March is going out like a lion in Boston... rain and cold and ick for the next three days. March came in like a lion, too, so that means we'll probably get 80 degree weather in another two weeks.

I've been writing for Splendid for a whole year now. Not sure if I'm going to last another year. I'm afraid this new job is going to leave me with limited time to write reviews. I have a feeling the next few months are going to be suffused with great changes. You could say the same for the last few, of course: lost job, found new job, went to Florida, have new boyfriend, blah blah blah. Believe me, it's not as boring as I'm making it sound. I'll post something substansial within the next few days about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and other wondrous things I've seen and heard as of late.


Despite being "between jobs", I feel busier than ever. Chalk it up to the upcoming Chlotrudis Awards and lots o' writing assignments due in the next few days (including the usual Splendid stuff and film notes for Notorious.) For awhile there, I was seein' a movie a day. Including Quiz Show (has John Turturro ever been any better?), Winged Migration (birds, birds, too many frickin birds! But it's pretty), Past Perfect, a film directed/written/starring Daniel MacIvor, who will be at the awards ceremony, and Rebecca--three cheers for creepy, lesbi-onic Mrs. Danvers! She took such loving care of Rebecca's undergarments...

Also made a trip to Disc Diggers in Davis Sq. on Sunday and purchase new albums from Boston busker Mary Lou Lord (Baby Blue) and Nellie McKay (Get Away From Me). Lord's long-awaited second studio set is similiar to her first, the classic Got No Shadow (1998). That's a wondrous thing, and time will tell how well it compares.

McKay is a much-hyped 19-year-old who bounces back and forth between jazz, rap, pop, and a little eurodisco. She's crazy and precocious (or so says the clerks at Disc Diggers), and I'm a little disappointed because the copy I unwittingly purchased is the "clean" version, with seven or eight curse words (across 18 songs) edited out. Too bad, PMRC, I can figure out what they are! I've only heard the it twice, and it's already challenging Sufjan Steven's Seven Swans as a veddy early contender for my Album of The Year. And since last year was a pretty sucky one for female musicians, that's a good thing. Plus, Sam Phillips makes a very welcome return on April 27 with her new disc, A Boot and A Shoe.

If evil ruthless conglomerate Starbucks is good for anything these days, it's a cup of their Italian Roast with a shot of irish creme-flavored syrup. Ah, now only if that syrup was of the alcoholic variety.


I just watched Hell House, a documentary about a Pentecostal church in suburban Dallas that puts on a haunted house at Halloween every year. Instead of spooking its customers with ordinary ghosts and goblins, it wants to scare them into becoming a Christian by graphically, shockingly recreating horrific (and horrifically acted) scenes of suicide, rape, drug abuse, death from AIDS, and Columbine-like massacres.

I don't think I've ever been so affected by a documentary since Capturing The Friedmans. This one made me even angrier, but it's also a better film. Director George Ratliff has nearly pulled off a miracle. Instead of targeting the Trinity Assembly of God as ridiculous, cartoonish zealots, he presents a completely even-handed account, from auditions and scene construction to the ghoulish finished product, not to mention an unforgettable sequence that examines the frankly frightening phenomenon of speaking in tongues.

Ultimately, your reaction to the film is going to stem from what you bring to it via your own beliefs. I'm sure I'm not the first person to find these people exceptionally disturbing for who they are and what they're trying to accomplish. Although it should be obvious that the Hell House is a recruiting effort for conversion to the church, that's not explicity revealed to us and the Hell House customers until the very end of the tour. Personally, I find that despicable, but I can imagine that any member of that church who watches the film will find nothing at all wrong with how they're portrayed.

There's one key scene that comments negatively on the church. Instead of coming from the director, it's simply the disgusted reaction of a few teens who have gone through the Hell House. They argue with one of the church leaders and manage to point out exactly what's wrong and unfair about it. It's cathartic but it acknowledges the crucial flaws of the Hell House that members of the church either ignore, fail to see, or do not understand. And although I feel profoundly unsettled and incensed at what this church is doing, the film is so damn fair towards its subjects, that I don't hate them or even feel superior to them in any way. It's presented as just another way of life, like Hinduism or Judaism or Atheism. Thank god there exists this record of it, so I don't ever have to experience it first hand.

Two more movies...

Party Monster
: Seth Green rocks, but just about everything else in this biopic of club kid Michael Alig is wrong, wrong, wrong, especially a cast-against type Macaulay Culkin. What can you say about a witless movie that wastes Natasha Lyonne, Chloe Sevingy and Wilson Cruz?

Camp: The most splendid movie musical numbers since Hedwig, and that Daniel Letterle sure is purty. But he can't act, and much of the cast ain't much better. But despite this and a tired teen pansexual romance angle, this is the scrapy little movie that could and did put a smile on my face.


Real Life Top Ten
(sorry, Greil Marcus)

1. I have a new job! Come April 26, I'll be working at the Coolidge Corner Theatre as their new Office Manager. Finally, I can tell people what I do for a living without feeling sheepish or contemptuous.

2. My apartment is now full o' food. My roommate and I hit Whole Foods, Star Market, and Discount Liquor at Fresh Pond where we found a big-ass bottle of Cachacas (Brazilian cane sugar liquor). I can't wait to make a Caipirinha. Drinking one is like being high, dude (or so I've heard), and much more rico suave than a Mojito.

3. One random note about the gay marriage debacle. A majority of its opponents (or at those shown at the State House on the news) seem to be Latino or Black. And, I know I'm not the only person who has noticed this. Hello, people, does this debate remind you at all of the Civil Rights Movement?

4. Yossi and Jagger: Predictable but inoffensive film about gay male Israel soldiers in love. As usual, more bearable than any American gay romanti-com, and short (67 min) too.

5. Lost In La Mancha: Watch Terry Gilliam's film adaptation on Don Quixote derail before his very eyes, and think about how much he could learn a lesson by someone like Funny Ha Ha director Andrew Bujalski.

6. The Safety of Objects: Director of Go Fish gets ambitious and adapts short stories about four neighboring, intersecting families, in CinemaScope. A mini Short Cuts, and good work from Glenn Close and Patricia Clarkson, but not everything in it worked.

7. Wonderfalls: New Fox TV series. Probably won't last, but it's delightfully fucked up, it has an appealingly real star, and I'll tune in next week to hear Andy Partridge's theme song.

8. Royal City, Alone At The Microphone. I dug out this CD after finding out Sufjan Stevens was an engineer on it. Musty, warm, endearingly creaky folk-roots, like a thousand other bands only better. The prettiest song goes, "Dank is the air of death and loathing / there's shit on the floor...."

9. TV On The Radio, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. The full-length debut does not disappoint at all. Garage rock doo wop baritone blare Bill Withers beat bleak Stevie sigh hummmm dum-da-da-dum...

10. Female Trouble on IFC. I wonder if anyone's actually ever manufactured a pair of "cha-cha heels".


Forgive me, I'm multitasking and writing this while half-watching the behind the scenes of Charlie's Angels TV movie that was left on when I arrived home. I just came from seeing The Return, an incredible new film directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev. That name should tell you he's Russian, and the little I've read about this film compares it to that most revered of all Russian directors, Andrei Tarkovsky, only more accesible.

That's a fair assessment, but Zvyagintsev proves himself a great filmmaker in its own right that all the Tarkovsky-like pauses in this work can't obscure. The story opens with flooded, voluminous shots of water, as a group of teenager dive off a stone tower into a sea that seems position at the absolute edge of the world (or in this case, the Gulf of Finland). Two of them are brothers. 13 year-old Vanya, wracked with a fear of heights, is afraid to jump in. Andrei, his older brother, coaxes him on, but eventually runs of with the other boys, leaving Ivan alone until his mother rescues him hours later. The tower, abandonment and rescue will reverberate throughout the rest of the film.

The following day, the boys arrive home to find their father has returned for the first time since leaving twelve years before. Cold, rigid, and unapproachable, he nonetheless takes the boys on a three day camping/fishing trip that eventually leads them to a deserted island. As drenching rains periodically reappear, Vanya's surliness and suscipion is forever at odds with his father's tough exterior and unapproachability. With a subdued soundtrack consisting mostly of ambient noise, the film is beatific in its atmosphere yet very much a thriller, with a graceful, masterfully executed, genuinely surprising climax.

The three leads are all good, especially Konstantin Lavronenko as the father, who, as Peter Keough already noted in his review, rather resembles an evil George Clooney. His character is one of the trickiest I've seen in awhile. He could've come off as Rober Duvall in The Great Santini, but as unlikable as he occasionally seems, you catch glimpses of tenderness and love for the sons he hardly knows. The cinematography is also wonderful; gorgeous without being too flashy. What's in the box? The beauty of this film lies in that question.


I have tons o' Splendid reviews to work on, so this will be short.

I'm not the first to complain how boring and predictable this year's Oscars telecast was. LOTR won everything. My predictions in the acting categories were correct. Billy Crystal did another friggin' song medley. The only real highlights were Blake Edwards crashing into a wall to accept his honorary Oscar, and Mitch and Mickey performing their lovely, faithful version of "A Kiss At The End of The Rainbow". Of course, the latter lost to Annie Lennox's LOTR song, but I love Annie Lennox, and she was nearly as moving.

Ten Thousand Words has been finally revived. Look for more new posts later in the week.

I'm struggling with Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky for my book group. It's well written, expertly researched, and I can't read more than 15 pages in one setting. It's just too exhaustive--while there are a lot of interesting things about salt, after awhile, they all run together and the book seems like the laborious work of that kid who couldn't hand in enough extra credit.

Saw The Battle of Algiers last night. Exceptionally great. More about it later, hopefully.