Friday, September 30, 2005
Hopefully by next week I'll be back up to speed (literally and figuratively) and I'm sure I'll have at least something to say about this week's various events (Tom DeLay's indictment, John Roberts' confirmation, etc.), as well as some thoughts on the new seasons of THE WEST WING and SMALLVILLE. Also check back for my thoughts on the much-anticipated (by me, anyway) release of SERENITY, which I plan to see tonight. Until then...courage.
Friday, September 23, 2005
U.S. immigration officials refused Tuesday to allow Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, to board a plane from Toronto to Denver. Fisk was on his way to Santa Fe for a sold-out appearance in the Lannan Foundation’s readings-and-conversations series Wednesday night.There's no mention of whether or not this is an isolated incident or if Fisk is being told in no uncertain terms to join Cat Stevens and his peacenik buddies on the "Do Not Enter" list.
According to Christie Mazuera Davis, a Lannan program officer, Fisk was told that his papers were not in order.
Davis made last-minute arrangements Wednesday for Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s daily news show, Democracy Now!, to interview Fisk via satellite from a television station in Toronto. He appeared on a large screen onstage at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
The controversial British journalist, who is based in Beirut, filed many eyewitness reports on the U.S. invasion of Iraq and criticized Western reporters for “hotel journalism ,” a phrase he coined to describe correspondents who covered the war from heavily fortified hotel suites and offices.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I found this link yesterday and I've already lost count of the amount of time I've wasted simply staring at the screen in rapt fascination. I'm just computer-illiterate enough to be utterly perplexed as to how they did it, but even so, it's absolutely addictive. Check it out and you'll see what I mean.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Another Tuesday means another "New Release Day." It's been awhile since I've done a DVD Roundup, and it seemed like an idea whose time had come. Again. This week's pickings are a little slim (thank goodness), with one of the only releases of note being Francis Coppola's re-edited cut of his seminal '80s film THE OUTSIDERS.
As anyone who knows me is already fully aware, I consider anything by Coppola to be worthy of some attention, if only for the fact that he is, after all, the man who gave us the GODFATHER films. In my own defense, I haven't seen anything he's done since 1992's DRACULA, therefore my opinion of the man can remain (relatively) untarnished.
Tops on my list for today though is the first season release of what I consider to be one of the best shows currently on TV. If you had told me a few years ago that a revival of a sci-fi show that's equally loved and loathed from a single season run in the late '70s, I'd have asked what substance you were smoking. And yet, here we are in 2005. STAR TREK has been kicked off the airwaves in disgrace, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a bona fide hit for Universal. Strange times.
This DVD package not only includes the thirteen episodes that comprise the show's first full year, but it also includes the four-hour miniseries that launched the new GALACTICA in late 2003. This is a great blind-buy for anyone who likes their characters complex and their drama dramatic.
Check out a GALACTICA DVD trailer here.
Speaking of LOST, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that it nabbed the Best Dramatic Series prizes, in the process beating out two of my other faves: 24 and THE WEST WING. In another first, believe this is the only time a sci-fi/fantasy series has won in that particular category, though both THE X-FILES and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION were nominated in years past.
It was also nice to see Jon Stewart and the THE DAILY SHOW walk away with their second consecutive award for the outstanding work they're continuing to do. On the subject of THE DAILY SHOW, while the rest of the Emmy telecast was a pretty by-the-numbers affair according to most reviews, there has been almost universal praise for Stewart's bit reacting to the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. I didn't see it initially, but the kind folks over at OneGoodMove.org were nice enough to post it, and you can check it out here. Funny stuff.
Also, see the complete list of Emmy winners here.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
More than that though, it almost feels like pundits and comics alike are exhaling with the kind of release that can only come after four years of pent-up pissed-off feelings. Just look at the Jon Stewart video from immediately after the hurricane. Or the Bill Maher video I linked to earlier this week. These guys are positively gleeful at the opportunity to cut loose. Not to say I blame them, mind you, but it's interesting nevertheless. I especially like the Conan O'Brien line quoted in the article on Bush's response to the 80 days it will take to drain New Orleans ("That's almost half a vacation.")
Speaking of jokes, Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced his intention to seek re-election to the office of guh-vuh-nuh here in California, something I'm sure the rest of the nation just finds hysterically funny.
I've also made note on more than one occasion of not only how often the show managed to anticipate real world events, but also how jarring it is to be repeatedly jolted away from the fantasy White House of the intelligent, driven, and compassionate President Bartlet and his staff, back to the unpleasant reality of the overstated, overbearing, blunderbuss swagger of the Bush Junta.
Anyway, with the currently ongoing confirmation shenanigans for John Roberts and the Supreme Court, my mind was immediately drawn to a parallel plotline in the show's first season -- one that resolved itself in almost the exact opposite way that the real world version is playing itself out. As it turns out, this is something that writer Peter David has also taken note of over on his blog, and it's worthy of a look. Here's the link, and here's the text:
Back in the WEST WING episode "A Proportional Response," Leo and Bartlet have a blistering confrontation over the proper use of armed military might by the lone remaining superpower trying to maintain a degree of conscience. It's a fascinating sequence, especially in light of Bush's actions several years later. When Leo presents certain actions as essentially the worst thing someone in power can do, and then you realize Bush did it, it's sobering to say the least.
In the second season, "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen," the director of the NSA states--after a shooting incident involving the President--that they do not know the whereabouts of several key terrorist leaders, "including bin Laden." This was a reference that meant nothing to most viewers (including me) because it was pre-9/11.
And now, in the current ramrodding down the nation's throat of John Roberts, I am moved to remember the first season episode "The Short List" wherein Bartlet is looking to fill a slot on the Supreme Court. The initial prospect, played by Ken Howard, seems good to go...until it's discovered that he does not believe that the right to privacy is a fundamental right of American society. The INSTANT that they determine that, Bartlet and his people show him the door because, to them, the right to privacy is such a given, such a necessity, such an obvious and basic right for any number of reasons--not just abortion, but mandatory drug testing, illegal search and seizure, internet activity--that putting Howard's character on the bench is simply unthinkable.
Funny how the real life administration is 180 degrees from that, embracing a candidate who does NOT believe in the constitutional right to privacy...a belief that would nicely erode everything that bothers the Bushies, ranging from legal abortion to protections from the intrusiveness of the Patriot act.
Every single place where, on the WEST WING, the Bartlet administration--an administration of conscience--zigs, Bush's administration zags. I just find that interesting.
Maybe we should call the Bush White House the "Bizarro" Administration...
As a sidenote, WING moves to Sundays this fall for, presumably, its final season, with the focus on the outgoing President Bartlet and the presidential battle between Democrat Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Republican Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). The premiere is on the 25th. Plug plug.
Further, all indications seem to be that last night's speech was about as transparent a political ploy as there is, and at that, it didn't seem to do much of anything to stanch the bleeding. In the end we were promised more platitudes, more rampant deficit spending, and perhaps most-tellingly, Karl Rove being put in charge of the New Orleans' reconstruction efforts. With that, any doubts were laid to rest that the Administration has one and only one primary goal right now, and that is to pick up the pieces of what Sydney Blumenthal refers to as Bush's "crumbled myth."
With all this going wrong, it seems like the one and only slam-dunk the White House can count on is the naming of John Roberts to the big chair on the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that Roberts spent much of the week artfully dodging any real questions about his stances on the major issues, it's looking increasingly like it's all over but the counting. Now, I'm not saying I don't like Roberts' stance on the issues, just that after a week of non-denial denials, I think I actually know less about his views now than I did a week ago. When the Bush team hired former senator and current LAW & ORDER star Fred Dalton Thompson to stage manage Roberts' confirmation process, they knew exactly what they were doing.
Still, with the "lame duck" label being batted around with increasing frequency, I have the sneaking suspicion that the confirmation process for whoever Bush finds to fill Justice O'Connor's high court vacancy won't go down quite as easily. This all hinges, mind you, on the "opposition" party (and I'm using that term very loosely) actually finding a backbone and doing some, you know, opposing.
Yep, we're screwed.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Wise was also a pioneer in the science fiction genre, having helmed one of the first "serious" pics of the genre, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. His filmography of almost 40 projects includes the Michael Crichton adaptation THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and war epic RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Most recently, Wise supervised a 2001 re-edit of his 1979 opus STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, the film that ushered in the "Star Trek" theatrical franchise, and one that Wise had considered "unfinished" until the movie's release on DVD.
Klaatu Barada Nikto.
Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans' Corpses' Teeth
HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. "We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm," said David J. Lesar, Halliburton's president. "The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches."
Monday, September 12, 2005
I'd love to say this move comes as no surprise, but given the Bush Junta's tendency to circle the wagons and never admit that anyone connected to them bears even a modicum of responsibility, frankly this comes as a huge surprise. I will say however that I could see this coming after the game of pile-on the media played with Mr. Brown as the Katrina tragedy played itself out.
Not to say he wasn't worthy of more than his fair share of blame, but there was plenty of blame to go around. What I suspect will happen now is that with Brown's firing and/or resignation, the Administration's button-men will be able to say that any further complaining by those a) on the Left and b) with common sense, is merely the whining of those who are anti-Bush, and thus un-American. Who said Katrina wouldn't be politics as usual?
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Spielberg's 'Munich' miffs Palestinian mastermind
GAZA -- The Palestinian mastermind of the 1972 Munic Olympics Raid, in which 11 Israeli athletes died, said director Steven Spielberg should have consulted him about a new film on the episode to be sure to get the story right. In an irony worthy of a John le Carre novel, Mohammad Daoud echoed veterans of Israel's Mossad spy service in questioning the sources used for "Munich," a thriller chronicling the massacre and the Israeli revenge assassinations that followed. "I know nothing about this film. If someone really wanted to tell the truth about what happened he should talk to the people involved, people who know the truth," Daoud told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location in the Middle East."Were I contacted, I would tell the truth," Daoud said. As planner for Black September, a Palestine Liberation Organization splinter group, Daoud sent gunmen to abduct Israeli athletes at the 1972 Games. Two hostages were killed in the raid, another nine during a botched rescue by German police.
(From The Hollywood Reporter)
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Louisiana National Guard Offers Help By Phone From Iraq
BAGHDAD—The 4,000 Louisiana National Guardsmen stationed in Iraq, representing over a third of the state's troops, called home this week to find out what, if any, help they could offer Katrina survivors from overseas. "The soldiers wanted to know if they could call 911 for anyone, or perhaps send some water via FedEx," said Louisiana National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Pete Schneider. The Guardsmen also "would love to send generators, rations, and Black Hawk helicopters for rescue missions," but, said Schneider, "we desperately need these in Iraq to stay alive." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised the phone support, but noted that it would take months to transfer any equipment from Iraq to New Orleans, saying, "You fight a national disaster with the equipment you have."
For more of The Onion's Katrina coverage, click here.
"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."Bravo. Bra-vo.
To wit, observe this exchange between MEET THE PRESS host Tim Russert and Homeland Security honcho Michael Chertoff. Now juxtapose that with this heartbreaking interview between Russert and Aaron Broussard, county manager of Jefferson Parrish (Quicktime required for both). All this after GW's backslapping of FEMA head Michael Brown last Monday for the "heck of a job" he was doing. "Let them eat cake," indeed.
Many are ready to proclaim this a turning point in the politics of spin that have, until now, been so masterfully excercised by the spinners in the Bush Administration. I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to back that horse just yet. After all, as Arianna Huffington points out, these are the same politicos who managed a miracle re-election on the heels of the Abu Ghraib-No WMD-No Osama triple-header. What's a little hurricane after that?
And indeed, the spinmeisters are already out in force, ready to make sure everyone but GW takes the fall for his administration's staggering...I don't even want to call it incompetence, so much as indifference. Put simply, if they had given a damn about anything other than the all-important Neocon agenda, things might conceivably have taken a slightly different turn on the Gulf Coast than the MAD MAX-scenario we've seen unfolding on our television sets for the past week.
Still, there seems to be the faintest stirrings of a pulse in our Fourth Estate, as unpleasant images are followed by equally unpleasant questions, all leading to none-too-flattering appraisals such as this one from the AP. Unlike the US deathtoll in Iraq, which has been stage-managed into little else but an antiseptic, unending series of statistics, there is no White House ban to prevent every news station in America from beaming the pictures of disarray in Louisiana into our homes every hour on the hour.
The BBC is hopeful that an unintended consequence of this tragedy could be that of spurring the US media, which has remained as docile as a well-trained pup in the post 9/11 era (at least as it pertains to the Bush Administration), into demanding some real accountability from the Figurehead-in-Chief. Me? Call me the eternal skeptic. I'll believe it when the Republicans are ridden out of Congress on a rail in 2006's midterm elections.
That said, this uncharacteristically passionate editorial from Keith Olbermann can't help but make me a little bit hopeful. Highly recommended viewing. You can also read the complete transcript there or on Olbermann's own blog here.
(Thanks to my friends over at OneGoodMove for the amazing job they've been doing archiving these videos.)
Another television icon has passed on. Bob Denver, known to generations as the titular character on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND as well as his earlier role as Maynard G. Krebs on THE MANY LOVE OF DOBIE GILLIS has died at the age of 70. The actor had undergone a quadruple bypass surgery earlier this year, although his death appears to be due to complications from cancer. So long, Little Buddy.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
This administration would like us to forget a lot, starting with the simple fact that next Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Even before Katrina took command of the news, Sept. 11, 2005, was destined to be a half-forgotten occasion, distorted and sullied by a grotesquely inappropriate Pentagon-sponsored country music jamboree on the Mall. But hard as it is to reflect upon so much sorrow at once, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the real history surrounding 9/11; it is the Rosetta stone for what is happening now. If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda. Everything connects.
Though history is supposed to occur first as tragedy, then as farce, even at this early stage we can see that tragedy is being repeated once more as tragedy. From the president's administration's inattention to threats before 9/11 to his disappearing act on the day itself to the reckless blundering in the ill-planned war of choice that was 9/11's bastard offspring, Katrina is déjà vu with a vengeance.
And proving the old adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy, Bill Maher is the first of the late-night comedians to deal with the hurricane in his opening monologue. As expected, he has his usual acid-tongue for the post-disaster fiasco that has ensued. Watch the Quicktime here.
And that's it for now with Katrina.
Oh, and Chief Justice Rehnquist has died.
(Props to my buddy Brian Hall for sending this one my way.)
UPDATE: onegoodmove.org has posted the complete Kanye West telethon appearance, though the video is a little smaller.
Friday, September 02, 2005
As I expected, the word is starting to hit the streets how colossally the Bush Administration miscalculated and mismanaged the post-Katrina situation, with the rapid descent into Lord of the Flies territory making many wonder how prepared we really are should the US get hit with terror of the man-made, not natural, variety. Meanwhile the rest of the world just shakes its head. Over at HNN, Ted Widmer seems to make a pretty compelling case that, along with the continuing shitstorm over in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina was not what Bush needed right now -- something that may well become increasingly clear as the full extent of the fallout becomes apparent.
Also, it seems others around the world are taking note of Bush's less-than-rapid response time to the Louisiana Crisis, specifically the fact that it took him three days to end his vacation. This is something that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, fresh from Pat Robertson's death mark, has taken note of, no doubt with a certain amount of secret glee. Speaking of Chavez, here's a great article by Linda McQuaig that examines why precisely the Administration may want to brand this democratically-elected leader as a dictator in the Saddam Hussein mold.
Bringing us home, documentarian Greg Palast has a piece up on his official site examining the eventual political ramifications of the hurricane as well as its parallels with the past. Last but certainly not least, here's occasional blowhard Michael Moore who, like him or loathe him, still makes some very pointed, very valid points in his open letter to GW.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I also really don't want to use the occasion to lob more invective at our erstwhile C-in-C (though, as it turns out, it literally took an act of God to tear GW away from his vacation...). That being said, I still can't help but think that for all the billions of dollars that are being sent down the Iraq moneyhole by the week, all ostensibly to keep us safe at home (according to the Administration's current stance), the dire predictions of what would happen in Louisiana were ignored and the necessary steps to prevent it not taken. This editorial from the New York Times makes a far better case than I have the energy to muster. You just have to shake your head.
Filmforce has premiered the SUPERMAN RETURNS one-sheet teaser. Looks like they're counting on everyone's familiarity with the iconic "S" to do most of the heavy-lifting before they roll out Brandon Routh (similar to the strategy employed by the studio when promoting the Donner-Reeve original from the '70s, as you can see).
It seems good things really do come to those who wait.
Less than six months after the first news started to dribble out, and a little over a year after creator Lawrence Hertzog assured fans that no DVD plans were in the offing, UPN's short-lived, little-seen, but much-loved NOWHERE MAN is finally making its way to the platter format. December 27th is the day to mark on your calendars, and here's the text of the official press release, originally posted by TVShowsonDVD.com:
Unknown forces conspire to erase the identity of photographer Thomas Vail (BRUCE GREENWOOD, "I, Robot"), and without warning, every aspect of his life is annulled during the course of one evening. His wife acts as if he's a stranger, his credit cards are suddenly invalid, his keys no longer fit the door to his home and in one way or another, his family and friends are silenced. Completely alone, Veil sets out on a desperate cross-country quest for an answer while eluding his powerful and unknown enemy. His only clue to the possible motivation behind the harrowing ordeal is the disappearance of one of his photographs, "Hidden Agenda," which depicts the execution of natives in a war-torn Third World country.The great thing about this show is that although it ended prematurely after only one season, they did a good enough job of wrapping things up (in a suitably PRISONER-esque coda) that one doesn't feel cheated, as opposed to, for example, the 2000 iteration of TV's THE FUGITIVE which found itself cancelled in the middle of one of the most frustrating cliffhangers I've yet witnessed.
Audio and video commentaries (Larry Hertzog, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Dunne, Steve Rodman, Art Montersatelli), - interviews (Larry Hertzog, Art Montersatelli, Guy Mager, Steve Rodman, Bruce Greenwood, Michael Levine, Meghan Gallagher), - deleted and extended scenes, - promotional spots - outtakes - featurette -- "Networking" (UPN executive Mike Sullivan and series creator Larry Hertzog reminisce) - featurette -- "Fact and Fiction" (an anonymous ex-CIA operative reveals true world government conspiracies, mind control techniques and how fragile our identity really is)
UPDATE: Just wanted to add the box art for the upcoming set, courtesy of this site.