Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fourth Annual Hot 50 List

I've basically known since January that Tina Fey was going to end up number one. I'm usually not that ahead of myself.

My annual totally subjective list of the celebrities I found sexiest over the course of the year, completely at my whim and judgment. Numbers in parentheses indicate last year's position, although this list really fluctuates.

1. Tina Fey (9)
2. Christina Aguilera (10)
3. Kat Dennings
4. Kim Kardashian (31)
5. Aria Giovanni (13)
6. Catherine Tate
7. Charisma Carpenter (4)
8. Kitty Lea
9. Eva Mendes (40)
10. Jennifer Hudson
11. Salma Hayek (21)
12. Scarlett Johansson (3)
13. America Ferrera (7)
14. Sophie Howard (20)
15. Kristen Bell (18)
16. Gabrielle Union
17. Denise Milani
18. Amy Adams
19. Michelle Marsh (1)
20. Lucy Pinder (1)
21. Dita Von Teese (6)
22. Christine Hendricks
23. Britney Spears
24. Anne Hathaway (2)
25. Brenda Song
26. Jessica Simpson (47)
27. Anna Faris
28. Rumer Willis
29. Rosie Jones
30. Mila Kunis
31. Yunjin Kim (25)
32. Carmen Electra
33. Penelope Cruz
34. Eva Amurri
35. Eva Wyrwal
36. Reon Kadena
37. Leelee Sobieski
38. Serena Williams
39. Shay Laren
40. Hayden Panettiere (48)
41. Cate Blanchett
42. Liv Tyler
43. Maria Canals Barrera
44. Monica Bellucci (44)
45. Elizabeth Banks
46. Sienna Miller (27)
47. Asia Argento
48. Hilary Duff
49. Kerry Washington
50. Casey Wilson

Previously:
2005
2006
2007

Film Week

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

VOLVER (2006)
Superb. Again, I'm not always the biggest Almodovar fan in the world, but I really loved this movie. Carmen Maura is a woman who returns from the dead to reveal secrets and be a part of the lives of her daughters (Lola Duenas and Penelope Cruz, in the best performance I've ever seen her give). Duenas is a lonely hairdresser, while Cruz is covering up the murder of her husband; both are carrying pieces of family secrets that need to be uncovered as a family friend begins to succumb to cancer. As in the films of his I love, Almodovar shows a keen eye for family relationships. It's a down to earth movie, and a great one. **** stars.

WALLACE & GROMIT: A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH (2008)
Excellent, as always. Nick Park is one of the masters of modern animation, and he does it modestly, putting his faith in story and being almost effortlessly hilarious. God, I love Wallace & Gromit. **** stars.

THE FOOT FIST WAY (2006)
This movie took me by surprise. It's about Fred Simmons, a Tae Kwon Do instructor (played by co-writer Danny McBride) who extolls the virtues of his martial art to his class while being something of a failure at real life. He can't control his cheating wife and is a bit of a sleaze. He's self-important to the point of obnoxiousness and pompous in the extreme. He worships a movie star and Tae Kwan Do champion who is a loser and a stereotype. And it all comes to a head. That's about it. There's no real narrative, and certainly no narrative flow. It's a character study of Simmons, one sort of modeled off the British version of The Office, where the embarrassment is unflinchingly honest and more painful than funny. But, at some point, it flips over and you start really caring about the character and whether he'll regain some dignity. By the end, I was rooting for Fred Simmons and whatever small victories he could gain. It's a real credit to Danny McBride that he plays the character so honestly and wholly, never winking at the audience or making the character a goof (see the cast of Mamma Mia! for a painful example). He plays Fred Simmons with absolute conviction, and it makes the entire movie. In fact, I'd say the movie has bits of unrealized potential that get a bit lost, but McBride's acting elevates the movie. It's a special performance, and I got caught up in it. ***1/2 stars.

HAMLET 2 (2008)
Let's just get the main gripe out of the way that everyone insists on pointing out: it's not as cleverly offensive as it thinks it is. "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" is fun and funny, but not South Park-style satirical. But I don't think that's really the point of the movie. I don't think Andrew Fleming and Pam Brady are out to zing society with their script so much as create an amusing backdrop for this character they've created. Steve Coogan plays Dana Marschz, a high school drama teacher/failed actor with massive daddy issues who is so wrapped up in the great struggle of the Aristotelian Unities that he doesn't even notice the increasing boredom of his wife (Catherine Keener, always good) or the offensive content of the play he's writing (Hamlet 2, which is banned on school grounds). But the cliched stuff (dedicated teacher reaches stereotypical students) and the silly stuff (Hamlet and Laertes lightsaber-fighting on wires) is really a backdrop to Steve Coogan's performance. And he is funny. Funny and dedicated, and the character never cracks or becomes obvious. Coogan is a fascinating comic actor (you need to see Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) who really inhabits the characters he's playing and seems to take a perverse joy in humiliating them. Even if the rest of the movie hadn't been as funny as Coogan (and it nearly is), it would be worth seeing just to watch him play off of whatever's going on in his mind. The best movie Andrew Fleming's made since the underrated Dick. ***1/2 stars. And bonus points to Elisabeth Shue playing herself. When she's good, she's good.

BURN AFTER READING (2008)
When I told my dad I saw this movie, he said: "How was that? It looked kind of stupid." To which I answered: "It's kind of stupid." There's no way around it, it's kind of a stupid movie. But funny. It's a convoluted mess, but it's a funny convoluted mess. It's so convoluted that the Coen Brothers basically stop the movie an hour in just so two characters can discuss how convoluted everything is. Let's see... there's a CIA man who's forced out of his job (John Malkovich, whom I uncharacteristically enjoyed), and he decides to write a memior. His wife (Tilda Swinton, how I love and lust for Tilda Swinton) is cheating on him (with George Clooney, who not only gives the best performance in the movie but is fucking sexy) and wants to divorce him. And there's a woman who works in a gym (Frances McDormand) whose boss is secretly in love with her (Richard Jenkins) and whose coworker (Brad Pitt, unapologetically silly) finds a CD belonging to Malkovich and attempts to extort money from him. Pitt thinks the disc is CIA intelligence; Malkovich thinks it's a copy of his memoirs; it's actually a copy of his financial records worked up by Swinton's divorce attorney. Well, actually it's a MacGuffin, so it doesn't matter. Anyway, it's a funny movie, and it's filled with funny characterizations, it's just pointless. It's the Coen Brothers working out stray ideas they had that lead nowhere. Hell, even those two CIA guys step back in at the end (JK Simmons and David Rasche) to talk about how the plot doesn't resolve itself and what a bad idea this whole thing was and how they're not going to let it happen again. It's an exercise. But even pointless Coen Brothers is entertaining. And it's an entertaining, well-acted, fun, convoluted, messy bit of pointlessness. *** stars.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006)
Outstanding film about a dedicated Stasi agent in East Germany in the 1980s. He's assigned to surveillance of a theater couple and, despite his scientific approach, gets involved in their lives and his sympathy for them grows. Sebastian Koch (also excellent in Black Book) plays the object of espionage, a writer who has come under the suspicion of the State, and everything that happens becomes a matter of the writer (representing the individual) against the State, with the agent (Ulrich Muhe, excellent) caught in between. There are surprising twists as the conflict becomes deeper and tests everyone's loyalties. Martina Gedeck, as the other half of the theater couple (a popular and very beautiful actress), is superb. **** stars.

THE BLOT (1921)
Claire Windsor as a girl who falls in love with her rich neighbor, Louis Calhern (a mere 26). Notable for being directed by a woman (Lois Webber), but about what you'd expect from a 1920s social class drama. **1/2 stars.

THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE (2001)
Meh. Dull treatment of an interesting episode in French history. Charles Shyer makes yet another movie in which he relishes the physical, mental, and emotional punishment of a woman who tries to make good for herself in a man's world. Hilary Swank does what she can, but it doesn't much matter. Handsome to look at, but also somehow cheap. ** stars.

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND (2006)
I somehow managed to hate this more than I thought I would; once again, I fall prey to the dangers of watching whatever's on because I'm ill (although it did have Anna Faris in it, which I'd hoped to be a point in its favor). Luke Wilson is an ordinary guy with no personality, which is why he plays them over and over. Wocka wocka! Anyway, he's a guy who ends up dating Uma Thurman, who is really a superhero called G. Girl (no points for creativity there). She's also controlling, needy, desperate, emotionally fragile, and a huge bitch. When he breaks up with her because of this, she goes completely psycho on him, throwing his car into orbit and boiling his goldfish, all of which is apparently "hilarious" because she's superpowered. When he admits his love for office mate Anna Faris, Uma throws a great white shark into their bed, pretty much attempting to murder the guy for the crime of not being in love with her. Yeah, that's really funny. And Eddie Izzard plays G. Girl's nemesis, who is actually the former best friend who secretly loved her in high school and has been nursing a broken heart ever since. Oy vey. Here's my major problem with this movie: the sexual politics are trapped in time. It sees women as nothing without a man, and Uma's character acts accordingly. The movie assumes that all ex-girlfriends go psycho, that it's hilarious, and it's somehow even funnier when psychotic acts of property destruction and attempted murder come with superpowers. G. Girl is needy and sick, and this is somehow seen as natural feminine behavior; the fact that she's super-stalking somebody is played as comic. Seriously, put Anna Faris in Luke Wilson's role and make the Rock the superhero and tell me it's still funny and not terrifying. But Ivan Reitman, hackier than ever before, takes it that insulting step further by making it indicative of the behavior of all women. In the end, when Anna Faris gains the same powers, the big action climax is that they take to the skies and fight over a boring shlub with no personality, simply because, I guess, even a superpowered woman is nothing without a man. Any man. And this is why we're never going to see a great Wonder Woman movie in my lifetime. Because, apparently, the Hollywood establishment can give women superpowers, but they can't think that women would want to do anything with them other than fight over guys. Jesus Christ, what an insulting movie. I hate the fucking thing. The message of this movie is clearly that empowered women are dangerous and unstable. Hurrah. No fucking stars.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My 25 Favorite Things in the Films of 2008

I did this last year and thought I'd keep it going. Again, since I don't get out to see as many movies as I like, and everyone's doing their year's best lists, here's my list of things I loved from the movies I actually saw.

25. “Hulk Smash!”
The shortfalls of The Incredible Hulk were there, but hearing the Hulk say it was a nice geek moment.

24. Kat Dennings
Between her great turns in The House Bunny and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, I hope that means I’m going to get to see Kat in lots of movies from now on instead of ER episodes and old Bob Saget sitcoms (Becca’s been in love with her since Raising Dad, a show which probably Kat doesn’t even remember).

23. George Clooney in Burn After Reading
Goddammit, he’s hot.

22. Sarah Marshall
How can someone seem like simultaneously the best and worst girlfriend you could ever possibly have? Kristen Bell somehow pulls it off through the sheer power of being Kristen Bell. And wearing a bikini.

21. The creatures of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Three great cases of imaginative creature design flourishing in fantasy films, a genre that now seems like it might be on its way out.

20. Alec Azam
The best rabbit I’ve seen on film since Hutch in Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

19. Liv Tyler
I’ve loved her for a long time, so it was nice to see her play two sympathetic characters this year in The Incredible Hulk and The Strangers. It would have been nice if they were better movies, but still…

18. M
Judi Dench outdid all of her previous performances as M in Quantum of Solace, which made it that much harder when she talked about wanting to leave the series. Now, after she’s become the M she should have been all along—tough, fierce, with a modicum of faith in her operatives. And that final moment is perfection: “Bond, I need you back.” “I never left.”

17. Zack and Miri fall in love on camera
For all of the shortcomings of Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith managed to film one of the best scenes in his body of work: when Zack and Miri finally do have sex on camera, their eyes lock and everyone else in the world disappears. Only the two of them exist, and the floodgates open as they realize that they really do have feelings for each other after a lifetime of “just friends.”

16. The return of Indiana Jones
After years of saying that I never wanted to see a fourth Indiana Jones movie, I ended up being glad to have him back. Now I’m sorry there weren’t more, despite how formulaic they would’ve been. Either way, it was surprisingly nice to see Indy again (and I didn’t have a single problem with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

15. Master Oogway
A treasure of character animation and design from a studio I’ve come to not expect such things from.

14. A bit of gravity in a pool of frivolity
Almost a throwaway moment in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; with all of the young people at a party rushing to watch a squadron of British airplanes fly over London, Frances McDormand notices the excitement in the air and turns to her companion (Ciaran Hinds) and says, gravely, “They don’t remember the last one.” He takes it in and replies, having found a kindred spirit, “No they don’t.” A moment that struck me in a lovely movie.

13. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense
Hellboy, Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, and Johann Krauss surpassed my expectations and made me give a damn about fighting CGI monsters. Why? Pure neatness. They were just so damn neat. As in neato.


12. Oktapodi
One of the best pieces of animation I saw all year long.

11. Elizabeth Banks
I wasn’t sure about her initially, but between her adorability in Zack and Miri Make a Porno and her skill at portraying an empty space in W., I really got sold on her as an actress. It might help that I saw Slither around the same time. And that she’s Betty Brandt from the Spider-Man movies. Either way, she had a lot of movies out this year, and I hope there’s a lot more to come.

10. Harry Waters
A great addition to the canon of quirky British crime movie characters (from a great addition to the canon of quirky British crime movies, In Bruges).
* “You retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids!”
* “An Uzi? I'm not from South Central Los Angeles. I didn't come here to shoot twenty black ten year olds in a drive-by. I want a normal gun for a normal person.”
* “It's a fairytale town, isn't it? How's a fairytale town not somebody's fucking thing?”
* “I mean basically if you're robbing a man and you're only carrying blanks and you allow your gun to be taken off you and you allow yourself to be shot in the eye with a blank which I assume that the person has to get quite close to you then, yeah really it's all your fault for being such a poof, so why don't you stop whinging and cheer the fuck up.”
* “What are they going to have? A medieval fucking bowling alley?”


9. “Inside of You”

Every year, there’s one song from a movie that’s supposed to be a joke that I can’t get enough of. This song from Forgetting Sarah Marshall is still on my iPod. Gothic Neil Diamond, indeed.

8. “Okay. I am Iron Man.”
I’m so tired of dour heroes who need to be symbols for something society needs. So the ending of Iron Man was certainly a refreshing change. Finally, a superhero we could have some fun with.

7. Colin Farrell
Between In Bruges and Cassandra’s Dream, I'm forced to ask: when the hell did Colin Farrell learn how to act? The guy blew me away this year, and I’ve never expected a single thing from him.

6. A Matter of Loaf and Death
A new Wallace & Gromit short! Now there’s a Christmas present!

5. Kat Dennings and Michael Cera spend the night together
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was a joy for me, not least of which because it reminded me of the good parts of being a teenager, which was capped off for me by meeting Becca when I was 18. And the characters being burdened by the expectations of friends, parents, and exes was all crushingly familiar to what we went through in the beginning. So, during the final moments, when Nick and Norah hold hands and walk away from everything with one another, that just thrilled me. “Are you sorry we missed it?” she asks, referring to a rooftop concert they’d spent all night searching for. “We didn’t miss it,” he replies. “This is it.” Exactly.

4. Becoming a Star Wars fan again
The release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars somehow triggered me to sit and watch all six of the Star Wars movies in one day, and in the end I recaptured a part of myself that loved the pure escapism of Star Wars. A part that had been driven away by the constant, tortured, self-righteous cynicism of Star Wars fandom (and which I saw a lot of in the reviews of The Clone Wars, a movie that wasn’t the best, but was hardly as terrible as I’d heard).

3. Dracula’s Lament
My favorite moment in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, not because of the song itself, necessarily, but because of what happens. Peter Bretter is a character that registered very close to home with me, and this is a moment of triumph for me. Publicly, he bares his soul and opens up with a song very close to his heart that, we later learn, his girlfriend never understood. But Mila Kunis, as Rachel, gets it. She flutters between embarrassment and supportive humor and then, suddenly, really gets it. And by extension, him. And that’s magic. (Clip on YouTube)

2. The Joker
Perhaps the movie never could have lived up to the incredible hype and the constant stream of articles declaring The Dark Knight, the apotheosis of fanboy pretension, a “metaphor for our times” and “the greatest movie ever made.” But if anything in the movie deserves to outlive its origins, it’s Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker as the embodiment of misanthropy. For all of the Joker’s philosophic declarations of being an agent of chaos or wanting to simply throw a monkeywrench in the gears of society, for all of his measured, casual sociopathics and his grand speeches, his schemes (which surely must have been planned to the last possible detail) and his swell of rage revealed (to me, anyway) a mind that is much more interested in hurting and panicking as many people as humanly possible than in playing sick games. The late Heath Ledger created a characterization that transcends the movie it’s in and immediately enters the cultural iconography because it deserves to.

1. WALL-E
The title character of Pixar’s latest (and best) film is so easily empathetic precisely because he’s so familiar, seemingly fused together out of bits of creations I’ve grown up loving. Ben Burtt’s sounds recall Artoo Detoo, the head cocks and the eyes raise like Kermit the Frog, he cowers and screams and looks to the stars like E.T. A perfect creature, one I warmed to immediately, and one whose story of love became a story of hope for the future. And that was my favorite thing at the movies this year.

The 2008 End of the Year Meme

Emailed to me.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

Started being more conscientious about cooking my own meals. I've cooked before, but I'd gotten so lazy about it, and even just the change of making my own food has really helped me to lose weight and feel more energetic.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make resolutions. Giving yourself a manufactured start date makes you feel like once you've failed, it doesn't matter anymore. I believe in change, not resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, for a change.

5. What countries did you visit?

None.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Better health, better financial resources.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I'm not really a guy for remembering dates, I guess. I'll remember lots of events from this year. My suicide attempt, for example. A friend who went into a coma. The Obama election. Becca's convention and meeting John. My time at the elementary school with all of the kids.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don't feel like I achieved a lot, honestly. But I don't feel like I failed this year, either.

9. What was your biggest failure?

See above comment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Sure. I'm suffering illness right now. I also got really sick during the last week of the school year and couldn't go to work. That was the first time in years I'd had a fever so bad I couldn't sleep.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The new TV.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Well, Becca continues to put up with me for the 14th year in a row, so that's nice.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Fanboys, probably. Bush. Republicans. Sarah Palin supporters. Israel.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Well, the Obama election. The Dark Knight and WALL-E. Doctor Who. The convention. Kristen Bell on Heroes.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

I don't know. Probably a song I hate, like "I Kissed a Girl" or something.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Much happier.
b) thinner or fatter? A bit thinner.
c) richer or poorer? About the same, damn it.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Swimming. Exercising.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Being depressed and feeling sorry for myself.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home.

21. What was your favorite month of 2008?

I don't know. July is usually awesome. March, April, and May were great, because I finally came out of the depression and did a lot of work at the school. It made me feel useful, self-sufficient, capable, and necessary.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?

I was already in love.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Doctor Who. The Office, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, Robot Chicken, The Venture Bros., The Drinky Crow Show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, etc.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I can't think of anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?

Books that I read for the first time that I loved this year? Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl was a favorite. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. I need to keep better track of what I read.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I don't know that I had one. I had some good ones, but nothing that overwhelmed me.

28. What did you want and get?

Peace of mind.

29. What did you want and not get?

Oh, a man can dream of things...

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

WALL-E. I loved a few movies this year. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Iron Man, Hellboy II, Son of Rambow, Quantum of Solace, Dear Zachary...

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 32 this year. I don't remember doing anything really special. It's not a really big deal for me.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Just give me Scarlett Johansson for one month...

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Ultra-basic.

34. What kept you sane?

Work. Life. Cooking. Music. Daleks.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Where do I start? (By the way, my annual 50 Sexiest Women of the Year list will be up tomorrow.)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Health care.

37. Who did you miss?

My sister.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

Mood has a lot to do with food.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Everybody's brother, anybody's lover, I want to be your lifetime friend."

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 3

Well, we ended up not getting out of here at all on Christmas Day; the parking lot was still snowed in and iced over, so Becca and I had a nice day cooking turkey and stuffing. My mom got up here, so we saw her. For the second year in a row, we didn't go see a movie on Christmas.

The iciness has messed up my car, by the way. It needs a front end alignment now, as it's pulling pretty hard to the left now. The tire was stuck to the ground because of the parking lot condition. So, great, another thing to spend money I don't have on.

Poor Becca ended up coming down with a really bad stomach flu early Friday morning. She's been sick ever since. I finally ended up picking it up from her on Sunday night, but I'm already getting better. Yesterday was intense, but after some heavy naps yesterday, liberal Pepto, some Gatorade and not having much to eat, I feel like I'm around the horn on this one. Becca is still going, poor thing.

I went out to my dad's on Sunday and saw everyone there to exchange presents. Longtime readers know I have some issues of communication with my father, and I think we actually settled some long-outstanding issues there. Just a simple conversation is all it takes about 95% of the time, and that was the case here. So that was a nice Christmas event.

Now if I can just completely regain bowel control, I'll be having a nice second week of vacation from work. After all, thanks to the holiday we've got Planet Earth, Spaced, Doctor Who, and Freaks and Geeks to sit and watch!

Fat Cock

Monday, December 29, 2008

An Impression of Endings

The Endings Blog-a-ThonThis is a rambling, spoiler-filled, possibly incoherent post for JD's Endings Blog-a-Thon at Valley Dreamin'. I'm down with an intense stomach flu, so I'm a little woozy right now, so let's see how this goes...

An impression of movie endings from the beginning to today. Endings that make me thrill, make me weep, make me hope, make me satisfied. The memorable endings, the wonderful endings, the powerful endings. The endings that play in my head, bumping up against one another.

A cowboy firing a gun straight into the camera in The Great Train Robbery.

Chaplin walking off, alone, into the sunset. Or meeting a formerly blind flower girl who says "Yes, I can see now." Or tending his farm. Or calling out to all men to stand and be human.

"It was beauty killed the beast."

Queen Christina sailing off into her future. Dodsworth coming back on the boat. The Prince carrying off Snow White.

"May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, sire!"

"Why was I not made of stone like thee?"

Bambi looking down on the subjects of the forest, now grown. Rick and Renault walking off into the fog to join the Resistance.

"Let's not ask for the stars. We have the moon."

"First Hesse, now him!"

Cohan singing along with "Over There," and the young soldier has no idea he wrote the song.

"And now, you'll never be tired again."

Everyone, despite themselves, listening to Jonathan Shields describe his new movie idea over the phone. Ensign Pulver throwing the palm tree overboard. Rachel Cooper triumphing over Reverend Harry Powell.

"We jesters shall have a drink in the kitchen!"

The Creature staring at a lonely sea he'll never know again. Ethan Edwards unable to bring himself to enter the house. Colonel Nicholson destroying the bridge on the River Kwai; "What have I done?" Gulley Jimson's painting torn down and destroyed. Tirzah and Miriam and their leprosy cured.

"Nobody's perfect!"

Elmer Gantry singing a spiritual. Spartacus watching his free son and wife ride to safety while he dies on the cross.

"He has all the time in the world."

MacNamara pulling a Pepsi bottle out of a Coke machine. Lawrence riding off into sanity, forever changed and highly cynical. Boo Radley leaving the house. The quiet escape from the birds.

"One of what we all are; only a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems some of the drops sparkle."

Sir resolving to get back to business. Taylor on the beach with the Statue of Liberty. The Starchild beholding the Earth. Cora, carefree with Bradley Morahan in the water. A dwarf laughing, endlessly, at a confused camel, in unending insanity. James Bond with Tracy's fallen body; "We have all the time in the world."

"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

Harold not killing himself, but dancing away with his ukelele and choosing life the way Maude would have wanted.

"Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted. He lived happily ever after."

"Mr. Rusk -- you're not wearing your tie."

John Wintergreen's body in a heap on an empty highway in the desert. The Wicker Man burning. Michael Corleone reflecting on his path. King Arthur arrested for murder and the film simply stopping. Rocky and Adrian. Trelkovsky trapped in his(?) mind and losing his sanity. Barry saying "Goodbye" to the alien ship. Donald Sutherland pointing and screaming an accusing, alien scream. Senator and Mrs. John Blutarsky. Superman over the Earth.

"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you. Be cunning and full of tricks, and your kind shall never be destroyed."

Joe Gideon's floor show farewell. Chance the Gardener walking on water. "Always look on the bright side of life."

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending,
Keep believing, keep pretending,
We've done just what we've set out to do,
Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers,
And you."

The Tall Man reappering. Harold Shand, captured by the IRA, experiencing every emotion before grim acceptance. Nancy Allen's scream. Frank walking off into the Chicago night. The Supreme Being rolling up the map.

"I'll be right here."

"She will remember you when men are books in fairy tales written by rabbits."

"Young. I feel... young."

"If we've got any surprises for each other, I don't think either one of us is in much shape to do anything about it."

"The Mercury program was over. Four years later, astronaut Gus Grissom was killed, along with astronauts White and Chaffee, when fire swept through their Apollo capsule. But on that glorious day in May 1963, Gordo Cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American. 22 complete orbits around the world; he was the last American ever to go into space alone. And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen."

Ash overcome by the Evil Dead; Ash trapped in time. Bastian and Falkor. Sam Lowry's final end. Newt finally able to dream.

"What better way could anything end?
Hand in hand with a friend."

"Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."

"Nice shooting, son, what's your name?"
"Murphy."

"It wasn't just a story, was it?"

Ray and John playing catch in the night. Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court going to England.

"'And the sea shall grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.' Christopher Columbus."
"Welcome to the New World, Admiral."

"Look in your heart!"
"What heart?"

Grofaz. Sharon choosing to remain in limbo forever. Newland Archer preserving the past by walking away. Wyatt Earp and Josephine dancing together in the snow; "Tom Mix wept." Jules and Vincent leaving the diner. Red and Andy meeting on the beach.

"That'll do, pig. That'll do."

Auggie's Christmas story. Sam Deeds and Pilar Cruz choosing to be together anyway. Vincent Freeman going into outer space. Rico's Roughnecks: they will fight, and they will win. Dean Corso returning to the devil. Alvin Straight and his brother on the porch. The Iron Giant repairing himself in the snow. Jen Yu leaping into the waterfall. Rob Gordon making the mixtape of his future. Will realizing that every man is an island... but some are part of island chains.

Warren Schmidt realizing he's made life better for one person and finally, genuinely, a smile.

All is well: "Thank you. Thank you very much."

"Well, I'm back."

Bob Harris whispering into Charlotte's ear, and they walk away from each other happy.

Shaun and Zombie Ed in the shed. "Lens cap." "Cheeeeeeese!" Owen Lars with baby Luke, looking out at the twin suns setting. "Oh, Jack. I swear." Daniel Plainview and a bowling ball; "I'm done." "Okay, okay... I am Iron Man."

"I never said thank you."
"And you'll never have to."

"Are you sorry we missed it?"
"We didn't miss anything; this is it."

My 10 Favorite Movie Posters of 2008

10. The Other Boleyn Girl. Three people I'm physically attracted to, put them in Tudor clothing, and put them in close proximity. If only the movie had been as sexy as this poster. Or sexy at all...

9. Fix. I don't know what this movie is, to be honest, but I like this sort of horror movie scarecrow imagery.

8. 10,000 BC. This is an image right out of my dreams, and basically the entire reason why I wanted to see what ended up being a very dull and dreary movie. I remember, back in the early eighties, when my family used to go to the movies. My mom and I would walk down the hallway looking at all of the posters, and we saw a poster that got us excited: Yor, Hunter from the Future. It was a barbarian-looking man on a high cliff, with a prehistoric, dinosaur-filled jungle below and flying saucers in the sky above. How could that not be cool? The answer is, quite easily. Yor sucks. I should've kept that in mind when I saw pyramids and prehistoric beasts. 10,000 BC was even worse than it should have looked. But the image here is fantastic.

7. Quantum of Solace. The silhouette in the poster looks exactly like the ending of Casino Royale. It got me excited.

6. The Spirit. Do I really need to explain why I love this poster?

5. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Whatever you think of these movies, this teaser poster with NPH astride a unicorn is -- wait for it -- awesome.

4. Religulous. Still haven't seen this movie. But that poster pretty much says it all for me on my feelings about organized religion.

3. W. I tend to get really sick of the concept of the poster series, but I liked these. Taken together, they're pretty much how I used to feel about George W. Bush before his absolute, heartless evil became apparent. It was bad enough when he was just a clown. Oliver Stone's movie and these posters captured that moment in time. Bonus: great tag line.

2. WALL-E. There's probably never going to be a more effective poster theme for me than a character looking out into the world or into outer space. More than just dreaminess, there's a hope to it. A sense of awe and possibility. WALL-E is a character I instantly cared for because, brilliantly, he's reminiscent of characters I grew up with. And I wanted him to succeed even before I saw the movie as a result. Also, another great tag line. It's a dying art.

1. The Dark Knight. Of the eleven billion Dark Knight posters this year, this was, for me, the most effective. Savage but murky, like violence simmering under an unclear surface, this was the first real indicator for me that Christopher Nolan's movie was going to be something different from any other superhero movie. Of course, I was disappointed by the movie, but that's a whole other story. This poster is great.

2006
2007

Runners-Up

And Starring Don Knotts in "Too Many Batmen"

Dear Dan Didio and DC Comics,

This kind of shit is the reason why I don't collect comics anymore.

Why is it that you people can't just, I don't know, write stories anymore? Why have stories been replaced with wallet-busting "events" that settle nothing, accomplish nothing, and have no dramatic value? Seriously, just leave it alone and tell stories instead of catering to the continuity porn crowd. Why do people who just like Batman or Superman or the Flash have to suffer and be left out because you're catering to a bunch of obsessive-compulsives? A few writers have gone mad with power and given the keys to do whatever they want. Batman's father is alive and really a killer! Superman isn't an alien, he's just a scientologist! Hal Jordan and the Joker used to be next door neighbors! Dr. Psycho is pissed off at Wonder Woman because he used to be her dentist and she still owes him for bridgework! All this and more in the upcoming 79-part No, Really, We Swear, It's the Final Crisis This Time, Honest! Oh, and the big reveal? This is all the work of Bat-Mite.

Seriously, what the hell happened?

Sincerely (but uncaringly),
SamuraiFrog

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Song of the Week: "My Way"

Seemed like an appropriate tune for the last Song of the Week of 2008. This is always a great clip.

Awesome Poster or Awesomest Poster?

Certitude

BECCA: [glancing at the computer screen from across the apartment] Who's the ugly chick on the cover of GQ?

ME: You can tell it's an ugly chick from the other side of the apartment, but you can't tell who it is?

BECCA: It's GQ. It's always an ugly chick on the cover of GQ.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Star Wars Musical Kerfuffle

or, How Fandamentalist Internerds Predictably Overreact

This was a funny/revelatory week for overreaction among the more panicky sectors of fandom. Apparently, Yahoo! News reported that George Lucas had signed off on Star Wars: A Musical Journey, which was basically a concert performance of John Williams music accompanied by clips from all six films. (I believe this is an expansion on something that went around in the eighties, isn't it?) Well, somehow this immediately morphed into a story that I saw repeated endlessly on film site after film site after film site: George Lucas is doing a Star Wars musical featuring singing Wookies and a chorus line of Stormtroopers.

Everyone got into quite the snit over it.

You know the typical cries.

"George Lucas hates us!"

"This is raping my sweet childhood memories!"

"This is the death of everything good in the world!"

All of that hilarious whining the fantards do when they see the unshakable seriousneness of their pet love (if you discount all of the humor and cuteness and silliness of the actual movies themselves) being tossed about.

The most hilarious thing about all this is that there isn't a Star Wars stage musical being done. It just got out of hand and, thirsty for something else Star Wars-related to get self-righteous about, the fantards immediately started crying infant tears. It was awesome.

Seriously, now, I love Star Wars. Try as the fantards did to make it distasteful and embarrassing to say so, I'm finally at the point in my life where I can say I love Star Wars again. I'm not one of those people who loves and apologizes for everything with the label on it, nor am I one of those people who seems to have decided that loving Star Wars means being displeased with everything for not being as wonderful and serious as that thing you loved when you were a sophisticated, objective six year-old. But I do think that loving Star Wars means you like what you like, you ignore what you don't like, you appreciate that George Lucas has kept to his vision, and you know that when there's something big and stupid that you don't like, it's not a big deal.

I don't know why so many Star Wars fans feel the need to jump up and scream loudly against something like a Star Wars musical, as though this, somehow, after 31 years of commercialization and marketing and exploitation, this is going to be the thing that finally takes all of the dignity out of Star Wars. It's like they have to make sure we know that they don't condone this, that their love of Star Wars is separate from this thing that they think is crass or whatever. Which is kind of like apologizing to other people for being a Star Wars fan. Which someone would only have to do because they were embarrassed by being a Star Wars fan. That they were afraid of seeming childish to others and constantly on guard against that.

Which, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, is an immature, insecure fear.

And which is why I tend to hate the fans who have nothing better to do than grumble about all of the things they "disapprove of" in Star Wars. Because being a fan means constant criticism and not, I dunno, enjoyment. Would you be happier if George Lucas had never bothered to create the whole thing? Where's your precious, over-revered childhood now?

To the people who thought George Lucas hated them and that he was doing this on purpose to fuck with you: good. You deserve fucking with. You deserve the hatred.

Can you imagine sitting in an office and writing and rewriting and polishing this stuff, and coming up with ideas, and investing all of this money and time and effort and innovative special effects into something, spending years working on it and doing it the best you could and the way you wanted it, just to hear a chorus of "Jar Jar sucks!" and "Wah, children in sci-fi, I can't stand it!"? I would hate you people, too. I would do everything I could to fuck with you. I'd reveal that Anakin Skywalker was a mutated Ewok all along just to piss you people off even more. And that Yoda was Jar Jar from the future. And then I'd thank you for all of the money you keep spending on this thing that you profess to hate.

Just because you need constant reminders that you don't own it. That it's not your creative voice that decides what happens.

Which makes George Lucas a better person than me, honestly. He's just following his vision despite the constant stream of hatred and heckling and dickery.

But you know what? Star Wars doesn't need the obsessive Fandamentalist shepherding. It has survived many things. Take, for example, the putrid Star Wars Holiday Special, which has way too much nerd cred these days but, when watched, is not good. At all. It's not so-bad-it's-good or even so-bad-it's-funny; it's so bad it's bad. And that was when Star Wars was just over a year old. I was two. Somehow, Star Wars got over it and moved on. It survived bubble baths and shampoo bottles; it survived the terrible Droids and Ewoks cartoons; it survived the Christmas album, Christmas in the Stars, which actually is so-bad-it's-completely-awesome; hell, it survived disco music. Star Wars is bigger than all of that, and even though the movies are great, it's bigger than those. Once you get it away from the insane acolytes who have appointed themselves the modern guardians of it, Star Wars is awesome. It's too big to be destroyed by a musical or Caravan of Courage or any other product under the sun.

(Side note: Ewoks rock. Get over it. It's been 25 years. Get a life. Gungans do, too.)

And, you know, how hypocritical are the fantards, anyway? It's always okay when it's some (admittedly hilarious) Family Guy episode or some pompous novel series or godawful filking contest. Those aren't indignities to be suffered, but a musical is somehow the worst thing anyone could think of to do to Star Wars? What?

You know, there should be a Star Wars musical. It should totally exist. It should be over-the-top and awesome. Someone needs to get Joe Steinman or (oh yes) Paul Williams working on that right away. With singing Wookies and a chorus line of Stormtroopers.

Because the right kind of adult knows it would be sublimely awesome.