Pepper @ Audubon's Movie Journal

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Week up to 10/27

Michael Collins
Stop or My Mom Will Shoot (1992 87m)
The Associate
Quite good; the three actors had to cover a lot of territory (immigration, emigration, America/the Melting Pot, Orange County/Cali, and the Phillipines), which seemed a bit of a strain, but they and the script managed well. I enjoyed the material presented, even when it didn't connect seamlessly between segments.

Week up to 10/20

So I Married an Axe Murderer (93 93)
Silly but not bad movie about vacillation between marrying a wonderful woman and fleeing in fear from the possibility she's an axe murderess. Good cameos and acceptable SNL references.
2 Days in the Valley
Not a direct spin-off from Pulp Fiction, but a clear spiritual descendant. Interesting view of several lives intertwined around a murder. Not in Pulp Fiction's league, however.
Secrets & Lies
Well-made explorartion of an unhappy family, including adopted/lost daughter who's been raised very differently.
The Ghost and the Darkness
Not bad, not great movie about man-eating lions in Africa. Lacks both clarity about whether it's a story of the supernatural, and why the audience should feel sympathetic for the British empire builders -- trying to save the Africans.

Week up to 10/13

The Rolling Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus (1968)
Excellent footage of a concert by the Stones and their friends, including Jethro Tull (being incoherent), The Who (being remarkably organized, as they experiment with arrangement and opera), Taj Mahal, The Dirty Mac (featuring John Lennon being himself and someone else, Eric Claption riffing in a sweater, and Yoko Ono being disruptive and bizzarre), Marianne Faithfull (being pretty and out there), and the Stones -- being variously intense, tattooed, healthy, and ecstatic, and wearing a leather cravat. I also liked seeing John simply alive, Roger playing air guitar, Pete windmilling, and The Mac's violinist laughing at Ono.
The First Wives' Club
Good exploration of what happens when 3 spurned women decide to do something, together, about their problems.
The Glimmer Man
Fairly interesting but overly cliché story about the mob. The bad guys are too dumb and pathetic.

Week up to 10/06

Peter Pucci Plus Dancers
The Long Kiss Goodnight
V good for an action flick; mostly plausible and well-acted. Again, Geena out-machoed everyone else.

Week up to 09/29

Last Man Standing
Pretty good. Incidental music was excellent, and there was a real, if somewhat simplistic plot. Christopher Walken lived down to Lisa's fears of him, Bruce Willis seems still to be fascinated by self-disgust, and the female characters were uniformly pathetic.
Maximum Risk
Another twin movie for Van Damme. A relatively sophisticated plot with weak acting.
Two If By Sea (96m)
Fairly week story about a couple of hoods being confused and out of their element.
Live Nude Girls (1995 92m)
Very weak flick, in which everybody seems to have a fantasy allowing each character, at some time or another, to be seen naked. The six primary characters are all female sterotypes, and the other characters are even less fleshed-out.

Week up to 09/22

Walking & Talking
A fairly good story about a couple of friends and the rift between them, composed of their individuality and love lives, expanding as they go through some changes (particularly an engagement).

Week up to 09/15


Week up to 09/08

Interesting, but confusing. What did they expect to happen?
My Father Is a Hero (1995 100m)
Best tag team martial arts scene I can recall. The plot was a bit odd -- several of these people didn't have (enough) reason to work so hard at keeping secrets, and the villain was absurd.

Week up to 09/01

She's the One
Enjoyable and interesting -- a very good look at the (New York) art community of the 80s, particularly Jean-Michel Basqiuat and Andy Warhol, and venturing into drug use and the homeless community. Overshadowed by self-destruction, which makes it no less fascinating. The closing parable is choice.
The Crow: City of Angels
Very dark. LA is portrayed as containing ~5 innocents, ~5 evil people, ~20 followers, and ~10 others, as well as a lot of garbage. Unless you're really looking for evil S&M, pretty poor.
Barcelona (102m)
Quite nice. I was too busy being offended at being compared to one of the characters to catch everything, but liked the movie anyway.

Week up to 08/25

Week up to 08/18

Household Saints (1993, 124m)
Interesting; wierd and anti-Church. The movie is about a marriage and the child of that marriage, who aspires to be a saint.
David Murray Octet & Brooklyn Conservatory Faculty Jazz Ensemble
Lone Star
Very good, very wierd.

Week up to 08/11


Week up to 08/04

City Hall (112m)
Very good. They did a nice job of making a cynical movie without being very violent or nihilistic.
Supercop; Police Story III
Great titles and very good music -- mostly remakes of old stuff. The plot was fairly sophisticated and the action sequences were good, although there was one scene where the supercops were briefly trounced by ordinary villains. Jackie's humorous aspect was downplayed, but the sparring scene where it showed up was very good.
Manny & Lo
Very good: 2 young girls live on their own by stealing and moving around, but things change when Lo realizes she's pregnant -- they decide they need some help, so they kidnap some.
Girlfriends: Carmelita Tropicana, Excursion to the Bridge of Friendship, Greetings from Africa, Jumping the Gun, Just Desserts, Little Women in Transit, Peach, Watching Her Sleep
8 lesbian short films. They were all pretty uneven, but far enough off the beaten path that they were also all interesting.
Good soundtrack, but they use it in service of dumb ethnic references. Yet another strip bar scene, and as in ID4 they at least place a character there, but this excuse is relatively feeble considering the treatment of that character. Nice RuPaul cameo, and prime placements for Apple (with re-dubbed specs) and Coke. There is one unaccounted-for murder, but that's about par for the course in this movie category.

Week up to 07/27

Disturbing but very interesting. Not surprisingly, large chunks of the book were left out, but the spoken dialogue was apparently easier to follow (especially with visual cues). Consistently disturbing, but not awful to watch.

Week up to 07/19

Courage under Fire
Much better than expected -- and I had no inkling of the ending. Washington investigates events in Desert Storm in order to decide whether to award a Medal of Honor, while trying to cope with his own actions from the same time.

Week up to 07/07

I Shot Andy Warhol
Disturbing, but quite interesting. Surprisingly grim and disturbing, although I don't really think it could've been lighthearted and cheery. A bit uneven but very good.
It borrows liberally from Flowers for Algernon, Powder Zapped, and Starman. Good acting & music, and pretty good dialogue; Amy said (and I agree) that it was a bit too Hollywood -- the romance aspect was a bit overdone -- and a bit scattered (it was particularly uneven in the middle). Again, Travolta has outperformed my expectation for him.
Independence Day (ID4)
Pretty good. Great resume fodder for sfx guys. Jasmine was a definite keeper and Boomer was a great easter egg. Will Smith and Harry Connick, Jr. were both very good in their roles, but totally eclipsed by Judd Hirsch (and also outclassed by Bret Spiner). The obvious relationships and simplified psychology were lame, but the dumb science/physics got to me.. What scientist plans to be stranded in space without broadcast power? A good movie to see on July 4th. I loved Aaron on Jeff Goldlum's PB 5xx.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Pathetic & depressing, as intended. I understood why the director wanted to make it, and why the actress did it, but not why the audience was supposed to see it (aside from good songs intentionalky mangled) and, in our case, an appearance by Ken Leung.

Week up to 06/30

The Perez Family (1995, 135m)
Good. A bit too much magical realism (impossible semi-dream sequences as part of the main sequence of events), but the conclusion wasn't foregone and the actors were very good. An interesting look at the Marielista immigration to Florida.
Angels & Insects
Interesting, but decadence and bugs as themes are linited. Very pretty, and quite perverse.

Week up to 06/23

Good -- a particularly good action-advanture flick. The bluescreening and some special effects were quite cheesy, but the plot was pretty good and the dialog was up to par.
Good -- not great. She doesn't act, but fits well with the part (attractive and confused). Although the broad outlines of the plot are obvious, the details are interesting. Vince is intereting, and his eyes are successfully wierd.
Bubblehead @ 23/Park
Strange strange sign.
The Phantom
YAM (yet another movie) with the same bit copied from The Rock and Cutthroat Isle and piles of other movies. The eye makeup was annoying, and it's not particularly interesting that assuming cooperation from all native Africans and non-human animals the Phantom's largely successful, but the dialogue was funny and the male-female relationships were interesting. The 50s cartoonishness was cute.

Week up to 06/16

Mission: Impossible (110m)
Pretty good. As I had worried, much of the plot and all the big effects were in the previews, but there was enough plot detail which wasn't that it was still interesting. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any excuse for the linchpin-clue's existence....
Clearwater Music Festival '96
Jane Eyre
Disappointing. Huge pieces of personality were ignored -- fans of the novel know what's being glossed over, but if not seen as highlights from the book, great swathes of character and causation are missing.
The Rock
Very good for an action-adventure flick; the lack of exploration of the fact that Connery's character had the same experience that drove the General over the edge is an indicator that this is an action movie with a sophisticated plot, rather than a sophisticated movie with a lot of action. The lack of intelligence in their treatment of atropine was a bit disturbing.

Week up to 06/09

La Monte Young & The Forever Bad Blues Band: Young's Dorian Blues in G
The Arrival
Amateurish aliens & morphing; Charlie Sheen was silly, the plot was silly, but it was fun if you came with appropriate expectation.
The Craft
About as expected -- silly and shallow, but cute (in its own perverse way).

Week up to 06/02

A Delicate Balance
They lost sight of plot, logic, and reason in the face of their fascination with the animation and genre, but for (ex-)D&Ders, this is a fun movie despite its serious flaws.
The Craft
About as expected -- silly and shallow, but cute (in its own perverse way).

Week up to 05/26

A Fair Country
Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D.
Dumb, but amusing. A bit overdone, but it is by Troma, the people responsible for The Toxic Avenger 1-3.

Week up to 05/19

James and the Giant Peach
Much fun; and quite silly; based on a Roald Dahl story. During part of the movie, James is an animation, and during the rest, he is a live actor. The action is based around James' flight to New York City with his insect friends (in the giant peach). Recommended, if you're in the market for a children's movie.

Week up to 05/12

Dream Lovers (1986, 94m)
Chow Yun-Fat's basically happy 8-year relationship with his girlfriend is superceded by his prior (2197-year-old) relationship with his girlfriend from the Qin dynasty; the plot is quite sophisticated, but a bit obtuse (the movie seems to 'explain' where the Qin emperors got the idea for ceramic statues of their armies).
Treasure Hunt (1994, 104m)
Our hero, a highly-assimilated US immigrant, goes to Hong Kong to steal a national treasure; large pieces of ET, Superman, Mai, and Zapped can be seen in this movie. Fun.

Week up to 05/05

Saffire: Uppity Blues Women
Synthetic Pleasures
Once a Thief (1991, 108m)
God of Gamblers (1989, 126m)
Barb Wire
Hard Boiled (1992, 126m)
Full Contact (96m)
Excellent. A bit weak on logic in a few (critical) places, but the action was very good and the plot was fairly complex.

Week up to 04/28

The Truth about Cats & Dogs
Weak shorts & stills; fairly good accompaniment.
Mulholland Falls
Basically good, but weak in some areas (the 4th member of the Hat Squad doesn't have a personality, and the circumstances leading up to the central investigation make no sense at all). The acting by Nolte and Griffith is good, and they're a pretty couple -- actually, just about everything in the movie is pretty.
Flirting with Disaster
Fun and funny; had I known it was by the author of Spanking the Monkey, I would've been better prepared, but overall I found it both amusing and interesting.
Sgt. Bilko
Fun; good performances within very limited bounds.
Not bad; sort of a combination of Kindergarten Cop and McCain; I wondered if the real teacher's boyfriend (the substitute) was going to make her existence pointless by being a better teacher, but this wasn't an issue. The movie wasn't ethnically PC (the main villain and gullible guy were both black, the hero and his girlfriend were both white, the black good guy is the first to die, etc.), but it's not a prominent characteristic of the movie. In true Hollywood style, the hero twice walks into an ambush without telling his backup, which was pathetically feeble, but the dialogue and most of the plot were reasonable.
Dan Goleman
Cold Fever
Very interesting and strange, but ultimately pointless; the movie would have had just as much impact and significance if it had consisted of the first 3 scenes (about 10-15 minutes in Japan), followed by a collage of the scenes in Iceland for 10 minutes, followed by the last 3-minute scene with its stated moral. The unfortunate reason that the body of the movie was relegated to the level of scenery is a sense of detachment: when, in a fit of pique, the Japanese protagonist leaves the taxi and starts walking along the road in the middle of Icelandic winter, he's given up on making his own trip turn out well; when the director introduces a faery in a dream, who allows the journey to continue, he's detached the movie from our world (which doesn't contain faeries). Ultimately, the impression is that the dialogue could've been dispensed with without harming the story, and that the audience and protagonist are along for the ride -- the course of outcome of which can't be predicted, and without cause and effect (or even a sense of self-preservation or urgency) to add meanings to the events along the way. It occurs to me now that this could be the point of the movie -- that the director might feel this sense of detachment and unreality is something Icelandic which he's trying to convey, but if so the Japanese protagonist is a red herring and I missed any warning of this or indicator that it was his intention in the movie. The other characters were interesting, but basically irrelevant and the music was very good (at one point the characters can't turn off the radio, and complain about the sickening country rock music, but it's actually pretty good, and it isn't country rock...).
Wallace & Gromit: the Best of Aardman Animation
Excellent. I particularly liked the Cyberdog reference.

Week up to 04/21

Stiller & Meara
They talked about their experiences as comedians, entertainers, and personalities; they argued with each other, the audience, and Joy Behar (the supposed moderator); despite the verbal fireworks, I got a sense that they really love each other, and consider theirs to be a good marriage. Joy Behar again seemed unable to ask questions without "it wasn't really like that" or "you don't understand" as answers. Somewhat difficult to watch, overall.
Denise Calls up

Week up to 04/14

Joe Satriani

Week up to 04/07

It's My Party
As expected, this was a somewhat disturbing but interesting story about a man about to die from AIDS, and the way he spends his last hours.

Week up to 03/31

Girl 6
Fun and interesting, but with an unignorable darker aspect of self-destruction and people's misuse of other people. Well done.
Flower of My Secret
Fascinating. A tale of the relationship between a somewhat hysterical woman and her husband, off defending freedom with NATO. This is an especially good job of bringing secondary and tertiary characters into and out of focus with the plot action.
Chung King Express
2 barely-connected stories about a couple of cops in China and their searches for love. Both very interesting; the first was mostly just said, but the second was a bit stranger and more interesting.

Week up to 03/24

Weak dialogue; typifies the problem I have with stories (such as Casino) where everybody, including the characters, sees the cliff they're headed towards, but this impending doom doesn't alter their behavior.
Switchblade Sisters
The premise was high school students in a gang; these students attacked each other, sold drugs, sold sex with their girlfriends, committed rape, and carried machine guns. Unfortunately, nothing in the movie was well done, so it was just a weak combination of violence and Welcome Back Kotter settings.
Gravel Pit & Morphine
George Carlin
Edward Tufte
Joel Cohen

Week up to 03/17

Executive Decision
Nixon's Nixon
Institute Benjamenta
Mostly strange; the Brothers Quay did a very interesting job without comunicating much of anything to their audience. The movie was strange and complex, but it was also slow and too oblique.
Fascinating. A true story about a man who tries to arrange fake a kidnapping to get money, and (due to his own incompetence and that of the people he hires to do it) ends up causing a lot of deaths instead.

Week up to 03/10

John Irving

Week up to 03/03

Strictly Ballroom
Fun; very campy, but enjoyable; I wish they'd cut about a third of the movie (30 minutes) of various reverses between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing, but I definitely enjoyed the movie.
Broken Arrow
Excellentviolence, v good carnage. Travolta, Slater, and the girl all did good jobs; the dialog was good, and the rip-off from Cutthroat Island was cute as well.
Rumble in the Bronx
Better in the Cantonese version, without the poor dubbing. In the Miramax edit, all the human relationships and characters are cut to the bone or past; the resulting emphasis on action is okay, but makes the movie much weaker than the 'original' I saw.

Week up to 02/25

Snake in Eagle's Shadow (1978, 100m)
Excellent: remarkable cooperative fighting, and a plot that successfully jutifies the continual fighting. The drunken master character is great.
Sonic Outlaws
Engrossing analysis (weak on structure -- probably intentionally) of the moral, legal, and creative issues behind sampling -- focusing on Negativeland vs. U2.
Interesting; an attempt to take a non-judgemental look at some absurd UFO stories; this short does a good job of pointing out disturbing similarities among the stories, and manages to neither accept nor disregard the claims of the tellers.

Week up to 02/18

New Sounds Live: Laurie Anderson, Brian Dewan, & *
Happy Gilmore
Pretty good; obviously somewhat dumb, but the dialogue was funny, the plot was present, and the characters weren't 2-dimensional. The movie was based on a hockey player's inability to shoot a puck but miraculous ability to hit a golf ball, which is totally absurd, but that was the only major stupidity.

Week up to 02/11

Beautiful Girls
Very good. The boys play (mostly) dumb hicks, with no goals and not much self-awareness. The male protagonist, who has limited understanding of his own rudderlessness, finds a very precocious 13-year-old girl, whom he's confident will be a major adult someday -- alas, he's 29, so there's a problem. Uma Thurman shows up, turns out to be much cooler than any of the guys, and straightens their lives out (subtly). The movie makes great use of Matt Dillon's history as a teen idol, throwing it into sharp contrast with his very different adulthood. The dialog was perhaps better than the premise.
Robert Ballard
He turned out to be a mediocre speaker with great material. Ballard led the expedition that found the Titanic (by backtracking underwater upcurrent from where the lifeboats were found, basically, and searching the sea floor with custom robots). The work he has done with undersea exploration (originally with undersea mountain ranges, but now focused on sunken ships, such as the Bismarck, and lost ships in the Mediterranean and Black Seas) is fascinating, and his team is the only one doing (or currently able to do) much of this underwater exploration. His comments on in-school education based on his expeditions were a bit less fascinating, but very socially important. Interestingly, the Q&A was much more interesting than the straight talk he gave -- because the material was so great, and because he's led a fascinating life of genuine adventure, which didn't come out well in the main presentation.

Week up to 02/04

Bed of Roses
Date movie. Christian Slater tries to court Mary Stewart Masterson, but he's clueless (though perfect) and she's skittish and disinterested. It hums along at a fairly shallow level for the first half, then gets relatively deep briefly, and then wraps up.
Sense & Sensibility
Excellent; much more enjoyable for me, as a non-fan of Jane Austen, than Persuasion. Emma Thompson was excellent, as was Alan Rickman and the woman who played her sister. I found Thompson much more sympathetic than the heroine of Persuasion.

Week up to 01/28

Waiting to Exhale
Pretty good; unfair to men, who were heaped high with flaws (some mutually exclusive), but not tremendously flattering to women either. Interesting; all 4 actresses were quite good in their roles, even if the roles were a bit silly.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
From Dusk till Dawn
Groovy and gross. Great music. Slightly weak on the lore/logic, but they make a sincere effort. It's obvious why Tarantino wanted to play this part. All the acting's good.
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
Mediocre; in addition to poorly matching up with the previous movie, all the logic was weak. The villainess was no Birgitte Nielsen, and the hero was no Harrison Ford; still, they made a stab at depth and inclusion of some hackerish bits, and hearing Max Headroom again was fun, even if totally inappropriate.

Week up to 01/21

Richard III
Heavy! A Hitler-inspired Richard III of Gloucester in a freely-adapted rendition of Shakespeare's play; the tanks add a lot to the battle scenes, but the characters all lack even clue 1. Excellent acting and over-acting.
French Twist
A surprisingly full movie about a lesbian who falls in love with the wife in a bad marriage; I thought it was basically over at one point, but things got considerably stranger afterwards. A bit overboard, but quite good.

Week up to 01/14

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (94)
Fun, but fairly dumb. The Dr. Doolitte comment is right on target.
Thelma & Louise (91)
Thelma & Louise constitute a pretty good marriage. :) The movie's strongly pro-women and anti-men, but we get a small reprieve in the persons of one cop and the boyfriend, who at least try to be decent -- even though they're not very good at it. Very powerful.
Shanghai Triad
Fascinating movie about the household of a mob (triad) boss in Shanghai, including his mistress and her new (country bumpkin) servant; the movie is focused on her (Gong Li), and she gives a beautiful performance, and the servant, who mostly seems to stare blankly and with great significance; beautiful and complex, but much of it is fairly obvious.
City of Lost Children
Very twisted; visually striking, and fascinating. The inappropriate eroticism, although quite mild, was a bit more definite than The Professional's, but also less central to the plot.

Week up to 01/07

12 Monkeys
Quite morbid; a good portion of this movie is spent between gross-out and grim, but they take an interesting crack at the contextuality of sanity. Bruce Willis is sent from the future to research the biological apocalypse as it happens, so his superiors in the future can deal with it. The movie is a cross between Terminator and Outbreak, but better than the latter and not as good as the former. Logic is a bit shortchanged in favor of shock value and pacing; who's Bob?


Week up to 12/31

Four Rooms
Very good; unfortunately, the 4 directors each had a quarter of a movie to make a memorable film, so they're all a bit flashy and overdramatic, but the stories and acting are all fun. It seems a bit odd that the pieces are completely separate -- mixing them up would complicate things nicely, but they work well separately too.

Week up to 12/24

Not worth the 3 hours; the ending was obvious from the previews, but the movie actually started with the final scene, so it was extra-obvious to the entire audience (and usually all the characters as well) what was going to happen; there simply wasn't enough substance to keep interest for the duration of the movie.
Cutthroat Island
Excellent; Geena was great -- Xena-like, but better dressed and acted, although with similar inconsistent dialect; and Matthew Modine was good as the outclassed boy; an excellent date flick, assuming the absence of a man overawed by the woman he's with. I was bothered that practicality seemed totally foreign to the characters -- the idea of possessing a huge pile of gold while marooned on an island full of enemies seemed to make them ecstatic.
Early Music Ensemble: Now + Well
Cute; silly, with good effects. Logically weak, but still enjoyable, and the jokes were okay.
Sabrina (remake)
A lot of fun: ineligible girl falls for unworthy guy, and his jerk brother gets in the way. They do a good job of working things out, but much of the movie is based around the unworthy's faults, which are then ignored/irrelevant/illusory. Unfortunately, their cluelessness is a bit too convenient and inconsistent to be believable.

Week up to 12/17

Heat (~165m)
A very good action piece, but if you look at it from a male/female lens, something else is apparent: the movie is completely driven by adrenaline and testosterone; as in De Niro's A Bronx Tale, the female characters made much more sense as foils for the men than as individuals living their own lives. An excellent job on making everything cool -- unrealistic, but it successfully added a lot to the ambience. Toward the ending, I kept thinking of dioramas with a pair of triceratops locking horns (even though that doesn't seem to be realistic behavior for triceratops), in a fatal consummation.
Das Cabinet de Dr. Caligari (1919): Mark Dresser Trio
Movie: Quite good; very melodramatic; and the scenery looked like it was drawn by kindergartners, and the architecture displayed a strong aversion to vertical lines and right angles, but you could see the genesis of Edward Scissorhands clearly.
Music: Bass, which he rapped and bowed, in addition to plucking; piano, additionally plucked; trumpet, which was played by squeaking and clanging the muzzle as well as blowing. All quite good.

Week up to 12/10

Guardian Star
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
Mighty Aphrodite
Woody and his wife adopt a wonderful child, and Woody obsesses on finding out more about the mother. Overall, a very good movie, but the Greek chorus is great.
Money Train
Pretty poor. They gave away everything in the previews, except the creative obscenity emanating like a bad odor from the mouth of the villain. Woody is a dumb, abandoned, dysfunctional white hick, possibly inspired by The Jerk; Wesley is a super-cool, studly, motorcycle-riding, martial-arts-fighting supercop. The latino woman is basically the irresistible (sexual) force -- but she is smarter than Woody.
The Reader in the Electronic Age
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
Very good. The dialect & gesture (with handy explanations) was fascinating, and the plot was believable (although it did require an unhealthy dose of self-destructive behavior from the cast of characters). They did a noteworthy job both with disgustingness and with music -- some excellent covers by first-rate bands.

Week up to 12/03

When Night Is Falling
Beautiful; interesting, as well. On further reflection, I decided the inability of these highly intelligent and communicative people to articulate themselves (or even understand themselves) was believable, considering the subject matter and their own involvement.
Across the Sea of Time: New York 3-D
Better than Wings of Courage, but it's really a tour, rather than a story.
Toy Story
The animation was amazing; I was expecting to be impressed, but still felt surprised. The story isn't great, but it holds together better than the plots of plenty of other successful movies, despite the occasional hole. The voices are all excellent, and the attitude behind the movie (most evident in the out-of-context references) is fun.
Nick of Time
Good. All the actors are good, and the plot holds together pretty well. The hero's character is pretty variable, but that's acceptable under the (fictional) circumstances. They do a fairly good job of working with reprehensible material without becoming sordid.
Two Bits
Very good; Al Pacino does a remarkable job of acting without moving his body, and the Baldwin voice-over is good. Interestingly, this fairly innocent movie seems constantly drawn to issues of sexuality.

Week up to 11/26

I originally decided not to see this, because I thought I'd have trouble identifying with the characters; this was true. Based on a Jane Austen novel which I never read, the story follows the rather complicated (love, social) lives of an over-extended family.
Doom Generation
Mostly Bill & Ted's, with a strong dose of Natural Born Killers, but with 3 main characters. Well-made, but the subtitle ("A Heterosexual Film by Gregg Araki") is bogus, and they could've probably gotten an X for either sex or violence.
Crossing Guard
Remarkable; very sophisticated in the complexity of the world the characters are in, and in their relationships with / behaviors toward each other. There's a lot of identification and reversal in the story, but I can't decide if the quantity of women and female bodies is exploitative or not. Sean Penn did a great job with this movie, but it's slightly worrisome that he picked criminals and violence as the substance of his story -- again.
El Mariachi
It looks cheap, and we kept laughing at the kung fu-style dubbing at the beginning, but it's actually a pretty good movie. It was somewhat odd to see so many echoes of Desperado, since they were actually original here, rather than there.

Week up to 11/19

The American President
The basic skeleton of the movie is worthy of Sylvester Stallone, but the details were all very good. Date movie.
Excellent, considering. Brosnan needed a shave badly, and the movie was given away in the previews, but the consensus seems to be that Brosnan is the best Bond since Connery; also, that they should use somewhat better plots (perhaps from the person who writes the sequel novels & adaptations from the movies). I was offended by the car product placement, since it shows up in the lab (not moving, but being described as fast), and is used to drive to a plane (for under a minute).
Fair Game
Holes in the plot, and a bit strong on hormones, but there were some good jokes, excellent photography, and an interesting base premise. She is a bit overly buff & tough, and he's undeniably trying to play supercop/indestructible-man. Unsurprisingly, Cindy can't seem to find a shirt for most of the movie.
A real British movie: disturbing and perverse, and very good (especially if you're interested in that period). Carrington (Emma Thompson) falls in love with a gay man; needless to say, they don't just live happily ever after.

Week up to 11/12

John Stewart
Leaving Las Vegas
Beautiful. Focused on the destructive effects of self-destructiveness. Not for the squeamish.
The Tempest

Week up to 11/05

Poor make-up, jokes, and special effects. There's a bit of ambivalent sexuality and several convoluted relationships, the movie should have done without at least the ambiguity. The rubber science is annoying, as is the apparent reversal of a statement by Einstein. For a super-genius, Powder makes an idiot of himself fairly frequently.
T Coraghessan Boyle
The Writer in the Electronic Age
Martin P Seligman
Umberto Eco

Week up to 10/29

Vampire in Brooklyn
Okay, but not great. The Eddie-woos-Ms.-Right bit wasn't reconciled with the bad-ass-in-the-bad-city bit, and the vampire aspect didn't really have anything to do with either of them.
Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation
Winona falls / is pulled into The Twilight Zone / a bad trip by Christian. As they're sucked in by the vortex (she in fright, he high on the excitement), they drag their entire high school into the darkness with them -- while helpful schoolmates celebrate the downfall of society. Overall, a good interpretation of black comedy. Funny, with good acting in flawed characters; although overdone, the nihilism works well in the high school atmosphere.
Devil in a Blue Dress
Very good. An interesting look at black people in the midst of discrimination, danger and politics, and raging hormones. A heavy dose of violence as well.

Week up to 10/22

Very good -- but significantly ruder than Clerks, which eliminates a large potential audience. The external references are great, but the protagonists are losers.
Get Shorty
Very good. Danny De Vito is a small character, and Gene Hackman does a good job in a limited part, but John Travolta is excellent (even if I did get very sick of "Look at me. No, look at me."). The plot is very complicated, but I didn't notice any holes, and it is funny. They do a good job replicating the Hollywood environment (even though it's supposedly set in LA), including the moral vacuum and the attitudes of people living in and around the movie industry.
Pretty poor. I didn't find it at all erotic, but was at least able to accept the flow of events by deciding that the heroine had an IQ of 70, and all the other characters were at about 90 on the scale. A look at morality in Las Vegas, apparently with the final conclusion that there is none. I found the amorality of the ending disturbing (as opposed to the decadence of the body of the movie, which was just tacky).
Big Head Todd & the Monsters
They're good. Todd tried to play a bit of everything, from country to Dylan (with harmonica, but his voice wasn't bad enough to do it right) to Zeppelin (good, but not as good as the original). The first (short) set was acoustic, but the percussionist was mostly inaudible during it.
The Publisher in the Electronic Age
Blue in the Face
Very good. Less substance than Smoke, but they do a great job playing with dialogue/monologue. Stay for the credits.

Week up to 10/15

Unstrung Heroes
The protagonist is a young boy with a dysfunctional scientist father (who doesn't realize he's dysfunctional), an uncle who'd fit right in in Rain Man, and an uncle who's hiding from them. The first half was like an upbeat Crumb -- a family of craziness, but with this sparkle (the son) somehow managing to keep his head above all the dreck. I found myself unable to accept the protagonist's complete lack of age-based limitations, a sensation which was emphasized by the music (no I don't understand how). The second segment was poignant and beautiful, and much different. I was a bit disappointed that they open several issues in the movie, but only leave them open -- they're only glimpsed forming, without any attempt to resolve or even follow them.
Lucy Goetz (Leung)'s Bachelorette party
Strange Days Some Pictures!
Good. Grim, but interesting. A brain-disc dealer is caught up in the wave of chaos cresting with 01/01/2000. All the characterizations are good, although we found bits somewhat hard to take (Mike felt Faith was overly out of place, and we all felt the ending didn't go with the rest of the movie. A different take on 'jacking in' and 'decking' than I'm accustomed to, but overall a good movie. Pretty heavy-handed -- they probably could've made it much easier to watch without losing anything worthwhile -- but worth seeing nonetheless.
The Addiction (B&W)
The first hour seems to be (but hopefully isn't) a totally failed attempt to show the depths of evil, set in a moral vacuum. The second is progressively more disgusting vampire action. Set at NYU, which adds a touch of familiarity.
Natalie Merchant
Brothers McMullen
Cute story of 3 Irish boys and their tries at living their own lives and learning from their parents' example. We were unable to decide if all or only some of the women presented (there is only one, brief, appearance by a non-brother male character) are lying to the brothers. Unfortunately, most scenes were foregone conclusions before they were fully underway.
Sly is #1, and Banderas is the up-and-comer. From this movie, one would get the impression that assassination is a very competitive field. Much better than The Net or The Specialist. Again, a nice peek at the socially-challenged, and an excellent take on the SINless. Zelazny can be proud.

Week up to 10/08

Kicking & Screaming
A very interesting intellectual look at students who aren't ready to have graduated. I recognized a lot of Wheaton and a good bit of Vassar (second hand). Less frustrating and quainter than Reality Bites, in which the characters simply aren't grown up enough to live in the real world.
Mrs. Klein
Hamlet (1965, 149m, Russian)
Excellent. It was bizarre to see Danish or old English poetry spoken in Russian with modern English subtitles (more closely tied to the original English than to the Russian translation). I was impressed by the Lion motif and the striking use of shadow. I wasn't impressed by the attempt at a special effect, but it was amusing.
Saul Bellow

Week up to 10/01

Good. Not as violence-filled as I expected, and constituted an excellent argument not to be a drug dealer ("clocker"). Now I want to see Chaz Palminteri in Blue in the Face.

Week up to 09/24

Strange and interesting. Theremin, as a Russian in the US in the 1920s, developed an electronic musical instrument played by moving the body (particularly the hands) within its electrical field -- without actually touching the instrument. He was then picked up by the Russian government, where he developed (the first?) electronic listening devices for the KGB. The movie makes a strong case for Theremin being recognized as the father of modern/electronic music.

Week up to 09/17

A bunch of cretins and idiots doing their things. Slightly nastier and less pathetic than Basketball Diaries.
Out of the Inkwell & out of the Closet
The theme seemed fairly weak in these movies, but they were funny. Some of them just included the word 'pansy' and someone pulling a face, while others were more extreme.
Assuming you weren't expecting any realism or informational content, this was a fun movie. The effects were bogus (it's set in 1995), but pretty. The girl didn't act much like a hacker (aside from being antisocial), and the movie seemed to hinge on the presence of 5 of the slickest hackers in the world at one high school -- also accomplished bladers, who knew the hotter clubs and personalities in the Village, and got the quivers at the mere mention of classified info -- but there were some great nods to the underculture (a fellow named after cereals, lots of people saying "Hack the Planet", anarchistic posters all over the city, and renaming of the ultimate computers to "Gibson"), but overall this was a content-free flick (the hero wears a HUD monocle, for instance, but doesn't use it).
Last of the Dogmen
Fairly good -- great scenery, interesting story, good acting, but the movie was painted with a roller. Major telegraphy, no subtlety.
Dark, and weird. Following (a | the) Dracula's daughter around New York City and watching her manipulate her older twin brother and Van Helsing's family is pretty out there, but a good ride. Interestingly, the couple from Amateur reappear, this time in different roles (one as the daughter) bracketing a different woman. The look at his relationship with his wife is interesting, but too disassociated to seem relevant for most people.

Week up to 09/10

Ray Charles
The making of an Isaac Mizrahi fashion show. Very good -- more substance than Pret-a-porter, for instance.
The Usual Suspects
5 crooks (1 in custody, 4 presumed dead) are thought to be responsible for shooting and burning a boat full of people; Chaz Palminteri tries to figure out what happened, and what the tie-in is with the mythical "Kaiser Söze". Interestingly, I found his character completely unsympathetic -- I don't know if I was supposed to root for the villains, or what.
The Prophecy
Rather freaky story about angels fighting over humanity's proximity to God. A bit heavy on the shock factor, and a bit light on the analysis of religious issues (and entire religions) thrown about as part of the plot.
Executioners (Chinese)
3 women (bounty hunter, good girl w/ hunchback, and Wonder Woman w/ husband and daughter) try to save Hong Kong from an evil genius, who has almost destroyed the water supply and threatens the president. Silly and cinematic.
Tex's Most Sexiest
Funny, and decidedly lewd. The footage of the models used for some of the animation sequences was quite surprising and funny.

Week up to 09/03

Heineken (Jazz &) Blues Festival 95: Magic Dick, J Geils, & Elvin Bishop w/ Bluestime; Etta James, Jimmie Vaughn, B B King
Twentysomething (1994, 96m, Chinese)
Very very good: Something like Reality Bytes, modified to deserve the title Casual Sex, inspired by Sex, Lies, and Videotape, with subtitles.
Something to Talk about
Much better than expected: Wife/mother discovers husband/father's cheating on her, and the whole wacky town gets involved in the ensuing chaos.

Week up to 08/27

Mortal Kombat
Poor plot; immature dialog. Good fight scenes, but the cheesy cartoon physics really got on my nerves.
Best use of gratuitous violence I've ever seen -- but there's a *lot* of it. Great music. I calculate he spent ~~30% of his time reloading. Some very good dialog, but the behavior of the girl when she's laughing at drivers crashing while looking at her is totally inconsistent with all her other behavior. Excellent!

Week up to 08/20

After the first spree of perverse violence, this was a pretty good movie. They took decent advantage of future tech and avoided stupid dialog. Unfortunately, I didn't see evidence for Denzel Washington's rep as super-cop -- he was great, but he was repeatedly referred to as the only person with a chance; aside from his cinematic ability to dodge bullets, there was no visible reason why the 80-or-more police officers mobilized in addition to him were never even in the running to stop the villain (also, he is inexplicably blindsided a few times during the movie, when it seems like he should've known better). Good atmosphere, btw.
Fist of Legend (1994, 102m, Chinese)
Martial artist returns from Japan to avenge the death of his master in a match; bumps into the Japanese authorities, intent on invading China. Excellent. Jet Li does a good job as a surrogate for Bruce, and the villain is excellent. Very good 1-to-many scenes.
Once upon a Time in China V (1994, 101m, Chinese)
Great 1-to-many fights; good story, decent characters -- overall, a hit.
C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri (1993, 98m, Chinese)
Musician's life is straightened out by his wonderful neighbor, despite himself -- very good.

Week up to 08/13

Nell Carter

Week up to 08/06

Defending the Caveman

Week up to 07/30

I didn't need to see this: although Giger's nightmares were fascinating, they didn't add much over Alien.
Overall, good, but I felt the Mariner was too much dramatic behaviors and too little personality. Very cool effects, but where was he hiding those jet-packs??? Also, I didn't get that much from the water environment -- that money would be better spent on Apollo 13 or Star Wars.
The Net
Better than expected, but I expect a bit more realism from a movie that takes such pains to portray itself as "wired"; Sandra Bullock saying "in IRL", for instance, sounded contrived. Interesting (brief) take on what happens if you put a completely unsocialized geek in a bikini.
The Indian in the Cupboard
Not bad. I'm told it was true to the book, but most of the plot flowed from one kid being a push-over and the other being a destructive jerk. Very frustrating.

Week up to 07/23

It was a C movie, but the execution was excellent. The plot was real and unignored, the dialog was funny, and the characters had more depth than expected. Great music, of course.
Macintosh New York Music Festival

Week up to 07/16

Under Seige 2: Dark Territory
Pretty good. Unfortunately, Steven Seagall is now big enough that he spends a lot of his time in the movie being a star, rather than being the violent character that made him a star -- which (rather than acting) is his strong point. Eric Bogosian was great, and (despite a slightly weak overall feeling) the movie was very enjoyable. "Dark Territory" was a poor joke -- it meant simply out of radio contact. There were a few minor plot inconsistencies, but this was basically a successful movie.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Week up to 07/09

Apollo 13
Great. They did a great job accommodating for the fact that they didn't actually have access to spacecraft in space (for Zero-G or external shots), and knowing what was going to happen didn't pose much of a problem (to my surprise).
Belle de Jour
Mostly perverse. I suppose it was beyond risqué when released, but now it was mostly sordid (and a bit shocking).
Saw the busboy from Love & Human Remains on 7th Avenue.
Saw Kate Lynch on Houston today (she played Roxane opposite Bill Murray in Meatballs, and must've been in something else more recent, but I can't recall what.

Week up to 07/02

Il Postino (The Postman)
The love story angle was cute, but (considering it's the only part in the ads) was only a part of what happened. Quite good.
Judge Dredd
Pretty good. The flight sequences were visibly fake, but excellent despite that. I felt the comedy (Rob Schneider and the "Adrian"-style speech) significantly detracted from the raw intimidation Dredd's supposed to exude. Pretty good.

Week up to 06/25

The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love
Cute. Well done. I thought the ending lost it a bit to surrealism, but all the parts were well-played and the plot was believable.

Week up to 06/18

Love & Human Remains
An excellent take on relationships and depressed people; it's a pity the perversity of this movie makes it inaccessible to so many people.
Batman Forever
Great zowie factor -- excellent effects, and high excitement. Dialog was excellent, acting was pretty good (a couple of the roles were overly cliche, but that's part of the package). I thought the articulated nipples were a bit much, and Robin's codpiece is fairly tacky, but otherwise Chris O'Donnell was better than expected. As with many super hero stories & games, scaling was a problem, but that's also pretty standard.
Forget Paris
Good. Unfortunately, the best part of the movie is the snappy dialog, which drops off dramatically after the beginning, as it becomes a tale about trying to make a relationship work
Don Juan DeMarco
Slightly scattered, but fun.
Strawberry & Chocolate
Cute, but very cliche.

Week up to 06/11

Picture Bride
A beautiful movie, only partially about Hawai'i -- mostly about discrimination (economic, health-based, and cultural), exploitation (economic, cultural, and gender-based), and struggling against adversity.
Jalsaghar, or The Music Room
Much symbolism with the subtlety of a sledgehammer; messages from this movie: a) the nouveau riche can be gauche, but old money can be decadent; b) when the levee breaks, there'll be no taxes to pay; c) responsibility doesn't automagically bring prosperity, and prosperity doesn't automatically bring character. Indian break-dancing, woo woo!

Week up to 06/04

Stranger than Crumb in its way. Interestingly, Akechi looks like a member of Boyz II Men redone as an effeminate Asian; also, Mr. Rampo seems to lend credence to the assertion that one of the primary ways Japanese men express themselves is by picking their spot on the continuum from samurai to American businessman.
Braveheart (165m)
Very good. I'm subtitling it Highlander 3: What Should've Been, as opposed to Rob Roy, which was Highlander 2. 75% King Arthur, 30% Highlander 5% Dances with Wolves, 5% Last of the Mohicans, 5% Robin Hood, and 5-80% fact.

Week up to 05/28

Johnny Mnemonic
Not very good acting; good atmosphere. Ice-T is good in his standard role; Dolph is good in a part without actual acting. The girl isn't very good; Keanu is pretty inconsistent. Mostly good effects. I'm told the original story is much better. Watch for the early reference to MTV's Oddities series.
The Crying Game
There's a lot to see the second time. Despite seeing a poor print on a tiny screen, I was reminded of how much care and detail went into the story, how sophisticated it is, and (although I couldn't see it this time) how beautiful the filming is.

Week up to 05/21

Die Hard: with a Vengeance
Not bad. Samuel L Jackson definitely looked tougher than Danny Glover; excellent action, good stunts, and very good explosions. If you enjoyed DH, you'll enjoy DH3. It did seem like the point of the movie was to see how bad they could beat up on Bruce Willis and keep him functional, though.
Yep. It was perverse. A must-see for anyone seriously into cartoons or misogyny, or seeking to corroborate the theory that mental illness can be inherited.

Week up to 05/14

Rebel without a Cause
Better than I expected -- I knew it was a cult classic, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was also an excellent movie.
Basketball Diaries
Somewhat disturbing to watch. Apparently it portrays events from the sixties, but the movie is set in the 90's; as a result, when the director seems to be thinking Magic Bus -- breaking the rules and learning from the experience -- I kept thinking of violence in the cities, thus missing some of the 'fun' value of the movie.
Crimson Tide
Very well-made, but it seemed a bit to arranged for me -- if I feel like I know what the director is thinking, I want it to be art -- not calculations on audience reaction. Also, it's ironic that the last big submarine movie was The Hunt for Red October, and this movie is called Crimson Tide and starts during October, no?
Betty Boop Confidential
Very cute. 3 of the 11 shorts (90 minutes total) didn't have any Betty Boop, but the music was great (especially Cab Calloway doing St. James Infirmary Blues).

Live Shows

Plays & Dance

Peter Pucci Plus Dancers
Down in front (world premiere) -- V cute
Trio for the End of Time -- An interesting exploration of broken symmetry; with some religious male eroticism.
Each and All -- Way wierd spandex, and everything else.
Joe (1994) -- Letting go of a role and holding on to a memory??
Size Nine Spirit -- Cool big numbers: "Goodbye", "Bugle Call Rag", "Don't Be That Way", "If Dreams Come True", "Roll 'em", "Sometimes I'm Happy", "King Porter Stomp"
A good play about a bunch of upper-crusty English types and their entanglements, with a great deal of speculation on humanity rolled in.
A Delicate Balance
Predictably, a dysfunctional family struggles with itself (it's an Edward Albee play...). Successfully disturbing and interesting.
A Fair Country
Very good; consists mostly of arguments between two sons and their parents. The play and family both revolve around a stay in South Africa, and the troubled roles of and relationships between family members. The dialog is inspired, but the play is difficult.
Nixon's Nixon
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Steve Martin did a great job; he injected wit and humor which show a real grasp of both Picasso's and Einstein's lives, while not being burdened by fact, and throwing in recognizable Steve Martin humor as well. The union of mathematics and painting/drawing was a bit weak, but personal connection was well handled.
Guardian Star
The children of an actor from It's a Wonderful Life! deal with his death and each other. The play suffered from 2 major flaws: discontinuity and irrelevance. In several instances, the lights came down and a character spoke to the audience about personal problems and fears; unfortunately, this was totally disassociated from their behavior at the time, and thus irrelevant to the rest of the play. Also, the characters lacked any insight that might have made these monologue interesting or significant.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre: Riverside*, Shelter, and Revelations
Riverside (the premiere was a matinee immediately before the evening performance we saw): "Mornin'", "Homage", "Gome", "Trio", "Six Guys", "Tryst", "Evenin'"; Shelter (1988); and Revelations (1960): "Pilgrim of Sorrow" = I Been 'Buked, Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel, Fix Me, Jesus, "Take Me to the Water" = Processional, Wade in the Water (Wade in the Water & A Man Went down to the River), I Want to Be Ready, "Move, Members, Move" = Sinner Man, The Day Is Past and Gone, You May Run on, Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham
Great; there was one number where I felt that, as a straight male, I was unable to fully appreciate the performance, but everything was great.
The Tempest
Prospero (Patrick Stewart) was a bit weak at the beginning, but did an excellent job with the infirmities (both mental and physical) of age; at the end, he succeeded at exuding command. The stage setting was incredible, and the interpretation the performance as a whole was remarkable. Caliban was downplayed, but Ariel was very good. Miranda was simply annoying.
Mrs. Klein
A fascinating and biting look at Melanie Klein -- one of the early psychoanalysts -- and her difficult relationships. Somewhat like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but much more intellectual.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
The story was excellent, and the dancing was even better. I'm not sure what the homoeroticism was supposed to be -- a complication for character relationships or an alibi, perhaps? Somewhat repetitive, but not really annoying -- I expect this component works better in a book.
3 couples try to have a nice dinner with their friends, and fail. Much verbal fireworks, including a couple of excellent jokes and more sordid personal information revealed than desired (of course). Very good. Interestingly, after they finish being shocked at how much they get on each other's nerves, they argue with more warmth and friendship.
Edith Wharton's New York (based on The House of Mirth)
Very good. Unfortunately, there were more crew members in the audience than audience members, and more actors than crew members. The acting improved significantly after the first scene, but there were so many roles that I was sometimes confused about which roles some of the 17 actors were playing.


Pretty good play about a single man and his married friends. The first act is about their lives, and the second lays it on a bit thick about his life and aloneness.
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Interesting ruminations on sexuality. Disturbing ruminations on love and hate.

Other 'performances'

Dan Goleman
He spoke on Emotional Intelligence -- largely empathy and emotional self-awareness and self-restraint -- and gave some impressive numbers to back up his statement that this is more important than the verbal and computational intelligence measured by IQ tests. Goleman dropped a lot of names, each with a supporting study which buttressed his argument. The marshmallow test, where young children are given a marshmallow and promised another if they wait before eating it, is one; children who waited (thus exhibiting trust, which he didn't discuss, self-control, which he stresses the importance of, and a willingness to defer gratification) did better on various metrics, including final grades for first year of college -- apparently ability to pass the marshmallow test as a young child is a better indicator of Freshman final grades than the SAT, which is designed specifically to predict Freshman finals -- was one such example. He also mentioned the work of Martin Seligman, who studies 'Optimism' as a key to success, John Gottman -- who is able to predict impending divorce with 90% accuraccy by studying a 15-minute argument with married couples, and their ability to empathize with their partner afterward, and several other researchers, all studying different aspects of emotionality.
George Carlin
An interesting interview; Carlin insisted that he had a good childhood with a truly wonderful and well-adjusted mother, was not particularly influenced by his father or the lack of a one (Carlin, his mother, and his brother left his father when he was too young to remember), and didn't have a childhood that fit most of Behar's expectations for the formative elements of a comedian's youth. Watching the two of them verbally wrestle for control of the conversation was quite amusing, moreso because they were both courteous about it. Carlin spoke a bit about female comedians, Lenny Bruce (a great inspiration, a subject for impressions, the person who got him his first work as a comedian, and someone he got arrested with -- the police raided a club while Bruce was onstage, and Carlin told the cop who later asked him for ID that he didn't believe in ID, so they locked him up for the night), and his disillusionment with politics. He did two bits of 'stand-up', one of which was "People I Could Do without" and the other of which was the ending of his upcoming HBO special, in which he states that he stays home on election day, feeling that gives him a right to make fun of those of us who make an effort and end up with politicians.
Edward Tufte
Very interesting talk on graphical design of informational content; he mostly focused on charts and graphs, with information per surface area as the criteria of good design.
Joel Cohen
John Irving
John Irving; Kurt Vonnegut (thx 4 Heimlich); 100-year-old mother died before Today Show @ NBC; told us because Good Morning America @ ABC rejected the story; de blau rote 'airmattress': porn, bzzt, coffee enema; The Widow of One Year -> "The Inadequate Lampshade" @ A Difficult Woman
The Reader in the Electronic Age: Authors Guild / Authors Guild Foundation
Peter Petrie, Fortune computer & online manager: length | literary value demands paper; mentioned Postmodern Culture & Reading Woman
Sven Birker, teacher & essayist, Bennington; The Gutenberg Elegies; types his books; doesn't stop considering essays after publishing. Now considers 'reading' key in our future. Read from an essay called "The Reader in the Electronic Age": attention is more important than subject; reading requires full attention (as opposed to shopping or sex). Self-consciousness simultaneous with absorption is special; language is magic, a pinnacle of evolution.
Esther Dyson: Forbes -> Wall St ... EFF: Time is key; this is the main source of conflict -- as electronic reading takes up more time. Paper ~~ speech, whereas electronic ~~ dialogue -- compiler vs. interpreter (edit). Parsing what you hear is interpretation -- she replies to short E*Mail directly (interpretation), but prints long messages to compile later. Equates ADD to mental diabetes in a fast (barraging?) world; we're not evolved for this. Newspaper conception of interactivity is flawed -- the real promise comes from interacting with people, rather than content, which isn't reading
James Gleick, 2 hit books, Pipeline, NYTM; working on book of cultural history of telephone. Gates' new book is more welcoming on paper than CD, better indexed on paper(!); he doesn't like the tour of the new house, or the obligatory interactive chance to select propaganda bits. Concedes there are good CD-ROMs. Believes interactive newspapers will be much different than current 'interactive' papers, and will greatly benefit from temporal depth, and consciousness if such linkages. Thinks books stand to gain much less, as the writer's vision of the complete work is important.
ED thinks publishers are the ones really worried by interactivity, as their control should go away in favor of a mediating role.
JG points out that the Times editors consider control the central aspect of their job -- pointing to someone else's State of the Union Address, for instance, might allow the White House to change its words.
SB objects to calling this electronic activity reading -- it's really lowly info-grazing.
Debate on any value of technology and the long-term societal ramifications of technology. The rapid pace of technologization seriously impedes our ability to judge this wave, but also increases our vulnerability to it, because there's so little advance notice, as opposed to slower changes (toward writing in Greece, or adjusting to Gutenberg's press). ED: reading is different than listening, and the eventual form of electronic reading. The Web allows listening to poetry. As books are different from movies, and allow backtracking, what happens to SB's claim that immersion is key; if this control/distance is key, writing on-screen should be better. ED our appreciation for electronic media will grow in sophistication over time. In schools, library budgets illustrate the struggle. Electronic letters from students lack some of the sloppy charm of handwritten letters. Genius should express itself, even in electronic media. As children acclimate themselves to technology (assuming they have access), their creativity blossoms on the web, and (JG) doesn't appear to interfere with traditional creativity. How will children's creativity blossom with access to new toys/tools?
John Stewart
Very funny, as were the 2 openers. Basically Jew-boy self-deprecating humor, but with real wit behind it.
T Coraghessan Boyle
Good intro. He read a new short story called "Termination Dust"* (presumably no relation to the book of the same name), which was very good.
The Writer in the Electronic Age: Authors Guild / Authors Guild Foundation
Scott Turow, an author, stated that writing in the current sense is very viable, although he seemed impatient for the greatly superior electronic alternative to the paper book which he can imagine. J. Yellowlees Douglas, Chief Scientist, Eastgate Systems, Inc., defined hypertext for the audience. Steve Brier, an author, was convinced by Bob Stein of Voyager to port his book/video (Who Built America? The American Social History Project) to CD-ROM, adding movies and sound to text and pictures, and adding a great deal of additional material (more pictures and original text). He's quite pleased with the collaborative nature of this type of authoring, but warns that this is expensive (on the order of video production). He also talked about the Voyager/Apple 'censorship' fight: Voyager won -- Apple continued to distribute the complete Who Built America in one of their educational bundles, including unexpurgated sections on abortion and homosexuality. During the Q&A, the panel discussed The New York Times' recently revised submission policy, which apparently used to only cover first serialization rights, and now includes electronic rights (necessary for electronic versions of the Times on AOL, the Web, etc. Turow and many members of the audience felt this was an unacceptable loss of rights for the writers of the article.
Martin P Seligman
Very interesting -- he's convinced (after years of supportive research) that people with a 'pessimistic' attitude perform worse than people with an 'optimistic' attitude, and are more prone to depressive episodes (including poor health, etc.). His group is able to train someone in a 16-hour period to resist depression, which he calls 'inoculating' against pessimism with 'cognitive therapy' to encourage an optimistic attitude.
Umberto Eco
Fascinating. He and his English translator read (Eco in Italian and English) from The Island of the Day Before, which contains a plethora of languages. Eco stated that the feel and sound of the language is more important than the words themselves at certain points in the book.
The Publisher in the Electronic Age: Authors Guild / Authors Guild Foundation
Mark Bernstein, Chief Scientist, Eastgate Systems, Inc.; Marisa Bowe, Word; Margery Mayer, Executive VP, Instructional Publishing Group, Scholastic; Bob Stein, Partner, Voyager Company; Peter Yunich, Publisher, Simon & Schuster Interactive. Yunich explained that the traditional publishing role is that of financial backer, rather than collaborator; this remains true at SSI, despite the increased non-authorial creative involvement, partially because the costs of producing interactive media are so high. Stein rejected this, claiming that Voyager was founded to help authors do art, and this is they type of project they prefer (with authors actively involved in bringing their products to fruition, rather than simply selling the rights to use an idea). Bernstein explained that Eastgate started writing hypertext (half their business now) because there wasn't enough being written at the time. They were a technical shop, but what they needed didn't exist -- so they wrote it. Eastgate is not interested in porting books to computers -- they want to take advantage of the inherent flexibility of a media where there's some logic available at presentation time, as opposed to books, where everybody gets exactly the same thing. Stein agreed, stating that people have a tendency to overlook the tremendous power of text (understandable in a world partially descended from TV). Mayer pointed out that in educational publishing, at least, expectations are clearly different for electronic materials than for books -- buyers want to see evidence that the materials work, for instance, a notion foreign to educational book-publishing. Bowe, apparently the only on-line publisher there, seemed to be in a significantly different field -- she is in a younger and more chaotic field, trying to use wild-eyed cutting-edge enthusiasm, and make it available to everyone. Interestingly, Word's 'stories' seem at least as much a creation of the HTML authors as of the text authors, but the audience seemed concerned that the primacy of the author not be forgotten. Stein made an interesting point about the difference between an author (someone with an original idea) and a writer (who might be hired to write pieces of copy), saying Voyager is very supportive of authors, but that writers who aren't authors are really employees -- a good distinction. There was disagreement as to whether electronic publishing is yet cutting into book sales.
Saul Bellow
He read for about an hour from "The Bellarosa Connection", and then answered some questions. I was impressed by his storytelling ability, but more impressed with his ability to impart information within fiction.
Defending the Caveman
Bob Becker's take (rants) on men vs. women -- thesis: men are't really all assholes -- it's just how they appear to women, who have a 'gatherer' mentality, and thus don't appreciate men's 'hunter' mentality. Pretty funny, and he had a point, but he was (as pointed out by Dad) mostly pandering to women by trying to excuse/explain men's stupidity from their perspective.


David Murray Octet & Brooklyn Conservatory Faculty Jazz Ensemble
The Ensemble was very good.
David Murray Octet: Shakedown Street, Dark Star, original piece (by pianist), Candyman, encore: One More Saturday Night. Piano, bass, drums, trombone, saxaphone (Murray), sax & flute, trumpet, trumpet.
Clearwater Music Festival '96
Ani DiFranco
Quite funny and way wired; she played very fast and sang like she was on something. Although the music was self-similar, the words were funny and interesting enough to totally mesmerize a whole passel of 12-24-year-old girls.
John Gorka
Very good, very funny.
Ronnie Gilbert as Mother Jones
Good, although the recitation of Mother Jones' life and struggles was a bit wandering, and not always interesting.
Cherish the Ladies
La Monte Young & The Forever Bad Blues Band: Young's Dorian Blues in G
8:02: Young starts tinkling his keyboard (wearing gloves and looking like Santa on a hog), cycling from long, still silences toward longer bits of music with shorter pauses. 8:38: Bassist (very good complement to the repetitive bass of the keyboard), then excellent drummer, then guitarist start to play, during a long keyboard piece at the ending of Young's first cycle. 9:09: Guitarist actually turns out to be good; he will remove and replace hs fretboard several times -- why? Youunv mostly continues with the same bit on the keyboard, sometimesvarying, as everybody else does their own thing.
Joe Satriani
He was unrecognizable with wraparounds and without hair. The music was totally recognizable (and excellent), though.
Gravel Pit & Morphine
Pretty good; the chintzy organ was more odd than annoying, as was the band itself.
Excellent. They played about 6 songs from their next album (expected in September), and a bunch of their other material. Billy Conway, their current drummer, broke his leg and wasn't able to play, so they borrowed Yubal Galal from Soul Coughing (a New York band); Mark was so happy with Yubal, I had to wonder if they were going to try stealing him from Soul Coughing. Band dynamics with Morphine are very interesting; Dana Colley (the double sax and triangle player) looked like he was doing his job, but Mark Sandman (2-string bass player and lead singer) seemed to be enjoying himself a bit too much at the beginning of the set; as he got this under control, his mild Texan accent disappeared.
Excellent musicians; as Amy said, it's all based on Jewish wedding-type music, but they do a great job with it; the music, lyrics (what I understood of the Yiddish and what I caught of the English), and performance were all fun.
She's great; her voice was sometimes painful to hear, but I think this was intentional. The performance began with a moving version of "Kumbaya", which was much more appreciable than the way I learned it in nursery school, or any other rendition I've heard, and included "Gallows Pole", originally a Scottish song, which she'd heard performed by Leadbelly -- an excellent opportunity to hear some of the lyrics I never caught in the Led Zeppelin version. :) She's obviously still a political activist, and a powerful communicator of her feelings and positions; we didn't have enough time for the discussion she kept talking about, but the music was quite politically active itself.
New Sounds Live
Laurie Anderson: Excellent; she played a bit and talked about her realization that there are no more performers, but instead content providers. She also talked about her first and only LSD trip (when she had a meaningful interaction with sand) and finding a web page about music and sand (I believe it's this fairly old and somewhat infamous page), sending mail, as these are two of her own interests, and receiving a response that her correspondent was only about 5 years old; this is interesting first because she wouldn't likely have found a 5-year-old correspondent with mutual interests before web browsing, and also because the recipient could just as easily have been a 90-year-old woman taking a false identity. She also spoke about a project called "Warchild", which I believe was a school in Bosnia -- valuable for its possibility, as opposed to "solving world hunger" which is an inherently frustruating objective to work for.
Brian Dewan: Very funny -- both his own songs and the old folk songs he performed were off-color and mildly disturbing (such as "Feel the Brain").
Early Music Ensemble: Now + Well
Excellent; Six men performing works categorized as "Medieval England", "Medieval France", "14th Century Italy", "15th English Carols", "King Henry VIII's Songbook", and "16th Century Europe" -- all excellent performers, and using an remarkable assortment of odd old instruments (including one performer who played 2 flutes, and later a flute and a stringed instrument, simultaneously). They sang beautifully in 'modern' English and several archaic languages, with a remarkable countertenor.
Natalie Merchant
Good show & good music; unfortunately, Natalie mumbles all the time and the upper-balcony audio sucked, so we missed more than half the lyrics in favor of the guitar. Natalie dances like Elvis in a dress and long hair.
Heineken (Jazz &) Blues Festival 95: Magic Dick, J Geils, & Elvin Bishop w/ Bluestime; Etta James, Jimmie Vaughn, B B King
Magic Dick, J Geils, Elvin Bishop w/ Bluestime: Dick is an excellent harmonica player, but not the sex symbol he appears to think he is -- he should play more, and pose and dance less. Geils & Bishop were both great.
Etta James: Loud & proud!
Jimmie Vaughn: Stevie Ray's brother got it too -- Mom says he's the most rock n roll blues player she's ever seen, and he's doing a good job of improving upon Elvis.
B B King: Great; we thought he probably would've played guitar more without an orchestra, though.
Nell Carter

MacWorld Expo/Boston 95

2-string bass (approximately in the 'moan of a dying whale' register), double sax/triangle (cool!), and drums successfully evoke their name. They're excellent.
Ray Charles
Good -- awful physical arrangement, but pretty good music.
Very good cover band. Spelling of their name is unconfirmed.

Macintosh New York Music Festival

Very Fine Neighbor*
Good. Seriously hyper, and obviously talented. Very loud (thus the name, presumably).
Quite good. I don't know whether the speech slurring is a joke, but it didn't seem to affect their singing. They seemed to be stuck in either first or fifth gear -- either dawdling along or trying to explode.
Todd Rundgren
Cool -- not only is his musical talent broad (he sang hard, heavy, angry, etc., and rapped a bit during the performance and on his new CD-I), but he is broadly talented in other areas (he wrote FlowFazer, a lava lamp for Macintosh, years ago).
Laurie Anderson
This was really a talk about Puppet Motel, her Voyager CD-ROM, prefaced with a couple minutes of violin playing. Interestingly, hearing her candidly explain the oddities which went into the Tales from the Nerve Bible tour and associated CD (Puppet Motel) lessened the impression of that her brilliance was riding the tiger of her 'strange' personality with considerable enthusiasm, but without complete control, which I'd picked up at the concert.
Angel Corpus Christie
Pretty good -- very strange. The lead singer/accordionist was making a determined (and somewhat successful) effort to exude sexuality, despite instrument, costume, and hair. The man in the group (a guitarist) didn't speak. Oh, and the music/lyrics were quite good.
Vernon Reid
I could tell that Vernon's an excellent guitarist, but there wasn't much guitar in his performance -- he mostly played with his DV20 which generated the sounds he seemed much more interested in hearing. A pity.
Jaron Lanier*
Jaron put on a very interesting show, but seemed more interested in playing than performing -- it wasn't particularly stimulating to me, at least. He was more interested in a piece of computer-based accompaniment he'd written in 2 days. The demo involved a 'solar system' oriented around a flashing cursor as the star with a ring around it; additionally, there were 7 tetrahedrons in a single orbit inside the orbit of the ring, a spinning hexagon sharing their orbit, and a sphere (with comet tail) passing through the shared orbit; whenever(?) the comet passed through the hexagon, it changed colors and the computer-generated music switched character. The point of the exercise was that Jaron's playing was supposed to control the comet -- if he played with more feeling the comet would slow down or backtrack. Unfortunately, the net effect was that when he played the comet backtracked and when he breathed the comet moved forward -- I, at least, was unable to notice any distinction on the part of the computer as to how much feeling there was in his playing.
Samm Bennet*
Samm and ex-Chunk bandmate Tim played a variety of percussion 'instruments'. Samm had the beat part down bit -- besides a good rhythm, he had a goatee; was tall, thin, and pale; spoke as much as sang the words, and howled. Groovy, baby.
Ian Anderson Twelve Dances with God
Cool. The hick contingent was unusually strong, and the leather concert contingent was mostly absent. Too much yelling for "Tull". Unfortunately, a concert by a flutist doesn't allow for much singing. All the music from the new album was entirely instrumental, but they sang a few stanzas from Tull favorites in the second set. Since they didn't have all the Tull bandmembers, the keyboardist emulated a bit of everything. All the performers were quite good.
Wessel Anderson & Wycoff Gordon Quintet
5 musicians who played with Winton Marsalis. Pretty good. The audience members who came up to play were decent.

Disclaimer: This is simply my opinion -- don't take it too seriously, please.

Note: '*' means the performance included a new piece. I'm likely to have missed some.

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