Thursday, March 31, 2005


Today, My Stupid Dog enters its "terrible twos" with a second bloggiversary.

When I started this blog, I was emerging from a crippling case of writer's block. With dozens of pent-up ideas clamoring for some outlet, my mind was rather noisy and unpleasant. By now I think I've managed to exorcise most of those stray thoughts. Along the way, to my surprise, I even picked up a few fans. My audience consisted mainly of fellow bloggers, but it was something. And I even received encouragement for my writing, which I never expected.

My posts have declined in quantity of late, and I think they've declined in quality as well. I don't think this blog is half as good now as it was during its first six months, when I was finally voicing some ideas that required several years to gestate. Alas, this blog, which began as expressive and observational, has become more reactive and contemporary with age: Analysis has degenerated to mere reviewing, theory to dogma, and politics (I fear) to posturing. Perhaps some of this is as it should be -- after all, it's hardly a sin to be up-to-date -- but I can't help feeling slightly disappointed in my own writing and in my own increasingly sloppy thought processes.

All the same, I intend to continue this blog, and perhaps take it in a few directions I've flirted with but never quite explored. I don't believe I'm entirely bereft of things to say, and although writing may have gradually dulled my insights, I suspect a renewed application to craft will sharpen them again.

I hope, gentle reader, you haven't been disappointed with my offerings over the past year. Perhaps the year to come will lead to some improvements, both for me and for My Stupid Dog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Closer? (No thanks, I just ate ...)

Via Our Girl in Chicago, a well-deserved pan of Mike Nichols's Closer in The New Republic Online. The Oscar-nominated Closer has just arrived on DVD, a little more than three months after it hit theaters. Better movies have skipped that intermediate step.

Here's my own review of Closer, more than a month old (I've edited the raw verbiage a bit):

Closer has all the problems of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and hardly any of its virtues. Patrick Marber's original stage play [on which the film is based] is no masterpiece, the acting (with the exception of Clive Owen) tends toward flatness, and the cinematography has the outdated slickness of an old "Miami Vice" episode. The movie itself concerns a vicious pas de quatre between a needy psychotic (Natalie Portman), a passive-agressive bitch (Julia Roberts), a preening cad (Jude Law) and a bully (Clive Owen). Between the four of them, there's not a single redeeming personal trait. Perhaps these characters deserve each other, and perhaps that's Marber's point.

Unfortunately, in this filmic context it makes no sense.
Closer is set in London, one of the most densely populated cities in Europe. The metropolitan area contains some eighteen million people. You'd think that with such a plethora of choices, one or more of these wretched but not unattractive characters would get the bright idea to cut their losses, date someone else and get on with their lives. No such luck.

... Nichols does his best to keep his main characters isolated from every other human being on the planet. Yet extras still linger in the backgrounds, or on the edges of the frame. You'd think someone would strike up a conversation with the four principals at some point, but no one does. It's a baffling phenomenon, and my only explanation for it that every man and woman in London is somehow "shunning" the lead characters .... Certainly no one deserves an old-fashioned shunning more than Julia Roberts' character -- but if that's the case, why is her art exhibit so well attended?

I haven't seen so many product placements in a movie since
Leonard, Part VI. Marber's infamous cybersex scene features a conspicuous plug for Sony VAIO computers, which one presumes are preferred by Internet perverts. Later in the movie, Law is seen drinking coffee from Costa. Frankly, I'm not sure if these companies paid for the exposure, or if their competitors did. I can't see why anyone would see their presence as an endorsement.

Closer also features what may be the most unbelievably contrived "Austin Powers" shot of all time: When Natalie Portman does a naked striptease for Clive Owen, the back of Owen's head barely blocks out Portman's naughty bits. (I suppose there were no potted plants available.)

This film might as well be titled "Carnal Ignorance."

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