Friday, September 15, 2006

Thing Ring, Do Yer Thing!

Anyone get that reference anymore, or am I just old?

Taking a look at my site meter, I see that I passed the 100,000 visit mark sometime overnight. Can't believe I get around 200 hits per day. Wotta revoltin' development this is; people actually reading what I have to say. I wish some of yez would say hi more often, if it's just to tell me to shut my yap. I've made some friends through this blog (I hope). I've pissed off some people, too--but they're mostly anonymous, so they don't count, the lousy coward pantywaists. I just feel like I passed some sort of milestone there. I'm the idol o' millions, as Ben Grimm would say.

I just wanted to say thanks to the people who make Electronic Cerebrectomy a part of their day, and seem to enjoy my celebrity-bashing, people-bashing, society-bashing, music lists, and lauding of the animation arts. Oh, and the naked girls. People love the naked girls. In the future, I'll remain the ever-lovin' blue-eyed SamuraiFrog.

Now where's the next target? It's clobberin' time, bitches. Posted by Picasa

Reflections on a Mote of Dust

Thankfully, the Space Shuttle Atlantis has not been having problems of the fatal sort. As they continue to pave our way to the galaxy, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes.

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

--Carl Sagan, 1996 Posted by Picasa

Islam vs. the Pope

Here’s what Pope Benedict XVI said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Actually, if we’re being accurate (which I think we can both agree is important in this case), he was quoting a dialogue of Byzantium’s Emperor Manuel II Paleologus from 1391. And everyone is now trying to apologize for what the Pope said.

Well, say anything about Islam or Mohammed and people get all kinds of pissed off.

The Pope was giving an address at Munster University. He once taught there, and he was attempting to reassert his academic credentials. People are saying that he was appearing there as Professor Joseph Ratzinger, not Pope Benedict XVI. Which is quibbling on an epic scale, really. Because they’re both the same person, and based on my understanding of the organization of the Catholic Church (which I admit is shaky), he cannot be both people. He is the Pope, the representative of Christ on earth. And when the man who is supposed to be only one step removed from Christ seems to endorse a Byzantine emperor’s assertion that Islam is evil, the Islamic church is going to take notice of that. I don’t think the Pope is allowed to have it both ways. I mean, other Catholics aren’t, right? Isn’t that why they’re always kicking out the gays? You know, unless they’re already priests?

The important thing to remember, historically, is that Emperor Manuel II was an enemy of Islam. And the reason for this is that he ruled the Byzantine Empire during the Siege of Constantinople (1394-1402). When you’re besieged by Muslims who want to kill you and destroy your realm, it tends to color your opinion of Muslims. But what I don’t understand is the insistence that the Pope needed to say that he didn’t agree with what the Emperor said. It doesn’t sound like the Pope is inciting violence against Muslims (which is pretty much the opposite of the papacy’s history), so why should he apologize?

The real problem that some Muslim organizations seem to have is with the Pope himself. Apparently, he has a history of criticizing Islam. Supposedly, Pope Benedict believes that Islam cannot be reformed and is therefore incompatible with democracy. I’m not so sure that he’s wrong, frankly. The two things seem diametrically opposed. Democracy doesn’t automatically guarantee freedoms--study ancient Athens if you don’t agree--but it is a system removed from the religious fundamentalism that seems inherent in Islam. Granted, my grasp of Islam is shakier than my grasp of Catholicism, but I’m just calling it by how I see the world reacting to it.

Now, I don’t have much of a problem with any sort of antireligious message. I don’t like religion; I hate it, and I consider it one of the evils of the world. I think of it as a force that is holding humanity back from greater levels of understanding. It is the dead hand of traditionalism and fear and bigotry, which tells people that they are better at the expense of others who aren’t “chosen.” I despise religion. And I don’t think you have to respect the beliefs of others, either. I don’t respect a person’s belief in religion. It’s not that I’m not accepting or even tolerant of other beliefs. But if I don’t share someone’s belief, why should I respect it? Look at the Crusades and tell me why I should respect Christianity. Look at the iconoclastic destruction of an entire culture and tell me why I should respect Islam. Both religions are founded on blood and destruction and violence and mass murder. I don’t respect them at all. I am a total atheist, and sometimes I pity people who aren’t. I’m not telling you this because I think it’s cool. I’m telling you because I want it to be very clear that I am not denigrating one religion to make another look better. I hate them all equally.

I don’t respect this pope, either. How compassionate is the Catholic Church meant to appear when they elect a former Hitler Youth as Christ’s agent? Then again, this is the same system that simply moves child molesters from office to office rather than letting them be prosecuted as aberrations.

The reason I have a problem with all of this is the way people overreact to everything anyone says. The Pope doesn’t like Muslims? Well, as Christ’s most enthusiastic fan, he doesn’t have to like Muslims. He’s not saying they don’t deserve to exist, so what do Muslims care? And you know what might go a long way towards softening the image of Muslims as violent extremists? If they didn’t go around reacting with such violent extremity when some Dutch cartoonist criticizes them a little bit. In fact, if you look at the entirety of the Pope’s speech, you can see that he was arguing against the justification of any kind of religious violence over the capacity to reason. Kind of an important message in today’s increasingly fundamentalist world, don’t you think?

One-Third of a Throwdown 9/15

I don’t really have enough news that interests me for a Throwdown this week. But here are a couple of items that caught me.

1. Jude Law can’t take a joke. Watch. Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2005: “Who is Jude Law? Why’s he in every movie I’ve seen for the last four years? He’s in everything. Even in the movies he’s, if you look in the credits he made cupcakes or something.” Jude Law, still crying like a bitch almost two years later: “At first I laughed because I didn't think he knew who I was. Then I got angry as his remarks became personal. My friends were livid. It's unfortunate I had five or six films come out at the same time.” Dude, take yourself very, very seriously, it’s such a turn-on.

2. Airport security almost wouldn’t let J.K. Rowling take the manuscript of her final Harry Potter book on the plane back to Heathrow. Do you realize what we’re coming to? Very soon, we won’t even be allowed to take books on the plane anymore. The airline companies always cry like whinybabies to the government every time they think they’re not making enough money, but they’re making the entire process such an inconvenient hassle that it’s not worth it to fly anymore. Figure that one out.

3. Oliver Stone is going to release yet a third version of his film Alexander, this one clocking in at about three hours and forty minutes. Now, I grant you, Alexander the Great is a subject that deserves the length. But I find all of this talk about Alexander’s sexuality completely beside the point. Was he bisexual or homosexual? Well, the Greeks didn’t really tend to think of those things in the same way that we do now. There wasn’t so much attached to it then in the way of politics and outdated religious morality. And I think Oliver Stone is being disingenuous when he makes the entire issue of the movie’s failure about Alexander’s sexuality (although, to be honest, in the version I saw it was handled in a very clumsy, somewhat homophobic, needlessly apologetic way). The fact is the movie just stinks. The acting is awful, the story meanders, and the dialogue is utterly execrable. That’s the real problem.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is the third movie in history to make over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Don’t you think that’s a tad excessive for a movie? Especially such a lame one? I wonder how much a billion dollars would go towards cleaning the garbage off the streets of New Orleans.

5. Can we stop seeing pictures of Lindsay Lohan’s pussy now? Please? Because I’ve seen it a lot lately. And other than a mild surprise that it was much cleaner and less scab-ridden than I thought it would be, I haven’t really felt anything for it. Just stop. Now.

Seriously, that’s all I can work up right now. I can’t even work up a slight bit of hostility to be witty about anything, so… I give up.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

SamuraiFrog's Rules of the Road

Living in a college town is especially wonderful if you don’t care what happens to your car. It’s unfortunate, then, that I do care what happens to Flynn, my 1996 Ford Escort. I don’t remember how long I’d actually lived here when I came out to find her passenger door had been effectively smashed. Yes, the kids here are so dumb that they can’t swerve to avoid parked cars. Maybe if they didn’t drive through parking lots at 35 mph, but whatever.

Driving on the road with these entitled little bitches isn’t exactly a joy either. A bunch of whinybabies who have no business behind the wheel, and they have to drive fucking everywhere, no matter how close it is. All over town, driving 10 to 25 miles over the speed limit, making sharp curves around blind corners, driving the wrong way on a one-way street (yes, I have seen this), and not realizing that they’re pulling out right in front of you until they’re halfway there. And, if the police blotter is remotely accurate, at least 12% are drunk and/or high and/or uninsured and/or unlicensed and/or have a suspended license and/or have a failure to appear warrant out on them. I wonder if a DeKalb cop wins a prize if he pulls over somebody with all of the above. The guy should, and it would be really easy to win.

Yesterday was kind of typical of these punk kids. Sometimes it’s hard to pull out my apartment complex, especially in the morning between 7:30 and 9:30. I live on a major street, and there’s just a lot of traffic. So, I’m waiting for some semis and such to drive past me on their way to the I-39 exit, and this girl behind me in an Oldsmobile Alero decides that two minutes is quite long enough for her to wait. Cigarette cocked in her mouth, sour look on her face, she honks at me. And it’s a slightly sustained honk, too, about 5 seconds long. Well, I can’t drive through trucks, so I just shrug and put up my hands. Sorry, your majesty. Life sucks, get a helmet.

Finally, almost a minute later, when I can pull out, she tears off after me. The street is wet from rain, and as I make the left turn into the left lane heading east, I hear her tires spinning on the pavement. After nearly getting hit by a garbage truck barreling towards her, she gets into the median lane, which is only for people on both sides making left turns. She gets next to me and does that swerve thing, pretending she’s going to hit me. I immediately start itemizing a list of what she’s going to pay to fix if she hits my car (no, your honor, my transmission was fine before the accident). Bitch speeds past me, cuts me off, and darts ahead of me doing at least 45 in a 30. Then she slows down and we hit a red light. Apparently, she’s going to teach me a lesson about making her wait, because when the light turns green, she waits. And waits.

Frankly, I find her infantile behavior painfully funny at this point, and I start laughing so loud that she can hear me in her car. That just pisses her off, and as I make the “come on, let’s go” motion with my hand, she gives me the finger. Look, only dumb people give the finger, alright? It’s not clever, it doesn’t hurt my feelings, and it just confirms my opinion of you as a dumbshit Neanderthal who shouldn’t even be driving, anyway. “Are we going, or not?” I call out my window.

Well, gee, I thought she was in a hurry. All I can think of are the poor anesthesiologist and nursing staff waiting with a knocked-out patient for the brain surgeon to arrive.

Finally, she rushes off, remembering her appointment with the African political dignitaries (well, it’s not like they’re going to wait for her). All she’s really done is given me enough time to write down her license plate number for later use. I mean, the fucking idiot lives in my apartment complex, it’s not like I haven’t found out where she parks yet. Moron.

My first thought was to call the police and give them her plate number, telling them that some woman was driving erratically and at high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, and had tried to run me off the road. My second thought was to find out who she was and contact the parents who probably gave her the car so I could let them know that the next time their precious darling little sociopath harasses me it’ll be a legal matter. But now I think I might just let the air out of her tires. Or I won’t do anything, because, honestly, what the fuck do I care?

Great job, parents. You’ve raised an entire generation of impatient, entitled me-monkeys who wouldn’t think twice about killing or maiming somebody just to get three blocks.

Anyway, just for the hell of it, I just came up with some rules. I wish I could post these around town for the college babies. Although the DeKalb City Council seems willing to do anything that makes life more difficult for these kids, so who knows?

SamuraiFrog’s Rules of the Road

1. I drive the speed limit. 30 mph too slow for you? I don’t care. Go around me. And don’t do that thing where you pretend you’re going to hit me, because I will let you, and then you can explain to the cops how you’re too good to go the posted speed limit.

2. Don’t expect me to care or even know that you’re late for something. It’s not my problem that you’re too lazy to leave on time. I’m not going to speed up just because you’re late.

3. Honking and/or tailgating means one thing to me: you want me to slow down.

4. I don’t care what you do in front of me, just do it fast.

5. If you cut me off, at least give me the goddamn common courtesy of a signal. If you fail to signal, I don’t know where you’re going, so don’t be incredulous when I ram you and then claim the accident was your fault.

6. Look both ways before pulling out, not as you’re pulling out.

7. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. My car is an immovable object, and a constant on the road. You have to take that into account when you’re darting out in front of me, even when you see me coming. If you’re jaywalking across five lanes of traffic, don’t be surprised if you end up in the hospital.

8. Cop didn’t see it? I didn’t do it.

Follow those rules and we'll all get along, you dig?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Film Week

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

You know those black and white clips you always see from old caveman movies? The ones with the close-ups of lizards who are supposed to be giant dinosaurs? I think those might all be from this crappy, crappy movie. There are a few things about this story of rival cave tribes (meat eaters vs. plant eaters), such as the attempts to make it feel alien by not using English. But it’s just so silly and arch, that it’s ridiculous. Hal Roach produced this movie; he also produced the 1925 The Lost World with Willis O’Brien’s groundbreaking stop motion effects. Seems like he could have asked for more than cows dressed up to look like mammoths. * star.

This was the only Nightmare on Elm Street film I hadn’t seen yet. Turns out I didn’t miss much. I think you could probably take parts four, five, and six and compress them into one half-decent film instead of three terrible ones. Robert Englund, as always, has a lot of fun with the role and is the only good part of the movie. Otherwise, pointless. * star.

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time. Why are movies so long and pretentious now? They really needed over two hours to tell absolutely no story whatsoever? Basically nothing happens, but at least the characters are all unlikable pricks. Horror movies need to stop using the creepy little girl thing, by the way; it stopped being creepy around 1977. It’s as though the filmmakers are apologizing for making a horror movie with special effects creatures, so instead they try to make an atmospheric thriller. Problem is the filmmakers aren’t talented enough to create any sort of atmosphere. It’s so fucking boring and so fucking long, and there’s really no plot through the entire thing (the writers keep giving us these big infodumps instead of gradually making the plot work, which is the mark of awful writing). And you know, I’ve been seeing Radha Mitchell in films for seven years now, and she has spectacularly failed to make me like her. Director Christophe Gans (who made The Brotherhood of the Wolf, I film I liked immensely) manages to stretch an 82 minute half-plot over 125 minutes or so. Apparently he thought he was making the Lord of the Rings of pointless movies based on video games. It’s actually worse than Resident Evil. ½ star, because the special effects are pretty decent.

I hate almost everyone in this damn thing. But it did have Brittany Murphy and Jessica Biel (and, more importantly, Jessica Biel’s ass). ½ star. Total suck.

This Alfred Hitchcock film started pretty slowly, with a bunch of tourists (most of them English) trapped in an inn because of an avalanche. But once they’re all on the train and heading back west, the plot really picks up. Margaret Lockwood, suffering from a sudden blow to the head, falls asleep after talking to Dame May Whitty, an old British lady who seems as pleasant as can be. And when she wakes up…the lady has vanished. She tries to convince the other passengers that the woman is missing, but for whatever reasons (some of them self-serving), they refuse to believe her. The only people who take her side are a kindly psychiatrist (Paul Lukas) and an arrogant music scholar (Michael Redgrave), and as the mystery unfolds, we’re forced to wonder if Margaret Lockwood’s character is really insane or if something sinister is happening. This is a real classic of suspenseful mindfuck, and very enjoyable. It’s also an interesting indictment of Hitchcock’s fellow Brits, who are standing on the sidelines and only thinking of themselves as Europe heads towards open war. ***1/2 stars.

MR. & MRS. SMITH (1941)
Hitchcock directed this underwhelming comedy about two bickering New Yorkers (Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery) who discover their marriage isn’t legal. Cute concept, but the execution left much to be desired. ** stars.

ROPE (1948)
I just love movies about people who are observant and clever and smart enough to actually figure things out. Two students murder another one as an experiment in social control (and, basically, just to see if they can get away with it). They invite people over for a dinner party that same night, and serve dinner off the same chest the dead lad is being hidden in. One of their guests is James Stewart, playing (and quite marvelously) a former teacher of theirs who thinks they’re acting awfully strange. The film is shot in a long serious of unbroken takes, creatively edited to make the film play out in real time, as though you’re watching an intimate play. The actors are more than up to the task. **** stars.

What can I say? TiVo knows I like soft core porn. Even for a movie like this, it’s pretty fucking stupid. Nikki Nova is sexy as hell until she opens her mouth and talks. Ouch. But any movie with the wondrous Glori-Ann Gilbert is worth watching once. Fast forward through everything else. * star. Yes, I liked this better than Silent Hill.

Richard Burton gives an excellently nuanced performance as Henry VIII. This film traces his break from the Roman Church over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Henry wishes to marry Anne Boleyn (an unusually spirited Genevieve Bujold), with whom he thinks he might have a son. This is a nice companion to A Man for All Seasons, which tells the same story through the eyes of Sir Thomas More. Burton is, of course, extremely good, and the rest of the film is almost up to his energy. Anthony Quayle is also great as Lord Cardinal Wolsey. **** stars.

This didn’t work for me as well as the original Ginger Snaps did. The first film twisted the Red Riding Hood story into what the fairy tale was always about: a woman’s first menstruation and the inevitability of men preying on them. This one tries to do something similar (even down to grandma’s cabin in the woods), but doesn’t quite have anything to say about it. More action, less story. It’s a shame, really. **1/2 stars.

Cute-ish Hallmark Channel movie with Charisma Carpenter trying desperately to get a date to her stuck-up cousin’s wedding. I absolutely adore Charisma Carpenter, and she’s absolutely adorable in this role. But the movie suffers from thinking it’s cleverer than it actually is, and the predictable turns and annoying characters make it less fun than it could have been. I was going to go to three stars, though, because it was okay and Charisma was a joy. And at least, unlike most romantic comedies, the girl finally realized that she had a nice, successful life that she should have been proud of and that wasn’t diminished by her not having a boyfriend. But then she still ends up with a guy, and it felt like the movie was trying to have it both ways. And beyond that, the guy she ends up with is the guy her aunt was trying to hook her up with through the entire movie. “Ha ha, girls, you would be happy if you just listened to your mothers!” the movie seems to say. **1/2 stars, says I. It’s nice to see Charisma act opposite Holly-Marie Combs; I guess they’re good friends in real life.

Jean Renoir’s masterpiece about French soldiers trying to escape a German prison camp during World War I. It’s Renoir saying that people need to be happy and caring, even during times of war. There’s also some interesting attention to the idea of classism; not only do the French aristocrat and the German aristocrat (a personable Erich Von Stroheim) continue to treat each other formally despite being enemies, but the French aristocrat continues to lord himself over his much more capable soldiers. **** stars.

Jean Renoir’s excellent follow-up to Grand Illusion sees a bunch of aristocrats partying and reveling in their existential decadence during a hunting party. Renoir is indicting the French for indulging themselves in silly and selfish behavior with the Nazis at the door. One of the greatest films ever made, to be sure. **** stars.

Sergei Eisenstein directed this wonderful, beautiful Russian film about Prince Alexander Nevsky, who repelled the 13th Century invasion of the Teutonic Knights. The sets and costumes are gorgeous; the acting is a little arch (at times you might think you’re watching a Flash Gordon serial), but it doesn’t actually detract from the movie (side note: I was impressed to see actual Asians playing Mongols in a movie from the thirties). The score by Sergei Prokofiev is impressive, and Eisenstein still directs like a silent filmmaker, but that actually enhances the film: there are some beautiful stretches where the music and the imagery carry the story (a neat device that John Milius used in Conan the Barbarian). Eisenstein directed this film to rouse his Russian audience; by depicting victory against German invaders in Russian history, he hoped to rouse them against the Nazis, whom Russia feared would invade the country. Two years later, they did. **** stars.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Trailers: Round Three

Judging movies by the way they're sold. Because that's the whole point of the ads.

Everyone’s Hero (9/15)
Well, maybe something this truly awful looking will kill off the animation industry’s current love of computer animation. Not that it can’t be good; it’s just that too many studios are looking at CGI as though it were a gimmick and not a medium. Just because something is CGI doesn’t mean that alone makes it good. And can’t Whoopi Goldberg get a real job? I mean, she hasn’t been funny or interesting in about 15 years, and they keep sticking her voice in these things because, apparently, she’s got nothing to do. Man I hate Whoopi Goldberg anymore.

The Last Kiss (9/15)
Lots of people are making a big deal about this, but I’m really tired of these. Look, it’s not cool to have a nervous breakdown at 30; it’s just sad. It seems like the only movies being made these days are by kids for kids, or by men having a midlife crisis. Every year there’s an Elizabethtown and a Garden State, and I almost never like them (Lonesome Jim is the only recent example I can immediately remember of one of these movies that I really enjoyed). And boy do I just fucking hate Zach Braff. And then they take that shitty an actor and surround him with…Rachel Bilson? Jacinda Barrett? Whoa, with powerhouse actresses like those, Braff can just coast and let them do all the work, right? Now add Blythe Danner (the sound of her voice alone makes me irritable), director Tony Goldwyn, Paul Haggis (I just hate Crash so very much) rewriting an Italian movie, and the fact that DreamWorks makes one good movie for every twelve awful ones, and you have a movie scientifically engineered for me to be tired of it before I’ve even seen the damn thing. Sorry, I know I hate it already. Just remember when you see these things: a good soundtrack does not substitute for having to actually write characters. Fucking shorthand.

Haven (9/15)
I confess, when I saw this trailer in the theaters on Labor Day, I started laughing at Orlando Bloom’s attempts to act serious. I just can’t take that lady boy seriously. What is he, seriously, fifteen years old? Either way, this looks like a really self-important remake of Traffic or some other pretentious movie with a lot of shallow characters substituting for a smaller number of interesting ones.

Flyboys (9/22)
I was hoping this one would look good despite everything it has going against it (James Franco, for example). I’ve always wanted to see a movie about the Lafayette Escadrille, actually. Unfortunately, this looks like most American movies: a shallow action film that pretends to be about something.

The Guardian (9/29)
I guess this biggest surprise in this generic trailer is that the movie’s not directed by Tony Scott. It looks like his kind of movie: big fucking close-ups, lots of dick-waving pretending to be male bonding, lots of smoldering rage. I feel like I’ve seen this movie about nine times before and hated them all, except for An Officer and a Gentleman. Maybe I’ll just watch that again.

School for Scoundrels (9/29)
Very easy to ignore.

Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (10/6)
Wow, does this movie look stupid. Jeez, it’s about a fourteen year-old boy who becomes a British secret agent, have a little fun with it already. It looks like Agent Cody Banks but without the wit. Take that however you want. It actually does look better than Casino Royale, though.

The Departed (10/6)
I want to see this movie for Jack Nicholson alone. He was the best part of the trailer, and there could be fuck all else going on in this film: he looks like he’s really acting (a rare occasion these days, to be sure, but being directed by Scorsese helps). Nice touch with the Van Morrison version of “Comfortably Numb,” too.

Running with Scissors (10/20)
Uh-oh, there’s been an explosion at the Quirk Factory! Someone, call Wes Anderson before it gets out of hand! Or call Paul Thomas Anderson to make it too boring to be deadly. And would someone please tell Gwyneth Paltrow that, at age 34, it’s not really cute or interesting for her to continue to play quirky depressed people. This movie looks incredibly bad to me, despite how excellent I’m certain Brian Cox is in it. I hate this kind of Royal Tennenbaums garbage.

The Prestige (10/20)
After Batman Begins, I’ll follow Christopher Nolan anywhere. It’s another movie about turn-of-the-last-century magicians, and the trailer is nothing if not intriguing. Fantastic cast, too: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo, and David Bowie. It looks like fun.

Flicka (10/20)
Meh. I can tell just from the trailer that Tim McGraw is a terrible actor. I like animal movies, but this one just looks dumb.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (11/3)
I thought the first one was awful, but The Santa Clause 2 was a cute movie. This one…well, watching Martin Short jump around as Jack Frost just kind of makes me tired. But, you know, if I’ve got nothing to do, I tend to drift towards Christmas movies during the holiday season.

Stranger Than Fiction (11/10)
I think the concept is pretty clever; Will Ferrell plays a man whose life is narrated by Emma Thompson, who plays an author who is writing a novel in which Ferrell is the main character. I know, I thought the same thing: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But that was a great postmodern science fiction movie (of which there are very few), and based on the trailer, this actually might be/could be of interest. Adaptation left me cold (it was a bit caught up in its own cleverness), so this looks like another chance to enjoy the actual concept.

A Good Year (11/10)
I feel like I’m done with Russell Crowe. He always seems so smug and full of himself to me. And I am done with Ridley Scott. This just looks like a boy’s version of Under the Tuscan Sun, and since I already saw and liked Under the Tuscan Sun, this just looks redundant.

Fast Food Nation (11/17)
I wish someone had made a documentary from the non-fiction book. Dramatizing it seems a little too precious to me. Yes, I know it’s horrible, could you just tell me some facts? I don’t need to see Catalina Sandino Moreno crying to be moved by something that’s real.

The Holiday (12/8)
I hate Nancy Meyers so much, and her previous two films (What Women Want and Something’s Gotta Give) were abominable tripe aimed at pissing off her director ex-husband, Charles Shyer. Look, as appealing as Meyers’s little fantasies about how all men really want is to slow down and appreciate the magnificence of shrieking, shrill, bitter women their own age may be for some people, that’s all they are: fantasies. A more pertinent question for me is this: will Kate Winslet, one of my absolute favorite actresses, ever make another movie I will want to see again? Because it’s pretty scattershot with her.

The Pursuit of Happyness (12/15)
I have to admit, despite a trailer that can at times be self-important (though it’s advertising, and self-importance is par for the course), I find myself wanting to see this movie. I think it’s mostly because I like Will Smith, but I haven’t been on board with any of the movies he’s made recently. I’ve only seen two of the films he’s made since 1999, and I despised one of them (I Robot). I’d like to see him in something a little simpler, something where he really gets a chance to act and not just posture and be cool. It’s hard to not like the guy. This looks like it might be something worth seeing. Maybe.

Children of Men (12/29)
I had a horrible experience with this trailer: I found myself really become interested, really thinking that this might be that rarest of movies--a thoughtful science fiction film. And I have to admit, as soon as Julianne Moore came out of the shadows, I lost interest in it. But I love Julianne Moore! It’s just that she’s chosen to squander her talent on too many crappy mainstream taco-shits like Freedomland, The Forgotten, and Laws of Attraction recently that I immediately thought this must be garbage too. Actually, I really am interested in seeing this movie. I really hope this is something interesting. Apologies to Julianne Moore for the knee-jerk reaction. Please come back to the light.

The Namesake (3/9)
I really want to see this movie. Mira Nair directing Jhumpa Lahiri is something like a dream, and it should be interesting to see Kal Penn take on a serious role. For some reason, this got moved from late October to early March, which worries me a little bit. But the trailer is very good, and I’m just dying to see it.

Ever More on the Subject of Me

I copped another meme from Chance.

When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was your first thought? That manatee is standing upright…and it’s wearing my clothes! (Okay, I stole it from Dennis Miller, but seriously, I need to lose weight. I look like Kevin Smith, except I’m not going bald.)

Favorite planet? Well, it was Pluto, but those bullying scientists shut me out. All because of that one night at the roadside diner in Idaho when that rumble broke out… Actually, I guess my favorite planet would be Rann. What, a comic book reference on Electronic Cerebrectomy?

Who is the fourth person on your missed call list on your mobile? I don’t have a mob-eye-l. I had a mob-eel when I was a kid, but it just had suns and moons and stuff on it.

Favorite ring on your phone? I hate the way commercial companies convince us that we can show our individuality by participating in lockstep consumerism. But it’s beside the point, as I don’t have a cell phone.

What shirt are you wearing? I’m wearing this Fruit of the Loom gray tee shirt with dark blue short sleeves. I have about fifty of these things in slightly varying colors. Hey, they were five bucks at Wal-Mart and I’m poor.

What were you doing 20 minutes ago? Reading Sherry's blog; she has a really good post on 9/11 that you should read. For that matter, so does Tumuli.

Name the brand of shoes you’re currently wearing. I am, in fact, not wearing shoes at the moment. I’m not even sure what kind of shoes I wear. I only buy shoes about once every five years or so. (Pssst, that's not actually a question.)

Bright or dark room? Bright for reading, dark for sitting alone, drinking deeply and having a long night of the soul. Or for developing film. Otherwise, lady’s choice. A childish sex reference on Electronic Cerebrectomy? Surely, thou doth jest.

Daytime or night time? I’m lazy through all of it, so it doesn’t much matter to me. Much like a koala, I have about two good hours during the early morning.

If you’re in a room with two beds, which one do you sleep on? I like to sleep close to the window, actually. Unless it’s a lightning storm, in which case I need to get up and watch the Weather Channel and contemplate my possible death. I am a pessimist. And a coward.

What were you doing at midnight last night? Sleeping. Yes, I am an animal.

What did your last text message you received on your mobile say? Kid, if I get a text message, it’s because my grandmother wrote me a letter, alright? Years of personal communication technology and breakthroughs in making things smaller and smaller, and this is what we come up with? A personal telegraph? Gee, can’t wait until everybody has their own electronic homing pigeon or town crier.

How do you like your eggs? Scrambled.

What’s a word/phrase that you say a lot? I’m sure I repeat myself constantly, but I don’t really listen to what I say. It’s like a big wind roaring in my ears. I do have a tendency to say "Didn't I tell you I was a super genius?," but I haven't gotten punched yet.

Last thing you touched? Eeew! Well, I am typing, so I guess that answers that question.

How many drugs have you done in the last three days? None. But I have had a bit too much caffeine.

Favorite age you have been so far? That’s kind of a lame question, I think. I mean, I’d love to have the energy I had when I was 16 and 17, but if I had to do high school again I’d go Rorschach on everyone’s asses, and where would that get me? I think I’m a fair bit wiser than I was then, but I’m just so damn lazy and tired and cynical these days.

Your worst enemy? Irrationality, superstition, government regulations, religion, bad movies, MTV, and the evil Captain Kirk that waits inside all of us, ready for a simple transporter malfunction to come out and try to rape Yeoman Rand.

What is your current desktop picture? Jessica Biel. Hey, I’m shallow.

What was the last thing you said to somebody? “Aww, alley balls!” But I don’t know why. Sometimes things just come out of me head and needs to be said. Parents, this is the result of too much television. Yahtzee!

If you had to choose between a million bucks or be able to fly, which one would you choose? Fly, of course. The ability to free myself from the confines of gravity would be much more interesting. I’m sure someone will pay me a million dollars to do something or other for them if I can fly. No assassinations, though. Maybe. If it’s Ryan Seacrest, we can talk.

The last song you listened to? “Hung Up on a Dream” by the Zombies.

If the last person you spoke to was getting shot at, what would you do? What the fuck kind of question is that? I’d push her to the ground and cover her with my body.

If you could punch one person in the face who’s in your life right now, who would it be? Carl. He knows why. No, I just made that up to sound mysterious. Does the president count? Oh, wait, I’ve got it: Kelly Ripa. She knows why.

Have you ever been stopped, detained, and searched by the police? Not since I was in junior high. But I was shoplifting, so I guess I had it coming.

I LOVE Michelle Marsh's New Layout

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

An Alternative to Comic Books?

I hate to sound too much like a fanboy, but DC Comics lost me with Infinite Crisis. It's not because I had problems with the Blue Beetle/Max Lord thing (although I certainly did), and not because I found the whole Sue Dibny rape and murder excessive (although I certainly did), and it's not even because I found the Jean Loring thing stupid and unbelievable (although, once again, I certainly did). In fact, I found the whole moral superhero question posed by the lead-in series, Identity Crisis, quite interesting. The story in and of itself was not bad. It was just gimmicky and drawn out and had a really stupid ending. But there was some good stuff along the way.

No, the reason DC lost me with Infinite Crisis is because I'm thirty years old. I've lived through DC's other gimmicks. Crisis on Infinite Earths. Zero Hour. The Death of Superman. Whatever the hell that story was where the Green Lantern murdered a bunch of people (Final Night?). And the worst thing about all of these stories is not that they were totally unneccesary. It's not that they were really just typical "event" stories used to catch the press and boost sales for a limited time. No, the worst thing about these stories is that, over the years, writers have undone all the changes that were oh-so-important in the first place. They've brought back the Justice Society. They've brought back Hal Jordan and Green Arrow. What is the frigging point of doing all this crap, supposedly streamlining and simplifying the continuity, when someone is going to come along and make everything complicated again, making another one of these things apparently necessary.

Honestly, before DC started their new bullshit gimmick universe-changing storyline, it had never really hit me before just how cyclical and unending comic books were. Changes constantly undone. Death reversed and, therefore, totally unaffecting as a story device. Why the heck should I invest the time and money in following a story with no conclusion and no closure? I mean, I understand Batman is going to keep going for at least another 75 years, but some occasional change would be nice.

So, I decided I was going to stop buying the incredible number of comics I was reading every month (I dumped every mainstream DC title, for example). I got rid of something like two-thirds of my comic book collection. Hey, I can always read Batman: Year One again, right?

DC Comics were never as flat-out stupid as Marvel Comics were. Marvel Comics, with few exceptions (though there were some), were basically written for 13 year-old boys. And though I love Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Captain America, and the X-Men, they were never quite the iconic characters in my mind that Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash were. I completely lost interest in Marvel much earlier than my interest in DC (funnily enough, for pretty much the same reasons--no closure). I was actually excited by the Marvel Ultimate concept--restarting series like Spider-Man and X-Men in their own modernized fictional universe without the excess baggage of 40 previous years of storylines weighing them down. The problem with the Ultimate universe turned out to be the writers. Mark Millar just sucks ass; the X-Men were the same characters they always were, only with so much smarmy attitude that not a single one of them were likable, and the Ultimates, a slick version of The Avengers, quickly descended into a bunch of assholes standing around trying to prove who's the biggest asshole. And not only can Brian Michael Bendis not even keep the names of some of the characters straight, but all of his characters speak in exactly the same voice. Ultimate Spider-Man was actually pretty good until Bendis ran out of ideas. Which took about 60 issues.

Anyway, I'm way off my main point, which is this: I don't enjoy comic books very much anymore. I didn't like having such a big collection, so I downsized it by 66% or more. I was thinking of buying trade paperback collections, just because they're somewhat more compact.

And then I saw something truly awesome.

This. And this. And this one here. And this.

Wow... DVD-ROM. Is there a better way to collect comic books than by scanning them onto DVD-ROMs in two-page layouts? Let me tell you about the first one I bought: 44 Years of the Fantastic Four. It's every single issue of Fantastic Four, from its debut in 1961 all the way up through sometime in early 2005. Cover to cover. Ads, letters pages, Bullpen Bulletins. It's all there, and it's easy to store and easy to read on Adobe Acrobat Reader. And for fifty bucks! This set is worth it just for the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby run alone! The Kree/Skrull War, the Silver Surfer, Galactus--do you know how much it would cost you to buy the reprints they put out under the banner title Marvel Masterworks? Those run fifty bucks apiece, and only contain a limited number of issues. And the Marvel Essentials line, though noble in intent, are a little disappointing, just because they're in black and white. The DVD-ROM is in full color, every issue for 44 years, including annuals.

There is one deficiency: if there's a crossover with another title, you're not going to be able to read the whole thing. For example, 40 Years of the X-Men is a good set to sit through, but for classic storylines like Inferno and Fall of the Mutants and The Mutant Massacre, you're getting only issues of Uncanny X-Men and not corresponding issues of X-Factor and The New Mutants. And from what I understand, The Amazing Spider-Man: Complete Comic Book Collection doesn't feature, say, the crossover issues of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man for the classic Mike Zeck story The Death of Kraven. Which is a real shame. But, I guess we can at least hope that those collections are coming along soon.

I love these things. I love having them and reading them. This is, for me at least, the future of collecting classic comic books. I sincerely hope that DC Comics follow this same example and try to get their classic stuff in a place and format where people can actually, like, afford to read them.

Hello, comic book world. It's nice to be back.

NOTE: Actually, I just noticed that the same manufacturer has another DVD-ROM coming out: Absolutely MAD Magazine: 50+ Years. Maybe DC is coming around after all. I am so going to buy this one too.