Archive for March, 2006

Eastern Standard Tribe
Mar 17, 2006

A little while ago, I picked up Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow (also of BoingBoing fame) at a nearby bookstore. For the last few weeks, I've been picking at it right before bed.

Our protagonist, Art Berry, is a user experience engineer who works in London, but schemes for the Eastern Standard Tribe, an group of hackers and engineers located on the Atlantic Coast of the US. This book is set in a sort of near future in which groups of programmers and consultants are grouped by time zones.

The work was well-written by somebody obviously intimately familiar with modern computing systems, the internet as tool for daily living, and trends of online communities. Cory Doctorow, a little less than six months younger than me, not only has such familiarity, but as the editor of the most-read blog on the planet, is a pioneer himself. This lends his work a more laid-back, down-to-earth feel and makes the technologies, people, concepts, and struggles seem exceptionally real.

I won't blow the story for anyone who wants to read it, but I found it very entertaining.

My grade: B+.


Trois Couleurs: Rouge
Mar 17, 2006

Tonight, I saw Trois Couleurs: Rouge, the third of the Three Colors trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski, which starred Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Jacob portrays Valentine, a young Swiss model who runs over the dog of a reclusive retired judge, Joseph (Trintignant), who eavesdrops on his neighbors’ phone calls. The neighbors have some interesting problems that keeps the two new friends riveted, until the retired judge is forced to confess his snooping.

The chemistry between the two leading actors is perfect. The story is engaging and unforgettable. The look of the picture was sublime, including a theme of red through the film. Such a great work of art, I enjoyed every moment.

My grade: A.

Trois Couleurs: Blanc
Mar 8, 2006

I just watched White, the second of the Three Colors trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski and starring Julie Delpy.

The story centers around a Polish hairdresser named Karol, played convincingly by Zbigniew Zamachowski, in Paris whose jaw-droppingly beautiful wife, Dominique (Delpy), no longer loves him. He decides to return to his native Poland in order to make something of himself and, hopefully, win back the affections of Dominique. In the process of attempting to get himself back to Poland, he befriends a Polish businessman, who helps him get back home. Karol moves in with his brother, begins a business, has his friend help him manage it, and vies to win back his now-ex-wife.

The story is well-written and intended to be a humor, although a morbid one, with themes of death, suicide, and loss throughout. It’s beautifully filmed and well-acted.

My grade: B.

Trois Couleurs: Bleu
Mar 7, 2006

Tonight’s movie was Blue, the first of Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s Three Colors trilogy, which explores the three ideals of the French flag–liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Blue stars Juliette Binoche as Julie de Courcy, the wife of a famous French composer. At the beginning of the picture, she’s in a terrible car crash that kills her husband and daughter. We accompany her mourning, self-punishment, and the disposal of all of her worldly belongings. She involves herself with a few interesting people, meets her husband’s pregnant mistress, and begins to find herself.

The story is extremely lyrical and the pace relaxed. The theme of the musical work of the fictional composer and Julie’s involvement was central to the picture. The cinematography and use of color in the movie was nothing short of virtuosic. This was a beautifully crafted story, powerfully and emotionally acted and shot with astounding artistry. Watching this movie felt like hearing a world-class soloist play a concerto—a level of talent that will be studied in film schools around the world.

My grade: A.

2006 Independent Spirit Awards
Mar 5, 2006

The Independent Film Channel aired the Independent Spirit Awards tonight, a flippantly irreverent awards show dedicated to showcasing excellent independent film, popular and obscure. Many of the films nominated for awards tonight are extremely obscure are will likely never see a DVD release (Sir! No Sir!, Conventioneers, and Jellysmoke, for instance). A few others were well-recognized with multiple Oscar nods. A few of these movies (as many as are out on DVD) are already in my Netflix Queue.

Sarah Silverman started out her monologue with a meandering cutting edge set of jokes that crossed over into feminine hygiene and pokes at George Clooney. The fact that IFC broadcast this awards ceremony uncensored was refreshing. “I personally wanna give a big shout for the host, Sarah Silverman. Finally, there’s an award show host that you’d wanna fuck. Kinda like Jon Stewart, too, you know? I could see myself getting all Heath Ledger on him,” quipped Kevin Smith. The songs about the Best Feature nominees were sometimes funny and sometimes caused me to hit the “ahead 30 seconds” button, but the entire shindig was much less formal than the Oscars.

I’ve only recently discovered the IFC on my DirectTV lineup. I miss video-i so much (It seems to have gone off the air). IFC assuages that pain a little bit. Uncensored independent films. Thank goodness.

The Left Hand of Darkness
Mar 3, 2006

I just finished reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, a science fiction of astonishing brilliance. We follow the exploits of Genly Ai, an envoy from a federation of human worlds who is attempting to bring Gethen into that federation. Gethenians, unlike all the other peoples of human space, are biologically bisexual—that is, they are neither male nor female, but enter one phase or another when they enter kemmer, or a kind of human heat.

We explore the customs and culture of a neuter society, the dance of politics between conflicting sides, the strange circumstances of a world in an ice age, and a strange pecking order system. The society has never known wars, because everyone's the same. There is no sexism (there's only one gender, after all) and no dualist mentality that colors a great many ideas in our culture.

The characters are rich, believable if strange, and have serious flaws. Genly befriends Estraven, the Prime Minister of Karhide, and follows him into exile, becomes outlawed himself, and learns loyalty from his Gethenian friend. The social politics are somewhat obscure and fuzzy, but the grand adventure of the story is compelling and well-envisioned.

My grade: B.