Friday, July 21, 2006

My Sexual Icons, Part 5

Even more of the women I loved when I was just a lad.
















Thursday, July 20, 2006

People Are Disgusting

Going to college is pretty much like going to kindergarten, but with less structure and discipline. Kids don't take care of themselves in their 20s anymore than they do in kindergarten. They whine and feel entitled, and they only care about what they want and fuck everyone else. They have no responsibility and no impulse control. And the place is just as big a cesspool of infection and illness. How many damn times have I had to sit in front of a person who is hacking and coughing and sneezing and doesn't have the sense to cover his or her mouth?

It happened again today. Someone sneezed on me, and I could feel their spittle hit my back and arms. How can someone old enough to drive and vote not be able to make the quick (and let's be frank, automatic) courtesy of covering their mouth and nose before they sneeze? I turned and asked him, very politely--because my mother raised me to be polite and courteous, even if the person I'm being polite and courteous toward doesn't deserve it, even when beating them with a horse leg is too good for them--I ask him: "Would you please cover your mouth when you sneeze?"

"Sorry," he grunts.

Then he spends several minutes loudly clearing his throat and coughing. And it doesn't feel like he's doing it to be a prick, he's just doing it because he's a monkey and he doesn't know any better. Frankly, I'm certain he forgets to pull down his pants before taking a shit (if he even uses a toilet, that is). Conversely, I'm sure that him wearing pants is what keeps him from masturbating furiously in public. Pants are, I guess, one of the few precautions you can take with a monkey. They have no way of controlling themselves.

A second time: "Please, will you stop coughing on me?"

"Sorry," he grunts again, completely disinterested in engaging in polite social discourse, probably because it isn't shiny enough to catch his attention.

Another few minutes, and I can actually feel his coughing in my hair. This asshole is so unaware of anyone around him, that he just coughs and, if his germs find his way to the back of my head and I catch his monkey disease, he wouldn't even be aware of it.

"Alright, that's it," I seethe quietly, so as not to distract my math teacher (who is, naturally, teaching). "Look, I asked you twice to be more polite, but you didn't listen. Now I am telling you: if you continue to sneeze and cough and spread your germs onto me, I am going to reach over, grab you by the shirtfront, and slam you into the wall. Then I am going to punch you in the dick, drop you on the ground, and maybe stomp on your gut. Do you understand me?"

"Jesus, I'm sorry!" the guy says, clearly annoyed that someone would take issue with anything regarding his subsistence.

I just got up and changed my seat, but I did make sure to spit at him. Because it's my last semester and I'm not interested in tolerating these monkeys anymore. Fucker.

Needless to say, my first action after class was to come home and shower.

Today's Pop Culture Question

If My Super Ex-Girlfriend were called My Super Ex-Boyfriend and starred the Rock as the title character and Naomi Watts as the girl he was terrorizing, would it still be so "cute"? Would it still be a comedy? Would the cliche still be so supposedly funny?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Raymond Massey is, these days, something of an underrated actor. His best role is in this film, which follows Lincoln from his entrance to Illinois from Kentucky as a young man and up to his winning the presidential election just as the Civil War is about to begin. Massey plays Lincoln as an "aw, shucks" sort who accidentally makes his way into the law and politics, and who is pushed forth by an ambitious wife. There is an old-fashioned Hollywood sheen to it, but it's a great movie, even better than John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln. See it now before Spielberg inevitably rips it off for his own upcoming Lincoln biopic (which will be three hours long and meandering). This film: **** stars.

A documentary about a hunting expedition with typical 1930s casual white arrogance, racism, and sexism. The irrelevant narration is particularly insulting, especially when equating the shopping habits of women all over the world. High-handed, but with some interesting footage of animals. ** stars.

Two more Frank Buck documentaries serve as companions to the 1932 Bring 'Em Back Alive (these should all three be on DVD). Buck journeys to Asia in all three films to capture live animals for circuses and zoos. It's obvious a lot of footage is staged to make it look more exciting and more dangerous than it really is. At the same time, you have to marvel at Buck's ingenuity and the efficiency of the natives who work for him, building wooden cages out of trees in a short amount of time to capture pachyderms and monkeys. And always with the pythons! Let me tell you, after watching these two, I really, really hate pythons; they're apparently always getting loose and killing things. You can forgive the staging because, hey, this is Hollywood entertainment, and it's also probably what gets him funding for other expeditions and other films. Besides which, it's still footage of Asian wilderness from the 1930s, and what brave and smart men went through to, as Buck says, "bring 'em back alive." Buck's love for animals manages to glow through the entire time. All films: ***1/2 stars.

Joan Crawford stars in her Oscar-winning performance as a woman who pushes herself to make it in business so that her spoiled, rotten, evil, conniving, manipulative, horrible slut of a daughter can have nice things. In other words, it's a tragedy (and, incidentally, one of many films from the 1930s and 1940s about women sacrificing their lives for their ungrateful daughters). You can see why Crawford won an Oscar--not only is she stunningly beautiful and a powerful actress, but you just want to reward her for what Mildred has to go through (although, actually, my own choice for Best Actress in 1945 would have been Anna Magnani in Open City, but that's neither here nor there--Crawford's performance is absolutely excellent). It's based on a James M. Cain novel, so there are the requisite sleazy characters, plot twists, shady dealings, and sad betrayals. An excellent film, directed by one of Hollywood's unsung best, Michael Curtiz. **** stars.

A fascinating documentary about the family of David Hicks, one of the Taliban members captured by the Northern Alliance and currently being held in Guantanamo Bay. Hicks, a white Australian citizen, fought with the Kosovo Liberation Army, converted to Islam, then went to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and begin his training, both in the military and in the religion of Islam. His letters are read in the documentary, and he seems to have genuinely believed in Islam. His father, Terry, makes a terrifying journey through the Muslim lands to see where his son lived and trained in an effort to learn the truth about what happened. There is some feeling that Hicks was one of many who were handed over for bribes and had nothing to do with al-Qaeda and 9/11; since the documentary was made, Hicks has admitted to working with al-Qaeda and meeting Osama bin Laden, but also claims never to have fought against American troops and to have disapproved of the 9/11 attacks but was unable to escape Afghanistan. There is more truth waiting to come out, I imagine. What's important here is that the documentary was made by Australians, and looks at American policy without the eye of American nationalism. We also get an interesting Muslim point of view because the fimmakers (and Terry Hicks) take the time to talk with Muslims and listen to their perspectives. I think it's very important to find out--for real and without regard to what our official propagandists tell us--how others view our country and the image presented to them by our reckless president. There is a bit of argument about John Walker Lindh as well, and why he was railroaded into a trial so quickly, while Hicks lingers for years in imprisonment; the answer, although no one says it, is that an American member of the Taliban would be too much of a symbol to Muslims (and I still say the government has declared war on Muslims, not "evil"), and executing him would have made him a martyr for Islamic fundamentalists--quickly and quietly putting him in a hole solves that problem. But because Hicks and other detainees are classified as "unlawful combatants," a term made up by our government, they can be held without any attention to the Geneva Convention or access to legal representation or even basic humane treatment. I hope there's a sequel to this, so we can understand why Hicks made the choices he made, and what has happened to him in the last several years. ***1/2 stars.

Easily as boring and overrated as the 1983 remake. Shocking in its time, I suppose, and shocking for people who can't figure out right off that Tony's whole hangup is that he wants to fuck his sister. But... meh. I think Paul Muni overplays it. Often. ** stars.

Erich von Stroheim is pretty legendary as a director. In his day, he terrified studios by shutting executives out of the proceedings and spending lavishly on scenes of depravity that shocked even the permissive Hollywood of the 1920s. His original version of Greed was, famously, nine hours long--in one of the greatest losses of cinema history, the studio destroyed the excess footage after cutting it down to less than two hours. He shot an orgy scene for The Merry Widow, even though he knew it would never be used. He was a dictator on the set (you know that stereotypical image of the director in riding pants with a crop, monocle, and megaphone? yeah, that comes from von Stroheim) and terrorized his actors in an obsessive quest for excellence and excess. This is the film that ruined his career. Gloria Swanson, one of the most powerful actresses of her day (and in my opinion the second-best actress of the twenties after Garbo), and her lover Joseph P. Kennedy (yes, that Joseph P. Kennedy) set out to produce this film and chose von Stroheim as director. He returned with a script for a five-hour epic; he shot four hours of footage, but his independent behavior and overspending forced Kennedy to fire him. Additional scenes were directed by a number of uncredited directors, including Sam Wood, Irving Thalberg, and Swanson herself. The film was meant for a 1928 release, but was not released until 1929, and then in a severely truncated form that was a disaster (the fact that it was a silent film at the beginning of the sound era may not have helped it find an audience). It was the nail in the coffin for von Stroheim, whom Hollywood finally decided was undisciplined and uncontrollable. Swanson's career took a huge hit, too, and her stardom began to wane quickly. Swanson filmed new scenes in 1932 to complete the story, but it was only released in Europe, where it still failed to find an audience. As for the film itself, the story suffers from the missing footage; the film was restored in 1985, and it contains some of von Stroheim's best visual work, but the story feels incomplete due to the difficult (and highly publicized) production. It's also one of Swanson's best performances. As much as the original version of Greed and the uncensored Merry Widow, this is a lost potential masterpiece that can only be imagined. What we have is fitful and makes us long for more. ***1/2 stars.

MON ANGE (2005)
Vanessa Paradis gives a typically uninteresting performance in a cliched French film. * star.

A New Suri Clue

In the wake of media and public speculation that there is something wrong with Suri Cruise (born earlier because she's actually Chris Klein's, nonexistent, Tom and Katie are broken up, Tom and Katie are auditioning children for the role, etc.), we've got a new clue this week. If I may speculate in an editorial manner, I think what's probably happened is that the "church" of scientology has started their media relations machine and are taking charge of what could turn out to be a public relations embarrassment. Here's what we've got now.

Leah Remini: "She's a newborn and normal size!"


See, this is the kind of statement that's released by someone professional who thinks that people are generally idiots. Let's dissect this a moment, shall we? Remini doesn't say, like, "Oh, the baby's fine" or "Oh, Suri's a cute baby" or even "Suri's such a happy little girl." Instead, she says: "She's a newborn and normal size!" So, rather than just saying she saw the baby and she's fine, Remini chooses to directly address the speculation that the baby doesn't exist or was born much earlier than announced by telling us the baby is a newborn, and a normal size for a newborn. Gee, couldn't the "church" come up with a statement that sounded a little more natural and a little less defensive? Why so sensitive? Could it be because the "church" really has something to hide?

The defensive nature of the statement, along with the fact that Leah Remini is also a scientologist, kind of makes the whole thing sound more official and less off-the-cuff than reality might warrant, eh?

Man, this is the stupidest hoax and/or controversy in the history of Hollywood. And the "church" keeps making it even more stupid. Maybe they should stop relying on actors to get the word out about their scam, er, faith. Maybe they should get one of those guys who just goes on talk shows and does infomercials. It might actually be less embarrassing for them.

Hail Xenu!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And It Remained True Forever, Dammit

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

-- preeminent New York journalist John Swinton, 1880

On My Birthday

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. Funny, my life didn't seem like such a waste before... Anyway, since I'm always interested in history, here's some things that happened on my birthday historically.

1821: Spain ceded Florida to the United States.

1898: Spanish troops in Santiageo, Cuba, surrendered to the US (Spanish-American War).

1917: The British royal family adopted the name Windsor. They had previously been the Hanovers.

1944: 322 people were killed when two ammunition ships exploded in Port Chicago, California.

1945: The final allied summit of World War II in Potsdam, Germany, between Harry S. Truman, Josef Stalin, and Winston Churchill.

1955: Disneyland opened to the public.

1975: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was successful.

1979: President Anastasio Somoza resigned and fled Nicaragua.

1981: 114 people were killed when a pair of walkways above the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed.

1986: White House chief of staff Donald Regan sugests that American women would not be prepared to "give up all their jewelry" so that the US can impose economic sanctions on South Africa.

1996: TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed off Long Island.

2001: Katharine Graham, chariman of The Washington Post Company, died at age 84 from trauma sustained from a head injury.

2005: The Iraqi Special Tribunal filed its first criminal case against Saddam Hussein.

Birthdays for July 17: Art Linkletter (94), Donald Sutherland (71), Terry "Geezer" Butler (57), David Hasselhoff (54), Phoebe Snow (54).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Impression That I Get: Movie Trailers

Having been inundated with trailers last week at the movies (seriously, there were about 10 before The Devil Wears Prada alone), I figure every once in a while, I'd just mention some of my thoughts about trailers. A lot of trailers really suck these days, which is really sad since they're supposed to be what gets us to see the damn movies. Here's what I've been noticing lately, ordered by impending release date.

Clerks II (7/21)
Yeah, I'll see it, but dude, does anything happen in this movie besides Jay dancing and grabbing his nipples? Because I'm kind of getting insanely tired of seeing that on TV.

Monster House (7/21)
What is this stigma against releasing Halloween-themed movies at Halloween? Of all the 50,000 CGI movies coming out anytime soon, this one looks like it might be kind of okay. I'll wait until it comes out on DVD, inevitably right before Halloween. I'll be more in the mood for it then.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (7/21)
I've never found the joke about women who go crazy when their boyfriend leaves them very funny. Amping it up so that the woman has superpowers somehow amplifies the petty spitefulness, and not the humor. A drama, I could understand; if a chick is that upset because Luke Wilson left her, she's obviously got some kind of massive self-esteem problems. I get that. But nothing in the trailer made me laugh. And why hinge a joke on Luke Wilson's facial expression? The guy only has one. Which is one more personality than he has.

The Ant Bully (7/28)
This preview couldn't suck harder if the theater installed vacuums into the seats. I mean, if it were 1995 and no one had ever seen a CGI move before, that would be one thing. And Nicolas Cage doing a voice in a cartoon? Dude, Perry Como has a more upbeat and energetic voice.

John Tucker Must Die (7/28)
First, can we all agree that cutting a scene in a trailer right before someone says a swear has not been, nor ever will be, funny? Everyone knows that the word "fucker" comes right after "mother," alright? Otherwise... well, it looks like crap. Crap where women act stupid. Again. Yeah, I liked it two years ago, when it was called Mean Girls, and it had funny jokes in it.

Miami Vice (7/28)
I guess the fact that people are going to go see this crap is what depresses me most. The commercial playing in my local theater talks about the revolution of crisp, clear digital film, which is only amusing because the movie looks so grainy, like camcorder footage blown up too big to hold the resolution. Why anyone is interested in this movie is beyond me.

Barnyard (8/4)
Wow, millions of dollars to make a CGI movie that it looks like only a 3 year-old could love. Are those really the jokes you want to go with?

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (8/4)
It could either be the funniest movie of the year, or the worst. I loved Anchorman, and this is the same people, so I hope that this is funny, too. The trailer goes on for what feels like about four minutes, so maybe it's an indication of how full of humor the movie is. I can't tell. But they're funny jokes. My only quibble is the presence of Leslie Bibb: can't they get funny or interesting women in these comedies, and not Christina Applegate? Funniest line in the preview: when Will Ferrell thinks he's on fire and screams: "Help me, Tom Cruise! Use your witchcraft!"

World Trade Center (8/9)
I didn't need to be emotionally assaulted with this cloying trailer before relaxing to enjoy a comedy. Compared to the marketing tack Paramount is taking with this, the campaign for United 93 was remarkably subdued and sober (which, to be fair, it almost was, except that they were selling merchandise for it). Paramount is crying up and down that "this is a movie about heroes!", but they're really doing this out of crass financial opportunism. Otherwise, they could make a documentary. I don't think the memory of 9/11 needs to be served by Nicolas Cage with fake hair and another of his over-the-top fake accents. Everyone else is apparently going to be played by the type of non-actor annoyances (Danny Nucci) that you see on the fringes of every bad Bruckheimer movie. This movie is directed by Oliver Stone, but it looks like it was ghost-directed by Michael Bay. And the way that even the preview tries to make you cry and feel... I just wanted to reach through the screen so I could punch the producer in the nuts. "I still see light..." a fireman breathes from under the WTC rubble. He looks at a picture of his wife. I vomit in rage.

Pulse (8/11)
Don't you get it? They want to be us! First off, I've been seeing this trailer since, like, last December or something. Second, this looks like it should be going straight to video. Seriously, Dimension is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

Zoom (8/11)
It's like Sky High, only exactly the same. I don't know, this looks like something I've seen a few times in the last couple of years. I'd rather just watch Thunderbirds again; that had Sophia Myles in it. This... I don't know, it's all so generic anymore.

Invincible (8/25)
It's like Marky Mark remade Rock Star and made it about football. If there are two things I don't give a shit about, they're Marky Mark and football. Of course it's from Disney, who is exceptionally devoted to the idea that every single thing that happens during any of the hundreds of sporting events a year is a miracle. I don't know, you say football is a noble and important game where men are tested and miracles happen, I say football is a bunch of overpaid millionaires working out their aggression by jumping on men in tight pants and dry humping them.

The Wicker Man (9/1)
It's a bad idea to remake such a great movie, especially with Nicolas Cage sleepwalking his way through it (seriously, can he even hold his eyes open all the way anymore?). They say it's different, but it looks like a shot-for-shot plagiarizing to me.

Hollywoodland (9/8)
I hate the title, but I'm intruiged to see a movie about George Reeves. Even though Ben fucking Affleck is playing him. I think the original title was Truth, Justice, and the American Way, but Warners made them change it. I still think Faster Than a Speeding Bullet is a good one, but I'm a sick fuck. It really does look interesting to me, though. One of the few trailers I've seen that made me want to see the movie.

Pathfinder (9/8)
This keeps getting pushed back, but it looks so fucking cool! Indians vs. Vikings, man! What more do you need! Fuck fucking Snakes on a Plane; this is Indians vs. Vikings! The trailer is online, man, go look for it.

Employee of the Month (9/15)
I'll be the first to admit, this movie looks really stupid. If it didn't have Jessica Simpson in it, I wouldn't be bothering with it. But it does. So I am. Seriously, though, it's so bad that Ryan Reynolds should star in it. With Dane Cook. Who sucks. Hard.

Jet Li's Fearless (9/22)
It plays off of my love for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, and the fact that this will be Jet Li's last martial arts movie. Which is fine, because I've never liked Jet Li very much. He just comes across kind of cold; his best films play off of his remoteness. This one looks good to me, though. But I loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Marie Antoinette (10/20)
I admit, I'm intruiged by the approach of the trailer (the pacing, the New Order song, the titles that look like the Sex Pistols album). Despite all of the horrible casting (and most of it is terrible), I can honestly say I'm interested in seeing this film. But now all I can think about is the movie getting booed at Cannes and Sofia Coppola saying, in essence, that she never set out to make a political film about one of the most significantly political events in Western history. Is her movie going to be an apologia for Marie's selfish, shallow ignorance? Then again, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas got booed at Cannes, too, and I love that movie. Even if Becca and I were the only people left in the theater when the credits went up. And one other guy, who was sleeping.

Flushed Away (11/3)
Yet another CGI movie, but this one is from Aardman, makers of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. Which all means nothing if it sucks. The trailer is mostly full of that gentle, amusing English country humor that Americans seem to hate. The plot looks a bit worn, too. But I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt, based on Aardman's incredible track record.

Casino Royale (11/17)
The teaser sucks me in with that James Bond music, and then loses me with Daniel Craig. Sorry, but he really bores me. I don't know, I think I might be done with James Bond. After the invisible car in Die Another Day, I'm pretty sure I don't need to see another Bond movie. I already have some good ones to choose from.

Apocalypto (12/8)
The preview is visually stunning, and I can't deny my interest in the subject matter. If Mel Gibson can refrain from getting all pretentious and insane about it, I'll actually be looking forward to it.

Charlotte's Web (12/20)
One of my favorite works of literature. With scads of celebrity voices and fart jokes for the kids. Sorry, you lost me there. This is the first book I ever read (when I was 5), and I don't really need to see it remixed for today's apparently very stupid children. A definite miss.

Dreamgirls (12/22)
The teaser seems to imply that Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx are dream girls, and I don't think I want to see them crammed into those dresses. Seriously, though, I don't like that they're already making a big deal about what is supposed to be this year's Chicago. Dude, Chicago sucked. I can just read a book on the Supremes instead of Beyonce attempting to act through someone's fan fiction version of it.

Meet the Robinsons (3/30/2007)
I getting sick of being told to meet people. Their original title, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, was better. This is Disney's next CGI movie... I don't know. I didn't like Chicken Little, but this one actually looks kind of neat.

Spider-Man 3 (5/4/2007)
What we've seen so far looks really exciting. Another high point in superhero movies, I hope.

Ratatouille (6/29/2007)
Pixar + Brad Bird = not crap!

Transformers (7/4/2007)
So, let me get this straight. They've taken a cartoon for ten-year-olds, given it a serious story from the guys that wrote box office bombs The Island and The Legend of Zorro (plus some episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), and got Michael Bay to direct it? Yeah, you know what, I'm going to stay at home on this one. Yeah, I'm pretty sure. When Becca and I saw this teaser, we both started laughing very loudly. Is this really what you geeks want? And if so... why? And don't tell me it's because Transformers is awesome, because you know what? It really isn't.

The Simpsons Movie (7/27/2007)
This is the laziest teaser trailer I've seen in a while. The notion of a Simpsons movie is not as inherently exciting on its own as it would have been, like, ten years ago. They seem to be moving in the right direction by getting a lot of the classic writers to work on it (including Conan O'Brien), but I'm not sure this is going to equal the brilliance of, let's say, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Still unknown: Tideland. Where the fuck is it?!