Category Archives: movies

Somewhere a dog barked

From Rosecrans Baldwin in Slate:

As a reader of novels and not much else, I keep a running list of authorial whims. Male writers of the Roth/Updike generation, for example, love the word cunt. Also, where novelists once adorned their prose with offhand French bon mots, Spanish now appears. Here’s another: Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance. I’ve seen it happen across the spectrum—Jackie Collins, William Faulkner, and Chuck Palahniuk: “There was no more rain, just an eerie stillness, a deathly silence. Somewhere a dog barked mournfully.” (American Star) “She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway.” (Light in August) “This is such a fine neighborhood. I jump the fence to the next backyard and land on my head in somebody’s rose bush. Somewhere a dog’s barking.” (Choke)

I checked The Grasshopper King, and nope:  no barking dogs.  There’s a ceramic dog, and one dog who howls (but who appears moments later, and is named) and finally, near the end, a talking dog.  Me 1, cliche 0.

In other Slate literary coverage, Dan Kois reviews Ben H. Winter’s novel The Last Policemana detective story set in a future where Earth is six months away from certain destruction by asteroid collision.  When I was in college I took Spike Lee’s screenwriting course, and my screenplay was roughly on the same theme. It was a meteor heading for the earth, not an asteroid, and the atmosphere was supposed to be roughly that of After Hours or Into the Night.  It was called Planet Earth.  Lee’s total commentary on the screenplay, written on page 3, was “Some parts I laughed, some parts I didn’t,” and he gave me an A-.

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What the ’80s looked like

For readers too young to remember.  The patterns we used to put on things!  They were wonderful.

“I Feel Good About Myself,” from Meet The Hollowheads

(This movie is indescribably strange and while it is not, in the usual sense, good, I’m extremely glad I watched it and miss the world in which it could be made.)

The Art of Noise, “Peter Gunn Theme”


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Movies I cried at in 2011

  • Bridesmaids
  • The Muppets

What has become of me?  It has something to do with having kids, I think.  Some people say “I became a totally different person when my children are born” but for me it’s been almost the opposite.  In this one way, though, I’ve changed.  Before children I used to be impervious to sentimental scenes.  Now I choke up because one puppet misses another.  Mysterious.


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Happy Jim Traber Day

Twenty-seven years ago today, Jim Traber made his major-league debut for the Orioles.  And he sang the national anthem before the game!  Heroic.

When I think about Jim Traber I think about the three weeks in 1986 when he looked like the next great Oriole slugger.  He came up in the middle of July, age 24 with 10 previous games on his major-league resume, and hit .373 with 8 home runs in his first 20 games.  He seemed unstoppable.  At the time I had no understanding of the concept of “sample size.”  I remember being in Seattle, where my parents had a conference, and buying a Post-Intelligencer so I could see the previous day’s box score and find out what Jim Traber had done.  I sat under the Space Needle reading about Jim Traber and then I went to see the Laurie Anderson concert movie Home of the Brave.  The Post-Intelligencer doesn’t exist anymore.  Neither do Orioles sluggers.  Box scores and Laurie Anderson are still around, but seem less relevant all the time.

“I think it’s a pain cry.”

“Que es mas macho?  Pineapple o knife?”

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David Lynch/parenting protip

Don’t watch “Inland Empire” while holding your baby.  Your baby won’t mind, but if you watch a David Lynch movie for ten minutes and then look down at your baby, your baby’s face will freak you out.

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The best math joke that will appear in a major Hollywood picture this year

Early in the just-released Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character reveals to a young coworker his dream of registering 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines.  She responds dismissively, “Isn’t 10 million just a number?”

Clooney replies — with just the right weary exasperation — “Pi is just a number.”

It’s a good movie, by the way, better than I expected from the trailer.  It doesn’t try to do anything very hard and it possesses simple virtues:  good writing, good acting, good pacing.  Then again, almost every movie I see lacks at least one of these; so in this sense Up in the Air tried something hard after all.

By the way, I can no longer hear Clooney’s name without thinking of the recorded “Doors Closing” announcement on the DC Metro.  It really does sound exactly like a voice warning you, softly, robotically, and somehow wistfully, “George Clooney.”

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Thursday is your last chance to see Anvil! The Story of Anvil in Madison

While we’re talking about watching rock music and getting choked up, I ought to mention that Anvil!  The Story of Anvil is finishing its limited engagement at Sundance 608 on Thursday, September 24.  It’s a movie about perseverance; more precisely, how to tell the difference between perseverance and stupid, life-ruining stubbornness, and how to stay just on the right side of the line.  Also about heavy metal.  But you don’t have to care about heavy metal.  This might be the best movie of the year.

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Reader survey: nerdy memories

On the flight back from England I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about a bunch of nerds sharing an apartment.  It’s not very funny, unfortunately, but it’s surprisingly accurate in its delineation of the primary branches of nerddom.

Anyway, one of the nerds in the episode took fervent exception to a non-nerd character mistaking light-years for years.  And this reminded me of the time in college that I went to see Star Wars, and at the point in the movie when Han Solo brags that the Millenium Falcon is the only ship to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, I yelled out “The parsec is not a unit of time!”

Anybody got a nerdier memory than that?

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Someone still loves you Meredith Salenger

Meredith Salenger went to college with me.  This was before Natalie Portman and the guy from Weezer came to town, and Meredith, who starred in The Journey of Natty Gann as a kid and moved up to leading young lady in a couple of teen movies, was as big a star as we had.  She lived in the same building as I did but we never exchanged a word, and to be honest I remember her as stuck-up and clubby.

So the other day I was Googling her name (because I routinely Google starlets of the ’80s?  No — because I was looking for commentary about the Orioles trade of Oscar Salazar for Cla Meredith, and when I started typing “meredith salazar” her name came up on the autocomplete) and I discovered an enjoyable series of posts by Scott Venci, who blogs about high school sports for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.  Venci, a Meredith Salenger fan from way back, somehow got hold of her e-mail address and decided to see if he could get her to do a phone interview for his blog.  His secondary goal was to propose marriage.

Well, Meredith Salenger is still single, but she did do the interview, and it’s good reading.  Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Especially interesting:  what she gave up to go to Harvard, which for most people is a career enhancer.

“I thought, ‘OK. I’ll go to Harvard for four years, and when I get back I’ll keep having movies offered to me,” Salenger said. “I was young, and I didn’t know. Nobody in my family is in this business. It was never a question of whether I was going to go to college. But when I graduated, it was like, ‘Oh, wait. You’re not a name anymore.’ It was only four years, but it definitely affected my career.”

She comes off throughout as smart, reflective, and funny, and I’m sorry I thought she was stuck-up and clubby — unless of course she actually was stuck-up and clubby at the time, in which case I’m glad she isn’t any more.

If that’s not enough Meredith Salenger for you, here’s her twitter feed.

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