Previous month:
August 2015
Next month:
October 2015


The Dodgers officially clinched the NL West crown tonight. More importantly, they eliminated the Giants from the post-season.

Neal and I attended last night’s game, which went four hours and twelve innings. The Giants pulled off a win at the last moment. I don’t know why it mattered so much. The season’s result was inevitable. I just didn’t want to have to see it in front of me. So my son and I planned from the beginning to leave early if necessary, so we didn’t have to watch the Dodgers celebrate at our house.

Like I say, the Dodgers eventually did celebrate. But I wasn’t there, and that makes me happy. Or rather, it would have made me very sad if I’d be there tonight. Of course, I wouldn’t have seen it if I’d been there tonight, anyway, because I would have left by the 6th inning.

My son-in-law and grandson, both Dodger fans, will be at the park tomorrow night. It will be the first major-league game for Lex, who just turned 10. I’m glad he won’t see the Dodgers clinch ... I know that sounds mean, but I don’t intend that to be the case. I just assume Giant fans were shitty tonight towards Dodger fans, and hopefully Lex won’t suffer from that tomorrow night.

what i watched last week

Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003). This film was my introduction to the Zatoichi franchise, although it’s a reworking of the long-running saga, and I can’t be sure how closely it matches what came before. It’s also only the second Takeshi Kitano movie I’ve seen (the other being Sonatine, which I liked very much). Many have compared this to the Kill Bill movies, and it’s easy to see why, but to my eye, Tarantino’s usual use of pop culture references makes those movies much different than Zatoichi (I may have missed any such references in the Japanese film, of course). Zatoichi is funny at times ... the color of the blood is one reason. Kitano has said that he purposely made the blood look unreal, because otherwise the bloody scenes would be too hard to bear. While I wouldn’t call it a musical, Zatoichi does include several sequences that make use of syncopation. Even better is the ending, which plays as if the cast from a traveling production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers turned up on the set of High Plains Drifter and performed a number from their show for the camera. It is completely unexpected, it apparently has nothing to do with the rest of the movie ... it should be a frustrating irritant, and I’m sure for some people, that is exactly its impact. I found it to be one of the most delightful things I’ve seen on screen for a long time. #845 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 8/10.

Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014). Marion Cotillard as a woman begging to keep her job. The Dardennes have such a good reputation that Cotillard wanted to work with them, signing up without even reading the script. Cotillard has such a good reputation that the Dardennes wanted to work with her, even though their casts are almost 100% Belgian, and they had never had a big-name star in one of their movies. I’d like to say that the result was a happy one. But Two Days, One Night is repetitive ... the woman goes from one co-worker to another, asking them to support her attempt to go back to work, gets one of two answers (no, or maybe yes), and goes to the next workmate. At one point, she can’t take it any more, and she ends up in the hospital ... she suffers from depression that pre-dates her potential layoff ... it initially feels real, but then she gets herself released almost immediately, and it’s as if she never went there at all. Cotillard is good, with none of the movie-star glamour that might upset the tone of the film. But she can’t overcome the overall dreariness. #303 on the TSPDT 21st-century list. 6/10.

Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012). Give Wright credit for trying something new. His version of the classic was filled with stylistic decisions, like making the action seem like it was taking place on a stage. It reminded me of movies like Moulin Rouge! and Marie Antoinette, although Wright didn’t use anachronistic music. There was so much showing off that Anna Karenina was overwhelmed. Around the midway point, things stopped for some real emotion, but that didn’t last. #763 on the 21st-century list. 6/10.

The Last Samurai (Edward Zwick, 2003). Stirring and emotional (are those the same things?). Ken Watanabe is great, Tom Cruise tries hard and mostly succeeds in the lead role, and the film is largely successful. But the socio-historic point-of-view is muddled, always teetering on the edge of the Great White Man Saves the Others scenario. And Zwick’s attempt to make us feel badly about the passing of the samurai ways is effective, but as soon as the movie ended, I found myself questioning that stance. The samurais are treated as symbols more than they are as actual people. #997 on the 21st-century list. 7/10.

the moon

We tried to see the moon tonight ... even drove around looking for a better vantage point ... but the fog wasn’t letting us enjoy the big event.

Then finally it appeared, still in total eclipse. It was covered in a thin sheet of fog, and you had to put your hand up to hide the street lights, but at least we got to see it.

The best part, though, wasn’t the moon, it was the people. I was sitting on the porch. A man walked by, and I said something about the moon. We exchanged a few words, then we exchanged names, then he told us he had retired, but he had been one of our garbage men for many years. A couple of guys from down the street walked up our way, wondering if we could see anything. Robin used an app on her tablet to figure out exactly where to look, and she was the first to see the moon. After a couple of minutes, the other guys walked back to where they had come from, and immediately they called us to come over, explaining that you could see the moon much better from their vantage point. We went there and sure enough, the view was better. One of the guys went inside his house and brought his mom out to see. Across the street, a few people came outside ... they didn’t come over to our side, because from where they stood, there was no interference from the street lights. Soon, a few other families came over, parents pointing out the moon to kids, everyone just chatting about it.

I’m not big on nature, and I’m not exactly Mr. Neighborhood. But damn if that moon didn’t bring us all together for a moment.

music friday: bob dylan, van morrison, lucinda williams, 1998

Seventeen years ago today, we attended a concert featuring Dylan, Morrison, and Lucinda. The three of them toured briefly (there were two shows in the Bay Area). Here’s how Lucinda Williams described it in The New Yorker:

Williams went out on a short tour with Dylan and Van Morrison, as a supporting act. “I had this fantasy that we’d all hang out,” she said. “Nothing could’ve been farther from the truth. Nobody talked to each other. Van’s band was unhappy, never sure if they’d get fired one day or the next. Same went for Bob and his band.”

I didn’t notice any rancor on the stage. Lucinda opened with a quick set. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which some think is her best-ever album, had been released a few months earlier, and most of her songs came from that album. She was 45 years old then (she and I were born the same year), which meant she was the spring chicken of the tour (Dylan was 57, Morrison was 53). (When we saw her six years later, she had music stands holding her lyric book, proudly explaining that she had nothing to hide, she just couldn’t see as well as she used to). “Can’t Let Go” was a Randy Weeks song from Car Wheels ... here is a live performance, also from 1998 (I think that’s Bo Ramsey doing the guitar leads):

Van Morrison opened with “Rough God Goes Riding”, the first song on his most recent new album, The Healing Game (he had released an outtakes anthology earlier in ‘98). He mostly avoided the recognizable hits ... he did play “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)” and “Have I Told You Lately”, which closed his set. He also played a medley of “Moondance” and “My Funny Valentine”, a pairing that he’d recording four years earlier on a live album:

The sound system sounded great for Van, which is why we were so disappointed when Dylan’s set was a sonic sludge, at least from where we were sitting. His most recent album, Time Out of Mind, had won three Grammy Awards, leading to a famous performance at the awards ceremony early in 1998, included below. Here is the set list for the show we saw:

Gotta Serve Somebody / Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You / Can't Wait / Queen Jane Approximately / Silvio / Friend Of The Devil / Masters Of War / Tangled Up In Blue / My Back Pages / Blind Willie McTell / Highway 61 Revisited / E: Love Sick / Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 / Blowin' In The Wind

And here is Bob at the Grammys, performing “Love Sick” ... this is the official video from that event:

This official video cuts out the second verse from the song. If the words “Soy Bomb” mean nothing to you, you won’t know why they skipped that part of the song. Here’s what happened during the second verse:

throwback the drums

Today is the 50th birthday of Janet Weiss. Here are some tidbits I found online.

Drum Fill Friday, With Sleater-Kinney’s Janet Weiss”. Janet picks some of her fave drum fills, we guess where they come from.

Backing Elliott Smith on “Waltz #2 (XO) in 1998 (“There’s going to come the day when your band leader writes a sensitive song. You must be ready.”):

And my favorite Janet song by Sleater-Kinney: “Youth Decay”.

anthologies and me

With the publication of Talking About Pauline Kael: Critics, Filmmakers, and Scholars Remember an Icon, I have returned to the world of anthologies. I was once asked why I had never written a book, and my reply was truthful, if also a bit smart-ass: I’m too lazy and unambitious to write a book. Now, to take just one example, the combined posts on film this blog has featured over the past 12+ years would fill a couple of books. It’s not the writing that drags me down. But doing anything with that writing beyond posting it here ... I’d just as soon give it away for free.

I’ve answered a few calls-for-papers ... that’s how I ended up in the Kael book. But I’ve also been handed some assignments without my even looking. If I remember correctly, I had two such opportunities in 2005. I could be wrong (insert obligatory comment about the varying reliability of memories), but I think Nick Rombes contacted me first about participating in a book on punk cinema, having seen something or other I’d written. That ended up being one of my favorite essays, “Making It Real”, which started off quoting The Adverts and ended with Sid and Nancy. My author’s bio for that one read, “Steven Rubio is a former steelworker who left the factory and picked up a doctorate in English from the University of California, Berkeley. A film major in his long-ago youth, he saw the last Sex Pistols concert to include Sid Vicious, and has waited ever since for someone to ask him to write about punk and movies in the same essay.” (The key, I suppose, is the part where I was waiting to be asked ... no wonder I never wrote a book.)

Also in 2005, I got an email from the folks at BenBella Books, who were publishing an anthology on NYPD Blue and had read something I’d written on that topic. That led to a fruitful period when I wrote six pieces for them in three years, covering NYPD Blue, King Kong, James Bond, Battlestar Galactica, House, and 24. Some were better than others ... I particularly liked the one on BSG, and both the Kong and Bond essays took on their subjects through the side door (for the King Kong book, I wrote about the mid-70s remake, and for the 007 book, my topic was the best Bond villain and I chose Klaus Maria Brandauer’s Largo in the “non-canonical” Never Say Never Again).

I was also proud to be in The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies, edited by the great Michael Bérubé. That was arguably the best academic-style essay I ever wrote, covering Bugs Bunny, Picasso, The Proms, and more.

It was in the BenBella period that I experienced a variety of editors. One, Leah Wilson, was among the finest editors I have ever worked with. But on a couple of occasions, they used “star” editors. So Say We All: Collected Thoughts and Opinions on Battlestar Galactica was “edited” by actor Richard Hatch. The oddest one, though, was Jack Bauer for President: Terrorism and Politics in 24. The general idea was that we should avoid being too polarizing in our essays ... you might recall that in its day, 24 elicited a lot of heat, both pro and con. My piece was called “Can a Leftist Love 24?” Late in the project it was announced that the guest editor would be Richard Miniter, whose most recent books included Shadow War: The Untold Story of How America is Winning the War on Terror and Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror. I joked to one of the actual BenBella editors, “This project has come a long way, from not wanting to be polarizing, to signing up Richard Miniter!” I had been told that he was “extremely enthusiastic about the project”, and now I was informed that “he really seemed to like your essay”. Hearing that, I just asked that no one told my friends in Berkeley. (My author’s bio for that one began, “Steven Rubio has never been cornered by a mountain lion.”)

If I made an anthology of my writing, a “Best of Steven” if you will, I imagine there would be a connected feel to it, primarily because “I” is an important part of all my writing. What is interesting about being in an anthology, though, is that you aren’t connected to yourself, you are connected to others through a common topic. In the spirit of this realization, I decided to read Talking About Pauline Kael from start to finish, hoping among other things to see how I “fit”. (Until the book arrived, I had no idea who the other writers were.) My essay comes late in the book (the 20th essay of 22), so I figured by the time I got around to re-reading what I’d written, I’d have a sense of the context into which I’d been inserted.

The first two sections of the book, “Friends, Neighbors, Confidantes” and “Knowing Pauline: At Home and at the Movies,” are written by people who had a personal connection to Kael. Polly Frost and Ray Sawhill were introduced to each other by Pauline (they later married). Frost’s essay is the first in the book, and it begins, “Pauline Kael liked to dial up her friends at all hours, engaging in long conversations.” I like that the book starts with a personal anecdote, because even those of us who didn’t know Kael felt that we “knew” her, and the inspired subjectivity of her writing encouraged that kind of relationship. Frost’s thesis, echoed in the title of her essay (“Performing Pauline”), reminds us, from the perspective of someone who really knew her, that “Pauline Kael” was not the same as Pauline Kael (a point I make in my own essay). “I suspect that one of the reasons Ray and I, and a few others, became as close to Pauline as we did was that, even during her peak years, we understood that there was a distinction between the public and private Pauline Kael.... She’d created one of the great characters of our age and had given one of the era’s great performances”. Frost finishes her essay with this sentence: “Pauline taught me that in the end it’s all in how you play yourself.”

Ray Sawhill reiterates this in his piece, the longest in the book. “She trusted us, and a few others ... I think this was mainly because we let her be herself – not the “Pauline Kael” of legend, but the quirky person who’d created and put over that larger-than-life character.” (Sandwiched between the Frost and Sawhill essays is a reprinted column by Roy Blount Jr. which seems placed there because he was Kael’s neighbor.)

The next essays follow up on the “we knew her” theme, as witnessed by the titles: “Conversations, 1968-2001”, “Knowing Pauline”, and “Encounters with Kael, 1975”. And the following section, “Objects of Her Affection: Critics, Journalists, and Movie Makers”, continues this from a different angle. David Denby (a “Paulette”), writer/director “Paul Schrader” (whose essay is called “My Family Drama: Pauline Kael, 1919-2001”), writer Joan Tewksbury (who tells an anecdote about Kael on the set of Thieves Like Us), all accompanied by a couple of “What I Learned from Pauline Even Though I Never Met Her” pieces. This section also includes a reprint of Sanford Schwartz’s introduction to the Library of America anthology of Kael’s work, and it is here that we get the first evaluation of her writing that comes from a place other than the personal.

Finally, halfway through the book, we come to “Stop Making Sense: Academics Consider Pauline Kael”. I say “finally” because my impression, from the Call for Papers to my interactions with editor Wayne Stengel (a professor at the University of Central Arkansas, and a pleasure to work with) to the way I approached my essay (which isn’t quite filled with academese, but I did include notes), was that this would be an “academic” book (I was thinking of the potential audience, but I suppose another way to separate “academic” from “non-academic” writing is that I didn’t get paid for this book, unlike, say, my work for BenBella). I’d say it’s the best kind of book, a blend of the academic and the ... I don’t really have a word for the opposite. Nonetheless, this section, featuring two professors, two graduate students, and Stengel himself, is pretty clearly marked off from what has come before. It is in many ways the most interesting section of the book, for Kael was well-known for her anti-academic stance (note that this was not the same as anti-intellectual ... she was never the latter, despite being accused of it on more than one occasion).

Steve Vineberg actually talks about her writing (I call him a professor, but his essay is a reprint from 1992 ... he might not have been teaching yet). Susie Linfield compares Kael to Siegfried Kracauer, which is fascinating in part because of the oddness of the subject. (She starts, “To discuss Pauline Kael and Siegfried Kracauer in the same essay seems, at first glance, exceedingly odd. And not just first glance.”) In “The Ghost of Pauline Kael,” Amanda Shubert asks for a moratorium of sorts on a certain kind of critique of Kael: “Pauline Kael lingers in a half-life in the cultural imaginary, unjustly pigeonholed and damned by derision and faint praise. It would be a grace finally to allow her to die. How else can we give her work a rebirth?” (Shubert also states, “My own frequent conversations with Pauline Kael have taken place solely in my head. There’s a good reason for that. I was only thirteen years old when she died in 2001.” Those “conversations in my head”, which resonate with people like me, remind me of the relationship between Six and Baltar in Battlestar Galactica.) Jason Kelly Roberts, like Linfield, takes on a topic that has been curiously ignored, Kael’s early essay “Movies on Television”. This piece benefits greatly from the focus Roberts can place on a single text. Finally, Wayne Stengel discusses “Performance Art and the Siren Songs of Pauline Kael”, where he claims that Kael “cultivated the most distinctive, jarring, and sexualized performance voice of any culture critic America has produced.” We’ve come full circle from Frost’s notion that Kael created “Kael” to Stengel’s recognition that Kael gave us a performance.

And then, at last, we come to the section that includes me, “Unraveling Pauline: Origins and Influences”. Maureen Karagueuzian offers an analysis of the now-legendary Berkeley Cinema Guild (in my bio for this book, I wrote that I “once lived half a block from the building where Pauline Kael had run the Berkeley Cinema Guild”), and Lisa Levy notes the importance of R.P. Blackmur on Kael’s approach to criticism. Which leads to my piece ... I’ve gotten to that point where I know what has come before, and can apply context to what I wrote for the book.

I’m trying to explain myself to myself.

My essay is called “Kael’s Influence: Expansive Subjectivity”. I don’t remember who came up with the title, but Wayne Stengel was quite taken with my concept of “expansive subjectivity”, so I suppose it was bound to be in the title somewhere. That phrase may turn out to be the one thing that lasts from my piece ... if you ever see anyone using that term, I did it first (at least, to the best of my knowledge). I used it as a counterpart to what Kael called “saphead objectivity”. The subjective part is obvious ... it’s also the easiest to emulate. Any writer who wants to attach themselves to whatever prestige comes with the Kael name can cite her whenever they offer a completely subjective response to a work. (I’m of the opinion that all criticism is subjective, but it’s kind of like fiction writers who want to write like Kerouac, or rock critics who want to write like Lester Bangs ... they copy the easy stuff, don’t understand the complicated stuff, and end up producing writing that borrows the worst from their idols.) It is crucial, I think, to understand how Kael’s subjectivity was expansive:

Kael demonstrated the freedom a critic could have to be subjective, but to this quality she added her understanding of the humanities in general. ... Kael didn’t confine her review [of The Bostonians] to the film adaptation; she also discussed in detail James’s novel and James’s life, and considered the effectiveness of the movie as a vision of the writer. Yes, her approach was subjective, but it was expansively subjective. For Kael, the movies did not exist solely for her opinions about them; she was no solipsist.

The way I honor her influence on me (and I hope I do more than emulate) shows itself in multiple ways. My first paragraph is about the Kael section at the website, as a way of showing how her influence reached beyond film. I talked about the “progressive passing along of influence”. I wrote about this many years ago, after Kael and another personal influence, political science professor Michael Rogin, died.

Cultural critics like Pauline Kael and Michael Rogin are rare, but their influence is long lasting. We miss them when they are gone, but one can state with assurance (and without resorting to New Age mysticism) that in important ways, they aren't really gone at all. Their work lives on, and by "their work," I don't mean only the words they published. I mean that one day, a young scholar named Greil Marcus took a course from a professor named Rogin, he read a book by a critic named Pauline Kael, and the next thing you know, he was writing books of his own. I mean that one day, a young factory worker named Steven Rubio read one of those books Greil Marcus wrote, and with sudden (and unusual) clarity, knew the direction his life would necessarily take, and down the road, he was writing and teaching himself.

I argue that the whole notion of “Paulettes” who followed Kael in lockstep was nonsense. “For the critic who truly wanted to follow in Kael’s footsteps, subjectivity would necessarily be crucial, and that subjectivity would ensure that the critic wasn’t merely parroting Kael.”

I addressed the idea that she was anti-intellectual by separating it from her very real rejection of “respectable tradition”. “[S]he never tried to hide her intelligence nor her range of reference in making connections between high culture and bastard, hybrid, but equally valid artistic impulses. She loved the pedigreed and the cur with equal ardor.” (That last sentence is a sign that my essay was carefully edited. It wasn’t in my original, and I don’t know that it “sounds” like me. But when I read it, I wished I’d written it.)

I finish with my oft-told anecdote about publically claiming that Kael was the most influential woman in my life. As always, there’s some hyperbole involved ... as I note, the real person for that role is my wife. But I was offering “some existential intention”. Perhaps it was this conclusion that led Stengel to call my essay “charming” in his introduction.

The final section of the book contains pieces by Kael’s biographer, and the editor of a book of Kael interviews.

So, where do I fit? I didn’t sense any great drop off when my essay came up. If the writing overall isn’t as idiosyncratic as my usual, well, that often happens to me in anthologies. The idea of giving your work over to someone else for improvements is perhaps essential to anthologies, and in general over the years, I’ve been happy with the results. It’s not as if I submitted a book of my own writings and it was accepted without edits ... every published book involves an editor (or it should ... I guess with the easy access to vanity-press self-publishing in the Internet age, more unedited material is out there, starting with blogs like this.)

What makes me happiest is that I am finally part of a group of statements about Pauline Kael. It’s good company ... can’t go wrong with the likes of Joan Tewksbury. But it remains odd to see my thoughts contextualized by the thoughts of others. It’s the furthest thing possible from a blog post. But now, when someone asks what I think of Kael, I have a place I can point them to.

what i watched last week

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011). I really liked Alfredson’s earlier Let the Right One In, but that didn’t give me any preconceptions since I only realized this film came from the same director after I’d watched it. It’s definitely on the list of Movies That Aren’t for Me ... I have a hard time following the plots of complicated spy thrillers. But I’m not sure it was all my fault this time. It’s based on a novel by John le Carré which was once turned into a miniseries that ran for more than five hours. This movie is just a hair over two hours, which means an already byzantine plot is condensed beyond comprehension for someone like me who hadn’t read the book. This left me grasping for something to connect with, the obvious place being Gary Oldman’s performance, which was nominated for an Oscar. There were two problems here. First, at times, Oldman seemed to be doing a voice impersonation of Alec Guinness, who had played the role in the mini-series. Second, Oldman did a great job of capturing the quiet, almost matter-of-fact manner of George Smiley, the “anti-Bond”. But since I was already having difficulty maintaining interest in the film, Oldman’s performance, good as it was, merely added to my general sleepiness. A plot I couldn’t follow, a performance guaranteed to go mostly unappreciated by me ... like I say, a Movie Not for Me. (Oldman lost the Oscar to Jean Dujardin.)  #309 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 6/10. For a “based on le Carré” movie I liked, try The Constant Gardener.

Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933). 8/10.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005). 7/10.

film fatales #5: me and you and everyone we know (miranda july, 2005)

(Suggested by The Film Fatales)

My favorite anecdote about this film comes from Roger Ebert, who gave the movie his highest rating. Ebert is writing about the character Robby, a seven-year-old played by Brandon Ratcliff. Ratcliff “read my review from Sundance and wrote me a polite and helpful letter in which he assured me he's as smart as an 11-year-old.”

This may make more sense if you’ve seen the movie.

While the central characters are the adults played by Miranda July and John Hawkes, there are several kids in the cast, many of whom have scenes and plot lines concerning sex. I suppose if you objected to a movie where a 7-year-old participates on an online sex chat board, you wouldn’t feel any better if the child actor was “smart as an 11-year-old”. But it’s a sign of how July manages to make creepy things less creepy. The IMDB’s Parents Guide includes, besides its usual section on “Sex & Nudity”, the following comments under “Frightening/Intense Scenes”:

The entire film deals with sexual politics and finding love. Some characters to [sic] that in disturbing ways. Others do it in somewhat more conventional ways. Many will find the majority of the film fairly offensive. Elements of pedophilia, masturbation, oral sex, and general sexual material (especially involving children) are prevalent throughout the whole film.

I don’t want to fill this post with spoilers, so I’ll just note that the above description is fairly accurate, and your appreciation of the movie will vary depending on whether you think it is possible to make a gentle comedy that eases you over those scenes, or if you think the gentle nature of the film merely makes it more disturbing. In truth, there is less than meets the eye. Much of the “offensive” material involves teenagers doing what teenagers do. The 7-year-old has no idea what is going on in the sex chats, and when the other party figures out their online mate is a little kid, the “relationship” ends immediately. Mostly, these scenes exist to show some of the secrets behind the lives of a few adult characters.

I’ve spent so much time on this aspect of the film that I’ve neglected the movie itself, which is not obsessed with childhood sex. It’s about the two adults (July and Hawkes), both of whom are different from similar characters you have seen. Hawkes’ dad, Richard, newly separated from his wife, is a bit clueless about why he was a poor husband, and he’s not exactly the best dad ever. But neither is he just a man who can’t grow up. Oftentimes, the guy will be an eternal kid, but that’s not what we see. Instead, Richard just doesn’t quite fit into normal society. He’s not quite on the Asperger’s level, and he’s not a bad fellow ... he’s just distant. July’s Christine is even more of an oddball, a video artist who has a day job working for a cab company that specializes in driving seniors. She does a better job of dealing with people, and she’s the one who tries to get a relationship going with the soon-to-be divorced dad, but she is also an artist, which in this movie means she is creative (a good thing) but her work is undiscovered (not a good thing).

Me and You and Everyone We Know has the framework of a rom-com, only there’s not much com and even less rom. It relies on quirkiness ... you can imagine Greta Gerwig in July’s role. It is almost aggressive about avoiding overt meanings, enough so that you would be forgiven for wondering if the movie is actually about anything at all. Hawkes is always good, and he’s a welcome presence here. July throws herself entirely into Christine, and it’s an impressive job. It’s her movie ... she wrote it and directed it and starred in it. So if Christine has a tendency to be annoying, July must intend that to come across. The movie is filled with awkward interplay between the characters, enough so viewers might squirm on occasion.

Me and You and Everyone We Know has a lot going for it. It’s an encouraging directorial debut for July, and it has its own tone ... it’s different from other movies, just as Christine and Richard are different. It’s refreshing to see a new voice on the screen. But I think it’s more promising than it is great. #366 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10.

My top films from 2005 (9/10 ratings), in no particular order:


music friday: stolen car

Thirty years ago today, we saw Bruce Springsteen for the 12th time. It was our first Bruce Stadium show ... he was still touring behind Born in the USA. Here’s “Stolen Car” from that show.

And I'm driving a stolen car
On a pitch black night
And I'm telling myself I'm gonna be alright
But I ride by night and I travel in fear
That in this darkness I will disappear

Here are a couple of cover versions of “Stolen Car”. Patty Griffin:

Elliott Murphy:

throw back to pink

Six years ago today, I saw Pink for the third time (my wife’s first). Here is what I wrote:

This was one of the best shows I have ever attended, and I’ve been going to shows for more than 40 years (and had seen Pink twice before, as well). There are reasons why I might overrate it … basically, I’ve never been to a show like this, so I was perhaps more impressed by the spectacle than I would have been if I was used to this type of concert. Think pop star with hard-rock roots, then toss in Cirque du Soleil, and you’ve got something of the idea.

Even though the show was as expected if you’d read about earlier stops on the tour, seeing it live was a lot better than watching on YouTube. The spectacle had a point … it wasn’t like a Bruce Springsteen concert where a calliope pops up to start the show and then disappears for the rest of the night. This tour supports the Funhouse album, so the concert included clowns and scary inflatable demons and trapeze work and aerial ballets. Meanwhile, Pink just rocked the house … she’s always been a confident performer, but the bigger stage really gave her room to strut. Yes, seeing her at the Fillmore was more intimate and in some ways better. But she pulled off the extravaganza like she was born to do it.

She played a lot of Funhouse, and a handful of her earlier hits. The crowd loved them all. She did her acoustic segment … she sang while spinning in the air (a separated shoulder prevented her from doing the kind of trapeze work we saw at the VMAs, but otherwise she was fine) … she changed costumes … she farted around … she screwed up a song, allowing her to remind us she wasn’t lipsyncing … she was good with the rockers, good with the ballads, good with the pop stuff.

And the covers! “I Touch Myself” worked well visually … she lay on a tricked out couch with holes underneath, a guy hid under the couch, and four hands roved over her body as she sang. The arrangement wasn’t much, though. She fared much better with Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” fighting Robert Plant to a draw. Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was an appropriate end to the main set. And most amazing of all was “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I wouldn’t have thought it possible to bring this off, but they did, and very well. They did all the parts … this matters, since apparently even Queen wasn’t able to do all the parts in a live setting. The crowd went bonkers … they knew all the words and sang along throughout.

And it’s clear that Pink is nothing if not brazen. Not many singers would pit themselves against the memories of Robert Plant AND Freddie Mercury, but Pink killed, just as she did in past tours in covering Janis Joplin.

And then there was the audience. When I saw Pink seven years ago, there were a lot of men my age, taking their daughters to the concert. In 2009, those daughters are grown up, and don’t need Daddy along any more. So there weren’t many Dads. There weren’t a lot of men, period … at least one men’s room was transformed into a women’s room for the night. A rough guess of the makeup of the crowd would be 90% female, with a sizable lesbian contingent. The cheering was very high-pitched, another sign that the gender split was pretty extreme. It was also very loud … almost Beatlemania-esque at times.

Bottom line? I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun at a concert in my life.