Saturday, May 12, 2007

100 Years of Katharine Hepburn

Perhaps the greatest actress who ever lived, born 100 years ago today.

The Bible Summarized by a Smartass, Part Thirty: Romans

Now we get to the epistles, which will carry us through the next 21 chapters, right up to the Revelation. This is merely the first of Paul's many letters that praise Jesus, vilify the Jews, set up Church policy, and basically proclaim how queer he is for this God fella.

Chapter One
Dear Rome,
First of all, I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve been everywhere, man, from Greece to the barbarian hills, man, but I’m totally xazzed to be in the heart of civilization, Rome, to proclaim the truth of God. And God, man. Wow. God. You know? God offers salvation to anyone who has faith. There’s no real work to it, you just gots to believe. No sacrifice and all of that Jewish law crap—just a half-hearted promise to believe something completely unprovable. You know who didn’t believe? Pagans. God was always there, but they were too damn dumb to know it, because anyone who doesn’t believe in God is obviously an idiot. I mean, an invisible peeping tom who lives on a cloud makes WAY more sense than some kind of bird-man superhero! And he’s much, much better than something you can actually SEE, like the sun or a tree or something. And because they didn’t love God, God just abandoned them, because that’s the way God rolls. He’s got his pride. He didn’t want to be around people who didn’t just blindly follow everything he said. These people became whores and worse, homos.

Chapter Two
Despite all of the judging I just did (and will do, you know, stick around), you should never judge, or else God will judge you. God’s impartial, and he proves that by punishing and fucking over bad people. Follow the law, dude. Be good. Jesus knows your innermost thoughts, and he is getting off on them. Oh, and circumcision is spiritual, not literal, so stop cutting your kids in their peckers. We’re relaxing all of God’s prerequisites in favor of volume, just like the US Army.

Chapter Three
Everyone’s a sinner, but don’t worry, faith make it all better! And God doesn’t just belong to the Jews anymore. He’s all of ours. But especially mine. I mean everyone’s.

Chapter Four
Blind, unquestioning faith is better than independent thought. MUCH BETTER!

Chapter Five
Faith justifies our actions because Christ died for us. Let the guilt of that never stop shaming you into piety. And if not the guilt of that, then the guilt Mel Gibson drove into you with his Jesus snuff film. More sins drive you further away from God.

Chapter Six
Christ’s death was a baptism. You can never sin again; everything you do will be forgiven, because Jesus died on the cross. Makes sense, right? But be a good boy. Come on, repression is awesome and not psychologically damaging at all! Cheer up, you’ve been “enslaved to God” [actual quote], so you’re sanctified, brutha!

Chapter Seven
Widows are allowed to remarry, but divorce is the same as adultery. The law defines good and evil, and I should know, because I was an evil muh-fugga. But I was shamed into obedience by Christ’s sacrifice, and now: sins erased! Puh-RAISE Jesus!

Chapter Eight
Seriously, just believe in Jesus so you won’t be damned, alright? And always feel that Jesus guilt inside of you. Love God, what else matters, am I right? Anyone? Can I get a whoop-whoop?

Chapter Nine
I’m not bullshitting you here, Rome. Did you know that God doesn’t love all of the Jews? Just the Israelites. It’s true. Remember, he hates the descendents of Esau, and I know that’s not made up because I read it in a really old book, which is certainly evidence and not total fiction. I ain’t making this up. I’m only interpreting God’s words. I’m like one of those annoying people who think God’s word actually exists in a pure form and that mankind has perverted them, even though there’s no possible way of showing that could be remotely true, since God’s word was a Biblical invention and we think the Bible is what twisted the words in the first place! Oh, there’s no end to Christian self-delusion, especially when we get hard over the many ways our deep-seated truths and the things we consider facts can’t be proven in any way! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! But seriously, here, what a bunch of failures those Jews are. They couldn’t even hold on to their own city, the one that God picked out for them. Law? Psh. Centuries of law hasn’t brought them salvation, or helped them conjure up the stolen data tapes. Or given them clairvoyance enough to… Um… Where am I? Right, Rome. Yeah, we Gentiles have achieved salvation through crippling guilt and unquestioning obedience. I mean faith! Yes, we’re better because we have faith in things that could be real but really aren’t. I mean, have you actually read this book?

Chapter Ten
Don’t get me wrong, I’d really love for the Jews to be saved. RALLY, I would, RALLY. I truly hope they come around and realize that they are stupid because they don’t believe in Jesus. They’re so wrong, believing that God gives a shit about the law and not faith. Even God says the Jews are assholes for not believing in Jesus. He told me. No fib.

Chapter Eleven
Oh, I mean, the Jews can still be saved, of course. Hell, I’m an Israelite by birth. If only they saw the light, the way I did, and realized that Jesus was the Messiah. Israel will be saved if they just suddenly give up centuries of dearly-held tradition and convert to Jesus. What’s the BFD?

Chapter Twelve
Let your love flow. Don’t be hatin’. Be sanctimoniously better than anyone else; seriously, be so smug about it that they’ll want to hit you, and when they do, don’t fight back, because it’ll show you're better than them. And it really pisses them off more! We must shame the infidels into being up to our standards, just as we were shamed into these standards by Christ taking a crucifix for the team.

Chapter Thirteen
Trust the government. It’s been chosen by God. Promise. Follow the government with the same blind, unquestioning zeal you’d follow God with. Pay your taxes. On time. Get some exercise. Eat your wheatcakes. Love your neighbor as yourself—fuck, that’s more important than living by the Ten Commandments. Don’t drink, fuck, or enjoy your life in any way.

Chapter Fourteen
Don’t judge others, even if they are dirty, filthy Jews. Only God can judge. Faith ‘n’ stuff, man.

Chapter Fifteen
We should be tolerant of the idiots who aren’t worshiping Christ yet. Jesus himself said: “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Damn it, God is fucking awesome, and we’ve got to tell everyone until they’re fucking bored with us!

Chapter Sixteen
Anyway, here’s an attached list of people I want favors for. Kindly install them in church offices. Jesus Rocks!
Love, Paul

Next week, Paul sends a similar letter to the people of Corinth.

Me from A to Z

Another meme going around.

[A] - AVAILABLE: For only a nominal charge, unless I really like you.

[B] - BIRTHDAY: 17 July 1976

[C] - CONFUSED: About where my breakfast is. Where's my breakfast?

[D] - DRINK YOU LAST HAD: Pepsi. I know, I'm on a diet, but fuck it, I drank some Pepsi.

[E] - EASIEST PERSON TO TALK TO: Myself.

[F] - FAVORITE MUSIC GROUP/BAND: I could never name just one. Madness, Blondie, the Runaways, AC/DC, the Beach Boys, Roxy Music, the Sweet, T. Rex, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Oingo Boingo, Queen, Talking Heads, the Bangles, the Clash, the Jam, the Police, the Cure, Joy Division, New Order, the Kinks, Genesis, the Smiths, the Darkness, the Byrds, the Who, the Band, the Zombies, the Mothers of Invention, Electric Light Orchestra, the Donnas, Slade... that's just right off the top of my head, man.

[G] - GUMMY BEARS OR GUMMY WORMS: Bears. They taste better (almost alcoholic), plus it's funny when they fuse together and look like they're fucking.

[H] - HOMETOWN: Chicago. Born in Des Moines, but it's Chicago.

[I] - INSTRUMENT(s): Not of the musical kind. Yet. I want to learn the guitar and the piano.

[J] - JUICE: Meat. What?

[K] - KILLED SOMEONE: Not in weeks.

[L] - LONGEST CAR RIDE: I took a bus from the Chicago suburbs to Atlanta. Do bus rides count?

[M] - MILKSHAKE FLAVOR: I love strawberry. Yes, almost sexually.

[N] - NUMBER OF PETS: One.

[O] - ONE WISH: Getting paid for writing! Come on, I would be a badass columnist.

[P] - PERSON WHO KISSED YOU LAST: Fate. Right on the cheek.

[Q] - QUICK RESPONSE: Bangerang!

[R] - REASONS TO SMILE: You came up and saw me.

[S] - SINGLE: Wouldn't you like to know.

[T] - TIME YOU WOKE UP: Today, around 5 AM.

[U] - UNDERWEAR: Yes, send me pictures.

[V] - VIOLENT: Why, what did you do? Just be honest...

[W] - WORST HABIT: I think loving myself... too much.

[X] - X-RAYS YOU'VE HAD: My ankle when I snapped it in high school, my chest when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and of course all of those teeth X-rays at the dentist.

[Y] - YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL: The African elephant.

[Z] - ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer. I'm self-obsessed and easily hurt!

The History of the Middle East

Part 21 in a series.

The Suez Canal Crisis

Britain had long been in control of the Suez Canal, but the Arab-Israeli War changed the state of world politics. The British troops in Palestine had been withdrawn in 1948. Egypt supported the Arab troops at war in Jerusalem, and quickly closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba. Britain protested, and used the closure of the Canal to recognize Israeli sovereignty. Furthermore, the British used this action in the UN to force the Middle East to recognize the state of Israel. Egypt responded by nullifying the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, forcing the British to surrender control of the Canal and withdraw from the Canal Zone by 1954. Egyptian army officers overthrew the pro-British King Farouk in 1952. Finally, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, although 44% of the Canal was owned by British banks. The US and UK withdrew their support from Egypt when they bought tanks from Czechoslovakia and recognized the People’s Republic of China.

The closure and nationalization of the Suez Canal allowed Egypt to work with other Arab nations to isolate Israel economically from the rest of the world. Israel’s neighbors essentially closed their borders, cutting off Israel from foreign transportation and communication. Arab nations closed their ports to Israeli shipping, as well as to ships that were doing business with Israel. They closed their air space to Israel. People with Israeli visas in their passports were not allowed to enter Arab nations. Private companies were dissuaded from doing business with Israel. Other governments were pressured to join the embargo. Israel was pushed to the brink of economic collapse.

President Gamal Abdel Nasser began to import arms from the Soviet bloc, announcing that Egypt would soon cleanse the land of Israel. The military buildup was unheard of in the Middle East. He also began to support Muslim rebels in French Algeria, earning the ire of the French. The British and French began meeting with Israel in secret, trying to do what they could to stop a possible outbreak of war. Britain didn’t want to lose its Middle Eastern influence or its influence over the Canal; France was worried about Nasser’s influence over its North African colonies. Both worried the supply of oil headed through the Canal might cease. Israel wanted to use the alliance with the West to weaken Egypt, expand its southern border, and reopen shipping. All three assumed that Nasser’s new communist ties would be enough to win the support of America. Tensions were raised when Egypt began funding terrorists to strike at Israeli civilian targets.

In 1956 Israel and Jordan accepted a cease-fire negotiated by the United Nations; Lebanon and Syria also agreed to a cease-fire. The Soviet Union made sure that America and Britain knew that sending troops would violate the UN charter. Egypt allied itself with Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Israel, despite protestations to the contrary by Ben Gurion, made secret plans to invade the Sinai Peninsula. Israel even leaked false information that it planned to invade Jordan. Jordan made an alliance with Egypt and Syria, and they weren’t ready when Israeli forces instead invaded the Sinai Peninsula and achieved a dramatic victory with heavy air support from Britain and France. The Israeli Border Police then militarized the Jordan-Israel Border, resulting in a massacre. Britain and France initiated a bombing campaign against Egypt; Nasser sank 40 ships in the Canal, blocking it off. Still, the French, British, and Israeli forces were successful in capturing the Peninsula.

It was, however, a political disaster.

The United States was dealing the Soviet-Hungary Crisis and was publicly denouncing the Soviet military intervention. Meanwhile, its two major European allies had attacked Egypt. To make matters worse, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was threatening to intervene on Egypt’s behalf, even threatening nuclear attacks on London and Paris. President Eisenhower demanded a cease-fire; the UN Security Council accepted resolutions for a cease-fire, but Security Council member nations Britain and France vetoed it. The UN General Assembly also called for a cease-fire. America used financial pressure to force Britain to accept it, threatening to sell its reserves of the British pound, which would’ve collapsed the British economy. They also refused to sell more oil to Britain and France, who were the victims of a Saudi oil embargo. Even Canada and Australia rebuked Britain for their actions. Prime Minister Eden was forced to resign and, without warning France or Israel, agreed to the cease-fire.

Britain and France refused to withdraw troops until they were replaced by UN troops. With Nasser’s consent, a neutral force of troops drawn from other nations (none of them from America, France, Britain, or the Soviet Bloc) was sent in to stabilize conditions in Sinai. These were the first of the United Nation’s Peacekeepers. Israel initially refused to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, but by early 1957 agreed to defer to UN administration of Gaza in exchange for navigation through the Gulf of Aqaba.

Modern history changed; the Suez Canal Crisis solidified the role of the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s new superpowers. President Eisenhower, seeing that the Soviets would take that role, proposed the Eisenhower Doctrine in the Middle East, basically asserting that the United States had an obligation to protect the region from communist aggression. NATO was exposed as a weak alliance; France decided that it would not be able to rely on its allies anymore, and withdrew from NATO command in 1966. It also shared nuclear technology with Israel. Britain and France were weakened as global powers, and their remaining colonies used that weakness to gain independence. Both nations were greatly embarrassed by the Suez Canal Crisis.

For his part, President Eisenhower felt the Crisis was his biggest diplomatic failure. He had weakened his two biggest allies and, in Nasser, created a man with the clout and resource to dominate the Middle East.

To be continued.

Classic Photoshoot #1

Demi Moore, Oui, 1981

Friday, May 11, 2007

Throwdown 5/11

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Well, last week everyone seemed to hate my idea of getting rid of the Throwdown, so it will continue to play to your every feeling of Schadenfreude. But one change. It’s Lindsay Lohan Week at the Film Experience, and Nathaniel’s post from yesterday was interesting to me. He blogged about how his love of Lindsay Lohan comes from a genuine place of film geekery—he loves The Parent Trap and Mean Girls. I love those movies too, and I love Freaky Friday. I loved Lindsay Lohan, and seeing (and participating in) the cacophony of blogs chronicling her every step towards total self-destruction is just painful. So, I’m not going to talk about her anymore. She’s the first personality completely banned from Electronic Cerebrectomy. No more of her, I’m done. And I’m still saying she’ll be dead by 23.

2. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3. And since Lost has me all fannish again for a little while, did anyone else notice that Jacob was actually visible for just a second in last night’s episode?

4. And another thing: is it a coincidence—on a show not known to have any—that Locke and Ben both have mothers named Emily? God damn you, Lost, you pulled me in again!

5. Pamela Anderson: I’d like to thank you for saying that Scarlett Johansson should pose nude in Playboy. I’ve been telling Scar the same thing for the last couple of weeks, and she was starting to get really irritated, but someone came out and backed me up on it! I wish it hadn’t been an animal rights terrorist who is borderline batshit crazy, but now that I’m sleeping well again, whatever works.

6. Look, Jessica, I broke up with you already. Quit parading your body around and trying to get me back, because it just isn’t going to work. And even though she would never say it, and even though she feels really bad for you, Scarlett wants you to stop calling so much. It isn’t working. I’m sorry.

7. About the funniest thing I heard this week was George Lucas saying that Spider-Man 3 was “a silly movie” with “not much story.” Do I even need a pot and kettle reference there? Lucas, the man so not silly that he once had himself turned into a Star Wars action figure (and an X-Wing pilot at that), then took the opportunity to say that he was going to create two hour-long live-action Star Wars TV specials. I don't know what they'll be, but my money is on The Gungan Adventure: Caravan of Courage and Star Wars Holiday Special 2007: Even More Scenes with Nothing But Wookies Growling at Each Other (Again) and Some Sort of Terrorism Reference.

8. YES! Disney finally announced a release date for The Muppet Show: The Complete Second Season. The set is going to include The Muppets Valentine Special that people were hoping would be on the first set, and the Weezer video “Keep Fishin’” from a few years ago. The second season features some classic episodes, my favorites being the episodes with Zero Mostel, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Bernadette Peters, Julie Andrews, Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, and John Cleese. I can’t wait, but I have to, until 7 August.

9. I see that David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has been signed on to direct the next movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Good, that’s a good sign for the new one being good. And that makes me happy. Even if Naomi Watts is supposedly up for a part in the sixth movie (ugh).

10. Dear God, why does Robert Rodriguez have to be the one to direct the live-action Jetsons movie that I’ve been hearing rumors about since the freaking eighties? Robert, you know you’re one of my favorites, but will you just make the fucking Red Rocket 7 movie already?

11. People on the internet say that this picture makes Brooke Hogan look like a dude, cock and all. SamuraiFrog says…it that a problema? Because, you know, that doesn’t sound so bad over here…

12. Michael Moore has a lot of critics (I’m not one of them). His latest documentary, Sicko, is under investigation by the US Treasury Department. You know, my question for Moore’s critics is this: don’t you think that the constant barrage of government trouble he has means he’s right sometimes?

13. Oh, you’re going to jail, Parasite. Begging Arnold Schwarzenegger for help ain’t gonna work, no matter how much you try to fall back on your family’s campaign contributions. No matter how much your joke of a mother whines or claims that Judge Sauer (who earned a well-deserved round of applause from members of his church last week) just wants to be famous. No matter how much you claim that the cops just wanted to hit on you. Jesus, your license is suspended, and you continue to drive? How pathetic are you? Did you know that your precious petition to keep yourself out of jail and to give you even more special treatment for the nothing you contribute to society has only 20,000 or so signatures on it, and the petition to put you away has over 45,000? Yeah, do you still think America loves you? Bye bye. Don’t be in a hurry to get back. I sincerely hope you don’t drop the soap, dear. No, I really mean it.

14. What was that crap Bush pulled during the farewell dinner for Queen Elizabeth? Talking about the bicentennial in 17—er, I mean, 1976. What an asshole. And did you see the way he smiled at her afterward? It was like he’d said it on purpose, and what would have been the point of that? I’m so fucking sick of Republicans trying to paint Europe as some kind of enemy, pissing off all of our allies because we think we don’t need them. What a bunch of utter rubbish. What does he have to feel so slick about? You want to rub it in Britain’s face that, over 200 years ago, we broke away from them only with the help of French troops and French training that forced the British to surrender to the French? Asshole. Americans really need to get over it and stop acting like the Revolution was six months ago and we all did something.

15. And just a quick aside…is anyone else incredibly nervous about Chirac and Blair leaving their offices? I mean, France elected a pro-American conservative, and England might elect another PM who’ll do what President Bush tells him to. Is anyone else just a little scared that we might be seeing things suddenly turn for the worse?

Father Link

ModFab continues with American Idolatry and this week's Au Revoir. One more week to the top 2.
Deus Ex Malcontent loves Phoebe Cates.
The Film Experience ponders the box office as it is, and how it could be.
Sherry says she wants to take Antonio Banderas; it might be easy for her because her competition is looking surprisingly bad these days. (from I Don't Like You in That Way)
Bonnie has some ideas for the Jon Bon Jovi doll.
Kamikaze Camel has some interesting thoughts about torture porn.
The Last Visible Blog hates David Tennant. Well, some of the things he does.
Ars Technica has some depressing news about used CDs.
Living Between Wednesdays rates a fifth super hunk: the Blue Beetle.
Ken Levine thinks TNT might have a problem.
Dr. Zaius reveals that Dana Rohrbacher thinks torture is neato.
Music Is My Eiderdown has a very cool review of a book about a very cool band.
The Last Visible Blog has some thoughts on the continued ineptitude of DC Comics and the continued deterioration of Dave Sim.
Slashfilm has two posts of character images from Ratatouille.
The BBC and Spinner both have their choices for the worst lyrics of all time.
Top 15 Han Solo Quotes You Need to Use in Regular Conversation (from Double Viking; I use at least three of these regularly)
Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches has a neat post on the Everly Brothers.
This is what makes your cursor arrow work. I thought it was funny.
Becca is revealed in a photo shoot.
Dr. Zaius has Reagan in funny and wistful ways.
Welcome to Hell: A Real World Guide for Graduates (Cracked, sadly so true...)

When Dick Cheney Visits Iraq...

...do you wonder if he's checking the progress of construction on the Death Star?

I LOVE Michelle Marsh in the Summer





Thursday, May 10, 2007

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

This is for my Bonnie.

Experimental filmmaker Todd Haynes's first films was the now-infamous 43-minute cult treasure Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987). It tells the story of the troubled singer using Barbie dolls. Richard Carpenter actively hates this movie and thanks to a cease and desist order in 1989, this film cannot be commercially shown. See it while you still can.

Mitt Romney Is a Moron

“In France, for instance, I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past.” – Mitt Romney, speaking at Regent University

Mitt Romney is a complete and staggering moron. Just totally deluded and out of touch with reality. Even for a Mormon. And for a guy who is actually sucking up for the scientology vote by claiming Battlefield Earth is his favorite novel.

It’s come out that Mitt Romney’s campaign plan is to find a series of “bogeymen” to attack, including Hilary Clinton, jihadists, and France. Now, I know this is hardly a new campaign plan, but what kind of an idiot do you have to be to actually let your documents leak out to the press? Do Republicans even like this guy?

Yeah, a 77-slide PowerPoint presentation was leaked to the press, outlining his campaign strategy, which included branding himself, framing his competitors, and trying to reassure voters about his Mormonism and the fact that he used to be pro-choice and now isn’t. Because we’ve all seen how much America loves a man who changes his mind.

Plans included trying to weaken McCain and Ghoul-iani, who will probably do that well enough with their own words. Other bogeymen include the Washington establishment, “European-style socialism,” Hollywood values, liberals and, bizarrely, Massachusetts, the state he’s lived in for about four decades now. Wow, that’s the candidate for me, a guy who wants to win so badly that he’ll turn on everyone and everything.

His advisors suggested that he should position himself as “the anti-Kerry.” Which is funny, because what America got so pissed off about was that Kerry changed his mind; and that was only on one issue. Romney’s already gone off the deep end on flip-flopping, deciding that he’s now anti-choice and anti-gay marriage, because that’s what will get him elected. Or, you know, as close to elected as he’s ever going to get.

By the way, apparently Romney’s plan includes attacking Ghoul-iani on the one decent thing he’s got going for him: he’s pro-gay civil unions and pro-choice. The presentation actually says that if Giuliani becomes the candidate, “we can’t disqualify Dems like Hillary on social issues ever again.” By the way, last week Romney called McCain and Giuliani “national heroes.”

Hey, didn’t Romney do his missionary work in his now-hated France? His plan attacks the European Union for “dragging America down to Europe’s standards,” and says that “That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” Does he really think that bashing the European Union is going to come in handy when he’s president and needs their help?

By the way, Romney’s game plan to reach the White House—and he really does think he has a shot—ultimately comes down to making himself a better candidate than either the Soldier or the Ghoul, as well as making himself seem more credible than President Duh. And how can he set himself apart?

According to the campaign plan: intelligence.

Here’s something intelligent: criticize young people and single people for poisoning America! During that Regent University speech, he criticized single people for enjoying their lives and not getting married. And, of course, he blamed that on Europe, too. And then he blamed Virginia Tech on those old non-starters, pornography and violence.

Do you need further proof that this guy doesn’t need to be taken seriously? How about Pat Robertson calling him an “outstanding American”? Because, you know, if anyone can recognize a good human being, it’s certainly the man who blamed 9/11 on God’s hatred of gay people.

And how does this affect Robertson’s long-professed belief that the Mormons are a cult?

Well, as far as I can tell, that’s one less guy we have to take seriously in the 2008 election.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Rosario

Sorry things didn't work out between us, but we can still be friends, right? I didn't expect ScarJo to get so insanely jealous about who I spend my time with, you know? Anyway, have a nice birthday. I've got to go before Scarlett sees us together...

Film Week

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

LITTLE CHILDREN (2006)
This is the movie everyone thought was so great? Wow. I really hate these movies about suburban angst. They never have anything new to say, yet they always act like even the mere fact that some people are unhappy in the suburbs is some kind of brand new revelation. It was tired long before American Beauty got to it. I don't know where to start with this one. I will say this: I loved Kate Winslet in it, and I really like Patrick Wilson, it's just that, with the exception of Angels in America, I hate every movie of his I've seen. I think he's such a good actor, and I hate seeing him in things that are beneath him. The same goes triple for Winslet; every time I'm looking forward to whatever she does next, it's a Life of David Gale or Little Children where pretentious moral posturing leads absolutely nowhere. Everything else about this movie--the screenplay, the one-dimensional characters, the oh-so-precious and completely unneccesary narration, the genteel art direction--I absolutely hated. And when it ends, all I could do is just wonder what the fucking point of the whole thing was. Todd Field directed this movie, and all I could think was Well, at least this is better than "In the Bedroom"...and then the last 20 minutes happened. Wow, what a shitty movie. Thinking that it's making points about connection, and beating you over the head with them, but really saying nothing. What was with that whole scene of Jackie Earle Haley at the pool? The was as overplayed as anything in a Douglas Sirk movie. I cannot believe the amount of critical acclaim that he's garnered for playing the most over-the-top child molester I've seen in a movie that wasn't made for Lifetime. He should've been running around in a cape and shirt with a giant letter M on the front, twiddling a ridiculous moustache and sneering into the camera. "No stereotypical suburban ritual is safe from...The Molestor!!!!" Seriously, he played that role with the kind of delivery style you usually don't see outside of people playing the Riddler. Terrible, terrible movie. * star.

IMAGINE ME & YOU (2005)
Once you look past the fact that it's about lesbians, it's basically your typical British wannabe Richard Curtis romcom. I don't know if that's the whole point or what. Piper Perabo (looking the prettiest I've ever seen her) falls for Lena Heady at her own wedding to Matthew Goode. And cue romantic comedy. Quirky parents? Check. Quirky support cast? Check. Romantic montage set to Britpop music? Check. Last ditch break for the airport with the quirky cast in the car, leading to a reunion set to whatever oldie the title is taken from? Check and check. No surprises, but an appealing cast, and it's a nice enough movie. *** stars. One thing I kept thinking about: why is it that a movie where a woman leaves her husband for a woman is a triumph, but if the roles were reversed, it would be some kind of tragedy? Nothing against the movie, but most gay romances between men tend to play out like Jeffrey, where things are tragic and people are oppressed. Most movies about romances between women tend to err on the side of triumph, where we're glad that two pretty girls end up together. There should be more movies about gay men where people just accept that they're gay and are happy even if a guy leaves his wife for another man, because he needs to follow his heart. More boy-boy romcoms! And if they star Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, that's something I would go see. Someone get those two together again for a remake of Bringing Up Baby.

SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007)
Personally, I just don't get the negative reviews. I didn't find the movie overstuffed; far from it, in fact. I loved it as much as I loved the other two movies. The criticism that there are too many coincidences just seems like a profound misunderstanding of the comic book genre to me, and the criticism that taking away Peter's guilt over his uncle's murder makes Ben's death meaningless seems like immature thinking. Another criticism I hear is that this movie has too many villains in it, but I disagree. I see why they've done what they've done; I mean, Venom was always going to have to be a third-act device, because you need the middle act to be about Peter's self-doubt and the elevation of his aggression with the alien costume, and who's the villain going to be for the first two-thirds of the movie? I didn't have a problem with any of it. I remember Roger Ebert, in his negative review for the first Spider-Man, summing up his problems with the movie by saying "Imagine a Batman movie where Bruce Wayne is more interesting than Batman and you see the problem." But actually, that's the whole point of Spider-Man. It's always been about Peter's attempt to lead a normal life and deal with the responsibility of his powers; that's what every Marvel Comic is about. There should be more Peter Parker than Spider-Man in these movies. Anyway, after the movie, I was thinking about what the Spider-Man movies do so well that makes them work.

1. The filmmakers are always taking away any change Peter Parker has for being smug. Something bad happens whenever he gets too full of himself, and I like that. It's the opposite of what you usually get in action movies; Peter never gets the change to congratulate himself for being such a hotshot.

2. They're just so unashamed to be comic book movies. They were their emotions on their sleeve and revel in this sort of old-fashioned sensibility. In Spider-Man 2, when Spidey saves some kids from being run over by a bus and tells them they shouldn't play in the street, it seems a world away from most comic book movies that don't have the time to deal with such little things. But it's just exactly right. I love that about these movies. And it's done in such an unironic, straight manner, too. It's not a joke to be a little outdated.

3. The villains in these movies are never just evil. Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Sandman are all people caught up in something because of bad decisions or terrible accidents or shitty circumstances. I like that they're more rounded. Honestly, I could've done with more Sandman in the third movie, which is the only time you'll ever here me saying there should be more of Lowell in something.

4. Rosemary Harris. She's my favorite part of all three movies. The whole supporting cast is great, and the scripts for these movies don't forget about them, but also don't try to shove them into more of the movie than they need to be in (think Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 3).

5. No fear of fanboys. Too many movies based on comics (the X-Men series leaps to mind) are constantly looking over their shoulder, hoping that the fans don't get pissed off about their ever-pedantic complaint of faithfulness to the source material. That's not a legitimate criticism. A movie doesn't have to be more like something in another medium, it just has to be good on its own. Movies aren't supposed to have a manual. In this movie, they make changes to Spider-Man's origin story. They've given all of the villains different motivations so they can be sympathetic characters. I don't care that it's not the way it was in the comics; they're good movies. Great movies.

I just love these movies, and I didn't think this one did anything insanely wrong. Yes, the jazz club scene is a bit of a clunker, and Peter with the Hitler/emo hair when he was "bad" was pretty silly, but the other movies were just as sublimely dorky as this one is. And I loved Bryce Dallas Howard, looking her cutest ever; putting her next to Kirsten Dunst was a little dangerous, because Kiki didn't look anywhere near as good as Bryce--though I was pleased to see Kiki still looks like a woman now, like she did in Marie Antoinette. Topher Grace was underused, but he was kind of shallowly written (and, frankly, shallowly acted--this was the first time I ever saw Topher Grace in a movie and really felt he was falling back on a lot of what he did on That 70s Show). Tobey Maguire...well, he's Tobey Maguire, and I've never liked him outside of a Spider-Man movie anyway. And there are two wonderful cameos, one by Bruce Campbell, and one great little moment with Stan Lee. I'm calling it **** stars; I laughed, I cried, and when it was over I'd had a great time. I could see a fourth one. Although maybe Sam Raimi should make another movie first, and then get back into the groove, because a formula could easily start to set in here. There are signs of it already.

THE GARDEN OF EDEN (1928)
Frankly boring Lewis Milestone film about a poor girl who falls in love with a wealthy playboy. Corrine Griffith was absolutely wonderful, the film would've been much poorer without her, but her love interest, Lowell Sherman, is just a sleaze. I didn't care if she ever saw him again, frankly. ** stars.

LAYER CAKE (2004)
I think the British do crime movies better than anyone else, and this is a good example. Daniel Craig plays a man who wants to retire from the drug trade, only to get caught up in a whole scheme of double-crossing and betrayal. Excellent cast (yay, Colm Meany! Kenneth Cranham! Michael Gambon!), excellent technique, brilliant ending, and I actually thought Sienna Miller was sexy in this movie. I did in Alfie too, and those are the only two I've seen her in. Fuck, why does she look so unpleasant in real life? Anyway, gorgeous movie. **** stars, easily on a par with The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

Spider-Man 3: Deleted Scene

Or, a Scene I'd Love to Insert Into the Movie After Finding These Suggestive Pictures, by SamuraiFrog

INT. FRENCH RESTAURANT. NIGHT
PETER PARKER is sitting down to an awkward dinner with MARY JANE WATSON. Just as she's about to tell him the truth about her being kicked off broadway, GWEN STACEY walks over and puts her hand on Peter's shoulder.

GWEN: Oh, Peter, I just wanted to say thank you, and... Oh, who's this?

PETER: This is my girlfriend, Mary Jane.

GWEN and MARY JANE suddenly stare at one another, transfixed. They look deeply into one another's lives.

Samantha Ronson's "Built This Way" comes up over the soundtrack.







GWEN: Hi.
MARY JANE: Hi...
GWEN: Gosh, Peter's talked about you so much, I feel like I know you.
MARY JANE: He's never said anything about you...
GWEN: Well, Peter never told me you were so... beautiful...
MARY JANE (blushing): Oh, thank you. You're quite lovely yourself...
GWEN: Hey, listen, do you want to get out of here? I know this little jazz club...
MARY JANE: That sounds nice...


GWEN: Let's go, gorgeous.
MARY JANE: I like how assertive you are! Good night, Porter!

PETER: It's Peter!

MARY JANE: Whatev!

The GIRLS run away, holding hands.

PETER: Great. Nothing to do now but become emo, ape Hitler's hairstlye, and learn to play jazz piano so I can get MJ back... Somehow...

Scene.