Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hey, Sometimes It's How Marriage Works, Alright?

Becca and I ended up watching the remake of The Stepfather on cable yesterday, and while the movie itself was no great shakes, I did really enjoy Amber Heard in the film. I've seen her before and always liked her, and I just find her really adorable. Plus, the bikinis.

It is a nonstop parade of bikinis in this movie. In every scene she's in, the lovely Miss Heard wears a completely different bikini. Or she's wearing shorts. Or panties and a nightshirt. It's glorious, and the only really great thing about the movie.

At one point, Becca turned to me and said: "She's the only reason we're watching this. If you weren't attracted to her, we'd probably have turned this off half an hour ago."

Me: "Probably, but why not make the best of a bad situation? Besides, can't you tell why I like her so much?"

Becca: "Because she's little and blond and that seems to be your thing?"

Me: "No. Because like a lot of guys, I fetishize the hell out of stuff from my childhood. Look at Amber Heard really closely. Now cut her hair to a shoulder length and give her a cherry tattoo on her shoulder. She looks just like Cherie Currie, and Cherie's been my dream girl since I was a kid who fell in love with the high school girls in the neighborhood and rock music."

ME: "Make sense now? She's very Cherie."

BECCA: "Except good-looking."

ME: [cold stare] "I'm sorry, maybe I didn't hear that."

BECCA: "Do you want me to be honest about my feelings, or do you want me to lie?"

ME: "Obviously, when your feelings compel you to talk shit about my Cherie, I want you to lie."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hell's Kitchen (Finally)

You could be forgiven if you, like Becca, forgot that Hell's Kitchen was even going on. I know lots of people love baseball, but I am not one of those people, so I considered it a major annoyance to have a sudden, month-long break from the show. And, honestly, I'm a tad affronted that after getting used to the two-hour, two episode schedule, it's going down to one episode next week so Fox can air yet another program I don't give a shit about and which will probably be canceled, anyway. It's like a schizophrenic monkey is in charge of the programming schedule over there, which is why I only bother to watch the Gordon Ramsey shows and nothing else. Why get involved in anything on Fox when you're just going to get jerked around? Christ, half of that garbage is going to come off the schedule when Idol starts up again, anyway.

Whatever. Back to the kitchen.

With the month off, I've cooled my opinion of Sabrina, especially since she was starting to do better in the last couple of episodes. I still don't have a frontrunner in mind at all; everyone pretty much sucks, it's just the degree to which they suck.

We finally got to the episode where the cheftestants all proved their palettes were terrible. I always laugh watching these babies mercilessly bitch about how badly the others do, mistaking fillet mignon for chicken, for example. It's not like any of them have come close to acing it. Stop smoking, idiots; you need your sense of taste to be chefs. Duh. Your palettes are shit. (Especially Rob; he can't even taste cheddar cheese?)

Trev is back with the men, so now it's hard to tell who's the biggest baby on the team: Trev, who spends more time talking about the credit he deserves than actually earning that credit, or Rob, who sulks and whines his way through every punishment. Oh, but then Russell had a meltdown and pitched a fit by yelling at a prom committee, because, I guess, that's what heroes do.

And then practically the entire Blue Team was kicked out of the kitchen, which was pretty hilarious. Only Trev made it through service. When push comes to shove, he can and will cook, he just needs to stop being so alienating to absolutely everyone. The man does not know how to step away from his precious little feelings. Rob just fell apart (when Chef Ramsey actually has to stand at your station and demonstrate how to cook, you're fucked), Russell acted like a mute thug except when Ramsey was looking at him, and Vinnie... well, Vinnie's just giving up, I think, and I hate the way he throws that fake Italian accent around every time he wants sympathy for his screw-ups.

Nona got run out of the kitchen, too. Sabrina was actually showing some leadership, which was refreshing. I still don't like her general attitude, but it really seems at this point like she's putting a lot of her Mean Girls wannabe garbage aside in order to be a member of the team. And they seem to have stopped shutting her out, which is good, because that only hurts the team as a whole. (Look at the way it worked out for the men when they tried to do it to Trev, who ended up being the best of the worst.)

Not surprised to see Rob go. And I'm not surprised to see Russell, after being put up for elimination, sulk like a bitch. God, I am sick of him and his prison yard attitude. Gee, someone got thrown under the bus during a competition? Heavens! Watch Russell pout and go to the Bowflex machine and crack his knuckles and flex his muscles and stare with his gleaming eyes and his mental patient haircut. This guy is so like a slowly simmering psychopath just waiting to snap. He's going to go; he's practically on a countdown. Which is funny because, honestly, like a lot of people who make a big noise, I think he's physically a coward. That's why his anger only manifests itself to, say, teenage girls who want to have a nice prom.

Granted, Russell can cook, but I would have put him up, too, if I were Trev. Because Russell is a weasel. When the decision was put in Trev's incapable hands, Russell became his best friend--"I always have your back"--after a prep and dinner service in which Russell froze Trev out in order to sabotage him. Fuck you, Russell.

The challenge in the second episode... well, I felt bad for Jillian for burning her hand. They were mostly working as a well-oiled team, so to get screwed up by an accident like that really has to hurt. And Trev... you know you have to cook a lobster, right?

Oh, and Russell glaring at his own muscles menacingly as a way to confront Trev and Vinny for talking smack about him? Creepy, but hilarious. What a child.

And what an awful dinner service. Most of the votes for elimination weren't surprising. The boys mostly went after Sabrina for stuff that's long in the past and which she's gotten past, while the girls all hate Trev because he's kind of a tool. (And let's face it, he's the only one on the Blue Team that they've personally worked with, and they weren't going to eliminate each other, which was a nice moment of solidarity--honestly, I didn't think any of the women deserved to go home, and while I'm not rooting for any one of them, I do think they're doing well.)

Vinny was sent home... okay. It doesn't matter to me at this point. I have no strong feelings of like for anyone involved, which in a way makes it more interesting. When it came down to Gail or Vinny, I figured it would be Vinny, since Gail had never really had a bad service until tonight (so much wasted lobster...)

Next week looks intense. Shame it's only one episode.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winnie the Pooh

I'm much more excited to see this Disney movie than I am Tangled. Look at this animation; the backgrounds are amazing. This did tug at my heartstrings, because I love the Disney Pooh (and the Milne, but I grew up more closely with the Disney), but it also made me a bit sad that all of the voices are different now. I'll get over it, but I especially miss Paul Winchell as Tigger. Craig Ferguson is an interesting choice to play Owl, though.

My Soldier Dad

My Dad put this picture up on Facebook today for Veteran's Day. I hadn't seen it in a long time, though I remember seeing it when I was a kid. He's 21 here, about to go to Basic Training in South Carolina. So I guess this would be from 1976, which is the year I was born. Man, sometimes I just can't believe my Dad was that young; other days, it seems like he never grew up. I just thought it was a nice picture and wanted to share the old man.

Dino De Laurentiis 1919-2010

I can't let the passing of Dino De Laurentiis go by without saying something about him. In his long career, the quality of his output was all over the place, but he's also been responsible for some of my favorite movies hitting the cinema, including (chronologically) Nights of Cabiria, Barbarella, Serpico, Death Wish, Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, The Dead Zone, Manhunter, and Army of Darkness. Thanks for those.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Unearthly Meme

From Byzantium's Shores.

1. Favorite childhood book?

Watership Down by Richard Adams. It was the first book of serious length that I'd ever read, and I read it several times (the first time when I was 10). It did lead me into epic fantasy (as did reading The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander), but it also lead me into an enjoyment of complex, multi-character novels.

2. What are you reading right now?

Right now, I'm only reading IDW's new collection of Bob Montana Archie comic strips. I'm still on my old comics kick right now, and I'm having too much fun to stop. I'm surprised, too, by the degree to which I'm really enjoying these old Archie stories. Yes, it was funny once. Very funny. It's just that it was in the 1940s...

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

None right now.

4. Bad book habit?

Checking out more books than I can read out of the library at the same time. I always think I'm going to have more time for them.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Just the aforementioned Archie book. I just returned a bunch of books late...

6. Do you have an e-reader?

No. I'm not really interested in that. I like a physical book, and why would I want to pay for equipment and subscriptions to read what I can get for free from my local library?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I usually read several at once, but I'm taking it easy right now.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

No, not at all. I take more recommendations, though.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

Some of the Essential Marvel collections have been a trial--especially Ant-Man and The Incredible Hulk.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

Simon Rich's humor collections.Yotsuba!

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I don't know... what's my comfort zone?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

I... don't know.

13. Can you read on the bus?

I used to on the way to school and the way back when I was in high school. I haven't been on a bus since then.

14. Favorite place to read?

Home. I used to read a lot waiting for classes to start.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I don't like to lend out my things. My sister used to give my CDs to friends as gifts, and now my Mom wonders why I won't let her borrow anything...

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?


17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Sometimes, depending on what they are. Mostly reference books and history books.

18. Not even with text books?

No way; those things could be sold back for something like 85% less than what I paid for them.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

English. But I think German's really pretty.

20. What makes you love a book?

It depends on what the author makes me feel.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Not much; no one ever takes my recommendations, anyway, and when they do, they seem to hate everything I like. I don't bother.

22. Favorite genre?

Used to be science fiction and fantasy; now I just want to read something good, no matter the genre.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

See above.

24. Favorite biography?

I always liked The Ragman's Son, by Kirk Douglas. I like Simon Callow's Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu. I would say my favorite, though, is Isaac Asimov's posthumously published I. Asimov. I can read anything by Asimov, and that's my favorite.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

No, not really. I read How to Win Friends and Influence People when I was in high school. I don't go much for the self-help section.

26. Favorite cookbook?

I don't have a favorite (I use the internet a lot), but I've gotten some good recipes out of the South Beach Diet book, from Rachael Ray's books, and, most recently, the MasterChef cookbook.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?

Nick Abadzis' graphic novel Laika. Sad, but beautiful.

28. Favorite reading snack?

None in particular; I do like to snack and read sometimes. I like Club Crackers a lot.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

I can't think of one right off the top of my head; I tend to not read stuff that gets overhyped just because, like a snob, I figure it must not be very good. Plus, the last time I read something people were hyping up, it was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, and I hated that.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I don't read book reviews, generally.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

Fine. I'm just sharing my honest opinion.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

Spanish. I'd like to read Don Quixote in its original language.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

I remember when I was in my sophomore year of high school and we were going to read Julius Caesar. Everyone was intimidated to read William Shakespeare, including me. But I loved it. I still love Shakespeare. I was so caught up in the reading and the words, and I thought that I was pretty silly to have ever been scared of its reputation. So, since that experience, I've never been intimidated to read anything else.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

See above.

35. Favorite poet?

Honestly, Robert E. Howard. And Poe. And Milton. And Tolkien. And...

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

A dozen or so.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

Lots of times. Every time. Like I said, I check out too many at once.

38. Favorite fictional character?

Well, Kermit the Frog. But my favorite fictional character from literature? Maybe Gandalf the White. Or Ayla from The Clan of the Cave Bear.

39. Favorite fictional villain?

Stephenie Meyer. She is a villain of fiction.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Whatever I'm already reading, plus alternate. By the way, what's a vacation?

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I'm always reading something.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

I didn't finish Battlefield Earth or Michael Crichton's The Lost World.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Depends on what I'm doing while reading. Music, sometimes, if I have it on.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

Lord of the Rings.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

I don't know; I've said this many times, but I'm not the kind of person who thinks fidelity to source material is sacrosanct. I'm interested in seeing a good movie, not a good adaptation of source material in another medium. So any kind of liberties or whatever don't really bother me as long as they make sense within the logic of the film itself.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

I don't know; when I worked at Waldenbooks and then Barnes & Noble I used to spend quite a bit on books.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

I don't know; I never really thought about it. I'm sure I do it, though.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Boredom. If you're not going anywhere, I'm not, either.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I wish I was as organized as I'd like to be.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

Depends. If it's something I enjoyed, I'll keep it. If things are stacking up too much, I'll give them away or take them to a used bookstore.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Not consciously. There's stuff I forget I want to read, though...

52. Name a book that made you angry.

Twilight pissed me off with its awfulness. And Jesus Christ, A Separate Peace, what the fuck?

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

I'm sure most of those were read in school, but I can't remember any that I just actively did not want to read at all.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, or whatever the first Pern book is called. I really didn't like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was a kid.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

I don't believe in guilty pleasures. It's a stupid concept.

You Thieving Bastard!

Becca took this picture of the balcony catty-corner to us. This is the same guy who likes to nibble the pumpkins up here on our balcony. I still call him "That Squirrel Bastard" because he always liked to steal from our feeders when we had them up. He's also the same one who likes to hump our balcony railing... He horrifies me.

Conan O'Brien

I don't have much to say about the premiere of Conan on TBS because, well, I didn't watch it. That shouldn't be a surprise; I don't care for the late night talk shows, and unless Kristen Bell is going to be on with Craig Ferguson, I don't go out of my way to watch them. I find the format limited and repetitive, and ever since Johnny Carson went off the air, they're never that much fun.

I know a lot of people who are fans of Conan--or at least fans of the idea of Conan, which I'll sort of get to in a minute--but I've never been that into him. A few years ago, Comedy Central used to run repeats of the previous night's Late Night. I watched it for about three weeks before I got sick of it. I guess Dick Cavett reruns have ruined me for the current format of late night television which is, in my opinion, filler and movie plugs. I'd rather watch reruns that late, which is what I'm usually doing. Just not my cup of tea, as they say.

There are, though, a couple of things that interest me about the return of Conan O'Brien to late night television. Outside of the people who genuinely like Conan, there are also the hipsters who think it's trendy to stick it to Jay Leno by supporting Conan O'Brien, who is younger and hipper. These were, as far as I could tell, the vast majority of "Team Coco." Because I don't for a second believe that the majority of people who were suddenly massive supporters of Conan O'Brien when he was getting screwed over by NBC were actually watching his show.

My opinion of the proceedings then--and it's the same now--is that there wouldn't be any discussion about removing Conan O'Brien and bringing back Jay Leno if Conan had actually had decent ratings. I thought it was shitty of Leno to take the deal, but really I blame NBC. They made a dumb, dopey decision to kill the golden goose by announcing that they would retire Leno and move Conan to The Tonight Show before Leno was ready to go. Jay was getting massive ratings. He was a cash cow for NBC, and it was idiotic of them to dismantle the show just to make Conan O'Brien happy and hold on to him.

Now, whatever you thought of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno--I myself was not a fan--the facts are that it brought in the ratings. And you don't just cancel a show (which, in essence, is what happened) when it's on top unless everyone wants to go their separate ways. NBC obviously didn't want to lose Leno, which is why they put him on again in an amazingly cheap format. But before that happened, Conan got his shot at Tonight and failed spectacularly.

I don't know what the issue was--NBC toned him down for an earlier audience, or he just wasn't clicking, or because his show was on up against The Colbert Report--but the simple fact is that Conan's ratings went into the toilet and stayed there. None of this would have ever happened if the people who came out in droves to support the apparent injustice of firing Conan O'Brien had actually been watching his show on weeknights. If the support had translated into actual ratings, Conan would still be on NBC and The Jay Leno Show would probably have been canceled by now. I know NBC was afraid of Leno going somewhere else and slaughtering them in the ratings, but if you look at Leno's numbers now, I doubt it would've amounted to much unless he'd gone over to HBO and really let himself go. And I don't think Leno's that kind of a comic; he's been safe for too long.

And when you're dealing with networks, is it really about anything other than safety? NBC doesn't want to take risks. That's why every new show is about doctors, lawyers, cops, or a rip-off of The Office.

NBC poisoned the well and killed two of their franchises. Leno's Tonight Show has never recovered, and they lost Conan O'Brien. But I'm not sure it really matters, to be honest.

Conan beat every other late night show on its premiere, but a lot of the people I know who watched were pretty unimpressed. I don't expect the ratings will amount to much if the quality doesn't pick up; people lose patience fast, and when the first week is over, expect a big drop. Especially since he's on at the same time as The Daily Show.

As much as the media and bloggers try to convince me that Conan O'Brien is this driving force in modern comedy and television, I've never felt it. I mean, I don't like Jon Stewart either, but I can see where he's very influential in pop culture. I think when it comes to Conan, the trendiness has gone out of it, so a lot of "Team Coco" is either watching Jon Stewart or out somewhere. I think TBS' attempt to become hip instead of the channel that just shows reruns of redneck sitcoms has mostly been a bust for them. More power to them if it works, but I think Conan's going to be lucky to carve out a small portion of the audience these days.

Also, after all of the back and forth about time slots and how Jay Leno is evil for taking his back, is it ironic or not that Conan O'Brien forced George Lopez to an hour later? Lopez is a pretty gracious guy for stepping back.

Of course, George Lopez isn't trendy.

Monday, November 08, 2010

I Had an Inkling

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Song of the Week: "I Am a Good Girl"

This clip doesn't make me any less sure that Burlesque is going to be a nightmare (it's probably best for KB that she doesn't rate a mention in the trailer), but it also illustrates the main reason I'm going to watch this movie: to see my darling little Christina do this.

Bombad Bounty

Oh, I love this one.

Phillip brought this one to my attention, and I'm glad he did, because this is fantastic. Here we have Boba Fett chasing down Jar Jar Binks through the original Star Wars trilogy (that's Episodes 4 through 6 to you kids), done in CGI LEGO and keeping perfectly in style and humor with the LEGO Star Wars video games I so love.

This is fantastic.

How to Be a Serious Fanblogger on Tumblr

Step 1: Go onto a forum, fansite, or do a Google search for a picture of the celebrity of your choice. Make sure you "forget" which site you found the picture on, and don't bother to look up the name of the photographer, if the photographer is even credited.

Step 2: Crop the picture to your personal liking. From then on, refer to the picture as "my edit."

Step 3: Put a watermark on the picture. Usually, people like to go with the URL of their Tumblr blog.

Step 4: Hypocritically get upset whenever you see your "edit" posted on any other website without proper credit being given to you.

Step 5: Resist all attempts of others to point out that the "stolen" picture was, in fact, already stolen, by you, from a forum, fansite, or Google search.

Instant Tumblr fame!

(For extra points, act precious about it, as though your one-in-a-sea-of-millions Tumblr blog with edited stolen pictures could potentially make you a monetary profit in some way you're uncertain of.)

The Limitations of Motion Capture

Pretty evident from this picture.

I've talked several times here about how much I hate motion capture, and I think this comparison of Hergé's Tintin to the characters as they will appear in the upcoming Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson trilogy makes it clear why.

Just look at that comparison. On the bottom, you have Hergé's appealing artwork, with its roundness and character. Look at Tintin's signature angle; the way he runs tells you a lot about who Tintin is, I think. It's a defining cartoon mannerism. Look at Snowy's reaction; you're immediately drawn into what's going on.

Now look at that mess above it. Tintin and Snowy look like lifeless zombies, suspended in midair as though part of a creepy museum display, and utterly repellent to the eye. The details are unnecessary and excessive; the shadows obscure the limitations of the design rather than enhance the illusory life of the characters, the way Hergé's art does. It's ironic that Hergé's two-dimensional art looks more three-dimensional than Spielberg and Jackson's 3-D models. The digital image looks flat and lifeless.

But it all comes down to the angle, I think. No human being can run at the same angle as Tintin, and that's a really good example of what's hindering the animators of this motion capture flick. The special effects technicians are hamstrung here, limited by what they can record. But in cartooning, the wonderful caricature of human movement that is Tintin's run can be achieved. That's the strength of cartooning.

So what you're looking at, in my opinion, is a fool's errand: spending hundreds of millions of dollars to take some of the most recognizable and most appealing art in the world and turning it into something ugly, befuddled, and appalling to look at. Ineptitude in action.

Really, if Spielberg and Jackson wanted to turn Tintin into a film so badly, they'd have been better off doing it in live action or in real animation. And this is ultimately why I despise motion capture so much: it's neither. It's not animation, despite what people like Robert Zemeckis keep saying, and it's not live action. The medium in which it is made does nothing but distract you from any attempts to tell a story in that medium. It insists on itself through its unrealistic attempts to duplicate reality.

Remember when Peter Jackson said this about why Tintin wasn't being done in live action? "With live action you’re going to have actors pretending to be Captain Haddock and Tintin. You’d be casting people to look like them. It’s not really going to feel like the Tintin Hergé drew. It’s going to be somewhat different. With CGI we can bring Hergé’s world to life, keep the stylized caricatured faces, keep everything looking like Hergé’s artwork, but make it photo-real."

Pretty laughable, considering the stills that are popping up on the internet, which look almost nothing like Hergé.

You know what could have preserved that look? Animation.

Just saying.