Friday, February 09, 2007

Talking Movies with the Globe's Ty Burr!

Pandachews caught up with Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr during a February 9, 2007 chat on Here’s our back and forth on the future of moviegoing, the impact of the iPod, comic book films, and a bit of an online parlor game for movie hounds.

Pandachews: Hi Ty. Did you read David Denby's article about the future of Hollywood in the New Yorker? How do you feel about a generation of movie goers raised watching films on iPod screens or, at best, on home theatres?

Ty_Burr: Good question… I read Denby's article -- we all did -- and I think it's dead on in some respects and simplistic in others. I'm having a lot of fun watching my two kids, 9 and 11, move into the moviegoing sphere, and I'm keeping an eye on how and what and why they watch...

We have a video iPod -- but they never watch anything on it, except maybe on car rides when they're bored out of their heads. But the screen size is an agnostic issue -- they'll accept something on my Mac or the small bedroom TV or the big dad's-office TV or on the screen.

But they intuitively understand that there's something special about GOING to the movies -- sharing the experience with strangers who then get welded into one happy unit (if the movie's good).

Pandachews: Are we witnessing the end of the movies as a group experience? The end of movie theatres?

Ty_Burr: I don't think that will die -- but I do foresee a split between big cinematic circuses (blockbusters with heavy effects, all in 3D, which is coming faster than you think) and smaller, drama friendly theatrical settings. I think the neighborhood theater will become something like a jazz club, for cognoscenti. It's really up to parents to educate their kids in why a movie on a big screen is good and not just leave it to the DVD player and flatscreen. Any of that make sense?

Pandachews: What about the "premium experience" theatres, like AMC Framingham, that combine dinner with the theatre-going experience? Denby LOVES this idea because it makes the movies a destination for a night out. What do you think?

Ty_Burr: Well, that fits in with the jazz-club concept, and I think it's a good idea. You'll definitely see an increasing division between theatrical movies for the masses and movies for an elite, much like what happened in jazz when rock and roll came in. I can't say I'm entirely happy with that.

Pandachews: There's a gorgeous old theatre in my hometown of Quincy--the Wollaston--that's been shut down for a couple years. I have a fantasy of buying it, and turning it into some combination of the Somerville Theatre and--I dunno--The Good Life (former fifties themed restaurant and bar). Would people come?

Ty_Burr: Absolutely -- and I'd flog the heck out of it for you. But it's really tough to make a one-screen theater work these days, just about impossible in fact. Thus the Brattle's problems. I don't know how the Somerville does it, frankly -- must be all those concerts.

Pandachews: Films I'm dying to see: Ghost Rider (for laughs); 300 (for toughs). Should I be prepared for a letdown?

Ty_Burr: Here's something weird: of all the movies opening up next Friday, the one with the best tracking (highest awareness) is "Ghost Rider." And it looks like the dumbest one of all, which is probably why. The director of "Breach" told me that last night, and he's really depressed about it. "300" does have a buzz, though. Don't know anyone who has actually seen it.

Pandachews: Yeah, Marvel seems to be shredding through its characters carelessly. There's a terrific writer named Garth Ennis who could, in his way, do for a Ghost Rider film what Frank Miller did for Sin City. Anyhooo... what's the word on the James Brown biopic. Spike Lee?

Ty_Burr: It's in rewrites, last I heard. The original screenwriters spent time with Brown before he died, so it has his input. No idea when/if it starts filming. Who's your pick to play James?

Pandachews: Ooooo... I liked Eddie Murphy for JB, but I guess he's not interested. Don Cheadle can really do anything, so why not?

Ty_Burr: True enough, but Cheadle's wearing the big hair for a movie coming up about a real life 60s DJ, Petey Green. Movie's called "Talk to Me," due in July. AND he's signed to star in and direct a Miles Davis biopic, so his slate is full.

I say Cuba Gooding Jr to play JB -- he has the energy and, Jesus, does his career need the help.

Pandachews: Most obnoxious experience I had in a theatre last year: at Boston Common, a guy who kept yelling "F&*K Mel Gibson!" throughout the Apocalypto preview. Which begs the question: will Gibson ever eat lunch in Hollywood again?

Ty_Burr: Yes, he'll definitely eat lunch and get taken to lunch in Hollywood again. Because "Apocalypto" was a reasonable commercial success but even more because it was a well-made movie and it showed that he could pull off a creative risk. The town admires that, maybe more than anything.

Pandachews: Fun exercise: George Clooney=Clark Gable; Kevin Costner=Gary Cooper; Kate Blanchett=Katherine Hepburn; Spencer Tracy =(FILL IN THE BLANK).

Ty_Burr: Hm. Tough one. Vince Vaughn with Edward Norton's talent.

Pandachews: I'd say Vince Vaughn is more Cary Grant. Not in manners, obviously, but in terms of pure charisma.

Ty_Burr: Well, even Cary Grant wanted to be Cary Grant. He always felt he was Archie Leach (his real name).

Pandachews: Ken Watanabe=Cary Grant (with subtitles)

Ty_Burr: Reese Witherspoon = June Allyson. And Demi Moore = Joan Crawford.

Pandachews: THANKS for a fun hour Ty! Don't be a stranger!

Ty_Burr: :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Chatting with Former Counter-Terror Czar Richard Clarke

Pandachews chatted with former White House counter-terrorism Czar Richard Clarke at on 2/1/2007 at 1030am. Here's some background on Clarke (and a link to an extended audio interview) taken from the Web site of the PBS program, Frontline.

A counterterrorism expert, Richard Clarke was a member of the White House National Security Council in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and is the author of Against all Enemies, an insider account of the Bush administration's policy-making in the war on terror. As an intelligence analyst in his early career, and later, a high-level policy maker, Clarke offers insights into the interplay between the two worlds and shares some thoughts on the heated intelligence wars during the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Here's our chat:

Pandachews: Mr. Clarke, what do you say to people who defend the war in Iraq based on the notion that, if we don't fight the terrorists there, we'll be fighting them in the US?

Richard_Clarke: I say take a class in logic. There's nothing about our being in Iraq that stops a terrorist from coming here. Indeed the US Army found documents in Iraq of al Qaeda of Iraq planning to send people here.

Pandachews: Supporters of the Bush Administration say that the President has been a "victim of his own success." Because there have been no more terrorist attacks since 9/11, they say people have lost their sense of urgency about the war on terror and that's why they're turning on the President.

Richard_Clarke: I don't know of any real success that the President has had. People are turning on him because he is mindlessly getting people killed in Iraq, there was no reason to go into Iraq in the first place, and he can't admit his error and stop the carnage. He's forcing the next president to clean up his mistake...knowing that the clean up will be messy. Not exactly a profile in courage.

Pandachews: What do you think about Cheney's reported "One Percent Doctrine" that we need to treat a 1% chance of terrorist attack as though it were a certainty? How does that serve or defeat US interests in the world, particularly in the war on terror?

Richard_Clarke: The one per cent solution means that if there is a one percent chance something will be a threat you go after it. Well, if you really took that attitude you would be bopping a lot of innocent people...which would make you more enemies.

Pandachews: The Bush Administration says it HAS strengthened homeland security, and points to legislation last year tightening port security. Are they blowing smoke?

Richard_Clarke: They are. They oppose the 100 per cent screening of container shipping. They have done little or nothing about chemical plant and chemical rail car security, securing radiological material, protecting subways, etc...

Pandachews: What about Musharraf in Pakistan? It's clear that Al Qaeda has safe haven at the border with Afghanistan. Yet we keep supporting Musharraf. Why?

Richard_Clarke: Because they can't figure out an alternative and are afraid of radical Islamists getting democratically elected. Yet there is only so much Musharraf will do to help us, and it’s not enough. He has created a sanctuary for al Qaeda by refusing to control the border provinces.

Pandachews: Why do people like Rick Santorum keep saying weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq? Where do they get this stuff from and is there any truth? How do you talk to people like this?

Richard_Clarke: They did find a few old, leaky, inoperable chemical weapon artillery rounds from the Iran-Iraq War...unusable and probably not even known to the Iraqi government. Santorum just further undermined his overall credibility by saying things like that...and it contributed to his landslide defeat.

Pandachews: Putting Bush aside, what now for Iraq? Should we redouble our efforts--massive spending, many more troops--because we broke it, so we bought it? Or do we withdraw because we're just making it worse? Some combo of the two?

Richard_Clarke: We should withdraw major combat units over the next year. Major combat units do not help create security there, they stimulate the terrorist attacks. We should have a residual presence of Special Forces, intelligence units, etc. The result may well be a mess when we leave, but that will be true whenever we leave: next year or five years from now.