Two quick notes from the blog clearinghouse:
1. Cannes Time.
Even for cinephiles who don't get to travel overseas, these next 10 days are something special, as we obsessively check and re-check our favorite film sites for dispatches from Cannes. It's an amazing slate this year too, both in competition and out, with highly anticipated new features from the likes of Wong Kar-Wai, the Coen brothers, Béla Tarr, Kim Ki-Duk, Faith Akin, Gus Van Sant, Michael Moore, Abel Ferrara, and Emir Kusturica.
If I have one complaint about the tenor of Cannes coverage over the past couple of years, it's that most of the people who've been around long enough to get credentialed for Cannes tend to be somewhat jaded, and split between two tribes. On one side, you've got the hardcore types, yearning for austerity. They're looking for the hard sits–the films that drive cranky middlebrow critics like Variety's Todd McCarthy and Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells batty. On the other side, you've got McCarthy and Wells and Anne Thompson and others, who'd like nothing more than to find another Babel this fortnight. And sitting back home are a lot of dudes like me, who like movies that range from dopily commercial to aggravatingly abstract, and enjoy watching the Cannes fray from afar.
If you'd like to watch the fray yourselves, go to Variety, which offers daily reviews of nearly every film in and out of competition (most of them not written by McCarthy, thankfully), and Hollywood Elsewhere, where Wells will give a good taste of the overall Cannes experience, as well as passionately touting some films (and viciously hating others). The Hollywood Reporter also offers a full slate of reviews and industry perspectives; and, as always, look to Greencine for a roundup of links from bloggers and reviewers far and wide, from Indiewire to The New York Times.
And for heaven's sake, don't miss what's become my favorite story of the festival: Mike D'Angelo, freelance critic (and, I daresay, friend of mine), is attending the festival blind, having avoided reading anything about the competition slate. Each day, he'll be walking into at least two movies with no idea what he's going to see when the curtain rises. His reasons? Well, better let him explain it himself. Follow the story on ScreenGrab, and probably on Mike's website as well. (Check the middle of the page for daily grades.) Mike's a notorious Cannes contrarian, shrugging off the exhortation of middlebrows and ascetics alike. It'll be interesting to see if this experiment sways his usual "eh" reaction to the Cannes program.
Lastly, if you'd like to read a mini-history of Cannes, penned by yours truly, you can find it here.
2. TV Finales.
This is both a thrilling and tough time for TV addicts, because our favorite shows are wrapping up, which means that most of them are at their best right now–sorry, Lost-abandoners, but you've been missing a great show over the past few weeks–and yet they're about to strand us without any new episodes for many lonely summer months. (I miss Survivor already. Poor Yau-Man.)
Nearly every night these past two weeks, my stomach's been in knots over the fate of Shane on The Shield, or whether the blondes would win The Amazing Race (sadly, no), and whether New York will survive the onslaught of Heroes. It's pathetic I know, but I do so love TV.
At the same time, gorging on all this television has clarified for me some of the differences between "good TV"–of which there's actually little–and shows that are merely "TV-good."
I've enjoyed How I Met Your Mother all season, but I'm not deluding myself: Even at its best, it's only "TV-good." It succeeds within certain set formulas, and through the clever rearrangement of well-worn clichés. Almost all of its sophistication is on the surface. I'd also argue that aside from a couple of episodes–or maybe just one–Heroes has never been more than "TV-good" in its first season. Too much awkward dialogue, too many plot holes, etc. Lost is about half-and-half. The closer it gets to conventional action-adventure TV, the worse Lost is; but when the show zips off to mind-fuck-land, it's absolutely sublime. Leaving aside the fact that nobody ever talks to anybody else on Lost–something that's almost become a running joke at this point–you've still got a show that can scramble fans' brains week after week, leaving us pondering the deeper meanings.
As for The Shield, it seems that every year it starts as "good TV," shifts to merely "TV good," and then finishes as "great TV." Right now, it's kicking my ass. (Though I haven't watched this week's episode yet, so no spoilers in the comments, please.) I had a chance to talk to Michael Chiklis last week (for another publication…sorry), and when I told him how nervous The Shield was making me, he said, "Stay nervous. The stuff we're talking about for the seventh season? If I had hair, it'd be standing on end."
It's going to be tough waiting another year for The Shield's final season, once this one wraps in a couple of weeks. So you'd better bring on the compelling television, summer replacement season. Fox's On The Lot? I'm looking at you.
Two quick notes from the blog clearinghouse: