Saturday, January 03, 2009

What Is a Matt Smith?

Okay, so the new Doctor is going to be a 26 year-old creepy-lookin' guy. Great. Awesome. What an underwhelming, anticlimactic choice. Why do they keep getting younger and younger? At this rate we'll have a teenager as the Doctor before 2012.

That said, I trust Stephen Moffat. I'll wait to see him in action. I'm not so excited anymore, but I'll wait and see.

Saturday Playlist

1. Nellie McKay: The Big One
2. Brak: I’m Forgettable/News Bulletin/I’m a Cucumber/News Bulletin
3. Patti Smith: Paths That Cross
4. Generation X: Your Generation
5. Danny Elfman: The Quadruped Patrol
6. Strawberry Switchblade: Since Yesterday
7. Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army: Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army
8. Queen: Nevermore
9. Ludwig Van Beethoven: Piano Sonata Concerto No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique,” 2nd Movement
10. The Cure: Let’s Go to Bed

1. From Nellie's second album Pretty Little Head. Strong opener for a randomly selected Saturday Playlist.
2. From one of my favorite albums, Brak Presents The Brak Album Starring Brak, which is the soundtrack to Brak Presents The Brak Show Starring Brak. The special, not the series. Didn't care much for the series, but the special is hilarious. "I'm Forgettable" is one I think is especially funny, containing the line "Do you remember our last dance; I never wanted to change pants... with you."
3. Pretty, pretty, pretty song.
4. One of two tracks I have by this band; I like "Ready Steady Go" better.
5. The fourth movement from Elfman's Serenada Schizophrana, which is the soundtrack to an IMAX movie about deep sea exploration.
6. I don't really need to hear this one too often. It's alright. Pretty opening.
7. Apparently this 1969 psychedelic single was meant to be the theme song to a cartoon that never materialized. I have it from a compilation of bubblegum rock. Groovy, but impossibly stupid.
8. One of my favorite tracks from the gorgeous Queen II.
9. Not my favorite Beethoven piece. Billy Joel did a song that uses some of this music, and now it's all I can hear.
10. A classic and a nice one to go out on.

TV Report: Three's Company

Sometimes I act on weird impulses. One recent impulse I had was to check out TV Land and similar channels which just show old reruns and record as many Christmas episodes of old shows that I could stand watching. We got a nice mix, some good (Sanford and Son, Good Times) and some bad (was Bewitched always that boring?), and generally enjoyed ourselves.

Somehow, this led to me noticing that TV Land had rounded the horn on reruns and their Three's Company airing schedule was about to hit the first episode. They show it here at one in the morning, and it generally airs until three. So, for the hell of it, for some odd reason, I started TiVoing Three's Company. Maybe I just felt the need to take another look at it.

I was born the year before Three's Company started its initial run, so the thing was in syndication by the time I was, I don't know, seven or eight. I used to watch it, and a lot of other shows, on my local WFLD 32 Chicago, which became the FOX affiliate in 1989. It was the same channel where I used to watch, for example, M*A*S*H, Happy Days, and a bunch of other shows that I used to think of as really old, despite the fact that they all went off the air in the early eighties. I liked Three's Company, especially John Ritter as Jack Tripper, because he always made me laugh. I never really got the jokes about his character pretending to be gay; I mean, I sort of new what gay was (I grew up in the suburbs in the eighties, it was considered impolite to talk about it in front of kids, or something), but I didn't get that it meant you didn't like girls. Hey, give me a break, I was a child.

As I got older, Three's Company sort of became a term I used with friends for really bad, obvious television based on misunderstandings. I remember about the time Friends starting getting mega-popular; I hated that show and I hated that it was being called innovative when all of the humor was merely an update of old sitcom tropes. I specifically recall having a conversation while working at Barnes & Noble with Carl about how bad modern sitcoms had gotten, and him saying "I think every young sitcom writer now has a book on his desk. It's called The Guide to Writing a Modern Sitcom. They open it up and it's just the script for every episode of Three's Company with the names blanked out."

Anyway, for some reason, Three's Company started loading on my TiVo. So Becca and I have been watching it, and we're closing in on the end of the second season (the first was only six episodes). And I have to say, I'm surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.

Yes, it's familiar. Not only because I saw it as a kid (and I'm surprised what I remember and what I don't remember), but because it's been so heavily ripped-off by other shows ever since. But it's a comfortable kind of familiar, not an irritating one.

A lot of this has to do with the actors. I think it might not have worked with any other three actors in the leads (which is probably why I don't remember the Jennilee Harrison or Priscilla Barnes episodes as fondly).

Joyce DeWitt is underrated as Janet Wood, I think. In the first season, she has this pretty straight hair. I don't know why they opted to go curly in the second season; it's not as cute. They try too hard to make her the less attractive one, when the fact is she's got a nice body and is very pretty; they give her these dowdy clothes sometimes... granted, it's the late seventies, so pretty much all of the clothes are terrible (oy, my early childhood in those clashing colors), but they really make her down. As a comic actress, though, she holds the center of that show a lot more than anyone else, and without her, I think the entire season would be drowning in a sea of personalities. Jack and Chrissy are the extremes.

Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow is a lot better than I remember her. Given everything she's done since, I expected to find her easy to dismiss, but she's quite good. She manages to not become a stereotype of bubbly blond, and her comic timing is pretty good (though not great). And my God, I'd forgotten just how cute she really was on that show. Just so perfectly cute. And funny.

John Ritter as Jack Tripper is giving one of the greatest sitcom performances of all time. He's been praised in the past for his physical comedy, and he's quite gifted in that department. I don't know very much about what John Ritter's approach to comedy was, but he knows when to go broad, when to react, and when to dial it down, and he's really good. He's a likable guy playing a likable guy and, I feel, approaching it seriously but not preciously.

The group dynamic is fantastic, and the show gets a lot of mileage out of simply letting the three of them interact with one another. Take away the misunderstandings and situations, and it still wouldn't be a bad program. I think the leads could pull it off.

As for the sides, I don't think any of the characters are very interesting, but it doesn't really matter. Jack, Janet and Chrissy have enough charisma between the three of them. A big exception, though, is Norman Fell as Mr. Roper. Gosh, he's funny. I tend to like his type of character, the older guy, out of touch with the modern world, grumpy but funny. Fell is terrific, and I'm not looking forward to his leaving the show. Not only am I not a Don Knotts fan, but I just don't remember the show being as much fun without Fell. I guess we'll test that after a bit. Fell is fantastic; my favorite episode so far has been "Strange Bedfellows," the episode where Roper and Jack wind up in bed together. The second half of the episode is a mini-farce that somehow comes off completely. The humor is at the kind of high energy that I think sitcoms can only dream about nowadays.

Anyway, I know that's not too terribly interesting for a TV Report. But I have reassesed my opinion of Three's Company. The first two seasons, anyway, are just terrific.

You Need a Logic Crumple Zone to Understand the New Star Trek Movie

This is a little old, but I just came across this ridiculous interview with hack writer Roberto Orci in which he talks about how the new Star Trek movie is tied in with the Trek canon. He talks about the use of time travel as a plot device--a device which lazy film and television writers have been using as a magical "fix everything" button lately--and says "It is the reason why some things are different, but not everything is different. Not everything is inconsistent with what might have actually happened, in canon. Some of the things that seem that they are totally different, I will argue, once the film comes out, fall well within what could have been the non-time travel version of this movie... [Whether or not fans believe these are "different" versions of the familiar characters] depends on whether or not you believe in nature or nurture and how much you believe in, for lack of a better word, their souls. I would argue that for the characters, their true nature does not change. Our motto for this movie was ’same ship, different day.’"

Jebus Q. Kazoo, are you kidding me? Are we really having this discussion now? Nature or nurture? Whadda wha? This is like one of those logical contradictions that Captain Kirk used to lay on evil computers to get them to blow themselves up.

Let me translate here: the fact is, there are so many people out there who have made the fake Star Trek world their real world, and Paramount wants (more of) their money, so instead of alienating them, they're going to skirt around the idea of creativity by claiming that this all ties in somehow to the regular, established, extremely dull, unending Star Trek universe that book after book has been written about. Don't worry, guys! Everything is different but the same!

Seriously, I know that fanboys worry about canon, and that in fanboy-speak canon is defined as "everything the same as everything else," but this is just going overboard. This is proof that either fanboys are married much more to continuity than to the characters, or Paramount admitting that they think that's the case. Or both, really.

I'd have a lot more respect for the people behind this movie if they just came out and said "We're reimagining Star Trek" or "We're remaking Star Trek." An in addition, of course, "If you aren't interested, don't freaking go." But no, we get this half-assed non-explanation of "No, it's okay, it's still connected! It's the same thing, but different, but reassuringly the same!"

Wasn't Battlestar Galactica a hit in large part because it ignored everything about the original series except for the concepts? How afraid of fans are studios going to continue to be?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Eleventh Doctor Announced Tomorrow

The BBC is apparently going to announce David Tennant's replacement tomorrow on Doctor Who Confidential. I'll be interested to see who it is, but the real test is seeing the first episode. I didn't like David Tennant at first, but now I love him as the Doctor. So we'll see.

Took Me a Minute to See It, But Then I Laughed My Ass Off

Heartbreak

Does a Throwdown Even Matter?

Everything I had to talk about this week seems pretty trivial next to the way Israel decided to celebrate Hanukkah this year: by murdering more Arabs. I had a Throwdown planned for today, but I just can't watch the events in Gaza continue to unfold and give a damn about anything else.

I can't even talk about this, frankly. I don't want to. I'm sick of Israel. I'm fucking sick of their shit. I'm sick of seeing them, throughout their short modern history, pushing and pushing and pushing and breaking truces and ceasefires and doing everything they can to antagonize Palestinians into open warfare so they can claim they didn't do anything to start the conflict anew (except antagonize and provoke; this time it was the tunnel raid two months ago). I'm sick of America taking Israel's side and acting like this conflict is somehow ideological. It's not ideological. It's oppression. It's bullying.

Israel is oppressing Palestinians. And Israel will stop at nothing but the complete extermination of every Palestinian and the powerlessness of the Arab states. Because they won't feel "safe" otherwise.

And, of course, America goes on TV and tells Palestine to get in line and that they are somehow holding up any kind of peace talks. Israel doesn't want peace talks. They want the Palestinians to not exist. That's why they keep starting wars. And we keep backing them up when, frankly, I'm still not sure we should even be involved.

Am I suggesting the Palestinians are blameless? Of course not. That's a stupid argument. But Israel can't claim to be combating Palestinian terrorists when it's bombing Palestine's government buildings. I'm saying what I always say: if Israel is an important ally because "it's the only democracy in a part of the world that has none," than Israel needs to do better. Just being a democracy doesn't make you great. Or faultless. It doesn't here, and it doesn't there.

And before you comment in self-righteous anger (because I get many of those when this topic jumps up), I really don't feel like being called an anti-Semite today. Being against wholesale slaughter is not being pro-Palestinian or anti-Semitic. It's being a human being.

Holy Socks, I Love This Game!

Becca bought this with a Target gift card my dad gave her for Christmas, and we spent all day and most of the night yesterday playing this game. It's so much damn fun! I think the last time I really enjoyed a game this much I was five and rocking Pac-Man and Space Invaders at the arcade.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Oh, Fuck... Another Year?

Man, how much longer is this going to go on? Welcome to the new year, everyone.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fourth Annual Hot 50 List

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

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

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

Previously:
2005
2006
2007

Film Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My 25 Favorite Things in the Films of 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


9. “Inside of You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2008 End of the Year Meme

Emailed to me.

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

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

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

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

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, for a change.

5. What countries did you visit?

None.

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

Better health, better financial resources.

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

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

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

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

9. What was your biggest failure?

See above comment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

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

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The new TV.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

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

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

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

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills.

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

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

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

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

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

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

Swimming. Exercising.

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

Being depressed and feeling sorry for myself.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At home.

21. What was your favorite month of 2008?

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

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?

I was already in love.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

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

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

I can't think of anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?

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

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

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

28. What did you want and get?

Peace of mind.

29. What did you want and not get?

Oh, a man can dream of things...

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

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

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

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

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

Just give me Scarlett Johansson for one month...

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

Ultra-basic.

34. What kept you sane?

Work. Life. Cooking. Music. Daleks.

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

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

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Health care.

37. Who did you miss?

My sister.

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

Mood has a lot to do with food.

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

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

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 3

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Cock

Monday, December 29, 2008

An Impression of Endings

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

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

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

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

"It was beauty killed the beast."

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

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

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

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

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

"First Hesse, now him!"

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

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

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

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

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

"Nobody's perfect!"

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

"He has all the time in the world."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'll be right here."

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

"Young. I feel... young."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, I'm back."

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

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

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

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

My 10 Favorite Movie Posters of 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006
2007

Runners-Up