Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Following Post Is True (Unless It's Not)

Splotchy has charged me to tell you seven facts about me that are not true. Unless they are.

1. My first job out of high school was working as a student counselor at the Sir Elton John School for the Homosexually Impaired.

2. I once charmed the counter girl and proceeded to rob the First Bank of New Hampshire, just to see if I could. Turns out I couldn't, mostly because the authorities were already having me followed for using codewords and a crock pot scam to sell white children into slavery on QVC.

3. The IRS once raided my home because they suspected that the church I founded, the Church of the Whatzamawhozit, was simply a tax dodge, that I was not in fact the reincarnation of the Grand High Watchamacall, that the Feast of the Maximum Occupancy, St. Whirlygig's Day, and Qwerty's Eve were not legal holidays, and that Baby Wingnut was not the Divine Savior Thing but, in fact, stolen from a couple at McDonald's whose back was turned. All they could prove was that I'd kept the baby docile with formula mixed with NyQuil and Dr. Pepper, but they believed my story about pulling the wrong product off the shelf because the labels looked so alike.

4. I once infiltrated the notorious underground clown scene in London for a Rolling Stone article. Using the name Sticky Masterson, I became a member of the Ronald's Men gang and was even forced to kill a clown during their infamous war with the Laughing Boys. Even now, I live in fear of someone discovering who I really am and leaving a dead clown on my lawn as a warning. The taste of seltzer is bitter to me. It's the taste of terror.

5. I officiate lesbian weddings under the pseudonym Father Tad Curly. I most recently married Lara Croft to the former Mrs. Pac-Man.

6. I had a brief stint a few years ago directing off-off-off Broadway. Sadly, no one came to see Three's Company, Two's Macbeth, and star John Ritter died a few months later.

7. I have a secret love child with Liv Tyler. She doesn't like to talk about it because she married that other guy, but she knows the truth.

And now to infect others with Munchausen's syndrome: beautiful Becca, pretty PJ, compulsive liar J.D., just a modern guy Johnny Yen, and unlicensed Dr. Evil.

My 10 Favorite Movie Posters of 2007

10. 3:10 to Yuma. It just reminds me of a Western poster from the sixties; arty, but iconic. That's a bold choice for 2007, the year of candy colors and dark shadows (although, thankfully, that big three-quarter face trend seems to be nearly over).

9. Ratatouille. Just like the movie itself, this international poster displays real CG artistry (something in short supply) and genuine character. Plus, unlike the American poster, it's got a great glimpse of Paris in the background, which is certainly one of the best things about the film. It's just rendered so well; hell, it doesn't even look rendered. It looks painted. And that's a real accomplishment in a world of Beowulfs and Shreks.

8. Sicko. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Michael Moore knows his image and how to use it. Smug? Sure. But he knows how to work it.

7. The Invasion. Creepy teaser posters usually aren't creepy; this one genuinely is.

6. Hostel: Part II. I'm sure there's someone looking at this right now who'd hoped to never see it again. Was it symptomatic of a culture that has become desensitized, or was it simple sensationalism to get free media attention? Was it art or pornography? I'm not sure myself, and the fact that a movie poster could generate that kind of thought puts it on this list for me.

5. Enchanted. There are so many movie posters now that are just black on more black. This one stood out for me because of the artful composition, which leads to that bright red apple right in the center. I loved that. Plus, if Susan Sarandon offers me anything, I'm damn well going to take it.

4. 300. Great composition, based of course on a Frank Miller panel from the original comic.

3. What Would Jesus Buy? I've got no interest in this movie, but the image pretty much nails America.

2. In the Shadow of the Moon. That's a nice, majestic play on space travel. And most movies about space travel don't quite get there.

1. Death Proof. Honestly, I like this international poster because it looks like someone crossed a Russ Meyer movie with a Monte Hellman movie. This is one that I'd love to hang on my wall.

Last year's list.

Runners-Up

Friday, December 28, 2007

My 25 Favorite Things in the Films of 2007

Well, one day I hope to have the income to go to the movies every week again like I used to. But for now, I have to make do with getting them on DVD much later. So, since I'm not doing a best music of the year list for this crappy year, I instead did this list. Maybe it'll be something annual. These are my favorite things in the films of 2007 that I've actually seen so far.

25. Gunnar
Pathfinder sucked hard, but my original adopted actor, Main Man Clancy Brown, was pretty badass as a Viking lord.

24. I’m glad someone said it.
Alison Scott: I'm actually doing my first on-air interview today.
Ben Stone: With who?
Alison Scott: Uh, Matthew Fox.
Ben Stone: Matthew Fox from Lost?
Alison Scott: Yeah.
Ben Stone: You know what's interesting about him?
Alison Scott: What?
Ben Stone: Nothing!

23. Optimus Prime
Yeah, Transformers sucked (it really did, apologists, it really blew), but I loved Optimus Prime. They reached right back into my past and brought Peter Cullen to do the voice again, creating a warm character who hit all the right notes (except maybe the creepy mouth and the King Kong-like gait). And he even got to say “One shall stand, one shall fall” and “Autobots: roll out” again. In a movie that takes the idea of giant robots wrestling over a magical car battery very, very seriously, I was glad to find something to like.

22. Keep moving forward
A lot of animation websites seem to be apologizing for lavishing Meet the Robinsons with love earlier this year, pointing out that it’s a tad overrated. Maybe it is, but it’s also a very, very good movie and the first indicator in 2007 that Disney was on the right track once again. Between singing frogs, Bowler Hat Guy, Danny Elfman’s score, the tyrannosaur with a big head and little arms, a sudden Tom Selleck reference, and an actual good message (that you’ll find a place to belong, but the ability to think and be self-sufficient is more important), I thought it was one of Disney’s best films since Lilo & Stitch.

21. Jason Bourne and Spider-Man
Both The Bourne Ultimatum and Spider-Man 3 got mixed reviews (in the case of Spidey, mostly negative). But I enjoyed both of these third installments in great action movie franchises. Sure, they were over-the-top and not as good as their predecessors, but I still love the characters and felt I got more than my money’s worth out of both. In a year when John McClain and his asshead, Mac-loving sidekick are flying cars into helicopters and giant robots are wrestling over a magical car battery, over-the-top is relative, anyway. At least these movies had a story.

20. “I want more!”
Ashley Tisdale is once again the only actor in the High School Musical series who understands that the material is supposed to be comic, not earnest.

19. Captain Shakespeare
Only the second time I’ve genuinely found Robert De Niro funny; I loved his turn in Stardust as a secretly gay, gentle, dress-wearing, music-loving anglophile. I thought Stardust was an incredibly underrated movie, but Captain Shakespeare was the best of it.

18. Zodiac
Remember in the 1970s how they used to make movies that were actually good? David Fincher sure does.

17. Kerry Washington
I Think I Love My Wife turned out to not be a very good movie, but Kerry Washington (so excellent in Ray) was fun and, um, hardening as the perfect embodiment of casual sexuality and unattainable beauty. Why are we still wasting time pretending Jessica Alba is sexy and fun when Kerry Washington is around to star in romantic comedies?

16. I am McLovin.


15. Your Friend the Rat
After a couple of DVD bonus shorts from Pixar—Mike’s New Car, Jack-Jack Attack—that merely felt like outtakes from the films they accompanied, this new short with Ratatouille was light, bouncy, informative, and fun. I especially dug the combination of different visual styles. And then there was this very catchy song sequence, one of the best pieces of animation of the year. And it features a shout-out to Francois Truffaut! One of the many joys of Ratatouille.

14. Dumbledore’s Army
I really like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but I still thought it was the most rushed and sloppy of the films so far. But the montage sequence where Harry, Ron, and Hermione assemble and train Dumbledore’s Army was by far the best sequence. Though I was glad the movie did justice to possibly my favorite character from the books, Luna Lovegood.

13. Not stopping the beat.
Thanks to Hairspray, for the first time I’m thrilled at the return of the musical. It had every chance of being terrible, but everything clicked into place for me (even Travolta) and came out perfect.


12. “Pop! Goes My Heart”
Music & Lyrics produced one true gem: this music video and song. So perfect a pastiche of 80s new wave pop that it still hasn’t left my iPod since I first heard it. Hugh Grant sings all the parts but plays half of the duo in this music video, a hilarious parody of so many bad videos from 1984. Check out the makeup on that doctor!

11. Shia LeBeouf
This kid is just so damn good. He’s so intense and so committed to playing the characters he plays that he even makes crap like Disturbia and Transformers watchable. Unfortunately, he seems to be caught in the web of making DreamWorks movies, and DreamWorks is the worst that modern filmmaking has to offer. But still, the kid’s just so damn good that it might be worth seeing what he’s in regardless.

10. “Marriage is like that show Everybody Loves Raymond, but it’s not funny. All the problems are the same, but, you know, instead of all the funny, pithy dialogue, everybody is really pissed off and tense. And it doesn’t last 22 minutes. It lasts the rest of your life.”


9. “That’s How You Know”

8. Grindhouse
It didn’t live up to all of its expectations, I admit. And fans will still argue over which segment was better (or if either were any good). But it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had at the movies. It had one of the best car chases ever filmed, some of Quentin Tarantino’s best and worst dialogue ever, some great and terrible special effects, some really great characters (especially Stuntman Mike, one of QT’s greatest creations), the mostly-awesome trailers (Edgar Wright’s Don’t being the best, Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS being surprisingly disappointing), and Rose McGowan with a frigging machine gun on her leg. For better or for worse, for all its excesses and its pleasures, this movie is about as awesome as awesome gets.

7. The fiendish murders of Hot Fuzz.
I won’t give it away, but I will say that, after Nicholas Angel’s conspiracy theory seems ironclad, the real motivation behind the rash of murders in Sandford was probably the biggest laugh I had at the movies all year. This led to the best reference in the movie, which no one else in the theater recognized: “Forget it, Nick. It’s Sandford.”


6. The viral marketing campaign for Knocked Up, which yielded, among other things, this incredibly filthy clip.


5. The opening credits of Superbad. Bonus points for the excellent funk soundtrack.

4. King Leonidas in battle.
I loved the movie 300 for its almost surrealistic visuals and total lack of realism. It really was like a living comic book. The best sequence, by far, features King Leonidas in battle, forcefully striding into combat, spear flying, sword swinging, with the camera moving back and forth, drawing the eye here and there just the way panels in a comic book are supposed to. Even more than Sin City, it’s a stylistic and utterly great transfer of Frank Miller’s graphic style to film visuals.

3. Reaching out across government lines.
It’s hard to pick the best moment from Sicko; a powerful, moving film. But the tears finally came (and they always come in Michael Moore’s post-millennial films) when Moore took some of this country’s forgotten, abandoned 9/11 volunteers to Cuba. A Cuban fire department wanted to meet and salute some what even they called “the heroes of 9/11,” leading Moore to ponder: “If this is what can happen between supposed enemies, if one enemy can hold out his hand and offer to heal, then what else is possible?” What indeed?

2. Amy Adams
I haven’t been sure what to expect of Amy Adams; she gave a very delicate, very special performance in Junebug, a movie I didn’t like. Since then, I’ve been expecting her to develop into a better comic actress, but I was disappointed by her turns in bad movies like Talladega Nights. Then, she just explodes with talent in Enchanted, a perfect fairy tale that wouldn’t work at all if she hadn’t been so wonderful. It’s another special performance by someone who may just become a special actress. My favorite performance of any this year.

1. Spider-Pig

Forever Denny

Dennis Wilson died 24 years ago today. He left us one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Someone made this tribute, and I thought I'd share.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

World War III's Coming Along Nicely

Everyone's doubtless read this by now, but if you haven't, Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today in a suicide attack. She was at a rally; at least 20 other people were killed. She was 54 years old. Her supporters have reacted with anger, attacked police, burned campaign posters, and started demonstrating against Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf, of course, blamed Islamic extremists. Gee, I thought he was already doing such a bang-up job. Isn't that what President Duh keeps telling us? Musharraf went on TV and said: "This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war. I have been saying that the nation faces the greatest threats from these terrorists." He also promised he "will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out." Sure. Do you think Osama bin Laden is still living in Pakistan these days, by the way?

Seriously, if you believe this was some lone extremist or an Islamic terror cell, think again. Think about how much this benefits Musharraf. He promises to have elections, and then his serious rival suddenly gets killed in front of a crowd? It's not like this doesn't benefit Musharraf in some way. And I'm not the only person thinking that, either. Musharraf has created a martyr now. He's managed to do what George W. Bush sadly hasn't; he's created a rallying point for the angry people he screws over constantly to finally do something about it. These people are blaming Musharraf and are urging revenge. Revenge. Think about that. First the temporary dictatorship, and now Bhutto is dead. This may be the last straw for Bhutto's supporters who, incidentally, make up the largest political group in Pakistan. Elections were supposed to be on 8 January.

The AP story I read about this said "Pakistan is considered a vital U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists including the Taliban." I'd love to know who besides the American administration thinks so. Musharraf is like the Shah of Iran; he's only there because the American government quakes at the thought of a country using its resources and strategic positions for itself and not for us. Imagine the kind of ally Pakistan would be if they actually had a leader they wanted, and not one the US backed and bullied into place. Jesus, this year President Duh saw a man declare himself a dictator of another country and still supported him as an ally in the endless "War on Terror." We're making a lot of friends in Pakistan, then, are we?

Seriously, if anyone was looking for bin Laden, he'd have been found by now. How long did it take to get to Saddam Hussein? Not six years, that's for sure.

Of course, the State Department is already out blowharding about Bhutto's murder. As usual, they put it in terms of how it affects America rather than just expressing any kind of grief or sympathy. It seems America benefits from Bhutto's death, too. Her party was expected to win. Just saying.

And here's the thing that really gets me. There are terrorist groups who hated and threatened Bhutto because of her American ties and her support of the war against terrorists. How come they don't seem to hate Musharraf? I mean, he's our ally, right? Right?

Why do we keep making all the wrong friends?

Hey, Dr. Monkey!

My eyes are a little higher!

Our Lord and Doctor

After catching this year's Christmas episode of Doctor Who, I was surprised to see that there were some Christians who were bothered by it, saying that the Doctor was being depicted as some sort of messiah figure. Something called Christian Voice has asked us all to remember that "the Doctor would have to do a lot more than the usual prancing around to be a messiah. He has to save people from their sins."

Sigh.

There was also some talk about "inappropriate imagery" for a Christmas special. Angels are inappropriate imagery for a Christmas special? They always bug us to incorporate Christianity into everything, and then when we do, they get all pissy that we're not doing it right. It's like Star Wars fans. Some of them genuinely love Star Wars, and some of them get so obsessed with it and take it so damn seriously that you wonder why anyone loved it in the first place. That's right; the prequel whiners and bible bashers are the same thing to me.

Russell T. Davis was really kind of poking at them, too, saying "the series lends itself to religious iconography because the Doctor is a proper saviour. He saves the world through the power of his mind and his passion.” Fair enough, I guess, if a little flowery. I do think it's kind of lame for some Christians to get caught up in imagery and similarities. They should be kind of happy that the Doctor is pushing for things like listening, caring, tolerance, saving lives, and pacifistic solutions. It's the job of really good science fiction to take where we are now and exaggerate it, examine it, look at the possibilities, at where our actions may lead us, what the consequences might be. And a lot of the time, Doctor Who is really good science fiction with a pretty decent message. They should try sorting through it instead of wasting their time trying to find Christ figures. It's the laziest, dumbest, easiest sort of faux-criticism.

Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs for the Church of England, actually gets it: “Science fiction at its best helps to illuminate eternal themes, and that’s something the Church can happily work with.”

Aside: I was actually kind of gratified to see proof that atheists can be just as big a bunch of complete idiots as Christians. After all of this Christian talk of protecting children from The Golden Compass, and some atheists crying "It's our turn!" (no shit, I did read this online), it made me laugh to see atheists angry that The Golden Compass carried with it a preview for Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. They didn't want their non-religious children exposed to the merest hint of a movie that promotes religion. Hilarious! Isn't the point not to hide things from children, but to turn them into people who can do their own thinking about things? Man, that made me laugh.

Anyway. As for "Voyage of the Damned" itself... a disappointment. I loved Tennant, of course; I like him more and more as the Doctor as the series goes on. Kylie Minogue was fun, but it was pretty obvious what her final fate was going to be. I was especially disappointed that, in the end, the Doctor rejected old Mr. Copper as a companion; he would've been an interesting character and added an interesting dynamic to the show. I wish the companions would be a little more diverse than just being young hot chicks (part of the reason I'm always glad when Captain Jack Harkness shows back up). An older presence would've been a nice change. But Mr. Copper was a nice character. And the little cyborg. I loved the idea that people abandoned London because of the previous two Christmases. It also reminded me that I enjoyed "The Christmas Invasion" and especially "The Runaway Bride" a lot more.

The rest of it? Meh. We get to know and like characters just so that it hurts when they're killed off (seemingly all at once). At this point, do we really need a Poseidon Adventure episode of Doctor Who? The best that can really be said about it is that it's fast-paced enough not to bore you with how silly and lame it really is. Tennant's really the perfect star for this sort of thing; he commits to the bluster and shouting and running and manages to keep the energy up and make all sorts of stupid things seem dire and weighty. He really does lend this show a lot in terms of credibility, just by taking the character seriously.

It also ended with a preview for the fourth series, which included a brief shot of Martha Jones. I'm looking forward to Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; I was disappointed she didn't become the new companion after "The Runaway Bride," and I'm pleased to see someone a little combative traveling with the Doctor, instead of another girl who's in love with him. (Poor Freema, they really didn't give her much to do for most of her series except be Rose Lite.) I have caught The Catherine Tate Show on BBC America a few times, and I really don't think it's that funny. Still, I'm hoping for something good. Just as long as there's more Who, I'm thrilled.

Now... where can I watch Sarah Jane Adventures online?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 2

I'm feeling really good today considering how the week was progressing...

So, I've been pretty good with the eating. Buying fresh, lean meats. Drinking water like, well, water. I've even switched to soy milk, which doesn't do the number on my stomach that regular milk was doing. Waking up with energy and, since it's too cold and icy to go for a walk, doing push-ups and such in the morning. And then, as I always do, I made a huge mistake.

I ate pizza. Stuffed pizza. And after 8 at night, at that.

Why do I do these stupid, stupid things? Why am I so fucking dumb about that kind of stuff?

Well, my body got back at me in a big way. Around 2 in the morning, I got out of bed. I felt like I was choking. My stomach was roiling before I'd gone to bed; it was oddly settled now, but I felt heavy and gross. This is how I usually feel when I relapse. The problem is, all I can remember is the taste and not the aftermath, and I rashly eat something awful for me. Stuffed pizza, honestly, what the fuck? I went into the bathroom and started coughing. I felt a little woozy. And at one point, while I was coughing, I suddenly unleashed a torrent of puke. Seriously, it just popped right out. It didn't need to make the journey up from my stomach. It was already there, on deck, just waiting to unload. And more followed. Lots and lots of vomit.

As I joked later, I'd had stuffed pizza and some Jones Cream Soda for dinner. It all came out at once, so now I know exactly what Jones Pizza Soda would taste like. Ew. What's really sad is that I know what a large number of foods taste like on their trip back out of my gullet. Should I write a post about that? What sounds better: A Puking History of SamuraiFrog or the much simpler Puketeria!?

After cleaning up all the puke, I staggered back to bed and slept for hours and hours. Slept hard. When I woke up, I had terrible heartburn. The kind I get if I haven't had Prilosec for days and days. It was awful. I had eggs for breakfast, and that calmed me down some, but I still felt like shit.

Becca wanted to go out to Geneva and Batavia and St. Charles, about forty minutes away on route 38, and it sounded like fun to me, so I got in the car and we drove out. This being the Christmas shopping season, I was seriously irritated with some of the people who were acting like total assholes. The season of peace and joy really brings out the best in some people. Still, I tried to enjoy it. I went into a Trader Joe's for the first time ever, and even found some of that Boylan's Soda that Jaquandor told me about something like eight months ago (there were barely any flavors there, unlike the many on their website, so I grabbed some Black Cherry, a flavor I don't normally like--holy socks, it was wonderful soda, a real treat).

On the drive home, Becca offered me one of her chocolate chip cookies, and that made my heartburn flare up again. I wanted to get home as soon as possible. I started to feel a bad headache set in. And to make matters worse, the fog was absolutely terrible. At a conservative estimate, I'd say I could only see, at most, 200 feet in any direction. The fog just swallowed everything. And this was on 45 to 55 mile an hour roads. I had to go just slow enough to stay safe, but just fast enough that no one rushing up behind me would rear end me. The tension was just too much for me. I started to get weaker and weaker, and my vision started to get spotty. For the first time in years, I was getting a migraine. My blood was racing.

Then, as I was trying to tell Becca why I thought I was so fucked up at that moment, I suddenly started talking about my dad and why I feel like a stranger in his house on Christmas, and why I'm kind of pissed at my stepmom, and why things are kind of tense right now. I started talking about how I was still angry that my dad lives all the fucking way out in Frankfort, a two-hour drive from my house, and he gives me shit for not coming over often enough. Not even when my sister was sick and dying. I can't afford the gas to spend all day driving there and back; I hate that that's the excuse, but there it is. When my parents got divorced I was 13 years old. My dad told me he was going to move to the next town over; instead he moved to the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. Then he moved to Frankfort. It's because my stepmom didn't want to run into my mom around town one day, so she had to move way the fuck out, and thanks to her, my dad has to commute over an hour in the morning to Chicago from just off of I-80. I'm sorry, but that's kind of a bitchy thing to do to your husband. My mom came to Ellen's funeral to be there for me and my sister Jayne, and still my stepmom just couldn't let it die, shooting her so many dirty looks that Becca thought they were directed at her, and now Becca feels unwelcome. And I feel tense because I think my stepmom holds it against me that I wasn't there for Ellen more. But I was poor with a shitty car and university commitments, and I'm sick of being torn. And why's she so mad at my mom, anyway? It's not like my mom stole her husband.

Anyway, see how that can happen to me? Fuck.

So, I went on about that, and then I started yelling about how my dad will hold onto grudges and slights forever and ever, even after he forgives you for them. "What good does it do?" I screamed. "What does it get you to still be angry with people for something they did that they can never make up for? What's the fucking point?!" Screaming, at the top of my lungs. And crying. In the fog, at 50 miles an hour, with spotty vision, a migraine, and terrible heartburn. I was shaking now, and I actually had to pull over to the side of the road because my tears were so hot and bitter and salty that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I really should've just let Becca drive right there.

This is what I think was wrong with my health: generic medicine. There's an insurance system here in DeKalb that's set up to help people without any. I've been using it for awhile to get my meds, Toprol and Enalapril (a generic for Vasotec). Last month, the insurance decided not to pay for Toprol, and I was given the generic instead (Metaprolol). I've been taking these drugs for four or five years now; I'm pretty sensitive to medicine and I know, absolutely know, when something is off with my body. I fluctuate wildly, and I can feel these things. Now, despite my mother's constant refusal not to have absolute and utter faith in the great god of pharmacy, who swears up and down that a generic is exactly the same as a name brand, ever since I started taking the Metaprolol, my blood pressure has been higher, my stress has been out of control, and I've been more sensitive and quick to extreme anger and rage. This generic is not good. I don't care if I have to pay out of my own pocket for the name brand, I can't take the Metaprolol anymore. It's not right somehow. It's thrown me off.

The rest of the drive home was harrowing. I was so weak and now I was upset. I ended up running a red light because, thanks to the fog, I couldn't see it in time to stop. I tried, but the roads were wet from melting snow and ice and I skidded and ended up sliding right out into traffic. Thankfully, it was a fresh red and traffic hadn't started going yet. Someone was pulling out to make a lefthand turn, but I honked and they stopped. If anyone had been in the oncoming lane, I'd have slid right into them; they'd have crushed in the driver's side door, and who knows what would've happened then. And still, even after that, after I'd straightened out and was driving again, some asshole tailgated me. Fucker.

After that, I was breathing shallowly and freaked out. When I made it home, I laid down and slept hard for over three hours. When I woke up, the headache was gone and my appetite was back. It was dark out and the complex was quiet. I was still pretty freaked, though. I still don't understand everything that happened. I didn't even want to do anything for Christmas because of the shitty weather and me being angry.

Over the weekend, with the fog just as bad, I managed to drive to the meat market and the grocery store. I got my meds refilled; I got Toprol this time, which almost immediately evened me out. I'll never have Metaprolol again. I also got some thick but lean hamburgers, and I felt much, much better after eating some beef again. And I made a hard decision that I've got to stick to: no more of nature's most perfect food. No more pizza. It's going to kill me as dead as Coke and Pepsi are going to. No more of any of it.

By Monday, the fog had cleared and the snow, most of it, had melted. I invited my mom to come over on Christmas, which, somehow, immediately reduced my stress. Plus, the 355 tollway has finally, fucking FINALLY been extended down to I-80, so it took me, no shit, about 45 or 50 minutes less to drive there than it usually does, which was even better. I'm like a child; I get cranky after long car trips. So I had a nice breakfast (my 12 year-old sister is now much more teenager than child, I lament to say) and a nice Christmas morning, then I drove back home and my mom came over and Becca joined us for lunch. Then Becks and I had dinner alone and watched some TV and went to bed. It was a nice day. Everything turned out okay after the horrific, awful weekend I had.

So, I'm back on my good medication. In addition to soda made with high fructose corn syrup, I've given up pizza. The sugar-sweetened soda I drink now is in moderation. I'm cooking for myself more often. And I'm washing the dishes more, something I didn't ever do often enough, and we don't have a dishwasher. I need to get up and move around more, so every little bit helps. I'm still doing push-ups in the morning. I can feel my size going down again, too! You know, the pants are a little looser. It's a good feeling. It's good to have energy again.

God, why did I stop doing this? Never again.

Film Week

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

EARTH (1930)
For as stifling and censoring as its government could be, the Soviet Union produced more than its fair share of masterpieces. This is one. Earth is more impression than story, relying deftly on imagery to move the viewer. Though the film had a propagandistic design--it was made to convince farmers of the nobility of collective farming--it transcends that design by putting its political concerns into something at once more mystical and simpler. The film is about the way the land is indifferent to man's concerns; but at the same time it shows the land as subject to similar violent change. It creates a symbiotic relationship between the farmer and the land, each taking care of the other, that is in essence a sort of perfect communism. Absolutely mesmerizing. If you're never going to see a movie from Soviet Russia, I still think you should see this one. **** stars.

KAMERADSCHAFT (1931)
G.W. Pabst directed one of the great German anti-war films. This is about the lives of miners on the German-French border, one of the disputed areas of World War I. The story unfolds gently, immersing us in the characters until the real crisis begins, and a group of determined German miners attempt to rescue their trapped French colleagues after a mine collapse. It's an artful plea for friendship and tolerance. **** stars.

CONFETTI (2006)
A mostly-improvised British comedy about three couples competing to win a house for having the most original wedding of the year. One couple wants a tennis-themed wedding, one wants a naturalist wedding, and one wants a Busby Berkley wedding. I'll admit, I wasn't sure about watching this one (Christopher Guest has really turned me off to improvisation these days), but Martin Freeman and Jessica Hynes play the musical couple, so I had to give it a try. I'm glad I did, because it's actually very, very good. It's a little sloppy and at times unfocused, perhaps, but there are some great moments in here. Most of them, for me, revolve around the gay wedding planners, who are hilarious. And I must admit I loved seeing Olivia Colman (from Hot Fuzz and Green Wing) naked. ***1/2 stars.

INSIDE MAN (2005)
This movie was tightly-plotted, well-told, interestingly-detailed, full of complex character moments, and gripping to watch. Clive Owen is very good as a bank robber who creates a hostage situation; Denzel Washington is the cop trying to take control of the situation (I don't like Denzel at all anymore, but if the movie's good, I don't let it bother me). Jodie Foster pops in as a negotiator of sorts, with Christopher Plummer showing up and the always-great Willem Dafoe. I was really with this movie, enjoying the hell out of it... and then the last 25 or so minutes ruined the whole damn thing. What had been a great crime movie on the order of Dog Day Afternoon turned into, well, a Spike Lee movie. And as a filmmaker, he tends to be his own worst enemy. How can the end of this movie be both vaguely anti-Semitic and anti-Nazi? All of the casual racism and sexism sure adds up, and in the end, Lee can't resist having created another movie that basically blames white people for all of the oppression in the world and excuses black people for acting racistly because, you know, they didn't create the system. In the end, the only people doing any good are Denzel (who is not only casually racist but is just kind of a prick who treats everyone like an asshole) and his girlfriend, who graciously submits to being handcuffed before being fucked hard, which is really what women in Spike Lee's universe are for. Otherwise, they're either treacherous (like the Jodie Foster character) or the stereotypical Brooklyn Jewish-American Princess. Hey, if you're in film school and need a treatise to research, try and figure out who Spike Lee hates more: women or Jews. *1/2 stars. The ending destroyed all that had been built up. I'm not going to bother watching any more Spike Lee movies.

NOTHING SACRED (1937)
Carole Lombard stars as a woman who claims she's dying in order to spend time in New York at the expense of a newspaper. But then she falls in love with the newsman escorting her around (played by one of my favorite actors, Fredric March) and begins to feel guilty. So-so comedy that never really gets off the ground. **1/2 stars.

A STAR IS BORN (1937)
Except for Fredric March, I found this movie melodramatic and hard to watch. Boring, really. I liked the film Svengali with John Barrymore much better. ** stars.

BECAUSE I SAID SO (2007)
Ouch. God, I used to love Diane Keaton. Is she going to play anything other than a shrill, uptight bitch again? * star because I liked Mandy Moore in it. When is she ever going to make a good movie again? I think the last one I liked was Saved.

UP THE RIVER (1930)
This John Ford movie is the first film that Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart acted in. They're good together. But the film kind of sucks. It was supposed to be a serious prison movie, but as a reaction to the Paul Muni drama The Big House (itself rather a disappointment), it was made into a comedy. It doesn't really come off. *1/2 stars.

THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936)
Now there's a classic John Ford melodrama! Warner Baxter plays Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg and was wrongly imprisoned for treason (in reality, the government later apologized and admitted the injustice). He's sent to a prison in the Tortugas patrolled by sharks and a sadistic officer played to the hilt by John Carradine. It's a gripping, exciting film, part prison drama, part adventure movie, and one of John Ford's most enjoyable pictures. This would make a good double feature with Ford's The Hurricane, which is similarly dramatic but more sweeping. **** stars.

ALICE ADAMS (1935)
Katharine Hepburn is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who, with the frenzied encouragement of her mother, tries hard to climb the social ladder. Her father and brother see nothing wrong with the life they have, but Alice soldiers on trying to move up despite being embarrassed at nearly every turn. When she finally meets a young man who likes her (played well by Fred MacMurray), her mother pushes her father into a quasi-illegal business scheme to finance things like a painful family dinner. The pace is a little deliberate, and it's a bit dated, but I thought it was very good, particularly due to the strong direction of George Stevens and a great performance by Katharine Hepburn. The film is based on a novel by Booth Tarkington, who wrote The Magnificent Ambersons--this movie, much like Ambersons, had a much stronger and more satisfying/believable ending which was chopped off and replaced with something more conventional by the studio (the SAME studio, RKO). I didn't buy the ending here, but it's still ***1/2 stars.

DREAM WIFE (1953)
One of those sexist Sidney Sheldon comedies. Cary Grant plays an American diplomat who is frustrated and annoyed that his girlfriend, the wonderful Deborah Kerr, is always so busy with her work for the State Department. She's trying to finalize a deal with a fictional Islamic country for oil; out of a nasty sort of revenge, Grant proposes marriage to the ruler's beautiful daughter. The daughter, Tarji (played by the beautiful Betta St. John), is the sort of old-fashioned, deferring, ornamental girl that he wants Kerr to be. Of course, he learns to compromise, and he learns the downside of the old ways while Tarji learns to assert herself like a modern woman. It's completely sexist, but it's sexist in a sort of preciously charming way. I found it problematic as a modern viewer, but I always love Cary Grant and I always love Deborah Kerr. *** stars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Merry Happy

Merry Christmas to everyone who's celebrating today. If you aren't, sit back, watch some reruns, and contemplate the meaning of separation of Church and State. I know, I know. Me too.

See you tomorrow. In the meantime, here are my holiday posts from this month:
Christ on a Bike!
I'm a Bad Relative
'Tis the Season to Be Meme-ing
Not Enough Bah
Congress Has Too Much Time On Its Hands
An Open Letter to Charisma Carpenter That Will Never Be Answered
A Holiday Warning
Annual Offerings for Lord Kringus
Santa Punk
Two Great Christmas Presents
The Most Contentious, Acid-Filled Christmas Ever
Christmas Gift 2007
Happy Xmas

Plus, all of my holiday posts from 2005 and 2006.

Happy Xmas

You should look at this video if you get the chance. It's hard to watch, but absolutely right on the money. A happy holiday to everyone that's not a part of the administration.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Gift 2007

Sorry I saved this until the last minute this year. Another set of Christmas eye candy to keep you warm.

JESSICA BIEL

GRETCHEN MOL

NINEL CONDE

SAM HUESTON

DAWN MARIE

GISELE BUNDCHEN

JOJO

REBECCA LOOS

DITA VON TEESE

with a triple shot of LUCY PINDER...
with MICHELLE MARSH

KATIE PRICE

and SOPHIE HOWARD

SCARLETT JOHANSSON

Happy Holidays, One and All


Also, check out the same posts from 2005 and 2006, or check out the Nuts magazine Christmas post at Boobie Blog featuring Lucy Pinder, Sophie Howard, Rhian Sugden, Lindsey Strutt and Kitty Lea. Ah, boobs for the holidays.