Saturday, January 02, 2010

The End of Time, Part Two

Spoilers, of course.

It's a cliche to say that something is the end of an era, but like everyone who points out that something is a cliche, I am now going to employ it: this is the end of an era. I knew this would be a goodbye, but I wasn't prepared for it to feel so much like goodbye.

The transition from Ninth Doctor to Tenth Doctor was so sudden, like the regenerations usually are, that you just sort of accepted it and moved into the adventures of a new incarnation of the Doctor. The first and second series were very much alike tonally, so there wasn't a whole lot of schism. Tennant took some getting used to, as all new Doctors do, but otherwise it was quite smooth.

But this time it was drawn out, as the Doctor knew his tenth incarnation's end was coming, and we had a year-long build up to it. And then Russell T. Davies, since he's leaving the show, makes the whole thing even sadder with a long goodbye sequence that was possibly indulgent, but very nice. I liked that, as he was slowly dying of radiation poisoning, the Doctor took the trouble to go and make sure his companions would all be okay. It was as sentimental and optimistic as the entire Davies era has been, so in that respect it was a fitting farewell to Davies' Doctor Who. And the cameos were very nice.

As for the episode's story itself: very satisfying. The Doctor faced with a moral dilemma, always interesting. And I liked what they did with the Master in this episode, giving him some layers. Some of my suspicions were confirmed, such as Timothy Dalton's identity (Rassilon). I wish Catherine Tate had had more to do, but I don't know how she would have fit. Besides, that left more room for Wilf, who is wonderful. Once again, Bernard Cribbins was gold. And how appropriate was it that the Doctor's end came from his love of humanity, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for one in particular?

But who was the woman in white? Executive producer Julie Gardner referred to her as "the Doctor's mother." Fascinating.

It really feels over. Not Doctor Who as a whole, of course, but these last four series and change. I've read that Steve Moffat wants to have a different sort of show, more like the older Who, more like an anthology with stand alone episodes instead of the interconnected style Davies favored. I think that's too bad; I really liked the way each series of the show would build and build, with side trips along the way, and finally come to a head in a huge finale. But I won't second guess the show before I see it; Moffat knows what he's doing; even if he hadn't written some of the best episodes of the Davies era, he'd still have more than earned my confidence from Coupling.

But I do find myself wondering if this is the last we'll see of this wonderful supporting cast on Doctor Who. Sarah Jane and, I assume, Captain Jack Harkness will continue on in their own spin-offs. (Although what I wouldn't give to see a more fun version of that Torchwood abortion featuring a bunch of those characters, including K-9 and Wilfred.)

I don't have much to say about the regeneration. I was happy to see that Smith was kind of goofy instead of being the sort of Edward-Cullen-as-Doctor that a lot of people were lamenting. Should be interesting. I just hope it's fun, and if this trailer for the new series is anything to go by, it probably will be.



I did see a Dalek, which is always good. And Alex Kingston, too. Intrigueresting. Moffat has said things about the show that give me some pause, and I don't know if it's a sign of confidence or not that he's bringing back practically every plot he's already added into the Who universe, but I'll obviously have to see it to know if it works or not.

Here's to the new Doctor, then.

The Unmade Disney Films of Carl Barks

A sharp-eyed reader named Ricardo shot me a couple of emails last week. He's found a site I was previously unaware of, the HTML BarksBase, devoted to the work of Carl Barks.

It's a nice site, but my favorite page is this one, detailing the unfinished Disney cartoons that he worked on but which, for various reasons, never made it into production. It has some pictures, too!

This one is from one of the most tantalizing-sounding unmade shorts, Donald Munchausen.

There are also pages devoted to his oil paintings.

Thanks, Ricardo, for this excellent find!

And I am working on Evaluating Disney: 1956. Should be up sometime this week, hopefully Monday or Tuesday.

Friday, January 01, 2010

With the Retailers Ever More Desperate, I Keep Expecting to See It

So I'll just say it: better hurry, because there are only 358 shopping days until Christmas.

Disney Role Models

I've been down this rabbit hole before, and I'm sure people are sick of me talking about Disney girls and what they do or don't represent, but I saw this load of rubbish on Tumblr and need to talk about it.

Here's what someone I won't even bother linking to had to say about Miley Cyrus being voted the Worst Celebrity Influence of 2009.

Miley Cyrus shouldn’t have been voted ‘Worst Celebrity Influence of 2009’, Selena Gomez should have; why you ask? Because Selena is showing kids that they should be sqeaky clean & absolutely perfect. They shouldn’t. Selena is trying to portray herself as someone who has no flaws, but flaws are what make us beatiful. Miley is showing us that no one is perfect, not even her. She’s not scared to make mistakes and she takes credit for her misdoings. Many people commit suicides daily because they feel like they’re not good enough, and I guarantee you that Selena & her image will increase the suicidal rates by at least 30%. It’s simply impossible for us to be perfect, & this is what Miley us trying to show us. We could all learn from Miley’s mistakes. But Selena…she’s the bad influence. & I will strongly support my opinion on this because I know that it’s true & I have full proof to support this. :)

This is so stupid that I hate to even dignify it with a response, but here's what popped into my head.

First, I still can’t, for the life of me, see how Miley Cyrus is some kind of bad role model.

Second, I think kids today take everything far too seriously. Miley wears shorts, so she’s “promoting” some kind of slutty attitude. Selena Gomez has a clean image, so she’s “promoting” some kind of fruitless search for perfection. Effing silly.

Third, Selena Gomez defies all of the negative stereotypes of teenage girls in America. She’s poised and well-spoken, she’s professional and promotes charities, and she’s very talented. This is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone say that a good kid is somehow a terrible role model, and I hope I never read such abject ridiculousness ever again.

Fourth, having known people in trouble who have committed suicide or been on the verge of it, blaming someone who has zero influence on what someone decides to do to end their life for a spike in the suicide rate is unconscionable bordering on disgusting.

Fifth, these kids are living their lives. Just because they happen to be famous and more motivated than many other kids to use their talents doesn’t impart ANY responsibility on them to be role models to children. They’re not trying to show anyone what they should be. They’re trying to be who they are under an incredible amount of pressure from the media and fans who make a lot of demands on them. The fact that any of them hold up so well under this pressure is a testament to their character.

So don't tell me, in the world we live in, which is full of broken promises and half-hearted compromises and so much cruelty and pain, that two teenage entertainers are somehow the real problem in American society.

On the Death of Childhood

If there's one thing that Tumblr has revealed to me, it's a terrible fear of growing up among today's teenagers. I follow a lot of Tumblr blogs that are Disney-related, being a huge Disney fan, and I end up running into a lot of people between 15 and 22 who just come across as terrified of growing up and letting go of their childhoods. Is this fear really so prevalent among the young?

If there is, I kind of blame my generation. We tend to be navel-gazers. We're fascinated with ourselves and the way we were brought up. We love our toys and have problems getting rid of them. If they were sold in a garage sale the weekend we were out of town, we can be obsessive about them. We let toymakers sell us our childhoods back, and get touchy when Hot Topic sells our childhood to kids. Not all of us have adjusted well, and on the surface, a lot of us look like we never grew up.

But here's the thing: there's a big difference between collecting toys and being immature. There's a vastness between loving comic books and being illiterate.

On Disney Tumblrs, it looks like kids today love Peter Pan above all other Disney movies. I see a lot of Peter Pan stuff. And Peter Pan sentiments. They seem to really want to relate to a character who never grew up. They see him as a hero. There's a line from a Jonas Brothers song that goes "Peter Pan and Wendy turned out fine." I see that quoted endlessly.

The thing about that sentiment is that no, Peter Pan and Wendy really didn't turn out fine. These Tumblr kids seem to be laboring under the idea that Pan and Wendy got together and never grew up. But that doesn't happen in the Disney movie at all. (And, frankly, I'm not a fan of that movie, anyway.) If you read JM Barrie, Peter Pan is kind of a tragedy. It's about a boy who is so terrified of the idea of being an adult that he retreats into an imaginary world of fairies, pirates, and mermaids. That alone is practically an allegory for insanity.

Barrie's celebration of childhood actually reveals fears of social interaction and responsibility and adult relationships. Pan is a tragedy because he'll never love anyone, he'll never move beyond this callow boy who is only worried about filling his immediate needs. He's selfish and forgetful. Hell, Walt Disney hated him so much he turned him into an adolescent, defeating the purpose of the entire story.

Peter Pan is not someone to emulate or want to be.

Why do you think Wendy leaves to grow up? Because being a well-rounded adult is better than being Peter Pan.

The other lament, and this comes from all over the internet, is when people see something that's different from when they were a kid and says "I feel like part of my childhood just died."

It’s called growing up. You should look into it sometime.

I want to puke whenever I see or hear that phrase.

You childhood is supposed to die. You're supposed to grow and change. These are the natural processes of your life. You can't be 9 years old forever, and trying to be is pretty sad.

BUT.

But as you grow up, you find ways to assimilate the things you like into an ever-changing life.

I think a lot of peoples' problems come from the discord between the demands and responsibilities of adult life, and the strong desire to always be young and free of responsibility and to escape. So it makes change harder and harder to deal with if you're the kind of person who runs from responsibility instead of just dealing with it. I understand because I'm often guilty of this, too.

What makes me sad is having experienced a lot of the problems that come from being afraid of responsibility but having to be responsible, and seeing others fall into this trap.

Someone who's a Tumblr friend had a big blowout the other day with another user over the movie Avatar. My friend loved the movie; the other person had a lot of criticisms. And my friend just exploded. Instead of considering that there might be someone out there in the world who didn't think Avatar was very good, and understanding that that fact doesn't undermine or destroy or make any less his love for the movie, he went off about how the critic couldn't appreciate a movie like Avatar because his inner child was dead.

I think it's that fear of growing up that leads people to say something stupid like that. For my friend, it wasn't a matter of taste, or of disagreement over what they both look for in a film, or an acknowledgment that people experience things differently, or an unimportant difference of opinion. He seemed to see it as an attack on his connection with his youthful feelings and his ability to enjoy things on the level of a child. Instead of "I disagree" it became "I'm sorry you have no heart because you have no connection with the child you used to be."

There's too much of that in this generation. And for the record, the critic wasn't attacking my friend for liking it. He just felt it was too long and overly-familiar. His criticisms were about the movie itself, and my friend took it personally.

Look, nobody says you have to stop being a Disney fan to be a grown-up, and if they do, fuck them. You get to decide what adulthood is about. I think it's important to be able to connect with your childhood feelings and loves. I still have action figures, I have Star Wars calendars, I have a Mickey Mouse watch, and sometimes I love the Muppets more than members of my own family.

But I hate the sentiment that just because something's different from when you were a child, experiencing something for the first time, that means your childhood is now dead.

YOUR CHILDHOOD STILL HAPPENED.

The only thing that can "kill" or "rape" your childhood memories is you devaluing them because you hated The Phantom Menace or because Frank Oz doesn't work with the Muppets anymore or because Andy is a college kid in Toy Story 3 or DC has ruined the continuity you loved.

I'm not saying you have to be happy with these things. You like them, or you don't. Or you don't mind them. You adjust to them, or you ignore them. You don't spend 27 years of your life whining about the Ewoks.

Acting like your memories somehow never happened or a piece of your soul has died because someone didn't like a movie you loved or because something's different from when you were a kid or because you're depressed that people expect you to be able to act like an adult... these are truly immature attitudes.

Like the things you like because you like them. But you have to grow up, too.

I Hate That There Are People Who Need to Be Told This

300 laws are going into effect in Illinois today. WGN News has been telling me all morning that the law that effects "the most of us" is that it's now illegal to text while driving.

This will be virtually impossible to enforce, but I guess that's not really the point. People with common sense don't need to be told not to text while driving. People without it (and in the Chicago area, that number is massive) need to be reminded.

But the silliness of the law is not what gets me. What gets me is WGN's assertion that this is the one law that effects "the most of us." How many people are out there texting while driving? Holy shit, pay attention to the road, assholes! This is just... what? PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD!

Nothing like starting a new year with a reminder of the general stupidity of people.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Surprisingly Moving Ad for Mario Galaxy

This spec ad for Mario Galaxy is awesome. It goes from Mario's beginnings to now and makes me realize just how much I love Mario. Damn, I suddenly wish I had a Wii. This is a nice way to end 2009.

The Fifth Annual Hot 50 List

Eva Amurri in Calfornication was a dream come true for me.

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. Eva Amurri (34)
2. Kat Dennings (3)
3. Scarlett Johansson (12)
4. Kim Kardashian (4)
5. Katy Perry
6. Kristen Bell (15)
7. Christina Aguilera (2)
8. Christina Hendricks (22)
9. Eva Mendes (9)
10. Faye Reagan
11. Carla Gugino
12. Hayden Panettiere (40)
13. Susan Sarandon
14. Ashley Tisdale
15. Francia Raisa
16. Chelsea Staub
17. Dita Von Teese (21)
18. Kitty Lea (8)
19. Britney Spears (23)
20. Diane Kruger
21. Khloe Kardashian
22. Lisa Ann
23. Sofia Vergara
24. Vanessa Williams
25. Leelee Sobieski (37)
26. Tina Fey (1)
27. Nicole Anderson
28. Brenda Song (25)
29. Leslie Mann
30. Hilary Duff (48)
31. Elizabeth Mitchell
32. Penelope Cruz (33)
33. Kaley Cuoco
34. Adrienne Bailon
35. Rachel Nichols
36. Anna Paquin
37. Anna Faris (27)
38. Milla Jovovich
39. Cobie Smulders
40. Stana Katic
41. Vanessa Hudgens
42. Kourtney Kardashian
43. Heather Graham
44. Anne Hathaway (24)
45. Evan Rachel Wood
46. Lucy Pinder (20)
47. JoJo
48. Kris Jenner
49. Asia Argento (47)
50. Sienna Miller (46)

Previously: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Taking Stock, or Happy New Year

Swine Flu scare. Endless war. Endless recession. Lady Gaga. Octomom. Interrupting Kanye. Michael Phelps' bong. Captain Sullenberger a hero for crashing. Those douchebags Jon and Kate. Governor Sanford in Argentina. Everything from China being poisonous. Goldman Sachs. Fannie and Freddie. Sarah Palin the Quitter. Tiger Woods fucking everybody. Health care "reform." Joe Lieberman. Tea Parties. Loaded guns at protests. Michael Jackson. Keyboard Cat. Twitards.

Go to hell, 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 25 Favorite Things in the Films of 2009

It's now an annual tradition for me to do this list. Since I don't have the cash to see as many movies in the theater as I used to, I can never do a best movies of the year list that would have any real credibility. So I make one of my esoteric lists instead. Here are 25 things I loved from the movies I actually did manage to see.

25. This line someone had about 17 Again
“They could have cast a black man as the grown-up Zac Efron and it would have been more realistic.” I’m still laughing at that one.


24. “Butterfly Fly Away”
I loved this little moment in Hannah Montana: The Movie. I would've loved it more if they had just let her sing "live" instead of defaulting to a recording, since that would've made the scene more alive, but this delicate song was very nice. I never noticed before how much Miley Cyrus sounds like Stevie Nicks. Maybe that’s a small part of the reason I like her so much. My dad loved Stevie Nicks, and I used to hear a lot of her when I was a little kid, particularly the Bella Donna album.

23. Grumpy
Realistic enough to be a believable dinosaur, just cartoony enough to be a believable comedy character. I love dinosaurs, and I love seeing them in movies.

22. “It’s a satchel. Indiana Jones has one.”
“So does Joy Behar.”

21. Seth Rogen in Observe and Report
A nuanced character performance that takes the lovable loser he usually plays and transplants him into a more realistic world where those kind of character quirks go from cute to potentially dangerous. This performance has been forgotten, and that’s a shame, as I think Rogen has outdone himself here.

20. Wonder Woman
Any studio executive (Joel Silver) or writer (Joss Whedon) who says they don’t know how to make this character work in a movie need to be forced to watch this and asked why they can’t do something this good. In fact, let’s just hire the people who made this movie to make the live action one.


19. Pigeon Impossible
One of my favorite animated shorts of the year. It has a Pixar aesthetic to it without being a copycat of their work.

18. Amy Adams in this costume
The pants alone…

17. The kids still rock
Forget all the talk of purity rings and virginity, when you see Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, you realize that the JoBros are all about the sex, just like rock and rollers are supposed to be. There’s a cynical tinge to these guys and the way they relate to their (mostly female) fans that is kind of dark. They mug for the camera and wear tight clothes and are surprisingly athletic on stage. They shoot foam all over their excited audience. It’s sweat, drums, and flesh. It's pure fucking, the way rock music is supposed to be. In an age when music seems to be entirely empty of sex, it’s refreshing. As much as kids today are terrified of sex, they sure are fascinated by it.

16. The return of excitement and danger to space exploration
Whatever your take on Star Trek (and there are holes), what I enjoyed most about the film is that it was the first Star Trek TV show or movie since 1982 to remember that outer space is a dangerous place, that exploring the vast unknown is as exciting as it is scary, and that that sort of excitement is essential to any space adventure. This was like an ultra-modern version of a pulp novel from the early fifties, and that’s why I dug it and thought everyone’s talk of too many coincidences and silliness was hilarious. It was in a different tradition.

15. There were three Simon’s Cat cartoons this year! And a book!

14. Selena Gomez
Between her hilarious acting on her TV show and her more layered turns in Disney Channel’s Princess Protection Program and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie (rare Disney Channel movies that are both entertaining and on message about family, friendship and loyalty instead of just mentioning those things in passing), she’s proving herself to be the most talented actress of her generation. I hope she gets movie roles worthy of her talent, and not just manufactured crap for kids. She’s off to a very good start.

13. Scarlett Johansson’s body
The only good part of He’s Just Not That Into You was seeing Scarlett Johansson up against a bunch of skinny bitches. ScarJo has the best body in Hollywood of any white girl, and seeing her next to Jennifer Connelly or Jennifer Aniston just confirms it: skinny is not as pretty as the media keeps telling us it is. (Also, she sings beautifully on the soundtrack but not in the film. What a waste.)

12. Bromance
The film had its weaknesses, but watching a genuine friendship develop between Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in I Love You, Man was really refreshing. I’ve never seen a movie that really tried to cover the development of a male friendship before. It was emotionally honest about how hard it can be to find quality friendship as an adult, and I praise it for that.


11. Baby casting
Proof that stage parents are soulless. Bruno was often too manufactured to have the same impact as the brilliant Borat, but there was one scene in the movie that simultaneously horrified and excited me. When Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Bruno, is interviewing stage parents for babies to appear in a photo shoot, all of their worst aspects shamelessly come alive as they agree to more and more outlandish demands for their babies, from a lack of safety to offensive content to actually agreeing to undergo extreme weight loss methods for infants. You can see this light in Cohen’s eyes as the stage parents just agree to more and more, some without a second thought; that light says “Holy shit, I can’t believe these people are saying these things and I’m getting it all on camera!” That’s how I felt watching it, too. Disgusting human behavior, completely unfiltered. The above clip is just a taste of it; as the scene in the film goes on, it switches from hilarious to actually terrifying, with one mother agreeing to let her baby drop a few pounds, whatever it takes.

10. The PG-13 rating gets more permissive
The same week, I saw two movies I felt were underrated: Land of the Lost and Drag Me to Hell. Both were rated PG-13, but Land of the Lost had as much swearing and crass humor as The Hangover, along with a lot of surreal weirdness and purposeful stupidity, and Drag Me to Hell, by substituting milky fluids for blood, was as violent and intense as any R-rated horror film. I think both films put the lie to the notion that you can’t make a good PG-13 comedy or horror movie, since the MPAA seems to be either more permissive or more easily fooled these days, and hardly anyone noticed.


9. The teaser trailer for Where the Wild Things Are
Still haven’t seen the movie, but this was my favorite trailer all year. It's not only lovely, but it inspired this amazing trailer mash-up.

8. Kristen Bell in this costume
‘Nuff said.

7. Watchmen
I loved every inch of this movie, the best comic book-based movie I’ve ever seen. After a year of complaining that this couldn’t be done and was a stupid idea, I was blown away by the finished product. It’s hard to make something with this sort of satirical tone work, but it really does. What also got me about this movie is the amount of people who really hated it and, in delineating why, often proved that they didn’t really understand what made the comic book work, either.

6. The opening credits of Watchmen
So great they deserved their own mention. Watch on YouTube.

5. Carl and Ellie's romance
An entire lifetime summed up without words, but with lots of emotions. The most magical part of Up.

4. Inglourious Basterds
Pure awesomeness from start to finish. Tarantino delivers every time. Every. Time. And hearing people whine about plagiarism? Hilarious gravy.

3. The death of Albus Dumbledore
That was a cathartic moment for me. When my sister Ellen died, she had just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. One of the last conversations we ever had was about whether or not Dumbledore would return, and whether or not Snape was evil. Harry Potter was Ellen’s thing—the thing she was most a fan of, the thing she ate and drank—and seeing Dumbledore sacrifice himself on screen (in, I think, the best Potter movie since the third one) took me right to Ellen and made me weep and weep and weep through the ending of that movie. It was almost like getting to see the movie with her.

2. Friendship and Fanboys
I know this movie got a lot of flack for not being the ultimate Star Wars fan comedy, but I liked it very much. To me, the Star Wars stuff was all gravy in a comedy that reminded me so much of myself and friends I’ve had over the years, and put me right back in 1999 when I was in my early twenties and life seemed less daunting. I knew these people and hung out with some and worked with others, and the excitement leading up to The Phantom Menace was like a confirmation of all of the things we spent our time on when we were children. It was nice to see a movie that reminded me that, in the days before the internet became all-pervasive and fandom meant hating all of the things you used to love, that the core element of fandom is really friendship. And that’s something everyone seems to have forgotten.


1. Bohemian Rhapsody
Not strictly a movie, but screw it, the Muppets are movie stars and this video is the best thing ever.

Previously: 2008, 2007

Film Week

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

THE WOMEN (2008)
Wow, it's even worse than I knew it would be. Why did I even watch it? Partially for Eva Mendes, but mostly because this movie, which had a long journey from script to screen (I remember reading almost constantly in Entertainment Weekly in the late nineties how this movie was going to be huge and was on the verge of being made, though then it was supposed to star Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts), was made by Diane English, creator of one of the best sitcoms of the nineties, Murphy Brown. This movie is so bad that it almost taints the legacy of Murphy Brown. It's stunningly stupid. I'm used to seeing movies about women who are the puppets and playthings of the male world, but I've never seen one where the women still succumb to it when there are no men on screen anywhere (which is, honestly, kind of a dumb stylistic choice; it worked in the 1939 original because the male and female circles of movement were more sharply defined and more genuinely apart--here, it looks like a plague killed all the men in the world, but the women can't stop talking about them and letting them control the destinies of all women everywhere). I'm just so disappointed that this movie looks at modern women of the 21st century and decides that they still can't control their own destinies because of the men in their lives. So everything is about getting married or holding on to your husband or dealing with the insensitive male boss... it's like the women in this movie mostly think that being female is a weakness that is impossible to overcome, so they have to fight to live with their crippling femaleness and keep their self-respect. It pissed me off. The only character in control of her life is Eva Mendes. Meg Ryan's husband is having an affair with Eva, and when Meg confronts Eva and tells her to back off, all I could think is what Eva pointed out: isn't your husband the one at fault? This supposedly feminist movie still falls into the trap of thinking that when a man has an affair, it's somehow not his fault, but the fault of other people. Uh huh. Meg Ryan and her rich friends seem to be more upset that he's fucking someone from a lower class than anything else. This is a putrid movie. No stars.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (1922)
John Barrymore as Holmes sounds great, but the movie itself was pretty weak. The movie tries to be a sort of origin of Sherlock Holmes, so we have these scenes of Holmes as a student, with Barrymore sort of wandering around in a haze and being really observant and unable to articulate his theories (he actually says of someone: "It's easier for me to know he's guilty than to explain how I know it," which is something Sherlock Holmes should never say--especially when it's obvious to the audience that the man's cuff link was at the crime scene and he's never called on that residence before... and the guy wanders right into a crime scene and you let him go?). And, of course, there's the one love that got away and all of that. Watson is played as a total dummy, wide eyes and slack jaw and all, and we don't really get to see Barrymore playing the genuine Holmes until almost halfway through the movie. A disappointment. * star.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Biff's Question Song

Tom Wilson is awesome.

The End of the Year Meme

I found this on a Tumblr blog I follow.

1.What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Went to therapy. Got married.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Every year the memes ask this, and every year I roll my eyes. I believe in changing habits and behavior, but not in the silly, arbitrary idea of "new year's resolutions." It's just setting you up to feel like a failure when whatever you want to start or stop doing is harder than you thought. Life is a process, not a series of endings and beginnings.

3.Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4.Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5.What countries did you visit?
None.

6.What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Better direction in my life. To be able to find a clearer path to some sort of security. More will power to exercise.

7.What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
HA! Well, I did get married this year, but Becca and I can't remember the date. But we did it.

8.What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Admitting that I need professional help with my anxiety and depression.

9. What was your biggest failure?
My weight.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major. I don't get sick anymore, and I didn't hurt myself too terribly.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Those LEGO video games. Hours and hours and hours of fun.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Not mine, I'm sure. I'm pretty pleased that the people in charge of the Muppets have gotten their asses in gear and are returning the Muppets to their proper place in pop culture.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Did you read my stuff about Obama this morning? There you go.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, bills, food, bills, debt, bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Muppets. Having genuine health reform. Well, they don't all work out.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Anything by the Jonas Brothers. This is the year my wife got mad into them.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier, I think. Sorting it out.
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter, but getting thinner.
c) richer or poorer? Poorer, sadly.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Working. So much competition this year!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Not working! And grinding my teeth.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent it at home quietly. The weather was too lousy for me to drive anywhere with my lousy tires, and Becca's poor mom lost power because of the snow. So we stayed here.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I'm always in love with my wife.

22. How many one-night stands?
5. No, just kidding. Just the one. No, really, none.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
There were lots of them, but especially The Venture Bros, Modern Family, the second half of last season of The Office, Lost as it turns out, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Eastbound and Down, Phineas and Ferb, How I Met Your Mother, Doctor Who...

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Again, Obama's pissing me off. But he doesn't inspire hate in me. Just disappointment.

25. What was the best book you read?
The biggest literary treat this year was re-reading the five (plus one) books in the Prydain Chronicles. I'm so glad I did that. Loved them just as much as I did when I was a child, if not more. I also loved Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street and Fight Club.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Owl City. And it turns out I dig Cobra Starship.

27. What did you want and get?
More Muppets. Watchmen on DVD.

28. What did you want and not get?
New tires.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Inglourious Basterds

30. What did you do on your birthday?
We went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A better job with real money coming in.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Same as always: jeans and tee shirts.

33. What kept you sane?
Therapy? Ha. Becca. Muppets--you laugh, but it's true. Lexapro. Blogging. Tumblr. Video games, which used to have the opposite effect.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
My darling Kristen Bell.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health reform.

36. Who did you miss?
My sisters. One passed away, one lives in Australia, and one I don't see often enough.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
All my Tumblr neighbors and fellow bloggers.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
Admitting you need help is not failing at life.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"And children don't grow up; our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up."

This Is Supposed to Make Me Want AT&T?

The fatal error of this AT&T commercial is that they claim it's a better service because it downloads a life-sized picture of Luke Wilson faster than Verizon, as if anyone wants to download a picture of Luke Wilson, let a lone a life-sized one.

I think not being able to download one would be Verizon's selling point.

Right Said Fred

Bernard Cribbins, 1962. I love him on Doctor Who, I love this song, and it's his birthday today, so why not?

How Did You Know?

Random Thoughts

President Obama, in praising the Senate Insurance Industry Bailout Bill that he and Rahm Emmanuel have been pushing so hard for, told the Washington Post: "I didn't campaign on the public option." Huh, I guess I made a mistake. I guess when he put it on his website, signed on to HCAN's health care principles, included it in his white paper on health reform, and talked about it several times as a candidate (including to the damn Washington Post), I stupidly assumed he was for a public option.

Not only did Obama campaign on a public option, but he also promised a national exchange, drug re-importation, an employer mandate, Medicare drug price negotiations, and to bring down health care costs. The Senate bill doesn't do any of those things. But it does include an individual mandate and essentially a taxation on employer-provided health benefits (through the excise tax on high end plans), which are two things he specifically promised not to do. In fact, he attacked McCain for planning to tax employees on their health benefits by eliminating the employer deduction on health care. He also promised to "investigate and prosecute" the drug monopolies in this country, something he hasn't touched. The Senate bill doesn't revoke the antitrust exemption that pharma enjoys.

And didn't Obama also promise to make all negotiations public? Transparency, and all that? Clearly that's not happening, either.

I highly recommend you read this piece on Huffington Post by Drew Westen. He takes a long, smart look at the way Obama communicates and describes his leadership style as "deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there's a conflict, because if there's a conflict, he doesn't want to be anywhere near it." I think Westen has really articulated a lot of the frustration I have with the president. He thinks, and I agree, that people are just starting to tune Obama out. He talks a great game, but there's no follow-through with this guy. When push comes to shove, he'll throw in the towel. He's not the strong leader he claims to be and wants us to believe he is.

And he's not going to be one of the people "fixing it later," because he thinks the bill is fine now.

Obama is showing himself to be just as bad as Bush and Clinton were when it comes to accountability. Rather than come out and be honest with us about health reform, he now claims that he never promised any of the things he did. So he's a liar, too. There's no other way to put it. Breaking a promise is one thing; pretending you never made a promise that you did is a lie.

Barack Obama: weak leader, ineffectual chief executive, defender of corporate lobbyists, and liar.

This is your reform, Democrats. Enjoy your defeat in 2010, because there are a lot of disillusioned people who won't be rushing out to keep you in power. You've made it very clear that nothing we do matters, and you can't blame anyone for thinking their votes are meaningless.

Yes we can? Yes, we thought we did.

:: I didn't know that Rahm Emmanuel was on the board at Freddie Mac in 2000 and 2001. Say, isn't that when executives were laying out their plans to deceive shareholders about outsize profits so that they could pad their bonuses? And now Obama is supporting Fannie and Freddie no matter how big their losses are. This comes at the eleventh hour; in 2010, they would have had to ask Congress for approval. The top executives at both companies are going to get paid a total of $42 million this year. But it's not a banker bailout, apparently. They also have no plans to repay their TARP money. We've already given them almost the GDP of Norway.

These two companies just got their credit limits uncapped by the federal government. There is no independent auditor watching them. Our taxes bankroll an unlimited slush fund for buying up toxic assets. Tell me again whose side Obama is on.

:: Speaking of the economy, did you see where America only created something like 454,000 new jobs in the past decade, compared to 2.7 million in the nineties? We are so screwed. The Democrats are only too happy to continue the Republican dream of dismantling the middle class. I don't care what anyone claims: this recession is not even close to over. We're already seeing where there's a new housing bubble starting to emerge because people think being able to buy cheap is going to make them rich when this economic quagmire is over. There's every indication that we're not going to be back up to some growth in the standard of living until well into the next decade. And since we're lacking in strong leadership, ideas, and a willingness to tackle the bad financial methods that got us here, expect it to repeat itself, probably some time in my lifetime.

I'm 33, and I feel like this country has made it impossible for me to have any hope of prosperity in my adult life.

:: The US has been completely frozen out of the bidding for oil field development in Iraq. The most lucrative contracts have gone to Russia and China, countries that opposed the American invasion. Mission accomplished?

:: Why are we suddenly fighting in the Ugandan civil war? Did anyone else notice that this year?

:: Mary Matalin says that Bush inherited 9/11. Mary Matalin is fucking stupider than I gave her credit for.

:: I'm glad I don't fly. What the TSA is doing would be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous. The terrorists have completely won. Our response to terrorism is fear and the ever-increasing loss of the freedom to move, which is the whole point of terrorism. That's its objective: to disrupt. And now we're hearing about full body scanners and (no shit) babies being frisked because we assume everyone is guilty. And none of this will go one whit towards preventing any acts of terror, because people who want to hurt others will find a way. Pretty soon, you'll have to strip down, put on an orange jumpsuit, be hooded and placed in a cage when you fly. Just watch. Because the government has to be seen as doing something to combat terror, even if it's something that doesn't work.

The ironic thing is that these government regulations are helping to strangle air travel, and the airlines are industries that are always whining about being bailed out. This is business in the 21st Century, I guess: people see something inconvenient and pricey and stop using it, so the businesses whine to the government and they're either bailed out or they use legal means to turn their customers into criminals for not using their product anymore. The movie studios and the music industry are doing that now, by assuming piracy is the main cause of sales drops, when it's actually a shitty economy coupled with the fact that they don't make anything worth buying anymore.

When airline travel drops because of shit like this, I half expect that we'll see a new law making it illegal to travel by car more than a certain number of miles. And it'll be pure corporate protectionism, and no one will do anything about it.

:: James Cameron was caught on tape blowing off a fan who wanted an autograph, saying "I don't owe you a fucking signature ... just get out of my fucking personal space." Always a class act, James Cameron.

That said, where did this meme come from that James Cameron makes dumb movies? I see a lot of people who love Avatar but who concede that the story is lacking (and overly familiar) justifying that by saying that it's okay because James Cameron never makes movies that are smart or thoughtful. The thing is: yes, he does. Granted, there was some pretty dopey dialogue in Titanic, a movie I do like, but James Cameron is not Michael Bay. He doesn't make dumb movies. Now, I haven't seen Avatar, but if you really liked this movie, just like the movie. Don't try to preempt someone's judgment by claiming that a great filmmaker has never made a movie with a good story. You sound like you're apologizing because movies aren't any good anymore.

And you know, all of Cameron's movies are rip-offs or remakes of something, but they were always well put together. I don't buy this "James Cameron makes stupid movies, anyway" garbage.

:: I thought this was a pretty choice quote from Lady Gaga: "Don’t forget to follow your dreams and always be yourself. You know what you can tell them when they tell you that you’re not right? You tell them Lady Gaga says to fuck off."

This is the kind of thing that just irritates me so much about Lady Gag-Me. That's a lame quote coming from someone who couldn't make it big in the music industry as herself, and decided that becoming this soulless, plastic thing and dressing like someone shot her out of a cannon into a clown supply shop and resting on her sexuality and pretending to take political stances would be a quicker route to grab fame and artistic cred. Her new album, The Fame Monster, carries the most descriptive title anyone could ever find for her: a fame monster is exactly what she is. I don't see the point of her other than just being famous. Her songs are all the same song, she "dances" like a goat having a stroke, and there is nothing artistic about her, and yet people rally to her as some sort of genius and champion of the marginalized. Comparisons to Madonna are apt, because Madonna was the same way: total emptiness pretending to be genuine, vapidity pretending to be substantive, and completely unafraid to say the stupidest, most self-praising things about how genuine people should be when she's as phony as Naugahyde.

You tell Lady Gaga that I said she can go fuck herself.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My 10 Favorite Movie Posters of 2009

10. Monsters vs. Aliens. I still haven't seen this movie, but I think the design of this guy is pretty damn neat. It's like my childhood drawings meet 50s skiffy.

9. Observe and Report. I think Seth Rogen is funny. Sue me.

8. House of the Devil. I dig the retro design that somehow manages to not be overly self-conscious.

7. Broken. A stunningly disturbing image.

6. The Hurt Locker. Very tense and intriguing.

5. Friday the 13th. Iconic, and not afraid of it. Unlike the movie.

4. Fanboys. The image just takes me right back to 1983, a seven year old playing Jedis on the street with his friends. I had friends briefly as a kid.

3. Star Trek. Of the 12 billion posters for this movie, this was the one I truly liked. It just captures the excitement a Trek film should have.

2. Inglourious Basterds. These were fun, bold images for what turned out to be a fun, bold movie.

1. Up. More movie posters should follow this example. Instead of crowding the canvas with a thousand characters, this poster goes simple, opting for one strong image: a house floating in the sky on balloons. How could you not want to know what's going on here?

No runners-up this year. It wasn't a good year for the dying art of movie posters.

2008
2007
2006

Today in 1895, Cinema Was Born

The Lumiere Brothers performed for their first paying audience, showing their film Boulevard des Capucines. And today, Transformers 3 is possible. Well, it's a mixed bag, but I wouldn't want them to have never done what they did. Yet another thing we can thank the French for, by the way.

TV Report: Lost, Season Five

Wow. I have to admit, I never expected the show to bounce back to being watchable again. Imagine my surprise that season five was... good. Really good. Like, as good as the show was in its first season.

It's been an inconsistent and frustrating journey with Lost. The impeccable first season was followed by a second season that alternated between being frustratingly cruel and irritatingly meandering. In the third season, I think the producers lost the plot entirely; Carlton Cuse kept talking about going on for years telling meaningful stories of redemption, but I just wanted them to follow through on the epic weirdness they had set up and tell the main story. I grew incredibly frustrated with it. The fourth season was total bullshit.

I didn't even plan on watching the fifth season. I sort of did it on a whim, getting the discs from Netflix. And I was blown away. There it all was, back at last: direction, intent, purpose, story, character, development, plot. True, a lot of the characters still have the same problems they always did--I will just never like Kate or Jack, but their unlikability is tempered by their actually having a purpose in the story--but there was really something to all of this. For the first time since the first season, it feels like all of this is going somewhere. Like it's building to something.

Man, why couldn't it be this way all along? Why did it take so much meandering and bullshit to finally get a good season out of this show again?

See what happens when you actually have an ending? You get a story. Not filler between commercials.

Hell, I was even touched by the death this time around. I was so numb to it from the last season. I actually care about what's going to happen now.

Just a couple of spoilery specifics.

First, at some point Sawyer became my favorite character, and I thought it was wonderful to see him with Juliet. They were my favorite part of the show, not just because Elizabeth Mitchell and Josh Holloway are terrific actors, but because they have become such rounded, complex characters. They made sense together, and I love the way they ended up settling down with the Dharma Initiative and living a new life together. I was really disappointed, though, by the return of the Kate-Sawyer romantic tension, as I really think Kate's horrible and I don't see why he's so hung up on her. Who cares?

I was also incredibly saddened by her death scene. I expect the show will kill off Sun next season, because the show ends up killing every woman I like much more than Kate.

Also, the revelation about John Locke... wow. I was not expecting that at all. And it actually worked! It's because of that revelation that I'm going to end up watching the final season on TV instead of waiting for it to come to DVD. I need to know more about this.

Damn, I forgot how good this show could be when all cylinders are firing.

Kristen Bell Mondays