Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Very Brief Review: "Milk" (2008)

In what is Director Gus Van Sant’s best film to date (and one certain to drive cultural conservatives batty), “Milk” charts the political rise of 1970s gay activist Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in U.S. history despite three prior hard-fought (but failed) campaigns in San Francisco-area elections.

While obviously dramatized, “Milk” has clear connections to politics today, particularly in the recent California state referendum over Proposition 8. There is also nary a weak performance in the film, least of all by Sean Penn in the title role, whom I am now convinced should win his Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

In many respects, “Milk” is both a tragic docudrama and quiet political thriller. It is also certainly among the best films I have seen in the past year.

I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

La Brea

In looking at the Republican Party today, languishing in a vacuum of internal leadership, it’s not hard to imagine it as some poor creature stuck in prehistoric tar pit.

Not that the GOP is expected to go under, but in the week since Obama’s inauguration it’s amusing to watch the party—which just five years ago Karl Rove fantasized as a permanent majority—flail about, searching for modern relevance via tired economic strategies (e.g. tax cuts as the magic bullet for all national ills), bizarre floor speeches, and circular pep talks from waterboy-in-chief Rush Limbaugh.

In all, it’s almost sad. Well, not really, as I hold no illusions that Democrats are master policy authors either. Yet at any rate, I’m content to watch their right-wing counterparts continue struggling in the mire as I watch peacefully from the opposite shore while sipping my lime-green slushie.

It’s all cathartic in a way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You're Welcome

Since the 1970s, ventriloquist dummies have become far less spooky than they used to—be it in comedy clubs or other venues—and rightfully so. It’s a well-known fact that lap dummies in the school of Charlie McCarthy are carved from the bones of Jungian childhood fears, and who wants to creep out their audience at an improv club?

Right off, prime examples of spooky dolls come to life spring from the 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode “Living Doll” with Telly Savalas, and the clown attack from the 1983 movie “Poltergeist” which I found more goofy than scary when I first saw it.

However, far above the pantheon of Hollywood demon dolls lies the 1978 feature “Magic” starring Anthony Hopkins as a troubled ventriloquist (is there any other kind?) who returns to his hometown to escape his success, and perhaps rekindle a relationship with an ex-sweetheart (Ann-Margaret) only to find that his dummy, Fats, may not like his partner going solo.

I can still recall the movie’s TV ad, which scared the hell out of me at age 10, but today isn’t so creepy.

Check it out below. And should you have any nightmares afterwards, you’re very, very welcome.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Ringo

Last fall, I was among those amused by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr’s ominous warning (with peace and love) to his fans that he would be suspending his policy of answering all fan mail, and sending out free autographs.

As such, even though I’m not a rabid Beatles fan, I scribbled up a brief letter and SASE, and sent it over the pond to Sir Richard prior to his deadline of October 20.

This past Friday, I finally heard back from him. Unfortunately, Ringo did not answer my question (asking what the first new car he bought [make/model/year] after the Beatles hit it big was), but he did autograph a small index card I had sent along.

So all’s well that ends well, I suppose, in one’s octopus’ garden in the sea.