Fou; fou
Many things to do today: poison birds, write intro essay for book, write column, take nice pictures of Hennepin Av. architecture, take picture of rabbit. Accomplished but one of these lofty goals. The day’s an utter waste.

Although I learned that the birds cannot be dispatched as easily as I thought. This afternoon I realized that the birds - the enemies of REM, the adversaries of sleep, the evil avian foes of contentment - were drowning out the radio. The radio! I leaned over and banged on the screen, hoping to dislodge the bastards from their perches on the vines. It worked - they backed off and hovered a yard away from the window, chattering nastily. Then they perched on a utility line and continued to bitch. I counted: one, two, three . . .

And so forth to FOURTEEN. There are fourteen birds living in the vines, and they’re vocal from 5 AM to 8 PM. Heretofore I’ve loved birds. Enjoyed their dulcet warblings. That was before this Summer of Sleeplessness. Tomorrow I am electrifying the vines. Doodly do do: SHOCKIN’ Robin.

Recent movies, seen in the comfort of the home theater at Lileks Manor, aka the living room, albeit with a pair of old Bose 901s to provide adequate sound:

Liberty Heights. This was the Friday night movie, the one I see with my wife. Meaning, no guns, lots of conversation. I draw the line at sappy actionless weepers, though. When she brought home “The End of the Affair” on Saturday, I said “that’s one of those movies where everyone wears hats and stands around in the rain talking about how tragic things are.” She peered at me as if I was slightly mad: rain? “Yes, rain. Everyone stands out in the rain shouting unhappily about passion.” (She watched it, and I asked how it was; she replied, warily, that people stood in the rain, wearing hats. A lot.)

Liberty Heights is another of Barry Levinson’s paeans to Balmer, to urban Maryland circa 1954. It’s a period I love to see recreated, if it’s done with care and honesty. Hence the appeal of his other movies - Diner, Tin Men, and Avalon - I remember little about them other than the fact that I liked them. “Liberty Heights” tackles the Burning Social Issues of the day, although “tackle” isn’t the right word, since a tackle is an act of brisk decision, and this movie was sloooooow as Karo syrup. It ended about eight times. There wasn’t a single plot point you couldn’t see in advance. Cliches abounded. The humor was funny, but it wasn’t a humorous movie; the drama was, well, dramatic, but nothing ever seemed imperiled. I liked it anyway. In the theater you’d check your watch, frequently, after the first hour and a half, but at home, you just sink back and let it ramble on. It had heft. From the cars to the drapes in the burlesque house, it had heft. It glowed and shone; every day was autumn, 1954, and for that alone I’ll give it a thumbs up. Also a reminder that urban 1954 looked mostly like 1928, with new paint and some nifty neon. The 50s weren’t Googie from stem to stern. They were Googie here and there.

Saturday night I went back to work on the book (printed off 40 pages while Liberty Heights played) and then rewarded myself with Saturday Night One AM Action Theater. Extra-fat buttery popcorn, a flagon of Keitel One, the dog beside me on the sofa, the DVD in the drawer: a fine collection of simple pleasures. Often times I think: I should just go to bed now, in case the movie stinks. It might not get better than this.

I’d rented “Blade” on the Giant Swede’s recommendation. I hate vampire movies; I just don’t like vampires, period; they’re boring, and they smell. I steeled myself for standard mindless dreck. And I got something else: a brisk, well-written action movie with some jaw-dropping setpieces. Never lost my interest; never made me roll my eyes, and always kept me wondering what was en route next. Even the inevitable battle at the end didn’t overstay its welcome. I enjoyed every minute. Highest praise for a Saturday Night One AM Action Theater: when I used the loo during the slow talky parts, I didn’t let it roll; I hit pause.

Batman and Robin. I rented this for two reasons: sometimes I want a big, loud, bad movie, something so bad that watching it becomes a cultural exercise, a perverse form of reverse entertainment. I knew this one was bad - number three stunk, and this was the same director - but I was not prepared for the depths of humorless wretchedness this one plumbed. Bad casting, bad script, bad plot, bad dialogue, ridiculous effects, bad acting. Pure KREP from stem to stern with nary a redeeming frame. I enjoyed Arnie’s gusto - somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s still a poor Bavarian hick, and unless he gives everything 110% they’re going to take everything away and send him back to Chermany.

Everyone else was horrible. Uma Thurman was channeling the spirit of Mae West, but through a Dixie Cup with a frayed string. Clooney seemed embarrassed in every frame. Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone should just back away slowly from the thespian’s craft before they dent it or leave a mark. Joel Schumacher, or however you spell his name, should be dragged from his office by his collar into the woods, where the “look in your haht Chawlie” scene from Miller’s Crossing will be replayed, except that this time he takes the lead pill in the brainpan - twice! Once for opening a frickin’ Batman movie with ass shots (Paging Dr. Wertham; paging Dr. Frederick Wertham) and once for giving Batman a credit card with the Batman logo. Unforgivable.

Run Lola Run. Overhyped. Good, but overhyped. Some of its “brilliant” touches - the clickclickclick still-shots of tangential characters’ futures - seemed forced, and other ideas, such as the animation, were just stupid. Lola’s supersonic Memorex screech was an eye-roller, too: please. But what a soundtrack. If I’d had internet-enabled TV I’d have paused, gone to Amazon and one-clicked after 20 minutes. (Note: the music is repetitious trance-inducing techno Krautfunk, but I love that stuff.

Replacement Killers. I give up. No one will make a good movie in America starring Chow Yun-Fat. We just can’t do it.

Next weekend’s movies: The Birds. The Killer. Sleepy Hollow. End of Days. Will I like them? Yes. And no.
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