Thursday, February 24, 2005

Matt's Top Five All Time Favorite Books (Version Feb. 24, 2005)

1. Anna Karenina
2. The Brothers Karamazov
3. In Patagonia (by Bruce Chatwin)
4. Hitchcock (by Francois Truffaut)
5. Timequake (by Kurt Vonnegut)

Anyone disagree?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Postmodernism and Wednesday Night

I am trying to give this blog a postmodern feel. Now, I am of the opinion that when anyone uses the word 'postmodern,' the term should be promptly defined. 'Postmodern' is one of those concepts like 'Freedom,' '65 mph,' and 'Love': it could really have a number of different meanings, but typically doesn't mean anything. When I say I want this blog to be postmodern, I mean I want to be careless and haphazard in a way that makes people think I'm artistic. Don't know if it is working.

Some thoughts, some random thoughts for today:

1) As it turns out Minnesota is the "clear channel of public radio." I had no idea. Who ever thought that "Minnesota", "Evil Empire", and "Public Radio" could be so easily grouped?

Here is an article about it from Pitchfork, a music site you should probably be reading regularlymean.

2) I randomly opened the local magazine a few weeks ago and found that a friend of mine from the fourth grade was voted 'Frederick's Best Bartender.' I would go in order to reminisce about Oceanography and suchlike, but it is one of those places where they'd kick me out 'cause I don't own an SUV.

3) Just got back from State College, PA this weekend. Signs of progress: I've been there three or four times in the past year and drove on the same back road every time. First, there were cleared trees and piles of dirt. A few months later, tall concrete pillars like some future ancient acropolis. And finally this weekend there stood an overpass. A great sign is seen in central Pennsylvania!

4) Another anti-war article that my brother sent me. Okay, I haven't read it yet, but it is written by a General a long time ago and approaches the subject from an economic angle, I think. The wallpaper isn't much to look at but the last section is entitled 'To Hell with War' so there must be something to it.

5) Also, does anyone know why 'A Very Long Engagement' hasn't been in very many theaters? Those film distributers are making life very difficult for me.

6) "Baby, please feel free to deconstruct me" is a good line for a country ballad.

Monday, February 21, 2005

"You mean my whole fallacy is wrong."

Subject to change (there are a few I haven't seen, and anyway all lists are by nature ephemeral), here are my lists of Woody Allen movies I would recommend. They are more or less in order of preference among the individual categories, however it is hard to order them because many are so completely different. For instance, how can you possibly compare Manhattan with Take the Money and Run? Apples and Oranges, folks. Anyway, here goes:

Allen Pictures Without Woody as Actor:
1) Interiors
2) September
3) Sweet and Lowdown
4) Bullets over Broadway
5) Another Woman
6) Radio Days
7) The Purple Rose of Cairo

Allen Pictures With Woody But Not Exactly As Protagonist:
1) Hannah and her Sisters
2) Crimes and Misdemeanors
3) Everybody Says I Love You

Allen Pictures With Woody As Protagonist:
1) Manhattan
2) Annie Hall
3) Love and Death
4) Stardust Memories
5) Manhattan Murder Mystery
6) Zelig
7) Bananas
8) Take the Money and Run
9) Small Time Crooks
10) Sleeper

Pictures Not Directed By Allen But He Has A Bit Part And Anyway The Movie Is Very Funny:
1) The Impostors

A Bonus List of My Favorite Screwball Comedies That Don't Have Much Of A Relationship To Woody Allen But You May Enjoy Watching Them Anyway:
1) My Man Godfry
2) Trouble in Paradise
3) His Girl Friday
4) The Lady Eve
5) Mr. and Mrs. Smith
6) The Philadelphia Story

Friday, February 18, 2005

"Great empires cannot subsist without great armies, and liberty cannot subsist with them."

Here is an interesting article about the myths many Christians have made in support of the war in Iraq, written by a conservative Evangelical and libertarian. Very encouraging. I'm posting it, both, because it is right on, but also because it demonstrates that Truth is not limited to progressives.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Apollinian-Dyonysian duality and Heavy Metal music: Possible Allies?

Okay, I've been thinking a lot, lately, about an issue that is at the very heart of today's education crisis, an issue more important than school vouchers or charter schools, to wit: how can we get today's youngsters fired up about Ancient Greek Tragedy. This is a huge problem and I don't think it can be solved by a single web post (it will take a generational commitment for a solution), but I want to get the conversation started.

Here's the idea: we need a rock band called 'Tragic Flaw' who will be committed to sweet double bass beats and strict adherence to the guidelines set forth in Aristotle's Poetics. I am afraid the only way we will be able to reach the children (especially children of the slow-witted, unimaginative variety) is to frame this important subject with their own terms.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"in life's whirlpool of days"

Okay, this is how the game goes: "list your 13 favorite movie moments off the top of your head." (see lucas' responses on a thread below). Note this is the best I can do today, and shouldn't be taken to be canonical. Plus, I cheated a little and thought about it...

1) The Russian Ark: The final walk down the staircase leading to: "Sir, sir. It's a pity you're not here with me. You would understand everything. Look. The sea is all around. We are destined to sail forever. To live forever."

2) Manhattan: introductory montage to "Rhapsody in Blue" ("...New York was his town and it always would be.")

3) In the Bedroom: When Sissy Spacek explodes.

4) Harvey: The whole scene that revolves around: "'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

5) In America: The end.

6) A tie. The Third Man: Orson Appears. And, The Trial: Orson's parable of the Law intro voiceover.

7) Notorious: Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant walking down the stairs.

8) Smiles of a Summer Night: The conversation between Frid and Petra in the haystack.

9) My Night at Maud's: The first conversation about Pascal (I recall there was more than one).

10) My Man Godfry: The scavenger hunt scene. But, more generally: every scene that has Carole Lombard in it.

11) Jules and Jim: When Catherine sings her song.

12) Andre Rublev: The first person sequence with the guy trying to fly.

13) Waking Ned Devine: The flying phone booth

Honorable Mentions:
* 8 1/2: The last scene with dancing and brass band (not in main list because that would be too easy).
* Singing in the Rain: "All I do is dream of you" (because I would have to admit that I've seen the movie, and what would people think?)
* Age of Innocence. The last scene in Paris.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Insert your own Brando impression here

Even though I really liked The Godfather Part II, and have counted it as one of my favorite movies for years, I have been putting off seeing the first one. I suppose partly it is for the same reason I haven't yet seen Bergman's Fanny and Alexander: everyone loves it and I don't want to watch it and be disappointed. Well, good news for Coppola and good news for me. I saw it today and I wish I had seen it before. It is amazing how excellent so much of it is (and I will admit I don't particularly like crime or mob movies). Some thoughts:

1) It came out in the early 70s, but there is nothing dated about it. It could have been released anytime between the late sixties and today and you wouldn't be able to tell except for the actor's young faces.

2) Most of the actors and actresses are now famous and most of them have their own acting personas. Lets face it: no matter how much we like Al Pacino and Diane Keaton (I had forgotten Diane Keaton was in this!), they are have a certain style that they almost always bring to a movie. But in The Godfather they are all character: you forget they are actors. It reminds me of what some have said about Lubitsch: he somehow got all his actors to be different in his films; 'Shop Around the Corner' is the only film where Jimmy Stewart wasn't playing Jimmy Stewart.

3) The movie is flawless. But the interesting thing is that it is done effortlessly. The director doesn't get in the way of the picture. That is my big problem with people like Godard. For all of his merits (and everyone has to admit he has a few merits), it is always like he is screaming: "Hey, hey, look at me, look at me. I am the great Jean-luc Godard! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and dispair!" But, Coppola is invisible. You don't walk away saying "That was a great director. Remember that one shot where..." Instead, you just sit there because you just saw an amazing movie. Then, you start to realize that is what great director do.

4) The ubiquitousness of the movie 30 years later doesn't get in the way. The horse head. I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse. Even Brando's cat. And on and on. Years of impersonations and parodies can almost kill a movie (can you say Casablanca?), but somehow here it doesn't seam to matter.

Okay (at this point, if you haven't see it: stop reading and go rent it: it'll be 3 hours well spent. Otherwise I may spoil some things), here some stand out scenes:
1) Brando is playing with his grandson as he dies in the garden. Interesting: the only character to die a natural death. But at any rate it is an all around beautiful scene.
2) The juxtaposition of Pacino saying the creed while his enemies are being slaughtered. A very sad and brilliant scene.
3) When Pacino and his flower-bearing friend pretend to be bodyguards outside the hospital. It is very funny in a sort of noir way.


(Post Script: If you like Diane in this movie, but don't care for her in her recent comedies, try "Interiors." It is a great Woody Allen movie at his most serious and Bergmanesque.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

A First Post

I'm not sure what is the traditional way to inaugurate a web log. The inspiration for this, though, is one part Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree, an other part JustAboutEveryOtherBlogEverWritten, and probably some various other inspirations I've forgotten. The idea is to post my own quixotic interests and interests without having to worry about spelling or grammar or anyone reading them. Anyway, it is probably best to start with some ground rules:

1) This blog exists for purely narcissistic purposes only. Feel no obligation to read any further.

2) Please steal any ideas from that you want. Here's one: Wouldn't it be neat to stage a version of Waiting for Godot where they are in prison, on death row, and Godot is the executioner? Don't you think? Anyway, if you decide to steal this idea or any others, I promise I won't sue.

3) I know I have been known to make luddish comments from time to time. So, how do I reconcile being against technology and yet actively using the internet for all sorts of purposes? I am simply going to ignore the contradiction.

4) Speaking of contradictions. I am a flip-flopper. I see no problem with that. The fact is I have trouble trusting anyone who isn't a flip flopper (including certain Leaders-Of-The-So-Called-Free-World, if you know what I mean).

5) It is very likely that I won't keep this up for very long. I'll give it my old college try, but don't say I didn't warn you.

6) I don't have much in the way of original ideas, and I also have a bad memory. If somebody already said it and more eloquently than I (very likely), feel free to say so, et cetera.

7) It amuses me to spell out phrases that are normally abbreviated. Like, et cetera for example. I also hate those smiley faces made out of punctuation. So it goes.

That's about it. Good luck.