Tuesday, May 11, 2004

TV: Jeopardy

Power Players week, featuring D.C. insiders. The first contestants were Bob Woodward, Peggy Noonan and Tucker Carlson. None of them knew which team John Elway QB’d for, and many of the pop culture questions went unanswered. I’m not picking on them. I just thought politics was a redoubt for what guidance counselors call “well-rounded individuals.” Like Tracy Flick in ELECTION. I’m more well-rounded than these three. I even know who the Secretary of Labor is. Go ahead. Ask me.

Book: The Burglar on the Prowl, by Lawrence Block (2004)

My influences as a child were Bugs Bunny and James Bond. I like to think of myself as a synthesis of those two icons of masculinity. Nobody else does, but I do. As an adult, Block’s Matt Scudder series has had the biggest impact. They’re low-key books with a stark emotional intensity as well as the most loving depiction of New York currently in print.

It’s a measure of Block’s skill that he also writes the Burglar series, which read like Nero Wolfe tales penned by P.G. Wodehouse with a dash of Damon Runyon thrown in. The latest is a hoot. Coincidence piled on coincidence, and a chapter that ends with our hero Bernie Rhodenbarr assembling the entire cast in one room and saying, “I suppose you’re wondering why I summoned you all here.”

Video: American Splendor (2003)

Either this or MASTER AND COMMANDER was my favorite movie of 2003, depending on which day you ask me. An adaptation of the autobiographical comics of Harvey Pekar, SPLENDOR blends live action and animation, documentary and dramatic film, in service of a story about the necessity of stories. And it’s hilarious into the bargain.

It’s also proof that Hollywood needs to get out more. There’s no way the Cleveland of this movie could be recreated on any soundstage. It should have been eligible for the foreign film Oscar as the entry from America.

Movie: Out For A Kill (2003)

Steven Seagal’s movies are going straight to basic cable now. I’m sure that as a Buddhist he’s one with the decision. The movie was directed by Michael Oblowitz, who made the flawed but interesting Jim Thompson adaptation THIS WORLD, THEN THE FIREWORKS a few years ago. Any hope of watching this movie was obliterated when Rosemarie observed that Steven Seagal now has Ann Miller’s hair.

Miscellaneous: Link

A New York Times article puts a post-9/11 spin on summer blockbusters. Universal’s Stacey Snider says she greenlit VAN HELSING because she was struck by the word vanquish in the script: “It just feels so strong, like it’s going to eradicate bad things.” Conquer, quell and subjugate are still available, screenwriters, so let’s get cracking.