TORO! :: bull by the horns

an online compendium of culture and commentary

Archive for March, 2008

some humor for funny games

Posted by rollinsloane on 14 March 2008

Naomi Watts stars in Michael Haneke’s current update of his own 1997 cinematic spectacle of “arthouse torture-porn.”  LA Citybeat critic Andy Klein’s headline: Watts No Riot.  Ha.  That’s balls.



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filmdom: george lucas via saul bass

Posted by rollinsloane on 7 March 2008

Would all of cinema be better if Saul Bass did the credits?  Absolutely.  Check out what some crazed uber-fan of the poster/credit sequence master put together as ludicrous homage: Stars Wars, re-intro’d.  I can’t wait to see how Saul would have imagined Indy.


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huzzah: megan garber tells it like it is

Posted by rollinsloane on 7 March 2008

In the meta-media industry of watchdogging the watchdogs, perhaps no single institution offers more valuable analysis than the Columbia Journalism Review, self-described as yes, a watchdog, but ultimately a caring 0friend to the multi-faceted industry that is the press.  And within CJR, perhaps no single observer takes the media to task with as much panache as Megan Garber.  Her salty, nuanced tirades against inanity and sensationalism express such frustration and disbelief that editors and producers responsible should want for sleep the night after a mention.

Garber rolls her eyes at the New York Times‘ “proud tradition of publishing stories about Trends You Didn’t Realize Were Trends Until the Times Let You Know They Were.”

Yesterday the Grey Lady cast her storied gaze on a trend of a More Serious Variety: drunkorexia. (No, not a typo: again, drunkorexia.) The “phenomenon” is exactly what the compound name implies: anorexics consuming alcohol—either “to calm down before eating or to ease the anxiety of having indulged in a meal.” Now, to be clear, “drunkorexia is not an official medical term,” the piece points out. “But it hints at a troubling phenomenon in addiction and eating disorders.”

Garber identifies the true trend at work here — “trendinanity” — although the scolding is a light as its subject matter.  She saves true vitriol for the classically poor-taste “Women Are Dim” article that the Washington Post featured last week.  Charlotte Allen’s piece was apparently intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but Garber doesn’t let even mild intentions slide.

Well, that explains it! Her piece isn’t pandering to silly stereotypes; it’s transcending them. But in such a cleverly subtle way as to be entirely undetectable: it’s so meta that you can’t even tell it’s meta! Allen’s tongue is so firmly in cheek, apparently, she could choke herself.

But irony’s a tricky little weapon; if you’re going to use it, of course, you have to brandish it brazenly enough for people to know it’s there. Allen, alas, did not. Believe me, I looked—Feminine Empathy and whatnot—for some hint of the sarcasm that would redeem both the article and its author. I found none.

Someone’s got to the patrol the popular press, and I for one am glad we’ve got Megan Garber to do it.

— Sloane 

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mmm…pretty panoramas

Posted by rollinsloane on 5 March 2008

The magic of the internet has put the magic of awesome photography at our fingertips in any number of forums (Flickr, lomography), but maybe none are quite as awesome as  Featuring a collection of panoramic views from locales worldwide, it’s like taking a two-minute vacation in the middle of work.


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terrible review: was this guy even at this concert?

Posted by rollinsloane on 5 March 2008

This past Sunday found me in the upper balcony of the Walt Disney Concert Hall for a musical tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, an unmatchable talent whose predilection for standards has basically ensured that all posthumous tributes inevitably end up sounding more Supper Club than soulful blues-jazz. Mercifully, the LA Phil’s line-up instead swerved across genres, featuring the Broadway showmanship of TC Carson and traditional vocals of Ann Hampton Callaway and Janis Siegel. Carson’s jazz hands were the best of that genre and both ladies could belt and scat with equal ease, but the evening belonged to self-proclaimed “new kid on the block” Ledisi. This chick may not have the biggest pipes, but she works her distinctive reedy twitter with real aplomb, and she offered Ella’s vocal creativity the show’s only totally cheese-less tribute.


Ledisi only got two of the program’s dozen-odd songs, but somehow she ended up with the two most ripe for some good old teeth-sinking — “Fly Me to the Moon” and the night-ending “Blues in the Night.”

Maybe she doesn’t deserve all the credit for her final audience-winning number. Ledisi was simply balm to the hall’s tortured ears, coming as she did on the heels of professional jazz hack Mark Murphy. If Will Ferrell hadn’t already mocked Robert Goulet to the smooth-crooner hilt, Mr. Murphy would be f-ing ripe for parody, with his personal accompanist and great dead possum of a coif.

mark murphy

Good lord, this guy poured his voice into such cringe-worthy classics as “Body and Soul” with all the subtle finesse of a ladies man at a singles’ bar.  His embarrassing display of god-awful taste was only matched by the LA Times‘ inept reviewer.  Damn you, Don Heckman!

The inner creativity — the quest to make a song her own — that was at the heart of Fitzgerald’s singing was best illustrated by veteran vocalist Mark Murphy…Finding the heart of the stories, moving lyrics around, winging freely across the harmonies, he transformed classics into up-to-the-minute interpretations, simmering with emotional density. Just the way Ella would have done.

Hoooooly cow, buddy, have you ever heard Ella Fitzgerald?  This is pure blasphemy, the editorial equivalent of giving a cute script an OSCAR (ahem, Juno) or a tribute album a GRAMMY (ahem, Herbie).  In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say this is why the newspaper business is failing — Don Heckman, pure and simple.  Congratulations, Mr. Heckman.  I’d curse you to a hell of Mark Murphy live and in person, but somehow that’s not punishment enough.



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sexploitation at fairfax’s silent theater

Posted by rollinsloane on 1 March 2008

It’s hard to consider Fairfax’s Silent Movie Theater a hidden LA gem, especially considering the packed house that showed up for last night’s screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (even the theater’s 3-to-a-seat couches were stuffed, presumably by some uncomfortable strangers). But I certainly haven’t come across much press coverage of what must be the top arthouse theater in this very movie-minded town. Even my LA-born-and-bred cinephile butt had never before been; last night’s wham-bam conclusion to SMT’s Russ Meyer month proved the perfect introduction.

The thin wooden seats are too hard and too close together, but they all come with plump corduroy pillows and it’s the sort of place where you might get to know your neighbor anyway. In lieu of pre-screening ads or trailers, the 4×3 screen played a real police training video from the 70s featuring “To Shoot or not to Shoot” scenarios (hilarious for its paranoia, frightening for being real), and I for one didn’t miss the bogus pre-show usher speech now playing in every hoity-toity cineplex in this goddamn town.

Then on to the main event. Where to even begin. Pussycat (1965) is trash cinema at its most innocent, as if all involved were simply riding high on the freedom of being totally outrageous. Its violence is unmotivated, but cleanly bloodless; it oozes with the sexuality of tight leather and innuendo, but plays it for laughs and holds it to mere kisses. Pussycat wise cracks — it’s too happy-go-lucky to offend.

Don’t get me wrong, though — it’s still sexploitation. How many countless feminist film majors have earned their Ph.D with a lengthy examination of writer-director-producer Russ Meyer‘s sexual politics? This man’s bread-and-butter was the burgeoning soft-core industry; as a Playboy centerfold photographer, Meyer was in the perfect place to nudge the new, ahem, art form along. But Pussycat‘s backbone remains its strangely theater-ready script, a tangle of fascinating character dynamics that go beyond its ludicrous plot.

Basically, three go-go dancers-cum-renegade bad-asses stalk the California desert in a trio of sweet 60s sports cars. That’s it. Along the way they terrorize a wholesome young and try to rob a crippled rancher and his two sons, and murky chaos ensues. But mostly they wear tight close and sling about their fantastic hair. Led by tough-talking fem-sadist Varla (Tura Satana, with her own soap operatic backstory and a downright perfect name), these sex-starved ladies (played by embodied by Haji, a purring Italian-looking Canadian, and Lori Williams, the ultimate all-American blonde) could single-handedly bring back high-waisted jeans.

 faster pussycats

(Let’s just hope Quentin Tarantino’s recently announced desire for a remake featuring Eva Mendes, Kim Kardashian and Brittany Spears will never in a million f-ing years come to pass.  I can’t even believe I just read that.  I mean, I know he’s all about the homage, but if he does this out of love it would the ultimate in cinematic OJ Simpson. )

Check out the trailer below for a full-dose of the old-school soundtrack and cheesetastic acting:

Sexuality and strength and violence are all twisted up in there somewhere, and one of these days I’ll get my head around the mess. For now I’ll just be heading to the Silent every chance I get. This month’s calendar includes Philip Marlowe and 30s chorus lines, so feel free to shun Hollywood’s annual crap period and still get out to a hell of a show.


faster pussycat kill kill poster

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