The Life Aquatic, reviewed by my friend Carl

I couldn't resist sharing Carl's succinct review with you: "Let me tell you, they tried to make something unique and interesting with this movie. They did, and it sucked."

Carl furnished us with his review shortly after we exited another movie in which Bill Murray plays a man searching for his long lost son, Broken Flowers.

I can't vouch for the suckiness of The Life Aquatic, as I haven't seen it yet (and may now never see it). I can say that Broken Flowers is a departure for Jim Jarmusch, and not an altogether successful one. This film is decidedly more mainstream than anything Jarmusch has directed before. He inserts product from mapquest.com, Sharp, and Ford Taurus; shoots in color; and writes a character being admonished for smoking for starters. This isn't as radical a shift to mainstream as George Lucas going from THX-1138 to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It's more like the Cohen brothers going from Blood Simple to Intolerable Cruelty.

Broken Flowers is highly structured and deliberately paced (i.e. slow), with an episodic format. Murray's character, Don Johnston, tries to reveal the identity of the woman who alerts him to the existence of his son, awkwardly reuniting with a succession of old flames. Murray's portrayal is fun to watch, and Sharon Stone is still magically delicious. The film has interesting things to say about the suburbs, the path not taken, bachelorhood, and the banality of travel. But it says little and hardly engages. It is the Odyssey with no reason to return home.

7 of 10.


apple Gives Two Cents on Katrina Relief

Not Apple Computers, but apple as in the blogger at Veritas, gives her take on Katrina relief ("This great nation..."; there's no permalink to the post). I don't agree with everything she says, but agree with her absolutely on her assessment of the President's response and her social safety net rant:
"Bush's first glimpse was from his airplane (not helicopter) and I cannot think of a better metaphor to illustrate his level of concern. Then he has the nerve to ask people to donate money. What the hell? [...] Fuck that, I didn't tell them to squader billions in Iraq. [...] Should have thought about home first, don't you think? Donate my ass.

"End of the day, my friends, you can understand a society by observing how it treats its weakest members. For a week we watched as tens of thousands of poor, black Americans suffered, slept, lived in their own waste. One week. [...] This is the system we want to distribute to the rest of the world? [...] who would want this? Is this risk worth it? When crisis hits, why would anyone want a government inept and incapbale [sic] of responding? [...] This is the same democracy that protects your freedom to wear halter tops and mini skirts with thongs hanging out and to carry guns. We are so free that the government just doesn't care."

She also makes an interesting point about corporate response to the disaster. Companies like Wal-Mart and FedEx stepped into the yawning breach left by FEMA's relief efforts to offer their own. Is that a good thing? I think so. But it highlights the impressive failure of a government that cuts revenues and domestic expenditures, pulling back from commitments on its own shores to consolidate its power abroad. Probably the only domestic program that in recent years has enjoyed significant funding increases is Homeland Security.


The Aristocrats: or How To Get An R Rating Without Sex Or Violence

The set-up: a documentary about one dirty joke told by comedians to one another, "as a sort of secret handshake" as Ken Tucker puts it.
The middle section: incest, homicide, coprophagia, necrophilia, felching, bestiality, rape, and...what do you call humping an eye socket?
The payoff: comics tell the joke, talk comedy, and reveal their skill and failings in a dizzying eighty minutes of head-to-head one-upmanship.

The Aristocrats is first a documentary. I was asked by a friend afterward whether I "enjoyed" the movie. I guess so. I laughed often, but certainly not at everyone. I didn't "enjoy" The Corporation but thought it was an excellent documentary. Jillette and Provenza do a great job intercutting short segments from the hours of film they shot. Impossibly, after 81 minutes, the joke didn't get old.

As an expose of the craft and crass of comedy, I think The Aristocrats is a must see. There will be audience members who walk out. And it's best they do it early if the film's opening gambit, George Carlin's ode to gargling chunky diarrhea flowing out a geezer's polyped anus, gets them worked up. There's much worse to come.

I have a renewed respect for Drew Carey, Taylor Negron, and Gilbert Gottfried. And that ventriloquist, what's-his name. When he bailed on the joke and tried his "hand" at Seinfeldian observational humor, that was even funnier. And Cartman's version was so coo':

——===] LANGUAGE WARNING [===——
I mean it!
[watch Cartman's version here]

Though Penn Jillette's telling of the joke didn't impress in this company, I admire and envy him for making this film. In an interview reported by my brother-in-law in See Magazine, Jillette riffs on the parallels between comedy and jazz:

"The rhythms of the movie are jazz, the feelings are jazz: the subject is comedy.
"What I love is that the movie goes directly to playing bebop, y’know? In the early evening, everybody is playing big band jazz for suits but after hours, when there’s only three or four guys sitting around, they would play this kind of jazz that you had to know a little bit more about melody and harmonics and chord structures to really understand.
"In comedy, we sit backstage, and everybody knows that everyone else can structure a joke, and we know what we do, but now we do this other thing for one another."

Nice to be invited into the green room.

Not for everyone, but works for me.
7 of 10


Rice: "Look How Freakin' Small This Thing Is!"

I can't believe it either, Condie. I finally broke down and decided to get an iPod, the new iPod nano, pictured above. Read more about it at apple's official site, and read the exhaustive review of its durability and innards at ars technica. Thanks for the link rygar. Mine will be black and 4GB.