Movie Review >>
It should be noted that not one character smokes a cigarette onscreen in â€œThank You for Smoking,â€ the long-awaited film adaptation of Christopher Buckleyâ€™s satiric novel. The closest smoking encounter is when tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) reaches for a pack of smokes only to discover it’s empty â€“ a clear metaphor for the tobacco lobbyâ€™s strength.
Thank You for
(out of 4)
First-time director Jason Reitman (who adapted the novel himself) is reaching for a deeper concept, a comment on the disintegration of debate and the trade-off of argument for manipulation in contemporary politics (and society in general). Reitman sees the tobacco lobby as an opening to a bigger, less tangible issue, and while he should be congratulated for his ambition, the execution sadly stumbles.
Naylor has lot on his plate as the premier lobbyist for a research organization propped up by Big Tobacco. He makes the rounds on talk shows, exchanges strategies and compares body counts with his buddies in the MOD (merchants of death) squad (the lovely Maria Bello for alcohol, the hilarious David Koechner for guns), makes deals to promote smoking on film with zany Hollywood agents (Rob Lowe), and competes in verbal battle with an overzealous senator (William H. Macy). Oh, and heâ€™s trying to be a good role model for his preteen son (Cameron Bright). Thatâ€™s only the startâ€”more complications arise by the frame.
Which is part of the problem â€“ Reitman has a lot of ground to cover in a limited amount of time (a good comedy should never run over 90 minutes), so every crazy character gets to make an entrance, be odd, and then maybe show up for a later cameo. Robert Duvall gets hardly any screen time as the tobacco maven the Captain, and it seems as if Reitman asked J.K. Simmons to reprise his â€œSpidermanâ€ Jonah Jameson role instead of find a new character for Naylorâ€™s boss B.R.
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First, an introduction, and a confession: â€œHi, Iâ€™m John, and Iâ€™m a Southby-aholic.â€
This year marked my eighth consecutive pilgrimage to Austin, TX, for the annual South by Southwest music festival (as above, referred to by frequent attendees as Southby). Known, variously, among friends and musicians, as â€œRock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Spring Break,â€ â€œIndie-Rock Mardi Gras,â€ and â€œRock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Olympics,â€ I think I may prefer the sobriquet that occurred to me this year mid-fest: Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Christmas. Continue reading →
CD Review >>
Sondre Lerche & The Faces Down QuartetDuper Sessions
No better way to mark the beginning of Spring than the stateside release of Sondre Lercheâ€™s new album â€œDuper Sessions,â€ featuring the Faces Down Quartet. The man has already generated at least two albumsâ€™ worth of sunny, romantic, elegant pop that simply brim with class and sophistication well beyond his twenty-three years. In fact, the level of sophistication that Lerche reaches on â€œDuper Sessionsâ€ nearly immortalizes him as one of pop musicâ€™s great anomalies.
He was only 18 when he recorded most of what would become his stellar debut album â€œFaces Down.â€ Following its stateside release in the fall of 2002, legions of critics, who had little else to pick the young Norwegian apart for, repeatedly cited the inevitable obstacles he faced writing lyrics in his second language, yet still lavished him with well-deserved comparisons to Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. I found it impossible to hold the language barrier against him. He still wrote better songs than a majority of Americans who got any attention from the mainstream press that year, which is sad in a way. Few artists anywhere near the realm of popular music have drawn such heady comparisons to artists two to three times their age in this context. Was Lerche trying so hard to emulate those soul-infected, bossa nova stylings and appear well beyond his years, or simply aiming to separate himself from a slew of other â€œsensitiveâ€ Euro-indie acts? Truthfully, for myself and many others who had the good fortune to discover the man early on, the songs on â€œFaces Downâ€ and its follow-up â€œTwo-Way Monologueâ€ were too damn irresistible to worry about his intentions.
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