THE WEEKEND STARTS HERE...
... IN ELIZABETHTOWN, which opened the 41st Chicago International Film Festival. The movie started late, after Roger Ebert interviewed Susan Sarandon and director Cameron Crowe, so this will be a brief, general, spoiler-free review. If you want a more trad review, check Michael Wilmington.
Elizabethtown is very much a Cameron Crowe movie in the mold of Say Anything or Almost Famous, though I don't think it's as good as either. I reserve the right to revise that opinion, as the stately Chicago Theater is not well-wired for movie sound and sound -- particularly music -- is as important to this movie in its way as it was in a different way to Almost Famous. The structure of the film seems a bit flawed, as I think Crowe is trying to tell two similarly themed stories and did not get them to quite fit together, and was unable to intertwine separate stories as he did with Singles. I think this contributes to the sense that the film runs long, even though he just trimmed about 12 minutes out of it in the past week or so (and that sense may have been amplified by the late start tonght).
Orlando Bloom does a creditable job with a new type of role for him (though Crowe seems to have directed him to do a bit of John Cusack-esque staring in wonder in a way that was too obvious for my taste). Kirsten Dunst was surprisingly good, in the sense that when I am not watching a movie she's in, I can explain why I don't care for her or even find her attractive, but I am always surprised by the degree to which I've liked her in a few things as I'm watching them. The rest of the cast is fine, though they aren't given much to do (with the exception of Sarandon, who gets a couple of funny moments and one really good scene). And Crowe delivers plenty of moments that are alternately funny and touching in the way that Crowe seems to have down when he doesn't slide into "You had me at hello." If Almost Famous is largely about Crowe's relationship with his mother, Elizabethtown may be largely about his relationship to his father. Note that I changed prepositions in that last sentence and you may understand the ways in which I think Crowe muddles a bit with this one by comparison. Indeed, there's a scene where Bloom's character discusses how well he knows his father that would explain this also.
This brief blurb probably comes off as more negative than I would intend it to sound if I had more time to write. I enjoyed Elizabethtown and have every intention of visiting again. Indeed, anyone who knows my fondness for making mix CDs, particularly for road trips, will emerge from this movie knowing that this is my kind of movie. Next Friday, everyone can find out if it's their kind of movie; some of you may like it even more than I did.
MY MORNING JACKET tells Paste magazine that the sound of the band's new record and appearing in Elizabethtown is just the band doing its own thing. It seems that most critics are digging the Z album.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Having just linked to Metacritic, I would be remiss if I did not notice that BSS's self-titled sophomore album is also garnering wide acclaim.
LESLIE FEIST: The part-time BSS member tells the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that she's content to slowly build a career: "Every once in a while I'm talking to my grandma about (touring) and she says, 'Aren't you tired?' and I say, 'C'mon, were you tired during the Depression?'"
BRIAN WILSON: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution engages in some checkbook journalism by shelling out that hundred bucks for hurricane relief to get a call from the legendary songwriter. In fact, they did it four times. Brian managed to promote his upcoming Christmas album.
SELLING OUT is not so stigmatizing these days. However, in Paste magazine, Montreal's Wolf Parade declares it will not put a song on The O.C.
THE SECOND COMING? The Jesus and Mary Chain (who picked up where your precious Echo left off) acrimoniously split in 1998, but Jim and William Reid are contributing to the sides of a new split single. Younger sister Linda Reid is also involved.
PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer's band Babyshambles axed from an Icelandic music festival in the wake of the scandals swirling around him and sometimes galpal Moss. Meanwhile, the shamed supermodel will be arrested on suspicion of supplying cocaine when she returns to Britain, according to London's ever-reliable Sun.
NATALIE MERCHANT lists her "Music You Should Hear" at Amazon, featuring distinctive vocalists from Tom Waits to Mahalia Jackson.
MIXTAPES: Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. Stereogum points you to very big, intentional and funny don'ts.
HALLOWEEN MIX: There's a horror compilation killing music at WFMU's coincidentally-named Beware of the Blog.
THE NEW THEMATIC is a blog killing offbeat music from the 1960's.
ERIC CLAPTON will play until he dies, because he lives large. That's very bluesy.
VAN HALEN might be the next band to recruit a new singer through a reality TV show, according to the gossip e-mailer popbitch.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS: I just stumbled across a review of last week's concert in Chicago, where she tossed the set list to play a Louisiana-themed show.
TOM-KAT UPDATE: Is it just me, or was the New York Post implying something about Holmes' pregnancy? Will the pregnancy affect their plans for a November wedding? I can think of two reasons why the date won't move. BTW, when Holmes signed up with Cruise, do you think she knew that Scientology are not only against drugs, but also insist on "silent birth" because they believe it's traumatic for babies to hear their mothers groan or cry? Happy Labor Day, Katie!
MADONNA: No Rock and Roll Fun thinks Madge doesn't know her audience. She's trying to interest Oprah in Kabbalah. And it turns out that hubby Guy Ritchie isn't a fan of her work.
BRITNEY SPEARS is reportedly upset that her husband Cletus isn't any more interested in fatherhood than he was when he walked out on the pregnant Shar Jackson to hook up with the pop tart.
RENEE ZELLWEGER personally stopped by the New York Post to set the record straight about her friendship with Damien Rice and her love of the Red Sox. Other celebs might learn something from her direct approach.
HARRY POTTER is probably not gay. NTTAWWT.
JAKE GYLLENHAAL had no inhibitions about acting out the gay sex scenes in forthcoming movie Brokeback Mountain: "As soon as I read the script I wanted to do it." I have no doubt of that.
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, Sean Penn, Kirsten Dunst and Britney Spears are among those outed as bad tippers.
JESSICA ALBA: William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman made her cry. Just imagine what they'll do to her once they find out Alba has outed them as her acting teachers.
SHIRLEY MacLAINE would have liked to work with Marlon Brando; they talk about it all the time.
ROSIE O'DONNELL has a Flickr account. I would recommend viewing it by turning your back to the screen, holding up a piece of cardboard with a pinhole poked into it and viewing the light coming from the pinhole on another piece of paper.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AS JOHNNY ROTTEN? Nnnnnnoooooooo!
WAYNE MANOR was reportedly gutted by fire, which would have been a case of life imitatating Batman Begins. Happily, later reports correct the record.
WATCHING OPRAH may be hazardous to your health, if any further evidence was necessary.
ALBERT BROOKS' Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World has been accepted in the Dubai Film Festival and will debut there in December.
GEORGE CLOONEY'S Good Night and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow's confrontation with Sen. Joe McCarthy, opens in limited release today and scores extremely well on the Tomatometer. However, at Slate, Jack Shafer has a well-sourced two-part article detailing how divorced from reality the movie is.
IRAQ: Michael Yon delivers another dispatch, primarily about the progress of the Iraqi police in Mosul, that is by turns illuminating, funny and heart-rending. Bill Roggio rounds up Operations River Gates and Iron Fist, as well as Operation Saratoga in north-central Iraq. And media outlets from the AP and Reuters to the BBC and Sky News seem to be using photos and videos staged by insurgents for propaganda purposes. Nice.
ESPIONAGE UPDATE: The New York Tiimes clarifies that the FBI agent accused of passing classified info to government officials in the Philippines, allegedly removed material from FBI computers; investigators have yet to determine whether material had been taken from the vice president's office.
"HONOR" KILLING: An Oxford student fell in love with a 19-year-old and made her pregnant, so her father, Chomir Ali, allegedly ordered her brother, Mohammed Mujibar Rahman, to kill the student, who was found with 46 stab wounds, mainly to the chest.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OIL: Knight-Ridder notices the the enormous oil sands deposits in the north of Canada's remote Alberta province. Regular readers here already knew this.
NANOTECH: The book Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines is available for free online.
ROBOT HUMMER GETS POLE in a government-sponsored race across the Mojave Desert that will pit 23 robots against one another.
ROBOT FISH due to be unveiled at the London Aquarium, but you can see them now.
BEER COASTER signals bartender for refills.
ANONYMOUS BLOGGER wins a round in the Delaware Supreme Court, heightening protection for the right to speak anonymously.
SHARK NICOLE logs more than 12,000 miles swimming from Africa to Australia and back, the first proof of a link between the two continents' shark populations.
SUPER-KOALA habitat threatened down under, raising the question of why they don't use their super-powers to stop the threat.
FAKE DOG TESTICLES win the Ig Nobel Prize for medicine.
FRIDAY TIMEWASTER: Helicopter! What, did you think I forgot?