The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Boardwalk Empire

I finally watched the pilot of "Boardwalk Empire." I am very happy to say that this one lives up to the hype.

The series is set in Atlantic City, in 1920, as prohibition becomes the law of the land. Steve Buscemi plays Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on the historical Enoch "Nucky" Johnson), a corrupt politician who sees profit in bringing forbidden fruit to Atlantic City. And, in his eloquent words "keeping it as wet as a mermaid's twat."

The series was created by Terence Winter, who wrote about twenty episodes of "The Sopranos," including the famous "Pine Barrens" episode. And he's done his research. I was particularly delighted with an appearance by a young Al Capone, when he was just a thug before he became the most famous crook in America.

The acting was strong, the script lively, and they spent $20 million on the pilot alone. It looked and felt like 1920.

The pilot was also directed by Martin Scorsese, who is probably my favorite movie director. I have no idea if he'll be back to do more. But let's see how the series holds up without Scorsese. But, in the spirit of gambling, I am prepared to gamble with this statement:

This is the best new show of the season. I wish it a long run. HBO already renewed it for a second season, so I cannot wait to see what happens.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Movies that I consider worthwhile

I don't know why I did this. But I was recently asked what movies I consider worthwhile. Now, I know for a fact that the person who asked won't check most of them out, because he is more than a bit of a troglodyte. But, I may as well re-post the list here in the hopes that it will be helpful to somebody.

Casablanca
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
Pulp Fiction
Citizen Kane
Reservoir Dogs
Titus
Bonnie and Clyde
There Will Be Blood
Goodfellas
The Lord of the Rings
Lost In Translation
A Clockwork Orange
The Last Temptation of Christ
Richard III (the Ian McKellan version)
True Romance
Annie Hall
The Big Lebowski
The Shining
Sleeping Beauty
The Dark Knight
The Usual Suspects
Casino
The Departed
Kill Bill
Raging Bull
Taxi Driver
Munich
Psycho
Jaws
The Silence of the Lambs
Gangs of New York
The Maltese Falcon
The Shawshank Redemption
The Dreamers
Batman Begins
Raiders of the Lost Ark
On the Waterfront
Vertigo
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Amadeus
All About Eve
Sunset Boulevard
Moholland Drive
Lost Highway
Blue Velvet
Chinatown
Alien
Aliens
Changeling
The Royal Tenenbaums
Inglourious Basterds
Serenity
Inception
Harold and Maude
High Fidelity
Sid and Nancy
Die Hard
Heat
Lawrence of Arabia
Shaun of the Dead
No Country For Old Men
The Hurt Locker
Chasing Amy
Dogma
Marathon Man
Dr. Strangelove
Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
American Beauty
In the Heat of the Night
Blow

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harlan Ellison (1934 - Sadly, sometime very soon)

No, he's not dead yet. But he believes he will be soon. This weekend is his last convention appearance ever. Here's an interview with him on the subject:

http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=30610

Harlan is simultaneously the last living grandmaster of the Golden Age of science fiction, and the rebellious Young Turk who almost singlehandedly brought down the Golden Age and created the Next Wave.

He was Issac Asimov's best friend, and the spiritual father of William Gibson and the entire cyber-punk genre.

He was probably the finest TV critic of the 1970s, and in my opinion his short story "Collection The Deathbird Stories" is one of the best written, and darkest, things I have ever read.

He is deserving of recognition as one of the US' great literary masters, and he will NEVER get that since he is a "sci-fi " author.

As a science fiction fan, not reading Ellison is a sin on the order of having never read any Asimov, Heinlein, or Anderson (Poul not Kevin). It probably won't earn you eternal damnation, but its still not something you'd want to admit outloud in a group of geeks

I've never met him in person, but after reading his body of work and seeing his struggles over the years, I can only defend the man thusly:

1. His overarching message is that writers are, aside from directors and a few actors of quality, responsible for the creative process in Hollywood and the written arts. They are also among the most poorly paid, lied to, double crossed and unappreciated members of this limited group. He's worked in print, TV and film and has in most cases a reason for his attitude. I do agree being a short, cantankerous type from the get-go has not helped him.

2. Creativity breeds smugness. This is nothing new. When you've won as many awards as he has in the industry, you develop a certain arrogance, and in the face of people who have a good dose of "I Don't Give A Shit Who You Are," the smugness is even more palpable because he's trying to win a battle of competing egos.

3. Ellison is incredibly smart and hates dumb questions, and above all people wasting his time. Ellison is known for his distaste of watered-down literary classics which are the staple of standard education, and I am sure he would give any number of alternate examples of better fiction that can and should be taught in high school and college. Listening to him, he has a great deal of contempt for how dumb our society is on many levels, not the least of which is a cultural illiteracy and a lack of appreciation for good writing (see point #1).

He will be missed along with Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury (may he live long) as one of the giants of fantasy/alternative literature. It's selfish of me, but I do hope Harlan hangs in there a while longer. Once he's gone, the universe will be just a bit poorer for his loss.

And if there is a Heaven, let us hope that Issac Asimov will hold Gene Roddenberry down so Harlan can beat the shit out of him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wow...



I cannot wait until that kid is the next Leif Garrett.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Rally to Restore Sanity"

Long time no update, but that doesn't mean I am dead. Just been busy. I am usually quite loathe to get into politics on this blog, but I am making an exception in this case.

Last Thursday, Jon Stewart announced his plans to hold a rally on October 30th, 2010, on the national mall in Washington DC. The Rally to Restore Sanity, as he called it. Basically, it's a rally for those of us who aren't angry and shouting, and think painting a Hitler mustache on Barack Obama or George W. Bush is stupid.

I don't believe Barack Obama is a secret Muslim socialist, and I don't believe George W. Bush allowed the terrorist attacks of September 11th to happen just so Halliburton can get richer. Nor do I think Obama, Bush, or Clinton were our worst presidents ever... everyone knows that was Warren G. Harding. Well, everybody who reads.

I believed the Tea Party started out as a good idea, because I am against these bail outs also, but it became a weapon of the crazies. I despise both Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck. I believe that Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN all lie. Rush Limbaugh and Randi Rhodes are hurting the country with their rhetoric. I like John McCain and hate Sarah Palin.

I am your average, progressive, moderate libertarian. And I mean a real libertarian, not one of these ultra right conservatives who call themselves a libertarian because "Republican" is a dirty word.

Now, I am a huge fan of Jon Stewart. I don't always agree with his politics, but this is a guy who doesn't bullshit, and who is more bipartisan than people on either side give him credit for. So, I was delighted when he announced his Rally to Restore Sanity. I was also delighted when his protégé, and faux foe, Stephen Colbert announced his competing March to Keep Fear Alive.

Right now, I have every intention of attending. A day in Washington D.C. on the national mall could be fun. I always wanted to attend a political rally, but there have been so few I could support. Well, restoring sanity and moderation is something I do support. And it might give me some hope that our political system isn't beyond saving.

So, mark your calendars. October 30th, 2010. The national mall. Bring cookies!