Saturday, December 01, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

CeeLo and the Muppets

Since it won't let me embed it here, click on the picture if you're interested in watching the music video for CeeLo Green's "All You Need Is Love," featuring the Muppets. I enjoyed it; when it comes to Christmas, silly is fun for me, and jeez, anything with the Muppets, man! It's nice to see Walter in the video; I'm glad they're not neglecting the guy. It's also nice to see Pepe in there, since I do feel like they've been neglecting him a bit. (Bill Baretta also shows up performing Big Mean Carl, and I didn't realize he's doing the Swedish Chef and Rowlf these days, or at least in this video). Fun stuff!

Shorter Angus T. Jones

Two Days Ago: "Yeah, I decided I'm a Christian now. Don't watch Two and a Half Men, it's un-Christian filth and I think Satan actually executive produces it somehow. Sitting here with a guy who thinks Jay-Z is a freemason, Obama has a secret plan to turn children gay, and that the New York City gas crisis will lead to cannibalism only lends me credibility. So, yeah, don't watch the show I have no problem getting paid $350,000 an episode to be on for years and years, money which I could give to charity if I really wanted to take a moral stand. No, I don't know what 'hypocrite' means. No, I don't know what 'biting the hand that feeds you' means. No, I don't know what 'written out of a hit show' means. No, I don't know what 'career suicide' means. I don't even want to be on that awful show that I keep taking part in and accepting lots and lots of money to be on."

Yesterday: "When I said I didn't want to be on that awful show, I in no way meant to imply that I didn't want to keep making the money on that monster ratings hit. Sorry, I guess. Please don't take my money away. No, I don't know what 'ingrate' means. I know I'm on fewer episodes now because my character's in the army and there's an opportunity right there to just ship me off the show forever and then replace me with a kid that Ashton Kutcher's character never realized he had because Chuck Lorre would replace any of the leads on this show in a second, so what I meant to say was, you know, nothing."

Maybe in a couple of years when Two and a Half Men has ended and he's delivering pizzas for a living because no one wants to hire him after this, and his cult leader has taken all of his money, Chuck Lorre will let him wash his car or something.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Becca's Take on Liz & Dick

"This is the stupidest fucking movie. I thought it'd be funnier. Wouldn't this make the best, worst, campiest, most idiotic sitcom? I'd watch the shit out of that. At least then they could pretend it was awful on purpose."

Film Week

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

On the surface it sounds silly: a street fighter and a whale trainer meet and fall in love. But somehow there's a sincerity to it, a depth of... not emotion, necessarily, but connection, that makes it all work. It's like director Jacques Audiard takes an American genre piece and looks at it from a fresh perspective. What could be a slick tragedy piece becomes about the emotions that people become involved with. Matthias Schoenaerts is a street fighter having a hard time taking care of his five year-old son. He moves in with his sister and gets a real job, but he's a fighter and can't resist doing it. Marion Cotillard is a whale trainer who loses her legs to an orca and is bound to a wheelchair. Two broken people whose paths cross, and who each provide support for one another. There's a sense of conviction on the part of all involved that really makes the film work. ****

THE GIRL (2012)
Have you ever noticed how forgettable and inconsequential HBO movies seem to be? This is a handsome movie about Alfred Hitchcock (played by Toby Jones) and his obsession with Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller). It starts off interestingly, with Hitch's obsession slowly growing, leading to a clumsy, scary pass at Tippi in the back of a car. When she rejects him, filming The Birds becomes about essentially torturing Tippi for turning him down. Marnie becomes about punishing her; as Hedren later says in the film, taking a real woman and turning her into a statue. It's juicy meat for a biopic, but the film just isn't up to the task. I don't know exactly what goes wrong, but it just starts to slip away and then disappears into boredom. Miller and particularly Jones are good in their roles, but the film doesn't seem to have a take on its own material. It's just sort of empty, and I can't really figure out why. Missed opportunity. **

Yes, it's kind of a slight movie, but I don't care. It's all about human connection with me, and that's worth more than resolution sometimes. I was very satisfied with this charming film about a magazine intern (Aubrey Plaza) who investigates a classified ad looking for a partner to travel in time with. Mark Duplass, whom I just liked last week in Your Sister's Sister, is the man obsessed with going back in time to correct a mistake. I liked that the movie was more about the poignant connections two strangers can share, and the very human desire to fix our mistakes and erase our stupidities, rather than the craziness of the concept. I think the concept is beside the real point, which is obsessing over the things we've done and wish we hadn't. **** (And hey, Kristen Bell cameo never hurts. Hell, sometimes it can be the only good thing in a movie...looking at you, Serious Moonlight.)

LIFE OF PI (2012)
Let's get this out of the way first: visually, this movie is compelling, stunning, and totally beautiful. I saw it in 3D, and it's the best use of 3D I've yet seen. There are some sequences (such as a shipwreck, an island of meerkats, an encounter with a whale, and a vision of the universe in the eyes of a tiger) that will probably never play out quite as beautifully in 2D. The movie is so beautiful to look at that it would be easy to get lost in the visuals alone. But the story--which deals with essential dichotomies, such as whether animals have souls or merely reflect the emotions humans put into them, or the nature of parable--is mostly up to the visuals. What I have an issue with is the device. This is a story of faith, and I have no problem with that, despite not being a man of faith; faith is an essential component of a parable, and this story is a parable. And I do like the way the film tries to deal with the nature of man's relationship with the divine; in fact, I love the way the movie uses the great images of a boy and a tiger, both lost at sea together, as symbolism for that nature; saying, in effect, that the boy's attempts to make some kind of peace with the tiger in a way that doesn't kill either one of them is that battle with our inner relationship to the natural world and our place in the universe personified. What I don't like is the device of Pi as a grown man (Irrfan Khan, one of my favorite actors, who is so good in this movie) telling his story to a white novelist (Rafe Spall). The novelist seems inorganic. None of his questions are the questions a real person would ask, but are there to make sure the audience doesn't miss the point that the film makes on its own much more lyrically: that parables, survival, and belief in any god require faith in oneself. It doesn't need to spell it out; the conflict is there from the beginning: is there a soul in the things around us, a being, a divinity--or is it simply the characteristics we give it, reflected back at us? Pi's symbolic struggle to make peace with that and peace with his own nature are compelling enough without the messages about the nature of God. I think it's the one spot on what is otherwise the best 2012 movie I've seen so far, and I think it could have been handled better without losing Khan and without having spell it all out. It doesn't derail the film, but I don't like having it there because, ironically, it doesn't seem to have faith in the intelligence of the viewer. But, as I said, it's the one moment that bothers me, in a film of such breathtaking visual and emotional beauty. ****

LIZ & DICK (2012)
Idiotic, cheap, and just kind of hilarious. Lindsay Lohan is predictably terrible stunt casting; god, we were so many of us just in love with her, and now it's almost impossible to remember why and how good she (briefly) was. The filmmakers really want to force the comparison between Lindsay and Liz in terms of being in the public eye, but Liz had the talent to back it all up, and Lindsay doesn't even come close. My wife and I kept watching it and pointing out how differently Liz would have acted those scenes in a movie. Grant Bowler is passable as Richard Burton; he gets the impression right, but doesn't inhabit the man as a character. And of course there's no time (or budget) to really get into the story; it's just a compendium of stuff that happened. It stops being funny after a while and just becomes numbingly bad. * for hilarity and pretty dresses.

Cozy, innocuous, delightful little movie of Francis Hodgson Burnett's book, featuring Shirley Temple and a heartwarming ending. I like Shirley Temple; I never saw a movie with her in it until a few years ago, and I just enjoy them when I catch them. Especially this time of year. ***

DAY 73 WITH SARAH (2007)
Kind of a mindfuck of a short film by Brent Hanley (who wrote Frailty) and starring Elle Fanning as a girl who will go to lengths that surprise even her to get back at her stepfather. Bizarre tone twist, but well-made and I'm not likely to forget it soon. ***

Interesting human drama involving a woman who marries a barge captain and travels up the Seine with him. She wants to see Paris, but he's quick to jealousy and guarded about her interest. It's sometimes a violently tormented movie, recognizing the passion of the husband for his wife and the desire of the wife to see more than she's seen back in her small village. From the beginning, the people who know her predict that she's only entering into the marriage for the travel opportunity; when she sneaks out to see the city, he assumes the predictions were correct and reacts poorly. It's tempestuous at times, but never melodramatic. There's a simplicity of approach that refines director Jean Vigo's vision, making it all about the people and their reactions to the situation they find themselves in, rather than the drama of the situation itself. ****

One of the most original horror movies I've seen in recent years. AnnaLynne McCord submerges herself in a daring, sometimes impressively gutsy performance as an unpopular, outcast high school student who has sexual fantasies about flesh and viscera and dreams of becoming a surgeon. It's a fascinating film that's very body conscious. McCord plans to lose her virginity while on her period, sniffs her tampon, pierces her own nose, and dissects a bird, among other things. It's a fascinating, extreme version of a young woman coming to terms with her body in an outward way. She wants to help her sister, Ariel Winter, who is suffering with cystic fibrosis, and she wants to come to terms with her relationship with her family, particularly her neurotic mother (Traci Lords). Their relationship is especially interesting; it seems like quirky family drama stuff, but the interplay of warped family dynamics and McCord's strange pathologies is complex and kind of frightening. Where Lords attacks, McCord feeds. The way the film only touches on commenting on mental illness, until its horrifying finale where the full depth of McCord's psychosis is made apparent, is especially interesting. What happens is horrifying, but it's nice to see a film about teen psychosis and alienation that isn't, you know, trenchcoats and shootings. McCord makes a lot of it work with her performance, which is at once monstrous and sympathetic, but the film is so bold and confident, sometimes even funny, that it won me over very quickly. ****

LA LUNA (2011)
A beautiful, quite Pixar short about the moon. I don't want to describe it, because that would rob it of its gentle power. ****


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TV Report: Clone Wars

Is anyone out there still watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars? I'm enjoying this show as much as I ever did. Some of the recent political storylines have been a bit obvious and gone on a little too long, but this most recent story arc really redeemed the direction of this season for me.

This arc had a lot of things going in it--the return of Hondo (a great character because he truly has no allegiances), the return of General Grievous (a great villain that the show never overuses), Ahsoka being in the lead--but it also had a bit of lightheartedness after what's been a pretty dour half-season.

It involves Jedi younglings, so I know most people are out right away. The first of the four episodes introduces us to a group of younglings who go to Ilum, led by Ahsoka, to enter a cave in a Jedi rite of passage. Once in the cave, they have to use aspects of their faith in the Force to find a crystal to power the lightsabers they will have to build. The episode would have been great as a one-off, but they build it through four episodes and introduce us to a wonderful character who I'm very pleased to have as part of the Star Wars universe: Huyang.

Voiced by David Tennant as a sort of cross between See Threepio and Mr. Ollivander from the Harry Potter books, he's a droid master who provides instruction for the younglings as they build their lightsabers. The great sequence where he teaches the younglings about using materials that will make them feel strong and confident in the force--for example, the Wookiee youngling Gungi builds a lightsaber made of strong wood--is very much like the wand shop scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They show admirable restraint by not just having Huyang say "The lightsaber chooses the Jedi, younglings." But, seriously, it's a great scene, and one of a too-small number of scenes on the show of late that really feel like the Star Wars universe is a magical place. Yoda teaching the younglings to find their crystals was the same. It was nice to have a break from the political murkiness and the darkness of Darth Maul's resurrection and just enjoy some Jedi children learning about how profound the Force can be. It's like watching a child watch Star Wars for the first time. (Which is an experience I highly recommend.)

Also: Wookiee youngling. That was just cool. There was an Ithorian youngling, too, named Byph. I don't know why I love Ithorians, but damn, I sure do love Ithorians.

I wonder if Byph is the same Ithorian Jedi who fought General Grievous in Genndy Tarkovsky's Clone Wars cartoon...

*Checks Wookieepedia*

No, that guy was named Roron Corobb.

Good. Byph is still a youngling and I'm comfortable not knowing how he dies yet. Because, you know... all of these Jedi are going to die. Even my beloved Ahsoka Tano. And the show keeps toying with the fact that I know that...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The New Christmas Banner

You know I like those Sunblom Santas.

I'll be doing Christmas posts this year, but I don't know if I'll be pushing myself every day to get one up.

Song of the Week: "Fairytale of New York"

Because it's the Christmas music season for me, and someone reminded me today how excellent this song really is. So, go ahead and consider this, continued from last year, SamuraiFrog's Essential Christmas Songs #8: "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.