Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Four Christmases

Ho, ho, ho? No, no, no! You can read my Houston Chronicle review here.

Talking Paul Newman

The picture quality is pretty dodgy – it was recorded with a Coolpix digital camera by a dear friend and colleague seated in the front row – but I hope you enjoy at least listening to this Paul Newman tribute that Robert Denerstein and I presented on Sunday at the Starz Denver Film Festival. It’s just a couple of white guys sitting around talking, but we appreciated the opportunity to pay homage to the late, great actor, filmmaker and humanitarian. (I’m a little jealous of Denerstein, who has this ingratiating yet authoritative, NPR-ready speaking voice going for him. I, on the other hand, occasionally sound as though I’m still struggling to reach puberty.) There probably are better ways to have done this, but since I am the world’s most maladroit technophobe, even when armed with Windows Movie Maker, I wound up having to post it in seven segments on You Tube. But don’t let that scare you off – none of the segments is longer than 10 minutes, and most are appreciably shorter than that. Here's Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six and Part Seven. Enjoy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stay of execution?

Folo.com blogger Dylan Stableford reports that recent staff layoffs -- repeat, may -- help "a magazine that roughly every single person I’ve talked to in the last two months thought was going to be shuttered: Entertainment Weekly." Just how bad are things at the Time Inc. publication? Stableford writes: "Through September, EW is down 19 percent in ad pages --double the industry's 9.5 percent slide -- according to the Publishers Information Bureau, and down 7 percent in single copy sales during the first half of 2008, according to ABC's Fas-Fax. " Scary stuff, kids. First Premiere, and now...

Second chance to see me on TV

If you missed my fleeting appearance this weekend on At the Movies -- well, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, you can catch the "Critics Roundup" segment by going here and clicking onto the Quantum of Solace button in the "New This Week" section. Go ahead. Don't make me beg.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bad House

It has nothing to do with the terrific TV series. It's not even a remake of the silly 1986 horror flick starring William Katt. No, this particular House is... Well, look, I get paid to see movies like this. (My Variety review is here.) Unless you can get a similar scam going for yourself, don't bother.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My quantum of At the Movies

OK, I admit: The first time I did a couple of "Critics Roundup" segments for At the Movies, I felt like I'd charted heretofore unplumbed depths of total suckage. Indeed, I feared that, after the taping, a producer would call me and say something like, "Uh, Joe, that really didn't, er, work out, did it? So, well, we're going to, like, edit you out..." But I guess I didn't stink up the joint as badly as I feared. They asked me back to tape a new segment today with hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz and Matt Singer of IFC. We talked about Quantum of Solace -- and you can hear what we had to say this weekend on fine TV stations everywhere.

Australia earns Oprah's seal of approval

Miss Winfrey is raving about the epic romantic drama previewed in the current issue of Cowboys & Indians.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Four more years! Four more years!

The decision-makers at MSNBC announce they have extended Keith Olbermann's contract through 2012. Is this a great country, or what? Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the park.

YouTube does a re-do to be more like Hulu

From the New York Times: "With critical plaudits and advertising dollars flowing to Hulu, the popular online hub for television shows and feature films, YouTube finds itself in the unanticipated position of playing catch-up. On Monday, YouTube will move forward a little, announcing an agreement to show some full-length television shows and films from MGM, the financially troubled 84-year-old film studio."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes, he did!

Segregated schools. “Whites Only” water fountains. Blacks compelled to sit on the back of the bus. TV news bulletins about civil rights workers found buried in shallow graves. Newspaper ads for In the Heat of the Night that used silhouettes, so you couldn't tell a black man was a protagonist.

I am 56 years old and I grew up in the South, in New Orleans, so you know I have living memories of all these things. But do you have any idea how amazed and exuberant – and, yes, how very proud – I am tonight? Can you imagine how much more I love my country than I already did before?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Looking for Trouble, they found it

Documentarians Carl Deal and Tia Lessin were all set to make a movie about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — specifically about National Guardsmen newly returned from Iraq who were readying to restore order in storm-battered New Orleans — when a force of nature named Kimberly River Roberts gate-crashed into their project.

A would-be rapper and self-described "street hustler," Kimberly, a large, handsome African-American woman of 24, aptly described by film critic David Denby as having the "presence of lioness," approached the filmmakers at a Red Cross shelter near the National Guard armory in Alexandria, La. She told them that she and her husband, Scott Roberts, had remained in their Lower Ninth Ward home when Katrina slammed into New Orleans. And that she had captured images of rising waters and mounting panic with her newly purchased camcorder.

Deal and Lessin were amazed by her footage. But they were even more impressed by Kimberly, who ultimately became, along with her husband, the centerpiece of Trouble the Water, an extraordinary documentary about breached levees, broken promises and rebuilt lives. You can read my Houston Chronicle interview with the filmmakers here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Just wondering...

As the numbers of Obamacans increase, I am left to ponder a provocative question. Even if John McCain had run the very same campaign – and, indeed, picked the very same VP candidate – would so many notable Republicans have been so quick to support Barack Obama for President had McCain been running after eight years of Al Gore? Put it another way: Are people like Colin Powell saying “No” to McCain (and “Yes” to Obama), or “Never Again” to (and/or “I’m Sorry” about) George W. Bush?

R.I.P.: John Daly (1937-2008)

OK, I am not going to lie. I have always had tremendous respect for John Daly – producer of such exceptional films as The Last Emperor, Platoon, Salvador and The Terminator. But when I heard of his death Friday, the first thing that I thought about was the guy’s classy gesture at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, when he took pains to seek me out at a reception and thank me – really, a nobody – for raving about one of his lesser known movies, Miracle Mile, when, while I was film critic for The Houston Post, I presented it as my Critic’s Choice at the Houston Film Festival. Maybe, just maybe, because Daly thought just as much of his smaller indie productions as he did of his Oscar contenders and box-office hits.