Saturday, November 22, 2008

Real Men Rock the Musicals

How have I never seen this before? Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel getting their Les Mis on at Megan Mullally.


Record of the Year

Once again following Chance here, who commented on the Grammy Records of the Year. It looked like fun, so I'm joining in.

Winner: Rehab, Amy Winehouse. I didn't join in the showering of praise for it. Meh.
My Favorite Nominee: Umbrella, Rihanna featuring Jay-Z.
My Favorite Single That Year: Shut Up and Drive, Rihanna. It's sexier and more playful than "Umbrella."

Winner: Not Ready to Make Nice, Dixie Chicks. It's not a terrible song, really, but it's such an obvious choice. It Makes a Statement. It's about the only Dixie Chicks song I can listen to, but it's not something I put on intentionally.
My Favorite Nominee: Crazy, Gnarls Barkley. It's perfection.
My Favorite Single That Year: Crazy, Gnarls Barkley. See previous comment.

Winner: Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Green Day. As I've said before on this blog, I'm not a big fan of what Green Day has on offer. I mean, they're kind of okay, this is one of the better songs, but I don't find them as astounding as other people seem to.
My Favorite Nominee: Gold Digger, Kanye West. The only Kanye single I've ever liked or will like.
My Favorite Single That Year: All These Things That I've Done, the Killers.

Winner: Here We Go Again, Ray Charles & Norah Jones. You know, I'm not even sure I've ever heard this.
My Favorite Nominee: American Idiot, Green Day. Not much of a crop this year in the nominee pool, but I actually do really like this song.
My Favorite Single That Year: American Idiot, Green Day.

Winner: Clocks, Coldplay. One of the few songs I give them credit for in their endless quest to become the Divine Comedy without anyone noticing. Overrated, but a decent adult contemporary song.
My Favorite Nominee: Hey Ya, OutKast. A perfect pop single. It was overplayed (as was "Clocks"), but it's just so damn good.
My Favorite Single That Year: Hey Ya, OutKast.

Winner: Don't Know Why, Norah Jones. Pretty, but it got old fast. Very adult contemporary, which is still the sound that wins the Grammys. The only Norah Jones song I love is "Sunrise."
My Favorite Nominee: Without Me, Eminem. I hate the guy, but his music is very well-produced. This is pretty much the one song of his I like.
My Favorite Single That Year: Beautiful, Christina Aguilera.

Winner: Walk On, U2. I couldn't pick this song out of a line-up. I like about enough U2 songs to fill a single CD.
My Favorite Nominee: Ms. Jackson, OutKast. I notice "Fallin'" by Alicia Keys was nominated, too. That's a song I'll be thrilled to never hear again.
My Favorite Single That Year: Lady Marmelade, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya & Li'l Kim. The only thing I liked to come out of Moulin Rouge.

Winner: Beautiful Day, U2. Now that's a U2 song that I like very much. And it makes me feel pretty good.
My Favorite Nominee: Beautiful Day, U2.
My Favorite Single That Year: Beautiful Day, U2.

Winner: Smooth, Santana featuring Rob Thomas. I got so sick of this song playing every minute on every radio station and commercial. I think Santana's pretty overrated, to be honest.
My Favorite Nominee: I don't like any of the songs nominated this year.
My Favorite Single That Year: ...Baby One More Time, Britney Spears. Dopey, sure, but everything that makes a pop single great.

Winner: My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion. This was very easy to get sick of as well; cloying and over-the-top and insisting on its own epic greatness. Blurg. The music's pretty; I have a string quartet version that didn't make it onto the soundtrack (from a promo CD) that's lovely. It doesn't need Celine Dion or lyrics to work. It sounds better without them.
My Favorite Nominee: Ray of Light, Madonna. I don't have much to say about it, but it works.
My Favorite Single That Year: Flagpole Sitta, Harvey Danger. That song just makes me feel awesome. I love it.

Winner: Sunny Came Home, Shawn Colvin. Music from the nineties has an overwhelming percentage of suck, more than any decade. It's like America went through menopause and could only listen to this kind of sappy pap. I hate this thing, and thanks to the Crap and Crap Lite stations being played where I worked constantly, I heard it way too many fucking times.
My Favorite Nominee: MMMBop, Hanson. It's a default choice; it's the one I think is okay whereas I despise all the others (especially "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" by Paula Cole, which should be classified a form of abuse).
My Favorite Single That Year: The End Is the Beginning Is the End, Smashing Pumpkins. I love that they used it in the Watchmen trailer.

Winner: Change the World, Eric Clapton. I'm not much of a Clapton fan, really. I did like this song, although it's association with the awful Scientology-promoting John Travolta film Phenomenon counts against it a tad. It's not earth-shaking, but it's a solid, not-unpleasant song.
My Favorite Nominee: 1979, Smashing Pumpkins. Haunting, beautiful, and bittersweet.
My Favorite Single That Year: 1979, Smashing Pumpkins.

Winner: Kiss from a Rose, Seal. I think it's a beautiful song. I used to hear it a lot on the radio as I was driving to work in the winter at a very dark 5 in the morning. That's the perfect time to hear it. It'll take you on a trip.
My Favorite Nominee: Kiss from a Rose, Seal.
My Favorite Single That Year: Kiss from a Rose, Seal.

Winner: All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow. Blurg. Not a song I like.
My Favorite Nominee: Streets of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen. Beautiful, sad, and seething with quiet anger, disappointment, and acceptance of fear.
My Favorite Single That Year: Streets of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen.

Winner: I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston. Piece of overplayed shit. Especially in comparison to the original Dolly Parton song, which is perfect.
My Favorite Nominee: The River of Dreams, Billy Joel.
My Favorite Single That Year: Fields of Gold, Sting. Kind of a cheesy choice, perhaps, but I can always hear it and always love it. It's simple and pretty.

Winner: Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton. It doesn't quite hold up for me, honestly, but it's miles better than fellow nominee "Achy Breaky Heart." It's a very pretty song, but not my favorite of Clapton's.
My Favorite Nominee: Constant Craving, k.d. lang. I like the passion.
My Favorite Single That Year: One, U2. One of the most achingly beautiful songs I've ever heard.

Winner: Unforgettable, Natalie Cole. The fact that the Grammys honored that hacky, schlocky, sympathy-begging, cloying bit of grave-robbing Natalie Cole did to cash in on honor her father is as sad as it is unsurprising.
My Favorite Nominee: Losing My Religion, R.E.M. It was overplayed, but if you listen to it now, it sounds almost fresh again. It really is just a good song.
My Favorite Single That Year: Crazy, Seal.

Winner: Another Day in Paradise, Phil Collins. Preachy, annoying, and not even the best song from that Phil Collins album. (Actually, I just checked and sadly, it is. I despise "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven," and "I Wish It Would Rain" just sounds like a rip-off of "Wish You Were Here" with Clapton on guitar.)
My Favorite Nominee: Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O'Connor. Of the sappy, preachy, sad sack songs that were nominated this year, this is the one that's actually a good song. (Also, "U Can't Touch This" was nominated this year, but come on, man.)
My Favorite Single This Year: Enjoy the Silence, Depeche Mode. Now there's a love song.

Winner: Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler. I hate this song, and my dad pissed me off by playing it at his wedding reception for his mother, which I specifically told him not to do because it was such a fucking cliche. He said he wouldn't; he did. Wow, my grandma must have been one of 10 million special woman so uniquely honored that year. It's the equivalent of buying your dad a tie on Father's Day.
My Favorite Nominee: The End of the Innocence, Don Henley. Chance is right on when he calls it deceptively angry. It adds some world-weariness on top of that, too. Beautiful song.
My Favorite Single That Year: A Little Respect, Erasure. I usually come out on the side of pop, I guess. Although besides the catchiness, I think the lyrics are beautiful. One of my all time favorite lyrics comes from this song: "What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover?"

Winner: Don't Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin. I always liked this song, but it sure wasn't the best of the year. I think part of it was the novelty of McFerrin doing the whole thing a cappella. Which is admittedly neat.
My Favorite Nominee: Don't Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin.
My Favorite Single That Year: Sweet Child O' Mine, Guns 'n' Roses. The most perfect song they ever recorded.

Winner: Graceland, Paul Simon. I'm not a big fan of this song for whatever reason. It's nice, but it's okay. I wouldn't turn it off if it came on the radio station. Really, I just don't dig Paul Simon's solo work that much.
My Favorite Nominee: Back in the High Life Again, Steve Winwood. Admittedly, mostly because it reminds me of better times. But it's pretty.
My Favorite Single That Year: With or Without You, U2. Grammy nominated the more ubiquitous and much less beautiful "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," a song I don't like. "With or Without You" is real passion.

Winner: Higher Love, Steve Winwood. Meh. It's okay.
My Favorite Nominee: Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel. It's a lot of sucky nominees this year, but this is a great song.
My Favorite Single That Year: True Colors, Cyndi Lauper. A beautiful love song, especially for people who don't feel so great about themselves. I guess I like genuine songs about understanding, I would say.

Winner: We Are the World, USA for Africa. Of course. Nothing else was going to win this year. As a song, it's okay. The real fun is trying to pick out all the singers. I mean, you know, it's Really Important, but it's just okay.
My Favorite Nominee: Money for Nothing, Dire Straits. One of their couple of songs I like. One of my favorite guitar solos.
My Favorite Single That Year: Take on Me, a-Ha. Pop perfection in all of its catchy, bubblegum glory.

Winner: What's Love Got to Do with It, Tina Turner. There's genuine force behind it (although I think "Private Dancer" is her best song), real heartbreak.
My Favorite Nominee: Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen. At his most pop. I love this song.
My Favorite Song That Year: Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper. Gorgeous and simple.

Winner: Beat It, Michael Jackson. Not much of a surprise, I guess. And it's a good song. Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo alone...
My Favorite Nominee: Flashdance... What a Feeling, Irene Cara. All of the nominees this year are pretty good but nothing I feel especially attached to. This is one of those cheesy pop songs I like.
My Favorite Single That Year: Our House, Madness. One of the most perfect songs I've ever loved.

Winner: Rosanna, Toto. It's okay.
My Favorite Nominee: Steppin' Out, Joe Jackson. That one always got me and carried me off.
My Favorite Single That Year: Under Pressure, Queen & David Bowie. Everything that's shitty about society in four and a half minutes. "And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night."

Winner: Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes. Meh. I don't feel strongly either way.
My Favorite Nominee: (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon. What a great song. I can't believe it lost to Kim Carnes... greatness versus... well, nothing worth commenting on. As usual, John Lennon just nails life and relationships with this song.
My Favorite Single That Year: In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins. Collins used to be a man who just knew darkness and how it felt to be depressed and angry.

Winner: Sailing, Christopher Cross. Put me to sleep, why don't ya?
My Favorite Nominee: Theme from New York, New York, Frank Sinatra.
My Favorite Single That Year: Let My Love Open the Door, Pete Townshend. As great a song as he ever wrote for the Who, his best solo work, and one of his most genuinely passionate songs.

Winner: What a Fool Believes, the Doobie Brothers. I'm not a fan of theirs. This is probably the one song of theirs I'd say I liked. Still, Record of the Year? Feh.
My Favorite Nominee: I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor. I like the sweep of it.
My Favorite Single That Year: Video Killed the Radio Star, the Buggles. Another perfect pop record.

Winner: Just the Way You Are, Billy Joel. It is a pretty song, however much Joel claims now that he wrote it accidentally. Is he ever going to stop apologizing for having good commercial instincts? One of his less angry songs, too. I've always liked it.
My Favorite Nominee: Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty. Or as I always used to call it, "That One with the Great Saxophone Part."
My Favorite Single That Year: Who Are You, the Who. My favorite song of theirs, for reasons I can't quite define. But it's a great damn song.

Winner: Hotel California, the Eagles. I hate the Eagles, but I'll give them this one song. This is a damn good song.
My Favorite Nominee: Hotel California, the Eagles.
My Favorite Single That Year: Hotel California, the Eagles.

Winner: This Masquerade, George Benson. I couldn't tell you how this goes.
My Favorite Nominee: Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band. It's delightful.
My Favorite Single That Year: Somebody to Love, Queen. A beautiful epic of emotion. One of my favorite songs ever.

Winner: Love Will Keep Us Together, the Captain & Tennille. It's okay.
My Favorite Nominee: At Seventeen, Janis Ian.
My Favorite Single That Year: Young Americans, David Bowie. That one packs a wallop and makes "Love Will Keep Us Together" sound pretty frivolous.

Winner: I Honestly Love You, Olivia Newton-John. I honestly detest this cloying, overwrought song.
My Favorite Nominee: Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Elton John. You want passion? There you go. Skip the other song entirely.
My Favorite Single That Year: Cat's in the Cradle, Harry Chapin. Hey, hey, it's a cliched choice for a reason.

Winner: Killing Me Softly with His Song, Roberta Flack. It's pretty. It's also soporific.
My Favorite Nominee: You're So Vain, Carly Simon. A nice kiss-off song.
My Favorite Single That Year: Mind Games, John Lennon. Gorgeous.

Winner: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack. I've always found this song kind of overwrought.
My Favorite Nominee: American Pie, Don McLean. Come on, how could you pick a different one? (Although I've always loved Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)," a deceptively bleak and saddening song.)
My Favorite Single That Year: Let's Stay Together, Al Green. You want to get laid? You need some Al Green music.

Winner: It's Too Late, Carole King. I can't place it off the top of my head, but I've never liked Carole King as a singer. (Update 11/23: I went and found this song on YouTube. This is a great fucking song. Damn.)
My Favorite Nominee: It's Too Late, Carole King. My original choice was "My Sweet Lord," but "It's Too Late" turned out to be really sumptuous. I should've looked that up first.
My Favorite Single That Year: Imagine, John Lennon. I can't believe this was never nominated for Record of the Year. What the hell?

Winner: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel. An undeniably beautiful song.
My Favorite Nominee: Let It Be, the Beatles. Still Paul McCartney's most beautiful effort.
My Favorite Single That Year: Let It Be, the Beatles. Seriously, they didn't pick this?

Winner: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In, the Fifth Dimension. Definitely a good song.
My Favorite Nominee: A Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash. It's funny and Cash delivers it well. I'll always pull for Shel Silverstein.
My Favorite Single That Year: Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley. His final masterpiece, one of his best songs (in my Elvis top five).

Winner: Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel. Good but not really special.
My Favorite Nominee: Hey Jude, the Beatles. A masterpiece.
My Favorite Single That Year: (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding. One of the most quietly perfect songs I've ever heard.

Winner: Up, Up and Away, the Fifth Dimension. What a lame choice. I mean, it's a cute song, but what a lame choice at this point in music history.
My Favorite Nominee: My Cup Runneth Over, Ed Ames.
My Favorite Single That Year: Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Frankie Valli. But that's the tip of the iceberg; this year produced, off the top of my head, "Heroes and Villains," "All You Need Is Love," "I Was Made to Love Her," "Light My Fire," "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman," and Grammy nominates "Ode to Billie Joe"? Lame, lame, lame.

Winner: Strangers in the Night, Frank Sinatra. A good song, one I always liked.
My Favorite Nominee: Strangers in the Night, Frank Sinatra.
My Favorite Single That Year: Good Vibrations, the Beach Boys. Another incredible year for rock, and the Grammys can only acknowledge "Monday, Monday." What a foolish institution to pass over the greatness they did.

Winner: A Taste of Honey, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The best of the several thousand versions that seem to be out there.
My Favorite Nominee: Yesterday, the Beatles. As beautiful a song as was ever written.
My Favorite Single That Year: Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan. Transcendent.

Winner: The Girl from Ipanema, Stan Getz & João Gilberto. A lovely little song that I've always liked as background music.
My Favorite Nominee: Downtown, Petula Clark. I forget just how beautiful this one is.
My Favorite Single That Year: Don't Worry, Baby, the Beach Boys. Perfect.

Winner: Days of Wine and Roses, Henry Mancini. Nothing song from a rather turgid movie.
My Favorite Nominee: Dominique, the Singing Nun. That's painful to say, but the nominees this year are just that bad. Again, zero acknowledgement of rock and roll or even the great folk music from this time.
My Favorite Single That Year: Surfer Girl, the Beach Boys. Hey, Brian Wilson just knows how to hit me where it counts. Teenage love deified.

Winner: I Left My Heart in San Francisco, Tony Bennett. A beautiful song.
My Favorite Nominee: I Left My Heart in San Francisco, Tony Bennett.
My Favorite Single That Year: Telstar, the Tornados. That one always takes me right off and makes me love being alive.

Winner: Moon River, Henry Mancini. I'm never sorry to have heard this song. It's always beautiful, and always necessary.
My Favorite Nominee: Moon River, Henry Mancini. Infinitesimal second: "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck.
My Favorite Single That Year: Stand by Me, Ben E. King. The best time to hear this song is in the still of the deep night.

Winner: Theme from A Summer Place, Percy Faith. The music is pretty.
My Favorite Nominee: Georgia on My Mind, Ray Charles. It's insane that this didn't win. This is the very definition of a beautiful song.
My Favorite Single That Year: Georgia on My Mind, Ray Charles.

Winner: Mack the Knife, Bobby Darin. I like this song; it's fun as hell to sing along to.
My Favorite Nominee: Mack the Knife, Bobby Darin.
My Favorite Single That Year: Sleepwalk, Santo & Johnny. Another great late night song.

Winner: Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare), Domenico Modugno. Okay. I can't believe anyone does this song better than Dean Martin, personally. I don't believe I've heard this version.
My Favorite Nominee: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late), David Seville. I know, I know, but I love this song. It's a Christmas staple to me. It reminds me of being a kid and spending the lead-up to Christmas at my grandmother's house. It's a cozy song for me.
My Favorite Single That Year: Summertime Blues, Eddie Cochran. As vital a song as there is, considering how much rock continues to borrow from it. And more than that, just a catchy tune.

Happy Birthday, Terry Gilliam!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Throwdown 11/21

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Angelina Jolie says she wants to retire from acting. Well, don’t let me stop you.

2. Surprise, surprise, Stephen Baldwin isn’t moving like he promised. When asked why not, he probably said: “Me make joke. Me like attention and do anything to get it, even if me look stoopid.”

3. I see Jessica Simpson got her lips done again. I read the other day that the country music audience would take it personally that she didn’t show up at the Country Music Awards last week. Sure enough, in the last week I’ve seen the “she only uses the country audience when she needs to sell a record” sentiment fly around, her album has dropped something like 32 places on the country chart, and she’s doing pop music again at her shows (which, incidentally, haven’t sold out in a long, long time; she’s playing casinos now). So where do we go now, Jess? Seriously, I’m getting a little frustrated with this.

4. Censors in Britain have slapped the warning “This film contains disability themes” on the movie Special People, a comedy with a mostly-disabled cast. Disability advocates are outraged; says the editor of Disability Now magazine: “It's the exact equivalent of putting a warning on a Spike Lee film saying, 'This film contains black people.' It's medieval thinking.” I agree with him; how is it appropriate to warn the community of disabled people being in a movie? Is it something offensive now?

5. Wait, how is Thandie Newton remotely on the level of any of these people? Seriously.

6. Why are some people getting pissed off over Paul McCartney’s desire to release an unreleased Beatle track? He’s got this 14-minute electronic experiment from 1967 that he wants to release, and I saw a couple of people going on and on about how evil McCartney is, how he’s trying to rewrite Beatles history by releasing this, how it wasn’t good enough to be released 40 years ago so it should be stopped. I love the Beatles more than a lot of people I know, but can we please stop acting like they’re sacred cows? Dude wants to put out a track that he hasn’t put out before. How is that a big deal? How does it change the Beatles legacy one iota? It’s just some music no one’s heard, BFD. This same guy went off about Paul’s “naked” version of Let It Be, the one without the Phil Spector additions, as somehow trying to rewrite history. Isn’t Let It Be still in print? Doesn’t every white guy have the whole thing on his iPod? Have you noticed how there’s barely any difference between the new versions except that “The Long and Winding Road” isn’t so grandly string-oriented and “Across the Universe” sounds better played at the correct speed? Get over it for chrissakes. If you really think a new or different version of something is somehow destroying what already exists, you need to get some real perspective. Go outside and eat some fruit, or something.

7. Amy Taylor met David Pollard in an internet chatroom in 2003. Despite the 12-year age difference, they fell in love and got married. They married in 2005 and had a fairy tale ceremony on Second Life. Now they’re getting divorced because she found out he was banging a virtual prostitute on Second Life. Here’s the kicker: she’s now in a relationship with a man she met online in World of Warcraft. Dreams do come true! Maybe there really is something to the stigma against having romantic relationships with people you meet online…

8. Prince says that God is against homosexuality. Well, there goes a sizable chunk of your audience, pal, because the only people I know who kept buying your albums back when they were multidisc affairs you had to order over the phone because no label would carry them are… well, guess who, genius?

9. Here’s some news I enjoyed regarding those motherfuckers at Focus on the Family (besides the layoffs): according to a survey they did, only 4% of Americans have a biblical worldview (the belief that the bible is the literal truth), and only 9% of people who are born again have a biblical worldview. That’s a lot less than they love to claim. Too bad those 4% are so loud.

10. Well, Begich did win the election after all. I apologize, Alaska, for all the post-election things I said. Now if you’d just impeach Palin… It’s not like you don’t have a charge to go with like, say, misappropriation of tax funds.

11. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, hilariously seems to be angling for some kind of position in the Obama administration. She told Wolf Blitzer she’s honored to support Obama and excited to work with him, especially on energy. So, the whole “pallin’ around with terrorists” thing doesn’t bother you anymore? Wow, how many faces does Sarah Palin have? (Answer: as many as she needs to get ahead.) If only there were some place Obama could put her where she’d have no real power; her lunatic base would withdraw their support if she went to work for the black president, and then they’d just be the fringe again.

12. Well, shit. The Democrats kept Traitor Joe Liarman in the caucus and in his committee chairs. It’s up to you, Connecticut, to not elect him again. Thanks for selling out the country once again, Reid. You still suck. A lot. What a disappointment you’ve been, Harry, honestly, a huge, reeking disappointment. Thanks for caving in to the demands of a useless whiner making vague threats and who will say or claim to believe anything in order to serve himself. So he’s been in politics for four decades, so the fuck what? How long has Phil Gramm been around? Would you consider that worthy of honoring? Of course, you did just give Ted Stevens a standing ovation, so apparently ideals are worthless. It just says to me that the Senate has no intention of policing their own. Fuck all of you.

13. Karl Rove said of the election “Obama barely did better than Bush in ’04.” I guess you’re right. I mean, if you ignore the fact that he doubled the win percentage and got almost 100 more electoral votes despite not being a sitting war president, then yeah, sure.

14. Look, if we’re going to bailout the auto industry, can we at least stipulate that they have to put new people in charge of the whole thing? I think the whole industry needs to be rebuilt and repurposed, but as we’ve seen with the Splurge beneficiaries already, it’s still business as usual. When I saw those auto industry CEOs refusing to sell their private jets, I wanted to throttle someone. The richest on top have no intention of selling assets, taking less money, or changing their lives to help their businesses, so why do we have to help them at all? Just force them to walk and put new people in charge and tell them they can’t make SUVs anymore and I’ll be willing to listen to proposals for a bailout.

15. I’m sure this makes me some kind of monster, but I’m very pleased with what’s happening to the Bush administration right now. By which I mean it’s starting to resemble the end of The Godfather when everyone gets taken out, and I’m loving it. Dick Cheney has been indicted on prisoner abuse charges that stem from his association with an investment firm that runs the prisons (in Texas, no less). Alberto Gonzales has also been indicted; he’s charged with halting an investigation into that prisoner abuse while he was attorney general. Meanwhile, Bush’s current AG, Michael “Breaking the Law Doesn’t Necessarily Make You a Criminal” Mukasey, had a stroke yesterday. And now I see this picture ( via Tengrain) shows an anti-Bush rally in Baghdad, in the exact same square where the US staged the teardown of Saddam Hussein’s statue (or as the Bush administration called it, Mission Accomplished). Iraq wants us gone, and we need to leave. Do you know they’re building a two-line subway system in Baghdad? It seems to me that nations worried about a violence outbreak wouldn’t do that. Also, the Iraqi government has revoked Blackwater’s diplomatic immunity. Oh, man, sometimes if you wait long enough, justice happens.

I Am Not Lois Lane

I was back at the old school from last year doing a bit of subbing yesterday. Even students I barely knew last year were excited to see someone they recognized. That school's still sort of like coming home.

Last year's first graders are this year's second graders, and they've got the second grade classes upstairs this year. I was upstairs a couple of weeks ago when the girl who used to lead me around by the hand last year, Penelope Pitstop, made an appearance. I was talking to someone, then suddenly looked down and saw some kid was hugging me. She was really thrilled to see me.

As I was leaving yesterday, she came barreling down the stairs, excited and hyper.

PITSTOP: Mr. F! Mr. F! Hi! Hi! Hi! It's me! Do you remember me!

ME: Of course I --

PITSTOP: It's me, Pitstop! Look! See? Look! I got glasses!

ME: You sure did --

PITSTOP: (whipping off her glasses) Now do you remember me?! It's me, Pitstop!

Quote of the Day

"I would smile all day long, every day, if it guaranteed a unicorn getting punched in the face. I find them really annoying." -- Rachael Ray

Happy Birthday, Ingrid Pitt!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Classic Kirk Responds to the New Kirk

Again, I liked the Star Trek trailer, but some of the over-the-top hatred has just been really funny to me. Here's another great, short video response.

And in case you missed yesterday's Star Trek 90210.

What the Hey: A Second Book Meme Tonight

I've done this before, but it's always fun to revisit. Suzy had this up, and I thought I'd join in.

The Book Grab Game
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence.

Here's mine, from Neal Gabler's Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination:

Of the greyhound ad, Iwwerks later said it was "the best animation scene I ever did, before or since."
Well... there you go.

Sasha Fierce

Sasha Fierce is Beyonce's new alter ego or character or Ziggy Stardust rip-off or whatever the hell kids are calling this shit these days. It's a relic of the 1970s that never works anymore, no matter how many desperate pop stars try to make a statement about feminism or the nature of celebrity or whatever it is they're commenting on (and it's kind of sad when Hannah Montana has a better hook than you for the same gimmick). So Beyonce's new album, I Am...Sasha Fierce has two discs, one apparently by Beyonce, and one by Sasha Fierce.

I've been reading a little bit about this album since it came out this week. There's no danger of me buying it, but I have to say that I'd be a little pissed off if I spent money on a double-album that uses a flimsy, hackneyed device as a pretext for spreading barely forty minutes of music over two CDs. Are you kidding me? A music industry in desperate need of a sales boost thinks that this kind of thing appeals to the ever-dwindling audience? And the downloads just keep on keepin' on...

License to Meme

Via Jaquandor comes this book-related meme.

What was the last book you bought?

I just bought myself a copy of Neal Gabler's excellent biography Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. Money being what it is, I hit the library a lot more often than I hit the bookstore. I save the money for art books, like Colin Giles's Girls (see sidebar to get your own copy) and the new Dean Yeagle books.

Name a book you have read MORE than once

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. I've read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus a couple of times. Just for the hell of it, I've just finished re-reading Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. Adams' The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy I've read a few times. There are quite a few like that. And every year I reread The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and A Christmas Carol. If plays count, there are a couple of Shakespeare plays I've read a couple of times. I think I'm about to read Moby Dick a second time.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

The Grapes of Wrath, certainly. Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. Asimov's Guide to the Bible.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

All of them. Mostly it's recommendations or reviews. Sometimes I come across lists of books online, Best Science Fiction Stories of All Time or something like that, and I read those. I read a mess of books because Thurber recommended them for young students (they were mostly good). Cover design is certainly a factor. Sometimes it's good to find an author whose work I love and find out what books turned them on.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I like both, but I find I read more non-fiction than fiction. I like reading about history.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

I'd have to say writing. I've read a lot of books just because of the artful way they were written or the tight plotting of a story. Good writing keeps you turning the page.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

Here are a few.

Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
Bigwig, Watership Down
King Theoden, The Lord of the Rings
Jack Pumkinhead and the Scarecrow, the Oz novels
Tarzan, Tarzan of the Apes
Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land
Ayla, The Clan of the Cave Bear
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Buliwyf, Eaters of the Dead
Mr. Fox, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

I've finished Casino Royale; I'm not sure if I'm still in the mood to read more Bond, or if I'm going to read something else. What, I'm not sure.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

Like I said, Casino Royale. Finished it yesterday.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

You mean the Ian Malcolm Rule? I got to the exact halfway point of Michael Crichton's The Lost World, a book stupidly written to justify a movie sequel starring a character who had died in the previous book and just thought... you know, life's too short and this book is really, really stupid. If I get halfway and the book is still godawful, chances are I'll just dump the thing.

That wasn't the first book, by the way. That was just what I ended up calling my rule when I talked about it at work (I was still at the bookstore then).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Star Trek 90210

Among all of the over-serious discussion of the time/space ramifications of the new Star Trek trailer and how it could cause the universe to implode, I found this video. Now that's how you make fun of the Trek trailer!

Film Week

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

I liked it better than the first one, if only because I thought the world of Hellboy was a lot better realized here (despite the finale, the duel on clockworks, which is a direct lift from Miyazaki--so was the Forest God sequence, come to think of it) and the special effects were employed with more wit. The performances are all good, but the highlight for me was Doug Jones as Abe Sapien; he does his own voice this time, and he's much better than David Hyde-Pierce, who has a good voice but who is also one of the voices I'm kind of sick of hearing in animation, etc. The character is much more realized this time. To my surprise, I liked what Seth MacFarlane did as the voice of Johann Kraus; I see why they went with him, given how they did the character. On every level, this movie worked for me. I really hope there's a third. **** stars.

What a surprisingly good movie. I still think DreamWorks is making some of the worst animated movies of all time, but every so often there's a movie (like Over the Hedge) that just comes out of nowhere and wins me over. Despite the advertising, this isn't one of the terrible personality-based animations that DreamWorks specializes in (It's Will Smith as a Will Smith fish! It's Mike Meyers as a Scottish troll! It's Ben Stiller as an insufferable, aggressive, unfunny nebbish, just like in real life!). Jack Black fits the voice of Po, a Panda who is lazy, fat, and incompetent, but destined to be the Dragon Warrior who saves his village from a dangerous killer. The plot doesn't reek of tailoring itself to Black as a comedy vehicle. If it had been someone else, it wouldn't be significantly different. So, it's like a real cartoon instead of a gimmick. (Don't get me wrong, though--DreamWorks still does have a casting problem, throwing in voices that don't work just to throw in whomever; Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan barely speak in the movie, so I'm not sure why they bothered to cast them--Dustin Hoffman plays the character I'd have loved to see Jackie Chan play. Seth Rogen just seems thrown in because he's Seth Rogen, and David Cross... well, for the same reason. Rogen and Cross just don't come across as kung fu masters to me. And Lucy Liu, like David Hyde-Pierce, is on my mental list of people whose voices I don't want to hear in animation anymore.) The animation is very, very good, especially the character animation on Oogway, the old turtle, who shakes and walks with a staff. Bottom line is: this is a movie that's very easy to get caught up in, it's got a good story, and it's not as obnoxious as it looked in the trailers. ***1/2 stars. DreamWorks should be making movies like this and Over the Hedge, and no more Madagascar or Shrek.

Excellent documentary about the formation and destruction of the Sex Pistols. It's always been a fascinating story because everyone's story is different. I'm amazed at how full of himself Steve Jones still is, especially considering that he never has much to say about the Pistols and seems to not care a whole lot that he was even in the band. As usual, it's John Lydon who dominates, but he's always got the most interesting things to say and the best perspective on what broke the band up and the limited shelf life of punk bands. The movie also demonstrates perfectly why I bristle when emo bands are referred to as punk bands; the Sex Pistols really were punks who didn't give a shit about shit and who just were what they were. It wasn't fashion at the time (although Sid Vicious is kind of a poser). It wasn't even a statement, really. It just was. Today it's commercialized and pre-sold to kids who don't know shit. **** stars.

Apparently this is a minority opinion, but I thought this was near-perfect. A worthy continuation of Casino Royale, the story continuing almost immediately after that film ended, with James Bond out for revenge. I honestly don't have any useful criticism of this movie. I thought it was very much a Bond movie (despite what critics are saying; it has all of the Bond trappings, it just doesn't treat them smirkingly), with great action sequences. Even the theme song, which I haven't liked too much, sounds great in the context of the movie. Daniel Craig is perfect, sexy and brutal--who'd have ever thought we'd have a Bond whose main problem is that he kills too many people? Judi Dench is a wonderful M, and she and Craig complement each other perfectly. They manage to set the movie in the real world; M is called before the Foreign Minister and reminded of her duty. The technology is brilliant, and it makes me realize I'm done with Q Branch and the comedy scenes; the technology just exists here without having to be showcased and explained, and you just accept it. I can't wait for the next film; from what I understand, this is the middle act of a trilogy, so I expect we'll see this shadowy organization in the next film. Lovely denouement. Brilliant film. **** stars.

Another Ingmar Bergman masterpiece about the nature of God and man and violence. Max Von Sydow plays a landowner whose virginal daughter goes into the woods and meets two men and a boy who rape and kill her. Then, unknowingly, they come to her father's house to beg for food and lodging (Von Sydow's Christian duty). Von Sydow's character is a pious man, a believer who sees it as his duty to honor God and his family in everything he does. But when he learns that three of the people in his own home have murdered his daughter, things change. The real point, of course, is that a person's faith will only overcome so much, and that revenge will overpower faith and is, probably, more primal. An excellent movie, one of Bergman's more well-paced movies. Beautiful photography by Sven Nykvist. **** stars.

How did I not see this for so long? Brilliant, beautiful, haunting movie about a woman who conspires with her husband's mistress to murder him. They drown him and put him in a basket at the bottom of a swimming pool, and then wait for someone to find the body. But the body is never found, and when the pool is drained, the basket is gone. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot ratchets up the suspense by leaving the women waiting, on edge, nervous about being discovered. And when the truth comes out, it's a brilliant twist. **** stars.

It's Gonna Be a Thing

BECCA: Did you see where Ashley Tisdale is producing a remake of Teen Witch?

ME: Teenwich?

BECCA: No, Teen. Witch. Do you remember that movie?

ME: Why isn't teenwich a phrase? That would be a great phrase for pervs like me. "I'm going to go out tonight and meet up with Tis and Baby V and try to get myself in a teenwich." Like a sandwich.

BECCA: Yeah, I get it.

ME: I don't know, it probably won't catch on. Doefuck didn't catch on, either. But they both work.

Good for Them for Not Caring What Society Thinks

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 49

I'm just going to random this all out because I'm feeling very unfocused today.

1. I'm having a very hard time giving up bread. We had some pasta last night (that sloppy joe manicotti I was mentioning earlier), and I didn't feel like I ate too much food. That's because I didn't have any bread, which usually spurs me on to eat more. Past the point of being full. Unfortunately, I love bread, but I have to weigh that against not going to bed feeling sick last night. 32 years old, Health Reports for 2 years, and I still don't have the balance down.

2. I think my weight stabilized, but now it's going down again, because the lower back pain is back. At some point, I suddenly gained a ton of weight and I'm not sure why. I wonder if drinking a lot of electrolyte-replenishing Gatorade made me all bloated. I stopped drinking any at all and I suddenly dropped some weight and didn't feel bloated anymore.

3. I've been eating a lot of salads lately. Some time ago on the Health Report (I think), I said I didn't see the point of mushrooms. Now I love them on my salad. The protein makes me feel like I'm eating something substantial and not an appetizer.

4. I saw another one of those ads defending high fructose corn syrup today. Stop saying it's made from corn as if that were a good thing; HFCS is made from corn the same way candy corn is. The shitty thing is, you can't say this stuff online without some troll eventually coming by and getting all pissy and urging you to get the facts they'll handily link to (usually sites that are fronts for the Corn Grower's Association or pushing studies sponsored by the same). Of course they're going to urge you to get their facts: they have a vested interest in selling it to America.

Here are some facts about HFCS to lay on you: Like a lot of bullshit we still have to deal with (HMOs), HFCS is an invention of the Nixon Administration. The idea was to kiss up to big agribusiness by telling them to plant as much corn as they could. Where does the corn go? Into a sugar substitute, HFCS, which has none of the corn fiber or nutrients in it, but is much, much cheaper than real sugar.

So here are the benefits of HFCS instead of sugar: fast food manufacturers can sell you garbage food at rock bottom prices; it can be used in processing junk food far more effectively; it's so cheap that soda manufacturers can make a ton of money selling you 16-, 20-, and 32-ounce sodas instead of more reasonable 8-ounces drinks. Now two-thirds of Americans are overweight, in part because they consume 63 pounds of HFCS a year which saps your energy and gives you all kinds of problems. Why do you think your kids are so damn sick all the time? Because HFCS is there, lurking in everything.

Another fun HFCS fact: we taxpayers subsidize agribusiness giants to the tune of $19 billion a year. Every dollar of profit those companies make costs taxpayers ten. So, we're not allowed to subsidize our health care, but we're allowed to subsidize something that's killing us. Makes sense. After all, if some person somewhere doesn't have the right to profit off of something harmful to make more money than they will ever spend, it's just not a democracy.

5. Speaking of childhood illnesses, there are an awful lot of diabetic kids these days. It's become commonplace, and that's sad. It makes sense, though, doesn't it? Of course children can't process sugar if they grow up with a chemical sugar substitute in nearly everything they consume. How widespread is this problem? Disney did an episode of Hannah Montana about it. If it's finally filtered to Disney Channel, it's pretty widespread; they're so sanitized they almost never do episodes about any real world problems. Hell, it took them two and a half seasons to let That's So Raven do an episode dealing with racism.

Anyway, what's really disappointing is that parental complaints led to Disney pulling that episode of Hannah Montana before it had even aired. I just saw it online and didn't see anything wrong with it. It's sad and pathetic that Disney would let themselves be pressured out of dealing with a genuine health concern on a TV show that millions of children watch. What, it wasn't about believing in yourself enough? Is that the message of everything?

6. Months ago I decided to make a lifestyle change by getting a Rachael Ray cookbook and cooking everything inside of it. I bought the book and made a lot of the recipes. I haven't made everything yet, but I've been making a lot of the stuff she cooks on her show too. It's all been pretty good and hasn't made me sick. I know she's not popular with a lot of guys, but the fact is she has delicious recipes that are very easy to make and which are helping me to, you know, not die. Considering I didn't even have the will to live at this time last year, and that I made a serious suicide attempt in February, that's some positive progress. If she's been a factor in that in some way, however small, I'm willing to cut her all the slack in the world.

TV Report: Brief Mentions

* True Blood is really running out of steam. I don't think I could hate Sookie more right now, and with the exception of Bill and Jason, I don't really give a shit about what any character is going through right now. Killing Stephen Root off just blows; he was a real bright spot, an interesting character in a very uncharacteristic performance for Root. The only bright spot right now is this new vampire Jessica, but only because a character actually enjoying herself is always a bright spot in a show that is taking itself way too seriously. Next week is the finale, and that's probably a good thing. I need a break from this crap. It's not like any questions are going to be answered, anyway.

* After last night, Heroes can do whatever it wants. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I'm really into it now. This is always the point where Heroes hits its stride. For me the whole show is Sylar and Elle. Not only are they the most attractive people on the show (they really need to get Zachary Quinto's shirt off more often), but they're the most interesting characters. That whole scene where she keeps trying to kill him, only for him to forgive her... they really have something going with these two. They've been tamed, but not dulled, and I like that their romance is sort of rekindling. I think there are lesser shows/comic books that would've had Sylar take off over Elle's provoking him: "I only saved you so we could use you as a weapon." Instead of anger, he forgives her: "You were only following orders." That did a lot to pull me back in. I think maybe it's unfair to judge the show by the first month or so it's on; it's unfortunate that this is the format they've decided to go with, but eventually it all makes sense. Well, most of it. Anyway, patience seems to be the key.

* Lost is coming back. The more I think about the first three seasons, the more I don't care. Seriously... I just don't find myself enthusiastic about it. Nobody has any idea what they're doing.

* I'm getting the third season of How I Met Your Mother via Netflix today. I'm disappointed that, by the end of the week, there won't be anymore new HIMYM for me to watch all at once. I can't believe how much I love this show.

* I saw the ratings for 30 Rock are falling like... well, a rock. I'm not sure what the problem is only, what, three episodes in, but it doesn't quite have its spark back yet. Maybe it's the heavy amount of guest stars. Seriously, can we cool it down? This is usually a bad sign for comedies, because it means they're going to start coasting on their rep instead of devoting time to the scripts. See the last eight years of The Simpsons for a perfect example of what that's like.

* I caught the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special: Episode II last night. Damn, I'd love to see that as a series. Their characterizations especially of the Emperor and Boba Fett are hilarious. Just saying. More of these would be appreciated.

* You can skip this next part if you want, but someone sent me some Ghost Whisperer fan fiction of a pornographic nature yesterday, and I immediately went here: I don't know, I can't really see a girl who wears maternity gowns to bed being the kind of girl who shaves her pussy. Or has a dildo. Hell, who wants to masturbate when a ghost can show up to watch at any second? I mean, she runs an antiques store. She doesn't seem like the kind of gal who gets off on having dead people watch her in bed. Maybe that's just me. But it's all about verisimilitude in your writing, man.

* I hope Mark never has Zac Efron hair like he did last week on Ugly Betty again. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

* Seriously, though, Tim Kring, if you kill off Elle on Heroes I will hunt you down and kill you. Well, probably not. But you get my drift.

For the Trailers Never Ever Give a Thought to Me

Haven't done this in a while, but here are some thoughts on the little tastes studios give me.

(Oh, and I didn't do this early enough to use this line, but what's with that Soul Men trailer? Is that supposed to look like the blaxploitation version of The Bucket List?)

Bolt (11/21)
Looks better than I expected, and I love the hamster, but it still feels like Disney trying too hard. I don't know, maybe when I see it I'll have something different to say. Meet the Robinsons and Enchanted indicated to me that Disney is back on the right track, so I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt right now. Even though I'm still annoyed by the way they pushed out Chris Sanders...

Twilight (11/21)
Exactly the kind of whiney douchebaggery I'd expect from a vampire movie, especially one made for tweens and cat ladies. The most hilarious part of the Twilight experience so far has been that the stars, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, take themselves so seriously and think they're so above the film they've made that all you have to do is put a microphone in front of them and they're off insulting the fans, the potential audience, and even the author of the book. Remember how gracious the Harry Potter kids were?

Transporter 3 (11/26)
Why? The trailer is a blurry, choppy retread, which is what I figure the movie will be. Pass.

Four Christmases (11/26)
When is Hollywood going to figure out that Christmas isn't funny? A trailer like this used to make me sigh heavily with annoyance. Now they just flash by, unnoticed. Stop it with the damn Christmas movies already!

Australia (11/26)
I can't believe the state of cinema is such that we're meant to take this thing seriously, as though it were some kind of serious movie and not an overblown romance novel made by a guy who thinks coherence is some kind of medical term. Seriously, I know a lot of people who are excited about this movie, and it kind of hurts my brain a little bit. Well, not that they're excited--I just don't share their tastes on that one--but that they're talking it up like it's going to be the Best Picture at the Oscars and comparing it to Gone with the Wind. Seriously? I mean... seriously?

Milk (11/26)
I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, I'd love to see a movie about Harvey Milk (and I have, the excellent documentary The Times of Harvey Milk). And the cast is pretty good; you'd think casting Sean Penn would bother me, but it doesn't (in fact I defend his skill as an actor, it's the high regard in which he holds himself that I find tiresome). The trailer's great. But... Gus Van Sant... Any possible respect I could've had for him went out the window when he made a timed, shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. And since then it's been crap like Elephant... I don't know. I'm probably going to see it at some point, but...

Cadillac Records (12/5)
On the plus side, Jeffrey Wright plays Muddy Waters. But Beyonce as Etta James? I've seen Beyonce in a couple of movies now, and I'm not sure why she really needs an acting career. Sure, she's hot and she's got a voice, but that whole acting concept seems to elude her. Still, the movie actually looks pretty good, and I do like movies about musicians.

Punisher: War Zone (12/5)
I still haven't seen the Travolta movie. And I probably never will. Like this one. Seriously, it's been a pretty decent year for Marvel, too (Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk), but this looks like a waste of time.

Nobel Son (12/5)
Alan Rickman as a delightfully acerbic Nobel winner whose son gets kidnapped and ransomed. Bill Pullman as a hilariously bumbling FBI agent. And it's all a feel-good comedy. That's what the trailer is, anyway. Trying way, way too hard to be quirky.

Doubt (12/12)
I actually can't wait to see this movie, either. It's a grown-up movie. I got excited by this trailer, and I hope the movie doesn't let me down. Great cast (Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams), interesting plot (a priest may or may not have molested a child), and it doesn't give up every plot point.

The Reader (12/12)
Of the 117 movies about Nazis coming out this winter, this is the one I'm most interested in, and not just because Kate Winslet's in it. The trailer enthralled me, anyway. Ralph Fiennes remembers an affair with an older woman (Kate) from his childhood, who later went on trial for having been an SS guard. I'd love to see Kate Winslet in at least one more movie I like before I die. And it wasn't Little Children. (By the way, this is by the guy who made The Hours. I still haven't seen The Hours. I'm not sure why, just haven't. Am I missing out there? Should I see that? Seriously, no one's ever recommended it to me, but I figured I'd see it eventually.)

The Day the Earth Said Whoa Stood Still (12/12)
You know what the only fun of the trailer for this dick-brained remake is? Say "whoa" after every one of Keanu Reeves' lines. People will laugh. Well, cool people will. This looks eminently skippable, starring as it does Reeves and Will Smith's repellent child.

Delgo (12/12)
...the fuck?

Seven Pounds (12/19)
Will Smith tries to make the lives of seven people better while remaining a secret (but not, unsurprisingly, when it comes to pretty Rosario Dawson). The secret is he's dying. Actually, I don't know if that's true, but it seems pretty obvious by the trailer. My mom says: "Seven Pounds of Shit." Why the hell do we still need Will Smith anymore? I mean... what's he doing for us these days?

The Tale of Despereaux (12/19)
Oh, good. For a second I was worried that Kate DiCamillo's lyrical, beautiful, dark book might make it to the screen without a bunch of stupid jokes. I'm not going to see this even if it means saving a life.

Gran Torino (12/19)
This looks surprisingly good to me. I kind of rolled my eyes when I saw Clint Eastwood's name (somehow he's just lost a lot of cachet with me in the 21st century), but it's kind of interesting. It'll probably be too-long sappy bullshit (like a lot of his movies of late), but I'd like to see him play such an unlikable character.

Yes Man (12/19)
I want to slap Jim Carrey across the face for making me look at him in that Harry Potter costume. Carrey's latest attempt to ingratiate himself with a mainstream audience he obviously has a lot of contempt for is a Liar, Liar remake. Why can't Carrey just pull a Seinfeld and go the fuck away already?

Bedtime Stories (12/25)
Speaking of "comedians" who need to go the fuck away... what the hell is this piece of shit? Look, Hollywood, stop making Charlie and the Wonder Emporium Toys, no one cars. They're always disingenuous and preachy, no matter how great the senior citizens who run Hollywood think these things are going to be. Seriously, no kid cares about your midlife crisis or your daddy issues or your pathetic love life, and no adult has the patience for special effects aimed at pretending what a child thinks is magical (raining gumballs? oh, please). This looks like a piece of shit wrapped in hair and set on fire.

Frost/Nixon (12/25)
I really want to see this. This looks like a real movie. You know, for adults. Not like Australia.

The Spirit (12/25)
My enthusiasm remains, unabated.

Valkyrie (12/25)
Bryan Singer needs to get shot in the face. A movie based on a fascinating true story, with an exceptional cast of actors in a very serious, classy production... starring Tom Cruise. The trailer looks so good, and then Tom Cruise comes into it, doing those four mannerisms he has. Fuck, Singer, really? I mean, I know you're overrated as hell and you've never made anything that was really all that good, but are you kidding me? Tom Cruise as a Nazi? That's not stunt casting, that's stupidity? How many times is Cruise going to fail at proving his point (that he's God, creator of all) before even the dumbest of directors (Singer) realizes they shouldn't work with him anymore? This would look so good if it weren't for Cruise being in it. It's like buying a beautiful Dusenberg in perfect condition and then taking a dump on it. It just makes me so fucking angry.

Marley & Me (12/25)
Looks exactly like you'd expect. I'd rather spend the day removing my hand in tiny sections than sit through this. Note to Hollywood: Jennifer Aniston is not a movie star, she's barely tolerable on television.

Last Chance Harvey (12/25)
Doesn't look as bad as I thought, even if the first part of the trailer tries a little too hard. I don't know, it might make a pleasant time-waster on HBO some weekend. I like Emma Thompson, at any rate.

Revolutionary Road (12/25)
I'm on the fence. I can see where this could be a good movie, but the trailer is so faux-epic, like this is the season's Really Important Movie, that it's kind of a turn off.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (12/25)
I starting to get a real Forrest Gump vibe off of this, and that's not really a good thing. When did David Fincher go so damn commercial? I mean, great cast, and it definitely looks well-made, but is this going to be another one of those life-affirming, phoney baloney Oscar movies? Like Australia? (Yes, I'm going to keep unfairly bashing it, it happens.)

Bride Wars (1/9)
Seriously, Anne Hathaway, what is the fucking problem? Why did you make this movie? Were you worried that The Devil Wears Prada didn't make women look stupid enough? Because it certainly did.

Defiance (1/16)
I'm willing to give this a shot (of course, I'm high on Daniel Craig right now). And I like movies about World War II. There hasn't been a movie about this particular incident before, either (the Bielski resistance in Belarus, hiding Jews from the Nazis in the woods), which makes it especially interesting. Could be worse... could have Tom Cruise.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (1/16)
Will someone please explain to me why Kevin James has a career? He's not funny, he's not likable, and this movie looks like shit. Great, another sad sack trying to prove he's not the underdog, blah blah. During the preview, I kept thinking that the plot (terrorists or thieves or something take over a mall and security guy James is the only one who can stop them) would've been kind of funny if they'd handled it differently. First, cast someone who's funny but not a sitcom guy, someone like Bruce Campbell in his glory days. Then you just make it Die Hard in a mall, but with gags. That would be a funnier concept to me, anyways. It's never a good sign when you're rewriting a movie while watching the trailer.

Inkheart (1/23)
I don't know what's going on, but I like Brendan Fraser in fantasy adventure movies. It can't be worse than The Golden Compass, anyway. I think it looks kind of neat.

The Uninvited (1/30)
It looks like the good kind of silly fun for a horror movie. Plus it stars Elizabeth Banks. I'll probably catch it on DVD. And kudos to the trailer for a couple of scenes of Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel in their bikinis. (Arielle Kebbel has a surprising following; I put up some pictures of her a couple of months back, and that post is still one of my most popular in terms of hits.)

Fanboys (2/6)
JUST PUT THE FUCKING MOVIE OUT, ALREADY! Fucking Weinsteins. At least I got a preview this time. (If you don't count the first preview, which I first saw something like 26 years ago.) There's entirely too little Kristen Bell in the trailer, but it looks funny. Just release the goddamn thing and I promise to go, alright?

Push (2/6)
Wow, does that look fucking stupid. I watch this every week on TV already, don't I? It's called Heroes, right?

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2/13)
Here's a confession: this movie looks idiotic. Blurgh. I don't think Isla Fisher has it in her to carry a movie. If you'd cast Elizabeth Banks or Amy Adams, then we could talk.

The International (2/13)
Is every Clive Owen movie going to look retarded from now on? This looks retarded. Sorry to go for that term, but at some stage this movie's development into something resembling a movie was retarded. There, now it's scientific. This would look embarrassing if it looked noticeable.

Friday the 13th (2/13)
I don't know... I'm almost willing to give it a shot, for some reason. Maybe it's because I liked the Halloween remake so much. But this is the same gang of assholes who made the execrable Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. And it's got that asswad Jared Padalecki, who I fucking hate.

Watchmen (3/6)
The first trailer was awesome. So is the second. I really want to see this movie, and I really want it to be good. Misgivings over.

The Soloist (3/13)
A white guy is uplifted by a magical black man and everyone begs for an Oscar. I feel like I've seen this condescending shit a million times before.

Race to Witch Mountain (3/13)
I know I'll see it on DVD. My Disney thing. I'm not altogether convinced that Escape to Witch Mountain needs a remake, but who knows?

Sunshine Cleaning (3/13)
The trailer practically wants you to think it's a sequel to Little Miss Sunshine (it's from the same producers) right down to Alan Arkin being in it. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are sisters who form a crime scene cleaning service. It looks nice. I want to see it.

Monsters vs. Aliens (3/27)
It's a DreamWorks animation but it actually looks funny. I like the monsters, anyway, especially that blobby guy.

Star Trek (5/8)
I'm cutting this movie a lot of slack now because I think the trailer looked really good. The fact that there are suddenly so many Trekkies who are pissed off about the trailer only sweetens the deal (typical reaction boils down to: not pretentious and precious enough--meanwhile, these same people turned Transformers into one of the biggest hits of the year, so who cares what those jerks want to see?). I'd love to see Trek move in a direction that isn't the same thing I've been seeing since I was 12 fucking years old.

Angels & Demons (5/15)
For the same idiots who thought The Da Vinci Code was really, really smart. Boilerplate.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (7/17)
I still like these movies. I realize I can't objectively review them, because I'll always end up liking them because I like the characters and I like the actors and I like the whole enterprise. None of them are altogether, seriously, excellent movies. Someone said that after seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that they felt there would never be a truly bad Harry Potter movie, but there would never be a truly great one, either. And I think the movies get better on repeat viewings (Order of the Phoenix was much better a second time around). So what can I tell you? I think the trailer looks great, if that even means anything anymore, and I'm disappointed this one got pushed all the way back to July. But 7/17 is my birthday, so that's kind of neat.

They Came from Upstairs (7/31)
I'd love to see Ashley Tisdale not play a kid anymore, I really would. Now that this High School Musical shit is over, can she please move on?

Happy 80th Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Star Wars Should Have Ended

Good point...

More "How It Should Have Ended" videos here.

Some Tax Thoughts

Just a couple of observations I've had in my head.

1. I wouldn't stand for it if the police or firefighters required proof of insurance and a co-pay before they investigated a crime or stopped my house from burning down. Why do we stand for the same thing at the doctor's office?

2. Incidentally, anyone who says that police, firefighters, and teachers should be paid more but complains about taxes being too high is at best childish and at worst a hypocrite. Anybody who complains about taxes being too high but still enjoys the benefits of taxes (roads, libraries, police, firefighters, public education, water, government, rural electricity) is also an idiot.

3. Haven't you people figured out that your taxes are already paying for socialized health care? It's just only available (for life) to members of the government. How do you like paying for something with your taxes that you have no access to?

4. The only argument against socialized health care that makes any sense is that you really, desperately want the insurance companies to keep making obscene amounts of money and denying coverage, and if you're arguing for that, you're kind of a monster. Look what's happened to the economy? Do you really want that to happen to peoples' health insurance? The other arguments against socialized health care, the ones we hear over and over, simply don't hold water:

a. "It's socialized!" So is the fire department. Is that a bad thing? Is it horrible that we live in a country where everyone has free and open access to the post office?

b. "You'll have to wait longer at the emergency room!" We already have long waits at the emergency room. And how about those waiting lists to see specialists? Yeah, why mess with the efficiency we have?

c. "The pharmaceutical companies won't have the money for research and development!" Gee, I guess we'll make up the 17% of medical research Big Pharma actually does at our tax-subsidized universities. You know what the benefit is there? Universities actually test the medications before throwing them out on the market.

5. Socialized health care in Europe and Canada costs 50% less per capita than the system we're using now, and they provide better health care. Did you know America's average life expectancy is shortening now?

6. The idea that the French pay more taxes than we do is kind of a lie. On paper, they pay around 4% more than we do, but the reality is different, isn't it? We pay much, much more than they do, but in America we call those taxes "fees," "co-pays," "premiums," "deductibles," "tuition," "loan payments," etc. How many of you are paying band fees for your kid to learn an instrument at school? Are your potholes getting fixed? We can't get efficient public transportation moving. We pay more and we don't even get the free services or benefits we're already paying for under codewords for taxes. The French get free health care for everyone, free child care, free tuition at every university (even the Sorbonne), four months minimum paid maternity leave, mandatory paid 30 days vacation every year, and unlimited paid sick days. How has this been made to seem evil? I mean, if America really is the greatest country in the world, why can't we provide these things for ourselves and each other?

7. Of course, the French can afford this because they don't start illegal oil wars. We could afford socialized health care for one-seventh what the Splurge cost, but apparently that would be a failure, not a destroyed economy. Then again, the French will also protest and shut down the country if they're not being governed well... I guess the French just actually give a shit about the quality of their lives. Too bad we don't. In America, caring for other people is sick and wrong.

8. If the free market system is the end all and be all, why are industries allowed to come to the government, hat in hand, looking for a bailout?

9. Imagine what those terrorists would be fighting against if we used that war money to build wells in Africa. One well in a Third World village costs about ten bucks per person. And we have the labor, they're just propping up Halliburton's profit center right now. A third of the planet doesn't have access to sanitary water, and we think it's more important to make sure banks are allowed to become bigger near-monopolies? At what point are you forced to admit that the American ideal is a sham and that it's really every man for himself?

10. I just found this out: Social Security really is fixable. Seriously, my generation especially is being sold this lie that Social Security is going to run out of money, so we should just let the government hand it over to the same people who can't even keep a bank running. The truth is, anyone making over $102,000 a year doesn't pay their Social Security tax on any income over that amount. You and I in the middle class or lower have to pay Social Security tax on 6.2% of our income. People who make over $102,000 a year pay Social Security tax on 6.2% of $102,000 of income. If everyone paid the same amount of tax, which seems like the fairness rich people are always begging for on their taxes, we could keep Social Security solvent for the next hundred years. Think of that the next time a conservative hits you with that loaded lie about how the rich pay more taxes than anyone else.

The fact is, I don't expect this country to make it work. This is a country that values the chance of being rich much more than the ideal of helping everyone rise to a better standard of living. This is an America were more people are worried about keeping men from marrying each other than about the terrible quality of life we have. This is an America where freedom is paid lip service to, but few are willing to fight for it. This is an America that re-elected George W. Bush despite his incompetence, where poor people vote for Republicans because they think Democrats are going to steal their money, and where people moan about taxes and then wonder, angrily, why the health care system is so expensive when they really need it. No president who ran on socialized health care and civil rights for everyone and dismantling corporate America would ever get elected here.

How much longer will Americans prove that they just don't care about anyone else?