What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Saw “Crash,” which was terrible. I’ve since been thinking of it as “Hate, Actually.” Like “Love, Actually,” it was overstuffed and overblown, though its self-seriousness and every-three-minutes-message-thumping made it even more frustrating. Beyond the whole coincidental plot interweavings (which I’m not against; K. Kiesklowski’s “Red” might be my all-time top movie), there are loads of just ludicrous scenes. That hugely successful and savvy DA’s twice-repeated comment about “black people”? Right. Sandra Bullock’s terribly mean and unhappy character slipping on a slick wood floor and transforming – not even overnight; overday – into a completely aware woman looking for a hug? The smooth and successful black television producer reclaiming a bit of his non-honky history by heaving some debris into a street fire? What’s strange is that much of the acting was very fine, especially Ryan Phillippe’s. But the structure and the writing and the pacing and the editing produced a crummy product. David Denby’s glowing New Yorker review is beyond me. David Edelstein’s review in Slate made more sense to me. I wish the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum – one of my favorite writers on film – would’ve better justified his three-star review.

Also: Watched the first three discs of season two of “The Wire.” I don’t have cable and hadn’t seen an episode until a few months ago. I rented the entire first season and ate it up. It was so, so great. Can’t wait to continue with the rest of season two.

Read C.J. Hribal’s new novel “The Company Car.” Hribal was my fiction prof. in college, and I plan to do an extended interview with him over the summer. He’s a smart, funny guy, and this book was the same. Also read Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead,” which won the Pulitzer last year for fiction. It’s probably the most human and calm and warm and humble book about religion I’ve ever read. I also started Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses,” to prep for reviewing his forthcoming novel “No Country for Old Men.” I think my next post – once I finish “Horses” – will be a round-up of McCarthy passages. The guy’s possessed.