Monday, September 29, 2003

Filmmaker dies...

Elia Kazan, one of Hollywood's finest directors of the 1950's, has died at the age of 94. He lived a long life, had a fulfilling career and was unfortunately one of those who named names during 1950's Communist witchhunt in Hollywood.

Many will remember his fine theater work and the two theatrical films he made with Marlon Brando; "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On The Waterfront". Others will remember his testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950's.

I believe he should be remembered for both of these things.

In 1999 Kazan was honored for Lifetime Achievement and given and Oscar by the Academy. I was one of the many protestors that day out in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion who voiced my opinion that in naming names Kazan had ruined a good many careers in Hollywood.

I (and we) felt that since he had already won an Oscar that an honorary one was a slap in the face to the many blacklisted filmmakers of the era such as Abraham Polonsky, Ring Lardner, Jr., and Dalton Trumbo.
[Many of those who were blacklisted are listed here].

We felt that some of the blacklisted writers and directors should have been honored for surviving the blacklist and producing, writing and directing some fine films in their later years. Trying to be clever I carried a homemade sign that read: 'They Coulda Been Contendas'.

However, at this point I don't wish to sully Kazan's life or career. He was a great director and deserves the accolades for his stage and screen work. He was a man who made choices and even though his actions and motivations can easily be condemned few of us can know what we would do if we faced a similar situation.

David Thomson writes a good obit on Kazan in The Guardian. Here's one section that caught my attention:

There were people who hadn't spoken to him in over 45 years; and who had crossed the street sometimes to avoid him. They had their reasons, good reasons; but everyone has his reasons. And the man is dead now, and his size cannot be denied any longer. Crossing the street will not do. Elia Kazan was a scoundrel, maybe; he was not always reliable company or a nice man. But he was a monumental figure, the greatest magician with actors of his time, a superlative stage director, a film-maker of real glory, a novelist, and finally, a brave, candid, egotistical, self-lacerating and defiant autobiographer - a great, dangerous man, someone his enemies were lucky to have.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Blog Roll...

There are lots of cool new blogs I’ve found. (Most are new to me, anyway).
Here are some.

Sivacracy
This Weblog concerns media, globalization, cultural policy, politics, economics, technology, music, and philosophy.

Press Think
The journalism we have… the journalism we need

Mark Crispin Miller (author of The Bush Dyslexicon)
News from Underground

Kicking Ass
Daily dispaches from the DNC

Malayasian Runner
(runners unite!)

Esoteric Rabbit Films
(Student filmmaker with opinions)


Read them when you have a chance.
Talk like O'Reilly day...

DJ Rashomon Remixed straight from the horse's mouth:

Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thank you for watching us tonight.
Shut up!
It is obvious, ladies and gentlemen, that we the people are being directly attacked by secularists who want to change this country.
Shut up, shut up!
Now the ACLU and some judges are hell bent on circumventing the will of the people. We tried to get them on but they’re hiding under their desks.
So shut up!
When you walk into the school you give up your first amendment rights.
I apply the no spin rules in evaluating these situations.
Shut up, shut up!
There are guys running around in France. I mean, if you don't have a mistress, you're a wuss. I mean come on. You know what the deal is over there.
So shut up!
The big picture here is that secular interests like The Times simply do not want a spotlight on Jesus, who advocated a strict moral code.
Shut up, shut up!
I’ve had two number-one best sellers. . . . Not one NPR invitation.
Let them eat sand.
Shut up!
I've been to Africa three times. All right? You can't bring Western reasoning into the culture.
So shut up!
Doctor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.
As always we let the viewer decide.
Shut up, shut up!
Notes...

34.6 million people in poverty in US. What is Bush and his Conservative government doing about this?

Nearly 1.7 million people in the United States slid into poverty in 2002 and incomes slipped for the second year in a row....

-----------

Hey, look here I have a Polish brother: Rashomon.blog.pl

----------

Frank Rich answers Mel Gibson (whose movie The Passion is stirring a bit of a debate) after Gibson says of Rich "I want to kill him, I want his intestines on a stick. . . . I want to kill his dog."

---------

Bill O'Reilly 21 spin tips. Here's one:

Whenever you get into trouble during a debate just align yourself with the working class. In fact, you can pull out your "hero-for-the-struggling-people" act for any tight spot you may find yourself in. Never underestimate how powerful it is to exploit this!

---------

Here's a fine interview with Paul Krugman in The Guardian.

The letters that Paul Krugman receives these days [for criticizing Bush] have to be picked up with tongs, and his employer pays someone to delete the death threats from his email inbox.

----------

And finally, a collection of great photographs by Michael Kenna.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Intellectual dies...

The Palestinian Intellectual and literature professor at Columbia Edward Said has died.

He wrote a lot of great political pieces many of which are collected here.

Many Israelis and many on the Right hated him but since he deplored suicide bombings and believed in an integrated state between Israel and Palestine they couldn't find too much fault with him. So in some cases they made things up.

In 2000, Said visited southern Lebanon and in keeping with custom, tossed "stones of celebration" across the border with Israel. When a photographer captured the moment, the widely published picture was used by opponents to paint Said as a rock-throwing militant.

He had a falling out with Arafat years ago but he still hoped to see peace in the region.

His will be missed and so will his ideas.
Debate...

Republicans are adamantly opposed to Affirmative Action: Until it applies to one of their own party members.

Such is the case with Arnold Schwarzenegger who sucked in the California Recall Election debate last night.
But many Conservatives (and the news media in general) say Arnold did pretty good because he did 'better than was expected' and 'he didn't fall off the stage like we thought.'

Over at Fox Fred Barnes said that Arnold won the debate because he isn't held to as high a standard as the other candidates.
You see? Affirmative Action for Arnold.
We expected Arnold to give a shitty performance so we give him extra points just for showing up!
And just so long as Arnold can put a few words together and keep things simple then he wins!
How fucked up is this?

Here's the bottom line:
Arnold was like a scripted droid who spoke in generalities. He gave no specifics about anything. On a couple of occasions he traded humorous barbs with Arianna Huffington making for a good show but does that really count for much?

Who won?
In my opinion Tom McClintock and Peter Camejo won the debate. I’m about 180 degrees from anything McClintock said but you have to admit he was sharp, to the point and gave specifics about his plan for California. Camejo was also sharp and engaging and showed his verbal skills.

Arianna was essentially an attack dog but she gave a much needed attitude to the debate, which forced the others to react and respond.

Cruz Bustamante came across okay. He seemed a little too phlegmatic and almost apathetic but at least he admitted some mistakes and had some specifics about his plan. One complaint is that he should have debated Arnold and Arianna more instead of shaking his head when they criticized him.

Arnold did about as well as I thought he would do, which is rather poorly. He gets no extra points here.

Please vote NO on this recall.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Huh? Dept...

How ridiculous are some Right Wing journalists?
Let us count the ways.

MSNBC (and Newsweek) ran an article about Wesley Clark that included a quip that Clark was upset that Rove didn't return his phone calls.
Clark is quoted as saying “I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls”

And so a few Right Wing investigators took the quip literally.

It started with NewsMax
to be echoed by...
The Weekly Standard
Fox News
Matt Drudge
and
Andrew Sullivan

Each came to the conclusion - via NewsMax - that Clark must have been lying about the phone calls.

How did newMax come up with this rock solid conclusion?

They checked the White House phone logs!!

How literal minded are these idiots?

Now if Clark's quip were true this would be silly. Nobody who is a good friend of the Clintons and has the political positions that Clark holds would seriously consider being a Republican and then turn away because phone calls were not returned.

So what does Clark mean by phone calls?

First if it were literally true wouldn’t it be possible that Clark called Rove on a cell phone or at home rather than at the White House?

It seems very possible to me that ‘returned phone calls’ doesn't mean literal phone calls. It means ‘why didn’t Rove talk to me [and or] include me in the Administration’s military plans [and or] ask for my advice?’

If we can believe the rest of the MSNBC article then it is true that Clark had grievances with Rove who didn’t contact him about military matters; since afterall he was a big time General in the military under Clinton. But that is a personal matter and I don’t doubt that Rove and the Bush Adminstration wanted to distance themselves from anyone who was close to Clinton.

The more likely and realistic conclusion:

Clark did not lie because he never said that he literally tried to call The White House. Only Right Wing numbskulls would think his statement was to be taken literally and then prove him wrong by checking the White House phone log.

Clark, of course, was joking about becoming a Republican but not about his anger at Rove.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Recall Election...

I'm opposed to this Recall Election for a few reasons.

1) I don't think Davis is to be blamed for the state's weak economy nor for the deficit. There is plenty of blame to go around.

2) This is basically a 'do over' election, which one big Republican was able to bankroll in order to get the neccessary signatures. (When you think about it you can always find a million people from any party to oppose whomever is in charge. Especially when the state is in such economic trouble).

3) The numbers don't add up. Currently about 42 - 47% of likely voters are opposed to the recall. If that many vote 'NO' on October 7th then that essentially is a vote for Davis. By comparison his closest rivals Bustamante and Schwarzenegger have around 30% of the vote.

Do the math. If Davis gets 42 - 47% saying he is 'OK and should not go' he will still lose to someone who will get less votes than he gets.

That said...
There's a good chance that the larger panel of the Ninth Circuit Court will reverse the ruling of the three panel judges.

In my view this is a good thing. Not only for the obvious reasons regarding the punch ballots, which have been used for years but because Davis has momentum and his Arnold is losing a bit.

More importantly perhaps is that many Californians want to get this nonsense out of the way so that whomever the Governor is can go back to the needs of the state and not the needs of their campaigning.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Documentaries make money...

Many good documentaries have been released in the past year and- as the box office numbers show - people are going to see them.

Obviously, people don’t go to documentaries as much as mainstream feature films but then again it is rare for a documentary to be on more than 20 screens – while most feature films are on anywhere from 20 – 1000 screens.

A documentary is considered successful if it makes a million dollars at the box office. In the past year there have been 6 documentaries that have made over a million dollars.

Here’s a list of significant documentaries released in US theatres October 2002 thru September 2003. Information from IndieWire and The Numbers.

Bowling for Columbine – $21.5 million
Capturing the Friedmans – $3 million
Rivers and Tide – $2.1 million
Step into Liquid – $2.6 million
Spellbound – $5.5 million
Trials of Henry Kissinger – $515,000
Winged Migration – $9.8 million
Weather Underground – $385,000


The question now is why are documentaries more successful than ever? A film programmer friend tells me that it may have to do with the rise of reality television.
In the old days people would snear at documentaries remembering them as boring high school films but now that they have grown accustomed to ‘reality’ on TV they are more willing to open themselves up to documentary film.

Let's just hope there aren't too many reality-tv-type documentaries on the way.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Press muzzled...

Christiane Amanpour of CNN talks about the coverage of the Iraq war and tells it pretty much just how we saw it.


"I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled," she replied. "I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."

"It's not a question of couldn't do it, it's a question of tone. It's a question of being rigorous. It's really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it's the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels."
DVD...

Robert Altman's film Images has been completely unavailable for years in any format. But now thanks to MGM the film is available on DVD.

Between 1970 and 1975 Altman had the strongest run of any filmmaker in the history of Hollywood; In six years he made five great films and two good ones: Most of which turned genre films on their head.

- M*A*S*H (1970) The Anti-war comedy
- Brewster McCloud (1970) Coming-of Age film [mere good one]
- McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) Western
- Images (1972) Psychological Horror film
- The Long Goodbye (1973) Private Eye film
- Thieves Like Us (1974) Bonnie & Clyde-type film [mere good one]
- California Split (1974) Buddy Gambling film (Okay, that's not a genre)
- Nashville (1975) The Musical Drama

In each of these films Altman carved out his own specific cinematic style that utilized improvisational acting, camera pans & zooms, and unique (sometimes revolutionary) use of sound.

Images is a film about a woman’s battle with schizophrenia. The woman (played by Susannah York) gets lost in her mind between reality and fantasy. She confuses the past and the present and begins to imagine that her current boyfriend is one of her past dead boyfriends. Running concurrently with the film is a voice-over (by York) of is a children’s fantasy story about unicorns.

The film artfully blends reality and fantasy with the undertones of a horror film. One way it succeeds in doing this is with the soundtrack scored by John Williams. Williams -who is known now for sappy scores was - utilized Japanese percussions to give the film a haunting score.

Altman and his cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond also effectively used cinemascope (2.35:1) to show us the juxtaposition between the dark claustrophobic interiors and wide open outdoor locals of Ireland.

The film shares a thematic outline with Bergman’s Persona and Polanski’s Repulsion but it carves out its own world about women with split personalities.

Whether you are an Altman fan or not I recommend Images. And then, once you've seen it, try and catch some of his other films from that rich period.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Research...

Arnold Schwarzenegger was on The O’Reilly Factor on Wednesday September 10th where he claimed that the LA Times has been unfair to him.
Specifically he said, ‘have you ever seen how many times they've put Davis on the cover and Bustamante on the cover, and I'm on page 12 or page 20 or something like that?’

We at Rashomom weren’t sure how accurate this was so The Rashomon Recruits (a partisan – but honest - bunch) set out to investigate this claim.

We started by going into one of the dark rooms of our house and going through the stacks of old LA Times that have been collecting there for over two years. We looked at the front page of all but one of the LA Times from August 17, 2003 through September 12, 2003. [We were unable to find August 14th which, I guess, could make this research unscientific].
We decided to include only the main front page. Our parameters were that we would count only the photos and names in headlines of the Governor and the three poll leading candidates. Here’s what we found.

PHOTO on front cover of LA Times 8/17/03 - 9/12/03:
Bustamante - 9
Davis - 7
Schwarzenegger - 4
McClintock - 4

(One photo was of all the candidates at the debate on September 3rd, which Arnold didn’t attend).

NAME in a front page HEADLINE 8/17/03 - 9/12/03:
Schwarzenegger - 11
Bustamante - 8
Davis - 5
McClintock - 0

(On two occasions Davis was mentioned in a headline with the word ‘Recall’; not an endorsement for sure. In the August 21st front page Arnold’s name was in a big headline and below him in a smaller print headline were Davis and Bustamante)

Observations and Conclusions:
Yes, Arnold is correct with regards to the number of times he has had his photo on the front page of the LA Times compared to Davis and Bustamante. And, it should be noted, that only in one photo - on August 7th the day after he announced his candidacy was his photo by itself on the cover. The other two photos of him – in this time period – were adjacent to photos of Davis and Bustamante.

However, Arnold leads in the number of times his name has appeared in a headline on the front page. And when a name appears in a headline you can be sure that that means the article is about that person. Hence Arnold has had at least as many articles written about him that were on the front page in the past month as Davis or Bustamante.

On a side note the LA Times – like most papers - is folded and the top half of the paper gets seen much more frequently than the bottom. Both of Arnold’s photos were right at the top; the lead headline photo. While four of Bustamante’s photos and three of Davis’ appeared below the fold. This is possibly trivial but for those who walk by a newsstand and only glance at the paper for the day’s news they would presumably only see the top half.

Arnold also mentioned on The O’Reilly Factor that he was often buried 'on page 12 or page 20' , which is only half true. Besides the fact that he was in more headlines and in at least as many front page stories as the other candidates we noticed too – as we rifled through the papers strewn around the room – that he appeared more often than Davis or Bustamante on the front page of other sections – like the Calendar section. We have yet to do any ‘scientific’ research on this.

The LA Times leans Liberal on many issues and undoubtedly has given Davis and Bustamante more front page photos. (They have also taken aim at Arnold in their editorial pages – although they haven’t been soft on Davis either) But, in their defense, Arnold hardly has difficulty with name or face recognition. I doubt that there is anyone who does not know who Arnold is or that he is running for Governor of California. However, many people still do not know who Bustamante is and the LA Times has tried to make his name a recognizable one; one front page story on him was an expose, which makes sense, since he is running for Governor. It also makes sense that Davis makes the LA Times cover more often than all candidates because he is the Governor and his job is in jeopardy. Remember, the first question on the ballot asks if we want Davis to be recalled.

Second Conclusion:
The LA Times isn’t being fair to McClintock. Or for that matter Arianna Huffington, Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman or Gallagher and the other 100 plus candidates running for Governor of California.

Addendum:
Arnold and McClintock both made the front page of the LA Times yesterday.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Analysis...

My good friend Larry Calloway has an excellent article on Robert McNamara, the new film by Errol Morris 'Fog of War' and a bit about the fire bombing of Japan in World War II.

In one dramatic sequence, Morris links each of 67 burned Japanese cities to one of similar population in the United States, superimposing the names and staggering death numbers over black-and-white aerial footage from bomber cameras, as the soundtrack with its eerie Phillip Glass score evokes a million distant thumps. The suggestion of terror on the ground is more effective than seeing it close up.
(...)
In the movie McNamara, the classical ethicist, often justifies his actions as consistent with American values and tradition. He is not one to seek a higher morality. And so he is not actually doing mea culpas, as some have described his late-in-life apologies. He does not follow the postmodern argument, so clear and persuasive in Samantha Power's Pulitzer-prize winning "A Problem From Hell," that genocide is an absolute crime and that America throughout its history has failed even to recognize it.
(...)
McNamara made mistakes, but he was not incompetent. He was not mystified or intimidated by military power. In his government service he was a man of action, and like most mainstream American political figures, including Colin Powell, he had an allergy to humanitarian wars. Which is to say, these guys really hate war except for the cold, hard, unemotional defense of national interests — even if the facts are wrong and the interests entirely abstract, as in Vietnam.


-----
I joked with Larry that the film really should be titled 'McNamara directs Morris' because McNamara - who has been justifiably hated by many people for many years - is presented in a somewhat empathetic light.
Anyway, even if you disagree with McNamara it's hard to deny some of the things he points out about The Unites States, the world, the nature of war and mankind in general.

My dad too has an observant column. We attended the Telluride Film Festival together and he talks about walking past McNamara at the festival and catching a glimpse of his face.

I look forward to seeing "Fog of War." However, in a certain sense I don’t have to see it. I remember our national agony over Vietnam. I have looked into Robert McNamara’s face. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.

See it when it hits the theatres.
Celebrities over and out...

The past couple of weeks have seen a higher than usual number of celebrity deaths. I can find no direct connection between all of them - not that there is or should be but, as a pattern seeking animal, one looks for connections.

I'll just include one thing that has been said by each of them; either in the roles they played or in an interview.

Edward Teller (1908 - 2003) – Physicist and father of hydrogen bomb.
“Man has been described as a problem-solving animal. I am more inclined to call men and women "problem- creating animals."

Charles Bronson (1921 - 2003) – Actor
“I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited. I don't look like someone who leans on a mantelpiece with a cocktail in my hand, you know.”

Leni Riefenstahl (1902 - 2003) – Filmmaker for the Third Reich
“I was never a Nazi, and I never had any sort of personal relationship with Hitler. Could we please end this interview soon? Wouldn’t you like to ask about my time living with the Nuba in Africa or perhaps my pioneering work in underwater photography?”

Warren Zevon (1947 - 2003) – Musician
From Mr Bad Example:
“I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
Landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
See you in the next life, wake me up for meals”


Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003) - Musician
From Folsom Prison Blues
“I hear the train a-comin'
It's rollin' round the bend.
And I ain't seen the sunshine
Since I don't know when.
I'm stuck in Folsom prison
And time keeps dragging on ...”


John Ritter (1948 - 2003) - Actor
As Jack Tripper
‘Me Tarzan, you lucky.’

R.I.P.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Remembering...

September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows has a statement on Tompaine.com on this the second anniversary of 9/11.

Two years ago today our loved ones were tragically murdered in an act of terror that shook the United States and the world. In the time since their deaths, as we continue our personal paths of grieving, we are comforted by the thoughtful and compassionate response of people all over the world who have offered sympathy and support to the victims of these terrible attacks. But much about the U.S. government’s approach to responding to our loved ones’ deaths stands in stark contrast to the common sense words and comforting actions of ordinary people. On this two-year anniversary, we stop to reflect on the dangerous course of current policies and to call for a new approach to 9/11 that is focused on bringing about true security and justice.

Feel free to read on...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Lies...

The Mendacity Index
Which president told the biggest whoppers?
I report. You decide.

This is accompanied by a fine article written in the Washington Monthly by Josh Marshall.

Every president deceives. But each has his own style of deceit. Ronald Reagan was a master of baseless stories -- trees cause more pollution than cars -- that captured his vision of how the world should be. George H.W. Bush, generally conceded to be a decent fellow, tended to lie only in two circumstances: When running for president, or to save his own skin, as in Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton famously lied about embarrassing details of his private life, and his smooth, slippery rhetorical style made some people suspect he was lying even when he was telling the truth.

----
And then there is George Dubya...

Blog book...

Salam Pax the Bagdad blogger has a book about his experience during the war and the posting his thoughts on his world famous blog.

It’s titled - what else? - 'Salam Pax The Bagdad Blog'.

Check the promo site here.
And watch the cool promo with music by Aphex Twin.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Toronto Film Festval...

Film Critic Mike D’Angelo has good coverage of the Toronto Film Festival, which he is covering with daily blurb updates.

He’s a bit harsh at times but worth reading especially for buzz on films way out of the mainstream.
Impeach Bush..?

The Agonist is reporting via the Sacramento Bee that:

‘The Santa Cruz City Council is considering becoming the first local government in the country to ask Congress to look into impeaching President Bush.’
-----

I think they would need to ask for advice from some Republican strategists - who are pretty successful these days - on how to do this.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Teluride Film Festival...

Here are some good articles on the festival that I've found on the web including two written by me.

The New York Times

IndieWire

The Rocky Mountain News

FilmCritic.com (written by me)

The Durango Herald (written by my father and me)
Poll Numbers...

Zogby Poll Shows Bush's Popularity is at its Lowest Point Ever

Here's the breakdown of the poll going all the way back to January 2001. The question is simple: How do you rate the President's performance.

September 2003
Positive % 45
Negative % 54

August 2003
Positive % 52
Negative % 48

July 2003
Positive % 53
Negative % 46

March 2003
Positive % 54
Negative % 45

September 2002
Positive % 64
Negative % 6

September 2001
Positive % 82
Negative % 17

August 2001
Positive % 50
Negative % 49

January 2001
Positive % 42
Negative % 36

Just two in five (40%) said they would choose Bush if the election were held today, while 47% said they would elect a Democratic candidate.

-----

Politicians always say they don't pay attention to polls but this has to scare the Whitehouse.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Poll...

Blogger is finally back up!

I noticed that Right Wing News put up there poll of 'Left-Wing Bloggers Select The Greatest Figures In American History.'

Yours truly was one of the 28 bloggers who took part in the poll.

Here's the overall top ten (13 actually):
1) Martin Luther King (22)
2) Franklin D. Roosevelt (20)
3) Abraham Lincoln (19)
4) Thomas Jefferson (18)
5) Frederick Douglass (14)
5) Benjamin Franklin (14)
7) Mark Twain (11)
7) George Washington (11)
9) Susan B. Anthony (10)
9) Thomas Paine (10)
11) Thomas Edison (9)
11) James Madison (9)
11) Harriet Tubman (9)

Not a bad list of great Americans. And not one I would call 'leftist'. Only Franklin Roosevelt and maybe Thomas Paine are anywhere near what we call 'left' today.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Film Festival...

I've been away attending the Telluride Film Festival in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. Over four fabulous days of intense high altitude sunshine (and a rain storm or two) I watched 11 movies.

Here are five films I liked.

Distant - A masterful Turkish film about two estranged cousins who live with each other for a bit while one looks for work. There is little plot in the film but it is so well directed - with refined cinematography, deliberate pace and an underlying mystery - that it is completely absorbing. The film is closer to Tarkovsky than it is to anything in Hollywood; therefore it is not for everyone. I loved it.

Fog of War - Former Defense Secretary (1960 - 67) Robert McNamara tells all (...sort of) in this fine documentary by Errol (Thin Blue Line) Morris. The doc adds nothing shocking or new about Vietnam but it provides a snap shot (through McNamara's eyes) into the period. Most interesting is how McNamara shows some remorse for his actions. All in all he is articulate, gregarious and bright. He comes acoss in a favorable light, which may turn some viewers off.

Love Me if You Dare - A highly stylized French romance comedy with fantastic elements and plenty of laughs. The film was a crowd pleaser and some were comparing it to the French hit Amelie.

Alexandra's Project - This Australian film is a very disturbing, psycho-sexual drama about a woman who devises a very disturbing and demeaning revenge on her husband. The film, by Rold de Heer, uses a very effective reality TV element and keeps the audience both intrigued and on edge.

Girl with a Pearl Earring - This beautfully shot film is about the Dutch painter Vermeer and the fictionalized account of what went into the painting of one of his most famous paintings . Scarlett Johansson gives an effective performance - with little dialogue but plenty of facial expressions - as the lower class woman who becomes the artist's muse.