Thursday, June 29, 2006

Election (the reality...not the movie)

'Tis the season to cast one's vote for the either a rock or a hard place, the frying pan or the fire, the devil or the deep blue sea. This year I actually read an email post from a local activist so disappointed with the flip-flopping, and ultimately pro-ban position of her gubernatorial candidate of choice, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, on same-sex civil unions and marriage and the troubling legality of the ban (see below) that she had written the candidate an open letter in which she was urging all of her activist colleagues and friends to vote Republican. Have things gotten that bad? You can see private citizen video illustrations of Cox's 2002 - 2004 waffling here and here.

Here in my currently peripatetic life the battle for Georgia Governor is between Secretary of State Cathy Cox and Lt. Governor Mark "the Big Guy" Taylor--so nicknamed because of his height and girth. Cathy Cox is not be confused with Kathy Cox the apparently incompetent and ineffectual State Superintendent of Schools who was nevertheless endorsed by the Georgia Association of Educators (who have also endorsed Taylor this year). The mudslinging has begun in the fight for Governor, with Cox and Taylor trading punches ad for ad:

• COX: "I'm not the 'Big Guy.'... State government's already got plenty of guys who think they're just a little bigger than the rest of us...And it's a big part of what's holding Georgia back: 'Big Guys' just scratching the backs of ... you guessed it other 'Big Guys'...Well all that's got to change to move Georgia forward..." (video)
• TAYLOR: "Cathy Cox says she's not the 'Big Guys'? She's right about that, Mark Taylor "the Big Guy"lead the fight to eleminate the state sales tax on groceries the largest tax cut in Georgia history... eradicated the sales tax on food...Cathy Cox said 'I don't see that anyone is starving because of the sales taxes that are now charged on food.'" (I called this the Marie Antoinette quote--i.e. "let them eat cake." which of course is what the Taylor campaign called it) (video)
• COX: "Mark Taylor is supposed to be a friend to labour, but he has shares in Wal-Mart, while his campaign chair (former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor) Andrew Young has been hired as an advocate for the company. " (Georgia is both anti and pro Wal-Mart depending on the area you can read about Young's Wal Mart involvement here)
• COX: Mark Taylor got contracts for prison [industrial complex] who use free inmate labor thereby underbidding Georgia business owners with law-abiding employees. (video)
• TAYLOR: "Mark Taylor never owned a company that got prison labor. Mark Taylor does believe that prisoner should work, Cathy Cox doesn't think a lot of them belong there: she voted against mandatory sentencing for child molesters and rapist."
• TAYLOR: "Mark Taylor voted for the State Lottery which funds the Hope Scholarships for Georgia Students; Cox was against it"
• COX: "Cathy Cox has always supported the Hope Scholarships"
• TAYLOR: "Cathy Cox's local paper said 'she did not vote for the lottery [which funds the Hope Scholarship].'" (the Mark Taylor campaign video on these last two issue; and a private citizen video intervention on the Hope Scholarship issue)

And on and on with neither candidate supporting LGBT rights, or talking about immigration issues, or rising gas costs, or transportation issues which are also key in Georgia at present. Thanks to the presence of there are numerous blogs on the race for Georgia governor. Some appear to be written by staffers, their viewpoints are so unequivocally supportive of one candidate. It's difficult to gauge accuracy, but the review of a cross-section of different blogs at least allows for a few different vantage points on the candidates.

Gay Marriage & Civil Unions
This week the status of the current ban on marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples is being decided. I'm not a proponent of marriage in general, but I don't believe any consenting adult of sound mind should be excluded from the institution if they desire participation. The constitutional amendent limiting marriage to heterosexual unions was voted in by 70% of Georgia voters back in November 2004. The measure also banned nonsanctified unions (If I understand the phrase correctly it pertains to both unmarried couples who are living together and any marriage officiated by a civil servant as apposed to an authorized religious functionary: priest, rabbi, minister). But that second ban wasn't listed on voter's ballots. Turns out the listing of this second item was illegal according to a 18th century "single subject rule" (about 41 states in the US still have these). Oops. So after a year of deliberation Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell overturned the ban. Turns out 55 law professors from public and private law schools throughout Georgia agree with her. Ah, but it's an election year so a number of people up for election and re-election are in a tizzy. Governor Perdue has put the dilemma on the desk of the State Supreme Court (whose motto is Fiat Justitia, Ruat Caelum: "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall") and make its decision by August 7, or the General Assmbly will have to hold a special session to put a replacement amendment on the ballot. No surprise that four of the Supreme Court Justice are themselves up for re-election. The former chief justice had this to say according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Norman Fletcher, the retired chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said he's concerned that Perdue — by issuing his deadline — has put his former colleagues between a rock and a hard place.

"If they [meet it], it looks a little bit like the executive branch is running the judicial branch. if they don't, with four of them on a ballot, then the blame for a special session will be placed on the court for not doing its duty," Fletcher said.
All this and required Georgia Voter ID cards for those without state or federal photo IDs that may not be ready in time for the election, potentially disenfrachising some 153,000 voters plus Katrina evacuees who have
relocated to Georgia. Additionally, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell having been found guilty of tax evasion is on his way to prison for 30 months. I couldn't even begin to summarize that trial (which was about more than tax evasion) and the supporting cast of characters (over 100 as I recall). I must have seen more varied drama in state politics, but all of this seems rather striking. If not for the ongoing rollercoaster of power-dealings in New Orleans, I would argue that sadly Georgia couldn't be beat for political drama.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Atlanta Pride March 2006...called on account of rain*

Sweet-tempered reader, I was on my way to the Pride March in ATL and then the sky opened and much needed rain began to flow, and then pour down from the sky.

The staccato growl of thunder was next, and lightning had been predicted. In Georgia lightning can hit a tree and wipe out power for a whole neighborhood, total a car, and a rip through a house. Since I don't have an exoskeleton even vaguely resembling that of a car or a tree, in fact none at all, I decide to call it a day. The Pride festivities had been cancelled on Friday due to winds accompanying that day's storm, that toppled the outdoor sound stage in Piedmont Park. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Pride Committee had no rain-contingency plan that I could locate.*

So, the photo at right was my Pride experience this weekend: Believe me, when you're in a Red State (that is getting ready to vote on a ban on gay marriage), chancing upon the willingness of a religious institution to make this public statement, is quite moving. Especially when it is located half a block from a sprawling Catholic church and school.

*6/26/06 Update: Apparently the march still happened, but the closing ceremony was cancelled. Congrats to everyone who safely navigated the rainstorm!

Friday, June 23, 2006

King Papers going to Morehouse College

CBS News reports that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and others came together behind the scenes and negotiated the purchase of the papers for an undisclosed sum*. The official buyer is indicated to be Morehouse College in Atlanta (ATL), Dr. King's alma mater, where they will also be housed. The scheduled Sotheby's auction has been cancelled. Whew!

*Update: originally when CBS News announced this sale (Friday, June 23, 2006) the purchase sum was not disclosed, but identified as more than the papers' $30 million estimated value, apparently that information has changed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Carbonist School... Is In Session: June 24 - August 5, 2006

• You were anticipating it, even though you didn't know what it was.
• You sensed it, familiar yet unknown.
• Your pulse was racing, but you weren't sure if from fear or anticipation...

(above right,
Family Photo, Cauleen Smith)

•• Is a dream a wish your heart makes? ••

Well, African American artists Beatrice L. Thomas, Cauleen Smith, Cinqué Hicks, and Lanneau White had a dream, or a vision, or an itch that in 2004 they worked over into a cosmic supernova pearl and birthed the Carbonist School Manifesto (2005).

For a manifesto, the Carbonist School's fiat is rather playful even as it is earnest, rather joyful even when it is laying down its party line, and, suprisingly, unabashedly revels in love. (I'm just gonna let the "man"-ifest destiny, "Man" I-festival wording alone right now, but I would have gone with something less specifically gendered and patriarchical-referent like, "Declaration," "Pronouncement" or "Resolution")

From the Carbonist School Manifesto:

DECLARATION: Because the properties of space and time determine the nature of motion, and the properties of motion, in turn, determine the nature of force; because of a brutal confinement of notions of blackness as content, commerce, and culture; because of a dismissal of the fundamental truth that blackness is the universal quotient, the neutral mode of measurement, the wholeness, the totality, and the void...The Carbonist School Be!

The Carbonist School is having its first public exhibition at the Eyedrum Gallery in ATL. The exhibition opens Saturday June 24th, but the Opening Reception is July 15th, 7-11pm. Gotta be a part of history, folks! As Gladys Knight would say: "I got-tuh go! I got-tuh go! (The Pips: All a-board, on the midnight train to Georgia...)."(above right, I Stand Alone, Beatrice L. Thomas)

Who's showing?
A little patience, but we thought you'd never ask!

Here's the listing from organizers/curators Charles Huntley Nelson and Cinqué Hicks. (I inserted the webpages below, so if each one is not the most current representation of the individual artist's work to date, don't blame Nelson and Hicks.) (below right, still from Lil' Big Head, Jabari Hall-Smith)

"The Carbonist School: Study Hall"
Eyedrum Art/Music
Suite 8, 290 MLK Jr. Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30312, USA
• June 24, 2006 through August 5, 2006 •

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, 15 July 2006 7–11 pm

"Study Hall" artists are:

Ogechi Chieke, New York
William Cordova, Miami
Torkwase Dyson, Atlanta (and here)
Kojo Griffin, Atlanta (and here)
Jabari Hall-Smith, Los Angeles
Leslie Hewitt, New York (and here for her archival intervention, Cast, at Yale University)
Charles Huntley Nelson, Atlanta
Mendi + Kieth Obadike, New York
Kevin Sipp, Atlanta (right, Mae De Santos, Kevin Sipp)
Cauleen Smith, Austin
Greg Tate, New York (and here; and here)
Beatrice L. Thomas, Austin (what! no website! see her image above)

Some more artist images to further expand the viewing palate:

(below, detail from William Cordova's studio)

(below right, Couple in Bed, Kojo Griffin)

(below, Greg Tate conducting, Burnt Sugar Arkestra; photo, Laura Williams)
(below, Ogechi Chieke)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Updates on Women's Reproductive Health

Seige on Last Mississippi Abortion Clinic

I just received this email from a representative of Georgians for Choice: The Statewide Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. Apparently Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) is planning to attack, from July 15-22, 2006, on the "gates of hell" whose "physical manifestation" they see as the gated entry to the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi (See the rather ominous video at the link in the below letter). Reproductive Choice Advocates are organizing and fundraising to mount a counter-protest, and apparently the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF) is providing help with travel expenses for Choice Advocates who want to be present for that effort. Some of the prior history of legislative shifts determining abortion service availability in Mississippi and other southern states is detailed in the PBS Frontline documentary, The Last Abortion Clinic: the entire documetary is at this link. BTW the Southern Abortion Fund is located in Richmond, VA, its mission is to provide funding for low income women in the southeastern US, particularly AL, MS, and LA, who are seeking to have abortions.

Hello Friends and Allies,

Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) has put out a
call for a siege on the last abortion-providing clinic in Jackson,
Mississippi this summer.
Their message is being spread far and
wide and we are planning a massive clinic defense demonstration to
keep the clinic open. July 15-22, 2006 is the proposed siege week.

In order to sustain a week's worth of clinic defense we are in need
of a variety of support and especially people to participate in the
counter-action. Currently, members of abortion funds across the
south are planning for a caravan to Jackson and we need your help!

If you are interested in participating in the caravan or would like
to be a fiscal sponsor of the caravan and clinic defense, please
contact us as soon as possible!

Also, we are in desperate need of items like water bottles and food
for the persons who will be convening in Jackson as well as housing
opportunities for the activists. We are also raising money to raise
awareness with buttons, stickers, t-shirts, and other items. Any
letters to the editor that you send regarding this event would be
helpful or any other publicity for that matter.

We are hoping for a big turn out to let the rest of the south know that
we are in this together. For more information or to find out how to donate contact
the Southern Abortion Fund at or the Jackson
area NOW chapter at

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in Jackson.

Quillin of the Southern Abortion Fund

FDA Approves HPV Vaccine from drug manufacturers Merck

As of June 8th this vaccine, Gardasil, is available to the public. HPV is sexually transmitted and can clear up by itself over time, but in other cases the infection lingers causing cancer decades after transmital. While the vaccine does not protect against all forms of cancer causing Human Papiloma Virus strains, only protecting against HPV-16 and HPV-18, it is the first step in efforts to create greater protections for women against cervical cancer. "Worldwide, 70% of women who develop cervical cancer have one or both of these types of HPV."It also protects against two of the HPV strains that cause cervical warts. An important issue raised being raised by the National Women's Health Network (NWHN) is making the vaccine available to women with less access to healthcare, and women's health information. Once again Merck holds the cards determining people's means to a medication that can save their lives. GlaxcoSmithKline has also developed a vaccine, Cervarix, targeting the same HPV strains, but to date it has only been approved for use in Europe. For more information check out the NWHN website HPV & vaccine information page. Sadly the New Scientist is reporting that conservative groups are pushing to ban vaccination because ideally it would be administered before a female had become sexually active. For some this raises the question of granting girls license to have premarital sex: "'Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,' says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council...'Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex.'" Of course, as the New Scientist noted, most young women have not even heard of HPV. Tellingly, while the HPV viruses are rarely cancerous in males, with penile cancer accounting for only 1% of cancers in men, vaccinating males before they become sexually active stops them from becoming carriers of the virus--also reducing their 80 percent lifetime risk of genital warts--but so far hardly a word among the conservatives about males' ability to transmit the virus to female (or male) sex partners. The moral fight is almost exclusively posited on the terrain of women's (hetero)sexuality. It is easy to imagine this becoming a loaded health policy issue. For a summary of the medical studies and some of the health policy questions check out this 2003 edition of Journal Watch: Women's Health from the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine as well as this May 2005 piece from The Nation columnist Katha Pollitt.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

RIP: Billy Preston and Hilton Ruiz, two gifted piano men

Billy Preston 1946 - 2006: May he fly like a bird up in the sky

Hilton Ruiz 1952-2006: He could do it all

Coming Soon: Code Z + MLK papers @ Sotheby's + Kevin Aviance attacked in NYC

Code Z: Black Visual Culture Now. Click Here :COMING SOON
At last artist/innovator Cinqué Hicks and crew are launching Hick's upgrade of his previous art site Electric Skin. No fear if you have the old Electric Skin link, it forwards directly to I mentioned this new site in an entry on Art Bloggers in ATL. Code Z's creators describes the site is as follows:

Code Z will be more than just a lively art news source. With community forums, feedback opportunities, and artists' works, Code Z will be an unparalleled network of black visual creators at the forefront of shaping our culture and our world.

As black artists, many of us have been pushing up against the boundaries of art for many years. We have felt the yawning absence of a forum such as this.

We know you've been pushing, too. Let's push together.
Sounds pretty exciting, no? You can get a taste of the site before its official August launch, by clicking on this image, or the one above: Code Z: Black Visual Culture Now. Click Here

MLK, Jr. Papers
j.'s theater notes that the Martin Luther King Papers are going to be auctioned at Sotheby's. The collection, to be offered as a single lot, has an estimated value of $30 million. The late Coretta Scott King had hoped that the papers would go to an institution, presumably with a public access/education program. Hopefully, as j. notes, the papers will be purchased and donated to such an institution by a history-minded philanthropist.
(pictured: a telegram inviting Dr. King, Jr. to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act at the US Capitol)

*Update 6/13/06 this 6/9/06 Atlanta Journal Constition article gives further details on the June 30th auction.

Attack on Kevin Aviance and the valuation of black queer lives
Also on j.'s theatre: New York-based black drag performer and singer Kevin Aviance was attacked in the East Village while walking to his home in Chelsea. His jaw was broken. Aviance recalls 6 or 7 young men approaching him shouting anti-gay slurs, they began beating him and threatened to kill him. Although the attacked occured on a crowded street, no one came to his aid until after Aviance had passed out and the beating had stopped. Three males, ages 20, 20, and 16, were arrested in connection with the attack and charged with first degree assault. Aviance was scheduled to perform in next week's NYC Gay Pride Festivities, but his injuries will prevent this. One indecipherable aspect of the attack: the young men kept repeating "You're not diesel," as they beat Aviance. Aviance is well-known for his live performances and his Billboard dance chart topping hits, 1997's remake of '80s hit, "Din Da Da," and 2000's, "Alive".

Rod 2.0 recently had a post dealing with public response (both gay and straight) to former B2K singer, Raz B., playing a gay character with HIV on queer cable station LOGO's prime time black soap, Noah's Arc. Raz B. (pictured right) wanted to help raise consciousness about the impact of HIV among African Americans. Unfortunately there was so much traffic, over 400 comments, mostly negative, that Concrete Loop, where the piece was located, had to close the comments section. The stridently hostile nature of some of these comments make clear how little value some imagine black queer lives to hold (either: 1) come out of the closet already or you're worthless; or 2) stay in the closet/straight or you're worthless; or 3) support black gays and lesbians?--why would any straight black male do that unless he's gay--and thus worthless?). These attitudes are certainly at least in part to the moral grandstanding over "family values" and marriage legislation meant to distract the public from issues such as health care, social security, education, and defense and security policies. To the extent that they've been taken up by the African American religious leadership they are arguably a manner in which to reinstate the power and relevance of that leadership, as well as create a "strawman" an identifiable scapegoat for some of the social ills faced by the African American family. But lives are at stake. What is the intent, to revive Dred Scott-decision notions of equivocal humanity among African Americans? I am wishing a speedy recovery to Mr. Aviance and all others who may have experienced similar violence--statistics bear out he was not the only survivor of hate crime violence this weekend, just perhaps the only one given space in the New York Times.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Breathe of Life: Marlena Shaw

One of my favorite music sites is breath of life: a conversation about black music, authored by Kalamu ya Salaam and his son Mtume ya Salaam, both formerly of New Orleans and now relocated post-Katrina. bol is the realization of the elder and younger Salaam's idea to dig into their respective extensive album and CD collections, and using internet jukebox technology create a virtual comparative music dialogue regarding musical styles, interpretations, and historical cross-pollinations. The weekly editions have featured Nina Simone, Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown, South African singer Thandiswa, and the Roots. This week they've turned their focus to soul and jazz chanteuse, Marlena Shaw. Now, I barely remembered Shaw myself, except this album title had been burned into my grey cells: Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?

Both Kalamu and Mtume are serious lay-musicologists and bring their unique perspectives to their multi-layered analysis, disagreeing with each other absent any hesitancy. An exchange from this past week regarding Kalamu's read on Nancy Wilson's cover of "I Feel Like Makin' Love," versus Marlena Shaw's version of the same:
Mtume to Kalamu: "What? Huh? I mean, what?! Baba, you have got to be kidding. I’m a Nancy Wilson fan, but this version of "Feel Like Makin’ Love" is average at best. Yes, Nancy is whispering and growling, but it’s Vegas-style whispering and growling. It’s all show and no soul.

And on Mtume's read of this week's hip hop/electronica selections:
Kalamu to Mtume: Mtume, man, am I glad you broke this down, otherwise, I swear, my finger would have stayed on the skip button. Kool Keith is sicque, tres sicque. I’ve heard accidents in the canned food aisle sound hipper than this. But what do I know? The DJ Food track is only marginally more listenable, perhaps because there is a greater use of melodic elements. Now the Gang Starr, I’m down with that all the way. You are absolutely right about DJ Premier, plus I’ve always liked Guru’s sound, the timbre of his voice.

Shaw's brightly-colored, sultry voice may have been relegated to the land of the almost forgotten because of her socially conscious work. A few years before Marvin Gaye was entering the Top 10 with cuts from What's Going On and War was hitting big with "The World is A Ghetto," Shaw was singing about black womanhood, "Remember me? I'm the one who had your babies. I am a woman of the ghetto." ("Woman of the Ghetto"). Somehow that wasn't crossing over as well. The Salaam's reintroduce us to classics from Shaw's oevre, as well providing and discussing tracks from three hip hop and electronica artists (Gang Starr, Kool Keith and Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, and DJ Food) who utilize samples from Shaw's single "California Soul" (1969). Watch out, bol is an addictive habit for sure, and the jukebox isn't archived so if you miss the sounds you're SOL.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Pages I'm Turning" update: The Turn of the Screw, Strange Sounds, Tavio Nyong'o

The Turn of the Screw
Ah, is the governess crazy? Is she subject to repressed sexuality leading to Freudian hysteria? Did Henry James (pictured right) really mean this as a ghost story? Watch the Freudians, and postmodernists square off against the old school lit crits. I read with intrigue and frustration this intellectual ping pong match in the Norton Edition of James' novella. Edmund Wilson (pictured left) offers a Freudian analsysis of James, Robert B. Heilman (pictured below left)rejects Wilson and his rendering of the story as a "commonplace clinical record." Shoshana Felman (sorry, no photo available) reclaims the Freudian critique and furthers it by psychoanalyzing the Freudian refusée readings. I had to stop reviewing the critiques before they marred my enjoyment of James' narrative. I'm not much for the partisan approach to criticism; there are benefits to be gained from various "formulae," but not from the wholesale shoving of a size 10 foot into a size 7 shoe. Regarding the actual novella, I was riveted and loved James' convoluted prose--the multiple clauses were an effective strategy for holding tension and accessing the ways the speed and multiplicity of thought is accelerated with the heightening of fear. I also thought is was central to the success of the story that we never be sure if she was a trustworth narrator. For that reason as well, the criticism which aims to definitively answer that question as a way to lock the novella down, is not wholly interesting and misses the point of James' exploration of insidiousness of everyday evil.

Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture
Timothy D. Taylor's study of technology's impact on post-WWII music composition, consumption, and distribution with a greater emphasis on the digital age. So far informative, Taylor has a knack for relating a number of elements which are sometimes considered disparate and foregrounding their aspects of cohesion. Of particular interest is his discussion of "Technonostalgia" a predominantly white male collector trend that has spurred the creation of lists and websites devoted to lounge and space-age music from the 1950s and early 60s. Taylor argues this is a response to male anxiety over the loss of seemingly secure male roles that typified that era, in other words "the way we weren't" (or "they weren't" as the case may be). It might be obvious that the aesthetics of those 1950s/60s futurisms inspired the cover art for Taylor's book.

Tavio Nyong'o
There are a few performance studies scholars whose currently available work I'm reading. Nyong'o is in performance studies at NYU. He generously gave me a pre-publication copy of an article he wrote on composer/performer Pamela Z for the 2004 Dakar Biennale, which piqued my interest in his work. He also writes on punk music. I may write about those folks here. Haven't decided yet.

Friday, June 02, 2006

End of Month Film Report: May 2006 Part II

In Part II of the May Film List the clunkers show up as do some more recent works, mainly year 2000+ in this group:

10. Nenette et Boni (1996), Dir. Claire Denis. Denis (pictured left) captures the moody communications of adolescence in this story of a troubled brother (Grégoire Colin) and sister (Alice Houri). At this point in the month I realized that I appreciate visual directors who trust and collaborate with their actors. This is a slow roil of a film that is teeming with the everyday detail of the lives in which the main characters seem to be mired. Human contact, though often indirect and silent, is nonetheless life altering for Denis' characters and it's beautiful to see the actors play out these arcs.
11. Vendredi Soir/Friday Night (2o02), Dir. Claire Denis. An adult tale of sensuality, with two strangers (Valérie Lemercier and Vincent Lindon, pictured left) having a life-altering encounter the night of a transit strike in Paris. Again a story of few words, but, oh, how the small choices change everything. The film also confirms the complex beauty and sensuality of women as their faces take on more character. A pleasure to watch.

Hitch (2005), Dir. Andy Tennant. I'm never gonna get that time back. Is this the same Will Smith who earned an Oscar nominiation for Ali (2001)? Eva Mendes does manage to be a little more believable. The best thing about this film was the vulnerable performance by Kevin James who skillfully infuses his adept physical comedy with pathos.
13. Get Over It (2001), Dir. Tommy O'Haver. Teen romantic comedy; saw this for work. But I was also curious about the director of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (pictured right with star Brad Rowe), as in "whatever happened to gay director(name here)..." This film, which he didn't script, is what happened. The story of a boy trying to win his girl back from a boy-band poseur by acting in the high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, apparently didn't do well at the box office--but turned into something of a cult fav after the fact. (O'Haver hit with tweener romp Ella Enchanted (2004) and now has three projects in pre-production; see his shiny new highlighted look below right.) O'Haver's second outing includes an interesting anti-teen heart throb turn by indie actor Ben Foster and early "party dude" work by Hanks progeny, Colin, a macho-diva tantrum by Shane West, plus the first big screen appearance of the former Dru Hill singer Sisqo, and of course a solid turn by "acting machine" Kirsten Dunst. It's actually pretty watchable, and the end credits feature Sisqo and Vitamin C's rendition of Earth, Wind, & Fire's "Dancing in September," providing evidence of Sisqo's fine singing chops, given the right material (e.g. not "The Thong Song")

The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Dir. Paul Greengrass. I won't get this time back either (see #12 Hitch). The sequel to The Bourne Identity (2002). As soon as--SPOILER ALERT-- Franke Potente's character caught a fatal bullet, the film was pretty much over for me. Potente's Maria illuminated the uneasy seams in Jason Bourne's controlled veneer, and raised the bar for Damon's performance. Without her the film's characterizations lack a certain depth until the emotional denouement when Bourne confronts the sole survivor of one of his assasinations.--END SPOILER-- Jason Bourne's character is something of an automaton by training and he needs a compelling antagonist to come up against. While Joan Allen is a brilliant actor she's not given much to do here as this installment's nemesis. She's usually barking orders or contemplating them in a planning room somewhere in DC, Berlin or elsewhere, anyplace but where Bourne actually is.
15. Lie with Me (2005), Dir. Clement Virgo. Jamaican-Canadian Virgo directs this adaptation of his partner Theresa Berger's controversial novel about a young Canadian woman who experiences the world primarily through anonymous sexual relations with a variety of men, until she meets one who wants more. This work appears after both French director Catherine Breillat's Romance (1999) and British director Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs (2004) portrayed actual sex in their respective narratives. The story of the screen sex in Lie with Me is that stars Lauren Lee Smith and Eric Balfour, and director Virgo (pictured right with Smith) made a pact that they would attempt to make the film as real as possible within each of their personal boundaries--making for some rather believable sex scenes. Not a complete success as narrative work, but still some interesting visual work which is mainly how this story is told. Balfour has some well-played raw moments, but Smith has to carry most of the picture and unfortunately she doesn't consistently evidence the ability to make us care about an equivocally drawn character.

Junebug (2005), Dir. Phil Morrison. The story of a Chicago-based outsider art dealer's trip to a small North Carolina town to scout a new artist and meet to her new husband's family. This was worth seeing just for Amy Adams (pictured right). Her performance was "a revelation" to quote a review. Some of her naked quirky innocence was apparent in Catch Me If You Can (2002) where she plays a young fallen southern belle turned student nurse/candy striper. But she truly is a standout here. This story and the film's pacing felt so southern to me, and really North Carolina. Plus it is one of the most interesting films about the crazy politics of the U.S. art world since High Art (1998).
17. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Dir. Garth Jennings. Oh that's about six hours now I'm not getting back (see #'s 12 &14). What happened? The excellent cast included Zooey Deschannel, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def and Bill Nighy. With Mos Def (pictured right with Martin Freeman) cast as alien hitchhiker Ford Prefect, this should have been an Afrofuturist's dream vehicle. But really, as much as I respect the talents of the above listed actors, with the exception of Nighy, they're all US-born. Hitchhiker, like the Harry Potter series, is a UK vehicle, with a particularly British sensibility and should have been cast as such. Plus the space ship set design was boring and flat, in general film had little of the rich textures of the book.
18. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Dir. Wes Anderson. A tour through the mind of The Anderson family. Only they and Michel Gondry can create such a complete alternate universe whose intricacies enhance instead of overshadowing the rich facets of its human character's sensibilities and narratives. Another pleasurable watch. And you can't beat Brazilian singer/actor Seu Jorge's Portuguese acoustic interpretations of David Bowie classics.