Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Princess of Mars

I just got back from seeing John Carter (in 3-D) and I absolutely loved this movie. It was abundantly charming and pure adventure, and I enjoyed it more than I remotely thought I would. I can't recommend this one highly enough. If you're of the right mindset for a fun, uncynical adventure-romance, this is one of the best. I'm not even going to pull out the "Sure, it won't win any awards, but it's so enjoyable" half-apology I'm seeing everywhere. Don't be embarrassed to like this. It's wonderful.

I'll save a real review (ha ha, as though my reviews were "real") for the next Film Week, but I do want to say that whomever had this wonder to work with and could only come up with the generic title and impossibly lame marketing campaign needs to be fired from his or her job in marketing because they aren't doing it. Because of you I'll never get to see a sequel, so thanks for nothing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Life's Still a Happy Song


My sister Ellen would've been 20 years old today. I can't even imagine. That's her in the flowery dress. I'm not sure how old she is there exactly; my sister Audrie--the one in the sunglasses--put this picture up on Facebook this week, and I'm glad she did. I'm not sure I've even seen this picture, and I have precious few of El as it is. Gosh, this seems like a long time ago!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Happy Birthday, Sam!

Welcome to 20, beautiful.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

TMNT Stop-Motion

This is a neat little video. It's the opening credits of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, done in stop-motion with those excellent new action figures. I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the garage surf punk cover of the theme, but extra points for using the Bruce Lee figure as Hamato Yoshi!

The Lame Things I Get Excited Over

This week, it was a shower head.

Last year sometime, the management here at my apartment complex changed all of the faucets and the shower head out for some of those low flow models. So now, instead of a good stream of water, they just sort of lazily trickle out as though no one ever had to do anything urgently when it came to bathing or washing dishes. I know this is part of the eco-fad where making a dozen irritating little changes are supposed to make everyone feel like they're saving the environment, but it mostly just pisses me off. I honestly don't even understand how this is saving water when I have to spend two to three times longer in the shower with the water on just to feel like I'm rinsing off.

Personally, I like to get clean. And I almost never feel clean after taking a shower anymore, because the head's not really doing its job. It's especially bad for me right now when, thanks to withdrawal and the loss of complacency I had on Lexapro, as well as the effects of my high blood pressure and my weight, which I just feel more without Lex, every little irritant is a potential explosion waiting to blow.

So yesterday we marched over to Walmart, picked up a $20 shower head, took the old one off, and put the new one in. We're not supposed to do it, but fuck it, I'm going to control my shower for the money I pay to rent this place. I bought one of those shower heads where the head is detachable and you can use it as a handheld. (Or as it was referred to by a dear friend this morning, the one that ladies masturbate with.) It's nice because the handle gives it some height, so now the shower head is actually over my head and not at freaking eye level.

I used it for the first time this morning, and I love it. First of all, I was in the shower for a reasonable amount of time for the first time in a year. Second, I actually feel clean for the first time in a year. I like being in control of the water flow and the settings and moving it around... This is a time in my life when I don't feel there's much that's actually within my control, so any little victory like this is especially exciting. I feel like I fixed something that I didn't like about my life, even something this small.

A couple of other post-Lex things:

The only side effect I think I'm still experiencing that's really withdrawal related is my sharp, hacking cough. My body still feels exhausted at times, even with walking almost every day, and the coughs sometimes get so bad that they hurt my ab muscles. Water helps this, and the more water I drink, the better it facilitates my weight loss, which is ultimately a good coming out of this pain.

Also, I can report (not that you want to hear it) that my libido and sexual performance are extremely normal and enthusiastic now. I was really worried when I read that the sexual dysfunction side effects could be permanent, but they're wonderfully not in my case. Whew!

I have also lost some weight. At my highest weight, I weighed an amount I'll be too embarrassed to say for a long time. Ironically, the doctor put me on Lexapro to help me cut down my anxiety so I could gather the focus to concentrate on my weight loss. Instead I put on another 80 pounds. I got to a point last week where I suddenly stood up and felt the weight I'd lost. I could finally feel it happening. Of course, now I'm used to it and hoping soon I'll hit another plateau. I want to be healthy a lot more than I want to be free of anxiety, honestly. But my anxiety and depression are nowhere near as bad as they were a few years ago.

They do still come, though. Things test me. Incessant worries nag at me, and sometimes it builds up to be too much for me to handle and either I explode (I'm trying harder than ever not to, and it's more infrequent than I'd have believed) or I break down in tears (more frequent than Hulking out, but still not as much as I'd think). I've taken two Xanax (someone else's, obvs) in the last month or so, and it does one hell of a good job soothing me and calming me down and just all-around sedating me. So I think, when I can afford to go to the doctor again, I'm going to ask him about writing me out a prescription for it. I like the idea of having something to tranquilize me when it gets as bad as it very occasionally does. I took those two pills about four weeks apart; sometimes just walking around helps calm me down, so those were very bad occasions. I kind of figure that Xanax is a back-up, something to have in case I get too melty. I feel very imbalanced lately, and though I'm trying hard to deal with it without medication, apparently every month or so there's a night where it just doesn't work for me. So I like the idea of a medication that's wholly optional, that I don't have to take every single day and get my body hooked on again. Those days are over. (Well, except for my blood pressure meds, but, you know. Losing weight will help that a lot, too.)

Also, Xanax is a $4 prescription, and not the $118 I was paying for Lexapro without insurance.

Regardless, I feel like it's time to start pushing myself more. I've been taking it slow to outlast the withdrawal. Now that I think it's mostly gone, it's time to start getting to work in earnest, like I was four or five years ago. The Lexapro made me complacent and comfortable. Now I feel like a beached whale and need to get a move on so I don't anymore. It's that simple.

I hope I can do this.

Film Week

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

I actually hate this movie more every time I think about it. Emily Browning plays Lucy, a college student working a variety of jobs that all dehumanize her in some way, and in response to that dehumanization she's decided to become, I guess, monstrously selfish about her life. She's just waiting to be fired from her copy girl job; she freezes out her wayward mother; she treats her roommates like shit and burns through the rent money she owes them even though she's able to pay; she has sex with only the rudest and most arrogant of men who approach her; she reserves her genuine affection for a dying alcoholic whom she seems to hold herself back from openly loving simply because she enjoys the power dynamic; and she ends up being recruited as a server and later some kind of sex toy at these weird, high end erotic parties. This is all done with total detachment from any emotions; Lucy seems to feel nothing and the writer-director Julia Leigh seems to feel even less, indulging in an admittedly good-looking film (there's an icy beauty to the art direction that's just as cold as Browning's performance) that shows zero nuance or humanity. But at some point, Leigh pulls a trick that is, in this viewer's humble opinion, detestable. The film's already about humiliation and cruelty, but with a sense of inhuman detachment that's not interested in consequences or even emotions. But then Lucy starts participating in the next level of these erotic parties, where she's given a powerful sleeping agent and left nude in a bed while old men from the parties are allowed to do whatever they want to her--no penetration and nothing that will leave a mark (though one man burns her with his cigarette in a pointlessly cruel sequence). The old men aren't really able to get it up anymore, and seem more interested in mourning their sexual vigor rather than sparking it. They just want to own this young girl for a night. And it's here where Leigh really starts taking her main character and her premise far, far too seriously. And not only that, but there's a marked shift in the point of view that plays a trick on the audience in a way that's unbearably smug. After three-quarters of detachment, the film decides it's portraying something very serious indeed, and Lucy starts to question what's happening to her in that room, as if she really doesn't know. And when she discovers it she lets out a series of screams that I have no sympathy for, because in the end it's Leigh tacking on a moment that, apparently, is supposed to make this a screed against, what... masculine cowardice? Pride? It's done in the most childish way possible, like a kid saying "I told you so" just to make their rambling story about what happened at school today seem urgent. Leigh isn't brave enough to create anything but the most shallow characters and the most spare premise in order to make whatever the hell she thinks her point is. It's just an empty, hollow film, and I think I just truly despised it. In the end, Leigh clumsily and cruelly puts the viewer in the same position as the men who molest Lucy, turning the audience into the ones who are "really" molesting this girl by even watching the film. Leigh hasn't made a point; she's engaged in a cynical cheap trick. And the worst part is that it sounds like I had a bad, stereotypically male response to being called out for my male gaze, when I'm really just responding to terrible, disingenuous filmmaking. My response to this film is the same response Lucy gets from an ex-boyfriend who, at the funeral of the alcoholic writer she truly cared for, she demands leave his girlfriend and marry her at once: Fuck you. Fuck you to death. *

Surprisingly faithful adaptation of the first half of Burroughs' novel (according to Wikipedia, the second film that has the second half is lost), even given some improvements for the sake of expediency. Elmo Lincoln is pretty big and barrel-chested for Tarzan. The film doesn't apologize for the more racially-charged bits of the story; I wonder how you could actually pull off a faithful adaptation today or if it should even be tried, honestly (though I liked Disney's animated version, horribly marred though it was by the inclusion of Rosie O'Donnell). The ape costumes are truly laughable; the gorilla costume is even worse. Still, it captured the spirit of the novel and has some great second-unit animal footage. Even though they shot this thing in Louisiana, it blends well with the second-unit stuff and has the distinction of being one of the few Tarzan movies to get across a sense of actual danger and mystery in the jungle. ***

Julianne Moore is excellent as Sarah Palin, choosing not to play her as a caricature or for laughs (or for unearned sympathy), but instead humanizing her--which makes her much more terrifying. This is an insider's view of the campaign that changed American politics for the worse, in which Sarah Palin--a woman who had to be educated on basic policy and the workings of the government she was almost the vice-president of, right down to a crash course in who our enemies were in World War II--made ignorance not just a political virtue, but a political platform. The movie doesn't even attack Palin on her ignorance, it simply observes a campaign falling apart because the most dangerous kind of person--one who is charismatic and can move a crowd but who is inept and self-aggrandizing and with nothing to say--was inserted into it for all the wrong reasons. It's a fascinating and honestly scary and frustrating movie. If I have one complaint, it's that it lets McCain off the hook a little too easily, painting him as a basically honest and sincere man who was undermined by a woman who acted less as part of a campaign and more like she was trying to win her own election. Which basically ignores some of his more childish outbursts and his weird behavior during the debates. But this is an essential movie about modern American politics and the peril they've been placed in by this disaster. ***1/2

OCEANS (2009)
Beautifully-shot documentary about life in the oceans. It's even better if you just sort of revel in the pretty footage and zone out on the narration in the version Disney released, which is the kind of twee silliness that says "We're purposely aiming this at little kids who think sea creatures are magic." DisneyNature seems to have brought back some of the worst excesses of the True-Life Adventures series (the messier ones, like The Living Desert) and combined them with the silly pro-divine being parts of March of the Penguins. But I'm still giving it **** because it's just stunning to look at.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

80s Revisited: Short Circuit

Short Circuit (1986)
Directed by John Badham; screenplay by SS Wilson & Brent Maddock; produced by David Foster & Lawrence Turman


Seeing this movie now, you'd never know this was such a big hit, because honestly, it is just terrible. Just... not offensively bad or something I hated, but just an aggressively mediocre movie full of misstep upon misstep. I would say it severely misjudges the amount of humor you can get out of the premise, but clearly I'm wrong, because people loved this fucking thing.

The premise... the army has created five experimental robots, and Number Five gains self-awareness after being struck by lightning. Not only that, but he develops emotions and basically turns into a fourth-grader (at least, his sense of humor and the movie's sense of humor seems to point in that direction). He winds up with a girl running a home animal shelter (Ally Sheedy, belting every one of her lines at the top of her lungs like a child, her limited talent once again making me question why anyone ever put her in anything), and she uses her hippie powers of being loud and obnoxious to protect him from the military contractors who are pursuing him (led by Austin Pendleton and GW Bailey playing that one character he played in every 80s movie).

For some reason, we've also got the inexplicably popular Steve Guttenberg, whose onetime stardom continues to baffle me (although Ally Sheedy makes him look like Sir John Barrymore), and Fisher Stevens in blackface as a racial stereotype with the childish name Ben Jabituya (geddit? jab it to you! geddit??? -- Also, just so we know that GW Bailey is the hissable bad guy, his name is Captain Skroeder, a point immaturely hammered home when Ben accidentally calls him scrotum... Two grown men wrote this script and sold it to Hollywood, ladies and gentlemen.)... these guys created the robots and want to discover what Number Five's malfunction is. The film tries to make occasional points about sentience and autonomy and what constitutes existence, but those moments are subsumed by potty humor and bits cobbled together from contemporary hits that were far better (especially E.T. and Gremlins, though it's also filmed in the same town as The Goonies, which seems a little desperate...), and their observations aren't really insightful or anything. They try clumsily to layer a love story on to this, too, seemingly for no real reason. It's like someone hit Isaac Asimov in the head with a board and made him write a robot version of a Babysitter's Club book.

The writers went on to inflict a sequel on the world, as well as *Batteries Not Included, Ghost Dad, and Wild Wild West (and Tremors, which I'd like to do as an 80s Revisited).

For all the silly stupidity of this movie, I sure did love it when I was a kid. And I still think Number Five is a really neat creation of robotics and puppetry (I actually saw him at the Museum of Science & Industry in a traveling exhibit on robotics in 1987 or so). Too bad about the lame voice and unfunny attempts at being cute, but he's a really interesting movie creature just to look at and observe. None of the other special effects are any good, curiously.

Weird trivia from my life: I snuck in to see this movie a second or even third time (!!) when I was 10 because I walked out of Top Gun. I hate to be the guy that says this, but I should've kept walking until I reached the library... Still better than Top Gun, though.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Grief lessens, it dulls, but it never completely goes away. Not after six years, at least. Whenever I relive it, it hurts less than the time before. It's assimilated into me, and it's always a part of me, just like my sister's short life will always be a part of me. I don't get metaphysical about death, not even hers. My life is fuller for having had her in it, and it's emptier with her gone, but at least for 13 years she was there, and that's what I think is important and that's what enriched my life. So this is the anniversary of my sister's death, but the pain isn't as fresh or as sharp as in years past. The joy of her life is what comes to mind more than the pain of her loss. And honestly, somehow, it makes me feel like more of a person.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Song of the Week: "Charlie Brown"

No real reason.