Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beta 1961-2008

Being a regular visitor and lover of the Brookfield Zoo, I was very sad to read today that Beta died on Thursday night. She was one of the oldest western lowland gorillas in a North American Zoo. She was always a beauty to see--the gorilla habitat is one of the places we linger. We didn't know she had cancer. I'm glad we got to see her again during our last visit two months ago. She died attempting to recover from anesthesia after getting a CT scan to determine if her tumor was operable (it wasn't). She apparently went into respiratory and cardiac arrest. The next time I see the gorilla group at the Brookfield Zoo, I'm going to be a little sad.

Saturday Playlist

1. Trevor Jones: Elk Hunt
2. Roxy Music: Do the Strand
3. Jessica Simpson: Betcha She Don’t Love You
4. Frank Zappa: Willie the Pimp
5. Julie Brown: ‘Cause I’m a Blonde
6. Willie Nelson: He Was a Friend of Mine
7. ABBA: Love Isn’t Easy
8. Men At Work: I Can See It in Your Eyes
9. Electric Light Orchestra: Epilogue
10. They Might Be Giants: Birdhouse in Your Soul

1. From the great Last of the Mohicans score.
2. I'm not as big a fan of this album, For Your Pleasure, as I am of their first self-titled album. This was the second and last with Brian Eno. Classic song.
3. From her first album, Sweet Kisses, which is a pretty decent pop album given what it is.
4. Jazz/funk/guitar music with violin from Hot Rats. I don't know a single other person who likes this kind of music. People look at me like I'm crazy.
5. One of the funniest songs ever. I miss Julie Brown as she was in the eighties. My favorite line is the one about appearing in Playboy: "an honor I'll remember for as long as I can." The inflection alone is hilarious.
6. Played over the end credits of Brokeback Mountain.
7. A nice antidote to having sat through that fucking Mamma Mia! movie the other night.
8. One of my favorite bands from the eighties.
9. Off of Time. Still progressive.
10. This song still makes me incredibly happy.

You Can See Me Later for Your Present

Happy 18th Birthday, JoJo!

Happy 25th Birthday, Lucy Pinder!

Friday, December 19, 2008

KB in '09

Kristen Bell has two movies coming out next year, and the images are beginning to trickle out.

Couples Retreat (via USA Today)

And When in Rome (via Cinematical

I'm not sure I'm exactly excited about either of these films, but I am excited about having more Kristen Bell stuff to watch.

Throwdown 12/19

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt may be dating. I can’t think of a more boring couple to hang out with. I mean, they’re pretty but they’re so bland. Beige. Tapioca. Paste.

2. I saw this interview with Kristen Stewart this morning, in which she said she couldn’t be a student in a normal school because “I can't deal with the structure. I have authority issues. I don't like to be told what books to read.” This is really frustrating to me as a teacher, because I see this attitude all the time, and schools are catering to this, babysitting kids instead of grading them and teaching them. Man, my generation had to get with it and follow the program; we’re not doing today’s kids any favors by coddling them and supporting their obnoxious attitudes and made-up disorders and syndromes that are all just codes for laziness and disinterest. Isn’t school supposed to be were kids learn what is expected of them in social and professional settings? Jesus, we’re raising an entire generation of lazy, surly, entitled ditch diggers and button pushers who all believe they're too special to participate.

3. You know, it’s no secret that I didn’t like Hugh Hefner’s last three girlfriends, but at least they comported themselves in public without pathetic, attention-whoring antics. These new girlfriends don’t even seem to like him very much, they just want the money they think they’re going to get and the free media attention. Gee, good thing there hasn’t been a TV show for years legitimizing what they’re doing. Oh. Right.

4. Darren Aronofsky on his upcoming, unwelcome, totally unnecessary RoboCop remake: “Before you get an MRI, they give you a list of like 38 different things, how you can have metal in your body... From a shutter in your eyelid to a pacemaker, screws and all this stuff you can have in your system. I realized, 'Wow, we are cyborgs.' I mean, everything's not inside us, but the way we're connected to the technology and everything is right there.” So, some of you out there consider this guy a genius. Interesting.

5. Kenneth Branagh has started another movement in the UK to crack down on illegal downloading, because he feels that his films are not making as much money as they could because of downloading. Sure, Ken. That’s why 5 Children and It didn’t make any money.

6. The judge in the Watchmen case has decided it has to go to trial, which begins on 20 January. So there’s probably no way Watchmen is coming out in March. So there’s another movie I was looking forward to delayed.

7. Just in time for the holidays, you can read the heartwarming tale of a 16 year-old kid on trial for shooting his parents because they wouldn’t let him play Halo 3. Killed his mother instantly. What the fuck is wrong with some people?

8. Though not in the current case, Jesse Jackson Jr. has apparently informed on Governor Rod Blagojevich. Though I remain skeptical, I will give Jackson this: I am surprised.

9. All during the long election cycle, Democrats were angry with the notion of political dynasties. But now Caroline Kennedy says she wants to be a senator and they’re ready to put her in a sedan chair and carry her to her coronation. Can someone please explain to me what Caroline Kennedy’s political qualifications are? Has she ever even held public office? Or are we just supposed to let her walk into an increasingly entitled Senate more interested in protecting itself than in protecting America because she’s a Kennedy? And the fact that she’ll barely speak to the press and lists raising a family among her achievements is painfully Palinish. You know what? Millions of women have raised a family. How is that a Senate qualification?

10. Great American Insurance Company is actually arguing in a federal court that they don’t have to pay out to the surviving families of three fire victims because they were killed by “pollution.” Yes, they want smoke inhalation classified as death by pollution so they won’t have to pay. Let this industry die, please God, just let it die. Besides, effective today, it is now legal to be refused health care on moral grounds. Seriously. If anyone involved in your health care, medicine, or medical procedures objects to the treatment on moral or religious grounds, they legally do not have to treat you. More from the Bush administration.

11. “And it was here in Afghanistan that the terrorists planned the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. After that date, America gave the Taliban a choice: You can turn over the leaders of al Qaeda, or you can share in their fate. And when they refused, our just demands were enforced by the United States military. And thanks to you, the Taliban has gone from power, the al Qaeda training camps are closed, and 25 million Iraqis are free.” President Duh continues to talk as though the wars are actually over and in the past. Must be all the drinking.

12. More Splurge news. First is the revelation of the Republican Party memo that went around calling the auto industry bailout “the first strike against organized labor,” which just kind of makes me wonder again why any blue collar people ever vote Republican. The second revelation is bigger, I think. Did you know that the Bush administration changed the wording of a single sentence in the Splurge provision that executive pay be limited? Yeah, apparently Bush created a gaping loophole. The limited-pay “penalty” only applies to firms that received Splurge money by auctioning troubled assets to the government. And the government has not used auctions to buy any of those assets. So the limited-pay “penalty” effectively doesn’t exist, and executives are still going to walk away with obscene amounts of money. Just when you think you’ve run out of reasons to hate this douchebag, he goes and does more stuff. I’m warming up my shoe-throwing arm.

13. Oh, and the guy who threw the shoe? Iraqi reporter Montather al-Zeidi. And he’s apparently been tortured into giving an apology. Sounds like Bush democracy in Iraq to me. Mission accomplished?

14. By the way, it turns out that state unemployment money is already starting to dry up. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Meanwhile, there is contemplation of a Second Splurge somewhere between $850 billion and $1 trillion. Maybe we should just be poor for a while. My grandparents’ generation was poor, and they still managed to invent rock ‘n’ roll, hardcore porn, and the atom bomb. Did you hear that the Fed is cutting interest rates to zero? This is going to lead to printing an unlimited amount of money, which is going to lead to the worthlessness of the dollar, isn’t it? Oh, and apparently Congress is giving itself another raise. Because they’ve already solved all of the country’s problems?

15. I’m just going to directly quote Glenn Greenwald here: “We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they’ve done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we’re deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law. [. . .] They have license to break the law. That’s what we’re deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn’t be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they’ve broken. And I can’t think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.” I ask again: where are the prosecutions?

16. You know what the Gestapo used to call torture? I’m 100% serious. “Enhanced interrogation.” Americans tried and executed people for using those same “enhanced interrogation techniques” that Americans now use against Arabs, seemingly without discrimination. America thinks of itself as moral, but why is our morality always demonstrated by tolerating the intolerable, and not accepting the acceptable?

17. Alone among Western nations, America has refused to sign a UN declaration calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. More than 70 UN member countries outlaw homosexuality; in several of them, being gay is a crime for which you can be executed. This is obviously wrong, and 27 European Union countries, Japan, Mexico, Australia, and 36 other countries had the fortitude to stand up and say so. But not America. So America is officially not a country that defends human rights, no matter what it says. I mean, I already knew that, but here’s yet more proof. Have a wonderful holiday season, especially if you live in this country, where no one in power will stand up for any of your rights.

18. I’m very unhappy when it comes to Barack Obama’s decision to ask homophobic hatemonger Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. This is a hurtful choice. Many of us don’t find Warren’s hate speech acceptable in a civilized world. And for the gay population, this is an affront. Warren successfully spearheaded legislation to strip a segment of one state of their civil rights because they don’t line up with his religious agenda, and he’d like to do the same for the country. Imagine that this man has been telling you that your lifestyle is sick and wrong, that you’re marriage is invalid, that your feelings of love for someone of the same sex are morally the same as pedophilia, bestiality, and incest... and now the next President of the United States is legitimizing those words by putting him in a place of high honor at his own inauguration. Now, I will admit that Obama is more inclusive of gays and lesbians than any president has been before. But Obama is wrong when he calls himself “a fierce advocate” of civil equality and his view on gay marriage amounts to, let’s just say it, separate but equal. That’s not civil equality. That’s backward thinking. And, frankly, Obama’s attempt to defend this by saying he was invited to speak at Warren’s church (as were many others) is weak and lame. Bringing people together doesn’t mean you invite the Grand Dragon to a national audience. And once again gay people have been put in this disgusting position, as they were with the protest of Mormons, of being made to look as if they’re solely liberal and solely against faith. It’s a distortion that Warren keeps returning to, and it denies the diversity of gay and lesbian Americans; this is not a protest against faith and the political right, this is a protest against the language of hate. As a non-believer and a supporter of equal rights for all and as a human being, I’m offended that Rick Warren has been invited to participate. Gay bashing is not acceptable, and nothing is going to change that. And to see Barack Obama, the first black president, the man who liberals kept telling me was symbolic of a new era of acceptance and tolerance and equality and diversity, asking a man who represents oppression and hate to speak the words of a deity that so many believe in, it makes me sad and angry.


Happy 20th Birthday, Kitty Lea!

Majel Barrett 1932-2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I Want for Christmas Is Oola

I found this online while looking for Christmas stuff, and I thought I'd share it. It's surprisingly charming Star Wars stop motion.

The Next Doctor

Here's the new BBC preview for "The Next Doctor," this year's Doctor Who Christmas episode. I have to say, like a real nerd, that based on this trailer alone I'd love it if David Morrissey were, in fact, the next Doctor. I mean, it's time travel, they can do that, right?

And He's Only 65 Years Old

Happy Birthday, Keef

Happy Birthday, Christina

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

Another spectacular edit. Man, I love movies. And none of the clips at the Oscars are going to be this good.

Film Week

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

RATED X (2000)
Pointless film about the Mitchell Brothers, starring Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez (who also directed). Another typical made-for-cable biopic that goes through the motions without any insight. * star.

Two sisters, Samarie Armstrong and Alicia Silverstone, bring home a drifter and toy with him in a way that feeds their egos and stokes their tensions. Whatever. Very pretty to look at, and Alicia is beautiful, but it's a waste of time. * star.

Three more of Jim Wynorski's bikini movies. They're not really fun anymore, frankly, and the fun, bouncy Rebecca Love seems to have been dropped from the series in favor of giving the very boring Christine Nguyen larger roles. Blurgh. Even Evan Stone isn't being given funny roles anymore, and he's hilarious. They're never going to top Bikini Pirates, anyway. Each movie, * star.

Why tell one story when you can just write scenes? Another one of those annoying movies about people whose lives are kind of intersected and how they affect each other and blah blah blah, only this one's about illicit sexual hook-ups. Like many American movies now, it really doesn't have anything interesting to say about sex. * star just for Kerry Washington and Elizabeth Banks, two actresses I like who have done much, much better work.

If you're going to do a movie about a bunch of disparate people who encounter one another, you could at least have them all in the same place. This movie does just that, with people during the Depression engaged in a grueling dance contest that seems like it will never end. It's a good idea, and there are some very good performances here (Jane Fonda as a suspicious cynic is excellent, Gig Young outdoes himself as the sleazy MC, and I always like to see Red Buttons, Bruce Dern, and Bonnie Bedelia), but I think it just suffers from going on for too long. Sidney Pollack directed, and I've never really liked his work very much. This one I liked better than some of his films, but Pollack never seemed to me cynical enough to make a movie like this work. **1/2 stars.

Apparently, this movie was never released; they could never reach a distribution deal. So, it premiered on TCM last week. And it's wonderful; it's the story of an orphan who tries to illegally cross from Mexico to America with his stolen greyhound in a search for his father. The boy is caught and Cesar Romero, a priest, takes charge of him, guiding the boy with a firm sense of morality but also a weary understanding. Romero's performance is excellent, one of his best (if not his best altogether), and the story never becomes too predictable. A warm film, shot roughly by Haskell Wexler; I like that you can see the seams of this movie. It looks handmade, but genuine, like a poem on a crumpled piece of paper. A shame this won't be seen more often. **** stars.

Noah Wyle returns again in what is apparently going to be the last adventure for Flynn Carson, which is a real shame. These movies are a lot of fun. I like the Wold Newton-ish adventure movies. In this one, Flynn goes to New Orleans to search for vampires and ends up meeting Dracula. Not quite as much fun as the first two movies (Return to King Solomon's Mines is still my favorite), and Jonathan Frakes's direction is not as sharp and joyous as last time. Still, all the elements are there, including Bob Newhart, whom I adore in these movies. Come on, I need at least three more of these movies. *** stars.

Cecil B. DeMille film about an atheist girl and a Christian boy who go to jail after a riot between, apparently, atheist and Christian students on campus results in the death of a student. After the silly depiction of atheism, we get a histrionic depiction of juvenile detention centers, and then a lot of running and a sappy ending. Pretty to look at, though. And Lina Basquette--Hitler's favorite actress--is pretty good in it. ** stars.

I love the first two Mummy movies, and I'm glad to see Brendan Fraser's returned to adventure movies this year (it's what he was born for), so of course I was going to sit and watch it. And I liked it. It's nowhere near as classic as the first two films, and Rachel Weisz is missed (although Maria Bello does do a much better job than I honestly expected). And there are tonal problems, especially during the first act; the screenwriters can't seem to decide whether this is the third film for Rick and Evy O'Connell, or whether this is the first film for their son Alex, who is now grown up and getting into his own archaeological misadventures. But the upsides are many for a guy like me who loves adventure movies: Jet Li as a mummy who shapeshifts into a three-headed dragon, an army of the dead fighting an army of terra cotta warriors, yetis, Shangri-La, Michelle Yeoh, swordfighting... I enjoyed the hell out of it, even if it was directed by Rob Cohen. *** stars (where the first two movies easily garner four stars out of me). Less than the first two, but I knew it would be, so it was by no means disappointing.

MAMMA MIA! (2008)
Or ABBA Mix Tape: The Movie. Emptyheaded exercise in stupidity. God, what a vacuous movie. Where do I start? The plot... what plot? The tone... awful. It starts so keyed up and over-the-top, there's nowhere to go; as a consequence, all of the drama feels forced and fake, and all of the comedy seems forced and stupid. It's too damn whimsical, constantly trying to make you feel how magical and wonderful everything supposedly is, like a high school student directing Shakespeare. Technique: why does all of the Mediterranean look like it's been blue-screened in? And the dancing is trite and awful.

The actors... Well, Amanda Seyfried has a nice singing voice, but her dreamy-eyed, wavering performance makes me reconsider every good thing I've ever said about her acting; she's a bubble-headed booby. I'm embarrassed for Meryl Streep in a way I've never once been before; this is the first time I've felt sorry for her, she's always weathered everything before (although she almost, almost redeems herself with her performance of "Winner Takes It All," which is majestic; she acts the hell out of it like it's Lady Macbeth, and in key the whole time). I'm embarrassed for Julie Walters, too, who really lowers herself. Christine Baranski is as annoying as ever; she plays her role the same way she plays every role: like a drag queen. The men come out somewhat better. I've never liked Stellan Skarsgaard. Pierce Brosnan... okay, the dude can't sing, but I've always had more respect for people who do their own singing than people who get dubbed; at least there's some honesty of voice there. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to act in a musical (which is understandable, since he's never been in one), and his emoting is kind of embarrassing. Also, he's long past the age when he should be taking his shirt off (Skarsgaard gets away with it because he's Scandanavian; anything more than a thong seems to be overdressed, so at least he's comfortable shirtless). Colin Firth is surprisingly good; he doesn't embarrass himself because he's the only one who seems to be playing a role. Everyone else is apparently just having fun and goofing off and not taking it seriously, which is another way the film tries to convince us that it's incredibly fun when it's really just poorly made. There's no direction here, and the film is so busy laughing at itself that you just don't want to.

And what's the time frame of this story, anyway? Meryl Streep gets pregnant after multiple flings with three hippies, and her parents kick her out of the house because she's pregnant. Okay, Meryl Streep is 59 years old. She got pregnant when she was 38 and her parents kicked her out of the house? It's laughable and stupid. Meryl, Pierce, and Stellan are all about 20 years too old to be convincing (Colin is only a decade too old for the part, instead of two). These elders are past the point of behaving like former hippies who've yet to grow up and are forced to when a 20 year-old girl needs them to be. It's just tremendously dumb.

So, there's one good scene, and I like ABBA music. And Colin Firth does his best. Those are the good points. * star. One of the stupidest musicals I've ever seen; I'd rather watch Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Phantom of the Opera, and that Village People movie in a row than sit through this again.

GODZILLA 2000 (1999)
Big G is back, looking none the worse for wear after his death in 1993's Godzilla vs. Destroyer. In fact, he looks even cooler, with his jagged spikes and plasma death ray, leaner and meaner than ever. This was made by Toho in response to the awful American movie, which was a piss poor adaptation without a sense of what Godzilla should and shouldn't be (for example, ignoring that Godzilla is the hero and that audiences aren't more interested in Matthew Broderick than in Godzilla). What I haven't seen anyone point out is that the movie also kind of functions as a "fuck you" to Roland Emmerich, since Godzilla fights a UFO and an alien that, briefly, looks a lot like the tentcle monsters in Independence Day. I found that pleasing. In fact, my only disappointment was with the lack of Baby Godzilla; with the decision to basically restart the series, Baby Godzilla got dropped like a rock. Poor little guy. *** stars.

Like I'm Not Going to Brag About It

I'm seeing reports everywhere that say Rachel Weisz is going to play Catwoman in the third Batman movie. (What title do they go for now? Shadow of the Bat?) Of course, Christopher Nolan hasn't even signed up for a third movie yet, and there's no script, so this is pretty obviously a fan push to get Weisz cast in the role.

This pleases me. Yes, I thought The Dark Knight was massively overrated and had a ton of logic problems and went on for too long, etc, but I'd see a third Batman movie. This idea please me so much I can't stand it. Why?

Because I wrote about it nearly a year ago. I wrote a post about how I'd like to see Rachel Weisz play a certain kind of Catwoman, a Catwoman who isn't a feminist symbol (been done) or a thief with a heart of gold (BO-ring!), but just a woman who enjoys stealing. Which seems like a good dichotomy to me; Batman is rigidly obsessed with order and the law, while Catwoman casually breaks the law to do whatever she wants. Not to kill a ton of people, just to steal things without regard for consequences. I think she should play it like William Powell. Or Kay Francis, who played a wonderfully charming jewel thief in Jewel Robbery (with William Powell).

Ultimately, after a year of proprietary fanboy whining aimed at half of the things I dug this year (Quantum of Solace, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Heroes, The Clone Wars, Hellboy II, the Spirit trailer), it's nice to have the fan-favorite choice way before it becomes the fan-favorite choice.

I also think Rachel Weisz would make a great Doctor, if anyone's listening.

Happy Birthday, Milla Jovovich!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

"Yeah, that's right. So what?"

As the Bush term finally, mercifully ends, Dubya is desperately (and drunkenly, I'm telling you) playing the past eight years down as something in the past, something long over, ancient history, let's move on, it's done. Except that he has royally screwed over the entire world in those eight years, and Obama's probably going to have to spend most of his first time just making that right. Bush acts like the war is in the past, not something that's still going on. There are still people fighting and dying, and Bush just doesn't care anymore. Not that he cared before--he really only cared to the extent that it provided him an excuse to do whatever the hell he wanted and generate wealth for his corporate masters.

Bush's little media farewell tour has been an obscenity, during which he and Cheney and others have all but admitted to their many crimes without a hint of remorse, guilt, or even a sense of wrongdoing. It's like Bush is waving his balls in America's face because he knows, as the last eight years have shown, that we're not going to do anything about it. They've raided the pantry and terrorized the help for nearly a decade, and now they're walking away without a care in the world while we lose our jobs, our savings, and our soldiers.

The Health Report, Year 3: Week 1

Here are a couple of dishes I will not be eating today. But hit the links to learn how to make your own!

Bacon Cheese Roll. A latticework of bacon with cheese in it. That's literally all it is. I think my heart just stopped from looking at the picture.

Meat Cake. Two great words that sound absolutely horrifying together. This is three large beef patties held together with ketchup and "frosted" with mashed potatoes. But it looks just enough like a cake to sound really, really gross.


Remembering How to Laugh

The Large Association of Movie Blogs asks: "Write About Your Favorite Scene in a Holiday Film." And so I have.

For some, A Christmas Carol is about the necessity of opening yourselves to the religious spirit of Christmas.

For others, it’s about forces that gang up on Scrooge to force him into conforming to traditions he dismisses and openly hates.

For me, A Christmas Carol is a story about loneliness and change. In fact, oddly enough, I’ve never really looked at it as a story about Christmas. It’s about a lonely, aging miser who is shown what his selfish decisions has cost him and, most importantly, decides he doesn’t want to be a lonely, aging miser anymore. Scrooge isn’t forced into a realization; he’s shown what he’s done and where those actions will inevitably lead him. He’s shown the consequences of his decisions not to act where he can, how he can improve the lives of others he’s refused to bother about, and what the spirit of togetherness means for people all across his native England. And he doesn’t like what he sees. He doesn’t like not being a part of it. He doesn’t like being alone. So he takes control of his destiny and chooses to be generous, caring, and a part of something. A part of life.

The story of Scrooge’s change has always seemed weirdly personal to me. I can certainly identify with loneliness, as I can with choosing to be separated from the lives of others. Sometimes, it’s a way to keep sane. I’ve been plenty selfish over the years, and I continue to be, but I can also be overwhelmed by the power of fellowship. The staggering ability of people in everyday circumstances to be selfless and kind simply out of a sense of commonality. The idea that we have a responsibility to help others in their hour of need, not because it makes us better people, but because it’s kind. And there’s a lot of power in Scrooge’s change because of this simple idea of kindness.

Scrooge doesn’t change out of fear, I think. He doesn’t change because he’s shown the light, or because he’s bullied into it. I think Scrooge changed because he didn’t want to die alone, with no one to mourn him or even care that he’d lived. Because he didn’t want Bob to lose his son when some selflessness could stop it from happening. Because he came to realize that although he had money, he didn’t have life, or meaning, or happiness. That, as Frankenstein’s monster realized, it is not good to be alone. Scrooge changed because he saw that even the simplest people can find contentment when they share some kind of common bond, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. And he was humbled by it.

And, of course, he was shown the happiness he used to have and how selfishly and unthinkingly he’d cast it aside. As though it had meant nothing, despite the fact that, years later, we can see that it meant everything. Scrooge saw the bitterness he’d held onto for decades and didn’t want his happy feelings of the past twisted anymore. And, really, I think Scrooge knew he couldn’t do anything to make up for the years of meanness and uncaring self-interest. But he could be a good person now, and being a good person now is much more important than nursing hurts of the past that cannot be righted.

Scrooge chose to be here now.

My favorite film version of A Christmas Carol, the one that resonates the most with me because it embraces the bleakness and the horror and the emotional power of the story, was made for television by Hallmark in 1999. It stars Patrick Stewart, whose recorded one-man-show version has been a Christmas staple for me for a lot longer.

The crowning moment for me is the moment of realization. When Scrooge wakes up in his own bed, alive and well, with the sun blazing through the window. He looks around, realizes where he is, and thanks the spirits for giving him another chance, a chance he promises to take. And then, he makes the most bizarre choking sound, as though he’s about to die.

And suddenly, it becomes a laugh.

The choked attempt at laughter by a man who has forgotten how. It starts strangled and sick, then becomes an echo of a laugh, and finally becomes full-hearted and joyful. It is the first step on Scrooge’s road to, in essence, maturity. The moment when he lets go of the wounds which eat at his soul like open sores and realizes it’s too late for them. That they don’t matter anymore, because he can change, simply because he wants to change. And remembering how to laugh is how it really begins. By letting joy into his life, Scrooge has at last remembered what life is.

Religion: The Card Game

I found these on the internet; I'm not sure where they come from originally. They look like they're from Mad, but they appear to be British. What's the British Mad?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Here's a Little Democratic Freedom of Expression

A shoe is the least you deserve, you son of a bitch.

Update 10:40: Today is the 217th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. I think I'll celebrate by protesting in a Free Speech Zone while police execute a warrentless search of my home for all the things I'm not allowed to own. Yay, freedom!

Is It Really So Inconceivable That Hugh Jackman Host the Oscars?

I've been seeing a lot of posts on film sites the past couple of days in reaction to the announcement that Hugh Jackman is going to host the 81st Annual Academy Awards. The reaction is about 90% negative. Is it really that big a deal?

Look at it from a production standpoint. The Oscars have been trying too hard for too long to top Billy Crystal's seemingly endless run. And Billy Crystal was, I think, mostly hilarious as an Oscar host. They tried Whoopi Goldberg, which is just idiotic, and she sucked. She's not funny. I liked what David Letterman did the year he hosted (supposedly the "worst Oscars ever," but I thought he was hysterical--he basically turned it into a four-hour episode of Late Night, but what did you expect?). I thought Ellen DeGeneres was mutedly funny in that muted way of hers, and I was underwhelmed by Jon Stewart. Incidentally, I'd heard it would be Stewart again, and I'm so glad it's not.

Hugh Jackman, meanwhile, is affable, charming, talented, and, in my opinion, hasn't had much in the way of a great film career. He's well-known, but it's not the same as, say, Jack Nicholson or Tom Hanks hosting. His presence isn't going to overwhelm the show. And as a stage star, I'm sure he knows something about timing, which might help it go a little faster. The length of the Oscars has never bothered me (not nearly as much as the next day whining of people who thought it was too long even though they resolved to sit through every second of it--the Oscars are long, you already know that, get over it). The real problem is the pacing. If Hugh Jackman can make it cheerier than the Bataan Death March--and I'm sure he can--then it seems like a good idea to me.

Also, Hugh Jackman has hosted the Tony Awards. He has experience hosting an awards show, and that might help him not to get so overwhelmed. I think the reason people didn't like Letterman or Ellen--hosts I actually liked--is that they tried to make the show smaller, bring it down to a more manageable and, understandably, make it more like a talk show. That's their milieu. The same people who complain about the length are the same people who complain that the Oscars aren't big enough. Well, Jackman knows how to host a big awards show.

So, we have an affable, charming, talented, very handsome guy with experience, with recognition (though not mega-stardom), with some humility, some humor, and who people aren't sick of seeing flopsweat all over the Oscar podium (seriously, Whoopi, you don't have to be a comic forever). I think Hugh Jackman's a great fit.

I'm actually looking forward to it.

It's a Piece of Cake to Bake a Pretty Link

Totally digging this Nagelesque Princess Leia.

[.] The 45 Coolest Moments in Doctor Who’s History (io9)

[.] Becca re-imagines Angel and the Ape and highlights the worst-ever episode of Batman.

[.] The Many Moods of Auric Goldfinger (I, Splotchy)

[.] Well-Known People That I Want to Punch in the Hair (A Salute to Some Stuff)

[.] I used to love New Zoo Revue (coming right at you!). Ode to Emmy Jo (Retrospace)

[.] Eric D. Snider’s Rejected Twilight Screenplay

[.] "But, friends, I was lying to myself. I was in denial, which is fine and good, because it got me through junior high to the further male rejection in high school, and I continued lying to myself merrily for years to come. And that’s okay, because I didn’t write an entire series of books detailing the lies I told myself, inflicting these lies upon millions of other pre-teen girls who will now spend the rest of their lives convinced that their Edward Cullen is out there. I only lied to me. Stephanie Meyer, your emotional body count shall be high and plentiful.” The brilliant Courtney Enlow trashes Twilight. (Hobo Trashcan)

[.] Lucy Mangan joins the increasing number of people who have serious problems with Twilight: “It sounds melodramatic and shrill to say that Bella and Edward's relationship is abusive, but as the story wears on it becomes increasingly hard to avoid the comparison, as she gradually isolates herself from her friends to protect his secret, and learns to subordinate her every impulse and movement to the necessity of not upsetting Edward and his instincts ("I could quite easily kill you, Bella, by accident"), until by halfway through she is trying to suppress her very pulse ("my blood was racing and I wished I could slow it, sensing that this must make everything so much more difficult") and planning her movements like a chess game - "I worried that it would provoke the strange anger that flared whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed I was." Whenever she responds physically to his kisses, he immediately draws away and berates her. Supporters will call this the erotics of abstinence. I call it fear and distaste for female sexuality and a poisonous message to be feeding young women.” (The Guardian)

[.] So does Masala Skeptic: “I understand that this is a story of teen romance. I therefore expect some amount of angst to factor in. And maybe I’m spoiled by the Hermione Grangers and Eowyns of the past few years. But I’ve come to expect more from female characters. It really bothers me that this movie depicts a girl who falls in love within days and then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie supressing everything about herself for this boy. And the worst part is that this is considered as a ‘happy ending’ for her.” (Skepchick)

[.] What the hell, there’s room for another one. Twilight: The Abridged Script @ Cracked: “So, the next generation of young women are currently flocking to see a female lead starring in a movie by a female director based on a bestselling book by a female author, and in this movie the main character wants to become completely submissive and self-sacrificing for a male.”

[.] 7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard to Kill (Cracked)

[.] "The celebrity culture is infantilizing us. We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out.” Roger Ebert laments the death of intelligent journalism. I wonder how many people left will be able to identify the corpse.

[.] "Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.” Neil Gaiman on defending the freedom of icky speech.

[.] "So, this is a puzzle. If you look within the United States, religion seems to make you a better person. Yet atheist societies do very well—better, in many ways, than devout ones.” (Slate)

[.] "Isn't that awesome? The Governor of Illinois is on the phone with a Deputy Governor while his wife is yelling, ‘Fuck them’ in the background. What a bunch of boobs. All over Chicago, there's mobsters laughing their fat asses off because Blagojevich made mistakes that only amateurs make.” The Rude Pundit on Blagojevich and his harridan wife.

[.] "Because, see, if you're facing foreclosure after whatever brief grace period your bank is giving you so they don't look like complete cocksuckers over the holidays, the imminent end of your unemployment benefits, a COBRA that's chowed up your savings and your credit card limits, and the only prospect for the future is that shit's gonna get worse before it gets better, do you really give a happy rat's fuck if the President-elect's spokesman was right or wrong on whether or not Obama said jackshit to Rod Blagojevich?” The Rude Pundit on the Obama-Blagojevich connection. (Short version: no one cares.)

Also digging Becca’s Aria Giovanni Leia.

[.] John Hulme explicates the most beautiful things he saw this year. Beautifully.

Genius. And it actually sounds good, too.