Friday, September 05, 2008


AHG 23

Okay, right off the bat, I'd like to say that somewhere along the line, I've given people the impression that I like the show Mad Men. I'd like to clear up that impression. Just 'cause I've watched every episode and generally clear Sunday nights for the event, doesn’t mean I like it.

One reason I watch it is the dearth of good reality television in the summer. Another reason is probably the lack of commercials (which changed this week when they added three commercial breaks). A third reason might be how beautiful it is. But mostly, I think have a morbid curiosity about how long a show can run in which absolutely nothing happens.

There's no real story arc, no character development, a lot of meaningless digression and, seemingly, no plot. If this is the new style of television, I may have a future career as a TV screenwriter after all.

Or even film, if Al's picks this month are any indication.

We started with Margot at the Wedding, which was supposed to be some kind of “tragi-comedy,” a little like, well…this newsletter, I suppose. The guy who makes these films (I really didn’t like The Squid and the Whale either) is supposed to be some kind of genius auteur or something but I really don’t get it.

Next was Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Now, three days before we rented this movie we talked about getting it. And seven days after we rented this movie we talked about how it had turned out. And two hours
before watching this movie we had roast beef. And, yes, that’s exactly what it’s like to watch this frustrating movie, which is obviously inspired by Memento and/or Pulp Fiction. Memo to screenwriters and directors: please don’t mess around with the linear time frame just ‘cause you think it’s cool. It’s not. And in this case, we suspect it was just a way to disguise the lack.

I’m not even going to dignify The Savages with a blurb. Al will rent anything with Philip Seymour in it, including Before the Devil and The Savages, which were both beyond bad. Memo to screenwriters and directors: attaching Philip Seymour to your project just ‘cause you
think he’s cool will not disguise the lack. Although, I’ll concede that it will guarantee you at least one sale at the video store.

While I was on the plane coming back from somewhere, I sat next to a real live objectivist ex-York university professor. He followed Ayn Rand’s teachings and had had a “controversial” career. In the back of my mind somewhere, I think I could remember the controversy but, frankly, my mind is too full of details like which cocktail-shaking technique makes a drink four degrees colder to remember trivial York
politics. Anyhow, he told me to watch Definitely Maybe on the personal TV. I did. Because for that brief flight, I had no independent thought. This light romantic comedy seemed an odd choice for a political scientist or economist or whatever he was. Still, it was a lot better than the romantic comedies Al made me watch on the plane. Fool’s Gold? Really, Al?

So I had to step in and make some choices. I was now guided by rational self-interest and half-way through The Fountainhead. And we watched Death at a Funeral, which was definitely worth it. Then, continuing on the morbid-comedy
trip, we rented The Bucket List. An unexpected pleasure. I’m sure most of you have heard of In Bruges (which “Sergio” had recommended). Also quite good. Really, you wouldn’t do badly with a triple-bill.

But in the end, the real winner was actually one of Al’s picks: Two- Lane Blacktop. Much like the other movies I was criticizing, it was pointless and slow. At the same time, though, it was absolutely mesmerizing. I’m not really saying you all should rent it. If you want entertainment, try the three above. But it’s a really beautiful time capsule and, in case you weren’t aware it had been re-released, you might want to check it out.

Al`s Corner

Okay, now for the usual truthiness.

The Maggot at the Wedding, I never heard of. The Squid I liked; the Whale, not so much.

The Lack …… I think that was one of those we rent – like, for eight or nine days, but use mostly as a coaster. We never seem to be able to get it close enough to the machine with the big slot in it that it actually registers on the TV. You’ve got to get those things pretty close to the slot before you get anything.

But Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead … well, now, I’m a little surprised to hear, like, that there’s time-shifting in there or something. As far as I can recall, that sucker was moving along smooth
as Land O’ Lakes, with hardly even a visible edit. Sort of like Rope.

That Chris says it was inspired by Memento, well now I know she needs to get her medication upgraded because I can’t even watch – what’s it called again? – without plenty of pencil and paper. I also jammed a copy of Memento into a Diet Coke once – you know, just to see. Know what I got? Nothing but fizz. Another urbane mist.