Friday, January 23, 2004

Choke on your biscotti
Starbucks coffee terminology examined. Why tall equals small.

GW Bush said in his State of the Union speech that "hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure..." And yet Lyle Lovett is too scared to leave the US and play here, just like US author E Annie Proulx, who delayed her visit here til after the Iraq War. Feel secure?
Russell Brown noted that "After Bush's State of the Union speech last year, a couple of correspondents ticked me off for being churlish about the billions promised to fight Aids in Africa. Well, a year later, not a penny of those billions has been allocated - and 2005 Aids funding has been cut."

Its a great weekend for getting out and checking some local sounds, Dancing in the Streets up on Beresford Square in K Rd friday night, and BFMs Summer Series in Albert Park on sunday. Summer in AK is looking mighty fine right now.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Love is the drug.
"Always follow your own way rather than look to others. And get very good lawyers - if you can have them as part of your family that's even better."
Singer Bryan Ferry (playing here late January) offers up some practical advice to musicians starting out.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Belinda Henley makes stuff up.
TV3 gets thumbs up for its Big Day Out coverage, putting it near the top of its friday night news bulletin, with a live cross to the event with TV3s entertainment reporter Belinda Henley live at the BDO. She introduced her prerecorded report, which included the Black Eyed Peas, who, according to Henley, had been here twice before, but this was their first time at the Big Day Out. WRONG!! If she'd done her research, or read the numerous interviews in magazines or newspapers with the band in recent weeks, she would know they played here at the Big Day Out 3 years ago, with some controversy - one of their members got stopped at Customs and sent home after being found in possession of some dope. Thumbs down.
TVOne managed a live cross as well, with some amusing comments from their reporter on interviewing Metallica - she was surprised at their backstage area - a room for guitar tuning, a room for dressing, a room for eating, but when you've sold 90 million records, you can get whatever you want, she observed.

Apparently The Darkness are getting so popular in the UK that there are tribute bands dedicated to them. Three of them so far - The Lightness, The Daftness, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Darkness. As reported in the latest issue of Q magazine. Honest.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Torque talk
Former Kiwi actor Martin Henderson (Shortland St) has hit the big time in the US with new action movie Torque, costarring with Ice Cube. The film is in the same vein as The Fast And The Furious, and Gone in 60 Seconds, lots of fast car/bike chases that might give young Kiwi teenage drivers the impression you can outrun the police (even if the high number of deaths from police chases here suggests otherwise).
Here's a few of the headlines from Googles news page whcih give you some indication of its critical reception so far...

High energy, not high-minded
Torque' torture to watch
Formula Wan racing: 'Torque' hits skid woe
'Torque': It's fast and furious, but it's not very good

Men and the Art of Motorcycle Madness (Henry James, Too)
New York Times - The monotonously macho action-adventure "Torque," which opens nationwide today, wears testosterone as if it were a new fragrance from Mennen.

Torque' torture to watch
"...The script sounds like it was culled from the mind of a teen-age boy daydreaming during algebra class about what his ultimate adventure would be and the special effects look as if that same boy threw the many chase sequences together on his home PC.
Yes, it's that bad."


Here's how Henderson got the job, from an interview with director Joseph Kahn...

Q.How did you choose Martin Henderson as the lead?
A.I went through 100s of actors, because, you know, Ice Cube was expensive, so we were looking through 100s of actors, and one of the criteria that I had was that my actor should be American because I always saw this as a western on bikes, and Ford’s kind your classic American hero, but raw... So, literally, Martin was like the last guy I looked at, and we were only weeks away from shooting, and I had a phone call with him and I heard this California dude on the other line, and he was like, I think this, it’s not going to be too serious, it’s just going to be funny. Then I met him and we had an audition which was great and I hired him and then he busted out this New Zealand accent, and I said, “You fooled me, you f*cker.”
Brawling for Columbine
Now why didn't Michael Moore interview this nice young man in his film?

Evan Todd, a popular football player and school hero [at Columbine], told reporters: "Columbine is a clean, good place except for those rejects. Most kids didn't want them there. They were into witchcraft. They were into voodoo dolls. Sure, we teased them. But what do you expect if you come to school with weird hairdos? It's not just jocks; the whole school was disgusted with them. They're a bunch of homos, grabbing each other's private parts. If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease 'em. So the whole school would call them homos, and when they did something sick, we'd tell them, 'You're sick and that's wrong.'" Read more here.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Religion 1: Equality 0
"About 100 Iraqi women led by a minister protested in central Baghdad against a Governing Council proposal to scrap the secular family affairs code and place it under Muslim religious jurisdiction.
"I am outraged how the decision was taken," public works minister Nesrine al-Barwari told AFP." From Yahoo News. Tuesday 13 January.

There are suggestions from the Kurds to split from Iraq, and some are talking about dividing Iraq into 3 separate states, some into 5. Meanwhile, there are reports of increased sucides amongst US troops in Iraq. A recent Herald article noted that unlike previous campaigns where only the frontline troops were in direct fire and those in support roles were less vulnerable, in Iraq everyone with the US military is vulnerable. Things in Iraq must surely start getting better soon - they can't get much worse.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Blasphemy, and nine minutes and 33 seconds of names.
Leto writes that "Return of the King was crap. There. I’ve said it. I may, quite possibly, be thrown out of the country tomorrow for daring to utter such blasphemy..." Brave, very brave...

Yes, the hype around LOTR:ROTK goes on,with more awards heading Peter Jackson's way. Now, if you were watching the film overseas, knew nothing about its origins and hadn't read any interviews with cast or director, would you know it was from New Zealand?
Yes, but you would have to stay til the end of the closing credits, to see the caption "Filmed at Camperdown Studios and on location in New Zealand". I'm growing a bit skeptical about the supposed value to our country of the whole LOTR series. Do you recall anyone claiming similar tourist spinoffs when Xena and Hercules were shooting here?
Below is the story of one man who did stay the whole nine minutes and 33 seconds to the bitter end - he was the only person left in the cinema. He just wanted to get his money's worth.

(Taken from the New York Times - I'd link to it, but you have to register to get the content and its a hassle etc etc.... Just seen the Telegraph in the UK has also covered this story, basically an uncredited reworking of whats below)

Who Was That Food Stylist? Film Credits Roll On

They are known as closing credits, but the other day at a movie theater in Times Square, after three and a half epic hours of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the credits did not seem to want to close.

It took five minutes for the names of all the actors, producers, editors, gaffers, grips, best boys, dialect coaches, wig makers and steelworkers to crawl by. Next came the less familiar show-business occupations like stable foreman, horse makeup artist, horseshoer and the two guys in charge of the chain mail.

At eight minutes, the moviegoers still in the theater were watching a scroll of completely inscrutable titles like "wrangler manager" and "compositing inferno artist." Of course, the caterer had to be immortalized, too.

Finally, 9 minutes and 33 seconds after they began, the closing credits came to a close.

John Rodriguez, a subway track worker, was the only person left in the theater. (The cleaning crew had come and gone.) He shrugged.

"I like to get my $10 worth," he said. "I didn't really notice how long they were."

But plenty of people have. Movie credits, which used to last an average of three to four minutes, have joined the list of other things in Hollywood — like egos and salaries — suffering from inflation. Once, moviemakers considered anything longer than seven minutes — the credits for "Titanic" and "Waterworld" were in that range — to be pushing the bounds of propriety and audience patience.

But with the growth of computer animation, union rules, copyright laws and lots of good old-fashioned favoritism, several credit sequences have blown past that old limit.

Companies that make titles say the average, even for regular dialogue-driven movies, has increased to as long as five minutes.

"It just seems to me that there are a lot more menial guys who get credit now who didn't several years ago," said Rick Sparr, a vice president at Pacific Title and Art Studio, one of the oldest title-makers.

"I mean, the guy who unfolds the craft table gets credit now," he said. "It's really out of control."

Not that he is complaining. It is good for business. But he and others in the business have joined many moviegoers in wondering where it will end.

Does the set masseuse really need to be credited? (One was at the end of "The Matrix.")

Does the helicopter pilot? (Most big-budget productions nowadays seem to have one, and the pilot is invariably named, alongside accountants and publicity agents.)

What about the Romanian Army liaison aide and the person described as the food stylist? (Both were named at the end of "Cold Mountain.")

In fact, while questions are being asked, here are two more. Is there a difference between the second second assistant director and the third assistant director, and do all these assistants really have to be named? (The answers to those questions, producers say, are "not much" and "yes.")

"I think it's monstrous," David Thomson, the critic, said. "It's one of those signs of the decadence in our film business altogether."

Mr. Thomson, author of the New Biographical Dictionary of Film, said he still kept his seat until the bitter end, when the house lights come up and most everyone has left, "but only for professional reasons."

"I find it a horrible bore," he said. "Honestly, if you train the horses, you don't need your name up there."

In the early history of motion pictures, credits were nearly always at the beginning of movies and were handed out so sparingly that they rarely took more than two minutes of screen time.

The 1922 vampire classic "Nosferatu," a kind of special-effects vehicle of its day, credited only 11 cast members and 5 others, including the director and cinematographer, and the credits lasted 1 minute 35 seconds.

But by the late 1960's and early 70's, credits had grown so long that filmmakers began to shift most of them to the end of movies, giving them the freedom to grow even longer, especially with the rise of blockbuster movies with special effects and computer-generated imagery.

According to Baseline, which compiles information about movies, the original "Star Wars" in 1977 listed 143 people in its credits. In 1999, "The Matrix" listed 551, including Longy Nguyin, a sports masseuse. Last year, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" listed 559 names, "Finding Nemo" listed 642, and the third installment of the "Matrix" series had 701.

In the world of animation, as just one example to show how the complexity of newer movies involves many more people, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, the first full-length animated feature movie, listed only 24 animators. The credits for "Finding Nemo" list 52 animators, plus 104 computer-graphics-imagery artists, divided into teams for jobs like "sharks," "reefs," "schooling and flocking" and "ocean."

But "credit creep," as some people in Hollywood have called it, is happening even in movies without multinational teams of computer programmers. In independent film shorts, for example, where many people work without being paid and a screen credit is their only form of compensation, credits can sometimes last a fourth as long as the short itself. In some movies with limited budgets, travel agencies and other companies are sometimes given credit — in essence free advertising in a prestigious format — if they agree to work for less.

And in big-budget movies with powerful stars, the stars often succeed in winning screen credit for anyone who has anything to do with their performances. In "Master and Commander," the list of attendants to Russell Crowe alone reads like the staff list at a small company: his costumer, two hairstylists, a makeup artist, two special makeup artists, a stunt double, a stand-in, a trainer, a dialect coach, a swordmaster, three violin coaches, two assistants and the name of the company that provided his personal security.

The final cut when it comes to credits can be highly arbitrary, especially for extras and performers with little screen time. Consider poor Ted Shred, a stuntman who specializes in fire breathing. Mr. Shred has, in fact, breathed fire on screen in six feature-length movies, including the hit "Charlie's Angels," but has never been credited for doing it.

"I guess the producers sit around and they say: `Well, who can we bump? Oh, let's bump the fire-breather,' " he said. "I don't know why it happens. It's nepotism, man."

Some major studios, like Warner Brothers, are known for working to keep credit creep from occurring. But battles are sometimes fought among studios and producers and directors over which marginal names (in other words, which sons, daughters, cousins, friends, neighbors and business partners) make the cut. In one recent major movie, more than 100 names were cut from the credit list at the last minute by the studio, which felt the credits went on way too long, according to a person involved in the movie, who asked that it not be named.

Mr. Sparr, whose Pacific Title creates the credits for more than 100 movies a year, said he believed that those for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which his company produced, lasted longer than any others he has ever worked on.

"And you can only run it so fast," he said, "because if you run it too fast, it's going to start to strobe."

Mr. Sparr said that in the end he thought inflation of closing credits would be checked only by purely physical limits. When 35-millimeter prints begin to require an extra reel just to accommodate the credits, the cost will probably drive some studios to declare an ultimatum.

"I really don't think it's going to go past 10 minutes," he said. "But I've been wrong before."

Since he has been in the movie business for so long, one last question was asked of him. Does he know what a second second assistant director does?

"It really doesn't matter to us," Mr. Sparr answered. "If it comes from legal and it's the way they want it, that's all we care about. We don't care what it means."

The closing credits for School of Rock, starring Jack Black are great -when I saw it, hardly anyone left the cinema before they finished - Black and his band of schoolkids make up a song on the spot while the credits roll, with Black adlibbing about "hey whose that guy, what did he do on the movie? uh oh, we gotta go, here come the cleaners..." The film is pretty entertaining too, in a candyfloss kinda way.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Namechecked by Tony Blair?
Just been alerted to this by BadPolitics ....

"Mr Blair's curiously downbeat address to the troops contained a slip instantly highlighted by the British media, when he referred to the search for Iraq's weapons of mass "distraction"." Live from Basra, Mr Foot in Mouth strikes again...

Friday, January 02, 2004

Two double oh four in effect.
My new years eve started off with a swim in the sea in the afternoon, absolutely fantastic, then off to Aotea Square for the free festivities in the evening - ended 2003 sitting on the grass in the square listening to Goldenhorse, for free! Thats pretty choice. And to think, John Banks had a hand in that, somehow.

Been catching up on my reading over the holidays, plowing thru Michael Kings excellent History of New Zealand, and I got given Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick for xmas, been dipping into that too. I read a letter in the December 2003 Vanity Fair that got me thinking. It was a response to an article called Saving the Saudis, about the Bush administration helping members of the Bin Laden family and other Saudis depart the US days after Sept 11 2001.
The letter writer, Florence Petris from Las Vegas, expresses dismay that the President helped 140 Saudis leave the US within days of Sept 11, and says "No wonder Osama hasn't been found. He never will be, as long as Bush is in power".
Then again, a few months ago it looked like the US would never manage to find Saddam Hussein. But then he is captured, just in time for Xmas. What a great morale boost to the US troops, to the Iraqi people, to GW Bush back home. Now, a few commentators have picked how convenient this all was, and what are the odds that, just before the US Presidential elections in November this year, they manage to find Osama? I know that seems hopelessly cynical, but Bush's cronies like Richard Perle have just published more suggested plans for regime change, in Iran and Syria. Its got the endearing title of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.

Howard Dean is a Democratic presidential hopeful who has some interesting fans. Check out, set up by a 28 year old punker who met Dean and went home and set up this website. The Herald published a peice on Dean and his growing support recently. Wired magazine's Jan ish has a good article backgrounding Deans use of internet networking. Heres a slice of it...

It is 83 days before the Iowa caucuses, and I'm sitting at a small table on a private jet above Colorado getting a pure dose of Internet religion from Howard Dean. "The Internet community is wondering what its place in the world of politics is," Dean says. "Along comes this campaign to take back the country for ordinary human beings, and the best way you can do that is through the Net. We listen. We pay attention. If I give a speech and the blog people don't like it, next time I change the speech."

The biggest news of the political season has been the tale of this small-state governor who, with the help of and hundreds of bloggers, has elbowed his way into serious contention for his party's presidential nomination. As every alert citizen knows, Dean has used the Net to raise more money than any other Democratic candidate. He's also used it to organize thousands of volunteers who go door-to-door, write personal letters to likely voters, host meetings, and distribute flyers.

"We fell into this by accident," Dean admits. "I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to figure this out. But the community taught us. They seized the initiative through Meetup. They built our organization for us before we had an organization."

British scientists are still waiting for a signal from Beagle 2 on Mars. They got Blur to compose a nine-note tune for the unmanned space explorer to send back when it landed. Perhaps they might've been more successful if they'd chosen someone like Brian Eno? Just a thought.