Friday, May 13, 2005

Magazine report: Rolling Stone

Barbarella is back. that's right, Jane Fonda, whose nudie romp in that 1968 sci-fi sex saga is still a rouser on DVD, has returned to movies for the first time in fifteen years. She doesn't hide the lines on her strong, patrician face. She doesn't need to -- class and beauty will always win out. Fonda, 67, plays a mother. And what a mother. Viola Fields is a talk-show star of Barbara Walters wattage. She is about to be replaced by a bimbo. Her sassy assistant (Wanda Sykes) remembers Viola passing out when The View won an Emmy. On her last TV stint, Viola strangles a Britney Spears clone who proudly says she's never read a newspaper.
Viola is having a meltdown. And this is when her only son, Kevin (Michael Vartan), announces that he -- a doctor -- is about to marry Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez), a Latina temp. The film, directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), from a script by Anya Kochoff, is hardly classic farce. Fonda, like Robert De Niro -- her co-star in her previous film, 1990's Stanley and Iris -- is on the low-comic road to a Meet the Fockers pot of gold. Snobs be damned. It's a hoot to watch Fonda cut loose and mix it up with J. Lo, even when the laughs turn mean-spirited. Broadway legend Elaine Stritch is killer funny as Viola's own monster-in-law. Fonda, be it as Hanoi Jane or workout queen, keeps springing surprises. Knockabout comic is just the latest incarnation in Fonda's life so far. Let her rip.

That's from Peter Travers' review of Monster-in-Law in the latest Rolling Stone. Remember Monster-in-Law is now playing. Brady e-mailed to ask why I didn't add Rolling Stone to the links on the left? It was an oversight, Brady. Yesterday, if I'd been thinking, would have been the perfect time to have added Rolling Stone. We'll add it when we do the next round of links.
But the current issue arrived yesterday so what we can do is a magazine spotlight.

Let's start with Robert Dreyfuss' "The Quagmire: As the Iraq war drags on, it's beginning to look a lot like Vietnam" (which BuzzFlash highlighted last Saturday):

The news from Iraq is bad and getting worse with each passing day. Iraqi insurgents are stepping up the pace of their attacks, unleashing eleven deadly bombings on April 29th alone. Many of the 150,000 Iraqi police and soldiers hastily trained by U.S. troops have deserted or joined the insurgents. The cost of the war now tops $192 billion, rising by $1 billion a week, and the corpses are piling up: Nearly 1,600 American soldiers and up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, as well as 177 allied troops and 229 private contractors. Other nations are abandoning the international coalition assembled to support the U.S., and the new Iraqi government, which announced its new cabinet to great fanfare on April 27th, remains sharply split along ethnic and religious lines.
But to hear President Bush tell it, the war in Iraq is going very, very well. In mid-April, appearing before 25,000 U.S. soldiers at sun-drenched Fort Hood, in Texas, Bush declared that America has succeeded in planting democracy in Iraq, creating a model that will soon spread throughout the Middle East. "That success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran," the president boasted to chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" from the troops. "The establishment of a free Iraq is a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Staying on message, aides to Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, later suggested that U.S. forces could be reduced from 142,000 to 105,000 within a year.
In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.

That's an excerpt, use the link to read more. While we're in the political section, we'll note
Bob Moser's "The Crusaders: Christian evangelicals are plotting to remake America in their own image." Here's an excerpt:

Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a "faith-based" government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back.
"Most people hear them talk about a 'Christian nation' and think, 'Well, that sounds like a good, moral thing,' says the Rev. Mel White, who ghostwrote Jerry Falwell's autobiography before breaking with the evangelical movement. "What they don't know -- what even most conservative Christians who voted for Bush don't know -- is that 'Christian nation' means something else entirely to these Dominionist leaders. This movement is no more about following the example of Christ than Bush's Clean Water Act is about clean water."
The godfather of the Dominionists is D. James Kennedy, the most influential evangelical you've never heard of. A former Arthur Murray dance instructor, he launched his Florida ministry in 1959, when most evangelicals still followed Billy Graham's gospel of nonpartisan soul-saving. Kennedy built Coral Ridge Ministries into a $37-million-a-year empire, with a TV-and-radio audience of 3 million, by preaching that it was time to save America -- not soul by soul but election by election. After helping found the Moral Majority in 1979, Kennedy became a five-star general in the Christian army. Bush sought his blessing before running for president -- and continues to consult top Dominionists on matters of federal policy.
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost," Kennedy says. "As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

I see that Rolling Stone has a blog online. I wasn't aware of that. We'll add it when we add the link to the magazine next in the next round of links but for now click here.

Moving on, we'll note Peter Bergen's "The Shadow Warrior: How did Jack Idema, a convicted con man and former Special Forces soldier, end up in an Afghanistan prison?" with this excerpt:

Kabul's pleasantly edgy vibe has attracted its fair share of war junkies and mysterious guys in dark shades who aren't about to tell you what they do for a living. Ground zero for this crowd is the Mustafa hotel, a dingy joint where drinks are served by giggling Thai women from the massage parlor conveniently located inside the hotel. The king of the Mustafa scene, until his arrest last July, was Jack Idema, who first arrived in Kabul in fall 2001, shortly after the defeat of the Taliban.
Idema told those who were curious that he was doing humanitarian work or that he was a security consultant for journalists covering the war against the Taliban or that he was a special adviser to the Northern Alliance. If he really wanted to impress you, he might also tell you what his ultimate goal was: to be the guy who captured Osama bin Laden. Before his arrest, Idema was regarded around Kabul as something of a blowhard. It was only after he was detained that Idema's criminal history and chronic litigiousness, which included abetting wire fraud and unsuccessfully suing film director Steven Spielberg, became widely known, as did his penchant for threatening journalists and, on one occasion, shooting in their vicinity. It was perhaps inevitable that Idema, a convicted felon, was going to get into some kind of trouble in Afghanistan. And so he did, in a story that has unfolded like a movie written by a twenty-first-century Graham Greene, powered by a dark Middle-Eastern techno soundtrack by Deep Dish.
Idema straddled the civilian and military worlds in Afghanistan, a balancing act that attracted little comment until his arrest. That's because in today's U.S. military, functions that were once handled by the uniformed services have increasingly been taken over by civilians. In Afghanistan, American contractors do everything from guarding local bigwigs, including President Hamid Karzai, to conducting Al Qaeda interrogations.

[CJR magazine has also reported on Jack Idema: "Tin Soldier: An American Vigilante In Afghanistan, Using the Press for Profit and Glory" by Mariah Blake.]

In the front section of the magazine ("Rock & Roll"), Coldplay's new album gets notices (X&Y to be released June 7, 2005). Sting on tour, a college campus tour, and he's performing both solo songs and songs from the Police. Lollapalooza will play again, July 23 and 24 in Chicago with guests such as "Weezer, the Pixies, the Killers, Widespread Panice, Billy Idol, the Arcade Fire and Dinosaur Jr. Tickets cost fifty dollars a day . . ." Garbage's latest CD had the highest chart debut of any of their CDs thus far (Bartcop is a huge fan of Shirley Manson's -- lead singer for Garbage and the new album is one Jim of Third Estate Sunday Review is listening to). Audioslave is performing not just the songs from their first album and their forthcoming album on the current tour (they'll be touring Europe this summer and begin touring in the U.S. "in August or September"), they'll also be performing some songs from Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. (Audioslave's new album is due out May 24, 2005.)

There's an article by Brian Hiatt entitled "Radio From Outerspace" about satellite radio. (I'm not finding it online.) In it, we learn that XM and Sirius currently reach a little over five million listeners. Traditional radio (non-satellite, non-internet, non-iPod) listening is "down thirteen percent from a decade ago."

There's a Q&A with Robert Plant (by Austin Scaggs, for those not familiar with the "Q&A" section of Rolling Stone, this isn't The Rolling Stone Interview. This is a one pagge Q&A.)
In Random Notes, we learn that Wilco will begin recording their follow up to A Ghost Is Born (Kat reviewed this album in a Kat's Korner) in August and that their Chicago shows (Vic Theater in May) will be recorded "for a live DVD."

Matt Taibbi (who also writes for New York Press) has an article entitled "God and Man In Kentucky" (not available online). Here's an excerpt:

Justice Sunday would be an evening affair; the Highview Baptist mega-church in Louisville, Kentucky, was to be converted into a political arena for a controversial national telecast on April 24th, during which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would join a parade of prominent evangecials to denounce Democrats as being "against people of faight."
America would be watching that night but I went to services in the morning, just to listen. You need time to get into the peculiar spirit of an evangical event. Enter the church quietly; sing along to the hymns; follow the words on the four giant telescreens. Surely no one will notice me, a godless East Coast journalist, here in this 2,000-strong crowd of advanced orthodonics, perfect haircuts and discount sweaters.
When services were over, I darted to the exit. But before I could get out, an old man with gold-rimmed glasses dropped his hand on my neck with an audible slap!
"You must be from the ACLU," he said.
"Must I?" I asked. "Why?"
"Because you don't look happy," he said.
"A person from the ACLU can't be happy?" I asked.
"No," he said. "He can't."

Chris Rock has a Q&A as well (much shorter than Robert Plant's, it's less than half a page). And Rob Sheffield address "Ill Poppa" in his "Pop Life:"

Ratzinger was the top Vatican commando under Pope John Paul II, where
he earned a reputation as a hatchet man, smacking down any hint of disobedience like Freddie Mercury using a riding crop on the new Moroccan
pool boy.

The "Picture of the Week" is Bully Boy strolling with (and holding hands with) Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Then you have the cover story on Orlando Bloom. And in answer to Marci's question about a story in Monday's New York Times, box office health judged by a week when the big premiere was Kingdom of Heaven aren't exactly reliable medical records. Bloom is popular. So is/was Heath Ledger. Neither had crossed the point where they could pull in general audiences. (Think of Keanu Reeves before Speed.) Ridley Scott's reluctance to work with established stars hurt the box office of Kingdom of Heaven before the film ever opened. Bloom's not at the point where he can carry a film by himself (and period dramas are always hard sells). Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, though fine actors, don't fill the seats. Bloom may prove to be someone who can open a film but not this one.

(And yes, Marci, it did appear this week that, in the Ray Stark art collection article, the Times was kissing David Geffen's ass. Whether they did so in time to help the paper's attempts at becoming a player in Los Angeles is anyone's guess.)

Young Hollywood of '05 is a picture spread with brief bio sketches. Among those pictured are Cillian Murphy (the Scarecrow in Batman Begins -- Christian Bale plays Batman), Jessica Biel (of TV fame who'll star in the thriller Stealth), Jason Ritter (son of John Ritter, who'll appear in Don Roos' Happy Ending), Khadijah & Malika (twins who'll be seen in Sky High), Emile Hirsch (stars in Lords of Dogtown), Chad Michael Murray (of TV fame who's on screens now in the underperforming House of Wax -- bad trailer and pedestrian remake), Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia star -- never watched but she was a strong guest on Air America Radio one weekend -- Ring of Fire?; and one of the stars of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants which has strong buzz), Evan Rachel Wood (held her own opposite Holly Hunter in Thirteen, stars with Ron Livingston in the upcoming Pretty Persuasion).

Which brings us to the review section. Dave Matthes Band gets three and a half stars. (I didn't read the review because I haven't picked up the CD yet.) Weezer, Van Morrison, Mike Jones, Lucinda Williams and Amerie get brief reviews. Rob Scheffield has a very funny, very brief review of a Shock and Jawer, country poser. (And you probably know whom we mean just by that description.)

Movie section. Which I'd only read the Monster-in-Law review of until just now. Kingdom of Heaven gets three stars, House of Wax one star, Monster-in-Law gets three stars as does The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Bruce Springsteen's concert in Detroit gets four stars, Bob Dylan's in New York gets four and a half stars, Lenny Kravitz's concert in Boston gets three and a half stars.

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