Out of the Furnace
"Out of the Furnace," about two suffering brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) in Pennsylvania steel country. hits some of the same notes as "The…
By Roger Ebert
A newspaper film critic is like a canary in a coal mine. When one croaks, get the hell out. The lengthening toll of former film critics acts as a poster child for the self-destruction of American newspapers, which once hoped to be more like the New York Times and now yearn to become more like the National Enquirer. We used to be the town crier. Now we are the neighborhood gossip.
The crowning blow came this week when the once-magisterial Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all of its entertainment writers. The 500-word limit applies to reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers." Oh, it can be done. But with "Synecdoche, New York?"
Demise of the ink-stained wretch
Worse, the AP wants its writers on the entertainment beat to focus more on the kind of brief celebrity items its clients apparently hunger for. The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been "seen with" somebody, who has been "spotted with" somebody, and "top ten" lists of the above. (Celebs "seen with" desire to be seen, celebs "spotted with" do not desire to be seen.)
I've been hearing a lot lately about the new electric car from General Motors, the GM Volt. It will go 40 miles without any gas, then uses a four cylinder gas engine to recharge its own battery, giving it a range of 640 miles, and can be plugged in any outlet. Its top speed is 120 mph. It is scheduled to go into production at the end of 2009, for a 2010 rollout.
What does it feel like to resemble the Phantom of the Opera? You learn to live with it. I've never concerned myself overmuch about how I looked. I got a lot of practice at indifference during my years as the Michelin Man.
Yes, years before I acquired my present problems, I was not merely fat, but was universally known as "the fat one," to distinguish me from "the thin one," who was Gene Siskel, who was not all that thin, but try telling that to Gene:
"Spoken like the gifted Haystacks Calhoun tribute artist that you are."
"Haystacks was loved by his fans as a charming country boy," I observed.
"Six hundred and forty pounds of rompin' stompin' charm," Gene said. "Oh, Rog? Are those two-tone suedes, or did you step in some chicken shit?"
The real Phantom: Lon Chaney in 1925
"You can borrow them whenever you wear your white John Travolta disco suit from 'Saturday Night Fever,'" I said.
"Yeah, when are you gonna wear it on the show?" asked Buzz the floor director. "Enquiring minds want to know."
"He wanted to wear it today," I said, "but it's still at the tailor shop having the crotch taken in."
"Ba-ba-ba-boom !" said Buzz.
"Here's an item that will interest you, Roger," Gene told me one day, paging through the Sun-Times, his favorite paper, during a lull in the taping of our show. We taped in CBS Chicago's Studio One, home of the Kennedy-Nixon debate.
"It says here, the Michelin Man has been arrested in a fast food court in Hawaii for attempting to impersonate the Pillsbury Dough Boy."
HYDERABAD, India, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- About 6,000 Muslim clerics from around India approved a fatwa against terrorism Saturday at a conference in Hyderabad.
The Muslim world has not been eager to hate America. For many Muslims, America with its religious freedom represented for decades a refuge against what all were pleased to call "godless Communism" and the USSR persecution of its Islamic republics. After the 9/11 attacks, there was a candlelight march in the streets of Tehran in mourning for the victims.
American flags were waved. No flags are waving now. I visited Tehran once, in 1972, for the film festival. My Iranian guide took me home for tea with her parents. There was a point that her family members wanted to make. "We are not Arabs," her mother said. "We are Persians. We speak a different language. We are Muslims, but we are modern Muslims. You do not see our women covered up in the streets or locked up in their houses. America is our ideal, where all are left to worship in peace." Then the Shah was overthrown, and the fundamentalists took over. Moderate candidates have been elected to national office in recent years, but the ayatollahs have veto power over moderation.
That was an Iran I hope still exists beneath the hostile stance they are taking against us. When we sent an army to Kuwait to throw back Saddam, Iran rejoiced, because Iraq was their ancient enemy. It was after we invaded Iraq after 9/11 that feelings began to sour. The sight of our occupation of a Muslim country disturbed the entire region. If we would invade its neighbor of our own volition, was Iran next? Until very recent months it seemed as if Iran was next. The White House reportedly ordered a military plan to be drawn up.
by Roger Ebert
I've sort of known Bonnie Hunt for awhile, from Second City and here and there, and I really like her. She's funny, direct, down to earth, and has real feelings. What you see is what you get. She's one of seven kids from an Irish Catholic family in Chicago and hasn't missed a home opener at Wrigley Field since 1977.
Fair warning: I begin with a parable, continue with vast generalizations, finally get around to an argument with Entertainment Weekly, and move on to Greek gods, "I Love Lucy" and a house on fire.
The parable, The lodestars of John Doe's life are his wife, his children, his boss, his mistress, and his pastor. There are more, but these will do. He expects his wife to be grateful for his loyalty. His children to accept him as a mentor. His boss to value him as a worker. His mistress to praise him as a sex machine. His pastor to note his devotion. These are the roles he has assigned them, and for the most part they play them.
In their own lives, his wife feels he has been over-rewarded for his loyalty, since she has done all the heavy lifting. His children don't understand why there are so many stupid rules. His boss considers John Doe as downsizable, and fears he may also get the axe. His mistress asks herself why she doesn't dump this creep and find an availableman. His pastor has a pretty good idea what goes on during the other six days of the week.
Eternal sun shines on the Malkovich mind
Frank Cottrell Boyce's teleplay "God On Trial" plays on PBS at 8 p.m. CST Sunday, Nov. 9, and will repeat. It's based on the true story of Auschwitz prisoners weighing the case against God. I met Frank online in the 1980s in my old CompuServe forum. He was in his 20s. Now he has become a leading British screenwriter. His credits follow this piece. After reading my blog "Roger's little rule book," he sent this article that appeared in the Guardian on June 30, 2008.
Here I was all set to go Elitist on the country singer Lee Greenwood, and I pulled the rug out from under myself. I shared Rachel Maddow's incredulity that the limping duck George W. Bush had appointed Greenwood to the National Council of the Arts. I even had my first two sentences written in my head: "Remember how the Bush takeover squad at the White House complained the Clintonites had unplugged all the PCs on their way out the door? As he steadfastly marches toward his own sunset, it is Bush himself who seems unplugged."
Zing! Totally unfair, but snappy, Bush had two vacancies to fill on the NCA, one for three years, one for six. Greenwood got the six-year term. He'll be the gift that keeps on giving every day during Obama's first term. The Council's job is to advise the National Endowment for the Arts on how to spend its money. I assume Greenwood will support the endowment's Shakespeare in American Communities Initiative, but you can never be sure about those things.
Da-ding! I was just getting warmed up. I was going to sympathize with Bush because fate has set a limited table for conservatives in the arts department. Liberals get Paul Newman, conservatives get Chuck Norris. We get Bruce Springsteen, they get Cousin Brucie. Does such a thing as a conservative dancer even exist? To be sure, Greenwood was a member of a dance ensemble, but that was when he was nine. Look at Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic party, who was a philosopher, author, architect, violinist , inventor, sketch artist and culinary expert, and still found the time to found another branch of the family. JFK told an assembly of U.S. Nobel Prize winners: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." I imagine George whispering to Laura: "Why didn't anyone want to eat with him?"