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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update: My Ten (or Fifteen) Best Movies List

Every year pre-Oscar I post a tentative, incomplete list of best movies of the year--with a few additions to come. I see a lot of movies, including many indie, foreign and doc, but unlike "real" critics, I don't get invited to screenings and so, at that point, I have not seen all the contenders.  Then in January and February I catch up on most of the stronger candidates I'd missed.  Now I'm only missing Toni Erdmann, which I will see tomorrow, weather permitting.  So here we go, a top 16, from what I can say now, in approximate order.

Manchester By the Sea
The Salesman (Iran)
Hell or High Water
The Innocents 
The Witness
20th Century Women
La La Land
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Lobster
The Tower
The People vs. Fritz Bauer 
I Am Not Your Negro
The Handmaiden

Close but no cigar:  Elle, Fences, Hidden Figures.   Paterson was disappointing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Second Best!

My favorite worldwide trend....comedy shows in countries throughout Europe (and now beyond) making videos making their claim to being "second best in world" since Trump has declared America First!  The Dutch kicked it off,  the video weent viral, now inspiring at least two dozen others everywhere, even supposedly Mars, all mocking Trump (and shockingly up to date on details of his own claims and language).   There's now a web site posting the videos, Every Second Counts, just click on country on their map.

I'll post as many as I can below, starting with Holland, which kicked it off:
Here's Germany's great one:

two and too many more to add....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter in America

Alex Winter, for years now a fine doc film director, trained his camera on people arriving in lobby of Trump tower for meetings with the predator upstairs, and has just released a six-minute slice of "life."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Baghdad Bob and the Spicer of Life

After his bold face lies of the weekend, new Trump press secretary Sean Spicer is being compared to none other than the immortal "Baghdad Bob."

Baghdad Bob, of course, was Saddam Hussein’s minister of information, later immortalized on t-shirts, Web sites, and even a DVD for his optimistic, if fanciful, statements about Iraq’s triumph over the American infidels, right up to the point his boss left the building. Baghdad Bob somehow survived and later worked as an Arab TV commentator, sans trademark beret.

Here are a few Baghdad Bob classics from the spring of 2003. See if you can imagine them coming out of the mouth of Spicer, KellyAnne or the Donald speaking to the press today.


“Be assured: Baghdad is safe, protected.”

“The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies, and more lies!”

“They think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win.”

“We are in control, they are not in control of anything, they don’t even control themselves!”

“The battle is very fierce and God will make us victorious.”

“Those are not Iraqis at all. Where did they bring them from?”

“No, I am not scared, and neither should you be.”

“I blame Al-Jazeera.”

“I would like to clarify a simple fact here: How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?”

“We’re giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn’t accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted.”

“I can assure you that those villains will recognize in the future how they are pretending things which have never taken place.”

“They are becoming hysterical. This is the result of frustration.”

“I speak better English than Bush.”

“Just look carefully, I only want you to look carefully. Do not repeat the lies of liars. Do not become like them.”

“The United Nations … it is all their fault.”

“This is unbiased: They are retreating on all fronts. Their effort is a subject of laughter throughout the world.”

“The force that was near the airport, this force was destroyed.”

“They are achieving nothing. Our estimates are that none of them will come out alive unless they surrender to us quickly.”

“They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion.”

“My information came from authentic sources. Many authentic sources.”

“Once again, I blame al-Jazeera. Please, make sure of what you say and do not play such a role.”

“I will only answer reasonable questions.”

“These cowards have no morals. They have no shame about lying.”

“You can go and visit those places. Everything is okay. They are not in Najaf. They are nowhere. They are on the moon.”

“My feelings – as usual – we will slaughter them all.”

“We are in control. They are in a state of hysteria. Losers, they think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win. I think they will not win, those bastards.”

“Rumsfeld, he needs to be hit on the head.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Me, Donald Trump, and Miss USA

Donald Trump refuses to let his beauty pageant past go.  This reminds me of my only brush with a beauty contest, before Trump took it on--back in 1974, when it was briefly based in my hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y.   I covered the contest that year for my magazine, Crawdaddy, and wrote a much-too-long cover story, offending many in town with my pro-feminist slant.  I think the headline was something like, "Selling Boobs to the Rubes.'

What was cool that year was that in contrast to many recent winners, the reigning Miss USA (left) was a very un-glossy, intelligent, hip young woman, who was blessed (or blessed herself) with the name Amanda Jones--as in the Rolling Stones song "Miss Amanda Jones"--marched in peace rallies, was pro-choice, and spoken out about feminism (and against the contest itself) during her year on the job.  As she told Bob Barker on the night was crowned: "I'm not the [beauty pageant] type."  She even on occasion asked that she be referred to as "Ms. USA." Imagine that today.

When I interviewed her she was clearly ready to leave the post and promised a surprise for the night of the big telecast.  Sure enough, at the close of the ceremony, as she gave her "final walk" as queen, she looked straight into the camera (and, at that time, still a large TV audience) and gave the famous signal from the recent hit film, The Sting--indicating the whole beauty contest  thing was a sham, a "con."  Good times!  Studs Terkel later interviewed her for a book.  Her Wikipedia entry details it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bruce Meets Leonard Cohen

Amazing rarity, Springsteen and band cover live in 1967 Leonard's "Suzanne" in a rock version, actually quite terrific.  Bruce already with his "Backstreets" voice--or it's the recording.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Lego Version of "Dr. Strangelove"

Newly relevant under Trump:  A truly amazing version of Stanley Kubrick's greatest movie --via Legos.   Part II features the good doctor and the "mineshaft gap" scene. Yes, that's the actual dialogue (and voices of actors) from the film. (Also, see wild, original trailer for the film, which was axed by the studio.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Samurai, I Am

New film out next month on one of the true greats, Toshiro Mifune, who needs no introduction here, I hope.  I met him very briefly once at the Japan Society in NYC, about the time I got one of the rare U.S. interviews in that era (1970s-1980s) with my hero, Akira Kurosawa.  Here is the trailer:

The Best of Townes

I've wanted to do this for awhile, so why not now?   As we mark anniversary of his tragic death.   Some of us--a few of us--consider the late great Townes Van Zandt one of the great American songwriters ever (and great American fuck-up).  You may have heard of him, or not.  You may have heard one or more of his songs, or not (or more likely heard them, even in True Detective, and not known it was by him).  So here's what I consider his greatest, in no order, both his versions or great covers of his songs by others.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

One Hooker to Remember

The late great John Lee Hooker with the astounding "I Cover the Waterfront," with a little help from Van the Man and, below that, his much earlier version.  John Lee also did greatest version of "Gloria," if you were wondering.