Saturday, October 30, 2010

Teachout and "Orson Welles and Me" and Me

The mighty Terry Teachout agrees with me! Though his pleasure with the movie is somewhat different. Teachout is the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and he points out this is probably the closest we'll ever get to seeing a play produced by the genius Orson Welles:
Enter Richard Linklater, the director of such distinctly un-Wellesian movies as "Dazed and Confused" and "School of Rock," who last year made a film called "Me and Orson Welles" that was recently released on DVD. Based on a 2003 novel by Robert Kaplow, the movie is a coming-of-age screwball comedy in which Zac Efron, lately of "High School Musical," plays a stage-struck high-school senior who unexpectedly finds himself playing a bit part in "Julius Caesar." Don't snicker: Christian McKay's Welles impersonation is so accurate as to be spooky, and despite the film's obligatory (albeit charming) rom-com trappings, I've never seen a backstage movie that was truer to the experience of putting on a show.

Read the whole thing then go out and rent the movie. You won't be disappointed with either.

Winter's Bone - Movie Review

Winter's Bone is The Godfather set in the Ozarks, a tale of clannish crime and punishment in the name of the business at hand, which in this case is the cooking and selling and using of crystal meth.

Stubborn Ree Dolly has to find her missing father or risk losing the family home; her wide-scattered, and dubious, relatives won't let her. At points, the plot is difficult to follow but it all unspools eventually and you end up rooting for Ree and suffering with her as she makes the sacrifices to protect her family.

The performances by the no-name cast are gritty, the sets depressing. Shot in the area around our beloved Branson, Missouri, it's a vastly different take of the touristy side of the Ozarks. I liked, especially, the scene where Ree talks with an Army recruiter at school about enlistment as a possible way out. The recruiter plays it straight and respectful and you get the sense she appreciates his manner even though he lays some hard truth on her.

A tight, impressive movie

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Single Man - Movie Review

Colin Firth gives a great performance in A Single Man and that's not the only thing to like in this movie about death and loss. First-time director Tom Ford has a confident eye and those fond of a Mad Men vibe won't be disappointed with the sets and costumes. Though the mournful soundtrack is intrusive - it plays nearly non-stop - it's quite lovely.

No, the movie is put together quite well and the performances are more than good. It's just the character of George I had some trouble with. While not quite a mope, he's 8 months past the tragic death of his long-loved partner and still grieves and now not only contemplates suicide, he takes action this particular day to make it so. I couldn't help but think, man, just buck up already, bad things happen to people and time will help soothe the hurt and it'll be okay. And whattaya know, that's almost the point of the movie: George learns *spoiler alert* there's still much to live for and *spoiler alert* decides to do so. But because this is a "literary" movie where *spoiler alert* happy endings aren't allowed, there is *spoiler alert* no happy ending. How ironic. Everyone nod your heads knowingly.

Good dramas are hard to come by so this is well worth a buck from Redbox for a slow night. I just wouldn't pay too much more to see it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Flaming Lips Coolness

More evidence of how cool The Flaming Lips are (is?):
When the days grow shorter, the evening shadows grow longer and the air turns crisp and full of falling leaves, Wayne Coyne gets in touch with his inner trick-or-treater.

And the kid within dictates that the Flaming Lips leader go all out for Halloween, starting with the band's annual March of 1,000 Flaming Skeletons this Saturday in downtown Oklahoma City.

"And of course I'll be the there in the space bubble at the end of it, bringing in the new unexpected," Coyne said this week. "I guess I'm kind of viewed as like the Santa Claus at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade. At the end of this Halloween parade, you have me in this space bubble with a bunch of freaks all around me."

And being a kid in leader Wayne Coyne's neighborhood sounds like fun:
A week later, on the official fright night — which this year falls on Oct. 30 — when all the little ghouls come out to play, Coyne plans to pitch a giant tent on his sprawling property in the Classen-10-Penn area of midtown Oklahoma City and resurrect the "500-pound human brain" that the neighborhood kids went bonkers for last year.

"If it'll work and it's still in good shape," he said. "The guys have talked about just making a new one, like a bigger and better brain this year.

"Whatever we do, as long as the kids around the neighborhood get to come and help us do it, I think that's the best bit. It isn't really even if it works very well. Sometimes the more elaborate we make it, the better the kids like it because they get involved and they get to see that we're plugging in speakers and lights and smoke machines and things. That (stuff) is a lot of fun.

"We always buy a thousand dollars worth of candy to give out, too, so that never hurts."

Gee, all we're doing is giving out candy. I never thought of a giant brain.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Movie Review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps wasn't the first on our list of movies to see but it was on the list and there's not much else out there so it would do.

I'm no Oliver Stone fan but at least he makes a movie interesting and he's no slouch here. I liked the scenes of New York and the cameos and you know that Carey Mulligan is as cute as a bug's ear. I liked the soap operatic plot - the protege in love with the villain's daughter and much worry ensues. I'm pretty sure whatever caused the financial meltdown of a couple of years ago isn't explained at all in this movie. In fact, I'm pretty sure just about everything they're talking that's finance-related in this movie is just a load of crap. But who knows?

Still, the movie began to feel it's age about 30 minutes from the end - it's 2 hours and 15 minutes long - and there are no surprises to be had by the finale. It's just a reason to re-visit these characters if you liked them before - I didn't, really, but I found them mildly engaging this time around - have a chuckle at seeing Gekko's mobile phone from way back, and work your way through a tub of popcorn. It's not perfection but few movies are.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Waste Your Time

Terry Teachout says you shouldn't waste your time. I agree:
As a professional critic, it's my job--my destiny, you might say--to spend a fair amount of time experiencing art that I don't like. Insofar as possible, though, I don't propose to waste any more of the days that remain to me consuming bad art than is absolutely necessary. Unless I'm being paid to do so, I won't even finish reading a book I don't like, or listening to a record that fails to engage me. I have better things to do, and not nearly enough time in which to do them.

Read the whole thing for more about traveling light.

True Grit - Classic

I'm all excited about the new version of True Grit coming this Christmas movie season but it's only fair I give you the trailer to the original version:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The IRS and the Latest Licensing Outrage

Most people care not one farthing about the IRS' new licensing procedures, and rightly so, but in the tax preparation industry, it's a big thing. Dan Alban does some heavy olifting in making the point for those few of us who are opposed to what amounts to be a tax increase aimed solely at tax preparers:
Who would you rather prepare your taxes? A professional tax return preparer with over a dozen years experience in preparing tax returns for taxpayers without incident. Or me, an attorney who has never so much as taken a law school class or continuing legal education course in tax law, and gave up on doing his own taxes last year once he started needing to itemize his deductions. You probably think you’d prefer the first option, but the IRS says you’re wrong.

The IRS already has procedures in place to pursue those incompetent or dishonest tax preparers - get called in for a questionable deduction or credit and you'll roll over pretty quick on your tax preparer, won't you? - so there's no need for more licensing. And it already maintains a database of registered attorney, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents that nothing for those preparers required to be registered. No, the new rules not only take in these professionals but others, like those Alban refers to, as well as every single staff member in a firm who decides which information is entered onto a return. Oh, and at $65 a licensing pop. And they'll have to take a test, too. And Continuing Education to maintain their registration.

Now, will my staff be responsible for any errors on a return they prepare for my signature? Heck, no! And well they shouldn't. I'm the one who signs off on the return so I'm responsible for making sure the information is accurate and takes reasonable advantage of the tax laws.

The IRS needs this, it says, because it's receiving a lot of fraudulent tax returns prepared by unscrupulous preparers. How does the IRS know this? Because they already track this information! They already know who these preparers are! They don't need additional licensing to nab these no-gooders. This is a naked power grab, pure and simple, signed off by major firms like H&R Block to keep the mom-and-pop tax return preparation shops - places where many taxpayers go to have their returns prepared for a cheaper fee than I can prepare them. And let's not talk about the ethics of giving an agency the power to decide who can represent taxpayers in their convoluted administrative processes.

And it's clear the IRS hasn't thought all of this through. The IRS has disclosed its current staff of 19 which processes licensing requests under the old laws is already overwhelmed. The $65 licensing fee is necessary to pay for additional staff and resources to process of what has been estimated to be millions of requests for licensing under the new rules, as well as the renewal requests and administration of tests and continuing education each year.

Wait a minute. Maybe the IRS has thought all of this through. It's a whole new bureaucratic nightmare it can preside over, full of managers and district and regional managers who must be supervised by even higher management and, well, you get the idea. Oh, and managing the new Health Care law is on the way, too. So it looks like things are looking up for the IRS.

And, as usual, it's the taxpayer who'll come up short.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oklahoma earthquake: Not as Awesome as Originally Thought

Dang. Wednesday's earthquake was downgraded to a measly 4.7.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Hail and ice storms and blizzards and twisters just aren't enough for us here in Oklahoma. No, we gotta have an earthquake:

One of the strongest earthquakes in state history startled Oklahomans Wednesday morning, rattling windows and nerves but causing no major damage or injuries.

The quake was centered eight miles southeast of Norman, south of Lake Thunderbird, near E Post Oak Road and 84th Avenue SE, Oklahoma Geological Survey research seismologist Austin Holland said. He estimated the magnitude of the 9:06 a.m. quake at 5.1 and called it a "small to moderate earthquake," while the U.S. Geological Survey put it at 4.3.

Although there were only two reported minor injuries in Oklahoma, people were caught off guard by a jolting earthquake in the land of tornadoes.

Especially unnerving for Clara and others who were downtown during the Murrah Building bombing back in the 90s. The building swayed just like that fateful day and she was quite spooked until she learned what had happened.

(Oh, look, this isn't the first one I've noted. Getting to be like California around here.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network - Movie Review

The Social Network is a fascinating look at the not-very sympathetic founder of Facebook who, like the book this movie is based on is titled, becomes an accidental billionaire. Most of the cast are unknowns to me - hey, there's Justin Timberlake! - but Jesse Eisenberg plays the lead to socially-misfit perfection. Director David Fincher keeps things moving right along from Aaron Sorkin's whip-smart script, expertly cutting from one lawsuit deposition to the next and to the past and back again without leaving you confused but giving you a good grasp of the whole story.

I don't hold with critics who claim the movie's cold and lacks sympathetic characters - I felt for Eduardo, the partner shunted to the side and party of one of the lawsuits - though I will agree that while I found the movie interesting, I wasn't really moved emotionally. Still, like most great endeavors, what starts things and keeps them rolling along is a deeply felt emotional drive and I think that came across just fine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Farewell Summer - Book Review

It only seems appropriate that I finish reading Ray Bradbury's Farewell Summer at the end of summer; I often read his work during the season for which it's written: Dandelion Wine in Summer, The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes and, well, just about every other work of his in Autumn. But this book is his latest novel length work and as a fan and a stickler for completeness it's necessary that I read it and though there were parts of it where Bradbury's old genius shone through and I enjoyed it, overall it wasn't a very rewarding experience. For fans only, I'd have to regretfully say.

Dandelion Wine is my favorite work of Bradbury's and I think his preface to the book is the finest piece of writing you could ever hope to come across. It didn't demand a sequel but Bradbury, in his Afterword, insisted it did. I won't get into an argument with him but, instead, leave the two books as evidence that I'm right. Farewell Summer retreads much of Dandelion Wine and while it's held together by a single narrative event - a "war" between Douglas and his friends against the old codgers of the town with a very special lesson learned by all at the end - and Dandelion Wine is a string of related incidents held together by a single theme, Summer is the much slighter work of the two. And the final scene with Douglas in a conversation with, uh, a part of his male anatomy, well, talk about TMI. C'mon, Ray. You've done better. You can do better.

(Or maybe not. Bradbury, like most artists, has his greatest work behind him. It's not reasonable to expect him to produce art the same caliber of which he created in his relative youth. It's not an age thing, really. It's just that he's had his say. Now he's saying it all over again. It's enough that he's alive and still a delight to have around and to have the old works to enjoy. I don't need anything new.)