Dog Days of American Boredom

I am dying to see American Splendor like no other film that’s opened in the last six months. Man, it’s been an off year for movies so far. I can count the number of flat-out brilliant new films I’ve seen on one hand, and two of ‘em are documentaries (and I still have reservations about Capturing The Friedmans).

Paging through EW’s annual fall movie preview, I’m just not feeling the love. Last year we had so much stuff to look forward to: Bowling For Columbine, Punch-Drunk Love, About Schmidt, Far From Heaven, The Hours even. So what’s on tap for this fall? Well, Terry Zwigoff, Jane Campion, Richard Linklater and Robert Altman all have new stuff on the schedule (though I’m sure Altman’s won’t open here ‘til January). And while all four directors have at least one spectacular film on their resume, it’s just not the same as the promise of a new one from Todd Haynes or PT Anderson, is it? Well, I’m just hoping for some surprises, and something that’s half as inventive, touching, and unique as Y Tu Mama Tambien or Rushmore (which I saw again last night; it’s still as good as ever and hasn’t reached the Trainspotting curse where you can recite every line by heart and pick out every single flaw.)

Speaking of Y Tu Mama Tambien, I found the soundtrack at the library yesterday, and it’s nearly as essential as the movie itself. It’s always nice to hear a soundtrack where you recognize every single song from the film. It’s worth owning for Eagle-Eye Cherry’s impassioned cover of “To Love Somebody” and Brian Eno’s sparse, superb “By This River” alone. But it’s true—the best movies really have the best soundtracks; they’re often just as integral to the film’s success as the direction, story, acting, etc;

I’m listening to Ani DiFranco’s guitar and voice self-titled debut, and although she’s made better records, I have to admit her talent and energy and genius was present right from the beginning. However, I still hesitate on the genius tag, since if she really was one, she’d have made a flawless record by now.

The only recent new film I’ve seen is Aki Kaurismaki’s The Man Without A Past, which has been flittering through my must-see consciousness since it played Cannes in 2002. It’s a fable of sorts about a man who suffers amnesia after getting mugged and brutally beaten by thugs. Instead of trying to search out his past life, he takes up with a collective of homeless people. The film is a parable about the worth of one’s inner identity. It’s as bleak as it is deadpan funny, a combination I always adore. Kaurismaki is obviously a Finnish equivalent to Jim Jarmusch, without the in-joke pretentiousness that occasionally mars the latter’s less successful films (essentially, everything but Stranger Than Paradise.) He has a taste for weirdos, although he renders them in the most humane ways, like the walrus-mustached businessman who holds up the bank, or the landlord who attempts to threaten his tenants with his sweet, cuddly dog. And the soundtrack, packed with a lot of ‘50s/’60s rockabilly/blues (much of it played by the film’s revamped Salvation Army Band) is great, too.

Well, tonight the second most entertaining reality TV show (do you even have to ask what the most entertaining show is? Hint: five gay men) comes to a close. I got hooked to The Amazing Race back in mid-June, and although it provides more thrills and intelligence than twelve whole seasons of The Real World combined, most people seem to prefer Big Brother. The only problem I’m having with TAR is that I don’t really care for the final three couples. Who would you want to win? An uptight, humorless, impossibly Aryan-youth looking gay male couple whose names are actually Reichen and Chip??? A boring, bland pair o’ straight male friends/surfers whose names I believe are Steve and Dave (that’s how indelible an impression they’ve left)? Or Kelly and Jon, an irritating, bickering engaged couple who have already used up ten of their nine lives? I always root for the underdogs, so Kelly and Jon it is, although this race lost a little momentum when Millie and Chuck, virgins who had been dating for twelve years! (which the show rarely failed to point out) got eliminated a few weeks ago.

Other great pop artifacts of the moment (besides the wondrous Queer Eye For The Straight Guy):

VH1’s I Love The ‘70s. Sure it’s pointless trashy nostalgia, but some of the tastiest comfort/junk food available.

The failure of Gigli and the implosion of the whole Bennifer debacle.

Season 3 of Mr. Show hits DVD next week! (“Take it from me, I luv you!”)

Junior Senior’s irresistible song (+ video) “Move Your Feet”. Why isn’t this as popular and overplayed as “Crazy In Love”?

That crazy woman who gave birth on the red line, plopping the baby right out before she reached JFK/UMASS and stuffin’ the afterbirth in her purse (eewwhhh). “HEY, GIMME YO’ PAPER!”