Sunday, March 02, 2008

Random Things

There's no On Demand airing of the final episode of The Wire this week, which is probably a good thing, because I have way too much work to do and I cannot believe that this show is really ending. I have reduced my TV viewing primarily to only this show, Project Runway, whose finale will be this Wednesday (meaning I'll miss it, because I'll be reading with the divine Evie Shockley in Bloomington, Indiana), and, outside of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and occasionally Chicago Today and Bill Moyers's show, to the news stations on primary/caucus nights. The Wire is far and away the best show on TV, especially in the absence of HBO's other gems like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, and its combination of documentary-like mimesis (which doesn't always hold) and narrative richness and complexity set it far apart from everything else I can think of on the tube these days. I only wish there were 5 more episodes, or 15--another season!--rather than the imminent finale, which I am convinced is going to leave several of the plotlines's closures ambiguous, much like life--reality--itself.


This weekend C and I went to see Cloverfield. A student of mine--a very talented, advanced fiction student, no less, who knows h-- way around exposition--noted several weeks ago to our class that this movie had the "best exposition" of any movie ever. Ever. Of course this was hyperbole, but nevertheless, I suggested to C, a huge horror movie fan (I'm not), that we see the film. He was game. I am not going to offer a long review this film, which thankfully cost only $5 to see, beyond saying that it was just bad, and not in the good sense, but so bad that I did think it might be worth it, given the matinée price, to cut our losses and walk out. Beyond the CGI artistry, the cinematography (a major one, granted) and the initial appearance of monster(s), the film lacked in every category, from characterization to pacing to plotting, with severe demerits for implausibility and excessive sentimentality. The ending was so predictable and treacly I thought for a second that it might be a false one, and that something else would overturn it. (There is a key nugget at the end of the credits, but it doesn't address the maudlin narrative passage that precedes it.) No such luck.

One pressing question was: why in the hell does the damned monster (or monsters, because it was initially hard to tell if it was one or multiple ones, since the creature was menacing the Lower East Side and Soho, and smashed a tentacle, or something like it, into the Brooklyn Bridge, but shortly thereafter was said to be in Midtown, and then seemed to move uptown towards Columbus Circle, which the intrepid and horribly narcissistic protagonist...oh, I can't even go on) attack Manhattan, and was it only Manhattan, or also Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island in general, the US mainland (i.e, the Bronx and New Jersey, etc.)? Is/are the monster(s) also in the pay of Osama bin Laden and whoever else was behind the 9/11 attacks? Why don't these damned monsters ever run amok on the Great Plains? Or in northern Utah? Or down the Texas Panhandle? Given the proponderance of dinosaur bones in the Dakotas, wouldn't gigantic endlessly multiplying, voracious monstrosities find them a welcome playground, at least in spatial terms? Yes, I get the 9/11 parallels, but still, the film never established even the most basic ground rules or premises for the monster's appearance and its existence in the world. As C kept asking, were monsters attacking elsewhere? What about London? Johannisberg? Beijing? São Paulo? Yes, I know, it's karmic payback to the US alone, and in particular, its center of global finance....

Just an awful movie with insipid characters and some of the most inept pacing I've ever seen on film. It almost makes me think fondly of Crap, I mean, Crash, which was horrible in its own, manifold ways.


From the banal to the brilliant: a landmark movie is now on DVD: Frameline, the most important distributor of LGBTQ films, has released the late Marlon Riggs's remarkable, landmark film, Tongues Untied. The film has been integrated into undergraduate and graduate LGBTQ, queer, and in some cases, African American, American, film, and performance studies curricula across the US, and is the subject of numerous studies, but when it first was screened in 1989 and 1990 across the country, it generated both praise and controversy, and its 1991 appearance on PBS's POV engendered a great deal of the latter from right-wing critics and agitators, leading to the film's censorship by some TV stations. I believe it, along with Isaac Julien's 1989 film Looking for Langston and the Sankofa Collective's slightly earlier (1986) The Passion of Remembrance, as three of the most important and foundation cinematic works in the late 20th century flowering of Black Diasporic queer art and culture. I've sung the praises of the angel named Essex Hemphill before on this blog, but Marlon Riggs is also someone I admired greatly, as an artist and activist, and considered a hero. In the one time I interacted with him, I found him to be ferocious--ferociously smart, angry, and ill, aware that his time on earth might be coming to an end--this was the era before the AIDS cocktail drugs were widely distributed--but that his work would probably last. Thankfully it has, and here's hoping that all of his videos, including his elegiac 1993 film Je Ne Regrette (Rien), one of my favorites and one of his most beautiful, are available on DVD soon, and that we all take time to watch, think about, discuss, and share them with those who may not have had the opportunity to see them.


Lastly, I am going to make some of these. This site is like Halloween candy, it's hard to put it down. If I make enough and you're anywhere nearby, I'll let you know. That is, unless I devour them all by myself.


  1. Cloverfield: I TOLD YOU, JOHN! that movie was a complete waste of shit! and, the crowds made that very clear when it disappeared a week or so after it opened...JJ ABRAMS (executive producer of the film) needs to go BACK to his days of ALIAS/early LOST glory...and remember that he doesnt always need to greenlight every shitty project his cronies bring him. he's doing the star trek remake...if he screws this one, he could very well be wondering where his career went...

    The Wire: john, there series finale is march sunday at 9pm. ive missed eps but saw last sunday's..WOW...just WOW. I'm sorry if this show doesnt NOT get noticed in the awards shows later this year, there truly IS no justice...REALLY! so ungodly complex, intelligent, well written, and mesmerizing....and so SLEPT's really sad. really.

    i just netflixed the first four seasons...and im going to start rewatching them as they come...The Wire is the template for what good television SHOULD BE....

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