Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Hundred-Acre Wood Goes Silent

As Becca reported on her blog last week, Paul Winchell (the voice of Tigger, among other things) died on 26 June. Well, it turns out that the very next day, actor John Fiedler died. Fiedler was the original voice of Piglet. He was the last living actor who did a voice in the original Disney "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons. Posted by Picasa

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week (and a half, since this normally would have been up on Tuesday).

Further proof that on many days I'll watch whatever is on. The fact that James Gandolfini hated this movie so much that he begged DreamWorks not to release it says it all. Hell, the simple fact that DreamWorks made it should say enough. And the fact that Ben Affleck is in it... And why Christina Applegate? Aren't we through with her? Because she really, really sucks. Even someone as funny as Catherine O'Hara can't save a single frame of this movie. Think of the worst Christmas movie ever made (incidentally, that's One Magic Christmas), and just know that this movie is a thousand times worse. In terms of DreamWorks, it's their worst movie. Ever. Worse than The Time Machine, The Ring, Forces of Nature, and Mouse Hunt combined. Twice. No stars, ever in a million years.

I love science fiction movies, but even I was surprised that I'd never seen this movie. And, of course, everyone knows the ending (heck, can you even imagine the phrase "Soylent Green is made out of PEE-PULL!!!" without hearing Phil Hartman saying it?), so it just seemed like I already knew everything going in. Even with that, some elements surprised me--for example, Charlton Heston's policeman being so cynical and corrupt. This is indeed a bleak vision of an overpopulated future, and even though it was made over 30 years ago, it still seems immediate. Edward G. Robinson, in his final performance, managed to draw tears from me (he is always wonderful in everything), and the power of the ending isn't cut by the fact that you already know it. It's all in how the ending is played. Be warned though; this is a Charlton Heston movie, so there will be scenes of him wearing an ascot, and at least one scene of him without a shirt. ***1/2 stars.

BLUE CAR (2002)
Something about the inappropriate relationship between a teacher and his student. So bad I barely remember anything more than the girl does a lot of criminal things and the teacher is played by David Strathairn. * star, I guess.

This premiered last weekend on HBO, and is less about the relationship between an ex-convict and an older government agent (played wonderfully by Bill Nighy, who never once steps wrong in any movie), and more about the G-8 World Summit Conference (which is taking place as you read this). The movie is hopeful that the world leaders will be able to sort out the problems, especially in Africa, that affect every nation because of poverty. Richard Curtis (of Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Bridget Jones's Diary) makes an excellent point in his screenplay that the leading nations of the world are in a position to solve many of these problems, and seems to set up reality as its own ending (meaning the film, really, has none). It's a lot to think about, and the performances are all good, but since reality is going to be so disappointing, any future viewings of the movie will probably be quite frustrating. *** stars.

Jesus Christ, is it good to see Romero's zombies back on the screen (for the first time, actually, since his last zombie movie came out when I was 7, so I've never seen one of these in the theater). What I can't quite figure out is this: is this the fourth film in his Dead series, or is this something outside of that? Because, if it's the fourth film, the evolving intelligence of the zombies makes sense to me. In Day of the Dead, Romero touched on this with the character of Bub, a zombie who could almost, almost, remember what it was like to be human. Either way, it adds a new layer of science fiction to what was already a very thoughtful series. I also liked the heirarchy of the human beings, living in what they can hold on to and pretend is civilization, without actually solving any of the problems. It seems very realistic to me: this zombie problem has been going on forever, but humanity still refuses to realize it is in its death throes. Rather than try and start anew with realistic solutions, the powerful create a pale imitation of civilization and hide from the problem, and people grow complacent. It reminded me a lot of the British attempts to conquer African tribes--they didn't think the Africans would be smart enough to learn to use modern weapons. They did, and so do the zombies. The real point of the movie is that when society, even a post-catastrophic society (America after 9/11, cough, cough), grows too complacent in keeping its old ways intact, they become too inured to recognize the strength of outside threats--which, of course, are always underestimated. An excellent movie, worthy of succeeding Romero's originals. I would've liked a little more Phil Fondacaro, but I love that guy. And Asia Argento... well... wow. ***1/2 stars.

Hayao Miyazaki is probably the greatest animator of all time, which is almost a weird thing for me to say since I tend to really hate Japanese animation. I mean really, really hate it. But Miyazaki is a true artist, not just a pornographer of school girls and giant robots and tentacles, and his work never fails to stir the soul and touch me very deeply, and this was no exception. I don't really think I can describe this film in a way that makes sense or praises it enough, but it is the kind of fantasy I most like (the journey of a girl and a lot of strange characters), and as with nearly all Miyazaki movies, I didn't want it to end. **** stars.

If there's one thing I've learned from movies and books, it's this: don't ever hire a young man to do work for you, or let him lodge in your home, because he will fuck your wife. Ewan McGregor fucks everyone in this movie. He fucks the gorgeous Emily Mortimer, then he fucks Tilda Swinton, who is the wife of his employer (he works on a barge in the 1950s). Then he fucks her sister, then he drifts on and finds a lodging and fucks the wife of his landlord. That's about the whole thing. It's better done than most of these movies, though, and it has music by David Byrne. The non-linear aspects of the plot did almost keep some twists secret, and it was never dull. And yes, Ewan's cock made an appearance in the film. He's still got it. One thing I don't understand: why is it called Young Adam? Despite this, *** stars.

A classic John Ford movie about IRA terrorists in 1922 Dublin. The great Victor McLaglen stars in an Oscar-winning performance as Gypo Nolan, who as kicked out of the IRA and is now poor and starving on the streets. In the first ten minutes of the film, he informs on a friend to the British, claims the reward, and spends the rest of the movie (which all takes place in one night) dealing with his conscience and the anger of the IRA. It's the kind of movie that would be cliched and filled with arbitrary action these days, but this is one very powerful, very compelling movie. The emotions here are very complex: Gypo has been kicked out of the IRA for showing mercy to a cop, so neither the British nor the Irish will accept him. He informs on his best friend to get money so he and the girl he loves can escape to America, but at the same time, the IRA wants him to help them find the informer. How does he get out of this situation? Should he? This is a masterpiece of ethics, loyalties, and emotions, and how those things rub up against the harsh realities of a war-torn country during the Depression. **** stars.

I don't care much for the Mother Goose stories, despite my interest in folk tales. This is a compilation of five or so stop-motion animated shorts by Ray Harryhausen, and they have a lot of interest as early work of his. Still, they're rather inconsequential. *** stars.

A Spanish movie about an Argentinian prostitute that takes itself too seriously. Good central performance by Antonella Costa, but very predictable. ** stars.

Why the hell did I watch this movie? There are a few different kinds of kids movies: this is one of those that tries to impart a lesson, and thinks it's way more important than it is. The object lessons about racism are a lot less subtle than they were in Babe, that's for sure. The animation that allows the animals to speak is very good; unfortunately, it doesn't give them anything interesting to say. Well, at least I got to see Hayden Panettiere in riding pants. **1/2 stars.

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast Inanity, Already in Progress

Man, that sucked. On Monday afternoon, the CPU fan on my Dell Dimension Desktop 2350 burned out and stopped working, so I had to order a replacement part and wait the few days for it to arrive, or else risk frying my motherboard. You know, what really bothers me is how much I hated hated HATED being without my computer. Writing projects were put on hold, my ability to read my online textbook for English 207 was lost, and I couldn't e-mail anyone. I felt like I was somehow apart from the world, just because I was cut off from the constant flow of useless information that passes for familiarity on the internet. Man, I hate myself for feeling that way.

Well, at least I can get on my blog again. If that consoles anyone here. Which it probably shouldn't.

Incidentally, if there are regular readers out there, I'm going to go ahead and skip this week's Throwdown, since I have no idea what happened in the world of entertainment this week, and this week's political happenings piss me off so badly that I haven't been able to stop shaking when I talk about them.

Let's do Film Week instead...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Get Caught Reading

Found this on another site and figured, what the hell.

Name three books on your book shelf. One from each end and one from the middle.
1. Hey Rube by Hunter S. Thompson
2. Squashed Armadillocon by Paul T. Riddell
3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

What reading material is in your bathroom?
It's too small to keep anything in.

Favorite authors and why.
Far too long to mention, but here's a few:
-Harlan Ellison, my absolute favorite, because of his grasp on society's problems.
-Isaac Asimov, for being so damn smart and funny.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, for writing the one book I can read over and over and over again.
-Robert E. Howard, for being gripping and exciting.
-Julian Barnes, for being so damn satirical and snarky.
-Hunter S. Thompson, for hating people as much as I do.
-Edgar Rice Burroughs, for getting me through high school on a steady diet of adventure.
Many, many, many others: L. Frank Baum, Douglas Adams, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert A. Heinlein, Carl Sagan, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Philip K. Dick, and so on and so forth.

Least favorite authors and why.
Anne Rice, who is trashy and lame. John Grisham, for much the same reason. Michael Crichton, because his books used to be good until he started selling out (and it's not like he was a genius before hand, but he did write one of the best autobiographies I've ever read).

What author is over rated?
Anne Rice, Stephen King (his best work was years ago), John Grisham, and anyone recommended by Oprah (except Faulkner).

Would you (have you) picked up a woman (or man) in a bookstore?
Only co-workers when I worked at Barnes & Noble, and then not seriously. Although it is worth mentioning that I met Becca when we both worked at Waldenbooks.

Do you eat while you read? If so what's your food of choice?
If I'm eating alone, I'll usually read something.

Name one book you'd recommend for someone searching for meaning or insight or inspiration.
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan is a buffet of conversational rationalism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain pretty much says everything about human life, and any Michael Moore book says a few things you should probably know. And George Carlin, too.

Name one book you'd recommend for a day on the beach or a rainy day in the house.
The Lord of the Rings. It's so complex you're always making new connections.

Do you judge a book by its cover?
Duh, so does everyone. Why do you think they put covers on books in the first place? Besides, if they didn't, the saying would be "Don't judge a book by its title," and then where would rich white old money asshole families be?

In the bookstore, what section do you head to first?
Science fiction.

More Thoughts on the Subject of Me

TEN Random Things About Me:
10. I watch way too much Disney Channel for being 28 years old.
9. I despise religion.
8. I never wear shorts.
7. I cry in about 60-75% of the movies I see.
6. I kind of hate being home by myself.
5. I've had phone sex with someone who almost qualifies as my cousin.
4. I love writing papers for school.
3. Sunday is my favorite day of the week.
2. I don't wash my hair very often.
1. I do consider pizza nature's most perfect food.

NINE Ways To Win My Heart:
9. Know who I mean when I talk about John Ford movies.
8. Be honest with me, even if our opinions differ.
7. Watch cartoons with me.
6. Cook for me.
5. Talk to me for hours and hours on end, eschewing things like sleep and hunger.
4. At the very least, accept my love of old pin-ups, Russ Meyer films, and porn.
3. Tell me how much you love science fiction.
2. Don't be afraid to sing around me, even if you suck. I sing all the time, and I suck.
1. Take me to a Disney movie.

EIGHT things I want to do before I die:
8. Be a successful writer.
7. Learn to play the guitar.
6. Collect every one of Isaac Asimov's 500+ books.
5. Visit at least one foreign country. Actually, I have been in Japan, so one other foreign country (preferably Australia, New Zealand, or England).
4. Speak German more fluently.
3. Make love to at least one celebrity.
2. Complete my animation DVD collection.
1. Grow a reliable supply of marijuana. For me.

SEVEN ways to annoy me:
7. Be a Republican.
6. Be religious.
5. Not appreciate the most inappropriate of jokes.
4. Pester me about wanting children.
3. Scoff at my love of Jessica Simpson.
2. Tell me I'm "too old" for cartoons.
1. Don't know when to shut up.

SIX things I believe in:
6. A thing called love (just listen to the rhythm of my heart).
5. When I fall in love with you it will be forever.
4. That those last two entries, both song quotes, will be funny to someone who likes music.
3. Basic human rights.
2. That my generation has some fucked-up problems with entitlement.
1. Santa Claus.

FIVE things I'm afraid of:
5. Heights.
4. Speed.
3. Losing control.
2. Euphemisms.
1. Americans.

FOUR favorite things in my room:
4. My Oz books.
3. Becca's Hilary Duff posters.
2. Becca.
1. A painting Becca did for me of a mermaid about ten years ago.

THREE things I do everyday:
3. Take blood pressure medication.
2. Spend too long on the computer.
1. Watch music videos.

TWO things I want to do right now:
2. Eat Portillo's.
1. Go to the movies.

ONE person I want to see right now:
1. Becca; how dare she spend time with her own mother?