First-tier documentarian Errol Morris finds himself slumming a bit with Tabloid, a clear departure from his recent tendency toward rigorous, serious-as-a-tumor inquiry. He describes it as “sick, sad and funny.” His attention has somehow been drawn to Joyce McKinney, a former Wyoming beauty queen who fell in love with Kirk Anderson, a young Mormon from Utah. Anderson’s family (and the church) disapproved of the relationship. Anderson left the states to work as a missionary in Britain, and McKinney eventually followed him there. That much, at least, is not in doubt. What happened next is open to some question.

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Standard Operating Procedure


My review of Standard Operating Procedure on Blu-ray Disc is online at

There’s a tension in Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure between the subject matter–the torture and humiliation of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad during the U.S. occupation of Iraq–and what Morris is really up to. Anyone who’s read his excellent “Zoom” blog for The New York Times, including his brilliant, three-part consideration of the pedigree of two different photographs taken by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War, knows that the director is concerned lately with the methodical, emotionless investigation of the circumstances surrounding a picture’s taking. He wants to know what a photo conceals in addition to what it reveals–what’s happening outside its spatial frame? Its temporal boundaries?

Link Dump #1

The 10 Most Incomprehensible Bob Dylan Interviews of All Time


Interviews in which Bob Dylan fucks around with his questioner (most

of them, in my experience) are always good for a chuckle. For me, none

of the video clips collected here by New York‘s Vulture column really rivals the 1966 Playboy interview,

rightly placed at number one, that set the gold standard for sheer

cheekiness. Check out the whole thing if you haven’t; it’s a really

good read. (I also love the weird screed against Time magazine

that kicks off the list.) But what interested me, as someone who spends

his days interviewing people, is the way these clips and excerpts,

especially the raw, unedited footage, where you can really feel the

reporters trying to regain control of the situation, cast some light on

how difficult it is to be interviewed — to try to give your

interrogator the insight he desires into your life, thoughts and

creative process while simultaneously keeping yourself from spouting

something embarrassing, or easily misconstrued. (I think this is why

politicians, increasingly, come off as either soulless automatons or

dopey hillbillies.) Dylan’s strategy has remained pretty simple: refuse to give a straight answer.

Don’t Open This Cookie

Not movie-related, but I really welcomed this news from The New York Times of a Queens fortune-cookie maker that has actually created some alternatives to the feel-good postprandial platitudes dispensed to date. Like this: “Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on yourself.” Or, “Your problem just got bigger. Think, what have you done?” Sweet.

Listen to a Movie

100x100_listen.jpg (tag line: “For the Cubicle Workers of the World”) has a fairly novel approach to copyright infringement. The site offers free streaming copies of movie audio tracks. Only. This wouldn’t be terribly interesting in our age of DVD, zillion-channel digital-cable packages, and Bittorrent, except that some of the audio files are commentary tracks. So far I don’t see the awesome original Criterion laserdisc commentaries by Martin Scorsese and Co. for Raging Bull and Taxi Driver — but somebody has posted the three James Bond laserdisc commentaries for Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger that Criterion had to withdraw from the market after somebody squawked.

Queens of the Stone Age: “3’s and 7’s”


No Fat Clips has a new QotSA video that’s patterned on Grindhouse, complete with guns, blood and boobies. (Scroll down to download it. Who pays for this guy’s bandwidth?) You can see a tamer version on YouTube, but this one is the uncut version. Why not fill your new rock video with tits and blood? I’m flabbergasted at how quickly the Internet has become, essentially, the only place to see new music videos.

Zoom: A Filmmaker Uncovers the Hidden Truths of Photos

181x100_zoom.jpgAt his New York Times blog,

Errol Morris is two installments into a thought-provoking investigation

of the story behind two very similar, and crucially different,

photographs taken during the Crimean War showing cannonballs scattered

across a road in an area known at the time as the Valley of the Shadow

of Death. In one photo, cannonballs are only seen littering the ditch

beside the road. In the other, taken from the same vantage point on the

same day, cannonballs can be seen strewn across the road itself. Morris

was intrigued — and not terribly impressed — by Susan Sontag’s claim,

in her book Regarding the Pain of Others,

that photographer Roger Fenton had decided to have the cannonballs

scattered across the road in order to add drama to the second picture

taken. Skeptical that Sontag could tell for sure what the story behind the two non-identical landscapes was, Morris set out to find

any evidence  — both textual in the photographs and extratextual —

supporting her argument. He eventually traveled all the way to the

Crimea in an attempt to gather enough information to figure out which photo was taken first. These blog entries are

thousands of fascinating words long and make engrossing reading for

anyone interested in issues of photography and documentary — or just jonesing for some Errol Morris goodness. I can

hardly wait for the third part, due this week (although I have a good

idea what his conclusion will be) and he’s suggested that a fourth

entry, responding to the many hundreds of comments the original posting

drew from readers, may be forthcoming. It’s not really bloggish reading, but it does illustrate what can be done when a writer is freed from the column-inch restrictions of a daily newspaper.