Monday, February 28, 2005

REV: MSNBC on the Oscars

Tipping point for minorities in the movies?
Why Jamie Foxx's win is bigger than Jamie Foxx

By Michael E. Ross
Reporter, MSNBC
Updated: 3:27 a.m. ET Feb. 28, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell's 2002 best-selling book “The Tipping Point” advanced the notion that small, seemingly incidental factors can make the difference between an idea withering in the face of public indifference and exploding into a wildfire of acceptance, embraced by the public as “the next big thing.”

Oscar victories for Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman on Sunday night, and the numerous nominations for other stars that night, may well be the long-contemplated, dreamed-about tipping point for popular culture — that moment when the still comparatively marginal status of minorities in motion pictures changed forever.

Sunday's triumphant night for African American actors and their legions of fans has been anticipated for weeks. The nominations of four black actors and five films devoted to African American characters or themes made Oscars 2005 something of a watershed for black moviegoers before the first statuettes were even handed out.

But evidence is there that, in unprecedented numbers, the interests and passions of minorities across the board — not just African Americans — are taking their place in the pantheon of the most popular art form in the world.

There’s the rollicking swagger of Jamie Foxx's star turn in “Ray”; Don Cheadle's poignant, affecting portrayal in “Hotel Rwanda”; the stirring breakthrough of Catalina Sandino Moreno in “Maria Full of Grace”; and contributions from “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “House of Flying Daggers.”

There’s Darrell Roodt’s “Yesterday,” a study of survival and hope amidst the AIDS epidemic, and South Africa’s first Academy-nominated film (nominated for best foreign language film); “Mighty Times: The Children's March,” a study of youth activists battling segregation in 1963 (which won for short subject documentary); and “Al Otra Lado del Rio” (from “Diaries”), the first Spanish-language song to win an Oscar.

[tg note: during the broadcast they said this was the first Spanish-language song ever nominated]

Other tipping points?
There have been other signs of such progress — earlier tipping points — over the past few years:

In March 2002 Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won the Oscars for best actor and best actress, respectively, and Sidney Poitier recieved a special honorary Oscar for “remarkable accomplishments.” It was a dramatic advance for black stars in Hollywood, and a new ratification of acceptance of African Americans' place in movie history.

That same year Arenas Entertainment, an independent film production company focused on Latino moviegoers, began a distribution and marketing partnership with Universal Pictures, the better to gain a piece of U.S. Latino purchasing power, estimated by Hispanic Business magazine at $500 billion a year.

The weekend of Aug. 6, 2004, “Collateral,” starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx (in his second Oscar-nominated role) opened at No. 1 in box office receipts, followed by Denzel Washington's “The Manchurian Candidate” (No. 4), Will Smith's “I, Robot” (No. 6) and Halle Berry's “Catwoman” (No. 9). “Shrek 2,” with the vocal talents of Eddie Murphy, was at No. 18, and “King Arthur,” the medieval action film directed by African American Antoine Fuqua, was at No. 20 that weekend, a week when, for the first time, films directed by or starring African Americans in prominent roles were six of the top 20 movies Americans went to see — four of the top 10.

Despite merciless drubbing by the critics, the Ice Cube road comedy “Are We There Yet?” has notched more than $73.4 million in receipts. The film remains in the top 10 more than six weeks after its release.

And on Sunday, the comedy “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” made a surprising No. 1 box-office debut, raking in more than $22 million in ticket sales while still in limited release — and pushing out of the top position the Will Smith film “Hitch,” which had occupied the No. 1 spot for about three weeks before that.

For Paul Dergarabedian, whose Exhibitor Relations company monitors domestic movie box-office sales, what matters is what’s on the screen — product that increasingly reflects more of America and the world.

“The hope is that the awards would become colorblind anyway, that it’s about the work,” he said on Oscar night from Los Angeles. “But there’s a lot going on with African American actors and actresses. There's no denying that the level of talent that's out there is deserving of box-office success, and also of critical success at the awards.

‘Meritocracy’ of the movies
“A movie has to be entertaining to make money,” he said. “People don't go just to make a statement. Opening weekends, yes, maybe people go for different reasons. But for a film to stay in the marketplace like ‘Hitch’ or ‘Are We There Yet?,’ it comes down to a meritocracy. They won’t be sustained in the marketplace just because they’re there. That doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the box office.”

“For a movie to hang in there for more than one week is a function of people responding to it. Films nominated for Oscars have to have a certain power and strength to them. Otherwise it would bring the whole process down if it had nothing to do with the quality of the work.

“It’s not about the popularity of these movies — this is the first time in years there hasn't been a $100 million film in the bunch — but they all deserve a chance to be in that rareified air,” he said.

Equal opportunity diversity
For Dergarabedian, the shift in American cinema transcends race, going on to embrace gender and topical distinctions as well.

“You can apply this to other trends, like female action figures,” he said. “Twenty years ago, a female action hero couldn't get arrested. Now you have females in powerful roles kicking butt, and those films do well. A few years ago they were strictly roles for males; now the females take care of things on their own.

“There’s been a tipping point on a lot of things, not only race but also subject matter,” Dergarabedian said. “Consider ‘The Passion of the Christ’ on religion, or ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ on politics. There are so many ways the culture is evolving and becoming accepting of different voices, different angles. There is more diversity in terms of actors, actresses and the creative side of things. And that's a good thing.”


MSC: Oh, our dark paths how they cross

Well, i was trying to confirm the Thomas Haden Church link to Ingram when i encountered this upcoming or just aired segment of the HBO Series Carnivale.

It's titled Ingram, Tx

"In a single coast to coast broadcast, I will speak to more souls than Our Lord did in his entire lifetime..."

Directed by: John Patterson

Written by: John McLaughlin

"After nearly a week in tiny Ingram, Tex., the night is quiet in the Carnivale camp, until Sofie wakes up, believing she smells smoke. Ben helps her look, but there is no sign of any fire. The next day, Ben asks Sofie to read his Tarot cards, but she dismisses the idea, says she has no ability and angrily tells him to burn the deck. She has been having trouble sleeping and doesn't believe that the smoke she smelled was a dream. Ben has difficulties of his own. Despite pressure from Samson and Management, he has been unable to find any clues in a week of driving around the roads of Ingram. "Kerrigan didn't give me a road map," he says. Samson understands, but knows that unease is mounting. "Watch your back," he warns. In Mintern, a huge encampment has grown around the future home of the Temple of Jericho. Tommy Dolan complains that many of the supplicants are only there for a hot meal. "Then they will be fed," Justin says expansively. "They've come because they were called, Mr. Dolan. I need them all." Later, as Justin addresses his radio congregation, Iris glances at his notes for the sermon and discovers only a page of grotesque doodles, dismembered eyeballs and female genitalia. On the road, the tracker Varlyn Stroud has found his way to Babylon. With a Babylon Mining Company accounting book in his hand, he compares names against the names on a memorial to those who perished in the cave-in of '21. Crossing off the names of the dead in the ledger, he is left with just one: Henry Scudder. Still dressed as a cop, he heads to the telegraph office to wire Brother Justin that he is heading for New Mexico. At the Carnivale, things are not right in Ruthie's world. She awakes one morning to see Lodz outside her curtain, but finds no one there when she rises. Her snakes have been skittish lately, biting and killing each other. Then, during a performance, one of her them wraps itself around her neck and tries to strangle her; she is saved when Gabriel arrives. "Kill it, kill it," she screams, and her son batters the snake to a bloody pulp.Ben accedes to Sofie's wishes and burns her Tarot cards. But as he stares into the fire, he sees one that stops him in his tracks. Sitting in the middle is a card with an image of the Tattooed Man, on a Tarot marked "Le Passeur." He pulls it from the blaze and shows it to Sofie, but she says it's not a true Tarot card. "I've seen 'em all a thousand times," she says. "That's not one of them." At the cooch tent, Stumpy has Rita Sue and Libby working overtime with the johnnies. He's also pulling out all of the fundraising stops, including blow-off shows for kids. Later, when a rough character shows up to collect money from Stumpy, he tries to pass him off as an old friend, but Rita Sue is suspicious, and Libby overhears the man threatening Stumpy. Reverend Balthus, still incapacitated by stroke, is wheeled into Justin's home. "Welcome home, Norman," Justin enthuses, and he is soon spooning babyfood in his old mentor's mouth while tormenting him with his plans for the future. Justin's cohort Tommy Dolan continues his investigation of the fire at the Dignity Ministry. A waitress who saw Justin's car leave the scene is unwilling to talk, but Tommy wins her over with a heartbreaking story. He learns that the person driving the car was slumped down. "Could it have been a woman?" Tommy asks. "Might have been," the witness says. Driving the ranch roads around Ingram, Ben is stopped by a tree in the road and discovers a nightmarish camp. Positioned throughout are strange and decrepit artifacts-mangled mannequins, parcels of insects, literature about artificial human eyes. Searching, he trips a crude alarm and is quickly set upon by stooped men, howling like monkeys. One is firing rusty bolts from a slingshot. Ben fights, but is soon overcome as more men arrive. Hanging upside down, Ben is visciously flogged, while two tattered women go through his possessions. Finally, the moonshine-swilling leader calls out, "Leave some for the worms," and tells the man beating Ben to go bury him. Justin continues his psychological torture of Balthus, inducing the toothsome maid Celeste to service him while the paralyzed reverend watches. "I will show you things," he purrs. "Wonderful, terrible things." At the strange camp, Ben's captor finishes burying him alive as the others divide his paltry belongings. But when the leader sees Scudder's Templar watch fob, he leaps up and scrambles desperately to the burial spot. Frantically digging Ben out, they find him still alive. "This yours?" the man asks, holding out the fob. "We've been waiting for you."Back at the Carnivale, Ruthie again sees Lodz and follows him back to his trailer. But when she opens the door, she sees only Sofie, asleep. Ruthie tucks her in and leaves, not noticing the knob of the radio as it slowly rotates to tune in Justin's sermon. As his voice is heard in the night, Sofie's eyes slowly open."

Well, all right then -- monkeys, moonshine, ministry, mangled mannequins and Babylon . . . and a bit about flogging. Maybe we ain't so tiny!

REV: Oscars Mop-up

Okay, i'm feeling a bit smug right now. I SORTA nailed the Oscars tonight, and am flabbergasted that i did. More on that later.

First some other details -- i thought it was the most enjoyable Oscars program in a long, long time, though there have been other fine, if long, shows. It never dragged, Chris Rock was funny (vicious, but funny) the music (with a notable exception) very good, and the show just fun to watch. Beyonce and Josh Groban were as tight as whatever that band was was sloppy and 3/4 shy of on-pitch. This much we know, there was no lip-synching at this awards show. And Santana!

Rock was every bit as dangerous as he was billed. Make no mistake -- Rock is dangerous not for the words he uses, but how he uses the words. He wasn't hardly clean, but certainly avoided the censors. I'm sure some FCC wag and a couple of congressman will take him/them to task over it, but he skirted the letter of the law ever so finely, saving the great big one for the very last. One has to wonder if the Academy wasn't part and parcel of the setup, considering who presented the Best Picture award. All right, i don't have to wonder -- they set it up -- but gave the old "No One Under 14" warning first. Hoo-boy. And was Dusty rusty or . . .

I can just picture two guys behind the button on the five-second delay doing double-takes:

"Did he say it?"

"I don't think he said IT, but it sounded like it."

"Can we bleep it if it's not it?"

"[Five seconds up]"

"Oh well."

And am i not mistaken that the only thing bleeped was in a pre-recorded film clip, and the word bleeped was one Rock had already used in his opening monologue without getting bleeped?


I'm pretty down on cussing. But you can count me downer with censors.

Some of Rock's targets were a bit ruthlessly savaged -- Jude Law in particular -- though Sean Penn's annual version of the knight in shining armor was kinda whiny and pompous. Rock did play up race in some targeted and biting ways. Some of it i'm not sure how to take, but i'm sure others will weigh in on it soon. I know this, he is a sharp archer.

Despite Rock's digs, the haul by African-American actors was most impressive. In the only non-win by a major African-American nominee -- Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda -- he was beaten by another black man [okay, somehow i got gender-centric here and now i realize that Sophie Okonedo also didn't win -- perhaps my blindness in thinking Cate Blanchett was spectacular . . .]. The sweetest justice done was that these were not token wins -- the best men, period, won for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in a roomful of excellent actors and performances.

A year ago, my good friend Greg Moses wrote somewhat despairingly in The Texas Civil Rights Review and Counterpunch about the lack of color on display at the Oscars.

[See: and ]

Who's to know who might have read that fine essay in the Academy, but some possible mitigations might have been more demeaning than helpful. Perhaps some evidence of an attempt to balance the program better, ala Moses' plea, was the use of P. Diddy and Prince as presenters. Both wise choices, yet a bit obvious since they made bigger hay in their heyday as musicians/fashion designers than actors. Beyonce singing three of the five nominated best songs was a tad odd as well. Are there no other singers out there who could perform a couple of these? Not that she did them poorly, she was superb, but next to her the band from hell (who were those guys? [Aaaaargh! Adam Duritz -- a guy whose voice i have admired -- & Counting Crows -- a band i've never seen but listen to frequently! or Milli Vanilli reincarnate? Tell me it isn't so Joe, tell me it isn't so]) well . . . you get it. Choosing the best comedian working to host was, IMHO, a fine start -- that is to choose the best comedian and not the best black comedian.

That there were five major nominees of color, one nominated twice, was about talent, not about color. And that is to the credit and betterment of cinema. Maybe, in some circles, just being American can finally be what it might should have been post-reconstruction -- a label without the need for parsing. Justice, after all, is about avoiding injustice to begin with; not in bandaging the damage. It is best then that talent has trumped the need (at least for now) for affirmative action. Caution still wonders why the arts (the motion picture arts anyway), so late in coming 'round, wasn't leading the charge instead of squatting behind the advance guard.

[From the New York Times: Asked to comment on the large number of nominations for black actors this year - five nominations for four actors - Mr. Freeman observed: "It means Hollywood is continuing to make history. Life goes on. Things change. They never stay the same. We are evolving with the rest of the world."


The year was a landmark one for African-American actors, the first time that black men won both acting categories. It followed 2002, another landmark year, when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won the two top acting awards, and suggested that blacks were gaining greater acceptance in Hollywood. Asked about the significance of his win backstage, Mr. Foxx said black people had too many negative images, and needed positive symbols. "In our music, our everyday life - why not have something positive, and stamp it with blackness," he said. "When I was watching Halle Berry, watching Denzel Washington it gave me inspiration, that I could do my thing too."]

And of the battle about assimilationism? What i saw in the performances i watched were characters of great personal strength (certainly heroic in some sense) but with flawed backgrounds -- no less than we would expect of any human of any color, much less such finely wrought personas. So no, no Aileen Wuornos-type was nominated, but then what performance, this year, qualified?

Indeed. I say it is a fine new step for the Academy, whether intentional or serendipitous.

Having sat through the evening with a fine bunch of friends -- actors/directors/fans Holly Riedel, Roy Burney, Marie Cearley, John Cearley, Aaron Hutto and Chad Varner -- and a wonderful feed (amazingly typical for the house of Riedel, assisted by the house of Cearley, for which i am most grateful) i found what you usually do in a gathering of aficionados -- some new nuggets of wisdom and knowledge. Perhaps most shocking was to find out that Best Supporting Actor nominee Thomas Haden Church lives just a couple of miles down the road from me/us -- literally in Ingram. Who could have known? Well, i guess everyone but me.

I also had read several times about Jamie Foxx's relationship with the grandmother who raised him, but somehow had missed the fact that he is a Texas boy. Not Ingram, perhaps, but you know Texas provincialism. So a toast to both. To Thomas homeboy for making the big show, and to Jamie for the win, and for the finest speech delivered tonight.

Now for my smugness. As you will note in the post way down below, i really didn't do picks so to speak, so much as publicly declare those films/actors/etc. for whom i would vote, had i a vote. With thousands of voters i fear sometimes that maybe these things might be ever so predictable -- though the professional critics seem to have a hard time getting it right. Maybe they're just being snooty so they can give snooty reasons later about the unwashed voting masses. Anyway, if this is a game, and if you're trying to win it, then i think maybe it's not that tough. I don't really know.

What i do know is this: Of the 8 categories i declared my picks in -- 7 of them won. I would have been 100% except that i chickened out in Best Director and picked two, knowing only one would win. At least the winner was one of those two. So sorta i got a 100%, or if you ignore the one i sorta cheated on, it's still 100%. Or whatever.

Here is my full disclosure part: While watching the show i actually picked favorites in 8 additional categories. I'll eliminate one of those in a category -- Best Foreign Film -- in which i didn't see a single film, but sheerly guessed the winner based on the intense buzz and attention given the film (is this a Miramax thing?). Of the remaining seven, i picked five right, and missed on two. So dropping the two "sortas" i was 13 for 15 (or 14 for 16, or 15 for 17; quibbles, my dear). Not too shabby. I haven't checked the critics scoreboards yet, but they'll be hard-pressed to match that percentage.

Below is the list of things i picked publicly a few days ago:
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles
Cinematography: The Aviator
Directing: Scorcese AND Eastwood

Tonight i picked:
Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Adapted Screenplay: Sideways
Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside
Art Direction: The Aviator
Costume Design: The Aviator
Documentary: The Story of the Weeping Camel (won by Born Into Brothels)
Visual Effects: Spiderman 2
Film Editing: Million Dollar Baby (won by The Aviator)

My complaints -- few: Who were all the gnomes dashing around -- staff making up for lapses somewhere? Lots of stage noise. Hoffman unable to handle something.

I guess unlike most folks i've seen comment, i liked the lineup of all the nominees on stage at the announcement of the awards. I imagine were i sitting in the audience i'd like to see the major nominees do the same -- something not really possible (except by screenshot) when they're hunkered in their seats (and which seemed, and always has seemed, invasive and uncomfortable). HOWEVER, awarding in the aisles of the audience was cheesy, unprofessional and ungracious -- that needs to go.

And finally (and not a complaint, just an observation), i didn't pay close attention to the fawning red carpet pre-show (in which the host/interviewer was universally bludgeoned for his patronizing rudeness), but during the actual ceremony i didn't once see Harvey or Bob Weinstein. Is that right?? Or did i miss something?

[updated several times in the hours after the show]

Saturday, February 26, 2005

WTX: Final production delayed

Cody Mauldin and i had planned to premiere Wisdom, Texas at the upcoming Campference, but we were unable to track down all of our interviewees in time to accoplish a final edit. It has been a somewhat hectic attempt in the final hours, so it's probably best anyway that we delay the premiere until next year. The current plan is to do some of the needed interviews at Campference itself next week. Look for the film in spring of 2006.

TEM: Schedule upcoming

I've finished filming now for two of the subjects: Emma McNairy and Graham Douglass.

There is one more interview to accomplish for Brittany Parks, Ryne Acevedo and Whitney Wilson.

Then i have complete practice, performance and interview segments to accomplish with our final two subjects.

Will be in contact with each of you soon about arrangements.

D&D: Scenes shooting soon

Shooting dates are being lined up for the following scenes in the next month or so. Please check your calendars, so you'll be ready to let me know if you're available:

9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. shoot, Katy's call in the store at Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B., crew

2:00 p.m. 12yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Taylor F., Nolan B., Connor B., Wyndham B., Jacob L.; 8yos at playground and dam -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B., crew

3:30 p.m. Colt's call at the dam, plus scenics -- Graham D., Peter N., crew

5:30 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. shoot, Cop scene at Kerrville Police Department -- Peter N., Leaman V., Chris V., crew

6:00 p.m. at The Point dancing -- Lillian B., Whitney W., Graham D., Peter N.

6:00 p.m. Dusty's conversation (reshoot of scene 33), at Rio Vista -- Aaron H.

6:00 p.m. Melissa's call from Colt, at an unknown house -- Lillian B.

All Day - Four scenes in a high school hallway -- Peter N., Graham D., Lauren B., all support and extras, Holly R., Roy B., Marie C.Various scenics, one-shots, and nightmare sequences

REV: Sleeping Beauty at the Vortex

Emma McNairy as Sleeping Beauty
at The Vortex, Austin

Sleeping Beauty opened at the Vortex Theatre in Austin tonight, with the lovely Emma McNairy in the title role. Emma is also one of the subjects of The Extra Mile and i was there for final dress rehearsal to film her.

This original take on the fairy tale by Bonnie Cullum and Content Love Knowles has a ton going for it, and i'm sure that as the production proceeds and tightens (perhaps opening night adrenaline did the trick) it will be quite the spectacle.

In the incarnation i saw (interrupted only by directorial work, which is what rehersals are for) i was enough intrigued to decide i'll probably return with friends.

In decidedly avant-grade trim -- interchanging musicians/actors, breaking of the third wall, anachronistic touches, and twists on the original story -- Cullum has produced a winner.

The songs are mostly superbly wrought lyrically and musically, though the birth/waiting song (which was obviously was intended to be monotonous and overwrought) is a bit too monotonous and overwrought. The occasional (non-parodying) cliche seems below the level of the rest of the production as well.

I'm sorry for not having the other actor's names here, programs were not available for final dress (nor was anyone expecting me to review i'm sure or they might have provided one). But mention has to be made of various and others and i hope to have names at some point.

Emma was phenomenal, both as her character and for the singular beauty of her voice. The suitor, Prince Dave, delivered the Arlo Guthrie-ish two either-side-of-denouement songs with great tenderness and sensititvity, and i'm sure once i learn his name i'll realize that he makes something of a living as an acoustic singer/songwriter.

Various of the fairies were downright enchanting, perhaps i can honor them separately once i know who they are. Some others were quite funny, some difficult to watch -- so difficult that to focus on them takes you completely out of the play. I don't know if that's good or bad.

The Queen was queenly in more ways than one, all good. And the king was perfect in his role.

Aside from the constant, and almost perfectly placed and delivered score, the other thing i think deserves strong mention is the lighting. For a small corner stage, the combination of lighting, changes and use of fog was just fantastic. The transitions were particularly effective and seamless. Kudos to whoever designed and executed that piece of the show.

All in all, a very enjoyable show, an excellent script and score. Congrats to Bonnie for pulling this off. May it travel well.

Photo by Kennth B. Gall of Emma McNairy as Sleeping Beauty

Monday, February 21, 2005

ATH: This should have happened 15 years ago

In the early nineties, when i was coaching a kids skating club at the middle school, we had to truck kids out of town to compete and, for that matter, simply get a feel for what it was like to actually skate on a surface built for the purpose. Skating has been a big deal since the 60s, so this newfound "popularity" is pure bunk. Kids have been harassed in this town for years for simply being skaters -- how about the spin on that! Well, in any case, it's about time. Misty, you go girl.

Playscape gets OK on skatepark

By Carlina Villalpando

The Kerrville Daily Times
Published February 17, 2005

Kerrville’s Playscape Inc. — a local nonprofit organization responsible for a number of recent and ongoing improvements to city parks — now is rolling again with a new project.

On Wednesday, Kerrville’s Parks and Recreation advisory board gave Playscape the OK to start looking at what it would take to build a public skatepark. Playscape’s leader, Misty Blevins, said Playscape has looked at bringing a skatepark to Kerrville for a long time. The growing popularity of skateboarding is obvious, but Kerrville offers no place for it to happen safely and legally, she said. “Just look around town — kids on skateboards are everywhere, and right now, they have nowhere to go,” Blevins said.

The Playscape crew has researched the sport, has identified and examined model parks and has contacted other municipalities nationwide that have opened parks. It even has secured help from skatepark designer Nick DeRico — who has helped build six other parks in New York and one in Philadelphia and now just happens to live nearby.

On Wednesday, Blevins delivered support for Playscape’s vision. Parents, law enforcement and skating enthusiasts said a skatepark would not only give young people a place to hangout, but it would minimize certain safety and traffic hazards and would alleviate over-extension of law enforcement currently caused by skateboarders.

Officer John Knoulton said the police department responds to frequent calls from business owners asking to have skateboarders cleared from parking lots. Most of these kids, he said, aren’t causing trouble. They are good kids; they simply don’t have anywhere else to go. “They started out at schools and parking garages, and they were run off for liability reasons,” Knoulton said. “Then they started hitting parking lots — Super S and Wal-Mart — but now they’re banned there, too.

“They didn’t have any place to go, so we weren’t initially very hard on them, but it’s becoming a real problem,” Knoulton added. “They’ll ask us where they can go, and we don’t have anything to tell these guys but to disappear.” More recently, the department has received numerous calls about kids skateboarding down the middle of streets, Knoulton said. “What’s most important is that we find a safe place for them to be,” Blevins said.

The proposed location for the skatepark is between existing baseball fields at Singing Wind Drive. While a site at Louise Hays Park also was considered, Singing Winds was picked because it is larger, clearly visibility from a distance and already is a highly police-patrolled area. Other nearby recreational facilities, Blevins said, will compliment a skatepark, making it a safe place parents will feel good about dropping their children.

Playscape’s plans now are to look at logistics — examining costs, design and fund-raising — to produce a complete project plan it can hand back to the advisory board next month. Blevins said the organization would start by surveying parents and kids for input. All of Playscape’s projects are community- and grant-funded.

Five years ago, the organization raised funds for the construction of the playground at Singing Wind Park, and it currently is working to make improvements at Elm Creek Park. For information about Playscape, or to make a donation, call 257-5295 or visit

They're not bad, they just wanna sk8

By Carlina Villalpando
The Daily Times
Published February 23, 2005

They are your kids, grandchildren and neighbors. Most aren’t much different from your average 12- to 18-year-old kid. They like to wear their hair long, short or in-between. Their clothes can be baggy khakis one day and 501’s the next. As a group, they get good grades and are respectable and polite, law abiding citizens.

The only difference, perhaps, is that they prefer “ollies” to slam dunks and parking lots to playgrounds.

Skateboarders may look a bit different — some with their baggy pants and skulls — but still, they’re kids looking for a place to play. So why have skateboarders taken such a bad rap? For years, skateboarders have been harassed by people for doing what they love.

“Because a lot of people don’t agree with it or even understand it, and jump to conclusions about who they think these kids are,” skatebaording enthusiast Nick Derico said.

With no place currently to practice their sport, skateboarders often are seen in transit. They travel in packs, roaming from one parking lot to the next, skating for as long as they can before someone inevitably screams, “Get out of here!”

Getting run off by the cops is a common occurrence, too, said 10-year-old Nathan Neal.

“We get kicked out of a lot of places,” Neal said. “The cops say it in a real nice way and everything. They don’t mind us skating, and that they don’t see why it’s such a big deal. It’s the business owners — they’re afraid of us getting hurt there.”

Skate Park

Skateboarders in Kerrville, however, won’t be left homeless for long. Last week, Kerrville’s Parks and Recreation advisory board gave Playscape Inc. the OK to start looking at what it would take to build a public skate park. On Thursday, Playscape will conduct a kids’ townhall meeting at 7 p.m. at Hal Peterson Middle School Cafeteria to discuss what kids want to see in their new skate park.

“I want a fun box, a man pad, a kink rail and a mini ramp,” 15-year-old Jonny Leal said.

It seems that Kerrville is taking a more skater-friendly attitude, but generally, the story’s been the same since surfers in California first attached rollerskates to 2x4s and discovered that surfing asphalt was an acceptable alternative to riding the waves. Even then, skateboarding was deemed more-or-less unacceptable — at least for respectable kids who were going somewhere.

“The stereotype is that skateboarders cuss, they vandalize and graffiti, but I’m not like that,” 12-year-old Keller Fornes said.

The skateboarding story, however, has taken a new turn in recent years. With lucrative professional tours and worldwide television converage, skateboarding has become the sixth-largest participation sport in the nation — practiced by more than 9.4 million people of all ages. There are more than 200 U.S. companies that produce more than 100,000 skateboards every month, 25,000 wheels a day. The sheer number of kids involved — many of whom live right here in Kerrville — is evidence that the sport has gained popularity.

“Skateboarders are all over the place — all over the town, but they kind of have to hide out because they don’t have anywhere to go,” mom Kim Forne said. “I’m all for it. I support them as long as they’re respectful and keep up their studies. I don’t want them in that stereotype.”

Why they like it

Fornes’s son Keller has skated for nearly three years now. He likes it because there are no rules — no rules, no coach, no referee or traditional teammates, she said. It’s an opportunity to be a true individual, lending feelings of independence and freedom — which is big for a 12-year-old who can’t drive and still has to ask permission before leaving the house.

“It’s a very individual sport. The kids are skating against themselves — always challenging themselves,” Fornes said.

It’s a sport kids take very seriously, Forne said. When Keller gets a new move stuck in his head, he can expect to spend a week or more working on it before he lands it. A skateboarder almost always is working on a new trick, and right now, he’s working on a the tail grind. When he finally works it out, he’ll teach someone else.

“The older guys play mentors to the younger guys — teaching each other,” mom Arecelli Neal said.

On any given sunny afternoon, Neal could have as many as 10 or 15 kids skating in her back yard. Her husband, Leonard, put in a cement slab and a couple of homemade ramps that have drawn kids from all over the neighborhood.

“I used to have a nice glass table with chairs and an umbrella, but they’ve taken over,” Neal said of her small back yard that’s been overrun with young boys.

Fortunately, it’s generally a good crowd of kids. Neal said she’s noticed a certain “manner” about the skateboarders she’s encountered. In a seemingly reckless sport without rules, these kids have a sort of unspoken ethic, she said.

“They’re so polite to each other. They don’t have to say anything to each other,” Neal said. “They wait for each other. They don’t get into each other’s way. It’s neat, because even a cafeteria line is not as organized, and there’s no supervision.

“They’re encouraging, too,” Neal added. “Sometimes you’ll see a kid want to try a 6-foot or 9-foot ramp, but it’s his first time so he just stands there and takes a lot of time. The other kids don’t holler at him or make fun of him. They just wait, and when he accomplished it, they all clap.”


Neal said she was a bit hesitant at first of her son’s new interest. Of course she thought he’d get hurt, break a bone or get scratched up. After watching how seriously he took it, she got behind him and has supported his hobby — something she says has been hard in Kerrville, where skating as a sport is not readily available.

“Basketball and baseball are everywhere, but not all kids like traditional sports,” Neal said. “Skating is very physical. These kids stay in shape and work out constantly. It’s a good sport for kids who don’t like other things.”

Neal said she was also surprised to learn that skateboarding really is not all that dangerous. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Council, basketball, baseball and soccer all are more dangerous than skateboarding. Plus, one-third of injuries suffered by skateboarders happen to those who have been skating for less than a week.

REV: Gig 'em Horns!

While the Ags undoubtedly get smeared somewhere in this flick (could it possibly be any worse than The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) it still promises to be the best worst film of the year. Not up to date? Check out these bloggings from A Perfectly Cromulent Blog and Burnt Orange Report:

February 21, 2005
Everyone's a critic
By Pete somebody

But not so much this weekend, which is going to be a banner one for the moviegoing public. Seems the two "biggest" movies opening on Friday (Man of the House and Cursed) are not being screened for the press.

It isn't likely to make much of a difference, of course. Van Helsing, Aliens vs. Predator, and Boogeyman, to name a few, weren't screened in advance either.[1] And all three of them managed just fine at the box office. It's a chickenshit move, but not ineffective, and serves the bottom line.

Nevertheless, in order to combat these continuing egregious acts of studio cowardice, I'm toying with the idea of preemptive reviews. Frankly, if they're not going to give me the opportunity to check out their films, I think I'm entitled to make as many judgements and assumptions about their (lack of) quality as I damn well please.

I'm just getting off the ground with this, but so far I've come up with the following:
MAN OF THE HOUSE - Continuing America's love affair with all things Texas, director Stephen Herek sets his "reimagining" of Adventures in Babysitting in the state's capitol, where Tommy Lee Jones has his hands full taking care of five lesbian college cheerleaders for the University of Texas. The girls' constant experimentation with PCP leads to a series of violent mishaps, culminating in their taking to the field in the school's annual game against Texas A&M, which they win handily. With cameos by Texas Governor Rick Perry as street hustler "Raul 'Dirty' Sanchez" and State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn as "Madame Oviraptor."

Read the rest here: A Perfectly Cromulent Blog
And while you're there, check this out too: Man of the House trailer review

Man of the House; How Embarrassing
By Zach Neumann

Burnt Orange Report
21 Feb. 2005

I don’t know if any of you have been following this, but on Friday the Burnt Orange is going to be looking pretty bad. Why you ask? Because the administration decided that it would be in the best interests of the University to allow Tommy Lee Jones and Cedric the Entertainer to film a movie centered around the UT cheerleading squad. Though I haven’t done much plot research, I get the impression that the story is as follows: 1. UT cheerleaders witness a crime (a murder I think) 2. They are being threatened because they are witnesses 3. A gruff, yet kind hearted Tommy Lee Jones is assigned to protect them 4. Hilarity ensues. I know this provides publicity for UT, but at what cost?

LIT: The Winter of Discontent

What's with the passing of so many greats in so short a time? Eventually i guess, though it gets more depressing by the day, i'll venture to comment on these passings -- each of them playing some important momentary role in my life.

Today's? Hunter S. Thompson who, though i wasn't a particular fan of his style, seemed to always nail my feelings firmly on the head -- especially on the passing of the 60s movement and what that meant for the future. His words seem ever so hyper-prescient today. Wherever he is, he needs some peace -- here's hoping he has found it.

And Sandra Dee, and John Raitt . . .

Author Hunter S. Thompson commits suicide
Journalist penned 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'

(CNN) -- Journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson, who unleashed the concept of "gonzo journalism" in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself in the head Sunday at his home near Aspen, Colorado, police and his family said.

"On Feb. 20, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head at his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colo.," said a statement issued by Thompson's son, Juan Thompson, to the Aspen Daily News as reported by the Denver Post.

"The family will shortly provide more information about memorial service and media contacts. Hunter prized his privacy, and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family."

A dispatcher for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Department confirmed Thompson's death.

Thompson, 67, was associated with the "New Journalism" movement of the 1960s, in which writers took a more novelistic and personal approach to their subjects. His account of a drug-fueled trip to cover a district attorneys' anti-drug conference as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine was the seed of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," perhaps his best-known work.

Subtitled "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream," the 1971 book included his lament on the passing of the 1960s and its "sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil."

"There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs," he wrote. "We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark -- the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

In "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," he described the campaign leading to Richard Nixon's re-election as president with terms like "brutal" and "depraved," speculating that Democratic Sen. Ed Muskie was under the influence of an obscure African psychoactive drug and bemoaned Nixon's looming victory by proclaiming, "Jesus, where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to become president?"

Other works included "The Great Shark Hunt," a collection of Watergate-era essays; "Generation of Swine," his lament on the youth of the 1980s; and his account of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential win, "Better than Sex." His lone novel, "The Rum Diaries," was published in 1998, while a collection of letters, "The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman," came out in 1997.

In recent years, he wrote a column for the sports network ESPN's Web site. In his most recent piece, posted Feb. 15, he describes shooting at golf balls like skeet with a friend near his longtime home -- he called it "a fortified compound" -- outside Aspen.

"The general reaction here is shock and dismay, because he was such a figure in town," Aspen resident John Hoag told CNN. Still, Hoag said, Thompson remained a private person. "The most news we heard from him was when a pack of dogs killed his peacock, Atillah, and he broke his leg in Hawaii last year."

Thompson also was the model for the character of "Uncle Duke" in the "Doonesbury" comic strip. But Thompson strongly disliked the characterization, once telling an interviewer that he would set "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau on fire if the two ever met.

In later years, however, Thompson said he had made peace with the "Uncle Duke" portrayal.

"I got used to it a long time ago," he told Freezerbox magazine in 2003. "I used to be a little perturbed by it. It was a lot more personal ... It no longer bothers me."

In 1980, actor Bill Murray portrayed Thompson in the film "Where the Buffalo Roam." And in 1998, the film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was released, based on Thompson's book and starring Johnny Depp as the journalist. A new film reportedly is in production based on Thompson's novel "The Rum Diaries."

The writer himself, Hoag said, will be missed. "There's no one in the world these days who writes the truth ... as he seems to, to me," he said. "He spoke to the world and said what people were afraid to say."

New York Times, February 21, 2005
Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide

Hunter S. Thompson, the maverick journalist and author whose savage chronicling of the underbelly of American life and politics embodied a new kind of nonfiction writing he called "gonzo journalism," died yesterday in Colorado. Tricia Louthis, of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, said Mr. Thompson had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Woody Creek, Colo., yesterday afternoon. He was 65.

Mr. Thompson, a magazine and newspaper writer who also wrote almost a dozen books, was perhaps best known for his book, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which became a Hollywood movie in 1998. But he was better known for his hard-driving lifestyle and acerbic eye for truth which he used in the style of first-person reporting that came to be known as "gonzo" in the 1960's, where the usually-anonymous reporter becomes a central character in the story, a conduit of subjectivity.

"Nobody really knows what it means, but it sounds like an epithet," he said in an interview that, for him, journalism "can be an effective political tool."

Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Ky, on July 18, 1939, the son of an insurance agent. He was educated in the public school system and joined the United States Air Force after high school. There, he was introduced to journalism, covering sports for an Air Force newspaper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was honorably discharged in 1958 and then worked a series of jobs writing for small-town newspapers.

It was in the heat of deadline that gonzo journalism was born while he was writing a story about the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan's magazine, he recounted years later in an interview in Playboy magazine.

"I'd blown my mind, couldn't work," he told Playboy. "So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody."

Instead, he said, the story drew raves and he was inundated with letters and phone calls from people calling it "a breakthrough in journalism," an experience he likened to "falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids."

He went on to become a counter cultural hero with books and articles that skewered America's hypocrisy.

"He wrote to provoke, shock, protest and annoy," Timothy Crouse wrote in his book "The Boys on the Bus," about the 1972 presidential campaign.

Mr. Thompson influenced a generation of writers who saw in his pioneering first-person, at times over-the-top writing style.

As a young man, he was heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac and wholeheartedly followed Kerouac's approach in which the writer revels in his struggles with writing.

Among his books were "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing on the Campiagn Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "Generation of Swine" and "Songs for the Doomed."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

REV: Million Dollar Babe

Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

In between engagements in San Antonio today i had a few hours to spare and decided to try to catch another Oscar level movie. Unfortunately the Oscar movies i most wanted to see, Hotel Rwanda and Vera Drake, were both at times that didn't fit my schedule. Two others i wanted to see, though for entertainment/enlightenment, The Aquatic Life with Steve Zissou and Bad Education, were also misses by scheduling. And i checked three theatre complexes.

None too happy, and realizing that if i spent any more time looking around i wouldn't have time for anything i settled on Million Dollar Baby.

It was really a tough decision. I almost went to the bookstore instead. I've never been a fan of Clint Eastwood. He's in the same pantheon where i keep John Wayne and James Coburn -- the pantheon of "actors other folks rave about that just don't do anything for me." And i'm not a boxing fan either, Howard Cosell ruined that for me long ago. Howard has his own pantheon -- which we won't describe here.

Perhaps the only reason, or reasons, i bought a ticket and went in were a) it was a nominee so i thought maybe i should be able to talk intelligently about it; and b) Hillary Swank -- whom i could be in love with if i were about 4 dog-years younger.

And so what happens. I start to take notes as usual. And about 60 seconds into the movie i am so completely absorbed that i never write another word.

I thought The Aviator was exceptional though i was disturbed by a number of flaws (someday i'll get my review of it posted). It was such a flick though that it was my way-out-in-front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar.

No more.

Million Dollar Baby will henceforth be one of my favorite all-time movies, and my new Oscar vote. Eastwood is on my list of directors/actors to check out from now on. And well, Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank are imprimaturs on any film they're in. They get my votes too.

I'd love to talk about specific scenes and nuances but to do so gives away parts of the film that i'd rather you see for yourself. So i'll save the spoilers until after it's out on DVD and half the country has seen it.

About all i'll say to wrap up is i don't think you'll ever regret seeing it.

REV: Oscars

I can't be so bold as to predict winners or choose "favorites" to win, but i do know who i'd vote for for various slots. So, to put things on the table in preparation for next Sunday, and to lay out my picks in advance in case there's a pool at the party i'm headed to, here's my votes after having seen a handful of the going favorites (the only films with lots of media-cred that i haven't seen yet are Sideways and Hotel Rwanda. Sideways has not interested me much since i read early reviews, but Hotel Rwanda is high on my list of things to see and i might do so before Sunday, and that might change some of my picks below). I'll be posting some notes on a movie i saw, well now it's yesterday, but not many hours ago after i finish with my picks here.

Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby gets my vote, though i really, really, really liked The Aviator also. I find Ray and Neverland odd nominees.

Best Actor: I'm going with Jamie Foxx, though i think the film didn't quite live up to his portrayal. But he was just dynamite. DiCaprio is also high on my list. I think the difference is that i felt it was always DiCaprio doing Hughes -- well, mind you (and while i liked Catch Me If You Can, Aviator was Leo's best role since Gilbert Grape, IMHO) -- but still it was a portrayal. Foxx WAS Ray. And quite frankly, i think that anyone who gets nominations for both actor and supporting actor in the same year should get some kind of bonus points. And that's the mental place where my vote comes from. Kudos also to Clint Eastwood -- and that's something in itself as i'm not in his corner as an aficionado.

Best Actress: Hilary Swank. Unbelievably believable. No one else i saw came close.

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman (who had enough of a role and screen time to have been nominated for Best Actor). Again, didn't see Thomas Haden Church's turn in Sideways, but i'd be hard to convince to sway from Freeman anyway. And i thought Alan Alda was just superb in The Aviator but in a rather minimal role timewise.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett. Period.

Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles. All three great films, but this one clearly at the top.

Cinematography: Of the films nominated, i don't think any is in the class of The Aviator. However, just for argument's sake, i think Million Dollar Baby was superbly photographed. It went against a lot of conventions and perhaps that cost it a bid, i don't know. But there were certainly fewer flaws and questionable judgments than in The Aviator. Oh well.

Directing: I'm going to cheat and split my vote here. Scorcese AND Eastwood both deserve it. Aviator for its grand vision and superbly wrought chronology -- and some segments that simply rise to a new level altogether (in my mind the senate hearings is a mini-masterpiece). Baby for the incredible depth wrought from the characters; even the lesser characters like Willie and Danger and Maggie's family were people we knew intimately after sometimes very short screen time. This movie had not a wasted word, wasted glance, or wasted scene, which makes me a new fan of Eastwood, who i wouldn't have given the time of day to before. Scorcese is way overdue too, but you knew that. Someone got a coin.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

REV: Ebert's second great movies book

Ebert’s ‘collection’ of 100 great movies
Classics, foreign films and old box-office hits star in the famed critic’s second book, ‘Great Movies II.’ Read an excerpt
Today show
Updated: 11:25 a.m. ET Feb. 18, 2005

When famed film critic and Chicago Sun Times columnist Roger Ebert published "Great Movies," he made it clear that the book was not a “best-of” ranking but rather a collection of films he considers great for their "artistry, historical role, influence, and so on." This rule applies in Ebert's follow-up book, "Great Movies II." In essays on an additional 100 not-to-be-missed movies, Ebert analyzes actors, directors and even the pacing of the film. Read an excerpt.

This is the second Great Movies book, but the titles in it are not the second team. I do not believe in rankings and lists, and refuse all invitations to reveal my "ten all-time favorite musicals," etc., on the grounds that such lists are meaningless and might well change between Tuesday and Thursday. I make only two exceptions to this policy: I compile an annual list of the year's best films, because it is graven in stone that movie critics must do so, and I participate every ten years in the Sight & Sound poll of the world's directors and critics.

As I made clear in the introduction to the first Great Movies book, it was not a list of "the" 100 greatest movies, but simply a collection of 100 great movies, unranked, selected because of my love for them, and for their artistry, historical roles, influence, and so on. I wrote the essays in no particular order, inspired sometimes by the availability of a newly restored print or DVD.

To be sure, the first book includes such obviously first-team titles as Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, The General, Ikiru, Vertigo, the Apu Trilogy, Persona, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Potemkin, Raging Bull and La Dolce Vita. But because I was not writing in any order, this second volume contains titles of fully equal stature, including Rules of the Game, Children of Paradise, The Leopard, Au Hasard Balthazar, Birth of a Nation, Sunrise, Ugetsu, Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, Tokyo Story, The Searchers, and Rashomon. In the case of the first two titles, I delayed a Great Movie review until new DVDs were available, and felt with both Rules of the Game and Children of Paradise that the prints had been so wonderfully restored that I was essentially seeing the movies for the first time.

I have cited before the British critic Derek Malcolm's definition of a great movie: Any movie he could not bear the thought of never seeing again. During the course of a year I review about 250 films and see perhaps 200 more, and could very easily bear the thought of not seeing many of them again, or even for the first time. What a pleasure it is to step aside from the production line and look closely and with love at films that vindicate the art form.

The DVD has been of incalculable value to those who love films, producing prints of such quality that the film can breathe before our eyes instead of merely surviving there. The supplementary material on some of them is so useful and detailed that today's audiences can know more about a title than, in some cases, their directors knew when they were made. Of all directors, Martin Scorsese has been the leader in assembling commentary tracks and supplementary materials, not only for his own films but for others he loves; consider his contribution to the DVDs of the films of Michael Powell, notably, in this book, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. To listen to Powell and Scorsese as they watch the film together is a rare privilege.

I have seen these movies in various times and places and ways, many of them three or four times, some a dozen or twenty-five times. I've been through sixteen of them a shot at a time, in sessions I conduct annually at the universities of Colorado, Virginia and Hawaii, and at film festivals. The Colorado screenings, part of the Conference on World Affairs, have been an annual event for going on 35 years. We sit in the dark in Macky Auditorium, sometimes as many as 1000 of us, and take 10 or 12 hours over five days to go through a film with a stop-action analysis. Remarkable, what you can see with all of those eyes.

Consider my experience in 2003 with Ozu's masterpiece Floating Weeds, which was included in the first book, and which I once went through shot-by-shot at the side of the great critic Donald Richie at the Hawaii Film Festival. In 2003 Criterion invited me to contribute a commentary track to their DVD of the film; Richie would do the commentary on Ozu's earlier silent version. I asked myself, frankly, whether I could talk for two hours about a film in which the director never once moves his camera; with Ozu it is all placement, composition , acting and editing. I suggested to Kim Hendrickson of Criterion that we take Floating Weeds to Boulder as a sort of dress rehearsal. Some of the audience members were less than thrilled by my choice, but then a wonderful thing happened: Ozu's aura enveloped the audience, his genius drew them into his work, and his style was seen, not as "difficult," but as obviously the right way to deal with his material and sensibility. At the end of the week, the watchers in that room loved Ozu, some of them for the first time; sooner or later, if you care for the movies enough, you get to Ozu and Bresson and Renoir and stand among the saints.

In 2004 I proposed Renoir's Rules of the Game at Boulder, and again the greatness of the film persuaded the reluctant ones in the audience (they had hoped for Kill Bill — which would, for that matter, also be a good choice). The more closely you look at Renoir's film, the better it becomes. There are intricate movements of camera and actors that reveal astonishing depths of beauty. The scene in the upstairs corridor when everybody turns in for the night took us more than an hour to deal with, and even then we could have continued. At the end of the week, I wrote about Rules of the Game for this book.

I look over the titles and my memory stirs. I saw Kind Hearts and Coronets in London, during a revival of Ealing comedies. A restored print of The Leopard was playing in London at the beloved Curzon cinema. The Man Who Laughs played at the Telluride Film Festival, with a live score by Philip Glass. My Dinner with Andre was also at Telluride, and when the lights went up I found myself sitting right in front of Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, who I wouldn't have recognized two hours earlier. I saw Patton on a giant screen in the 70mm Dimension 150 projection system at my own Overlooked Film Festival at the University of Illinois, and after the screening Dr. Vetter, the inventor of the system, joined me onstage and said he had never seen it better projected. Romeo and Juliet brought back memories of my night on the Italian location for the filming of the balcony scene.

Touchez Pas au Grisbi was in revival in Seattle in December 2003, when I spent a month in the city for medical treatments, and it and many other movies lifted me far above my problems. I arrived at the film via Bob le Flambeur, which is also in this book; anyone who knows both films will understand how and why. Breathless seemed as fresh to me in 2003 as it did when I saw it the first time 40 years earlier. Viewing Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia for the first time since I put it on my annual best ten list in 1974, I was relieved to discover that I was absolutely correct about its greatness.

The most difficult film to deal with was Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. It contains such racism that it's difficult to press ahead with the undoubted fact of its artistry and influence. I sidestepped it for the earlier book; having taught it in my University of Chicago class, I dreaded dealing with it again. In the event I wrote a two-part consideration of it, the first part essentially an apologia. For this book I have combined and rewritten that material. It is the only film in this book that doesn't, for me, pass the Derek Malcolm test.

One of my delights in these books, on the other hand, has been to include movies not often cited as "great" — some because they are dismissed as merely popular (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark), some because they are frankly entertainments (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Rififi), some because they are too obscure (The Fall of the House of Usher, Stroszek). We go to different movies for different reasons, and greatness comes in many forms.

Of course there is no accounting for taste, and you may believe some of these titles don't belong in the book. The reviewer of the first volume for The New York Times Book Review ignored the introduction and the book jacket and persisted in the erroneous belief that it was a list of "the" 100 greatest movies. He felt such a listing was fatally compromised by my inclusion of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday — which was not, he declared, a great film. Criticism is all opinion, so there is no such thing as right and wrong, except in the case of his opinion of Mr. Hulot's Holiday, which is wrong.

Friday, February 18, 2005

REV: NYT review of theatre intermissions!

The Show Between Acts
The New York Times, February 18, 2005

If I were a David Mamet character, I might have reacted more creatively, or at least more emphatically, something like: "Are you telling me that ... what I think I hear you telling me is that ... am I being made to understand that there is no alcohol served at this place?"

But the other night at the Atlantic Theater Company in Chelsea, during the intermission for Mr. Mamet's new play, "Romance," I responded with much less flair when told that coffee, tea, soda and water were the only beverages available while one stretched one's legs between acts.

"Really?" I said, visions of a pilsner dancing in my head. "Um ... O.K."

My interest was partly recreational but mostly professional: I was near the end of a few weeks of drinking, eating, chatting, standing, gawking, eavesdropping and bathroom-waiting my way through a survey of the state of intermissions in New York theater. The tour, fairly random and thoroughly unscientific, took me from the elegant and easeful (two intermissions, one 40 minutes long, during "Turandot" at the Metropolitan Opera) to the middling (bad red wine and strange fashions in a pretty lounge at the Music Box Theater on West 45th Street) to the merely puzzling (a prominent sign announcing the official Champagne of the Classic Stage Company near Union Square, but no Champagne anywhere in sight).

In between, several general rules of intermissions were deduced:
Twizzlers (licorice) and Dots (like gumdrops) seem to be the two candies that concessions tables cannot be without, bringing a strange, sugary movie-house feel to the grown-up theater experience.

Bigger theaters never seem to have enough bathroom space. The wait for the five urinals in the bathroom on my side of the Metropolitan Opera House during the first intermission of "Turandot" was more than four minutes, and the lines for the women's room looked even longer.

The quality of the wine tends to be bad everywhere, though the $15 plastic flute of Moët & Chandon at the Met - while expensive - was just as good as, or better than, the kind of bubbly the same amount of money will get you at many restaurants. (Meanwhile, at the Music Box Theater, the Livingston Cellars red was $5 for a modest plastic glass. The quality? A hint: in some stores you can buy a three-liter bottle of it for not much more than $5.)

The level of conversation does not tend to rise with the level of the performance. At the "Turandot" intermission, I caught one high-society conversation in which a man talked about planning his son's bar mitzvah in Athens. But a more representative snippet of chatter, overheard in the line for the bar, went like this:

"Is she a good cook?" one man asked.

"Well, she keeps it simple," his friend answered. "You know - meat, vegetable, salad, bread." He paused. "Eggs, bacon, toast." He laughed.

The first man nodded appreciatively. "Nice," he said.

Intermission-hopping was an odd reversal of the theatergoing experience. Instead of viewing the break as a diversion from the main attraction, I bought my ticket solely for the show that begins when the curtain goes down, the lights go back up and theatergoers join in that typically rushed and crowded communal mini-cocktail party that nearly always promises to be more enjoyable than it turns out to be. In part, the problem is that intermissions have become so squeezed at many Broadway theaters, where two acts and one intermission long ago replaced the three acts and two intermissions that were standard in the 1930's and 40's in the plays of Noël Coward and Kaufman and Hart. And the one intermission that now remains can seem like a reality-show time trial, in which ordering hot coffee is always a bad idea (you might get a sip or two before the lights start blinking) and those who have to duck outside to smoke need to smoke fast.

Confusion at the Counter
At the Classic Stage Company theater on East 13th Street, the intermission for the new production of Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days" was supposed to be 10 minutes, but it clocked in at just a little more than 8 and the two people working behind the concessions counter were not exactly prepared to work at pit-crew speed. In fact, they sometimes seemed confused about people wanting to buy things, and positively Beckett-like exchanges followed.

For example:
A man bought a cup of coffee and put his dollar bill on the counter. "Milk?" he asked.

"That'll be a dollar," the woman behind the counter said.

Confused, he said: "Milk?"

"It's a dollar," she said. Pause.

"Oh yes, milk is ... oh, milk, yes," she finally replied and opened a carton of milk, though an already-opened carton was sitting on the other end of the bar.

Another theater employee nearby pleaded for small bills when a theatergoer tried to pay with a 20, saying the theater would run out of change, though few people were buying anything. "Small-time operation we got going here," she said.

A Tradition in Transition
Of course, not everyone loves a nice, leisurely intermission. Strindberg was said to hate intermissions altogether, feeling they destroyed the illusionary world his plays were building. In interviews, Horton Foote has agreed. Classical Greek tragedy did not have them, nor did Shakespeare. But this was mostly because audiences of Elizabethan and, later, Restoration theater often did the things modern audiences do during intermission - eating, drinking, talking, relieving themselves - while the play or plays were under way. At Covent Garden theaters in London in the 17th century, so-called orange girls peddled fruit, other food and sometimes themselves in the middle of performances. (One, Nell Gwyn, became famous as a mistress of Charles II.)

"The notion that you have to be serious and stop your eating and drinking during the show is a pretty 20th-century invention," said Laurence Maslon, an associate arts professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. "There was not the kind of formal break between things we have now."

But Professor Maslon noted that the tradition of an intermission has been whittled down in American theater until it has often become little more than a formality - in contrast to London theater, where intermissions (or intervals, as they are called there) are still more leisurely. He used the example of the scene in Mel Brooks's film "The Producers," in which Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom repair to a bar to await the imminent collapse of their musical, "Springtime for Hitler," and are shocked to see theatergoers streaming in during intermission who are singing its praises as they order their drinks.

"Who has time to go to a bar anymore during intermission?" Professor Maslon asked. "Or even step outside?"

A Production in Itself
Not many, except in the opera, where elaborate set changes - as in the lavish Franco Zeffirelli production of "Turandot" - can make for intermissions as long as some Off Broadway plays. The night I went, the time was well spent, except for enduring the bathroom line. Champagne was enjoyed. Walter Cronkite and his wife, Betsy, were spotted. Furs were assessed, along with some fashions that seemed tacky while probably costing lots of money. Multicolored moon boots that looked as if they had been painted by Jackson Pollock? Zebra-patterned pumps? A kind of Gothic dress with sleeves that looped up between the wearer's fingers?

At the Met, intermission can be enjoyed at bars on four levels, and for those who are into serious intermission luxury, reservations can even be made at the Grand Tier Restaurant, where full meals are ordered ahead of time and engineered so that diners can eat their foie gras, lamb and lobster in two sittings at intermission.

A colleague and I decided to go for less ambitious fare and during the second intermission headed down to the ground-floor bar, where not-so-good brownies and very strong coffee were for sale. Strangely, there were also options to buy several kinds of international-themed spiked coffees. Irish coffee I understood. But what exactly were Jamaican coffee and Mexican coffee?

And while on the topic of drinks, does anyone want to be seen sipping an Orangina at the opera?
The décor on the ground floor was more than worth the trip, however: oil portraits of Met greats like Leontyne Price and Ezio Pinza, along with vintage Met costumes and, once again, the woman with the moon boots.

Beer, Popcorn, Dogs?
My next stop, the Zipper Theater on West 37th Street, where the musical "Under the Bridge" is playing, provided much less luxury but a nice contrast and a little history of its own. A onetime zipper warehouse in the Garment District, it has been converted with appropriate industrial-chic touches, like old car seats instead of theater seats and a bar that looks like a respectable old dive, with a neon beer sign and - yes - Jever pilsner on tap. (In most other theaters I visited, the beer choices were usually limited to bottles of Heineken and Amstel Light.)

The best feature of the Zipper, especially for those who were not crazy about the production (book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford), was that you are allowed to carry your mugs of beer and glasses of wine - real glass, not plastic - back to your seat after intermission, a kind of nod back to the rollicking ethos of 17th-century English theater.

That kind of permissiveness seems to be catching on a little more as theaters try harder to make their patrons happy, while still keeping intermissions brief. At "Movin' Out," the Billy Joel musical at the Richard Rodgers Theater, you can take popcorn back to your seat, for example.

At the Duffy Theater, at 46th and Broadway, which houses the oddball long-running mystery play "Perfect Crime," you can take anything back to your seat. There is even a sign behind the bar saying "We {sheart} Dogs," though it is not quite clear whether that means your dog would be welcome beside you at a performance. (Last Wednesday there would have been room; the audience was composed of 14 people, only three of whom bothered to get up during intermission.)

The Atlantic Adapts
Even the Atlantic Theater Company, where I found no alcohol and where intermissions have long been treated as a kind of annoyance, is trying harder now to observe the conventions. The company, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy and located since 1993 in a former church parish house on West 20th Street, has always had a kind of bare-bones, theater-as-religion feel to it.

Andrew Hamingson, the theater's new managing director, said that the intermission concessions had long been run by acting students. "Students being students, sometimes they'd be there and sometimes they wouldn't," he said. In fact, he said, during a production of two Ionesco plays last year, the only convenience available at intermission was a water cooler.

But the theater recently brought in a professional concessionaire and expects to have a beer and wine license soon, joining the crowd. Mr. Hamingson said that an owner of the concessions company had asked him what types of productions were coming up. When he told her that the Mamet play was a farce, he said, she was quite happy to hear it.

"For some reason, apparently, people drink more during intermissions of comedies - who knows why?" he said. "Oh, the things you learn in the theater business."

The theaters and opera house in the article on intermissions:
ATLANTIC THEATER, 336 West 20th Street, Chelsea, (212) 239-6200. David Mamet's "Romance." Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Through April 17. Tickets, $55.

CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY, 136 East 13th Street, East Village, (212) 279-4200. Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days," by the Worth Street Theater Company. Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. Through March 13. Tickets, $45 to $50.

DUFFY THEATER, 1553 Broadway, at 46th Street, (212) 695-3401. "Perfect Crime." Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Wednesdays at 2 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets, $40.

METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE, Lincoln Center, (212) 362-6000. This weekend: tonight at 8, "Le Nozze di Figaro"; tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., "La Bohème"; tomorrow night at 8, "Nabucco." Tickets, $35 to $215. Performances tonight and tomorrow afternoon are sold out, but returned tickets may be available. Standing room tickets, $15 and $20.

MUSIC BOX THEATER, 239 West 45th Street, (212) 239-6200. "Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance!" Performances Tuesdays at 7 p.m.; Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. Through June 4. Tickets, $67.50 to $87.50.

RICHARD RODGERS THEATER, 226 West 46th Street, (212) 307-4100. "Movin' Out." Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets, $40 to $100.

ZIPPER THEATER, 336 West 37th Street, (212) 563-0480. "Under the Bridge." Through Sunday. Performances tonight at 7; tomorrow at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets, $55.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

TDB: And speaking of The Drawer Boy . . .

Here's a story about a unique savant . . .,,1409903,00.html

TDB: Last weekend for The Drawer Boy

Tonight is the first performance of the last weekend. If you're interested in attending, i am appending the necessary info below. We are close to sold out so i encourage calling first.

The show got quite the smoking review from the San Antonio Express News, which was nice.

S.T.A.G.E. - Spotlight Theatre Arts Group Etc./Krause House
1300 Bulverde Road, Bulverde, Texas 78163

[The theatre is on Bulverde Road, about 1.7 miles south of the junction with Texas 46 (between New Braunfels and Boerne). Bulverde Road is just west of US281 (about 4 miles).]

Remaining Dates: February 17, 2005 thru February 19, 2005, Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (Dinner available at 6:30 p.m.). February 20, 2005, Sunday 2:30 p.m. (Lunch available at 1:00 p.m.)

Tickets: $14.00 for Adult and $12.00 for Senior and Student seats

Reservations Recommended -- Phone: (830) 438-2339

TEM/HFS: Exciting few days

Well, i've just returned from my third trip to Austin in the last five days, and am beside myself at the footage i've gotten of interviews, rehearsals and performance of two wonderful young ladies who will be featured in The Extra Mile.

Saturday i was able to film dress rehearsal of The Common Thread, a history of African American dance, put on by Kim Willett's Body Talk Dance Company and her outreach gift of dance, the program Make a Difference. In particular i was focused on Brittany Parks, one of the subjects of The Extra Mile. And she was nothing short of fabulous in her various pieces.

Tuesday, i filmed two performances of this program, given for Austin-area schools. With about 1500 kids in the gorgeous McNeil Center for the Performing Arts at Round Rock's McNeil High School, it was nearly impossible to hear during the cheering, and simply phenomenal when they all got to singing on the string of hits they knew. And what a performance -- 64 dance numbers in an hour show. I am thrilled at the film i got of these performances.

Then Brittany, with five of her friends, sat down for a lengthy interview about dance and performing. It was as lively a session as i've had with any of the subjects. We have another interview yet to do, and i'll probably be checking out their May 28 performance as well.

The Tuesday session also resulted in my coming up with another of my film ideas -- one that proceeds tangentially from The Extra Mile -- but is focused entirely on kids in dance. I'm tentatively labelling the project HotFeet/Smokin'Toes (the eventual title will likely be half of that, or perhaps something altogether different, but for now i needed a title to work with).

In addition to Brittany playing a part in that film as well, i also was intrigued with a young man who seemed to be energy personified, and one heck of a dancer also. His name is Payton Litteral, and along with his friend, and another fine dancer, Michael Daley, he sat down for an interview for this new film idea. I'll probably also use Ryne Acevedo from San Antonio who's in The Extra Mile, and look for a ballet dancer to round out the subjects.

Then Wednesday i returned to Austin, to the Vortex Theatre (run by Bonnie Cullum and the Vortex Repertory Company), where i filmed Emma McNairy in rehearsal and sat down for an hour-and-a-half interview of stunning depth and candor. She is Sleeping Beauty in a new operatic version of Sleeping Beauty by director Bonnie Cullum and Content Love Knowles. The show opens on the 25th, and i'll be back to film at dress rehearsal the night before. From what i saw it's going to be a superb look from a fresh angle at a tried-and-true fairy tale. And Emma is both lovely and extremely talented. Soooo . . . if you need something to see in the next month . . .

Sunday, February 13, 2005

LIT: Literature takes another hit

Austin American Statesman, 13 February 2005
Author Larry McMurtry closing his North Texas bookstores
Associated Press Writer

ARCHER CITY, Texas -- Author Larry McMurtry put his one-stoplight hometown on the map with "The Last Picture Show," but he drew people here with an eclectic shop filled with hard-to-find, out-of-print and used books.

But after 20 years, McMurtry is closing Booked Up Inc., saying he needs a break from a business that's been losing customers.

"The world we created that book shop for is gone. It doesn't exist anymore," McMurtry, 68, told The Associated Press from his home in Tucson, Ariz., where he lives part of the year. "We notice that most customers are middle-age to old. The young people are much more eclectic in their pursuit of literacy. They think nothing of going on the Web for other forms of reading."

McMurtry announced the closing Feb. 1 by posting a letter on the store's windows, saying he was not ready to stop buying and selling antiquarian books but needed a sabbatical.

"I will soon enter my seventieth year and would like to travel a bit before I become too decrepit," he wrote. "The books will stay right where they are — they can slumber in their majesty until the next turn of the wheel."

McMurtry, who's written more than 20 books and 30 screenplays, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment," plans to reopen the stores but would not say when. He said he will not sell the business.

He opened the store in the mid-1980s and owned stores in other states. But as he closed the other stores through the years, he moved the books to Archer City, a town of about 1,800 residents just south of the Texas-Oklahoma border. The store expanded until it encompassed four downtown buildings around the town square.

"It's just made our town look like a town instead of a ghost town," said Pat Willeford, who owns Pat's Cafe.

The nearly 400,000 books are arranged "erratically/ impressionistically/ whimsically/ open to interpretation" according to a store sign. Subjects include fiction before 1925, art catalogs, guns and gunsmithing, children's literature, true crime, Texana and even books about books. McMurtry's books, however, are not sold in Booked Up because he didn't want to spend a lot of time autographing them for customers. His books are sold in the town's bed and breakfast, the Lonesome Dove Inn.

When he's in Archer City, McMurtry sometimes pushes book-filled carts from store to store, pricing them and arranging them on shelves.

Prices are written in pencil in the right corner of the first page and are nonnegotiable. Customers follow the honor system by taking their selections to the first building to pay; there are no employees or cash registers in the other three stores.

McMurtry once had six employees but now has two, and some days they don't see any customers. He reduced the days and hours of the operation a few years ago, but since the announcement set the hours at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

"It's not like people are beating down our door," said McMurtry, who started spending more time in Arizona a few years ago in part because of his allergies and a lack of restaurants in his hometown. "... So it's not the end of the world if a bookstore closes for a year or two."

But Mayor Carl Harrelson, who owns the Onion Creek Grill restaurant, said many of his customers are book-loving tourists who otherwise would not have traveled the two-lane highways, between cow pastures and oil fields, to Archer City.

"It's going to affect us," Harrelson said. "... There's not much retail here but the restaurants."

Aaron Ledyard opened Cimarron Coffee Co. last year, anticipating customers wandering in from Booked Up No. 3 next door. That's starting to happen, and he wants it to continue past Dec. 31, the book store's scheduled closing date.

"We're hoping he'll change his mind before then," Ledyard said. "He's built this treasure of books here, and the monument will stay, so we're hoping he will keep it open."

Still, residents say they doubt the store's closure will drive shops and restaurants out of business. The area has been growing in popularity with hunters during quail, deer and turkey seasons.

Another attraction in town is the Royal Theater, immortalized in the 1971 Academy Award-winning film "The Last Picture Show," based on McMurtry's book.

The theater burned in 1965 and remained in ruins until five years ago, when some locals raised money to rebuild it to appear as it did in the film. The theater now hosts bands, plays and dinner theater.

McMurtry won't take credit for revitalizing the town. He just says he just made the development easier.

"Had there been no book shops, I don't know that would have happened," McMurtry said. "But it can continue without the book shops."

On the Net:
Booked Up:
Royal Theater: