Friday, May 28, 2004

A couple new reviews this week. Hector Babenco's latest prison movie is worth a look:


(Please note that I did not actually give this movie an A+. This is apparently a copy editing error, as I gave it an A-. I've never given an A+ in my life! When I do, you'll know about it!)

I can't say the same for this next one, the makers of which should be exiled to Abu Ghraib immediately:

Soul Plane

Thursday, May 27, 2004

As you know, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie is now in production. But did you know there is a new radio series as well? The third series has already been recorded, with surviving members of the original cast, but is apparently in limbo for now. More info here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Recommended Reading

Yeah, sometimes I read books. Especially now that I’m finished writing mine. Here’s a couple good ones.

What I don’t know about baseball would fill Fenway Park, and yet I couldn’t put Michael Lewis’s best seller down. For one thing, the guy can write, which is always a nice thing when you’re dealing with a book. For another, my long-dormant interest in the sport was re-awakened last fall when I foolishly got sucked into watching the post-season Red Sox, and I’ve been following them pretty closely this year (which will no doubt be rewarded with inevitable crushing disappointment).

My understanding is that most of the baseball establishment hates this book, what with its unabashed enthusiasm for these newfangled statistics suggesting that getting on base and not getting outs are the most important factors toward achieving a win. See, to an ignoramus like me, this seems like common sense, but I guess on some level it makes the game less fun for some folks, since the teams that subscribe to the Moneyball approach discourage stuff like bunting, sacrifice flies and stealing bases. (The old school philosophy is to regard these things as “productive outs” if they result in players advancing the bases or scoring. The new school says they’re not worth the trouble. At least, that’s my feeble understanding.)

Anyway, whether you agree or disagree or don’t even care, Moneyball is a great read, with plenty of fascinating digressions into the cult-like world of hardcore statistics freaks and an account of the major league draft that’s as suspenseful as a book by that really good suspense writer whose name eludes me at the moment.

I’m in the middle of this one now. I’m a big fan of the Altman film, so this is kind of a schizoid reading experience for me, as Philip Marlowe keeps bouncing back and forth between being a Bogart tough guy and more of an Elliot Gould schlub. In my mind, if not actually on the paper. Some evocative writing on 50’s L.A. here, though.

Next up, Tony Soprano’s homework:

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I don’t mean to turn this blog into all-Sopranos all the time (Mobster Mountain?), but if they’re gonna keep churning out amazing episodes, whuddamigonnnado? Besides, the season’s just about over and then they’ll go back into cold storage for who knows how long, so might as well write about ‘em now.

First things first – yes, Adriana is dead. I know it happened offscreen, but the Russian didn’t drop out of a tree and rescue her and the bear didn’t jump Silvio and let her escape. This isn’t freakin’ Oz here. They spared us seeing the bullets hit her because we’d already seen enough. When Christopher was choking her, there was a moment when I thought she was dead already – she had the same vacant look in her eyes as Joey Pants did last season when Tony got a little upset about his horse.

Leading up to the most recent episode, “Long-Term Parking” (brilliant title, by the way – a 21st century variation on “The Big Sleep”), I thought I had it figured - Christopher was about to flip to the FBI. And for a minute or two, it actually looked like that might happen, but then Chase and co. sucker-punched me again. And how great was it that they had the normally warm-n-fuzzy Silvio do the deed, especially after Christopher’s crack early in the episode: “the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive”? Quoting Springsteen in front of Stevie Van Zandt might have seemed like a cute in-joke at first, but by the end – with Silvio driving Adriana to her doom - it had taken on a grim meaning, especially when you think of the next line in “Born to Run”: “everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide.”

Anyway, mail those Emmys to Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo now and be done with it. What, someone on The West Wing has done better acting than that? Come on. As for predictions for the season finale on June 6, well, I’m obviously no Quasimodo when it comes to this show. I would’ve thought a Tony B. whacking was a lock, but with Tony telling Johnny Sack where to stick it, you never can tell. We’re into anything-can-happen territory now, with supposedly only 10 episodes left after this season (though I still think the final season will balloon up to a full 13, since Chase always seems to need more episodes than he thinks he will).

Top 10 Things Never Before Said on ‘The Sopranos’

Friday, May 21, 2004

A couple new reviews this week, of movies that may or may not come anywhere near you:

The Trilogy

What Alice Found (second review on page)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

For the man who has everything:

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I had originally planned to post my 5000 word tribute to Tony Randall today, but sadly I'm busy with other things, so you'll have to settled for this peculiar Marlon Brando news. I guess all Marlon Brando news is peculiar, really, but this is especially odd since I thought he was basically on his deathbed at this point. Hey, good for him.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Okay, not to obsess about this or anything, but well...I am kind of obsessed now, so what the hell. Having now watched it for a third time, "The Test Dream" has rocketed into my all-time top five. I mean, maybe you have to be a full-on Sopranos freak, but this most recent episode is almost too rich to be believed. Just off the top of my head:

- The first person to appear in the dream is Carmine, which is appropriate, since it was his death that kicked off the whole chain of events that led to the current precarious situation. And Tony had just been reminded of that - Carmine's last words were "smells like burning hair." Where has Tony smelled burning hair before Valentina? I would guess at the stable when the charred husk of Pie-O-My was hauled away.

- I dunno who the voice on the phone is in the dream, but I can almost convince myself it's David Chase. Not quite, though.

- Movie references: The Shining (The creepy hotel, Tony B.'s twin boys [thanks to Phil Nugent for pointing these out] and Twin Peaks (all the dream stuff, but specifically the horse in the living room). The Godfather scene in the bathroom is obvious. I would add 2001 (pre-dream scenes of Tony in his white robe eating in the hotel suite) and Taxi Driver (Tony B. shooting Philly with his fingers). Then there are the movie scenes seen on TV - Chinatown (previously referenced in the season four finale - "Bad for the glass! Bad for the glass!" - and here referring to the Guatamalan maid who speaks English only when convenient - Gittes asks the boy "You speak English?"), A Christmas Carol (ghosts of Christmas past I noticed: Pussy, Ralphie, Richie, Gigi, Mikey Palmice, Johnny Boy Soprano, Gloria, Vin Makazian, Carmine. Missing in action: Jackie Aprile Sr. & Jr., Matt Bevelaqua, Livia), High Noon (Gary Cooper, Tony's eternal "strong silent type" and the opposite of what he actually is), and Bugsy (Annette Bening: "There's something Bugsy about him!").

- Many ghosts of Sopranos episodes past. Just a few: last season's car dream, the driving sequence back from the casino in "Christopher" (same backgrounds), "Unidentified Black Males" (the SUV blasting rap music, plus the guy who points to Tony B. - "Isn't that there the Tony you were supposed to whack?" and also "Sometimes what happens in here is like taking a shit!"), Pie-O-My in the living room (on the first two viewings I naturally assumed Carmela said "You can't keep your horse in here" but after seeing it mentioned on a few other Sopranos discussion boards, I must admit I missed this: she definitely says "You can't keep your whores in here"), Tony staring into the trophy case ("You never had the makings of a varsity athlete"), the bullets turning to shit ("I'm like King Midas in reverse - everything I touch turns to shit"). Plus all the Gleason stuff. (Watch for my upcoming dissertation "To Da Moon: The Semiotics of Jackie Gleason in the Fifth Season of The Sopranos")

- Meta references to the show itself. Angelo singing along with a Frankie Valli song right before he's whacked. Carmela pointing to the TV and telling Tony "That is your life" (and all the scenes that play out on TVs).

That's all I got for now, but man, anyone who thinks this was a shark-jumper is watching the wrong fucking show.

The Test Dream

As soon as the credits rolled on last night’s Sopranos episode, I could hear the sound of thousands of HBO subscriptions being simultaneously cancelled across the country. With only three episodes remaining in the season, David Chase and company devoted over twenty minutes to the most bizarre dream sequence seen on television since Agent Cooper met the dancing midget in the first season of Twin Peaks. It was definitely a love it or hate it episode – and being a longtime Lynchian, I loved it.

Sure, on one level I understand the frustration. We’re running out of time, there’s a lot to be resolved, everyone wants closure and for a lot of people this was all a big waste of time. But for me, this is the great thing about this show and what sets it apart from all others – you truly never know what you’re going to get each week. For me, almost every episode this season has been a knockout in a completely different way – some have blown me away on first viewing (“Irregular Around the Margins,” in which Tony and Adriana get in the car accident and “Unidentified Black Males,” wherein Meadow’s suitor Finn sees something he oughtn’t have seen) while others that seemed disjointed or aimless or weird on first viewing haunted me afterward and paid off spectacularly when I took a second look (“Marco Polo,” featuring the party at the Soprano manse, and last night’s “The Test Dream”). A couple episodes didn’t necessarily knock my socks off, but I don’t think any of them have been out-and-out clunkers.

This whole season has left the audience split, I think; some are seeing sharks jumping left and right, but if the next two episodes pay off as big as I hope they will, I’m thinking this could be the best season ever.

(By the way, the above picture is from the HBO site, but after two viewings I could swear that scene isn’t actually in the episode. I’m guessing there was a bit where Meadow turned into Tracee just as Finn turned into AJ, but if it happened, it must have been subliminal.)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Moonshine Mountain Manifesto

The first version of Moonshine Mountain went online in the summer of 2002, at about the time I was gearing up to start shopping my book proposal. There was an actual concept behind this first incarnation: it would be a record of my wacky misadventures as I tried to find an agent and then a publisher for my book. As I put it in my very first entry: “The idea here is for me to have a place to write in tortuous, navel-gazing detail about my adventures as I attempt to get my first book published. You know, kind of like a Spalding Gray lecture, but without all the spittle. In fact, the film rights to this blog are now available…I'm doing this because it seems like a good way of keeping myself motivated. I figure if I get in the habit of writing about what I'm doing here, then I'll actually have to do the things I'm supposed to be writing about. Otherwise this will turn into a blog about me sitting around the house drinking beer and watching fishing shows or Emeril. And who would want to read that? In fact, maybe no one will want to read this anyway, but at least if I have an imaginary audience I can guilt myself into getting things done.”

(Of course, these days Moonshine Mountain is more and more like a blog about me sitting around the house drinking beer and watching fishing shows or Emeril. But I’ll get to that later.)

Anyway, that was the original idea, but it turned out to be a pretty flimsy concept for a blog. Basically I queried a bunch of agents, some of them rejected me, a few read my work and then a couple offered to represent me. I picked one and he eventually found a publisher. Not the most compelling story ever told. So the blog gathered dust until I decided to revive it, really for no good reason except that it seemed like everyone else had one.

So now there is no concept. I post links. I write about things I’ve seen on TV or bands I’ve heard or poker games I’ve played. When I was going through emotional turmoil I wrote about that a lot, which was cathartic, I guess, but probably not much fun to read. I post cute pictures of my dog. If anything, this place has become a kind of online scrapbook, which was never really what I had in mind. More often than not these days, it feels like an obligation, hence most of my recent posts have been, well, obligatory.

The upshot of all this is that I’m trying to come up with a more coherent concept for this place in order to upgrade the Moonshine Mountain experience for you, my 11 faithful readers. But I haven’t done that yet, so instead, here’s another list of searches that have led folks here in recent days:

Who plays ryan chapelle on 24
storylines of miscommunication
"they might be giants" cocksucker
"cajun queen" actress
photos of Boston Rob, Survivor, shirtless
evel mardi gras
difference dwarf midget

Recommended Listening

It sounds gimmicky or even desperate on paper: 69-year-old Loretta Lynn teaming up with White Stripes enfant terrible Jack White for her new record The Van Lear Rose. Instead it’s a match made in heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it; just your basic traditional garage-twang album, I guess. All the songs are newly penned by Lynn, but it’s more like she excavated them from the tomb of the unknown country classics; one listen and you’d swear you’d known them all your life. (The exception for me is “Little Red Shoes,” which is essentially a rambling anecdote with musical accompaniment – it’s interesting and all, but I don’t need to hear it every time I play the album.) If “Portland, Oregon,” “High on a Mountain Top” and “Mrs. Leroy Brown” don’t make you happy to be alive, it’s time to give up.

On their third album …In All Their Splendor, Li’l Cap’n Travis don’t make a radical departure from their usual sound, but that’s perfectly fine since no one else does quite what they do. If you’re not from around these parts you may not be familiar with their spacey brand of honky tonk adorned with Beach Boys harmonies. Their previous album Lonesome and Losin’ might be a better place for newcomers to start, but if you’re already a fan, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the new one. Personal favorite tracks include the melancholy “Throw Off the Reins” and the boozy anthem “Bar Full of Fans,” which has been earworming me for about a week straight.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

My letter of correction to the Chronicle can be found here, along with a letter from the actual director of the film absolving me of any responsibility for it.

Congratulations to my friend since high school Nick Woodward, who won himself a New England Emmy Award! This will look handsome on his mantlepiece, right under the moose head.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

I got a nice mention in this week's Austin Chronicle, and while I appreciate the attention to my award-winning film In Flagrante, there is one minor factual error: I never made a film called In Flagrante, award-winning or otherwise. I did however review the movie in question for Film Threat about four years ago. (Apparently I didn't much care for it.) I'm guessing this mistake is the result of a Google mishap. In any case, I emailed a correction to the Chronicle so hey, maybe I'll be in next week's issue, too.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Haven’t made any Survivor predictions in a while, probably because it’s been all too predictable. Last night was a bit of a surprise – I figured they still wouldn’t get it together to boot Amber or Boston Rob, but I thought Rupert would be the sacrificial lamb. Instead Big Tom shuffled off into the sunset, leaving Rupert, Jenna, Rob and Amber as the final four.

Why should things get unpredictable now? I’m guessing Rupert will be the first one out on Sunday’s finale, barring an Immunity win. Funny as it would be to see Amber win the final IC and boot Rob, I expect Jenna will finish third, leaving the lovebirds as the final two. And really, it would be a shame if Rob didn’t make the final two at this point, since the only real shot at some drama left in this season is a really pissed-off jury. Barring some unexpected turn of events, I’m betting it all on Amber to win All-Stars – the perfect anti-climactic ending for this disappointing season.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Boo-hoo, poor Michael Moore! Disney won’t release his new film! Come on, no one’s really falling for this horseshit, right? This was a set-up from the beginning. Miramax always knew Disney would never release Moore’s Bush-critical Fahrenheit 911, and they’ve admitted as much – Disney told them over a year ago, before they’d even bought the movie, that they wouldn’t release it. This is Controversy-as-PR-Stunt by two masters of the form, Harvey Weinstein and Michael Moore.

It’s win-win for both of them. The movie’s gotten 100 times more attention than it otherwise would have, so now Harvey can sell it to another distributor at an inflated price. His name will probably still be on it in some capacity and best of all, he gets to make embattled Disney chairman Michael Eisner look like a fool. (Anyone who’s read Peter Biskind’s interminable Down and Dirty Pictures knows there’s no love lost between these two.) Moore now takes his movie to Cannes, where the predictable outrage will probably net him an award or two, thus boosting the movie’s profile further for its upcoming release. Don’t weep for him – he’s crying all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Book update: I have acquired all the necessary photos – stills, lobby cards and poster reproductions. My task now is to write captions for ‘em all, figure out where they go in the book, and send ‘em in. Still waiting on the introduction from Fairly Well Known Film Industry Personality, which was supposed to arrive yesterday. Assuming I get that in the next day or two, my work will be done for now – at least, until the editing is done and I get the page proofs. Then I’m guessing my next task will be to do an index, which is sure to be a grueling process. I may have to hire an intern for that. For all I know, they’re gonna ask me to chop down the trees, grind them into pulp and press the paper, too.