Friday, February 29, 2008

No Pithy song lyrics just sadness

Will somebody please tell me how our political system isn't a complete fucking trainwreck.

On I read an article about the Tennessee RNC using the name Barack Hussein Obama in a press release about protection of the state of Israel. Then they said that The Left (because it is a proper noun) is always diverting attention from the issues by nit-picking the GOP's press releases.

But The Left aren't excused Obama and Clinton have both spent two week taking potshots over the others inattention to the issues and running negative campaigns.

The irony to me is that everybody is delivering empty promises. Because they are selling us ideas. If your candidate gets elected they are going to be appointing commissions to draft proposals to look at something, because that is how Government (and I mean it in the worst possible way) works.

We are doomed. I have totally lost my faith in the political system in the US. I would be willing to, at this point, take a walk down I-40 and pick one person at random to be president. I think they would stand as good a chance as anybody running for the job of not fucking up the country worse than it is.

In fact... maybe I should run for President. Why not? Right? I could start a Facebook campaign and a blog (done and done) and run for the office in four years with no experience and no bullshit. I am a true Washington outsider. I would veto every fucking bill that didn't do exactly what it said it was going to do. I would get together a group of doctors and find out how to fix the broken-ass, shitty, medical system we have now. And that is just the start, if you want ideas, man I have them. Ideas out the wazoo.

So start thinking about V. for President in 2012. My campaign slogan is going to be "Americans: leading by example" I will work on my platform and post it piece-meal over the next couple of years.

Hahaha... yeah right.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Please don't hold this over my head, let's just say enough's been said, Enough is enough" -Dance Hall Crashers

[Quick Note: This post was written in word three weeks ago. I was trying to make it "perfect" but have given up on that. The best I can hope for right now is readable, and I am not even promising that.]

There is a subtle difference between films and movies. I don’t know that I can explain the difference but I can tell you that I recognize them when I see them. I think that films attempt to explain something about the human condition through a visual medium using character driven stories and advanced cinematic techniques that are either time-tested or new and experimental. (I just made all that shit up.)

Movies show us tits, explosions, car chases, and sports. Which is not to say that a film can’t have all of those things in it. What it means for me is that if I can only remember that there a semi-naked chick laying on the hood of a yellow Camaro and I can’t remember how she got there, or why there are creepy robots standing around her… than it is probably a movie.

I also know that I am infinitely forgiving of bad movies, and absolutely ruthless on bad films. Great films move me to tears or rend my soul, great movies make me want to change my jog: becoming either a super-spy, a robot that turns into a car or an amnesiac that can run for a half mile before his hands start shaking.

The point that I am getting at is that there is a time and place for both of them.

In an effort to close out the reviews that I promised my sister I am going to tackle three movies Juno, Cloverfield and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Juno is a film, Cloverfield is I think a shitty film and ITNOTK:ADST is a shitty movie. So I will get to establish a good litmus review that we can go back to later.

This is going to be riddled with spoilers, if you haven’t seen any of these movies and plan on seeing them sometime in the future turn away now. Don’t continue if you want to be surprised.

Juno: A Good Film

Quick recap of the story: Juno is a 16-year-old girl who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. This is a critical point for all good films. They have to be a simple story. Movies, I think, can get away with an overly complex story line because in the end you can drop in a deus ex machina and explain away the unexplained then wheel the angel back up and resume; bad movies use this all the time.

So in essence we have a girl and three spheres of influence around her: the father, the family and the potential adoptive parents. I think that this movie, at its core, is about the way sell the maturity of our youth short. Juno, the pregnant teen, is strangely reticent of the prospect of being a mother. She seems to grasp the magnitude of her situation but only in small doses.

First it is a glib phone call to the abortion clinic and the meeting of a schoolmate outside the clinic who reminds that babies in their first three months have heartbeats and fingernails. This sets up a hilarious scene where Juno is driven from the clinic by the sounds of fingernails grating against jeans, taping on tables, clicking, being picked, etc. It is this bit of humanity that we see first. Juno is perfectly willing to go and have the abortion until the banality of fingernails seems to take root and she balks.

The next growth phase comes in telling Bleeker, the boyfriend, and her family. If I had to make a notice or a pitch for any film casting agent it would be this: ANY MOVIE OR FILM CAN BE IMPROVED BY CASTING J.K. SIMMONS AND OR ALLISON JANNEY. They steal every single scene they are in.

The adoptive parents are interesting, particularly because of their relationship. It becomes very obvious (to me at least) that Vanessa and Mark have issues; but it isn’t done with histrionics. It is brilliantly portrayed with glances and posture and intonation. I have never liked Jennifer Garner but I thought she was amazing in this and I would see her again. Jason Bateman is another one of those guys—like Paul Rudd—who I see and think, “Damn I love that guy in movies.”

Through the movie we see Juno grow apart from Bleeker and closer to Mark and the mature recognition that something is wrong hits her and pushes her to the final moment of maturity that sort of make the whole movie come together.

Visually—or maybe I mean cinematically—the director has made some great choices in the look of the film. Juno’s house is homey and messy, the house is run by an HVAC repairman and it shows. Mark and Vanessa live in a sterile McMansion, a starter home for a yuppie couple. Mark makes advertising jingles and you get a real sense of his discomfort right away; he has a playroom that figure prominently. Mark is obviously a man torn by his old life and his new life and with fatherhood looming you really get the sense dark times are ahead.

And the great part is that they are. Juno’s whole impetus for giving the baby up for adoption to Mark and Vanessa is that they are going to be loving and more stable parents then she could be at sixteen. The adoptive parents relationship starts to fall apart and when it does, Juno has to make the hardest decision a 16 year old in the third trimester of pregnancy could have to make.

There are a couple of shots that individually I really liked; the recurring use of a recliner out on the grass was great. Nice juxtaposition for me of inside and outside stuff, and for me it really accentuated the way that Juno dealt with the problems she was facing. This might have been one of those things where I am reading too much into an object, but a film teacher I had once said that if something shows up in a movie twice it is coincidence; three times and it becomes a symbol.

There was a funny focus on the legs of the characters that I found amusing. I am not sure what I am supposed to make of it all but I did chuckle through most of the movie anytime legs showed up.

Jason Reitman has done a magnificent job taking a precocious script by Diablo Cody and turning into a fantastic examination of the decision making process.

Cloverfield: A shitty movie

I am going to keep this pretty short because I don’t have a lot of positive stuff to talk about it.

I am giving this one a shitty film classification because it uses a gimmick (in this case we are lead to believe that the movie is an eye witness recording taken from a camcorder) to try and tell a story that is too big for it.

The story revolves around a group of people who are celebrating Rob’s new job, and imminent departure to Tokyo. During the course of the opening twenty minutes we are told the following things about the characters. Rob has a brother and best friend. Rob has a girl named Beth that he is in love with, the brother has a girlfriend, and the friend, named Hud is infatuated with a girl named Marlena. There is a falling out between Beth and Rob, then some time passes (I will get to that in a second) and some shit goes down in the form of a gigantic monster that commences to level New York City.

The story is simple, right? Get the six characters out of harms way. Wrong. The story is fucking weak.

Originally when I saw this advertised I had somehow been lead to believe that this movie would be shot via the handy cam effect but that it would be shot from a bunch of varying perspectives. Let’s face it, if you are going to be in the midst of a six story monster attack in New York your exposure is going to be limited to about five or six minutes total. Then you will either be dead or out of the line of fire.

So when I had to endure 80 minutes of Hud’s shaky camera work and the ridiculous dialog I was disappointed.

Then the device, the home movie thing, gets tired. Hud turns the camera off and on always at just the right time when something exciting is going to happen. The battery seems to last at least eight or nine hours but admittedly it is only 80 minutes of film so okay, maybe I set aside my disbelief and roll with that. There is an attack and about three times where Hud is knocked to the ground and nothing happens to the camera.

There are also some location issues that I had problems with. New York is too easy a city to base a story around. Information about it is ubiquitous and so I don’t cut a director a lot of slack when it comes to filming a story about NY.

The other issues basically revolve around the distance between things and the establishment of time in the film. Robs apartment is within ten short blocks of the Woolworth building and a short walk to the Brooklyn Bridge. But when the bridge collapses they start walking to “Beth’s Apartment” up in Columbus Circle and when they end up in a subway after five or six minutes of walking they are in Spring Street station, which is about fifteen or twenty minute walk from Brooklyn Bridge.

Then some nebulous amount of time passes while our characters trek, in the dark, unlit subway, with tanks, Special Forces and six story monsters rampaging up above, up to 59th Street after an attack by a weird group of spiders that fall off of the big bad monster.

Then they rescue Beth.

Then, THANKFULLY, the movie ends.

I have had this conversation with so many people lately that I have invented a Cloverfield qualifier for movies. If you back out the artistic endeavor, Cloverfield isn’t a bad movie, it is like Blair Witch Project; but with the artistic endeavor—the use of the camera, the desire to show the “power of love” (or the stupidity of infatuation) the movie falls on its face.

It could have been awesome; but for me it didn’t live up to its own hype.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale: Shitty Movie.

There are certain things that a movie ought to have to be marketable: a story, some editing, a couple of actors who give a shit about the story and a director who is willing to box the critics that constantly pan his movies. This movie had one of those.

But I loved it. I can’t tell if my amore for this POS comes from the fact that I watched it with Lovely Wife and my friend the Good Doctor--and so the running commentary that was being tossed back and forth between the three of us was worth the price of admission—or, if I just love it because this movie was the worst movie I have seen since the last Uwe Boll movie I saw.

Speaking of Bloodrayne, Name of the King has a lot in common with it. Both are based on video games, both feature Kristianna Loken, both featured aging former mobster movie guys (Michael Madsen and Ray Liotta), both movies were absolutely abysmal by every possible measure.

NOTK also employs a bunch of former A minus-list actors and that contributes to the greatness of it suckiness. Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, John Rhys-Davies, Leelee Sobieski all must have had bills to pay when they agreed to this one; or, Uwe Boll is the coolest guy in the whole world and just a gas to work with (I am going to believe that one).

I can’t really get into why this movie is so bad, because it is bad from start to finish. But I can provide an example:

In one scene our hero, Jason Statham, runs up behind a house that forms the center of a shot. The camera lingers on the house for about a full seven Mississippi count before cutting to the next shot, which is far to long to be showing a brown house in a brown field.

Two shots later, Ray Liotta is in the middle of being Ray Liotta looking like Liberace and before he has the time to breath after the period in the sentence the scene is cut to Statham doing gymnastics or something.

If there was an editor (and the credits listed one) I am pretty sure his name is a clever anagram for “yeah right, we didn’t hire an editor” in German.

Look, this movie is not for the faint of heart. It is horrible. But if you can have a sense of humor about it and recognize a great piece of shit for what it is, then it is worth the price of a matinee. But my advice is to take a friend who is clever enough to make you laugh.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"This house is empty know, there's nothing I can do..." -Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach

Watching snippets of the Roger Clemens congressional fiasco is making me sick to my stomach.  

I can't believe that the 535 idiots that make up our voice in the world have nothing better to do than to sit around and talk to sports people about cheating.  

Christ's sake.  Maybe nobody in Washington is paying attention but there are a couple of small wars going on in the Middle East.  The economy is teetering on the brink of disaster because we have an economy based on mythical income and credit leverage.  We are graduating kids from colleges that are barely literate and can't point to their own national capital on a map. 

We have homeless people on the street, people who can't go to the doctor when they are sick and children that are malnourished.  And the government is letting us down by wasting time on a 40-something year old pitcher who may or may not have taken steroids.  

Shit-balls.  I feel like I am taking crazy pills here.  Am I the only person that is pissed off about this.  With all the shit that is wrong in the USA why are we wasting time on self governing sports corporations.  They will police themselves or they will get arrested for trafficing drugs.

Although, if you really think about it, this is just further proof that the US is losing the war on drugs.  If you are to believe some of the ex-players than 60-70% of Major League Baseball is taking steroids which are mostly illegal.  Maybe it is truly America's game.

It just seems like bullshit grandstanding to me.  The politicians hold these big televised committees so that they can get some face time and then turn around and say they did something during their elected term.

G-d just thinking about this is making me sick.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"My hands felt just like two balloons..." -Pink Floyd

Giants win the superbowl... Woops.  Oh well.

Man, I don't think I have ever seen anybody get hit as much as Tom Brady got hit.  Seriously.  WOW!

My one hope at this point is that Randy Moss doesn't come out and say something stupid.  I really hope that he signs a big contract, stays in New England and they come back and win a Super Bowl next year.  Against the Giants.    Great game.  

"He's got all kinds of time..." -Fountains of Wayne

Today is Superbowl Sunday. I am a Pats fan, have been since I was a kid growing up in Southern New Mexico. Sounds weird, right? Well the family that grew up across the street from me were from Rye Beach, NH so I spent a lot of time watching sports at their house.

Anyway, I have a couple of thoughts about the game. First off, Pats will probably win. Couple of things that will play in their favor. One, is that they are playing a game against a Manning and the opposing quarterback isn't named Grossman this time. If any other quarterback had played for Chicago Peyton would still be winnless in big games and I stand by that.

The Pats have the experience in the big games, the Giants don't.

I have heard a lot of people say that the Pats were lucky to beat the Chargers. Well the Giants were lucky to beat the Cowboys and the Packers. Both games came down to the final plays and I would say more than anything that stupidity on the part of the quarterbacks for the other teams led to the wins (Romo threw up a duck that was intercepted in the endzone, and Favre, in overtime, threw an interception that was converted into a field goal later). The fact that the Giants kicker FINALLY kicked the field goal on the third try is a testament more to his tenacity than his skill.

Last thing, I have heard a bunch of people say that the Pats aren't as good as they were at the beginning of the season. Maybe I am over thinking this one, but I am going to give Belichick a lot of credit here. He is not a stupid guy. I will stand by this opinion under oath, should Arlen Specter (R, PA) want to waste more Government time and have me interviewed by the Judiciary Committee.

Here is my opinion about the high ankle sprain. What was the big number one news story about the Patriots before the game with the Chargers? Anybody remember? It was Randy Moss and this girl down in Tampa. How many stories have come out about it since the day that Brady was filmed with the ankle sprain? I don't know but I would wager that outside of Tampa it is somewhere between zero and four. My theory: There was absolutely nothing wrong with Brady. Being the team guy that he is he put on an air cast, went for a walk outside his supermodel girlfriend's house and let the idiot talking heads take care of the rest. Show up late to a couple of practices and voila, the team is focused the opponents are confused and nobody is talking about Randy Moss.

I also think that the Pats underplayed the last six games to make for shitty tape to analyze. Most of the way the other teams prepare for their opponents is through tape, right? So if you give them tape that isn't very good, then you take away their ability to prepare. I have always thought that Brady and Belichick underplayed the Colts, just so that they wouldn't be able to use it against them in the big games.

Now I don't think that Tom Coughlin and the Giants are going to be a walk in the park but I don't think that a team of rookies, and inexperienced big game players are going to be enough to beat a team that is willing to be self-sacrificing in the extreme to win.

We will see what happens I guess. A woman at work asked me who was going to win; my guess was whoever scored more points. I stand by that too.