Y’arrgh – ’tis a rich media blow:
- Kanye West, Graduation: Maybe I’m spoiled, but growing up on guys like Dan The Automator, Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow, I’m just not impressed. I thought DJing was about taking eight to ten breaks from the most obscure songs ever – I don’t mean wax, I mean like wax cylinders – but apparently you can just take the worst part of Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne,” loop it for three-and-thirty-one, and voila! Kanye’s rhymes range from “not bad” to “ugh, why?” The subject matter – getting money, looking back on growing up on the streets, dealing with shorties of both the fake and the hot variety – doesn’t break any new ground.
- Eastern Promises: An intense and uncomfortable little drama. It’s David Cronenberg, so there’s plenty of blood and gore. But there’s also the genuine weirdness and alienation you expect from Cronenberg. None of the Russian conversations in the movie are subtitled. In many scenes – like when Russian mob boss Armin Muehller-Stahl is celebrating his mother’s birthday, complete with traditional Cossack music – this drives home the sheer foreignness of that ancient, alien empire that used to share the world with the U.S. Not mindblowing or groundbreaking but very well done. Ladies: if you ever wanted to know exactly what Viggo Mortensen’s junk looks like, this is the movie for you.
- God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible: All prologue. Almost no records exist of the actual process of assembling the definitive English text of the most influential book of the last twenty centuries. Adam Nicolson does a bang-up job bringing the story to light anyway, nestling it deeply in its proper context. We read about the crowning of James I after the end of Elizabeth’s epic reign, about the Gunpowder Plot, about the persecution of both the extreme Protestant factions (like the Scrooby Separatists, whom American readers might know as the “Pilgrim Fathers”) and the Jesuit order. But about the actual assembly of the KJV itself, we only have bits and glimpses. Nicolson approaches the subject matter with a reverent but secular air – he has a great admiration for the majestic language of the KJV but no qualms about its authors being “divinely inspired.” A tasty sampler of the early 17th century.
- There Will Be Blood: The first truly American epic I believe I’ve ever seen. Not to take anything away from The Godfather, mind you, but the Old World runs very thickly through its veins – vendetta, omerta, family as social edifice, etc. But There Will Be Blood could only be an American story: the grinding, intractable clash between ruthless ambition and homespun religious fanaticism. The cinematography is excellent: we not only get the sweeping panoramas and the long tracking shots, but also the odd, intimate angle on Day-Lewis’s face from time to time. The score is compelling and uniquely unsettling: screeching violins and clopping wood blocks. And while it would be tempting for the movie to fall into didactic lecturing – it is based on an Upton Sinclair novel, after all – what’s remarkable is how little the movie reveals explicitly.
I shared Roger Ebert’s confusion on a particular point regarding two characters (spoilers, of course). But the virtue of the movie is that either interpretation works equally well, given the demonstrable insanity of all parties involved.
See this movie in the theaters soonest.