peteg's blog

The Rover

/noise/movies | Link

A return to the Landmark at 2828 Clark (where I saw Only Lovers Left Alive a few weeks back). $11.50. Three rows from the screen. Somehow I felt compelled to go: maybe it was Guy Pearce, but this was never going to ask a lot of him really. Some of it looked like the granite hills of home, somewhere south, maybe west of Canberra, Wagga-ish, but more desolate, and of course it was actually shot in South Australia. Yeah. The director made Animal Kingdom, which should have served as a sterner warning; he reaches for The Proposition, gritty and revelatory and also Guy Pearce, but falls far short. Far short. All I could think was that maybe Samuel L. was lugging around Marsellus's dog the whole time too. I hadn't seen Robert Pattinson before and he was OK; there wasn't a whole lot of character to get a grip on though. Some of the early cinematography is excellent but not particularly innovative, and many of the small characters are poorly played. The smarter of those actors just looked longingly into the camera. David Field sure turned out all Donald Pleasance with age; Hawkie at least held on to more of his hair. (... and wasn't Joel Edgerton also implicated in The Day We Called It A Night?)

Somehow I dodged the rain the whole day.

The Sufi Gospel Project

/noise/music | Link

Back to the Old Town School of Folk for the Sufi gig I'd been hanging out for for so long. It turned out to be part of the Eye on India festival thing, and the band was imported from India; I'd hoped they were locals. Sonam Kalra got grilled by a local and revealed that she is from Delhi, but not that she is a dog person or her marital status. She's of the Sikh religion, and used to be in advertising. Her voice is excellent. Her band is awesome and tight: the flautist (Rajesh Prasanna), sarangi (Ahsan Ali Khan) and tabla (Amaan Ali Khan) players all stood out, and while the Yamaha keyboardist (Alex Fernandes) did not, he may have anchored the whole thing for all I know.

So I expected an American fusion sort of thing, but it turned out to be more masala, finer-grained and somewhat messy in a pan-genre sort of way. They opened with some great sufi stuff, and the first set had me quite spaced out. One element was an adaptation of Amazing Grace. The second got a bit more Western; specifically something by Ray Charles that had been taken full-circle (gospel -> jazz -> gospel) left me cold (was it Hallelujah I Just Love Him So?). They also attempted Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which annoyed me a bit as Anthem is far more in tune with their ecumenicism. (Sonam termed her project secular, which is even more approximate.) They closed with the Sufi classic Daanah Pah Daanah, which I knew from the Coke Studio Sessions 4 recording by someone else. Very sunny.

The crowd talked throughout and thinned appreciably in the second half. I'm not sure why; I got pretty much what I expected. They played the following night in downtown Chicago, at "the Temple" (corner Washington and Clark), which I didn't go to, and I also regret not buying one of their CDs. After much futzery I did manage to get The Confluence from OKListen, and Verified by Visa not only looks like a man-in-the-middle attack but did not properly verify my address. The band recorded Man Manam for the Coke Studio, which gives you some idea how good they are. Unfortunately Sonam left out her bespoke sign language. The guitarists didn't make it.

Charles Bukowski: Tales of Ordinary Madness

/noise/books | Link

Catching up on my youth: Bukowski was big with the crowd circa 1997. The biopic Born into this seared the image of his damaged dial that features on the cover into my brain. I also saw the movie of the same name starring Ben Gazzara, but not Factotum. Apparently that was around 2003, and still I haven't bothered with the source material until now. Well, what can I say. Some of it is good, almost all of it is banal, and it is difficult to take his occasional stabs at offensiveness too seriously these days. I don't remember anything much from the first half of the book. Of the second I carefully noted his portrayal of a madhouse Purple as an Iris, his vignettes Notes of a Potential Suicide and the still-life One for Walter Lowenfels. Dates on the stories would have helped. His daughter recurs. He slags off Ferlinghetti which is somewhat ironic as I read the City Lights edition from the Chicago Public Library. I think I'll take him in small doses. Surely he was Hal Hartley's inspiration for Simon Grim in Henry Fool.

The Untouchables

/noise/movies | Link

Apparently De Palma's other masterpiece. I'm not convinced; Costner in the lead? Connery got an Oscar for this? (His accent goes for the occasional wander westwards.) Andy Garcia makes a credible play for his Godfather III role. Patricia Clarkson is the perfectly characterless wife/mother. The mounties come prematurely. History is unncessarily bent to fit the histrionic plot. Then again, there is some cinematography / tension ratcheting worthy of Sergio Leone.


/hacking | Link

Quite a while ago I cranked out an over-ambitious assignment for JAS: no, not that one, but FLAN and its graphical relative FLANGE. I decided it was time to air the examples I wrote for it.

Dr. Strangelove

/noise/movies | Link

Fiftieth anniversary. 7.15pm at the Music Box Theatre. Rode up from work; a beautiful evening to be out on two wheels, especially after the rain of the past few days. Had a Guinness at the Crossing (sterile sportsbar whose "beer garden" was a smoke-free "patio") on the way up. New print, but just as grainy as ever. Probably the best movie I'll see this year.

Denby at the New Yorker.

The Outsiders

/noise/movies | Link

A Tom Cruise segue. He's so young here, and irritating. Some lucky young punks do get to punch his lights out, with air swings. This is not Coppola's finest outing, and is a long way from The Godfather in almost all respects. Strong teenage 1980s cast: Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, ...

Graham Greene: Orient Express (aka Stamboul Train)

/noise/books | Link

Once again I found myself in the Chicago Public Library without my laptop, and so had to wrack my brains for authors worth reading. I think I forswore Greene a few months/years back after reading his post-conversion The Power and the Glory (or thereabouts). This one is early, 1932, and entirely cinematic; so much reads as instructions to a director. I enjoyed it but things kind of trail off when they should bite. He keenly draws a Jewish character and hopefully observes that the mindless discrimination he encounters is on the way out in Europe. Similarly the treatment of communism is of the (interwar) times.

Edge of Tomorrow

/noise/movies | Link

I went to see this at Dave's insistence, 'cos Emily Blunt. The complex that houses the Showplace Icon Theatre is built for cars, and maybe the cold: I didn't find a pedestrian entrance. Following Google movies's prompting, I aimed for the 7.45pm 2D session but got there just in time to part with another $4.75 ($17.75 total) for the 7pm "real 3D". Perhaps these are distinct to the Google.

Things opened with the trailer for the new Transformers flick. Marky-Mark! — and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Oldman? The feature was pretty much colour-between-the-lines stuff with so many antecdents that no list could be complete. I thought Team America all the way through, which was somehow prescient as it concludes with a trashing of Paris, but no promise-me-you-will-never-die, which would have been hilarious. The action scenes were pure spaghetti, and more so from the fourth row. (I sat where the people assisting wheelchair users would sit; tickets weren't offered for there and I got told I'd have to move if someone came.) Noah Taylor reprises his role of chief geek (Lara Croft etc.) which made me wonder about Miranda Otto. Loads of other Australians in there too. Bill Paxton has the most fun chanelling Brad Pitt. I hoped they would cast Bill Pullman as the president (again). Tom Cruise barely breaks a sweat. The story is somewhat recursive, but you'd have to wonder if this is what you'd do if you had that particular power of futzing with time. Where did the "mimics" moniker come from anyway?

David Haglund at Slate. Manohla Dargis at the New York Times.

The Art Institute of Chicago: Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful

/noise | Link

The Art Institute of Chicago offers talks by artists periodically, and I figured I should go take a look at one, being a member and all. Josef Koudelka took many of the famous photographs of the Prague Spring. Fullerton Hall was packed; I hadn't realised there were so many Czech emigres in Chicago. I had a quick look at the exhibition before the talk started at 6pm. The discussion wasn't too successful, and I wish they'd let him show his three ten-minute short films; why not expand it to a 90 minute event?

Runner Runner

/noise/movies | Link

Unfortunately they crammed all the good bits in the short. I've got a soft spot for Affleck (though I still can't bring myself to watch Pearl Harbor) and Timberlake. Gemma Arterton is unusually timid here; do they get her makeup right in any movie ever? Show us your freckles! Spare the talk and feed those crocodiles.

A. O. Scott at the New York Times.