Saturday, July 04, 2009

Destino

Someone has taken a screener of Destino and put it online!

Destino is the animation project begun but never finished by Walt Disney and Salvador Dali in 1946. It was shelved because of financial concerns, and remained incomplete for over 50 years. Roy Disney unearthed it while working on Fantasia 2000; it was produced in Disney's French studio and meant for the aborted Fantasia 2006. Four shorts were completed--One on One and The Little Match Girl made it to DVD, but Lorenzo the Magnificent and Destino have yet to be released (although apparently Lorenzo was released with, oddly, Raising Helen in some theaters).

Destino apparently accompanied the release of Calendar Girls in some theaters, which qualified it for an Academy Award nomination in 2003. It was supposed to be released on DVD in 2007. Then it was supposed to play in front of Beverly Hills Chihuahua in 2008. Then it was going to go to DVD instead. And now it's supposedly going to be on DVD next year. I won't hold my breath. Which will come out first--Destino or Song of the South?

Can't they just compile all of these shorts together (along with some of the other recent shorts that haven't made it to home viewing) and RELEASE them so people can watch them?

Anyway, via The Daily What, here is Destino. Watch it before the film gets taken down. At 5:17, you can see the only animation done on the project in 1946--18 seconds of test footage.

Happy Independence Day

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Invention of Lying

Another upcoming movie I want to see--at this point I'll see anything with Ricky Gervais, especially if he's writing.

Friday Playlist

1. Aretha Franklin: Gentle on My Mind
2. George Harrison: It’s What You Value
3. Gorillaz: Last Living Souls
4. Dixie Chicks: Sing
5. Brian Wilson: Out in the Country
6. Hayden Panettiere: I Fly
7. Prince & the New Power Generation: Gett Off
8. Tenacious D: Kielbasa
9. Richard & Linda Thompson: For Shame of Doing Wrong
10. Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer: Redemption Song

1. Awesome R&B cover from Soul '69.
2. From 33 & 1/3, which I think is an underrated album. I think George consistently put out great albums, he just didn't tend to go for the obvious singles and somehow got shunted aside. I think George's solo output, taken as a collection of albums, is probably the most listenable of any of the Beatles.
3. Decent track from Demon Days, which I didn't like as much as their first album.
4. Along with some Muppet chickens. This is from the Songs from the Street compilation of Sesame Street music.
5. Very dark, organ-heavy track from the Landylocked bootleg of unreleased music.
6. Poppy track from the Ice Princess soundtrack. A throwaway, but throwaways are fun.
7. Probably the most powerful of the bands Prince ever had behind him, although I prefer the Revolution. Amazingly, this is the first Prince track (and I have several of his albums on my iTunes) my shuffle has landed on since I started this. Weird. Great song. Does anyone remember the twins in this and the "Cream" video? Prince and his many protégés.
8. Awesomeness from the D. The line "your butt cheeks is warm" always cracks me up.
9. From the masterful Pour Down Like Silver album.
10. Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer duet from the Unearthed collection (outtakes from Johnny Cash's American Recordings sessions). Beautiful stuff, though I prefer the Strummer solo version the best. I'm not really a Bob Marley fan, but in this case he certainly wrote one hell of a song.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

I haven't read any of Stephen King's novels since the mid-nineties. For my money, his best period of work lasts from Carrie to It, and anything I've read published after 1987 isn't particularly good. So I'm not really sure why I sat down to read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, except that I remember working at the bookstore when it came out and a bunch of people at the time told me it was really good. After Fight Club, I was looking for something less challenging that I could breeze through during my breaks at work.

I wasn't prepared, then, for The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is pretty traumatic. I'm not sure I'd say it was a good novel--Stephen King always has a tendency to go too far with the mysticism, which is usually where he loses me--but it was something I had to finish. It deals with a little girl, a baseball fan, who gets lost in the woods when hiking with her constantly-arguing brother and mother, and tries to find her way back to civilization. As she journeys (as King, the omniscient narrator, tells us, further away from the people who are out looking for her), she becomes sick and starts having fever dreams, and is certain some thing is following her and testing her fear.

Frankly, it's kind of traumatic. I had to finish it because I was so worried about what was going to happen to the girl as she drank fetid water and felt her stomach twist and fell down hills and encountered a hornet's nest. The problem is that the details are so disgusting (turns out that meaty is, in fact, the grossest word one can use to describe a burp) and too often unrelentingly so (she's constantly got mosquitoes biting her in the eye), and it becomes such a gross book to read that I really wanted to keep it at arm's length. But I just had to make sure the little girl was going to be okay. So, if King's intent was to unrelentingly horrify, gross out, traumatize, emotionally manipulate, and batter the reader, mission accomplished.

I don't think King is very good at getting us into the psyche of a nine year-old girl, but he's very good at getting us into the psyche of a baseball fan. The bright spots are the times she listens to the Red Sox play on her Walkman and imagines conversations with Tom Gordon, her favorite player. Those are often moments of extreme optimism that shine through the darkness of the book.

I don't really know how I feel about this book. It's very visceral. I don't know if I'd say it was well-written, but it's certainly effective. I don't know if I'm glad I read this book. I don't think I'd ever recommend it to another person. I think I'm just glad I survived.

Happy 30th Birthday, Ludivine Sagnier

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

This international trailer is way better than the American trailers so far. Can't wait to see this movie.



Also, here's the column I wrote about the talk that Harvey Weinstein wants the film severed by 40 minutes.

Luna the Lion

Happy Birthday, Ashley Tisdale!

Linkformers

By the 10s! Super Duck and Casper the Friendly Ghost (Random Acts of Geekery)

:: Becca's Baroness pin-up is amazing. (No Smoking in the Skullcave)

:: Speaking of the Baroness, Reis wonders why they can't get the action figure right. He's also got some awesome geeky E.T. paintings by Scott Campbell and some awesome Star Wars Lego shots. (Geek Orthodox)

:: Why wouldn’t Archie want to marry Betty? The answer is simple. Betty Cooper is motherfucking psycho bugfuck crazy. Yes she is! Seriously. No, seriously. (Mighty God King)

:: "The Autobiography of JGB" by JG Ballard. You should read more speculative fiction. (The New Yorker)

:: Some more movie titles improved with the word "motherfucker." (I, Splotchy)

:: Classic Red Sonja comic. (Diversions of the Groovy Kind)

I dig the way Jonathan Pacheco rediscovers The Muppet Movie. (Edward Copeland on Film)

:: Best animated GIF ever. (Geekologie)

:: Behold, the pants of Spider-Man! (Chris' Invincible Super Blog)

:: Fun Facts about the Firehouse Five Plus Two (2719 Hyperion)

:: 6 animated films that had massive upheaval midproduction (Den of Geek)

:: Julie Newmar in Playboy (No Smoking in the Skullcave)

:: The cutest yawn ever captured on camera. (YouTube)

:: What are TV shouters telling their viewers? They use such anger in expressing their opinions. Who are they trying to convince? They're preaching to the choir. Their viewers already agree with them. No minds are going to be changed. Why are they so mad? In a sense they're saying: You're right, but you're not right ENOUGH! I'm angrier about this than you are! Viewers may get the notion that there's unfinished business to be done, and it's up to them to do it. (Roger Ebert)

There Is No Star Trek Canon: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three (Postmodern Barney)

:: Even after 28 years, her husband’s murder must be a horrible pain to bear, but Yoko Ono is marketing — exploiting — her widowhood a little too publicly and cynically, exemplified by that “John would say…” shtick, as if Lennon was a sage-like Confucius rather than a complex man with some serious limitations. No matter how swell Yoko thought her husband was, it is nauseating. It perpetuates the false notion that Lennon had special insights into the human condition. Like, he invented peace, brother man! One might expect evangelical Lennonians to sport wristbands enquiring WWJS (What Would John Say). The canonisation of John Lennon is a lie. (Any Major Dude with Half a Heart)

:: We believe that all undesirable things can be eliminated by legislation. In England this has gotten so far out of hand that that a 10-year-old boy is forbidden to cross a parking lot, and girls can't skip rope on public property. In America, have you seen grade school football players recently? They wear more armor than Robocop. It's safer for them to sit on the sofa and blow people up in video games. (Roger Ebert)

:: The 10 Biggest Female Celebrity Douchebags Boy, there are so many more than 10, but this list sure is a good start. Especially Cameron Diaz. (Manofest)

The complete Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in one minute:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Diane Webber Website

I was alerted today about a new website devoted to the late, beautiful Diane Webber/Marguerite Empey. It's a devoted site with more information about Diane than I've ever seen before. I always knew her as a favorite nude model. But there's more to her than that. Take a look.

Karl Malden 1912-2009

Women in Trouble

I can't wait to see this movie. Carla Gugino alone...

Film Week

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

PRINCESS PROTECTION PROGRAM (2009)
I liked this a great deal better than I've liked some of the flashier Disney Channel movies. Demi Lovato plays a princess who flees her small Caribbean nation under threat of assassination and enters the Princess Protection Program, a secret government organization that relocates such people to keep them out of harm's way. She goes to live with the agent who saved her and has to share a room--and a new life--with his daughter, Selena Gomez. Now, it helps right off the bat that Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez are tremendously likable actresses (Demi's especially grown since her terrible performance in that idiot Camp Rock movie) and that their characters aren't written into the usual Princess Diaries or Mean Girls cliches. It makes other, more shallow girls in the movie--and the performance of her would-be usurper, which is pretty tongue-in-cheek--easier to accept. And the Princess Protection Program itself, which is a silly concept, is played straight instead of for laughs, and that lends a lot to the movie. But what I liked about it most is its message. A lot of recent Disney Channel movies fail for me as far as pushing terrible messages to kids. Here, the messages of what friendship entails and the importance of accepting responsibility and knowing when to be selfless were pitched at just the right level. I really liked that. *** stars.

A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957)
Astonishing criticism of the media that I'm sorry it took me this long in my life to see. Andy Griffith stars as Lonesome Rhodes, a drifter with a guitar who becomes a sensation on the radio with his colloquial style, homespun songs, and earnest stories. As his fame grows, so does his power, and really starts to take advantage of it, heading into television and finally becoming involved in politics. Rhodes is a sleaze at heart, an opportunist who has learned how to manipulate people for anything he wants and is attracted to the media because it affords him the ability to manipulate people on a larger scale. Griffith's performance is excellent; it's the same persona he used on The Andy Griffith Show, but with a seductive and dangerous edge to it. I'm amazed he didn't win any awards for a very realistic, almost scary performance as a real monster who seems so charming. Patricia Neal, as the woman who discovers him and falls in love with him, is harshly taken to task in the script for not being able to see through him as well as Walter Matthau, as a journalist who wants to expose Rhodes for the charlatan he is. That little detail is the one thing that really sets the movie in the 1950s for me; otherwise, it could've been made last year. It's nothing short of amazing how often people need to learn about the way they're manipulated by the media--and how often it still works in our supposedly media-savvy times. A powerful, smart, captivating film. **** stars.

BARON PRASIL (1961)
First off, I wanna say thanks to Frank for getting me in touch with this movie. I was bowled over by it. I wish I could share some of the imagery here. This film, about the adventures of Baron Munchausen, was one of the most visually arresting films I've ever seen, up there with The Adventures of Prince Achmed and The Thief and the Cobbler. The film looks, purposely, like 19th century Orientalist art. The effects--sometimes cut-out, sometimes stop motion, sometimes animation--reminded me a lot of Georges Meilies, another amazing visualist (and were obviously an inspiration to Terry Gilliam). Oddly, this reminds me of being a kid, because it has this sort of dreamlike quality to it--something mysterious and misty. I couldn't understand the dialogue--it's in Czech--but I didn't find that to be an impediment. In fact, it added something else wondrous to the movie, because the story is so much in the visuals and the adventure and the backdrops. The film works in a number of the Baron's more famous adventures--angering the Sultan, trapped inside the giant fish, riding the cannonball, dining on the moon--and weaves them into a story about a modern astronaut meeting the Baron on the moon and joining in his adventures in a fairy tale version of Turkey. It's wonderful. Truly wonderful. **** stars.

Happy Birthday, Liv Tyler!

70 Years of the Sandman

70 years ago this month, Wesley Dodds first appeared in Adventure Comics #40.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Uber Amazing

If John is to be believed--and he's a forthright chap--than I have an Uber Amazing Blog.

Thanks for the recognition and vote of confidence, John, and I'm sorry I've been remiss in putting it up. When someone tells me they like my blog, I try to respond quickly, because I'm still amazed that anyone even looks at this thing.

I'm supposed to pass this award along to six other bloggers, so here are six blogs that I think are more deserving than mine:

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness
Adventures in Nerdliness
Jon's Random Acts of Geekery
Geek Orthodox
Eclectorama
Byzantium's Shores

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 29

Pink eye.

Hoo-fucking-ray.

Actually, I got pink eye and burst a blood vessel in my eye at the same time, so that just makes it even better. (In related news, I can never eat spaghetti again, so no matter how much I've modified the recipe and no matter the fact that I barely ever eat it anymore anyway, I've got to give it up entirely. Awesome.)

I didn't get to go to my little sister's graduation party because of my pink eye. My dad is really angry with me over it--my shitty health has kept me from a lot of family things over the years, things I always feel awkward and unwanted at, anyway. I'm sure my dad would say he's just disappointed, which makes me feel even worse about myself. I hate myself for things like that. I really do.

I'm so unmotivated to get well and be healthy, because all I can see is where I disappoint everyone and piss everyone off and am completely a burden on others. I think everyone really believes that I'm just selfish and don't want to be bothered with them, when the actual fact is I just have shitty health and don't think anyone wants me around.

I feel really sick today. It's more than just the blood vessel. It's a general jumpiness and unease because of my high blood pressure being aggravated by a spaghetti lunch. It sucks giving up things you love (and I love pasta), but I don't ever want to feel this sick again. It's scary that you can think you're doing well on your diet and then one small meal can just throw you dangerously out-of-balance for days. This really blows.

Goodbye, pasta. I don't want to die from spaghetti-related causes.

UPDATE 4:34 PM: I just want to say something about these Health Report posts. These are me working out my overall emotional state as well as talking about my general health and things I'm trying to do to get healthier. When I first started doing these posts back in 2006, I realized that a lot of the problems I'm having with trying to get in shape have to do with emotional issues I've been trying to get over, cycles I've been trying to break, and limitations I'm trying to overcome.

Almost from the very beginning, I've dealt with a lot of criticisms of my overall tone, or of the mistakes I've made, or of not just sucking it up and getting over my problems fast enough for some of you. And in the rare instances when I've struck back at comments that I feel are a little too angry or judgmental or just plain rude, I've most often been accused of wanting people only to agree with me or tell me how great I am or some such total bullshit.

Look, support is always appreciated. I'm not going to deny that. And sympathy has been surprising, but sweet. Constructive advice is appreciated, too. I've gotten a lot of good advice here regarding eating habits and health concerns and diets.

What I don't need is this presumptuous sort of "tough love" that some people want to force on me, which makes a lot of assumptions about what I "need" to hear. Or comments that pick on me for not being so good at instantly changing lifelong habits that have been hard to break. Every bit of negativity just hacks away at my confidence even more, and my first instinct is to just stop doing Health Reports altogether. But the disgusting negativity of well-meaning commenters has stopped me from doing a lot of things I used to enjoy on my blog because they've become so associated with that level of rudeness and whining and made those things less enjoyable.

I don't need to to be told that my negativity "invites" criticism, especially when that criticism makes a lot of assumptions and is basically just talking down to me.

I don't do this blog for you. I do it for me. I've never been one of those people who thought blogging would lead to getting my writing noticed or that I could make a ton of money off of it or that I'm going to be one of those obnoxious internet celebrities (a concept that shouldn't even exist). I don't care about winning the popularity contest. And I dig when people read this blog and really get it, but that's just gravy. I'm not doing this for approval.

So, if my negativity about myself, or my health, or my life, or some movie you like, or your political beliefs "invite" personal criticism, I'd rather you were polite enough to ignore the "invitation." Not because I want everyone to agree with me or because I can't handle it, but because it's just purposeless. It's rude. It's just more negativity to associate with blogging. Stop emailing me and telling me that my blog needs to be more/less political, or have more/less sexy girls on it, or be more/less positive, or that I'm not funny or that I'm "wrong" when I like a movie. Because I don't care.

If you want to talk about my opinion, cool. Love to. If you want to personally attack me for not thinking the same way you do, just pass on by. God knows I don't agree with all of your opinions. I just feel like the polite thing to do is not mention it if I've got nothing to add.

So, you know, when I'm talking about my personal problems and "inviting" criticism, that's not your cue to jump in and tell me what's wrong with me and what I "need" to do.

But of course, you polite people--the majority of you--already know this.

Lost: The Sitcom! Season Intros

Hilarious.

Season 1:


Season 2:


Season 3:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Monday, June 29, 2009

TV Report: Some Cable Shows

True Blood: I liked this show when it started--it was much more interesting than a lot of the vampire bullshit (and it's all bullshit) that I'd seen in the past--but by the end of the series I was so tired of the whole thing that I didn't care about what happened. A lot of people seem to have discovered the series since the DVDs were released; one person argued to me that there was room for trashy TV, which I agree with--I just ask that the trash be entertaining. The second half of the first season, with the exception of anything involving Lizzy Caplan and Stephen Root, was just ridiculous.

So why watch the second season? I don't know. I thought I'd give it another chance. I want to see what happens to Jason Stackhouse. I'd like a TV show to watch over the summer. And so far, this season has really sucked me in (although when I was watching the season one recap, I thought I'd missed an episode, that's how little I cared about what happened in the last episode of the first season). I'm interested to see what Maryann turns out to be (some kind of succubus?) and what happens to Sam and what that goat-headed thing is. Tara has become far less annoying, which is nice. I like Jessica and am interested in seeing where they take their heavy-handed symbolism of vampirism as maturation. And any time Jason goes around without his shirt off is fun for me. And at least the show is upfront about vampirism being all about sex, which is what it is.

Funnily enough, the weakest aspect of this show has become the relationship between Bill Compton and Sookie. They just fight and fight and fight. Bill warns Sookie that they don't want to become "one of those couples," even though it's hilariously too late for that. Every episode is apparently going to be Sookie flipping out about something that Bill has done (or may have done, or may have known about) and Bill apologizing and then a lot of talking about their feelings. Ugh, no wonder they don't have any friends--it's not because Bill's a vampire. In the second episode of this season, Bill and Sookie talk in bed about how to raise Jessica, and Sookie says something like "See? We promised we weren't going to fight anymore and here we are, minutes later, fighting." Bill, being reasonable, says "Sookie, we're not fighting." And she insists "Bill, yes we are." And that's the whole problem with the show right there. Sookie can't understand what it's like to be a vampire (and apparently is going to make no effort to), and Bill is so old-fashioned he has a hard time understanding her modern ways (and she's so strident and absolute), so there's never the sense that they work as a couple. Sure, they have nice moments, but the one thing they don't talk about is their differing points of view--he's not a human being, and she doesn't understand it and makes no effort to. And he doesn't explain himself well, and maybe feels like he shouldn't have to. It's all fighting and then making up. I was in a relationship like that once, and let me tell you, it was a relief when I finally stopped taking her back.

Bill and Sookie are the worst thing on the show. Luckily, they've become very easy to ignore.

Weeds: Similar problem. I hate Nancy Botwin. I was fascinated by her crappy decision-making and just how deep her need for power and control would take her, and it's taken her to a place where it's become obvious that she seems to just love degrading herself and being degraded by others. Seriously, when she's smiling through being raped by a Mexican drug lord, her stupidity has become a major problem with the show. I have absolutely no sympathy left for her anymore and, frankly, if she could just get killed off, I think the show could go on without her.

I like almost everyone else. I think Kevin Nealon's Doug has just become too much of a cartoon for me, but I want to see what happens to Andy and the kids. And I hope Jennifer Jason Leigh is around for a few more episodes as Nancy's MILFy sister Jill. Let's have more of the extended family! Last season was shaky, but Albert Brooks really shone as Nancy's father-in-law. I think the show suffered as soon as he was gone (the increasing outlandishness of Nancy's situation didn't help, either), so I hope Jennifer Jason Leigh is around for a good long while. Hell, let's hand the show off to her. Kill off Nancy and let's follow Jill and Andy and the kids around instead.

Also, to my surprise, the thing I found the most ridiculous in last season's finale--Celia's daughter planning to ransom her mother off--became one of the funniest running gags of the season premiere.

The Tudors: This was shorter (by two episodes) than the two previous seasons, but that's probably for the best. I always enjoy this show--and I think it works best when watched all at once--but there's always been something about it that just doesn't work for me. I have absolutely no idea what it is, to be honest, but there's something there. Becca won't watch this show at all; she doesn't like Jonathan Rhys-Myers' "inhuman" performance. But there are glimpses of the human inside the monster, and that's one of the things I find compelling about it.

This season took us through wives three and four, and beautiful Annabelle Wallis was very good as Jane Seymour. (Props to Joss Stone, too, for her turn as Anne of Cleves, very sympathetic.) But this show, following the bigger events of history, has lost a lot of the actors by now who made this show so good--Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam, Natalie Dormer, Maria Doyle Kennedy. And while Henry Cavill is a welcome presence and Sarah Bolger is turning into a surprising Princess Mary, I don't think the third season held any performances that were as riveting as the four mentioned. Still, I look forward to a fourth, if only because I'd like to see the whole history play out.

Hung: I have to say, I'm surprised by how slight the pilot was. It was promising, but it was so damn slight. I wish they'd waited until 12 July to air it, too, since HBO isn't airing any new episodes the day after Independence Day, which means an extra week between episodes one and two. I'm eager to see this unfold, but so far nothing's really happened. It's a character piece; with patience, I hope it's rewarding.

I will say that one of the things I like about it is that Thomas Jane's character, soon to become an escort, is pushed to the brink of being completely pathetic. He doesn't want to do it because it seems fun or to satisfy his ego; the show does go to pains to push this guy to the edge of desperation until there is literally nowhere else for him to go. And when Jane Addams basically asks to be his pimp without tapdancing around it... I like a show that gets to its point.

I'm not really watching much else this summer, except maybe The Secret Life of the American Teenager (unless I decide watching it all at once later on DVD will be more rewarding), the new episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and apparently a new series of Hell's Kitchen is coming on in July. That's just enough, probably.

TV Report: The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Season "2"

I put the number 2 in quotes up there because, really, last summer's "second season" was just the second half of the first season, not only thematically and story-arc wise, but also according to the IMDb.

I wasn't really a fan of the first season of this show, so I'm not sure why I decided to sit and watch the second half of it. I guess it's just because it's summer and there's not much on and I want some new TV to watch. Since I'd already put the effort in, I figured I'd see where it was going--at least it had Molly Ringwald and Francia Raisa.

Mmm, more Francia Raisa... Yeah, I'd watch a lot of stupid things for her.

Anyway, I think ABC Family made a giant mistake not airing both halves of the season at once. The second half really redeems the first half, taking characters who came across as shallow and vicious and stupid and turning them into recognizable people with realistic motivations. It makes all of the whining and stupidity of the first half bearable, because it pays off in the end as the characters learn from their mistakes--or make new ones--and get a handle on their lives and desires.

So evil jerk Ricky becomes somewhat three-dimensional, because we see places where he's vulnerable and exactly what fears drive him to treat people the way he does; he comes across as basically a good guy who's also really sexual, which is a new twist on a show about teenagers, where one's sexuality is always played as some kind of moral choice. And lovely, smart Adrian (Francia up there) becomes more than just the school slut because we see the self-respect issues that she tries so hard to toss aside. Pregnant Amy and nice (but overly earnest) guy Ben start to figure out that their decisions affect everyone around them and that there's more to life than just getting what they want. And even though I still think Grace is incredibly delusional, at least she seems to be growing up.

Even the character I hated the most last season, Amy's father George, becomes more understandable--and, surprisingly, even likable. Instead of a jerk, you end up seeing a guy who has made numerous mistakes and doesn't know how to fix them, and is scared he's losing everything even as he tries to defend himself by being obnoxious about it.

Really, there's only one character here with a head on his shoulders: Leo Boykewich, played by the always-likable Steve Schirripa. He's a magical character who always has the right advice. He seems to have human nature pegged, and a surprising faith that sooner or later people will come around to the right decisions. He's kind of the heart of this show.

(Oh, but a shout-out to John Schneider, who is on this show far-too-little as the father of Grace, the Christian virgin in love with the bad boy; his character doesn't always make the right decisions, but he gives a pretty damn good performance on this show.)

I'm not sure what it is about this show that works, honestly. Some of the characters are so broad and obvious, some of the acting so wooden, so many of the situations so silly and overdrawn... It's essentially a glossy American take on Degrassi Junior High, which I grew up watching and found myself thinking of more than once (especially Spike's whole pregnancy arc). But creator Brenda Hampton (who also, apparently, created Seventh Heaven, a show I've never actually watched) takes her characters seriously, and the integrity of the characters counts for a lot. Even though I don't always like them, I am somehow invested in the choices that they make and want to see where it's going. Maybe it's the soapiness that pulls me in. And despite being very heavy-handed about Christian values and family values, it all somehow comes off as very sweet and occasionally grounded--even as I disagree with a lot of the moral arguments being made. And I can't decide whether the show is purposely trying to be subversive (Leo works in meat and is the "Sausage King"?) or just doesn't know any better.

I also can't decide about some of the actors. Is Molly Ringwald just really naturalistic or really not very good? Is India Eisley doing that on purpose or is she just wooden? And, frankly, they could just drop Camille Winbush and Renee Olstead as Amy's best friends. It seems like they're only there to make a point about childishness--trying to represent a number of viewpoints--but they're also craven and obnoxious and really terrible friends. Ankle those two, quick.

I caught the new season premiere, which is the beginning of the actual second season. It's interesting the direction they've gone in with Grace--obvious, too--but I hope that everyone is a little bit wiser and a little more realistic. Of course, this is TV, so who knows?

Just make sure Adrian's got a lot to do.

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, June 28, 2009

This Kind of Hilarious Insensitivity Is the Reason We've Been Together for 15 Years

ME: Holy crap, now Billy Mays is dead.

BECCA: What? When?

ME: Today.

BECCA: Man, who will we make fun of now? Ed McMahon is gone, Michael Jackson dies, now Billy Mays. Who's next? Carrot Top?

ME: Or Megan Fox.

BECCA: Oh, God, please, please let Megan Fox be the next to go! She's clearly doing drugs, it's got to be her time soon, right?

Song of the Week: "Human Nature"

It was inevitable that, the week Michael Jackson died, I'd put up my favorite Michael Jackson song. "Human Nature," with its magical Quincy Jones production, always transports me back in time and makes me feel great. It's one of several of his songs that do so for me. Here's my fave.

Twilight Summarized by a Smartass, Chapter 2

One of my favorite episodes of Futurama is "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?," in which Dr. Zoidberg tries to mate with a female of his species, Edna. Because he's so genetically undesirable, he wants to learn from Fry how to fake being in love. Remember this moment?

Fry: Now ask her how her day was.
Zoidberg: Why would I want to know?
Fry: You wouldn't. Ask anyway.
Zoidberg: How was your day?
Edna: Well, first, I got up and had a piece of toast, then I brushed my teeth, then I went to the store to buy some fish, then I ...
Zoidberg: Fry, look what you did. She won't shut up.
Fry: That's normal. Just nod your head and say, "Uh-huh."
Zoidberg: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

That's exactly what reading Twilight is like. You just sort of nod your head and try to keep your eyes from glazing over while Stephenie Meyer pelts you with useless detail after useless detail which do absolutely nothing to add to the story or our understanding of Bella as a character. Ooh, she went grocery shopping. I can see how that's a really, really important detail.

What happens in this chapter? Well, not very much, really. Bella goes back to school, afraid to deal with Edward's instant hatred of her, but he doesn't show up for the rest of the week. When he does, he's in a good mood and they even have a conversation while working on a lab assignment together. So now he understands her better, which seems to make her more uncomfortable around him. And that's really it.

But inside all of that, there's an endless travelogue about not being able to play volleyball well (which is, once again, supposed to make us think Bella is awkward and not good-looking when guys are still falling all over themselves to invite her on beach trips and involve her in snow games, and Mike and Eric seem ready to fight over her) and cooking dinner and having to wash the dishes and answering email from her mother and blah blah blah that has fuck all to do with anything remotely pertinent.

We don't need to know what Bella's emails say, because they don't say anything interesting. She's suffering all by her lonesome (from what I have no idea), so she's got nothing but empty pleasantries for her mother, so why do we care? The idea that Bella even has a mother is so far removed from the story it feels like it happened in some other book. We don't need to know that Bella does all the cooking and the grocery shopping, do we? And Meyer writes this in clunky, awkward sentences like "I did the shopping at home, and I fell into the pattern of the familiar task gladly." Ugh. Do we need to know the precise placement in the fridge she's decided on for the steak she's marinating?

We also learn that those Cullen kids have a Volvo and really nice clothes. How nice? I don't know. Bella says "it was obvious they were all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtly hinted at designer origins." Obvious? It should be, you're looking straight at them. Subtly hinted at designer origins? If they were designer, that probably wouldn't be very subtle. And that's that; Meyer doesn't describe, she just tells. We're told they're all beautiful and drive a nice car and dress "exceptionally well." It's just all so vague and unformed. Now instead of picturing those sickly vegans from last week, I'm picturing sickly, vegan Eurotrash. Good job. I can see why they're so beautiful and mesmerizing. Apparently anyone can be a published author now, regardless of their ability to actually write.

When Bella's father comes home, there is this whole paragraph devoted to just how he hangs up his gun and that he doesn't remove the bullets anymore, and what his reasoning for that must be, and on and on. If you're devoting that much time to this, somebody better get shot in the living room before the end of this novel. Not that I expect Meyer to know about foreshadowing, since she clearly doesn't know anything else about writing except that words go on paper (though she's confounded by the order they go in).

The dinner scene really only exists for two reasons. First, so we can see how much Bella is doing for her dad, which is something Meyer clearly thinks is a giant sacrifice (because Bella could be curing cancer instead, or something). And second, so her father, Charlie Swan, can make a speech about what a good man Dr. Cullen is and how well-behaved his kids are and how frustrated he is with the town gossip impugning such a heroic character. It is completely out of place. Charlie has barely said anything so far, and suddenly he's turned into an infodump. And not just an infodump, but an embarrassingly impassioned one. As far as we know, there's no connection between Charlie Swan and the Cullens' adopted father, but he leaps to the man's defense. I expected him to fall to the ground with tears in his eyes--it's so ridiculously out-of-place and over-the-top, and completely unbelievable because it's so out of character.

After a lengthy, uninteresting treatise on Bella's first experience with snow--it's mushy, weird, and irritating--and whether or not she likes the local library, we find Edward returned to school. Now he's suddenly personable and talkative. They do a lab assignment together that Meyer not only manages to make seem like total dry-humping, but makes it hard to decide which character she's more cloyingly precious about. Both characters are just oh-so-super smart. Bella's done the lab before, but that's not enough for Meyer--Bella was also in AP biology at her old school and is just naturally a genius and an underachiever at the same time. (She's read her current English assignment, Wuthering Heights, several times before, but will read it again just for fun.) Edward is apparently the smartest kid in the class.

Since the movie's come out (I have not seen it), and since Meyer's descriptions of characters are so formless and vague and flavorless, all I can picture is greasy, ugly, disgusting, unwashed, probably-stinks-like-a-camel-because-he-doesn't-bathe Robert Pattinson instead of this incredibly beautiful, charming guy Meyer would have us envision. She thinks it's enough for Bella to think that Edward Cullen is the most beautiful thing she's ever seen and just give us a couple of details--really white teeth, crooked smile--instead of painting a picture with her words. Bella's intrigued by him, but I have no idea why, except that he fills her narcissistic needs--he subtly acknowledges that she's beautiful and captivating and amazing, but doesn't overtly treat her as though she is. Which is, as I've said before, Bella's problem--she wants to stand out and be different without actually doing anything that would make anyone notice her in any way, because she's too good and too smart and too special for everyone around her, even though she desperately needs the acceptance and validation of those around her. It's like Perez Hilton, who wants to be better than all of the celebrities around him while also being accepted by them as a fellow celebrity. That's Bella right there: Perez Hilton.

What really bugs me about their conversation is that she talks about leaving home, but can't find a satisfactory answer as to why she actually left. Her mom got remarried to a minor league baseball player who has to travel for work. Bella wasn't asked to leave, she gets along with her stepdad just fine, her mom doesn't seem to have any interest in traveling to various towns for ball games. So what's the big deal? Why did she take it on herself to move in with her dad when she finds it so awkward (and she's the only one who does) and hates the town so much (although she probably hates it everywhere)? If and when the explanation for this does come, it had better be really good to justify this much mystery over it.

Edward tells Bella "I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see." And Bella is sickeningly thrilled that, at last, someone gets her. But what the hell does Bella have to suffer about? Her dad bought her a truck? She has guys who are fighting over her? The beautiful, removed, standoffish prick that every girl in school wets their panties over is interested in her? The girls want to be friends with her, even though she's the new girl? She's doing incredibly well in school? Bella's only suffering because, like every self-obsessed asshole teenager in America, she wants to believe she suffers. Because she thinks it's dramatic. She likes it. She thinks it makes her life interesting. But she doesn't. She's great. Because she's Stephenie Meyer's pet Mary Sue, she's completely flawless, except where flaws (like a very mild clumsiness) make her apparently endearing. There's nothing dark or dramatic about Bella. Suffering? Join the Army or quit whining, you little idiot.

The chapter ends with Edward now basically having the upper hand in their relationship, such as it is, because now she's nervous around him instead of the other way around. I'd be nervous, too--he knows personal things about her and sounds like he's stalking her.

Yes, I can certainly see why this novel needs to be nearly as long as Moby-Dick.

Sunday Hottie 230

CANDY DULFER

T-Shirt Idea #9

For the aging hipster afraid of his own mortality. Or something.