Sunday, July 20, 2008

Best. Movie. Super. Villain. Ever.

Weekend report...

* Saw "The Dark Knight" and enjoyed it a great deal. Apparently, so did a few other people, as the picture seems to have shattered box-office records for an opening frame. I don't have much to add to the generally rapturous reviews, except to say that comparisons to "The Godfather" or "Heat" might just be stretching it a bit, or to the discussion of Heath Ledger's performance, which I found vivid and haunting.

It was fascinating to see director/cowriter Christopher Nolan take on critically relevant political and social issues -- like democracy, free will and how an allegedly enlightened and free society reacts to terrorism in its midst, etc. -- within the dramatic construct of a summer super hero movie.

I'd love to see Nolan really sink his teeth into that subject matter in direct fashion, in a film along the lines of Paul Greengrass' upcoming "Green Zone" or -- to a lesser extent -- Ridley Scott's forthcoming "Body of Lies," as opposed to via allegory in the live action comic genre.

Every one of Nolan's films have been confident, assured works of a budding master. He's definitely hit his stride as a mature artist with "The Dark Knight," and I can't wait to see what he does next.

* Saw a Shark swallowed up by a Paddy. Fifty-three-year-old Greg Norman inexplicably was leading The Open Championship when he woke up this morning, having slept on a third-round lead in golf's oldest major tournament ... after not having played in the last 11 majors and entering this one simply as a warmup to next week's Senior Open Championship while basking in the afterglow of his recent marriage to tennis legend Chris Evert.

Sadly, Father Time caught up with the Great White Shark today at Royal Birkdale, as Norman couldn't keep the clocked turned back completely. Defending champion Padraig Harrington turned in a wondrous one-under-par round of 69 in brutal conditions on Sunday for a four-round total of three over par, enabling the Irishman to be crowned "champion golfer of the year" in back-to-back years. Tiger Woods -- injured and unable to compete this week -- had previously held the title in 2006 and 2005.

* Musical musings. Listened a lot to the new John Mellencamp record -- a contemporary folk offering produced by T. Bone Burnett -- and found it to be excellent.

Spent some more time with The Hold Steady's new one, "Stay Positive," and still like it, although its flaws are becoming more evident upon repeated exposure. But the good stuff -- namely the two leadoff tracks ("Constructive Summer" and "Sequestered in Memphis"), the title track and the two closing tracks ("Joke About Jamaica" and "Slapped Actress") are all first-rate musically. I read somewhere (maybe Esquire?) that The Hold Steady's last record -- the sublime "Boys and Girls in America" from 2006 -- sold fewer than 80,000 copies. I realize that musicians now basically make their entire living from touring -- and thankfully The Hold Steady draw a decent crowd on the road -- but that number seemed shockingly low to me. Never underestimate the lack of musical taste in this country.

Found the new Beck to be underwhelming.

Have high hopes for the new Okkervil River advance and have heard good things about -- believe it or not -- a Glen Campbell covers collection coming next month that finds the country impresario interpreting U2, the Velvet Underground, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Replacements, Green Day and Travis, among others.

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