There's a great series of interivews with Ricky Gervais in the NY Times Arts Beat. Part 1, 2, and 3:
Most comedians spend years on the stand-up circuit in hopes of landing their first television role. But as he’s often done in his career, Ricky Gervais took a slightly different approach. After he and his writing partnerStephen Merchant created the BBC sitcom“The Office” (which Mr. Gervais starred in, and which spawned an American remake on NBC) and the HBO series “Extras” (in which they were both featured), Mr. Gervais then decided it was time to spin one-liners in front of live audiences. Lured by the promises of creative freedom and free glasses of water, he starred in the HBO stand-up special“Ricky Gervais: Out of England,” which will have its DVD release on Tuesday.
Appaloosa, a western co-written, directed and starring Ed
Harris was much better than I expected. I am not a huge fan of westerns, but it
is something I should reevaluate due the number of well-made westerns in recent
years (3:10 To Yuma and The Assassination Of Jesse James…for example). Harris
stars as a lawman for hire that cleans up dirty towns with his sidekick the laconic
Viggo Mortenson. This town is reminiscent of that from Yojimbo (Red Harvest)
where there is no law and order-just a bunch of outlaws doing as they please.
Harris and Mortenson quickly bring justice to the town, but there are several battles
along the way and a troublesome love interest, played by Renee Zwellenger. It
seems that she is attracted to the boss bull and can’t help herself-an
interesting characteristic that causes problems for Harris and Mortenson. It
has great acting, cinematography, and an original story-well-worth the time.
I also enjoyed Body of Lies, based on the novel of the same
name, with Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, however not as much. My main
problem with this film is that they simplified it too much (or Hollywoodized
it). The themes are well worn and predictable; can the undercover agent regain
trust form the Jordian operative in time to save his life? That being said
DiCaprio puts in another impressive performance as an Arabic-speaking American
undercover operative in the Middle East. The exotic locales and impressive cinematography
captured my interest despite the hackneyed plot.
Clint Eastwood had a busy year putting out two films, Gran
Torino and Changeling. I haven’t seen the former, but Changeling was
beautifully shot, but suffers from Hollywood simplification and was cleaned up
for general audiences. This fascinating plot is based on a true story that is
much more lurid and perverse than the film version. Jeffrey Donovan (star of
Burn Notice) put sis a great turn as the corrupt police official. Angelina
Jolie is ho hum as is the usually excellent John Malcovich but that’s more due
to the limited role he was given. The film’s period details are impressive as
is the cinematography, but the conventional Hollywood plot ruins it for me.
I have been an admirer of the journalist Naomi Klein ever since she published her invective against globalism, No Logo, several years ago. I appreciate her watchdog role in the media as well as her comprehensive research and reporting. Her latest book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is a damning account of the role Friedmanian free market ideas destroyed several economies and lead to the persecution of thousands of people from South America to South Africa. She systematically shows how Milton Friedman’s liaise faire free market principals pushed by the neocons out of the University of Chicago in the 70s lead to the overthrow of the democratically elected Allende in Chile and put the autocrat Pinochet in power. He eliminated the opposition by torture, disappearances, strike busting, and privatized the nationally owned businesses so the at the elite would reap the wealth. This was the first “free market” capitalist model combined with violent autocratic policies that would plague South America and then migrate to places as disparate as South Africa, Poland, and Russia. So the idea of stepping in during a time of confusion and chaos and wrecking havoc with the economy became the means for implementing unfair economic practices that insure that the elites would get rich at he expense of their country that be manifest in the Iraq war, the reclamation of beachfront property from fishermen in countries hit by the tsunami (Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, etc.), and the neo conservative polices in New Orleans after the hurricane in which school vouches were encouraged and housing projected remained closed to the poor. It is a damning analysis of free market capitalism, which is a companion indictment of the current economic crisis-taking place. I used to think that Henry Kissinger was the greatest criminal of the past 40 years, but now I think Milton Friedman’s economic policies may have caused more collective harm than Kissinger’s foreign polices.
There's a timely story from Woody Allen in the latest New Yorker:
Two weeks ago, Abe Moscowitz dropped dead of a heart attack and was reincarnated as a lobster. Trapped off the coast of Maine, he was shipped to Manhattan and dumped into a tank at a posh Upper East Side seafood restaurant. In the tank there were several other lobsters, one of whom recognized him. “Abe, is that you?” the creature asked, his antennae perking up.
“Who’s that? Who’s talking to me?” Moscowitz said, still dazed by the mystical slam-bang postmortem that had transmogrified him into a crustacean.
“It’s me, Moe Silverman,” the other lobster said.
“O.M.G.!” Moscowitz piped, recognizing the voice of an old gin-rummy colleague. “What’s going on?”
“We’re reborn,” Moe explained. “As a couple of two-pounders.”
“Lobsters? This is how I wind up after leading a just life? In a tank on Third Avenue?”