Recent comments

  • I'm just about mentally committed to completely re   14 years 21 weeks ago

    This is an interesting issue that has been around from the beginning. Various folks have requested various sections: television, radio, magazines, essays, or just "other" ("favorite M&M colors" for example).

    I remain torn. Broadening the focus of the site might make it more interesting. Or it might spread it too thin. I have hesitated--and continue to hesitate--to add new sections for fear of detracting from the movie/book/music focus of the site.

    I don't think a proliferation of categories is a good idea (television, magazines, whatever). However, I do see some possibilities:

    I could rename the existing categories in a broader fashion. Perhaps "moving pictures", "the written word", and "audio" (clearly these need work, but you get the idea). So TV and movies would be lumped together.

    Also, I could add an "other" category that folks could use to kick in whatever they fancy. Humerous lists, Lettermanesque Top 10 lists, etc. To keep this from detracting from the media-focus of the site, I would probably not make the "other" category searchable, but it would be browsable (so you could click on a "view all Other lists" link).

    What do you think?

  • 0013: Tom Hanks' Six Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I think I have to disagree with Jim's wife. I didn't really see this movie as a tearjerker, and thus did not feel that the failure to produce any was a drawback to the film. I think it's a good solid story with some very good acting. David Morse is always a treat (see the comments in Greatest Supporting Actors.) Though it figures I'd like this movie - I'm always a fan of Stephen King stories that don't really get attributed to him (i.e. The Shawshank Redemption).

    Hey, where's Joe Versus the Volcano or the Burbs? C'mon, they're both fine forums for Hanks' talent! ;)

  • I'm just about mentally committed to completely re   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I know that a few of my friends have commented that they would like to be able to add television lists. If there was a television section, I would probably contribute.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0013: Tom Hanks' Six Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I liked Forrest Gump. At times it did lay it on a bit thick, perhaps, but I think a great deal of backlash was generated when it defeated Pulp Fiction for the Best Picture Oscar. Sure, I think Pulp deserved the award more, but that's hardly Forrest's fault. I believe others try to read messages into the film that I'm not sure are really there. I like the film.

    Big would indeed be number 6; I almost made this a top 6 list, but then decided not to. Perhaps I still well.

    Thanks for the view on Green Mile.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0013: Tom Hanks' Six Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Regarding The Green Mile, my wife put it best: "it was a tearjerker that failed to jerk any tears." We both liked it, but didn't find ourselves too involved emotionally (except for some scenes). Definitely a worthwhile rental, but I wouldn't say it affects this list.

    Some would take exception with Forrest Gump. Many found it treacly. Not I, however. Nor you?

    However, I'm surprised not to see Big on this list. It's tough to say which movie should get the axe to make room, though. Perhaps you could make it a "best 6" list? :)

  • Essential Albums: Sophomore Efforts   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Hard to argue with anything on this fantastic list. Question: Do you prefer Too Much Too Soon to the Dolls' debut? I'm only curious...

    Nice to see Isn't Anything make a list!

    I'm not sure if you're interested or not, but the reissue of The Band's second album is being released August 15 or thereabouts. I highly recommend it (it is number 5 on my all time list, for what that's worth)!

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0007: My Ten Favorite 2000 Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I'm going to have to see The Whole Nine Yards. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0011: Steven Spielberg's Ten Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Boy, I'm not sure I can better Bertie's description, except to emphasize how much of the director's skill shines since the film lacks a large budget or grand theme to obscure it. This is lean and mean, and while it is not Steven's best, it is certainly a unique pleasure in his work.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0008: Harrison Ford's Ten Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I definitely meant the best films he has starred in and not necessarily his best performances.

    I excluded several of the film you mentioned (Apocalypse Now, for instance) because I didn't really feel Harrison was one of the main stars of the picture, not because they weren't better than the films on my list. I haven't seen Air Force One yet, perhaps much to my shame.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0004. 9 Great Silent Films Available Now on DVD   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Tate, you are too kind. Some of my favorite movie memories are watching The Gold Rush and King Kong with you for the first time, and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything!

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • Actors whose ability to act was surgicaly removed at birth but get most $ anyway   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I agree with Tate here, and not just because he is my brother! Douglas can act, even if he doesn't always choose to. His role in Falling Down, for instance, was very well done, and the film is a sadly over-looked gem.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • Essential Albums: Trip-Hop   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Johnny, the Doctor, and Jim have certainly given me plenty to respond to. I'll try to do that here. Just because my response is under Johnny's post, however, does not mean I am ignoring anybody else. I'm just putting everything here for the sake of being concise.

    Johnny states that he feels I have rebutted minor points instead of major ones, and while I disagree, perhaps I should pull back a bit from individual posts and address everything at once by stating the job I believe a critic should perform.

    First, some confusion has arisen because we have let two separate points become confused into one, two points which I feel should perhaps be addressed somewhat apart from one another. The two questions I see here are: 1) Should a critic factor in historical importance or influence when rating the quality of an album? and 2) what role, if any, should critical standards play when evaluating an album? Both Johnny and the Doctor have argued that criticism should incorporate one or the other with personal taste, and I will share why I disagree. I'll also clarify what I have meant when I used the terms 'personal taste,' and that may moves us a bit closer to each other than we now are. Perhaps not.

    Let me also state that below I will discussing these two questions only. As far as what Johnny chooses to place on an essential list or not, I have already admitted that the list are his, and he can use whatever criteria he chooses in assembling these lists.

    First, both Johnny and the Doctor have claimed that the historian is a critic, (1)choosing material to present and (2)creating interpretations or events based on personal values.

    I agree that in the broadest sense, the historian is a critic, but he or she is not an art critic, which is the type of critic I am writing of. (1) A historian does select which material to present and to work with, but ideally these selections are using historical importance as a criteria, not artistic value. This is where I believe the historian / critic and the art critic differ. Historians can possibly be art critics, and many art critics are certainly historians in their field, but I see no use in confusing these two functions or trying to combine the two into a single process. Why? Hopefully, that will become clear as my post continues.

    The Doctor argues that the historical context of a work is important, and I would not deny this. Art does not exist in a vacuum, and understanding the world and conventions a work comes from is at times essential to understanding the work. It is a huge leap, however, from admiting that a work's CONTEXT is important to arguing that a work's subsequent historical importance or influence is a factor in a work's quality. These are two separate statements, and I accept the first and reject the second. The Jazz Singer, with its innovative spoken dialogue, may well be the second or third most influential film in history, but I cringe at the idea of someone using that to help justify considering the work great, when it clearly is not in terms of quality.

    (2) Addressing the fact that a historian will view history through his or her own values and viewpoints, I admit that this is true. I argue, however, that a good historian is constantly attempting to overcome this sad reality. A biased historian using his or her biases frankly has little value outside of propaganda and the occasional true facts that may surface through the glaze of bias (OK, they can also be excellent devil's advocates, but I doubt any historian wishes to reduce his or her work simply to that). A major part of being a good historian is attempting to overcome these biases, and while one never can entirely vanquish these foes, one can indeed strive for perfection, however elusive. The best historians block out bias to a rather impressive degree. Simply realizing that biases and viewpoints enter into the mix does not necessarily advocate their use. This has its parralels in art criticism, and I will address these below.

    Now, on to the second matter (although much of what follows is important to understanding my view on the first matter). What role, if any, should critical standards play when evaluating an album?

    This requires a clear idea of what an (art) critic's purpose and role in the world is.

    I'll begin by paraphrasing several people in using two answers to the above question. I'll get into details soon.

    A definition I have found and accept follows: An art critic helps (1) propose which art is worth the time of investigation and (2) helps explain how to view a work of art by explaining how it 'works.'

    I'll betray some of my philosophical views here, but please, be patient.

    As far as I am concerned, a work of art exists to create effects. These effects can be wildly varied, from attacking the wealthy, creating beauty, or even pointing out the silliness of seeking certain pre-ordained effects in art (for example, the classic experimental film Wavelength). Certain effects are sought, however, and the elements in a piece of art work toward achieving these effects.

    As such, the primary concerns for an art critic are what are the effects aimed for, how well does the work of art accomplish these effects, and how does it do or not do this.

    The first step, then, is to experience the work of art, hopefully several times. What is the work doing, and does it pull it off? At this stage, granted, these answers can be very personal and biased, but few can argue that these are almost necessarily the first steps when encountering a work of art. Music, for example, must be listened to. And while Johnny might scream ;), the first experience tends to be a simple one - Do I like this or not? What's it doing, and is it doing it well?

    After some honest decisions to these last two or three questions have been made (I'll call these answers conclusions, short for quality conclusions), the critic has hardly started the real work of being a critic.

    Now, the critic must ask the hard questions. The first is: Why do I feel about this work the way I do? During a brutal self-examination, the critic will likely discover some very personal prejudices that play into whether he or she likes a work. Previously, I have very inprecisely labeled these as sentimental values, but prejudices, while a harsher sounder word, is more accurate. Maybe I hate this work because I can't stand heavy metal. Maybe I like this work because the singer sounds like Bob Dylan, and I love Bob Dylan. Maybe I frist heard it on the first date with my wife and I now have great feelings associated with the song I can relive everytime I hear the song. Once these prejudices have hopefully been discovered, they must be discarded. Will anyone ever really rid themselves of all such prejudices? No, but a good critic will do an excellent job throwing most of them out.

    Now a critic must experience the work again with fresh ears unburdened by prejudices. If the prejudices are too strong to overcome, the critic frankly should excuse his or herself. They will not be able to honestly complete the grueling work which is to follow.

    Now, tossing out the prejudices, does the critic like the work? Is it effective?

    I should add here that I am using the term 'like' extremely broadly, and it basically means asking if the work is pleasingly accomplishing its effects. No, you need not embrace a work or desire to listen to over and over again to 'like' it. Because of prejudices, you may choose never to hear a work you 'like' again because you really hate. But for this step, the critic must try to over-ride the prejudices which usually help dictate his or her every-day listening for the sake of honesty. You can 'like' and enjoy Schindler's List critically, even if we are using slightly different definitions for the words "like" and "enjoy" than most people use. Shedding prejudices, do you now like it? Is it working? Does it accomplish its effects?

    Next comes the hardest and most important job a critic must do. How does does the art work or not work? Critical standards can help here, but must always be slaves to whether the art 'worked' or not. Critical standards are limited tools, and can HELP explain why a piece does or doesn't work, but they can only help so much, and they can often hurt. Johnny wrote, "You're right in saying that certain works are villified because they go against prevailing standards, but there are always far-sighted critics willing to hold up the new works and artists as great, e.g. Ruskin with the Pre-Raphaelites. And just because the critical mainstream sometimes gets it wrong, does that justify chucking the whole system? Absolutely not; that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater." This reads well, but I believe the logic is very flawed. If a work does not conform to current critical standards, and if critics are using critical standards for their appraisals, new works will never be recognized until the standards change. It is only the critic that uses as a tool but is not a slave to critical standards, a critic that is honest about the intial effect of a work divorced from critical standards, that will be able to claim the work as great, and only that critic will be able to start asking why the work is great, probably re-writing parts of the current critical standards in the process. These 'far-sighted critics' you wrote of are not judging based on critical standards. Critical standards are tools for understanding why a work works; they are not tools for judging if a work does work or not. Taking this view, I am not throwing out the baby with the bath water, I am simply not confusing the two. I love critical standards, but I see them for what I believe them to be - tools for understanding, not criteria for evaluating.

    On the opposite side, a work can met every critical standard and still not work. One should never change one's mind about the work at this point. One must ask the hardest questions about WHY the work still does not achieve its effects. This is how critical standards are changed over time, and this does not allow them to perform the work the critic should be performing.


    Now, you notice this still leaves some room for personal judgments, but anyone who is honest must admit that criticism is not an exact science. However, I believe personal judgments probably enters the proper process less than some believe, and there is room for objective discussion after the criticism is over. Debate can help a critic realize he or she never really understood the effects aimed for, realize how a seemingly random element truly did work toward the total effects, and such. Even in a field with much subjective variables (as criticism must be), there is much room for subjective debate and discussion.

    And even using the process explained above, there are still good and bad critics.

    I never met to imply, Johnny, that you do not have a taste for experimental music. (My comments you mistook for this statement where a pre-emptive strike against the anticipated question, "Then you believe anybody could be a good critic?" and were not aimed at you personally at all. Please re-read that post with this in mind.) What I am implying is that you may be on to something nobody else is. If the work does 'work' for you, and if you are pretty sure you are clear of personal prejudices, you should start asking the questions of why it doesn't work for you.

    Keep in mind that 'working' for you does not mean wishing to listen to the album over and over. Perhaps the work does work for you, and I have misunderstood you all along. However, I believe what I have interpreted as a slight dislike of the album (maybe!) might actually lead to new criticism that help those of use who do like the album understand it more. After all, I like the album quite a bit, but I also find it over-rated and inferior to the Velvet Underground's third album. It is not as unified, working on separate effects sometimes to detriment of others, and for the most part, it does not achieve the depth of feeling that the later work does.

    So, Doctor, perhaps you can see why I refuse to admit that a work's historical importance should interfere with a critic's work determining a piece of art's artistic quality. I simply see no room for it. There is value in recognizing these factors, but they should be expressed separately from an evaluation of a work's artistic quality. They are simply separate variables, and the fact that every film in the future may copy Titanic to a tee does not for a second make Titanic a better film, only a more influential one.

    This is entirely too long, but I hope I am forgiven. I'm not checking for typos (it is too long, and I am at work), but I hope this expresses my views better and perhaps focuses our discussion.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 10 Dickens Titles That Sound Funny To A First-Time High School Stoner   14 years 21 weeks ago

    HAHAHA! You crack me up, kbloom. From now on I'm going to call my roaches "little dorrits". :-)

  • 10 Good Acid Films For Neurotic Introspective Types   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Yaaaay. I am definitely an acid-positive person (so what if you don't NEED it, there's a lot of interesting and wonderful things in life that one does not "need") and will be on the lookout for the films listed above. Except for the Brady film. I do know my limits.

  • Essential Albums: Trip-Hop   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Since Jim doesn't seem to mind the use of space here discussing the matter, and since this is certainly an important issue, I'll continue my discussion of these matters, and I will file a post below in a second. However, I will also share a few misgivings about continuing.

    First, Johnny, please do not take this debate personally. Comments such as, "I'm saddened," "I resent," and "you must think me a moron" lead me to believe that I am perhaps hurting your feelings. If this is the case, then I will bow out of this debate; I have no desire to hurt such a close friend. If, however, this is not the case, then I politely ask you to refrain from making comments that lead me to believe you are taking my input personally. I do not think you a moron; I think you are highly intelligent, and I know that you know this.

    I also request that, when reading my response, you also read what I am responding to. Here is one exchange that left me a bit frustrated.

    In your 7/21/2000 16:50 post (the added parentheses are mine):

    "I also realize that personal taste is not alway a sure-fire way to decide what is truly "best." For example, I can tell the Velvet Underground is a (1) groundbreaking and innovative band, and (2) that their music and lyrics are excellent; however, my personal taste doesn't lie with their music."

    I responded on 7/21/2000, 17:04:

    "On the other hand, if you don't like dig [my typo] The Velvet Underground's first album, you are only blindly taking the word of others or confusing (1) 'groundbreaking' work or (2) well-crafted songs for quality work"

    I combined your four words to two, making 'groundbreaking' and 'innovative' into 'groundbreaking,' and combining 'music and lyrics are excellent' into 'well-crafted songs,'

    You responded at 7/21/00 17:49 with:

    "I also have never confused the idea of "groundbreaking" with that of quality and I resent the implication that I have."

    Johnny, not only did you ignore half of my sentence, you resent an 'implication' that was nothing more than repeating what you said back to you!

    This is a bit frustrating.

    Anyway, I will proceed, but let's not make this debate personally, and let's both pay more attention to the flow of the discussion.

    My response will appear below before too long.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • Science And Philosophy   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Thank you all for the tips!


  • Best Albums by the mighty METALLICA   14 years 21 weeks ago

    When I saw the title of this list, my first thought was "Master of Puppets better be number one!" Number Two isn't bad, however; Black was a fine album.

    I agree with the comments on S&M. Upon my first listening, I felt like I had two radio stations coming in simultaneously. The strings in most songs sounded like they were written with no concept of melody in mind.

    I disagree with the comments about the production value of And Justice for All. That album had a very distictive sound that completely changed the way Rock/Metal drummers wanted their drums to sound. I don't think music stores could keep square, wooden bass drum beaters in stock at the time, as they were the key to the Lars sound on Justice.

  • Actors whose ability to act was surgicaly removed at birth but get most $ anyway   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I must disagree with you on Micheal Douglas I enjoyed wallstreet, falling down, disclosure, and the game. I in each of these movies he does play a business man but each business man is not the same--powerful and in control, mental breakdown and almost crazy, on the defensive and just hoping to hang on, and lastly powerful in the business sense but vulnerable as a person. So you have four business men all different and I thought he did a good job in each. You have to admitt he has some done some good movies that he performed well in, even if you don't like all of his movies.

  • 0008: Harrison Ford's Ten Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Interesting that, even if we differ on the order, we still agree on Harrison's 6 best films!

    I believe The Temple of Doom was quite a step down from Raiders, but I think the directing and script still produced some excellent suspense and humor from what is largely a carbon copy of Raiders. I also feel like these elements were still held in pretty good balance. The third part tried to incorporate more humor, and for the most part, I feel this failed. It was especially disconcerting to see the noble Sallah reduced to a buffoon simply for a laugh. It largely ran contrary to his character. I felt like the suspense sequences were an afterthought to the humor and rarely generated any real feeling of danger, and some of the elements of the ending (for the sake of remaining spoiler proof, I'll say the mystic stuffs) I found a bit silly. It's not an awful film, but despite the great line about the origin of Indiana's name, I found it very unsuccessful.

    I'll have to check out Air Force One soon.

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs

  • 0024. New 2000 Albums I Enjoy (With Album Highlights)   14 years 21 weeks ago

    lbangs i finally logged on and I will try to get a list for you soon

  • 0024. New 2000 Albums I Enjoy (With Album Highlights)   14 years 21 weeks ago

    I know you don't like country but you should try the dixie chicks new album, I think it's calles fly. I thought it was quit good.


  • 0008: Harrison Ford's Ten Best Films   14 years 21 weeks ago

    Air Force One is definitely worth a rental, but probably not full evening price. Here's my reshuffling of your list (if I may be so bold) with AF1 included:

    1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
    2. Blade Runner
    3. The Empire Strikes Back
    4. Witness
    5. The Fugitive
    6. Star Wars
    7. Air Force One
    8. Working Girl
    9. Presumed Innocent
    10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
    11. Return of the Jedi

    1 and 2 were tough to order, as were 7/8/9.

    It wasn't on your list, but I'd probably put The Last Crusade at 6.5. May I ask why you prefer Temple of Doom?

  • 0024. New 2000 Albums I Enjoy (With Album Highlights)   14 years 21 weeks ago

    by reading your list i must assume you haven't heard eminem "if that's how you spell it" or brittany spears. I'm sorry bad joke :)
    just thought it might make you laugh knowing a little about you taste in music


  • 0004. 9 Great Silent Films Available Now on DVD   14 years 21 weeks ago

    the general and the gold rush were two movies my older brother had me watch with him many years ago. I enjoyed both of them and when i got to college and took an intro film class I was pleased to see that i had atleast seen two of the many films that we studied. i probably should of thanked my brother for introducing me to two great movies along with helping me to feel somewhat cultured and in the know when i took my film class.


  • Wish I Appreciated These   14 years 21 weeks ago

    good point yourself, Jim. Glad you expanded your comments. I think I understand now the problem with the film. I was very impressed with Hillary Swank (had to look it up) and her supporting actors/actresses. Truth be told, I think that I was ingrossed by story was because I know self-destructive people who just can't "knock it off". They are "broken people", as you say. Still, all that aside, it was a bleak movie, and not much for idle, well-deserved entertainment.