Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"The U.S. Vs. John Lennon" now out on DVD

As Chris Chang, of "Film Comment," put it: "Before Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban there was John Lennon."

The documentary about the legendary musician is now out on DVD. It played in art houses a few months back. The film is not nominated for an Oscar (well, like that means anything), and it was not chosen as one of the top 50 films of the year by "Film Comment." I have also not seen the film.

But, it seems like it is one of these poignant efforts to parallel an event from our past to the present. Social conservatives may think I am about to make another allegory between Vietnam and Iraq. However, one could also say we are now fighting a war at home as many who opposed the Vietnam War did back then. And, there are cultural icons who have spoken out in both instances.

Yesterday, it may have been Lenon, Joan Baez and Jane Fonda. Today, it is the Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn and well- Jane Fonda. But, there is also opposition to further troop deployment in Iraq being voiced by the likes of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Cong. Howard Cobbell (R-NC).

In his brief on the documentary about the Beatles star, Chang said the film illustrates how Lennon was perceived as such a threat that memos about him were scrutinized by the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, H.R. Haldeman and even Pres. Richard Nixon.

Chang adds that co-directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld don't really add anything new about the Lennon story. But, the Nashville-based critic said that the film's story, its relevance to today's political atmosphere and interviews with the likes of '60s activist Bobby Seale, make the film worthwhile.

It is available for rental from Netflix and other outlets. It is a LionsGate release. Retail: $27.98

Other new DVD releases of interest include Lewis Milestone's 1930 anti-war epic "All Quiet on the Western Front" (an actual good film that has won a Best Picture Oscar), the documentary "Shut Up and Sing" about the Dixie Chicks' political battle with conservative country music radio and in the guilty pleasure which may lead to divorce court dept., there is Michael Crichton's (yes, the "Jurassic Park" author has directed a few films) 1981 film "Looker."

"Looker" features a very sexy Susan Dey, of "L.A. Law" fame. In a review about the film which deals with gorgeous models that hawk products and political candidates, Leonard Maltin wrote the following: "Intriguing premise is illogically and boringly handled." BTW, Maltin rated the film a bomb. It also features a cameo by a then-unknown Vanna White. And, lastly, I happened to see the film on Showtime when I was teenager in the mid-'80s. I loved it at the time. I probably would not, if I saw it today!



Thursday, January 25, 2007

Film Comment names "The Departed" film of the year

One of America's leading film magazine for those of us who 'really like movies' has named Martin Scorsese's gangster epic "The Departed" as the best film of the year. My friend Bilge Ebiri, who is a film critic, professional blogger and independent filmmaker, was one of the voters for the survey. Other participants included filmmaker Paul Schrader, Canadian film director Guy Maddin and historian/author Amy Taubin.

The top 10 are as follows:


1. "The Departed"

2. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (Romania)

3. "Army of Shadows" (France- actually made some 30 years ago, but never released here)

4. L'Enfant (France)

5. The Queen

6. Borat- my favorite film of the year, so far.

7. Half Nelson

8. United 93

9. Volver (Spain)

10. Inland Empire (the latest film from David Lynch)

The Turkish film, "Climates," which I have yet to see ranked #22. Robert Altman's last film "A Prarie Home Companion" was #18. And, "Casino Royale" ( a James Bond film) actually made the list at #20. Am I alone in thinking Roger Moore was the best Bond?.................just kidding!


Remembering Hrant Dink. A senseless murder.

I am truly saddened that Turkey's most prominent citizen of Armenian heritage was assasinated in Istanbul by a culprit who appears to be a 17-year-old kid on Saturday. The BBC reported there was a tremendous outpouring in both communities during Dink's funeral. Unfortunately, there are MAJOR political divides between Turkish and Armenian people in all parts of the world. And, an event of this nature is one which simply adds bricks to the already extensive, invisible wall. The reasons for this divide are so contentious that I refuse to bring them up at a sensistive time like this. But, at the end of the day, the Dink family has needlessly lost a husband and a father. The tragedy was condemned by the leading Turkish-American Association, ATAA. The web site for the leading Armenian-American group, ANCA, features a tribute to the fallen journalist. Dink was able to bridge the gaps between our two sides in a remarkable manner which few will likely replicate anytime soon. As someone who is proud of his Turkish heritage, I want to assure every fellow American, especially those of Armenian heritage, that all of us who truly represent everything positive about my late father Mehmet Gokbudak's country would have never wanted this at any level_ subconciously or otherwise.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Airport Weddings?

I learned yesterday from the BBC radio series "Culture Shock" that the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam is offering wedding services! I know that airports are perhaps one of the least romantic settings one could think of for the occasion, but it does seem more original than the standard church or courthouse wedding.

If you want to hear the piece, "Culture Shock" is available online via the following link:


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ataturk the Spitting Llama

My sister Lale Lovell, who lives near Denver, brought this to my attention earlier in the week. Apparently, my favorite comic strip "Pearls Before Swine" took a jab at Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a heroic figure in my late father Mehmet Gokbudak's native Turkey. Ataturk defeated British forces at Gallipoli in WW I and later went on to form the Turkish Republic. In the process, Ataturk turned back Greek forces in the city we call Izmir and they call Smyrna_ which is not to confused with Smyrna, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. In two "Pearl" strips that ran earlier this week, there is a spitting llama diplomat character, who happens to be named Ataturk. Now, before anyone assumes that I am going to rant about Stephen Pastis' (the cartoonist) intentions, I will say "Pearls" is a very funny, hip strip. He once made fun of how few people bother to actually read blogs such as these. But, Pastis is a Greek-American, and one does have to wonder what does this all mean? I have nothing against Greek-Americans, and I am under the assumption that Pastis has nothing against us. And, this is a comic strip_ not "Midnight Express." This is also a very mild (alleged) jab compared to a "BC" comic strip which featured an outhouse that had a crescent moon on it a few years back.. Many Muslims took that strip to be anti-Islamic. Johnny Hart, the cartoonist for "BC," denied any such anti-Islamic intentions in a "Washington Post" article though the outcry was quite intense. I suppose there is this certain doubt that exists in people when they take in a creative work. The irony is that perhaps more people will learn about Ataturk from this strip, and as P.T. Barnum once said: "Any publicity is good publicity." But, those of us who are of Turkish heritage, are quite sensitive about these things. If you wonder why, then perhaps you should see "Midnight Express," then again perhaps you shouldn't. As for "Pearls..," I may prefer "Sherman's Lagoon" for a while, but there are other things of more important concern and it does not change my respect for the strip or the artist. Ataturk did many great things for Turkey, including developing better education, transportation and political systems. But, he  has been a controversial  figure  in the  West  since  Lord  Kinross  wrote  a biography about him 30 years ago.

For those who want to see the first of the two "Pearl" strips, the link is:


Friday, January 12, 2007

Bruce Piephoff at the Green Bean- Feb. 9

Wow, it is a busy Friday night here in Salem, Va. I live in Reidsville, NC, work in Danville, Va. and spend most of my free time in Roanoke and Greensboro............but, aside from the price of gas, life is fun these days.

My good friend Bruce Piedhoff will be performing at the Greensboro coffee house The Green Bean located on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, on the evening of Feb. 9, starting at 8:00. I hope I got the date right! If I erred, the folk singer's web site is:


The coffee shop's site is:

http://www.thegreenbean.com.............I think!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mexico City- Opposing Views

It may be a while before I can enter new entries on a regular basis. But, for right now, I thought this might be of interest. While we were in Mexico, we briefly went through Mexico City. It is a city which has somewhere between 10 and 30 million people, depending on which source you cite for this disputed figure. As it turns out, "The Washington Post" ran a story about Mexico City on Dec. 31, ironically just one day before we were there. We did not get to the Frida Kahlo House, but we managed to see some ruins near the city. The Travel Section of the Post recieved two letters about Mexico City, which were published yesterday. Here is a synopsis of those letters:

Tatiana Alva of Manassas, Va., wrote that they stayed in the Santa Rosa district and took a public bus to the basilica without any problems. She added that there were many wonderful things to do in Mexico.

But, Sandy Goodman of Rockville, Md., said one should 'bring along an AK-47 or a Glock 9mm holstered to your ankle' if venturing into the city. Goodman said that he traveled to Mexico City many times, starting in 1962, but quit visiting the city when it became unsafe. Goodman added that one of his/her friends was mugged, robbed and kidnapped near the Zocalo in the early '90s.

There are of course other places with such concerns to travelers, including Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles. One also has to wonder how you can get an AK-47 on the plane..............

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Friend of Mine has traveled to 100 countries?!

I want to publicly congratulate my friend Gary Frink who resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for visiting 100 countries. Gary actually ran for Congress as both a Republican and a Democrat. His friends include Zel Miller, Jim Jeffords, and Virginia's newly elected Sen. James Webb (D)_ :)

Frink's latest ventures were to Angola and Cameroon. I recently saw a film from Angola called "Hollow City" on DVD. It was 'just slightly' more depressing than "Sounder." Here is Gary's link:


Well, we didn't get a sombrero......but here are pix

My mother, myself, my sister and my brother-in-law, and their friends from Colorado went on a joint trip to Mexico. It was delayed by a huge megastorm which decked the Denver area (see earlier entry).......We were mostly in Puebla- Mexico's third largest city. Mom and I had an 'interesting' experience arriving back at the airport in Greensboro, but that's another entry!
Virtually, all of us took pictures. No Polaroids though..........!

Here are the pictures that my brother-in-law Matt took: