Now in their 17th year, the P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize some of the nation’s stinkiest media performances. As the judges for these annual awards, we do our best to identify the most deserving recipients of this unwelcome plaudit.
An American Carol You know what poor, beleaguered right-wing demagogues needed this fall? A petty, liberal-bashing, slapstick parody of A Christmas Carol from the guy who made Airplane! With a cameo by Bill O'Reilly!
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Every year—from Dr. Zhivago to The English Patient—there’s got to be a “Top 10” space for some epic, sweeping, visually seductive romance. That slot falls, this year, to David Fincher’s lush, effects-filled take on a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Take it apart, and it seems like too much about too little. Aging backwards is nothing new. Technically, Robin Williams did that on “Mork & Mindy”--the show just didn’t go on long enough to show us the tragic end of that particular romance. But look at the cumulative effect of this film’s slowly rising tide of detail: Brad Pitt’s soulful performance, the carefully burnished cinematography, the deathly symbolism, the matter-of-fact fantasy, the inevitable melancholic outcome. Surrender to the sad beauty of it all and you get a dramatic, eloquent, highly artistic rumination on the uncertainty of life and the inevitability of death.
The seemingly endless Writers Guild of America strike finally came to a halt in February, causing near-irreparable damage to this year’s television schedule. Most series ended up with truncated seasons (“Lost,” “Desperate Housewives”) or a complete delay until 2009 (“24,” “Battlestar Galactica”). Many of the shows that did manage to make it back on the air in the fall returned to double-digit drops in viewership courtesy of their nine-month hiatus.
The list kept growing. When we finished flipping through the Alibi's 2008 calendar and editorial archives, the number we were left with shocked us. From our count, local musicians released 55 albums in ’08--slightly more than one album a week. That has to be a record (excuse the pun). With so much to choose from, coming to a consensus on the 10 best Albuquerque-born albums went out the window. So it's with no ranking (other than alphabetical) that the Alibi's music critics sound off on their favorite local releases from the past year. Please buy them. You'll be guaranteed at least another year's worth of listening pleasure. (Laura Marrich)
At first, it all seemed to come together beautifully, a near-miracle of synchronicity: President-elect Obama picked Bill Richardson for a cabinet post in the new administration. When our governor agreed to become the next U.S. secretary of commerce, we all assumed he’d quickly leave the governor’s position two years before the end of his term, just as a new year, a new Legislature and a new budget crisis would all turn up in Santa Fe, ready to confront a new governor.
Dateline: Saudi Arabia—An 8-year-old girl who was married off by her father to a 58-year-old man has been told by a Saudi court she’s too young to get a divorce. Lawyer Abdu Jtili said the divorce petition was filed by the unnamed girl’s divorced mother in August after the marriage contract was signed by her father and the groom. The judge dismissed the plea because the mother did not have the right to file. He recommended the girl refile the petition herself once she reaches puberty. Relatives of the girl said the marriage had not been consummated and that the girl was still living with her mother. The case was handled by a court in Qasim province, north of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Mr. Jtili told the AFP news agency that he would appeal the judge’s decision.
In late 2008, the New Mexico Book Co-op revealed the winners of the New Mexico Book Awards in a number of categories, ranging from adventure to New Age. In this time of hardship and privation, won't you consider making your next book purchase a local one? A state can only handle so many starving artists, and New Mexico is pretty full up. Here is a terribly brief sample of the award recipients and your potential new book-friends:
Top picks by a washed-up, used-to-be arts editor by no means create an immutable list of the best art events of 2008. My initial list was about 30 deep, and trimming it down to 10 was quite an exercise, but it had to be done. So here they are, my top 10 picks for 2008 in no particular order.
For centuries, it has captivated humans and gods. It's been associated with worship, commerce, romance and comfort. But why has it so completely seduced the world? Just what's so special about chocolate?
The Year of Empty Cupboards--The sinking economy and rising gas prices that raged throughout most of 2008 affected our pantries as much as our pocketbooks. Thirty-seven countries faced food crises, aided by shrinking food reserves and severe weather.
The bad news is STOVE is closing. The good news is the space isn't going away--it's getting passed on to the folks of Black Market Goods, an underground traveling gallery (skip to the arts section to read about the details of the handover). The bad news is that means no more (ir)regular live music at 114 Morningside NE. But the good news is the last music event at the East Nob Hill artspace/venue will be a reunion of Albuquerque pirate queens Potty Mouth Sherry's. Relocated bandmate Cassady Fernandez is back in New Mexico for Christmas, and so PMS is rebooting for a quickie. Say “hi” to PMS and “bye” to STOVE as a music venue this Friday, Dec. 26, with Fando and Roñoso. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and cover's $5.
Farewell, 2008. You were a suspenseful one to say the least, and already your Wikipedia timeline is shaping up like a best-selling novel by Michael Crichton (who, coincidentally, passed away this year). There wasn't a day when some huge and world-shaking event didn't parade through the headlines: financial turmoil, unprecedented bailouts, the extinction of our biggest corporate brands, lipstick-wearing pit bulls, the ongoing war, Hadron Super Colliders, pirates, Chinese earthquakes, Olympic firsts, and a historic election that awarded us both America's first Black president and Gov. Richardson's muy suave beard. You've been a real page-turner, 2008, right up to that Great Presidential Shoeing episode in Iraq (which was my favorite, by the way).
The year 2008 comes to a close, ushering out a mostly fine year at the movie theater. This summer, Marvel’s Iron Man and DC’s Dark Knight duked it out in a giant-sized crossover for superhero supremacy. The winner? Moviegoing audiences, who got two great films. Pixar delivered another winner with the adorable WALL-E. Three-dimensional movies had their best year since The Creature from the Black Lagoon terrorized audiences back in the ’50s. Among the new, higher-tech wave of 3-D flicks: Hannah Montana, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bolt. Sex and the City made the leap from the small screen and scored a $150 million payday, proving it’s not just teenage boys who buy movie tickets. And a rush of Oscar contenders packed December theaters with critical faves (Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, Revolutionary Road).
“Blimey! This ’ere’s a right cock up, I’d say. Innat right, Mr. ’itler?”
By Devin D. O’Leary
If nothing else, the historical action drama Valkyrie proves that Tom Cruise isn’t necessarily a bad actor--but he’s often very poorly cast. Even before it hit theaters, people were starting to suspect something was off about Valkyrie. For starters, director Bryan Singer’s glossy take on Col. Claus von Stauffenberg’s failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler during the waning days of World War II cast celebrated couch-jumper Tom Cruise in the lead role.
“Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get,” intoned Forrest Gump with all the accentuation of a character reciting the tag line from his movie’s poster. Displaying more succinctness and less phony Southern drawl, Benjamin Button says of this mortal coil, “You never know what’s coming for ya.” Though equally obvious in their philosophical tone, both fictional narrators are aiming at the same sweeping, self-actualizing message: That life is an unpredictable affair intended to be lived day to day with much gusto and little regret. ... Hey, as mottos go, it beats “Life sucks, kill yourself.”
So, it’s Dec. 31, 2008. Aside from getting wicked drunk on cheap Champagne, eating way too many stuffed mushrooms and trying to steal an awkward midnight kiss from your next-door neighbor who has two screaming kids but looks surprisingly doable in the glow of your still-standing Christmas tree, what is there for you to look forward to this New Year’s Eve?
As the stock market ping-pongs lamely around this season and the financial doom-and-gloom casts shadows even on a good, old-fashioned night of heavy drinking, we see but one quick fix: beer that's strong, dark and cheap. Easier said then done, right? Some of the fancier American concoctions that fill the "dark" bill--Baltic Porters, artisanal, hand-numbered flasks of Scotch barrel-aged Stouts--can be just as heavy on the wallet. Lately the $3.99 bombers from Firestone Walker--especially its "Robust Porter"--have been drawing us away from the glitzier beer-fridge all-stars. Paying less than $4 for a thick, 650-milliliter bottle of roasty, toasty, squid-ink colored beer nowadays is more satisfying than many finer pleasures.
Walking into Farina is not unlike walking into my own ego. It's shiny and rough at the same time, all angles and pragmatic, utilitarian lines. Modern sophistication is the dominating aesthetic. Yet it’s also playfully submissive, as evidenced by a flat screen TV hung above the bar. It's a total dream.
How many calls is the unemployment office getting every day? What do you have to do to get tasered around here? Why was a Guadalupe County sheriff arrested? Problems plague the first few days of Rail Runner service to Santa Fe.
Two roiling basins of water press against each other, divided by a two-story-high concrete wall. One side is a gurgling brown mess of chemical dust—it looks like mud soup. But the other side glistens, clear as glass, tempting a dip of the hand.
Most of the Dec. 15 City Council meeting was deferred due to icy roads and snow. The councilors still managed to get a couple things out of the way. The most interesting items—sweeping water conservation measures, sector plan approvals and what to do with all those water-hog city toilets—will be heard sometime in the new year.
Dateline: China—London’s Telegraph reports a Chinese man was struck and killed by a wayward weather rocket—a fact that was not discovered until the man’s body exploded while being cremated. The body of Wang Diange, from the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, was found in the wreckage of a house where he had been overseeing the wake of a recently deceased family member. As it was raining and thundering at the time, family members concluded Wang had been struck by lightning. Several days later, after his own funeral, Mr. Wang’s body blew up as it was being fed into the cremation chamber, blasting the metal doors from their hinges. When the fire had been put out, the only clue left was a small, twisted piece of metal, which seemed to be the glowing remnant of a screw. A military serial number was found on the metal and a lengthy investigation traced it back to the local weather bureau. The day that Mr. Wang died, the weather bureau had been firing shells into the atmosphere to break up hail in a bid to protect the local tobacco crop. Inside the shells was silver iodide, a chemical that helps break hail into rain. The weather bureau’s own investigation concluded that one shell must have failed to explode, hit the house in which the wake was being held and lodged inside Mr. Wang’s body. As a result of the investigation, the weather bureau paid out a 80,000 yuan (about $15,000) settlement to the Wang family.
So, how was your Christmas? What's that? Mom dipped a bit heavily into the egg nog? Yeesh. Oh, your brother was visiting from Seattle—that's nice. And he brought up the time you auctioned off his underwear on the first day of his freshman year? Oooh. Accused you of ruining his life, blaming you for his arson spree? Huh. Well. How was mine, you ask? Pretty much the same, actually. Virtually identical. What's say we get out of the house so we won't be around when those emotional vultures come to pick our bones clean: Let’s go see some art. Even better, let's catch some shows that are wrapping up their run in the next week or so before we miss our chance.
The brief and unpretentious life of an art cooperative
By Marisa Demarco
A long time ago, STOVE founders Naython Williams and Thomas Haag took a guerilla art road trip. The goal: to do street art as they traveled, painting invented superheroes in the places they passed through. "And we couldn't think of anything," Haag says. "Everything is so overdone. It's hard to think of an original idea that still has meaning and holds interest."
The subject of our “Draw the Head on the TJ Trout” sweepstakes analyzes the entries
By Jessica Cassyle Carr
Among the clicking of typewriters, the bustle of newspeople with transatlantic accents and the hum of our very large and impressive printing press, here at Alibi headquarters we know just as well as anyone that media is serious business. On the other hand, it doesn't take seeing our articles wrapped around a fish carcass for us to also know the media deserves ridicule. Try as we might, constantly deprecating ourselves would verge on masochism, so it's all we can do to mock others and hope they return the favor some day.
I have it on good authority that Burning Paradise Video--Albuquerque’s top stop for your more esoteric, cult-oriented video rentals--is liquidating its stock of VHS films. From now through Friday, Dec. 19, you can purchase classic and not-so-classic VHS titles from the store’s extensive selection for a mere $3 a pop. If you’re planning on buying in bulk, you can help BP clear off its shelves by snagging 10 VHS tapes for only $25. What a deal! Get there quick, as hot titles are going fast. Burning Paradise is located at 800 Central SW and can be reached at 244-1161.
Stylish CGI fairy tale is surprisingly complex affair
By Devin D. O’Leary
Last week’s release of the largely unadvertised, mostly unseen and deservedly unloved film Delgo and this week’s release of The Tale of Despereaux point out a hard-and-fast rule of computer-animated films: It takes a great deal of skill to make one. Delgo, a product of Atlanta’s Fathom Studios, opened on 2,160 screens and made all of $511,920. That averages out to about 2 people per screening. Of course, even the highest quality of CGI work can’t cover up for a poor story. Delgo sported neither skill nor story. On the complete, polar opposite hand, The Tale of Despereaux boasts impeccable animation and a delightful story.
Boyle confounds expectations with orphans, torture, game show hosts, romance and musical numbers
By Devin D. O’Leary
Woe to the ambitious journalist, author or film critic who, 30 years from now, tries to write the definitive study of director Danny Boyle’s career. How to summarize a man who’s made a modern film noir (Shallow Grave), a blackly comic look at junkies in Scotland (Trainspotting), an uncategorizable comic crime romance fantasy (A Life Less Ordinary), an exotic thriller about utopian society (The Beach), a ’roid rage zombie movie (28 Days Later...), a quaint family drama about a kid who stumbles across a fortune (Millions), a high-minded space opera that morphs into a slasher film (Sunshine) and a Bollywood-inspired wish-fulfillment drama in which a poor Indian kid gets on the Hindi version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in order to impress his lifelong ladylove?
Artistic Director Bobby Shew leads the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra onto higher ground
By Mel Minter
Renowned trumpeter Bobby Shew has come full circle, and the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra couldn’t be happier about it. For Shew, who returned to the Albuquerque area about two years ago to “retire,” developing a quality jazz orchestra for his hometown is something he first dreamed of as a teenager. For the orchestra, the decision to offer Shew the position of artistic director—the first in the group’s long history—reflected its decision to go to another level.
Which prominent New Mexican may have been blackmailed? How are criminals coming up with extra holiday dough? Winrock Mall is set to make a big improvement. What makes our state attractive to identity thieves?
Dr. John Fogarty was sure his case was cut and dry.
But after two hours of deliberation on Friday, Dec. 12, the jury pulled the plug on his years-long case against Albuquerque police and the city. The verdict was not in Fogarty's favor.
On March 20, 2003, the day the United States and three other countries invaded Iraq, several hundred citizens demonstrated near the University of New Mexico. "The mood of the crowd was almost festive," Fogarty says. "People were playing music. People were singing and chanting."
Longtime Senator Pete Domenici announced his retirement in October 2007 under the worst of circumstances. He wasn't retiring because of some political scandal; instead, it was something far more tragic. He announced his diagnosis of a fatal brain disease called frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Dateline: China—A Chinese woman who had not cut her hair in 10 years called police to report that her lengthy locks had been purloined. Xiao Hong, 30, of Siping told the Beijing Evening Post someone cut off her 4-foot braid as she walked out of a shopping mall. “People were squeezing together out the door, and when I stepped out I felt I lost something,” she explained to the newspaper. “I subconsciously touched my hair, but it was gone.” In the past, Xiao said she had been offered the equivalent of $500 for her hair, but refused to sell it.
Christmas is a singular holiday for many reasons—presents, food, flying animals—but the reason it’s such a focal point of the year is that the celebration doesn’t just happen on that one day. Retailers would have you believe that the revelry starts approximately the second Tuesday of November, but it’s really this week that marks the beginning of the holiday. New Mexico has its own special blend of traditions, alternately old, weird and made-up. Even if you celebrate Hanukkah, are French or think that Santa Claus is a Biblical character, avail yourself of the opportunity to enjoy these very New Mexican Christmas traditions.
By Erin Adair-Hodges, Tom Gibbons and Lisa Lenard-Cook
Good girls love books. And so do bad girls. And boys. Grandmas, too. So it would be a nice idea to reward the bibliophiles in your life for their good (or deliciously bad) behavior over this year with a book that’s right down their alley. They’ll either thank you or spank you for it.