Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Fountain

Tenacious D

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Breaking News

Robert Altman has died.

The new issue of the High Hat beat the reaper by less than a week, and I guarantee there's no better tribute out there. Go read it now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good day, Mr. Kubrick

Friday, November 17, 2006

Holiday Preview. I wrote about half of these. Guess which ones and win a free pass to Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.


Fast Food Nation

For Your Consideration

Come Early Morning

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hello, happy readers and rejoice! The new issue of The High Hat is finally here! Issue #7 features a big ol' special section on Robert Altman, including my latest Bottom Shelf column, Weird Altman. I've barely begun to dig into the ish, but I do know that Tom Block's piece on fistfightin' in Deadwood is a must-read, and I'm sure there are many others.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So I mentioned the documentary Last Man Standing in my last post. Here is an amusing little postscript.

Monday, November 06, 2006

ELECTION SPECIAL: Political Documentary Round-up

Here is my piece on Dixie Chick documentarians Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, who I interviewed a couple weeks ago. Kopple, of course, is a longtime warrior in the trenches of political docs dating back to Harlan County USA, which still holds up as some mighty powerful filmmaking. Nowadays, political docs are everywhere you look, and as a movie critic-type person, I keep getting these DVDs in the mail, so this seems like an appropriate time to blog them.

If somehow you aren’t quite fired up to vote yet, Iraq For Sale should get the blood pumping. It’s the latest from Robert Greenwald, who’s really been churning out the lefty docs (Unprecedented, Outfoxed, etc.) in recent years. This one is about the war profiteers, those corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater that get sweetheart no-bid contracts to supply the troops with crappy food and tainted water and truck drivers who get blown up and hung from bridges. As usual, Greenwald wants to get you fist-shakin’ outraged, and it works.

So now that you’re ready to exercise your franchise, there’s always the chance that there won’t be enough voting machines or your name will be mysteriously purged from the rolls. That’s the alleged premise of American Blackout, which purports to be about the disenfranchisement of black voters in recent elections, but plays more like a campaign film for Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia rep. who got bounced from the 2002 primary, came back in 2004, and is now gone again. Thus, not as interesting as it could have been.

But let’s say you are allowed to use the voting machine. What happens to your vote after you cast it? HBO recently premiered Hacking Democracy, a new doc on the Diebold company and their dubious electronic devices. In addition to bringing back that time in recent history when we were all familiar with Florida counties like Volusia and Broward, the film provides a handy demonstration on how easy it is to fuck with the magical touch-screen vote-o-matics. Me, I vote on a non-Diebold machine, but recently read that the very machine I voted on is left unattended overnight in an open lobby at the University of Texas. So that’s encouraging.

Political campaigns always make good documentary fodder – The War Room is a perennial fave – and they come in all flavors. Our Brand Is Crisis concerns a team of political consultants (including James Carville) who travel the globe, providing their expertise to candidates from Ireland to Bolvia (which is where Crisis takes place). It turns out to not be so easy to devise a U.S.-style marketing campaign around an obstinate, arrogant candidate, and furthermore not such a good idea to mess around in volatile countries on the brink of chaotic violence. I don’t really know the ins and outs of the Bolivian situation, but that much seems clear.

Last Man Standing covers two 2002 Texas campaigns, the statewide race between Rick Perry and Tony Sanchez (a guy I barely remember, though I must have voted for him), and, more attentively, a state legislature race between boyish Patrick Rose and incumbent Rick Green, a grinning shark of a right-wing Christian if ever there was one. Green (“green like money” he reminds voters) is such an obvious snake-oil salesman, it’s astounding that he was ever elected, yet he’s a mesmerizing presence. This is politics at its most local, gladhanding at county fairs and church picnics, and climaxing with both candidates wielding signs and exchanging barbs outside the same polling place. Local politics in a very different setting unfolds in Street Fight, which chronicles a bruising campaign for mayor of Newark. Fans of The Wire need to see this; there are some strikingly familiar moments (such as the incumbent mayor setting off the demolition charge that brings down a housing project), but if anything truth is stranger – and dirtier – than fiction.

And finally, if you have the IFC, tune in tonight for The F-Word, which Moonshine Mountain associate and Ol’ Bait Shop proprietor Andrew Osbloon had a hand in. It’s apparently one of those fictomockudramentaries that are so popular these days. You know – like the Borat!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Santa Clause 3

Paradise, Texas