I was in time to get another doodle from Splotchy! And it's me, stealing his brain. Mwahahahahaha!!!
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Like I knew I would, I ended up watching the second season of Heroes this week on DVD.
Where to start with this show?
Let me just say this: I remember liking the first season a lot. It started off so slow that I actually stopped watching it about three weeks in. Then NBC helpfully showed a marathon of the first five episodes, and there was more momentum watching them all in a row, and it really got me into the show. I ended up enjoying the whole thing, even the much-maligned ending, and I was ready for another season.
But I did make one prediction. I predicted that a second season of Heroes would be the same as the first. It would start off slow--too slow--with painstaking set-up, then it would pick up momentum and the second half would be great. But I also predicted the show would lose a lot of viewers who had forgotten how slow the set-up on the first season was, and that they would complain season two was far too slow.
Hey, guess what? That absolutely happened. The American TV viewer is nothing if not predictable. But hey, I did the same thing. I chucked season two in the middle of episode 3 and said I'd rather see it on DVD.
On DVD, the second season of Heroes is... well, it's exactly the same experience I had with the first season. There's more momentum when viewed all in a row, but it's the same thing: a couple of interesting characters, boring set-up that in many cases runs far, far too long, then interesting stuff is finally revealed about halfway through and it's a mad dash to get to the ending. That part is really exciting. But getting there can be a tough scrape. Oh, boy, can it ever.
This next part may be spoilery, I guess, but I'm just going to comment on the characters briefly. First off, my favorites pretty much remained the same. I still love Claire and especially her father, Noah Bennett, even though Claire was stuck with a lame love interest, West (even his name is douchey), a kid who can fly and is the typical "Me pushing you around to be the way I want you to be is love" character you find on a lot of poorly-written American TV. I still feel sympathy for Nikki, even though the writers don't do dick with her, and I still have no real opinion on Micah. I think they way D.L. died between seasons is kind of bullshit, though, all that just to be shot by some ass in Vegas? I love Parkman, I can put up with Suresh (even though the writers want him to be so absolutely moral that he doesn't have much to do that comes out of character instead of half-baked principle). I love the little girl (Molly?). Peter Petrelli is one of the most annoying characters on TV; he was well-cast as Rocky's son in Rocky Balboa, because Milo Ventimiglia acts a lot like him, complete with twisted-mouth-screaming-as-emotion. Nathan was better this season, mostly because he'd accepted a lot and wasn't so much of a prig. And Hiro was pretty decent; he had to be a lot more dramatic this season, so the fun wasn't quite there, but he had a nice arc. Ando's always great.
New characters: I couldn't have given less of a shit about Alejandro and Maya beyond "Alright, a hot Latina character! Finally!" They were boring and whiny. Maybe Maya will be more interesting this coming season. I liked Monica; I thought she was kind of neat. By far, my favorite character was Kristen Bell as Elle, who got off on using her powers in the service of the Company. She was just so deliciously into it. She was great. Stephen Tobolowsky was also great as this season's shadowy behind-the-scenes guy, especially after the first couple of episodes when I no longer had the urge to say "Bing!" after anything he said.
Oh, and I still find Sylar a scary villain, despite the fact that he's just so bland. I liked Zachary Quinto much better as the gay best friend on So NoTORIous.
All told, I enjoyed season two of Heroes, except that it was so short (eleven episodes). On the one hand, I wonder what would have happened if they'd kept going. The ending almost seems abrupt, so I'm sure a number of the characters we saw on this season will be coming back. The third season is subtitled "Villains," so I figure we'll see more of Maury Parkman and Adam Monroe (there are some scenes which indicate that on the DVD; footage for what would have been episodes 12 and 13, which I imagine we'll see in the third season).
I'm not sure if I'll catch the third season on TV or not. I mean, on the one hand, it'll be the same as the other two: it will start very slowly, with lots of set up, and it won't get interesting until around mid-November or so. But on the other hand, Kristen Bell is on it. Oh, man, Kristen Bell... You know, I got so sick of waiting around to find a clean copy of Veronica Mars on DVD or on the internet so I could finally see it (the Netflix copies were horribly scratched and unwatchable) that I waited until Best Buy had a sale and bought all three seasons, sight unseen? And you know what? Totally worth the money. Completely worth the money.
But what's going to be the weakness of Heroes is that it's repetitive. Like a comic book, it's the same thing over and over. This second season was almost exactly the same as the first: Peter doesn't know what his powers are, no one is sure who the villain is, and they have to stop a future disaster that will wipe out New York City, and somehow Claire is the key. Is the third season going to be the same?
Honestly, the best thing about Heroes is that it's written exactly like a comic book. But the worst thing about Heroes is that it's written exactly like a comic book.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.
1. Here’s the Canadian poster for Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It’s been banned in the United States because, you know, this is the raunchiest thing we could ever see here. At least we still get David Beckham’s giant dick in an underwear ad.
2. I just wanted to say that I saw Metallica’s new album available for free, illegal download on no less than 14 sites this morning. Because it makes me smile. Suck it, Metallica. Suck it all.
3. Jessica Alba didn’t breastfeed her new baby? Wasn’t that, like, half of what she talked about before she whelped? How she was going to spend all this time with the baby and how she was looking forward to breastfeeding and her career was going to come second? Since the birth, she’s lost as much weight as possible as quickly as possible, gone back to work, and started getting hammered drunk again (as she reportedly was at the DNC). Dude, breastfeeding may not be for a lot of women, but don’t make yourself out to be a saint who proselytizes the gospel that breastfeeding is the right thing for mothers to do and then decide you’d rather just collect the baby picture check from the tabloids, drop the kid off with a nanny, and then get back on with your life. Do you Hollywood idiots realize that everything you say to the media can be, like, checked later?
4. Since David Duchovny went into rehab for his painfully-announced-just-in-time-for-the-second-season-of-Californication-and-somehow-unbelievable sex addiction, Johnston & Murphy, who had hired Duchovny to be the face of their clothing line, dropped him from their ads. Because, you know, you don’t want to damage your brand of clothing by associating it with a guy who gets laid all the time.
5. Jim Keyes, CEO of Blockbuster Video: “I’ve been frankly confused by this fascination that everybody has with Netflix […] Why would anyone want to watch anything other than new releases? I don’t care how many movies are available to me. As my personal taste as a customer, I want to watch the new stuff so whether we have 10,000 movies or 200 movies doesn’t matter if I don’t want to see any of the movies we have.” Wow, what a difference. Scratching his head while the ship sinks around him. Ever wonder why Netflix is eating your lunch, Jim?
6. Cindy McCain told an interviewer that she was offended by Democrats who paint her and her husband as out of touch, mega-rich elitists who own multiple homes. She thinks Obama has gone too far. Of course, it was her husband who tried to paint Obama as a rich elitist first... And he’s not worth $100 million like Cindy McCain is. She insists she should have some kind of freedom from criticism because her parents worked hard to raise the money she now idly lives off of without ever having had to work a day in her life. They scraped from nothing, she says, so somehow living off of their hard work makes her not an elitist, but a self-made person by osmosis. This is probably the same logic she used to determine that Sarah Palin had foreign policy experience because Alaska is so close to Russia. Incidentally, Cindy McCain’s father was a convicted felon who bought a racetrack with a convicted bookie. The American success story. I guess instead of focusing on how rich she is, we should all talk about how she stole drugs from her own charity instead.
7. Again I ask: why do we need to stay in Iraq? Thousands dead, billions of dollars wasted, and Iraq has made its first oil deal. With China. A $3 billion oil deal with China. Oh, and they’re talking about selling Jordan oil for $22 per barrel. So, Bush and Cheney couldn’t even get the oil-stealing part of their oil-stealing war right.
8. Congressman Charles Rangel sold his vacation home and made $75,000. Which he didn’t report to the IRS. If only he’d ever been in charge of a House committee on creating taxes, maybe he would’ve known better…
9. According to rumors in the McCain campaign, “But I’m a War Prisoner” wanted to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but knew his campaign couldn’t withstand the pressure from social conservatives if he made that choice. So, being the maverick that he is, he crumbled into his need to pander to the religious right instead. Lieberman, incidentally, when asked if he thought Sarah Palin was qualified to lead should something happen to McCain, said: “Let’s assume the best.”
10. In Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva found out that his intelligence agency was spying on members of Congress and the Supreme Court chief. And yet, instead of claiming that the president needs to be able to spy to catch terrorists, he called it an abomination and suspended the entire leadership of the intelligence agency pending an investigation. Brazil is nowhere near perfect, but they’ve beat President Bush on this one.
11. Also in foreign news: Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda resigned, citing a 29% approval rating and a weakening economy. Hmm… that sounds like someone familiar…
12. From the “It’s only bad when it happens to us” school of legislation: Senator Ted Stevens is absolutely outraged that the investigation against him includes 100 hours of secretly taped phone calls. His lawyer is demanding that the evidence not be admitted, because it’s illegal to wiretap people not named in a lawsuit. If only Stevens had been in a position to do something about illegal wiretapping…
13. Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison. I hope he enjoys being aggressively lobbied for pork subsidies…
14. Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain: “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” I’m going to let Obama campaign manager David Plouffe take this one: “We appreciate Senator McCain’s campaign manager finally admitting that his campaign is not in fact about the issues the American people care about, which is exactly the kind of cynical old politics people are ready to change.”
15. The most sickening sight this week was watching John McCain politicking around the Gulf Coast and pretending he gives a shit about those people. He’s never once made reconstruction of the Gulf a point in his campaign, and he hasn’t cared much about it in the past three years. In fact, the week after Katrina hit, he cautioned Congress not to spend too much money on helping Katrina victims because “we’re going to end up with the highest deficit, probably, in the history of this country.” Then he went back to ignoring the destruction of the wetlands, the cronyism that continues to make the reconstruction inadequate, the mismanagement in FEMA, the rebuilding of the levies, and the insurance companies who are screwing over the victims, and went back to maverick-ly mavericking for more troops and more war. McCain also voted against establishing a Congressional committee to examine the response of Katrina. Twice. He also voted against allowing 52 weeks of unemployment benefits to the victims and against appropriating $109 billion in supplemental emergency funding. But, you know, McCain cares so much about people that he cancelled most of the first day of the RNC, something that neither party did even during World War II because, you know, nothing’s supposed to stop democracy. Except vanity, I guess. Always with McCain’s monstrous vanity. And, of course, anything to distract from his terrifying incompetence.
16. The Republican National Convention, claiming a monopoly on patriotism and nationalism, demonizing the opposition as traitors, stressing ignorance as a virtue, fetishizing the military, emphasizing martyr rituals, and rallying behind an ex-military man with a bad temper and hollow promises to win the masses over even as he plans to fuck them in the ass. Sure, they’re not advocating liquidation of undesirable people (you know, openly), so I guess we’re safe. The Republican Party cares more about the politics of abortion, gender, and energy than anything else. Except, of course, whether or not you subscribe to their insane beliefs that Jesus picks the President of the United States and really wants a pipeline in Alaska. Conservatives… is this what you really want?
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I ended up watching Sarah Palin's speech last night. All it proved was that she could read. Oh, and that she, like McCain, is willing to say anything to get elected, no matter how big a lie it is. Incidentally, her speech was written by Matthew Scully, the same guy who wrote Dan Quayle's acceptance speech, which shows the continuing Republican inability to learn from past stupidities.
Of course the audience went nuts over her, but making the RNC clap like chimps is pretty damn easy; all you need to do is tell lies when complaining about how much Democrats lie. It's not exactly like she had a high bar to reach for, really. (And by the way; is there anyone in the Republican Party who isn't fat, white, and over 60? That's the way it looked on TV. Was Sarah Palin really just added to the ticket to counter that image? She's like Corrupt Alaska Governor Barbie.)
Yes, the lies, and there were many of them. Here are a few.
1. She said that she knew drilling wasn't a solution to America's energy needs. But in July she said "I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem or that more supply won't ultimately affect prices."
2. Palin once again repeated her claim that she didn't support the Bridge to Nowhere. It's still a lie, no matter how many times she says it. She fought for it pretty heartily. You know why she didn't get the bridge? Because the earmark had been removed before she was even Governor of Alaska. She wasn't in a position to tell Congress anything on the bridge. But when she was campaigning, she really wanted that money. For chrissakes, the bridge was going to an island with 50 residents and an airport. And once there was no longer an earmark, she still took the money and spent it on other projects. But she's right, there's no bridge.
3. Palin said she was a friend and advocate to people with disabilities and that using the power of veto in defense of the public interest works. In reality, she's vetoed money to replace unsafe sports equipment for an elementary school, money for repairing school buses, and money for an asthma control program for the American Lung Association of Alaska. She's vetoed over $4 million to expand Alaskan hospitals and replace outdated equipment. And she's vetoed senior housing money, even vetoing money requested for basic facilities repairs and, for the Angoon Senior Center, a stove, refrigerator and freezer -- twice.
4. Not really a lie, but she keeps mentioning her smalltown mayoral experience as though it was some sort of pastoral simple life out of a 1950s movie. Actually, spending skyrocketed in Wasilla after she took office by 63%. She supported an increase in sales tax (gee, I thought she was against raising taxes) and left behind a $20 million debt. Before she was Mayor of Wasilla, there was no debt at all.
5. Sarah Palin said, yet again, that she took on the special interests, lobbyists, and big oil companies in Alaska. Meanwhile, her Lieutenant Governor is a former oil lobbyist. She's nowhere if not in the pocket of Big Oil. She even fought against further federal protection for polar bears because she was worried it would hinder more offshore drilling. And, of course, she wants to drill in ANWR.
6. If Governor Palin were smart, she wouldn't bring up the ethics reform issue at all. But she crowed about her major ethics reform. The same one she signed into legislation right after one Alaska state representative was convicted on seven federal extortion and bribery counts. The same reform that didn't require that all campaign contributions be reported. Palin herself is under investigation for some major ethics violations, such as using her pull to hire supporters to government jobs and to fire others. Yeah, she claims that state trooper she tried to have fired, her former brother-in-law, was stalking her sister. Too bad he claims she wanted to fire him because he was going through a bitter custody battle. And what about the way she made all those officials in Wasilla resign as a loyalty test? She fired the chief of police because she knew in her heart he didn't support her? That doesn't sound mavericky to me. (Thanks, MC, for that link; that's just chilling.)
7. Another thing Palin should never bring up again is earmark spending. It's been one of McCain's big issues. Now, McCain has stupidly cut the balls off his campaign by making his main attack on Obama the one about how Obama is inexperienced, and then picking someone with less experience. But another of his pet causes has been ending earmark spending, and she's decided to paint herself as someone devoted to the same cause. Too bad she hired a lobbyist and ran repeatedly to Washington every year she was mayor to request $27 million in earmarks. And, as governor, she's requested nearly $750 million in pork, the highest per capita in the nation by far. In fact, John McCain himself has actually criticized her for it in the past, though I doubt he remembers it. The Los Angeles Times reported just yesterday that McCain's catalogs of objectionable spending have included Wasilla, Alaska, three times.
8. As for her claim that she's worked with Alaska's energy producers to make energy abundant in her state, she was heavily criticized for wanting to export natural gas to Japan and other Asian countries while Alaska was undergoing an energy crisis. As for the renewable energy she pledged, she's cut funding in Alaska for renewable energy, including vetoing $40 million toward wind power projects.
9. She claimed Obama wants to raise taxes, which he has said a few times he doesn't want to do. "Taxes are too high," she said. She neglected to mention that she has raised taxes in Alaska.
10. Where is all of Palin's faith in McCain suddenly coming from? Back in February, she refused to endorse McCain because he opposed ANWR drilling and was basically an enemy of Ted Stevens's overspending in Alaska. She still refused to support McCain in July.
11. Palin's right; Obama has never passed a major law or a sweeping reform. Well, unless you count the 2007 Ethics Reform Law, one of the most sweeping government reforms in 30 years. And tell me Republicans wouldn't like to do away with that; I'm sure they miss the free meals, gifts, and campaign contributions. That was Reid, Obama, and Feingold there. Also, there was the Illinois State Gift Ban Act, a pretty major reform, and the Cooperative Proliferation Detection Act, which tracks down loose nuclear weapons to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. He also passed a law to ensure that wounded veterans in military hospitals don't have to pay for their meals or phone calls, as well as a bill expanding health care coverage for veterans. He sponsored a bill adopting a $100 million earned income tax credit in Illinois and another bill reforming capital punishment.
Oh, there will be more ranting to come from me in the near future.
But for now, I want to focus on two things.
First: of everything Sarah Palin said, the one thing she should never, ever have done is belittle community organizers. She denigrated the service that they do for their communities--service that the government doesn't provide--and the audience laughed. I knew the second I heard it that this was something that could potentially kill the campaign. That was a stupid, stupid thing to do, and it will haunt Sarah Palin. The McCain campaign is trying to portray this woman as a candidate who really understands small town America. They keep pointing to her leadership of the PTA, a community ogranization, as experience that proves she can lead. And here they are, the fat pigs on the deck of the yacht, laughing at the "little" people who are doing their work for them.
Someone from the media really needs to go around with a camera and ask the people who are organizing community groups in support of the McCain/Palin campaign how they feel about her idiot remark. I would dearly love to see that.
Check out this video of Roland Martin, visibly angry about Palin's remark on CNN.
[Video via Daily Kos]
He's upset, and rightly so. Because what Palin forgets, in her mad leap to make her own meager achievements look bigger than they are by ridiculing what community organizers do so it looks petty in comparison, is that community organizers are major forces for local change. And local change itself is a powerful force for national change. You know who was a community organizer? Martin Luther King, Jr. Cesar Chavez. Gandhi. Oh, and the people who ORGANIZED the colonial COMMUNITY, fought the Revolution and founded America. You want to talk "actual responsibilities," let's start there.
She's lost people with this one. The first message board I saw about this topic started with this entry: "Oh, so I guess my sister doesn't have a real job then... the people in her community would disagree." Republicans love to yammer on about how private citizens should be the ones volunteering to help the poor in their community; when those people do, the Republicans mock those people for not having "real" jobs. She slapped those people--those middle American, low-income people trying to make a difference, the very people she is supposed to be so good at understanding--directly across the face.
Another comment on that message board: "What do community organizers do? Well, I am one, and I only legislate..."
You know what the difference is between a pit bull and this hockey mom? The pit bull is much smarter.
Oh, and the second thing I wanted to mention: Palin and McCain love to cry sexism every time someone brings up a legitimate issue about Palin (even though, come on, have you seen the condescending way McCain speaks to and about her?). Meanwhile, while watching the RNC coverage last night on ABC, some reporter or other summed up Palin's speech by saying "She's one tough cookie." He'd never have said that about a male candidate, would he?
Bill Melendez died Tuesday at the age of 91. Apparently he had been in poor health for some time. He had a long and varied career in animation, starting at Disney in 1938, working in shorts and on the films Bambi, Fantasia, and Dumbo. In 1941, he joined Leon Schlesinger's studio and worked under Bob Clampett and Art Davis, animating on some classic shorts (including The Great Piggy Bank Robbery) before joining UPA in 1948 and animating on television commercials and shorts in the Gerald McBoing Boing series and the classic Madeline. He spent another decade working at other studios doing all manner of commercial and industrial films (and even the opening title sequence for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World).
Melendez opened his own production company in 1964 and, with short notice and a tight budget, produced A Charlie Brown Christmas. He won an Emmy for it, and a Peabody Award, and ended up sticking with Charlie Brown for the rest of his career (except, notably, when he made the TV movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1979, which has a surprising cult following). He made over 75 Peanuts specials, winning a number of awards, including eight Emmys (and 17 nominations). And he delighted a lot of children who, like me, saw a lot of themselves in Charlie Brown and still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year.
A great source of animation, especially in the lean years when there wasn't much quality to be found; Bill Melendez, thanks for everything.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Via MarketWatch's Election Blog: The war in Iraq is part of God’s plan, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in June in a speech at her former church.
Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate whose son will deploy to Iraq in a few weeks, told the students that “our national leaders, are sending [the troops] out on a task that is from God.”
Building a natural-gas pipeline is also part of God’s will, she said [...] she exhorted the students to pray for pipeline, saying “we can work together to make sure God’s will is done.” She said God wanted to extract natural resources.
So, the Bristol Palin thing.
The McCain campaign insists that any discussion of Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter is unacceptable. Obama agrees, proving once again that in their effort to remain dignified and symbols of political responsibility, Democrats will always shoot themselves in the foot by turning the other cheek.
Well, I'm not a Democrat, and I think we need to discuss what Bristol Palin, the pregnant daughter of an advocate for abstinence-only sex education and a candidate for vice president, really represents to the country. It's a legitimate issue, and not just because Republicans would use this tirelessly against a Democrat. This is about public policy issues on which Sarah Palin has political positions. She is anti-sex education (including even basic information on birth control to teenagers) and anti-abortion.
Sarah Palin supposedly allowed Bristol Palin the choice to keep her baby. They were free to make that decision. And the governor is, supposedly, "proud" of her daughter's "choice." But, if Governor Palin's rhetoric is to be believed, no one should be allowed to make that choice in the first place. The Palins have painted this as a decision, one made, as anyone's would be, in line with their religious convictions and their family's values and their personal consciences. And that is just the freedom Governor Palin and her ilk want to deny everyone else in the country.
The reason the campaign wants to say this whole situation is out of bounds is pretty obvious: they don't want it to be as obvious as it already is that Governor Palin's daughter was allowed to make a decision on a personal issue. A decision that she thinks no one else's daughter should be allowed to have. Because no one else's teen pregnancy is a private issue; it's a government issue.
This is like McCain saying that universal health coverage is socialism, while enjoying just over a quarter-century of free health care.
How beauty queen/newscaster stupid do you have to be to agree to become the number 2 in a federal election campaign when your high school senior daughter is five months pregnant? Or is it just that your personal ambitions are more important than saving your daughter the embarrassment?
Even the evangelical pro-life movements are thrilled with Bristol's "decision," with the Family Research Council releasing a statement praising her for "choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation." What choice? I thought the whole point of pro-life is that you don't have a choice? If you had a choice... that would be pro-choice.
McCain, of course, agrees with President Bush's policy of raising the number of teen pregnancies in this country by refusing to educate them about safe sex. And Governor Palin, ironically, used her line item veto this year to slash funding for a state program providing housing for unwed teenage mothers. Palin, one of an alarming number of Republican parents who think a 17 year-old child is perfectly capable of making her own life-ruining adult decisions, is also apparently proud of her daughter for marrying the father of her baby, a self-professed redneck who says right on his MySpace page that he doesn't want kids. Your teenage daughter is marrying a total loser because he knocked her up, and we're supposed to believe you're happy about this "decision"? That you applaud it? Are you that detached, or do you just want to win that badly?
So, remember now, Sarah Palin's position on family values is this:
* YOUR daughter can't learn about birth control and safe sex.
* YOUR daughter can't have an abortion, even if she's raped (and even if she's raped by a family member) or if her life is endangered by the pregnancy.
* YOUR daughter can't get shelter or financial help once she has the baby.
But we should also consider the realities on display here:
* Abstinence-only education is a complete failure.
* Even if you're the one teaching abstinence-only education, your kids are still going to have sex.
* John McCain gave no thought to thoroughly vetting his VP pick, no thought to governing the country in the future, but is only trying to pull out a quick fix to win.
Again: he isn't thinking about governance. He only cares about winning the election. And this hurts him either way. Because if he drops Palin and picks up Lieberman, as many are suggesting, he not only alienates his precious religious right, he also looks like a man weak on decision making. And if he keeps Sarah Palin... well, it just becomes more of a joke.
Obama said he wanted equal pay for equal work because he wanted his daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons. Sarah Palin apparently wants her daughters to have the opportunities that your own shouldn't be allowed to.
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
WANDA NEVADA (1979)
Peter Fonda plays a gambler in the 1950s West, wins an orphaned 13 year-old girl in a card game (Brooke Shields), falls in love with her, finds a map to a gold reserve in the Grand Canyon, and is menaced by two thugs and the ghost of an Apache warrior. The movie can't decide whether or not its made for kids or for... well, someone else, I guess. Because Peter Fonda also directed it, it really stretches the limits of tolerance. ** stars.
SMILEY FACE (2007)
How does Greg Arakki keep getting to direct movies? Like most of his movies, there are some funny moments and some so-so style choices, a better cast than he deserves, and no real ending so much as a stop to all of the random, vaguely interrelated scenes that went before it. Still, it had Anna Faris in it, and that meant I had to see it eventually. And you know what? She's really good in it. She's really funny as an actress who accidentally eats a bunch of hash cupcakes and spends the whole movie manic and stoned out of her skull. I love her. The movie.... well, as an Anna Faris transmission device, it's A-OK, but as a movie... ** stars.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
I've been trying not to think too much about McCain's running mate. I mean, I wonder how some wizard took abject stupidity and gave it human form, but the entire choice of Sarah Palin as running mate... it's so incredibly stupid that it's hard to get a handle on it. So I'm just going to randomly throw out some of the stupidity on display in an attempt to wrap my brain around the stupid stupid stupidity that is McCain/Palin 2008.
1. I'm sick of hearing about how hot she is. Yeah, she's okay, but just listen to her talk for even a few moments. She's a world class moron, and I don't really need a reason to appreciate someone so awful on any level.
2. She's been governor of America's emptiest state for less than two years, and was the mayor of a town that is two-thirds less populous than the small suburb I grew up in (a suburb so small that people to the east closer to the Chicago have only occasionally heard of it). How does someone yammering on, as McCain has been, that Obama is too young and inexperienced to be president still look credible after picking a younger, more inexperienced running mate?
3. There is far too much cynical faux-feminism on display here. It's cynical because John McCain is trying to get the votes of the disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters, a tactic which, thankfully, seems not to be working. They're pretty offended by such a calculated and condescending choice of an airhead over someone who appears capable. She also mollifies conservatives who have decided over the years that someone's stance on abortion is much more important than their ability to govern, because she's so militantly anti-choice.
4. Palin said that she doesn't even know what a vice-president does. Didn't McCain say that he didn't want to pick someone at the last minute who wasn't prepared? The only reason she was picked was to counter any upswing Obama would get from his excellent acceptance speech.
5. Sarah Palin's biggest achievements seem to be heading the PTA, being a high school point guard, being a beauty pageant runner-up, and having done sports for a news program in the eighties. Did you hear her speech from last Friday? She sounded like she was opening a bake sale, not about to sit one life away from the highest office in the land.
6. Republicans seriously need to stop saying that a woman running mate in 2008 is a "historic choice."
7. I remember last year when McCain's campaign was all but dead. The genuine conservatives, the ones who hate the neocons and George W. Bush and their extravagent, economy-destroying spending, refused to support him. So, in the first of many attempts at epic pandering, McCain started sucking up to the religious fundamentalists, and his campaign picked up. The genuine conservatives were disgusted, because they're sick of their party coming across as ridiculous by letting in every tinfoil hat-wearing nutjob and taking them seriously. Those same people are now falling all over themselves to donate to the campaign because McCain picked a conservative running mate. So, those genuine conservatives that seemed to really be thinking about policy? Yeah, turns out they're idiots.
8. McCain only met Sarah Palin once six months ago and then followed up with a phone call to confirm she'd accept the job. This is how he picks a running mate? What did he do, open the phone book, blindfold himself and throw a dart? Does he really consider the office of vice president so worthless that he doesn't need to think about his choice beyond winning the election?
9. According to a post at Daily Kos, Sarah Palin may be editing her own Wikipedia entry to call herself, among other things, "a politican of eye-popping integrity." I just find it hilarious. And, if true, I see McCain has managed to pick a running mate just as incredibly vain as he is.
10. By the way, when Palin was a small town mayor, she left said town $20 million in debt. How the hell do you leave a town of about 9000 people $20 million in debt? She was also for censorship in her town's library and believes creationism should be taught in schools.
11. As governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has vetoed wind power and clean coal projects and supported ANWR drilling.
12. She's admitted she doesn't know anything about the war in Iraq.
13. She probably fired her state's Safety Director because he wouldn't fire her estranged brother-in-law. We'll see. She's been gathering lawyers for the investigation she's facing, the results of which are supposed to be announced just before election day.
14. Members of her party and her own state government can't seem to come up with any reason why she's qualified to be vice president when asked, beyond "She's old enough" and "She's a US citizen." But, thanks to Cindy McCain, who really shouldn't even be allowed to talk for herself in public, we know that she has all kinds of experience with foreign relations because Alaska is so close to Russia.
15. Choosing Palin has made 31% of undecided voters more likely to vote for Barack Obama, and only 6% more likely to vote for McCain.
16. In 2006, Palin said that the words "under God" should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance, because "If it was good enough for the founding fathers, it is good enough for me." Do I point out that, as most people know, the words "under God" weren't added to the Pledge until 1954? Or do I ask if not having indoor plumbing and dying of smallpox is good enough for her, too, since the founding fathers had to live with that?
17. When it comes to Bristol Palin being pregnant and what that does or doesn't say about her mother, I don't really care, but I don't think it's out of bounds. Remember when Bill Clinton was in office and John McCain joined in the group of supposedly-dignified men making fun of Chelsea's looks by saying she was ugly because "Janet Reno is her father." Well, I don't see any reason the McCain campaign should be afforded a courtesy he himself is not prepared to award anyone else. And anyway, it's a perfect illustration of how Republican abstinence-only sex education and anti-abortion stances are actually more harmful than good. Governor Palin even wants to make it illegal to have an abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or if the mother will die giving birth. And come on. Do you honestly believe she's "proud" of her 17 year-old's "decision" to have the baby?
18. Remember the Bridge to Nowhere? Sarah Palin loves to say that she opposed it, but that's actually a lie.
19. She was a member of the Alaska Independence Party, a seccesionist movement to secure Alaska as an independent nation.
20. McCain's campaign says they thoroughly vetted her and did an FBI background check. Yeah, turns out that's not really true, either. At least according to the FBI.
21. She was a director of one of Ted Stevens's political action groups.
That's about all I have energy for at the moment. This is such a disaster, I'd be amazed at this point if Governor Failin' makes it through the entire convention.
I can't wait to see if she can spell potato.
I know you have this weird inability to let go of Shannen Doherty. You like her so much that you watched the entire run of Charmed at least twice. Still, that does not mean it's acceptable to watch the new version of 90210 premiering tonight on the CW. Seriously: do it and I'm out of here. Besides... it's not like it has Tori Spelling on it, right?
P.S. Isn't it hilarious that they've been pushing 90210 on the CW since May during every freaking commercial break they have, and the big premiere tonight isn't airing until 10:30 because of baseball? Gotta love it.
One of the great movie trailer voiceover artists, Don LaFontaine died yesterday of complications from Pnemothorax. By way of tribute, Dane of War has posted a short film about Don. I also present something: Don and four other famous voices together in a limo.
Monday, September 01, 2008
As usual, I decided to take a look at how I'm going to spend the fall in regards to movies. I can't call it a Fall Movie Preview... how about Fall Movie Impressions?
Not a great month, all told. I have no interest in Bangkok Dangerous, Everybody Wants to Be Italian, Righteous Kill, Nights in Rodanthe or The Lucky Ones. I don't have much interest in The Women, either (I've never much liked the original, despite the tremendous talent involved), especially given the way these movies are made nowadays; all I can see is more of The Stepford Wives, more of The Family Stone, more of... blurgh. I'm not into Tyler Perry, so I'll be skipping The Family That Preys.
I hate Keira Knightley, so I'll be skipping The Duchess, too. The whole point of the trailer for The Duchess was to play off the apparent "fact" (so the filmmakers believe) that everyone in the audience believes Keira Knightley is wonderful and captivating and beautiful and desirable. I look at Keira and I see an anorexic little child playing dress-up and jutting out her lower lip and huffing and puffing and pretending to be a grown-up. Given the way it's being talked about, was this movie made for any other reason than to win Oscars?
Blindness is kind of intriguing, and I like the director, but I learned several years ago that Julianne Moore was not the kind of actress you go and see a movie for. She's given some excellent performances over the years, but when she started going through the whole Jodie Foster-slick-women-in-peril-genre movies a few years ago, I just tuned out. And as for My Best Friend's Girl... unless Jessica Simpson is in it, there is absolutely nothing that can get me to see a movie with Dane Cook in it.
Miracle at St. Anna... is Jessica Simpson in it? Seriously, it's getting great buzz, but I just don't like Spike Lee as a director, and I don't see how this will be any different. He usually takes that one step over the line of taste and then the movies descend into stupidity. I was so disappointed with Inside Man... (In all seriousness, if Jessica Simpson was in a Spike Lee movie they'd make a big deal about her tits, and then she'd turn out to be a racist and possibly evil, but she wouldn't really have much to do otherwise because she's white; all white women have to do in Lee's movies is show their tits and be stupid. As opposed to the black women, who only have to do whatever black men tell them to do in order to be good. In Spike Lee movies, women are either submissive and moronic or submissive and mouthy.)
Towelhead sounds intrigueresting, but I know I won't see it until it's on DVD. But I'm sure I'll see it then. I'll also see Lakeview Terrace on DVD; it looks like it's probably really lame, but Neil LaBute is (with the exception of The Wicker Man) always interesting, even if the movie is bad. Patrick Wilson is in it, which doesn't give me much hope (I loved him in Angels in America; since then, I've yet to see him in a movie that didn't feel like a complete waste of time to me), but there might be something there. Igor is animated, so I'll probably see it eventually, but I'm not enthused.
I will definitely see Appaloosa on DVD. Ghost Town looks like Ricky Gervais's Run Fatboy Run. I might see it because Ricky's in it, but it looks so cheesy and lame. How many dead people comedies are we going to have from now on? Just Like Heaven was terrible, and that was also a DreamWorks movie... DreamWorks is the House of Suck. I'm undecided on Choke, though I did thoroughly hate Fight Club. Eagle Eye... well, I like Shia LaBeouf, but the trailer for this movie is pretty damn dumb. Then again, I liked Disturbia, and it's the same director. I need to see more trailers. Apparently the script was put in its final form by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzmann, the former Hercules: The Legendary Journeys writers responsible for The Island and Transformers and The Legend of Zorro, so how can I expect it to not be total shit?
The only movie in September I really want to see in the theater is Burn After Reading, which looks awesome. I'm finally going to have to just identify myself as a Coen Brothers fan. After Fargo, they were just so overrated; Fargo was good, but I didn't think it was as great as people kept saying it was, but since it was their real breakthrough, that's the movie most people who don't really like quirky movies love for being quirky... I get a little tired of it. But I do like the majority of their movies (man, I still need to see Blood Simple). The only movies of theirs I didn't really care for were Barton Fink (which I think I need to see again), O Brother, Where Are Thou?, and The Man Who Wasn't There. But they were never a team I needed to see on the big screen; in fact, before No Country for Old Men was nominated for Best Picture, and I'll always see those, the only movie of theirs I saw in the theater was The Big Lebowski. I think, from now on, they're upgraded for me.
Well, I sure as hell am not going to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Disney fan or no. This one's just way too much for me. I'm also not going to see The Express (I hate uplifting sports movies), What Just Happened? (good book, but I'm sick of seeing Hollywood pretend to make fun of itself), Quarantine (can we please stop the whole pretend documentary horror movie thing?), RocknRolla (can I just listen to Judas Priest instead?), Body of Lies (I am beyond done with Ridley Scott), Max Payne (pass on all video game movies), Morning Light (no uplifting sports documentaries for me), Sex Drive (meh), Saw V (didn't see the first four), and Pride and Glory (I never much like "family of cops" movies). I probably won't see The Haunting of Molly Hartley, either, although I guess I could see the trailer before I make up my mind. I'm hoping for that one decent fall horror picture.
Simon Pegg has How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, which actually looks pretty terrible. Every Simon Pegg movie that's not made by Edgar Wright looks horrible. I tried to watch something that's on Showtime all the time with him and David Schwimmer, and it's literally unwatchable. I keep hearing shit about Run Fatboy Run. And this looks... it could just so easily be a reversed version of King Ralph. It really looks like his King Ralph to me. It would be nice to see Simon Pegg in something else, but... maybe I'll just wait for the last part of the Cornetto Trilogy.
I'm very curious to see Bill Maher's Religulous, which has changed release dates a couple of times. I don't think this movie is actually going to get released in a theater, frankly. I look forward to the DVD. Flash of Genius sounds interesting, maybe on DVD. City of Ember is something I need to see a bit more of before I decide. I keep thinking I should want to see The Secret Life of Bees because I like Jennifer Hudson, but it just sounds so, so, so lame. I feel sort of bad dismissing Changeling out of hand, but Clint Eastwood and his very long, very unfocused third acts have really lost me, and Angelina Jolie... who cares? The Brothers Bloom is a maybe; it's the director of Brick, which I really enjoyed. Crossing Over sounds like this year's Crash/Babel piece of shit. Every time I start reading the plot of Synecdoche, New York, I get bored.
And then there's Anne Hathaway... I love her, I really do, but she hasn't really made very many, like, good movies. I always like her, but I think Ella Enchanted, The Other Side of Heaven, and of course Brokeback Mountain are the only really good movies she's been in. Everything else has either been cute-but-silly, disappointing (especially Prada), or just plain bad with her being the only good part of it. I have yet to see Get Smart, which I actually thought looked funny. She's got two movies coming out in October, Rachel Getting Married (the inevitable rebellious girl that no one understands movie) and Passengers. They both look really stupid. They both look terrible. They both look like movies I would not like at all. I'm starting to wonder why I keep pushing for this gal so much when she keeps making crappy movies that I hate. I know I'll see these on DVD, because I'm a sucker for Annie, but you are so on the cutoff point, dear, and it doesn't help that you're making a fucking wedding comedy with Kate "Funkiller" Hudson for next year.
The Other End of the Line... gosh, I feel bad for a girl who comes from a call center in India to find a man and it's Jesse Metcalfe.
I do want to go out and see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. So say what you will. Maybe I don't want to see serious movies. Or maybe none of what passes for serious movies today seems very serious to me.
Sadly, I may end up going to see High School Musical 3: Senior Year because of my love for Ashley Tisdale. So, Disney loses me on Beverly Hills Chihuahua but pulls me back in on High School Musical 3, despite the fact that the first two High School Musical were incredibly bad. Great, I have a lot of integrity there. Well, at least it'll be funny to see how they work in further gay allegory. Most Disney Channel movies are about being gay, generally.
And then there's W, which is going to be controversial, I guess. I haven't really much thought about it. I used to love Oliver Stone as a filmmaker, though Alexander shook a lot of that. I can't say I'm interested in seeing the amazing true story of George W. Bush's youth... I mean, I've seen Varsity Blues, and I don't think it's going to be that different (although with heavy lighting from above and dark backgrounds and a better soundtrack). I don't really give a shit either way.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa can gargle my balls. So can The Soloist (or rather, the director of The Soloist, who made Atonement, last year's worst movie).
I'm not remotely interested in seeing Nothing Like the Holidays, Transporter 3, Milk, or Four Christmases. Role Models is a maybe. I like Paul Rudd. I'll have to see a trailer on Assassination of a High School President. Soul Men sounds like it might be good, which may be mostly due to Samuel L. Jackson being in it; I've never seen the director's other movies, though my mom liked Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins. Then again, she also liked Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.
I don't have enough space here to really talk about just how lame Twilight looks. But it looks pretty fucking stupid.
I loved Casino Royale, so I'm definitely going to see Quantum of Solace as soon as I can. I hope it's good.
Bolt looks... well, it doesn't look good, but it's Disney animation, so I've got to see it. I don't know if I'll do so in the theater, because it really doesn't look good. Still, it's post-Lasseter at Disney... I really liked Meet the Robinsons, despite how predictable it was... Who knows? God, the character design is awful.
I don't want to just dismiss Australia for some reason, even though it doesn't look like it'll actually be any good. I really hate Baz Luhrmann (I just despised Moulin Rouge, though I did love Strictly Ballroom), and it just seems like a bad idea to give him no limitations on what he can do in a movie. Someone needs to cut off the money supply and see if it makes him more interesting. I don't know, I don't really want to see the movie, but I'm sure I will see it if it gets nominated.
I really want to see The Road.
I couldn't give a crap about Punisher: War Zone, The Day the Earth Went Whoa... er, I mean, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Yes Man, Seven Pounds, Bedtime Stories, Hurricane Season or Marley and Me. The only thing I'm worried about is that my mom will push for Marley and Me to be the movie we see on Christmas this year.
Defiance... maybe. Edward Zwick movies are long. I'm not really that interested in The Tale of Despereaux. Hearing Matthew Broderick for an hour and a half? Did you ever see the ruined version of The Thief and the Cobbler, with his hideous voiceover? Christ, he's irritating. It's bad enough that the trailer shows they've taken a very good, very dark, very layered book and turned it into... well, any other animated movie being made now. Ooh, good, jokes...
Surprisingly, Frost/Nixon looks good. I'd like to see it. Ron Howard is a hella uneven director, but it looks good. I also really would like to see Doubt, which sounds like an actual adult movie with an interesting plot.
I'm torn on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Becca thinks it's another Forrest Gump, one of those faux-epic movies that come out to make people feel good about themselves and fool them into thinking they've learned something about the preciousness of life. I can't really see David Fincher making that movie, or Tilda Swinton being in it, but the fact that it's a big Paramount movie coming out on Christmas Day kind of says she might be right. So I'm undecided for now.
I'm torn on Revolutionary Road. I don't care much for Sam Mendes as a director (though I thought Jarhead was great), and I don't care that Leo and Kate are in it, but it just seems like... I don't know, maybe. Looks better than Australia, at any rate.
I can't wait to see The Spirit. I saw the Comicon clip and I saw a picture of the Octopus's henchmen with names on their shirts... it looks like a sexy version of the 1966 Batman series. I am so there.
And then there's Valkyrie... I'd want to see this movie so bad if it didn't have Tom Cruise in it and weren't directed by Bryan Singer. Seriously, what's with Bryan Singer? What's the great movie that he made that makes everyone like him so much? He has yet to make a single movie that's genuinely great. And with Tom Cruise in the lead, I can't take this movie seriously. I think this is a huge waste of an opportunity to make an interesting movie.
Well, that's it for the rest of 2008. Doesn't really seem like an awesome year for movies, I have to say, and most of what I've seen or still really want to see is, you know, kid stuff. So... well, there's always next year.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Heart, live in 1976 on The Second Ending Show, performing their debut single. I love Heart, especially in the early days. This is from their first album, the incredible Dreamboat Annie, and Ann is in good form here, belting out the lyrics she once said were written under the influence of mushrooms.
I have to be honest, I read Stuart Little, and I loved Stuart Little, but I'm not quite sure what to say about Stuart Little. This is why I don't get paid for reviewing books.
Stuart is a mouse, the second son born to the human Little family in New York, and the novel follows him around on several episodic adventures. I like Stuart himself; he belongs to a tradition that I don't see much anymore in literature, of people who make themselves what they want to be through work and character and a sense of purpose, even when making changes that might be scary. Stuart's sense of adventure lends him an air of nobility, because he approaches his adventures as something fulfilling, not something to be done simply to prove he can do them or because they seem like fun.
When I say Stuart belongs to a tradition of people who make themselves what they want, I mean the word deliberately. One of the great things about E.B. White's writing is that we are told repeatedly that Stuart is a mouse, a little over two inches tall, but I rarely thought of him as something small. He's a well-rounded, well-defined person whose heart and intelligence bring everything down to meet him at his level. He doesn't see his size as some kind of handicap to be overcome; he lives his life and makes his environment accomodate him rather than living in fear.
For the first half of the book, Stuart has various experiences where his size is either helpful (retrieving his mother's ring from the drain) or a detriment (getting rolled up inside a window shade). The best part of this is the chapter where Stuart captains a toy boat on a pond and sails in a race. The first seven chapters are basically, in their way, about Stuart growing up, reckoning his size, finding his limitations, learning how to be capable and self-sufficient. He then learns, in the next few chapters, that he's part of a community that requires mutual respect and help; his family takes in a wounded bird, Margalo, who rescues Stuart from a garbage scow. Stuart falls in love with her, and feels compelled to safeguard her. He's growing up.
When Margalo heads north after being warned that a cat is planning to eat her, Stuart realizes that in order to find real happiness he's got to leave home and become a man. This leads to an interesting episode in which he tries to romance a woman who is only two inches tall, but nothing goes the way he hopes it will. White places a lot of emphasis on the way Stuart is organizing and planning and being practical, even though he's not quite sure where he's going; he's only heading north. There's also a nice episode where Stuart becomes a substitute teacher and talks to the class about why society needs rules, and why rules need to be fair.
The final chapter is my favorite. Oddly, the story doesn't really end. Stuart talks with a telephone line worker about traveling north, and what that represents. And Stuart rides off, still in search of Margalo, but really in search of himself, trying to find that indescribable thing that we want to be, that dream that will make our lives feel full. I've read that White ended the novel abruptly because he thought he might be dying. But I don't think it feels abrupt, and frankly, I like the idea of Stuart still out there, still heading north, still trying to find himself. It's a lifelong journey that might never end, and that's really okay. As we all know by now, what you learn on the way to where you're going is the entire point of the journey.