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Sure, okay, I know: Nicolas Cage has been so bad, for so long, in so many spectacularly terrible movies, that not only is the man a joke, the joke has begun to fall in upon itself.

But people forget: every now and then he takes a break from his blockbuster hucksterisms to deliver an amazing performance in something singular and lasting. Think Raising Arizona. Or Wild at Heart. Or Leaving Las Vegas. Or Adaptation. Sometimes it’s for laughs; sometimes it’s purposefully stilted; sometimes he’s actually breaking your heart. Weirdly, the most limited hack in Hollywood also demonstrates impressive range.  He’s performed one admirable turn each for some of the great arthouse directors of our time — Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Spike Jonze, Martin Scorcese — yet there’s something inscrutable to how these rare performances come about amid all the interminable Bruckheimer hokum.

So I really have no idea what to make of the fact that Cage is starring in an upcoming Bad Lieutenant film, directed by Werner Herzog, who insists that this is not a remake. (If I were Abel Ferrara I’d be livid, but I’m not Abel Ferrara.)

Uh… sick? Whatever. Nobody directs actors to completely lose their shit quite the way Herzog does, and nobody takes it all someplace new for a one-off performance like Cage. Whether it’s a bad cop we wind up seeing or just a bad actor, I look forward to watching someone degrade himself past the point of recognizability.

UPDATE: The trailer got taken down from YouTube. So I found another one! (Which, maybe, will last a whole 24 hours.)

NEW UPDATE 11/23: I haven’t seen the film yet. But Roger Ebert has — and his review is excellent.


What do you think of when someone says “Twitter”?

To me it evokes an elusive utility: a tool devised to connect us over distances, one that encourages quick and pithy pronouncements, one that has played a functional role in scattered public events within the past couple years — yet one that, for the larger part, produces nothing better than a steady barrage of inanity.

People you are dimly aware of stream minutial accounts of their trips to grocery stores in cities you’ve never cared to visit; far-flung erstwhile colleagues discuss their pets’ eating disorders; the dimmer lights of Congress petulantly flaunt their ignorance

I think of the luminaries at the top of this blogging game who still scratch their heads and pronounce that “no good can come of this.”

Now: what do you think of when someone says “New Yorker“?

Kind of the opposite, right? The élan vital of the elite virtu? A high-end, supremely literate, exhaustively verbose weekly burst of thoughtful observations on culture, global politics, and the humanities, to be perused at one’s leisure? Except that most people have neither the disposable income nor the time — the leisure — to enjoy it?

Sasha Frere-Jones deconstructs M.I.A. before she even exists; Seymour Hersh tunnels into our byzantine relationship with Pakistan’s I.S.I.; D.T. Max catalogues the tragic final months in the life of the mind of David Foster Wallace

I think of Charlie Kaufman’s sideways compliment to Susan Orlean in Adaptation: “Great, sprawling, New Yorker shit.”

Enter Dan Baum, whose exit from the New Yorker‘s writing staff became the subject of an essay that he dispatched through his Twitter account in hundreds of discrete “character chunks” over the course of three days within the past week.

It’s actually a fascinating story: we learn of how one attains a gig at journalism’s Shangri-La, how stories are pitched or assigned there, and how such gigs are lost to the ordinary grind of office politics.

Kottke points to the tweet archive. Simon Owens of Bloggasm scores an interview.

Now: should I tweet about having just blogged about Twitter?

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has some deep thoughts about torture:

But where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it.


Actually, Dick, if you devote even a fraction of your attention, you’ll notice that most American critics of the War on Terror as practiced by the most recent Administration are highly in favor of making public as much information as possible, as they are primarily concerned with determining who authorized the torture, and when, and why, and what the practical effects of those decisions have been — which sort of undercuts your two propositions that

A) critics of the torture already know why it was done, and

B) the focus of this criticism is directed at the CIA agents who performed these acts, rather than at the Administration officials who called for them.

As to A), the running theories are that

a) the Bush Administration comprised a gang of sadistic imps who were simply too inept to allow intelligence professionals to perform their jobs in the manner in which they had been trained, and

b) the Bush Administration believed that if they could extract some bogus confessions indicating collusion between an Afghanistan-centric Al-Qaeda and a nuclear-enabled Iraq, they could bolster their bogus case for an expanded war.

Naturally, while these theories  do complement one another, they are nonetheless mere running theories, so they beg for further information which may alter our understanding as said information arises. Which is why the hell we are having this discussion.

I first became aware of the retrailer sometime in the early fall of 2005 — not via YouTube, as the site had then scarcely begun to exist — with a retooled Shining trailer that imagined the horror classic as a feel-good family comedy:

This gem says a lot of things, however elliptically, about the ways in which we interact with popular culture through time — for instance, the suggestion that a film could attain totemic significance by unnerving us to our sinews only to finally evolve, 25 years after the artifact’s release, into singularly effluvial kitsch; or that Peter Gabriel’s song “Solsbury Hill”, released in 1977 (the same year as the original novel The Shining), a song about a moment of spiritual epiphany of all things, would have lain dormant in the culture for most of that time period before a sudden deluge of exposure in movie trailers of the early 21st Century would render it the nadir of treacly commercialism.

Since then we’ve had a number of these things, including Ten Things I Hate About Commandments, 8 1/2 Mile, and Brokeback to the Future.

Sure, one can reduce the phenomenon to a pedestrian meddling between the sacred and the profane, the artistic and the opportunistic (approximating Riff Market‘s digression on Girl Talk) — but the main takeaway seems to be that these things are fun.

Flash forward to May 2009, wherein Andrew Sullivan, via Buzzfeed, points to an interpretation of Dirty Dancing as a David Lynch film:

Now somebody envision Mulholland Drive as an episode of Three’s Company, and we’re really driving somewhere.