Via Chicago
— Errata Movie Podcast —
July 2003

I think I finally figured out why bands say things like, "This is the most fun we've had on the whole tour." The Fountains of Wayne said this in San Francisco last week, and the audience roared. Sometimes bands mean it, I'm sure, and sometimes I think I can tell when they do, but when they get such positive feedback from their audience for saying, "We love this place," they might bend the truth a little.

I remember reading an insightful interview with Garrison Keillor a long time ago in which he said that what audiences want from a live show is the appearance of spontaneity. He should know a thing or two about this, as someone who writes and performs a weekly half-hour monologue in front of an audience without the use of notes. He moves the podium aside or paces the entire length of the stage to remove any doubt that he has a cheat sheet.

Audiences want spontaneity because it proves that they're seeing something unique, and skilled performers, from the Fountains of Wayne to David Letterman, understand this. Your team of writers can write a hundred "ad-libs" for you as long as you're good enough at delivering them with apparent conviction, as long as you give the impression that your every fleeting thought is a pearl.

(Although it looks like I spontaneously came up with the turn of phrase at the end of that sentence, I actually stole it from Elvis Costello.)

Now you?ve got yourself a brand new occupation
Every fleeting thought is a pearl
And beautiful people stampede to the doorway
Of the funniest fucker in the world

They?re here to help you
Satisfy your desire
There?s a bright future for all you professional liars 

Posted by davis | Link

When I was in high school I subscribed to The New Yorker because I liked reading Pauline Kael's reviews of movies that never came to my town. I had little interest in the articles about New York society, but Kael's witty reviews were a window to a world of movies that I barely knew existed, and her idiosyncratic, unpredictable reactions to what she had seen taught me that there are no right answers.

I remember the day in my college dorm room when I read the announcement that Kael was retiring from The New Yorker. A replacement for my weekly fix wasn't obvious, so I just hoped that one day I'd live where I could see the movies for myself. Now I do, but I haven't stopped reading about them. Something about discussing a movie with my wife on the way home from the theater or reading thoughtful commentary on the web has become an essential part of my movie going experience.

So this web site is my contribution to the public chatter about the big screen. I realize that the world has no lack of movie talk, but I'm always on the lookout for people who share my interests, challenge my outlook, or bring a knowledge of film history to the table. That's what this site aspires to, even if it only hits one out of three today.

I also listen to a lot of music and see a lot of live shows, and I may comment on them from time to time, but I'm more comfortable writing about movies.

I don't see a need to fit within space constraints, although most of the content on this site is divided among very short pieces, very long pieces, and informal entries like this one. Take your pick, but don't listen to people who say that long articles don't work on the web. Maybe people are more distracted on the web than they are when reading something in print, but they can choose not to be. What's the rush?

Most of these pieces aren't reviews, exactly. I don't usually make recommendations, give star ratings, or decide how "good" or "bad" a movie is. You can find plenty of movie reviews elsewhere. These pieces are something other. Maybe, like me, you'll enjoy reading about movies that you've already seen or that you may never see, just to hear a different perspective.

Of course you may find my perspective to be in error. But error is the oft-forgotten mother of necessity, so don't let it shake you.

Posted by davis | Link
2003, United States
director: Michael Bay

It takes a certain kind of talent to make a Will Smith character loathsome, but the makers of Bad Boys II do it with extreme efficiency. I liked only one thing about this movie: the first big car chase is shot with the camera very low to the ground, which looks kind of cool. Feel free to leave after this chase, because the movie goes on from there for what seems like an eternity. The third time that I mistakenly assumed we must be coming close to the end of this loud, jittery, unfunny, unthrilling pile, the characters still hadn't been to Cuba, still hadn't assembled the team for one last raid, still hadn't stood over the scale model of the compound and pointed out who's going where, still hadn't radioed back to the guys to say that "we're in," and still hadn't driven through a shanty town to rip down the occupants' houses and clotheslines. Yes, the cops treat innocent bystanders and corpses as recklessly as they do criminals. The closest that these characters come to standing for something other than their own destructive whims is when Martin Lawrence tells his sister, Gabrielle Union, that the bad guys only care about her because she's a pretty face. That someone responsible for this movie created this scene recalls a well known conversation between the pot and the kettle. This movie is better than Traffic at arguing against the drug war, although that was certainly not its intention. Lock up these aimless narcotics officers. In a sound-proof cell, please.

Posted by davis | Link
2003, France
director: François Ozon

François Ozon's perfectly cast Swimming Pool pits a 50-something British mystery author, played by Charlotte Rampling, against her publisher's 20-something daughter, played by Ludivine Sagnier. They both end up in the publisher's remote house in France, each expecting to be there alone. The writer was hoping to find a quiet spot to work on her new novel, and the daughter was planning to party late and bring home a different man every night, which she proceeds to do. The movie is told from the author's point of view, but Ozon's camera seems to like the two characters equally, which is a nice setup that doesn't really have a worthy payoff. Where it goes depends on how you want to see the ambiguous third act. It's either a mystery thriller with holes so big that Rampling's character would have been embarrassed to write them: thin motives, contrived twists, and eleventh-hour revelations that require us to pretend some earlier events didn't happen (we'd need to assume the publisher never received Rampling's angry calls about his daughter being at his house when it was supposed to be vacant). Or, more probably, it's a psychological drama in which we wonder how much is real and how much is just a part of the novel in progress.

I like movies that blend the mental and physical as a way to get into a character's head, especially when we're not always told which is which — Scorsese's King of Comedy and Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut come to mind — but they lose me if that technique becomes one of the movie's focal points or if it no longer serves the characters but instead produces fireworks on its own. In Swimming Pool, the appearance of the girl parallels the writer's feeling that she has arrived somewhere fresh with her new book, that she has found some old spark, but I wish the movie had further explored the connections between the two women — and therefore explored the author's inner life — rather than skimming the surface. Showing us the novel that this character writes when she's on a roll should tell us something about her, but all we get are obvious observations about Rampling being a mother figure or recalling her youth in swingin' London, both dead ends. Sagnier is very sexy, and Ozon creates an atmosphere that is both soothing and unsettling, but without its attractive actresses and ambiance, the movie would suffer, of course, but would also be quite empty when it didn't need to be.

Posted by davis | Link
We previously predicted that the forthcoming Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill would be chopped into three pieces by its studio, Miramax Films. Our prediction was that Miramax would put a moistened finger into the air and then mold whatever product it had in its pipeline to better fit market demands, which these days would mean producing a trilogy with a built-in audience. Lacking that, it would chop. Meanwhile, we conjectured, Tarantino would nod politely while still being referred to as an independent filmmaker in most of the press. We were grossly in error and apologize profusely: we've learned that Kill Bill will only be chopped into two pieces because, in the words of Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, Tarantino is being given "carte blanche." We will refrain from making predictions in the future.
Sorry for this brief interruption from the business pages. Now back to the movies.
Posted by editor | Link | Other Corrections