Movies

Exhibit 1.5.15

Currently

I’m teaching a class of high school students about narrative using short stories and film. A lot of it is work I’m familiar with but there’s quite a bit I’m not. Among the pleasant surprises so far:

Vigo – L’Atalante

Sturges – The Lady Eve

Fellini – I Vitelloni (Which I’m pretty sure is just Italian for “The Bros”)

1 Comment / Posted in Black, Movies, White

Exhibit 1.3.9

Need to Figure This Out

So I keep going back and forth on this point, and I can’t decide: Did the dinosaur hunter guy from Jurassic Park use his final breath to make a Total Recall reference before being mauled by velociraptors?

Evidence for:

1) Said to a “girl”

2) This girl had been “clever”

Evidence against:

1) He’s about to die making it an odd thing to choose as one’s final words regardless of the quote’s appropriateness in the situation (sort of like if you were stabbed and said, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” before, you know, dying).

2) No other evidence he’s a Total Recall fan

Okay, that’s pretty much it.

1 Comment / Posted in Maulings, Movies, Unanswered questions

Exhibit 1.3.5

Recycled Content

So I have no car and I’m pretty sure I’m dying, but that didn’t stop Laura Eve and I from live tweeting Star Wars: A New Hope. Here it is, the laziest blog post yet from a guy who sometimes just posts pictures of his dog.

* Going to live-tweet Star Wars with @hoostown. I recommend you unfollow me now just like the Rebel Alliance unfollowed Emperor Palpatine.

* Laura Eve guest tweet: Live-tweeting Star Wars with @AdamWPeterson instead of working on my fan fiction piece, “What If Luke Had Picked Up Those Power Converters.” *

* Instead of “A New Hope,” Lucas should have changed the subtitle to “Star Wars: A PowerPoint with Robots.”

* O really, Luke, “sand people are the worst?” Might be time to turn off the Fox News.

* When Alec Guinness says “evil” it has 8 syllables and takes 18 seconds. Usually he’s not even done saying it when he has to say it again.

* “We don’t serve their kind here.” Tatooine is all racists and scrap yards. It’s the Mississippi of the Star Wars universe.

* For a decade I’ve been trying to work “I find your lack of Faith Evans disturbing.” into a casual conversation. Preferably on a date.

* I just created my own Star Wars special edition. For about 15 minutes while they’re in hyperspace, the movie becomes Rush videos on YouTube.

* I will now live-tweet this Jell-O mousse cup I took a chance on at the supermarket: heavy pudding.

* I’m not saying Darth Vader is a micromanager, but I’m pretty sure he sewed the Death Star’s curtains.

* Of course the garbage monster on the Death Star has a name. Also, a backstory. Also, the worst slash fiction ever. http://bit.ly/cB1dpE

* The Storm Trooper training manual includes only one rule: always say “Blast ‘Em” before shooting. It’s like the Empire’s Miranda rights.

* Did Obi Wan really follow through on becoming more powerful after his death? Seems like he sort of just died. Same question, Jesus.

* Despite the planet-destroying starship one guy with a bo staff guards the Rebel base. Still, that system did keep my parents out of my room.

* Luke is a cocky pilot for someone who let C-3PO drive earlier. Vader lost to a guy who throws the keys to a talking little league trophy.

* Laura Eve guest tweet: Luke & Leia making eyes at each other but still not hooking up at the end of the movie makes a pretty good argument for waiting. *

And Star Wars is over. I look forward to going back and revising these tweets with new special effects in 2027. [screen wipe]

Comment / Posted in Movies, Recycling, Wars

Exhibit 1.2.25

Things I Learned from Re-watching G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Because if you’ve only seen it once, there’s a lot you miss. I mean, I didn’t have to watch it twice, but I also didn’t have to graduate from high school. I re-watched because I care. Also, because I’ve already used up all of this month’s free articles on The New York Times and I needed to find some way to keep in touch with global politics.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Water is flammable and therefore science is a lie.

2) No matter what side of the recent budget crisis you were on, there’s one thing on which we can all agree: most of our tax dollars should go to building more army ninjas.

3) In any context, “nano” as a prefix means “dangerous” e.g. Nanobot, Nanopunch, Nanomom.

4) In most contexts, “nano” as a prefix also means “delicious” e.g. Nanotaco, Nanopunch, Nanomallow.

5) If you need a secret lair, the key is to build it as far underground as possible. Unless you don’t want your secret lair to be destroyed. The movie offers no solutions for if you don’t want your secret lair destroyed.

6) As a suffix, “nano” means “size of iPod” and nothing else ever.

7) Brendan Fraser will cameo in your movie if he gets to make all of the following expressions: O!, Come on!, [laughing head shake], [motorcycle whee].

8) Chicks who don’t like you have been brainwashed.

9) If your evil organization, collective, or confederacy is capable of replacing the president with one of your own men, your other plan that involves picking a fight with an elite task force of international soldiers is probably superfluous if not downright counterproductive.

10) Seriously, Earth, Wind, and Fire was right to leave out water.

Comment / Posted in Joes, Lessons, Movies

Exhibit 1.2.1

Best Movie Quotes to Pretend Are in The Great Gatsby

* “Here’s looking at you, kid.” — Tom Buchanan to Myrtle

* “Forget it, James, it’s North Dakota.” — Dad Gatsby

* “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” — Daisy

* “It was beauty killed the beast.” — Owl Eyes

* “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” — Dan Cody

* “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” — Myrtle

* “You had me at hello.” — Nick

* “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” — Jordan

* “I’ll have what she’s having.” — Wolfsheim

Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Movies

Exhibit 1.1.20

The Social Network in Stock Photos

Featuring a gorilla as Mark Zuckerberg. In seven acts.

Act 1


“I need to do something substantial in order to get the attention of the clubs. They’re exclusive and fun, and they lead to a better life.”

Act 2


“We’re ranking girls.”

Act 3


“As for the charges, I believe I deserve some recognition from this board.”

Act 4


“I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.”

Act 5


“It’s like a Final Club except we’re the president.”

Act 6


“You’re gonna blame me because you were the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company?”

Act 7


“If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”

The End


♫Baby, You’re a Rich Man♫

1 Comment / Posted in Gorillas, Movies, Stock Photography

Exhibit 27.27

What I Did While My Internet Was Down

1) Watched everything Netflix could send me without updating my queue. This is how I learned that the greatest threat to America’s bros is wolves. Thanks, Frozen. I don’t know why I added you to my queue, I just know that if I see a guy who looks like he might play ultimate frisbee, that bro is going to get eaten by wolves.

2) Learned about foreshadowing. Earlier in the movie, one of the bros says that the worst way to die would be to be eaten by sharks. Later, this bro gets eaten by what the Sioux called “the snow shark.” Wolves.

3) Wished he would have been eaten by an actual shark. Watching a shark flop up a ski slope to eat an injured bro would really have made my internet-less night.

4) Promised myself I wouldn’t talk to everyone about this movie.

5) Talked to everyone about this movie, at great length, without [SPOILER ALERT]s, including offering theories as to what I would do if stuck on a ski lift with no hope of rescue.

6) Determined the first thing I would do if stuck on a ski lift: not foreshadow any possible deaths, no matter how unlikely, certainly not any involving the North American snow shark.

7) Texted random people about the movie while always misspelling the word skiers.

8) Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back. Waited for people to text me back.

9) Gave up on people texting me back due to my misspellings. Started a screenplay for my own sequel to Frozen but never got beyond the title. Clearly though the title of the sequel should be Frost/Bite.

10) Checked my email 987 times hoping a little one would appear in the spinny circle.

Comment / Posted in Bored, Movies, Wolves

Exhibit 27.26

Things That Entertained Me While My Internet Was Down

Apparently my Netflix queue is making its way through last year’s big movies. Please forgive me when I try to engage you in a conversation about Inception in March 2013.


The White Ribbon
Maybe not quite as good as its reputation–or as good as Caché–but still really fantastic. It is not, despite what the trailers suggest, Children of the Corn: Wilhelmine Edition. Well, not exactly anyway. A strangely constructed movie and, like Caché, one purposefully demanding a conversation about what exactly happened.

Brief aside: Is it okay in film to have a narrator then show scenes that narrator could not have possibly witnessed nor known about? I don’t care, really, I’m just curious since this is the sort of thing that gets railed about in fiction workshops. I guess the opening where the narrator admits he’s not sure he remembers everything correctly is supposed to address this occasional omniscience, but it’s still a little weird when other things–like, you know, answers–are only speculated about.


The Secret in Their Eyes
Sort of an Argentine Memories of a Murder. Definitely more conventional than The White Ribbon, but at its best it’s smart and stylish and not nearly as crappy as the trailer suggests. At its worst, it’s sort of a really good episode of Law and Order and exactly what its trailer suggests.

Took me awhile but I finally remembered where I’d see the lead actor. He’s in Nine Queens, which is a nice Mamet-y con drama from a few years back. Wikipedia tells me he’s one of the biggest stars in Latin America. Makes sense. He’s sort of Tom Hanks-y.


Flight to Canada
I think I said this on Twitter, but I’m pretty sure I like this better than Mumbo Jumbo, and I love Mumbo Jumbo. Since today I can apparently only compare, I might as well say it reminded me quite a bit of Robert Coover’s The Public Burning in its conflation/exaggeration/reinvention of American history. It was written about the same time, too. Something in the air after Watergate? In any case, you should read it.

Comment / Posted in Books, Movies, Things

Exhibit 27.20

Film Criticism

My review of the Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:

My review of the Swedish adaptation of The Girl Who Played With Fire:

Look, all I’m saying is there might be better languages to use when having conversations about terrible crimes.

It’s cool, I can say this because I’m sure it’s true.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Tattoos

Exhibit 27.15

Distractions

“Nobody cares but me.”

Comment / Posted in Caring, Goulds, Movies

Exhibit 23.15

I Watched These Movies Yesterday Because They Have Long Been in My Netflix Queue and I Always Confused Them Even Though I Had Seen Neither

The 39 Steps
This is the Hitchcock one, a pre-WWII spy thriller which occasionally aims for laughs in a way it probably wouldn’t if it were made even a few years later. In 1935, however, audiences apparently wanted a bit of a screwball comedy to go along with their international intrigue. It’s not a British The Thin Man by any means, but it’s a little strange in retrospect (it’s a movie about an unnamed country trying to steal British air defense secrets which I’m sure was all great fun until, I don’t know, 1940). It’s not broad, exactly, it’s just that part of the movie’s charm is in ill-prepared but game Canadian getting sucked into the world of spies when he gets accused of murder. He handles himself with good humor, finding time to banter with a blonde and give a good mustache-twitching reaction shot when needed. It’s all tight and smart and cute. Hell, maybe it is a British Thin Man. Nothing wrong with that.

The Third Man
I sort of hate Joseph Cotten. Okay, hate is maybe a little strong since I think I’ve only seen him in two or three movies, but in both this and Citizen Kane he gets the unenviable task of playing a drunk. Unfortunately, being drunk in the ’40s seems to have involved a lot of hiccuping and exaggerated slurring. More than that, in both movies Cotten plays sort of a principled sidekick to a bigger man–which would be fine, great even–only Cotten himself comes across as a big man, a bit of a bully type unhappy about being shoved into the shadows. Maybe that’s why he drinks. That’s more of a personal issue- I should say I do remember liking that scene in the retirement home in Kane–and hardly one that ruined this movie. It’s a really good movie. Certainly it’s because I watched them in the same day, but it’s hard for me not to see The Third Man as The 39 Steps shaken, war veteran cousin. Outside of a cringe-inducing literary reading–certainly relatable–there’s very little humor in all the intrigue. Instead of a chummy gamesmanship there are lives being ruined over rashly decided and quickly shifting principles. Everyone always has a side but it might not be the same one they had the day before. There are real implications to these shaky loyalties and one’s best move would be to up and leave if only it were possible. In that sense, it’s as much a WWII movie as anything involving D-Day. It’s also got a great deal–the zither score, Welles’s face cut by light, the hands through the grate, the long final shot–that makes it hard to forget. More than that, it lingers as one of the greyest black-and-white movies in my mind.

Comment / Posted in 3, Confusion, Movies

Exhibit 23.1

The Road

I don’t have much to say about the book. It’s good. Great, even. You’ve probably read it. It’s the one where a guy and his kid wander around apres apocalypse and do things Oprah likes (which is weird because if there’s one thing The Road makes clear it’s that chicks can’t handle the end of the world). The prose isn’t as stylized as some of McCarthy’s other work but it’s still incredible, capable of making a 270 page book where not much happens seem tight and fraught and inexhaustibly sad.

The movie, however, is interesting insomuch as it follows the book perfectly, is beautifully imagined, and adds absolutely nothing to the world. All of that makes it fairly hard to hate or even dislike. If anything, I suppose I might even say I liked the movie in terms of it having done exactly what I would have wanted the movie to do. Unfortunately, what I wanted it to do was something profoundly boring, a kind of failure of my own imagination in wanting only ashy skies and leering marauders. Of course, the book had already given me those images only now I got to see what they would look like with Aragorn in the frame and Cheetos product placements. I got to have the old man turned from something strange and intellectually menacing to Robert Duvall, America’s favorite wily grandfather.

There’s a lot of complaining about any film adaptation of a novel but rarely is the complaint that it follows the book too closely. And I’m not even sure if that’s what happened here. No Country for Old Men seemed to treat its source material with similar reverence yet the end result seemed to please everyone. Perhaps it’s because that book was supposedly a screenplay before it was a novel before it was a screenplay. Perhaps it’s because the Coen brothers are better filmmakers. Perhaps there was just more to work with than the sparse, empty world of The Road. In any case, the problem here is not that there is a movie of The Road but that I wanted to see it. And I wanted to see it exactly as how I saw it when reading the book. Then I did see it and it was skillful but empty. Worse, I will now always see it that way. That old guy is forever Harry Hogge.

Maybe I’ve been grading too much, but hours after leaving the theater I wished I had some physical representation of the movie so I could write “Why do you want this to exist?” on it.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Movies, Reviews

Exhibit 22.13

A comprehensive list of things in the movie G.I. Joe that were silly, physically impossible, cameos from the guy who played Steve Nebraska in The Scout, vaguely racist, childhood defiling, problematically unaware of the laws of physics, problematically unaware of how ice floats, problematically set in 17th century France, irrationally costumed in rubber masks that had lips, not at all subtle in their winking at the old cartoons, ballistic missiles shot down with snow mobiles, starring a guy with a tiny head, unnecessarily Scottish, places we’re expected to believe those guys from 17th century France named a prisoner Destro, summations of the plot only recently summarized only this time done in a Scottish accent, betrayed a stunning lack of knowledge about the U.N.’s role in the world, unexplained holes going deeper into the Earth when we were already pretty deep underneath the Earth, continuity errors, being tracked by beacons of the tracking variety, timely statements on the continued problem of racial profiling, national landmarks that got all Independence Dayed, chased, no really ballistic missiles shot down with snow mobiles, scenes in which the word ‘nano’ was said more than three times, Sienna Miller, unexplained instances of a small white child growing up alone on the streets of Tokyo, Dennis Quaid telling someone within a tenth of a percentile how awesome they are at being a G.I. Joe, problematically reinforcing the notion that the filmmakers have never seen water or ice and possibly not steam, a dude in a holograph physically interacted with an object in a way that seemed to need some sort of explanation like what is he seeing on his side of the transmission and what did he doing to the nanoweapons case holding the nanowarheads was it something that would make them more or less nano, or a Wayans:

1) Storm Shadow would totally wail on Snake Eyes

1 Comment / Posted in Good Ideas, Joes, Movies

Exhibit 19.14

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Up
1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 19.6

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Terminator Salvation
Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 18.23

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

Star Trek
1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 18.19

Old Pictures of My Friend Ryan Review Summer Blockbusters

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Comment / Posted in Movies, Reviews, Ryans

Exhibit 17.20

The Searchers

Someone requested my thoughts on The Searchers and since I didn’t see anything interesting while driving to work today, I figured why not. I’m here to please.

Despite what you may be thinking based on some recent posts, this is actually the first John Wayne movie I’ve ever seen. I had to look up some of his characters’ names for a project, posted the character names, was told to watch The Searchers, watched The Searchers, was told to write about The Searchers, and now I’m writing about The Searchers. This has all taken place within a week or so. Like I said, I’m here to please.

Here’s the trailer if you’d like to watch it, but I should tell you it gives away maybe the best scene of the movie and, if you know what to look for, the ending.

Lusty slice of history? Sign me up.

So it’s not in any way lusty, but it is a great movie, sort of an earlier, American Southwest Lawrence of Arabia in visual style and something much more modern in its dark, somewhat meta conflict which rests entirely on antagonizing the audience’s expectation of John Wayne-the-guy-who-plays-heroes with John-Wayne-the-guy-playing-a-racist-jerk. I know nothing about film, so I’m sure this kind of against-type casting existed before, but I can’t think of an earlier example. I certainly can’t think of a time it’s worked this well since (it usually ends up lifeless [see Hanks, Tom, The Road to Perdition] or silly [see Carrey, Jim, The Number 23. Actually, don’t. I certainly didn’t]).

What’s so great about it here is that Wayne seems completely unaware his character is a bad guy. Obviously he did know, but it’s clear that Wayne sympathizes with him to such a degree that it would be uncomfortable if Wayne weren’t so damn likable. As I said before, I’ve never seen a John Wayne movie, hate the guy’s politics and his behavior during the Red Scare, and don’t have a lot of interest in his vision of America or masculinity–I’m, you know, a wimp–but there’s undeniably something big about the man and it’s something that seems to exist outside of what he says or does. And believe me, I hate buying into this guy. I’d love to be contrarian here, but it’s true. John Wayne had me at his first, “That’ll be the day.”

It’s his presence outside the character that greys the movie, and it’s almost impossible to imagine a movie with the same mechanics today. It’s maybe as simple as the fact that the studio system doesn’t create stars in the same way–although god knows they try every so often:

Movie Executive #1: Shia LaBeouf?
Movie Executive #2: Shia LaBeouf!

Or maybe it’s something Marlon Brando did. Certainly The Searchers is riding the anti-hero wave:

On the Waterfront – 1954
Rebel Without a Cause – 1955
The Searchers – 1956

Thankfully, we just haven’t been living in an era that wants Superman for a long, long time and in The Searchers John Wayne is Superman turned bitter after choosing the wrong team (in this case, the South in the Civil War). And so it’s not just that Wayne is playing against type, it’s that he’s playing the death of his type. A once great man reacting to the end of his era with violence and hate.

For some reason, John Ford sought to soften the blow of this portrayal with laughter. There’s a lot of comedy in The Searchers and it’s all very broad–a cartoony simpleton, pratfalls, misunderstandings with (hilarious) consequences. There’s absolutely no reason for any of this to be in the movie, but it’s there nonetheless. The only thing odder than its existence is the fact that it’s actually funny more often than not. Still, it’s completely disposable and unwanted, scenes that most people probably forget when remembering the movie.

(The Searchers is apparently the AFI’s greatest Western of all-time. Fair enough. It is quite awesome and I don’t know anything about Westerns. But I do know it would be hilarious to take some of these comedy scenes and insert them into, say, Unforgiven. Watching Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman have a surprisingly girly fight played for laughs? Yes. Yes indeed).

Last thought: And maybe it’s just because of how inherently unassailable Wayne is, but I think there’s an argument could be that the character Ford objects to most is Ward Bond’s Reverend Captain, who is both the local priest and the local marshall. While he’s as complex as the rest of the characters here, even Wayne seems to hate the power and hypocrisy at work when these two roles combine in one man. Considering the movie was made at the end of the McCarthy-era, it’s easy to see Bond’s character, and not Wayne’s, as the real anti-hero. Wayne is going to die and take his character flaws with him, leaving behind nothing but a son-figure who represents the opposite of what Wayne believes in. But men like Bond and their “good-intentioned” facism aren’t going anywhere.

Comment / Posted in Bond, Johns, Movies

Exhibit 17.6

Plot Synopsis Of A Showtime Action Movie That Captivated Dave, Tyrone, And I As Remembered One Month Later

The movie opens with a team of poorly concealed soldiers rappelling down a hill they could probably walk down, but the rappelling lets us know they are highly trained in all of the military arts (except concealment). Our team forms a perimeter around a terrorist base camp oddly appropriately located in Southern California Afghanistan where a stripper/spy has been taken hostage. A fake closeup/computer simulation let’s us know her captor is unimaginatively called The Bombmaker. I don’t know how else to describe the computer thing. Just know there is a lot of beeping and, I think, some faux-night vision. Still, it’s day. That’s why you can see those 15 to 20 soldiers spending the better part of an hour disconnecting their rappelling cables over by the hill where the Afghan kids go sledding.

Anyway, our hero infiltrates the camp, frees the girl, and spends 20 seconds turning around while a suspiciously Anglo terrorist fumbles with his kalishnikov. I think I actually went to the bathroom and came back during our exceedingly un-agile hero’s maneuver. Still, Worthington P. Terrorist III gets a knife to the chest in the end. Our hero grabs the girl and oddly leaves The Bombmaker alive. We never see him again. Na, I’m kidding. We totally see him again.

The hero and the girl begin to kiss in what I think is the back of the truck they’re driving away in (I assume this truck is where they kept the rappelling gear which is really looking less necessary than ever). We learn our hero is Australian. This seems surprising but whatever. So they’re making out when the hero opens a briefcase he stole and finds that it’s full of money. Cut to a black screen with our Aussie hero’s voiceover:

That’s when I moved to Las Vegas and founded…

…The Crazy Girls!

I think Dave and I actually high-fived here. We were that excited. Turns out America’s greatest spy is actually an Australian and has gotten out of the game in order to manage a strip club. Yep. Anyway, despite being out of the game he’s training his strippers to break into houses and steal information. Also, his strip club has a high-tech lair where he can run operations. Otherwise he’s completely out of the game. He says this a lot. If there’s a game, he’s not at it.

Until the CIA asks him to go to a poker game. He’s in that one. It’s hosted by the guy who finances all of the world’s terrorists. I think we get more beeping and green screen, but this time it’s okay because it’s actually night. So our hero is winning (naturally) when a girl bursts out of the other room. Apparently our financier friend had another poker game earlier and ordered this girl killed because she won. Except they then waited until our financier had yet another poker game to actually do it. Then she escaped. Everyone with me? Good.

So, our financier is going to kill both of them because he hates losing. Or he loves murder. All we know is that he sucks at poker and uses it as an excuse to satisfy his bloodlust. Needless to say, his henchman botches the job. Our very, very slow Aussie hero and the girl go back to his place where she tries to seduce him but fails because he’s looking at a picture of his dead family while sitting at a piano and playing wistfully. (!) The girl goes away sad. Then comes back thirty seconds later to try again. His family’s angry, Australian ghosts placated by some John Tesh, this time it works.

This is about when Ty comes back. Dave and I excitedly recap the plot. Ty seems dubious. One of us expresses hope that the Aussie beefcake gets naked even though he probably shouldn’t. The rest of us express desperate anti-hope. No one thinks about changing the channel.

Also, from this point forward imagine that whenever the scene changes there is an establishing shot of the Riviera hotel and casino. They apparently financed the movie and therefore get about 5 minutes of total airtime. These shots happen whether or not the following scene actually takes place in the casino. It’s very odd.

I haven’t said much about the actual Crazy Girls. Basically, they all have stripper names and a singular talent that may or may not prove useful. One steals cars. One can make computers do whatever she wants after some very stilted typing. One doesn’t talk. I’m serious, one’s power is that she doesn’t talk. They decide to use their skills (or, in one case, handicap) to infiltrate the financier’s hotel room where he is having…wait for it…another poker game. Oh! And he still has the same (white) goon. To recap, our Middle Eastern terrorist financier’s goon is able to keep his job despite:

A) Somehow botching the murder of an unarmed stripper locked in a room
B) Then botching killing her again after her first escape
C) Not killing America’s greatest Australian spy (this one is sort of understandable)
D) Failing to prevent the stripper from breaking into a poker game she wasn’t invited to
E) Not killing her AGAIN when ordered
F) Not sharing an ethnicity or religion with his boss while doing the one job in the world (Terrorist Goon) where this would be listed as a requirement on the Monster.com posting

So our goon (who is presumably in the process of converting to Islam) is 0/5 in successfully executing direct orders. Now, I’m not saying you have to kill him (maybe he’s Yusef’s adopted brother) but at least hire a second goon. This one is clearly overmatched. If what the beeping green screen thing told us is correct, the financier should have the money.

So the Crazy Girls all retreat to their lair (to what end was this stuff going to be used if our hero didn’t get back in the game? I really, really want to know). And…

I fall asleep. I wake up at one point and Dave and Tyrone are still watching as The Bombmaker is doing something. I’m guessing it involved bombs.

The end.

2 Comments / Posted in Davids, Movies, Tyrones

Exhibit 16.19

Dear Octopus Books:

I have a problem. I wore my Octopus Books t-shirt and people kept asking me if I was wearing a t-shirt with my own picture on it. This wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I kept saying, “Yes, I am wearing a t-shirt with my own picture on it. Hi, I’m Todd Octopus.”

I don’t even see the resemblance.

Todd Octopus

Me

Jürgen Prochnow

Thank you for your time,

A.

2 Comments / Posted in Movies, Problems, Todds

Exhibit 15.18

A Plot Synopsis of the Movie Adaptation of Dave’s Book on Taxidermy

In a world with only one salaried taxidermist at an American museum, that taxidermist is about to uncover a conspiracy for the ages and discover just how alone he really is…

The story centers on Carl Akeley the Fourth, a taxidermist with a taxidermy degree from MIT and an advanced taxidermy degree from Oxford who comes from a long line of taxidermists that believe in the legend of a fantastic treasure trove of artifacts and gold, hidden by the founders of the American Museum of Natural History, and forgotten to all but a few. The first clue was given to Carl’s great-great grandfather Carl Akeley the First by Theodore Roosevelt, former president and noted naturalist, saying simply, “The secret lies with Charlotte.” At this point it’s important to know that Charlotte is the name of an elephant Roosevelt shot and had stuffed.

Using sophisticated computer arctic weather models, Carl, with his friend Steve and financier Harold, finds the wreckage of a ship from an African hunting expedition, the Africana, containing Charlotte’s body on which they find a tusk engraved with a riddle. It’s a very big tusk, but they figure they have to take it with them and that if this whole treasure thing doesn’t work out, they can sell it on the black market. After examining the riddle, Carl deduces that the next clue is on the back of the American Bald Eagle under heavy security in the American Museum of Natural History. While Carl sees gaining access to such a highly guarded artifact as an obstacle, Steve finds no problem in stealing it. In the standoff, Steve escapes and the Africana explodes with Carl and Harold inside, nearly killing them.

They attempt to warn the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and Dr. Susan Cotter at the American Museum of Natural History, but no one takes them seriously, believing the eagle to be too heavily guarded to be under any threat. Carl thinks otherwise, however, and decides to steal it to keep it from Steve. Carl and Harold manage to steal the Eagle during a 70th anniversary-gala, just before Steve arrives. Dr. Cotter, who is holding a replica eagle, is kidnapped by Steve who thinks she has the real one, and Carl has to engage in a car chase to rescue her. As she will not leave without the eagle, and Carl will not let her leave with it, she is forced to go along with them to protect the eagle. The eagle is so big it barely fits in the backseat of the cab. Not to mention the tusk which Carl estimates is probably worth about a $1,000 bucks. There is a lot of discussion on how to fit it all. In the end, they manage.

Carl and Harold agree that the only place to hide from the police would be Jon Voight’s house. Despite Jon Voight’s disbelief in the treasure, Carl manages to reveal an Ottendorf cipher on the eagle’s back stitching, referring to characters in the (original) Carl Akeley’s Fundamentals of Taxonomy. The coded message in the letters leads them to the Field Museum in Chicago, where they find special deer taxidermied by Carl Akeley inside of an exhibit in the building. Carl examines the back of the deer with his glasses, to find another clue. After a short chase, Steve gets the eagle from Harold and Susan, and the FBI arrests Carl, who has the tusk (which he offers the FBI as a bribe, slightly exaggerating its value to $1,500 bucks to make it a more attractive bribe). Carl is actually a little relieved he’s arrested as by now he has an eagle, a tusk, a deer, and his rather cumbersome aviator glasses to carry.

When the FBI attempts to use Carl as bait to get the eagle back, Steve arranges to have him escape by jumping from the deck of the USS Intrepid into the Hudson River, a feat not too difficult for Carl as a graduate of the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center. Did we mention that? Well, he is. Using Jon Voight, Harold, and Susan as leverage, Steve forces Carl to interpret the clue on the back of the eagle, a reference to a secret chamber under the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. When they arrive at a seemingly dead end, Jon Voight makes up another clue to keep Steve going, telling him a wood mouse is the clue to the Natural History Museum in Wisconsin. Steve goes to Wisconsin with his men, leaving everyone else to die in the caverns. Carl is a little bummed the men are gone as they were carrying his animals and animal pieces and it’s like no one else is even helping.

After Steve leaves, Carl reveals there is another exit that must be through the treasure room. They find a secret passage into another chamber. To their disappointment, they find it empty, and assume that the treasure was already moved. However, they realize a secondary exit must have been created in case of cave-ins. Carl examines the walls of the room, to find a hole the shape of the tusk from Charlotte (the elephant). This lock opens a door into the true treasure room, containing artifacts from all periods of taxidermy. But it also consumes the tusk, totally costing Carl like at least $1,800 bucks.

When they leave through the second exit and the FBI arrives, Carl discovers that the chief investigator, Special agent Chip Kind, is a taxidermist. Carl proposes to give the treasure to various museums around the world, with credit being given to the entire Akeley family and Harold, with Dr. Cotter not being penalized for the theft of the eagle. However, Kind says that someone has to go to prison for the theft of the eagle, so they fly to Wisconsin, where Steve and his men are breaking the lock to gain entry to Wisconsin Natural History Museum. FBI agents emerge from hiding and arrest them under charges of “kidnapping, attempted murder, and trespassing on government property.” The U.S. government offers Carl and his friends 10% of the taxidermy, but Carl only takes 1% and splits it with Harold. This amounts to approximately one turtle. With his share, Carl and Susan buy a mansion once owned by a man who knew Carl Akeley, and Harold buys a red Ferrari 360 Spider. Oh, it should be mentioned that both Carl and Harold are independently wealthy.

The end.

1 Comment / Posted in Davids, Movies, Synergy

Exhibit 15.15

Two Things:

* I have unanswered questions about the movie Baghead. I also don’t want to give anything away, so if you care and haven’t seen it–and I’m not saying you should though maybe you should. Or not. It’s okay, wildly uneven, should have been better–just don’t highlight this text below and you can remain spoiler free. If you have seen it, let me know what you think. If you haven’t seen it and don’t care, you still shouldn’t read the question but should instead imagine your own baghead movie which you will then want to talk about authoritatively as if it’s the real baghead movie, making sure to accuse those who try to correct you of being sexist.

So…

Who was wearing the bag when the baghead enters Michelle’s room? It’s established that it’s not the filmmaker guy since he’s not there yet. The woman says it wasn’t her and since she’s not a very good actress, I’m inclined to believe her. Now it could have been Matt (the dude Michelle was expecting), but then why would he just show up and leave? It also could have been the other dude who would have had a reason to leave (he was disappointed the girl was expecting Matt) but not a reason to put on Matt’s clothes. So, since the filmmakers decided to make their movie less interesting by being very literal, what’s the explanation for this? Maybe I’m over thinking it, but every other appearance by the baghead gets painstakingly explained. I think this only bothers me because it leads to the movie’s funniest line, “A baghead didn’t see you naked!” Clearly, like the filmmakers, I’m captivated by the idea of a baghead. Also, it’s hard to type in white. I probably should have waited until I was done typing and then switched the font color. Next time.

* This is far less important than baghead-related matters, but it’s been brought to my attention that my tiny chapbook thing My Untimely Death from Subito Press has more or less sold out. The three copies left at Amazon here are apparently the last of the first print run. I only mention it because I’m relieved that I am no longer going to be responsible for an unsold box of books that a Boulder janitor would have to throw away in 2015. Unfortunately, I’m told the intention is to print more, but there is some question as to when. Keep your fingers crossed that funding falls through, future Boulder janitors.

I suppose I also mention it because I still have 10-15 and would give a copy to anyone who wants one. I have done a remarkably poor job of distributing my copies. Please take one.

4 Comments / Posted in Little Books, Monsters, Movies

Exhibit 15.10

5 Things I Cannot Make My Netflix Recommendation Robot Believe

1. I do not want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police – This actually becomes less true every time I say, think, or write Tokyo Gore Police. When you get right down to it, I might actually want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the real problem here is that I’m embarrassed my Netflix Recommendation Robot knows I desperately want to see a movie called Tokyo Gore Police.

2. I do not live in Lincoln, Nebraska – I’m torn between avoiding the Local Favorites section and actually, you know, having my movies mailed to where I live. Is it worth it to change my address to something imaginary in Brooklyn if it means I don’t get to actually watch the more interesting movies being recommended to me? Probably. You think I’m joking but here are the current Local Favorites:

  • The Jeff Dunham Very Special Christmas Special – Basically, blue collar comedy done by a ventriloquist with stereotypical dummies like a redneck and a dead terrorist. No, I don’t know how or why I know this.

    Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story – Something about Dakota Fanning and horses. Inspirational. Presumably someone has cancer. I really hope it’s not the horse.

    Though None Go With Me – I’d never heard of this one so I’ll let Netflix’s description speak for itself, “Based on the acclaimed book by Jerry Jenkins, this Hallmark Channel family drama stars Cheryl Ladd as Elizabeth Leroy Bishop, a dedicated Christian who devotes herself to serving God. Spanning 50 years, the film highlights the unwavering faith of Elizabeth, who endures heartbreaking loss and tragedy while on her spiritual journey, ultimately learning that her piety has transformed others.”

    Facing the Giants – A religious movie about a football coach who puts his life in god’s hands and finds a stronger purpose and salvation. I assume this means he institutes the A-11 offense.

    Molly: An American-Girl Story – Okay, so this one I’ve already seen. Four stars.

3. I do not want to rate The Motorcycle Diaries – There, I said it. I didn’t watch it. Stop asking. I’m sure it’s great, but after two weeks I had to move on. You should consider this one a win, Netflix Recommendation Robot, as that was two weeks I wasn’t hogging Tokyo Gore Police from everyone else in this town. That’s why they all had to settle for Facing the Giants.

4. I do not want to see Alien3 – I’m not sure what it is about my having seen Alien, Aliens, and Alien: Resurrection that makes it think I want to see Alien3, but I assure you I do not want and have never wanted to see it. I’ve never even heard of Alien3.

5. On a related noted, I do want to see Aliens vs. Predator 2 – I don’t know why my giving the first one only one star would make anyone think I wouldn’t be in line to see this. I mean, it’s Aliens. Fighting Predators. With tortured explanations as to why Aliens are fighting Predators. It’s only the local favorite of a little place called my heart.

I quit.

2 Comments / Posted in Movies, Recriminations, Robots

Exhibit 15.8

The Hustler and The Color of Money

I’ve seen The Color of Money probably five times, maybe more. It’s hard to say for sure as I’ve mostly caught ten to twenty minute segments of it on television, usually starting somewhere around Cruise and Newman splitting up before changing channels after Forest Whitacker hustles Newman (the best scene in the movie). For a few years, mostly when I was in college, television was lousy with the movie; I think I even caught it on ESPN2 once. It’s just one of those movies that works better cut up with Swiffer commercials than it does standing alone which, I suppose, is its own kind of accomplishment.

It’s not Newman’s best (even though he won his only Oscar for it) but it might be Cruise’s. Also, I’m going to do no research on this topic other than looking up how to spell her name, but I’m positive it’s Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s best (don’t even give me any of that Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves nonsense). There’s also Whitaker and a coked-up John Turturro doing the movie’s finest work in their limited screen time. And as far as Scorsese goes, it certainly was a detour on the road to Goodfellas, but I think it also presaged on audience-pleasing streak that manifests itself in his recent movies.

It’s not a great movie, but I liked it. Liked.

Then I saw the movie it is ostensibly a sequel to, The Hustler, and it ends on a note that makes the existence of The Color of Money impossible. I don’t mean physically–it’s not as if someone dies and gets resurrected ala Spock–but emotionally it is inconceivable that Newman’s character in 1961 grew into the man he portrays in 1986. And even if it could happen, how he got there should be the movie not what he does once he gets there. At the end of The Hustler, Newman is disillusioned and broken, well on his way to killing himself with booze or a stubborn refusal to back down or, most likely, both. It’s a great ending. It’s a great movie.

Then, through 25 years of abstaining from pool but with great success hanging around pool–you know, sort of like how addicts do best when hanging around people consuming their drug of choice openly and without negative consequences–Newman’s Fast Eddie decides that he wants to relive his traumatic experience as a young hustler only in the role of the man who broke him.

Here’s what this is like:

It’s like if Hamlet ended right before the climactic sword fight and then, in a sequel, an old Hamlet is running around ear-poisoning his enemies.

It’s like if George, after killing Lennie, grows old and decides to become a senile, bunny-petting migrant worker because, hey, what could go wrong.

It’s like if Dr. Wayne Szalinski decided after his disastrous shrinking ray to create an enlargement ray. Um, never mind.

At the end of The Hustler, Newman’s character is essentially offered the chance to become Newman’s character in The Color of Money. He’s disgusted. He knows what he has to kill inside himself to win, and he can’t do it. Until, 25 years later, he can not only do it but wants to recruit others to do it, too. It’s not unusual to decry a sequel for its disposability but rarely is one so antagonistic toward its precursor’s ethos.

There’s a reason why Newman’s moral dilemma comes off as shallow in Color while George C. Scott is perfectly sleazy in The Hustler (was Scott always that good? I haven’t seen Patton, and can’t say I really care to, but he’s great in The Hustler). Newman can’t have internal conflict because the thing that makes his character memorable is how stark his choices are. He’s a loser or a winner. He’s got character or he doesn’t. He’s either given up his principles or he hasn’t. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a path that leads him to where (they tell us) he is 25 years later.

That’s the problem with making sequels using indelible characters. They’re ours, not yours.

5 Comments / Posted in Bad Ideas, Colors, Movies

Exhibit 15.4

Let me ask you this, how attractive is Robert Redford? I mean, I get that he’s pretty attractive. Nobody here is arguing that he isn’t. As much as I have opinions about such things, I’m a Paul Newman guy, but I could understand if you prefer Redford. Fine.

(Ed note: I definitely have opinions about such things).

I ask because over the holiday break I watched Three Days of the Condor–appropriately, it turned out to be a bit of a Christmas movie–and it features perhaps the most unlikely seduction this side of Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts. (Zing! Call me, Jay.)

So Redford is attractive, but is he four-hours-ago-he-stuck-me-up-at-gunpoint-and-then-made-me-drive-home-when-I-was-supposed-to-go-skiing-with-my-very-understanding-boyfriend-in-Vermont-over-Christmas-and-I-thought-he-was-going-to-rape-me-but-now-he-is-telling-me-some-paranoid-story-about-the-CIA-oh-no-he-has-tied-me-up-and-gagged-me-but-is-gone-for-hours-now-he-is-back-and-is-holding-a-gun-to-me-so-that-I-lie-to-my-very-understanding-boyfriend-oh-no-I’m-in-love-with-him-I-hope-I-get-the-opportunity-to-cheat-on-my-very-understanding-boyfriend-with-this-violent-paranoid-maybe-rapist attractive?

If you want to see the (very PG) love scene (now with more wistful saxophones and moody black-and-white photography!) it’s on YouTube here. Mostly it’s interesting for featuring what Robert Redford’s species calls kissing.

It’s not what you and I call kissing.

Keep in mind that’s what you’re in for if he ever puts a gun to your back and starts babbling about the CIA. You can’t help it.

1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Unbelievable, Very

Exhibit 14.17

So apparently I don’t have time to write today but I do have time to check to see if the lady from Doc Hollywood was also the lady from Tommy Boy because I thought they were different ladies but they look so similar in my memory that I started to think maybe I was wrong and that they were the same lady and, anyway, why did I have to read all of the comments on the A.V. Club’s review of the first season DVDs of Spin City when A) I’ve never seen Spin City and B) I was supposedly writing until then and now I find myself typing this this this this this this which is not at all writing it’s just this this.

Oh, and yes, they are the same actress.

In any case, I’ve been writing while this post has sat open in my browser. Here was my last sentence which starts a chapter:

“Three years pass before _________ meets _________ in the crowded vestibule of _________’s boyhood home where those lucky enough to have received this year’s invitation arrive prompt and en masse only to slide over the snow-puddled floor, entangle themselves in one another’s scarves, and apologize profusely for the unclaimed breasts they elbow while shivering off winter coats in a race to be the first to shake the billionaire’s hand on his birthday, his last.”

Yeah, I’m trying a bit too hard there, but what do you expect with Doc Hollywood on the brain. That movie is nothing but effort rewarded.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Movies, Procrastination

Exhibit 14.16

I just watched the movie Wanted and thought I should tell you how it’s the awesomest. (Before you say anything, just know that I was determined to watch this movie since the moment I saw them talk about bending bullets in the trailer. No, I don’t care what you think that says about me. Yes, I’m comfortable with where I stand on bullet bending).

Sure, it’s thoroughly, thoroughly terrible but in what some would call the best. way. ever. Not me, but some. I just thought it was a pretty good way of being terrible.

Every aspect of it from its ludicrous plot to its absurd anti-physics to its questionable moral code is done with such a kinetic clash between unwinking sincerity and knowing gusto that it’s hard to imagine what the filmmakers thought while making it. Somehow it ends up being neither a stolid and pretentious action movie (like any American John Woo movie) nor a self-consciously capital-M Movie (like Running Scared or Shoot ‘Em Up). In fact, it’s as if at no point did anyone ask any questions, especially not any questions which might have led to the appearance of intention or judgment.

I guess I’m just excited to see a movie so awful yet without one iota of irony to protect itself. There are so many hilarious lines to illustrate this, but I’d hate to ruin it for you so I’ll just give you one.

Morgan Freeman says, “We take our orders from the loom.”

Note: Nothing in the above line is in any way a metaphor. There is literally a loom which tells them to kill people who are going to do bad things in the future yet this loom never gets explained or questioned.

Also, no one is ashamed of the loom.

!

Comment / Posted in Exclamation Points, Ideas, Movies

Exhibit 13.20

I winterized the apartment so now all of the windows are covered in taut, shiny plastic. I feel like a G.I. Joe or a person infected with Outbreak or a G.I. Joe infected with Outbreak.

(3 thoughts on the movie Outbreak I have even though I haven’t seen it since a rained-out recess in the seventh grade [in other words, some of this could be misremembered so I may not be giving the Renee Russo/Cuba Gooding Jr./Donald Sutherland thriller a fair shake]:

1. So the government–which seems to have Outbreak pretty well quarantined–decides to blow up the infected town, ostensibly because they need to cover up Outbreak. Now, it’s been a long time since I was in my Government Murder of Citizens Versus Letting Their Deaths Occur Naturally seminar, but I’m thinking the government nuking a town is going to get a bit of attention. If option one is letting the people die, telling a worried citizenry that it’s under control for now, and then figuring out a cure while option two is bombing a town, not telling the now revolting citizenry why you nuked town, and then shrugging shoulders–and you choose option two–I’m not sure if you should be reelected. Sorry, Lee Terry.

2. It’s weird that Patrick Dempsey is a sex symbol now because to me he’ll always be the stonery guy named Jimbo who was the first to die from Outbreak because the monkey he stole bit him. Okay, I guess that is a little sexy.

3. I’m not, despite what I may have told you personally, a helicopter expert. However, even at 13 I’m pretty sure I knew enough to know that if you’re in a helicopter chase, it’s not going to work to just shoot some missiles into the ground and then hope that the helicopter following behind you mistakes the missiles for a crash and goes home as opposed to, you know, scanning the horizon and seeing your slowly fleeing helicopter less than a 1/4 mile away).

Well, turns out I’ve got nothing else after that long parenthetical. I guess you could say this whole thing was just a ruse to get you to read my thoughts about 1995’s 24th-highest grossing movie. I guess you could say I probably deserve the Outbreak.

Still, we all have learned so much:
1. I can’t spell missiles correctly on the first go around
2. Winterizing is good for the environment and bad for sanity
3. Knowing is half the battle

1 Comment / Posted in Joes, Movies, Sick

Exhibit 13.17

Another great old trailer from a movie I watched the other night:

“He’s as fast on the draw as he is in the drawing room.”

Wow. This would have been my yearbook quote if I hadn’t sold my quote to Jostens for an old-timey advertisement (“Jostens is the class of class rings, and that’s my ringing endorsement!”).

(Nothing about that last sentence is true or even logical. You deserve better).

In any case, I’m thinking of writing some similar lines for recent movies and then…well, there’s really no step two here, is there?

Max Payne
“Maximillian Payne isn’t just a name inherited from his zeidy. It’s an apt description of what he provides his enemies.”

Rachel Getting Married
“She’s as high on love in the hearth as she is on smack in the conservatory.”

High School Musical 3: Senior Year
“I don’t understand what this is.”

Okay, I need work.

Comment / Posted in Fakes, Logical, Movies

Exhibit 13.5

How could they make spy movies so much better:

(Warning, some The Spy Who Came in from the Cold spoilers)

And trailers so much worse.

“Brace yourself for greatness!” Really? That’s what worked in the sixties? Scientists never should have invented hyperbole in 1958. They were mad with power! They thought they were gods!

Comment / Posted in Bracing, Movies, Richard Burtons

Exhibit 13.3

Last night I went to see Tell No One at the Ross. (Very good movie, by the way. Not perfect, but genuinely gripping and about as touching a mystery as you’ll find. You should see it although tonight is its last night in Lincoln and you’re already going to the Clean Part reading).

The Ross, if you’ve never been, has a wide hallway with a theater on the left side, a theater on the right, and a concession stand at the end of the hallway. Often times it’s very quiet and empty except for the employees. Last night after I purchased my ticket I walked into the hallway and between me and the oddly shuttered concession stand was a table with the guy who played McLovin in Superbad sitting there and staring at me. Sure, there were a couple of other people hanging around but it was clear this was all about McLovin because as soon as I came around the corner they all stopped talking and waited to see if I was going to:

A) Say, “Hey, you’re McLovin” to the guy who was McLovin
B) Say, “Hey, you’re not McLovin” to one of the guys who wasn’t McLovin
C) Say, “Hey, why is the concession stand closed? I wanted some Whoppers. Will you give me some Whoppers, McLovin?”

Yes, Option C was on the table even though I didn’t want Whoppers or feel confident that McLovin would have given me some even if I’d asked.

I said none of these things, of course, but I did get to walk about ten awkward feet in complete silence toward the table before taking a hard left into my own theater. This action surely disappointed McLovin who presumably said, “Hey, that guy’s not McLovin” to one of the guys who was also not McLovin.

Today, this article tipped me off to the fact that he was in town to introduce a sneak preview of his new movie at the Ross and to referee a beer pong tournament downtown. Which is also weird because my beer pong tournament was refereed by the guy who played Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, but he was cool about it.

Comment / Posted in Hey, Movies, Option C

Exhibit 12.22

My favorite running subplot of the presidential election is that after screwing up that Spanish radio interview and choosing not to admit that he got confused, McCain now has to pretend that he really doesn’t consider Spain an ally even though that’s only slightly less absurd than saying he doesn’t consider Great Britain an ally. Obama was almost gleeful when he got to mention it in the debate and McCain looked furious and started muttering to himself (note: I don’t really think he was saying ‘horseshit’).

To me, this is going to play out exactly like Three to Tango. And by exactly, I mean McCain is going to keep this up until it goes too far and he has to tearfully admit he’s not gay mad at Spain during a United Nations gala. Also, Oliver Platt is going to co-star.

And with that, I have now mentioned Paul Walker, Oliver Platt, and Leelee Sobieski in consecutive posts. My work here is done. And by done I mean I no longer want to be alive writing about such nonsense.

1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Politics, Shame

Exhibit 12.21

Continuing on with today’s theme of small, useless posts:

I was looking something up and happened to stumble across the IMDb page for the movie Joy Ride (don’t ask what kind of research brought me in contact with the IMDb page for Joy Ride. It’s best if you don’t ask questions like that). Anyway, I nearly spit coffee on the screen when I saw that that Paul Walker vehicle had come out in 2001. Really? I thought. That can’t be. 2001? No, no way. Not Joy Ride.

Now, keep in mind, I’ve never even seen Joy Ride. Nor have I ever even thought about seeing it. I’m sure it’s great. Or awful. Whatever. What shocked me is that I knew it had the aforementioned Walker, Steve Zahn, and I was pretty sure the girl was Leelee Sobieski (yep), but if I had to put money on it I would have guessed it came out in 2004 or 2005 at the earliest.

There was even a pretty big event that happened less than a month before the movie’s October 2001 release and while you may think something like that would cement an era’s most popular songs, books, and Paul Walker slasher flicks into a brain, I guess that’s not really the case.

Oh, I should have mentioned in addition to being useless, this is also one of those trite “Boy, time sure does advance in a surprisingly quick and incontrovertibly linear fashion” posts. I look forward to doing another in May 2015 when I am shocked to find out that even though I remember ever single person in Eagle Eye, I don’t remember that the day it opened I hit someone with my car and didn’t stop to see if they were okay.

Best not to ask questions about that too.

1 Comment / Posted in Movies, October, Walkers

Exhibit 12.10

As part of my continued withdrawal from The Wire I’ve been trying to find a new television show on DVD to really take an interest in and fill my lunch hour in a way Chef Boyardee never can. So, not at all because Emmy voters told me to, I’ve begun to watch Mad Men just like everyone else started to 13 months ago. This way I can go back in my own mind and re-have all those conversations I ruined last year.

Last Year
You: Oh, god, are you watching Mad Men? It’s great.
Me: Is that like a spinoff to Mad About You?
You: No. Not at all.
Me: Because that show was great, right? I mean, cousin Ira! Yeah!
You:
Me: I bet Paul Reiser would be available for a spinoff. Maybe I’ll post this to the message board.
You: What?
Me: So, how ’bout this September 2007 weather?

Mental Revision
You: Oh, god, are you watching Mad Men? It’s great.
Me: Totes. Don Draper!
You and Me: (high five) (on the flipside) (nodding)

My initial impressions are positive. Seems smart, exceedingly well made, etc. The problems are mostly confined to the fact that its treatment of ’50s-early ’60s patriarchy and sexism is far more a matter of male wish fulfillment than anything else (at least through the first disc. I imagine there are some comeuppances to come up). There is also a bit of uncommitted yearning for a return to a simpler time, but my guess is that once the show complicates its boys club office the same way it complicates its portrait of domestic life that things will start to take off. We’ll see.

Anyway, I only bring it up in order to work in a heavy-handed Mad About You reference and to explore my least favorite aspect of the show, a little problem I’ll call The Wink Conundrum. Fair warning, there’s nothing I’d call a spoiler coming but I am going to be referencing moments from the first three episodes.

The Wink Conundrum is not unique to Mad Men or in any way a conundrum. Here’s an example of the type of little moments, winks if you will, which I hate in novels, stories, movies, etc. and which Mad Men has in abundance through the first few episodes: A mother calls her young children into the kitchen where she’s smoking with a friend. The children have been playing and one has a plastic dry cleaning bag over his head. The mother, angry, yells for the child to come closer so she can chastise him. We all know what’s coming…or not. “If the clothes that were in that bag are on the floor, you’re going to be in big trouble,” the mother says.

Wink.

Moments like these are inevitable in a show like this to a certain degree, but it’s that heavily implied wink that always ruins it for me. Yes, some pregnant women smoked and drank in 1960, but we don’t have to see the most conspicuous drink order this side of a Sam Adams’ commercial to get that message. Moments later we see a guy slap a young boy in front of the boy’s father after the kid spills something. The father approaches angrily…he’s going to attack the other guy…nope, he too is mad at the kid. Wink.

The Wink Conundrum is actually an ancillary of the Forrest Gump Problem, something which might have an actual name and certainly existed long before Mr. Gump. Still, that awful, awful movie was my first encounter with it though it’s pretty much informed almost every major novel of the last fifty years that takes place in the near past. The Problem is simple to spot by its arbitrary and anti-narrative tendency to insert either historical figures into the path of the protagonist or, alternatively, insert its protagonist into specific historical events (see Ragtime, Middlesex, Against the Day, Kavalier and Clay, etc.) God, I hate it when novels do that (which is not to say I hate the novels themselves although I usually do) and the do it a lot. Thanks to this issue, I’m currently under the impression that everyone in the 1920s had the chance to meet Henry Ford and Houdini because they spent their days wandering around the country making cameos in each citizens’ life.

What binds the two phenomenons together is a post-WWII/popular culture nostalgia that manifests itself as false condemnation in the case of The Wink and nudge-nudge navel gazing in the case of The Problem. I suppose at their heart both stem from an innate to desire to see one’s generation (or, if one feels guilty enough, one’s parent’s generation) as having sprung from uncivilized chaos (The Wink) yet having succeeded to produce greatness and meaning (The Problem).

I doubt it’s just a boomer issue either, but I guess we’ll see when someone writes a novel wherein the protagonist meets Kurt Cobain at a basement show in Seattle, does drugs until ’96, starts a search engine company which makes him wealthy, moves into a penthouse in Manhattan next door to Warren Buffett’s, watches 9/11 from his balcony, is converted to Christianity by Rick Warren, and then ends up becoming the first ambassador to Space Australia (I’m guessing on that last bit).

I’d like to believe that a novel like that will never be written (or that a holographic cable show won’t come out in 2050 with winking nods to eating organic food), but it’s inevitable. Hopefully whatever poor soul has to write that book at least does it with a sense of humor that seems to have skipped a generation.

You didn’t see where that post was going, did you? Oh well, we’ll always have the Mad About You joke.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Movies, Television

Exhibit 11.25

I watched Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors last night–it was good but not my favorite of his–and it was impossible not to notice how horribly the fashions of 1989 have aged. Poor Anjelica Huston looked like she’d been unthawed and given the Encino Man treatment by Roseanne and Kirstie Alley (in the Pauly Shore and Sean Astin roles, respectively). And she was supposed to be the hussy! You don’t even want to know what Jerry Orbach had to wear. It made his uniform as the manager of the Hackensack Bulls look couture by comparison (which, given the rules of Brewster’s Millions, it probably was in retrospect).

I’m sure it’s been said before in many a lame comedy club, but it’s really amazing that anyone was conceived between 1986-1991. We’re lucky to have any Jonas Brothers at all. Or at least that’s what I’d say if I knew who the Jonas Brothers were.

Comment / Posted in Encino Man, Movies, Things I Don't Know

Exhibit 11.9

A visual representation of what it’s like to watch Mama Mia! with the role of Trapped, Horrified Audience Member being played by Brett:


Don’t ask how I know. Just assume someone told me. Someone you and I don’t like.

By the way, Brett is three today. Also, she has plans for a musical featuring the work of Saigon Kick. So there’s that.

Comment / Posted in Brett, Movies, Saigon Kick

Exhibit 10.3

So I’ve discovered that a good percentage of people who visit this blog are actually coming through Google image searches to this post in order to get pictures of Sean Penn and Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way. That really puts things in perspective.

Still, it’s oddly comforting to know that a lot of people in Finland desperately need pictures of the cast of Carlito’s Way. I don’t remember reading that in the World Fact Book.

In a completely unrelated development: There may be no better way to waste four hours than The World Fact book. For instance, you may have known about the islands that constitute Vanuatu, but did you know that nearly 11% of the population are Seventh Day Adventists?

I suppose if you did know that, you also have a position on the Matthew and Hunter Island disputes that will surely drag us into WWIII someday soon.

3 Comments / Posted in Aquí viene el dolor, Movies, Popular

Exhibit 9.16

Redbelt plot synopsis.

Redbelt runs a failing jujitsu dojo. One night, a harmless but drugged-out lawyer wanders into the dojo and misinterprets a jujitsu student’s rather aggressive efforts to take her jacket as an attack, picks up his gun (did I mention he’s a cop? He’s a cop), and immediately fires it–vaguely in the cop’s direction–breaking Redbelt’s window. Everyone freaks out and a lot of heated conversations occur about how this should be “covered up” since everyone erroneously assumes that they’d have to charge the lawyer with the attempted murder of the cop. The cop decides nothing happened and Redbelt is so overwhelmed with his bromanship that he decides to make the cop a black belt.

Later that same night, Redbelt goes to a club to ask to borrow money. He also wants to make the club pay the cop who apparently had done some security work for them but was never paid. That doesn’t really matter. Okay, maybe it does. It’s unclear. Anyway, Redbelt ends up saving Tim Allen in a fight. Tim Allen is a movie star who rewards Redbelt by inviting him to dinner and giving him a $20,000 watch. Redbelt, whose honor won’t allow him to do, well, anything, gives the watch to the cop to make up for recommending him for that bouncer job that he never got paid for. Or something. Anyway, Redbelt goes to dinner with Tim Allen and a host of Mamet regulars and he and his wife make significant business and personal connections with them. At the end of dinner, Redbelt regales everyone with an ancient Japanese jujitsu tradition of picking colored marbles to determine handicaps before a fight.

The next day, the cop comes in and tells Redbelt he’s been suspended. Turns out the watch Tim Allen gave Redbelt was hot. Some talk ensues. Everyone agrees the watch was hot. Way hot.

Some other stuff happens, but just know that Redbelt goes to dinner with Tim Allen’s manager. No wait. Hold everything. First, Redbelt meets the drugged out lawyer in his dojo because she might want to learn how to fight. She freaks out and we don’t know why until she screams that she was raped. Redbelt then reenacts the rape without her consent and shows her how to escape from it. This cures her rape, I guess. Anyway, that happens.

So the dinner. Redbelt tells Tim Allen’s manager (Joe Mantenga) that the watch was hot and that it got his buddy in trouble. Joe Mantenga says he’ll take care of this right away, gets up from the table, never comes back. Redbelt apparently waits for hours. The next day, Tim Allen and his wife have changed all of their phone numbers and nobody will return Redbelt’s calls. Redbelt’s wife blames Redbelt. Oh, and they need money. Like, a lot of money.

Redbelt notices that his ancient Japanese fighting tradition is suddenly being used in an ultimate fighting championship-esque promotion. He gets the lawyer to go with him to threaten a lawsuit against the fight promoters. While there, he sees Joe Mantenga and realizes that’s who stole his idea. Before they can arrange a settlement, however, the evil promoters pull out a file full of evidence about the window shooting and say that if Redbelt doesn’t drop it that they’ll make sure the cop is kicked off the force for not reporting a crime and that the lawyer goes to prison for attempted murder. Redbelt is bummed but not…

…as bummed as the cop who kills himself. There’s a suicide note that leads us to believe he did it so as not to dishonor the dojo. It’s unclear why he’d feel this way (the watch?) but whatever. The cop’s wife is really concerned about her bills. She appears to have several bills which she gives Redbelt. Redbelt really wants to help her pay these bills so he decides to enter the ultimate fighting championship thing.

So he’s going to sell out his honor. But then he learns the fight is rigged for him to win so he’ll get the money and go away. He can’t do this so he leaves.

But then he comes back and fights his way through the security guards so he can get to the ring and tell the crowd how everything is fixed. But then the world’s greatest fighter (oh, which is his wife’s brother, you should know that) stands in front of him. They fight and everyone in the arena watches. It gets broadcast in extreme closeups around the world. It’s unclear what is happening until Redbelt wins. No one makes a noise. You know how sometimes when something shocking starts happening and you don’t really know what’s going on but it keeps building and getting more and more exciting until it ends in a moment of sublime catharsis and you feel absolutely no desire to exclaim or clap or move? It’s like that.

Anyway, Redbelt gets a hug from the lawyer who is apparently now better than his wife. Oh, I should mention that his wife was the one who sold Redbelt out to the fight promoters. I guess because she wanted to make clothes with Tim Allen’s wife. I should have mentioned that before. I think Tim Allen and Joe Mantenga wanted this information in case Redbelt blew the whistle on that one time they bought a hot watch (if only the cop hadn’t gone to the one pawnshop in the world that doesn’t take stolen goods he’d still be alive and paying bills).

That’s not really the point now anyway. This is the climax. Redbelt climbs into the ring and asks for the mic to be lowered. Oh, and a guy who is the greatest fighter ever is there and suddenly appears in the ring to give him the redbelt. Oh, before that he got a different belt we know is worth $250,000 from a different fighter as he walked to the ring. This was either before or after he got hugged by the lawyer. It was a long walk to the ring. I may have left out a few other major plot points (the magician!) but that pretty much covers it.

The End.

Comment / Posted in Cures, Movies, Spoiler Alert

Exhibit 9.14

I’ve been working at my current job for exactly two years as of today. Sadly, I barely even remember starting. Let’s take a look back at those heady days of 2006 and remember what was going on:

Movies
Mission Impossible III beat out Poseidon at the box office, a disappointing showing that most of us still haven’t gotten over. I can’t remember if Tom Cruise was officially crazy yet. I think this was maybe when it was starting as he’s been crazy for at least a year plus his baby needed 9 months to gestate inside the spaceship.

By the way, that last joke is totally going on my demo reel for The Best Week Ever. That’s a show, right?

Current Events
Some headlines:

• Bush To Call For National Guard to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Border
• Report: Global Warning Could Kill 184 Million in Africa
• Bush Administration Asks Judge To Throw Out AT&T Spy Suit
• Verizon Sued For Sharing Phone Records with NSA
• New EU Law Allows U.S. Gov’t To Access Europeans’ Phone Records
• U.S. Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq; 2 Dead
• Iraq Bombings Kill 47
• Report: U.S. Deployed Mentally Ill Soldiers to Iraq
• U.S. Blocks Access for Red Cross to Secret Prisons

In other words, nothing we needed to worry about.

Music
That Raconteurs album came out! You know, the one that was okay but only okay because you wanted it to be good because you really liked the people in the band but then when you heard it you thought this is why the Damn Yankees didn’t work and man I wonder what Tommy Shaw is up to. You know, that one.

Sports
This one is a doozy. And not because it’s interesting.

On this date in 2006 the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 5-4 in Denver. Of course we all remember that, but what we may not remember is that both the winning and losing pitchers are now Kansas City Royals. Brett Tomko and Ramon Ramirez are both cogs in what has been a very good Kansas City pitching staff this season.

How they were able to shake off the lingering resentment of one early season game in May 2006 to come together on a team in a completely different league, we’ll never know.

1 Comment / Posted in Movies, Music, Sports

Exhibit 9.1

More draft stuff at Carlin’s blog. Thank god I’m getting paid for this. Otherwise it would seem like I’m wasting a lot of time to focus on something that is no more important than choosing teams in a playground basketball game.

In other news, I have completely neglected to read The Human Stain for my office’s book club. Instead of watching the movie and pretending that I’ve read the book, I’ve decide to just watch a different Anthony Hopkins movie and respond to that.

Co-worker: I found it a really moving read.
Me: Can you believe the bear ate that guy?
Co-worker: What bear?
Me: So, is it just me or has Alec Baldwin aged 30 years since ’98 while Anthony Hopkins has somehow gotten younger? Am I right? Ladies?
Co-workers:
Me: Man that bear was big. I loved when it was all ‘rarrrar’!

And it’s true because I did love that part.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Sports, Thank You

Exhibit 8.19

Sometimes Netflix just nails a recommendation. For instance, I went to the site today and was greeted with this:


If that’s not enough, here’s Netflix’s own description:

Adapted from Louis L’Amour’s novel, this made-for-television Western centers on tough-as-nails cowboy Conagher (Sam Elliott). Hired as a cattle guard, sharpshooting Conagher goes after his fellow ranch hands when he learns they’re in cahoots with a gang of cattle rustlers. Even a bullet in the back won’t stop Conagher, who manages to find time to make eyes at a fetching Wild West widow (Katharine Ross). Barry Corbin also stars.

Except for the liberal use of the word “stars” in reference to Barry Corbin, that sounds like pretty much the greatest movie ever made.

Sharpshooting: Check
Cattle Rustlers: Check
Conagher: Check
Cahoots: Check
Makin’ Eyes: Check

Would it be too much to ask for a scene where a bad guy shakes his fist at the heavens and screams, “Conagher!”

I bet it’s not too much to ask at all.

2 Comments / Posted in Conaghers, Movies, Much

Exhibit 7.10

Great lines from the movie we saw last night:

“POTUS is in hand.”

“Can you lose him?”

“Control has been compromised!”

“I’ll ask you again, where’s my brother?”

“He’s gone rogue!”

Yep, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one fantastic movie.

1 Comment / Posted in Gone Rogue, Hands, Movies

Exhibit 7.8

Rocket Science

We watched the movie the other night. It was good. Not amazing or transcendent or anything, but just a good movie that wore a lot of its references on its sleeve yet was actively trying to defy expectations of where the narrative was headed. It also caused me to listen to that first Violent Femmes album again, so that’s a plus. By the way, that album is more than 25 years old.

Albums that came out a month before Violent Femmes:

  • Prince*, 1999
  • Marvin Gaye, Midnight Love

Albums that came out after Violent Femmes:

  • The Smiths, The Smiths
  • Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues
  • Prince, Purple Rain
  • Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones
  • Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard, Pancho and Lefty
  • The Police, Synchronicity
  • Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway

Albums that came out on the same day as Violent Femmes:

  • Michael Jackson, Thriller

I don’t know, maybe this isn’t shocking information if you were around to experience them at the time, but it seems wrong somehow. Just be glad I’m giving you this information now rather than betting you at a bar that Violent Femmes was released before Purple Rain**.

Anyway, I actually wanted to post about this type of rocket science. Did anyone actually think they were going to be able to hit it? You won this round, military-industrial complex. I’d like to think a chant of USA! USA! broke out immediately afterward, but this was in Houston, so that was probably already happening***.

*By the way, when you search for Prince on Wikipedia, it takes you to an article on the monarch and not the artist. We need to fix this fast before Prince finds out.

**I wouldn’t do this.

***I’ve never been to Houston.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Music, Types of Rocket Science

Exhibit 6.20

One word movie reviews with words taken from the book Marketing to Women

Little Murders: Relational
Shoot ‘Em Up: Segmentation
Juno: Progesterone
Eastern Promises: Spiral
I’m Not There: Swaggering

Comment / Posted in Movies, Murderers, There

Exhibit 5.19

Saw No Country for Old Men last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s nice to see the Coen brothers return to the harder edge of Blood Simple or even Miller’s Crossing. Oh, or The Man Who Wasn’t There, a great movie that I always forget about as, like its protagonist, it’s a very wispy feature.

After their last few movies relied at least partially on devices (DahKOtin accents, Southern accents, Clooney, etc.), No Country is a film completely without gimmick and even the color palette is a muted Texas dust and blue skies as opposed to something more flashy like O Brother‘s gold tones or Miller’s Crossing‘s autumnal roads. Fast, straight-forward, and surprising, it’s one of those movies I always hope to see when I go to the theater. Usually I’m seeing Enchanted. I mean, that’s fine too.

Best film of the year? Probably, though I had a singular appreciation for Zodiac which, incidentally, hits a lot of the same notes of societal entropy expressed by one, unstoppable man. The big difference is that Zodiac‘s San Francisco becomes a mad house of fear and paranoia while in No Country the evil, if that’s what it is, walks empty streets. It’s an interesting contrast especially since Fincher’s movie is so meticulous while the Coens’ is murky and grim. I prefer the No Country for a lot of reasons–it’s better, for one; every interior shot looked like someplace I’d been as a kid in Nebraska, for another–but I just think it’s interesting that so many movies this year seem to be about shocking events serving as markers of moral decay in the face of modernity. I haven’t seen all of these, but in addition to No Country and Zodiac there is The Assassination of Jesse James…, Gone Baby Gone, Into the Wild, Sweeney Todd, and Dan in Real Life. Well, maybe not that last one.

And, seriously, Josh Brolin. Who knew?

1 Comment / Posted in Coens, Decay, Movies

Exhibit 5.5

I watched The Silent Partner last night and it’s pretty fantastic, full of intrigue and 70s-era Elliott Gould and more intrigue. Gould plays a staid Toronto bank worker who spots a man casing the bank and decides to steal most of the money himself during the robbery attempt. The robber, Christopher Plummer, is understandably upset (though why it causes him to start wearing very sinister eyeliner the rest of the movie is unclear) and begins to harass Gould into giving up the loot.

The movie starts to click with Plummer on the loose, and each time it begins to feel like a by-the-numbers caper drama, Plummer shows up to act like a sociopath. Surprising even himself, Gould proves both willing to fight for the money and effective at it. He has wits and Plummer has violence, but both are cold, methodical men. The emotional torpor that stagnates Gould in his personal life allows him to react to Plummer’s threats as just another transaction to be handled as if at his teller counter.

Eye liner and all, Plummer is pretty incredible here though I wonder if he would have been without the clothes of the era. Even when we see him briefly in prison, he’s wearing a wide-collared shirt unbuttoned to the bottom of his sternum and tight, tall pants that prominently display a belt he sometimes wields as a weapon. If they made this movie today, he’d probably be played as a suit-wearing criminal sophisticate rather than the strutting sex criminal he is here.

Other notes:

•This movie also has a young John Candy as an awkward, chubby cuckold. It’s the role he was born to play.

•The first third or so of the movie takes place in December, and everyone keeps saying Merry Christmas to Elliott Gould’s character without so much as a Happy Holidays. Apparently Hanukkah didn’t come to Canada until 1984.

•Curtis Hanson wrote the screenplay. I don’t know what this means, except that Curtis Hanson has been around a long time.

•Somehow Christopher Plummer has aged 125 years since this movie was made. Look at him now:

Good god. Whatever Christopher Plummer has done, you shouldn’t do.

3 Comments / Posted in Don't., Goulds, Movies

Exhibit 5.3

Notes:

*It was Thanksgiving. You probably realized this.

*Bill Callahan was fired. No, not the guy from Smog.

*Heather might guest blog on Thursday or Friday to share her experiences in the criminal justice system. She’s going to be a witness in a case against a guy who’s defending himself. Hilarity will, presumably, ensue.

*I learned how to play backgammon and am willing to take on any challengers. I haven’t yet used the doubling cube or won with so much as a gammon, but I do know a lot of the lingo. Also, bear off.

*Might go see No Country for Old Men tonight. You’re welcome to come. I haven’t been this excited about a movie for awhile.

*You also should come over tomorrow night for the Dolphins versus the Steelers on Monday Night Football. If I were an ESPN promo I’d say something like, “Can the floundering Phins steal a win when they visit Pittsburgh?” We should all be glad I’m not an ESPN promo.

*My top candidates to replace Bill Callahan are mostly fictional characters except for Sgt. Slaughter and Bruce Springsteen.

*We’ve winterized the apartment with plastic wrap over all of the windows and now it’s like living in quarantine. You’ll laugh until the plague comes. Then we’ll see whose laughing.

*I went to a new dentist where they have LCD screens above all of the chairs which let you watch TV or a movie or whatever. They even told me I could bring in a DVD to watch during the exam if I wanted. What would be the worst movie you could bring in (both in terms of general creepiness and in the reaction it would get from the dental staff)? My list:

  • Bringing in your own home movies on DVD. Well, I suppose bringing in the dentist’s home movies would be worse, but this would be pretty bad. Especially if there was an obnoxious song that played on a loop over them. I’m imagining “Big Girls Don’t Cry” over a 45-minute video from a daughter’s 5th birthday party.

  • Corbin Bernsen in The Dentist II which was an HBO classic from my childhood. Basically, in the first one he finds his wife cheating on him and then takes it out on his patients. In the second one, he’s escaped from a mental institution, set up another practice, met a girl, and…the exact same thing happens. God, I love Corbin Bernsen. Anyway, watching it at the dentists’ office would be a little bit like watching Leprechaun with happy-go-lucky leprechauns or Dead Ringers at the gynecologist.

  • Speaking of which, Dead Ringers. That’s creepy anywhere. In fact, any David Cronenberg movie could probably be on this list. Miike, too.

  • Space Jam. Here’s my thinking: It’s not as if it’s a classic and to be an adult who, on their own accord and out of all the world’s movies, brings Space Jam into a dentist office would be profoundly weird. If you still don’t believe me, imagine bringing it in on VHS and then acting deeply disappointed when they say the office only has DVD players. If you were a dental hygienist, how would you feel about conducting that exam?

There are probably better ones.

3 Comments / Posted in Cronenbergs, Fired, Movies

Exhibit 2.11

Watched Batman Begins during a night of Labor Day weekend relaxing. The first third of the movie is Liam Neeson saying things like “You can’t fear the fear of fearing those who are afraid of their fear because they fear your fear more than you fear their fear. Fear.” At first I thought maybe Bruce Wayne had demons until I realized he was just in love with Liam Neeson.

Fear.

Comment / Posted in Fear, More Fear, Movies

Exhibit 2.3

I watched Zodiac last night and for some reason was all prepared to hate it but came away loving it. I wish I even had a good reason to love it, but rather than having one overriding reason I mostly just liked a million little things about it. It’s a phenomenally well-made movie. Everything just looks so perfect and flows so smoothly that it’s absurd runtime (2 hours and 38 minutes) goes by like a flash.

In a lot of ways it’s two movies in one. In the first, it’s a police drama of the Law and Order variety, but, like, the best Law and Order ever. In the second, somewhat brighter half it’s a story of intrepid journalism ala All the President’s Men. If that makes it sound fractured, it’s really not as the expansive cast of characters all hover around the story but find their roles shifting as the investigation goes from urgent public crisis to yesterday’s news to seething lament. Such a large stretch of time passes–each jump carefully labelled to the point where 20 years seems like 50–that in a movie where the characters are so driven by one event, it would be easy to think they are less people than crime solving automatons (apparently malfunctioning). But Fincher uses the pervasiveness of the threat (and then its lingering hole in those closest to it) and a surprising amount of humor to humanizes each character. I don’t even know what else to say. It was really gripping, and when I immediately ran to my computer to read everything I could about the Zodiac Killer, I found that there really wasn’t anything else to know which is maybe the highest compliment a person can give a movie so carefully constructed.

(Ed note: I can’t remember why I thought the movie was going to be awful. Partially seeing the runtime got me down, but I mostly remember thinking how it would probably be like The Black Dahlia which is very similar to this movie except for the fact that I thought Zodiac was one of the best movies I’ve seen in years while I thought The Black Dahlia one of the worst).

The movie did have some interesting casting choices. Anthony Edwards (Goose!) was positively Jeff Daniels-esque as Mark Ruffalo’s partner. I like Anthony Edwards. He has a nice reassuring quality to him, even in odd roles like Northfork. Where has he been? This is only his fourth movie since E.R. ended. Maybe he’s been dating Helen Hunt and that’s why neither of them act any more.

There were a fair amount of famous people in minor roles: Philip Baker Hall, Chloe Sevigny, Dermot Mulroney (either wearing some belly padding or, um, not), Adam Goldberg, and the always great Brian Cox.

Then there were just enough random people to keep it fun:

John Ennis – The guy from Mr. Show. This one was really strange. If I had to guess a Mr. Show cast member to have been in this beforehand I totally would have gone with Brian Posehn.

Elias Koteas – Who played Casey Jones in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies.

Clea Duvall – Who was in The Faculty among other late ’90s flicks which, for some reason, means I know her name.

Donal Logue – Where’s he been? Possibly hiding out with Helen Hunt, Anthony Edwards, and the ‘D’ from his first name.

John Carroll Lynch – Who I know from the Drew Carey Show despite being pretty sure I’ve never actually seen an episode of that show. It’s not giving anything away to say that he plays the main suspect and will hopefully never work in comedy again as his appearance will cause me to breakdown weeping.

Zach Grenier – Whose name I didn’t know, but who has been in every television show ever made for at least one episode. This is actually in the SAG contract. If you’re reading this–and for the third time, you’re not–and making a television show, he’s probably standing behind you.

I mean, the guy who played Casey Jones (not to mention the asshole brother in Look Who’s Talking Too) and Donal Logue? Um, yeah, I’ll see that.

Anyway, don’t let my name dropping take away from the main point here: It’s a very, very good movie. I’d even say a great one. I’m not kidding about it being one of the best of the past few years–and probably this decade. I’m trying hard to think of anything I was so thoroughly impressed with recently. I’m sure there’s something…
1 Comment / Posted in Casey Joneses, D, Movies

Exhibit 1.25

Watched a Humphrey Bogart movie over the weekend. It’s probably idiotic to say it as he’s arguably the most famous American actor of all time, but he’s good. Real good. In a Lonely Place is a pretty typical noir about murder, dames, and all the rest, but it would be half the movie without Bogart slouching around looking to punch somebody. He spends a fair portion of the movie with his elbows against his chest with one arm bent up to take his cigarette from his mouth while the other holds a drink somewhere by his navel. Coiled up like that, he slithers through a crowd, but when pushed he strikes out and suddenly he’s all arms and wild eyes.
It’s a great performance, and I’m not sure the movie is quite as good though it’s certainly worthy of being called a classic. Bogart is Dixon Steele, a screenwriter with a reputation for violence who finds himself the target of a murder investigation after a girl he (somewhat) innocently took home winds up dead. His story is corroborated at the police station by a beautiful neighbor (Gloria Grahame), and the two fall madly in love until his violent outbursts and the police pressure cause her suspicions that he actually committed the murder to come between them. The lesson here is that it’s probably not a good idea to date someone you met while serving as an alibi for them in a murder investigation.

All of the posters and the film’s trailer make prominent mention of the film’s “Surprise Finish,” and maybe it’s just my post Usual Suspects/Fight Club/The Sixth Sense blues that has me thankful the ending is actually predictable, devastating, and entirely perfect for the movie. Had we gotten some kind of post-modern twist ending those taglines led me to suspect, I would have been pretty disappointed. Top ending possibilities if this movie had come out in 1998:
  1. It is all a screenplay Humphrey is writing and/or he finds his actions predicted by the book he’s adapting.
  2. Gloria Grahame is somehow have been the neighbor and the murdered girl, but Humphrey Bogart is the only one who knows it and no one else believes him.
  3. Humphrey Bogart is actually the one murdered but he doesn’t know it. Or he’s Keyzer Soze. Or actually there is no neighbor and it’s only his imagination. Or whatever the hell.
  4. While punching someone, Humphrey Bogart realizes he isn’t a screenwriter, but is actually a man named Humphrey Bogart. He goes to the mall and buys a t-shirt with his picture on it and the collection of his greatest movies. The film ends with him watching the ending of the film.

Really makes you think. Doesn’t it? No? You’re right, it doesn’t because those endings are dumb and dishonest upon reflection.

In any case, the real ending of the movie is great though IMDb leads me to believe there was actually a darker ending in mind which would have been great too. They are actually the same ending for all it matters which is why it’s such a good ending. (Bizarrely, the trailer actually features an entirely different ending which you would only know after seeing the movie. That ending is awful but apparently makes for good trailer filler).

All and all a great movie experience. I’d be curious to read the reportedly very different book the movie was based on which is reissued by a feminist series for a university press (the author was a woman and apparently it is a somewhat unusual book for the time). The book is apparently a proto-Mr. Ripley wherein Humphrey Bogart’s character is a first person narrator who kills someone and takes their identity. This, um, isn’t what the movie is about.

Comment / Posted in 1998, Lonely Places, Movies

Exhibit 1.23

Heather and I watched about half of this version of the Beowulf story which seems to follow the poem pretty closely except in this one there is a witch for some reason. Oh, and Stellan Skarsgård hits himself in the head with a rock a lot. Plus, Grendel is just some hairy guy who has a kid. Oh, and he has a father who was murdered by the Danes so he has a reason to be pissed. Also, for some reason people spend half the movie talking in grunts.

Literally the first ten minutes of the movie is:

Grendel’s Dad (Let’s call him Dave): Urgh.
Grendel: Warlllll!
Dave: Unh, unh, arrrrr!
Stellan Skarsgård: Garrrl! (Kills Dave. Hits self with a rock a few times).
Sarah Polley: I’m a witch. Raaaaarg!

Otherwise it’s exactly like the poem.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Rock, Skarsgårds

Exhibit 1.17

I’m pretty sure that picture is from Carlito’s Way. It could also be Sylvester Stallone in Cobra, I can’t tell. In any case, I happened to turn on the television this weekend and stumble upon the first few minutes of Carlito’s Way, which I’ve seen a half dozen times but now appreciate on a much deeper level. I only watched five minutes or so, and I am ready to say the movie is one of the all-time great five minute movies. No matter what five minutes you watch, you’re going to be entertained by any or all of:
  • Pacino actually eating the sets. He walks with so much swagger in this movie that at times he’s practically horizontal. At the beginning of the movie, Pacino is an actor, but by the end of the movie he is the character Al Pacino has played in every movie since. In some ways, Carlito’s Way actually ruined his career as he apparently thinks he’s still playing Carlito. That Al Pacino can play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and a Puerto Rican gangster without changing his demeanor or accent is what makes him so fascinating. I love Al Pacino.
  • Sean Penn’s character who I think is actually named Jewish Lawyer. Look at him:
  • It’s fun to imagine Pacino playing the lawyer and Carlito and holding conversations with himself. Does anyone else do this during Al Pacino movies? Anyone? No? Try it some time with Dog Day Afternoon. If you try it while watching Scent of a Woman, it’s like watching the tape from The Ring.
  • Penolope Ann Miller as Carlito’s girlfriend/stripper trying desperately not to get eaten by Al Pacino. I’m pretty sure I’ve never called anyone this before, and I don’t really know what it means, but Penolope Ann Miller is a drip. Her name even sounds bland. Yet somehow in the early 1990s she was in movies where Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Richard Tyson were madly in love with her. If at any point in her career someone had told her to go by just Penolope Ann, she’d probably be Julia Roberts right now. Keep this in mind when David Collin is winning his 2nd Pulitzer.
  • Viggo Mortensen as lowlife, wheelchair-bound snitch who at one point cries hysterically and complains about how he can’t “hump” anymore. Um, I’m pretty sure this performance wasn’t on the reel he sent in for TLOTR.
  • Carlito saying something crazy. Just read IMDb’s memorable quotes page.

Seriously, it’s that good. Heather and I caught it just as Pacino was doing some of his strutting and watched through when he yells, “HERE COME THE PAIN!” Needless to say, I’ve pretty much been saying that all day, going so far as to run it through babelfish to see if it sounds cooler in Spanish. It does.

1 Comment / Posted in Aquí viene el dolor, Movies, Richard Tyson

Exhibit 1.11

Saw The Bourne Ultimatum, and it was fun and exciting and a little ridiculous and super awesome all at once. A few thoughts:

Can we rethink this whole Julia Stiles thing? She’s like somebody’s wooden step-sister. I was openly rooting for Desh. There’s a scene very much like one in the first movie where she dyes and cuts her hair while Matt Damon watches her. Instead of sexual tension, however, there is the undeniable sense that Jason Bourne is thinking Yeah, right. My last girlfriend was Franke Potente. I can do better.

Speaking of Desh, at one point in the film he and Matt Damon engage in a race to see who can be more awkward on a scooter. Who won? The audience, that’s who.

My favorite thing about the Bourne movies–outside of the aforementioned awesomeness–is what they say about our government’s intelligence community in its fictional world. Apparently they are capable of training one agent to be an unthinkable badass but decided the rest of their team of assassins only had to be kind-of tough. Even Desh fights like he dropped out three weeks into a month long fighting course, never getting to the lesson about battering your opponent with the textbook. I wonder if after training Bourne Albert Finney, Chris Cooper, Scott Glen, David Strathairn, and Tom Skerritt (who isn’t in the movies but would surely be at that meeting) all got together and decided that Since we have Bourne, we really only need a bunch of chumps with messenger bags and designer jackets. We’ll be good as long as the chumps never have to face Bourne.

Bourne is like the Dan Marino of super soldier assassins. If statistics were kept on number of arms bent at awkward angles to momentarily debilitate an Eastern European police officer, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.

Hearing David Strathairn say, “Give me a standard kill order.” is like hearing Jesus sing. I wonder what other kill order options there were. King size?

At one point in the movie Matt Damon does one of my favorite ridiculous movie things. While driving a pilfered police car and needing to go faster, he shifts the car into another gear and steps on the gas so that the car speeds away. Except here, the car is an automatic Monte Carlo circa 2000. The lever is on the steering wheel for god’s sake. Really, Bourne, did going from D3 to D4 really do much for you or was it more a gas mileage thing? (Ed note: I’m not ruling out Matt Damon can conjure a manual transmission just by thinking about it).

There are plenty more great moments like these, but I feel I already rehashed them in hurried exclamations after the show. That probably says all you need.

UPDATE: I have since gotten several hits by people who found this blog by googling Julia Stiles’s name, and now I feel awful. I didn’t want to start a blog just to be one of those guys. Seriously, she’s great. I loved her in Finding Forrester.

4 Comments / Posted in Desh, Julia Stiles, Movies

Exhibit 1.10

Song Kang-ho

I spent half of The Host trying to figure out if the sweet, stunted father was the same actor who played the loquacious, bull-headed cop in Bong Joon-ho’s last movie (Memories of a Murder). It is the same actor, and he’s fantastic. So are both the movies, for what it’s worth.

Memories of a Murder notable for how it re-imagines–at least to this American–the cop-drama, making it less about psychological horror and investigative brilliance than frustration and entropy. Confronted with the country’s first real serial killer, Song Kang-ho’s character is an aggressively cocky oaf initially more concerned with appearing to be a clever investigator than actually being one. As the murders continue and he doesn’t find answers in his slapdash borrowing from film and television police procedurals, his violence becomes increasingly out of control while the killer’s is undertaken with an opposite dispassion. It would be easy to say the movie is about this small Korean town’s loss of innocence at the hands of “unspeakable evil,” but Song Kang-ho’s character makes it clear the murders–and the government’s impotence in stopping them–is an inevitability of the country’s rapid industrialization and erratic political situation at the time the film was set (mid-1980s). That Song–like the killer, like the government–preys on the weak seems all too natural for him.

Likewise The Host takes what is otherwise a genre movie and instills it with a political awareness, both of S. Korea’s own democratization and of America’s international motivations. As much as the monster, America is the bad guy here (though S. Korea’s government doesn’t exactly get a free pass). That said, the politics are really just background to a thoroughly engaging creature feature. Here Song plays an almost man-child whose first interactions with his 13-year-old daughter go from her telling him about parents’ day (which his brother attended instead of him), her laughing at his attempts to save dimes to buy her a new cellphone, and then him sweetly giving her a beer. Both roles require an intense physical presence, but where Song’s character in Memories is a leaky powder keg, his character here is so soft at times it’s as if he is going to collapse, blob-like, into himself.

Much more could be said for the direction of Bong Joon-ho’s direction was is beautiful, disturbing, and highly accessible. Without insult I might think of Bong as a kind-of Korean Spielberg, but I can’t begin to think of an actor like Song in American cinema. Russell Crowe, maybe, but Song has more of a doughy false bravado where as Russell Crowe probably actually does believe he could take down the Roman Empire single-handedly. And that comparison only really works in Memories. I can’t see Russell playing down like Song does in The Host.

Paul Giamatti? Philip Seymour Hoffman? But I can’t see either of them mercilessly beating suspects and pulling it off. I’m at a loss. Would love to hear suggestions.

P.S. If you have Netflix you can stream Memories of a Murder. Do it. Now.

Comment / Posted in Movies, Russell, Song Kang-Ho