Saturday, October 4, 2003

SNAP INTO IT! Former WWF champion Randy "Macho Man" Savage has moved away from the squared circle to record a rap album:
"I've never been humble in my whole career, so I'm not going to start now," Macho Man, appearing at MTV's VMA radio forum, said last week of the love he was getting from all the radio DJs and fellow celebrities like Lil Jon. "Once again the madness is running wild. October 7 is the launch. [The album] is called Be a Man. It's got 13 hits on there, and it's gonna be rocking the house. Ooooh yeeeaaah!"

. . .

On "What's It All About," Savage proves that he's not too macho to mend a woman's broken heart. "I wanna keep ya happy, not just financially, but mentally, physically, romantically/ I know it's funny 'cause I'm usually slammin' cats/ Elbow off the rope in a wrestling match/ But you bring out another side of me."

Well, that's one way to get over the death of Miss Elizabeth.

UPDATE: There's a website. Including audio samples.
LAND OF THE 'LOST': Sofia Coppola's new film Lost In Translation certainly has its charms. Bill Murray turns in another masterful performance as the sullen, defeated former movie star reduced to pimping Suntory Whiskey for $2 million, and neither Tokyo nor Scarlett Johansson's ass have looked better on screen in recent years.

That said, the movie reminded me of, out of all things, About Schmidt more than anything else.

Both movies featured actors mostly known for high-volume type-A performances, being praised for dialing it back.

Both movies featured said actors as weary men looking for meaning in their lives, disappointed by (and free from) the restraints caused by marriage, at the end of the line in their work situation, uprooted from their homes.

And both movies failed to move me the way they moved the middle-aged white men who dominate film criticism.

Part of it's an age thing, I'm sure. I'm much more into movies about adolescents and twentysomethings trying to find their way in the world. I can relate.

Part of it's the really unnecessary level of condescension both movies levy against the populace. In Schmidt, it's the dumb hicks who seem to be the sole populants of middle America; in Lost, it's the Japanese people, of whom Coppola makes much sport mocking their inability to speak English properly, none of whom are really invested with any depth. From the prostitute sent to Murray to the film crews to the greeters, they unifomly exist to be made sport of. It ended up really alienating me from the movie, especially in the first half, and I felt uncomfortable.

And part of it's just expectations. Based on its reviews I came in expecting something four-star, profound and moving; I ended up liking the second half a lot, loving Coppola's critique of her own disintegrating marriage and appreciating -- while not being bowled over by -- the lead performances.

Look: Bill Murray deserves an Oscar some day, but for Groundhog Day, Ed Wood or Rushmore, not this one. It's good, but it's not going to compete with anything labeled "one of the definitive pieces of screen acting in the last half-century."

(Taking a look at his filmmography, I'm reminded of how much I love Murray's comic turns in supporting roles in Wild Things, Tootsie and especially Kingpin -- even leaving aside the 1980s lead trifecta of Stripes, Caddyshack and Ghostbusters. The man's good, and he chooses roles well.)

(For more on the respect owed Bill Murray, see this recent Fametracker Audit.)

There's at least one moment in the movie that's absolutely perfect, though. When Johannsen's doing a karaoke version of "Brass In Pocket", looks at Murray and he flirts back, and, oh, that smile he gives is really magical. The movie really works well in tiny moments like this, when it's just these two drifting characters making a connection.

It ain't a bad movie. It's just not the great one it's being hyped to be.

Or, at least, that's what I thought.

Friday, October 3, 2003

WHEN I LIKE SOMETHING, I USUALLY JUST SAY SOMETHING LIKE 'THAT WAS COOL': The Times' A.O. Scott, on Clint Eastwood's upcoming Mystic River:
Mr. Eastwood has found actors who can bear the weight and illuminate the abyss their characters inhabit. Mr. Penn, his eyes darting as if in anticipation of another blow, his shoulders tensed to return it, is almost beyond praise. Jimmy Markum is not only one of the best performances of the year, but also one of the definitive pieces of screen acting in the last half-century, the culmination of a realist tradition that began in the old Actor's Studio and begat Brando, Dean, Pacino and De Niro.

But Mr. Penn, as gifted and disciplined as any of his precursors, makes them all look like, well, actors. He has purged his work of any trace of theatricality or showmanship while retaining all the directness and force that their applications of the Method brought into American movies.

The clearest proof of his achievement may be that, as overpowering as his performance is, it never overshadows the rest of the cast.

So, he's saying we should see it, I guess?

You can read the full review here.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

OR, IT'S 'POWDER' IN REVERSE: I've seen promos for movies that made me skeptical before, but, damnit, it's been a long time since something made me as out-and-out nauseous as the ads for Cuba Gooding Jr's next flick, Radio, in which he plays the mentally challenged mascot for a white football team -- basically, Forrest Gump remade as a Magical Negro movie, only without that annoying feather. Or the politics. Or the subtlety.

In case you don't think you can write the whole movie based on its 30-second ad, click here for the casting call. This movie's got more formula than Babies 'R' Us, and will be about as predictable as a Hulk Hogan match in the mid-1980s.

And you thought he couldn't go any lower than Boat Trip this year . . .
GUMBY IN, GUMBY IN, GUMBY INTO TOWN: So, Jen and I were fortunate enough to see R.E.M. yesterday doing a soundcheck before their concert that night at Temple's Liacouras Center. They played "Pretty Persuasion", "Get Up" and a new song, then headed off for other obligations. A few notes:
1. Contrary to my assumptions, no one told us before the soundcheck not to make direct eye contact with Mr. Stipe.

2. Stipe was lugging around what looked like an iMac Powerbook G4 onstage with him, and he consulted it for lyrics before each song. Interesting product placement.

3. And so Jen and I were debating before they went on stage: which Stipe do you prefer -- early, mumbling Stipe or enunciating Stipe? I like my Stipe when I'm not really sure what he's saying; Jen's a fan of, y'know, words.

Tell us where you stand on this critical issue of national importance.

For more on what R.E.M.'s up to lately, check out this Jim DeRogatis feature, including an interview with Peter Buck, speaking of long-running acts:
Q. So you'll hit the road twice in a row?

A. Yeah. I said to the other guys -- and I'm a few years older than everyone -- that we're getting to the age where we may not be able to do this physically for much longer. If someone does something to their back -- I have friends who can't hold a guitar any more -- we should do what we want to and accomplish what we want to while we're really still in good health and strong and feel like doing it. There's a certain age where I think I might just be embarrassed to do it.

Q. Oh, come on. You always say that, too! You said the same thing when I interviewed you for the first time 12 years ago!

A. I've been conscious of my own mortality for some time. Being in this business, so many of my friends have died. I don't do the things generally that have killed them.

I had a really good friend die of cancer last year. He was one of the most influential people in my early life, and he was 47. I'm 46. You don't get a lot of time in this business; I'm not guaranteed work. There will be a day when I look in the mirror and go, "You know what? I can't get onstage in front of 20-year-olds anymore."

I don't know when that will be; I don't think it will be next year, but you never know. I think it's better to assume that it can all disappear overnight than to take it all for granted. The people who take it for granted are the ones who wind up on "Behind the Music."

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

OH, FRABJOUS DAY! CALLOOH! CALLAY! Ladies and gentlemen, there will be an Amazing Race 5.

Want to apply? Click here.
NOT WITH A BANG . . . : When I have more time, I will give my full report on the end of Veterans Stadium, including a picture or two from the day.

In the meantime, I don't want to forget to mention my favorite ironic note of the day. The first part of the closing ceremonies had the Philly Phanatic dancing his "last dance" to, guess what, Donna Summer's "Last Dance" -- which is totally appropriate on another level, because when the Phillies are bad, they're so, so bad . . .