Friday, April 22, 2011
When did every character turn into a variation of Michael?
With the exception of the occasional peak like the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline, this show has been in decline for a few years now. And I see the season finale is loaded with guest stars (Ricky Gervais, Catherine Tate, Will Arnett, James Spader, Ray Romano, Jim fucking Carrey), which is just another example of how much this show has turned its back on the slightly-amplified, quirky realism it used to go for. Now it's a guest star extravaganza. It's really, really weak. They only emotion they want to whip up now is an extremely ingratiating and pathetic version of cute.
Can't wait for the inevitable episode next season where Dwight dreams that the whole show takes place in Middle-earth. Or Angela dreams the characters into an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Or we just flat-out start hearing CC's thoughts. Would any of these things seem out of place anymore?
You can let me know, I won't be watching it next season.
(Also, was last night's episode of 30 Rock just a one-hour showcase of why the show doesn't work anymore, or what?)
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (2010)
I was fairly impressed with this one. I think the problem with the Narnia films has been this sort of reverence for CS Lewis' books. I never liked the Narnia books as a kid because, really, nothing much besides heavy-handed symbolism happens. They're very slight, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the slightest. But this film is the best of the three, simply because the reverence is toned down and we just get a fun adventure with a ship, a dragon, and a talking lion. As far as this recent wave of fantasy epics--kicked off by The Phantom Menace and carrying us through to now, where it's kind of dwindling--this is one of the most enjoyable. It's not a deep or profound film, but it's very likable. This film is especially worth it for Will Poulter (from the wonderful, seemingly-forgotten Son of Rambow), who is delightfully uptight as Eustace Scrubb, Lucy and Edmund's sour cousin. As this series continues to grow, I like the actors and their characterizations more and more. ***1/2 stars.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 (2010)
Where do we go with this one? As I've said before, I'm constitutionally incapable of liking a Harry Potter movie. And I did like this one a lot, don't get me wrong. Over the past decade, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have grown so comfortably into their roles and have been matched with such a convincing, fully-realized fictional universe, that it's hard not to like these movies. And as we go through the sort of roll call of the various characters and thrill to Harry's race against time to destroy the Horcruxes holding pieces of Voldemort's soul and stop him from collecting the Deathly Hallows, the only real problem here is that, well, structurally it's not really a movie. It's half of a movie, and even worse, a movie that stops just as it's starting to get really exciting. As in the book, there's just too much time brooding in the woods and being miserable and full of doubts and in-fighting (around 40 minutes of the running time here). I understand why it makes sense dramatically, but it's not especially interesting to watch. This is the first Harry Potter movie where I've ever found myself checking the time. And, like I said, just when all of the brooding stops and we finally, finally (almost two hours into the film) find out what the Deathly Hallows are and why they're important, and the film starts to get very dramatic and exciting again, the action is just stopped and the credits roll. I'm still not a fan of cutting the book in two and releasing it as two separate films--it's solely a commercial decision and, as Part 1 proves, not dictated by the needs of the story. So I'm not even going to give this a rating. Because it's half of a movie, and until I see the other half, it's impossible to tell how everything being set up here is going to pay off.
Bottom line: I liked the movie, but I liked it because I'm a huge fan of this series and the characters and the fictional universe. But I was also unsatisfied because, well, where's the third act?
Oh, this would've been an amazing single for "Weird Al" Yankovic: "I Perform This Way," his parody of Lady Gaga's pandering "Express Yourself" rip-off "Born This Way."
I think this would've been his biggest hit since "White & Nerdy," especially since (as lifelong fans such as myself are amused to take note of), it's apparently cool to like "Weird Al" again.
Unsurprisingly, though, it turns out that Lady Gaga is just as precious about herself and her tired bag of cliches as her fans are. Al tells the story behind the would-be single over at his blog, including the bizarre fact that Ziggy Stardust Lite demanded that he, at his own expense, record the entire song so she could hear it and not approve of it--something he had to cut a family vacation short in order to do because he was so excited about the song's potential as a single (the proceeds of which he planned to donate to the Human Rights Campaign).
So, not only does Gaga not have a sense of humor about herself, but she has no sense of the work people go to. This is just like how she wants to make photographers who do concert photography sign away all the rights to their work and never let them use the pictures, even in a portfolio. She has no concept of reality; apparently, she thinks people are cool to just waste their time and talent on her whims.
It's all commercialism with her, anyway. It's not a surprise to find out she wouldn't approve it, but as a "Weird Al" fan, I'm very disappointed. But he'll still be turning out music when she's become the bizarre footnote she deserves to be. I know, she's the new Madonna or whatever. But really, she's the new Jobriath, and she'll be remembered just as well as he is.
UPDATE 7:48 PM: MC links this in the comments: hours later, Lady Gaga decides it's okay for "Weird Al" to parody her. Must've been all of the negative press on the internet.
My favorite part of the linked item, though, is when Gaga responds to criticism that "Born This Way" is a wholesale ripoff (my words) of Madonna's "Express Yourself": "Why would I try to put out a song and think I'm getting one over on everybody. That's retarded."
Classy. Apparently Lady Gaga doesn't bother with her own message: the mentally handicapped were, after all, born this way, baby.
Dumb motherfucker slinging bullshit. That's all it takes these days, I guess.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Rude Pundit on the budget cuts: "The entire list of shit what got cut is darkly amusing, like watching a cartoon salami with teeth discover his own body is delicious and then devouring himself."
That's pretty much the best description of 21st century American government anyone could come up with.
Why did President Obama even need to have a speech about budget issues? This has far governance has gone into stupidity. And any of the issues he cares about we aren't going to get, anyway. The Republicans aren't serious deficit hawks; if they were, they'd be talking about letting the Bush tax cuts expire and reducing the defense budget, since those are the two biggest drains on the economy. They'd be discussing jobs. They'd be discussing nationalized health finance, freeing employers of a huge financial burden.
It just felt like the president once again getting suckered into an unnecessary battle when there are other things he should be concerned with. Like jobs.
Another in a series of missed opportunities.
Oh, and more presidential hypocrisy, too: Obama described the Paul Ryan budget as leaving seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, while ignoring that the public mandate in his Affordable Care Act leaves everyone else at the mercy of the insurance industry, instead. (Obama's great progressive victory, don'cha know?)
At this point, I don't know why I'm supposed to believe anything President Obama has to say.
He's already said that failure to raise the debt limit "could plunge the world economy back into recession" and, in practically the same breath, said that a vote on the budget "[isn't] going to happen without some spending cuts." This man gives everything away before he even starts to negotiate.
UPDATE 2:31 PM: Budget cuts mean job cuts. The conservatives at work for fiscal responsibility.
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Phil Tippett. (And Dennis Muren, and Ben Burtt, and John Dykstra, and Jim Henson, and...) Without him, the formative films of my childhood might have been very different indeed. Today, I watched his 1985 short film Prehistoric Beast, a sort of stop-motion calling card about dinosaurs. It's wonderfully alien; imagine if he and Walon Green had gotten together in the 1980s and shot Green's Dinosaur script this way. You have to watch it on YouTube, but it's just under 10 minutes long and well, well worth it.