Bert.

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Saturday, March 24th, 2007


Last Thursday saw Sir Colin Davis and the New York Philharmonic kickin’ the ass of all in attendence with Schubert’s Symphony #4. When Schubert is really cookin’ his work is muscular and dramatic and very effective — this is a solid example of that.

Also that night, Symphony #85 by Haydn (good, I suppose, kinda went in one ear and out the other) and Mozart’s Piano Concerto #19. This was quite enjoyable, particularly seeing soloist Mitsuko Uchida play in baggy pants, a loose silk cape and a green striped T-Shirt out of a Dr. Seuss sketch.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005), Jeff Feuerzeig, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Thursday, March 22nd, 2007


My own relationship with Daniel Johnston goes back, as so much of my musical development does, to Vin Scelsa’s radio show. Now — unless I’m misremembering this — Vin played one of Johnston’s 1990 call-ins to free form (then) college station WFMU on his own late night show on K-Rock. (That shows you the kind of show Vin had at the time — playing tapes of other stations!!) Later, when Johnston became a little bit cool (Kurt Cobain wearing his shirt, K. McCarty’s brilliant album of covers) I was like, “I think I kinda heard of this guy.” A little while later I became a little bit obssessed. I still own five of his albums (many will argue that one more than does the trick) and I was one of those screwballs convinced that Johnston was one of the greatest songwriters on earth, lo-fi and all.

The documentary, recently released on DVD, is fabulous. It’s difficult to pull off a screwy-artist doc in a post-Crumb world, but Feuerzeig is a very clever and original director. There are neat visual tricks (Johnston is as accomplished a visual artist as musician) and interesting storytelling devices. If you’ve never heard or heard of Johnston, you’ll enjoy the film just as much. I only had two complaints: one, we don’t hear that much of Johnston’s music in full til towards the end. His vocal style is something of an acquired taste, so I worry that some may not quite “get him” at first and get annoyed at how many people are calling him a genius. Furthermore, why not include some of the great covers of his songs by some of the more user-friendly bands? Or present some of his songs “anew” by a Greek Chorus-like house band sprinkled throughout the film. I can’t imagine Yo La Tengo would say “no” to such a request. Bad idea not to include this.

Also, why no mention of his meeting and affiliation with Roky Erickson? Would seem like an important plot point to me — but maybe he didn’t want to be interviewed.

Anyway, a fascinating story (a lot I didn’t know, and I thought I knew it all) and quite touching.

Incidentally, I’ve been to Austin a few times — turns out I’ve been to the very mall where the McDonald’s Johnston used to work in used to be! Who knew?

The DVD is chock-a-block with extras (haven’t watched the commentary track yet) including lots of Daniel’s old Super 8 films. I knew there would be, which is why I waited til DVD to see this.

Why do I like Daniel Johnston so much?

He represents a time (late 80s into mid 90s) where homegrown lo-fi artists went as far as they would go without the computer. He represents the zine. He cuts and pastes, he doesn’t photoshop. He makes audiocassettes, he doesn’t blog. He makes films, not videos. He goes to record shops, doesn’t email MP3s. It was harder to be creative then, I think, and this aesthetic is nearly completely gone today. Shame shame shame.

Watch the movie and see what I am talking about.


I Banged Me Gavel

Jordan | No News Is Good News | Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

I’ve been doing a good job about not making political posts — indeed, I’m reading the papers less and listening to fewer NPR broadcasts. As a result, I am much more relaxed.

But the great Barbara Boxer of California giving this hardcore “F. U.” to Sen. Inhofe (right up their with Brownback as one of our more odious public servants) is quite entertaining.

Where No One Has Gone Before, TNG 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, March 21st, 2007



Really: What is up with Wesley Crusher’s outfits? Was it the intention of the costume shop to make poor Wes look as much like an uncomfortable young homosexual as possible? It’s just uncanny.

As for the review, here’s what I wrote on Sept 7, 2006. It is still valid.

I give this episode high marks just for being so flippin’ loopy. If the ending was the least bit comprehensible, it might even be perfect. An obnoxious engineering expert comes aboard to tinker with the Enterprise’s engines. Hats off to actor Stanley Kamel; he is instantly dislikable. Mistakes are made and then this episode goes all Voyager as we wind up 300 of your earth years from home. Then more mistakes are made and we wind up in some floating marshmallow void where reality and fantasy merge. Far out. Young Wesley Crusher (who, for the record, I don’t hate) solves the riddle. Thank God somebody did ’cause I sure as hell don’t know what happened. (Something to do with “If you clap your hands and beleive in fairies. . . “) Anyway, Wes earns his stripes, which means we’ll be able to see this newly pubescent boy in one of those spandexy outfits in upcoming episodes. I can’t wait.

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