My mandate on this blog and in my writing for Vancouver papers has long been to find things that are OUTSIDE the mainstream that have great value and beauty, and to give them a little press and attention. I seldom find fault with the subjects I write about or give "negative reviews" of things, unless I'm assigned to watch or listen to some utter piece o'shit (which happens rarely), or stumble into a mainstream Hollywood movie that offends my sensibilities, like The Dark Knight (reviewed below). Very occasionally, I'll ask uncomfortable questions of someone I interview, if I think they're important; I HAD to grill Joe Keithley a little bit for his support of Warren Kinsella's Fury's Hour, for instance, when I interviewed him for Razorcake. More often than not, I'm pretty patient and supportive and want to make people I speak to sound, if anything, smarter and clearer and more articulate than they often really are, helping them along as best I can, dragging out the best of them and condensing it down to something that makes for an interesting read. Some would perhaps say that I am not a real journalist, because of all this; for instance, by writer Janet Malcolm's standards, in her fascinating treatise on journalistic ethics, The Journalist and the Murderer, this would make me more of a publicist. Which, really, there's some truth to; but then - since I'm not being paid for 99% of what I do, whyever would I want to write about things I'm *not* enthusiastic about?
Lest I seem completely like an aesthetic roundheels, though, rolling over for any film as long as it plays at the VIFC or Cinematheque, let me just take a minute to say that Daniel Lanois' Here is What Is, still playing tomorrow night at the film center, is an embarrassing vanity project of considerable incompetence which should be avoided at all costs, unless you have absolutely no taste, or are fascinated by the spectacle of naked emperors blissfully dangling their genitalia in public. It's true that I walked out at the halfway point, but I am confident that the film didn't do much to redeem itself; based on what I saw, I would advise staying home and cleaning the accumulated green stains off your bathtub as a more productive and enlightening way of spending your evening. Through the course of the alleged documentary, Lanois plays boring music, not particularly well; he deluges us with annoying visual effects; and he invites all his celebrity friends - like Billy Bob Thornton - to pop by to praise him on film, as his music plays. Just in case we get bored, Lanois (or perhaps his co-directors, tho' he often speaks of the project as "his" in the course of the film) throws in a woman who I'm assuming works as a stripper for good measure, to dance to his music periodically (Perhaps she would prefer the term "dancer," but the crack of her ass was so much a part of her routine that I really can't go there. If you're a woman who performs in high heels while displaying your asscrack, you're a stripper, no matter how much clothing you leave on); alas, her appearances were not so much titillating as they were an incentive to roll my eyes in bewilderment and shake my head sadly. The film does boast a couple of interesting appearances by Brian Eno - whose apparent friendship with Lanois the film does nothing to explain, but rather than elevating Lanois' stature by his presence, Eno threatens to compromise his own. (In part that's why I walked out - I wanted to escape before Eno sullied himself irreparably.) My friend Michael, who stayed, reports that the most interesting thing that happened after I left - aside from a humanizing encounter with Sinead O'Connor, whom I have no curiosity about or feelings for - was when Eno held up some coloured cloth and used it as an analogy for something in music, the point of which was utterly lost by Lanois' choosing to fuck with the visual effects, so the colours could not be discerned through the scene. All around, Here Is What Is is a masturbatory, misguided, embarrassing film, that confirms my suspicion that Lanois is one of the most overrated figures in the music biz, however a nice guy he may be. Sorry, Daniel, but... deal with it. Think twice about putting movies like this out in the public sphere; it's like going on a date with a booger hanging out of your nose.
There, I did it, I wrote a really negative review of something playing at an arthouse cinema. Now poor Daniel Lanois' blood is smeared all over my keyboard and I'm worrying that he'll somehow see the above and be hurt (or hire a hitman). Are you happy now, Janet Malcolm? Can I go back to writing about stuff I like?