It’s a bleedin’ hyena! Or something.

According to this NBC affiliate report, there’s a mystery animal prowling suburbia, looking like a hyena mixed with a coyote, getting along fine with cats and dogs, and hanging out in the sun long enough to have its photo taken. Will we see a follow up to this? And if it really is a hyena mixed with a coyote, how the hell did that happen in Maryland?
Update: The blogosphere has weighed in and I agree with the “small, mangy bear” theory. We need to shave more animals and familiarize ourselves with their “nude” looks, methinks, for future reference.
By way of BoingBoing

Free Speech vs. Intolerant Twats Vol. 253: Linda Ronstadt

Aren’t we allowed to speak our minds in this country? I guess not!

Vegas Casino Boots Singer Linda Ronstadt
LAS VEGAS – Singer Linda Ronstadt (news) not only got booed, she got the boot after lauding filmmaker Michael Moore and his new movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” during a performance at the Aladdin hotel-casino.
Before singing “Desperado” for an encore Saturday night, the 58-year-old rocker called Moore a “great American patriot” and “someone who is spreading the truth.” She also encouraged everybody to see the documentary about President Bush (news – web sites).
Ronstadt’s comments drew loud boos and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.
“It was a very ugly scene,” Aladdin President Bill Timmins told The Associated Press. “She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose.”
Timmins, who is British and was watching the show, decided Ronstadt had to go

The Return

Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev
2003
A startling debut from Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev,
“The Return” is a family drama stuctured and shot as suspense/mystery. Two boys, Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) and the older Andrej (Vladimir Garin), are surprised to find their father (Konstantin Lavronenko), who they barely remember, has returned after a long absense. The father takes them on a long fishing/camping trip, where the two brothers come into conflict with his authortarian behavior. By the time they take a small motorboat out to a deserted island, Ivan begins to suspect his father isn’t who he says he is.
Zvyagintsev’s film is enthralling, and by turns surprising and inevitable in its fateful tale. Neither child is correct about their father, and the father isn’t an ogre. We get a sense that the father was stationed at this island during his time in the army, but what happened there we never find out. His strict nature feels like the only way he can understand relationships. We also see that, having been raised by an overprotective mother, the two kids are coddled and don’t understand their father’s behavior at all. Ivan feels persecuted.
Andrey spends a lot of his trip taking photos, and in his own silent protest (unlike Ivan’s stubborn nature) excludes his father from the frame. It’s understandable, but this tactic comes back at the end of the tale to devastating effect, as do several small plot points, such as failing to follow their father’s instructions. Zvyagintsev never hammers these points home, wisely, but drops a few red herrings.
Limited in release, most of us will have to wait for the DVD release, though the small screen may not do justice to the 24-hour sunlight the filmmakers shot in (up near the Finnish/Russian border).
(A side note: The elder of the child actors died not long after filming, drowning in the lake where most of “The Return” was filmed.)

Lady Snowblood

Dir. Toshiya Fujita
1973
A fast-paced samurai revenge picture with a female in the title role,
“Lady Snowblood” has received this release due to Tarantino referencing it (and using some of its soundtrack) in “Kill Bill.”
Wide-eyed Mieko Kaji (who played the title role in Female Convict Scorpion) stars as Yuki, whose mother died in childbirth, and raised by a hard-assed martial arts-teaching priest. She is raised to complete her revenge against the gang of four who killed her family and raped and tortured her mother. Yes, she has a list, just like in Kill Bill, but things get more complex. Death number one was completed by the mother before her death in prison. Death number two comes easily. But when Yuki tracks down Number Three, she finds a headstone. Seems like he died some time back. However, a young reporter seems to know about her story and a tenuous relationship develops.
All this is set against the Meiji era of Japan, and a climactic fight scene is shot inside a very Western costume ball, where British Admirals dance with Japanese ladies.
If anyone thought the violence in Kill Bill was cartoony or gross, Lady Snowblood has plenty more limb-choppin’, blood spurtin’ action. No matter where Yuki hits with her sword, she is guaranteed to hit a main artery, the result a hissing, arcing fountain o’ blood. Great fun, as is the wah-wah pedal-heavy, jazz-rock score, but Toshiya Fujita plays it straight. It was made in 1973 after all.
This is a very good DVD release by Animeigo, which though it lacks in extras, makes sure that every single thing in Japanese is translated, with multicolored subtitles helping the sometimes speedy dialog. Very few Japanese DVDs have such extensive subtitles.
Japanese film fans won’t be surprised to know Yuki dies in the end, but they may be surprised to see that Yuki came back the next year for a sequel. Did she punch her way out of her six-feet-under coffin? No idea.

Mmm, Kosher Franks…

Danny Gregory tells us about his summer jobs. Veterinarian’s office, slaughterhouse, McDonalds, record shop.

Occasionally I would help out in a two-story shed behind the slaughterhouse. Cow intestines were brought in by the barrelful and we would slide them through v-shaped boards that would squeeze out the contents into gigantic metal sinks, leaving us with empty sausage casing. The cow shit would run down to the first floor and into a cart tethered to a balding donkey. Without looking over his shoulder, the donkey knew when the cart was filled and would then trudge out of the shed and across the courtyard to a deep pit. He would back the cart against a pole upending the contents into the stinking pit. Then the donkey would trudge back to its post in the shed.
One afternoon, the rabbis discovered they had unwittingly processed a pregnant cow. I was called in to haul the purple fetus away and carve it up. The dogs ate it with relish, untroubled that the meat wasn’t kosher.

Update: Part Two: White House Intern, waiter, bus boy.

Lessons in Bad Web Design #246: Allmusic.com

Allmusic.com has just gone through a major redesign and for about a week now their site has been unusable in IE. We’re not just talking aesthetics here–though I don’t like the layout one bit, the CSS or whatever they’re using doesn’t work, with lines through words and such–but THE BLOODY SEARCH BUTTON DOESN’T WORK! On top of that, it loads twice as slow, and Mozilla can barely even contact the site.
I mean, c’mon guys, how hard is this? Again, this feels like typical corporate makeover design, making something over-complex, too many cooks, etc.
Allmusic is one of my toolbar links, just like imdb.com, where I go at least once a day to reference something. Now IT DOESN’T WORK.
Aargh. Blow me.

In Cold Blood

Dir: Richard Brooks
1967
I read Truman Capote’s novel during my first year at 6th Form in England,
over the course of a month of bus rides to and from campus. It still stays with me, and I finally saw the 1967 adaptation by Richard Brooks the other night.
Brooks shot the murder scenes in the actual house where it occured, and wisely removes all music from this sequence, just letting the wind howl around the house.
With Robert Blake in the main role as killer Perry Smith, the film can’t help but reflect on his own trial and incarceration. Not only that, but much of the film reminded me of Lynch’s “Lost Highway,” from the night shots speeding along the road to the scenes in the cell. Maybe we’re seeing chapters of a megamovie where Robert Blake, frustrated movie star, kills his wife, and transmogrifies into a young, sexy Perry Smith, who then goes on to kill again and wind back up on death row. As the psychologist in the movie says, “Separate they were harmless, but together they made a third person who killed” (I’m paraphrasing). That third person shaved his eyebrows, lives in a roadside shack, and urges men to kill.
There’s even more intertextual hoohah when we see Perry in flashback as a little Mexican-American kid helping his mom out at the rodea. An early Blake role was as a little Mexican kid who sells Bogart a ticket in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. That movie and Bogart are referenced several times in “In Cold Blood.” Some film student is bound to have a field day with this…
Missed in several online reviews I read of the film was the rather obvious suppressed homosexual relationship between the two killers. Dick Hickock, the other killer, talks of their friendship like marriage, and Perry seems quite co-dependent. The rage that sets him off on the killing spree in the Clutters’ home starts when he stops Dick from raping the young girl, a sort of jealous rage. (Add in the father issues as well, and there’s a whole heap o’ problems here).
Strangely enough, a writer by the name of J.J. Maloney was the first to advance the homosexual jealousy idea, not Capote, in 1999. But didn’t he get this idea from the film? Somebody’s out of chronological order here. Either way, you can read about that ideahere.