Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rather Not

“This is the way my mind works, small as it is,” he says. “I settle on something and say, ‘That’s where I stand.’”

“Where I fault myself – and I fault myself on a lot of things – is that for the longest time I just refused to believe what my eyes saw and my ears were hearing.”

These are the veteran newsman’s most illuminating statements made to Joe Hagan in “Dan Rather’s Last Big Story” (“New York” magazine, 12/3/07). While the former anchor was referring to being duped by his corporate higher-ups at CBS, these quotes go a long way to explaining how he got into the “Rathergate” mess that led to his downfall in the first place. As I noted in my letter to “Vanity Fair” (published in the February 2006 issue) in response to “The 60 Minutes Takedown,” a portrait of the producer Mary Mapes who set this whole sordid business in motion:

“Mapes chose as her No. 1 source Bill Burkett, an unreliable, anti-Bush, anti-National Guard former cattle rancher, then had the audacity to fault the subsequent CBS investigative panel for its “rigid, legalistic ideas of how reporting should work…Dick Thornburgh would have found Mark Felt an inadequate source.” To compare her cattle rancher to Woodward and Bernstein’s loyal FBI man is shocking enough, but to forget that Felt was only one of a huge number of reliable sources is unethical journalism.”

This is no conspiracy, as Rather still contends. This is a case of Rather being blinded by his loyalty to Mapes in a power dynamic not unlike the one between Rudy Guiliani and his disgraced, former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Indeed, the Jayson Blair scandal at “The New York Times” brought down both Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd. This wasn’t an evil corporate plot. This is what happens to bosses who don’t weed out shoddy reporters. If Rather expects to be vindicated through private investigators and labyrinthine lawsuits, he really is “tilting at windmills.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sometimes Art Just Ain't Enough

Todd Haynes is an artist in the same vein as fellow filmmaker Gregg Araki – but at least Gregg Araki doesn’t pretend his work is accessible. When it is, like “Mysterious Skin,” it’s accidental, the result of a great script. No one will ever accuse Haynes of anything other than mediocre screenwriting, which is why his characters in “I’m Not There” often come across as two-dimensional gimmicks. Film is a medium of the masses, something understood by European directors like Fellini whose hallucinatory pageantry was always grounded in phenomenal – accessible – storytelling.

With that in mind, check out my review of Haynes’ latest, the Bob Dylan tribute “I’m Not There” at:


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Twisting In The Wind

“No Country For Old Men,” the latest tour de force from Joel and Ethan Coen, which Roger Ebert proclaimed “perfect,” is, well, pretty damn masterful. It’s as if the brothers, in eschewing original material for adapting Cormac McCarthy’s book for the screen, found themselves free to do what they do best – concentrate on the visual interpretation above the foundation itself. You can almost hear the boys’ collective sigh of relief in every frame. “Now we can really go out and play!”

And this sense of revelry translates into dynamite performances from Josh Brolin as the Vietnam vet who stumbles upon a couple million in cash in a drug deal gone wrong, Javier Bardem as his psychopathic hunter and Tommy Lee Jones as (what else?) the sheriff in hot pursuit, each rediscovering his character from moment to moment. Which works well inside the world of western Texas the Coens create, a place in which everything from the prairie landscape to the air vent of some dusty motel takes on a life of its own. Shot for shot, the Hitchcockian attention to detail is superb. Their four-eyed camera conjures up a character study in inanimate objects as much as in the flesh-and-blood subjects. And boy is there blood, though not as much as you’d think considering the triangle of leads all come equipped with weapons of massive physical and psychological destruction.

Indeed, the fact that the most horrific scenes take place off-screen is the Coens' greatest achievement. The directors establish the gruesome violence early on then gradually tone it down, letting our imaginations run wild in the silence. We almost pray for more gore, a quick shot to the head being better than endless dread. With sheer brilliance the Coens exploit our fear of the unknown as the ultimate thrill, hold us responsible for our nightmares. Our greatest terrors are contained in the screaming gaps left on the metaphorical cutting-room floor (leaving open the possibility that they could jump out at any moment like Bardem’s existential bogeyman). The scene that will linger in your head is the film’s most tranquil, like the waters before Jaws appears. It’s a prelude to the death of one of the protagonists, its incongruity disturbingly apparent yet the puzzle piece only snaps into place after he’s whacked. You want to hit the rewind button except there is no rewind – only a no-man’s land where twists of fate roll like tumbleweeds.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Emperor Wears A&F

This week’s “Rolling Stone” magazine features “JT Leroy: The Famous Writer Who Wowed Bono and Courtney Love – But Didn’t Exist.” Oddly enough, it really is more portrait of JT Leroy than interview with Laura Albert, JT's flesh-and-blood creator who recently lost a lawsuit brought against her by Antidote Films. Check it out then write the editor a letter of your own. Here’s my take:

Great reporting, though I wish Guy Lawson hadn’t overlooked the real issue beneath all the surreal drama. The “story” is not Laura Albert so much as the visceral, personal overreaction her “hoax” evoked in those who should know better. Between MySpace “friends” and Britney blogs we’re given the false sense that we truly know – own – our objects of adoration. Sadly, I guess it’s inevitable that dysfunctional celebrities also would buy into this myth, believe an otherwise obvious dream sprung forth from a mentally ill woman desperate not to disappoint. (After all, if the emperor wears Abercrombie & Fitch, he must exist.) The glitterati didn’t “know” JT Leroy any more than I know Courtney Love. They were simply fans – behaving like spurned lovers when the fantasy they collectively helped to create turned out to be just that.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Gay Superheroes Night" at Kinky Camp this Friday!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Midnight November 16th at Monkey Town (www.monkeytownhq.com) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

“Taco Chick and Salsa Girl”

Kurt Koehler’s live-action, crime-fighting, drag duo are “on the menu to save the world!”
(Not to mention parts of L.A. from Neato Nazi Barbie and White Supremacist Ken. Dios mio!)


Followed by:

“Stonewall & Riot: The Ultimate Orgasm”

Joe Phillips’ gay animated superheroes go at it! “An invention has been stolen, a brilliant professor is missing, and the only witness is lost in an extraordinary orgasmic afterglow. Can Eros City's most prominent heroes get to the bottom of things before time runs out? They'll have to fuck their way through a gallery of the most twisted and horny sex freaks ever seen.”

Come one, come all, come campy!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Wisdom of Joe and Mick

While the Sex Pistols were busy with their Warholian experiment in nihilism, The Clash became the thinking man’s punk rock. In “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten,” the subject even discusses his love of thinking, how there’s no point in getting up in the morning if not to engage in that activity all day long. With that in mind I’ve selected five quotes from the film that made me think – or at least laugh.

Strummer’s riff on life’s indulgent missteps, like overdubbing “the sound of ants biting through a wooden beam.”

After the camera pans from an interview with members of The Clash to manager Bernie Rhodes (a blowhard unafraid to take credit for everything punk, including the Sex Pistols) passed out in a corner, then back to the band, Strummer deadpans, “He invented punk rock!”

Joe Strummer quotes the Bible. “There’s a time to dance to techno and a time not to.”

Joe Strummer on cigarette smoking. “Nonsmokers should be banned from buying any product a smoker created.”

And finally a word from Mick...

“It’s no worse than any other prostitution business.” Mick Jones on rock ‘n’ roll.

To read my full review go to: