1. "Essentially Woody: Intro/Annie Hall": A beautiful introduction by Reverse Shot's robbiefreeling to Film Forum's three-week Woody Allen retrospective.
["Odds are that most cinephiles of my generation, and most Reverse Shot writers, were watching Woody Allen movies before they ever saw anything by Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini; before they ever read anything by Dostoevsky or Ibsen; before they were aware of the sizable disparity in aesthetics between American and European cinema; before they were brushing up on their Nietzsche or read Rilke; before they knew the radical cultural differences his films evinced, and that cinema and, furthermore, pop culture itself had completely consumed and regurgitated his philosophical style and outlook. Often either regaled or demeaned as being merely a conduit to the "higher arts" mentioned above, Woody Allen is actually one of the most essential American artists of the past century, subsuming and reappropriating the textures of the modern European arts for the American cosmopolitan sensibility, funneling those tropes into a New York tenor, and thus single-handedly creating a new form of Jewish humor, which tightened the Borscht belt around the ever-inflating girth of the gentile elitism he (and we) both despises and covets. Each Woody Allen film is tricky to navigate; while he seems to put himself out there, in firing range, bearing his neuroses for all to heckle, he also always is shielding himself from some greater truth, whether by hiding behind Upper West Side extravagance or Euro art-house nostalgia."]
2. "Some Points Before Vacation": From Zach Campbell at Elusive Lucidity.
["I'm not a boxing fan exactly, but I found this article interesting (I found it at some political blog I was surfing very recently, but I'm too lazy to double check which one at the moment). The media treatment of Mike Tyson finds itself echoed strongly by the underappreciated Walter Hill-directed Snipes/Rhames vehicle Undisputed ('02). Armond White wrote up the film in a positive review here. It's hard for me to deal with White's reviews these days--his weird permutation of rightist authoritarian populism is now too demoralizing--but for a while he seemed to be one of the few name reviewers engaging with ideas when he wrote on films, and at the time (2001-2002: he also seemed more aligned with the social left then, tho' I could be wrong) I was really inspired by his work. And anyway the article and the film offer another occasion to recommend Mandingo, Richard Fleischer's 1976 film maudit which is sensationalist, and far from a masterpiece, but still quite an important film. David Ehrenstein (for the record--gay and black like Mr. White, but in his case a figure on the left) has called it the "most honest film about American racism ever made."]
3. "Gus Van Sant Popped for DUI": Those Fuzzy Navels are to die for.
["Gus Van Sant has directed himself right into the hands of the law. The Oscar-nominated Good Will Hunting auteur was picked up early Thursday morning on a drunk driving charge in Portland, Oregon."]
4. "Zhang's Defiant Beauty, Smith's Maudlin Happyness": Fernando F. Croce's latest column from Cinepassion.
["Curse of the Golden Flower is incredibly beautiful, but beauty, easily abused and easily misread, has a curse of its own: reviewers seeking the frugality of seriousness were already leery of splendor in the days of Von Sternberg and Ophüls and Minnelli, and knee-jerk distrust of sumptuous surfaces has hardly waned in the years since (vide the uncomprehending scorn heaped onto Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette). The opulence of Zhang Yimou's new film is mystical, everything is ceremonial and everything is ritualized, from the dressing of the palace servants to the preparation of tea to the polishing of a throne; the Empress (Gong Li) strides through the corridors as if inseparably a part of the gold-and-blue chambers, yet a ground-level shot early on, looking up at the suddenly shuddering regent, locates the first crack in the grandeur. The year is 928 A.D., in the midst of China's later Tang dynasty: Chow Yun Fat, his prole rascality hidden under a graying beard and chilling regal armor, is the Emperor, returning from the front for the Chong Yang Festival, as well as for a bit of ruthless house-cleaning. Strands of intrigue proliferate—three sons (Jay Chou, Qin Junjie, Liu Ye) vie for the crown; Prince Wan (Liu) has an illicit affair with the Empress, his stepmother, but much prefers the pretty daughter (Li Man) of the imperial doctor, who has his own secrets. The Empress pretends not to notice that her medicine's been spiked with mind-destroying toxins, for, as the Emperor reminds her, their family "has to set an example for the entire country."]
5. "Mike Evans, original Lionel Jefferson, dead": From CNN.
["Actor Mike Evans, best known as Lionel Jefferson in the TV sitcoms "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," has died. He was 57. Evans died of throat cancer December 14 at his mother's home in Twentynine Palms, said his niece, Chrystal Evans."]
"Links for the Day": Each morning, the House editors post a series of weblinks that we think will spark discussion. Comments encouraged.